Small Business Success Requires an Open Mind and the Ability to Think

Thinking seems to be a lost art. Today you can get an answer to virtually any question by typing bleak truthin our question into a search engine. Compare that to the age BEFORE Google where children had to use their imagination all through playtime and draw on both sides of their brains to solve problems. Playtime used to be “creative time” – with cardboard boxes, pots and pans, sticks, food cans or whatever else could be found and made into something that was fun. Nowadays children have organized playtime, limited to offerings of the electronic kind. I sat recently in the departure lounge looking at a family of 6 – (Mom and Dad included) all absorbed in mobile phones, laptops, and tablets…none talking to the other.

No one is allowed to think anymore.  All the thinking is done for you. And should you encounter a problem, one or more “helicopter parents” or “helicopter supervisors/managers” hovering nearby will drop in to solve the issue.

Robert Murray, author of “It’s Already Inside” illustrates the point: “I see it in my own kids” he says…“if they get something new that requires some set up, they will rip apart the packaging and start to blindly put it together. Inevitably, something will not fit. They will get frustrated and scream out for me to help. I will ask them if they read the instructions. Always the answer will be, “No.” I will ask them to read the instructions and attempt the assembly again. They will get irritated and scream out, “Why can’t you help me?” I assure them that I am trying to help them by teaching them to do it themselves.”

We need start with how we feel about ourselves because this will certainly inform how we think. Things won’t get better unless we THINK better. This is a simple truth and the key to all that we desire yet so few engage in really thinking…we recycle thoughts planted by others which we choose to believe without considering if it is something that takes us closer to where we wish to grow or further away.

Starting with ourselves, we can, as Don Miguel Ruiz suggests, change our story by changing what we believe about ourselves. “When I clean up the lies I believe about myself… I change myself (and) my whole story changes to adapt to the new main character.”

Next we need to be open to possibility. We need to be curious. We need to take action but we need to also be aware of the results that we are getting. We also need to pay attention to the insights and flashes of inspiration that we get. We need to develop the habit of writing things down.

Einstein developed intricate and profound theories regarding the Universe and its natural laws using the simplest form of technology ever invented – a pencil and paper. How? He wrote down questions and then searched for answers.

Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, advise that we can develop our own mental powers when we learn and develop the habit of asking ourselves questions and then noting the ideas and answers that surface. What will motivate you to continue if you are not charting your progress? How will you know if you are getting closer or further away from your desires?

We need to be reminded that thinking by itself is not enough. We need to apply whatever it is we discover during our thinking periods. Thinking is not creative unless it is followed through with action.

In his Monday Morning Memo, consultant, speaker and author Alan Weiss paints a picture of what’s happening today with small businesses. He shares “I’m astounded by the lack of common sense of many small business owners. It’s not “big box” stores or technology diminishing their profits. It’s small thinking and bad habits. You need someone answering phones who has not had their personality surgically removed. You need to get back to callers within a few hours (there’s this invention called a “cell phone”). You need to listen and diagnose, not ignore and prescribe. You need to trust customers, not treat them as potential environmental hazards. (I still love the stores with 14 reasons listed on the door as to why you can’t come in!) I talked to a guy who owns several bands because I need one for my birthday party next year. He went into a sales pitch, wouldn’t shut up, and kept cutting me off. When I pointed that out, he told me he didn’t think we were right for each other! He just didn’t know how to create business “music.” And his groups were less than half the price of the one I chose, showing just how much he’s out of touch.”

To discover your own solutions requires you to engage in a simple but reliable process.

When you are faced with a challenge, try the following:

  1. Step back from the challenge. Sometimes you may need to physically remove yourself. Sometimes you may need to leave it alone until the next day. If you’re stressed and tired you won’t make much progress.
  2. Avoid complaining or reacting. First ask questions to gain perspective instead of judging or assuming
  3. Ask for Divine Guidance – help in finding the best and right solutions for you
  4. Engage in thinking time. Have pen and paper ready to jot down ideas or insights that might surface. If it helps, write your challenge in the centre of a blank piece of paper – then wait. Make sure that you are not interrupted. Switch off alerts, mobile phones and avoid any other distractions.
  5. Don’t force the situation. Give yourself a time limit – say 30 minutes to an hour. If nothing comes, just be thankful that the solution will present itself and then continue in the events of the day. Stay open to possibility and receptive that your answer will surface at some point. You are ready to receive it when it does.

As a developer and trainer, I encourage you to rethink how you train yourself and your teams, whether in sales, service or leadership – especially with regard to concepts and theories. Unless the learner is challenged to apply the learning – you will end up with persons with knowledge but you won’t get results.

Robert states categorically, “Applied learning has never been more important, nay critical. If we are hosting a sales workshop, for example, most of the class needs to be filled with hands-on, real-life scenarios and not theory. Applied learning needs to become embedded into every aspect of education and training.”

Theory alone is no longer practical. My job, as well as yours, needs to become one of engaging in and facilitating creative thinking and problem-solving. It is the only way that we will realize true personal success.

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