Criticism—Friend or Foe?

CriticismIt doesn’t matter how you choose to live your life—you will always face criticism. No matter where you go in your career or how you live your personal life, for every single decision you make, any venture you undertake—someone will inevitably judge you. For one reason or another, people will find ways to project their own negativity and insecurities onto your life, and you’ll have to deal with it.

Criticism at work can affect every part of your life, and, if you don’t handle it well, negative feedback can ultimately derail your career. You can’t prevent being criticized, but you can control how you react, thus turning a negative situation into a positive one.

Many times, the more successful you become, the more you might find yourself acting as a target for criticism. I heard Brian Tracy say the following in one of his video blogs: “If you’re getting kicked in the rear, it means you’re out front.” If you’re at the top of anything, you will be criticized. Take comfort in the fact that the criticism is stemming from your success—and get used to it! Not all criticism is bad, and sometimes it can provide feedback that’s valuable for your continued success. Criticism usually represents an opportunity to make improvements.

It’s very important to learn how to handle criticism constructively. This week I’d like to discuss how to make criticism work in your favor to propel you farther down the road to success. Here are some steps to follow when you encounter criticism:

1) Ask questions. It’s easy to misinterpret the message when receiving criticism. Make sure to ask questions during the conversation. Asking questions shows that you’re eager to figure out a solution and also helps you gauge whether or not your colleague’s feedback is even relevant in the first place. Make sure to ask for specific examples and instances.

2) Don’t get defensive. Often our first response to criticism is to feel defensive. Give the person who is providing feedback a fair chance to express his or her thoughts. The other person might just have a valid point of view, and you’ll miss it if you’re busy thinking about how to defend yourself.

3) Stay calm. Don’t lose your cool, especially in a professional setting. Ask yourself, “Is it the actual feedback—or the way it’s being given—that’s making me so upset?” Great feedback can be ruined by the way it’s delivered. Conversely, if negative feedback is presented in a constructive way, it’s much more palatable and beneficial. Try to look past an ineffective delivery and stay calm.

4) Determine whether or not the criticism is accurate. Even if you are completely floored by the negative feedback at first, there might be some truth and accuracy behind it. Take a step back to evaluate the situation. Speak with mentors, family members, or other colleagues to help you assess whether or not the criticism has some validity.

5) Address the problem. Regardless of who is at fault, the problem must be addressed. This may require change or adjustment on your part, and that’s okay. Never ignore the root problem—do what you can to make it right and own your part.

When researching for this post, I found some great advice on what to do and not do in response to criticism. Here is an easy-reference checklist to keep handy:

  • Do listen objectively
  • Do ask for specifics
  • Do get a second opinion and conduct your own research
  • Do apologize—take ownership and responsibility
  • Do show that you are taking feedback into consideration
  • Do take corrective action
  • Do learn from critical feedback
  • Don’t ignore criticism
  • Don’t get defensive, angry, or rude
  • Don’t waste time making excuses
  • Don’t react too quickly before considering the best plan of action
  • Don’t blame others
  • Don’t engage in a coverup
  • Don’t dwell on the mistake

Guess who the biggest critic in your life usually is? You got it—you. Though criticism can come from others, it is often the strongest and most frequent inside your head. It’s much easier to point fingers at outside critics, but you must recognize that your fiercest critic usually lives between your own two ears. Working up the courage to move past your own vulnerability and uncertainty might be the greatest challenge you’ll face on the way to achieving your professional goals.

As the late Zig Ziglar stated, “It’s impossible to consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves.” In other words, we can do very few things in a positive way if we feel negatively about ourselves all the time.

Come back and visit next week as we explore self-criticism in more detail and learn how to overcome this debilitating habit!

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Digging into the Process

Finish race trackWe all have things we want to achieve in life: completing an epic fitness challenge, getting into better shape, making President’s Club, building a successful business, writing a book, and so on. The path to achieving these objectives starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. I used to focus mainly on setting goals for my career, health, and other areas, but I did not put much focus or emphasis on the actual process of achieving those goals. Last week I hope I convinced you that there is a much better way of doing things than simply setting goals. It all comes down to the difference between focusing on an end goal and focusing on a process.

Once you start the pursuit of a goal, how do you ensure that you finish? To be sure, starting is crucial. But, once past the starting line, the more important thing quickly becomes how we set ourselves up to actually finish and succeed. We expect to achieve ridiculous outcomes in record amounts of time—and when this doesn’t happen, we lose momentum. We give up. We quit. Believe me, when it comes to unmet expectations, I’ve been as guilty as anyone.

This week I’d like us to nail down exactly how we can focus on the ongoing process over the initial goal. Here is what I suggest:

1. Identify your long-term goal and a “higher power reason” for your goal.

It’s absolutely pointless to have a goal if your goal doesn’t have a “higher power reason”—a driving force that means something to you personally and motivates you day after day after day.

Some may disagree with me, but I believe that making money is not an adequate “why” reason. Making money is a result. Look at any highly successful person who has made a lot of money. Most of the time, money was never his or her primary motivator. For example, listen to this quote by Mark Zuckerberg regarding his motivation for creating Facebook: “My goal was never to just create a company. A lot of people misinterpret that, as if I don’t care about revenue or profit or any of those things. Ultimately what not being just a company means to me, is just not being just that—building something that actually makes a really big change in the world.”

For really successful people, it’s not what they did, it’s why they did it—and then money often came as a result. In other words, don’t pursue the rewards directly; instead, focus on the process with diligence and let the outcome take care of itself.

2. Identify an executable process that has been proven to consistently obtain your desired long-term results.

This point embodies why I am such a big believer in surrounding ourselves with passionate people and finding the right role models. Renowned business philosopher Jim Rohn researched the “Law of Attractions,” which suggests that we are all a direct reflection of the five people we associate with the most. The way we walk, talk, think, dress, make money, manage our health, accomplish goals, and develop values will naturally mirror those five people. So go out and find someone who has done what you want to do. Deconstruct what they did and how they did it and then create a process based on what you learn. Most important, cling to an attitude of complete confidence that the process will yield results over time. If you don’t fully believe in your process, then you’ll give up at the most crucial times. Commit to an executable process you believe in.

3. Control what you can control.

Most things are out of our control, so learn what you can control and what you cannot. For example:

  • We cannot totally control losing 50 pounds in a year, but we can decide how we eat and how much we exercise every day.
  • We cannot control how many products we sell in a month, but we can control our sales process and the number of sales calls we make each day.
  • I cannot control how many new subscribers to my blog I receive in a month, but I can decide to consistently write my very best every week and produce useful content for my readers.

Measure each day’s success by how well you stayed true to your process. I’m currently training for a 100-mile mountain bike race, and every week I receive my workout schedule from my coach. Some weeks, the workout plan seems daunting, but I know that if I just follow the process and take it one workout at a time, come August 9, I’ll be ready to race, and race well. I’m trusting in the process.

When you commit to work hard and then execute your process, make sure to celebrate your victories, no matter how big or small. Whoever said that “dedication to a process is what moves mountains” spoke with wisdom.

Measure what you can control. Embrace the process. The rest will follow. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about sticking to a process versus focusing on an end goal.  I do not want to leave you with the impression that goals are ineffective. I’ve found that goals are good for planning our progress while following a process is good for actually making progress. I would like to leave you with a final quote by famed driver Mario Andretti as you all commit yourselves to your individual processes: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal—a commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”

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The Process Is Greater than the Goal

workout process vs goal cTo create success in sales or to accomplish anything worthwhile in life, you don’t have to do the extraordinary.

Do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Last week I discussed the importance of committing to the process of marginal gains and proposed that, to accomplish great things, you actually don’t have to do the extraordinary. However, you have to do something, and you have to start somewhere in order to make consecutive small steps of improvement.

This week, I’d like to dig a bit deeper and talk about why it’s important to focus on the process rather than the goal.

We all have things we want to achieve in life: completing an epic fitness challenge, getting into better shape, making President’s Club, building a successful business, writing a book, and so on. The path to achieving these objectives starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. I used to focus mainly on setting goals for my career, health, and other areas, but I did not put much focus or emphasis on the actual process of achieving those goals. What I’ve come to realize recently is this: when it comes to making progress toward achieving my goals, there is a much better way of doing things than simple goal setting. It all comes down to the difference between focusing on an end goal and focusing on a process.

Let me explain. What’s the difference between goals and a process?

  • If you are a writer, you might want to write a book. Your goal is to complete your book, and your process is the writing schedule you regularly adhere to. I believe everyone should write a book. Why? Because everyone has a story the world needs to hear! Anyone who has written a book will tell you that the initial idea and goal seem daunting. However, if you commit to just writing and writing regularly, you will eventually have the content you need to put your book together. My process looked like writing a blog post every week for an entire year—after 52 weeks, I had more than enough material for my book.
  • If you’re a runner, your goal may be to run a marathon. Your process is your training schedule for the next month.
  • If you’re a salesperson at ConMed, your goal is to get to President’s Club. Your process is your daily sales method (we at ConMed refer to that as our Standard Model Day).

So we see that we can divide the journey to achievement into two approaches: goal orientation and process orientation. When we say people are goal oriented, we are insinuating that their number one priority is achieving the goal—and goal-oriented people look for the fastest way to get there. When we have this perspective, we see the path toward our goal as more of a hindrance than a help—it’s just something that gets in the way of our hitting the target.

In contrast, someone who is process orientated still has goals, but they pay a great deal more attention to the process itself. Process-oriented people actually get as much or more enjoyment from the journey to the goal as from the goal itself. I would like to convince you that this process-focused perspective is a healthier attitude, for most people spend far more time involved in the process of achieving goals than they do actually achieving them. Those who are only goal orientated tend to always be waiting for life to happen.

In summary, let’s commit to a process, not to a goal!

Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on our shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out. However, dedicating two hours per week to write this blog is definitely manageable. And, who knows? Maybe this blog post will become a chapter in my next book.

We do this to ourselves all the time: we place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight, achieve a personal goal, or succeed in business and sales. Instead, we can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on sticking to the schedule and daily process rather than worrying about the big, monumental, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the process instead of the goal, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

Sounds simple and logical, right? So why is this principle so hard to follow?

When I watched my children as they were learning how to walk, I noticed they were so very diligent about it. The fact that they fell over and over did not deter them from getting back up and trying again. But what would have happened if, every time they fell, I got angry and yelled at them, shaming them for falling down? It is likely that my children would have become fearful of trying to walk—and their learning to walk would have been significantly delayed.

I’ve never seen a parent do this to a child, but I have seen many people (including me!) do this to themselves.

This about what you say to yourself when you contemplate doing something new, like deciding to run a marathon, go back to school, lose weight, or achieve a business/sales objective.

Is this you?

  • What if I fail?
  • What if I make a fool of myself?
  • What will people think of me if I don’t do well?

Or is this you?

  • How exciting—a new challenge!
  • I’m going to enjoy giving it my all!
  • I just love learning, trying, and experiencing new things!

Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short term, but, in the end, a well-designed and executed process will always win.

Having a process is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference. 

I hope I’ve convinced you that you should commit to a process instead of solely focusing on an end goal. Next week I’ll discuss how to put this into practice—please come back and visit!

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Small Improvements Lead to Big Wins

continous improvementIn 2010, Dave Brailsford faced the greatest challenge of his coaching career. No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but, as the new Director for Great Britain’s professional cycling team, Brailsford was poised to tackle the challenge.

Brailsford’s strategy was quite simple. He embraced a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” The cycling coach believed that by identifying and analyzing every tiny aspect of an athlete’s performance and then making just a 1% improvement in each area, the athlete’s overall performance could be significantly enhanced.

Brailsford did things like optimizing the nutrition of his riders, their weekly training programs, the ergonomics of their bike seats, and the weight of their tires. His concept of “aggregation of marginal gains” has been making transformative ripples in athletics, academia, and many other areas.

Brailsford believed that if his team could successfully execute his strategy, they would be in a position to win the Tour de France within five years. They actually won sooner than that—three years later! In addition, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games, and his team dominated the competition, winning 70% of the gold medals available. Many have referred to these British cycling feats as the most successful run of a team in modern cycling history.

In a newspaper interview, Brailsford was quoted as saying: “We’ve got this saying, ‘performance by the aggregation of marginal gains.’ It means taking the 1% from everything you do; finding a 1% margin for improvement in everything you do. That’s what we try to do from the mechanics upwards. If a mechanic sticks a tire on, and someone comes along and says it could be done better, it’s not an insult—it’s because we are always striving for improvement, for those 1% gains, in absolutely every single thing we do.”

The brilliant thing about Brailsford’s marginal gains concept is that it is very flexible while also being incredibly attainable. It provides accessible, precise, and useful language for achieving success in any pursuit. Not everyone can relate to the successes of Olympians, but we can all relate to making small positive changes over a period of time. By breaking down success into realizable “marginal gains,” all of us can move confidently toward success through our sustained efforts.

This principle resonates with me personally, especially right now while I’m training for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race in August. Several weeks ago, I completed my first long ride: 60+ miles and over four hours in the saddle. It was horrible! I arrived at the end of the ride terribly sore, dehydrated, undernourished, and dazed. Thank goodness I was riding with a group that recognized my difficulties, took care of me, and made sure I made it home safely. After I got home, I barely made it to my bed, where I slept for more than two hours as my body recovered.

The story doesn’t end there, thankfully! I am happy to report that this past weekend I completed another 60+ miles on the road—but this time it was nothing! I came home, went to Home Depot, and worked on my to-do list for the rest of the afternoon.

As I’ve been reflecting on my progress, I’ve realized that over the past few weeks I’ve made small, deliberate, incremental improvements in my training, nutrition, and recovery process. With good coaching and a balanced approach to my training (tackling crossfit, cycling, running, and swimming on a rotating basis), I’ve been able to achieve longer hours in the saddle while simultaneously lessening the negative after effects.

Although I still have a long road ahead of me to prepare for the big race, I know my commitment to making marginal gains in all areas of my training will pay off. I am determined to achieve my goal of finishing the Leadville 100 in under 12 hours!

Think about how you can apply this principle to your own life. Where could you be one year from now with your sales results if you commit to improve your selling skills and clinical abilities by just 1% each and every day? Do you need to try twice as hard and twice as long? Absolutely not! Just improve 1% each day.

Remember: greatness is never predetermined; rather, it results from a series of choices. Greatness is always achieved in the moment of a decision—when we are presented with a series of choices. Neither success nor failure is instantaneous; both are direct byproducts of the decisions we make each day, each hour. 

To create success in sales, to accomplish anything worthwhile in life, you do not have to do the extraordinary. But you must do something, and you must start somewhere.

I am asking each one of you to commit to getting better by 1% every day. Will you do it?

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How to Get What You Really Want

Helping people“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

Both of these quotes are by one of my favorite authors: Zig Ziglar. He lived his life dedicated to the principle of helping others, and I wholeheartedly agree with his approach. One of the greatest satisfactions I have in my career and life is helping others get what they want.

This week I had the honor to sit down with someone I admire and advise this person on career goals. Inspiring this blog post, our conversation revolved around how to get into medical device sales and the characteristics of successful people.

What do successful people think about all day long?

The answer is simple: successful people constantly think about what they want and how to get it. And successful people know that the power of positive thinking (bolstered by a positive attitude) can truly turn a person’s life around for the better.

When you encounter unexpected setbacks and difficulties, the way you respond demonstrates to yourself and to the world around you what kind of attitude and thinking you really have. Here are some things that can get in the way of a positive attitude and positive thinking. I want to eliminate these things totally from my life, and I hope discussing them will help you too.

1) Indulging negative thinking about your situation. Be thankful for what you have and think about your blessings more than you think about your problems. Life is never easy. Struggles do not equal failure! Anything in life worth pursuing will have an element of difficulty and struggle.

2) Worrying about past mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes! That’s how we learn and grow. Give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself. Take solace in an attitude that refuses to give up. Great things take time. Every step, no matter how small, means you’re getting closer to your goal. Let your mistakes be your motivation, not your excuse. Decide right now that mistakes from your past won’t predict your future.

3) Worrying about what people think of you. This principle is easy to embrace when we realize how little time other people actually spend thinking about us. Don’t take things too personally. Rarely do people do things because of you—they do things because of them. We really can’t change how people treat us or what they say about us. All we can do is change how we react—and who we choose to be around.

4) Envying things you don’t have. No matter how bad things are, there is always someone out there that is facing a worse situation. There are lots of people who will never have what you have right now. In fact, in this moment, someone is wishing for the very things you take for granted. Happiness eludes those who don’t appreciate what they already have.

5) Being constantly busy. Schedule time each and every day for dedicated down time—clear points in the day to rest, reflect, recharge, and care for yourself. Don’t fool yourself: you’re not so busy that you can’t afford time for rest, exercise, or relationships. These things will preserve your sanity!

6) Engaging negative people that rain on your parade. It’s better to be lonely than to be around people with negative opinions that derail you from your destiny. Don’t let others crush your dreams; simply ignore their negativity.

7) Trying to impress others. One of the most liberating feelings in life comes when we learn that we don’t have to like everyone, and everyone doesn’t have to like us. No matter what you do, how you live, and how hard you try, someone will be disappointed and ask for more. So instead of trying to impress others, live with honor. Make sure you don’t disappoint yourself in the end.

8) Believing your fears. Fear is a feeling, not a fact. Fear can be defined by the acronym “False Evidence Appearing Real.” The best way to gain strength and self-confidence is by doing exactly what you’re afraid to do. In the end, there is only one thing that will get in the way of your success: lack of action stemming from the fear of failure.

9) Wallowing in regret. Don’t let yourself be controlled by regret. You don’t have to be defined by things you once did or didn’t do! Maybe there’s something you could have done differently—or maybe not. Learn from your past mistakes, but don’t get wrapped around the axle with them. Leave the past behind as you give yourself to the present moment.

10) Focusing on anything but the present. As we just discussed, the past is gone. Another way we trap ourselves is by focusing too much on the future—it hasn’t even arrived yet! Do your best to live in the now and make this moment the best it can be.

Your turn…

Which of these points resonates with you? How can you stop wasting time and make the most of every moment? How can you get what you really want?

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