Saturday, January 1, 2011

Get out of your comfort zone and find your passion in 2011

Get out of your comfort zone and find your passion in 2011

Imagine a cage with five monkeys. In the cage hangs a banana and there are some stairs that lead to it. In a few minutes, a monkey walks towards the stairs and starts climbing in order to eat the banana. As soon as he steps on the first step, all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt to eat the banana and all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

Do these several times and you will see how the next time a monkey gets close to the stairs to try to get the banana, all the other monkeys will try to prevent it even though there is no water sprayed on them.

Now, we remove one monkey from the cage and replace him with another one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs to eat it. To its amazement, all the other monkeys attack him to prevent his going up the stairs. He will try a few times but will finally realize that if he continues trying, he will be attacked, so he stops trying.

Next, remove another of the original monkeys and replace him with a new one. The new one goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous monkey takes part in the punishment with great enthusiasm although he has no idea why it is not permitted to climb the stairs.

After replacing the third, fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys that had been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs. We may ask ourselves, why not? “Because that is the way it has always been around here”. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

If we look at the problems we are facing in the island, don’t you realize that is exactly what is happening? We must change things around here. We must be creative and find ways to help this beautiful island with smart, hard working people, reach its potential.

The way we are handling things now a day is not conducive to allow P.R to progress, as it should. It is clear that the University of Puerto Rico, my Alma matter, is going through rough times. There is a big deficit and it is getting bigger. Striking and using violence is not the way to go. That costs money, lots of money and at the time of this writing, the University might lose its Middle States accreditation and millions will be lost in all kinds of federal help. There are difference of opinions on what must be done to solve the problems, getting into the different arguments is not within the scope of this article.

What must be done is stop this childish behavior and get to work to solve the problems or the consequences are going to be disastrous to the thousands of students that want to study, help their country and succeed in life.

Do not think that the problem with the University is a local matter. No. It is a world-wide matter because what happens gets reported and the whole world reads about it.
This affects the reputation of the island and it will scare off entrepreneurs or companies that might want to come here to invest and create jobs. Then everyone suffers, not only the students.

The best way to solve problems is for everyone to sit down, get down to business and look for a win win solution.

Time here is of the essence. We can’t simply afford to continue down this path. With the world going through a very difficult economic period and every country trying to find ways to become more competitive and get their finances in order and here we are striking and fighting among ourselves? This is ludicrous, makes no sense at all.

My intention in writing this article was not to discuss the situation at the University but it just slipped out after hearing the radio all day and then watching the eleven o’clock newscast. There is no positive news discussed, everyone is crying over the present situation. If things can change, they will certainly not change if most people are walloping in their sad world, complaining and not doing anything about it.

People must get out of the comfort zone and change the mind set from disruption to constructive problem solving. Everyone is responsible, not only the government or the University administration, faculty and students. If you, as a citizen, believe that things are not happening the way they should, start applying pressure through the media, your elective officials or any other means and get involved. Remember, if the boat sinks, you are going down with it too.

Getting back to the focus of the article, there is no doubt that there are millions of people in the world conditioned to lead mediocre lives without a clear vision of the future. They don´t have definite objectives that could better their lives and they have fallen victim to obstacles or negative situations that have sucked away their enthusiasm and motivation.

No matter to how much negativism you are exposed to daily, the world today is much richer than at any other moment in life. There are more opportunities for everyone today than in any other point in history. Can you believe that right now you could create a web page and this afternoon you could be selling products or services to everyone in the world? First time in history this can be done.

What is your passion and purpose in life? Many experts in the motivational field recommend that you start with these questions. Those of you that take the time to do this exercise will be amazed at the results you can achieve. I have had people in my seminars come to me with tears in their eyes telling me that it is the first time that they have sat down to think about these important concepts.

They had no idea what their destiny would be, didn’t know their passion or purpose in life and had accepted to lead purposeless, boring lives. Thinking about these questions, was the first step to completely change their lives. This change in their lives, by the way, had a domino effect on their friends and loved ones.

I divide these questions in four areas: Passion, Talent, Values and Destiny.

1) Passion: What is it that I like to do?
What activities give me great satisfaction?
What makes me enthusiastic?
What is my secret ambition?
What are my hobbies?

2) Talent: What am I really good at?
What am I so good at that people constantly praise me?
What have I excelled at in the past?
What are my strengths

3) Values: What is important to me?
What would I do if I were very rich?
What do I stand up for?
What code of ethics do I follow?
For what would I risk my life?

4) Destiny: I was born to accomplish what?
What is my true mission in life?
What opportunities am I missing because I am not focusing correctly?
How can I make a difference in other people’s lives?

Answering these questions from your heart will lead you in the right direction. You might not have given these questions much thought in the past but now; starting 2011 is a good time to start. The world needs what you have to offer and what you can contribute to it. Don’t deprive the world of the things that you can accomplish.

When a person finds its passion and purpose in the world, life becomes wonderful and miracles start happening. It seems the universe wants to give you what you want.
Life doesn’t give you what you need; life gives you what you deserve.

May 2011 give you everything that you deserve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The best advice for 2011? Manage yourself

The best advice for 2011? Manage yourself
Success in difficult times comes to those who know themselves, by this I mean, their strengths, their values, their weaknesses and how they best perform under normal and difficult circumstances.
If you study the lives of great achievers throughout history, Einstein, Edison, Washington, Da Vinci or Mozart, you will find that they have the ability to manage themselves.
This factor is what makes them great achievers and they are rare exceptions, very unusual both in their talents and their accomplishments.
Most of us, even those of us with modest talents and skills, will have to learn to manage ourselves in order to have a chance to succeed in the difficult times we are going through and will be going through for at least a year or maybe even longer.
We will have to learn to develop and place ourselves in a position where we can make the greatest contribution. This is not only needed in moments of crisis, but actually in the 40 to 50 year working life most of us will go through.
Most people think they know what they are good at but in my experience they are usually wrong. More often people know what they are not good at and sometimes they are also wrong. And yet, we know that a person can perform well, consistently well, only from strength.
One can’t build performance on weaknesses, let alone on some talents and skills we don’t have at all.
Thru out my career as a speaker and consultant, I have tried with very good success, a technique I want to share with you. If you do only one thing different in 2011, this might be your best option.
Whenever you make a key decision or take action on a problem you are facing, write down what you will expect will happen. Six months later, compare the actual results of your decisions with your expectations. You will be very surprised.
I have been doing this for years and I have found out that I have an intuitive understanding of people oriented people, whether they are in human resources, management, social services or entrepreneurship.
I don’t resonate much with dogmatic or close minded people who think they have the right answer for every problem. They don’t realize that when you are a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
I believe that if you practice this method consistently, within a relatively short period of time, you will find where your strengths lie and believe me, this is the most important thing to know all the time, especially during tough times.
The method will show you what you are doing or not doing that strips you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you are not particularly qualified or competent. And finally, it will show you where you have absolutely no strengths or skills and you simply can’t perform.
Several implications for action follow from doing this self analysis I am suggesting you do.
First, it would be very wise if you concentrate on your strengths. Very important: Put yourself in a position where your strengths can produce results.
Second, work on improving your strengths. This self study will quickly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It also will show spaces in your knowledge and these spaces in knowledge can usually be resolved.
Mathematicians are born but everyone can learn Algebra.
Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance or negative effects on your interpersonal relationships and overcome it.
Many people, far too many to be candid, with expertise in one particular area, are disrespectful of knowledge in other areas or believe that being intelligent is a substitute for knowledge or experience.
First rate computer technicians, for example, tend to take pride in not knowing anything about people. Human beings, they believe, are too much disorganized for the good technical mind.
Human resource professionals, on the other hand, often pride themselves on their ignorance of basic accounting or of computable methods altogether.
Taking pride in such ignorance is detrimental and self defeating. Go to work on acquiring the skills and knowledge you need so as to fully realize your strengths.
Finally, since I am running out of space, it is imperative that you work on your bad habits, the things you do that constrain your effectiveness, performance and results.
Such habits will constantly show up on your self-analysis.
For example, a person will realize that being late to every meeting or event will seriously affect his or her credibility. This will be the cause of many lost opportunities. Another person may find out that constantly making promises and not keeping them will force people to not believe in them with very negative consequences.
A manager may find that beautiful plans fail because he or she doesn’t follow through on them. Like so many intelligent people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But the reality is that bulldozers move mountains, ideas show where the bulldozers need to go and which mountains need to be moved.
This manager will need to know that the work doesn’t stop when the plan is finished. He must find the right people to carry out the plan and explain it to them in a convincing and effective way. He must adapt, change, modify the plan as it unfolds in real life and finally and most importantly, must decide when to stop pushing it or change to a new plan.
I wish you all, my dear readers, the best in 2011 and I thank you for reading my column and emailing me so often with comments and great ideas. I thank the Puerto Rico Daily Sun for the opportunity to express my views and try to be of help in improvingy our lives and or your businesses.

Change is here to stay, do you resist it?

Change is here to stay. Do you resist it?
Years ago I heard a saying: “It is easy to change things. It is hard to change people”.
With today’s changing technology, changing faster than any of us imagined, resisting change is maybe the biggest obstacle that businesses have in order to be successful.
Let me give you a very well known example: In the early seventies, an adventurous engineer at Texas Instrument named Gary Boone had the bright, against conventional wisdom, idea for a full computer on a chip, better known today as the microprocessor.
After lots of work and persistence, he was able to secure a patent from the government but he wasn’t as successful in persuading his own peers, his colleagues that he was on to something bigger than any of them could imagine.
This guy may have had other faults, but lack of persistence wasn’t one of them. He screamed, hollered, insisted until finally he got it: A meeting with the top honcho at Texas Instrument. He calmly explained his idea for a computer on a chip.
Imagine the face of his boss when he heard what sounded like an expression right out of a patient in a mental hospital. His answer, fortunately recorded in history, was “young man, don’t you realize that computers are getting bigger, not smaller”?
I can’t stop laughing.
This man’s paradigm had to be anchored in big computers which, truthfully, at the time they were getting bigger. He simply, like so many business people today, they don’t look farther than the present, what is known and thought to be “true”.
The two Steve’s, Jobs and Wozniak tried to sell their revolutionary idea of personal computers at Atari, a company that no longer exists and at Hewlett-Packard now a successful company that must have changed along the way. They didn’t pay attention to them of course.
Since no one would listen to them, they decided to start Apple Computer in a garage in one of their homes.
That company that was started with little money is worth today billions of dollars and it has the reputation of being one of the most creative companies in the world. In fact, for the quarter ending on September 2010, Apple Inc had sales of over 20 billion dollars. Sorry to say that I got that information on my Blackberry, unfortunately, my I phone slipped out of my pocket on a flight to Las Vegas and “surprisingly” the cleaning crew never found it. I once forgot my tennis racket on the overhead bin and it wasn’t found either so I didn’t keep my fingers crossed in order to find my I phone.
How about Mark Zuckenberg and Eduardo Saverin from Chile, who started Face book and now it is worth billions? Some of you might have seen the movie Social Networks, so you know that Mark, through some legal maneuvers, separated Eduardo from the company but it is rumored that he sued and won a billion dollar settlement.
Eduardo, wherever you are, come and visit us in Puerto Rico. Wow, do we need your creativity and aggressiveness to help us get out of this comfort zone we are in.
Not all changes are good.
Do you remember the first Hispanic, a Cuban American chemist named Roberto Goizueta, that become President of Coca Cola when he, along with most talented entrepreneurs fled Cuba in the sixties?
Even though he was extremely successful and grew that company beyond everyone’s expectations, he did make a bad mistake: Substituting the regular Coke with a new flavor called the “new Coke”.
You could argue that not all changes are for the better. Hey, even I, a fanatic of change can accept that. But, even if a change is wrong or bad, it always teaches valuable lessons which sooner or later will prove valuable.
When the regular coke was taken off the shelves and the new coke replaced it, there was almost a revolt. The American public simply didn’t accept it and there were protests all over the country. People thought that their values were being attacked.
Well, the classic coke was re introduced and sales went up exponentially, so much that some people thought that Roberto did that on purpose. Hey, he was a brilliant guy, but not that brilliant. No one is that brilliant. Coca Cola did run focus and taste groups and for whatever reason, people liked it but when it came out, it seems they changed their minds.
During my career I have worked in industries that have seen remarkable change in the last thirty years.
Let’s take the office equipment industry. I was a witness to it when I spent a few years at Xerox Learning Systems, the training arm of Xerox. From one day to the next, our patents expired and a bunch of Japanese entrepreneurs stood outside the patent office in Washington D.C. and boughtthe patent for Xerography, Xerox’s secret to success. Yes, there is a law that says that after 17 years (it might have changed) your invention must go public.
The Japanese came back a year later with great machines at half the price. We had to re invent ourselves in a hurry and we did. Before giving up the patents, we had 77% of the world copier market, when the Japanese attacked, we got down to 12% more or less and after we adapted and embraced change, we got it back to 23% or so, again becoming the dominant company in the industry.
On a funny note, I was meeting with a couple of Xerox executives in Puerto Rico and we had a tremendous challenge in front of us: We had to sell 20 fax machines in the whole year.
How things change! Years later we sold more than 20 every day.
Now, the fax machine is an outdated piece of equipment. Now we are living in an increasingly paperless society: Email, the internet, the web, etc.
There are a few skills you need in order to survive an environment of change.
1. You must have vision. You must open your mind to new ideas and try to visualize what that idea will look like a few years later.
2. You must have thick skin because most people will attack you. Most people need to remain in their comfort zone and if you try to get them out of it, they will fight you and fight you hard.
3. Be willing to fail. I will never forget the speech given by James Cameron at; you might even be able to see it at their web site, when he said that he believed he had been successful because of curiosity, imagination and welcoming failure.
4. Be persistent. You can’t give up; you must try and try again until you start making progress.
5. Ask for help. No one can do it alone. No one can succeed alone. You need other people’s ideas, input, skills and advice from time to time.
We need change in our society if we are going to survive, let alone thrive, we must accept change.
Go back to your companies and ask a few questions:

1. Why are we doing it this way?
2. Could there be a better way?
3. What would happen if we start from scratch?
4. What is the up side?
5. What is the down side?
6. What if we stay put and don’t change, what could be the consequences?
7. Who in the team just doesn’t see it?At least you now have a little road map.