What Should the Government Do?

This morning, one of my good friends--a brilliant and insightful business analyst you should know--asked me what I thought about the latest McKinsey Quarterly newsletter article entitled, "Where are the jobs." Given the questions that I have had on this, I'll share my thoughts that came from my response to her: he key job growth will come from small businesses, including innovations in retail (did you see this article about 4Food?). And the only way to get businesses in those sectors to grow is to free up money that is not being used to pay them right now: consumer's money and larger businesses' money that is used to buy products and services from these smaller businesses.

What is going to free those funds? Confidence.

Yeah, I know it's not the whiz-bang idea that everyone thinks we need, but it really is what we need. Confidence. It was the key difference between two speeches from a generation ago:

"The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

"As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning." (that was Jimmy Carter's infamous speech, that entirety of which is here... how familiar does that sound and how true (again) today?)

Compare it to this:

"If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

"It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope."

That, of course, was Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address, and it's no less true today.

After that speech, the country went on a tear that lasted a couple of decades.

The facts are that creativity fuels innovation and innovation fuels the economy. Without confidence, there is no creativity.

What can the government do? Stop the spending, drop the taxes, create a predictable environment for innovation to be free to develop. Otherwise, the innovation gets spent trying to get around governmental interference.

What do you think?

More on the Remedy for the "Hireless" Recovery

There are a number of very specific reasons that this worldwide economic situation persists, primarily, as I wrote earlier, due to the very poor decisions and lack of clarity from politicians. While we do live in a worldwide economy, the United States remains that primary engine of that economy. For that reason, what happens in the US leads the rest of the world in a particular direction. Right now, that direction is aimless wandering. For more evidence of the repercussions of the unpredictable environment that the US government has created with its fast-changing taxes, fees, and laws, realize that the 500 largest non-financial corporations are holding more than 10% of their assets in cash according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. That's about a trillion US dollars sitting on the sidelines. It's not hiring new staff, developing new products, or buying new capital. It's sitting there doing nothing.

Why? Because the management of those companies doesn't know what they are going to have to do next as the US government changes the rules yet again. So, they hold on to the funds just in case they might need them to handle yet another "great idea" from government bureaucrats who have never had to make payroll or delivery a product or produce a service that customers value. They are utter unequipped to understand -- much less implement -- effective solutions to economic issues involving the complex interrelationship of business.

The first thing to do is to promise and then deliver predictability to the market, and not just for interest rates. Interest is not the only expense that businesses have to plan to address, so predictability must extend to the other areas such as regulation, taxes, fees, and other mandates. When that happens, those funds will find their way into investment, turning into jobs, investment, and an economy on the rebound.

Until then...? A continuing malaise.

The Value of Decisiveness

Earlier this past week I was in my home office working on a new iPhone app for a client when my phone rang. On the other end of the line was a northeastern accent that I recognized right away. Last winter, this friend and I had spent the better part of a day skiing around Copper Mountain. He and his family were visiting from New Hampshire, and I had the joy of showing he and his two boys some of my favorite secret stashes on a day that still had some powder to be found. As I answered the phone, he asked me how I was doing, and I mentioned to him the wonderful Colorado weather. "Yes," he said with a wistful longing in his voice, "the boys still talk about that day with you at Copper. That was a great day!"

Yes, it was. But, that's not why he called. You see, he's a Vice President of Marketing at a major corporation and he was calling to find out if I'd have time to take on a small project for him. We chatted for a few minutes so I could get a basic understanding of what he needed. "Yes," I said, "that's something that is a good fit for me, and I'd really like to work on it with you."

...and like that, it was a done deal.

We had our kick-off call the next day, and I'll be working with him over the next few weeks to build content for marketing one of their product lines as they launch a new set of communications.

Decisiveness.

It can really make a difference for you and your business. It's going to help him with their process, we'll get a lot done, and their customers will get some great insights into their products.

Your decisions are best in this order:

  1. The "right" decision
  2. The "wrong" decision
  3. No decision

Today more than ever the adage applies: You can't steer a ship that isn't moving. Make a choice. Get moving. And adjust as you go along.

A Further Analysis of Network Neutrality

Earlier this week, you may have read my post on Why "Net Neutrality" is Wrong. In it, I illustrated the reasons for network management control of the network, and also mentioned how most of the politicians involved just don't get it (and believe me, I got email about the video linked to my "idiot politicians" statement!). Today, Larry Downes of The Technology Liberation Front breaks down the Google/Verizon model legislation and outlines the irony of who is complaining about it in his excellent article Deconstructing the Google-Verizon Framework. When you read it, you'll begin to see the disingenuous nature of so many knee-jerk reactions to political gamesmanship. It's a good read.

The bottom line remains: if we are to have all of the applications that we want to have on the Internet, we need to protect it from being controlled by political whims and wanna-be political engineers. The challenges are far greater than can be solved by political debate, and most of what we're seeing these days makes it clear that actually solving problems is beyond the ken of most in political life. Note that I don't call them "leaders." That's on purpose. I have too much respect for true leadership.

Of Course It's a "Jobless Recovery"

As I sat in my family room here in Boulder, Colorado a few days ago thinking about the utter ignorance of the people who are making laws in this country, I began writing this post. Then, this morning, I read this excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal: "Why I'm Not Hiring" by Michael P. Fleisher outlines the reality of the situation that the ignorant, poll-driven politicians have created. Subtitled, "When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits." the piece demonstrates why the "recovery" is "jobless:" The government is doing almost everything in its power to make it painful to hire, and is simultaneously making it clear that it will very likely get more difficult to hold on to existing employees by increasing fees, taxes, and other mandatory payments for having an employee.

In short, the politicians have killed any hope of new jobs.

And why wouldn't they? They don't understand business. They don't see how many flows in business, or understand forecasting, revenue, cash flow, or managing to a budget. After all, when they want more money, they simply pass a law to get it.

Of course, those laws never actually work they way that they had planned, since money naturally moves away from areas that are taxed. That's why no one is hiring.

So, in short, the very structures that the government is putting in place has killed the employment marketplace. It will not improve until there is some assurance that the idiots in Washington, D.C. won't make yet more changes on a whim and a prayer. And that's not going to happen until there is a change of thinking in those circles.

You cannot vilify business and those wealthy enough to run businesses without also decimating the job market. Yet, that's exactly what they are doing in D.C.

Update: So what can be done?

It's actually quite simple: lower the burden on those who do the employing, and make the costs of hiring and maintaining employees predictable.

How is that done?

That's also simple: reduce taxes and fees on employers and employees and create laws and policies that make those reductions predictable, giving 12 months' notice for any increases. When increases can happen at any time, business owners and leaders must maintain additional reserves to cover unexpected costs dictated by the whims of government.

For some real research into what happens when these kinds of approaches are followed, look at The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates, the Joint Economic Committee report on the Reagan tax cuts, and Wikipedia's explanation of the Laffer Curve for some insights into how complex the interconnections are. Regardless of this theoretic conversation, predictability is the key to business management, and the lack of predictability is a primary issue impacting the "Jobless Recovery" that we're now seeing.

Second update: I am clearly not alone in my thinking on this. For another, there is Michael Schrage's perspective on his Harvard Business Review blog article "The Hireless Recovery" (my thanks to my good friend Stephanie George for pointing me to this article!).

Steve Jobs is Right (Again)

Yesterday, Steve Jobs directly addressed the YouTube videos, press reports, and bloggers who have been reporting on signal strength loss with the new iPhone 4 (I'll address the iPhone 4 in a focused post early next week). He was 100% right in what he said, and I'm appalled by the response from both the mainstream media and the tech bloggers--both of whom I expect to know better and behave with better integrity. So, what is he right about?

He's right that:

  1. The press and many others can't stand it when a person or company performs well and consistently. They tear others down in an effort to look good. What do you call people who behave that way towards others?
  2. Every wireless device is effected by being close to a bag of salt water like a human body.
  3. Apple made it's biggest mistake by having the spot that's most effected by the touch of a hand be marked by the black line between the two antennas.

You know from reading this blog that I think success is to be celebrated, not destroyed, so you can imagine how I feel about the ridiculous attacks on Apple and Jobs by the press and bloggers. But, that's how they sell ads, I guess. What it means for you is the same as it does for most so-called news outlets: take it with a gigantic grain of salt!

What you may not know about me is that my engineering background is in analog electrical engineering. When everyone else in my class in the MSU Engineering College was focused on digital systems, I was working on antennas, transmission lines, and cellular radio technologies. Recently I have returned to work in that area of engineering (primarily with 4G networks), and I can claim far more expertise than the riffraff who have been writing about "Antennagate." As a result, starting with the announcement of the iPhone 4 (in fact, from the photos and dubious article published by Gizmodo of the iPhone 4 before the announcement) I expected that the less-knowledgable would grab onto the external antenna as a bad idea.

But, it was a good idea. And Jobs is right: every wireless device is impacted by proximity to a human. Unfortunately, the FCC creates tests that don't do a reliable job of representing real-world use scenarios. And to add to that, the manufacturers have to comply with the FCC requirement often to the detriment of performance.

Lastly, completely unintentionally, Apple happened to mark the weak spot with the black band at the bottom of the iPhone 4. With the design of the antenna and that obvious black line, curious amateur engineers would bridge the two antennas with their hands to see what happened. What they found was that the device's signal was negatively impacted.

Of course, it's not for the reason that they think. It's not the bridging of the two antennas. If it was, turning off the signals to the second antenna (which is Bluetooth, GPS reception, and WiFi) would eliminate the issue. But, that's not what happens, because that's not the real issue.

I'll post my specific thoughts about the iPhone 4 for business use early in the week next week. In the meantime it is vitally important to understand that most of the people writing about this situation have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, are more concerned with controversy and page views than truth, and do not look at devices as tools but rather as collections of features.

None of which is helpful to you as a person looking for a tool for your business. More about the iPhone and business next week. In the meantime, post your thoughts in the comments...

Here are a few posts from other places on the iPhone 4, so-called "Antennagate," and more rational commentary:

Inside Apple’s Actual Distortion Field: Giant Chambers, Fake Heads, And Black Cloaks

Radio engineer: Consumer Reports iPhone 4 testing flawed (u)

FaceTime and Why Apple’s Massive Integration Advantage is Just Beginning

Total Recall Or Total Bull? Some Perspective On The iPhone 4 Antenna Frenzy

The Anandtech iPhone 4 Antenna Review

How Do You Judge Your Worth?

First, by the gift the Creator gave me in breath this morning. I am worthy of His care and His love. That is enough. But there is more...

Second, by the knowledge that I am unique in all history. There never has been nor will there ever be another just like me. As a result of the rule of rarity, that makes me priceless. Finding the path to the exercise of that value is a lifelong journey, but that does not diminish the truth that I am of exceptional worth.

Third, by those who have chosen to love me, starting with my amazing bride who has put up with my vagaries for more than 26 years. My kids, who love me even in their teen years. And the friends and mentors who have been so generous with me.

Lastly, by the value I am able to bring to others through who I am and what I know and do. Being valuable and generous in the eyes of others is a reminder of my worth. When I am not there, there are things that won't (or can't!) happen.

What about you?

Doing the Right Thing

Last night as I was the last one up and the house was quiet, it hit me. I remembered. I had forgotten up until that point with all the craziness of the day, but there is was, entering my thinking and kickin' me in the gut: Tomorrow is the day.

And that tomorrow came this morning. After a bright-eyed breakfast, our sweet Daisy puppy went with Mom and Megan to the vet. Yes, it was just routine surgery. Yes, she'll be fine. But you know what? That didn't really matter. I still hated to do it. We all did. But, it was the right thing to do.

Daisy is off to the vet today... She's so sweet! on Twitpic

There she was this morning, before her trip to the vet. Tonight, of course, she's been sleeping since she got home. Her tummy's been shaved. It's a bummer.

But, it was the right thing to do.

Often in life you are faced with questions about what to do. Will you do the easy thing or the right thing?

As Terry and I talked about Daisy this evening, she reminded me: "When we do the right thing, it can be hard. The outcomes, though, are the best."

And as usual, she's right.

To YOUR success, ssh

The Secret to 21st Century Capitalism

Last week I sat reading an email from one of the mailing lists that I receive. Some Internet friends and I have shared our lives on this list for well over a decade. From life and death to kids with croup, we've laughed and cried together. Maybe I'll tell you more about the group one of these days, but for now, I'd like to let you in our conversation from last week: the changing face of business. My friend Cindy Collins-Smith, the editor of Customer Relationship Management magazine who has had the opportunity to edit thought leaders such as Don Peppers/Martha Rogers, Chip Bell and Pete Blackshaw, among others, put it very well and succinctly:

Loyalty, not individual sales, is what will sustain [businesses] over the long term. [The] idea of maximizing profit at every point of contact is 20th century capitalism, not 21st. Successful 21st century capitalists will be looking for ways to build relationships with customers (audiences) over time, not just looking for immediate, short term profits.

This is a fundamental paradigm shift, and many businesses are missing it. In fact, many people are doing their level best to pretend that nothing has changed; that we'll go back to the way things were. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Twenty years ago, very few people had heard of the Internet. Today, it is a staple of every day life from the streets of Manhattan to the mud walkways of Kigali, Rwanda. The world is smaller and more interconnected than ever before, and the process is accelerating. How will you respond to this brave new world? How you respond will determine the degree of your success.

Ten years ago, most businesses poo-pooed the Web. They didn't see the value or the importance. While they were busy holding on to the past, visionary entrepreneurs like my friend and coach Matt Furey were creating Internet empires that would generate millions of dollars in sustainable revenue.

Today, we find ourselves at another juncture very similar to those turning points. Business is once again driven by relationships as it was a century ago. Now, though, those relationships are with like-minded people anywhere in the world. And today, the most powerful technology drivers are the social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others.

Social media really is the wild west, though. Even those of us who have been involved in various social media for many years (for me, it started over 25 years ago!) are finding it work to stay on top of the ebbs and flows. Yet this is what you as a business leader need to do to remain competitive and to catch this wave. So get on it!

If you want some help, get it from someone who focuses on business first, not the latest gadgets and "cool sites." A number of experienced business people have done just that and so I am working with them to build social media into their overall business strategy. It's your turn.

To YOUR success, ssh, your Geek Whisperer

PS Because my work with my clients is so hands-on, I can only take 3 more clients for the Social Media QuickStart program. Jump on it now!

What Have You Done for Me... Lately?

This is a tough one... As I sat in my family room this morning, dwelling on the beauty of spring in Colorado, breathing in the delicious morning air, I couldn't escape the thought that has been pressing on me for two weeks or more: What have you done for me... lately?

Perhaps you've heard this said by a colleague bitter at the turn of event at work. They've worked hard and delivered some great value for the company in the past, but that doesn't seem to matter. Now it's all about, "What have you done for me... lately?"

Perhaps you've even felt this way. I know that I have.

Let's turn it around for a minute to see whether or not it makes sense...

Imagine that you have a problem with an appliance -- say your washing machine. A helpful repairman comes to your home and does an excellent job fixing it. You are grateful, and pay him whatever the fee was. All went well.

However, six months later, he shows up on your doorstep. "Remember when I fixed your washing machine?" he asks. "I've run into a bit of a lull and need some more to make my bills. So, would you please pay me?" Are you eager to pay him more? Do you feel like you owe him more?

Of course not! He hasn't done anything for you... lately.

It's no different when the roles are reversed.

The key is to understand your Master Equation, and to make sure that you're adding value to your side of that equation every day. As Carl Hubbell said, " A fellow doesn't last long on what he has done. He's got to keep on delivering as he goes along."

What are you delivering today that is of outstanding value?

To YOUR success, ssh

PS My coaching students get personal feedback on both creating and communicating value. I may have a couple of slots opening. If you're interested, just send me a comment.

This Week's Big Announcements

Even as I enjoyed some time in London this past week, both meeting with some business colleagues and enjoying time alone with my bride of 25 years, there were a number of big announcements and product released in the technology world. You may be wondering about their use in your business, so I'll cover them in the next few posts: The first was the introduction of the Palm Pre by Palm and Sprint on June 6th. TImed to preempt Apple's pending Worldwide Developers' Conference and the expected announcement of a new iPhone, the Pre owned the technology press hype for a couple of days. Sprint and Palm say that they sold their expected number of Pres over the weekend, as well.

On Monday, Apple had its big announcements, including a new iPhone (the iPhone 3G S with the "S" being for "Speed", available in 16GB and 32GB models in white or black), new MacBook Pro models and features, and availability of Apple's new Snow Leopard operating system early this fall.

The question for you first needs to be this: Do you care?

If you have a mobile device that addresses your needs, ignore the Palm Pre and iPhone talk.

If you have a computer that you are using that you do not plan to replace, ignore the MacBook Pro talk.

If you do not use a Mac, ignore the Snow Leopard talk.

Now, use the time you've recovered to get some more of your business work done.

If you ARE considering new mobile devices, a new computer, or are a Mac user, then the next few posts will give you the keys to your decisions.

To YOUR success, ssh, your Geek Whisperer

PS As a journalist, I'm getting more and more notices about social media's use in all sizes of business. If you're not using an evolving strategy for it now, you need to be. Jump over here for a quick way to get started.

How to Fix the Recession

Before you get the wrong impression and before I go any further, let me just say that I love London. My wife Terry and I are enjoying our time here immensely as we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary here, but, just like in the States, they just don't get it. Today, the famously blunt British press was all over the Prime Minister (PM), his cabinet, and the Members of Parliament (MPs). Seems that many of the government's so-called servants have been busy ringing up tabs at taxpayer expense, many of which the press and constituents find wrong -- especially, as the press like to point out, during a recession.

I'll talk more about that later this week, but for now I want to focus in on a statement that was repeated multiple times this morning: It seems that the opposition is convinced that PM Gordon Brown can't "fix the recession" and his few remaining supporters are convinced that he's the right man for that job.

Irrelevant and misleading commentary. It's CRAZY!

For anyone to claim that government has a way to "fix" anything is the height of both stupidity and conceit. They have no such power, and, in fact, are finding their power more reduced by the day.

The good news for you, though, is that it doesn't matter which is true. There IS a way to fix the recession.

How?

You do it.

That's right, YOU.

It's really not hard to understand. It just takes some work. Here's the secret: produce a product or service that enough other people value enough to make it profitable for you. Then, sell enough of the product or service to earn as much as you would like.

And yes, it really IS that simple. That's how it all works.

So ignore the press. In fact, kill your TV and stop your newspaper subscription. As CNN found when they interviewed me, I get my news from Twitter and Facebook! Just dump the rest of that stuff. It's a waste of your time and bombards you with so much negative energy that it takes hours to recover.

What will you produce that others will want?

To YOUR success, ssh

PS Yes, this works even if you have a job. More on that tomorrow.

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaNovember 19, 1863

On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner commented on what is now considered the most famous speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In his eulogy on the slain president, he called it a "monumental act." He said Lincoln was mistaken that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Rather, the Bostonian remarked, "The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech."

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Lincoln's Gettysburgh Memorial

Twitter the Business Way

Recently, a few friends ganged up on me and asked me to coach them in using Twitter, the latest Web site to gather media attention. It turns out that you can use it as part of your business strategy, but there are a number of challenges along the way. So, I put together a coaching program. Here's the intro video:

Using Twitter, Facebook, and social networking for your business. Build relationships, increase sales, manage costs, increase profits. All by learning how to use these additional tools for your existing business.

You can learn more about this from the coaching page itself. I'd love to have you in the group!

Your Master Equation

It was 15 years ago that the process began for me. I was sitting in my manager's office at IBM, getting yet another positive performance appraisal. After 11 years with IBM, I had matriculated to a senior technical position, was well-respected around the world by my colleagues, and had helped create a business that would one day rescue IBM. But, my manager was talking about my value, and what she said shocked me. She said, "Steve, I don't understand why you're still here. I don't want to lose you, but I can't give you the raise you deserve. You could make two or three times what you're making here if you were out there. Why are you still here?" It was an interesting question, and one that propelled me onto a path I'm still following to this day. Before I started on that road, though, I had to figure out my master equation.

First, though, remember my post about how the economy really works? In it, I described how value is the key ingredient for determining your success in life and how other people see you. The key to really understanding your value and the amount of value you have to generate is your master equation. And after that meeting, I had to figure out mine.

Here is how I did it:

First, I determined what I wanted to earn in order to maintain our commitments and our basic wants, including all of the costs for benefits that I had taken for granted at IBM like health insurance, computers, office space, and anything else that I would require to run my business. This was a number similar to what IBM called the "burdened cost" of an employee (salary, benefits, and the facilities and equipment required). If you are an employee, it's the cost of having you as an employee to your employer.

Second, with that number, I worked the equations.

For purposes of illustration, let's say that I decided that I would need $150,000 per year to make it all work. That's the amount above the costs for any products that I would sell. That is what I would need to make a business work. The equation answers this question:

How many customers do I need at what profit per purchase to earn this amount?

Using our nice round number, I would need to sell 150,000 people my product or service at a $1 profit each.

Or, I would need to sell 75,000 people my product or service at a $2 profit.

Or, I could sell one person at a $150,000 profit.

Or anything in-between.

Those numbers give you the minimum value that you must add in order for your customers to be willing to pay your price. Your sales job gets easier if you add substantially more value. With my coaching clients, we work on finding ways to add ten time the value so that their customers see that it's obviously in their best interest to buy from them at those prices.

What about you?

Work these equations for yourself. Are you worth substantially more than your employer or customers are paying for you? The more valuable you are, the more obvious it is that it is in their best interest for your customers (or your employer) to continue working with you.

Those who are most valuable have the greatest chance for success. Every day, you can determine your value, and then you can drop back and look at a broader view to see how you are delivering value to those around you.

It gets really interesting when you realize that value isn't just about money.

Let me know the thoughts that this brings up for you. And...

Let's go! ssh

PS I did just get a new shipment of the Mastering Life book, so I can make a limited number available personally autographed. Visit my book page to check it out and order while I still have some.

The Truth About "The Economy"

Earlier this week, I sat in our kitchen surrounded by two dozen members of Terry's family. The conversation was ringing off the walls, as the family members dug into the food generously laid out by friends who supported us during this difficult time (for more on that, check this blog entry). I sat quietly for much of the time and listened to what people were saying. The topics ranged widely as you'd imagine, but work, business, and the economy figured prominently, especially since the family is spread from Colorado to Connecticut and New York City, with Peoria, IL thrown in for good measure.

As I listened, I realized that there are many people who do not understand even the simplest truths about "the economy" or "jobs" or "money" or who needs to take action to fix what's wrong. That's when I realized that funeral or no funeral, I need to sit down and write you about this to make sure that YOU know.

First, let's make sure that we're clear: YOU are selling something. Your time, your personality, your expertise is for sale, and ultimately, everyone in your life decides if you're worth whatever you cost. I know; it's a cruel truth, but it's the truth. And that truth, once truly understood, will give you all you need to be as successful in life as you want to be.

Want more? Be worth more. One of my favorite people (Zig Ziglar) says it this way: "You can have anything you want in life if you are just willing to help enough other people get what THEY want." This is the way that compensation moves from one person to another. In fact, it's the ONLY way.

To prove it, turn it around: Will you pay "too much" for something? Do you spend "too much time" with people who don't make your life better in return?

Of course not.

In that case, the only way to get others to pay you what you want, to spend time with you, or to compensate you in any other way is to deliver to them something they value MORE than what you cost them.

This is the secret truth that so many people miss. And, in fact, it is the truth that puts the lie to much of what's being said and published these days.

No one owes you anything. You don't owe anyone else anything. Each of us is free to give to others, to compensate others, or to walk away at any time. This goes for your employer, your customers, your family, and YOU.

This is the Law of Value.

It doesn't matter if you believe it or not. It won't change. But, when you dwell on it enough to "get it," it will change your life for the better. Immediately. All becomes clear.

My coaching students have seen this in their lives and businesses. They are taking it on and making a difference in the lives of their customers and their families. You can, too. Spend the time to really understand this, then make the commitment and change your life.

Let's go! ssh

PS You can have the same experience as the members of my coaching group. Apply today and I will contact you directly and work with you personally to give you the guidance and accountability you need to be successful. Go here today.

I Just Hung Up

"I just couldn't believe it!" Ross was practically beside himself as he recounted the story, "Here we are, their customer, having spent thousands with them, and they were acting like it was all our fault that we were getting nothing from the system!" "And what about all the challenges you were having with it?" I asked.

"That was our fault, too. We apparently aren't smart enough or dedicated enough to use it."

I spent more time with Ross, discussing the needs his business had for a tool to help track critical business information through his business, and we came up with some idea about what to do next.

Needless to say, the plans didn't include their former vendor.

I admit to being more than a little surprised with the way some businesses are treating their customers these days. They seem to think that you -- as their customer -- are a necessary evil. Like their products are perfect and if you would just be smart enough to use it, you'd be fine. They are getting in a fight with their customers.

What garbage!

I actually spend more time than you'd think unraveling situations like this and working with my clients to find a path that will work for them.

I will also say that technology is a fickle mistress. There are times it works amazingly well, and times when it fails miserably. Unfortunately, there are times when it's the same technology succeeding or failing, and the reasons are hidden and their appearance fleeting. The good news, though, is that there's always a solution.

If you'd like to let me know some of the things that are frustrating you right now, drop over to the survey and let me know.

This all came back to me last week. I was invited to participate on a call with a couple of "Internet Marketing Experts." Always open to new ideas and to hear what others are doing that's successful, I dialed in. However, I didn't last long.

I had just entered the call when one of the hosts started his introduction, "Today," he said, "we know you're on this call to learn money-sucking strategies..." and that was all I heard. I hung up. Maybe I should have kept listening to see what I could have learned, but some things are too important to me, and he was violating one of them: integrity. I have no interest in "sucking" money from someone. Nor do I teach it to my business and entrepreneurial clients.

It bothered me enough that I brought it up with my coach, Matt Furey, when we spoke later in the week.

"I don't like it," I said to him. "It's about providing value. When we provide more value than we ask in return, it all works. When we don't..." I let it trail off. "Exactly!" he said. "More so now than it has been for the past few years. Some people just don't realize it, yet.

"Be clear about the value you generate," he continued. "Make sure that you know what it is and how your clients see it. Then always deliver more than they expect."

Good advice. I follow it and you should, too.

Let's go! ssh

PS I'm pretty excited about the ways that Facebook and Twitter are changing lives and business. I'd love to have you as a friend on Facebook and Twitter.

Transformation Through Celebration

Yesterday I was here in Colorado and got to spend the morning with my son Gabriel at his Upward basketball game. Gabe is 7, and in his second year of organized basketball, and yesterday I got a great opportunity to see how much he has learned. And not just about basketball. Yes, I'm proud of him for his play on the court (2 steals, both leading to breakaway scores, 4 other buckets, and solid defensive play), but I was even more excited to see how he handled both success and adversity during the game.

Early in the game, he collided with another player and went down pretty hard. But he just jumped back up and kept playing. He hustled the entire game, too. But what I really appreciated was the way he celebrated, both for his own success and that of his teammates. With utter abandon, he'd celebrate a shot, a point scored, or a good defensive play. After his scores, he'd run back onto defense, pumping his fist or jumping in the air. Then, he'd settle back in and play.

As I watched the video again this afternoon, I am deeply grateful for the way he has learned to celebrate his successes... and those of others. There is nothing negative or offensive about it. It is innocent, honest, and heart-felt. He's excited and pleased and lets it show, then gets back to work.

Contrast this to most people. Most people focus on the negative. They beat themselves -- and others -- up for failures. They dwell on the bad. They expect it to get worse. In the best of times, they talk about how it can't last. In the worst, they talk about how much worse it can get. If something good happens, they say something ridiculous like, "It's about time," and then get ready for something to go wrong again.

Quite a contrast. My 7-year-old has it right while these adults have it wrong: celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, and then get back to work. Here's what's interesting about this approach: your success multiplies when you focus on it. As with Gabe's game yesterday when shaking off his early tumble and his first miss allowed him to make 6 in a row, your ability to shake off both the tumbles and the errors of life while focusing on the success you imagine will make all the difference.

Let's go! ssh

Who Makes You Scared?

Yesterday afternoon I sat at the kitchen table with my wife Terry for our daily ritual of afternoon tea. Whenever we can, we slow down for a few minutes, brew a pot of strong English tea, and sit and catch up for a few minutes. Tea is wonderful that way; you can't hurry the brewing of a good pot of tea. As we drink a strong cup of PG Tips, we talk. I like to hear what she's thinking and about her experiences of the day. Yesterday, she talked with me about a conversation with one of her health care professionals. She had felt a little something that concerned her, and so she visited with him briefly earlier in the day. She came away relieved and especially pleased when he told her that by his measure she was three years younger than she had been when she last visited him.

Pretty nice, eh?

But that wasn't the thing that struck me the most. That came as she was telling me why she so appreciates him and the way he talks with her. She said, "He never makes me scared or panicy like so many health professionals. They are very arrogant that their way is the only way. They treat me like an idiot. But he never does."

You may not remember, but Terry is no slouch. A valedictorian, a graduate of the oldest college in New York state with a degree in Computer Science, and she wrote code and manuals for IBM for many years. She's a smart lady. And yet, some health professionals treat her like and idiot and scare her.

That makes me think about about ways that you interact with others.

Fear is expediency for a weak person. They use fear to get their way in the short term. Sooner or later, though, they are going to lose their grip and fail.

There's a lot of fear going around right now. Maybe you've noticed. It depends on your focus how you respond. There have been many times in history that have been hard for some. The dark ages. The world wars. The Great Depression. And others. There have been many times of challenge. You know what they all have in common, though, is that things got better. In fact, eventually, things got great.

And that's what's going to happen again.

That's what I'm focused on and thinking about. Moving as quickly as I can towards that great future. Want to come along?

Let's go! ssh