Monday, January 31, 2011

How Do I Maintain a Teachable Attitude?

By John C Maxwell

Teachability is not so much about competence and mental capacity as it is about attitude. It is the desire to listen, learn, and apply. It is the hunger to discover and grow. It is the willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn. I love the way legendary basketball coach John Wooden states it: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

When I teach and mentor leaders, I remind them that if they stop learning, they stop leading. But if they remain teachable and keep learning, they will be able to keep making an impact as leaders. Whatever your talent happens to be – whether it’s leadership, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship, or something else – you will expand it if you keep expecting and striving to learn.

Futurist and author John Naisbitt believes that “the most important skill to acquire is learning how to learn.” Here is what I suggest as you pursue teachability:

1. Learn to listen.

American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and one to hear.” Being a good listener helps us to know people better, to learn what they have learned, and to show them that we value them as individuals.

As you go through each day, remember that you can’t learn if you’re always talking. As the old saying goes, “There’s a reason you have one mouth and two ears.” Listen to others and remain humble, and you will learn things that can help you expand your talent.

2. Understand the learning process.

Here’s how learning typically works:
    STEP 1: Act.
  • STEP 2: Look for your mistakes and evaluate.
  • STEP 3: Search for a way to do it better.
  • STEP 4: Go back to Step 1.
Remember, the greatest enemy of learning is knowing. And the goal of all learning is action, not knowledge. If what you are doing does not in some way contribute to what you or others are learning in life, then question its value and be prepared to make changes.

3. Look for and plan teachable moments.

If you look for opportunities to learn in every situation, you will expand your talent to its potential. But you can also take another step beyond this and actively seek out and plan teachable moments. You do that by reading books, visiting places that inspire you, attending events that prompt you to pursue change, and spending time with people who stretch you and expose you to new experiences.

4. Make your teachable moments count.

Even people who are strategic about seeking teachable moments can miss the whole point of the experience. I say this because for many years I’ve been a speaker at conferences and workshops – events that are designed to help people learn. But I’ve found that many people walk away from an event and do very little with what they heard.

We tend to focus on learning events instead of the learning process. Because of this, I try to help people take action steps that will help them implement what they learn. I suggest that in their notes, they pay special attention to
  • Points they need to think about
  • Changes they need to make
  • Lessons they need to apply
  • Information that they need to share
Then after the conference, I recommend that they create to-do lists based on what they took note of, then schedule time to follow through.

5. Ask yourself, “Am I really teachable?”

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: all the good advice in the world won’t help if you don’t have a teachable spirit. To know whether you are really open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Am I open to other people’s ideas?
  2. Do I listen more than I talk?
  3. Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
  4. Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
  5. Do I observe before acting on a situation?
  6. Do I ask questions?
  7. Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
  8. Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
  9. Am I willing to ask for directions?
  10. Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, then you have room to grow in the area of teachability. You need to soften your attitude, learn humility, and remember the words of John Wooden: “Everything we know we learned from someone else!”
Adapted from Self-Improvement 101

Just another note: I’m very excited about a new program I’m involved with: A Minute with Maxwell.
It’s a daily video program featuring short lessons from me on a variety of topics, like perspective, integrity, self-leadership, and persistence.

Signup is free, and besides viewing the videos, you can also influence content by suggesting topics. I hope you’ll join me by signing up at

Like this post? Pass it on!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What are your fears keeping you from doing?

By John C Maxwell

In a speech in 1933, American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, addressing a nation mired in a Depression and on the verge of a world war, famously stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” During the first century A.D., Epictetus said, “It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.” And in the 1600s, Francis Bacon remarked that, “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.”

Fear is universal. It crosses all boundaries of race, culture, religion and generation. We all feel fear. So why do some people appear to be fearless, doing battle with enemies that others cower before? Because they recognize that the greatest enemy they face is the fear itself. The first battle every hero faces is against fear and its weapons of destruction.

So how should we deal with fear? Avoiding it never really makes it go away; we either become paralyzed or defeated. Frantically searching for a quick fix usually just results in unfocused and wasted effort.

The only way to deal with fear is to face it and overcome it. Dale Carnegie explained it this way: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Here are some actions you can take to face and overcome fear:

Discover the foundation of fear

The fact is that most fear is not based on fact. Much of what we fear is based on a feeling. According to an old saying, “Fear and worry are interest paid in advance on something you may never own.” And Aristotle explained, “Fear is pain arising from anticipation of evil.”

When you acknowledge that the majority of fear is unfounded, you can begin to release yourself from its power. American general George Patton understood this. He said, “I learned very early in life not to take counsel of my fears.” Businessman Allen Neuharth saw his worst fears come true, only to realize that they weren’t as big as he’d imagined: “I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.”

Admit your fears

One of our biggest misconceptions is that courage equals a lack of fear. In actuality, the opposite is true. Mark Twain explained, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” By admitting our fear, we can then challenge its accuracy.

That’s how General Patton dealt with it: “The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision,” he said. “That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all of your fears and go ahead!”

Accept the frailty and brevity of life

Sometimes our greatest fears are founded on reality. For example, we are all going to die sometime. There’s no denying that. Likewise, life will often be hard and painful. Those things are completely out of our control. By accepting their reality, we can then focus on the things we actually can control.

I love what Gertrude Stein wrote about fear: “Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really frightening.”

Accept fear as the price of progress

“As long as I continue to push out into the world,” said Susan Jeffers, “as long as I continue to stretch my capabilities, as long as I continue to take risks in making my dreams come true, I am going to experience fear.”

To do anything of value, we have to take risks. And with risk comes fear. If we accept it as the price of progress, then we can take appropriate risks that yield great reward.

Develop a burning desire that overcomes fear

Sometimes the best way to fight fear is to focus on our reason for confronting it. Is it bigger than the fear? The firefighter runs into the burning building not because he’s fearless, but because he has a calling that is more important than the fear.

The person afraid of flying decides to confront it not because the fear has vanished, but because a meeting with a new grandchild awaits at the end of the flight.

Focus on what you can control

We cannot control the length of our lives; we can’t control many of the circumstances that we face. Accepting those facts allows us to focus on what we can control. Like American basketball coach John Wooden said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

As a leader, I often have to deal with the wrong attitudes and actions of the people who follow me. So a long time ago, I decided that,

          I can control my attitude, but not others’ actions.

          I can control my calendar, but not others’ circumstances.

         And it’s not what happens to me, but what happens in me.

Focus on today

Fear tries to make us look at all of our problems at once: those from yesterday, today, and tomorrow. To be courageous, you have to focus only on today. Why? Because it’s the only thing you have any control over.

I love what a wise man once said about an ocean liner: If an ocean liner could think and feel, it would never leave its dock; it would be afraid of the thousands of huge waves it would encounter. It would fear all of its dangers at once, even though it had to meet them only one wave at a time.

By focusing only on what’s right in front of us, we can manage tremendous risk because we know we’ll only have to deal with it one wave at a time.

Put some wins under your belt

Just like fear tends to breed more fear, courage leads to more courage. According to Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

The more we face our fears, the more capable we begin to feel, and the more fears we are willing to face.

Do it now

Often, all it takes to conquer a fear is to change our focus and try some of the above suggestions. As we realize what’s true and focus on what we can control, the fear naturally fades and weakens. But there are other times, when no amount of thinking can overcome the fear. In fact, the more we think in those situations, the more fearful we become. Then, the only solution is action.

As W. Clement Stone said, “When thinking won’t cure fear, action will.”

It is the wise person who accepts that fear is a very real part of life, and it must be faced and overcome with courage. By taking action in the face of fear, he or she achieves results and becomes more courageous.

Another American president, Harry S. Truman, said it this way: “The worst danger we face is the danger of being paralyzed by doubts and fears. This danger is brought on by those who abandon faith and sneer at hope. It is brought on by those who spread cynicism and distrust and try to blind us to our great chance to do good for all mankind.”

Like this post? Pass it on! John C Maxwell

Friday, January 7, 2011

Kenyans, it is finally time to become a nation

Kenyans, it is finally time to become a nation
by Sunny Bindra on January 2, 2011 in Sunday Nation

I listened to a rendition of our national anthem at a school Christmas production the other day. The anthem was played, unusually, using piano and violin – and it was utterly enchanting. I am not ashamed to state here in print that it brought a tear or two to my eye. And why not, when deep-rooted emotions of belonging and oneness are stirred?

The performance made me reflect: why doesn’t this happen more often? Why don’t we in Kenya feel this deep stirring, this common spirit, this feeling of unity and inter-connectedness, this powerful glue of togetherness?

Let’s face it: we are only a ‘pretend-nation.’ We have borders and passports and a flag, yes – but we have yet to become a nation. And the blame for this should be placed squarely at our leadership over the decades. We have yet to encounter true nationalist leaders – people whose sole mission is to unite the nation and the collective and drive it forward. Instead, we have had to settle for a procession of ethnic chieftains whose primary identity has been around their own tribes and families.

We the people also carry the blame. We engage enthusiastically in making pretend-noises about national unity, when all we are really preoccupied with is a much narrower set of enclaves: religions, clans, communities, families.

When David Rudisha runs past that finish line to break the world record and take the medal, what do we feel? Do we dismiss him, saying that fellow from that tribe has nothing to do with me? Do we think this is good for ‘his’ people but not for ‘ours’? No, we all jump for joy and share in the triumph of a Kenyan and Kenya. Don’t we?

So why is it we can’t maintain that emotion at all times, in all our interactions? For once the emotion of the moment is done, we slink back to our little caves and think smaller thoughts and become smaller people preoccupied with smaller things. We revert to what we really are: a collection of ghettoes that has never really understood nationhood. We look to our tribes, our religions, our places of birth, our social classes to give us our primary identities.

If a country as diverse as the United States can develop a pronounced national spirit, what stops us? Look at the unity of purpose shown by the Germans and the Japanese to understand the power of collective fervour and mission.

Kenya is at a great economic moment. Many factors have come together – a new constitution, a youthful population, a favourable location, a burgeoning hinterland, mobile connectivity – to produce a moment we cannot afford to waste. But waste it we will if keep thinking small. We have to think nation, region and continent now – not village and estate. This is not a time for little minds.

This land of great beauty needs to stand for something bigger than tribes and skin-colours and religious cocoons. We have to sing our anthems with fervour and support our champions with gusting emotion. We have to each give as well as take from our motherland. We have to participate fully in the big issues of our country.

Most importantly, we have to place a new set of demands on our leaders. We have to chase those who encourage hatred of our fellow Kenyans out of our villages and towns. We have to stipulate that we want big thinkers to lead us – those who can understand this new, always-on, globalized world and who can forge out a competitive position for Kenya in the new order.

Seriously, people, we have finally to become a nation of patriots led by big hearts and minds. The time for petty politics and self-centred leaders is gone.

Sunny Bindra’s new book, ‘The Peculiar Kenyan’ is now on sale

Young Entrepreneur Advice: 100 Things You Must Know!


We wanted to create an article addressing some of the problems start-up companies and young entrepreneurs have. So we asked!

“What do you wish you knew before you started a business?”

1. I wish I would have known how unpredictable things can be at ALL times. I read a lot before starting my business and realized unexpected things happen, but never did I realize the frequency in which they do. You really need to learn how to adapt everyday to things you may not have forseen waking up that morning. – Scott Fineout,

2. Before going into business I wish I knew the importance of having an established “Advisory Board”. Having a mentor is one thing but having a counsel of people who are not only experts in various business
related functions but are also cheerleaders and coaches for your success is another. – Kellie L. Posey

3. I wish I knew about the value of keeping it simple. Starting out young with plenty of energy and great ideas led me down many paths of distraction. Instead, by focusing first on what sells, why and at what price and then staying true to that over time, I would have saved a lot of headaches, time and supported profitability a lot sooner. The saying KISS is popular for a reason and particularly applicable when you’re an entrepreneur. - Deborah Osgood

4. The one thing that I wish I knew before starting a business was how much time you spend learning – it is constant – from self development, to business basics, to social media, – talk about wearing many hats! Oh my and thought motherhood was challenging. I love to learn new things but had no idea it was going to be like this. You have to learn how to act, how to present, how to close, how to keep in contact, how to prospect, and how to keep customers! – Michelle Morton

5. Focus on yourself as much as your product/service. The recipe is only as good as the Chef preparing the dish. – Mujteba H. Naqvi

6. That whatever my start-up budget is… I should have multiplied it by three - Aliya Jiwa

7. The most important, and costly, lesson I had to learn is that in order to grow in a good economy, and in order to survive in a bad one, it’s necessary to understand that one person can’t do it all. It requires the efforts of a team (sales, accounting, production-service delivery, management, etc.) to be effective. Too many young entrepreneurs, myself included, feel they can do it all. That’s a huge mistake. – Tom Coalson

8. Financially, I learned that you should get incorporated and need to have a great accountant that specializes in small business taxes.I also discovered that success is easier to achieve if you learn from people that know more than you instead of going it alone. – Eddy Salomon

9. I wish I would have known that the hardest part of owning and operating my own business would NOT have been how to create revenue on a monthly basis. I wish I would have hired a full time IT guy and a shrink to manage with my sales force! – Bradley W. Smith

10. I really wished I developed more social skills early on to spend more time developing relationships. Networking has been key to bringing in more business and I had practice this social ability more, then business may have come sooner rather than later. – Ali Allage

11. The best thing i did is to outsource all my administrative tasks. Now i have enough time to focus on other important tasks. – Gagan

12. Never pay full price for anything online (office supplies, stock photography, services, etc.)–always Google for coupons. – Bill Even

13. Location, location, location. It really is true! – Tanya Peila

14. Finding the right Accounting / Financial Manager right up front was our biggest learning and biggest mistake. Completely changed our financial performance and caused us to hit a wall we should have avoided. – Mike Cleary

15. I wish I knew how much general information I would need to know and how long the process would take. Almost three years later Im still in the “set-up” phase to my business and teaching myself all about websites, graphic design, business law, bookkeeping, customer service, etc. - Leslie Boudreau

16. It’s important to get customer validation early on. You can have the greatest technology, or website, or service, or whatever, but it’s ultimately meaningless if you haven’t verified that there are actually customers willing to spend money on or around what you do. - Adam Rodnitzky

17. Business partnerships are like marriages and should be entered with the same care. Like marriages, there are a lot of assumptions about what the partnership is/is not and communication about those will lead to better success. - J. Kim Wright

18. I wish I had known how few true entrepreneurs there are out there. Every time I thought I had a kindred spirit with whom to share experiences, lean on for support and provide support to them, it turned out that they were looking for a paycheck. Find a partner and a kindred spirit BEFORE you launch. – Tom Reid

19. Small business owners should carefully reflect on how they can tastefully build referral sources through all contacts, and how to utilize social networks, including the vast resources of the internet, to build a referral base and, in turn, a client base. - Jay Weinberg

20. I wish I knew how important it is to never rely on anyone else. I wasted a number of years “networking” in hopes of people referring business. It never worked. My career took off when I assumed responsibility for every aspect, including marketing and sales. – Rob Frankel

21. I did not realize the level of sacrifice that would be required to become not only an entrepreneur, but a successful entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth every single second, but I had no idea that friends and family would not be able to relate. – Amber Schaub

22. I wish I had understood how little time I would have to do the things that I need to do in order to “produce” and to make money. Make sure that you spend your time and your energy on the revenue generating matters. Spend the money necessary to get help. Pay someone else to take care of all of the admin stuff. – Francoise Gilbert

23. I wish I knew how hard it was to manage employees and have good, competent help. I also wish I knew how to market, advertise, and work these social media tools. - Jamie Puntumkhul

24. Have a serious exit strategy & plan prior to opening doors. As an entrepreneur I was ready and willing to take the plunge to open my own company, but didn’t realize I had to structure my company around the exit strategy (i.e. make it sellable and transferable, and self sustaining without my everyday presence). - Christopher N. Okada

25. With my first companies I wished I had lined up a client and received a commitment to buy before I jumped in the water. – Patrick J. Sweeny II

26. I wish that I would have known that my MBA wasn’t necessary to be an entrepreneur. I started business before and thought the MBA+ would give me a better insight to prevent me from making mistakes but I believe you either have it or you don’t. – Janice Robinson-Celeste

27. I wish I would have known how expensive running a business is – mainly payroll taxes, medical insurance, etc. We researched all of our fixed costs, however, the more we billed out, the less we keep. – Marian H. Gordon

28. Find the very best, most knowledgeable people you can afford and hire them with not just salary, but incentives. The better the people, the better the job done and advice given. – Ric Morgan American Business Arts Corporation

29. Several years after starting my business I learned that the best source of advice and peer support are fellow entrepreneurs, especially those who have attained the level of business success to which I aspire. – Charles E. McCabe

30. I wish I had understood the value of investing in high-level talent. As a start-up, it’s scary to think about hiring someone whose experience demands a higher-level salary. So you tend to hire less experienced individuals, but they typically don’t bring the intellectual capital or business savvy that can help you grow faster. – Susan Wilson Solovic

31. Starting a business is like getting married, you think you know what youre getting into and that youll be better then the median, but when it comes down to it you have no idea. – Summer Bellessa

32. The biggest thing I’ve learned and wish I would have known before I had started our company is the difference between sales and marketing. Everyone says sales and marketing together like they’re the same
thing. They’re not. - Scott D. Mashuda

33. I wish I would have known how important a real business plan was, a marketing strategy, and exit strategy were. You should really plan your first two years and have a hit list of sales/marketing opportunities that are interested before you take the leap. – Ben Wallace

34. Probably the most important thing I wish I had realized earlier was how little I knew about how consumers bought things on the Internet. I have been a web developer for years and knew all about technology, but little about marketing and getting inside the mind of the consumer. – Sara Morgan

35. You can’t put your life on hold while waiting for your venture to hit. I have tremendous regret around all of the family events, vacations, and time with friends that I missed because I was working on getting my film/company off the ground. - Pamela Peacock

36. Admittedly, we went into GiveForward knowing we’d have to be flexible and patient. All of the good books tell you this, but no one really tells you how emotionally draining that wait can be. – Desiree Vargas

37. Hands down without a doubt no questions asked – effective marketing. It truly does not matter how great your product or service is unless someone knows about it you are still behind the start line. – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

38. I thought if I had a great product and an attractive, functioning website customers would come. Boy, was I wrong! In the online world its all about SEO! – Semiha Manthei

39. I wish I’d have known that the only thing important in business is building a product that someone will buy. That’s it. It’s real easy for first time founders to get caught up in visions of grandeur – but in reality, the only things that matter are having a great product, and having customers that will pay actual money for it. - Brett Owens

40. Business books and all the education in the world can give you the foundation for starting a business, But they cannot show you the cold hard truth about how difficult it can be to start a business. – Michael Grosheim

41. One thing I wish I knew right off the bat is the benefit of networking. I spent a lot of time trying to tackle everything on my own, but its really important to reach out to fellow entrepreneurs, complimentary businesses, family and friends for advice and support. – Cailen Ascher Poles

42. I wish I had known how important it is to outsource to other professionals instead of trying to do everything myself, and ultimately not always doing everything correctly. – Jennifer Hill

43. I wish I knew exactly how important it is to prioritize tasks and goals. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last few months is to prioritize what is important, in order of its proportionate worth. It is easy to do the little things that make you feel like you are accomplishing something, but it is the big important things that need your full attention – even if it is uncomfortable. – Evan Urbania

44. I was naive enough to think that if I had a great product that helped people and at the same time had the lowest prices available for the products we did sell that word would spread and people would be excited to use our product. – Chris Sorrells

45. I wish I had known that you dont need to be right with your first iteration of your business plan. Young businesses naturally deviate from their roadmap as the founders ideas about what will work get tested by reality. Smart entrepreneurs listen to the feedback they get and adapt. – Matt Lally

46. I wish I’d understood the incalculable value of having just the right executive assistant, someone who can leverage your time and actually be an extension of yourself. - Barry Maher

47. I wish I had more marketing skills to take my business to the next level. At this point I have to hire someone as I am super limited in this area. – Deb Bailey

48. I’ve learned that I can’t micromanage everything, no matter how much I want to. Sometimes you have to delegate certain responsibilties to others. Not only did this help keep me sane, but it was good for team building amongst employees. – Lev Ekster

49. I wish someone would have explained the difference between sales verses marketing. – Tom Pryor WWW.SBDCEXCELLENCE.ORG

50. I wish I knew depth of the thought process needed in starting a business, especially on a personal level. I wish I understood how my thoughts would affect my business. – Jennifer Ann Bowers

51. I wish I understand “cash flow”. I figured that as long as I brought in lots of business, the business would be great. Cash is king and always keep MORE of it than you forecast or expect to need. – Ryan Kohnen

52. I wish I had taken a class, or gotten practical experience in, using business accounting software. The investment would’ve been minimal, and it would’ve saved me (and my accountant) hours of frustration. Additionally, I wish I had spent a few bucks on an accountant to set up my books properly. – Shane Fischer

53. What I didn’t know then was the value of networking. You never know where business will come from. And having friends and acquaintances from political, business and social circles may prove to be your best new business referral! – Melissa Stevens

54. I wish I completely understood what “cash flow” meant and how important it is to live within a budget and how important it is to hire the correct people, rather than just able bodies. – Kelly Delaney

55. The one thing that I wish I would have known before going into business more, was my own strengths and how I use them on a daily basis. – Jason C. Raymer

56. Trademark/ Copyright info – 3 months after we had started one of the businesses we had to completely scrap all the branding and build a totally new site, social media, EVERYTHING due to a legal issue regarding trademark. – Sarah Cook

57. I wish I knew how to proficiently do marketing via the web, newsletters and blogs. The other key thing is to get the right coach. I eventually used, headed by John Assaraf of “The Secret”, who finally helped me pull my business together. – Nancey C. Savinelli

58. I really had to understand the “basics” of business and how to capitalize on the small opportunities to given to me and turn them into “larger than life” success stories. – Darren Magarro

59. I wish that early on I had sought out more business leaders in my field. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized the value of the knowledge to be learned from veteran industry players and how it could help me grow my business. – Jim Janosik

60. I wish I had seriously thought about branding and the longevity of the brand. Looking back, I should have thought about what was going to define my company, what would be a look that would last for years and not go out with the trends, and what image I wanted my customers to see when they first started researching my company. – Katie Webb

61. If you have taken the time to think through things (price, service, contracts, delivery) don’t be so quick to change it up just because a Client wants you to. – Joni Daniels

62. I wish I knew not to expect things to happen for us. Often times, we were waiting to get lucky and not making our own luck. We learned that nothing is going to get handed to us on a silver platter and if we want it, we have to go out and get it. – Ben Lerer

63. At the time of founding it I was so focused on survival I didn’t think about the exit strategy. – Laurence J. Stybel

64. I wish I’d know how much easier it is to build a business around an established market that’s already looking for a solution to its problems rather than trying to build the market around the business I wanted to start. – John Crickett

65. How challenging it is to get people who request our services to pay. Since we are a nonprofit/community organization, everyone thinks our services are free because of grants or corporate giving. – Candi Meridith

66. You have to have to have some sort of passion in order to be successful. But no matter how much you want to believe it, doing what you love because you love it and doing what you love as a business are different. Don’t expect every day to be bliss. – Andy Hayes

67. I wish I knew it didn’t take tons of money to get started, so I would have started it sooner. I think that holds a lot of people back. – Candy Keane

68. When I was opening my first business, I made the near lethal error of leasing a business location without a plan. Once I got in the location I had to do three times the amount of marketing necessary just to contend with the competition. I spent more on marketing than I would have spent on the extra rent of a better spot on the street I was on. – S. Zargari

69. I would have spent more time selecting the most qualified technical resource by interviewing more people more strenously to ensure we got the most talented resource for our money…both short term and long term – Jennifer Myers Robb

70. Get a coach – someone who can walk you through the jungle to get you to the gold. Why bother flying blind, when others have blazed the trail before you? Starting a business without a coach is like getting in the car and driving. Sure you can move–and fast–but using a map is so much smarter than not. – Richard J. Atkins HTTP://WWW.IMPROVINGCOMMUNICATIONS.COM/

71. I wish I’d known it would not be enough to know my stuff cold. (I’m a subject matter expert, but the same would apply to someone with a product.) You have to really know (or be willing to learn FAST) how
to market yourself and have a plan to do it. – Judy Hoffman

72. I just wish I knew how much free goods I would have to give out in order to promote my products. – Jacqui Rosshandler

73. I wish I knew that there was a fine line between self-employment and un-employment. Second, I wish that I knew more about the competitiveness of my type of business and had spent some time interviewing people who were successfully doing what I wanted to do. – Cyndi A. Laurin

74. I wish I had known that starting a business would give me so much happiness, and worry. I knew that it would be hard, but I had no ideas of the hills and valleys that would come with being a business owner. – Shay Olivarria

75. I knew that starting a business was going to be a lot of work, but I didnt know much work and that it was going to go slower than I had expected. I wish I had known that there was going to be a lot that I didnt know, but that its ok because Ive figured it out (and am still figuring it out!) along with way. – Grace Bateman

76. Everyone will not be happy or supportive of you starting a business or succeeding in it, and that’s okay, as you do not need their nod, their vote of confidence or their praise… you have your own. – Anahid Derbabian

77. Don’t work with your spouse. If you want to wreck a marriage, be together 24/7 with one person exerting power over the other. – Susan Schell

78. Relationship Marketing – I wish I had understood the importance of staying connected with past clients and nurturing relationships with current clients. Your personal life, your spiritual life and your professional life is all about the relationship. – Sandie Glass

79. I wish I would have realized earlier the importance of having a core group of target customers. Find a handful of people and build a trust with them. Test various products and services on them and eventually use their passion and your business to fuel evangelism to grow as you refine your business model. -
Dayne Shuda

80. If you’re young, and especially if you’re a woman, you may be tempted to undersell your product or service – or worse, give them away – in order to get into the game. Don’t. Set up a pricing structure that’s in line with your business plan and allows you to grow your business. – Ruth Danielson

81. I wished I had learned about the need for business systems and process documentation and why they are important. I have found they are a life saver to developing a work environment that thrives since everyone in the company knows what they are supposed to be doing and can easily reference the steps. – Adam Sayler

82. What I wish I knew before I started a business was a really great business advisor! Most of us go into a business with a big heart for the product and lots of excitement. Few of us really know how to run a business. – Kelley Small

83. I wish I knew how long it would take to build a steady stream of clients and establish strong relationships with customers and vendors. - Alexis Avila

84. I didn’t take into account what being a home business owner would mean I mean I’m in my house a
lot! I have to eat 3 times a day and there are very few delivery places where I live – so making a mess in the kitchen 3 times a day, and cleaning the office myself. – Maria Marsala

85. I wish I had known how demanding entrepreneurship is on the entire family. It took me months to realize that they were giving as much or more than me by picking up the slack around home and giving me space to pursue a dream. – Carrie Rocha

86. To be patient. When I first started, I expected results instantly. I’d get frustrated when things didn’t work the way I planned. Luckily, I didn’t have any hang-ups about failing, so I kept trying new things
and slowly built upon those things that worked. – Naveed Usman

87. How much money would I make in the first couple years of operation. Obviously, this answer would of told me to find a steady job and do this on the side until I really got it going 3-4 years later. – Marc Anderson

88. I wish I knew that cash flow wasn’t the same as profits, that employees are not paid friends and that you should always trust but never let anyone open your bank statements. – Anne-Marie

89. The one thing I wish I had done differently is not spent money on advertising offers that don’t pay off. This is business people don’t often do things out of the goodness of their heart. I’ve learned to be a lot more skeptical of “opportunities” I get offered. – Adrien TheNakedHippie

90. One piece advice I would give to people just starting up that I wish knew is that success is less about the idea and more execution. Don’t wait until you have the great idea or have refined all the plans, just get something up and start iterating. – Ben Hatten

91. How important it is to network, instead of attempting to fly solo. Fortunately, my belated learning didn’t negatively impact my company for too long but the soaring would definitely have occurred
sooner had I considered the value of self-promotion. – Marlene Caroselli

92. I wish I knew how much my time was really worth and the best way to set my rates. I made an early mistake by charging too little and booking myself so tightly that I didn’t have enough time to work on some projects the way I wanted to and I couldn’t hire anyone to help me because I didn’t allow for the added cost. – Susan Bender Phelps

93. I wish I knew the importance of networking when I first started my web design company. It took me a few months to realize that referrals and networking are the best types of leads. People want to do business
with people they like! – Becky McKinnell

94. First, that being successful causes growing pains that are a major headache. A good headache to have, but difficult challenges nevertheless. Second, it would have been nice to know it can take a year or so for things to take off. Starting a business can be frustrating in the beginning and you really have to be determined to succeed. – Nick Veneris

95. Dont listen too closely your friends who might be good business people but who have never started a business. They mean well, but their assumptions are way different as an employee of a company than they could ever be as a principal shareholder in a business. – Elizabeth Pitt

96. I wish that someone had told me that managing a business isn’t about numbers, but rather all about people skills. During my first management foray I fell face first in the dirt. People called me a micro-manager because I got too much into the nitty gritty of how to do the job rather than allowing them to find their own way. – Steve Richard

97. I wish I had known that starting a business requires you to ride an emotional roller coaster. You can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in a matter of hours because a startup company always seems be on the verge of either collapsing or taking off like a rocket. Now making my business grow is all the more exhilarating because I survived demoralizing low points to get it off the ground. – Alex Andon

98. That it is OK to trust your instincts — even when they are not necessarily backed up by years of finance/accounting or business school credentials – Jenn Benz

99. Less time spent on paid marketing/advertising efforts and more time screening and building strong partnerships with influential journalists, writers, editors and television producers. – Philip Farina

100. I now know that businesses are extremely organic & have a way of taking on a life of their own – now I know that though things don’t always work out as planned, there is always another opportunity around the corner…understanding this from the beginning would’ve saved me a lot of stress! – Rina Jakubowicz

Now that’s a lot to take in before you start! There are a lot of hardships, problems and things to consider but to sum it up I think Kat Gordon of says it best “In short, I manage my own destiny. And I’d have it no other way.”

Contest Announcement: BizBreak & Under30CEO Present “Limitless VC Contest”. You will have a chance to win over $3,000 and consulting from 5 veteran entrepreneurs! The contest is live and will last 60days. All you need to enter is a business and a camera to shoot a youtube video! Get all the details at

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Time to Risk or Sit

By Earl Nightingale

© 2010 Nightingale-Conant Corporation

In 1965, Robert M. Manry, a copy editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, sailed from the United States to England in a 13-foot sailboat—3,200 miles across the North Atlantic in a boat so small you'd hesitate to take it out on Lake Michigan or Long Island Sound as small-craft warnings were flying.

For 78 days Manry and his tiny 36-year-old sailboat battled one of the toughest stretches of saltwater on earth. Gales blew the boat on its side. Manry tried to nap during the day and sailed at night so that he could try to avoid being run down and chopped into kindling and hamburger by great ocean-going steamers. On several occasions, he was washed over the side in heavy seas. Each time he would haul himself back aboard by a lifeline he kept tied to himself in the boat. He suffered terrible hallucinations, the result of having to take so many pep pills to stay awake during the long nights.

Why? What made him do it? It wasn't publicity; he went about the whole thing so quietly—practically no one knew what he was up to. He thought no one would pay attention to him, and that was fine with him.

The reason was that he had dreamed of sailing the Atlantic ever since he had been a small boy. He bought the dinky old boat for $250. He completely rebuilt her, taught himself navigation, and practiced long-distance sailing on Lake Erie.

He told his wife the real reason for his embarking on so incredible a journey in so vulnerable a craft. He said to her, "There is a time when one must decide either to risk everything to fulfill one's dreams or sit for the rest of one's life in the backyard." Now this is why Mr. Manry went sailing over the mountains of deep water in a boat only about twice the size of your bathtub. This is why he sat in his tiny open cockpit and weathered storms that caused the passengers to clear the weather decks of giant ocean liners. He was fulfilling a dream he'd carried in his heart since he'd been a small boy.

As a result, offers for books and magazine articles poured in to him. Cleveland gave him a hero's welcome, as did the 20,000 people who wildly cheered the successful end of his voyage when he arrived in Falmouth, England. It's been proposed to Congress that Manry's boat, Tinkerbelle, be placed in the Smithsonian Institution alongside Charles Lindbergh's plane, Spirit of St. Louis.

But all this fame and sudden stature in the eyes of the world—this was not why he made the trip. It was because he believes that there is a time when one must decide either to risk everything to fulfill one's dreams or sit for the rest of one's life in the backyard.

Courage, the courage to finally take one's life in one's own hands and go after the big dream, has a way of making that dream come true. It seems to open hidden doorways from which good things begin to pour into one's life. But only after we've made the journey in our own way. For Manry, at 47 years of age, it was sailing 3,200 miles of the North Atlantic. Each of us must make his or her own voyage through darkness and danger to the light that beacons in the distance. A journey to fulfillment... or sit in the backyard.

The Profile of a Creative Person

The creative person realizes that his mind is an inexhaustible storehouse. It can provide anything he earnestly wants in life. But in order to draw from this storehouse, he must constantly augment its stock of information, thoughts, and wisdom. He reaches out for ideas. He respects the mind of others — gives credit to their mental abilities. Everyone has ideas—they're free—and many of them are excellent. By first listening to ideas and then thinking them through before judging them, the creative person avoids prejudice and close-mindedness. This is the way he maintains a creative "climate" around himself. They “reach for ideas.”

Ideas are like slippery fish. They seem to have a peculiar knack of getting away from us. Because of this, the creative person always has a pad and a pencil handy. When he gets an idea, he writes it down. He knows that many people have found their whole lives changed by a single great thought. By capturing ideas immediately, he doesn't risk forgetting them. [Note: a great way to save ideas easily is to text message them from your cell phone to your main email account. You are rarely without your cell phone, and this allows you to record your ideas for later review and action.]

Having a sincere interest in people, our creative person listens carefully when someone else is talking. He's intensely observant, absorbing everything he sees and hears. He behaves as if everyone he meets wears a sign that reads, "My ideas and interest may offer the hidden key to your next success." Thus, he makes it a point always to talk with other people's interest in mind. And it pays off in a flood of new ideas and information that would otherwise be lost to him forever.

Widening his circle of friends and broadening his base of knowledge are two more very effective techniques of the creative person.

The Anticipation of Achievement

The creative person anticipates achievement. She expects to win. And the above-average production engendered by this kind of attitude affects those around her in a positive way. She's a plus-factor for all who know her.

Problems are challenges to creative minds. Without problems, there would be little
reason to think at all. She knows it's a waste of time merely to worry about problems, so she wisely invests the same time and energy in solving problems.

When the creative person gets an idea, she puts it through a series of steps designed to improve it. She thinks in new directions. She builds big ideas from little ones and new ideas from old ones: associating ideas, combining them, adapting, substituting, magnifying, minifying, rearranging, and reversing ideas.

Be Creative for Yourself

Creative and productive people are not creative and productive for the benefit of others. It's because they're driven by the need to be creative and productive. They'd be creative and productive if they lived on a deserted island with no one benefiting or even aware of what they were doing. They experience the joy of producing something. That others benefit from it is fine, but only secondary.

This is a story of the painters who were before their time. Renoir was laughed at and rejected not only by the public but by his own fellow artists, yet he went right on painting. Even Manet said to Monet, "Renoir has no talent at all. You who are his friend should tell him kindly to give up painting."

A group of artists who were rejected by the establishment of their time formed their own association in self-defense. Do you know who was in that group? They were Degas, Pissaro, Monet, Cezanne, and Renoir. Five of the greatest artists of all time, all doing what they believed in, in the face of total rejection.

Renoir, in his later life, suffered terribly from rheumatism, especially in his hands. He lived in constant pain. And when Matisse visited the aging painter, he saw that every stroke was causing renewed pain, and he asked, "Why do you still have to work? Why continue to torture yourself?" And then Renoir answered, "The pain passes, but the pleasure, the creation of beauty, remains." One day when he was 78, finally quite famous and successful, he remarked, "I'm still making progress." The next day he died.

This is the mark of the creative person... still making progress, still learning, still producing as long as he or she lives, despite pain or problems of all kinds. Not producing for the joy or satisfaction of others, but because he or she must. Because it brings pleasure and satisfaction.

The Great Problem-Solving Tool

All creatures on earth are supplied at birth with everything they need for successful survival. All creatures except one are supplied with a set of instincts that will do the job for them. And because of that, most creatures don't need much of a brain. In the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Archibald MacLeish's play The Secret of Freedom, a character says, "The only thing about a man that is man is his mind. Everything else you can find in a pig or a horse." That's uncomfortably true.

Take the magnificent bald eagle for example. To see one of them swooping down and pluck a live and sizeable fish from the water on a single pass is astonishing. More astonishing still is the eagle's eyesight. And because of its need to see small rodents moving in the grass from high altitudes or a fish just inches under the surface of the water, its incredible eyes take up just about all the space in its head. For the eagle, its eyes are the most important thing, and everything else works in unison with them. Its brain is tiny and rudimentary. It doesn't think or plan or remember; it simply acts in accordance with stimuli.

And it's the same with most other living creatures. Even the beautiful porpoise, with a much larger brain, and the chimpanzee are easily tamed and taught. Only one living creature takes 20 years to mature and has dominion over all the rest on the earth itself, and has today the power to destroy all life on earth in a couple of hours. Only one is given the godlike power to fashion its own life according to the images it holds in its remarkable mind.

The human mind is the one thing that separates us from the rest of the creatures on earth. Everything that means anything to us comes to us through our minds, our love of our families, our beliefs, all of our talents, knowledge, abilities. Everything is reflected through our minds. Anything that comes to us in the future will almost certainly come to us as a result of the extent to which we use our minds.

And yet, it's the last place on earth the average person will turn to for help. You know why? You know why people don't automatically turn their own vast mental resources on when faced with a problem? It's because they never learned how to think. Most people will go to any length to avoid thinking when they're faced with a problem. They will ask advice from the most illogical people, usually people who don't know any more than they do: next-door neighbors, members of their families, and friends stuck in the same mental traps that they are. Very few of them use the muscles of their mind to solve their problems.

Yet living successfully, getting the things we want from life, is a matter of solving the problems that stand between where we are now and the point we wish to reach. No one is without problems. They're part of living. But let me show you how much time we waste in worrying about the wrong problems. Here's a reliable estimate of the things people worry about: Things that never happen: 40%. Things over and past that can never be changed by all the worry in the world: 30%. Needless worries about our health: 12%. Petty miscellaneous worries: 10%. Real legitimate worries: 8%.

In short, 92% of the average person's worries take up valuable time, cause painful stress, even mental anguish, and are absolutely unnecessary. And of the real legitimate worries, there are two kinds. There are the problems we can solve, and there are the problems beyond our ability to personally solve. But most of our real problems usually fall into the first group, the ones we can solve, if we'll learn how.

The average working person has at his or her disposal an enormous amount of free time. In fact, you'll see if you'll total the hours in a year and subtract the sleeping hours: If we sleep 8 hours every night, we have about 6,000 waking hours, of which less than 2,000 are spent on the job. Now this leaves 4,000 hours a year when a person is neither working nor sleeping. These can be called discretionary hours with which that person can do pretty much as he or she pleases.

So that you can see the amazing results in your own life, I want to recommend that you take just one hour a day, five days a week, and devote this hour to exercising your mind. You don't even have to do it on weekends. Pick one hour a day on which you can fairly regularly count. The best time for me is an hour before the others are up in the morning. The mind's clear, the house is quiet, and, if you like, with a fresh cup of coffee, this is the time to start the mind going.

During this hour every day take a completely blank sheet of paper. At the top of the page write your present primary goal clearly, simply. Then, since our future depends on the way in which we handle our work, write down as many ideas as you can for improving that which you now do. Try to think of 20 possible ways in which the activity that fills your day can be improved. You won't always get 20, but even one idea is good.

Now remember two important points with regard to this. One, this is not particularly easy, and, two, most of your ideas won't be any good. When I say it's not easy, I mean it's like starting any new habit. At first you'll find your mind a little reluctant to be hauled up out of that old familiar bed. But as you think about your work and ways in which it might be improved, write down every idea that pops into your head, no matter how absurd it might seem.

The most important thing that this extra hour accomplishes is that it deeply embeds your goal into your subconscious mind, starts the whole vital machine reworking the first thing every morning. And 20 ideas a day, if you can come up with that many, total 100 a week, even skipping weekends.

An hour a day, five days a week, totals 260 hours a year and still leaves you 3,740 hours of free leisure time. Now this means you'll be thinking about your goal and ways of improving your performance, increasing your service six full extra working weeks a year, 6½ 40-hour weeks devoted to thinking and planning. Can you see how easy it is to rise above that so-called competition? And it'll still leave you with seven hours a day to spend as you please.

Starting each day thinking, you'll find that your mind will continue to work all day long. And you'll find that at odd moments, when you least expect it, really great ideas will begin to bubble up from your subconscious. When they do, write them down as soon as you can. Just one great idea can completely revolutionize your work and, as a result, your life.

Each time you write your goal at the top of the sheet of paper, don't worry or become concerned about it. Think of it as only waiting to be reached, a problem only waiting to be solved. Face it with faith, and bend all the great powers of your mind toward solving it. And believe me, solve it you will. This puts each of us in the driver's seat.

Each of us has a tendency to underestimate his or her own abilities. We should realize that we have deep within ourselves deep reservoirs of great ability, even genius that can be tapped if we'll just dig deep enough. It's the miracle of your mind.

Everything fashioned by human beings is a result of goal setting. We reach our goals. That's how we know that the diseases that plague us will be conquered. We've set goals to eradicate every disease that plagues us and eradicate them we will, one by one. We have never set a goal that we have not reached or are now in the process of reaching.

7 ways to get a VC you don’t know to mentor you

January 3, 2011 | Larry Chiang

(Editor’s note: Larry Chiang is CEO of Duck9 and is also co-moderating the upcoming ReverseVC Pitch Panel and Dinner at Stanford. He submitted this column to VentureBeat.) 

Catching the eye of a venture capitalist is hard enough. Convincing him or her to mentor you – especially if they’re not familiar with you and your work – is a much more difficult proposition.

It’s not impossible, though. What it takes is accelerated networking skills that allow you to beat the Catch-22s that so often trap entrepreneurs. Here are seven tips that will help you get your foot in the door.

Don’t ask for a coffee – I believe that anyone in this world can be gotten to and networked with. The first step is rarely ever a coffee.

A coffee connotates a 90-minute minimum time commitment for a VC. A better first step is a 5-10 minute phone conversation. Before you get that coveted ten minute wedge of phone time, though, you’re going to need to do some work.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears - I think I first read that phrase in a fortune cookie – but that doesn’t make it less true when it comes to mentorship.

Tactically, this might mean ambushing a VC at a party, conference, panel or party. I mention parties twice since they’re a favorite hangout for many VCs. And by ambush, I mean combine your elevator pitch and charm as you solicit an invitation to further interact. Your goal is simple: Get yourself mentored.

Pre-network with a VC via a portfolio company introduction – There’s a phrase I coined called “the transitive property of influence”. Essentially, it means charming once and transitively conveying it to the end target – the VC you want to have help you.

How it works is pretty simple: You reach out indirectly to a VC by directly romancing the CEO of one of his or her portfolio companies. If that executive makes an email introduction, you’re in.

Woo by reading – In Star Trek, Spock would do the Vulcan mind meld to get insight into someone’s thoughts. You can go one better without risking the assault charge by reading what your would-be mentor reads and reading what they write.

I used this practice to woo Roelof Botha after he mentioned, “MoneyBall” on a panel I chaired. Read the books, blogs and other material they recommend to build rapport. The more you have in common, the better.

Mentorship as a funding vehicle – I moderated a panel at SXSW where VC and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure gave some cogent advice to the audience: “If you want a VC to consider giving you money, ask for mentorship first.”

The VC’s risk is mitigated when you take their coaching. It is, in many ways, a trial by mentorship, allowing them to augment your shareholder equity before they invest. And it increases their confidence in the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Ace the initial conversation by mentoring them – Mentorship goes both directions. The student/teacher dynamic often includes some role reversal. In the end, if the mentor is good, the student surpasses the mentor pretty quickly. In the interim, here are ideas to get you started mentoring your mentor
     tell them what to pay attention to
     tell them what trends you see
     tell them your opinion of what recent news means
     tell them what else you like in your marketplace
     tell them what specific industry problems exist and how you’re solving them

Kiss VC Butt – Read the following verbatim and try to minimize your gag reflex: “Hey I read all about you at Stanford Business school website and I think you’re an incredible genius. I have dreamt of one thing and that is to get a call back from a thought leader like yourself”.

Do VCs have massive egos? It’s hard to say. But I do know that after you magnanimously kiss ass like that, it rarely hurts your chances. You don’t, of course, want to be the obvious brown-noser in the room. My hack is to sincerely compliment them on something undeniably true, so it comes across as genuine.

Larry Chiang 

Fight for your dreams in 2011

By John C Maxwell

Happy New Year! If you’re like me, you spent some time in the past few weeks reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the coming one. I’m already excited about what’s in store for the next twelve months!

What dreams do you have for 2011? Or maybe a better question is, do you have dreams for 2011? For some people, dreaming is easy. Your mind is full of dreams just waiting to be expressed. But what about those who find it hard to dream? What if you’re not sure if you have a dream you want to pursue?

Let’s face it: Many of us were not encouraged to dream. Others had dreams, only to see them actively discouraged. The world is filled with dream crushers and idea killers. Why? Some people without dreams of their own hate to see others pursuing theirs. Other people’s passion and success makes them feel inadequate or insecure. Others think they’re being helpful: keeping us from risk or hurt.

Business professors Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad wrote about an experiment conducted with a group of monkeys. Four monkeys were placed in a room that had a tall pole in the center. Suspended from the top of that pole was a bunch of bananas.

One of the hungry monkeys started climbing the pole to get something to eat, but just as he reached out to grab a banana, he was doused with a torrent of cold water. Squealing, he scampered down the pole and abandoned his attempt to feed himself. Each monkey made a similar attempt, and each one was drenched with cold water. After making several attempts, they finally gave up.

Then researchers removed one of the monkeys from the room and replaced him with a new monkey. As the newcomer began to climb the pole, the other three grabbed him and pulled him down to the ground. After trying to climb the pole several times and being dragged down by the others, he finally gave up and never attempted to climb the pole again.

The researchers replaced the original monkeys, one by one, with new ones, and each time a new monkey was brought in, he would be dragged down by the others before he could reach the bananas. In time, only monkeys who had never received a cold shower were in the room, but none of them would climb the pole. They prevented one another from climbing, but none of them knew why.

Perhaps others have dragged you down in life. They’ve discouraged you from dreaming. Maybe they resented the fact that you wanted to move up or to do something significant with your life. Or maybe they were trying to protect you from pain or disappointment. Either way, you’ve been discouraged from dreaming.

Take heart. It’s never too late to start dreaming and pursuing your dreams. My friend Dale Turner asserts, “Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.”

If you haven’t done any dreaming yet this year, set aside some time to explore possibilities and commit yourself to new opportunities. It’s never too late to dream.

~Adapted from my book Put Your Dream to the Test

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