SCALES: the Key to Mastery!

music-104607_150Six months ago I took my flute out of the closet. It’s been with me since I was 12, but hadn’t been played for nearly 25 years. I was amazed at how much I remembered. Sure my technique was rusty and I fatigued easily, but it was encouraging to be able to play it at all!

I started lessons. I started practicing. And along the way amazing things have happened. Research shows that it takes 10,000 hours to become world class at something. At this stage of my life I don’t have 10,000 hours to devote to playing the flute! But I have one hour a day. And so here is the interesting question. What can I do in one hour a day to maximize my time? After all there is so much to learn.

My teacher, who is amazing I might add, gave me a practice schedule. 75% of my time is spent practicing scales and tone studies. While that may sound boring to you, what I discovered is that in every piece of music I want to play there are scales. And in every piece of music I want to play beautifully I must create beautiful sounds. Once I realized that, I began to love to practice scales and tone studies. In fact sometimes my hour is over and I haven’t gotten to the music!

In six months my progress is amazing. My technique has returned to where it was as a music student at Indiana University, and the sound….I have gained so much control of the instrument that when I play I can play from my heart. I can play what I feel. After all what is music but feeling which we express freely when we trust our technique.

I could end on that note and this blog would be all about me, and my flute. But the point I want to make is that in everyone’s work (or play), there is the equivalent to what scales are to a musician. Something that requires constant improvement in order to get more from your endeavor. It doesn’t matter if the thing you want to improve is related to work, an avocation, a sport, or a hobby. Finding the “scales” for that endeavor, and then allocating the majority of your “practice” time to that activity, will guarantee you get most for your time and effort.

 Enjoy your “scales”!!

Do Your Best

I was preparing for two very important presentations this week.  Each one could lead to a great business opportunity for our Free Enterprise Warriors team.  I was anxious about them.  In my life, as an aspiring person, I have often had a bad case of “preparation anxiety.”  I want so badly to do well that I stress out.  Often this causes “preparation paralysis” or worse yet “preparation procrastination.”  I don’t like the feelings of fear, so I just try to ignore them and distract myself doing something else.  It doesn’t work.  I end up not enjoying the avoidance activity, even if I normally would, because my subconscious knows and keep reminding me that I should be doing something to get ready.

I have often taught people to “let fear be your compass.”  Meaning: if you have a fear about doing something it means you care about the outcome; therefore, it is a sign that you should do it.  If you didn’t care you wouldn’t have the fear.  So, doing what you fear is the right thing. But, how do you not let that fear overwhelm you, cause you distress and interfere with your preparations.

People say, “don’t worry, just do your best – if you do your best, then that’s all you can ask of yourself.”  That sounds like good advice.  But, then I’m worried about doing my best.  What does that mean?  How would I know?  Can’t I always find some way in which I might have done better?  What if I don’t really do my best – what if someone else points out what I should have done better?  Isn’t “doing your best” just another form of mental pressure?

Yes, in my experience it is.  So, I have learned not to do it.  It took me a long time to come to a very simple self-awareness: I am always doing my best.  That’s just what I do.  Actually, that’s what we all do.  If we want to sincerely have things work out, we try to do whatever we can to have it work out.  We simply do our best.  That’s how we are motivated, that’s how we are built.

How well we do is determined, not by driving ourselves with critical or fear-based self talk, but, by preparation for the task.  Then, we just act, we just do.  We give it a try.  Sometimes it works out as we intended, sometimes it doesn’t – in which case we now have a great learning experience.

I’ve learned to not be attached to the outcome, but to enjoy the preparation.  I know I want to do well, but the only difference I can make in what I do, is how I prepare.  Steven Pressfield says “Do the Work” – in fact that’s the title of his latest book.  And, I loved it.  He says that if we are artists or entrepreneurs, the most important thing we have to do is the work – the preparation, the practice, the study, the rehearsal, the building of the skills.  Then we just create, we do, we act, we show up, we ship.

For me now, having pretty much left “anticipation anxiety” and “fear of failure” behind, I simply enjoy the game.  And, I get ready to play the game – I just prepare.  I remember that the definition of worry is “stewing without doing.” I have actually returned to my childhood Mad Magazine anti-hero Alfred E. Newman who always said: “What, me worry?”  Now, I just ignore the fear, detach from the outcome and do the work.

The Secret to the “Secret”

Are you looking for talent for your company, or another “ideal” client to serve? Or perhaps an investor for your new project? How do you find them? Where do you look?

While you might think it sounds too simple, trust me when I say that all you have to do is ask for what you need…and it will show up in abundance.

However in order to make this work there is one essential thing you must know, and then another that you must do. It is the “secret” to getting things done and it has been done this way for as long as human beings have existed.

First you must be a part of a group. You must know people and they must know you.  Seth Godin calls this your tribe, in his book by the same name. Your tribe is made up of the people who have come to know you, like you and trust you.  They are friends, past clients, business associates and members of your community. The one thing they all have in common is a relationship with you. They joined this “elite” status because of something you did that was beneficial or meaningful to them.

Second you must communicate with your tribe. They must hear from you on a consistent basis, and what you say must mean something to them. Learning to connect with others in a compelling way will deepen your relationship and then…

Once you’ve established your tribe and communicate with them regularly with heartfelt messages, they become an incredible source of connection for everything you need;
Referrals, resources, talent, opportunities.

I know this from personal experience. I met my business partner Tina this way. And recently we worked with two of our clients to create a “missing person” letter which we sent to their tribe. And voila – the universe responded with the best talent they’ve ever hired.

So build your tribe, put a system in place and communicate with it regularly. Ask for what you need, and watch your venture grow!

Are You Willing to Let Us In? A short study in Collaboration

Working with our “Virtual COO Services” clients has become for me an enlightening experience. We have clients in different industries, different financial situations and different motivations. Without a doubt, the most successful work we have done has been with those clients that are ready to collaborate with a team. When an entrepreneur is ready to open up, we can work together to create a process by which some of the most interesting and profitable ideas start. If the entrepreneur is not open to collaboration we have seen the energy just fizzle.

We try to keep to a weekly schedule of 45 minutes to 1 hour of team sharing. We do set an agenda for the meetings, but often we go off on tangents that produce some of the most creative action items. We then go ahead and implement those ideas and then meet back the following week to measure how that worked or didn’t work.

When everyone knows what the schedule is it also become a kind of accountability exercise. Everyone on the team knows what is expected of them for the next meeting. It has the strength of a boulder rolling down hill. It keeps building on itself until it has a momentum on its own.

When an entrepreneur is not ready to share or has not gotten to the frustrating and overwhelming tipping point when they know with all certainty they need a collaborative effort, we all just end up spinning our wheels. They may see minor results but not the intensity of sharing ideas that come from a committed team environment.

This for me has truly been a learning experience and continues to open my eyes to creative collaboration.

Speaking to the Point

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to make their point so clear and memorable? Here’s a tip I learned that has changed the way I communicate.

When you want to make a point, think in 3’s. Start with “The 3 most important things I’ve learned about…” or “The author makes 3 points in this article….” or “Our project was successful because we did these 3 things…”

When you do this, an amazing thing happens in your brain. Even if you weren’t thinking about the three most important things, your brain knows exactly what they are and organizes them for you.

And for those of you who might wonder what to do if after naming 3 there is a 4th, simply say “And if I had to include a 4th it would be ……”

This method will help you think clearer, hold people’s interest, and make a memorable imprint. It will also help you organize your thoughts so that you are more focused and confident.

Hey, I’m Not a Customer Number!

I’m having a strong negative reaction to the phrases “customer list” or “database”. After all I am a person. I don’t want to be a number on someone’s list.

However, the reality is that we have the tools, techniques and systems to communicate with an ever growing community of people we know. It is tempting to assume that if we add them to our list, we will advance our cause.

But that is proving to be antiquated thinking. Interrupting people with annoying canned newsletters and ads for things they don’t want or need is NOT creating a bond.

So here’s the age old secret to growing your enterprise; Increase the number of people who know you, like you and trust you. It’s that simple! Think of it like planting seeds. Plant an ever increasing number of them and watch them sprout into people who do business with you and refer others to you. Well, it may not be a secret but it is age old wisdom.

And while this sounds like an organic process, it isn’t. That would be like planting seeds in the ground and forgetting to water them. No, we need systems to insure that our crops grow.

At My Ops Zone we understand how to grow great relationships from the ground up. We put systems in place that are both high-touch and high-tech. 

High-touch is achieved by a process which reveals just who you are and what you stand for. High-tech is how we get more people to know about you so that they can decide. They will either like you better or leave you but either way it is important, because you are building what Seth Godin refers to as “your tribe”.

That takes me full circle. Yes, you do have a list- a client list. And when you communicate consistently with those people you build relationships. When you start revealing who you are and what you stand for, you connect with people on a level that builds trust. And the fastest way to get things done is through trust.

Why Build An Enterprise?

Why would anyone want to own a business? Businesses require lots of time, energy and capital. Businesses are like communities. They have infrastructures and complexities that take skill and focus to master and deliver.  There is risk involved and often uncertainty.

Yet owning a business, bringing a vision into reality, bringing value and service to those who join you as employees, clients, suppliers and community, is one of the most exhilarating and creative experiences one can have.

How do I know these truths? Why share them with you? I know the truths because I have been on this journey for a long time and enjoyed the rewards from building enterprises that were both profitable and purposeful.  And I want to share them because I believe that NOW is the time for those who have dreamed of owning a business to make it a reality.

There has never been a time in our history where more things need fixing, improving and creating then now. And there has never been a time in human history where being the change you wish to see in the world is more possible. Join me and the other members of our team at on the path to building businesses worth owning and lives worth living.

The SWAT (Smart Women With Available Time) Team

I found this Wall Street Journal article extremely interesting and would like to pass it on to other “stay at home” entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for dedicated, experienced employees for their positions:

The Wall Street Journal:
Lots of employers would like to be able to hire cheap, temporary teams of seasoned pros with experience managing $2 billion investment portfolios, running ad campaigns or earning Ph.D.s in neuroscience.
But few know the secret to finding temps of that caliber: Look on playgrounds and at PTA meetings.

The decision among some highly educated women to stay home with children is sparking a countertrend: The rise of the mommy “SWAT team.” The acronym, for “smart women with available time,” is one mother’s label for all-mom teams assembled quickly through networking and staffing firms to handle crash projects. Employers get lots of voltage, cheap, while the women get a skills update and a taste of the professional challenges they miss.

Skilled workers taking temp projects isn’t new, of course. What’s different about these teams is that they’re available on short notice because the women are usually at home; they tend to work cheap because their main motive is to keep their skills fresh; and they’re often extraordinarily well-qualified, having left the work force voluntarily when their careers were on the ascent.

This article sums up the win-win of hiring SWAT members who can multi-task and add value to a business.  I know, I am one of them.

Contact me if  you have any comments –