The Satisfaction Exceeds the Sacrifice
You don’t need to be on television or on a racetrack or running a business to win at life. You need the determination to achieve everything that you’re capable of doing, and the will to get it done. It’s not all about sacrifices, by the way. Sure, sacrifices always need to be made if you’ve set goals for yourself and intend to meet them. But when you finally get it done and you’ve met your goals, the satisfaction always exceeds the sacrifice.
Why Get By on “Good Enough”?
No one with all their faculties intact has ever said, “I want to be a loser.” Yet even while they are dreaming of success, many people find ways of avoiding it.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or even a manager to understand and appreciate the idea of finishing first. In fact, you don’t have to be in business at all. It’s a matter of setting your own goals, growing determined to reach them and always searching for new goals to achieve. It’s a matter of having the will to win. And it’s a matter of applying that will to the thing that you enjoy doing most.
The Secret to Successful Negotiating
First, too many pitchers are unrealistic about the value of their ideas or companies. Their valuations are far beyond the amount that the real world would accept. Knowing all of us Sharks have a good deal of wealth, they assume that we won’t care much about the amount of money we’re asked to risk on their ventures. Dumb move. They forget that we are Sharks because we do measure and watch how we spend our money, and are realistic about the profits we hope to earn from it. In many ways, we are not spendthrifts; we’re tightwads.
The second mistake pitchers make on the show is failing to listen. They’re nervous, and intimidating to stand in front of us and explain why their gizmos or companies can’t fail, but they have to overcome their nervousness, listen carefully to our questions and understand our response to their answers. That’s one way Shark Tank is very real. It deals with moments in the pitchers’ lives that literally dictate their future, and they don’t want to screw them up.
Their third mistake is that often they act like people looking for a handout. They need to act more like entrepreneurs. We’re not on the show to award handouts. We’re there to make investments, and among the things we look for on the part of those seeking an investment are passion and dedication. If we choose to invest in their concepts, we expect them to make our money work hard, and this can happen only if they work hard. If the people looking for our money are apathetic, or appear to be treating the process as a joke, they’re probably not going to work as hard as possible to make their ideas successes. That’s a deal-killer in itself.
The Risk of Doing Something New
Ten steps toward doing something the first time
Even high achievers encounter fear when making decisions that involve doing something for the first time. We all need a system to help us move past the paralysis that accompanies this kind of fear and make the decision needed.
- Assess the alternatives. The biggest source of fear is the unknown, and this applies to every aspect of life. Remove as much of the unknown as you can and you’ll eliminate an equal amount of the fear in making a decision. Look at all potential outcomes, both good and bad, and weigh both the risks of failure and the benefits of success.
- Measure the cost of missed opportunities. Think of your career as a balanced investment portfolio. Every good financial advisor will confirm that an ideal portfolio includes both low-risk and somewhat-risky investments. It’s the somewhat-risky portions that deliver the most upside gain; without them, your investments are not likely to produce maximum returns. You can’t exploit opportunities without taking risks. And without exploiting opportunities you will never create something new, never move past mediocrity and never make your mark on the world.
- Accept your status as a novice. It’s natural to feel comfortable doing things you have done many times in the past and to feel vulnerable when confronting something you have never done before. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
- Build a support network. This can consist of as few as one person, as long as he or she shares your attitude as a high achiever. Ask that person to check on your progress and serve as a source of feedback whenever you encounter a challenge on the way to your goal.
- Define the worst-case scenario. What is the worst that can happen if your decision doesn’t lead to success? How long will it take you to recover? If your lack of success means a few months spent getting back on your feet, which is worse—this short detour or a life of mediocrity?
- Check the long-range view. Consider what will happen over the next five to 10 years if you do not act now. If you are truly driven to achieve the level of success you crave, you will not want to be in the same place as you are now. But you will if you fail to make an important decision now.
- Look for a dividend from failure. If I am faced with a decision to hire one of two people and both have equal qualifications, one of the questions I might ask is, “Have you ever started your own business?” If one person always worked at a comfortable job in a large corporation, and the other has launched a business that failed, I will invariably choose the second candidate, because he or she has learned more from the pain of failure than the other would ever pick up during a comfortable career.
- Reduce the downside. It’s about managing risk. Create a contingency plan that can enable you to retain as much of the status quo as possible. You don’t always have to work without a safety net.
- Remember: Second-guessing is for losers. Once you’ve gathered as much material as possible given the time frame, don’t start moving in a circle looking for weaknesses you have yet to find. Some people call this playing devil’s advocate. Forget about it; the devil has enough advocates. Stay on the side of the angels. In most cases, even a flawed plan is better than no plan at all.
- Do it. Nothing reduces fear and builds confidence better than taking action, but take it only after giving the idea as much thought as you can afford. Then do whatever it takes to make it work.
Nobody Deserves Anything
We may all be unique individuals, but opportunity is universal. Unfortunately, too many people focus on the idea of creating wealth exclusively, and that’s the wrong route to follow.
Before you can create wealth, you have to create value, a fact that’s not on the radar of many people who arrive at Shark Tank looking for investment capital. Creating sufficient value in your business—real value as opposed to the value that exists only in your dreams—translates into wealth eventually. The more value you create, the more wealth you accrue.
The difference between earnings and value, when viewed in this context, may become so obvious that it shouldn’t need explaining. But it does. If you create a company with measureable value and want only to take money out of it, go look for a buyer, not an investor.
The Law of 24
Being goal-oriented is hardly new advice, perhaps, but don’t assume it’s as simple as walking from point A to point B on a sunny afternoon. It’s almost never a straight line. Reaching a worthwhile goal involves curves, hills, detours, switchbacks and the odd dead end. The secret is to keep moving forward and build momentum. How? By finding ways to keep focused on the target and maintain your enthusiasm. Here are seven:
- Make your goal exciting. Passion is at the core of everyone who won’t settle for less than finishing first. Choose a goal that taps into the passion that drives you to succeed in the first place. But passion is just the price of admission. People on Shark Tank often say, “You should invest in me because I am passionate about what I do.” Passion alone means nothing. It’s a given that you are passionate about succeeding because otherwise you wouldn’t be standing in front of us Sharks looking for money. Passion is fine, but it’s like believing you can win a marathon because you have two legs. You need much, much more.
- Set a schedule. Without a time frame, a goal is just a wish. Some people link their dreams to the word “someday,” as in “Someday I’ll open my own office,” or “Someday I’ll finish my degree,” or even “Someday I’ll write a book.” “Someday” isn’t a real day like Monday or Tuesday; it’s just another word for “never.”
- Keep your goals realistic. We’re encouraged to dream big dreams, but don’t confuse dreams with reality. Picture your goal as a target, and you want to hit the bull’s eye. Now it’s a matter of being realistic. If you’re too close to the target, hitting the bull’s eye won’t mean much to anyone, including yourself. If you’re a mile away, you’re likely to be always off target. Set a goal that’s both within reach and satisfying. Believing you can move mountains is fine, but first you need to learn how mountains are moved.
- Assign at least one of those 24 allotted hours each day to achieving goals. We all encounter day-to-day urgencies that can’t be avoided. Somewhere in the day, you need to apply time-reaching goals you’ve set for yourself. Dealing with urgencies exclusively is like walking on a treadmill; something gets done but nothing goes anywhere. Find time to get off the treadmill and make progress. It’s like thinking in the eye of a hurricane—a means of stepping away from the chaos surrounding you now and then. Each of us can do this in a different way. Find yours. Whether it involves reading a book, working out or taking a walk, discover it and use it to help maintain your sanity in an often insane world.
- Make yourself accountable. All the promises you make to yourself will be worthless if you find it easy to ignore them whenever you please … or if you “can’t find the time.” The best way to avoid this is by making yourself accountable to others—your co-workers, spouse, partner, family, friends or anyone with whom you are comfortable sharing your goals and aspirations. Draw on them for strength, courage and consultation when you need it.
- Reach the goal in your mind before achieving it in your life. This technique has been called “psycho-cybernetics,” and it’s all about imagining how to reach your goal before attempting it. It’s not a new concept, but it is as effective as ever. Back in the 1950s, psychologists discovered that athletes who mentally pictured successfully competing in their sport scored more victories than those who didn’t.* Pole vaulters and high jumpers would imagine every step they took to reach the bar and rise above it; tennis players would picture their ideal serves and returns; football receivers would imagine running perfect patterns on specific plays and catching the ball every time. In almost every instance, picturing the achievement in the mind yielded improved results in reality. The idea is to eliminate negative feedback, and it’s as applicable in business as anywhere.
- Remember the only way to eat an elephant—one bite at a time.
Never Underestimate the Power of Fun
There is a serious side to having fun, or there should be. Any event that generates conflict or resentment will be worse than unproductive; it could lead to tension, silo mentalities and unnecessary employee turnover. Here are 10 ways to judge if an event fits the bill:
- It makes people smile. Better yet, it generates laughter.
- It reminds people of their value to the company, to the team and to each other.
- With the possible exception of annual commemorative events, it is inexpensive to launch, easy to set up and requires limited time and space. It’s not important—or even necessary—to spend a lot of money on an event. It’s only important to encourage people to have fun.
- Its emphasis is on feeling good about one another and the organization. Every effort must be made to avoid embarrassing or offending anyone both inside and beyond the company.
- It is inclusive, while respecting the right of members to opt out without feeling peer pressure or being subjected to ridicule.
- It does not detract from anyone’s ability to perform his or her job safely, professionally and efficiently.
- Ideally, it reflects and supports the company’s culture and core values, and certainly never contradicts them.
- Its occurrence is timely: it should be frequent enough to maintain the desired level of enthusiasm but not so frequent that it loses its spontaneity and uniqueness, or interferes with achieving corporate objectives. Find the balance.
- As much as possible, it is planned and implemented by employees; avoid the paternalistic atmosphere that can be created when activities become the exclusive responsibility of management.
- Its results are identifiable and measureable.
Problems Are Problems First and Opportunities Later
Labelling every problem as an opportunity is wrong because it creates an unproductive mindset. Serious problems are not serious opportunities—they are crucial situations that must be dealt with and solved. Looking at them as opportunities can lead to errors, including a tendency to underestimate the gravity of the situation and the implications of not dealing with it quickly and adequately. Your most important need in the middle of a crisis is a raft of problem-solving skills, not opportunity-exploiting abilities. When you examine the problem in this manner, you will be provoked to muster all the available resources to deal with it—and that’s what you should be doing, instead of congratulating yourself because another opportunity has popped up. A hole in the bottom of your boat is a problem; fix it before you sink.
There’s nothing like calling an early-morning meeting to focus everyone’s attention on a serious problem.
If this happens on a cold, dark winter day, the impact is even greater. Staff may not be pleased about rising earlier than usual and filling themselves with coffee to keep alert, but they will quickly absorb the situation and the steps needed to get past it.
Besides rattling people’s comfort level, these meetings impose a gentle discipline on everyone involved. Breaking the normal routine to arrive at the office at an unusual hour and leap directly into problem-solving mode imposes order on all employees.
Problems can lead to opportunities, just as getting lost in a jungle can lead to an unexpected discovery. But at the outset, only one fact remains: problems are problems, and they deserve attention, not applause.