The Undisciplined Life: Why Broken Lives Stay That Way

Imagine standing on the sidelines waiting to get into the game and the coach turns and asks you if you have done in your spare time everything you needed to do in order to play when called on. You say yes because you want to get into the game, but once you enter everyone can clearly see that you have not been practicing, taking the extra shots needed to better your average, nor have you done the drills to build your endurance. If and when the opportunity arises again, the coach will not trust you to get in the game. Not because you are not good enough but because you are not disciplined enough.

There are many other states of mind that demonstrate a broken life but the bottom line is, people who experience loss in more than one area of their lives feel broken. A broken life is when an individual has not come to a place in life where they can look back and say I’ve accomplished my goals and dreams. It embodies a life that has been filled with one disappointment after another. When lives are broken is where people live day by day accepting life the way that it is. They don’t challenge life; they don’t push the edges of the envelope, and they live moment to moment in a state of despair.

As I look back over my life, I realize there hasn’t been one single factor that I can point to that has made a major impact. Factors like discipline and having a positive attitude (I will talk about having a positive attitude in my next post) have contributed to how I’ve lifed my life.  In life, there are many factors that separate those who have from those who have not. However, I believe that the art of being disciplined will put one with less talent, fewer abilities, and less money ahead of others. Being disciplined is more complicated than it sounds but less complicated than one might think. Discipline is nothing more than having the ability to follow through.

At some point all of us will experience that feeling of being broken, that’s normal it’s what we do after the brokenness that will determine where we go in life. People who live broken lives do so by choice; they have not taken ownership of their current position in life. In this blog, I will outline four different undisciplined behaviors that cause broken lives to stay that way. If you do the exact opposite, you will be on the path to success.

1. Holding Too Many Balloons

When I was younger, I would try to blow up a balloon, and I remember not having enough strength to blow it up. As I continued to grow, I realized that I could not talk and try to blow at the same time. Eventually blew up my first balloon. Accomplishing that goal was a major feat for me, being very small in nature at the time. When the balloon was empty, it was like every other goal that one might set flat with the option to be filled. I have never seen anyone blow up a balloon without stopping and taking a breather. Two fingers around the top of the balloon will allow you to keep the air you’ve blown in while you take a breather. You can only hold the air in for so long before it starts to seep out. There are only two positions for a balloon, you are either putting air in or letting air out. I love balloons because once they are blown up, they are bouncy and hard to manage when trying to carry too many at one time. When you carry too many balloons, some will fall, when you try to pick that one up another one or two will fall. There are times when we try to carry too many things and end up not carrying any one thing well. Carrying more than one balloon will take the focus off the main balloon you should be carrying. Undisciplined people never figure this out; they become what my mother used to call, “A Jack of all trades, but a master of none.” They never put down the balloons; they continue on their mission stopping every so often to pick up another balloon. If your life is broken and you do not focus on one balloon at a time it will stay broken, put all unnecessary balloons down.

 2. Never prioritizing

Undisciplined people rarely prioritize. They don’t understand the importance of putting first things first. Stephen Covey outlines in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his time management grid and where we should be focusing most of our time. For those who might not be familiar with the grid, it is broken into four quadrants. Quadrant one is for important and urgent matters, quadrant two is for important but not urgent matters, quadrant three is for urgent but not important matters, and quadrant four is for not important and not urgent matters. Undisciplined people spend their time in the wrong quadrant. Time spent on things that are not important is time wasted. Important matters should not become urgent matters if the proper attention is given to them. I received a parking violation that came with a $100 fine. It was important to me, but I ignored it. Upon the second notice, I was shocked to see that the fine had doubled. It was still important, but I got busy and didn’t pay it by the second due date. I was a city employee at the time; I was sent a final notice that said that I would be fired if the debt wasn’t paid. What was important became urgent because of neglect. I did not prioritize, and I ended up paying twice as much because of it. Broken lives will stay that way if time is not spent prioritizing.

 3. Holding on beyond the expiration date

I have learned that every endeavor has to have an expiration date. Too often we hold on to things that have expired in our lives. Whether its dreams that we have not come to pass, relationships that have gone south, clothes that we can no longer fit, feelings of rejection, love or who we used to be. When someone has been broken, I have found that holding on allows them to stay in those emotions far longer than one should. When we hold on to the hurt of a past failure no matter what it is, we relive that moment over and over again. Not being disciplined enough to let go will not allow us to put space between what happen to us and who we are. Undisciplined people allow what happened to them to effect what is happening in them. When you hold on to beyond the expiration date, it will affect other areas of your life and what should be limited to one area begins to spread throughout your life. It takes discipline to let go and not hold on to events that have changed your life for the worse.

 4. Get Back On the Bike

When I was young, my father was teaching my brother and me how to ride a bike. I’ll never forget his method. In fact, some of you probably went through similar training. My dad would hold one side of the handlebars and the back of the seat at the same time, all while coaching me to guide the bike and paddle. After a while, he would let go of the handlebars, hold the back of the seat and run along the side of the bike to let me know that he was still there. Then he let go of the back of the seat and continued to run along the side of the bike to make me think things were the same as before. It was until I heard his voice getting fainter that I realized that he was no longer running with me. In a desperate panic, I looked back and saw that he was not there, and I crashed. I scared my arms and legs and began to cry. My dad came to me in a very uncompassionate voice and demanded that I get back on the bike. Tears and all I got on the bike and road the rest of the day without help and without falling.  Once life has knocked you down, it is very important that you get back on the bike of life as soon as possible. Forget about the scars, the tears and the pain and ride. The longer you stay down, the longer it will take you to fix what has been broken. Undisciplined people never get back on the bike.

Being broken is a choice, and you can choose to put your life back together one piece at a time, or you can choose to stay broken. The choice is yours.

Curtis Hill is Founder and president of Curtis Hill Beyond Limits INC., and a keynote speaker delivering keynote speeches, motivational seminars and training. 

“Give ‘Em the Pickle!”: How to Keep Your Business and Employees Focused on What’s Important


A company’s mission statement tells you why they do what they do. They are often short, punchy, with plenty of actions words that provide a sense of direction and help the company stand out in a crowded market.

But the best mission statements are also business philosophies that dictate their values and beliefs, and the best companies truly live by them.

One of my favorite philosophies is the “pickle principle.” It goes like this: A long-time restaurant customer ordered his usual hamburger and asked for an extra pickle, which he always got in the past. This time, the waitress wanted to charge him $1.25 for the pickle.

When he protested, the waitress spoke with the manager, and returned with a back-up offer of a nickel for the extra pickle. The man promptly got up and left, and even wrote an angry letter to the owner about how they treat customers. The owner, Bob Farrell, made amends, but the experience taught him a valuable business lesson: “Give ’em the pickle!”

It became his company’s philosophy and part of their mission statement that you should do what it takes to satisfy your customers. It sent a strong message to their clientele, competitors, and employees about what the company stands for and what people can expect.

There are many successful and admired companies who also follow the “pickle principle” in their mission statement and business philosophy, and lead by example. The key is making sure mission statements are short, easy to understand and impactful. Here are some of my favorites and what messages I have learned from them–and you can, too.

Build Customer Loyalty By Supporting A Cause.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company’s mission statement is: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Patagonia’s statement combines both their values–high-quality products and their values of helping the environment by donating time, services, and at least 1 percent of their sales to global grassroots environmental groups.

Their philosophy also builds customer loyalty. Since he was a little, my son has been passionate about the environment. Mission statements like these create brand loyalty for him because he believes in their cause. Even if there is a brand that is more expensive, if his belief aligns with a company, he will spend more to support their mission.

Create A Relationship With Your Brand.

Another outdoor gear company, REI, has a mission statement that reflects their hands-on philosophy of protecting the environment and empowering their employees and customers to get involved in conservation efforts: “We inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” Every year, REI donates to many national conservation efforts, but the company also roles up its sleeves and enlists volunteers from the REO coop members, customers, and employees to build trails, clean beaches, and restore habitats.

Missions like these spark enthusiasm, promote work-life balance, and creates a mutual relationship between me and the brand without knowing anyone in the company. The fact that they promote their employees to be active in their mission, outside of work, makes me feel better when I buy from them.

Give A Percentage Of Your Revenue Back To Charity.

Life is Good, a T-shirt and hat company, has the mission statement: “To spread the power of optimism.” It’s short and sweet, but quite powerful if you look at how they conduct business. They spread optimism through many of their products with uplifting and positive slogans, but they also funnel 10 percent of their net profits to their Life is Good Kids Foundation. This supports childcare professional development and promote its #GrowTheGood initiative through social media.

Do you have a mission statement or business philosophy? If so, does it reflect your values, and more important, does your business follow them? I always tell my business clients to brainstorm words with their team that everyone thinks reflects what they do, how they feel about working there, and how their customers feel about them.

You can enlist your employees, family, and customers in this process, too and make it fun. You will begin to see repetitive themes that will help you begin forming a mission that is meaningful and reflects the “why” for your company. Once you finalize your “pickle principle” it can help you stay focused on why you do what you do–and why your customers and team should care.

By Amy Vetter
Originally published on on Jan 31, 2018

Amy — the Mindful Technologist and Creator of the B3 Method® for Business, Balance and Bliss — is an expert on guiding people to put the soul back into their careers and businesses through Mindfulness, Empathetic Leadership and Technology Innovation.

Amy is a dynamic speaker who will inspire everyone in your audience — from the creative to the scientifically-minded, numbers types — to transform their careers and lives. She will empower them with the insights and tools to discover and align their authentic selves and inner talents with the work they do, to be more engaged, self-aware and connected with those around them. In turn, they will feel more fulfilled, productive, innovative and engaged at work and home.

Amy’s speaking programs are a good fit for business leaders and team members, women in business, entrepreneurs, tech employees, health and wellness enthusiasts, and anyone in finance including CPAs, financial advisors, wealth advisors and bookkeepers.

Why Winners Win

For the past week and a half – all around the world – we have been united in watching the 2018

Olympics. We are amazed by the ski jumping. We are thrilled with the figure skaters, and we cheer for the bobsled teams. We collectively celebrate the almost 3,000 athletes competing in the Winter Games, and we are always in awe at the incredible feats they can accomplish.

Did you ever want to be an Olympian? Did you dream of what you would do with the whole world watching? What does it take to be at that level of achievement?

I believe that to be a championship Olympian, it takes many of the same traits that are required to be a successful entrepreneur, or a winning coach, or a great business leader. I am confident that success has common traits and actions. I am certain that we, too, can unlock these behaviors and put them into practice in our own lives. But what are the qualities? How can we get them?

Have you ever thought about this? Two people can grow up in the same town, attend the same schools, hold the same social status, have parents with very similar incomes, beliefs, and family values, yet one individual will excel far beyond the level of his peer. One will succeed; one will settle. One will rise, one will remain. One will control; one will conform. What is the difference? What makes one an outstanding and successful business leader and the other an average employee?

I believe there are many traits that make a person great, and in this list of many there are three that rise to the top. These three elements must in place before all the hard work, the tenacity, the determination, and the consistent and relentless drive toward the goal can be effective. These three are all behaviors that are in your mind. I constantly say this, and I am convinced that it is at the core of success for each of us: YOU MINDSET MATTERS. In fact, your mindset matters so much that it controls your actions. It controls your outlook, and it controls who you become. Great leaders and achievers have these three traits, and if you master them as well, they will set you apart and put you on the road of accomplishment and success.

1. The achiever, the great business leader, the championship athlete will BELIEVE. He believes in his mission, he believes in his plans, and most of all, he believes in himself. Throughout history, the people who have achieved success are the people who have been sustained by a strong, unshakable belief in themselves. They believed in their own talents and abilities. They believed in what they felt called to do, and these great men and women believed in themselves, even though others around them opposed them or failed to support them. Their MINDSET was the greatest factor in determining their outcome.

Each person has the power to choose what he will believe about his own potential and what he will think about his own life. Beliefs shape attitude, and one’s attitude determines whether or not life is seen as an ongoing series of obstacles or opportunities. The greats choose to believe in themselves and choose to have a positive mindset, They anticipate and seek out challenges, with the confidence and unwavering belief that they have the ability to win.

2. The achiever, the great business leader, the outstanding entrepreneur will THINK big. He has the consistent habit of imagining a solution that has not been tried. He devises an explanation that has not been proven. He creates a result that goes against conventional thinking. He has the ability to dream and to move away from the expected into the realm of experiment and discovery. Whether this is a new battlefield tactic, a medical breakthrough, or a fresh marketing strategy, the great leader is open to change and is willing to challenge what currently exists. This opens the door for the potential of a revolutionary discovery. Great achievers are people of great IMAGINATION. They are pioneers, and they dare to dream. Discoveries and inventions are made because people dare to dream and intentionally think bigger than their current surroundings.

3. The great achiever, the outstanding teacher, the successful leader will LOOK intently and with total focus. They have complete attentiveness on the results they are working to achieve. Focus equals direction. A person with driving focus is able to let go of everything that does not move him toward his goal. He can say ‘no’ to extraneous distractions and he does not let the opinions of those around him deter him from his purpose.

The average person tends to be busy rather than effective and stretched to the limits rather than focused. Great leaders have extraordinary FOCUS. They possess a clearly identified goal, and they move toward that objective with single-mindedness and intense concentration.

So, what is the difference in the two people from the same town and same background? One chose to discover the characteristics of greatness, to develop and practice them, and make them part of his DNA. The other chose to be a spectator in the game of life.

Great achievers, just like great Olympians, believe in themselves. They think big, and they look with focus. When their mindset is right, they are positioned to move forward, to do what they say, and stand with courage. These traits and actions are neither acquired nor accomplished by accident. They are the product of diligent effort and concentrated purpose. Winning is intentional. Success is earned. And great achievers are marked by their mindset before their actions.

Dave Martin is known as “Your Success Coach” and is the best-selling author of 12 Traits of the Greats and Another Shot.  Dave travels the world speaking on wisdom and success. He is a mentor, an inspirational speaker, and a business leader. 

Madness With Meaning

For basketball fans, there are no months better than March and early April. Affectionately dubbed March Madness, it’s a time with a seemingly endless string of basketball games; the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) for men’s basketball, plus the Big Dance – the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association’s) tourneys for men and women. And as a bonus, there’s your state high school tournaments for the boys and girls.

One could literally have watched, hundreds of games. Did you cancel all appointments and tell folks you’ll see ’em in mid-April?!

While it’s a time for school spirit, alumni support, community involvement and playing heroics, it’s especially fun, when your team keeps winning, surviving, advancing!

Then, fans, journalists, coaches and broadcasters devote hours of discussion and debate to match-ups, playing styles, upset specials and bold predictions.

One of the best b-ball analyzers and prognosticators is Clark Kellogg. If you’re a basketball fan, your immediate reaction is, “Yep, he’s good!” If you’re not, you’ll soon still value his opinions and insights.

In the summer of 2005, Clark and I were speakers on the same program. That gave us the opportunity to chat about lots of stuff. Especially, winning.

That’s a topic, Clark knows lots about. As an observer and a participant.

First, some quick background info on Clark. He played his college ball at Ohio State. In 1982, he earned All-Big Ten and Most Valuable Player honors. He then became the Indiana Pacers number one draft pick. He was a unanimous selection to the 1982 NBA All-Rookie Team.

Clark only played five NBA seasons before retiring with chronic knee problems. He had career averages of 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

As a broadcaster, he’s in his 21st year as a basketball analyst for the CBS Television Network’s NCAA Tournament coverage. He was an analyst for lots of games during this year’s tourney, including the championship game on April 1st, between Michigan and Louisville. And for 21 years, Clark was a TV analyst for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers broadcasts.

So when it comes to winning, competition and preparation, it’s fair to say, Clark is a reputable and credible expert!

The last time I saw him, was on February 25th, 2012. It was about 30 minutes before tipoff at the University of Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse. It was the final time Kansas would meet Missouri, as a conference foe. (Mizzou is now in the SEC or Southeastern Conference.)

I was at the game with our eldest daughter Brittany, at that time, a Kansas senior and a rabid KU basketball fan.

I said, “Brit, that’s Clark Kellog.” She asked, “How do you know?” I told her, “Six-foot, seven-inch guys are easy to spot and we know each other!”

As I bellowed-out, “Clark!” he stopped and greeted me with a warm handshake and big smile.

While our conversation that afternoon was brief, I never forgot what he shared with me eight years ago. Here are excerpts.

Jeff Blackman: What do all winners have?

Clark Kellogg: Winning starts with an attitude. It’s striving for excellence. Wanting to be good. Winners put in the time and energy. It’s more than wins and losses, it’s how you go about becoming better. It’s a desire.

Winners must constantly prioritize. And that’s a constant struggle. Because you have to ask yourself: What’s important? Where will you invest your time? What will you sacrifice?

Winners know it’s a juggling act. And it really never ends. I still wrestle daily with what I need to do vs. what I like to do. Where do I invest my resources?

JB: In the mid to late 80s, you were running up and down the court with some of the greatest NBA players of all time, what was that like?

CK: Going up against the Chicago Bulls’ MJ (Michael Jordan) was phenomenal. He was so competitive. His will, skill and determination. When something was at stake, he rose, repeatedly. He took things personally between the lines. Yet his greatness elevated, when he learned to play as a teammate. That’s when he really became a winner.

I also bumped heads with Charles Barkley. He had strength, tenacity and the will to make it happen.

However, the greatest winner I ever played with, was Herb Williams at Ohio State and with the Indiana Pacers. He really knew the game and played with energy and passion.

JB: What lessons has basketball taught you about life?

CK: Life’s not always fair, but what you put in the wash, comes out in the rinse. We’re not all blessed with the same gifts or resources. Yet when you don’t win on the “scoreboard,” you may still win because you’ve done your very best. That’s as immediate as it gets, even in defeat.

In 1979, in high school, I played for Cleveland’s St. Joseph’s Academy in the Ohio state championship game. We lost. At Ohio State University in 1980, my teammates and I battled Indiana for the Big Ten championship. We lost. Then, in 1982, we fought Minnesota for the conference crown. We lost again.

Yet, what I learned is, when you compete for the top prize, you have to be ready, with integrity and passion. Then, you can do your best, know you did your best and realize, you may still come up short.

You see Jeff, winners are thought of, in a different light, for when you compete valiantly, there’s self-respect and the respect of others.

Yet don’t be burdened by expectations, focus on the opportunity to elevate your performance and your teammates. When you’re a key cog, your responsibility goes beyond just being ready, i.e., when you’re a high draft pick, others have confidence in your ability. Use that confidence, to deliver the right results.

JB: Excluding Michael Jordan, if you could pick your “all NBA” starting five, who would it be and why?

CK: Shaquille O’Neal: a dominant force

Tim Duncan: not flashy, but efficient and effective, a great teammate, who also respects his teammates

Alan Iverson: his heart and his size (6′) is remarkable, the spirit of his tenacity, he says, “I’m going hard for as long as the clock has time on it.”

Lebron James: a special, physical package, with incredible poise

Ben Wallace: a great competitor under pressure, a force, selfless

My sixth-man, Reggie Miller: you can always count on him in the clutch

JB: Clark, if we head out to the hoop on my driveway, for a spirited game of HORSE, who would win?

CK: Jeff, I think I could handle you!

(In 2010, Clark played President Obama in a game of POTUS, “President of the United States” and lost!)

So what lessons has Clark taught us? There are many:

√ winning starts with an attitude

√ execution must be preceded by planning and prioritization

√ desire and passion must be converted into action

√ pay close attention to your competitors, what can you learn

√ pay close attention to your teammates, how can you help them excel, so you all win

√ study the superstars, what makes them super

√ acknowledge an individual’s unique strengths and talents, yet know that teams win championships, (success is never a solo journey)

√ believe in your self, confidence matters

√ be smart, keep moving

√ accept, that on occasion, life ain’t fair, stuff happens, you might lose, (yet the key is, what’s your next move)

So now, convert this message of March Magic and an Awesome April, into…

a Marvelous May…

a Jammin’ June…


Jeff Blackman is a speaker, author, success coach, broadcast personality and lawyer. He heads Blackman & Associates—a results-producing business-growth firm in the Chicagoland area. Jeff’s clients call him, a “business-growth specialist.” For example, his customized “Referrals: Your Road to Results” learning-system, helped one financial services client—generate $230 million directly from referrals, in only 23 months.

Heroes or Victims: A Tale of Two Perspectives

Three Points To Consider

1. The hands we’re dealt aren’t always good ones. The people, behaviors, situations, circumstances, conditions and events we encounter don’t always measure up to what we expect. I thought I’d begin with an understatement!

2. We always make choices about the bad hands we’re dealt. Yes, we also make choices about the good ones, but the choices we make about the bad hands are especially important.

3. The choices we make are determined more by our perspectives than by the bad hands themselves. I want you to think about that one, because those choices determine if, when and how effectively we deal with those bad hands we’re dealt. If perspective is so important, maybe we should try to get a better sense of what it is and how it works. We will benefit by understanding how we use it.


As I see it, perspective is a two-phase mental process by which we perceive and process. Our perceptions include the information we gather about the people, behaviors, situations, circumstances, conditions and events in our lives.

Most of the drama we experience is the result of that second phase, where we process by assigning meanings to the information we’ve gathered. The fact that we assign those meanings unconsciously makes it easier for us to completely overlook the roles we play in creating much of the drama in our lives and limiting our effectiveness at dealing with the bad hands we’re dealt.

To illustrate this connection between our perceptions, the meanings we assign and the power of our perspectives, let’s consider this question: What does in mean to be 60? I’m sure you’ll agree that it pretty much depends on where we’re looking at 60 from, right?

If we asked either of my daughters (ages 25 and 27) what do you think they’d say? I’m guessing it would be things like, “Old”, “Really old”, “Don’t set any long-term goals” or “There are more things you can’t do than you can”. And if we asked my 88-year-old mother-in-law, we probably hear things like, “Sweet bird of youth”, or “What I’d give to be 60 again”.

So we’ve got the same number (60), used in the same context (depicting chronological age), viewed at the same time by two people who, when asked to declare what it means, assign totally different meanings. I’m not saying that the number is irrelevant. What I am saying is that the meanings those people assign are not based so much on the number as they are on their perspectives on the number.

Perspective is a mental process that all use countless times each day. Our perspectives produce both emotional and behavioral consequences. What that means is that if we are committed to improving the quality of our feelings and behavior, a good place to start is with the perspectives we use.

Two Perspectives in Play

While no two people’s perspectives are identical, there are what I’ll call “group perspectives”. Some common examples are perspectives based on gender, race, nationality and political affiliation. In this series of pieces I’ll be focusing on two perspectives most of us use to process the bad hands we’re dealt.

1. The victim perspective, characterized by emotional victimhood, and

2. The hero perspective, characterized by emotional accountability

We’ll begin with the one that is by far the more popular. Which do you think that is?

From military officer to corporate executive, Jim Bearden has learned why some people step up and others don’t. An advocate for the heroic effort, Jim helps leaders close the gap between what sounds good and what gets done: Jim works with companies to unleash the hero in your midst.

Jim Bearden’s many rich life experiences form the basis for his anecdotes, his humor and, most importantly, the insights he shares to create hero-friendly environments.

An Interview With Jack Mackey

Jack Mackey served as long-time Chief Evangelist at Service Management Group (SMG), the leading customer experience firm dedicated to improving loyalty and sales for service-based businesses. He brings to life service strategies from 30 years of ongoing research at Harvard Business School, grounded with up-to-the-minute customer experience discoveries. The “Jack Mackey experience” is high-energy, fun-loving, quick-witted and packed with real-world examples, humor, inspiration and actionable insights that audiences love.

How did you get the title “Chief Evangelist”?  
Andy Fromm, CEO at SMG, gave me that title. For years, I hosted SMG’s Forum for C-level execs in service-based industries. They came to learn new ways to win customer loyalty through a superior customer experience. Those executives often asked me to energize their people by speaking at their annual meetings. My reputation grew for inspiring a spirit of “creative discontent” in my audiences and giving them practical examples to get better– in a fun and positive way. It turned out, that was highly valued by CEOs!   

Daniel Burrus’ Top 20 Technology-Driven Hard Trends Shaping 2018 and Beyond

By Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research

There has never been a shortage of trends. The real problem for you is figuring out which ones will happen so that you know where to place your strategic bets. I have been publishing a list of top trends since 1983, as well as speaking and writing about their future impact, and if you have read any of my seven books or thousands of articles over the decades, you know they have been highly accurate. The reason for this is the methodology that I developed back then, which separates what I call Hard Trends, the trends that will happen, from Soft Trends, the trends that might happen. Knowing their distinctions can make all the difference, and the following Top 20 List is no exception.

I have been writing about each one of these technology trends for many years, but for one to make it on my Top 20 list, it has to be developed enough for you to apply it to exponentially grow your business. Each is growing at an increasingly exponential rate. As such, they will all impact our lives, both personally and professionally, in the coming year and beyond.

These trends highlight enormous, game-changing opportunities in a broad array of applications and industries. As you read through them, look for opportunities for you to leverage them and become a positive disruptor.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Advanced Machine Learning and Cognitive Computing Applications
Cognitive computing applications grow rapidly. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), such as Google’s DeepMind and IBM’s Watson, coupled with networked intelligent machines and sensors will create a giant leap forward thanks to exponential advances in computing power, digital storage and bandwidth. AI will increasingly become embedded in our applications and processes. Also, thanks to better sensors, increasing machine intelligence and Siri-like voice communications, advanced automation and intelligent robotics will increasingly work with humans in new and productive ways. As AI is applied to vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, we will see acceleration in the use of semiautonomous and fully autonomous vehicles.

2. Adaptive and Predictive Cybersecurity Systems
Business, government and education have moved cybersecurity from an underfunded back-office activity to a major initiative going forward. With the rapid growth of connected technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and semi-autonomous as well as fully autonomous vehicles, security systems will move beyond reacting faster to include adaptive security systems using AI and other advanced tools, such as behavioral analytics. This will add a level of predict and prevent, allowing us to stop many, but sadly not all, attacks before they start.

3. Big Data and the Use of High-Speed Data Analytics
“Big data” is a term that describes the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize exponentially increasing streams of data. The goal is to bring enterprise-wide visibility and insights that enable making rapid, critical decisions. Using advanced cloud services, high-speed data analytics will increasingly be employed as a complement to existing information management systems and programs to identify actionable insights from a mass of big data. Separating good data from bad data will also become a rapidly growing service.

4. Advanced Cloud Computing Services
Businesses of all sizes will increasingly embrace new variations on public, private, hybrid and personal mobile clouds. This represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware and computing capacity to cut costs in IT, human resources and sales management. Not all clouds are created equal. Some are optimized for IoT applications, while others are designed for different levels of security and speed.

5. Virtualization of Storage, Desktops, Applications and Networking
The virtualization of hardware and software will see continued acceptance through growth in both large and small businesses as virtualization security improves. Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) is increasingly joining Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), creating what some have called “IT as a Service.” In addition to the rapid growth of virtual storage, virtualization of processing power will continue to grow, allowing mobile devices to access supercomputer capabilities and apply them to processes such as purchasing and logistics. These services will help companies cut costs, as they provide access to powerful software programs and the latest technology without the expense of a large IT staff and time-consuming, expensive upgrades.

6. Virtualization of Processes and Services (On-Demand Services)
The virtualization of processes and services will increasingly be accessed by companies needing to update and streamline existing services, and to rapidly deploy new services. The rapid growth of Collaboration-as-a-Service, Security-as-a-Service, Networking-as-a-Service and many more is giving birth to Everything-as-a-Service.

7. Blockchains and Cryptocurrency
Introduced as a means of transferring bitcoins, blockchains are fast gaining traction in any number of areas. A system that enables secure, digital direct transfers, blockchains decentralize transactions by eliminating the middleman, thereby allowing for direct connection among all involved parties. In addition to currency, blockchains can be used to transfer contracts, insurance policies, real estate titles, bonds, votes and other items of value. They provide increased transparency and, as a result, distributed trust. Given their security and lower cost, blockchains create a platform that will impact limitless products and services, thereby enabling innovation and growth. Look for applications in healthcare, supply chain and finance to grow rapidly. In 2017, the average person discovered bitcoin thanks to its meteoric rise in value, as well as other coins such as ethereum, used for initial coin offerings (ICOs), and litecoin, to name a few. The crypto genie is now out of the bottle, and thanks to bitcoin trading, bitcoin ATMs and bitcoin mania, we will see blockchains and cryptocurrency increasingly become part of our lives.

8. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Apps and Devices
Augmented reality (AR) will quickly become more common by adding just-in-time information to our physical world. Simply aim your smartphone camera at a crowded street to find the stores that have the exact products you’re looking for. Better yet, we will soon be using conventional-looking glasses that allow wearers to overlay data on their fields of vision, providing useful information about what they’re looking at. By contrast, virtual reality (VR)—using oversized headsets to provide an immersive, computer-generated 3D environment with which the wearer can interact—will grow more slowly due to the need for more time-intensive software design and the need to shut out the real world in order to use it. With headsets dropping in price, increasing numbers will want to experience it. Commercial growth in VR will focus on more specific industries. For instance, it’s already being used by architects and designers to show potential clients specific features of buildings prior to actual construction. But that’s just the beginning. AR and VR will soon shift from a single-user to a multi-user social experience.

Moving to Great

Written by Diane Vaccaro

Each of us was born to win, but we have been conditioned to lose. We are born to thrive, to grow, and to develop. But, we get conditioned to lose, to settle, to sit back. We allow the words of others, and our own self talk, to influence how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. The problem is that sometimes those messages are negative and self-limiting. We heard critical words as a child and decided those words were truths for a lifetime. We decide early on that we “can’t.” As time moves on and the world changes and grows, we forgot that we can change and grow, too. Instead, we keep those limitations like they are laws.

How do we remove those self-limitations and unleash more of our potential? We expand our awareness.

Awareness is defined as how clearly you receive and understand everything that affects your life. It is the result of a lifetime of conditioning, includes your genetic makeup, and is continually changing as you experience new things. Your awareness informs your belief and value systems as well as your actions and decisions. As a result, your actions and decisions (behaviors) are only as wise as the information they are based on (your awareness).

Have you ever acted on bad information? I once used a map app to get to a relative’s house. I trusted the app to know the best route and time. Because I wasn’t too familiar with the area, I hit “GO” and off we went. Little did I know, the directions included a one-lane, bumpy dirt road for 3 miles. When we popped up on the ridge of the mountain onto a paved road, we were so relieved. Minivans were not meant for that kind of terrain!

We made it to a destination – perhaps by the shortest route – but not they way we intended. I think most of us have trusted a map app to get us somewhere to only be disappointed at the route or the final destination. This was a crucial moment in my use of these sorts of apps. I learned that their advice is not to be taken blindly. My awareness grew and I used that information to influence my future use of map apps. I guess I could have ignored this learning moment, but I have a feeling if I did, I could be taking the minivan on more off-road trips.

The same process applies to all areas of our life. Are you taking the opportunities to learn? To grow? Are you letting new information into your head so that you can make better decisions? Or, are you pushing everything out that challenges what you currently believe? Bad information creates bad decisions. Being open to new information helps us measure the truth in our current beliefs.

What is an area in your life where gaining new information will help you have better awareness? Your finances? Relationships? Job opportunities? Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Attend a seminar. Go out there and experience something new!

Where’s Your Problem-Solving Process? – Keith Harmeyer

Not so long ago, a “successful business” was typically one that started with a good idea, executed that idea well, and then was effectively managed. That’s an oversimplification, to be sure; but if a business followed this basic model, it could potentially thrive for decades (and many did).

Today, the requirements for business success have become more complicated. In a world driven by a demand for continuous innovation, and where tumultuous change is the only constant, whether you win or lose in the marketplace depends less on repeatedly doing a “good job,” and more on your ability to successfully navigate the tsunami of unexpected challenges that present themselves every day.

Today, every business is under constant pressure. Pressure to deliver new and improved products and services to customers and clients. Pressure to respond instantly to shifting market conditions. Pressure to quickly adopt new, often unproven technology. Pressure to meet and exceed its own organization’s demand for excellence. Most companies understand this; but many don’t have a reliable process they can apply to problem solving.

Innovation, in practical terms, is really just solving problems (often before anyone even knows there is one), recognizing emerging trends, capitalizing on opportunities, and doing so in new or different ways that deliver greater value or benefit.

And so, highly effective and efficient problem solvers—the most nimble, adaptable, and creative organizations—are the ones that typically dominate their categories.

How Do You Approach Problem Solving?

Problem solving, as a business process, can be approached in a number of ways.

First, there is the question of how proactive or reactive an organization is in their approach. Do individuals and teams continuously look for ways to avoid problems and seize opportunities—even before the fire alarms sound? Or do they wait for the call, and frantically scramble for solutions?

Then there is the question of how organized and dependable their problem-solving efforts are. Is there a structured, step-by-step, scalable system in place and ready to implement when needed, that allows them to quickly and easily identify solutions? Or do they leave problem solving to chance, hoping that the smartest, most creative team members will ultimately be able to crack the code?

The problem-solving diagnostic quadrant pictured above demonstrates how each of these two variables manifests itself when it’s time to tackle a challenge—and the hurdles (or benefits) that typically result.

Chasing Your Tail—(Lower left) Not surprisingly, the least effective (and consistent) approach to problem solving occurs when an organization waits for challenges to arise before taking action, and then has no structured system in place for generating solutions. In this situation, problem solving is typically a chaotic and stress-inducing event. Teams waste significant time and energy scurrying to identify potential solutions. And then, even when they do, their results are often ineffective. Problem-solving is a haphazard, disorganized response to an inevitable challenge.

Death by Meeting—(Upper left) Organizations that generally operate in a structured and otherwise efficient manner may, in fact, have some type of process in place for addressing challenges (meeting protocols, communication guidelines, etc.) But if they aren’t proactively anticipating the continuous flow of change, challenges, and opportunities every team faces today (as do all highly effective innovators), they will still find themselves operating in “react mode,” more often than they should. While the organization might adhere to Six Sigma principles or other approaches to operational efficiency, they are still caught off-guard when unexpected issues arise, and can find themselves engaged in lengthy, often inefficient strategy discussions that drain precious time and attention. Problem solving becomes a highly-regimented activity that often results in too little, too late.

Hit or Miss—(Lower right) Because they are often inherently “innovation-focused,” many startups and “creative services” organizations are better at looking ahead and anticipating potential challenges and opportunities, even before they become problems. These groups are in the daily business of reinvention, and future gazing is a natural activity for them. But without a systematic, scalable process to apply, these organizations can find themselves doing far more work and spending much more time generating solutions than is necessary. “There’s never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it again” is a common maxim in such business environments. Every time they have a problem to solve, they find themselves reinventing the wheel, again and again.

Innovative Problem Solving—(Upper Right) When an organization adopts an “innovation mindset,” and proactively searches for game-changing solutions, even before challenges arise—and they also have a dependable problem-solving system in place, ready to put into action—they will typically experience the best possible outcomes. Such groups have a much greater chance of dominating their markets, achieving consistent and continuous growth, and actually enjoying the process along the way. When it comes to problem solving, they are well prepared and well-armed.

So where is your organization’s problem-solving process today? Where do you see your strengths? And where could you benefit from improvement? Identifying where you are, and where you need to go, can have a significant impact on your ongoing success.

Encourage your team to adopt a forward-focused, innovation mindset. Research, identify, and implement the best problem-solving process for your needs. And you’ll be on your way to transforming every unexpected challenge into a new opportunity.

Keith’s professional background includes over 25 years in advertising and strategic marketing; sales and business coaching; and advanced communication and presentation skills training. As a marketing and creative executive at agencies in the Omnicom and Publicis networks, as well as founder and principal of his own marketing communications firm, Keith created countless successful brand marketing programs and business presentations for many of the world’s best known and most successful companies, such as American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Time Warner, ABC, Disney, Philips, Fujifilm, Conde Nast, Sports Illustrated, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, McDonald’s, leaders on their sales and presentation techniques, utilizing his proprietary system for persuasive communication.

4 Sales Strategies To Get Out Of The Price War – Meridith Elliott Powell

Winning the price war comes when during the sales process your clients know the value and outcomes they will be getting and price isn’t even mentioned.

We own a second home in Charleston, South Carolina that we rent out during the summer months. For the past year we have been very unhappy with our current property manager. Our home is just not cared for or rented out at the level we would like it to be.

Over this Thanksgiving break, while we were spending a week down there, we decided to shop around for a new property manager. I reached out to this one firm that had been calling and sending direct mail pieces to us for about a month. Their marketing was great, really talked about the high-level of personal attention they provided, their unique style of caring for your property, and the increased level of rental income they could produce even given the short summer season.

Of all the property managers we talked with, this was the one we were most intrigued by. Care of our property and personalized attention were the two big things we felt we were lacking from our current property manager.

We met with this new agency, were impressed with what we heard, and were ready to sign the contract. When they presented their paper work, they were so pleased to share that, even without asking us, they had cut their management fee from twenty-five percent to twenty. A significant savings for us.

And while we were pleased, I remember thinking, why? At no point in any of our conversations had we shared that price was an issue or a concern. In fact, if they had really listened, they would have found that we would not have been opposed to paying more for a property manager that met our expectations.
“One of the most common mistakes I see with sales professionals is that most assume price is going to be an automatic part of the sales conversation.”

So that begs the question, are you negotiating price, giving it away, before you even have to? One of the most common mistakes I see with sales professionals is that most assume price is going to be an automatic part of the sales conversation. Far too often offering to cut or negotiate the price without even understanding if you have to.

If you are losing the war on price, it may because you are surrendering before the battle begins.
Four Strategies To Get Out Of The Price War –
Create A Sales Strategy and Selling Process that is Optimized To Provide Value to Your Customers

Select The Right Target

– if you want to stop giving away price you have to make sure you are focused on customers who are more value-driven. Every industry and price point has a target and you need to understand yours. Knowing who values what you offer in terms of service, quality, and those other extras that you have to offer, is who you need to be focused on. That is your “right target.” For a property management company wanting to charge more we are the “right target.” What we value most is personalized service and care of our property, two things for which we were willing to pay more.
Ask and Listen

– understand the sales interview is so important and key to understanding what your customers most value. You need to ask great open-ended questions and then really slow down and listen. Making sure that the sales interview is about letting customers talk 80 percent of the time and you talking 20 percent. During the interview with our new property management company they asked great questions, which gave us the opportunity to share all of our concerns, our goals, and what we wanted in a new company. Again, none of which were about price. They asked great questions, but forgot the important step of listening.
Shift Your Paradigm

– probably most important strategy is to shift your own paradigm. Take price of out the conversation unless your customer brings it up, or you hear that price is important to them. This is the only place where our “new property management company” missed the boat. We never mentioned price as an issue or a concern, yet they gave it away anyhow. Understand that price is not what you are selling, and with the right target market, it (price) is not what matters most. Take it off the table; build your sales process around the value(s) and the outcomes your customers will receive.
Position Value

– customers have to understand what they are paying for and feel good about what they are spending. When you have asked great questions and really listened you understand what matters to your customers most. So, you can position what you are selling as a direct solution to their challenges. Our “new property management company” did a great job of this. As they presented the contract they made sure that every challenge or concern we had was going to be met, and we saw the value right away. We felt heard, understood and validated – incidentally three things that would have easily convinced us to pay more for the service.

Negotiating price should always be the last thing you are discussing when talking with customers. (12 things every sales superstar knows article) If you have chosen the right target market, asked great questions and really listened, then positioning your sale as value add and solution focused, customers are more than willing to meet at your price level.

Getting the price you want is about your ability to ensure your customers understand the value they are getting, and your ability to quit using price as an automatic sales strategy.

Meridith Elliott Powell is an award-winning author, keynote speaker and business strategist. With a background in corporate sales and leadership, her career expands over several industries including banking, healthcare, and finance. Meridith worked her way up from an entry-level position to earn her seat at the C-Suite table. Meridith is a Certified Speaking Professional ©, a designation held by less than twelve percent of professional speakers, and a member of the prestigious Forbes Coaching Council.