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As our world becomes increasingly interconnected it seems as though our values are starting to blend into a muddied puddle of uncertainty. The rise of high speed, mobile communication and the mass dissemination of accessible data has resulted in a great deal of complacency in regards to the dangers of group thinking. While community formed from our shared humanity is a step closer to world peace, it also blinds the individual of their own unique needs and leads them to unwillingly pursue aspirations that might not best serve them.

Take for example the definitions of success or happiness. These terms will never be universal. That being said, if you ask any sample size of individuals to define these words they are likely to answer in relatively simplistic terms: health, family, friends, stability, shelter, fun and love. What they are less likely to say is: riches, fame, admiration, attention, popularity or the like. However, when we interact with strangers and with the world around us it seems that we tend to project the later rather than the former. We are wired to need to project a level of success & accomplishment and shamed if we cannot.

For the entrepreneur, this presents an interesting conundrum. The push & pull between the pursuit of a place in history... of legacy and the alternative: a lifestyle of quiet contentment. Today's advertising messages, media coverage and interpersonal communications via social platforms would have us believe that the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit of more. More consumption. More belongings. More experiences. MORE. We have created economies dependent upon such practices. We have created entire industries around fame and attention (see reality TV). It is more & more difficult to distinguish between what we value or need and what we want or think we have to have. This brings me to the story of The Fisherman and The Banker, which was recently sent to me by an entrepreneur & colleague who (like me) is always navigating the fine line between the desire for more success and a casual lifestyle of balanced contentment. I will not suggest that one is more virtuous than the other. I will instead share this proverbial tale and allow you to apply it to your own life as you see fit.

The Parable of The Fisherman And The Banker

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”





 
 
Being clear of the worst, I am now able to comfortably state that I spent the last year engaged in a medical crisis. As June approaches I am reminded of where I was this time a year ago and still surprised at how naive I really was when my body began to shut down on me. Then 27 and a lifelong athlete with no prior medical problems, I simply told myself that the strange dizzy spells, bouts of weakness in my legs and sudden shortness of breath I was experiencing had everything to do with my devotion to my business and lack of dedication to diet/exercise.

As a busy solo entrepreneur transitioning from part-time consultant/freelancer to full-time business owner it became the norm to grab whatever was convenient for meals- like a slice, burgers and burritos, drown each bite with caffeine and then neglect the gym in exchange for a few drinks at the bar to unwind.

As the strange symptoms went from occasional moments of oddity to blatantly obvious reasons for concern, I went through the excuses: I’m not eating that well, I’m not sleeping that well (I had a terrible habit of staying up until 4am working and starting again at 10am) or I’m not getting enough fitness. I was also devoting a considerable amount of time to my then girlfriend and ignoring my own needs in regards to time and emotional fulfillment from friends/family.

In other words, I was neglecting all of the critical factors for personal health: physical fitness, nutrition, human connection and rest. For the average person looking in it was pretty obvious that I was in need of a massive shift in lifestyle. As an entrepreneur I simply didn’t have the time to deal with it. If only I could go back and shake myself for such ignorance.

When I began feeling an aggressive and uncomfortable aching in my lower abdomen I knew that I had walked to the end of the line with whatever was impacting my health. On June 3rd, after weeks of encouragement from those close to me, I casually ventured into the emergency room. Of course, I had saved the trip for the end of the day- as I made time to take a lunch meeting with a friend and preview a venue for a client event with my intern first. Once again, taking care of me was my last priority.

When the ER nurse at check-in first looked at me she blurted out, ‘you look terrible’.  I was pale, weak and immediately worried. It was becoming evident that my self-diagnosis of needing a simple prescription to correct some small dietary imbalance was far from reality. The average human has a hemoglobin level of 13-17, which is really a measure of the amount of oxygen in your blood. Tests indicated my level was 4.7 that day. I was later told I should have had a heart attack or stroke weeks before. I was admitted for a barrage of follow-up tests. It was already known that I was severely anemic. A few days later, like a silent bullet ripping through me while I walked down the sidewalk, the true diagnosis came.  

‘You have leukemia’. I was no longer the founder of my own company, a soccer player or a writer… the only title that now resonated with my identity was the one that we all dread: cancer patient. It was a term I had heard before and immediately associated with death.

Fortunately, I was built for the battle that lay ahead and I had the support around me to fight through the 5 months of treatment, stem-cell transplant and on-going maintenance that followed. Luckily, I am able to write this blog feeling near normal health again and with a new found vigor for bringing C2Bseen services to socially-conscious and passionate entrepreneurs who are working to realize their own visions. However, without a mix of luck and miracle involved, my fortune could just as easily been tragedy.

In recent weeks I have had some transformative conversations with individuals exploring their deepest inner purpose and wishes for a life of fulfillment. While financial concerns, professional aspirations and ambitious tangible goals are a piece of that puzzle, our talks always seem to come back to the simple things that construct a real platform for happiness and success; the same things I was ignoring while blindly believing all my time and energy had to go toward my start-up.

The lesson I learned the hard way, but am richer for knowing, is that without self-preservation of your innate human needs you are depriving yourself of the possibility for professional longevity. A sick, exhausted, discontent and disconnected entrepreneur at the helm will only breed a similar culture. An absent entrepreneur forced into the hospital won’t be able to work at all. The rule is clear: when you ignore you the work will suffer, growth will be stunted and creativity will stall.

There are a thousand quotes that claim that the successful business person gets there by burying their head and digging in. In theory this is accurate: you will need to work as hard as or harder than everyone you know and most certainly your competition. However, there is such a thing as a business that fits your lifestyle and you should be open and honest about what you need on a personal level in order to build a prosperous company.

Entrepreneurs that fail to recognize the need for purity in mind, body and soul are setting themselves up for almost certain ruin. Heed my warning before an irreversible wake-up call does it for you.

 
 

When news leaked in December that Major League Baseball was investigating a positive test result showing elevated levels of testosterone in their seemingly clean National League MVP it was a shock to all fans and a punch in the gut to the rising star.  This week, baseball arbitrators made a historic decision by clearing Braun’s name and lifting the 50-game ban levied upon him.

While the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder can now proceed with his career, his reputation is still somewhat tainted by the allegations. However, the scenario could have been much worse if Braun hadn’t been prepared. Spending three months awaiting the decision, Braun took some important steps to avoid tainting his image further, which can be useful to others caught in the middle of a personal brand controversy.

1.       Stick to your story, but don’t say too much.

Braun never wavered from his innocent plea and stuck to his mandated position not to comment on the details of the case. This worked in his favor as it helped the public avoid rushing to judgment. If news breaks that attacks your personal brand, consider the ‘no comment’ approach until you have thought through the impact of your words. When you do make a statement, take time to craft it to sound firm, confident and humble. Stay out of the spotlight and don’t stir things up until you have all evidence to prove your position; basic PR101 on this one.

2.       Rally support.

Braun benefited from the backing of his organization, his past reputation as a positive member of his community and a few famous friends. It doesn’t hurt having NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in your corner. If you find yourself in the cross-hairs, be sure to call upon your best assets to back you up and help validate your position of honest character. Aligning yourself with well-respected people makes you appear to share equal values.

3.       Do not attack the opposition.

Braun declared that there were unique circumstances around his testing scenario. He also called the result of his test, ‘BS’, but he never directly bad-mouthed MLB: likely a good plan considering the organization is his employer and helps ensure he’ll receive the $140 million+ he’s owed over his career. Getting angry or defensive makes you look guilty even if you aren’t. Having a clean, calculated and evidence driven defense through more formal channels is a far better approach than lashing out in fear of what a false accusation can do to your personal brand.

4.       Be grateful.

Thank your supporters. Thank those that are not rushing to ostracize you. Thank the press for respecting your privacy. If your name is finally cleared- thank everyone!

5.       Keep it Positive

Braun received plenty of media backlash when the news broke.  Although this image terrorizing will likely continue amongst those that feel Braun got away with cheating, the court of justice has spoken in his favor. What Braun did right was his avoidance of engaging with negative voices. Whether it is a Tweet, blog post, article or message board comment there is likely more damage to be done by trying to fight back against ‘trolls’ who get their kicks tarnishing reputations of others. To recognize their opinion validates their voice. Do not provide your enemies with the fuel to keep the controversy burning. Focus on the positive.

Ryan Braun arrived at Spring Training today with a fresh start. He faced the darkest scenario an athlete can and prevailed. Braun has worked his entire life to build a reputation of strong, moral and generous character. He has made ample proclamations about his respect for his profession and disgust of cheaters. By standing for something in advance, he was able to bring the public on his side. By following the steps above, he was able to keep them there until his name was cleared.

Watch Braun's impressive statement following the decision here
 
 
1.       Be Opportunistic

As a brand consultant, it is your role to enhance, empower and grow the influence of your client’s identity in the marketplace. You’ve been hired to offer an outsiders perspective and put your resources to use. If you’re doing your job well, you should be looking to add value to your client relationships on a daily basis. Read an article that might benefit the client? Send it over. Meet a key industry contact at a conference? Make the introduction. Hear of a competitive strategy that might impact the sales forecast? Share the insight. Information, understanding, contacts and perspective are your products. The regular sharing of smaller ideas can lead to big projects. Always be looking for new assets you can assemble and dispense and you’ll become indispensable to clients.

2.      Really Care

As a consultant you are often in the relationship with your client alone. This makes consulting a highly intimate endeavor that requires a personal touch to succeed. The best thing a consultant can do for themself is to care about the person on the other end of the table. Not just care because they are writing checks, but care because they are a human being, deserving of respect. Get to know your client to the degree that they are comfortable with. Look for signs: Do they talk about their family? Do they talk about hobbies? Those are windows to connect. A friendly banter is encouraged. Avoid overtly personal confessions or sharing, but open up enough to let them see you as someone they would be able to spend time with talking about things other than work. If your conversations with clients aren’t always focused on handling business, you’ll likely get even more business accomplished. A consulting colleague of mine lives by the mantra, “Relationships Still Matter”. The phrase pays.

3.       Offer Honesty

Being hired to build, analyze or promote an entrepreneurs' brand is one of the toughest jobs in marketing. It is crucial to remember that each time you engage an entrepreneur regarding their business it is like talking to a parent about their child. A business is very much like a baby and the owner is invested in a similar fashion; their livelihood is tied to its success. Thus it is important to consider the sensitivity of your client when offering any form of advice, strategy or direction. Simultaneously, you also have a job to do. You’ve been hired to offer your expertise and open up new avenues for thinking about this client’s brand. Their product or service is in need of your honest opinion. There is a fine line between telling a client what they are doing is wrong/ineffective and offering constructive criticism along with solutions/ideas that can take the brand to the next level. The effective marketing consultant is capable of balancing between the brutal truth, which will allow for the right decisions to be made around the profitability of the business, and offending commentary. A consultant must have conviction and passion for the solutions they are selling… even if it takes a great deal of convincing to get the client to come around. In the end the client will have nothing to say besides thank you as their brand flourishes.