Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

26th September 2007

What is the foundation of success?

What is the foundation of SUCCESS? What does it take to be successful? Is it character or personality that forms the basis of success? When i use the word ’success’, i mean success in every sphere of life – material, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

CHARACTER ETHIC Vs. PERSONALITY ETHIC

To quote from Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, Character Ethic is

things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule… Character Ethics are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.

Personality Ethic on the other hand can be summed as -

Success due to Personality Ethic is more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction.
There are other parts of the personality approach that are clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use the techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the “power look” or to intimidate their way through life.

I believe that character traits are like the foundation of a home and personality traits are like the look-and-feel of the home. Though both traits are needed, the primary trait is the character. If the foundation of the home is strong, the owner can live in peacefully trusting that the home will be able to protect him from harsh elements of nature even though it might not be appealing to look at. But if the home is appealing to look at and doesn’t have a strong foundation, it becomes unpredictable and you never know when it might collapse. You can’t trust your home.

If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other – while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity – then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything i do – even using so-called good human relations techniques – will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or not trust, there i no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique

To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don’t pay the price day in and out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind. So if there isn’t deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success.

There are of course people who have strong character traits (honesty, modesty, courage etc.) but they lack communication skills, and that undoubtedly affects the quality of relationships as well. But the effects are still secondary.

Many people with secondary greatness – that is, social recognition for their talents – lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later, you’ll see this in every long-term relationship they have, whether it is with a business associate, a spouse, or a friend. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.

This is so true. There are some people that I can trust absolutely because I know their character. Whether they have good people skills or not, whether they are well educated or not, I know I can rely on them and work successfully with them. These are the kind of people whom if I ask for advise, they will give it without any motive, whether its in their favor or not – no manipulations. And I can be pretty sure about the genuineness of their advise. Now, there are techniques whereby if they study a person enough and take appropriate actions, they can gain anyone’s trust to achieve their ultimate motive – harmful or harmless. But over time, it will show that these people are motive-driven and distrust and distance will creep in. Both are not good ingredients for success.

ENRON CEO – KENNETH LAY

Ken LayKenneth Lay was born into a poor family in Tyrone, Missouri. When he was a child Ken delivered newspapers and mowed lawns. He later went on to become one of America’s highest-paid CEOs, earning a $42.4 million compensation package in 1999. In December 2000, Lay was mentioned as a possible candidate for President Bush’s Treasury secretary. With his strong personality traits - a born salesman, risk-taker, and extremely pragmatic – he reached great heights in corporate America. While managing Enron, he took actions to bolster his public image,

Enron, was a groundbreaker in prohibiting smoking inside its shimmering high-rise office tower. So when you drove down Smith Street and caught sight of those nicotine addicts exiled to the sun-scorched pavement, the scene seemed to augur something new and advanced — a better way to live than that proffered by the old wildcatters who liked their whiskey, cigarettes and handshake deals. So Ken Lay held on to his public reputation as a good guy.

But what happened eventually to a man who didn’t have strong character foundation? Lay dumped large amounts of his Enron stock in September and October of 2001 as its price fell, while encouraging employees to buy more stock, telling them the company would rebound. Lay liquidated more than $300 million in Enron stock from 1989 to 2001, mostly in stock options. Would a man with strong character traits like integrity, honesty, courage and justice do what he did? No.

As one of his former executives, Mike Muckleroy, noted in his testimony, Mr. Lay tended to shade the truth under pressure as a businessman; As the lead prosecutor, Sean Berkowitz, pointed out, the trial wasn’t a litmus test of whether Ken Lay was a good person; <b>it was about his character at Enron</b>. Maybe Ken Lay will never be able to see himself for who he was, but by the time the jury took to their deliberations, most people in Houston felt they knew Ken Lay all too well.

Last five years of his life, he was under extreme stress and finally died of heart attack. And what do people still wish for him – hatred. What do people regret – that he died an easy death. What’s the legacy he left behind – a corrupt, selfish, greedy businessman who destroyed livelyhood and life-saving of thousands of people.

The Personality Ethic is illusory and deceptive. And trying to get high quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.

Strong Character Ethic is the foundation of success.

What do you value more in yourself and people around you?

  • Character traits like integrity, humility, courage, justice, patience, simplicity. (100%, 12 Votes)
  • Personality traits like public image, communication skills, attitudes and behaviors. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Doesn’t matter. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 12

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posted in success, think |
25th September 2007

How do you compete with free?

How do you compete with free products or with products that are already established before yours?

Get out there and do the work! Work to find how can you add value to consumers who use your product or service. Here are a couple of examples where a product or service compete against “free” or already established product or service.bottledwater.jpg

1) Bottled water vs. free tap water. Bottled water is $16 billion industry. But we have free water available so what are we paying $16 billion for? We’re buying the convenience. Bottled water goes with us to meetings, sport events, road trips, is by our bed at night, is with us on treadmill at the gym, and gives us company in our cubicles at work. Its convenient to pick one up and carry it around where ever you go.

2) Private schools vs. free public school education. According to a report published by the National Center for EducationSchool Statistics (NCES) in 2002, in 1999-2000, approximately 27,000 private schools accounted for 24 percent of all schools in the US. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the median tuition for a private day school in 2005-2006 in the United States was about $14,000 for grades 1 to 3, $15,000 for grades 6 to 8 and $16,600 for grades 9 to 12. Where as education at public schools is free. So why would parents pay over 14 grand per child per year? The reason is private schools usually add more value to the consumer (child and parents). Private schools usually have well-balanced class size, good safety reputation, special academic programs and much more to offer than a public school. And parents are willing to pay for that “extra” service and security.

3) iPod vs. any-other-mp3-players (cheap or expensive). Apple was not the first in the market with an mp3 player or even first one to come out with a hard drive based mp3 player. Then what made it a big blockbuster product?iPods

Joswiak credits the company’s ease of use—both with the music player itself and with the iTunes software that connects the iPod to either a Mac or a PC. The total package only became stronger when Apple added digital music sales via the iTunes Store, launched in 2003.

Soon iPod’s trendy looks became a status symbol that lead to increased loyalty. Same (convenience) holds true for iTunes’ 99-cent songs vs. free downloads from peer-to-peer networks. The convenience and smooth integration of the killer-product (iPod) with a killer-app (iTunes) was meant to capture the market like none other.

4) Clocky vs. gazillion other clocks. “The Clocky requires you to do more than stick your arm out and tap something,” saidRunning Clock Dr. Todd Swick, a sleep specialist at the Houston Sleep Center in Texas. “It will recruit more of your senses–actually getting up, finding it and shutting it off–and convince you to start the day.” When the alarm clock goes off and the snooze button is pressed, the Clocky rolls off the bedside table and onto the floor. It rolls on until it finds a suitable spot to hide and rest. When the alarm sounds again, the sleeper has to get out of bed and search for the clock to turn it off. By now the person is fully awake. Thus, Clocky performs better than other alarm clocks in ensuring that you get out of bed on time and of course its fun to see your partner run after a clock.

So do you have a product or service that is more convenient, performs better than other products in its category, has good usability features, is easier to use and adds more value to its user? Find “the need” that has not been fulfilled yet and fulfill it.

“Make yourself necessary to somebody.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

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posted in entrepreneurship |
21st September 2007

What I learned about being an Emcee.

Opportunity knocked on my door. Was I able to recognize it and grab it? What helped me to take the decision and what helped me after I took the decision? What did I learn?

Lets examine:Emcee - Master of Ceremonies

I am talking about an opportunity to be an Emcee – Master of Ceremonies – at a birthday party of about 400 people.

Was I able to recognize it and grab it? Yes. I got a call from someone in my extended family to be the Emcee at his party. I still don’t know why he picked me, but I was happy to get his call. Within 15-20 seconds my mind saw an opportunity and I said, “Yes, I will be glad to be emcee of your party.” The reasons are as follows:

  1. To jump the gap; break the vacuum; leap of faith: I wanted to graduate from comfort of speaking at Toastmaster meetings to a more real-world environment. Everyday I envision myself as a great speaker to bring about the “change”, to be able to “influence” others, to be a “lighthouse” [after having developed a strong character.]. And I saw this as a baby step towards that direction.
  2. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I know that I will give many presentations, speak in front of investors, employees, and clients. So why not test myself in front of an informal gathering – warm waters.
  3. Free marketing of ME Inc. I will be able to expose myself to so many people in just an hour – super-bowl ad vs. door-to-door.

What helped me to take the decision, and what helped me after I took the decision? I mentioned here that you should prepare when you don’t need to so that when opportunity strikes, you are prepared to grab it. I have been practicing to overcome my fear of public speaking and also polishing my speaking skills, as a member of Toastmaster’s club. So that gave me enough confidence to go out in the unknown environment and grab the opportunity. While making notes and while speaking at the party, I used all the guidelines that I learned during my speeches – voice inflection, body posture, pauses etc. Besides that, I also researched on other tips on Emceeing.

As an emcee, I had to start the function, conduct it and close it. During the function, there were speeches, dances and formal cake-cutting ceremony. I got great tips from this website. Here is what I learned and what worked for me:

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS AN EMCEE:
a) You should be able to create an environment in which both performers (or speakers) and listeners feel welcomed, comfortable and respected. You should be able to relate to the audience.

b) You must remember that you are not the “show.” The focus is not on you – rather on the speaker, the audience and the performers.

c) You should be willing to take instructions from the producer of the show.

d) You must strive to keep show on time and be prepared to handle any detours.

1. Before The Show: Prepare Yourself
a) Familiarize yourself with the list of announcements so that when you are up on stage, you can comfortably announce them rather than reading them word for word from your notes.

b) First & last impression have a lot of weight. So plan and practice your opening and closing lines of the function.

c) Plan your “introductions” for the speakers. Ask speakers what they would like the audience to know about them. Share a few interesting, less-known facts, or something funny with the audience that the speaker is comfortable sharing. Few things that would help the audience better understand speaker and his speech. [Funny incidents from speaker’s life worked out great for me, as it was an informal party. Achievements might work better for a formal gathering.]. But be brief to avoid seeing yawing faces.

2. At The Performance Site: Get Acquainted
a) Arrive early and orient yourself with the venue. Make sure that every thing is set up and ready to go (water-bottles, mic, music, lights, etc.). Test the mic (sound) and placement of speakers/sub-woofers. This was the biggest mistake that I made. I didn’t test the mic and sound-system. To begin with the sound output was so poor that the audience kept loosing interest, as they couldn’t hear the first few speeches or my jokes properly. Later the problem was fixed but the initial damage was already done. Now I had to work harder to get everybody to listen.

b) Introduce yourself to the staff: sound technicians, stage managers, tent monitors, DJ, etc. That helped me to develop rapport with them. They will then be more tuned to understand your needs.

c) Introduce yourself to the speakers and performers (dance-performers in this case). Let them know where they can find bathrooms, water, tissues, food etc.

d) Go over the order in which they will perform. But be prepared for contingencies. During the event one of the group was not ready to perform their dance and so I had to switch it with another group and accordingly my introductions.

e) Confirm their allotted time and ask each how they would like to be notified when they are nearing the end of their allotted time.

f) Ask if there are any special needs or special stage set-ups.

3. During The Program: Be Gracious and Alert.
a) Welcome the audience. Greet them warmly. I greeted in two languages, as there were people, who understood only English, then there were those who understood only Punjabi (language) and finally there were there those who understood both languages. Infact, I used another urban slang to greet teenage audience (”Whatup yawl?”). This worked great for informal event like a birthday party but might not work great for a formal event. The idea is to make them feel welcomed, respected, and connect with them and have some fun.

b) Introduce yourself and tell them how the session will progress (speeches, dance performances, cocktail, food, breaks, etc.) so that they know where they are headed and can feel comfortable.

c) Establish the rules (those introductory announcements regarding cell phones, etc.) Be brief and get the ball rolling.

d) While introducing speakers: introduce them, stay on stage if they need assistance to setup mic, stand etc. Then, get off the stage. Introduce each speaker with equal enthusiasm. Listen to their speech carefully (if possible) so that you can bring the audience out of one speech and into the next. You have to transfer audience’s energy from one speaker/performer to the next.

e) Be alert and have some backup scenarios worked out. If something unexpected comes up, be ready to deal with it. So, if there are distractions, try to remove them (toddler wandering around in front of the stage). Or, acknowledge them so that the audience won’t wonder, worry and therefore, not be able to concentrate on the speech.

f) Have a few jokes or short story ready to be told. This came in handy at times when I had to waste some time waiting for the dance group to get their act together or for the DJ to find the song for next dance-performance. I had jokes in two languages – English and Punjabi. Infact, one of the anecdote that I shared was liked enough that the party host (producer) told me to translate it in English too. Jokes and short stories might not be a good idea for formal audience. For formal events, use it if absolutely necessary.

g) Last, but not the least – have a good time. Remember that your enjoyment of the program reflects on everything you say and do.

4. Closing The Program: Thank everyone.
Briefly thank everyone (performers, producers, sound technicians, etc.) including the audience. Give any brief closing announcements and wish them well on their way.

All in all, it was a great experience. I did make few minor mistakes, things did go wrong and to be frank, I was a little nervous. But in the end, I learned from my mistakes, I learned how to overcome the challenges in real-time, and above all I overcame my fear. I can read 400 books on public speaking but they still won’t match the experience of speaking in front of 400 people. Feel free to suggest tips that worked great for you as an emcee.

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posted in change, personal-development |
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