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Business Lessons from an Unlikely Source: Children’s Books

Business Lessons from an Unlikely Source: Children’s Books


    Being the father of a 5-year-old, my reading on succeeding in business often includes two classics of business that my daughter also likes: ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham’.

    These business books take two very different approaches to business and to me, ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is the clear winner.

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    Both books deal with the same scenario: you face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. In ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, Sam I Am (our protagonist) needs to sell a plate of food to a customer who presents a valid argument against the purchase: he doesn’t like green eggs and ham. For the engine in ‘The Little Engine That Could’, he needs to climb a mountain while hauling clowns and animals.

    ‘The Little Engine that Could’ is the guidebook for people who confuse effort with results, and is a triumph against the odds. This theme makes for great movies (or children’s books), but is a bad strategy in business. Here’s what’s so terribly wrong about The Little Engine and his chances of succeeding:

    • He is totally unprepared. He wasn’t in shape to climb the mountain.
    • He had no resources. He was an Engine on tracks; he had no flexibility in his goal.
    • Despite this, he lost his focus on getting over the hill — reducing his chances to overcome his obstacle by taking on more clowns and animals at each stop. while well-intentioned, he risks failure by reducing his chances of success.

    Our little Engine — our Rocky Balboa of the railroad set — certainly achieved the impossible. He was setting himself up to fail, yet didn’t because of the author’s simplistic, misguided belief of the following:

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    “If we just try hard enough, it will happen.”

    A lot of business books appear to be based on this. That said, a lot of business books are fit only to keep wobbly tables from rocking back and forth.

    Let’s compare this with Sam I Am from the Dr. Seuss classic:

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    • Sam is prepared – nothing in the book indicates that he was somehow unfit to do the pitch.
    • Sam has multiple resources – foxes, boxes, trains, planes, cars & boats are all at his disposal in order to help sell through the situation. Sam had a network to support him.
    • Sam was focused on his goal – to sell-in those green eggs and ham, but was willing to change his approach.
    • Sam built upon the sell-in incrementally. He didn’t start with all the resources at his disposal, he started small and built upon them incrementally. During this time, he was building a rapport with the potential customer, even though repeatedly rejected. Sam didn’t let rejection stop him, and never took it personally, but used it to alter his approach, and his positive attitude throughout prevented him from becoming off-putting – his customer never rejected Sam as a person.
    • Sam was clear in his message and did not make the mistake that many salespeople do: he asked for the business, clearly and unequivocally.
    • Sam did not dilute his message by offering green coffee, or throwing in a complementary happy meal toy to attempt to get the sale in the face of obstacles. He believed in his product and showed persistence, dedication, and flexibility by offering the customer numerous options while staying on-message.

    In the end, Sam I Am showed the more realistic business approach — combined with a solid work ethic — and was provided the resources and training to succeed. (It is also perhaps the only business book written that rhymes.)

    While both protagonists had the will to succeed, Sam was set for success with his adaptability, focus, and understanding of the marketplace.

    So…would you rather have Sam marketing your product or that Engine?

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    (Photo credit: Children Enjoying Reading via Shutterstock)

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    Business Lessons from an Unlikely Source: Children’s Books

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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