You Already Have the Answers

“Seminar Junkies” is a term used to describe people who go from one seminar to the next, always seeking better ideas, BUT rarely using what they’ve learned. Because they never use the knowledge, their lives don’t change, so it’s off to the next seminar, searching for that life changing nugget of information. If it’s not seminars, it’s books, or websites. The addiction is to seeking information instead of taking action.

This is important. The best ideas in the world are absolutely worthless, until the moment we put them into action.

More information is rarely the problem. The real challenge is applying the information we already have. Tony Robbins once said, “Lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know.”

Where are you waiting for more information before you take action? Where are you not taking the action you know you need to take? OR where are you already taking action, but need to dial up the amount of effort or just get more consistent?

Information is important, but it just gets you in the game. Knowledge doesn’t create results. Action does.

why we don’t get the results we want

i have my reasonsResults matter. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business leader, executive, entrepreneur, or employee; whether you’re in sales, HR, finance, marketing, or IT; whether at work or in your personal life. Results are important. Yet, we don’t always create the results we want. Then the reasons and excuses come out.

Excuses or Reasons?

What’s the difference between an excuse and a reason? Simple, other people have excuses for failing, but I have legitimate reasons I didn’t accomplish the results I needed. They failed, while I tried hard. They’re whining and playing the victim about their failures, but I’m rationally explaining why it didn’t work out as planned. Right?

Actually, I am just having a bit of fun with the human tendency to justify outcomes, even if only to ourselves. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we call it or how we describe it.

Reasons or excuses, circumstance or a lack of effort, whatever. Either way we didn’t get the results.

Reasons or Results?

The truth is, there are only two things in life, reasons and results, and reasons simply don’t count.” ~ Robert Anthony

We either have reasons or we have results. These words pulse through my mind whenever I come up short on my goals. We either accomplish what we needed to or we have a list of explanations as to why we didn’t. Yes, sometimes things happen that are completely beyond our control. More often we simply didn’t plan well, stay focused, make good use of time, truly give full effort, track and evaluate actions and progress, have the right people involved, have a suitable contingency plan, or persist, persist, persist. The #1 reason we don’t get our results? We accept our reasons in place of our results.

Put it another way: Getting results means giving up your reasons. And those reasons are often so compelling, comfortable, and familiar. I know what I want to accomplish. I know what I need to accomplish. Am I willing to give up my reasons to get those results?

Are you?

best practices for playing the victim

As one year ends and another begins it’s a time of reflection and renewal for many people. They assess what they accomplished in their lives the previous year and begin planning the results they want to create in the New Year. Sure, there are those who will prattle on about the advantages of goal setting and action plans and blah, blah, blah. So what? That requires discipline and effort and focus and inconvenience and change and who has time for that? What if you could just short cut the process by playing the victim?

Ever played the victim? I sure have. I don’t mean being a victim of a crime or suffering for someone else’s actions. I mean wanting my life to be different, taking no actions to make it different, and then stockpiling an exhaustive list of reasons and excuses as to why it’s not different. I don’t want to brag, but I do believe I can use my experience to help you be a better victim.

If you’ve never played the victim, there are a few key strategies and best practices that are important to know as you start out. As with any skill, the masters can get away with things that amateurs can’t and I’ve tried to note some of those exceptions.

1. To justify your lack of progress ALWAYS compare yourself to others and NEVER compare yourself to yourself. Sure, some would say you can only measure success by the progress you’ve made given what you have and where you started, but there’s no place in victimhood for measuring your progress against your efforts. [NOTE: an expert level victim can use their own past failures as justification for not making any progress today, but it’s a tricky thing because even a casual observer might make the rational argument that yesterday is not today. Leave this one for the pros.]

2. It’s also important to compare yourself to people with completely different circumstances, skills, strengths, and gifts and use that as proof that you can’t create the difference you want in your life. BUT it’s very important to only look at those who had advantages over you, NEVER compare yourself to those who had more to overcome. For example, if I was creating excuses for not being wealthier I’d only want to compare myself to those born into money and never ever compare myself to a first generation refugee struggling with new culture and language who became a millionaire by working three jobs, foregoing all luxury, saving every dime, and investing prudently for thirty years. [NOTE: A truly masterful victim can compare themselves to those who have it worse by twisting that hardship into an “unfair advantage.” But, don’t try that the first time you play the victim as you’ll end up looking petty and silly.]

3. When you compare yourself to others who have been more successful at what you’re not accomplishing, be sure to minimize their efforts by writing it all off as being “lucky”. Sure there is always going to be an element of location, timing, help, and unexpectedness to any success story, but being a good victim means focusing only on the advantages that were outside the other person’s control. If I wanted to justify, say, my lack of success as a musician, I’d look at person who was an “overnight success” ten years in the making and complain that it all comes down to who you know. [NOTE: never try to apply logic to your victimhood. You want to create rationalizations, not be rational. There’s a difference.]

4. A key part of being a really great victim is to choose reasons that you have absolutely no control over and then use that as justification for never changing the things over which you do have control. For example, if I wanted to justify why I’m a poor swimmer, I might say, “The best swimmers are much taller and have longer arm spans than me. There’s nothing I can do about being short, so I’ll never be a better swimmer.” You might be thinking that I might never be a gold medalist but I could – maybe – improve my swimming by taking lessons and actually getting into the pool occasionally. And you’d be right, BUT you’ll never be a good victim with that kind of reasoning.

5. Memorize this phrase and use it a lot: “I tried that, but….” This phrase does wonders for giving legitimacy for half-hearted efforts. Forget persistence, never mind actual results, simply dismiss any lack of progress by saying, “I tried.”

6. Seek help from others, but never from anyone who might be able to help you. Actually, seek “help” by only finding people with whom you can commiserate and complain. Ideally, you’ll want to find someone who will not only believe you excuses but will enthusiastically support and build on them.

There’s just a few tips to get you started. Of course, you’ll find and develop your own victimhood style as you go. The really nice thing about playing the victim – if you do it well – is that your lack results and progress will never be your fault. Sure, you won’t create the life or career you actually want but at least you’ll sleep soundly knowing it wasn’t you that got in your own way.

flashback friday: quick thought on perfection

Imperfect action will beat perfect inaction any day of the week. It’s easy to get caught up in planning every detail perfectly and not moving forward until everything is meticulously thought through. And if you fall for that trap, you’ll get crushed by someone who was able to immediately execute a pretty good plan.

[this was originally posted on June 16, 2011]

relationships matter. a short book review of “Social Gravity”

Networking for the sake of networking comes off as crassly self-serving. It tends to feel vapid and hollow and more than a little creepy. Building relationships because it’s fun, useful, and mutually beneficial is a whole ‘nother story.

Business equals people equals business. Can’t get around it. Business gets done through, for, and by people. Period. We can deny it and struggle and wonder OR we can recognize and embrace it. Want to be better at business; want to get more done? Get better with people. Build stronger relationships.

That’s where Social Gravity by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen comes in. Ultimately, Social Gravity is less about networks and more about “authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.” As the authors say in the introduction: “What you know helps you play the game, and who you know helps you change the game.”

We all know that who you know matters, but most of us spend our time resenting it rather than doing something about it. Section 1” …It’s Not What You Know…” focuses on reminding us of the importance of relationships, the difference they make in getting things done, the need for high quality relationships, and the distinction between using social media as a tool to enhance relationships vs confusing likes and follows with actual relationships. Relationships have power and how we harness and use that power makes a tremendous difference.

Us humans generally get in our own way by either overcomplicating things or trying to get long-term success through shortcuts. Section 2 “Discover the Laws of Social Gravity” delves in to the areas that most networking advice seems to miss completely. The authors expand on taking the long-term approach to building relationships, being open to connecting with others, being our real and authentic selves, and contributing our time and effort in meaningful ways. These are all important, obvious, common sense ways to meet great people and build mutually beneficial relationships. They are also generally ignored and dismissed by those in the throes of networking frenzy who prefer the whitebread, fast food, business-card-trading shortcuts. It’s shifting from style to substance, from activity to results, from superficial to meaningful, from networking to relationship building. And that’s a powerful shift.

Throughout the book, Joe and Jason share real life examples of how relationships have affected their lives. Most striking are the small things that lead to huge differences. From Joe finding a key person within his company by connecting with someone from outside the company to Jason’s connections not helping him move to (my favorite) Jason’s hairstylist meeting and eventually marrying Joe after two unrelated groups of friends met up one Saturday night. Relationships, big and small, change lives.

As I look back on my own life, many of my most important relationships seem to have started almost by chance. Many of the most important events were due to my relationships with others. Great opportunities came from key people vouching for me or putting me in touch those who could help. Sometimes it was intentional, but often it wasn’t. For me, Social Gravity is a reminder and blueprint for helping me be more deliberate and effective in connecting with others. To do what I already know how to do, but do it more consistently and intentionally and do it better.

Relationships matter.

imperfect action beats perfect inaction

“I can’t remember how it begins.” My six-almost-seven year old son was warming up for his first martial arts tournament and he was pretty nervous. He had been practicing a form – a pattern of movements – for a couple of months, but he went completely blank.

One of his instructors pulled him aside and said, “When you get out in front of the judges, if you can’t remember what to do, just make it up. Just do some moves until you get to a part you remember. That’s better than freezing up.”

Great advice for life. You can stay frozen, not starting until you can do it perfect. Or, you can jump in, get moving, do what you think is right (or close), and correct on the fly. There are very, very few situations where doing nothing is better than doing something and improving as you go.

Words to live by: imperfect action beats perfect inaction.

yesterday, today, tomorrow

It’s a mistake to think that today’s actions created today’s results. There is a natural lag between action and outcome.

Where we are today is a result of yesterday’s decisions and actions. Yesterday’s actions are today’s results.

Where we will be tomorrow will be a result of today’s decisions and actions.  Today’s actions are tomorrow’s results.

What tomorrow are you creating? Where will today’s choices take you in five years? Where do you want to be?

career rejuvenation

“Today is a new day. Time to put the plan to work. Generate the new way. Whoa, I hope it works!” ~ from the Crumbsuckers’ song ‘Rejuvenate’


A simple question: Is your career exactly where you want it to be? Are you consistently getting the results and outcomes you want?

If you can confidently answer ‘yes’, then carry on doing what you’re doing. If you gave any other answer, it’s probably time to change something. If you keep doing what you’re doing you will always keep getting what you’re getting.

It’s been said that there are three types of people:

1. Those who make things happen.

2. Those who watch things happen.

3. Those who ask, “Wh-wh-what happened?”

I used to think that those in the third category were just lazy, but lately I’ve come to realize that they are just not paying attention. They have hopes and dreams, can be hard working, well liked people, but continually get blindsided by life. They lack introspection and don’t understand why they never get promoted, why they get stuck in one bad relationship after another, why they just can’t seem to create the results they want despite all their good intentions. A quick example:

A friend was telling me about an employee at his company. This employee has been with the company for several years, is friendly and well-liked by customers and co-workers, and does a decent job. My friend was at an all-day training with him and he expressed a strong desire to get promoted into a front-line leadership role. He was also consistently late. He was ten minutes late to the training, late coming back from breaks, late and disruptive coming back from lunch. He had an apology and an excuse every time. My friend later found out that tardiness is a very consistent pattern for him. This person apparently sees no connection between his behavior and lack of career advancement. He’s asking, “What happened?”

I once had a co-worker who worked hard and did pretty good work, but never took the time to think ahead. He relied on his boss to do all the thinking. Work stopped whenever he encountered a roadblock and would not move forward until his boss solved the problem. He was really good at spotting problems and miserable poor at solving them. He enjoyed watching things happen. And his career stalled out accordingly.

Those in the first category are simplifiers. They look for solutions to make processes easier, they resolve issues, they fix stuff. They look for ways to move forward rather than finding reasons to stay stuck. When they are not sure of the best path, they bring several possible solutions to their boss with an understanding of the pros and cons of each. When they screw up (we all do) they fix it, learn from it, and keep moving forward. They don’t spend much time worrying about what they can do because they’re too focused on thinking about what they can do. These folks get stuff done and make the rest of us look stuck in slow motion by comparison. I love these people because they inspire me to raise my game.

So what category are you consistently in? Actually, forget I asked that. The real question is what category do you want to be in? If you’re happy with your results, stay where you are. If you want more, aim hard at being in the first category. The good news is that we’re not trapped in any category. As the song said, “Rejuvenation can still be found.” All it takes is you.

now that i know the answer, what was the question?

This week I turned 42, which, as two different people reminded me, is the answer to life the universe, and everything. In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series a supercomputer determined that the answer to life, etc. was “42” and then suggested that if people didn’t understand what the answer meant perhaps they needed to figure out what the question was.

How often do we come to conclusions based on false assumptions, brought about by poor questions? Closed-ended questions, leading questions, questions that are very open to interpretation, and just garden variety misunderstood questions all provide answers. They just don’t give us information.

Better questions lead to better answers which leads to better decisions, better actions, and better results. Any guesses where poor questions lead?