Personal Development

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They’re Not Entirely Who You Are

CEO, Owner, Founder: Those Are Your Roles, But They're Not Entirely Who You Are - THE PEER ADVANTAGE

Bernard (Bernie) started his company in 1989. He’ll readily tell you that it wasn’t easy. Many years were spent feeling “more married” to the business than his wife, Ruth. Ruth confirms it. But they managed to endure the hardships, long hours and mad scrambles to make payroll. By 1993 the business was generating a few million dollars in gross revenue. Bernie and Ruth weren’t yet earning the kind of the money they had hoped, but they persisted. By 1996, seven years in, they felt they were escaping the gravitational pull of failure that snatches so many business start-up’s. 

Bernie was always proud to tell people he was the President of his own company. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something he applied to himself. Instead, he was just a business owner and that moniker was glorious enough to suit him. 

Over time the company has experienced up’s and downs – often influenced by the economy. Not unlike many small businesses. Bernie figures he’s experienced just about everything in the 25 plus years he’s been running his own company. Thankful that he’s been successful, and able to achieve a high income, he and Ruth have raised three children. Their youngest is due to graduate from college this year. 

Bernie sits with the calm confidence of a seasoned warrior. I know that look. It’s a look I see sometimes when I look in the mirror, or when somebody takes my picture unexpectedly while sitting in a meeting. We’re not rookies. The street fighting skills of building a business have weathered us, but not worn us completely out. Yet. 

He laments a truth we both know and understand. There’s more to him than his business. Very few people – other than his family – know him outside the context of his business. He remembers a time before he started his company. “I was a nobody,” he says. But he doesn’t quite mean that. Not literally. He goes on to talk of his circle of business acquaintances – he calls them “friends” out of habit. But they’re not friends in the traditional sense, or in the ideal sense. That is, they’re not people with whom he can shell it down. As he puts it, “I can really be myself.” 

It sparks conversation about how as business leaders – business owners – we’re not entirely the roles or titles we wear. He wears the title, President. You may wear the title, CEO. Or, Founder. Or, Owner. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand it’s just one aspect – admittedly, a very large aspect perhaps – of who you really are. 

Bernie isn’t a President to Ruth. Or to his children. But he confesses that to most everybody else, that’s exactly who he is. There’s a sadness in his eyes as he speaks. “Some days I feel like I’m just another asset or resource of the company,” he says. “It can be easy to stop feeling human almost.”

Human. Being human.

Feelings. Emotions. Fears. Concerns. Sadness. Joy. Dread. Anticipation. 

These are human. We don’t speak in those terms when we’re “doing business.” We should. Because business is human. Businesses are operated, led and managed by humans. Businesses provide products and services to other humans. It’s all human, but we avoid the humanity of it all. Too often.

Are you a CEO, President, Founder, Owner who sometimes (maybe often) feels that way? Do you find yourself feeling isolated, unable to find people with whom you can be human? 

I’m in a phase of my own career – after spending over 30 plus years leading businesses – where I’m vigorously pursuing helping business owners and leaders find greater significance and higher levels of achievement. No, it’s not always easy because growth, improvement, and transformation demand asking hard questions. They need collaborators who care enough about us to serve us. People with whom we can be vulnerable without fear that what we say, or do will be used against us. Surrounded by people who won’t judge us, but instead will offer us their insights and experiences to help us decide for ourselves. Not people who will tell us what we should do, or people who want to live our lives for us. Instead, people who understand us and want us to reach new heights — and want us to help them do the same. A reciprocal relationship unlike any we may have ever had before. 

That’s my work. It’s where I began investing, to prepare for 2018 and the establishment of THE PEER ADVANTAGE

The “pitch” is simple, but powerful. 

Seven business owners from around the United States. Any industry. Any location. Any revenue level. People who are driven to grow as people (and yes, owners driven to grow their businesses, too). It’s about people joining forces a few times each month to push themselves individually and collectively. People willing and capable of being vulnerable with one another knowing that’s where the real value is found – in being human with each other! 

There’s no selling to this. As much sales DNA as I have, I’m the anti-sales guy in this effort because experience has taught me that people see the value in challenging their own growth, or they don’t. Those who don’t aren’t fit for the task. Honestly, nor are they the kind of business with whom I want to associate or serve. 

Learn more by going here. Complete the “application” without obligation because it’s merely an application to spark a conversation where we can find out more about each other. Together we can decide if this is something that’s right for either of us. It has to be right for both of us! Because we’re all in this together! I look forward to meeting you and finding out more about you and your company.

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Battling Misery & Dread: Find Your Friends #5002

My Biggest Challenge Is Battling Misery

Business owners are almost always candid when I ask, “What’s THE big challenge facing you today?” Even though they’ve never talked with me before, it’s rare for a business owner to avoid engaging with me in an honest conversation about their life. For starters, within seconds they can spot two of my super powers: empathy and curiosity. It takes a bit longer for my other super powers to show up: intuition and communication. That last one is the most tenuous because these conversations are always on the phone and I have no history with this person. I’m weak¬†at many things so I have to leverage these few super powers to the max. ūüėČ

He’s a small business owner more than 1000 miles from me. We’ve only exchanged a couple of messages via Linkedin. He’s in an industry that intrigues me. That’s why I connect with him. My curiosity is elevated by the time we jump on the phone. Within 3 minutes I’ve asked him, “What’s THE biggest challenge you’ve got right now?” He doesn’t hesitate. He says, “Battling my misery.” I’ve heard this before, but not quite so boldly and candidly. I’m sad for him, but impressed with his honesty.

“Tell me about it,” I say. He spends the next few minutes telling me the various sources of his misery. None of them are extraordinary. They’re all too common among small business owners. Unfortunately, he’s stuck in his misery. It’s been lingering with him for too long. You can sense he’s tired of it.

He’s successful fought his way through cash flow, getting new customers, operational issues, personnel issues and all the other things that plague us. There are elements of those creating some of his misery, but mostly it’s more personal stuff. Marriage stuff. Head stuff. Heart stuff.

It’s no lie when I tell him, “I understand.” But I quickly follow that up with the big question, “What are you going to do about it?”

He gets quiet. I embrace the pause. I know it’s hard for him, but I also know it’s my opportunity to prove to him how much I care – and that I’m not calling to make a pitch on our first date. I’ve got a bigger picture in mind before I ever connected with him. I’m not about to change course now. Patience is another power I’ve got. It’s not quite up to super power status, but I’m still working on it.

After a few seconds of silence he says, “I don’t know. Battle through it I guess.”

I want to help him shift into a different gear – one that I know can serve him better. “What have you done that’s worked in the past?” I ask.

“Well, that’s just it,” he says. “The things that once worked don’t work now.”

Misery loves company because misery is lonely. Actually, that mantra, “Misery loves company” isn’t true. If by misery we mean complaining, whining and making excuses…then yes, misery does love company. We love to find people who will listen to us moan and groan. We enjoy telling people why something we did failed. Or why we didn’t follow through on something we said we’d do.

But when it comes to really honest, genuine misery and dread…we mostly deal with it in our own head. Small business owners often feel the burden of keeping it to themselves. Trying to figure things out alone. It’s easy to feel that we don’t need anybody helping us. We sure don’t want¬†anybody trying to tell us what to do.

We proudly wear our “Happily Unemployable” t-shirt. Working for ourself is a big driver for us. Over time we’ve confused being an owner with going it alone.

Misery has no respect for anybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, a creative, a scientist or a student. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or a pro. Misery can afflict anybody. At any time. And it does. Bringing along a close pal, dread.

This business owner was in a bad place, Dreadland. He hated it, but wasn’t sure what he should or could do to escape. We’ve all been there. Sometimes just momentarily, other times longer. It’s like a bad losing streak. And our head doesn’t help us. All those things that got us success in the past now seem to be working against us. Like a professional athlete in a slump who tries harder and harder hoping that more effort will help…we can find ourselves pushing too hard, failing even more.

THE PEER ADVANTAGE is leveraging other business owners willing to help us through this misery.

Jim Rohn said, “You‚Äôre the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” Sadly, some of us are spending time with losers. Other people filled with their own misery and dread. People who lament who is in the White House. Others filled with¬†industry gripes. Still others willing to blame the weather, competition or customers for their misery. It might be fun to chime in with them, but we know it doesn’t help us. Just ’cause it feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for us.

The universe isn’t against you. Or for you. It doesn’t care one way or the other. We have to figure our way out of it and into higher success. Pushing harder to go it alone isn’t the answer, but sometimes it’s all we know. That’s why we stick with it.

Every person I know filled with misery and dread is surrounded by people who enable it, foster it or at the least, tolerate it. Which is why the first thing you have to do when you find yourself steeped in misery and dread is to evaluate the people who surround you. Is your misery amplified by them? Do they contribute to make you feel good about being miserable? Do they agree with you on why you’re the victim of somebody or something? (And is that somebody or something always beyond your control?)

Your misery and dread have found company. That company is wrecking your life, professionally and personally.

Friends, But Not In The Traditional Sense

Business owners and CEOs are notorious for surrendering to a false notion about friends who can help them. They incorrectly believe that such friendships must be completely organic. That is, they happen in the wild…all on their own, without any effort. They think it’s like when we were in 4th grade and got close to a kid one street over, and over the summer we became good buddies. It just happened. We don’t remember how. It’s amazing how UN-strategic small business owners can be when it comes to finding friends who can help them be their best.

No wonder most small business owners don’t have a single person who can help them grow and improve. Some day never comes.

Ironic, isn’t it? We’ll be strategic about most things in our business except in forging friendships with people who can really serve us. But I’m not slamming anybody because how do we go about it? Who do we recruit? How do we know who will do a good job for us? You can see the difficulty…and the reason so few people have a close circle of people who can help them.

That’s precisely why I have pivoted my entire business and career to be a player in the peer advantage space serving small business owners. Because the need and the opportunity for exponential growth for small business owners is real. So few small business owners know and understand the opportunity. That’s my fuel. My energy. To give a few small business owners exposure to a quantum leap opportunity for business and personal growth by putting them in the company of other business owners equally determined to accomplish their desired outcomes.

It’s individual and personal. Some business owners want to grow much larger. Others want to sustain growth and develop a solid exit strategy. Small business owners are unique individuals with unique goals and objectives in life. Some are young. Some are older. Some are in high-tech and others are in tried-and-true spaces. That diversity empowers us to serve each other with varied points of view, resulting in powerful feedback fully capable of catapulting us to higher altitudes than we’ve ever experienced.

All three actions of effective business building – getting new customers, serving existing customers better and not going crazy in the process – are achieved more fully and faster when we surround ourselves with other business owners who will help us. The Peer Advantage is found only when you grab hold of the opportunity for yourself by allowing yourself to join forces with a small group of other business owners. Courage, candor and openness are the ingredients of those willing to elevate their businesses and their lives.

Misery is easy. Success is hard. But worth it.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance,¬†please¬†leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking¬†Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

The Peer Advantage: A New Domain & A New Podcast Series (and more Bula! news) #TPA001

The Peer Advantage: A New Domain & A New Podcast Series - BULA NETWORK #TPA001

Big news. Well, it’s not breaking news if you’ve been paying attention, but I’m hopeful that some of you are brand new around here. Welcome! BULA!*

You’ve likely already noticed that this episode has a special designation, TPA001. This is episode 1 of The Peer Advantage series. I’ll explain.

What Brought Me Here Will Get Me There

You may have read the Marshall Goldsmith book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Yeah, me, too.

Well, that’s not what this is. This is about what brought me to the truth of peer advantage will get me where I want to go. More importantly, it will help get my customers – my clients – where they want to go. And it’ll give me the best vehicle to help them.

All you need to know about me for now is that I’ve operated in business all my life since I was 16 and first walked into a job selling hi-fi gear. Within the first decade of my career I was running a subsidiary of a larger company, a small chain of luxury retail stores focused on consumer electronics (big screen TV’s, stereo equipment, etc.). For over 25 years I was at the helm of companies, leading the charge to always be viciously competitive, nimble, quick and highly maneuverable. Growth and improvement were my passion. I was always in search of what’s possible…dissatisfied with the current state of things, including every measurable performance indicator. Extraordinary and remarkable were words I’d use to focus organizations.

Nine years ago I stepped away to help other small business owners in what I’ve called “roll-up-your-sleeves-get-your-hands-dirty” consulting work. I had already been doing some of that on the side as a passion project. Mostly because other business owners – mostly those in my sector of consumer electronics or retailing – would often call and seek my perspective. That’s how Bula Network, LLC was born.

I had been podcasting for a few years already and instantly people thought “network” was because of the podcast. Not so, even though that made sense. I was thinking “network” because the work was all over the place. It wasn’t focused on marketing or management or any other area of operating a business. It was anything and everything. I might be working with one owner on inventory management, another on HR issues, and another on succession planning. I thought “network” because of the areas of focus and the network of different things I’d help with.

Do you believe in serendipity? I do. Here we are years later and I think Bula Network was never intended to be what I launched. I’m a big believer in plan B. Plan A is what we start…and what we think will bring us the greatest success. Plan B is often what occurs after we figure a few things out and realize there’s a different/better path. This episode is all about plan B and I’m excited to finally arrive here.

Bula Network is now a full-fledged peer advantage company with a sole focus – for the first time ever! To serve small business owners through peer advantage.

Good marketing advice always includes urging people to narrow their focus. I’ve given that advice. Unfortunately, I’ve not taken my own medicine until now. That alone makes this feel very different from anything I’ve ever done. Learn that lesson…preferably sooner than I did. Get focused on who you’re going to serve, who you’re going to be and what you’re going to do. For almost a decade I’ve neglected that.

About 4 years ago I learned, for the first time, about professional peer advisory groups for business owners and leaders. Call me naive. Call me ignorant. Call me busy! I just hadn’t been exposed to them. Nobody had ever talked with me about such a group. Nobody had ever invited me to join such a group. Yes, I had been involved in countless industry or associations where we had group meetings, sometimes small groups. But these were people exactly like me with the same point of view, the same gripes and more often than not these morphed into whining sessions where people complained about the things that were wrong with the industry. And I wasn’t interested. It just wasn’t profitable and it’s not how I rolled. The market is the market. Vendors do what vendors do. Politicians do what politicians do. Customers do what customers do. You either deal with the present reality and act accordingly, or you do what these people did – complain. I much preferred to deal with it.

When I was a freshman in college, or maybe when I was still in high school (who can remember?) I read Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich. That book introduced the world to the “mastermind” group. The titans of industry during the industrial revolution in America fought like dogs against each other. They’d sometimes realize that they could benefit from joining forces. And some lesser successful, but still VERY successful people found it highly profitable to connect and collaborate with others so they could all help each other grow their businesses and their lives.

So it’s not like I had no notion of such groups. It’s just that I hadn’t been part of any. Not really. And that includes the over half a dozen online mastermind groups I’d been invited to join. None of them were valuable. All of them were a waste of time for a few basic reasons. One, the person forming the group didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know how to operate a group effectively. There is a skillset required to lead a group of business owners. Not everybody has it. Two, the person forming the group assembled¬†people who occupied some place in their life at the time. There wasn’t a strategic purpose behind our organization. It was mostly random. Three, the group didn’t have a stated purpose. The focus wasn’t there. Four, the group members weren’t committed. We had no skin in the game. We were merely being polite to the person who invited us. So we attended once or twice. Five, there was no accountability. When you’re missing the other things, accountability is the last thing you worry about. It was all a recipe for a total waste of time.

Then I discovered there were actual groups with a focus that interested me – business growth. I started paying attention. That was about 4 years ago. I wasn’t in any position to take advantage, but I remember thinking how I wish I’d been part of a group while operating a multi-million dollar retailing company. But here I was a solopreneur grinding out the work, connecting with prospective clients and very focused on helping people one-on-one. My station in life was now different and it was by my own design. I had operated companies with employees, equipment and inventory. Now I wanted none of those things. Instead, I wanted to serve business owners and executives because I knew I had a lifetime of experiences and it was about two things for me: significance and legacy.

I dove into learning more about this whole peer advisory thing. I came to see it as a movement. A very positive movement. It wasn’t new, but I sensed it was an opportunity because I knew the need was enormous if people could clearly see it for what it is – a vehicle to help them grow as people and to help them grow their business. I was already all in on the mental fitness and emotional health of business people. I knew the stress of their lives and how addicting it can be. But I also knew the dark side of too much alcohol, too many busted marriages and too many suicides. All the things nobody wants to talk about. The grind chews people up. The think we love can often hurt us. Chaos, stress, the hustle – they thrill us and fuel us. They can also turn on us and kill us if we’re not careful. I knew this well.

I kept learning. I kept checking things out. I kept reading and talking with people. I even made a run at being part of an organization that focused on serving CEOs. It didn’t work out because I wasn’t a good fit for their culture, but I saw the value of their work (and still think highly of them). I read a book that was published a year ago, The Power Of Peers. I got more fascinated with peer groups, especially for small business owners.

About this same time I began to return to my roots – small business. I had gone from consulting to coaching back to consulting. I had helped CEOs, executives, leaders and small business owners. I realized the small business owner was the closest to my heart. It’s where my passion was hottest. I knew it like the back of my hand. I related to these people. These were my people.

One of the co-authors of the book, The Power Of Peers, was Leo Bottary. I had heard Leo on a couple of podcasts and wondered why he didn’t have his own podcast. So I reached out to Leo and offered to help him just so I could learn more about the space of peer advisory. I wanted to play in this space. I wanted to be a player in it and it’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my career. That was around October 2016 but it was a decision “in process.” That means, it wasn’t a decision made in a singular moment. It happened over time. Reaching out to Leo wasn’t merely a decision to serve a person already operating in the space of community, connection and collaboration – he was symbolic of my desire to learn more and enter the space myself to make my own contribution.

I was discovering a new professional passion – the first element of a good story. It had been over 7 years since I had read Donald Miller’s book,¬†A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. That book was about creating the story of your life. I had long ago learned the 5 elements of a great story: passion, hero, antagonist, awareness and transformation. Well, I had been struggling to find my professional passion since leaving the C-suite. I was uncovering it and it had been right under my nose the entire time. It wasn’t new. In fact, it was something I had done all my life. Two words leaped to the forefront of my mind: connection and collaboration. Now it was time to make my bet. Well, it wasn’t time, but it felt like it was. I had to endure a few more months of work and a bit more pondering.

We’re ready when we’re ready. Yes, people can help us get there more quickly, but in the end – we decide for ourselves. I felt I was ready to make the pivot, but something kept me from going all in. It’s the same thing that slows us all down. Just a tad of doubt. Isn’t it amazing how pounds of passion can be dampened by just a teaspoon full of doubt?

By the time May 2017 rolled around I was placing my bet by going all in – pot committed – to a complete pivot. Bula Network, LLC would no longer be what it was at the start. It would become what I now most wanted it to be – what I most wanted to be – a peer advantage company serving small business owners. All in. No looking back.

Leo and I met at a Chili’s Restaurant in The Woodlands (Houston). We talked about the podcast, YEAR OF THE PEER and our work together. And I told him of my idea to launch an online peer advisory group of small business owners. From that conversation and his feedback I decided to launch two groups of 7, one AM group and one PM group. It spawned from a renewed optimism that I decided to embrace. Optimism that together we can do great things. Optimism that together small business owners can achieve more than they ever could apart…and do it much, much faster!

This is the first in a series of new episodes I’m calling THE PEER ADVANTAGE. It may become THE podcast here, but right now that’s not the plan. You can see how my plan B is overtaking what was once plan A though…so you never know. I don’t know how many episodes it will be I do know it’s going to bring you value. Here’s why — I’m going to document this entire journey. Warts and all. Good times. Bad times. Victories. Defeats. It’s going to all be chronicled right here until I have successfully launched two groups of 7 each or until I’ve failed and quit (that’s not going to happen, but every story needs tension…so there’s mine).

How is this going to work? By surrounding myself with people who I know will help me. People who will ask me the tough questions. People who will avoid judging me, but who will happily (and quickly) hold me accountable to the decisions I commit to. I’ll have more to say about these people later. I’ll introduce you to each of them. Leo Bottary is going to be one of them. I’ll have two others so I can keep my little peer advantage group tight. It’s my version of working live without a net because I know there’s courage and power in vulnerability. I’m willing to share my own vulnerability with YOU. I think it will serve you by showing you how valuable it is, and I also think it may inspire you to embrace your own.

There’s another benefit to this. It’s going to be easier to show you peer advantage rather than to tell you about it. You already know the value of it, but maybe not in the context of being a business owner. I want to show you how powerful it will be for you in that context.

And yes, there’s an enormous benefit to me in doing this. I’m going to be the recipient of surrounding myself with these 3 people. Yes, I know they’ll each get benefits, too. I hope they’ll each feel like it’s a valuable experience for them even though our purpose of coming together is to help me with my current pivot. It’s what happens when peer advantage occurs. Other people help you with your issues. My issue is this desired pivot.

I’m not pursuing a good feeling as much as I’m pursuing growth and improvement. I want to accomplish this goal of building two new groups of 7 small business owners from around the nation. My purpose is to bring together these 3 people who I trust. Just being together is excuse enough, but I know we live in a more practical world that requires us to have a point to being together. I’m rather certain that merely being together serves us well. Just because.

I’m happy you and I were together today. Now it’s your turn to speak. I’d enjoy hearing from you. Take a moment and share your thoughts at the Bula Network Facebook page.

Thank you.

*Bula is a Fiji term analogous to aloha in Hawaiian. It means both “hello” and “goodbye.” It also means life and carries with it the connotation that “life is good.” I’m not from Fiji and have never even been there, but over 35 years ago I came across the term and fell in love with it. That’s why I named my company after that word, Bula Network, LLC.

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance,¬†please¬†leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking¬†Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

Bula! Life Is Good (Why Optimism Is Your Best Choice) - GROW GREAT

Bula! Life Is Good (Why Optimism Is Your Best Choice) #4059

Bula! Life Is Good (Why Optimism Is Your Best Choice) - GROW GREAT

Over 30 years ago I ran across the term – Bula. I don’t remember where. I do remember instant fondness for the term because it carried the connotation that “life is good.” How can you not like that?

I was so smitten with the term that I began to use it as the greeting on internal memos in the company I was operating. Bula!

A single explanation took care of it. After that, everybody instantly remembered the meaning of the word.

Fast forward and here we are about to enter May 2017. I’ve devoted my professional career to selling, marketing, building organizations, creating processes/workflows and leading people in the quest for us all to grow, individually and collectively. There’s been a crazy amount of change through the years as I’ve chased those pursuits. But one thing has remained a constant – people do make all the difference! Well, something else has remained –

the outlook with which we view ourselves and the world serve to largely determine our destiny

High performers are not only driven, but they’re optimistic. Hopeful. Always chasing a better outcome, an improved version of themselves and a place of higher accomplish. In short, the best performers know that growth and improvement are possible, even probable.

They all have another common trait: willingness. They’re willing to do the work. Willing to do what’s necessary to make it happen. Willing to be responsible and practical. Willing to be patient, realizing that growth takes time. Willing to acknowledge the power of compounding, in everything.

But there’s a contradiction because they’re also unwilling. Unwilling to pursue something they don’t believe in. Unwilling to follow every rule. Unwilling to sacrifice their strengths in order to pursue some weakness. Unwilling to let their lives be ruled by dread. Unwilling to let a single day go by without finding reasons to be optimistic.

For over 2 years I’ve been holding out optimism as I noodled with an idea of serving just a few small business owners. Optimistic that I could make a meaningful impact on the lives of perhaps a few dozen small business owners. Not by holding forth, or being the answer-man to all their problems, but knowing — and believing — in the collective power of small groups of peers (other small business owners) who together could wrestle down problems, more closely exam opportunities and enjoy a depth of relationship designed at learning, growth and improvement.

Magical things happen when you put yourself around optimistic people. The reason is simple: optimism is rare. Negativity is the order of the day. Slamming politicians, blaming the government, finger pointing, shouting — those are the habits most often displayed. They wear on us. In time, we join in. Sometimes not even realizing it’s happening. We moan and complain. We find excuses for our failures instead of celebrating them as efforts in an attempt to find out way, and figure it out. It’s wearisome, robbing us of life, much less a good life.

The losers around us don’t help. They quickly provide ample reasons why our optimism is unfounded. Even foolish.

They reason with us about the latest legislation that will certainly be bad for our business. Or the looming disruptive technologies sure to hurt our company. They yearn for how things once were and cheer us on to join their chorus. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we romanticize the past glory we may have once enjoyed. And get lost in our daydreaming of wondering what happened.

Rubbish. It’s all rubbish.

Life is good. Worth celebrating, and even more worth being thankful for.

Add to this list. Go ahead. I know you’ll be able to do it. And quickly, I’ll bet.

Here are just a few things I’m thankful for:

  • Living in the U.S. where we’re free to pursue our dreams with enormous opportunities
  • Living in this era where we have the Internet and all that it affords
  • Health (whatever measure of it you’ve got, but thankful)
  • Family (I’ve got a wife of almost 40 years, 2 grown kids, 2 kids-in-law, 5 grandkids – don’t tell me life ain’t good)
  • Friends (I more than ever value the really close friends who deeply influence my life)
  • Experiences – the work ones and the personal ones (life has afforded me many lessons, some that were painful but priceless)

You get the drift. We’d be here all day and all night if I merely listed them all. The same goes for you. I don’t care how bad you think things are, or how good. We’re all ridiculously blessed.¬†

Life isn’t fair or equal. It just IS. Build your bridge and get over it.

That doesn’t mean we accept our current state as being our “fate.” Hogwash. No such thing. Fate is what we make it. Henry Ford was right in that notion about whether we think we can, or we think we can’t – either way, we’re right. We don’t like to think that’s so when we’re down and out. We want to think it’s somebody else’s fault. Surely it’s not on us! Yes, it is.

Own It

If one little phrase has permeated my life over the last decade, it’s this one: own it! Not that I’ve always done it, but that I know I need to always do more of it. Optimism helps.

Fact is, optimism helps EVERYTHING. That’s that why I want to focus your attention on it today. And I’m doing it with a purpose…primarily to show you that it may be time to get out of your own head and into a room where you can share experiences, stories, concerns, worries, opportunities and celebrations with others. People who committed to their own quest for optimism. People determined to not stop growing, learning or caring. People who understand they need people.

When I was a boy Barbra Streisand hit the world by storm. In 1964 she performed a monster hit song, People.

It was true in 1964. It’s true in 2017. And if the world stands, it’ll be true 100 years or 1000 years from now. Our lives are made better by people.

We all know this is true yet we somehow remain isolated with our own thoughts and demons. We go it alone when we could so much more easily go it with others. When we do, our optimism soars and it changes everything. Because we surround ourselves with others who believe we feed our own optimism, which in turn feeds the optimism of those we’re hanging with…and together we all find new heights for ourselves.

Have you ever been fascinated by the stories of actors, singers or comedians who talk about their early years? Those years of toil, struggle and hardship. Do you think it’s coincidental that some of the biggest names you’ve heard of in those arenas are people who “came up together” with other big names? No. There’s a method to that madness. For starters, they all had some degree of talent for the game, whichever game it may have been – acting, musicianship, comedy. Secondly, they all were committed to make it. They worked hard, put in long hours, did whatever they could to survive while they were making it. Thirdly, they all endured the grind because they loved what they were doing. Success takes however long it takes. Some took longer than others. That’s life. Fourthly, they maintained the belief – and determination – that they’d make it. Optimistic that eventually, it would be reality.

Barbra Streisand left home before her 18th birthday. She lived like a gypsy and her mother would lament how she was choosing to live. Her mom’s disbelief fueled Barbra’s belief. As the universe grew pessimistic, she grew more optimistic displaying an “I’ll show you” attitude. Her enormous talent wasn’t going to be enough – it never is. It would require people in her life propping her up, encouraging her, helping her. That combination made her a star. And even then it took time. But had she gone it all alone, it may have never happened.

This isn’t restricted to creative endeavors like acting, music or comedy. It’s universal. You’ve seen it in your life and in the lives of people you know.

One person makes an impact. One person willing to be candid with us because they’re helping us – not because they’re judging us. One person willing to encourage us because they believe in us, not in what we’re doing! And if we’re very lucky, more than one person comes along in our life willing to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

It’s that belief that has driven me for two years to reach this point – a point where I’m pushing all the chips into the middle of the table to bet my professional future on a belief that I can help put people in a virtual room together so they can find new levels of achievement they’ve not yet experienced. In business. In life. Financial. Emotional. Across all spectrums of our lives because we’re not singularly-focused people. We’re complex and our lives often times seem even more so.

It’s about YOU. Your life. At work. At home. When you goof around, or when you’re at your soberest.

It’s about YOUR BUSINESS. The daily challenges. The special challenges. The constraints and the opportunities.

It’s about belief. Confidence.

Optimism. 

It’s fueled by one foundational idea – that no matter how things are right now, they can be improved. That with the help of others we can reach summits we may have doubted even existed.

Fun. Let’s not overlook a major benefit of optimism. It’s just more fun than being negative. It’s more fun to consider how great things will turn out, than to fret about how awful it may be if they don’t.

I’m currently looking for 14 small business owners who share my beliefs. Fourteen people who know they can grow, learn and achieve more than they’ve ever achieved if only they could be surrounded by 7 other people who were like-minded and willing to put in the work that optimistic people know is required. Fourteen people who aren’t satisfied with being surrounded by people more interested in finding excuses than opportunities to learn and improve. Fourteen courageous people willing to step forward with a commitment to grow their business and to grow their own leadership so they can be a more positive influence in the lives of others.

It’s why I’m basically shutting the doors on all other professional activities – all the coaching and consulting – to go all in on this one big idea I call the Bula Network Owners’ Alliance. At long last the term “network” has found it’s true meaning. What started out as a “network” of professional services, and morphed a bit into a podcast has come around to what it was always intended to be – a network of people helping each other. It’s why you may have noticed the tagline appear some months ago…

leveraging connection & collaboration for improved performance

Believe.

Be optimistic.

What have you got to lose? Nothing but your negativity and those things holding you back from soaring as high as you can.

Business Owners Sometimes Find Themselves In The Dark

The darkness overtakes all of us. Some of us remain in the dark for a long time. Others are able to climb out of it more quickly.

Get up in the middle of the night when your house is pitch black. One small light (of any color) can make all the difference in the world in helping you navigate the room. It provides a reference point and just enough illumination to help you find your way.

Without that small little light – a light no larger than a pen light – you blindly feel your way without quick success. It takes longer and requires you to go slower.

About 8 years ago my career came to an abrupt fork in the road that I didn’t see coming. It happens. Welcome to the wilderness. The darkness.

In a flash my identity was gone. Or so I thought. I read a book by Marci Alboher where she talked about the slashes behind your name – all the different roles you have in life. For decades my identity had been something that I now wasn’t. I started thinking of the most important roles of my life, the ones closest to my name.

Randy Cantrell, Christian/Husband/Father/Grandfather

For 3 years I was completely lost in the darkness, struggling to regain my confidence. And my identity.

These more important roles – the ones having nothing to do with work or business – were far more important than the one identity I lost. But it was more than identity that I lost. It was self-confidence. It was belief in myself.

People closest to me didn’t help. They didn’t know how. And over time I could see them lack confidence in me. I took it hard until I realized what it really was. They weren’t lacking confidence in me. They knew I could find the light switch in the dark. But they wondered if I ever would. It wasn’t them. It was ME.

Like most people who love us and are closest to us, they just don’t often know how to help us. We just need a very small light to give us a reference point, and just enough illumination to find the light switch. We need people able to do that for us. Usually it’s somebody who isn’t too close to us emotionally because those people aren’t often able to provide the feedback and accountability we need.

Don’t stay in the dark. You can find your way out. The switch is there. You just have to know where you are relative to the switch. Find people who can provide the pen-light you need. Incorporate them into your life. They’ll need you at some point to do the same for them. It’ll make all the difference in the world by helping you navigate out of the darkness much, much faster!

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