Saturday, October 25, 2014

Be the Domino

If you are familiar with the game of dominos, there are dots on each domino and the placement of a domino on each turn requires that you match the number of dots to one of the dominos already placed. 

But in real life, and in business, the game is quite different. 

There is the natural sense that a six is better than a one and double sixes is the best. 

But the cool thing is that being blank is really the best in this game, as you can match up with any other domino when it comes your turn.  The business analogy is being versatile and flexible.  That has been my gift in my career.

We don't always have to match.  In fact, we don't even have to sit adjacent to the other dominos to be effective.  We can go off as entrepreneurs and build something on our own and still have impact.    In fact, whether we are a six or a one or even a blank in the eyes of the world, we can still have major impact.

To have positive impact, things do need to be "lined up".  There is planning involved and even skill.  But just because you don't feel like you are significant, every domino does in fact matter. 

You don't have to be a six to start off that magical chain reaction shown in this amazing video.  All you have to do is "be the domino" that you were meant to be. 

That is finding your destiny -- your radical sense of purpose.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Success soup - Z is for Zoo

Sometimes, if you are going to succeed, you just have to set aside absolutely everything and go to the ZOO.  

Taking time for yourself, or even going with the kids or your grandkids, can provide a much needed respite from the crazy amount of hours that you likely put in at your job. 

You have to admit that there is something truly magical about animals.   

My favorite zoo is actually Busch Gardens, located right here in Tampa, Florida.  Since it is so close to home and we have season passes, I have even been known to go there without my kids (although please don't tell them). 

There are two animals that always vie for my attention at Busch Gardens.  One is the white Bengal tiger and the other is the Cheetah.   They are both completely captivating.

When I lived in Milwaukee, there was an amazing Penguin exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  I could watch the penguins for hours.  The way that they would dive and jump out of the water was fascinating.

I imagine that there have been times during your success journey when you have felt like you were working in a zoo.   I wonder sometimes if we would stop what we are doing and just watch the people around us, if we would learn as much as we do watching animals.

If you can't take a break to go to the zoo, perhaps you should just take a break and pretend you are at the zoo.  I wonder what your take aways would be.

You'll have to let me know.


Our time together making success soup is now complete.  If you missed any of the blogs,

Success Soup - Never Say Never

Success soup - U is for Uber-anything

Success Soup - V is for Velocity

Success soup - W is for What if? and Why not?

Success Soup - X marks the spot


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Success Soup - Y is for Yearn

There are a lot of words that you can use to describe wanting something - want, desire, quest.  But I am going to suggest to you that if you really want to succeed, those terms are simply not enough. 

Yearn is defined by Random House as:

"to have an earnest or strong desire; to long"

When we first fall in love, we yearn to see the other person.  If we could transfer the intensity of that particular moment in time to our desire to succeed it would become tangible, palpable.

Yearn isn't passive.  It is active and it is powerful.  Yearn stresses the depth of the passion of your desire.

Yearn for success.  It is worthy of your passion.   Reach out.  Touch it.  It is there for the taking.


If you missed any of the Success Soup blogs, click below:

Success Soup - Never Say Never

Success soup - U is for Uber-anything

Success Soup - V is for Velocity

Success soup - W is for What if? and Why not?

Success Soup - X marks the spot

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Success Soup - X marks the spot

Do you remember when you were a kid and you were certain that you knew where to find buried treasure.  You had a map to prove it!

X marks the spot where that treasure is buried.

Now you are all grown up and your success isn't dependent on mythical treasure. 

But you should have a map.  It is called your strategy.

You should know how to navigate difficult waters and have a risk mitigation plan. 

And you need to know what the treasure looks like.  Is it penetrating or conquering a particular new market?  Is it achieving a certain number of clients?  Is it reducing churn of your existing clients?  Is it selling a certain number of widgets?  

Know precisely the spot on that map that is your success turning point.  

We are almost to the end.  Tomorrow is the letter Y.  The good news is that it is WAY easier than X!

Stay tuned.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Let's see if #57 is magic

I was born in 1957, which means that today I turn 57.

And what do I want for my birthday?  Simple.

Comments on my blog.  

While I do love writing for the sake of writing and I do know that you are reading, because I see the more than 125k visitors here, from all over the world.

But just this once, if you have been reading my blogs, would you please just comment on this post and let me know how my blog has helped or enlightened you?

If you are from outside of the US, please let me know where you are from and what you do for a living and how you came across my blog.

Let's see if this blog is magic.

Success soup - W is for What if? and Why not?

I have been in dozens of meetings where ideas are put on the table and summarily shot down.

Those are what I call BUT meetings.  "But" is another word for NO.

When I facilitate a meeting, we deploy a tool taken from the world of improv theatre.  It is the use of the word AND.

When someone begins a sentence with WHAT IF? and after they articulate their idea, then the next person has to begin their input with "AND".

The premise is that with "and", you can't help but build on the idea.

The goal is to get the "What if" ideas out on the table and to get people thinking Why Not?  And being willing to say, let's just DO IT! 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Success Soup - V is for Velocity

Last week as I was contemplating heading into the most difficult letters of the alphabet for my success soup recipe, my dear friend Shannon gave me several of my words, one of which is for today. Velocity.

It was inspired by the fact that I was headed to Sebring, Florida, where my daughter and her school team were playing in the Crutchfield/Hawkins Golf Tournament.

Velocity.  Speed.  Momentum.  Persistence.  Drive.  Determination.

For those that play golf, you know that these words all fit together.  What you may not know is that for this particular team, velocity doesn't begin with their stance and positioning their swing for maximum speed.

Oh, make no mistake, all of that is important and in this photo these girls had just come off the driving range where they had worked to get all of that down before heading over to tee off.

But their real velocity comes from each other.

My daughter Kiera (the sassy one in the middle) is blessed to play on the varsity women's golf team from Cambridge Christian School in Tampa, Florida.  They are known as the Lady Lancers.

Rebekah Bustamante, Sarah Noto, Gabi Patane, Ashley
Zagers, Kiera Fitzgerald (not shown, Alison Armstrong)
The Lady Lancer team is a bit unorthodox in that Kiera is the only full time student at Cambridge. Her teammates are all home schooled, which [at least theoretically] means that they have a little more time to work on their game than she does.

Last year was Kiera's first year on the team, which consisted of Kiera, Sarah, Ashley and Alison. These three are amazing golfers.

This could have been SO intimidating for Kiera, who was relatively new to the sport.  But even though her scores at the beginning were more than twice any one of their individual scores, they never once made her feel bad about it.

Velocity for this team began there.

By the end of the season, Kiera had shaved over 50 strokes off her score, boldly securing the "most improved" award at the awards ceremony.

Over the summer, Kiera invested a lot of time in her golf game, with private lessons, playing with her dad, spending time on the driving range and going to a Nike Golf Camp in Rome Georgia at Berry College.

This year they are undefeated in the regular season.  

Last week in the Sebring tournament, I saw something else that gives this team momentum.  Kiera was joined this year by Gabi, who brings her infectious smile to the course and very similar skill level to Keira.     Having a teammate at her level is another encouragement to her and they are enjoying the healthy competition that this provides.  In fact, in their last few matches they were separated by just one stroke.   In Sebring in their practice round they both scored in the high 40s on 9 holes, so  I look forward to the day (very soon!) when they both break 100 on 18 holes of competition.

And yesterday in another 18-hole tournament for the Bay Conference Championship, I saw another element of this team's success.

The parents rent carts to drive the course along with the girls and to bring along water and snacks. But in addition to moral support for their girls, they bring another element to the game.  They pass the word of how the girls are doing and that news is passed along amongst the parents and to the coach and that provides additional, unseen momentum and tangible excitement.

Even though the girls are not all even in their abilities, as a team, they are winners.  They definitely have achieved the velocity and momentum that coach Paul Rydell desires for them.

In the regular season they are undefeated and even though Rebekah and Gabi were both out of the country for this week's Bay Conference Championship, the team secured first place!

Alison Armstrong, Sarah Noto, Paul Rydell, Kiera Fitzgerald, Ashley Zagers
Their last regular season match is Thursday and then next week, the District competition begins.  I am confident that the team will move on to Regionals and then on to State.

And I'm also confident that these girls know the real source of their velocity this season.   They also share their faith and they live it every day in how they treat each other and their competitors on the course.

So proud of you Lady Lancers!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Success Soup - T is for Team

I am a CEO and philanthropreneur, but I am also a football mom and today my story about an important ingredient in success is from my son's football team.  

He is on the middle school team of Cambridge Christian School here in Tampa and a proud member of the Lancer's football team.

My son Sergey is an amazing, natural athlete and he plays every single play from the kickoff (he is the kicker), through to every offensive and defensive play in the game.  

In many ways, Sergey is like an entrepreneur. He does it ALL.  Whatever the coaches need.  But he doesn't do it alone.  He is surrounded by a team.

When Sergey gets ready to kickoff the ball, the first thing he does (after setting the ball and marking off his steps) is to shout out to his teammates to make sure they are ready.  They then run with him as he sends the ball over to the other team to receive the ball.

The success lesson here is to make sure you are prepared and on your own "game" and then let everyone else know what you need from them and when you need it.  Don't expect them to be mind readers.

Throughout the game, when Sergey carries the ball, which he does often, he relies on the quarterback to either pass it to him or hand it off to him.

Fortunately for him, the quarterback is one of his best friends and our next door neighbor.  He and Justin have been playing football in the neighborhood since they were old enough to walk.   They know each other so well, that they can anticipate each other's plays.

The success lesson here is to surround yourself with those that you know and trust.   Business is a team sport and finding the right business partners is important. 

As you can see in this picture, taken after yesterday's game, Justin (#5) is on the injured reserve list. So their buddy Garrett (#9) stepped in as QB.  I have to admit that Sergey (#2) was a little concerned about Justin being out, but what ended up transpiring in yesterday's game really showed what a team can do.  Our Cambridge Lancers were up against enormous players from Trinity.  One of their linebackers weighed nearly 290 lbs.  The team looked formidable.

The success lesson here is that looks can be deceiving.  That their players were big was a bit scary, but in the end, they proved to be slow and were not at all agile, so the Lancers slipped right past their line and were able to score three times.  Value agility and speed.  Heft can slow you down.

The guys in this picture were a huge part of why our Lancers came away with a 21-20 victory, as they did the bulk of the scoring (with Justin cheering them on from the sidelines).  Garrett and Sergey connected a number of times and because he knew that Sergey could catch and hold on to whatever he threw at him, his confidence as a QB grew.  Garrett connected well with Porter and Jacob as well, and with each score, the team felt better and better about their chances of beating the Trinity team.  

The success lesson here is that confidence begets confidence and even if your lead player is on the injured reserve list, make sure that you are cheering on the person that is standing in their place.  Every leader knows the importance of succession planning and every coach knows that to have a deep bench is the best position to be in.  

There were three other things I want to mention.

First is that in my mind, the real hero of the game was Noah Froelich.  Love this picture of Coach Shears with him.  Noah is in 6th grade, but is a starter. Noah has the distinction of being the third born of four boys.  His two older brothers are amazing football players.  Zach is on the varsity team.  His brother Justin is the one with the broken thumb.   The older boys and Sergey have played football whenever they could since they were little.  Noah of course, jumped in as soon as he was old enough to hold his own and even Shane, who is in 4th grade gets out there with them now.

Having been the third child myself, I know it is tough to battle the success of your older siblings and to live in their shadow.  But what happened yesterday is that Noah caught an amazing interception during the game and set himself apart as someone other than Zach and Justin's little brother.  It was a decisive play, as the other team was dangerously close to scoring and it would have been very tough to come back to win at that point.  Seeing Noah's face was priceless.

The next success lesson is "do not despise youth".  Make room for the "up and coming" leaders in your organization to shine.   Celebrate them and mentor them.   

Next, is the importance of our coaches.  At Cambridge we are so fortunate to have godly men coaching our sons and daughters.  Coach Shears and his staff are amazing and both before and after each game they pray and they remind the boys where their talent comes from.  And they encourage the boys to share their faith with the other team after the game.  I love that about them and am so proud of our boys for not being ashamed of their faith.

This success lesson is about the importance of those who cheer us on and who give us tips on how to succeed.  Listen to them.  Thank them.  And share what they teach you with others.

The last lesson in this blog on teamwork is that in order to succeed, you need others to block and tackle for you.  Sergey gets through the line not just because he is fast and agile but because there are talented team members watching out for him and clearing a path for him.  Thanks Lancers.  You guys are awesome.

Don't forget to thank those that help you achieve your own goals.  And when it is your turn to block and tackle for them, do it with everything that is in you.  


Oh, and by the way, every team also has a "chain gang",  setting the goals and marking the progress.  I was a proud member of yesterday's chain gang, so I got to see the game up close and personal!

So one last lesson - take time away from work and go see your kids games, concerts, recitals, etc.  Life is too short not to learn the lessons from every day life.   And bonding with our kids begins with being involved in their lives.     

Success soup - U is for Uber-anything

I have to admit, the letter U was a challenge.   That could even be a good reason for taking a one week break from writing my blog.  ;)

In my search for the perfect "u" word, I found that in the English language the letter U is often used with the letter "n" to mean the opposite of the word that it precedes.   Nope.  Producing a list of what not to do to be successful would simply be too long.
I was also reminded of of 7-Up's early branding, defining themselves as the "Un-Cola".   It was very effective for them.  And while it is clever to say what you are not, that didn't quite hit the mark for me as an ingredient for success.

But there is one "u" word that really grabbed me.  It speaks to my passion for differentiation as a primary component of success.   Uber. definition
This word became fashionable about a decade ago and has recently been popularized by the new venture-backed ridesharing company.  They have adopted this great word as their brand.  For them it means "better, cheaper, faster" than a taxi.   

If you are going to succeed, you really need to make sure that there is at least one element of your product or service that is "the ultimate, above all, the best, top, something that nothing is better than."

By the way, that definition comes from the Urban Dictionary - an uber-cool version of the standard online dictionary.

When my new product comes out I would love it if people would use the word "uber" to clarify what it is that we deliver.  Uber-precise trip planning.  Yes, that's the ticket.  
What is your "uber" characteristic of your product or service?  
Tomorrow's word is Velocity.   Over the last week I've been at two of my daughter's golf tournaments and it seems fitting, as velocity is an important part of success in the game of golf.
Stay tuned.

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