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?

What-business-should-I-start

“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