Archive for October 17, 2011

It’s All In Your Maxims

In both the business world and our personal daily lives, we will be faced with many new and difficult experiences. Each new experience provides us with the opportunity to make decisions regarding how we will act or react. Each of the decisions that we make shows the world a little glimpse of who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for.

When you really step back and think about it this way though, we give the people around us so many “glimpses” each day, that what we’re really providing is more of a window into our character. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it – to think that all of the little choices and decisions that we make throughout the day, the ones we often don’t give much thought to, are what people are judging us and the content of our character by?

That’s why it’s important to really know what you believe in and what you stand for. I don’t mean that you should wait until you get into a really tough situation and then decide what your values are. I mean decide now! Figure out what is important to you in life, what matters most, and live by those beliefs. Then, when you face hard decisions, you’ll have values and beliefs to fall back on, meaning you’ll be able to gain the trust and support of the people you work with. They’ll see you and what you stand for, and they’ll know that their leadership is in good hands.

Where to Begin
You probably already have a pretty good handle on what things are priorities in your life. Now you just need to put some extra thought into the details, to take the time to write them down. They don’t have to be beautifully written or even grammatically correct – you are the only person who will be reading them. As long as you are happy with the way they are written (and you can understand your own handwriting!), you’ve taken care of what matters.

Step 1. Start with priorities. You can start with a list of priorities of things that you feel are important. Think of anything that’s personally important to you. Here’s a quick example:

1. Be nice to people (even when they make it tough).
2. Get enough sleep.

Step 2. Revise. Next, as you read over these priorities that you have listed after some time has passed, you’ll begin to add to them and rewrite them. You’ll start to include points and priorities that you want to remind yourself of when times are tough. They might start to look like this:

1. Be nice to people. Understand and remember that we all come from different backgrounds and are at very different places in our lives.
2. Take care of yourself physically! Eat good foods, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have much to offer and help other people with.

Next thing you know, you’ll be looking at a list of motivational, insightful, and well thought-out values instead of just a list of priorities. By the time you’re done, you’ll have an entire system of beliefs and values that will be there to remind you of what’s really important.

What Was That About Maxims?
It’s time to stop thinking of a maxim as a dirty magazine and start thinking of it as a belief that you strive to live by. According to definition, a maxim is a “succinct” (concise) “formulation of a fundamental principle, general truth, or rule of conduct.” That’s what you have written! By the time you finish the entire writing process, you will have concise statements that contain your ideals, beliefs and priorities.

How To Use Them
1. Read them every day. After a few months you might even have them memorized. I have mine pinned up in my room so that I can read them as I brush my teeth and get ready in the mornings.

2. Refer to them during stressful, confusing, or just generally rough times. Sometimes when you simply take a step back from a situation and look at it from the bigger picture, it doesn’t seem as confusing or stressful. That’s what your maxims are for! They help you keep track of the bigger picture and stay focused on what really matters. I also have mine in a little notebook that I always have with me. Anytime I need them, they’re at my fingertips. You won’t see me whipping out the little notebook to refer to them in the midst of a rough or confrontational situation, but you might see me pull them out and read through them as I’m waiting for a class to start and I have an issue weighing on my mind.

As you can probably already tell, my maxims have been and still are an important tool in my life. It’s comforting to have all the things that are most important to me written down and made permanent in a sense. Hopefully you will find that having your own maxims to live by helps you in many aspects of your life as well. The expectation now is that you will go about your daily life giving people little glimpses into your character with the many choices that you make each day, and you’ll feel better knowing that the glimpses you are giving are exactly what you want people to see.

To get you off to a good start, I am leaving you with my maxims. While they are very personal and meaningful to me, I also know that they are very powerful and might be just the thing to inspire you to take the initiative and write your own. They may not work for you, or you might not even agree with them, but these are the thoughts that help me make it through the tougher times of my life – my own personal maxims. So good luck in building your own! I hope your maxims are as useful and meaningful of a tool for you as mine are for me!

Hope. Without it you can go nowhere, do nothing. You must first search and find it in yourself and then take the responsibility to share it with everyone you come into contact with.

Freedom. Live life free from biases, prejudices, judgments, opinions, and constraints. Change only comes with the freedom to think outside the box. God will always be by your side, so trust him and free yourself of everything else that restrains you.

Love. Love every single person that crosses your path every single day of your life. Love is the greatest power of all – it will always conquer evil, always. Love life, love people, love the weather, love your hangnails, love your bruises, love your mistakes, love your failures, but most importantly or most of all, love yourself and love God. Know that sometimes in the process of loving there must be hurt and pain. Remember these feelings and use them to help you reach out and keep others from feeling the same. Use your hurt and pain as “fuel” to love others unconditionally.

Learn. Learn something new every day. About someone else, about the world, about God, about yourself. Don’t ever stop learning. You will never ever be “above” learning something new. You must actively strive to learn, it’s an active process. Don’t ever be satisfied with what you know or think you know. An inactive mind will never progress and will only keep others from progressing. There is always, always, always a lesson to be learned from everything. NO learning = NO growing.

Share. Share your life, your dreams, your time, your assets, your everything as much as you healthily can. What good is a talent or specialty unless it is shared with others? Let others share with you and be careful with their dreams and words. Don’t harm their growing wings before they are even able to fly. Don’t rob them of all the good fortunes they may have in their future. Share the wealth and happiness. There is plenty of both to go around.

Don’t get stuck. There is always more than one answer — always an alternative to whatever is keeping you down or making you unhappy. Never give up. People are there for you. God is always here for you. Everything is what you make it. Don’t settle for less than what you know in your heart it could be. Never settling and always persisting is what has and always will set you apart from the rest.

Living On Purpose – It’s Your Thing!

While growing up as a teen a popular song gained national recognition which is still very real today, “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do!” It is very difficult to make a difference when you are not living your life on purpose. As we journey through life, we are faced with many difficult decisions and tough choices for which we will later be held accountable.

While you are growing up you must realize the power of the choices that you make now. Did you know that what you decide today has a direct impact on the rest of your life? Most people don’t get it, they really miss the boat. Everything you do now has a direct impact on what you can and cannot do later.

I know many people simply dislike school. There are dozens of reasons why people dislike school including the teacher, other students, the lunch, as well as too much or not enough homework. In most cases we dislike school because it is a “have to” situation. We have people tell us when we can eat, who we sit next to, what classes we should take, where we can and cannot go – school is full of directions and instructions. I considered it to be almost like the military because we are even told when we can go to the bathroom. Our reasons for disliking school are actually irrelevant.

Even though school is a “have to” situation, it is the critical link to getting us to the point of doing the things we “want to” do. Time and time again we have been presented with the fact that the more education you have, the greater your opportunities for success. During high school you learn information that you don’t consider to be important, but then again, you don’t get it.

You should use your education as an opportunity to gain information and insight to determine what you want to do. So many people are frustrated, mad, and just plum crazy because they are not doing what they want to do, but rather what they have to do, and there is a distinct difference.

I frequent fast food restaurants about 2 times per week. As I visit, I always wonder when I see an adult working at McDonald’s or Burger King, if they are working there because they want to or because they have to in order to make ends meet. Don’t miss my point, it does not matter where you work be it Microsoft or Taco Bell, American Express or Wal-Mart, as long as you are doing it because you want to, not because you have to. People are always quick to say, “I have bills to pay,” “I have a child to care for,” and a host of other responses. In reality, most people do the things they do because they “have to” instead of because they “want to.” Their reasoning lies within accepting responsibility for the choices they have made. It’s that simple.

If you truly want to make a difference in life, you can begin by figuring out your thing – your purpose and doing it.

Living On Purpose – Always Deliver!

In society today, much time is spent on customer service training and teaching people how to work effectively with each other. Companies have adopted the slogan “customer = #1.” With that in mind, it becomes our responsibility to exceed the expectations of those around us. When you look in the mirror each morning, you should be a person of strong character, high integrity, and great self-worth. You need to be a “go to” person. A person people look to for direction, one that others can depend on when needed. In short, you have to be a person who always delivers.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offered great words beyond his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. He stated, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, then sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music… sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth would pause and say here likes a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

The words of Dr. King will echo throughout history. The fact is no matter your station, position, rank, or class you have to be a person who is doing his or her job so well that people pause and wonder, how do you do what you do. As a little boy, I learned that the mailman delivers mail under three conditions – rain, sleet, or snow. I was always amazed that if a stamp was not on the envelope it would be returned to sender. The delivery of the mail had little to do with the weather conditions, but more to do with the stamp’s ability to stick to it. I don’t know what has happened to you thus far in life, but you must stick to it until you deliver. If you’ve been abused, neglected, mistreated, whatever your situation – I’m truly sorry. Beyond the apology awaits the fact that you have to make a conscious decision to do something different or your life will never change.

The rain in your life may have been losing your boyfriend or girlfriend to your best friend, I don’t know. Perhaps the sleet in your life has been a teacher or someone else from school continually telling you that you’re not good enough and don’t have what it takes to make it. I don’t know. Maybe the snow in your life has been your father or mother walking out and giving up on you, I honestly don’t know. But I do know this – in spite of the rain, in spite of sleet, and certainly in spite of the snow you have to be like a stamp and stick to it until you deliver. When you are living your life on purpose, you deliver. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. You always deliver.

How to Take Over the World Lesson #479: I Hate Solicitors

Until a recent run-in with a campus publication, I hated solicitors. But thanks to this run-in, I became one. I was given the task of selling subscriptions and ads for the magazine. It was a deceivingly simple assignment in the sense that it wasn’t easy at all. Selling something, convincing someone that they want and/or need a product, good, or service is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I soon realized that it is also one of the most important skills I will develop.

Marketing is relevant to every field. Sound marketing concepts can be applied to everything. You always need to be able to sell something… even if it’s your own skills for the next job you are applying for. So, from someone that has traveled the beaten path and taken rejection with her head held high, here are a few tips on making the sale:

Make the customer a priority. Approach the customer with the mindset that he is doing you a favor. Ultimately, the customer is doing you a favor because he is giving you his time. Try to meet with him in person. The pitch will seem more personal. Make sure that you are approaching them at an appropriate time by calling ahead to make an appointment. Always remember to be courteous. Overly courteous, if possible.

Relate the ask. It’s easy to develop one approach and peddle it around to multiple potential customers, but it’s ineffective. Tailor each pitch to each specific customer. Don’t tell the customer why people want your product, tell your customer why he specifically needs your product. Personalizing your sales job will exponentially increase your chances of success.

Always follow up. If you make a sale, make sure to send the customer a thank you note either through email or snail mail, or by following up with a call. If the customer is not interested, ask if they would be at another time (i.e. if their budget for the year has already been allocated, when can you resubmit a proposal?). Regardless of what the customer says, nurture your relationships because you never know when a “no” will turn into a “yes.”

And keep trying. Most importantly, don’t let rejection discourage or stop you. Each “no” is just one step closer to a “yes.” If you understand why a customer isn’t buying today, you’ll be able to determine how get the customer to buy tomorrow!

Public Speaking Fear Factor

Monday nights you can typically find me slumped in front of the TV, shivering down to my toes. I’m shivering because I’m watching a competitor inch out on a flagpole suspended several stories off the ground to grab a flag, and then inch back to the safety of the ledge. You might also find me covering my mouth in horror as I watch a contestant gulp down a “shake” of maggots, pig hearts, and other animal parts I didn’t know were fit for human consumption. Perhaps they’re actually not, since some contestants are struggling mightily to keep the shake from coming back up. I must confess though, the personal experiences in life that scare me are far less shocking than my Monday night TV show, thank goodness.

Put me in a room full of people I don’t know and ask me to make polite and interesting conversation with them? I avoid that experience as much as possible. Facing a job interview where the interview is actually a committee of people on one side of the table interviewing trembling little me on the other side of the table? Let’s just say I keep my jobs for long periods of time to avoid the whole experience. So what scares you? Speaking in front of a lot of people? Making a presentation? Since these experiences are generally unavoidable during your lifetime, I’ll share with you some of the tips I’ve learned to make such experiences a little less scary.

Probably the best tip is to have confidence in yourself. Hey … you’re unique. And like we learned way back when on Sesame Street, we’re all special. There’s no one else on this planet exactly like you. Too bad Dolly the sheep can’t say the same thing! Much as we hate to admit it, not everyone is going to like us. So don’t spend loads of time trying to be like everyone else. Okay … yes, certain manners must be used to keep you from being a social outcast, but that’s a topic for another time.

When you have confidence in yourself, tackle some specifics. When going into a social situation where you don’t know anyone, prepare yourself with a few topics to begin conversations. Talking about news headlines is always popular, but you could also pretend you’re a journalist interviewing someone. Ask people questions about themselves, but stay away from the really personal questions. I don’t know about you, but I’m real knowledgeable about myself, so talking about a subject I’m real knowledgeable about is easy. When other people are talking, all you have to do is listen. And besides, most people love to talk about themselves, so you’re scoring brownie points with the new contact there, too. How hard or scary is that?

For job interviews and presentations or speeches, preparation is once again the key. Before a job interview, sit down and think up the questions you might ask if you were interviewing someone for the job. Perhaps a friend could add some additional questions to your list. Then formulate your answers to those questions and write them down if necessary. You probably don’t need to list every word you might say, but jotting down key words or phrases will help jog your memory. Be sure to read over your answers several times to familiarize yourself with the information. You know how you read something over and over and then start sighing and eye-rolling because you’ve heard it a million times? Read your answers a couple of times more after you reach that point just for good measure. Once you get to the interview, try to relax (learn relaxation exercises if necessary) and then summon up that confidence. You’ll have it because you’re prepared.

Speeches and presentations could be easier than interviews because usually no one’s going to be asking you questions afterward. So there’s one stressor that’s been eliminated. Here again, you must know the topic of your presentation inside and out. Research your topic thoroughly and then write down everything you’ve learned about it. Once you’ve organized your thoughts, condense your writing to a page or two of key words or phrases. Another helpful technique is to record yourself giving your speech. Use a tape recorder or better yet, a video camera. Then sit down and analyze yourself. Sometimes it’s painful to watch, but very instructive. Make particular note of your mannerisms, the words you emphasize and the flow of your presentation. Do your mannerisms distract the listeners from your message? Do you say “uh” a lot? It’s a nervous habit and quite annoying to the audience, so of course you want to avoid it as much as possible. You don’t want people tallying the number of times you said “uh.” Check to see if you are emphasizing the important points of your presentation. These would be the points you want the audience to remember. Finally, check the flow of your presentation. Does it make sense to you? Does one point automatically flow into another? If not, revise. Here again, confidence comes from your research and rehearsal.

Once you’ve tried and mastered these tips, put yourself in these situations as much as possible and you’ll find that each time, your fear of speaking and networking will lessen. If you can reduce heart-stopping fear to a sense of mild nervousness, you’ve succeeded. A little nervousness makes you more alert. While the fear of social situations, speeches and job interviews will probably never make for exciting television, you have my permission to finish your job interview, presentation, or social experience by muttering to yourself, “fear is not a factor for me!”