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The Secret to Happiness

January 23rd, 2012

(This was my newsletter article last Thursday. I got so many emails from people who really enjoyed it that I thought I would share it with everyone. Not a newsletter subscriber? Handle that here: http://bit.ly/EscapeNotes.)

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of the Happiness Research that’s being published. There is a wealth of insight into what makes us tick as human beings AND into what we need to do to incorporate happiness into our business models.

My biggest takeaway from the research, and the thing I am focusing on is this fact:

More than money, more than the pursuit of pleasure, it is connection and engagement that most impacts our feelings of happiness.

For me that means that:

1)  I feel happiest when I feel connected and engaged with others.

2)  My clients feel happiest when they are connected and engaged both with me and with each other.

3)  My community feels happiest when we are all connected and engaged with each other.

A big part of my job, then, is to facilitate this connection and engagement. Yay! I love adding this to my job description!

I’ll be rolling out opportunities to connect and engage with me and with each other throughout 2012, starting with my Annual February Guest Blog Series. This year’s theme is Building Fierce Loyalty.

http://bit.ly/FierceLoyalty

You are going to love the experts I’ve lined up for you and the community of participants that always gathers around this series. SO fun. 🙂

How can you create opportunities for people to connect and engage with each other as part of your business? Would love to hear your ideas!

January 18th, 2012

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A Very UNmediocre Contest for You

January 16th, 2012

Win a Dell 3330dn Printer

I rarely do sponsored contests. Usually the contest is too complicated. Or turns into some sort of popularity contest. Or the prize is totally lame.

This contest is different. Awesomely different. 🙂

I’m partnering with Zocalo and Dell to give away a Dell 3330dn printer. And this isn’t some teeny wimpy printer, either. This is a KILLER printer that will increase your a) efficiency and b) your professional image. Two things I really really want for you. 🙂

Just so you get a feel for how impressive this printer is, here it is:

Dell 3330dn Laser Printer

Advanced Performance, Productivity & Value

The Dell 3330dn Laser Printer delivers stunning performance, low total cost of ownership and the flexibility to expand along with your business.

  • Standard Duplexer: Save time and paper with automatic 2-sided printing.
  • Blazing Print Speeds: Reduce waiting time with print speeds of up to 40 pages per minute (letter) (actual print speed will vary with use) and first print-out time as fast as 7 seconds.
  • Sharp, Professional-Quality Prints: Native print resolution of up to 1200dpi x 1200dpi for exceptionally crisp, clear text and graphics.
  • Expandable Capacity: Meet even higher print demand with optional additional memory power, USB font card and 550-sheet paper feeder.

So, how do you win such a cool addition to your home office?

I’ve posted the OFFICIAL RULES below so that there is no room for confusion. 🙂  BUT, here’s the short answer:

Starting THIS Thursday January 19 at 9 am EST, simply tweet me ( @SarahRobinson) your BEST answer to this question: “How do you stay efficient while avoiding being mediocre?” and use the hashtag #printsecrets.

You can tweet your answer a maximum of three times during the contest period  (see rules below) and you’ll be entered to win once for each tweet. The contest ends at 5 pm EST, Friday, January 20.

I’m telling you about the contest now, so you can start crafting your very best tip and be ready to rumble on Thursday. 🙂

While I ordinarily LOVE for you to respond in the comments and to send me emails, the only way to enter this contest is on Twitter.

And last but not least, in the interest of full disclosure, I am receiving compensation for holding the very cool contest.

And now, for the Very Official Rules:

Escaping Mediocrity Dell Printer Promotion
Official Rules
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT
IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.
Promotion may only be entered in or from the 50 United States, the District of Columbia
and entries originating from any other jurisdiction are not eligible for entry.  This
Promotion is governed exclusively by the laws of the United States.   You are not
authorized to participate in the Promotion if you are not located within the United States.

1.  How to Enter. During the Promotion Period, visit http://escaping-mediocrity.com
(“Administrator’s Website”) to receive instructions on how to enter the Promotion. Prior
to doing so, you will be prompted to sign into your Twitter account.  If you do not have
an account, visit www.twitter.com to create one.
Twitter accounts are free.  Once logged
into your Twitter account, follow the instructions to become a follower of
@SarahRobinson. You automatically will receive one (1) entry into the Promotion for
each message you post that answers the question, “how do you stay efficient while
avoiding being mediocre?” and includes the hashtag #printsecrets.

By entering, each entrant warrants and represents the following with respect to
their Twitter message: (a) entrant is the sole and exclusive owner of the message;
and (b) the message is entrant’s own creation and will not infringe on any rights of
any third parties. Dell (“Sponsor”) and Administrator reserve the right, in their sole and
absolute discretion, to disqualify any messages that are inappropriate for any reason,
including without limitation, for depicting or mentioning sex, violence, drugs, alcohol
and/or inappropriate language.

Limit: Each entrant may enter a total of three (3) times during the Promotion Period. If
you post updates to or receive updates from twitter.com via SMS from your wireless
phone, your wireless-service provider may charge you for each text message you send
and receive.  Please consult your wireless-service provider regarding its pricing plans.
You must be an active holder of a non-private Twitter account and be a follower of the
@SarahRobinson account to be eligible to enter this Promotion. All terms and conditions
of  twitter.com apply.  Multiple entrants are not permitted to share the  same  Twitter
account.  Any attempt by any entrant to obtain more than the stated number of entries by
using multiple/different twitter accounts, identities, registrations and logins, or any other
methods will void that entrant’s entries and that entrant may be disqualified. Use of any
automated system to participate is prohibited and will result in disqualification.  In the
event of a dispute as to any Twitter account, the authorized account holder of the email
address used to register at twitter.com will be deemed to be the entrant. The “authorized
account holder” is the natural person assigned an email address by an Internet access
provider, online service provider or other organization responsible for assigning email
addresses for the domain associated with the submitted address.  Each potential winner
may be required to show proof of being the authorized account holder. All entries become
the sole and exclusive property of the Sponsor and Administrator, and
receipt of entries will not be acknowledged or returned. Sponsor  and Administrator are
not responsible for lost, late, illegible, stolen, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, postagedue,
misdirected, technically corrupted or garbled entries, which will be disqualified, or
for problems of any kind whether mechanical, human or electronic.  Proof of submission
will not be deemed to be proof of receipt by Sponsor.   By entering the Promotion,
entrants fully and unconditionally agree to be bound by these rules and the decisions of
the judges, which will be final and binding in all matters relating to the Promotion.

2. Start/End Dates.   Promotion begins at 9:00AM EST on January 19, 2012 and ends at
5:00PM EST on January 20, 2012 (“Promotion Period”).

3. Eligibility. Participation open only to legal residents of the fifty United States, the
District of Columbia, who are 18 or older as of date of entry.  Void outside of the 50
United States, the District of Columbia, and where prohibited, taxed or restricted by law.
Employees, officers and directors of  Sponsor  and its parent company, subsidiaries,
affiliates, partners, advertising and promotion agencies, manufacturers or distributors of
promotion materials and their immediate families (parents, children, siblings, spouse) or
members of the same household (whether related or not) of such employees, officers and
directors are not eligible to enter.  You are not authorized to participate in the Promotion
if you are not located within the United States or the District of Columbia.  All federal,
state and local laws and regulations apply.

4.  Random Drawing/Odds. Winners will be selected in a random drawing from all
eligible entries received on or about January 20, 2012.  Odds of winning depend on the
number of eligible entries received for the drawing.  Drawing will  be conducted by
Administrator. By entering the Promotion, entrants fully and unconditionally agree to be
bound by these rules and the decisions of the judges, which will be final and binding in
all matters relating to the Promotion.

5. Prizes.  One winner  will receive  a Dell™  3330dn printer.  Approximate retail  value
(“ARV”) of prize: $600.00.   Prizes are non-transferable.  No substitutions or cash
redemptions.  In the case of unavailability of  any prize, Sponsor reserves the right to
substitute a prize of equal or greater value.  All expenses not specifically listed herein are
the responsibility of winners.

6. Notification. Potential winner will  receive a direct message from  Administrator
through the Twitter account used to enter the Promotion on or about January 20, 2012.
Potential Winner will be required to respond to the direct message and complete the Prize
Disclosure Agreement and W-9 form within  3 (three)  days of receipt.  If a potential
winner does not respond to direct message or complete the Prize Disclosure Agreement
and W-9 within the required timeframe, prize will be forfeited and awarded to the next
runner-up.  Potential winners must continue to comply with all terms and conditions of
these Official Rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements.  Potential
winner will be required to sign and return, where legal, an Affidavit of Eligibility,
Liability/Publicity Release and/or rights transfer document within 3 (three) calendar days
of prize notification.  If any potential winner is considered a minor in his/her jurisdiction
of residence, Affidavit of Eligibility and/or Liability/Publicity must be signed by his/her
parent or legal guardian.  If a potential winner cannot be contacted, or fails to complete
and respond to the direct message within the required time period, if any prize or prize
notification is returned as undeliverable, if any potential winner rejects his/her prize or in
the event of noncompliance with these Promotion rules and requirements, such prize will
be forfeited and may be awarded to the entrant with the next highest score.  Upon prize
forfeiture, no compensation will be given.

7. Conditions. BY PARTICIPATING, ENTRANTS AND WINNERS AGREE TO
RELEASE AND HOLD HARMLESS SPONSOR,  ADMINISTRATOR TWITTER,
AND THEIR ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION AGENCIES AND THEIR
RESPECTIVE PARENT COMPANIES, SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, PARTNERS,
REPRESENTATIVES, AGENTS, SUCCESSORS, ASSIGNS, EMPLOYEES,
OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS, FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY, FOR LOSS,
HARM, DAMAGE, INJURY, COST OR EXPENSE WHATSOEVER INCLUDING
WITHOUT LIMITATION, PROPERTY DAMAGE, PERSONAL INJURY AND/OR
DEATH WHICH MAY OCCUR IN CONNECTION WITH, PREPARATION FOR,
TRAVEL TO, OR PARTICIPATION IN PROMOTION, OR POSSESSION,
ACCEPTANCE AND/OR USE OR MISUSE OF PRIZE OR PARTICIPATION IN
ANY PROMOTION-RELATED ACTIVITY AND FOR ANY CLAIMS BASED ON
PUBLICITY RIGHTS, DEFAMATION, INVASION OF PRIVACY, COPYRIGHT
INFRINGEMENT, TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT OR ANY OTHER
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY-RELATED CAUSE OF ACTION.  Any and all federal,
state and local taxes are the sole responsibility of the winners.  Participation in Promotion
and acceptance of prize constitutes each winner’s permission for Sponsor to use his/her
name, address (city and state), likeness, photograph, picture, portrait, voice, biographical
information, and/or any statements made by each winner regarding the Promotion or
Sponsor for advertising and promotional purposes without notice or additional
compensation, except where prohibited by law.  Entrants who do not comply with these
Official Rules, or attempt to interfere with this Promotion in any way shall be
disqualified.  Sponsor  and Administrator are  not responsible if Promotion cannot take
place or if any prize cannot be awarded due to travel cancellations, delays or interruptions
due to acts of God, acts of war, natural disasters, weather or acts of terrorism.

8. Additional Terms. Any attempted form of entry other than as set forth above is
prohibited; no automatic, programmed; robotic or similar means of entry are permitted.
Sponsor, Administrator, their affiliates, partners and promotion and advertising agencies
are not responsible for technical, hardware, software, telephone or other communications
malfunctions, errors or failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, web
site, Internet, or ISP availability, unauthorized human intervention, traffic congestion,
incomplete or inaccurate capture of entry information (regardless of cause) or failed,
incomplete, garbled, jumbled or delayed computer transmissions which may limit one’s
ability to enter the Promotion, including any injury or damage to participant’s or any
other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participating in this Promotion or
downloading any materials in this Promotion.  Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion,
to cancel, terminate, modify, extend or suspend this Promotion should (in its
sole discretion) virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud or other causes
beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper
conduct of the Promotion. In such case, Sponsor may select the winners from all eligible
entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by Sponsor. Sponsor
reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual it finds, in its sole
discretion, to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Promotion or
web site.  Sponsor may prohibit an entrant from participating in the Promotion or
winning a prize if, in its sole discretion, it determines that said entrant is attempting to
undermine the legitimate operation of the Promotion by cheating, hacking, deception, or
other unfair playing practices (including the use of automated quick entry programs) or
intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other entrants or Sponsor
representatives.
CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY
WEB SITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE PROMOTION
MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN
ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES
FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

9.  Use of Data.  Sponsor and Administrator will be collecting personal data about
entrants online, in accordance with Sponsor’s privacy policy.  Please review Dell’s
privacy policy at:
http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/policy/en/policy?c=us&l=en&s=g
en&~section=000.
By participating in the Promotion, entrants hereby agree to Sponsor’s collection and
usage of their personal information and acknowledge that they have read and accepted
Sponsor’s privacy policy.

10. List of Winners. To obtain a list of winners, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope
by March  31, 2012 to:  Escaping Mediocrity Dell Printer Contest Winners, c/o Zócalo
Group, 200 E. Randolph Street, 42nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60601.
11. Sponsor. The Sponsor of the Promotion is Dell US SMB Marketing, One Dell Way,
Round Rock, TX 78682.

Finish. Or What I Learned from Nick Saban.

January 11th, 2012

I come from a long line of Alabama fans. I grew up watching the Paul Bear Bryant show every Sunday afternoon and can still see the Golden Flake potato chips and Coca-Cola signs hanging behind that hounds-tooth hat as he re-hashed the game.

My husband never watched much college football until he married me. Now he is a fierce a fan as I am.  And both my sons learned to say Roll Tide as we watch every kickoff. (And the mini-turk has a Big Al costume he wears on game day. Precious!)

Our intestinal fortitude as fans was put to the test as we approached the BCS National Championship game this week. LSU was the anointed favorite. We’d already lost to them in a heart-breaking game earlier in the season.  Lots and lots of people didn’t even think we belonged in the game in the first place.

The chips, it seemed, were stacked against us.

While we all nursed queasy stomachs, our formidable leader – the often maligned, fiery-tempered Nick Saban – seemed the relish the challenge. And he held us, and his team steady under extraordinary pressure.

Watching the Crimson Tide literally shut down the team everyone proclaimed to be the best in the land was the stuff of legends.  They never lost focus. They never forgot what they were supposed to do. They conducted themselves with an unruffled class from start to finish.

How did they do this under such immense pressure? I think the announcers hit it when they said again and again  “THAT is the sign of a well-coached team.”

So what was the coaching secret Nick Saban shared with his players to produce such an incredible performance?

Here’s what I heard him say (this is a rough paraphrase): 

“I told them to go out there and finish.”

Finish? Really? That’s all they had to do? Finish?

Then I started thinking about what that actually meant. Here’s what I came up with:

1) Finish what you’ve been practicing to do. You don’t need to learn anything new.

2) Finish each and every play. Even when it looks like things aren’t going as planned. Even when you mess up.

3) Finish each quarter. And then start the next one.

4) Finish the game in way that will make you proud – no matter what the score.

5) Finish the season knowing you played your heart out because you love the game.

Finish.

What does “Finish” mean to you?

 

Mapping Out 2012

January 9th, 2012

Surprise!! The beginning of a new year is underway!

Maybe the arrival of 2012 didn’t catch you off guard and maybe you did all your planning and strategizing last October so you started off the year completely composed and focused. If you are one of these people, good for you. We like you. We really do. We just need to catch up with you. 🙂

For the rest of us, I have a process to share so that we can join the ranks of the composed and focused. 🙂

Mapping out 2012

Step 1. Print out a calendar page for each month of 2012. D0n’t think you can do this by looking at one month at a time on Google calendar. You can’t. Print them out. I’ll wait.

Step 2. Lay them out in order on the floor or on a table so that you can see them all at the same time.

Step 3. Mark off the weeks you will take vacation. Yes, this comes first. If you wait until you “have time”, you will never have time. Don’t know what the kid’s fall school break schedule is? No problem. Use this year’s as a guide and adjust it when the new calendar comes out.

Step 4. Mark off the days of each week that you will not work and will focus 100 % of your time and attention to those you love. Yes. This comes second. Don’t give the people you love your leftovers. It works best for everyone involved if these are the same days each week. Spouses, significant others, children and dogs can take just about anything as long as they have predictable time scheduled with you.

Step 5. Mark off the days of each week you will spend doing support work (ie work that has to get done that does not directly generate revenue). Even if you have a support team, you still need to have days when you do your part. Stuff like: paying bills, planning out the next 30, 60, 90 Days, exploring new speaking or writing opportunities, making changes to your blog theme, cleaning off the top of your desk, etc.  Yep, you’ve got to commit at least one day a week to making these tasks your primary focus. It keeps things from catching on fire. You are many things, but a fireman is not one of them.

Step 6. Mark off the days of each week that you will focus solely on the revenue generating activities of your business. That could be speaking, coaching, writing, holding workshops – whatever it is you DO to earn money. Don’t have any revenue generating activities to schedule? Spend these days making sales calls or whatever it is you need to do to get these activities scheduled.

Step 7. Now transfer what you’ve put together onto whatever calendar system you use most regularly.

TA-DA!! You now have a rough map to help guide you through the coming year. Of course it isn’t perfect or foolproof (run from anyone who says they have a foolproof system for mapping out your life. They don’t.) But it does give you something to work with. A net for catching your days so that they don’t get away from you.

When you get lost, or bogged down and can’t seem to find your way, pull out your map. Figure out where you are. Figure out where you want to go. Adjust your compass and head out.

Don’t just read this article and bookmark it for later. Later will never come. And I know this because I’ve waited for it often.

Print this out and commit to doing one step each day so that 2012 will be the year you get it done. 🙂

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Are you doing it? Are you getting stuck? Do you have questions? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

An Interview with Les McKeown on The Synergist

January 3rd, 2012

 

The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable SuccessBig news today for the Escaping Mediocrity Tribe. One of our very favorite people, Les McKeown, is launching his newest book, The Synergist, today. I had the chance to read an early copy and it is a 2012 Must Read for anyone who wants to be a leader who makes an impact.

I also was lucky enough to to catch up with Les to ask him a few of my most pressing  questions about the book and I thought you might enjoy listening in. 🙂

 

************************************************************

As you know the Escaping Mediocrity tribe loves your book,

Predictable Success. Can you tell us how The Synergist

builds on the predictable success model you share in that book?

************************************************************

They’re inextricably combined, and together, they form the whole of the Predictable Success model.

I originally intended to write just one book, but quickly realized it would be too long for most readers. Happily, I was able to split the model fairly clinically into two separate books.

Both books are about the same thing – how groups of two or more people can achieve common goals. ‘Predictable Success’ describes *what* happens to such groups, and ‘The Synergist’ explains *why* it happens.

 

************************************************************

You spend most of your consulting time in corporations. Will

entrepreneurs be able to apply the idea of The Synergist to

their businesses?

************************************************************

Absolutely. As I say, ‘The Synergist’ is about why groups of two or more people can achieve common goals, and I’ve yet to meet a solopreneur who has achieved success without working with others. They do so daily, whether it’s with funders, virtual assistants, someone in their supply chain, or of course, customers.

************************************************************

Why is it important for even solo-preneurs to have the skills

of a Synergist to move their businesses forward?

************************************************************

Over three decades spent launching 40+ businesses of my own and advising hundreds more it became painfully clear to me that it’s impossible to succeed in business (whether you’re a solopreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company) without developing the skills of ‘The Synergist’.

In the book (as in ‘Predictable Success’) I don’t describe anything new, or principles that someone already in business won’t recognize. Every successful solopreneur develops what I call Synergistic skills naturally, over time – they are the omnipresent, eternal success skills which every successful leader learns.

The problem is, acquiring those skills is usually a long, painful and costly process. It can take a solopreneur (or anyone else) many years, many tears, bloody knuckles, skinned knees and broken relationships – maybe even some failed businesses – to acquire those skills.

All I’ve done in the book is put names and structure to what people learn painfully and at some cost every day so that the acquisition of Synergistic skills can be done intentionally, rather than by trial and error. By reading ‘The Synergist’ solopreneurs will be able to accelerate the development of the interpersonal skills needed to develop a successful business – and will be able to acquire them at a much reduced personal cost.

************************************************************

Would you share just one nugget from The Synergist that

readers can apply right now?

************************************************************

Most of us aren’t Synergists to begin with. We all instead have a bias toward one of three ‘natural’ styles – what I call the ‘Visionary’, ‘Operator’ and ‘Processor’ style.

The route to becoming a true Synergist – learning those skills we talked about a moment or so ago – is fundamentally different depending on whether you are a Visionary, Operator or Processor.

So step 1 is go find out which you are. I have a free quiz which will tell you that, here:

http://PredictableSuccess.com/quiz2

 

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What book are you reading now?

************************************************************

I tend to have a few on the go at any one time. Currently:

The Cut – George Pelecanos

Rome – A History – Robert Hughes

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

 

************************************************************

What’s you favorite color?

************************************************************

Black.

************************************************************

If you could eat anything in the whole world, what would it be?

************************************************************

Beans on toast. Or cheddar cheese on toast (not melted).

 

************************************************************

How much do you love the Escaping Mediocrity tribe?

************************************************************

More than any other tribe in the whole wide world.

 

If you want to learn what you must do to go from being an okay entrepreneur to a stellar entrepreneur, I HIGHLY recommend snapping up your own personal copy of The Synergist without delay. You can do that here: http://vsb.li/ozNQwp

Twelve Delicious Days of Christmas

December 5th, 2011

It's December!  Yikes!

I haven’t done this in AGES and for the life of me I can’t remember why I’ve let this tradition slip. So, I’m reviving it. 🙂

Everyday beginning on December 13, I will send out some really awesome thing ( a pdf, a book chapter, an audio) from my own personal files to the Tribe. And lest you think this is just a reprise of my own stuff, it isn’t. All through the year I download things from amazingly smart people who know WAY more than I do. I’ll be choosing some of their stuff to share with you as well.

This is my way of saying thank you to everyone who shows up here. You mean more than you know and I want to share some of the best stuff I’ve found to help you with you Escape Plan.

Now, just one thing I need you to do. Because I really don’t like it when my emails get marked as spam, I would like you to tell me that you want to participate in the 12 Days of Christmas by popping your name and email addy into the boxes below.  I won’t be posting 12 Days links here for public consumption, so if you want to participate, you’ve got to sign up. 

This is going to be really really good stuff, so I do hope you’ll join me. 🙂

Merry Christmas!!

Love,
Sarah

Sign Up Here for 12 Days of Christmas

 






 

What To Do With Criticism

November 30th, 2011

I don’t care what anybody says, criticism sucks. And it especially sucks when you’ve poured your heart and soul into something, pushed it tenderly out into the world and BAM! some mean nasty says something unkind about it. (Unkind meaning anything other than raving praise of course.)

But, unless you want to live safely under a rock, the business of being unmediocre will absolutely include criticism. So the question is what to do with it when it shows up.

I’m not a big fan of the FancyPants Gurus standard, one-size-fits-all response of “People criticize me because they are jealous.” Some people may be jealous and some people may criticize because of it. But to say ALL criticism is driven by jealousy is sophomoric.  It implies that the FancyPants Gurus should never be called into question. Yeah. Not real comfortable with that.

Another option is to take all criticism personally and to the heart. This is another blanket, one-size-fits-all response that assumes all criticism is created equal and that all critics are somehow superior. It implies that EVERYONE who has anything to say about your work is smarter than you are. Responses that include words like ALL and EVERYONE are usually a tad extreme. Not comfortable with that either.

I think one of the reason we opt for these kind of extreme responses is that it’s easier. If either everyone is right or no one is right, then we don’t have to go to the trouble of actually assessing the criticism to see whether it is valid or complete horse shit. That takes work. and discernment. and willingness. And who’s got time for that?

I’ve learned that if I want to get better at what I do, I’ve got to have time for that.

In case it’s helpful, I thought I’d give you a brief outline of how I (mostly) handle criticism when it gets lobbed my way. (Oh – and it does. Recently, someone on a blog said that I have unresolved child/parent issues which drive me to question authority all the time. Good times.)

Sarah’s Highly Mature  Method For Handling Criticism

1. Criticism arrives. Again, remember that my definition of criticism is anything other than effusive praise.

2. I work myself into a perfect storm and will tell anyone who will listen how horrible, terrible and generally unpopular the critic is. Mercifully, this length of this phase has shortened considerably in recent years.

3. I go for a walk. The first half of the walk is a continued rant in my head about the injustice of the criticism and perhaps the tiniest bit of revenge plotting. Somewhere around the halfway point, I weary of this. I know it comes as a shock but I do get tired of listening to myself after a while.

4. The second half of my walk usually involves looking sort of sideways at the criticism. Not full on – can’t handle that – more like looking at it out of the corner of my eye. Hmmm…..

5. Then I, ever so gingerly, consider the source of the criticism. Is this someone who, up until ten minutes ago, I adored, respected or at least holds the respect of people I like? Or is this someone whose opinion never mattered a hill of beans to me up until ten minutes ago? Or is it some unknown person (these are the worst because I give them all kinds of super-powers in my head). The source has a great deal to do with accuracy. Though I’ve learned that the source doesn’t have everything to do with accuracy.

6. As soon as I feel strong enough and way less defensive – sometimes minutes, sometimes weeks – I pull out the criticism. Upon review, I might learn that it isn’t really criticism at all. Just a really helpful suggestion. Or I might find that the criticism is accurate. I did misstep. I did make a mistake. I did do something (gasp) badly. Or I find that the criticism is small and petty. Here’s a secret  I’ve learned though – if my knee jerk reaction is to write it off as small and petty, chances are there’s some truthful gem in there that I’d just as soon not examine. Icky. But true.

7. I smoke the peace pipe with the criticism, in whatever form that might take. I say thank you for the suggestion. I clean up if I made a mess. I feel pity for the small, petty person.

8. I move on.

In case you are wondering, this is not a linear list. I go backwards and forwards through it until I finally arrive at #8. Sometimes this process is done in an hour. Sometimes this process is done in months. I try not to rush it and I try not to dwell on it. Mostly, I try to learn whatever it is this pighead is supposed to learn to make what I do better.

So there you go. That’s how I deal with criticism. Would love to hear what you do with it. 🙂

The Treasure Hidden Inside the Treasure

November 28th, 2011

I’ve just returned from one of the most perfect weeks of my adult life.

My family and I spend Thanksgiving week every year on Cumberland Island, Georgia. It’s a remote barrier island with no stores – at all – and one dirt road that runs the length of the island. The only way to get there is by boat and you have to bring everything you could possibly need with you because there’s no store to run to if you forget.

Cell phone service is limited because the tree canopy is so thick you can’t get a signal and internet service is sporadic and dial-up slow at best. At worst, it is non-existent.

We spent our days on the beach at low tide where the boys swam almost every day. We had cookouts in the dunes, played wildlife bingo, hunted sharks’ teeth, held a dune diving contest, went on sunset safari’s and crammed as much fun into every waking moment that we possibly could.

The weather was a wonderful co-conspirator, delivering warm sunny days and cool evenings, perfect for being outdoors until children collapsed in exhaustion.

We were surrounded by friends we see each year on the island and our gaggle of children greeted each day as an opportunity to create adventure. I’ve never heard such laughing and shrieking in all my life.

In short, it was perfection.

Well of course it was, you may be thinking.

But see, I went into this vacation about as stressed out as I’ve ever been. so much on my mind, so much to figure out and sort through and plot. I planned on doing a lot of figuring and sorting and plotting while I was on island. I’m a multi-tasker, right? I can enjoy my days and still have my brain in full gear, right?

Apparently wrong. As each magical day trumped itself again and again, my mind was fully immersed and occupied in the joy of the moment. Flying kites, building sand castles, naming the birds in the sky were the only things my brain was willing to entertain.

And believe me, I tried to gently guide it other things. I even got out my legal pad and tried to “just jot a few notes”. No dice. The minute I tried, some delicious new distraction would present itself and I was off.

After a few days, I just quite pretending I was going to get any work done or even thought about. There were far more enticing people, places and things around me and that’s just the way it was.

And, I have to say that after a week of no work at all of any kind – not even business thoughts – my brain and spirit are filled up, ready to bring it, ready to think and solve and plot.

And the best part is, I think that whatever I come up with now is going to head and shoulders above anything I could have come up with before.

I know I often say “Eye on the prize.” But sometimes I think we need to take our eyes off the prize and just breathe and be. That is the unexpected hidden treasure I discovered amongst my treasured days last week.

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A Thanksgiving Gift For You

November 24th, 2011

I just finished reading Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy by Isadore Sharp, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. It impacted me far more than I expected.

As a Thanksgiving gift to you – you have know idea how incredibly grateful I am for you, your energy, your enthusiasm and your friendship – I’m sharing the simple document that guides this incredible company. I hope it inspires you and the way you do business as much as it inspires me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,

Sarah

FOUR SEASONS: OUR GOALS, OUR BELIEFS, OUR PRINCIPLES


Who We Are

We have chosen to specialise within the hospitality industry, by offering only experiences of exceptional quality. Our objective is to be recognised as the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts and residence clubs wherever we locate.

We create properties of enduring value using superior design and finishes, and support them with a deeply instilled ethic of personal service. Doing so allows Four Seasons to satisfy the needs and tastes of our discriminating customers, and to maintain our position as the world’s premier luxury hospitality company.

What We Believe

Our greatest asset, and the key to our success, is our people.

We believe that each of us needs a sense of dignity, pride and satisfaction in what we do. Because satisfying our guests depends on the united efforts of many, we are most effective when we work together cooperatively, respecting each other’s contribution and importance.

How We Behave

We demonstrate our beliefs most meaningfully in the way we treat each other and by the example we set for one another. In all our interactions with our guests, customers, business associates and colleagues, we seek to deal with others as we would have them deal with us.

How We Succeed

We succeed when every decision is based on a clear understanding of and belief in what we do and when we couple this conviction with sound financial planning. We expect to achieve a fair and reasonable profit to ensure the prosperity of the company, and to offer long-term benefits to our hotel owners, our shareholders, our customers and our employees.