Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Power of Focus
By Susan Fujii, Kung Fu Finance Girl

I graduated from college in 1996. For four years afterwards (four really fun years...) I did not focus on investing or on "personal finance" at all. These were the boom years, the party days, the "sure I'd love to buy all fifty of you another round of drinks, who's counting?" nights. Good times, indeed.

My attention was directed on other things at the time, and sure enough, while those things flourished (I did meet and eventually marry Kung Fu Guy, so it wasn't all for naught!), my personal finances withered in neglect, and that's putting it kindly.

In fact, they withered so much that when Kung Fu Guy and I decided to start our own business in 2000, I had no idea what money I had (or rather, as it turned out, what I didn't have!). My attention had been elsewhere, and when I finally turned my focus onto my personal finances, it was not a pretty picture.

Luckily, this was just the wake up call I needed (nothing like an extremely embarrassing conversation with your future spouse to motivate you into action!). It went something like this:

Kung Fu Guy: "So, how much do you have in your checking account?"
Me: "Um, er, uh, well, I'm not exactly sure..."
Kung Fu Guy: "OK, well, do you have any credit card debt?"
Me: "Um, I don't think so....? Not anymore...?"
Kung Fu Guy: "That's good, are you sure???"
Me: "Um, well, I think so...."

And on and on...I remember never feeling so embarrassed in my life. (At the time, his vision of me was of this smart, savvy businesswoman who managed a 70+ person team of engineers and earned a six-figure income). Boy, did I ever throw a wrench into that pretty little picture!

Now, I'm not a dumb person (although after reading this I won't blame you for disagreeing...) but what I fell prey to for those four years is a stealthy killer that plagues us all:

Lack Of Focus

Lack of focus is one of the most difficult things we must fight against every single day.

In today's hectic world we are constantly bombarded by information of all kinds from multiple sources. By the time the average person has arrived at work they have already received a deluge of distracting information, from the morning news on TV to the multiple tweets and emails received on your mobile phone to the radio and billboard ads on your drive to's incessant.

Everyone and everything in your life is competing for your most prized possession...your attention, or rather, your focused attention.

Your attention is a supremely powerful force, and like the sun it can be either diffuse and divided amongst many different objects, or funneled into a focused laser-beam of light that has the power to burn whatever it touches (think Cyclops in the X-Men--when he removed those glasses, watch that is some focused attention!).

You have that power, too. Your focus is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your investing (and life!) arsenal.

You've probably noticed the power of focused attention in other areas of your life. If you have children you know that the single greatest gift you can ever give them is your undivided, focused attention. My girls love it when I focus my attention on them with no distractions--with just a few minutes of focused attention I can transform them from whining and crying into the two happiest little girls you have ever seen in your life.

Likewise, if you have ever done any goal-setting you know how important it is to state your goals positively and specifically ("I will eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day") versus negatively and vaguely ("I will NOT eat any junk food"). This is because you will focus your attention on whatever you write, and of course you want to focus on the positive (healthy fruit and vegetables), not the negative (junk food).

In kung fu there is a well-known example of the power of focus. Called "Iron Hand" or "Iron Palm", practitioners learn to focus their attention and their energy, or chi, into the palms of their hands with enough force to break bricks or blocks of ice without hurting their hands.

Focus is a powerful force in all areas of life, but I have found it to be exceptionally important in investing, particularly while learning. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the plethora of options available when you are just starting out as an investor. Where do you begin? Should you buy gold and silver? Learn how to properly value stocks? Focus on "cash-flowing" investments like real estate or dividend-paying stocks or bonds?

And even when you do choose a "starting point", say, the stock market, for example, that opens up another round of choices. Should you focus on individual stock-picking and how to read financial statements? On ETF's? Mutual funds? Closed-end funds? Options? What kind of options? Puts or calls or LEAPS or spreads? Should you buy options or sell options? Should you learn fundamental analysis or technical analysis? Focus on emerging markets, or global world dominators? And on and on and on....the choices never end.

However, luckily you have something absolutely magical that will help you focus your attention on what will immediately provide you with the quickest return on your investment of time.

And that magical tool is your vision.

Writing your vision down on paper will instantly help you focus your attention on what you want from your financial life. It's a critical first step in narrowing your all-important investing focus down to something that is manageable and achievable for you. From there, you can continue to narrow your focus down to short and long-term goals that will enable you to make your vision a reality, and can narrow it even further down to the best strategies you will pursue to achieve those goals.

And then watch out....the power of your focus will astonish you!

When I did this back in 2000 it had an immediate positive effect on my money. Just by focusing on where my money was going and what had happened to it I was instantly able to plug the gaps and start saving much more money. And once I had plugged the obvious gaps in my money, I began focusing on what to do with the extra money I had each month.

Fast forward ten years and now not only do I know how to read a company's financial statements, I also create and review personal financial statements for our family each month. At any given moment I can tell you precisely what the value of each of our accounts is, the rate of return we are expecting to get, the rate of return we are actually getting, articulate the reasons we are invested in that particular investment and our exit strategy, and much, much more. (I've come a long way, thankfully!)

The same is true for my investing education...I did not learn "how to invest" all at once; rather, using my vision as my guide I patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently...) worked to master one small portion of each massive area at a time. I could never have become an accredited investor had I tried to master penny stocks, tax liens, real estate, corporate bonds, growth stocks, stock shorting, FOREX, stock options, commodities, precious metals, etc., all at once. My head hurts just thinking about all of that!

But what you focus on, you will master, I promise you.

So toughen up those Iron Hands and unleash your inner Cyclops and let me know how it goes! I guarantee you will amaze yourself.

"The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." -- Bruce Lee

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Posted: 16 Jul 2012 05:00 AM PDT
So you want to use social media to generate leads for your business?  If that’s true, then you must also be willing to take the steps necessary to put your business and brand in a position to attract leads online. And those steps may take some time.
Social media is a powerful tool, but cannot stand alone as an online marketing solution.  Social media marketing comes after you have discovered your voice through blogging and have a key word strategy in place.

Does Blogging = Leads?

You can’t expect to put your business online and expect the online buzz to suddenly rocket you to online social media stardom. Leads won’t fall from the sky either.
Generating a lead is the end result. And while Stephen Covey has taught us to “Begin with the end in mind,” you must first focus on answering the question, “How can we be valuable to others, consistently over time, so we organically attract people to our business online.”
Then you must have a plan to create the valuable content people want to read, share and comment on. Content people will share and will lead others to you (traffic), who will then want to learn more about how you might be able to help them (conversion) so you can then have a qualified prospect (lead).
You do this from blogging. And how often you blog matters also. 
The Impact On Lead Generation
The Impact On Customer Acquisition

It Doesn’t Matter if You Are a B2B or a B2C business, You Need to Be Blogging

Every week I speak to a business owner who thinks his/her business doesn’t need to blog at all, let alone a lot. Thinking that way is similar to thinking back in 1995 that your business wouldn’t need a website. Blogging is the new SEO, and it’s an important part of consumer culture so you better start capitalizing on it.
B2C Blogging Works!

B2B Blogging Works Also!

If Google Can’t Find You, Neither Will Anyone Else

Ranking high on the search engines (particularly Google) is no longer optional, it’s critical. The more keyword rich content you create (and blog), the more search engines will find you.  In order for Google to find you often, you need a lot of pages that link to your site. You can control this by blogging often and making sure to use the keywords that will lead people to you.
Are You Showing Up?

More Blog Posts = More Indexed Web Pages

What does this teach us?

That you need to generate as much (keyword rich) content as possible, before your competitors pass you by. Social Media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube all give you the platform to share your content in different ways, but you have to generate the content first.  And oh yeah, that content needs to be interesting. The leads will follow.
The great business management guru Peter Drucker’s most well known quote is “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” Social media can certainly help you create and keep a customer. But you have to be willing to do the work [online] that it takes to get there.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Dominate Your Fear and Take Massive Action

By Adam Steer

Miyamoto Musashi was one of the biggest badass swordsmen of 16th century Japan. He also wrote of one of the greatest books on tactics, strategy and philosophy ever written--A Book of Five Rings.

Musashi knew what most modern success gurus can't seem to figure out: success takes a lot of hard work. And the key to making your goals a reality is massive action.

That's the greatest difference between those who live their dreams and those who WISH for stuff. Hard work. We all know this. So here's the question for you...

If you know what you want and you know you have to take action to get it, why aren't you doing it?

I'll bet it has something to do with fear.

Oh, sure, you'll tell yourself it has nothing to do with being afraid. There are a thousand ways to rationalize your lack of action. You want to get in shape but you don't have all the right foods in the fridge yet. You want to buy those new running shoes before you start exercising. You just need to wait until things are quiet at work before you start learning that new language.

I bet at least a couple of those sound familiar.

It's EASY to find an excuse NOT to take action...

But the real reason you don't make progress is something else entirely. You're scared of the hunger and deprivation that might result from changing your eating habits. You're afraid of missing out on your favourite TV show if you start using those Spanish language CDs. Or maybe you're just worried you'll disappoint yourself again by quitting your new workout right after you start.

No matter what it is, I guarantee there's some sort of fear lurking beneath whatever justification you're giving yourself for not taking massive action on your goals today.

And I want you to know that it's completely okay.

Fear goes hand in hand with success. You'll never unlock your potential if you hide within the shell of your comfort zone.

Here are my 5 keys to dominating fear and taking massive action to achieve your dreams:
  1. Get some perspective on your fearTake your first step--don't wait for the perfect time
  2. Put one foot in front of the other--do the WORK
  3. Don't compare to the "ideal"--compare to where you've been and seek PROGRESS
  4. Divide your goal into small chunks so you can create SUCCESSES that motivate you
  5. The first secret to overcoming your fear is to put it into perspective.

Think back to a time when you were scared out of your wits to do something. I bet once that mission was accomplished, you felt great about the outcome--and maybe even a little silly about being so scared in the first place. Take some time with pen and paper to make a list of all those experiences. And the next time you're having trouble getting out of your comfort zone, look back at that list for inspiration.

Okay, so you've managed to put your fear into perspective. The next thing is to just take that first step. As Lao Tzu so eloquently put it, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

I'll give you a personal example. I've wanted to learn Spanish for years. I'm a native English speaker, and during my years in Quebec I've become fluent in French. But my travels have taken me to a number of Spanish speaking countries recently, and I've always regretted not being able to converse in the local language.

After a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I decided enough was enough. It was time to take action! I did a little research, and I ordered the very best Spanish language home-study course I could find: the Pimsleur Approach.

That was my first step. Sure, it took a lot of effort to overcome years of procrastination, justification, laziness and FEAR. What was I afraid of? Lots of things... Giving up my spare time, not being "smart enough" to learn the language, making a fool of myself the first time I actually tried to speak, and wasting time on a course that wouldn't work. But none of that stuff is real.

So yeah, I received the course just this week. Now what?

Yep, you guessed it. On to step 3: Put one foot in front of the other--do the WORK. But we'll talk about that in a future article.

Before you go there, I want you to do some homework. What's one small step that you can take towards your big dream goal? Figure out what that is and just TAKE IT.

Put one foot in the door and the rest will eventually follow. Sure, you might falter a bit in the beginning. But if you never take that first step, you won't get anywhere--ever.

Do All That You Say You Will Do... And More

By Craig Ballantyne

My mother is not the type to get upset (that was my father's forte). But I could sense the irritation in her voice when I asked, "How's your new house coming along?"

It had been over three weeks since I last visited the farm, and, unfortunately, there had been practically no progress made on her new house. She listed the excuses she had been given from the contractors, her voice full of exasperation.

Later that afternoon, Bally the Dog and I went for a walk from the current farmhouse over to where the driveway had been laid for her new home. It was less than a mile walk over the stream, through a cornfield, and up a hill. There we found the grounds to be almost exactly the same as they were last month. The foundation had not even been poured.

I could see why she was so disappointed. When the project was initiated, she was assured of a move-in date of July. Now it's looking like September at best.

This was a classic case of a business over-promising and under-delivering and thus failing to meet the expectations previously set in my mother's mind. This is one of the biggest, most common communication mistakes that people make on a daily basis.

How many times has someone promised you the following and then left you waiting?

"I'll be home by seven o'clock."

"I'll have that report on your desk by the end of the day."

"I'll call you back in an hour."

Or worse, how many times have you been the one making false promises? How many times this week? How many times today?

It's a mistake you can't afford to make, not when you want to build long-term relationships with clients or colleagues.

Instead, you must use the "make a promise-keep a promise" system. That's the formula for success. That's the equation for deep relationships.

Make a promise. Keep a promise. It's so simple, yet day-after-day we see businesses, politicians, and spouses all over the world drop the ball on this.

In your family life, you simply need to do all that you say you're going to do. If you promise to be somewhere at a certain time to do something, you must fulfill your obligation. And, just as important, as self-improvement legend Jim Rohn advises, "Wherever you are, be there." That means not being engrossed in your smartphone while at the park with your children or, the ultimate disrespect of all, texting while having dinner with someone. Either don't promise to have that dinner or have the patience and courtesy to wait until later to send your phone messages. Make a promise to be there, and keep it.

In your business, do all that you say you're going to do. Honor your contracts. Deliver on the promises made to your customers, suppliers, and partners. Avoid the temptation to over-promise and under-deliver. Be clear in your offer and make sure to avoid overextending yourself in the process. If you know you can't deliver on a promise, don't sell it. That mistake will only cause you a nagging headache and dent in your reputation.

Finally, use the same "make-a-promise, keep-a-promise" system on your website. The truth is, it was from an online business expert that I first heard this method so eloquently phrased.

Several years ago, my friend Paul R. came and spoke to my Mastermind group. He shared his system for converting leads into sales, and it all came down to the keeping the promises that he made, one webpage at a time.

When his prospects landed on the first page on his site, Paul showed them a short video which made a simple promise. After visitors entered their email address, they were directed to a page where Paul over-delivered on that initial promise. And so on and so forth. Every communication between Paul and his prospects - and the customers that they soon came to be - started with a promise and ended with Paul delivering on that promise.

He never failed to keep his word and meet their expectations, and that's why he's grown a seven-figure business in a unique niche (one that most people think wouldn't be profitable). It's all been built on the power of doing what he says he will do, and more.

That's how you build relationships the right way, from day one, so that you never lose your prospect's faith. And so you can avoid disappointed customers, like my mother.

Fortunately, and better late than never, the contractor called my mother and said that everything was now back on track. They would be getting to work on the foundation of the house early next week. (So I hope to have a much better update for you next month.)

But that relationship is permanently damaged. She'll never have the same level of trust in the contractor as she did when he first made his promises.

Don't let this happen in your life or business.

And don't let this happen in our relationship, either. Should I ever make this mistake and not deliver what you feel has been promised to you, let me know immediately so that I can fix the situation and minimize the damage.

Hold me accountable. If we are not delivering on what you feel we promised you, then I need to hear from you. Our goal is to help you and deliver the exact steps to succeed with your online business, to improve productivity in your day, to help you take action and overcome the obstacles in your way, and to simply help you lead a life well lived. Those are our promises to you, and we are doing everything we can to keep them.

So put yourself on the line. Make your promises, keep your promises. Over-deliver value and exceed the expectations of everyone you deal with in life.

As my friend Bedros Keuilian teaches, "You need to over-deliver, give faster results than promised, and become the go-to leader for your market."

It all starts with doing what you say- and more.

We can all do better. Let's start today.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

There are fireworks everywhere, except in sales.

There's a holiday coming. This particular holiday is the 4th of July.

But it doesn't matter which one it is, all holidays carry with them the same sales stigmas:
  • No one is in the office.
  • Everyone is on vacation.
  • Everyone left early.
  • People aren't willing to meet with me until after the holiday.
  • I can't get anyone on the phone.
  • It's a slow time of the year, I'd rather wait until ____. (You can fill in the blank.)
  • It's taking longer to get a decision made because of the holiday.
  • Customers aren't in the mood to buy.
  • Blah, blah, blah. Puke.
All of these excuses create a frame of mind for salespeople somewhere between, "I'm not going to make any sales," and "I'll just wait until the holiday is over." Both of these thoughts are recipes for sales disaster.

NOTE WELL: Many decision makers stay in their office until the day before the holiday. When there is no activity, executives can get personal work done.

Many business owners (like me) stay in the office through the holiday because all of their employees want to take a well-deserved extra day off. And someone has to be there to guard the business.

Oftentimes, companies are in the middle of important deals or circumstances that preclude them from taking extra time off around a holiday.

  • Every day is a sales day if you believe it to be a sales day - and vice versa.
  • Everyone will return your call if you believe they will return your call.
  • Everyone will return a favorable decision if you believe they will return a favorable decision.
When you're lamenting your fate, what you are really saying is, "Based on the actions I've taken, and the results I'm getting, I really don't believe strong enough in my company, my product, or myself."

If you would spend as much time strengthening your belief, taking better actions, and improving your value offerings as you did complaining that someone won't return your call, or isn't in their office, you could make a fortune.

But most salespeople would rather gripe.

Rather than griping that no one is available, why don't you take a few days off yourself and renew your attitude? Why don't you take a few days off and revive your attitude, so when you come back to work you're in high gear and high frame of mind?

And please don't think this message is specifically about the 4th of July. It's the same for Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Super Bowl, President's Day and any other day deemed by the government or you as a "holiday."

You, as a salesperson, already know the holidays are coming. Your job is to prepare your pipeline in advance of the holiday, so one day after the holiday, you are full of meetings and full of activity that is directly related to your sales and your success. This way, when you do go away, you'll feel great about leaving and great about coming home!

It never ceases to amaze me how many salespeople grumble about "what isn't" - The guy isn't in. The guy isn't calling me back. Yadda, yadda - rather than embrace and take advantage of "what is."

The fact is holidays are NOT a surprise. They're are on the calendar years in advance. Everyone knows when the 4th of July occurs - it's on the 4th of July!

If your mindset is still "No one's in their office. Everyone's on vacation" take off the 3rd, take off the 5th, go somewhere to relax, and come back to a full calendar.

Oh, and while you are on vacation, read a book.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"If you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the pament is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Advantages of the Habit of Going the Extra Mile
by Napoleon Hill

The habit brings the individual to the favorable attention of those who can and will provide opportunities for self-advancement.
It tends to make one indispensable, in many different human relationships, and it therefore enables him to command more than average compensation for personal services.
It leads to mental growth and to physical skill and perfection in many forms of endeavor, thereby adding to one's earning capacity.
It protects one against the loss of employment when employment is scarce, and places him in a position to command the choicest of jobs.
It enables one to profit by the law of contrast, since the majority of people do not practice the habit.
It leads to the development of a positive, pleasing mental attitude,which is essential for enduring success.
It tends to develop a keen, alert imagination because it is a habit which inspires one continuously to seek new and better ways of rendering service.
It develops the important quality of personal initiative.
It develops self-reliance and courage.
It serves to build the confidence of others in one's integrity.
It aids in the mastery of the destructive habit of procrastination.
It develops definiteness of purpose, insuring one against the common habit of aimlessness.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Identifying Opportunity in Adversity

By Robert Ringer

People often misread an event or circumstance as an adversity or setback. The problem is that we tend to judge events on the basis of their immediate impact, but, as life repeatedly teaches us, the long-term consequences of an action can be quite different from what we initially observe.

The bad is superficial and obvious; the good often takes investigation and long-term observation. It's important to recognize that the true result of an event may take a long period of time to come to fruition. Thus, misfortune and setbacks are frequently nothing more than illusions, which is why we so often fail to connect the long-term benefits to the seemingly negative situation that confronts us.

The truth is that adversity can serve as both a learning experience and a masked opportunity. In fact, I would take it one step further and say that there is an offsetting opportunity in every adversity and every obstacle. The trick is to develop the habit of automatically looking for the positive in every negative situation.

It took me years to develop this habit, but now, even when something seemingly terrible occurs, I immediately take a deep mental breath and start thinking about where the Cosmic Catalyst is trying to lead me. Some of the unexpected roads this has taken me down are nothing short of miraculous.

A classic example of this phenomenon that is especially dear to my heart is the story of how my first book was rejected by twenty-three publishers. It was obvious that some of the publishers didn't even take the trouble to look at my manuscript and simply returned it with form letters of rejection. Others sent customized letters, many of which were brutally candid in telling me why my book was unsaleable.

While some of the harshest comments put a bit of a dent in my self-confidence, I was passionate about what I had written and I had a burning desire to get the book into the hands of the public. So, in desperation, I decided to publish it myself, even though I had zero knowledge of the book-publishing business.

In fact, it would have been impossible to have been less prepared than I was to publish a book, but I didn't let that stop me. I certainly was not about to spend a couple of years learning the intricacies of the book-publishing business, which, as it turned out, can only be learned through experience anyway.

So, ignorance aside, something compelled me to take action. Then, after I had five-thousand copies of my book printed up, a remarkable thing happened: My bold (some referred to it as audacious) action resulted in an explosive expansion of my mental paradigm, though at the time I didn't even know what a paradigm was. I became resourceful beyond what I previously would have thought possible, and went way beyond the boundaries of so-called conventional wisdom in an effort to create my own opportunity.

Though I had no advertising experience, I decided to run ads in local newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. The first ad I ran, in the San Antonio Express-News, produced such poor results that I lost 90 percent of my advertising investment.

I was shaken, but not deterred, so I sprung back into action and worked hard at analyzing what was wrong with my first ad. Then, based on my analysis, I rewrote the ad and ran it in the Wall Street Journal. The result was an early lesson in the importance of both choosing the right medium and coming up with the right advertising copy, because my second attempt resulted in a huge success, with sales nearly double the cost of the ad.

I soon worked my way up to full-page ads, and continued to run these ads in The Wall Street Journal for about nine months. This resulted in sales of about sixty-thousand books and, more important, brought me a lot of attention.

The attention brought calls from Brentano's (the most prestigious bookstore in New York City at the time), which offered to buy large quantities of my book if I would agree to put its name at the bottom of one of my ads; from Thomas Y. Crowell (later acquired by Harper & Row), which made a proposal to distribute my book to bookstores nationwide; and from Fawcett Publications (later acquired by Ballantine Books), which offered me what, at the time, seemed like an obscene sum of money to publish the book in paperback.

The book, Winning through Intimidation, ultimately climbed to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List, which launched me into a string of three straight #1 best sellers. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that none of this would have happened had my book not been rejected by every publisher I submitted it to, because, as I subsequently learned through experience, 99 percent of books published by mainstream publishers - particularly major publishers - get zero advertising and little, if any, publicity.

So, what initially appeared to be an enormous adversity was, in fact, a hidden opportunity. All that was required of me was to apply action and resourcefulness to an apparent obstacle, and the result shocked the publishing industry.

I've repeated this same lemons-to-lemonade trick so often over the years that I've lost count of the number of times that seemingly major obstacles have turned out to be great opportunities waiting to be exploited. And the more I've done it, the more I've learned.

Best of all, each new learning experience makes it that much easier the next time around. In the words of Richard Bach, "That's what learning is, after all: not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we've changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning."