16. Don’t listen to them.

We’ve all met them before. They seem to show up everywhere, all the time. And we’ve become all too familiar with their response style.

They are those well intended folks who, regardless of ideas, suggestions or solutions put before them, always and immediately are able to come up with 100+ reasons why they won’t work.

Regardless of how innovative and creative our ideas may be, these dreams-crumblers, can instantly point out why pursuing such dreams are a bad idea.

Naysaying is not a new art. Naysayers have been around since time immemorial and one could make an argument that they belong to the largest organization in the world as witnessed by the fact that regardless of who is present when we are presenting our ideas, a representative of the I.O.N. (International Order of Naysayers) is always present.

So the theme for today’s blog is somewhat different from previous weeks.

Today I would like to recommend that if we are, in fact, regular practitioners of “why this won’t work,” that we immediately undertake to replace the opportunity-destroying Habit of Seeking WhyNot.

As we’ve mentioned before it is next to impossible to quit a habit. It is far easier, and success is far more likely, if we exchange one habit for another.

Not for one moment am I suggesting that we blindly remove all filters to good sense and leap headfirst into every idea, suggestion or opportunity that is presented to us. Due diligence is, if nothing else, a worthy extension of common sense.

What I am suggesting, for those of us who have this tendency to discount and ridicule all ideas off the top of our heads is to persistently develop what I call The Habit of Exploring Possibilities.

 Every great innovation began its life as the seed of an idea in someone’s head.

Imagine what we may have forfeited as a society if many of those ideas been successfully shut down by naysayers during their embryonic stages.

We are all beneficiaries of the results of the creativity, inspiration and persistence of so many who have gone before us.

I can only imagine how some of those early innovators and some of their ideas might have been received by the practitioners of the Habit of Seeking WhyNot who were present in days gone by.

“A flying machine? Are you nuts?”

“A device that will enable us to talk to people in other places? Crazy!”

“A machine that can see through human bodies so that we can see what’s going on inside? Impossible.”

“A box in our living room that shows us pictures and talks to us? Never.”

Of course, there are countless other examples.

They say a visionary is a person who, upon looking out a window, sees not only what is there but what could be there.

Possibility thinking is what has led to every great scientific breakthrough, every miraculous medical discovery and every piece of technology that serves no purpose other than to make our lives easier.

And my guess is each of these was, at some point, discounted by people who, upon hearing of the idea, immediately presented multiple reasons why these could not and would not ever come to fruition.

It is my belief that greatness comes only to those who reach out for it. The only guaranteed method of never failing is never trying.

As much as those practitioners of the Habit of Seeking WhyNot are usually well-intentioned, it is necessary to have the courage to pursue our dreams even against the advice of those who care most about us.

I cannot imagine a scene much sadder than a person who, close to the end of their life, looks back over the years and says, “I should have… I wish I had…”

Adopting The Habit of Exploring Possibilities is not about abdicating common sense. It is about exploring every avenue of possibility and of only rejecting an idea after all your research leads to the conclusion of its infeasibility.

I recently read a story of a man who had a dream of opening a pizza restaurant.

All those close to him advised against proceeding.

“The market is saturated.”

“There is too much competition.”

“You don’t have enough money.”

“You don’t have enough experience.”

“You’ll go broke.”

“Go get a real job.”

But he was determined to give it his best shot.

Against all advice he went ahead and opened a small pizza place.

He called it Domino’s.

Ever heard of it?

The Habit of Exploring Possibilities!

Why not?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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15. Just gimme the job.

Yesterday morning as I was sitting in my office pondering what today’s blog would be about, my phone rang and I received my first ever call from a head-hunter.

The man at the other end of the phone is an executive recruiter and after he identified himself as such I assumed he was calling to offer me a CEO position at Microsoft, Google, Exxon or General Motors.

To my absolute shock and surprise he was not calling to offer me anything at all.

He was calling to tell me that an acquaintance had forward him a copy of last week’s blog (#14. A rewarding habit to acquire) – the one about Harriet, the lady who wrote a script and then rehearsed with her husband before approaching and successfully asking her boss for a raise.

He told me that the content of the blog really resonated with him as, after more than 20 years in the head hunting field, he was still astounded at the number of people who came in for interviews completely unprepared and without having taken any time to learn about the organizations they were hoping to work for.

This man has placed senior managers and executives in some of the largest corporations in Canada, but he was not calling to tell me of his successes, he was calling to share with me details of the many times he has been surprised, shocked and disappointed at the nonchalance of some of his candidates.

He explained that in his office he keeps two sets of files. The first one contains information about people he has recommended to clients (he usually presents his top three choices) and who were not awarded the available positions. The second file contains the names of those he “would not recommend to anyone, anytime, ever.”

Our time was spent discussing the conduct necessary to qualify for File Number Two.

It seems it is not too difficult to gain access entry into this file.

Any of the following will do the job.

  1. Show up really late for your interview with your prospective new boss and offer no explanation.
  2. Focus on what you expect the company to do, and provide, for you.
  3. Show no interest in the company. Do not bother visiting their website to learn even the most basic facts about the organization.
  4. Wear sweats; after all they are hiring you, not your clothes.
  5. Stop at the bar for a few drinks before you head over for the interview; alcohol on your breath projects a strong sense of confidence.
  6. Take no time preparing yourself for the interview. Wing it. After all you are a superstar and they should be thrilled that you would even consider working for them.
  7. Begin the conversation by listing your demands.
  8. Interrupt often, what you have to say is far more important than anything they may have to say.
  9. Correct them. It’s important to let them know that you are the smartest person in the room.
  10. Slouch.
  11. Don’t have your facts at your fingertips. Have long pauses before answering questions so they can see that you are making answers up as you go along.
  12. Use profanity.
  13. Put down your existing employer. This always impresses the crowd.
  14. Never admit you don’t know. Make something up even if by doing so it becomes obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about.
  15. Refuse to answer the difficult questions. Repeatedly say things like “that’s none of your business.”

Naturally as he recited these qualifiers, I laughed at each one. Sadly, he explained to me that each and every one of the above examples have been, and still are, portrayed by candidates filing through his office.

He told me that the rudeness, lack of preparation, sense of entitlement, arrogance and egotism never fails to amaze him.

He said that he has often thought of writing a “How to prepare for an interview” pamphlet that he would send to all prospective candidates but decided against doing so as he felt it should not be necessary for folks applying for senior positions to require training in common sense.

His parting words were to tell me that if candidates truly did not get the need to master the Habit of Constantly Doing Better they would make it into File Number One.

A pretty powerful statement from a person who, on a daily, sees the effects of not adopting the Habit of Constantly Doing Better.

I have a hunch he has put me in File Number Two.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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14. A rewarding habit to acquire.

Yesterday morning shortly after I arrived at the office, the phone rang. It was Harriet. She was calling to say “Thank you.”

I don’t know Harriet. We have never spoken before but she had felt the need to call and share with me an interesting story.

It seems Harriet has been following this blog since its inception and had found last week’s story to be of great personal interest.

Harriet has been employed by a small, privately owned company for the past eight years and as much a she loves her job, she has long felt that her compensation did not match her contribution.

She had been contemplating asking her boss for a raise and had been working up the courage to do so.

Her reluctance in pursuing that particular conversation had been heightened recently after she witnessed her boss turn down a co-workers request for an increase in pay because of the tight economy, company austerity program, yada, yada, yada.

Harriet took last week’s blog to heart. She decided she was going to go ahead and ask for the raise. But first, she was going to make sure she was as prepared and rehearsed as possible.

Last Friday evening was spent writing a script. She and her husband sat at their kitchen table and crafted her pitch with the same focus and deliberation that goes into writing a play for Broadway.

She wrote of the immense value she brings to the company each day and highlighted her worth as an irreplaceable asset.

She did her best to anticipate how her boss would react to each of her statements and prepared powerful responses to his objections.

For each point she expected him to raise in opposition to her request, she prepared a compelling counterpoint.

And then she began rehearsing. In her mind this meeting was to be a drama with two main actors. She, of course, played herself and her husband played the role of her boss.

The rehearsals continued throughout most of the weekend and each time they practiced, her delivery improved and her confidence grew.

By her estimate they role-played this meeting more than 30 times and by the time she left for work on Monday she was excited at the prospect of presenting her case to her boss.

She asked him if they could meet later that day and they scheduled the time for 2 PM.

She described going into his office and sitting down as if the curtain was going up for opening night.

She launched into the script and stayed intensity focused throughout the conversation.

She laughingly told me that because she had invested so much time rehearsing, she knew exactly how to conduct herself and what to say, whereas her boss, having never rehearsed his lines, seemed at a loss for words.

It was no contest.

Harriet made one slight change to the script during the presentation. She increased the amount of the raise she was seeking by an additional ten percent.

She got it, and became an instant convert to the Habit of Constantly Doing Better.

She told me she has learned an invaluable lesson: The more we practice, the better we get and the more prepared we are, the less we are likely to face unexpected surprises.

 She asked me to “Please share my story, but don’t use my real name. Call me Harriet.”

She thanked me again and hung up.

I once heard that luck is the result of preparation meeting opportunity. Harriet’s story proves the truthfulness of that statement.

I do think I deserve to share in her new wealth.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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13. Preparation: Don’t leave home without it!

You have been waiting for this moment for months. It’s the two person play everyone’s been talking about.

You take your seat in the theater.

The lights go down, the curtain goes up.

The magic is about to begin.

The two cast members enter the stage from opposite sides.

They walk towards each other.

You can feel the excited anticipation springing from the audience.

Then the unexpected begins.

They arrive at center stage and seem uncertain what to do next.

One of the actors begins to speak and then stumbles over his words as if unsure of what to say.

There is a pause, as if the other actor is trying to remember what to say.

She seems confused.

He seems uncertain.

The conversation is flat, lifeless.

They seem to have only a faint grasp of the script. As if they knew the story-line but weren’t sure how to tell it.

Their performance is uninspiring. It lacks passion and conviction.

The audience becomes restless.

Faint boos become loud ones.

The couple seated in front of you stand and leave.

Others follow.

You shake your head in disbelief.

You walk out.

Is this likely to happen?


It won’t happen because professionals don’t go on stage ill-prepared.

When we are seated in the audience watching professional actors at work, we suspend our natural disbelief and become engaged in the story because the people on stage have spent hours, days and weeks rehearsing.

What we are seeing for the first time, and what appears remarkably credible to us, is the result of a relentless focus on perfection.

They are not reading the script, they are living the script.

These actors have rehearsed and practiced over and over again. Every word, every expression, every nuance, every gesture has been carefully choreographed so as to have the highest impact on us the audience, and to make every scene appear as authentic as possible.

And it is solely because of this dedication to practice that everything appears so natural and real to us.

What we are witnessing is far different – and our engagement level far greater – than what we would have seen had we attended the very first rehearsal.

No actor worth his or her stripes would ever set foot on stage in front of a live audience being anything other than well-rehearsed and well-prepared.

So why is it that we don’t adopt the same obsession with perfection in preparing for important, even life-changing events in our own lives?

I know a number of realtors and it amazes me how little time some of them spend in preparation for showing houses to their clients.

I know people who go to job interviews without having spent any time learning about their prospective employer.

I recently watched a sales clerk in a department store fumble through the instruction manual while trying to explain the workings of a microwave to a customer.

None of this makes any sense to me.

The time to learn all there is to know about a property is not when you having qualified customers looking to buy it.

The time to reveal your ignorance about a company that is contemplating hiring you is not during the interview.

The time to learn how to demonstrate a product is not while a paying customer is standing by.

Two weeks ago a young saleslady came to see me regarding a software product that she was selling. She was noticeably unfamiliar with the product and told me that her company had recently introduced it and she had not yet had time to become truly familiar with how best to use it.

I was clearly not important enough for her to invest the necessary time in learning her own product.

And while I don’t think I am important, I don’t like to feel unimportant.

So, naturally I did not buy her software.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Why do we go and ask for a raise without preparing and rehearsing exactly what we want to say?

Why do we not anticipate the questions our boss may ask and be fully rehearsed and prepared to deal with them?

Why do we expect going ahead, unprepared, is good enough?

It isn’t!

I would like to recommend we all adopt a new habit starting right now. Let’s call this the Habit of Constantly Getting Better.

We have discussed how we don’t get rid of bad habits – we replace them.

Our lives will be well served by insisting The Habit of Constantly Getting Better immediately replace a damaging habit known as The Habit of Winging It.

Promise yourself that never again will you allow yourself to be anything other than at your best.

After all, would you rather be reading the script or living it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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