Yes, and…

YES!

If you have ever seen or participated in improv, you probably know the “Yes and…” routine. Each person in the chain makes a statement or asks a question to the next person, and they reply, “Yes, and…” then makes another statement or asks another question to the next person. The word “but”, because its implied negativity is a buzz kill, is not allowed. I recently found out just how powerful replacing “but” with “and” is in my own self-talk.

In my last phone conversation with my coach I was listing some of the things I had accomplished in the last few weeks. At the end of the recitation, she stopped me cold by asking me “why did you sometimes say ‘but’ when you were going through some of these accomplishments?”

I thought about that for a second, and replied that it was a qualifier to some of the things I had done, indicating that I hadn’t quite achieved what I had set out to do (even though what I had done was pretty darn cool.)

In response, she repeated some of the things I had said, using “and” instead of “but”. The result was amazing. What was once a denigration of an accomplishment became an affirmation of the deed, and an opportunity to improve on what I felt had made it not quite as special.

If you have followed me for a while or have spent some time with me, you know that I am not into what is best called “woo-woo.” I believe in the power of words (hey I write pretty much every week right?), but generally do not subscribe almost supernatural powers to them. I am much more into action.

However, intellectually I can understand the power of self-talk to either be a motivator or a de-motivator. In this case, replacing, “but” with “and” not only sounds different to your ear, but physically feels different when you say it. It also forces you to change what comes after the “and”: “I did this, but this part of it didn’t work” becomes “I did this, and while this part didn’t work, I still got a great reaction.” Changing what comes after “and” is pretty much required otherwise the sentence sounds incomplete – and we all know that we want things to be complete! (see “I thought you said…”)

We can all find good and bad in almost everything we do. Some of us are even programmed to temper our accomplishments with a “but” so we don’t sound boastful. The simple act of changing “but” to “and” can dramatically change how you feel about yourself and how others perceive your accomplishments when you are telling stories or informing someone what you have been up to. Try it. I think you will find it a fascinating and enjoyable change in your self-talk. I do.

The One In A Million Chance

One in a MillionThings had been quiet around The Effective Detective in the last week. I was hoping that things were going to stay relatively quiet for this week’s discussion, whatever that might be. The Detective seemed to rouse himself as I came into the room.

“Watson, how very nice to see you today,” The Detective started. “Do you know what this is?” he asked, holding up a rectangular piece of thick paper.

“I do believe it is a lottery ticket, sir,” I replied, and then out of some misplaced sense of possibility, I exclaimed, “You didn’t actually win sir?! Has lady luck smiled down upon you and granted us riches?”

The Detective heartily laughed before replying, “Heaven’s sakes man! Do you know what the odds are of winning this ridiculous game of chance? I merely needed you to identify it to start today’s discussion, not jump to conclusions regarding my possession of said ticket.”

“Seems a simple lesson, sir, don’t gamble, it is a waste of time,” I sighed dejectedly.

“That is where you are wrong Watson! All things in life are gambles. There is a chance for success and a chance for failure. Where we go astray is simple – we look only at the level of effort and risk against the chance that we could win, ignoring the overwhelming odds of actually doing so.”

The Detective paused briefly, and I took this chance to interject, thinking our conversation had somehow gone off the rails, if indeed it had ever been on the track at all. “But sir, what in the world does this have to do with business and marketing?” The Detective gave me that half-smile, and I realized that once again, I had fallen into one of his carefully laid traps.

“A shame Watson, your powers of logic and observation had been showing great signs of improvement. The relationship is simple. Why is it that you think so many entrepreneurs have invested so much time and energy in social media and Internet Marketing of physical products? Social Media especially carries little risk in terms of investment. We ask a bunch of people to like our page, or follow our tweets, or help make your latest video viral and then sit back and wait. You know that over a billion people are on Facebook, and you believe even though there is little chance very many will see your posts, ‘if’ they do, the payoff will be fantastic! Of course the payback only comes to a lucky few that were in the right place at the right time,” a second pause, and I thought I would see if I could provoke a reaction.

“So it is hopeless then. We should all just pack up and give up on business since only the lucky ones will win!” I answered injecting what I hoped was just the right amount of sarcasm.

“That would be silly and rather stupid Watson. You are missing the point. I said all things in life are gambles. The key is to take the occasional no risk, big return gamble – like buying a lottery ticket or posting on social media, but to be far more consistent with the gambles that carry a little more or sometimes a lot more risk – posting consistently on your blog and sending it out to your list – which requires time and effort – along with the occasional offer leveraging the trust built up. Creating local events – which will often cost you something for at least the venue, and time and effort to market – that might bring in a few thousand dollars, but builds up both possible client and referral relationships. Are any of these guaranteed to generate that big score? Of course not, but they are far more likely to generate something! Too often we look for the risk free score. The result is almost always disappointment.” The Detective looked at me expectantly, his point now made.

“Not hopeless, just not risk or effort free,” I said after a minute of reflection.

“Well summarized Watson! Now shall we get back to our slightly risky work requiring effort?” The Detective answered, closing discussion for another day.

Beware of Gurus Bearing Gifts

experts_thumb“Sir, you look even more lost in thought than usual,” I ventured, starting off the weekly conversation between myself and The Effective Detective.

The Detective turned to me slowly, and glared balefully at me before replying, “Watson, have I told you recently that your powers of sarcasm seem to be increasing weekly?”

“Perhaps, sir,” I answered.

“No matter Watson, you are correct, I am thinking about a situation recently, and I am still amazed that I needed to catch myself to avoid making an investment that would not have paid off for me,” the Detective recovered.

“Sir?”

“On a recent webinar on list building, Watson. I was so engaged by the gentleman’s content, I found myself totally prepared to invest in his program,” The Detective paused, always a signal to me to jump in with some witticism or sarcastic remark.

“There is a problem with investing in a program that you find well presented sir?”

“No Watson, there is a problem with investing in a program that while well presented is absolutely useless to our efforts at this point in time. This program, no matter how good, does not fit our current marketing efforts, and would most likely ended up as shelfware, or Google Drive ware, for all the use we would have gotten out of it. We business people love our gurus Watson. We slavishly follow them, hanging on their every word and investing in their programs as long as the budget allows. The problem is, we do not think about how this or any other program offered may fit into our strategic plan. We simply know this person is smart and successful, the very image of a ‘guru’ so to speak, and because of our ‘knowledge’ of this, we are blindly willing to follow.”

“What can be done for this – what sounds like a universal – affliction sir?” I asked, now genuinely curious.

“The answer is simple Watson, simply keep your head on. Remember what your strategy is, and evaluate every tool against your goals, and the path you have chosen to follow to reach said goals. It is easy, whilst we are in the early stages of our business or new business area, to become frustrated and begin flailing around looking for that silver bullet…”

“The silver bullet does seem to be a recurring theme, sir,” I interjected.

“Indeed, Watson. Only because it is so prevalent in so many business people’s minds. We dearly desire to be told the path to success, unfortunately, there are as many paths as there are business people following them. There truly is no right or wrong way to success, there is only your own way. The trick is to find coaches and aides that come close to your way as possible, because they can help you avoid at least some of the pitfalls that lay along your path.” The Detective finished, and looked satisfied that we had taken this subject to its logical conclusion.

“So we are free to discuss another subject sir?” I inquired carefully.

“Indeed, Watson, but we shall save that for another week,” The Detective answered, and turned back to his computer.

 

Helping Hands

helping_hands“Sir, have you ever noticed the tendency of people to immediately find fault with ideas you might have rather than offering support? ” I began our weekly conversation.

“Watson, that is a tiresome point. Surely you have a more worthy complaint? ” The Effective Detective answered with what sounded like a bit more irritation in his voice than usual.

“Perhaps I am thinking more of the roadblocks people set up for you once you start down the path, especially when you ask for assistance,” I replied.

“Ah, now there are two sides of the same coin. You know of course of the Maryland Crab Barrel Principle, Watson? ” The Detective responded sounding more animated by the minute.

“Of course, sir, that the other crabs in a barrel will pull down one who is starting to climb above the others,” I answered.

“Precisely Watson, whether it is to drag them back down to their level or to try to climb over them after they have started the job, the effect is the same, the crab trying to escape is brought down. The roadblock problem you speak of is similar. You will hear people are busy or offer the same type of discouragement that was as offered before. Two sides of the same coin,” The Detective paused looking at me expectantly.

“Yes sir, but I was hoping for an answer to the problem rather than an explanation! ” I exclaimed, perhaps a bit more sarcastically than I intended.

If the Detective was perturbed by my outburst, he did not show it. Rather he gave me that half-smile that I knew meant I had fallen into one of his traps, and began quietly, “Just so Watson. For the first, I have no solution other than the obvious: ignore them. You will rarely find support from fearful people who think it best to bring you down rather than try to better themselves. Better to keep your mouth shut, if you wish to continue to associate with such people – or you have no choice, as with family, or abandon them for more like-minded acquaintances.

“But for the second there are multiple choices that one can proceed with; for brevity I will discuss only two. The first and most obvious is also the most painful. Do not ask for assistance, or ask for only the most minimal amount. This goes against all time management teachings and restricts the amount of work you can accomplish, but it is very controllable and the only person you can disappoint is yourself,” The Detective paused, allowing me to interject.

“That seems a stupid way to work!” I exclaimed.

“I did not indicate the wisdom or stupidity of such a choice, Watson, merely that it exists, and some would say there is wisdom in learning some of the pitfalls and choices to a path before asking others to join. However there is another way. That is to lay every thing out in excruciating detail, leave nothing to chance. Detail the way. Then, if someone objects, you can be fairly certain they are merely trying to pull the lead crab down, no matter what their reasoning is. At that point you can move away from them and do that part yourself or find another.” The Detective finished.

That seems to be putting the burden on yourself no matter which path you choose,” I said, feeling a little put off.

“Who is benefitting from the effort after all is said and done, Watson? “

“Ah, well-played sir, ” I answered knowing the answer.

“Let us move on Watson ” The Detective smiled, ending today’s discussion.

Do what you love or love what you do?

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Image courtesy of Somchai Som / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

“Tell me sir, are you truly doing what you love to do?” I started my conversation with The Effective Detective today.

The Detective paused before answering, then replied, “Watson, I must say you have developed a knack for starting out with extremely probing questions these days.”

“Thank you sir. Are you avoiding the question?” I said, pressing what I thought might be an advantage.

“Not at all, Watson, are you so paranoid these days that you cannot even accept a compliment?” The Detective asked in reply.

It was my turn to feel caught off-guard. “No sir, I just… well…”

“Ah, I seem to have rendered you speechless, Watson. While you struggle to regain your verbal skills, let me answer your question,” The Detective interjected,  with a smile that implied he had at least obtained a draw in our perpetual battle of wits, if not an outright win.

“The direct answer is no, but that answer needs a qualifier, so shall we say no, not quite,” The Detective continued.

“What I would truly love to do is continually lecture on a common problem: the inability of some business people to understand the data in front of them, not just sales and marketing data, but the personnel data they have as well. How the processes they use to manage their businesses, and  market and support their customers are not based in the reality of the data. None of which is really their fault, they are simply doing what has been done in the past, following the conventional wisdom as it were.

“However there are some difficulties in that, the first and foremost being that few want some smart aleck, even if he is a rather convincing detective, telling them something they don’t want to hear. Often, people don’t want to hear what they need to hear, they want to hear what to do next. So I needed to ah, revisit my ambitions and readjust my own attitudes to provide what people want, not what I think they needed,” The Detective paused, waiting for me to respond.

“In what ways did you readjust sir?” I asked, giving The Detective an opening to explain what frankly I found a tad confusing.

“Elementary, my dear Watson, I isolated the basic thing that gives me joy – solving a problem using a combination of analytical and creative techniques, and focused in on what I could see was a problem that lots of smaller businesses face and can recognize: the issue of taking massive amounts of data that pour into their businesses and their lives each day, sorting out the noise from the signal, and taking the appropriate action to bring in the lifeblood of all businesses – leads.”

“Poetic, sir,” I responded sincerely.

“Quite, Watson. I love what I do, I love the challenge, I love the mental exercise. It may not exactly be doing what I love, but it is certainly a variation on that, and it is something that the people I work with can understand and apply in their businesses,” again The Detective paused.

“It is doing art, as one of your favorite writers says, but how is that different from doing what you love?” I asked, still confused as to the difference.

“Ah, Watson, you’ve hit the heart of it, you see. Unless doing what you love actually answers the needs and wants of others, it will only answer your wants. But loving what you do, even if it is some hybrid of your true love, can answer the needs of those around you and not only feed your ego, but your pocketbook as well. After all, you aren’t of much use if you are homeless and starving,” The Detective concluded. His point made, we moved on to our next item of business.

The Mystery of the Disturbing Discussion

It had been a bothersome day for me. I had made the mistake of reviewing some commentary that had disturbed me. It wasn’t the subject matter per se, and not really the opinion of the author’s, since everyone is entitled to that, but rather something about  the tone of the discussions. I decided to see what The Effective Detective thought about it, and perhaps soothe the sense of discontent I was feeling.

“Good day, Watson,” the Detective cheerily greeted me, “ah, but from your look I would say that it is not such a good day for you.”

“Quite observant, sir,” I replied.

“Well, that is part of my job now isn’t it,” he laughed. “Have a seat and let us discuss what is causing your long face.”

“I was reviewing a discussion online…” I started.

“Political, religious, or business?” The Detective interjected. “Not that it actually matters, I suspect that it wasn’t the content that was bothering you, but rather something about the progression of the discussion,” he finished.

“Good lord man, where you looking over my shoulder without me noticing you there?” I asked, shocked that he seemingly read my mind.

“Elementary, my dear Watson,” The Detective replied with that slight grin of his. “There could only be two things that would cause you to look so down in the dumps, one: that you whole heartedly disagreed with the thoughts being bandied about and yet you refrained from joining in the discussion, resulting in frustration, or two: that there was something about how one or more participants in the discussion were acting, and you became distraught because you could not figure out just what that something was. Since you looked more thoughtful than angry, I easily deduced that it must be the latter. Pray enlighten me.”

“Spot on as always sir,” I answered after a slight pause. The Detective gave a slight bow. “The person who had started the discussion confused me. He reacted to every objection to or observation about his points not with an attempt to consider, or even understand it, but rather to either belittle, or turn it to his point of view in some way. He seemed to be incapable of saying, ‘Good point! I shall consider that.’ “

“I have seen that attitude too often myself Watson,” sighed The Detective. “It has brought down many a good business person, I’m afraid. It is not so much that they are convinced they are right, but rather fear that someone might think less of their expertise or decision making if they stray from their stated beliefs. It has caused business people to pursue product lines or services for which there is no market because they believe there has to be, when just a minor change in their direction towards an existing market could lead to success. They are afraid to admit that they don’t know everything or that they might be mistaken, when the fact is we must always be willing to learn and admit mistakes or lack of knowledge.”

“Even you sir?” I teased.

“Especially me, Watson, especially me.”

 

 

 

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everything that you don’t like, can’t do well, or aren’t comfortable with, but, it is truly amazing how many things are done both in business, and life in general, simply because they have always been done. A process becomes ingrained, and accepted as part of the status quo. Are there things in your life that really aren’t that important to you, but you were told throughout your life the criticality or importance of these things, or that if you don’t do them you would somehow be incomplete or a bad person? Maybe you just convinced yourself that these things, whatever they might be, were important (a simple way to denigrate yourself perhaps?). Admittedly, there is a fine line between deciding something isn’t important and using that as an excuse to not pursue something you truly desire (one is realism, the other an excuse or sour grapes). However, if you can keep that line clear, you will find yourself a lot happier and more effective. Can you think of something that plagues you but really and truly isn’t that important? Care to share?]]>