Seeds of Opportunity

I am guilty of mistaking activity for productivity. Without an objective, activity will result in expended energy and resources and not much else. Focus is what turns activity into productivity. In most cases when I fail to make a distinction between activity and productivity, I categorize my actions as “planting seeds of opportunity”. Other terms to describe this would be: “a lot of irons in the fire”, “multitasking”, “jack-of-all-trades”, and “complete and utter lack of focus”.

The “seeds of opportunity” analogy is probably one of the easiest to dissect and uncover the flawed logic. If you plant too many seeds, and do not tend them properly, most (if not all) of the harvest will rot on the vine before you have a chance to get to it. And so it goes with business. If you are running around planting seeds, be sure you know where you planted them, and tend to those relationships properly, or you’ll end up with a lot of spent time and energy to build a compost heap.

Who Will Write Your History?

The world we live in and share with others is complicated, yet one amazingly simple principle applies: Find your gift and use it.

Joseph Campbell worded it much more poetically when he said, “Follow your bliss.” We all have talents to offer, and it is a matter of choice as to whether or not we follow through with our dreams.

Too many “ifs” clutter our minds and lead us to dead ends.  The word “if” is at the start of all illogical statements. One must “do”. That is how we are programmed. To sit and wait for something to happen to us is to be dead. Action leads to action. Since we are all children of the universe, it is safe to compare the forces of the universe to our own lives. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. Potential energy is not really energy at all until it is utilized.

Imagine a stone. As it sits in the mud, does it “do” anything? If we pick up the stone, we give it potential energy. The potential is to drop it, or throw it or put it in our pocket. Still, there is no energy until we put the stone to use. Early man began to pick up stones and put them on the ends of sticks to create tools. Again, even though it looks like a tool, it doesn’t really become a tool until it is used to create or destroy something. What are you doing with the tools in your life? Do you use them, or do you merely put them on the shelf and wait for something to happen? You will be waiting a lifetime for that tool to do something on its own.

We have the “potential” to create, destroy, and renew ourselves every day of our lives. The world is not really a series of paths, like it has been described so many times before. It isn’t the paths that matter at all. When we do not walk down a path, it cannot possibly have any meaning or use in our lives. Standing in the forest, or the desert, or on the beach, we “choose” what we will do next. So, life, then, is not paths, but choices. Making choices requires us to act. Therefore, life is action. Action is life.

The most basic force of the universe, although it may seem complicated, is nuclear fission. The splitting of atoms creates tremendous amounts of energy. The action of splitting atoms creates the reaction of unleashing the stored atomic energy within them (see: Law of Physics; every action has an equal and opposite reaction.). So, here we have the simple proof. Action leads to action. It must be true, then, that inaction leads to inaction.

We can speak about potential until we turn blue in the face, but there is no such thing as potential. In fact, I’ve heard “potential” defined as “a fancy French word for not doing anything”. Potential is a non-entity. Although we use the term “potential” to describe possibilities, our possibilities cannot exist until we act. We are what we do. There is no more truth in the universe than that.

So, if we are looking for meaning in our lives, and we are waiting and wondering about enlightenment, we will certainly be sitting in the mud for a long time.

The question is this: Do you want to be that stone in the mud, waiting for someone else to decide your fate? Or do you want to take control of your own life, make the choices necessary, and succeed?

Unfortunately, for many of us the choices can be frightening. We do not know. We cannot know what may happen as a result of some of the choices we make. Fortunately, we can look to the past to discover what reactions can possibly take place. This is the purpose of history, and science and memories.
The two ideas or concepts concerning our existence that spring to mind are:

1.) “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” (Sort of your own personal Hell).

2.) “If you know your history, then you will know where you’re coming from. Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, ‘who the hell do you think I am?’” -Bob Marley

Make your own history through action. Be someone who contributes and makes a difference. Otherwise, what are you doing here?

You Don’t Have to Throw Away Everything You Know About Marketing

There has been so much talk and publicity surrounding social networking and Internet marketing that it is easy to feel “out of touch” with what’s going on out there in cyberspace. The truth is: If you know how to market using the traditional methods such as print ads and direct mail, you are most of the way toward being able to use the tools provided by technology today. The most important adage still applies: Know your target audience.

One of the greatest values presented by the growing dominance of Internet marketing is in its ability to help you to create hyper-targeted marketing campaigns. Through the use of tools such as email auto-responders and opt-ins, you can build an incredibly focused list that is yours to market to at any time. The auto-responder allows you to automate a campaign that can run for days and months.  If you don’t know your target market, it won’t matter if you can’t use an auto-responder or an opt-in. They’re useless in a “spray and pray” approach to marketing.  Fortunately, they aren’t as costly as a snail mail campaign gone bad.

There is no “trick” to Internet marketing. If you bombard potential leads with garbage, that’s exactly where your electronic marketing material will end up. To be successful it is absolutely vital that you lead with value. If you can provide useful information to people, they will most definitely be more receptive to what you have to offer in terms of service, or product or business opportunity. This is where the social networking component fits into the picture. It is tied to another well-known adage in business: Build relationships with your clients. The social networking sites that are hot right now include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. These sites allow you to present an image of yourself or business to people all over the world. You do need to be aware of the tools and how they are used by others. If you’re not careful, you will quickly find your Twitter account loaded with spammer turds. Some people feel the need to cut right to the pitch, not unlike those at a live networking event that walk up to you and hand you a card before they’ve listened to whether or not you’d be a qualified lead or even asked you for your name.  They’re working a “numbers game”. And that’s OK for them, but I’m personally not interested in doing business with people like that. I remember hearing that Warren Buffet has 3 questions he asks before he goes into a business deal:  Do I like them? Do I respect them? Do I trust them? Seems pretty reasonable to me, and I think Warren Buffet knows something about business.

So before you start worrying about how you can use social networking and Internet marketing to drive business, start thinking about what your ideal client looks like. If you stick to some of the time-tested marketing strategies, you will have no problem learning the tactics involved with using technology to gain new leads and clients.

Tabula Rasa

Do you believe we are a “blank slate” to be filled in with beliefs that are built on experience and perception as John Locke professed? Or does humanity have a predetermined course based upon genetics?

Nature versus nurture is a long-held philosophical debate and its influence can be seen clearly in those reaching out toward entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur must be able to maintain a strategic view of a business and be able to guide that vision to completion through executing a plan. The tactics used to achieve that goal are largely dependent on the entrepreneur’s leadership abilities and self-awareness. Leadership and personal development theory are premised on the belief that we are in control of our thoughts and actions and must make the conscious effort to make the changes we want in our lives. They also hold that these traits can be learned and developed. To be able to lead others, we must be able to lead ourselves. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the first step in the process of self-improvement is to figure out who you are. This internal realization will give birth to the remaining steps you must take toward using your potential.

Many philosophers and self-help experts agree that we never reach the “end” of this journey, as it is a continual process toward self-awareness and personal growth. Jean Piaget is famous for positing the theory of cognitive developmental stages in humans, and this system can account on a general scale for many of the major milestones we reach in how we think. Of course, these stages alone do not make us complete. Piaget’s stages basically stop at age 12 into adulthood, and that stage, “concrete operational”, can be developed and refined significantly as one gathers experience.  In addition to experience, there are other variables such as environment, cultural biases, and emotions that influence who we are and how we think. These have been impacted greatly by some profound technological advancements.

Today our environmental and cultural influences are obviously quite different than they were even 30 years ago. As technology has developed, one of the most exciting uses of it is the Internet. And within the context of the Internet, one of the most recent development in the last several years is the proliferation of social networking sites. These sites have removed many of the physical barriers that have separated us from one another across the planet, and they allow us to connect with other like-minded people.

This ability to connect on such a massive scale is what leads me to believe strongly in the “nurture” side of the philosophical argument. I believe that the slate begins as a blank, transitions to being filled in with the conditioned behaviors we learn through childhood development, and can then be re-written where necessary in adulthood. By surrounding yourself with people that share the same values and beliefs, you can influence the change you want to see in yourself and re-write your own story.

Create a Space for Positivity

My friend and coach, Rhonda Zwelling, gave me a great golden nugget today that I just had to share. She told me it is vital for us to clear the negative thoughts and beliefs from our lives to “create a space for positivity”. The imagery of this statement is striking to me. I have always understood the importance of positive thougt, and the detrimental effects of negativity, but I never had a reference that I could tangibly equate to changing some bad habits I have acquired through countless years of condtioning.  To understand the process that we must undertake to achieve positivity, I have to go back to one of my favorite quote sources, Aristotle:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

I’ve heard this quote reworded many different ways, and another that comes to mind is from Jimmy Jacobs, who was one of the greatest handball champions of all-time, and later Mike Tyson’s co-manager in the early days of Mike’s fighting career. Jacobs was asked about whether Tyson’s fight schedule, which had him in the ring every two weeks, was prudent. I’ll paraphrase his response as best as I can here:

The more you do something, the better you get at it. Even if it’s throwing rocks at a telephone pole, the guy who does it every two weeks is going to be better at it than the guy who does it once every two months.

So, the question becomes, “What do you do repeatedly?”.  You can reprogram your mind and acheive excellence in any area of your life that you choose, if you do the work. And the work does not need to be (and cannot be) completed in a day. When you are ready to take the journey, step out, find a guide or a mentor (not a guru), and start being the change you want to see in yourself.

Don't Wait!

Waiting for everything to be perfect before you begin your life as an entrepreneur is procrastinating. If you truly desire success, you must be willing to take the risks associated with it. If a baby bird stays in the nest too long, the mother bird will force it out, whether it can fly or not, because it will have become too much of a burden to the mother bird, but more importantly, to itself. We are fortunate that as entrepreneurs we do not have to fear being pushed from a great height, but if we don’t push ourselves, we will not experience any successes or failures to learn from, and what’s the point of that?