New Year Planning? Do as little as possible.

Simple vs. Complex

Annual planning, the way we’ve been taught, is largely fortune telling and a waste of time. Plan more effectively by doing less of it.

What We Were Taught
– Go away for 2-3 days in January to plan the year.
– Plan everything in as much detail as you can; growth strategies, budget, purchases, hires, leases, etc., etc.
– Follow the plan – don’t deviate – people who deviate won’t be successful.
– Wait until next January to do it again.
– Put it on a shelf with your “shelf-help” books – it’s only real value is to help your shelf look good.

If strategic planning was important for the new year, you would do it in December, not in January. And we wouldn’t wait 12 months to do it again. If you let your “strategy” degrade to the point that you only have one day of “strategy” left when you get back to it next January, it’s not a strategy, just an exercise you go through.

And following it faithfully is just a dumb idea. During one of my short stints at trying to be an employee I wrote the CEO an email in October requesting 10 new workstations and 20 employees (double-shifts) to handle growth. The next day he wrote back and said he had checked the annual plan I submitted in January, and that I had not requested those capital expenditures in the “plan”. Request denied.

They went bankrupt three years later, slavishly following their silly annual plans and rearranging the deck chairs in the business all the way down.

It’s Counter-Intuitive
Giant Corporation, Inc. taught us that we should try to capture everything in an annual plan – the more detail we go into, the more likely we are to be successful. I did enough of those to know it’s nonsense (and surveyed a few thousand business owners who say the same thing).

Only sweat the big stuff – the 12-3-1 Plan
All you need to capture is the four-to-ten big things that you need to do this coming year. That’s it. Write them down. I guarantee you that if you capture the very few, very important things you need to accomplish this year, you are MUCH more likely to actually get them done than if you attempt to capture EVERYTHING that needs to be done this year.

Once you have these, develop what we call a 12-3-1 Strategic Plan. 12-months, 3-months and 1-month, a third of a page for each. You don’t need anything more than this.

12-Month Objectives
Put your four-to-ten 12-month Objectives for next year on the top 1/3 of a page (spreadsheet, word doc, doesn’t matter), That’s typewritten in an 11 pt. font, with lots of spacing. Don’t cheat. The more you capture, the less you will do. Simple beats complex every time.

3-Month Action Plan
Take each one of these 4-10 Objectives and decide what you have to do in the next quarter to get them done in a year. Put them on the middle third of the page – keep it short!!

Don’t wait until next November to get started. That’s why both diets and business plans don’t work. Tomorrow never comes. Cut the elephant into smaller bites and get a sense of urgency.

1-Month Action Plan
Take each quarterly action plan/objective and divide it once again into what you need to do in January to accomplish the first quarter’s objectives. These take up the bottom third of your page. Don’t cheat – if you can’t fit it comfortably on one page, you have too much detail.

Don’t wait until March. Annual and quarterly objectives can be daunting, but picking away month-by-month will make them doable.

Strategic Only!
Don’t put anything in your 12-3-1 Plan that helps you make money this month; just things that will help you build a business that creates more time and money next year.

“Buy a copier”, “Replace retiring employee”, “Sign contract w/ xxx, Inc.” – none of these belong on your plan.

“Move to new location”, “Hire/train someone to replace a piece of me”, “Increase revenues by xx%”, “Go from 60 hrs/wk to 30hrs/wk while increasing profits” – these are great annual planning objectives.

Monday
Every Monday morning look at the bottom 1/3 of the page and decide what you need to do that week to accomplish that month’s action plan. Block the time that week to get it done. If you do this every week, you will knock out the monthly action plan. If you knock out each month, you will accomplish the quarterly objective, and if you do that four quarters in a row, you will have had a great year.

Details? We don’t need no stinkin’ details!
If you keep it simple, you will only have to work out real details in a real world each week/month. If you try to capture all the details for the year when you put together the plan, you will be solving ivory tower problems – most of which will never happen. And you will miss half the problems you will actually face. So don’t solve problems/details until they are real. They are never real in January when you did your planning (see above request for 10 workstations).

Quarterly 12-3-1 Plan
This is the big key. Don’t do an annual plan anymore. Do a quarterly one. Every quarter your 12-month plan will have deteriorated to only 9 months. April 1, push it back out to 12 months on the top 1/3 of the page, then use that to re-populate the 3-month (middle third) and the 1-month (bottom third), and then get after it again each Monday.

Simple beats complex every time. If you capture everything, you’ll do nothing. If you capture the few big things, you might actually do some of them.

You can buy our Strategic Plan template along with our Lifetime Goals and Process Mapping templates and detailed instructions for each on our book site – Making Money Is Killing Your Business .

Or just grab a sheet of paper and get it done.

By the way, it shouldn’t take you more than 2-4 hours to do it, because you get to tweak it every week, every month, and every quarter.

Relax. Just get moving on the big stuff and the rest of it will unfold as you move.

Have a great year! (one week at a time)

 

Get a Second Planet

Re-write your future.

We waste a lot of time and money trying to fix our problems. Working on your problems is generally a bad idea if you want to be successful.

It’s counter-intuitive, but you’ll fix more problems by focusing on solving where you’re going, not on what you’re experiencing.

The best way to stay stuck is to work really hard on the problems in your business and invest a lot of time and energy in how hard those problems are.

Re-describe or re-write your future.
Instead of focusing on the problems you’re experiencing, get a clear picture of where you are going and when you want to be there. Three years out, 12 months out, 3 months out, the end of this month. Do it backwards like that (start with the three-year end in mind) and focus on re-describing the future without the problems you’re experiencing today.

I use our 2pg. Strategic Plan process to do this. Having a clear picture of where you want to be 12 months, three months, and one month from now focuses you on WHERE YOU ARE GOING, instead of on WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN.

Working on Problems is Working on Your Past
The best way to become an alcoholic is to focus all your time and energy on not being like that person in your life who was an alcoholic. All your focus is on the very thing you don’t want to happen, which makes it much more likely to happen.

Why do some business owners seem to have problems all the time? Too often it’s because they are focused on problems instead of on getting somewhere successful.

Get a Second Planet!
If there were only one planet in the universe and you used a powerful rocket to get 10 million light years away from it and ran out of fuel, what would happen? You would get sucked back in – it’s the only center of gravity in your universe.

But if there was just one other planet in the universe, 20 million light years away, and your rocket got you 10 million light years and one inch away from the planet behind you, what would happen? You would have all the momentum you need to get to the next planet.

When we try to move away from things, they eventually suck us back in. When we have somewhere big we need to get to, we are much more likely to be successful.

Stop focusing on your problems. They keep you tied to your past. Instead, focus all your time and energy on where you want your business to be in three years, 12 months, 3 months and next month, and focus all of your “solving” skills on that, not on your present problems.

We’ll All Be Killed
In one day last week we unexpectedly lost all our office and meeting space, and our weekly Business Leaders Insight lunch site. We were homeless as a business.

We only had two weeks to replace it all, including Christmas and New Years. Instead of focusing on this “problem”, we focused on what situation would best help us get where we’re going, and assumed right away that the change would be better for us and our clients.

Within four business days Krista Valentine, our Chief Results Officer had found new office and meeting space that is a big upgrade from what we had and a weekly lunch place for our BLI lunches that everyone is gaga over – it’s better than any we’ve had in the five years we’ve been doing this weekly event, and for less money than people have paid in a few years.

This isn’t surprising. First, Krista rocks. Second, we weren’t focused on our problem [Problem – we don’t have a place to call home or to hold our biggest weekly public event anymore]. Instead we were focused on re-writing our future; creating a new narrative for what we were doing going forward [Future – what a great opportunity to upgrade both to better match our brand!].

We have places we want to be three years from now, 12 months from now, three months from now. And because of that, we were focused on creating success this month that helps us build that future success.

Focusing on problems is a focus on your past, even if they are in the present. Focus instead on what your future looks like without them, then build that future. You’ll be surprised how many “problems” become opportunities.

Every day we are faced with opportunities cleverly disguised as obstacles. Life and business is 10% what happens to us and 90% what we make happen.

Redescribe your future (next week/month/year) and run toward it with everything you have. Run toward something, not away from something. You’re much more likely to get there.

Do What You Love? Maybe Not.

Passion equals Problems.

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? Wrong – do what you love and you’ll be on the treadmill the rest of your life. There’s a better way.

People who passionately love what they do are supposed to be the most successful and the happiest. It makes sense, except I have trouble finding the happy and successful ones.

The are plenty of people who do what they love. I think most business owners start their business with this statement: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just make money doing…[fill in the blank]. Violin makers, doctors, plumbers, dancers, designers, lawyers – there are people in just about every vocation that are doing it because they couldn’t see themselves doing anything else.

But more often than not, these passionate people are less likely to be successful or happy in their chosen careers than their more utilitarian counterparts in the same vocation. Why?

Endless Love
People who love what they do have the most serious issues with control, lack of vision, and other big picture issues. When we love what we do so much, we’re pretty sure:

– there is no one else who can do it better
– it will be too hard to train someone else to do it
– my customers need ME
– I find my self-worth in being needed (co-dependent)
– I tried employees and they suck
– I don’t have the money to get anyone else involved
– Once I have enough money, I’ll hire someone
– I can’t seem to make enough money to hire someone
– etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

Excuses, Reasons and Priorities
Mrs. Fields found someone else who could make cookies. Charles Schwab found somebody else who could trade stocks. A dog walking company went from $0.00 to $10 million a year in just two years without the founder ever walking a dog.

People who love what they do tend to be the main producer, if not the sole producer in their business. If you are that necessary to production, you will be on the treadmill the rest of your life. The producer-owner doesn’t really get to go on vacation, even if they physically leave for a week or two – the business follows them.

The producer-owner has the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s all up to them. And they can’t think of a way to get off this treadmill.

There really aren’t any reasons not to get off the treadmill. There aren’t even excuses. As my mother used to say, “Chuck, there aren’t any excuses, there aren’t even reasons, there are just priorities.”

If you can’t think of a way to get off the treadmill, it’s because it’s not important enough for you to get off. I don’t intend to be mean here, just truthful. The fact is that no matter what profession or vocation you have taken up, I could find you someone who has gotten off the treadmill and is no longer the main producer, doing exactly what you are doing.

A Thousand Ways Not to Leave Your Love
If you think about it, there are 1,000 ways to not get off the treadmill. You won’t even have to look hard to find them. And there may only be a half dozen that will actually get you off the treadmill. You only need one. If you focus on the 1,000, you’ll be buried in ways to not get a life. But if getting off the treadmill is a real priority, you will figure it out.

By the way, you don’t have to fall out of love with what you do. In fact, if you build a business that makes money when you are not around (produces revenue without you), you can do the one thing in that business that you love anytime of the day or night that you want to do it. Ironically, the people who have the most freedom to do what they love are those who were willing to get others to it for them first.

Do you think it’s impossible for you to get off the treadmill? Are you one of the thousands of business owners I’ve met over the years who have a “unique” or “special” circumstance that makes them the one exception who can’t get off the treadmill?

I’m not smart. I’m just relentless.
I take every Friday off and the last week of every month. I get to choose what to do on those days. While building my first five businesses I didn’t get this kind of freedom or anything like it. Then I made it a priority. Gee, what a surprise, I get Fridays and the fourth week off now.

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

What’s your priority? You don’t have to tell anyone. It will just show up in what you do. If it’s a priority to get off the treadmill, you’ll do that. If it’s not, stop whining and pretending that it is.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

Always release your product before it is ready.

Movement, not Planning.

Want to be successful? Get your product or service out there now, not after you’ve refined it and made it good. The MBA programs are wrong. Get moving.

Facebook sucked when it first went live and changed almost daily.

Google was a bare bones search engine called BackRub in 1996 and was still simplistic when it became Google in September 1998.

The Denver “T-Rex” redo of the entire highway system was 25% completed and open for traffic before the design was even completed.

The only way to learn how to run a four-minute mile is to first run something much slower, in public.

To learn to ride a bike, first, fall off.

Committed Movement – It’s never how good your plan is that counts, but how committed you are to moving on the bad plan you’ve got.

Purposeful Direction – We don’t need to know HOW we’re getting to our objective, we just need to know what our objective is, and the next few steps in the right direction to get there. Purposeful Direction is not about having things figured out first, but simply knowing with utter clarity where you want to end up.

Committed Movement In a Purposeful Direction is more critical to success than anything else.

There is a fundamental lesson about life and business in the above statement, and how we take that lesson on board makes us either very successful, very average, or a real shipwreck.

Successful people understand that planning is like a rudder; it’s useless without movement. Highly successful people have a very clear, transformational understanding of the relationship between movement and the rudder.

If you get your relationship right between these two, it will transform your life and your business as well. If you don’t, you’ll stay grounded on your sandbar and wonder why your life never had the impact you’ve always known it can.

The idea of massive pre-planning before you start seems to be a very sound practice, but only in concept and in business school. The problem is it just doesn’t match up with the reality of what actually makes for a successful business.

In the last three years I have watched four different companies go through the whole focus group/product development/perfect rollout process that most MBA programs and books about success would tout as the right way to do things. They all failed. I’ve seen others become successful by just getting moving in a small way like Facebook, Google, eBay, the sticky note, the television, the car, the internet, the steam engine, and all parents, all of which had a better chance of success by releasing the product before it was ready then by perfecting it first.

A controlled experiment in the real world
The key is to do it with very few customers who love you and want to work with you to make it what it will someday become. Reality is a much better laboratory for business than the laboratory. Customers are a much better focus group than a focus group. And a small rollout to the faithful is much less expensive and more informative then the balloons and parade approach.

We went through many iterations of paid workshops and mastermind concepts for three and half years before we arrived at 3to5 Clubs, which are now spreading on four continents. But we did it in small groups where perfection wasn’t necessary and everyone of the faithful were served with our existing but under-developed product.

Speed, not Planning
Success is much more closely related to Speed of Execution than to in-depth planning, because most planning is done in a vacuum prior to actually producing anything. Only after the plan hits the real world do we find out that it doesn’t work in that real world.

In the face of that reality and all the evidence we have that massive pre-planning is a waste of time, we keep trying. We can’t help ourselves. Hope springs eternal. In the meantime the Facbooks, Googles, and T-Rexs of the world are in their boats running flat out and heading for open water while we’re still trying to decide how to build the rudder.

Man has yet to devise a great way to plan in the absence of movement. The painstaking detailed analysis we are all taught to do before we move is almost always of little value because it never works out the way we had hoped. And as a result it never saves us the time and money it was supposed to. Instead it usually costs us precious time getting started, puts us behind someone else who has decided to get moving, and creates soaring costs down the road.

Practice, not Perfection
Always roll out your product or service long before it is ready, before your website is done (we only had a holding page for the first 18+ months). Just do it in a controlled but very real and “live” environment where the feedback you get is from real live bullets – people deciding to pay with real money and giving you feedback on how to get better.

Get out of the lab and into the real world. Tom Watson, founder of IBM said, “Test fast. Fail Fast. Adjust Fast.” I would say get out into the real world and just keep practicing to get better all the time.

Relationships. Not Marketing.

It’s really that simple.

While I was in Kenya last week I met with a new friend for a few hours to discuss his need to bring in new clients. He was thinking he might need to do some marketing. I suggested he forget marketing and talk to his friends instead.

The tactics of “old marketing” still live on out there. When we need to bring in new customers our first reaction is that we should start calling, mailing or emailing people in our target market. I was re-reading some of Seth Godin’s book, Meatball Sundae, while on the plane and was reminded again that when we interrupt people without them asking us to, we start out on the wrong foot. Getting their permission to talk with them is just so much better.

It’s no different in Kenya. My electrical engineering friend was thinking he should go after the companies that would be good clients and see if he could get some conversations going with them. It seems reasonable and most of us would start there.

We sat in a coffee shop and came up with a different approach. Rather than call, email, or show up and ask to talk to someone, we decided that in just about every instance, he could get permission before he ever talked to any of these possible customers.

How? Talk to his friends and existing customers. Really. Just talk to them and ask them to make introductions.

Four Steps to New Clients
At first he thought that they might not have the right contacts or that they wouldn’t want to help. But as we talked it through he realized it was the best, quickest way to expand his customer base significantly. Without spending any money on expensive “interruption marketing.” Just cups of coffee.

1) We first defined his target market – what did his ideal client look like and from what segments of the market? We narrowed it down to just a few.

2) Then we made a horizontal list across a napkin of the types of people who could find him those customers. We listed mechanical engineers, building contractors, business lawyers, commercial real estate agents and others who would already have contacts with his ideal customers. We added to the horizontal topics categories like “existing clients”, “past clients”, “friends” and “raving fans” because they might all know someone who a) could refer him to a client or b) actually know a possible client themselves.

3) Once we had the horizontal list on the napkin, his job was to go back to the office and list every person and company he knew in each category (mechanical contractors, friends, customers, etc.). This was going to be dozens if not a few hundred people and companies.

4) We then decided on a measurable activity and objective because you get what you intend, not what you hope for. He decided he would be able to have 6-8 cups of coffee a week and I asked him to set objectives for how many new customers and how much new revenue he intended to get from the coffees (don’t have lunch – it costs too much and takes too long).

Getting the Conversation Going
We talked about the best way to motivate these people to work with him – do for them what he wanted them to do for him. For his close friends he could simply ask them to help. Most of us won’t do this – we think we’re bothering them.

Even though we would love to help our friends, we’re not so sure about asking them to help us. He didn’t seem to have this common hang up. If you do, get over it. People want to help us and you need to ask for that help. Too often we assume they would already be sending people our way if they wanted to, but you have to realize they have a life and you are not in the center of it. They need you to get a cup of coffee and help them focus on it for 45 minutes. They are glad to help, they’re just not focused on doing so. Help them help you.

Be What Yout Want Them to Be
To communicate the “do for them what we want them to do for us” message right up front, my friend was going to say something like, “I’d like to get together to see if we can push each other forward. Since we work in the same space, I might have clients you want, you might have clients I want. Would you like to see if we can help each other?” I’ve only had a couple people ever turn me down. Anyone who turns this down the opportunity to be mutually helpful to each other isn’t someone you would not want to do business with anyway.

Three Questions to Ask
After small talk and asking other questions about their business, we had three questions he would ask:

1) Strategic Alliance – Do you know one person who might have the same customers as I do who might want to build an ongoing strategic relationship with me so we can pass clients back and forth for years to come? (and if appropriate, “would you want to do that together with me?” Would you introduce me via a mutual email or even a phone call?

2) End Client Referral – Do you know one person at any of these target market companies who you could introduce me to who might have a project I could be on?

3) Do you know one other person who might be interested in having a cup of coffee with me over this kind of possible strategic alliance? Would you introduce me?

Friends want to help us, and the smart ones that don’t know us real well are highly attracted to the idea of having strategic alliances. And when all of the connections are made by someone else introducing us, it’s all by permission.

I’ve never made a cold call in my life and was the #1 sales person in a bunch of companies, some of whom had people making cold calls all day long.

Build relationships by asking people you already have a relationship with to help you. But most of all, help them first. A picture is worth a thousand words. If you want them to refer to you or build a strategic alliance with you and send you clients, do it for them.

People buy from people, and they buy more from people they know and trust. If you build relationships you will make more money than if you interrupt people with fancy and expensive marketing.

Get out there and have a cup of coffee with someone you already know – it just might change your business.

Complexity is paradigmatically iniquitous, nocent and peccant.

Simple kicks butt every time.

3″ binders and 6 CDs usually signify a lack of effective content. We desperately want complexity and fancy stuff to solve our business problems. Good luck with that.

We use something like 1-2% of all the features on our software. A fighter pilot would turn off most of his systems going into battle in the Gulf War because the complexity was confusing and dangerous. We love to respond to offers to build giant business plans and three-day workshops on the 57 things you need to implement for a successful marketing program. And we spend months analyzing opportunities to death while other people are moving on them.

We’re addicted to complexity. We can’t help ourselves.

If there is anything less than 6 CDs we’re pretty sure the offer isn’t going to help us. But real-live business tells us something different.

Simple kicks butt every time, but only when you do it. The reason we love complexity is that it allows us to hide from the fact that the things that make us successful are simple acts of intention that will move us forward. Make a phone call, respond to a client, thank a stakeholder (employee), listen, ask a question.

The biggest reason we don’t like simplicity is that the simple things are hard to do. They are simple, but that doesn’t make them easy. Making that phone call is really simple, but I avoid it because it might result in someone not liking me or creating work for me. It’s simple, but hard.

Meanwhile, the complex things are actually easy to do. Developing a fancy excel spreadsheet showing how successful I would be if I every did anything. Research stuff to death before we move on it. Developing a killer website. Conducting focus groups, endless market research, telephone surveys, PR polls, hall tests, online hybrid surveys.

Sure these things were hard for me the first time. But then I learned how to do them and how to avoid actually being effective by doing them a lot. And they became easy. But other people are still impressed by the grasp I have of all this complexity and how much time I spent getting it all figured out. Heck, I’m even impressed with myself.

But complexity almost never tells us what we want to know and rarely makes us successful.

The Few, The Important
In each business there are a very few simple things that will make us successful. We need to strip out all the dumb stuff that we’re reacting to on an every day basis, stop fooling ourselves that we’re being effective, take the bull by the horns, be proactive, and do something simple that will push us forward.

Successful people have a knack for stripping out the complex and focusing on the simple things that will make us successful. Be that guy.

The simple things are hard to do. The complex things are easy to do.

The simple things are where we make money. The complex things are where we hide.

Hang this sign in your office:

Am I hiding right now?

The best route in life is always simple, but rarely easy.

There is another level above win-win.

Be the board.

There are a lot of ways to lead. I aspire quite imperfectly to only one of them.

Some leaders lead from “win-lose” – I’m going to win at your expense. I need you to lose so I can win. I had a boss once who built his business on this principle. He was a sad, insecure and unpopular man.

Some leaders lead from “lose-win” – I’m co-dependent on you – you can suck the life out of me and I’ll let you do it. I’ve never had this boss but I’ve seen them in action. They let everyone around them run over them all the time. They are worn out as a lifestyle and nobody respects them. They make no lasting impact in the world around them.

I believe most leaders lead from “win-win” – they work hard to set up environments where both the owner/leader and the stakeholder/employee will win. Each of them winning is dependent on the other one winning. I’ve had this boss a number of times and they are a pleasure to work with and for. I always wanted to work harder for them.

Some leaders take it to yet another level. What if you decided that, as the leader of the business, you didn’t need to win anymore? What if your focus was now going to be creating win-win environments for others, and that those environments didn’t involve you having to win or lose?

Be the Board
In their book, “The Art of Possibility”, which I read a number of years ago, Zander & Zander called it “be the board.” Most of us choose to be one of the game pieces and interact with the other game pieces on the board. When we interact with the other game pieces, we have a choice to create win-lose, lose-win, or win-win for the two of us.

But at the highest level of leadership we can live at a whole different level and remove ourselves from the game altogether. At the highest level of leadership we decide to focus on connecting this person to that person to create win-win. To do so we become the board on which people play the game of business.

What if you became the board on which people played the game of business, or even the game of life? What would that look like for you? Do you know someone who lives this way, always creating environments where two other people can win, and then slipping out the back door without taking credit?

Servant Leadership
This isn’t a new idea. The idea has been around for thousands of years. Zander & Zander just gave it a great name – “be the board”. Sometimes it’s called servant leadership. A servant leader uses their position to be the champion of making others successful, connecting people to opportunities and to other people who will all win as a result of that third party leader putting them together.

Zig Zigler said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Jim Rohn said, “Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness.”

Want to be successful? Make sure you practice win-win. Want to be a great leader, leave a lasting legacy, and get more out of life than you could possibly imagine? Remove yourself from the win-win equation altogether and become the board on which people play the game of business.

Good leaders create a win-win environment for themselves and for others. Great leaders make themselves the board and focus on connecting one winner to another winner. If you do that, you’ll get to your own goals and put yourself in line for greatness.”

Oh, and it’s possible no one will ever know you were “great” except you. It’s part of the joy of being the board. People don’t have to know you created a small place in this world for others to win. You know, and isn’t that it’s own reward? It is for those who decide to be the board.

Let’s all decide to be the board on which people play they game of business.

Why shelf-help books only help your shelf

Expert-itis & Other Diseases

“That book was great! You should read it.”

Beware the pursuit of knowledge.

The great majority of business books (and other non-fiction) are really just “shelf-help” books. They help your shelf look better. But they don’t change anything. Why?

I get a lot of business book recommendations from people. When I do, I usually ask them how they have used the book to push their business and/or their own life forward. What I’m really asking is, “Did this book transform something, anything, or was it just intellectually stimulating without changing anything?”

Head vs. Heart
We’re addicted to intellectual knowledge, which is only one of the two kinds of knowledge we find in most dictionary definitions of knowledge:
1) Intellectual knowledge – knowledge of the head.
2) Life/experience knowledge – knowledge of the heart.

The ancient Greeks had two words for knowledge:
1) Gnosis knowledge of the head – the pursuit of information
2) Epignosis – knowledge of the heart – the pursuit of transformation

Too many books are based in gnosis, which, by itself, does nothing to make us successful. The reason we’re addicted to gnosis, is that head knowledge makes me “feel” more equipped to deal with my business, without having to actually do or change anything. It’s cost-free.

Consumers flock to the 3-easy step diets, the magical-millionaire website promises and the business book that claims it will get you a 4-hour work week. Educational institutions are the worst perpetrators of this lie – you’ll be richer tomorrow because you know more (gnosis).

Most seminar leaders know you will pay more for a seminar with a 3″ binder and 6 CDs than a simpler one that will change your life.

The Trenches of Transformation
The best business books aren’t informational, but transformational. Very few come from the trenches of transformation, where someone took big risks, put themselves out there, worked hard, sweated through it, and lived to write about it. I pay a lot more attention to people who have done what they are asking me to do, who are sharing from their experience, not from their head knowledge.

When I was in my early 20’s people told me I should be writing books. As I was formulating my first book of knowledge created in the ivory tower of my mind, I met a guy who had written a successful book when he was in his late-20s. He told me he had learned so much through experience that he realized his book was a load of hooey. But since it was in print, he would live with that mistake the rest of his life.

After that meeting I vowed to not write until I had experienced transformation and knew with my life (epignosis) that it could transform others, too. As a result, I didn’t publish my first book until I was 56. The most gratisfying thing about that book – it was named #1 Business Book of the Year not for volume of sales, but “for impact”. And people who read it don’t say, “that was interesting”, but “that changed the way I do business.”

Stay Away from Gurus and Experts
Research shows most people don’t get past page 18 of every book they buy. That makes perfect sense to me because we are not naturally cognitive, we are naturally intuitive, and we know in our hearts that the “3-easy steps” book we bought won’t give us the success it promised.

Are you reading shelf-help books or transformational books? Please recommend your transformational books to others here – thanks!

Dodd-Frank is devastating the Congo right now.

The collateral damage is unacceptable.

We have a social enterprise in the DR Congo to end systemic poverty. The opportunities to solve it are at our fingertips. Global Witness and Enough Project, human rights advocacy groups who should be aligned with us, are doing everything they can to stop us.

UPDATE: I originally wrote this in August and updated it in November. Just this week a UN Panel of Experts report came out that verifies the depth of the problem Dodd-Frank is causing for the Congolese people. So far Dodd-Frank has not even been implemented and the result has already been devastating.

We need to continue to put the pressure on groups like Enough Project, Global Witness and the SEC to admit how destructive Dodd-Frank is in the Congo. We need them to stop supporting what everyone else has deemed an abject failure and get behind repealing that 1502 clause in Dodd-Frank that has been so injurious.

See the summary of the UN Panel of Experts report here , then read how you can help change this below. Original post follows:

DR Congo is the 12th largest country on earth with the 8th most mineral wealth in the ground. With 70 million people as a workforce and all this latent wealth, it could easily be a first world leader in a very short time.

My Congolese partner – a Congolese Chief, and I have committed to create infrastructure and sustainable economies in the Congo by exporting agriculture and minerals, and leaving a significant portion of the profits local, something no other company has ever done. We will also fund and train local business owners to learn how to run businesses. The net effect – we believe we can solve systemic poverty in the DR Congo in 5-10 years.

The Problem – Dodd-Frank
But now an obscure provision pushed forward by Global Witness and Enough Project and tucked into the Dodd-Frank Act (Provision 1502) could be jeopardizing much of this, and is already hurting millions of Congolese and putting thousands in immediate danger of their lives.

The provision requires tens of thousands of companies to disclose if their products use minerals from the Congo, and to prove they did not come from criminal militias. As a result of the unintended stigma this has created, the mineral trade for all of central Africa has evaporated, creating a devastating de facto embargo of the entire region.

We have been trying for months to find buyers for the minerals these Congolese tribes own and have talked to every legitimate smelter and buyer in the world. None are buying Enough Project and Global Witness continue to claim there is no embargo, but we have asked them a dozen times to give us the name of a single buyer of artisanal minerals in central Africa – they can’t.

The Negative Effect
If all Congo minerals came from criminals, then Dodd-Frank would make sense. But the fact is that a tiny percentage of Congolese minerals come from criminals in the comparatively small conflict area. The rest are from honest, hard-working chiefs and their tribes throughout the vast Congo, millions of whom, with no connection to the conflict area, have lost their income and have moved from poverty to destitution.

Only the Criminals are Benefiting
COCABI, COMIMPA and COMIDER represent 20,000 miners in the conflict area. The wrote a letter to the SEC imploring them to not listen to Global Witness or Enough Project who have never even consulted with those most affected by Dodd-Frank, the miners.

While all the NGOs and politicians are quoting each other’s support of this, we are quoting chiefs and tribes who are actually being affected by it, all of whom say Obama’s Law (that’s what they call it) has been disastrous for them and their livelihood. Doesn’t this say something very powerful to us?

The Nuclear Option is Not Acceptable
The World Bank says 10 million people in the Congo get their living from mining, most whom are in regions never connected with conflict. And even in the conflict region there are 100,000 honest miners who have been moved from poverty to destitution by Dodd-Frank.

Dodd-Frank creates the equivalent of a nuclear option because it is not targeted specifically at the militia, but at minerals.

Demonize Criminals, Not Minerals
This approach is no different than burning down every house in town to stop a burglar from stealing. Dodd-Frank has burned down the entire mining industry in central Africa in hopes that their scorched earth policy will catch a militia group or two in its path. They are willing to take down every innocent man, woman, and child who live off mining. Such massive collateral damage is not acceptable under any circumstance.

One woman said, “I used to tend my fields, but women who farm get raped regularly by the militia. My only safe job is in the mines. I don’t know what I will do now.”

The solution is simple. In an appalling show of weakness, the UN (MONUSCO) has been sitting around in the Congo “observing” the atrocities for 15 years. They need to grow a spine. The militias are small, rag-tag, poorly organized, poorly led thugs with no significant weaponry. They could be over run in a few days of concerted effort.

If there is no militia, there would be no need to demonize minerals. But if you demonize minerals, the militia will still be there terrorizing, raping and killing.

Global Witness and The Enough Project Are NOT Advocating for the Congolese
These two NGOs are directly and personally responsible for getting politicians to insert the disastrous 1502 provision into Dodd-Frank. It was well intentioned – they did not want it to have the effect it’s having. But now that they are fully vested in the political side of this provision, they have completely lost their way regarding the Congolese themselves.

They steadfastly refuse to even admit it has had a negative effect, regularly deny the de facto embargo in the face of every statistic and my personal experience, brazenly try to deflect by blaming the opposition for the embargo they deny exists, and worst of all, have now taken to recommending that the Chiefs sell their minerals to human rights violators.

The NGOs Solution? – Sell to human rights violators and smugglers
In a conference call with Enough Project’s main leadership, I was astonished to hear them recommend that we sell to the Chinese, who have one of the worst human rights records on earth and who have no regard for the human rights of the Congolese. A stunning position for a supposed human rights advocacy group.

Global Witness has also lost its way. In a response to the swell of opposition to Dodd-Frank by those supporting the Congolese people, Global also stunned the advocacy world, supporting Dodd-Frank by pointing to the smuggling of the militia as a good thing, “High levels of smuggling…reflect the reality that mining is continuing” and is “in fact substantially higher because of increased smuggling”. Truly amazing.

This is incredible. Global wants to stop the militias and yet points to the smuggling of minerals, a common militia tactic, as proof that things aren’t as bad in the conflict area as everyone says. Read the Forbes article and my response to it in the Comments section .

Clearly these two NGOs are no longer advocating for the Congolese miners, but for their own reputations which are now fully vested in arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as Dodd-Frank sinks the Congolese economy.

They are also both in direct violation of the OECD Guidelines because they have done no due diligence among the miners who are most affected by the colonialistic decisions they want to impose from the outside. The hypocrisy is beyond the pale.

Advocating for What or Whom?
As Eric Kajemba, the leader of a Congolese civil-society group has said, “If the advocacy groups aren’t speaking for the people of eastern Congo, who are they speaking for?”

We’re advocating for the millions of Congolese miners and their families. Global and Enough stopped doing that a long time ago. They are so vested in their Dodd-Frank solution that to admit they were wrong now would create serious questions about their expertise in such situations. Too late – it already has. The best thing they could do is re-join us in advocating for the Congolese miners and stop pushing forth a political position that creates donors for them while Congolese people starve.

Please write or text them and challenge them to replace their political agenda with advocacy for the Congolese people:

Global Witness
Annie Dunnebacke ADunnebacke@globalwitness.org
Oliver Courtney ocourtney@globalwitness.org
Sophia Pickles spickles@globalwitness.org
Phone: (202) 621-6665

Enough Project
Sasha Lezhnev sasha@enoughproject.org
Jonathan Hutson jhutson@enoughproject.org
Fidel Bafilemba fbafilemba@enoughproject.org
Phone: (857) 919-5130

Contact Your Politician
Contact your local politician and also the following major supporters of this disastrous 1502 provision:

Senator Barbara Boxer
(510) 286-8537 (202)

Senator Chris Coons
Phone: 302-322-1140
Email: info@chriscoons.com

Senator Dick Durbin
(202) 224-2152 – phone
(202) 228-0400 – fax

Use Social Media to Get This Changed
Please use your social media network to get this changed – post the above on Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. Link to it from Twitter and push people to it via email.

10 Million people are negatively affected, hundreds of thousands have lost their subsistence living, and thousands are in immediate jeopardy of their lives – all because of Provision 1502. Please help us correct it immediately. Universal collateral damage to the innocent is simply not acceptable under any circumstance.

Thanks for whatever you can do!

It’s never the process. It’s always the person.

Committment, not a cool product.

McDonald’s legendary “process-driven” business model is touted in Michael Gerber’s book, the E-Myth, as the central thing you need to succeed – a system will get you off the treadmill. Problem – 21.4% of SBA-funded McD’s fail. Huh?

We’re fascinated by “secrets”, “amazing”, “nothing else like it”, “three easy steps”, and other cheap parlor tricks to make us believe something great will happen if we have a special product, process, idea, great market, etc. It doesn’t work that way.

One out of every five SBA-funded McDonald’s franchise fails. Processes are incredibly helpful and I encourage Process Mapping as a standard business practice (much different than the McD’s or E-Myth model). But plenty of businesses have great processes and fail.

We’re always looking for something outside ourselves to fix our business. We spend thousands on complex business plans, layers of systems and process manuals, and buying every new marketing gimmick coming down the pike in hopes of fixing our business. But we’re not going to move the needle with these things. I put them all in the same category as “shelf-help” books – it all helps your shelf look good.

I’ve had countless conversations with people about what makes for success or failure, and almost invariably people point to outside forces to explain both of them. But the keys to success aren’t out there, their in our heads and our hearts. If we want to lead, succeed, and make more money, we must be transformed. There is no short cut.

I wince when I see franchises and multi-level marketing companies selling business opportunities by claiming you’ll make more money with them then with the other guy because they have the better product, better commission structure, better marketing, better financing, cheaper entry point, better process, etc. Then they trot out a few highly successful people to prove their point.

The problem with this is that you could take those same few people and put them in just about any other business and I guarantee you they would be successful there, too. Why?

Because it’s never about the process, or the product; it’s always about the person. People who are successful get there because they are relentless, not clever.

I’ve seen people be successful with good or bad products, good or bad processes, good or bad financing, and good or bad marketing. People who are successful will find a way to be successful in any business. People who aren’t successful expend an awful lot of time looking for the secret sauce, that great product, the perfect situation or anything else they can find outside themselves to distract them from the fact that they should be living conatively (with Committed Movement in a Purposeful Direction), not cognitively.

The keys to success are inside of us, not out there in the world. Put on your big boy pants, face the music, and figure out what you need to do to get where you want to go. Then stop blaming the world around you for not providing you the secret sauce, and get after it.

Create your own success. Gradually. Then suddenly.