Avoiding the All-Or-Nothing Trap – Zig Zag Principle #68

March 29th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

I grew up in a rural community.  My father was completely blind.  I am the oldest of four sons, and as long as I can remember I have had entrepreneurial desires.  Despite some lofty ambitions, I was never any kind of a standout kid.  I was one of those boys who was often overlooked, and I spent a lot of time hoping I wasn’t the last kid picked on the basketball team. Nonetheless, I had this incredible and deep desire to do something of significance with my life.

I remember when I was eighteen years old and just finishing up high school, I wrote down some personal goals. I had always been goal-oriented, and my mother encouraged me to write down my goals. One of those goals was to become the CEO of a major company. Even though I wrote it down, I knew that was as far off a goal as I could have set.  I didn’t think that there was any chance or any possibility in the world of actually ever reaching that goal at that time; in fact, I might as well have written that I was going to sprout wings and flap my way to the moon.  But that became a powerful goal. It was my beacon in the fog.

I was very fortunate to have been able to get a good education.  After graduating, I worked hard and had some incredible opportunities.  And I ended up having the opportunity to work as a CEO and a general manager at some large and well-known companies.  Midway through my career in corporate America, I was given a leadership role in a large, international organization.  I was eager and determined to earn my stripes, and I basically committed to do so at all costs. I was a very young general manager of the U.S. division, and I was determined to do anything that was necessary to succeed. My commitment bordered on insane. I had a young family, but I was traveling hundreds of thousands of miles every year.  There were nights I would stay at the office all night long to do what I felt needed to be done.  I was going to succeed, and I didn’t care about the costs.  Then I learned the lesson that it is not worth risking everything of importance in your life to achieve success. The division I was over became very successful.  In the middle of our run, my mentor and boss, Dr. Peter Horne, called my secretary and said, “I need to have a visit with Rich.”  That meant jumping on a plane, flying to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam across the channel to Birmingham, England.  Door-to-door, this was a twenty-hour trip. When I arrived, Dr. Horne pulled me into his office and sat me down.   He then said, “Rich, we’re really delighted with the progress you’ve made in the business. Things are coming along rather nicely.” And then he made this comment, which has stuck with me: “I want you to remember one thing though, Rich. You can replace almost anything in this world. You can replace a car. You can replace a job. You can replace money. But you can’t replace your health, you can’t replace your trust relationships, and, most importantly, you can’t replace your family.” Then he shooed me out of his office, and I began the long journey home. 

Those twenty hours, which I spent alone on a very crowded airplane, gave me plenty of time to think about what Dr. Horne had just said.  Most of my thoughts centered on my wife and children.  For years I had been telling my wife, “This next project is a big one for me.  I am going to give it my all for six months, so don’t plan on seeing much of me.  But once I finish it, things will be different.”   The six months would pass.  I would complete the project, and then a new project would come along and I would start the cycle all over again.  Those six months had turned into years as I kept promising, “If I give my all to this for six months, then we will have it made.” As we crossed the Alantic, I reflected on a trip I had taken to India some months before.  When I got home, all of my sons and I came down with whooping cough, or pertussis.  We had all been immunized, but somehow we contracted this miserable illness.  It was terrible.  I remember coughing so hard one day that I literally vomited, but I lacked the discipline to take some time off from my work to get better and help my wife with our sons.  My youngest son at the time was Nathan.  He was less than a year old when we all got sick, and it was life-threatening for him.  In fact, he ended up in the hospital, where my wife took care of him because I was too busy.

Flying home, I realized I was falling into the “all or nothing trap,” and I resolved that I was going to do better as a father and husband, and when I got home I made it a point to gather my young sons together, give them each a hug, and tell them I love them.  But when I went to pick up Nathan, he hollered and screamed.  As he pushed me away, I realized he did not even know who I was.  At that moment, I realized that achieving my goal of being a CEO was not worth losing the love of my family.  And I began to change both my priorities and how I actually lived my life.

Achieve Goals Through Rewards – Zig Zag Principle #67

March 22nd, 2012 by Rich Christiansen


When you are planning out rewards, you need to very specifically tie each reward to the zig or the zag you are heading toward.  I always establish timeframes, often in the form of quarterly goals.  When we make our quarterly goals, we sit down
as a team and decide what we want to accomplish.  Once we have established the go
al, we spend almost as much time discussing what reward we will get when we achieve the goal.  Then we make signs and post them all over the office, with the goal written out over a picture of the reward.  

One of the signs I used in our office had a picture of people snowmobiling.  We titled it, “Plowing our Way to Victory.”  Around the picture were listed the goals of getting three new clients and having a financial target of monthly recurring profit.  Another goal was to hire one more engineer and to retain another engineering client. 

For the business my son and his friends work on, they helped me develop a very specific goal if we hit certain targets. They then posted pictures of the cruise ship we would all board if they met their goals, and also the ports we would visit.  Sure enough, each of then achieved their goal, and we went for a one-week cruise. 

As you set long-term goals, don’t overlook the need to reward yourself and your team along the way.  These in-between rewards are ones I like to keep random.  Then, when I see a team member doing a particularly good job at something, I will hand them a pair of movie tickets or a gift card. The other day, we sent one of our contract employees a special “thank you” that he was not expecting.  Ever since then, he has gone over and above on the work that he does for us because that little reward meant so much to him.  Sometimes, random rewards will actually mean more than guaranteeing a treat when you push the same button over and over. 

The work you’re doing is challenging and difficult, and as you hit each zig you take a break from the intensity, celebrate, and enjoy the fruits of your labors.  Then you can do a little jump and turn your skis in the other direction toward the next goal.  We humans do have some things in common with my little salivating dog.  When we align our efforts with little treats along the way, our resulting behaviors will lead to the achieving of our goals.  The rewards make all of the effort worthwhile.

Return with Honor

March 20th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

On December 26, 1990 I rushed my wife to the hospital where she gave birth to our first son, John. I remember the excitement, the joy, and also the weight that came on me when my son first looked at me and I realized that this boy was now dependant upon me.

We took him home to our small basement apartment. The heat wasn’t working, so we turned the oven on and we baked that young man like a Thanksgiving turkey! We set him in front of the oven and got up every hour to check on him. The years that followed have been an absolute joy.

This young man has been a strong, good, honorable son. For the last two years my son John has been serving a mission in Japan.

Approximately one year ago we were woken up at three o’clock in the morning by a well-intending neighbor who asked, “Is John alive?” At that point we ask, “What are you talking about?” Then of course we were informed of the earthquake and the resulting sunami that hit Japan.

Johnny was a part of the cleanup and actively involved in some of the rescue, recovery, and service that took place in the devastated area.

Well, several days ago our entire family went up to the airport to welcome John home. He disembarked the plane, came downstairs to the waiting area, and immediately his mother ran to him and hugged this young man exactly like he was a newborn.

At that moment I actually realized that this young man has reached a new phase where he is the responsible one. He is now able to lead and go forward and teach me great things.

I have to tell you there is no greater honor than having a young man that does good—one who is service oriented, one who is goal oriented, and one who goes forward to do good in the world. It is thrilling to have a son return with honor and at the same time, set a good example for his younger brothers.

One of the businesses that we created as part of the Zig Zag Principle was a business started by Johnny. The last couple years while he’s been off serving, his younger brothers have been running the business. I pay respect and honor to Johnny. I respect him for not only sacrificing to go and live a humble, meager existence and to do good for these years, but I praise him for having the courage to follow the Zig Zag Principle and set up a business.

The final chapter in the Zig Zag Principle is The All or Nothing Trap. Indeed this week highlighted that the most valuable things in life are our family, our friends, and our trust relationships. I hope each of you experience the joys of family too.

I wish my son and this young businessman find success. I look for more incredible things to come from him.

A Vegas Getaway – Zig Zag Principle #66

March 15th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

Eating Own Cooking:

Last year my wife and I went on a little getaway to Las Vegas.  We had booked our hotel online, and we got a great rate on your normal room at one of the nicest hotels in Vegas.  When we checked in, the woman at the front desk took a liking to us.  She saw that we were on a romantic getaway, and she mentioned that most of the regular rooms were booked for a business convention.  As she handed us our key cards, she mentioned she had upgraded our room, adding, “I am not going to tell you about the room now.  You can thank me later when you see it.”

When we opened the door to our room, we gasped.  She had upgraded our $69 room to one of the presidential suites.  It was on the twenty-seventh floor and had a 180-degree view of Las Vegas.  The suite was 2,200 square feet.  It came with an entryway, a formal dining area, a living area, a huge bedroom, and two bathrooms.  My favorite part was the master bath suite.  It had an all-glass shower and a huge hot tub that overlooked the city.  And we did, indeed, thank this very kind front-end manager.

When I came back after this spectacular vacation with my wife, I was describing to Curtis this hotel we stayed in.  At this point in our business, Curtis was still working full time in his other job, and we were not making the progress we wanted in this new partnership.  As we chatted, it hit me that I knew what would motivate Curtis.  He wanted to take his wife on a vacation and stay at the same hotel my wife and I had just enjoyed—and in the same room!

I told him I had a reward in mind, and we made a list of four or five things that needed to happen.  We posted this list in the hall of our office, along with a picture of this fantastic resort.  The goal was that when those five steps were achieved and our business was stabilized, Curtis could quit his job and come into the business full time.  But equally rewarding to him was that he could also take his wife on an all expense paid trip to stay in this same hotel.  I found a picture of this hotel and drew stick figures of Curtis and his wife staying on the twenty-seventh floor and enjoying the view.  I even added a picture of its world-renowned restaurant because I knew his wife likes to dine at exclusive restaurants.  On the bottom of my artwork, I added a deadline of thirty-five days to earn this reward.  Curtis was salivating, even though we were not sure how this was going to happen.  But we did reach each of our goals, and Curtis and his wife did get to have a fantastic vacation.  And my reward was that I now had him working with me in our business full time.  

 

 

Business Competition To Springboard Entrepreneurial Growth

March 13th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

 

 

 

Alan E. Hall, champion of entrepreneurs, has joined with Zions Bank and Comcast to create regional business competitions to support, encourage, and strengthen entrepreneurship wherever and whenever it is found. Details of the business competitions will be announced at a press conference on Tuesday, March 13, 2012.  The contests will provide $1,000,000 in cash awards and services  for participating entrepreneurs.


When:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

11:00 am


Where:

Zions Bank’s Founders Room

One South Main Street, 18th Floor

Salt Lake City, Utah 84133

 

Who:

Alan E. Hall, Founder of Grow America

Scott Anderson, President & CEO of Zions bank

Steve Lindsley, President, Comcast Spotlight

 

The first 2012 competition will take place May 21, 2012. More details here.

Grow America expects thousands of entries and will award prizes in three main areas of focus:

– Idea Category (Concept): I have an idea for a business; I don’t have a complete plan for my business; I have not invested significant resources into validating my business assumptions; I am looking for money I can use to validate my idea.

– Start-up Category (Emerging Business): I have a plan for my business and have started validating my assumptions; I have started talking with potential customers; I know what resources it will take to build my product or service, and I am looking for money to get started.

– Ramp-up Category (Growth): I am currently operating the business; my business is breaking even and has generated profits; I have established sales and sales projections; I am looking for money to go to the next level.

About Grow America

Grow America is a national company emerging from Utah with a mission to create jobs and lift local economies. Grow America aligns the partners, mentors and capital that entrepreneurs need to create and grow tomorrow’s successful companies. As an organization, Grow America has five components: competitions, e-commerce tools, curriculum and educational tools, community support, and charitable giving. (For more information, visit www.GrowAm.com .)

Beyond the creation and expansion of early stage and growth companies, Grow America’s ultimate goal is to put America back to work, one company and one community at a time.

Educating 1000 Youth

March 13th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

Most everyone knows that my major goal in life right now is to educate 1000 young men and women before I turn 50. This is all consuming to me at this point in my life. Indeed I have total confidence that this will come to fruition. I do have to admit however; I’m not sure how it’s going to happen.

One of my favorite saying is, “Do it now. Do it with a purpose. Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls.”

This week I’ve had four powerful individuals, that I greatly respect, reach out to me. They each asked, “Rich how can we support you in this goal?”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I stumbled around and stammered a bit and came up with several lame responses. As I’ve been thinking about it the last few days, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

There’s no need to wait to have impact. This summer I will be taking a group of teens down to Guatemala to work on the education goal. In the next few months I’ll also be taking a trip to Nepal to engage in working with a school called Choice Humanitarian. But that being said, there’s no excuse and no reason that everyone with an interest in humanitarian efforts can’t make an impact right now. It’s really this simple. Do it, do it now, do it with a purpose and make no small plan.

Great good can come from helping make a positive change in one person’s life. Here’s what you need to do to become a mentor to a person:
#1. Identify a young person with great potential that doesn’t see it in himself or herself.
#2. Reach out to the person, and help build him or her up. Help them see the vision and the potential within. Critique both the good and bad. Don’t be afraid to point out the things that are negative behaviors. At the same time offer incentives and rewards for positive changes.
#3. Make sure there is consistency with regular follow up. One thing I have done frequently is to assign an appropriate book i.e, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens or Way to Be. And of course if the person has a propensity for or an interest in business, I assign Bootstrap Business or The Zig Zag Principle. I like to use books as a discussion point for youth.

I also have a number of rules that I use to help shape and engage these young men and women. For example, they can’t become involved in abusive substances that will limit their potential, including drugs and alcohol and such. They must remain very focused on their schoolwork and hit excellent marks. Admittedly, I’m tough on these kids, and at the same time exceptionally loving.

I challenge everyone to reach out to the youth that you see. There is a crazy storm going on out in the world and kids could use supportive mentoring. Go out there and make a difference. Let’s not just educate a thousand; let’s educate 10,000 or 100,000 young people. Let’s put the youth on a course where they’ll have dramatic impact going forward. What an exciting time. What a meaningful goal. I can’t wait to share the experiences with Guatemala and Nepal. And I’d love to hear about your efforts too.

Rewards Must Be Earned – Zig Zag Principle #64

March 1st, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

Don’t Give Out Rewards Until They are Actually Earned

Being a fundamentally nice guy, I have made the mistake multiple times of giving a reward when the performance didn’t warrant it.  Every time that I have done this, I have ended up regretting it.  Even though you may feel for a minute that you’ve done the right thing, you’ve likely created a pattern and behavior system that will bite you in the end.  In some cases, being “nice” has been the death knell of my businesses. 

My family and I have traveled to Nepal several times, and I am always overwhelmed by the rampant poverty.  Like anyone who has traveled there, I have been approached countless times by small children who must beg in the streets for what little they have, and I always ponder what I—as one person with limited means—can do to help. 

The last time we were there, several young beggars followed my sons, our two Sherpas, and me everywhere we went.  They were filthy, and their ragged clothes were soaked with urine.  They approached us repeatedly, gesturing to their mouth and then their stomach to show us they were hungry. 

I believe that giving a person a handout does little to change his or her circumstances, but it broke my heart to see these small boys, who were about the ages of my younger boys.  Then I hit upon an idea.

We were in the middle of a central square where countless people gather each day to worship and shop.  While there are numerous trash cans in the square, no one seems to use them, and the area is covered with what looks like years of debris.  I decided I could solve two problems at once, so I offered one of the beggars 100 rupees (about $1.40) for every bag of trash he picked up and put in a trash can.  Given that the daily income for an adult in Nepal is about $2, that seemed like a powerful incentive.

What I was asking would have taken a couple of minutes, but this little boy looked at me like I was nuts and ran off.  Another little boy approached me, and I made the same offer.  He indicated he would do it, but wanted payment up front.  Now, I may be a soft touch, but I’m not stupid, so I told him he would get paid upon completion of the work.  He, too, ran off.

The third boy who approached me was the dirtiest and scrawniest of the bunch.  I really thought my plan had merit, so I upped the offer to 500 rupees.  His initial reaction was to give me a look that said, “No one picks up trash.  Not even beggars.  What kind of crazy American are you?”  But this time, I grabbed a bag and started picking up trash myself.  He soon joined in, and was stuffing trash into his bag as quickly as he could.  There was so much trash that our efforts were like trying to drain a pond using a teaspoon, but we were at least doing something to make a dent.  And soon others were joining in, including a gentleman who runs a humanitarian organization who saw my impetuous project as having some potential.

When we finished working and I paid the boy, he couldn’t have been more proud.  And several shopkeepers around the square began making similar offers to other boys who clearly were in need.

I realize that we made a very small dent in the problems of world hunger and cleaning up the environment that day.  But I also know that those who watched, including my sons, learned that rewards need be based on our efforts, not our wishes—and that the right reward system can provide the motivation to get to work and make a difference.