Alan Weiss knocks it out of the park again, but this time with a memoir-style book that digs into the psychology behind his most well-known stances. If you’re an Alan convert, you’ll get tons out benefit of MDM. My only caveat is that it might not be recognized for what it is by folks who aren’t already familiar with his schtick. If you’re new to Alan’s work, read Value Based Fees and Million Dollar Consulting first.
I understood that I had a better chance of standing out not merely by being better, but by being different.
My observations of both entrepreneurs and successful corporate executives, as well as groundbreaking organizations, are that they don’t march to the beat of a distant drummer; they create their uniquely personal music.
I am absolutely convinced—because I’ve done it thousands of times—that simply taking a contrarian or “one-off” view is the secret to success. When someone says to you, “We’re in California and you live in New York,” as an excuse not to hire you, you’re probably apt to say, “But there are nonstop flights, I can absorb part of the expense, Skype is a fine alternative, and I’m happy to make extended visits.” Admit it, you do. What I say is, “That’s exactly why you need me.” Then the other person says, “Why is that?” NOTICE: The other person is now engaged not in explaining why you’re not a good alternative but rather in trying to understand why you are a good alternative! That’s when I say: “I bring a different perspective from the East. All of your competitors are using local help and ideas, and they all have cookie-cutter approaches. You need some fresh air. My credentials and experience are not only better, they’re different. The expense, which I’m assuming is what’s really bothering you, might be an extra $10,000 over the course of the project, but the 5 percent market share increase we’re pursuing would mean another $2 million in revenues. I’d say that’s a pretty minor issue, right?”
People jump on bandwagons careening down hills. It’s a public service to show them how to get off, because they invariably crash, since they don’t have the brakes of rational risk assessment.
Am I telling the same stories and using the same examples I’ve been using for years, or am I adding and replacing annually?
Am I leaving a legacy or just a trail?
“Did you do that as a courtesy, or did you do that to get thanked?” I asked, “because it makes a huge difference.”
Here’s a terrific exercise: choose a half-dozen major trends or activities or beliefs in your field, and debunk them. You don’t have to believe them wholeheartedly, just have some fun casting doubt on them.
Here’s E. E. Cummings: “To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
How glorious it is—and also how painful—to be an exception. —Alfred de Musset
Most of us strive for high affiliation irrespective of respect. We’d rather have people like us, rather have them “on our side,” rather have them acknowledge we’re “with them.” However, the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve ever observed are those who strive for high respect. If you like me, fine, but it’s more important that you respect my expertise and my values.
Feet to the fire, we’d rather have the best doctor available for our knee replacement or heart stent, not the least expensive and not the one with the best bedside manner. Oh, we’d prefer a great bedside manner, and be pleased by lower fees, but our critical requirement is the best possible expertise. The same holds true for consultants, accountants, designers, architects, and myriad others.
I learned long ago that suffering the label of “arrogant,” “aloof,” and “remote” was a low price to pay for being sought after, naming my own terms, charging what I desired, and standing far apart from the herd.
“failure is seldom fatal, and success never final—it’s courage that counts.”
We need to ask the buyer who rejected our proposal: “What could I have done differently to have earned your trust and obtained this project?”
When you walk into a prospect’s office or a job interview or a meeting where you need to garner support, remember this: You cannot walk out poorer than when you entered. You may not have the business or the position or the backing, but you will have learned something, in any case.
I’ve found that the key to startling success is to be fearless.* I don’t mean reckless or foolhardy, and I don’t mean imprudent. I mean fearless, because there is nothing to fear in our professions and businesses, assuming you’re not a chain saw juggler
The greatest manifestation of perceived failure that we encounter these days is self-imposed victimization.
Victimization is fatal, because we surrender control and merely complain. We no longer work to succeed; we spend our time and energy trying to identify and validate to others why it’s impossible for us to succeed.
Once you understand that when the presumed “worst” occurs, and you’re still here with friends and prospects for a better life (it can’t get worse), your ego toughens up because you’re no longer afraid of it being damaged. This is the heart of resilience, the ability to bounce back into form, spring back into shape, return to former health. Resilience has speed as its main fuel. The faster you return to form, the better off you are.
You will win and you will lose. None of this has an impact on your worth as a person.
If you want to make it as an entrepreneur, your mindset must be “egoless.” That is, you have to check your ego at the door. You can’t attempt to outgun, outwit, and outperform everyone else around. You simply have to convince your buyer (or the person you’re trying to influence) that you have great value to contribute.
Learn to say no without justification. We get “trapped” into situations that can be quite damaging. You can say no to a request to head a fundraising committee, perform a pro bono service, or invite someone you dislike to an event. You don’t need a justification. You’re not on trial.
Learn something from every endeavor. When I’ve been rejected for a project, I always have asked, “Would you take a minute to educate me about what I could have done better to win your business?”
reward behaviors, not solely victories.
The problem with many corporate initiatives and personal plans is that we jump on the bandwagon of benefit without considering how to lessen risk.
Assertive risk management will safeguard your plans and enable you to be more daring and bolder than others.
Risk has two components: 1. Probability: This is the likelihood that an event will occur. 2. Seriousness: This is the impact of the event if it does occur.
In business and often in life, speed is as important as content. That is, success always trumps perfection. Perfection is the archenemy of excellence, because the insistence on (the impossible) perfection eternally stalls any meaningful action. Every plane you take, dinner you eat, car you drive, medical office you visit, and friend you trust is imperfect. If we insisted on consistent perfection we would barely be able to feed ourselves, much less conduct business.
In this age of immediate gratification, people don’t like waiting, and certainly not for “perfection.” They’d rather obtain something good immediately.
We need to have substance. We need to have valuable insights, commentary, and advice. So many people are afraid that others will steal their ideas and intellectual property that they hide them under the mattress to protect them. And they gain just as much interest as money gains under a mattress.
Visual heft is illustrated by the graphic you see in figure 3.1. It makes the simple case that too little stress results in low productivity (bottom left) because no one has the urgency to act, but too much stress (bottom right) also results in low productivity because people are scared to death. The idea is not to drive them from the extreme left to the extreme right, but rather to the middle, position 6–7, where just enough stress creates urgency and the adrenaline rush required for high performance. Eliminating stress isn’t only impossible, but wrong.*
Objections are a sign of interest,
don’t be afraid of provocation and the ensuing debate, no matter how rough. Getting there quickly and early will provide more time for debate, and having a great value to display will keep others mesmerized while you head for your destination.
Here is how to keep conversation headed toward your destination if the other person keeps trying to strike out in other directions: interrupt. That’s right, stop the person, even if it’s a buyer. But do it with language like this:
- Excuse me, this is fascinating and I want to make sure I’ve captured that last point. In the context of this decision we’re discussing, do you mean that you tend to accept more risk than most?
- May I stop you briefly? It seems that you’ve referred to unacceptable attrition—talent leaving—three times now. Is that correct?
- Pardon me for interrupting, but I’m not certain if you meant that sales should be better or margins should be better. Which is it?
In these examples, you have to be bold enough to barge in; taking the onus on yourself is necessary (“Sorry, my fault, but I think I missed the third point…”). You have to be able to relate the interruption to something—anything—the other party may have said and connect it with the route to your personal destination. You can accomplish this by staying in the moment during the diatribe—don’t lull off. Listen for the “pivot point” where you can turn things around.
The key technique, which you see in the three examples above, is what I coined long ago as “rhetorical permission.” With this technique, you ask to do something that can’t be denied. You’ve experienced rhetorical greetings, such as “How are you?,” where the other party really doesn’t care, is merely opening dialogue, and if you were to respond, “Well, my knee hurts and I have some arthritis in my index finger, and the hives haven’t fully disappeared…” you’d drive people from the room. Thus, by asking, “May I…” or, “If you don’t mind…” you’ll create the new dynamic—changing the course of the conversation—in a polite, never denied, and firm manner.
Here’s how to keep conversations within the boat channel when you may tend to drift: PAY ATTENTION! That’s it. Stay in the moment and be present, rather than planning your next sentence or furiously writing irrelevant notes or hoping to be liked, as if the conversation is a test and there are right answers. The only “answer” is the destination you have in mind. Focus on it, and don’t ask irrelevant questions: “Trying to get people to donate is as difficult as hitting a one iron.” WRONG: “You play golf? Have you ever played at the Coyote Club?” RIGHT: “Well, here’s my idea of how to put a putter in their hands and make it easy.”
If you want to compromise and still get results in your favor:
- Demonstrate value for the other people involved.
- Protect your personal “musts.”
- Don’t allow the other person to drift out of the channel.
- Don’t drift out of the channel yourself.
Enthusiasm is great, except when it’s transmogrified into blind zeal. People with passion seek to influence, but zealots seek to convert. Those seeking converts cannot compromise.
Consensus is something you can live with, not something you’d die for.
personal and organizational issues are not always simple, and even when they are, you can’t get away with a simple suggestion because the perception is that you haven’t spent enough time considering it. Therefore, we need analyses, assessments, advance work, preparatory work, pilots, and failure work. We not only have to develop an effective solution or recommendation, but we have to make it appear as if it were the result of careful contemplation and not a knee-jerk response.
The key is to appear as if you’ve carefully considered all others’ inputs to that point (even if the answer was as obvious to you as a ham sandwich, not uncommon with a good intellect) and have applied some ratiocination; then, hold back until argument is at least temporarily exhausted. All sides will be thirsty for a voice of reason at that point, especially one that doesn’t declare a “winner” so much as an exit. All that’s required is some creative thinking.
These are your “systems of success.” You have to move from unconscious competency to conscious competency to understand your own processes and enable yourself to replicate them and repeat them.
I’ve found that a smile and early humor create the right frame of mind with large audiences in a speech or with a small group in a conference room. Once I realized that, it became an automatic response to such environments. When I was unsuccessful at times getting the audience to warm up to me, I realized later that I had departed from my normally unconscious competency, because I was distracted or worried about some unrelated issue.
I’ve met thousands of excellent executives in my career. About half would tell me that they operate by “gut feel” or being “in the moment.” But that’s not the case at all. Almost every one of them, once I probed, had a system or procedure they utilized, which they either couldn’t or wouldn’t articulate at the time. But with observation and questioning, the processes always emerged. People don’t achieve excellence by trial and error. They achieve it by being right, by winning, by succeeding most of the time. That level of success is neither accidental nor dependent on reinventing an approach each time.
Think about not only when you succeed, but why you succeed. The “why” will force you to examine the processes you used to accomplish the goals. Don’t settle for others saying, “Good job!” Ask them why they think so.
we usually find someone to blame, rather than pursuing the most important thing: finding cause.
Perhaps the primary critical thinking skill is to organize around the fact that problems have causes and that the cause must be removed in order to remove the problem.
So, while others waste time and energy shouting at each other and arguing about who is to blame, those of us on the fast track find out the cause of the problem—if it really is a problem—and move to take action. There are two kinds of actions available to you. 1. Corrective action removes the problem by removing the cause. If the roof is leaking and creating the problem (that is, the adverse effect) of wet floors and furniture, you repair the roof, either temporarily with a tarp or permanently with new asphalt, rubber, or shingles. 2. Adaptive action mitigates the effect while leaving the problem in place. Positioning a bucket under the leak will protect the furniture for now, until the roof is fixed.
Many years ago we owned an otherwise wonderful Jaguar sedan that was notorious for leaking oil. Repairs to the engine were expensive, took forever, and were not guaranteed to last. The adaptive action of putting a quart of oil in monthly was cheaper,
faster, and removed any chance of adverse effects (engine burnout). That’s how we adapted. It did no good to blame Jaguar engineers or dealers or designers or mechanics, because we still would have had to deal with the problem. Which, in fact, we could do very easily.
When you blame others, you become enslaved to them.
If we combine the important pursuit of solving problems with these four principles, we will be at the Sherlock Holmes level of noticing that the dog did not bark in the night: 1. A true problem has three composite elements. 2. We cannot default to the simplistic notion of finding someone to blame as a starting point. 3. To remove a problem the cause of the problem has to be removed, and the cause is always a relevant change. 4. We can opt to remove the cause once we know it, or choose to mitigate (or merely live with) the effects. Welcome to the ranks of the finest maverick problem solvers.
organizations and people waste their time by looking for distinctions between best and worst. The key, useful, vital distinctions are between best and next best!
People who leave organizations don’t leave the company, they leave their boss, in most cases.
(When my kids changed schools, I asked the head of the middle school we were considering, “What’s the biggest drawback here?” He looked at me, said he’d never been asked that, thought a moment, and then told me what they were. To me, that was the distinctive behavior I sought; everyone else was simply telling me they were perfect.)
What’s distinctive about the absolute best experience you’ve had, compared with those that were good but not quite as impressive? That’s the distinction that will truly tell you what’s different about a duck.
Today, we have an entirely different dynamic. We have to create change if we are to thrive.
If you were to find that taxis in your city were dirty and hard to find, and you launched a service that featured clean cars and better dispatching, you might succeed opportunistically and make money in a crowded market. But if you create Uber, you make a fortune in an entirely new market: on-demand, excellent transportation with safe, knowledgeable, and courteous drivers who speak English well. You can form a new television network with distinctive programming and try to get audience share, or you can provide an entire season of a series at once, as Netflix has done, and create the phenomenon of binge watching. You may try to convince your peers to accept your recommendations when a key decision is to be made, or you can create an environment where they actually experience the results of your decision. (Show me a working draft of a new website, don’t merely tell me what you think is wrong with mine.)
I didn’t try to “fix” anything, I started something new.
This is why almost all self-help books are deficient: they assume you’re broken and try to fix you.
The worst thing to do with an entitlement mentality is to enable it. Giving people something for nothing—unless they are truly incapable of acquiring basic needs—may enrich their temporary condition, but it impoverishes their spirit.
Your suffering is a conscious choice that shouldn’t be seen as a requirement or unavoidable condition.
We often suffer the most when we lead with our egos. You can see the person in the meeting who tries to get the “right” answer before all others in front of the boss, or who cuts off colleagues to suggest her solution first. I have a strong ego, in the sense that I’m very confident and am not intimidated in any business or social situation. But I’ve learned to allow my presence to speak for itself, rather than speaking to demonstrate that I’m present.
When I facilitate groups, I make it a habit to call on people from whom we’ve heard very little or nothing at all. I make sure I get back to people on phone conferences who tried to say something but were overrun by more assertive colleagues. I will poll groups to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak. If we don’t engage in this dynamic, we lose important insights, creativity, and ideas. There is zero correlation between volume and intelligence (as I can attest from the oaf sitting next to me at the bar last night loudly proclaiming that New Mexico is the only place to go to escape northern winters. Right, if you’re a prairie dog.). One of the most powerful techniques in your arsenal is drawing out people who have trouble emerging from their own cones of silence and, often, terror.
It’s simple to use language to draft your particular promotional intentions. I can tell you that my wife drives a seven-year-old car. Or I can tell you that she drives a gorgeous, rare, red Bentley GTC. Both statements are true about the same car.
My suggestions about evangelism and my lessons learned include:
- When you identify existing evangelists, treat them specially. Buy gifts or provide rewards or discounts when they have created positive situations and new business for you. Show them you appreciate every ounce of their support. Mention them publicly as valued clients and good examples.
- Give them the opportunity to evangelize. Mix them with your prospects. Hold joint meetings. Create forums where they can meet and social events where they can mingle. In my first Million Dollar Consulting® Convention in Atlanta in 2015, about 75 percent of the two hundred attendees knew me through my books and newsletters, but 25 percent—the evangelists—had participated in my high-end experiences, workshops, and coaching. The interactions between the two groups resulted in more than $150,000 in new business over two and a half days.
- Provide evangelists with something to talk about. No matter what business you’re in, you can’t coast. What new ideas, new intellectual property, new innovation can you continually expose people to so that they become excited in talking about you. Have you noticed that people such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk generate huge excitement around their endeavors, and there are people who back them and create buzz about them even if they have no particular stake in the undertaking? Their stake, rather, is in the charisma of the person and the person’s ideas and creations.
What we see is the urgency factor: when people want something badly enough they get it accomplished. They create their own reality in terms of what’s possible and what can be done in the short term. But once you allow varied interests to be involved, or bureaucratic oversight, things slow down considerably, often to a crawl.
Enthusiasm and confidence are essential to create your own reality.
There is no more powerful tool (or weapon) than words used with intent, purpose, and agility.
Very early I observed that “trial and error,” as a problem-solving approach, wasn’t terribly inefficient if the consequences of the error were slight. You can correct a crossword puzzle, retwist a Rubik’s Cube, try turning various circuit breakers on and off. In fact, this was often pretty fast. It didn’t work so well when the consequences were severe (choosing a travel route) or dire (health decisions). Very few doctors have said, “The regimen here is trial and error: if this doesn’t work, then try that, and if that doesn’t work, try them together, then get back to me.” It also became apparent that you could easily test with a machine or process, as long as consequences were slight for poor decisions, but it was generally madness to use trial and error on people because the consequences were always dire!
Communicate with care, not haste, and with brevity, not verbosity.
Many years ago I was reading Margaret Wheatley’s book Leadership and the New Science. I thought it an average book, sometimes almost impenetrable. (I’ve since met Ms. Wheatley and hired her as a guest speaker. She is highly cynical, to say the least, and her writing reflects a gloomy view.) At one point, she made this observation in the book (paraphrasing): Consciousness is a function of processing information. Therefore, a dog is more conscious than, say, a clam, because a dog can process far more information. I put the book down and had a revelation, an epiphanic moment. It’s clear that some people process information at a far higher and faster pace than others; hence, they have a higher level of consciousness. This explained for me a chronic issue, where some people are rapid learners and some terribly slow, some are totally aware of their surroundings and some oblivious to them.
NOTE: Wow. Wheatly trigged in AW an epiphany and yet he starts by criticizing her book, knocking her personality, and even seems to imply that maybe it wasn’t the book at all by saying first that he “put the book down AND THEN had a revelation”
There are basically two ways to write a nonfiction book such as this one. The first is “scientific,” which is what Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Taleb and Dan Pink tend to do. They perform research, compare and contrast numbers and statistics, and present their findings, supported by facts such as the age that hockey players begin school in Canada or the numbers of hours an all-star athlete practices. The second method is anecdotal. That is how Marshall Goldsmith and Seth Godin and I write. We support our points with examples to which the reader can readily relate. The oxygen mask phenomenon is one, and the person coming to a dead stop at the bottom of an escalator is another.
NOTE: “Did I mention that I’m in the same category as Gladwell, Godin, and Pink? Cuz I am.”
In business meetings and in attempts to influence others, my contention is that we need fewer statistics and more persuasion.
People win, prevail, and triumph not because they are the scientifically best, but because they can bring the appropriate talent to the accurate place at precisely the right time.
- A prospective buyer says to me: “We have never hired an external consultant in this operation, and have no plans to do so.” I respond, “You have no idea how many of my best clients today began our first conversation with the exact same words.” This changes the entire perspective from me as an outsider to him as an insider! I’ve completely reversed the momentum of the conversation.
- A prospect says, “We’re on the West Coast, and you’re on the East Coast.” I respond, “That’s exactly why you need me!” He has to listen to my next sentence rather than continue to try to show me why the distance is a deal buster. (We can use Skype, I’m on the West Coast monthly anyway, most of the work involves customers who are located around the country, and so forth.)
- A coaching client asked me what her next book should be about, because she needed help coming up with a premise. “That’s the wrong question,” I told her. “The real question is what you want your business to look like a year or so from now and what kind of book can drive people to that kind of business.” Then we had a discussion that resulted in a book premise in twenty minutes.
Think of reframing as translating issues and discussions into your particular language of success. Most people don’t even realize you’re doing it.
To successfully reframe, you need to be clear on: 1. What is in your best interests to accomplish 2. What is acceptable to the other parties yet still in your best interests 3. How you can use language to reframe and translate the issue in a favorable and acceptable manner* 4. How to make manifest the new frame
In its ugliest forms, reframing becomes “spin,” the primary weapon of political schlockmeisters. In its highest forms, it is statesmanship, diplomacy, and tact. But never lose focus that it’s always to be used to promote your best interests.
I found that giving the right answers in class makes the teacher look better, because, clearly, people are learning.
In the world of consulting I found that one should never, ever allow the buyer to determine the consulting intervention. We all encounter the mouthwatering potential client where the buyer says, “We need…” a two-day strategic retreat a leadership development program a month of coaching focus groups and surveys a customer-focused culture movement from good to great The problem, of course, is that the buyer has arrived at an intervention and is simply seeking a contractor to fulfill the requirements. Mindsets: A consultant is a brain, not a pair of hands. If you’re simply following someone else’s direction, you’re a hired hand. If you’re providing direction, you’re a trusted advisor. We need to own the transaction by using The Word. And The Word is: Why? A one-word interrogative will carry the day. Because “Why?” brings us to the real outcome and moves us away from the arbitrary input. Example: “We need a leadership development workshop.” “Why?” “Because not everyone is making decisions consistent with our strategy at senior levels.” “Do you know why some are and some are not?” “No.” “Well, why don’t we find that out first, before jumping to a solution?” Clients (and others) arrive at solutions first (before knowing cause or objectives) because of a great management and leadership myth, namely, that senior and important people are paid to take action. That is ridiculous. Leaders are paid to get results.
we have to establish what the results should be—the improved future state, the increased performance, the desired outcomes—before taking any action at all.
We have to own our transactions by not accepting the decisions (and often outright whims) of others merely because of their title, position, or budgets. The siren’s call of “business at any cost” must be resisted.
I was working at Mercedes-Benz North America, which at the time had a very rigid hierarchy within which people feared their bosses, right up to the president of the division, who reported to executives at Daimler-Benz in Germany. As might be expected, the people who hired me (based on observing me elsewhere and meticulously investigating my credentials) began to tell me how to consult. They had a problem with uneven service at their dealers, and they demanded an analytic evaluation of service standards. I told them no, that’s not what I would do; I’d go around to the best dealers and determine the best practices to spread down the line. When they argued, I told them this: “Here’s the deal. I won’t tell you how to make brake pads or power steering units, and you don’t tell me how to consult. You have auto experts falling from the rafters, but you need me because Lexus is eating your lunch because of their superior service.” That took care of it.
We are now in the age of community. A community is welcoming, heterogeneous, organized around talent and contribution, and focused on mutual learning and support. Figure 9.1 depicts the evolution of a single product moving toward multiple media, in other words, a booklet that becomes a video or a workshop. It then morphs into a continuing series, perhaps a subscription service, using multimedia. For example, my Self-Worth ideas became a weekly video, audio, and print subscription globally. The next step is interactive—a workshop or coaching intervention. However, our goal here is “community.” The community provides its members with experiences, events, connections, involvement, and continuing value whether you are present or not.
No matter what field you are in or are considering, community has to be a logical and pragmatic goal. The days of the seller controlling information are long gone. Consumers now have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions, not only factual data but also opinions, reviews, and experiences of peers whom they trust. (Every survey you care to access will tell you that executive corporate buyers base decisions primarily on peer recommendations, not on sales literature and virtually never on social media sources.) You form communities not by attracting one person at a time, but by the app principle: you attract people who attract people. You establish clearly that you are surrounded by people whom others would truly love to cite as their peers.
A community is a perpetual motion attraction machine. Focus on the exponential effect of every member drawing another dozen members. Keep adding new value—more “apps.”
Community is the greenhouse for such evangelism. It is a function of nurturing those who think highly of you and then presenting them with the opportunity to tell others.
Evangelists are the means to transfer the high regard of those who know you to the knowledge base of those who do not.
Patricia Fripp is a colleague, one of the best speakers in the world, and my cohost for a decade at an event called The Odd Couple®. She would always tell a story about going to an event with a good friend, where they would split up and each would tell people about the other. Call it “orchestrated evangelism”! Fripp (she goes by her last name) would tell people she met while circulating amidst the crowd, “You’ll never guess who’s here, Susan Jones, the greatest coach in the country. If you like, I can introduce you. She’s brilliant.” Meanwhile, Susan was doing the same thing across the room for Fripp.
Leaders, powerful people, decision makers crave other strong people who are enthusiastic, excellent, and exciting.
(Options given in order to be hired are one thing, options for proceeding after being hired are quite another.)
Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change. —Frank Lloyd Wright
Stop trying to solve problems and start trying to innovate. “Fixing” things is a commodity endeavor, and most organizations are very good at it. But raising the bar is rare, especially for firms already at the top of their markets. Don’t restore performance; create new performance.
By definition, if you want to be exceptional you can’t act like everyone else.
Too many people are simply chasing money with no guidance at all.
I incorporated into my guidance that respect was a more important destination in my work than affection, and adapted an appropriate persona toward clients. My routes were always guided by the “oxygen mask”: I had to have a route that was positive for me if I was to help others. I would not let others drive me in uncomfortable ways toward undesirable ends.
I’ve identified four levels of existence on the success path. You can see them in figure 10.1.
NOTE: "survive, alive, arrive, thrive" <- Nice
Do you find yourself debating whether to do something when the alternatives really don’t matter?! Today a woman who makes $650,000 a year asked if it was worth upgrading from an American Express Gold Card to a Platinum Card. Some people were giving her particulars about the differences. “Why are you even asking?” I asked. “Perhaps this was a quandary for you ten years ago, but what difference does it make today? Get the Platinum Card.”
If you find yourself debating things that are irrelevant in your current situation and success, you’re sliding back through open doors to previous levels.
The failure of people to move forward is based largely on their adhering to the past, no matter how illogical. In fact, that inability to let go is highly emotional. “Can I get the early discount even though I missed the deadline?” asked someone who was making a million dollars a year. “You know I can’t do that, and the $150 difference means nothing for you, so why do you even ask?” “I have to ask,” he confessed. “I always need to try to get a deal.” For many, their upbringing and parents cause this phenomenon. It’s been ingrained in them to preserve, to deny themselves, to save. For others, it’s their partners and spouses who have become “underminers” by questioning whether current success can ever be replicated and suggesting that luck had far more of a role than talent in their current status. And for others it’s abject fear: of being “found out” as an imposter, of having stumbled upon good fortune instead of having created it, and of losing the competitive race to others who exhibit more confidence and tenacity. We seal the watertight doors and eliminate guilt and fear by consistent and deliberate change, upgrading our own image, surrounding ourselves with appropriately supportive people, and improving our self-talk. We need to practice positive psychology with ourselves so we can redirect our emotions to thrive, and so we can seal the doors behind us. That calls for moving permanently from a poverty mentality to one of abundance.
When we fear, our talents are masked, and this is not unlike being depressed or being burdened with guilt.
I mentioned to a clinician friend of mine, a therapist with a PhD, that I had overcome feelings of guilt and felt “guilt free.” She unhelpfully pointed out that this was also one of the traits of a psychopath! But, you see, that’s the issue: we’ve become imbued with the sense that we somehow should feel guilty and that it’s unnatural not to. The mental disorder is having no guilt! At first it sounds humorous, but when you delve deeper, it’s stopping people in their tracks. More than any religious belief about sinners and salvation, societal and psychological guilt is eroding the borders of our happiness and delimiting the potential of our talent.
You can see family less, change churches, find new friends. You can’t afford to be married to someone (or be in a long-term intimate relationship with someone) who constantly generates guilt. If you don’t make these strong decisions, you will be ground down to insignificance. (“How can you make that trip and leave me here alone with the kids?” “Sure, buy things for yourself while the rest of us are trying to be frugal.” “Why don’t you support your brother, it’s not his fault he got mixed up with the wrong crowd.” “You are nothing but a disappointment.”)
I don’t allow clients to tell me how to consult or coach. “We need you to facilitate a three-day strategy retreat,” I’m sometimes told. “And why is that?” I ask, instead of citing them a fee for three days and patting myself on the back.
There is no learning as profound as that which accrues when you teach and coach others what you think you already know!
I haven’t been a maverick just to be different. I’ve been a maverick to be successful on my own terms, not someone else’s. I don’t ask or recommend that you pursue success on my terms, only that you recognize what success means to you and create your own path to that end.
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