Will You Take Action?

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What is it that you want to take action on?  Is there a goal you want to pursue?  Is there a habit you want to create? Sometimes it seems like a mystery as to how people are able to accomplish some things and other things they leave to procrastination or simply don’t ever get started. When I examine my life I know there are things that I should do and just don’t do.  You likely face the same situation at times.  Understanding the “Theory of Planned Behavior” developed by Ajzen and Fishbein can help.  This theory shows what PLANNED behavior is most likely to become ACTUAL behavior.  Understanding it can help you move more of your behavior from planned to actual.

There are three things that determine the likelihood that you will take action.

1.    Attitude Towards the Behavior/ Action

This concept is pretty simple. What is your attitude towards the action or behavior?  If you have a positive attitude, you are more likely to take action. Think of a couple of examples.  If you have a positive attitude towards exercise you are more likely to exercise.  If you have a negative attitude towards exercise, you are less likely to exercise.  If you have a positive attitude towards making that next sales call, you are more likely to make it.  This is true for any action or behavior.

2.    Subjective Norms

The second factor is the subjective norms related to the action.  This relates to the perceived social pressures around the action.  In other words, will others approve of the action or behavior. This is why having someone to exercise with makes such a difference.  It provides a built in positive social reinforcement.  The strength of the social pressure comes in to play here as well.  The more people that will react positive to your behavior and the more important those people are in your life, the more likely you are to take action.

3.    Perceived Behavioral Control

The final factor is the likelihood of being successful.  This really relates to the perceived difficulty or ease of the action. If it is something you think is easy and that you will be successful in it, you will more likely do it.  If you think it will be difficult and that you might fail, you are less likely to do it. If you think it is going to be difficult to lose weight, you won’t try.  On the other hand if you think it will be easy, you will get started right away.

Notice that this is all based on your PERCEPTIONS. Of course you may perceive something very difficult than it actually is.  How often have you resisted doing something because you thought it would be hard and take a lot of time, only to find it was much easier than you thought once you got started?  This is because your perceptions were out of line with reality, however it was your perceptions that controlled your actions.

Bring It Together

Bringing it all together this theory teaches us that if there is something we really want to accomplish, there are three things we can do to make it more likely we will actually do it:

  • Have a positive attitude about the action or behavior
  • Bring others around to support and challenge us – people that would approve of our success in this behavior
  • Believe you will be successful and that the task is not as hard as you think

What is one action you’ve been putting off doing? Or what is one habit you want to create in your life?  Take that action or habit and analyze it under the three factors and use them to help spur yourself into action.

Written by:
Danny Gamache – The Success Professor

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Posted on June 21st, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  No Comments »

Five Simple Steps to Get Out of Debt

cash2Last week I shared how my wife and I will be debt free in a couple of weeks!  Earlier this week, I expanded that by saying that everyone should make getting out of debt a goal.  Not just a long term goal, but a goal they focus on now.  Today, I present five simple steps for getting out of debt.

1. Accept Where You Are Starting From

You need to start by accepting where you are at.  Too often people get into a state of denial around their debts.  They don’t see everything, or don’t admit to the seriousness of the problem.  For others, they like to imagine, or live like, their debts don’t exist.  No matter whether you are deep in debt, or just a small amount of debt, accept where you are.

Part of accepting where you are means you should not run around chasing magic solutions to your debt problem. Don’t chase fancy “debt consolidation” schemes or companies with all sorts of promises about paying only a small amount of their debt.  It also means that you don’t even contemplate bankruptcy. You need to start digging your way out on your own.  But here’s the good news:  you can do it!

2. Use a Simple Budget Systemmoney1

You may have heard that you need to have a budget, but most of the time budgets are too complicated or too rigid. You need a simple, but flexible budget system.  There are a lot of advantages to having a budget.  It allows you to track your spending so you know where money is actually going.  You might be very surprised when you see where you actually spend your money.  Further, having a budget allows you to plan where you will spend your money.  This plan allows you to make space for paying off your debts.  Finally, having a budget keeps you from spending more than you make.  If you spend more than you make you will only go further into debt. Using a budget to plan out month will help ensure that you don’t spend more than you make.

As you can see, having a budget can be very beneficial.  Of course, this is only true if you use it.  Unfortunately, most people that try budgeting don’t stick to it.  That is where the Simple Budget System comes in.  You can read about the Simple Budget System here.

3. Cut Your Costs

Once you have established your budget, and have an understanding about where you spend money, look for ways that you can cut your costs.  What are some things that you can give up? Certainly, this will mean sacrifice.  The deeper in debt you are, the deeper the sacrifices you will need to make.  Look through your expenses and determine what you can cut.  For some, it is their daily Starbucks coffee.  For others, it means cutting cable TV.  My wife and I went without cell phones for the last four years.  What can you cut?

Another way to cut your costs is to start using cash for your expenditures.  If you use cash instead of debit or credit cards you will spend less. It’s been said that people with cash spend 18% less than if they used a debit card, and 28% less than if they use a credit card.  Why?  Two reasons:  One, there is an emotional attachment to cash.  You actually have to hand it over, and there is an emotion to that.  It’s not as easy as handing over a piece of plastic.  Secondly, you always know you what you have left.  If you have $200 in your wallet and you are about to spend $50, you are very aware that this is 25% of what you have.  You are going to have a lot less.  It forces you to ask, “Do I really want to spend this?”   If you switch to using cash, you will spend less.

4. Increase Your Income

This step is one that people often overlook, but it can be extremely valuable.  If you increase your income, you can take 100% of the increase and apply it to your debts. That’s what my wife and I did.  Over the past few years we have made over $10,000 a year extra with our side business. We then applied that money to our debts!  Those extra payments dramatically propelled us towards being debt free.

There are many ways you can increase your income. You can work hard at your job and try to get a promotion.  This may work, but it is not guaranteed and it may take a lot of time.  For many, the better choice is to start a part-time business.  This might be a traditional business, such as doing book keeping or babysitting , or it might be an online business or other home business.  My wife and I have partnered with a direct marketing company.  It’s not multi-level marketing, or direct sales.  Instead it allows us to earn an income without having to stock products or sell things to others.  (Enough about that here, if you want to learn more, visit my site.)

5. Snowball Your Debts

The final step is to snowball your debts.  This means that you focus on one debt at a time, and when it is done you take that payment and snowball it into the next debt payment.  This is a technique recommended by several financial experts including Dave Ramsey.  There are a couple of ways you can do this.  One option is to start with the highest interest debt and pay it off first.  I prefer a second way, which is to pay off the smallest debt first because it helps create momentum.

When you are doing your debt snowball you make your minimum payments only on all of your debts except your focal debt. On your focal debt you make as large of an extra payment as your budget allows.  You do this until that debt is completely paid off.  Then you take the extra payment you were making, as well as the former minimum payment on the debt you paid off and start on the next debt. This way the extra amount you are paying on your debts each month snowballs as more and more of your debts are paid off.

There you have it: five simple steps for getting out of debt. You can do it.  Being debt free is within your grasp.  Just get started today!

Written by:

Danny Gamache

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Posted on June 11th, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  No Comments »

Why You Should Get Out of Debt

piggy bankIn an article last week I mentioned that everyone should set the goal of becoming debt free. This might seem strange to some, especially if you have read any recent books about how to get rich. Today many of these books teach the benefits of buying real estate with “other people’s money” and how you should leverage yourself by investing as little as you can and borrowing the rest.  Unfortunately this advice is only setting people up for disaster.  If the last three years have taught us nothing else, it should have shown us the folly of this sort of thinking.  The alternative is to become debt free!

So why get out of debt?

Peace of Mind

If you really want to experience peace of mind and freedom from financial worry, get out of debt.  Few things add more stress than debt. Being debt free means you don’t have to worry about the value of your home.

Don’t Pay Interest

Imagine interest is a big sucking machine that just sucks your money away into a black hole.  As much as renting is considered throwing away money, so is the interest you are paying on your mortgage or other debt.  If you finance a car, you’ll end up paying significantly more for that car.  If you pay for that new television on your credit card and pay it off monthly, you’ll be paying far more for the TV than you would have ever been willing to pay.  Interest is wasting your money.

Significantly Increased Cash Flow

Because you no longer have the money flowing to your debt payments you will have significantly more cash flow. This is something that is easy to imagine.  Take your current financial situation.  Consider your monthly cash flow – what you earn less what you pay out.  Now imagine that you did not have any debt payments.  Take your car payments, credit card payments, student loan payments, and even your mortgage away.  You no longer have to make those payments.  Think of how much you will have left over!  This is the increase to your cash flow.

True Financial Freedom

There is a saying in ancient Scriptures that says, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).  You never truly have financial freedom until you are debt free.  When you don’t own anyone anything, you can have the benefits of this freedom.  Think of how many people today who are “upside down” in their home.  In other words they owe more than the value of their home.  These people cannot afford to move and sell their home.  If they sell the won’t get enough money to pay off the mortgage, let alone have a down payment for a new home.  Instead they are locked into their current home and location.

As you can see there are many benefits in being debt free.  Being debt free should be one of your goals.  Not just a dream that you hope to do “someday”, but a goal that you set out and start pursuing today!  For a long time I held the idea of being debt free as a dream; something that would be nice, but not something that I was focused on.  I did not have a plan and strategy for achieving it.  It is only a goal if you do a few things:

1.    Write it down
2.    Share it with someone else
3.    Make a plan (strategy) for achieving it.

Later this week, I’ll write about the vital elements of a get out of debt plan.

Written by:

Danny Gamache
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Posted on June 8th, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  No Comments »

Sunday Browsing: Referals, Headlines & Time Management

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Hi everyone,

On Sunday’s I’ll frequently share some great articles that I found around the web.  Hopefully these will be helpful for you!

1. Chris Brogan asks, “What’s Your Referability Factor?

2. Learn “7 Sneak Ways to Write Irresistible Headlines” from Jonathan Fields.

3. Chris Guillebeau has a guest post on Businessweek teaching how to “Own Your Space.”

4. The blog, I Will Teach You to be Rich, has a great post on time management.

5. Dumb Little Man, shares “Ten Simple Ways to Spend Less Money“.

I hope you enjoy these articles.  Be sure to share in the comments below, which article was your favorite, and WHY!
Written by:
Danny Gamache

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Posted on June 6th, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  No Comments »

Olympic Adventure & More

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As I mentioned in the last article, there were many reasons why I went so long without posting to this blog. Many of them would be just simply excuses and I won’t share those with you. The fact is that I could have kept up with my normal blogging routine if I had been more persistent and focused. I didn’t. What I do want to share with you are some of the exciting life events that have happened in the last four months. In many ways, the last four months has seen the accomplishment of a number of significant goals in my life.

OLYMPICS

Olympic FlameBack in the late 1990s I set a goal of going to every Olympic Games starting in 2002. I took the goal, wrote it down, and worked toward achieving it. The Olympics in 2002 were in Salt Lake City. The fact that it was only a long day driving from where I lived (western Canada) made me believe that I would achieve it. I took photos of Salt Lake City and the Olympic logos and put it up on my goals poster board. I focused on achieving that goal.

And I made it. I went to the Olympics in Salt Lake City and had a great experience. As I mentioned, my goal was to go to every Olympics, so I continued on and went to Athens (2004), Torino (2006), and Beijing (2008). While my goals have changed and I no longer feel I need to go to EVERY Olympics, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver were extra important. I really wanted to experience the Olympics in my home country.

As a professor, the Winter Olympics are a little harder to make work. It is in the middle of the semester. In order to go I needed permission from my Dean, and I needed to arrange for guest speakers to teach the class. Thankfully all of that worked out and I was able to be at the Olympics for 8 days in February. One unique thing this year is that I stayed in Whistler, the mountain host venue for the Olympics. That meant a different atmosphere than I was used to, but also a Cross Country Olympicsfew different events. Tickets were a little harder to come by than in past Olympics, however I was able to attend Cross Country Skiing and the two days of competition for Skeleton. It was great to be at a home Olympics, and especially to witness a gold medal for Canada on home soil!

PHD

Another goal of mine has been to get my PhD. You may recall that last summer I focused in on writing the GMAT. The GMAT is the entrance exam required for graduate studies in most business schools. I scored very well on my GMAT, and spent the fall applying to different schools. In the end I was accepted and offered funding at three top schools. The month of March involved trips to visit each of the schools as I worked through my decision making process.  It was challenging as I was choosing between good options and looking to make a choice for where we would live for the next four to five years.

In the end I choose Michigan State University. I am very excited about this opportunity. I will begin studies in September, but we will be moving at the end of June. (If you live in Michigan let me know, I look forward to connecting with more readers!)  Over the last two months we have sold our house in Canada, and purchased a house in Michigan. Thankfully this is allowing us to achieve another goal.

DEBT FREE

As a result of this move we are going to be completely debt free. Over the past few years we had aggressively paid off our debts and for some time now have been down to only owing our mortgage. We had even been paying off large chunks of our mortgage. (Read about how we paid of 15% extra on our mortgage here.)  On top of this, we are selling our home in a great housing market and moving to a market where prices are low. Because of these two reasons we are purchasing our new home with cash. It is going to be a great relief to be a student and have no housing payments aside from property tax and insurance.

So there you have an update on my life. Three big goals; three exciting accomplishments. We feel very blessed and are excited as we move to this next phase of life.

What are your goals? Remember, everything starts with a goal. Determine what you want and go for it.

My recommendation: Set the goal of getting debt free. This is a goal for everyone. Not everyone wants to go to the Olympics. Even fewer people want to do their PhD. But everyone can and should work towards being debt free – more on this next article!

Written by:

Danny Gamache

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Posted on June 3rd, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  No Comments »

Getting Back in the Saddle

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Photo by mikebaird

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Have you ever had a project where you were going along great for some time, and then somehow you let it stop? Perhaps you had a goal that you were pursuing and you were making progress, doing the right activities, and then somehow you stopped? Of course all of us have had something like that at some point.  There is something you should be doing, something you used to be doing but you are not doing it any more.

What is that activity for you?

Is it….

  • Exercising?
  • Eating right?
  • Reading?
  • Working on your side business?
  • Writing?

What is the one activity that you used to do, know you should do, but just are not doing right now?

For me it is this blog.  If you look carefully you will notice that it has been nearly four months since I last posted.  For someone who used to, and wants to, post three times a week, this is unacceptable.

Sure, I have excuses.  I’m sure you have excuses to. There are likely really valid reasons why you have stopped doing that activity.  Likely you didn’t plan on stopping – something just happened – and then something else, and something else…..   I didn’t plan on taking this time off from writing for this blog, it just happened.

So now what?

You have an activity that you know you should be doing, that you want to do, but that you are not doing.  What now?

Do something.

The first step is to do something.  Anything.  It doesn’t have to be big. Just do it.  This isn’t going to be the longest post I’ve ever had.  And, while I hope it is a great post, it probably won’t be my best ever.  I’m writing something and getting something out there.

Taking action breaks the negative inertia that is holding you back. It gets you moving in the right direction.  The start is the hardest part, so just doing something is extremely valuable.

After that?

Determine your next activity.

If you can do it now then do it.  If not, schedule it and commit to it.  I commit that by Thursday at the latest there will be another post on this blog.  I’m going to get back into the routine that I used to have.

To summarize, there are three simple steps:

1.  Recognize what activity you have let slip.
2.  Do something on that activity.
3.  Determine your next activity.

Written by:
Danny Gamache – The Success Professor

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Posted on May 31st, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  3 Comments »

Principle of Closing the Sale

handshake sale
If any part of your business involves negotiations or sales, it is vital that you learn to close the deal. Learning the principle of closing the sale is important for any entrepreneur.  This is true whether sales are your primary business function, or just one task that you do – perhaps even reluctantly.  For either group, the sales process can be made easier by learning the principle of closing the sale.

Most businesses involve sales, but in many of those businesses they are not the primary function.  Instead these entrepreneurs often focus on other tasks throughout the bulk of their day.  They might be a writer or a tradesperson.  Imagine a cabinet maker who starts her own business.  She spends most of her day making cabinets.  She is great at it.  But, in order to make any money, she needs to make some sales.  So sales, while not her primary activity, are vital for her success.

The good news for our cabinet maker, and for entrepreneurs of all types, is that the principle of closing the sale is simple.  It is not a complicated formula, or something that is left for professionals.  Anyone can do it.  Here’s the principle:

ASK FOR THE SALE

That’s it.  It’s that simple. One of the biggest mistakes made in sales, in fact one of the biggest mistakes made by people in business is not taking the initiative to close the sale. While even seasoned sales people can struggle with this issue from time to time, it is most noticeable in people who only make sales once in a while.

You can’t expect the prospect to take initiative in making the purchase, you need to ask for the sale.  People who are not experienced in sales, often view the sales process as a self-serve retail store. In self-serve retail, the customer comes in to the store, picks what he wants off the shelf, and goes to the cashier.  Unfortunately, in most entrepreneurial endeavors it doesn’t work that way. If you are waiting for people to ASK to purchase, you will be missing out on a lot of business.  Instead, you need to ask for the sale.

Thankfully, there are some simple steps that make this easier.

1. Ask open ended questions

Open ended questions are questions that do not have a yes or no answer. They are questions that you can ask to get your prospect talking and get them articulating what they are looking for.  For our cabinet maker, some examples might be: “What would your dream cabinets look like?” or “If money was no object, what would you want to do in your kitchen?”  This helps the entrepreneur to know what the prospect is really thinking.

2. Ask alternative questions (other than yes/no)

Alternative questions are questions that have two or more alternative answers.  Examples here might be: “Are you looking for delivery this month or next?” or “Do you prefer design A or design B?”  This continues to help narrow down what the customer is looking for.

3. Ask the close question, based on the previous answers

Your close question will often be a yes/no question, but by now you should know enough about your prospect to direct the question to what they have already said. For example, our cabinet maker might take the previous answers she has received and create a question like this, “So, if I am able to complete your kitchen using design A by your deadline date, do we have a deal?”  Then wait.  Wait for the answer. If there is dead air, you need to wait.  Let them think.  Wait until they answer, and then move forward.

4. When they appear ready to buy, ask!

Too often entrepreneurs will be so passionate about their product or service that they will keep going on and on and on well after the person they are speaking with has decided to purchase.  The risk then becomes that you will lose the sale.  So make sure you are aware, and when they appear ready to buy – ask!

You need to plan ahead.

Take some time and write up some questions that you can ask.  Think through your business, and write out what some questions for each step would look like.  Practice these questions so you are prepared to ask them of your clients.  Then follow the principle of the sale – and ASK FOR THE SALE!

Written by:
Danny Gamache – The Success Professor

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Posted on February 1st, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  2 Comments »

What Are Your 20 Percent Activities?

to do listHave you heard of the 80/20 rule?  Likely you have.  Also known as the Pareto Principle, it is the concept that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes. This can then be applied into many areas of life.  The phenomenon was originally observed in Italy, where 20% of the people had 80% of the wealth.  Since then it has become a rule of thumb for business.  The numbers are not exact, it is not a scientific proof, but the trend is general and consistent; consistent enough that people are able to use it to guide them into making their business more effective.

Examples of where it might be used include:

  • 80% of an organization’s sales will come from 20% of their salespeople
  • 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your investment income will come from 20% of your investment

You can also look at things from the opposite perspective:

  • 20% of your customers will cause 80% of your headaches
  • you wear 20% of your clothing, 80% of the time
  • 20% of patients use 80% of healthcare resources
  • the final 20% of your workout will provide 80% of the results

And of course the list goes on and on.  There are lots of ways that the Pareto Principle can be used to help you be more successful.  This article will focus on one of those.

20% of your activities will produce 80% of your results!

Think about that for a moment.  Out of all of the things you do, 1/5 th of your activity is what creates 4/5 ths of your value.  That is pretty significant.  Again, you can reverse the concept.  Only 80% of your activity accomplishes only 20% of your results.  This leads to an obvious question:

How can you do more of the activities that are really producing results?

If you can take those high-result activities that you currently spend 20% of your time on, and increase the amount of time you spend on them, you can make yourself more effective and accomplish even more. Imagine if, instead of taking 20% of your time on these high results activities, you were able to increase that to 30% or even 40%.  Your results would skyrocket.  You would be getting a lot more important things accomplished.

What are your 20% activities?

The first step in doing this is to identify what your 20% activities are.  What are the activities that produce the most results in your life and business?  What are the activities that help you move more quickly towards your goals?  The list of activities will differ significantly between different goals and businesses.

For someone in sales the 20% activities might be:

  • phoning new prospects
  • following up with current prospects
  • making sales presentations

Things that are not in the top 20% are likely:

  • updating your contact list
  • cleaning your office
  • analyzing your competitors products

If you are a blogger the 20% activities might be:

  • writing new articles
  • writing guest posts
  • commenting on other blogs

Things that are not in the top 20% are likely:

  • making continual search engine optimization changes
  • focusing on web design
  • playing with fancy new online tools

You can’t completely ignore the 80% activities.

The 80% activities will never go away.  In fact, you can’t stop doing them.  Often they provide a foundation for making the 20% activities so successful. The fact that you understand your customer’s products DOES make your sales calls more effective.  The search engine optimization you have done allows your articles to reach more people.  These activities are useful and you still need to build them into your day.

You just want to REDUCE the amount of time you spend on them.

Take the time to make your list.  What are your 20% activities? Those activities that produce most of the results as you work towards your goals. The list might surprise you.  How are you at doing these activities?  Are there ways you can do more?  Even putting in a little more time into the activities that pay off the most can allow you to reap huge benefits.  On the flip side, what falls into your 80% activities?  What are the activities that, while useful, are only contributing 20% of your results?  Identifying this list will help you see patterns.  You will be able to see what you can cut back on and where you can shift time away from.
Do it today.  Make your list. It likely won’t get it exactly right the first time, but start with a list in hand.  Use that list to plan your week.  After your week review your list again.  Make any changes you need until you are sure you have your list right.  You may even want to log your time, recording what you do in each fifteen minute segment.  Know what your 20% activities are, and then do more of them!

Written by:

Danny Gamache –The Success Professor

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Posted on January 27th, 2010 by The Success Professor  |  3 Comments »