Avoiding the Wizard of Oz Syndrome: Combating Illusions of Success and Finding Your True Passion

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Dec 1, 2013 (3 years and 11 months ago)

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Avoiding the Wizard of Oz Syndrome: Combating Illusions of Success and
Finding Your True Passion


Last weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to go home to Louisville and attend the
Kentucky Derby. Growing up, I was not allowed to participate in many of

the Derby festivities.
My father was a Major with the Louisville Metro Police Department and was often over security
for the city’s Derby festivities. Because of this task, he was subjected to a lot of foolishness
through the years during Derby in order t
o serve and protect the city’s patrons. Therefore, he
insulated me from most of the damaging behavior that comes with having an extra 200,000
people in the Louisville metro area of only 700,000 residents. This year was only my second
“true” Derby experienc
e and it was completely different from the Derby in which my father was
familiar. I was excited to get the weekend rolling!


As I boarded my plane from Ithaca, NY all I could think about was how much fun I was going
to have at all of the VIP events and all

of the interesting people I was going to meet. Thanks to
an awesome friend, my girlfriend, Kandice, and I were given some box seats to the Derby and
tickets to all of the VIP galas. I was afforded the opportunity to spend hours with some of the
top entert
ainers, athletes, and business moguls in the nation. I quickly became disappointed,
however, as I transitioned from dreaming about talking to ‘Deity XYZ’ to actually speaking to
him in person.


After exchanging small talk for a few minutes, I asked each pe
rson one simple question, “What
are you passionate about?” My goal was to attain deeper insight on what made them
successful. After proposing the question, each individual looked at me for a moment with a
perplexed expression. After a much anticipated sile
nce, most of individuals said, “Wow . . . No
one has ever asked me that before.” As people answered this question for me throughout the
evening, I slowly became saddened and disappointed by their responses. I was shocked by the
amount of times I heard “mak
ing money”, “ballin’”, and “I have no idea” as simple responses to
the question asked of them. I then asked myself a vital question . . . Is there really anything
more to life than fast cars, chartered jets, and high class sporting events?


On the other si
de of the spectrum were the people from Kentucky who came to the Derby
events to stargaze and take pictures with celebrities. For example, there was a lady, the wife of
a multi
-
millionaire, who was having a conversation with Kandice about how she was ecsta
tic to
meet all of the great celebrities. The lady then pointed out the fact “Famous Man X” was right
behind Kandice and if she turned around at that moment, she would be able to meet him.
Kandice told the lady she would be fine without meeting him at that

very moment and she was
sure they would eventually meet sometime throughout the weekend. The lady was definitely
confused by that comment.


The Wizard of Oz Syndrome


The entire Derby weekend was like being in the movie The Wizard of Oz. You had Dorothy a
nd
her crew searching for an additional attribute thought to make them a better person as they
say to themselves “If only I had a brain, a heart, or courage, then I, too, would be a success.”
They ventured on down the yellow brick road in hopes to find the

great Wizard of Oz. By the
end of the movie, they found out that the Great Wizard was a fake and each person had the
characteristics of greatness in them all along!



The Derby was similar. Many of the locals felt by mingling with famous people, they too
would
become successful, even though they already possessed the formula of success already found
within them. Incidentally, many of the celebrities appeared successful on the surface but were
struggling with the same core insecurities as the rest of the wo
rld.


The Importance of Passion


It is vitally important that we do not become fooled by the illusions of success that are fueled
by lazy thinking. In business, there is a term called local optima. This is when a company
maximizes one small part of a large

system at the detriment of total system productivity. What
the company usually optimizes is the part of the system that investors observe to determine its
total viability. This has long term negative effects and can cause a company to implode over
time be
cause they are tricking themselves into believing in a false sense of success.



The local optima companies face on a large scale is similar to the type that individuals face
daily. We attempt to optimize money and notoriety at the expense of our friends,
our
community, and our values. Many people make money the end goal not realizing that it is just a
tool to attain happiness and fulfillment. The end goal should be for individuals to find and act
upon their passions to make sure that they have a fulfilled
LIFE and not only a full bank
account.


At some level we all hunger for meaning in our lives. Having passion and a great purpose can
uplift you mentally and physically every day. You should not be here just to make a living, but
you should also strive to m
ake a difference in the world. When people have a greater purpose
for their lives beyond money, they do not feel obligated to perform. They WANT to perform
because that is what they love. Knowing my own passion and purpose was the key for me
when I made th
e decision to forgo corporate America and start my own company. Being in tune
with your passions makes it easier to make tough life decisions.


How to Find Your Passion


I wish I could say I was one of those people who knew what I was called to do since I
was a
young child, but that would be a lie. I did not know that I was passionate about
entrepreneurship until my sophomore year in high school when my biology teacher allowed me
to mass produce and sell the teacher
-
authorized cheat sheets for our examinati
ons. It took me
another 7 years to move from just knowing my passion to acting upon it.


Learning one’s true passion is a self
-
discovery process full of intense thinking. The best way I
have found for a person to discover their passions is to answer the fo
llowing questions.


∙ What are you good at and what energizes you? Why?


A person’s passion is often in
alignment with what they are naturally good at. Humans want to be successful and are
attracted to activities that allow them to excel.



∙ What are you

discontent about in the world? Why?


This is part of your bigger purpose in life.
Your passions should not be things in which you are the sole benefactor. It’s hard to think
about the bigger picture sometimes because we can feel insignificant and feel th
at the larger
problems are not within our social influence. We fail to realize the power we possess inside of
us to change the status quo. Get out of that habit now!



∙ What do you want for your life? Why?


Think about the things that truly make you happ
y.
Here, the “why” question is just as important as what you want. People often talk about how
they want to be millionaires, but what they really want is to be able to experience the lives that
millionaires have. This realization can only become clear afte
r you ask yourself why money is
important. Do this for all aspects of your life.



∙ What do you really care about? Why?


List the things that are most important to you in a no
-
holds
-
barred fashion. Anything that you can think of should go here.



Once yo
u have answered these questions, see what common themes appear in your thoughts. I
cannot stress enough the importance of asking the question “why” to all of these questions.
This is the deeper meaning and true insight into what you are truly passionate ab
out.



Acting Upon Your Passion



Knowing your passions is not enough. You have to have the courage to act upon them. To
move from knowing to doing, you need to do be determined. Going against the grain of the rest
of the world can be a lonely position to
be in. Many people lose their direction in life because
they are easily distracted and influenced by other people instead of being true to themselves.
Do not let this be you.



Conclusion



People should start aiming to have a wealthy life and not just a w
ealthy bank account. I am not
saying that money is not important. I am saying that money should only be a tool to accomplish
something greater in life. Inferiority can creep into our lives if we judge people on outward
possessions and appearances. We can f
eel like we do not measure up because there is not a
black BMW in our driveway. It is time for us to change the measurements of success to things
that are more valuable in order to progress to true happiness.



It is important that we do not underestimate
our own potential and overestimate the abilities of
others. Doing so will cause feelings of self
-
worthlessness and unhappiness. Remember what the
movie The Wizard of Oz taught us about life. If we search for a brain, a heart, and courage for
ourselves with
in others, the end result will be disappointment. We all have amazing potential
within us longing to be released. If you learn how to use your brain to determine your
strengths, to use your heart to show compassion for the others, and to have the courage t
o
follow your dreams, then you, too, will be and can be an unstoppable force for change!




The Power of Burning Bridges: How Less Choice Can Make Us Better Off
-

Part 1


Introduction


In the early 16th century, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes ventured
out on an expedition to
conquer Mexico which was new to European nations. Cortes’ left on his expedition in direct
defiance of the Cuban Governor who revoked his charter at the last minute due to an old gripe
between the two individuals. Nevertheless, Cort
es landed Verzcruz, Mexico several months later
looking to conquer the Aztec Empire and find riches. When his team arrived to the shore, Cortes
ordered his men to sink the fleet of ships to prevent the secretly planned return to Cuba by
those loyal to the
Cuban Governor. Sinking the ships left the expedition crew no way to retreat.
Now, they either had to win or perish. Ultimately, Cortes’ expedition was successful against the
Aztecs.



This article’s focus is not on the moral implications of the European
conquest of a foreign land,
but on the effective strategy Cortes used to ensure his crew did not rebel against him and abort
the mission. The strategy deployed by Cortes can be used by individuals to help achieve
important life goals. The human brain is sc
hizophrenic. We constantly have to decide whether
to take the safe but often unsatisfying route or the tough route that will eventually lead us to
our desired destination. When we attempt the tougher path, the safe part of our brain wants to
mutiny against

the other part and force a retreat of progressive positive action.



When facing important, but frightening decisions, it is better to self impose limits on your
available choices rather than to keep easy, but unsatisfying choices on the table. By doing t
his,
you will become more resourceful in overcoming obstacles knowing that retreat is not an option
and you will be forced to take positive action.



The “Never Burn Bridges” Myth


There is a common saying that states that a person “should never burn bridg
es.” This idiom
generally means that you should not leave a job or relationship on bad terms recklessly. The
wisdom is that you never know when you will need to re
-
cross the burnt bridge in the future.
Although I agree that the reckless use of burning brid
ges is a bad idea, I disagree that this
should be a general rule that we should always follow. Sometimes, burning bridges is a
constructive tool that can deter us from taking destructive and unfulfilling paths in life.



There are examples from my own life

when I constructively burned bridges to help me achieve
my life goals. When I graduated from college, I turned down two lucrative job offers from
Fortune 100 companies, even before I had my plans set to move to Syracuse to help grow my
brother’s speaking
career. This placed me in a scary position of uncertainty, but it made me
work more fervently to make my entrepreneurial endeavors successful. I went through this
process again recently as I removed myself from excellent business school opportunities in
or
der to pursue my speaking tour starting next January.



As a society, we believe that having many choices is a great thing. The collective logic is that
more choice equates to more individual freedom which equates to a better welfare of society.
This logic

holds true for a while, but there is a point when too many choices can cause personal
setbacks towards achieving our long term goals. I will explain three negative effects that too
much choice has on individuals.


Effect #1: Choice Causes Paralysis by Ana
lysis



Deciphering between too many choices is mentally draining and will cause paralysis by analysis
instead of liberation. With so many different things to choose from, we find it hard to choose at
all. These tough decisions because of excessive choice
lead to procrastination. If you speak with
many successful people, most will tell you that taking action is the most important part of their
achieved success. If you are paralyzed by indecision, there is no way that you can take the
action necessary to mak
e you successful.



This phenomena reminds me of some of my genius friends who wander through life because
they are good at everything. They have so many good options that they cannot decide which
one is the best path for them to take. All of their time is

spent striving maximize every decision
instead of finding ways to maximize their life. Don’t fall into this trap!


Effect #2: Choice is a Temptation to Turn Back When Adversity Surfaces


Taking a path that leads to happiness and fulfillment can be challen
ging at times. If not, then
everyone would be taking that identical path. The split brain that we have makes it difficult to
stay on course when adversity surfaces. On one hand, we see our end goal with all of its glory
in front of us. On the other hand, w
e recognize the hang
-
ups that may occur that can
negatively affect our self esteem through failure. Just like Cortes troops almost defected against
him, our natural instinct is to turn back when the going gets tough. Power comes from not
being able to retr
eat.



Effect #3: Too Many Choices Often Make Us Less Satisfied with Our Selected Option


When we keep too many choices on the table for too long, we end up less satisfied by our
selected option than we would be if we had fewer options instead. How we valu
e choices
depends greatly on the other alternatives that we compare them to. In economics, this is called
opportunity cost. This is the cost of forgoing the next best alternative. When we have many
options, our mind starts to play tricks on us. Instead of
comparing the benefits of one option
against another, we compare the benefits of our selected option against the combined benefits
of all of the other options. Therefore, if the option that we pick is not perfect, we become
dissatisfied even if the chosen
option is wonderful.



A great example of this fact is in relationships. Let’s say that John has been dating a wonderful
woman named Erin for a short period of time. Erin is attractive, intelligent, and kind, but she
has a laugh that the John finds annoyin
g. There is another woman named Michelle that also
likes John. However, John does not find Michelle to be as attractive, intelligent, or kind
compared to Erin, but Michelle does not have an annoying laugh. Therefore John would
probably decide to stay with
Erin.



Now, instead of one other suitor, let’s say John has many other women who like him. Instead of
comparing Erin as a future life
-
mate against each of the girls individually, John creates this
superwoman in his brain that compares Erin against the att
ractiveness of Sarah, the intelligence
of Amy, and the kindness of Natalie. In essence, creating a person that does not exist. (I’m
picking on men, but women do the same thing.) When choice is abundant, this phenomenon is
more likely to happen, causing us
to miss out on opportunities that may have been better for
us.



In Part 2 of this article, I will take you through my 5 step process to constructively burn bridges
in the future.


The Power of Burning Bridges: How Less Choice Can Make Us Better Off
-

Part

2


**Note: Please

click here

to view part 1 of this article.




Commitment is Counterintuitive: How to Hurt
Yourself to Help Yourself


There is a quote that I love by classical guitarist David Russell. He says that “the hardest thing
to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.” Making this type of decision is
difficult. It takes a combination of

acute self awareness and committed action to your selected
path. Half hearted involvement will not work. A popular fable explains that “the difference
between involvement and commitment is like an eggs
-
and
-
ham breakfast: The chicken was
involved, but the
pig was committed.”


Here are the five steps that I follow anytime I need to figure out which bridges I should cross
versus which ones I should burn.


Step 1: Discover Your Passions and Develop Clarity of Purpose


I have talked about this step extensively
in two of my previous articles (
Avoiding the Wizard of
Oz Syndrome
e and

Creating Your Kevlar Vision
). To summarize the other articles, it is vitally
important that we discover for ourselves what is important and what is not. Do
not be fooled by
common traps that derail many people from the self discovery process. Being in tune with your
passions makes it easier to navigate tough life decisions.


Creating my personal mission statement at the LeaderShape program my junior year of c
ollege
is one of the best things that I have ever done. It states that I want “to become a tycoon
politically, socially, and economically so that I may have a positive impact on my community.”
This simple statement provides clarity of purpose to my life an
d I use it as a guide to make sure
I stay on path with what is important to me. You should create one too.


Step 2: Eliminate the Choices Counter to Your Passions and Purpose


After you have identified your passion and purpose, you will now need to elimina
te the options
that do not align with the direction that you want to head in the future, no matter how easy the
alternative options are. I understand that this step can be difficult and scary, but it is a
necessity. There are common traps that entice peopl
e not to eliminate options that are counter
to their passions (Check out Chapter 6 in Success Built to Last for a more in depth look):


1.

Career worthiness



One may think that the unaligned choice is more worthy than the
thing that you really want to do.

Overcome the urge to think like this. Many people choose
“worthy” careers because they provide an illusion of security, not because they actually like the
career. One of my friends who is in his last year of medical residency recently contacted me
about b
usiness school because he was over the hype of being a doctor. He now wants to
pursue a path that he loves and I’m sure he will be successful at it. If you want to be a doctor
that is excellent, but make sure it is because that career aligns with your pass
ions and not
because it is deemed worthy by others.



2.

Bright, shiny, objects (BSOs)



If you listened solely to the marketing messages on
television, it would be easy to feel worthless if you do not own the latest BMW, have the MTV
Crib, or hang out wit
h the latest accessory mate. There is nothing wrong with having these
things, but individuals in tune with their purpose will know that BSOs will not keep them happy
for long.


Let me repeat; I know that is can be very hard to burn certain bridges. Often,
there is immense
social pressure to cross the same bridge as everyone else. But ask yourself “Who will suffer for
my unhappiness if I live a life that I do not love?” The answer is you!


Step 3: Take Action to Ensure Your Selected Action is Irreversible


W
hen you burn the bridges of the options that are counterproductive to your life, don’t create
safety zip lines to take you back “just in case” something goes wrong. The purpose to cutting
off the other options is to force ourselves to focus on what we love

to do. If you know in the
back of your head that you can quit at anytime, then the focus effect is diminished.


Step 4: Continue to Develop Your Mental and Emotional State


Throughout the process, you need to work on your mental and emotional development
to stay
committed to your course of action and to grow as a person. The results of your decisions are
important, but sometimes we forget to enjoy the journey in anticipation of reaching the
destination. Doing so will lead to self doubt and the constant com
parison of opportunities not
selected, especially if your plan is not moving as fast as you predicted. I develop my mental and
emotional state by reading positive and inspirational messages on a daily basis.


Step 5: Evaluate Your Goals Regularly to Make S
ure You Have the Same Destination


Periodically, do some maintenance of your passions and purpose to make sure that what you
originally set out to do is what you really want. Things change externally in the world and
internally within ourselves. It is
important to know when these changes are happening and to
adjust accordingly. Thankfully, I have not had to adjust course very much in the last 4 years,
but I am well aware that it may happen one day. But, a person’s passion and purpose usually
do not chan
ge dramatically very often.


Conclusion


Game theorist and Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Schelling said “The power to
constrain an adversary depends upon the power to bind oneself.” To attain success, we need to
constrain the part of our brain that
looks for the path of least resistance by eliminating its
options. This is process is frightening, but is essential to reaching goals faster and with more
ferocity. So, get to burnin’!

Know Your Customer, Know Yourself: Targeting Prospects as a Public
Spea
ker


Introduction


There is a quote in Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” that states, “if you know your enemy and know
yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” Your customer is certainly not your
enemy, but the message of this quote still holds
true. The better you know what you want out
of being a public speaker and the better you know how to identify the right customer for you;
the higher your success rate will be with reaching your goals. In this article, I will explain the
strategy that Great

Black Speakers has used to reach its goals and target qualified long term
customers.



Segmenting your market and targeting the right groups is probably the least exciting part of
marketing. However, these steps are the foundation to creating a great publ
ic speaker
marketing strategy. I’ve worked with many speakers who only focus on the latest tools,
haphazardly switching between them without even knowing why or how to effectively use
them. The legendary basketball coach John Wooden said that you should “n
ever mistake
activity for achievement.” This is true in marketing and targeting will ensure that you achieve
instead of just being active.



White Light Alignment of Targeting


As an electrical engineering major back in college, I remember studying optical

physics. The
light that we can see is made up of three primary colors: red, green, and blue. Different
combinations of these colors of light create all of the colors that we see on a day to day basis.
The light is the strongest when all three of the prima
ry colors overlap creating a bright white
light. Creating a target market for yourself as a public speaker is similar to light. You have three
primary considerations:



1. Personal inventory of your strengths.

2. Goals that you want to accomplish.

3. Goals

of the customer.


The better you can overlap these three necessities, the stronger your light will be and the more
successful you will be within the industry.



Excuses for Not Targeting


There are many excuses that speakers use in order to bypass the tar
geting process. Here are a
few of them. If you find yourself using these excuses, please snap out of it as soon as possible!
It really is that important.



1. I don’t have time to target and it is plainly boring: I have heard this excuse before by
speakers

who are busy but not productive. Not having time to target is an illusion that needs to
be revealed. How do you not have time for the foundation of all of your marketing efforts? The
best solution to this excuse is to have the discipline to focus and get
the job done.



2. Just buy a list of the markets. I’m sure someone sells the right list for us: I have used
purchased list in the past for Great Black Speakers telemarketing efforts. They can be a great
tool. However, lists are only tools. To be truly suc
cessful marketing yourself as a public, you
need to dig deeper. Furthermore, purchased lists need to be scrubbed constantly.



Taking a Personal Inventory of Your Strengths


Before starting the traditional targeting process, you need to take a personal inv
entory of your
strengths as a public speaker. What information do you know that others will pay you to hear?
Are you sharing your deep level of knowledge and expertise about a subject or are you sharing
a personal story of inspiration? It is good to know w
here your strengths lie from the beginning
because this will be a base in which you can determine your goals as a speaker. Taking a
personal inventory will also help you determine where you can grow to become an even better
speaker in the future.



Think A
bout Your Goals for Public Speaking


After you determine your strengths and expertise, it is now time to set your goals. To become a
successful public speaker, your underlying focus needs to be on matching your goals with the
goals of the organizations tha
t you will target. I find that many speakers focus on intermediate
goals instead of underlying goals when creating their brand. They will focus on pushing 10000
visitors to their website each month, but ignore how many people sign up for their newsletter
a
nd request more information. The latter two usually more important for speakers.



With the speakers’ bureaus that I own, I only focus on three financial indicators for the
company: net profit, return on investment (ROI), and cash flow. Notice that revenue

has no
bearing on the financial health of my company. You have to take into account the costs of sales
to get the full picture of financial success. These indicators extend out to GBS’ marketing efforts
as well. Focusing only on the number of visitors to
the site is equivalent to only focusing on
revenue for a company. A bad idea! Over time, you will find the marketing indicators that work
best for you.



For a public speaker, these goals may be doing 24 paid speaking engagements over the next 12
months or

I want to bring in at least $5000 per speaking engagement or I want to speak to
20,000 people in person over the next 12 months. Whatever your goal are, know them in
advance. This takes some self evaluation to understand what is really important to you. N
ot
what others think is important, but what is important to you as a speaker. However, later you
may need to come back to your goals and tweak them a little so that they align closely to what
a target customer wants as well.



Know the Goals of Your Custom
er


Next, you need to know how to identify good target customers and develop a deep
understanding about their goals. This is the section that I will spend the most time explaining
and is the most important aspect of the targeting process. In the diagram as
sociated with this
article, I drew the customer goal circle the biggest because everything centers around that in
the marketplace. Marketing is not about your speaker products and services. When you are
marketing, you need to focus your efforts on what you
r buyers want from you. This can be a
difficult challenge because we are excited about what we have to offer, but we should also be
more concerned about the end goals of our consumer.


In the part 2 of this article, I will explain a powerful concept called

buyer personas and help you
determine how to identify the right target audience for you as a speaker.




Risky Business: How Irrational Fears of Losing Keep Us from Reaching Our
Full Potential
-

Part 1


Introduction


A couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my classmate, Ricky, at our weekly
business school social. He was not feeling good about himself due to certain recent
developments in his life. Ricky is in his late 20’s and has a goal to one day sta
rt his own
business, preferably in the technology space. However, he is still on the job hunt like most
other MBAs and is frustrated due to his lack in finding a job. One Fortune 100 company
interviewed Ricky 11 times for a position, but denied him in the
end.


At the social, Ricky said to me, “You know Lawrence; you have to be one of my five favorite
people at Cornell.” I thanked him for the compliment, but asked him to elaborate. Ricky
continued, “I appreciate that you don’t judge me like a lot of other p
eople at the school. You
are always supportive of me and my passions and I appreciate that. Right now, I feel like a
loser because I had all of these big goals and dreams coming in to business school, but none of
them are coming true. I feel like an even b
igger loser since my wife is going to have to support
me until I find a job and that sucks.” I finally asked why he is not focusing on starting his
company as it seemed to me to be the perfect time. Ricky’s response was that he was
concerned about his stud
ent loan payments and lack of entrepreneurial experience.



The Bird in the Hand Complex


I have worked with Ricky on a major project before and I find him to be one of the most
competent individuals that I know. He is highly capable to run and grow a succ
essful
technology company. My conversation with him led me to this question, “How can someone so
smart be so nervous to take a risk that could change his life for the better if successful, but still
could recover if the venture failed?”


I studied similar
situations in my Applied Economic Analysis class taught by a former Lead
Energy Economist at the White House. We were discussing loss aversion and the professor
stated that humans were loss averse creatures. This means that we have the tendency to
strongly

prefer avoiding losses compared to acquiring gains, especially as a situation uncertainty
level rises. This is the reason we are often content with a mediocre job that we hate instead of
taking the risk to achieve greatness and to do what we love. The los
s aversion mindset of
thinking is standard operation procedure for living life and this needs to be changed.



I have started calling this principle of loss aversion “The Bird in the Hand Complex.” The name
comes from the idiom, “A bird in the hand is wort
h two in the bush,” meaning that it is better to
have a small actual advantage than the chance of a greater one. Is this idiom really true? Is it
better to have one definite bird than to have two potential ones that you could catch? What if
there is a tree

full of birds and you have the capability to catch them all? This example is a
representation of what most of us face when we have to make tough decisions. These irrational
fears influence us to not maximize our happiness and we never reach our full poten
tial.



Reasons for Risk Aversion


Just because there is a tendency for us to fall into the risk aversion trap, does not mean there
are not things that we can do about it. The goal is for us to move from risk/loss averse to risk
neutral, meaning you have a

clear understanding of the risk that you take and you do not
become sidetracked by irrational fear. I have identified four causes of this fear and have offered
suggestion on what to do about each one.



Reason 1: Overcast Picture of Reality


Navigating th
rough life during a difficult decision is similar to driving your care when it is dark
and rainy outside. The drive is not bad if you are taking the same route daily as you have
memorized where to turn by observing local landmarks, which help you reach you
r destination
quickly. The challenge arises when you plan to venture to new destinations. Now, you need to
be more focused paying close attention to street signs while blasting your windshield wipers to
wipe the rain away.



When our lives are filled with
overcast skies we do not have a clear view of what the future
may hold. Instead of cruising on the highway of life going 65 mph, we are stuck going 30 mph
on side streets. Our view is distorted by the fear of potential pain a risk may bring, but we
totally

ignore the consequences of inaction.



Second, we believe that there is permanent negatives effect if we make a mistake in the
present. This distorted view of life events forces us to think that individual decisions are far
more important than they really

are, unaware that in a short period of time, what stirs us up
now will not matter to us. An example of this is when I made a bad financial decision and
almost lost my company in 2007. When I was going through that struggle, it seemed to me that
the end of

the world was near. Looking back on it now, I can only laugh at my high level of
panic.



Reason 2: Meeting the Approval of Others


It amazes me how far people will go to meet the approval, opinions, and expectations of
others. Similar to Ricky at the beg
inning of the article, most of us have changed our behaviors
to fit in with others and gain acceptance. I struggled with this in middle school and high school
where I did not naturally fit into the system. In 8th grade I brought home 4F’s, 1C, and an ‘A’ i
n
P.E. (this is not a typo). Both my teachers and students perceived me as unintelligent and not
capable of achieving. What then happened is that I started to believe what others were saying
and conformed to their expectations. Thankfully, I had a mother w
ho forced me to do better,
but what would have happened if she wasn’t there?



We conform to the expectations of others because it is safer and more comfortable, but at the
expense of being miserable and constrained with our actions and thoughts. When frie
nds,
family, and strangers tell us things, they are often projecting their fears and insecurities onto
us. This can be especially harmful when others mask their insecurities and fears by giving us
their “objective” opinion. As a rule, I do not listen to an
yone’s opinion about my life unless I ask
for it. I refuse to let unnecessary doubts into my head. Whether I pursue my dreams or not has
nothing to do with what other people think is worthy. Your life is not a democracy. Everyone
should not have an equal s
ay!


How often do you shape your opinions to win the approval of others? Do you conform when
people tell you that you are smart or dumb? Shy or outgoing? Affectionate or distant? Realize
that our traits are fluid qualities and change depending on the conte
xt of our interactions. I
considered myself shy until I ran for Student Government President back in undergrad and I
was forced to present to new groups of people. I am quiet until you bring up the subject of
Great Black Speakers or put me in a room with m
y close friends and a Red Bull. None of us are
“either/or” with our traits, we are “both/and.” This realization increases your power and comfort
level when you interact with others.




Link to Part 2:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=336332478457

Reason 3: The Consequences of Circumstances and Self
-
Doubt


The authors of the best selling

entrepreneurship book, “The Knack”, stated that “security is not
the job, it is the confidence that you feel in yourself.” Lack of self confidence allows fear to take
control of our minds. We apply a restraining order on our dreams and postpone them until

we
get that next raise, next promotion, or acquire that new skill. However, we usually have the
skills and resources available to start what we are meant to do in the world. The self doubts
that we face are magnified as we go through difficult circumstanc
es. Just like Ricky, we criticize
ourselves the hardest when we are at our lowest point, which is the worse time to do so.



There is one song that I cannot listen to because of the doubts they may ignite in me. It is the
intro to the hit 90’s TV Sitcom “F
riends”. The lyrics are:


“So no one told you life was going to be this way.


Your job's a joke, you're broke, you're love life's DOA.


It's like you're always stuck in second gear,


Well, it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.


For this to be the intro to the most popular sitcom of all time is evidence that many people feel
this way about their own lives. How can one ever achieve success if they have this type of
thought pattern? What’s ironic to me is that all of the main actor
s on that show were the
highest paid in Hollywood at the time doing what they loved. Clearly, there is a mismatch here.



Reason 4: Fear of Adversity


One of my favorite movie scenes of all time comes from the movie “Notorious,” which is a
biopic about the

rapper Notorious B.I.G. The scene focuses on the first meeting between future
super producer, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and BIG. While Combs was persuading BIG to join
his record label, he states to BIG, “Don’t chase the paper, chase the dream…I’m hungry; y
ou
put me naked in the jungle, I’ll come out wearing a chinchilla had and a leopard coat.” Why
aren’t more people willing to have that fearless attitude? We should develop the confidence to
know that no matter what difficulties arise in our lives, we will
overcome it.



Look at adversity as a normal part of life, not as something that needs to be avoided at all
costs. The question is not when we are going to meet adversity, but how we will meet it.
Adversity is a tool that allows the passionate to excel whi
le everyone else falls by the wayside.
Therefore, the ability to overcome adversity is an essential quality for success. When I am faced
with adverse situations, my creativity is at its peak which leads to mental breakthroughs that
could not have been achi
eved otherwise. As Paralympics medalist, Aimee Mullins, stated in her
recent TED talk, “Adversity is just change that we haven’t adapted to yet.” How will you adapt
to change in your life?


Steps to Move Towards Risk Neutral


I have talked quite a bit abou
t the problem. Let’s now focus on the solution. Our goal should be
to move towards being risk neutral when making decisions in our lives. Risk neutrality is viewing
potential losses and potential gains equally. The reasons mentioned earlier are influential

in
keeping us from viewing life in a risk neutral manner, but I now want to share ways to combat
the fears you may be experiencing.



Eliminate the Noise in Your Life


My undergraduate degree was electrical engineering and I remember studying signal
-
to
-
no
ise
ratios (SNR) in class. SNR is an engineering measure to quantify how much a signal has been
corrupted by noise. Each of us has our own SNR and it is hard to achieve success when there is
more noise than signal. Noise can include people who are close to

you constantly doubting your
abilities or other distractions keeping you from reaching your full potential. Identify what these
things are and eliminate them from your life immediately.



Major sources of noise for me in the early stages of Great Black Sp
eakers were some of my
friends and family members. For 9 months, I cut them out of my life as they were dampening
my success signal. The challenge with family and friends is that they see you as you once were,
not as you want to become for the future. Thei
r concern and protectionist instincts raise doubts
within us, which debilitates our self progress. It is not easy to eliminate the noise, but it is a
necessary action.



Define the Fears Holding You Back


This next exercise is something that I learned from

my favorite book, “The Four Hour
Workweek” by Tim Ferris. When we define our fears, they usually become less scary to us. I
define my fear when I find myself acting irrationally scared when faced with a new and
daunting task. I first ask myself “What’s th
e worst thing that could happen?” Next, I picture in
great detail all of the possible negative outcomes if I take the particular action. What I usually
find is that 1) The negative consequences are short lasting and minimum while the positive
consequences
are long lasting and amazing. 2) The chances of the negative outcomes coming
to fruition are much less than having positive outcomes.



An example of this exercise in action is when I had the goal of adding more prominent speakers
to the Great Black Speake
rs’ roster. There were many famous people that I was initially afraid
to call because of the possibility of rejection or being ignored. Once I defined my fear, I was
able to make the necessary calls and drastically increased the number of prominent speaker
s
for the company. Similar scenarios happen in my life constantly and things most often work out
for the best. If things do not work out as planned, the negative effects are short lived.



Don’t Make Life Like Groundhog Day


In the early 1990’s the movie G
roundhog Day was released starring comedian Bill Murray.
Murray plays a weatherman who finds himself repeating the same day over and over again.
After indulging in many hedonistic acts and numerous suicide attempts, Murray begins to
reexamine his life and
priorities. Many of us live our own Groundhog Day where the only thing
to look forward to is what we did yesterday. To break this monotony, one needs to embrace the
uncertainty that life may bring. We tend to focus on the negative aspects of uncertainty, b
ut we
never look at the positive things life may bring. As life brings us adversity through uncertainty,
it is important to remember that adversity is what makes our life story good. I dream about
how I want my life 20 years from now. If everything always
turned out perfectly, I would not
want to read my OWN story!


Conclusion



I know how difficult and scary it can be to take risks as all of us have to fight through that fear.
However, sometimes it is better to go for the bush instead of worrying about wha
t is currently
in your hand. Courage is not the absence of fear, but overcoming it to achieve something
meaningful. We all have greatness within us, the question is if we will make the decision to
release it. The Bird in the Hand complex is prevalent and h
as become the status quo for our
society. This situation is good for those who recognize what is happening because a little
courage can equate into a lot of rewards in the form of happiness and wealth. As one learns
how to picture reality more clearly and
gains experience making risk neutral decisions, that
person’s return
-
on
-
happiness (ROH) will grow by leaps and bounds.

Hater Nation: The Personal Destructiveness of Jealousy and Strategies to
Overcome it in Our Lives
-

Part 1


Introduction



One

of the greatest and most embarrassing lessons of my life came while I was applying to
college in my senior year of high school. I had recently returned from my third summer at
Phillips Academy and was excited about the wonderful opportunities that were ah
ead of me.
During my four years of high school, my grades were only so
-
so partially due to laziness and
the other part due to the difficulty of the classes that I had taken. However, my test scores
were significantly above average and I was involved in dif
ferent leadership roles in
extracurricular activities around Louisville. All of my friends from summer who had already
applied to college were receiving admission to the most prestigious schools and I knew it was
going to be the same for me.



Later in the

school year, I started receiving notification letters from the universities in which I
applied. I was shocked, angry, and surprised at how few schools outside the state of Kentucky
accepted me for admission. At the same time, many of my closest friends we
re accepting offers
from the best schools around the nation and my best friend decided to attend Howard
University in D.C. Where did I end up? Right up the street from my house at the University of
Louisville. U of L rolled out the red carpet in terms of f
inancial aid for me, yet I overlooked this
fact and still became jealous of my friends who had made it to the “big time” and I hadn’t.



Freshman year of college started and the disappointment of not attending the school I wanted
transitioned into heighten
ed intellectual arrogance. I felt that I was too good for U of L and that
college classes would be easy given my prior academic training. That was until the engineering
core classes started to kick my behind and my first semester grades were far less than
stellar.
Before the spring semester of my freshman year I thought to myself, “Wow! Maybe I should
take school more seriously and quit whining about the opportunities that didn’t come my way.”
I started to do that second semester and my grades improved grea
tly. I also formed
relationships with great friends who I still keep in touch with often.



Citizenship in Hater Nation



At some point in life, all of us have made a visit to Hater Nation, the place where jealousy and
envy run rampant and slowly destroy l
ives. Some people visit for so long that they actually
apply for citizenship and while doing so, accept an existence of mediocrity. The goal of this
article is to persuade all of the citizens and visitors of this destructive area to leave and never
come ba
ck. We need to simultaneously form a psychological embargo between the inner Hater
Nation and ourselves to make sure that positive thoughts dominate our minds. I will share with
you specific negative effects, common root causes, and strategies to overcome
jealously so that
you may have a fuller and more productive life.



The Destructiveness of Jealousy


There is a reason why jealousy/envy is considered one of the seven deadly sins within human
beings. It is a natural, often occurring, and completely destru
ctive trait. We become
disappointed when there is a gap between our expectations of what a situation should be like
and what reality actually presents us with. In the opening story, I was disappointed because my
expectation on where I was going to college
was not aligned with where I actually went. If a
person leaves these disappointments unchecked, jealousy creeps in as a coping mechanism to
help us rationalize why we did not get what we wanted.



Using jealousy as a coping mechanism in the short term has
two very negative long term
effects. First and foremost, jealousy shifts your focus from concentrating on your own life to
worrying about what other people are doing. Having the wrong focus is one of the main
reasons why I underperformed my first semester
of college. Even if the other person who
received the opportunity that you wanted didn’t “deserve” it, you are only hurting yourself by
being consumed with the situation. It is important for us to always remember what the end
goal should be; creating a hap
py, fulfilling, and meaningful life. A shift of focus away from your
own life raises the probability that you will miss opportunities to help achieve your main goals.



Secondly, a jealous attitude usually attracts negative individuals who would be more th
an happy
to reinforce a destructive mental attitude in your life. Misery loves company and the more
negativity is reinforced, the harder it is to break the cycle and implement positive change.



The Root Causes of Jealousy



Although jealousy and hating ca
n take many forms, there are certain root emotions that cause
jealous attitudes. Jealousy/envy is a symptom of much deeper and more fundamental
problems. Trying to cure ourselves of jealous attitudes is similar to attempting to cure ourselves
of a cough wh
en we have the flu. We will continue to become sick until we kill the actual flu
virus. The reasons that people hate are internal perceptions of reality rather than reality itself.
The perceptions that we harbor are often based off of certain false assumpt
ions which causes
us to come to the wrong conclusion about the details of a situation.


Below, I will give four reasons from which jealousy surfaces and I will also explain the faulty
assumptions in each of them. If you can address the root causes of a
problem and the
assumptions on which they are based, then real progress can be made in solving it.



Reason #1: False Sense of Entitlement


A false sense of entitlement occurs when we have unrealistic expectations on what is actually
owed to us by another
party. We often think that something is owed to us just for being alive.
In the personal example that I gave in the first part of this article, I felt entitled to attend a
prestigious school simply because many of my other friends were doing so. Did I real
ly have the
grades to make a strong case for attendance? No. Even if I did have the grades, that still didn’t
give me the right to harbor the undesirable thoughts that I did.



Another example is about my friend “Tina” who finished graduate school about a
year ago.
Throughout her entire life, she has been “daddy’s little girl.” Tina’s parents were pretty well off,
but they weren’t rich. The parents loved their little girl (although Tina was a fully grown woman
by now) and had always made sure that she was t
aken care of. Tina had one serious problem:
she had the terrible habit of spending more money than she actually had. She had a BMW
budget with a Beatle income (actually less than that). Everyone close to Tina knew about the
bad money habits she had develop
ed. On paper, Tina was broke, but she somehow convinced
all of her friends to pay for her party lifestyle in which she enjoyed thoroughly.



Tina had been living it up for the previous five years, but things were about to change. Her
parents were now makin
g less money and were tired of having her as an additional expense.
The last straw was when Tina went on an overseas vacation around the same time her parents
loaned her money to move into her new apartment. When she returned from her trip and asked
her pa
rents for some grocery money, they didn’t give her the money with the line, “You need to
learn how to suffer.” Tina didn’t take this well and became mad at the world. She began to
blame her parents for her circumstances and her friends stopped calling beca
use they didn’t
want to be near her negative energy. Through some guidance and money management
counseling, Tina eventually overcame her despair and realized the error of her ways. She then
started to make wiser financial decisions.



Whether you are talki
ng about The Bible’s Prodigal Son story, MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, or
your relationship partner who feels they should have you just because, entitlement runs
rampant in our society. Interestingly, we only feel entitled to receive the good things that life
h
as to offer. We persuade ourselves into believing that we deserve only bliss and happiness no
matter what previous decisions we have made in life. Simultaneously, we ignore the potential
bad and never give thanks for a crisis diverted. A false sense of ent
itlement makes us assume
that this is the natural order of things. However, when our expectations on what we are entitled
to aren’t met, we start to blame others for our misfortune. This is especially true if the prize
that we were seeking goes to someone
that we know personally. If this happens, then the true
hating begins!


Reason 2: Scarcity Mentality


The second core reason on why jealousy/envy occurs is because of our perception that
resources are scarce. We can fall into the habit of thinking that the
re is only a limited number
of opportunities and paths that can lead us towards happiness.



My friend “Ray” was on the fast track as a salesperson at the large insurance company in which
he worked. He has a very comfortable life financially and is general
ly happy with his life.
Recently, Ray was up for a promotion to become the district manager in the region that he
worked. Given the fact that his co
-
workers and bosses loved him, Ray figured that he was a
lock to earn the promotion. It turns out that the h
igher
-
ups had other plans and he didn’t get
the new corner office he was looking for. When Ray heard the news of who actually earned the
promotion, he became outraged. “HIM…HIM!! REALLY?” is what he yelled to me on the phone.
“Do you know how often opportu
nities like this come along in this company? Almost never, and
they are going to give the job to HIM!? I am never going to move up at this place!”



After Ray became tired of venting and his anger subdued, I then proceeded to help him explore
other options
. I was surprised by how resistant Ray was to hear about other alternatives to
solve his unhappiness and bitterness. Ray had given a large part of his life to this company and
now felt betrayed. When I asked him why he didn’t consider leaving if he felt th
at way he said,
“This is the only place that I know and the only place that can provide me with a great
opportunity to succeed.” I tried to tell him to think more broadly about the situation and that
the world wasn’t coming to an end, however he is still h
olding ill
-
will towards his company and
the person who is not district manager.



Many of us show the same characteristics as Ray did in the story above from time to time. We
become so focused on a narrowly defined goal that we convince ourselves of its hi
gh worth. “If
I don’t get this promotion at my company then I will never be on the track to become CEO.” or
“If I don’t go to an Ivy League school, then I will never be able to succeed in national politics.”
Through mental laziness and conditioning, we buy

into the notion that opportunities are scarce.
Thinking in this linear type of fashion makes it harder to overcome barriers that arise. What is
needed is lateral thinking; ways to creatively go around obstacles as they are presented in our
lives. (More ab
out this in Part 3)


Reason #3: Inadequacies within Ourselves Projected on Others



Perceived inadequacies within ourselves is probably the most familiar reason to the audience on
why people hate. With our interactions in the world, we have the way that we

view ourselves
(self
-
image) and the way that we view other people. If the way that we view another person’s
physical appearance, accomplishments, confidence, etc. are much better than the way that we
view our own, then feelings of inadequacy can creep int
o our lives. There are three common
reactions a person could have:

a. Do nothing since these differences are a normal part of life.

b. Work to improve ourselves so that we may have a higher perception of our self image.

c. Do negative and spiteful things t
o the other person in hopes of lowering their perceived
image in our heads.



When reaction “C” happens, begin the Hatefest! What is ironic, however is that the hating
usually doesn’t make us feel better, it actually makes us feel worse! Our feelings of
in
adequacies cannot quenched by increasing the amount of negative energy that we radiate.



Reason #4: Fear


Fear is the most benevolent reason on why people hate. It usually happens when you interact
with a family member or close friend. In the friend’s min
d, he is looking out for your best
interest and helping you avoid critical/risky mistakes. What really happens is a process of dream
killing based off of fear. Fear is a root cause that shows that hating isn’t always done with
malice intent.



An example t
hat I often give is of my parents when I told them that I was forgoing corporate
America to help further my brother Boyce’s speaking career. Since my parents didn’t truly
understand what I was attempting to do, their default reaction was to advise me down
a path
that they knew about. It is hard for people to believe something is actually possible if they have
never seen it happen. The problem with the logic of thinking above is that we assume that the
knowledge that we possess through experience is represen
tative of the best ways to problem
solve. This is often not the case at all; nevertheless it can be hard for our mind to come to grips
with this fact.



Addressing the Underlying Problems


The underlying problems mentioned above generate many symptoms, one

of which is jealousy.
These underlying problems can be difficult for us to address, either because we don’t know that
they are there or costly to confront. We then try to find easy fixes for short term relief instead
of addressing the core issues. In Part

3, I will share with you some of the strategies that I have
learned on how to deal with these root causes of jealousy and envy.


Create a Company in the Clouds: A Road Map for Aspiring Web Entrepreneurs


Introduction


I have had great conversations with
many potential entrepreneurs this summer. Two questions
are asked to me more than any other. The first question is “Where do I start if I want to create
my own company?” The second question is “How do you find time to run your company and
also attend busin
ess school?” I will answer both of these questions in this article as well as
explain the power of creating a cloud company which is the next evolution in web
entrepreneurship.



It can be difficult at times to run a company and go to school, but it is by
no means impossible.
I don’t have any superhuman characteristics of endurance like Wolverine or mental abilities like
Professor X. In fact, I can be pretty inconsistent at times in regards to my work ethic. I’m also
TERRIBLE at doing administrative tasks.
The reason why my company has succeeded thus far is
that I created an autonomous system that fulfills the needs of the marketplace. It is a simple
goal, yet it can be difficult to implement if one doesn’t have a clear framework to think about
the situation
. My aim is to provide a road map so you don’t have to go through the same
growing pains as I did.



The Benefits of Creating an Autonomous System


The ancient Greek scientist Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum
on which to pla
ce it, and I shall move the world.” The system that I have created is my lever
and fulcrum. It allows me to accomplish a lot with much less effort compared to doing
everything on my own. When an entrepreneur does everything on her own, she severely limits
the growth and viability of the company that she started. Under the “entrepreneur does
everything” scenario, there is a linear relationship between time and money. This means that
for every X number of dollars that you earn, you have to work Y number of ho
urs. Therefore, to
make extra money, you have to work extra hours. The problem is that there are only so many
hours in the day and who wants to spend all of their time working?


Many people gravitate towards the scenario mentioned above because that is wha
t we have
been conditioned to think. Before most people become entrepreneurs, they are employees for
someone else. As an employee, you usually get paid by the hour or on a salary. To be a
successful entrepreneur, you need to have a paradigm shift in thinki
ng from a linear to an
exponential relationship between money and time. Also, you want to make the relationship
between money and time weaker; meaning that you make money whether you are in your
office or on a beach in the Caribbean. Creating an effective
system is a key step in the
paradigm shift. The system should work with or without you.



Creating a Cloud Company


Creating a system is important for any type of company, but the added benefit for web
entrepreneurs is the ability to leverage cloud computi
ng. Cloud computing is where the data
and software applications for your company are stored on the web through third party vendors.
In cloud computing, the web software applications of the different companies “talk” to each
other, which further automates y
our company and simultaneously reduces the need for
management. A second benefit of could computing is that it allows an entrepreneur the ability
to access their data from any computer or mobile device in the world with an internet
connection. This means t
hat you can separate your work from any one physical location. Third,
cloud computing reduces the need for large upfront investments, allowing for better cash flow
in the early stages of a venture. If you want to know more about cloud computing check out
t
his short video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hplXnFUlPmg&feature=related



Six
-
Step Checklist for Creating Effective Systems


Cloud computing allows an entrepreneur t
o leverage the internet’s power without being techy.
Currently, the important traits needed to build an online company are the ability of implement
effective processes and the ability to communicate well with customers. Thankfully for me, I
was trained as
an engineer and process management has become second nature. However, I
have found over time that effective process management can easily be taught to anyone who
wants to learn. Below I will take you through the six steps that I follow when creating any ne
w
system or company. I will also let you in on some of the tools that I use to pull everything off.
Over time, I will write additional articles to go over each part of the checklist in more detail.



Step 1: All Business Starts from Need


I am believer tha
t necessity is the mother of invention. A basic goal of an entrepreneur should
be to solve the problems of a consumer while making a profit through the process. There are
two major categories of needs: blatant needs and latent needs. Blatant needs are thos
e issues
that are obvious to everyone. The first thing that comes to mind is if there was a cure for
cancer or hair loss. Latent needs are those dormant problems that we don’t realize need to be
solved. Most entrepreneurial ventures are in this realm. For
example, I didn’t know I needed an
iPod until I actually received one as a present. Try to take my iPod away from me now and see
what happens to you! Needs and opportunities are always there. We just have to drive
ourselves to find the practical ones that
are directly tied to our expected customer base.



Step 2: Create a Strategy that Makes the Competition Irrelevant



Once you understand the needs of the consumer base that you want to serve, next you need to
develop an effective strategy to solve the prob
lems that customers face. Strategy class in
business school teaches frameworks such as Porter’s Five Forces. The five force framework is
intended to provide a clear way for business professionals to determine the competitive
intensity and attractiveness of

an industry. Although it is useful for analyzing large corporations,
it has a major faulty assumption. The underlying assumption is that business has to be
competitive and that any change is considered a “threat” to the marketplace. With five forces, it
i
s assumed that business has to be head to head competition (at the very least, that is the way
the concept is taught).



From my experience, business is not like war and there are plenty of unfulfilled and profitable
markets for potential entrepreneurs to
enter. An example is Great Black Speakers’ position
within the speaking industry. When I started thinking about the concept in October 2006, there
were plenty of bureaus that had a long history of providing high quality speakers to
organizations around the

world. I also noticed that there weren’t many bureaus focusing
specifically on African
-
American speakers and the college audience. Given that I knew quite a
bit of information about both of those subjects, Great Black Speakers was born to serve that
marke
t. So, in a crowded industry, there was still a lot of unfulfilled market potential that made
the competition irrelevant.



Step 3: Outline Key Tasks and Develop your Execution Plan


Having a strategy is great, but it will mean nothing if you don’t have an

effective way to
execute it. If your strategy is where you want to go, the execution plan is how you plan to get
there. For me this is the fun part and is usually the phase that determines my profits. Whenever
I create a new plan, I put myself in the cust
omer’s shoes and walk through the ideal state on
what needs to happen to actually fulfill the customer’s needs. What’s important here is to
understand the major tasks that need to happen and in what order to make your strategy
successful. Often times, we c
an get bogged down by the details and lose the forest for the
trees. There is a place for this, but not in the first run through in your execution plan. Step 6
talks more about the second and more detailed run through.


Step 4: Search for Tools to help wit
h Execution


Just like any factory has tools to develop their products, your online company needs tools to
effectively deliver services to the marketplace. This is where my love for the internet becomes
intense. There seems to be a tool for almost any task

that I need accomplished. With so many
options out there, it is easy to become overly excited about the latest and greatest technology.
Usually, it’s the simple things that work best. The great thing about many of the tools is that
they are automated and
that the tools are designed to integrate with each other. This is
important as it significantly reduces the cost of implementation and is also easily scalable as
your company grows.



Here is a preview of some of the online tools that I use and what I use
them for:


iContact


Email Marketing

Highrise by 37Signals


Contact Management

Wufoo


Data Collection

PayPal and Google Merchant


Payment Processing


Step 5: Find Additional Labor where Necessary


Even with all of the automated web tools at your
disposal, there is still a need for human
interaction. At the end of the day, people buy your product or use your service. These
individuals don’t want to talk on the phone to an automated system. Think about how
frustrating it is when you call your bank a
nd you get the sweet, woman voice of the computer.
How often do you have to repeat what you want when you call? “I said two!!...Option two!” is
what I usually scream out after the sixth time repeating myself.



There is a myth that hiring additional labor
has to be expensive. This is because there is the
faulty underlying assumption that the individuals hired will be full time employees. Furthermore,
there is the fear of additional overhead expense due to the need for an office for the employees
to work. Wh
en you have a company on the web, many of these problems disappear. This is the
reason why it is difficult for me to answer the question “How many employees do you have?”
My answer to this question is reliant on your definition of employee. How many people

officially
work for Great Black Speakers? I’m a solo operation. How many people work to help Great
Black Speakers run? Currently about 15 or so people.



The web eliminates the need for individuals to be in the same office to communicate effectively.
Here

is a list of some key people for my company and where they live.


Me: Ithaca, NY

Diana (the person who actually runs Great Black Speakers daily): Nebraska

Assistant #1: Memphis, TN

Assistant #2: Alabama

Web developers (two of them) : India and New York


T
he list goes on and on with very many different locations. Where do you find this top talent?
There is a website called Elance (
www.elance.com
) which is a source that people use to find
individuals to do w
ork for them. This site is one of the best things that has happened to my
company and is worth you researching.



Step 6: Bring the System Together and Refine your Process


The last step on the checklist is to bring the system together and create a more de
tailed
process for what you need to accomplish. In essence, it is aligning the critical tasks, tools, and
human resources to push towards productivity. This is where I create a detailed work flow as to
who does what? When do they do it? Also, how does the
work get done? When you follow this
step, what you are actually creating is an operations manual for your company. Having an
operations manual makes your company sustainable for the long term. You will find that people
move on from jobs and many business r
elationships cease over time. Your operations manual
will make it easier to train others when this happens.



To quickly recap this step:


1. Layout the key tasks that need to be accomplished from start to finish to make your strategy
work.


2. Layout the
exact steps needed to accomplish each task. Be sure to be specific and don’t
assume that the party knows anything. It is vitally important to be as thorough here. Include
the tools and resources needed and also in what order they are needed.



3. Make sure

that the processes of each step integrate with each other. There is nothing worse
than building a system where work cannot easily flow from one step to the next.



4. Test the system out and make adjustments as time goes along.



Conclusion



There is a l
ot of upfront work when you are developing a system to earn income for yourself,
but it is definitely worth it. Developing the GBS system is the main reason on why I was able to
continue to grow Great Black Speakers and attend school at the same time. Afte
r you develop
your first system, it becomes easier to create other systems for different ventures in the future.



The checklist mentioned above is a great framework for any company that you are trying to
start. However, the results can be multiplied on th
e internet due to the low cost nature of the
tools used and the ability to integrate tools with each other for greater automation and
effectiveness. As the cavemen discovered many millenniums ago, you should not try to lift a
heavy boulder by yourself. It
is much easier to build a lever and fulcrum to move the boulder. It
is much easier to create a system to move closer to your goals.


I Think I Can't, I Think I Can't: Self Oppression as a Limit to Social Change


KIPP and the Grameen Bank


I have recently
read two inspirational biographies about social reforms in two different societies.
The first was “Work Hard. Be Nice,” which is about the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)
charter schools. Started by Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg fifteen years ago, KIPP ha
s grown
from one classroom of Hispanic 4th graders in Houston to 66 schools in 15 states around the
nation. The pupils of the KIPP schools have consistently increased their test scores and
routinely outperform other students from more stable backgrounds. T
he KIPP students are
usually low
-
income minority students from rough neighborhoods who have been given up on by
our educational system.



The second book was “Banker to the Poor,” which is an autobiography by Nobel Peace Prize
winner Muhammad Yunus and the

creation of his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Originally
conceived in 1976, Grameen specializes in lending small sums of money to the poorest
individuals in Bangladesh so they can start their own businesses with the end goal of helping
people break the gene
rational cycle of poverty. Told that his idea couldn’t work by the
established banks in the region, Yunus has grown Grameen to have over 7.84 million borrowers
and has given out $8 billion since its inception. Grameen has a 98% repayment rate, which
outper
forms most traditional banks. Furthermore, Grameen’s borrowers are 97% women in a
country where women’s rights are severely lacking.



Obstacles of Social Change


When comparing the inspirational stories of KIPP and Grameen, there were two main obstacles
t
hat both organizations faced that bothered me and can also be learned from. The first is the
high level of resistance the leaders faced when attempting to implement positive change within
the system. The administrators of the system were comfortable with t
he status quo and had
deeply formed negative opinions about people who were not financially well off. Over time,
those implicit attitudes carried by the system administrators transformed into social laws and
facts of life. Whether it was the belief that po
or kids could not learn or that poor people would
not pay back loans without collateral, these thoughts were rooted within the system.


What bothered me even more than the administrators was the negative thoughts that the
students’ families and Bangladeshi

women believed about themselves. Yunus gave multiple
examples of how many of the Bangladeshi women would not even speak to him about applying
for a loan because they were content with the current social structure. The women would say
things like, “My husb
and handles the money and as always handled the money. I have never
touched money and I don’t want to start now!” In reality, however, the men were doing a poor
job of managing the finances.



Our minds have been conditioned to believe in a very narrow sco
pe on what is possible and
what is not, which is one of the main causes of oppression. This type of mental oppression isn’t
just caused when one group enforces their will upon another group. It also occurs when people
are compromised by the systems in whic
h they are involved and develop a warped sense of
what is possible because of memory decay over time. The second case is usually inadvertent,
but has negative consequences none the less.



To illustrate, let’s take an example from Chapelle’s Show. There wa
s a segment called Charlie
Murphy True Hollywood Stories where Charlie would relive old stories from the 1980’s that he
had from hanging out with his brother, Eddie Murphy. Charlie was telling a story about when
Rick James came over to Eddie’s house inebri
ated to hang out. When Rick James arrived, he sat
on Eddie’s newly purchased white sofa and rubbed his muddy shoes all over it just to piss Eddie
off. Now, imagine one of your friends coming over your house in the rain and as he was rushing
in to avoid get
ting wet, he muddied up your carpet. The motives of the individuals in the above
examples are different, however you are left with the same result: a messy house.



The Perpetual Cycle of the Oppression Machine


In the beginning, outside forces fuel the op
pression machine, but after a while, it becomes self
-
sustaining. There are many facets that help the machine to work smoothly. The first cog is the
individual in perceived power and authority that benefits from keeping the status quo. The
religious leaders

who told the Bangladeshi women that they would go to hell if they borrowed
money from the Grameen bank fit into this category. The democratic political leaders who told
Barack Obama to wait his turn to run for president behind Hillary Clinton also come to

mind.
They gain their power by inducing fear into others and they abuse power for selfish ambitions.
Although powerful, this group only encompasses a small percentage of the oppression process.



The second cog is the individual who know change is needed
but does nothing. The person
does nothing for three reasons. The first is that the person is afraid of what might happen to
him if he upsets the status quo of society. The second reason is that the will to doubt is lacking
because he assumes that societal
conventions must have a sound basis since they have been
followed by so many people over a long period of time. The third reason is that the individual
may not see himself as a pioneer of change.



The third cog of the oppression machine is not a type of p
erson, but systems based upon faulty
assumptions. This happens when tools originally designed to solve a certain problem transform
into the actual end goal. An example of this phenomenon is the importance of collateral in the
Grameen Bank case. Having coll
ateral from a borrower is a great way to guarantee a loan, but
it is not the end goal. The end goal is to have the borrower pay you back. Often, when we find
a solution that works relatively well, we think our job is done and stop the search for even
bette
r solutions. Over time, the needs of the system changes and we are stuck with outdated
solutions.



When we combine all of these forces, we create a super villain of social stagnation that wreaks
havoc on progress. In my mind, I picture it in Capitan Plane
t like style, except he doesn’t come
out and save the day. A villain pops out and ruins it.



Remedies for Social Stagnation


Although the problem may seem bleak, all is not lost. Each and every one of us has the power
to break these mental bonds in order
to achieve personal greatness and make major change in
society. There are five key traits that I noticed while reading about the Grameen Bank, KIPP,
and many other organizations who have revolutionized systems for the better.


Trait 1: Passion for Progress

and a Vision of a Better Future.



Individuals who lead great movements almost always have a deep passion for the work in
which they are involved. In Yunus’ case, he could not imagine living in a world where society
would not loan $40 to 27 women to help
them break the cycle of poverty. Levin and Feinberg’s
passion was to help students learn, especially those students that others had given up on. All of
us have things that we are passionate about. It is much easier to align our future to the items
in which

we are passionate, than to contort ourselves to fit in an area that we do not like. Could
you imagine Michael Jordan not as a basketball player? Warren Buffett not as an investor?
Martin Luther King not as a voice of a movement? Albert Einstein not as a s
cientist? Think about
what motivates you and align your life towards those goals.



Trait 2: Question Underlying Assumptions


The leaders that I’ve studied questioned underlying assumptions about how things HAD to work
and experimented with new ideas that
differed from the status quo. As mentioned earlier about
the third cog of the oppression machine, tools that were used to implement end goals actually
became the ultimate goals themselves.


The characteristic above happens in all types of business and soci
al movements. Underlying
assumptions are perceived not as assumptions, but as facts of life. Therefore, it is more difficult
to identify and challenge them. Some of the myths that I commonly hear when I advice people
on entrepreneurship: “It takes money to

make money,” “Adding more people will make the
project go faster.” “All customers are created equal.” “Profit is all that matters in business.”
Most of the things that I mentioned here are half
-
truths, but have one or more fatal flaws in
them.



It is eas
y to be complacent when we find a solution that is better than our current situation. I
urge you not to become too hasty with the discovery process because there could be an even
better solution right up the horizon. Evaluating all of your options and not
hastily implementing
the option that looks to be the best fit at first glance is critically important. If Yunus would have
bowed down to the status quo of banks, then the strategy of using social peer pressure among
poor borrowers would have never been dis
covered.



Trait 3: Set High Expectations for the Entire System


Yunus and the KIPP founders set high expectations for themselves as well as everyone else who
was involved in the process. This is important for two reasons. First, expectations are the
frame
s of reference in which success is measured. If you continuously work towards reaching
lofty goals, chances are you will make more significant progress compared to mediocre goals.
An old saying that illustrates this point is “if you shoot for the starts, y
ou’ll at least hit the
moon.”



Second, high expectations are needed throughout an entire system because a failure in one
part of the system leads to the entire system not reaching its potential. You often see innovate
companies working with their supplier
s to improve the entire system of manufacturing their
product. It would be easier for the company just to focus on issues within their walls, but what
type of real improvements would be made if they did that? The same principle is applied
whether you are t
alking about educating kids or giving micro loans to poor people. If the entire
system is not effectively moving towards the same goal, then progress will be slowed.



When I fall into the trap of setting low expectations for myself, it usually has to do w
ith one
reason: Self Confidence. It is natural for us as humans to feel a little scared when we have tried
something before and have failed at that task. However, we need to realize that there is a high
level of failure when we shoot for high goals and sep
arate ourselves from the majority of the
population.



Trait 4: Create a Culture around Positive Thinking and Achievement


Creating a strong and positive culture within an organization is the most powerful way to
influence change. Business school professor
s often talk about how creating a strong culture is
the least expensive and most effective means to influence a team to act in a desired way. A
strong culture allows individuals in an organization to manage themselves instead of including
another level of
institutional management. The ridicule and praise, acceptance and rejection of
our fellow beings can do more to effect change than any other source.



The effects of a positive culture are not only useful in the business world, but also in any type
of situation where people interact with each other on a consistent basis. Instead of ignoring or
denying the power that humans have over one another, we should leverage this power to make
positive changes within communities. Yunus accomplished this with th
e Grameen Bank by only
making loans to teams of women, instead of individuals. A loan was only approved if the whole
team agreed upon the concept. Furthermore, the entire team was responsible if someone in the
group defaulted. Imagine what type of commitme
nt from the borrowers that this policy helped
to achieve.



To create a positive culture that makes social change, it is important that we encourage one
another and praise the accomplishments of the people in the group. Furthermore, it is
important that th
e group holds members accountable for behaviors that are counterproductive
to positive change. The term culture on a group level can be equated to habits on an individual
level. Therefore, as a member of a movement, make sure to focus on practicing positiv
e habits
in your life.



Trait 5: Take Action


Legendary Hollywood super agent Swifty Lazar said, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning and
there’s nothing doing, so I decide to make something happen by lunch.” Having plans are great,
but they will be incons
equential until steps are taken to actualize those plans. The discipline to
take action is developed over time and is a painful process. At times, I can be one of the
biggest procrastinators that I know. However, I am at my best when I consistently working

towards the goals that I have laid out for myself.



Two obstacle usually get in the way when creating positive change. First, we can feel
overwhelmed when tackling a major project. We think to ourselves “There is no way that I will
ever be able to comple
te my goal. It’s just too big!” Then, you don’t even start. I’ve been there
before many times. It takes a mental mind shift to overcome this obstacle. Many goals and
purposes in life don’t have an end point, but we are conditioned to think one exists. For
example, if your mission is to alleviate world poverty, don’t expect to do this by yourself and be
surprised if the goal isn’t met in 15 years. Working towards your goal is about the journey, not
reaching the end point. Enjoy the journey to the fullest. Al
so, break your goals down into bite
-
sized objectives that are more easily manageable. This tactic helps me jump start a project and
allows me the momentum needed to continue strong.



Secondly, you should be prepared for negative feedback, especially from
those who have a
vested interest in the status quo. When I started Great Black Speakers, I had to face larger
competitors who told me that I needed much more experience before I could ever reach their
plateau. The best thing to do is listen carefully for r
eal concerns that may actually derail you,
try to correct those things, and keep pushing forward as planned. Most of the time, however,
you will find that those concerns that arise “for your own protection” are based out of a
particular fare from the other

party. If you are already moving, rarely do most people try to
stop you.



Conclusion


There has been no other time in history when an individual can make as much social change
around the world as he/she can now. What is needed is for people to have a men
tal mind shift
into believing that they can achieve greatness. This is not an easy task, especially for a society
that often pushes the status quo and conditions people to think a certain way about
themselves. However, unlocking the benefits of a strong mi
ndset and suppressing negative
conditioning can exponentially make the world a better place. Muhammad Yunus and the KIPP
founders aren’t the only ones who can create positive change. Each and every one of us has
that same type of potential waiting to be un
leashed. The question is “Are we bold enough to
unleash it?” I am confident that we are bold enough and that the generations that will soon be
leading the world will leave Earth a better place for the future!

Creating Your Kevlar Vision


Kevlar is a materi
al that is five times stronger, but is lighter and more flexible than steel on an
equal weight basis. It is used in many products ranging from bulletproof vests and cables to
sports and audio equipment. It has been around for over 40 years and more uses ar
e being
discovered for this “wonder” material every day. When I think about goal setting, Kevlar
provides a great analogy on how individuals should structure their inherent wants and desires
for maximum clarity and performance. When creating the mastermind

plan for your life, you
should have strong goals that challenge you, yet have enough flexibility to change your path if
a great new opportunity comes your way.



As Lewis Carroll eloquently said in Alice in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which wa
y I ought to go from here?” said Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.


It is easy for a person to become diverted from f
ulfilling his/her passions and true calling. It
becomes even easier if you do not have an end goal in mind, similar to the way Alice was
feeling in Wonderland. I do not want you to be in Wonderland and you should not want to be!
The most important thing is

not for your goals and vision to be perfect. The most important
thing is to aim for at least the general vicinity on where you want to be.



In the classic self
-
help book Psycho
-
Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz talks about humans’ innate
self
-
correcting mec
hanism. As humans, we have a trait that automatically guides us to self
-
improvement. Think about the basketball player who endlessly improves his/her jump shot or
the foreigner who learns a second language well into adulthood. Each person has an end goal
a
nd they learn from their deliberate practices by correcting their mistakes when they veer from
their original course. We can harness this self
-
correcting power to accelerate the goal
achievement process. However, it all starts with knowing a general direct
ion on where you want
to go. You can relate this concept to riding a bike. Have you ever ridden a bike standing still? I
haven’t. The bike only stays balanced as you are pedaling and pushing forward.



Now that we have talked about why creating a vision is

important let’s get into the
fundamentals of the life vision development process.



Developing your Kevlar Vision



There is a lot of debate on whether your overarching vision should be all encompassing or
narrow in scope. Proponents of having a narrow vi
sion say that this is to keep you focused on
the end goal and enable you to not become distracted by items that do not line up with your
plan. A simple example of this goal forming process would be to become a CEO of a Fortune
100 company whose work focuse
s on telecommunications. This vision is very focused and
allows the goal
-
setter a specific task in which to focus.



Another strategy is to have your vision statement flexible and all encompassing. An example of
this is Google. Their mission statement is “
to organize the world’s information and make it
universally accessible and useful.” No part of this mission has to do with creating a great search
engine or text advertisements. This structure gives Google the freedom to change with the
times and not have
a myopic view of what it originally set out to accomplish.



I am a strong proponent of the Google strategy over the first example which gives a very
focused vision. As I previously mentioned in a prior article, my mission is “to become a tycoon
politicall
y, socially, and economically so that I can have a positive impact on my community.” I
originally developed this statement my junior year of college and I strategically tweak it every
year. I use this statement as a guide to make both large and small decis
ions in my life. When I
decided to forgo corporate America to start my own business, I used my mission statement as
guidance. When it came time to decide on a business school, I continued to use this statement
as a guide.



Use Backward Planning To Set You
r Vision


Imagine that you are about to attend one of the most important events in your life. It will be
held in a room big enough to hold your friends, family, and others who are important to you.
The room is conservatively decorated and at the front is a

large table with candles all around.
In the middle of the table is a large box. What is in this box? YOU! It was a celebration of your
life and there was not a dry eye in the place. Coming from the back of the room is an old friend
with a tape recorder pl
aying your voice. You are explaining to the people close to you about
your life. How would this story go? What did you want out of life? What did you value most?
Who did you wish to be? Answering these questions is the first step of developing your Kevlar
vision.



Backward planning is a process of starting with your end goal(s) and working backwards to
create an action plan to achieve the aforementioned goal. You cannot plan any further out than
your funeral! Once you truthfully answer the previously quest
ions, you can then work backward
and think about what you need to do to turn your vision into a reality. Remember, the
intermediate goals do not have to be concrete, just make them like Kevlar and rely on your self
-
correcting mechanisms to guide your cours
e. Life is nothing but a series of decades, years,
months, weeks and days. People always look far to the future and say that they want to live an
extraordinary life. But how are you going to live an extraordinary life if you wake up thinking
you want to ha
ve an ordinary day? Backward planning is an important step to an extraordinary
life.



Guidelines for creating powerful goals


Chicken Soup for the Soul author, Jack Canfield, defines a goal as “the ongoing pursuit of a
worthy objective until accomplished.
” I want to walk you through some of the attributes you
may want to look for when deciding on your goals.



Your Most Important Goals Must be Yours


This sounds obvious, but many people have their life purpose created by someone else. These
people may be y
our parents, a spouse, friends, etc. I have a friend who is a doctor at a
prestigious hospital. He is making great money while helping sick patients become well. The
only problem is that he is miserable. When asked why he went into medicine he states, “My
grandfather was a doctor, my father is a doctor, so my parents told me I was going to be a
doctor too.” You only have the chance to live life once. Do you really want to spend your life
living someone else’s dreams? When you let someone else, or society, d
etermine your definition
of success, you are sabotaging your future. I do not condone lying, however, the last person
you should ever lie to is yourself, especially when it comes to planning your life.



A technique that I use to make sure that my most imp
ortant goals are my own is continuously
asking myself one question. What do I really want out of life? The introspective process of
regularly asking this question helps you to focus and organize your goals and determine what is
really most important to you
.



Your goals must be meaningful


The pursuit of meaningful goals will help you achieve greatness much quicker than the pursuit
of non
-
meaningful goals. This is because meaningful goals are exciting and a person does not
mind putting in the extra effort t
o accomplish them. This is analogous to school. Have you ever
had a class that was too easy? The class was so easy that you did not offer the proper effort
and instead of excelling you underperformed? Suddenly, the class that was a definite “A”,
turned int
o a “B” or worse? I have done this numerous times. In fact, this was the story of my
middle school and high school years. The classes did not challenge me enough and I did not
perform anywhere near my highest potential or capability. Granted, in grade scho
ol you do not
have as much control over your life compared to your adult years, however, individuals show
symptoms of this problem well into their adult life.



Subsequently, total commitment to your goals is a critical ingredient if you want to be the bes
t
person you can be. This is true for both professional and personal goals. I recently finished the
book Call Me Ted, which is an autobiography of the billionaire, Ted Turner. Turner’s father was
a successful and wealthy billboard entrepreneur back in the
1960’s. Although successful in his
career, the elder Turner was depressed and ended up committing suicide in his forties. In the
book, Turner hypothesized why his father committed suicide. He is confident that the reason
was that his father did not set his

goals high enough, resulting in a lack of purpose for his life.
Our situations may not be that dramatic, but as philosopher Jim Rohn once said,



“There are two major pains in life. One is the pain of discipline, the other is the pain of regret.
Disciplin
e weighs ounces, but regret weighs tons when you allow your life to drift unfulfilled.”



Your goals must be measurable


Although your vision statement needs to be flexible and answer questions about your life’s
intents and purposes, the intermediate goals

and objectives need to be firm. Management guru
Peter Drucker says that “What gets measured gets managed.” This is true in business and in
life. Remember, a goal without a number is just a slogan. It is easier for your brain to operate
day
-
to
-
day on concr
ete items as opposed to the abstract. Both are important, but concrete is
more important to execution.



Conclusion


I cannot stress enough the importance of developing a strong, but flexible vision for one’s life.
Do not underestimate the power of the sel
f
-
correcting mechanism present within each of our
lives. I use this concept when initially training people who work within my company. You will be
surprised by what you can accomplish by aiming even for the general vicinity of your ultimate
goal. If you do

not remember anything else I have written, please remember one thing . . . If
you aim for the stars, you will at least hit the moon! Always aim for something!