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Make It Happen
Career Management and Work-Life Balance

October 20, 2004, number 3

Whether you are actively looking to change your job, have just left, or are merely exploring the possibility, this newsletter can help. It is a supplement to Leaving the Mother Ship, and is designed to share additional suggestions and ideas. Please forward it on to others who you think may benefit!

1) What's the worst that can happen?
2) The Poverty of Initiative
3) Book Launch and Press Coverage
4) Product News: Workbook and Coaching Credits
5) Ask Randall (Adjusting to a new job, The selling process)
6) Extreme Intelligence
7) Announcement: Career Tutorials
8) Keep Make It Happen Alive


Several years ago, hiking high on a mountain pass, I made the big mistake and looked down. When I did that, several small rocks shifted underfoot, fell off the narrow trail, and were pulverized as they fell hundreds and hundreds of feet to the bottom of the valley. Needless to say, I watched the path of the falling rocks, and imagined my body following the same pulverizing path. And that would be the end of my illustrious hiking career.

When the fear gripped me, my mind was pretty much paralyzed, but I soldiered on, and eventually reached the end. My mind knew exactly the worst case scenario. And since I didn't like choice "A" (slip, fall down the valley, then die), my only other option was to finish the hike.

When it comes to career change, we have an unlimited number of choices. But like my hiking adventure, the choices we make are often constrained by how we imagine risk. The key word here is imagine. When we look at career choices, we sometimes imagine such a high risk level, that we will discount possibilities before even considering them. We think that the worst case would be the end of us.

Is there an easy way to avoid the problem of imagination? The answer is yes, and is contained in the title of this article: Ask, before you discard a possibility "What's the worst that can happen?" I can practically guarantee that it is not as bad as you thought. Stating the risk explicitly is the first step in mitigating it. We'll look at this more closely in the next issue of Make It Happen.


"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."
--Lord Chesterfield, English man of letters (1694-1773)

In the last issue, the teaser article was entitled "The Three Poverties": the poverty of time, the poverty of money, and the poverty of initiative. Especially if you are considering a job change, initiative is important. In this article, we want to explore initiative in much greater detail: why can some people so easily make it happen, while others just don't seem capable of taking the next step? Why do we have good days and bad days for getting things done? And is there something that we can do to get better at motivating ourselves, or are we always destined to be what we are today?

We are each complex individuals. Clearly, one formula - especially a simplistic one - will not change us from couch potatoes to superheroes overnight. My belief is that each of us has many attributes; some we have spent years honing to excellence, while others have remained dormant or underdeveloped.

Why have they remained dormant or underdeveloped? Some possibilities:

  • we just don't need the skills in our day-to-day lives;
  • we feel uncomfortable about using them;
  • we are afraid of using them;
  • we have convinced ourselves that we are "no good" at them.

Consider: could it be that initiative is really just an underdeveloped skill? Even if you harbour some doubts, for the moment play along, because what follows is mind-bending: If initiative is a skill, then like all skills, initiative can be improved with practice, and perfected with training.

Think about it. We weren't all born with the ability to read or write. We weren't born with the ability to play baseball or football. We weren't even born toilet-trained. These were skills that we practiced, and as adults, now take for granted. Surely, if we can develop these skills as a child, we can develop other skills - like initiative - later in life.

The subtitle to Leaving the Mother Ship starts with "Having the courage to leave..."; this too is code for taking the initiative. While the entire book is focused on leading you through a process, this article addresses the issue square on: what are the obstacles that PREVENT you from developing that courage, and how do you overcome them.

There are many reasons for avoiding initiative. Try to identify those that apply to you:

Disorganization: This is the problem of perpetual clutter, both on your desk, and in your mind. We all suffer from it at one time or another in our lives. Start addressing it one step at a time:

  • Schedule time to dig in, and do all of the filing that you have put off for so long.
  • Clean your desk (and your computer desktop).
  • Each night, commit to making a list of all that needs to be done the next day. Rather than prioritizing each and every task, merely categorize them into three groups: A, B, and C.
  • When you arrive at work the next morning, start working on the "A" items immediately, then check off each item as it is completed. It's very, very satisfying looking at to-do's that are done! (You get bonus points for knocking a few items off the list before your first phone call!)

You "No" too much: This is the problem of always being negative. We have all felt it when someone kicks down one of our great ideas. So why contribute to the problem by pointing out why others' ideas won't work? Before the negativity leaves your mouth (or shows on your face), be supportive: find a way to make their ideas successful. If you "no" too much with others, unwittingly you may be convincing yourself ("no! no! my ideas won't work!") as well.

Here is a telling way to to check yourself: start each day with ten coins in your pocket. Each time you say OR THINK a negative thought, take one coin and put it on your computer keyboard or some other obvious place. The goal is to reduce the number of coins you have to look at each day.

Fear of the unknown and fear of failure: There is nothing to fear, but fear itself. If you have never done something before, and are unsure, help IS available. Ask a co-worker or your manager to coach you through it. Go to the library to read up on the subject. Attend night school or training seminars. Buy a book on the subject (Like Leaving the Mother Ship!?!). Once you've done it once, it is no longer unknown - so there should be no fear. And ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen?

Procrastination: When we procrastinate, it usually indicates a problem of prioritization. Again, lists can help, and so can reminders from friends, family, and work colleagues. Set time-bound goals for yourself, and do your best to keep them. To beat the procrastination bug, it all boils down to doing one thing: focus on the important, and leave everything else til later. Chapter 11 reviews these issues in detail.

Stress: Most people recognize that some stress is helpful, but too much stress can prevent you from moving ahead. If you have fully completed the Personal Balance Sheet, then you should have an action plan to get you more balance. If you haven't completed it fully, then remember: when your job stress increases spend more time exercising and being with your family - not less.


Of course, there are many, many more reasons why people don't always take the initiative. Here is a series of other practical ideas that can help you improve your motivation level:

  1. Set a daily ritual. This institutionalizes what you do and when, and helps you move forward by scheduling time for initiative to happen. The August edition of Make It Happen describes daily rituals in detail.)

  2. Make a list the night before. As described above, this can help you hit the ground running.

  3. Identify specific obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals. Bounce them off a friend, spouse, or use your Mother Ship coaching credits to work on addressing them, one by one.

  4. When someone is looking for help, volunteer. This helps us feel comfortable doing different things, and is a baby step to taking the initiative ourselves.

  5. Invest in yourself. When was the last time you took a course or attended a workshop? These can give you the tools and the mindset to make the change that you need. For those who have taken the first step, and have already read Leaving the Mother Ship, good for you!

  6. Give yourself permission to relax. For some, this might mean a jog before work, a drink with friends at the end of the week, or observing a day of rest. When you are relaxing, don't worry about the day job: enjoy the moment, and let your mind recharge.

  7. Surround yourself with success. The Job Quality Checklist includes the question "Do you like your colleagues?" The book makes the point that if you don't like them, be careful, because eventually you will BE like them. More important is the corollary to this point: Spend time with smart people, you will become smarter. Spend time with successful people, and you will become successful. Spend time with motivated people who get things done, and in time, you will model those traits too.

Hopefully, these ideas might help unlock a particular door for you. But even if they don't resonate, remember that there is no magic to taking the initiative - and no real excuse for the Poverty of Initiative. Just stop the talking and start the "doing". And finally, remember the surest way to achieve your goals is to head in the right direction, and start walking one step after another.

WAIT! STOP! Hold the presses!

Rather than just read this newsletter, make a commitment right now, to do ONE thing to increase your motivation.

  • Decide to add ONE THING to your Daily Ritual.
  • Register RIGHT NOW for that seminar that you always wanted to take.
  • Make a to-do list IMMEDIATELY for the next day's priorities.
  • Forward this newsletter to TWO friends or colleagues right now.
  • ???

Then, in a few weeks, add ONE more thing to your list. And so on.

[Pause] Did you do the ONE thing yet? Think about it: at some point, you will Leave the Mother Ship. This will be very, very difficult, and will require significant initiative. Developing your initiative with the smaller things first will make leaving much, much easier.


Book Launch, Sept. 28, 2004: Over 160 people came to the official book launch for Leaving the Mother Ship. We've posted a Virtual Book Launch online: check out the pictures, and read Randall's speech.

Globe and Mail, Oct. 2, 2004: Virginia Galt wrote a full page article entitled "It takes more than guts to forgo a steady paycheque". This article was also reprinted on Workopolis.

CBC Radio One, Metro Morning, Oct. 12, 2004: Michael Hlinka, business reporter, did a lengthy (and positive) review of the book on-air!


Workbook: A number of people have commented that Leaving the Mother Ship is exceptionally useful, but it would be easier if all of the forms, templates, and other resources were readily available. As well, there have been a number of practical ideas that didn't make it into the Book, but did make it into the Workbook. The workbook might make the difference between your success and failure -- the extra material and forms will certainly save you time.


  • 14 Worksheets, organizers, guides, and resources
  • Resume Organizer includes how to build your mini-bio and elevator pitch.
  • Filling in the Gaps worksheet provides a prioritized checklist of all action plan activities, in one place.
  • Business Plan Organizer provides details as to what you should do after the plan is complete.

The Workbook is available at the following URL: http://www.leavingthemothership.com/store/index_wb.html

Coaching Credits: Access to an unbiased, independent source of career and business counseling. Coaching provides you an experienced mentor who has only one interest in mind: yours. Randall provides personalized coaching for a limited number of clients each month. Each coaching session is 30 minutes long, and can cover any number of relevant topics, including:

  • Mentorship on situational issues (examples: severance, reduced work schedule, conflicts of interest.)
  • Leaving the Mother Ship: Prioritization and Planning.
  • Playing Devil's advocate to your plans.
  • How to identify and mitigate risks during change.
  • Negotiating strategy: severance, job offers, suppliers.
  • Job search strategy.
  • Interview role-playing.
  • Resume review.
  • Entrepreneurial issues: managing growth, finding partners.
  • Business Plan review.
  • New business start-up coaching.
  • Creative Brainstorming.
  • Completely open agenda: You ask, Randall answers.

Go to http://www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com/coaching for more details.


I've just accepted a more senior position at a well-known international company, and while it is very exciting, the adjustment has been terribly difficult. Can you help?

Any change is difficult, so it's not surprising that adjusting to your new surroundings has presented its challenges. If you remember back to your first job, recall that there was a lot of learning then too.

So how can you efficiently do the learning now, so many years later? Part of the job is figure out where the differences are. For example, is it a different industry? Different organization structure? Different job responsibilities and processes? Likely, it is a combination of these (and other factors) that when combined, are making it a challenge.

Thankfully, in Chapter 13 of the book, the Gap Analysis Chart guides you through 16 different dimensions of your job, and helps you plan a coping strategy and action plan around each of them. We recommend that job candidates actually use the Gap Analysis Chart before they accept a new position; in this way, they can ask for clarification - and built in support - for areas of challenge.

If you have already changed jobs, and haven't actually used this tool yet, it's not too late. Go back and do it now: you'll be surprised at what it reveals - and how it can help. It's never too late to do better!

The advice "give it some time" is only valid if you fill that time with activities that ease your adjustment. Here are some other ideas that might help:

  • Find a mentor (candidates might include a recruiter, a senior executive, or your Mother Ship career coach.)

  • Fill out the Gap analysis chart, and then execute your Action Items.

  • Re-read Part III of the book: Success beyond the Mother Ship,

  • Did we mention about filling out the Gap analysis chart?

I've left my job last year to become a consultant, and am finding it difficult to "make the sale". Any suggestions?

This is a problem that is not only faced by consultants, but by many people who choose to start their own small business. Selling is often a new activity for those who have worked so long in larger organizations.

First, don't stress about not being a "sales-type". The most successful salespeople are the ones who develop trust, help educate their prospects about their offerings, and always over-deliver on their promises. The worst are the aggressive "quick-buck" artists who will do anything to close the sale, and never deliver the goods. Remember, like any skill, the more you do it, the better you become. Sound familiar?

But what should you "do"? First of all, recognize that for a successful sale, you need a buyer who is willing to buy, and a seller (you) who has something to sell.

Let's think about what you have to sell. A useful beginning is to productize your service. Usually this means "building" around the actual service a number of things:

  • a defined solution to a defined problem: people will only purchase if they believe that you will solve their problem
  • a methodology: a process for how your service gets developed
  • benefits that are tied to client profitability (clear ROI)
  • a clear marketing message to a well-defined customer profile
  • synchronized marketing collateral and sales materials (web site, brochures, white papers, ppts, etc)
  • a deliverable that is defined and tangible
  • a pricing strategy
  • a standard contract and proposal language

By "productizing" your service, you can avoid appearing like a jack of all trades and master of none. If you offer several types of services, then productize them all. After all if you go into a restaurant, you always expect a menu with actual choices: you don't expect a waiter who says "we can cook you anything".

When you have completed this process, then there are two types of selling that you should do: passive, and targetted.

  1. Passive selling activities: As a general rule, prospects make their purchase decisions on their schedule, not yours. Passive selling activities are designed to keep you and your services in your contacts' mind, so that when they are ready to purchase, they will think of you first. In the book, Chapter 11 describes one of the most powerful, effective networking strategies out there. Use this precise approach to "passively" sell into your network. When they call, you will already have your "productized" service ready to go.

  2. Targetted selling activities: Who would be your ten "dream" clients? Targetted selling activities mean that YOU decide who your next clients will be, and that you aggressively go out there and get them.

    First, do your homework: what are their issues? Who are the decision-makers? What associations do they belong to? Can anyone you know make an introduction? Bit by bit, develop a relationship so that you can make "the pitch" to them. What would you pitch? Simple: your productized service offering.
  • This two-pronged approach works in pretty much any sales situation where you are selling a product and service mix. Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and if you are serious about building your business, it won't happen in a day either.


    We get many emails each week. From time to time we would like to highlight the most ridiculous, dumbest, "Mother Ship" emails that you receive. If you receive an email that epitomizes why you need to leave the Mother Ship immediately, please forward it intact to extreme@LeavingTheMotherShip.com. (We will hide all personal and corporate identities to protect the innocent.) If we use your submission, you will be eligible for a prize.


    We are very excited to announce our pre-workshop Career Tutorials. These are two hour, no-cost sessions designed to kickstart the career planning process for those serious about making a change for the better in their life. The evening is highly interactive: people learn more from "doing" things than just passively listening. Each participant is given a multi-page cheat sheat and tutorial notes.

    The dates (and registration information) for these sessions is always available on the www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com home page. Generally speaking, the Tutorials are scheduled on Tuesday evenings starting at 6:30pm sharp.

    If you liked the book, take the next step and sign-up for the tutorial!


    Make It Happen is a free newsletter, supported by you! To keep this newsletter coming, we rely on book sales, speaking fees, and seminar attendance. If you know anyone who would benefit from our message, please let them know. Thanks!

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    Copyright 2004 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved.

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