Diseases of the Workplace

What Kills a Business Culture?

Out of the top things that stress out people the most, work and finances are in the top three. The other is anxiety about the future, but I think most of that anxiety, if really investigated, could be traced back to unhappiness with work or finances. As a business owner and former employee of various industries, I have seen firsthand how stressful the workplace can be. In my experience, very few people are actually satisfied with their workplace and much of their dissatisfaction comes from the culture of the business itself. A business is really only made up of two things—people and a culture. Both affect each other. People create the culture, but the culture can change if people’s attitudes change or new people are brought into the culture. With that in mind, here are the biggest diseases that will destroy a business culture and lead to a decline in sales and happiness amongst staff.

Habituation—Do you remember what it was like to drive a car for the first time? Were you nervous? Did you check your mirrors multiple times and turn down the stereo so you could focus? When you first undertake something, a good amount of attention and action is required to perform the task. However, after we get used to doing an activity over and over, less effort is required. This is called habituation. Now, you may drive with one hand on the wheel, another on a cup of coffee while the stereo is blasting. What used to be hard and required intense focus is now somewhat easy and less focus is given. The problem is that over time, habituation can lead to a degradation of the quality of the business systems and culture.

Consider this—a new hire is likely to perform to his or her best ability and take an active interest in learning the job. After a while, however, as the employee becomes used to the job the attention to detail and willingness to learn and grow often decline. Whereas a new hire may go the extra mile to impress others, the employee who has been on the job a while will likely not be looking for an opportunity to go the extra mile. The new hire will pick up the dust ball in the corner because they see it does not belong. After time, the old employee will not even notice the dust ball. They have become habituated to the job.

“Not my job” disease—This may be the worst and most common of them all. I would venture to say every workplace I’ve ever been a part of has a fair share of employees who do not even try to help our their coworkers or employers because they consider a certain task to not be in their job description. Not only are these people not willing to go the extra mile to help out, they won’t even go the first mile. The person who only does the bare minimum to keep their job destroys the culture because the attitude is infectious. Soon, others will say the same thing. What these people do not realize is that a business is like a ship—if things are going well, the ship can hold extra personnel and cargo for a time. But, if things begin to turn downward, only the people who are absolutely necessary to the survival of the ship will be a part of the crew. Those who consistently refuse to go the extra mile to help out the crew will be among the first to be let go.

Staff doesn’t know the mission—Why does the business exist and what is the mission of the business? These two questions must be answered very clearly by the ownership and every single associate of the business must understand the answers so clearly that they can repeat the answers with confidence. If the staff does not understand why the business exists or what the mission is, they cannot be in alignment with it and that will lead to dysfunction in the systems and operations of the enterprise. You would be surprised how many employees do not know what their place of employment actually does or why it is important. Every single staff member must understand and believe in the mission of the company to create unity, harmony and a positive working culture. Without alignment on the mission, the business is doomed and the workplace culture will reflect that.

Lack of communication from all levels—Communication is key to any enterprise, relationship or any other undertaking. It’s vitally important that every person in an organization is able to properly communicate with other coworkers, management and ownership. So many organizations have staff that don’t speak to each other or even resent other individuals in the business. If there is a lack of communication in the workplace, basic functions of the organization will not be able to be carried out properly. Moreover, mistakes will not be caught or voiced to ensure that systems are put in place to keep the problems from occurring again.

Perhaps the most important reason for great communication is that people thrive when they feel they are a part of something special. They need to be reminded what the mission is, what needs to be done, how it should be done, who needs to do it and why it is important that tasks are accomplished. Much like a relationship, all parties need to feel like there is an open line of communication so that growth can occur, both for the individuals and the company as a while. Without it, employees will begin to resent the business and other staff and the business will suffer.

No focus on harmony—I’ve written previously about the importance of harmony in a relationship and a workplace. I’m a strong believer that harmony among all associates in a business is necessary for a happy workplace. If discord or animosity exists even among a few employees, it will quickly sweep through the entire organization like a virus. Soon, the happiest, most productive people will find themselves subject to the unhappy that comes with a lack of harmony. It should be that we all strive to work together with each other to achieve a common goal or mission. To do this, harmony is required. Watch out for people with negative mental attitudes. They will destroy a culture and kill a business. My advice would be to look closely at your own actions and beliefs to make sure that you are not the one guilty of a negative mental attitude. Hint: if you believe that everyone else at the job sucks except you, you’re probably the one guilty of spreading negativity and ruining the harmony in the workplace.

Not enough focus on growth—Nature requires growth from every living thing. If you are not growing, you are vulnerable. If a relationship is not growing, it’s declining. The same is true with business. If a business is not growing, it may as well be dying. Inflation and competition will eat away as a stagnant business until there is nothing left. Growth is required to thrive, and every associate in a business must understand this concept. Considerable attention must be given to acquiring new customers, not just keeping the ones you have. All growth comes from new customer acquisition and the future referrals from them. Growth focus looks like this: New Customer Acquisition—> Deliver Incredible Service—> Referrals. The cycle then repeats. If every associate is not focusing on this cycle there will be stagnation in the business and that will lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment in the workplace. People need to feel like the future is going to be better than the past. Progress equals happiness. Growth equals excitement and energy. Stagnation leads to boredom and a lack of care. The culture of a company must have a focus on growth in order to succeed.

“I’m the only good worker” disease—This belief is so common and so deadly in a workplace culture. In life, it’s easy to believe that we are all the stars of our own movie and every else in our life is just a supporting role. Although it may certainly feel like you are the “good guy” and everyone else isn’t the real star, this type of thinking can quickly lead to the belief that no one else cares, or that you are the only one who does a good job. If you think poorly of your co-workers, not only does this suggest a lack of harmony is present in your workplace, it also suggests that you have a negative attitude towards others. If you are truly the best worker in your business, your efforts should be to help everyone else where you are able, not speak poorly of them or their work ethic.   If you are a leader or an influencer in an organization, this is especially important. People should look to you for leadership and guidance on how to improve and be better. This will not happen, however, if you bash others as being inadequate or poor performers. Instead, they will come to resent you and that will lead to more discord in the workplace.

There you have it. There are, of course, other attitudes and behaviors that will destroy a workplace culture, but these are the most important to recognize and correct. At the end of the day, a workplace culture can be as great or as poor as the people who comprise it want it to be. If you want to be a part of an incredible workplace, make sure it does not suffer from the above listed problems. Moreover, make sure that you are not guilty of the attitudes listed.

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Health is Wealth

The True Path to Riches

            In my journey through this life, I have had the pleasure of meeting thousands of people in many different industries and occupations. As I have progressed in business and expanded my dealings to include real estate and other investments, I have been very fortunate to meet many individuals with a very high net worth. In other words, they are what we call wealthy or rich. The knowledge that I’ve gained from the individuals is truly priceless when it comes to making money and dealing with the stresses of business. However, most of the conversations that I have with the wealthy people steer in a direction towards health and fitness. I would even venture to say that most of the time spent in conversation is me answering fitness and diet questions that they have. I find this interesting, because most of these people are much more financially successful than I am, but nevertheless I am the one giving advice. This has led me to an interesting conclusion: that true wealth lies in being fit and healthy.

Sure, money is important. To say that it’s not is to kid yourself. Nothing can replace money in the areas where money is concerned. Money is very important. But money can be replaced with more money. Most rich people have lost money in different investments only to earn it back later on. What are even more important than money are the things that cannot be replaced. Namely, health and time. The quality of life you have and the amount of time you have to live are by far the most important things in life. Being fit and healthy is the best way to ensure a high quality of life, as well as longevity. I’ve found that having a high level of fitness is also one best paths to self-satisfaction. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you are dissatisfied with your body or plagued with health problems, the quality of life will not be any greater than someone who has much less money and is perfectly healthy and athletic. A BMW or Ferrari or a mansion cannot replace a healthy, lean and toned body. Although, a lean and toned body in a Ferrari or BMW is mighty fine…

This leads me to my next point: the greatest investment you can possibly make is in your physical and emotional well being. I mention emotional because emotion comes from motion. By changing your physiology, you can dramatically alter your emotional well being. Studies show again and again that exercise is more effective than antidepressants and other drugs to promote an overall feeling of well being. I can personally testify that I cured my depression after being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis by going to the gym and transforming my body through weight training. Now it’s a regular part of my life (almost daily) and I love it because it puts me in a great mood and makes me feel powerful as opposed to powerless against a disease. I train earlier in the day because I feel it sets me up for a good day. I’m able to deal with the stresses of life much better having already trained my body and elevated my mood. Being fit gives me a sense of power and control over my world. I don’t feel like life is happening to me, but rather that life is happening for me.

Of course, the other big factor in fitness and health is nutrition. Although I believe exercise is one of the most important things anyone can do to improve their life as a whole, diet is just as important. Because diet and nutrition are such a stigmatized subject and many people don’t like hearing or reading about it, I’ll keep it simple. There are foods and supplements that feed and nourish your body and there are foods and substances that harm it greatly. Your body is fueled by the nutrients you give it and your physical performance depends greatly on this fuel. Not giving the body proper nutrition is akin to making a bad financial investment over and over again without learning the lesson. I cannot even tell you how many “rich” people I have met that are severely overweight, out of shape and very unhealthy. You would think these people, who clearly have great knowledge of how to produce income in the marketplace through wise investments decisions, would understand the need to invest the body. Perhaps they do, which is why I get asked for training and nutrition advice so often by affluent people. But as we all know, it’s easy to understand something intellectually. It’s another thing to actually take and act on advice.

If you’re fit and healthy, congratulations! Stay on the path and live life to the fullest. If you are fit but haven’t quite made it in the marketplace yet, don’t worry. The wealth will come as long as you stay healthy and make good decisions. If you have affluence, but have failed to stay fit and healthy, remember this… there is only one true path to lasting wealth. And that, my friends, is to do whatever is in your power to achieve a healthy and active lifestyle.

Communication 101

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace, nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are. In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories, which I will explain below. I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category. My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action. Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication:

SAYING SOMETHING. This is the most basic level of communication. We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication. Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a manager about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem—just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon. I believe most communication falls within this first category—things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient truly understands the message.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message. I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore. We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that it is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed. Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message. Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it. Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.

CONNECTION. This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level. The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people. I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult. It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are merely speaking, and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action. Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved. My suggestion would be to work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!

Where Are You Going?

Know Where You Are Headed

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m sick of hearing that “life is a journey” and that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.  These cliches do very little good for anyone and more that’s likely believing them can actually hold someone back from achievement.  I agree that it is important to be mindful of what you are experiencing in the moment and be grateful for the experiences we have in life, but I would argue that if life is a journey, all journeys should have a destination.  In other words, there should be a direction or a target in which you set out to reach or you will end up aimless and drifting though life.  In my experience, the majority of unhappy people are not unhappy because they failed to reach a goal or hit a target.  They are unhappy because they have no idea what they want, where they are headed and feel like they have no control over what is happening in their life.  In other words, if you don’t set a destination for your journey, life will happen TO YOU, not FOR YOU. 

While hitting targets and reaching goals is important for a sense of fulfillment and importance,  I would suggest the real power lies in setting the goal, not reaching it.  Making a decision about the direction your life is headed in shows yourself and others that you have agency in your own existence.  It’s not possible to always achieve every goal we set due to unforeseen circumstances that are outside our control.  But missing a target is much better for a sense of well being that having to target at all.  Aimlessness is a tragedy that will throw your life off track.  Having a sense of purpose and direction is vital to feeling alive and happy in my opinion. That is why we must be careful about internalizing platitudes that are perpetuated online if they allow us to rationalize away the fact that we have not decided what we want from life.  We have to decide what we ask from life.

I admit that it is difficult to know exactly what we want in life at all times.  This is especially true when we are young.  But having a general sense of what makes us happy and what type of life we would like is important.  If you have no idea what you want from life and your philosophy is that “you are just here to enjoy the ride” or some other similar philosophy, I can guarantee you that at the very least you will continually wonder what your purpose is and you will often be at the mercy of others who have a created a plan for their life.  Of course, plans change and destinations must be adjusted or postponed for external events- that’s just life.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on setting goals and targets for ourselves.  These are essential for our well being.  If life is a truly a journey, it would do us all well to remember the final destination is death.  It is up to you to decide what destinations you’d like to see along the way before the journey ends. 

The Problem With Passion

We are often told to find something we are passionate about to do for our work because it will make us happy. I think this is terrible advice. How many people tried out their passion in the marketplace and ended up on unemployment and food stamps? Where do you think the term “starving artist” comes from? Don’t get me wrong, if you can find something you’re passionate about and also make a good living doing, that’s fantastic! But first and foremost, making money is about providing value to others in the marketplace. Finding an occupation that others value and are willing to pay for is the fastest way for most people to produce income. You may not be passionate about what you are doing, but at least you can fulfill financial needs. After you accumulate some savings, you may be able to start a side business based around something you are really passionate about and make it flourish. However, there are a couple of warnings that I would offer regarding mixing passion and work…

1. What you are passionate about today may change in the future. I can tell you from personal experience that what I was really passionate about in the past, I no longer have any interest in. Some things I believe I will always be passionate about–fitness, business, and writing. But some things, like Magic the Gathering and wrestling, which I used to be very passionate about, no longer do it for me. If I had decided out of high school to start a business selling comics and playing cards, or becoming a wrestler, I imagine that I’d be wildly unhappy today. I’d probably also be struggling to make ends meat.

2. Work and business have a tendency to make you question whether you are really passionate about something. In other words, it can lead some people to actually hate what they used to be passionate about. For example, I learned very quickly after I opened a health club, that my passion for bodybuilding and fitness had nothing to do whatsoever with actually owning and running a health club. My skills as a bodybuilder did not translate into increased revenues, decreased business expenses, higher employee morale, or anything necessary to make my businesses a success. Also, as some members of my clubs will tell you, I have a problem with buying too much new equipment because I personally want it, rather than examining whether it truly adds value to the customer experience or the value of the business as a whole. If I’m being totally honest, my passion for fitness has faded at times because now I associate many new problems and stresses with something that is my passion. That is a very difficult thing for most people to handle emotionally. It has taken me many years to figure out how to separate training with the realities of owning a training facility.

3. Being passionate about something does not necessarily mean that you will be good at doing it for a living, nor does it mean that you were meant to do it. What I’m trying to hint at here is that your purpose in this life may not be what you believe you are passionate about. If you are very lucky, you will find passion in your purpose. If this is the case, you will be one of the few who can produce income, by doing what you like and also by helping others (purpose). I suggest that you look for purpose first, and then try to find what it is about fulfilling your purpose that you can be passionate about. For instance, as a bodybuilder and health club owner with autoimmune disease, I can build businesses for others to become healthy and transform themselves, and also serve as an example for overcoming certain disabilities. I can’t do that only by lifting weights though. No one is going to pay me for lifting weights and doing cardio. (I wish they would!) I can, however use my passion for lifting and mix it with my purpose (helping others overcome obstacles). This is why I continue to own health clubs as opposed to doing all passive investing in things like real estate.

4. Passion often does not mix with logic. The Stoics advised us to always use reason instead of emotion, because they understood that our emotions could deceive us. Have you ever been in an argument and said some atrocious things? Looking back you may realize that saying those things were not useful in the least and you regret not thinking before speaking. This is an example of letting passion overcome reason. Eleanor Roosevelt was once complimented on her “passion” for getting social legislation passed. She responded, “I hardly think the word passion applies to me.” The First Lady understood that she was driven by something more important than passion. She was driven by purpose. If she let herself become too passionate about anything, she may have forgotten reason to ensure that her purpose was realized. Eleanor Roosevelt understood that purpose is more useful and longer lasting than passion.

So beware of any advice suggesting that if you always follow your passion, you’ll be happy. You may not. Passions fade. Passions confuse our ability to reason. What we are passionate about today may change. Perhaps no one will pay us to engage in our passion. Instead, focus on mixing purpose with passion. Finding your purpose and then finding areas where you can be passionate about that purpose will lead to far more fulfillment and likely far more income than choosing to follow a career based on passion alone.

In health,
Sean

Secrets…

Why Secrets Matter

“The best entrepreneurs know this; every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.” – Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal)

The best business are based on secrets. In other words, they start out to work on problems that no one else is working on or talking about. Think about Google; they saw there was a lack of efficiency in searching the internet. Their “secret” was that internet searches could be extremely relevant, even to the point Google could predict what you were searching for. Google is now essentially a monopoly for internet search. With electricity it was Benjamin Franklin and then Edison and Tesla who sought to uncover the secret force of electricity. Ford’s secret was to make automobiles available and affordable for every family. Alexander Fleming’s secret was to uncover and defeat deadly bacteria that claimed so many lives. His discovery was Penicillin and many millions of lives have been saved through this and similar drugs.

The uncovering of these secrets led to giant industries that have transformed life as we know it today. The people behind these giant companies would not have succeeded if they had simply tried to do what others were already doing. Most people and companies set out to do something slightly better than those around them. This is essentially copying what others are doing with the intention of doing it just a little bit better or faster, or less expensive. The problem with competing like this is that it’s very hard to build a truly great and lasting business if so many others are able to do what you are doing. The opposite of this would be to set out building a monopoly company- one that is working on solving the problems that no one else is. The uncovering of secrets will lead to incredible value for mankind. Focussing on secrets will also lead to a lasting company because no one else is really working to uncover what you are.

Two Types of Secrets
In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel suggests there are two types of secrets to uncover: those about people and those about nature. Many believe that most secrets in nature have been discovered, but that’s not true at all. For instance, why does all matter vibrate? Why do people develop auto-immune disease? Why do we our cells have to age and deteriorate? There are many secrets in nature that need to be uncovered. There are perhaps even more secrets about people that need to be examined. For example, why are some people prone to violence? Why do a majority of marriages end in divorce? Why do people get married in the first place? Why do we find it necessary to lie in order to avoid discomfort? Why do some people succeed in their goals while others give up and quit? I’m sure that you can come up with come secrets as well. The main takeaway here is that secrets matter a great deal because working on them will lead to new technologies and innovations that will improve life for all mankind.

A secret by definition is keeping something hidden or unexplained. We can find secrets by asking, “what is nature not telling us?” Or, “what are people not telling us?” So what secrets are you working to uncover? You may just change the world for the better by solving a major problem for humanity. There are secrets all around us and they are possible to solve, we just have to know where to look for them and truly believe they are possible to solve. Sometimes we assume that others must be working on a problem because it seems so obvious or important. To that I would say that if you don’t believe you will discover the answer to a secret in nature or in people, you won’t! You will fulfill your own prophecy that you can’t solve it, or you shouldn’t bother because someone else “must” be working on it already. Maybe someone else is working on the problem, but it could be that you have the very insight needed to solve the problem. Do you want to change the world? Look for secrets. They are everywhere.  If you are working on secrets you might just create something new for mankind to use.  If you are working on what everyone else is, you will end up competing for the same slice of the pie…
In health,
Sean

33 Lessons I’ve Learned

33 Lessons:

Tomorrow I turn 33 years old. So, here is a lesson for every year that I have learned and find valuable enough to share with all of you.

-Think about business from a customer centric angle to find insight.
-Save money. At least 20%. if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of those that did save.
-When you first date someone, you’d do anything for them including rubbing their feet and taking out the trash. Don’t lose that if you want a lasting relationship.
-Don’t always react immediately. Acting without thinking is usually worse than not acting.
– Don’t let fear drive you. Life is scary. If you want security, go to a mental ward. They’ll take care of you.
– All government is force. It is a monopoly on violence. Nothing more, nothing less.
– You and I owe to each other to look out for our common good. But I have no right to rob another because I believe I can use their property better than they can. (That’s called taxation)
– Read to your children and spend most of your days with them.
– Only you can teach yourself. Others can provide information, but you must do the learning.
-Read at least a book a month to ensure a better future.
– Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll get better at both.
– You are not poor because someone else is rich.
– Don’t wait to be wealthy;start helping others today.
– You don’t know everything. But God(the Universe if you prefer) does, so it might be wise to ask for guidance.
– Treat everything as if it was the last time you will see it. You quality of life will improve dramatically.
-Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Mark 4:25. ( This is talking about gratitude)
– Crap attracts flies. Don’t have crappy thoughts.
-Music makes life fulfilled in every way. It makes your mind vibrate at higher frequencies and attracts love to you.
– Your success will always reflect the standards of your peer group.
– Start everyday by writing down ten things you’re grateful for.
– The quality of your life will be determined by how comfortable you are with uncertainty (risk).
– You are not a goose. You don’t have to fly south during winter. Choose your own direction.
-Carbohydrates make you fat because of insulin. Earn your carbs. Don’t just eat them without training to use them.
– You can change your attitude by changing your state. Do some push-ups or train to operate at a higher level.
-Most people believe they desire Liberty, but sell themselves into a slave- like existence for false security or because of a lack of creativity.
– Skip a meal once in a while, it can help you feel better and get in touch with yourself.
– Any disease can be defeated if the reasons behind beating it are strong enough and the mind believes it can be done.
– If you want a great life focus on appreciation instead of expectation.
– Use your money to buy assets that produce income and not liabilities.
– Energy is something you produce, not something you have.
– The quality of your life is determined by your philosophy towards life.
– Disciplines are the keys to success in any area. The first discipline to learn is controlling your thoughts.

-You become the story you tell yourself. To change your life, start telling yourself a different story that serves you.

In Health,

Sean