Site Update Underway: Stay Tuned

I’m going to blow things up and reassemble them, hopefully with a much faster design with an intense focus on mobile experiences. My hosting service – purchased from MapleGrove Partners – is crazy fast and great. I love it. You should buy it if you’re looking for a rock solid, inexpensive hosting that is ridiculously secure. I don’t get a single penny for recommending it, but you should buy it today if you’re in the market for top-notch hosting!

This site is bloated. It happens. WordPress is terrific and I’ve loved it for many years. But, things accumulate. Premium themes, even great ones, have limitations that require extensive plugins, unless you’re a hardcore developer/coder (I’m not). Page loads slow down. Queries pile up to the sky. Things don’t play as nicely as they once did.

So it’s time to blow it up and reboot with a fresh no-nonsense approach. Mobile users, which now accounts for 63% of web users with 37% consuming their content on a desktop. That was the last study I saw back last summer. I’m quite certain that the mobile number is rising and the desktop number will continue to come down.

When we’re on a mobile device we don’t stop to admire the pretty design. We simply want to get what we’re after. Minimalism works. Fancy doesn’t.

The Grow Great Daily Brief podcast gets some traffic, but most of it honestly comes through podcast catchers like Stitcher or Apple Podcasts. Even so, when visitors do come to the site most of them are on a mobile device and the site experience just isn’t good enough to suit me.

Brace yourself because I’m going for speed, speed, speed and ease, ease, ease for folks who visit this website. I won’t be posting anything until I get it done and I can’t promise the site will look like much of anything as I’m working the kinks out. I’m keeping it live instead of opting for some maintenance plugin. No need to make things more cumbersome than necessary.

I’ll be back as soon as I’ve got things mostly under control. In the meantime, I’ll see you over on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Linkedin.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Few things are more closed than a closed mind. Somebody smarter than me will have to teach us why we close our minds, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced a few epiphanies in my life that forced my previously closed mind to OPEN. Each time I feel like reenacting that old V8 drink commercial. Smack my forehead and shout, “Wow! I could have had a V8.” Except I’d have shouted something more like, “Wow! I can’t believe I was so stupid.”

But another emotion has always quickly followed. Thankfulness. I don’t linger too long in berating myself for being so narrow-minded, or blind. Instead, I’m thankful somebody helped influence or convince me to reconsider what I thought, felt or believed.

Blind spots are funny creatures. They live inside your head and you don’t even know they’re there. But once you spot them, you can’t ignore them. And when you change your mind, they go away. Well, to be fair – those specific blind spots may. But new blind spots are still there. Until something or somebody reveals them. That’s why I’m so intently focused these days on surrounding yourself with people who can caringly challenge you. And your blind spots.

There are some important common denominators I’ve seen in a closed mind. My own and others. Talking about these may help us understand some things we can do to open a closed mind.

For starters, isolation fosters a closed mind. 

That doesn’t mean we have to become hermits. We can isolate ourselves on a subject matter. A person can be surrounded by people but never foster interaction with anybody who may challenge a particular point of view. Leaders do this more frequently than they’re able to admit. A leader operates based on a set of beliefs that are never challenged because he won’t allow it. Mind closed. Simultaneously, he can be open-minded about many other things that aren’t based on strong beliefs. The stronger the beliefs, the more closed the mind may become.

Agreement fosters a closed mind.

When I think back to the times when my closed mind was challenged I realize that my blind spot (and closed mind) were largely fueled by a lack of challenge. I thought something to be true. The people around me thought the same thing. Result? Our agreement never provoked us to take a closer look.

Assumptions are too comfortable. Much more comfortable than considering they may be wrong.

My closed mind was always (100%) the result of assumptions I thought were absolutely, positively correct. Until I learned they weren’t. Or they may not be.

It’s smooth sailing to go our merry way, day after day, living with all the things we’ve always assumed to be true. Honestly, there’s just no work involved.

The workout that kicks our butt is to have those assumptions challenged. To have somebody in our life who cares deeply enough about us to challenge us to make sure we’re seeing things correctly. It’s not about somebody who wants to manipulate or coerce us into their way of thinking. It’s about somebody who caringly, and bluntly, is able to express enough concern for us that they want us to make sure we’re seeing things clearly. Clearly enough to learn, understand and grow.

It’s less about persuasion. It’s more about making sure you’re seeing things accurately.

In my own experiences, my previously closed mind was opened not by somebody who was an opponent seeking to win an argument, but a trusted friend intent on helping me make sure I’m correct. And now we’re onto something powerful I think. Don’t you?

This is why I’m intent on whoever surrounds us not being judgmental. Or harpy. Or filled with “should’s.” “You should do this” or “you should do that.” Or “you shouldn’t do this or that.” All the armchair quarterbacking that goes on isn’t helpful. It’s a proud person filled with hubris trying to impose on others. Often fueled by that notion that they’re smarter and wiser than you. Perhaps they are, but that’s not the path to helping anybody open their mind. Rather, it’s a surefire way to making the seal even tighter.

Minds are open when we feel safe and cared for.

Yet people waste everybody’s time pushing, pressing and arguing. Putting forth good arguments is a solid tactic, but it’s fruitless up against a closed mind. Influence and persuasion are terrific skills, too. But if a mind is closed, they’re no match.

The relationship means everything. Until you have a relationship filled with safety and care, you’re powerless to open a closed mind. You can use this knowledge in your own life – to battle your own close-mindedness and you can use it to help people with whom you have a relationship.

Don’t confuse all this with things like our American court system. The justice system is built on adversarial performances. It’s advocacy. One side advocates for innocence. The other for guilt. In between the two are the people who will decide. Either a jury or a judge. While they’re supposed to be impartial, they’re still human. They listen, observe and hopefully aren’t so close-minded they can’t see the facts as they should. When the jurors retreat to make their decision there’s conversation and minds are changed based on how each member feels about other members. My money is on the juror who the other jurors most trust. That’s the person with the most influence inside that room. And it’s probable that the jurors mostly lean toward not just the facts, but the likeability of the people doing the advocating. People are people.

Who surrounds you that makes you feel safe and cared for — but people willing to challenge you. Mostly because they care that much for you. And even in the moment, when you suffer the epiphany of stupidity (like the ones I’ve described that have hit me) – you know this person cares. So your mind opens up like a flower that blossoms. And suddenly the fragrance of an open mind sweeps through your nostrils, helping all the fog that once occupied your mind (and your feelings) dissipate. It’s the difference between being outside on a gloomy, foggy day and a day filled with sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. There’s simply no comparison.

Let me tell you about The Peer Advantage by Bula Network.

Are you an entrepreneur in the United States (apologies to my European, Australian and foreign friends, but time zones are the issue for this project)? If you’re running a company with revenues between 1 and 100 million bucks a year (it can be more; it can be less), then I’d like to learn more about you and your company. I’d like to offer you the opportunity to be more intentional, purposeful and mindful of who you surround yourself with. Specifically, I’d like to see if you’re a good fit to join a group of 7 entrepreneurs and me as we work together to learn, understand and grow. I’d also like to give you the opportunity to see if you think such a group would be a good fit for YOU. The purpose? To help each other grow our business, our leadership, and our lives. To create a uniquely powerful group where every member feels safe, cared for and helped. Just go to BulaNetwork.com/apply – complete that short survey and then we’ll jump on the phone to talk. Mostly, I’m going to learn more about you and your business. I’m interested. And I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, too. Consider it a first date, and we can decide if we want to have a second one or just part ways in a friendly way.

Have a great weekend. I look forward to hearing from you.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”  – Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was right. Most people don’t listen. At least, not well enough. Or often enough.

My son owns and operates his own home inspection business. Here in Texas, that’s a licensed occupation requiring substantial training and certification. The other day we were chatting about all the opportunities in the trades, especially in a big market like Dallas/Ft. Worth. He’s got very solid people skills – those soft skills that present big challenges for some. We’ve both had frequent encounters with business owners in various trades, but he’s obviously running into more of them than me. During our chat, I commented that too many of these people talk too much. They’re busy with what they want to say to pay close enough attention to how the customer or prospect is reacting. He confirmed that he sees the same thing.

It’s not just a problem among the trades. It’s fairly rampant everywhere.

Questions determine our success.

Many years ago I crafted a mantra, “The quality of our questions determines the quality of our business.” The context? Salespeople who asked stupid questions because they weren’t thinking clearly enough. The result was ongoing, systemic problems that could have easily been avoided if salespeople would have just asked better questions.

Through the years I’ve continued to use that mantra because it seems to be accurate in every area of business building. It’s true in selling, negotiating, buying and any other business activity. For good reason. It’s communication. Get better at it, and it’ll help you grow as a person – and it’ll help you grow your business.

But there’s something else to it.

Curiosity and learning.

Have you noticed that the people who talk too much are never asked questions? We don’t have to ask them. We know that at the first pause they’ll run their mouth until they run out of breath. Some won’t stop even then. We’re not very interested in what these people have to say. Ironic, huh?

Then there’s the person we’d like to learn from, but they don’t dominate the conversation. Maybe that’s why we’re drawn to them.

They’ll tell us if we ask. But won’t if we don’t.

Questions give us opportunities to listen, but only if we’re being honest in how we use them. Don’t ask a question to set yourself up to talk. Ask a question to discover what you don’t know. Ask your questions to learn, understand and grow (LUG). When you narrow your focus on LUG it’ll alter how you construct questions. It’ll completely change the questions you ask, and how you go about it, too.

Curiosity and learning are drivers. And results.

Your curiosity finds satisfaction in listening to great questions answered. Your learning is expanded when you listen to answers with a motive to understand.

Pay attention to the person. Watch them carefully. Listen to them even more so. Be intentional in trying to understand the person. It’s deeper than trying to understand what they’re saying. That’s important, but understanding who they are and what they’re feeling is equally important.

When you’re selling (and at other times, too) there’s another enormous value in asking questions – which provide you an opportunity for active listening. You demonstrate that you care about the other person and what they think, and feel. How do you feel when somebody takes a genuine interest in you by asking you about your life? Exactly. Make sure you do that for others, especially your employees, prospects and customers. I’d urge you to do it with as many people as possible. Every day.

Two-Year-Olds Show Us The Way

Hang around any small child, a 2-year-old. You’ll be peppered with questions because there are many things they don’t understand. Their curiosity is off the hook. Two-year-olds have a special skill to pepper you with questions. They never hit a snag in thinking of a new one to ask. It’s the sign of a mind working to learn, understand and grow.

Don’t be pesky like a 2-year-old. Leave interrogations for the professions that require it. But be interested. Be curious. Be THAT interested and THAT curious about others and what they can show you. Be less interested in yourself.

There’s the rub. Be less interested in yourself. 

That’s why listening often fails.

One, people aren’t that interested in the other person. They’re not that curious about them. Big mistake. For your growth and the growth of your business.

Foster, build and increase your curiosity. Pride and arrogance are the enemies. The people with the least amount of curiosity and interest in others are the most pompous. They know more than you. What they have to say is more important than what you have to say. Their story is more interesting than yours. Their wisdom is deeper than yours. Don’t be that guy.

Two, people don’t work at being present. More than ever it’s tough to be in the moment. Eye contact doesn’t happen nearly enough. A nanosecond attention span doesn’t help.

When you’re leaning hard into learning, understanding and growth LISTEN. Be present. Be in the moment. Don’t be distracted. Put the phone away. Put other thoughts out of your head. Look at the other person as though they’re the only important person on the planet at this moment. Because for you, they are the most important person. If they’re not, then why are you spending your time with them?

I sometimes have to work at this because I get preoccupied. For me, it’s never driven by me wanting to chime in or anything like that. It’s that my mind is elsewhere, dwelling on something else. There’s no excuse, but we’re not perfect. Notice how often the people we love the most tend to get the short end of this stick. Right?

Stop doing that. Concentrate on being in the moment. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get.

Three, people are so unpracticed they can’t pick up on the cues. When we’re talking with people there are lots of cues. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Many a great question has gone unasked because we didn’t pick up details of an answer. We weren’t listening closely enough to pick up on a prompt. A prompt that could have led to another, deeper understanding. If only we’d have asked the question.

Everybody wants to share their story. We mostly go through life with few people, if anybody, asking us. The only thing more frustrating than nobody asking is somebody asking, then not listening. It’s far more insulting than not asking.

As my son and I were talking about listening, especially during the sales process, we both knew that tradesmen and all other business people suffer the same malady. We desperately want people to know what we do, how we do it, and all the other stuff that we think matters to them. What we often fail to understand is that our prospects – and everybody else we encounter – is WAY more interested in themselves and what they want. They’ll tell us if we’ll just ask, shut up and listen.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Do you workout? Maybe take walks? Lift a few weights? Or do you ignore all that stuff and neglect your fitness?

Don’t. Commit to improved health right now. Just a little bit every day until you make it a positive habit.

But I don’t care if you get 6-pack abs or not. I’m more interested in the muscle between your ears because that’s THE most important one. Get that one fit and it’ll serve your entire life well.

Last week Undeniable with Dan Patrick premiered on the Audience Channel, a DIRECTV exclusive. Joe Buck used to host the show. Dan’s first guest was Ray Lewis, Hall of Fame linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and 2-time SuperBowl champion. Listening to Lewis’ story made me realize I didn’t quite judge him correctly.

Every episode of the show they have a quote by the guest up on a wall. Ray Lewis’ quote was…

“The hardest thing to do is work hard when no one is watching.”

Ray’s story is interesting and like all great stories, it includes a ton of adversity and determination. We’re surrounded by books, articles and podcasts sharing stories of intense resolve by people of extraordinary talent (like Ray Lewis) and people who are far more common and ordinary in their natural talent. But they’ve got something others don’t, a very fit mind. A strong mind.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”    – Norman Vincent Peale

Most of us have heard such things all our lives. It still seems like hocus pocus for many of us. Just so much mumbo jumbo. I suppose that’s why it works so marvelously for the few who are able to really engage their brain with whatever they’re trying to achieve. It largely hinges on how driven people are to get their mind in gear toward a pursuit.

What do you most want to accomplish?

What’s the very next step?

I pose these 2 questions because it seems to me they reveal the stumbling block facing many people I encounter. And they also represent the stumbling blocks that often get in my way.

The human mind is able to hold two contradictory thoughts. That doesn’t mean we ought to practice that. We’re also able to have many ambitions. Dreaming and imagining provide countless fictional opportunities for our life. They may be fictional only because they’re not yet real. Or they may be fictional because there’s no way they’ll happen because we all have limitations. Ray Lewis was a Hall Of Famer not merely because he had his mind made up to be a great football player. He had the talent and physical skills necessary. He needed both. Natural talent and skills are required, but without a mind made up…Ray Lewis wouldn’t be in the Hall. Lots of football players have tremendous physical talent and skills, but they lack a strong muscle in their head.

All the possibilities can distract us from growing great. Entrepreneurs can pursue this idea, or that one, or fourteen others. We can do it this way, or that way. Or a hundred other ways. It speaks to the WHAT question. What do you most want to accomplish? We all have to settle on something. It doesn’t mean that has to be our one thing for all time, but it means our lives need focus – a singular purpose – if we’re going to develop a strong mind.

Weight training illustrates the point. A person walks up to the bench and engages in a one exercise at a time. Circuit training can involve multiple exercises, but they’re happening one movement at a time. Bench presses are the focus. Or something else. That’s the focus in the moment. What’s your focus in this moment?

Sometimes people ask me about podcasting because I’ve been doing it for so long. I’ve talked with people who want to start a podcast, but they don’t know what they want to talk about. Others have told me they’d like to do an interview show, or maybe a show about some hit TV show, or about some book series. These people have no focus. Their attention isn’t directed toward anything except starting a podcast. Most of them never did start. In part, it’s because they didn’t figure out what they wanted to accomplish. They just wanted to start a podcast, but that’s insufficient. That’s a weak mental position that won’t produce anything other than a thought or a dream.

Make your mind your strongest muscle by settling in on one thing you most want to accomplish. Business people can be among the worst to have a thousand great ideas. The hard part is to take an idea from start to profit. To keep enough focus – to make your mind strong enough to hold a single ambition long enough to achieve success. So often people start, then peter out before the thing has any hope of getting anywhere. That’s why that Ray Lewis quote I saw on his interview struck me.

“The hardest thing to do is work hard when no one is watching.”

For many of us the hardest thing to do it to maintain the mental resolve to press on until we succeed. We often quit too soon.

If you can set your mind toward a single goal, then you can make your mind an even stronger muscle by figuring out the very next step. Just the very next step.

You’re tempted to want to figure out every step between here and the final destination, but that won’t make your mind stronger. Truth is, that’ll weaken your mind because you’ll start crossing bridges in your imagination that you may never have to cross. Looking too far ahead will distract you, weaken you and likely cause you to veer off course.

Learn to live by one question, “Now what?” Some may prefer another version of that, “What’s next?” It’s the same notion. One step at a time. Just take the very next step, then figure out the next one after that.

People can be so prone to want to get every step perfectly right that fear stops people from moving at all. Which is why many dreams die on the couch. Inaction. Too much sitting around. No muscle, including your mind, is made stronger without exercise. Your mind needs your body to engage in doing something about the thoughts and ambitions. That’ll make your mind strong enough to drive your life across the finish line of whatever you hope to achieve.

There’s something else about getting ahead of yourself. You’ll talk yourself out of doing what you most need to do. Doubt and fear creep in when you get too far ahead. That’s the sign of a weak mind. Strong minds hold firmly onto the most immediate action needed. So much so, the strong mind takes that action! Then figures out the next action to take.

If you’re a physical fitness nut, that’s great. But don’t neglect the muscle that you need to be the strongest of all – your mind. Few things are more powerful than a mind made up.

Be well. Do good. Grow great.

As a business operator, you can chase any number of things. Each pursuit is different and you should know the risks and rewards.

Some entrepreneurs are chasing fame. They want celebrity. Well, I’m not talking about that kind of pursuit. Instead, I’m talking about the things necessary to build and grow your business. Things like cash, products, services, employees, and customers.

The first thing most businesses have to chase? Customers. Until you have a customer you don’t have a business. Every business needs people willing to trust us enough to buy whatever we’re selling!

Finding and acquiring customers is a big, big topic. It’s what marketing and selling are all about. There are tons of experts willing to share their insights on how you can improve those activities. You’d think it would have all been thought of, written about, promoted and well known by now. And it probably has, except the tactical part. The tools are always changing. Human behavior adapts and adjusts, too. But the principles are likely tried and true. The difference is like a diet program…you have to figure out what resonates for you. Find what works.

Chasing customers can be like any of these pursuits, exhausting. But there’s one thing about chasing customers that is different from some of these other business building/growth pursuits. The more quickly you’re able to get customers the more encouraged you are that your business is valid. Failure to capture customers is supremely discouraging and it may mean the idea isn’t valid. Or it may mean something else. It can be depressing and daunting to figure out what’s wrong. Why can’t I get customers? Or, why can’t I get more customers? It may be a million things and that makes this pursuit difficult when we’re struggling.

It’s necessary to chase customers. It has to be the first pursuit. Above all others. 

Everything else can wait. When you’re starting out, even cash has to wait (kinda sorta) because your path to cash is a customer!

Does “chasing” sound too adversarial? I get it. I don’t mean it like that though. I mean it as in chasing something good. Like pursuing something valuable. And like accepting the responsibility that you need to influence the outcome, not just wait for something to happen.

Don’t be bashful to pursue customers. Let me more properly define “chase” or “pursue.”

I don’t mean corner people, coerce people, or even sell people. Selling people is ideally giving people the opportunity to make up their own mind by supplying them with the true value you can provide. Largely, it’s educating people on what’s possible. It’s not manipulating people into doing what you want.

I’ll use myself as an example because it’s always easier to pick on myself than somebody else. I’m not saying what I do is perfect or even ideal. I think you need to figure it out for yourself and do what works for you. Everybody has to do what feels appropriate for them.

My objective in chasing customers is to first get people’s attention, then inform them (educate) on what I’m able to do to help them and then allow them to decide. I don’t talk anybody into or out of anything. Ever. I respect whatever decision people make. And I’m aware that they may decide based on my ineptness to properly convey what I want, but that’s how it goes. I’m not perfect. They’re not perfect. And if they miss out on an opportunity to work with me, it’s just the price we both pay for my botched effort. 😉

I’m always more interested in the prospect and their business. If you happen to talk with me on the phone I’m going to ask you about yourself and your business. It’s not an interrogation. Nor is it some convoluted qualifying process. It’s just a friendly conversation so I can get to know you better. Sales coaches would be highly critical of me and my process. I don’t care. I know who I am and I know what feels right to me. Those folks can judge me all they want. They don’t have to live my life. I do. I’d encourage you to roll the way you have to roll. Stop trying to fool people. Don’t pretend. Don’t act. Just be you and if prospects don’t like it, be happy to live with the outcome. It’s the age-old maxim, “You have to be willing to be hated by some in order to be loved by others.”

If I were to put a percentage on the phone call, I’d say 95% or more is spent in me learning all I can about somebody. Less than 5% is spent even telling them what I’m offering – the solution or value I might offer. That’s not likely ideal for me, but it feels right to me. I’m sure I could close more business if I were pushier, but I’m not pushy. I treat everybody the way I’d like to be treated. I don’t ever want to corner a prospect. But almost every day I encounter people selling me and they’re willing (I can’t be sure how happy they are about it) to corner me. Or to try. Try to corner me and it won’t go well for you. And I’ll hang up feeling awful myself. Everybody loses. That’s just too high a risk for the other person and for me. So I never do it. NEVER.

So for me, chasing and pursuit look an awful lot like a friendly, deep conversation that ends in a polite invitation. If people accept my invitation, great. If they don’t, I don’t judge them. Or get angry. Or feel like I blew it. Even though I’m sure sometimes I do blow it. So it goes. Life ain’t perfect and neither am I. New flash, you aren’t either!

If we don’t ask, we won’t get. When you believe in what you’re doing – and I absolutely believe in what I’m doing – then extending an invitation is a perfectly honorable thing. Would you hesitate to hand somebody an invitation to a celebration because you want them to attend, but you’re afraid they may not want to? Well, don’t. Give them the opportunity to attend. Or not. And unlike that birthday party invitation, don’t put a negative spin on the outcome. If they accept, great. If they refuse, it doesn’t mean they hate you or your birthday party.

I bring that up because people don’t invite people to do business with them because they make the decision for their prospect. Who gave you that right? They don’t have the right to figure it out for themselves? I’m constantly urging YOU to figure it out. I’m not offended if you don’t do exactly what I do. I’m only offended if you don’t even try to learn, understand and grow. I want a better outcome for you. If that doesn’t come across in this podcast, then I’m failing miserably. I don’t spend my time spinning content into a subtle sales pitch. Sometimes I tell you what I’m doing and ask if you’re interested. But that happens so rarely I’m often criticized by others who tell me, “You’re not selling anything. What’s wrong with you?”

Nothing is wrong with me. I’m peddling ideas and encouragement. Mostly.

I want people to grow great. If I can contribute with this podcast and never collect a single dollar from you, that’s great. I’m happy to have that outcome. Why else would I do this podcast if I weren’t happy with that outcome? But if you check me out and think a coach could help accelerate your growth and you think I’d be a good fit for you, then that’s also a great outcome. My chasing customers look the same either way. I want YOU to get what you need to grow great. Period.

It doesn’t make me better or worse than anybody. It doesn’t make how I roll right or wrong. It’s just what it is – it’s my personal commitment to how I need to roll in order to be happy with myself. I want you to be happy with yourself, too.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!