Monday, April 30, 2007

New On my Readng List

Friday, April 27, 2007

Commentary - Does "The Secret" Really Work?

This post was once a “thought” . Now it’s a “thing”. Thoughts become things every day. Your favorite movie? It was once a thought. Now it’s a thing. That piece of music you love? Once it was a thought, now it’s a thing. Even you yourself very probably are the result of a thought (the love of your parents) which became a thing (you!).

I ask you point blank: what “things” (as in results we want in our lives) were not thoughts first?

So, why do people say “The Secret” doesn’t work, when we turn thoughts into things every hour of every day (or we wouldn’t even be able to order lunch)? I think what they are saying is “there is no spooky ‘thought wave’ that goes out into the universe and moves the pieces around and…voila, there we are in a Rolls Royce, tooling around town with our dream mate”. Or, they might mean…”oh sure thoughts turn into things, but not really cool, amazing things”.

Ok, if you say so. Now, personally, I am quite open to the proposition that there is indeed some kind of energy that does just that, but, frankly, for most dreams and aspirations, it is unnecessary to postulate such a supernatural force, since most dreams that people achieve can generally be traced backwards in time to a series of very simple actions, that eventually led to the result they were seeking. And before the first of those simple actions…was a thought.

I think “The Secret” becomes much less of a “Secret” if it is understood, in part, as a metaphor: no one is saying that thoughts become things with no intermediate step between the thought and the thing.

Let’s say you are age 9 and want to run a big company someday.

The probability that you will success increases s as we take action..

Kid, age 9 wants to be CEO (1,000,000 to 1)
Starts selling baseball cards every day after school (500,000 to 1)
Gets noticed by local merchant who hires him for odd jobs (100,000 to 1)
Scholarship to undergrad where he starts more businesses (50,000 to 1)
Scholarship to business school (40,000 to 1)
Becomes entrepreneur, tries several business, fails (30,000 to 1)
Devotes 18 hour/day building a business (15000 to 1)
Listens to input from everyone, makes his own decisions (1000 to 1)
Develops skills in sales, finance, leadership, product development (100 to1)
Becomes “overnight success” in only 45 years. (Probably a slam-dunk)

When I watch “The Secret” and think about my own life progress I think of the initial “visualization” that impels me to :

Ask others constantly on what to do and how to do it and who to do it with
Research. Buy, beg, or borrow every book, tape, article, or course that can help me
Study. Work it out. Get the concepts down.
Devote huge amounts of time. Big successes take big amounts of time.
Use the feedback from previous efforts to generate new ideas. Then try those ideas. Repeat process over and over.
Try a million possibilities. You have to enjoy the “trying” stage.
Accumulate capital. You need a firm base.
Find experts. It is the peak of hubris to believe you can invent every procedure, do every job, make every decision, know every part of the business on your own.

There is clearly a high probability that “thoughts” will become “things” when we allow the thought to inspire us through the process.

I believe that people think ”The Secret” cannot take them to bigger dreams is because:

1. They don’t realize that this dream may be associated with a long period of work (years or decades) and
2. They don’t understand that often the steps are not known, but have to be invented along the way, as an iterative process, based on incoming data from the previous step.

All along the way in this process, thoughts become things. But a lot of the “things” are mundane things: a concept, a prototype, a business plan, market research, all are “intermediate things” that were once thoughts, leading to the “big” thing…the successful outcome, the fruition of our dream. But all along the way, thoughts were becoming things.

It is particularly important to remember the tenets of the Secret in longer time-frame projects. Often, big dreams take longer. The Apollo program took the better part of a decade. Most large companies (Wal Mart, Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft) are the results of decades of iterative “thought becoming things” with each step growing out of the last. And speaking of big companies, can you imagine a Warren Buffett, a Michael Dell, a Bill Gates not spending most of his day thinking about and acting on what he wants? If we imagine the lives of the greats in any field, it would be hard to imagine they did not spend huge amounts of time concentrating on what they wanted.

And that’s no Secret.

Related Links:

My Success with Affirmations


The Unconscious Mind Part 1

How to Attract Good Luck


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Commentary - The Costs of Entrepreneurship Continue to Plummet

100 years ago it took millions to start a company. Capital was scarce, and business was based on huge movements of products. Railroads, autos, foodstuffs, oil, coal ,the great electric power build out, all required stupendous amounts of capital and great masses of physical labor and materials to earn a return. Fast-forward to today. Techcrunch reports that Boulder-based Techstars is incubating 10 businesses for $15,000 each. No “good old boy” networks needed. No begging for cash. You could work a summer job and make enough money to start the next Google. You could sneak into your college computer lab and start the next Flickr. What is the “product”? Information! What is the capital going to buy? Smart people. So, any returns at all on such meager amounts of outlay have the potential to be stupendous. The leverage of the human mind has never been stronger. The downside risks have never been lower. The equation for success has never looked more soluble. Distribution is instant. Payment is in nanoseconds. Receivables? Zero days. Time to profit? Zero time. . Tools to create tools to create tools make development exponentially fast and intuitively easy. The greatest success tool in history may very well be this information economy. What’s the downside? There are no excuses left.


Success Book Reviews: Doug Newburg's "The Most Important Lesson..."

I’ve just finished reading Doug Newburg’s The Most Important Lesson No One Ever Taught Me , which is a story about his Resonance Performance Model. I have posted about RPM elsewhere on this blog (here, here, and here).

It is not exactly clear to me, but I am surmising that this book is a novelization of the kind of interaction Dr. Newburg engages in with his clients. Resonance, as I understand it, is a process that high performers engage in, and that we all have the potential to benefit from. The core of the process, repeated again and again in Newburg’s book is, “How I feel matters” . As a corollary, high performers are willing to answer the question “What will you work for?”. The main thing these performers work for is a feeling state, or resonance, that is, in essence, a form of peak experience: a connection of the inner and outer world, where time seems to stop, and we just “know” we are doing what we ought to be doing.

In the story, Newburg encounters Bob, who works at a large corporation, and has, to most outer observers, done “everything right”: he has a good job, a lovely home, a good family. But he is not “feeling the way he thought he would feel”. Newburg helps Bob to reconnect with the inner state as a goal, rather than the “trappings” of external goals, and uses as his examples, Olympic swimmer Jeff Rouse, and rock drummer John Molo, among many others. Interwoven with this part of the plot, is a subplot exploring Newburg’s own journey , from adopted child, to his current state, still a “life in progress”, but satisfyingly centered on his unique inner core.

There is an excellent summary of the Resonance Model over at Razoo Blog at this link. For the remainder of this post I am going to list a few of the methodologies I perceive as useful takeaways from my reading of the book. These points are far from comprehensive:

When you are at your best and fully engaged in your life, how do you like to feel and under what circumstances do you feel that way?

What core dream makes you feel like you are realizing your true purpose or potential?

What will you work for? (One interpretation of this key question might be “what inner states” are worth achieving as often as possible?)

What do you love both doing and learning about?

When you hit obstacles:

What inputs help return you to good efforts toward your aims? Music? Books? Activities? Helping others?

What other situations were there when you needed multiple attempts to reach success?

Who is unquestioningly supportive of you?

What is your process for recovery from failure?

What saps your energy and what increases it? People? Activities? Foods? Music? Places? Job components?

In my own life, as I begin to keep track of “resonance moments”, energy sources, energy drains, etc., I am finding longer intervals of the “low buzz” of constant energy that Newburg speaks about when he recalls encounters with peak performers.

Perhaps nothing sums up this remarkable book better than Newburg’s axiom: “How I feel matters”. Newburg’s insights are sure to percolate through the coming years as a doorway to higher levels of life satisfaction for all of us.

Here is a link to the Resonance site.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Success Secrets - The Millionaire Next Door

Here is a link to a terrific interview with Thomas Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind. He and his partner spent over 20 years researching people with a net worth over 1,000,000 dollars. His answers about how they did it were surprising.

They owned businesses they loved, and they loved saving, investing, and putting money back in the business far more than fancy cars, clothes and houses.

The millionaires he studied lived in very reasonably priced houses. They drove American cars. They lived in average neighborhoods.

Stanley also mentions that millionaires accumulate their wealth over decades, and that most of us could achieve millionaire status with just a little bit of saving , investing, and focus, allowing time to work in our favor.

The interview is well worth reading as are the books.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Success Secrets - My "Resonance" Experience Part 1

I have been reading Doug Newburg’s The Most Important Lesson No One Ever Taught Me which appears to be a novelization of his Resonance Model. I have mentioned Newburg’s concept of Resonance in various posts here and here.

One of the ideas of the model, as I understand it, is to note how you feel at different times, contrasting that with the kind of mental state you’d like to have. This concept can be applied in many areas of your life, right up to the BIG QUESTIONS such as career choice, relationships, etc.

I have been keeping some ”Resonance notes” about my energy levels and have found the results to be very fruitful. I have found that , for me, several behaviors keep my energy flowing well throughout the day.

Some of the procedures are:

Keeping hydrated
Eating foods with less preservatives, and especially fresher foods
Mild aerobic exercise during the work day (over and above my regular workouts

I have also noted more energy and serenity when I :

Am mindful of others’ feelings
Say empathic things
Stay quiet in conversation and avoid “preaching” or “teaching”
Write computer code
Help fellow investors

Conversely, I have identified some sources of major energy drains:

Sugary foods
Responding angrily or gruffly to people

Now these areas are only small corners of life. Newburg has worked with “giants” world-class musicians, athletes, surgeons, etc., who practice this craft at a “macro” level. They want, in Newburg’s terms, a “low buzz” of constant energy, and, of course, a rich life being deeply involved in their work. I can now see how one can work at this process, slowly carving out and focusing on those “Resonance moments” when we are engaged, involved ,and at our best.

I will post further on my experience with this concept, and about Newburg’s book as I continue studying it.


Success Tools - LifeDev's GTD Cheatsheets

LifeDev has a superb “refresher” series on the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology entitled the GTD Cheatsheet, including the workflow, collecting, and processing of all of your “open loops”. I began my own GTD process about 6 months ago and have been delighted at the results. My mind is uncluttered by reminders. Longer-term projects now have a means of getting easily into my daily routine. I am also able to look much further into the future (well, into the future of things I am “waiting for”). This may sound a bit geeky, but I seriously look forward to my “Weekly Review” every Saturday morning. It increases the serenity of my weekend enormously.

I expect to keep these cheatsheets handy.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Success Tools - Create a Life Plan

I have been a fan of the StartupNation Podcast for several years. I find the Sloan Brothers have delightful, breezy, and very encouraging attitude toward entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

On the StartupNation Website is a series of videos under the rubric 10 Steps to Open for Business, step 1 of which is to Create a Life Plan. I am truly impressed that this step is the initial step. Before we know what business we want to be in we need to know ourselves. It is certainly possible to get into business for the wrong reasons. How many unhappy lawyers come from families of lawyers? How many kids were told “You can’t do that!!! You’re not good enough/smart enough” or simply “That’s the craziest idea I ever heard”?

But, as Doug Newburg might say, it is Resonance that comes first. Where does the core of your being vibrate? What can you spend hours on without even thinking? This is not to say that business is some sort of Zen quest, bit that taking the time to explore for that natural fit should, one hopes, create a plan with more staying power, because it is built from the “inside out”

Create a Life Plan consists of a short video, a written guide, and some PDF/Word templates for exploring yourself. Topics include:

Current Status
Vision of ideal life
What do you live to do
What are your skills
Experiences you’ve had
Ideal Work Style
Your personal statement
Action Plan – Key moves you are going to make

All this is only step 1 in the Sloan Brothers’ 10 Steps to Open For Business…but it may be the most important one.


Success Tools - Behance Action Pad

I was in a creative field for many years, and did well. One of my secrets was to think before I acted. While others rushed headlong into doing the creative project at hand, I took time to think first. Among the items I pondered were multiple ideas (instead of just locking on to a single one), various computer files I would need, key words that the client had mentioned, and lots of sub-ideas that occurred to me as I was thinking through the project. A lot of this I owe to my large stock of Brian Tracy materials. The results of thinking first and acting later made my creative work much broader and deeper, as well as more efficient.

I find that the Behance Action Pad looks very similar to the custom-made planner pages I had designed for myself for my creative planning stages. The entire company looks fascinating. I think it is time for the creative community to utilize such tools in a big way. I feel that the people that use such methodologies will be “lighting an afterburner” to propel their abilities faster, higher, and more efficiently.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Success Tools - The Brian Tracy Site

I was delighted to discover that Brian Tracy, one of the reigning masters of personal development, has posted an extensive selection of material on his site . I have been a huge fan of Brian Tracy over the years. Before I studied Brian Tracy I had no concept of financial independence. I first heard the term “Goals” in a Brian Tracy audio presentation. I attended Brian’s 1995 Mastermind Seminar and still have my blue binder from that life-changing event.

Now, I have a wall full of Brian’s materials…well over a dozen of his programs, but anyone who wants to begin the study of Brian Tracy’s work can now go to his site and access a treasure-trove of materials at no cost whatever.

Brian Tracy has devoted his life to defining the critical success factors of the major areas of human life: personal development, relationships, business, finance, and sales, to name a few. The knowledge he has collected is not based on fads, pop psychology, or the mysticism-du-jour. As such, it may seem too obvious, old-fashioned, or just plain hard. Too bad. It works. The truths are eternal, and one would be hard-pressed to imagine a life of lasting success that did not incorporate the principles that Brian Tracy has discovered, organized, and articulates.

Go to these sites. Go back often. You will find the highest quality information on personal success you can imagine.


Main Blog

Topic-based Blogs:

Brian Tracy’s Weekly Words of Wisdom

Entrepreneurial Success

Financial Success

Management Success

Personal Success

Sales Success


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Success Videos - Gates, Hurley, et al at Davos

One of the great benefits of our Web 2.0 world is the instant access we have to the ideas generated by the seminal movers and shakers of our era. This "Web 2.0" discussion from the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 2007, is a case in point.

Here, on one stage, are Bill Gates, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Flickr founder Caterina Fake, and numerous others, discussing the meaning and significance of the revolution called Web 2.0.

Bill Gates once again proves his unique capabilities as a sweeping visionary. He sees the future going toward more natural input devices (speech, 3D), toward making markets ever more granular ,searchable, and customized, and notes the hyper-speed naturee of customer usage as an immediate feedback mechanism for morphing an internet-based business ever more closely (and quickly) to the needs of the customer. I predict this video will be a classic.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Success Tools - The Marshall Goldsmith Library

Marshal Goldsmith, a highly successful executive coach, and Author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, was recently featured on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. On the podcast, Goldsmith mentioned that he also hosted the Marshal Goldsmith Library. I recently checked it out and it is a treasure trove of executive coaching experience

Goldsmith, whose site contains praise from the CEOs of Ford, Glaxo, McKesson, Allergan, and Goldman Sachs, has assembled a generous collection of materials including a Blog, downloadable articles, Podcasts, Videos, and even links to 39 other Thought Leaders in management coaching including Natahniel Branden, David Allen, and Brian Tracy.

Goldsmith has coached some extremely successful people, and that poses a unique set of challenges: high-level CEO’s and similar figures are already at the top, have done a lot of things really well, and are financially independent. How do you convince them that their arrogance, blindness, self-centeredness, or encouragement of fawning sycophants is about to derail them permanently? Somehow, Goldsmith does it.

Most of us will never be able to afford the 6-figure services of a Fortune 500 executive coach. Marshall Goldsmith generously affords us all the ability to get a lot of his elite counsel for free, on his many linked websites.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Success Videos - Why Smart Executives Fail

How could Wang Labs ignore the personal computer? Why did Enron think it could deceive the investment world by attempting to fire a financial journalist? How could Motorola lead in analog phones and ignore digital phones? These “worst practices” are the issues addressed in Dartmouth Professor Sidney Finkelstein’s book Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes. The video below gives a remarkable glimpse into Finkelstein’s findings, the main one of which is this: top executives are not failures, not stupid, not unmotivated. They are the best and the brightest. They and their organizations fall into many of the traps we all fall into personally: wrong assumptions, communication issues, delusions arising out of current successes, and various ego pathologies. Fascinating to watch:


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Success Podcasts - Phil Mckinney on Innovation Metrics

Innovation guru Phil McKinney , who hosts the Killer Innovations Podcast is always on my “must listen” list. He works for a high-tech company and is a student of innovation. He reads prodigiously and is obviously incredibly passionate about his field.

His podcast for March 18, “Measuring Innovation Impact” was particularly interesting. In it, McKinney presents some of his current thinking on innovation metrics…the “balance sheet” for how a corporation’s innovation processes are progressing.

But it occurred to me…perhaps these metrics could be applied to personal processes in our daily lives, and of course, in smaller business.

Here are a few of McKinney’s metrics, with some of my ideas on how these processes, normally applied, of course, to large tech companies, could be repurposed for use by “the rest of us”:

R&D Spend % across the innovation portfolio (core products, adjacent and new)

In our individual lives, the concept of “R&D Spend” can be applied to time/money/effort spent improving our own personal procedures. In essence, the percentage of our own day spent on improving our own procedures.

Innovation Portfolio Segment 1: Core

McKinney dubs as “core”, the core products of the company. The ones that are the main revenue generators, and the ones that provide an “average” payoff. But these, being core, must, of course, be subjected to scrutiny, since a small improvement might yield a big return.

For instance, I found that shopping for cereal at Target was a dollar cheaper per box than cereal at the supermarket.
Let’s say you set goals twice per year. Would quarterly be better? How often do you look at your goals? Do you have a way to keep them with you throughout the day?

How much time and energy are you spending to improve the procedures that are working for you now?

What about your current job? Are you keeping on top of your “in” box? Your schedule? Is a current client increasing their business? Would it be important to service that client a little better?

Innovation Portfolio Segment 2: Adjacent

In McKinney’s podcast, adjacent products are related to your current products, but have the potential for up to 25% improvements in profitability. Again, this concept can be fruitfully transposed to our personal and small-business procedures.

What areas are new, but closely related our current procedures? For instance, in my case, I practice the Getting Things Done (GTD) method of personal organization, but I never instituted a “tickler” file. So implementing sich an iinovation might might improve the “gross margin:” of my productivity 25% but , since it is not a “breakthrough” (because I already employ GTD), it would be in the “adjacent” category.

So…what portion of my time/energy/money am I spending to improve the “adjacent” areas of my person processes?

Innovation Portfolio Segment 3: New

Mckinney describes the “New” category as having 50% + improvements n gross margin. What could we do to really radically improve our lives by 50%? Are we spending enough time/energy/money in those areas where the payoff might be greatest?

A new business?
A new social circle?
What about a significant expenditure on equipment, promotion, or even of effort?
What if a parent resolved to triple the time spent with their child?
What about a “blockbuster” personal project? Climbing a mountain? Learning Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier over the next year?
A costly seminar in a city 2500 miles away?
Upping your reading time to 3 hours per day? Or 6 hours per weekend?

In McKinney’s model, even these larger projects appear doable because they are part of a known budget of time/energy/money. We can decide in advance that a percentage of time (not all of our time) can be directed in this direction.

I have a friend who might be offered a new job. He can ask himself “would this risk bring a 50% - 100% improvement in my Income?” My satisfaction? My lifetime financial security? My prospects for recognition? Certainly the use of the “gross margin” concept can be applied to any risk/reward proposition or goal we might set for ourselves.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Success Podcasts - Manger Tools Podcast

Josh Kaufman, of The Personal MBA is strongly recommending the Manager Tools Podcast. Since I love Josh’s ability to find and filter the best in the business management field, I am eagerly downloading all of the podcasts. Titles include:

Strategy and SWOT
How to Videoconference
Performance evaluations
Develop a Sense of Urgency in your team

… and I am only scratching the surface!!! There are dozens more podcasts in the series.


Success Tools - Decision Analysis Part 2

This is my second post on Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis. In my last post , I mentioned that alternatives could be ranked by how much they satisfied MUST requirements and WANT requirements. I described how each alternative could be given a quantitative score.

Presumably, the most satisfactory alternative would be the one with the highest composite score. However, the Kepner-Tregoe method doesn’t stop there

Assessing Adverse Consequences

Besides ranking advantages, Kepner aand Tregoe advocate a separate exercise for assessing adverse consequences. They contend that this process cannot be “folded in” to the ranking of best alternatives. They suggest that each alternative’s negative consequences also be comparatively scored, by multiplying the seriousness of the consequence by its probability. This process could easily “tip the scales” in favor of a different alternative than the highest-ranked alternative.

Controlling the Effects of the Final Decision

But the decision-making process does not stop with the choice of an alternative. Since any alternative may have negative consequences, Kepner and Tregoe recommend that, once an alternative has been selected, immediate action should be taken to prevent the worst consequence that has been anticipated, and also that warning and tracking systems be set up to monitor progress. This is a tricky process. It could label the decisionmaker as “paranoid”. There are also very few rewards given out for “potential problems prevented”. It sometimes feels like a no-win situation, and yet I feel that these last two steps, Consequence Assessment, and Monitoring Progress, create an essential margin of safety that speaks volumes for the merits of the Kepner-Tregoe process.

Once again, I strongly recommend “The Rational Manager” although it appears to be out of print.

Decision Analysis Part 1


Monday, April 02, 2007

Success Secrets: Decision Analysis

As I was reading Trump University Entrepreneurship 101: How to Turn Your Idea into a Money Machine (actually written by author Michael E. Gordon), I came across a reference to Kepner and Tregoe’s “The Rational Manager”, a (seemingly) out-of-print book from the 1960s. I picked it up at the library, and now I can see why Gordon recommends it as a management classic. It is luminous in its clarity regarding both Problem Analysis and Decision Analysis. I am sometimes fascinated that we are taught algebra, biology, etc in high school, but not such subjects as goal-setting and DecisionAanalysis.

We all have to make decisions in our business and personal lives, and the Kepner-Tregoe text contains an excellent procedure for making decisions. While I don’t want to spoil the book for those who choose to delve into the process, here is a condensation of Kepner-Tregoe on Decision analysis:

Set Objectives

Try to be “objective” in your objectives. Quantify the results you are seeking: What? Where? When? In what time frame? How many? How much?

Classify Objective into “Must” and “Want” objectives

The “Musts” are the required minimum results. Just determining a “Must” objective will help eliminate a large number of alternatives.

The “Want” objectives are still very important. For instance, if your “Must” objective is to meet 10 new people, and one alternative (say, going to a convention) will help you meet 100 new people and another (say, going to a gallery opening) might result in meeting 15 people, you pick the alternative with the most potential, even though either alternative will meet eh “Must” objective of meeting 10 new people.

So, given that you have made a list of objectives and alternatives, is there a way to introduce some objectivity into the choice of alternative?

Score Each "Want" and Each "Alternative "
Kepner and Tregoe recommend a quantitative scoring system as follows:

Assign a weight to each “Want: objective by how important it is in itself. It’s ability to fulfill the “Must” objectives would of course factor in as a component)

Next, for each alternative you are considering, score the alternative on each “want” objective it meets.

For each alternative multiply the score for each “Want” objective bt the weight assigned to that “Want” objective.

This will give you an idea of how strong each alternative is in each area.

More on Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis in the next post.