Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Fire Your Boss?

Why Fire Your Boss?

Tom Sheppard

(excerpted from the soon to be released book "Executive to Entrepreneur: Launching Your Life on Your Terms")
When people leave behind a corporate career they are typically either running away from something or running toward something.

Those who are running toward something have some great cause or dream they are pursuing. Likely it has been a burning passion for years, or something that has been simmering along on the back burner.  Now, they either see a light at the end of the tunnel and are ready to make the leap to live their dream, or they believe there is no light at the end of the tunnel and they feel it is now or never.

The good news is for those who are running toward something is that their goal is often very clear cut and their drive will help them overcome most of the obstacles in their way.

But what about the rest of us…

Those of us who are ready to leave behind a corporate career because we are profoundly unhappy with what our future (or present) looks like in corporate life?  If we are running away, like I was, does that mean doom and gloom?  No, it doesn't mean doom and gloom, but it does mean we need to think carefully and plan our escape, because we don't necessarily have that burning bright mission and vision to drag us onward in the face of difficulties until we attain the bright summit we have imagined.

It really doesn't matter if you are running away from a corporate career or toward a cause.  Either way, you are ready to leave your corporate life behind.  For that, I salute you.

Don't get me wrong, corporate life is fine for those who like it.  But for me, I wanted more control over my own fate than what I could find in the corporate world.  And frankly, the corporate world is a profoundly insecure place.  The world of the entrepreneur, for me, affords greater control and security than what exists inside the halls of any corporation.

Security? you say.  Control? you say.  Anyone indoctrinated in the world of the corporate career would laugh at my describing corporate life as unsafe and out of control.  But it is true.  Consider this…

When Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2008, Wachovia was well capitalized and one of the leading banks in the US.  Many of the areas of the bank were leading their industry in terms of productivity and profitability.  And yet, when Wells Fargo took over, many highly competent and skilled people were put out of work for the simple reason that their department was a duplicate of functions already being performed by someone at Wells Fargo. 

"To the victor go the spoils."  Would the management of Wells Fargo fire their own people and retain Wachovia personnel?  Of course not?  The fact that Wells bought Wachovia seems to say on its face that the better team triumphed.  But that may not be the facts at all.

Years before Wells bought Wachovia, I was working at Dominion Bank when First Union bought it.  Many of the systems Dominion had were superior to those of First Union.  But, First Union was much bigger than Dominion.  Even though the Dominion systems were better, it didn't make operational sense to throw out the systems that were the lifeblood of a much larger organization and replace them with those of the smaller company.  Doing that would require much more expense in retraining and upgrades to hardware throughout the larger entity.  So, many very competent folks at Dominion were thrown out of work - not because they were less competent or for any other reason than they were on the wrong end of an acquisition.

A few years before my experience at Dominion, I was working for a defense contractor when the Berlin Wall came down.  Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, President Bush declared a "peace dividend" that meant there were to be cuts in defense spending.  The company where I worked had just won a follow-on five-year contract on a key defense system - one that was not going away any time soon.

The government representative told my boss, "Congratulations on the contract win. Oh, and by the way, your next bill has to be 20% less than your previous bill."  In a company running on just a 7% profit margin, that meant an across-the-board cut of 20%.

You may not know it, but winning a five-year contract on a key weapon system is about the best job security you can have in defense contracting.  And yet, here we were facing a 20% cut in staff.  Several good people lost their jobs, totally through no fault of their own.

If that doesn't show you just how insecure and out of control your career is inside the corporate world, then stop reading now and go get your money back for this book because you are unable to learn.

I went through each of the situations I described.  In all but the last, I was one of those who got the axe.  And yet, I landed on my feet every time.  In the last situation, Wells Fargo and Wachovia, I retired to run my own business.  I left behind the world where my financial fate was held in the hands of bosses, power brokers, regulators and congress and instead entered the world of the entrepreneur where I have no one to blame for my security or insecurity but myself.  If I succeed it is because I have brought value to my clients.  I fail, it is because I failed to monetize the value I delivered, or I failed to deliver value.  Either way, it is on me.
So, what is your reason for leaving the corporate life?

Is it because you think your boss is an idiot?  Are you bored?  Or are you ready to take control of your own fate?

My Boss is an Idiot

For many people, the drive to get out of Corporate America is driven by The Peter Principle or The Dilbert Principle.

The Peter Principle says that your boss is in that role because she was very good at something and got promoted again and again until she reached a job that she cannot ever master.  She has risen to the level of her incompetence and will likely remain there until she decides to go elsewhere.

The Dilbert Principle says that management took a complete idiot and promoted him directly into his current position.

When you have a boss that got there by either of these principles, is it any wonder that you are ready to do something on your own?

Compared to your boss, you may be:
  • Smarter
  • More Competent
  • More Knowledgeable

And in return for your greater abilities you get kept on a tight leash and told not to do anything without first getting the “Okay” from the boss.

Or it could be as simple as your boss is a total jerk, and there is nothing you can do about it.

I Am Bored

Fortunately, not all of our bosses are incompetents, idiots, or jerks.  Some of them are really great people and good at what they do.  Even so, you may find that life in Corporate America is leaving you feeling a little stale, bored, terrified, or just plain uncertain about the future.

If boredom is the issue then the world of the entrepreneur should cure you of that ill.  First, you will spend years building your business.  Then, you will want to turn it into a smoothly operating machine.  And at last, you will face the challenge of building it so that it can run without you.  Then you will get bored and sell it or keep it and start a new business.

In the meantime, you will face countless challenges such as learning to market effectively, to hire right, to delegate correctly, and how to attract and retain clients.

Being an entrepreneur will likely keep the boredom at bay for many years.  By the time it bores you, you will likely be so successful, that you can do whatever you want.

I Want Control of My Destiny

As I pointed out above, corporate life is very insecure.  Of course its advocates promote just the opposite picture.  They want everyone to believe that the road to financial security and safety is within the belly of the beast, safe in the heart of the biggest corporation you can find.

Ask the folks at Arthur Anderson how that worked out for them.  Arthur Anderson was one of "the big five" accounting firms in the US, arguably in the world.  Then along came Enron and when the dust settled both Enron and Arthur Anderson ceased to exist.

Suddenly, "the big five" became "the big four."

As an entrepreneur, I may thrive or die on the vine. Either way, I won't have to worry that I was put out of work by some "bean counter" who decided it was more profitable for the company to eliminate my part of the company.


Of course, your exodus from the corporate life, may be nothing more than looking down the road and seeing that you don't want to really retire.

Consider the dictionary definition of the word retire.
·         to remove from active service or the usual field of activity, as an army officer or business executive.
 ·         to withdraw (a machine, ship, etc.) permanently from its normal service, usually for scrapping; take out of use.

Most of us aren't ready to be "scrapped" when we hit retirement age.

In fact, some of us won't have a choice in the matter.  Economic turmoil and corporate perfidy has forced more than one retiree to give up the life of leisure and return to work, often as a door greeter at Wal Mart.
Just ask the mill workers in my town whose retirement funds were invested in stock in FieldCrest Cannon.  When the stock was declared worthless, more than one had to come out of retirement to go back to work and many saw their retirement hopes deferred for decades more.

It Really Doesn't Matter

Regardless of your reason, sooner or later you will find yourself considering life outside of Corporate America.  It may be sooner, or it may be later when you realize that retirement is coming at you faster than you realized.

For most of us when we look at life outside of holding down a 9 to 5 job, we are stuck with fear.  Fear that we won’t be able to provide for ourselves, fear that we won’t be able to have a meaningful or fulfilling life, fear that we will find ourselves with too much time and too little to do.

Fear is natural.  This course will help you take the fear out of your future by arming you with the knowledge, skills, tools, and plans you need to not only survive outside of Corporate America, but to thrive.

Overcoming the Fear Factor

One of my mindset coaches, Raymond Aaron, taught me that the word fear is actually an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. I have found that to be true.


Fear is the greatest challenge in any transition.  Overcoming that fear is a matter of life and death.  Fear can keep you immobilized.

At other times we give up and move on when we need to stick to it because we fear that we cannot succeed.
For me personally, I mastered my fear of the transition years before I made the transition.  I faced it and realized that the worst outcome from making the move was still better than staying where I was at.  I knew that at worst, I could go back to working for someone else, as hard as that would be.

It is ironic to me that my exit from my corporate career was accidentally timed with the hostile takeover of the company I was working for.  Most of my co-workers watched me walk out the door, wishing that they had the courage and foresight to do what I had done.  Instead, most stayed in their cubicles waiting to get kicked to the curb by their new corporate masters.

Fearof success is another obstacle and failing to understand what success truly is and what is the actual price to be paid for success.

Fear of success, really?

Many people fear that success will make them into a bad person. They believe that they will have to take from others to get what they want, and they don't want to be one of those kind of ruthless, self-centered, self-serving people.

The reality is that wealth won't make you a bad person.  Success will only magnify the person you truly are.  If you are generous, wealth will allow you to be even more generous.

Also, the whole idea that you only have more because I have less is totally false.  That is called the scarcity mentality.  It is saying that if you have a big piece of pie, that means there is less pie for me, and it totally ignores the fact that we can make (and are making) more pies.  This world has more than enough in it to let us all live like kings if we just work creatively instead of being so busy counting other people's money.  Every single shortage of key resources predicted over the centuries has been proven false, or was solely the result of human failures.

I, and the most wealthy people I know operate from the viewpoint that what I have for me, I want for you too.  Because of that, they make pies for themselves and teach others how to make pies too, if others will listen and do as they have done.

Fear and Risk

By the way, fear and risk are not the same thing.

Many will say that entrepreneur-world is risky.  That is true.  And corporate life is risky too.  In fact life is filled with risk.

Most of the risks of corporate life are hidden, and very real.  In contrast, the risks of entrepreneurialism are widely known and shouted from the rooftops.  Of course, they are also often over stated, at least in relation to the hidden risks of corporate life.

As I mentioned, risk is part of life.  When you get up in the morning, you risk falling over.  When you go up or down stairs, you risk a crippling or killing spill.  When you cross the street, you risk getting killed by a car. And the list goes on and on.  "But Tom," you may argue, "those are ordinary risks.  I understand them and deal with them."

I say, "Exactly."  That is how we successfully deal with risks.
1.       We identify them.
2.       We understand them.
3.       We take preventative steps to reduce them.
4.       We accept some risks.
5.       We use insurance to shift risks from us to someone else.

Before debarking the corporate  band wagon, it is wise for you to take time to coolly assess the risks of your actions and inactions.  Identify them and understand them.  Then, you can take measures to reduce or

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Your Career --> Your Business

Your Career à Your Business


Tom Sheppard

“Individuals must manage their careers as a one-person business in an ever-changing environment.”
Dr. Edward Wakin

You cannot count on someone else looking out for your career.  Not your boss, not your spouse, not your parents, or your priest.  You are responsible for you.  And, if your career is going to the dogs, then it is up to you to put it back on track.  If your career is going fine, it is up to you to make sure it stays that way.  Any way you slice it, you must take charge of your career and make it move the direction you want it to go.

With the accelerating pace of mergers, layoffs, and technological change, it is increasingly important that you develop a comprehensive plan to keep your self and your career on track.  Without a plan, you will be like a ship on the sea without a map or a compass.  Likely to run aground on countless reefs and sandbars.

Thinking of yourself as running a one-person business is a great way to easily apply the lessons of the small business to your career.  Like you, small businesses must learn to survive and thrive in a fiercely competitive world.  This book will teach you how to apply some of the most powerful tools for successful small businesses to your own career.

Empowerment is a big buzzword these days, and has been for several years now.  Many people think it means making people do more work for the same or less pay.  What empowerment really means is working like you own the business.

In the age of empowerment, no one can safely hide behind the platitude, “it’s not my job.”  Everyone must do whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of who is officially responsible.

Start managing your career like you would your own small business.

When you own a small business, you do whatever it takes to keep it running.  If the floor needs sweeping, you do it.  If the books need keeping, you do it.

If you don't know anything about running a small business, you can either learn about it from the owner of a small business, or you can go to a local business incubator and let them teach you.  Many community colleges have business incubators. They are often stocked with information and training as well as connections to mentors.

With just a little bit of effort, you can learn to apply nearly all small business management and marketing techniques to your career.

Develop your own business plan for your career.

What are the basic elements of a business plan? Most experts agree there are four basic parts to a business plan.
  1. Your Product
  2. Your Market (your customers)
  3. Your Competition
  4. Your Environment

Add to this, a detailed financial plan stating your needs and sources of funding and you have a robust plan to manage your career through the pitfalls of today's marketplace.

Your Product

Define Your Product, Your Company, and its Advantages. To do this, you must define what you can do for an employer, what kind of person you are, and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

We will break this into three parts: Your Product, You, and Your Uniqueness.

Your Product - What is it that you do for your employers?  What accomplishments can you point to?  Make a list, and be sure to list all accomplishments for all employers, no matter how long ago or for how short a period you worked for them.  You probably should include accomplishments outside of work also.

It may take you a few days to put together this list.  You may have to sort through your old files and memories and even renew some old acquaintances. List each accomplishment in as much detail as you can.  Try to answer the following question for each accomplishment you list:
  • How many people were affected?
  • How much time was saved by how many people?
  • How much money was saved per year?
  • How much revenue was generated?
  • What recognition was received?
  • What skills, knowledge, and abilities did you have to use to accomplish this?
Learn how to use this information to insure your career security
Tom Sheppard

If you cannot remember any or all of the answers to these questions, that is fine, list the accomplishment anyway.  When you start talking with your old chums from the company where you achieved it, they may be able to refresh your memory.  If all else fails, make a best guess estimate.

These accomplishments are your output, your product.  What goes into these is you.

Defining You - You are your company.  To define you, requires a thorough self-knowledge.  You must be able to take an honest inventory of both your strengths and your weaknesses.  The following paragraphs will help you do this.

Take a good look at all the skills, knowledge and abilities which you have used to achieve all the results you have already listed.  Make a list of all of these skills, knowledge and abilities.  These are your strengths.

Now, take a moment and think about projects or efforts you attempted which did not turn out as well as you would have liked.  Identify what skills, knowledge and abilities would have helped you to meet your expectations on those other efforts.  List each of these as an area for further development.

If your areas for further development significantly outnumber your strengths, then you have just identified another area of development - the way you talk to yourself.  I am not suggesting that we should lie to ourselves about our weaknesses.  What I am suggesting is that most of us are trained from a very young age to recognize and acknowledge our faults.  But, we are taught that to recognize our strengths is prideful and arrogant.

It is as important to honestly recognize our strengths as it is to honestly recognize our weaknesses.  If we inflate either one, we are deceiving ourselves and damaging our chances for success in living the abundant life.

When we have an accurate assessment of both our strengths and our weaknesses, we know our limitations and are more prepared to succeed in everything do.

Your Uniqueness - Knowing your accomplishments, your abilities, and your limitations you can now clearly define what value you can deliver to your current or prospective employer.

You can look at job listings and sit in interviews and respond with confidence that you are the best person for the job.  Then, you can proceed to list your accomplishments, knowledge, and skills which clearly show that you can deliver on your promises.

Your Market

Determine what is your market - 
  • What kind of jobs are you qualified for?  
  • What industries suit your interests and abilities?  
  • Where are these jobs and companies located?  Where are you willing to go, and what are you willing to do?  
  • How much do they pay people in these jobs and how does that break out in terms of levels of experience?
  • What is the typical career path for this type of work?  Does it dead end or continue to allow for advancement into higher levels?
When you have answered these questions, then you have laid the foundation to answer the two main questions in this part of your career plan.

Identify your customer - Your customer is the company (or companies) or client that might pay someone to do what you know you can deliver.  Identify who is the leading source of work and their market share.  Investigate each potential employer like you were planning to buy the company as an investment, because if you go to work there, you will be investing a significant part of yourself in that company.  You will be investing your skills, abilities, knowledge, and most importantly, your time.  Make sure the investment meets your criteria for potential returns.  You won’t be able to retrieve your time and efforts once you have put them into that company.

One of the other big things to consider in this section is how long will companies need this kind of work?  But that starts moving us into the Environment.

Your Competition

Identify your competition - What kind of people are you competing against for the work you do?  They are your competition.  Perhaps you know some of them by name.  More likely, you have an idea of what kind of qualifications they have.

Help wanted advertisements can often give an idea of what qualifications the employer wants.  But all too often they don’t really demonstrate the qualifications needed to get the job.

Why not?  Just thinking about the process the boss goes through to post a job reveals the answer.

Jane has worked in her position for five years when she moved on to another job.  During that time she has become a master of every task required.  That is why she moved on.  Her abilities exceeded what her boss could, or would, pay her for.  So, she found a better paying job and moved on.

Now, her boss sits at his desk filling out the job listing to post her job.  He thinks of Jane and all her talents and knowledge.  He lists all her abilities and skills and writes them into an impressive list of qualifications which the job candidate will see in the ad.  The boss sends this to the printer without ever considering that anyone who has all of Jane’s skills will be moving into a better paying job, just like Jane did.  They won’t settle for the pay he has budgeted when they have such an impressive skill set.

As the search for a replacement goes on, the boss realizes that his ideal candidate is Jane and he can’t afford anyone with her qualifications.  So, he settles for a strong candidate who has demonstrated that they can do some of what is needed, and is able to learn to do everything else that must be done.

Keeping your Career Insurance policy in force ensures that you are that person (for a full explanation of Career Insurance see the A+ Results book “Career Insurance: Learning to Stay Employed in Today’s World of

Find out what the competition looks like by following up with some of your potential customers.  Ask them about what qualifications the current people in the job have.  Ask them about minimum skill sets and knowledge.  Go to someone who currently employs people in your market (especially if they don’t have any openings at present), and enlist their aid.

Tell them that you are wanting to move into that market and you want to know what it takes.  If you make it clear that you are there for information, not a job interview, they will usually be happy to spill their guts to you.  They will list, in detail, the key things they look for in a potential employee.  You may be surprised that these key things are more often attitude than knowledge or specific degrees or achievements.

Now that you have used informational interviews and gained a clear idea of who and what the competition is, you can compare yourself against them.  Are there key areas you need to become stronger?  Are there areas where you leave them in your dust?

Start working on closing the gap wherever you are weaker.  And, when you go to an interview, focus attention on your strengths.
Learn how to use this information to insure your career security
Tom Sheppard


Your Environment

The last piece of your business/career plan it to consider what skills and knowledge are going to be needed both today and tomorrow.  

With the rapidly changing pace of the world today, you can learn what is needed tomorrow to do the work of your dreams and get ahead of the competition.

What are the trends in society that either decrease or strengthen the need for businesses to employ people with your skills?  Are those trends likely to continue or are they changing?  Are more companies going to need what you do, or is the need for what you do shrinking into just a few companies or industries?

Are there legal trends, lawsuits, emerging legislation or technology that could strengthen, reduce or redirect the need for what you do?  Will those factors require additional knowledge and skills for you to successfully continue to provide your product?

Looking at these different factors, you stand a good chance of figuring out what changes you need to make and how to position yourself so you can meet the emerging needs of employers almost before they realize they need what you can do for them.  This is one of the best things you can do to keep your products desirable to your customers.

Your Financial Plan

Identify your revenue (and lifestyle) goals, when you will achieve them and how.

To do this with any degree of realism, you need to have answered many of the questions posed above.  If you are wanting to make $100,000 per year, but the average pay for what you do is $40,000 per year, then you either need to do something else, or figure out a way to convince your market that the value you can deliver to them far exceeds $100,000 per year and they are getting a bargain by hiring you.  Of course, you also have to help them see that they won't get that value by hiring two or three other people with your skill set for $30,000 each.

My Experience
I have seen a number of people go into business for themselves thinking that if they just charge $25 per hour they can earn $52,000 per year and do great!  If you are currently earning about $25,000 per year or less, then things will be fine.  However, if you are earning more than $25,000 per year, things are not going to be so peachy.

What most people forget is that benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, holidays, health and life insurance, and retirement plans are all a part of a person’s total compensation package, and are not free.  In contracting, a common rule of thumb is to use $100,000 to estimate the full cost of having one professional work for a full year.  This figure only allows for the professional to be paid approximately $50,000 in wages during that year.  The rest goes into paying for benefits and other costs of doing business (For more information on this see the A+ Results book, “Have Fun and Save Money: Start Your Own Business).

Write down specific dollar figures that you want to be earning by certain points in your life.  Don’t forget to include what benefits and retirement options you want to have available, or how much more you must earn to pay for them yourself.  The trade off between wages and benefits is very real, and you ignore it at your peril (for a full discussion of goal setting see the A+ Results book “Come Out On Top: Goals To Live By”).

Set realistic, attainable, and desirable goals for your future.  Remember, the only way you are going to get paid $500,000 per year for emptying trash cans is if you own the company.  So, be prepared to do what it takes to make your goals come true.

This is the business plan which the entrepreneur uses to get people to invest money in their company.  For you, this will be your plan for attaining and enjoying the abundant life you want.  It will be your career plan.

An unwritten goal is just a wish.

Put it all in writing. Ink it, don’t just think it.

Learn how to use this information to insure your career security
Tom Sheppard


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Career Insurance

Career Insurance
 Learning to Stay Employed in Today’s World of Down-Sizing, Re-Engineering, and Mergers

Second Edition

Tom Sheppard
Career Insurance Policy



This Policy Protects Against:
Down Sizing,
and other fluctuations of the employment market

Brought to You By:
Tom Sheppard

Congratulations.  By reading this, you have just taken a significant first step in writing your own Career Insurance Policy.  Read on, and discover

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Guide to Self-Directed Learning

A Guide to Self Directed Learning
Tom Sheppard

Learning on your own, figuring out what you need to learn and how to learn it is an essential skill to help you to successfully navigate the ever changing job environment.

If you are out of a job right now, this could make the difference between languishing in unemployment and getting a better paying job than what you had before.

If you are currently employed, this could make the difference between  getting the axe or getting promoted. 

Improving your knowledge and skills makes you a better employee, a more valuable employee, and much more marketable.  If you can improve these without your employer driving you to it, you demonstrate initiative to anyone who is paying attention.

A plan for self-directed learning is essential to your career insurance.

What should I learn?
+        If I had unlimited time and money what one thing would I most like to change?
+        What do I need to know or do to be able to make the change?
+        What resources are available to help me make the change?
+        How much is it worth to me to make the change (in both time and money)?
+        How does it relate to my broader goals?
+        How important and urgent is it to me?
+        When would it be desirable to make the change?
+        How will I know when I have succeeded in making the change?
+        What is most worth learning for me right now? (clip newspaper articles for a month then look for a pattern to determine hidden interests you have).

What skills do I need to be a self directed learner?
+        The ability to see a problem.
+        The ability to identify resources which might help solve a problem.
+        The ability to create or choose procedures to evaluate results.

How can I decide which activities I should use to learn?
+        Does it advance my purpose?
+        Is it fun?
+        Is it economical (in both money and time)?
+        Is it preferable to other available choices?

Learning Project Plan Checklist
1.     Decide what exactly I want to learn, understand, know about, become, or be able to do.
2.     Determine how and where can it be best learned.
3.     Identify what resources would be useful.
4.     Schedule it when it will be the best time to learn it, and according to what a desirable daily and weekly schedule.
5.     Set a deadline to finish the project.
6.     Find out who could help.
7.     Calculate how much is it worth to me and how much will it cost in time, energy, and money through various means.

8.     Set a measurable goal to help me know I’ve achieved the desired knowledge and determine what useful documentation or product would be useful to have at the completion of the project.
Learn how to use this information to insure your career security
Tom Sheppard
Topics Related to This Post  
Success, Goals, Goal Setting, Entrepreneur, Inspiration 
Books Related To This Post:

The Home Finders blog was created by ADB Properties and The Gold Seal Homes Group to provide a resource for people in the greater Charlotte, NC area to find peace of mind through quality, affordable homes. This blog features properties that are currently available to rent or buy from affiliates of The Gold Seal Homes Group ( All affiliates of The Gold Seal Homes Group agree to abide by high ethical standards and certain operating procedures that make it easy for people to do business with all affiliates.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Six Questions To Ask Yourself Every Six Months

Internationally acclaimed management guru, Tom Peters recommends that “every six months, ask yourself these six questions and update your resume accordingly.”

1.   What exactly do I do in my current job?

2.   What have I actually accomplished in the past six months?
Point to one or two completed projects that have marked the past six months.
Exactly what benefits, quantitatively and qualitatively have I delivered to my customers?
Precisely, what did I learn in the past six months?
Precisely, how am I more valuable now than six months ago?

3.   Who among my customers will testify to it?
Draw up a list of satisfied (delighted) customers (internal and external) who will extol my performance delivering measurable, value-added results.

4.   What evidence is there that my skills are state of the art?
What classes have I taken or what new skills have I learned on my own?
What projects have I worked on which required new skills?

5.   Who do I know, far beyond my company’s walls, who will help me deal with an ever-chillier world?

6.   Will my year-end resume look significantly different from last year’s?

If your answer to the last question is “No!” then your career insurance policy is overdue for renewal.
Learn how to use this information to insure your career security
Tom Sheppard

The Home Finders blog was created by ADB Properties and The Gold Seal Homes Group to provide a resource for people in the greater Charlotte, NC area to find peace of mind through quality, affordable homes. This blog features properties that are currently available to rent or buy from affiliates of The Gold Seal Homes Group ( All affiliates of The Gold Seal Homes Group agree to abide by high ethical standards and certain operating procedures that make it easy for people to do business with all affiliates.

© Copyright 2014 by Thomas K Sheppard
All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the author.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Come Out On Top: Goals to Live By

Come Out On Top!
Goals To Live By

Tom Sheppard

“What lies behind us and what lies before us pales by comparison with what lies within us.”

Why Set Goals?
The story is told of the pilot who spoke to his passengers over the intercom in mid-flight: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Captain speaking.  I have some good news and some bad news.  The bad news is that none of our navigational systems are working and I have no idea where we are headed.  The good news is that we have a very strong tailwind and are making excellent time.”

Without a goal in mind and a plan to take us there, we are like this pilot, making great time heading off in to a destination we may not like at all.  We all need a map, a compass, and a destination.

Do Goals Really Make Any Difference?
The evidence is clear.  Goals make all the difference int he world.  Probably the most stunning evidence is the study of Yale Business School Graduates conducted from 1953 to 1973.

The graduating class of 1953 from the business school of Yale University participated in a twenty year study about goals. 

At the time of their graduation in 1953:

87% had no goals.
10% had goals which were not written down.
3% had clearly defined, written goals.

In 1973:

The 10% with goals had a net worth 300% higher than the 87% without goals.
The 3% with clearly defined, written goals had a net worth 1000% higher than the 87% without goals.
And, the 3% with clearly defined, written goals had a net worth which was greater than the entire net worth of the other 97% put together.

Even if your personal measure of success is not your net worth, this study speaks volumes about the multiplying effect goals have on your ability to achieve whatever you define as “success.”

What Goals Should I Set?
The goals you should set depend upon what kind of person you want to be.  The process of attaining a goal shapes and defines who you are.  For example:

Three men set the same goal, to be a millionaire by the end of the year. Each has the same goal, but the path each follows to attain the goal makes all the difference in what they become.

The first person plots a series of daring robberies, thefts, and drug deals which allows him to amass a fortune of a million dollars.  In the course of attaining his goal he destroys the lives of many people. He attains his goal and spends the rest of his days worrying that the police will arrest him or that a rival will murder him.  He is a criminal.  And when he departs this life he will have an eternal accounting to make.

The second man builds his fortune selling shoddy products, cheating his customers, cheating his employees, cheating his associates, cheating his suppliers, and cheating the government ~ without getting caught by anyone.  He attains his goal and at the same time has earned himself a good reputation in the community. But, when others heap praise upon him, inside he cringes, hoping that the truth will never come out to destroy his reputation. And when he departs this life he will have an eternal accounting to make.

The third man builds his fortune through hard work and honesty. He does not compromise his standards of integrity and excellence.  He makes a quality product and sells it at a fair price.  He treats others in the same way he would like to be treated. He attains his goal and has earned himself a reputation as a man to be trusted.  When others heap praise upon him, he knows that he has earned it and that there are no dark secrets lurking in his past which may be uncovered to destroy him in an instant.  And when he departs this life he will have an eternal accounting to make.

At the end of one year, all are millionaires.  They have attained their goal. But, each is a very different person by the time they lay hold of their goal.  The end result is not the same at all.

What kind of person do you want to be?  It is not your goals that will make the difference as much as how you attain them that will make the difference. The fact is that Nicolo Machiavelli was wrong when he advised that the end justifies the means. 

The way you get something is more important than what you are trying to get. You will never attain a good goal using evil methods.
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Tom Sheppard

How Do I Set Goals?
Use the acronym ACTION to set your goals.

A    -Attainable goals
C    -Compatible with your life mission
T    -Time Specific
I     -In Writing
O    -Ownership of your goals
N    -Negotiated and agreed upon

Attainable Goals - It is important to set goals which push you to move out of your comfort zone.

James Collins and Jerry Porras in “Built to Last” talk about companies setting Big Hairy Audacious Goals, BHAGs.  Just like BHAGs help successful companies move forward, they can help individuals too.  But, it is important to set goals which you can attain.

For example, if you set yourself a goal to be liked by everyone you meet, you may enjoy considerable success and still not attain your goal.  There may be someone you meet who will dislike you because of the color of your skin, your religion, your age, where you were born, or simply because you are so liked by everyone else.  You can influence them to help you attain your goal, but you cannot make them like you.

Compatible with your life mission - It is imperative to your happiness; imperative to living an abundant life, that your goals be aligned with what is most important to you.  If you do not know what is truly important to you, then you have just identified one of the first and most important goals you should set; find out what is most important to you.

Time specific - If you do not set a deadline for achieving a goal, it will be nothing more than a wish that someday you hope to attain.  Setting a specific date turns fantasy into reality and focuses all energies of your mind to making the dream a reality.

If President John F. Kennedy had set the goal to someday put a man on the moon, the odds are that we still would not have achieved that lofty goal.  But, when he presented his goal to his advisors, and to the nation, he put a firm deadline on its delivery.  As a result, the best scientific minds in the country worked almost non-stop to make the reality a dream.  In addition, by setting a deadline, he clearly prioritized the goal.  This allowed Congress and the vast powers of the Executive Branch of government to marshal their resources to make it happen.  The honor of the United States was on the line.  If we did not achieve the goal, we might be called failures ~ and Americans do not fail.

Fear of failing can be used to motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal by the stated time.  But, if you don’t set a date, you can never fail until you have died without attaining it; then who will care about one failure?

In Writing - When we write things down, they become real to us.  When a goal is not written, it is just a dream which may be forgotten when we awake.  But, when we awake from dreaming and write it down, then we have a record of what we dreamed.  We have a way to constantly remind ourselves of what we really want to do. 

It is this principle which makes the simple daily “To Do” list such a powerful tool for getting things done.  When we keep the list in our head, we may forget some items, or we may cheat ourselves and pretend it wasn't really on our list for that day.  But, when we write out the list, there is irrefutable evidence of what we wanted to accomplish this day.  Furthermore, as the troubles of the day fog our mind from time to time, the list serves to remind us of what is most important to accomplish this day.

Likewise, writing down our goals, along with the deadline, helps to remind us of what is important for us to accomplish this day, this week, this year, this decade, or in this life.

Ownership of your goals - To give you the desire you need to overcome every obstacle and achieve a goal, it must be your own goal.  It cannot be a goal set for you by someone else.

If your mother always wanted you to be a doctor, that probably won’t be enough motivation for you to endure the rigors of medical school, internship, and residency.  If your desire to please your mother is strong enough, that might carry you through.  But, it is doubtful that you will find an abundant life as a doctor unless it was your goal for yourself.

Others may want you to quit smoking, or to lose weight, or to win a beauty pageant.  But if you don’t want to do it for your own reasons, then you don’t own the goal.

Negotiated and agreed upon - Often, for us to attain our goals we need support from others.  For example, when the goals involve our job skills, we need the support of our supervisor or coworkers.  When this is the case, it is important that we collaborate with those who can help or hinder our progress.  By enlisting their aid we can make our task a thousand times easier.

How do you win the cooperation and collaboration of others in achieving your goals?  The simplest and most effective way is to first show them what’s in it for them.  If they understand that doing what you want them to do helps them get something they want, most people will jump in with both feet.  But, if you focus on how much it is going to help you, they are likely to perceive you as self-centered and selfish.  No one trusts
a selfish person to do anything to help another.

ACTION, a simple formula for powerful results!
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Career Insurance
Tom Sheppard
Measurable, Daily Activities (MDAs)
Working backward from your deadline identify obstacles and break your goals into measurable, daily activities. With daily activities you can see your progress toward your goal every day.  It gives you a thousand small successes which help propel you to the final success, attaining your goal.  By making each daily task measurable, you ensure that your achievement is objectively measured. It is no longer an opinion whether you have moved closer to your goal or not, it is an irrefutable fact.

Even behavioral changes, one of the fuzziest and most difficult kind of goals, can be turned into measurable, daily activities.

For example, one of the attributes of peak performers is a positive self image.  Many people struggle with this.  A measurable daily activity to move you closer to the goal of having a positive self image is to find three new positive things to say about yourself each day for six months.  By the end of six months you should have a much more positive attitude about yourself.

Create a work plan to take you from where you are to where you want to be!

Set Goals to Last a Lifetime
Many people do not survive their success.  They attain their goals and reach great heights.  Then, they slide out of sight into obscurity and unhappiness.  Why?

They set goals to climb a great mountain, instead of striving to become a great mountain climber.  On reaching the top of their great mountain, they find that they have no where else to go from there, except down.

In contrast, those who set their sights on becoming great mountain climbers find that when they have conquered one peak, there are others on the horizon.  There is always another challenge to further sharpen their skills.

All great mountain climbers climb great mountains.  But, not all people who climb great mountains are great mountain climbers.

Which will you be?

Set goals which build your skills rather than focusing on simple attainments.  Use achievements as milestones to keep you on track and mark your progress as you develop.

When your goals are focused on becoming the kind of person you want to become you will never find yourself in the sad situation of having attained all your objectives and being left with nowhere to go except down.

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Tom Sheppard

Question:  How Do I Achieve My Goals?
Answer: Use the Eye of Faith

Everything we have or do is preceded by an image in our mind.”

Seeing the end of your efforts, envisioning the results before they are achieved, is an ancient and true principle.  In religion, it is called faith - the belief or assurance of something which is not seen, but which is true.

Let’s set aside the religious implications of faith for a moment and instead of talking about faith in God or faith in man, let us discuss faith itself, what it is and how it affects us.

It is important that every person realize that first of all, faith is the motivating force in every rational being.  Why would the farmer plant his crops if he did not have some assurance that he would be able to harvest them?  Why the laborer go to work if they did not believe they would get paid for their efforts?  In fact, why would anyone get out of bed in the morning if they did not believe that they could do so?  Would you bother with a light switch if you did not believe that the lights would come on?

The farmer cannot see his harvest when we plants his seeds, except in his mind’s eye.  He will spend the season watering and tending his fields and finally at the end of the season, many months later, he will hold in his hands the fruits of his labors.  Gained through his labor, but his labor was the result of his belief that he could attain the harvest. 

The laborer cannot see his pay and his food earned by his labors when he starts the day, except in his mind’s eye.  It is not until at the end of the day, or week, or two weeks, or month, that his pay is placed in his hand.  And then he must believe, have faith, that the store will honor the scrip he carries and give him food and clothing in exchange for his slips of paper.

Recognize your faith that you can achieve something is essential to its attainment.

After understanding that faith the principle of action in all rational beings the second thing to realize about faith is that it is also a principle of power.

Programming Your Mind
Scientists tell us that humans use less than 10% of our mind.  Given the marvelous things that mankind has achieved just using 10% or less, think of the potential achievements if we can bring that other 90% of our mind to bear on our tasks.

Our subconscious mind accepts whatever our conscious mind feeds to it.  If we tell ourselves we are a failure, the subconscious believes it and transmits that signal to our every fiber, making it true.  If we tell our subconscious that we feel great, it transmits that message too, making it true.

But beyond the role of transmitter, our subconscious is a vast dark pool of resources which we can tap, but only indirectly.  When we present our mind with a problem, and turn it over to our subconscious, sooner or later it will present us with a solution to the very problem we have given it.  If we give it an obstacle to our progress, and the belief that the obstacle can be overcome, it will provide us with marvelous, and highly effective ways to overcome the obstacle. 

Napoleon Hill, in his book “Think and Grow Rich” recounts the story of the inventor of the modern sewing machine.  He could not figure out how to get the machine to actually stitch the clothes.  It seemed he would fail to create a sewing machine.  Then, one night he had a dream.

He found himself in a tropical island pursued by cannibals with long, pointed spears. Near the pointed tip of each spear was an oval shaped hole.  When he awoke, he realized that the dream held the answer he had been seeking.  When he made a needle with the hole for the thread near the tip of the needle, instead of at the back end, his machine worked.  His subconscious had delivered to him the answer to his riddle.

By telling our subconscious that a goal is attainable, we bring our whole being, conscious and subconscious, to bear on overcoming every obstacle to attain that goal.  Thus, we see that our faith brings power to bear and impels us to attain what we can see in our mind’s eye.

Faith is the motivating principle in all rational beings and it is a principle of power.
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Tom Sheppard
The Importance of Work
Many will say that living the abundant life is a matter of luck.  

LUCK = Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.

Laboring - working is essential to living an abundant life.  Without work you are little better than a victim, waiting for some stroke of fate or act of God to bestow upon you the desires of your heart.  It is well said that, “God helps them that help themselves.”

There are many secrets to a successful career.  If you don’t believe me, just check out the self-help section of any bookstore. You will see that there are “seven habits,”  “ten steps,” or “nine points” which will make you effective, happy, or wildly successful.  Regardless of the number, there is only one proven true key to the doorway which leads to a career successfully insured against the vagaries of the marketplace.  Without this key, you will never open the door and you will never be able to insure your career.  Work is the key.

“The only place success comes before work, is in the dictionary.”

The most important part is to Get Started
When you delay starting to work on your goals, you are not putting off hard work.  Instead, you are delaying the time when you can enjoy the benefits of your goals.

Regardless of how lofty or low you set your sights, you must start with a single step.  And follow each step with another.  By defining the steps you must take to attain your goals, you relieve yourself of the burden of resetting your goals every day.

“A step at a time is good walking.” 
Ancient Chinese Proverb

Set your goals, define your plan, and act on your plan.

“There is only right here and right now.  The time is never perfect to begin.”
Paul & Dan Monaghan

What if I Fail?

“Failure is an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”

Thomas Edison tried 10,000 times before he found the right combination of parts to make an electric light bulb which worked.

Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times to become the Home Run King with 714 home runs.

When was the last time you heard of someone who became too frustrated learning to walk as a child, and decided to give up and crawl for the rest of their life?  It doesn't happen.  But, some adults have less sense than