Archive for February, 2010

Do you sometimes let conditions beyond your control dictate your day?  Have you ever been a victim of someone else’s circumstance? I often catch myself in reactionary mode when I should be functioning in a more proactive role as an activist.  I use the word activist because it might make you a little uncomfortable and possibly cause you to take notice…that, and I’m not sure if “proactionary” is even a word.  To be an activist is to be proactive. Proactive has more subtle definitions: hands-on; down to business; positive.   We’ve all attended Sales 101 courses that tell you to “be proactive,” but what on earth does that really mean in this context?

To define proactive, we need to start with a look at the characteristics of reactive in the form of common statements:

“____ has ruined my life”

“I’ll never do ____”

“That’s just the way I am.”

“I have to ____”

“I can’t ____”

As a “reactionist,”  you’ll probably find that you are easily offended, you blame others for what’s not right with your life, you complain too much and probably over react; then regret it. Reactionists are slaves to circumstance with nothing empowering as the result. Put simply, living your life in reactionary mode does not allow you to be the boss of you.

Shifting into activist mode will help you become your own boss. An activist will say:

“Let’s find a way to ____”

“I choose to ____”

“I can do it.”

“There has to be a way to do this.”

“Let’s be part of the solution.”

They’re all just words…but we know that words are powerful both negatively and positively…and they can cause a paradigm shift in your mood, your workspace and in your organization. Other definitions behind proactive are:  acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty; anticipatory; in control of an expected occurrence or situation.

All of these definitions negate the opportunity to be a victim of any circumstance.  Using the theory that if you’re operating in anticipation of or if you’re prepared, pliable and nimble, you will be ahead of the curve and you cannot be the victim of any situation, no matter what.  That’s it; nothing more, nothing less. Motivational speakers are saying exactly that, but “be proactive” sounds much sexier than “be prepared.”  People wouldn’t pay a nickel for a speaker hanging that banner. Being prepared is a good enough mantra for the Boy Scouts; it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

Be prepared, be proactive, be an activist for the situations in your career.  Be the boss of you!  Don’t let circumstance guide you, guide your circumstances for an outcome that is empowering in your life.


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Today is my best friend’s birthday.  She’s my rock.  She’s my mentor, teacher, cheerleader and confidant.  She is the example of femininity that every girl should aspire to be.  She’s my very own superhero! She’s taught me a whole new religion called sisterhood!

Sometimes we don’t realize how valuable the women in our lives are until it’s too late…but me, I was blessed when my parents gave birth to her 48 years ago (even though I wasn’t around then)…you get the point.

It’s not every day and it’s not often that we’re given a gift in the form of a lifelong friendship…and even more rare is when it’s your very own sister.  Today, as I write about her, I am reminded that it’s who she is to the core that makes her so special.  It’s not necessarily in what she says or what she does for me, although she says and does so much for so many, it’s in what she represents and the character in which she displays…even when no one is watching.

It’s no mistake that she shares a birthday with George Washington, the man who by all accounts, was respected by all that knew him.  When faced with happiness or morality as his compass, he chose morality; convinced that happiness was a direct byproduct of living on moral high ground.  I believe that about my sister.  I hope she knows that about herself.  They say old George was meticulous about keeping things in order and keeping the homestead on track…yep, that’s got Lori (my sister) written all over it.  Another account tells of his compassion and concern for those he served and those who worked for him…her again.  You see, its never in the deed but always in the actions.  It’s not the DOING that is so valuable, it’s the WAY it’s done that divides the natural from the contrived.  My sister is a natural.

Today, it’s all about her.  And how fitting that she share this day with a guy who, on his death bed, was concerned for the people taking care of him instead of worrying about himself.  I am proud and forever grateful for my friend, my sister and my own living wonder for the many times she selflessly cared for the rest of us.

Make time today to tell an amazing woman in your life that you notice her and that you appreciate her and your life is richer because of her.  And if you have a sister, tell her twice.  To quote Isadora James, “A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.”  Happy Birthday Lori!

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As a child I remember asking for permission to speak.  I’ve asked for permission to pee, permission to be excused, permission to paint an apartment in college and permission to borrow the family car.  As a performer in the USO I remember asking a ships’ captain for permission to come aboard his vessel.  I’ve asked permission of employers to take exotic vacations for longer than average periods of time, but I can honestly say that I have never once asked for permission to fail; I wish I had.

I read J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard University commencement speech today which confirmed my thoughts.  The “Harry Potter” author offers some powerful, heartening advice to dreamers and overachievers, including one hard-won lesson that she deems “worth more than any qualification I ever earned;” the benefits of failure.  I like her more already.

I’ve compiled a list to give each of us a word we can identify with: lapse, flunk, loss, downfall, flame-out, ruin, misfire, bust, defeat, flop, washout, divorced, fired…I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  These are all words, mere words that we’ve allowed to dictate not only our futures but our “nows.”  It’s not the failing that causes unrest and unhappiness; it’s actually the FEAR of failure that prevents potentially brave souls from achieving heights never before reached.  Fear is the word we ought to consider removing from our vocabulary, not failure. Fear: the ultimate four-letter “f” word. Failure: the ultimate motivator.

I know I’ve written about this topic before, but what struck me as peculiar was the fact that I, like J.K. Rowling am indebted for some of my biggest failures; whether they acted as the catalyst for change or the motivator to drive on.  It wasn’t until I was fired that I realized I hated the job I was in.  It wasn’t until I was dumped that I realized I had lost most of who I was in the relationship.  It wasn’t until I flunked out of accounting did I realize that my job at an accounting firm was not a good fit.

It’s not in the failing; it’s in the fear of failing that we get paralyzed in life.  I obviously had no problem with failing: jobs, relationships, classes…it was the fear of what people would think that made the experiences more painful than the eventually pleasant outcome.  So what would happen if we all had permission to fail?

Every story about great accomplishments contains the micro story of great defeats.  None of them succeeded without failing first.  It’s in how they used their failures that is the key. Here’s a cliff-note version of how to turn that fail around in three easy steps:

  1. It happened already. You can’t change it and you can’t worry about “what if.”
  2. What’s left? Use it, even if only the lessons of what NOT to do.
  3. Immediately begin taking action to accomplish whatever goals you set out to accomplish in the first place.

You can’t fail if you follow these steps; it is impossible! You can only fail if you stop trying.  You can only fail if you live in fear of what might or might not happen.  Here’s a quick look at something I found on 3 Simple Steps to Turn Failure into Success.  Worth a click to the link for a deeper dive into the process:

  1. Affirm your worth
  2. Review the situation
  3. Go at it again with all your worth

Sound simple?  It is!  I, Chrysty Beverley Fortner, hereby give you (insert name here) permission to fail.  But more importantly, I give you permission to try again. And in the end, I give you permission to overcome and succeed!  Signed this 15th day of February, 2010.

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Every day I meet people who are really good at what they do; and every day I remind myself what I am best at.  It’s not because I need the constant ego boost, but because I have to remind myself to stay focused…laser focused on the big picture instead of getting side-tracked when something sparkly catches my eye.

Why is it that companies like Kodak, Xerox and Microsoft still thrive in today’s competitive space given the fact they were founded 35, 104 and 118 years ago?  It’s because not only did they stick to what they knew, they knew their strengths and they made a commitment to creating and changing the rules to stay on the leading edge.  Take Kodak, for instance and their Wikipedia blurb, “Long known for its wide range of photographic film products, Kodak is re-focusing on two major markets: digital photography and digital printing.” Besides the witty use of “re-focusing,” it indicates a major shift in business model.  Why did Kodak “get it” and Polaroid miss it?  A one sentence explanation in Wikipedia for Polaroid about sums that up as well, “Its bankruptcy was widely believed to be the result of the failure of its senior management to anticipate the effect of digital cameras on its film business.”

My analogy is not to promote one digital camera company over another, but it is an example of defining what a picture perfect business model using best practice philosophy might look like.  Sometimes we forget to change our speed.  Sometimes we forget to focus.  Either way, the picture is blurry; as are the lines between the way we’ve always done it and the way we need to do it going forward.  Maybe somewhere between the iron-clad mission statement and a look into the crystal ball lies the secret to the ever-changing business model.

This concept is illustrated in a 2006 article in Entrepreneur Magazine, where the emphasis is on progression and adaptation to change.  “This kind of business-model evolution is just smart business in a marketplace that’s moving at warp speed. Gone are the days when a growing business with any hopes of long-term survival could etch a business model in stone and follow it into oblivion. Savvy customers and a fragmented marketplace require companies to move on, adapt or die. In the 21st century, it’s not merely an original idea that endures in survival of the fittest; it’s the ability to change. Strength is derived from nimbleness within the business model itself.”

So how does that apply to the rest of us solo- and  entrepreneurs? It means that yes, we need to stay laser focused on what we’re good at, but it also means that we need to evaluate and re-evaluate to keep our head out of the sand.  Here are a few steps to keeping up with the changing times in your business:

  1. Brainstorm about your company ideas, products and factors that are important to your largest client base
  2. Discuss how their industries are changing and make sure your product is still relevant to theirs
  3. List your company’s core competences and things you do better than anyone else
  4. Brainstorm on how your core competencies can morph into products or services your customers can’t live without
  5. Don’t get side-tracked with smaller projects that are outside the scope of what you’re great at
  6. Make sure you’re offering an environment of change within your organization that isn’t being shoved in anyone’s face
  7. Re-write your “tagline” or “business focus” daily, weekly or monthly until you get it right…take a snap shot then look at it in a month to make sure it has kept up with the change

The punchline to all of this is that the picture perfect business model is not the etched-in-stone model of our predecessors; ours is now one of mobility and agility.  Keeping your staff part of the process is not just smart, it’s a necessity since they’re more likely to be tuned-in to the changing needs and trends of your customers.  I’m always an advocate of the “go with what you know” philosophy, but that does not mean you can’t learn new things and adapt to new ways of doing them. Get the picture?

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