Dreaming in 3D

“What do you want to do when you grow up?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“What’s your mission in life?”

We’ve all been confronted by these daunting questions at sometime or another, usually in a job interview or a motivational workshop.   But last week I had a client who was truly stuck.  He had been asked to write a vision statement for his small business and he was lost in the weeds and wandering everywhere in search of his dream.

I asked him to send me a copy of his work and sure enough he was stuck.  He was stuck in the belief that his vision had to fit into the same mold as every other successful professional in his field.  He had attended enough seminars over the years to know what he was “suppose” to write but this time his heart wouldn’t let him get by with platitudes.

“Hears what I want you to do”, I said, “substitute the name of your most obvious competitor in your vision statement.”  Did the vision statement work?  If so, how could his competitor want the very same things?  What did it say about him that he could not distinguish himself from the other professionals up the street? Then I asked him to rewrite the vision statement  as though he was his biggest competitor.  Was it easier to dream big when he didn’t think someone would hold him accountable?

My friend is not alone.  In fact he is just like you and me.  We are so reluctant to put our dreams out there for fear that they may not happen, that we limit our dreams from the start.

We need to learn to dream in 3D.  We must take the time to add sound, color, action and feelings to our wants and desires.  The more vivid the thinking, the more we engage the brain and the more the brain is engaged the more likely the events are to happen.  No, I’m not talking about wishful thinking.  I’m talking about activating the reticular cortex.

Have you ever decided you wanted a new a car and you knew exactly the make, model and color?  When you finally got a vision fixed in your head, what happened?  Yep, everywhere you went you saw that dark blue Lexus SC 10 Convertible.  Yes they’re everywhere in Colorado!  What happens is your brain, the reticular cortex to be exact, now has a target. Once your brain has the assignment (the vision) the brain is honor bound to seek out those events that bring closure to your desire.  If your brain can spot a blue convertible a half-mile away, think how much it can help you carry out your career goals, relationship challenges or artistic endeavors.

My friend ended up with a vision statement that no other human being on earth could fulfill but him.  It took some soul-searching, praying and dreaming in 3D.  Now, he can’t help but accomplish what he has set out to do and will shortly find that his list is too short, too small and that there is so much more.

So, dream in many dimensions.  Dream in 3D.  And tell someone.  Erma Bombeck once said, “It takes a lot if courage to show your dreams to someone.”  Go ahead, be courageous and soon your dreams will be coming true.

Here’s to your success,

Linda K Sommer, MBA



Stuck on an escalator

For the past few weeks I have felt like I was stuck on an escalator. 

It’s not that I don’t know where I want to go.  I do.  It’s not that I don’t know how to get there.  I do.  It just feels like someone has turned off the power and I’m stuck.  Ever been there?

stuck on escalator video 

Stuck on an escalator? WATCH THIS

If you are in the workplace for any reason, you know that the recession, depression, dip, temporary lapse in economic good times is still very real.  We’re in a very slow recovery and potentially in the midst of profound change in how the world does business.  So that could explain my sense of powerlessness. 

But what I’m talking about is when I lose that personal power that moves me along my life track.  I lose that “I think I can, I think I can” storybook belief that all my efforts will result in advancement.

Like the couple in the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47rQkTPWW2I&feature=related) I could get mad, huff and puff, and wait to be rescued.  However, waiting for the repairmen really didn’t help much, now did it?  The help I need is inside me. 

I need to discover what I’m telling myself (that noisy self-talk) that’s preventing me from taking the next step even when the whole world seems to have stopped.

  • What don’t I see that everyone else does? 
  • What do I believe that about myself that no longer serves me well?
  • What “story” do I tell myself about the other people on the escalator with me?

Tough questions but the answers are priceless. 

Sometimes I need the help of an expert.  I have a coach and one of the roles of my coach is to help me see my “blind spots”.  He also helps me see where I have “hidden strengths”.  I need to ask for help…not the “waiting to be rescued” kind of help…but someone to come along side and run with me until I pickup speed again.

Mostly I just need to get on with it.   I can have my temper tantrum, curse the escalator repairman’s union, but I still need to start walking.  Just start walking.  I guess that why I have always like this quote by Thoreau. 

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,
he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

Henry David Thoreau

Hope all the escalators you encounter today are working but if they are not…just keep walking.


Linda K Sommer, MBA
Success Savvy LLC

Are you on the “A” list?

Lady Gaga and Cher both made the “A” list for the recent MTV Music Video Awards.  I confess to not following the action on MTV, but I have followed Cher since she was part of Sony and Cher.   Both ladies made newsworthy red carpet appearances because Lady Gaga was dressed in a gown made from “raw meat” and Cher recreated her 1989 “A” list appearance in an “If I Could Turn Back Time” era jumpsuit of see-through lace.

I am not an expert at what makes you qualified for the “A” list in Hollywood, but I do know some things that will get you on and keep you on the ”A” list in the corporate world. 

There are universal qualities that management looks for when they are accessing who’s a keeper and who is not.  And the good news is that you can learn to master these qualities.  So if you are young starlet or an industry icon, reviewing the list just might boost or save your career.  Here’s my corporate “A” list:  Ability, Agility, Awareness, Adaptability, and Ambition. 

ABILITY:  First, you need to demonstrate that you have the technical ability to do the job.  Managers are looking for people who are competent and who want to stay that way.  Star performers are life-long learners.  They seek out new knowledge, learn new skills and develop new abilities. 

AGILITY:  Next, your boss is looking for someone who can maneuver through the interpersonal and organizational maze that is unique to your company.  Your boss wants to know that you have the people skills to make things happen in the organizational.  In others words, do people in the organization like you, want to work with you, and are willing to do favors for you when needed? 

AWARENESS:   Research shows that the ability to understand your emotional intelligence is twice as important as mental IQ or technical skills for all levels of leadership. What really sets you apart is the extent that you know yourself.   This is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as your emotional impact on other people.  Self-awareness means that your have a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.

ADAPTIBILITY: Being quick on your feet in the changing world of business is one form of adaptability. Quick thinking and action are often greatly rewarded.  But what will really set you up to be a star is the ability to adapt or learn from your successful and not so successful experiences.  Lessons learned are not just for your project report.  Real winners are able to learn from their circumstances and adapt their leadership style for future challenges. 

AMBITION:  You have to want to be a star.  Your boss is looking for you take charge, go where others are afraid to go, and pursue goals with energy and persistence. You can step it up by taking on assignments that others don’t want or taking on risk that others avoid.  However, ambition for the sake of just getting ahead is short lived.

A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status is the best fuel for sustained advancement.  It pays to be doing something that you love.  A genuine strong drive to succeed is contagious and priceless.

So, how did you do?  Are you “A” list material?  If so…I’ll see you on the red carpet.

Linda K Sommer, MBA


Yesterday’s Solutions, Today’s Problem

Last Saturday, I was awaked by a frantic phone call from a friend to tell me that she has bed bugs in her apartment. My friend lives in an exclusive neighborhood and never dreamed she would be eaten alive by bugs that were supposed to be eradicated sixty years ago. 

If you do an Internet search on the minuet little creatures, you will learn that 1 in 10 New Yorker’s have dealt with this problem lately including such prestigious locations as Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, CNN and the Fox News Studios in Manhattan. Bergdorf Goodman has hired special dogs to sniff out the varmints at night so customers won’t be alarmed.

How can this be happening in the USA in 2010?  The origin to the pesky infestation comes from yesterday’s solution.  In 1960 Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring and gave birth to the environmental movement.  DDT, a powerful pesticide, was banned to prevent further contamination of the earth and now we have bed bugs from New York to Cincinnati and west.
Please understand that I am not advocating for the return of DDT although I am curious why someone hasn’t come up with something to control bedbugs, malaria and typhoid.  What I am suggesting is that we can solve a problem today and never know what we set in motion for tomorrow.
Solution or decisions that seem right at the time, may not always yield stellar outcomes because your decisions are separate from the outcomes. 
You cannot possibly control all the variables impacting future outcomes but you can ensure the best decision available.
Solution Exit
Here are some considerations that may help you make better decisions:
  • Are you asking the right questions?
  • Is your perspective big enough?
  • Have you assessed the risks and trade-offs?
  • Do you have meaningful and reliable information?
  • Do you have creative, realistic and attractive alternatives?
  • Do you have a logical method of evaluating your alternatives?
  • Have you involved key players in the decision from the beginning, building ownership and commitment along the way?
Rachel Carson probably did not foresee the current bed bug epidemic. Nor can you know all the ramifications of your decisions.  Even with your best efforts most of tomorrow’s problems will still be rooted in today’s solutions.
So, do the best with what you have.  Take your best shot.  And as my grandmother used to tell me, a half-century ago, “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
 Here’s to your success,
Linda K Sommer, MBA

Don’t Dress Your Cat in an Apron

The latest “back to school” ad campaign for Target has haunted me for weeks.  So last night I got up off the coach and climbed to the attic.  Way in the back, in a tattered cardboard box, I found our copy of Free to Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas.
As I reminisced about raising my daughters and the fun times we had reading this book, I came across their favorite poem.
Don’t Dress Your Cat in an Apron
by Dan Greenberg
Don’t dress your cat in an apron
Just ’cause he’s learning to bake.
Don’t put your horse on a nightgown
Just ’cause he can’t stay awake.
Don’t dress your snake in a mau-mau
Just ’cause he’s off on a cruise.
Don’t dress your whale in galoshes
If she really prefers overshoes.
A person should wear what they want to
And not just what other folks say.
A person should wear what she likes to-
A person’s a person that way.
In today’s economy, where knowledge and intellectual property can be more valuable than real property, where is the room to express our uniqueness?  Have we all been forced to dress alike?  To think alike? Wear overshoes when we prefer galoshes?
According to a Gallup survey in March 2009, only 30% of the US workers reported they were engaged, 52% were not engaged, and 18% were actively disengaged. Recently, the American Psychological Association reported that 74% of Americans said that work is their main source of stress, up from 59% the year before.  (See current Gallup Engagement results at http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs079/1103326742406/archive/1103605445382.html)
Perhaps if we let people bring their “real” self to the workplace a whole new world would open up.  You’d see snakes in mau-maus and giraffes in sneakers. Would that be all bad?  I think not.
My girls are grown women pursuing their own dreams now but I thank Marlo Thomas and Dan Greenberg for what small part they played in teaching them that “a person’s and person that way.”
 Here’s to your success,
Linda K Sommer, MBA

Indispensable or irreplaceable…NOT

“You are neither indispensable nor irreplaceable … you’re fired,” I said.
That moment is one of the most vivid memories I have from my days as a manager.  I don’t remember the circumstances all that well.  I do remember those words that have haunted me for over fifteen years.  If indispensible and irreplaceable is the standard I used for that employee it should also apply to me.
Actually he was fired because of an infraction of company rules.  But because he was neither indispensible nor irreplaceable, it made it much easier to let him go.  How would you measure up, if the indispensible-irreplaceable rule was applied to you?
Let me say that just because you think you are the only one who can do your job, does not mean that others see it that way. 
Seth Godin in his book, Lynchpin says “The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.”
Here are a couple of tips on how to secure your position.
Tip #1: Take on the unwanted.  If there is a project, an employee, or a problem that no one wants to deal with volunteer to tackle it.  You may have to put real emotional energy into making it work, but you will get the reputation as a problem solver. And that’s priceless.
Tip #2: Be the connector.  Make connections with people who are valuable to your endeavor.  Share your connections.  What if you introduce your boss to his next successor? You will be seen as the one to bring a “star” into the company.  That makes you valuable beyond belief.
Tip #3: Do your own thing.  Learn to create at work.  It may be only a small percentage of your time at work but put some effort into bringing your unique gifts to the workplace.  Let your passion  peek through in the workplace.
If you are a leader, the best way to make yourself indispensible is to become dispensable.  Give way your knowledge, empower others and help them develop.  Theodore Roosevelt said, “the best executive is one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and the self-resistant enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Being unique, creating something new and giving way your secrets are all scary things (see the “Whatever I want…” article in the Success Savvy Ezine archives.)  But when I think back to the day I fired that young man, I always am convicted about how I’m being indispensable and irreplaceable.  How about you?
Here’s to your success,
Linda K Sommer, MBA

Soccer mishap

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Only today it’s a video not a picture. Don’t read any further until you check out this 20 second You Tube video about mixed signals. (Click here.)

We have all been there. You think you have communicated clearly what direction you want your team to go and as soon as you are finished talking, people go off in their own direction. Ouch!

Here is a little formula for getting requests right.

Request = Who + What + When = Promise

Request: For starters, “I am thirsty” is not a request for a drink of water. It’s whining and hoping someone will rescue you. A request involves a committed speaker and a committed listener. A committed speaker doesn’t make a request as she waltzes past your cubicle nor does she do it while tending to the paper clutter on her desk. A committed listener is equally focused on the conversation and ready to respond. Anything less and you create a monster miscommunication.

A request is a commitment to take future action combined with the conditions of satisfaction. Last night I ask my husband to take me out to dinner and I end up with a “Whopper”. Guess I forgot to include the conditions of satisfaction with my request. Burger King was not on my list of “dinner” options.

Who: If you suddenly become ill and slump to the ground, most people will pass you by, not because they are cruel or indifferent but because they don’t know that you want ‘their’ help. Survival experts say that in order to get help you need to call out to a specific person. “Hey, you in the red shirt…call 911!” General requests for help often go unfulfilled. “We need to get this client proposal out the door,” does not clarify who will do what to get the job done.

What: Here’s where the conditions for satisfaction come it. State what you want but put it in context and set the standards as you make the request. “Will you write the narrative to the proposal? I would like you to use the template from the job we won last week.”

When: As soon as possible can be three hours, three days or three months. Don’t assume that your sense of time is the same as everyone else. Get a clear dead line that both parties agree to.

Promise: You are not done until the other person responds with a yes, no or maybe. Don’t assume you have agreement until you have agreed to the terms.

The poor emergency workers trying so hard to help the injured soccer player thought they had agreed but in the confusion they still went their separate ways. Try keeping your language clear when making requests and I guarantee you will drop the “player” less often.

Here’s to your success,

Linda Sommer, MBA