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An ant in Virginia taught me a lesson recently. No, it isn't a misspelling, I am not talking about one of my family members. I am talking about the little crawly animal that showed me a neat example of what we big people do so often.

I was on vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains and, one morning, I sat out on the grass lawn outside the house I was staying at. I brought out my breakfast, which consisted of a crumbly piece of cake, and I was determined to do nothing more significant than to sit and enjoy the peace and silence. A crumb must have fallen from my cake as I noticed a brave ant dragging a piece away. The piece must have been close to double the size of the ant and I was incredibly impressed with the determination that this ant was showing. In a regular busy day, I probably wouldn't have even taken the time to notice but it was quite amusing to watch the scene. I was cheering the ant on, it looked like that big crumb would feed at least a few hungry offspring. I am sure it would have won lots of praise from the top brass at the ant hill as well.

All seemed to be going so well. But then... A huge piece of the crumb broke off.

At first, the ant stood still, obviously surprised by this new development. It was left with a tiny piece of the original crumb in its mouth and it was assessing what to do from then. I figured it had an easy choice to make. Drop the small crumb, pick up the big piece, you silly thing! In fact, by now, there were lots of other pieces, all different sizes and the ant could have had its pick.

What I saw, shocked me a little. The ant, refusing to let go of the little piece, tried to pick up one of the bigger pieces. Obviously, its mouth was full and so it was unsuccessful in its attempts. I watched as the ant tried to do this a number of times and then, at last, trotted off with just that little piece in its mouth.

Aren't we just like that?

We may start with a situation just like the ant. We find an exciting new opportunity, we move to a new place, we are in a great relationship, we get a fabulous new job. Or, so it seems. Hopefully, it really is the way it seems but, so often, something changes on us. Market conditions change and what seemed like a great opportunity is now gone. The great relationship was great at first but, years later, we have gone in different directions and the love of the beginning has turned into an obligation. All of a sudden, we are no longer holding the big crumb we had at the beginning. Unfortunately, often we don't recognize that and try to hold on for dear life to the little that is left. As we do that, we are either oblivious to the other great opportunities around us, or we are simply too scared to let go of the little crumb we already hold.

After all, if we let go of the little crumb, what if there is nothing to pick up after that? What if someone will take even that little crumb away?

The trouble is that, when we have our mouth full with the little crumb, there is no space for the bigger one. However strange it may feel to put the little crumb down, we have to do so before we can grab one of the big crumbs. Funny, the big one is often so close we don't see it.

Are there any little crumbs in your life that you have been holding on to for far too long? A job? Grudges? Old skills? Let go. No worries. When you let go, there will likely be a big crumb waiting for you!

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One of the toughest things about being an entrepreneur is that there is no boss to provide structure to projects. The same goes for the top person in a company, the coach of a sports team, the person stuck in a situation they don't like but have little incentive to change. How do we do move forward on tough tasks?

Quite often, I hear people say that seminars don't work because they got excited at the seminar, went home and nothing changed. When I ask if they implemented what they learned, I tend to hear things like "well, no , I got too busy with my regular life".

After attending law school, I realized I could have just as easily learned all of the material on my own. With deference to the professors, most of the information taught in class would have been just as available in all the textbooks found in the library. But... Would have I learned it all? Not likely. Why? The only difference between being in a structured program and doing it alone is that the program has a) deadlines, and b) consequences for not meeting the deadlines. I know for a fact that I would not have stayed up late at night studying my brains out if those two factors were not there.

The absence of these two factors is the reason for why so many great intentions never make it to the action stage. Extra weight isn't lost, we are stuck in an old job because we don't take the time to look for a better one. How do we trick our innate "laziness"? There are two ways I have found for me to work consistently. One is to sign up for a course or to hire a trainer. That way, the learning structure is provided. The other way is to create a specific deadline for a specific project and make a promise to someone whose opinion I really care about.

Is there a project or a new habit that has been on the back burner? Sign up for a course, hire a trainer, or just tell your best friend and give them permission to sit on your head until the task is done. Look for a structure that will make it simpler and easier for you to do what you want than not to do it!

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How easy it is to assume that when someone says something to us, we know exactly what they are saying. How easy it is to assume that, in fact, they know exactly what they are saying. How easy to do this in sales.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a potential client who was referred to me by a past client. He asked if I would be able to come in and teach their sales staff some better telephone sales techniques. Apparently, they were looking for better closing techniques to use. Immediately, I thought to myself that a good friend of mine would be far better suited for this assignment.

Unfortunately for my friend, I started to ask questions to clarify what, in fact, this company wanted to have happen. After asking a number of questions about the company's current situation, the salespersons' training and performance, the goals of the company, the parts of the sales process that are working and the parts that are not, we both arrived at the conclusion that the company would benefit a lot more from something entirely different than telephone skills. Funny. I wouldn't have guessed.

In your sales process, do you assume that your customers know what they want when they ask for something? Ask questions about what they need and why. Don't assume. Clarify, for the customer's sake and yours!

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"Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently."
Henry Ford


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"Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently."
Henry Ford






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