Monthly Archives: January 2007

What if Muhammad Ali Believed He Would Fail?

Ali pounds ListonI recently posted an article over at Lifehack.org about the motivational potency of reminding myself, “Not exercising is like taking a brain damage pill.”

This got me thinking about the importance of how we talk to ourselves inside our own heads. Don’t think it’s that big a deal? Consider this question:

How would the history of sports be different if Martina Navratilova, Jack Nicklaus, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Nadia Comaneci, David Ortiz, and Michael Jordan all had the habit of thinking to themselves, “You’re going to choke – you can’t do it – here comes disaster!” just prior to the most critical moments in their athletic careers?

An absurd notion, I know — which underscores the fundamental power of the words we use (and don’t use) in our heads, every moment of every day.

Advertisements

Return on Relationship

Present and Future CustomersI love equations that explain seemingly complicated ideas in simple ways. Here’s one I stumbled upon a few years ago in Return on Customer, by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, that has crystallized the way I think about customer relationships (and non-profits’ relationships with their philanthropic supporters). It’s ingenious because it balances the priority of maximizing current-year cash flows with the priority of replenishing customer equity for the future.

Return on Customer/Donor Relationship = [(Cash Flow in Year 1) + (Change in Customer’s Lifetime Value in Year 1)] divided by (Customer’s Lifetime Value at Start of Year 1)

The concept here that is too often ignored is “Lifetime Value.” A customer or donor is more than just a person who provides revenues during the current year. He/she also goes up and down in lifetime value to the organization.

As Peppers and Rogers write, “When a customer has a good (or bad) experience with a company and decides on the basis of that experience to give more future business to it (or less), the firm has gained (or lost) value at that very instant, with the customer’s change of mind. It doesn’t matter that the extra business a customer might give a company won’t happen for a few months or even a few years – the customer’s intent has changed already, and so the customer’s lifetime value went up (or down) immediately, in the same way a share price would go up imnmediately if the company were suddenly expecting better profits sometime in the future.”

Imagine how companies and non-profits would behave differently if they knew the future value to the organization they were destroying through some of their aggressive strategies for short-term revenue! And imagine how staff would behave differently if they were measured on their performance in maximizing “Return on Customer Relationship” for their organization’s most high-potential customers!

(I’ll be presenting on this topic this Sunday, at the annual CASE/NAIS Conference in Philadelphia. Where it is currently very cold. Why couldn’t they have held this conference in Florida?)

What if We Were Starting From Scratch?

building a wallAnother compelling way to think about investing your “100 marbles” is to ask, “If we were starting this company (or rock band, or non-profit, or department, or marriage) from scratch, how would we build it?”

This question is markedly different from the question, “How would we change our marble allocation to improve results?” The starting from scratch question offers the metaphor of a clean slate – a blank page – a new beginning.

It forces us reexamine the questions, “What’s the point of our company (or non-profit, etc.) anyway? What are we trying to accomplish? And what are the proven, leading-edge methods for accomplishing this?” Rather than thinking about merely adjusting current strategy, staffing, and spending (which implies incremental improvement), the starting from scratch question liberates us to choose an entirely different tack – or an entirely different goal.

Thinking about adjustments tethers us to the current reality (“Add a part-time staff member; Spend 30 more minutes per day talking with customers; Increase the marketing budget”). But talking about starting from scratch unhinges us from the current budget, the current staffing model, and all of our current routines. We can ask, “How would we staff our organization to achieve optimum results?” and “What kinds of people would we hire?” and “What would these people spend most of their time doing?”

And the answers might require us not to simply “add a sax player,” but to fire everybody in the band and hire new musicians — at least one of whom can drive the band’s bus to out-of-town gigs…

(note: You can read my original “100 Marbles” article at Lifehack.org by clicking here)

How Would You Put Your Own Company Out Of Business?

Anotheroyal theater, closedr way to think about the 100 Marbles metaphor comes from Getting Things Done author, David Allen: “If you were to quit your job and go out and start a company that would put yours out of business, what would you do differently in your new company?”

Pausing to think about this hypothetical situation reveals giant opportunities for improvement. By looking at our company (or non-profit, or department, or team, or marriage!) through the eyes of an imaginary, cut-throat competitor who knows our operations inside and out, we’re suddenly able to name our areas of greatest weakness and vulnerability. Miraculously, the steps required to take a quantum leap become obvious. And we realize that not reallocating our “100 marbles” to respond to the savviest competitor imaginable is sheer, self-sabotaging insanity.

(note: You can read my original “100 Marbles” article at Lifehack.org by clicking here)

The Threat of Mediocrity

elegant restaurantA couple of years ago, I attended a panel discussion where five philanthropists talked about how they make giving decisions. One philanthropist spoke passionately about a school he supports that truly “wows” him every year in the way they thank him and show him the impact of his gifts. His relationship with them has been memorable, meaningful, and exhilarating. Someone in the mcdsaudience asked this philanthropist, “How does the way that the school reaches out to you affect the way you feel about the other non-profits you support?” I will always remember the philanthropist’s response: “Have you ever dined at a restaurant where the food, the atmosphere, and the service were simply amazing? [“Yes.”] How did that experience make you feel about McDonald’s?”

100 Marbles and The Time Log

marblesAs I wrote in an article over at Lifehack.org, there’s a game we’re all playing, like it or not. It’s called 100 Marbles, and you win by allocating your “marbles” (units of time, attention, effort, and energy) in new ways to achieve more out of life than if you were to maintain your current marble allocation. It sounds simple: invest your marbles thoughtfully, improve your results.

But before you can even try to win this game, you need to know how you’re investing your marbles now. Ironically, most of us have no idea how we allocated our time, attention, effort, and energy over the last month. Even though you were there for every minute of it, you would probably be amazed to learn the actual, exact allocation of your 100 marbles during this time.

The only way to truly know how you’re investing your marbles is to keep a time log. I was persuaded to try a time log by three superb books that make strong cases for it: 1) The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker (1966); 2) How I Raised Myself From Failure To Success In Selling, by Frank Bettger (1947); and 3) The Critical Path To Sales Success, by Frank Sullivan (1970).

I have kept a time log for 1-2 week periods about six times over the last few years, and each time, the results have been eye-opening and enlightening. Just the act of keeping a time log radically increases my awareness, from moment to moment, of what I’m focusing on – and what I’m not focusing on. It’s like having a mini coach sitting on my shoulder, with a stopwatch in one hand and a clipboard in the other, watching everything I do. Wasted time becomes more intolerable and painful, and long stretches of uninterrupted time on important projects and pursuits become the Holy Grail of productivity.

Peter Drucker writes: “Effective executives start by finding out out where their time actually goes. The analysis of time, moreover, is the one easily accessible and yet systematic way to analyze one’s own work and to think through what really matters in it.”

So before you reallocate your 100 marbles, investigate how your marbles are currently invested. Then, be strategic, thoughtful, and deliberate about allocating your marbles to the things that “really matter.”

(note: You can read my original “100 Marbles” article at Lifehack.org by clicking here)

The ONE Question to Ask Yourself

compass on mapOne of the greatest blog posts I’ve seen comes from Rajesh Setty’s Life Beyond Code. If you haven’t seen his “Quoughts” series (Quought = Question that provokes thought), you must check it out. Rajesh asked several influential thinkers, “What is the ONE important question a person should ask himself or herself in 2007?”

The questions he received are big doozies – the kind that unhinge us from our comfort zones and help us see our lives through a new lens. Here are a few samples:

“How can I be the person that I hope my children become?” (Harry Beckwith)

“What do I have to do to earn and deserve the key relationships that are going to get me where I want to go?” (David Meister)

“How can I help others attain a level of success greater than my own?” (Mike Sansone)

“What is the question whose answer would set me free?” (Peter Block)

“What do I care about enough to defend in conversation with people I respect?” (John Battelle)

“What would I do differently in 2007 if I had no fear?” (Steve Pavlina)

And here are a few quoughts I’d have shared with Rajesh if he’d asked me:

“When am I in the zone, and how will I double the time I spend in the zone in 2007?

“On January 1, 2008, what habit or routine will I wish I had established in 2007?”

“What project can I start working on now that could, conceivably, lead to my next career?” (A good question to ask even if you love your current career.)