What if?

What if you lost all of your money in a Wall Street crash? What might you do?

Jump out the window? Some people take that route.
Drink? There’s always an available bar stool.
Try your luck on Broadway? Now that’s crazy talk.

Except it wasn’t for a guy named Yip Harburg. The co-owner of an electric appliance company, Harburg’s business went bankrupt in 1929 and he found himself tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Friends and family encouraged him to get back into business but Yarburg had other plans. You see, he’d always wanted to be a lyricist on Broadway and now he had the time and energy to pursue it. But that’s absurd, right? There’s no shortage of writers on Broadway.

But Yarburg didn’t worry about that, he went to Broadway and wrote stuff anyway.

So what happened? Yarburg wrote, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? a tune that struck a note with the masses and became immortalized as part of the soundtrack of the Great Depression. He also wrote the lyrics for Over the Rainbow famously sung by, of course, Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. That little ditty—which happens to be known by everyone on the planet with a TV—won Yarburg an Oscar for his trouble.

Now what if Yip hadn’t lost all of his money? What if he never tried to make his Broadway dream come true?

What if, indeed.

Imagine…

Who is your favorite hero? A star of stage and screen? A figure from history? A contemporary business leader?

Picture that individual.

Now imagine that person waking up as you today. In your body. With your friends, family and job. Your skill set, your contacts. What would he or she do to jumpstart your career and life? Would they settle? What steps would that person take today to achieve success?

Imagine!

Who do you want to be?

In recent years, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been taking shots from the tabloids regarding his personal life, his record as governor, and his recent movie comeback.

But instead of chuckling at late night jokes at his expense (whether deserved or otherwise) the success-minded will ask themselves some questions: do I have the strength within me to achieve everything I ever wanted? Can I even dream that big? Arnold’s words, taken from a 2009 USC commencement address demand harsh introspection and action.

Dig deep down and ask yourself who do you want to be? Not what but who? What is the point of living on this Earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?

Arnold started with no money, no connections, no U.S. citizenship, no command of the English language. There were a million reasons he should have just stayed in Thaal, Austria. This video features lots of imagery of Arnold in his prime, but it’s really less about him (he got his) and more about you.

Watch it, and put your dreams against his template for success.

Jump in

You’re not Michael Phelps so of course you can’t do what he does. After all he’s a big strong guy and you’re just a kid.

Except if you’re Charlotte Samuels, a 15 year-old who just swam a 17.5 mile open water swim through New York Harbor to Sandy Hook, NJ. She lets Phelps have the pool while she tackles the ocean. But she’s young, she has the time and energy to swim all day, you don’t if you’re, say, a busy mom in your 40’s.

Except if you’re Lynn Ascione, a mom who happened to swim the same race. Like Samuels, she has her sights set on swimming the English Channel one day. So good for them, but maybe you’re around retirement age, someone will probably say it’s not smart to swim extreme distances.

Except if you’re Diana Nyad, who now in her 6th decade of life, has made four attempts to swim from Havana to the Florida Keys–that’s 100 miles–without a shark cage.

So it seems there’s no excuse if you think you’re too young, no excuse if you’re a busy parent, and no excuse if you think you’re too old.

So what’s stopping you from jumping into whatever it is you want to do?

What’s behind the sale?

In the show American Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz look for treasures in the sheds and barns along the highways and back roads of the country. When they find something of value, whether a rusted Indian motorcycle or bullet-riddled Coca-Cola sign, the duo usually square off against the seller in the classic showdown:

>>>The seller comes in with a high number looking for room to wrangle the best price he can get.

>>>The buyer fires a lowball shot looking to get the seller to cave as low as possible.

That’s the way it’s done, right? This approach assumes there will be a “winner” and a “loser.” But in one particular episode, the pickers encountered Jocko, a California dive shop owner with a classic collection of vintage dive gear. The negotiations for a brass dive helmet began as per the above, but then something happened when new information came to light. A diving accident had left Jocko’s son Travis paralyzed, and the rehabilitation was very expensive.

Suddenly, Jocko’s motivation for selling items from his collection became crystal clear. He needed money to pay for the expensive physical therapy. But his goal was not to “make money,” his goal was to help his son walk again. Once the pickers knew this, the tone changed. They realized they could help Jocko toward his goal by finding the best prices for his items. They could negotiate as allies, instead of adversaries.

If a buyer can understand the motivations of a seller by asking open-ended questions, there doesn’t need to be a conflict. They can help each other win. And that’s good for everyone’s business.

Career lessons from Joe Walsh

Today, careers everywhere have been shaken up. No gig is guaranteed, and many people are on their own when it comes to benefits or health plans while politicians sort out the details. But musicians have always lived this way. Recently, you might have caught some of the History of the Eagles documentary on TV that cast the latest light on the dark corners of that business.

The lot of the musician is one of constant adaptation, persistence and reinvention. You have to prove yourself every night in front of a new audience, pretty much for the rest of your life if you plan on being around that long. Many don’t make it.

But a good example of successfully navigating this sea of uncertainty is Joe Walsh, as a solo artist and an “Eagle,” he’s always proven to be maneuverable, versatile entertainer devoted to his craft. So since we’re in a rocking mood, let’s glean some career lessons from this iconic guitarist.

Always look for opportunity. Walsh started his career in the James Gang when their song Funk #49 kicked off the 1970′s by blowing out Camero speakers everywhere. After three records with the Gang, Walsh had some money and fame, but he knew it was no time to get comfortable. So he bailed out of the James Gang to start a new band, Barnstorm, and then kicked off a solo career that would result in over a dozen albums. Do you balance staying “comfortable” with taking risks?

March to your own drummer. Not too many artists put their solo career on hold to join a band, but that’s what Walsh did when he agreed to replace Eagles’ guitarist Bernie Leadon in 1975. The result was a new direction for the band that produced their classic Hotel California album. Walsh’s guitar solo on the title track ranks as one of the best ever. Always be open to new options, and keep in mind that your next gig might be in a direction you didn’t anticipate.

Always bring something to the table. Walsh brought three things to this established band. 1. An edgy guitar sound that gave The Eagles the opportunity to venture out into fresh territory. 2. New song ideas including riffs and lyrics. 3. The willingness to collaborate and compromise in a team environment. (The latter is often not easy for those used to calling the shots, such as solo artists.) New ideas and fresh thinking are not the sole province of entrepreneurs and start-ups. If you are joining an established organization it’s just as important that you bring creativity, money making (or saving) ideas, and a team-player attitude.

Cultivate your network. Over the years Walsh has helped out by playing guitar on records for many artists from Dan Fogelberg and John Entwistle to Any Gibb and REO Speedwagon. He’s also known to be generous with his gear, sharing vintage guitars from his collection with other musicians such as Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page. Do more than just connect with others on LinkedIn. Cultivating a network where you share your time, talent and treasure pays lifelong dividends.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. While he’s a member of a superstar band and his songs have been rock radio staples for decades, Walsh doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s known as one of the most laid back approachable “rock stars” around. His albums reflect this with titles such as, “So What,” “Ordinary Average Guy,” and “Got Any Gum?” In a world of inflated egos, social media status updates and bloated bios, take the road less traveled and let your work speak for you. Do that and you’ll be in business…for the long run.

Revive a reading regimen

libraryThese days, even with a Kindle, it can be tough to find time to read. You’ve got mind-numbing games and endless apps on your smartphone, hundreds of channels of reality shows on your FiOS, and all those “Hangover” movies downloaded on your tablet. But if wedging some reading time into your day is important to you, use these tips to get started.

Keep a list. I maintain a list in my black notebook of all of the books I want to read. The list keeps me motivated. It’s a list that will never end and I find a certain amount of joy in checking off a book after I’ve read it. You can also create a list on Amazon to share with others.

Start with something. Never been a big reader? Relax, you’re not in school anymore so you can pick out books you want to read. Want a short biz book? Try The One Minute Manager, Poke the Box or Do the Work. And if you find yourself bored you can always set it aside and try another one, no one else is keeping score.

Mix it up. Biographies provide inspiration and insight, business books let you keep on top of the latest thought leaders in your industry and beyond, the classics expose you to the proven great thinkers, graphic novels can fire your creativity, and current bestselling titles provide enjoyment and convenient social ice breakers.

Steal time. I saw this tip in a book about JFK. The young president was an avid reader but naturally had a crazy schedule, so to adapt he always had a book handy and read while standing up. This trick lets you read a few lines while waiting for an appointment, on hold with the airline, or waiting for that leftover Mako shark to cook in the microwave. Reading a page here or there will help you get through books much faster than if you wait to find time to relax on the couch.

Ritual reading. Instead of falling asleep in front of your flat screen, make reading a good book before bed a nightly ritual. Sleep experts agree watching TV or playing Xbox just before bed isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep anyway.

Jot notes. Sometimes you may want to take notes or underline passages for later reference, but how do you find them again when you need them? Easy. In a blank page in the front of the book create your own informal index. In pencil jot down the item and the associated page number. Something like, “Job search tip, page 53.” Writing notes, ideas and doodles gives a book character and makes it your own. (Librarians may not agree.)

Don’t let excuses get in your way. Sure you’re busy, but busier than Theodore Roosevelt? (NYC Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York , naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, colonel, VP and President.) In addition to building out the most incredible resume ever, Teddy was famous for reading at least one book a day…amounting to thousands over his lifetime. (Oh, and he found time to write 36 of his own books.) Here is some advice to read like TR.

Use social media. Twitter and LinkedIn can help you find fresh new books and reintroduce old classics. Use Twitter to ask questions and interact with authors and other fans, and try LinkedIn to join book-related groups and discussions.

Educate yourself. Remember this Matt Damon line in Good Will Hunting? “You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you could’ve got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.” Some of us have sheepskins on the wall and some of us don’t. But no matter what you’ve spent on education it’s in the past and the future belongs to those willing to keep learning.

It’s never been a better time to get back into books!

Pope

Jorge Mario Bergoglio woke up this morning as a cardinal. This afternoon he was elected pope and became Francis I. In his first appearance he asked the crowds for their blessing as be began his “journey’ as head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Are you ready for a new journey if the opportunity presents itself? Are you making yourself available for an opportunity to present itself? You’re not too old, Bergoglio is 76 and his life just changed a few hours ago.

Pope lesson: be true to yourself, but always be ready to assume a new responsibility and identity.

Strange deer

It was midnight as I negotiated a turn and slammed on my brakes as a four-legged creature materialized on the side of the road. I had never seen anything like it. It was about the size of a small deer and almost entirely white in color. It looked at me with curious brown eyes and hopped away for several yards before stopping. Yes, it hopped. It also had a small hump, like a camel. I have spent many years in the outdoors and I had never seen anything like it.

Google revealed it to be a piebald deer. Apparently it possessed a one-in-a-hundred inherited genetic trait.

Imagine, an encounter with a rare ungulate right in my own neighborhood. If there can be deer-size things living in your neighborhood that you’ve never seen, maybe there are jobs nearby that you’ve never imagined.

It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time…and the more you’re out there looking, the better the odds.