I love to connect with audiences, while helping organizations succeed. So, I invite you to get in touch today to discuss how I might assist you in making your next event the best one ever! 

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Business Shorts is my blog-- entrepreneurship etc

4 Ways Life-Long Learning Empowers Success!

Kevin Ross

Long-term success in anything requires a keen propensity for learning.  Natural ability or luck alone is never enough to be successful over a lifetime. Learning a new skill, trade, or organizational systems requires knowledge and a learning curve.  In today’s economy, learning to adapt, redirect, and change has become a critical skill for survival! If you don’t believe me just ask Kodak, Blockbuster, or MySpace about learning to survive.

Along this year-long journey to unlock opportunities in life and in business, we are actually learning a process for uncovering new possibilities.  Learning new things is natural, and for most people, a process that is continual, however, with the explosion of information that we have experienced in the last decade, it is almost impossible to keep current on what we thought we already knew! And while learning is the key to success, how do you filter through what you need to know to keep up? If you (like me) can find it all overwhelming sometimes, check out my 4 tips to keep learning accessible and manageable in this era of data-overload!

1) Ask questions:

Try to capture learning opportunities every day.  Surrounding yourself with smart people and listening to them is priceless!  Every day I hear a variety of perspectives on everything from pop culture news, to free trade agreements to why my team, the Cleveland Browns lost… again! 

Family, co-workers, and even total strangers can provide great sources of continual updates and ideas.  Learn to engage people with questions like, “What do you think about that,” “Why do you think that happened,” and “What would you do in that situation?” However, questions are only half of the solution. You must really listen to what they say and think about their response to really benefit. These small encounters provide an ongoing insight into how people think and their emotions, while allowing you to test your thinking as well. At home, at work, or even in the subway, listening to others is a valuable way to learn about the world around you, and the people around you as well!

2) Take small bites at first:

Every day, I check a various news sources, as headlines and sound bites are a great way to be aware of current events quickly. From freeway closings to new business openings, gathering the news in small bites is a quick way to stay current and contribute to conversations.  Now, I mentioned that I check several different sites because sound bites and headlines can also be very misleading!  Be sure that you research the sources you rely on because believe it or not,  sometimes you just can't trust what you read to get facts right.  As you scan the headlines, allow yourself some time to dig into any that look interesting or pique your interest.  I find some of my speaking topics buried under an interesting headline!

3) Prioritize:

I must admit, I don’t know anything about Fantasy Football.  I am totally clueless as to how it works or why it has grown so much, but I am OK with that.  Lots of people get a great deal of enjoyment from learning the players and engaging in the competition.  Right now, I am busy learning (trying to learn) to speak a little Spanish. I am also reading a fascinating book on the power of habits, but that is just my personal priority right now.  Everybody has their own priorities.  Learning fun things and learning how to enjoy life is something we all need to know how to do, too.  So, be intentional, and choose whatever YOU would like to learn, and then dig in and enjoy learning something new! 

4) Know how and where you can learn more:

My son has always told me, “We live in an age where speculation is un-necessary.”  He usually is saying that as he pulls out his laptop to find the answer to a question that I have posed. While the questions are often, “Who is that actor?” or “How long is a flight to Barcelona?” this new thinking has taken the pressure off to know everything.  Because Internet access allows us to view most current data on almost any topic with just a few keystrokes, knowing where the answers lie has become almost as important and knowing the answer. Learning online, how-to videos and mastering an Internet search is becoming the method of choice for keeping up with the information explosion that we are experiencing. It is definitely a new learning process for those of a certain age-- understanding how to use the technology of today is no longer optional, it is a requirement if you want to unlock opportunity in your job or your personal life.

In today’s environment of rapid change and explosion of available information, it is impossible to know everything.  You have to decide what you need and/or want to know and then commit the time to learning it.  Learning is essential to success and rest assured that there has never been a better time to be a life-long learner! 

Stretch: Why Comfort Zones Are Your Biggest Enemy!

Kevin Ross

All year long we've been focusing on monthly goals in order to unlock opportunity in your life! Last month, I was very excited to see that I'd lost weight, which was good progress toward one of my personal goals, but it was a little discouraging to discover that my number of speaking engagements was still about the same as last year at this time. The good news is I still have five months left in 2015!  That is exactly the way the system is supposed to work.  It is a perfect time to engage in the topic for this month… s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g outside of our comfort zones! 

We all have our established habits, systems and our “comfort zones,” which have been established over a lifetime of experience and repetition. These apply as we move about our busy schedules. We claim to “know our limits” and we definitely tend to stay within those self-imposed limits, because they are comfortable.  The problem is, if we don't frequently re-test our limits, or challenge those habits, our comfort zones begin to shrink, not because we don’t possess the ability or the skill to do something bigger or better, but because we don’t stretch our thinking every once in a while.  

If we don’t want to be uncomfortable, or risk failure by challenging our limits, we become a spectator in our business or in our lives, rather than active participants! 

 

Lessons from the Tree Tops:

Recently, while in Costa Rica, I had an opportunity to “zip line” through the rain forest.   All of my defensive signals were screaming “NO”, and as I neared the 3,000 ft. launch platform. I began to have thoughts like…. “Is my life insurance policy up to date?” and wonder how would a medical evacuation from Costa Rica work. Needless to say, I was way outside my comfort zone… and it was the adrenaline experience of my life!  

For those who aren't familiar, the lines start 3,000 feet up, with 9 segments (one over ½ mile long). I overcame my fear, stretched my comfort zone, and believe it or not, I survived!  I don’t feel the need to repeat that experience anytime soon, but it was a collision of feelings that I had not experienced in many years, fear, excitement, wonder, helplessness, and exhilaration, all packed into one hour, in a foreign country.  I shudder to think of leaving Costa Rica without that experience,  but it did require a stretch for me… personally, and emotionally!

This experience caused me to wonder what other opportunities present themselves each day that we miss because of a busy schedule, or an instant dismissal because we “would never do that…”  What everyday life experiences do we miss because we decided long ago that we didn’t like something, or we tried once and quit?  With today’s advances in technology, and the creation of new experiences, we may never know what we are missing unless we decide to try new things, re-think old habits, and stretch our comfort zones. 

This month, based on my weight success, I decided I to set a new goal for the end of 2015... pushing myself beyond the limit of what I thought possible. On the business side, I have decided to be more pro-active about seeking more speaking engagements in the remaining months of 2015... again moving well-outside my own comfort zone.

Over my 30-year career, I have been successful at marketing other people, products, and organizations, but I have never been very comfortable at promoting myself!  So, with some encouragement from my friends, I have agreed to practice what I preach, and stretch my thinking and my activities to achieve my business goal in 2015.  I intend to get more proactive at promoting myself as a speaker.  I am going to go “outside my comfort zone” and send marketing materials to Chambers of Commerce, Business Assistance Groups, and Economic Development Agencies to promote myself as a speaker for their events. If I truly want to unlock my opportunities this year, then it is time to get out of my comfort zone and get busy making it happen… even if it means stretching past my self imposed limits.

Today-- choose to challenge your old thinking and stretch your comfort zones.  Decide to try something new in your daily routine, or your business day.  Try something different, or just push yourself to go a little further today than you usually do.  Surprise yourself, and stretch your thinking and your actions to challenge an old limit… anything that might cause you to stretch just a bit.  I think you will find that it is a little uncomfortable at first but then it can become exhilarating! 

There is a true adrenaline rush that comes with being a participant in life and not just an observer!  

Until Next Time…

 

You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure! 5 Ways To Assess Along The Way

Kevin Ross

We are halfway through our year-long effort to identify and discuss strategies that can Unlock Your Opportunities in life and in business, and this month's step in the process is to pause to measure our progress and measure our results. Remember those goals we set earlier this year? This month, we need to measure the results of our actions so far and honestly evaluate our progress.  Good or bad, we need to know. 

It has been said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and I couldn't agree more!  How do we move toward our goals if we don’t know if our plan is working and if we are making any progress toward success?  You evaluate your gas gauge every time you get in your car to see if you can get to where you are going, and you measure your gas mileage to identify any problems your car might be having, before it breaks down completely.  The same process works with your life and you business.  There are a few easy steps to follow to make sure you keep on track with accomplishing your goals…big  or small.

1) Decide what factors are critical to measure:

Measuring will do you no good if you measure the wrong thing or if you try to measure everything. Pick out the indicators that will give you true insight to what progress you are making. If your goal is losing weight, it does no good to keep measuring your height!  Portion size, and a daily visit to the scale is going to be the information you want if you want to lose weight.  

Same goes for your business too, find the things that true indicators of your progress and you will know immediately what is working and what is not.  Maybe measuring sales would make it too late to adjust your strategy.  Measuring incoming calls or appointments may be a better indicator of your progress and allow you to be more proactive. 

2) Define your data

Tracking data is the first step in measuring and evaluating, however you must know what the data represents and what it really means...  otherwise it is useless.  In losing weight, counting calories may give you data, but if you don’t know how many calories you are allowed per day, it is just an exercise.  I constantly measure activity in my organization but I really had to dig in and define each tracking category.  A “contact” with our organization is counted differently than someone who visits a business coach, attends a training, or participates in a networking event.  Because we have defined the meaning of each category in advance, it makes it easy to track, and most importantly, easy to compare data from year to year.

3) Monitor along the way

Don’t wait until the end of the year or even the end of a quarter to monitor your progress.  You can spot success, (or lack thereof) in a matter of weeks, and sometimes in a matter of days.  I ran an ad campaign once that suggested they clients call and ask for Mary to get a special deal.  While there wasn't actually a Mary working for me at the time, it allowed me to count the number of calls produced by that particular ad… just by counting the number of inquiries for the fictional Mary!  We knew pretty quickly what ads were working just by using different names on different media.  If you wait until the end to measure and evaluate, you are too late to adapt your strategy and make a difference. 

4) Evaluate honestly

Any evaluation must be honest.  There are times when we can create some great excuses for non-performance.  While there are always circumstances beyond our control, we must honestly evaluate our reasons for success and/or failure.  A personal trainer told me once, “Only you are in control of what goes in your mouth!”  While we laughed at that statement originally, it was not so funny when I tried to explain why I wasn’t losing weight a week later.  Any plan or strategy must be reviewed and evaluated, and every plan requires adjustments so evaluate honestly, make adjustments and move on!  Achieving success in business or your life is a process not an event.

I want you to know that I do practice what I preach in this blog. This month I have measured the progress and evaluated the evolution of this blog platform.  The online engagement (readership, shares, likes) has shown consistent growth and has met my original goals.  The interactive comments and responses have been fewer than I anticipated, although I was warned early on that I was being very optimistic.   Overall, it has provided a great creative outlet for never ending thoughts on business and life.

One adjustment that is required will be that I will combine business and the life lessons of the monthly blog into one post instead of two.  I have found that the monthly strategies that I discuss apply to both facets of our life so closely that it does not require separate posts… and it will reduce duplication and overlap of ideas.  Our business life and our home life are so intertwined that good ideas will truly span the many roles we play.  I look forward to continuing this year-long journey because I am learning a lot from the process of observing, writing, and sharing with you.  I hope you can say the same!

Until Next Time…