Competitiveness: Friend or Foe?

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Competitiveness. It can be one of your greatest assets—or it can kill you. (Yes, there’s probably a middle ground in there, but I like to start these things off with a bang.) Like fire, it depends on how you use it. So how do you know if you’re on the right track? How do you know if you’re using competitiveness for good or evil? Like many business insights, the answer hit me this morning at the gym.

My gym is festooned ...

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Your CEO Style: Are You Ringo or Keith Moon?

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I just finished reading a New York Times column by David Brooks where he discusses which traits and abilities are most important for a successful CEO. He cites a number of surveys and studies, and they all (at least the ones he cites) seem to generally agree on what it really takes to make it as the head honcho. Somewhat counterintuitively, the best CEOs (that is, the CEOs of the best performing companies) don’t tend ...

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Are You Working Too Hard?

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The first words of the title track of the Beatles’ first movie are, “It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog.” Does that sound like your life? If so, I’d like to suggest that maybe, just maybe, you’re working harder than you have to. Please note: I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t work hard. As I’ve pointed out before, Paul McCartney once said, “The reason we were twice as good as anyone else is because ...

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How Are You Using Your Time?

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I waste way too much time. When you work for yourself, that’s real easy to do. Although, come to think of it, when I worked for other people I wasted way too much time as well. I’m trying to get better, which is why I’m writing this now. I’m sitting in a lounge in Dulles airport and I’ve got 20 minutes before I need to board my flight to Seattle. My choice—and the choice we all have virtually every waking ...

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5 Bits of Business Wisdom from Mom

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Happy Mothers Day! The Beatles wrote a song called Your Mother Should Know (it’s on the Magical Mystery Tour album), so I thought it would be appropriate on this day to talk about five things that mothers do know that business leaders should know as well—but sometimes don’t. Because, after all, mother knows best!

  1. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t rush recklessly into the “traffic” of your business: decisions, new ventures, partnerships, etc. Make sure you know what ...
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The Magic of Lifelong Learning

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When is the last time you learned something new? And I’m talking about real, purposeful learning (as in, say, learning Italian) as opposed to mundane, everyday learning (as in, “Really? Cousin Mary’s having a baby? How wonderful!”) I’m talking about the kind of learning that takes a conscientious effort, and that really works the old brain muscle. If you’re like many people, your answer probably begins with some variation of, “Well, let’s see. I left college in….”

And that’s not good ...

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A Proven Formula for Failure

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When I was back in high school, a friend of mine started a rock and roll band which lasted all of a week. When I asked him why they broke up, he said, “Well, we had one practice, and it was pretty clear that we’d never be as good as the Beatles, so we quit.” Leaving aside the question of whether one practice session is really enough to determine, with certainty, that you’ll never be as good as the Beatles ...

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What Are Your Customers Really Telling You?

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At a conference I was speaking at, one of the other presenters was talking about customer service. He showed a photo of a storefront he had once seen; it was a small, mom and pop candy store. Taped to the front window was a hand-made sign on which was printed, in large, angry letters:

NO, WE DO NOT SELL ICE CREAM!!!

This conference happened several years ago, and although I don’t recall the name of the other presenter ...

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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So…where are you going to be when the recession ends? Because it will end, you know. Not that there’ll be a specific date, like V-E Day (that’s Victory in Europe Day for you kids in the audience—May 8, 1945, when Nazi Germany surrendered, ending the European portion of World War II; also for you kids in the audience, World War II was a big, big war that happened before you were born). But at some point the economy is going ...

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The Most Important Skill for the Future

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I saw a billboard the other day that said something to the effect of: “The top 15 careers of 2025 don’t even exist today.” Whether those numbers are accurate or not, they’re almost certainly in the ballpark. The point is, we can’t predict with any certainty what the challenges and opportunities will be even a few years down the pike. After all, in the 60s nobody was predicting anything remotely like the computer industry or the Internet, not to mention ...

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