Posted by: brandextenders | February 20, 2017

Virtual is the New Reality

Imagine standing on one of the world’s tallest peaks, turning 360 degrees to take in the stunning beauty and majesty surrounding you. Or in the driver’s seat of a NASCAR, zooming around Talladega or Daytona at mind-numbing speeds with crowds cheering you on. Then imagine you take off your headset and you’re back in the room where these adventures happened. Welcome to the world of VR or virtual reality.

The history of VR goes back to the 1830’s when Charles Wheatstone discovered our eyes 1939-view-master-adproduce a two-dimensional image the brain then turns into a three-dimensional view. Looking at two side-by-side images in an old-time stereoscope gave the viewer a feeling of depth and the popular View-Master many of us had as kids took this concept to the next level. The first head-mounted display, or HMD, debuted in 1960, but the term “virtual reality” wasn’t coined until 1987. Companies like Sony & Nintendo as well as Hollywood movies took VR to the next levels and today smartphones allow users to turn side-by-side images into an interactive experience in conjunction with a head-mounted display device.

Here are just a few of the industries that have turned VR into everyday reality:

  • Health Care: Surgeons use VR to practice surgery prior to an actual operation and med schools use it to train new doctors. Rehab facilities have found it beneficial in helping patients regain motor and cognitive skills after strokes or brain injury.
  • Automotive: Car manufacturers have been using VR for decades to aid in the design of new vehicles and spot potential problems prior to manufacturing. Auto dealers like Ford, Volvo and Hyundai are also using VR to let potential buyers “test drive” a car from the comfort of their home through an app on a smartphone.
  • Resorts: Watching a video of a hotel or property you’re considering vacationing at is OK, but imagine looking at these properties in an immersive experience to make you feel as though you are actually on-site. This can be done with a VR headset and 360-degree videos that are online or through an app. Cruise lines give potential travelers a tour of their ships that almost rivals actually being onboard.
  • Real Estate: You can walk-through homes for sale from the comfort of your realtor’s office to narrow your choices before you actually step foot into one. Architects and home builders use VR to help design buildings and homes and to ensure the various elements work well together.
  • Courtrooms: Rather than looking at two-dimensional pictures of a crime scene, jurors can see these same scenes in 3D through VR to better understand how people and objects, such as bullets, move through space and interact with one another.
  • Athletics: STriVR Labs creates VR experiences to train athletes in the NFL using real video of their teammates and their playbook before they even step on the field. Or imagine riding in the driver’s seat of a NASCAR to experience the feeling of what it’s like to drive 150 or 200 miles-per-hour.
vr-flying

Fly like Superman or Superwoman

As with most new technologies, there are concerns including VR becoming addictive (wouldn’t you rather be flying effortlessly above a beautiful mountain range than sitting in a dreary apartment or paying bills?) and its effects, if any, on young people is still unknown. Nausea, headaches and eyestrain can be a problem and in a Wall Street Journal article, Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson said his 15 years of research have consistently shown virtual reality can change how a user thinks and behaves, in part because it is so realistic.

Over time, the good and bad will be sorted out, but what is certain is that virtual reality is here to stay. Ben Schachter, an analyst for Macquarie Capital has noted, “Over the short-term, there are challenges. But over the long-term, we think it’s going to change every industry on the planet.” Want to stay ahead of your competition? Virtual Reality could be just the ticket. I’ll be writing more on this in future blogs as the technology gains a foothold in our real and virtual world.

Posted by: brandextenders | January 3, 2017

Hummingbird Don’t Fly Away

Last year, for the first time, I became fascinated with hummingbirds. Of course, they’ve been around every year of my life, but for some reason I started paying attention to them and have become a big fan of these tiny Aves.

These pugnacious and unsociable birds (except for a short time each year when they seek to mate) are amazing in so many ways. Below are just a few fun facts I’ve garnered about these little creatures with such a high-energy lifestyle:

  • There are close to 340 different species of hummingbird found throughout the Americas.
  • Each species of hummingbird makes a different humming sound, determined by the number of wing beats per second.
  • On average, a hummingbird weighs less than a nickel.
  • They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–90 times per second.
  • They’re the only bird that can fly backward
  • Average speeds exceed 33 MPH
  • Their feet are so tiny they can’t walk on the ground and even find it awkward to shuffle along a branch.
  • Hummingbirds need to eat twice their body weight in food every day and visit hundreds of flowers daily.
  • Hummingbirds eat nectar for the most part, but may catch an insect now and then for a protein boost.
  • Despite their tiny size, the ruby-throated hummingbird makes a remarkable annual migration of up to 3,000 miles, crossing over 500 miles of the Gulf of Mexico in a single trip on their way to Central America.
  • Their average life span is 3 ½ years.
  • Studies show hummingbirds remember every flower they’ve ever visited, including on migration routes. They can even recognize humans and which ones can be counted on to refill empty hummingbird feeders.

humming-psychThere are some great lessons to be learned from these delicate, yet resilient creatures that can help us on our path towards success.

Persistence: Imagine being a nickel with wings and you’ll understand how miraculous it is these tiny birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico each year to migrate. It’s often our own persistence that determines where we end up in life and how successful we become. Do you seek to overcome obstacles or let them hinder you from achieving your goals?

Memory: These tiny birds have a photographic mind that remembers every flower they’ve ever visited. Ever forget why you went into a room? Yeah, me too, which is why taking good notes and dumping that info in a database of some sort is important. You never know when the smallest detail might make or break a sale.

Versatility: Hummies can fly in every direction, including backward and upside down. Not bad for a bird and given the state of the world today, we too must be versatile and nimble to get ahead. The old saying that the only constant is change has never been truer and what’s hot today could very well be blasé tomorrow. Constantly evaluate your customers, your services and products to ensure you don’t become another Blockbuster Video or Borders Books.

Toughness: Close to 340 species survive and thrive in diverse and often brutal environments; from the Arizona desert to the 15,000-foot-plus snow-line of the Andes. To succeed in any endeavor also takes a certain amount of mental and sometimes physical toughness. It’s that little voice in your head that tells you to keep going, to push on even when you’re ready to quit. From marathoners to those in business, staying focused and keeping the goal in mind will help you stay on track and attain those lofty goals.

Despite their size, these amazing creatures imbue so many qualities we also can use to make our lives that much better. In the case of hummingbirds, size doesn’t matter because they certainly know how to use what God gave them.

Posted by: brandextenders | November 24, 2016

What’s Your Joy?

(I originally wrote this piece 10 years ago and re-publish it each holiday season because of all the requests I receive. It seems a good time of year to look for the joy in our lives and find ways to show it to others on a daily basis. Sadly, our friend’s mom who was the inspiration for this article passed away several years ago, but her passion and memory lives on in my mind.)

Elaine Feder's Smile

Elaine Feder’s Smile

We sat in the dining room of a friend’s home, having just finished a delicious and filling Thanksgiving meal. My wife, our two sons and I had taken a road trip to Florida to visit friends with children the same age as ours, albeit girls. Our friend’s mom, Elaine Feder,  a former dance instructor and now in her late 70s, sat across from me and it was she that asked the question, “What’s your joy?” One by one, we went around the table as she queried each of us, looking for an answer that came from our hearts.

For one of us, it was traveling and being able to help others go to the places she had been. Another told us reading was his passion—and taking naps (one with which I could strong identify!). Yet another loved woodworking and spending time in his shop creating things others would use and enjoy.

When she got to me, I answered, “My joy is my family and the time we spend together as I realize how, before we know it, our children will be grown and gone.” She responded that family should be a joy, but she probed deeper, wanting to know what lit my fire and what was it inside of me that sparked passion? I told her I loved to write and touch people’s hearts with the words I strung together to form the articles, stories and plays I create. I told her I also loved to teach about our industry and help others understand what a diverse and creative medium it is.

What this wise woman was hoping to do was to get me—and all of us around the table—thinking about what brought joy to our lives and how we could tap into it more often.

The sad part is that to survive in the work-a-day world, the majority of us have suppressed those things that make us passionate. Many have so repressed the things that bring them joy they can’t even tell you what really gets them fired up. In each of us though, no matter how deeply we’ve buried it, there is a passion that if brought to light and developed can not only make us happier as individuals but also bring joy to others as well.

Your work may be your passion, but chances are it is not. You may love to paint pictures, play an instrument, work in your garden or cook—and odds are you do this outside of your job. But why does this have to be?

I have a friend who is very good at sketching and has turned this love into a career by drawing people’s homes in pen and ink. She then sells these pictures to homeowners to frame for their walls, put on note cards, holiday cards and other things with the house prominently displayed. She loves what she does and is able to touch people’s hearts with the artistic gifts she’s been given.

So how do you go about finding your joy, your passion? Here are a few steps that may help:

  • During some quiet time in your life, ask yourself what you consider fun? What do you get a kick out of doing? Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, says, “Imagine you’re at a party and you overhear someone talking about a subject that fascinates you, one that makes you want to join in the conversation. Ask yourself, what would that subject be?” Also, think back to your childhood and try to remember what you enjoyed doing back then. Chances are if you were passionate about something as a child, it’s probably something you can be passionate about as an adult as well.
  • Determine your talents. Take a sheet of paper and brainstorm those things you enjoy doing and at which you’re good. We all have things we do that we enjoy and at which are skilled, but if you have trouble listing your gifts, ask those you trust what they think your best skills are. These might include sports, artistic endeavors, working with your hands or being mechanical.
  • Find the significance in your current work. Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, suggests asking yourself three questions:

1. Do I like what I’m doing?

2. Am I good at it?

3. Does the world need it?

If you’re passionate about something, but the world doesn’t need it, chances are you’ll eventually get frustrated. But if you’re really good at something, enjoy doing it and it’s something the world needs, what a chance to make a difference and earn a living at the same time. I truly believe we choose our career paths intuitively. If you can come to understand why you’re on the path you are, you’ll become empowered to make future choices to do the most good for yourself and the world around you.

Let’s face it, you’re going to spend tens of thousands of hours working during the course of your life, so why not spend that time doing something that will leave a positive imprint on those people and things you touch?

One of my passions is continuing education, and I agree with Oprah Winfrey who said, “Education is freedom.” As a result, I take classes on a regular basis to advance myself and had been working with Junior Achievement to teach business skills to 7th and 8th graders. These kids learn about science, math and social studies through a core curriculum, but business skills are something they may not learn until college, if then. I realize these kids won’t take what I teach them and become the next Bill Gates, Ted Turner or Fred Smith (founder of FedEx); but I pray I can reach just one in each class and touch something inside that one to help make a positive difference for the future. The key is I don’t know which of the kids I’ll reach, so I treat them all as though they are the one—and who knows, maybe one day I will reach them all!

What Brings You Joy?

What Brings You Joy?

Finding your joy and a way to share it with others, as your life’s work or a hobby, is an adventure that can bring bountiful rewards. To me, it’s what life is all about, the reason I’m here and why I wake up each day excited about the opportunities I’ll encounter. That’s not to say it’s always an easy adventure, but what in life that’s worthwhile is easy? Katherine Graham, owner and former publisher of the Washington Post, sums it up for me, “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

Posted by: brandextenders | June 16, 2016

Never Give Up

Imagine this conversation between a sales manager and his rep:

Sales Manager:  So tell me, what’s the biggest challenge you have when you’re looking for new business?

Rep: (listen for the whine in their voice) No one calls me back. I send emails, I leave messages and all I get is dead air. It’s very frustrating.

SM: How many times do you reach out and how often?

Rep: I’ll usually call once or twice and send an email or two and if I haven’t heard back by then I say screw it. I’ll call or email them every day, sometimes once in the morning and again in the afternoon when I haven’t heard back.

SM: So you try three of four times before you give up?

Rep: Yep. There’s lots of fish in the sea so I move on after a few tries, but ironically the same thing seems to be happening over and over.

Persistence

Many give up just shy of their goal

Imagine that, the same thing keeps happening over and over again.  Ever heard the definition of crazy? Doing the same thing the same way over and over again and expecting different results. Sales is not a walk-in-the-park, no matter what anyone might tell you.  And finding people with the right mindset to be successful isn’t always easy. If you don’t believe me, check out these stats from a conglomeration of sources:

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
  • 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop
  • Only 10% of salespeople make more than three contacts
  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

The question then is what can you do to increase your odds of connecting with prospects long enough to engage them? Here are things I’ve done over the years that helped me get to the right people:

  • Variety is the spice of life so mix up your tactics. Use the phone, email, snail mail and carrier pigeons. If you start with an email, follow up with a call, then perhaps lumpy mail (a bulky envelope or package the recipient feels compelled to open that may have a promotional product and handwritten note inside), another call, reach out on social media, email, rinse and repeat. Always connect the dots by referring to one of your previous calls or the promo product you sent or an email to help them remember who you are.
  • Don’t stalk or harass potential customers and wait at least two to three days between each contact, but no more than a week giving them time to respond since you probably aren’t at the top of their priority list.
  • Don’t whine. Prospects don’t care you have a spouse and three hungry mouths to feed. You’re an interruption in their life and if you can’t solve a problem, don’t expect a return call.
  • Research your prospects. Know enough to be dangerous and show the value you bring to their organization and why they should meet with you. And never, ever, ever talk price on initial contacts. If the only way you can sell is to offer the cheapest prices on your product or service, success will be ever elusive.
  • Use social media. Linkedin is a fantastic way to find people in your network who can offer valuable insight into a prospect. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Periscope all can be used as selling tools to gather information or comment on something posted. And this might be an appropriate time to mention how important it is not to post stupid stuff on the social media accounts you use for business. Political and religious comments are verboten along with pictures that might not be flattering. If you don’t think prospects are researching you as well, you’re delusional.
  • Patience is a virtue and based on the stats above, most sales people have the patience of a gnat. Understand you might get the occasional prospect on the phone the first time, but that will be an anomaly. When you start the process (which should be ongoing by the way) it may take two or three weeks to make an initial contact and perhaps a few more weeks before an actual meeting takes place. So hang in there and know that good things come to those who wait.
  • Most of all be professional. Keep emails and voice mails short and to the point, always check your spelling, say please and thank you, find commonalities and follow-up.

Prospecting is tough and the hardest part might be the persistence it takes to get through to a potential prospect. “Energy and persistence conquer all things” according to Benjamin Franklin while Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” So if you show up and are persistent according to Ben and Woody, you’ll be well on your way to finding new customers who will keep your spouse and three hungry kids well fed and happy.

 

Posted by: brandextenders | March 29, 2016

Losers are Winners?

If You're Not First, You're Last“If you ain’t first, you’re last. You know what I’m talking about? ” Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights

Let’s face it we all want to win, right? That competitive edge is built into each of us whether it’s arm wrestling, making the next big sale, winning the Tour de France or simply getting to the next level in that stupid video game. It’s a DNA fragment within each of us that has pushed our human race to ever greater heights and continues to do so each day. I hate losing as much as I hate people doing 35 in the fast lane, but it happens.

The reality is there are far more losers than winners in any competition and we need to understand we can learn just as much from losing as we can from being the victor. Everyone fails at some point at something and how you react to that failure will determine where you go next. Lincoln, Edison, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs all lost at some point in their quest, but they all came back stronger and went on to win.

  • Be humble. If you’ve lost at something, admit it, congratulate the winner and move on. Don’t beat yourself up and realize you’ve been given a chance to assess your performance and make adjustments as needed.
  • Visualize. Sit down and recall your performance to determine what went wrong. Then, visualize your desired outcome, how you want it to go down next time and see that in your head over and over again. In addition to the other steps you’re taking to improve, take time every day to envision yourself winning and taking home the gold (so to speak).
  • Plan. What did you do right and what did you do wrong? Would more practice help? Make a list of the things you need to change or work on and formulate a plan to make it happen. Losses are temporary setbacks and with work, effort and a plan you can come back even stronger and claim victory next time.
  • Be Passionate. Mediocrity is for losers. Winners are passionate and use this obsession to push themselves even when the going gets tough, and it will. Thomas Edison tried 9,999 times to create a light bulb and failed and had he stopped there…well, thankfully he didn’t. His passion for his work kept him going. Be fanatical if you must and persistently pursue your dream to its realization.
  • Always be Improving. Once you’ve done all the above and are the winner, know you are now everyone else’s target. Don’t let victory make you lazy though; always be looking for ways to improve your performance to keep your lead over the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to win every time because as George Brett, former Kansas City Royals third baseman said, “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.” And that my friend is motivation enough to turn my loss into a win in no time at all.

Toothless granny

Posted by: brandextenders | January 5, 2016

Innovate or Die

Fortune_500The first Fortune 500 list debuted in 1955 and 60 years later, 88% of those companies are gone. See if you can name the companies below that were once common names and are now symbols of what not to do:

  • This company sold 90% of all film and 85% of all cameras as recently as 1976. They invented digital photography, but didn’t pursue it as a business and filed for bankruptcy in 2012
  • This is where you went to rent videos and games at any of their 9,000 locations. They passed on the opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000 for $50 million and shuttered their last locations in 2013 after becoming irrelevant.
  • Once one of the largest booksellers in the U.S., this company chose to outsource their online sales to Amazon rather than do it themselves. When they finally launched their own site in 2008 they still didn’t embrace digital media and closed their doors in 2011.

Businesses must continue to innovate each and every day or they will become irrelevant and ultimately out of business. But so too must we as individuals work to always be evaluating and rethinking the way we do things in our daily lives.

Gen X and the Millennials have changed the way business is being transacted and if you can’t or won’t change the way you are going after these younger buyers, your business will suffer a slow death. My 23 and 19-year-old sons are a prime example of this for me, preferring text and emails over talking on the phone. These younger generations also educate themselves online about the products and services they are pursuing prior to buying and they like to post reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp to let others know about their experience. They also have an aversion to traditional and even online advertising so the traditional ways of reaching these generations doesn’t work anymore.

New generations have always brought with them new ways of doing things however the Internet and social media have created disruptive changes at an ever-increasing pace. That means those of us in sales must continually be looking at the value we bring and how best to present it to these new buyers. It also means we can never rest on our laurels and must always be looking ahead and educating ourselves on the newest trends in selling, marketing and advertising. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, but something will and it’s our job to understand what that something is.

Companies like Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders did a phenomenal job of creating businesses that worked, but theirinnovate-or-die leaders weren’t looking ahead far enough ahead to understand how to continue their growth in an ever-changing marketplace. As the New Year kicks off, take a look at what you’re doing to innovate what you do on a daily basis. That means asking the right questions of your customers and yourself to evaluate if what you’re doing is working.

Companies like Apple & Google continue to reinvent themselves through research and innovation. As individuals should we do any less? As Henry Ford, someone who changed the world with his automotive innovations said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Posted by: brandextenders | December 7, 2015

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Do you lie awake at night staring up at the ceiling worrying about your work, your kids, paying the bills,

Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious mascot of Mad Magazine

Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious mascot of Mad Magazine

relationships, family squabbles or any of a hundred other things? If there’s one thing that tends to tie most humans together it’s the fact we all spend a fair amount of time worrying. The word itself derives from Old English and Old German words meaning to strangle or “seize by the throat and tear.” The question is, what does worry accomplish? Studies have shown the effects of excessive worry can be devastating to our health including shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, irritability, short-term memory loss and digestive disorders.

The thing about worry is most of it is pointless. Earl Nightingale was a well-known radio personality, writer and motivational speaker and spoke often of this estimate of what most people worry about:

  • Things that never happen: 40%. That is, 40% of the things you worry about will never occur
  • Things over and past that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world: 30%
  • Needless worries about our health: 12%
  • Petty, miscellaneous worries: 10%
  • Real, legitimate worries: 8%. Only 8% of your worries are worth concerning yourself about. 92% are pure fog with no substance at all.

Understanding that the majority of our worries are pointless though won’t immediately help us stop worrying. There are some things we can do to help ease the stress and manage our worries:

  1. A 2011 study at Penn State University found setting aside 30 minutes each day to worry while also looking for solutions is highly beneficial. There are four steps to the process they recommend and the first is to identify what it is worrying you. Secondly, set up a time and place to think about this problem. Third, if you catch yourself worrying at other times of the day, focus your mind elsewhere and lastly, use your worry time productively to develop solutions to your worries.
  2. Learn to distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries. Ask yourself if the worry you have is real or imagined (remember 40% of worries never occur) and if imagined, how likely is it to become real? Is there something you can do to prepare for it or is it something you have no control over? Worrying about things like, “Will I get cancer?” or “Am I going to Heaven or Hell?” are no-win worries. You can’t solve them and learning to accept uncertainty in your life is a good start since we can’t control everything that happens to us. Life is unpredictable and bad things sometimes happen that all the worrying the world won’t stop.
  3. If you aren’t already, start a regular exercise routine to reduce anxiety and stress which in turn helps reduce worry. Regular meditation is another way to lessen anxiety with studies showing anxiety levels can decrease by as much as 39% after a meditation session.
  4. Write your worries down and then let them go. Psychologists have noted that writing down our worries and anxieties can help us to see them as they really are; things we can’t always control. And as you write them down your brain will be looking for ways to solve those that are real while poo-pooing those that are a figment of our imagination.

Chronic worrying can cause physical symptoms including headaches, the inability to concentrate, sweating, accelerated heartbeat, dizziness, nausea and rapid breathing. And these can lead to even more unpleasant outcomes including premature heart disease, suppression of the immune system, short-term memory loss, digestive disorders and heart attacks. In other words, we truly can worry ourselves to death.

Bobby McFerrin in his song, “Don’t Worry, be Happy” notes in every life we have some trouble, but when we worry we make it double.

Finally, a couple of quotes to sum up worry and how little good it does us to spend much time doing it:

“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” Author Unknown

“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”    E. Joseph Cossman

Posted by: brandextenders | November 24, 2015

What’s Your Joy

(I originally wrote this piece nine years ago and re-publish it each holiday season because of all the requests I receive. It seems a good time of year to look for the joy in our lives and find ways to show it to others on a daily basis. Sadly, our friend’s mom who was the inspiration for this article passed away several years ago, but her passion and memory lives on in my mind.)

Elaine Feder's Smile

Elaine Feder’s Smile

We sat in the dining room of a friend’s home, having just finished a delicious and filling Thanksgiving meal. My wife, our two sons and I had taken a road trip to Florida to visit friends with children the same age as ours, albeit girls. Our friend’s mom, Elaine Feder,  a former dance instructor and now in her late 70s, sat across from me and it was she that asked the question, “What’s your joy?” One by one, we went around the table as she queried each of us, looking for an answer that came from our hearts.

For one of us, it was traveling and being able to help others go to the places she had been. Another told us reading was his passion—and taking naps (one with which I could strong identify!). Yet another loved woodworking and spending time in his shop creating things others would use and enjoy.

When she got to me, I answered, “My joy is my family and the time we spend together as I realize how, before we know it, our children will be grown and gone.” She responded that family should be a joy, but she probed deeper, wanting to know what lit my fire and what was it inside of me that sparked passion? I told her I loved to write and touch people’s hearts with the words I strung together to form the articles, stories and plays I create. I told her I also loved to teach about our industry and help others understand what a diverse and creative medium it is.

What this wise woman was hoping to do was to get me—and all of us around the table—thinking about what brought joy to our lives and how we could tap into it more often.

The sad part is that to survive in the work-a-day world, the majority of us have suppressed those things that make us passionate. Many have so repressed the things that bring them joy they can’t even tell you what really gets them fired up. In each of us though, no matter how deeply we’ve buried it, there is a passion that if brought to light and developed can not only make us happier as individuals but also bring joy to others as well.

Your work may be your passion, but chances are it is not. You may love to paint pictures, play an instrument, work in your garden or cook—and odds are you do this outside of your job. But why does this have to be?

I have a friend who is very good at sketching and has turned this love into a career by drawing people’s homes in pen and ink. She then sells these pictures to homeowners to frame for their walls, put on note cards, holiday cards and other things with the house prominently displayed. She loves what she does and is able to touch people’s hearts with the artistic gifts she’s been given.

So how do you go about finding your joy, your passion? Here are a few steps that may help:

  • During some quiet time in your life, ask yourself what you consider fun? What do you get a kick out of doing? Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, says, “Imagine you’re at a party and you overhear someone talking about a subject that fascinates you, one that makes you want to join in the conversation. Ask yourself, what would that subject be?” Also, think back to your childhood and try to remember what you enjoyed doing back then. Chances are if you were passionate about something as a child, it’s probably something you can be passionate about as an adult as well.
  • Determine your talents. Take a sheet of paper and brainstorm those things you enjoy doing and at which you’re good. We all have things we do that we enjoy and at which are skilled, but if you have trouble listing your gifts, ask those you trust what they think your best skills are. These might include sports, artistic endeavors, working with your hands or being mechanical.
  • Find the significance in your current work. Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, suggests asking yourself three questions:

1. Do I like what I’m doing?

2. Am I good at it?

3. Does the world need it?

If you’re passionate about something, but the world doesn’t need it, chances are you’ll eventually get frustrated. But if you’re really good at something, enjoy doing it and it’s something the world needs, what a chance to make a difference and earn a living at the same time. I truly believe we choose our career paths intuitively. If you can come to understand why you’re on the path you are, you’ll become empowered to make future choices to do the most good for yourself and the world around you.

Let’s face it, you’re going to spend tens of thousands of hours working during the course of your life, so why not spend that time doing something that will leave a positive imprint on those people and things you touch?

One of my passions is continuing education, and I agree with Oprah Winfrey who said, “Education is freedom.” As a result, I take classes on a regular basis to advance myself and had been working with Junior Achievement to teach business skills to 7th and 8th graders. These kids learn about science, math and social studies through a core curriculum, but business skills are something they may not learn until college, if then. I realize these kids won’t take what I teach them and become the next Bill Gates, Ted Turner or Fred Smith (founder of FedEx); but I pray I can reach just one in each class and touch something inside that one to help make a positive difference for the future. The key is I don’t know which of the kids I’ll reach, so I treat them all as though they are the one—and who knows, maybe one day I will reach them all!

What Brings You Joy?

What Brings You Joy?

Finding your joy and a way to share it with others, as your life’s work or a hobby, is an adventure that can bring bountiful rewards. To me, it’s what life is all about, the reason I’m here and why I wake up each day excited about the opportunities I’ll encounter. That’s not to say it’s always an easy adventure, but what in life that’s worthwhile is easy? Katherine Graham, owner and former publisher of the Washington Post, sums it up for me, “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

Posted by: brandextenders | October 6, 2015

It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

What a record: He served in WW II as a gunner’s mate on D-Day in Normandy, played 19 years as catcher for the New York Yankees beginning in 1946, played in 18 All-Star games, 14 World Series, won three Most Valuable Player awards and later served as coach of both the New York Mets and New York Yankees. But Yogi Berra, born Lawrence Peter Berra, is probably best known for his “Yogi-isms” or sayings that lacked logic, but had nuggets of truth within. Not all the sayings attributed to him were actually his, leading him to famously note, “I never said most of the things I said.”

"The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase."

“The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.”

Here are a few of my favorite Yogi-isms along with my own interpretation of their illogical logic:

  • “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” Floating through life like a cork on water may take you places you don’t want to go. Setting goals, planning and strategizing your life will give you a path to follow, but sometimes, as Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Don’t let your plans blind you to opportunities that may take you in a whole new direction.
  • “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.” It’s easy to blame others, to blame things, to blame the universe for what’s happening in your life. Success comes from taking action and working to make your dreams come true. As Yogi said, “You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.” Taking responsibility for your life will make you a better person.
  • “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” It’s easy to worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month, but most worry is useless. Rather than worrying about the future, focus on today and what you can do to make your future brighter.
  • “You can observe a lot by watching.” For scientists to prove a hypothesis they must observe and use their senses to understand. You wouldn’t cross a street without first observing whether any cars are close enough to kill you, right? Take time to observe the world around you and find where you can make a difference. And remember to listen more and talk less because as Yogi noted, “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
  • “Take it with a grin of salt.” Life is too short to do things that don’t move you forward. Don’t take things too seriously (unless you’re a brain surgeon) and learn to roll with the punches. Timing is everything. “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.”
  • “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Don’t give up on goals or life or anything. One lost battle does not lose the war and should things get really tough, always remember you can “Pair up in threes.”

Sportswriter and journalist Allen Barra described Berra’s witticisms as “distilled bits of wisdom which, like good country songs and old John Wayne movies, get to the truth in a hurry.” We’ll miss your pithy comments Yogi and Joe Biden’s malapropisms will never be able to replace yours.

Posted by: brandextenders | September 15, 2015

Order Taker or Problem Solver?

Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried decision, right? Do you take orders all day long or do you help people solve their work or personal challenges? Let’s see, the attendant at a drive-up window at the local fast food joint or salesman for a high-tech company that supplies the military with satellite navigational devices. You’d think the fast food person pretty much takes orders and the high-tech guy is a problem solver, right? But don’t judge a book by its cover.

Not just an order taker

Not just an order taker

It’s rare, but I’ve heard drive through people who are born salespeople. They are smiling when they ask for your order, but they also suggest options other than “would you like fries with that order?”  They make it easy to place your order, they’re efficient and say “thank you” as you drive off. On the other hand, I’ve seen supposed big-time salespeople who simply take the order for products or services from a procurement manager. No questions, no up-selling although they may remember to say “thank you.”

What differentiates someone as an order taker or problem solver in life? Here are just a few traits you might recognize in yourself:

  • Creative: Problem solvers are always looking for a solution to the challenges they face and not necessarily the most obvious ones. They look for creative solutions, ways that will differentiate them from the pack. Sales is a completely different game today than it was five or 10 years ago. The Internet has changed things and made it much easier for customers to find information and look for the cheapest price. Problem solvers don’t sell price, they sell solutions that solve problems, plain and simple.
  • A desire to help others: Order takers want to be helpful as long as they don’t have to do much to make that happen. Problem solvers, for the most part, have a true desire in their heart to help others. They will go above and beyond to help their customers, friends and family solve the challenges that arise and will do it with a smile as big as the Grand Canyon. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, always looking for new ideas around which they can create a business
  • No whining: Problem solvers don’t whine. If one option doesn’t work, it’s on to another and another and another until they find one or agree one doesn’t exist. But to whine would be counter-productive and wouldn’t get them any closer to helping others find creative solutions. As Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “If you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have time to do something about it.”
  • Go beyond the obvious: Almost every challenge or issue has an immediate and obvious answer. That doesn’t mean however that first answer is always the best course of action and problem solvers dig deeper. They’ll ask questions, take notes and discover what’s working and what’s not. Their options will usually be more encompassing and will look to not only solve the immediate challenges but those that may yet be on the horizon.
  • Always willing to learn: Order takers are happy there are clients that don’t need a lot of hand-holding. Problem solvers want clients that challenge them and make them look for new ways to tackle challenges. They are always learning, reading books and articles, taking classes. They understand the world is growing at an incredibly fast pace and if you aren’t keeping up, you’re falling behind. They understand continuous self-education is a key to their success.

At the end of the day, I’d say I fall into both of these categories. While I’m more than willing to be an order taker if that’s all I think an opportunity offers, my best work is done when I’m working to solve a problem. That’s when the creative juices kick in, when I’m most enthusiastic and when my customers understand I’m there to help them with their challenges and to help make them look good.

The need for problem solvers is at an all-time high as the world grows more and more complex. If you learn all you can, go beyond the obvious, be creative and don’t whine, chances are you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams and help others along the way.

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