Archive for the 'Productivity' Category

Afraid to talk to strangers?

I found this post by Gavin Ingham today and it really struck a chord. So much so that it has galvanised me into action on a long neglected ‘To do’, namely ‘Update MBSProgress blog!’

It’s been too long since I updated here, and I shall endeavour to explain later on. For now, Gavin’s post is essentially regarding a possible correlation between fear of cold calling and the childhood advice a lot of us received when growing up ‘Don’t talk to strangers’.

Is this well meaning advice, drilled into some over and over again in a form of parental brainwashing, preventing sales people from achieving their dreams by making them hesitant to engage with potential clients in later life.  I have to say, I think there may be something in this, and it begs the question of how future generations will deal with similar challenges in a world where ‘real life’ interactions are increasingly being replaced by online associations.  It’s certainly a more subtle form of brainwashing than the Stranger Danger messaging, but if people don’t gain experience of ‘face to face’ ,  ‘voice to voice’ or sometimes even ‘real person to real person’ interactions, how will they fare when they’re plunged into the real world and expected to cope?

What do you think?



Look at that. I havent been updating this blog for ages. Bad of me I know, but it’s never had major readership – 2 or 3 a day generally – and to be fair I got busy. Too much to do, too little time to do it in, and with the best will in the world, I’ve had to reluctantly admit that sometimes you need to just let go a bit and go with the flow. Its a case of floating with it, or drowning trying to fight it all.

The weird thing is that I just logged in here for the first time in almost 6 months and my viewing stats have gone ballistic! Up from 2 a day to 42 on the 6th January.
Now I’m guessing that there’s one reason for that and one reason only. It’s a new year, new decade. Its New Years Resolution time again !!

It’s amazing how much that galvanizes people – at least fore a couple of days or weeks.
Whoever it was that pushed the stats up that much I hope you got some value from my writing. If you really want to get value for yourselves though, DO the stuff that you read about. Decide where you want to go, figure out how you’re going to get there and just start.
Small steps, big steps, giant leaps – I don’t care. Just make sure you do something today, and everyday, that moves you forward.

Good luck, and welcome to 2010!

Fear is temporary, Failure is permanent.

Fear is temporary, failure is permanent. This was a throwaway line from a mountain biking guide I was riding with at the weekend, and it struck me just how true it was. In fact you could substitute an awful lot of words for ‘fear’. (On the day in question, cold, wet, tiredness, climbing, and a number of others could have easily been substituted.)

Why do we make it so easy for ourselves to just give up?  Most of us have heard the saying that we’ve never failed until we stop trying. A lot of us even agree with it, even more if you count the ones who just won’t admit it. What we don’t like to admit is that once we do give up, we have failed. We can always start again, but that attempt has failed, and we are NEVER going to get it back.   Maybe if we think of this a little more it might just give us the extra impetus to try just that little bit harder, to keep it going just that little bit longer, to resist the easy option of stopping, to make that one extra phone call, to keep on going until we hit the targets we set ourselves for a reason.

Is email a waste of time?

What’s the one thing that would be difficult to do your job without?

Ask 100 office workers this, and you’ll get 90+ answers of ‘email’.

88% of us now regularly use email at work (I’d be willing to bet 100% of the readers of this blog!), but 20% of these are described as ‘time wasting’ or unnecessary (survey by Kelly Services).


Once upon a time, email was a godsend. A utility sent from on high to make communication simpler, easier, and more manageable. A way to communicate with customers in the blink of an eye, sometimes even an easy option when the news wasn’t good.  A way to liven peoples lives up with funny stories and jokes, making the humdrum working day a little more bearable.  It wasn’t a replacement for ‘real’ mail, and it wasn’t an essential. It was just useful; an aid to productivity and, in some cases, a cost reducer.  I mean, why spend 20 minutes carefully typing a letter, finding an envelope, paying for a stamp and writing an address when you can spend just 30 seconds banging out a quick email?


Nowadays, those systems have moved on. Not content to be merely a messaging interface, email is often the main business tool for a lot of users. Blackberrys and PDAs have made it mobile. No longer restricted to desktops, we can send and receive messages on the move, and from almost anywhere.

It’s all too easy, and it often attracts our attention to the point where it stops us doing anything else!  In fact, this is one of the biggest challenges that email has; it has become ubiquitous. It is so prevalent, so ‘always there’ that we don’t stop and think if we might be better off using a different method of communication.  A short written note, perhaps, or even, shock, horror, a phone call!  Maybe we could just think about NOT replying, or at least, taking people off the CC list when they no longer need to be there.


It’s not email’s fault I know. Email is just a tool that finds itself open to misuse (in some cases one could reasonably argue abuse), but when you’ve had 30 emails in 20 minutes arguing about whose turn it is to buy the cakes, or give people a lift at lunchtime, it gets extremely annoying. Particularly when you find that in amongst these vital emails is the one really vital email you’ve been waiting for and you missed it because it was crowded out by everything else.


There are ways to reduce these issues though, and start to make email a useful tool again, rather than letting it run your life.

The first of these is really simple – think for yourself how you should manage email. Everyone is different, every business is different, and everyone needs different things from their email systems. How can you use it best? Spend some time, thing about this. Find your own ways. Suggest them here – we can all use new ideas on how to make the most of the tools available to us.


I will make one suggestion, and that is this – check your email at spaced intervals, NOT every time an email comes in. It could be every 30 minutes, every hour, every day, even in some cases every week.  Checking email at intervals means that we can spend focused time managing, rather than just reacting to it. It’s quicker to delete 10 emails at a time than it is to delete 10 individual emails. It’s easier to prioritise and act on 10 tasks rather than just starting each one immediately it comes in.


Remember this – you have better things to do than check each individual email that comes in – prioritise and act on the tasks you already know about. Add to that list when you need to, but don’t let email run your business!

Sales Gold Dust

I’ve always thought that good advice is only as valuable as the store that people put in it and the actions they take following it.

Having had a friend call me tonight asking me for some I thought I’d share it here.  She’s about to start cold calling in her first ‘real’ sales role and is nervous about it, and asked what makes a good sales person. Much as I tried to avoid it, I found myself talking in cliches, but only ones that I truly believe, and have experienced, to be accurate.

Successful people are the those that do the things that unsuccessful people don’t (or won’t).

Spend time on the activities that generate business, don’t get bogged down in admin during prime ‘callout’ time.

Every unsuccessful call is a step closer to the gold dust call.  Every successful call is good practice for the next one. Just don’t stop.

These are three bits of advice that ALL sales people know. Good sales people live by them, and bad salespeople just know them, but don’t action.



Negative language

I can’t do that. I’m never going to get the time. Why am I even quoting for this when I’m not going to win it? Something always goes wrong. I always get stuck in traffic. I wish I had time to go to the gym more often. I’m not fit enough to do anything like that. I’ve tried to stop smoking a bunch of times and I can’t do it. I never get enough sleep. My wireless network never connects properly.

Why can’t we talk more positively?

The statements above are all actual or paraphrased ststements that I’ve heard people give over the last couple of weeks. Can anyone spot what they all have in common?

Would you be surprised if I told you that the reality you experience is very likely to be quite different from the reality your colleagues experience? or your husband/wife? or mine?

The problem with reality is its not fundamentally based on whats ‘there’ its based on how we perceive whats there, and that can vary drastically depending on how we interpret and describe that ‘reality’. Have you ever noticed how two different people can watch the same events and have completely different visions of what actually happened?

One of the ways we interpret our world is through the language we use. Not just to describe to other people, but the language we use to urselves. Our internal monologues are an aspect of life that is almost always there, reinforcing our beliefs and understandings, helping us to make sense of what we’ve seen and experienced.  You probably know this already, or at least this likely makes sense to you. The old ‘glass half full’ or ‘half empty’ adage springs to mind as a good example. There is no difference to the actual physical reality, but people will describe and therefore experience the same thing in different ways, and feel and act very differently according to that perspective.

Here’s the rub though – if we already know that how we perceive and describe things to ourselves and others has an impact on our understanding and feelings about those events, why do we persist on using negative language to describe our reality??

‘I can’t do this’???  –  Surely it would be better as ‘How can I do this?’

‘I’m no good at that’ – Better as ‘I’m going to get better at this.’

Is your target unreachable? or do you just need to plan, and action, the steps needed to overachieve?

What are you going to change to make your life better?


A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student, “You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!” The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open, and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said,”I am your student!”

 *Copied from the ‘Veloquent’ blog here.*

I like this. Sometimes we just need to do what we do because we like to do it, not for any other conscious reason. Not to justify it to ourselves or anyone else, but because it free’s us from having to find reasons and arguments to do something we enjoy.

Once upon a time, I was quite a good rock climber. I trained, I entered competitions, I even tried out for the British squad (unsuccesfully, but I didn’t do too bad – in fact, a friend of mine, Chris Cubitt, became British Climbing Champion for 2 or 3 years on the trot, and I remember beating him at one of them!). Funny thing was though, I got better at climbing when I stopped training and just climbed for fun. I did half as much work, lost a chunk of muscle, and started using better technique and smiling a hell of a lot more. I just climbed – to climb. No more, no less.

I’m sure there’s something in that, somewhere.

About me.

A professional speaker focused on helping people get more out of their day; for themselves and their companies.
I help people get things done by helping them realise that all the knowledge in the world will do absolutely NOTHING for them - if they don’t use it.
I want to change the world, and getting the right people in the right place is only the start. In todays world it is so, so easy to get pulled into doing all the wrong things. I help people figure out what the right and wrong things are and make sure their energies are focused in the right place.
Feel free to comment, or you can contact me by emailing markbell AT mbsprogress DOT com