Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Swiss Army Knives

"I've always wanted to go to Switzerland to see what the army does with those tiny red knives." 
- Billy Connolly 
Small business owners and professional advisors often develop what I call a "Swiss-army-knife mindset" - the idea that they must become a jack-of-all-trades and do everything themselves. Whenever a new role or responsibility arises, they think they must learn to do it themselves, kind of like spawning a new blade or growing a new limb/tool. Whether it's a sense of false economy or an overly large attitude of self-importance (that no one else can do those new tasks half as well as them), they soldier on completely solo, an army of one.

I spoke recently with an estate planning attorney in the upper Midwest who works alone and who laments that he is six weeks behind in delivering estate plans to his clients. From copying documents to reviewing the mail to confirming appointments, he does everything himself, while the real work of his business, preparing estate plans, falls further and further behind. "Do you think I should consider hiring an assistant?" he asked me. Duh! Either hire an assistant or figure out what you can outsource or both, I told him. In his case, not having an assistant isn't saving him money; it's costing him, big time.

Breaking past the "Swiss-army-knife mindset" is difficult but essential to a business's growth. I can honestly attribute most of my success in SunBridge to the marvelous efforts of my team members. I focus on what I'm best at and I trust those around me to use their talents and skills to do the same. The result: a hugely productive and wonderfully happy company.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Quiet


"Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing. "
- Robert Benchley 

I want to say thank you to Jeff Knapp of Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Jeff is an estate planner par excellence, a dear friend, and a long-time member of the SunBridge Network. Jeff knows me pretty well, so when he recommended a few weeks ago that I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, I immediately took his advice.

This is a great book. Cain says our place on the introvert-extrovert spectrum strongly influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve conflicts, and show love. It affects the careers we choose and whether or not we succeed in them. It governs how likely we are to exercise, commit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, place big bets in the stock market, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask "what if." That sounds like a pretty big deal, doesn't it?

Although in this country we live with what Cain calls "The Extrovert Ideal-the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight," approximately one-half of Americans are introverts. What they bring to the table is crucial to the success of any family, work team, business, or other organization. For me, this is a must-read if you're an introvert (even if you're in denial or are a closet introvert) or are married to, partnered with, or working with one, or have children who are introverts.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Prime Time


"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night." 
- Steve Martin  
Are you a morning person, a night person, or somewhere in between? I'm definitely a morning person; I do my best creative work (such as writing or designing a workshop or polishing a new SunBridge tool) when I'm fresh and the day is new. I'm far more productive and efficient, and the ideas seem to flow effortlessly.

But lately I've allowed a bad habit to invade my daily routine. When I go to my computer first thing in the morning, I feel compelled to read Google News and Facebook and then all the collateral articles and other "shiny things" I find there. I justify it as "catching up." Before I realize it, I've wasted an hour or more of my best working/creative/thinking time. Silly me.

Here's an old saying that's good advice for you and for myself: "Make hay while the sun shines." Organize your day so you can do your most important work during your most energetic and creative hours. Then stick to your plan. When it's Prime Time - whatever part of the day that is for you - don't fritter away those hours with lower-tier activities. Do your best work at your best time. There will be sufficient time in your off-peak hours for less critical tasks, but not if you've wasted Prime Time.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Two Years Old


"A two-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it." 
- Jerry Seinfeld 
A few weeks ago I spent two days with my two year old grandson Matthew, his three sisters, and their parents. Jerry Seinfeld is right; it was very much like a blender running at top speed without the top. That weekend brought back lots of memories of the times when our six children were young. Whew, what a frenetic stage of life!
With the perspective of an added generation and without the pressure of actually being responsible for his care, I observed that Matthew's high-energy activity was not merely random chaos. Like any good scientist, he was experimenting. He was trying to figure out how things work and where his boundaries are. He was testing a wide variety of hypotheses, and inspecting new territory. Sometimes those journeys of discovery landed him in trouble, but those occasional (or was it frequent?) missteps didn't slow him down very much.

I find myself a bit envious of Matthew. Now that I'm 61 years and 10 months removed from the "Terrible Twos," I wish I still had the energy, curiosity, and fearlessness Matthew enjoys. If I did, I wonder what I would be able to accomplish. What new breakthroughs could I achieve? What new lands could I explore? What new SunBridge tools could I create? How many more lives could I affect for good?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Writer's Block


"I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done." 
- Steven Wright 

I've written four books and I can tell you, it's never easy. Sometimes your thinking isn't straight or your ideas haven't completely gelled. Sometimes the thoughts are in your head but they won't come out as words on a page. Sometimes you just don't feel like writing that day.

But I've discovered how to move forward even if your brain is muddled or the words won't form. The secret, I've found, is simply to do something, anything. Like Steven Wright says in his humorous way, if all you can do is the page numbers, then at least do that. Just get started. If the next chapter is too hard, work on an easier one, or go back and edit an earlier one. Once you're in motion, that small amount of momentum will continue to carry you toward your goal.

That's a lesson for accomplishing any major task in life. Don't just sit there; stand up on your feet. Get dressed for the day. Take the first step. If all your ducks aren't in a row, at least get two of them lined up. Once you're moving, you'll be able to do the next thing, and then the thing after that. Before you know it, the job will be done.