10 Guidelines for Success; “The Best Advice I Ever Got!”

Dirk Hoffius

Dirk Hoffius

10 Guidelines for Success; “The Best Advice I Ever Got!”

I recently stumbled over an interesting article entitled “The Best Advice I Ever Got”. I got in touch with the author (Dirk Hoffius)  who gave me permission to share it with you in an abridged manner as well as giving you the link to the entire article. Dirk is an attorney with the law firm of Varnum in Grand Rapids, MI. His title is “The Best Advice I Ever Got”. I added that it seems to me to be 10 great guidelines for success! Read on……………….

1. Do something. In other words – act, make and do. You have three choices in life: you can make things happen; you can watch things happen; or you can wonder, “Hey, what in the world happened?” Do it. Get it done. Turn your energy into plans, actions, and deeds. People will be impressed, and so will you.

2. Find a mentor. Do this as early and as often in your life as possible. You will know your mentor when you meet him or her. He or she will be smarter than you are, more talented than you are, more sophisticated than you are, and wiser than you are. Yet, somehow, for all that, he or she will believe in you. The better your mentor, the faster you will grow.

3. Be nice to everyone. Assume the kid in the mailroom is your future  boss or client, because he or she may well be. You can’t be too nice, but that doesn’t mean you should be a pushover. Nice people don’t finish last; they just don’t talk about winning on the way to the finish line. The more important you get, the nicer you’ve got to be.

4. Be on time. Ninety percent of life, according to Woody Allen, is showing up. People who show up get a 95, and what they do after they show up is the rest of the grade. Be committed to the task at hand because everyone’s time is as important as yours. Agreeing to be somewhere is a promise. Keep it.

5. The magic words. Growing up, your parents made you learn the magic words. “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” If you want someone to do something for you, say :Please.” If they do it, say “Thank you.” If you do something and it’s wrong, don’t sit around waiting for everyone to forget about it. They won’t. Say you’re sorry and move on.

6. Never point your finger unless you’re giving directions. There is no payoff for laying the blame on others, events or the weather. There is no time for it and the press of events is far more important that who or what is to blame. Be part of the solution, not the problem. But, never be afraid to ‘fess up to your own mistakes. Strive for fairness in all things. Even more important is to give others the credit they deserve. You will need them for the rest of your life.

7. Stay curious. Ask questions. Whenever anything is unclear to you, never ever worry about appearing dumb. The dumbest question you’ll ever ask is the one you never ask. It was your missed opportunity to learn. People love someone who’s not afraid to ask a dumb question. They were waiting with the answer anyway. Don’t be intimidated by expertise and don’t be afraid to challenge jargon. Jargon is the mask of the insecure, the fortress of the overeducated.

8. Keep is simple. Strive for simplicity in everything. Think about it. Have you r every heard someone say, “I love the guy, he makes everything sound so complicated?” Simplicity means using plain English and always thinking how to make what you say and write  as easy to understand as possible.

9. Love what you do. Do what you love. This is absolutely critical. If you don’t love what you are doing, you probably won’t perform as well as you could. And even if you are successful, you’ll be miserable, so what’s the point? What if you don’t love what you are doing? Maybe you aren’t doing your best because if you do your best, one of two things can happen; you may have a new opportunity or you may find you like the job.

10. Learning is forever. No matter what we do in life, we are always learning and that’s a good thing because the more we learn, the better we do,, and the more we enjoy what we do. More importantly, our careers and our lives do not become boring if we continue to learn, to explore new things, and to grow. The result of always learning from classes, mentors, competitors, and anyone with whom you come in contact, is that someday you can be the best in your field. When that happens, whether you  recognize it or not, you became a mentor.

Americans love lists; these ten things are important if we are to be the  best we can be. They are lessons for life. Everytime we think we “got it” we find we can do better. We can and we will.

Dirk Hoffius

The entire text of this essay by Dirk Hoffius can be found at:


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To The Kid On The End Of The Bench; Careers and Success Don’t Happen Overnight!

Careers and Success Don’t Happen Overnight!

A sign hangs on my office wall that is entitled “To The Kid At The End Of The Bench”. It has been on every office wall I have had since my first job with an office to sit in. It has been both a motivator as well as reminder.  A motivator to keep me on track and focused. A reminder that it takes time to achieve success. As the phrase goes “Rome Kid at end of the benchwasn’t built in a day”.

“To The Kid At The End Of The Bench” – powerful words….maybe hang them on your wall?

Champions once sat where you’re sitting, kid.

The Football Hall of Fame (and every other Hall of Fame) is filled with names of people who sat, week after week, without getting a spot of mud on their well-laundered uniforms.

Generals, senators, surgeons, prize-winning novelists, professors, business executives started at the end of the bench, too.

Don’t sit and study your shoe tops.

Keep your eye on the game.

Watch for defensive lapses.

Look for offensive opportunities.

If you don’t think you are in a great spot, wait until you see how many would like to take it away from you at the next spring practice.

What you do from the bench this season could put you on the field next season as a player, or back in the grandstand as a spectator.

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Job Success… and Career Success…is Dependent on Great People Skills!

Job Success… and Career Success…is Dependent on Great People Skills!

Periodically I offer you an executive summary of a book that offers real value regarding achieving success in a job and building a career.  Books that enlighten as to how to view and approach workplace issues and situations successfully. Books that I encourage you to read, underline and mark-up and use as a roadmap to achieve greater job and career success.

Life's a CampaignChris Matthews is a familiar face to many Americans for his fast-paced TV talk show “Hardball” and other media appearances.

He is also an accomplished author as a reading of his “Life’s A Campaign” book will reveal. Subtitled “What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success”; the book is broken into four segments – one for each of the four factors in the subtitle.

Chris starts off with “To get ahead in life you can learn a lot from those who get along for a living.”

At 190 pages it is an easy and fast read… but by no means is it a light-weight of a book. Each chapter has a very catchy title, along with a quote or two, and then drives home the lesson being made with real-world examples from Chris’ experiences.

For example Chapter 5 (in the Friendship section) is entitled “The Best Gift You Can Give a Stranger Is an Audience”, followed by two poignant quotes:

Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.                         Lord Chesterfield

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery…If you want to influence someone, listen to what he says.        Dr. Joyce Brothers

Matthews then details one of Bill Clinton’s most endearing attributes: his ability to make the person he is listening to feel like the only person in the room. “To have someone listening to you is flattering – but if you let them do the talking, they’ll be far more interested in you.” says Clinton. Examples such as this abound in this book.

Most people strive to be successful….and successful people wish to be even more successful. This book has message after message that will assist in both objectives.

Other chapter titles include:

Friendship – “People don’t Mind Being Used; They Mind Being Discarded”

Rivalry – “Attack from a Defensive Position” – Matthews tells the story of Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey. As a young member of the Massachusetts legislature, Markey got in hot water with its Democratic leaders by pushing a bill they didn’t want. To teach him a lesson, they removed him from his place on the Judiciary Committee and  took away his office, forcing him to re-locate his desk into the hallway. Markey struck back. Running for Congress he shot a TV ad showing him in front of his desk in the hallway – arms crossed – staring straight at the camera. He then uttered the comment, “The bosses may tell me where to sit. No one tells me where to stand”. He won the election!

Reputation – “Don’t Pick on Someone Your Own Size” & “Keep Good Company” –  Matthews summarizes – “Pick your friends carefully. They are the neon lights that illuminate the way to you, that fairly or unfairly declare your character. Lie with dogs and you’ll pick up fleas. Sing in the choir and they’ll think you’re holy.”

Success – “Aim High” & “ Speak Up”. My blog post of last September 11th  “Not Too Keen on Making a Speech?” was taken from Chapter 23 “Speak Up!” of this book. Chris gave a perfect outline and approach for anyone having to make a speech or do some public speaking for the first time.

This is a book well worth reading…. and keeping at hand for reference as you pursue success!!

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13 Common Behaviors of Trusted Leaders!

Without trust – organizational crisis!

Research shows that only 49% of employees trust senior management, and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information.

Trust aOrganizational trust is critical for success – trust is the foundation for all successful relationships, both business and personal. If you are a manager and leader, one of your most important roles is to inspire trust. Trust in you, your motives  AND your organization.

Inspire – to affect – to guide – to bring about – to fill with enlivening emotion.

Inspiring trust is not an easy task. To be trusted as a manager and leader, you must demonstrate both character and competence:

Character includes integrity, honesty and how you are observed treating others. A manager/leader who has earned trust is viewed as a “good and honest person” as demonstrated by past words and deeds – by “history”. He or she is credible – up front with people.

Competence includes capabilities, skills and track record. Your actions and decisions need to demonstrate that you know what you are doing – that you understand the marketplace, understand people and that you are constantly looking for organizational opportunity.

The-Speed-Of-TrustStephen M.R. Covey (son of the late Stephen R. Covey) – in his landmark book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything – talks of the “13 Behaviors of High-Trust Leaders.

Covey identified 13 common behaviors of trusted leaders around the world that build and then maintain trust. When individual leaders adopt these ways of behaving, it’s like making deposits into the “trust account” of another party.

Those 13 are:

1. Talk Straight: Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Demonstrate integrity.

2. Demonstrate Respect: Show you genuinely care. Respect everyone, even those that can’t do anything for you. Show kindness in little ways.

3. Create Transparency: Be genuine, open and authentic. Don’t hide information or have ‘hidden agendas’. Operate on the premise of ‘what you see is what you get’.

4. Right Wrongs: Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible. Demonstrate personal humility. Don’t cover things up. Do the right thing.

5. Show Loyalty: Give credit to others. Be loyal to the absent. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves. Don’t talk negatively about others behind their backs.

6. Deliver Results: Establish a track record of results. Accomplish what you are hired to do. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Don’t make excuses for not delivering.

7. Get Better: Continuously learn and improve. Increase your capabilities. Develop formal and informal feedback systems. Thank people for feedback. Act on feedback received.

8. Confront Reality: Meet issues head-on. Address the ‘tough stuff’ directly. Acknowledge the unsaid. Lead conversations courageously.

9. Clarify Expectations: Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss and validate them. Renegotiate them if necessary. Ensure expectations are clear.

10. Practice Accountability: Hold yourself and others accountable. Take responsibility for good or bad results. Clearly communicate how everyone is doing.

11. Listen First: Listen before you speak. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Diagnose. Don’t assume, find out.

12. Keep Commitments: State your intentions and then do it. Make commitments carefully; make keeping your commitments the symbol of your honor. Don’t break confidences.

13. Extend Trust: Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust.

Wise words and a roadmap for every manager and leader. Keep the short list of these (talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, etc.) in your mind as you go about your day. Better yet – get Covey’s book and read it!

Leadership – Never Stop Learning…….

Good luck!

Adapted from Crisis of Trust by Lori Williams of Creative Management Consultants

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The World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity — former U.S. Presidents

“The world’s most exclusive fraternity” is the tagline of a wonderful book by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy entitled “The President’s Club”.

The President's Club book coverIt details the relationships between ex-U.S. Presidents and the incumbent. Regardless of what is said on the campaign trail, those men (and hopefully a woman one day soon!) all recognize the rigors of the job and that the advice and assistance of those that have walked the halls of The White House before can be both helpful and comforting.

The book is a great read – with “aha” stuff you never knew and a broad sprinkling of humor. It also details what happens when an ex-president outruns his blockers as Jimmy Carter did on more than one occasion!

Why do I devote space in this blog to it? Because it is also a series of great leadership lessons and illustrates that “only time will tell” how wise were certain decisions and how history now views former presidents compared to what the public thought in their first years out of office.

I strongly recommend the book…and you will learn from the successes and mistakes of these former presidents.

presidentsAnd while you are at it… take a look at the wonderful piece by David Shribman in The Salem News entitled “The new George H.W. Bush.” It talks of the work done by presidents after they leave office – their so-called “second lives”. John Quincy Adams served in Congress for several terms after leaving office…and with nothing to prove was at times a real pain to the incumbent at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! Shribman’s article coverage also includes U.S. Grant, Harry Truman, James Garfield, Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and Bush 41.


Leadership – never stop learning!


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Want to be a Great Leader?

Success comes to those that learn and grow. Preparing yourself for the next step in your career is critical to achieving not only that next job… but the one after that.

This involves thinking and learning. If you desire to be a good leader of people – even a great leader of people – you need to really understand what leadership is all about. The libraries are full of books on leadership and new ones are hitting the street regularly. Yet, the basic principles remain the same. A brief self-analysis on your part will be helpful to gauge where you are on the leadership path.

george-hw-bush-pictureThe following is a re-print (with permission from NRI, Inc.) of one of the essays I wrote for NRI’s “Managing for Excellence” series. To what extent can you grade yourself B+ or better on the following six aspects of leadership?

Want to be a Great Leader?

A Leader Whose People Will Always Deliver the Goods?

The principles are simple and easy. Mastering them and then living them to a high degree is not so easy. Successful people have a healthy degree of humility and self-doubt that keeps them doing tough self-evaluations. As Mitch Fromstein – the late CEO of Manpower –  used to say: “great managers sweat the small stuff”. Sooner or later you’ll make enough mistakes to really learn what follows. The key is to learn them before the mistakes become job-ending ones.

1. Be an expert delegator. Understand that to delegate effectively you need to be specific about what the expectations are… the desired results. You need to be confident that whomever you have delegated to do a task or project has the capability to do so… and the tools and resources to do so. And once delegated – don’t meddle. Get progress reports, but don’t tell staff “how to do it” unless it is clearly going poorly.

2. Make sure your expectations are clear to all. And those expectations are two-fold: yours as a boss and those of the organization. Remember that “he who aims at nothing is likely to hit it!” All who look to you as a leader need to know what is expected of them and how it all fits together to achieve the organization’s objectives. Re-state those expectations periodically; they will fade from staff’s memory if not re-stated in the right context.

3. Never take credit for success – give it to others. Remember the words of President George H.W. Bush –  “mother would lecture us – “give the other guy credit. Nobody likes a braggadocio, George. Don’t talk about yourself all the time.” Wise words for us all. Recognize immediately and publically when people rise to the occasion. Recognize incremental success; not everyone will hit a home run every time… and there are times when effort also counts and also needs to be recognized.

4. It is indeed true that honesty is the best policy. Managers and leaders are judged daily by what they do and say. Straight talk and being forthcoming is critical for people to trust you. Trust lost is virtually impossible to regain. That is not to say that there isn’t a time for ambiguity – there is…but never downright dishonesty.

Hellmans Mayo Lid5. Don’t come unglued. Keeping your cool is critical to being a great boss and leader. Remember the directions on a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise …. “keep cool – but do not freeze”!  Keep your eye on the target…the big picture….and remember that people are looking at youand to you for guidance. No one has confidence in a boss who gets rattled when the going gets tough.

6. Have a sense of humor. Gotta be able to laugh at yourself…. gotta be able to see the irony in things… gotta “lighten up” when it is called for – but never at someone else’s expense. Humor is a universal ice-breaker.

Learn these lessons… put them in practice… coach your subordinates to do the same. Develop a healthy degree of humility and master the process of evaluating how close to the ideal you are in thesesix dynamics. It takes time and discipline to develop the skills to be a great leader so work on it diligently.

Ray Wylie’s Words of Inspiration

ray wylie hubbard

Ray Wylie Hubbard is a great C&W singer songwriter – his best known song – “Up Against the Wall Red Neck Mother” – has been recorded by many, many others, but his song I like the best…and the one with a great personal message is “Mother Blues.

You can find versions of it on YouTube galore… it is well worth watching in concert….and it is definitely NOT mainstream country, but the last few lines are:

“And the days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well – those are pretty good days”.

Words of wisdom for us all….