How To Ensure Your Greatest Fears Come True

After a hectic but fun Saturday morning of speaking on a Lead Change panel and schlepping my son to baseball practice and art lessons, Sebastian and I decided to try out the newish Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.

“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspiration a dozen times a day.”
~ Brendan Francis

The place wasn’t crowded and the engaging owner did the cooking, waiting, and busing himself. The food was amazing. I asked how long he had been in business (a year), and admitted that I had never realized the place was there. We were politely interrupted by a woman asking to see the dessert menu.

“Oh no, we don’t carry desserts. I fear not enough people will want them. Once we really get things going, I’ll feel confident to expand the menu.”

As he came back to our table,Sebastian 8-years old, apparently now my Chief Marketing Officer, offered:

“You know, I think my mommy might really be able to help you with your business (I’m now searching for a menu to duck behind). She knows a lot about leadership and making money. You see she…”

The fantastic chef shared his story: “I’m a really good cook. My friends all told me I should open a restaurant. I’m taking a cautious approach. I know this location is not ideal (it’s really tucked away), but I didn’t want to invest much in location, until I knew for sure it would be a success. I want to attract a crowd, but it’s hard.”

He must have seen me glance around (I’ve never been accused of having a poker face).

“Yeah, I didn’t want to invest too much in decor to start either. Same philosophy. Better to play it safe, it might not work out. Once I have more customers, I’ll make the place more attractive. I have a vision.”

I had already picked up a take-out menu, because I couldn’t imagine convincing my husband this was a great place for romantic dining so I asked, “have you ever considered letting your customers bring their own wine at dinner?” (several really successful BYOBs are within a 5 mile radius) in similar rustic locations.

“Oh no. The insurance would be too much, you know and there’s the fear that a fight could break out.”

Okay, I don’t know about you, but the last fear on my mind when I plan for an evening of romantic ethnic dining (in a Suburban area) is a brawl. His fears were driving his business plan. A coat of paint, some sorbet in the freezer it wouldn’t take much. What was he really afraid of?

When Fear Takes Control

Fear based thinking happens in big business too:

  • “Let’s be like Zappos and truly empower our customer service reps to do what’s right for the customer. BUT if they need to give a credit over ten bucks they need to bring in a supervisor.”
  • “Forbes and Fast Company have great ideas about leadership. Joe has fantastic business results, and everyone wants to work for him, but, his approach is still unconventional for our culture. Not sure he’ll play that well in the board room, better promote the guy that leads like us.”
  • “Sure access to social media at work would help our employees promote our company, BUT what if they say something stupid?”
  • “I have a great idea, but what if my boss hates it? Better to lay low and do what she thinks is best.”

Don’t let fear stop your greatness. We need your creative cooking in our neck of the woods.

Transitions: My First Week As An Entrepreneur

As my regulars know, I’ve recently left my job as a Verizon Wireless executive to pursue my entrepreneurial dream. I promise that my blog will continue to be about ways to support you.

With that said, I’ve received so many wonderful notes and lots of questions about what’s next as an entrepreneur, that I figured there were others who were curious, but not asking. I imagine my own angst can be helpful to others in the midst of such transitions. I would love to hear your stories.

Q&A On Early Transitions

Question: What’s your biggest surprise one week in?
Answer: My new boss is a handful.

Her heart’s in the right place, but she’s hard to keep up with. Her passion is contagious, but sometimes it just wears me out. I think sometimes she forgets we’re just a small team. I’ve tried to explain, but she’s got this new entrepreneurial spirit thing going. Not sure she’s listening. You see, the tricky part is, my new boss is me. I’ve become the boss I wish I had, and I’m swimming in imperfection.

I suddenly have a new realization of what it must have been like to work on my teams all these years. I’m having flashbacks to what one of my leaders said after working with me in a new gig for a few weeks. Yikes, we’ve been running so hard, my watch is spinning around on my wrist from all the weight I’ve lost.

Back then, I took it as a joke and a compliment. We were having fun and had great momentum. But maybe, this sweet Southern gentleman was also kindly trying to tell me to slow down, that I was creating a cloud dust of deliverables that were hard to keep up with.

A week in to being my own boss, I’m experiencing what my own teams have felt from me passion, impatience, extreme focus on results, and lots of work.

It’s a humbling exercise to be the visionary and the one who must execute. I’ve got more to-dos than I can possibly do.

Question: Did you leave Verizon because you hit a glass ceiling?
Answer: No.

Verizon leadership goes out of their way to develop and promote women. I have been surrounded by amazing women and men mentors and examples over the years, and continue to have these supportive people in my life. I left from the right box on the grid.

If I hit a ceiling, it can better be described as an authenticity ceiling of my own making. I have very strong leadership values which I stick to. It became more important for me to lead in the way that I felt most compelled to lead than to organize my leadership around what would best position me for the next level.

Question: Aren’t you scared?
Answer: Of course.

Entrepreneurship is highly personal. There’s no one to blame but me. Every swing and a miss, makes me sad. But the base hits are worth it. But besides all that, it came to a point that I was more frightened of the consequences of not doing what I felt most called to do.

I don’t want to leave this world contributing less than I should. I resonate with Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on innovation. It’s starting to feel that I’m supposed to be responding to things happening through me. That’s hard to ignore.

Question: What are your first steps?
Answer: Head clearing, strategic planning, website/video development, building on partnerships, and book launching.

Honestly, I need some unwinding. I’m mixing in some yoga and kickboxing with the strategic planning and other work. I am resisting the urge to do too much doing until my priorities and strategy are solid. With that said, I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the leadership media crowd in support of my book launch.

I’m spending a lot of time in interviews, podcasts, and other media responses. That’s been a BLAST. P.S. If you’ve enjoyed the book, I would love to have you write a short review on Amazon with all the media commotion, we could use some help in the basics.

I’m also delighted to be collaborating with a highly talented group of management consultants in a group called Agamie, each of us bringing different areas of expertise. We have some exciting possibilities brewing.

Question: What’s the focus of your new company?
Answer: Helping companies achieve transformational results by building rock-solid front-line leadership teams.

The new website coming in early May will share the whole story stay tuned.

Question: Do you have other books in the works?
Answer: Yes.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss is tapas. It will be an exciting 2 years.

Question: Will Let’s Grow Leaders stay the same interactive community?
Answer: You bet!

Only stronger. We have many new subscribers, and more people joining the conversation. Amen. If you’ve never shared a comment, join the fun. It’s much more exciting to be involved.

Shortcuts on the Long Road to Success

Are there really “shortcuts” to success?

That’s what I asked Mark Hopkins, author of Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepeneruial Habits and a Roadmap for an Exceptional Career.
His “shortcuts” seemed to me more like habits… that require a lot of work– worthwhile work. He shared,

“You’re right, figuring out what prosperity means to you and achieving it IS a lot of work. The shortcut is in understanding the common set of behaviors that prosperous people have figured out are critical to success. Every one of the people whose stories I write about feels lucky to have discovered (mostly through trial and error) what worked and they are all eager to illuminate the path for others. They know it’s not a zero sum game.”

The Prosperity Cycle

My favorite part of his book was his concept of the “prosperity cycle.” The cycle begins with either a “compelling personal hardship” or a “compelling personal vision” that motivates a decision to “do something.” From there the habits kick in, the winning begins, and confidence improves… which leads to more vision…
I asked him to elaborate. “You see two main starting points of the prosperity cycle, personal hardship and creating a compelling personal vision. Are both equally powerful triggers to “do something?”

The short answer is ‘yes’, hardship and a compelling personal vision can be equally powerful motivators. The longer answer is that, unfortunately, hardship is the more common motivator. Some of us have experienced more graphic hardship than others, but every one of us has had some very unfair life experiences. The only question we have to answer is “How am I going to respond to it?”. You can try to bury the memory of hardship or you can get mad as heck and decide to use it to fuel a change. In the book I share some stories of amazing achievement that was motivated by hardship.
The more infrequent, but in my opinion, more interesting motivator of change is when someone takes the time to think deeply about what they really want—what prosperity means to them—and paints a vivid picture of what that looks like. It’s hard to give up on something that you have taken the time to imagine achieving and that you really, really want. The magic of the prosperity cycle is that it usually starts small with a relatively simple change like doing what it takes to lose the ten pounds that you want to lose. But through successive cycles (wins) it can grow to encompass something much larger—like gaining the confidence to do what it takes to go in a new career direction or even to start your own company.

Mark’s Favorite

Mark shares, 10 “shortcuts,” so, looking for more shortcuts, I asked him which was “most vital and why?”

If someone said that they only had time to investigate one of the shortcuts, I would suggest they learn about Creative Tension (Shortcut 4). It is a powerful force first described by an MIT professor named Peter Senge. In short, it is the transformational power that you can tap into when you take the time to do an honest assessment of your Current Reality (your current life examined in its multiple dimensions) and compare it to the life of your dreams (your life as it would like it to be in everything from relationships to community to what you do for a living)

Tips for the Let’s Grow Leaders Community

I asked him for some final tips for the Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

The world of work is changing so fast. What does it take to be a “hot commodity” in today’s world? 

That’s easy—deep insight and knowledge. The pace of change in the world has only reinforced something that has always been true, that leaders, managers, and most importantly, consumers are drawn to the person who has the ability to produce a better solution to their problem. And the best solutions come from those with the deepest knowledge and insight. The way to become a hot commodity is to leverage your natural curiosity to effortlessly invest the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says (and I heartily agree) it takes to get to the point that you have a differentiating level of knowledge. After that, it’s just a matter of finding the right place to do what you love.

I resonate with Mark and his perspective. He “skips to work” and teaches others to do so. As you know, I’m not selling this book… just sharing insights. In fact you can check it out on your own and download the first chapter of Shortcut to Prosperity here for free.

About Mark Hopkins

Mark Hopkins earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy. After building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and micro-lending in the developing world. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, a partner in Social Venture Partners’ Boulder-chapter, and is on the board of governors for Opportunity International. He has led YPO Global Leadership Workshops around the world.