Greatness and the Great Pumpkin

bigstock-Giant-Pumpkin-24162473

Creating Greatness

Every year there are giant pumpkin contests where a fierce competition ensues to show who has grown the biggest fruit.  Only a few months ago, the new world record was set at 2,032 pounds.  My wife enjoys baking pumpkin bread, and I cannot imagine how many loaves that monster pumpkin would help create.

In reading about the creation of these giant pumpkins, I noticed that the growers credit good seed, good soil, and good luck.

You cannot grow a champion pumpkin without the right seed.  The little seeds are specifically developed to yield amazingly large pumpkins.

 

“Spend the majority of your time developing your own unique gifts.” -Skip Prichard

 

In addition to the seeds, you must have the right soil.  Scientists study the soil of the winners, developing hypotheses about everything from the correct pH balance to how much potassium and other minerals are needed.

The luck part is less predictable, but the weather is important.  Lots of sun is important, moderate rain and protection from extensive wind or too much heat.

Reading about these gargantuan pumpkins, I thought about achieving results.  It’s the special mixture of seed, soil, and weather (luck) that makes it possible to create great things.

 

THE RIGHT SEED

Like the pumpkins, we need to start with the right seed.  If you want to create great results, it starts here.  Your ideas, your talents, and your abilities are where it all starts.  The right seed is a mixture of discipline and innate talent.  Much of our lives is spent investing in our education and skill in order to develop the best seed.

If you feel like you didn’t spend enough time creating the right seed, here is the good news:  you can start today.  No matter your age or present circumstances, you can begin the journey of personal development today.

Spend the majority of your time developing your own unique gifts.

 

“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.” -Harry Golden

 

THE RIGHT SOIL

3 Smartcuts to Accelerate Your Success

Maze Shortcut

Are you looking for a shortcut?  Or the secret that will unlock your career?

Why do some companies launch to huge public success while others are never discovered?  Is the secret of success hard work and determination?

Or is there something else at work?

 

Take A Smartcut

Entrepreneur, cofounder and chief creative officer of media technology company Contently, Shane Snow, has just authored a book called Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.  Every week, I’m asked by executives for the most recent, most thoughtful book I have read.

I now have the answer:

Smartcuts.  It is an extraordinarily interesting read, full of insights and yet entertaining.  The book was just released.

Let me introduce three of Shane’s smartcuts that will make you think about success differently.

Your book is full of hacks, ways to become successful much faster than average.  As I read your book, I noticed that you often upended traditional thinking over and over.  We can’t begin to hit them all, so let’s talk about just three of them:

 

The secret to success is not hard work and persistence.

 

Hard work.  Persistence.  Put in your dues.  You throw all the commonsense wisdom out and instead offer “Smartcuts.”  What is a smartcut?  Would you share an example of one?

Smartcuts are a smarter way of doing things.  Essentially, it’s the mindset that the conventional path everyone else takes in business (or any career) is by definition average.  To beat the average, you have to think differently.  Shortcuts, or cheating, tend not to be sustainable; Smartcuts are a faster, often counter-intuitive way that manages to speed success while providing value.  For example, it turns out that some of the most successful U.S. presidents, CEOs, and entertainers manage to get to the top and make game-changing breakthroughs without having paid as many dues as their counterparts.  They do incredible things and change lives but without having slogged it out in Congress for 30 years, etc.  This demonstrates what we humans are good at doing: correlating the wrong things.  Time spent, it turns out, does not equal merit.  The danger, of course, is that no time spent does not equal merit either.  There’s something about these “ladder hacking” success stories that makes the difference, and there’s something about their nontraditional journeys that lead them to be good leaders and players without having to go the needlessly slow route.  I get into the nuances of how they “hack the ladder” in the first three chapters of the book.

 

Time spent does not equal merit.

 

 

Positive feedback is not always the best way to improve performance.

 

“You did really well!” says the parent, thinking that positive motivation is the way to build self-esteem.  Instead, you say that negative feedback is a better route to success.  Why?

SmartcutsResearch shows that negative feedback helps us learn and grow more quickly than positive feedback.  Muscles build when you test their limits.  However, negative feedback only works if we’re in the right mindset, otherwise it can be catastrophic.  You see experts in many fields accelerate their growth by craving negative feedback, and that’s because they’ve managed to de-personalize feedback—make it about the thing they did and not about them.  That depersonalization is hard to do, and it’s why our bowling game gets worse when our friends tell us everything we’re doing wrong (and we start to get in our heads about it).  You have to be really secure to feel good about yourself if all you’re getting is critiqued.

So really, the key is to build up your kids’ self-esteem muscles by showing them that they are ok when things go wrong, and that feedback is about what they’re doing and not who they are. De-couple the performance from the self-esteem.  When you can do that, you can push them like the Karate Kid, and they’ll grow much more quickly.

In the book, I talk about how The Second City comedy school puts this principle into practice, to take frightened students and turn them into stars in a short time.

Why Winners Take Risks

Decision Making Process, Risk Management

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Tom Panaggio, entrepreneur, strategic advisor, speaker and amateur race car driver about taking risks, winning, and using failure to propel success. Tom is the author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge.

 

The 2 Big Advantages of Risk

 

“A leader who accepts risk is setting the stage for long term success.” –Tom Panaggio

 

Why is risk an advantage?

 

There are two big advantages to risk.

First and foremost risk is directly connected to opportunity.  Every opportunity must have an element of risk or there will be no benefit.  Risk is the cost of opportunity.  All businesses and organizations must be in a constant state of forward progress because of competition and the ever-changing demands of customers.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur or business leader we must continuously seek out opportunities to meet these demands.  A leader who recognizes the vast importance of forward motion for their organization accepts risk as merely a cost of opportunity and then actively endorses this philosophy throughout his business in setting the stage for long term success.

Secondly because most people have a tendency to avoid or minimize risk, those who have the courage to embrace it already have a competitive advantage.  For example my company was a non-stop marketer.  We knew that our competition was not willing to risk the investment in marketing to the degree that we were.  So we took advantage of their unwillingness to risk the marketing dollars and dominated our market space by out-marketing them.  We put ourselves in a position to win by embracing the risk of marketing.

 


“The only way to achieve success is to have the courage to embrace risk every day.” –Tom Panaggio

 

How do you encourage the appropriate amount of risk?

It is important to understand that my position on embracing risk does not advocate blindly engaging in any and all opportunities regardless of the potential outcome.  But the only way to achieve long term success is to have the courage to embrace risk each and every day.  With that said, there is no standard to determine what level of risk is appropriate, and there is only a blanket rule of thumb that can be generally applied.  That’s the great challenge of being a business leader: recognizing worthy opportunities.  Any opportunity that is void of a sufficient benefit or is described as “no-risk” should be avoided.  Each situation that requires one to embrace risk must be evaluated on a unique basis.

If pressed for an answer, I would say that we always start with the end to determine if this is an opportunity worth pursuing.  What is the reward or benefit the company receives from committing to this opportunity?  If an opportunity provides little reward or doesn’t help with the company’s forward motion, then we limit the amount of risk.  If the opportunity can change the competitive landscape for the company or increases the value your product or service has for your customers, then the level of risk increases by the potential return.

Everyone wants a formula or template they can apply to all business situations.  That shifts the responsibility from the business leader to the formula.  But in the end, business leaders need to rely on their gut intuition and have the courage to step outside the comfort zone.

 

Adapting A Winner’s Mindset

 

How do you adapt a winner’s mindset?

This is really a difficult concept to grab hold of because human nature is pushing us to play not to lose rather than to go for the win.  A study was done and it found out that most people get twice as much joy from not losing as they do from winning.  Lose aversion creates risk aversion: “I don’t want to lose what I have.”

My father was a basketball coach so from a very early age the idea of winning was a way of life. I was conditioned to want to win and, therefore, not only to think like a winner, but more importantly ACT like a winner, which means having the internal drive that says, “I want to win” and then focusing on preparing for competition, execution and moving forward.

 

“If you do not have a winner’s mindset, odds are you will not succeed.” –Tom Panaggio

 

The truth is business does not support the theory of, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”  In business you not only better play the game right, but you have to win, too. Competition in business has no level of compassion, you either want to win and then act like a winner or you get eliminated.  So if you do not possess a winner’s mindset when you launch a business, the odds are you will not succeed.

 

Using Failure to Succeed

7 Essential Life Lessons From 7 Ancient Leaders

Academy Of Athens, Greece
Thai Nguyen is passionate about sparking personal revolutions in the lives of everyone he meets. A Professional Re-inventer: Thai is a 5-Star Chef, International Kickboxer, Writer, Speaker, and NLP/EFT Life Coach. If you are ready to stop dreaming and start living your Utopian Life, get connected with Thai today at TheUtopianLife.com.

 

1.  Embrace Change.

 

“Nobody ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and they are not the same person.” ―Heraclitus (545 BC – 475 BC)

Change is a reality weaved into the human experience. If there’s one thing we can guarantee will never change—it’s change. To move and evolve with our changing environment is crucial: keeping up with technology, advancing in careers, and constantly learning.

That’s not to say change jobs or buy a new car every year; it’s not change for the sake of change, but being more in synch with the seasons of life. Recognize when one door closes and another one opens.

 

“Nobody ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and they are not the same person.” ―Heraclitus

 

2.  Take the first step.

 

“Well begun is half done.” –Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

Procrastination is often defeated with a single strike. It’s the first domino that knocks down all the rest. And yes, it’s always the most difficult. But as Aristotle emphasises, the finish line becomes a sudden reality once you launch out of the starting blocks.

A popular mantra for the entrepreneur is to start before you’re ready—everything has a way of falling into place after that.

 

“Well begun is half done.” –Aristotle

 

3.  Iron sharpens iron.

 

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. –Plutarch (46AD – 120AD)

It isn’t easy to give and receive constructive criticism. It’s hard to even tell a friend they have spinach stuck in their teeth. But what’s unsaid can be more damaging than what is said. Particularly when our words can significantly impact our friends in a positive way.

Much better to tell our friends what they need to hear rather than simply what they want to hear.

 

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. –Plutarch

 

4.  Listen more, speak less.

The Action Habit: 7 Proven Ways to Move from Deciding to Doing

Frog On A Log
Chris Shilling is the founder of Serve and Lead and an author, speaker, consultant, and leadership coach. You can download the latest e-book in his Learn and Lead series here. You can also follow Chris and Serve and Lead on Twitter and Facebook.

 

I have a simple math question for you.

5 frogs are sitting on a log.

4 of the frogs decide to jump off. How many frogs are left?

Did you answer 1?

The correct answer is still 5.  This is because there is a difference between deciding and doing.

 

Have you experienced this in your own life? We tend to make a lot of decisions. We decide to eat healthier, get another degree, or start a new business. However, all of these decisions really mean nothing.

In order to make a decision mean anything, we need to take action. 

This concept is so simple, yet most people never move from deciding to doing. They do not get into the habit of taking action and do not accomplish all they could be accomplishing. By getting into the habit of putting ideas and decisions into action, we are in a better position to achieve the results we desire.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values; your values become your destiny.” –Unknown

Here are 7 proven ways you can move from deciding to doing:

1. Stop waiting until conditions are perfect.

If you are waiting for everything to be perfect in order to get started you will be waiting forever. Things will never be perfect. There will always be something that is not right or could be better. There is no perfect time; there is only the present time. You must take action now and you can make adjustments as you move along. I know the perfect time to start was last year. The second best time is right now.

 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb

 

2. Stop, get up, and do it.

Turn yourself into a doer. A doer is someone who has an idea and moves forward with it immediately. Have you ever said to anyone, “It is a great day to go to the beach,” and then sat around and watched TV? Next time stop, get up, and go do it. Do you want to begin exercising or present a new idea at work? Do it today. When we pause and wait, we lose the will to move forward and allow doubt to creep into our minds.

 

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” –Amelia Earhart

 

3. Stop over-thinking things

When we over-think things, we start to get paralysis of analysis. We start to analyze things to the point that we cannot move forward. We obsess over how conditions aren’t perfect, question the amount of time we have to commit, or come up with a whole host of reasons not to move forward.

 

4. Take continuous action.

Once you get started, continue to take continuous action. Make sure that you keep your momentum going by doing something productive related to your idea every day. This can be as easy as scheduling time to spend 15 minutes completing a small task daily. Those small tasks will add up quickly, and help you build confidence by seeing achievement.