You Born to stand Out….You are Unique..You are Special..


Think what a remarkable, unduplicatable, and miraculous thing it is to be you! Of all the people who have come and gone on the earth, since the beginning of time, not ONE of them is like YOU!

No one who has ever lived or is to come has had your combination of abilities, talents, appearance, friends, acquaintances, burdens, sorrows and opportunities.

No one’s hair grows exactly the way yours does. No one’s finger prints are like yours. No one has the same combination of secret inside jokes and family expressions that you know.

The few people who laugh at all the same things you do, don’t sneeze the way you do. No one prays about exactly the same concerns as you do. No one is loved by the same combination of people that love you – NO ONE!

No one before, no one to come. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE!

Enjoy that uniqueness. You do not have to pretend in order to seem more like someone else. You weren’t meant to be like someone else. You do not have to lie to conceal the parts of you that are not like what you see in anyone else.

You were meant to be different. Nowhere ever in all of history will the same things be going on in anyone’s mind, soul and spirit as are going on in yours right now.

If you did not exist, there would be a hole in creation, a gap in history, something missing from the plan for humankind.

Treasure your uniqueness. It is a gift given only to you. Enjoy it and share it!

No one can reach out to others in the same way that you can. No one can speak your words. No one can convey your meanings. No one can comfort with your kind of comfort. No one can bring your kind of understanding to another person.

No one can be cheerful and lighthearted and joyous in your way. No one can smile your smile. No one else can bring the whole unique impact of you to another human being.

Share your uniqueness. Let it be free to flow out among your family and friends and people you meet in the rush and clutter of living wherever you are. That gift of yourself was given you to enjoy and share. Give yourself away!

See it! Receive it! Let it tickle you! Let it inform you and nudge you and inspire you! YOU ARE UNIQUE!

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A Small Decision Is Still a Decision..

Choices, decisions, and options – they happen over and over all day, every day. There is an occasional big one that comes along, like “Should I hire that new CIO who will want to spend a lot of money?” But most are small choices. Still, no decision is too small for our consideration. Seemingly small decisions are often the ones that make a big difference. Deferring or avoiding a decision, however minor it may seem, could carry consequences and make for a life of coulda’s, woulda’s, shoulda’s.

Small decisions are like empty airline seats: once the plane takes off, it’s too late for the airline to worry about filling the seat. If that small decision is not made, it is quickly too late to worry about what could have been. Any decision, big or small, that is not made is another step into hell.

It is clear to me that a successful CEO is one who has learned to make decisions. It’s taken for granted that the big choices are worth the attention they receive. We agonize over them, analyze them, consult with gurus over them, chart them, and – admit it – we all make lists of pros and cons about those big choices. And we should. The everyday, seemingly little choices deserve a little space in the brain, too, and should not be relegated to the “whatever” dumper.

Our natural tendency is to defer choices whenever we can, like my client who proclaimed “whatever” when it came to the operator centers with thousands of job losses in the balance.

When my kids were little, I would give them a choice at bedtime: you can either go to bed, or you can take a bath and go to bed. That set of choices didn’t last long because soon they chose neither. The choices are usually not so clear in the workplace for the CEO.

Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/ Images

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Don’t Fail The Same Way Twice

No matter how amazing or respected a person is, be they an author, politician, economist, or anyone else highly praised by the general public for their talent and insight, everyone at some point in their lives has made a decision that to everyone else seems obviously wrong.

These decisions often have one thing common: After making the bad decision, the responsible parties justify their own actions. They attempt to shift the blame for their mistakes onto other people.

This kind of self-justification hinders rational thought. In Japan we say, “Every thief has his reasons.” This is truest when you are talking about your own actions. It is normal to believe that there is a rational reason behind what to other people appears to be an obvious failure.

This is particularly true for me. I cannot keep talking as if this were about other people. When I slip up even a little, I immediately try to justify what I have done. I always do this. I cannot stop myself.

But I also recognize why this is a human tendency I must battle. Self-justification is the reason why people seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. If I do not do something about this I am placing myself in danger. This is why I always make an effort to find someone to play verbal catch with, and why I go out of my way to hear the information I don’t want to hear.

The best response to failure is to think about the reason you failed and develop a method to make sure that you don’t fail the same way twice. Self-justification delays that response.


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A One-Time Motel Maid Looks Back on Success, Then & Now

My experience as a young girl of what the term “work ethic” really meant began with a fib.

I was 14, growing up in southern California. My mother had divorced when I was 5, left to raise me and my two younger brothers. She didn’t have a formal education, so she had to work two full-time jobs as a waitress to make ends meet.

I can still remember those afternoons when she’d come home from her first job in a maroon dress and switch into the black and white cocktail outfit for her evening job. I’d watch her put on her makeup, we’d figure out what I’d prepare the boys for dinner, and then she was off, often until midnight.

Riding my navy blue Schwinn bike home from school one day, right down the middle of the street, I had this vision. With absolute clarity and certainty, I knew three things:

1. I never want to end up in my mother’s precarious financial situation
2. I wanted to help others reach their own financial independence
3. I knew it was up to me to make these things happen

With that inspiration, I told the manager of the Don Carlos Motel in Dana Point that I was 15, so I could get a work permit to work as a maid. With necessities like phone bills going unpaid, I knew every extra dollar I earned would count.

Since then, I’ve started and sold successful companies, worked alongside some of America’s top leaders, written books, and achieved financial independence. When I look back at my life now, I feel extraordinarily fortunate. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifices.

But what if was 14 years old today? Would I be able to accomplish the same things in this new highly competitive world with so many global challenges? It seems hard work and sacrifice isn’t enough anymore. Are college students truly prepared for the world they will be facing over the next thirty years?

Today, you need to be extremely adaptable. To progress in your career it’s not enough to know one thing well. As my friend Sean Harvey, product manager at Google put it when we were speaking to students, “Today, companies aren’t hiring for a specific position but rather people who are smart and flexible. The way you demonstrate that is by showing you can do multiple things well.”

Good mentoring matters more now than ever. When I was at UCLA, I was very fortunate to have one particular experienced professional take me under his wing and teach me entrepreneurship and business skills that otherwise would have taken years to develop. Some corporate mentoring programs exist, but are hard to come by for teens and young adults.

What’s clear to me after advising hundreds of young people on their career paths, colleges still have a long way to go to prepare graduates for all they will encounter in the real working world.

When I went to UCLA as an undergrad twenty years ago, annual tuition was $722. This year students will fork over $11,000 – but still a bargain compared with quadruple that expense at many top private schools. Now, graduates often wait years to get meaningful employment, dramatically lowering their lifetime earning power by tens of thousands of dollars and dashing any hopes of saving for the future.

My aunt and uncle gave me room and board for $100 a month to help keep my college debts down. But without a pension, could they have done the same for me today?

The lethal combination of unemployment—around 15 percent when you consider those who’ve stopped looking for work—and anemic wage growth means we are not only at greater financial risk, but we have to take more risks to succeed.

The picture isn’t all doom and gloom, of course. The new Internet world of all-the-time connectedness means anyone with a hot idea or product or service can create a business out of virtually nothing. Success can be quick and big, at fractions of the cost of starting companies just a decade ago.

But that success demands more creativity, more “out of the box” thinking – the flexibility Sean Harvey preaches.

And it makes me think a lot about the future my three-year old daughter faces. How can I best prepare her for the world she will encounter twenty years from now? What will that world look like? What experiences do I need to allow her to face now to be ready for whatever comes her way in 2032 and beyond?

Whatever the future brings, I think the best message I’ll give her is to believe in herself. Life won’t get any easier, but the opportunities will come – as they always have – to those who work hard, adapt as they need to, and trust their abilities.

And maybe on our next trip to the west coast, I’lll show my daughter the spot where the Don Carlos Motel used to be.


Jennifer Openshaw, President of Finect, is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch and author of The Millionaire Zone, based on national research about how those who are financially successful used their networks to get ahead. Twitter @jopenshaw.



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7 Basic Reasons You Aren’t Happy

Sixty-two percent of Bulgarians say they are “not very” happy or “not at all” happy.

At some point we’re all Bulgarians: We’re all unhappy at times, regardless of business or professional success.

Here’s are some reasons why:

1. We mistake joining for belonging. Making connections with other people is easier than ever, and not just through social media. Joining alumni groups and professional organizations, wearing golf course polo shirts or college sweatshirts, putting a sticker with initials like “HH” on your car to announce to the world you summer at Hilton Head Island… many people try hard to show — if only to themselves — that they belong.

Most of those connections are superficial at best.

If your spouse passes away the alumni organization may send flowers. (Okay, probably not.) If you lose your job a professional organization may send you a nifty guide to networking. (Okay, probably not, but they will send you the invoice when it’s time to renew your membership, so you will have that to look forward to.) Anyone can buy, say, a UVA sweatshirt. UVA didn’t want me but I still have one. (It was on sale.)

The easier it is to join something the less it means to you. A true sense of belonging comes from giving, self-sacrifice, and effort.

To belong you must share a common experience—the tougher the experience, the better.

Clicking a link lets you join; staying up all night with a crew loading trailers to meet an urgent ship date lets you belong. Sending a donation gets your name in a program; working in an over-crowded soup kitchen (something to my discredit I’ve never done) lets you belong to a group of people striving to make a difference.

Pick a group you want to belong to and do the work necessary to earn their respect and trust.

A true sense of belonging gives you confidence, especially during tough times, and provides a sense of security and well-being even when you’re by yourself — because when you truly belong you are never alone.

2. We think we can achieve anything. Our parents were well intentioned but wrong: We can’t be whatever we want to be. We can all achieve amazing things, but we can’t doanything we set our minds to. Genetics, disposition, and luck play a part too.

The key is to know yourself and then work to be the best you can be based on your unique set of advantages and limitations.

Here’s a non-business example. Say you decide you want to run a marathon. Fine — with enough training almost anyone is capable. But say you’re a guy who weighs a muscular 250 pounds and you want to finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.

That’s just not going to happen; you’re not made that way and the attempt will leave you discouraged, defeated, and unhappy. But with enough training you could probably bench 350 pounds, something the whippet-thin marathon runners will never do.

The same is true with, say, public speaking. You may never be like Billy Mays but you could be an outstanding Steven Wright.

What you achieve isn’t nearly as important as achieving something. Pick a goal you’re suited for and go after it.

Doing something — doing anything — that most other people cannot or will not do will make you prouder, more fulfilled, and a lot happier.

3. We think professional success equals fulfillment. You can love your company but it will never love you back. (Cliché, sure, but true.) Another cliché, just as true: No person lying on their death bed ever says, “I just wish I had spent more time at work…”

Professional success, no matter how grand, is still fleeting.

Fulfillment comes from achieving something and knowing it will carry on: Raising great kids, being a part of a supportive extended family, knowing you have helped others and changed their lives for the better…

Work hard on business. Work just as hard on a few other things you can someday look back on with a different sense of pride; then, where personal fulfilment is concerned, you get to feel great now and later.

4. We’re afraid of what we really are. None of us really likes how we look. (Well, maybe she does. And he probably does too.) So we try to hide who we really are with the right makeup and the right clothes and the occasional BMW.

In the right setting and the right light, hey, we’re happy.

But not at the gym. Or the beach. Or when we have to run to the grocery store but feel self-conscious because we’re wearing ratty jeans and an old t-shirt and we haven’t showered and we think everyone is staring at us and jeez can we just get out of here already.

So we spend considerable time each day avoiding any situation that makes us feel uncomfortable about how we look or act. And that makes us miserable.

In reality no one really cares how we look… except us. (And maybe our significant others, but remember they’ve already seen us at our worst, so that particular Elvis has definitely left the building.)

So do this. Undress and stand in front of the mirror. (And don’t do the hip-turn shoulder-twist move to make your waist look slimmer and your shoulders broader.)

Take a good look. That’s who you are. Chances are you won’t like what you see, but you’ll probably also be surprised you don’t look as bad as you suspected.

If you don’t like how you look, decide what you’re willing to do about it and start doing it. Just don’t ever compare yourself to someone like her or him; your only goal is to be a better version of the current you.

If you aren’t willing to do anything about what you see in the mirror, that’s fine too. Move on. Let it go. Stop worrying about how you look. Stop wasting energy on something you don’t care enough about to fix.

Either way, remember that while the only person who really cares how you look is you, many people care about the things you do.

Looking good is fun. Doing good makes you happy.

5. We have no one to call at 3 a.m. Years ago my house was on a river. A hurricane put my house in the river. I had about an hour to move as much as I could and I called my friend Doug. I knew he would come, no questions asked.

Today, aside from family, I’m not sure whom I would feel comfortable calling.

I know you have lots of friends, but how many people do you feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night if you need help? How many people can you tell almost anything and you know they won’t laugh? How many people can you feel comfortable sitting with for a long time without either of you speaking?

Most of us wear armor that protects us from insecurity. That armor also makes us lonely, and it’s impossible to be happy when you’re lonely.

Take off your armor and make some real friends. It’s easier than it sounds, because other people long to make real friends too. Don’t worry; they’ll like the real you. And you’ll like the real them.

And all of you will be much happier.

6. We mistake structure for control. Most of what we do, especially professionally, is based on trying to maintain control: Processes, guidelines, strategies… everything we plan and implement is designed to control the inherently uncontrollable and create a sense of security in a world filled with random occurrences. (Did I just go all philosophical? Sorry.)

Eventually those efforts fall short because structure never equals control. No matter how many guidelines we establish for ourselves, we often step outside them. (Otherwise we’d all be slim, trim, fit, and rich.)

Budgets and diets and five-year plans fall apart and we get even more frustrated because we didn’t achieve what we planned or hoped. To-do lists and comprehensive daily schedules are helpful, but you only make real progress towards a goal when it means something personal.

Decide what you really want to do and go after it. You’ll feel a real sense of control because you really care.

And when you truly care — about anything — you’re a lot happier.

7. We’ve stopped failing. Most of us do everything we can to avoid failure. That’s a natural instinct with an unnatural by-product: We start to lose the ability to question our decisions.

And we lose the ability to see our ourselves from another person’s point of view. The ability to work with and lead others is compromised when we lose perspective on what it’s like to nothave all the answers – and what it’s like to make mistakes.

So go out and fail, but not in the way you might think. Forget platitudes like, “In business, if you aren’t failing you aren’t trying.” Business failures cost time and money that most of us don’t have. (My guess is “failure” doesn’t appear as a line item in your operating budget.)

Instead fail at something outside of work. Pick something simple that doesn’t take long and set a reach goal you know you can’t reach. If you normally run two miles, try to run five. If you play a sport, play against people a lot better than you. If you must choose a business task, cold call ten prospects.

Whatever you choose, give it your all. Leave no room for excuses. Make sure you can only be judged on your merits… and will be found wanting.

Why? Failure isn’t defeating; failure is motivating.

Failure also provides a healthy dose of perspective, makes us more tolerant and patient, and makes us realize we’re a lot like the people around us.

When you realize you aren’t so different or “special” after all it’s a lot easier to be happy with the people around you — and happy with yourself.

For ways to make other people a little happier:

(photo courtesy flickr user shawncampbell)



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Failure Is Not The Worst Outcome, Mediocrity Is

Later in this article, I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t know about Drew Houston, the founder and CEO of Dropbox.

I’m a big fan of Drew. I have known him for many years (well before he started Dropbox) and am honored to call him a friend. I will cancel plans with my wife to hang out with Drew if he and I happen to be in the same city. There are only a few people I’d do that for. Plus, it helps that she loves Dropbox and uses it every day.

Disclosure: Drew is on the advisory board for my company, HubSpot.

There’s one big lesson and insight I want to draw out from Drew and Dropbox’s story.

The worst outcome for a startup is not failure — its mediocrity. When I first met Drew, he was still working for a local Boston-area software company called Bit9 (in the security space, and they’re still around). Good company. Drew was in the midst of working on a startup idea that was in the SAT prep space (the company was called “Accolade”). I met with Drew for dinner to talk about Accolade and his plans for it. Candidly, I was not a big fan of the idea, and told him so. It was a super-competitive category, it was going to be hard to differentiate. Most importantly though, I was not sure how big of an opportunity it was. I just didn’t see it being a big, “break-out” business.

I knew that Drew was really smart — but I didn’t have enough evidence to know if he was going to be a great entrepreneur. I know many, many really smart people. Few of them have what it takes to be great entrepreneurs. As it turns out, Drew is one of those people, but I didn’t know it at the time.

Continuing the story…Drew ultimately ended up abandoning the SAT prep idea to do something different. He had this other idea for syncing files across multiple devices. It was a problem he faced himself. It too was a highly competitive market — but it was a really big one.

Here’s the big lesson: Many founders think that the worst outcome you can have in a startup is failure. You try something and it fails. And yes, failing is no fun. But, what’s worse than failing is going sideways for years and years. The worst is being stuck in a quagmire of mediocrity. Things are going reasonably well, but not spectacularly well. The reason mediocrity is worse than failure is very simple: Failure lets you move on, mediocrity stalls you and keeps you from reaching your potential.

It’s not knowable as to whether Accolade (Drew’s SAT prep startup) would have been a phenomenal success or not. But, it’s doubtful that it had near the potential that Dropbox did. Had Drew “stuck to it” with Accolade, it’s likely that Dropbox would have never happened and tens of millions people (including me and my wife) would have been less happy. And, of course, Drew would have been worse off for it. As he will tell you, Dropbox has been super-fun and super-gratifying. We all dream to have a startup like that someday.

It would have been a sub-optimal use of talent and energy for Drew to have gotten stuck in a quagmire of mediocrity. Not a complete waste of his time — because few entrepreneurial endeavors are wastes of time, just sub-optimal.

Imagine if all the founders that are currently stuck in “sideways” startups could somehow pull themselves out of the muck, clean themselves off, and take another crack at becoming legendary. How much better off would they and the world be?

Of course, there’s one big counter-argument to all of this. How do you know whether you’re stuck in a quagmire? Isn’t startup success often about persistence and focus? What if that break-out success is just around the corner. Those are good questions. The simple answer is: There are no simple answers. If it were me, the question I would ponder is this: If 90% of everything started going “right” with your startup, what will it become? (I’ll call this the “wave the magic wand”, best-case scenario). If the answer does not please you, and you’ve been at your current idea for a while, I’d ponder a change.

The danger of “ramen profitability”: One of the great things about software startups today is that it’s very possible to reach “ramen profitability”. This is where the company is making enough money that the founders can live on Ramen Noodles. That’s also one of the bad things. Once you get to “ramen profitability”, running out of cash is no longer a way to know that you should be starting afresh and trying something new. You can run a startup like that indefinitely — and many entrepreneurs will do just that, instead of building the next Dropbox and becoming legendary.

One point I’d like to clarify: I’m not suggesting that stable, sustainable businesses with modest growth are a bad thing. Just that if the business is not something the founder is passionate about — she should move on. Life is short. We don’t all need to build the next Dropbox — but we all should stretch ourselves. It reminds me of an idea that Tim O’Reilly planted in my head:Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried.

Easy to say, very hard to do. It’s easy for me to say “Hey, you should abandon that startup you’re working on that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere,” but that is sooo much easier said than done. I’ve struggled with that very problem myself. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to give up something you’ve toiled away at. It’s hard to all of a sudden admit “you know, my friends may have been right…” It’s hard, because we’re human and we become emotionally attached to the things we build. Particularly things we’ve had to defend against the cold, hard world. Things we’ve had to nurture and defend. Things that in some ways define our identity. I have no brilliant insights other than: Be honest with yourself and be mindful of your opportunity cost.Life is short. We have a limited amount of time to achieve our potential.

Version 1 of this article originally appeared here: Insight From Dropbox

Image credit to to



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Six Powerful Ways to Stand Out at Work


Great employees spend the majority of their time helping other people succeed: Their company, their employees, their customers and vendors and suppliers… the list goes on and on.

Great employees also spend some time helping themselves succeed, both for “selfish” reasons and because their success creates success for others.

To succeed you must stand out from the crowd. Here are six ways:

Be first with a purpose.

Lots of employees, managers, and business owners are the first to arrive each day. That’s great, but what do you do with that time? Organize your thoughts? Get a jump on your email?

Instead of taking care of your stuff, do something visibly worthwhile for the company. Take care of unresolved problems from the day before. Set things up so it’s easier for employees to hit the ground running when they come in. Chip away at an ongoing project others ignore.

Don’t just be the one who turns on or off the lights – be the one who gets in early or stays late in order to get things done. Not only will your performance stand out, you’ll also start to…

Be known for something specific.

Meeting standards, however lofty those standards may be, won’t help you stand out.

So go above the norm. Be the leader known for turning around struggling employees. Be the owner who makes a few deliveries a week to personally check in with customers. Be the manager who consistently promotes from within. Be known as the employee who responds quicker, acts faster, or always follows up.

Pick a worthwhile mission, then excel at that mission. People will notice.

Create your own side project.

Excelling at an assigned project is expected. Excelling at a side project helps you stand out.

For example, years ago I decided to create a Web-based employee handbook my then-employer could put on the company Intranet. I worked on it at home on my own time. Some managers liked it but the HR manager didn’t so it died an inglorious death.

I was disappointed, but the company wasn’t “out” anything, and soon after I was selected for a high visibility company-wide process improvement team because my little project made me “that guy.”

The same applies for a business owner. Experiment on a new process or service with a particular customer in mind. The customer will appreciate how you tried, without being asked, to better meet their needs, and your business will become “that business.”

Put your muscle where your mouth is.

Lots of people take verbal stands. Few take a stand and put effort behind their opinions.

Say you think a project has gone off the rails; instead of just pointing out its flaws so you can show everyone how smart you are, jump in and help fix it.

Everyone talks about problems. The people who help fix them stand out.

Show a little of your personal side.

Personal interests help other people to identify and remember you. That’s a huge advantage for a new employee or a company competing in a crowded market.

Just make sure your personal interests don’t overshadow professional accomplishments. Being “the guy who does triathlons” is fine, but being “the guy who is always training and traveling to triathlons so we can never reach him when we need him” is not.

Let people know a little about you; a few personal details add color and depth to your professional image.

Work harder than everyone else.

Nothing – nothing – is a substitute for hard work. Look around: How many people are working as hard as they can?

Very few.

The best way to stand out is to out-work everyone else.

It’s also the easiest way, because you’ll be the only one trying.

More of my Inc. articles:

(photo courtesy flickr user lestaylorphoto)



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