5 determining factors on how you live your life. Factor #1.

The more I meditate about it, the more convinced I am. There are, among various, 5 factors that are decisive when determining how we live our lives.
And no, it’s not the country where you live in or how old you are, neither the era you are living in nor you socio economical status. Of course all these set a certain context to our lives and work as a starting point, but these are not the most important factors that define how we live our life.
It’s definitely not a matter of how many material things you own that defines how happy you are, neither is it how much you suffer that determines how spiritual your life is.
It’s also not how many times you go to church which determines how many blessings you deserve in your life, nor what’s your education level that defines how happy you are with your professional career.

I believe, no, I know that what really defines how each of us lives our lives are 5 factors that are linked to each other:

1- Our thoughts: what we let live in our mind.
2- Our talk: what we let leave our mind.
3- What we watch, read and listen to: what we let into our mind.
4- Our actions: how we behave.
5- The people that we surround ourselves with.

Factor #1: Our thoughts: what we let live in our mind.

“Everything we create, we do it twice: when we think about it and when we actually do it”, they say.
What is the very first thought you have each morning? Is it what a pain it is, having to wake up that early just to go to work and spend the day with people you don’t really like? Or are you thankful for the opportunity to live another day so you can keep walking towards your dreams?
Whenever you face a problem at home or at work, do you keep asking why you, what did you do to deserve that? Or do you think that it is a challenge that you need to overcome and a lesson you need to learn and that, just like everything else in life, it will pass and, along with the pain it caused you, it will stay behind as you move forward in life with a lesson learned and a new set of tools that will be useful for the challenges ahead?

Definitely, the quality of our thoughts is automatically projected on to the quality of our life. Some times, especially at the beginning, it is really difficult to monitor the type of thoughts we have. (Hint: the average human brain has over 60 thousand thoughts in a normal day), even harder when we are used to complaining, however an exercise that always work to improve the quality of our thoughts is GIVING THANKS each and every morning when we wake up. Thanks for the gift of a new day, thanks because we are healthy and full of energy to live it fully, thanks because we will share another day with the people we love, thanks because we have a job to go to, thanks simply because we have a life to live.
Another great exercise that really helps align our thoughts is “Creative Visualization”.
This is something that even some of the top sports stars in world practice and it is very easy to do.
It’s all about drawing a mental picture of how we want to live our life. You can do it as big as to include all aspects of your life, adjust it to what you want for a special day or be as specific as Tiger Woods drawing a mental picture just before making one of his greatest shots, picturing each movement, each sensation from making a swing to the ball dropping into the green.
To some people this exercise sounds unreal or like it is too much work, but it really isn’t.
On the contrary it is absolutely real, because just like an architect needs to draw the plans of the building he is about to build, each person needs to be the “architect” of their life and draw the plans for what they want for it.
It’s also not that much work. What’s hard is really figuring out what you want out of life, but once you do this it’s easy to put it in paper. It can be a drawing, a list or a story, something you can revisit each morning to remind you how you want to live your life.

Why every morning? Ever since I read this for the first time I asked the same question. Today, after a good couple of years of practicing it and after seeing its positive results, I understand that, for me, being thankful and reading my life plan every day not only helps me focus on that plan but it also reminds me of how I want to behave each day to project that life. It also reminds me of the other 4 factors that help determine how I live my life, but I guess I can talk about these in the next post, in the mean time, think about it, share your comments and tell us: How do you want to live your life?


Put criticism aside and focus on the positive.

If you work in a corporation or any other type of organization, if you are a student at an institution or a member of an association, or even if you are a member of a family or have a group of friends, I’m pretty sure you have seen this happen at least once if not frequently:
Someone at work is promoted, somebody gets a scholarship, and someone else gets a raise or achieves something good for them, and its enough for others to start questioning why is that person doing so well.
Why is it that people can not be satisfied and celebrate that the other person is doing great? Why do we need to look for faults in that person so we can argue why they should not have received the promotion? Do you really think that criticizing that person and digging deep into them to find their greatest defects will produce a positive result for the criticizer? Do you suppose the group will somehow benefit by listing the reasons why they think that person should not have gotten the promotion, the scholarship or raise?

That way of thinking is just plain wrong, it shows envy and envy is a very poor sentiment and a thought of scarcity and it definitely goes against us in the end.

Think about it, I’m sure that most of us at some time or another, and I count myself in, must have made this very mistake. But really, what have we achieved by it, if not just giving ourselves a bitter moment and even worse, hurting someone who really happened to deserve that opportunity?

And we all really deserve every single opportunity life gives us; it’s up to us to decide whether or not to take it. But never should it be in somebody’s hands to judge if the other person deserves it or not.

So here is my proposal: Next time we see that someone around us is doing great, it can be colleague who got a promotion, a friend who just bought a new home, a brother who won a scholarship or a friend who just got married; instead of looking for the weak spot to criticize them, why not focus on the positive traits this people have, which helped them get what they got and praise those traits?

“It takes one to know one” they say, and I think that is absolutely right.
When we see all those positive traits in others it’s only because we are looking at a reflection of what is also inside us. If we recognize someone because she is always happy and smiling it is because we know that we also have the capability of sharing a smile with others. When we find a person who has the courage and strength to follow his dreams and work hard for them, it is because we know that deep inside us there is such a source of passion and strength too to follow ours.
So whenever we celebrate the good in others, not only are we praising them and encouraging them to keep it up, but we are also bringing out the good in ourselves.

Let’s not then bury all those positive traits in us under a deep cover of envy and scarcity, but rather next time you want to criticize or judge someone for having a great moment, stop and think about 5 positive traits that person must have had in order to get that opportunity. I’m sure that if you take a hard loving look, you will see each of those traits in you, thus opening yourself to the opportunities life has in stock for you too.


To sell more you need to stop selling.

For years I’ve heard the same thing every January, even worse I keep hearing it for the following 11 months as well.
No matter the company or the title o seniority of the person who says it, the words are always the same: “We have to sell more”, “Our sales objectives increased by xx% versus the prior year”, “We have to pre-empt our competitors”, “Bring in new accounts and look for new ways to get more money from your current ones”.

Attention is always focused on how to bring more money to the organization and how we are going to get our clients to give us more money. There are even entire strategies fully dedicated to selling more, and seminars teaching us how to be persuasive, have great presentation skills and be excellent objection’s managers.

But even with all this, every year we face the same problem: We are not meeting the numbers. And to justify this, a never ending series of reasons get thrown on the table: “The client hasn’t come back to me yet”, “They cut down their budget”, “Legal did not approve the contracts on time”, etc.
And in answer to these, we hear feedback like: “Forget the phone and have a face to face meeting”, “Take xx person with you”, “Make them see the mistake they are doing”, “Push harder”. All fair suggestions, after all a simple phone call is definitely not enough. To really communicate what you have to say you are better of having a face to face meeting; also bringing someone more experienced or with more seniority with you might really help you close the sale.
But even with all these the problem remains.

Maybe it is because of my background as an advertising professional, but I think that the real problem resides in that people get so obsessed with selling and selling more, that they forget what it is that which they were selling in the first place.
What I mean is when you work in the Client Services department of and advertising agency in a mid level position, your most important responsibility is to make sure that you PROVIDE your CLIENT with the best SERVICE. Your objectives are very clear; the reason for your position to exist is precisely to HELP your client, PROVIDE her with SOLUTIONS to the challenges she has, and work as a TEAM to really SATISFY her needs. And all of this without having to think about how much you should charge your client for it. Let the executives of the Agency worry about that. Or at least that was my training a 12 years ago when I started working in the Advertising industry.

The problems is though, that as you keep advancing in your career and moving up on the “corporate ladder” you risk forgetting about service and, without really noticing it, you start adopting the philosophy of “sell and sell more”. There is no more space left in your agenda to think about service, you let your team work on that, and you focus on coming up with new schemes to charge more.

Now, I must confess that at some point I too was guilty of this. Lucky for me though, I was able to stop and think and remember that in 12 years of professional career, the times when I’ve had the best sales results have been precisely those when I stopped worrying about sales and revenue, and started focusing on looking for new ways to collaborate with my clients and help them get better results for their business, not mine.
The times when my clients have been more opened to listen to my suggestions and following my recommendations have been those when I did not talk only about how much more money they would need to pay.
In fact, if you want to loose your client’s attention immediately, just tell them they need to spend more on you, let them know that you are there only for their money. Maybe, if you are a hell of a sales person, you might get to sell them once or three times even, but sooner or later they will catch up and realize you are just after their budget and, for them, talking to you will just not make any sense again.
On the contrary, when you demonstrate an authentic interest for their business and you are really focused on providing them with the best solutions you have available for them without discriminating the amount of their budget, you win not only a great credibility, but the certainty that that client will always be open to hear you out and accept your proposals even if those mean a big investment on their part. And they will invest what you propose because they will know that you are not just after their money, but rather you are looking out for them and what’s best for their project.

When I think of this I just can’t help remembering Robin Sharma’s advice: “People like to do business with the people they like”.

It really isn’t rocket science; there are no complicated recipes to do it. You just need to take away that eco that resonates inside your mind yelling: “Sell and sell more” and instead repeat to yourself: “seek first to understand your client’s needs and then make sure you are able to deliver on them”.

As Tim Sander says in his book: The Likeability Factor: “There is nothing like connecting with each person’s sweet spot to become relevant to them”.


About the daily stuff and the not so.

About a year ago I started blogging. The name of my blog: “De lo cotidiano…y lo no tanto” which in Spanish means “About the daily stuff…and the not so”.
And I have to say, with some pride that it has been a pretty successful blog through which I have been able to reach and generate a modest but nevertheless important mass of readers.

The purpose of my blog is to share some insights, learning, experiences and points of view about the daily stuff that challenges, motivates and teaches us to grow and live.
Some times I talk about the lessons I learn from other and somewhat more mature, experienced bloggers like Phil Gerbyshak, Tim Sanders or Penelope Trunk, some others I share lessons obtained (personally or from a third party) during the week and others I write about the thoughts, concepts and ideas that have been running through my mind for quite a while.

I have to say that blogging (writing and reading) has been one of the best activities I have ever taken upon and I expect to keep doing so for a long time. In fact this is the main reason why I have decided to start writing an English version of “De lo cotidiano”, so I can also share it with my friends and other folks who do not read Spanish.
I can only hope that it is as successful as its original version and some of you start sharing your thoughts and comments with me soon.

As you might already know, maintaining and up dating a blog is hard work; one could say it’s a constant work in progress, so please be patient as I continue adding some of the features that already exist in the original Spanish version.

So here it is, the first entry ever of “The daily stuff and the not so”

A theme for 2008.

Great idea what I read a few days ago in “Make it great! With Phil Gerbyshak” and in “Walking my own walk” from Pam Thomas who challenges us with a very interesting proposal for 2008: Don’t do any resolutions, instead define a theme for the whole year. One concept under which you can align all of your efforts, throughout the year.
Pam, a professional coach, talks about how she, for the second year in a row, will adopt a theme that will help her align all of her activities during the year and what this means to her. In the same manner, Phil accepted the challenge and shares with us the theme that will be his insignia for 2008 and what this will imply for him on his day to day activities.

Great idea, I’ll say it again! As an advertising professional, I am used to working under an umbrella concept. This means that, typically, when you launch a new communication or advertising campaign, first and foremost you develop a communication strategy which in turn gives way to a creative concept. Under these strategy and concept you create a series of actions or communication tactics that reach consumers, through different media channels and diverse touch points, with different messages in time, form and tone but always (if the work is done the right way) under only one concept.

So when I read these two ingenious blogs, I thought: “What a great idea to align my activities and priorities for the year under one concept. Great!” Although I do have to say that it might no be as innovating, since I remember an old friend say, 8 years ago: “ This is the year of the NABO (his nickname) 2000” (Nabo: I think you were onto something).

Well, say no more. My theme for 2008 is: (Drum roll: trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr pzzzzzzzz!)

Connecting with people.

To me this means:

  • Getting rid of prejudice and preconceptions and opening my mind and my heart.
  • Transforming myself into a great listener. Nothing says “I care about you” better than giving your complete attention to the person who is in front of you.
  • Aiming to understand others dreams, fears, objectives, motivations and trying to be emphatic with them.
  • Writing more and sharing more of my thoughts with those who read my blog and a new one that is in the works and coming soon.
  • Participating in more conferences, workshops and events, not only as a speaker or trainer, but as an attendee as well.
  • Helping others connect with more people. I’ve have done this in the past and I have to say that I’ve not only had great results but it has left me with a great fulfilling sense of contribution. And it is really easy too. All you have to do is be willing to really understand the other party’s needs and share with them your knowledge (if you have any on their specific subject) and your contacts. Maybe someone has a great new service but doesn’t know the right people who can benefit from it, so why not put them in touch, even if you don’t get anything out of it? And it’s not only about recommending people, but about referring books, websites, sources of knowledge and information, products and services too.
  • And the mother of them all: Build and strengthen the connection between my wife our baby daughter (who is due next month) and me. Now that is a GREAT CONNECTION to build!

So there you have it, my theme for 2008. Anyone wants to share their’s?

An important note.

The comments, opinions and recommendations posted in this personal blog are my personal thoughts, and doesn't necesarily reflect those of my employer.