Illuminating the pathway to success

Being Who You Say You Are

I observed a transaction the other day I thought was significant.  A customer had called a rental business and agreed to rent some equipment.  Because of the volume of equipment the customer was going to rent, the owner of the company offered him a substantial discount.  You would expect that, I suppose.  But then, without any prompting from the customer, the owner also offered to have someone from the company accompany the customer and ensure all the equipment functioned according to plan.  The customer was happy with the deal he’d negotiated and agreed to come on the specified date.

The day came and the customer showed up.  He filled out the rental forms and did everything that was required to take possession of the equipment.  When the company representative who had been promised wasn’t  anywhere to be seen, the customer asked, “Wasn’t there going to be a company representative with the equipment?”  The dealer replied that, yes, he had agreed to that, but it turned out there wasn’t an extra person to accompany them.

So here’s the deal.  The customer didn’t particularly need the company rep.  He wasn’t expecting that when he called to secure the equipment — had never even considered such a thing. But, the owner had offered it.  Since it was offered, and since the customer had several weeks to think about how great it might be, he had become pretty attached to the idea there would be a rep.  To say he was very disappointed when that didn’t happen would be an understatement.  We’re talking disappointed to the point he may not return in the future.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to promise something, you’d better be prepared to deliver.  You’d better make yourself a note of what you promised and, better yet, send the customer an email outlining what you’ve agreed to do.  In my experience, most unhappy customers grow out of misunderstandings on someone’s part.  Being able to say, “No.  I sent you this email three weeks ago outlining what I was planning on doing, and I’ve done everything I said I was going to do,” is a good thing.

Avoiding misunderstandings is basically avoiding unhappy or otherwise dissatisfied customers.  Any energy expended in that regard is energy well spent.  Happy customers make a business.  Unhappy customers can kill your business faster than almost anything else.  In today’s social media environment, a million people can know of your misunderstanding / disagreement before the sun goes down.  You don’t need that.  And perhaps more importantly, you don’t need the grief that goes along with that.  Being who you say you are, is all about doing what you say you’ll do.  Plain and simple.

Nothing Happens In Business Until The Sale Is Made

The old axiom in business that nothing happens until the sale is made has always been true.  You can have the best accountants, the best manufacturing people, the best HR people, the best warehouse people, the best attorneys, the best management team in your industry, but if you don’t make the sale, you don’t have a business.  It’s as simple as that.

And yet it’s funny how so many people invest so much energy in so many other things, none of which actually contribute anything to the bottom line.  Oh sure, eventually you will need these things.  Eventually you will fail if those things aren’t done properly.  But making the sale will always be number one when it comes to staying in business.  Almost always, the first question investors will ask is, “How much are you doing in sales?”  If you have no sales, they are seldom interested.  It’s true you can fix manufacturing problems, or accounting problems, or HR or warehouse problems.  But if you have a sales problem, you have a problem.

The scary thing with no sales (or minimal sales) is that you don’t know if you have a problem because nobody likes what you are selling, or because you have the wrong salespeople.  You can change out  the salespeople fairly easily.  If nobody likes your product, you basically don’t have a business.   Investors like to know the answer to that question before they write a check.  You would too, wouldn’t you?

They say cash is king in business.  That’s a true statement.  At the end of the day, if you have no sales (and investors won’t invest until you do,) then you have no cash.  The business can’t survive without a king.  So the statement is true.  Nothing happens, nothing changes, nothing moves forward , nothing matters until the sale is made.

Assumptions Are Not Facts

I always wonder about people who are certain they’ve got it all figured out.  I recall speaking to a couple of entrepreneurs who were about to launch an ambitious business.  They were confident and secure that they’d covered every possible detail in their cash flow projections and that they had it figured out to the penny.  When I referred to their projections as “assumptions’ they took deep offense.  “These are not assumptions,” they reminded me almost by way of reprimand,  “These are facts.”

I explained that “assumptions” isn’t a bad word.  We all make assumptions about what our costs will be, what our revenues will be, what our returns will be, etc.  But they’re just that.  They’re assumptions.  Until you have proof of what’s actually happened, you have to predict what you think (assume) will happen.  Of course you use all of your own experience, you use the experience of experts, you have your banker and your accountant review the numbers, you do everything you can.  And then you say, “Based on the best minds we can afford, and the experience we have collectively, we “assume” that this is how things will go.”  (Or we presume / predict this is how things will go.)

But they’re still assumptions.

You can’t have a business without making assumptions somewhere along the way.  In fact, you’re making assumptions right now about your business.  Of course assumptions are different than hopes.  When you say you hope something will happen, you imply doubt.  When you assume something will happen, you imply a much higher degree of certainty.  Your ability to thrive in the business environment will be largely dependent on how closely your assumptions reflect reality.  How close your assumptions are, is largely dependent upon how skilled and experienced you are at your craft.  But nobody is right on the money in their projections, I don’t care who they are.

In the example above, my two young entrepreneurs were actually way off in their “facts.”  It’s true their assumptions were based on solid research and solid history of what had happened in like companies.  It’s true they were skilled at what they were doing and that they were acting in good faith.  But it’s also true that nobody, no matter how skilled, experienced, trained, well-intentioned, etc., can see into the future.  The world will always throw you a few curves, just to see how well you hit.  These young entrepreneurs were thrown several curves in a row.  And, to their credit, they handled them with skill and with confidence.  But at the end of the day, the actual numbers were far from their assumptions.  That’s because assumptions are not facts.  They aren’t now.  They never were.  They weren’t for these young entrepreneurs, they won’t be for you.  If you can accept that, and learn to hit the curve ball, you can still succeed in business.


When I was in high school, burnout was something you did in your dad’s big old oldsmobile with the 455 rocket engine that left two big black marks for hundreds of feet down the road.  Today it’s used to describe the state of many employees and many managers in most businesses.

We work harder and harder and get less and less satisfaction out of our work, until one day we wake up and realize, “I’m burned out.”  As far as I’m concerned, burnout comes from only two things:  not making progress (or perhaps not enough progress) on things you do care about, or working too hard for too little on things you don’t care about.

I’ve talked many times about controlling your own destiny — having a plan and working that plan.  But it’s true that most people take their career as it comes.  They become more and more disenchanted with their career, often not even realizing why, and they resent the pressure to perform at a higher and higher level.

The worst manifestation of this is when you’re tied to your business with “golden handcuffs.”  You know, you make enough money that it would take a miracle to replace it. But you’re not happy —   maybe even miserable — and there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can’t afford to take a cut in pay to go somewhere else, and you can’  stand to keep your job.

If you’re working in a job you love, but are feeling the effects of burnout, you need a break.  No phone, no email, no computer, no  homework, no nothing for at least a week (two is better.)  If you’re suffering burnout in a job you hate, quit today.  You have to have pretty low self worth to work in a job you hate — just for money.   Look.  You loathe it.  You are unfulfilled by it.  You are doing it because nothing else pays as well.  You wake up in the morning wishing you were sick (or worse, that you could die today) so you didn’t have to go to work.  But it’s the money……  That’s the mentality the world’s oldest profession grows out of.

If your life is on a great trajectory but you’re exhausted, get some R&R.  You’ll come back ready to tackle anything.  If you’re in a dead end career path, get out.  Today!  Don’t wait.  It’s not going to get better.  If you’re not happy, it’s just a matter of time before you’re forced out.  Don’t leave a job you hate on someone else’s terms.  Leave on your own.  Today.  It will work out.  Life is too short to spend it doing something you hate.  Move on.

Finally, make sure you break your goals down into smaller bites.  You need more successes.  Make sure you have a “win” every day.  Maybe several times a day.  It’s hard to be too bummed when you’re winning every time you turn around.  And take time for you.  It’s the best time you’ll ever invest.

If You Already Know It All, Don’t Read This

I’m going to go against the grain here, a little bit, and say most businesses fail because their leaders and managers already know everything.  I know.  I know.  You’ve heard from everyone else, that it’s money (usually lack of money,) or it’s timing, or it’s any number of things that cause a business to fail.  But as I’ve observed it over the years, I think a high percentage of entrepreneurial businesses that fail do so because their company leadership already knows everything there is to know (about everything, usually.)

You know the type.  You can’t tell them anything.  They’ve got all the answers.  Oh sure, sometimes they will listen patiently before patting you on the head like you’re the family lap dog.  “Thanks for sharing that,” they’ll  say condescendingly.  “Well take that under consideration.”  Then you see them roll their eyes at their all-knowing colleagues.  

Creativity is the savior of business.   If you have money problems, there’s a way to fix that.   Maybe not the way you might think, but there’s a way.  If your timing is bad, creativity can help you fix that.  Sometimes you have to reinvent yourself as you go along.  Creativity will help there too.  But if you already know everything there is to know about everything, you look down on, belittle and just generally stifle the very creativity that could save your company.

You don’t want to hear someone’s creative idea because you already know what you’re going to do to save your company and why it’s going to work, and why their creative idea wouldn’t work anyway, and why it would be a colossal waste of your time to entertain someone else’s ideas.  

I spent my career doing turnarounds.  In almost every case we had to bring in a new management team.  We could often save a member or two of the team, but by and large we cleaned house.  It’s logical, if you think about it.  If the current management team could have turned the business around, why isn’t it already done?  Why would they let it get to the point where consultants are coming in to do a turnaround if they could simply do it themselves?   The answer is easy.  They have all the answers and if you just give them a few more weeks (or months, or years,) they’re going to show the world that they really do have all the answers and this business is going to really sing and everyone’s going to get rich.

Never mind that they’ve already had weeks, months (and in many cases years,) to prove their theories and still no success.

Commonly, it’s not difficult to do a turn around after you get rid of the people who already know all the answers.  And in almost all cases the creativity necessary to do the turn around exists right there in the business.  You don’t have to go looking for it.  It’s right there.  These people have waited patiently for a chance to share their ideas with someone who will listen.  Great ideas come out of the woodwork when you get rid of the people who don’t listen to good ideas.  Go figure.

When I go into a struggling business, I always look first at the management team.  There’s no point in even going down the road one more foot with someone who knows it all.  He’s the problem!  He will never be the solution!  I’m convinced you can save almost any business if you can get it out of the hands of those who know it all in time.  The problem is, owners almost always wait too long.  The know it alls are very sure of themselves and very convincing.  They will look you in the eye and swear with incredible conviction that this business is absolutely right on the cusp of a whole new life.  In fact, you’re going to see — in this very pay period, perhaps — the beginning of the incredible things that are starting to happen, even as we speak.

An owner would be a fool to walk away from that — wouldn’t she?  

The old saying is, if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there’s a high likelihood it’s a duck.  Well, if your business feels to you like it’s failing, if it looks like it’s failing and even the rats are jumping ship, It’s probably failing and you need help sooner rather than later.  It’s funny how long people will hang on.  

It’s like if you worked on the ambulance and had a patient that was bleeding to death and the EMT kept saying, “I’m certain this bleeding is going to stop.  Look at it.  It’s stopping right now.  It’s clearly not as bad as it was.”  And yet your eyes are telling you a completely different story.  You could put direct pressure on right now, or you could put on a tourniquet, or you could do any number of things that would buy you more time.  But instead you listen to your over-optimistic companion.  Eventually, the direct pressure, the tourniquet, and everything else is going to be ineffective.  The patient will have lost too much blood.

At the end of the day, if you’re a business owner who has made the mistake of hiring a leader or manager who knows it all, cut your losses today.  It’s not going to get better.  If you’re a leader or manager who knows it all, get over yourself.  Nobody has all the good ideas and nobody is as good as you think you are.  If you work for a know it all, move on.  Life’s too short to work for a jerk who doesn’t appreciate you.  And it’s only a matter of time before the business begins to struggle anyway.  


Would You Bet Your Business On This Person?

I often wonder what people were thinking when they hired some of their employees.  You’ve had the experience.  You go into a store, and try to buy something, and the salesperson is rude, bored, preoccupied, miserable, just generally not happy to be there, and basically refuses to sell you anything.  When it happens to me, I think, “Seriously, people!  Is this the best person you interviewed?  There weren’t any other candidates who actually wanted to ‘work’ for you?”  I put “work” in quotes because that’s what I assume you expected they were going to do when you hired them.

My dad always used to say, “If someone pays you $5 per hour to work, you’d better give them $5 worth in return.  Anything less than that and you are stealing from them.”  I asked him one time how he could consider not working hard enough stealing.  He said, “Let’s say you agree to sell someone a dozen eggs for a dollar.  They give you the dollar, but you only give them 9 eggs.  Having shorted them 3 eggs is the same as having given them 12 and then stealing three of them.  How can you see that as anything but stealing?  What’s the difference between that and someone paying you to perform a job?  I’m willing to give you give dollars for $5 worth of labor.  If you give me one penny less than $5 you’ve stolen that from me.”

Having been in a business or two in my day, I’d say if you use the above description as a measurement, there are employers everywhere who are being ripped of every day.  Most businesses have some sort of “loss prevention” kind of program.  But I’d say very few have any idea how much is being “stolen” from them in terms of productivity paid for and not received.  The loss there is undoubtedly much greater than merchandise that is carried out without being paid for.  And yet we stop “shoplifters” and go our merry way thinking we’ve solved all our problems.

And I suppose if that was all it was, it would be bad enough.  In a bigger, more successful business, stolen time can be hidden or covered up.  But in a business that has less than, say, ten or so employees, you’re betting the future of your business on every person you bring on.  Most smaller business can’t afford to have even one employee who’s not carrying his share of the load.

It might be well worth your time to ask yourself “Am I willing to bet the future of my business on this person I’m about to bring on board?”  That puts it in a completely different light, doesn’t it?  Rude, nasty, bored, preoccupied, don’t-want-to-be-there employees can kill your business faster than anything.  It doesn’t matter if they’re in the warehouse, on the production line, on the front line with customers or in the executive suite.  If they’re not helping you, they’re hurting you.  You’d better be certain you know which is which.

Which brings me to one last point.  I’ve always felt like what’s good for the goose has to be good for the gander.  If someone in your employ is giving you consistently $15 worth of work and you’re only paying her $5, shame on you.  Good employees are often the difference between winning and losing in business.  Don’t think you can get away with low-balling a good employee.  One day you’ll come in and find they’re gone.  Good employees don’t have to put up with that, and they generally won’t    I’ve said before on this blog, “Getting good employees is like getting good oats.  If you want first quality oats, you pay a first quality price.  If you’re willing to settle for oats that have already been through the horse, well, you can get those for a much cheaper price.”

Post Length

My personal bent is to write longer posts with more information.  If you have a comment on the length of the posts on this blog, let me know.  There’s no need to write longer posts if you don’t have the time to read them.  Let me know.

Who Do You Trust?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day.  He runs a good sized company and is very successful.  He’s also new in his position and is having the growing pains that come with taking over an existing company.  Like most new CEO’s his biggest challenge is figuring out who to trust.  Not trust in terms of who’s stealing from you.  More like trust in terms of who sees the world like you do.

When I go into a new company the first thing I do is figure out who sees things as they really are (which means who sees things like I see them.)  The problem, obviously, is that we all have a filter.  Some people have a small one, some people filter the life out of things.  But everyone uses a filter.  That filter includes your upbringing, your education, your experiences in life, your experiences in business, etc., etc., etc.

The process usually goes like this: you observe trash by the back door of the warehouse (you are walking around from time to time, Aren’t you?)  You recall that there has been trash by the back door the last several times you’ve been out there.  What do you think?   If you’ve worked in the warehouse before, and know that trash accumulates by the back door every day until about 3:00 p.m. and you know they dump it at about 3:30, you dismiss it.  On the other hand, if you’ve never worked in the warehouse, and you have no idea that trash accumulates every day, you may form an opinion that they’re just not very tidy out there.  Depending on your experience in life and in business, you decide they’re either not very tidy, or they’re lazy.  Or if you’ve been in a situation in the past, where you’ve been ripped off by warehouse people, you’re convinced they’re stealing from you by hiding merchandise in the trash.

That problem is compounded if you send someone else down there to check thing out for you.  “What did you find?” you ask as they return.  Depending on the experiences of the person you sent, you could get any one of the conclusions listed above.  Five people will have five different evaluations of what is happening out there.  So whose opinion do you trust?  The problem is, when you’re new, you don’t have a filter to use for what your employees tell you.  For example, after dealing with your employees for awhile, you say, ‘You know, Bob always thinks everyone is stealing from us.”  So when Bob reports that the warehouse people are stealing, you take it with a grain of salt.  And Bill always thinks everyone is lazy.  So when he reports everyone is living in a pigsty you take that with a grain of salt as well.

If you’re like me, you are looking for the manager that looks into things.  I want the person who says, “You know, the last few times I’ve been down there, there’s been trash by the back door.  So I asked a couple of key people what was up, and they explained that it accumulated throughout the day and then dumped at the end of the shift.  I know that sometimes people steal from us by hiding merchandise in the trash, so while I was there I rummaged around in it a bit to be sure that wasn’t the case.”

When I hear that answer, I hear a person who looks into things like I would.  But really, that’s the long answer, and managers don’t always give the long answer.  What would I think if that same manager came back and said, “Everything is fine.”   I’d say to myself, “You know, I’ve known this manager for two years.  I know she’s thorough, and that if there was a problem, she would have found it.”  So if she tells me it’s fine, I know it’s fine.

But how do we get to the point of trust?

Anytime you’re dealing with someone new, the buzz words are “trust and verify.”  I trust you implicitly, but until I have enough experience with you, I’m not going to just blindly accept your word.  I’m going to hear what you say, then go verify for myself that you and I see things the same.  I’ll compare my evaluation with yours, and see if there are discrepancies.  After a few weeks or months (or more) I’ll know if I can “trust” you. Meaning I’ll know if you see things the way I do. Once I trust you, I’ll use you more than those I don’t.

I’ve worked with employees whose evaluation was almost always different than mine.  I seldom asked the to do something for me.  You couldn’t trust what they said.  Not that they were dishonest in any way.  They just didn’t see things through the same filter as I did.  If I ask you to go check on something for me, I want to know that what you found is what I would have found if I’d gone myself.

My friend, in the story above, had had a middle manager come into his office and represent several things to him that were horribly misinterpreted at best, and out and out lies at worse.  My friend had made an important decision based on the information provided by the middle manager, and ended up making a serious blunder.  Had he had more experience with this middle manager, he would have known not to take what was said seriously.  He would have gotten a “second opinion” or checked into it himself.  Doing so would have saved him untold grief.

You can teach critical thinking and evaluation skills if you have the time and the patience.  You go through the process of teaching what you saw and why.  What you’re looking for and why.  You can’t just do it once and think you’ve taught them.  You’re going to have to do it over and over.  But it is true you can teach people to see things through your eyes.  If you have a manager that’s great in every way except that, it’s probably worth taking the time to teach those skills.

So really, it comes down to knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt who an be trusted and who can’t.   Which, of course, means who sees things like you do, and who doesn’t.  Again, to be sure we’re clear, we’re not talking  at all about honesty and integrity in any way shape or form..  We’re talking about measuring someone’s critical judgement and evaluation skills against our own.  Presumably, if you’re the boss (or the supervisor) you have a responsibility to make sure everything comes out right.  So your opinion of what’s “right” is the one we will use to measure against.  You need to know who sees things like you do.  Or, in short, who you can trust.

Supply And Demand

I got a call from my son the other day.  He is a professional horse trainer and his world revolves around how many people call him to train their horses.  He said, “I don’t know what to do.  I have received calls on 19 horses that need training in the last three days.”  My first thought was, “That’s great!!!  How much better could it be?”  But that wasn’t the road he was going down.  “There’s no way I could ride 19 horses total, let alone 19 more.  I’m not sure what to do.”

Well, the answer is clear to me.  You raise the price.  When you have more customers than you have capacity to meet their needs, you weed some of them out by charging more.  Some of those people will be more than willing to pay more, and will stay with you.  Others won’t or can’t afford the price increase and move on.  Now, you need to understand you don’t lament the ones who move on, because you are at capacity as it is, and you wouldn’t be able to provide service for them anyway.  

By raising your prices you’re still at capacity, you’re just making more money.

So what do you do if you raise your prices and suddenly find yourself with excess capacity?  You obviously lower the price, which will make your product or service appealing to a broader group of people and increase demand.  At the end of the day, if you’re functioning at or near capacity, you stay right on the edge of what you’re capable of doing through pricing.

I’ve had people ask, “What if you lower the price and nothing happens?”  Lower it more.  What if nothing happens then?  Then at some point,  if you keep lowering the price and people still aren’t interested, you don’t have a business.  If people won’t buy your product / service for a price you can (or are willing to) provide it for, you don’t have a business.  That’s true in every business  —  startup or fully mature business.

This isn’t rocket science.  It’s simply supply and demand.  When demand outpaces supply, prices rise.  When supply exceeds demand, prices drop.  Check the price of potatoes in July.  You get a much inferior product at a much higher price than you do in October.  The cellars are empty in July.  The supply is limited and prices rise.  In October there is a glut of potatoes.  Everyone is jockeying for position to sell, and supply is way in excess of demand.  This has been mitigated in recent years by refrigerated cellars, which allow farmers to hold their crops for several months, but it’s still true.

Where is your product / service at in the supply / demand continuum?  Does it fluctuate seasonally?  Is there some way to mitigate that?  Are there other products / services you could add to your mix that have an opposite seasonality, to carry you through those lean times?  Is demand likely to increase or decrease on your product / service over time?  What are you doing about that?  These are the types of questions that lead to important change in a business.  You ought to ask them frequently.


Who Controls Your Destiny?

I got a call from a young friend the other day.  He indicated he’d finished his education, been certified as a CPA and had worked in public accounting for 2 – 3 years.  He felt like he was ready to start his own business.  Did I have any advice for him?  I indicated I’d be happy to help, and he began to ask questions.

Should I buy a business or start a new one?  What industry is going to be best in the long term?  Should I go it alone or have partners?  Are there any pitfalls I should be aware of?

I smiled as I listened.  In the zeal of youth and his excitement to take the next steps, he was missing a key piece of understanding:  your career doesn’t drive you, you drive it.  You don’t go about these things willy-nilly.   I think it’s a classic mistake (young and old alike.)  We’re young.  We go out and get a job.  We get a promotion.  We change to a new job.  We get a promotion.  At the end of 20 – 30 years, we have a career.  We never directed our lives at all.  We took what came and we lived with it.  I’m amazed at how many people look back and wonder how things ended up the way they did.

Your career is part of your life — a very big part of your life.  The truth is, you will spend more time at work than you do with your wife and children.   You will spend more time working than you do recreating, or serving others, or anything else.  You will spend more time working than you will sleeping.  In short, there’s nothing you will do in your life that you will do more than working.

Shouldn’t you invest whatever energy is necessary to ensure your career goes where you want it to go, instead of just letting the winds of change blow you where they will?  The old saying about being self-directed is, “If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, any port will do.”  That sounds to me like the way many people handle their careers.

I asked my young friend to back up and start at the beginning.  “What is it you want out of life?” I asked.  “What are your long term financial goals?  Are you looking to be a billionaire, a millionaire, or just financially comfortable?  If you’re looking to be wealthy at the end of it all, what are you willing to sacrifice to get there?  Those things don’t come without significant sacrifice.  Where are you willing to live?  You don’t become a billionaire living and running a business in Idaho.  You have to be willing to go where the money is.

Second, what are your goals for your business?  Are you looking for a business you can grow and sell in a few years and start again, or are you looking for something you’re going to keep building until you die?  Are you wanting to create an empire, or is buying a local hardware store where you will always have a job more your style?  Are you looking for a career for just you, or are you wanting a place where your family can work at your side?

Finally, (and probably first and foremost) what are your goals for your family?  What sacrifice are they willing to make to see your dreams come true?  Now that you’re married, this isn’t just about you anymore.  You may want to be a billionaire and be willing to sacrifice anything to achieve that.  Your spouse, on the other hand, may not.  Is your plan for the future your plan individually, or your plan together?   If you haven’t included your spouse in your plan, it’s almost certain to cause conflict in the marriage, and almost certain to fail.

Next, what is the plan?  You need to start with a bold statement:  “I want to be a millionaire by the time I’m 35.”  Then you work backward from there to see what you have to do year over year to reach that goal.  At the end of the day, you need to have a plan and you need to work the plan, and you need to focus tightly enough on the plan that you don’t allow all of the distractions of life to shift you out of the path to reaching your goals.

I think so many times we have a job offer arise and we look at the merits of the offer on things that are not core goals.  For example, we say, “This one pays more,” or, “this one offers more free time,” or, “this one is closer to mom and dad,” or whatever.  Instead of scrutinizing the opportunity through the lens of our life plan, we look at it according to our comfort (more money makes us comfortable, more free time makes us comfortable, living closer to family makes us more comfortable.)  Instead we should be asking if this takes us closer to the ultimate goal.

But that said, we don’t always have to be moving forward.  Sometimes even a move backward is a good move.  It’s possible that you say, “You know, I’m short a couple of skills I need to be able to do what I want to do in my life.  I’m going to go to work for minimum wage (or a wage less than you’re worth) to learn the skills I need to move forward.”  That’s a great plan — as long as it has a beginning and an end.  For example: you say, I need two skills to be ready to pursue my long-term goals.  I can get them by working for company “A” and company “B”.   I think it will take me about 18 months at each company to learn what I need to learn to move on.   That’s okay.  It’s part of the plan.  You can take a step backward for 2 – 3 years if it ultimately helps you to take a giant leap forward.

In short, this is about taking control of your life.  And since your job is the biggest part of your life, that’s where you start taking control first.  You can have whatever you want in life.  Or, more accurately,  you can have whatever you’re willing to have — whatever you’re willing to pay the price to have.  Or, I suppose you can be happy with whatever life gives you.  Either you take control of your life, or someone or something else does.  Those are the only two choices.

What are your dreams?  Are you closer to reaching them today than you were last month?  Last year?  Five years ago?  Are you on track?  Steve Jobs said, “I ask myself several times a day if the things I’m pursuing at that moment are drawing me closer to my dreams.  If not, I make an adjustment.”  Is what you’re doing right this minute (and every minute of every day) drawing you closer to the goals you’ve set for yourself and your family and your business?  If not, it’s time to make an adjustment.

When you ask yourself the question, “Who’s controlling my destiny?” I hope you like the answer.


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