5 Ways to Cultivate Superfans For Your Business by Mark Jenney

While they may not paint their faces, wear your colors, or scream your name loudly on Sunday afternoons, the superfans of any business are a huge asset. They love what you do, and their gusto for your business are a part of how they identify and define themselves.

It’s always so complimentary to be liked that passionately, but superfans are more important for your company than just providing affirmation and reassurance that you’re doing great work. Superfans can be one of your best marketing tools: they act as genuine and organic ambassadors, spreading the gospel of your company and your brand to all of their friends.

They provide the positive word of mouth (and often social media) advertising that every business needs to thrive and grow.

Having a dedicated army of superfans is hugely beneficial, but building up that army takes finesse. Your customers need to arrive at their high level of passion for your business organically and on their own; you really can’t recruit superfans or hire them.

However, there are a number of things you and your business can do to cultivate superfans. Here are five tips.

1. Say yes. If a customer has a request — for anything — and it’s feasible for you to say yes, then you should say yes. This establishes your company as one that is willing to go above and beyond for your customers. It shows that you value people over procedure and relationships over rules. Being accommodating creates good feelings, and the positivity that comes from interactions with customers can spark the transition from fan to superfan.

2. Interact with your fans in a positive and gracious way. Just like saying yes, paying attention to customer feedback and responding to it in a warm and timely manner can make your fans feel like you’re really paying attention them. Should you receive any complaints, address them swiftly and professionally, and do what you can do eliminate their frustration and earn their trust. Positive communication helps customers feel like they are truly valued.

Related by Mark Jenney: 10 Habits and Behaviors that Lead to Success

3. Be a great resource. And more than that, offer something of value without charging for it. If your customers (or potential customers) have a question, be there to answer it for them. If you’re a trusted source of good and helpful information, customers will keep coming back. For example, RVShare is a company that’s just a few years old, but it already has one of the top RV blogs on the web. They’ve become known as a source of valuable RV information, and as a result the company has grown: they’re the number one peer-to-peer RV rental platform in the world.

4. Show your customers what’s in it for them. You put your all into your marketing efforts, but they predominantly benefit your own bottom line. It’s important to show your customers how much they can benefit from what you provide. RVShare , for example, facilitates RV rentals between owners and would-be renters. On their main webpage, there’s a large graphic showing RV owners how much money they can make by just renting their vehicle — and the numbers are impressive. Similarly, for RV renters, there’s a section that shows how they can benefit by using the website: roadside assistance, high-end security, and a rewards program.

5. Keep your fans close and your superfans closer. Once you’ve got customers who have reached the level of superfan, you want them to stay there. Offering things like special promotions, privileged news, special content, or even access to VIP events can all make your best customers feel valued. By giving some sort of reward for their high level of engagement with your brand, you’re more likely to keep your superfans sharing the good word about your business.

Cultivating superfans is all about building relationships, staying in touch, and showing you care. It takes a fair amount of effort, for sure, but it’s a worthwhile investment. The positive word of mouth advertising and enthusiastic recommendations that superfans provide for you is invaluable.

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12 Behaviors and Attitudes That Can Prevent You From Achieving Your Dreams

12 Behaviors and Attitudes

Our intentions are usually good, and our dreams are often achievable. Still, there are times when we have no one to blame but ourselves when we can’t do everything we want to do. We tend to hold ourselves back from greatness, and we might not even realize that we’re doing it.

What it comes down to are unintentionally bad attitudes and unintentionally restricting behaviors. If we can eliminate these poisons from our outlooks and our actions, we put ourselves in a better place from which to succeed and achieve everything we want to achieve. Here are 12 behaviors and attitudes that can prevent you from achieving your dreams. Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Worrying about what others think of you. If you are passionate and work hard  what other people think about you shouldn’t matter. There will always be unwanted judgments and unsolicited advice, but if you allow these things to define you as a person, you’ll never get ahead. Know your own value and don’t be dependent on the approval of others.

2. Not having a plan. First and foremost, if you don’t have a dream, you won’t achieve it; as Zig Ziglar is often quoted as saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time”. But more than that, starting off each day without a plan keeps you from being efficient and productive. Take the time to do short term planning every day, and set aside time once a week for long term re-evaluating.

3. Defining success by income. It’s good to have a lot of money, but it’s so much more important to be happy. And, a big bank account doesn’t guarantee happiness — it only means that you’ll have more money to throw at problems to make them go away. Follow your heart and consider your success in terms of how happy you are. If you do, chances are good that your bank account will be just fine.

4. Being resistant to change. Change is inevitable; the world moves forward, and you can either move with it or get left behind. If you want to achieve your dreams and be successful, you’ve got to be able to adapt in a changing environment. Otherwise, you’re stuck using old paradigms to solve new problems.

5. Associating with toxic people. You’re only as good as the company you keep, as the old saying goes. Surround yourself with negative people who complain all the time, and you’ll quickly become one of them — and that’s destructive if you want to get ahead in life. Surround yourself with positive, likeminded people, and you’ll greatly improve your chances of realizing your dreams.

6. Letting jealousy get the best of you. If an associate is enjoying great success, feeling envious is perhaps the least productive thing you can do. Instead, show that you’re happy for him or her! There’s plenty of success to go around, and the good fortune of others’ has absolutely nothing to do with your abilities or shortcomings.

7. Letting roadblocks stop you. Roadblocks, obstacles, bumps in the road — they’re all things to go around or work through on the path to success. If you see them as a complete blockage to your dreams, however, you’ll never get ahead. Instead of quitting when you find yourself up against a roadblock, rise to the challenge and work at overcoming the problem. Everyone faces problems, but people who are able to achieve their dreams are able to get past them.

8. Seeing failure as anything more than a temporary setback. A certain amount of failure is practically a given in any industry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Failure can be extremely instructive: it shows us where we went wrong and what doesn’t work, and it pushes us to grow into better versions of ourselves. No one’s immune to it, either, and in fact, most successful people will fail more than they succeed. A perfect analogy here is baseball, a game in which success is defined as a player who hits the ball into play three out of every ten times at bat.

9. Playing the victim. If you see yourself as a victim, you’ll never achieve anything. Victims relinquish control, while successful people are the masters of their destiny. If you’re not in control, you’re going to have a hard time achieving your dreams.

10. Making excuses instead of making progress. If something’s not going right, change your approach. If you make a mistake, admit it. If things don’t work out according to plan, take responsibility for them. Making excuses for these things gets you nowhere.

11. Not taking care of yourself. Being in good health is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it will help you in your entrepreneurial endeavors. Eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise keeps your head clear, your mind sharp, and your motivation high.

12. Being ruthless. Other people aren’t just things to knock out of your path on your way to the top. Showing a marked lack of compassion for your fellow humans quickly makes you someone with whom others would rather not associate. And, no matter how talented and capable you might be, you’ll almost definitely need to call on others from time to time as you work to achieve your dreams. Plus, if you believe in karma, it’s always wise to be good to others.

You’ll have many challenges climbing the mountain of success, the most difficult of which may be brought on by you and you alone. Once you recognize that your own actions and your own behaviors are perhaps the most instrumental factors in achieving your dreams, it’s time to take a personal inventor. What are you doing that’s holding you back? It’s not a twelve-step program, but avoiding the twelve things listed here can put you twelve steps closer to dream fulfillment.

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7 Things Successful People Do on Weekends

7 Things Successful People

On Friday afternoon, the upcoming weekend feels so full of potential. There are 48 wonderful hours ahead of you, and the possibilities seem endless. There’ll be time to relax, spend time with your family, do something fun, and really make the most of those two days.

And then, before you know it, you’re watching the sky darken on Sunday night, the weekend’s about over, and it doesn’t feel like you did much of anything. Even worse, Monday morning is quickly upon you, and it just feels like a continuation of the previous week. You’re not at all rested, and your mind is on all the things you didn’t do over the previous two days.

We’ve all been there.

How can you really make the most of your weekends? One way is by taking a close look at how successful people spend their Saturdays and Sundays. In general, if you’re going to be an entrepreneurial powerhouse during the week, you’ve got to use your weekends to recharge and do the things you simply don’t have time to do before and after work during the week. Here are seven things that successful people do on their weekends. Will you do them too?

1. They disconnect. We spend all week on the phone, answering emails, and replying to text messages. Having a smartphone may be great for communication, but it can start to feel like an extension of your hand. On the weekend, put it down. Yes, really: resist the urge to check your messages every five minutes. Additionally, step away from that laptop. I’m not saying that you should completely avoid communication with the outside world on Saturdays and Sundays — schedule one or two times to check in each day — but when it’s the weekend, leave the virtual realm at the office and join the real world. Unplug! No matter how successful you are, you can’t be on call all the time.

2. They also reconnect. Stepping back from technology for a few days opens up lots of time to spend reconnecting with family and friends. Work may be hugely important, but the best entrepreneurs know that people come first. You spend 5/7 of your life thinking mostly about work; successful people devote the other 2/7 to the people who mean the most to them.

3. They go on mini adventures. A full-on vacation can often be too much for a weekend, but still, it’s important to get out of the house. So, go on an adventure! Do it alone, grab some friends or a significant other, or get the kids out for a hike through the woods, some kayaking, or a fun day at the beach. No warm weather to be had? No problem — go skiing or find the nearest big hill to sled down. Those who are successful at work know that satisfying your sense of adventure on the weekends is essential to maintaining calm at the office.

4. They get some exercise. The sad reality is that many of us are behind a desk from Monday through Friday. We don’t move much, and that’s not good for our bodies. Take time on the weekend to get some physical activity. Go for a run first thing in the morning, take a sunset walk, or strap on your helmet and go for a bike ride. Not only is it good for your overall health, but moving your body can actually help you think in new and creative ways.

5. They make time for spirituality. I’m not talking specifically about going to church here, though if that’s what helps to give your life meaning, then you should do it. If going to church isn’t your thing, do something to recharge your spiritual batteries: reflection, meditation, whatever. Not only is it relaxing, but it can help you keep some much needed perspective. Successful individuals recognize that maintaining their spirituality, however it’s defined, helps them to take the long view — something that’s easy to lose sight of in the frenzy of work life.

6. They have a great meal — or two, or three. It can be hard to fit in a home cooked meal during the week, and it’s equally hard to fit in a leisurely night out at a restaurant during the Monday through Friday grind. On the weekends, use mealtime as a time to relax, unwind, and find some enjoyment in your sustenance. Whether it’s a big family dinner on Saturday, a relaxing brunch on Sunday, or four courses at the hot new restaurant on Friday night, give yourself time to take pleasure in your food.

7. They don’t let Monday hit them in the face. We all know that Monday morning comes around all too quickly, and if you’re not prepared for it, you’re always in for a rough start. To alleviate this, and to better prepare for the week ahead, the more successful among us spend some time on Sunday getting ready for the next five days. You should too! After the kids are in bed, or during a quiet break in the day, take a look at your calendar, block out time to complete tasks, and eliminate as many surprises in your week as possible. You’ll feel much more ready to deal with whatever Monday throws at you.

It may be tempting to spend your weekends vegged out on the couch watching sports, but that’s not at all productive. Instead, get up, get out, and spend your weekends living life to its fullest! If you want to be on your A game all week at work, you’ve got to use your weekends to enhance your personal fulfillment with life. Successful people know this, and now you do too!

What do you do on the weekends that contributes to your business success? Let us know in the comments!

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Empathy: Why It’s Important & 6 Ways to Increase It

by Mark Jenney
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Empathy is the ability to understand and feel sensitivity toward the feelings of others. Many of us may make lighthearted, Clinton-esque I-feel-your-pain jokes, but really, if you’re an empathetic person, this is exactly what you do: understand someone else’s feelings. Empathy is a huge contributor toward the success of individual relationships. Additionally, some experts believe that the ability to feel empathy is one of the most important skills in the business world today.

Exhibiting empathy toward coworkers, clients, family members, and essentially every individual with whom you come in contact makes you see the world through the eyes of others and understand that your view of a particular situation may not be everyone else’s view. More than that, though, practicing empathy makes you a better communicator, reduces your prejudices, improves your overall well being, and earns you a reputation as a good person to do business with.

Of course, being empathetic takes some patience and some practice. How can you boost your ability to empathize? Here are five approaches to try.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. It can be hard to understand the motives and behaviors of others, but that’s because you’re looking at them from a very specific point of view: your own. Instead, as the old saying goes, turn the tables, put yourself in their shoes, and see if you can make a bit more sense out of the other person’s logic. Doing so can take you from “why” to “aha.”
  1. Read fiction. Good literary fiction puts readers inside the minds of some pretty compelling characters. We get to understand how they think and why they behave in a certain way, which is exactly what we need to do in order to empathize more with others. This isn’t just conjecture, either; a 2013 study published in Science supported the idea that reading fiction improves theory of mind, or the ability to recognize that other people have their own individual needs, beliefs, and points of view.
  1. Listen actively. When someone else is talking, listen. Don’t just hear their voice and think about how you’re going to respond — quiet your interior monologue and pay close attention to the other person’s words, inflection, and nonverbal cues. You’ll not only be able to respond more accurately and genuinely, but you’ll become privy to lots of new information and more and more people recognize you as a person who will listen to their concerns without judging or interrupting.
  1. Talk the talk. Even if you’re not feeling particularly empathetic toward a given person, act like you do. Use phrases like “I understand” or “That makes sense” when listening to another person’s point of view. When other people hear these validating statements, they feel like you understand their point of view and recognizing why they feel a certain way.
  1. Be curious about the lives of others. Jumping off on the recommendation to read fiction, find out about people’s real life stories. Everyone has a complicated and interesting history, and finding out about it helps you to understand the attitudes and emotions that they bring to work and everyday life. Not only does this approach make you more empathetic, but it turns a group of strangers into a community of friends.
  1. Be grateful. Take some time on a regular basis (every day if you can) to pause and count your blessings. Be honest: you’ve probably got a pretty good life. Sure, you might be more stressed out than you’d like, and there are probably a few things in your world that could be going a little better, and you wouldn’t be human if there weren’t some things bothering you, but on the whole? Chances are, you’ve got a lot to be grateful for. Appreciate what you’ve got, and it will put you in a better mindset to understand the ups and downs of the lives of others.

How is your own personal empathy quotient? Many of us could probably improve in this department, but the good news is that empathy is something that can definitely be improved. I’ve given you six ways to practice in your quest to become a more empathetic person. Can you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.

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10 Habits and Behaviors that Lead to Success

by Mark Jenney

10 Habits and Behaviors

Success can mean different things to different people, but achieving it is almost never a matter of luck. Rather, it’s the result of many small habits and behaviors, all of which keep you on a path that leads straight to your goals and dreams.

Having some setbacks in fulfilling your entrepreneurial aspirations? See if you can make these ten habits and behaviors part of your routine.

  1. Acknowledge the good in every situation. It’s easy to be negative, and we’ve all been around negative people who have something discouraging to say about everything and everyone. Not only is this attitude a real drag to be around, it’s potentially harmful. Instead of sliding down the slippery slope of pessimism, take the time to, as many a wise mother has said, say something nice. This applies not only to challenges and difficult situations at work, but to how you speak to yourself. If you’re always internally berating yourself, your confidence (and your work) will suffer. Be positive — it makes a big difference.
  2. Commit to working hard and working often. “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration,” as Thomas Edison is so frequently quoted as saying. Sure, you could have a million dollar idea, but if you’re not working to bring it to fruition, you’ll never be successful. Showing up to work hard is the only way to get things done. And keep pushing yourself further, reminding yourself that if hard work were easy, everyone would do it. To quote Zig Ziglar, “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.”
  3. Write things down. It’s great to train your memory, but you don’t want to take changes trying to remember all the small things you’ve committed to doing. Instead, make lists, keep a detailed calendar, and take notes. You won’t forget anything, you’ll get the satisfaction of crossing off things that are completed, you’ll keep all of your appointments, and you won’t have to search for that important detail from last week’s meeting.
  4. Be an active listener. The ability to listen well can make the difference between adequate work and outstanding work. When you’re communicating with others, really listen to what they tell you — what they say, of course, but also how they say it. Give them your full attention so you can understand their inflection and read all of their nonverbal cues. Not only will you better serve your clients and customers, but you’ll earn a well-deserved reputation for being a great person to work with and work for.
  5. Be detail oriented. We’ve all been told not to sweat the small stuff, and that may be good advice if you’re looking to avoid unnecessary drama in your personal life. However, when it comes to business endeavors, the details are what sets you apart from your competition. They’re also what customers notice most, especially when they’re not done right.
  6. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. This point may seem to be at odds with the previous one, but just because you’re focusing on important details doesn’t mean you’re making things more complicated. However, setting unnecessary meetings, getting bogged down in busy work, not delegating tasks to those who can handle them best, and neglecting to follow the OHIO principle (that’s Only Handle It Once) can add unnecessary complication to your workday.
  7. Take time to reflect. We’ve all been told about importance of learning from our mistakes, lest we make them again, and growing from our triumphs so we can continue to succeed. As philosopher and writer George Santayana is so often quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Give yourself time on a regular basis, maybe once a week, to reflect on everything that’s happened. Writing your thoughts in a journal (in keeping with the third point on this list) is a great way to do this, as it creates a record that you can look at whenever you need guidance or encouragement.
  8. Give to a greater good. Giving back to your community or to a worthy cause, whether it’s in time, money, or both, is an ideal way to keep your perspective about your work and remember how fortunate you really are. Plus, many entrepreneurs feel that it is their responsibility to give to others. Plus, having a personal cause or greater mission in life helps you take the long view, both in business and in life. Related: 8 Great Reasons For Your Business to Give Back
  9. Recognize that in order to have a sharp mind, you need to take care of your body. Physical activity can keep you healthier, help you sleep better, and make you feel better all around, but it does more than that. It helps you to clear your mind when you’re stressed, improves your memory and your mental acuity, and even makes you more creative.
  10. Do what you love, love what you do. Financial success is a welcome result of hard work, but true success comes from finding joy in what you do. When choosing a career path, don’t follow the money — follow your heart. Do what you love, put your whole self into it, and you’ll not only increase your chances of entrepreneurial success, but you’ll be happy. It’s impossible to put a price on that.

What habits keep you heading toward success? Share some ideas in the comments! Follow me. 

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The Definite Problem of Uncertainty

The Definite Problem of

What will tomorrow bring? If you could tell, you’d never have any stress, anything to worry about, or any reasons to doubt yourself as you forge ahead. Unfortunately, despite what self-proclaimed clairvoyants may tell you, there’s no crystal ball that can accurately predict the future. We take our chances, leaving our lives and our livelihood in the hands of fate, or luck, or destiny, or ourselves — whatever power, if any, you believe is in control.

In short, we’re surrounded by uncertainty. What’s more, it’s an ongoing issue; even when things are at their best and the world is totally optimistic about the future, there’s still some degree of the unknown lurking out there. How can you be an entrepreneur, operate a business, and be successful in this sort of economic and political climate? Here are a few points to consider.

Be Prepared

More than the scout motto or a song from The Lion King, “be prepared”  is the mantra of anyone who’s ready to weather uncertainty. There are a few things you can do to keep yourself ready for the unknown. First, you’ll want to strengthen your relationships with colleagues, since they’re the ones you’ll rely on for support in difficult times. Next, don’t get too far ahead, especially if you have an active imagination and you tend to let your negative thoughts expand. It’s easy to project negativity far into the future, but for your own sake, stop yourself. Stay in the here and now, know what’s currently happening in terms of business and the economy, and be well informed as you move into the future.

Finally, preparation for uncertainty means being ready for a number of different outcomes. Your next idea could be a homerun, but it could also be an enormously devastating strikeout. It’s great to have confidence, of course, but it’s also important to be realistic: being prepared for the less desirable outcomes can help you and your business survive.

Have Confidence in Your Decisions

An uncertain business climate can make it difficult for entrepreneurs to make decisions that will affect their economic future. Still, it’s important to take very calculated risks and make informed decisions — and be confident that you made the right ones . Yes, you’ll make wrong decisions now and then, but so will everyone. Learn from them, don’t dwell on what could have been, and move on.

Of course, having confidence in your decisions means having the courage to make decisions in the first place. It’s tempting to wait around until the economy improves or your bank account is more robust, but if you do that, you’ll be waiting around forever.

From Uncertainty, Leaders Emerge

Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. These may all be household names, but the truth is that these individuals and many others whose names are not as well known rose to leadership positions specifically because of their abilities to chart a course of success through the waters of uncertainty. So, take it as a challenge: if you can survive times of great uncertainty, you’re likely to emerge as an entrepreneurial leader that others will revere and admire

Remember, it’s Cyclical

It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel during difficult economic times, but rest assured: it’s there, and it’s coming up. Just as there are times of great uncertainty, there are also times of great prosperity. One follows the other, and while the timing of it all may be the most uncertain thing of all, it’s important to remind yourself that whatever it is that you’re facing, it’s temporary.

Don’t Get Sucked In

It’s easy to fall victim to uncertainty. Many will throw in the towel, close up shop, and head to a less stressful career during difficult times, but the true entrepreneurs will stay the course. With diligent preparation, a confident mindset, and a positive attitude, you can survive — and even thrive — in the face of uncertainty.

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8 Reasons to Keep Pursuing Your Dream (Even Without Support)

8 Reasons to Keep

We’ve all heard the advice from well-meaning individuals that we should do what we love for a career and pursue our dreams. However, sometimes achieving those dreams is not exactly a linear process. Plus, there are often people who will try to talk us down from our high perches. They tell us to be reasonable, or to think of what chasing such a dream will do to our financial situation. They call us “dreamers,” as if that title is supposed to dissuade us from going after what we want most and simply settle. It won’t, or at least, it shouldn’t.

When faced with this adversity, many people will back down and concede. Were those people ever really big dreamers in the first place? Probably not! You, however, should not quit. Even when you’re lacking in support, even when you’re faced with resistance, it’s important to keep pursuing your dream of entrepreneurship and success. Here are eight reasons why you should.

1. You’ll be in control of your own destiny. There’s really no substitute for being the captain of your own ship . You won’t be dependent on anyone else, and you can let your passion for success dictate the career path that you choose to take. When you reach the top, you can look back and know that you got there yourself.

2. You’ll find resourcefulness that you never knew you had. When you follow your dream and take big chances, you’ll find that you’re the only one who’s responsible for making it happen. You’ll work long hours, pay big dues, and push through all sorts of mental blocks because you have to. Successfully achieve an entrepreneurial dream, and you’ll come out a more resilient and emotionally tougher individual.

3. You’ll quiet the naysayers. There will always be people who lack the confidence, the wherewithal, and the gumption to strike out on their own, and they’ll always be bitter and try to drag others down with them. Your success in the face of their negativity will hopefully bring them one step closer to being supportive. And maybe — just maybe — they’ll be encouraged to pursue their own dreams too. Honestly, someone has to quell all the negativity, so why not you?

4. You’ll be happy — really, truly happy. You won’t come home from the office feeling irked at how your boss runs things, you’ll never have to tamp down your passion just to put food on the table, and you certainly won’t hate the thought of getting out of bed in the morning. Instead, you’ll feel a sense of purpose and a continually renewed inspiration to do great work. The life of an individual who achieves his or her dreams is a good one, and it should be yours.

5. You’ll make your family proud. Your parents, your spouse, your kids, your cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents — they’ll all feel proud of what you’ve sacrificed and what you’ve accomplished. And while some of those same people may have at one point tried to talk you out of chasing your dream, you’ll still feel good knowing that you’ve made them proud.

6. Those who follow their dreams change the world. Imagine if the Wright brothers never followed their dreams of flight, or if Steve Jobs gave up on his dream of a user-friendly home computer. Yes, these accomplishments were hard to achieve, and yes, these individuals and many others had people telling them they should quit, but they persevered and were able to stay the course. In the end, the world was irreversibly changed, and history will remember them as the ones who had the courage to innovate and dream.

7. When you’re successful, you’ll inspire others to follow their dreams and feel the same sense of accomplishment. You might not see yourself as a role model, but when you do what you’ve set out to do, others will admire your achievement and wish to emulate it. It’s a great thing to feel inspired, but it’s perhaps the best thing to be an inspiration.

8. You’ll never feel fulfilled if you don’t. Even if you do end up in a job that pays well, challenges you, and allows you to work with talented and motivated people, you’ll always have that nagging regret that you never did things your way. It’s hard to live with the constant “what if,” and it will keep you from feeling truly happy with your career.

It’s never easy to follow a lofty dream and achieve goals, especially when there are people telling you to give up and be realistic .  However, it can be done, and if you’ve got real heart and a true entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll be very well equipped to get to where you want to be. Stay strong! So many good things can come from your perseverance, but the only thing that comes from quitting is a lifetime of quiet regret.

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The Multitasking Myth

by Mark Jenney

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For years, we’ve been told that individuals who can successfully multitask will go further in life because they’re more efficient and better overall at getting things done. Now, however, we’re finding out that this old truth may not be so true after all. Researchers at the highly prestigious Stanford University have recently found that multitasking actually leads to lower productivity levels and can cause cognitive impairments. Sound crazy? It’s not. Read on.

Is it Really Multitasking?

Just like you can’t be two places at once, you really can’t do two complicated tasks at once (or more than two things, as some eager multitaskers are wont to do). You’ve got only one brain, and while it’s capable of doing simple automatic behaviors concurrently (say, walking and chewing gum at the same time), it simply can’t concurrently devote full attention to multiple jobs that require more cognitive heavy lifting.

So when you think you’re multitasking, what are you really doing? You’re task switching, which is certainly possible (many of us do it all the time), but it’s just no good for your productivity levels, since time is wasted on the switches.

The Consequences of Doing Too Many Things

You might think that the result of multitasking is that you get more done, but that’s actually the opposite of what happens. Hopping around projects rather than focusing on just one slows you down as much as 40% . Plus, your work is more likely to be sloppy and error-ridden, as you don’t give anything 100% of your focus.

Multitasking can have other negative outcomes. For example, if you try to do too much at once, you’re much less likely to remember key bits of information from anything; your brain can take only so much at once! You’re also less aware of what’s happening around you because you’re trying too hard to not be distracted. The problem with that is that you may miss a great opportunity because all of your attention is divided up among too many different things. Finally, when you’re trying to multitask, your actions tend to become robotic, which can significantly stifle your imagination and creativity, two things that are so important in today’s business world.

And then there’s the stress that accompanies multitasking. If you’re trying to do too much at once, you can start to feel overwhelmed, which brings with it a whole host of symptoms like increased heart rate and depression. Plus, there’s evidence to support the idea that multitasking can shave points off of your IQ and even reduce density in the areas of the brain that are responsible for empathy and emotional control. Is it any wonder that people are especially irritable and short tempered when they’re trying to multitask? The worst part is that these moods may become more permanent as multitasking continues.

But What if You’re Good at it?

But wait, you say — I’m really good at multitasking! Well, you may think that, but according to a recent study done by professors at the University of Utah Psychology Department, you’re probably not nearly as good at it as you think you are. In fact, you may even be sort of bad at it. The study focused on people who try to talk on their cell phone while they’re driving, and while that may not be the same as the way you multitask, the study’s researchers insist that the findings can be extrapolated to apply to other situations as well.

Plus, even if you manage to effectively make multitasking part of your life, it can still be dangerous because you’re not paying full attention to your surroundings. Again, the main research is on the dangerous consequences of trying to do things while using a mobile device, such as car crashes, walking into people or things, and so on, but it still serves as a good reminder: when we’re at work, we genuinely have a hard time taking care of multiple things at once.

Missing Flow

Have you ever been so engrossed in what you’re doing that it just all happens very quickly? The time passes, you get a lot done, and you feel great? That’s a psychological concept called flow, a complete mind and body immersion in whatever you’re doing. You might call it getting into the groove, or being in the zone, but whatever it’s called, it’s an amazing sensation because you’re making every basket, answering every question correctly, and knocking every pitch out of the park. (Feel free to add your own metaphor here — the feeling is the same!)

The problem is that when you try to multitask, you never allow yourself to get immersed deeply enough in any one activity to achieve flow. So, not only are you missing out on these great periods of productivity, but you’re missing out on the great feelings that go along with it

The Solution? One Thing At a Time

Even though it sounds like the mantra of a 12 step program than a strategy for handling your workload, your best bet is to do one thing at a time. Multitasking is one of those things that seems much better in theory than it works in practice. You can’t do everything at once, and you shouldn’t force yourself to try.

Will there be times that you need to multitask a little bit to make it through the day? Probably. However, it’s never wise to make it your modus operandi. Tackle your tasks one at a time, and you’ll likely find that you’re more productive, less stressed, and happier at work — and in life.

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7 Habits for Success: Make them Your Own!

by Mark Jenney

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Success is never an accident, nor is it the result of a single brilliant move or idea. Rather, success is cultivated over many years of smart business transactions, outstanding people skills, and renewed motivation to be the best you can possibly be.

When you start to look at the successful people in this world, whether they’re professional athletes, CEOs, entrepreneurs, or committed to another profession, you realize that despite their inherent differences, they all have a few big things in common. For example, they all have a similar outlook on life, they all have similar rituals, and they all have similar reactions when life throws them a curveball. More than that, though, successful people take these positive behaviors and turn them into habits, doing them over and over as a regular part of their routine.

By recognizing these commonalities and slowly taking them on as your own, can you be successful as well? There’s no guarantee, of course, but emulating these habits is a great place to start! You’ve heard about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  — here are seven habits of highly successful people.

1. Successful people take care of themselves (https://hbr.org/2008/09/why-its-not-selfish-to-take-ca/). They eat right, they exercise, and they don’t skimp on sleep. And again, these are habits. They don’t exercise when it’s convenient or eat a salad once in a while or catch up on sleep on the weekends. These things are part of a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy personal life leads to a healthy business life. Ready to change your ways? Stay conscious of what foods and beverages you’re putting into your body, block out time at least three times a week for a workout session, and get on a consistent sleep schedule. When you feel good physically, you’re the most ready to use your mental sharpness to your advantage.

2. Successful people are positive and grateful. Negativity, anger, and other toxic emotions are just wasted energy. Not only does nothing good come of them, but they can hold you back from greatness. Successful people know that a positive, can-do attitude and honest gratitude for all of their blessings lead to confidence. They also make you a person that others want to be around and work with. To get started, spend at least a few minutes a day mentally listing the things in your life that are going well and that you are thankful for. Once you get started, you’ll realize that you’ve actually got it pretty good, and that should give you the confidence to be even better.

3. Successful people network. What’s more, they do it the old fashioned way: in person!  Yes, social networking has its benefits, but it simply can’t replace looking a colleague in the eye and shaking his or her hand. If all of your networking is currently done in the digital realm, resolve to get up from behind your desk and meet others in person. To make it a habit, join a networking group that meets regularly, attend social events and charity functions, and conduct more business in person rather than over the phone.

4. Successful people create prioritized to do lists. The key word here is create — they actually write them down or maintain a digital version on their phone, rather than keep a haphazard list in their heads. And, they update their to do lists regularly. To take this from good idea to habit, spend five or ten minutes before you go to sleep every night to write up (or peck out) your to do list for the following day. Write out specific things that need to be done, and then number them so you know what you’ll need to tackle first.

5. Successful people set goals. If you’re only interested in making a living, you can get by living from one day to the next. However, to achieve real success, you’ve got to set some goals — create some targets that you can focus in on. Don’t set goals, and you deprive yourself of direction. As Zig Ziglar so famously said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Take some time on a regular basis to think about goals, both short term and long term. And, make at least some of these goals a stretch to keep yourself challenged and working toward something bigger than you think you can accomplish.

Related by Mark Jenney:Winning Rituals: 10 Behaviors of Successful Individuals

6. Successful people understand the importance of accountability. Successful people keep their word, and people who don’t keep their word will have a very hard time earning enough money to rent a studio apartment. To help keep yourself accountable, find a mentor or colleague to work with to keep you in check; meet for coffee once a week (or on a regular schedule that works for you) to discuss achievements, setbacks, and how you plan to do good work until your next meetup.

7. Successful people never stop learning. You may have a diploma from an Ivy League University hanging on your wall, but it doesn’t mean that you’re done learning new things. On the contrary, successful people recognize that there are always new things to learn, new skills to acquire, and new insight to consider. And, learning doesn’t necessarily mean paying tuition to sit in a classroom, listen to lectures, and write exams. On the contrary, learning means reading books, listening to podcasts, attending webinars, and so on. To keep your own personal education going, commit to reading a book a month, spending your commute time listening to podcasts or audiobooks, and don’t pass up opportunities for seminars and conferences.

What do you think? Can you take these seven attributes and turn them into personal habits? It may take a little while to get these things ingrained in your life, but once they are, you’ll probably see success follow.

What habits do you have that make you successful? Share one with us in the comments!

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Winning Rituals: 10 Behaviors of Successful Individuals

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Have you ever noticed that people who constantly talk about how successful they are really aren’t all that great? And how meanwhile, people who enjoy a lot of success simply keep their heads down and get to work? If you have, you’re not alone. There’s a good reason for this, too: successful people are usually too busy being successful to brag about how successful they are.

Successful people also tend to have rituals or routines that they follow — simple processes that get them through their day and help them be more efficient and productive. If you find yourself stagnant in your career yet wishing for greatness, maybe it’s time to switch up your routines. Here are ten to try.

1. Start your day in a calm way. How many times have you left yourself just enough time to shower and get dressed before rushing out the door to make it to work on time? It only takes one time to know that this isn’t a great start to the day. Instead of making your morning a losing game of Beat the Clock, give yourself time to begin the day properly. Not only will this keep your stress levels lower (especially before you get to the office), but it helps to set the tone for a more thoughtful and productive day. Give yourself a routine that’s calming. You might use the time for a quick bit of exercise of meditation, or you might take the first 30 minutes after you wake up to tack out the rest of your day, or you could use it to catch up on emails from the day before. Whatever you do, try to do it consistently to get the day started off right.

2. Stop thinking and start doing. A lot of people confuse thinking with actual working. Yes, planning is important, but successful people roll up their sleeves and get started on that big project. And if you’re waiting for the inspiration to take hold of you, well, we can find some wisdom in the words of two great artists. Pablo Picasso famously said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” And, perhaps more bluntly, Chuck Close asserted, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Bottom line? Start working!

3. Find inspiration in adversity. Have you heard the joke about what happens when you play a country music song backwards? The guy gets his dog, truck, and woman back. Sure, it’s funny, but there’s a bigger message here: without all of those difficult situations, the songwriter would never have been inspired to write such a song in the first place. Successful people have their share of obstacles and heartbreak, but they’re able to take those emotions and turn them into creativity, motivation, and excellence. Rather than wallowing in depression whenever you’re faced with pain and strife, channel your feelings into something productive.

4. Find a mentor . Most successful individuals realize that they have a lot to learn from others who have come before them. They take it upon themselves to find someone who is wise and who has been there — someone who’s walked the same path and learned a lot along the way. Having a mentor keeps you from making preventable mistakes and provides you with valuable insight that can only come from years of experience. Find an individual who can mentor you in your field, and then meet regularly to learn bits of wisdom and discuss your progress.

5. Go beyond your comfort zone. This is really where growth happens, and without growth, there is minimal opportunity for success. Yes, of course it’s easiest to keep doing what you’ve been doing without trying anything new, but unless you really challenge yourself, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. No pain, no gain, right?

6. Trust your gut. Intuition, instinct, hunches, sixth sense — call this primitive feeling what you will, but heed its guidance. Yes, your decisions should be well informed, and yes, you shouldn’t close your eyes and blindly choose a direction, but you also shouldn’t go along with the crowd if you know, deep down inside, that the crowd is wrong.

7. Write down your thoughts and reflections. Time may move in one direction, but you can still learn a great deal from your past. Take some time each week (or more frequently, if you’re so inclined) to do some journaling. Write down important events and transactions, note what went well and what didn’t, and keep track of your goals, both big and small. After some time has passed, read through what you wrote a month ago, six months ago, a year ago, and more. Not only will it give you some helpful perspective, but it will create a sort of map of your professional life.

8. Take constructive criticism to heart. It’s easy to balk at or dismiss negative comments, but if there’s some buzz about your work and it’s not all good, perhaps it’s wise to step back and ask yourself why. Similarly, it may be smart to ask for feedback from individuals whose opinions you respect. When we see ourselves through the eyes of others, we are better able to make improvements.

9. Stay positive and humble. A good attitude can go very far in today’s business world. When you’re an upbeat, positive person, you attract people; after all, who doesn’t want to work with someone like that? Humility, however, is also essential; in a world filled with big egos and unchecked arrogance, humble people are refreshing. Think about the ideal type of person you’d like to work, and then make every effort to become that ideal.

10. Remember why you’re doing this. Or better yet, give yourself visual reminders of why your success is so important. Whether it’s a photo of your mentor to remind you of your potential, a letter from a loved one to remind you of your real worth, or a picture your child drew for you to remind you who you’re doing it all for, keep your reminder close, visible, and within reach every day.

We all want to be successful in work and in life, but not everyone’s routines are conducive to success. Are yours? Or are the actions that are so ingrained in your day-to-day activity holding you back from greatness? You can talk about your desire to do big things all you want, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to do them. See if you can implement one, a few, or all of these rituals into your own life. You may really like the results.

 

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