Posts Tagged ‘vision’

I recently attended a leadership conference in Miami hosted by Inc. Magazine that led me to write this blog. One of the evenings, I had the opportunity to have dinner at Avalon restaurant on Ocean Drive with two partners of a software company from New York. We talked about business, sports, life, parenting, politics, and many other debatable topics. At the end of the evening we found areas we agreed in and other areas we didn’t, which led one of the partners to say this: “I think we can all agree that I have beliefs that you can’t change my mind about and you have ones that I can’t change your mind about, either.”

My immediate response was that neither one of us are eighty-five years old and set in our own ways, with certain sets of beliefs that can’t be challenged or made stronger. I believe this is one of the differences between being wise and being smart. Although both of these gentlemen are extremely intelligent, enough to be running a multi-million dollar business, that intelligence can pose a challenge when it comes to taking our thinking to the next level. This leads us to the topic of the difference between being smart and being wise.

We constantly hear parents calling their children smart or their children’s teachers smart, but we rarely hear the word “wise.” Do you remember when you yourself were growing up which students were called smart, or that overachieving cousin you were always compared to? Do you ever wonder how far that smartness got that student or that cousin?

Being smart is linked to having the key to success. If you were smart growing up, it was almost a given that you were going to be successful. But what about the kid who lost his father when he was twelve, lived in fifteen different places growing up, had to start working at the age of thirteen to support his mother and two brothers, and still had to find a way to have a cool image in school? His GPA almost certainly took a hit due to some of those uncertain circumstances, and that perhaps caused him to not earn the label of smart. What do we do with that kid in our society? Do we throw in the towel for him and say that he has no shot in life because of his circumstances, or do we label him as a wise kid?

Let’s look at some differences between being smart and wise:

1. Can anyone be smart?

  • What would you call someone who has spent ten years studying a topic? Sports, politics, religion, health, relationships, parenting, or any other topic. How about if she reads 100 books just on that one topic and takes courses on it for years? Wouldn’t that make her smart?
  • But does that necessarily make her wise? Have you ever met anyone who knows a ton about sports but isn’t necessarily a great athlete? How about someone who has studied religion but doesn’t implement any of the doctrine taught in his religion? What would you call that? Someone who is smart but not necessarily wise possibly?

2. Logic versus emotion.

  • Smart people tend to process information in a logical way whereas wise people process the emotional, the spiritual, and the subtle side of the logic as well.

3. Speed of growth creates wisdom.

  • Mark Twain once said, “A person who has had the bull by the tail once has learned sixty to seventy times as much as a person who hasn’t.” I’ve met many smart people in my life who unfortunately pass up the opportunity to put themselves in situations where they would grow at a much faster rate. Sometimes putting ourselves in situations where we haven’t been before empowers us to grow at a rate we never have before. It’s almost as if you experience ten years in a span of six months, which leads to wisdom.

4. Does wisdom only come with age?

  • Jimmy Connors once said this about experience: “Experience is a great advantage. The problem is that when you get the experience, you’re too damned old to do anything about it.” There’s no doubt that a big part of wisdom does come with experience, but one of the most important formulas for gaining wisdom is to surround yourselves with people much wiser than yourself whom you trust to help you on your journey of gaining wisdom.

5. When to open your mouth and when not to.

  • Here’s a humorous way of explaining the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Being smart is knowing your wife’s hair style isn’t as good as her last one. Being wise is knowing enough to keep your mouth shut. Gentlemen, this can help you tremendously.
  • Another explanation could be that a smart person is aware that a tomato is a fruit but a wise person knows not to put one in a fruit salad.

6. Know-it-all versus willing to learn and grow.

  • A wise person knows that they’re not the smartest person out there, which makes them seek new information in order for them to learn and grow. We’ve all heard the saying “he’s too smart for his own good,” but I’m not sure how often you’ve heard “he’s too wise for his own good.”

7. Knowing versus doing.

  • There’s a big difference between knowing things and knowing how to use what you know. Reading a book about how to start a business is a waste if you don’t actually start a business. Reading a book about how to improve your health is a waste if you end up having a whole cheesecake by yourself that evening after finishing the book.

8. Employing knowledge versus employing judgment under pressure.

  • A good friend of mind once said that it’s easier for a wise person to gain knowledge than for a smart person to gain judgment. The obvious difference is that being smart is a process of learning while being wise is a product of experience. Age has very little to do with this. A seventeen-year-old kid who grew up in a war-stricken environment has much better judgment when it comes down to how to react during war than someone who is fifty years old with no experience in war, even if that person has read every single book on war.

9. What did Solomon ask of God?

  • Solomon in the book of Kings asked God for wisdom to be a good king. Why didn’t he ask God to make him smarter than everyone else?
  • That prompted me to see how often the word “wisdom” is mentioned in the Bible versus the word “smart.” “Wisdom” is mentioned 219 times, while the word “smart” isn’t used once. That’s right: not even once. The word “intelligent” is used four times and “intelligence” five times, but “smart” isn’t used once. Maybe the Bible is hinting for us to change what to ask for in our prayers.

The ideal plan is to work on being wise and smart. Allow your thinking to be challenged in order to get sharper. Apply what you learn in order to turn your knowledge into wisdom. If you know but do not do, you’re considered someone smart. If you learn and apply that knowledge, even though you may make mistakes, you’re working toward becoming wise. And by doing so, you will notice a difference in the way you handle people, overcome challenges, resolve issues, manage money, and increase your value in your occupation.

Some may say that independent-contractor thinking and business-owner thinking are both the same thing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We’re living in times when society is doing its best to influence us to work less and to have fewer commitments, less responsibilities, and less accountability. After all, there is a lack of responsibility, accountability, and commitment at the top of the government; this type of “stinking thinking” has been passed down to the day-to-day American, which has in turn led us to where we’re currently at as a nation.

In stark opposition to this attitude, I want to address a certain kind of thinking that gives drastically different results. In order to see how you get to this higher level of thinking, let’s start by looking at the different categories of employment.

There are five stages of employment, which many of us have gone through:

  1. Unemployed: 8.3% of America falls into this category. As you can imagine, it’s very problematic to be unemployed when you have a life and a family to support.
  2. Underemployed: This is quite a large group of people today. The waiter at a five-star restaurant who used to be a CPA or engineer but is now having a hard time landing a good job is underemployed; rather than choosing unemployment, he chose to be a waiter and make $65,000 a year with tips.
  3. Employed: This means you have a job that you’re pleased with.
  4. Independent contractor: You get paid what you’re worth in this category without a set schedule. Freelance graphic designer, realtor, life insurance agent, actor, musician, salesman, and photographer are all examples of independent contractors.
  5. Business owner: This category is a combination of an independent contractor mixed with a tablespoon of the predictable routine or schedule of an employee.

Having been in all of the five employment stages I can tell you that I learned a great deal from each level. But despite what we can learn from all the stages, most people have a desire to own their own business one day. You want to be a partner or a part-owner of a business, in a position where you’re involved in making decisions that grow the company to the next level; this kind of investment requires a different level of commitment than the first four stages.

Now let’s focus on the level of thinking associated with the last two stages. The real question is this: What’s the difference between the level of thinking or mentality of an independent contractor and a business owner?

Most independent contractors think that they’re business owners, but they run their businesses more like an employee does than a business owner. They wait for a financial crisis before going out and working hard to build up their cash reserve again. If in real estate, for example, an independent contractor will work extremely hard to land a few sales; but after making $35,000 in a month, they’ll be somewhat casual the next ninety days, thinking that they’ve already made it big. Once the money runs out, they start panicking and start working hard again. This becomes a cycles that doesn’t stop until they make a decision to start thinking like a business owner.

Conversely, there are many actors, realtors, and salesmen who are independent contractors but comport themselves as business owners. These people represent only a small percentage of the market place, and they are usually the ones who are the high-income earners.

Here are ten points that show a business owner’s level of thinking versus the thinking of a day-to-day independent contractor:

  1. A business owner shows up for work at the same time everyday unless he’s traveling or on the road. He has a set schedule and is predictable.
  2. A business owner invests money into his business.
  3. A business owner runs her own office.
  4. A business owner has a supporting staff. A personal assistant is a must.
  5. A business owner has a system for every aspect of his business in order to minimize clutter.
  6. A business owner usually has a certain set of numbers they track—sales, activity, follow up, profit, loss, etc.
  7. A business owner is a risk taker.
  8. A business owner does everything with a purpose.
  9. A business owner is constantly studying and reading to find ways to improve himself as a leader as well as his business.
  10. A business owner sets goals and pushes to the very end to achieve them.

If you’re an independent contractor reading this, you may see a few items on this list that you currently practice as well as several you need improvement in. I want to encourage you and challenge you to commit to thinking like a business owner in all areas of your business. You’ll see a dramatic difference in your business, which will in turn drastically influence your lifestyle. This higher level of thinking will get you that much closer to living your dream life.

By Paul Allen Powers

Many years ago, I read my first book on personal development. Chances are, anyone who has ever wanted to “be someone” has already read this book. The person who encouraged me to read this book was a very successful business man, a multi-millionaire many times over.

The book was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. As a spirited fifteen year old with visions of living the American Dream, I collected the golden nuggets Hill had to offer.

Prior to reading this book, I was already an avid reader of many other works by and about successful entrepreneurs. I read about Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Howard Hughes, and many other entrepreneurs. I read as well about the new breed of entrepreneurs that has come to replace the greats of the past: Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few.

One common thread that I found in the lives of all these successful people is that they had mastered their mindset and the internal language in which they spoke to themselves on a daily basis. They thought and spoke to themselves in encouraging, successful ways.

What are you saying to yourself on a daily basis? Are you simply reacting to what you don’t want versus going after what you do want?

Many people have a habit of reacting to unwanted circumstances in their lives by stating out loud or internally what they don’t want. For example: “I don’t want to be broke anymore,” “I wish I wouldn’t have such poor health,” or “Why can’t my life be easier?” Far from bettering our situations, these little messages play little tricks on our subconscious mind and in fact bring us more of the same trouble. The mind is a very powerful thing, and by dwelling on such negative thoughts we attract more negativity towards ourselves.

Now imagine instead what might happen if, instead of concentrating on what you don’t want, you concentrate on what you do want. For example: “My finances are improving on a daily basis,” “My health is getting better and I feel great,” or “My life is so much fun! I am surrounded by many great people who are contributing to my life in a positive way, allowing me to in turn provide value to them.”

Now some of you reading this might say, “Oh this sounds like some of that mumbo-jumbo like ‘Positive Mental Attitude,’” referred to as “PMA” back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. So many people started talking about having a positive mental attitude that many people started to dismiss the entire concept as a joke. The “rational” thinkers started to treat those PMA-ers as dreamers. Rather than taking them seriously, they told these people that they needed to “get real” and “stop dreaming.” But having a positive mental attitude isn’t just about “dreaming”—it’s about focusing on what you want and making it happen.

I am coming from the place of someone who grew up in this country as an immigrant. Growing up, my mother told me that we were living in the greatest country on earth. She also taught me that what I say to myself on a daily basis is more important than the food I eat. To this end, everyday we would speak of what we wanted for our future. We were excited about the potential of what could be. We were thankful for everything we had, even though we didn’t have any material belongings that would classify us as affluent. We weren’t even middleclass; yet rather than telling myself all the things I didn’t have and thinking about that lack, I talked to myself about all the wonderful things that were mine to earn. My mother taught us to be thankful for what we did have and made sure we spoke and thought about what we wanted rather than about what we didn’t want or have.

Books have been written about the concept of a positive mindset. Movies have been made about it. I am sure many of you have watched or read The Secret. Many of the concepts in The Secret are applicable to what I am writing about in this blog. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you pick it up.

Now here are the hard facts. It doesn’t matter how many books you read about becoming successful. It doesn’t matter how many wealthy or affluent people you manage to temporarily surround yourself with. Unless you master your mindset and the language you use to speak to yourself on a daily basis, you will not be able achieve and maintain true success or meaningful relationships.

Here are a few action steps to take:

1) Put your affirmations in writing. Affirmations are anything you want to be saying to yourself on a daily basis. For example: “I am a leader of leaders. Every day in every way, I am getting stronger and healthier. I am providing value to others and in return I am receiving abundance and value from others.”

2) Print out your affirmations and laminate them. Put your affirmations everywhere! Put them in the bathroom, in your daily planner, in your car—anywhere that you can see them.

3) Most importantly, read your affirmations three to four times a day at minimum.

4) Update your affirmations as needed. Remember, you will be growing, and as a result your mindset will be in a constant state of renewal and change.

5) Read as many personal development books as possible, but also remember to read the most important book of all: the Bible. True enlightenment can only come to those who work on their spiritual growth as well as their mental growth.

6) Most importantly, have FAITH. The key to a positive mindset is having faith that the affirmations you are saying to yourself will come to pass.

Let me leave you with a quote from Margaret Thatcher: “Watch your thoughts because they become words. Watch your words because they become actions. Watch your actions because they become habits. Watch your habits because they become your character. Watch your character because it becomes your destiny!”

Everyone will experience stress. Stress happens when we are unprepared for events in life. Through preparation, you can reduce the number of stressful events in your life and improve your ability to react to circumstances you can’t control. Our reaction to events can increase or reduce the intensity of the stress we feel.

Here are 4 keys to minimizing stress:

1. Identify the difference between events you control and those you do not.

People have a way of stressing over events that they have no power over and ignoring the events that they could have controlled with anticipation and planning. You can’t prevent an earthquake, but you can prepare for one. Consider the Serenity Prayer adopted by many 12-Step Programs:

“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.”

Those four simple lines share the fundamental secret to limiting stress and gaining success. When you find yourself in a potentially stressful situation, focus on what you can control and don’t stress about what you can’t change.

2. Respond rather than react

When things do happen that are outside of your control, your reaction to those events is still within your control. Your job is to respond to life’s twists and be ready for them. That’s what they mean by “turning lemons into lemonade.”

Realize that that there will be challenges in life from events outside your control. Whether or not those events immobilize you or inspire you, is the difference between being a victim and being a leader. Victims see only the problem. Leaders envision the solution. How many people that lost their jobs have started the small business they always wanted or discovered their entrepreneurial spirit? Why do some feel hopeless and others feel determined?

3. Most stress can be avoided through preparation

Being prepared for your short and long term future greatly reduces stress. When I got discharged from the Army I had no plan for how I would make money, so even figuring out how to pay the rent was stressful. Most stress in life comes from lack of planning. As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Even though we don’t know all the challenges we will encounter, we can plan for many things. For example, how would you respond to these scenarios?
- What if you had an unexpected expense like a major car repair or a leaky roof?
- What if you became sick or injured and couldn’t work?
- What if the cost of gasoline was $5 /gallon?

Most stress in life comes from not preparing for “what if….” The insurance industry is based on the idea of being prepared for the future and for surprises. One definition of insurance is “any means of guaranteeing against loss or harm.” Preparation is insurance against stress.

4. A vision without a plan is doomed to fail

Life changes are inevitable, but they don’t have to be stressful. When you plan for pivot points in your life you reduce the stress of the unknown. Before I got married, I wrote down all the things that I loved about my wife and the things that were challenges for me. When I decided to marry her, I knew the person I was marrying. I wasn’t stressed about getting married. I was happy and sure of my decision. Before I started my own business, I weighed the risks and rewards against my vision for my future. Many people have a vision of what they want their life to look like, but few plan and execute the steps to achieve that future.

It can be stressful and frustrating when your dreams seem out of reach. There is a Japanese Proverb that says “Action without vision is a daydream. Vision without action is a nightmare.” The good news is that you can plan for that future and reduce your stress along the way.