5 Ways to Save Yourself from Blind Exuberance | Hold Your Horses

Nothing beats it–that heart-pumping excitement that comes from the prospect of:

  • Landing a great job or promotion
  • Getting an overseas assignment
  • Buying into a promising start up

Our minds are flooded with seductive images of what we can make happen.

That’s all good, except, to be successful, we need to be in touch with our naiveté, replacing it with solid knowledge .

Face what you don’t know.

It’s easy to get sold a bill of goods:

  • The job description isn’t what the job is
  • The promotion is a dead end, not a growth opportunity
  • The start-up was poorly managed so it folded

Our exuberance for an opportunity is often rooted in our emotions, so we’re inclined to make our decisions based on incomplete information.

Career opportunities are, first and foremost, business decisions, so they require the same due diligence as any corporate merger. Your life is your business, remember?

I’ve certainly had plenty of experience reining in my own boundless exuberance throughout my varied career..

I learned the hardest lessons as a race and show horse breeder. My knowledge of the industry was zero before I started. (There’s your first sign!) I’d learned to ride as an adult, did a little showing on my first horse, bought a broodmare, and then a small farm that needed to be made horse-ready. Next I met a work colleague into horse racing and “I was off.”

This experience taught me these five lessons for any career move :

1. Understand the economics: Calculate the hard dollar benefits and exposures over time for any career change you make. Discuss this openly and without discomfort.

I learned: Horses are expensive even when you take care of them yourself: feed, vet care, farriers, trainers, gear, trailering, and endless supplies. There’s no escaping the cost.

2. Assess the physical demands: Be honest about whether or not you are up to the demands of the job over the long haul–the hours, the stress, the travel, the expectations.

I learned: Horses are work every day all year: lugging, lifting, stacking, dodging, restraining, and getting dragged around (mostly by foals). Hurting is a constant.

3. Face your emotions: Determine the level of your self-confidence and self-esteem, tolerance for criticism and disappointment, anticipating exposures that lie ahead.

I learned: Horses die, get severely injured, and often lack needed talent. Making the decision to euthanize a beloved sick or severely injured horse was tormenting. Learning to face reality is one thing; acting on it another.

4. Study the players: Dig into what’s driving your opportunity and who the beneficiaries are if you particpate. Ask probing questions about expectations, authority, and the key players.

I learned: Commercial horse breeding is an industry. Every product (horse) is one of a kind. If you don’t know how to sell or buy, it’s easy to get cheated. And I was, more than once.

5. Analyze the market:  Examine the path ahead and what it will take to get there. Your coworkers and others are also competing for available opportunities, so position yourself for the future. Don’t jump at just anything.

I learned: Horses aren’t easy to sell. The market is glutted, many buyers are clueless, games can be played, and seller “celebrity” often rules. Selling privately is different from selling at auction. In this game, it’s every horseman for him/herself.

Hold your horses.

We all need passion and drive to be successful. That’s how we weather the storms of disappointment and fuel our resilience.

No matter what career you’re in, there are cold hard realities that need to be grasped, managed, and overcome to achieve and advance.

I can remember every “beating” I took in the horse business. Each one left both a welt on my psyche along with a priceless gem of understanding. Some lessons I learned after one whack and others after many. In time, I was able to anticipate the obstacles and side-step them before they got me. I wouldn’t swap the experience and all the joy and excitement for anything.

These lessons are where business savvy comes from. Once you’ve got your arms around them, you can act on your exuberance with confidence. YAY!

Jobs with Baggage and What to Do About Them

Like it or not, we’re labeled by our jobs and the organizations that employ us. When we say what we do, people form an opinion based on job stereotypes. 

That can work in our favor when we have job titles like engineer, nurse, technology expert, or entrepreneur. More often than not, the marketplace buzz around those jobs casts them in a good light. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. 

Your baggage claim 

Some job titles and the industries that assign them come with a not-so-stellar history. The titles themselves can make a job seekers blood run cold like: 

  • Car salesman
  • Insurance agent
  • Call center rep
  • Retail clerk 

Today there’s also baggage around jobs in banking, investment services, government, law, and the media to name a few. How we regard certain jobs depends on our individual experiences, values, perspectives, and knowledge. 

It’s easy to generalize and presume that anyone or everyone who works in a certain field fits a negative stereotype. As a result we’re likely to steel ourselves for a bad experience, often adopting an attitude that will provoke it. 

Negative brands around jobs and industries are difficult to break, especially when they have taken deep hold of the marketplace psyche for many years. 

Break the mold 

At some point in our careers, we’ll likely have a job that isn’t held in high regard because of its title. Our challenge is to turn negative perceptions into positives through our actions.

Recently, after driving my car for 14 years, I decided to buy a new one. I don’t do this often because I dread the whole dealing-with-the-car-salesman thing. Here’s what I was expecting: 

  • Pressure to buy more car than I needed
  • Back and forth negotiating, made complicated by the trade and/or financing
  • Not really getting the best deal
  • Fast-talking plus bait and switch promises
  • Being left hanging when I had questions after the sale 

I brought this baggage to the experience, something, Jeff, my salesman, had to overcome. So here’s what he provided: 

  • Patient listening and attention to what I wanted
  • Information about the best-fit model for me and its features
  • A clear statement about the sticker price and discussion about what I wanted to pay
  • An upfront trade price so I could decided if wanted to sell my old car privately
  • A meeting on the features while sitting in the model, resulting in a chance to get to know each other
  • A sense of humor, respectfulness, and advocacy (I didn’t want to be “sold” any warranty and undercoating extras, so Jeff kept that from happening.)
  • Availability to answer questions anytime after I’d taken the car home 

My experience with Jeff was so good that I talked to him a bit about the negative label that comes with being a car salesman. I learned that prior to this job, he and his brother had owned a couple of fitness businesses where he had developed his customer service skills, practicing his philosophy about dealing fairly and ethically with people. 

His view was that, since he enjoyed people and selling cars, he would be the kind of car salesman that broke the negative mold. Clearly there are many Jeff’s out there, and each one will gradually lift the negative baggage off the car salesman title. 

Lesson learned: The positive behaviors that we demonstrate in our jobs re-brand them. 

The power of one 

Shunning a job because the title comes with baggage makes no sense, particularly if it provides opportunity and growth potential that helps you build a satisfying career. When it’s your job, you own it. That means you put your stamp on it, making it represent the values, standards, and ethics that brand it positively. 

Jobs are about productivity and relationships. By adding value and delivering high quality service, you’ll showcase what a job well done really means. Each one of us makes a difference and there’s true power in that. 

Photo from Carcomparing.eu via Flickr

Not Getting the Jobs You Want? Let Rejection Be Your Guide.

Rejection feels bad, even when we’re braced for it. No wonder we hesitate applying for certain jobs, fearing statements like: 

  • “You were not the successful candidate.”
  • “We’ve selected someone we need to develop.”
  • “We’ve decided not to fill the position now.” 

When we don’t get jobs we want, it wears on our psyche. Rejection feels like a punch in the gut, releasing doubts about our abilities, value, and likelihood for success. 

Rejection is information.  

Each time we fail to get that job, promotion, or assignment, there are real lessons to learn so we can increase our chances next time. 

We need to ask ourselves these questions: 

  • Where did my skills fall short?
  • What more must I do/learn/experience?
  • How can I improve my approach in the interview?
  • What political factors/realities did I miss?
  • Was I really prepared and ready for that job? If not, what next?
  • Where can I get feedback and mentoring help?

 Rejection is only a negative if we don’t use it to strengthen ourselves. 

One door closes, another opens 

I’d been teaching high school for 10 years before I decided to apply for what I believed was my dream job with Purina Mills. I wrote to the sales VP and waited. 

To my surprise, I got a call for an interview on what turned out to be the day of a forecasted blizzard. 

I figured, “How can I be a candidate for a sales job and cancel because of bad weather?” So the day before, I set out in my VW Beetle in the blowing snow, headed for a motel near the Purina offices. 

Here’s how it went: 

  • Interview is cancelled because the VP couldn’t get out of his driveway; I stay over another night
  • My next day interview with two VPs goes great
  • Sales VP arranges for me to spend a day in the field with a metro market (pet stores, feed mills) salesman several weeks later; goes great
  • VP arranges a day with their head farm sales rep; I’m in my glory
  • VP arranges a meeting with their veterinary rep; went okay
  • Two VPs invite me to breakfast 

At this point, I’ve had a major education on the challenges facing sales reps for this huge company. Everyone has treated me generously with kindness and respect. The farm sales rep volunteered to train and mentor me,  if hired. 

But at that breakfast meeting, I was rejected. To say I was crushed is an understatement. To keep from crying, I bit the inside of my cheek until it bled. 

These two VPs were amazing gentlemen who could have just sent me a “no thank you” letter. Instead they drove 90 miles to tell me in person. 

Lessons Learned 

Purina didn’t hire me for two reasons:

  • Women were just breaking into sales in this industry, so earning customer acceptance was uncharted territory
  • All of their sales people had agri-business degrees and/or extensive farm backgrounds: I had neither. 

Even though I had the interpersonal skills, interest, and ability to learn, these VPs didn’t want to risk failure for me or for the company. 

But here’s what else I realized once my disappointment subsided: 

  • I was basically a thought-leader, not a salesperson
  • As an influencer, I thrived on complex problem solving and collaborative engagement
  • I had the tolerance for and ability to navigate office politics, so an organizational environment would be a better fit for me
  • I wanted to stay located where I had a strong support system 

Ten months after my adventure with Purina, I was hired as an energy education coordinator for the electric utility company where I lived. My career there drew on my strengths and lasted over 20 years. My “rejection” lessons learned paid off. 

When many people get rejected, they don’t think to make changes. It takes courage to face rejection and dig out the gems buried in it. 

When you have a minute, make a list of what you’ve learned from your career rejections. You might find a diamond there.

Money Talks. Are You Listening? | Your Life Is Your Business

Money is work. Given the chance, it will manipulate our decision-making. The question is: Who’s supposed to control the behavior of money? That would be us

When we have too little money to get what we want, we borrow and pay interest. When we have extra money, we invest and hope for gain. Too much borrowing and interest eats up what we earn. Poor investing means loss. There’s a lot of “woe is me” around money. 

When you control the money, it can’t control you.

 We all need money to live. That’s why we work. We need certain basics: a means of transportation, place to live, furnishings, food, and clothing. We also need to embrace life, advancing our interests and talents. There’s a cost to that. 

When it comes to spending money, the big issues are speed and magnitude. How fast must we have the things we want and need? And how grand is our thirst?

Early on, most of us don’t really know what kind of life we want to live. There’s just so much out there to figure out. We often make decisions about cars, houses, clothes, vacations, and all manner of stuff based on what others own or what people say we should have. So we just follow the pack, spending away. 

The problem: Once money is spent it’s gone. That means you need to replace it. So, you keep reporting to work each day, volunteer for some overtime, hope for a raise or promotion, or look for a new job. Maybe you even add a sideline to raise some extra cash. The cycle keeps spinning. 

We control the money by controlling our spending. Pretty complicated, eh? 

The snafu here is that spending is about behavior—ours! We spend money for lots of reasons, not all of them too admirable. Here are some typical lines: 

  • I deserve to treat myself. I work really hard.
  • My job is so boring. I’ll feel better if I go shopping.
  • Life is short. I need to enjoy these things while I’m young.
  • Everyone else has these things. I can’t look like I’m a loser.
  • If I don’t stay in style, I’ll be left out. 

Controlling spending gets easier when you know what it is that you’re working toward. 

We all make bad purchasing decisions. Each one is a lesson.

When we spend our money on dumb stuff, we need to revisit the “why” of our buying decisions.  I’ve made a few  bad purchases myself.

1. I was once obsessed with Longaberger baskets. I bought scads of them, especially the ones with the plates. I used some, decorated with others, and kept some in the boxes. I convinced myself that they were “investments” that would eventually turn a profit. Nada! (Lesson: Unless you have a market in-hand, don’t borrow to buy and resell.) 

2. I’d always wanted a baby grand piano but couldn’t afford one. I knew an antique refinisher who was restoring a baby grand that I could have for under $2,000. I was blind over it and forgot about the “if it’s too good to be true” warning. The piano became unplayable in short order. I felt like an idiot. (Lesson: Don’t let your heart rule your head and then squander your money.) 

3. As a horse breeder, I was approached about investing with a partner in a well-bred  stallion from Florida. There was a string of “experts” attesting to the quality of this horse. The price was right but not a bargain. To make a long story short, soon after we bought him, his underlying health issues surfaced and he was dead of natural causes in 6 months. (Lesson: Always do your own due diligence on any major purchase.)

 It’s your money. Treat it like it matters. 

Your life is your business. Your money makes up your budget, your investment portfolio, and your solvency. Be mindful of the life you are trying to build for yourself over the long term. Remember: business fitness is about being prepared and ready to move your life forward. You money is your wheels! 

Have you had any money “experiences” that have been eye-openers for you? What are important lessons you’ve learned?