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

Dumpster Fires

Dumpster fires are tricky devils. They usually start out as nothing. Just a bunch of trash sitting in a big metal bin . . . and then someone flicks a cigarette butt or empties hot coals from a grill and the smoldering starts. Who knows what’s really inside the container? It could be aerosol cans, used motor oil, acetone, automotive batteries, paint thinner and a host of other accelerants. After smoldering for a while, the fire gets hotter and hotter until it becomes a raging inferno. If the dumpster is too close to a building, the entire structure could ignite and burn to the ground. Discovered early enough, a simple fire extinguisher could put out the blaze in a matter of seconds. But once it’s out of control the fire department may have a battle on its hands for hours.

There’s an obvious parallel between dumpster fires and the minor irritating problems that entrepreneurs encounter every day. We all experience situations that we tend to ignore. Perhaps there is a petty conflict between two members of our team. Maybe it’s a nagging customer service issue or a piece of equipment in the plant that isn’t functioning properly. We know the problem is there, but we simply choose not to address it wishing and hoping that it will just go away. After all, we have bigger crises to deal with. Right?

But we all know what eventually happens. The conflict between team members blows up big time and someone quits or has to be fired. Other team members are dragged into the drama which impacts productivity and damages our culture. The customer service issue results in the loss of a customer and perhaps a nasty post in the social media world hurting our brand in a much broader way. Now we’re in damage control mode involving multiple members of our team who are trying to restore our reputation. And that piece of equipment in the plant that wasn’t functioning properly? It finally breaks completely, shutting down the entire production line in the process. Oh, and one of our team members was injured when the machine finally died.

Each of these situations began as a small smoldering dumpster fire. Immediate attention (the fire extinguisher) would have resulted in a solution that put out the fire. The wider ranging consequences of inaction would have been avoided. This leads us to conclude that we need to look for small problems every day and intentionally take the necessary steps to fix them. I know that I have small festering issues that need my attention. But sometimes I just don’t want to face them at the moment. So I give myself a 24-hour pass and make sure they pop-up the next day on my task list. I’ve learned that it takes discipline to handle the small stuff or else I’ll eventually have to spend a whole lot more time and money untangling things later. I’ve found that the 24-hour pass approach works well for me. And I may even find myself thinking about what the solution will be before the end of my self-imposed deadline. Unfortunately there is no other trick to it other than “just do it.”

Small seemingly inconsequential problems can explode into dumpster fires that consume our lives. It’s better to take small incremental steps to solve the problems as they arise and then we won’t have to call the fire department because our house is burning down.

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.

dumpsterfire

Unregrettable

There’s no Question and Answer this week. Because what I want to write about is of a most serious nature. The husband of my oldest friend in the whole world was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer just a short time ago. Of course he fought hard but today we mourn his passing and celebrate his life. And it brings into focus a much bigger point that must be made. How exactly are we living our lives? What are putting off until tomorrow? In my book, An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By, the entire first chapter is about living today like we’re going to die tomorrow. In honor of my friend and her husband, please allow me to excerpt a few thoughts on this subject from my book.

A goldfish will only grow as large as the container in which it lives.  Humans are no different. Living today like you’re going to die tomorrow is all about capacity. By definition capacity is the ability to receive or contain. Most people will tell you to live life to your full capacity – regardless of its size. Truly amazing success comes not when you fulfill your capacity but expand and surpass it.  You have to get a bigger fishbowl.  But how?

1.    Create a sense of urgency in your work life and in your personal life. Become much more adept at planning and time management. In turn you will become more proficient at prioritizing. Remember that you are doing this not just to live to your capacity for life, but to expand your capacity for life and then live to it.

2.    Learn how to live in the moment. The past is good for pleasant memories and as a learning tool. The future may never come. Tend to your priorities. If attending your son’s little league baseball game is a priority, then by all means, be there. If participating in a brainstorm session with your work colleagues is a priority, focus on doing your part in the brainstorm.

3.    Don’t worry. Think about and find solutions for what you can control and ignore the rest.

4.    Eliminate the propensity for procrastination by making certain that you clearly understand your goals and objectives. Then identify and prioritize the tasks that must be completed to achieve your goal. This makes it hard to put off doing what needs to be done.

5.    Become aware of unnecessary actions and wasted motion in your life. Then look for ways to replace them with greater productivity which is another way to expand your capacity for life.

6.    Understand that quality downtime is critical to being able to live in a healthy and productive manner. You are no good to yourself or the people who depend upon you if you burn out.

7.    Make an inventory of what your family and business associates would need in the event that you die. Then, take the steps to put your affairs in order. This will give you the peace of mind to live each moment to the fullest.

The question I ask myself at the end of every day before I go to sleep is, “Do I have any regrets?” I am so blessed because I can honestly answer this question with “No.” I believe that my friend and her husband would also answer it the same way. Can you?

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.

dancing

Later

Question: I have come to the realization that I’m a procrastinator and it’s really impacting my career. How do I conquer this affliction?

Answer: We procrastinate for several reasons. Three of the more common include simply not wanting to do something; we don’t know how to do it, or we view the task as too big and daunting. It’s important to understand why we are reluctant to tackle whatever it is that needs to be accomplished. Then in clinical fashion we can resolve what is holding us back.

Let’s take the toughest one first – we simply don’t want to do something. Everyone has things they just don’t like doing. As a child, one of my chores was cleaning up the dog poop in the backyard – the product of my parent’s penchant for raising Chihuahuas. Because I was conscripted and had no choice in the matter, I learned to get this nasty responsibility out of the way in the morning before I went to school. As a result I got to eat; was able to play after school, and avoided the wrath of my parents. Fast forward to today and the lesson I learned is to resolve to do the things I don’t want to do as early in the day as possible and focus on the benefits of accomplishment.

A lack of knowledge or understanding can cause us to put off something that needs doing. The simple realization that this is why we are procrastinating can be the kick-start that we need to move forward. We determine if we need clarification from another person. Or perhaps we require technical information that can come through further study. A number of years ago I asked one of my newer colleagues to prepare what I thought was a fairly elementary analysis. Days went by, then a week. When I inquired as to the reason for what I thought was her procrastination, she was embarrassed to admit that she had no idea how to create an Excel spreadsheet.

What do we do about something we are avoiding because it looks so enormous and foreboding we don’t even want to start. Remember the old adage about eating an elephant one bite at a time? Well, it applies here. I am constantly dealing with massive and complicated projects and found long ago that the only way to keep from being overwhelmed is through obsessive planning. Break the task down into manageable components; organize them logically; plot them on a timeline, and execute. This is the only way for me to beat avoidance and stay sane.

The enemy of procrastination is determination. Determination as to the root cause of our avoidance, and then our determination to take the steps necessary to successfully complete the project or task at hand.

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.

chihuahua-elephant