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Twelve Thoughts for Friday

Thinking... T-Shirt

Twelve Thoughts for Friday (or whichever day you’re reading this on).

  1. Reading regularly is important.
  2. Don’t expect different results if you keep doing what you’ve always done.
  3. If you want to be change the way you think and act, do spend time with people and communities who think and act the way you’d like to be.
  4. Don’t look externally for validation, but do regularly measure your progress against your own markers.
  5. Don’t compare yourself to others, especially what you see of others on Social Media. Facebook is the edited highlight reel of our lives.
  6. Do finish work early today. I’ve yet to meet someone in the later years of their life who ever told me they regretted not working longer hours.
  7. Do that one thing you wish you had more time to do for just one week. Don’t have time? Don’t watch Television this week.
  8. Do what you love to do every day. Don’t give up until you’re doing this.
  9. Do realise that you can do anything, but also realise that you can’t do everything.
  10. Don’t kid yourself that Facebook is important to your success.
  11. Do consider that to achieve more, you often have to do less. The key is to understanding what you need to do less of.
  12. Finally – don’t keep waiting for the right moment to tell those who you love, respect and who influence you how much you appreciate them. That right moment is now. Right now. A telephone call is great, a hand-written note is good, but even an e-mail is better than not saying anything at all.

Managing For Success 2012 – A 3 Day Online Conference for Computer Consultants

Managing For Success 2012 LogoI often speak about the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to learn my trade from some of the best people within our industry space. Both here in the UK, as well as in North America, Europe and Australia, there are some individuals who have been incredibly generous with their time and experience in sharing their knowledge with me and in many cases, the wider Community.

Karl PalachukAt the top of that list of individuals is Karl Palachuk. As well as writing what I consider to be the premier blog within the SMB IT industry – Small Biz Thoughts – Karl is a prolific author and has shared countless hours of knowledge through his blog posts, webinars and Podcasts that I personally have found invaluable, and I know many others have too.

Karl is now trying something new by hosting a 3-Day Online Conference specifically for Computer Consultants, in June 2012. The conference will focus on building successful business processes and will feature some of the best business and technology speakers in the U.S.

The online conference – Managing for Success 2012 – is the first event of its kind targeting technology providers and computer consultants.

Two of the keynote speakers at the Conference are Stephanie Chandler and Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Chandler is the author of seven books, including Own Your Niche on the Internet and Beyond. Her Business Info Guide web site – www.BusinessInfoGuide.com – is an extremely popular destination for small business owners. Patrick Schwerdtfeger is an internally recognized authority on social media marketing and the author of several books, including Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed.

Other speakers include some of the most influential pioneers and opinion leaders in the world of technical consulting. But this is not a technology conference. As Karl says “This is a business focused conference for I.T. Professionals. We want to help computer consultants to be better business people, with a vision for the future and strategies for success. That’s why we named the conference Managing for Success 2012. Conference sessions will cover managing a business, marketing a business, creating standard operating procedures, building a strong team, and even buying up your competition.”

The conference is online only and will run 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM EST on June 26-28, 2012. Whilst that might mean some late nights for those of us in the UK who will be participating, I’m more than confident that the content will be worth it and as attendees can choose to listen live or also have access to the recorded sessions – you can revisit anything you miss. In all, the conference will broadcast eighteen hours of programming in three days.

The conference registration and information site is now available – so if you’re interested in learning from some amazing presenters, I’d encourage you to check it out.

Good luck to Karl and everyone involved in the event!

Why Successful Business Leaders Read Regularly

Pile of BooksI’ve always been an avid book reader. I have a large library of Biographies, Self-Development books and Business tomes and am always on the look out for book recommendations from others.

Truth be told, like most people I’ve spoken to, (especially fellow business owners) I buy more books than I actually read – especially when it comes to business books.

Just like subscribing to a gym membership but never actually going to the gym, buying a business book somehow makes you feel like you’re declaring your good intentions to learn about a subject, even though you may take ages to read said book.

That pile of books you haven’t read

The problem with having a ton of books sitting on a bookshelf at home is that my reading mood seems to change frequently and the book I actually want to read never seems to be the one I’m carrying with me. I can be sat in the barbers waiting for my hair (what little there still is of it) to be cut and I’ll be in the mood to read some Tech History. I can be travelling by aeroplane and suddenly be in the mood for some Self-Development reading. Or I could be in a park on a sunny day and fancy reading some fiction. Chances are the book I actually have with me is something I feel I *should* be reading (such as a business tome) but am probably not in the mood to read.

Amazon KindleA few months ago that all started to change for me – and it’s all thanks to the Amazon Kindle.

Benefits of an e-Reader

Having an e-Reader like the Kindle means I can pretty much carry all the books I now buy with me wherever I go. I now find myself reading a lot more, because the book I’m in the mood to read is nearly always with me at the time I want to read it.

But why is reading important for business success?

Tom Peters believes in out-reading the competition. He suggest that ‘A’ player executives out-read ‘B’ and ‘C’ players – reading on average 24 books per year.

I think regularly reading helps to improve the way you think as a business owner. Quite often I’ll be reading a chapter of a book and within the first few paragraphs, my mind will pop up with a thought or suggestion – often a solution to a problem or challenge I’ve been wrestling with.

For me, this happens most regularly when reading business books and biographies – as I’m often reading the writing of someone I admire or respect. Books are a great way of learning from successful people or thought leaders I appreciate.

Reading inspires me with ideas. It fills me with enthusiasm and energy. Quite often, taking 15 minutes to read the chapter of a book will give me the energy to crack on and get more done in that day than I otherwise would – especially if I’ve found myself in a mid-afternoon slump, moving papers around aimlessly or browsing Facebook. Reading helps re-focus my mind on what I want and need to be doing to be successful.

Don’t have time to read?

The most common reason I hear for that pile of books gathering dust is that business owners “don’t have time”. I understand that – there is a hundred things to do every day, and the work available will *always* expand to fill the time you have available. Having an e-Book reader like the Kindle will help, but you still need to make the time to read.

Need help finding the time to enjoy the benefits of reading? Try this cheap (or free!) experiment.

  1. If you own an Amazon Kindle. Great, you’re all set.
  2. If you don’t own a Kindle – they’re currently selling for £89. Treat yourself for Christmas!
  3. Alternatively, go and download the Amazon Kindle Reader Application for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad or Android Device. It’s free.
  4. Next, go and grab hold of Seth Godin’s book “Poke The Box” or Steven Pressfield’s “Do The Work” – or preferably, both – in Amazon Kindle e-book format. Both books are just a few quid in cost.

Either of these books will be downloaded within seconds, and you’ll have read them, electronic cover to cover, within an hour (and probably less!).

The Domino Project

The Domino Project LogoBoth of these books are part of Seth Godin’s The Domino Project, a new way of looking at publishing. In reality, both books are actually less your traditional book and more like manifestos, but I’m pretty sure both books will have the same effect on you that they did on me – they’ll inspire, energise and motivate you to get on and be successful at whatever you do.

If that works for you (or if you’re too tight to pay for the two books I mentioned) then go grab the next book in The Domino Project, The Flinch by Julien Smith. You can find it (for a short time only) free at Amazon. I’ve not even read this book yet but am guessing it’ll be just as thought provoking, motivating and inspiring as Poke The Box and Do The Work.

There’s no excuse for testing this theory. The books are cheap (or free), the method convenient, and the investment of time required for the experiment low.

Give it a try and let me know what the results are. Smile

How often do you take a break?

As well as being someone I’m fortunate enough to consider a friend, Andy Parkes is also one of my favourite bloggers. He writes a great mixture of technical articles and small business thoughts. If you’re not subscribing to his blog then I’d encourage you to do so.

Last week, Andy wrote a fantastic blog post about something that I know had been on his mind for a while. In the post, entitled “When did you last have a real break?” Andy spoke very personally about feeling burnt out, un-creative and in a rut and how taking a proper break away from his business had subsequently helped him re-charge his batteries and come back rejuvenated.

Obvious advice?

Relax“Take a break” seems such obvious advice when given, but in my experience is often the advice most ignored. It seems the majority of us feel that if we just push to get that to-do list completed then we’ll feel better and be able to relax. But somehow when we follow that path it doesn’t quite work out that way and by working harder, pushing ourselves a little more – we end up no further forward than when we began.

I’m a big advocate of taking a break. For me it’s not just long weekends and holidays, but taking time out during a day – ten minutes reading a chapter of a book, or half an hour eating lunch away from your desk – this isn’t time lost, but time well spent as you return to your work responsibilities with a clearer sense of direction and more energy. It’s the old phrase about working smarter, not harder.

Supporting yourself through systems

I coach my MSP clients, especially the smaller clients, to put systems and processes in place that enable them to delegate or outsource work and therefore take a break. Avoiding doing so means that you’re running an unsustainable business. In reality it’s a simple choice of planning now to enable yourself to take a break soon, or ignoring the inevitable and waiting for your business to crumble around you as you’re forced to step away from it – through burn-out, through illness, through family emergency, or through some other circumstance out of your control.

Holiday e-mail addiction

But I’ll confess that typically, when I take a long weekend or a holiday, my definition of “taking a break” has always been that I’ll do some e-mail triage in the morning, and maybe again in the late afternoon. I’m never truly away from work – just doing much less of it than normal.

So last week I tried an experiment and took a proper break. I made a statement by setting my out of office message using my own brand of humour to inform people I wouldn’t be responding to e-mail (Susanne wrote an blog post about my own out of office message and made some interesting observations on OOO messages in general) and then I spent time relaxing with friends. No e-mail at all.

In fact, apart from firing my laptop up to find a last minute hotel room on the South Coast, I didn’t use my computer at all.

The results

Do you know what? Upon returning to the office, my business is still here, nobody has complained about my absence, I’ve not missed any opportunities (quite the opposite in fact) and the world is still turning. Amazing huh?

As somebody who follows the “Inbox Zero” philosophy, it’s also made me question some of my beliefs about how e-mail should fit into my life.

Conclusion

In our modern lives we are used to being always “on”. Always being accessible electronically. But I’m coming round to the notion that this is actually a subconscious choice we make rather than an unavoidable fact of modern life.

By forcing ourselves to turn “off” regularly we gain a lot of perspective that helps us be more productive and to make more of a difference on a day-to-day basis.

I believe that taking a break, and often, is an important a skill as anything else we can learn to do.

Surround yourself with Success

I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you act a certain way, pretty soon it’ll stop being an act and that’s just how you’ll be.

  • Nervous when doing public speaking but want to be a good public speaker? Act in the way you think a successful public speaker would behave, including the way they dress and hold themselves on-stage.
  • A bit of a wall flower, but want to be a better business networker? Act like you’re the best networker in the world, asking the questions a good networker would ask, and responding to the answers you receive as a good networker would.
  • Have a desire to be seen by your peers as an industry subject matter expert? Act as though you’re already a industry subject matter expert, read the books such an expert would read, do the research an expert would undertake, talk about the things an expert would engage others in conversation about.

SUCCESSFULLFAILURE (opening of Dutch Identity at de Paviljoens in Almere)

Struggling to imagine a better you?

But if you’re like me, and perhaps have very little imagination (although I often act as though that isn’t the case) it can be hard work to “imagine” how you’re supposed to be acting.

One idea that might work is to put yourself in a situation where you can observe how people who are already successful behave, and then act that way.

  • Want to be a great public speaker? Make sure you’re regularly watching great public speakers, and making notes on how they dress and present. Take time to meet them after their presentation and introduce yourself. Ask them how they prepare for a presentation.
  • Want to be a better business networker? Get yourself to the best business networking events and watch how other attendees conduct themselves. Ask them how they got to be a good business networker.
  • Want to be seen by your peers as an industry subject matter expert? Spend time with those people you respect as industry subject matter experts. Learn from them, understand how they view the world, ask them what they’re reading right now.

Once you start doing this, you’ll become comfortable at acting the way you want, because you’re around other people who are acting the same way. It suddenly doesn’t seem quite as strange.

Noticing the change

But another strange thing happens. When you start acting in this new way, the people you currently spend time with will notice it. Some will sub-consciously notice this and modify their own behaviour to match.

Others will actively point out they notice your changes and likely tell you that “this isn’t you” and that you acting this way will “never work”. They’re cynical that your “new act” will work.

Choices, Choices

You’re then left with a choice. Do you continue to spend time with the cynics, who rarely offer new ideas and tend to drag your own enthusiasm levels down, or do you politely walk away from those people around you who don’t support the changes in your life?

Conclusion

If you’re finding changing something in your life hard, try seeking out and surrounding yourself with people who you’ve already made that change, and start acting like them.

Once you start seeking people out who are successful, and walking away from those who are cynical, change becomes an awful lot easier.

 

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