My NYC Taxi Cab Advice

Last Friday evening during rush hour in New York City, I was walking down the street in a tough neighborhood. I was walking a little briskly to a busier intersection to find a cab (that's what you do in NYC) when all of a sudden this cab pulls up from behind me until he was parallel with me. I thought: what a surprise. On a Friday evening during rush hour and this cab pulls up right behind me. What luck!  So I hopped in.

I asked him, "How did you know I needed a cab?" I expected him to tell me: Hey idiot, you were in a suit, in the wrong neighborhood, on Friday night--need I say more?

He didn't. Instead he said, "I had to pull over and call my girlfriend." So much for karma.

We had a long ride--so we started joking about me in this neighborhood (I was doing work with a nonprofit). Then he asked what I did. I told him. He said he was going to college and did not know what he wanted to do.

I said,  "Whatever it is, be a good one." How? he asked.

I said, Really? Do you really want to know. Because I will tell you.

He said, Yes so enthusiastically I could not help myself. I said here's a lesson that turned m life around: read for one hour each day in your field. Whatever your field is -- read a book, take notes, and apply the lessons. Do this for one hour each day and you will not believe what happens.

I went on: One hour a day equals about a book a week (for me it's one book every two weeks). Get up an hour earlier each morning. Study. It does something to your brain, but it does something to your outlook on life. You start vibrating this positive energy. Other people feel it. More importantly you feel good.

This only happens if you read something in your field or inspirational. I told him to go to the library; they have free books there. (You can't beat free can you?)

I told him if he really wanted to be rich, add to this formula: check out the CDs from the library. Get the CDs of Brian Tracy and play them in your taxi over and over. I said, "you have a CD player in here don't you?" He pointed to the CD player excitedly.  Confirmed--check.

I went on, "First, and most importantly, the CDs will reprogram your mind. They act as a coach and remind you what to do. Second, the people in the cab will either think you're a genius or nuts. The people who think your nuts are the people you probably hang around today. The people who think you are a genius are probably rich, well off, happy in their work. And they are looking for enterprising people who are working on themselves--to make themselves better--people who are taking a responsibility for the direction of their lives."

He then said something odd: "My goal is to retire at 35."

I did not laugh, but I wanted to. "Thirty-five," I said, "you're just getting started and you're thinking about retiring? If you do what I am saying, by thirty-five you will be so successful, you will see work not as work, but as a hobby. Work is for poor people. People who are successful see work as part of their well-being. They are not workaholics; they are, instead, on a mission. The most successful want to grow and get better-- and make a difference in other peoples lives. 'Work' isn't work for them--it's a game." Then we both said "It's a hobby" at the same time. He was clearly getting my message.

This went on for forty-five minutes back to my hotel. I asked him: "Am I being too direct? Am I giving you advice you don't want to hear?"

"No," he said, "Everything you said is what I have been searching for. You got me excited. I cannot believe I met you. This is like God sending you to me in a way to help me. Everything you said here in this ride is what I needed.  I cannot believe I picked you up. I am going to college and I am not sure what to do. Now I have a plan."

I like helping people. But I have learned not to push people on success anymore. But I must admit I was excited that he was excited. He even got a call from his girlfriend during the ride and told her he could not talk right now that "this man (me) is giving me the best career advice."

We were getting closer to my destination. He said -- "I want to write you and ask you which books to read." Like I said, he was very excited.

I gave him my email address. But I said: "Go to the library first. Do it tomorrow. Ask the librarian where the books on the subject of 'success' are. And go pick out some books--but don't become worried as you will see a ton of books on how to be successful. Pick out one or two that speak to you. After you do that, then I will give you my favorites--I want you to do this first as my favorites may not be your favorites."

He last words to me were: "I will email you tonight!"

That was Friday night. That next day, Saturday, I looked through my emails. Nothing. I wanted to carry through with my promise. I felt good about helping him--if I could. I was committed: So I looked through my spam filters. Nothing.

Sunday morning--I am still committed to helping if I can. So I did the same thing: I looked at my email. Nothing. Spam filters: Nothing. Went back twice, just to be sure. Still nothing.

This is a lesson that I have learned a while ago about people who ask me for advice. When I give them the advice, I don't worry about whether they will do it or not. I am not as free and casual about it. But maybe someone will listen. So I give them "the advice." I say "You have to learn. Learn what other successful people did and do. Become an expert in your field. One hour of reading and study in your field every day will make you an expert in three years; nationally renown in in five years; internationally renown in seven."

Not many will follow this advice. Few want to work hard for something. They give up at the first sign of hard work. The information is available for the asking. It is free --that's what gets me. Free. The rich and successful people put it all out there.

Some people just plow through life--unhappy--wondering why if I go to bed at 11:30PM every night, watching the bad news right before going to sleep, why I am so tired the next morning?  They are not looking for ideas and "stealing" the ideas of the successful to apply to their lives as a means to by-pass some of the "tough breaks." They don't go to bed early, they don't wake up early. They don't use that "golden hour" in the morning to study and train and prepare themselves.

Maybe you heard this before: Ben Franklin said "Early to bed ..." well you know the quote. At least I think you know it. Did you think he was just writing a poem or trying to be cute? And old Abe Lincoln said, "I shall study and prepare myself, for some day my chance will come." 

So what's this mean? It means that this taxi cab driver was handed the keys to a Mercedes Friday night. Perhaps even a Maserati. He was handed the keys to a lifetime of potential opportunity at minimum and if applied certainly a modicum of success. But he didn't grab them. He didn't take the keys. Somewhere between my hotel and when the sun came up the next morning, he lost his enthusiasm. He did not follow through.

To me it was a little disappointing. For you it means one less person to compete with.

Client Leadership - What Warren Bennis Can Inspire

If you have not heard of Warren Bennis, then you are probably not familiar with one of the best pieces of writing on leadership. Warren was a professor at the University of Southern California and was probably one of the most notable experts on leadership. He has written many books, and it's hard to say which one is best or what one resonates with me the most. All his books seem to resonate with me.

He was, in my opinion, an artist. I believe he tried to be a scientist, with his study on leaders, but when it came down to putting his findings into words, the words turned out sentences and the sentences turned out paragraphs which are pieces of art. Some say the writing is a form of poetry. But art is probably the better description, as his words speak softly about the humbleness of leadership and it's duty to others and the key characteristics that the good leaders exemplify.

It's difficult to describe the flavor of gentleness and at the same time the passion I am trying to convey about the strength of his writing. I love his book, On Becoming A Leader. I am reading it, for what, maybe the tenth time? This book after reading it so many times embodies the art I am trying to describe. The rightness and the subtly of the messages Bennis of what is important and have us as readers synthesize requires rereads of the many ideas and concepts. And yes, that's the right word, synthesize. It requires the reader to synthesize his writing.

I can recall reading his first book that launched him into the limelight Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge. I didn't understand a word of it. I was young, a newly minted manager, stumbling around trying to motivate people and trying to get people to be what I thought was important--or said another way--like I was, which I thought was a good idea. What a disaster that was. I am surprised I wasn't fired. Or at least demoted. But people put up with me. And my subordinates? Well they smiled and did what they wanted.

Applying Leadership to Our Clients
I look back at that time in wonderment. But who cares about me. This is about clients. How can leadership be applied to winning and keeping clients?  One word: a lot. Okay, that's two words.

Mastery of what you do is important to clients. Leadership is a component of mastery. And mastery is a component of leadership. One without the other is empty. You can't lead others without mastery of understanding people, your services and solutions, and how you help your clients. Without these you can't advise clients.

Here is Warren Bennis: "The leader hasn't simply practiced his vocation or profession. He's mastered it. He's learned everything there is to know about it, and then surrendered to it. For example, the late Freed Astaire mastered the choreography, and then surrendered to it. He became one with it, so it was impossible to say where he stopped and the routine began. He was the routine."

To win and keep clients, the best professionals master their business. They become one with it. It is hard to say where the professional stops and the business begins. The client who says, "I feel like he is part of our organization" reflects the outer edges of what I referring to.

Here is Warren Bennis again, "Such mastery requires full concentration, the full deployment of oneself."

Dedicate yourself and your business to your clients. Become one with your clients' business. In the end, the client will appreciate the value that brings to their business. Most importantly, you will appreciate it--as you will see the decided and marked difference this brings to your business and fulfillment.

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