Monday, November 4, 2013

How To Be A Super-Achiever: The 10 Qualities That Matter-- Forbes

Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff

What do actor Alec Baldwin, game-show champion Ken Jennings and baseball icon Yogi Berra have in common?
That’s what husband-and-wife duo Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield set out to discover. For their upcoming book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, they interviewed 36 star performers that climbed to the tops of their various fields.

“We didn’t want to theorize about success,” says Gosfield. “We went straight to the source, finding the most amazing people in all fields and asking them, ‘How do you do what you do?’”

Interview after interview with some of the world’s most successful people—actress Laura Linney, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, crossword mastermind Will Shortz—they began seeing patterns emerge. No matter how diverse their goals or crafts, these super-achievers shared many of the same habits. How can you follow in their footsteps? These are the 10 qualities that will set you apart.

Dedication To A Vision
“Every great success starts with inspiration, but not every inspiration leads to success,” Gosfield says. “The most common thing we found was these people’s devotion to the day-to-day struggle.” Glossy magazine success stories often don’t show the dark moments, the daily grind or flagging energy that super-achievers endure to realize their goals. However, that dedication is essential to their success.

Intelligent Persistence
One thing successful people know: Dedication and blind persistence are two very different things. “You can work hard but not smart,” says Sweeney. “When something’s not working, you’ve got to tweak it. Some people just keep banging their heads against the wall.” Instead of doggedly using the same ineffective tactics, super-achievers pivot and try to tackle the problem from a different angle.

Fostering A Community
Star performers know they can’t achieve success on their own. Instead, they must galvanize a group of people around their idea or goal. Teamwork, or having an ecosystem of supporters, turns out to be critically vital for success. It doesn’t just include partners and coworkers. It might also mean employees, customers, investors, mentors, fans and social media followers. They quote business guru Guy Kawasaki: “First you have to create something worthy of an ecosystem. Then pick your evangelists.”

Listening And Remaining Open
“You don’t normally think of hard-charging, action-oriented leaders as being good listeners,” says Sweeney. “These people’s ability to practice the art of listening helped them learn what they needed to know about the world around them.” For example, Zappos’ Hsieh asked all his employees to share their personal values so that he could incorporate them into the company’s values and culture. Likewise, Linney says she never accepts a role unless she has read and reread the script so many times that it has opened up to her.

Good Storytelling 
Stories have the ability to transport people to your world, and then they’re more likely to invest in you and your brand. Philippe Petit, famous for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center in the 1970s, believed other wire-walkers were trying to make it look hard. “But he wanted to be a poet in the sky and seem effortless,” Sweeney says. “His narrative wasn’t in words, but it was a story he was communicating.”

Testing Ideas In The Market
“Everybody has a bias to think their own idea is brilliant,” says Gosfield. “[Achievers] roll it out in an environment that’s as close as possible to the market.” Bill Gross, serial entrepreneur and founder of Idealab, always tests before he invests. When he had an idea for an online car dealer, CarsDirect, no one was sure if people would actually buy a car from a Web site. He decided to put up a test site to see what would happen. Before they had any inventory, they’d sold four cars and had to shut down the site. On the upside, Gross then knew for a fact there was a market for the service.

Managing Emotions
“We found that managing emotions is a key element to success,” Sweeney says. “It’s so easy to be derailed by them, but these people are able to channel anger and frustration into their work.” This was an important lesson for Jessica Watson, the Australian sailor who circumnavigated the world alone at only 16 years old. While out at sea, when loneliness or negativity set in, she would acknowledge her emotions and remind herself that she could get past them. “You can’t change conditions—just the way you deal with them,” Watson said.

Constantly Evolving
Successful people maintain success by consistently learning and adapting to the environment around them. Tennis champion Martina Navratilova realized this when her game suddenly started sliding. She decided to transform her training routine and diet, and soon was back on track to become an all-star athlete.

Practicing Patience 
Inaction, or stillness, can sometimes be just as useful as action. The importance of patience was a primary theme among the super-achievers–whether it’s strategically waiting for the best time to make a move or continuing to pursue a larger vision without receiving immediate rewards. Jill Tarter, a director of the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), has been searching for life on other planets for the last 50 years without any guarantee of success.

Pursuing Happiness
Success fuels happiness, and happiness in turn fuels greater success. Jennings, “the winningest game-show champion in history,” said once he became a contestant on a game show, it filled his entire life with passion. That happiness helped him win, and winning ended up giving him the confidence he needed to pursue a career he loved: writing. Seeking happiness in your life and work turns out to be a win-win.

Read the full article online

Monday, October 28, 2013

Habits: How They Form And How To Break Them--NPR

From NPR.Org

Think about something it took you a really long time to learn, like how to parallel park. At first, parallel parking was difficult and you had to devote a lot of mental energy to it. But after you grew comfortable with parallel parking, it became much easier — almost habitual, you could say.
Parallel parking, gambling, exercising, brushing your teeth and every other habit-forming activity all follow the same behavioral and neurological patterns, says New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg. His new book The Power of Habit explores the science behind why we do what we do — and how companies are now working to use our habit formations to sell and market products to us.

How Habits Form
It turns out that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a "habit loop," which is a three-part process. First, there's a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.

"Then there's the routine, which is the behavior itself," Duhigg tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "That's what we think about when we think about habits."

The third step, he says, is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the "habit loop" in the future.

Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, meanwhile, are made in a different part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts.

"In fact, the brain starts working less and less," says Duhigg. "The brain can almost completely shut down. ... And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else."

That's why it's easy — while driving or parallel parking, let's say — to completely focus on something else: like the radio, or a conversation you're having.

"You can do these complex behaviors without being mentally aware of it at all," he says. "And that's because of the capacity of our basal ganglia: to take a behavior and turn it into an automatic routine."

Studies have shown that people will perform automated behaviors — like pulling out of a driveway or brushing teeth — the same way every single time, if they're in the same environment. But if they take a vacation, it's likely that the behavior will change.

"You'll put your shoes on in a different order without paying any attention to it," he says, "because once the cues change, patterns are broken up."

That's one of the reasons why taking a vacation is so relaxing: It helps break certain habits.
"It's also a great reason why changing a habit on a vacation is one of the proven most-successful ways to do it," he says. "If you want to quit smoking, you should stop smoking while you're on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren't there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life."

Marketing Habits
It's not just individual habits that become automated. Duhigg says there are studies that show organizational habits form among workers working for the same company. And companies themselves exploit habit cues and rewards to try to sway customers, particularly if customers themselves can't articulate what pleasurable experience they derive from a habit.

"Companies are very, very good — better than consumers themselves — at knowing what consumers are actually craving," says Duhigg.

As an example, he points to Febreeze, a Proctor & Gamble fabric odor eliminator that initially failed when it got to the market.

"They thought that consumers would use it because they were craving getting rid of bad scents," he says. "And it was a total flop. People who had 12 cats and their homes smelled terrible? They wouldn't use Febreeze."

That's when Proctor & Gamble reformulated Febreeze to include different scents.

"As soon as they did that, people started using it at the end of their cleaning habits to make things smell as nice as they looked," he says. "And what they figured out is that people crave a nice smell when everything looks pretty. Now, no consumer would have said that. ... But companies can figure this out, and that's how they can make products work."

Read the rest of this article and find others online

Monday, October 14, 2013

6 Free Online Classes that Will Bring You Success

This post was provided by USA Today College

Some college students love learning for the sake of learning. But elective classes, however interesting and engaging, don’t necessarily count toward a major, and students might have to forgo the fun classes in favor of a degree.

For the students who didn’t get to explore all the subjects they wanted before graduation or just want to continue their education, perhaps it’s time to look at your online options.

Free online classes, open to the public, are growing more popular and extensive. They are offered through many websites and universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Duke.

These classes, which cover nearly every subject and have various formats, are ideal for anyone with a love for learning, but not the funds or grades needed to get a top-rate education.

Here are six unique, inspiring, and beneficial classes anyone can take in their spare time — free of charge!

Entrepreneurship—From Idea to Launch

This class is offered by Udemy, a website that has a wide variety of free online courses, from sports to music to languages. This course is composed of more than 32 lectures and 10 exercises.

The class “provides a series of lectures that can guide an aspiring entrepreneur through the steps that will greatly increase their chances for successfully turning their idea into a successful business.”

Personal Finance

This eight-class Missouri State University course can be found on both iTunes U and YouTube though Open Culture, a site that allows you to search for free online classes by topic, then directs you to all available formats. The class is composed of videos and covers topics such as personal saving, credit, and retirement planning.

Designing Your Life

This class is offered by MIT OpenCourseWare. The site explains that virtually all of the content from every class at the university is offered there. Designing Your Life is intended to provide an “exciting, eye-opening, and thoroughly useful inquiry into what it takes to live an extraordinary life, on your own terms” and “address what it takes to succeed, to be proud of your life, and to be happy in it.” This class includes lecture notes, assignments, and other downloadable course material.


This course offered by Yale may sound morbid, but at some point, we all think about what happens when we pass. This philosophy class explores the possibilities. The course examines concepts such as death not being the end of our journey, how knowing we will eventually die should affect the way we live, and the different attitudes toward death. The videos are offered through both YouTube and iTunes U, and the course pages can be downloaded.

Useful Genetics

This class is offered by Coursera and is a bit different than most. Coursera classes begin on specific dates—just like online classes you would take at a university—and last for a specific length of time. The course description says it is meant to create a sense of community with others taking the class.

This specific class is being offered on Nov. 1 and May 1. The Useful Genetics course is designed to deliver a college-level understanding of how genes function and the role of inheritance, as well as tackling questions such as “Is there a gay gene?” and “Do different races have the same genes?”

Food Preparation in the Home

This free, online class offered by BYU is good for those who want to improve their skills in the kitchen. You can start the class at any time, and it is very interactive. The course is meant to help you “understand food in relation to health, develop skills in buying, and preparing foods” and teach you to “practice safe handling, storage, and preservation of foods.”

Degrees may not be free, but learning can be.

Read the full article and other articles from Levo League and USA Today online

6 Tips for Networking Your Way to Success

Alexandra Moncur; Levo League

As Porter Gale, former Vice President of Marketing at Virgin America, reflected on her career, she realized that her network and the amazing relationships she had developed throughout her career had greatly assisted her in achieving her current and future success. While building her career, her networking philosophy has been focused on being very passionate, figuring out exactly what she’s trying to accomplish, and being the best that she can be. “It’s a quality game, not a quantity game,” she explained.

During Levo League’s Office Hours, Gale offered her top six tips for building a network. Keep reading to see them all.

1. Get comfortable

Networking events can be daunting, even for confident extroverts. In order to be successful, Gale suggests determining what your goals are and what is holding you back from achieving them. Are you shy in social situations? Are you unable to discuss the industry you’re interested in?
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert,” she said. “You have to figure out things that help you feel comfortable.”

For introverts, she recommends focusing your topics of conversation around your passion and knowledge base. However, if a topic comes up in conversation that you don’t understand or don’t know much about, own up to it. By acknowledging that this isn’t an area of expertise, you can further connect with the people you are speaking with as well as have an opportunity to learn. Also, don’t set a goal of meeting everyone at an event, but rather on meeting a select group of targeted individuals.

2. Funnel test

In her book Your Network is Your Net Worth, Gale suggests using her Funnel Test, which involves identifying three passions that you are comfortable discussing. Use this method to figure out what your passions are and what your purpose is in order to build a roadmap for networking and connecting.

This funnel will also help you to identify what types of content you should be posting and tweeting about, and types of networking events you should attend. In today’s world where we have both an online and offline persona, it’s very important to think about the impression you want people to take away when they Google you.

3. Find opportunities in pivot points

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a series of little steps that get us to success. Gale believes that the key is to be positively productive, which means figuring out how you can learn best from pivot points and keep taking small steps towards your goal. Know that you’re not going to have your dream job right out of the gate.

“Think big,” she said. “Don’t let the no’s upset you. Keep trying and keep going for your dreams. If you’re focused, amazing things can happen.”

4. Build a core team

The people who we are surround by inspire us, give us energy, and support us. Think critically about your these individuals. Determine how best to develop a core team, or a group who will support your ideas. Technology allows us to connect much more rapidly, which in turn allows us to have a much larger core team. Because so much of today’s job placements are a result of personal connections, it is essential that this core team and your online persona are optimized to reflect your career goals.

“It’s no longer really six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” said Gale. “It’s really three or four degrees of you.”

5. Bring your value to the table

“The successful relationships are coming from collaboration, sharing ideas, connections over startups, products, and apps,” explained Gale. “I always encourage people to ask a simple question: Are you a producer or are you a consumer?”

A producer mindset is all about considering what value you are bringing to your workplace and relationships. Value creation cannot be accomplished when you are constantly plugged in. It is important to set aside time for great thinking, ideation, and what you’re bringing to the table.

6. Help others

Gale has found that the people who have very strong and tight networks don’t expect anything in return. The same is true in social media, she said. You should be posting because you think the content is of value, and retweeting when you are inspired by the idea being shared.

“[Through] all of your micro-exchanges with people, you can also help inspire others,” said Gale. “You can inspire others and our future leaders. These simple actions that we do can make a huge difference.”

According to Gale, if you use the simple phrase, “How can I help?” and don’t expect anything in return, miracles can happen. She encourages women to think of this as a lifestyle and to travel with your headphones off. There are so many opportunities to connect with those around you if you are open to conversations, willing to connect, and show people that you recognize and value them.

“Often we miss so many of the opportunities that are around us because we’re engrossed in a book or we’re just not talking to people,” Gale said. “Be very open, be positive, help other people, surround yourself with a great team, and above all, be focused and passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

7 Habits of Great Small Business Owners-- Forbes

When looking at the players in any industry, there are usually a handful of businesses that stand out ahead of the pack. So what exactly goes into making some more successful than others? More often than not, it comes down to the kind of leadership they have steering their efforts. Being a strong small business owner is an elusive enterprise,  there is no one secret recipe to achieve. If there was a sure-fire way to be a dynamite small business leader, it would undoubtedly include the following 7 components:

1.    They take care of themselves
Smart small business owners recognize that having a sharp mind requires having a healthy body. Attention is paid to eating healthy and making time for physical exercise. What lesser business owners might see as overly indulgent behavior is seen by truly astute managers as necessary maintenance of their most crucial tool: their brain.

2.    They have lives outside their business
Spending too much time focused on any single interest will almost always lead to hitting mental walls. Leading a balanced life – taking time for interests outside of work – means exposing yourself to a diverse range of mental stimuli (you never know what might trigger a great idea), and giving your work brain the rest it needs to be focused.

3.    They look forward
Being a great small business owner means being a great leader. Being a great leader is all about being bold and forward thinking enough to go beyond simply following proven business and market trends. The best small business managers are pioneers, even in small ways, and always keep their eyes open for new ways to accomplish things. This means taking chances, but if anything is a critical part of running a small business successfully, it’s a willingness to do just that.

4.    They are organized
Sometimes having a head full of innovative business ideas can lead to being a bit scattered. The difference between a smart person who remains an ineffectual business owner and someone who takes command of their industry falls on having an ability to not just have good ideas, but to be organized enough to follow through with them. Keeping your meetings, deadlines, and business plan on a highly organized schedule, and sticking to it, will be what sets you apart from other small businesses that fumble in disorganization.

5.    They nurture relationships
When you’re overseeing the management of a company, it can be easy enough to get caught up in the day-to-day work and forget to look up from your desk. The importance of taking time to stay in touch and have thoughtful, generous interactions with clients and professional associates cannot be undervalued.

6.    They make decisions
Small business owners have to be decisive. It’s simply not optional. From daily operations to broad directional choices, your job is to lead your company, which means waffling with indecision just will not work. The ability to make decisions is directly related to your sense of confidence, so if you find yourself not knowing which choice to make, remind yourself that you are an expert at what you’re doing and trust your gut. If the particular decision on the table involves a part of your business that you aren’t a total expert about, deciding to consult someone more informed is still a valid decision.

7.    They cut the fat
Proactive small business owners are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating which parts of their company can be more streamlined, including which vendors and suppliers could possibly be swapped out for better sources and how work is divided. Knowing how your company’s time, man power, and financial resources are distributed – and paying steady attention to keeping that distribution as efficient as possible – is how small business owners keep their company thriving ahead of the competition.

Check out this article and others from Forbes online

Monday, September 30, 2013

9 Startup Habits That Will Transform Your Work-- LinkedIn

By Shane Snow; LinkedIn

When I left journalism school, I and half of the grad students in my class entered the job market as freelancers. (It's a tough market for journalists, even today). And then a peculiar thing happened: all of these amazing, Columbia-educated journalists who'd written for The New York Times and NBC and Time Magazine started approaching me for help—despite the fact that they were far better writers than me. In the past, I had run a website consultancy, so my friends asked my advice on building a website, promoting themselves online, getting clients, managing invoices and taxes, and so on. Essentially, they needed help becoming entrepreneurs, which required an entirely different skillset than the journalist's craft. While some of what we freelancers needed was practical (sales skills, websites, etc.), what we really had to do was start thinking of ourselves as startups.

But truthfully, startup skills are not just useful to the self-employed app developer or forced-into-freelance journalist. The habits—and the mindset—of successful entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly valuable in every 21st century workplace.

Having spent most of my life around entrepreneurs—and having attempted to mimic their best moves in my work as a business owner, then freelancer, and now startup founder—I'm convinced that the following habits will make anyone twice as successful, not to mention employable:

1) Systematizing Repeat Tasks
Entrepreneurship, by definition, is the art of creating systems that generate more value for less effort. Startups realize that the opportunity cost of doing mundane tasks adds up quickly, preventing them from doing the high-impact work they have set out to do.

Though this is a mindset more than anything else, there are all sorts of tech products you can use to automate repeat tasks in your work right now. Sanebox for hiding email you don't need to see during the day. LastPass and Dashlane to save all your passwords, so you never have to keep track of more than one master login. And one of my favorites is IFTTT, which lets you set up automatic If>Then triggers for almost anything. For instance, IFTTT sends me a text message on mornings when the weather forecast says rain (so I don't have to waste time looking it up or heading back to my house when I forget my umbrella), and it sends all my Gmail attachments automatically to be backed up to Dropbox, so I don't have to hunt for files online when I need them.

If your time is worth $25 or $50 or $500 an hour, then fork over the $15 for someone else to do your laundry for you and work on something for two hours instead. If you have to do tedious data entry to create a report every week, set up a spreadsheet to pull in and add the numbers for you. This is the entrepreneur's philosophy, and it can make you more productive than almost any other thing.

2) Great Storytelling
"Those who tell the stories rule the world." This Native American proverb is painted on the wall of my office, reminding everyone in the company that narratives—and the ways you tell them—matter.
Entrepreneurs are constantly pitching. Ideas, products, investment opportunities.

The most important element of a successful pitch is the story. Great start-ups are fantastic at painting a big, ambitious picture that gets people excited. Indeed, if there's one skill that will get you noticed and remembered, it's the ability to give a great speech, make a riveting presentation, and write compellingly. Entrepreneurs spend more time preparing and honing these details than most lackadaisical PowerPoint junkies out there, and that's because for a start-up, everything hinges on them.

3) Carving Out "Heads Down" Time
Interruptions eat up a huge amount of the average person's work time. Great startups have the habit of finding ways to protect their people from needless distractions. And smart managers block off swaths of their calendars for "productivity time."

4) Split Testing And Iterating
A hallmark of the Lean Startup movement, entrepreneurs are wont to constantly pit two or more approaches against one another and let data inform their decisions. What should the home page call-to-action say? Split test two different sentences and see which gets more clicks. How do I get more people to respond to my emails? Test different subject lines, lengths, and endings like "Thanks for your help in advance" versus "Warm regards." What kind of outfit makes me look more professional? Try two different styles and keep track of the compliments.

(I realized this habit had spilled over to my regular life when I found myself "split testing" salsas at a taco joint the other day.)

Truthfully, we're not all as good at making decisions with our guts as we think we are. But a good split test doesn't lie, and entrepreneurs are constantly pitting their test winners against new ideas.

5) Looking For 80/20s
There's a strange phenomenon in work that almost always holds true: if you examine your life, you'll often see that only 20% of the things you do account for 80% of the results you get. Being productive and being busy are two different things. If you want to quadruple your productivity, focus on the 20% first, and if you can, cut the other 80% that just makes you busy.

6) Rather Than Planning, Doing
Too many of us have meetings about meetings, and end meetings with lists of follow-up conversations to be had later. But startups, for which every second counts, have a habit of taking on-the-spot action. Instead of promising to email an introduction for you, a startup founder will pull out her phone and write the email while you sit there. Then the issue doesn't have to take up future brain- or calendar-space.

7) Ditching Meetings... But Taking Every Networking Meeting
Most meetings are worthless. They usually have too many people, who feel obligated to talk because they are there, and they're almost always too long.

"Meetings are typically scheduled like TV shows. You set aside 30 minutes or an hour because that's how scheduling software works," write Jason Fried and David Hansson in their book, Rework. "If it only takes 7 minutes to accomplish a meeting's goal, that's all the time you should spend."

Startups often hold meetings while standing up, so the desire to get the meeting over with outweighs the desire to dilly dally on unimportant things. And often they simply cut meetings in favor of asynchronous coordination over email.

However, entrepreneurs also know the importance of serendipity in their work, so they make a point to network as much as possible. "I take every [networking] meeting," says Michael Ventura, CEO of digital innovation agency Sub Rosa. "Because in our industry, you never know what could happen."
(P.S.: The way I solve the dilemma of having networking meetings eat into important work is by dividing my weeks into "heads down" days and "explore" days.)

8) Asking "Why" Like A Five-Year-Old
Entrepreneurs aren't satisfied with the status quo. They ask "why" over and over again until they get to the bottom of things, rather than ascribing superficial blame on people, or worst of all, accepting the explanation, "That's just the way it is."

This relentless inquisitiveness in fact, helps entrepreneurs find and fix the 20% wrong that causes 80% of their problems.

9) Seeing Every "It Can't Be Done" As An Opportunity
This is the mindset from which innovation springs. To an entrepreneur, convention means average, and impossible means profit potential. People who see the opportunities in the can'ts in their work—and seize them—create positive change, get promoted, and work happier.

Read the full article on LinkedIn

Monday, September 23, 2013

What It Takes to Make New College Graduates Employable

My older son graduated from high school last week and has started a pleasant job as a summer lifeguard. In four years we expect to attend his college graduation, and we hope the time there leaves him with great experiences, a love of learning and some idea how to get and keep a job. 

It’s that last part of the equation that I’m going to focus on. My heart sinks every time I read a news story or opinion piece quoting employers who charge that four-year colleges and universities are failing to provide graduates with the skills they need to become and remain employable. Of course, in many ways, this isn’t a new story. 

“A four-year liberal arts education doesn’t prepare kids for work and it never has,” said Alec R. Levenson a senior research scientist for the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California. 

Mara Swan, the executive vice president of global strategy and talent at Manpower Group, agreed. 

“There’s always been a gap between what colleges produce and what employers want,” she said. “But now it’s widening.” That’s because workplaces are more complex and globalized, profit margins are slimmer, companies are leaner and managers expect their workers to get up to speed much faster than in the past. 

Read the rest of the article online. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

10 Mental Toughness Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs

By Marty Zwilling, Veteran Start-up Mentor; Executive

In sports, mental toughness is defined as the ability to focus on and execute solutions, especially in the face of adversity. If anyone in business ever needed mental toughness, it's an entrepreneur. Investors tell me that startup success is all about execution, all while facing determined competitors and overcoming customers' resistance to change.

Dr. Jason Selk, in his most recent book "Executive Toughness," talks about mental toughness with analogies between sports and business, but he never takes it all the way to entrepreneurs, where I believe it can have the most impact. So here is my interpretation of the fundamentals he outlines, adapted to the language of a startup:
  1. Define the win for your business. A startup is not a parlor game. With a for-profit startup, it's all about solving a problem that embodies real pain, for real customers who are willing and able to pay for a solution. For social entrepreneurs, it's all about making the world a better place. Figure out early what it takes to win, or you will lose by default.  
  2. Adopt a business vision that fits your self-image. In every case, you need a long-term vision that drives self-fulfillment and self-image as well as business success. Assess your strengths and weaknesses, and visualize how these will lead to business success. If the vision doesn't fuel your passion and match your skills, you won't like the lifestyle.
  3. Establish real business goals and processes. It's hard to achieve things that have not been defined, and the steps to get there are not clear. I recommend a business focus on a one-year timeframe, with a limit of three product goals and three process goals. 
  4. Prioritize the priorities. Prioritize or perish should be every entrepreneur's mantra. Accountability requires splitting your big product goals into daily process goals and scheduling them to completion. Don't get distracted with the unimportant.
  5. Practice accountability through self-evaluation. Learn to look in the mirror every day. No evaluation means no awareness of how you are doing, which gives you no basis for improvement. Good performance does not require perfection, which is unachievable.
  6. Control your emotions to control your performance. Learn to control the degree to which your nerves and emotions are engaged and on alert. By maintaining basic mental stability and physical fitness, and preparing yourself intellectually you will function more effectively and successes will grow.
  7. Prepare to say the right thing. Practice your response to the three most common situations you face. Creating and documenting scripts, like your elevator pitch, for key interactions help you and your team maintain focus. They build confidence and reduce the anxiety that often gets in the way of leadership performance.
  8. Prepare mentally every day. Your mind can be strengthened every day, just like a muscle. Complete a mental workout every day to dramatically improve your focus and ability to execute consistently. It's one of the most effective methods known for training your body and mind to stay under control and perform to your potential.
  9. Develop a relentless and optimistic solution focus. Replacing all negative thinking is one of the most critical pieces of your mental toughness puzzle. Approach all solutions one step at a time, where a step is any improvement to the current situation. Remember that a focus only on problems will likely cause more problems.
  10. When you set your mind to do something, find a way to get it done, no matter what. While a relentless solution focus is the mental step, discipline is the action step that makes solutions materialize. In this way, discipline delivers success. Make discipline a habit by limiting temptation and conscious practice.
We all need these fundamentals of mental toughness to succeed and lead in today's business environment. It takes more than market knowledge and technical skill alone. That's the fun part of the challenge to most serious entrepreneurs. If it was easy, anyone could do it. Are you ready to step up to the plate?

Read more articles from The Huffington Post online...

Monday, September 9, 2013

5 Best Things to Say in an Interview- from Monster

By Catherine Conlan
Monster Contributing Writer

The best things you can say in an interview won’t necessarily get you the job on their own, but they can certainly pave the way. Keep these five things in mind as you go through the interviewing process to give yourself the best chance at landing the job.

Ask Good Questions

According to Howard Pines, founder and CEO of BeamPines, “the best thing a candidate can do at an interview ask good questions.”

Doing so shows that you are thoughtful and interested in understanding the company. There’s usually a chance to ask questions at the end of your interview, so be ready with questions that show you’re engaged in the process.

Pines suggests several questions, including:

  • What are the biggest short- and long-term issues I would need to focus on in this position?
  • What would I need to focus on differently than the previous person in this position?
  • What organizational issues should I be aware of?
“I’m flexible.”

Whether it’s about possible job duties, a potential start date or simply timing for the second interview, stressing your flexibility makes you easy to get along with.

Hiring managers don’t like complications, and having to coordinate complicated schedules or haggle over a job description eventually just makes you look difficult. While you certainly don’t want to be a pushover -- and “flexible” shouldn’t define your salary negotiation -- show your potential employer that you’re interested in results that work for everyone.

The Company’s Own Words

Before your interview, become familiar with the company’s website and literature. Pay attention to the words used -- what’s important to the organization?

“In your interview, hit key words that appeared on the company website or brochure,” says Olivia Ford of Adeptio. “These key words might include team, leadership, simplistic, culture or growth.”

Mixing these keywords into your answers can provide a subtle hint that you are plugged in to what the organization is looking for.

“That’s a Good Question.”

Use this phrase instead of blurting out “I don’t know” if the interviewer stumps you with a surprise question. It can give you a few moments to come up with an answer and, in the meantime, strokes the interviewer's ego a little bit too.

Avoid the “I don’t know” answer when possible, but of course don’t lie about your experience or training.

Reasons You Want the Job.

Knowing a job prospect’s motivations is important for managers who are hiring.

During your interview, talk about how this position fits into your future plans and the ideas you have about your career, how it fits with your values, and what you would like to learn from it. Talk about how you see yourself in relation to the company and what you believe you can bring to the position.

These kinds of thoughts show who you are as a person, and go a long way toward giving the hiring manager an idea about how you might fit in the company’s culture and values.

Read the full article and others online.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How Do You Live Up to Your Legacy?

Dhara Naik- Levo League

As my 30th birthday approaches ever so quickly, I’ve been wondering how I can measure success without looking at how many things I’ve been able to cross off the checklist that I made in my early twenties.

I realized the more important question I should be asking myself is how I’m living up to the legacy that I want to leave behind. This sounds like such a strange and scary thought to have at 29. My grandfather and I were extremely close, and since he passed away seven months ago I’ve been thinking about the legacy he left behind. He was a well-respected and successful businessman, but despite all of his achievements and risk-taking endeavors, it was his character that encompassed his legacy. While saying a few words at his funeral, I realized he had truly lived up to a memorable legacy.

Looking back at his life, my grandfather made decisions that reflected his character even when it meant he had to make a sacrifice. Others may see his sacrifices as mistakes, but everyone’s definition of success is different. For me, I thought it meant being an overachiever and perfectionist. Whether it’s in work, relationships, or something as simple as making lasagna, I’ve spent the last decade chasing after things so I could adhere to the checklist I had made. I thought if I could cross everything off that checklist, I’d be successful. There have been moments where I was extremely stressed out, exhausted, and so caught up chasing the checklist that I forgot to stop and smell the roses. Quite frankly, I wasn’t even fun to be around (just ask my friends and family).

It was not until my grandfather got sick and I spent a lot of time with him for the last two months of his life that I came to see my definition of success had been wrong all along. In an eye-opening moment, I realized it wasn’t about how fast I could complete a deliverable or how quickly I could respond to emails. And it wasn’t about how to perfectly present myself at all times.

After some soul searching, I didn’t really have the answer on how to define my legacy, but I knew that at the very core it’s about my character as a person and how I can make some sort of difference in the world. It’s all about living my life fearlessly and with passion. It also means that somewhere along my journey, I can inspire someone to achieve their legacy according to their terms. If I can do that, then that’s ultimate success.

Read this article and others online...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Marketing Conference in Phoenix

We had a great time in Phoenix for the marketing conference over the weekend! Thanks to everyone who planned the event and especially to the speakers who took their time to prepare, attend, and educate our team!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

5 Things You Don't Know About Gen Y- from LinkedIn

Now that I'm not the CEO of Brazen Careerist, I don't have to be the national cheerleader for Generation Y. I fantasized about this moment for years: the moment when I'd write the post titled, 10 Things I Hate about Generation Y.

But it's hard to hate people you hang out with all the time, and the truth is, I've spent the last ten years being a Gen Xer surrounded by Gen Yers. The pinnacle, I thought, was me spending my days fighting with Ryan Healy about work. But in fact, it turns out the pinnacle of my education on Gen Y is my arguments with Melissa about her peers that end in snippy impasse. Sometimes, I think Gen Y is lame and she won't admit to it.

But, I find, as I think about all the things I hate about Gen Y, that it's hard to hate something you know so much about. And in fact, I have become a way better person myself from studying Gen Y. I have noticed that my worst traits are the aspects of myself I least understand. And that is true of Gen Y, too.


1. Gen Y mistakes the speed of the Internet for their own speed.

Gen Y are not risk takers, they are not conflict-seekers, and they are generally respectful of institutions and organizations. When Gen Y doesn't like something, you probably won't hear about it. They just won't show up. I have written before about the conservative nature of Gen Y.

But what I've noticed lately is that this nature results in Gen Y having a difficult time making decisions. They have had their parents making decisions for them for most of their childhood, and they crowdsource decisions as adults, so when they must make a decision that no one can really help them with, Gen Y often gets stuck. (This is a huge difference from Gen X, who thrive on counter-culture, I-did-this-myself diatribes, and from Baby Boomers, who make all decisions based on how can they look like they are winning against everyone else.)


2. Gen Y wants to look like a winner more than they want to be a winner.

Gen Y is the most team-oriented generation ever. The American experience has been largely about individualism since the Declaration of Independence. So it's a big change for such a huge generation to be more oriented to the group rather than the individual.

The result of this way of seeing the world is that Gen Y is very, very non-competitive. They were in soccer leagues where everyone gets a trophy. They enter the workplace and they have little interest in leading in a hierarchical way. And they love to use the collaborative software that serves, unintentionally, to flatten the workplace hierarchy.

But Gen Y is consumed with their image. Online, they manage themselves like they are celebrities. They revolutionized the art of the self-portrait because they take so many. And Gen Y women are renowned for dressing up at work in great clothes regardless of how much money they make or what the rest of the office is wearing.

But I think what might be the best illustration of this trend is that they don't make enough money for a huge, lavish wedding, but they still want their wedding pictures to be gorgeous, fun and exotic. So they elope, with a photographer, and post all the photos of a great wedding on Facebook.


3. Gen Y misunderstands entrepreneurship.

Gen Y is scared of being screwed-over by corporate America because they saw their parents give up everything for corporate life and then get let down. Gen Y does not want to repeat this in their own lives. So for Gen Y, entrepreneurship is the ultimate expression of their conservatism.

Gen Y thinks the safest route in employment is entrepreneurship, so in poll after poll, the vast majority of Gen Y-ers says they want to own their own business. But what they really mean is they want to have a safety net. They want to feel like if they get laid off they will not be left high and dry like their parents were.

In general, though, Gen Y likes working for someone else. Gen Y likes assignments, they like feedback, they like meetings, group efforts, and after-work happy-hours. These are all the trappings of people who work for someone else. Entrepreneurs are mostly lonely, anxious people, living on the edge of what’s normal. And when Gen Y gets an inkling of those feelings, they run back to corporate life.

Read the full article online

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Build a Winning Work Ethic

A strong work ethic endears you to your co-workers and management. It offers you the opportunity to land promotions and earn raises. A strong work ethic requires you to focus on your daily tasks, complete them to the best of your ability and make a conscious effort to improve on your performance. Your work ethic starts from the time you wake up to the time you leave the workplace.
Step 1
  • Go to work on time each day. Arriving at the workplace late always starts your workday off badly and tells others that you’re not committed to your job. Take into consideration the daily traffic, weather and construction so you can leave and make it to work on time.
Step 2
  • Write down your daily tasks for each day of the week. Hang the list near your workplace and check off each task as you complete it. One of the foundations of a strong work ethic is completing your work, which may be difficult if you’re in a setting where you’re easily distracted, such as an office. Writing down your daily tasks lets you visually witness your progress and reminds you of what you still need to do.
Step 3
  • Improve daily. Rather than becoming satisfied with your results, take steps to improve your work and go beyond your typical performance each day.
Step 4
  • Complete projects and tasks immediately; don’t procrastinate. One of the trademark behaviors of a worker with a poor work ethic is to delay his work until another day, promising himself that he’ll complete the work another time. Procrastination usually leads to late or incomplete projects.
Step 5
  • Evaluate your work. To build a strong work ethic, you must identify your weaknesses and create a plan to improve on those weak areas. One of the best ways to evaluate your work is to create a list that summarizes the requirements and skills of your job. For example, suppose you’re a manager. Create a list that consists of “Communication Skills,” “Employee Relations,” “Time Management” and “Listening.” Score yourself for each. You must remain honest with yourself when conducting a self-evaluation.
Step 6
  • Develop a positive attitude. Positivity allows for motivation and high morale and promotes a willingness to perform at a high level consistently. Make it a point to remain friendly at work, smile at co-workers and remain upbeat about your day regardless of what happens.
Read more online:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Perception vs. Reality: 10 Truths About The Generation Y Workforce

Advice for both employers and Gen Y workers and job-seekers on dealing with negative perceptions and misconceptions about Generation Y, the Millennials.

  • It's important to preface this article by stating that people are individuals and that while it is sometimes efficient for experts to place people into generational groups for analysis, in the end, even with certain common traits and behaviors, individuals must be judged on their own merits.
  • That said, as a new crop of college graduates hits the workforce, it's important -- both for the job-seekers and for prospective employers -- to read this article. For the college grads, it's helpful to understand how hiring managers and future co-workers may perceive them. For hiring managers, it's useful to cut through stereotypes and misconceptions about this generation.
  • Generation Y. The Millennials. The Tech/Net/Digital Generation. Boomlets. Echo Boomers. We've given this generation of people -- roughly those born between the late 1970's and the late 1990's and 72 million or so strong -- many names, but none so hurtful as the Entitlement Generation. They've also been called arrogant, self-centered, and possessing a short attention span.
  • This article, playing off the infamous Rolling Stone campaign, discusses 10 perceptions of Generation Y workers -- and then corrects or adjusts those perceptions with the reality behind each. Also included in each of the 10 misconceptions is advice for both employers and for Gen Y workers and job-seekers.
  • Generation Y Perception: Spoiled/Entitled
  • Reality: To an extent, the folks in this generation do have a sense of entitlement, but it's not an entirely inherent personality flaw but partly the fault of Baby Boomer parents who coddled their children, constantly telling them how special they were and that anything they sought was possible, and rewarding them for every little thing, providing trophies and prizes simply for participating. These parents stunted their children's growth by proactively removing all obstacles and potentially negative experiences.
  •  So, yes, on the surface Generation Y workers appear entitled.
  • The key for employers is approaching younger workers differently, providing constructive criticism that reflects confidence in them.
  •  Generation Y workers must realize that their bosses are not going to be like theirr parents, and that part of growing as an employee is learning from past mistakes and accepting constructive criticism. 
Read the rest of the article:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fail. Change. Love. And Other Advice To New Grads-- From Forbes

It’s no secret that recent crops of college graduates have been more risk averse than some of their predecessors. They’re more likely, for instance, to go for the job they could get rather than the one they want. And who could blame them? The uncertain economy hasn’t given young people much room to explore their passions and try out different ways of working, different ways of being a professional.

 As the dean of a management school, I give students a few parting words as they prepare to walk onto the commencement stage—and into the real world. On those occasions, I don’t feel a need to dwell on the job market and the practical challenges ahead. These they know better than I. They know them all too well.

But there’s another side of this equation. There’s the downside of playing it safe, of not forming the habits and attitudes that will help you stand out, try new things, and innovate. And this too, the graduates—including those embarking on business careers—need to hear.

Dare to be Different.

To be different, you have to give some thought to who you are as a professional. You have to think about your personal brand, your mission, your distinctive way of adding value to the work you do. This is what I call “your gig,” what you’re all about, in the work world.

Read the rest of the article and more from Andy Boynton online:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

John Wooden's Pyramid of Success

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming."- John Wooden

John Wooden coined his own definition of success. By the standards of the Basketball Hall of Fame, his own success was unique. He is the only person in history to be enshrined there twice, once as a player for Purdue University, and again for his performance as coach of the Bruins of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

In Coach Wooden's last twelve years as coach, UCLA won ten National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. In the 27 years he led the Bruins, they never had a losing season. Their record of 88 consecutive winning games will probably never be surpassed. 

Among Wooden's players at UCLA were two titans of the game: six-foot-ten Bill Walton, and seven-foot-plus Lew Alcindor, who later became one of the great stars of the NBA under his Muslim name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Despite the presence on his squad of such towering superstars, Coach Wooden always credited his team's success to the spirit of selfless teamwork he inculcated in all his players. "Always think of passing the ball before shooting it," he told them. 

Despite the unparalleled success of his teams in the NCAA tournament, Wooden said his greatest satisfaction came from seeing his players go on to be productive members of society off the court.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Priceless Financial Advice For Recent Graduates- Forbes

If you could rewind your life to graduation from high school or college, what would you have done differently with your money?

Confession: I’m a financial voyeur. For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the unique relationships people (and especially women) have with their money. So when I was recently asked by my Alma Mater, Wellesley College, to serve as a Financial Fellow in residence and create some unique personal finance programming for students and alums, I jumped at the chance.

One of the most popular events we held was called “Powerful Women & Their Pocketbooks.”  In this session, I asked three VERY successful Wellesley alums (C-suite level, corporate board member, business founder, etc.) what their best and worse financial moves were right out of college.

By design, we did not compare notes before-hand. Alums were from the classes of  ’68, ’73, and ’90 – so spanning various stages in businesses receptivity to women leaders.  What struck me the most was how incredibly similar our best tips (& worst trip ups) were despite very different ages, career choices, and life experiences.

The top three pieces of advice every one of us gave were:
  1. Learn to live within your means right out of the gate – and understand that means your life likely won’t look like mom & dad’s right away.
  2. Bow down and respect the incredible power of compounding – start saving right out of school no matter how hard it hurts & how unpleasant the tradeoffs.
  3. Be an advocate for your own financial security – whether in the workplace or on the home front.
Read more from Forbes online:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How should we refer to this July holiday?

 Americans celebrate their independence from England on Thursday. If you want to be truly authentic while barbecuing and watching the fireworks, should you refer to the holiday as “the Fourth of July” or “Independence Day?”

“Independence Day,” or even “Independent Day.” When 18th-century state legislatures planned the first July 4 observances, they didn’t bother to give the day a proper name. “Independence Day,” however, had slightly more currency than “Fourth of July” in contemporary writings. A Royall Tyler poem dating to the late 18th or early 19th century, for example, commands Americans to “squeak the fife and beat the drum, independence day is come!” Tyler also refers to the holiday as “Independent Day,” which was a widely used alternative.

Read more from

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Project Launch at the Angels Game!

 Our team had a great time with family and friends at the Angel's Game last night! We're glad the Angels took home the W!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ready for the game? Here are 22 things you might not know about The Stanley Cup!


Revered in Canada and among hockey fans as a sacred object, the Stanley Cup is professional hockey’s Holy Grail, and a recognizable symbol worldwide. Tonight, the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks start their battle for the Cup. Prepare for the game with these interesting facts and crazy stories about the 122-year-old trophy—which is older than the National Hockey League.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why 20-Somethings Are the Most Successful Entrepreneurs

When it comes to building a successful company, most investors and business advocates look for companies with an experienced management team. They want someone that has a “successful track record” with experience forming teams, writing business plans, building products, and managing a P&L.

You can’t blame them. As with almost everything in life, practice makes perfect and experience provides learning lessons that allow for improvement and growth. While betting on experienced batters can certainly produce doubles, triples, and even home-runs; the grand slams of entrepreneurship come from the young and ill-experienced 20-somethings.

Yes, I said it.

That’s not what you’re going to read in the textbooks.  You won’t hear that from a venture capitalist.  And, you certainly won’t hear that in your MBA classes.

I know, I know.  Some of you will say that I am biased because I was a 20-Something young entrepreneur when I started Lendio, but let’s look at the facts:

(Some of the) Most Successful Entrepreneurs of our Time and Their (Age):
  1. Founders of Google:  Sergey Brin (25) & Larry Page (25)
  2. Founders of Apple:  Steve Jobs (21) & Steve Wozniak (26)
  3. Founders of Microsoft:  Bill Gates (20) & Paul Allen (22)
  4. Founder of Facebook:  Mark Zuckerberg (20)
  5. Founder of Wal-Mart:  Sam Walton (26)
Anyone else recognize the pattern?  Each one of the founders was between the ages of 20 and 26 when they founded what turned out to be one of the most successful companies of our lifetime.

20-Somethings Have Nothing to Lose

One of the main reasons that young entrepreneurs can build incredibly successful companies is that they really don’t have anything to lose. Most of these entrepreneurs are used to living in a cheap college apartment and eating ramen noodles. At that age, the entrepreneur usually doesn’t have a mortgage, a car payment, or a built-up lifestyle to maintain.

On the contrary, a more experienced entrepreneur that is starting a company later in life has everything to lose. By this time in their career, they are used to a strong-paying salary.  They live in a nice neighborhood with a comfortable car — maybe even a luxury car with a monthly payment attached. When his/her spouse thinks about starting a new company, he/she will also consider the stark reality of losing the comforts of life that they have worked hard to build up during their career.  Suddenly, when thinking about all that he/she has to lose, the experienced entrepreneur’s plan to build a successful company include hedges, calculated moves, and conservatism.

20-Somethings Can Swing for the Fences

With nothing to lose, young entrepreneurs can look at solving problems with a completely different mindset.  There is very little at risk. They aren’t required to hedge.  And only the thing that crosses the entrepreneur’s mind is the drive to solve the identified problem in the best way possible.  Fortunately, the young entrepreneur has the energy to consistently burn the midnight candle.

I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.” — Bill Gates

Finally, without having been in the workplace, the young entrepreneur has a fresh perspective untainted from the way-it-is-supposed-to-be mindset that is so prevalent in most boardrooms.  Consequently, their solutions are new, innovative, and groundbreaking.

If You’re a 20 Something…

Go for it.

There will never be a better time in your life to live your dream of entrepreneurship.  Swing for the fences with a goal to add your name to the prestigious list above. If you fail, it will have been one of the best learning experiences of your life.

Read more online!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five Leadership Lessons for Today's Executive

The poster of 12 O’clock High, the 1949 Gregory Peck-led vehicle centering on the underperforming 918th Bomber Group, hangs framed in my Aveksa office. This is not because of its reputation as one of the best WWII films to emerge from the glut of late 1940’s war-centric cinema, but as a constant reminder of the timeless lessons of leadership the film triumphed.  Through juxtaposing the leaderships styles of Colonel Davenport and Brigadier General Frank Savage, 12 O’clock High explored what it meant to be an effective leader of troops.  Its lessons, which I will explore in this week’s column, can be translated from the harrowing skies above WWII Europe to the (significantly less dangerous) modern workplace.
First, however, it is important to understand why leadership is needed and define what leadership is. Leadership is needed to convert challenges into opportunities.  Effective leaders, like Gregory Peck’s General Frank Savage, possess the ability to:
  • Direct with a clear sense of responsibility
  • Understand people, their emotions, and their motivations
  • Acknowledge that leadership is not a popularity contest
Read the rest of the article from Forbes:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Advice to New Graduates from 24 Leaders

Right now is not the most promising environment students have ever graduated into. Students fear entering a job market that doesn't want them, and losing vital years of their careers.

Great advice is needed more than ever. In its latest "Influencers" series, LinkedIn asked 70+ top professionals, from Fortune 500 CEOs to media icons what the class of 2013 needs to succeed.  
Some share their commencement speeches while others share the things that they wish they knew before starting out.

They explain everything from how to create your own company to how to overcome what seems like constant rejection from employers, because they've all done it before, and succeeded wildly. Check out a few excerpts below:

From Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

"The best advice I could give any graduate is to spend your time working on whatever you are passionate about in life. If your degree was focused upon one particular area, don't let that stop you moving in another direction. If college hasn't worked out for you, don't let that put you off.

"You may decide to take a break and consider your options. I would urge you to travel, take on new experiences and draw upon those when it comes to making the decisions that will shape your future. The amount of business ideas that people pick up from traveling the world is enormous."

Geoff Yang, board member at TasteMade

"Life is short. As you embark on the rest of your life, consider what you want it to be like and what you want to accomplish. Pretend for a moment that rather than graduating, starting your career, and moving on toward the rest of your life, you are at the end of it. "How would people remember you, as both a person and a professional? Write your eulogy now. Think about how you want to be remembered by your family, friends, and colleagues. Let this shape you."