Saturday, April 10, 2010

The only target against our eyes

The only target against our eyes

“Ve Samta Oto KeMatara LeNeged Eynekha”. This means: “And you placed it as a target against your eyes. Keep your goal as a target against your eyes. Not in your mind. Not in your heart, but “against your eyes”. In constant sight, in continuous sight, against your eyes. Total, undivided attention and focus on the goal. Stay focused”

I learned these words from Gerald Westerby, a former secret agent in the Mossad; Israel’s famed elite special operations organization in a book I read years ago.

I think we are living difficult times in Puerto Rico and we need to find our focus. We can’t function as a society and be successful dealing with all the challenges we have facing us in the near future if we don’t focus on what matters most.

We have a budget deficit beyond belief, even though our government is supposedly taking steps to reduce it, we have a real big problem with drug trafficking and crime, our schools are not as good as they should be, we have thousands of homeless people, and our main university is always under a constant threat of a strike by students or employees.

We have taken our eyes off the goal. We are not looking at the target right against our eyes. And if we don’t do this, our island will face disastrous consequences. The people of Puerto Rico do not deserve this. They went out to vote in higher numbers than most other democracies in the world and elected representatives and senators and a governor. I think the people deserve better.

We have an underground economy estimated to be more than 25% of the whole economy. It is estimated that millions and millions millions of dollars are not reported which costs close to two billion in losses to the government. These figures do not take into account criminal activity. There are around 1500 drug points, maybe more (puntos de drogas) in the island as I was told by a prominent economist recently, and on average they each clear over 1,000.00 a day. Take out a calculator and multiply 1,500 times $1,000.00.

I have been told that in Puerto Rico only 15,000 people report incomes of more than $100,000. Twelve thousand of these fifteen thousand are salaried employees. This means that only 3,000 professionals in Puerto Rico make more than $100,000. Isn’t this amazing? So many Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Architects and other professions and only 3,000 make more than $100,000! It is rather hard to believe.

In fact, around 90% of tax payers report an income under $50,000. This island must be populated by magicians, people that don’t make any money but can afford multimillion houses and apartments, Mercedes Benz and BMW’s with very little income. How did they qualify for those big mortgages? Now, of course, they are hurting and hurting bad. Many over extended and are now losing properties. Others have lost money in the stock market. Those that invested in our local banks, and still hold the shares, are hurting bad, I know it because I have close friends with this problem.
Even so, we most stop kidding ourselves? Most people steal from the government and that is something that hurts everyone and it most stop. On April 15th we all have to pay our taxes. You must take advantage of whatever deductions you are entitled to, but don’t cheat because you are cheating everyone else, you are cheating your country.

Are we a welfare state? How can it be explained that one out of three salaried employee works for the government? Why would a small Caribbean island need over 140 government agencies, almost 80 legislators and municipalities each with a big bureaucracy. How can we afford more than a thousand municipal legislators? We waste so much money!

Don’t you think that our government officials know this? Don’t you think that most citizens know this?

Don’t you think that our police department knows exactly were the drug points are all over the island? Why isn’t the problem solved? We have placed a man on the moon and we don’t know how to solve this situation? Of course we do. We just lack the will to do it because the common citizen doesn’t get involved and doesn’t demand it from our elected officials.

I constantly hear people tell me, “ I don’t read the news any more”, “I don’t get involved in politics”, “There is no solution to our problem”, “All our politicians are crooks” “Decent people don’t get involved in politics” and on and on.

With this mind set, we will never be successful in solving our biggest challenges.
Everyone assumes something. The world couldn’t function if you didn’t. You assume that the sun rises in the east over Fajardo and sets towards Mayaguez. You assume that thunder follows lighting. You assume that night follows day. And you are right in these assumptions.

But what about assuming that a man loves his wife? That a child shall die before his mother and father? That a politician knows what is best for the people? That a politician knows the right course of action? That promises are going to be kept?

Well, here you must proceed with caution. And the best way to do this is to limit the number of assumptions you make. When you make assumptions for which you have no independently gained experience and when the consequences of a failed assumption are significant and costly, you should not substitute someone else’s experience and knowledge for your own.

Our grass roots organizations, Chambers of Commerce, PRTHA, SME, Rotary, the Convention Bureau, Retailers Association, the Industrials, Manufacturers and many others must get together and demand that our elected government officials do what they need to do. The common citizen must get involved also.

We must not assume that things will work out by themselves or that praying together will do it. We can’t assume that the government will solve every single problem we have.

We need action right away and if action is not taken, we will all be guilty and we will have to face the consequences.

As Gandhi said, “change must start with you”.

Did the most intelligent kid in your class achieve success?

Did the most intelligent kid in your class achieve success?

I wonder how many of you have even thought about what happened to the student that got the highest grades in your graduating class. Why don’t you find out? It might be quite a surprise besides satisfying your curiosity.

The old assumptions that intelligence and creativity are 100% innate, that the learning process is strictly logical, objective and linear and basically dependent on how much time you spend in class are wrong. The technology of pen, paper and textbooks as the only means of learning is also wrong.

I admit that academic success involves for the most part independent study, focused work, concentration on the subject at hand and a lot of writing. But entrepreneurial success, which depends quite a bit on intelligence also, involves discernment, reason, understanding in many different disciplines such as interpersonal skills, working with others, how to handle constant distractions and interruptions, leadership, verbal skills and many others.

I totally agree with the words of professor Ken Robinson, an educational reformer and a lecturer in TED: “Employers are already saying that a degree is not enough, and that many graduates do not have the qualities they are looking for: the ability to communicate, work in teams, adapt to change, to innovate and be creative. This is not surprising…The traditional academic curriculum is not designed to promote creativity. Complaining that the system does not produce creative people is like complaining that a car doesn’t fly…it was never intended to. The stark message is that the answer to the future is not simply to increase the amount of education, but to educate people differently”

Even more dramatically, Professor Robert Sylwester expressed it this way: “Get rid of that damn machine model. It is wrong. The brain is a biological system, not a machine. Currently we are putting children with biologically shaped brains into machine-orientated schools. The two just don’t mix. We bog the school down in a curriculum that is not biologically feasible...

What these two eminent professors are telling us is that our system of education was engineered with a strong cultural bias toward left brain thinking. The left brain is the one that provides us with linear, sequential logic. Now, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and those in the “mental” professions are discovering that the right hemisphere, the intuitive, “artistic” half of the brain, is maybe even more important to a human being’s success than the logical left side.

To be fair, in this article I have chosen to assert or support the right brain perspective only because right brain contributions in our society are minimalized because of the domination of left brain types.

I don’t want in any way suggest that the left brain or “realistic” perspective is not extremely valuable. The truth is that to be successful, it takes both left brain and right brain processes functioning most of the time.

I love the story when Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Watson went on a camping trip. After dinner and a few glasses of wine, they called it a night and went to sleep. A few hours later, Holmes awoke and poked his sleeping friend. “Watson, look up and tell me what you see”. Watson replied, “I see many stars sir”. “What does that tell you” asked left brained oriented Holmes. Right brained Watson reflected for a moment. “Well sir, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially millions of planets. Astrologically, I can see that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I infer that the time is approximately 3.15 am. Scientifically, I can see that the universe is magnificent, sir, and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Mr. Holmes?
Holmes was silent for a minute, and then replied. “Watson, you idiot. It tells me that someone has stolen our tent”.

Yes, left brain thinking definitely has its place.

I am also addressing this article to our educational and academic community. Puerto Rico and the United States are facing great challenges now and in the future. We will only be successful to deal with these challenges if we have well educated people ready to tackle them. Our present system of educating them is not effective.

A man I have always admired, Nobel Laureate Professor Richard Feynman, addressing the problems of educating our children strictly on left brain methodologies remarked, “Everything was entirely memorized, yet nothing had been translated into meaningful words. The students were all sitting there taking dictation and when the professor repeated the sentence, they checked it to make sure they wrote it down right. Then they wrote the next sentence, and on and on. So you see, they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized”.

This is what happened to me thirty years ago when I went to school and sadly it is exactly what is happening to our students today, in the Twenty First century.

With forty five million Hispanics in the US, maybe even more, those that speak English have a definite competitive advantage. All of us that have studied in Puerto Rico, especially those of us who attended college, went through school using English books.

We are in much better shape than millions of Hispanics that don’t speak any English at all. We have excellent private schools that although expensive, when students graduate, they qualify to study in the best universities in the United States. And yet, the fact that it is estimated that more than 50% of our population doesn’t speak English is absolutely shameful and anybody involved in our educational system should take responsibility and do something about it.

A big threat to your organization: mediocre employees

A big threat to your organization: Mediocre employees

Many businesses and companies I deal with seem to lump their employees into what I call the “mediocre middle”… some might be good enough to promote and some day manage others, and some are not bad enough to let go. Why do they do that? Because they are in the comfort zone!

If someone working for us shows promise and is good enough to promote, then it is obvious that we have to spend time with them, coach, council, mentor, and invest money to train and develop them and this is just too much bother, so we just lump them into the “mediocre middle”.

If someone working for us is bad enough to let go, then we have to let them know we need to sit down and have a not very nice “talk” with them about terminating their employment and since for most people, not including those with a sadist streak, doing that is one of the most unpleasant tasks managers need to do, why not just lump them into the “mediocre middle”? So now, lots of employees are in the “mediocre middle” and our life is much more pleasant and we just coast along… or so we think.

What I tell my clients in talks and seminars is that everyone on their team either adds value or they are part of the problem! With competition, world competition, the way it is today, companies can’t afford to have a “mediocre middle”. It is simply too costly and it will prevent you to be lean enough to move fast and do what needs to be done to better serve your clients. You need well trained, proactive employees or you will get beaten by your competitors.
Companies must treasure and hold dear those employees who are good enough to promote. They are your present and your future. You must create a career path for them or they will look for employment someplace else. Train, educate, and develop them.

Challenge them with interesting projects that will develop their intellect, talent and skills, credit them when they do a good job and reward them fairly. You will reap great benefits and rewards if you do this and it will be a win-win situation for all.

On the other hand, if an employee is not creating value for your clients and for your bottom line, they my friends are part of the problem. If they are costing you money through mistakes, inefficiency and damaged and tarnished customer relationships, they are part of your problem. A big part of your problem I might add. If their negative attitude, their lack of enthusiasm or commitment to the company is affecting the morale of other employees or other members of your team, they are part of your problem. If they can’t be on the team that will get your business to where you are planning to be within the next couple of years, they are a big part of your problem.

All of the employees in the “mediocre middle”, “part of the problem” department, usually fall into one of two categories…
Those who can be “rescued” with a reasonable amount of effort, commitment and resources, and …
Those who can’t.

Make a commitment right now to take a list of all your employees and beside each of their names, write a T for team or an M for mediocre.

Then, make a plan to develop, train and utilize the talents and skills of your T employees and decide which of your M’s can be rescued, can be saved if some time and effort is invested with them.

Then, and this is the sad part, deal firmly and humanely with those pour souls who can’t be rescued. Don’t feel that bad about it because if you think about it, you are doing them a favor. If they are not performing and they are not candidates to be rescued, it means that they either don’t have the talent or they don’t feel passion for what they are doing.

Anyone following their passion and talents will always do great in a work situation that utilizes their strengths and talents. Those that are not following their passion and talents, yet they are working with you, are doing so because they need the money, they don’t have anyplace else to work or they are looking for another job that utilizes their talents.

They have fallen in their comfort zone and hurting themselves and hurting you and your business. Deal with them firmly and humanely, jolt them out of their comfort zone so that they may find their calling in life and subsequently, their happiness. Always remember, if employees aren’t motivated, the fault is with managers and the organizational practices of the organization, not the employees, unless, they are the wrong employees.

The concepto of 100 plus

The concept of 100 plus and the equity theory.

I call the process of exceeding what clients anticipate they will get from a service experience, 100 plus. Any business having the 100 plus mentality will have a very good chance of making it, even in a tough economy.

As clients compare their expectations with the actual or real service received, they will feel in one of the following three ways:
Service was not as good as was expected
Service met expectations
Service exceeded expectations

In condition number one, the client will probably defect to another provider as soon as he or she has a chance to do so.

In condition number two, a satisfied client but not that satisfied, the client will remain a client until another better offer comes along. This client will never become a loyal client.

In condition number three, the service was better than anticipated. Either the client thought the interaction would be extremely good and it was, or the client thought it would not be particularly good but it wasn’t as bad as anticipated. If positive anticipations were sufficiently exceeded or negative one’s proven to be unfounded, this client is a very good candidate for repeat business and eventually becoming a loyal client.

To understand this concept fully, we need to go over a theory from the field of social psychology. Don’t stop reading, please. Social psychology isn’t boring at all.

So, let’s explain “equity theory” which in my opinion provides a solid theoretical basis for predicting that the 100 plus client will become a repeat client. J. Stacy Adams, PhD articulated this theory in the mid sixties. It has stood the test of time to become a widely accepted predictor of some human behaviors in certain situations.

Equity theory starts with the premise that human beings constantly go into and out of various kinds of relationships ranging from the intimate to the superficial. The buyer-seller relationship is applicable to this discussion.

Once in a relationship, even a brief one, people on a regular basis, assess the relative equity or fairness of their involvement, compared to other people. In plain language, they check to see if what they give to the relationship seems suitable or advantageous to what they are getting out of it. .

A very simple example of a relationship that is imbalanced would arise if you give someone a present and get nothing in return.
Inequitable relationships feel clumsy and often embarrassing. Common courtesy dictates that the other person do something to even up the relationship. When invited to dinner, people usually bring something to share at the meal or a gift to the hostess or someone in the household. This is ingrained in our culture. Takers in our society who take but never give will face a lonely future, because sooner or later, the giver will simple get tired of giving without getting anything in return.

In a work environment, people who, for example, are paid less for doing the same work as others, feel a sense of inequity. And their productivity will suffer. No one likes to be taken advantage of.

The theory goes beyond simply mentioning situations where people don’t feel well treated. It also gives us an idea of different behaviors. For example, they will:
Ignore or rationalize the inequity. The offended person makes up a reason such as “She deserves to be treated better than I do” or “The world isn’t fair but who am I to fight it”.
Demand restitution. The offended person goes to the supervisor to demand her salary be raised to an acceptable level or the client wants his money back when the quality of a product is not acceptable.
Retaliation. The offended person tells others about how bad the company is, does harm to the person seen as the cause of the inequity, or engages in outright sabotage.
Withdraw from the relationship. The offended person quits the relationship and never comes back.

A couple of days ago, I went to a restaurant in Atlanta that was supposed to close at 10pm and at 9.50pm, they didn’t want to take care of us. It was cold and we tried convincing the manager to let us in since we were hungry. We weren’t able to convince him. We will never go back to that restaurant again.
I could write a letter to the President of the chain but to tell you the truth, I am simply too busy.
If we feel unfairly treated, we get upset and usually do something about it.

The first two alternatives may give you as a business, a chance to mend things up and retain the client using recovery techniques which I will discuss in another article. But the last two, retaliation or withdrawal, can be devastating to a business.

The restaurant in Atlanta because of not being gracious with a client that simply wanted to be taken care of near closing time has lost that client forever and I will tell many of my friends that visit Atlanta.
The theory now gets more interesting: People who feel that they are receiving more than they deserve from an interaction also experience a psychological need to restore the balance of fairness.
A simple illustration of this is the psychological pressure you may experience to reciprocate when someone does something very nice to you. You will feel “in debt” until you have the opportunity to reciprocate with a similar kindness or even a more positive action.
I will never forget when I promised a friend I would send him a video of a hurricane devastating a city and after I did so, he sent me a video training seminar he had taped worth 10 times the video I sent him.

So, my dear readers, if you own a business or you work for a company and you have clients, by going beyond what people anticipate, you create an imbalance that for many people will require some type of action to make it even.

Yes, they could rationalize it or ignore it, but most will attempt to restore the balance by buying again from you, telling others, be willing to pay a premium for the services rendered or even becoming a loyal client. Remember, a loyal client is your most valuable client.

Become a service leader in your industry, go for the 100 plus concept and you will have many loyal clients and you will make a lot more money.

Puerto Rico needs to look to the future

Puerto Rico needs to look to the future right now.
I am very grateful to the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau for inviting me to the keynote speaker at yearly convention of COCAL 2010 held at the Sheraton Hotel across the Puerto Rico Convention Center last week.
COCAL means Confederacion de Entidades Organizadoras de Congresos y Afines de America Latina, a rather long name better remembered by its letters.
There were about 120 delegates from 17 countries, enthusiastic, forward looking people that want to expand their knowledge of how better serve companies, associations, hotels, really, anyone that is interested in holding meetings or conventions anywhere in the world.
I must congratulate The Puerto Rico Convention Bureau, headed by that wonderful, beautiful, intelligent lady, Ana Maria Viscasillas, for being able to bring this convention to Puerto Rico. I don’t think it was an easy task and they were able to do it.
Let’s just for a minute analyze what kind of an impact could an event like this have.
For starters, just having over a hundred people that do these kind of events, get familiar with the facilities we have in Puerto Rico, the amazing Convention Center, the fine hotels, restaurants, beautiful beaches, the amazing old San Juan and many more attractions, represents business opportunities that would never happen if these delegates had not come here and seen with their own eyes what we have.
I was able to interact with many of the delegates since I attended the closing dinner event, which by the way, had excellent food and terrific bands with most of the delegates dancing away the night.
They were ecstatic about what Puerto Rico had to offer. They loved everything, the people, the food, the conference, the hotel, the speakers, etc. so to them, having spent the money needed to attend one of these conventions, was well worth it.
One of the interesting points that came up in this convention was the fact that we must not only look north to the US as our main source of events and conventions but also to the rest of the world and more importantly to Latin America.
Think about this, we are the only, I repeat, the only country, island, commonwealth, territory, whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t matter, that has the Latin flavor with the security, the guarantees that the United States offers. We are the best of both worlds. Yes, we have limitations also, but the pale with the advantages that we offer.
I know that we all have been reading the papers and watching the news and crime is something that is worrying lots of us. But, let me tell you, compared with the cities in the countries that visited us here for COCAL, our crime situation is not bad at all.
For example, a Mexican gentleman asked me if I knew how many people were killed in Mexico due only to the fight against trafficking and drugs. I gave him a high number but not high enough. 143,000 killed including innocent bystanders that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I asked him if he had an armored car to protect himself. He said that having an armored car was worse than not having one. I asked him why?
He said that since crooks spend all their time just thinking how to screw other people, how to hurt them, how to get away with it, they figured a way to be able to get to the people that have armored cars.
He said that he had a friend that had one of those armored cars and was blocked by two cars, one in front and one behind, when they tried to assault him. He had the false security of having a level five armored car, a term used in Mexico to describe the highest level of security possible with one of such cars. So, when he had two of the guys with their guns standing by the door telling him to get out of the car, he smiled and with his finger said, “oh no, I am not getting out and I have an armored car, so sorry for you”.
The criminal said to him to get out, because if he had to get him out, he would really be sorry he hadn’t opened the door. The guy smiled and said, “Buddy, I am not getting out”.
Suddenly, out of the car, one guy brings out a big mandarria, a big hammer, and the guy hit the front fender with full force. The air bags opened and the locks in the car popped up.
The bad guys opened the door, pulled the guy out and proceeded to break every single bone he had in his body. They didn’t kill him; they just hurt him so bad that he will never be healthy again.
I opened my speech with an African folk tale: Every morning, a gazelle wakes and thinks. “To stay alive, I will have to run faster than the fastest lion”. There is always a significant incentive for gazelles (and small countries) to learn to run faster.
Just over the hill, on the other side, a lion realizes, “I have to run faster than the slowest gazelle, or I will go hungry.” Even lions (if they get lazy or if gazelles get smarter) can starve and so can great empires.
Many countries, regions, and people learn the consequences of this story the hard way.
Three quarters of the flags, borders, anthems and moneys represented at the United Nations today did not exist fifty years ago. Countries are falling apart at an unprecedented rate because governments and citizens don’t understand what this simple African story communicates.
Even in the United States, after a period of unprecedented growth and technological leadership, our financial situation is right now under great danger.
In Puerto Rico, it is even much worse. We have a much higher unemployment than any other state and our people who have lost their jobs, will find it impossible to catch up in a rapidly changing economy and the opening of jobs that they don’t have the training for.
When a country or region is consumed by internal political battles and ignores the need to educate its people, be up to date in the latest technologies and concentrates its efforts in becoming more competitive world wide, that country will become irrelevant and its people will suffer the punishment of unemployment, poor health care and an increase in crime and vandalism.
I do hope that our leaders in Puerto Rico understand that our future and that of our children and grandchildren depend on understanding a global economy driven by technology, innovation and highly educated people. And one way to take advantage of the global economy is to develop our tourism and even industry.
The budget must be found to assign more money to the tourism department and to the PR Convention Bureau, to attract tourists and events from Latin America, Europe and Asia, and not only depend on our uncle up north.

Growing in a tough economy

Growing in a tough economy: What the best companies do to get results in difficult times.
I participated yesterday in a very interesting webinar on how companies are doing now in the challenging times we are all living in.
In a study conducted by Robert Nelson, PhD, he found that 48% of all respondents said that their job was too stressful.
25% said it was their number one job stressor.
60% said they feel pressure to work too much or more than they should.
56% said they were somewhat or completely dissatisfied
85% said they felt overworked and underappreciated.
74% said that their productivity had dropped and 64% said that the productivity of their co workers has also dropped.
It is estimated that lost productivity costs the United States around 4.4 billion dollars a day.
So, there are many things that entrepreneurs or executives can’t control, but there are many that they can control. Although world events or economic matters are out of our control to a certain extent, the way we treat our employees, definitely falls under the area of things we can control.
There are many studies around that analyze what factors influence employee productivity or lack of productivity. Most agree that the number one factor that influences productivity in a company is the relationship between the boss and the subordinate.
What do most companies do? They promote the top salesperson to be the sales manager and usually what happens is that they lose a great sales person and get a lousy manager.
They promote the best machine operator and make him or her manager and that person might or might not have the skills, talent or personality to be a manager.
What is worst is that once the person has been promoted, he or she usually is not trained on how to be a manager. Executives, I think, sometimes assume that management is something you learn by yourself, sort of a trial and error situation, and sometimes it works, but boy, is that expensive.
Another important principle is that you get what you reward. And by reward I don’t mean more money. Yes, sometimes more money does motivate, but motivation at work is much more than money.
Employees need to be recognized, acknowledge and appreciated for their achievements, and if they are, they will produce even more.
Recognition is a way to create commitment and committed employees deliver 57% more effort than uncommitted employees.
In today’s uncertain world, leaders must create a clear and compelling direction, clear goals and expectations that are communicated on a timely basis and using the right means of communications.
To have open and clear communications with your employees is rated as a top priority by 95% of all employees.
If you have this type of communication in your company, you are able to involve employees and encourage initiative and 92% of all employees want to be asked for their opinions and their ideas.
They also want to have a greater say on how they do their jobs. They are on the front lines, day in and day out, they are in contact with clients, so they should be able to have some very good ideas on how better to do their jobs. Imagine how they feel when they have a manager come in and tell them how to do stuff that they know wouldn’t work if it is done that way.
On the other hand, if the numbers are not there, if the evidence demonstrates that the employee is not performing, then that issue has to be addressed by management and there are very effective ways to do so.
Two other things that world class companies are doing now:
They are focusing on career growth and employee development. Yes, at a time when you would think that development money should be cut back, these companies are working hard in developing their work force so that when the turnaround comes, they have the troops ready to go to battle.
Last but not least, intelligent companies compensate and reward high performance. If someone is producing and bringing in big bucks, hey, it is only fair that their compensation is tied to their results.
Compensation is a right, recognition is a gift. An important part of productivity is giving the gift of recognition to those that deserve it.

The world belongs to those that take action

The world belongs to those that take action.

Sir Francis Bacon said “Knowledge is power”. That is a very true statement. Now more than ever in the world we are living in, those that know have power over those that do not know. I believe however that Sir Francis should have said “Applied knowledge is power”. If you know and you don’t do, you don’t know. It is as simple as that.

John Ruskin an English author said “What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do”

In the world of business, you don’t get paid by what you know; you get paid by what you do. An old friend of mine, now deceased, used to tell me that “the universe rewards action” and he was so right. This man was an electrician, his last name was Barbosa. I was working at the time in Mueblerias Tartak in Ponce de Leon Stop 18 and I was only 16 years old.

Even though he had no formal education, he certainly knew about many aspects of life. Once he taught me how to have someone write a four digit number and he would look at it and write a number and he would tell someone else to write a four digit number and he would write a four digit number and then the person would write another four digit number and he would write the last number. The person would then add the total and lo and behold, Barbosa had the right answer written in his little piece of paper before the numbers were even written. I have never forgotten that trick and to this day I show my friends. He had no formal education but he was a graduate of the University of Life and he was a man of action. He taught me something I didn’t learn in school, I learned from him.

Working with many companies through the years, I have seen many executives get bogged down in analyzing, taking apart, thinking about, dissecting, studying and planning when what was really needed was to take action.
Taking action triggers momentum that will most times carry you to success. You let everyone around you know that you mean business. People start paying attention when they see you act and do stuff. You begin to discover and find out things from your experience that can’t be learned in books and manuals or listening to others. You begin to get honest feedback from members of your team about how to do it better, more effectively and more quickly. Yes, many good things begin to flow in your direction once you start doing it. Once you start taking action.

Over the years in this business of human accomplishment and performance, I have found that the one thing that seems to separate winners from losers more than anything else is that winners just do it. They take action.

Everything else set aside, they simply square their shoulders, get their head down and they attack the project that needs to be done.

Even if it is a rocky start, they learn from their mistakes, they make the necessary corrections and keep plugging all the time building momentum until they finally produce results, sometimes not as much as they would have wanted but many times more than what they thought they could get at the beginning.

To be successful in life, you have to do what successful people do, and if you look at highly successful people, especially leaders, you will notice that they are action oriented, they are go getters; they move and get things done.

Tom Peters, the famous management consultant whom I met when we both spoke at the Success Magazine Entrepreneurial Conference a few years ago in Orlando, made this point in a very short but effective phrase. He said “Ready, fire, aim”. I initially thought he had gotten confused because I was used to hearing, “Ready, aim, fire”. Soon he explained that in today’s world you can’t afford the luxury of thinking or planning too much and not taking action because someone else will beat you to the punch. So, his motto was “Ready, fire, aim”
Apple just introduced the I-Pad. They took action before anyone else. Guess what, Dell just announced that they were coming out with an I –Pad. Good for them, but Apple is now way ahead. They fired first.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States said “Things may come to those that wait, but only the things left by those who hustle”.

I just gave a speech this morning to the agents of a large insurance company based in New Orleans.

I told them that the most important asset a human being has is time. Yet what is time?
Everyone has difficulty trying to define it. Try it yourself, ask a few people in your company or in your neighborhood to define time and you will see what kind of answers you get.

Even Isaac Newton when asked, said that “time is absolute”. That answer is certainly a big help, right? Of course not.

But Einstein came to our rescue when he defined time as a series of events. In other words, time is everything that happens to you in life and how you arrange or prioritize those events.

The key in life is to use your time taking action, not thinking about taking action. Use your time to do, not to talk or think. Yes, you have to think things over, but if you think so much to the point that nothing happens, hey you are thinking too much and doing too little.

Let your actions speak for you.