O-Fer

In baseball the stat line for a hitter who strikes out, flies out or grounds out in all his at-bats during a game is shown as 0 – 4 or 0 – 5. The stat sheet for a basketball player who continually shoots and misses without scoring a point might show 0 – 7 or 0 – 10. In athletic terms this is an O-fer . . . O for 4 or O for 5 . . . O-fer. Going O-fer is an ignominious experience and generally brings on scorn from the fans. In 1922, Babe Ruth faced St. Louis Browns’ pitcher Hub Pruett. The first 14 at-bats for the Babe resulted in 10 strikeouts and two walks. During the 1922 World Series, Babe Ruth hit one single and one double in 17 trips to the plate. Arguably one of the greatest players to ever step on the diamond, Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. That was fewer than a number of other baseball luminaries such as Barry Bonds (1,539), Mark McGwire (1,596), Mickey Mantle (1,710), Alex Rodriquez (2,287) and Reggie Jackson (2,597). Any student of the game will tell you that all of these players were some of the best in the history of baseball.

There is another side to the story. Ruth had 2,214 Runs Batted In (RBI); Bonds had 1,996; McGwire had 1,414; Mantle had 1,509; Rodriguez had 2,086, and Jackson had 1,702. And each smacked a lot of home runs during their respective careers – Ruth (714); Bonds (762); McGwire (583); Mantle (536); Rodriguez (696) and Jackson (563). I know this is a lot of statistics and if you aren’t a baseball fan you may not fully understand the astounding nature of these feats. But there’s a point to all of this. In life we do strikeout. Baseball players strikeout. Entrepreneurs strikeout. Salespeople strikeout. Going O-fer is just part of the game.

What matters is how we deal with going O-fer. When we flameout do we play the victim and blame someone else? Or do we examine our technique as well as the surrounding circumstances and look for ways to tweak our “form?” How easy would it have been for these great baseball players to have let their propensity to strikeout destroy their careers? Instead they did something else. They figured out how to take the strikeout experience and find a way to hit the ball out of the park in a future plate appearance. Babe Ruth was number 118 in lifetime strikeouts, but he was number two in RBIs. I find this fascinating. Here’s a man who drove in far more runs than he struck out – yet he had a lot of strikeouts over the course of his career.

I listened to a podcast recently about a venture capital firm that was launching its first fund. The principals were doing the typical road show and calling on prospective investors in multiple markets. They would typically be gone for a week at a time – one week they made 25 meetings in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and New York. During that particular week they were O-fer through 22 meetings. Imagine how this might feel! Yet, on their final day, they went three-for-three and netted tens of millions of dollars in commitments.

There’s more than just resilience at work here. It’s critical to understand that going O-fer is just part of the game. It doesn’t mean the game is over. With each new meeting, pitch, visit or idea, we’re starting zero to zero. It’s a tie game. I have learned not to look at O-fer beyond zero to zero. If we don’t win the last at-bat we simply start over with the next one. We remember the instructive elements from the encounter and discard all emotion as we make the pitch again to the next customer. We only lose if we stop playing the game. We know in our bones that eventually we’ll hit a home run or an RBI. So we keep playing the game.

If we understand that O-fer is just part of the game and can maintain our positive energy, we can erase our doubts and feelings of limitation. This sets us up to ultimately connect with the ball and score consistently.

 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 26 – The Really Deep Dive.

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.

babe-ruth

The LFT Problem

I knew a person who always seemed to have a black cloud following over his head. He encountered some of the most bizarre situations I’ve ever known. His drive to work regularly was a harrowing experience. I’d hear tales of near-death situations involving rogue drivers forcing him off the road. Then there was the incident at the sporting goods store. He tried to return an item he purchased and got into a massive fight with the store that involved an ongoing string of e-mails and phone calls. Finally he always seemed to be feuding with a friend. The reasons were so banal that I never figured out what was really the problem.

At one point I dug in a little deeper to try and understand why this individual was always struggling so much. And guess what I found? He had an LFT problem. If you haven’t figured it out by now, LFT means Looking for Trouble. He was continually loaded for bear and saw a conspiracy against him every time he turned around. Turns out he was a pretty aggressive driver (I rode with him once and he scared the bejabbers out of me). He could be very demanding so I imagine that in a retail store he might have been inclined to run roughshod over the sales clerk. He told me that his motto was to “expect the unexpected” and be ready to “play offense.”

Going through life with an LFT mindset must be pretty depressing. And it’s an attitude that’s pure poison for entrepreneurs. I can see preparing for the unexpected, but intentionally expecting something bad to happen seems like it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I truly believe that if we see conflict and strife in every situation then that’s how we’ll live. Those types of thoughts are like a magnet.

I can count on two or three fingers the number of times I’ve had close calls in my car. I know I’m pretty vigilant when it comes to driving and while alert, I’m not “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” In other words, I don’t believe that there is someone out there looking to make my driving experience a miserable one. As an entrepreneur I’m well aware of the fact that there may be others who are looking to gain an unfair advantage. But I don’t obsess on this awareness. Instead, I go into each situation with the belief that the person across the table from me is going to deal honorably and I know that we’ll find a mutually acceptable conclusion to our interaction.

Life is so much better when we are in an LFG mode. LFG? Looking for Good. Don’t be fooled by this approach. It’s not naïve or Pollyanna-ish. LFG is relatively simple. We look for the good in every experience and with every person. This type of thought is also like a magnet. When we Look for Trouble we find it. When we Look for Good . . . we find it! It doesn’t mean that I’m going to walk down a dark alley in a big city and flash a big roll of Franklins! After all I’m not bulletproof. But it does mean that until someone proves me wrong, I’m going to choose to see a positive outcome in whatever I’m doing.

The entrepreneur who wakes up in the morning with a siege mentality and wonders who or what is going to come at him today, is in trouble before his feet hit the floor. By contrast, the entrepreneur who wakes up and knows that today is going to be positive and productive has just set the stage for a great day. Oh sure, there will be challenges because that’s just life. But the challenges are so much easier to resolve when we don’t have a nagging belief that there’s someone hiding around the corner ready to whack us in the kneecap.

So which will it be – LFT or LFG? The choice is 100% ours to make. There is no conspiracy. And there is no “other shoe” about to drop.

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 10 – Urgently Patient.

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.

falling shoe

2,300 Feet and No Ropes!

On May 15, 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper blasted into space on Mercury-Atlas 9. The Mercury capsule was 10.8 feet long and 6.0 feet wide. The duration was 34 hours and 19 minutes 46 seconds at a maximum velocity of 17,547 miles per hour and an altitude of 166 miles.

Alex Honnold is a world-renowned big wall free solo rock climber. He is particularly famous for climbing Yosemite’s Triple Crown – The Nose (El Capitan), Mt. Watkins and The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome – completed in 18-hours and 50-minutes. Free solo climbing is done without ropes, pitons or carabiners.

Navy Commander Jeremiah Denton was a POW in North Vietnam for eight years (1965-1973) four of which were in solitary confinement. He was forced to participate in a 1966 televised press conference during which he blinked the letters T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code. After his release from captivity he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral and became a U.S. senator from Alabama.

What is the common thread that runs through all three of these individuals? Of course their physical stamina is obvious. But perhaps even more amazing is their mental toughness. I can’t imagine what it would have been like stuck in a tiny Mercury capsule all by myself hurtling through space at an incredible speed. What if something went wrong and I couldn’t get back down? Or how about being 2,300 feet up the 3,000 foot face of El Capitan with no ropes or anchors and suddenly feeling sick? And being tortured and isolated for years in a prison camp is incomprehensible. Without mental grit, think about how easy it would have been to go stark-raving mad in each of these situations and just totally lose it.

Fortunately as entrepreneurs we’re generally not faced with situations that threaten our mortality. But developing a strong mental state is critical to our entrepreneurial success. There are many situations that we encounter that call for mental toughness. If we waver or lose our way, we can lose a whole lot – financially, in terms of relationships, team members and reputation.

Exactly what should we do to become mentally tougher? First, how do we contemplate and deal with failure? Failing is actually a crossroads for us. When something doesn’t work the way we had planned we have a choice to make. We either give up or we get back up and keep trying. Feelings of pain and discomfort create patterns that our brain wants to avoid in the future. True progress is made when we decide to move forward past the pain and into a state of endurance.

Second, we need to identify the self-imposed limitations that hold us back. Do we have routines that have actually become ruts? If we keep pushing the goal we achieve real growth. Breaking out of old habits and happily accepting new challenges is mentally stimulating and helps us become conditioned for success. As is always the case, constantly maintaining a positive attitude is an enormous step toward becoming mentally tough.

Finally, we visualize the end result then write the script for the journey to get there. Mental toughness cannot be achieved aimlessly. We must have an end game in mind. Gordon Cooper wanted to finish the mission and get home safely. Alex Honnold wanted to get to the summit of El Capitan. Jeremiah Denton wanted to put his feet back on American soil. In each case they had a clear objective and kept it front and center at all times.

To become mentally tough we embrace failure and use it to create endurance. We discard self-imposed limitations and through positivity, set the table for success. Ultimately we paint a clear picture of what our success will look like and then execute the strategy and tactics that take us there.

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 5 – Now What?

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.

Yosemite_El_Capitan

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.

blind pigs

Speak to Me

Question: Recently I was asked to speak before an industry group. I’m very nervous about giving this presentation. How can I get rid of the butterflies and give a talk for which I can be proud?

Answer: Public speaking offers a terrific opportunity to share knowledge and gain exposure for your organization and yourself. And yet it’s something that a large percentage of the population fears . . . even dreads. Why is that? I believe that the main reason is that we are so afraid of what other people will think of us. What if we make a mistake? Will we be viewed as not having the expertise that we want to project? Perhaps we measure ourselves against the lofty speaking styles of those we perceive to be great orators.

As with most things, successful public speaking is all about mindset. We can allow the fear to consume us or we can turn the tables and actually embrace the opportunity. Think about this. The choice is very clear – consuming fear or a joyful embrace. Assuming that we choose to embrace the opportunity we then must continuously affirm how positively excited and grateful we are to be making the presentation. Making this choice is Step One in the process.

Step Two is to determine the style of speaking that is best suited for us. I detest standing behind a podium and reading a speech. Instead, I need to connect with my audience. I’ve adopted a style where I take a microphone and walk around the room – almost like a town hall format. I ask questions of the audience and encourage their feedback throughout my presentation. Thus, I do not put myself in situations where I can’t adapt the presentation to my style. And when I’ve been asked to stand behind a podium and read a speech, I’m generally able to re-work the format into my walk-around more casual approach. Finding the right style of speaking is a critical step toward a successful presentation.

Step Three is to practice, practice and practice. I recommend that you practice your presentation at least three times in front of other people if possible. The more you practice the more confident you will become. Practice also will allow you to become more fluid in your delivery and to fine tune some of the details that you wish to present.

So, now we have continuously embraced the opportunity with a positive attitude. We have developed a speaking style that is just right for us. And we’ve practiced our presentation multiple times. Now the moment of truth has arrived and perhaps we’re feeling a little jittery. Try “leaning into” the jitters. Instead of allowing them to nibble at our confidence, we turn the anxiety into excitement. Try exclaiming, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make the best presentation I’ve ever made in my life!” Say it multiple times along with a few deep breaths, and we’re ready to rock-and-roll.

Speaking in public is an honor. Presenting over and over ensures that we’ll become highly proficient. And then the feeling we get when we’re finished is that of supreme satisfaction.

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.

public speaking