How to Walk Away

A song that chokes me up almost every time I hear it is, “Walkway,” by Ben Harper.

In the chorus, he sings:

With so many people to love in my life, why do I worry about one?
But you put the happy in my ness; you put the shine in my sun.
And it’s so hard to do, and so easy to say.
But sometimes, sometimes, you just have to walk away.

Walk away from toxic environments.
Walk away from broken relationships.
Walk away from valueless affiliations.
Walk away from soul-sucking activities.
Walk away from burdensome obligations.
Walk away from unfulfilling opportunities.

If you’ve been getting the sneaking suspicion that it’s time to quit something, someone or somewhere, consider these suggestions to get your feet moving in the right direction:1. Watch for the warning signs. People walk away for two reasons: Either because it’s hard, or because it’s right. Your challenge is to create a filter. To make an agreement with yourself that, upon feeling certain feelings, you’re gone.

Here’s a few from my own list, with some help from my daily Facebook fill in the blank exercise.

If you’re not waking up happy, it’s time to walk away.
If growing is no longer possible, it’s time to walk away.
If even the truth sounds like a lie, it’s time to walk away.
If sticking around is holding you back, it’s time to walk away.
If money is the only thing keeping you around, it’s time to walk away.
If the pain of holding on exceeds the risk of letting go, it’s time to walk away.
If you secretly realize that you’ve been settling for mediocrity all along, it’s time to walk away.

Ultimately, it’s not about saying no – it’s about setting healthy boundaries. It’s not about giving up – it’s about recognizing a completed life cycle. And it’s not about being selfish – it’s about being aware of yourself, staying loyal to yourself and having respect for yourself. How will you know when it’s time to walk away?

2. Walking away makes room. In an articled called Sometimes Your Happiness Depends on Walking Away, Kristen Houghton explained that too often we focus so much on a door that has closed abruptly and unexpectedly in our faces that we don’t realize that the world is full of other doors that are open to us.

“Letting go of what occurred and walking away from a closed door is difficult. It is human nature to want to stop and bang on that door in the fierce hope that it will open up again and let us in. But you won’t find your happiness demanding that a locked door reopen. All you will do is miss alternate avenues of opportunities that are available to you.”

That’s what I’ve learned in my own walkaway experiences: Sometimes we have to say no the good to create room to say yes to the best. Besides: Terminated from a job doesn’t mean terminated from life. Breaking up with your girlfriend doesn’t mean you’re a broken person. And ending your affiliation with an organization that’s outlived its usefulness doesn’t make you selfish.

But, if you’re in danger of becoming someone you don’t like, you need to walk away. Otherwise you’ll sabotage your chances of evolving into something better. Are you bloodying your knuckles knocking on a locked door that’s closed from the other side?

3. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of emotion. Walking away from anything is a painful rope to cut. Especially when it involves someone you love – or something central to your identity. Personally, I once divorced myself from an entire group of close friends that I’d known since childhood.

The reason: They thought cocaine was cool – I didn’t.

So I bailed. And the next day, I experienced a bona-fide anxiety attack. You know, the kind that makes you feel like the entire world is closing in on your lungs? That’s how my body responded to walking away. Which isn’t entirely surprising, as relationships are fundamental to my Personal Constitution.

What’s interesting, though, is that none of my old friends ever called to ask where I was. Apparently, my absence wasn’t enough to warrant any follow up. Weird. I think that’s the hardest part about walking away: Knowing in your heart that people aren’t going to come chasing after you.

Fortunately, the few close friends I had left helped me navigate the pain. And I made it out alive. That’s the good news: Walking away from a closed door usually helps you find a key to open a new one. As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true – not to thine own group of friends you don’t even like anymore be true.” How will walking away make you feel – really?

4. Scratch your itch elsewhere. It’s always easier to walk away from something if you view it as a springboard. As a stepping-stone to something better. Take organizational involvement, for example. From faith communities to volunteer positions to professional associations, too often we’re afraid to throw in the towel – even when we’ve passed the point of diminishing returns.

We’ve simply invested too much emotional labor, and walking away would be too painful.

Which makes total sense. I’ve certainly been guilty of sticking around somewhere for too long out of guilt. But life’s too short to shackle yourself to an unfulfilling, unrewarding affiliation you’ve outgrown, just for the sake of sparing somebody’s feelings.

My suggestion: Instead of throwing a life jacket to something that’s already sunk to the bottom of the ocean – find somewhere else to swim. Instead of working overtime to convince yourself that your membership is worthwhile – find a better sandbox where you can be somebody.

Look: It’s never pleasant when you realize that something you love has outlived its usefulness. But everything on this planet has a lifestyle. Maybe it’s time to celebrate your victories, walk off the field and step into something better. Are you willing to confront your organizational expiration date?

5. Focus yourself to free yourself. Never feel bad about saying no to the people who haven’t learned how to value you yet. Life’s too short, and you’ve got shit to do.

For example, I recently met with a company who wanted to hire me to conduct a branding workshop with their employees. For the first fifteen minutes of the meeting, everything was going great: My philosophy engaged them, my content excited them and they seemed ready to move forward.

Until one of the executives said, “By the way Scott, we don’t allow facial hair in this building. Or blue jeans. Or open toed shoes. Oh, and your hair is way too long. Just a few things to keep in mind before you come back to our office again.”

I never came back.

In fact, the only time I talked to them again was in my email the next day, in which I wrote the following: “Thanks for your interest in my program. Although it seems that my content is the right fit for your team, it’s clear that my personality is not. And while I respect the culture of your organization – I don’t edit myself. Ever. Here’s the name of a colleague who might be a better fit. Hope she works out.”

Lesson learned: You’re defined by what you decline. How much money are you willing to turn down to preserve your integrity?

REMEMBER: Walking away isn’t just about saying no.

It’s about standing aware of yourself.
It’s about showing respect to yourself.
It’s about staying honest with yourself.
It’s about setting boundaries for yourself.

The best part is, when you walk away from the wrong, it frees you to sprint toward the right.

Are you ready to get the steppin?

For a list called, “16 Ways to be the Best,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

“I usually refuse to pay for mentoring. But after Scott’s first brain rental session, the fact that I had paid something to be working with him left my mind – as far as I was concerned, the value of that (and subsequent) exchange of wisdom and knowledge, far outweighed any payment.”

–Gilly Johnson The Australian Mentoring Center

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How to Start Over

“When you zero out your board, anything is possible.”

Robert Downey Jr. said that during a recent interview with Rolling Stone.

Coming from him, that’s powerful advice.

THINK ABOUT IT: Downey starting abusing drugs in the eighties, was frequently arrested on drug charges in the nineties – in and out of rehab several times during the process – and later fired from numerous acting jobs because of his addictions.

But then he started over.

And once he got clean, his committed work ethic enabled his career to embark on a trajectory unlike any other actor alive: He starred in successful independent films, formed his own production company with his wife, released his debut musical album and shattered box office records with blockbuster vehicles like Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.

QUESTION: What will become possible when you zero out your board?

Today we’re going to talk about starting over.

In life, in business and in relationships.

Because while it’s something every human being experiences in her lifetime, it’s also something very few people have taken the time to write about.

Away we go.1. Block out why time. If you haven’t paused to honesty ask yourself why you’re starting over, you’ll never learn what life expects from you. Asking why ensures the pieces fit from the start. Asking why enables long-term survivability. Asking why assures you’re not dying for something you’re not willing to die for. And asking why prevents a flawed assumption from sending the entire process of transition into misguided motion.

The cool part is: Once the muscle of why is bulging and throbbing, everything else from that point on becomes easier. As Nietzsche observed, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

What’s scary is the confrontation. The reflection. Looking yourself in the eye and saying, “Alright. No bullshit: Why am I really starting over?” Because if you don’t anchor yourself in that sense of purpose, the waves of change will toss you around like a tugboat boat in the tempest. Are you at war with how when you should be in love with why?

2. Rewrite your definition of victory. When you start over, your currency changes. And winning starts to look different to you. But unless you give yourself permission to redefine your idea of success, you risk staying where you are.

I’m reminded of the movie Up In the Air. Natalie, the recent college grad, explains how she thought she’d be married by twenty-three:

“I was supposed to be driving a Grand Cherokee by now. Corner office by day, entertaining at night. And married to a guy with brown hair, kind eyes and a one-syllable named like John or Matt.”

Unfortunately, her older and wiser friend explains the reality:

“You know, honestly, by the time you’re thirty-four, all the physical requirements just go out the window. Like, you secretly pray that he’ll be taller than you. But not an asshole would be enough. Someone who enjoys my company and comes from a good family would be enough. Or, maybe just a nice smile. That would be enough too.”

What about you? How has your definition of success change in the past ten years? I only ask because, as you navigate this transitional period of your life, you better believe it’s going to change again. And how you define success, defines you. What’s your currency?

3. Make the upgrade. It’s hard to start over after you’ve spent years building your whole life around someone. Or something. Especially if your sense of identity derived from that place. That’s why picking up the pieces and moving on is such a pervasive and debilitating internal constraint: It feels like you’re abandoning a part of yourself.

Fortunately, starting over isn’t impossible – it’s just inconvenient.

The question is: Are you prepared to let go of what you’ve always been? I hope so. Because that’s the only way to upgrade to the next version of yourself. By surrendering to the next phase of your personal evolution and letting go of the person you were in order to grow into the person you needed to be, you win.

Remember: Starting over isn’t about being better than anyone – it’s about being better than you used to be. What are you still afraid to let go of?

4. Make creativity a conscious priority. Readers often ask me how I decide what to write about each day. And my answer is simple: “I don’t – I listen for what wants to be written.”

That’s how creativity works: It’s a process of surrendering and active listening.

And when you’re starting over, that’s the smartest attitude to maintain. After all, opportunity never stops knocking – you just stop listening. The secret is to lock into the right frame of mind to pursue opportunities as they arise. To maintain the emotional willingness to open yourself to new possibilities. Then, to leverage everything you’ve got.

For example: Examine the smallest revenue centers of your business. Then ask yourself:

*Now that I have this, what else does this make possible?
*With some reinvention, could this become a brand new business unit?

By giving your artistic voice another outlet, you might activate a market segment that just can’t wait for your arrival. Remember: Creativity isn’t an entitlement – it’s is nurtured by constant cultivation. What potential opportunities are you forfeiting by rejecting or devaluing creativity?

5. The detour is the path. It’s amazing how easy it is to start over when you come to the realization that you’re always in alignment. That everything happening during your transitional period is exactly what’s supposed to happen – even if it’s inconsistent with the great life plan you orchestrated.

As John Lennon once sang, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”

Whether it’s a new relationship, new job or new city, learn to celebrate wherever the detour takes you. Go where your unintentional music leads you. And be patient as new opportunities unfold. Because sometimes it takes a while to look back with objective eyes and realize how right your leap truly was. Even if you ended up somewhere unexpected.

The point is: Leaving the old path is a choice – but so is embracing the detour. Give yourself the psychological freedom to move in a new direction. And trust yourself enough that wherever starting over takes you, you’ll still be able to excel. How does your current accident relate to your core life purpose?

6. Flex the muscle of life. A few years ago I read a study published by a California health club chain. Their research indicated that fifty-three percent of Americans could not touch their toes.

Can you? If not, starting over might kill you. Because lack of flexibility isn’t just a fitness problem – it’s a life problem.

In The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr defines emotional flexibility as the capacity to move freely and appropriately along a wide spectrum of emotions rather than responding rigidly or defensively. And he defines mental and spiritual flexibility as “the capacity to move between the rational and the intuitive, to embrace multiple points of view and to tolerate values and beliefs that are different than your own.”

That’s what starting over is all about: Flexing the muscle of life. Seeking out ways to be stretched. And making yourself uncomfortable in situations that call for creativity and adaptability. From that space of elasticity, you’ll enable the ideal starting point from which to grow. Does the muscle of your life have a broad range of motion?

7. Make yourself more efficacious. After a painful end to a four-year relationship, my friend Steve offered me a priceless piece of advice about starting over: “Don’t assume you can’t go on living without some girl’s arm around your shoulder.”

He was right: It was time to learn how to fend for myself. Time to pursue wholeness independently – at least, for a while. That way, when the time came to begin a new relationship (which I eventually did) I could come to it with a greater sense of self-efficacy, thus strengthening the partnership.

Starting over is an uncertain, terrifying journey. And it will call upon the full use of every faculty you have. But if you’re solely dependent on external sources to keep your equilibrium, your sense of balance will remain at the mercy of the masses. And you’ll never make it out in one peace.

Efficacious people, on the other hand, are high on internal control. They’re capable of influencing situations and are not at the mercy of events. And they believe that outcomes are determined by their behavior. Your challenge is to trust your resources. To remain richly supported. And to believe that you’re equal to this challenge. Are you keeping unadulterated self-belief at the apex of your value system?

8. Create a network of human healing. In the book Who Gets Sick, Blair Justice revealed how beliefs, moods and thoughts affected health. In one particular study, his research found that “social support protected your health by reducing the intensity with which you looked at and reacted to stressful events.”

What they failed to mention, however, was that that you never realize how strong your support system is until the world on top of it collapses.

And trust me: You don’t want to wait for that to happen. That’s the final component to starting over: Creating a network of healing to keep you alive in the process. Because without support from your loved ones, the road less traveled will become very windy.

That’s what I’ve learned time and time again since starting my publishing company nine years ago: Success never comes unassisted. And as independent as you are, your personal brand can’t be an island.

Be smart: Ask for help early and often. Believe that the people who love you most want nothing more than the opportunity to come through and show you so. They will. Do you live in an atmosphere of encouragement and expectation-free support?

ULTIMATELY: Boldness will be required to move forward.

Boldness of heart.
Boldness of action.
Boldness of mindset.

Because without that, starting over is going feel like an unconquerable endeavor.

AND LOOK: I understand how hard it is to abandon things whose time has passed.

But as scary as starting over is, certainly there must be some shred of optimism shining behind your terror, right?


Because when you zero out your board, anything is possible.

What’s stopping you from starting over?

For a list called, “100 Self-Consultative Questions,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

“I usually refuse to pay for mentoring. But after Scott’s first brain rental session, the fact that I had paid something to be working with him left my mind – as far as I was concerned, the value of that (and subsequent) exchange of wisdom and knowledge, far outweighed any payment.”

–Gilly Johnson The Australian Mentoring Center

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NametagTV: Sales Questions That Matter

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Scott Ginsberg
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How to Focus Your Face Off

Here’s the biggest challenge my mentoring clients bring to me:

“I have so many good ideas, but I don’t know which ones to execute.”

Ah, creative paralysis. Tough problem. And as an entrepreneur myself, I’ve certainly struggled with this issue over the years.

HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE: Eventually, you have to stop brainstorming and start executing.

Because you don’t need another idea – you need an “I did.”


This isn’t about time management.
This isn’t about getting things done.
This isn’t about streamlining the quality of your process so you can maximize the efficiency of strategic productivity.

This is about creating a filter for your life.

That way, you can strain the impurities out of your life and free yourself to execute what matters most.

I like to call it, “focusing your face off.”

Here’s how to do it:1. Look at yourself with unquestioning eyes. Focus is the fireplace. It’s the point of convergence, the center of activity and energy. And if you want that flame to burn white hot, begin by fueling your fire with an inexorable sense of why.

That’s the epiphany I keep having: Whether it’s discipline, execution, commitment or focus – knowing why changes everything. I don’t care how distracted you are, if you educate yourself on why something matters to you, you’ll focus on it. And if you keep visual reminders of that why in front of your face all day, you’ll focus on it.

Otherwise priority dilution will rob you blind. And you’ll continue to whine about how you can’t ever seem to hunker down and make anything happen.

Bottom line: Constancy of purpose cannot be penetrated by distraction. Ever. Filter your focus against your values and reap the rewards. Are you justifying your existence by generating activity, or validating your existence by executing what matters?

2. Delete the noise. It’s surprisingly easy to find focus when you enter through the back door. That’s what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: Deciding what to do through the process of elimination is way less threatening and intimidating.

Try this: Make a list of every useless, inbound interruption that doesn’t matter and diffuses your focus. Read the list out loud three times. Then, when you’re sufficiently disgusted by how trapped you are in those trivialities; delete those distractions from your life forever. By embracing the essential and banishing the bullshit, you free yourself up to commit to a few things and win there.

Without cancelling out that noise, you’ll never discern between the necessary and the superfluous. And you’ll fall victim to the erosion of your time, the decay of your focus and the meaninglessness of your work. What can you eliminate so you’re left with so few moving parts that important work actually gets done?

3. Environments either champion or choke focus. When I deliver training programs on employee engagement, here’s my favorite statistic to share: Three hundred billion dollars. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates that this is the cost in lost productivity alone, according to their thirty-year Employee Engagement Index.

And it just occurred to me: I wonder what percentage of that number is related to a lack of focus?

Answer: Too much. After all, focus is a function of environment. And I don’t mean feng shui – I mean the emotional environment of your workspace. For example: It’s easy to focus when you don’t feel edited. It’s easy to focus when you don’t feel policed. It’s easy to focus when passion is embedded into the pavement. It’s easy to focus when work is a gateway and not a grind. And it’s easy to focus when you can count on the emotional release of consistent public recognition.

Remember: If you’re having trouble concentrating on the work that matters, maybe it’s because you’re not engaged in the first place. What environmental energy keeps you from keeping focused?

4. You’re defined by what you decline. About once a week, someone emails me with a potential business opportunity. Or a joint venture. Or some new project they want me to be involved in. And I respectfully reject (nearly) every one of them.

Not to be rude. And not to suggest the ideas or the people behind them are flawed. But I’m a firm believer in saying no to the good to make room to say yes to the best. Interestingly, the more distance I get from the opportunities I’ve said no to over the years, the more thankful I become that I held out.

In a recent interview with Fortune, Steve Jobs made a similar distinction:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’re focusd on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

Remember: Not close-minded. Not inflexible. Not stiff. Just focused. And when you focus yourself, you free yourself. What doors will saying no open for you?

5. Let the light shine on the obvious path. Comfortable people rarely take focused action. Their complacency is simply too convenient to be killed. On the other hand, the people who execute are the ones who disturb themselves into discomfort. They fan the flames of focus by creating unacceptable consequences of failing.

In my experience, the most effective process for doing so is through repetitive self-questioning. Trying asking yourself:

*Is what I’m doing – right now – reinforcing my why?
*Is what I’m doing – right now – supporting my empire?
*Is what I’m doing – right now – consistent with my number one goal?

It’s confrontational, it’s creative and it’s guaranteed to give you the kick in the ass you need to focus your face off. I ask these questions to myself all day, every day, and rarely ever have any problems staying focused. How much of your life are you wasting by (not) focusing on your priorities?

6. Give yourself permission to get lost. Inasmuch as focus is a virtue, you can’t stay focused all the time. Nobody can. Humans aren’t wired that way. Besides, if all you ever do is focus – you’ll never have any fun. And nobody will want to be around you.

The secret is to book blank time. I learned this from a classic study conducted at Kansas State University’s Counseling Services Department. Their researchers found that because focusing can be such hard work, you should reward yourself when you hit the mark.

Personally, I do this each morning: It’s called a daily appointment with myself. It galvanizes my entire day, keeps me from going insane and instills a renewing and reenergizing spirit that helps me return with strength.

My suggestion: You need this block of time in your life. Because it’s impossible to gauge progress if you never come up for air. But, when you stay committed to your own personal reflection needs, you’ll have no trouble staying focused when it’s time to get back to work. When was the last time you sat uninterrupted and quiet for at least fifteen minutes?

REMEMBER: Focusing frees you.

Not just from the irrelevant – but for the important.

Learn to filter your life.

That way, you take action on what matters most.

Are you ready to focus your face off?

For the list called, “50 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

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A Young Artist’s Guide to Playing For Keeps, Pt. 1

You’ve chosen an uncertain path.
You’ve adopted an inconvenient lifestyle.
You’ve embarked upon an unconventional journey.
You’ve felt the voice inside you growing more urgent.
You’ve committed yourself enough so you can’t turn back.

IN SHORT: You’ve decided to play for keeps.

This is the critical crossroads – the emotional turning point – in the life of every young artist.

I’ve been there myself, and here’s a list of suggestions to help you along the way:1. Carry your own standards for judging your artistic talents. Never let the validity of your talent hang in the balance of some critic’s opinion. Employ only the approval of your heart.

Create out of pleasure, not under constraint. Otherwise your art suffers the consequences of external expectation. And before you know it, people who don’t matter pilfer your life without you even knowing it.

The key decision point is figuring out whom to ignore. Because whether or not you want to admit it: Not everybody wants you to become successful. And not everybody will be happy for your success. In fact, outside of those who really, really love you – your success will piss most people off. And it will drum up significant resentment, even if it’s never vocalized.

My suggestion: Stay undeterred when people attack you for exercising your ability. Proactively pursue your own path despite lack of popular appreciation and understanding. Even when people try to push boulders into your path. Why are you still listening to those trying to talk your dreams down?

2. End the self-editing. As a writer and publisher, I have a personal policy: I don’t edit. I don’t rewrite. I don’t do drafts. I don’t go back and revisit old work. I write things once, I write them in blood, and I publish them to the world with zero regret and infinite confidence.

It’s not perfect. And sure, I might change a few words here and there. Or modify my position on an issue as I evolve. And of course, always make grammatical improvements at the request of my editor.

But that’s proofreading. Editing means correcting the core of something. And the moment you allow that to happen – to the work or to the person who authors it – is the moment you betray yourself.

That’s the problem with self-editing: It renders your creativity timid and impotent. And it’s not fair to your core to let that happen. That’s what I learned on day one of starting my career right out of college: Living a life without editing yourself isn’t just about writing. It’s about walking your truth. It’s about breathing your brand. It’s about staying loyal to yourself. What self-imposed boulder is in the way of giving your river a voice and letting it flow?

3. Engage the muscle of yes. In a recent interview on Fresh Air, The Black Keys explained how their success as a band was largely a function of companies using their music in commercials.

“Radio stations weren’t spinning our records, and that’s why saying yes to the advertising opportunity was bigger than anything we’d ever done,” said drummer Patrick Kearney. “But, we never feel that we were selling out. Just saying yes an opportunity to reach a wider audience.”

Lesson learned: Artistic abundance is a function of receptivity. And it hinges on your willingness to engage the muscle of yes. That’s the distinction: Amateurs get locked into limited concepts of who they are; but pros stay engaged with life’s possibilities.

That way, when a new artistic opportunity comes along, instead of shutting it down because it’s new, they think to themselves, “Oh boy! Another chance to do more of the things I love!” and then aggressively bite into it. Even if it’s not perfect the first few times around.

Because the reality is: Not everything you make will feel like a masterpiece. And it doesn’t have to be. Artists who make history forget about getting things right and focus on getting things moving in the right direction. They know that what matters is not the piece itself – but its contribution to their larger body of work. What do you need to start saying yes to?

4. Screw the masses. You can certainly buy tickets for the starving artist lottery, but it might be smarter – and cheaper – to go out and find the market for what you love. Or better yet, create it yourself. Even if it’s a small one. Cartoonist and writer Hugh McLeod calls this your micro-audience. This is the tiny handful of people who are likely to buy your high-end product.

“In the old, pre-internet days, if you were a cartoonist like me and wanted to be successful, you pretty much had to be famous. And those gigs were hard to come by. You needed a big time publication syndicate or media company to back you. And of course, all this required a very large audience. Thank God the Internet came along and changed everything.”

The hard part is divorcing your ego from the illusion that market size matters – because it doesn’t.

I know a guy who once wrote a book for five people. Five people. Naturally, those five people were big executives at big companies who later retained his consulting services for big money. Sounds like size didn’t matter after all.

The question is: Are you willing to change the game, change the rules, or create your own game where there are no rules? I hope so. Because waiting around for an audience is surefire path to artistic failure. Figure out which of the mainstream hoops are not worth jumping through, and then forge ahead without stopping. Why be a needle in a stack of needles when you could be the only needle in box?

5. Remove the threat of rejection. Writers love to pontificate about how many editors, publishers and agents rejected them before they made it big. Personally, I never chose to participate in that literary pissing contest. I’ve always practiced Miyagi’s Law, which states that the best way to block a punch is to not be there. For example:

Want to know how many publishers rejected my books?
None. Because I did them myself. Including the recent numero twelve.

Want to know how many agents turned my proposals down?
None. Because I never submitted any.

Want to know how many editors told me my work wasn’t good enough?
None. Because, as you already learned, I don’t edit myself – not on the page or in person.

It’s not about being afraid of rejection – it’s about putting yourself in a position where rejection can’t even find you. Why torture yourself listening to voices that don’t matter when you could be executing work that does?

Seems to me, the best way to bring home the bacon is to raise your own pigs. That way, when you’re hungry, all you have to do is grab a knife and walk outside. Sure beats waiting in vain only to be rejected by someone who doesn’t matter. What would it take for you to position yourself as the sole shot caller of your work?

REMEMBER: When you’re ready to play for keeps, your work will never be the same.

Make the decision today.

Show the world that your art isn’t just another expensive hobby.

Have you committed with both feet yet?

For the list called, “49 Ways to become an Idea Powerhouse,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

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6 Ways to Stay Small and (Still) Win Big

Scalability is overrated.

Getting as big as possible, as fast as possible, isn’t the only goal that matters.

THE REALITY IS: Small is an acceptable destination.

In fact, it’s not just acceptable – it’s admirable, manageable, flexible, approachable and, most importantly, profitable.

Last week I shared a list called 21 Reasons to Keep Your Company Small.

Way to stay that way? Consider these suggestions:1. Stop delegating and start deleting. Clients, readers and audience members frequently ask me how many employees I have. At which point I usually start laughing. And I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just that the day I wake up and realize I’m a manager of people – and not a creator of ideas – is the day I slit my wrists with a rusty hunting knife.

I’m a writer. I’m a thinker. And I’ve worked very hard to evolve my publishing company into an exceptionally trim operation. For the past nine years, I’ve created my own personal nirvana that enables me to focus solely on activities that leverage my talents, reach the people who matter – while still earning enough revenue to underwrite my addictions and support my lifestyle.

Everything else is deleted. Not delegated – deleted. That’s what I’ve learned from staying small: The best way to delegate something is to eliminate the need for it in the first place. After all, the less you own, the greater your mobility. The less you have, the less you have to worry about. Are you inventing things to outsource to preserve the illusion of productivity?

2. Indulge in your humanity. Regardless of size, here’s the current marketplace reality: Everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance. The difference is, when you’re small, you can hang out in the lobby after the show and shake people’s hands.

But when you’re a hulking beast of a company, it becomes increasingly difficult to get out of the bubble and get into the grind. What organizations need to learn is, success comes when you’re willing to be bold, to be seen, and to try things.

My suggestion: Stamp out anonymity. Accept your humanness. Stop hiding behind the mask of a role or title. And for the love of God, stop sending surrogates. Because if you have to resort to some gimmick to let people know you’re there, you’re not really there.

Big provides people with convenient places to cower. Small means exposing the place where you really live and being brave enough to tell people you don’t know everything. Are you small enough to surrender your emotional hiding places?

3. Remove the posture of pretense. In Jason Jennings’s book, Think Big, Act Small, he profiled a collection of thriving organizations that are winning the size game. And what struck me most about the book’s featured organizations was the long list of things they consciously chose not to champion:

No bloated hierarchy. No committees to go in front of to get permission. No building monuments to indulge in the executive’s ego. No corner offices protected by layers of assistants. No impenetrable walls to separate leaders from their people. No expansion for the sake of expansion. No doing unnatural things just to gain marketshare.

Lesson learned: Become a master of letting go. Make a conscious decision to scale back by abandoning things whose time has passed. Because when you delete what is no longer working, you can grow judiciously where it makes the most sense. What are you keeping around just to make you feel like you’re bigger than you really are?

4. Pick a lane. A brand without focus is a brand forgotten. Try to make everybody happy, and you lose. Try to make everybody like you, and you lose. Try to make everybody want you, and you lose. That’s what big companies do. Which means success, therefore, is a process of elimination. It’s learning what your brand can live without.

Before growing any bigger, remember to ask yourself questions like:

*Will this choice add to my life force or rob me of my energy?
*Does this choice add wood to my internal fire or sprinkle water on it?
*Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?
*Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?

In short: Stop your driving your brand all over the interstate. You’ll either get pulled over, cause an accident or piss off the other drivers. Plus, it’ll take forever to get to your destination.

Remember: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Doesn’t it make sense to just pick a lane and stay there?

5. Teamwork is nice, but not always necessary. Since day one of preschool, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that teamwork is the secret. Truth is, the efficacy of teams is largely a myth. But we’ve been romanced and seduced into believing that teams are so wonderful, when in fact their power works in reverse.

The question becomes: Is the romantic notion of the value of teams is shooting you in the foot? In a 2009 issue of Machine Design, editorialist Leland E. Teschler explained it perfectly:

“Development teams are often an obstacle to creativity rather than a vehicle for truly elegant solutions. Many team members work at cross-purposes. That’s why throwing more people at a project frequently slows it down rather than speeds its completion.”

Consider asking the following questions before your organizational chart gets too bloated:

*How much money are you losing by waiting for somebody you don’t even like?
*Who in your business is helping you build a future that you’re going to feel obligated to be a part of?
*Are you making conscious choices about the individuals you allow to participate in your enterprise?

Ultimately, no man is an island. You still have to breathe in help. At the same time, individual productivity declines as teams expand. Might be more of a hindrance than help. Will the inevitable problems with coordination and motivation of a large team chip away at your organization’s capacity to thrive?

6. Stick yourself out there. The bigger you get, the fewer risks you take. There’s just too much pressure to be predictable. And you wind up becoming a victim of your own consistency.

Or, if you do take a risk – and make a big mistake – everybody notices. When you’re small, you can make mistakes quickly, quietly – even largely – then hide the ashes before the fire engines come. And when you’re small, failure doesn’t signify weakness and hemorrhage profits – it enables innovation, and growth.

That’s what happens when you’re not afraid of the consequences of falling short: You give yourself permission to do something great. Are you failing forward?

REMEMBER: The corporate veil of bigness and anonymity no longer matters.

I challenge you to reject the pressure of endless growth and embrace the possibility of staying small.

Seek greatness – not bigness.

How will you stay small?

For the list called, “99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

“I’ve been a supporter of the approach that mentoring should not be a paid activity as this has the potential to change the dynamics of the relationship and create a power imbalance. But I have to be honest and say that after Scott’s first mentoring response to me, the fact that I had paid something to be working with him left my mind – as far as I was concerned, the value of that (and subsequent) exchange of wisdom and knowledge, far outweighed any payment.”

–Gilly Johnson The Australian Mentoring Center

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How to Set the Stage for Employee Commitment

I recently struck up a conversation with an Apple employee in the food court.

He was clearly on lunch break, but didn’t mind talking shop.

“Actually, I wear my blue Apple shirt even when I’m off the clock,” he said.

That’s rare. Usually employees throw on a jacket the minute the step out of the store to avoid any work-related conversation during break time.

Not this guy. Matt told me that strangers still came up to him all the time with their computer questions – even when he’s not in the store.

“Doesn’t that get annoying?” I asked.

“I love it. And I’m happy to answer customer questions because this stuff is my life. That’s the best part about working for Apple: They make me feel like a walking genius bar!”

HERE’S MY QUESTION: Are your people that committed?

If not, consider these suggestions to set the stage for commitment at your organization:1. Hold up a mirror to yourself. People fundamentally disconnect from their work for a variety of reasons: When they’ve done the exact same thing for too long, when they feel like they can’t succeed no matter how hard they try, when they’re forced to conform to what you want them to be and when their effort is no longer worth the reward.

How many of those issues run rampant in your office? My suggestion: Tell the truth about your organization’s current level of commitment:

*Are your people grudgingly conceding or gratefully crusading?
*Are you telling people what your demands are or asking people what their dreams are?
*And do your employees come to work every day because they love it, or because you’ve degraded them into obedient soul dead conformist worker bees?

When you begin wakening to these truths, you’ll gain a greater understanding what it’s going to take to get all of your people singing off the same page. How many people on your team willingly provide discretionary effort on a consistent basis?

2. Intrinsic pride creates emotional commitment. People who work for Google don’t tell their friends they’re computer programmers. They say they work for Google. And why wouldn’t they? They work for Google – the coolest company on the planet. Of course they take pride in their job.

That’s the lesson: If people answer the question, “What do you do?” with the name of the organization, that means their self-esteem and identity is connected to the sense of belonging of that organization. It’s a vital part of their sense of self. They’re committed and involved. Their affiliation to the company reinstates their sense of pride.

And, because their identity is intimately connected to – and invested in – the organization itself, they’ll commit to doing whatever it takes to make that organization succeed. Even down to the most basic level.

That’s what a worldwide survey from Towers Perrin proved: Organizational symbols or logo are visible manifestations of pride. Think it’s an accident that all those geeks in Palo Alto wear Google hoodies? Nope. And you would do the same. How much company pride do your people have?

3. Don’t dismiss your organizational heritage. To set the stage for commitment, the leaders of your organization need to help the people connect their actions to a larger story. Otherwise employees will continue to wonder, “Is this effort worth the effort?”

As David Armstrong wrote in Managing by Storying Around, “Storytelling is the primary medium for passing along corporate traditions and recognize leaders within the organization.”

There’s only one problem: Company leaders usually confuse “knowing the company story” with “memorizing tired, flat language on laminated mission cards.”

What matters is that every employee absorbs the organizational why. What matters is that every employee freely talks about company roots. Otherwise emotional attachment remains remarkably low. And it becomes harder and harder for people’s work to invoke a sense of gratification in their company history. When was the last time you waiter at Olive Garden spent ten minutes telling your table about the origins of authentic Italian food?

4. Update your theory of motivation. You can’t motivate anybody to do anything – ever. Motivation is intrinsic. As such, there are two approaches: Either you hire motivated people and then inspire them to motivate themselves; or you rid the environment of demotivators and then let people access their natural motivation.

Either way, you still have to tune into their frequency. You have to deliver messages that resonate with their emotional reality. And you have to give them room to express commitment in their own unique way. Otherwise their level of engagement will remain at noncommittal cautiousness at best.

Look: People are bound by emotion to the things and behaviors they love. As much as your ego wants to think otherwise, they’re not showing up for you – they’re showing up for themselves.

Remember: People comply with what you want– but they commit to what they want. How are you helping people fall in love with themselves?

5. Set your own stage first. If you truly want commitment to cascade down from the top, you have to be over the top yourself. We’re talking pathologically and unquestionable committed. As in, “I have the company logo tattooed on my ass” committed. That’s what shows people you truly believe what you say, and that’s what inspires people to rethink their own commitment.

The cool part is, the moment you definitely commit yourself with both feet – and, more importantly, communicate that you’re fully committed – the people who matter most follow suit. It all depends on whether you’re courageous enough to wear your instrument of commitment proudly.

The point is: What you are communicates everything people need to know. The question is: What do they think when they hear your life speak?

REMEMBER: You don’t need to work for Apple to be committed.

If you want to set the stage for commitment at your organization, start treating it as a lifestyle – not a policy.

Maybe then your employees won’t mind answering customer questions when they’re off the clock.

How committed are your people?

For the list called, “10 Unmistakable Motivators of Human Engagement,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

26 Ways to Keep Your People Engaged Without Resorting to Shock Therapy

The word “engage” comes from the French engagier, which means, “to make a pledge.”

That’s the big question: Why do people pledge themselves to you?

IN SHORT: Why do people engage?

Last year, I shared a collection of answers to this question in a popular piece called, Twenty Secrets Smart Leaders Know About Engaging Their People.

The response was overwhelming. I received more emails, tweets and reprints than usual. Apparently that list struck a nerve with a lot of my readers. And as a result, knowing I’d merely scratched the surface, I’ve continued to research the topic of why people engage.

Here are my latest findings. Please feel free to add your ideas to the list:1. People engage when power decentralizes. Have you given them the ability to influence their work environment?

2. People engage when the babysitting stops. How are you allowing them to establish their own structures to maintain focus?

3. People engage when they’ve been given permission to flex the muscle of why. Do you give them room to express commitment in their own unique way?

4. People engage when your words speak directly to what’s important to them. Does their inbox need another boring, overextended piece of corporate communication that people delete immediately or – at best – peruse passively?

5. People engage when they can invest in things they truly admire. What if dollars aren’t the defining factor of your people’s commitment?

6. People engage when they’re treated according to their own unique values. Are you discerning and testing how each of your people want to be treated, or trying to save time by treating everybody the exact same way?

7. People engage when they experience a real and regular connection between the duty of today and the dream of tomorrow. Are you telling people what your demands are or asking people what their dreams are?

8. People engage when they view their role as a stepping-stone, not a sinking ship. How long ago did your team give up on the possibly of meaningful work?

9. People engage when gratitude is palpable and recurrent. Are you trying to make recognition a corporate initiative or a constitutional ingredient?

10. People engage when they’re given permission to pursue their dreams. Are you still operating from the old paradigm that people come to work to make money?

11. People engage when they can express themselves without resorting to code. At your organization, do ideas flow in an open and unrestricted environment?

12. People engage when you stop asking them to edit themselves. What system can you install to remove the restriction of individual expression?

13. People engage when their internal compasses are honored. How will you liberate them from being in conflict with their own values?

14. People engage when they’re allowed to lead the kind of life they want. Do people view your company an economic mechanism and little more?

15. People engage when they don’t need to ask permission to let their personal brand shine. Do you work for a human organization or an indoctrination center that strips people of their individuality on a daily basis?

16. People engage when the feeling of formality doesn’t keep them from communicating freely. Do your employees come to work every day because they love it, or because you’ve degraded them into obedient soul dead conformist worker bees?

17. People engage when they don’t have to meet compliance just to take a piss. Are you empowering people to execute with all their might or restricting people to make excuse with all your policies?

18. People engage when they’re not bullied into to delivering impersonal, emotionless non-service. Is your work experience mechanical and transactional or emotional and transformational?

19. People engage when they’re not forced to adhere to rigid plans created through manipulation, punishment and coercion. Are your people innately committed or fearfully complying?

20. People engage when individual expression isn’t restricted. How are you petitioning people to inject their personality into everything they do?

21. People engage when they can dress how they want. Why is your organization still using dress code to convey class, hierarchy and status?

22. People engage when their leaders end the lip service. How are you making your mission more than a statement?

23. People engage when their big ideas aren’t jailed. How is your corporate veil of bigness and anonymity thwarting creativity?

24. People engage when they’re given wide discretion to spend company resources on the people who matter. Where is your organization sacrificing customer experience for corporate expense?

25. People engage when they’re given a safe place where individity creativity can shine. Who are you trying to make just like you?

26. People engage when they’re motivated intrinsically. How can you enable them to activate their own internal generators?

How will you avoid bombing your next employee engagement survey?

For the list called, “35 Things You Simply Can’t Do,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

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