When Arnold Schwarzenegger began his career, he studied bodybuilding icons — not to emulate them, but to surpass them. His strategy was always to top the best.
From the roaring mosh pits of an Iron Maiden concert to the welcoming ambience of Nigella Lawson’s kitchen; from the secretive rainforests of a David Attenborough nature documentary to the sweat-soaked gyms of Schwarzenegger’s legendary workouts — every industry has its top name icons. What do they all have in common? What makes them rise to the top? And most importantly for entrepreneurs, what can we learn from them?
I’ve spent a decade trying to discern and decode what distinguishes the leading names in any field, and whether their approaches can be emulated. Here’s the secret I’ve discovered: We tend to think of experts in terms of superior knowledge or academic skills, but that actually misses something. There’s more to it. You can be highly qualified and yet completely unknown. Instead, to be truly iconic, you need to combine three non-negotiable qualities: Knowledge, personality and publicity.
You have to know it, you have to show it and you have to be it. You need to build an identity or ideal that tribes of followers want to emulate.
The following is an excerpt from What Makes Them Great? 50 Ways to Become an Industry Leader that focuses on four ways you too can become an industry leader.
1. Benchmarking globally, not locally
In his early twenties, Arnold Schwarzenegger made an interesting decision. Upon deciding that his life’s course lay in pursuing bodybuilding, he moved from Austria to California, to study the world’s top athletes in their own backyard. But he went with a philosophy that was quite remarkable. More than just wanting to study what the top practitioners did in order to emulate them, his stated goal was to study what the top practitioners did, in order to surpass them.
When last did you observe the best in the world, then think: “I could top that”?
Here’s why this dynamic matters: Today, your potential customers aren’t just benchmarking you against your exact equivalent locally. In reality, they are even benchmarking you against completely different industries and practitioners.
In the same way that a restaurant does not just compete with other restaurants — it also competes against the lateral options of movies, concerts or home pizza delivery — you are not just viewed against the backdrop of others who do exactly the same thing. You are viewed against the backdrop of an increasingly globalised market, by people who travel all around the world.
Your target market may be ‘just’ a mom with a simple problem to fix. But that mom has also been to London, New York and Sydney, and her perception of your levels of professionalism, as you operate in her home town, are not relative to others in your home town.
Moreover, the local mom evaluating your professionalism has Googled videos about how to solve this problem, and watched entrepreneurs from California talking about sleek and clever solutions. If she’s gone to the trouble as an outsider to your field, you certainly should have done the same and more as a practitioner. And that is her rightful expectation of you.
2. “Good enough” for the locals, and other myths
Fairly late into its lifespan, the Eiffel Tower acquired a glass floor. You can now go halfway up the Parisian landmark and scare yourself rigid by stepping onto a transparent walkway and looking straight down. It’s a great addition to one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations… that took about 15 years too long to implement.
Many years prior to its implementation, my wife and I went up the CN Tower in Toronto. Somewhere up near the Canadian clouds, its bulbous dome has a similar walkway, which has been there for decades. I remember watching my wife, who is no friend of heights at the best of times, crawling out onto the glass and smiling gingerly for a photo, then retreating to the safety of concrete as though she were on fire. Other places, like a tourist spot at the Grand Canyon, have since copied this notion too.
Why did it take one of the world’s leading tourist destinations — the Eiffel Tower in France — so incredibly long to do something so seemingly obvious?
The answer is: Because the custodians didn’t think of themselves as part of a global network of international travel. They thought of themselves as ‘custodians of the Eiffel Tower.’ Subtle shift; huge difference.
Do you still view yourself as a local operator? Increasingly, this view is becoming self-deluding. Many of your potential fans, tribes, clients and customers are now extremely well travelled, and may be comparing you to a much better version in Tokyo or Tel Aviv.
3. Contexualising yourself upward
‘Imagine the government passes a law,’ a fellow speaker said to me one year, at the Professional Speakers Association convention, ‘And you are no longer allowed to charge your current fee. You have to double it. Non-negotiable. What would you do differently? And which clients would you target instead of the ones you currently deal with?’
I took the question seriously. And it’s a good one. What would you do if forced to take your business up, not just a notch, but a couple of tiers, in one fell swoop? Grapple with the answers to this question (and there are answers to them, in every industry) and you are actively engaging yourself with the problem of how to position yourself as one of the premium players in your game.
If forced to face that test, what would you do? It is a good idea to keep graduating yourself upward; to compel constant growth by design. In your quest to become truly iconic, do not benchmark yourself against the immediately available, local talent. Contextualise yourself upward, and think about your own performance relative to the global best.
This may entail a few practical things:
- You may have to stop doing the low-level and/or free stuff. Being valuable, and being seen as valuable, is everything here. But you have to go first. The market doesn’t just assume you are.
- You must find ways to actively display your new, greatly increased value.
- You may have to cull the cues that disqualify you as premium, such as low pricing, amateur visual cues in your marketing, etc.
4. Pricing yourself correctly
By the time the sitcom came to an end, after 11 Emmy-award devouring seasons, Frasier had established itself as one of the most popular and successful comedy shows in television history. Toward the end, each of the main actors was earning in excess of a million US dollars per episode. The show’s success was a fabulous argument against the notion that one should simplify everything and ‘pander to the masses,’ given that the two lead characters, psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane and his brother, Dr Niles Crane, were highly intellectual, unapologetically snobby, sophisticated patrician elites, who pontificated in sentences one might typically hear at a medical convention. Or Mensa.
In an episode of season ten, Frasier and Niles are seated at Nervosa, their favourite Seattle coffee shop, along with Niles’ wife, Daphne. Daphne is pregnant. Egged on by another couple, Daphne and Niles are trying to find ways to ‘heighten’ the experience of childbirth. The whole thing becomes competitive, and they end up hiring a doula to guide them through the event — more to impress their friends than anything else.
Frasier, meanwhile, has been suffering through a dating dry-spell. He has hired a professional matchmaker and is about to meet up with her. Donning his jacket and excusing himself from the coffee table, Frasier says, “I’ve signed up with a matchmaking service.”
“Frasier, a matchmaker?” Niles responds, aghast. “I’m surprised you’d use a professional for something as personal as your love life.”
“Well, I could say the same thing about you and your doula,” says Frasier.
“Well, our professional comes highly recommended,” says Niles.
“So does my professional,” says Frasier.
“Well, our professional is at the top of her field,” Niles counters.
“As is mine.”
“Well, our professional charges two hundred dollars an hour.”
“Mine charges ten thousand!”
Niles gasps. “She sounds fan-tastic! Congratulations, Frasier!”
“Thank you, Niles…”
The dialogue concludes with Daphne rolling her eyes. The scene was obviously created for comedic effect, but there’s an undeniable grain of truth in this overblown observation. We do perceive quality according to price. It’s a natural human bias that you will read about often in books on behavioural economics, and which you will see reflected in the purchase price of your next luxury car.
If you are too cheap, you will be perceived as amateur. Here is another example, from author Robert Cialdini. A lady owns a jewellery store in a coastal town, and she’s struggling to sell a particular range of jade jewellery. So begins the true story in Cialdini’s book Influence. Before going on leave, the owner instructs her sales person to halve the prices. The sales person misreads her note and doubles the price. The entire range sells out before the owner returns.
Behavioural economics are fascinating. In this particular case, the items sold more effectively because they were more expensive. The reverse dynamic applies too. Set the bar too low, and you will raise innate suspicion from high-level buyers (Hmm… No, thanks. You’re too cheap. Sounds risky).
Mindset tip: Where it matters, be a surgeon
Going about their daily work, doctors are required to make use of competing skill-sets. They have to be dispassionate enough to be able to do necessary, hurtful things to their patients; injections into delicate parts of the body, cutting open skin and billing them right in the soft spot.
But they must also show compassion. Doctors are typically sued more often when their bedside manner is lacking, even for the same results as their more compassionate contemporaries.
An ideal doctor, if such a thing exists, is able to be compassionate when it counts, but dispassionate when it is necessary.
I’d like you to remember this concept the next time you struggle with stating your price: Be a surgeon.
The pricing is not an emotional aspect of the thing you do. This is merely ‘part of the procedure.’ Just do it, and do it dispassionately.
You don’t have to ‘believe in it,’ or ‘feel anguish about it,’ or in any way emotionalise the scenario. That’s for amateurs. This is the part you do clinically, simply as a step in the procedure.
If they can’t afford your fee, that’s fine. Nobody is going to shout at you or place you in stockades in the town square for a dose of public humiliation. If they can’t afford you, they are not your customer, and that’s all there is to it. If they can, they are. You can then continue on together to the next part of the professional relationship, at which point you will display empathy for their needs.
Pricing is not emotional. It’s procedural. Get it done. Like a surgeon.
Become Your Best In Business
How can you streamline the actions you take in your business?
A few of the primary keys to becoming successful in business include having a clear intent or purpose, a truly inspiring vision, a grand message to share, a genuine social calling and a targeted niche to serve. From these initial basics arise the primary strategic objectives you would love to accomplish or achieve and a plan for their implementation. But before these objectives can be met, the mastery of the mind is to be initiated.
True business leaders are those who are congruent and integrated and who can organise and lead their inner parts purposefully. Once leaders govern themselves, they can govern others.
Time Is Life
When you loaf about, your mind starts thinking about all kinds of doubts, insecurities, fears, other people’s beliefs and worries about what’s happening and what isn’t happening. Such dead time can zap your energy and confidence levels and distract your mind from your purpose. Any time or space that’s not filled with high priorities often automatically becomes filled with low priorities.
Have you noticed that when you’re busy, you often accomplish and create much more? The more intensely you’re focused and active and the longer you maintain such a focus, the faster your accomplishments (time x intensity = results). Time spent on doubt, fear, or low-priority actions slows down your accomplishment process.
When you take your mind off your focus, all you see are obstacles. When your mind is focused on your dreams, you don’t have time for the many self-doubts that block them.
Raise Your Standard
Anything you do consumes time. To maximise the value of your time, prioritise your interactions. People who seem less busy and want to consume your time may think you’re being rude when you say no to their invitations, but busy people understand immediately that you’re just choosing to prioritise and wisely manage your time.
People who don’t value their own time want to take up yours with small talk, and if you keep associating with people who talk small, you could end up with a small life. You’ll find out what kind of people they are by putting a fee on your time and raising that fee regularly. If people really value your skills and time, they’ll pay for it.
“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Efficiency and Effectiveness
Often when you perform a service for less than you feel you deserve, you lower your worth and enthusiasm and slow down your business. Even though you may be working like a ‘dog’, it’s neither efficient nor effective.
Any aspect of your work that pays less than you truly feel you deserve can become the weak link of your business. In addition to undermining your motivation, inefficiency and ineffectiveness can also reduce profit margins. When you or your employees perform effective actions in an inefficient way, ineffective actions in an efficient way or ineffective actions in an inefficient way, your business becomes undermined. Your worth can be determined by how efficient and effective you are at performing high-priority actions. Business masters are those who love what they do, do what they love, and work efficiently and effectively. They delegate everything else to those who desire to do the same.
How can you streamline the actions you take in your business? Ask yourself, “What can I delegate?” You’ll be far more productive, energised, and inspired at the end of the day when you can stick to actions you deem to be high-priority. Unless you value your time, neither will the world.
For more information on Dr Demartini’s teachings, visit www.drdemartini.com
How To Be A Leader
Lead by example and you’ll win the respect and loyalty of your staff.
Being a successful entrepreneur is not about locking yourself away in your workshop and bringing a great innovation to life. Certainly, you need a must-have product that will have customers beating a path to your door. But you also need the business skills to ensure you can scale up production – and the leadership skills to motivate the staff you have employed to help you make this happen.
It is rare to find these three key skills balanced equally in an entrepreneur. Most have more of one quality than another – but there is one of these qualities that we tend to fool ourselves about.
Most of us know whether we have creative skills that can produce great innovations or whether we need to improve our business skills. Almost all of us assume we can be leaders if circumstances mean we have to step up to the plate. However, almost all of us are wrong about that.
Leadership skills are something that you develop and hone as your career progresses. You might think that being head girl at school, rugby captain or president of your Toastmasters’ branch means that you have got leadership nailed.
You would be right that you have some leadership experience. But you are wrong because so much about leadership depends on context. Just as what works on the rugby field and what works in the debating chamber are not the same, so what works in business is different.
In part, it can depend on the size and sector of your business. That in turn is partly because your understanding of the context – your business savvy as opposed to your business skills – is as important as your credibility as a leader.
But there are some common traits in leaders that work in all business contexts. Once you have these nailed, you will find that you can reuse them in different businesses as you expand your entrepreneurial interests.
Here are three starter principles to put into practice today:
1. Be first
Get to work first and leave last. As an entrepreneur, one of the prime qualities you need is energy. You need to put mental and physical energy into knowing the detail of what is going on in your business. Listen to the insights of your staff as to how your systems are taking strain or could be streamlined. If you are serious about growing your business, you cannot expect to achieve this as a sleeping partner who drops by the business premises at best once a week.
2. Be a team player
Make it clear that you are not giving yourself privileges just because you are the boss. If your business involves any kind of production line, whether actual or virtual, you should be able to pitch in and help out if there is a rush of demand or an unusual number of staff hit by the virus that is going round. This is also an opportunity to check personally on the effectiveness of the systems you have set up and make tweaks where you see bottlenecks or downtime occurring.
3. Be last
As well as leaving work last, you should also pay yourself last. Consider this part of your investment in your business – and also an investment that will pay dividends in consolidating staff loyalty.
Peak Performance – How To Become A Strong And Legendary Business Leader
The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.
‘Leadership is a potent combination of Character and strategy’
– General Norman Schwarzkopf
Leadership has long fallen into the category of the enigmatic. It is no longer the case considering the ‘deep dive’ neuroscientists, psychologists and industrial psychologists have taken into understanding the brain and human behaviour in general.
For those that have a deep and driving desire to understand themselves better volumes of highly beneficial research are available to you. How willing you are to seek for and apply the infinite amount of knowledge out there is dependent upon your priorities, your ‘grit’ and your level of desire to personally transform and be impactful in this world.
Most of all a strong belief in your own abilities to become a legendary business leader is a basic requirement for the alchemy from follower to leader to take place.
The human nature guru Robert Greene describes a strong character as follows:
“Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal – it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks”
Character is who you really are, not what you want others to think of you. Who you truly are is especially revealed under the most challenging circumstances. How your investors, co-founders, employees and clients view you is highly dependent upon your actions during times of business crisis, failure or when you as an entrepreneur are faced with turbulent personal circumstances.
The ability to authentically and empathetically (towards yourself and others) take a stand for your beliefs, admit (to yourself most of all) to your mistakes, rectify them (the highest and truest form of an apology) within times of strife and difficulty leads to a strong and un-breakable character.
Through this writing you are strongly urged to reflect on the fact that a strong character will not fall from the sky and simply be bestowed upon you, instead a strong character, akin to steel, is moulded and shaped by fire meaning that your character is mostly shaped by challenging times.
As the late master poet Leonard Cohen said –
‘There is a crack in everything that is where the light seeps in’
Nothing is perfect and when you truly learn from failures and mistakes your wounds can become blessings, your tests can become testimonies and you can lead others to achieve the same.
Those that have a slight and very determined smile on their face and maintain belief and even dramatically increase their levels of performance the moment they recognise that they have arrived within a highly challenging space are the ones that have trained for that exact moment.
The Navy Seals say:
“You do not rise to the challenge you fall to your level of training”
All external information gathered within each moment enters the brain and is processed through the Amygdala first – that part of the brain that provides housing for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Information is first filtered through your very own doubts, fears and insecurities.
If you have not worked on your own fears diligently and instilled habitual mechanisms of effective action triggered by fear your re-actions of lack of action (procrastination) will not be optimal at all. ‘Grit’ is born at the intersection of passion and perseverance and can be trained. Bravery can be trained. Leadership can be trained. Character although influenced by genetics can be trained.
All tools to succeed at the aforementioned subjects are within us all, in a lot of cases lying dormant and anxiously awaiting your increased levels of awareness which will empower you to use the tools required effectively.
As a practical example I coach my ‘Peak Performance’ clients to train for Grit in the following way – Choose a day of the week when you are especially tired and not in the greatest of moods force yourself to the gym and train the toughest muscle group for you (usually legs) and where you normally do three sets of squats do seven and make those sets harder than before in every way.
Or again choose a day of the week again where you are very tired and instead of taking a plunge onto the couch to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever it is, go and hike, a long tough hike that will really test you.
It does sound harsh but you will thank yourself when the tough times occur and they will, that you have willingly trained yourself for grit.
On to the subject of Strategy which forms a potent combination with character and results in Leadership.
Dictionary.com defines strategy as:
A plan, method, or series of manoeuvres or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.
For a strategy to be effective a basic requirement of many requirements is that a clear and highly specific end vision and/or goal, and/or result must be defined. Visions, goals or desired results are often vaguely defined because the often subconscious fear of clearly defining our failures by setting clear and measurable goals plagues us.
The mind struggles with finding solutions, answers and strategies when vague goals are set. It is also very hard to retain focus on anything that is very vague. As the importance of an effective plan to achieve your well defined Vision and goals cannot be overstated I strongly recommend getting expert help to facilitate a future session.
Once the desired end result, goals and vision is crystal clear we can ‘reverse engineer’ an effective plan that can actualise our dreams. We need to create a metric system that constantly, consistently and visibly measures our progress and success of our plan. The metrics will notify us of challenges and will signal a need for adjustments within our strategy.
The very good news emanating from this article is that anyone can be a legendary leader should they not only sincerely wish to be a leader but also take effective action on becoming one. The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.