Category Archives: Transitions

2 Key Traits for Social & Professional Success

Weighing the traits that will lead to success presents a contradiction. Common belief is that in order to succeed you need to have solid self-esteem. Yet, research shows essentially the opposite. Which qualities should you groom in yourself and loved ones?Most Effective Level of Confidence

While attending a chaplain training several years ago, a brand new chaplain was asked to open the event with a prayer. Evidently not having been informed that praying according to a specific faith tradition is a no-no, he ended his prayer with the phrase, “and in Jesus’s name we pray.” Virtually every chaplain quickly swiveled his head to look at me. The tension was palpable. Did they think my head would explode? I defused the strain by reminding all that he was one of ours first.

Useful Self-Esteem Must Be Earned

In truth, it did not bother me in the least. I know who I am and wish to be tolerant of people speaking or acting in ways that I do not. To me, being disturbed by such an incident would have demonstrated a lack of self-esteem.

Do you have strong self-esteem? Would you like to increase it? A surprising Ohio State University study indicates that if you are 18 to 27 years old you can increase your feeling of self-esteem by borrowing money. Apparently, it does not matter whether the debt is educational loans or credit cards.

While the study was not definitive on this point, researchers surmise that the reason credit card debt has as positive an impact as educational debt is that young people can gratify themselves without delay. The lower their income, the larger boost to their self-esteem. Do you see the problem? The fewer resources you have to repay it, the greater incentive you have to boost your self-esteem by borrowing money.

When people enter the 28 to 34-year-old range they start to show some stress about debt.

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There is significant evidence that the Self-Esteem Movement has created at least as many problems as it has solved. Dr. David Sack has researched this issue and concludes that in order to be effective self-esteem must be earned.

Low Self-Confidence Supports Professional Success

Here’s the rub: according to the Harvard Business Review, low, but not extremely low, self-confidence makes you more successful. You are more likely to pay attention to negative feedback, to be self-critical, to be motivated and work harder, to prepare more, and are less likely to be perceived as arrogant.

So which is better: high self-esteem or low self-confidence. The above data show that in social interaction having high enough self-esteem to let others express themselves without your being gravely offended will allow you to reduce stress in your life. Of course your self-esteem needs to be built on concrete achievements otherwise it is mere narcissism.

In your professional life, a healthy lack of confidence is likely to be most effective. How can you balance this against your self-esteem? Humility is the key. In business, there is always more to know and the right answer is rarely clear-cut. Knowing this should help you be humble as you navigate your professional life while avoiding being unduly strained by other people.

Question – How do you cultivate self-esteem without becoming arrogant?

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The Oldest New Concept in Entrepreneurship

Still looking for that brilliant idea that will guarantee your success in business? They are out there. And when someone unearths one and makes it successful they achieve tremendous wealth and fame. If this is your goal, by all means, keep looking.

But if you want greater flexibility to run your life, the ability to support your family, and less bureaucracy in your work environment read on.

The Oldest New Concept in EntrepreneurshipAfter 10 years running a small management company I found that numerous businesses like mine were being bought up because running them the way they had always been run was no longer profitable. Frankly, I had never had a great passion for property management. I was keen about eating, having a roof over my head, and many other things. I had two choices: innovate or sell.

Another 10 years later I did sell. By that time I was handling $25 million worth of property from my laptop. Wherever I had Internet access, be it a hotel room or Coffee Bean, I could take care of business. In these days of personal hotspots, I could have run it from the beach. My company was highly profitable because I substantially streamlined an administration-intensive business and made it virtually paperless.

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Dr. Samuel Johnson and Christopher Booker maintain there are only seven plots for literature and movies. To a large extent, that same can be said of businesses. Consider the following:

  • An online store is only today’s version of the Montgomery Ward catalog.
  • Blogging is just the latest means of pamphleteering and Twitter an even more up to date way.
  • Facebook is an asynchronous party line where you, instead of the telephone company, choose who listens to your calls.

The Internet is called a revolution. In reality, it allowed old ideas to be modernized.

Flourishing as an entrepreneur does not take genius or a unique idea. You need only find a way to do or make something better than your competition. Real estate agents at Century 21 The Masters are tops in the country because they are trained to concentrate intensely on the needs of people buying and selling homes.

Most successful entrepreneurs take a proven business and change something about it to gain a competitive edge such as:

  • Make a service more consumer-friendly. Mike Diamond plumbers show up at a specific time and are clean and well groomed. They get a premium over plumbers that only give a window during which they will show up and wear dirty clothes.
  • Handle business more efficiently. I leveraged off-the-shelf technology to save time, office supplies, postage, and many other resources. As a result, I could focus on my clients.
  • Offer greater choice. When you buy an iPhone you get a white charger and cable. But at Los Angeles Air Force Base there is a kiosk that has them in a rainbow of colors. At least two people are making money offering more choices than Apple does: the manufacturer and the vendor.

My success in property management came because I am very good at organization and efficiency not because I was brilliant at real estate. You can succeed by applying the skills at which you excel to a proven business. This is the surest path to entrepreneurial triumph.

Question – Where can you apply your expertise to improve the way a business is done?

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How to Insure Your Greatest Achievements Are Yet to Come

On Memorial Day I finished listening to Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour. The activities of Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant during World War II were brought to life and contextualized within the greater war effort. As is the case with many such biographical histories, the end of the book briefly summarizes the rest of the lives of each person.


How to Insure Your Greatest Achievements Are Yet to ComeWhile the first two men were household names for at least half a century, Gilbert Winant is virtually unknown. Yet it was his story that struck me most profoundly. Deeply loved by Britishers of all walks of life and universally acknowledged as having played a crucial part in the Allied victory, nonetheless, in 1947 he committed suicide.

As I was listening to this I entered Naval Base Point Loma and saw the American flag waving in the breeze. For a moment I was struck by the idea that I will never do anything as great as being a part of the United States Navy’s effort to defend our country. Did Gilbert Winant, who clearly was not a part of President Truman’s inner circle the way he was FDR’s, despair of ever achieving anything as important as his instrumentality in the victory over Nazi tyranny?

I quickly disavowed myself of the idea that my best days are behind me. But the thought that some of my fellow service members may draw such a conclusion impelled to write this post.

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Your military service is and was noble. You made sacrifices that more than 90% of Americans cannot understand but appreciate. Most significantly you took a risk to serve your country, especially if you saw combat. Sadly, some of your comrades did not survive. But thank G-d you did. Hopefully, the risk paid off in several ways including achieving your mission and gaining greater self-knowledge.

Here is the rub: If you want to do even greater things you will have to take risks again. They probably will not be life threatening, but they could temporarily crush your mind and spirit.

Yet this is the greatest training the military gives you: the ability to assess risk, mitigate it as much as possible, act in spite of the remainder, and recover no matter how it turns out. Consider the value this gives you as a spouse, parent, and provider. If the enemy could not deter you, how can friends?

While military service gave you an opportunity to be involved with greatness, the world still abounds with opportunities to surpass such eminent achievements. Will you dare to be greater than ever before? Will you take the risk?

Question – What great accomplishments do you want to pursue?

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How to Find a Job You Can Never Lose

Job security in the military, though not what it was a few of years ago, is one of the biggest benefits in this demanding profession. The path to advancement is well defined. Even today, if you are reasonably focused you have a good chance of staying in long enough to earn a pension. Government work seems secure.  But with annual budget battles and sequestrations, you won't find stability there either. In the private sector, it's virtually unknown. But there is another option.

How to Find a Job You Can Never Lose

For twenty years before joining the navy, I never worried about being fired. Why would I terminate myself? I knew my strengths and weaknesses and made sure I worked with others who complimented my abilities. Being self-employed gave me job security that I never had working for someone else.

Entrepreneurship is the ultimate employment guarantee. While occasionally you'll lose a client, necessitating a temporary reduction of your compensation, once you find a new client you can raise it. Over time you can make sure you always have a job and direct your work into areas you find stimulating while hiring others to do the tasks you aren't interested in any longer. You control your pay and benefits as well as your work environment.

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The learning curve can be steep. But once you have internalized the fundamentals of starting and running a business you will wonder why you ever thought about running the risk of working for someone else who could lay you off or fire you.

Question – Which do you think is more secure: working for someone or working for yourself?

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Are Conflicting Goals Preventing You from Succeeding?

“Life is series of missed opportunities.” One of my professors at architecture school used to tell me this when I had to miss a fun event in order to complete a project on time. As pessimistic as this view of life may be, nonetheless it embeds a valuable lesson. Life requires making choices. Inevitably we are going to miss out on something, at least temporarily. The key is to be intentional about it.

Are Conflicting Goals Preventing You from Succeeding?

As you develop your goals, in addition to considering the benefits of obtaining them also consider the costs:

  1. What expenditure of time, money, emotion, physical energy, and spiritual stamina is required to meet your objective?
  2. Who will have to make these outlays: you, your spouse, and/or your children?
  3. Are they prepared to do so?

By making sure everyone who is impacted has input, especially to your major goals, you increase your chance of success and decrease the likelihood that you will have to give up an opportunity.

Additionally, part of the process of setting goals is determining priorities. Just like when your attention is diverted from a task it takes time for you to deal with the distraction then refocus on what you were doing before, so too for achieving an objective. Take two major goals:

  1. Establish a close, resilient, relationship with your children
  2. Excel professionally

Accomplishing these at the same time will be difficult at best. Both require a great deal of time and attention. So-called “quality time” is a myth. If you cannot advance at work or build a business through quality time, why would it work with your children? It may seem that you are accomplishing both. Only later do you find the high-quality relationship it not actually there.

This is not to say that you cannot have both. Only that you decrease your chance of success when you make conflicting goals.

One of the reasons I strongly advocate entrepreneurship is the flexibility it allows for life planning. Your business does not have to be constantly on growth trajectory. Once it gets to a certain level you may choose to stay there for a while so you can focus on another stage of your life, such as parenting.

While it is true that “man plans and G-d laughs,” still determining that you will give up some goals in life and deconflict your plan to achieve those you choose to pursue will dramatically increase your chance of success.

Question – What conflicting goals do you need to resolve?

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