Last night a headline on the LA Times site caught my eye. It said,“ founder helped by the perfect name.”

Since my upcoming issue of Winning Ways has a piece called What Shall We Name This Business? I was especially interested in the story.

It turned out to be an intriguing piece about what has become the largest privately owned conference calling service in the country. Despite it’s continuing growth, the owner says that the majority of new customers arrive at his site because of the name he gave his enterprise.

It was also a nice profile in the entrepreneurial thinking that helped build the company. According to the piece, for the first two years founder David Erickson was the only employee: He was the accountant, the customer service agent and the Web master. “I knew what [customers] wanted to see in my service, the problems they were having, their visions for what it could be,” he said.

I promptly shared it with folks on Facebook. Now, hours later, only one person has given this piece a  “Like.” I’m certain it would have garnered more Likes had more people taken the time to read the story.

What too many people fail to notice (or care about) is that we live in a gigantic schoolhouse where we can learn all manner of useful and fascinating things simply by paying attention.There is nothing taught here that’s more visible than the class I’ll call Business Success 101.

Entrepreneurs and their stories are everywhere.We can hardly get through the day without encountering them. I have file folders bulging with newspaper clippings of inspiriing stories with titles like Lessons from America’s New Entrepreneurs.

It’s not just the media that offers up lessons. Every time we step into a store or check out a business Website, we have the opportunity to sharpen our own entrepreneurial skills.

What attracts? Repels? What might we integrate into our own way of doing things? What do we want to avoid bringing into our business?

Answers and clues abound, but they’re only useful to those who are seeking to learn.

In 1974, author Timothy Gallwey wrote a surprise bestseller called The Inner Game of Tennis. That book spawned an entire series of Inner Game books and made Gallwey a sought after speaker and trainer.

While Gallwey made a strong case for the positive benefits of being a practicing meditator, one of his other findings made a big impact on me. Gallwey said that when an ordinary tennis player spent time watching masterful players, the ordinary person’s game improved.

However, it wasn’t conscious analysis that made the difference. Simply paying close attention to seeing the game played well made a subconscious impact on the viewer. Their own game improved after putting themselves in the presence of excellence.

The same is true for getting better at business or parenting or any other pursuit that matters to us.

If you’re willing to take advantage of the Big Schoolhouse, here’s a terrific lesson for today. It’s a short (but brilliant) piece from writer and all-around creative guy Julien Smith and is called I Was Born Very Stupid and Will Die Very Smart.

Give it a look and then figure out the best way to put Smith’s ideas to work. You’re bound to get smarter if you do.




When a man in one of my How to Support Your Wanderlust classes told us that he was interested in writing travel essays, I asked him what it took to be a successful writer of travel exposition.

Without hesitation he said, “You can’t be a good writer without being a good reader.” I’ve heard many other successful writers say the same thing.

On a road trip, I happened to hear John Tesh’s radio program. He had e-mail from a 15-year-old boy asking how to make it in the music business. Surprisingly, Tesh didn’t suggest more practice.

He said his best advice was to listen to great music everyday and study what other musicians do.

In a fascinating appearance on the OWN’s Master Class, Simon Cowell talked about his early days working in the music business. Cowell said he was a sponge soaking up the advice of those around him who were more experienced.

This advice seems so obvious to me that I’m always surprised to discover that everyone isn’t an enthusiastic student of success. When I ask participants in my Establish Yourself as an Expert seminars to name a favorite expert, I am often greeted by silence.

When I edit manuscripts, it is often apparent that the would-be writer is not an active reader.

Would-be entrepreneurs have never had a conversation with someone who is successfully self-employed about how they got started.

Years ago, Timothy Galway wrote The Inner Game of Tennis and cited studies that showed that players could noticeably improve their game by watching great players in action.

Galway suggested that our subconscious minds absorb useful information and details without our even being aware of it.

So where do you want to succeed? Study those who have done what you want to do.

Absorb the lessons of success, not failure.

Be a keen observer. Identify with excellence at every turn. It will make a huge difference in your ultimate results.

The amusing Quentin Crisp once noted that it’s no good complaining that you really wanted to be a ballet dancer if you continued to spend your life as a pig farmer.

C.S. Lewis said it a bit more elegantly: “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water.

“If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.

“They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very cente rof reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry.”