Extraordinary People

 

 

Richard “Dick” Proenneke

We live in the age of technological ease. We can create a baked potato in the microwave in about 7 minutes. We can end any argument with the use of our two thumbs in seconds. We can create photos and movies that rival thousand dollar cameras with our phones. We can turn off the lights in our California home by accessing an app on our phone while sipping a cappuccino in an Italian café. We have no idea how to fix things. We throw away damaged things and simply replace them. Most of us don’t really know how to make something besides a cup of coffee. Basic tools are a mystery. We are in our cars, our office and our home, removed from the natural world.   I’m not being facetious, I’m talking about ME.

But some people look for the challenge that a direct connection between their skills and the desired outcome brings. Enter, Richard “Dick” Proenneke, one of the profiled people from our program:

In the late 1960’s Dick Proenneke decided to challenge himself with a very unusual idea; could he create a life in an isolated Alaskan valley and survive one of the most brutal environments on the planet, by himself. Could he live a life so connected to nature that the land could give him what he needed to survive? Could he endure winter temperatures of -45 degrees that froze his water supply? So began a journey into an idea that would test every skill he possessed.

Using a very simple set of tools; axes, saws, hammers, files, and chisels he cleared a piece of land, fell the trees, and notched each log to form his cabin. He planted his own vegetables, fished and hunted for his meat. He built snow shoes, sleds, bowls, and spoons. He redefined self-reliance. He kept a daily journal and shot miles of film with his little 8 MM camera. For almost 35 years he lived this life by himself.

His story is told in the book and documentary – Alone In The Wilderness.

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For years I have been fascinated by Dick Proenneke’s journey and have read his book and watched his film over and over again. An idea is not just about a product or a service. It’s not only about an invention or the latest app. Instead, an idea can challenge us. It can push us far beyond what we thought possible. It can enrich our lives and teach us, that at our very core, there is very little really beyond our reach.

 

Become a Master of Your Day

Most people begin their day without so much as a simple plan.  They end their days without an afterthought to what happened or a thought as to what to do the next day.  Days begin and days end.  They are victims of their day.  Master sales professionals are anything but victims.  They instead plan, execute, review and think about how they spend their time.  It’s a critical measure of their success.  Without a plan, there is the potential of wasted time and wasted time is the enemy of a sales superstar.  Great sales people are MASTERS of their day.

 

Trudy and Percy are what I call, Sprint Workers and highly successful real estate professionals that share a small but thriving practice in Northern California.  They work in hard 90-minute time blocks which form their “Ultradian Rhythms”, their particular type of energy pattern.  Ultradian Rhythms are activity – rest cycles favored by the brain to generate high levels of productivity.  Early in their careers, they both began to understand their particular patterns of productivity and soon learned they had a lot of what they called “nothing time”, basically just sitting around or doing “nothing stuff”.  It might look like they were being productive, but they sure weren’t generating sales!

It took a little experimentation, but after a while, they learned to “hit it hard and then take a break.”  This became their 90-minute patterns.  Go hard for 90 minutes and then take 10 to 20 minutes off.  They leveraged their biological pattern and matched it to high levels of productivity.  In the world of high-end real estate sales no one cares about your time in the office, all they care about is how many homes did you close.

In an average sales day, Trudy will have 4 to 5 high output periods and an equal number of down time segments.  During the down time, she might take a short walk or enjoy a snack.  Percy has a guitar in his office and will practice and play during some of his down cycles.  Percy tells me the key is to NEVER miss a down cycle.

Superstar sales people get the most out of their days.  They have a laser like focus on productivity and with intent, design their days around their energy.

For more examples of how the big time sales professionals are masters of their days, check out SECRET # 16 in our new book.

 

The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Problem with “How”!

 

I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to discover what patterns were followed by great sales professionals.  I had an inkling they were doing a lot of the same things no matter what they were selling.  But, I struggled with the how, how would my curiosity lead me to results?

There have been countless surveys and models based on sales.  In fact, I had been part of many teams for many companies looking at their sales processes with the goal of making them better.  I had seen numeric surveys galore that simply took the scales of 1-10, accumulated the answers, divided by the participants to tell you some number is significant because it appeared in the data.  I was not interested in that.

I wanted to talk to successful sales people.  I wanted them to tell me what is important and I wanted them to use a 40,000-year-old tool, the story.  I wanted their stories.  I wanted their emotional context.  I believed that in the tales they would tell, there would be truly significant patterns of behavior.

As a scientist by education, I always fall back to a simple problem-solving tool, the scientific method (with a few Creative Ventures adjustments).

  • Observe: I had worked on sales projects for Fortune 500 companies for 30 years.  I had a boat load of observing under my belt.
  • Question: I wanted their stories, but I needed a framework for their narratives to follow or you would get an endless rambling of stuff.  Sales people love to talk.
  • Hypothesis: I believed that all successful sales people did many of the same things.  I believed that their successful behaviors crossed products, markets, and businesses.
  • Gather Data: I was willing to take a long time to find the information and a long time it would be.
  • Test: I had the opportunity to see it in action.

So armed with that, I created my HOW framework.

Normally this process comes up with a very OBJECTIVE methodology.  I was not interested in that.  I came up with an insanely subjective approach; ask them questions and let them tell me stories about that subject.  In these stories would be the real ways they FEEL, they THINK and they BEHAVE.  I don’t believe you can find that in any scaled answer.  Not very scientific.

I spent a long time storyboarding the questions that would serve as the foundation for the project (all of which are in the book).  I used my knowledge of story as a strategy to create a framework.

  • Each question would create a sort of subplot to the overall information I was looking for.
  • Each question would create independent stories.
  • In their response would be everything I need to find a pattern.

This brings me to the key to this type of creative procedure:  CONTROLLED STORYTELLING.  This simple sketch below, which drew hundreds of times for the sales people I interviewed, showed the idea.  You can tell me as many stories as you want.  You can pontificate and explore within your response, you simply CAN NOT GO OUTSIDE THE PARAMETERS OF THE QUESTION.  This is controlled storytelling and we became experts at it.

 

 

We used this same systemic approach to the application of story patterns for all of our clients that want an internal version of The 21 Secrets.

I agree, not the most scientific approach.  In fact, I recognize that the results and the interpretation of such a bulk of personal data filled with idiosyncrasies and probably biased stories might not fit with any statistician’s view of “real “results.  But, it yielded me and my Creative Ventures team the most significant strategy in the 31 years of our practice.

My HOW has become a foundational aspect of our consulting services.

Funny how curiosity and discovery can yield something of such great significance!

 

For more about our methods and results, check out our book.

The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Power of You

 

Sales is a really unique profession.  It follows a delicate dance between seller and buyer.  It is often a solitary pursuit, where the sales person is building a strategy to gain a relationship, which hopefully turns into a sale.

It’s a simple fact that most sale approaches end in failure, in fact, failure might be the most common result of a sales process.  That being said, sales people need to have tough skin and an even tougher attitude.  They need to have a very powerful level of confidence and resilience that allows them to see what failure really is, just a part of the process.  Each failure is filled with lessons.  All of the million dollar producers in the study had an attitude of success and a firm belief in themselves, their processes and their skills.

In the early 1900’s the Texas Rangers were riding a legendary reputation for being the toughest lawman of the West.  Captain WJ McDonald was a legend among the legends.

He was known for his rugged individualism, leadership skills (he was made a Ranger Captain in 1891) courage and honesty.  He faced bank robbers, cattle thieves, long standing feuds and all out gun fights.  It was said that he would “charge into hell with a bucket of water”.  Despite all of that, he was famous for one incident in the early 1900’s.

There was an illegal prizefight scheduled in frontier Dallas, TX.  The fight had drawn an unruly crowd just ready to turn the entire scene into a bloody riot.  The mayor contacted the Texas Rangers for help and hurried down to the train station to meet the Rangers he was hoping would quell the unrest.  At the train station, Captain McDonald got off and looked around.  The mayor hurried to him and asked; “where are the rest of the Rangers?”  McDonald uttered; “Hell aint I enough?  There’s only one riot isn’t there?  One riot, one ranger.”

Captain McDonald stared down the crowd and stopped the riot.

CONFIDENCE.

In the 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers, you will find the steps used to build this attitude, to discover confidence in the face of failure and to develop a personal plan to join the ranks of the elite salespeople featured in the book!

 

The Series: 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Power of Intuitive Thinking

The ability to think differently is a trademark of most success stories.  Sales, science, leadership are all impacted by the ability of people to push their thinking in slightly different directions.

In 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis was a doctor who specialized in delivering babies in Austria.  The mortality level was staggeringly high and his simple thought that if you wash your hands before treating or examining an expectant mother the chance of a good delivery and the survival of both mom and baby jumped astronomically.  He wasn’t sure why (it wasn’t until 1860 that Louis Pasteur made the connection between germs and illness), but he saw the impact.  Despite his record keeping, the majority of the medical community thought he was crazy.  Who has time to wash your hands?

In 1997 Steve Jobs made it back to Apple.  In one of his internal meetings, he told everyone that they needed to get back to basics. That Apple had drifted away from doing their core business well and they were doing way too many things, making way too many things, thus making too many mistakes.  His thinking reduced the Apple product line by 70%!  What, be more successful not by growing but by shrinking?

Wait a minute, wash your hands and expected mothers and their babies don’t die.  Get small to be successful.  These two ideas share a counterintuitive way of thinking, a way of thinking that permeates successful sales professionals.

During World War II, two very secret operations were set up and driven by a type of counterintuitive thinking; one everyone should be familiar with, The Manhattan Project, where the best physicists, chemists, and engineers were working feverously on creating the atomic bomb. The combined effort of thousands of people had to learn to think about the bonds of energy differently.   The other is less known and it was called, The Applied Math Panel with a very unusual division; The Statistical Research Group and it was here that Abraham Wald practiced his craft.

Wald was an Austrian-born statistician who had barely escaped the rush of Nazi Germany.

Wald was tasked with helping figure out how to protect our military aircraft from being blown to bits in the skies over Europe.  The challenge was intense as he viewed photos of planes that had barely made it back to their air bases.  He looked at patterns of impact and came up with a very different solution to the problem than the military had already started on.  His counterintuitive way of thinking is credited with saving thousands of airmen’s lives.  His story is told in Chapter 4 of our book.

In fact, counterintuitive thinking is a pervasive skill set in sales.  Great sales performers have to think differently about relationships, failure and time.

Six chapters of the book deal with how thinking, not outside the legendary box but instead DIFFERENT thinking, right within your sales model, can make a massive difference in the success of your sales strategy.

A New Blog Series from Creative Ventures

 

Creative Ventures will be refocusing our strategy as it applies to our blog. We want to give our readers more of what they want. We want to share more of our ideas and what inspires us to do what we do. To that end, we are focusing on creating content in three core areas.

First, to supplement the content from our upcoming book and share the results of our research, we are creating content to help move your sales model forward. The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers Series will focus on the key behaviors of top salespeople, what they mean, and how you can implement each one to make you a better salesperson.

Extraordinary People will be filled with profiles, stories, and actionable items from the many people that inspire us and are often found in our strategic platforms. Everyone profiled has done amazing things. Whether it’s business, science, tech, or history these people all have something to teach us. We find inspiration in the often little-known people who have had a dramatic impact in their field and we hope you do too.

The Power of Things is focused on how we communicate big ideas. We often use unusual things in our stage presentations. There is power in the use of things and that power drives our understanding of their impact. From tulips to telescopes, from Big Mac’s to the Big Bang we will profile how ideas became the things that drive progress.

Keep an eye out for our new content and, as always, drop us line to let us know what you think.

 

On Simplicity and the Mystery of Throw Pillows

We’re having family drop in for a visit to enjoy the beautiful pollen-filled spring time in the Southwest.  This, of course, requires a special level of house cleaning.  Both guest rooms will be occupied and since these rooms don’t receive a lot of use during our regular life routines, they need some sprucing up for the level of hospitality you want your guests to experience.

One of the guest rooms, the “Green Room” (you guessed it), yep, its color theme (did I just write “color theme”?) is green, is my sports room and music room.  All my tennis, golf, and training stuff is stored here and all of my guitars and assorted music stuff is there too.  The Green Room gets a little more attention than the “Black Room”.  This is Laura’s domain and is where all her gift wrapping stuff is.  When Laura wraps ANY gift is it a museum-worthy piece of art.  I kid you not.  Whereas, after 40 years of wrapping various treasures mine resemble the result of an exercise for any creature without opposable thumbs.

Laura came back from our marathon road trip really sick, so I wanted to jump in and get these rooms in GOOD TO GO condition.  Simple stuff, like new linens on the beds, dusting, vacuum, and the general once over.  It was during these housekeeping exercises that I once again stumbled upon one of the great mysteries of the human condition –  the abundance of pillows.

There are pillows of all sizes and shapes.  There are pillows of all colors and textures.  There are sleeping pillows, decorative pillows, and pillows that escape a description of function.  There are pillows EVERYWHERE!

They seem to multiply in some bizarre genetic methodology that would stump even Francis Crick and James Watson (go ahead, Google them, I’ll wait…………).

I am befuddled by these pillows.  I thought I understood the function of a pillow.  I use two to sleep on and take three off our bed every night and then proceed to put them back on every morning.  That’s just MY side of our bed.  Now I’m good with the idea of design and the roll a pillow would play in bedroom creative decorum, but COME ON.  What’s the appropriate number?  I’m pretty sure that a combined 21 is a little high, like 106 degrees is a little high for the Jacuzzi.   Is there some theorem that could be applied like the Pythagorean Theory or the Mean Value Theory?

I have made a living helping organizations understand and apply the principles of simplification and yet our pillows seem to expand like the Universe.  Forget about comparing the grains of sand on our planet to the number of stars in the sky, I’m switching to a throw pillow scale.

I know this is a losing battle and in reality outside of driving me nuts, has little impact on the spinning of our globe, but come on . . . . .

The Competitive Advantage 

This is the eve before I head out on one of the most challenging road trips in recent memory.  Composed of eight cities in about four weeks with only a few hours in Austin to repack, it is a testament to the value of our ideas.

Four of the projects are training sessions where we get to teach specific strategies and forge a link to the success found in their direct application.  Companies that invest in their people, that look to take advantage of learning new ideas, give themselves a tremendous market advantage.  I know that training budgets are the first thing that gets slashed when companies start to pull in their heads, turtle style, when the business climate toughens.  It’s the exact wrong thing to do.  When times get tough, that’s when training becomes critical.  It is an ancient strategy.

In the early days of the Roman Empire they really didn’t have an army.  They would conscript farmers and call them into service.  Not exactly a martial strategy.  In 90 BC the Gaul’s came a callin’ and gave the Romans a good thumping.  They pillaged Rome and its surrounding villages for over six months.  In fact, the Romans dug deep into their coffers and paid the Gaul’s to leave.  It was a good lesson.  Training was about to become the Roman advantage.

For the next century Rome became the Mecca of military training.  They began a process of perfecting their Legions.  No more farmers, Rome began training a professional army.  They built a military machine.

They trained in the use of all kinds of weapons.  They worked hard on stamina with long marches and runs.  They created strategies and taught them to every single soldier.  They had fierce discipline creating a sense of accountability so that every soldier was accountable to the soldiers on their right or left.

Rome went from the plaything of the Gaul’s to the Roman Empire.

It’s a great example of the value of training:

  • They trained every soldier. Every single one.
  • They knew what the basics were weapons, stamina, and strategy. They built their curriculum around three key pieces.
  • They had their generals partake in the training to create a sense of connection.
  • They held everyone accountable for the application of what they learned.

Training often seems like a luxury and in almost any form, it ain’t cheap, but when it becomes a cultural pillar, a strategy as necessary as accounting, you get The Ritz-Carlton , Apple, British Airways and GE.

Knowledge and skills are expanding qualities and it’s incumbent on companies to be the creator of the opportunities that will make their people the most valuable asset in the company

http://www.creativeventures.com/2017/04/25/2718/

Your Sacred Time

Lately, we have been doing a lot of time or project management workshops for our clients. It seems that the constant demand for more has people scurrying to figure out how to stretch the unforgiving minute into more productivity. That’s not what this posting is about. Instead, I want to introduce the idea of sacred time.In the constant demand for pieces of you, for their need of a pound of time, you need some sacred moments, moments that are yours and yours alone.

I learned this years ago and created my sacred time, time that I revere, time that is critical to my success. It’s about time to rest, to focus on awareness. Mine happens on Sunday’s.

Sunday’s are my sacred days. It is the only day that I’m not up at 4:00 AM to attack the day. I sleep a little longer. I don’t train or follow the insanity of my workout schedule during this time that I hold precious. I share the morning with Laura in our ritual, fresh scones and coffee, the Sunday paper and a conservative news show followed by a liberal news show. I head down to the office for a couple of hours of quiet writing. We head out to the movies or maybe a round of golf. The evening is spent on my learning cycle of Sunday blogs and newsletters. I study the ideas contained therein and usually end up with 10 notecards full of images and stuff I want to save. Here are a few of the resources that come my way:

 

 

I allocate time to myself. It’s alright. It’s not selfish. You should do this.  In fact, it may be imperative for your sanity.

There’s so much to appreciate about my life every single day, and I make a big point of taking time to smell the roses and noticing how lucky I am. I never want to take that for granted.

Josie Maran

If this time falls in the “sacred” category, it is worthy of a plan. Maybe it’s not an entire day, but instead time early in the morning ahead of the magnetic pull of your day. Perhaps it is found in the quiet of the evening, just before bed. It might be in a deep stretch from your yoga class. Maybe it’s a long walk.  Believe me, it’s out there and it’s calling to you through the chaos of your endless demands. It takes courage and commitment to carve out its place in your life, mostly because it is YOURS. No one takes it from you.

 

The basic thing is that I want to do the best work possible, and I can only do that if I’m relaxed and have a lot of energy. And that can only come from taking time off.

Jason Scott Lee

We look at our resources and allocate value to a wide variety of things. Often we miss the most important. Look for your sacred time. It’s out there and once you find it, once you make it important, you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

 

We’ve codified our existence to bring it down to human size to make it comprehensible. We’ve created a scale so that we can forget its unfathomable scale. Time is the only true unit of measure. It gives proof to the existence of matter. Without time, we don’t exist.

Scarlett Johansson – The Movie LUCY

The Client Experience Doesn’t End At The Point Of Purchase

 

Our Dazzling Blue program is centered on creating a client experience that separates and differentiates our clients in the face of a creeping sense of everything’s the same.  We are battling the commoditization of what we make, what we do, and how we solve our client’s needs.

 

When we start one of our Dazzling Blue projects for a client,  we always start at the beginning.  Where do the tendrils of what you do touch your client?  In order to be Dazzling, to be extraordinary, it has to encompass all that you do.  You can’t commit to Dazzling half way.

Here is one of my favorite examples of how NOT to be Dazzling.  Client touch points are critical in a Dazzling experience.  You need to know all of them and see each touch point as an element in the client experience.

I recently purchased a new charging cable for both my iPhone and my iPad.  It was positioned beautifully in a display case which positively impacted my buying choice.

Upon getting it home, I  went downstairs to the office to create a charging station for my gear.

So what could be the problem?  Hmmmm.  I tried to open it.

Now, I’m pretty smart and after a dozen attempts and a study period equaling getting ready for the SAT,  I couldn’t get the top off.  I obviously had the wrong tools, my hands.  I checked the packaging.  No opening directions.  I looked for some unique tool that came with this Chinese puzzle box.   Apparently, this chord is more valuable than the gold in Fort Knox, because I believe I could have accessed that shiny bullion easier than anyone could have accessed this damn charging cable!

Then I thought I needed something, a tool, and tried to pry it off with a screwdriver.

Nope, the lid would not budge despite my Archemidian attempt to use the screwdriver as a lever.

I was now 20-30 minutes into just trying to get the damn thing open, so I decided to change strategies and thought about the following tools.

 

 

I settled on the hammer and proceeded to beat the ever lovin daylights out of the plastic vault like container.  And . . . . .  I’ll be damned but, it opened and shattered into a hundred pieces.

I had my cord and, though I somewhat enjoyed the destructive process of opening the case,  I can’t believe that was the intended design.

Though the packaging was beautiful and its ability to stand out in a custom display case enticed me to buy, it is as far from a Dazzling Blue experience as a company can get.  Surely they tested the case?  Surely they gave it to some folks to open?  Surely they thought of the client, the customer, the end user, beyond the cool way it looked?  NOPE.

A Dazzling Blue experience wraps itself around the client.  It is found in the way you greet a client, in the way you deliver your product, in the way you handle problems.  You have to see the whole picture to separate yourself from the vanilla world and creating barriers is as far from Dazzling as you can get!