Monthly Archives: May 2012

100 Billion Neurons

I have been told that apparently I have 100 billion neurons scattered around my brain. Sometimes however, I have the feeling that none of them are strictly doing what they should.  For sure the ones running my essential systems seem to be doing a pretty good job but when it comes down to tougher challenges such as re-calling names and other essential data, quite frankly I begin to wonder how many more of the little blighters I really need. 

Thirty years ago I was hungry for success and in need of a new idea, today I have more ideas than I can handle and more success than I ever dared dream of.  So it saddens me enormously when I see intelligent people in their late twenties and early thirties, with all of their neurons functioning, that do not seem to have a vision of their future or a plan as to how they can achieve it. They often tell me that it is too hard to visualize and that making choices is tough.  I tell you it’s easy!  

Just look around you and find someone who is in his or her late forties or fifties that you deeply respect.  They need to be (in your eyes) a high achiever and most importantly a ‘success’ by your own definition of the word.

Then ask yourself ‘if you have what they have, five to ten years earlier than them, would that be OK?’ If your answer is ‘yes’ then just try and book a couple of hours of their time and ask them to tell you the most important mistakes they made getting there. Next, all you need do is re-check your vision and create a strategy to avoid as many of their mistakes as possible. It’s a guaranteed recipe and really quite simple!

(For a slightly more structured approach you can always try reading Part Two, Chapter 1 of ‘Making a Difference’, now I wonder where I can get a copy of that from?) :-)

Have a good week,

Harley

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De-motivational moments

Once upon a time in a European convention a delegate was giving an extremely boring presentation. After a while he saw the people in the back of the room begin to fidget and talk,  so he asked “Can you hear me in the back?” one of the people that had been particularly irritating him replied: “No it’s fine, we can’t hear a word but maybe some of those in the front still can!”

I guess everyone has memories of times when specific actions or words demotivated them to such an extent that they either gave up or at least re-considered their entire reason for carrying on, just like the poor presenter in my story?

Oscar Wilde is reportedly associated with saying that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and although on some occasions it can be extremely funny and get a very quick laugh, I believe that it should be used very cautiously. This is mostly because more often than not sarcasm is the enemy to innovative and creative thinking. What’s more it has two potential risks: 1. It can very easily become habitual and 2. It is emotionally draining for those on the receiving end.  In fact, if used repeatedly it is one of the most de-motivational behaviours one can adopt.

There is a very fine line between going for a quick and easy laugh and permanently destroying motivational initiative. I remember when my son was about six years old he liked to take a carrot to school to eat in his morning break.  One day his teacher made a joke about him beginning to look like a rabbit, he never took a carrot to school again and forced himself to eat the junk sweats that he school mates ate instead.

Wishing you a happy and emotionally positive week!

Harley

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Very sorry but one of you must go

Once upon a time there was young entrepreneur who dreamed of becoming rich by building a large IT company.  He started out with some big ideas but very little money, so when he was confronted with an economic recession, barely a year into his venture, he faced a terrible dilemma. With revenue dropping like a stone, he had no choice but to fire one of his two faithful engineers. But who to choose? 

Should it be Charlie or Jim? Charlie was a carefree young man, a little like himself, always smiling, positive for the future and good with the customers and then there was Jim; serious and responsible, considerate and kind, a thoroughly honest and professional engineer. While deciding the young entrepreneur considered two recent events that came to mind.

One day Charlie was working on a client’s PC when he made a thoughtless mistake.  The result was that it took him two very long days to complete a task normally planned for less than an hour!  The young entrepreneur was very cross with Charlie “with your bungling and sloppiness you are sure to drive me out of business!” He said.  But moments later the phone rang, it was the customer.  The young entrepreneur began to apologize “Please don’t apologize” said the client “Your Charlie faced a terribly difficult technical problem, if it hadn’t been for him it would have been a disaster for sure.  Thank goodness he discovered it early enough to be able to solve it without any loss of my data! I just want to thank him and to tell him there’s a bottle of champagne waiting for him in reception the next time he’s passing by.”

Now Jim, hardly ever made a mistake but one day he did “oh! Bother!” he said out loud, “I should have checked that sooner.”  “Is everything OK?” asked the customer, “yes it’s fine, I just made a small mistake, nothing I cannot fix but it will take me about an hour and then I will be out of your way, very sorry”.  The customer muttered something underneath his breath and carried on with what he was doing before Jim had interrupted him.  Fifty minutes later, Jim was on his way back to base, quite prepared to make up the lost time in his lunch break.  When he got back the young entrepreneur was there waiting “Hey, Jim! I’ve just had your last customer on the phone; he was complaining that you took too long and he wants me to deduct an hour off the bill.  He wasn’t very happy at all.”

When the young entrepreneur had made up his mind as to who he must fire he called Jim into his office. “Sit down please Jim, I have some rather bad news for you, as you know we’ve hit a financial tough spot and I am not sure we can get through it without some changes, so I am very sorry to tell you but I have decided to let Charlie go. I hope you understand but I had no other choice?”

Well who would you have kept on?

Have a good week,

Harley

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No worries…

An Englishman and an American were walking through the forest one day when suddenly, right in front of them, appeared a very large Grizzly bear.  The Englishman crouched down ever so slowly, removed his heavy back pack and put on a pair of running shoes that he just happened to be carrying with him.

“I am sorry to say this but those shoes are not going to be of any use my friend, that bear can out run you any day” whispered the American. “Indeed it can” replied the Englishman “But with these shoes and without my back pack I can outrun you and that’s the only thing that really matters right?”

I know it’s an old joke but it was re-told to me this week and I think it is so relevant to so many situations. Take for example doing business in our current recession.  Here in mainland Europe many companies are really beginning to feel the pinch of prolonged close to zero growth. Quite understandably, there’s a lot to worry about.  However I believe that too many business leaders are focusing way too hard on trying to out-run the bear of recession that they forget that it is really only their competitors that they need to be quicker than.

Assuming that there is a genuine need for their products or services and they are as fit as they possibly can be then all they have to do is to deploy a long-term survival strategy while retaining the ability to take advantage of the overweight unfortunates along the way.

I know it sounds harsh but, in reality it’s far better being fitter than the rest and surviving than being eaten by a bear. So my advice is to look at every single aspect of your business to be 100% sure that you have done everything possible to  become as fit and efficient as possible, while not trimming too far that you are unable to seize upon opportunities as and when they arise.

Have a good week,

Harley

PS I hope no one takes any offence about me using two different nationalities in this week’s blog, there’s no hidden message here – it’s just the way it was told to me.  If you have a better alternative, I will happily change it. H.

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Who’s motivating the motivator?

I was co-running a master class on motivation last week and although the focus was on motivating others the question came up as to who motivates you and how?  Now I like to think of myself as one of the world’s most self-motivated people but even I get down in the dumps sometimes.

Take this week for example.  I was building a new two day training course on ‘Communicating at Board Level’ (in fact I was getting very stressed about it). I had so many ideas spinning around my head I found it hard to group them in any logical order. And all the while I tried to motivate myself to work harder, potential participants were dropping off the course, making the whole process seem futile. Couple this with mental exhaustion, a nasty stomach bug, some disappointing business results and my favorite football team losing an important match, I found myself getting depressed for the first time in years.  It felt that a cloud had passed over me and would not budge.

On the motivation course, Erwin, one of the participants described self-motivation as: ‘it’s like when I wake up in the morning. I feel so tired and staying in bed is the only thing I want to do. But then gradually my mind goes over the things I need to do that day. I start to think about getting the children ready for school and an important meeting I have to attend; the volleyball match that I must play in the evening and bit by bit my brain wakes up to the reality that I am needed, that I have a small but important role to play in society and that is enough to motivate me to get out of my nice warm bed and into the shower and off to work.’

In my particular case this week, I was re-motivated by just a few kind words from my wife and some support from the person I am building the training course with. Also my stomach bug went away and with it the little cloud that hung over my head.  So I decided to skip off work for a couple of hours (after all it was a national holiday) and I lay in a sun lounger for an hour and later took the motorbike out. 

So who, or what, motivates you when you are down? I would love to know. It could help me to understand how to motivate others better, there’s room for improvement in everyone it seems,

Have a good week,

Harley

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