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In business, as in life, being informed is not just essential, it is a precursor to a productive life. As the saying goes “Ignorance is bliss” but practicing ignorance in reality allows others to pry, manipulate and use you.
What is amazing is that today’s IPhone users open their phones 80 times a day and have more information at their fingertips than any scholar in the world just a short twenty years ago. With this ease of access to knowledge one would think that we have all become more informed. Well we’d like to think that but then we’d be wrong.
Findings of the 2017 Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania bring us back to a stark and disturbing reality. The results were astounding and should concern all of us regardless of party affiliation:
One out of three couldn’t name a single right listed on the first amendment
Only 1 in 4 can name the three branches of government
A third of Americans can’t name a single branch of government.
In 1961, John Courtney Murray delivered a lecture, some say brilliant, titled, “ Return to tribalism.” He had a prophetic warning: “I suggest that that the real enemy within the gates of the city is not the Communist, but the idiot.” *
I translate “idiot” to “uninformed” but the end result is the same. If you are uninformed you can not make effective decisions based on facts and understanding. Yes, you can get lucky but do you want to take that risk with your life and rights?
In business, being informed is equally important. Successful and thriving businesses understand, watch, and expose opportunities in the market. Being informed is at the very essence of having a winning business proposition. Having the appropriate and talented team drives makes this happen. Now re read the survey findings and ask yourself if only one in three employees understand your purpose of being? If only one on four employees understand why you are better than your competition or only a third understand your go to market strategies?
Make sure that you are yourself informed and that those on your team, department and/or company are equally informed on the things that make your company differentiated. Make it your mission that no one should know more about your business, your market in general and the prevailing trends than you.
The stakes are high and with the shelf life of businesses becoming shorter, [in 1930 the average Fortune 500 had a 75 year shelf life and today that is down to 15 years] being informed is not just a matter of your prosperity but your very survival.
Make being informed a priority or assign yourself to becoming irrelevant.
*stats and quote from Suicide of the West- by Jonah Goldberg. Highly recommended read.
I have often stated that the biggest competitor to defeat is yourself. Meaning the inner voice that speaks to you and either tempts you to sit on your hands when decisive action is required or encourages you to chicken out when a bold move is required and many more things in between.
Many times in our careers we are faced with challenges, some much bigger than we ever imagined. In those times don’t let the enemy be your lack of resolve or courage to the do the right thing.
Remember that you are the sum of your past experiences and go forward knowing that decisions you make will not always be perfect and that you survive.
Get in to the mindset that you are learning, evolving and becoming better and that one mistake will not finish you nor will it make you. Take action and you will be less vulnerable to and from the enemy within.
Thought of the Week- Don’t Punch Down
As a leader and more importantly as a human being never punch down. Simply put, you should not pile on when others are going through difficult times and absolutely never rush to judgement. From my perspective you carry yourself better by simply moving on undeterred no matter how tempting it is to lash out and defend yourself. Equally important is that we never use our authority, position or circumstance to hurt others and punch down just because we can no.
Instead, moving forward, we would be better served to use our position to be a force for good and make a positive difference. Look for ways where you can aid and abet others to be better and happy in their lives.
This week think of ways of how you can enable people to succeed. Set out specific goals to achieve your “do good” goal and track your progress monthly. One of the best feelings in the world is to see others succeed and knowing you played a role in that success.
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One of the harshest lessons in my life is to not allow winning to be all consuming. To allow your competitive nature to overcome your thoughts and actions. It is true winning begets winning but you have to guard against losing perspective, losing judgement and most of all losing your soul in the process.
You have to guard against the thrill of the win, the taste the victory being needed to make you feel all is right in the world. In a sense, it is no different than an alcoholic wanting a drink or searching for that next high of a drug addict.
The lesson for me that I temporarily lost was keeping things in perspective. Balance was needed and I lost my ability to provide it.
I want you to learn through my experiences and I offer the following:
1- Get your sleep. Operating on less than seven to eight hours of sleep is not a badge of honor rather a sign of an impeding disaster.
2- Exercise 5-6 days a week and I don ‘t mean the type where you can read a magazine or paper while going through the motions. Truly exercise your body and push yourself to hit personal bests. Sweat and sweat hard.
3- Eat Well. Spend time understanding the needs of your body and fuel it with goodness not junk food. Have snacks at your desk so you can eat healthily throughout the day.
4- Unplug every night and weekends. You are not a slave to your pda. Demonstrate who is in charge. Turn it off.
5- Limit your travel to no more than 50 percent of your schedule. Burn out is around the corner if it becomes more. Hold your team to the same standard.
6- Finally, limit your alcohol intake. i find the more obsessed I became to win the more I would cut the corners of the first 5 points above and partake more in #6.
For an aspiring leader or current leader it be mindful that Business is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t commit career suicide by burning out or allowing your blind spots to put you in a position where your failure is a certainty.
In business like sports you are never out of it. How many times in sports have we seen unbelievable comebacks? Teams that play to the final whistle are oftentimes rewarded with snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. They kept their shape, they retained their determination and did not allow their heads to drop. Most importantly they kept their belief, willed themselves back in to the game and never gave up.
These moments are great life lessons that translate into business. Belief, willpower and not panicking when things are not going your way are of paramount currency.
Think about how you react when your back is against the wall? How are you motivating those around you to dig deep, work on your resolve to never ever give up and push through the pain barrier to success.
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