A Short Course on Happily Achieving in Business: #2: Communicate Effectively

Read Part 1.

One of the keys to happily achieving is efficiency, and efficiency is built upon a results-oriented approach rather than an action-oriented approach. This was hard for me, as I tend to be a “ready-fire-aim” kind of guy: I want to get things done right now! But while that may be great when you’re working by yourself, once you’re at the point of hiring a team in your business to handle tasks large or small, that team needs to know exactly what you’re aiming at, so they can get ready, fire accurately, and produce the results you want. This requires clear, accurate, effective communication from you. You must communicate effectively with your team, so they have everything they need to know in order to get the job done.

When a system breakdown happens, you’ll often hear someone saying, “I didn’t know.” “I didn’t know that it had to be done today, I was going to do it first thing tomorrow. You should have told me it was urgent.” “I didn’t know that I was supposed to do it myself, I gave it to Mike to handle. I didn’t know it was important or I would have done it myself. You can’t blame me.” Effective communication helps to eliminate these kinds of excuses. More important, it helps your team do their job right the first time.

Effective communication starts with setting expectations in advance in six specific areas:

  1. What’s the team’s objective? What result are they supposed to create?
  2. What’s the time frame for accomplishing this particular result?
  3. What resources will the team have at its disposal? Money, materials, information, outside contractors, etc.?
  4. What limitations will they have to deal with? This includes budgetary limitations, or constraints on any other resources mentioned in #3.
  5. What benefits will the result create for the team and the organization? Make sure to include things that will benefit the team members personally (prestige, bonuses, promotions/raises, pride of accomplishment, etc.) as well as the organization as a whole (improved profitability, greater sales, better customer service, etc.).
  6. What are the positive consequences for achieving the result, and what are the negative consequences if the team’s efforts are not successful? While you may have covered the positive consequences in #5, it’s important for the team to understand the negative consequences to themselves and the organization if the team misses the mark.

Communicating expectations concisely and clearly in these six areas is only the first step: you also need to make sure the communication is actually understood by each member of your team. I like to have each person repeat back to me what they understand about the six areas, and how their part fits into a greater plan. And remember, communication is a two-way street, so make sure that you are flexible and open to questions and suggestions from your team about the project.

When your team feels clear, and you feel that they are clear, then everyone can start executing the plan. Along the way you should support the team as promised, have regular check-ins without micromanaging (think of this as “trust but verify”), and make sure that your team stays on track to accomplish the result.

Learning the lesson about effective communication cost me literally millions of dollars in my previous businesses, but I look at the experience as an expensive class in which I got an “A,” so I received the full value. Use what I have learned — so you don’t have to pay for the class as well.

A Short Course on Happily Achieving in Business: #1: Hire Hard and Fire Easy

Read Part 2.

In past blogs I’ve been talking a lot about how to be happy in your personal life. But how you handle yourself in business also has a lot to do with happily achieving. Most people I know invest the majority of their time, emotion, and energy in their careers, businesses, mission, vocation — whatever they choose to call it. So today I want to talk about how to get better results more easily in your business, which will help you achieve more happily as well.

There was a time when I felt that if I wanted something done right, than I’ll have to do it myself. That was my first mistake. In business this approach is ridiculous: not only am I not excellent or even proficient at everything, but there are simply too many things to do! If you ever want to build something greater than yourself, you must involve other people.

Once you accept the fact that you need a team, the next step is to hire people you trust — but exactly why do you trust them? Are you hiring people because you know and like them, or because you know that they can do the job?

This was my second mistake. Several years ago, I put someone in a position in my company that they weren’t qualified for. They had never even showed competence, let alone mastery, in that area. But I figured (wrongly) that because they could be completely trusted and I loved them, they would work diligently to do whatever was necessary to learn their position and do it well.

But that was laziness on my part, although at the time I did not realize it. Hiring people because they are your friends, or because they are in close proximity to you, is usually a bad idea that will cost you in the end. It did me. And eventually it cost me the friendship when I had to let this person go.

The lesson here is hire hard and fire easy. Take the time to find the right fit for the position you are filling. Even if you need to hire someone right away, slow down, because the wrong hire always costs more than interviewing properly for the proper fit.

But equally important, you have to be willing to let people go if they are not doing their jobs. Companies are more likely to develop critical problems not because of who they hire but because they hang on to people they should fire for far too long.

When I say fire easy, I don’t mean that you should fire people who make mistakes. We all make mistakes: that’s how we learn. I do mean that if there are systematic problems caused by an employee who is incapable or unwilling to make progress, he or she should be fired immediately.

This includes people you may like personally or be related to — and that can be tough. But ultimately I believe that if someone isn’t able to do the job they were hired for, there is no way they will ever be able to happily achieve in that particular position. And it certainly will cause you a lot of time, energy, and frustration having to manage someone like that. Far better that you let them go so you can find the right person for the job, and they can find a new position that will allow them to use their talents to happily achieve.

In the next blog post I’ll talk about the second lesson for happily achieving in business: effective communication with the people on your team.

How To Fly Without Wings

Yesterday my wife Rocky and I were having an adventure day in Queenstown, New Zealand, which happens to be the adventure capital of the world. There are so many options, we couldn’t possibly squeeze them into our short, few days in town. Rocky wanted to break through her fear and decided to do the tallest bungy jump in New Zealand. Nevis has both a 440-foot bungy and a 900-foot arc swing. To say she was scared would be an understatement. Prior to Nevis, we decided to do a zip line off of a different bridge. We were awaiting the shuttle at the bungy sales office looking at the souvenirs and Rocky was a wreck. She was pacing and very nervous — to the point of shaking and nearly crying. She turned to me and said, “I’m scared, but I have to do this.”

I told her that she should be scared. After all, if you were going to fall off a platform into a canyon over a river, why wouldn’t you be scared? But then I asked her, “Beyond breaking through fear, what if there was more?”

Then I told her that I have a secret that most people don’t know. I have jumped about 50 times off of different bungy towers, but it was a friend of mine who ran a bungy site in Vegas who taught me I could fly. After more than a dozen jumps — trying different ways to freak myself out successfully, flipping off, diving off, stepping off backward looking up, swan diving, eyes open, eyes closed — he had shown me that the real magic happened after the jump.

I decided to share this magic with my wife. I told her that falling off or jumping off didn’t matter. Those were just style points for her in the execution, and the execution is all that matters when she leapt off the platform. But the decision to jump and following through on that decision was just the beginning. At the end of the bungy cord stretch, when the downward momentum stops, there is a reverse in negative energy. Everything stops and positive energy is created. And there is an opportunity in the moment to use that positive energy to your advantage and not just let it dissipate and be wasted.

I told Rocky to enjoy the way down that creates that positive energy, but to prepare by coiling into a crouching position so when the bungy recoils and shoots back up, she too can uncoil and burst with energy, complimenting that power. She then will be able to fly unrestricted through the air like superwoman, completely safe. And I showed her exactly how to accomplish this.

This is an example reframing, also known as cognitive restructuring. It’s a tool you can use in any challenging situation and it is amazing. I had reframed the jump as no longer falling off a ledge, but about creating positive energy and then using that energy to do what most people only dream of. For most bungy jumpers, that positive energy is lost because they are just thinking they have conquered their fear. Imagine looking deeper at the challenges that face you in life, going past the fear and then moving forward with purpose and a plan to reach even greater heights.

Rocky and I stood together and practiced what it was going to be like, and what she would need to do to experience the magic beyond the fall. Over and over we jumped together — practicing, visualizing, practicing the perfect execution. Over and over she was victorious and flawless in action. By the time she was standing on that ledge looking over the river and canyon below, she was ready and had purpose. Without hesitation she flew like a bird and at the end of the stretch, she exploded into flight. Free and unrestricted, she flew… and there was no fear, only excitement.

In moments like a bungy jump, your body will tell you to play it safe. It is guided by a “save the organism” response that resides in all living things. Fear is the signal to tell you to stop, that you may fail and die. Breaking through that fear is what is known as bravery. Be brave, take the leap — and know there is magic on the other side.



Re-Evaluation: Where Are You Now? Who Do You Want to Be? and How Will You Get There?

Today I want to talk to you about the power of evaluation — or more accurately, re-evaluation. Let me explain. Our youngest son, Austin, is about to turn 19 and our twins, Tanner and Dillon, are close to 22. They have been very comfortable, living in a beautiful home by the beach (that I designed) — and who do you think has been paying their bills up until now?

Not long ago I did a bit of evaluation on that situation. Most of you reading this, I’m sure, were long out on your own by 22, and you are most likely awesome! That’s what I want for my kids too. So I decided the best way to get that for them was for me to give them a little warning (very little), sell the house, and then give them each a bit of cash to start things going. “Get a job, get a place, you are men, go make it happen,” I told them about six weeks ago. Great idea, right? You should have seen their faces when I told them they were going to have to “re-evaluate their circumstances” immediately!

Evaluating and re-evaluating our lives is one of the most important things we can do. Start by evaluating your current situation by asking yourself, “Where am I now?” And then ask, “Where do I want to go?” Knowing where you are and where you are going are the only two reference points that are critical to planning your life. Once you know those two answers, life decisions become automatic. Things get easier and more beautiful because the confusion goes away, and you’ll find that most of the decisions you used to agonize over won’t even come up.

But here’s the real secret: the only way you can truly answer the question “Where do I want to go?” is asking an underlying question: “Who do I need to become, to be the person that would have all of the things I want but don’t yet have?”

If you want more, you have to be more. If you want to have deeper relationships, be more loving and caring. Don’t talk about being more loving and caring: do more loving and caring things. Face it: you can’t have any of the things you don’t have now by doing the same things you have already done. And truth be told, aren’t you done with having great ideas and not acting on them?

Now, let me be clear on something. Not for a second am I suggesting that you try to be anyone else — only a better you that strives to be better still in every area of your life. But once you know who you need to be, you will have a clear idea of where you are now and the direction you need to go to have whatever you want in life. You’ll also have a clearer idea of your personal “gap”: the area between where you are now and where you want to go. If you aren’t closing that gap, you aren’t moving in the right direction.

When you re-evaluate your life using these questions and create greater clarity, it will eliminate decisions that do not move you in the direction of who you want to become. You start to ask, “Is what I’m doing now, this decision I’m about to make, moving me closer or further away from where I want to be?” If it moves you closer, it’s “yes.” If it moves you further away, it’s “no.” There is no middle ground — and things get a lot easier.

However, this clarity is a moving target, as situations keep changing. And as situations change, so do priorities and responsibilities. I have found that life needs constant re-evaluation. So I often ask myself, “What is most important in my life, and am I spending most of my time doing these things?”

Which brings me back to my boys and selling the house. As I write this, escrow on the house closes in two days, and Rocky and I are on week 2 of a 6-week South Pacific adventure trip through Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. We rented a place in Montecito as a home base to visit the kids, but we sold most of our furniture. We are traveling to experience the people, places and moments life has to offer. This is our new life, based on my asking, “What is most important in my life right now?”

For the next few years, when I am speaking in Europe, Rocky and I may stay there for 3 months. Same in Asia, Australia, Africa, wherever we end up. When my wife is working around the world with the “traveling wisdom show,” I can go along with her.

We re-evaluated and then took action to close the gap between where we were, and where and who we wanted to be. We have run away together with nowhere to go and all day to get there. And that’s happily achieving to me.



Think Yourself Happy Change #5: Gratitude

palm-treesGratitude is appreciation in the now. It is love for what is. It is a state of grace. Living in gratitude is the perpetual act of being thankful. This state is also one of the deepest, most meaningful and sustainable forms of happiness there is. This feeling is available to you at any time you choose.

One of my favorite quotes is the following:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

Take a moment and think of three things you are grateful for in your life. hold a clear picture of them in your mind, and notice how you feel about them. Feel thankful for these things right now. Think of nothing other than how happy you are that these things, people, and situations exist in your life, just for you, right now.

I want to go a step or two further because gratitude is so powerful. You can use gratitude to pull you out of a mental rut, or bad mood, it can lift you from anger and help you through grief. Gratitude will eliminate thoughts of “Why me?” or “Why not me?” It will center you right where you need to be, when you need to be there. It’s free, easy, and beneficial — so how can we remind ourselves to go there more often? We mean to, but we are over-stimulated all day and are busy doing other things.

In order to effectively create a habit, you must repeat the same activity regularly for a minimum of 21 days. So do the following three practices for the next three weeks.

  1. Starting today, think of two things you are grateful for, and every day add at least two more items to that list. At the end of 21 days you will have a minimum of 42 things, large and small, that you are grateful to have in your life.
  2. When you wake up from any sleep, before you get up, do two things. First, be grateful. Be grateful for waking up! Then think of the list of things you are grateful for, and be happy about each of them.
  3. From there prepare to get moving, with intention. Even before you stand up, have a vision in mind for how you would like your day to go. Be specific. What are you are putting out into the world? Who is counting on you and how are you showing up for them? Feel grateful to have the day you have envisioned ahead of you. Be clear on your intentions, and make it happen in a big way with enthusiasm, confidence and energy!

Take on this “gratitude practice,” and your life will change massively. In 21 days you will have it, and you will want to continue this practice for the rest of your life. You get to choose how to feel, why wouldn’t you start every day being grateful and directed?

There you have it — the five changes in thinking that will immediately improve your life. You must change your thinking through visualization, positive anticipation, choosing your meanings, perspective, and by practicing gratitude. These paradigms of thinking are developed and strengthened over time; you are conditioning yourself to feel fantastic every day, mind and body.

At first it is not easy to remember to do the things that benefit us, but in this case, the results are staggering. Once you start implementing these short, proven happiness strategies, you will notice immediately a massive improvement in every area of your life. The results will happen immediately without any lag time. Enjoy the process and share this with everyone.

And expect great things!

Think Yourself Happy Change #4: Perspective

A friend of my son Tanner, whose dad is a well-known celebrity, was at our house complaining that someone had stepped on his new shoes earlier that day. He was still very bent about the incident even several hours later. Tanner replied that he had only two pair of casual shoes, and told his friend not to complain about a small dirt spot on one of his more than 50 pairs of shoes. Then Dillon, Tanner’s twin brother, chimed in and said that he has only one pair of shoes with several holes, but he loves them and doesn’t want to give them up.

As I listened, I remembered visiting Fijian villages where no one owns any shoes, and yet everyone has huge smiles on their faces all the time. Come to think of it, I remember people there with no legs, happy as can be, and here is this kid that has everything he could want but chooses to focus his thoughts on a time when his shoe got dirty. I suggested he clean off his shoe and move on with gratitude for the abundance in his life.

You can use perspective to change how you feel by internalizing various possibilities of how your situation could be much worse than it is. You can also help ease a painful situation by exploring the possibilities of how you could be happy even in those circumstances.

I’ve heard people use the phrase, “Well, at least…” as a way to take a different perspective on something that made them unhappy. You had a fight with your spouse? Well, at least you dodged the plate they threw at you; otherwise you’d be in the hospital. You’re being audited by the IRS? Hey, at least you made enough money last year that they thought you were worth auditing! (If you can find a somewhat humorous perspective, so much the better.)

Or you can use a question I learned a long time ago: “What’s great about this?” Simply asking that question can cause you to look at the situation in a different way. If your manager embezzled funds from the business and vanished, aren’t you glad he or she is gone and can no longer steal from you? And maybe what’s great is that you now will have to dig in and go through your books thoroughly for the first time in a few years — and you might find new ways to make or save money that you never would have discovered otherwise.

There are always things to be grateful for, and things could always be worse. Spend less time in unhappy. Things happen that aren’t pleasant and they are going to knock us down, but don’t stay there — get up. Do things that you enjoy, and you will be happy. Spend time thinking about sad things, and you will feel sad. If you find yourself unhappy, realize that your situation needs to change and take action by doing one of the short, proven happiness exercise at www.happilyachieving.com or do something else that you know will make you happy.

Remember that happiness is a choice, so change your perspective, then choose and take action immediately. And thank your lucky stars every day for the gifts in your life. That’s what the last step is all about: gratitude.

Think Yourself Happy Change #3: Meaning



If you were a 35-year-old executive and walked into the office holding on to the old, ratty teddy bear you used to take to bed every night as a child, people would think you were crazy, and they’d be right. Yet how many of us are still holding on to some really old, ratty stories from our past that continue to make us miserable?

As humans, we live out the stories that we make up for ourselves. And the meaning we assign to whatever happens in our lives affects everything that we do and don’t do. The problem is that most of us choose to tell ourselves some really lousy stories — again and again and again.

You know what I mean. The relationship that imploded. The business venture that failed. The class you flunked or the college you didn’t get into. The race or game that you blew. All too often we hang onto the pain of these pieces of our past and let them shape our lives for the worst.

Things that have happened in the past have hurt you enough. Don’t let them continue to do their damage by giving them energy in your thoughts.

Though these things happened, they only happened once — and you can choose not to keep living them. This is the story of you, who you are and why you are the way you are. What is the story and meaning that you have given to the events that have happened in your past? How does that story continue to affect you every day in every way?

Although you can’t change the events of your past, you can always choose to change what those events mean and how they affect you. Re-examine the beliefs you have that may be holding you back. If your story is that someone you loved left, and therefore everyone that you love in the future will leave too, how would that belief cause you to treat the people trying to get close to you? Change the meaning: someone you loved left, that means they had to go and that is all. This is where you can choose to believe that everything happens for a reason and it is for your benefit.

The Universe conspires for you, not against you.

The mind can only occupy one space in time, so choose to fill your mind with active thoughts that move you in the direction you want to go, not to the place you want to stay away from. If something is coming up and you can’t bear the thought of what might be, then don’t. The event hasn’t even happened yet; so don’t live the worst thoughts as though they are really happening now.

If we let it, our mind will take us through the worst possible scenarios, ones that couldn’t possibly happen, and emotionally we get to live through every one of those visions as though they actually happened. Chose to believe things will work out for the best every time, and whatever happens when it happens, will only happy once and you will deal with whatever that is then. But until then, chose a story that works for you, not against you. Choose a powerful meaning, and you will take back the power over your own life.

To develop a better meaning often requires us to look at the past, present or future from a different perspective. That’s the next step to thinking yourself happy.

Think Yourself Happy Change #2: Positive Anticipation


Positive anticipation of success builds confidence and certainty. Once you have visualized success in your mind and celebrated your victory, you know that you can do it. This is different from thinking you “can” do something, because you have proof. In your mind’s eye, you have seen yourself win and already felt what it was like — so of course, you can do it again.

Athletes do this kind of all the time. Michael Phelps, the incredible U.S. swimmer who has won 18 Olympic gold medals, visualizes every moment of every single race he swims. His coach, Bob Bowman, calls it “putting in the videotape.” Every night and every morning, Phelps rehearses his upcoming race. He sees himself walking out to the pool, standing on the block, getting into position, jumping in the water. He sees and feels every stroke, every breath — right up until the moment that he touches the wall ahead of everyone else.

Phelps also visualizes what to do when things go wrong, like the time at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where his goggles leaked and he had to swim an entire race completely blind. (He still won the gold, by the way.) But what he never visualizes is failing to achieve his goal. He uses his mind to create the physical, mental and emotional habits of success.

But most of all, Phelps doesn’t stop his visualization with the sight, sounds, and feelings of touching the wall. He also sees his head coming out of the water, ripping off his swim cap, looking up at the timer on the wall, seeing a record-setting time — and then celebrating his victory. He creates a positive anticipation of success each time he visualizes.

The process of visualizing exactly what you want, and then feeling as if you already have it, is something everyone should practice and master — because the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real and a well-imagined event. That is the way we work. Of course, it also works for bad events that have happened in the past or you are worried may happen, but this is not where you want to live.

So before you ever get started, make a practice of visualizing yourself as being successful at whatever you attempt. Like Michael Phelps, every night and morning run the videotape of whatever you need to accomplish. See every moment and feel it fully. Then you too will find yourself on top of the podium, with whatever your version of a gold medal draped around your neck!

The next post will talk about the effects of meaning upon our thinking.

Think Yourself Happy Change #1: Visualization




Visualization of success is a process utilized by high achievers to succeed. This is probably a concept you are already familiar with and most likely are using in your life as well, but may not even realize it.

Seeing your future as though your goals have already been accomplished does several things to benefit you. First and foremost is clarity. If you have thought through what it is you are trying to accomplish, then you have the ability to actually see yourself as though you have already accomplished it.

As humans, we have the unique ability to play out any scenario in our brain that we choose. We can visualize something happening, and our nervous system doesn’t know the difference if it is made up or actually happening — we have the same visceral reactions either way. This can work to our advantage or disadvantage. We can feel great and excited when we see ourselves succeeding. We also can feel afraid and discouraged if all we can picture is failure.

In 2007 two researchers at Bishop’s University tested the effects of visualization and positive anticipation on the body. They took 30 college athletes and divided them into three groups. The first group went to the gym and worked out to train their hip flexor muscles. The second group only visualized working their hip flexors, and the control group did neither physical exercise nor visualization.

The study lasted for two weeks. At the end of that time, the athletes that went to the gym had increased their hip strength by 28%. But the athletes that only visualized working out had increased their hip strength by 24% — almost as much, without lifting a weight or using a machine!

That’s the power of visualization. The brain can’t tell the difference between an event you have imagined clearly, with emotion, and something that “really” happened. When you see it as though it is already done, your nervous system is getting used to you accomplishing that task. It will make it easier to replicate again and again so when you take the physical action, it will already feel natural and doable.

The next time we’ll talk about the second key to thinking yourself happy: positive anticipation.

Think Yourself Happy: Five Changes In Thinking That Will Immediately Improve Your Life.

Regularly I attend live events to learn new ideas and paradigms that can be used to improve overall. One such event was held over several consecutive days in Santa Barbara, where I live. Being open to new processes, both Rocky (my wife) and I were committed to doing all the exercises without prejudging.