All In or Just Passing Go? Getting Good Pays Off | Seinfeld Says

“Ho hum.” That’s too often the mantra about our jobs.

We do our work routinely, passing go, like in the Monopoly game, collecting our weekly paychecks, hoping our mundane job will one day turn into a thrill ride.

The fact is: We get from our jobs what we expect…of ourselves. What we put in determines what comes out.

When it comes to creating a long, satisfying career, each of us is accountable.

It’s not about the boss who won’t promote you or the company that doesn’t provide training or the coworkers who are duds. It’s about you:

  • the goals you set,
  • the quality of work you do,
  • the effort you make to build skills,
  • the risks you’re willing to take–like saying “yes” to new assignments or switching companies

The truth is:

Getting good brings you to a love of your work.

Achieve that and the payoffs are yours.

All in?

You know who the serious careerists are at work. You see them knuckling down and pounding out the work. They know what they want to get good at because that’s where their strengths and interests are. So they keep testing themselves, making “can do” their mantra.

Employees who come to work only to pass go are a drag on the organization. They perpetuate the status quo when success requires growth. Ho hum locks you in place..

Getting good

Our strengths are the starting point for getting good. By focusing on strengths that motivate you consistently, you can set goals that keep inching you toward the career success you want.

Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, from the TV series and mega-hit, Seinfeld, is a case in point.

He appeared on the Mike and Mike in the Morning program on ESPN (January 30, 2014) for the first time. Co-host Michael Greenberg asked Seinfeld questions that led to insightful (not funny) answers.

First, Greenburg wanted to know why Seinfeld was still doing standup and other projects since he didn’t need the money:

 Anybody who’s ever good at anything is doing it because they love it…it’s a way of life for me, it’s not about the money…it feels like you’re using what you have.

Seinfeld spoke openly about how he struggled to become a good comedian. Performing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was his big moment: Succeed there or go up in flames. He had to be “all in” or else.

Seinfeld observed in successful baseball players that same commitment to being all in:

I admire anyone who is in love with their craft and their pursuit. People who kill themselves with the physical and prep side of the game…I want to see how they approach the game. The guys who put the mental work into the game.

Seinfeld recognizes that getting good means understanding how success is achieved:

Baseball is a beautiful model of how things happen…In football it’s hard for us to understand the formations and the play calls. In baseball we can see pretty easily what happened.

In our careers we need to see and understand what’s going on too–the politics of the workplace, the competitive environment, performance expectations, and the capabilities of our coworkers.

Being all in at work means being fully aware of what’s going on in our field of play.

Recommit.

Getting good is a commitment you build on for as long as you wish. Seinfeld recently launched a on-line video series, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It’s an unscripted conversation that takes his comedian guests, as he says, “out of their packaging.”

Seinfeld  wanted to learn “how things happen” around internet programming, being fascinated by the idea that he could shoot a segment and then: “I can immediately put a show in your pocket.”

Once you know what “all in” feels like, it can take you places you never imagined.

All of us aren’t Jerry Seinfeld, but we’re either all in or just passing go in our careers. Now’s a good time to raise the volume on your “can do” mantra and recommit.

Don’t Believe In Yourself? That’s “Lin-Sanity”! | 10 Confidence Builders

Sometimes we say we do when we don’t. Or say we don’t when we might. Other times we wonder if we do or should or can. Getting a grip on sustainable self-belief can make us crazy.

It seems that every success story we hear boils down to how the person always believed s/he could:

  • Overcome the odds
  • Seize their big moment
  • Get recognized
  • Reach the top

Their self-belief is what sustained them when they were down and nearly out. It was the one internal force that fueled their momentum and prevented any idea of quitting.

I don’t know about you, but there are days when believing in myself is no problem. Then (ugh) there are those seemingly endless other days when nothing is clear, self-doubt takes over, and my optimism goes underground.

Unfortunately, the success that we’re after often feels elusive. The more our vision of it waivers, the more difficult it is for us to dig deep when the going gets tough.

Keep reaching.

Jeremy Lin has become  an inspiration to legions of fans.

Lin is an American pro basketball player for the New York Knicks with an economics degree from Harvard (and a 3.1 GPA) and parents originally from Taiwan. At 6’3″ Lin had enough height to play serious basketball; he performed exceptionally in high school, allowing for the belief that he could play professionally.

Here’s what happened: Lin

  • Did not receive a college athletic scholarship
  • Was not drafted into the pros after college
  • Eventually got a partially guaranteed contract the Gold State Warriors
  • Was then waived both by the Warriors and then the Houston Rockets in preseason
  • Was picked up by the Knicks as a back-up player for 2011-12

Through all the ups and down, the being shuffled around, and the disappointments, Lin kept playing and getting better. He got to demonstrate both his talent and his belief in himself when the Knicks finally put him in a game.

At the time Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni said, “He got lucky because we were playing so bad.” That was Lin’s moment and he seized it. The Knicks won that game and the next six under Lin’s on-floor leadership.

D’Antoni said that Lin has a point-guard mentality and “a rhyme and a reason for what he is doing out there.” (How’ s that for helping to boost self-belief!)

The adoration of Knicks fans for Lin gave birth to the term “lin-sanity.” What Lin has done seems “insane,” given his bumpy ride which included sleeping on his brother’s sofa in NYC waiting for his moment.

Consider these lin-sights

Jeremy Lin didn’t just believe in himself, he kept working at becoming a better player.

Believing in ourselves also means believing in things that matter to achieving our goals the right way, as Jeremy Lin did:

  1. Work hard, keep getting better, increase confidence
  2. Stay committed to your goals, no matter the obstacles
  3. Make your success about something more than yourself like the team
  4. Cultivate humility during the ups, courage during the downs
  5. Seize every moment to participate–always be prepared and ready
  6. Focus on the job at hand, block out distracting noise
  7. Accept success and failure as having equal value to improving
  8. Take one day at a time, don’t over analyze or project into a future you can’t control
  9. Ignore the labels you can’t do anything about
  10. Lead when you’re needed and facilitate the success of others

Why not you?

Jeremy Lin is just like you. He’d come close to finding a place in his hoped for career and then watched it slip away. So he tried again until a set of unexpected circumstances gave him a chance to shine.

Lin’s story isn’t about “celebrity” careers. It’s about yours too. It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in. There’s a level of achievement that you want too. Attaining it starts with your belief that you can and will.

If it can happen for others, I can happen for you. And it will, when the time is right and you’re prepared and ready. Please don’t give up.

Photo from STEVESD via Flickr

4 Causes of Colossal Failure and How to Recover

Failure is a bummer. Too often we fret about the prospects, relying on preparation and readiness to get us through our challenges unscathed. But still potential failure always lurks.

The case of Kyle Stanley

You don’t have to know anything about professional golf to identify with Kyle’s story. In 2011 he debuted on the PGA tour, recording four top ten finishes, his career off to a great start.

On Sunday, January 29, 2011, Kyle was playing the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. With a 3-shot lead, he was 77 yards from the pin on the par-5 final hole, poised for his first win.

Scott Bordow, sports writer for The Republic captured what came next:

… his 3rd shot hit the green and spun back into the water. Moments later, he …wrote a triple-bogey 8 on his scorecard. Within 30 minutes he was shaking the hand of the winner, Brandt Snedeker, who bested him in a two-hole playoff.

This wasn’t just the loss of a golf tournament and the $1,080,000 winner’s check. It cost Stanley an invitation to the coveted Masters Tournament and a two-year qualifying exemption on the PGA Tour. It also pointed a glaring public spotlight on him. Never again would commentators mention his name without referring to his collapse at Torrey Pines.

Colossal failures are memorable and often unshakable.

Protecting yourself

Remember, it’s colossal failure, we’re talking about here–those instances where something out of the ordinary and often unpredictable happens when the stakes are high.

Jaw-dropping failure can be credited to:

1. Mistakes in execution and/or judgment–We simply don’t apply our knowledge or showcase our skills as well as we usually do.
Stanley chipped his ball onto the 18th green on a down slope without enough spin to hold it. So it rolled into the water.
2. Changed conditions–We’re suddenly facing unexpected situations and don’t quite know what to do.
With the pressure of a penalty stroke weighing on him, Stanley wasn’t able to figure out how to win.
3. Unmanaged emotions–We let our confidence crack under the weight of the pressure, allowing doubt and negative self-talk to creep into our present.
Stanley seemed outwardly calm as he went about his pre-shot routine on the 18th green, but his missed putts were indications that his concentration had been shaken.
4. Bad luck–There are forces beyond our control that we can’t successfully address.

Stanley’s ball could have stopped before it reached the water but it didn’t.  Such is life.

The road to recovery

Colossal failures don’t define you negatively unless you let them. It takes courage to take on a colossal challenge and equal courage to deal with failure.

To recover from failure you need to:

Stop second-guessing or berating yourself–According to Bordow, Stanley said, “You can either let it get you down…or you can focus on the positive. I did way too many good things last week to dwell on one shot or one hole or one putt.”

Take support to heart–Family, friends, and other golfers came to Stanley’s side, sharing what they’d learned from their own big failure experiences and reinforcing his talents.

Commit to becoming stronger–Refocus on your success goals and what it takes to achieve them. Turn the failure experience into a springboard to renewed commitment to the work you need to do. That’s what Stanley has already started.

The big finish

You can’t fail big unless you’re darn good at what you do. Why? Because you don’t get a chance to be center stage unless you’ve already distinguished yourself.

Bordow writes about Stanley: “…only in losing in such devastating fashion did he finally understand that he was good enough to win.”

The same is true for you. The big stage and the potential for colossal failure are measures of what you’ve already achieved and what you will achieve. The downside of failure is only as big as you make it. If you’re smart, you’ll face it bravely when it comes and then turn it to your advantage. That’s what winners do.

Photo from squaylor via Flickr

Career in a Rut? Partner Up and Push. | A “Business Fitness” BOGO

Careers are personal. They’re about what we want from our work life and what we’ll risk to get it.                

Navigating our career path can be lonely. What it takes to be successful isn’t always clear. The messages we get may be vague or conflicting. Our coworkers may have agendas that don’t include us. 

Going it alone is how many manage their careers. That makes about as much sense as trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or master tennis without a support system. We all need someone in our corner to keep us going; they need us too. 

A rescue offer 

I wrote Business Fitness: The Power to Succeed—Your Way to make managing your career easier and to get beyond the fluff. 

If you’re ready to get serious about your career planning, I’d like to make it easy for you get (re)started: 

For all of January 2012, I’m offering buy one get one (BOGO) free, signed copies of my book.  

Just go to my website “book” tab and add one (1) copy to your cart for $19.95. (I’ll know to send two by your date of purchase.) Shipping is free in the continental U.S. 

A great career development strategy is a powerful thing. Here’s how you can us the book to build yours.

The power of partnering 

When building your career, there’s real value in partnering with someone you trust and respect, someone to hold you accountable for setting goals and staying the course for success. 

There reasons galore why we benefit from the support of a partner: 

  • It’s difficult for us to see ourselves objectively. We need a filter. 
  • It’s difficult to stay motivated when things go awry, when we’ve been disappointed, and when we lose our optimism. 
  • It’s difficult to stay up when our self-confidence wanes, self-doubt haunts us, and opportunities have been missed. 

Whether careers are exotic or mundane, they often progress in mysterious and unpredictable ways. The only aspects we control are the choices we make, the capabilities we develop, the chances we take, and the relationships we form. 

Along the way, we need to  build momentum around our efforts until the pieces take shape and a picture of our career emerges. A “business fitness” partner can keep us on track.

 Keep pushing 

Finding career success isn’t easy. It means always pressing forward. Funny, how we continually need to push and be pushed. So give this approach a try: 

  • Select a single partner or small group (no more than 5)
  • Agree to meet at a set day and time (at least twice monthly)
  • Use your first meeting to establish ground rules, particularly confidentiality around information shared. Then share what kind of success each of you wants right now.
  • Assign one chapter from Business Fitness to be read and discussed at each meeting. Agree to share answers to the inventories at each chapter end.
  • After all the chapters have been discussed, go back and (re)write your career goals and share. Hold each other accountable for specific statements.
  • Use each subsequent meeting to review progress on goals, provide insights and support, and identify ways to help each other move forward. 
  • Make the meetings and the process fun!

This process is part book club, mastermind group, and individual mentoring/coaching. As you progress, you’ll come up with endless next steps that will build your capabilities, strengthen your self-confidence, and deepen relationships. 

Career building takes discipline. There are no shortcuts that are sustainable. When we’re at our best, we feel business fit. To get there, we need each other.

Unleashing the Career Superstar in You—Ready?

Superstars aren’t just sports and entertainment icons. They’re also us. Every workplace and every career has its superstars. There’s no reason why you aren’t among them.

By definition superstars are individuals in prominence who attract attention. Look around: That’s lots of people you know.

We have to perform well and consistently to be considered a superstar in our line of work. On-the- job superstars are those indispensable coworkers and leaders who:

  • Solve our IT problems in the nick of time every time
  • Always exceed sales quotas to help keep the business profitable
  • Deliver projects on or before every deadline
  • Defuse unhappy customers and employees consistently with effective messages

There are superstars in every industry, company, department, and work unit. Everyone knows who they are and we can’t imagine work without them.

Clearly, we need all the superstars we can find in this struggling economy, so now’s the time for us to raise our bar.

What it takes 

Paul McCord, internationally recognized authority on sales, prolific author and blogger, wrote in his compelling book, SuperStar Selling:

“You don’t have to become a superstar overnight. It’s not one giant leap, it’s one step at a time.”

That’s true for attaining superstardom in every career. We need to keep our eye on the ball and dig deep to keep it in play.

To start we need to build and maintain a high-achievement mindset. It’s always our attitude and performance that stand out, get noticed, and ultimately create our prominence. No one gets to be a superstar without doing the work.

McCord makes this important point:

“Looking at the big picture is daunting. Looking at just what you need to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis is not such a hurdle to overcome.”

He adds that the three characteristics of a superstar are: desire, commitment, and belief. Do you have all three?

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” and a “what’s in it for me” world. That’s where the pressure to perform at a high level comes from.

This reality tests your desire to achieve, your commitment to stick with your goals, and your belief in your capabilities.

All success is a process. The twelve keys to becoming a sales superstar in McCord’s book apply to us too. Superstar sales professionals own their careers and operate with an entrepreneurial mindset.

We need to own our jobs/careers too and set goals for ourselves that demonstrate our value.

McCord spells out his twelve keys elegantly, providing fascinating case studies and powerful tools, particularly useful to salespeople. (If you’re in sales, you really must read this book.)

His keys are the underpinnings of every achiever, especially those who have become superstars in their line of work. Here’s my take on how the twelve keys can help you become a superstar in your career:

  1. Turn past experiences into learning and data that can move you forward
  2. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Build on and fix what’s needed
  3. Invest in your career—time, learning, tools
  4. Figure out where you add value and position yourself there
  5. Showcase your strengths/value in the right way
  6. Set realistic goals that build on one another over time
  7. Develop and apply your capabilities systematically
  8. Stay visible and top of mind with those you impact
  9. Continuously develop and expand your skills
  10. Convert your big ideas into small steps to achieve them
  11. Seek help from advisors, mentors, and experts during uncertainty
  12. Adopt and maintain a positive mindset 

Sell yourself tall

Too often we set our sights too low. We think that it’s other people who become career superstars. Yes, we sell ourselves short, instead of tall.

McCord makes this powerful point:

“In essence, we are what we believe we are; we do what we believe we can do; we are who we believe we are.”

When we believe there’s a superstar in us, we make a huge leap. When we take action to unleash our inner superstar, we’re on our way to becoming one. Now go!

Photo from cletch via Flickr 

Un-Stink Your Goals! Enjoy the Sweet Smell of Success.

Have you started moaning yet? It’s time to write your next year’s performance goals. We don’t want to do it, mostly because we think they stink. 

Goals are your scorecard. 

When we play games, we keep score because we want to know how we did. That’s part of the fun. 

Organizations pay us to play for them. There’s a lot at stake, so we often feel uneasy about how well we’ll score. 

That’s because we don’t know: 

  • what we’re really expected to achieve
  • how we’re being measured 

The good news is that we can fix this.

Set yourself up to win! 

Goals have to be written or you and your boss will keep revising them in your heads until they fit whatever you’ve done or not done. This can set you up for a big goose egg. 

Goals have to state what you’re accountable for delivering. Yes, this is about getting stuff done that you can measure and/or see. No smoke…no mirrors. 

Goals need to cover work  beyond your job routines. They are about stretching, differentiating, and setting you up for growth. 

Goals need to demonstrate that you “get” the business that you’re in and the impact that you’re positioned to make. 

Write them right. 

You should know, all year long, how you’re doing on your goals by the way they’re written. You can only do that if your goal statements are measurable and/or observable. Try to write at least one for every business category you impact. 

Here are examples of “sweet” year-end goals you’d want compared to “stinky” ones you don’t: 

Financial: 

  • Sweet—Reduce administrative expenses by 15%
  • Stinky—Improve cash flow and reduce expenses 

Operations: 

  • Sweet—Reduce cycle time to bring new products to market by 60 days
  • Stinky—Process paperless claims promptly and effectively 

Stakeholders: 

  • Sweet—Achieve an average rating of “very good” on the annual customer satisfaction survey
  • Stinky—Ensure satisfied investors 

Employees: 

  • Sweet—Increase employee availability by 5%
  • Stinky—Improve employee morale

 Sometimes we have jobs or assignments where we rely on others to deliver on the goal’s we’re accountable for. In those situations, our goal statement might be: 

  • Sweet—Provide leadership to ensure the successful testing and implementation of the new human resources compensation system on budget by Jun 30, 20__
  • Stinky—Implement a compensation management system in HR 

Make it a game with yourself! 

I write personal business goals every year that keep me focused and track my progress. Last year my stretch goals were on social media, an area where I was a bumbling neophyte. 

My goal was to: Increase visibility on social media to build my network by: 

  • Writing a minimum of 104 blog posts –exceeded
  • Attaining a minimum of 600 career/business Twitter followers—exceeded
  • Increasing my fan pages “likes” to 200 each—exceeded
  • Increasing my Linkedin followers to 250—exceeded
  • Utilizing video to share information—not attained
  • Learning about podcasting—not attained   

Since I had no idea about social media’s power, the subgoals, which were exceeded, really aren’t where I now know I can take them, so I’ll ratchet them up for 2011. 

For two subgoals,  I didn’t deliver at all. (See what happens when you don’t create a metric for scorekeeping!) I’ll need to decide if I want to carry those goals over to 2011 and, if so, make a “scorable” commitment. 

If I hadn’t written these goals down, I’d have no real basis for assessing my progress or goals for moving forward. 

Empower yourself 

Your goals are one way to take control of your career. If your boss suggests stinky goals statements, offer to rewrite sweet ones so you both can keep score. It will set you apart and demonstrate your willingness to be accountable, a real career differentiator that will never fail you. So now, you’re up. Swing for the seats! 

What have been your experiences with goal-setting? Any tips to add? Thanks.

When Leadership Under Ground Rises to the Top | Lessons from the Chilean Mine

Fortunately, what goes on underground doesn’t stay underground, especially when it’s important that we know.                                       

That’s the case with the thirty-three Chilean miners trapped 2,000 feet below the surface for 69 days. October 13, 2010 marked the day of their miraculous rescue and the start of the world’s insatiable thirst the details about how they survived. 

Taking the lead 

The events in the mine will be parsed for years. What we know now are the broad actions. 

Anyone who tries to fit the miner’s situation into some standard business model misses the shock, horror, and the fear of the men. Luis Urzua, the foreman, wasn’t watching his team struggle with a tough assignment. He was experiencing the hell of it too. 

Imagine the range of emotions and reactions in each man, separate individuals with unique personalities, life perspectives, family pressures, and degrees of confidence in their fellow miners. 

Try to imagine their reactions and state of mind after the mine collapsed when they knew they were trapped. Now think about the way your coworkers reacted the last time your boss moved them to new offices cubicles, reassigned job duties, or changed working hours. 

Now think again about Luis Urzua. 

When I worked for a big energy corporation, employees with foremen titles were not regarded as “the leadership.” Sure, they had leadership duties to ensure their crews produced, but the scope and impact of their role was considered narrow. 

In an article on lessons learned from the Chilean miners, Steve Tobak wrote, 

“Leadership, management, and organization are not just business concepts.  They’re human concepts, terms that attempt to capture how men and women uniquely organize in groups or teams to take on extraordinary challenges….”

If anything, Urzua (and others on the team, I suspect) stepped up to take the lead in either an overarching or a task-specific way to stay focused on survival. (That’s a pretty clear performance goal for any team.) 

Theirs is a story of courage in the face of extreme adversity, then the possibility of success, and finally triumph. Their courage to beat the odds calls on us to look at how we handle ourselves under pressure where we work. 

Seth Godin writes in his book, Tribes, “Faith is the unstated component of a leader…Faith leads to hope, and it overcomes fear.” 

Urzua’s courage to lead and his ability to sustain faith helped his men to follow him under these dire circumstances. 

Sticking with the basics 

Pulling the miners together under the worst of all pressure situations was heroic. From what we know from media reporting, Urzua started with the basics. 

Kathy Kristof’s article centers on lessons from Urzua. She writes: 

“Everything Urzua had his men do was focused on getting out and surviving in the interim. In addition to rationing food, he had the men use the heavy equipment in the mine to dig to fresh water…map their tunnel and build a latrine.” 

She considers the importance of “discipline” (which I would call roles, regimen, and structure) to engage each man. She writes further: 

“Urzua organized work shifts, giving each miner responsibilities that kept them busy, improved their living conditions and emphasized that individual’s importance to the team. They maintained a schedule, shining lights to simulate day and night…maintained a strict diet even after they were delivered food.” 

Here we have a foreman operating as a full-fledged manager. Clearly, there were mind-challenging up and down, positive and negative, brave and frail moments faced by the men. Perhaps all the experiences will never be shared. The only thing that matters is the outcome that a came from leadership below and also above ground. 

The leader within 

Leaders don’t need fancy titles to lead. They need commitment to a goal their followers share. They need to be worthy of trust and confidence. We don’t need a catastrophic situation like the Chilean mine collapse to rise to the occasion. We need to look around for our opportunity and get started! 

What leadership lesson have you learned from the Chilean miners’ experience? Thanks for commenting.