Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Success Tools - Nathaniel Branden's Website

It is a joy to discover that pioneering psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden has created a rich and exhaustive website. A significant amount of Branden’s work involves the study of self-esteem. Many years ago I read his superb book Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Part of the book involved a unique 30-week exercise in which the student engages in Branden’s innovative “sentence completion” exercises. I still have my binder containing my answers to those 30-weeks of searching questions. I am delighted to learn that these exercises, and an additional set of exercises , related to increasing self-responsibility, are available on the site .

The site also has a huge collection of Branden’s articles in pdf format as well as mp3 audio, and links to his books, appearances, etc.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Success Tools - InnovationLabs

Those interested in innovation are probably familiar with the Killer Innovations website and podcast. Another great site, InnovationLabs, boasts a huge collection of white papers and articles. Topics include:

Permanent Innovation
Innovation and Transformation
Facilitating Complex Projects
Business Model Warfare
Creating Breakthrough Business Models

I have just downloaded the massive (200+ pages) Permanent Innovation whitepaper and hope to review it soon.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Success Books - "Crucial Conversations" Part 1

I learned about Crucial Conversations from the remarkable collection of books put together by Josh Kauffman in The Personal MBA. This book has key insights into one of the most important questions of personal and business success: What really differentiates the person who gets things done from the rest of the pack? The answer? The super-effective person gets results where it counts: where the stakes are high, where emotion is involved, and where opinions differ, in otherwords at Crucial Conversations. The examples the authors give are the scariest, toughest encounters we face: Asking a friend to repay a loan, critiquing a colleague, a delicate issue with a spouse.

Frankly, I believe that even a 10% improvement in communication at these crucial times would lead to 1000% improvement in one’s life. I also believe that it only takes a few failures in thse areas to relegate careers to a backwater, relationships to a dying ember, and a community to a ghost town. This book is important.

So, how do we go about improving our Crucial Conversations? The authors (who spent 25 years in exhaustive research) contend that the free flow of relevant information is the key, and that dialogue is the master skill. To dialogue, we first must address our own inner selves, especially the “fight or flight” reflex. We need to find that key avenaue of dialogue and avoid the twin detours of "flight" (avoidance and withdrawal) or “fight” (debating so hard that the other party shuts down).

I found as I read the first part of this book, that my own, ineffective reflexes were blindingly obvious to me. I also got equal or better insights than many full-day seminars and multi-CD programs that I had gone through.

More in Part 2

Related Links:

12 negotiation Tips

The Five Essential People Skills


Friday, January 26, 2007

Success Podcasts - Davos World Economic Forum

At least 20 Podcasts from this week's World Economic Forum in Davos are available online now, with more to come shortly. They appear to be in both audio and video formats. The initial group contains podcasts on energy, Asian business, the Middle East, terrorism, climate change, and CEO salaries. The participants include world business luminaries, politcal figures, financiers, and media pundits.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Success Master Skills - Saving Money

What is a Success Master Skill? I am going to define a Success Master Skill as a skill that:

Is so crucial that, if it is omitted from your life, it creates a void so large that the possession of other skills will not make up for this lack .

Leads to and generates other skills which “fan out” and have further positive effects on your life

The First Success Master Skill is:

Saving Money

Saving money…that is, setting aside a portion of your income for use in the distant future, is so crucial that even those with high incomes can become virtual paupers, even if they have incomes in the millions of dollars. Don’t believe me? I’ve linked to a few such stories here.

Saving money leads to security, while spending money (and here I mean on expensive consumer items such as clothes,cars, etc) can lead to disaster.

Saving money is such a key skill that you may not need to have a whole lot of other skills and yet you will still have an extremely comfortable life. Teachers, telephone linemen, policemen, cleaning persons, etc have become millionaires, not because they were movie stars or corporate titans, but because they acquired this one, simple Success Master Skill.

A “positive addiction” to saving money leads to enjoying an increasing net worth, drastically lower stress levels, and a penchant for staying out of debt, whereas an addiction to spending money can lead to a restless search for ever more flashy “toys”, a penchant for debt, and many sleepless nights.

But there are other reasons to learn to save money besides the prospect of security and comfort.

If you can save money, you have begun to master the art of “abstraction”. As you learn to take a percentage of your income and put it away, you see money as an abstract concept, not just as a means to a momentary “high”. What percent should you save? What return will you get? What will it look like 20, 30, 50 years from now? These kind of abstract questions broaden your mind. They help you think “long term”: not just in your financial life, but about your business, your career, your family.

Saving money also creates a bias toward mental gratification rather than material or physical gratification. If you can be gratified by a concept rather than an object, this moves you higher on the “food chain” of human thought. If you can get to the point where you understand that income can buy income rather than just flashy silvery things, you have made it to the “next level”. This kind of level is a “virtuous spiral” where results compound favorably without end.

Saving money improves your self-management or self-deployment. It means you know how to do what you deem to be important, rather than to do what your temporary urges tell you to do. This buildup of inner strength can absolutely translate to becoming a more reliable, dependable person. It means you will “show up”, finish projects, come through with “outcomes” rather than excuses.

And what about your own view of your own future? Let’s say you’re halfway to retirement and you’ve saved and invested a considerable amount of money. Would you be more likely to be optimistic and forward-looking than someone who was already fielding calls from collection agencies? Would you take better care of yourself because your “future focus” meant you actually wanted to be around to enjoy the results of saving and investing? I think so.

Like many Success Master Skills, saving money takes an almost microscopically small amount of time and effort, but the results are vastly larger, and the implications vastly more significant than the few moments it takes to get started. They could be the most important few moments of your next 50 years.


Success Podcasts - CNBC Asia

The flood of podcasts continues. Huge amounts of near-real-time, high-quality news, education, opinion, at your fingertips, absolutely free. These are amazing times indeed.

Here are some great podcasts from CNBC Asia . Those interested in a global perspective on business will find these very helpful in keeping current. All are available on itunes. Titles are:

Business on the Green
CEO call
The CNBC Conversation
Managing Asia
Grow your Wealth
The Good Life


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Success Tools - The Personal MBA

A superb collection of 42 books and periodicals has been gathered at The Personal MBA by Josh Kauffman, one of whose websites is here .

Kauffman is a recent business school graduate who has put together an awesome collection of sources which he suggests can give a diligent reader a strong dose of knowledge quite similar to that of an MBA. Kauffman has selected these books with an eye to 5 criteria:

  • Valuable Content
  • Acceptable Time Commitment
  • Self-Learning friendly
  • Reference Value
  • Comprehensive set of resources

A number of his selections are favorites of Warren Buffett and his Berkshire sidekick Charlie Munger. Overall, this collection is a welcome “foot in the door” of some of the more arcane areas of MBA-ship such as corporate finance and accounting, along with fascinating selections on marketing, strategy, negotiation and lots more.

Kauffman’s site has a well-conceived forum that keys off of the book list and appears to be populated by some really bright thinkers.

This list and site are first-class all the way.


Success Secrets - My Success with Written Affirmations

I consider myself a student of success techniques, and when one of them is working particularly well, I want to pass it on. Currently, I am finding that the technique of written affirmations is working particularly well.

Here is my story. Two and one half months ago I began writing down two affirmations on a daily basis. I wrote each affirmation 10 times. One of these affirmations, concerning bringing people into my life, is working particularly well. The question is, is this an unusual outcome, or could it be expected? I would, at first, try to determine if the outcome (a whole lot of people entering my life) is expected. After all, I am a big fan of networking, and I follow Keith Ferrazzi’s teaching of regularly “pinging” a number of people in my life. But here’s the interesting part: the people calling me and emailing me are not the ones I was pinging!! In fact, they are people who I had “let go of” because it didn’t seem like they wanted to hear from me. I find this particular side of it to be less explainable.

All I know is, it is working, and working consistently.

I will definitely keep writing down affirmations. By the way, I got my idea for returning to this practice (which I had neglected for a while) from a post by Scott Adams, which I reference here.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Success Blogs - Personal Development Ideas

Gleb Reys has a great site called Personal Development Ideas blog with a wealth of articles on such topics as Communication skills, Ideas, Life, Lifehacks and more. His current posts include several excellent articles on Goal Setting from all over the web. This is a superb site and I know I will be back again and again


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Success Podcasts - Open Culture is a Major Resource

The site Open Culture looks to be a huge resource of high-quality podcasts and other educational materials. The opportunities to fine-tune the kind of input you are getting are absolutely staggering. Here are a few links to categories within the site:

University Podcasts

Technology Podcasts

News/Information Podcasts

Arts and Cultutre Podcasts

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Success Books - "Winning: The Answers" Part 3

This is Part 3 of my review of Jack Welch’s Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today . I have always enjoyed listening to Welch speak on TV because his thinking always seems to be several degrees further “out of the box” than anyone else on any given panel. He seems to be able to find the real nuts-and-bolts drivers behind every issue. This book is no exception. A few of my favorite areas from the last third of the book:

Careers are best pursued “iteratively”, gradually increasing focus on progressively more rewarding jobs. Thomas Schweich has said the same thing. Many very successful executives have avoided micromanaging their life plans, since peoples’ abilities, personal gifts, and interests often change and grow over time.

Life is not business school. In school, you deliver what is asked. In life, new benchmarks such as overdelivering, taking initiative, and ability to work as part of a team often trump the individualistic skills learned for success in an academic setting.

Take risks while you’re young. If building a startup is of interest, there is no better time to do it than before you have the house, the family, and the other burdens of life. Well worth delaying that “big company” job .

Don’t worry about the “bad boss”. If you’re right, the bad boss will eventually disappear. If you’re wrong, you will. So be a team player.

Business as a force for good. Business has raised millions out of poverty, allowed them to educate their children, build wealth and dream big dreams. No other engine on earth has done as much. Short-term ethical failures (Enron, etc) notwithstanding, business has done far more good than harm for people. Businesses, not government, create jobs. Businesses, not governments reduce inflation by building better, cheaper products. And , in business, the consumer is king. If the value is not there, the consumer will not buy.

Jack Welch’s intriguing book is indeed a manual for anyone seeking business success.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 2

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Success Books - "Winning: The Answers" Part 2

I am still enjoying Jack Welch’s Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today Part 1 of this review is here. Here are a few of my favorite nuggets from the Management Principles section:

Becoming a preferred employer:
It’s going to take years to build that kind of reputation (interesting statement in view of today’s lightspeed economy) , and plan to be committed to continuous learning, meritocracies and risk-taking to attract the best employees .

Re: Strategy:
Once you’ve got your market value proposition…don’t over-think the nuts and bolts, especially if you’re a small company. Be fluid, and keep an eye on the competition. Nothing matters if you don’th have the big “Aha” (the differentiating value proposition) .

Beware of:
Corporate inertia (especially the thought that your company is doing everything right!!!)
Consultants! (They want to visit and never leave)
Instinct-only hiring (Check those references! Your gut may not have all the answers)

Great book. More to come as I keep reading.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 3

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Success Tools - Massive List of Course Offerings

Found on Digg : a huge list of online learning resources. For those of us who are committed to lifelong learning, this list is a major resource. Categories include: Berkely courses, sites offering free courses, free online documentaries, educational videos, podcasting education, and much more.

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Success Books - "Winning: The Answers" Part 1

Jack Welch’s Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today is a companion book to his bestseller “Winning”. It is a concise book of answers to questions from real businesspeople with real issues. The replies are great examples of Welch’s uncompromising, reality-based management practices: the practices that made him, arguably “manager of the century”.

Here are a few of my favorite tips from the first part of the book:

Global Competition

Best practices are everywhere, to be learned and shared. Unless a company is your direct competitor, they are usually happy to share their concepts. If you don’t pick up on them, someone else will. In a global economy, there is for the most part, nowhere to hide.

China is crucial for scale in your business. If there is any possible way to benefit from the scale that China offers, your business cannot afford to ignore China

Europe’s risk averse, socialist economy cannot substitute security for growth. Real growth and real (as opposed to government-created) jobs are the only ticket to prosperity for Europe.

Outsourcing is not the danger we think it is – Welch cites 20% US growth and 7 million new jobs since 2003!!! Clearly outsourcing has not undermined our economy.


Over and over, Welch continues to stress the success factors that helped him achieve greatness: candor, differentiation, and constant personnel review.

His view is people-centered. Reward your best people, attempt to bring along your mediocre people, fire the rest. Be candid, clear, and stay on-message.

Another great point, particularly applicable in overly touchy-feely situations: remember “they work for you, you don’t work for them”.

He also mentions good communications about why people are fired: make sure your employees know that there are values-based reasons why termination takes place: never paper it over with stock phrases like “family reasons/personal reasons, etc”. Use the event as a teaching experience.

More to follow on other high points in this great book.
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Success Podcasts - The Creative Venture

The Creative Venture Podcast by Tony Clark promises “ tips, advice, insight, and guidance for taking your creative talents and turning them into a thriving business.” I have listened to a few episodes and I think they’re great. Tony clearly knows how creative people think, and has great insights into bringing them along in their business lives. His approach is honest, street-smart, and refreshingly un-stuffy. He’s clearly “been there” and knows every avoidance mechanism and driver inside the creative psyche. I strongly recommend this encouraging , insightful, and enlightening podcast.

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Success Tools - Web 2.0 Personal Finance apps

The incredible profusion of Web2.0 applications continues on Your Credit Advisor with a great post entitled Top 25 Web 2.0 Apps for Money, Finance, and Investment. Topics include :

Personal Finance, Money Management, Expense Sharing
Stock Market, Investing, Tracking, Portfolio Management
Real Estate

This post is a real "keeper"... good for lots of leisurely exploration.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Success Secrets - Jack Welch Video

Over 1 hour (video below) with one of the great CEOs of the last century. Jack Welch - renowned former CEO of General Electric.

Here are a few of the key success principles from this great manager...but the entire video is a "must see".

You get the behavior your reward - be candid
Differentiate - and reward - your best employees.
HR is as important as the CFO
Beware investment bankers...they don't always have the company's best interests at heart
Picking the right job (hint: find your type of people, your type of work)
You can't wait for all the data...there's never adequate data...make decisions with your gut

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Success Secrets - Education = Longevity

Lifelong learning – we know it helps us live fuller lives, improve our finances, upgrade our skills…but who would have guessed education can make you live longer? An article in the New York Times cites new research that more years in school leads to longer life later on. This has been shown to be the case in several countries, and is seemingly more important than race, or even health insurance!

Why? One idea that has emerged is that education inculcates the habits of planning for the future and delaying gratification. The mechanism is not fully known but the evidence is mounting.

There are other important longevity factors mentioned in the articles, including smoking (a major threat to longevity), strong social networks (positive), and a powerful job (also positive).

The entire article is really illuminating.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Success Book Review: Greg Norman "The Way Of The Shark"

In The Way of the Shark: Lessons on Golf, Business, and Life , Greg Norman, the hugely successful golfer and businessman chronicles his life from his youth surfing in Australia, all the way through his techniques for managing a $300 million dollar business. I am not a golfer, so I read the book to get general principles of success. Certainly a man who has achieved fame in the areas of golf, clothing, endorsements, wine, real estate and a host of other ventures is an excellent teacher! In fact this is a surprisingly detailed exposition of such arcane subjects as deal structure, networking, delegation, people skills, etc. It is also a detailed look at the emotional highs and lows, the strategies, and even the defeats of a great career. Very telling.

Here are a few of the principles I found instructive in the book:

Visibility Works
In a recent post, I reviewed High Visibility by Rein, Kotler, et al. Greg Norman’s story is the archetypal example of leveraging visibility from the golf arena to all the other business lines he eventually participated in. He tells us that often , in a business venture, while other people were putting in money, he was putting in his own efforts and “personal brand” as his “capital”. Clearly he expertly leveraged his golf visibility to huge success in worldwide businesses.

Don’t Let Go of your Core
This is also seen in other major successes such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey. You don’t sign away the core elements of your “brand”. You approve everything personally, because, in the case of a Greg Norman, there is no “vice president” of being Greg Norman.

Everybody gets “taken” the first time out
Like many other newbie celebrities, Greg Norman had some not-so-good encounters with managers, etc. early in his career. It seems to be a truism that the young star is at risk from more knowledgeable, less ethical professionals who vow to “help” him. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, if you don’t set your own goals, you will end up working for someone else’s.

Start slow, learn the ropes, then get bigger
Over and over, Greg Norman proceeds cautiously into each endeavor. For instance, he spent several years in non-USA tournaments before deciding to enter the “big time” USA PGA tour. In business, he started small and gradually grew his expertise from a simple endorsement to full equity , CEO-level status.

Be fascinated with the details
I found Norman’s ability and strong interest in the minutiae of golf logos, real estate partnerships, wine-making, sports-equipment distribution, etc to be perhaps one of his most amazing qualities. I personally can stay focused only on a few areas of core competence, but stand in awe of the capacity to take in so many disparate areas of expertise. This may be one of the key differentiators of his success.

No one will do it for you
In the midst of a crisis with one of his apparel ventures, Norman called each and every pro-shop owner personally. This is the kind of business-saving action that comes from knowing that, as the principle, you have to show more drive and guts than anyone else around you. No one in your organization is going to have an equivalent emotional investment to yours. You can’t expect anyone else to perform at your level.

Lastly, Greg Norman was involved in a quest for lifelong learning, from the day he picked up a couple of Jack Nicklaus golf books, to sitting down with a major Australian bank. He was willing to listen to the best business minds around him, and get business and even golf coaching when he needed it. As I mentioned here, each and every subject in the world, whether it be wine, golf, or business, spans enough knowledge to fill a library. To be a success it is absolutely necessary to continually gather knowledge and expertise from as many people, books, and other sources as you possibly can.

And Greg Norman’s book is a great starting point.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Success Secrets -101 Tips from Business Intelligence Lowdown

Great Post here at Business Intelligence Lowdown entitled "Lessons from the Lemonade Stand: 101 Common Sense Management Tips".

Go read them all...but here are a few of my favorites...

#4 A great restatement of the "play your own game and not someone else's" concept that I have seen throughout many of the books I've reviewed here.

#6 Take calculated risks...with the emphasis on calculated. Warren Buffett, for instance, says leverage and alcohol are the two biggest sources of failure. Many of the business greats I've been reading about are happy to wait a decade or more before their larger dreams are realized. They are not about to move to early, with two few resources to back them up.

#14 Stress can be good. I have not come across any major success stories that didn't require putting huge amount of effort toward their goals...and that meant using a lot of time, energy, and personal emotional investment.

I am sure as I read this great post again, I will have many more favorites.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Success Secrets - The Lessons of Finacial Failure

Whitney Houston is in massive personal debt and selling her possessions. Mike Tyson is bankrupt. Michael Jackson is broke.

What success secrets can we learn from these spectacular financial failures? No amount of income is enough to protect you from financial failure. No amount of income excuses you from personal responsibility for your financial life. No amount of income can save you from bankruptcy. No amount of income can save you from a lack of self-discipline. How many millions, or even billions of dollars have passed through these celebrities' hands, or perhaps the hands of their associates? How much “cash” has turned to “trash”?

In my own life I have seen a number of people with substantial incomes lose everything. I have often asked myself why.

One component of the problem is that people mistake their current income for their lifetime income. A very wise advisor of mine once said “anyone who makes six figures can expect to see six-figure fluctuations in their income”. Your best year is just that. Your best year. It is not every year. It is not even every quarter. It may even be an “outlier”: a statistical fluke that may never ever occur again. Are you going to take on ongoing years of cash flow drains such as luxury car payments, giant mortgages, or a high-class wardrobe based on income that may never be there again?

Another component is that many people do not look upon financial security as a “possession” in the same way they look on, say, a Harley. Financial independence could, in fact be viewed as a “status symbol ”: the Rolex of a life well lived, though not nearly as visible as a flashy fashion accessory. It is hard to wear to parties.

Additionally, money is a “squirrelly” concept: it can be looked on as “spending power” or it can be looked on as “capital”: i.e. the means to invest for future returns. When you get your bonus do you think “Gosh!!! How much bond income will that buy?” If so, you will probably never end up like the celebrities mentioned above.

Wealth can be viewed as “the number of years that I can live at my current lifestyle without working”. Instead, wealth is often viewed as “the number of consumer items I can buy with my current income…including any debt the bank will allow me to take on”.

Wealth can buy us “things” or it can buy us “states”. That windfall could buy you a “boat” or it could buy you “serenity”. It could buy you a “trip to Paris” or “freedom for 20 years”. It helps to externalize these outcomes so we can “buy in” to “states” as well as “things”.

Suppose someone gave you a choice right now: a) 30 years of your current mortgage + 30 years of credit card payments with no guarantee that your income will remain the same or b) never having to work a day in your life again …which would you really choose? In actuality that choice is in front of each of us every day. Personally I find item “b” to be incredibly tempting. Why not go for it? What do you think Whitney, Michael, and Mike would choose right now?

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Success Secrets: Alone Time

Jason Fried of 37 Signals has articulated a key success secret in a recent post: set yourself a rule to make half of your day alone time. This means, as he says, weaning yourself from “communication addiction”. I can concur with his analysis that the vast bulk of productivity is accomplished alone. In my previous career, a creative field, the entire daylight portion of our workday was spent with clients, and we had to accomplish the bulk of our creative duties overnight, in preparation for the next day’s client meetings.

Quite a bit of psychological research suggests that we have a “learning curve” that kicks in while we are engaged in a certain activity. As the minutes go on, we get better at what we are doing. This means we derive additional value as we stay at a given task longer. I personally believe that in a creative or knowledge-based field, we produce increasing quality in our work as we reflect upon what we just did a minute ago. This can only be done if we have alone time to allow the “thread” of thought to spin out uninterrupted.

Turn the voicemail on. Take the laptop out of the office. Work from home. Go to the library (no one thinks of this one). And watch the ideas pour out.

By the way, I must credit Phil McKinney’s Killer Innovations Reblog for citing Jason Fried’s post.