I've come to realize that life and business are not really all that different. Some people would like you to think the rules of the game are different in the business world, but they really aren't.
They like to keep the mystery about it; the smoke and mirrors going, but in my own experience, as well as readings and observation of others, I think I've begun to figure out what it takes to be successful in both life and business.
In the pursuit of conquering my own demons and trying to achieve some personal level of success, I'm aware that it's a constant challenge to what I think I know and what reality sometimes shows me. I'm surprised quite often.
So during one of my countless recent sleepless nights as I pondered the good and the bad of this past year, when my mind would not allow me to shutdown, I tried to put some of what I believe in words, not just so I could do this column, but to also be able to sit back and reflect.
It's amazing what your mind is capable of at 2:00am in the morning with a purring cat in your lap. He's a good very tough editor, but he works cheap.
So, here we go with the 10 top observations for business and life and in the style of David Letterman, (since he was just on TV), we'll begin with number 10!
10. Letting your gut-instincts keep you safe. This is more than street-smarts. I believe that gut instinct is a very spiritual essence of us and our connection with life. But also, it is a lifetime of observation and learning from experience. I surely have experienced life more so or less so than others my age and I have spent my life as a people watcher and a student of the mannerisms of humans. We ARE fascinating creatures.
The thing is, it's not always something you can verbalize when your gut tells you some things right off the bat. This is a very useful thing in the business world and I believe we all have this ability but not everyone taps into it. Being able to read people doesn't mean that you immediately run or become best friends, it means that you proceed with caution filing away the info you've got on hand at the moment.
If there is something queer about a business proposition or a business relationship or an employee, keep this up front as you examine it. You know in your gut when something's right and when something's not right.
9. A lifetime of self-examination - I cannot stress this enough. We are a constant work in progress. You will make mistakes, your attitude will change and you will grow. But if you don't take the time to examine yourself and your attitudes along the way, you run the risk of becoming stagnant and brittle. And brittle is a good candidate for crumbling dust. Examine your relationships with people and your business practices, not just your finances. In the end, it is your relationship with people that makes you successful in both life and business. If you find yourself having the same issues arise, it's time for some self-examination. What are you doing to contribute to this issue? What can you do to create a change?
8. Open mindedness to new ways of thinking. How many times have we seen people throughout history hold on to what they believe is the ONLY way to think, only to find the world moving on without them? It was generally thought the automobile would never catch on; after all, weren't bicycles and trains more than enough? It doesn't mean you have to change your way of thinking or embrace it, just examine it, educate yourself about it and recognize that it may be here to stay.
7. Open mindedness to new technology --This relates to number 8, but in a business capacity it is even more important. A pencil and paper may be your preferred method of working on finances, but you had better know a few things about technology or you and your pencil will be left behind. Sure you can hire others who know, but what you don't know CAN hurt you. Read! You can learn so much about anything by reading. And if you were tech savvy you would know the internet is the greatest addition to the library in regard to learning about everything!
6. Being streetwise and book-smart - There is nothing more important than having a reasonable balance of both. Naivety can cost you and not being educated to the level you need to function well in your chosen environment can cost you as well. Don't leave your street-smarts at the door in business environments but temper it with real knowledge as well. If you don't know how to do it, LEARN IT!
5. Education and constant re-education -- I am not talking about college degrees here. Though there's nothing wrong with that, you must continue to educate yourself. Take part in seminars, read everything, surf the net. Even when you think you've got it, press on.
4. A willingness to give back - First, take care of yourself. Put yourself in a position to give back. I've had the privilege to hear many people speak about their ideas for new businesses. The first thing they say is that they want to help people and that they want to give away what they've got. Sure there are exceptions to this, but most people have been able to give back and help others because they helped themselves.
When you've helped yourself, GIVE BACK! I've seen many people become selfish and bitter in this regard. "I had to do it for myself! Nobody helped me!" They begin to dole out help in a miserly manner, looking for something in return including gratitude. They also give with suspicion. They suspect that those they give to will use it to steal something from them.
If you watch closely, here is where they will begin their descent. If you feel like you got where you are on your own, look carefully, because you did NOT get to where you are without help...and much of it was given unselfishly and without restraint. Give generously and from the heart and don't look back! (CAUTION: DON'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE DRAINED DRY BY THOSE WHO LIKE TO PLAY UPON THIS NOTION EITHER)
3. Love and caring for yourself - Here is a simple analogy. When you board a plane you are treated to a demonstration of what to do in case the oxygen masks drop from above. The first instruction is to put your mask on first. This is especially important because if you don't take care of your need first, you will not be able to help others and that includes your children, your spouse or anyone else. How does this relate to business? Create the situation that best helps you first. Put yourself in a position of power or at least close to the ear of power. Do a great job, first for you. Excel for you. Then assist others, speak up for others, do for others.
2. How you treat people -- I believe in this. I believe that the golden rule is truth that still stands, because truth will always stand. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or your daughter or son, or spouse, etc. I urge you to read "How to Win Friends and Influence People", by Dale Carnegie, over and over again. Study the lives of the charismatic. Success was written in their everyday dealings with people. Not on a superficial level but on a deeper connecting level. One of my favorite speakers, Zig Ziglar has expounded upon this notion for years when he says "When you help enough people get what they want out of life, you get what you want out of life".
1. Commitment to the journey - Here is what I believe is the number one key to success: Are you committed? What I am trying to say is that in all of my observations, and from my own experience, I find that the journey is always the same:
It's a long road of self examination and improvement, skill examination and education. It's making judgment calls about people, things and situations. You continually correct the "course" until you are headed in the right direction. To trust your gut, to keep the faith, to make it through tough times, takes practice. The question is can you stick it out? Do you quit because the money is low? Do you quit because you can't find the right people? When do you say it's over? I'll admit, I don't know the answer to that one yet, either.
But I DO know that commitment to the journey is the key to success. You will ALWAYS see things that make you want to run. But you have to put your faith on the table. You really have to stand against all odds. It takes courage. And when you do this, you will succeed.
As Goethe put it:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy.
There is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans--- that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence steps in. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would come his or her way.
Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.
- Goethe (1749-1832), German poet and dramatist
I am committed to the journey, despite the hills and valleys and unexpected turns that may come my way.
I take intense pride in being able to work with others that share that journey.
Let's see if Goethe was right.