Archive for July, 2007

You have to Out-Imagine your Competition

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

We are at the half-way mark of the year and I think it would be appropriate to end the month with this post. I came across this quote today by a Mr. Tom Kelley. (I came to learn later on that he is the general manager of IDEO). Tom says that “If you can outlearn the competition, that gives you a way to stay ahead”. I disagree with that statement. I think that this was true in the Peter Drucker world of the Knowledge worker but we are now in the world of the creative worker. Imagination is more important today than knowledge.

I would say that “In the 21st Century, If you can out-imagine the competition, that gives you a way to stay ahead”. You can outlearn the competition and have all the knowledge you want in the world but unless you have talented workers who can imagine new ways of applying that knowledge, you will forever remaining a learning organization and fail to transition into an innovative organization. Innovation is a function of imagination.

Imagination is more important than learning today. The learner may go to school all he wants but it’s imagineers like Bill Gates, Michael Dell, etc who will stay on the innovative edge. By advocating for ‘outlearning your competition’, Tom is calling for benchmarking! Benchmarking is so outdated! It directs all your focus onto your competition in your effort to outlearn them. My thinking is that if you will become remarkable you must break out of the vicious cycle of competing against other companies or people. You must focus on pursuing your true personal or your ultimate organizational potential.

As you focus on yourself and your organization, your imagination will kick in and you, or your organization, will establish itself on the frontier of innovative thinking. It’s only through imagination and innovation that we can find a way to stay ahead. (Even the idea of ‘staying ahead’ is outdated. In the creative revolution of today’s society, you are only competing against yourself with the goal of reaching yours and your organization’s potential – but that’s another story altogether).

The One Extra Degree

Monday, July 30th, 2007

A couple of months ago I came across an inspirational movie that became a popular hit on youtube. The movie was titled “212°…The Extra Degree” and was about the fact that at 211° water is hot. At 212° it boils. With boiling water, comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. It’s the One Extra Degree that makes all the difference.

Think about that in terms of your personal life. What’s that one extra thing – that one degree of input, effort, commitment, service or labor – that will take you to the next level and bring you all the results you desire? Winner’s in life understand this concept. Look at a 100 meter-dash. Sometimes it is just a little stretch of the neck and head that separates between first place and second. Look at a photo finish of a cycling race, horse race, sprint race or even auto race. Sometimes it is a very tiny milisecond that separates between first and second.

That one extra degree might make all the difference for you. Don’t quit. Keep pushing. I have experienced the power of the extra degree many times. Before I came to the US, I was denied my visa four times. I kept on going back each time with the belief that I would get the visa. It was no surprise to me when I finally got it. You can achieve many of your goals too if you will just put in that extra degree of effort.  

Monitor your meter

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Ever since we moved into our home, I have made a habit of monitoring our gas and electric meter every couple of days. This practice enables me to regulate our use of these resources so that we can have a more efficient and successful home. I would like to use this principle in talking about monitoring your personal life meter. We all have built-in resources that, if not monitored, will bring stress into our lives. We all have a sort of built-in meter to pick up on stress. Stress, if not monitored, can easily derail our life purposes and paths. A certain amount of stress is essential in enabling us to fulfill our daily obligations but when we allow it to go over the norm, it lessens our ability to be effective and successful in life. Monitoring your life meter should not be another thing you have to do. It’s a matter of tuning in to ourselves to detect the level of stress as it’s occurring so that we have time to suppress and redirect it. Unless this is done consistently, we cannot become the winners we were born to be.

Use Your Talents

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I came across a quote today that spoke volumes to me. It’s an old quote by astronomer Galileo Galilei but very relevant to our lives today. He once said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use”. That’s powerful! It made me think: ‘Am I using my talents to their utmost potential?’

We have immense potential yet we rarely ever scratch the surface in our use of our potential. A few months ago I came up with an acronym that enhances an understanding of talents and how to use them. Here is the acronym on TALENT:

Thinking cultivates talent – It’s one thing to have talent and it’s quite another to know how to exploit that talent. It’s the quality of thinking that separents talented achievers from talented underachievers. Learning how to think at a higher level is key to maximizing your talent.

Attitude sustains talent – Denis Waitley is fond of saying that the winner’s edge is in his attitude. Attitude shines and it is the key to maintaining a successful pursuit of one’s real talents. A great attitude will enable you to achieve so much more than you ever dreamt possible.

Leadership elevates talent – Talent can enable you to soar from obscurity into the limelight but it takes leadership to keep you in the limelight. Having a leadership bent and a mind for what it takes to stay at the top is key to utilizing talent efficiently. Your leadership skills will elevate your talent.

Excellence magnifies talent – A solid commitment to pure excellence is the foundation for the magnification of one’s talents. Doing everything with excellence creates room for you to extend your talents. Excellence also sets you apart from the crowd because most people are used to mediocrity.

Nature nurtures talents – Nothing is more natural than a person’s talents. The key to being able to develop your talent is to stay natural. Don’t be a cheap copy when you can be original! Your nature actually sets you apart and makes you a winner. You’ve got to stay connected to the essence of who you are as a person.

Trustworthiness secures talent – A lasting legacy comes from lasting qualities. Developing a reputation for trustworthiness enables you to secure the use of your talents. People want to be able to trust that you will deliver. The key to that is in being truthful and honest with them. 

Character, Emotions and Words, but the greatest of this is Character

Friday, July 27th, 2007

The ancient Greeks taught that all conversation involved three ingredients: Ethos, or the character of the speaker; Pathos, connecting with the emotions; and Logos, which is teh content or words used. While these three are important, I think the most important is the character of the speaker. What we say stems from who we are. Our character actually gives us the moral fitness to be able to influence others in any way, shape or form. Character is therefore the greatest of these.   

Focus on the Fundamentals

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

One of my favorite movies is Glory Road. This movie was inspired by a true story of Texas Western’s Coach Don Haskins (played by Josh Lucas), who led the first all-black starting lineup team to the 1966 NCAA national basketball championship title. In the movie, one of Haskins key players was Bobby Joe Hill (played by Derek Luke). One of the most powerful scenes in the movie comes when Bobby Joe Hill showcases his skills on the basketball court. Coach Haskins benches him and tells him that he must focus on the fundamentals – he calls it fundamental basketball. That’s powerful.

Many times in life we miss the real essence of living because we forget the fundamentals. The fundamentals in life are all about who we become rather than what we do. It’s about character and credibility. It’s about trust and respect. It’s about commitment and responsibility. It’s about truth and honesty. It’s about people, not products. It’s about quality of life, not performance. It’s about relationships, not results. It’s about making a difference, not making money. It’s about ethics, not profits. Those are the fundamentals we should focus on.

How to Solve Problems

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

We all face problems daily. As a matter of fact, life is a series of problems with an occassional crisis here and there. One of the most important skills to develop therefore is the art of systematic problem solving. Systematic problem solving simply means having a methodology for handling life’s problems. By solving problems in an orderly way, you increase the quality of results in your life and the power of your thinking. Here is a methodology for solving problems:

First, approach the problem with the expectant attitude. Your attitude should be that there is a logical practical solution just waiting to be found. Such an attitude enables you tobe confident in your approach. Be relaxed, calm, confident and clear in your mind. Presidential candidate, Rudi Giuliani once said, “My father, when I was very young, used to say to me, ‘If you are ever in an emergency, if you are ever in a fire and everybody gets very excited, very emotional, then you become the calmest person in the room. Make yourself calmer than you feel, force yourself to pretend you’re calm and you’ll be able to figure out how to get out of there if you remain calm’. So I kept reminding myself of that. I was in charge, I was the person they were looking to and if I lost it they all would. I would have to say to myself, ‘You’ve got to remain calm, you’ve got to stay focused.’

Second, change your language from negative to positive. Instead of the word “problem,” use the word “situation” and instead of “crisis” use the word “opportunity”. It has been said that the Chinese word for crisis is the same as the word for opportunity. Problem is a negative word while situation is a neutral word, just as crisis is a negative word while opportunity is a positive word. Saying, “We have an interesting situation”, is better than saying “We have a problem.” Choose to say, “What an opportunity!” instead of saying “We have a crisis”. Words are powerful. What we focus on, through our words, expands and becomes the story of our lives.

Third, define the situation clearly. You must have a clear understanding of what your target is for you to be able to hit it. The best way to define your situation (or opportunity) is in writing. Ask yourself, “Exactly what is the situation?” Being able to clearly define the situation puts you in the best position to be able to chart your direction and approach. After clearly defining the situation, ask, “What else is the situation?” This is because there are many angles to a situation. Sometimes stating the problem in different words makes it much easier to solve. Every crisis has many angles. Define your crisis in many angles.

Fourth is to ask “What are all the possible causes of this situation?” or “What are all the reasons of this opportunity?” Every situation has it’s causes and every opportunity has it’s reasons. Failure to identify the causes or reasons for the situation often causes you to have to solve it again and again. Identifying causes also enables you to understand what not to do next time. Knowing the reasons that brought you to a certain situation positions you with the knowledge to avoid attracting those reasons again. It is much easier to deal with situations and opportunities by discovering the correct causes or reasons for their existence.

Fifth is to ask, “What are all the possible solutions?” I’ve heard it said that writing out at least twenty solutions to a problem guarantees you that one of them will be the key answer to your problem. Write out as many solutions or answers to the situation as possible before moving on. Allow for possibilities to emerge and shape your thinking. The art of problem solving lies in being creative in the generation of ideas that can solve your problems. The quantity of possible solutions usually determines the quality of the solution chosen.

Sixth is to “Make a clear decision.” Many times people fail to resolve problems quickly because of indecision. Indecision is the root cause of the state of ‘being stuck’. An old African proverb says, “Indecision is like a stepchild: if he does not wash his hands, he is called dirty, if he does, he is wasting water”. Making clear decisions is a sign of maturity and leadership. Any decision is always better than none.

Seven is to “Assign clear responsibility for carrying out the decision and then set a deadline for completion and review.” Harvey Mackay once said that a dream is a goal given substance, direction and timing. In the same manner, a clear decision is a solution given substance, direction and timing. You have to clearly assign responsibility and delegate to people who will effectively carry out the decision.

Finally, the eighth is to follow-up and monitor the decision. This process includes comparing the actual results with expected results and then generating new solutions and new courses of action. The end-result of this methodology is to reduce the chances of the problem ever cropping up again. As Rene Descartes once said, “Each problem that I solved became a rule, which served afterwards to solve other problems”.

A Formula for Success

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

The brain works in terms of mental images, and whatever images it has are likely to become reality. You can, therefore, literally see your way to success. This is called visualization. When you create prosperous images from scratch, don’t be “reasonable,” think big. Think beyond the limitations of your present and embrace the expansive world of your imagination.

Project thoughts of increase onto others, and you will find that they do prosper in health and monetary terms. Send positive thoughts to those with whom you are in conflict, and watch them soften their stance. That this could work may at first seem incredible, but is simply an extension of the “speaking well of others” that you were taught to do as a child. Denouncement has a way of bouncing back on you, but pointing out someone’s good points while keeping quiet about their bad is both truthful and prospering.

Becoming a Master of Exclusion

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

We live in an age and a society that has too many attractions for the average humen being. Every day we are enticed to lots of things that are daily vying for our attention. Sometimes it’s a new theme park, a new seminar, a new community activity, a new restaurant in the neighborhood, a new movie and many more. At other times it may not necessarily be something new but it will be something vying for our attention.

To become high performing achievers in life, we must relentlessly prioritize and not get sucked in by the many events, activities and attractions that vie for our attention. Knowing your life purpose is the first step towards maintaining your progress on the critical path that will lead to the results you expect in life. You can develop the habit of excluding unnecessary events from your calendar. I call this ‘becoming a master of exclusion’. 

Look at your calendar. Is it filled with activities, events and things that don’t seem to align with your personal vision for life? What value are each of the activities you sign up for adding to your life? Are these activities leading you in the direction you want to go? If not, exclude them from your calendar. Imagine yourself taking a road trip from New York to Cincinnati. There will be many places that you could potentially stop along the way. Do you have to stop at all of them? No. You will choose those that bring value to your trip. So it is with life. Become a master of exclusion.

Personal Development vs. Measuring Up

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Nothing consistently brings more results into our lives than a commitment to continued personal development. Personal development enables you to learn a lot about yourself and develop yourself in ways that maximize your skills. Personal development is hinged on growing yourself based on your personal potential and capability. The aim is to develop your skills and unleash the real you.

Our tendency though, is to measure ourselves against other people. We spend so much time trying to attain what others have attained, compare our results with theirs and ape their journey in life. Instead of aiding us in our personal development, this habit limits our personal growth and prevents us from reaching our full personal potential.

If we are going to reach our full personal potential. we must never compare ourselves with others. Every single human being has a specific purpose, assignment or destiny that is unique. It therefore doesn’t make sense to compare ourselves against others. The only comparison we should make is against ourselves and with our past accomplishments and future potential.

You can become an even more excellent person by constantly setting higher and higher standards for yourself and then by doing everything possible to live up to those standards. Don’t measure your life against other people’s lives. You are unique and designed for your own personal greatness. You were born to win, but in order to win you must develop yourself to reach your personal potential. 

Life at the Highest State of Productivity

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

July 21st is a special day for me. On my other blogs I have written extensively on key questions I’m asking myself this July 21st. Here. I just want to share a few statements on the epic life that I’m living – a life of flow. Flow is simply living life at the highest state of productivity. Every day I’m on a quest to live an epic life – a life of engaging, participating, interacting and creating in society; a life of significance, purpose, direction and potential. This July 21st I want to wish you the same – a life of flow and epic experiences. Have a great day! (Check out my Epic Flow blog)

How to Build Character that Endures

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Many people get stuck when it comes to building character. They keep finding themselves in character draining situations but have no concrete methodology for solidifying their character so that they don’t continue to fail every time their character is tested. Character development is a process that begins with the clarification of one’s personal values. Your values are the key to the sum total of your character. Your choice of values determines the quality of your character. When you select values such as integrity, love, courage, honesty, excellence or responsibility, and you live your life consistent with those values, every hour of every day, you actually become a person of solid character. It is your values that determine the kind of person you really are – your character. Values, therefore, are the building stones of character. Proper values ensure the development of solid character worth emulating.

The Factor of Trust

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

One of the intangible qualities that is in greatest demand today is trust. Society is looking for leaders that can be trusted, couples want to trust each other more, children want to be able to trust adults… in basically, every sector of society, people want to experience trustworthiness. 

Trust may be an intangible quality but it is created when people see tangible evidence that one’s words and actions are in harmony. Trust goes hand in hand with credibility. Are you believable when you speak? Do people know that they can count on you? Do you demonstrate respect to other people’s desires and interests? Can they trust you with their secrets?

Trust is eroded when we make commitments that we are unable to honor, and don’t do what we have committed to do. While it takes a lot of good actions to build trust, one single action can erode a lifetime’s work in building trust. One leadership expert has defined it as having spare change in the pocket. If you spend it, you have less of it to give away. But when you build trust, you have more change in your pocket. Trust is key to your success. Build it and peopel will gravitate towards you.

Maintaining Momentum in Life

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

This summer I’ve wanted to immerse myself in a couple of good non-fiction books to enhance my knowledge of a variety of things. One thing I discovered earlier on was that it was very hard to get started. I would come home with a ton of books from the library but it would take me a couple of days to really get my reading started. However, once I got started, it was very easy to keep going and complete my reading.

One of the things you will discover in life is that it is usually hard to get started on any project or initiative but once you do, it becomes much easier to work through and complete it. I call this the “momentum principle” and it is one of the great success secrets. This principle says that it takes tremendous energy to overcome the initial inertia and resistance to doing something new and getting started, but once started, it takes much less energy to keep moving.

The key then is to have the discipline to get started and then it will be easier to keep going. Starting something new is equivalent to being half-finished because starting is usually the hardest part. Choose to get started on something new today. You will find the momentum principle to be true. You can never know how much your momentum will sustain you until you get started.   

Cause-Based Living

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

One of the laws of life that I’ve been thinking of of late is the law of cause and effect. One famous speaker has said that “Your job is to institute the causes that are consistent with the effects that you want to enjoy in your life. When you do, you will realize and enjoy the rewards you desire.”

As I thought about this, the idea of ‘Cause-Based Living’ crossed my mind. Now, I know we live in a culture that continues to coin so many cliches about life and self-development but I think this is powerful. Cause-based living simply means focusing on doing the right things upfront so that you can get the results you want later.

One of the fallacies that we could easily get trapped in is the desire for the results without having instituted the causes first. The law of cause and effect simply urges us to realize that causes come before effects. Our actions on the front end determine our results on the back end. If you pay the price now you will enjoy the results later.

Are you on track with your New Year Resolutions?

Monday, July 16th, 2007

We are now more than halfway through the year 2007. Most people by now have completely forgotten about the goals they made at the beginning of the year. For the most, they changed their goals and direction informally, and never made it official.  Could this be the case with you? Did you just drop your goals without making it official? It is understable that you may have had to shift direction and change your goals. Flexibility is critical to your success in today’s fast paced ever-changing world, but when you decide to change direction, it’s important to make it official.

Why is it important to make it official? I’m glad you asked. If you don’t announce new goals, and admit you are no longer pursuing the previous ones, it becomes too easy to slip and slide from one set of objectives to another. This slipping and sliding makes you lose your credibility, your accountability to those around you suffers, and you begin to tread on “The Path of Least Resistance.” Pretty soon this becomes a pattern and habit in your life. To you it might seem all right, because you were not serious about those goals and resolutions anyway. 

Were the goals you set at the beginning of the year serious to you? In order to cultivate a winner’s mentality you have to make it official that you changed directions. This will prepare you for even greater success in pursuing future goals and directions.

Becoming Detail-Oriented

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

One of the most important skills that we need to develop is an ability to pay keen attention to the details of our lives. This begins with patiently and persistently studying to become thoroughly knowledgeable about the situations of our lives. We cannot expect to understand the situations we face if we don’t take the time to study them. The more we know about the challenges facing us, the more courage and confidence we will have to tackle those situations. The more time we take to think through a situation, the more capable we will be of dealing with it when it arises. Lack of knowledge – or ignorance about the details of our lives – will keep us in a cycle of defeat. Let’s become detail-oriented.

Three Keys to Being A Great Leader

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Leadership is in great demand… and not just leadership but great leadership. People are looking for examples that can be followed and consistency in their leaders that can be trusted. People are looking for substance in leadership. In order to become the great leaders we could be, I think there are three essential requirements that we must embody: 

1. Strive to Be Excellent

Striving toward excellence is the number one pursuit of great leaders. The leader is a leader becomes he or she does things better than most people. Nothing qualifies better more than excellence. Committing yourself to becoming everything you are capable of becoming and you will be a great leader.

2. Look for Ways to Help 

Leaders motivate themselves and others by continually looking for ways to help others to improve their lives and achieve their goals. Leaders have a passion for seeing others succeed. They therefore empower those aroudn them with ideas, tools, strategies and key things required to be successful in life. They think beyond themselves to others and how they can help them become successful in life.

3. Model Character and Credibility

The greatest need in leadership today is character and credility. You become a great leader by becoming the kind of person others want to get behind and support in every way. People want to follow believable leaders. They want to see authenticity and crebility in their leaders. They want leaders who will take the high ground and be examples worth emulating. A solid character will make you a great leader. 

Planning beats wishing … all the time!

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Human beings have a natural desire to make wishes. We have always been fascinated by the idea of wishing and the possibility of our wishes being fulfilled. Throughout history, people from all walks of life have always made wishes. Myths, stories and legends have been created about wishing. My favorite one as a little boy was that of Aladdin and the lamp. As I grew up, my parents introduced me to the idea of making a wish as I blew out the candles on my birthday. I remember wishing for many different things: secret power, heroic talents, world peace, fast horses, global travel, sleek cars, more intelligence, eternal life, more friends, perfect health for all the people I knew, .. I mean, I was a kid and my wishes were unlimited!

As I have grown older, I have come to the understanding that planning beats wishing. Most of the things I wished for never came to pass but almost all the things I planned for became reality. When I planned my studies with the goal of making it to the university, it happened. When I planned to get a visa and come to the United States, it happened. When I planned to go to graduate school and get my Masters degree, it happened. When I planned to go to my first NBA basketball game, my first broadway performance, my first opera night, all these things happened. When I planned to learn how to drive and buy an SUV, it happened. When I planned to grow spiritually, mentally and professionally, it happened. When I planned to teach at a University, it happened. Planning, therefore, beats wishing… all the time!

My English friends say that if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. If wishing could make things happen, then even the most destitute people would have everything they wanted. In order to get what you want you’ve got to go beyond wishing to planning. Henry Ford said that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Bring out your planner today and make some concrete plans. Planning beats wishing… all the time!

The Greatest Secret in Organizational Development

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

We live in a day and time that has seen the founding and creation of many organizations. People are forming organizations almost every day. While this is great, few of these organizations will become great because of a focus on financial and productivity metrics rather than human factor metrics. The great organization must keep it’s focus on it’s people and how best to nurture their diverse talents. Peter Drucker talks about the knowledge worker and how it is important for companies to attract and keep knowledge workers. Business success in this time of tremendous upheavals will hinge largely on the quality of an organization’s people. That’s the greatest secret in organizational development. 

People are an organization’s greatest asset. The organization must watch for clues to each employee’s natural talents and then position and develop each employee so that his or her talents are transformed into strengths. An organization’s strengths is not in its financial assets, not in its physical assets, not in its supplier lists or any other factor. An organization’s strength is in its people. High quality people, working on the basis of their strengths, are more valuable to an organization than any of its other resources.

By changing the way it selects, measures, develops, and channels the careers of its people, a great organization must builds itself around the strengths of each person. Such an organization becomes a lasting emblem of success in the community.