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Success Advice

Why Real Is The New Black

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fear is the new real

I grew up believing in this societal myth that you have to be fearless. That in order to make it in life, you have to develop thick skin. Be afraid of nothing. If anything goes wrong, just throw some dirt on it.

It’s all bullsh!t.

This year alone, I’ve interviewed over 50 entrepreneurs who are truly living on their own terms. They are some of the bravest and most prolific people I’ve come to know. In deconstructing their stories to determine what drove them to succeed, we uncovered one underlying theme that finally debunked this myth for me.

They all had fear, and lots of it.

In the words of Mark Twain,

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

If fearlessness is a myth, then why in the world are we still scared to death of failing?

 

Fear of Being Found Out

We’ve been told all our lives to fake it till we make it. Whatever it takes. Follow the rules. Don’t let them see you sweat. Instead of admitting your fear or coming clean about not knowing what you’re doing, we cover it up. In the process, we end up becoming a 75th rate edition of everyone else.

The more we imitate and emulate, the further we move away from who we are at our best. We end up losing confidence about whether we can truly deliver the goods at all.

Fear itself is not the problem.

In fact, we should worry if we’re not afraid. The bravest people in the world know this to be true. The disparity between who we portray ourselves to be and who we truly are is the real issue.

 

Keep It Real

So what is this new black we’re talking about here?

The key to reconciling who you are with how you show up in the world is all about keeping it real. Yes, I realize this is an abstract idea, this whole “keeping it real” thing.

To help you wrap your head around what I mean, here are three simple mantras you can incorporate into your life and work every single day to keep it real: doing things from the heart, living your own narrative and telling your unmistakable story.

pound get some graffitti

 

Whatever you do, do it from the heart.

I interviewed Bryson Andres, a 22-year-0ld electric violinist whose Spokane street performance covering OneRepublic’s Secrets went viral on YouTube and got him picked up by a major brand. I asked him what inspired him to keep performing on the streets especially during the times he had no money, no real support from his estranged parents, and no guarantee he would be ever discovered.

“My grandparents told me I sucked. I was only 12 or 13 at the time but I thought to myself, I don’t care. I’m just going to play the violin and play it from the heart… when I became an adult, something tragic happened in our family. When you lose somebody very important in your life, you want to live the way they’d want you to live. I decided I really needed to live my life to the fullest. I didn’t want to look back 10 or 15 years from that point and find myself sitting in a chair without having gone anywhere.” – Bryson Andres

 

Live your own narrative.

I also talked to nomadic entrepreneur and humanitarian, AJ Leon, who gave up his six-figure salary and corner office in Manhattan just four days before his wedding to nomad around the world. If you’ve ever felt stranded on your lone island trying to unlearn the things you felt compelled to do while chasing someone else’s dream, it’s refreshing to find others out there like AJ who understand how scary it is to leap out of your perceived security net into a world of the unknown.

“I try to look at fears that in the past would have had their foot on my throat and I just let them stand there; I try to not do that now. That dude was always afraid. I know there are people like that dude out there. That’s who I’m writing to. The 22-year-old version of myself. I’m telling that guy he doesn’t have to listen to everybody else and he has much more choices than he thinks he has… when you recognize this is not your practice life. This is all you have. Everything changes when you really get that because your choices become more urgent and that fear of ‘Am I gonna make it?’ is much less relevant. This is my life. This is my art project.” – AJ Leon

 

Tell your unmistakable story.

Another interview with Srini Rao, the host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, left many ripples with me. After 10 years of failed jobs and relationships, he felt like a big disappointment to his parents. In recent years, Srini realized that every job he was fired from actually moved him closer to his purpose and the revelation that he was a corporate misfit. A badge he’s proud to wear.

“If you look at people who are successful, it appears that they have these massive platforms. That if you have all the numbers they have, that you’ll have all the success they have. Not quite. You have a unique story. You have a unique angle. That’s what actually matters. That’s the kind of thing that makes you unmistakable. The whole point of the art of being unmistakable is that you tell a story in a way that only you can. What I call the no bullshit version. You start shedding.” – Srini Rao

When you’re doing things from the heart, living your own narrative and telling your unmistakable story, being found out is a very good thing. #realisthenewblack

 

Feature Image Credit: BoostInspiration.com

Berni Xiong is Chief Kicker of Shins at BerniXiong.com and Co-Shut Up'er of Making Shit Happen at TheShutUpShow.com. As a coach, strategy consultant, speaker, web show host and writer, she helps six-figure salaried career professionals, start-ups and seven-figure small businesses unleash their roaring misfit heart and live on their own terms.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Sebastian

    Oct 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Wow great examples of people.

    It seems like the main message is don’t be afraid of being yourself and constructing your own unique path in life.

    Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Dave Conrey

    Oct 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I fully endorse this message… as I’m sure you knew I would. Nice one, B.

    • Berni Xiong (shUNG)

      Oct 8, 2013 at 6:22 am

      Thanks D-Con! It’s wonderful what happens when you write your heart out and keep it real… of course you would know that well 🙂

  3. Linda Esposito (@TalkTherapyBiz)

    Oct 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Awesome work Berni! (And love the title :P).

    50 interviews last year–whoa. That’s less vacay time than the average cube monkey gets.

    And not to disrespect Bryson’s grandparents, but I want to kick their asses. He should compose a violin concerto in their callous honor called “F@#k-this-Sh*t-O’clock.”

    TY for embracing/mobilizing fear.
    #realisthenewblack

    • Berni Xiong (shUNG) (@BerniXiong)

      Oct 4, 2013 at 3:46 am

      Haha you know what’s funny Linda… if you watched the interview I did with Bryson, you’ll see how emotional he got. And I actually got soft eyed for him when he told his story. But it’s that struggle and pain that really fueled his desire to succeed and be so damn good at the violin. I am actually glad things turned out as they did. He’s rockin’ it now!

  4. Berni Xiong (shUNG) (@BerniXiong)

    Oct 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks Robert! I used to get teased as a teen when I’d overuse “keep it real” and now, much much older and wiser, I finally get what it really means. 🙂

  5. Robert Seay

    Oct 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Great article!! Thank you so much!!

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Success Advice

Why You Should Prefer Emails to Phone Calls if You Want to Be More Productive

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productivity tips
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“Email” and “productivity” rarely go together in a sentence. Emails have been declared as one of our largest time wasters. A McKinsey report stated that people spend around 2.6 hours each day responding to emails. That’s 13 hours a week, 52 hours a month and over 60 days a year! Imagine what you could’ve achieved in 60 days!

Emails also negatively affect our cognitive resources. When we think of responding to them while doing other important tasks, it takes up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds after being disrupted to return to full attention to a current task. Imagine how much our cognition and productivity gets fractured when we get distracted over and over again.

Constant emailing also drains us mentally. And at the end of a day, we realize that we’ve achieved nothing worth mentioning. With a phone call, you can sort issues and solve problems quickly, right? In theory, you’re right. But we live in a practical world where many variables come into play.

Below are three variables that make phone calls adversely affect our productivity, and why emails are a better alternative:

1. Wasting Time

Most “five-minute conversations” can quickly turn into 35-minute calls because people ramble about irrelevant aspects. This derailment, several times a day, severely limits the limited time and energy you have for important tasks.

Emails, on the other hand, force writers to streamline their thoughts and stick to the point. Emails can save you plenty of time and energy because you avoid lengthy phone calls. The constant strife to keep your own emails short and crisp also makes you a clearer thinker, which rewards you in other aspects of your life.

“It’s better to waste money, than it is to waste time. You can always get more money.” – Hal Sparks

2. Inaccurate Responses

An unexpected phone call can catch me caught off guard on a topic. I might respond emotionally or give an answer that doesn’t do justice to what I want to share. In a world dominated by panic buttons and fire-fighting, these don’t just stress me out but the caller as well.

Emails give me flexibility to prepare a coherent response and share it when I’m satisfied. If I feel a surge of emotion, I can sleep over the thought and share a better (more rational) response the next day. Many page-long email responses to emails that upset me have turned into a simple “thank you for your email” the next day.

3. Constant Back-and-Forth

Phone calls often are ineffective to solve business problems. Accounting for multiple people, their views, their timelines… One phone call can quickly turn into three.

Emails are quicker and more effective than even conference calls. They let you communicate with multiple people at the same time. You can share information, assign tasks and give status updates while being as specific as possible.

You must be wondering, “What about back-and-forth emails then? Why do we waste precious time on them?” Yes, email has earned a bad rap. But it’s not because of the medium; it’s because we handle it ineffectively.

A Better Approach to Emailing

For most people, constantly refreshing the inbox is part of the daily to-do list. It keeps them busy and gives them a kick of dopamine – the feel-good chemical.

Ironically, this quest to remain busy makes people compromise on taking action that can move them forward. Using emails prudently, rewards you with plenty of energy and mind space to focus on tasks that truly matter.

Here are three steps that benefited me without succumbing to the side effects of email:

1. Checking Them Less

I check emails just 3 times a day – at 9:30 AM, 12:00 PM, and 4:30 PM. If you don’t have the luxury to do the same, you can start by checking your emails for ten minutes at the end of each hour. Most senders expect a response in a little over an hour. So they won’t mind a slightly delayed response. This gives you 45 undisturbed minutes each hour to work on your core tasks.

2. Responding Quickly

People delay responding to emails at least 37% of the time, which turns finding emails and responding to them into additional tasks that cost time and lead to attention residue. Most emails take under two minutes to respond. When you can respond to an email, do so instead of putting it off. This won’t just put your mind at peace, it’ll also reduce the number of “did-you-see-this” follow-up emails in your inbox.

“I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk

3. The If-Then Technique

The If-Then technique helps you address multiple scenarios at once. For instance, an email that says, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM?” becomes, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM? If not, please advise three other times that work for you.”

This technique is also effective when you want to suggest ideas or provide instructions on alternative steps. For example, “Here’s Plan A. If it doesn’t work, connect with [name] and ask for [specific information]. If you don’t get what you need, inform me.”

I’ll admit. This sounds like more work in the current moment, but it drastically cuts down the number of trail mails, confused correspondences, and fire-fighting instances that occur due to miscommunication.

The If-Then formula is the single most effective technique I’ve learned from The 4-Hour Workweek. All of this doesn’t mean that you abandon phone calls, In fact, it’s better to use the phone for sensitive topics or if an email conversation gets dragged. But remain mindful to not let phone calls waste your time.

If you want to pursue a meaningful life, place a premium on your time. Do things that create time for you to pursue meaningful actions and avoid doing what pulls you away from them. In the knowledge economy, this is the key to success.

Do you prefer email or talking on the phone? Share your thoughts below!

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Success Advice

4 Questions You Need to Answer Before You Reach the Level of Success You So Desperately Crave

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how to be happy and successful
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It’s normal that every person in the world wants to reach success and happiness. Yet, everyone defines both of these things differently. For some, success is making a whole bunch of money while for others this can be to become a good parent. Happiness is defined differently as well. Some people need to own a jet, boat and 3 cars to be truly happy, while others are happy just to be able to wake up in the morning.

It doesn’t matter how you define success and happiness, the truth is, you want to achieve them both. But, to be able to reach success and happiness, you need to answer 4 questions for yourself.

Here are the 4 questions you need to answer before you can achieve success and happiness:

1. Where Are You?

No, not geographically. It doesn’t matter where you live. What matters is where are you in life. Where are you in your way to success and happiness. Let’s say you are lost in the woods. You know exactly where you want to go, but you don’t know where you are. Even a map doesn’t help you with that.

The same is true in life. You may have a goal, but until you truly define where you are in the moment, you can’t move toward this goal. So, step 1 on your way to success and happiness is to define where you are right now.

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn

2. Where Do You Want to Go?

When you define where you are in life, then you can think of where you want to be.

There’s this saying:  When you don´t know your final destination, you´ll end up somewhere you didn’t want to be. Until you don’t know clearly where you want to be in life and who you want to become, your life doesn’t have a true purpose.

Without purpose, there´s no motivation. Without motivation, there´s no energy. And without energy, you´re not living, you´re just existing. I am sure you know someone who looks like a walking corpse everytime you see them. Do you think this person lives a successful and happy life? Most likely not.

So, step 2 on your way to success and happiness is to clearly define your goal. What do you want to accomplish and who do you want to become?

3. Why Do You Want It?

Okay, you know the basics. You know where you are and where you want to be. But, as Rocky Balboa said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.” And as you already know, life usually doesn’t go according to your plan. There will be hard times and to overcome those and not give up, you need to know WHY you do what you do.

You need to know WHY you want to accomplish your goals. When you answer this for yourself, you don’t struggle so much to motivate yourself. You will be motivated every minute of every day.

So, as a step 3, sit down and think of WHY you want to accomplish your goals. What’s the big purpose?

“We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish.” – Tony Robbins

4. How Are You Going to Get There?

And finally, how are you going to get there? What’s your plan? You may know where you are, where you want to be and why you want to do it, but until you truly understand how you are going to get there, there won’t be much success and happiness in your life.

For example, you want to become a bodybuilder. You want to do it because you want to have big muscles and you want to look fit. But, you have no idea how to work out, how to build muscle and how to lose fat. Do you think, you´re going to be happy? No. As Tony Robbins says, “true happiness comes from progress.”

To make progress, you need to have a specific plan; how to get from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to be). So, as a step 4, sit down and make a specific plan for how you’re going to get what you want in life.

In order to reach success and happiness, there are 4 questions you need to answer for yourself. Without answering them, you´re not going to  get ahead in life, you´re just bouncing around. Success and happiness never come from just bouncing around in life.

Good news is, that these questions are really simple. It won’t take much time to answer them. Just be aware of where you are and where you want to be. Don´t forget to understand why you are pursuing your dream and finally, how are you going to get what you want.

Answer these 4 simple questions today and you won’t struggle with finding success and happiness in life anymore.

Which one of the above 4 questions resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts and ideas below!

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Success Advice

The Empathetic Heart: How The CHO of VaynerMedia Is Changing The Way We Work

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Claude Silver CHO of Vaynermedia
Image Credit: VaynerMedia

A month after I had joined LinkedIn back in July of 2018, I sent Claude Silver a connection request and began following her content. One day she made a post saying “Ask and you shall receive, what can I do to help you today?”. I commented on that post asking for a 5 minute interview and to my surprise she agreed by asking me to send her a message (I was given a full hour). This was the first example of pure kindness I witnessed from Claude.

The first message you see on Claude’s website is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something. That message spoke to me on an emotional level, and I believe it will speak to you too. I wanted to know how she created such an amazing culture, what being a “culture carrier” meant, and how the employees at VaynerMedia have been changed by her work there.

A culture carrier in Claude’s own words is “someone who is aligned with our values, I can’t teach someone to be kind they have to already be kind. The process of developing a culture carrier takes about 6 months. It’s about bringing people together and having strong core values of kindness and empathy.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia, is often referred to as a combination of hustle and heart. With the hiring of Claude and the work she has accomplished within the company, it speaks to the level of empathy that can be felt throughout the entire operation.

Although business can be a challenging, tough, and often cut-throat terrain, by putting employees first and providing honest feedback the company has grown to include offices in New York, Chattanooga, Los Angeles and London, and continues to dominate the market.

Below we’ll see 3 different ways the CHO of VaynerMedia is changing the way people work:

1. By being unafraid to share her own story

Claude has been an influential part of breaking the stigma surrounding vulnerability in the business arena. Not only does she openly share her own story, but she sits down with employees to better understand their vulnerabilities and how to use characteristics that previously would have been considered weaknesses as strengths.

When asked what her biggest adventure to date was she replied “Having Shalom (her daughter). I have had an amazing life, I moved, worked hard, landed an amazing job and fell in love but it didn’t come without its challenges.”

Claude is openly gay and is living proof your sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but your character, your track record, and if you leave people a little better off than before you met them. From Claude, business leaders, employees and entrepreneurs can learn to be more open both on social media and in person, allowing them to build more meaningful relationships and connect on a deeper level. A deeper connection can mean more leverage but it also means a more lasting impact on the world.

“Everyone has something they can share. I’m not famous. I don’t have anything that would be newsworthy, but I have stories.” – Tafta Johnson Watson

2. Committing to a strong value system

VaynerMedia has some serious values for such a large company and those values are expected to be upheld by every employee and visitor. Values like kindness, empathy, honesty, hustle and the art of not complaining.

With Claude holding the title of Chief Heart Officer, she is the guiding light for others. When recruiting, she says she “takes the time to evaluate an individual’s talents but most importantly their own heart”.  

Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying:”To me, there’s no debate that kindness is a strength. And it breaks my heart to know that so many people believe it’s a weakness. So many people are afraid that other people will take advantage of their kindness or make them feel “used.” But the truth is, those who take advantage of your kindness are weak on the inside. Feel bad for them, don’t let them make you feel bad about yourself“.

Both Claude and Gary teach aspiring entrepreneurs that it is okay to live with an open heart and that having the strength to commit to and live with a strong value system, will be a powerful tool during the hustle journey. It also allows you to go to bed at night actually liking the person that you are, nothing will kill a business faster than going to bed at night and hating yourself.

3. Listening with action

As mentioned above Claude’s slogan is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something.  As a woman who wears many hats, she is also an Outward Bound Instructor, taking individuals on amazing adventures in the outdoors.

Taking action on any given day can mean a number of different things but it speaks to her own character and driving force that she is able to not only guide people through the world of office politics but also through the serene and sometimes challenging wilderness.

Claude cultivates an environment of trust by first offering individuals her own trust. It is a huge and vulnerable action that leads to a relationship of love – heart – and productivity. Listening as an action is something that has the power to change an entire organization from an unproductive, toxic environment to one that promotes creativity, passion, inclusion and positivity.

“Relationships are leverage. If you give value to someone else first, you have leverage.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

To get the truest sense of how Claude was changing the way people work, I asked her co-workers to tell me what working alongside Claude has done for them. Here is one of the answers I received:

“During my time working alongside Claude, I’ve really come to appreciate her example of being a good listener. As a society, we tend to praise the power of speaking. But Claude demonstrates on a daily basis that the most important thing everybody wants is to be heard.” – Steve Babcock, Chief Creative Officer VaynerMedia.

I tried looking for images of Claude on her website and I think it speaks to how focused she is on holding space for others, because I couldn’t find a single full sized image of her to use. I googled. Writing this piece has opened me up to evaluate my own values and the way I connect with people in my daily life.

From this article, it is my own hope that entrepreneurs come to the understanding that although tenacity and true grit are really important, the whole of what Claude represents is something to strive towards. The “soft” skills you develop are humongous strengths and to truly impact an entire organization.

What’s the last random act of kindness you did for someone? Share with us below!

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Success Advice

The 7 Secrets of High Achievers Revealed

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high achievers
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We all have goals in life, but very few of us ever learn to consciously set, work on and see our goals through. In our naturalness bias, we marvel at those who have set and reached their goals thinking they have some esoteric abilities that we don’t. We overlook that the final product is the result of a series of mistake-ridden, unrecorded pains. What if we could learn from the process, the habits and rituals of the high achievers? (more…)

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