People say – Practice what you Preach.  Well, earlier this month I invested in a franchise.  This is not the first time I have been a franchisee.  Over the years, while continuing with my coaching practice, I have joined several franchise systems so you think the decision process would be easy, but it’s not.  It’s never easy.

At first, it’s all excitement. We do our research and imagine what it could become. We ask the questions, build our spreadsheets, dot our I’s, and cross our T’s.  That’s the easy part, the fun part.

It’s the end of the process that slows us down.  Self-doubt and fear set in.  We begin to question all our assumptions. There are two voices in our head screaming at each other. One voice says ‘We’ve done our research; we know it works and we have the abilities.  Stop being a wimp, put on your big boy pants and let’s make this happen!’  The other voice says ‘Are you out of your mind?  We don’t need this, we’re safe where we are.  No risk is good risk. Don’t walk, run!’

So, how do we decide? Over the years I’ve worked with thousands of people who have faced this challenge.  Each person does it differently.  For me a few things come into play –

However, even if all these are pointing in the right direction, there is still fear and doubt.  That is simply part of being human.  So, how do I make my decision?

For me, there is one last question that must be asked.  This is the question that unlocks my personal ability to make hard decisions and move forward.

‘How would I feel if I didn’t do this?

Life occasionally presents us with the opportunity to move the ball forward.  I decided many years ago to try my best to say ‘Yes’ when opportunities present themselves.  I hate to think back on things and wonder, ‘What if…?’  Personally, avoiding a life of regret is a powerful motivator for me.  Assuming all the above-mentioned criteria are in place, it’s this last, powerful, question that helps me personally get over the hump and say ‘Yes’ to a new adventure.

Helen Keller once said ‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all’.  I am very excited about my new adventure and will provide periodic updates.  Of course, I will also continue in my full time franchise coaching role because I so love it!

From time to time, as a franchise coach, I work with individuals who are perfectly positioned to become business owners. They have lots of money, no debt, great skill sets, likable personalities, and a true desire to break out of the employee mentality.

However, at the end of the coaching process, some still decide to return to their jobs. And, of course, for anyone who is a business owner, this is exceptionally hard to understand. Why would anyone spend his or her life preparing for freedom, yet once that opportunity arose, return to a salaried job?

There is only one reason that I can think of: Salaried jobs are like crack cocaine. Okay, I may sound like I’m a bit off my rocker, but stay with me. What is it like to be addicted to a drug like crack cocaine? Recently, when I read about drug addiction and discussed it with a drug-counselor friend, I learned a few things. And here’s my bottom line: You will be amazed at the similarities between a salaried job and drug addiction.

Each time you do drugs, you get high
This is also true of getting paid. Science has proven that the same part of your brain, the reward center, is stimulated by both drugs and money. So, every time you get paid, you are essentially feeling a similar satisfaction to that of a drug fix.

To feed your reward center, you need the drug on a regular, predictable basis
Not knowing where your next drug high is coming from is nerve-racking; the same can be said of a salary. If you have ever been laid off, fired or unemployed for some other reason, you know well what I am talking about — that intense feeling of worry and uncertainty over when you might receive your next paycheck.
It’s for this same reason that people feel scared to leave their jobs, of their own choosing. The fear of losing that regular paycheck overshadows the desire to break free.

You set up your life around the drug
Addicts allow their addiction to control their life. It affects how they spend their day, every single day. In some cases, the drug even takes priority over family. Sound familiar?

Can you think of any times in your life when you let something control you that much? For many people, this sounds exactly like their job. Salaried work often takes priority over everything else in life, even family time. And it all goes back to the feeling that you need that regular, predictable salary.

If the drug is suddenly removed, you go into withdrawal
You miss it — both physically and mentally. You often feel depressed and lethargic, as though you can’t live without it. This is much the same as what happens when a salary is suddenly taken from someone.

No, you won’t become physically ill, with headaches, nausea and other symptoms of drug withdrawal, but you will feel helpless and anxious, as though you can no longer provide for yourself. You want the salary back, just as you would the drug.

It is hard to build wealth as a drug addict
When you’re addicted, you have hard, fixed expenses built around your drug habit. You know how much you can afford and set up your lifestyle around the supply of drugs. Generally, you spend what you make. Doesn’t this sound a lot like someone with a salary?

With a salary, you probably have weekly, monthly and yearly budgets based on what you make. It’s hard to accrue wealth beyond these amounts because so much of your time and effort are spent making, and then surviving on, the amount of money that your salary allots you each year.

If you don’t have the drug for a while, you may begin to relapse
Your addiction may cause you to panic and become desperate for another hit. And sometimes you’ll find it quickly. But, other times, you’ll suffer, not having that fix to depend on. If a stranger offers you drugs, even for a little while, the reward center in your brain will scream at you, and inevitably you’ll say yes.
The same is true of a job offer after you’ve gone a long time without a salary. You’ll be incredibly tempted to accept, giving up your freedom for that promise of another paycheck.

As a drug addict, your drug habit controls your life
You know you shouldn’t use drugs, but when you’re addicted, you can’t help yourself. Likewise, someone with a dream of business ownership may know he or she should pursue that dream, but cannot help but return to the “security” of a salaried job.

This is how many people end up at retirement with too many “what ifs” instead of the joy and freedom that come from knowing you have lived your best life, free from the control of a salary.

Over the years, I have seen thousands of people try to kick the habit of salaried employment and become masters of their own destiny. Some manage it; others don’t.

Remember, though, that the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. If you are seriously interested in becoming a business owner, maybe these words will help: Start each morning with the following mantra — I am a salary addict. From there, you will eventually gain strength and, maybe, one day, kick the habit.

Lately I’ve been thinking about victories and successes. If you go on social media, visit with a friend, or watch your favorite sport, it’s all about victory and success. On social media everyone talks about their kids getting ‘A’s, or, here in Florida, winning at Pickleball. Go to a cocktail party and folks will brag about their successful new idea. Even in the case of sports, the media will often interview the winning team while the team that loses prefers to avoid answering questions.

Successes are desirable and losses are not.  This ‘fact’ is so endemic in our society that nobody even questions it. But what if we turned the entire concept on its head.  What if we give away our victories, while owning our failures?

A Different Way to Think.
I know it sounds like a strange idea but stick with me. While victories make us feel good, they teach us nothing.  If you do something well, you will simply repeat that action expecting to get the same result. You are no longer learning.  In addition, victories are hollow because there’s no place to go from victory.  You’re at the top.  You will try to stay there but really, there is only one direction you can go, down. On the other hand, failures offer opportunity for growth.   You don’t want to repeat a failure.  As a result, failures make you think about what could be improved and allow you the opportunity to improve in the future.  It’s only through failure that we grow and improve.

Learning and Growing.
What if we made a habit of giving away our victories?  What would happen if, every time you win, you give credit to somebody else?  Let then feel the pride of success. Victories do little more than provide us with temporary satisfaction. An injection of Dopamine.  At the same time, what if we owned our failures. If something doesn’t work out as planned, take full responsibility for the results.  Absorb the failure and seek to find the lesson that will allow you to become a better business owner, person, spouse, or parent.  There is value and opportunity in failure, find it.

I realize this is unconventional, but I believe that giving away your victories and owning your failures is the only real path to improvement and, overtime, greater success.

Wishing you enough defeats to create the exceptional success you deserve.

The following has been attributed to The Dalai Lama.  I have not been able to verify the source but I like the message.  As you embark on on your journey into 2022, here are a few things to remember.

_____________________

Instructions for Life

by The Dalia Lama
  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R’s:
    1. Respect for self,
    2. Respect for others.
    3. Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll  be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation.  Don’t bring up the past
  14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Over the past 20 years as a franchise coach I’ve worked with thousands of individuals. When I ask about objectives one term appears more often and any other. That term is ‘Financial Freedom’. It seems that everyone is pursuing financial freedom but when I ask individuals, ‘What does financial freedom mean to you?’, there is a lack of clarity.  Many people define financial freedom as being ‘Rich’ or ‘Wealthy’. But are these terms the same?  If you’re ‘Rich’ does that mean you’re ‘Wealthy’? If you’re ‘Wealthy’ does that guarantee ‘Financial Freedom’?

Are You Rich or Wealthy?
Let’s begin with the term ‘Rich’. What does it mean to be rich? In it’s simplest form, rich simply means you have a large income, big bank account and own lots of things. Being rich is a statement of a person’s current state of being.  It lacks permanence.  Just because you are rich today, does not ensure that you will be rich tomorrow.

So how does a ‘Rich’ differ from ‘Wealthy’? In many ways being wealthy is more encompassing than simply being rich.  Being wealthy can include material possessions, but it can also include knowledge, relationships, connections, and purpose. I think we all know people who have led wealthy lives full of purpose but were never monetarily rich.

What About ‘Financial Freedom’?
First, I’d like to change the term from ‘Financial Freedom’ to ‘Financial Independence’.  In so many ways financial independence is a better term in that it is more specific. Financial independence is the point in time where ‘earned income’ (income from work) is no longer required.  It is the point in time when your annual passive income from your existing assets exceeds your annual expenses.  Once you reach financial independence, working to earn money is no longer required – although you may continue to work because you enjoy it or the work provides purpose.

Interestingly, you don’t need to be rich or wealthy to be financially independent. I know many rich people who must continue to work to pay the bills. If they lose their job, they will quickly face financial hardship.  These people are not financial independent.  I also know individuals who are not rich but, due to their modest lifestyle and wise investments, are both wealthy and financially independent.

Clarity Is Important.
As you lay out your plans for 2022 and beyond, separate your thoughts regarding being ‘Rich’, ‘Wealthy’ and/or achieving ‘Financially Independence’.  Each term is unique and deserves individual attention.  The more clearly you know what you want, the more likely you will be able to attain it.

A couple weeks ago I was speaking with an old friend of mine, Peter.  During the conversation he reminded me of a blog that I wrote almost 10 years ago.  A blog that was relevant at the time, and even more relevant today for anyone investigating business ownership.

===============

‘Fake News’ Revisited

I have a couple of friends that like to share their opinion. They generally do this by forwarding emails that show the opposing side (the side they do not agree with) in a compromising position. However, when I do my due diligence, I often find the ‘facts’ they are sharing to be false. Occasionally I bring this issue to their attention. They are almost always disinterested, preferring instead to cling on to the false information because it molds to their own set of beliefs.

As I contemplated this, I realized that the same thing is happening all around us as we try to make decisions. Should I use sugar or sweetener?   Or – Should I start a business or get a job? Ask your friends and they will have an opinion. Some might say, ‘I once had a friend that started a business and people say it did not go very well.’ Another might say, ‘My uncle is an entrepreneur and I think he is really wealthy.’ So, what do these statements have in common with the false junk mail that is constantly being passed around? Well the most obvious similarity is that they are both completely devoid of fact. Neither one should have any value in regard to establishing your own opinion.

Now, more than ever, the world is full of opinions. False information is not created by accident. It is purposefully created by people who want to sway your thinking. It is your job to determine the difference between opinion and fact. Successful people do not cling to false information because it fits their preconceived ideas. The only way to make great decisions is to be open to learning. The only way to be open to learning is to accept the fact that you might be wrong.

Learning is not accomplished by talking to your friends, family and neighbors and asking them, ‘What do you think?’ Learning occurs by putting in the hard work that is required to separate fact from fiction. It is not easy. It requires a game plan. It requires stick-with-it-ness. It requires vigilance. It is called due diligence. Once you have the facts, then you will know what the right course of action is. By doing this you will separate yourself from the average person and stack the deck in your favor.

When To Start A Business?

Often, I hear the question, ‘When is the best time to start a business?’

When you are Young!
Is the best time to start a business when you’re young? Advantages of youth include energy, passion, self-confidence, and a can-do attitude. When you’re young you think you can accomplish anything. The disadvantages of course include a lack of capital, a lack of experience, and a lack of perspective that can only come with age.

Middle Age?
The natural alternative is middle age. Advantages of middle age include increased financial strength, experience, and a long enough run away to create a significant business. These are strong advantages; however, disadvantages include increased responsibilities related to mortgages and children. Often it is the middle-aged individual who is the most time starved making it challenging to prioritize a business.

Later In Life?
So maybe later in life is the best alternative. Once your children have moved away and your house is paid for. At this point in life you have fewer distractions and greater resources. In addition, you have greater life experience. It might be the perfect time; however, later in life you have a shorter runway to learn skills required as a business owner. In addition, you have less time to reap the rewards of business well built.

So, What’s the Answer?
All of this leads me back to the question I asked at the beginning. ‘When is the best time to start a business?’ The fact is there is no best time in life to start a business.  There is always a reason to start a business and a reason not to.

In many ways starting a business is like planting a tree. The best time was yesterday. The second-best time is today.  Tomorrow is nothing more than unfulfilled promise.

Celebrate today.

Who Are You?

Over the last twenty years I have had the pleasure to work with thousands of individuals who were looking to change the trajectory of their life. Every one of them begins the process with the desire to create a better future. However, at the end of the process only a portion are able to execute on their dream. The question is ‘Why’?  What is the difference between ‘Those Who Do’ and ‘Those Who Don’t?’.

Those who do –

  1. Mentality of Success. These individuals know in their heart that they will be successful no matter what they do. 
  2. Proactive Belief System.  They have strong belief in themselves and conscientiously surround themselves with a small group of individuals who are positive and forward thinking.
  3. Comfortable with Learning. They don’t expect perfection and don’t let setbacks distract from their objectives. They look at each setback as a learning opportunity propelling them towards their final goal.
  4. Control. They find security in the control business ownership provides and great unease when an employer controls their future.
  5. Long-term thinkers. These individuals are focused on their long-term goals. They’re thinking five, ten, twenty years down the road. They’re willing to disrupt their short-term comfort zone in order to secure their long-term dreams.

Those who don’t –

  1. Questioning. These individuals you’re constantly asking, ‘What if I fail?’.  Although this is a good question, these individuals lack the internal belief system that drives success.
  2. Distractions. Often these individuals are surrounded by distractions that keep their mind occupied and focused on the short-term leaving little bandwidth for the long-term.
  3. Naysayers.  These individuals find themselves surrounded by individuals who are not supportive of their objectives.  They delay their dreams in hopes of changing everyone’s mind.
  4. Security. They falsely believe they are ‘uniquely valuable’ to their employer and therefore ‘secure’.
  5. Comfort zone.  These individuals get stuck in their comfort zone and find it difficult to move in a new direction.

Who are you?
As you know, ‘Life will only change when you’re more committed to your dreams than you are your comfort zone’.  If you believe business ownership is for you then it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and commit.

Wu Wei of White Water  |  By Chuang-tsu

The great waterfall of Lu Canyon is thousands of feet high, with a halo of mist that can be seen for many miles.  Nothing survives the violent waters at its foot.  Yet once K’ung Fu-tzu saw an old man swim the tempest.  K’ung Fu-tzu and his retainers ran with ropes to rescue him, but when they descended to the floor of the canyon, they found the man sitting on a large boulder, quietly singing.

K’ung Fu-tzu exclaimed, “You cannot be alive!  What are your powers to allow you to do what you have done?”  The old mand turned and smiled, “I am just a man, but I began to learn as a boy, and I continue to practice.  I flow with the water, going up, down and around with it.  I forget myself and do not struggle against forces far beyond my control.  Then I use my meager abilities in the moments when the water and I share the same path.”

What is Wu-Wei?

This story is based on the Daoist concept of Wu Wei.  Often Wu-Wei is described as ‘nothingness’ but that is not entirely correct.  Wu-Wei is ‘perfect action’ or being ‘in the zone’.  Being able to act with calmness and without thinking.  Great actors and musicians improvise by feel, without thinking.  This is Wu-Wei.


The Lesson

Becoming great at something is not easy.  Wu-Wei is a result of time, effort, focus and repetition.  If you want to become a great parent, mentor, friend, or, yes, entrepreneur, start early and continue to practice throughout your life.

Maybe, one day, you will be able to sit on the same rock as the old man.

Fred Muse – Thank You

My first job out after graduating from Washington University in Saint Louis was with Monsanto.  Gene Krajack hired me, placed me in the Agricultural Division, and promptly relocated me to eastern Washington state for training.  At that time, I literally did not know the difference between a tractor and a combine.  Their job was to teach me what I needed to know about agriculture and eventually become a productive member of the team.  Wow, did they have their work cut out for them.

How to Alienate Everyone

I remember my first meeting.  It was a cold, rainy November afternoon at a non-descript hotel meeting room.  I entered the room dressed professionally and was staring at a room full of folks in jeans and flannel.  They smiled and asked me a few questions about myself.  I took the bait and told them about my schooling, and degree and background and a bunch of other things that they had no interest in hearing.  Within 30 minutes the entire room was ready to see my back side.  Of course, in my arrogance, I had no idea.  I got to talk about myself, was proud of my accomplishments, and had absolutely zero perception of self.

Unbeknownst to me, by the end of the afternoon, NOBODY in that room wanted to be my trainer.  Short straw was drawn by Fred Muse.  Fred was in his 60’s, born and raised on a farm, and was a Monsanto lifer.  He was the picture of the grizzled old farmer.  He did not speak much but when he spoke, folks listened.

Rebuilding

Our first meeting was in his living room in a tiny town.  It was over 30 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday.  He said – “Rick, do you mind if I share something with you in the ‘for what it’s worth department’?”  I said ‘No, I don’t mind’.  He then said – “Rick, in 30 minutes you managed to get everyone to hate you.’  Fred then paused and said, ‘I don’t know if this is recoverable but if you would like to try, I will try and help”.  Fred proceeded to share with me what I said and how it was received.  Up to that point in my life, I had never thought about how my actions and words were received.  My head was spinning.  My world literally flipped upside down.  Fred then explained that I would need to develop a concept called ‘humility’ if I wanted to survive in the role.  He then set me on a course that I am still working on today.

We pulled out an old piece of loose-leaf paper and wrote the following words –

Ask a Question,
Shut Up & Listen To The Answer,
Ask a Related Question,
Shut Up & Listen To The Answer,
Repeat,
Shut Up
.’

In Process

I am still working on this today.  In many ways, What Fred taught me was the core of real learning.  When you talk, you are not listening.  If you are not listening, you are not learning.  Everyone has something to teach you.  It is your job to respect the person enough to listen and learn.

Finally, humility is not weakness.  It is possible to be both humble and strong; humble and confident.   Thirty-five years year, I am still working on it… not perfect, but better.

Fred has long since passed but I want to say ‘Thank You’.

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