Your Success is Determined by Designing Around Your Strengths – Do You Know Yours?

Like a lot of you, I have aspects of my business that I love, and parts that are a pain.

It’s no coincidence that what we love to do typically falls into the category of ‘our strengths’. When we concentrate on working our strengths great things can happen: we feel good, we build confidence and we get good results.

But, conventional business gurus often teach us to focus on fixing our weaknesses instead of polishing our strengths. Sounds like a formula for unfulfilling mediocrity to me.

I don’t know about you, when I’m focusing on improving what I’m not naturally good at, what I am naturally good at suffers and I don’t get the results I want.

That’s why I’m such a big fan of Peter Drucker’s work. If you’re not familiar with him, Drucker wrote and article in the Harvard Business Review in 1999 titled, Managing Oneself where he has a different take on working your weaknesses and strengths.

In his article he suggests…

  1. “…You cannot build performance on weakness and can only perform well from your strengths.”
  2. “…Most people are usually wrong about knowing their strengths…”
  3. “…The only access to knowing our strengths is from feedback analysis.”
  4. “…Accurate feedback comes from setting a plan and goals.” (An inspired plan).

I love this and I incorporate the principles in my work.

I find that the two key components here - good guidance and getting the right feedback - are the 2 most powerful tools for business owners to successfully grow their business.


Your results will reveal to you the most valuable feedback you could ever get.

What if ‘fixing’ your weaknesses (at the expense of your strengths) meant the difference between growing and closing your business? Which would you work on improving?

Are You Confident That 2014 Will Be a Building Block That's on Track for the Future You Want to Build?

When I hear people talk about how they are unsure of how to plan for the upcoming year I sometimes think of the ancient explorers.

Let’s say an explorer wants to reach China from North America by ship in 5 years – remember, ancient explorers – no airplanes. It doesn’t happen in one step. It’s incremental.

So for this year let’s just focus on getting to Hawaii. It’s at least in the right direction of China – Hawaii becomes a ‘building block’ to landing in China.

It’s a simple and straight-forward concept and yet it never ceases to amaze me how many people miss this get it and decide to have short range plans or no plans at all.

A little thought and a little design could be a significant building block towards the future they want.

Here’s what I usually recommend: A 1-year, 5-year and 20-year plan.

The 20-year plan is naturally vague. No one has a crystal ball. It’s more of a guidepost. The 5-year plan is a reachable goal and the 1-year plan is the building block towards the 5 year plan. Simple.

If you have some idea of where you want to be in 5 years, and most people can think their way to that, then this coming year could be a major building block towards that.

Naturally what flows out of that plan are the priorities set by the future that you want rather than the demands of life that stare us all in the face: emails, to-do lists, someone else’s priorities, etc.

That’s where crafting and designing your year comes into play – to help remind you where you’re headed.

Using goals as guideposts can be a profound way to live the year and build the confidence that comes with feeling on track.

It’s about being proactive instead of reactive, guided by something beyond what you can see in the next year. Rather, guided by your dream of where you want to be down the road.

Very powerful stuff!

Are you confident that this year will serve as your building block to the future you really want?

The Art of Reflection – How to Stop Living in Your Disappointments.

When you look back on your year are you hard on yourself? 

Most entrepreneurs are. 

Maybe it’s because when we do look back the parts that stay with us the longest are the disappointments we experienced. 

Why do we hang on to our disappointments? 

There is a lot of psychology behind all this and this post is not meant to be therapy, but in terms of your business it can be helpful to understand what’s happening. 

I do a design component at my events addressing this very thing where people look at their past year and, without fail, everyone forgets or downplays their victories. 

How do you get an accurate perspective on past accomplishments? 

To shed some light and appreciate what you’ve achieved during the year ask yourself the following questions.

During the year: 

1. What were your major victories in your business?

2. What were your major victories in your personal life?

3. What achievement are you most proud of?

4. What was the biggest risk you took?

5. What new skills, perspectives or insights did you gain that will positively affect your


6. What important life lesson(s) did you gain?

7. Did you have a major setback(s)?  If yes, how did you handle it and what was the final


8. What progress or ground did you take towards the future you are building?

What makes you happy about last year? 

Your responses can help you realize the full richness of your accomplishments and the lasting meaning that it has in your life – meaning that you may have been overlooking.

Clearing the Way to Make Something Big Happen in 2014. What’s holding you back?

We’ve all heard the old adage, ‘Life is full of disappointments.’ But is there something we can do to minimize our disappointments?


But where do we start? 



Disappointments and expectations are inevitably linked. And one thing I’ve learned about people’s expectations: they border on ridiculous. Not a judgment – just the way it is. 

Most people don’t stand a chance of fulfilling their expectations. They usually reflect goals that neither they nor a team of people could fulfill – if there were 4 of them, living simultaneously they could almost get it all done.

Why do we do that? 

People are setting dreams, not goals. And when those dreams are not met we feel disappointed. 

We think expectations have something to do with reality. They don’t. Here’s a helpful formula: 

Expectation = Fantasy. 

That’s the bad news. 

The good news is you can release past disappointments and let go of what’s holding you back. 


Try answering the following questions. 

Who do you need to forgive and for what?

Is there anything I need to forgive myself for?

Are you willing to forgive yourself? For not being the person you expected to be? For not achieving what you expected to achieve? For not doing all the things you wanted to do?

To whom do I need to give a second chance?

What heavy weight have I been carrying that I can now let go of? 

It’s often a dance between your own expectations on the one hand and then forgiving yourself for not meeting your own expectations. 

Without this piece of work you’re NOT FREE to create and design a new year. You’re creating a year with heavy baggage. 

Looking Back in Order to Plan Ahead - How to End the Year in a Really Great Way

People have different relationships with the ending of one year and the beginning of another. Some people love this time of reflection and planning while others, not so much. 

Regardless of what side of the fence you land the end of the year always brings with it something else – the start of a new one and the chance to improve. 

Looking back in order to plan ahead can pay huge dividends in both our business and personal life. 

Many people hate looking back. Why is that?

When we look back on the current year it’s human nature to focus more on what went wrong instead of what went well. Regrets are natural.

Using this simple exercise this year I discovered that I was tired of struggling with a necessary (but annoying) component of my business that I dreaded doing. I learned it was draining my energy and passion and I regretted not doing anything about it sooner. So instead of struggling I hired a professional to take that part over.

What a huge learning – and relief - for me! I can now focus on what I’m best at, and love to do. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that without releasing some regrets.

How do you release regret?


Ask yourself some very pointed, very specific questions. And write down your very pointed and specific answers. 

At the top of the page write: 

When I look back at my year… 

What did I deal with, resolve or in some way handle for the first time? 

What did I decide I would never do again?

What lesson(s), painful or otherwise, did I learn? 

What did I improve or advance in some way? 

What new insights and perspectives did I gain? 

In what areas of my business/life did I succeed? 

In what areas of my business/life did I fail? 

What new life ambitions did I create? 

The real key to getting past the regret is to ‘recover’: rethinking and reframing past events allows you to let go and move forward. But you can’t do any of that without first acknowledging - the good as well as the bad. 

And remember, the insights don’t all need to be about the business. Using this reflection technique I rekindled my passion for learning how to surf.  Now I can look forward to building my business and recommitting to a personal passion this year. All I had to do was take a quick look at the current year before I plan ahead for the one coming. 

Too many of us drift from one year into the next without fully realizing what we’ve accomplished and what we can accomplish in the year ahead. 

Using these questions can help you understand and acknowledge what you’ve learned and can have a direct, and potentially huge, impact on your upcoming year – it has on mine. 

If you had one big disappointment from last year that you could reflect upon, acknowledge and release what would that be? How would letting that go help you in the year ahead?

Find out more about YOU... by answering 16 questions to wrap up your 2013!

There is still time to do this before January 1st.  When the New Year comes you won’t want to look back. Your focus will be on the year ahead. You would have missed this opportunity for 2013.

So here is why you should do this.

When you review your results for the year against your plan it gives you invaluable feedback about the areas of your strenghts.

In his 1999 Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Oneself”, Peter Drucker says that our performance will be strongest in the areas of our true strength. He says it’s a far better use of our time to work in those areas rather than trying to strengthen the areas of our weaknesses.

Peter goes on to say that many of us are wrong about the areas of our true strengths and that the only place where you can find those areas is through feedback analysis. You get this feedback by reviewing your performance and results at the end of the year against the plans you set at the start of the year.

By answering the sixteen questions in the downloadable file BELOW you will get some valuable feedback about the areas of your true strength.  Knowing this will help you perform better and have stronger results in 2014 and we all want that!



I Don’t Need a Vacation (from my Vacation)

Have you ever felt the need for recovery time from your vacation?

We’ve all been there.

According Expedia® most Americans don’t even bother taking all their vacation time.

“ The French take 30 days [vacation] Americans take 10.”   Full Article.

Even when people do take time off the survey suggests that many vacations turn into working vacations.

As the year comes to a close I’m committed to change that for myself.

I’ve just returned from vacation and I’m happy to report that, for the first time since I can remember I left work, at work.


This is the first vacation in memory that I feel more energized and in much better shape than when I left.

The difference?

No conferences. No courses. No schedule to see 12 cathedrals in 12 different cities in 12 days.

What I did do was walk on the beach with my husband, Kevin. In fact, we walked on the beach every morning at sunrise. Being next to the ocean watching the waves come in was a deeply nurturing and restful experience.

Don’t get me wrong – we were active – just not every day. On alternate days we went zip lining, snorkeling, horseback riding and sunset cruising. The physical activities forced us to get ‘out of our heads’. The days in between were spent at the beach with the waves – quiet and calm.

Now that I’m back home I feel ready to take on my work with new energy and enthusiasm.

I’m committed to scheduling at least one of these true vacations once every year.

Leaving work behind for a vacation sound daunting?

Start small. Try an afternoon ‘stay-cation’ that leaves work alone then work your way up to a full on vacation.

What’s your ideal ‘real’ vacation look like? What’s stopping you from taking it?

Do little wrap up BEFORE the Holidays?

Why? So you can RELAX, breathe easier and really ENJOY the Holiday Season.

At the end of a year we think it’s all over.  However, wrapping up a year takes more than just glancing over the results you’ve achieved and moving on.  A whole year in your life has just ended.  You’ve learned a great deal and gained valuable experience.  

If given a chance that experience could positively impact your future and open up new avenues of work and fun.

The following questions are designed to support you in getting the most out of this year.  These questions are based on Peter Drucker’s work about the value of reviewing your performance to determine areas of your true strengths and weaknesses.

SHORT VERSION:  What did you expect you'd achieve this year?  What did you plan to achieve?  What did you achieve?

LONG VERSION: I recommend you WRITE out the answers and save for designing your 2014.

  1. What did you plan to achieve in your business, on your project and in your life?
  2. What did you achieve in each areas?

During 2013...

  1. What did you change?
  2. What new skills did you learn?
  3. What new insights and perspectives did you gain? 
  4. In what areas of your business and life did you succeed?
  5. In what areas of your business and life did you fail and it was ok with you?
  6. In what areas did you fail and it was not ok with you?
  7. What did you decide you would never do again?
  8. What did you deal with, resolve or in some way handle for the first time?
  9. What lesson(s) painful or otherwise did you learn?
  10. What new life ambition(s) did you create?
  11. What life ambition(s) did you abandon?
  12. What do you need to forgive yourself for?
  13. What do you need to forgive any others for?
  14. What did you wish you’d done more of?
  15. Did you give up on something? If yes, what was it?

Ok, you're done for now. CONGRATULATIONS!  Save your answers for your 2014 design.

....go finish your Holiday shopping and relax and enjoy?  

You deserve it.

What Gives You Courage?

Here is the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. During Mandela's twenty-seven years of imprisonment, he was empowered by its affirmation of the "unconquerable soul," and often recited it to other prisoners:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

To paraphrase two lines from a poem by Auden in memory of Yeats, "Earth, receive an honoured guest/Mandela has been laid to rest"...

Plan? What Plan?

After a good night’s sleep, most of us start the day with a full battery of energy and intentionality.

What happens if you have a vague (or no) plan of what you wish to achieve by the end of the day?

Of course work will get done but without a plan, long-term priorities get overshadowed by the ‘squeaky wheel’ of the moment.

Without a clear plan consider you’ll achieve:

1) results mostly outside of your priorities or

2) other people’s priorities or

3) a lack of clear results.  

The bottom line is, successful performance STARTS with having a plan. What I call an Inspired Plan.

Very few people take the time to “scale” their plans to ensure success.

Consider that most people:

  • Don't review the previous week (month's, year) to determine their true strengths and weaknesses - they often carry on trying to achieve in areas they are weakest - basially they operate in their blind spots.   
  • Don’t design a plan for the year that’s anchored in their personal destiny or true ‘Calling’.
  • Waste a lot of time and energy working only on the tasks that are right in front of us - the 'squeaky wheel' of the moment rather than focusing on critical activities that are essential in reaching our stated goals.   

Don’t fall into the trap I see so many solopreneurs falling into – starting the year with great gusto only to fall short.

Ask yourself…

Do I have sufficient planning time allotted so I know (and feel) that my progress today and this week is impacting my results for the year? Do I have the resources (tools, information and support) to set the stage for my planning to be brilliant? What would be one action I could take right now to ensure a great plan? 

The 3 Secrets of Great Achievement

What separates most people from the great achievers? Not that much…

Great achievers are highly skilled in 3 dimensions; True Clarity, Intention and Flow

  • TRUE CLARITY - knowing yourself at a very deep level so that you know what you really want on an ongoing basis. Having clarity seems simple but it requires a high degree of focus and attention.  It's so much easier and comfortable to work and live and in a state of un-clarity but the results will reflect that lack of focus. 
  •  INTENTION - is all about expressing yourself and what you want in your business and life. Intentionality is most easily seen when someone is fired up about a project or goal. They wake up in the morning and are unstoppable. It’s a kind of determination that comes from within. Sometimes we loose the fire. We loose the inspiration. Intention is something to be reignited on a regular basis.  

There is a special relationship between intentionality and clarity. If you add intentionality to a project that lacks clarity you can end up with a confused mess.

However, when you have real clarity and you have a specific intention, you’ll amass enthusiasm, energy and the drive – all necessary elements to take you through the difficult parts. 

  • FLOW - being synchronized and aligned with the movement of life around you without loosing your focus and clarity.  

Life’s challenges will come along and threaten to knock you off your stride. Developing your skills of clarity, intentionality and flow so they become a natural, functioning part of your life can help keep you on your path – and give you a reason to moving forward. 

Are you on track with your Clarity, Intention and Flow? How do you get back on track when you encounter difficult circumstances? 

What’s ‘Flow’ (and Why You Should Care)?

Do you have an activity where you’re so focused you lose your sense of time? Where potential distractions roll off you like rainwater off a roof? If so, you’ve experienced flow.

Flow occurs when we maintain our focus and clarity despite the constant movement of life around us.

Simple enough. But what does that really mean?

To get a feel for flow think of life’s circumstances as a river. Now picture yourself in the middle of that river. Sometimes the currents (life circumstances) are so strong they threaten to pull you under.

When you loose your clarity and your intentionality you risk being disoriented and swept away. By standing in the middle of that river with firm footing and staying strong in your clarity and intentionality you’ll gain a great deal of personal power and momentum.

Getting distracted by the conditions around you can weaken your clarity, intentionality and, perhaps most importantly, your ability to create. But, if you have clarity and intentionality you can dance with life powerfully and maintain your footing, your center.

The real trick comes with getting in the flow, drawing power from it, but not having it take you over – in other words, learning to “go with the flow.”

When life knocks us over once in a while it’s easy to loose clarity and intentionality. Result? Forward progress slows down. Or worse, it stops completely.

So the next time you feel like you’re about to lose your footing in the current, remember to seek your clarity and keep your intentions strong.

Have you recently lost your footing in your business? How is your current life circumstance affecting your clarity and intentionality in your business? What’s one thing you can change to get back your clarity?


Let’s Be Perfectly Clear…

Imagine if, after years of hard work and effort, you wound up being the most successful widget maker but upon reflection, you wished you had spent your life’s energy perfecting gizmos instead.

An exhaustive plan executed with the most efficient actions doesn’t amount to much if you’re climbing the wrong mountain.

Many of us end up on our mountaintop feeling empty wondering, “How did I get here?”

Lack of clarity (or ‘un-clarity’ as I call it) guided us there.

Let’s face it…

Most of us don’t wake up with true clarity. Sure, we know we may need that first cup of coffee to take the edge off and we need to dress and get to work. But for some of us, our larger goals and intentions can get lost in the dust of daily ‘busy work’.

Finding Your True Clarity

True Clarity ensures that our daily tasks steer us towards our longer-term goals. Are your actions serving your longer-term goals? If not, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your efforts and goals to get them in synch.

Life is full of distractions and mistaken priorities but clarity helps reduce those diversions.

On the Wrong Mountaintop?

Congratulations! That realization is Step #1 on the road to clarity PLUS you’ve gained valuable experience along the way. Don’t let it go to waste – stop, evaluate, find clarity and move forward.

Do you have a habit or practice that helps you find (and maintain) your clarity? What is it?

Enjoy the Holidays BUT don't overlook what you must do in the new year

Each of us has aspirations for our lives. Some you may have had since you were young and some may be more recent.  There are more business opportunities now, more ways to contribute and volunteer to help others and more travel adventures to go on than ever before.  

And we have greater expectations of ourselves than ever before. 

Each of us wants to find our own unique way to thrive and make a difference in the world.  Your plans for 2013 need to be guided by the larger intentions you have for your business and your life.  Spend time at the end of December or in January making a plan for the year and setting some goals. There are many programs designed to guide you through the goal setting process.  

Enjoy the December holiday season with family and friends BUT don't overlook the critical step of desinging your new year.  Give yourself a chance to achieve those things you really want in 2013.

Are You Part of the 20%?

Statistics tell us that approximately 80% of people never set goals for themselves.  Even more surprising, of the 20 percent of the population that set goals, roughly 70 percent fail to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. 

So why bother taking the time to design a plan for 2013 you ask?  Because you probably want results in your business and life that you don't have.  Without a plan it's almost impossible to know what to work on and how to use your time well.  If you have a plan and goals you have a much greater chance of success.

Spend time at the end of December or early January making a plan for the year and setting some goals.  Do a program that’s designed to guide you through the goal setting process.  Give yourself a chance in 2013 to achieve those things you really want.

Are You Leading With Both The Rough End And The Sweet End?

Leadership is something the business owner MUST provide.  Your employes are not your friends even though you may have a close relationship with them.  They are not just employees to do the work either.   People love a challenge.  We bring our creativity, innovation and hard work to the party when we are uplifted and inspired by the leadership. To have a dynamic company you must provide real leadership. 

Leadership has two ends to it; one is rough and the other is sweet.  The rough end is where you set the bar high, demand a lot, set high expectations and give them a big challenge.  Your employees, colleagues and clients will respect and admire you if you set the bar high and stick to it.  

You must also provide the sweet end.  Let them know this is something big you want to be part of and it’s worth giving your life to.  It’s about helping people and communities and it’s making a difference in the world in a real and tangible way. 

However, if you only provide the rough end, they will be productive but also suffer.  Who doesn’t dislike, gossip about and undermine a tough uncaring task master?  If you only provide  the sweet end, they will be uplifted and inspired but not focused and productive.  You must provide both.

Are You A Lark Or An Owl?

For years, napping has been derided as a sign of laziness. We are "caught" napping or "found asleep at the switch".  But lately it has garnered new respect, thanks to scientific evidence that midday dozing benefits both mental acuity and overall health.  A slew of recent studies have shown that naps boost alertness, creativity, mood, and productivity in the later hours of the day.


A nap of 60 minutes improves alertness for up to 10 hours. Research on pilots shows that a 26-minute "Nasa" nap in flight (while the plane is manned by a copilot) enhanced performance by 34% and overall alertness by 54%. One Harvard study published last year showed that a 45-minute nap improves learning and memory. Napping reduces stress and lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes, and excessive weight gain.

Naps make you brainier, healthier, safer. But to understand how you can nap best, you need to understand your body.

How long should you rest for?

A short afternoon catnap of 20 minutes yields mostly Stage 2 sleep, which enhances alertness and concentration, elevates mood, and sharpens motor skills. To boost alertness on waking, you can drink a cup of coffee before you nap. Caffeine requires 20 or 30 minutes to take effect, so it will kick in just as you're waking. Naps of up to 45 minutes may also include rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which enhances creative thinking and boosts sensory processing.

Limit your nap to 45 minutes or less, if you need to spring into action after dozing. Otherwise, you may drift into slow-wave sleep. Waking from this stage results in sleep inertia, that grogginess and disorientation that can last for half an hour or more.

Why do we need to nap?

Most mammals sleep for short periods throughout the day.  Humans have consolidated sleep into one long period, but our bodies are programmed for two periods of intense sleepiness: in the early morning, from about 2am to 4am, and in the afternoon, between 1pm and 3pm.  This midday wave of drowsiness is not due to heat or a heavy lunch (it occurs even if we skip eating) but from an afternoon quiescent phase in our physiology, which diminishes our reaction time, memory, coordination, mood, and alertness.

Are you a lark or an Owl?

To determine the best time to nap, it helps to know your "chronotype". What time would you get up and go to sleep if you were entirely free to plan your day? If you're a lark, apt to wake as early as 6am and go to sleep around 9pm or 10pm, you're going to feel your nap need around 1pm or 1.30 pm.

If you're an owl, preferring to go to bed after midnight or 1am, and to wake around 8am or 9am, your afternoon "sleep gate" will open later, closer to 2.30pm or 3pm.

Excerpted from Jennifer Ackerman's article “Napping: the expert’s guide” published in The Gardian, Monday, January 26, 2009.

The Marketing and Sales Book that Changed Everything

My library is filled with many top name books on marketing and sales, some I’ve read in detail and got many good tips and ideas others I’ve skimmed through.  It wasn’t until in 2009 when I found Renvoise and Morin’s book, Neuro-Marketing that everything changed.  Not only did I read the entire book in about 45 minutes, it had shocking content I’d not seen anywhere else.   

Said very simply, no matter how fancy, tricky or elaborate your marketing and sales are, it is the OLD brain that makes the decision to buy.  What is so staggering about that you ask?  Here it comes.  There are only 6 stimuli that reach our reptilian (old) brain and mostly we don’t know what they are.   

If you don’t know these 6 stimuli your marketing and sales efforts fail to activate the part of our brain that says, “yes, I want that”.   Ladies, when you go shopping, sometimes you see a pair of shoes  and you know in an instant you must have them.   And, almost regardless of prices you will go home with those shoes.  It’s the same for all of us.  The decision to buy is quick and mostly irreversible.

Alright, now that I have your ear, here are the 6 stimuli.  But, I recommend you click on this  Amazon link and get a copy of the book.  Read it and read it again.  It will be the best time you’ve ever spent understanding marketing and sales. 

This is what the old brain responds to:

1. Contrast as in before/after, risky/safe, and with/without.   Without vivid contrast the old brain becomes confused and resulting in a delayed decision or no decision.

2. Tangible Input - it is constantly scanning for what is familiar and friendly, concrete and immutable, and recognizable. 

3. It’s Self-centered - it will respond to anything pertaining to self.

4. The beginning and the end–the old brain engages in openings and finales and will go into a resting state during the middle section and not hear what you are saying.

5. Visual stimuli –the optic nerve is 40 times faster than the auditory nerve.

6. Emotions ~ will trigger the old brain.

When is your natural performance peak?

1). When do you have the greatest amount of mental clarity, focus, attention, awareness and energy each day? Consider "maximum capacity an 8 through 10 on a scale of 1-10.   Note: if you don't know your times we recommend you find out before going on to the 2nd question.

2). What activities structures and practices DECREASE the amount of focus and attention, mental clarity, awareness and energy you have each day?

What activities, structures and practices INCREASE the amount of focus and attention, mental clarity, awareness and energy you have each day?

Your research is needed for this inquiry. Please post a comment below.