Neil Armstrong and Doing the Impossible

by Daniel Burrus

As I travel around the world as a strategic advisor and keynote speaker, I have the privilege of meeting many amazing people, including presidents, prime ministers, and Fortune 50 CEOs, just to name a few. Several years ago when I was speaking in Jordan at a leadership summit, I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Armstrong. Of all the people I’ve met, I must admit that this meeting was the one I was most looking forward to. So as you might guess, I, along with millions if not billions of others around the world, was saddened by his recent passing. In his memory, I wanted to share a story he shared that I believe has a profound message for our time.

He said that in the years of research, innovation, and testing that led up to his first footstep on the moon, there were many times that NASA engineers and scientists would reach an impossible roadblock. During these times they would say, “We will have to halt the mission. There is no scientific solution to this problem.” Or, “We have tried everything imaginable to solve this problem and we can’t solve it.”

He went on to say that every time NASA’s best thinkers and scientists reached an impossible roadblock, they were told, “We are going to the moon.” And every time they would look at each other and say, “Okay…got it,” and then they would try again and again. Soon, they would have a solution that worked. He said this happened many times, and each time the impossible turned out to be possible once they were reminded of the impossible mission they were on.

Having a compelling vision for where you want to go or what you want to do—something that is bigger than any one person, something that might even seem impossible—is the kind of vision that can cause people to want to do more, want to reach higher, want to keep trying.

Remember, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not stand up in front of all those people in Washington, DC and say, “I have a plan.” Rather, he said, “I have a dream.” And his dream was not to get elected or make vast sums of money. His dream was to better mankind. Putting a man on the moon was similar. It was a dream we could all share—a vision that would not have us question the cost—so we did it.

When Neil Armstrong was about to take that first step off the ladder and onto the moon’s surface, he did not say, “One small step for a NASA astronaut; one giant leap for the Untied States.” He knew that going to the moon was a human achievement for all of mankind.

Whether you are the leadership of a country, a company, a business, or a school, when you find yourself faced with something that seems impossible, remember how we put a man on the moon—by keeping a dream, an articulated vision of what we want to do, as a picture in our mind’s eye. Human history has taught us that nothing is impossible when we have a big dream that is converted into a shared vision.

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NYT: This Week In Small Business: Trash Talk

by Gene Marks

(This post originally appeared on the New York Times)

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small business owners this week.

The Big Story: Waiting For The Fed

The Fed discusses possible new action. Dylan Matthews thinks they will act. But Tim Duy believes the chances of QE3 are diminishing. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts a contraction in 2013 and Neal Lipschutz writes that “even if the “fiscal cliff”’ gets resolved, our outlook is still anemic.” However, small business bankruptcies continue to drop and Jeff Miller says we are in the early stages of a long-cycle recovery.

 

The Economy: Trash Talk

A new National Federation of Independent Businesses study lists the top five concerns of small-business owners. U.S. corporate earnings point to further gloom but the Chicago region shows increased economic(pdf) activity. Import traffic in July was the best in two years but sea container counts show the economy is still struggling. Low demand is keeping unemployment up and weekly jobless claimsunexpectedly rise. Sales of new residential homes rise and the housing recoveryappears to inch forward. Growth in the U.S. chemical industry is expected to remain slow through the end of 2012. U.S. carbon emissions drop and Brad Plumer explains what trash tells us about the economy.

Your Cash Flow: Still Trouble Getting Loans

Capital One says small-business finances improved in the last quarter but an Irish-American pub owner is one of the many entrepreneurs who have faced challengessecuring a loan. Minorities have also been largely shut out from small-business recovery loans. Sian Phillips offers some good tips for saving money at your office and your business. This tiny basketball player will make your jaw drop.

Your Employees: Open Plan Offices Create Stress

The end of a strike at Caterpillar is a blow to the labor movement. Two researchers consider how lighting improvements have impacted productivity. Employees feelmore stressed out and less productive when they work in open-plan offices. Principal Financial Group says the best companies increase their focus on keeping employees well. Independent young workers prefer to work at smaller firms. Emily Suess explains how to fire an employee. Southwest Airlines asks its employees for help. Verizon blacks out vacations near their expected iPhone launch.

Management: Declining With Age

Henry Rollins shares his three rules for success as an artist and entrepreneur. Kevin Purdy explains what successful entrepreneurs do with the first hour of their day. Why pay attention to baby boomers? Because half of adults age 65 or older are online. Carol Roth explains what a 76-year old can teach you about social networking and these old people share their lifetime advice. Entrepreneurial confidence may decline with age but Jerry Seinfeld and Alec Baldwin haven’t losttheir stuff. The Tootsie Roll empire’s secrets are revealed. Scott Anthony explains how to turn customer intelligence into innovation. Cleve W. Stevens says profit should not be the sole goal of your business. Here are a few easy ways to monitor your competition. TED reveals its 20 most popular talks.

Sales And Marketing: Isn’t That Sweet?

Jan Van der Linden and Naveen Jain urge you to bring more science to the art of sales: “Selling based on facts and insights is a critical skill and will become dramatically more important.” Jill Konrath believes that the “the Dreaded D-Zone” isthe root cause of most sales failure. Seth Godin shares some tattoo thinking. Simon Jackobson explains how your small-business can use online CRM to increase your sales. Tennis star Maria Sharapova names her new candy line “Sugarpova.” Here are five ways that getting back to school can get you back to business. These are the five top Google analytics reports for social media marketers. Allison wants you to keep your “snark” positive. Tamara Weintraub shares six tips to make your display advertising work including “…optimize your landing page. Your landing page should not only contain a similar design aesthetic, but it should also contain the same value proposition and feature any offers mentioned on your display ad.”

Your Red Tape Update: The Costs And Benefits Of Regulation

The Post Office vs. Amtrak: which one is more wasteful? A new political survey from Sage finds that 71% of small-business respondents want the Affordable Care Act repealed by Congress. Edward Aldean says that government regulations on business have both costs and benefits: “The burden of federal regulation has grown substantially over the past three decades, with real costs to U.S.-based manufacturing, and continues to grow. But the most costly regulations are those designed to improve air quality, reduce energy consumption, and ensure safe working conditions – goals the public generally favors.” This great graph shows historical tax rates.

Around The Country: A Shortage Of Farm Labor

Deloitte is busy launching a new initiative to demonstrate how inner city small-businesses can better position themselves to compete in an uncertain economy. An Oklahoma kindergartner is banned from wearing a Michigan shirt. Ex-Im Bank plans to open an office in Seattle for small-business exporters. California’s farm labor shortage is the ‘worst it’s been, ever’. A San Francisco grilled cheese purveyor becomes one of a dozen small-businesses from around the country to win theMission: Small-business competition. Even though the economy has small-business owners still scrimping on travel, Steve Strauss offers some great advice on getting around. A few small-business owners teach Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown all about beauty.

Around The World: India Gets Down

In Africa, small-businesses are learning lessons from big companies. The Panama Canal’s growth prompts U.S. ports to expand. India’s CPI is down to only…9.86%! Maelle Gavet says Russia is an amazing country to be an entrepreneur. China’s manufacturing falls to a nine month low yet assumes a growing role in U.S. infrastructure. Further aid for Greece is debated.

Technology: Microsoft Responds To Apple

Apple’s market cap reaches an all-time record. In response, Microsoft updates its logo. The effect of the Internet over the past 10 years is astonishing and Janko Roettgers share five things he’s learned from 20 years of email including: “I’m old. Sure, I also use all of those other ways of communication. But I grew up with email, and it will always be what I’m gonna check first thing in the morning.” A new hover vehicle is unveiled. A Google contractor reveals the dark side of the Internet. Hewlett Packard posts a record quarterly loss and loses 4,000 employees. Brother International launches a new series of color inkjet printers for small-business. Amazon launches a low cost data storage service. This innovator’s camera is at the leading edge of the new field of computational photography. PayPal joins with Discover to boost the mobile payments momentum.

Tweets Of The Week

@garyvee – I have no interest in making the most money in the world. I have an interest in having the most people at my funeral.

@PFripp – Shameless self-promotion is not only desirable, it’s essential. Advertise yourself!

@ValaAfshar – Managers who are first interested, second interesting, will be successful with social media.

The Week’s Best

Steve Cooper feels that among the eight ways fantasy football can boost your business acumen is not drafting the Raiders. “Why? Because I really, really don’t like the franchise. What this means in the business world is don’t go into business with a company or person that you don’t like.”

Anthony K. Tjan says that lack of guts is “perhaps the most common barrier to entrepreneurial success. Guts are about having the courage to initiate, endure, and evolve around an idea. This trait can be absolutely influenced, amplified or acquired over time — and building up guts may thus be the most important way in which entrepreneurs can be developed.”

Question: Are you too snarky?

The 3 Biggest Website Woes

by Libby Gill

Quick!  What are the three critical elements your website homepage must have?  I say “quick” because you’ve only got about five seconds to capture the attention of your site visitors.

I’m asking you this now because I’ve got a fun freebie on the homepage of my site called The Ten Stupid Things People Do to Mess Up Their Websites (and How to Fix Them). But it’s going away, soon to be replaced with an excerpt from my brand new You Unstuck Workbook, which you’ll also be able to download for free.

Make sure you sign up right here and get on my mailing list. I promise to give you great branding and business strategies and to never inundate, overwhelm or spam you.  If I do, I deserve your unsubscribe.

Time’s a-wastin’ so here are those three things you need to watch out for web-wise:

  1. Clarity of message.  While it’s nice to be clever with your copy and images, if your customers don’t get who you are and what you do at a glance, they’re gone. Make sure you have a concise and compelling message.
  2. Visual appeal.  Just because your 8 year old nephew can build your website, doesn’t mean he should.  Your site needs to look professional, stylish and up to date.  Get a professional on the case.
  3. Call to action.  You’ve probably heard the old Sales 101 adage “ask for the business.”  Well, it’s the same with your website.  You need to ask for the business by telling your visitors what to do.  Whether it’s sign up for your free tips, buy a product, click a link, or join a community – take them by the hand and lead them along.

Stay tuned for more info about my Monthly Mindshare segment on the very cool Catalyst Business Radio and also my new book coming out next Spring!

xo,

Libby

Politics, Leadership, and a Moral Compass

by Frank Bucaro

With the two political parties holding their conventions this week and next, I wonder what place on the agendas, the topics of ethics, morals or character will be referenced in regards to the economy, job creation, foreign affairs, etc.?

Will we hear phrases like: moral awareness, moral responsibility, or moral obligation? Better yet, do we espouse those phrases in our own organizations? Can we expect more of others than maybe we do of ourselves?

We hear how important it is in having a moral compass more and more these days and yet, just what does it take to develop a moral compass?

To develop a moral compass, whether in politics, business, education, or home, discernment, role modeling, and constant reinforcement are necessary. To begin the reflection process, one should ask oneself what is the difference, likeness and order of moral dimensions in order the absolute best policy, promise, values statement, mission statement, rules of the classroom and rules of the house, are made.

Consideration needs to be given to the order, definition and applicability of these to the ultimate good for the common good and this takes time and effort for discernment.

moral awareness.

moral cognition.

moral obligation.

moral responsibility.

moral reasoning.

moral judgment.

This week and next, in particular, promises and visions, will be made from podiums, at conventions, company boardrooms, C-suites, classrooms as school begins and homes as to where we need to go, what we need to do and why we need to believe in those promises.. On what moral basis will those promises be made? How will we know and then what do we do?

In any type of group, people look to their” leaders” for inspiration, guidance, direction, focus and the invitation people to follow them.

One’s moral compass is developed by being fundamentally taught, consistently modeled and reinforced continually. At best, people hope and trust that those leaders believe what they say and not just what they think the people need to hear.

As in all things, time will tell!

The Sweet Brand

by Don Yaeger

College football is ready to kick off another year loaded with opportunities for greatness.  But the countdown to kickoff goes beyond the usual sell-out crowds or the frequent clashing of helmets and shoulder pads.

For the last 5 years I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of college student-athletes, discussing with them the “brand” that they will leave behind when their playing days are behind them.  This summer, the journey my team and I have taken has spanned from Cal-Berkeley to Michigan to Ball State University (greatest school on Earth—although as an alum I might be biased).  Through examples, we convince them that each of them is CEO of their own brand and it is in their interest to define their brand before others do so.  We challenge each athlete to identify his or her brand NOW, choosing five words that they hope will be used to describe them when they leave campus.  Then we show each of them how to use those words as the backbone of every media interview and their social media profiles.  The impact for them is huge… and there is a great lesson in the discussion for all of us.

Jarrett Payton, the former University of Miami runningback and son of NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton, joined our team this month for media training at Ball State.  As one of our presenters, he spoke to the athletes about the power of his brand. That’s easier than converting on 3rd & inches for a guy like Payton.  Even though he played in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans, the NFL Europe in Amsterdam, the CFL with Toronto, and the IFL with Chicago, Jarrett Payton’s brand has always been as simple, classic and powerful as his last name.

Known as “JP”, Payton knows he was blessed to be the son of Walter, but I’m constantly amazed by his drive to keep enhancing and re-defining HIS personal brand.  With the same kind of focus that helped him run to MVP honors during the 2004 Orange Bowl as starting tailback for the Miami Hurricanes, JP has run full speed into the social media realm.  His usage of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to promote his efforts has now become the main factor that fuels his brand—and his life.

JP methodically and consistently sends out tweets of encouragement, inspiration, and promotion.  Now the man who touts himself as “Motivational tweeter, host of The Jarrett Payton radio show, entrepreneur, and the son of the Great Walter Payton” has a Twitter fan base of more than 16,000 followers.  His relentlessly positive branding even sparked an interest from the ESPN brass; now JP has been recently hired to appear as a regular on ESPNU programming.

But my amazement in this story of greatness is his intent to handoff the brand concept.  No, I’m not referring to the common desire to build a brand just to sell it to the highest bidder; in this case JP is focused on branding the next generation of “Sweetness” —Walter’s first grandchild.

The legacy lives on now that JP and his wife have a 4-month-old baby boy who is fully equipped with his own twitter account and more than 200 followers!  As you can imagine, the son of Walter Payton couldn’t stop gushing over the potential for greatness in his own son.

“I want him to have his own brand before he can walk,” said JP.  “I don’t know where Twitter will be ten years from now, but I want my son to already have a built-in following long before he realizes what a brand is.”

It’s that kind of foresight that can often times take an athlete, a coach, a team, a franchise, a company, or a brand from good to great.

How much thought have you given your brand?  What are you doing to make your brand great?

The Art of the Redesign

by Darren Hardy

CEOs and business owners often come to me for advice on doing a business makeover—or, as it’s called in the business world, a turnaround.

One of the first things I do is show them the work of my wife.

Georgia is a very talented interior designer. When the economy got tough and folks weren’t spending as freely for the finer things in life, she reinvented her business by specializing in “redesign,” doing complete home makeovers using the client’s existing furnishings.

I show the CEOs before-and-after pictures of the rooms. They are amazed by the stunning transformations. Then I explain that it’s all the same stuff, just utilized differently.

I like to share Georgia’s process, as it provides several makeover lessons applicable to your business or life.

When endeavoring to do a makeover, it’s tempting to look for what’s wrong—what elements need to be changed, removed or even added to fix the problem. But that can complicate matters further.

By contrast, Georgia starts by completely removing everything, stripping the room bare. Then with a fresh beginning—a clean slate— she adds pieces, one by one, purposefully choosing and placing each item.

What always astonishes me is that items that once looked like junk can become magnificent showpieces when grouped with color, shape, texture and the overall balance of the room in mind. Of course, not everything makes it back into the room. And Georgia often finds items hidden elsewhere in the house, in closets or even the garage.

When placed appropriately, items once disregarded can become the perfect elements needed to create harmony and magic in the space.

To do your own business or life makeover, use the same approach.

Start by removing everything—all existing products, processes, positions and people. Start with a blank plan and a clean piece of paper. Redefine the business (or life) you want to have, the value you want to offer and the position you want to own in the marketplace.

Now start adding pieces back onto the page, one by one, intentionally and with purpose, placed into the right positions.

You’ll discover that not everything will make it back into the plan. You’ll also notice people, products or processes you might have taken for granted that, when utilized properly, can actually create the strength and balance you needed. These overlooked items might even end up being the showpieces of your new business strategy.

You’ll also realize you can completely make over your business or life using mostly your existing stuff (but less of it) and you will now be able to see the one or two missing components needed to complete the magic equation.

Are you ready to redesign your life?
Employ Georgia’s redesign process and enjoy the many other tips, ideas and suggestions that have been very selectively, purposely and artfully designed into our beautiful September issue of SUCCESS.

Design the life of your dreams!

Is Social Media Dying?

by Daniel Burrus

On May 18, 2012, Facebook launched its IPO. It was the first big IPO failure we’ve had in the tech sector in a long time. Naturally, this event caused us to question, “Is this a game-changer, in a negative way, for other IPOs in the social media space? Will this slow the growth of social media?”

The answer is “no,” it’s only a bump in the road, although a big one, because social media is far more than just Facebook. Social media has many categories, and Facebook represents the category of social networking, which is different than LinkedIn, which represents the social media category of professional networking, which is different than FourSquare, which represents geosocial networking, which is different than WordPress, which represents blogging, which is different than Twitter, which represents microblogging, which is different than YouTube, which is about video sharing, which is different than Flicker, which is about photo sharing, which is different than SlideShare, which is about slide sharing.

All of these are categories, each with a category leader. In this case, Facebook is the category leader of social networking. But let’s remember that before Facebook, MySpace was the leader of social networking.

So Facebook is not the king of social media; it’s the current king of social networking within the world of social media. And as we continue to innovate and invent new ways for people to connect and share, there will be new categories of social media that will catch on in both the business and personal realms.

Looking back, Facebook was obviously very over-valued at $100 billion. Today, Facebook itself says it’s worth maybe $60 billion. Some analysts have said it’s worth $50 billion, which is still a lot of money but way lower than the initial hype. I talked about this hype in a previous blog post, which you can read here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-burrus/will-facebooks-ipo-change_b_1260423.html.

As for the most recent financial performance of Facebook, they came within estimates. But, again, the hype was so over-hyped that it was still a disappointment. Personally, I would not give up on Facebook and its ability to be an advertising/marketing machine. The key question is, “At what price is that investment worth?”

Going forward, the goal for Facebook is to not just continue to innovate, which they did before going public, but to show how they can generate revenue and meet expectations. That’s a different focus for them. Now rather than just focus on innovation and doing “cool” things, they have to be looking at quarterly earnings, managing short-term profitability, and deciding how to generate new revenue. The key question is, can they manage that without sacrificing trust and the user experience and making their users decide to go somewhere else to do their sharing?