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10 Things to Remember When Fear Strikes

This morning I woke up anxious. I don’t know why. I just had that unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was wrong. Not knowing what only made it worse. Instead of avoiding it I call it what it is… irrational fear.

Carnival of SoulsNow you may, or may not, have this same experience regularly or every now and then. The truth is that we all get afraid at some point. My little bout with feeling afraid could have been a reaction to launching a new program in my business. It could have been a reaction to a memory or a particularly emotional conversation. It might have just been caused by the absence of an ’emergency’ to deal with. As business people we can easily get conditioned to thinking that progress is really running around putting out fires (which I often call managing by fire hose), and when there are no fires we get uncomfortable.

Regardless of what caused it I felt it. I’ve learned over the years there’s no unfeeling it once it is there. So, I just let it be. I took a few extra deep breaths, I slowed down a little bit and acknowledged that something was wrong. I gave myself permission to feel scared for a few minutes. Then it drained away and I was able to move on with my day. Fear happens… I’ve learned to deal with it pretty effectively when it does… and it can happen a lot as an entrepreneur.

When I sat down at my desk I decided to do a quick search on what other people say about fear and overcoming it. So here is a short list of my 10 favorite quotes about fear. Hopefully they will help you when that sinking feeling starts to rise in your belly, or when your pulse starts to quicken.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“When you do what you fear most, then you can do anything.” – Stephen Richards

“I have accepted fear as a part of life- specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back…” – Erica Jong

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” – Mark Twain

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert in “Dune”

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” -Henry Ford

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay…. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda in “Star Wars”

Leave a comment and share your own experience of dealing with fear. I’d love to hear about it.

Feel free to connect with me directly at www.linkedin.com/in/ericbyrd.

The Power of Your Authentic Business Story

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact it’s the other way around …” Terry Pratchett, novelist

Rowing Team
Photo by Joel Rogers

Human beings are story telling creatures. That’s how we communicate… through stories. This has been true throughout our long history and it is true today. What many people don’t realize is that our businesses have stories too.

In business there are many ways we communicate… both outside and inside our company. Outside it’s critical that potential and existing customers understand who we are, what we do, how we do it and why we do it that way. They are always evaluating options and comparing you to other service providers to see if you’re the best fit for them. It’s not just about price… customers today are savvy, they are looking for more than just cost, it’s about value.

The main thing that drives that is how your employees interact with customers and potential clients. How they tell your story can make or break a customer’s experience working with you… and that can determine whether they come back again or not. It also drives how they will share their experience of your company. The 21st century reality is they WILL share their experience. People text to family and friends, share their feelings at online review sites and post their experience on multiple social media sites. If your staff understands your business story they are much more likely to act in concert with it… and understand how they fit into the plan in an meaningful way.

That also helps boost morale and provides a solid foundation for communication within the company. If everyone is working from the same blueprint, then everyone can make the thousand little decisions they make everyday fit into the whole. It’s like everyone in your company rowing together towards a goal… instead of everyone trying to go their own way at their own pace, causing your business to circle uselessly in the water going nowhere.

Here are 3 important factors in telling your unique story to the world about your business… both inside and outside your company:

1. Why do you do what you do?

One of the biggest factors in succeeding in business today is creating meaning for your customers. We are all looking more keenly at the intangible benefits of working with one company versus another. The best way to create meaning for your customers is to be clear why you do what you do. That way they know what to expect from you, and they can determine if their interests are aligned with yours. Are you the no-frills airline focused on low costs? Then people who don’t mind only eating peanuts will fly with you… as long as peanuts is all they have to pay. Are you the premium service in your industry? Then you’re going to make perfect sense to the discriminating customer with some extra money and a desire to be pampered. Your why guides them to you. Your business story needs to describe that experience so people know exactly what to expect from working with you.

2. What are you really doing, not what do you wish you were doing?

Many companies are not sure what business they are really in. What I mean is that you may have made changes in your company since you started. The company you started out with is probably not the one you’re running now. You introduce new products and services. You change your service offerings to match customer needs and the market conditions in general. In all that shifting it’s easy to lose sight of what your company is right now… what I call your “Authentic Identity”. As opposed to the concept you had originally, your “Nostalgic Identity” or the company you wish you had, “Your Aspirational Identity”. Being grounded in reality gives you strong footing… and it also needs to be the basis of your business story too.

3. Who is the hero in your story?

King Arthur finding the Holy Grail, Harry Potter defeating Voldemort, Nelson Mandella persevering and becoming President of South Africa after 40 years in jail. Heroes are what make stories exciting and engaging. Knowing the characters, and specifically the hero of your business story is critical to making it resonate with your audience… inside and outside your company. Defining your hero isn’t as simple as it sounds sometimes. The general rule of thumb is that it’s the person who’s listening. So that might be your customer… or it might be your employee. It depends on who you’re trying to inspire and motivate. Being clear who the real hero in your story is will help you make sure that it connects, and that the message you’re delivering is actually internalized. That means you will need more than one way to tell your story… depending on who you’re telling it to at any given time. Being clear who the hero needs to be will help you focus the story for high impact.

Learning to tell your authentic business story is just about the most important thing you can do for you and your staff. So you’re all rowing together towards the finish line… and your customers will be cheering you along the entire way because they get it too. Everyone wins when your story clicks and draws in the right people to work with you.

If you want more information on telling your business story feel free to email me using the “Ask a Question” button below, or connect with me directly at www.linkedin.com/in/ericbyrd.

When Networking Isn’t Really Networking

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If you’re easily offended you may want to skip this post. I’m going to poke a finger at some of you and you might get mad.

But I swear I’m doing it out of love… truly.

I see a lot of people at meetings, events and conferences who are satisfied because they are “networking”. While they may, indeed, be checking the “showed up at an event and said hello to people I already know” off their list, they aren’t helping their business much at all.

You see, “networking” doesn’t help you much if you only talk to the same people over and over again. Now it’s true that I preach from the hilltops about networking being a multi-faceted activity… and that we all do it all the time. However, if you are going to an event with the purpose of networking and you are not talking to people you don’t know… or you are only chatting with the person you came with… you are not making much of the opportunity.

I’ve been doing some studying about networks (not the computer kind… that was my former life). And it turns out that there are two types of networks, open networks and closed networks.

Closed networks are self-contained. Everyone knows everyone else. The communication flows through the network pretty efficiently because of this but there is very little new input… that’s why it’s called a “closed” network. The down side to this is that it tends to stagnate. It is very comfortable, but there is a danger in that comfort.

An open network, on the other hand, is one where many of the people in it don’t actually know each other directly. That makes you sort of the “hub” of the network. You can funnel information from one group to another. And yes, that’s a harder network to manage since those people might not naturally show up at the same place together. But there are distinct advantages to building an open network. Actually, the most successful entrepreneurs tend to have open networks, such as Steve Jobs.

Jobs became a bridge between several groups of people in different areas of knowledge. It was natural for him since he had varied interests. Ultimately that helped him to incorporate that disparate knowledge into Apple’s products. It’s why the original Macintosh computer had different type faces. Jobs brought that in from his “artsy” network contacts where he learned about calligraphy. He introduced this info to his “engineer” network contacts who knew how to get the cool type faces into a computer.

While we may not all be Steve Jobs, or have his knack for connecting different technologies together, we can all intentionally build an open network. Having an open network keeps you more relevant to all your connections. If people you know are learning new things from you, and you always have something interesting to share from your other contacts, then people will want to interact with you. That’s half the battle in networking, having something to talk about. By opening up your network you’ll gather more info, make better conversation and be more valuable to everyone you come into contact with.

This is why you need to be talking to people you don’t know when you’re out networking, regardless of where you happen to be. Because you have to meet new people regularly, and engage with them, in order to build that open network. It’s what will keep your network growing and help you do more than just check “networking” off off your weekly to do list.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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