By Failing to Prepare, You Are Indeed Preparing to Fail

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How many of you have heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail?”

If this is your first time seeing it, read it again. I cannot stress the importance of these wise words enough. People often talk about how they are waiting for their big break or that if they were just given the opportunity, they would take it and run with it.

But would they really? That would mean that they have to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself, and unfortunately, the majority are simply not. A really bad habit to get into is talking more about what you would do given the opportunity — than actually working to create that reality.

Those who are proactive about their possibilities know that they can create opportunities for themselves, and in that process, prime themselves for success. If you feel there is not enough opportunity knocking, ask yourself if you are preparing for it as much as you are talking about it.

One thing I’ve learned from being both unprepared and prepared at pivotal times in my life is that life presents us with limited windows of opportunity. These windows may never come again. Many are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There are windows that will swing open, and if you’re not ready at that moment, you have to bite the bullet and accept it as a missed opportunity.

In high school, I was a baseball standout. I had MLB scouts coming to watch me play, and because I got involved in delinquent behavior, I was kicked off my baseball team. I wasn’t mentally prepared. I had all the talent in the world — but that wasn’t enough. I had to reluctantly accept it as a major loss, and understand that only I was to blame.

It is important that no matter how skilled, talented or knowledgeable you are in your respective field, you must spend time every day preparing. Prepare for the next step, the next goal, the next big moment when it arises — because you never know when it will come. I’ve found that the biggest regrets come from individuals who had a window of opportunity that they weren’t prepared for. Whether it was the job interview that they tried to wing, or the endorsement that they lost. There is nothing worse than the feeling of your dreams being close enough to touch and them slipping through your fingertips, never to return.

Whether I look at my life as an athlete or in the business-arena, preparation makes all the difference. Preparing for a game and studying your opponent is necessary in order to win. If you don’t know your opponents’ strengths, you’re going to come out blindly hoping that your skill level will outplay theirs. True champions do more than that. They don’t gamble on their skill level. They combine it with diligent preparation.

Going into a meeting looking for a capital investment for your start-up and relying on your knowledge and passion is simply not enough. True successors combine their passion and knowledge with meticulous research and preparation. You need to know who your investors are before you can convince them how valuable this investment is for them, not you.

Before a keynote, I don’t just go on stage and give a blanket speech on performance, leadership or sales. I study the organization I’m speaking to, crunch their numbers, address their challenges, and cater content specifically to them. This preparation makes all the difference and will set you apart from the people just going with the motions.

It’s often obvious to tell those who are prepared or not. Whether it’s the start-up pitch, the keynote speaker or the athlete taking the field, preparation is not a concept you can throw together quick. You cannot “fake it ‘til you make it,” and you can’t wing it.

It takes time, discipline, thought, effort, research, organization and even some meditation. It’s an investment in yourself, your product and your business, and those who are prepared are noticed. If you want to create possibilities, prime yourself for success, and capitalize on opportunity. You must simply begin to prepare as such.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Facing All-Encompassing Doubt, Roger Bannister Still Broke the 4-Minute Mile. You Too Must Believe in Your Strengths.

20160412145452-roger-bannister-4-mile-barrierImage credit: Mike Hewitt | Getty Images

Self-doubt is all too common in today’s world. We have a terrible habit of letting our fears, our weaknesses and what happened in the past creep into the present and diminish our self-belief. It’s time to kick this crippling habit we know all too well. All of the failures, mistakes and heartbreaks that we have endured in the past — leave them there. They serve no purpose in the present unless you are looking back to see how far you’ve come.

When we bring negative events from our past into the present, we cloud our ability to see what’s possible and what’s important in our lives. We need to learn from all of the misfortunes in our lives and use them as a never-ending vehicle of opportunity to grow. No matter how difficult it may seem, never let the doubts of life paralyze the belief that you have in yourself. If you are deliberate about this concept, your future will be limitless.

Directing your focus towards everything that went wrong over the years will do nothing but keep you stagnant. Moving forward in life personally and professionally requires you to learn from the negatives and allow these moments to be the building blocks, the solid foundation of creating a bigger future for yourself.  Dwelling on all of our weaknesses and the substantial odds of achieving our goals is a sure way to fall short. We must think and do the impossible, and it all begins with self-belief.

One of my favorite examples of this is Olympian, Roger Bannister. Back in the 1950’s experts thought that there was no way possible that the 4-minute mile could ever be broken. They just thought that it wasn’t humanly possible. However, Roger Bannister came along and changed everyone’s view on what the experts once deemed an impossible feat to accomplish.

Roger Bannister not only broke the 4-minute mile, but he created a paradigm shift for so many others, to go on to do the same. Roger Bannister didn’t dwell on the experts’ opinions or what everyone else was saying was impossible to do. He believed in his ability more than he doubted it. Forget what anyone says about your loftiest goals and dreams, that business you want to start or the challenges that you currently face. The only thing that truly matters is that you let your self-belief become more powerful than your self-doubt.

I believe that we all have the seeds of greatness planted within us regardless of how hard, unfortunate or terrible we may temporarily think our life has been up to this point. Somewhere deep inside, we all have big dreams and strong desires. Things we want to accomplish, things we want to change, things we want to build, and things we want to do throughout the course of our lives.

But all so often, life has a tendency of getting in the way. Big plans end up falling through unexpectedly. The tragedy of losing a loved one strikes once again. Over time, our self-doubt begins to grow stronger than our self-belief.

This shift of believing in the negative and doubting the positive, creates an all too comfortable space and reliance on mediocrity. Settling for right where you are. Settling for less than your abilities. Settling even when it is fatal to your goals.

We are all here for a purpose. No moment in time is a waste. Instead of focusing on the mishaps and losses in your life, your fears or your weaknesses, do everything in your power to focus on the wins. Focus on your strengths. No matter how big or small they may be, get in the habit of counting your blessings every single day of your life, and direct your focus towards all of the good surrounding you.

Don’t doubt the talents and abilities that were only given to you. They are exclusively yours to harness and do great things with. Do everything in your power to get your fire back. Claim your greatness and recreate your swagger. Develop and search for a deeper meaning for your life. Continually put yourself in a positive, faith-filled environment everywhere you go.  Your belief must always outweigh your doubt, and you must lead with your strengths — not your weaknesses.

The message that I hope to get through to you today is that the power is already within you to create whatever life you desire for yourself no matter what you’ve been dealt in the past. You have the ability to make your life a masterpiece and leave a spectacular legacy that lives much longer than you do. Amp up your self-belief, and kick the self-doubt. There’s no room for both.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

 

3 Ways to Win the Morning and Save the Day

20160407210106-GettyImages-511073553Image credit: Getty | jean-marc payet / Contributor

I am a firm believer in how we start our day determines how the rest of our day goes. If you go to bed late, hit the snooze button multiple times, roll out of bed later than you were supposed to, get stuck in traffic, and then end up being late to work, that’s a good indication to how the rest of your day will go.

Most people are the furthest thing from being intentional about how their mornings go and what they do first thing when they wake up. Jim Rohn famously said, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough people who run their days. Instead, they let their work, other people and technology rule their every move in the morning. They neglect themselves and forget about the self-love that is needed in the morning to set yourself up for a majorly successful day.

I am fortunate that in being a former athlete, I am ridiculously obsessed with structure and having a plan for my mornings before I do anything else.

Here are three simple ways to dominate your morning.

1. Don’t check email for the first hour upon waking.

For some of you, this may seem like an impossible task to follow through with, but I promise that it will completely shock you at how it makes you feel over time. What do you do when you check your email? You respond to what everyone else wants from you or is asking you to do.

Instead of being proactive and setting the tone to how your day is going to go, you are spending precious and valuable time being reactive to everyone else’s wants and needs. I put this practice into my own life two years ago, and I was blown away by the results.

It’s amazing what can happen when you leave your phone alone in the morning and don’t check your email while you go to work on yourself doing things such as meditating, working out or reading before doing anything else.

2. Give your body the fuel that it needs.

The second thing that most people do in the morning after waking once they have checked their email is consume a ton of sugar and drugs to get their day started. Scarfing down sugar and caffeine first thing in the morning believe it or not is not the most beneficial way to start your day. You may feel energized and ready to go, but that same feeling is the main culprit as to why so many crash and feel sluggish after lunch and later in the day.

Give your body the fuel that it needs. I start each morning with a glass of warm lemon water to jumpstart the detoxification process, a green juice from Suja Juice and hydrate myself with water before I do anything else.

I’m not telling you to not drink coffee or indulge in your favorite drink, but I am encouraging you to give it a try in giving your body the fuel and energy it needs to sustain peak-performance all day long.

3. Work on yourself before you start your workday.

Working on yourself could refer to exercising, journaling some sort of spiritual practice or reading, among many other things. Find a routine that works best for you and execute on that routine every morning. The only requirement is that it involves working on yourself somehow, someway before you begin your workday. To me, this is the ultimate game changer that can be included to anyone’s morning routine.

When you set aside the time to work on yourself before you start your workday, you not only will begin to grow as a human being, but you will increase happiness levels, drastically decrease stress, anxiety and other negative emotions that rob so many of us from keeping a peaceful and healthy mind.

Find something that fits well with your schedule and goals, and then formulate a plan to follow through with that every morning. Over time, the results will be astonishing. Working on ourselves is something that so many of us forget to do in this fast paced and strenuous world that we live in. Self-care, self-love and self-growth are three wonderful gifts that you can give yourself each morning — and you do just that when you work on yourself.

Instead of talking about specific morning routines which has been written about so much, I wanted to share three practices that have added great value to my mornings and life since I have incorporated them. They are extremely simple things to do, but pack an incredible punch of excellence when you religiously follow through on them. Remember, when you win the morning, you win the day.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

8 Things Exceptional Thinkers Do Every Day

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Everything that we are and everything that we are not is an end result from our current level of thinking. Every great achievement in history came from exceptional thinking. Every man or woman to ever rise to the top of their profession had exceptional thinking that played a major role in getting them to where they are.

I have never met a high achiever who lacked in their level of thinking. Our feelings, emotions, professional success and happiness levels are all affected by our thinking and what takes place on a daily basis from the neck up.

If you aren’t currently happy with where you are at in life or in your professional journey, there is great news. You can drastically alter where you are and everything around you by changing your thinking. Just like any other important habit, you can’t become an exceptional thinker if you practice it only once in awhile. Working on your mind and thinking must become a daily practice.

Here are eight things exceptional thinkers do daily.

1. They focus on the positive.

Every single day of our lives, we have a choice when we wake up in the morning whether we are going to direct our focus on the positive or negative. Exceptional thinkers know the importance of where they direct their focus. They fully understand that it impacts their energy levels and will determine how they perform. You can eliminate a lot of the worry, stress, and anxiety just by choosing to focus on the positive. Regardless of how big or small, force yourself to see the good in every situation no matter how miniscule it may be.

2. They spend time in solitude.

Exceptional thinkers know that we live in a noisy and distracting world and therefore prioritize the importance of spending time alone. If you go pick up an autobiography of your favorite inventor, president, or even athlete, you will realize that they valued alone time to reflect and think in solitude.

3. They have a long-term vision.

Exceptional thinkers have a clear vision of where they want to be in the future and all of the things that they need to do in order to make that become a reality. They rarely get discouraged and disappointed because of short-term obstacles because of this powerful long-term vision that they have for their life.

4. They have a mindset-development routine.

Whether it’s a special morning routine to jump start their day, reading positive books first thing in the morning, or listening to empowering podcasts and audiobooks while commuting, they go to work on their mind daily. Most people wait for something positive to happen throughout their day to have good thoughts, but exceptional thinkers are proactive towards positively developing their mind every chance they get.

5. They only associate with those who build them up.

There is nothing more detrimental to one’s thinking than hanging around others who are constantly negative and energy vampires. You adopt the habits and channel the energy of those around you, so make it a habit to surround yourself with positive people and remain in good company.

6. They eat clean and healthy.

A large majority of the population is oblivious as to what you put into your body on a daily basis and how that plays a role in your thinking. What you drink and eat every single day greatly impacts how you feel and how well your brain operates.

To further understand just how important what you eat is to how well you think, I highly recommend checking out Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Daniel Amen. Two of my favorites when it comes to brain optimization and thriving on all cylinders.

7. They find time to regularly workout.

I have talked about the benefits of working out and how it can tremendously impact productivity levels, but the same goes for brain health and increasing your current level of thinking. The endorphins released during routine exercise are packed with positivity.

8. They have an attitude of gratitude.

Your thinking and life in general is just that much better when you possess an attitude of gratitude and find ways to regularly acknowledge all that you are grateful for. It’s impossible to be truly grateful and miserable at the same time.

There are a lot of things that exceptional thinkers do on a daily basis to help them rise above, but the above eight things that I have listed have greatly impacted the way I think on a daily basis. When you understand just how important your mind is and work to constantly upgrade your level of thinking, your life will be upgraded in return.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Want to Defeat Stress, Anxiety and Worry? Exercise, Say ‘Thank You’ a Lot and Use The Calm App.

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Stress, anxiety and worry are three things that drastically interfere with millions of people unleashing their best work and tapping into their full potential. Some are better than others at minimizing the negative effects that stress, anxiety and worry can have, but at one point or another, all of us will experience some sort of discomfort from the killer three I like to call them.

I call them the killer three, because they not only stop people from unleashing their best work and tapping into their full potential, but over time they actually do a whole lot more than prevent us from achieving success. Heart attacks, strokes, suicides and many other social and physical impairments can be brought upon by the killer three if we aren’t intentional about practicing mindfulness each and every day and working to defeat stress, anxiety and worry.

Here are three ways to help you defeat the killer three.

1. Start incorporating meditation into your life daily.

Meditation is a complete game-changer when it comes to defeating stress, anxiety and worry. Not only does it do a fantastic job of minimizing all of the side effects from the killer three, but the other benefits you reap when you invest in daily meditation is extraordinary.

At first, I thought I could never be someone who would sit down and relax for 20 to 30 minutes to meditate. There was just no way. I had too much to do, and there were never enough hours in the day to accommodate my strenuous workload. However, when things eventually became too hectic to function efficiently, I looked to meditation as my last resort — and never looked back.

We hear about how important mediation is for brain power and overall health, but there are still too many who are reluctant to try it. A great way to get started is to use The Calm app, which has been invaluable, as I have it with me everywhere I go. It has guided and unguided mediation sessions and I really think it can add value to your life as it did mine. If you feel overwhelmed from your every day workload or stressed with life in general, meditation is a must.

2. Exercise.

There are plenty of productivity apps and all sorts of different gadgets that promise to increase productivity levels, but the most powerful productivity tool there is isn’t an app or gadget. It’s exercise. Not only does exercise release endorphins, positively impact your mindset and take your productivity to the next level, but it is an absolute must if you want to decrease the amount of stress, anxiety and worry in your life.

When I was an athlete, I never had the worry syndrome or let stress get the best of me, even though there was so much doubt and uncertainty looming ahead. When I analyzed what the difference was between the two, I noticed that when I was an athlete, there was never a day that went by without me investing back into my body and exercising.

Sure, that was a major part of my job as a professional athlete, but you don’t have to be a professional athlete to exercise regularly. I took major notice as to how I would feel when I would go weeks or even months at a time not paying much attention to exercise or making it a priority in my life.

I made excuses, and in return, I felt like complete crap physically and mentally. Your health is your livelihood, and convincing yourself that you don’t have time to workout or exercise for at least 30 minutes a day is adding more harm than benefit to your schedule. I promise you that you aren’t freeing yourself up to get more work done or get ahead professionally. I don’t know about you, but I am all for increasing productivity levels, defeating the killer three, and feeling wonderful all day long. Daily exercise does just that — and much more.

3. Say ‘thank you’ more often.

Saying these two words with conviction on a regular basis can powerfully change the direction of your life. It’s important to set goals, create visions and think about what you want for your future, but often, we let what we don’t have get in the way of all that we do have.

We spend time worrying and stressing about where we want to be and forget to have an attitude of gratitude for having the opportunity at all. There is nothing more harmful to our health than forgetting the importance of being grateful for what we have and getting in a daily routine of saying “thank you” more often.

I have a note card that I carry in my briefcase with the two words, thank you, written on it. Everywhere I go, I’m reminded to give thanks for waking up, experiencing life another day and having the opportunity to work towards my dreams.

When you really think long and hard about it, it’s truly remarkable what a privilege and opportunity that each and every one of us has to wake up and live another day. It’s up to us how we shape our minutes, days, years and lives. Saying “thank you” more often minimizes the negative effects of the killer three and increases your sense of fulfillment every moment of your life. It’s so simple — yet so important.

Practicing mediation, exercising daily and saying thank you more often will not only reduce the amount of stress, anxiety and worry that you have in your life but also change the way you work and go about your every day life. I urge you to incorporate these three simple tasks into your everyday life, and see how they reward you over time.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

 

Life’s Greatest Lessons Are Disguised in Our Most Trying Times, But You Must Keep Perspective

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As life and business problems begin to expand and tough times continually knock us down, it’s absolutely imperative that we pause and remind ourselves what all of this is about. It’s extremely easy to get caught up in all of the curve balls life throws our way — but we must choose not to. A major component of success, happiness, growth and a joyous life is perspective.

Each and every one of us has our own unique perspective on life, but our perspective on failure and adversity greatly determines our success or lack of it. Our happiness, and whether or not we grow as human beings, all begins with our perspective.

The pain. The suffering. The agony. The heartbreak. It’s all there to serve you and to help mold you into the person that you need to become. There is nothing easy about it, but if we can work to push ourselves to change our perspective of what failure and the tough times of life are present for, our lives take on new meaning. A big part of making this happen is learning to love the journey that we are on, and whether we are where we currently want to be or not.

As we go through life, we tend to set our eyes on the destination and where we eventually want to end up while forgetting the incredible importance of the journey that we are on. I am not telling you to avoid looking forward and creating massive and great visions for your life, but I am encouraging you to remember the importance of the journey that you are on at this moment.

Not only will you capture sincere, loving and fond memories along the journey, if you make it a point to live in the moment, but if you know its purpose, if you’re willing to learn from each and every experience, it will make you drastically better in the long run.

If we never fail, we don’t know the value of succeeding. If we never experience heartbreak, we don’t know the value of true love. If we never lose a loved one, we don’t know the value of relationships. In the middle of all of the chaos and turmoil, the last thing on our minds is remembering to value the journey that we are on.

I encourage you, no matter where you are now, in failure or success, adversity or glory, to embrace the lessons, and value having the opportunity to grow.

When I truly learned to value the journey and not just the destination, I noticed something special change in my life. I truly began to value the hardships in my life as growing opportunities to become better the next time around. Instead of beating myself up over something that went wrong, I dusted myself off and prepped myself for another round. I began to value each new and old relationship that I ever had with anyone, as I knew that every person that comes into our lives is there for a purpose.

Life’s greatest lessons are disguised in our most trying times. How we react during these times will determine if we miss the next opportunity or come back swinging with a vengeance.

Next time you experience a loss, failure, heartbreak or a setback, remember that it’s all part of the journey to help you grow, and if you embrace it as such, you will possess a perspective that is primed for success.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Remember: You Were Meant to Thrive, Not Just Survive

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So many people today are unfortunately just surviving instead of thriving. They have a “just get by” type of mentality every minute of every day. More than likely, they have forgotten who they truly are and have settled for second best without even knowing it.

I believe one of the biggest regrets we will ever have at the end of our lives will be living in survival mode. Thinking about all of the great and wonderful things that we wanted to do but never did. Thinking about lost goals and dreams that we never acted on.

Living in survival mode prohibits us from living a life of meaning and contribution. If you feel you have been surviving and just going through the motions, let today be the turning point in your life where you turn it all around.

I strongly believe that one of the core reasons why so many get accustomed to living a life of survival instead of a life that is thriving is because they let the hustle and bustle of life completely take over their lives and clog their decision making. They let their doubts continue to pile up and corrupt their thinking. They set out on a new adventure or set a new goal, but immediately after doing so, they let their doubts take over.

Here are three ways to help you thrive instead of just survive.

1. Stay purpose-driven.

I know firsthand how easy it can be at times to let the hustle and bustle of life take over every move of yours if you aren’t intentional about staying purpose-driven. Staying purpose-driven can mean a lot of things.

Maybe you already know your purpose and life’s mission — which is great. Do everything in your power, and live that purpose each and every day. Everything that you do should revolve around staying purpose-driven.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t know what your purpose in life is yet. That’s fine, and there is no reason to freak out about it. Everyone discovers what their purpose is at different stages in life, but the most important thing is being eager and passionate to discover what that purpose is for you. I firmly believe that we all were put here to do magnificent and wonderful things in the world.

2. Hang around with winners.

You have probably heard a million times about the importance of who you hang out with, but it’s amazing how many people still don’t comprehend it and practice it in their every day life. If you hang around with people who are not motivated and searching for ways to better themselves, that’s exactly the same type of mindset and life that you will adopt.

When you hang around with people who are obsessed with growing, getting better and maximizing their potential, you will end up growing and getting better as well. If you want to forever make sure you don’t fall into survival mode, hang around with winners.

3. Constantly build yourself up.

Most of the time, the men and women who settle for a life of survival let the tough times of life tear them down while they completely neglect building themselves up. There is no doubt about it that life can be hard. It is very important that you never forget to be your own best friend and constantly look for ways to build yourself up rather than tear yourself down.

Building yourself up can mean a lot of things for a lot of different people. When I refer to building yourself up, I simply mean to stop neglecting yourself.

Give yourself the time you need to do whatever it is you want. Read great books that end up building your self-confidence and help you grow as an individual. Give yourself the permission to take that much-needed vacation you have been wanting for so long.

Find whatever works for you and stick to a plan. When you learn to be your own best friend and constantly search for ways to build yourself up rather than tear yourself down, you will begin to realize that you absolutely got this and have what it takes.

It’s easy to let all of the everyday demands take over and dictate how your day goes, but each and every one of us has a choice on whether that is the case or not. Just remember this one important truth — you were put here to thrive, not just survive.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Stop Comparing Yourself to Competitors. Start Perfecting Your Craft.

20141230200737-reflectionImage credit: Matt Niemi | Flickr

We’re hard on ourselves professionally. Competition is fierce in the business world. We compare ourselves to the competition every chance we get.

But I’m here to tell you to stop. Stop the comparisons. They’re doing nothing to your competition. Much like disliking a person that doesn’t know you exist, it only hurts you.

Emotional energy is what makes us great. It is the blood, sweat and tears that we experience when pursuing our deepest passions and dreams. The smile that comes when you get the sale or the tarnished ego that ensues when you don’t. It’s the yearning desire to want more and to keep pushing.

It can also be very draining and damaging if you don’t focus on the necessity of positive emotional energy. Do not sabotage yourself by draining your emotional energy on what everyone else is doing better than you. Your craft needs that emotional energy much more than your competition. Your craft needs your passion, your fire and your creative genius to push forward. Your competition is draining you of your competitive edge, and they’re not losing sleep over it — you are.

Yes, it’s important to know your market well and the others competing in your space, but keep it there. Have a concrete knowledge, but don’t worry about their quarterly sales, their new endorsements, how big their holiday party was, what media slots they are securing or what new clients they’ve gotten. The reality is that there is enough business out there for everyone. If you don’t believe so, ask yourself — how you are going to solicit a larger consumer base?

They are out there. This is where your energies need to be spent. This is where focusing on your craft comes in. Focus on the value that you, your product or your service brings to the industry. Spend time listening to what your loyal customers and clients are saying so that you can consistently perfect what you do. Focus on innovative marketing strategies, closing sales, satisfaction guarantees and new business outreach.

Most importantly, undergo the positive mind shift that is needed to protect your emotional energies. An attitude of gratitude is a foundation to win. Seeing the glass half full is half the battle. Think about what you do have and what you do exceptionally well. Focus on the consumers that already love what you do, and show them how much you appreciate them.

One thing I decided to do in the professional speaking world is that I reached out to everyone else in my industry that does what I do. Both new comers and heavy hitters. It definitely takes some guts to do. It’s very humbling, but it’s worthwhile. I introduced myself, congratulated them on their success and asked for a phone call at their convenience.

A few actually went on to become mentors to me. I strongly advise others to do the same. It is worth the time to reach out to people who have been there. You would be shocked at how many people will extend a hand to you. Your competition is curious about you as well.

Think about my alternative option. I could have spent the same, if not more, amount of energy on looking at everyone in my industry and assessing how I can beat them, surpass them or solicit their business. This idea would not have allowed me the important guidance and advice I received along the way. It also makes you a bigger target to take out. In business, you must strive to build bridges to success — not barriers to opportunity.

Because of this outreach, I’ve been invited to events to hear my mentors speak where I could learn valuable insights to incorporate into my own business. I have also had speakers who were unavailable to give a certain keynote due to prior bookings, refer me as the person to take their spot.

It doesn’t matter what industry you occupy — focus on what you do well. There is enough business to be had by all. Focus on forming allies and perfecting your craft rather than overthrowing your competition. Your craft needs your energy much more than your competition.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Southwest Is the Only Major Airline to Not Charge for Luggage Check. What Is It That Only You Can Provide Your Customers?

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Whether you just launched a business or you’ve been at it for a decade, it is imperative that you continually ask yourself this one question: What separates you from everyone else in your industry? The answer cannot be your work ethic or your passion. It cannot be because you believe your products or services are the best. Why? Because we all share those same sentiments about ourselves, our products and our services. It is that very principle and unwavering belief in ourselves, our talents and abilities that have led us down the path of entrepreneurship.

So again I ask, what truly separates you from everyone else in your industry? If you cannot answer this question without hesitation or conviction, chances are, you will eventually be in trouble. It is time you stop what you’re doing and begin distinguishing this: In an ever-changing, option-saturated market full of steep competition, people need to know — why you?

You must not only identify your “Only We…” clause, but you must begin to lead with it. The “Only We…” clause is the thing, the item, the promise that only you, only your company, only your services, only your products provide.

One of my favorite “Only We” companies is Southwest Airlines. They have made it boldly apparent by splashing their “Only We” message across the front page of their website, “Bags Fly Free.” They are the only major airline that does not charge an additional fee to check your luggage. They use their “Only We” concept to differentiate them from other major airlines. It has created many lifelong customers, including myself.

Something I do for all the keynotes I give is I offer a risk-reversal guarantee. Meaning, if for some reason a client was not 100 percent satisfied with the keynote they received, my speaking fee is fully refunded to them. This does a few different things. It gives the client the assurance that I will add tremendous value, and the keynote will be a knockout success without taking a financial risk. It also gives me a never-ending incentive to be a master of my craft and provide value, every single time. It’s important to set a standard that you have to constantly live up to.

It’s easy to get comfortable, stop preparing and rely solely on your talents to get you through, but your customers and your clients deserve the very best. If you aren’t doing it, someone else will gladly come along and sweep up the business you couldn’t finish.

You should be able to lead your business with the answer to the question, “What makes you different? Your consumers must know what separates you. They are paying for your promise as much as they are paying for your product or service.

Remember, in an ever-changing world of endless options, fierce competition and undecided consumers, it is important to differentiate who you are by offering something that they can get only from you.

The “Only We” clause is a necessity to your business success, because we live in a world of endless options. Whether you want to buy a new car or a new computer, try a new salon, a new gym or a new service, the reality is that people suffer from too many options. There are millions of options to choose from. If people can’t find what they want in a storefront, they can find it online for cheaper.

Sites like Amazon will even have it delivered to your doorstep by the end of the day if you join their subscription service. Competition is fierce for businesses trying to survive. Today’s consumers can become quickly overwhelmed with options. Consumers, however, love options — when they can distinguish between them.

This is why your “Only We…” clause needs to be easily identified. If people don’t know immediately what separates you, they will go for the product or service that offers what they perceive as the most value. That could be the vehicle with the 10-year warranty, the hotel room with the lowest price guarantee, a service with a money-back guarantee or an airline ticket with free cancelation. It is because of assurance that allows the consumer to risk the sale with you in the first place. It is completely worth the time and risk-reversal hassle to establish this for yourself.

People are often willing to look beyond the most economical option if they know that the difference is worth the added value. Sometimes, all a consumer needs is the assurance. I’m certain you’ve purchased something with the above attached clause, and even if you never used the assurance guarantee, there was a sense of security by knowing that just in case, you are covered.

Sometimes, you have to face your own product or services as a consumer. How do you know which one to choose when you’re faced with so many options? What resonates with you? What assurance do you need before making a purchase? And more importantly, why should someone choose you? If you don’t know, they won’t either — and they will opt for the one who does.

Companies that know their “Only We,” lead their sale with a promise. If anything goes wrong, they will replace it. If you are unsatisfied, they will give you your money back. People love options, when they can differentiate between them. There is trust, there is no risk — there is, however, a guarantee of satisfaction. People want to know what they are going to get, every singe time. Consistency is key. Knowing that they can get the same experience, the same product every single time and or have the situation rectified is what creates a lifelong customer.

How many places have you went one time to and never returned? When there are other options, you will utilize them. For this reason, first impressions are everything. Knowing that customers have options, it’s important to exceed expectations. You can differentiate yourself with your “Only We” clause, but then it’s extremely important to lead with it in almost everything that you do.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Want to Be Like Apple, Disney or the New England Patriots? You Need a Stellar Company Culture.

20150223161651-apple-store-5th-ave-new-yorkImage credit: Reuters | Brendan McDermid

Creating a distinct culture within your organization is everything. Whether in sports or business, you must set a concrete foundation and an understanding as to what your culture is — and it must be identifiable in all that you do.

Have you ever stayed at a 5-star hotel chain that made you feel like you were their most important guest? Have you ever visited a store or dined at a restaurant, where the customer-service level far exceeded your expectations? Have you ever wondered how a sports franchise is in the playoffs seemingly every year?

Sure, some people are just good at what they do, and when you gather a bunch of talented people together, you’re bound for success, right? Wrong. It has everything to do with a culture that is easily identifiable, attainable and respected by everyone working within the organization. Whether your culture revolves around creating a 5-star service standard, a family environment, a winning-culture, a customer-is-always-right culture, you must have one — and it must be clear — before your employees can buy in.

Although we often hear about the importance of culture, I still find that so many overlook how vitally important it really is. A weak culture, or one that is never established, can completely diminish performance levels within an organization, even if that organization possesses the best strategies, products or talent. On the other hand, a distinct and thriving culture can certainly make up the difference for just average strategy and talent.

Please don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say don’t try to create the best strategies and recruit the best talent for your company, but understand that all of that is just a byproduct to what really matters most — the culture you create.

I have witnessed the incredible importance of culture in my own life. During my time as an athlete, I was on teams that didn’t have the most talented players in the world, but we still got the job done and won games as the underdogs. That came from the result of leadership instilling a phenomenal culture from day one.

I have also been on teams that had extreme talent, but the results on the field were mediocre at best. That same team lacked a presence of culture. Leadership wasn’t setting the tone or expectation as a whole, so it was each man for himself. In sports, of course, the main objective is to win, but if there is no set process outside of individual talent, no set standard for all to buy into and no leadership driving it, a star-studded roster means nothing.

In my world as a speaker now, I get the wonderful opportunity to travel all over and sit down with leaders from all different industries. Prior to each speaking engagement, I sit down with the leadership of the organization, and I spend time taking a closer look at the culture of the organization and where I can add the most value. During this time, I usually find one of two things. The first one is a leader who is incredibly passionate about creating a dominant, healthy and strong culture. These are the organizations that have a great employee retention and morale.

The leaders who aren’t as passionate about building and nurturing a strong and powerful culture unfortunately end up falling into the trap of directing all of their focus on outcomes and results. The major problem with all of this is that the presence of culture is what largely drives results. By completely neglecting the importance of building and nurturing a strong culture while focusing solely on outcomes and results, the process ends up backfiring somewhere down the line and being counterproductive.

I’m not telling you how to run your organization, but I do want to share with you that the results speak for themselves when it comes to organizations that focus on culture compared to the one’s who don’t. If you take a very close look at the New England Patriots, Disney, Apple or any other organization for that matter that dominate their market or craft, you will begin to see that they are crystal clear on the culture that they demand from their people.

All of the championships have great strategy and talent behind them, and the sales milestones have great products and value behind them, but the culture that leadership instills and demands throughout the whole organization is what actually drives results.

Culture is and will always be vitally important when it comes to your organization’s growth, success and longevity. It’s my hope as a leader that you make it a major priority to create a crystal clear culture that your employees are proud to show up and be a part of everyday.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

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