An Entrepreneur’s Philosophy

Jordan Peterson is a renowned Canadian clinical psychologist and psychology professor who wrote the bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life. I listened to an interview with him on one of my favorite podcasts, Econtalk with Russ Roberts. During the conversation, Peterson makes the following statement. “Life is fundamentally tragic, and ridden with suffering, and touched with malevolence and evil; and that goes for you and everyone around you.” And while Dr. Peterson may be highly respected and says much with which I agree, I must respectfully disagree with the preceding statement. Vehemently.

If we entrepreneurs bought into the premise that Life is Terrible, we’d never get out of bed in the morning. In fact, I believe just the opposite. Life is full of wonder and excitement. Life is full of joy and happiness. Life has far more upside than downside. And life offers unlimited opportunities for great and amazing things. This is not to ignore the fact that there are terrible things that do happen in life. But is life fundamentally tragic as Peterson posits? I think not.

I think it all boils down to perspective. If we choose to believe that Life is Terrible, it will be. Similarly, if we choose to believe that Life is Great, it will be. I’m not naïve enough to suggest that subscribing to the latter means that there will never be mountains to climb and challenges to overcome. But think about this. If we believe that Life is Terrible, those mountains are much harder to climb and the challenges much more difficult to overcome. It’s like adding a 75 pound weight to our back. What’s the point?

By now you know that I am the poster boy for optimism and positive thought. I attribute this mindset to the success I’ve realized over the course of my career. One of my mantras has always been, “What I think in my mind will become reality.” Because I only want Good in my life, I’m going to do my darndest to only think in positive terms.

We entrepreneurs have a lot to worry about . . . if we choose to worry. We could obsess over market share, customer reviews, rising labor costs, cash flow (or lack thereof), sales increasing too slowly, sales decreasing too quickly, government regulation, competition, legal issues, succession planning, production issues and whether we remembered to close the garage door when we left home this morning. Whew! Just thinking about all of this wears me out. But with all of this worry, concern and obsession, what exactly has been accomplished?

Being a Type A personality and maintaining a “chill pill” attitude isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Over the years I’ve discovered that concentrating my energies – mental and otherwise – on taking positive and productive steps leads to positive and productive results. There’s a surefire method that I use to measure my stress factor in this regard. I use a wrist cuff and take my blood pressure and pulse every day. I record it on a log including the time of day as well as notations as to what might have been occurring just prior to the reading. This single act is enough to serve as a reminder to remain calm. I’ve found that each year, my average systolic and diastolic readings have gradually decreased.

I’ve also trained myself to live in gratitude as much of the day as possible. When I am outwardly grateful to others for all of the good they do for me, a form of armor is created that protects me from the Life is Terrible syndrome. I’ve also found that there’s always a solution for just about every difficulty we may encounter. Somehow things just seem to always work out. I don’t think this is by accident. By maintaining focus on positive outcomes and really believing that we are entitled to them, they ultimately manifest. No longer do I blow a gasket when something doesn’t happen as planned. No longer do I wake up in the middle-of-the-night with cold sweats and a feeling of impending doom. No longer do I experience free-floating anxiety.

Jordan Peterson’s “Life is Terrible” philosophy is dangerous for entrepreneurs to adopt. A “Life is Great” mindset opens the way for a rich and full experience every single day.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 103 – Goody Two-Shoes.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Chips and Shoulders

I listened to a fascinating business podcast the other day. The host was interviewing an entrepreneur who apparently has faced a number of challenges throughout her career. What struck me the most was her statement that she has a “chip on her shoulder.” We’ve all heard this phrase before, and often it’s portrayed in a positive light. The thesis is that a person has faced adversity and come away from the experience stronger and tougher. I actually downloaded the transcript of this interview (which lasted for nearly an hour) and read it carefully. What I pieced together led me to question how positive a “chip on the shoulder” notion actually is.

For starters, let’s look at some phrases that I excerpted from the transcript. “Not everybody had a fair shake.” “In another way the industry is biased and the numbers are terrible and bleak.” “I will say that it took an embarrassingly long time to get anyone to take me seriously, so that’s where the insult is.” “Some of these barriers are just insulting.” “One person has to climb the mountain and another’s gotta climb a fence.” “The person across the table has to get a fighting chance.” “I don’t play well with others.” “I’ll tell you this honestly, our goal post has moved – it’s also there is a microscope on what I’m doing and what my company is doing, that is not on other companies.” And how about this gem? “Back to the theme that it’s a meritocracy except you have to work five or ten times harder than everybody else which is the opposite of a meritocracy.” Other words were used like “dignity,” “gut punch,” “injustice” and “really screwed me over.”

This entrepreneur shared her journey of the past two or three years, and while she’s clearly made some progress with her business, a case could be made that she ought to be farther along. She obviously believes that the reason that she’s not is due to external forces that have conspired against her. I don’t think I’ve listened to someone sound more like a victim in a long time. Unfortunately, the podcast host played the part of enabler and sympathizer. He egged her on and attempted to validate her claims. Yet, she presented very little concrete evidence to support her mindset.

I can’t begin to know all of the experiences encountered by this entrepreneur. Undoubtedly there have been some trials and tribulations along the way – however, the world is not selective about this! The entrepreneur from the podcast has chosen to develop a “chip on her shoulder,” advocating that the deck has been stacked against her and others have stood in the way of her success. The result appears to be a bitter self-fulfilling prophesy.

What if this entrepreneur took a different path? What if this entrepreneur looked at the obstacles as opportunities rather than conspiracies? What if she believed in her heart that every failure meant that something even bigger and better was in store? What if she could visualize abundance and possibility instead of lack and limitation? Over the course of my career, I’ve always found that embracing optimism and positivity begat the desired results far more often than wallowing in pessimism and negativity.

For me, a “chip on the shoulder” is a cynical mindset. It is typified by wariness, suspicion, skepticism and distrust. Entrepreneurs that wrap themselves in a “chip on the shoulder” cocoon will have a much tougher time receiving the good which they are pursuing. Here’s an indisputable fact. The adversity we experience directly shapes our mindset. But we make a choice as to what shape it takes. When we dwell on “being screwed over,” “gut punches” and “not playing well with others,” we are setting that shape as a giant chip that rests on our shoulder. And what a weight that chip can become!

We can avoid a “chip on the shoulder” mentality by following the positive path to our success. This enables us to work through, around, over and under the obstacles that we face and see them as opportunities to grow.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 83 – Hall of Famer.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Congratulations – You Own a Gold Mine!

Have you ever watched the TV series Gold Rush: Alaska? It’s a lot of fun to see different miners interact with each other; spend a lot of money, and fight amazing odds to discover GOLD! They are grizzled guys and gals who brave the harsh Alaskan elements to find the elusive precious metal . . . and of course, smile (or snarl) at the TV camera.

If you watch very many episodes you will be led to believe that it is very, very difficult to succeed in finding gold. I disagree. In fact, I believe that each and every one of us already owns a gold mine. You may think this is a metaphorical reference and that’s partly true. But there is a literal aspect to this concept that I will explain in a moment. So what is this gold mine that each of us owns and where do we find it?

If you’ve read my blogs over the years and listened to my podcasts, you already know that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool advocate of maintaining a positive mindset. I believe that there’s a positive energy flow in the world into which we all can tap. When we worry; when we think negative thoughts, and when we act in ways that are hurtful to others, we block that positive energy flow. Then we wallow in our fears, our hurt, our frustrations and our misery – a process that feeds upon itself. And at the end of the day where are we?

Eliminating negativity is critical to discovering our gold mine. Being in a positive place all day, every day, allows us to harness the amazing power of passion and creativity. Do you ever feel stuck in place, spinning your wheels and not moving forward? You may be stuck right on top of your gold mine and you don’t even know it! So what to do? First, start with developing a meditative practice. Meditation is simply the act of dumping the wastebasket of stuff that collects in our minds. When we become quiet and discard the noise and negativity, we create a vacuum. But nature abhors a vacuum and what comes next is the exciting part. For me, a torrent of creative ideas begins to flow.

I want to support those creative ideas in every way possible. I do this with positive affirmations. If you want to become an expert at this, develop a positive affirmation that rings true for you. Then say it 100 times each day in blocks of ten. “Wonderful things are happening in my life right now!” is an example of a positive affirmation. Say it with gusto and different voice inflections. If you do this for a week, your conscious and subconscious mind will believe it.

When negative thoughts creep in, we recognize them and release them. One way to do this is to keep a journal in which we record our negative thoughts. We transfer them out of our minds and onto paper (electronically works too) – and we leave them there. At some point we might revisit them to determine what prompted the thoughts in the first place. But most importantly we get them out of our heads as fast as possible.

So where’s the gold? Here’s an example of how I found my gold mine. Recently I was speaking with a broker about listing for sale a property that we own. The property was purchased a few years ago and we knew it was going to have an excellent valuation – we just didn’t know how valuable it was going to be. In the process, I remembered that more than ten years ago, we sold an apartment property and completed a tax-deferred exchange for a couple of drug stores. Frankly, I figured that this was simply a process of protecting the tax positions for our investor limited partners. I never thought that we’d realize any value as general partners. While speaking with the broker, I mentioned that we owned the drug store properties as well. He responded by telling me that the market for this type of property has changed dramatically over the years. On a whim, I had him analyze the properties and he came back with an eye-popping valuation. We’ve listed those two properties as well and I’m looking forward to the day when we cash significant checks as a result of their sale.

I truly believe that by maintaining a positive mindset, a creative spark stimulated me to mention these properties to this broker. Up until that point I had completely written them off as having any value for my partner and me. By tapping into the flow of positive energy we discovered another vein of gold in our mine. I can tell you that this is not an isolated incident. It happens all the time.

The calculus is simple. An enduring positive mindset allows for the flow of creative ideas that in turn helps us find the gold mines that are ours to claim.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 53 – Is the Lone Ranger Dead?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Civil War

Saying that our society has become very polarized is a massive understatement. The 2016 political campaign was one of the nastiest and most vile election cycles I’ve ever seen. Personal attacks drowned out any attempt to discuss the issues and it was pretty clear that up and down the ballot, the candidates really did not like each other. There are many reasons that we find ourselves in this mess – but that’s not the point of this blog. Instead, I’d like to explore the long lost notion of respectful disagreement.

Many of us entrepreneurs have a healthy ego drive. This is a good thing and should not be confused with the self-centered, destructive aspects of ego. Ego drive is our desire to persuade someone to agree with us. When an entrepreneur hears the word “Yes,” it’s music to our ears. We develop marketing strategies, sales pitches and a variety of other theses to convince others to see things our way and buy whatever we’re selling. This might be an idea, a product, a service or whatever. We all know that things go relatively smoothly when heads are nodding approvingly and the Yes-word often finds its way into our eardrums. But we are also aware – sometimes painfully so – that others don’t always agree with us. And if we aren’t careful, that’s where the trouble begins.

Respectful disagreement is guided by the ageless precept of the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you. Pretty simple – right? Yet, our strong ego drive sometimes makes it difficult to practice the Golden Rule. We struggle to understand how it could be possible that someone else doesn’t see the logic that we have offered. We can’t believe that another person actually has a counter perspective that is possibly 180˚ different than ours. Tempers may flare, veins in necks begin popping, faces get red and jaws are clenched. The whole situation can quickly devolve into raised voices, hurt feelings and a completely unproductive encounter.

Here’s what I’ve learned about respectful disagreement. It starts with understanding that we’re all equally entitled to our opinions. Thus, while what I believe may or may not be right, it doesn’t entitle me to become a flaming you-know-what when making my case to others. Further, I need to remember that positive persuasion is much more likely to produce the outcome I desire than is a negative approach. Remembering to smile before engaging in a persuasive moment helps set a positive tone. I also work hard to avoid making inflammatory statements. For example, saying “You obviously don’t understand what I’m saying,” can sound accusatory. A better approach might be to say, “Let me explain things differently,” or “I’m sorry, I’m not being very articulate with what I’m saying.” Being mindful of my body language is also important. I try to make sure that I maintain an “openness” at all times. I use non-threatening gestures; keep from crossing my arms; eliminate the urge to sigh or roll my eyes, and retain a passive facial expression. When we nod and say, “I understand what you are saying,” whether we agree with it or not, we are signaling the desire to preserve and continue a dialogue.

If we want to get to Yes, we do everything we possibly can to make the other person feel important and respected. We fail at this when we are manipulative, have hidden agendas, or take an approach that makes that person feel small or angry. Sometimes it’s hard work to stay positive and courteous throughout the encounter. Maybe the other person doesn’t choose to follow the Golden Rule. But that doesn’t mean we should do the same. If we don’t end up on the same page, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “Let’s just agree to disagree.”

Civil and positive discourse is still possible. Practicing it will dramatically increase our chances of success as we work to persuade others to say “Yes.”

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Audio Episode 21 – Fortune Telling

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Blind Pigs

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that even blind pigs find a truffle once in a while. Sometimes people will say that their luck has run out. Author Josephine Hart once wrote, “Lucky people should hide. Pray the days of wrath do not visit their home.” Theodore Roosevelt said, “As regards the extraordinary prizes, the element of luck is the determining factor.” Bill Watterson, creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes once quoted Calvin as saying, “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.” That one is my favorite.

So, how often do we chalk things that happen up to luck? There’s always been a lot of talk about coincidence, destiny and fate. It’s as if there are certain influences in our lives that are out of our control. And it’s pretty hard not to believe that this is totally true. But as the years have gone by, I’ve come to believe that we do control pretty much everything that happens, just not always at a conscious level. Once, I was talking with a friend who had been struggling with his job performance. He wasn’t hitting the sales goals his company had set and was on the firing line to improve. He had a breakthrough month and said this about it, “Basically, my team was down three points, and I got fouled shooting a half-court shot at the buzzer that happened to go in. I worked hard to get there, but it was purely coincidence that it all came together at one time for me.” But the reality of what transpired for him had nothing to do with coincidence or the serendipity that he describes.

What my friend didn’t realize is that he set an intention and then persevered to make it so. In the process, he created an energy that opened the door for him to win. We are such a tangible society. If we can’t touch it or see it, we often don’t believe it. Ah, ye of little faith, as the saying goes . . . right? But I’ve said many times how powerful our minds can be. Think about it. When we are in a negative frame of mind, how productive are we? How often do good things happen? Likewise, when we have a positive mindset how productive are we? How often do good things happen? I can’t think of a single time when I was in a sour mood and wallowing in negativity that anything really good came of it. And I do know that everything good that has transpired occurred when I was in a positive place. Thus, I have reached a pretty simplistic conclusion that if I stay positive, I’ll create the energy necessary to draw good things into my life.

Do you believe that NBA star LeBron James is the luckiest man alive because he can shoot the lights out and dominate the game? Or, do you believe that LeBron James maintains a positive mindset that propels him to work hard to take advantage of an opportunity given to him by his innate skills? He does a combination of stretching and yoga throughout the day. He works out in the gym and on the basketball court. He is fanatical about his nutrition and water. James has a tireless work ethic, preparing himself mentally and physically to be the best basketball player in the world. Is that luck?

We do not stumble into our success but will it to be so with our preparation and mindset. Keeping negativity at bay opens the door to the positive energy that is anything but luck.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Defaulting

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see these statements?

  • The dog ran away.
  • We didn’t get the Smith contract.
  • Our star salesperson just gave notice.
  • It may rain and keep us from teeing off at 4:00.
  • Your daughter just wrecked the car.

Your initial reaction to each of this less-than-stellar-pieces-of-news is your default thoughts. As humans, it’s natural for us to have an emotional response to many of the things we hear throughout the day. There may be moments of displeasure, irritation, dread, fear and even panic. We also have emotional responses to the positive things we are told or read. Many people experience highs and lows each day in this regard. And yet, it takes considerable energy to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could re-pattern our default thinking on the downside? Well, we can but there are a couple of requisites. First, we must truly desire to change our default thinking, for without a compelling reason we’ll fall back into the default mode in short order. Second, we must be willing to take the steps necessary to make this change.

For me, the desire to change my default thinking centered on my understanding of positive and negative energy flows. I’ve written many times about the fact that negative energy creates a blockage for creativity and our ability to solve problems. Also, negative energy just plain doesn’t feel good. It’s kind of like burning the roof of my mouth on a piece of hot food – the sensation isn’t very pleasant. I realized that metaphorically burning the roof of my mouth several times each day just didn’t make any sense.

This led me to accept that I needed to take actionable steps to effect change. What worked for me was to intentionally spend a day taking inventory of the various negative reactions that I held. I wrote them down for further analysis at the end of the day. I didn’t try to change any of my thoughts during that day – I simply tried to be as normal with my thought process as possible. Upon review, I was able to see thought patterns emerging and could then identify alternative reactions for the future when faced with similar challenges.

I’m at the point now where I may still have a fleeting burst of negativity when I encounter a situation that’s not favorable. But I quickly recognize it and replace it with a much more positive reaction. For example, suppose I learned that a particular investor I was counting on had decided not to invest in one of our deals. The initial quick reaction might be, “Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming. We’re now under the gun to find the money.” This might be accompanied by a surge of adrenaline. But literally within seconds, I’m able to shift my thinking to, “But it’s OK because I have three other investors who have said they want to be in our deals. I know I’ll get one of them to sign on.” And a feeling of calm occurs at that point.

Quickly shifting out of default thinking in negative situations puts us on the road to solving problems and avoiding the emotional lows that we may experience. There is no question that our lives are richer and fuller when we maintain positive thoughts.

 This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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A Road Less Traveled

I’ve written a lot about mindset and how much it influences our lives. Embracing a positive mindset is empowering but it requires us to establish new thought patterns. I thought it might be helpful to catalog some of the more common things that we may say from time to time, and offer an alternative. I find that when I intentionally pay attention to what I say verbally and silently, I catch myself before I go down the “negative road.” But if I don’t pay attention, it’s easy to end up there.

“I never have enough time.” Each of us has the same amount of time. It’s all about how we prioritize. I now say, “I have time to do what I choose.” Notice that I’m in control now rather than allowing myself to be tugged and pulled along the river of life.

“I just can’t win.” There’s no way we can win if we affirm defeat from the start. How about this instead? “I will continue to do whatever is necessary until I win.” There’s a hint of perseverance in this statement . . . which often is the secret ingredient to winning.

“I’m sick.” We all probably hear this quite often. In fact, we’ve most likely said it once or twice (or more). But again, why would we want to affirm something so negative? Here’s an alternative. “I see myself as healthy and whole.” Perhaps we are feeling a bit under the weather, but aren’t we better off affirming a positive vision of ourselves?

“I’m struggling with my finances and never have any money.” To allow good things to come our way we need to shed all thoughts of lack and limitation. Why? Because they block the flow of the positive energy we need to be prosperous. This statement (said with gusto!) will fully open the fire hydrant of creative energy. “Abundance is mine and I claim it!

“Something bad is going to happen, I just know it.” Hmmm. I know that I’ve been guilty of self-fulfilling prophecies and this one sure qualifies. It’s as simple as this. If we expect something bad to happen, it probably will. “I expect everything to proceed in perfect order and visualize the end result that I am seeking.” There’s no better way to inoculate ourselves from negativity than with a strong positive affirmation such as this.

“I don’t understand why so-and-so is treating me this way. It’s so unfair.” Conflict with others can lead to a feeling of victimization . . . if we let it. The truth is, we’re only victims of our own mindset, and that’s something we can control. When we are willing to take responsibility for our own actions we’ll say, “I am going to make a positive difference in the lives I touch.”

Yes, it’s possible that these positive statements may sound hokey. But here’s the point. The only way to break out of an undesirable mindset is to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations that we really believe. The best way to accomplish this is to understand exactly what we say that we want to change, and then be prepared with our replacement thoughts. Having practiced this for years, I can tell you that I still catch myself moving in the wrong direction at times. But that’s the key – we catch ourselves and move back into a positive state of mind.

Life is too short to live in anything but a positive mindset. For me the “negative road” has become a road less traveled. I see this as so for you too.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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