Throw Out the iPhone & Ditch the Email?

Some of the most successful people I know don’t have an e-mail account. I don’t mean that they don’t have a public e-mail account-I mean they don’t have one at all.

The same people don’t have a Blackberry or an iPhone either.

And, not surprisingly, they’re not on Facebook or Twitter.

Whenever I share these facts with colleagues or friends, I normally get a shocked reaction. The underlying attitude seems to be: you can’t be successful without those things. You’ll be out of touch!

I wonder. Perhaps being “out of touch” also means being in touch… with your own creativity, ideas, and internal leadership. Perhaps being “out of touch” means not being told what to think by the “million bright ambassadors” of self-induced ADHD.

I’m just sayin’.

What do you think? Is it possible to succeed today without being Uber-connected? Is being “out of touch” (in the way I have described here) a virtue? Or is it a sign that you are a complete and hopeless Luddite?

Watch Your Affirmations

In the past, I have scoffed at the idea of affirmations. You know, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” That sort of thing.

I don’t feel that way anymore, because I have realized every human being on the planet practices affirmations. It’s simply that most of us do it unconsciously. Most of us didn’t even take the affirmations we use.

Here’s what I mean: it seems to me that most of us have certain phrases, thoughts, and thinking patterns that we inherited from our nurturing environment as we were growing up. From our parents. From our peers. From our teachers. And those phrases ring in our minds no matter how old we might be today. Some common examples:

  • “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
  • “Look before you leap.”
  • “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
  • “Haste makes waste.”
  • “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I’m not here to debate the truth of any of those statements, I’m just illustrating that we all have phrases we repeat to ourselves over and over throughout our lives. There are, I believe, many other such phrases (and unconscious patterns of thought) that we repeat on a daily basis. We are unaware of these patterns, for the most part. They may be subtle, or they may be quite obvious (like the examples I’ve already given).

The spooky part, at least as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that most of us didn’t choose these affirmations. We are not even aware of them. We simply accepted them without critical evaluation. You might want to let that sink in.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you’re automatically thrust into a leadership position. Others look to you for example. Don’t you agree it’s valuable to be aware of what you are thinking, day in and day out?

Suggested exercise: pay attention to repetitive patterns in your speech and thinking today-and ask yourself whether those patterns are helpful, or perhaps not so helpful.

Comments or observations? Leave them here on this page, please!

“What If?”

I’m not usually a fan of “what if” questions. That’s because most of the time, those words (“what if…”) usually precede negative prophecy about something. Negative prophecies like,  “What if nobody comes to our new store? What if nobody likes the new product? What if none of our salespeople makes a sale today?” Those are probably not productive questions that will put you in a resourceful state conducive to getting things done.

However, I think it is useful to ask a totally different kind of “what if” question. Think of this as the “proactive what if” question. Here are some examples you might like to try:

  • What if we had the best customer service of our entire industry? What would that look like? What would it do for our business?
  • What if we found a way to do everything for half the cost, at double the speed, and double the quality? How would we do that? What difference would it make to our customers?
  • What if we discovered a way to not only solve our customer’s main problem, but solve several other problems at the same time? What ways can we improve our product that would have that effect? What would that do to customer loyalty? What effect would that have on repeat purchases?
  • What if we had to totally reinvent our business from the ground up -  tomorrow? What would be the very first thing we would do? Why would that be the first thing we would do?
  • If there were no limitations, and no risk of failing, what is the one thing we would do that which had pulled our business to the top of its category? Why aren’t we already trying to do that? What if we did?

You get the idea. I bet you could make up some of your own. What if you gave it a try today?

The Magic of Courtesy

I ordered a sandwich this past week at McDonald’s, from the drive-through window.

After pulling out of the drive-through lane, I discovered that my sandwich was cold. The bacon was uncooked. I circled back through the drive-through lane, and explained my dilemma to the young lady at the window. She distractedly held out her hand, reaching for the bag, looking away from me as she muttered, “Pull around front. We’ll get you another one.”

I understand that these things happen, especially at a restaurant run by children. I wasn’t really upset as I returned my sandwich – I just wanted it cooked properly. But I can’t help but reflect on the different feeling I would have about McDonald’s right now, if that young lady had bothered to look me in the eye and simply say something like, “I’m sorry about that. If you pull around front, we will be happy to get you another one. And this time I promise we’ll cook it correctly.”

That would’ve made all the difference-just a simple bit of courtesy. It’s magic, especially in business transactions.

Empty Backpack, Zen Backpack?

I work from an office outside my home. I shuttle relevant working materials back and forth (between home and office) in a small backpack.

Today I noticed I have a curious habit of carrying more items in my backpack than I will actually use. If I’m carrying the bag home, for example,  I take more books, files, and papers than I could possibly use before I return to the office. The same is true when moving from home to office-I take more stuff that I actually need.

What I find puzzling about this is: it is a consistent behavior, and I absolutely know I am carrying items I will not use. So why do I do it? Is it because I want options? Is it because I’m worried I might need something and not have it? Is it because I overestimate what I will actually do with the materials I am carrying once I reach my destination?

I tend to think it’s that last thing. I overestimate the work I will actually do using the materials I carry. I do the same thing when I take trips; I take too many books, papers, devices.

I find this behavior odd, counterproductive, wasteful, and divisive of my attention. In short, I believe I would actually get more done if I brought home only one item – the item that I actually intend to use before returning to the office. If I brought with me only one file on a business trip-the file I actually will use while on that trip.

I plan to pay a lot more attention to this phenomenon, starting today, whenever I am packing a bag. Whether that be to take the bag home for the night, to take on a business trip, or even if I’m packing my motor home for a long road trip. (Yes, I took too much stuff with me on my three-month journey over the summer in a motorhome. Way too much stuff.)

I wonder if I’m the only person who experiences this phenomena? Because I think it has a direct correlation to business and professional life. My theory is we carry too much “stuff” with us in those contexts, too. And because we do, we are faced with too many choices-too many options-and thus our decision-making ability and our productivity are hampered. What do you think?