December 31, 2006


Filed under: Success, Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 12:45 pm

A recent survey found that only 45% of Americans now make New Year’s resolutions. Only 8% of Americans report a resolution that resulted in a permanent life change.

That’s probably because it takes on average six attempts to create and maintain a life change. Three times is not a charm when it comes to resolutions.

It is comforting to know that few of us make a big change on the first try. If this is your sixth attempt at change–exercising more, eating better, being more positive–congratulations! You might be on the brink of a breakthrough.

Unfortunately we have a tendency to experience breakdown before we achieve breakthrough. A change expert once said that she found that a breakdown typically occurred just before the breakthrough an organization was seeking. In other words, people don’t just quit too soon–they quit too close to success.

I don’t make many New Year’s resolutions myself. January 1 seems a rather arbitrary starting point for a needed improvement. I do often resolve to do better. A resolution tends to be intellectual. Resolve, in my way of thinking, is more behavioral. It means putting forth the effort to change or do better rather than just thinking about it or committing to it.

And I fail frequently, despite my resolve. That doesn’t mean my resolve isn’t worthwhile. It just means that even resolve, like a resolution, isn’t instant.

It’s always good to keep the faith. But it pays to keep the resolve, too.

The Best Time to Think

Filed under: Observations, Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 8:01 am

It may also be the best time to study as well: early in the morning, before everyone else starts his or her day.

I realize we’re not all “morning people.” Fact is that I get up pretty early most days not because of a natural predisposition, but by a combination of motivation and discipline. Left to my own natural desires, I’d sleep in, too. But knowing the value of the early hours and the benefits I can attain by spending them well, I have a good reason to get going.

There is something better about thinking, praying, reading and/or studying first thing in the morning. Not only as a twig is bent so grows the tree, but as the day is started so goes the day. Start the day late and you often feel behind all day. A reflective time first thing helps me go through the day with a little more purposefulness and, hopefully, wisdom.

Early in the morning there are far fewer distractions and no competition for attention. Sometimes I do go to a nearby Starbucks to think in the afternoon, but by then my mind is racing with things that need to be done as well worries lingering in the background. It is just easier to actually think and reflect in the early hours of the day.

Try it. See what happens.

December 30, 2006

Who Do You Take Advice From?

Filed under: Influence, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 1:36 pm

I’ve kept many notes over the years. Some are singular ideas or quotes and others are more extensive. Here’s on of the former: “I don’t trust advice from perfect people.”

Do you?

Don’t “perfect people” make you suspicious? After all, the old adage is true: nobody is perfect. But when somebody works to create that perception, it pays to be cautious around them. They’re either not perfect or they’re not human.

Most of us don’t take advice from deeply flawed people either, unless that advice is about the pitfalls of being deeply flawed. If somebody else stepped into a deep hole, the one thing you can learn from them is why you shouldn’t.

What about strangers who offer you advice? That usually doesn’t go over well with me. Unsolicited advice is criticism in disguise. We usually want to have a semblance of relationship with those people we can trust for advice.

There are some people I take advice from although I don’t know them personally. They’re not strangers per se, but they are individuals I’ve never met. What give them credibility are their experiences and insights. These people include authors, leaders and speakers. Their public record of accomplishment gives them credibility, and their advice may not have been given specifically for me, but I can still learn from it by watching, listening and reading these people.

December 29, 2006

What Questions Are Your Customers Asking?

Filed under: Uncategorized, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 11:40 am

I live in Highlands Ranch, CO. We’ve been getting alot of snow in the past 24 hours with more to come. I’ve snowblowed my driveway twice now and it is in great shape. The main streets are in good shape too. The problem is the sidestreets, none of which to my knowledge, have been plowed since the big blizzard last week. So most people can get our of their drives and drive safely on the main road, but are prevented from doing so by their impassable, drifted streets.

So I keep wondering, how is it we can build new recreational centers on a regular basis in Highlands Ranch, but we can’t afford a snow plow or two? Or why can’t Highlands Ranch engage a subcontractor to clear the side streets when snow is a couple feet deep? Sure, I love the rec centers, but they don’t do much good if you can’t get to them.

There is undoubtedly an answer, reasonable or unreasonable, for the above questions. But if Highlands Ranch doesn’t either respond to the problem or explain–reasonably–why they can’t, it leaves residents stuck at home for days agitated.

Do you know what bugs your customers, and what questions they’re asking? Questions like, “How come it can’t be overnighted?” or “Why aren’t you available on weekends or evenings when I’m not at work?”

Not responding to questions or concerns, and not explaining why, is an irritant good service providers work overtime to avoid.

December 28, 2006

Planning the Rest of Life

Filed under: Observations, Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 9:25 pm

A friend shared that he and his wife and another couple were planning to spend a few days with a very successful individual and his wife at a nice resort to mastermind and share ideas.

The person coordinating the event, according to my friend, wants to “plan out the rest of his life.”

Here’s the cool thing: the guy is pushing 80.

Reminds me of a note on the Christmas card my friend Art Holst sent me. Art is a legendary NFL ref and speaker. His note said, “I’m still speaking some, but I’d like to speak more because I love to work.”

Art is 84.

When my grandfather was in his eighties he told me he’d seen “some old guys talking.” That was a major reminder about the relativity of age. “Old”, I’ve heard it said, is ten years older than your current age.

Know anybody half that age who seems to have resigned themselves to going with the flow? Or that works just hard enough to get by? Or who has no plans for the rest of the week much less the rest of his or her life?

Note to self: get on with the business of living fully, regardless of age.


Filed under: Observations, Moral Leadership, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 8:45 pm

Some recent random surfing reminded me of a subject I’ve seen written about often: how to be perceived as an expert. Much of the advice is about what you can do to make people think you’re an expert in your area of interest (blog, write an article, etc). I rarely see anyone address how to actually be an expert. That takes much more time and effort than the several simple steps to appearing to be an expert.

I realize that someone can be an expert and not be perceived as such. From a marketing standpoint, they aren’t benefiting from their expertise. But what worries me are those perceived as experts who really aren’t. Positioning yourself as an expert when you’re not is an ethical compromise. Knowing more about a subject than the average person doesn’t qualify one as an expert. It is disconcerting but often necessary to question the expertise of those giving information and advice.

Real expertise takes years of concerted effort (I’ve read one study that suggests 15 years is typical for acquiring a level of expertise). It involves much study, experience, reflection, teaching, writing, testing, research, reading and more.

In the age of instant gratification, unfortunately, more will pursue the expedient path of perceived expertise rather than the arduous course of actual expertise.

A Dozen Ideas for the New Year

Filed under: Featured, Professional Development, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 1:42 pm

I love this time of year. It brings closure to the old and reminds us of the opportunities of the new. Thoreau said, “To affect the quality of the day–that is the highest of arts.” With that goal in mind, here are some ideas you can benefit from in the coming year:

1. Take care of the moments and the moments will take care of your life. Planning and goal setting are important, but more important is being fully engaged in the ordinary moments of each day.

2. Never be to busy to pursue your curiosities and interests.

3. Remember John Templeton’s advice, “A measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everwhere.”

4. There is usually a better way–pursue it. “If you are doing anything the way y ou did it twenty years ago, there is a better way,” said Thomas Edison. To be truly competitive, substitute “twenty days” for “twenty years.”

5. Experience + Reflection = Insight

6. If it isn’t different, it probably isn’t strategic: what will you do differently this year?

7. “Imagination is the last remaining legal means you have to gain an unfair advantage over your competition.” Pat Fallon

8. Learn something new every day. Look for the MILOD: most important lesson of the day.

9. Your life improves when you do.

10. Have fun at home and at work or your family, colleagues and customers won’t have fun either.

11. Eat a little bit healthier and exercise a little bit more.

12. In the end, we have each other. In business and life, it is all about relationships.

Happy New Year!

December 27, 2006

Are “You” Really the Person of the Year?

Filed under: Observations, Featured — Mark Sanborn @ 4:33 pm

One of the best-selling books of recent years was Rick Warren’s Purpose Drive Life which begins with the sentence, “It’s not about you.”

Time magazine begs to differ.

The December 25 issue picked “You” as the person of the year. The cover has a reflective piece of foil so you supposedly see yourself when you look at it. (I find it ironic that the reflection is funhouse mirror-like and dramatically distorts–which is also what happens when a person becomes too self-absorbed focusing on him- or herself.)

The accompanying text was as much about Web 2.0 and the community and new opportunities that it enables as it was about any individual being at the center of the universe. According to the lead-in article, “The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter…Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment.”

In “Power to the People”, the premise is that you control the media now. Control sounds like a good thing until one questions just what it is we’re controlling. The old-guard media wasn’t always accurate in the way it portrayed events, but I don’t buy into the collective opinion of a zillion people about what is right or true, either.

It might have been more accruate to say “Web 2.0″ or “we” are the “technology/people of the year” but that would have created an editorial dilemma.

When the focus shifts to the individual, the point is more about faux celebrity and validation than contribution ala You Tube and MySpace (”It’s All About Us”). I guess those who are willing to use the new media can extend their 15 minutes of fame, or at least their individual pervasiveness. 

There is an interesting article about a journalist who entered the virtual community Second Life where he instantly hooked up with a hot blonde female avatar, visited a waterfall, shipwreck, sex club and danced and made out. All virtually, of course. Turns out his “guide” was a real-life married woman in Europe. Wonder how her spouse feels about that? A consistent overtone to “You” as person of the year is how technology has enabled individuals to have multiple identities. Certainly that sort of thing can be at the least amusing, but it opens a Pandora’s Box of new challenges and problems. Maintaining one healthy identify is often challenge enough for some of us. How much time and energy will it take to create and maintain virtual identities? And might these created identities consume one’s true/original identity? Hmmm…..

Read the rest of the story in Time. I’m sure you’ll have new and different reactions and insights. I hope you’ll post your reactions to “You” as person of the year.

December 24, 2006

If You Worry and You Can’t Sleep…

Filed under: Observations, Success, Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 6:00 pm

I was out on one final Christmas Eve errand, driving along and listening to music of the season when I heard part of a song:

“…and if we worry and we can’t sleep

we’ll count our blessings instead of sheep…

…and we’ll fall asleep counting our blessings.”

Hopefully by this time, you’ve dealt with most of your worries (at least the seasonal ones). But if you still have a few long-term worries perplexing you, the simple words above are a pretty good antidote. Counting our blessings doesn’t eliminate the tough stuff of life, but it helps us keep our perspective. Most of us have far more to be thankful for than not. 

And if you’re fortunate enough to have excess blessings in your life, this is a good time to do something nice for someone who doesn’t have as many.

This Christmas Eve I wish for you a blessed night, if not a silent one.

May you fall asleep counting your blessings.

December 23, 2006

Home is Even Sweeter…

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 7:12 pm

…when you have a hard time getting there.

After two extra days at my in-laws, nearly three days of not getting through to United Airlines (my “1K number” and the regular reservation number either dropped me or gave me a busy signal before I ever reached being put on hold), and despite my travel agent’s gallant efforts to rebook my family, we decided the only way to get home for Christmas here in Denver was to drive.

So we rented an SUV and left Memphis at 1:00 pm central time on Friday and drove 1150 miles stopping only for fuel and restroom breaks. It isn’t something I would have volunteered for, but I was almost giddy once we were on the road knowing that 1) we’d be home for Christmas as planned and 2) I’d completely avoid any airports and the attedant brain-damage of holiday travel made worse by DIA being closed for a couple of days.

When I was in high school and college I used to do long road trips to ski and explore, but it had been many years since I did a marathon jam like this one. Luckily my wife Darla helped share the driving and the speed limits allowed us to make good time.

We rolled into the Alamo lot at Denver International Airport at 3:20 am having traveled on dry roads the entire trip. The parking lot at the rental company was a disaster of snow piled high and cars everywhere, but I was so delighted to be close to home I didn’t really care.

We’re a bit behind in our Christmas preparations and other than a little fatigued, none the worse for the journey.

So as you’re reading this, I hope you’re “home” either in physical location or at least in spirit, in the company of those who you care for and care for you. And if you’re not, at the very least, you’ll appreciate even more the sentiment behind the familiar phrase “home sweet home.”

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