The 2015 List: 50 Books Every Entrepreneur (and Intrapreneur) Should Read

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By Dr. Bill Dyment, Author of Fire Your Excuses

What are the most valuable and instructive books for entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs to read in 2015?

One of the most impactful books to emerge in the last 10 years is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown In it, McKeown masterfully addresses the innovator’s most common challenge—maintaining strategic focus. You will find it on the 2015 list below.

Whether your are an entrepreneur who is starting or building an organization outside of the corporate walls or an intrapreneur, one who is innovating within them, you will find personal and career “gold” in many of books below. Not every book will relate to your particular situation, but in this carefully curated list from my own reading and that of many other entrepreneurs, you will find powerful classics and contemporary contributions to personal and business innovation.

The list contains the very best resources to such challenges as self-leadership, strategic positioning, marketing, branding, client acquisition and retention, and the development and launch of new products in a crowded digital marketplace.

Enjoy, comment on what books you think we missed, and then let’s get reading!

“The List”

(In alphabetical order)

  1. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
  2. 48 Days to the Work You Love (2015 Edition) by Dan Miller
  3. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  4. All Marketers are Liars  by Seth Godin
  5. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  6. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
  7. Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
  8. Decisive by Dan and Chip Heath
  9. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  10. Drive by Dan Pink

List continues…

21 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Instantly

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By Dr. Bill Dyment, Co-Author of Fire Your Excuses

It was ten years ago when I finally “got it.” I was seated in a ballroom listening to one of the top speakers in my organization and he was tremendous. Yes, his content was insightful, but what I will never forget was the way he crafted his presentation. Every minute, less in some cases, he utilized a different technique to draw us in as his audience. Almost instinctively, I found myself taking notes, not on his content, but on the structure and timing of his speech. It was truly a work of art. I knew that instant that there was another whole level of communicating to an audience and I had plenty of homework to do. What he gave me that day was a new way of thinking as well as template for improving my delivery, content, and audience involvement.

Over the past twenty-three years, I have had the privilege of delivering more than 2,300 presentations to 400+ organizations. Yet, in a very real sense, I am just getting started. There is still so much to learn and communication styles and technology continue to evolve at a rapid clip. Still one thing remains: The best speakers are truly performance artists and master storytellers.

What do they do differently from the rest of us? First, like a great orchestra conductor, they know just when to utilize each instrument of their trade, changing tunes often for today’s “ADD” audiences.

Second, they share far more stories than statistics. Florence Littauer, a highly paid women’s conferences speaker and author, only tells stories– with a strong message, of course. If she has 30 minutes, she’ll just tell two stories. If she has 45 minutes, she’ll tell three. That’s confidence!

Third, top presenters skillfully deliver content in multiple ways so that every learning style can appreciate and absorb their message. Finally, the “pros” see themselves as “edutainers,” imparting insights that are sprinkled liberally with classy humor. (For 20 tips on how you can create your own content-related humor check out, The Science of Creating Humor.)

As a busy presenter, it is easy to fall into the rut of “good enough.” Some of the best advice I ever received was this:  “Never believe that your platform enthusiasm can adequately mask your lack of preparation. Believe me, your audience and host will be polite, but they know the difference.

Feeling a bit discouraged by your own speaking ability?  Don’t be. Charles Swindoll said it best: “We don’t just need experience, the school of hard knocks will give us plenty, we need guided experience.” The great news is that by utilizing just a few of the techniques listed below, you can instantly and significantly improve your own speaking ability in very little time.

(Tip: If you are a leader who has a big presentation to deliver where taking immediate, positive action on your message could mean thousands for your organization, hiring a presentation coach for an hour to help choreograph your delivery is the obvious choice.)

Speaker’s Toolbox:  “The Pro’s List”

1. Start with a powerful story.  This first tip is straight from the prime time playbook: One minute you are watching the painful elimination of your favorite “top six” singer in Hollywood, the next you are staring at a mysterious crime scene in Chicago. You are now watching a new show without even realizing it and “hooked” before you know it.

Grab your audience in a similar fashion: Don’t start with the “credits.” Just jump right into your opening story. Walk onto the stage, silently pause just long enough to make people a bit nervous, then launch into a great story.  If you must tell your audience your learning points (big yawn) or give a bit of your background, do so only after your story.

2. No “death by PowerPoint,” please. Avoid bulleted lists and lengthy text.  While audience members are reading your slides, they are not listening to you. Make your maximum number of words/slide 40 words, which the average reader can absorb in 12 seconds, so they can quickly refocus on you. An even better goal is no words on all or most of your slides—just display a symbol, image or metaphor for your next point.

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Five Career Mistakes to Stop Making Now

Pencil Erasing on White Paper

By Dr. Bill Dyment, Co-Author of Fire Your Excuses.

June 6, 1944. As the shadows on Normandy Beach grew longer, wounded allied soldiers shared a cigarette and a joke as they awaited evacuation and treatment.  It is said the morphine they had received on the beach was so effective in dulling their pain that many did not realize they were mortally wounded and had only hours, even minutes left to live.

It is not uncommon to meet skilled “third quarter” career professionals whose current position also has no true future.  Dulled and tired from heavy workloads, fueled by denial, and surrounded by other similarly “wounded comrades in arms,” many are also unaware of their looming fate.  Either they will become an expendable commodity as cheaper, younger employees compete for their position, here and abroad, or they will manage to retain their jobs with the sad knowledge that, for them, upward career mobility and its accompanying salary increases have ended.

Consider Matt, a mid-level manager, who has delivered superlative work for nearly 15 years.  In recent months, he has grown increasingly tired and stressed. He is now expected produce more, much more, with no additional compensation or staff. Further,  there is talk of layoffs and little reason to hope for a significant raise or promotion. At the moment, with a daughter about to enter college, he is simply hanging on. He desperately needs this job but after years of exemplary work and rewarding recognition, these days, he is feeling overworked, devalued and discouraged.

Ellen is one of many we meet who quickly volunteers that “her industry is not what it use to be.”  While she sees no job threat on the near horizon, she is restless, bored and has been passed over whenever she has applied for a more senior position. In the parlance of the Old West, her “horse is dead” and she needs to “stop riding it and look for another.”

Ellen is no longer excited to come to work or about the direction her industry and organization are headed. Yet at this point in her career, she has no idea what she would do if she left. She feels as if it is too early to retire and too late to start over. “How did she get here?” She muses.

Both Matt and Ellen now recognize what is happening but each were caught off-guard by changes within their organization and market sector.  Each believed that, like the bosses who hired them, they alone would be making the decision when either leave to take a better outside offer, or to retire at a level comfortably higher than where they find themselves now.  Instead, market forces have chosen for them.

I will never forget walking into a huge room where, in one half of the space, cubicles that one held highly-skilled workers had been neatly knocked down, row after row, like harvested corn.  Each time I returned, the inexorable march of job elimination had pushed the border of flattened cubicles a little further across the room, rendering the band of survivors ever smaller in number.  In a year, the plant, once booming with thousands of workers, fell silent altogether and its remaining operations moved out of state.

It is rare that once-valued employees are afforded so obvious a signal that their job is in jeopardy as the ever-closer border of dismantled cubicles, yet the creep of obsolescence and commoditization is very real. I have also become convinced that such a fate need not be ours. There are many who have positioned themselves as industry leaders and work into their early 70’s and beyond for the sheer love of the game.  There are remedies that we can each take to ensure our continued success, even in a crowded, international marketplace.  In addition to being skilled and having a sufficient EQ (emotional quotient) today’s mid-career professional must also develop a robust CQ, or “change quotient.” The choice is ours.

Below are five common career mistakes and five executable strategies you can use to avoid early job obsolescence or a career trajectory that fails to reach its intended altitude. These “half-time” interventions are not difficult. However, they do require a thorough, unflinching, diagnosis of our current career health and to take immediate action before we are either too bruised or too tired to act.

Mistake #1: “Sitting This One Out.”

Quick, what was the first year you used a computer in a serious way? If you are currently in the middle of your career, you may have been in your teens or older before you hopped on a keyboard to work on anything other than your video game score. Marc Prensky called those of us who were not born with a mouse in our hands, “digital immigrants.” We may be quite proficient these days in all things electronic but it is important to keep in mind that the digital world is our “second language.” In contrast, Prensky’s “digital natives” are those who can’t remember ever not using computers and the Internet to communicate.

While we are all learning new digital platforms; ways of communicating and doing business, digital “immigrants” are especially susceptible to declaring a new site, platform or media avenue, a fad, not-relevant to our industry, or my favorites, “unprofessional” or even “unethical.” These biases make us vulnerable to being isolated from where the real action is taking place in our industries, often at the new edges of technology.

Two years ago, a clinical colleague in his early 30’s praised Psychology Today’s online therapy directory while we were catching up over coffee. I had heard of it but was skeptical. Experience had cynically taught me that most paid directories only served to enrich the publisher and a few featured star performers while the hundreds of other professionals, who received little or nothing in the bargain, paid the bills. Entry was typically steep, billed yearly, and usually yielded only a lighter wallet. Reluctantly, then, I decided to try the directory for a month. I am glad I did. Today 30% of my clinical referrals come from the site. It wasn’t hard to see what was going on, the site was heavily populated by digital natives, less so by digital immigrants. The paradigm was shifting, the general rules of the game had changed, and I was late to the party.

A Challenge: The next time you dismiss a new app, site, platform, or digital trend, pause for a moment to ask, “Am I biased against this new offering because of my “immigration status?” Use wisdom, but test out the new opportunity. Don’t be afraid to be the first among your colleagues to see if it is right for you and anticipate a learning curve.

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The Science of Creating Humor: 20 techniques you can use immediately to make your, presentations, introductions, and stories more humorous.

Hard laughing middle aged man

By Dr. Bill Dyment, co-author of Fire Your Excuses

Do you think being funny is an innate trait? Some people do seem to be “born funny,” the rest of have to work a little harder. The good news

is just as you can be a decent photographer by learning your camera and a bit about post-production, you can get better, much better at using humor in your writing, presentations and at friends and family gatherings.

Humor follows a pattern. It can also be a bit mathematical in its structure and rhythm. Deconstruct why you like certain sketches, jokes, videos and spoofs and you being to understand what you can do to create humor of your own.

Want to use a special joke with your work team, family or friends?

Put your “material” through these 20 filters and humor is likely to appear.

  1. Bizarre Pairings— ex. __________- challenged, follically-challenged, culinarily-challenged, etc. How could you play off the phrase “horse-whisperer?”   _________-whisperer?

E.g., This guy on the freeway today tried to be the semi-whisperer. It did not go so well. We sat in traffic for over in hour.

  1. Alliteration— words that start with the same letter or sounds,

E.g. Academic Armageddon.

  1. Repetition— “I love you, man” – for a while it was funnier every time you heard it. (Now it is dead, beware of overusing a phrase or using it after everyone else is over it.) This technique was employed by Mark Twain with great success. It is referred to as a “call back.” Another example: “Show me the money!” Look for “trending” phrases you can introduce your audiences.
  1. Altered Image, a visual gag—Example: An advertisement for the New York, New York Casinos depicted the Statute of Liberty with her skirt up just like the famous photo of Marilyn Monroe.
  1. Spoofs—Examples: The L.A. Times produced fake “Low Speed Chase” news segments which were shown as pre-movie advertisements in theatres. Saturday Night Live is well known for their hilarious television commercial spoofs. Remember “the Bassomatic?” “Mom Jeans?”

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Are you asking for too little? (Hint: Reading this post just might pay for your next vacation.)

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April 9, 2015, Dr. Bill Dyment, Co-Author of Fire Your Excuses

It was a pleasant fall Vegas afternoon as I emerged from the cab in front of the Bellagio Hotel, the sun was still bright and blinding in the November sky.  I was exuberant.   Professionally, I felt like I had finally arrived.  I had been chosen to deliver an all-day session for a Fortune 500 company at a 5-star hotel.  It would be an event to remember. Not only were the seminars a success and the audience engaging, I was treated like royalty complete with lavish dinners, a show and a great room overlooking the famous lake and fountains.

Just one bubbly but honest comment from the organizer gave me pause:  “We were delighted to learn your price was only X, in truth we would have paid double!”  I am so glad that I enjoyed all the extras, because the truth was, in a very real sense, I had paid for my 5-star room, dinners and the great show!

I wish I could say that I instantly began “right-pricing” my speaking and consulting services, but a decade later I am better at it than ever.  Equal parts “nice guy” and, at times, a second-guesser of my market worth, in the past, I have been an easy mark for better negotiators.

If you have your own business, sell a product or service on the side, or recently asked for a raise or interviewed for a new job, you may be able to relate to capitulating on your price or salary in the face of hard bargainers or sad stories of budget woes and personal finances.  The good news is, I am confident that applying some of principles and strategies below can put hundreds, even thousands more in your pocket and add to the financial security of your family.

 Underpriced is undervalued

Some years back, in an effort to make my consultation services more affordable to all, I priced my services at the lower end of my profession.  Feeling a bit self-righteous about it, I was shocked to her one client say; “We interviewed several firms for our project.  It came down to you and another group who charges considerably more. Since we had to choose, we figured they had to be more experienced to command and get their fees, so unfortunately, we have decided to go with them.” Wow! What an instant, albeit painful, education!

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Getting Real with Your Career: 10 Questions to Help You Decide Your Next Career Steps in 2015

New Career - Green Pushpin on a Map Background.

January 20, 2015, Dr. Bill Dyment, Co-Author of Fire Your Excuses

By this time, your 2015 should be well under way. Welcome to your annual Career Advantage Check-up! If you take a moment to read and answer the 10 questions below, I guarantee it will help you better strategize your career in 2015.  Would you consider spending a few minutes to map out how you might make hundreds, even thousands more this year? Enjoy!

Have you promised yourself that this will be the year to make a big change? Should you stay where you are?  Should you stay in your field but find another organization? Should you start your own business? Or should you start a supplemental part-time business?

How to get the most out of this resource:

1. First, read the 5 most common career transition scenarios below, can you relate to any of these individuals?

2. Next, work through The 10 Key Career Questions of 2015.  Revised yearly, they are designed to help you “get real with your career” and sort through your next career steps in this new year.

The 5 Most Common Career Transition Scenarios of 2015

In Need of A Change in Career Direction?
Does one of the following scenarios fit you?

Can you relate to any of the following real-life clients? (Names and details have been changed to protect privacy.)

1. The “It Was Just Business”  Robert lost his current position due to restructuring.  He knows that his field has changed and it is unlikely he will be hired at the same salary as before. He has been out of work for more than a year.  Every month he is not working, he is losing thousands of dollars.  He and his family are rapidly approaching a financial crisis.

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Welcome to 2015! It’s Never To Late to Say “Thank You.”

Thank You on Red Keyboard Button.

If your family is like ours, the end of 2014 was a blur of business, accounting, shopping and celebrations of the season with friends and family. Both coasts were visited, two sets of relatives enjoyed, and thousands of calories consumed! What didn’t happen for me was being able to thank everyone I wished for their many kindnesses, business, friendship and support.

This week several people I have spoken to have expressed similar regrets that they also left undone that thank you card, gift, phone call or visit. The demands of December were simply too much.

There is good news: It is never too late to communicate a heart-felt thank you in whatever way you choose. And, those who receive your good wishes, words and, perhaps, even that surprise January gift, will be delighted-wouldn’t you?

So, stop wasting a moment more on feeling guilty and go ahead and send that Happy New Year card, email or gift. Better yet, pick up the phone, old school style. (Hint: Start with your elderly relatives and unofficial “aunts” and “uncles.”) Sit down sometime this week and make a list of those you wish to connect with in some way before the end of January.

There are so many kindnesses to be grateful for that go unmentioned, remaining only in our hearts. Break the silence, reach out and say thank you in this brand new year you have been privileged to enter.

Happy New Year and blessings to all for a great 2015.

Dr. Bill

 

Why Wait Until January? Gain the December Advantage!

winter running

This year, my co-author and I are challenging our friends, family and business colleagues with the Fire Your Excuses December Challenge. Instead of raising the perennial “white flag” at Thanksgiving only to take up the assault again in January, we decided to commit to 20 workouts in the month of December. You can be sure that I will be enjoying some delicious holiday fare this season, on both coasts, but our growing team has decided that doing the post-New Years “get back into shape” dance is not in the cards for us this year. If you are interested in joining us in the December Challenge, we’d love to know. It may just help you enter 2015 in the best shape in years. Are you in?

But let’s take this challenge a step further. Without a doubt, there are corporate and personal career goals you may be tempted to delay until the start of the new year. What is still on your 2014 to-do list? Why not slide into the end of the holiday season having finished strong and accomplished many of those goals. In fact, for some, December might just turn out to be the most productive month of your year.

I was challenged by a recent quote: “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Blessings to all and Happy Holidays!

How to Leverage the Almost Unfair Advantage of “The Golden Hours.”

 

Healthy trail run

In Fire Your Excuses we urge readers to hold a “Personal Business Meeting” at least once a week. Why is this strategy so powerful? Because, as Brendon Burchard, best-selling author and productivity expert, says, The inbox is nothing but a convenient organizing system of other people’s priorities” [for your day.] The minute you open your email, whether it be on your phone or computer, your day and priorities are no longer your own. Without a minimum weekly personal business meeting, your activities will likely be reactionary and defensive, not self-directed and purposeful.  This is not the blueprint for an extraordinary life.

Interested in joining the 5 A.M. Club?

Leadership expert, Robin Sharma, invites us to go a step further by joining “The 5 A.M. Club.” Sharma observes that many consider the hours between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., the “golden hours.”  It is a time before most of the world is at work and, for some, even awake. Many who do make the shift and capitalize on these early morning hours report that they are their moments of the highest productivity.  In the early morning quiet we are free of distractions and our will power has yet to be assaulted by the demands of the day.

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Video: Robin Sharma on “How to Wake Up Early”

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Making the Shift-A Personal Journey

As a personal experiment, over the past year, I have Inched slowly and deliberately into being not only conscious but alert and productive during the earliest “golden hours,” Immediately I noticed that whenever I won the battle of the bed, I enjoyed the significant psychological boost that comes from accomplishing so much before the traditional start of the work day. Today, several mornings before six, my wife and I are in the gym, and I also get time to pray and plan my day.  Business-wise, this practice has already yielded great dividends.  Big picture, strategic thinking gets done and game-changing projects that I have meant to do for months are now well underway. I have also become a more disciplined, professional, and prolific writer. As a result of getting up earlier, my outreach and networking is on overdrive as I follow-up more consistently with colleagues and clients. The golden hour has brought its health benefits too.   Let’s just say, “the cooler containing my six-pack” now has a bit less insulation.

Making the shift wasn’t easy.  I was definitively not a “morning person.”  My journey began in earnest in March 2013 when I started a mastermind group with five other entrepreneurs which continues to meet every Wednesday morning before work for 90 minutes. Now the highlight of my professional week, it has had a tremendous impact on my business and my soul. Once I began to catch the early morning rays of the golden hours, I was eager to spend more time there.  The breakthrough step was to plan one event that was so compelling that I didn’t mind getting up early for it. Our mastermind group has served that purpose for each of us and much more.

How about you? What weekly event could you put into place to help “jump-start” your new resolve to begin your day earlier and on “your own terms?”

I see a pattern here….

In my consulting over the past 25 years, I have noticed, as Burchard asserts in the video below, that many of my millionaire friends do, in fact, start the day both early and with a short planning session. While each has his or her own ritual, some high tech, some low, some involving exercise, others not, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion from my modest informal survey that there is a pattern: Those who are running a nice-sized chunk of the free world, order their day in a way the rest of us do not. Eventually, I decided that if I wanted to experience some of the successes they enjoyed, I could do far worse as starting place than taking notes and implementing some of the common work habits all of them seemed to share.

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Video: Brendon Burchard: How Millionaires Schedule Their Day

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What about “night owls?”

Some readers can no doubt make a compelling case that their circadian rhythms enable them to be highly productive late at night.  I am not one to argue with success.  In this article, though, I am addressing those who feel as if they could be more productive. For many, feeling worn out after work precludes those late night bursts of creative energy and output.  As mentioned, I was the quintessential “night owl” and it did work modestly well for me. Getting up early has simply worked better, now that I am used to it.

Afterword: Giving yourself a significant cognitive advantage

When exercise is included in your golden hours, results can be even more marked. It is not uncommon to feel as if one has gained an extra 10 IQ points after an exercise session.   A study conducted by University of Georgia’s Phillip D. Tomporowski seems to confirm it.  Tomporowski reported that just one workout immediately boosted higher-order thinking skills when BDNF, a protein, which sits at the synapses of your brain neurons, is activated by exercise making you more productive and efficient throughout your day.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, maintains that daily exercise DOUBLES his productivity. He still gets up early to run, and, he is 64 years old!

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Video: Branson on exercise and productivity

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Giving what we now know about productivity, exercise and planning, the evidence appears overwhelming. Who’s up for an early start?

If you have made the shift or, like me, are moving in that direction, let’s hear your story in the comment section below. See you at dawn!