Thoughts on Persistence

Have you ever watched a child who is learning to walk?

She first pulls herself up using the couch or a table leg, then turns and takes a step. Or two.

BAM! Down she goes.

What occurs next is a minor miracle – she pulls herself up and tries again!

Eventually, she succeeds! (and the peace of the household is forever gone.)

What’s happening here?

The baby shows resilience, the ability to get back up after she falls.

She also shows persistence, the ability to keep going after the fall.

You may have heard that insanity is repeating the same actions while expecting different results.

Clearly our baby is doing something that allows her to, ultimately, succeed!

I believe she is learning from her experience and applying what she learns to do better the next time.

That, in a nutshell, is the theme of my chapter in Resilience.

If you want to be resilient, you need two things: persistence and planning. Persistence to help you regain your feet when you lose balance and planning to help you move forward toward your goal.

— Presented at the Bookworm in Omaha, Nebraska, August 19, 2017

Resilience vs. Persistence

This was an interesting conversation:  Can you have Resilience without Persistence?  Can you have Persistence without Resilience?  Are they interdependent?

Let’s assume that you are reading this because you are or want to become a leader.  Does an organization or a corporation need resilience?  It would be difficult to be successful without having faced and conquered some setbacks.  When would you need resilience?  Financial challenges?  Staffing challenges?  Economics of the area?  Time commitment problems?  Let us look at some of these.

Let’s say that you have a good organization going.  You have committed people, a great vision, and goals you can reach…until a financial fiasco happens.  Your treasurer suspiciously takes a trip to the Bahamas and isn’t planning to come back.  You are not ever going to get that money back.  Do you throw up your hands?  Some do.

What if you have a great product and all the resources you need to produce it, and cannot get anyone willing to work for commission to sell it.  How do you recruit people to commit themselves and their time to working for your company?  What if, after many months of success, your best sales person is lured to another company for a more stable income?  How do you fill that hole?!

What happens if you have a great group of people that love getting together and learning some skills and performing, and the national organization raises its dues?  Will your membership shrink because of the economics?  What if you sell luxury items and the bottom drops out of the local economy?  How do people afford your products?

If you want your group to survive, it must be persistent, and it must be resilient.  To be resilient, the goal has to be worth something to the people who pursue it.  When a ball bounces, it flattens when it hits the ground and then, in regaining its shape, it ALMOST returns to its starting position.  In regaining its shape, the energy moves it back up.  If it doesn’t regain its shape, it is splattered all over the sidewalk.  The resilience comes 1st.  But in order to get back to its starting position, it has to continue to add energy when it comes to the apex of its trajectory.  Something has to keep boosting the ball or it never gets all the way back up.  That would be persistence.

The resilience of the organization with the missing treasurer begins when the group decides it will replace the money by raising funds in some way:  soliciting donations, garage/bake sales, performing a service of some kind would slowly bring up the treasury of the group.  Do the vision and the goals expressed by the group move them to act on these suggestions?  Only if they mean enough.  If the group decides it is worth the effort, persistence kicks in to help them continue even if it looks improbable that their projects will ever succeed.

In the scenario involving staffing after the best salesman quits, the resilience comes in when you bring the matter before the other members of the team.  They must be convinced that the effort involved in doing commission work will be worth it.  What are the rewards of getting paid directly for your efforts?  Can you earn more than someone that relies on a salary?  YES!  Can you earn less?  yes. Can you work your own schedule?  YES!  Can you not work your own schedule?  yes.  Can you work your own schedule on a salary?  No.  Can you not work the schedule you’re handed on a salary?  Definitely Not.  Do you have the choice here?  YES!  Do you have the choice there? NO!  Then you give the same speech to your prospective employees.  The ones that opt for safety will not be good at commission work.  You must restore the faith in the group to regain the “shape” of your group, and then be persistent in recognition of your current crew and in hiring and training new people.  Resilience first, followed by persistence.

If you cannot affect the economics of your area, you have to be resilient enough to handle setbacks such as rising dues or a diminishing market, and creative enough to find solutions that will keep the spirit of your people up.  Once the resilience kicks in, the persistence keeps it going.

He could have quit.  He should have quit.  The resilience inside him got him to a standing position, and he hopped and limped down the track.  His hamstring was torn.  The recovery time for a torn hamstring is 3-6 months and surgery.  He’d be lucky to get back to a condition where he could run competitively again.  He knew he couldn’t win, but winning at that point was not the goal.  Crossing the finish line was the goal.  Finishing the race to the best of his ability was the goal.  But as you can see, he had support.  His dad gave him the courage and the will to persist to the finish line despite excruciating pain.

People will persist if they can see the goal is worth it.  They will be resilient if they know they have the support of those around them.  They will work to succeed because what gets them into the group or the corporation is what keeps them working toward the goal.  The desire to help someone, the need to be appreciated for work well done, and the compensation and the rewards/bonuses have an effect on their families.

Resilience and Persistence go hand in hand.  You can be resilient, bouncing back time after time from setbacks, but without persistence, you just get tired and quit.  You can be persistent and continue to work for a goal, but every setback will put you further behind, and unable to regain your “shape”–your goal and your desire to reach it, it will be easier and easier to quit.  To Truly be successful, you must have both resilience and persistence working together.

Business Essentials: Know Your Value!

Know your value The Story

I’d like to share with you a quick story about your business and why you need to know your value.  It is my hope that by reading this, you may be more willing to understand and demand what you are worth.

A colleague and I were sitting down with a potential client not long ago.  This person had heard that we had recently written a book and wanted our help in writing one.  Of course, we are happy to help people to write a book, but we also consider it a service to the client to ensure that what we do is actually going to benefit the client.  In accordance with good practice, we had a long conversation to try and isolate the desired outcomes for the planned book project.

After some discussion, we began to realize that the client has developed a highly specialized skill set in a very close knit industry.  There are generally only a few dozen practitioners of this particular service.  The client’s boss had carefully crafted a set of processes that could be employed for tremendous value in uncommon but critical moments.  The boss was widely known and respected and, consequently, had great demands upon his time.  Our prospective client had approached the boss about capturing these skills in a book.  The boss had indicated that the idea had merit, but indicated that due to the demands on his time, he couldn’t write the book himself, and he challenged our prospective client to write the book.

And that is how we came to have this conversation.  Our client wanted to create a book describing how the firm did what they did.  It was at this point that my colleague and I both started recognizing some real concerns about the business case for the book project.  We found it unwise to provide detailed descriptions of the “secret sauce” of their corporate expertise.  I was trying to draw the client’s attention to the value proposition of book idea.  In any business, it is important to know your value.  But after raising our concerns, our client didn’t seem to understand the basis of our concerns.

Undeterred, I tried to illustrate our concern in the following way:

I asked, “How long has your boss been performing this service?”

“Ten years.”

I then asked for the boss’s hourly rate.

“$175 an hour.”

“So, assuming a conservative workload of 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, we can estimate your boss works at least 2000 hours a year.  He’s been doing this for 10 years and at an hourly rate of $175 an hour, this means that your boss’s experience and expertise could be fairly valued at least $3.5 million dollars—and here you want to give away that much value for the cost of a paperback.

After that comment, our client’s face looked confused—struggling to grasp the significance of the comment.

I continued, “Listen, I think it is a great thing that you want to pass on useful and specialized skills to others in your industry.  It’s obvious that this will benefit them.  All we’re saying that it should work for you, too.  Don’t you think that the value you offer is worth more than the cost of a book?”  We then went on to talk about creating educational content for participants at a more favorable price point.

Takeaway

The point of the lesson is that it is vitally important to appropriately value your offering.  Not only is this a function of one’s realization of the economic value of what you have to offer, but also to have the self-esteem necessary to demand appropriate compensation for that value.

I’m Sorry: The Art of the Apology

NOTE: This is the text of a speech I will be delivering to my Toastmasters Club this evening, but I wrote it with all of you in mind.  (SPOILER ALERT for those who would rather hear it first this evening.)

The thoughts expressed below are my own and should be not be seen as representing the thoughts of the Alternative Book Club or its members.

Pain, Fear and Bile

Fellow Toastmasters.  I have honestly struggled with what to say in this this evening.  Never in my adult lifetime have I seen such a need for people to know how to make peace.  This has been a rough week for us all, but I’ve been tortured what I have seen erupt between people I care for over the course of the past seven days.  This week has laid bare the deep emotional wounds of people all across this nation.  From the streets of Baltimore to the hills of West Virginia, from the maelstrom of the college campus in Oregon to the dark and deserted factory floor in Michigan, people are hurting.  The pain out there is palpable.  Fear is all over my Facebook feed.  There is bile between my best of friends.

If there is anything that Toastmasters has taught me, it’s that, words are powerful.  And few things are more powerful than the words that bring about healing and reconciliation.

Healing and Reconciliation

One of the things my chapter talks about is the concept of unfinished business—those raw emotional wounds that we have yet to heal with our brothers.  Sadly, I think much of the unfinished business in our nation cannot achieve closure, because the truly evil perpetrators of American atrocities have long since passed away.  Whether it is the abomination of slavery, the brutality of manifest destiny, the waging of war upon our own citizens, the United States, like every nation, has dark elements of its history.

There simply is no way for the villains of the past to apologize for the crimes perpetrated against others.  There will be no closure, no healing, no reconciliation.  That chance for redemption is past.  But, another item I talk about in my chapter is the concept of apologizing on behalf of who you represent and apologize to the extent of your responsibility.  So I ask that you allow me to do that.  To black Americans, on behalf of my country, which once gave legitimacy of holding people in bondage and subsequently treated them brutally, I’m sorry.  To my native American brothers, I’m sorry for the lack of trustworthiness and brutality that my government has shown you over more than two centuries.  To my friends in the LGBTQ community, I’m sorry for the centuries of shame and silence that you have had to endure.  To my lady friends, on behalf of the line of men going back millennia, I’m sorry it took so long to fully integrate you in public life.

Monsters of Today and Yesteryear

As I’ve said, I teach in my chapter that it is important to apologize up to the extent of your responsibility, but no further.  I acknowledge the sins of my ancestors, but I do not accept the guilt of their crimes.  Their sins are not my sins.  People who pretend that they are will invite backlash, as we have seen.  Today’s monsters should be rightfully condemned and I join with you in their condemnation.  However, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the reason we recognize monsters for what they are is because they are so rare, and that’s a very comforting thought.

Problems

Our politicians and our pundits like to talk about issues—women’s issues, minority issues, class issues.  In this petty bickering about who’s issues need to be addressed and in what order, it’s easy to forget that we all have challenges and that we will continue to fail to come together to face those challenges if we don’t take the time to listen to each other or pretend that “their problems” aren’t really problems.  I admit that I have not been subjected to frequent harassment from neighbors, but I have been in places that had me looking over my shoulder and I have been physically attacked on neighborhood streets.  I admit that I’ve never been pulled over for “driving while black”, but I have been pulled over for “driving while young and male,” which is also a thing.  I admit that I haven’t been the victim of systemic racial inequality or sexism, but I have been in interviews, where it was clear that my race and sex were a dis-qualifier for the position I was seeking.  Twenty years ago, in a world history class, a large majority of students chose to give oral reports on the patriarchy and systemic misogyny.  No one seemed concerned when I said I was dropping the class “because of the irony”.  The environment for people who look like me on many college campuses is more hostile than 20 years ago. I’ve been victim of a layoff 4 times.  I’ve had to deal with times of personal trial.  I’ve had to deal with personal loss that no decent person in the world should ever have to.  Yet, the message from many out there is that the problems of people who look like me aren’t real.   And that is unfortunate.

I share these stories, not because I want to gain sympathy points with you, but rather to engage with you, to show that I can empathize with you, and to perhaps break bread with you as we discover ways to tackle the challenges that plague us both.  The sooner we discover that our interests are much closer than many of us expect or others want us to believe, the better.

A Better Future

I’ll close with a bit of foreshadowing.  In our next collaboration, a key part of my chapter will be centered on the topic of optimism.  No matter if you liked or disliked the outcome of last Tuesday’s election, we all should be happy that we live in the times that we do.  Despite hysterical claims to the contrary, we don’t live in the 1860s, 1930s, or the 1960s, we are blessed to be living in the 20-teens.  Not that we don’t still have some deep problems that need to be addressed, but we should look back and see how far we have come.  Look at the faces in this room!  Just in the past few months, we’ve been able to collaborate on things in ways that would have been unthinkable 100 years ago.  So long as we can continue to do that—to work together despite our differences, physical, philosophical, and ideological, we can still be proud of our nation.

For those of you who are scared or hurting out there, I’m sorry.  But the sun comes out.  Never forget that the good people in this world far outnumber the bad.

For those out there who feel they have been silenced or made to think their problems aren’t real, I’m sorry.  I will continue to do what I can to help you to find your voice and make sure it’s heard.

And for the haters out there who think America’s best days are behind her, I’m sorry, but this nation will continue to surprise and inspire the world, even if the world doesn’t understand the meaning of events in the short term.

This nation is a wonder and I’m happy to be in it.   No apologies.

 

If you are interested in hearing more about The Art of the Apology, you’ll find more in Spotlight on the Art of Grace.

spotlight-on-the-art-of-grace

Conquering Procrastination: Nothing’s Going to Change

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The Sign I Keep Above My Desk

This is the sign I keep above my desk in my office. It constantly warns me of the dangers of procrastination.

Many of us want to make a change in our lives.  We want to be more successful, improve our relationships, or go after our dreams.  The terrible truth is that willful change is hard.  It is easy to continue to go about one’s routine.  Routine doesn’t put much stress on your mind.  (If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you have ever found yourself getting out of your car at work and you realize that you don’t remember the drive.)

Procrastination

Many of us struggle with procrastination. The biggest separator between the dreamers and the doers may be how one contends with the challenge of procrastination. Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.” It’s absolutely true. The challenge of procrastination is so pervasive that the vast majority of people share it. While your procrastination is certainly a challenge you’ll need to overcome to make a difference, be content in the knowledge that since everyone contends with it and so few transcend it, you will find that if you can clear this hurdle, there are far fewer contenders who remain in the game than you think.

“You can mess around all you want, but nothing’s going to change.” Like everyone, I struggle with procrastination. I’m often tempted to jump on facebook, youtube, or consume internet news. My sign reminds me that every second I do that, I am not doing what will empower me to make my life better.

Empower.

I don’t use that word lightly. If you believe, as I do, that procrastination may be the biggest roadblock to success you can face, then success is simply a choice. It is a choice to do the hard thing when you’re tempted not to.

I challenge you to draw up your own sign to prompt you to nip procrastination in the bud. Put it in a prominent place where you have to see it every day. You owe it to yourself to get off the couch and get about the business of delivering yourself the life you want!

Earn Your Promotion: Guidance on Getting the Job You Want

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Self promotion in the workplace

I bet you thought I was going to go on and on about social media and bragadocious things you can say about yourself.  HA!  Most people never promote themselves because they cannot!  What do I mean by that?  When was the last time you walked into your boss’ office and said, “See that corner office over there?  I want it.  Give me a promotion!”  Would the boss respond positively or negatively to that?  Who knows?

The usual promotion process is completely different.  You work at your desk or visit your clients in the field, or deliver your products and install them, then go home at the end of the night, only to start over in the morning.  If you do get a promotion, it may be due to someone above you quitting or retiring or (God forbid) getting fired.  The boss looks around and you just happen to be close to what he wants in that position and you get promoted.  Some promotions are proscribed due to length of service.  In rare cases, the boss finds someone he wants to promote, goes to them and tells them what classes to take, how to improve their service, what questions to ask and mentors them into a position.

Getting more pay 

In the sit-coms of the 1960’s and 70’s, one of the plot points in common was going to the boss to ask for a raise.  This plot point was considered good comic material because nearly everyone in the work force could identify with this situation.  They were not asking for promotions because that was a change in the type of work they enjoyed.  They just wanted more money for the work they were already doing.  No one seems to be doing that now.  We seek to get group raises.  We seek to get new benefits as a group.  Imagine everyone in a company going in individually to the HR department and negotiating a new wage and benefit package tailored to individual situations!  “I’ll take a 2% raise if you throw in 20% more in health benefits.”  “I need a 5% raise, my wife is pregnant.”  “I don’t really need a raise, but if you could get me an extra week’s vacation so I can see my kid graduate from Harvard, that would be great!”  If you are doing relatively better work than those of your colleagues, shouldn’t you get relatively more money?  Businesses pay the position, not the worker for the amount of work completed.

That brings up the question, “How do I get more money if everyone in my department gets the same?”  Some companies have a Pay For Performance benefit–a bonus paid for going beyond the expected output.  One business I worked in, this was the case.  They set a standard, and watched as all the workers changed their emphasis to fulfilling the requirement for PFP.  The frustration came in when the company changed the standards and the areas for PFP randomly.  The standard for processing accounts was 350 in a day.  One person did 734.  (The record still stands…)  The company reviewed this process and changed it to require more steps, then they raised the standard to 500 in a day.  Subsequently, no one got the bonus.  Then, ten days later, the PFP was based on the number of phone call clients serviced.  There suddenly was no purpose in processing accounts efficiently and quickly. The focus changed to getting orders quickly and getting off the phone so you could take another call.  The PFP changed again a mere six days later.  In a short time, the workers were ignoring the new PFP emails containing the new standards. The PFP slowly disappeared.

The solution is to get promoted

The way to get more money in a company that pays by position is to change position–go into management, get a promotion.  Most companies, however, do not have a chart that says, “If you do this, this, that, those, this, this and this, you can get promoted to Manager 1st class.”  This is silly.  When you are in elementary school, if you spell your words correctly, do your arithmetic correctly, do 5 book reports, get good scores on your social studies, then you will pass on to the next grade.  It’s true in each school system up through college.  When you are in scouts, if you complete these badge requirements, do this leadership project, and help at least 15 little old ladies across the street, you get promoted.  In sports, if you come to practice every day and do all the required exercises and improve your technique, you get to play varsity.  Of course in every activity, there will be some requirements that need to be met outside of group practices, but generally this is the assumption.

But in the corporate world, if there is no chart, how do you know what to do to get promoted?  Research!  What qualifications are required to get the promotion to the next level?  You can get that by going on line to find out what they are in the company you work for, and for companies in the same type of business. What are the education and experience requirements?  Are there certification tests to be passed?  Are there management positions available?  What qualities do you already have?  Can you develop these qualities, or learn the skills?  Can you join activities or clubs that will develop these skills and qualities?

Ask questions!

Get an appointment with someone in the position you aspire to.  Ask him/her for help!  How did that person get the job?  Was it from an outside company or from school?  Was it from within the company?  What does this position entail?  Is it something you could do?

Get an appointment (or just coffee!) with the supervisor in charge of the department and tell him/her that you are interested in a promotion.  Ask this person, point blank, what you would have to do to get a promotion.  Most importantly, take notes!

Take Steps

Now that you know what it takes, start by finding places to get the skills and qualities you need.  If you need to improve communication skills, for instance, then you should take communications classes.  You could join a speaking club.  You could get self-help books from the library, or you could buy them and place them in a prominent place in your office or work space.  (Hint:  you need to actually read them.)  If you need leadership skills, work with an organization that develops those skills.  Scouts are always looking for more adult participation.  Charitable organizations and churches are places to practice your leadership.  Think about community involvement, classes in management, or just hanging around a really good leader and watching him/her in action.  Check Leadership blogs. https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/solomonsadvisor.wordpress.com is one I read.  There are many others.

In conclusion, if you want that promotion, you need to promote yourself first.  Become the person it takes to fill the role, then improve on that until you are more than what’s required.  Ask what it takes and then do what it takes.