Category Archives: Transitions

What’s Your Passion?

Passions. You have to have them if you want to stay vital and mentally fit.

What’s Your Passion?

About four decades ago my father took me to a restaurant where we lived in Santa Barbara, California called Don Vito’s Spaghetti Syndicate. I do not remember how the food tasted by it had a jukebox filled with records of the Big Bands. We played name that tune and my dad knew every song. Aside from realizing that at one time he must have been cool, that evening kindled my life-long love of swing music. So in pursuit of my mania for “The Big Noise,” here are my top four places to listen:

KCEA 89.1 – Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California. A listener-supported radio station, hands down, the best station I have found.

The Swingin’ Years – heard 6:00 to 10:00 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays on KJazz, KKJZ 88.1, California State University Long Beach. Since 1956, Chuck Cecil has hosted this radio show of original records from 1935 to 1955. Chuck, who is a heck of a nice guy, has interviewed just about every big name performer so music is interspersed with cuts from these conversations as well as background on events current to the year he is featuring.

Kings Radio KZPO 103.3 – Lindsay, California. A commercial station, it plays “Nostalgia Music,” primarily from the 1950s and 1960s with some 40s and early 70s thrown in for good measure.

Martini in the Morning – Internet radio station originating from Los Angeles. Brad “Martini” Chambers was a D.J. on the last surviving adult standards station in Los Angeles. When it went off the air he started MITM and it has been on the air for several years. The station plays classic and contemporary swing and big band tunes.

TuneIn, a website at which you can listen to thousands of radio stations from all over the world, has all of these stations. I have it on my iPhone and iPad so I can hear swing music everywhere. As well, you can listen on iTunes, which is what I am doing right now.

Like anyone with a passion I could go ad nauseam. Books I have read, bands I like, movie trivia. Regrettably I suspect most of you do not share my enthusiasm. Not to worry. If I have not sparked your interest tell me about your passion and perhaps you will spark mine.

Question – What is your passion?

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16 Skills You Need to be an Entrepreneur

Last week I blogged on how to overcome the fear of failure. Step one is to get a list of the skills you need to be successful.

16 Skills You Need to be an Entrepreneur

Here is my list:

  1. Persistence. No one said it better than Teddy Roosevelt – “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” While you need not be an expert in most of the others, at this skill you must excel.
  2. Honest. Also required. Do you always speak truthfully? Do you feel compelled to fudge when your ego is at stake? Can you assess matters without pretense? Will you listen to biting criticism and act on it when it is true?
  3. Balance between obstinacy and patience. Patience is a virtue except when action is needed. Can you focus your persistence on the right one at the right time? Good advisors will help.
  4. Problem solver. Whatever you think your business is or will be, almost for sure it will turn out differently. Its success will hinge on whether when you encounter problems you take them as challenges to overcome or insurmountable walls.
  5. Goal setter. When the going gets tough perhaps the only thing that will see you through is irresistible goals.
  6. Plan and Implement Tasks. Step by step you reach your goals by completing the necessary tasks. You need to create a plan and navigate through the inevitable changes.
  7. Time management. As an entrepreneur, you will always have more to do than time to do things. You will be able to take more action toward being successful if you manage your time well.
  8. Delegator. Successful entrepreneurs know what they do well and surround themselves with people who do the other things better than they do. Can you give up the authority that is necessary for a coworker to meet a responsibility?
  9. Manager. Each person you deal with is unique so you will need as many management styles as you have people to manage.
  10. Understand numbers. You do not need to be an accountant, but you have to understand what your financial people tell you and develop an awareness for when what they say does not make sense. Also, you need to be able to speak coherently to suppliers, employees, investors, and bankers.
  11. Know your product/service inside out. Michael Hyatt calls this Wow. Be an expert in the service you offer. Have a product quality second to none and be able to explain why.
  12. Compelling storyteller. Previously called being effective at sales and marketing, the advent of social media requires that you have a narrative that motivates clients, customers, employees, and investors. Do you write and speak well? Are you adept at presenting ideas in multiple ways so as to engage the greatest number of people?
  13. Skillful using social media. No matter how captivating your story, if no one hears it your business will go nowhere. Social media is the tool to spread the word. While it has a low cost of entry, it can have long learning curve.
  14. Can you talk to just one more person? When you do not know the answer to a question will you seek out people until you really understand an issue? Will you speak with one more prospect if that is what it takes to meet your goal?
  15. Good communicator. Related to being a good manager, lasting relationships are built on a foundation of solid communication.
  16. Negotiator. Roger Dawson says everything you want in life is owned or controlled by someone else. Negotiation is the means to get what you need.

When I started my first business I was competent in about a quarter of these. Classes, working with others, listening to recorded programs, and other means dramatically increased and improved my skills.

Question – What other skills do you think are essential to entrepreneurial success?

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5 Steps to Overcoming Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons that people do not start businesses. But is this fear justified?

5 Steps to Overcoming Fear if Failure

My first business lasted only three months, long enough for me to learn how difficult it would be to make money designing and printing t-shirts with slogans. Four years after starting my second business, a real estate company, I was in deep trouble. It was a day-by-day struggle to keep the doors open. But three years later the situation was completely reversed. My business lasted for 20 years until I sold it when I joined the navy.

Business consulting firm Fundera indicates 50% of small businesses fail in the first five years. Less often cited is the countervailing data that 35% of businesses are still around after 10 years. In other words, if you make it past the first five years, you have a 70% chance that you will still be in business five years later. Much better odds.

The Big Picture blogger Barry Ritholtz notes there is a difference between a voluntary closure and a failure. While the Census indicates over 90% of businesses fail, Dun & Bradstreet notes that only 10% of business closures are due to bankruptcy. While this does not mean that the other 80% do not have financial challenges, it does indicate that the business owners were able to work out a solution on their own terms.

A glance at the most common reasons for failure shows most relate to inexperience or insufficient or bad financing arrangements. Note that the second issue is often caused by not understanding the true requirements of a venture. As well, lenders want to see a track record.

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How do you overcome fear of failure? See it for what it is: an intuitive sense that you lack the knowledge and experience to succeed. How do you overcome it? Here are the steps:

  1. Get a list of the skills you need to run a business. I will be posting one next week.
  2. Inventory your skills. Be honest. If you are not sure whether you have a particular skill talk with people who do and assess yourself in comparison to them.
  3. Identify gaps. For example, if you do not know about bookkeeping where can you get this knowledge? How about the free videos online that will teach you to use QuickBooks.
  4. You do not need to be an expert in everything. Keep in mind proficiency is the goal. In many cases, you can buy the expertise you need, especially in administrative matters.
  5. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur rather than being wedded to a specific idea. In this way, the failure of a particular business becomes just a step leading to your eventual triumph.

Viewed this way, your surest road to success is to get started.

There is no better way to learn entrepreneurship than doing it. Make your first venture small, part-time, requiring little or no start-up capital. If it takes off, wonderful. If not, you have gained a lot of knowledge at a low cost.

As an entrepreneur, whenever I make a mistake I compare the loss to the cost of the Wharton Business School. Currently, at $93,000 annually, think about how much experience you can buy yourself before you would have spent the equivalent of the two-year program.

Question – What holds you back from starting a business?

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What Is Success?

What is success? A lot of money? Power? A big house? In my experience rarely is anyone’s definition of success so simple. These are just yardsticks by which aspects of success are measured. Most people would agree that Mother Teresa was successful even though she was not wealthy and did not have a mansion. While she had great moral power, it is unlikely that having it was part of her definition of success.

What is Success?

For me, success means fulfilling what I believe is my purpose in life. As a result, it is not a goal but a process. This is why I think it is so important to have a personal mission statement.

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Ron of the Wisdom Journal lists six factors to consider when defining success. Prolific Living blogger Farnoosh lists ten questions for you to gain clarity on this issue.

What will you be resolved about?

Question – How do you define success?

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Here is a Method to Help Children from Adolescence to Adulthood

Do you remember the last time you went through a rite of passage? Was it your wedding, college commencement, or high school graduation? As part of the event, did you feel the solemnity of the change or was it essentially a big party?

Here is a Method to Help Children from Adolescence to Adulthood

In his excellent book Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, Dr. John E. Sarno hypothesizes that one source of physical pain is the tendency of the unconscious part of our personality, which is childish and narcissistic, to seemingly unreasonably generate anger. Like the temper tantrum a child throws when he does not get his way.

Dr. Sarno cites Joseph Campbell’s observation that in our society we do not have powerful, dramatic, specific rites of passage that sharply distinguish between childhood and adulthood the way more "primitive" tribes did. As a result, people retain more of their childish tendencies despite their chronological age.

This issue encompasses more than people experiencing needless levels of anxiety, anger, and pain. The longer adulthood is postponed the less likely behavior will default to maturity and the more difficult it will be to assume responsibilities. Consequently, mental and spiritual fitness degrade, leading to greater difficulty navigating all of life’s challenges and straining a person’s long-term endurance.

In my own faith tradition, the Bar/Bas Mitzvah has lost much of its power to affect a metamorphosis amidst the revelry. In the military, I met service members under 30 who were on their third or fourth marriage. At its root was an unwillingness to function as a grown-up.

One way to rectify this situation is to reinstitute rites of passage that inspire awe. Families, organizations, and religious institutions must re-assume responsibility for transitioning children to adulthood.

Question – How should parents bring about adulthood for their children?

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