There are always three forces pulling on us which have a significant impact on our future.
Backwards – the pull of the past, the regrets, the waste, the mistakes and our history. The negative thoughts that tell us we’re not smart enough, not tall enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not connected enough, not disciplined enough. These are thoughts which steal our dreams by convincing us that it isn’t going to happen for us because of pattern of events which have already happened. They pull us backwards.
Sideways – these are the distractions which steal our short term focus and attention from what we should be doing. Our digital lives are full of these and can force us into a pattern of collecting dots instead of joining them.
Forwards – this is the pull that matters – the direction we want to take, and must take if we want to our hopes to come true. Maintaining a forward trajectory is best aided by having a deep purpose. Purposes gives us the tenacity to find the discipline needed. We must have and remind ourselves of our purpose frequently to ensure ‘forwards’ wins the battle of the 3 directions.
The future, which is forward, is going arrive anyway – it’s best we get there by facing in the right direction while the time elapses.
I was talking today with a colleague who is involved in a consulting business. We discussed that people like us, are often providing is pure inspiration and motivation to our clients. Sometimes more often than we are providing actual knowledge. The all singing, all dancing outsourced inspiration division.
He was somewhat concerned that, the client might not be getting what they actually signed up for – specific domain information transfer.
After some discussion we agreed that it doesn’t really matter. We also agreed that inspiration has more value than knowledge in any case – even if our job is to provide the latter. The reason is simple. There are plenty of examples of people with great knowledge who never succeed, where as a person or organisation who is inspired will some how acquire the knowledge required.
The final allegory for people who help others as a business is this: Unless we have the knowledge in the first instance, we’ll never get hired or given the opportunity to provide the inspiration that is needed.
Anyone involved in an entrepreneurial sphere, has at some point lamented the fact that they missed a previous revolution. A time when the momentum of change swept everyone forward. Those times when change was inevitable, or only a few people knew about the big change that was underway. Those times when being there, or just turning up was enough for success to be inevitable. The home brew computer club, the early days of the web. It was so much easier for those guys to launch something new and innovative, and make a bundle in the process. The world was so open and less competitive. Right?
Yes – it was less competitive, but we must remember that access to resources was a big issue. To finance projects, and get around the barriers to entry was incredibly difficult. Ceteris paribus – I’d say the probability of success is unchanged. Some parts are easier, some are more difficult.
The other thing which is interesting, is that those previous revolutions we wished we participated in: The personal computer in the 1970’s, the dot com boom of the mid 1990’s or the web 2.0 renaissance are all still here. The names have changed, and the widgets are new, but the opportunity is just as large. And 5, 10 or 20 years from now you’ll be reading about entrepreneurs who changed the world forever in these in 2 important areas – The web of things, and 3D printing. Both of these areas are as big as any piece of the digital revolution we’ve already lived through…. the ones you missed. And right now they are both in their early 1970’s era equivalent in terms of development and opportunity. So the only question remaining is this. Why are you doing about it?
My father told me this which I never forget. The opportunity of a lifetime comes up about once a week. But only when we’re looking for it.
I recently had to negotiate a resolution with my next door neighbour. We had a problem where their hot water service was broken and heavily leaking. While this wouldn’t usually be a neighbours problem, all of the excess water was leaking under my house and flooding the sub floor of my home as the street is on a slight angle. I was very motivated to get it fixed (his leaking hot water service) as it was potentially going to ruin my house. The difficult situation was that my neighbor for some strange reason was not so motivated. After pointing out the problem numerous times he failed to attend to it for many weeks. He even made a failed effort to create a channel to direct the water down a storm water drain, which is curious given the fact it would have been easier to fix the problem itself.
After many failed attempts to motivate my neighbour to ‘do the right thing’ and fix it, I went to the authorities. First I called the water authority who informed me that his water bill was in the thousands of dollars this quarter (much more than a new water service would cost) due to the amount he was using and wasting. They also said that this level of water usage had been going on for months. But they also said they could do nothing, unless it was their pipes that had failed. It was then that I found there was little I could do without legal action. So I started by informing him that I would start legal proceedings if he failed to taken action. Again, no action was taken. It was not until our plumber told us the stability of our house would be at risk unless it was fixed quickly. So I then took the altruistic route. I offered to fix it for him and pay for it myself, no strings attached. I just wanted it resolved. Miraculously, he fixed it the very next day without my help.
While I was happy the issues was resolved, I was curious about his seemingly inside out motivations. Yesterday I had a discussion with my neighbour on the opposite side, at which time we discussed the now famous water issue. I told her what had transpired. Her response taught me a little bit about understanding the true motivation of people. Here’s what she said:
“I’m not surprised, he’s not a very helping person. And he doesn’t like being told what to do and prefers to take the high status position in everything he does. See his giant lemon tree, he wont even let us take a single lemon or share them with anyone who lives in our street. In fact, he never picks the lemons himself, he just lets them fall to the ground. Apparently it is a sign of prosperity. He must want people to think he has lots of money or something.”
As soon as I mentioned paying for him, he fixed it. He was more motivated by our perception of his financial position than he was by helping others, doing the right thing, wasting water, having a decent relationship with his neighbours or saving money with excessive water bills.
It’s another great reminder that what motivates us, is rarely what motivates others, especially during a negotiation.
I know a person who runs a very large electrical contracting business. He has a staff of around 50 people and has been running the business for more than 30 years. He once told me of the story of what got him started. This story is not verbatim, but it is worth sharing here.
‘I remember when I was an apprentice electrician. Everyday in the lunch room the fully qualified sparkys would whinge about how well the boss was doing. That the boss made money off their labour, and that they should go out on their own, take a risk and start their own electrical contracting businesses. But other than the whinging, most of them would never do anything about it. They’d just come back to work everyday and tell the same story of how they should quit their job and startup their own firm. None of them ever did. I wasn’t even finished my 4 year apprenticeship and I was sick to death of hearing the same old story. So I promised myself that I would go and start my own business, fail, go broke and get it out of my system while I was still young. I didn’t really care about running my own business, I just didn’t want to end up becoming a whinger like those other blokes.
So I did. I went out on my own and started. It turns out I became the opposite of those guys in every way. I didn’t whinge, I went out to fail, and failed at failing. Thirty years later I am running a multi-million dollar business. It’s amazing what you can become if you are sure of who you don’t want to become.’
I was recently reading an article which asked advertising people if they had to choose youth or experience what would they choose.
Ogilvy executive chairman Tom Moult sited the exemplar below.
There’s an old David Ogilvy story. He was looking at some creative work from a junior. He asked how the guy how he knew the ads would work, the junior explained that he was sure they would as his intuition told him so.
Ogilvy said, “Imagine your appendix ruptures right now, and I rush you to hospital. There are two surgeons available, one is an experienced surgeon, and the other one is new to the game but is offering to operate on you using his intuition. Which one would you choose?”
While David Ogilvy was a genius, and this is a compelling allegory he forgot one important thing. Advertising is not surgery. It’s not even a science for that matter, so we should never judge it as such.
What would I choose?
A youthful attitude.
Youth is a state of mind and our mind is as nimble or as old as we let it be.
There are a bunch of ways to increase our incomes. Whether we are business owners, startups or employees the principals are the same. So here’s a list of 10 things we can do (starting tomorrow) to boost the income we receive from whatever we do.
- Learn or improve our public speaking skills - Our ability to sell ourselves and anything verbally is still the number skill in business. Anyone who can speak in private, can speak in public – it just takes practice. There are tricks we can learn and if we learn them what we earn will increase dramatically.
- Write a blog – If we write a blog on what you do it has a wondrous way of increasing our knowledge bank, our reputation and builds a verifiable asset we can use to sell our credentials. All I can say is that of all the things I’ve done in my life, blogging has created more economic benefit for me than anything else. You’ll only know how this happens if you have faith and do it.
- Keep your body in good shape - I believe it has two important ways it impacts our earning potential. Firstly a fit body has a brain that works better. This is a medical fact. Secondly, people subconsciously judge us on what we look like. If we are in good shape people increase their trust levels of us. Because we look after ourselves, they believe we can look after them and their business. I know this is almost cultural heresy, but I do think it is true.
- Groom & dress well – As per the second point above. How we look is an asset. It doesn’t mean we need to wear expensive clothes or look like a movie star, but have pride in our own human existence. Never be afraid to invest money in nice clothing.
- Work harder on yourself than you do on your job – People buy us as they asset, both in startup land and employment land. So we must invest in self development more than developing the business. If we do the former, that latter happens automatically.
- Leverage the wood chips – Every job has some kind of ‘off cut’ or left over which is part of the process of being productive. This is often a great asset which can be leveraged. Know what your wood chips are, and take them to market. This not only invents revenue, but displays vision. People will notice.
- Help others grow – Help friends and colleagues achieve their goals. Help them with what you know and inspire them to be all they can. Do it without desire for any repayment. It will inspire you and karma will return the benefits.
- Save 30 percent – Keep 30 percent of your income to be invested. Do this before any expenditure occurs at all. Put 10% into active capital (your own entrepreneurial ideas). Put 10% into passive capital (shares, interest bearing deposits, other peoples business ventures) and put 10% back into society – this should be defined by yourself. It takes far less than people think for the compound benefits of such a simple financial strategy to accrue.
- Spend 10% on your income on self education – No matter what we earn we must ensure we allocate 10% of this to re-educating ourselves. In a world of rapid change this is not a choice but a must. This is the ingredient to continued self worth and value. It pays for itself many times over. Just ask any millionaire.
By the way this list is ‘non-exhaustive’ – but a set of activities I have learned and used. Maybe you’ve got some additional tactics you can share in the comments.