Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Success Books - "How To Attract Good Luck" Part 1

A.H.Z. Carr’s How to Attract Good Luck has been in print since 1952, clearly marking it as a classic in the success book genre and certainly worthy of inclusion on the same shelf as The Richest Man in Babylon” or Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. Carr has a remarkably scientific attitude toward luck, and, like many scientific minds before him, expertly strips away many levels of mysticism and metaphysics as he aims at a measurable, repeatable core understanding of how to increase your luck.

Consider a pitch thrown to Ted Williams, the last .400 hitter in baseball. We can visualize the pitches thrown to Williams as the events that occur to us in day-to-day life. As I understand it, Carr would say that Williams exposes himself to more pitches (by not swinging at bad ones) and knows exactly what to do in each area of the strike zone to make maximum use of the pitches that come at him. Certainly chance is involved: how good the opposing pitcher is, the winds and weather, the fielding abilities of the opposition...but...how much actual “luck”? Perhaps less than we imagine.

Similarly, for us non-batters, “luck” is :
1) Knowing what you are looking for (in a pitch or in life)
2) Staying positive about expecting it
3) Exposing yourself to enough events, so that you can reasonably expect a favorable one to occur
4) Recognizing it when you see it
5) Taking the right action, commensurate with your gifts, when you do see the right events come your way.

In Chapter 1 Carr explains that “it is our response to chance...that we call luck”, and the readier we are, the more lucky we will seem to be. Ready can be ready with skills, but one must also be ready psychologically. In other words, if all you are looking for is lemons, there won’t be any lemonade. Carr says of one individual “he is the kind of man whom it is easy for chance to help”.

There are many great stories of musical conductors (such as Leonard Bernstein) who were “lucky enough" to get a chance to conduct as a substitute for an ailing maestro at the last minute. This “stroke of luck” has launched many a career. But “luck” had nothing to do with years of musical studies and development...and certainly luck had nothing to do with being willing to answer the phone! Skill, preparations, psychological readiness, and actual willingness to do the job when it appears ... these factors certainly contribute to any “luck break”. And, as luck would have it, they are factors within our control.

Next...Carr’s discussion of “Zest”

Go to Part 2

Go to Part 3

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Success Secrets: Transform Adversarial Client Relationships

In my previous life I was known as one of the most "transparent" client service guys in my field. I did not attempt to push the client around, but rather made every effort to adapt my skills to the client's requests. Other suppliers would tend to "tell the client what they needed", and often, that worked (for them), but my success was derived from advocating FOR the client. A brilliant post from The House of Innovation entitled "Four effective Innovation strategies in practice " puts it this way:

The key is to move you out of the reactive relationship with a customer and
to have them participate in creating a vision, or even a solution. People
typically don't resist the ideas that they helped create
It is possible to get past an adversarial relationship with your client. And I believe it guarantees more repeat business.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Audio Program: The 5 Essential People Skills

"The 5 Essential People Skills" is a 5-CD set from the Dale Carnegie organization, available through Nightingale-Conant.

I have listened to it over and over, and even outlined it for easy review. Two areas that I found particularly helpful were the areas on assertiveness and effective listening.

In this conflict-filled, "in your face" world, the skills of assertiveness are hugely valuable: all adults have an equal right to express their views calmly and respectfully, and to treat others' views the same way. The CDs spell out numerous methods for getting your assertive message across in spite of many obstacles presented that a listener might present such as anger, denial, etc.

Regarding effective listening...I quickly learned that I had miles to go before I could consider myself even a moderately effective listener. The core skill is getting your own preoccupations out of the way and truly empathizing with the speaker.

Other topics on the CD were equally insightful, especially the areas on dealing with various personality types (I think I’m a “Secret Agent”), and the area of conflict resolution.

With a little understanding, empathy, praise, and, of course, assertiveness, we can all be more effective in our work and personal lives. This CD set has hours of great tips on how to increase your People Skills.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Great post on Affirmations in the Dilbert Blog. I have personally found repeated affirmations to be very useful. Doug Adams notes that affirmations can help train us to notice the kind of things we want. In that sense, we indeed "create our own reality"...and we don't need to violate the elaws of physics to do it

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Success Secrets: The "Clean Sweep Assessment"

Success is built on platforms. Certain support structures need to be in place to enable success to flower. If these platforms are not in place, success is fleeting. There are many stories of lottery millionaires who subsequently lose all of their winnings because of the lack of any structures in their lives that can support their success.

One of my favorite platforms is the Clean Sweep Assessment , a self-assesment inventory recommended by many personal coaches. It allows you to take a careful look at your Physical Environment, Well-Being, Money, and Relationships, and it is suggested that the inventory be re-taken a few times per year. Sure...it's not impossible to achieve success with lousy money skills, a disorganized environment, or with horrible relationship skills. But...can it last? Could your life be stable under those circmstances? And, indeed...what would be your measure of success if all the categories came up negative? Could it truly be called success?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Success Secrets: Obsession

I thought it was just me: I was never able to accomplish anything unless it became an obsession. For me this meant being so involved in what I was doing I would forget to eat or sleep, often working 12 hours and more for days.

It turns out I’m not alone. Recent articles in Scientific American and Fortune Magazine tell it like it is: expect to spend 10 years to become good at anything. And not just you and me: Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice, pianist Vladimir Horowitz, chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer...all amazing “talents” spent an estimated 10,000 hours of focused, goal-oriented study perfecting their craft. Obsession may indeed be one of the indispensable elements of success. Thomas Schweich tells us in his book Staying Power that all the judges, rock stars, and business executives he interviewed had at least one thing in common: their work came first. Before everything. That’s just the way it is.

We can dream rosy dreams about “life balance”, console ourselves that we are not “talented” enough. But, perhaps, we just haven’t found that trigger...that route to obsession...that route to potential greatness. Master Wall Street trader Vic Sperandeo has stated he has read at least 1000 trading books. In my living room that would mean 30 bookshelves just devoted to one subject. Who can say they have read thirty bookshelves worth of books in their field? I heard world-famous guitarist Michael Hedges say at a concert that to master the intricacies of his art he needed to basically turn on the TV, zone out, and practice all day. Every day.

There are no guarantees in life. But it is comforting to know that success may not be due to looks, height, connections, or even innate aptitude. It may be just 10,000 hours away. If we dare.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Success Books - "Crashproof Your Life"

Thomas Schweich’s “ Crashproof Your Life” has an unusual demographic: it’s biggest potential audience probably consists of those who will never read it. The people in question, many of whom have good jobs, fine houses, cars, and clothes, are living in a dream world: they never think anything bad is ever going to happen to them. And yet, the “forces of disorder” as Schweich calls them, are everywhere: an errant email could cost you your job; an ill-considered signature guarantee could wipe out your savings; a divorce, or even a few college-bound kids, could bankrupt you.

Yet, as “Crashproof Your Life” shows, a mere 20% of your income, properly allocated, along with some reasonable spending habits, can put things together such that even a major life disruption will not put you out of the game. And you’ll still have money for life’s little luxuries.

Case in point: those who read Schweich when this book was published a few years ago, would have put a small but significant amount into gold, and would have had the pleasure of seeing Scwheich’s words become reality as gold soared.

But Schweich’s point is not to have you hoard precious metals, but rather to change your thinking from acquiring status-symbol consumer goods toward achieving the true self-esteem that derives from properly building and protecting assets for a lifetime. And one of the greatest assets one can acquire, as Schweich tells us, is the ability to “sleep at night”.

If you’re reading this and you’re up late worrying about that home equity loan...read “Crashproof Your Life".

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Success Books - "Flawless Execution"

What does it take to succeed in business, or any worthy goal? Many of the qualities we need are similar to those required by a fighter pilot: meticulous planning, never-ending learning, strong belief in yourself, strong self-preservation instincts, and, of course, burning desire to win. James Murphy’s “Flawless Execution” is a book about success at the “highest” level: the practices and procedures of fighter pilots, but make no mistake: their methods are paradigms of the methods that can bring success in any field.

The basic concepts of a “future picture”, “mission plan”, and the all-important “brief/execute/debrief/win” cycle can be ported to other areas besides fighter missions. How many of us “debrief” after a particularly bad (or good!) day? How many of us actually concentrate on “lessons learned” in order to make each day better than the last?

Perhaps we don’t consider our daily “missions” as critical as those of a military mission. But...how much do we really want to succeed? Is our “gut feel” not cutting it? Do we make the same mistakes over and over? Do we even know if we are making the same mistakes over and over? Do we even know if we are making any progress at all?

Read “Flawless Execution” and find out.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Commentary: The Iranians vs. Internet Access

The Iranians are limiting the speed of internet access for homes and businesses. Why is this important to a success books blog? Because success is built on a platform, in our case, free-market capitalism. If a phone or cable company attempted to limit access speeds here in the USA, the open nature of our markets would allow another provider to increase bandwith speed, thus potentially grabbing customers away from the stingy service provider.

This is true as a rule in any comparison between a free economy and a “command” economy, run by elitists. The Iranians decision is an object lesson in how elites, once given power, limit choice to only their solution, shutting off whole avenues of progress, especially unplanned progress.

I'm sure glad such micromanagement of the consumer can't happen here.

Podcast Review: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Let’s face it: most of us will not be able to ask tough questions of near-billionaire business executives, web pioneers, or world-class business thinkers. The students of Stanford, however, do have that opportunity, and we get to tune in on a regular bases by listening to the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Podcast. Two of my recent favorites were the outstanding discussion of negotiation techniques by Joel Peterson, a heavy hitting real-state magnate, and the heartfelt and very honest interview with Gil Penchina who recently left Ebay for Wickia.

These podcasts are geared to be true mentorship experiences for the Stanford-ites, and the point of view clearly assumes that any listener is serious about learning the ropes from a pro who has really been there.

How these masters think, plan, schedule, and strategize is a trip to “rare air”. This podcast exemplifies the huge fire hose of detailed information now available from sources the average person could never hope to get close to in the pre-web era.

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Success Books - "Never Eat Alone"

Keith Ferrazzi didn’t need to write this book. He is a hyper-successful corporate consultant who hangs out with the likes of Clint Eastwood and plays polo for fun. His book “Never Eat Alone” is a virtual encyclopedia of techniques for building business and personal relationships (often one and the same, as Ferrazzi tells us).

For Ferrazzi, a soulful Italian who loves good parties and good food, networking springs from true commonalities from people, and from a sincere desire to share your knowledge and skills with others for their benefit, not just yours. This sets him a part from the superficial “networking jerks” he loves to hate: those glib, fast-talking one-liner types who hand out their business cards to everyone, but get to know no one.

Ferrazzi is not afraid to pass along his detailed techniques for cold calling, conference attendance, and even dinner parties. For anyone less successful than Ferrazzi, just ask yourself one question: do you make 100 phone calls per day? If not, or even if you do...read this book . And don’t forget to check out his blog.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Success Tools: Web 2.0 Watch

For those of us who want to succeed, the tools of success are exploding all around us. In a little- known continuing revolution, New services and tools are being conceived on a daily basis, delivering productivity to users at an astonishing rate. Here are a few that are changing peoples’ lives:

My latest favorites from http://www.techcrunch.com/ :

From their site: “we enable anyone with something valuable to say to sell their services online. Most importantly, Ether provides a phone number with a rate you can set for people to pay to talk to you.”

Write articles and get a share of the revenue.

Virtual office software. : Word processor, spreadsheets, presentation software, all free.

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Success Books - "How Successful People Win"

Ben Stein’s brilliant “How Successful People Win” is in many ways the most honest book on success I have read in a long while. Ben makes no bones about it: life is full of pain, tears, disappointment and betrayal. Not just for us normal folks, but for everyone, even those who have risen to the absolute heights of fame and fortune. That said, Ben makes sure we all understand that success is a great place to be, and well worth the effort. He regales us with visions of hundred-year-old brandy, Hollywood mansions, and other goodies, but only as the ending of stories of how people demonstrated “activity and inner mobility” : that is: they made the necessary changes in their own lives first, and, after time and effort , they reaped their rewards.

Ben Stein is a media personality, attorney, economist, and son of economist Herb Stein. His book is gloriously literate, written in an almost nineteenth-century prose style that is inspiring and poetic. He has clearly seen it all, and speaks in a worldly-wise philosophical tone.

Some of the points he makes:

Never give up. Think in terms of years, even decades of effort.
Realize there is no ‘big score”; that there is always another rung up the ladder.
That there is no deus ex machina: you must be the source of all forward motion in your own life.
Bad things happen to everyone. It’s not you, your bad luck, or anything else: it’s just the way life is. Reality doesn’t “have it in for you”.

If you are ready to face the world as it is, with no excuses, and then walk up to the window to collect your chips, this book is for you.

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