Category: Business Management

Book Summary of “The Referral Engine” by John Jantsch

“You won’t believe what they did!”

“Their customer service was so great that even……”

“I must tell you about ……..”

There are three types of messages we want to hear about our businesses. They are great referrals that can create great business. The Referral Engine by John Jantsch offers a systematic approach to establishing word of mouth as a comprehensive marketing strategy.

In a larger sense, it proposes a better way (and friendlier way) of doing business. The book shows you how to craft a strategy that compels customers and partners to voluntarily participate in your marketing, to create positive buzz about your products and services to friends, neighbours and colleagues. What more needs to be said?

Lesson #1: Fill the needs, take a risk and don’t be boring!

**Reality #1: People make referrals because we need to**

We rate and refer as a form of survival. We pass on what we know to others to build credit in the community. We refer to connect with other people. We refer to build our own form of social currency. Oh, and if you do something for me, I am implicitly obligated to do something for you.

**Reality #2: All business involves risk**

When we make a referral, we are putting the trust we have established with the recipient on loan to the person or company being referred. People don’t get emotional and passionate about ordinary products, a satisfactory result, or a fair price. They talk about things that surprise them or make them feel great about themselves and, in effect, remove the feeling of risk they might have about doing business with that firm.

**Reality #3: Nobody talks about boring businesses**

As Seth Godin has often said, “If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason. The reason is that you’re boring.” To build a business, territory, or practice based primarily on referrals, you must first discover or create the remarkable thing about you or your products, the thing that gets people talking, that almost forces them to tell others about you. Boring people, products and companies are hard to refer!

Lesson #2: Employees should know better

Your employees probably treat your customers about the same way you treat your employees. Happy employees are much more likely to represent the brand in a positive manner. Let’s face it: Companies aren’t capable of making emotional connections; people are.

Regular, institutionalised training is a core element of widely referred businesses. This begins with training in the daily routines and processes required to complete ordinary job functions, but it goes much deeper as well. Teaching every new employee everything you can about your organisation’s marketing strategy, marketing plan, positioning, messaging, ideal customer, products, services, and brand attributes makes sense when it comes to creating ambassadors of the organisation.

Smart companies makes sure every employee understands how to spot an ideal customer, how to properly introduce the company’s story, and how to spot trigger phrases prospective customers use, and clues they give, that mark them as potential ideal customers, even if selling isn’t a part of that employee’s job description.

Lesson #3: The Four C’s of Marketing

The age of the 4 Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Placement, Promotion has given way to the age of the customer. A new set of principles has been established in the hierarchy of marketing planning. In the age of the customer, the 4 Cs are the keys to business success: content, context, connection, and community.


Authentic content that educates or is otherwise seen as valuable to the consumer is the new currency of marketing. Customers have grown weary of marketing messages that are blasted at them in an effort to make them buy. The solution is to provide content that the customer values and desires.


The ability to position information within the context of a prospect’s life has become a core marketing tactic. In some cases, this can be accomplished by simplifying our messages and uncluttering our marketing communications.


The most remarkable businesses seem to innovate and create buzz by balancing high-tech connections with high-touch engagements, allowing one to inform the other. By using technology to allow prospects to connect when and where they choose, they allow people to connect more deeply when and where they choose.


In the wired world, community is free to form around shared ideas, common interests, and strategic relationships unbound by distance. Due to the ease of access to online tools, anyone, including our prospects, customers, partners, suppliers, mentors, and even competitors, can form communities to publish information, generate and distribute audio, video, or written content about our products and services, and play an active role in the overall impression a market has about our brand.

Lesson #4: Convergence of Communication Channels

Successful businesses fall into one of two camps:

Businesses that rely on the evolution of marketing driven by social networking, content rich web sites, blogs and businesses that rely on more traditional, off-line business building tools, such as face-to-face selling, in-person relationships, local community involvement.

Both of these models are effective ways to build a business and, depending on the industry you find yourself in, may be exactly the approach you’ve taken or plan to take in order to grow your business.

However, there is an increasing danger in relying solely on one or the other.

Businesses that create the most buzz seem to have a knack for tapping and creating a convergence of these two models, places where online and off-line strategies and tactics intersect and overlap, as an essential ingredient in their culture of referral.

The converged business uses every advance in technology as an opportunity to forge a deeper, more personal relationship with its customers. Technology is used as a way to create larger networks, interact in ways that are most convenient for the customer, and engage customers more frequently.

Lesson #5: The Seven Stages of Referral

There are seven stages of referral development and corresponding touch points along the customer lifecycle.


This is the initial introduction to your company, and while it is commonly conveyed through your advertising messages, it is also the point at which a referred lead discovers you. The best way to start the relationship is to communicate a clear brand or point of differentiation that is designed to attract your ideal customer and your ideal referral sources.


When a prospect is ready to learn more, you are approaching the trust hurdle. During the trust building phase your prospect may need to be nurtured for a time. What kinds of educational opportunities, such as free reports, “how-to” checklists, and information rich seminars can you offer?


Once a lead is aware of your company, they can and should be led to dig a little deeper, to see what’s behind the ads. This is often the point when your web presence or physical presence (store, offices, marketing materials, etc.) set the tone for a deeper connection.


One of the best ways to ensure that every customer relationship evolves into a referral relationship is to create a way for your customers to sample your business and in turn give your business the opportunity to sample the customer. The use of trial offers, seminars, evaluations, guarantees, and any type of activity that provides a prospect with the ability to sample your products and services effectively before making what may be a costly purchase can make a customer much more comfortable and allow you to demonstrate how you work.


How you orient your customer once they say yes is a referral marketing touch point. How you fulfill the order, how you deliver the order, how you communicate throughout the process, how you communicate after the project, and how you ask to be paid for the work are all elements that determine whether you are referral worthy or not in the eyes of your customer. In this stage, expectations are everything. No matter what you think is good or bad, if it’s not what the customer expected, it can raise a red flag.


The key factor in creating repeat sales, expanded product sales, and long-term loyalty is to make certain that your customers are getting the most value possible from your products and services. When someone buys your product or service, commit to teaching them the proper way to get the most from it. Far too often we sell a product or service and just assume our customers are getting the results they desired or were promised. It’s essential that your customer fulfillment process also contain a step that forces you to ascertain and review with your customer the value they received from your product or project. This is a great way to fix gaps in service.


At this stage you should focus on making it very easy for your advocates to participate in your business, come together as a community, and tap your entire network. You can create peer-to-peer discussion panels that allow some of your greatest customer fans to discuss solutions and challenges with prospects. Or you can create customer advisory and referral boards that allow them to participate in the formation of your marketing campaigns and business strategies.

Lesson #6: Partnering: Referral by Proxy

A fully developed referral system targets two distinct prospect groups. The first is your customer base, or your “direct network.” The second, potentially richer, group is made up of other business that also serve your ideal customer who could be motivated to partner with you in some way to exchange referrals and support your customers.

While many businesses focus the bulk of their referral generation efforts on existing customers, the real untapped referral opportunity resides with strategic partners. Partners are an essential part of the referral engine.

The idea of partnering with businesses that have your same target market as customers is not a new one: it’s just gotten so much easier to do. By using technologies such as online web conferencing and podcasting you can easily tap the knowledge and resources of a large group of experts and partners.

**The Strategic Partner Network**

This is a group of business owners who share your description of an ideal customer. In other words, businesses that sell to your customers and prospects. This network quite often can possess far greater referral opportunities if for no other reason than sheer numbers. In addition, partner network members usually have a stronger motivation to act on your behalf. In most cases, a referral is made by a customer because they bump into someone who needs what you do. Strategic partners may find that it makes sense for them to actively promote your business or solution as a way to increase the value of the relationship they have with their customer base.

When you are talking to an existing client, the benefit of a referral is the opportunity to help that person, help a friend or raise their perceived value with a colleague. Ask yourself: How could referring your business make your client’s life better? That’s the proper way to think about referrals. Do that, and you will never be afraid to ask a client again.

The next time someone calls you up and says, “My friend said I should contact you,” immediately call the referral source up and ask them why they did so. You may have an idea, but it’s the actual words, while they still remember, that are important. We go through life thinking we know what the client values about our business, but it’s often not what we think it is. What makes you want to refer us? What do we do that’s unique? What do people say that makes you think of telling them about us?

I hope you enjoyed this summary!

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Answering The Ultimate Question’ by Laura Brooks Richard Owen

Net Promoter programs have been deployed by thousands of companies around the world. Some of them have seen the positive results that should accompany the method and some have not.

What explains the discrepancy in the results?

In Answering the Ultimate Question, the authors give us the solution by explaining the six elements we need in order to do Net Promoter well.

Element #1: Creating Customer-Centric DNA and Driving Change

Net Promoter is a program that requires you to change how you do business and no successful change program flourishes without executive sponsorship and organisational alignment.

Executive Sponsorship

Without executive support, you won’t get the financial investments, human resources and focus on the customer that you need in order to make big changes. Simply put, you need complete buy-in from the top in order to ensure this doesn’t just become another to do item that gets ticked off. Don’t start until you do.

Organisational Alignment

In order to get the rest of the organisation aligned with Net Promoter, you need to be thinking about incentive plans, your internal culture, and communication strategies.

You’ll also need to set up a program structure that will ensure employees know their roles and responsibilities in making customer focus their most important role.

You’ll also need to know how to best sell NPS to the organisation. The best place to start is with financial data that proves the value of the program on the bottom line.

Segmenting for Optimal Results

In order to make the program work, you’ll need to have customer segmentation data.

In B2C companies, customer segmentation typically focuses on customer behaviours, such as recency and frequency of purchase and demographics. In B2B companies, you might focus on account size, account type, region, or business unit, as well as individual customer characteristics like job role or purchase influence.

Make sure to choose segments where your business will most benefit from increased loyalty because you can’t necessarily delight all customers all of the time.

Remember, you are looking for customers who produce good profits – customers who are both highly profitable and highly loyal.

Element #2: Develop an Enterprise Roadmap

NPS programs that don’t get rolled out with a clearly defined strategy – just like any other change initiative – usually die a slow and painful death.

Here are some critical areas your plan needs to cover in order to be successful.

Planning for Different Types of Change

There are two dimensions of business improvements – operational and structural.

Operational improvements are quick wins that are rapidly identified and resolved, usually involving tactical opportunities to improve the customer experience point of contact with the customer. Operational improvements typically improve loyalty one customer at a time.

Structural improvements have longer-term, potentially more significant impact on customer loyalty. These improvements typically require changes in the product, business model or services and therefore take longer and involve more cross-functional involvement and more resources.

Your NPS program should include a plan for both.

Just as there are two different types of changes you can expect in your NPS journey, there are two different types of surveys you’ll use to drive these changes.

Relationship versus transactional survey processes

Transactional surveys typically measure an event with direct customer interaction, such as a support call.

Relationship measures capture the overall perception of your business and are not related to any one specific interaction. Typically there are gathered on a periodic basis.

Your NPS scores in your most important transactions should be a leading indicator of your relationship NPS.

The Customer Corridor

When thinking about how to improve your NPS scores, it’s critical to understand the lifecycle of your customer, and what touch points your company has with them. So, map out the entire customer experience.

Your job is to understand which touchpoints have the largest affect on the overall customer experience, which ones have the greatest impact on loyalty and in what sequence they should be addressed.

Phased versus Big Bang Approach

Finally, you need to decide how to launch the program.

Programs have been successfully rolled out in stages over time, and at once across an entire organisation. However, the majority of circumstances seem to favour the phased approach.

Element #3: Build Trustworthy Data

Many NPS programs fail because of poor data quality.

Data is trustworthy when it has been collected in a manner that ensures it is an accurate and reliable representation of your customers and their perceptions and behaviours.

The Right Customers

Trustworthy data requires you to measure the right customers. Your sampling strategies should emphasise leveraging feedback of your highest-value customers – “voice according to value.”

The Right Questions

Your loyalty metric (NPS or otherwise) will determine your core survey question, but what other questions should you ask? If you must add additional questions, make sure that they:

  • provide useful, actionable data on issues that matter to customers and employees;
  • be a good experience for your customers and employees;
  • ensure that survey questions are interpreted in the same way by every potential respondent;
  • ensure that survey questions elicit an accurate response; and
  • provide consistent responses over time.

Determining the Right Time to Measure

The best time to collect data about specific transactional experiences is directly following the transaction.

The best time to collect relationship experience is some point not directly after or preceding a customer experience point – that way no single experience point skews the results one way or another.

Element #4: Identify Root Causes

Analysing the data to determine root causes for customer behaviour is a critical part of the Operating Model.

Using a combination of analysis tools to identify root causes enables employees to address the real and relevant loyalty drivers for their customers.

There are two basic approaches to understanding drivers of loyalty – stated driver analysis and inferential driver analysis.

For stated driver analysis the focus is on root cause interviews and comment categorisation.

For inferential driver analysis, the focus is on correlation analysis and related statistical methods such as regression and relative impact analysis.

Root cause interviews – the 5 whys

To succeed in root cause interviews several elements need to be included in the process.

  • Train the interviewer – they need to be familiar with the technique.
  • Always ask for permission prior to the interview and prior to getting started.
  • Double-check that the customer’s problem or issue has been resolved.
  • Plan for a time limit.
  • Schedule internal team reviews to discuss root causes and potential solutions.
  • Find a way to communicate back with the customers regarding the actions you have taken based on their feedback.

Comment Analysis and Categorisation

The most common method organisations use to structure open-ended comments is to aggregate them and then categorise by theme, examine the relative frequency of different themes to determine which might be key loyalty drivers.

The good old-fashioned way of exploring these comments is to assign internal teams to read what customers say.

Inferential Driver Analysis

Many organisations use additional diagnostic questions beyond the open-ended comment. They cover broad themes like reputation, value and ease of doing business.

When these questions are asked in the survey, you can use statistical techniques to infer, based on aggregated customer ratings rather than statements, what aspects of customer experience are driving overall customer loyalty.

And if you have a systematic way of gathering Promoters together for a conversation about your business (either online or offline), then you are well on your way to identifying exactly what you should be doing to create Promoters and improve your score.

Element 5: Drive action and accountability

It’s not enough to measure your NPS score and doing root cause analysis, you need to take action on what you are learning.

A closed-loop process is a key differentiator in a Net Promoter program. It’s the process that connects employees with customers in a direct fashion.

It’s important to close the loop with every customer and that your employees at all levels have responsibility for making that happen. An effective closed-loop process balances the most desirable attributes found in the best program with practical implementation.

Here are the basics of a closed-loop process:

  1. The customer responds to a survey.
  2. An alert to follow up is generated based on business rules. The alert may be event driven or scheduled, depending on your program design.
  3. A follow-up owner contacts the customer.
  4. The issue is logged and either resolved or escalated.
  5. The outcome is tracked to capture any learning.

Here are the areas that will make you successful in closing the loop:

  1. Speed. From the moment customers provide feedback, they are waiting to see what you will do. In successful Net Promoter programs, responding quickly is important.
  2. Coverage. If a customer takes time to give you feedback, they deserve a response. A thank you message at the end of the survey is a good start, but you need to provide some indication of what actions you’ll take based on their feedback. Follow up can range from one-on-one meetings at the customer’s office to broad-based communications in an e-mail or newsletter.
  3. Root cause analysis. As we’ve covered in the previous section, follow up provides a great opportunity to get to the core of the issue.
  4. Initiate action. In a perfect world, the follow-up owner will take action to resolve the customer’s issues in the first conversation, but you might settle for initiating a response. It could be as simple as “we hear you and understand your concerns.”
  5. Governance. The closed-loop process requires oversight to ensure that those responsible for taking action are doing so in a timely and appropriate manner.

Element 6: Innovation and Transformation

The goal of a Net Promoter program is transformation, both within the corporate culture and in the marketplace. Net Promoter leaders experience product innovation and improvements through the iterative process of listening to customer feedback and making improvements.

They use increasingly sophisticated techniques, including the use of Net Promoter segmentation, feedback from communities, root cause probing for strategic planning, overall go-to-market approaches, product strategy, customer concretion of products, services and business processes.

The payoff from a successful Net Promoter program is the ability to make the right strategic decisions and foster innovations that ultimately improve your market position. This is where the advantages of superior Net Promoter execution convert into competitive advantage.

I hope you enjoyed this summary.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ by Ryan Holiday

Every obstacle we face on our path to greatness is unique, but our responses to them are the same.

Fear. Frustration. Confusion. Helplessness. Depression. Anger.

Why is it that some people get paralysed by these circumstances and emotions and others seem to answer the call and deal with life head on – and sometimes, to our amazement, even seem to enjoy it?

That’s what we’ll cover in Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way. Overcoming obstacles, Holiday tells us, is a discipline of three critical steps.

Let’s get started.

Part I: Perception

Perception is how we see and understand what occurs around us. It’s also how we decide what those events mean to us.

Our perceptions can either be a source of weakness or a source of strength. If we are emotional, subjective and shortsighted, they can be a weakness. If we can learn to limit our passions and their controls over our lives, our perceptions can become a strength.

When we are faced with an seemingly insurmountable obstacle, we must try to do the following things.

Be objective

The events in our lives – even the obstacles – are neither good or bad. They just are. We are the ones that add meaning to them. We have the choice to determine if the story we make up about an event is positive or negative.

Our tendency, especially when faced with adversity, is to choose a negative narrative. What if, instead, we chose to tell ourselves a positive story about the event?

Control emotions and keep an even keel

The emotions you feel about an event in your life are determined by the story you tell yourself about the event.

So it follows that you can also choose to keep an even keel even in the face of the most difficult of circumstances.

When panic (or any other negative emotion arises), you can feel the emotion, let it pass and then get back to work.

Choose to see the good in a situation

Once you’ve got your emotions under control, you can decide to see the good in a situation.

Just like you can make up a negative story, you can make up a positive story. One that moves you towards action instead of despair. Choose a narrative that empowers you rather than debilitates you.

Place things in perspective

As Holiday points out, perspective has two definitions.

The first is context – a sense of the larger picture of the world, not just what is immediately in front of us. The second is framing – an individual’s unique way of looking at the world, a way that interprets its events.

Both of them matter. For instance, George Clooney was rejected by Hollywood for years and his perspective was that the system was broken and they couldn’t see how talented he really was.

However, when he changed his perspective to one where the directors had a problem they needed solved – they were hoping the next person to walk in would be the right somebody – Clooney realised that he was the answer to their prayers, not the other way around.

The rest, as they say, is history. Your perspective matters.

Live in the present moment

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are in good economy or a bad one. Or whether or not a huge obstacle is lurking right around the corner. What matters is right now.

We all spend a good portion of our lives thinking about the past and the future, much to the detriment of dealing with whatever is right in front of us.

You can’t deal properly with your obstacles if you are only thinking about what should have been and what might yet come.

This isn’t touchy feely philosophical stuff – the only thing you truly have control over is what you do right now.

Focus on what can be controlled

What is in your control?

Your emotions, judgments, creativity, attitude, perspective, desires, decisions and your determination.

Focussing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power. Any ounce of energy directed at things we can’t actually control is wasted.

Part II: Action

Now that we’ve got our perspective and emotions under control, it’s time to take action.

Not all action is created equal. In order to be effective we need directed action – everything done in service of the whole.

We dismantle our obstacles piece by piece, with courage and creativity. We greet our obstacles with energy, persistence, a deliberate process, iteration, pragmatism and a strategic vision.

Get moving

We often get stuck when facing obstacles. Sometimes taking action seems too risky. As a result, we do nothing.

The only rule in taking action is to stay moving, always.

If you want to create momentum, you need to do it yourself. Now.

Practice Persistence

In 1878, Thomas Edison wasn’t the only person who was working on incandescent lights, but he was the only person who was willing to test six thousand different filaments – inching closer to the finish line with every test.

As Holiday points out, genius is often just persistence in disguise.

Nikola Tesla spent a year in Edison’s lab and once said that if Edison needed to find a needle in a haystack, he would simply “examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.”


When you take action, you must keep in mind that action and failure are two sides to the same coin. You don’t get one without getting the other.

When you do fail (and you will), ask yourself what went wrong and what you could improve for the next time.

Failure is often the source of your biggest breakthroughs.

As Holiday points out, great entrepreneurs are never wedded to a position, never afraid to lose a little of their investment and never bitter or embarrassed.

They slip a thousand times. And if they fall, they always get back up.

Follow the process

Nick Saban – the coach of the powerhouse University of Alabama football team, teaches his team “The Process.”

Here’s how he puts it:

Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process. Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.”

Basically, focus only on what you need to do right now and do it well. Then move on to the next thing.

The process is about finishing. Whatever you are doing right now, finish. Finish your workout. Finish games. Finish your inbox. Finish the smallest task you have in front of you right now.

Don’t worry about what will happen later, or what has already happened.

Do your job, do it right

Sir Henry Royce puts it perfectly when he says “Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble.”

Whatever tasks we are faced with – some prestigious and some onerous – we must respond with hard work, honesty and helping others as best we can.

What’s right is what works

The other side to the “do it right” coin is that we need to get the job done and being a pragmatist helps.

Holiday tells the story of Sam Zemurray, who was battling for a plot of land with United Fruit, a giant company many times his size. Two separate people claimed ownership of the land. United’s response was to bring a large crew of expensive lawyers to figure out who rightfully owned the land. Zemurray simply bought the land twice – once from both parties who claimed ownership.

Don’t worry about what your family, friends and society say is the right way to do things. Worry about getting the job done.

Use obstacles against themselves

As Holiday points out, Ghandi didn’t fight for independence for India. British Empire did all of the fighting and all of the losing.

Ghandi realised that he – and the Indian people – had no chance of victory by meeting force with force. Instead, he peacefully violated British rule, exaggerating his weakness in the process. The British Army had two choices – to enforce a bankrupt policy or abdicate. Ghandi had neutralised their military advantage by making its very use counterproductive.

Instead of fighting obstacles, find a means of making the obstacles beat themselves.

Channel your energy

Arthur Ashe battled segregation in the 1950s and 60s when we was on the rise in the tennis world. His father taught him to mask his emotions and feelings on the court as a defence mechanism. Instead, his father coached him, he should channel his energy into his shots.

His style was to be “physically loose and mentally tight.”

Obstacles and adversity can harden you, or it can loosen you up and make you better. Put your frustrations to good use.

Prepare for none of it to work

You can manage your perceptions and direct your action. What we can’t do is control the world around us. It’s possible that even after doing all of the right things, you’ll still fail.

Preparing yourself for that possibility gives you the freedom to act with boldness and courage.

Part III: Will

Will is our internal power. It can never be affected by the outside world, because it is completely within our control.

Will is not how badly we want something, but will is much more about surrender than strength. It is more like “God willing” than “the will to win.”

When we are placed into a situation that seems impossible to fix, we can decide to view it as a learning experience or a chance to help others. That’s will power.

The discipline of will

Most people don’t know that Abraham Lincoln suffered from crippling depression his entire life. It nearly drove him to suicide, twice.

However, because Lincoln defined his life by enduring and overcoming great difficulties, he was able to find meaning in his suffering. For him, he was destined to suffer these things so that they could forge him into the man he needed to become.

It should be no surprise that “this too shall pass” was his favourite saying.

Build your inner Citadel

It’s possible to face every external adversity you could conceivably imagine and never break down, but that capacity needs to be built. Use whatever adversity you are facing right now to prepare you for larger and scarier challenges you’ll face later.

Anticipation (thinking negatively)

These days, it’s fashionable in business to hold a pre-mortem. Basically, you think about all of the things that could go wrong with an initiative in the hopes that you solve most or all all of them before they happen.

This serves two purposes. First, it enables you to avoid some of the things that you can easily prevent. Second, it ensures that you are infrequently surprised by negative events.

Things will always go wrong. Preparing for how you will react in those cases is critical for your success.

The art of acquiescence

This is the art of accepting reality as it is. You don’t have to like or enjoy the treatment, but you know that denying it only delays the cure.

Quickly come to terms with the reality of your situation so you can get on doing the things you can actually control.

Love everything that happens – Amor Fati

When Thomas Edison was 67, a great fire broke out at his lab and factory. As he was looking on at the devastation with the hundreds of onlookers, he told his son to “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”

By loving everything that happens – Amor Fati – we turn what we must do into what we get to do.

The Stoics commanded themselves “Cheerfulness in all situations, especially the bad ones.”


As Holiday points out, there are more failures in the world due to a collapse of will than there will ever be from objectively conclusive external events.

Antonio Pigafetta was the assistant to Magellan on his trip around the world. When he reflected on what his most admirable skill was, he said that the secret to Magellan’s success was his ability to endure hunger better than the other men.

Meditate on your mortality

Nobody gets out of life alive. There is a very short list of obstacles that cannot be overcome and death comes in a #1.

When we meditate on our mortality, all of a sudden life seems very short, and we are faced with a choice.

We can live the rest of our life using the power of the principles Holiday has taught us, or we can live the rest of our life like we’ve always done and keep getting the results we’ve always got.

The choice is yours – decide today.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Think And Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill

The year was 1937, and the Great Depression was ravaging the world. Things were particularly tough in the United States, where the unemployment rate was as high as 25%, up from an average of 5% before that fateful day in 1929.

So when Napoleon Hill published his book Think and Grow Rich, people ate it up. It gave them hope that they could take control of their financial future by learning and applying his 14 principles.

It sold out its first print run in three weeks, and by the time the Depression was over, it sold more than 1 million copies.

Along with How To Win Friends and Influence People (which was published a year earlier by Dale Carnegie), it became one of the first best-selling personal development books. To date it has sold over 100 million copies, and is widely considered to be one of the best personal development books ever published.

Let’s dive in to the 14 principles that Hill tells us we need to learn if we want to be rich.

Principle #1. Desire: The Starting Point of All Achievement

How bad do you really want it?

Hill tells us that the foundation of getting what we want in life is the state of mind called “a burning desire to win.”

This is different than wishing. Everybody wishes they had more money, were in better shape, and had better relationships, but successful people have a burning desire to do it, which is clear from the results they achieve.

Hill’s six-step method for turning your burning desire to succeed into becoming rich looks as follows:

  1. Be clear about the amount you want. Make it a number.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for that amount.
  3. Establish the date you intend to have earned the amount you chose in step 1.
  4. Create your plan to make it happen and put it into motion now, even if you feel like you are not ready.
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the things from steps 1 through 4.
  6. Read your statement aloud twice per day – when you wake up and when you go to bed. As you read the statement, see, feel and believe that you already have the money.

Principle #2. Faith: Visualisation of and Belief In Attainment of Desire

This principle is about believing – in the very core of your being – that you will achieve the plan you have set in motion.

There must be no doubt lurking in your subconscious mind, or else you’ll find all sorts of reasons to not act on your plan.

You can train your subconscious to support you by feeding it a steady diet of positive thoughts.

In particular, you should concentrate your thoughts on two things.

First, by telling yourself that you have the ability to achieve your plan and therefore you demand of yourself persistent and continuous action toward its attainment.

Second, because your thoughts will eventually reproduce themselves in outward action, focus your thoughts on the person you intend to become.

Hill was ahead of his time on this one. There have been plenty of studies that have shown that “acting as if” can put you into more positive states of mind, causing your behaviour to change in a way that is congruent with your goals.

3. Autosuggestion: The Medium for Influencing the Subconscious Mind

This one is an extension of the second principle. Hill suggests that if we use affirmations and visualisation, we’ll be more likely to accomplish our goals.

If you want more money, the theory goes, you should visualise yourself having more money.

However, there’s a twist that Hill added here that is critical – you should also visualise yourself performing the service that you’ll give in return for those riches, causing the two things to be permanently linked in your mind.

Specifically, Hill tells us that we need to – out loud – say how much money we intend to obtain and how we intend to obtain it. We should do this twice a day – at morning and at night.

Here’s the rub – your subconscious will learn that if you want more money, you should do more of the things that will get you more money.

4. Specialised Knowledge: Personal Experiences or Observations

The only way to get rich, Hill suggests, is to have some sort of specialised knowledge that the market will value and pay for. General knowledge is of little use in your empire building.

There are two parts to this.

The first part is to identify what knowledge you need. This will change over time depending on the current state of the market. Many years ago somebody who could tell you how to use your fax machine (what’s a fax machine?) to generate leads for your business would be in high demand. Today, not so much.

The second part is to figure out how to acquire that knowledge. This requires you to have dependable sources of knowledge, which you can acquire through:

  • your own experience and education;
  • the experience and education of people in your network;
  • special training courses (Hill said night school or home study schools, although if he were alive he’d most likely say online)

Finally, the third part is to organise the information and put it into use for a definite purpose, through practical plans.

And to bring this full circle, because the marketplace is constantly changing, so must your knowledge base.

As Hill says in the book:

Successful men, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialised knowledge related to their major purpose, business or profession.

5. Imagination: The Workshop of the Mind

Man can create anything which he can imagine. That’s the crux of the fifth principle.

Hill suggests that there are two forms of imagination.

The first is synthetic imagination, which combines old ideas into new combinations.

The second is creative imagination, which is the act of creating something from nothing.

He argues that these truly new ideas and thoughts are unearthed when the conscious mind is stimulated through the emotion of a strong desire – like achieving your biggest goals and dreams, for instance.

He also makes the argument that hard work alone is not enough to bring riches. It requires the combination of ideas, definite purpose and definite plans.

The best way to have a great idea, the saying goes, is to have a lot of ideas.

6. Organised Planning: The Crystallisation of Desire Into Action

While many of today’s “self-help” books will tell you that you can manifest your reality with your mind alone, Hill was a little more practical.

If we are going to achieve our goals, we need a bulletproof plan to get there. He suggests that we create a Mastermind group to help crystallise the plan, because surrounding yourself with other people who can help you get to where you want to go is the only way to make sure your plan is truly bulletproof.

That being said, you also need to make sure you are constantly updating your plan. Temporary defeat, as Hill called it, will almost always stand between where you are today and where you want to go. Understanding this, and constantly updating your plan as you get feedback from reality, is the key to your ultimate success.

Dwight Eisenhower has an often repeated quote that helps make this point:

“Planning is everything, the plan is nothing.”

7. Decision: The Mastery of Procrastination

Procrastination is the opposite of decision. And we must fight it at every turn.

After studying the world’s most successful people and comparing them to unsuccessful people, Hill found that wealthy/successful people had a habit of reaching decisions quickly and changing them slowly, if at all.

The unsuccessful people had a habit of reaching decisions slowly and changing them quickly and often.

It’s important to keep in mind that what allows the successful people to make up their minds quickly is that they have a very clear direction of where they are headed and a plan to get there. That tends to make most decisions very easy to make.

As Hill says, “The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.”

8. Persistence: The Sustained Effort Necessary to Induce Faith

We’ve already determined that there will be many temporary defeats along your path.

Persistence – the combination of desire and willpower – is necessary if we want to reach our goals.

“A few carry on despite all opposition, until they attain their goal. These few are the Fords, Carnegies, Rockefellers, and Edisons.”

It’s a cliché to reference Edison’s many failures in creating the light bulb and his response that “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”, but think about it for a second – how many times are you willing to fail in pursuit of your goal? When are you willing to stop?

If your gut instinct isn’t “I will never give up”, you probably need more work on some of the other principles.

9. Power of the Mastermind: The Driving Force

The Mastermind is one of the core tenets of Hill’s teachings, and its a powerful one. He describes it as:

“coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

Through these groups, Hill suggests that “Men take on the habits and power of thought of those with whom they associate in a spirit of sympathy and harmony.”

One of the original Master Mind groups was formed by Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs and Luther Burbank.

Things turned out pretty good for those guys, and since then groups of successful people (usually CEOs) get together on a regular basis to help each other solve their biggest challenges.

No matter where you are in your journey, you should consider joining or forming a group of your own.

10. The Mystery of Sex Transmutation

I’ll just come right out and say it – this one is a little (a lot?) weird.

Here it is in his words so you can judge for yourself:

“Fortunate, indeed, is the person who has discovered how to give sex emotion an outlet through some form of creative effort, for he has, by that discovery, lifted himself to the status of genius.”

What he’s saying is that if you can figure out how to channel your sexual energy into a creative/business pursuit, you’ll be more likely to become successful.

I’m going to leave this one without further comment.

11. The Subconscious Mind: The Connecting Link

This one is a little less controversial and has occupied volumes of self-help books published since.

The essence of this section is that your subconscious mind is influenced by your emotions and so you need to take great care that you expose it to positive emotions instead of negative emotions.

According to Hill there are seven positive emotions: desire, faith, love, sex, enthusiasm, romance and hope.

There are also several major negative emotions: fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition and anger.

Feed your mind more positive emotions instead of negative emotions and you’ll be on the right path.

12. The Brain: A Broadcasting and Receiving Station for Thought

This section sees us return to some weird, unproven ideas. However, keep in mind that most of what Hill describes in this book would not have been proven by science at the time of publication and maybe (just maybe), he is just a little ahead of his time on this one too.

Hill used the metaphor of the radio for the brain (notice that today’s metaphor would be the computer, another thing that doesn’t adequately describe our most important organ) and that it had a “sending station” and a “receiving set.”

Basically, the premise is that we can tap into the minds of collective human intelligence by putting our minds in a state of high vibration through the application of the other principles in this book.

Until this theory is proven (please tell me there are people working on it), we’ll have to make do with the collective intelligence of the world we have access to through the wonders of the Internet.

13. The Sixth Sense: The Door to the Temple of Wisdom

In this principle Hill describes what we would today consider intuition. He believed that there is an organ in our body that received knowledge through sources other than our physical senses.

The way Hill suggests we access our intuition is creative, if nothing else.

Hill devised his own council of “Invisible Counsellors” which included the people whose traits he wanted to acquire. He held imaginary meetings in his mind with these people – which included Edison, Napoleon and Lincoln. He would imagine these meetings in vivid detail, and would later credit all of his hunches and intuition to these meetings.

Give it a shot sometime and see how you make out.

14. How to Outwit the Six Ghosts of Fear: Clearing the Brain for Riches

Finally, Hill tells us that in order to become successful, we need to clear our minds of fear, which causes indecision and doubt to creep into our daily activities.

There are six types of fear he identifies: poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age and death.

If we are worrying about these things, we are not focussing on the things we need to in order to become successful.

Because these fears are nothing more than states of mind and we have control over our mind, we can eliminate those fears by simply deciding to focus our attention elsewhere.

Sound advice that is timeless. Always good to remind ourselves of what a legend Napolean Hill was.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Unlimited Power’ by Tony Robbins

This book is a personal development classic, written by Tony Robbins when he was 25 years old.

These are the principles that Robbins used to go from living in a 400 square foot apartment and washing his dishes in the bathtub to a millionaire many times over in less than three years.

They are the same principles that he has gone on to teach millions of people around the world in one form or another.

We live in an age with more information than we ever thought possible. If information was the answer then we would all be happy, successful and have six pack abs, but we don’t.

The missing ingredient is the ability to take massive action to work towards our most important goals. Infact, the definition of the word power is “the ability to act.”

There are seven fundamental character traits that the world’s most successful people have cultivated within themselves that give them the power to take action.

Here’s a reminder of what they are:

1. Passion

The world’s most successful people have discovered an all-consuming purpose that drives them to do more and be more.

Almost all of them tap into the power of goals and defining the outcome they are looking for.

Robbins gives us five rules for formulating our desired outcomes:

  1. State the outcome in positive terms.
  2. Be as specific as possible. How does your outcome look, see, feel and smell? Engage as many of your senses as possible.
  3. Have an evidence procedure. Know how you will look, how you will feel and what you will see when you achieve your goal.
  4. Be in control. The outcome must be created and maintained by you. Make sure you choose something you can influence directly.
  5. Verify the outcome is ecologically sound and desirable. The outcome must be one that benefits you and other people.

Now that we know the five rules for defining outcomes, we can move on to creating a master list of the things we want in our lives. There are 12 steps to this process.

  1. Make an inventory of your dreams, including the things you want to do, be and share. Don’t limit yourself – be bold.
  2. Estimate when you expect to reach the outcomes.
  3. Pick the four most important goals for you this year.
  4. Review these four goals against the five rules for outcomes to ensure that they are aligned.
  5. Make a list of the important resources you already have at your disposal. This will be your inventory of strengths, skills, resources and tools.
  6. Focus in on times you used those resources well. This will prime your mind to see yourself achieving your goals.
  7. Describe the kind of person you would have to be in order to attain your goals. Will it take discipline? Education? Something else?
  8. Write down what prevents you from having the goals now. This is helping you identify the roadblocks that might get in your way.
  9. Create a step-by-step plan on how to achieve your four goals.
  10. Come up with some models – people who have achieved great success. Write down one main idea that each of those people would say to you if they were speaking to you personally.
  11. Create your ideal day from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Feel what having all of your goals accomplished will be like.
  12. Design your perfect environment. Where will you be during your perfect day?

2. Belief

As Robbins points out, our beliefs about what we are and what we can be precisely determine what we will be. What you believe is possible will determine the trajectory of your life.

If we are going to model beliefs that create excellence, we need to understand how beliefs get developed in the first place.

  1. Environment. The environment you spend time in will impact what you believe is possible.
  2. Events. Some events have such a big impact on our lives that they change our brains forever.
  3. Knowledge. No matter how grim your circumstances are right now, if you read about the accomplishments of others, it can create the belief in you that you can succeed too.
  4. Past Results. Do something once and you’ll forever know you can do it again.
  5. Creating the Future in Your Mind. You can “step into your future” any time you want by creating a mental image of it.

So that’s where beliefs come from. Now let’s review the seven beliefs that Robbins suggests will help you foster excellence.

  1. Everything happens for a reason and a purpose and it serves me.
  2. There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.
  3. Whatever happens, take responsibility.
  4. I do not need to understand everything to be able to use everything.
  5. People are my greatest resource.
  6. Work is play.
  7. There is no abiding success without commitment.

3. Strategy

Now that we know where we want to go and the beliefs that will help us get there, it’s time to figure out the actions that will help us get there.

People that are able to consistently produce outstanding results follow a specific set of actions and mindsets. The quickest path to replicate their results is to adopt their actions and mindsets.

In order to create a “recipe” we can follow, we need to to have a system to describe what to do and when to do it. Robbins calls this syntax – the way people order their actions – and it makes a huge difference in the kind of results that we produce.

Here is the shorthand notation:

  • V Visual
  • A Auditory
  • K Kinesthetic
  • e external
  • i internal
  • d digital (words)
  • t tonal (tone of sound)

For instance, when you see something in the outside world, it’s represented as Ve. When you have a feeling inside, that would be represented as Ki.

The combination of those things can help you create a recipe for whatever you want to create in your life. The trick is to find the right sequence of thoughts and actions that produce the results.

So, we find somebody who has created the results we are looking for, we do something that Robbins calls “strategy elicitation.”

Here are the steps to making it work:

  1. Get the person in the appropriate state by having them remember a specific time when they felt motivated, loved, or whatever strategy you are looking to emulate. For instance, you might ask them “Can you remember a time when you were totally motivated to do something? Can you go back to that time and step back into that experience?”
  2. Ask them clear, succinct questions about the syntax of what they said, heard and felt. You might ask them “As you remember that time, what was the very first thing that caused you to be totally motivated?”
  3. Then, find out what specifically about what they were experiencing caused the person to get in that state. You might ask “After you heard that thing, what was the very next thing that caused you to be totally motivated to do something? Did you picture something in your mind? Did you say something to yourself? Did you have a certain feeling or emotion?”

As you listen to the person you are talking to, record down their answers and you’ll have yourself a recipe for getting the results you are looking to achieve.

4. Clarity of Values

Every successful person is clear about their values. Values are your own private, personal and individual beliefs about what is most important to you.

We can learn to produce the most effective behaviours, but they need to support our deepest needs and desires. Without this we have internal conflict and lack the ability to generate success on a grand scale.

Your values can change over time and have certainly changed since your childhood. You also have different values in different areas of your life.

In order to understand the most important values, do the following:

  1. Start by listing the most important areas of your life. That will likely include home, work and relationships.
  2. Then for each of those areas, ask yourself what’s important in that area. Don’t filter, just write them down.
  3. Finally, rank order the things you wrote down in that area. This will become your value hierarchy.

This is not only an important exercise to do with yourself, it’s an important exercise to do with the people in your life that are the closest to you.

5. Energy

The world’s most successful people seem to have an unending reservoir of energy. How do they do it?

They understand that your mind and your body are connected to one another in what Robbins calls a cybernetic loop.

You’ve heard the adage “act as if.” Most of the time it’s been distorted in the personal development world to mean “act as if you are rich, and you’ll become rich.” However, there’s a lot of science that proves that your physiology has a lot to do with what happens in your mind and with the state you are in and because you have complete control over your physiology (what you do with your body), you have complete control of your mental state as well.

As a simple example, if you want to feel happy, smile. Try feeling miserable while you are smiling – it’s almost impossible.

The Power of State

Robbins suggests that the key to producing the results you desire is the put yourself into a resourceful state so that you are empowered to take the types and qualities of actions that produce the desired results.

The best way to put yourself into a resourceful state is to use an anchor, which serves to trigger you into the desired state.

For instance, you could use the anchor of balling your hands into fists and screaming the word “yes!” to put yourself into a state of high energy (a little intense for me, but you get the point).

Here are the 4 steps to making it work.

  1. Put yourself in a fully associated, congruent state, with your whole body involved. Basically, to continue with the previous example, you need to put yourself in a high energy state.
  2. Set the anchor at the peak of the state.
  3. Use a unique stimulus or trigger. This should be something that you don’t do very often otherwise.
  4. Replicate the anchor exactly. If you set the anchor by touching a part of your body, you should to it in the exact some spot, with the exact same amount of pressure and so on.

6. Bonding Power

The world most successful people are masters of creating bonds with other people.

One of the ways the do this is through mirroring and matching.

You’ve heard that words only account for 7% of our communication, our tonality accounts for 38%, and our body language accounts for 55%.

That’s why when you match another person’s physiology and tonality during an encounter, you build rapport with that person in minutes.

In order to do this well, you need to look for things that you can mirror as unobtrusively and naturally as possible. As Robbins points out, if you mirror a person who has a terrible twitch, they’ll just end up thinking you are mocking them.

Once you get into a rhythm of rapport with the other person, you can start doing something called pacing and leading. This is when you gradually change your posture or tone of voice. If you’ve created rapport with them, they will naturally start to follow your lead.

7. Mastery of Communication

Successful people are masters of using communication to get what they want in business and in life.

First, they understand how to ask for what they want. Follow these five steps, and you can too:

  1. Ask specifically.
  2. Ask someone who can help you.
  3. Create value for the person you are asking.
  4. Ask with focused, congruent belief.
  5. Ask until you get what you want. Not necessarily from the same person.

Second, they understand how to deal with resistance using the agreement frame. There are three phrases you can use to get another person to see things from your point of view without any resistance:

  1. I appreciate and…
  2. I respect and…
  3. I agree and…

By replacing “but” or “however” with “and”, you completely bypass the automatic resistance other people have to those words, keeping their minds open to what comes out of your mouth next.


The principles of Unlimited Power are timeless, and if you start incorporating them into your daily and weekly routine, you’ll start to see an uplift in the results you are generating in your business and life.

Hope you found that useful. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ by Michael Gerber

When you become an entrepreneur, there are many predictable frustrations you’ll run into:

  • Not having enough profit
  • Not enough personal income
  • Not enough customers
  • Can’t find good people
  • Don’t have enough time
  • The business depends too much on you

And the list goes on. Finding your way out of those predictable problems is difficult, if not impossible, without a system that predictably produces the opposite of those issues.

That’s where The E-Myth and the Entrepreneurial Model it promotes comes in. According to Michael Gerber, the solution involves thinking about your business like a franchise – which is a proprietary way of doing business that successfully differentiates every extraordinary business from their competitors.

This is the classic “work on your business rather than in it” advice you’ll hear repeated by business gurus. The difference is that Gerber has created step-by-step instructions on how you should get there.

Through this book and summary, you’ll find the answer to the following questions:

  1. How can I get my business to work without me?
  2. How can I get my people to work but without my constant interference?
  3. How can I systematise my business in such a way that it could be replicated 5000 times, so the 5000th unit would run as smoothly as the first?
  4. How can I own my business and still be free of it?
  5. How can I spend my time doing the work I love to do rather than the work I have to do?

Understanding the Rules

Here are the rules you’ll need to follow in order to get your business running like a franchise that produces predictable results:

  1. The model will provide consistent value to your customers, employees, suppliers and lenders, beyond what they expect.
  2. The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill.
  3. The model will stand out as a place of impeccable order.
  4. All work in the model will be documented in Operations Manuals.
  5. The model will provide a uniformly predictable service to the customer.
  6. The model will utilise a uniform colour, dress and facilities code.

There are 7 distinct steps to get there, which I’ll cover in turn.

1. Your Primary Aim

Every entrepreneur starts a business for themselves, but we often get so tied up in the business that we forget that the ultimate aim of the business is to serve ourselves.

Here are the questions you need to answer with 100% clarity if you want your business to serve you and not the other way around.

  1. What do I wish my life to look like?
  2. How do I wish my life to be on a day-to-day basis?
  3. What would I like to be able to say I truly know in my life, about my life?
  4. How would I like to be with other people in my life – my family, friends, business associates, customers, employees, and community?
  5. How would I like people to think about me?
  6. What would I like to be doing two years from now? Ten years? Twenty years? When my life comes to a close?
  7. What specifically would I like to learn during my life – spiritually, physically, financially, technically, intellectually? About relationships?
  8. How much money will I need to do the things I wish to do? By when will I need it?

2. Your Strategic Objective

Your Strategic Objective is a clear statement of what your business ultimately has to do in order to achieve your Primary Aim.

It’s a list of standards you can use to measure your progress towards your ultimate goal.

There are many standards you could include, but Gerber suggests that the first two on the list should be as follows.

First, you need to be clear on how much money your company will make when it is ultimately “done.” Will it be a $1 million a year company? A $500 million a year company? Something else? How much after-tax profit will it make? That’s the money you are going to use to build the life that you want through your Primary Aim.

Second, you need to build a business that can fulfill the financial standards you’ve set with the first standards. It tells you what kind of business you are creating and defines who your customer will be.

From there, there are no specific number of standards that need to be created, but it will help if you answer some of the following questions:

  • When is the ultimate version of your company (Gerber calls this the prototype) going to be finished?
  • Where are you going to be in business? Locally? Regionally? Internationally?
  • What type of business are you going to be? Retail? Wholesale? Something else?

The standards that you create for your business will ultimately become the business you strive to create. Many entrepreneurs skip this step when they start and never climb their way out of day-to-day operations of their business.

3. Your Organisational Strategy

Gerber reminds us that most companies organise themselves around personalities rather than around functions and the result, he suggests, is almost always chaos.

The next logical step in building your business prototype is to determine the exact organisational structure you’ll need in order to execute on your strategic objective.

Here’s how you’ll do it.

  1. Build an organisational chart for what your business will ultimately look like. For instance, you might need a CEO (which may or may not be you), a COO, a VP of Sales, account managers and so on.
  2. Put your name in all of the positions that you currently fill. When you are starting out, this will likely be all of them.
  3. Create very detailed descriptions of each one of the positions, which Gerber calls Position Contracts. This is a summary of the results that need to be achieved by each position in the company, the work the person is responsible for, a list of standards that the results are to be evaluated against, and a line for the signature of the person who agrees to fulfil those responsibilities.
  4. Sign your name to each of the contracts you currently fill.

The insight here is that you should create the system inside your business based on the standards you want to set, rather than letting other people do it for you.

In order to free yourself up to work on the strategic parts of the business, you need to rest easy knowing that the tactical parts of the business are being taken care of.

For instance, you don’t place an ad for a salesperson until you’ve created the Sales Operations Manual for the company.

Once you’ve created the position contracts for each of the roles in the company, you’ll know exactly which standards you need to be hiring against.

4. Your Management Strategy

Now that you have your organisational strategy created, you can move on to your management strategy.

Gerber suggests that our management strategy is the system we create for the business. It shouldn’t and can’t rely on expensive and talented people. The more automatic and specific your system is, the more effective it will be.

At its core, it is a series of checklists for everything that needs to be done inside the business.

For example, a hotel would have a series of checklists for the people who clean the rooms and another series of checklists for the people responsible for checking guests in and so on.

Finally, you should have a mechanism built into your system for following up on making sure that the work in the checklists is done properly.

For instance, you could have your people sign a checklist at the end of each job letting the company know that the work had been completed based on the steps required and then make it a fireable offence for signing off on work that hadn’t been completed.

The benefits of a system like this are clear. You’ll be able to hire and train new people so that they’ll quickly be performing the tasks and producing identical results to people who have been doing them for a long time.

5. Your People Strategy

At the heart of your people strategy is creating an environment where “doing it” is more important to them than not doing it.

One of the key parts to making this happen is to ensure that the people you hire understand the reason behind the work they are being asked to do.

As Gerber points out, people do not simply want to work for exciting people. They want to work for people who have created a clearly defined structure for acting in the world. A structure through which they can test themselves and be tested.

In short, a game. The key, of course, is to make sure you are creating a game worth playing.

Gerber describes the “game” a hotel owner had created where his hotel become a world in which the sensory experiences of his customer were greeted by a profound dedication to cleanliness, beauty and order.

This went beyond the commercial justification and extended into the worldview the owner of the hotel had. It was then communicated to his employees in both words and actions.

He communicated his idea through the systems they documented for running the business and through his warm, caring manner.

Importantly, he set the tone for this game at the beginning of his relationship with his employees – before they were hired.

There were 5 distinct components to the hiring process:

  1. A scripted presentation communicating the ‘boss’ idea in a group meeting to all the applicants at the same time. It described his idea, but also the history of the business and their success in implementing the idea and what would be required for the successful candidate for the position.
  2. Then he met with each applicant individually to discuss their reactions to his idea and ask them why they thought they would be a good fit to implement the idea.
  3. He notified the successful candidate by phone with a scripted presentation.
  4. He notified the unsuccessful applicants, thanking them for their interest.
  5. On the first day of training, the boss did the following:
  • Reviewed the ‘boss’ idea;
  • Summarised the system through which the entire business brings that idea to reality;
  • Took the new employee on a tour of the facility, highlighting the people and systems that bring the idea to life;
  • Answered the employee’s questions clearly and fully;
  • Reviewed the Operations Manual with the employee, including the Strategic Objective, the Organisation Strategy and the Position Contract for the employee’s position.
  • Completed the employment papers.

This is how you bring the core values of your business to life.

6. Your Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy lives and dies with what your customer wants and how you deliver it to them.

Understanding what your customer wants depends on you understanding the two pillars of a successful marketing strategy – the demographics and psychographics of your customers.

When you first start your business, you’ll already have defined the demographics of your customers. Your next job is to figure out as much of the psychographics for that segment of the market as possible.

What other brands do they buy? How are those companies – who are already successfully selling to those people – sell to them? What colours do they use? What messages are they sending? What values do they seem to be promoting?

Then, you’ll take all of that information and figure out what your business must be in the mind of those customers in order for them to choose you over everybody else.

Finally, you’ll make a promise your customer wants to hear and then align your entire organisation around delivering on that promise better than anyone else on the block.

Of course, as your company continues to grow, you’ll continue to learn about the demographics and psychographics of your customers and continue to iterate on your marketing strategy over time.

7. Systems Strategy

The last piece of the puzzle in building your business is your systems strategy. There are 3 kinds of systems.

Hard systems are inanimate, unliving things. Soft systems are either living things, or ideas. The core of the book and summary so far have been a combination of those two systems.

The third system is the information system, which provides us with information about the interaction between the other two.

As an example, if you have a sales system that tracks the sales steps from beginning to end (you should), you would be tracking some or all of the following items:

  • How many calls were made?
  • How many prospects were reached?
  • How many appointments were scheduled?
  • How many appointments were confirmed?
  • How many appointments were held?
  • How many Needs Analysis Presentations were scheduled?
  • How many Needs Analysis were confirmed?
  • How many Needs Analysis were completed?
  • How many Solutions Presentations were scheduled?
  • How many Solutions Presentations were confirmed?
  • How many Solutions Presentations were completed?
  • How many solutions were sold?
  • What was the average dollar value?

In short, the information system should tell you everything you need to know about how your people are performing, so that you can meet your strategic objectives, so that you can meet your primary aim.

Always good to revisit this timeless work by Michael Gerber. Hope you found it useful…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Brief’ by Joseph McCormack

We live in an attention-deficit economy, and being brief is both desperately needed and rarely delivered.

When we are not clear and concise, there are consequences. Time, money and resources are wasted. Decisions are made in confusion, great ideas don’t get pursued, and deals take far too long to close.

This book is all about getting your story straight, and then getting to the point. Quickly.

As author Joseph McCormack points out – it’s like Six Sigma for your mouth.

Let’s get started.

Why Brevity Is Vital

These days, everybody is busy. Especially executives. Your rambling marketing message or sales pitch is likely to get lost in the daily flood of information they struggle to stay on top of.

As McCormack points out, being brief is not just about time. The more important point is how it feels to the audience. It’s not about using the least amount of time. It’s about making the most of the time you have.

There are three things you need in order to adhere to the principles of brevity – be concise, clear and compelling. What follows naturally from this is that you also need to have a through understanding of your subject matter.

Mindful of Mind-filled-ness

Living in a world full of distractions means that the people around you are mentally stretched. That makes getting to your point before your audience gets distracted an imperative.

There are 4 main sources of pressure your audience is battling as you try and get your point across:

  1. Information overload, which has gotten worse as social media and email invades our lives more and more every day;
  2. Inattention, causing them to struggle with paying attention longer than 10 seconds at a time;
  3. Interruptions, which means that there are many different things competing for attention at all times;
  4. Impatience for creating results, which causes people to be stressed almost all the time.

Here’s the point. Even if you are given 30 minutes to make a presentation, you have far less than that before your audience tunes you out.

Why You Struggle with Brevity: The Seven Capital Sins

In spite of the evidence that brevity is a necessity in today’s world, it turns out to be difficult to master because of what McCormack calls the “seven capital sins.”

  1. Cowardice. You don’t have the guts to be clear and take a stand on the issue, so you mask your message in mounds of jargon and buzzwords.
  2. Confidence. You know the material so well and can’t help explaining it in painful detail.
  3. Callousness. You don’t respect people’s time. When you say “this will only take a minute”, it ends up taking many times that.
  4. Comfort. When you are comfortable with an audience, you let yourself get wordy and drag the story out.
  5. Confusion. You tend to do your thinking out loud, not mindful that your audience would rather hear the finished product.
  6. Complication. You think that the issue is really complicated, missing the point that your job is to simplify it for people.
  7. Carelessness. You don’t think about what you are going to say deeply enough and so your message gets mixed up.

Brevity Tool #1: BRIEF Maps

People who start to gain experience in making presentations and sales pitches mistakenly abandon outlines, thinking they are a tool that only rookies use.

Professionals understand that an outline is critical to their success. McCormack tells us that there are five immediate benefits you’ll get by using them.

Outlines keep you:

  • Prepared, so you are ready to deliver your message.
  • Organised, so you understand how all of your ideas connect.
  • Clear, so you are certain what your point is.
  • Contextual, so you can draw a bigger picture so your point stands out.
  • Confident, so that you know what to say, inside and out.

The BRIEF way to do an outline is organised as follows:

  • B: Background or beginning;
  • R: Reason or relevance;
  • I: Information for inclusion;
  • E: Ending or conclusion;
  • F: Follow-up or questions you expect to be asked or that you might ask;

This format can be used for anything you need to present – from an important project update to your team to the most important sales pitch of your life.

Now that we’ve covered how to outline your message, let’s move on to how to deliver it.

Brevity Tool #2: The Role of Narratives

Bore your audience to death with corporate-speak and they’ll tune you out faster than you can say “next slide”, but tell them a good story and they’ll gladly give you their undivided attention.

McCormack introduces us to the idea of the Narrative Map to help us do just that. There are five elements in the map.

The focal point

This is the central part of the story and tells the audience what it’s about. For instance, at the beginning of his presentation launching the iPhone, Steve Jobs said “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

Setup or challenge

In the context of a marketing or sales message, this is the challenge, conflict, or issue in the marketplace that your organisation is addressing. Every great story includes a dragon that needs to be slayed.


This is about communicating the opportunity that the challenge poses. Some people call this an unmet need or an aha moment.


Now we move on to how the story unfolds. This is the how, where and when of your story, describing how you’ll solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity. There are usually three or four key points to be made here.


All good stories include a payoff at the end. This is where you paint the picture of what life looks like for your audience after your solution is implemented.

So that’s how you outline and then craft a narrative that gets communicated clearly, concisely and powerfully.

Let’s now move our attention to a method for being clear in our every day conversations with the people around us.

Brevity Tool #3: Controlled Conversations and TALC Tracks

As McCormack points out, if we are undisciplined in how we present information, we are even more undisciplined in how we have our daily conversations.

Being brief in a conversational setting means shifting from endless monologues to what he calls having controlled conversations. These conversations have a rhythm, a purpose and a point.

In order to get conversations right, there are things you need to do, and things you need to avoid.

Let’s start with the three common mistakes that draw people into long, unwieldy conversations:

  1. Passive listening: Letting the other person babble on about everything and say nothing. As a result, there is no control.
  2. Waiting your turn: Letting the person talk, then jumping in to say your part. As a result, two separate conversations are happening.
  3. Impulsively reacting: Responding to a word or thought the other person said. As a result, there is no clear direction in the conversation.

Now let’s move to a structure for balance and brevity. McCormack calls these TALC Tracks.

T is for Talk

Somebody in the conversation starts talking. It could be you or the other person. There are two things to consider at this stage:

  1. Be prepared to say something when the other person finishes speaking.
  2. Make sure your response has a clear point.

AL is for Actively Listen

Listen closely to what the other person is saying the entire time. Don’t zone out, multitask, or otherwise take your attention off the other person. There are two things to consider at this stage:

  1. Ask open-ended questions related to what you heard.
  2. Dig deeper into the parts of the topic you are genuinely interested in.

C is for Converse

When a natural pause happens in the conversation, it’s your turn to jump in with a comment, question, or sometimes a bridge to another topic. There are three things for you to consider at this stage:

  1. Don’t use your turn to start a new conversation.
  2. Keep your responses short.
  3. Know when to stop so the other person can start talking again.

When and Where to be Brief

Now that we’ve covered the foundations of how to be brief, let’s go into some specific examples of when and where to be brief.

In Meetings

We all know that meetings suck. There are three villains that you need to slay in order to make them suck less.

  1. Time. Reduce the amount of time devoted to them. Put the BRIEF back in briefings.
  2. Type. Consider a standing meeting, or a meeting with no table. And most importantly, meetings should be more like a conversation than a presentation.
  3. Tyrants. Making sure that no one person dominates your meetings. That includes outside presenters.

Social Media

McCormack suggests that we create social media posts and emails that respect a busy executive’s time. That almost always means making things shorter.


The best way to deliver a presentation is to first understand what your audience wants to hear, then speak to those things and those things only.

Job Interviews

Nobody likes job interviews and that includes the person doing the hiring. When you are the candidate, create a BRIEF Map that quickly explains why you are qualified. Then, tell a story that shares some of your past successes that demonstrate what your potential employer is looking for.

Sharing Good and Bad News

When you are sharing good or bad news with your team, always get to the point quickly. Then, let some time for the news to sink in and leave time for them to ask questions.

When you are delivering bad news in particular, consider three important issues:

  1. Problems. State bad news simply and clearly, without pulling punches.
  2. Causes. State the real reasons for the bad news so people know what’s happening.
  3. Possibility. Take advantage of tough situations to have a heart-to-heart.


Everybody is busy. The world is begging you to get to the point quickly.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said:

“Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”

I hope you found that summary useful and I look forward to sharing another great book with you next week.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan

When Marcus Sheridan graduated university in 2001, he joined two of his friends who were starting a swimming pool company.

For the next seven years, business was good. With real estate prices rising to historic levels, anybody could get a loan for a swimming pool. Many did.

As you might have predicted, the wheels started to fall off in 2008 when the economy crashed.

Pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, Sheridan was forced to find a way out, and he found it in a simple but powerful content marketing strategy he calls They Ask, You Answer.

He used it to save the company, ultimately generating millions of dollars in new sales directly attributable to the methodology you are about to learn.

Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore how you can do the same for your business, no matter the size of your company or the industry you compete in.

A Massive Buying Shift and the Blur between Sales and Marketing

Before we move on to the principles of Sheridan’s system, we need to cover a couple of important points.

First, consumer buying patterns have gone through a monumental shift over the past decade. As Sheridan points out, multiple studies show that the vast majority (Sheridan tells us that it’s 70%) of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to a company. This is consistent no matter what market you are in. Large, small, B2B or B2C.

Second, you might be inclined to think that the lessons you are about to learn don’t apply to your specific business or industry niche. Everybody believes that their business is the one exception to the rule – that the people in your industry don’t buy the way this system suggests they do. Ultimately that’s up for you to decide, but there’s only one way to find out for sure and that’s to try it.

“They Ask, You Answer” Defined

At the core of They Ask, You Answer is an obsession with what your customer is thinking, searching, asking, feeling and fearing.

As Sheridan was pondering how to save his company, he sat down at his kitchen table late one night and brainstormed all the questions he had received about fiberglass swimming pools over the previous nine years.

When he was finished he had more than a hundred questions listed on the piece of paper.

Then, as you might have guessed, he and his business partners set off to answer each one of them in a blog post or video. Most of the articles were published to their website as blog posts, with the title of the question becoming the title of the post.

These weren’t one or two sentence answers – these were real answers with deep explanations and they weren’t glorified sales pitches – they approached each answer with a “teacher’s” mentality – answering without bias and only trying to educate the readers.

As Sheridan points out, every single industry has hundreds of buyer-based questions. So it’s ironic that most company websites don’t even address more than a few of them.

If you find yourself thinking “there’s no way our buyers have that many questions,” this means you’ve lost touch with your customers and you need to start learning what your ideal customer wants to know.

After a few months of doing this with his pool company, Sheridan started to look at the web analytics on their website to determine what was working and which content was generating the most traction.

He found that there were five types of content that seemed to generate the most interest and buying behaviours:

  • Pricing and Costs
  • Problems
  • Versus and Comparisons
  • Reviews
  • Best in Class

Why were those the ones that moved the needle the most? Because those are the issues that we (and all consumers) obsess over when considering a purchase. Most businesses hide from those questions or only deal with them when face-to-face with a customer, but not Sheridan and from this day forward, not you.

Let’s cover each of them in turn.

Content Subject #1: Pricing and Costs

If you’ve ever gone on a website to research a product and couldn’t find pricing information, you’ve likely felt what Sheridan calls the “F-word of the Internet”: frustration.

Most companies resist putting pricing information in their website because of one of three reasons.

Every solution is different

Yes, it’s true that your pricing might vary from customer to customer depending on their needs, but no matter what business you are in, it’s possible to give your prospects a range of probable prices. At the very least, you’ll what to give your customers a sense of how pricing works in your industry.

Your competitors will find out what you charge

It’s unlikely that your competitors have no clue what you charge.

You’ll scare your customers away

Sheridan makes two great points here. First, if your customer can’t afford your product, there’s little to no chance that you’ll convince them on a sales call. Second, talking about price is not about affordability, it’s about psychology. You are more likely to trust a business that’s upfront about their pricing.

So instead of hiding behind one of those excuses, be willing to specifically address the main pricing questions you get.

Create a list of all the major products and/or services you sell. For the ones that generate the most revenue for you, produce at least one blog post or video explaining the factors that dictate the cost, what the prospect can expect to see in the industry, and where your company lands.

An article that Sheridan posted titled “How Much Does a Fibreglass Pool Cost?” has generated $3 million in additional sales, directly attributable to the article.

In fact, that single post single handedly saved his business, his home, the homes of his business partners and the jobs of all of their employees.

Content Subject #2: Problems

This content subject is all about turning weaknesses into strengths.

When people buy, their instinct is to worry more about what might go wrong than what might go right. They know that they can go to your website to find out all the great things that will happen if they buy from you – that’s what they get from every website they visit.

For instance, Sheridan tells the story of how somebody might decide between getting a fibreglass pool or a concrete pool. For years his prospects would ask him something along the lines of “what are the problems with a fibreglass swimming pool?” and, you can be fairly certain that whatever questions people ask you in person, they’ll search for online as well.

That’s why they ended up writing a post titled “Top 5 Fibreglass Pool Problems and Solutions.”

Everybody in the pool industry thought they were crazy for writing that post. How many of their competitors had that information on their website? Zero. How many prospects wanted to know the answer to that question? All of them.

When considering whether or not to address the elephant in the room, you need to make a choice. You can allow them to search for and find the answers to those questions themselves, or you can address them directly and allow your customers to determine whether or not it’s an issue for them.

Aside from creating a level of trust your competitors won’t dare match, doing this has two advantages.

First, you get the opportunity to explain why, in spite of the problems, your product/service would be a good fit for the prospect. For instance, one of the drawbacks to a fiberglass pool is that it might not be long, deep or as wide as customer might like, but if lower maintenance and a pool that will last a lifetime are more important to the prospect, it might be worth the tradeoff. This turns your weakness into a strength.

Second, you eliminate people from your sales and marketing funnel that will never become customers in the first place, freeing you to pay closer attention to those that might. If they’ll find out the problems eventually (they will), they might as well find out now.

Content Subject #3: Versus and Comparisons

The third major content subject is something that we, as consumers, are fascinated with: comparisons. This versus that.

Over the years, Sheridan and his colleagues had heard the same question from their prospects for years: what’s the difference between a fibreglass pool and a concrete pool?

So, they wrote a post titled “Fibreglass Pools vs Vinyl Liner Pools vs Concrete Pools: An Honest Comparison.”

Again, the temptation here is to avoid bringing these types of questions up. Why address problems that some of your prospects might not even consider?

Two of the reasons we covered in the previous section – turning weaknesses into strengths and using marketing to eliminate bad leads.

The other two reasons are traffic and trust.

If people are thinking about these questions they are searching for the answers online. Would you rather they come to you for the answer, or some third party site that lets other (sometimes misinformed) consumers answer it for you? To top it off, search engines love this type of content and serve it much higher in the rankings than self-serving sales messaging.

When your prospect sees that you are open and honest, they are more likely to trust you during the rest of the sales process and you are more likely to make a sale.

Here’s what to do next.

Write down every question you’ve ever received from a prospect that asks you to compare two or more things. This includes obvious things like something you sell vs. a competitor’s product and less obvious things like things that you nor your competitors sell.

After you’ve made that list, write your answers and start turning them into blog posts, e-books, webinars and so on.

Content Subjects 4 and 5: Reviews and Best in Class

Let’s start this section by saying that what you are about to hear is going to seem crazy, but, just like the other tactics you’ve learned about so far, they will work if you embrace them.

One of the questions that people always ask is “who is the best _____?” So, in true They Ask, Your Answer form, Sheridan wrote a blog post titled “Who are the Best Pool Builders in Richmond Virginia (Reviews/Ratings).”

He listed the five companies he truly believed were the best and, for good measure, he neglected to include his own company. That’s the part I told you might seem crazy. Why would he do that?

The first reason is as soon as you put yourself on that list, you lose all credibility. It becomes a puff piece and you jeopardise the trust you are trying to build with this strategy.

The second reason is less obvious, but even more important. Where are those prospects when they are reading this post? They are on your website. Not your competitors website, or a third party website. This means that you control the messaging and while you don’t want to include your company in the list, you can position yourself as the expert. Tell them about all of the other great content on your website relating to their questions. You’ve just welcomed them to your front door, don’t be afraid to invite them in for a tour of the house.

Go ahead and Google “best pool builders richmond va” to see how Sheridan expertly crafted that specific post.

Hope you found that useful. Until next time….

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Focus’ by Daniel Goleman

In many ways, the things you pay attention to and focus on drives your success in life.

Without focus, it would be impossible for us to live in the modern world. At the same time, the world we live in is so ripe with distractions that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep our focus on any one thing for long periods of time.

Emotional intelligence pioneer Daniel Goleman tells us that there are three different types of focus: inner, other and outer. Goleman tells us that a well lived life demands that we be nimble in each.

By understanding and developing our skills in those three areas, we can improve our results in any area of our lives.

Let’s explore how to do just that.

The Anatomy of Attention

In order to understand focus, we need to first understand how attention works.

The best place to start is with the things that break our focus – distractions.

In today’s world, there are plenty of things to distract us from focussing on the things we need in order to succeed.

The two distractions

There are two main types of distractions – sensory and emotional.

Sensory distractions are easy to identify and to some extent, manage. For instance, when you are reading you tune out almost everything that is going on around you. Your brain weeds out the continuous flood of background sounds, shapes, colours, smells and so on.

Emotional distractions are harder to identify and much harder to manage. The biggest challenge comes from the emotional turmoil in our lives. Trying to focus on your work after you’ve had a blow up with a family member at home is all but impossible.

The two systems

Just as there are two types of distractions that can cause us to lose our focus, the brain has two systems that it operates.

First we have the bottom-up mind, which is:

  • fast and operates in milliseconds;
  • involuntary and always-on;
  • intuitive, operating through networks of association;
  • impulsive, driven by emotions;
  • the executor of our habits and guides our actions;
  • the manager of our mental models of the world.

Second, we have the top-down mind, which is:

  • slower;
  • voluntary;
  • effortful;
  • the seat of self-control, which can (sometimes) overpower automatic routines and emotionally driven impulses;
  • able to learn new models, make new plans and take charge of our automatic repertoire – to an extent.

Our voluntary attention, willpower and intentional choices are all top-down. Our reflexive attention, impulses and habits are all bottom-up. Because of that, our mind is doing a continual dance between stimulus-driven attention and voluntary focus.

However, because your brain likes to conserve energy, it prefers using the bottom-up system. Any time we use the top-down system, we end up burning energy. That’s why learning new things or creating change in your life is hard – your brain doesn’t want you to do it because it’s easier not to.

When your mind is adrift

Your mind naturally wanders. If you ask people the question “are you thinking about something you are not currently doing?”, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that they’ll answer yes.

This obviously has implications for your ability to be “in the moment” and focus on the task at hand and it’s exactly why so much time, energy and money is focused on the concept of mindfulness. As pioneer of American psychology William James put it, “the voluntary bringing back of a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will.”

However, even a wandering mind has its uses. That’s because your daydreams are often focused on solving unresolved problems. It also allows for the exploration of previously unconnected ideas, which is the source of all creativity.

Your goal is to be able to engage in mind wandering when you want to and focused on the task at hand when you want to.

That may sound trivial, but it’s an important point. You only have the ability to remain focused for a finite amount of time and then you need to recharge your brain’s batteries, so to speak.

And as Goleman points out, surfing the web (no matter how mindlessly), playing video games or answering email doesn’t do the trick. However, things like taking a walk in nature and – you guessed it – meditation work perfectly.

Inner Focus: Self-Awareness

Now that we’ve covered how attention works, it’s time to move on the first area of focus you need to master – yourself.


Self-awareness and in particular the decoding of the internal cues that our bodies give us – holds the key to making great decisions in life.

There are two major streams of self-awareness.

“Me,” which is the part of you that creates stories about your past and future based on the sum total of your life experiences to date.

Then there is the “I,” which exists in the moment. This is the part of you that is in tune with your body, which helps you to determine whether or not a decision “feels” right.

Being aware of both the narratives you’ve built up over your life (so you can change them) and being in tune with your body are the two main ways you can continue to become more self-aware.

Seeing ourselves as others see us

No matter how good you get at self-awareness, you still won’t be able to get a complete picture until you see yourself as other people see you.

One surefire way to get an accurate view is to do a 360-degree evaluation, where you asked to rate yourself on a number of factors and then those self-ratings are checked against other people who have rated you for the same things.

Interestingly, studies have shown that the further up the organisational food chain you are, the greater the gap between the scores you give yourself and the scores other people give you.

Assuming that you are a leader (or want to be one some day), continually checking these types of ratings will help you understand how you are perceived.

You’ll also want to consider getting advice from people you trust whenever you are making big decisions in your life – they will help you cover up your blind spots.


We won’t spend a ton of time on this, but your amount of willpower determines a lot about your success in life. Numerous studies show that children who exhibit high amounts of willpower go on to make more money and make better decisions about their health. They even commit less crime, if that’s something you’ve been losing sleep over.

At its core, willpower is the ability to remain focused on one thing while your impulses or desires are distracting you.

When an impulse is distracting you – lets say there is a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the table – your reward circuits are focused on what’s tempting about them – they are chewy, hot and delicious.

Here’s what’s interesting – just by shifting your focus onto something different about the cookies – they are round, have dots on them, and are made in an oven – you have switched your focus and lowered the chances of you reaching for the cookie and eating it.

Becoming aware of how and why things tempt you and actively shifting your attention away from those things when they happen (self awareness at its best), will help you make better decisions

Other Focus: Reading Others

Empathy is the ability to focus on what other people experience. There are three main varieties.

Cognitive empathy lets you take another person’s perspective, comprehend their emotional state and manage your own emotions while you evaluate theirs. These are mostly top-down operations.

Emotional empathy is when you feel what the other person is feeling. This is a bottom-up process, and mostly formed during infancy – you are wired to feel another person’s joy or pain even before you can think about it.

Finally there is empathic concern which takes this one step further by leading us to care about the other person and to take action if the situation calls for it. This is both a bottom-up (automatic) and top-down (thoughtful) function and getting the mix right has implications for your life.

For instance, many people who stir up too many sympathetic feelings for other people end up suffering themselves, to the point of losing their ability to take action.

On the flip side, other people who show no sympathy for others (either naturally or by training) lose the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes and also lose the ability to read other people’s emotional cues – a great predictor of success in most professions.

The best way you can practice reading other people, it turns out, is to amp up your empathic concern to a level that allows you to connect with the other person, but not so much that you lose the ability to control the emotions you feel by doing so.

Outer Focus: The Bigger Context

The last area of focus to explore is the bigger context.

In order to understand the bigger picture in things requires us to understand patterns and systems.

Systems, Goleman points out, are invisible to the naked eye. As a human, we all struggle with system blindness. We are very bad at understanding things where the cause and effect are distant in time and space. Because of that, many of our solutions work in the short-term, but in the long-run end up making problems worse.

Here’s an example. The simple and obvious solution for traffic jams is to build more and wider roads. In the short-term (after the roads are built), it’s easier to get around, but very quickly, people start making more car trips, moving further away and buy more cars. Making the long-run traffic problem worse.

This means that human beings have a very tough time grasping the concept of threats that come over an even longer time horizon like global warming.

Rather than focus on the negatives (like our carbon footprint), Goleman suggests, we should focus on the positives in our actions, which we can see in the here and now.

The reason this is a better approach is that negative emotions are poor motivators in the long run – we are wired to want to avoid them. Positive emotions, on the other hand, are great motivators and can be sustained for long periods of time.

The Well-Focused Leader

Ultimately, how you put all of this together as a leader will have a huge impact on your team’s success or failure.

As the preceding sections show, we all have a limited amount of focus to direct on achieving our goals. Directing that focus where it’s needed most is your most important leadership activity.

As Goleman points out, organisations need leaders with a focus on generating results. However, those results will be more robust in the long run when leaders don’t just tell people what to do or do it themselves. Instead, leaders need an other focus, motivated to help other people be successful too.

The more you widen your focus to include inner, other and outer inputs, the more effective and well rounded your leadership style will be.

Hope you found this summary useful. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing/ coaching prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Stumbling Upon Happiness’ by Daniel Gilbert

As human beings we spend a lot of time predicting what will make us happy in the future. For some of us it’s the family vacation we’ve always dreamed of, for others it’s the new car we’ve had our eyes on for years, and others it’s finally paying off the mortgage on their home.

Dan Gilbert makes the argument that we are particularly bad at this task, for three main reasons.

First, our imaginations don’t give us and accurate preview of what our emotional futures will be because our brains fill in and leave out important details about the future.

Second, we naturally project our current feelings into a future that will not necessarily exist.

Third, we forget that things will look differently once they happen in the future.

The antidote, Gilbert suggests, is something that most of us will ignore. Let’s explore why we are not very good at predicting what will make us happy and uncover the secret to doing it right.

Why we think about the future: Prospection

Here’s a remarkable fact: human beings are the only creatures on earth that think about the future. This is something that Gilbert calls nexting.

The first type of nexting is a survival mechanism and happens immediately and unconsciously. For instance, if you’ve ever been walking on a trail and heard the sound of a rattlesnake, your first instinct will be to move away from the sound as fast as you possibly can. These instincts are built deep into your caveman brain.

The other type of nexting is more about long range planning, like thinking about where you want to retire, or what you’ll eat for lunch next week at that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. This type of nexting occurs in our frontal lobes and allows us to think about the future before it happens. There are a few reasons we do this:

  • It’s pleasurable: by thinking about something you’ll enjoy in the future, you get to experience it twice – first in your imagination, and then in real life.
  • To protect ourselves: we anticipate negative events so that we can minimise their impact or eliminate them entirely.
  • To exercise control: we have a fundamental desire to control our own destiny and thinking about and planning our future allows us to fill that need.

Which is all fine and dandy, except for the part that we are not very good at it. Which leads us to make choices that work against our ultimate happiness.

Shortcoming #1 – Realism: Filling In and Leaving Out

The first shortcoming of our imagination in predicting what will make us happy is that we fill in the details inaccurately, and leave out details that are relevant to how happy we’ll actually be.

Filling In

There have been plenty of scientific studies that show that our memories are not reliable representations of what actually happened in the past.

Instead of storing perfect records of past events like, say, a video recording, our brains store snippets of past events in different parts of our brain and then, when we want to recall a memory, our brain finds those fragments and reconstructs them to build the memory.

Whatever isn’t actually there gets filled in by the imagination and there’s the rub – sometimes the things that our imagination uses to fill in the gaps didn’t actually happen. Then the brain restores that memory back with the newly fabricated information. Which is why you can get 100 different versions of an event from 100 different people at that event.

This fabrication, Gilbert points out, happens so quickly and effortlessly that we no idea what’s happening – we just believe that whatever we just pulled up in our minds is an accurate representation of the event.

Now, let’s think about our future predictions. How happy will you be next week if your best friend asks you to go to a party with them?

As your imagination gets to work trying to answer this for you, some interesting things happen. If you are like most people, you start to fill in details about the party – where it will be, who will be there, what food and drink there will be and you’ll use those details to start making predictions about how happy you’ll be.

The problem is that your imagination went through this entire process of filling in details before you even know what they were and you start to make choices based on your (probably inaccurate) predictions.

The thing to understand here is that your brain does the exact same thing when you are thinking about more important things in your life, like what job you should take and where you should live.

Leaving Out

Just as we fail to consider how much our imagination fills in when we are thinking about the future, we also fail to consider how much it leaves out.

For instance, when most people are asked how they would feel two years after the sudden death of their eldest child, they suggest that they would be totally devastated, wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning and would perhaps consider committing suicide.

As Gilbert points out, nobody who gets asked this question ever considers the other things that would happen in those following two years – attending another child’s play, making love with their spouse or reading a book while taking in a spectacular sunset.

This is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point that our imagination almost never captures the entire story.

Shortcoming #2 – Presentism: Projecting the Present onto the Future

This shortcoming is a bit easier to explain. Basically, our imaginations are not as imaginative as we believe them to be.

Basically, we tend to fill in holes in the future with data from the present. We anticipate that whatever is going on right now is what will be going on in the future.

For instance, once you’ve stuffed your belly full at a holiday meal, you have a hard time imagining that you’ll ever be hungry again. We fail to see that our future selves will view the world any differently than we view it now.

Or when scientists are asked to make predictions about the future, they almost always err by predicting that the future will be too much like the present. Respected scientists are on record as saying that human beings would never experience space travel, television sets, microwave ovens, heart transplants and nuclear power.

The tendency to project the present into the future ensures that we have a really hard time imaging a future where we will think, want or feel differently than we do now.

One of the more interesting findings from the entire book is that how we think we’ll feel in the future is determined quite heavily by how we feel right now, even if what’s happening right now has nothing to do with what will happen in the future. For instance, when you are having one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, you’ll be much less likely to predict being happy about the get together you have planned with your friends the following week.

Without realising it, how you are feeling in the moment has a huge bearing on how you’ll be able to predict your future happiness and, to top it off, you have no idea that it’s happening.

Shortcoming #3 – Rationalization: Things look differently after they happen

Rationalisation is defined as “the act of causing something to be or to seem reasonable.”

We all have a psychological immune system that protects us against all sorts of emotional upsets. Like all of the other mechanisms we’ve been describing up until this point, it operates without us realising it’s there.

The end result is that we, as Gilbert describes, “cook the facts.” Here’s a quick description of a study Gilbert did in order to explain.

A set of experiment subjects were invited to a fake job interview that they thought was real. In the pre-interview, they were (in the middle of a bunch of other questions) asked how they would feel on a scale from 1-10 if they didn’t get the job. When they didn’t get the job (because that was the whole point of the experiment), they didn’t feel quite as bad as they thought they would. In fact, after a short period of time they were just as happy as when the went in to the interview.

Basically, the finding of all of these studies is that our psychological immune system kicks in to protect us from negative experiences, with three caveats.

First, the negative event needs to reach a certain pain threshold. For instance, it will kick in when you are being rejected at a job interview, but not as much if you stub your toe.

Second, it will only kick in once it’s clear that we can’t change the experience. For example, people experience an increase in happiness when genetic tests show that they don’t have a dangerous genetic defect (as expected) or when the tests reveal that they do have one, but not if the results are inconclusive.

Third, we have a much easier time rationalising actions that we have taken rather than inaction.

The end result is that we fail to realise our ability to generate a positive view of our current circumstances and thus forget that we’ll do the same in the future. Ultimately leading us to not accurately predict how happy we’ll be in the future.

The Solution: Asking Others Experiencing It Right Now

As Gilbert points out, most of what we know is not based on our own direct experience, but on second hand knowledge. You’ll find this to be true if you make a list of all the things you know and go line by line marking it firsthand or secondhand.

We believe and put our faith in many things that we have learned secondhand, but when it comes to deciding what will make us happy, we stubbornly rely on our “nexting” mechanism in almost every case. As we’ve already learned, that strategy doesn’t lead to good outcomes. We forget how good or bad things were in the past because of our selective and unstable memories and then we project those memories into the future to make inaccurate predictions on how we’ll feel then.

This is the point in the summary where we discuss the advice that Gilbert suggests we’ll most likely not take.

By far the most accurate way to determine whether or not a certain future state will make you happy is to ask somebody who is experiencing it right now.

Do you want to know what it will be like to move to a foreign country and leave your family and friends behind? Ask somebody who just did it. Want to find out how you’ll feel about it 10 years from now? Ask somebody who moved 10 years ago.

As Gilbert says, the human race is like a living library of information about what it feels like to do just about anything that can be done. All you need to do is ask.

There are studies that show that when people are forced to use surrogates to determine how happy they will be about a specific imagined future, they make very accurate predictions about their future feelings.

So why do we reject the solution? Because we don’t like to think of ourselves like the average person. Maybe other people are bad at predicting their future happiness, but not me. As you might have guessed, that’s what EVERYBODY says. So while you are busy rejecting the solution because you are unique, you are merely confirming that you are exactly like everybody else.

The biggest mistake we make, Gilbert suggests, is that we don’t make very good predictions about how happy accumulating more “stuff” will make us.

There is a mountain of evidence that beyond a certain level of wealth, it makes little to no difference in the level of happiness you experience. Yet we keep striving for more.

The problem is that the entire market economy system depends on people continually buying and producing more and more stuff. As Gilbert points out, if everyone was content with the amount of stuff they had, the economy would grind to a halt.

So, the next time you find yourself about the pull the trigger on that big splurge purchase, consider finding somebody who did the same and ask them how much happiness it added to their life beyond the initial jolt of excitement.

You might be surprised at the results.

Hope you enjoyed this summary 🙂

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information