Posted by: brandextenders | July 11, 2014

Life, Liberty and a Birthright to Happiness

I love history, especially American history and the more I read and study the American Revolution the more amazed I am by our founders. The Declaration of Independence is a brilliant document in so many ways and set our country on her path to greatness.
thepursuit 2The second paragraph of that document starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the entitlement to happiness.” Oh wait, that’s not right, is it “life, liberty and the right to happiness?” Actually many people wish this inspiring document said that because they could then blame others for their lack of happiness. The fact it says “the pursuit of happiness” is somewhat annoying to many who would like to shrug off the minor detail that they are responsible for their own contentment.

It was Thomas Jefferson who added this line in the Declaration and if you Google the term “pursuit of happiness” you will take a mind-boggling journey down many paths and explanations as to the reason and meaning of this term. It seems Jefferson believed if you cultivated close friendships, limited your desires to the essential necessities of life, and rejoiced in the moment, happiness was yours to keep. That’s a far cry from those today who claim their right to happiness means the government supplies them with anything they want and desire at the literal the expense of everyone else.

We all have the right to pursue happiness, but there is no right to be happy. Happiness comes from within and it is up to each of us to decide what will truly make us happy and to pursue a course in our lives that will bring that about. I like the quote from Dennis Waitley, a well-known motivational speaker and author who said, It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” Thankfully we have the right to pursue happiness in whatever way we choose, but there are no guarantees in our Declaration that we will achieve it. And that’s the way it should be.

Posted by: brandextenders | June 23, 2014

Don’t Try This at Home

Try to do this with a pen.

Try to do this with a pen.

Here’s an experiment I’d like for you to try. Take a pen, any pen, and try to stand it on its end. Go ahead; balance it so it is standing on its own. Try the other end and see if that helps.

So what happened? Were you able to balance it? Did you try harder to make it work? Chances are no matter how hard you tried you just couldn’t make that pen stand up on its own.

Standing a pen on its end is an example of how you either do something or you don’t. Sure, there are some things where trying harder might make a difference, but for the most part we either decide to do something by setting a goal or putting our all into it or we don’t. When I hear that someone tried to do something I usually assume they didn’t want it badly enough to “Just Do It” as the Nike slogan says. And believe me, I am just as guilty of this as anyone.

Your mortgage company, power company or Internet provider don’t want to hear you tried to make enough money to pay their bill. You either pay it or you don’t. Same with life, you either make the decision to do it…or you don’t.

As John Yokoyama, owner of the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle said, “There is no state of being called “trying.”

Do it or don’t or try. The choice is yours.

Posted by: brandextenders | June 9, 2014

Are You Optimistically Cynical or Cynical Optimist?

That may sound like an oxymoronic headline, but it’s true. We’re all endowed with both optimism and cynicism, but usually one becomes dominant over the other as we mature. Do you always see the glass as half-empty? Are you like Lilly Tomlin who once said, “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”? Or maybe you feel like the comedian who noted, “I’m not cynical. I’m just experienced.”

If you see yourself in the comments above, then you probably won’t believe the study published in the most recent edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. That study shows people with high levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism. Earlier studies have also shown that cynics have a higher rate of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular problems, cancer-related deaths, premature death and overall poorer health.

sad-happyShould that surprise us? It doesn’t take a big leap of faith for me to connect cynicism and negativity with poor health. Nor the opposite of better health being associated with optimistic people. Would you rather deal with an optimist or a cynic? While I’m certain there are some wealthy cynics, I suspect research would show that positive and upbeat people are much more likely to become wealthy and be happy with their work and lives.

It’s true the world we live in is a stressful place where cynicism can become an easy sedative to disengagement, but I have to believe optimism and a positive attitude will always trump the cynic. Cynics say, “Life sucks then you die”, but I prefer the quote from Winston Churchill, “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”

The choice is yours

Posted by: brandextenders | May 29, 2014

What Would You Do Differently?

Here’s the scenario: Just shy of a year ago I was referred to a woman at a Fortune 500 company who’d just taken over a new position. Part of her job was purchasing promotional products in large quantities for scores of managers to use as gifts for customers and prospects. We met on email, then over the phone and finally in person to discuss her needs and how best I could assist. Over three months I pulled together ideas and samples, created virtuals of what their logo would look like on a variety of products, all for a meeting where managers could choose the items they liked.

Sales is not for sissies.

Sales is not for sissies.

The meeting came and went and the date she had given me for ordering also came and went. I reached out via email and phone calls, very few of which were answered, and I did my best to stay in front of her in hope some of the business she promised would come our way. After six months one small order arrived with promises again that she would be ordering in the next “few weeks.” Then nothing.
I finally sent an email I reserve as a last hope, where I ask if I have done something wrong or misunderstood the situation. I don’t whine, but simply ask for feedback in case I have done something unintentional. Still nothing. I decided to send a handwritten note basically saying the same thing; apologizing for any unintentional gaffs I may have committed. I marked the case closed and moved on knowing that things like this happen in sales and often there is no logical reason.
About three weeks later I received an email from her apologizing profusely and saying things had taken much, much longer than anticipated and there were still some large orders she would be placing and planned to keep me busy this summer. That was almost a month ago and I’ve heard nothing more, but will keep my fingers crossed and hope we do get an opportunity.
If you’re in sales, how do you handle this kind of situation? I know many people would have given up after a few unanswered attempts, but if nothing else I’m persistent. What would you have done differently? Have you ever had a sales situation like this? I’d love to hear your comments below and I know others can benefit from our collective wisdom.

Posted by: brandextenders | May 14, 2014

Just Wishing and Hoping

Question: What is that elusive elixir known as hope and how do we tap into it during the darkest days of our lives? During those times when it seems we can do nothing right?
Answer: I have absolutely no idea and if I did, I’d be a billionaire lounging on a tropical beach rather than writing this blog post.

Dusty Springfield in 1964. "Just Wishing & Hoping."

Dusty Springfield in 1964. “Just Wishing & Hoping.”

Hope can be elusive and is typically not something hard-wired into our brains. I’ve never been able to pull hope out of thin air and go from sad to happy and upbeat. But I’ve found there are things I can do to help me change my perspective, which is really what hope is. Exchanging a perspective that may be dire or (dare I say it?) hopeless for one of belief, desire and/or trust.

Movies: I love movies and by losing myself in the story I let go of my own worries and fears. And hope can be found in many movies, like this clip from the classic, ” It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Books: These are a great source of hope be they fiction, biographies, non-fiction or whatever. For some, self-help books can offer hope through increased confidence.

Music: This can so easily change my mood and there are numerous studies to prove it. Choose upbeat music, a favorite artist or perhaps even classical. Research at the University of Missouri showed people can improve their moods and be happier by simply listening to cheery music.

Meditation: Taking even a short amount of time each day to meditate or reflect can be beneficial. An attitude of gratitude will aid in keeping a hopeful attitude

Hope is the foundation of all success and without it, failure is surely inevitable. As Thomas Edison, who attempted creating a light bulb over 10,000 times before he was successful once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Posted by: brandextenders | April 5, 2014

The Tenth-of-a-Second Second Rule

Somewhere in the not too distant past someone created the five-second rule. Who that someone is we don’t know, but this law states that food dropped on the floor won’t be contaminated by nasty crap and bacteria if picked up within five seconds. As you can imagine, this theory has been studied time and again by scientists and others and has proven to be true, for the most part. A study by Professor Anthony Hilton of Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, shows the sooner dropped food is picked up, the less likely it is of being contaminated. Moist foods tend to become contaminated more quickly than dry foods and hard floors offer the greatest chance of defilement vs. carpet.

Is this a face you could instantly trust?

Is this a face you could instantly trust?

But have you ever heard of the tenth-of-a-second rule? This law states that people make their first impressions when meeting someone new in a tenth-of-a-second. Not seven seconds as many articles claim or even 30 second, but a decisecond. Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found first impressions are based on looking at someone’s face and deciding instantly whether you like or trust that person. So while dressing appropriately, being on time, a firm handshake and even confidence will go a long ways towards that first impression, it’s your face that’s going to seal the deal.

Be sure to offer a genuine smile when meeting someone new and make eye contact as you shake hands. If this one-tenth-of-a-second rule is true, then the fait accompli is over before you even utter your first word. Is this fair? Of course not, but didn’t your parents always tell you life isn’t fair? As Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible from Greek to Latin once said, “Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness?” And once someone has determined they either like you or don’t, the chance of getting them to change their mind will be difficult at best.

Smile and the world smiles with you; frown and that decisecond of impressionism may leave you out in the cold.

Posted by: brandextenders | March 28, 2014

What is Your Legacy?

If you were to die today, what would you be remembered for; what would be your legacy? Would it be kindness, philanthropy, compassion and generosity? Or perhaps apathy, insolence, legacy word in vintage wood typeineptitude and anger? No matter who we are and what we do in this life, we all leave behind a legacy, intended or not. This is the 35th anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing, a man who followed his dream, pursued his passion and as a result touched the hearts of millions during his lifetime. And while the Internet and social media have made it much easier to go “viral” and find your 15 minutes of fame, lifetime legacies rarely happen overnight and usually take literally a lifetime to create.

Very few of us will change the world however; every one of us can help effect change within our own worlds. We all have a sphere of influence we interact within and it is there where our legacy will reside. We create it with each thought, each action and each interaction with others. Fortunately for most of us, our legacy isn’t created in one day or through one stupendous mistake, but over a lifetime of consistent actions. For some, their legacy will be their name adorning a university (Stanford), a company (Ford) or maybe even a comet (Haley’s) or telescope (Hubble). But for most of us, our legacy will reside within the hearts and minds of those we touch through our actions and interactions. Our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others. So what are you doing right now, today, this week and this year to create your legacy? What will you be remembered for when you have moved on to whatever lies beyond this life we know?

What is your legacy?

Posted by: brandextenders | January 29, 2014

A Whole New Way to Go Green

Never in my wildest dreams did I believe marijuana would become legal during my lifetime. Not that I’ve inhaled mind you, but it seemed like one of those issues that would always be talked about and never acted upon. But two states have legalized it for recreational use and another 18, plus Washington D.C. sell medical marijuana, so the trend is apparent. It is still a federal crime to possess or smoke marijuana, but the current administration has said they will not interfere with state’s rights on this issue (that’s a first).

Cannabis sativa has been cultivated for thousands of years, grown for its seeds, oil and fiber (hemp rope) while the flowers have a high THC factor and are used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Until the early 1900’s it was legal to possess and smoke pot in America, but 1906 saw the first restrictions put in place on the drug. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 sealed its fate making possession or transfer of cannabis illegal throughout the U.S. under federal law. Movies like “Reefer Madness” and Harry J. Anslinger’s “Gore Files” (he was America’s first drug czar) wove depraved tales of people committing heinous acts while high on marijuana and helped turned the public against it.reefer-madness

And now, 77 years later the tide has turned. I was thinking the other day, when will we begin to see various accouterments from the marijuana culture branded? It’s only a matter of time, right?

Marijuana smoking apparatus: Items like water pipes (commonly referred to as “bongs”), regular pipes and various other paraphernalia.  Great imprint area and four-color process is encouraged. Visualize it with an Apple logo or perhaps a food brand like Kraft. In fact, food brands should jump right on that.

Containers: I suppose one must keep their stash, I mean marijuana, in something and this will provide plenty of new opportunities for suppliers who make metal, ceramic or plastic containers.

The usual suspects: By this I mean all the regular items in our industry that will be used to brand and promote the retail outlets where marijuana can be purchased. Lighters (an obvious one), mints (container is reusable), pipe stands, bumper stickers, coffee cups and toothbrushes among other things.

Apparel: T-shirts and hats are a given and will be used for trade show giveaways, customer appreciation, sales calls and sold under glass countertops with cool slogans. I’m thinking T-shirts made from recycled hemp might be appropriate here.

Hemp producer license c. 1930's

Hemp producer license c. 1930′s

It’s on its way and in fact, in researching this blog I found a website that’s already ahead of the curve in this space, Check it out for some Colorado inspired promotional products. In the meantime I’m feeling kind of hungry; apparently writing about marijuana does that to me. Brownies anyone?

Posted by: brandextenders | January 8, 2014

Business Lessons Learned from a Shark Tank

I love Shark Tank and have binge-watched past seasons three or four at a time. I’m fascinated watching the people who pitch; how shark-tankthey dress, their obviously scripted presentation which they’ve carefully memorized, the display they set up to showcase their venture and how they interact with the sharks.

The program has its origins in a Japanese show that first aired in 2001 called “Tigers of Money.” It then went to Canada in 2006 as “Dragons Den” before hitting the airwaves in the U.S. in August of 2009. Here are some fun facts you may not know:

  • Each pitch is actually one hour and edited down into the dramatic 10 minutes we see.
  • Approximately 40,000 people applied to be on the show in season 4 for 130 slots (26 episodes x 5 pitches per show).
  • It takes 20 days of back-to-back shooting to tape the season’s episodes.
  • The sharks know nothing about the pitch before they come out other than the names of each person presenting.
  • In terms of net worth (according to Mark Cuban is the wealthiest with a $2.5 billion net worth, Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful) is next with $300 million, Dayman John weighs in with $250 million,  Robert Herjavec at $100 million & Barbara Cochran  with a measly $40 million
The Sharks at work

The Sharks at work

I like all of the sharks for different reasons and I’ve observed a few things by watching that I work to incorporate into the way I do business each day:

  1. Be passionate: I understand the pitches for the most part are canned and rehearsed. However if you aren’t passionate about your work you can have the most well-written pitch and not get a dime. It’s easy to see passion in someone and for those of us in sales; our customers are the “sharks” who want to see our passion shine through as we present our ideas and solutions.
  2. Listen: Way too often I see someone rambling on and on, saying the same thing over and over again and not listening to what the sharks are telling them. The sharks often give great advice and that advice might be that they don’t need a shark. Remember the old 80/20 rule; spend 20% of your time (at most) talking and 80% of the time listening. True in business, friendships, relationships and in the Shark Tank.
  3. Know your numbers:  How often have you seen one of the sharks ask about sales, profit margins or other data and the person pitching looks like a deer in headlights? Don’t ever go into a meeting without thoroughly anticipating the questions that might be asked and the answers you’ll give. Like the adage about a great lawyer in the courtroom; they never ask a witness a question they don’t already know the answer to.  It’s said 1 out of 3 deals don’t close after the show and the reason is usually because the numbers in some form or fashion weren’t factual.
  4. Don’t B.S.: As an addendum to #4, don’t B.S. The likes of Kevin O’Leary or Mark Cuban will chew you to bits if you try to B.S. your lack of knowledge. Same is true in all business dealings, don’t lie, steal or cheat because in the end (usually) you’ll be caught and be much worse off for it. Think Bernie Maddoff.
  5. It’s not all about the money: Some of the people who leave with no funding make out the best. They don’t have Mr. Wonderful taking half their company plus a royalty on each sale and the publicity they garner is priceless. My goal is to take each win and each setback and learn from it. Sometimes losing a deal equates to a better outcome than if it was won.

I think of Shark Tank as a modern-day version of gladiators and lions. Obviously the results of this modern-day arena aren’t nearly as life threatening as they once were unless of course you raise the ire of Mr. Wonderful. In that case, as you walk out of the tank, with or without a deal, he’ll ruefully intone, “You’re dead to me.” Which might not always be a bad thing?

Posted by: brandextenders | December 26, 2013

Goals that aren’t Written are Simply Wishes

(This is an edited version of a previous blog. I recently sat down to write the “story” I’ll use to embed my goals into my mind and trust this is useful for you as well.) 

I hate resolutions. They are usually hard, difficult things I don’t really want to do. The sales guru, Jeffrey Gitomer sums up my feelings; “Not that I’m against resolutions, but they seem to have a negative connotation. Take off something (weight). Fatten something (wallet) quit something (smoking, eating, drinking). All either negative or too challenging to ever accomplish.” Instead of resolutions, I sit down at this time each year and develop my goal story for the coming year.

Earl Nightingale says “Goals are the pursuit of a worthy ideal” and goals must be defined with a beginning and an end otherwise they can become exercises in futility. I’ve worked out early in the mornings for many years and while I may not like getting up that early (5:15am) I truly feel better the rest of the day. Like clockwork every January hoards of new people start showing up at the gym early to exercise vowing to keep their New Year’s resolution and get fit. Within a month people are dropping like flies and by three months, perhaps just 1% of those who started are still sweating it out each morning.  That’s a resolution gone awry.

Got GoalsCall it semantics, but the word “goal” is more concrete for what I want to accomplish and goals should be concrete to help us focus our daily tasks in such a way as to reach them. Instead of saying, “I want to make more money next year” break down how much and how you plan to make it. Let’s say you’re in sales and you decide you want to make $20,000 more next year. If you work 49 weeks a year, that’s 245 days and if you divide the $20K by 245 you find you only need to earn an extra $82 per day to reach your goal. Easy peezy, huh?

Here are four things I’ve learned over time to do as I write-up my goals for the coming year:

  1. Most importantly for me, I write them as though they have already happened. This is what I call my “goal story.” The sub-conscious is a funny thing and it can’t differentiate between whether something is true of not. It sounds crazy, but if you read something over an over again as though it already happened the subconscious will work to ensure it happens. No guarantees, but numerous studies have shown people with written goals are more likely to succeed over those who simply have a goal or two in mind. Every day, close your eyes for a few moments and visualize yourself having achieved your goals. Seeing yourself in that new job or 20 lbs. thinner or with that extra $20,000 will give you confidence to keep plugging away. It can be easy to lose focus and get frustrated and visualizing your goals keeps you on track and moving forward.
  2. As noted above, goals need to be concrete. I want a new job or I want to lose weight are too vague. Decide exactly what kind of job you want, see it in your mind and see yourself performing the work. Same with losing weight. How much weight do you want to lose and how will you do it? Become a runner, work out three times a week, buy a treadmill? Be specific and make sure you…
  3. Write your goals down. As noted in #1, this is important for several reasons including helping you clarify what you want and giving you something visual to reference. Goals you don’t write down are simply thoughts in your brain and if yours is anything like mine, things tend to get lost up there. Another reason to write them down is so you can…
  4. Read your goals several times a day. When you’re fresh in the morning, read over your goals to remind yourself what to focus on each day. Keep several copies of them in different places at home and at work so you can reference them throughout the day. This will help burn them into your brain and keep them top-of-mind.

As religion has its atheists, so too goal setting has disbelievers, those who think setting goals can be counterproductive. One such soul is Ray Williams, author of several books wrote an article called “Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work.” His premise is the brain is resistant to change and goals, especially those that require substantial change, will be ignored by the gray matter in our heads and may even de-motivate us.

Commercial airlines don’t take off from an airport without a detailed flight plan of how they will get to their destination. The same with ships leaving port, so why would we not also have a plan of how to get from where we are to where we want to go? Without one we are like a cork on water, bobbing about with the pull of the tides. And at the risk of my brain going rogue on me, I’ll take the path of setting goals, referring to them every day and praying the tides are in my favor. How about you?

Author Steve Maraboli sums it up for me: “If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal – you have a wish.” Happy New Year and may all your goals come to pass.

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