Making Small Changes To Achieve Extraordinary Results

5% More

Give Just 5% More

What would happen to your life if you gave everything just 5% more effort?

Michael Alden, author of 5% MORE: Making Small Changes To Achieve Extraordinary Results, says it transforms everything. Success is often the result of applying just a little bit more effort.

It’s not always a massive effort, a radical change, or an overhaul. Often it’s just changing at the margin that makes all the difference.

 

“Success is just a little more effort.” –Sydney J. Harris

 

I recently had the opportunity to ask Michael about his research and new book. Michael Alden is the founder and CEO of Blue Vase Marketing and a recipient of SmartCEO Magazine’s 2016 Future 50 Award.

 

What made you decide to research the concept of 5%?

After the publication of my first book, Ask More, Get More, I received some fantastic feedback and accolades.  But as I continued to speak with people about achieving their goals, I found that many of them wanted more.  Despite all of the time and money they put into “personal development,” they were not where they wanted to be.  I wondered, why are so many people stuck?  Is there something that the average, everyday person can do to get ahead?  And is it something that is truly achievable, something that doesn’t cost money, something that yields real tangible results?

I reflected on what would happen if we applied just 5% More to virtually every aspect of our lives.  Was there research that showed what 5% More can do? I didn’t have the answer, so I began to study what our lives would look like if we had, did, or wanted just 5% More.  The information I found and the science to support what just a little effort can do in virtually every aspect of our lives was compelling.  But when I dug a little deeper for anecdotal evidence into my own life and the lives of other successful people, it was even more astounding and profound.  Instead of trying to make big changes, the way for any person, anywhere in the world, to improve his or her life, health, wealth, or relationships, and achieve their goals is by just adding 5% More effort.

 

“Get a little success, and then just get a little more.” –Maya Angelou

 

One More Makes A Leader

Would you share an example of someone who achieved success by applying the 5% More concept?

I sold cars right after I graduated from college.  There was a tall, skinny, somewhat awkward, but enthusiastic salesperson named Brian there whom I will never forget.  He taught me so many things, not only about selling cars but about how to approach life.  He was also on top of the sales leaderboard month after month, and he always gave just a little more effort every day.1119281865

One day, he sold FIVE cars.  Even for some of the largest dealerships in the country, five in one day is a lot of cars.  It was getting late, just before closing on a hot summer night.  Brian had already sold those FIVE cars, and he saw a customer out on the lot.  He jumped from his desk and headed out to greet the customer.  But just before he did, I asked him why.  I said, “Brian, you have already sold five cars.”  He told me something amazing.  He said, “Mike, every day I tell myself I want to just sell one car, then once I sell that car, I tell myself I want to sell just one more, until it is time to go home.”

Every day, Brian took himself just a little bit further and achieved above-average results.  You see, he was working until close anyway, so why not do just a little bit more?  Oh, I bet you are wondering what happened with that customer.  Well, Brian did not sell that customer that night, but the next day when Brian showed up for work, the customer from the previous night did as well.  Brian’s efforts, gave him a sale the next day.

 

“Success is dependent on effort.” -Sophocles

 

Change Your Health with 5% More

How can giving 5% more impact your health?

Michael AldenI’m a “big guy.” I played football my whole life, and I’ve told people if I have an addiction, it would be food.  I’ve always gone to the gym most of my life, but fitness results are mostly achieved through diet.  When you look at the diet industry and all of the fads that come out year after year, what happens with most if not all plans is that people can’t maintain them.  I did the research and our brains work best and adapt at optimal levels when gradually modified, when gradually changed until that change becomes habit.  So, as a big guy, I hit an all-time high weight about six months ago, and I was shocked.  I was 272 pounds.  I’ve tried everything you can imagine – from pills, powders and potions – for that quick instant change we all want.  But, it doesn’t exist.  Today, I am 245 pounds, still off from my ideal weight but much healthier.  That is a little over a pound a week that I have lost.  It hasn’t been easy, but it has been gradual and sustainable.  I put a plan in place that works for me, and each week I try to get a little bit better.  Am I perfect?  Absolutely not.  That is the best part about the 5% More mentality, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to work at it a little bit and be aware of your gradual steps each day.  I joke around and say my next book is going to change the diet world.  It’s a concept that I think most people will recognize.  The title will be Eat Less Exercise More.

 

“The last 3 or 4 reps is what makes muscle grow. The area of pain divides the champion from someone else.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

Is it possible to be 5% more persuasive?

Who in Your Life Deserves a Gold Medal?

Gold medal

Winning Gold

The Olympic rings must be magnetic, pulling me in every few years. Whatever the event, I’m fascinated by the competition and by the stories of the athletes. They are irresistible. The fact that the world comes together, for just a few weeks, is incredibly inspiring.

 

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.” – Dan Gable

 

If you’re a student of success, the Olympics offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand drive, determination, and discipline. Every individual has a unique story of overcoming obstacles. You don’t make it to the field without years of practice. You also don’t make it without a team of supporters.

I especially love watching the podium during the award ceremonies. As the medals are placed around the winners’ necks, and especially when the anthems are played, you glimpse the sheer joy of victory. It’s common to see tears, the emotion raw at that moment. And then, if the camera catches it right, you also see some of the others who are also part of the success. Friends, family, and coaches are beaming with pride.

 

“By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.” -Voltaire

 

Champions Behind the Scenes

As the games in Rio draw to a conclusion, I think about all of the people who help us succeed every day but never get a medal. These people are instrumental in shaping us. Maybe it’s a mom or a dad, a teacher, or a friend who is always there. You may have had a mentor or a special boss who inspired you to do more than you thought you could. If you’re as fortunate as me, it may be your spouse who deserves the Gold.

 

“The joy of leadership is helping others succeed.” –Roger Stilson

 

Why not take the time to recognize some special people? Who deserves a Gold Medal in your life? Go ahead and share this post with them. Tell their story in the comments (it’s really not that hard to leave one! You can sign up for Disqus, sign in with your social media account, or sign in as a guest) or in your social media stream.

 

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“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” –John F. Kennedy

 

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” –Veronica Roth

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Winston Churchill

21 Tips for A Successful Job Interview

Interview

How to Have A Successful Job Interview

If you have had experience interviewing others, you may have seen some surprising things. I know I have:

  • The candidate who stopped mid-answer to answer a text. And then did it again.
  • One man had resumes with him and handed me one that was stained with coffee.
  • On several occasions, the interviewees asked questions so basic that it was obvious that they hadn’t even done a cursory internet search on our company.
  • One person, incredibly late for the meeting, started aggressively by asking why we didn’t have enough parking to accommodate all visitors.
  • I vividly recall someone so negative about their prior employer that it made me pause.
  • And there’s the person who took the time to write a thank you note, but sent me the wrong one (he was obviously interviewing elsewhere).

There are some basic interviewing tips that are worth noting. I like this infographic by Company Folders of 21 tips. It may seem basic, but it’s a great checklist to review before your next interview.

Because it’s great to be memorable. But only for the right reasons.

Interview Tips


“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” -John Dewey


“Success depends upon previous preparation.” -Confucius

Why You May Need A Wicked Strategy

3D Circular maze

 

What do you do if you face a problem so complex that it can only be described as wicked?

Is it possible to confound competitors?

 

How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors

John Camilius, author of Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors outlines a number of ways that managers can handle the most difficult problems. Camilius is the Donald R. Beall Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” -Winston Churchill

 

For those who don’t know your work, what is a wicked problem?

In the early seventies, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, two professors of design and urban planning, recognized that there are certain problems that are not amenable to resolution by traditional, accepted problem-solving techniques. They evocatively labeled these problems as “wicked” and identified ten distinguishing characteristics. Ten characteristics are difficult to remember, and over the years, I have whittled them down to just five.  If a problem displays these five criteria, you can be pretty sure you are facing a wicked problem.Wicked Strategies John C. Camillus

The first characteristic is deceptively simple and requires some thought:  Is the problem one that is substantially without precedent, something that you have not encountered before?

Second, are there multiple significant stakeholders with conflicting values and priorities? You need to go beyond the traditional big three stakeholders—employees, customers and shareholders.  Non-government organizations, multiple layers of government, creditors, communities in which you are located, political parties in power and out of power are all becoming more significant and demanding.

Third, are there several causes and are they interactive and tangled?  For instance, the future of social media is driven by a complex brew of technology advancements in hardware and apps, changing demographics, evolving social and cultural mores, government regulations, privacy expectations, geopolitical developments, educational practices, disposable income, and economic and social mobility.

 

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” -Irwin Corey

 

Fourth, there is no sure way of knowing you have the right answer. Another way of phrasing this is that there is no stopping rule—you can continue searching indefinitely for a “better” answer.

Fifth, the understanding of what the “problem” is changes depending on the “solution” being considered.  In other words, the problem and the solution are interactive. For instance, entry into a country that does not permit foreign multi-brand retailers might be accomplished by creating a cash-and-carry model for small retailers or by being a minority partner with a local retailer or by entering an entirely new business employing a distinctive competency such as logistics. Each of these responses to the wicked problem of accessing the huge purchasing power of emerging economies’ populations creates a wholly different set of issues.

A note of warning may be in order. In the public policy arena, the wickedness of problems is hard to overlook. Problems such as immigration policy, violence against women, religious fundamentalism, and public education are overtly wicked. In the business world, however, the thing about wicked problems is that though they can show up anywhere, they are likely to be perceived as “tame” problems.

Wicked problems are certainly more common than most managers realize. Not recognizing that they were facing wicked problems, I believe, led to the dissolution of Westinghouse, the demise of Polaroid, and the decline of Kodak, RadioShack and Atari. Though wicked problems can occur anywhere, it is more likely than not that you will encounter wicked problems if you are a public company, operate globally, and are in a technology-driven business.

 

“Every threat to the status quo is an opportunity in disguise.” -Jay Samit

 

3 Megaforces Challenging Business

You talk about 3 megaforces that are challenging business. How do these trends help create wicked problems?

While there are a variety of forces and environmental factors that can create wicked problems, over the years I’ve identified three forces that are widely experienced which, in concert, are a major source of wicked problems. They are: the inevitability of globalization, the imperative of innovation, and the importance of shared value. The first two forces are well understood. Shared value, which has been brought to the attention of the managerial world by Michael Porter, is the notion that social benefit and economic value are synergistic. It also raises the issue of the appropriate sharing of value across diverse stakeholders.

The interactions of these three forces create strategic challenges that combine to create wicked problems. For instance, innovating to meet the needs of unserved, low-income customers across the world results—as the guru of disruptive innovation Clayton Christensen has affirmed—in disruptive technologies that can upend industries. Innovation also creates changes that differentially impact stakeholders, creating the likelihood of conflict between stakeholders as the organization transforms. The extreme complexity and uncertainty embodied in the global economy coupled with the conflicting priorities of multiple stakeholders creates unknowable futures. This roiling cauldron of disruptive technologies, conflicted stakeholders and unknowable futures is what spawns wicked problems.

I like to illustrate the interaction of these forces in a Venn diagram.

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Three Mega-Forces and their Strategic Challenge

These three forces can interact to create wicked problems in any context. Of course, other environmental forces can also breed wicked problems, but I have chosen to focus on these three because they are so ubiquitous and powerful.

I believe there are business contexts or “industries” that will be breeding grounds for wicked problems. Health, software, information technology, fossil fuels, water, automobiles, and public transportation are prime examples. Technological innovation, drastically changing regulations, geopolitical developments, and changing notions of social responsibility make these industries particularly prone to encountering wicked problems that demand that firms develop and deploy wicked strategies. 

 

“The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.” -William Ellery Channing

 

How to Deal With Uncertainty