5 Questions to Assess Your Fear of Failure

Can questions to yourself help you overcome your fears of failure? YES…

..and the reason why is that asking your self the right questions can lead to a healthier and more productive way of thinking. A common theme you will find in people managing their careers, is that they manage the downside versus the upside of their decisions which we will discuss more fully on my next blog post.  Terri Cole – CEO, Live Fearless and Free; transformation coach and licensed therapist, shared an interesting write upon the topic of  Reframing Your Fear of Failure.

She raised a very powerful revelation:  Fear of failure has one thing in common with all of our other fears.  It is a feeling and not a fact.  Isn’t this empowering? It is saying that our biggest fears comes from what we feel will possibly happen to us in the future. We don’t fear what we experience today, because we are experiencing it. Reality always takes over from fear. Because we are there and dealing with it.

We find problems we fear are always less than what we actually experience should that fear materialize.

Terri raised 5 questions to help us better rationalize our fears, modify our thinking about a problem and actually deal with a more realistic assessment of risks.

1.  How is your fear of failure holding you back?
2. What would life be like if you did not have this fear?
3. Who are you afraid of disappointing if you fail?
4. How strong is your desire to release this fear?
5. If there were one step you could take to overcome this fear, what would it be?

Action of the Day
Go through these 5 questions. Be really honest with yourself.  Your ability to pursue your ultimate career objectives are most likely dependent on your ability to address any fears of failure you have.  I found these questions exhilarating and reinforcing my desire to manage the upside of opportunities versus the downside of risk taking.

Quote of the Day
” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”      Eleanor Roosevelt….famous first lady to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

It would be great if you could share your thoughts:  What ways to deal with fear has worked for you? 

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Managing Creativity with Harriet Tubman

I just read the most cool article in Mental_Floss magazine.  Check out the magazine sometime…interesting facts that are stimulating and out of the ordinary. The article was about Harriet Tubman, the famous lady who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War.  She redefined leveraging creativity to achieve her goals.  It is fascinating and written by Erik Sass.


There was a bounty on Harriet for the equivalent of $1 million as she led 19 journeys freeing more than 300 slaves. This wasn’t easy as you can imagine.  The obstacles to achieve our goals for the most part pale in comparison.  She followed several approaches that are reflective of successful people today.

*  Know your terrain and where you are heading
Slave owners often kept their slaves close so they wouldn’t know their surroundings and wouldn’t know how to escape. Tubman would manage the navigation and at times on the fly leveraging dense forests, and swamps. Sometimes she would need to split the group up and provide to the group simple easy to follow advise for a meeting point.

* Know your clients and manage them effectively
The slaves were often brought to freedom as a family unit. Kids could give away their presence by crying so to address this, she always carried paragoric, an opium varient.

* Make sure everyone knew who’s in charge
Runaway slaves faced draconian punishments if they were caught so sometimes, they would change their minds and wish to return to servitude. But going back would have exposed her Underground Railroad network. So she gave them a choice facing the barrel of a gun. Die a slave or be free!!!

* Work the News Cycle, control your messaging.
Slave owners would alert bounty hunters with substantial rewards to capture runaway slaves. So Harriet would initiate her rescues on a Saturday giving her a 48 hour head start before the ads circulate in the Monday paper.

Since Harriet was engaged in activities with life/death implications, clearly some of her actions would be viewed as over the top in what most of us face in our day to day lives. But, she addressed problems through solution approaches you can use.

Action of the Day
Imagine you were rescuing your career and running yourself through the Underground Railroad. How would you prepare for this herculean task?  Pretend Harriet is right beside you ready to coach you. What would she tell you?  Are you ready to take the lead?

Quote of the Day
“Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.”  Stephen Sondheim:  Award-winning American composer & lyricist

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5 Ways to Address Failure

Have you ever thought about having this tagline?  I am Looking Forward to Failure.

Probably not. Who would?  We often link the failure to achieve a goal as coming up short versus others we wish to compare ourselves to.  You get this converged potion of feelings including disappointment, resentment, envy and self-doubt.  Most people’s lives and careers are based on seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. Most will bend over backwards putting themselves into a situation where they avoid failure because the perceived pain far exceeds any potential probability of success.

This is where we will stand out and make a difference in our lives.  Every failure is a stepping stone to inevitable success. If you knew, in the bottom of your heart, that no short-term obstacle can prevent you from achieving your goals in life, wouldn’t you view failure in a different way?  You bet!!!

Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group, co-authored an excellent HBR(Harvard Business Review) blog titled, Get Ready to Fail.  In it, Scott highlights 5 ways to address failure and make it part of the process rather than something to avoid.

1) Acknowledge the failure and put it in perspective
Research referenced in the blog shows that taking responsibility for your mistakes separates those who handle failure well from those who don’t.

2) Look for causes, not blame
Assigning blame means shifting control of a solution from yourself to others.  Focusing on the cause(s) means you take control to prevent similar failures in the future.

3) Before you wrack your brain to think up an appropriate response, take a break.
We are not designed to operate under a 24/7 mode though when we confront failure, we cannot stop thinking about it. Engage in other pursuits. Spend time with loved ones or get some physical activity(endorphins). Let your mind wander. You will be surprised what 30 minutes to a few days of a mental break can do.

4) Get some help.
Feeling down is normal. Prolonged periods of depression and despair are not. If needed, find that friend, mentor or therapist to help you through this setback.

5) Refocus your efforts and take action.  
Nothing will make you feel quite as good as taking action and finding even a small element of success in that action. It may take some time to reach that success, but you certainly won’t have any until you start trying.

Action of the Day
Identify if you are taking any risks in your career where you are risking failure. If not, identify an action you could take to make a difference. Make believe you failed miserably in your initial efforts.  Create an outcome that is likely to cause you to feel let down, rejected or taking several steps back instead of forward.  Now, pretending you have failed, go through the 5 steps above in your mind. Play the scenario out. Do you come out of the role playing exercise in a stronger place where the implications of a failure can bring you strength and one step closer to success? The pain of failure starts to be less significant than the pleasures of success from the experience.

Quote of the Day:  “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”….. Napoleon Hill

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Happiness – No Arms or Legs Required

As you can tell from reviewing my posts on this website, Upgrading Your Career is less about any technical abilities and more about your attitude, getting along with people and possessing a never quit philosophy.

You will just love this video on Nick Vujicic. A man born without arms and legs. But…..he has made a life for himself based not on self pity but self exploration, living life to its fullest and sharing his passion with others. Take a look.

I have experienced, like many of you, periods in my life where I felt nothing went right.   There were times when I felt very alone and lacked confidence in myself.  My career has had bumps in the road. I sometimes just did not want to look at myself in the mirror.  As Zig Ziglar would say,  I would throw myself a pity party. Have you gone through periods like this?  Nick leads by example and overcomes his struggles through sheer brute force of a positive attitude and desire to make a difference for people.  For almost all of us, our career and life could not be more challenging than what Nick has experienced. Yet Nick finds happiness. Nick finds hope. You know what….if I were an employer, I would bend over backwards to see how I can bring Nick into my company. There is a lesson there for all of us. Be inspired. Allow others to be an example for you. We all have room to grow and become a better person.

Action of the Day
Before you go to sleep tonight, sit at the edge of your bed and think about what you appreciate. Think about how Nick might handle the problems you are facing right now. How can you shift your thinking from problems waiting to happen to opportunities waiting to come forward? This is an exciting time of your life, right now. Embrace it.

Quote of the Day
“It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.”   Brian Tracy

Youtube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ZuKF3dxCY  Nick’s Website: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

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Solving Business Problems Methodically

In our careers, we are always faced with uncertainty.

Uncertainty comes from things we cannot control. This includes the economy, how other people act/perform, and just pure fate. Successful people don’t stress out because there are uncontrollable factors in their lives. By definition, they are uncontrollable.

What we focus on are the things we can control.  Marty Zwilling from Startup Professionals, Inc. wrote a terrific blog on the 6 Tips to Max Your Business Problem Solving Skills.  You can train yourself to be a problem solver. Here are the 6 tenants:

1. Practice Active Listening  – Resist the urge to vocally jump into the fray, and listen attentively without interruption.
2. Promise Action but Manage Expectations – You know the drill….Undercommit, Overdeliver!!
3. Investigate thoroughly – Don’t assume anything…GATHER THE FACTS!!!
4. Provide Regular Updates to All – Communication is the most underrated element of problem solving but probably the most important step.
5. Make a Timely Decision – Assemble the facts, talk to all the stakeholders of a problem, then make the solution decision. Don’t delay….that’s status quo.
6. Follow up – Reconfirm your decision within hours or latest days by all who is impacted. Explain why.

Action of the Day : Review the last decision you have made (or led others in making) that impacted more than yourself. Did you follow each of the above 6 steps. If not, which one did you fail to adequately address? What happened as a result? Write down these 6 steps onto a small index card. Carry it with you for a week. Refer to it daily. You are working to modify your behavior. This typically takes a period of constant repetition until it is habit. You will find over several weeks that you have trained yourself to follow these steps intuitively whenever confronted with a significant business problem/decision you need to make.

Quote of the Day :  “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.  ~Author Unknown

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What if 20,000 People Came to your Rescue?

Imagine how you would feel if you messed up singing the national anthem in front of over 20,000 people in an arena on national TV?  Many of us would avert the crises by never putting ourselves in that situation. But, Natalie Gilbert, the winner of a Toyota sponsored contest for an up and coming vocal performer, found out what it is like. She forgot the words, but the very best of human nature came out. Watch what Coach Mo Cheeks, former head coach of the Philadelphia 76rs, did.

Imagine how powerful you can be if you went through life, and your career, with the fundamental belief in the positive nature of people. Most people wish the best of others and will root for their success. Just like for Natalie, the whole arena wanted this risk taking experience to be as positive as possible.  Imagine if you were one of the people in the audience that night. Wouldn’t you have wanted to lift Natalie’s spirits during this challenging experience?

Action of the Day:  If you knew that everyone you knew would be there to break a fall, help you recover from a failed experience, give you a smile when you felt like crying, what would you consider doing?  Visualize yourself doing that risk with all your loved ones, friends, and every acquaintance you know but forget their name, were there to root you on all the way. Feel that warm feeling.  Now for the fun part, how can you be that person who helps others rise to the occasion even when they believe they are destined for failure?  Find that opportunity to help others, even anonymously.   You will find yourself transforming into an even more “giving” person. Giving people are the most successful people in the world.

Quote of the Day: “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Can Lying impact your Career?

Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, found himself in some hot water recently for being exposed on blemishes to his academic record.  It seems that he let stand uncorrected in corporate biographies and other official public documents that his background included college degrees in both accounting and computer science. But he reportedly only has a degree in accounting. Some of you might be thinking:

                                                                                                                                                      What’s the Big Deal? 

Why, he even publicly apologized for the controversy to the Yahoo employees per this article from the web news-zine The Inquirer titled…Yahoo CEO apologizes to staff for lying.  No harm, no foul, right?

This is a perfect example to leverage as a lesson for all of us.  In our career, we are often judged on several factors. These include results, how well we get along with people and working hard. However, all of these attributes are nothing without being viewed as a person with integrity.  Think about it.  Consider all of your friends and people you know. Put them in buckets. Those who make things happen, charismatic and a person who you know tells the truth and will not compromise their values to move ahead in life.   Very likely, you will not have someone in your top-tier category of people you most admire and respect if they lie and demonstrate weak integrity. You simply don’t trust them and you don’t let them into your inner circle.

At the time of this writing, Scott Thomas is still CEO but there are calls for his ouster. Most blemishes of truth are done with very little risk of getting caught.  I suggest to take the high road. Be honest.  If you haven’t achieved something, don’t claim it. If you have earned revenues, report it.  Life becomes much simpler. You will become that person of integrity who will be trusted to take on growing roles of responsibilities during their career by decision makers you don’t even know are out there.

The long-term benefit of having the reputation of honesty and taking the high ground will be much more valuable than any short-term benefit from claiming a result that didn’t happen.  Only you can decide which direction to go when you reach this proverbial fork in the road.

Update as of 5/12 : Scott Thomas lost his job as CEO for Yahoo due to not being truthful on his resume.

Action of the Day:  Are there any blemishes of truth you are aware you have made in the past week in order to accomplish a goal and manipulate the perception others have of you?  Write them down.  Create a list of the benefits and negatives that comes from continuing this behavior.  Is it really worth it? If you agree it is not worth it, start evaluating how you can move forward being more honest to yourself and others.

Quote of the Day:   Every time I’ve done something that doesn’t feel right, it’s ended up not being right.  ~Mario Cuomo (former governor of New York).

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A Millionaire Secret

About 200,000 new millionaires were added last year according to Spectrem Group of Chicago who released its latest annual report of American millionaires early in 2012.   One can be a cynic and come up with unfair reasons why this happened.  Why be bitter, jealous or indifferent? Let’s celebrate the success of others unselfishly. Paul B. Farrell wrote a revealing blog titled Secrets to Being a Millionaire and Enjoying It.    It really comes down to ATTITUDE. It is all in your head.

It is deciding you have what it takes to take your life in whatever direction you need to take it to create value for others.  Paul identified 10 ways to think the right way:

1. Getting rich isn’t about the money
(It’s about creating value for others…improve peoples’ lives)
2. Think different
(Go  Your Own Way….take out that machete and carve that path…make life fun)
3. Accentuate the positive
( A positive attitude will offset “almost” any disadvantage thrown your way)
4. Quit doing what you hate
(Don’t let your life whittle away doing what you don’t enjoy.)
5. Do what you love
(Many times it starts as a hobby, then some pocket change and then….it happens a lot)
6. Find the real you
 (You will know it when you feel it…experience new things, meet new people)
7. Invest in “You Inc.”
 (Take the attitude that you right now own your own company..take pride in what you do)
8. Live with Passion
(Go through each day with enthusiasm, live with zest, you are a lucky person!!)
9.  Live in the moment
 (Live every day to its fullest, ..who knows what tomorrow brings…but today is a sure thing)
10. Make a difference
(Most millionaires love helping people and making a difference in other peoples’  lives)

 ACTION OF THE DAY
List 3 ways you can be of value to others.  One way at work, one way at home and one way for a stranger. Take action today. How did it feel? Natural or strange. Keep practicing this approach until it feels comfortable and natural. You will find so much joy in bringing value and happiness to others, that the inevitable future compensation you get from your services will happen automatically.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You are the masterpiece of your own life; you are the Michelangelo of your experience. The David that you are sculpting is you. And you do it with your thoughts.”
Dr. Joe Vitale   Motivational author and speaker

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The Ultimate Positive Thinking Person

This gentleman is amazing.   We all can get down in the dumps periodically due to something that didn’t work right for us.   But Jon Morrow,  Associate Editor of Copyblogger wouldn’t have any of that.   Jon wrote a blog that will just blow you away titled…..How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World. To me this is not about Quitting a Job…it is about thinking positively in your life…this positive attitude will yield unbelievable results to you in your career and personal life.

Basically, here is a man who ran into some physical issues from an accident and became dependent on the US Government for survival.  He took initiative and developed a positive thinking approach and created a new career….He didn’t stop to grovel or just accept his predicament. He took on a passion of blogging. It could be any vocation. But he drove it forward with passion. His first focus was to help people….not strictly to make $.

This blog entry from Jon is well worth the time investment. No matter where you are in  your career and life, from unemployed and alone to self-employed with a large loving family nearby,  you can do it. Just think positive, make a plan, establish goals, take action.

Action of the Day
Are there any problems you have that exceeds Jon’s health issues from the accident?  If yes, you have my full compassion. However, if you don’t, you have the world ahead of you.  Write a list of the top 3 things you are grateful for.   Carry these blessings with you on a notecard. It will help you stay in a positive mood almost all the time. You have so much to be grateful for and maintain a positive frame of mind.  Smile…make a plan, establish goals, take action on your top pursuits..TODAY!!!

Quote of the Day
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  ……..William Arthur Ward

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How to Enjoy Life : Take on a Hobby

This blog is a bit on the lighter side.  We stress the need to educate ourselves in a skill that is of value in the marketplace.  We balance family and work responsibilities which often leads no time for ourselves or fun. Life is too short. I remember going to high school and college and spent way too much time studying, working. Very little playtime.   Here are a list of hobbies I enjoyed but sacrificed time in not doing:

* Magic
* Performing comedy on stage
* Writing stories
* Dating (did I really admit that?)

Are you going through stressful times or investing a disproportionate amount of your time on running a business, finding a job or moving up the corporate ladder?  If the answer is yes, the time for a change has come.

Here is a whimsical video of people who have invested in hobbies that they enjoy. Most of these “feats” are not linked towards upgrading their career, earning more money or puts them in line for being famous. But, they represent a category of activities you should never let go of. Doing things you enjoy just because they are fun or makes your life that much more interesting. If you do this, you will find people will find you more interesting.  Wouldn’t you ultimately want to build friendships and maintain relationships with people with a variety of interests?

Action of the Day
List three things you really enjoy doing and practicing that you just don’t make time for. In the next 24 hours, find 15 minutes and do it. If it requires time, like hiking in the mountains, schedule it now in the calendar and complete in the next 7 days. Make a commitment to yourself to schedule personal time each day or several days to do something you enjoy but will not contribute to your financial wellbeing.

Quote of the Day
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do” ….Walt Disney

Video Credit : You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7V-8v8tOJQ&feature=related

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