An Important Lesson For Entrepreneurs – From a U.S Navy Seal

I just heard an amazing true story. I thought that you, as an entrepreneur, might find it very useful. 

It’s all about the importance of keeping focused when things are extremely stressful in your business.

Getting focused on just the one or two things that will improve your business. The handful of activities that are in your control, rather than worrying about people or situations that you can’t do anything about.

I tell this amazing story here:

Yes the story is about an elite Navy Seal warrior, but it’s totally relevant for anyone like you, who owns their own business.

Check out this Navy Seal’s story right here:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs.

Many believe that entrepreneurial superstars are born, not made.

I beg to differ. I coach hundreds of entrepreneurs every year, from a colossal range of industries, and I believe they all share 7 common character traits.

Importantly, each of these traits did not exist at birth, they were developed with time, intention and persistence.

Let’s go through these key traits now.

1.  Reality Based Optimism.

As renowned psychologist Dr Barbara Fredrickson of the University Of North Carolina has shown, positivity is  a choice – and an exceedingly important one. Those business leaders with strong inclinations toward positivity are more persistent and effective than entrepreneurs that are pessimistic. See also Martin Seligman’s research on optimism in the insurance industry for more evidence of the importance of thinking positively. Not a Pollyanna like blind optimism, but an overall positive outlook while accepting current realities.

2. Speed Bordering On The Reckless.

As  Mark Zuckerberg famously put it, in these chaotic times executives need to “Move fast and break things”.  Slow, methodical improvement can reap dividends of course, but for optimum business growth, those consistent and never ending small improvements need to be matched with an attitude of pushing the envelope of time. Zuckerberg’s theory has always been that ≈. 

3.  People Before Strategy.  

When Alan Mulally took over at Ford, the company was in dire straits. While he was ruthless on costs and process, he surprised many at Ford with his equally strong emphasis on looking after staff. At his first major meeting with Ford’s most senior executives he put up a slide with ten key principles.At the top of the list was ‘People First’. Real progress would only occur, Mulally believed, when top management treated their staff superbly.

4.  Data, Data, Data.

Twenty years ago there were certainly great entrepreneurs winging it – moving fast but not really evaluating the data. There are very few leaders in business performing that way now however. In every industry the top entrepreneurs have realized that far better decisions are made by gathering maximum data on sales, marketing, pricing, positioning and customer preference. That’s not to say that intuition is no longer important, far from it. But it needs to be balanced with logic formed from empirical intel.

5. Grand Persistence.

The biggest myth about successful business people is that they are more intelligent and talented. Having met many super rich entrepreneurs and read over a thousand books on business success I can tell you categorically that that is not the case. More often the great fortunes have been made by people of average intelligence who had tremendous drive, matched with almost ridiculous levels of persistence. As high performance expert Denis Waitley expressed it, “Success is almost totally dependent on drive and persistence. The extra energy required to try another effort or another approach is the secret to winning.”

6. Confident Contrarianism.

It’s hard to make a lot of money in business just doing things a little bit better than your competition. Usually the big fortunes have been accrued by taking a vastly different path from other companies in the sector. It takes real confidence to go against the pack. What looks obvious in a decade, often seems absurdly dangerous at the time.

7. Long Term Time Perspective.

The get rich quick crowd rarely make it big in business. Read the biographies of Edison, Ford, Walton, Ellison, Kamprad et al and you’ll discover tales of long struggle over decades. Some may have given the impression it was easy but that is rarely the case. Substantial and enduring business success usually takes a long time – experimenting, failing, then beginning anew with more refined solutions. 

(Character trait number two has a curious relationship with trait number seven. The great entrepreneurs act urgently, like they have no time left, yet work like this for decades, making their business successful).

Which of these seven traits do you have? Which do you need to consciously develop more? A few minutes spent evaluating your situation regarding these traits now could reap great dividends in the future.

How To Work Much Faster.

Working quickly is one of the most important characteristics of the high performing business person.

You can be highly intelligent, motivated and experienced, but if your output is slow then you’ll never reach your potential.

Speedy working is a craft well worth learning, but few executives spend any time developing their skills in this area.

To help you work much faster, I’ve outlined three simple, yet exceedingly effective techniques to improve the pace at which you work.

1. The 80% Rule 
Invented by well known Canadian business coach Dan Sullivan, The 80% Rule suggests you should do tasks to about 80% of excellent standard, then move on to another task.  It’s extremely effective because it’s often the last 20% of the task that takes much of the time. Yet in general doing that last 20% is not appreciated by other people, nor is it necessarily particularly useful to you that you got it done.
Be clear that I’m not suggesting that you don’t finish the job, but rather you finish the job to an 80% excellent standard. Perfectionism tends to destroy productivity.

2. Rush The Unimportant.
You can usually achieve twice as much if you rush jobs that aren’t crucial to your business.

Most tasks don’t really matter, but many people give trivial tasks the same care they give important jobs.  The net result of that attitude is they no longer have enough time available to do the vital jobs superbly.

Take it from me, you do not have enough time in the day to do everything well. Pick your battles and rush the rest.

3. Practice The Closed Door Policy.
No doubt you’ve heard of the Open Door Policy – that your door should be open to any staff that want to see the boss. In my view that philosophy has been responsible for more lost productivity than almost any other way of working.
Try keeping your door closed most of the day.

Interruptions are the great killer of high achievement. It’s not just the time lost from the interruption itself, it’s the time it takes to re-focus and get fully engaged in the previous task as well.

If you let people know that you’re available from X time to Y time most days, they’ll organize themselves to see you at those times. This will then leave you with most of your day available to get more valuable work done.

These three techniques are incredibly simple to institute, but will have a profoundly positive influence on the speed at which you do your work. Begin doing them this week and within ten days your output will be higher and your stress levels will be lower.

The Strong Link Between Your Self Image and Business Success.

The vast majority of business people focus on tactics to be successful – strategy, marketing, sales and systems.

Yet after doing this religiously for ten years still often complain that they have not achieved what they had hoped.

Is there something more they needed to work on to succeed at a high level in business?

I think there is:  Their self image.

In my view, doing all the external tactical stuff can only get you so far, if you are being held back by inner feelings of not being deserving of business success, or not feeling that you’re good enough personally to succeed.

Self image affects our performance at work, in subtle yet impactful ways.

We present a little too timidly to win the account. We don’t dare to move the company forward in a new and better direction. We accept a medium level of  revenue growth when we should be aiming for a record uplift. There’s a hundred ways our progress gets impeded by how we feel about ourselves deep down inside.

But enough about the problem, let’s look at some solutions.

From  Dr Nathaniel Branden’s work in the Sixties to Professor Barbara Frederickson’s very recent research (she was born in the Sixties) a myriad of studies have been done on the way how we think about ourselves affects our performance, in work and life.

Here are two ways to increase to increase your self esteem and thereby improve your chances of succeeding in the business world.

Be Your Own Best Fan.

Too often we are the opposite – we are our harshest critic, slamming ourselves in private for perceived errors in public.

Those with high self esteem and high self efficacy are no less demanding of their performance, but also support themselves with their own thinking and self evaluation. They talk themselves up. They choose to interpret events in a positive way. They tell themselves that they can and will achieve.

Doing this takes considerable self discipline, but with consistent effort we can become our most ardent supporters, rather than beating ourselves up inside. If we can pull it off then inevitably our business performance will improve.

Invest In Your Own Competence.

Generally the more competent you are at business skills the more confident you will be when doing them. Logical of course. Yet so many entrepreneurs and executives are happy to coast on their previous studies and accumulated experience rather than dedicating themselves to ever higher levels of learning and competence in their fields.

When you think about it, it’s clear that becoming highly competent has a dual reward. You get the benefits of that specific area of competence but you also feel better about yourself generally. In sports parlance, you feel more like a winner, which in turn leads to more confident actions/results.

Combine positive self talk with ever increasing task competence and you have a powerful synergy of internal and external self esteem boosters. It won’t be long before what you think of yourself changes – and then so will your entire future.

 

Is This Single Error Stopping Your Success?

People who succeed in business all share several characteristics: they work hard, aim high, study their industry and emulate those who are further up the ladder.

But there’s one thing most people don’t do, which could rocket them to success.

Most executives do not actually do enough practice.

Because they are inordinately busy, most people assume that doing a task is the same as practicing a task. And yet there’s a world of difference.

When we practice our crucial skills we pay much more attention to what we’re doing wrong. We examine our skills, refine them and subsequently get better at them.

Look at anyone who achieves mastery in their field, and you’ll see a focus on practice, not just performance.

For example, the most successful tennis school of the last 30 years is the Spartak Tennis Club, in Moscow. At this school tens of hours a week are spent not paying tennis, but practicing shots in slow motion.

Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis didn’t just attend meetings and hope they went well. The night before an important appointment he would rehearse endlessly, predicting what each participant might say, and coming up with the perfect answers to each of them.

Current chess world champion, 22 year old Magnus Carlsen, doesn’t just play games of chess all day; he practices specific openings, counters and scenarios that hone his game.

At leading New York share trading firm, SMB Capital, traders use software programs to practice typical trading situations hundreds of times, so that they are more likely make the right decision during the real trading day.

Legendary violin maestro Itzhak Perlman was famous for his commitment to practice. As he put it, “Because the discipline of practice was instilled in me at just the right time, it has become an elemental part of my craft.  Nowadays, practicing is second nature to me, a matter of habit, really. In the end, practicing is really just about commitment — to your craft and ultimately to yourself.  If you want to be truly good at what interests you, whether it is music or math or even your backhand, for that matter, you have to be willing to put in the time to be the best you can be.”

What could you practice?

Your presentations. Your phone manner. Staying calm under pressure. Handling staff. Industry specific techniques.

Once you start focusing on the concept of practice, a myriad of opportunities to refine your skills will quickly come to mind.

How To Always Have A Neat Desk.

All the efficiency experts say it – a neat, clear desk dramatically improves productivity.

But what’s the best way to achieve it?

I’ve spent over 20 years studying productivity and efficiency in the workplace, and I’ve found the following technique really useful.

Try it yourself and watch that desk get neat and stay neat.

Ask A Better Question.

I call the technique The Golden Question.

All you do is change the traditional question you ask yourself when you’re deciding whether to throw away something on your desk. The usual question people ask themselves when evaluating whether to keep or toss something is “Will I need it again?”

If you always ask that question, and most people do, you will keep many, many items and documents. A messy desk is thus virtually assured.

But if you just change the question you ask to The Golden Question then you will evaluate items on your desk in a completely different way.

The Golden Question is, “Can I get this again if I need it in the future?”

Once you start habitually asking this question you get a totally different result and a far neater desk. The simple reason being that the number one cause of an untidy desk is far too much stuff on it. If we threw 90% of desk items out (and then if we occasionally needed it again then got it from somewhere else) then desk untidiness would dramatically be reduced.

You May Not Be As Disorganized As You Think.  

The breakthrough is the realization that your desk isn’t necessarily messy because you’re chronically disorganized, it’s more likely to be because you save stuff rather than ruthlessly throwing it out. That’s an important distinction to make.

With  this system you totally change your thinking; you assume you will throw almost everything out –  and then later go looking for another copy of it should you need it. (Which as we all know is highly unlikely).

Yes it’s extreme, but for most people an extreme method is what’s called for to eradicate the mountains of papers and paraphernalia that envelope their desktops. Unless you change the habitual question you ask yourself when you’re evaluating what should stay on your desk and what should go, you’ll likely always suffer from desk messiness – and the low productivity that usually stems from it.

Try asking The Golden Question each day for the next week and watch your desk (and your mind) get clear.

An Incredibly Effective Productivity Technique.

As you probably know, I am constantly studying time saving, organisation and productivity.

The reason is simple.

If we can find just one technique that can make us more productive in business, over 5 or 10 years the impact can be extraordinary.

Today I’d like to talk about a ridiculously simple technique that can make a phenomenal improvement to how much you achieve.

I learnt it from David Allen, a celebrated productivity expert, and it’s called The 2 Minute Rule.

Here’s how it works.

Whenever a new task comes up (an email, a phone call, or a new To Do) you ask yourself one simple question.

Can I handle this in 2 minutes or less?

If you can, you do it immediately. If you can’t you write it on your list of things to do later.

Is that all there is to it? Yep, that’s all there is.

But you’ll be amazed at how following this one rule improves your business performance and your life.

For a start, you will no longer have huge lists of things you need to get done. By doing tasks as they come up your To Do list will be halved.

You also will rarely forget to do tasks, as you’ll either have done them immediately (if you can do them in under 2 minutes) or you’ll have them written down on a list.

You’ll accomplish much more, much faster.

You’re reputation at work will improve as you’ll become known for getting things handled quickly.

And your feelings of control will increase – a well known cause of life satisfaction (see control/happiness research by either Martin Seligman or William Glasser).

The 2 Minute Rule is potentially life changing. And certainly business changing.

So try this exercise. Rank your current productivity with a mark out of 10. Then try The 2 Minute Rule for 5 business days, then re-rank your productivity.

If you usually give yourself a 6 out of 10 for efficiency I’ll wager you will lift that to an 8 out of 10.

The 2 Minute Rule is that powerful.

The Centered Entrepreneur

Never before in history has life been so busy.

We have reached the point where no matter how efficient we are there is simply no way to get everything on our To Do list done.

As a result of this chronic busyness workplace stress is at an all time high. (No doubt as a business leader/ entrepreneur you are feeling it).

And it’s not going to end anytime soon. If anything the speed of business life is only going to increase.

So how can you combat this rising tide of stress and overwhelm?

Well certainly one strategy is to become an expert at productivity. But another less considered option is to get better at being centered.

When you are truly centered (calm, focused and clear) you are in an extremely powerful state.

Your workload may be huge, but you handle it with ease and the height of efficiency.

I’m sure that you’ve known times when you’ve been like this and it feels good. You are in control, you are the master of your domain.

If being centered is so important, how can we ensure we remain in this precious state of high productivity more often?

Here are some ways:

* Before you begin work, take a minute to calm yourself. (So few people ever do). Take 3 deep slow breaths and let the stress flow out of you.

* Talk to yourself quietly – say positive focusing statements like” I am in control. I am calm and focused. I am an master of my field. I am centred. I am happy.”

These simple words said with conviction gather the mind into a point of power.

* Write out your goals for the day, week, month and year. Do this and in just 10 minutes you will have risen above your incessant short deadlines and remembered your higher mission.

* Close the door, switch off your incoming email and mobile phone and experience some quality silence. Your mind will soon get sharper when the whirlwind of sensory input subsides.

* Put the word “Centered” on a Post It note and stick it next to your computer. The more you see that note the more you’ll remember to return to the centered condition. Eventually being centered will be your usual mode.

These elementary techniques will dramatically increase the amount of time each day you feel centred – and the results will astound you.

You’ll solve business problems faster. You’ll interact with other people more smoothly. You’ll find work easier and far more satisfying.

You’ll be performing at a significantly higher level.

Nobody talks about the importance of being centered at work, but you and I both know that when you’re in that state nothing can stop you.

So from now on, make being supremely centered a high priority.

And watch the magic begin.

How to Beat Stress and Overwhelm

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your business, there’s a technique I developed that can massively reduce your stress and quickly improve your results.

I call it The One Action.

The One Action is ridiculously simple, but also stunningly effective.

It works like this:

When the work is piling up and you don’t know where to start, look at each project you have and ask the following question.

“What’s the one action I could take that would have the most impact here?”

And then quickly take that action.

The One Action method works so well because it reduces the confusion and complexity of any major project.

(So often we are so frozen by all there is to do, we end up doing nothing).

It moves you from thinking/worrying mode into action mode.

And it simplifies your To Do List into manageable chunks.

But perhaps the most important change The One Action makes is mental.

After you take a key action step on two or three of your projects, you get a wonderful feeling of momentum, progress and achievement.

This creates a virtuous action/result cycle where you feel more and more empowered each One Action task that you do, so you’re motivated to do more of them.

The truth is, we are often busier than we should be. Rather than just endlessly do stuff we need to behave like an army sniper and very carefully look for the most important target, then shoot it.

This highly leveraged way of thinking and behaving ensures no matter how busy we are, we get the vital jobs done (and we feel a whole lot less stress to boot).

Today my One Action task was to write this blog.

What’s yours?

Worried You Might Not Be A Great Business Person?

There’s a huge fear amongst those who start their own business.

That they are not good enough.

This fear is exacerbated by the media constantly featuring entrepreneurs who seem to make billions overnight.

Every second article seems to be about some new business superstar that grows their company from 2 people in a garage to 2000 people speedily and effortlessly.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves to these geniuses and feel that, well, maybe we don’t have what it takes.

This is a huge mistake.

If you’re feeling a little unconfident about your chances in business, it’s important to remember the following points.

1. ALL BUSINESS SKILLS ARE LEARNABLE.

There’s nothing magical about business – it’s a craft. If you don’t know how to do something you can learn it. Anything.

Don’t ever be intimidated by someone who shows outstanding abilities in entrepreneurship – rest assured they weren’t born a corporate titan.

If they learnt how to excel in any area then you can too.

2. KAIZEN IS ALL THAT MATTERS.

You may have heard of the Japanese concept of Kaizen – that small and never ending improvements lead eventually to greatness.

It’s time to live this philosophy, every day at work. Look for little things you can do just that little bit better. It’s important to remember that excellence is not about perfection, it’s about self correction.

3. GENIUS IS A MYTH.

As the world’s leading researcher on high performance, Anders Ericsson conclusively showed everyone who seems to be a genius actually just worked harder and longer and had an excellent teacher. There’s not a single example (other than autistic savants) of anybody just being brilliant at something without long periods of hard training and self improvement. Not Mozart. Not Kasparov. Not Einstein. Not anyone.

(For mountains of research that backs this up read the following books: Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, The Genius in All Of Us by David Shenk  and The Talent Code By Daniel Coyne).

Yep, the research is voluminous and conclusive. You CAN be a great entrepreneur.

But it will take a total commitment to learning. And, unlike what the media usually portrays, slow and steady improvements over time.

This path to business success may not sound exciting, but believe me, the results will be.