When Great Expectations Lead To Great Disappointments

Is Your Career Advancement Stuck In Adolescence?

“You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.” James Allen

Great Expectations (1946 film)

Great Expectations (1946 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starting a business is a lot like growing up from adolescence into adulthood.

We start the journey with Hollywood dreams of “Great Wealth,” “Independence,” “The Admiration of Friends and Family.”

We learn soon enough that being successful in business and our career is not about us. It’s about serving others.

Usually the success we seek as adolescents is materialistic in nature, such as wanting the things that financial success can bring.

We want the “Great House,” “Great Car,” and “Freedom,” usually meaning freedom to buy things.

We want “Great Romance” too. The Supermodel with a heart of gold, or the White Knight who can be the Black Knight in the bedroom. We want to leave the control of our parents and move straight to Easy Street. Recognized by family and friends as “Unique and Brilliant.”

But we soon learned as new business owners that we had the cart before the horse. Our business or career isn’t going to succeed because we want it to. It only succeeds to the measure that we or it serves others: lots of customers and employees, or our supervisors.

It’s the same lesson we learn as we grow into adults, that a successful life isn’t one where we focus on ourselves. Life success, the happiness we seek, doesn’t come from wealth, status, adoring subservient love partners, or the best education. As we grow we see that those wishes were superficial and selfish.

Success Comes From Giving of Ourselves To Others

Career success, business success, management success, life success comes from giving, not receiving. Giving more than is expected of you at work, in your relationships, in your community. Give, give and give more and we tend to receive more.

Superficial goals are usually based upon immature desires. Often immature desires can become “controlling” desires. This means sometimes a part of ourselves gets stuck in adolescence and starts controlling our behavior in a negative way. Most often this happens in our search for romance.

Advertisers know this and that is why appealing to selfish, superficial desires is so effective. Look at the Hollywood poster above for a movie version of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece novel, Great Expectations. Do you see how superficial this advertising is? It has almost nothing to do with the art of this novel.

Did it by chance bore you to tears when you were forced to read it for some class? Then reread it because it provides a map for how to get to “happiness.” That’s why this novel is famous as a classic of literature.

In this novel, we follow a boy’s transformation from immature, selfish adolescent that desires more status, wealth and romance to an adult who realizes that none of these things lead to happiness. Happiness comes from the goodness of one’s heart and from giving our best to others. Oh, and it is full of adventure, romance and great mystery.

Pretty much the Greatest Story Ever Told all over again, right?

Stuck In Adolescence In Your Business? As A Manager? As An Employee?

Do you find yourself holding back your best, or are you freely giving and sharing your best at work? Do you find yourself holding back in relationships, being extremely critical of the person you once found so appealing? Are you constantly critical of your boss? This is just another version of taking your toys and going home.

Are you constantly disappointed in others? Boom. There you have it. Then it’s time to look inside. Look at yourself and see where your inner adolescent has taken control of some element of your life. Your expectations are too great and probably superficial.

Are you, like Miss Havisham, stuck in your wedding dress dream? Are you angry at the world for disappointing you, at someone for hurting you? Has your pain turned into a manic obsession? Are you now saying to yourself, “all men are this way,” or “all women are this way.”

We’re all human. Everyone’s suffering in some way because that’s the nature of this world, duality. Sadness and happiness go together. They are one and the same coin. You can try to choose, heads or tails. But it’s a lot more effective to accept both happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow, light and darkness.

On the other hand, you may be giving too much to someone who is by nature destructive. You may be in Estella’s shoes. But that’s a story for another time.

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What Business Should You Start?

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“Hitch Your Wagon To A Star,”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What business should I start?” I see this question asked a lot on the web. In fact, this phrase is used as a search term on Google about 18,000 times a month in the US.

It’s exciting to dream about independence, freedom, wealth. It’s thrilling to read about entrepreneurs who have put everything on the line to start their own business and actually make it a success. It’s necessary to dream it. If you can’t see it, you probably won’t get it, as they say.

“Follow your passion.” This is the mantra of Inc. Magazine and it’s heroes.  Richard Branson seems to say this about once a week.  I like to say, “Hitch your wagon to a star” because it combines the implication of hard work with the power of the dream.

Too many people didn’t ask the question you are asking, the one that brought you to this article: “What business should I start?”

That’s a nice philosophical question and I applaud you for asking it. You may be searching for a hot franchise, a work-from-home-in-your-pajamas business, or a path to your first million while you’re still in your twenties. I applaud you for that too.

As you progress in your search you will come across the sad history of failure that’s prevalent in this whole arena of starting your own business. You’ll read that about half of all small businesses fail within five years.  About 70 percent fail within 10 years.

But you’ll ignore these facts. You’re probably certain you can do better. And I’m sure you can. You’re already asking the right questions. It is a matter of what “should” be done, as opposed to simply doing what one thinks is a good idea. It’s only a good idea if it allows you to thrive.

So the question becomes, “How can I start a business that allows me to thrive, to avoid being like the 70 percent that either go bankrupt or just hang on by the skin of their credit cards?”

1. Start A Business That Needs To Be Started

Make sure the business you start needs to be started. Sounds obvious, but this is where most mistakes are made. Most people don’t do a good job understanding the target marketing fundamentals.

Does it solve a problem for a large number of people in a unique way? Does it produce a unique product that thrills people?

You must have a target market large enough to produce the results you’re looking for. Market potential means the number of customers you can realistically expect to pay you for your product and service each year.

Can you really motivate about 10 percent of your market to buy your product or service every single year, and will that amount of business enable you to thrive?

One of the most common mistakes of the small business founder is to overestimate how much of the market they can win.  Don’t estimate over 10 percent, as that is considered an out-of-the-park home run. And don’t plan on reaching 10 percent in your first few years.

Are you opening a local market business. Then how many potential customers reside in your five mile radius? Let’s say you get 10 percent of them to buy from you, is that enough for your business to thrive? How often will they return? How often must they return?

For regional and national target markets, can you afford to reach your potential customers to make them aware? Interest and entice them? Motivate only a maximum of 10 percent of those you’ve made aware, interested and enticed to buy from you?

In large market zones you can’t estimate selling to 10 percent of the total market. You will only sell to the 10 percent you can actually reach and move through the sales cycle.

If you’re considering starting a franchise, pay little attention to the “potential customers” number the franchisor will show you.  You’ll only win about 10 percent of this number, even with a huge success. Plan on one percent in year one. Can you thrive on that?

2. Start A Business That Has A Star Product Or Service

Hitch your wagon to a star product or service and focus on a market that you can reach and develop.  You must be able to win a critical mass of enough customers that rave about you to their friends and families.  This applies to local, regional and national markets.

Your customers must become your advertisers. Word-of-mouth is critical.  Now we call it “going viral.” Do you have a product or service that needs to be offered, and that thrills people when they see it?

If it doesn’t thrill people after their first experience with you, you should read the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus before going any further.  Because you will be trudging to work every day with the task of rolling a heavy boulder uphill only to see it roll back to the bottom of the hill every evening.

Don’t deceive yourself and don’t be like Sisyphus. But we already know you won’t, because you’re asking the right questions.

3. Start A Business After You’ve Had Your Passion Examined

As Sir Richard says, “Follow your passion.” But do you really have passion for the work this business entails? Consider the implications for this word so often used for business founders.

Passion is used to describe the suffering and death of Christ. It is used to describe irrational behavior such as a “crime of passion.”  It often implies that the passionate person is out of their minds. Are you out of your mind?

At the least, passion requires devotion and surrender to the cause. Are you ready for this? Is your partner ready for this? Your children?

Success Can Happen To You

The beauty of this passion that starts a business is that sometimes it leads to success. It can happen. It can happen to you! I hope you will diligently understand the marketing fundamentals that will control your success. Understand Target Marketing. Put some passion into understanding the fundamentals of your customers, competitors and the overall business environment.

Do this and you will be well on your way to success.

For more on the question of what business should I start, click on my post below:

“How To Evaluate Your Small Business Idea.”

Image provided courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

What are your thoughts? Share a comment:

Are You A Distraction Addict At Work?

Hi, My Name Is Patrick and I’m a Distraction Addict.

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Yes, I too know the pain of distraction addiction at work.

How much time did you waste at work this week? You know, all the time you spent on the web looking at that breaking news crisis, the latest weather threat, the plunging backless gowns on the red carpet.

Anne Hathaway’s visible nipple line? Shocking! Must read that one, right? I did too.

We work in a blizzard of crises, threats, outages, losses. It is truly one media shocker after another. All of this, totally all of this blizzard, is created by our human ability to be distracted. We’re excellent consumers of distraction. Pure geniuses in fact.

Some of us are better than others at controlling this urge to follow distractions. Those focused individuals are usually the successful ones among us. They have a somewhat unique ability to focus on their goals.

How To Focus On Your Goals?

To do this, you must actually define your goals. What are your goals for five years from now? Such a simple question. Yet, so few people have an answer for this. I was once one of those people.

It was maybe 20 years ago. Divorced. Horribly separated from my dear daughter. Broke and living under a heavy burden of debt that wasn’t really mine. (Can you say, “Codependent?”)  Self-employed because I made a bad decision to partner with a colleague on our own business, except I was never really a “partner.” And he replaced me with a woman with whom he had fallen in love.

Broke. Emotionally distraught. No matter how hard I worked I couldn’t seem to climb out of that hole. I was numb. I had no goals except to feed my daughter. To pay my bills. To try not to let on how desperate I was.

If you’ve been there, you know what I mean to have no goals. If you’re there now, trust me, all things will pass. Be patient. Forgive yourself and others. Pick yourself up and start over.

Now, my daughter is preparing to graduate from one of the best design colleges in the country. I’ve risen through the ranks to become the CEO of a private company that’s grown 69% the past three years. I have a happy marriage, two wonderful step kids that have brought so much into my daughter’s life and mine, and more blessings than I ever imagined.

This life is a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re speeding into hell. No matter where you are on the spectrum of success or failure, you must set goals for yourself. If you’re down, just start over with the fundamentals.

All Leaders Serve Two Masters

All adults serve at least two masters. The first is their boss. (If you’re the boss, you still serve a master, right?  If you’re a business CEO, how’s that board treating you?)

The second master we serve is our own Ego.

Thus, we’re all in a state of quiet conflict. On the one hand, we must do the work our boss wants us to do. But we want to do the work our ego says we really should be doing.

And then our mind barks and barks, “look at that crisis on CNN!”  “Oh, now look at that threat on Yahoo!”  Oh, now look at that shocker in my email!” Before you know it, the week has passed and you still haven’t delivered that report to your boss that was due two weeks ago.

You boss hasn’t complained yet. Do you think she’s noticed?

I guarantee she’s noticed. She achieved her position by being a top performer. She became a top performer because she was able to focus. Focus. FOCUS!

She learned to focus on what her boss’s priorities were. She learned to turn her childish ego over to her higher power and focus on giving rather than on receiving. She learned to keep Yahoo and CNN and Email in a box that she opened only once or twice a day.

Remember, as a human being you’re a distraction addict. You must avoid the sources of distraction if you want to break the cycle of wasted time and loss of focus in order to advance your career. It’s kind of like stopping smoking. Difficult, but not that bad after all.

If you find yourself unable to break your distraction addiction, get help. It’s available. It’s called therapy.

Successful People Understand Where To Focus Resources

In conclusion, successful people focus on goals. To do this, you actually have to set goals. The successful manager or employee knows the keys to success are his boss’s goals. Focus on those and you’ve unlocked that door to the next level in your career advancement.

How do you resist distraction at work? Share a tip.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net 

How To Be A Better KISSer In About An Hour

Are You A Good Kisser?

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By that I mean, “Are you good at Keeping It Simple Stupid?”

Sorry to disappoint if you were looking for some passion tips. I write about career advancement, management, leadership and business success here. That’s a passion of mine. I couldn’t resist the catchy hook right after Valentine’s Day!

Has it ever been harder to keep it simple than it is today? We’re surrounded by distractions, literally swimming in them now, with our “smart” phones, 24/7 work email, instant porn and non-stop breaking news. It’s so easy to get stuck in the muck.

On the other hand, it isn’t difficult to stay focused, either. It’s a matter of will power and choosing good habits. Pretty much the big “secret” to happiness in general.

Why then is focus and discipline so rare? It’s the oldest story in the book. In fact, it’s just about the entire story in The Good Book. It’s obviously a challenge to our human nature.

Were You A Bitch And Moan Victim?

So much of our attitude about work depends on how we were raised. Most people do not get this message as children from their parents and their families.

During your childhood, were you surrounded by adults that loved to bitch and moan about work? About how stupid their boss was? About how they hated their jobs? If no, jump directly to #1 below.

If yes, you need to know that you were imprinted with a “Victim” mindset, and that this mindset can be discarded and replaced. You couldn’t leave home when you were a kid, but now you can. You must understand that you are responsible for your life and your choices. You must learn to take responsibility for the life you lead.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to change your mindset, a great book to start with is “The Road Less Traveled,” by Scott Peck.

But I want to keep this simple and focused on work success, so here’s a quick quiz to help you remember what’s important.

#1 Do You Know The Law of Threes?

The “Law of Threes” is the greatest KISS tool I’ve ever seen. I learned this from my guru, Brian Tracy.

“This law says that 90% of all of your results and eventually, your income, come from only three of your daily activities,” Tracy says.

Basically, you can count your most important priorities of all areas of your life on three fingers.

We can use this as our guide to gaining control of our work and career. Nice and simple!

#2 What Are My Top Three Priorities at Work Today?

If I could do only one thing today at work, what would have the greatest impact on my success? Write your answer.

If I could do only two things today at work, what else would have the greatest impact? Write your answer.

If I could do only three things today at work, what else would have the greatest impact? Write your answer.

Do this first thing every day at work. Some very disciplined executives do this every night before they leave so they have their goals for tomorrow all set when they arrive. Great tool for those who can’t seem to leave work at the office!

Now that you have simplified your day, write the following:

#3 MyTop Three Priorities at Work This Week

#4 My Top Three Priorities at Work This Month

#5 My Top Three Priorities at Work This Year

As you develop this focus on your Top Three Priorities and do it every day for a month, you’ll make it a habit. When you make this a habit every day at work, you will have separated yourself from the herd. You will unleash real power for career advancement and success. I’m not exaggerating at all.

Hey, you can kiss that victim goodbye forever. That’s simply awesome stupid!

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

How does daily goal setting work for you? Leave a comment.

How To Interview For A Job: Advanced Skills

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The Internet is full of basic information about how to prepare, how to dress, how to shine your shoes, what questions to expect, etc. By all means read this intro material. But I don’t see much about the real event and what it is.

Interviews are all about you, right? Wrong. Job interviews are all about the needs of the employer. If you demonstrate that you understand this, you have separated yourself from the crowd. You are instantly on the short list of candidates.

It’s A Sales Call

Sell yourself as the solution to your employer’s needs. Here’s how to do it.

#1 Understand The Employer’s Needs

Are you interviewing for a management position or a specific function job?

Management job descriptions always use terms like “must be a problem solver” or “decisive.” Non-management job descriptions always say things like “must be detail oriented,” “accurate,” “fast paced” and “able to take direction.”

Sometimes you’re interviewing for a job that needs you to be a problem solver without the “management” title. That’s big these days. In that case you must read my article, “How To Be The Happy Slave.” Just kidding.

My point is you study the job description and the employer’s list of “required skills and experience.” List the qualities you find there on a sheet of paper and then write out a few examples of how you possess these skills and experiences.

When the interviewer asks you to tell them about job XYZ on your résumé, you are going to spice your answer with examples of how you demonstrated the required qualities needed for this job.

#2 Connect With Your Interviewer(s)

Everyone wants to hire someone they “like.” So as soon as you enter the interview, try to find a personal connection with your interviewer. After the firm handshake and the smiling, direct-eye contact, scan the room for some clue to a passion of your interviewer.

What pictures are on the wall? On the desk? Any trophies or awards? Family or hobbies?

Let’s say you see photos of your interviewer holding a big fish on a deep sea fishing boat. You can say, “Do you like deep sea fishing?” “That must have been exciting.” “I did that once” or “I would love to try that.” Try to find some little way to make a personal connection.

If your interview is in an impersonal conference room with several people, that’s when you comment on what you’ve learned in your company research. “I read where the company recently merged with XYZ Corp. You must be busy with a lot of transition right now.”

Don’t worry about seeming too assertive. You are on a sales call, my friend. Your interviewer has a problem and you are the solution. You’re not trying to take control of the interview, you are simply making a connection, being warm and friendly.

#3 Ask Your Questions Early

Don’t wait until the end to ask questions! You are on a sales call so you need to ask a few questions to better understand the interviewer’s needs.

“Can you help me understand what your goals are for this position? This will help me focus my explanation of my experience and work history to your needs.”

Then work examples into your story that demonstrate your relevant skills and experience.

The worst advice I have seen on the Internet says to “be ready to ask good questions at the end.” Then they usually recommend questions like “Tell me about a typical work day for this position.”

Don’t ask questions that are all about you. The interview is about the employer and their needs. It’s not about how suitable this position may be for you. If you have real concerns about the suitability of this position for you, save them to ask after you have been offered the job.

#4 Try To Close The Deal

At the end of the job interview, you are usually asked if you have any questions for them. This is a good time to summarize what you offer to the employer. “If I’ve understood you clearly, you need someone who has 1) _______, 2) _______, 3) _______ in this position. Is that pretty accurate?”

This is a “trial close.” You test your knowledge of what the interviewer is looking for in this position. If the interviewer adds something to your list or corrects your list, you then have one last opportunity to give an example of your skill or experience with this new need.

If the interviewer says, “That pretty much sums it up,” then you try to move toward an offer. “We’ll, I believe I’ve demonstrated I have excellent skills and experience with your needs for this position. I am convinced that I could do a good job for you and I would love the opportunity to work for you. When can I start?”

They will either offer you the job or say they need more time to finish the process. If they need more time, I guarantee you have impressed them with your potential for this job. Thank them for their time and go forth into your day knowing that you did your best. That’s all you can do!

#5 Visualize Getting The Job

This is actually the first thing you should do before you go to bed the night before your interview. Spend five minutes seeing yourself shaking hands with the employer and thanking them for the job.

See them introducing you around to other employees. Hear them saying, “We want you for this job.” Hear your friends and your family congratulating you on this new position.

Now you have the keys to successful job interviewing. Combine visualization with good pre-interview preparation and you will have great confidence heading into your interview!

What If You Have No Direct Experience, Or You’re Changing Careers?

You may be fresh out of school, you may be trying to change careers, or perhaps you’re trying to work after a long period of not having a traditional job. You still can use this process of knowing what the employer needs and showing that you have these skills.

Be creative! Of course you have experience: in your school work, in your other jobs, in volunteer work, in the Service. I guarantee if you really look at your life experience, you can find ways to show that you have a whole range of skills and abilities that employers need.

Good luck with that interview! If you need advice, drop me a line. I would be happy to help you advance your career.

Photo provided by freedigitalphotos.net

Are Emotions Driving Your Career Off The Road?

How To Defuse Anger At Work

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Are you one of the lucky ones that rarely gets angry at your boss? Anger is a terrible driver. If you are driven by anger in your career you always crash and burn.

We all have problems with authority. However, some talented, brilliant people have a compulsive tendency to always be angry with authority. That is obviously the kiss of death for their career advancement.

If you are one of those people, get therapy. I know you’re mad at me for saying that.

But how can the rest of us deal with the inevitable anger we feel at work so we don’t do something that’s damaging to our job or our hopes of career advancement?

#1 Feel It

John Gray once said, “If you can feel it, you can heal it.” Go ahead and allow yourself to feel your anger. A great way to handle this feeling at work is to not express your anger immediately. Go back to your desk and write it out for a bit.

Make sure you shred notes like this once you’re finished!


I once had a boss that rooted through everyone’s trash can after everyone was gone. Sad, but true!


Dr. Gray has a great prescription for us in his book, “What You Feel, You Can Heal.” It goes something like what follows.

#2 Play Fill In The Blanks

Complete these sentences:
I’m mad because. . .
I’m sad because. . .
I’m afraid because. . .

Write freely knowing that no one will see it. Write freely of how you feel. Chances are excellent you will start feeling some relief right away. You’re letting off steam so you don’t have a meltdown. But you’ll also start to uncover the source do your anger.

It’s almost always a desire for acknowledgement and respect.

Your basics sense of value as a person, a manager or a leader has been violated in some way and it hurts. It hurts, damn it!

#3 Come To Acceptance

Continue writing:
I regret that. . .
I accept that. . .

This whole process doesn’t need to take more than five minutes. Maybe we should write a book titled, “The One Minute Anger Manager?”

By this point you will have gained some perspective into why you are hurting. Now you can choose what to do, rather than be driven by your emotion. You’re back in the driver’s seat.

A Key To Leadership Success

It’s also difficult for the person in authority to not get angry when an employee is angry, right? Don’t they know who the hell you are? It goes back to your desire to be acknowledged and respected for your position.

But if you can see your employee’s anger as a cry for acknowledgement and respect, it helps you accept their perspective. You can feel a bit more empathy over their pain rather than focus on their expression as an attack on your authority.

What do you think? Share a comment!

Do Long Term Goals Create Long Term Success?

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Yogi Berra

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Why is long term thinking so rare?

There is nothing more important to your individual career advancement, let’s call it “career happiness,” than long term goals.

There’s nothing more critical to the success of an organization than long term goals.

Once you’ve defined your goals, you have a guide for your behavior to use every day, every week, every quarter and so on.

Seems so simple.

But human nature is anything but simple.

Perhaps long term thinking is a source of fear for most people. I mean, no one gets out of here alive, if you think that far ahead. Many are very afraid of that fact. So perhaps this fear of the future prevents even mid-term thinking, since it brings one ever closer to the unthinkable.

If this is accepted, then we can say fear of death prevents the masses from setting long term goals. It isn’t nihilism or hedonism, but fear, that creates the mass of short term philosophers in our midst.

Food for thought for another time.

For long term goals to be effective, you need to use them as the foundation of your objectives all the time. I know my team at work hears it from me whenever someone brings a new idea to the group. “What are your objectives?”

I ask this question every time. Not to stifle innovation, but to keep on track to our long term goals. Without this guide, it is amazing how out of focus one person, a team or an organization can become. This is a key to leadership success.

If you’re running a small business, a team, a department, or a division, there’s nothing more fundamental than making sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.

So to answer my opening question, long term goals alone do not create success. You have to use them. All the time. Mix in a few brilliant ideas along the way, some luck and you’re holding the keys to success.

At last, something simple we can all work on!

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