Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

I had read Carol Dweck's theory on the fixed vs. growth mindset in the past, but was reminded of it by Amy Wilkinson, in The Creator's Code chapter on failing wisely.

Carol explains that those with a fixed mindset value the end whereas those with a growth mindset value the means. And this can be encouraged, as she demonstrates with fifth graders that were given challenging puzzles. Some of them were commended for their achievement and how smart they were; the others for their effort and how much they accomplished. When both groups were given a further choice between an easy or difficult puzzle, those that were complimented on their intelligence chose the easier puzzles and those that were complimented on their effort chose the more difficult one.

If you look at creator's and their view of failure through this theory, it makes a lot of sense: they all have a growth mindset and therefore focus on what they can learn from the failure instead of it as an end to be mourned.

My son found out earlier this week that he scored in the top 1% for some subjects on his high school entrance exam. My husband and I were proud and stunned; my son was just stunned and kept telling us—and texting his friends—that it had to be a fluke since he was not that smart. When speaking to him later, I tried to stress that he should just view this as confirmation that he can achieve anything he wants to with hard work, but that where he chose to put that effort was up to him (as long as he got decent grades, of course). 

Just like Dweck was able to encourage a growth mindset in some of the students and I am trying to encourage it in my son, we can do the same for ourselves. It really does boil down to perspective and how you mentally frame things, and choosing to see something as an opportunity to learn rather than a "failure" is something we can train ourselves to do.

What current challenge can you mentally reframe?

Too Fast?

I took various forms of martial arts for many years and one of my favorites was Prepare, which is actually more of a self-defense system than a martial arts. It was all about "adrenal stress training" and learning how to react quickly and with full force against heavily armored instructors. After each "fight," we were trained to look around and assess the situation so not to miss a potential attacker behind us.

This "tunnel vision" exists outside of that world too. 

Everything moves so quickly today and making decisions quickly, iterating and pivoting quickly, reacting quickly, etcetra are all considered good traits for entrepreneurs and business people to have. But is there such a thing as too fast?

Let's take a for instance. You have an idea, you develop an MVP (minimal viable product), you test it and get feedback. Before rushing to incorporate the feedback, pause and evaluate whether you have a wide and random enough sampling of testers and data to be conclusive. The alternative—analysis paralysis—is not preferable and should be avoided, but I worry that perhaps we're so focused on being first and fastest, that we may actually miss some of the signals. 

And then there's all the "failing fast" we read about (and yes, I too have written about). Again, how fast is too fast? If you don't take the time to evaluate and learn from your failures, there is no point to them.

Unless your gut is telling you something is right and has to happen now, I'd stop, think, and assess. Amy Wilkinson, in The Creator's Code, refers to this as the "Ooda" Loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

Since there really is no "right" speed for acting or failing, the focus should be on the speed of the assessing and reacting. If you are always observing and orienting, you can decide and act far more quickly than if you'd have to start the loop at the eleventh hour. This is definitely an advantage and lucky for us, one that can be learned.

What is your inclination? Do you move too fast or too slow and how do you aim to balance it out?

Blog Redesign

Hope the redesign didn't throw you.... 

Now that the YourMBR website is more flushed out, although still a work-in-progress, and I've embedded the blog there for convenience, I needed to do a quick blog makeover so that it fit.

Back tomorrow with my usual posting.

"To-Go Thinking"

I read Amy Wilkinson's The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs. Unlike Lewis Schiff in Business Brilliant (who I wrote about in my last two posts, here and here), she focuses on six distinct characteristics that all of the interviewed super-successful entrepreneurs shared.

One of them is what she calls "drive for daylight." They know how to remain super-focused on the horizon and the end goal and not get distracted from this. Part of this is "to-go thinking," focusing on what is yet to be done as opposed to what has already been done.

She mentions a few interesting studies where one group was told what they had accomplished, while the other what they had left to accomplish. In each of these studies, the latter group got more done. By hearing what is left to do, it leaves us feeling motivated to get it done more quickly; while hearing what has been done leaves us more complacent. This apparently even works for fundraising: one of the examples she cited compared mentioning the amount of money raised versus what was left to be raised; the latter was more effective.

Since many of us are juggling various responsibilities and perhaps are even building their business on the side, as I am, it is easy to get distracted and even overwhelmed by everything left to get done. I have to remind myself often that I believe in my idea and can do it. It's easier with YourMBR than my last idea since I truly enjoy this concept and believe in its value, but that does not make the juggling or self-doubt any easier. And there is never a perfect time to start either, if that's what's holding you back.

My family has been great and are all behind my idea, so we often talk about it. A phrase I have said too often is "if I do this right." My 14-year-old son's comment, when I said this on Saturday, echoes what Amy Wilkinson wrote. His words to me: "Mommy, you have to stop thinking that way because you're only scaring yourself by thinking how it's all on you." From the mouth of not-so babes.

So starting now, "to-go thinking" and visualizing my success is what I will strive for while I drive for the daylight.

Have you had trouble with this? What's helped you move beyond?

Leap from Failure to Business Brilliance

I introduced Lewis Schiff's book, Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons in my last post. I finished the book, loved it, and had to share two more of his lessons that made an impact.

Iterating is something you hear about often in the startup and tech world (and I wrote about it earlier too); the other thing you will hear or read about in those circles is "failing." Some will go so far as to say "fail fast and often." Well, apparently self-made millionaires believe this too. 

Unlike the surveyed middle class who at most failed once or twice, the self-made millionaires all failed at least three times, and then went back for more. And not only did they persevere and try again, but they did so in the same industry they had previously failed in, whereas the middle class quit and moved on. The wealthy realized that it was important to keep doing what they loved (and played to their strengths) and to learn from their mistakes. If they had moved on, they would not have benefited from either of these. 

Not only did they fail and persevere, they looked to failure as a means to an end: as a way to learn, iterate, and improve. They weren't embarrassed to discuss it, nor were they afraid to risk it. They embraced it, learned from it, and tried again. 

To me, the above was eye opening. I'm sure I'm not the only one that hates to fail and although I do try to learn from it, it's not something I've ever welcomed. I will now strive to recognize that failure is a necessary part of my growth. 

Schiff shares an analogy worth repeating. To the wealthy, failure is like a visit to the dentist: painful but a necessary part of life and an experience you know you'll be better off having gone through. To the middle class, failure is like a punch in the mouth: unexpected, extremely painful, and to be avoided at all cost.

Schiff ends his inspiring book with a chapter on how we can all learn to be more "Business Brilliant" and summarizes it with the acronym "LEAP"—Learning, Earning, Assistance, and Persistence. He encourages practicing at least one of the below on a daily basis (and includes more details and even exercises to help):
  • Learning what you do best.
  • Earning some dollars on it.
  • Getting Assistance with what you don't do best.
  • Using Persistence to overcome self-doubt.
Are you ready to LEAP? Which of the above inspires you most and why?

Playing to Your Strengths as Business "Brilliance"

Lewis Schiff researched the differences in mindset between the middle-class and those who became self-made millionaires. Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons is the result of that.

Although he discusses seven differences between what the middle class thinks is important for success and the wealthy actually do, I'll mainly focus on one difference in this post.

I've written earlier about Marcus Buckingham and how important it is for a job to play to your strengths; apparently the wealthy live by this. Unlike most of us who would prefer to use our strengths but feel we need to improve on our weaknesses, the wealthy delegate what they don't do well and only spend time on what they do well. As per Schiff's survey, very few will even try a new thing at this point and rather just focus their time on their strengths. But then again, the wealthy follow their passions and the money and they are willing to walk away from propositions that are not really win-win for them (two other differences he goes into).

Schiff does acknowledge that since most of the self-made millionaires are business owners, it's easier for them to do this, but he does suggest how a "business brilliant" corporate worker could handle this. 

Imagine outlining your strengths to your boss and how utilizing them is in the company's best interest. Perhaps you go so far as to suggest a workaround for not spending too much time on your weaknesses. Do you think your boss would go for this? Even if he doesn't, you never know until you try. And this is another major difference between the two groups, which I briefly mentioned above: the wealthy are not afraid to negotiate and walk away if the deal is not in their best interest, whereas the middle class feel they have no choice and often are afraid to even ask or negotiate.

Regardless of where in the continuum you see yourself, or whether you're self-employed or not, it's important to be aware of your strengths. And if you can't have the "strengths talk" with your boss and/or it doesn't go well, you can learn to be more "business brilliant" with the rest of your time. By spending more of it on what you do well and what comes naturally to you, you will feel better—stronger and more energized—get more accomplished, and your personal ROI (return on investment) will be on the upswing.

We can all learn to spend our time more wisely. What should you do more of and what less of to increase your personal ROI?

National Holidays and Time Off

I was first introduced to ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) in the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, creators of the ROWE movement. What ROWE recommends, in short, is that you treat your employees as the adults they are, stop micromanaging them and insisting they work certain ways or times, and trust that they will get the work done. They will surprise you, rise to the challenge, and be more engaged. ROWE also recommends less meetings and time wasters that are all about looking busy instead of getting work done.

I was very excited to read this book and their second one, Managing Sucks and How to Fix It, and even more excited that there actually was a movement to fix how employees are treated and evaluated.

Somewhat related are all the great perks that startups offer their talent, including "flexible time off policy." Again, they are trusting them to be adults, get their work done, and take the time off they need to stay fresh, healthy, and engaged. 

For those who work in corporations, you may be thinking I wish, but this is never going to happen. And even if you're right, if you recognize that this movement has merit, that your staff are adults who can be trusted to manage their own time, and that they deserve time off, you will find a way to incorporate some of this into your department's culture. For example, I have given staff their birthdays as an extra day off or if work allowed, let them leave early before a holiday. 

Better yet, ask your staff what they would prefer. Something all managers have to recognize (and I often remind myself), is that what motivates you won't necessarily motivate your staff. (I wrote a post on this in a previous blog I no longer maintain, but the sentiments hold.) Perhaps one employee would prefer a work from home day rather than leaving early prior to a holiday, or another would prefer to take two half days rather than a whole day. If the intent is to reward their efforts and show your appreciation, than the only way to ensure you succeed is by asking them. 

Now, for national holidays. Even if you're a global company and have several lists of national holidays to consider and offer, do so and do so fully. Unless your company needs to be open and therefore have coverage, in which case you can rotate time off, there is no reason to be stingy. National holidays are when your staff can share time off with family and friends, truly recharge, and come back more engaged and refreshed. It's in your best interest and good business sense to take advantage of this. The alternative is a resentful employee who won't be giving his or her best anyhow.

Does time off motivate you?

PS Did you notice the new Alltop badge on the top right of the blog? I'm proud to have been accepted into the Alltop list of blogs. Check them out ( and feel free to recommend other blogs you think should be added. If you sign-up for a free account, you can even create your own currated "MyAlltop" with only the topics/blogs that interest you.

Hiring Smart Is Good Business Sense

Whether you've read Marcus Buckingham, Jim Collins, Jon Gordon, or any number of today's greats that write about job fit, you'll understand how devastating having the wrong person in the wrong job can be, and not only to the individual, but to the company as well.

Regardless of how experienced you are or how quickly you pick things up, there are certain inherent talents and skills—your strengths, as Marcus Buckingham refers to them—that you need to use daily to achieve complete job satisfaction and success. Any job that does not play to these strengths will at best be an okay fit and at worst a disaster.

Think back. Have you ever been in a job, project, or venture that is so much fun that it does not feel like work? Or even if it's challenging, you just feel good at the end of the day? Now think of the opposite. Have you had the misfortune of a job, project, or venture where you never quite get it and/or just feel exhausted at the end of the day? It's the difference between going with the tide or against it: the former energizes while the latter enervates.

If you are in the wrong job, you are not going to succeed and depending on how bad a fit the job is, you may even fail.

Having spent enough time recruiting, I know how challenging it is to interview people when you're understaffed and still have to get work done. You may be tempted to go with someone who seems to be a good enough fit, just so that you can get on with it and back to your day job. Don't! Take your time to think about what you need for that position, both skill-wise and mindset-wise, then prepare questions and scenarios to find and hire the right person for that job. Anything else will lead to your team not being at its best, you having more work and clean-up to do, and eventually you'll have a demoralized person and team, with even more work and clean-up for you.

And having spent enough time on the other side of the equation, and having made the mistake of taking the wrong job, I can tell you how miserable that type of failure feels. I won't tell you that it's better to be unemployed than be miserably employed, but I will recommend this be an absolute last resort.

So hire smart—right person, right strengths, right job—so that you have a happy, engaged, and productive employee. This will keep your team's morale up and free you to do your job.

Which side do you have experience with? What tips can you share to avoid this trap on either side?

The Great Debilitators: Doubt and Fear

I was fortunate enough to attend a Women's Media Group Brown Bag, where I heard Terri Trespicio speak. Terri is a media coach as well as a content and brand strategist, and she gave us tips on what to do and not do when you're being interviewed by the media. 

It was a very informative hour and a half, but riding home on the subway, the thing that stuck out was her telling us that it's okay to be nervous and it's okay not to know everything. She of course explained how to prepare for the first and redirect the second, but when I was revisiting these tips, it reminded me of something else. 

Have you ever had doubt or fear rear their ugly heads and make it nearly impossible to take the next step? Have you seen others make faulty or short-sighted decisions out of what couldn't be anything but fear or insecurity? 

I know I've experienced both, and it's amazing that one can fear (and doubt) both good things and bad ones. Sometimes just the thought of a potential promotion or big move can be so scary, that you talk yourself out of applying. Sometimes you make a decision since it's safer and will cover your ass, rather than it's what's best for your or your team.

All of the above is very natural and human. It's what you do in those moments—the choice you make—that makes the difference.

I remember many years ago, when I was still in college and moaning to a close friend about my relationship woes of the moment, she said something so profound that it has stuck with me since. (Thank you, Michal.) What she said was that a true test of anything—whether it was character, love, values—was whether you rose above the circumstances or whether you used them as an excuse. I have often reminded myself of this (and sometimes reminded others).

So next time you find yourself overwhelmed by an emotion, if it's interfering with a business decision (or life), take a deep breath and try to think through that fear, doubt, or whatever other feeling is standing in your way. Emotions are not inherently bad: they're like that muscle pain that is your body's way of telling you to slow down. They're a message that needs to be deciphered, not blindly followed. 

And I'm far from perfect and given that I'm at a crossroad now, and working on YourMBR, I will be reminding myself of both what Michal said back then, and what Terri said yesterday.

How do you handle doubt and fear?

Feedback Is a Gift

If you've read enough startup books, as I have (and I will be revisiting many of them for the startup course we'll be offering), you'll know how important "iterating" is. Basically, you launch your startup with an MVP (minimal viable product—the basic product minus bells and whistles) and then use customer feedback to "iterate" and improve on the MVP. This means that you don't have to spend time and money perfecting something, only to have to change it when no one is interested in your version of perfect. So the startup world has realized that feedback is a gift and have integrated this into how they operate.

This unfortunately is not always the case for the rest of the business world, nor necessarily outside of the product lifecycle even in startups.

For my first Actionable Book Summary, I read Learn Like a Leader by Marshall Goldsmith, Ken Shelton, and Beverly Kaye. It was a very inspiring read both because of what the greats they interviewed shared about their personal learning journey, but also because it showed me that great leaders do realize they have to keep learning. Jim Collins went so far as to recommend learning be the objective, not the means to an end. I highly recommend the book and you can read my summary here.

I started out as a teacher and have continued to read, take courses, and mentor. As several leaders mentioned in Learn Like a Leader, you often learn as much from your students as they do from you. But I consider it common sense to keep learning: to observe what is working and what is not, to ask for feedback, and then to iterate. To get honest feedback is rare, but if you are lucky enough to get it, recognize it as the gift it is and do something constructive with it.

No one is perfect and no one can know everything. If you try to excel at everything, you will actually accomplish less and not excel at anything. So we all need to learn from those we work with, regardless of our career level or theirs.

For my Actionable Books Bio, I was asked to choose a motto. This was more difficult than I would have expected given I have strong opinions on lots of things, but to boil all that down to one or two sentences? That took time and thought. Below is what I eventually chose:
Keep it simple. What you're doing either works or it doesn't and if it doesn't, try something else—and ask for feedback. This applies to the service you're selling and to the people you're managing.
Have you been fortunate to get feedback that helped you succeed?

Patience vs. Outsourcing (reposted from Tumblr)

I’m nearly done with Crush It! (by Gary Vaynerchuk) and was just reading an entire section where he recommended patience and hustling. Basically, it takes time and patience to excel at a new skill and then hard work—“hustle”—to become successful. Since he’s the social media master, he applies this to learning how to build and grow your personal brand across various social media platforms.

I recently read Paula Rizzo’s Listful Thinking and especially loved the chapter about outsourcing your life. She and the various experts she cited all believe that one should focus efforts where one is best served and outsource the rest. An example of this would be something you just cannot achieve adequate mastery of in the time needed versus something only you can do for your business.

So does one patiently hustle and build social media (or other expertise) or should one outsource this?

Personally, I think it really depends on whether you enjoy the task and learning it. So much is changing so quickly (Gary wrote about platforms and tools in 2009 that no longer exist today) and learning is actually good for you, so why not try it out for yourself first. You may find that you pick it up quickly and/or even if you don’t, that it’s a task that brings you great satisfaction. If this happens, then by all means patiently hustle and learn. But if you hate it, don’t get it, or just don’t want to spend all that time doing this instead of something else you would enjoy more, then outsource it.

For me, social media is something I’m attempting to learn in the limited time I have, but I know that someone else could do more and better, so I will outsource parts of it.

Have you had to make the choice between patience and outsourcing? If so, which did you pick and why?

Migrating from Tumblr and Introduction

When I decided to start blogging again, I was reading Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk, and he recommended either WordPress or Tumblr for blogging. I had some familiarity with WordPress, and knew it was too complicated for my purposes, so decided to try Tumblr instead. Although I liked a lot about my experience, the fact that it didn't allow for subscribing via e-mail, and I think it is known for more non-text blogging purposes, made me decide to migrate back to Blogger, which I had used several times in the past. 

So I'm back...

In the interim, the title of my new blog says it all and is part of why I’m starting and excited about YourMBR. There is so much business (and life) common sense to be derived from books and the world around you: you just have to be open to it and know how to apply it, which I’ll be helping those who sign up for my classes do. I worked really hard to figure out a perfect tagline that captures what I’m trying to do, and I think I got it: Your Mastery of Business Reading—Learn the Skills and Mindset for Success. 

It’s still in its baby stages and I’m looking to hire a freelance social media expert. But in the interim, I’ll keep reading, observing, and when I come across a nugget of “Business Common Sense” I think worth sharing, I’ll do it here.

Until next time.