The Myth Of Higher Education

The Myth Of Higher Education

Improvement

educationAn article ran recently in a national business magazine asking which degree will make you a better leader. The question illustrated one of the biggest problems we face, the idea that a degree fixes everything. There is so much talk about making college more affordable and getting more people to have degrees that people have lost sight of two salient facts:

  1. The greatest companies of the 20th and 21st century were built by dropouts.
  2. The biggest failures have been caused by MBAs.

The most successful people have always been people who continue to learn. There is a big difference between learning and getting a degree. A degree is a piece of paper that says you passed tests. It is not an indication that you understand or that you actually learned anything. An MBA once told me that the greatest value an MBA degree has is the network of people you build while in school. The value has nothing to do with actually learning anything. Higher education is not the answer to anything. Learning is.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Adapt

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Adapt

Improvement

AdaptThere’s a particularly poor political ad running where the candidate says “If you’re doing all the right things but still can’t get ahead…” He uses the line to push his campaign forward but the basic premise of the line is wrong. If you are not getting ahead, you are not doing all the right things. The problem with the ideas put forth in the ad (and campaign) is that they assume the world still works the same way it did in 1960. This simply isn;t true. If what once worked doesn’t anymore it is time you adapt.

Business doesn’t stand still. Consumer needs change, new competitors enter the market and technology moves forward. Where you once competed with the business down the street you are now competing with businesses around the world. Doing what you always did will no longer work. Here are ways you can take to start to adapt:

For your business: Take a fresh look at your business.  Your customer can now find your competitors with a few taps on their phone. Are you keeping up with them. What is your customer experience like? Are you delivering high enough quality for your price point? Are you easy for your customer to work with? Go through what your customer goes through and determine if you would buy from you. If not, why?

For your career: Look at economic realities: The days of getting a job out of college and staying with a company until retirement are gone. You are responsible for the path your career takes. Are you making enough to meet your needs? You salary is based on the value of what you are doing. If you are not in a job that can support, learn skills for a job that will. There are free courses online you can take to help you get ahead. Find the job you want and get the training to do it.

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Practice

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Practice

Improvement

carnegiehallIt’s an old joke. It takes practice to get to Carnegie Hall. To excel in music, painting, sports, etc. you must practice. The same goes for success in business.

One key tenet of coaching professional sports is preparing people in the most realistic contexts possible. For example, a coach might pour water on practice balls to prepare a team for wet gameday weather. You can apply similar thinking to business situations. For example, you might work on rehearsing your pitch to potential VCs in front of colleagues you’ve asked to pepper you with difficult questions. You might create situations where a VC is late to the meeting — or is rushing you to finish your pitch. You might do the session in a setting that mimics what you’ll likely encounter in the real world, whether that’s a noisy coffee shop or an overheated conference room. By sensitizing yourself to the actual challenges you’ll face, you’ll become more adaptable and have a far greater chance of success.

Make Learning a Habit

Make Learning a Habit

Improvement

LearningIf you want to keep growing, you need to make learning a habit. To get started, be specific about what you’re asking yourself to do. Resolutions like “read more” or “learn new things” are too vague. Your goals need to be concrete and measurable: “Spend two hours every Thursday afternoon reading all the articles I saved during the week.” Schedule the time on your calendar, and resist the temptation to do other work during that window. Monitor your behavior closely to push yourself in the right direction. If you know that some of your coworkers make on-the-job learning a habit, go out of your way to spend time with them. Studies show that we tend to pick up habits from the people around us. And the most important thing to remember? We must shape our habits to suit ourselves — our own nature, our own interests, our own strengths. When we understand ourselves, we can apply habit-forming strategies with the greatest chance of success.

Improve Your Success By Losing Resources

Improvement

blind DaredevilFor centuries stories have circulated of blind people with incredible hearing and smell. Japanese legends are filled with tales of blind ninja and it is a common myth that when you lose one sense the others grow to compensate. This is not true, but it can appear to be. The truth is that people with five senses split their attention between all five senses. When that attention is split between four senses you notice things from them that you missed before. The information is always there, but you are unaware of it.

You can use this same technique to improve your skills by getting rid of a resource that you depend on. If you have a task that you do on a regular basis, try doing it without the main resource that you usually rely on. For instance, if you have to routinely research issues, try doing it without using a search engine. If you design a flyer on a regular basis, try doing it without using a template or cutting and pasting from a previous version.

By doing this, you exercise skills that you always had access to but were ignoring. Exercising them periodically will allow you to improve your performance when you use all the resources at your disposal.

Improve Your Strengths, Not Weaknesses

Improvement

Increase your strengthsWe all have strengths and weaknesses. It’s natural to want to improve your shortcomings. However, given the time and effort involved to move from slightly below average to slightly above. Instead, try focusing on your strengths. Make what you’re already good at an even greater asset. After all, if you really want to make a difference in your business, your career, or your life, it’s your strengths that will lead the way.

It’s more challenging to move from well above average to even more above average, but you’ll enjoy it more since your strengths are things you likely already take pleasure in doing. And don’t worry about having too much of a good thing. Have you ever worked with a leader who possessed too much character or was too strategic? Probably not.

Get More From Your Business Card

Communication, Improvement

Business CardsDespite the proliferation of digital tools, the business card is not going away any time soon. Your card, and how you use it, can have a big effect on how you are perceived and whether or not you get a sale. Follow these tips to maximize your impact:

  • Always Keep Some On You: You never know when a networking opportunity may spring up. A casual trip to the bank or running some errands could lead to a chance encounter with someone whose business might benefit you or your business. When such chance encounters happen, having a business card on hand makes information exchange seamless, as opposed to worrying about finding something to write your information down on.
  • Exhibit Proper Etiquette: There is in fact a right way and a wrong way to handle a business card exchange. For starters, if someone hands you theirs, offer them your own. Conversely, when handing out your business card, request the other person’s. When you receive a business card, don’t just bury it in your pocket. Instead, take a few moments to examine it. This shows the other person that you are interested and take them seriously, as you would want to be taken.
  • Be Smart About Your Card’s Design: The look and feel of your business card can say a great deal about you. Cheap, plain business cards that look like they came from Kinko’s or cookie cutter cards from VistaPrint are not going to leave a lasting impression. Gaudy business cards, on the other hand, can be too garish and off-putting. You need to strike the right balance between aesthetic appeal and the quality of paper stock you print your cards on.
  • Include A Slogan In Your Design: A 5-8 word slogan that succinctly describes your business in a catchy or smart way will help your business card stick out. For example, Target, and their slogan, “Expect More. Pay Less.” Just four words sums up the philosophy of Target clearly and concisely. Strong slogans like this add to the effectiveness of your business card and help build brand recognition for you and your business. It also becomes crucial when someone looks at your card several weeks later to remind them of who you are.
  • Network: Ordering 1,000 business cards then waiting for prospects to come to you will only prove futile. Business cards are a tool for active networking. There is always something going on in the business world, regardless of what kind of business you’re involved in, so seek out networking opportunities by checking online and keeping your ear to the ground, then get out to these events and start delivering your business cards with every handshake you make.
  • Follow Up: If you received a business card from someone you are interested in doing business with, use the exchange as an excuse to conduct a follow-up phone call. If you don’t take initiative, you risk the chance of that prospect forgetting about you. For many, business cards tend to get easily lost among all the paperwork and miscellaneous paraphernalia that adorns their desk. As a result, it might be a long while before they get back to you — if they even do at all.

Pay Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

Improvement

The Great and Powerful OzWe all know the scene. The giant head is scaring Dorothy and friends when Toto pulls the curtain back revealing that the great and powerful Oz is really a traveling salesman. This is a great metaphor for success. What people see is the great and powerful Oz. All of the hard work and struggles take place behind the curtain.

When we look at our contemporaries and competitors, we’re seeing the wizard. It’s easy to get jealous or envious because you’re only seeing what they want you to see. The truth is behind the curtain. No one has ever had everything go their way. Everyone has a struggle to overcome. Some people wear that struggle on their sleeve and some keep it behind the curtain.

Peek behind the curtain. That’s where you’ll learn what really goes on.

It’s All Connected

Improvement, Innovation

connectedWhen asked the question, what is the first thing you do in the morning, one businessperson answered, “That has nothing to do with my business.”  Another posted a comment on a link to an article about Kanye West’s branding that the link should be on Facebook because Kanye has nothing to do with business. These business people are looking at their lives through blinders. Things belong in one box or another. This is keeping them from being successful because everything you do and see is connected.

Do you think that if things are bad at work it doesn’t affect you at home? If you have problems at home, can you really turn it off while you’re at work? People talk about work-life balance as if they weren’t part of the same thing. Your work is part of your life. It isn’t separate. You are one complete person, you need to take care of all parts of you if you want to be successful.

Here are three things you can do to take care of the whole person:

  • Watch your health: Your mind and body are inexorably connected. If you don’t keep your body healthy, your mind won’t function at its peak. To succeed takes a lot of work. You can’t do it if you’re not at your best.
  • Keep your eyes open: You never know where opportunities will come from. The person you need to meet may show up at a networking event, a party, or a family reunion. Your next great idea can come when you’re watching a movie, eating dinner, or standing in the shower. Be aware of the possibilities wherever you are.
  • Always be learning: The more you know, the more ideas you will have. Innovation is when you take two ideas that don’t seem to go together and make them work. You can’t do that if you’re not having ideas and not learning new things. Read, watch documentaries, take classes, or watch webinars. Keep learning.

The Devil Is In The Details

Attitude and Mindset, Improvement

detailsNot long ago I was making dinner and grabbed a box of Shake & Bake to coat some pork chops. For those of you who haven’t used this, every box comes with two bags of coating and two bags. I grabbed Th first bag and noticed something amusing. There was no opening. Something went wrong on the assembly line a the cutter missed the bag. Then I looked at the second bag. It too was uncut.  This wasn’t a big deal but when I found the same problem in another box it became obvious that someone wasn’t paying attention to the details.

The details in your business aren’t a small thing. When the details aren’t right, people notice. There are hundreds of pictures on social media captioned “You had one job,” showing screwed up work. Misspelled words on your sign, a cheap, flimsy business card or the fact that the front of your store looks like it hasn’t been washed since the 1950s may not have anything to do with the quality of the product or service you sell, but it does affect how people view you.

Take the time and pay attention to the details. You’d be amazed how those little things add up.