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?





The Tiger Within

2 08 2013

louietigerNever in my life have I been more excited to see an animal than I was at that moment.  It had been two months since I laid eyes on Louie, my little buddy – two months of worrying, searching, and calling his name.  We posted signs with his picture, we asked the neighbors to watch for him.  Not a trace.

Wondering what happened, my mind would invent terrible scenarios.  Was he hit by a car?  Was he hurt and alone?  Did the coyotes get him?  Painful thoughts, but I knew they couldn’t be true.  Louie was too smart, too tough, too wily.

During his first year of life he became increasingly interested in being outside.  He chased bugs, teased dogs, and visited the neighbors.  At night he would return home to snuggle the kids to sleep.  That last night though, he did not come home.  He ran out the door like he HAD to get outside!  And he was gone.

Two months later, as the sun was setting, I was outside watering the plants.  The pain of not knowing was stinging me.  I thought to myself, “If I could just know that he’s okay, if I could just see him one time.  He can be a wild cat if he wants, I just want to know that he’s alive.”  Within 5 seconds of completing that thought, I saw something move in the bushes.  Startled, I took a deeper gaze – and there he was.  He walked right out in plain view and stared at me.  “Louie?”  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  “Louie!”  He ran across the driveway.  I called his name again and he gave me a long look that said, “I know you want me to stay here, but I can’t.  I’m wild.  If I let you pet me, you’ll try to take me inside – and that’s not something I can do.”  So he jogged across the grass to the edge of the sidewalk and turned his head to look back at me one more time.  Then he ran toward the park, and disappeared into the night.

I felt like a parent whose kid had just left for college.  I thought of people that I’ve worked with in the past – the ones that departed to take a new job.  I thought of friends that got married and went to live in their wife’s hometown.  Gone.  Off on an adventure.  Just like Louie.  This was no meek kitty.  He was destined to be wild!  As I reflect on the time he spent with us, I realize that he had been preparing for this the whole time.  He practiced and trained just as any risk-taker should.  Whether you are on a quest for a new job, starting a company, going to college, joining the Navy, or moving to a strange town in search of opportunity – here is what you can learn from Louie:

  • Climb trees.  Louie would climb as high as the branches would hold him, not for the thrill of it, but to get a new viewpoint and a change of perspective.  If you are going to try new things, you have to be open to unfamiliar concepts and outside influences.  Seek and accept a perspective other than your own.
  • Form a gang.  I noticed that Louie would linger in the streets in the evening when the other neighborhood cats were out.  You might think they would fight, but they never did.  They ran away from cars together, and played their own version of hide-and-seek.  They bonded for strength, just as anyone out on an adventure should find partners to help their quest.
  • Practice confrontation.  As much as he was a cuddler, he was equally a bad-ass.  His “play-fighting” was a lot more fighting than play.  I feared for the neighborhood squirrels.  In a comfortable environment, he learned to handle confrontation.  If you are going on an adventure, expect adversity – learn how and when to stand your ground.
  • Eat lizards.  Sure we fed him delicious, nutritional cat food that he could eat whenever he wanted.  So why did I always find him hunkered down in the yard chewing on a lizard?  And now, as he roams the wooded areas around our house, I am sure he finds plenty of (gross) things to eat.  On your journey, understand that nothing comes easy or quick.  You better learn how to sustain yourself until you achieve your ultimate goal.

I miss Louie – he was a great cat.  I don’t begrudge him for seeking a life of thrill and independence.  As with so many people that give up comfort in search of adventure, I can only respect that desire to unleash the tiger within.

tiger





Your Social Media State of Being

18 02 2013

yoga meditation hands

We have been engaged in social media long enough to do some evaluation, right?  Are all the tweets, posts, fan pages, blogs and status updates worth our energy?  Millions of businesses and professional individuals have spent time and money on social media to build relationships and develop brands – is it paying off?  Certainly, there are people that are profiting from their efforts – are you one of them?  Are you meeting your expectations?  Do you have expectations?  It is time to pause for reflection.

If you hope to achieve some level of success in business through social media, then you should contemplate your Social Media State of Being.  Who are you?  Why are you here?  What do you value?  What is true connection?  OOohhhmmm.

To achieve a higher Social Media State of Being, consider these principles:

  • Being generous. Successful companies are really good at giving products and services specifically designed to solve client’s problems or make their lives better.  Why should social media be any different?  What are you contributing?  Stop thinking of yourself and start thinking about what your online marketing efforts are doing to enhance the lives your audience.
  • Being simple. You’ve seen this one:  “Scan the code, visit our website, like our page, invite a friend, share our post – and then you might win a free cup of tea.”  Don’t force your audience to have to think too much or do too much work to participate in your efforts.  Create a benefit and make it easy to attain.
  • Being studious. We are so focused on what we put into social media, but how about what we get out of it?  What can we learn?  Data, loads of it.  Businesses can sort data to adjust their strategy or find opportunity in the market.  And for sales people, your calls don’t have to be cold.  You can gain tremendous knowledge about a company or an individual online before you make contact, and then have a warm conversation with someone you’ve never met.
  • Being original. Branding is about differentiation, so how are you showing that you are unique?  If someone in your audience used one sentence to describe you, what would it be?  You have original thoughts – present them.  Focus not on what makes you good, but what makes you different.  You must contribute something different to get noticed.
  • Being connected. You spend time trying to increase your “followers” and “friends,” but are you spending enough time truly connecting with people?  How many people “Like” your company page?  Okay, now how many of them have you contacted to ask them what they like, or to discuss how you can help them?  Going online is a great way to build a large network, going to the phone is a great way to make a genuine connection.
  • Being productive. Generating “Likes” does not equate to generating revenue.  Have you set any goals related to your social media efforts?  Do those goals contain a revenue component?  Does your daily action directly affect those goals?  Are you tracking your progress?

If you are simply using social media as a way to stay in touch with friends and family, then it readily provides your desired benefit.  For professional use, social media is a fantastic opportunity to brand your culture, share your vision, connect with your audience, and build relationships.  You must approach your efforts with purposeful ideals, follow basic business principles, and focus on specific goals.  Find your center.

Namaste.





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.





Public Speaking: Nervous? Or Nailin’ It!

21 09 2012

“I think I might barf on my Jimmy Choo’s,” she said in despair.  “This sucks!”

That’s what I heard when I picked up the phone a few weeks ago while a friend of mine was suffering from a good old fashioned case of Glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.   She talked nervously into the phone from outside her event, just about to go on stage, and I was glad she called me.  I certainly did not want her to vomit on her expensive designer shoes!

Due to my extroverted or loud-mouthed nature, it is possible that people assume I am naturally able to talk to crowds of people without nervousness or fear – that is certainly not true.  I do get nervous, sometimes even feel a little sick to my stomach, and my forehead sweats like crazy.  So how do I overcome that fear?  And what advice did I give to my troubled, borderline-nauseated friend as she prepared to deliver her big presentation?

It was crunch time and I wasn’t able to give her complete advice, so I told her these three main points that can help anyone overcome their nervousness and fear before delivering a public speech:

  1. Remember you are there for a reason.  The fear of speaking to an audience comes from the feeling that you are going to embarrass yourself or disappoint that audience.  Always, always remember that they specifically asked you to speak for a direct purpose.  If you were not capable of providing value then you never would have been requested as a speaker – so have confidence in yourself.
  2. Engage the audience.  Just as the audience is the reason you may feel nervous, they are also your best friend in helping you overcome your fear.  All you need is one person to start nodding their head to make you feel strong in your presentation.  The best way to get that response is with direct eye contact.  Look at members of the audience straight in the eye when you talk.  If they don’t start showing some body language, then look at someone else until you feel a connection.  And don’t be afraid to involve the audience by asking questions, or let them ask you questions if it’s appropriate in the presentation.
  3. Slow down.  If you ever watch a really good speaker you will notice they are taking their sweet time, soaking it all in, relaxed, poised, confident.  If someone is rushing through a presentation then they sound like a nervous person, they feel like a nervous person, and might end up looking bad.  This is my personal affliction when I am speaking to a crowd.  I combat this by writing “Slow Down!” on my hand or on a piece of paper in front of me.

If you have more time to prepare for your speech, consider these tips:

  • Use images to build a connection.  I’m a PowerPoint fan, and often open with a picture that is engaging, whether it reminds the audience of themselves, or is something they can emotionally relate to – like kittens, grandparents, children, or bacon.  Images are powerful connectors for your audience and they add color and life to your message.
  • Keep it simple.  People will not retain everything you say, so don’t try to cover a wide range of topics.  You will be more valuable to your audience if you go deeper to fully examine two or three main points – and it will be easier for you to present.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes.  The audience doesn’t know what you intended to say, and therefore, will not notice if you forget a word or mess up a line – so don’t panic, just keep going.  Also consider speaking from bullet points instead of completely memorizing a string of words, so you have the freedom to roam around your subject.
  • You don’t need to be brilliant, just helpful for the audience.  I’ve seen it a thousand times, the “Let-me-show-you-how-smart-I-am” speech.  Guess what, we don’t care!  The audience is not there for you, they are there for themselves.  So consider the types of people listening, and make sure you provide content that is valuable to them specifically.
  • Say something different.  For the first few minutes of your speech, your audience is wondering if you will be any good – and they will lose interest if you are reporting old news.  If you want to win an audience quickly, say something they don’t expect.

Those are the basics.  I would also recommend watching speeches online to get a sense for how other people approach the craft.  Here is a wonderful example of someone doing it right.  This is my friend John Halcyon Styn, and he displays a perfect example of how to deliver a passionate, engaging speech.  He may have been nervous on the inside, but he planned, prepared, and definitely nailed it!

**SERIOUSLY – watch this video.  17 minutes of your life very well spent.

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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.





Adam Yauch – Leaving a Legacy

11 05 2012

Flying down the highway, windows open, stereo on blast, Beastie Boys bumping – my teenage version of freedom.  The joy of good friends, weird adventures, and great music as the soundtrack to our youthful escapades.  If you were not in high school or college in the 80’s or 90’s then the Beastie Boys might not mean much to you, but you had your soundtrack too.  Yours might have been Springsteen or Elvis or the Beatles, but in my generation, we had the King Ad Rock, Mike D, and MCA.  The Beastie Boys meant rebellion, non-conformity, and pure unadulterated fun.

Last week I was saddened at the early passing of Adam (MCA) Yauch.  Always a shame when a life ends too soon, but in a moment of reflection my sadness quickly faded as I thought about that roadtrip, that party, that concert, those times in college – all those formative moments in my life colored by the sounds of Paul Revere, Sabatoge, Sure Shot, and Root Down.  I still know every single word of the album “Licensed to Ill” – a lot of people reading this do too.

So in that moment of sadness I found myself smiling.  I thought of a quote I’ve heard before:  “People will not remember what you said or what you did – they will remember how you make them feel.”  And that’s exactly what happens when you do something great, something risky, something that has a positive effect on other people’s lives.  You make them feel something – and that feeling never fades.

In that moment I began to reflect on my own life.  How will I be remembered?  How will you?  And beyond that, what did Adam Yauch do that was so special that his actions and his life impacted a generation?  What can we learn from MCA?

Speak your mind, don’t speak to everyone.  The music of the Beastie Boys is not for everyone – if it was, then it wouldn’t be genuine.  It had to be gritty, foul, raucous, and rebellious for certain people to relate to it.  If you speak softly to everyone then you speak powerfully to no one.

Find an uphill battle and start climbing.  How many times did the Beastie Boys hear “white guys can’t rap” or “rappers can’t play instruments” or “rap music won’t last”?  If you’ve got fans, you’ve got critics.  In his own words:  “They got a committee to get me off the block ‘cause I say my rhymes loud and I say ’em nonstop.”  In the path to greatness you will be met with naysayers, doubters, and skeptics.  Use it as fuel for your fire to accomplish something difficult.

Be true to yourself.  Early in their career, the Beasties might have been characterized as rude, crass, and juvenile.  In time, they used those rebellious attitudes to make statements for freedom and equality.  In either case, they pissed people off.  You don’t want to hear about kids partying and causing trouble?  Don’t listen.  You don’t want a rockstar to use their platform for pushing their beliefs?  Don’t follow.  It is the “do what I want” approach that turned these boys to men.  Be bold, be authentic, and celebrate it.

Party.  Speaking of celebration, I know we all are focused and driven and relentless and so on, but dammit, every now and then you gotta break the monotony and appreciate the fruits of your labors.  Sometimes you gotta turn it up and party like your parents are out of town to remind yourself why you work so hard.

Collaborate.  Not only were the Beastie Boys a group of guys that came together to make music – they literally finished each other’s sentences.  Their group approach to trading rhymes branded their style, gave them a unique sound, and changed the game.  Want to be successful?  Get some homies to help you achieve your vision.

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I watched the Beastie Boys on stage at Lollapalooza when I was in college.  I could not believe the way they moved the crowd.  I had never experienced thousands of people rapping in unison along with the artists on stage.  I had never heard bass that loud.  I remember what I was wearing, I remember what I drank, I remember the vibrations in the ground, I remember the friends who took that crazy journey with me.  And I will always, always remember how I felt.  Shout out to the Beasties for that feeling.  Shout out for the lifelong memories.  Shout out to MCA for the reminder to achieve something great.

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