Excerpted from the book on conscious business management, Business Black Belt
I want to be different… Like everyone else.
What’s it like to spar with a Black Belt? You have to do it to know how much practice you’ll need. There’s really only so much preparing you can do before you go for it. It’s important to get a little experience before further planning and training.
For the longest time, I kept thinking I was going to get lucky and be in the right place at the right time. I thought business would happen and sales would just take off. The company I worked for would suddenly skyrocket and I’d go with it. I’d be recognized by management as the young star and be promoted to the position I deserved in place of those idiots who always seemed to occupy a position well above their abilities. And I’d be rich.
So, there I was at 29 years old. Somehow I wasn’t in the right place at the right time doing the right thing and my ship wasn’t coming in. I also realized that I wasn’t going to inherit enough money to be happy. I reached a low point and realized I had to do something different.
From what I’ve seen of successful people and from my experience building my own business, success isn’t something you slowly accumulate. You don’t just carefully walk your way in and slowly work up your courage.
At some point you just get sick of your situation. You realize things aren’t working and you know something has to change. Your knowledge and experience reaches a critical mass. One day you say, “I’ve got to do it.” Instead of flipping out, you just flip the switch. It’s as if something snaps inside and you decide to go for it—no matter what! I flipped my switch the day my grandfather’s TubeSales truck passed me on Highway 101. That’s when I knew I had to get realistic and get going.
You don’t just dip your toe in the water and gradually wade in. You have to plunge right in. One day you’re off, the next day you’re on.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation)
there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills
countless ideas and splendid plans—that the moment one
definitely commits oneself, divine Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in
one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents
and meetings and material assistance which no man
could have dreamed would have come his way.
~ W. H. Murray
I’ve found this to be consistently true in business as well as in many other activities. Have you ever noticed when you decide to do something and you’ve paid your money, it starts to work for you? Many personal development companies say that their workshops start the minute you register for them. Do you start losing weight when you sign up for a health club? To begin with, your food consciousness goes way up, then you lose weight when you start working out. (Fortunately, you now know how to get off the roller coaster.)
If you haven’t got something in mind that you’ve always wanted to do, take a moment and come up with one, or several. You are going to have to stop doing certain things from the past because they don’t contribute to what you’re doing now. You know what they are, and there is no better time, place, or circumstance to improve your ability to put an end to them.
I assert that people know what to do, they just don’t know when to do it and they don’t do it soon enough. You know exactly what you’ve got to do—stop bitching, complaining, whining, and making excuses. Flipping the switch is making the decision to do something different. If you’re in the same place that you were 10 years ago, it’s because you’ve been doing the same things for 10 years. You can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expect to have different results. You’ve got to do something different to get different results.
OK, so by now the signpost in your brain flashes “I’m going to do this.” You feel it at a gut level. It’s not like New Year’s resolutions because those are too wimpy. You must assess where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Realize that you’ve got to make some changes—do something different. Signing up for yet another workshop or seminar or reading another book won’t work. Going out and buying new clothes or getting something to eat is not going to do it. Buying a new car or a new house won’t work either. This is not about something to buy, it’s about facing yourself. Asking for more advice or gathering more information is not going to work either. This next step comes from you internally. You have to say, “I am going to do this.”
Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.
~ Chinese proverb
This is the part where you just make the decision. You don’t have to wait to get permission from anybody. No one is going to give you permission to be successful. There is no note forthcoming from your mother or father.
But if you need to hear it anyway, you have my permission to go ahead and do this now. You have your parents’ and friends’ permission to do this now. You have the permission of the people who envy you and those who hate you.
This part is your decision to do. You must do this. There is no safety net. There’s no more advice. There’s no one else to talk to. There’s nothing more to read or do. This is on you. This is the part where you do it.
This means change. If what you’ve been doing isn’t working, throw it out and consider a new way. Usually, part of what you are doing is working and my bet is that you know exactly what has to change for things to be different. You just have to say to yourself (with feeling), “Stop, I’m going in a new direction.” I did this at 29, but it happens for people at 20, 30, 40, or 50+ years old. I realized I had to work harder and smarter. I had to apply all the information I’d acquired over the years. I had to actually start doing all the things I knew I should do.
My problem was that I was holding back. I wasn’t really going for it. I thought it was just going to come, and I don’t have to invest all of myself. I thought I could hold back a little bit. I could do it 9 to 5. I didn’t have to be fully present for it. I could just be on the sideline a bit.
In sales, I wasn’t asking for the order! I had to learn to ask for the order and say, “So, are we going to do this business?” It didn’t ever matter how smooth I was. I just had to do something and work on the technique later. I didn’t care if I was stumbling over the hurdles. I didn’t care if I was running into walls or tripping over myself along the way. I had to be willing to go the distance, start the business, and make the thing go no matter what. And then along the way, I’d learn how to work smarter and jump the hurdles. I’d learn how not to stumble, I’d learn how not to get tripped up. I would fine-tune my technique after I was moving along the path.
Circle the block until you’re warmed up enough to make a cold call
When I first worked at Texas Instruments as a field sales engineer, I had no customers. I didn’t even know who the right customers were to call. I took hand-me-downs from other reps, looked in the phone book, and scoured trade shows to find leads. A known potential customer was easy to approach, but the unknown were not. On the way back from these appointments, I invariably drove by a building that could house a potential customer. Instead of immediately pulling into the driveway, parking, going in the door and up to the receptionist with a good sales intro line, I’d circle the block and think to myself, “OK, what are you going to say? Who are you going to talk to? What if they’re not interested? What’s going to happen? Are they the right customer? Would they buy from me? Are they buying from someone else? Maybe they’re going to throw me out.” After all this chatter, I would finally go in and introduce myself. Either they didn’t use my stuff at all or they would say, “Yeah, we’re looking for something like that. You’re from T.I.? Come right this way.”
I found that you can think about things, and plan, go around the block, worry, get ready, take seminars, read books, and wait for just the right time. Or you can go right in and talk to people. I learned that the quickest thing for me to do was to drive right in and go in the door. I wouldn’t even think about it. I’d say, “Hi, I’m Burke Franklin, I’m from Texas Instruments, and I sell electronic components.” It could be as blunt as that, which was actually disarming in itself because I didn’t use some tricky sales ploy. The results I got were dramatic. I saved a tremendous amount of time and was generally welcomed everywhere I went. This seems to hold true for just about any subject I’ve gotten into. After landing and actually working with a number of customers, I then realized what I had to learn from books and seminars.
Just break the ice
Before I started my martial arts training, I had driven by the school for probably six months. Then one day, after realizing that I wasn’t ever going to do anything about it, I stopped in, introduced myself to the instructor, and expressed my interest in taking Tae Kwon Do. He said, “Great! Come back tomorrow night. Classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30. I’ll see you then.” That’s how and when I started, and I stayed with it for five years to get my black belt. But I started. Six months thinking about it didn’t count. Five years were going to go by no matter what. If I worked at it just a little bit a few nights a week, I would have my black belt at the end of those five years. What can you practice a little each day or week to accomplish a major goal over the next five years?
The more I practice, the luckier I get.
~ Gary Player, professional golfer
Nothing happens until you go in, meet the people, fill out the paperwork, pay them, and schedule your first appointment. Thinking about it, planning, and thinking about it some more produces nothing. You can look at it a couple of ways:
- The time isn’t right and you don’t have the money, or. . .
- The time is always right and you’ll get the money.
- Think about this. What difference would it make today whether or not you spent $100 five years ago? None! Project yourself into the future. What difference would it make five years from now if you spent $100 or $1,000 per month right now? Money-wise, none, but in terms of experience, a lot! You might say, “But, Burke, you just don’t understand!” Oh, but I do understand. Your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual state must align with a simple statement:
I’m going to do this, no matter what.
“I’m going to do (x), no matter what” is a good mantra to use when your goal seems really challenging and you may not yet know how you’ll do it. Start by doing everything you know to do. Even if you don’t know what to charge for your service, go ahead and do it anyway. You can’t sit back and say, “Well I can’t really proceed because I don’t know how to charge for this” or “I don’t have a computer” or “I can’t really get going because I’ve got kids.”
Take all the reasons why things can’t work and say, “Forget it. I have all my reasons for why things can’t work. But I’m going to proceed anyway. As I proceed, I will deal with all these things along the way. I will figure out how to either put them aside or make them a non-issue.” If you don’t have a computer, you could figure, “I’ve got to do this business, so where am I going to get a computer?” If you must, take a credit card and buy one. It’s cheaper than waiting or spending what it would ultimately cost you if you didn’t go ahead. I borrowed one from my friends. No matter what, there’s got to be a way to solve the problem.
I accomplish more by doing something than by writing it on my To-Do list.
Just gather up all your reasons and excuses for not going ahead and say, “So what, I’m doing it anyway.” Unless you’re sick of your reasons or you consciously drive yourself to it, you’re never going to do what it takes to get the results you want. There is no other way around it. You’ll always have reasons. It will never be the right time. You’ll never have the money. Other people will always want you to do other things. You’ll always need other skills and abilities. There are other things you should be doing. You have to put all that aside or make them non-issues. At some point you realize you are flipping a switch.
What if you went ahead and did what you really wanted to do anyway? What would you do to address each one of those deterrents so they were no longer in your way?
In the left column, write down your reasons that keep you from doing or having what you want. Then, as if you could deal with these things, list what you would need to do or what would need to happen for each of them to become non-issues, in the right column.
I can’t because. . . In that case, I’ll. . .
I already work 9-6 Spend just 1 hour/night
I can’t afford to run that ad I could try a smaller ad to test.
If you need to, take out another sheet of paper and continue this process for everything that is on your mind. Do you see that you really do know how to handle these things? Go back and read your Reasons and Problems List. Listen to yourself internally as you read them. When did you first hear them? Where did you hear them? When you hear these reasons, who is telling them to you? Whose voice do you hear in your head? Notice that you probably heard these reasons from someone else. It’s not even your voice, is it? They’re not even your ideas!
If you can realize that these determining thoughts are not your own – they didn’t even originate with you – it will be easier to let them go in favor of new ideas that are your own.
Making the steep curve
When I used to want to do something, I’d run out and buy all the equipment and magazines for it. As a kid, I was really into fishing. I bought a fishing pole and as much fishing tackle as I could afford. (The lures that they sell in tackle shops probably catch more people than fish.) I got all the equipment. Then I lost interest, because going fishing wasn’t actually interesting after a while. I got into other sports, and started doing a lot of different things just because I thought they were fun and cool to do. Then I’d get to a point when I’d say to myself, “I’m bored, I’m not really interested in this anymore,” and I’d quit. I know a lot of people who do that. They dabble in many different things. They’re dilettantes, not good at anything.
They use “boredom” as their excuse to quit.
As you take on a subject, whether it’s a sport, a hobby, or a business, the learning curve just gets steeper. The demands for getting good become a little more intense. If you’re going to continue with the activity, you’ve got to buy good equipment (although I’d hold off until the glamour wears off and you know you really do enjoy what you’re doing), invest in some lessons, and spend time practicing. In the martial arts, you begin by learning some basic moves. For a year or so, you don’t seem to be really learning new techniques that make it profound and interesting. What you’re doing is perfecting the basic techniques you so you can combine them to be more advanced.2
Here we tend to give up because we don’t see any movement or improvement. We may not get a sense that we’re advancing or getting any better. We may realize that we don’t want to make the effort to become an expert, and the sport or business really does become boring. That’s why it’s so important to find out what you really like doing, because only then will you do what it takes to master the subject.
Now I don’t even approach a sport without first thinking about what it would take to master it. I know the time, the effort, and the energy it takes to become a Black Belt, build a business, and get a pilot’s license. They all followed a similar pattern of starting, learning something new, practicing, studying theory, doing some background work, and practicing a lot. I now have a feeling for how steep the curve is going to be, I know where the curve is going to get steeper, and how long something’s going to take. I really don’t want to start something new now until I determine whether I want to master it or that it’s OK with me to just dabble.
Fast forward to your future
I said before that it’s a little weird getting used to making money, especially if you’re used to screwing up. When you’re successful, you also have to get used to saying thank you to people who acknowledge you for your good work. Get used to the phone ringing and people wanting to buy your products or services. Get used to making and having money. Get used to yahoos and losers wanting to get a piece of your action because they can’t make it for themselves (you’ll learn how to deal with them.) Get used to dressing a little better. Get used to keeping going no matter what.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how smoothly you do it at first, as long as you’re doing it. In the interest of action, stumble over some of the hurdles. Be willing to make it happen, even if you run into some walls or trip over yourself along the way. You’ll learn to make the jumps. You’ve got to go for it anyway.
Business Black Belt Notes
- Flip the switch from “I’m not ready” to “I’m doing it anyway.”
- Once you’ve made the decision, things will happen.
- Use this as your mantra: “I’m going to do this, no matter what.”
- Do something different—no more excuses.
- Get used to being successful.
- Don’t hold back—go for it all the way
2 Leonard, George. Mastery. New York, New York, Penguin Books USA, 1991. When we get on the plateau where it requires repetitive practice, we’re really etching a groove in our mind.