Apr 032016
 

Success is empty and hollow without sincere, good friendships. The problem of course, is that most friendships are not true lasting friendships; rather, they are shallow friendships of convenience that do not weather the storms, the misunderstandings, the disagreements, the years, or the separations. A friend is not a friend if they only show up when they need your support.

As with all worthy pursuits in life, great friendships require optimism and action. To have great friendships, you must invest valuable time and positive energy. Even the most beautiful flower withers without water, food, and sunshine.

Consider my top ten thoughts about friendship:

True friendships are one of the best measures of a person’s net worth.

A person is rich if he has three true friends to count on, no matter what happens over the coming decades.

True friendship always is based on true understanding of each other. Friends strive to understand and to be understood.

Do not plunge into friendship quickly. Be nice to everyone but intimate with few. Make sure those few have passed many tests.

Trust is essential. It is worse to distrust your friend than to be deceived by her.

You must seek, you must invest the time, you must plant the seeds and nurture the saplings of friendship, dozens or even hundreds of times, to earn one true lifelong friend.

Listening, remembering, understanding, empathizing, collaboration, and forgiveness are critical ingredients of friendship. People that only talk of themselves barely rank as acquaintances.

Keeping your friend’s secrets secret, even if she did not ask you to, is priceless.

Friendship requires that you tell your friend the truth and your sincere opinion, not what he wants to hear. 

True friends love their friend, no matter her faults, frailties, and blessings. A true friend only wishes for the best, no matter the situation.

Is there a good friend that you have neglected over the last few years? Today is the day to pick up the phone and rekindle that connection. We are all too busy — that’s not an excuse. The paperwork can wait. Don’t let him or her get away for lack of effort and optimism at your end.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 072015
 

There are millions and millions of pages written about how to succeed. Yet for all this nuance, fundamentals always matter most. A key aspect to success is making lasting, sincere friendships and influencing people is a positive, optimistic way. Leadership and influence is not just about title — true leadership involves having personal influence that transcends position in an organization.

Dale-Carnegie

One of the best works written on the fundamentals of this topic is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People which has clearly survived the test of time. Below is a great reminder that I stumbled upon just today:

dale-carnegie-how-to-win-friends

I.M. OptimismMan

Jul 072014
 

It is a crowded world, full of distractions, and it is getting louder all the time. People seem to have less time and less interest in listening to anyone. Instant messaging and checking one’s Facebook and Instagram take more and more available attention. It seems like more than half of everyone under thirty is wearing ear buds. Without a doubt, it is getting hard to be heard and understood, yet few skills matter more to your success and effectiveness than your ability to communicate effectively. 

Color-headphones

Do you find that others sometimes miss your message or don’t listen as attentively as you would like them to? There’s a reason, and it is well worth figuring out the root cause. There are ways to rise above, but many people fall into poor communication habits. The result is that less people listen.

Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it. He is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound. Here is one of his three short talks at TED. We all have habits that can be improved. I think his thoughts are well worth considering:

2014-06-27_1018-julian

As with many things that lead to personal success, improving yourself is a matter of eliminating or at least greatly limiting bad habits while enhancing good habits. In the case of speaking, Julian suggests eliminating your —

  • gossiping,
  • judging,
  • negativity,
  • complaining,
  • excuses,
  • lying / exaggeration, and
  • dogmatism.

These seven absolutely turn people off to your message. Those who think a that a bit of gossip every week, or little white lie here and a little exaggeration there are no big deal, don’t realize the damage they do to themselves and their longer-term believability.

Focus on four good habits —

  • speaking honestly and from the heart,
  • being authentic (be yourself),
  • do what you say (have integrity), and
  • have love (wish them well) for your fellow man.

Improving oneself is mission-critical but we often lose months, even years, because we are too busy. Jim Rohn’s consistent message was that everyone should “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits was “Sharpen the Saw“, a likely adaptation from Abraham Lincoln’s “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” In my opinion, improving your ability to communicate — clearly, concisely, and with impact — must be at the top of your skills improvement quest. There is always room to get better.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 192014
 

We have an efficient society, but far from a perfect one. People like to think the the cream always rises to the top, makes the big bucks, deserves all the respect and accolades. Meritocracy theory rules the day.

The truth is that we do live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. The market for talent, ideas, and creativity does give some people a change to become overnight successes in just 5 – 10 short years. But, there are also many other factors in play. If you ask a few questions at the right time, most entrepreneurial success stories that I hear always have one or more “…and then I got a lucky break…” moments in them. When you dig deeply, you tend to find other moments of extraordinary support from a third party, whether financial, resource, or connections. I have yet to find a person who really went from no where to the top of the world without some good fortune and a bit of assistance along the way.

Meritocracy is good, but if you are wise, you must also clearly see and understand the issues that surround it. The dark side of the coin is that it gives rise to a certain snobbery, a lot of jealousy, and tremendous frustration for those who make the wrong decision when faced with a crucial crossroads moment.

Here is a great little video that delves into the idea of meritocracy and whether it is truly possible. Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success:

alain_800x600

With all thy getting, get understanding.

I.M. Optimism Man

Feb 162014
 

I spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about questions.

Most people talk all the time and rarely listen. When they are not talking, they are busy formulating the next thing they will say as soon as they spot the opportunity to interject, which reduces their available brain cycles for truly hearing what another person is saying.

I believe you can accomplish the extraordinary by asking the right questions at the right time.

Just One More Thing...

Just One More Thing…

 

Conversely, telling someone what you think they should do rarely works, even if your statements are spot-on. No one likes to be told. I believe dramatically minimizing the use of the word “should” out of one’s vocabulary is critically important, if you want to be a positive catalyst to all around you.

The next time you are headed to an internal meeting at work that you know might be a bit contentious, take just 15 minutes and develop some great questions. Wait for the right time to ask those questions, and watch how effectively the right question, asked sincerely, can turn a meeting from negative to positive.

Great progress is possible, if you become Columbo and ask (and listen) far more often than you tell.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 272014
 

Much conflict occurs because two sides don’t truly “hear and fully understand” the other person’s perspective. When a debate gets heated, the combatants tend to spend the time that they are not talking reloading their next salvo in their brain. Each barely listens. They cannot wait to interrupt and machine-gun their next salvo as soon as the other takes a breath. This is the same, no matter if we are talking about loved ones at home, students on campus, or associates at work.

Most conflicts continue, and fester, far longer than they would if we deeply understood the other’s perspective.

Invest three minutes and watch this bit of video wisdom, as told by Stephen Covey:

drstephen_covey

Give it a try. I know, from personal experience, that it works. It will produce positive, optimistic resolutions to the thorniest of problems.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 092013
 

I listen to so many talking heads, all talking incessantly on talk shows on talk channels, news channels, satellite radios, and streaming internet feeds. Everybody sounds smart.

stern

Here is a point to ponder:

All of us are smart enough to know there are problems. Most of us are smart enough to point out specific problems in an eloquent way. Some of us are smart enough to ask the right questions to understand the true, underlying causes of a problem better. Few — very few — of us are smart enough to ask the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, so that the people who are in the position to act come to the right, logical conclusion, fueled with the motivation to move forward and solve the true problem.

McKinsey & Co is well regarded as the smartest guys in the room when it comes to business strategy consulting. McKinsey teams often propose “brilliant” solutions that can’t be, or are not, implemented, given a company’s situation, personnel, and organizational culture.

It is only brilliant when the smart solution makes it to the finish line and helps as designed.

Smart guys, like the bright stars at McKinsey hired from the best Ivy League schools, often don’t get the essence of the lesson. Solutions that get implemented are worth much more than solutions proposed but abandoned. It often comes down to asking the right questions, not telling people the solution to their problem.

Think for just a minute about the federal government in DC. Is anyone asking the right questions or is everyone, on both sides, simply trumpeting their “we should do this and we should do that” messages?

I.M. Optimism Man

May 062013
 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo was spot on right when he made this observation.

Those of us that have made a great living with successful professional sales careers know that less is more: finding the one aspect that really matters to the prospect is priceless while pursuing a sale. If you find that one item, professionals don’t dilute it with a fog of other features, functions, and benefits that cloud the decision.

The problem is that simplicity is often difficult to distill. Finding a perfect, clear message that motivates people in just 7 – 10 words is what makes or breaks a pricey highway billboard campaign. There are lots of very expensive television commercials but few communicate as well as this one. Finding a perfect 90 second elevator pitch makes or breaks many budding entrepreneur as they pursue angel or venture cap funding. Finding the simple but powerful theme behind your product line that resonates is often the difference between success (what does BMW stand for?) or failure (what does Saab stand for?).

How can we apply this important concept to our daily lives? We are all selling something all the time, no matter if “it” is a product, a service, our company, our personal capabilities, our kids, or ourselves. The video segment below offers an important clue, an important change of thinking that can have big positive ramifications as to how you approach your messaging.

Simon Sinek has simplified how to sell, how to market, so that all of us can become far more effective. It comes down to focusing on why, first and foremost. Why is all powerful, yet 99% of companies, 99% of people start with what, then how, and finally and often optionally, why. Speeds, feeds, horsepower, megawatts, gigabytes, megahertz, and fiber-connect are not what blows people out of the water and gets them to join your side.

Think differently. Start with why. Think better.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 112012
 

There are a lot of experts — but experts are rarely the world-changing entrepreneurs. These experts often sport IQs that make them puff up quite proud of themselves, whenever they admire themselves in the mirror. Why do most experts fail at changing the world?

Ernesto Sirolli gives us one of the most important missing components to being truly smart, not just book smart. A lot of money has been poured into lots of truly BIG issues by a lot of well-intentioned experts — sub-Saharan Africa a prime example — trillions in fact. Watch this talk. It will open your eyes. It is the best 20 minutes I personally have invested this week.

ernesto sirolli

The Missing Component - Listening

Listening is everything. Listening will help you succeed. Listening will help you become special. Listening will help you change the world. Listening is magical. Listening makes your smarter than 99% of the experts.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 232011
 

Financial success is not as elusive as many people think — but you must follow some basic strategies to stack the odds in your own favor. Here are my 22 Commandments for financial success (not to be confused with my twenty-one keys for overall success in life 🙂  ):

1. Never compromise your integrity.

Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not gossip and trash others. Do exactly what you say you will do (or even 10% more). Integrity is integral to any long-term success. Many think this is a short-cut to financial success but there is not — those with gray areas in their ethics may enjoy temporary success but usually flame out before the game is over.

2. Focus on one strategically important project at a time, until the project is finished.

Multi-taskers do not outpace intense, single-minded, driven individuals. The fable of the tortoise and the hare is the most important story each of us must remember from our youth. Discipline is a very important quality to foster in your life.

3. Write down and fine-tune your goals on paper.

Keep your goals with you and review your goals every morning for 15 minutes without fail. Goals enable you to focus, to plan, to be in charge of your life’s destination, to avoid distractions. Do not make your primary goal your own wallet — financial reward is a side-effect of producing economic value for others — help others succeed to be a lasting success yourself.

4. Pay careful attention to where you invest your time.

Time is your most precious resource.  Keep a detailed written log of where you invest your time.  When at work, focus on work.  When with your family, focus on the family.  The better you manage the investment of your time, the better the quality of your life will become.

5. Work harder and smarter than everyone you know.

Working smart starts with goals, then plans, then supporting tasks… yet very few are serious about their planning and task management process.  There is no substitute for doing your planning homework first and following through with genuine hard work and effort. Be disciplined every day.

6. Adapt and overcome.

Every project will have set backs. Assume there will be setbacks and pre-plan what your “Plan B” and “Plan C” will be — pre-planning is an important step to not getting discouraged. Never look at a roadblock as a dead-end. Those that are determined to succeed, to adapt, to overcome, win.  The US Marine Corp teaches this principle better than any other organization on the planet. Excuses are for the less successful.

7. You will not succeed long-term, without good health.

The formula is 70% smart eating, 30% daily exercise.  Order fish and steamed veggies at every corporate dinner.  Drink only a little.  Work out every day possible, even if it is only for 30 minutes.  Those that weigh the same that they weighed at 21 when they are in their 50’s and beyond have an 80% chance of avoiding the major diseases that will topple so many people. Self-discipline matters in every facet of your life.

8. Add personal knowledge weekly.

Your mind needs fuel too, and not just in your chosen field. Read good stuff no less than five hours each week. Take notes while you read. Take a class or workshop every year. Watch lectures on the web. You will find that ideas of economic success come quicker if you feed your mind daily. 99% of television idles the brain while carefully selected reading strengthens it.

9. Search for and develop as many trusted mentors as you can.

You must invest a lot of time to search, find, and develop excellent mentors.  A mentor must be an optimist.  Once you have them, consult with them, often.

10. Choose to be a gung-ho optimist.

Preach optimism and convert others. Stop all complaints — it can be done. You will be amazed at the difference choosing to end all complaints will make on your own attitude. People that believe a project will work out, people that believe they will succeed, do.

11. Look for opportunities and embrace prudent risks.

You must first search if you expect to find. Risk is why so few people spank life’s ball out the the ball park. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Make prudent risk your best friend.

12. When in doubt, take decisive action.

The world belongs to the focused, driven, determined person with a solid plan and a lot of action.

13. Never walk alone.

Reserve a bit of time each day for solitude and pray for wisdom and making the right choices. We have so much opportunity and so many choices to make. God helps those that ask for help.

14. Plan big.

Set your sights and expectations high. You tend to hit what you aim at. Aim too low and you wind up underachieving by a lot.

15. Play the hand you are dealt to the best of your ability.

Did Helen Keller fold or play her hand? Life dealt her a pair of threes and she still changed the world. Don’t torpedo yourself by not given each and every day your best possible effort.

16. Don’t get swayed by other people’s opinions.

There are a lot of naysayers. That is why there is so much opportunity that other’s don’t see. There will be a day when people start complimenting you, as you success grows. Don’t let that sway you into big-head-syndrome either — stay true to yourself.

17. Create solutions to problems that have economic value.

The more you practice creativity, the more creative you become. Creative solutions are always in demand.

18. Ask great questions, then carefully listen to what people say.

Most people are so wound up about they want to say next, that they rarely hear what others are saying. A person that pre-plans great questions, asks great questions, and listens attentively is 1 in a 100. Make notes as soon as you can in your written journal. No memory is a match for pale ink. Stay disciplined on this core questioning, listening, and taking notes strategy and it will serve you well.

19. Specialize.

It is hard to become a financial success if you are just like everyone else.  Every industry offers room to specialize and differentiate yourself.  The specialist in a niche with excellent profit characteristics wins the game.

20. Engage in areas where you have true passion.

Work on stuff you genuinely care and are passionate about — passion greatly improves your odds of success.

21. Spend less than you make, and always invest your savings.

If you want to stay ahead, you must live on 80% of your income and invest the rest, unfailingly, year after year. If you start when you are 18 or 21, you will build up your wealth by the time you are 50 so that many of your dreams and goals can come to life.  The longer you wait, the greater the headwinds for financial success.

22. Measure progress and be very honest with yourself.

What gets measured gets improved. Businesses watch their income statements and their net worth statements for good reason. You should too. Create monthly statements for your family. You will find that when you will start paying attention to your income, expenses, and net worth, improvement soon follows. Don’t follow the “big hat no cattle” herd (I am from Texas after all).

There are more facets to financial success, but if you adopt just these 22 commandments, you will go far and prosper.

I.M. Optimism Man