personal story Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
30th wedding anniversary

30th Wedding Anniversary Thoughts

Yesterday my wife, Elisabeth, and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary together in the Champagne region of France.  We just left a BNI Conference in France and wanted to take a couple of days to celebrate alone.

This gave me time to reflect on the many ways she has been such an amazing life partner and I wrote down some of the things that I’ve said about her over these many years. She is the greatest referral of my lifetime.

Here are just a few 30th wedding anniversary thoughts:

  • You bring color to my black & white world. 
  •  I make the living and you make the living worthwhile.
  •  President John Adams always depended on Abigal Adams as his advisor and confidant. You have always been my “Mrs. Adams.”
  •  It’s hard being me – without you.
  •  You are always the most beautiful woman in a room.
  •  I am a compass and you are magnetic north. I will gravitate to you wherever you are.

She is my bride of 30 years. I wish her another 30 years together.

30th wedding anniversary

 

 

"City Boy"

“City Boy” vs. “Country Boy”

Frank James De Raffele Jr. and his wife Crystal De Raffele were with us on the first couple days of our writing retreat. Frank and I saw this table and what looked like a little “step stool.” He and I set up the little piece of wood, as a “City Boy”, in the front of the table like a little step that would take you to the next step (first photo). We just couldn’t figure why anyone would step up to the top of this table. What was it for?

My Father-in-law (born in Texas) was visiting on one of the days and we asked him what it was. I just know he was thinking (oh you “city boys”) and he walked over to the table and put the “step” up on top of the table and proceeded to step over what we thought was the second step and sat down. He then moved his arms as though he was resting a rifle on the table and placed the back of one hand on what we thought was a step. He said, “that’s where your bean bag goes to hold the barrel of you ‘huntin’ rifle boys. You shoot deer from here.”

I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “Dang city folk. They wanted to step up on it and do something silly like dance on it or worse yet, give a speech.”

Sorry Dad. I’m learning.

Every Great Man

A Different Take on the Notion that “Behind Every Great Man…”

When my wife, Elisabeth and I are out together at large events, someone will inevitably  say that it’s nice to meet the woman behind the man or “behind every great man is a woman.”  Now I’m not offended by that and I don’t think she is either – however, I also don’t really agree with it.

I would change that expression to beside every great man is a woman.”  The key here is that I think that it’s much easier for someone to achieve success in business and in life when you have your life partner next to you in the journey. I sincerely doubt if I would be where I am without her and I’d like to think that she wouldn’t be where she is without me.  That makes it a partnership.  Partners walk side by side in life.

So, if you see the two of us together sometime, know that I won’t be offended if you say the traditional expression, but I’ll be very impressed if you say beside every great man is a woman.”  In fact, she’s pretty amazing in her own right so I wouldn’t even mind if you said, “beside every great woman is a man.”

Happy Valentines Day.

Every Great Man

Author Note

I totally get the issues relating to gender and life partner expressions and I’m also good with anyone putting whatever gender they want to put into this expression.  That said – I’m a man and my wife is a woman and so I am looking at this in my context – feel free to alter it to your own context.

Brigadier General

What a Brigadier General Taught Me About Business

When I was a young man just starting my doctoral degree at USC, I had the opportunity to study under a retired Brigadier General from the army. In retrospect, he was one of the best professors that I had during my tenure. In that course, he told me a story that has stayed with me for many decades.

The General told me this story in the early 1980’s. He said that when he was a young first lieutenant (which was decades before that) he was stationed in Britain. As a lieutenent, he was tasked to do a “time and motion study” of a British artillery division. My professor went to the unit and carefully watched as the men prepared to fire the guns. He said he watched as they prepared the weapons to fire. When they were ready, one man marched confidently to the left and stood at attention with his hands behind his back and nodded to the artillery men. They then, proceeded to fire the guns.

The general (then a lieutenant), asked the man why he marched to the left and stood at attention before they fired the weapons? The soldier told him that was the way he was trained to do the procedure. The lieutenant asked the soldier who trained him. The soldier replied that the sergeant trained him. Consequently, the lieutenant went to the sergeant and asked him why he trained the men to march to the left and hold their hands behind their back before they motioned for the weapons to be fired? The sergeant replied that the master sergeant had trained him to do it that way. So, the lieutenant went to the master sergeant and asked him why he trained the sergeants to train the men to fire the weapons that way. The master sergeant said “that’s the way we’ve always done it in this man’s army sir.” He had no further insight as to why it was done that way.

The leaky bucket…

So, my professor (then a lieutenant), went off to produce his report regarding the process. One evening he decided to take a break and went to a local pub frequented by many military personnel. While there, he found himself sitting next to a very elderly retired sergeant major from the army.

Now you have to understand that I met the retired general in the early 1980’s and he spoke to this sergeant major when he was a very young first lieutenant. He said this retired soldier was involved in the military back in the old “cavalry” days.

My professor told the retired soldier that he was very perplexed by this artillery process and he asked him if he had any idea why the men would march to the left and hold their hands behind their back. When my professor asked his question, the old sergeant major said, “why lad… they’re holding the horses of course.”

The general, now my professor, said that it had been decades since the military had to hold the horses before the men fired the guns. Yet, there were still men holding these non-existent horses! He also had another great story about communication.

Truluck's

You Achieve What You Measure – A Truluck’s Story

Since I moved to Austin Texas, I’ve discovered a number of restaurants that I really enjoy.  One of them is Truluck’s in downtown Austin.  The first time my wife and I went to Truluck’s we couldn’t help but notice how engaged the host was when we walked up to check in for our reservation.  He was welcoming, friendly, and conversational.  It was unusual in that the host seemed more engaging than the normal friendly host you might get when you enter a good restaurant.  He was incredibly personable and it stood out to me. I took a mental note and wondered if the rest of the experience would be the same.

I sat down and the wait staff was very attentive (but not too attentive).  They were right on the spot when I needed something but they didn’t interrupt constantly.  The wine list was great (see this blog to know why that’s important to me).   Then, the meal came out.  It was phenomenal.  For me, a great meal paired with a great wine and great service are the proof of the existence of a divine being.  OK, maybe I exaggerate a little but it was really good.

My wife and I had a nice long dinner and a great experience.  When we were ready to go, the wait staff brought out the bill and a computer tablet.  The tablet had a series of survey questions on it.  The first is the screenshot on this blog.  They asked if I received a hospitable welcome from the host when I arrived!  Voila!  I now understood why the host really went out of his way to make us feel welcome.  (By the way, I scored it as “Absolutely!)”  The restaurant had about six questions in total relating to the experience during the evening and I checked each one of them at the highest possible level.

Truluck's

Trulucks measured key factors in their restaurant experience and the management got an immediate, real-time result for each of these areas.  This is a perfect example of “Achieving What You Measure.”  In their case, there was no delay in getting the results.  They could tell exactly how people felt about the experience before the customer even left the restaurant.  On one of my visits to Trulucks, I spoke to the manager, Thomas, about the survey system at the restaurant.  He said that the previous month they received a 98% positive rating from the customer surveys.  I told him that was outstanding.  I love his response.  He said, “actually, we always shoot for 100%.”

We could all learn from this type of management control system.  Well done to Trulucks.  I look forward to going back again soon.

 

wheels

Dude, Where are My Wheels

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around. I was regaling my wife with a personal story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college. It was about how having a strong network can always help you in difficult situations. At the end of the story, she said, “You have to write about this “Wheels” experience!” So, here it is.

Dude, Where are My Wheels

I grew up in a very working-class environment early in my life. It was roughly 1975, working on my bachelor’s degree while I was employed at a hardware store in South El Monte, California. Now, you have to understand that South El Monte was a pretty tough neighborhood. We had a fair number of gangs active in the area.

We closed the store one evening around 7:00 p.m. It took about 30 minutes to close all the registers and leave the store. In that 30-minute period, a lot could happen in that particular neighborhood. Around 7:30 p.m., we walked out of the store and found one of the employee’s cars sitting in the parking lot. It was literally propped up on blocks. Someone had stolen all four of my co-worker’s “awesome” wheels and left the car on four concrete blocks where it sat, waiting for him when he got off work. Clearly, he was apoplectic when we walked out. He went absolutely crazy!

What’s amazing to me was that one of the employees who lived locally said to the other employee, “Calm down, relax and give me a while. I’ll make a call and see what I can do. Go back into the store and wait. I’ll let you know when to come back out.”

Within an hour, he came in and said it was OK to come back out. We went back into the parking lot, and lo and behold, there was his car with the wheels. They were re-installed, bright shiny rims and all — good as new!

It turns out that the local employee had friends in the gang that was known for heisting awesome wheels off cars. He simply made a call to one of the members he knew well (to clarify, he wasn’t in the gang, but he “knew people” in the gang). All it took to have the wheels returned was one phone call to that one gang member he knew well. I was about 18 years old, and I think this was one of the first really powerful lessons I experienced about the value of  an important tenet in networking.

Knowing the right people

This unfortunate story in my youth taught me the importance of knowing the right people. It helped me to learn that it’s not what you know — or who you know, it’s how well you know each other that counts.

Communication

What a Brigadier General Taught Me About Communication

I recently received an email from someone I didn’t know.  His email could only be described as “War and Peace!”  The original printing of the book War and Peace was 1,225 pages long.  His message felt like that to me.  It was long.  It was so long, I sent it back to him and told him this story about communication:

One of the best lessons in communication I received as a young man was given to me by a retired Brigadier General who taught in the Doctoral program at USC.  He was an amazing professor who always shared the most incredible stories and taught valuable lessons.

The course was “Management Theory.”  He asked us to write a ten-page paper on a specific topic relating to management and to turn it in within the next two weeks.  There were only twelve students in the class and we all dutifully showed up with the paper in hand two weeks later.  He collected all of our papers and sat down at his desk in front of the class. After skimming through all 12 submissions, he stood up, and handed them all back to us!  He then told us to come back with a five-page paper on the same topic.  He told us to take out all the fluff and get to the heart of the issue and turn it in next week.

We were furious – but we did it.  The next week we came back with the five-page papers.  He then went through the same routine, handed them all back and said, “You can cut more. Make it two pages and turn it in next week!”  As you might guess, we were incredulous… and we did as we were told.

We came back the following week with our two-page paper.  As you might guess – he looked at them and gave them back one last time and said, “Now, make it one page and bring it back next week along with your original ten-page paper.”  We were beyond annoyed, but we did as we were told.

We all came back the next week and turned in both papers.  He then shared one of the most valuable lessons of my academic training.  He said, “During your career, you will be working for people who are incredibly busy.  They may ask you for a report on an important topic for the company. They may not have the time to read your long-drawn out papers going through detailed minutiae covering your brilliant recommendations” (I think that might have been sarcasm).  He went on to say, “If you can learn to de-obfuscate your writing and boil things down into a simple, easy to digest document – busy people will respond better your work.”  He said, “Always create an Executive Summary that bullet points the critical findings, recommendations, or advice.  Put that at the front of your longer report.  This will give the boss a chance to get an overview of the issue and then allow him or her to go deeper into your findings from the full report.”  He also suggested that your summary bullet points make reference to the relevant page or pages that this issue was covered in the full report.

That was incredible advice that has served me well over the years.  Your communication doesn’t have to be War and Peace to be effective.  Heck, the Gettysburg Address was only 272 words long (yes, shorter than this blog, I know).

This was a great lesson for me.  I hope you find it to be a great lesson for you as well.

 

greatest asset

How talking too much in class turned into my greatest asset

Those tendencies standing “in your way” can be “the way”‘ to success and can become your greatest asset. When I was in elementary school, I generally received good reports from my teachers. However, one thing that came up time and time again was a comment by almost all of my teachers: “Ivan talks too much in class.”

My mother had numerous conversations with me about this but to no avail. I figure that she thought my grades were pretty good and she generally liked to pick and choose her battles on issues. Consequently, she didn’t really push the matter, and so… I talked and talked and talked in class. It showed up on many of my report cards. My teachers felt that it was a problem for me in school. On the other hand, my mother didn’t give me much grief on the subject.

My Greatest Asset

My talking too much in class was thought of as a roadblock by my teachers. Candidly, at one point, they almost had me convinced that it was a problem. My mother — not so much. She didn’t see my talking as such a big issue and that gave me the freedom to be myself. True, I had to tone it down a bit — but it wasn’t drummed out of me. I am grateful for that because, despite the fact that some people thought that talking was blocking my way, the truth is — it would eventually become “the way” for my life.

While the teachers definitely felt that it was a roadblock to my learning, I think they may have been wrong on that. What my teachers saw as a problem ended up becoming an incredible asset. I talk a lot. I talk to individuals, small groups, middle size groups, large groups, and massive groups. Any way you cut it — I’m a talker. It is my greatest asset. My job today is to talk to people. In fact, I get paid to talk. I get paid a crazy number to talk to companies, associations, and organizations. I love to share ideas with people, I love to coach people, and most of all I love to inspire people. And to do that — I talk.

Over the years, I’ve learned that oftentimes, What is in the way, becomes the way”.  

I believe the secret is to take the thing that is “in the way” and channel your efforts in a manner that makes that problem part of the solution. I have noticed that my wife, Elisabeth, has been able to channel what was in the way for her as a child and how powerfully that has served her. She was constantly being told that she was “too rebellious.” She had a very hard time doing things she was told she had to do just because an authority figure in life told her she must do them. Now when she was faced with a medical diagnosis and told by her medical doctor that there was only one path, her strong “rebellious” nature found another, more effective and gentle healing path. What was in her way has become her way!

Some of us do this unconsciously. However, imagine how impactful this paradigm could be if we were more conscious of it at work in our lives. I would encourage you to think about something you were told was “in the way” as part of your life? Has it “become the way” for you and your greatest asset? If so, how? For me — of the first things in my life that were in the way was that I talked too much in class. Looking back, I’d have to say it worked out pretty well. 

‘No-Win’ Scenario

How I Approach The ‘No-Win’ Scenario

When I was an undergraduate in college, I needed to take one more “lab class” (a course that gives hands-on experience related to the topic). I’d taken lab classes in science and the only lab courses left according to my counselor was a lab class in mathematics. Now, I did fine with basic mathematics but the higher-level courses in Algebra and Geometry were just not my passion. OK, full disclosure, I hated those courses. So, when my counselor said that was the only choice left – I went on a quest, a quest to go through every single page of the course catalog for every single department throughout the University (except the Math department), to find any other class with a lab that I hadn’t already taken. I felt like it was a ‘No-Win’ scenario.

After a painstaking search through the huge catalog, I found one course that fit the bill. It was a course in the Hotel and Restaurant Management School at the University. The course was in Enology (the study of wines). The lab part was – wine tasting! Now, you might think that I was excited at first but the truth is – I hated wine. I really didn’t like it. The only thing is, I hated math more than I hated wine so – Enology it was!

I took this revelation to my department counselor and he said – “No! you can’t take that as your lab!” I said “Why not? It is a lab and it meets all the university requirements for me to complete my degree?” He said, “because it’s unheard of to use that as a lab in this department.” I then said, “But is it prohibited? Where in the department requirements does it say that it can’t be used?” He cocked his head and looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, “alright Misner, give me the paper, I’ll sign it and get out of here.” I smiled and said, “Thank you very much professor,” and walked out with the paperwork to complete my Enology wine lab.

At that moment, I had no idea that the course I was taking would become a life-long passion. Remember, I didn’t really like wine back then. The course was much more difficult than students thought it would be. We had an almost 40% drop out rate for the class because it wasn’t just about “tasting” wines. It was about the wine industry and wine regulations so the tests were pretty tough. The tasting was only a part of the class. Today, it is a passion for me. I built out a cellar at my home in Austin (pictured here) that will hold 1,600 bottles (it’s not full – yet but I’m working on it) and I just started working on a Sommelier Certification just for fun. This path all began because I didn’t believe in the “No-Win scenario” as the only possibility relating to a challenge.

The ‘No-Win’ Scenario

I share this story with you because I truly believe that there are ‘almost’ always options to a no-win situation if you work hard to find alternative solutions (maybe even push the envelope a bit). For the Star Trek nerds out there – I’d like to think I’d pass the Kobayashi Maru simulation (the no-win scenario mentioned several times Star Trek).

What no-win situation have you been confronted with and how did you find a solution? I’d love for you to share it here.

Fear of Rejection

The Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection is a powerful driver in most people’s lives. It dictates what we take risks on, it makes us hold back, and it even hinders us from reaching our potential.

The fear of rejection is an emotion that many of us carry in our personal lives, but it can very easily seep into our professional one as well. We all come to that nexus point in our lives: we can do something, or we can do nothing. The fear of rejection almost held me back from promoting my book, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, because I was worried some bookstores wouldn’t want to carry my book. But you know what I realized?

Some will, some won’t–so what?

Watch the video below for more on conquering the fear of rejection.

Only taking the risk could result in success. 

Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from doing what you are excited about. If you are excited about your business, don’t let rejection stop you. You have to just know that when it comes to asking somebody to do something; some will, some won’t, so what?  It’s not the end of the world.  For me, I just had to put myself in the frame of mind that what I was facing was simply not that big a thing. I now do this same thing whenever I’m faced with a situation which opens up the possibility for rejection.  I just tell myself that if someone doesn’t want to do what I’m asking, that’s fine. It’s not that big a deal.

What’s in the Way Becomes the Way

What’s in the Way Becomes the Way

When I was a child, my teachers all had the same complaint: “Ivan talks too much.” What my teachers saw as a problem ended up being an advantage. My job is to talk to people, and I am paid well to “talk too much”. I was able to take what was in the way and turn it around. It now becomes the way.

My teachers felt that it was a problem for me in school. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t give me too much grief on the subject. While the teachers generally thought it was a roadblock to my learning, I think they may have been wrong on that. What my teachers saw as a problem ended up cutting an incredible passion: I love to talk.

The secret here is to take the thing that’s in the way and channel your efforts in a manner that makes that problem part of the solution.

Please watch this video:

In 1985, I had a massive thing in his way. I had lost a client and could hardly manage to pay the mortgage, so I started a referral group to help myself and my friends generate more referrals in a structured way. That group became BNI, bringing success not just to me, but to thousands of business owners around the world.

Successful people know how to focus on a roadblock and turn it into an overpass. I think the secret here for anyone is to take the thing that is in the way and channel your efforts in a way that makes the problem part of the solution. What are your achievements?

To learn more, listen to BNI Podcast #564

Episode 564: What’s in the Way Becomes the Way

What’s been in your way that you’ve turned into an advantage? If something is in your way now, how do you plan to channel it? Share your experiences in the comments.

Net-Sit

It’s Not Net-Sit or Net-Eat — It’s Called Network

I came up with this phrase, “It’s Not Net-Sit or Net-Eat — It’s Called Network”, back in 1985 when I went to a business mixer and witnessed virtually everyone either sitting around the edges of the room or standing around eating and drinking.  Almost no one was actually networking. It struck me like a bolt of lightning that this was supposed to be a “networking” event but people were just eating and drinking (especially the later)! As a result, the first mixer that I personally organized, I went to a printer and printed up this phrase on little signs and put them all around the room to remind people why they were there.

I also came up with the original version of the 10 Commandments of Networking which I printed and posted around the room.

The 10 Commandments of Networking

  1. Have the tools to network with you at all times (card holder, badge cards, etc.).
  2. Set a goal for the number of people you’ll meet.
  3. Act like a host, not a guest.
  4. Listen and ask questions.
  5. Don’t try to sell to them.
  6. Give referrals whenever possible.
  7. Exchange business cards.
  8. Manage your time efficiently.
  9. Write notes about your conversation.
  10. Follow up!

One last thing I did before the event got fully underway was to tell everyone that it’s ok to come to a networking event with someone you know or a co-worker; just don’t hang around with that person.

What a difference in networking events.  By just giving a little guidance to the participants, the event was much more successful than the ones I’d seen in the past. So GET UP, get off your phones and network.

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