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Remember how inspired you used to feel at the beginning of a new year? All that motivation to start over, conquer new goals, and take your personal and professional life to the next level… the New Year used to brim with possibility.
But now things are… different. You’ve opened so many years with bright eyes and big ambitions, only to close the year in the same place you were 365 days before. Over time, your goals begin to feel more like fantasies. You start to believe you’re not really capable of achieving your dreams. If you were, you would have by now.
If this is hitting home, be assured that 2020 can be different.
The problem is not that you’re incapable of reaching your goals. It may not even be that you lack willpower or discipline.
It’s just that you’re setting the wrong goals and the wrong system for fulfilling those goals. You are — to put it frankly — setting yourself up to fail.
If you’re like a lot of people, your list of goals looks something like this:
These are great goals to have, but focusing on the achievements makes it harder to reach them.
Well, let’s take a closer look at the weight loss goal.
You want to lose 20 pounds. You’ve heard you can lose weight quickly with the keto diet, so you order three books about keto. You create a meal plan for the first week. You make a huge shopping trip to stock up on staples of the diet. You get home and prep your food for the week.
As the week starts, motivation is high. You’re excited. Inspired.
But at the same time that you’re making this revolutionary change in your life, you still have a full schedule at work. You still have fires to put out, meetings to endure, new clients to win over. Your kids need help with homework and want to see your face in the bleachers at the next little league game. Your spouse is counting on you for moral support through a personal challenge.
By the end of the week, you just don’t have it in you to plan perfectly proportioned keto meals for the next seven days. So you figure you’ll take it day by day. But this proves more difficult than you expected. So you just try to make low-carb choices and hope for the best.
By week three, your diet is over, you’re back to old habits, and you consider this failed experiment evidence that losing 20 pounds cannot be done. You decide weight loss isn’t a realistic possibility for you, whether it’s because you’re too busy, too disorganized, or not disciplined enough.
The problem most people have is that they’re chasing an end goal. They expect to get a specific result in a specific time frame using a quick fix method. And when that doesn’t work, they bail on the goal altogether, believing they’ve proven to themselves that they just cannot do it.
If you truly want to improve any area of your life, focus on the changes you need to make in order to get there. Whether you want to lose weight or open a new store location, you can only accomplish these things by making a personal transformation.
You don’t lose weight by ordering books and going shopping. You lose weight by making small, gradual changes that train you to prioritize wellness.
You don’t expand your business with a sudden burst of aggressive marketing. You gain enterprise by learning to think like a successful business owner and discovering how to invest your time, resources, and creativity most productively.
You cannot create a whole different life in a matter of weeks. But you can start making changes tomorrow that add up over time to build the life you want.
And believe it or not, the smaller those changes are in the beginning, the wider you open the door to transformation.
Change is hard. It just is. A lot of people get tripped up in the pursuit of their goals because they think change wouldn’t be hard if they were tougher. They charge forward with a brand new routine and feel like a failure when it doesn’t work.
You’ve got to let that mindset go. You’ve got to accept that change is hard. It’s hard for everyone. And the best way to guarantee your success is to start small.
Let’s go back to the weight loss example. Throwing yourself into the keto diet overnight didn’t work because it introduced too many changes to your day-to-day lifestyle. You either had to carve out an unrealistic amount of meal prep time to make it work, or abandon the goal altogether. There was no in-between. So, when you couldn’t realistically make a complicated new diet part of your existing lifestyle, you technically failed at reaching your goal.
Now, imagine if that goal was defined differently. Let’s say you decide you want to live a healthier lifestyle, starting with drinking eight glasses of water a day.
You get a 32-ounce water bottle to keep at your desk and make sure you get through two full water bottles each day. And that’s it. For right now, that is your only goal.
You may have to set some alarms to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day at first, but it’s such a small effort, it’s easy to succeed. You feel good about yourself and motivated to tackle the next small change.
Now you’re going to set your morning alarm fifteen minutes earlier so you have time to eat a healthy breakfast instead of running out the door with a high-sugar energy bar.
With these easy-to-maintain changes, you develop an ongoing pattern of small victories. That success propels you forward, keeps you motivated, and adds up to bigger gains down the road. These adjustments also become habits, and your habits inform your mindset. You start thinking about healthy living beyond your eight glasses of water a day. Before you know it, it’s easier to make the larger changes, like fitting in a daily jog.
In time, you become a healthier person. And you may even become a person who is 20 pounds lighter.
Most people are pretty bad at setting expectations when it comes to goals. We tend to overestimate what we can achieve in one year while we underestimate how much we can accomplish in five years.
It’s great to wish for a specific outcome. Your dream of a thriving business or unforgettable vacation or fulfilling marriage is an excellent motivator.
But it is important to remember that the path to that dream depends on a series of small, personal changes, and these changes are gradual. A brand new life takes time. It’s a process, not a destination.
As you look at your goals for 2020:
This approach may feel too slow at first, but I promise you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come by the time you’re reviewing your goals for 2021.
Wishing you a bright new year, bursting with possibility.
CEO – 911 Restoration Franchise
Consider this situation:
Todd knew things couldn’t go on like this much longer. Kyle, his sales manager, had dropped the ball one too many times. Their close ratio was down, customer reviews claimed it took too long to get a call back, and Todd could tell Kyle’s attitude had gone from can-do to won’t-do. It was time to have a serious conversation for the sake of the business. But Todd wasn’t looking forward to it.
He was convinced Kyle would get defensive. Kyle would say he’d been with the company for more than a decade and deserved a little respect. Maybe he would claim that he was underpaid or would threaten to leave. Todd didn’t want to fire Kyle, but in his mind, this conversation about performance would be the first step on the journey to a broken business relationship.
By the time Kyle walked into Todd’s office, the air was already thick with dread. Kyle saw Todd’s face twisted in frustration, noticed the way Todd sighed heavily as both men sat down, and took these observations as a warning he’d just walked into a confrontation. A feeling of defensiveness welled up in Kyle’s gut before Todd even began to speak.
And just like that, the meeting was doomed for failure . . . all because Todd had misused his most powerful tool:
We’ve all been in Todd’s shoes before. Whether it’s a tough meeting at work or a conflict at home, every new challenge and opportunity sends the human imagination into overdrive. Before you know it, you’re convinced you know the way a scene will play out . . . and you’ve completely forgotten that this “inevitable” outcome is something you invented out of thin air.
Imagination is one of the most powerful gifts we have as human beings. No other species has the ability to see something that doesn’t exist yet; that talent is ours alone. And because your imagination helps you see the un-seeable, it can be a powerful guide as you chase down new opportunities. You have the power to envision the life you want and imagine the road you must travel to get there.
So, what does this have to do with Todd and Kyle’s doomed meeting?
Well, Todd is a prime example of being controlled by your imagination when it should be the other way around. The tricky thing about your imagination is that it’s running all the time, even when you’re not thinking about it. You envision how fun your vacation will be, how busy your day will be, even how easy it would be to order in instead of cooking tonight. You are constantly predicting outcomes, whether it’s to evaluate your options, brace yourself against your fears, or distract from the here and now. And because your imagination is just doing its thing on autopilot, it often controls you rather than you controlling it.
You allow old fears to color your expectations. Terrible past experiences turn into inevitable future outcomes. And that’s exactly what happened to Todd. There are an infinite number of ways his meeting with Kyle could have gone, but he chose to fixate on one. His imagination suggested that this conversation would be contentious. He went in on the defensive, giving up control of the outcome before the meeting even began.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
First, let me be clear:
This is not about manifesting what you want by thinking positive thoughts.
This is about training your imagination to guide you toward choices that help you create what you want, instead of constantly defending yourself against what you fear. Plenty of things in your life are out of your control. But if you start every day by imagining what’s possible, you train your imagination to look for new avenues even when you run into roadblocks.
Let’s say that Todd took the time to deliberately envision a successful meeting with Kyle. Let’s say he imagined himself communicating his concerns clearly, giving space for Kyle to share his perspective, and deciding on a mutually satisfactory path forward. Not only would Todd start the meeting on a more open and positive tone, but his imagination would be primed to keep reaching for that objective even if his worst fears came true.
This system works in every aspect of your life, from the company you want to build to the relationships you want to nurture to the kind of day you want to have. The more you practice controlling your own vision, the more flexible and open your mind will be on those rare occasions when your worst fears actually do come true.
In my own life, I have discovered that the more I learn to use the gift of imagination, the better I am at not only creating a life on my own terms, but also adapting along the way. This all began by developing a skill for imagining a variety of scenarios for any situation. As I approached meetings, hiring decisions, and even conversations with my wife, I imagined a variety of possible outcomes. This trained my mind to be open and respond with flexibility and curiosity.
Here’s how you can practice this skill for yourself.
Choose a situation in your future. It could be a client meeting, an outing with your kids, even a date.
Then, write down different scenarios for how that situation could play out.
For example, let’s say you plan to take your kids to the park for the afternoon. A few possible scenarios would be:
You get the idea. In the end, you’re able to go into that afternoon with a sense of possibility. There are countless ways for you to connect with your kids, even if the day doesn’t go the way you originally hoped. And now you have some ideas for adapting and making the most of every moment.
Now, it’s very important that you write these scenarios down. It may not seem unnecessary, but writing is essential because it focuses your mind on the task. It also allows you to see on paper that there are many outcomes available to you; you’re not limited to the outcome you fear most.
I’ve said it so many times, but I’ll say it again: you are filled with limitless potential. It all begins with your ability to envision the life you want and create transformation from challenges.
So go forth and imagine.
Idan Shpizear – CEO, 911 Restoration
What are your dreams for your company? Do you see your business opening new locations in the coming years? Do you hope to double sales in the next eighteen months? Are you looking forward to the day when you can sell your company, retire early, and travel the world?
Then let me offer you one piece of advice:
Do not get too comfortable with the way you run your business right now.
I’ve seen it so many times. New business owners work tirelessly to build their business then sit back when the company stabilizes. They finally have a well-oiled operation, a reliable team, and consistent sales. So, they believe they’ve made it. They’ve arrived at the finish line, and now they can enjoy their success.
But then the world changes. Trends evolve, technology evolves, and while that comfortable business owner has been sitting back, the competition has been racing ahead, progressing with the times and innovating everything from their products to their company culture.
You can guess how this story ends.
If you want your enterprise to be more than a brief experiment, don’t get comfortable. Innovate.
Never in history has this been truer than it is today. Technology has not only changed customer expectations when it comes to communication and service, but it’s also leveled the playing field. It’s easier than ever for an individual to start a business and promote their brand in the digital world. It’s easier to streamline workflow and build a remote team of highly skilled professionals. Every business owner has the tools to make their product or service more convenient, more comprehensive, and more affordable.
In other words, business is more competitive than ever, no matter what industry you’re in. Every day, you should be looking for new ways to offer your buyers 1) a better product 2) in a faster way and 3) at a lower price.
So… are you keeping up? When you compare your business to the competition and to your customers’ culture, do you see yourself leading the way or dragging behind?
If it’s the second thing, don’t worry. There’s still time to innovate and advance, and I’m going to tell you how to get started. But first, you have to ask yourself the hard question:
As a business owner myself, I can admit: this is a difficult question. You have sacrificed time, energy, money, and sleep to turn your vision into a reality. You boldly entered a competitive market, set up shop when others looked at you with skepticism, and you made it work. This company exists because of you . . . so how can you be the one holding your business back?
Here’s what you need to understand: Short term growth may be the product of grit and determination, but long term growth requires innovation. And innovation can only happen when a leader is willing to advance, learn, and adapt.
This is where many business owners fall short. They haven’t cultivated a growth mindset. They haven’t yet learned that there is no finish line in business. Even if you’ve reached your business goals today, the world will change again tomorrow. Your job is to change with it.
You may consider yourself old-fashioned. You may resent technology and feel irritated by emerging trends. As an individual, you are welcome to feel that way. But as a business owner, your company depends on you to be flexible, curious, and humble enough to learn new skills.
As you work on cultivating that growth mindset, start looking for areas of your business where you could give yourself a leg up on the competition. Take a hard look at these three areas to innovate:
This is what most people think of first when they hear the word “innovation.” No matter what you sell, ask yourself:
Empathy is a powerful tool when it comes to innovating your product. I realized early on that 911 Restoration customers don’t just need water extraction and fire cleanup. They need guidance and support through one of the greatest challenges they’ll ever face. Armed with this understanding, we made innovations such as a free insurance consultation and a guaranteed 45-minute arrival time—features that help customers feel like they’re not in this alone.
It’s important to offer an innovative product, but don’t underestimate the power of behind-the-scenes progress as well. Consider:
The more you advance and improve your day-to-day operations, the more effectively you can serve your clients.
Remember when Facebook was just a tool for connecting with friends? Now it’s one of the most effective digital marketing options available. The point being: as technology changes, so do your marketing opportunities… and so should your marketing strategy. Ask yourself:
Also take a moment to revisit your brand messaging. My realization about providing guidance and peace of mind for 911 Restoration also inspired our brand identity as “The Fresh Start Company.” That marketing innovation tells customers that we don’t just provide property restoration; we offer a new beginning after a personal disaster.
So, be creative. Be bold. Be humble. And above all:
I know this advice can make a person feel like they’re stuck on the hamster wheel. Keep moving. Innovate. There is no finish line.
It sounds exhausting. But I’d like to leave you with a different perspective.
The challenge to innovate presents you with an opportunity to grow as an individual. Rather than living in a state of constant struggle, you’re enjoying a state of constant discovery. Take it from me. I’ve tried to innovate since I first started my company several years ago. As a result, I’ve learned that I am stronger, more resilient, and more creative than I thought. I’ve enjoyed the fulfillment of building a team and providing a service that brings peace of mind to property owners across the country. It feels good to look back on what I’ve done, but it feels just as good to keep moving toward the next possibility . . . to keep testing myself and sharing both the joy and the struggle of innovation with my team.
It’s not a hamster wheel. It’s the most fulfilling marathon you’ll ever run.
On your mark. Get set. Go.
You’ve been doing great as a one-person business. You get a few referrals every week. You close most of the leads and handle every job personally. You’ve earned a reputation for doing quality work, and you can see that you’re well on your way towards major growth and long-term success.
The only problem?
You can’t get there on your own.
There is a limit to the amount of time and energy you personally have to give. If you want to grow your company, you have to hire employees. And that is no small undertaking.
Most entrepreneurs feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of adding new members to their team. And honestly, they should feel a little overwhelmed. Hiring is a big deal. On one hand, building a team signifies a massive step forward for your company. On the other hand, bringing on new people comes with new risks.
These are all valid concerns. Fortunately, there is a systematic approach to growing your business that can help sweep many of these worries away.
You can’t hire the right people for the right jobs if you’re not 100% clear on what your needs are. And you don’t know what your needs are if you haven’t taken the time to look at how well you’re performing right now.
You undoubtedly have some sense of how well you’re doing. You know you’ve been getting more and more business and that your profits are on the rise. But you need to know the actual numbers. Take a minute to go over the following metrics.
These numbers should reveal a lot to you. They communicate your current level of success and they show where there may be some missed opportunities.
To discover those missed opportunities, move on to:
Let’s say that as you look over your current metrics, you realize you’re not closing as many leads as you could. Perhaps it’s because your sales skills aren’t as strong as they could be. Or maybe it’s because you have your hands full dealing with individual jobs and client follow-up. Either way, hiring an additional person will generate more profits in the long run, whether you decide to hire for a sales position, an office manager, a skilled tradesperson, or anyone else.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider what you need:
Answering these questions helps you determine not only whether you should hire an employee, but also how to take that next step productively.
When you add someone to your team, you open yourself up to new risks. If your new hire doesn’t help you generate more leads and sales, you’re essentially throwing money away, paying out a salary without gaining anything extra in profits.
You’ve already helped minimize this risk for yourself by evaluating how well your business is currently doing, how well it could be doing, and which skill sets are needed to help you get there. Now it’s time to take a look at what you can and cannot afford to invest in this next big step.
You don’t have to fear big change if you make that change strategically.
The tough reality of entrepreneurship is that you do have to make bold moves if you want to grow your business. You must be willing to make big, sometimes scary adjustments. You have to swallow your fears and all the what-ifs so you can open your arms to all the possibilities.
But you also have to be smart about it.
Take the time to sit down and assess where you are, where you’re going, and what you need to get there.
And then somewhere between all the metrics and analysis, remember to congratulate yourself. It’s hard to grow a business. The fact that you’re taking this step means you’re already doing something right