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Mark Riffey

Lessons: Dogs and four year olds

blondienose.jpgI’m on the road today, so I thought I’d have the blog treat you to a dog story while I drive.

Some of you have met Blondie, our husky / golden retriever mix (that’s her nose<g>). Basically, a Super-Size golden retriever. She “replaced” Rosie, a sheepdog who took care of us for 16 years before old age crept on her. Hard to imagine a new dog replacing the old girl, but she sure tries.

Anyhow, the dog story comes from my mother in law, Eleanor, in Springfield Missouri. Meanwhile, I’ll keep the shiny side up and see you tomorrow.

Dog’s Purpose, from a 4-year-old

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for four-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.

Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.

We sat together for a while after Belker’s death,wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know why.’

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?’ The four-year-old continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’

Tomorrow, back to the business of making your business anything but “business as usual”.

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Management Mark Riffey Motivation Scouting

Dropped the ball? Pick it up.

A few weekends ago, I stood at the front of a young man’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor (ECOH).

An ECOH is the celebration of a young man’s effort (and his family’s booting him in the keester) and persistence (ditto the boot) in completing the requirements for the Eagle rank in Boy Scouts.

It takes 21 merit badge (9 of those have to be certain ones), a bunch of community service hours, time, and work. Plus a big community service project that the boy must come up with, plan in minute detail, organize, get approved, manage and execute with the help of other Scouts, community members, etc.

In some ways, it is an exercise is “how to deal with adults”, but the goal is a first, substantial taste of leadership and the demonstration thereof.

Quite often, it is also a taste of “Plan B”…

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Good Examples Management Mark Riffey Marketing The Slight Edge Uncategorized

X-Ray glasses and other fundamental secret weapons

When I’m working with people, it’s not unusual to get a fair number of questions from people asking me about tools, techniques and ‘where I got or learned about <whatever>’.

5 things/people jump out at me, in no particular order:

Mindmapping (I use MindManager from MindJet.)
Great for organizing a wide range of seemingly unrelated information, and more importantly, for brainstorming during the design phases of a project.

I listen to Jim Rohn’s advice.
Don’t be fooled by the “Man, he’s old. He could be John McCain’s brother” thing. Rohn calls himself “America’s Business Philosopher” (and he is), and is in the same league with Zig Ziglar. It’s not just about business or sales with Jim. It’s about all aspects of your life, including your business. His One Year plan is a great framework for getting your act together, 360 degrees-wise.

I listen to Dan Kennedy’s advice.
Absorbing Dan’s stuff is like getting a pair of X-Ray Business Goggles. So much of the crap that you’ve been taught, or that you might have learned the wrong way, gets fixed with a pair of Planet Dan X-Ray glasses. I know, sounds kinda stupid, maybe even pegs your hype-o-meter. When it comes to direct mail, direct response marketing, strategic thinking and seeing what others aren’t seeing, Dan has a unique way of getting inside your head.

I listen to KenMcCarthy’s advice. 
Who listens to an older (than me<g>) balding guy about business on the internet? I do. Success leaves clues, as Dan says. If you are a newbie at doing business on the internet (Its ok if you are) and don’t know the techno stuff – Ken’s Smart Beginners program is really well done. No assumptions about what you do and don’t know. Even if you don’t want to be the geek, Smart Beginners teaches you enough to be coherent when you to go get help from a contract programmer or webmaster. Few people can pull off a “101” class, but Ken does. If you’re more advanced, there’s plenty more. Ever heard of Yanik Silver or Perry Marshall? Both of them started off as Ken’s students, and those are just 2 examples.

The School of Hard Knocks.
Master’s degree, working on my Doctorate 🙂 The prior 2 links have made that road substantially shorter, but you still have to take it to some extent. Don’t take the long road, it’s got ruts.

How this might apply to you
One thought about the names I noted above. Jim, Dan and Ken are a powerful combination, and yeah, they aren’t 20 something. Don’t underestimate them. Jim’s an older guy. Dan’s style isn’t for everyone. Ken’s a bit soft spoken. 20-somethings may not be able to relate to Jim – though I think that’s a pre-conceived blindness issue. Dan can come off as a bit abrasive or edgy or something. Ken is so soft-spoken and so different than most “internet experts” that some might dismiss him. That’d be a mistake.

Your names might be different and that’s ok. Finding the ones that make sense for you is what is important,  but not as important as implementing instead of sitting around on your hands fretting about “What if”.

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Book Reviews Mark Riffey The Slight Edge

Saying “No” so you can say “Yes” later

Seems like Jim Rohn was the first person I recall hearing it from, and it still stings when I catch myself hearing it again now and then: “Every time you say ‘Yes’ to someone, you’re saying ‘No’ to someone else.”

It’s about being able to deliver on promises that you’ve already made – including promises to yourself.

Saying “Yes” is a promise, after all. It’s a promise to deliver a product or service, or to spend time with someone – be it business or pleasure.

Jim talks about saying “No” to more things so that you can say “Yes” to the really important things. Regardless of what those things are, that’s likely what most people want.

It’s something I’ve struggled with on and off for some time. The cures come incrementally. Occasionally, the stumbles are large, but they always come with a lesson, kinda like a face plant teaches you a little about skiing:) Other times, they cost me a few hours of sleep with little or no harm done.

I think it always comes down to focus. When focus is lost – or on the way to being lost, too many Yes’s come out. When that happens, focus can become even harder to rein in.

It’s one of the reasons I recommend a regular (quarterly) reading of The Power of Focus: How to Hit Your Business, Personal and Financial Targets with Absolute Certainty.

Read it, dog ear the crud out of it and follow the processes it defines. Get over the fact that the Chicken Soup guys were part of the project. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

If it helps you 1/10th of the way it does me, it’ll do you good.

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Management Mark Riffey The Slight Edge

Stand up, brush yourself off, and fix it.

One thing that old people (older than say, 23<g>) notice is that the year disappears awfully fast. Here we are: July is gone and we are 5 months from 2008.

Are you 58% of the way to reaching your 2007 goals? (7/12ths is 58.333%)

IMO, one of the things that is critical to reaching and exceeding your goals is looking at the slip ups and addressing them as soon as possible.

Mistakes should be feedback and a “Notice: Area under construction” sign that you have work to do, not something to grumble over and get negative about. Use them to put a ViseGrip squeeze on that part of your business.

My biggest ones in 2007? (so far<g>)

Business-wise, I’d count a couple of communications foul ups (a pet peeve of mine – and I still made em), a week of stalled backups that I hadn’t attended to bit me in the keester a little bit when a laptop died, and not getting some help with one of my less technical businesses sooner than I did (thus freeing me up to do some things that only I can do).

Each of those has been dealt with and steps put in place to correct them. No doubt that adjustments will continue, life is a zig zaggy line, but they will continue under the theme of continuous improvement.

So enough of me, what is YOUR biggest business mistake of the year? Post them as a comment here and I’ll send the winner a nice surprise in the mail.

Hey, why spoil the surprise? 🙂

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Entrepreneurs Management Mark Riffey The Slight Edge

What your staff has in common with a 12 year old.

My Cajun friend has been referring me to the Dilbert blog on a regular basis lately.

The post noted above is all about the value of praise. As Scott notes, it’s powerful stuff when used sincerely.

As I noted a few days ago, we just got back from Scout summer camp. Every year at camp, I learn so much about the boys – but one situation always appears no matter what: The kid who can’t swim, or more often, can’t swim very well and is petrified of “The Swim Test”. Sometimes he’s in our troop, sometimes he’s in another, but he’s almost always there.

The Swim Test, better known as the BSA swim test, requires that you swim 75 yards without touching the bottom or any other supporting device, then swim 25 yards on your back, then float on your back for a minute.

Doesn’t seem like much to most kids and adults, but to a select few, it’s a giant monkey on their back. I know a few adults who struggle with it and would rather avoid the water if they could – but they usually don’t because they want to spend time in the water with their Scouts.

Passing it means that you have full access to the camp waterfront. Kayaks, canoes, sailboats, the swim area, etc. That’s a big carrot. The waterfront is often the biggest draw in camp.

Usually all it takes to get a guy through the test is to jump in, swim next to him the entire time and urge him along. Tell him he’s doing great and never stop talking to him – mostly to keep him from focusing on the bad thoughts that the water usually brings to mind for him. The praise and encouragement makes him forget about the time he was scared, at least briefly. Sometimes it takes more than one try. We’ve had guys pass the swim test on Thursday afternoon (camp runs Sunday to Saturday) – and it makes their week. Quite often, it’s one of the first things “that kid” mentions when he sees his parents upon arriving home.

Praise gets them out of their own way so their body can do the work without the mind’s roadblocks. Scott talks about one lady who just needed a little bit to help her past the roadblock. The mind is that powerful, but praise and accomplishments can train it to be an aid rather than an obstacle.

Praise isn’t just for the 12 year old during his first swim test. There are likely people all around you who are doing what they do best even better than you might be able to, better than they used to, helping you become successful and then some. Others are struggling to climb past that mountain you placed in front of them. As they progress, praise em. They’ll climb harder and faster, if you’re sincere – and they’ll feel like you give a rip.

And you’d better, because no one ever became successful all by themselves. If you think you did, I hope you wake up soon.

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Management Mark Riffey The Slight Edge

I know who your worst employee is.

As some of you know, I am the Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop here in Columbia Falls.

One of the things that my guys have to do before earning the rank of Eagle is to complete the Personal Management merit badge.

I think it’s one of the hardest ones they have to do – because it requires 3 months of fairly consistent effort on topics that most 14-17 year old boys just don’t think about. Planning, money and “time management”. For 3 months. For a high school kid.

Getting a high school kid to do anything consistently for 3 months is an accomplishment in itself, most of the time:)

The requirements for the Personal Management merit badge (pdf) aren’t that hard, but a lot of people struggle with this badge. I think it is one of the most valuable things we teach other than outdoor skills, self-reliance and leadership.

I’ll bet a lot of adults would struggle to complete those requirements, whether they are the person you look at in the mirror, or the guys wearing the “Assistant Manager” name tag at the local Burger King.

It shouldn’t have to be that way. There’s a glut of how to books and other resources on getting projects done, managing time (kind of a misnomer – you really are managing yourself) and so on.

The key is implementation.

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Automation Entrepreneurs Mark Riffey

Know your customer – again…

Had a rather uneventful weekend in Conrad MT (yes, another swim meet) this weekend – which is a good thing, though I did manage to stop in and get a picture of “the convenience store sign” on the way there.

NOTE: Beverage dispensers (mainstream ones – not ones that you cant typically get parts for) that were down last weekend at this store were still down this weekend. So much for “most improved”.

Since everyone in Conrad seemed to be doing well business-wise this week, let’s join the frenzy that’s talking about the new Apple iPhone. Hey – everyone else is doing it:)

A friend referenced this iPhone post (which refers to this one, “the original post”). The second one seems to me to be a rather obvious example of a “you are not your customer” lesson.