Goody Two-Shoes

Gil Penchina is a 20-year angel investor in start-up companies. He was one of the earliest members of the eBay team and has invested in unicorn companies such as LinkedIn, Dollar Shave Club, PayPal and Cruise Automotive. I heard him tell a fascinating story about what he sometimes does when he’s traveling. He posts on Facebook that he’ll be away and offers his apartment to whoever wants it. Total strangers are often staying in his apartment – and have been identified not through a formal Airbnb arrangement! He’s done this 15 or 20 times and simply asks that the apartment be left clean and the bed linens and towels put in the washing machine. Only once has he been burned and that was by one of his cousins. Why would he do this? As Gil tells it, he believes that people are inherently good and he doesn’t believe they will harm his property.

How many times do we “look for trouble?” Do we have expectations that someone is going to try and take advantage of us? I’ve known many people who always have their guard up. They truly believe that if they don’t aggressively take protective action that they are going to be screwed. I’ve worked with people who spend more time trying to figure out how they are getting the short-end of the stick in a transaction than time spent figuring out how to optimize the deal. Guess what? This mindset can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I believe as does Gil, that most of us operate in good faith. Sure there are bad people in the world – I’m not naïve enough to deny this. But the number is infinitesimally small and I will do nothing to seek them out. I’ve said it many times that I’m going to put as much Good out into the world with no expectation of getting anything in return. What I’ve always found is that Good comes back to me, often beyond my wildest dreams. While there’s no quid pro quo for specific actions, I know that as I am doing Good, I will attract Good into my life. This is applicable to business, personal relationships, our health and all other facets of our existence.

Let’s be clear about something. This isn’t about blithely skipping down Candy Cane Lane oblivious to obstacles and pitfalls. When we believe in all Good, we manage risk such that we aren’t worried about bad things happening. Why? Because we have a mitigation plan in place that we methodically work through if the unexpected occurs. Simply planning for risks does not mean we think they will come to fruition. It gives us the peace of mind to know that we can successfully deal with them and allows us to devote our time and energy to the positive aspects of whatever we are doing.

In my 42+-year career I can count on one hand the number of times someone has maliciously taken advantage of me. Conversely, I know many business people who are constantly embroiled in lawsuits and always complaining about how awful others are to deal with. I guess I must be running in the wrong circles because I just haven’t encountered that many of those kinds of people.

A number of years ago we were purchasing an apartment property and placed a large amount of earnest money in escrow. During our due diligence process we found some issues that were unacceptable and we informed the seller that we were cancelling the contract. The seller wanted to fight over returning our earnest money and we spent a few dollars on lawyers before settling with him. He received less than 50% of the earnest money and we moved on. All of us believed that the seller was acting in bad faith and we could have endured a long protracted legal battle and won. But to do this would have required a huge expenditure of negative energy and prevented us from pursuing other positive opportunities. It turned out to be a minor blip in our process and was soon forgotten.

The Law of Attraction is a powerful force in our lives. When we think positive thoughts and do good things for others, we attract the same for ourselves. Negative thoughts and negative actions are also attractors. The choice is pretty easy to make.

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 59 – Mousetraps Squared.

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.

Hedges

I’m going to ask a question to which I already know the answer. But I’m asking it anyway. Have you ever hated doing something? Maybe it’s something boring that turns into pure drudgery. Perhaps it’s something you just flat don’t want to do. There may be a certain amount of procrastination involved. And in some cases you look for a way to hand it off to someone else or even ignore it completely. I don’t suppose that ignoring it makes it go away though, right?

Of course we know that this is all a mental game. That which we don’t really want to tackle is the product of our state-of-mind. Unfortunately, whatever it is we are dreading is usually something that really has to be addressed. And when we don’t, our negative mindset compounds and we resent the whole situation even more. There is a better way.

Here’s an approach that has worked for me. I “re-frame” and “lean-in.” What in the world does that mean? Let’s break this down into two parts. The re-framing element is all about stepping back and going at it a little bit differently. Think about the obstacle as a big hedge. We need to get from one side of the hedge to the other. But we keep running into a certain section of the hedge as hard as we can and it won’t budge. All that happens is that we come away with scratches on our arms and legs. Re-framing has us step back and study the hedge. By becoming more aware, we notice a section where the vegetation is quite a bit thinner and are thus able to see how we can get through to the other side.

Leaning-in means that once we have re-framed the situation we go at it with new purpose and vigor. When we see the thinner vegetation in the hedge we get up a head of steam and burst through to the other side. We visualize our success and aren’t timid or tentative about pursuing it.

This probably sounds reasonable in theory but exactly how does it work in the real world? Suppose we know we have to sell a certain amount of our product to meet our income targets. But to do this we need to “dial-for-dollars” – i.e. get on the phone and make a bunch of cold calls. The problem is that we loathe the thought of calling people to try and make a sale. We tell ourselves that we really aren’t any good at making these calls. We tell ourselves that the customers we are calling really don’t want to have their day interrupted by us. In fact, every excuse in the book is running through our heads. Meanwhile, the phone calls are not being made and cash register isn’t ringing. Does this possibly sound familiar?

What if we re-framed the effort this way? We make the call, but instead of selling we’re trying to understand how a particular customer decides to make corporate philanthropic donations because we’re formulating our own policy in this regard. Without a doubt, this needs to be a legitimate initiative on our part and not a ploy. We get to talk to the customer differently – outside of the “I’m selling” and “you’re buying” dance that is done. Our call is part of a relationship building process.

We lean-in by pushing hard to gather data from a number of customers that we otherwise would be cold-calling. Then we call them back to report the results of our findings. This gives us two customer touches without ever asking for a sale. And as the relationship grows, the customers we call are seeing us in a different light and may even initiate a purchase from us. No longer is this drudgery. Instead we’ve given ourselves a new purpose and now we are excited to make the calls. Most importantly, we have a completely different attitude that is palpable to our customers.

Re-framing and leaning-in are simple tools that we can use to get rid of the negative energy surrounding that which we don’t wish to do, and replacing it with positive energy. As we embrace this new approach our stress and frustration melts away and we can celebrate the conquering of a chronic irritant in our lives.

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 46 – Urgent Care.

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.

A hedgerow and a house at the end of it

Team ‘Tude

My favorite Major League baseball team is in a slump. They can’t hit their way out of a paper bag. Their starting pitching has been amazing, but the bats are asleep. They are losing games 1 – 0 or 2 – 1. For a fan, it’s agonizing to watch. How can it be that an entire team that is paid over $140 million a year cannot hit? What’s worse, the two highest paid starters are batting .169 and .203 respectively. It’s one thing for a player or two to be slumping. It’s quite another for the whole team to be in this predicament. Yeah, I know. It’s a long season and eventually the bats will come alive. Hopefully it won’t be too late to make a serious run at a pennant. But this whole episode is instructive from an entrepreneurial standpoint. What happens when our entire team is in a slump?

Have you ever felt like nothing is going right? Multiply this by the same feeling being shared by nearly everyone on your team and you may have a genuine team slump. The reason for this is as obvious as the entire baseball team slumping all at the same time. In scientific terms, the team’s attitude is messed up! So you ask – how did we get there in the first place? Who knows? The important thing is that if we’re not careful it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It often starts with one person – perhaps a star producer – who is struggling with a losing streak. That individual may grouse a bit with the “woe is me” routine. Others listen to this and can’t help but be impacted. It’s particularly concerning when a leader in the organization becomes negative in this way. Team members begin to feel a bit insecure. Everyone starts looking over their shoulders. They work especially hard to avoid mistakes and become very self-conscious in the process. Eventually each member of the team has become part of the downward spiral that creates the aforementioned slump.

What’s the way out? In baseball, sometimes the general manager fires the hitting coach. In other instances, the manager may shuffle the lineup. I’ve heard of more drastic situations where a team meeting occurs and a player reads the riot act to the rest of the team. Then everyone rallies, puts on a new face and plays the game with new resolve. And sometimes all of this can work.

I submit that when a team is struggling as a whole, it’s time for the leader to step up. It’s a time for calm. If the entrepreneur/leader starts to panic, it’s awfully hard for the whole team not to follow suit. Instead, strong positive reinforcement is needed from the leader. Each team member needs to be told in genuine terms how critical he or she is to the organization. The leader should point to the positive patterns of success that have been realized in the past. He or she shouldn’t hesitate to provide coaching where there are obvious flaws in execution.

It’s also a time to engage the team in an exercise of collaboration. Team meetings are held where ideas are exchanged and new positive energy is created. It’s important for us as entrepreneurs to be truly optimistic and upbeat. It’s not a time to wallow in despair and dwell on all of the negative things that have been occurring. When we model calm and creativity, our team will respond in kind. Our leadership has never been more important than at times like this.

Ultimately we want each member of our team to commit to a positive attitude. Sound a bit woo-woo? It’s not. I haven’t been in the locker room of my favorite baseball team, but I’m willing to bet that the attitude isn’t very positive. Attitude is a razor’s edge. It’s easy to tip either way into positive or negative territory. If the team ends up with a negative attitude there is no way that it will win. It’s the entrepreneur’s charge to make absolutely certain that a positive attitude is attained and maintained.

Team slumps can be attributed to the team’s attitude. Strong leadership that creates infectious positivity is a great start toward helping the team regain its balance and winning form.

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 45 – Comfortable Skin.

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.

Cocoons and Garlic Necklaces

How often have you encountered situations where you conclude that luck must have played a part in the outcome? Perhaps you barely escaped being involved in a horrific traffic accident. Or you walked into a meeting with a prospective customer with whom you’d never spoken and won a major account just by “being in the right place at the right time.” Is someone who seemingly sails through life without struggle just lucky? What about fate? Is our destination already mapped for us? Are some people pre-ordained to succeed and others to fail? Could it be that we use “luck” and “fate” as rationale for something we don’t understand or can’t explain?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and profess that I believe luck and fate are mostly myths. Since no one can prove or disprove this statement, I think I’m pretty safe. Notice I didn’t completely rule out either concept . . . because I can’t be totally certain. But I do think that how we live our lives has a lot to do with what we might otherwise perceive as luck or fate. While this may sound a bit New Age, stick with me on this.

I am totally committed to the notion that positive energy exists and when we live a positive life in every way possible, good things come to us. Does this mean that a positive lifestyle provides protection from bad things happening to us? I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible but I prefer to look at . . . yes, the positive side of this. Here’s what I know for sure. When I’m thinking positive thoughts my heart rate is lower, my head is clearer and I’m more often “in the zone.” I’m much less resistive to new ideas and my creativity is off the charts.

Successful outcomes are a combination of many things. It helps to have talent, skill, intelligence, hard work, determination and perseverance. Everyone has talent. Unfortunately many people don’t dig deeply enough to discover their true talent – but it’s there. Skill can be learned and developed. Almost everyone can learn and develop a skill. Intelligence is innate, but even those individuals with average or below-average IQs can be very successful by learning how to think. Yes, there are many who are allergic to hard work, but everyone has the opportunity to work hard. With the right mindset, anyone can possess enormous amounts of determination. And of course we all can persevere if we choose to be patient. Too often, people are willing to give up because they aren’t determined and patient enough. Are people who consistently enjoy high levels of success just lucky, or have they discovered their talent, honed their skill, learned how to think critically, worked hard, been doggedly determined and are supremely patient?

Who needs luck when we can wrap a cocoon of energy from a positive mindset around our talent, skill, intelligence, hard work, determination and perseverance? The universe works in amazing ways and perhaps we resist negativity and bad outcomes by living inside this cocoon? Suppose we’re competing for a contract and we lose. Some might say that our woo-woo positive approach didn’t work. But I choose to see it differently. Instead, I get very excited when I don’t win because it means that something better is in store for me. In the moment that may be hard to see. But I’ve experienced this concept countless times. There have actually been instances when I’ve later learned that what we “lost” would not necessarily have been right for us in the first place. I remember vying to acquire an apartment property in a small town but did not win the bid. A few months later the major employer in that town pulled up stakes and left – occupancy at the apartment property we had wanted to buy was devastated.

Luck and fate are abstractions that can allow us to rationalize our success or failure. Living the most positive lifestyle possible eliminates the need for carrying a rabbit’s foot or wearing a garlic necklace to ward off evil spirits.

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.

garlic necklace

Watch Your Language!

Words, words, words. Research by Louann Brizendine of the University of California indicates that on average, women speak 20,000 words per day and men speak 7,000. I share this to point out how many opportunities we have as men and women to create positive or negative energy with what we say. Our words can be uplifting or demoralizing; they can be helpful or hurtful, and they can be passive or aggressive. In my opinion one of the most important things to remember is that what we speak is an affirmation.

As entrepreneurs and for everyone in general, we want our affirmations to be positive. Affirmations have power. They pattern our conscious and subconscious minds. The seemingly innocent things we say are cumulative and can have a profound impact on our lives. Let’s look at some of the “benign” statements that are made every day.

“I didn’t have time . . .” I’ve been working hard to eliminate from my vocabulary any reference to not having enough time. I realize that I make a choice about how I spend my time and I’m not somehow under its spell. Sure, there are things that don’t get finished, but I chose which tasks those were. Understanding this has helped me become much more adept at prioritizing what I do each day.

“I can’t do . . .” This one is dangerous. The more we say this, the easier it becomes to admit defeat – and “I can’t” is clearly the flag of surrender. As cliché as it may seem, I try to replace “I can’t” with my childhood memory of the 1930 story by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could. I’ve decided that I’d rather “think I can,” try and fail, than “think I can’t” and not try at all.

“I’m sick.” I refuse to acknowledge this. It’s true that I may get a sniffle from time-to-time but I’m not about to affirm that I’ve succumbed to ill health. If I do feel a bit under the weather I will affirm that I’m healthy and whole. That, along with lifestyle changes I’ve made, powers me past whatever may be trying to ail me.

“I hate . . .” I’m guilty on this one and realize that I need to change. I say things like “I hate red lights, idiot drivers and incompetent bureaucrats.” Unfortunately there’s a touch of anger – albeit fleeting – that is present when I say, “I hate.” And anger – even a short and subtle burst – can have a physiological effect on our bodies. A combination of brain chemistry and muscular response can weaken our immune systems.

“Why did this happen to me?” There are a multitude of variations of victim-speak. “He/she screwed me,” or “I didn’t win the contract because my competitor is unscrupulous.” I’ve been working for years to recognize the fact that I’m in control of my own destiny and I’m not about to give my power to others, especially through verbal (and negative) affirmations. If I lose it’s going to be of my own doing and not because of someone else.

That which we affirm has a higher probability of manifesting than that which we do not. Why then would we want to affirm anything but positive results for ourselves?

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.

Little Engine That Could

Celebritude!

As I write this it’s just days before the end of the year. It’s a time of rest and reflection. It’s a time of excitement for the New Year ahead. And it’s a time for celebration and gratitude – Celebritude! What is Celebritude?

Celebritude is a celebration of gratitude. Think about all for which we can be grateful. It’s not very hard, is it? Hopefully we’ve been acknowledging our gratitude throughout the year. After all, we know that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is part of the giving and receiving equation that enriches our lives. But we can do more in the gratitude department by creating “Celebritude.”

Celebritude is a time to think about those who have been particularly instrumental in supporting us and helping to make our lives better. Was there a teacher who inspired us during our early years? Perhaps there was a mentor somewhere along the way. How about a friend who lent a sympathetic ear during tough times? Maybe a colleague encouraged us to step up and do something we never thought we could do. And of course there may be a spouse or significant other who always believed in us.

To create Celebritude we must intentionally inventory those seminal figures that have helped shape our lives in positive ways. Then we take the opportunity to celebrate them and all that they have meant to us. There are many ways to do this. For example we could write a heartfelt letter to that teacher expressing our appreciation for his or her inspiration so many years ago. We might make a charitable contribution in the name of the mentor we appreciate so much. Dinner at a nice restaurant for that fabulous friend who has been so encouraging could be a perfect expression of gratitude. A nice gift might be appropriate for that colleague who challenged us to stretch ourselves and be better. And maybe we could take a special trip to say thank you to the spouse or significant other who has stood by our side through thick and thin.

When we create Celebritude we amp-up the gratitude process. It grounds us in the knowing that others have lifted us up and helped to propel us forward throughout our lives. By celebrating our gratitude for these wonderful souls we open a major channel of positive energy that benefits others as well as ourselves. And we can continue to live in Celebritude by paying it forward. Now, we can become that significant benefactor in someone else’s life by providing inspiration, support, mentorship, challenges and love.

The creation of Celebritude can be life changing for us and for others. Truly celebrating our gratitude brings a new level of momentum to the positive energy in which we thrive.

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.

Celebration

Resolute

Question: It’s time for another New Year’s resolution.

Answer: Over the past year I’ve written a great deal about how the mindset we have means everything. For the coming year I resolve to hold a positive and productive mindset about everything and everyone. We’ve all heard that our minds are incredibly powerful. Undoubtedly we’ve seen numerous examples of how this impacts our lives and the lives of others – so we know it works. Our opportunity in the New Year is to commit to put this into practice.

If I encounter a health challenge of some sort, I will hold a positive and productive mindset to see myself as healthy and whole. I know that the power of my mind will enable my body to heal. A negative mindset will block the healing process.

If I face difficulties in my relationships I will hold a positive and productive mindset to bring about peace and harmony. When negative thoughts about another person creep into my mind, I will recognize them; release them, and replace them with positive thoughts.

Should I face financial difficulties I will hold a positive and productive mindset in order to find the right and perfect solution. This will give me insight into a window of creativity that will lead me to a state of abundance and prosperity. Negative thinking will constrict the creative flow that I need.

When I find myself in a funk I know that this can turn into frustration. I will hold a positive and productive mindset in order to become relaxed and refreshed. Frustration is pure negative energy and will prevent me from returning to a place of balance and order.

If I experience fear, I know that a positive and productive mindset will allow me to shine a light into the shadows and chase the fear away. Negativity and fear are twin siblings and I have no use for them.

I am solely responsible for my own thoughts and I accept the consequences of those thoughts. I know that positive thoughts produce positive results and negative thoughts produce negative results. Thus, I make the choice to hold a positive and productive mindset in order to live a happy and successful life. The equation is simple and straightforward.

Happy New Year!

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.

New Year Image 2