15 Ways to stay relevant vs just getting by?

Firms of all kinds, even under the stress of competition, do not relentlessly improve.   They do what they’ve become comfortable doing, what lets them get by. – Albert O. Hirschman – Economist

Every Friday evening when I was a kid during the 1970’s my parents would take us shopping.   We would go to the Sears store and JC Penney.   My mom seemed to always get something.   As the Christmas holiday approached we were always excited to get the Christmas catalogs from both stores.   Later when my wife and I had our own kids we enjoyed going through the Christmas toy catalogs with the kids and it was a great source for getting ideas on what to buy for the kids for Christmas.   The first Sears catalog was published in 1888 which was 106 years before the creation of Amazon.   Sears demise was not directly impacted by Amazon, the likes of Wal-Mart and other big box stores such as Best Buy probably sealed their fate.   However, when you think about it, like so many big businesses and situations, if Sears could have reacted properly to the challenges, instead of just getting by,  if they would have kept the catalog business viable and embraced the internet quickly there may not have been a need for Amazon.

How do you stay viable and vital and not just get by?

Think about these industries and companies that lost their way and faded out or are facing massive threats to the base revenue and profitably.

  1. The cable industry is under threat from streaming services and customers that have pursued other options allowing them to cut the cord.  The goals to watch anywhere, reduce cost, and eliminate commercials.  Cable TV is just too expensive and does not allow users enough ability to customize their service.   My family might watch 15 to 20 stations.   Why do I have to pay for over 100?
  2. Nitendo’s revenue in 2009 was almost $19 Billion versus $4.3 billion in 2017.   What happened?  Nintendo has done a good job of coming up with new console’s, the DS, Wii, and now the Switch, however they have not been able to return to the glory day’s when console gaming was king.   They have been disrupted by mobile gaming, iPhones and Androids as well as the shift to online gaming.  They got killed by apps. The gaming industry continues to grow, however Nintendo is stuck in the mode of a console maker versus a game maker.  Nintendo has had the ability to be a tremendous story teller and develop characters and franchises that rival Disney characters.   Pokémon, Mario, and Zelda have been tremendous success for them.   But they failed to adapt, maybe the should have build a phone?

As with companies, individuals face challenges both personally and professionally.   Staying viable and not just getting by are important to maintaining your success.   How do you stay relevant, how do you continue to sharpen the saw, and build  your skills.

Staying Relevant

Some ideas on staying relevant come from three  of my favorite self help or business books of all time are 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Awaken the Giant Within, and Getting Things Done.   So here we go, my list and the ideas on staying relevant vs. just getting by.

  1. Begin with the end in mind – Imagine the caption on your tomb stone, what does it say?   What would you like it to say?   Thinking about your mortality is  for some a long ways out or hard to do, however beginning with the end in mind can apply to a day, a dinner party, a vacation, a month, a year, a review with your boss, a feedback session with an employee.   The take away is what is the vision for success for this event, this year, this decade, or your life.   How does it end?   When you have a challenging person in your business, a pending tough customer meeting, imagining the outcome you want and then preparing for that outcome, and directing yourself to secure that outcome is a tremendous tool.    Does it always work?  No, does it always help, yes.
  2. Sharpening the Saw – How are your skills?   When is the last time you went to a training course, read a book on an area you are thinking needs some improvement.   In today’s world, through apps, blogs, Youtube, etc, we have tremendous ability to improve our skills.   Try a local Meet Up, join Toast Masters, enroll in a continuing education program, listen to podcast.   There are tremendous amounts of resources available today to allow you to sharpen that saw, build those skills.
  3. First things first – This habit was one of my favorites from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it must have been to a lot of other people because Stephen Covey wrote an entire book called First Things First about this chapter.  This habit is one of the one of the hardest to do.   Unfortunately, the things that are the most urgent tend to be the least important.   The most successful people are good a compartmentalizing.   Breaking down parts of there day for certain actions.    Allocating minimal time to the things that are not important and focusing on the areas that are.   I now people that get 200+ emails a day.    Managing email is part of your work, however, it is not your work.    Taking care of your customers, your family and yourself first is the most important thing.
  4. Decisions – Fail Fast –  One of my favorite quotes. “You are exactly where you are supposed to be in life, because of all the decisions that you made that got you to this point in your life.”   Decisions are funny things, when you make one and your wrong it is disappointing, when you don’t make one and you could have benefited your disappointed.   The key to make decisions, if your wrong make another decision.   Silicon Valley likes to say “fail fast”.   Define the problem, list alternative solutions, if you can’t think of any solutions, consult friends, family, the internet or a professional and make a decision.   Do not get stuck in analysis paralysis.
  5. Values, beliefs – What are your values?   Do you know someone that appear to have values that resonate with you?   Understanding what your values are is important to creating a happy life.   Do you value family time, or money, or hard work.   You need to look at your values and determine if any of them are in conflict with each other.    For example, if you value money or wealth and want lots of free time, these might be in conflict with each other.    According to Tony Robbins,  “Your beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy”.  The book and the movie title The Secret is all about your belief system.    How you think has a huge impact on how you act.   If you do not like the results that your are getting in life it might be tied to your belief system.
  6. Habits – Routines –  On Monday morning all the flowers get watered and I top off the fish tank.   In the summer I walk every morning before work at 6 am.   I have little bags of vitamins I pack for my desk and brief case to help me remember to take my vitamins.   These are some of my habits that help me maintain some level of control in my life.   I am a big believer in habits and establishing more positive habits and routines.     Good habits and routines have the power to create and bad habits have the power to destroy.   I have recently started using the app Strides which is a habit tracker.   I am only using the free version but I am enjoying it and I find it helpful.
  7. Goals – Vision Boards –  Zig Ziglar said, “You got have goals!”   Write them down, look at the daily, out line a plan for each goal.   What are the steps, the training, the contacts you need to accomplish that goal.    Prioritize the steps and take the first step.   You will be amazed at the impact.
  8. Mastermind group –  I have never formally been in a mastermind group.   The phrase was first coined by Napoleon Hill in the book Think and Grow Rich.   I have informally used this by talking through challenges with friends and family.   I plan to start a Mastermind Group to help me stay on track with my online business and other personal challenges.
  9. Prayer and Motivational Reading –  My wife bought me and annual subscription to the monthly Magnificat.  For me it is an easy way to read the bible on a daily basis.   The bible is a great way to put things into perspective.   I realize that the problems that people are having today are the same types of problems that they had 2000 years ago.   They tend to just be in a different format.   I also follow a lot of Stoic twitter feeds.   To the same effect as reading the bible the Stoics talk about solutions and problems that were during Roman times.  I received The Daily Stoic for my birthday and I am enjoying it.
  10. Exercise – Diet and exercise, how many times have you heard that?   It can be all work and no play.   Exercise has to be a part of your life.    I have a new Garmin Vivoactive Smart Watch which has a great heat beat monitor.   I find that when I do cardio exercises training with a heart monitor is a great way for me to get a much better work out.   I also does all the other stuff a fitness tracker, like counting your steps and so on.   I belong to Planet Fitness.   I know that by working it out I feel better both physically and mentally.
  11. Nutrition – You can’t out exercise your mouth.   Diet and nutrition is a challenge that I continue to work on as an adult.   Like to many people I fall off the wagon more often then I stay on it and start to clean up holiday cookies and wonder why I gained weight.   If you feel sluggish and unhealthy, it could be your diet.   I no longer drink pop, I found a long time ago I have a sensitivity to sugar.   It make me crash.    I have been replacing breads and grains with more lean proteins.   Lot’s of egg white omelettes with veggies and onions in the morning.   Ton’s of fruit, including smoothies with chia seeds, flax seeds and PB powder.   I use to eat sandwiches all the time, now I will just eat the lean lunch meat or a can of tuna right from the can.
  12. Venues – It’s all about the venue –  I have several places, cities, events where I just feel extra alive.   They include the FCA Chrysler Tech Center, the GM Tech Center, any college campus, any library, my 10×10 office that I rented in my town, I could ride my bike there.   These venues provide me with something extra, it’s like super caffeine without the jitters and doesn’t keep me up at night either.  The venue is important because it provides a place to get certain things done.   If that venue is your living room it might be for movie watching or reading, relaxing etc. and that is great.   But you might not want to work or study there.   When you are working to accomplish something, pick the right venue, go to a library and work on that book, join a shared work space like Wework.    A friend of mine has his home office in a basement closet.   It is not as fancy as Wework, but it works for him.   When he is in his closet office he works.
  13. To do lists – In the booking, Getting Things Done one of the tips is about lists and folders and having a system or method to go back to those lists and folders to make sure things are getting done.   I am big fan of Evernote, I have over 380 notes in Evernote.   It allows me to keep track of employees, personal to do lists, projects, business ideas.   The key is you need a list and for someone like me I need a lot of different lists because I am involved in a lot of different projects.
  14. Keeping it simple – What would this look like if it was easy – Plan your work and then work your plan.   Looks at the systems in your work and life.   The way things get done, are they easy or difficult.   Do you have the ability to change them to make the system easier.   No one has time for busy work and if the system is difficult or broken, it might be a good time to.   Just like venues, that I mentioned above you need to schedule time for things in your life and stick to the schedule.   We can’t do email all day long and think we are making progress.
  15. Repairing or Preparing – The final point is a saying from a friend of mine, a former plant manager in Atlanta.   He said an old boss of his once said, in business your either repairing or preparing.   The point here is if you spend more time preparing for an event or a project.   You may not need to spend as much time repairing after something goes poorly.   Great advice and thanks for reading.

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