Dominate Your Profession Like An Elite Soldier

4 08 2014

key1Many people are happy to seek comfort and contentment in their career path – and that’s fine.  The simple life has served people well. Others however, will settle for nothing short of total domination.  Extreme doers, extreme achievers, go-getters that are not satisfied racking up “participant” ribbons. Some people seek total domination in their profession.

How do you achieve a goal of total domination?  How can it drive career success? Look to the best and do what they do. Personally, I have been lucky to have been influenced by friends and associates that have been elite soldiers.  They have provided me with undeniable examples of how to dominate.

Shortly after college, I decided to leave my hometown and try a new adventure.  I had no plan, no job prospects, no clue.  I just packed my stuff, got in my car and started driving to Southern California for the allure of living a beach life.  On the way there, I stopped for a few days to party with friends. Late one night after too many beers, I sat with a friend of mine and he asked me, “So what are you going to do?”

“I really have no idea,” I replied. “I’ll figure it out.”

He quickly responded, as though he was preparing this statement regardless of my answer. “I’ll tell you what my Dad told me,” he said. “Whatever you do – be the best at that.” Pretty simple advice, awfully hard to do, and a fantastic way to explain the goal of domination. If you are the type of person that’s driven to excel, then you can’t aspire to be good at your job – you need to shoot to be the absolute best of anyone that does that job. My friend who gave me that advice? Mr. Kevin Key – widely regarded as a top operator of the US Special Forces. He dominates.

Dan CollinsThe next piece of advice for dominating your world comes from a guy that I actually hired to be my boss. I had met him in professional circles and could tell that he was a business bad-ass. He had something I didn’t, and I knew I needed to learn. Ornery, stern, gruff – those words would be appropriate to describe Mr. Dan Collins. Other accurate words would be vigilant, relentless, intellectual, and effective. Mr. Collins works 12 hours a day every day, and he has for the past 40-something years. He never calls in sick and rarely takes vacation. He not only challenges people to be better, he demands that you excel. This is the man that has probably given me more good advice than any human on the planet. But one phrase might encapsulate “domination” more than any other: “Do what others can’t or won’t.” Find a way to achieve what normal people are unable or unwilling to do. Easy right? Yeah sure. And no shocker here – Mr. Collins was also a member of the Special Forces in his youth. An elite soldier and a dominating business man.

hicks1The last advice was not given, but rather shown to me by my good friend Darren Hicks, a retired Navy Seal now serving as his company’s CEO. A friend of mine for over 20 years, when we talk on the phone the pace is fast, we get to the point, and say goodbye. Meetings at his company are quick, direct, efficient, and over. Sales calls are performed with candor, critical communications, and a focus on defined action. Hell, when I spend leisure time with him, we drive to the lake, unload the car, fill the boats with gas, drop in from the dock, and get out in the chop! Momentum. Pacing. Action. Efficiency. The advice? “Don’t waste time.” While other people are hanging out by the water cooler, you could be on the phone taking their customers. You could be bringing extra value to your company. You could be dominating.  Just like Mr. Hicks.

And in that spirit, this article has gone on long enough. Get back to work. Go dominate!





The Most Powerful Word is…

21 05 2014

word

In a recent sales-geek conversation, the topic became “power words.”  You know the ones that sales people like to throw around:

Solution, Leverage, Partner, Profitability, Demand, Engagement, Value, Endorsement

And yes, many of those do have an impact when trying to close a deal.  In life however, I believe that there is one word that has the most impact on us – in any situation.  (Insert drum roll here.)  The word is “if.”  Simple.  With just two letters and one syllable, “if” has more effect on our lives than any other word.  Let me give you some examples:

  • I could lose weight if I ate healthier.
  • My sales could be higher if I made more calls.
  • I would get better grades if I studied more.
  • We could separate from our competitors if we provided unique value.
  • I would stay connected to my friends if I called them more often.
  • My credit score would be higher if I stopped spending.
  • I’d have more opportunities if I networked more.
  • My community could be improved if I contributed time and effort.
  • I would have a better reputation if I focused on being a good person.
  • I would feel better if I exercised more and got more sleep.
  • My boss would appreciate me if I worked harder.
  • I would feel more accomplished if I followed through on my plans.
  • People would trust me if I kept my word.
  • I could learn to play an instrument if I committed myself.
  • I would be smarter if I read more.

Addressing the “if” is the best way to change your situation and create a positive impact on your life.  And the great news is that the “if” is controlled by you!

So what’s your if?

And what are you gonna do about it?





How To Be The Catalyst Your World Needs

17 02 2014

bruce lee kick

“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee

There are two kinds of people in this world – those that wait for things to happen, and those that make things happen. You know those people, the ones that make the party more fun, make the company more successful, make the team win – those people. Are you one of them? If so, you need to realize the responsibility in your hands. Without you, nothing happens. The world is a boring place without a catalyst.

Or perhaps you wish you were a mover and a shaker who built a reputation for taking action and achieving great results. Well, you can be. Here is a collection of advice to help you become the catalyst in your world, capable of creating your own opportunities:

  • “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Richard Branson. Reading books and blogs, attending classes and seminars, listening to speakers and watching videos are all good ways to educate yourself – but to be a catalyst and create change, you have to start walking.
  • “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” Grace Hopper, US Navy. You may have heard this one before, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of advice. Catalysts don’t wait for approval. They do what they think is right regardless of their title, position, or status. Will you have some explaining to do if you’re wrong? Perhaps. But what if you’re right?
  • “So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.” – Lee Iacocca. To be a catalyst in your world, just assume no one else will do anything. Lead the charge, encourage the people around you, and demand action.
  • “We don’t have a suggestion box.” – Chad Forrester, charity founder. I love this quote. It’s great to contribute with words, it’s more valuable to contribute with action. By allowing your colleagues to act on their ideas and passions, you get their best efforts. True catalysts empower other people to take action and help the cause.
  • “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  Henry Ford. If you constantly respond to circumstances and requests, then you are limited in your ability to create. Look back at history – creating something truly new and impactful is the mark of achievement for the names we will remember most.
  • “I did not mind the public criticism. That sort of thing has not changed any program I thought was good.” Branch Rickey. When Mr. Rickey brought Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball, he faced tremendous scrutiny and criticism. But he demolished the color barrier because it was the right thing to do, not because it was popular. Catalysts act with conviction, regardless of the potential public backlash.
jackie-robinson-and-branch-rickey

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

  • “To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.” – Bruce Lee. Sure, there’s this problem.., that person.., their business.., this city.., etc. It is easy to justify your lack of action based on your situation. Catalysts view situational difficulties as challenges to overcome – not as excuses to remain stagnant.
  • “Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg. True catalysts are some of the least patient people you will ever meet. If the speed of their action causes things to get smashed in the process, so what? Catalysts don’t intend to maintain the status quo, they intend to demolish it. They get started, get going, and take action!

So what are you waiting for?





Have an Impact

14 10 2012

“Hey kid, did you see the game yesterday?”  A simple question – and that was all it took.

Summer of ‘85.  Oakland, California.  Just a few months shy of my 12th birthday.  My parents allowed me to travel by myself from Reno to stay with our family friends that had season tickets for my favorite baseball team, the Oakland A’s.  I could not have been any more proud of myself, out in the world, wearing my big boy pants, tasting a new freedom I had never known before.

I convinced my parents’ friends to take me to the ballpark early to get autographs.  Walking down the steep steps toward the field, I could see the players warming up, joking and laughing with each other.  The guys I worshiped and watched on TV were there right in front of me. “No way…” I thought, “they are real!”

Hordes of kids huddled at the edge of the field, shouting, pushing, and fighting to get to the front.  Every now and then some lucky kid would get to have that chance encounter with a player they idolized.  With pen in hand, their little arms stretched out as far as they could reach, a player would sign their name and move to the next kid, not stopping, not interacting.

I noticed one man, a little bit older, sitting alone on the bullpen bench down the left field line.  I knew that guy – he used to play for my Dad’s favorite team, the Dodgers.  “That’s Dusty Baker!” I thought.  He was nearing the end of his career and probably not as popular with the kids as some of the team’s new stars.  I walked over to him cautiously, “Mr. Baker, can I have your autograph please?”

“Sure kid.” He replied like a man who had done this a million times before.  Unable to speak, I handed him my beat-up old notepad and a ballpoint pen.  He signed the page.  “Thank you,” I mumbled nervously, and began to walk away.

What happened next is something I will never forget.  I don’t know why he did it.  Maybe he knew I was a true fan, decked out in team colors down to my green-and-gold striped socks.  Maybe he appreciated that I broke from the crowd surrounding the new players to find the elder statesman.  Whatever the reason, he proceeded to spark a conversation.

“Hey kid, did you see the game yesterday?”

Stunned and wondering in disbelief – did Dusty Baker just ask me a question?

Nervously I replied:  “Yes I did. I was here for the game.”

“Good one huh?”  We spoke about the different plays and the final score.

Then he asked me if I played baseball and gave me some tips.  He wondered how I knew who he was and I told him my Dad was a Dodger fan.  We talked about the game that was about to be played that day.  He spoke to me like I was a real person!  We probably only talked for a few minutes, but it felt as though time had stopped completely.  I said goodbye and then floated up to my seat – I swear my feet never touched the stairs.

At that time, Dusty Baker was probably about the same age I am now.  I couldn’t have appreciated the deeper meaning back then, but now I can reflect and understand the magnitude of what transpired.  Dusty Baker had an impact.  Instead of dismissing me, he took a few moments from his day to give me a memory for a lifetime.

As we grow older it is important that we understand the effect we have on young people.  As parents, teachers, managers, or just as the most experienced person in the group, we all have the opportunity to have an impact on someone’s life.  How do we do it?  Here’s what I learned from Dusty Baker:

  • Ask.  Although sharing your story is valuable, it is also important to ask what someone wants to learn.  Find out what your mentee is interested in, where they are struggling, or how they are feeling.
  • Listen.  It can be tremendously frustrating to be dismissed by your elders.  By just giving someone the opportunity to talk you empower them and build confidence.
  • Give.  Your advice and mentorship requires a selfless attitude.  Give just to give, don’t expect anything in return.

There is a big difference between having a big name and having a big impact.  From what I can tell, Dusty Baker seems to understand this.  After his career ended, he went on to be a big-league manager, and has been named Manager Of The Year three separate times.  He is currently the manager for the Cincinnati Reds.  He is a Board Member for the “Positive Coaching Alliance,” an organization that promotes character-building in youth sports.

In recent months, Mr. Baker was hospitalized due to an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke.  After being released from the hospital, he joined his team on the field for the playoffs.  Here’s to your good health Mr. Baker.  Thank you for that brief moment in time.  You certainly had an impact.





Be The Man

30 07 2012

Relaxing on a Saturday afternoon, listening to some great music in the backyard, I uttered out-loud a simple contemplation: “I wish I was in this band.”  Upon hearing the statement, my daughter, just shy of 5-years-old, looked me straight in the eye and replied: “Dad, be the man that you are.”

Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears

It took me a second to absorb it.  Did she really just say that?  Did she really just think that?  Stunned and a bit puzzled, I took a big mental step back and thought about what she said.  “Be the man that you are.”  With one quick response to a simple Saturday musing as I listened to Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, she provoked a stirring of thoughts.  I was reminded of a quote I once read from 19th Century writer Ralph Waldo Trine:  “Do you want to be a power in the world?  Then be yourself.”

We try to be our best (or we don’t and we feel guilty about it), but if we do not find immediate success, then rather than stay the course, we may wish to be someone else entirely.  Wish for someone else’s good times, or fame, or wealth, or membership in a really cool band – it’s something we all have done.  What fools are we to hope for someone else’s greatness when we have so much untapped power inside ourselves?  This life, the one we breathe and drink and touch every day – well, this is the life we have.  This is our here, our now, our reality.  If we wish for dreams that can’t come true, then we may never tap into our true potential.

In addition, it is important to appreciate where you are.  Soak it in.  For better or worse, this is you, this is your life.  Are you where you want to be?  If not, you have the power to change it.  But as you’re trying to get there, as you take a slow walk down the path to glory, why not just appreciate life for what it is?  Why wish to be somewhere else or someone else?  Why not smile through the tough times and the conflict?  Find something good in it.  In everything.

A good lesson for me for sure.  And thank you to my daughter for reminding me.

By the way, that band really is sweet.  If you like old-school, throw-down soul, mixed with high-energy funk and back-woods blues, then by all means, check out Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears.





Handling Criticism (the Booger Effect)

2 03 2012

Back in my single days I once told a girl I was dating that her perfume smelled terrible.  She couldn’t believe I would say something so rude.  I couldn’t believe she didn’t appreciate that I was trying to help (I mean seriously, this perfume was rancid).  Instead of being mad at me for my honesty, she should have been mad at everyone else that let her walk around smelling like that.

I was reminded of this situation while I was watching American Idol (go ahead and make fun of me).  One of the most compelling elements of the show is the moment of utter shock and disbelief when a contested is kicked-off for lack of talent.  Their friends, mom, and co-workers all told them they were great, super, awesome, wonderful, etc. – because they didn’t have the guts to present the cold truth.  If they had been honest, then maybe the contestant would have practiced harder, gotten a coach, or focused on another talent.  But no, they let them walk around with a proverbial booger on their face for the whole world to see.

In business, this happens all the time.  We are so inclined to say “good job” because it feels nice for everyone involved.  But the truth is that we don’t always do a good job, we don’t evolve, we don’t make smart decisions – because we are convinced that we have it all figured out.  And that unmentioned booger on our faces keeps us in mediocrity, unable to reach full potential.

I have a good friend and associate that recently told me: “If I say it’s white, you’ll say it’s black – I think you do that just to mess with me.”  Untrue.  I do it because as salespeople, we are so good at convincing that we can convince ourselves that everything is fine, that we are on the right course, that we are taking smart actions – even if we’re not.  It is critical that we open ourselves to criticism and counter-intuitive thought if we want to grow.

Numerous times throughout my career I have been informed of a booger on my face by people that I respected, and I often reacted with anger or frustration.  In looking back I realize that those people, and their willingness to tell me the unpopular truth, have had a significant impact on my life.  It may have taken a day or a month or several years for me to accept the message and do something about it – or maybe I never agreed, so I fought to change their perception.  Either way I benefited from their courage to tell me something I didn’t want to hear.

I know it feels better to hear “good job” and I know we love the people that give us a positive perspective of ourselves, but if you really want to grow, then you must give serious credibility to the people that are willing to criticize.  You should thank them for not allowing you to walk around with a booger on your face.  If you believe their criticism is misguided, then let that be a motivator and work hard to prove them wrong.





The Apocalypse is Real (for some)

13 01 2012

I have to admit I am a little intrigued by the whole “2012-Mayan-calendar-end-of-the-world” thing.  Not that I think it will actually happen, but I do love bold predictions.  I would agree that life as we know it (or used to know it) is ending.  Along with changes in human behavior come the end of things we once considered crucial to our existence.  Here are some things you have become used to that will soon see their own apocalypse:

Cash.  Forget about the Benjamin’s – cash is dead.  Why?  If you lose your wallet you lose your cash; making change is slow; you’re a target for mugging; you frequently need to find an ATM.   Debit cards eliminate those inconveniences.  Aside from garage sales, stadium parking and babysitters – you can use cards anywhere.  Devices such as the “Square” card reader will make it easy for anyone to accept cards for payment.  Eventually a “card-swipe” slot will be built into your phone.

Remote Controls and Keyboards.  There is a significant increase in devices that provide some level of voice-controlled interaction.  Apple’s “Siri” is the latest push in that direction.  You no longer need to type on your smartphone with “talk to text.”  Why not your TV?  I can hear it now – “TV, please play season 2 of The Jefferson’s.”  Oh yeah, movin’ on up!

Driving.  Google received the first set of patents for the first self-driving car earlier this year.  Why Google?  Because they used self-driving cars when building Google maps.  Cars already parallel park themselves, and isn’t that really the hardest part of driving?  The government can ban cell phone use while driving, but it’s never going to stop.  With a self-driving car you can strap in, log on, and relax.  You will be delivered safe and sound to your destination without ever needing to look up from your screen.

DVD’s.  Subscription based entertainment services like Netflix and Hulu are leading the assault on the shiny discs we were so enamored with just a decade ago.  Physical disc rental seems silly when I can just click a button (or talk to) my TV and watch anything I want.  The only thing stopping internet-connected movie services from completely killing DVD’s is that the movie studios haven’t figured out how to get a big enough piece of the pie to release their entire collections to online availability.  That will change too when each studio offers their movies for rental on their own “channels.”

Wires.  WiFi is the unseen King of the digital age.  We connect to our devices and to each other without plugging in.  Soon our devices will follow our lead and connect to each other without wires, and without requiring any set up.  They will still need a power source (for now) – but your TV, computer, stereo, phone, speakers will talk to each other through the air.  Jambox wireless speakers are a great example.

Flat tires.  Bridgestone and Michelin are both releasing tube-free, air-free tires.  Once something like that hits the market, competitors will certainly imitate and attempt to improve the design.  Not good for gas stations charging to pump your tires, but great for motorists who can avoid dangerous and tedious situations on the road.

Battery Chargers.  My watch never needs a battery because it winds as I swing my arm.  Can someone please figure out how to do the same thing for my phone?  Thanks.

What is the driving force for these changes?  Is Necessity still the mother of invention?  Maybe – but Convenience, Efficiency, and Low-Cost are certainly the father, brother, and sister.  As business continues to evolve in this new world it is important to ask yourself, “does my business approach provide convenience, efficiency, and savings?”  If not, you might soon be as obsolete as a stone-carved calendar.








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