There is a tendency

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This article by Coaching Psychology briefly outlines some of the key dispositions toward entrepreneurship. However, things are not always what they appear to be. More to come…

Why are small businesses different?

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Small businesses are not small large businesses and the academic world is catching on. In this article from Karen May, you’ll see some of the current research behind the idea that small businesses have distinct needs compared to the Fortune 100.

Short post experiment

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I will be conducting an experiment over the next week with short posts pointing to information you might find valuable. The posts this week will deal with the general area of business psychology which I obviously find vitally important. They will be followed by my own series on the psychology of the business owner. Stay tuned…

Clear-cut advice on creating your niche

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In business, I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable ‘moats.” Warren Buffett

“A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. The market niche defines the product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.” Wikipedia

In a general sense, there are two types of markets, commodity and niche. A commodity market represents a single solution to a single problem and is sold to a general audience. A niche represents a solution or solution set to a group of interrelated problems which is sold to a specific audience.

Quick show of hands. Who is in the United States? You just lost the commodity war. In a global economic situation, where we are competing with nations possessing lower labor costs and fewer costs due to regulation, the best economy of scale will falter. If you are going to survive over the next several decades you must firmly establish yourself into a niche market.

Entrepreneur Magazine offers seven steps to defining a niche which are:

  1. Make a wish list
  2. Focus
  3. Describe the customer’s worldview
  4. Synthesize
  5. Evaluate
  6. Test
  7. Go for it!

While the article represents a very sound approach, I am a major fan of the idea that complexity is the enemy of execution. Let’s see if we can follow Tim Ferriss’ approach and make this a bit simpler to master. Ferriss takes a simple, four step approach to mastery:

  1. deconstruct a skill to its essential parts,
  2. select the most valuable factors to learn,
  3. choose the optimal sequence, and
  4. set stakes to motivate you.

For those with some time

The first thing to start with is the heuristic

A successful business can be defined as a self-sustaining organization which is paid to solve problems for other people.

The bolded portion represents the business model. We further refine this to paid to solve a set of problems for a specific subset of people. Let’s follow Tim’s model and deconstruct:

  1. Specific subset of people. What demographic do you have the greatest affinity for? What demographic do you understand already at a deep level? What demographic do you believe could benefit the most from your efforts?
  2. Set of problems. What problems does this demographic have which may intersect? Don’t limit yourself at this stage, think in the frame of any problems.
  3. Solutions. How could you use your skills and deep knowledge of this demographic to solve multiple problems at the same time?
  4. Which solutions have the highest value to the demographic? This determines the price you can charge and gives you a priority order. Remember, you’re in business to make a living. If you aren’t profitable, it’s called a charity.

We have deconstructed seven steps into four clear steps or questions, representing the first three of Tim’s steps: deconstruct, select, sequence. The final step is “set the stakes”. Any process that is used is better than the perfect one that isn’t used.

Here is my challenge to you today. Complete the four steps. Give yourself no more than  two minutes per section. That makes this an eight minute exercise.

Come up with whatever you can in that short period of time and we’ll work with it. Next time, we’ll talk about testing ideas.

The secret to coping with change

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“Show of hands. How many people like surprises? Bullshit! You like the surprises you want to happen. Everything else you call a problem.” Anthony Robbins

“A surprise is nothing more than a sudden change.” John Elrick

photo_9510_20091105The one constant in the universe is change. Change in one form or another happens around us all the time. Well, not really, but it seems that way.

Here is a quick demonstration of what I mean. Look around you. Now close your eyes and count to ten slowly. Then open them and notice what changed. Sometimes nothing will and, as a matter of fact, if you are sitting in your house at night, probably not a lot did change that you could notice.

Globally, however, change is happening all the time. People are born and people die. New rules are created and old rules become obsolete. New technology is introduced and old technologies disappear. And, in a world where information is at our fingertips and we are bombarded with raw data, it can seem that we are riding an out-of-control truck to nowhere.

Yet, as you just learned in that little experiment, things really don’t change that much. The problem is that when they do, it can be sudden and overwhelming.

Back to Tony’s observation — for the most part, change takes two forms:

  • Happy surprises: these are things you want to change
  • Problems you have to deal with: these are the things you don’t want to change

The issue of coping with change is complicated by the fact that one person’s happy surprise is another person’s problem. To cope better, we must first understand how our brain is processing a problem and reacting to it. There is a concept called Human Needs Psychology which I have mentioned in several posts — I should probably devote a posting to explaining what I understand at this time; later.

Human Needs Psychology was developed by Tony Robbins and Cloé Madanes as a model for understanding human motivation and behavior. One of the core concepts of this model is the proposition of the Six Human Needs. This underlying proposition is that all human behavior can be explained as an attempt to meet one or more of these needs. The idea is that these represent needs, not wants or desires, and that every human will attempt to meet them at some level even if the means they use is destructive and contrary to their values.

The needs are: certainty, variety, significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution. I won’t go into huge detail right now. I’ll let Tony explain it instead — note this is a tiny bit of the detail the RMT Core 100 goes into on this subject; what you are watching is the most basic possible overview.

How do the human needs respond to changes which are problems? Let’s look:

  • Certainty: in the face of an unwanted change, our level of certainty plummets. We feel out of control and can no longer rely upon those things we know.
  • Variety: although change creates new opportunities, our perceived ability to create our own opportunities drops significantly
  • Significance: since it is an unwanted change being imposed upon us by external events, we feel impotent and insignificant
  • Connection/love: unwanted change implies that our existing connections will change also. We feel isolated and alone
  • Growth: we can feel that we must grow in order to cope with the unwanted change, however, this means to us that we no longer have as much freedom to choose how we will grow.
  • Contribution: since the change was forced upon us, we feel our contributions are being rejected and ignored.

In general, unwanted change can trigger unbelievably low feelings if we let them. However, we must also remember the word of Dr. Victor Frankl.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl

How can we transform unwanted change into a powerful opportunity? By leading with the fulfillment of our needs in a new way.

  • Love/connection: unwanted change affects others as well. We can choose to act from a place of love to support those affected by the change in a positive way. This automatically leads to;
  • Contribution: by acting as the source of stability to others through our expressions of connection and support, we contribute to others and move our focus to fulfilling their needs without the need to receive in return, and that gives us;
  • Growth: to give love and contribute when faced with unwanted changes means that we must grow inside, we transform ourselves to a higher level of action and being and that leads us to;
  • Significance: Kipling long ago said “if you can keep your head while all those about you are losing theirs…”. Truer words were never said. You will become very important, but only if you don’t sugar coat reality. You must toe the line between being optimistic and pessimistic and instead be realistic, but with an unrealistic expectation of a better future. And dancing this line means you will be creating;
  • Variety: you and you alone will come up with the little exciting things that keep morale high and give everyone something to look forward to, even as they struggle with their own versions of problems. And all of this leads to;
  • Certainty: because all of these things, all of these actions are completely in your locus of control. You can decided to act and how to respond and the meaning to assign. You can do so until the moment you draw your last breath and no one — no dictator, no terrorist, no act of hate — can take this power away from you. Live in the certainty that this is so.

Change is a constant. Some changes are good. Some are not. But what matters in the end, what determines the quality of live we will experience is not measured in how many changes we create or how many we resist. In the end, our happiness will be measured in how we responded to the changes around us and how we helped others both celebrate and endure the changes that impact their lives.

The secret power of addictions

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JohnPhoto2“The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our addictions.” John Elrick

Human needs psychology poses the model that every human being has six core needs. Tony Robbins believes that we become addicted to any belief or action which satisfies three or more of these needs at a high level.

Now, there isn’t any distinction here as to whether the “addiction” is positive or negative, empowering or disempowering. You can be addicted to visiting people in a nursing home to support them. You can be addicted to helping your family. You can be addicted to making yourself a better person through learning.

Of course, you can also be addicted to heroin, or self-loathing, or blaming. You can be addicted to finding security through chocolate or finding significance through violence. All addiction means is that your brain is being rewarded by dopamine and that reward mechanism makes it more likely you’ll repeat the action either consciously or unconsciously.

All of these leads to my latest epiphany — that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our addictions. We can take control of our addictions and associate disempowering addictions with pain and then add empowering addictions that help make our life better and more fulfilling. The choice is ours. All it requires is that one decision that we are no longer satisfied with not being in charge of our own lives.

The secret for having a great year

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brain-153040_1280I’m trying an experiment this weekend and I encourage you to join me. The experiment is based on understanding what the most successful and happy people tend to do at the end of the year, which is reflect and plan for the upcoming year. I’m part way through the experiment and it is already having a positive effect on me, so much so that I can’t wait to complete the experiment.

Here is the very simple process. Set aside some time for yourself. Get out a pad of paper or open a word processor or other note taking device. Answer the following questions. As you answer them, use second person, as though you were writing about another human being objectively. Ready?

  1. What are some decisions you made over the past year which were beneficial?
  2. What are things in your life which are not perfect yet?
  3. What opportunities do you currently foresee for yourself this coming year?
  4. In the past year, how did you most often meet the six human needs? Answer both how you met them externally — through the environment and through others — and internally — through your own actions and through the meaning you gave to events.
    1. Certainty
    2. Variety
    3. Significance
    4. Love/Connection
    5. Growth
    6. Contribution
  5. How do you intend to meet those needs over the coming year? Move the locus of control to more internal instead of external.
  6. The date is December 31, 2015. Assuming everything went perfectly, write a short story in second person about what has happened to your over the year.

Set everything aside for a day and re-read it. This is your story for the past and future. Feel free to tweak it and edit it. Work with it until you are bursting with excitement about your coming year. Read your story every day and tweak as needed. Let the story be your guide to your decisions, your priorities, and your actions. Keep a copy of the original to compare against — Google docs is nice for that because it keeps revision history. Measure your progress weekly.

It’s a simple exercise that will consume less time than watching a TV show. And by following it you will enter a rarefied world of those who actually make the effort to plan their life. Give yourself the gift and begin now.