Apple brings an effective value upload pipe to the world

Apple released iBooks2 and a new textbook creation app for the Mac (You'll need Lion for that, and even if these things are free, they'll end up pocketing money from that new tide of upgrades - I know they will from me). Keynote already made a huge difference to helping me communicate to an audience (people seeing the presentations tell me regularly: hey, this is definitely *not* a PowerPoint, it looks waay better, and is more effective!). So, I was using it on my iPad to convey ideas in meetings, where it brings a sense of closeness and bonding that helps in securing business. But with the textbooks that do come to life, we enter a new dimension. Think about all Seth Godin PDFs in the form of animated Textbooks, think about curated content with comments on a given subject put together and released to the world! Mmh, in a sense, it is weird that this is announced aroud the time SOPA gets protested and MegaVideo got busted by the FBI. But I may digress. Anyway, this is a super gift for all of us who have value to share. And sharing this way is really making it all exciting. That's what Apple products have succeeded in doing: getting people involved in getting excited again. It is not happening with Linux, it is not happening with Windows. It is happening with Apple products, and a bit less with Android phones. I've bet a lot of the farm on Apple. Not because I am any kind of fanboi, but because it is the logical thing to do when a cash-laden company uses it to roll out such innovative and stimulating stuff ot the world. That's what Apple is strong with: cash-loaded, innovative, master of their supply chain, and controlling the delivery channel. Walled garden? Sure! But generating money and recognition for the players: very very true indeed! Love, money, recognition: they made it so that you get the three assembled with Apple. That's what leadership is about: instilling the motivation to follow and make your best. So, Apple may lead to people challenging jumping off buildings at Foxconn (and doing something about it, as was reported) but they also deliver us these. I started with an Apple II eons ago, moved off when they were out of fancy, and am back to them 20+ years later. Yet another proof that you can turn things over given the right decisions. Quite different from Kodak. But quite alike to Fujitsu. Some more info: http://mashable.com/2012/01/19/this-is-how-apple-changes-education-forever/  

To reach your outcomes, you need to be an optimist

Even if the world seems to be crumbling down

As 2011 draws to a close, with the economy appearing to be sliding down, and Eurozone's debt going exponentially up, I sometimes wonder if there is any rhyme or reason in all of this. Times are getting tougher, that's a fact. Kind of stormy would be a better description. But times are also getting new. And different. Times that do require a better innovative stance and a clear strategy to make things happen. Whoever recognizes this upfront will be better off in the times ahead of us.

That's why you need to be an optimist.

That's the rational choice. Being a pessimist will only let you in the dust. You can't keep the required drive and energy if you let the pessimist side of you takes over. I am not a natural optimist mind you. The more I look in depth, the more educated I become, the more reasons I get to be pessimistic. Call that being a realist. That's what you also get from having been formerly trained as a civil engineer: a talent for seeing what could be wrong and how to prevent it from happening. A talent for precision and sharp understanding through cold-blooded examination. That's what makes planes safe and bridges okay to cross. And machine guns effective. But that's not what gets you to your top goals. What keeps you 'safe' isn't what makes you reach your top 3 outcomes (if your outcomes are to be safe, all right. Then what about keeping it so in the long term?).  

 Beliefs are key

For getting to your top 3 outcomes, you need to believe that it will be okay despite hardship, that hardship is only transient, and that you have all the resources you need to succeed. And that you can brush off failures as something that is not associated with you personally. That events or others made it so. Not you. You need to believe that you are better than others at the game. You need to believe that opportunity is there and will show up. You need to believe that you can find out all the help you'll need when the time will come. In a previous newsletter, I told you about the fact that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. As a matter of fact, preparation includes a serious edge towards optimism. Getting there All right, but how to turn optimisitic when the general slant of the population is towards pessimism? (We have a kind of depression epidemia upon us in the western world, burnouts abound, as do deeper or masked forms of depression. So, if you are in a medical condition, nothing I say here will be of any use, check with your doctor first). Some key insights:
  1. Realize that optimism is a learnable competency. Yes, it is.
  2. Get educated about positive psychology. Recommended reading: Martin Seligman's learned optimism.
  3. Focus on leveraging your strengths. Stack the odds in your favor by taking the road that helps you instead of the hardest road of all.
  4. Build a support system and get rid of pessimistic mavens that chant doom and gloom. Especially if they do that for a living.
  5. Formulate a strategy and focus on making it true by executing, nothing beats sharp focus when it comes to leaving pessimism behind. Action and anxiety are mutually exclusive.
  6. Take time to relax. When the storm comes, the most exhausted get taken away first. The physiological informs the mental. And back. Without a conscious decision to take care well of yourself, how could you ever be optimistic?
  7. Check you diet. Eating crap with tons of sugar will for sure not help keeping you positive and optimistic when sugar and insulin take you to a roller coaster ride thrice in a day.
  8. Make space for fun. All work and no play makes anyone a dull person. How optimistic can one feel when chained for all day long? My dog isn't. Why would you?
  9. Naysayers can only go so far. Do not become one, it will not help you in any way. You do not want to develop any "create own deep frustration" skill, right?
And do not become nervous about becoming too much of an optimist: hundreds of thousands of years left enough of a trace to keep you safe in the world no matter how optimistic you become! Wishing you a (very) happy (wonderful) new (optimistic) year, Optimistically yours!

Getting luck on your side

It is a fact of life that we have a limited amount of time available. Much less than we usually think. That's why it is very important to be careful about how we allocate it if we want to reach our top 3 outcomes. To reach our top 3 outcomes, whatever they are, we would love to have luck on our side. There is indeed a component of luck involved in reaching our top 3 outcomes. A lot of factors can sway our efforts in the wrong direction. Bad things happen. So, what's luck in the first place? As far as I concerned I define luck as "preparation meeting opportunity." Yep, that's it, preparation. You need to be prepared to jump right away on the opportunity as it presents itself to you. The unprepared will say "well, you know, I was unlucky and I was unable to seize the opportunity..." And the more you prepare, the more you'll be able to spot opportunities as well as you'll hone your skills. But beware, do not drown yourself in preparation. Make sure that you prepare on real cases, not just looking at books or discussing without purpose. That's the difference between knowledge and skill. Skill is what you are after. Skill is knowledge that has been applied to real world situations. You have been through the issues, you have a real solid learning. That's not fluff. That's not hot hair. As a side note, it is much better to have a grain of skill than 100 cubic meters of hot air on a given subject, no matter what the noise the hot air crew makes! But then the next problem occurs: which skills are going to help us meet the opportunity we want to seize? And what opportunity are we interested in in the first place? In the previous newsletter we looked at a bunch of questions to help you do just that. Identify your outcomes. At least the areas where you want them to be. There is no way to get away without this. You need to be clear on youroutcomes first. And with a kind of metric so that you know when you are there, or close enough to consider it reached successfully. Which leads us to the most difficult thing to do when you want to reach your top 3 outcomes: saying no to a lot of other stuff. You see, if you choose to pursue your top 3 outcomes, or even one of them, you'll need to stop chasing other things. And that means saying "no." It means that you have made a choice. And making a choice is saying no to what is not that choice. Say you want your firm to be well known in the marketplace so that it attracts customers for its very specific value proposition. All right. But if you want to get there, and get there fast, you'll need to focus on making it true. Learn how to do it, maybe staff for getting it done. Channel your resources to make it happen. No matter what, you'll have to say no to other things because nobody has infinite resource (not even Microsoft, Google or Apple: they all let go products that do not catch up). So, this month, let's reflect on what you'll say no to:
  • letting go of old habits that make no sense in the pursuit of youroutcomes (these are just time leeches)
  • letting go of people that do not contribute to your outcomes, or people who are sabotaging your effort (what a relief!)
  • letting go of projects that have been on the backburner for too long and have nothing to contribute to your outcomes (it will make more space available in your mind)
  • stop making commitments just to "look nice" and "because you have to." (2 minutes to say no, more satisfaction for hours by focusing on what matters instead of pleasing others)
Choosing is saying no. And if you do not choose, others will do it for you. Wouldn't it be better to act on your agenda rather than on theirs, by default?
Until next time, let's say no to crap and yes to luck!

Leadership and dogs

The old way: get the dog to comply through usage of fear. Also know as: the owner as oppressor and dictator. Negative reinforcement. The new way: get the dog to commit through the usage of leadership. Also known as: the owner as leader and guide. Positive reinforcement. I find it very interesting that dogs and humans have so much in common here. And I never really understood why people in charge too often choose the dictatorship avenue. So, if you really are interested in positive outcomes from a committed team, you know what to do!      

Focus on outcomes, not tasks

As you may have noticed on my website (http://philippeback.eu), I have changed my value proposition from "Helping you improve your way of working" to "I help you achieve your top 3 outcomes". Indeed, I've taken a good look at where one can get the greatest leverage when applying skills. And that led to that sharper focus on outcomes. Helping you improve your way of working is definitely positive and all, and it made me tick for several years. But it is time to move on because improvement of ways of working isn't in any way focused on outcomes. It is focused on efficiency (usage of means) instead than on efficacy (reaching outcomes). Hence the switch. My web presence will change name issue and morph into "Reaching your top 3 outcomes". What's in a name would you say. Well, a lot actually. Language is everything in communication. And communication ultimately directs the relationships and business. So, yes, the words we use and the way we see ourselves is a big deal. In fact, this is *the* deal. Something I came to realize after, well, 10+ years (So long already? Oh my!) in business. Never too late to learn, right? So, what does this bring to the table? What's the value for you, dear reader? Well, three things actually. Three I can think of, right out of the top of my hat that is:

One: Focus on top 3 outcomes will make you think about *your* top 3

What are your top 3 outcomes then? Can you list them? You can't have more than 3. 3 is already a hell of a lot of outcomes. Start by making a list of 10+ and then prune like a berserker because finding the top 3 is hard work. Don't think about how you'll make it true. Think about the outcome itself. Don't be shy. Think big. Some questions:
  • Is it personal our professional? (holistic choices allowed as well)
  • Can you write it down in a single line of less than 10 words? (and without commas all along the way, don't cheat!)
  • What difference will reaching that outcome bring to your life?
  • How badly do you need that to become true?
  • How painful is it for that not to become true?

Two: What makes something an outcome worthy of making it to your top 3 list?

What's an outcome? Well, everything is an outcome. Even failure is an outcome. You may want to call it a learning experience. Or a stellar success. Who am I to tell you what an outcome is for you? But what makes something worthy of your top 3 list, that I can help you with. Consider this:
  • Is this outcome something you are ready to invest massive energy in?
  • Are you fed up beyond all limits by not having this outcome coming true?
  • Are you feeling energized, just because of considering that outcome?
  • Is this merely a 'nice to have'? It has to be of the 'must have this or else' variety!
  • Is that outcome a required step to get to your ultimate dream?
  • Will it be a stepstone to your wildest dreams?
  • Don't you even dare to think about what this will bring if it becomes true?
What fits with those elements is worthy of your top 3.

Three: No need to kill yourself for this. Start small, build some muscle.

"Thinking big, wildest dreams, massive energy investment... Wait a minute, you crazy. I do have the mortage to pay, the family to attend to. I am chained to my work desk all day long. Do you think I even have the time to think about my top 3 outcomes?" Hell, yes you have time. Time is there for everyone. It is named "The Great Equalizer". I do not want to light a fire under your chair but realize that a year is 365 days (don't get me started on the .25, you don't have time for that). And that makes 10 years 3650 days. I am about to hit 42. In 10 years, I'll be 52. And 10 years later, 62. And by then, I'll have sailed through 7300 days (if you checked the calculation, you have more time on your hands than you think!). Life is short. Too short to not do something about our dreams. So, you for sure have the time to even work on a small dream, to allow yourself to get it. A lot of people do not even dare to dream small. Start there, dream small, and make your small dream come true light up your day. And then move from there. Build that dream achiever status of yours. No need to go public about it, just let it warm your heart, warm your soul, make you feel that your life matters in a big way. It does. Yes, it does. I grant you the right to make it true, should you need it. Stop seeking for validation. You have the right to your dream. Are you ready for a change? I am. I'd like to have you around for that journey!

Allowing yourself to enjoy the perks of freedom

People go into a freelance or consulting career and then find themselves locked into a hectic schedule. Escaping the 9 to 5 (and beyond) treadmill to land on a faster and more hectic one really isn't a great thing. I went into solo consulting 11 years ago to be able to bring value to my prospects and clients in the best way possible. Fair compensation And to do so in a way that would compensate me well enough so that I would be able to keep me healthy and with means to invest in my own growth. This in turn would bring additional value to my clients base. Think "return on investment" in a way. You trust me to help you in the best way possible to become more successful and this shows up in my own success as well. That's a sound virtuous circle. You don't want me dropping flat dead out of exhaustion because I am overworking myself too much. You want someone awake and conscious instead of a walking zombie stressed out of his mind. Perks? What perks? Well, you know, things like being able to read a great book leisurely, going to the pool, enjoying a great movie... All of which will help you discussing current events, stay in great physical and mental shape, and being some interesting to be around (which tends to result in more business). But you need to believe you can enjoy them In a culture of performance, you may believe that you must always be up and running, delivering to the max. All right, all right. Until you burn out that is. And believe me, if you do not allow yourself some perks, you'll end up there one day or another. So, ask yourself this question: "What inside my head prevents me for giving me the right to relax?" Until you have an answer to that question, you'll keep on running. Until you drop dead. If you do not care about yourself, who will?