SMART or DUMB Goals Don’t Get You Success

I took down my inspiration board because it got too depressing.

And, as it turns out, I’m not alone.

Setting goals seems like a good idea and we’re all told we should be doing this. For those of us who obsess with achievement, motivation or personal development, I’m sure I won’t be shocking you with the concept of inspiration boards and goal setting. Among the many motivation hacks, inspiration boards are one of the most popular and highly visual. The board is littered with images of the lavish things you want – luxury homes, cars and vacations all filled with white walls, upholstery and clothes – and the goals you much achieve in order to be happy.

While this advice is well intentioned, the problem with goal setting and being goal orientated is that you truly fail to learn and, ironically, achieve the goal. And what’s worse, is that the majority of your life is spent feeling like you’re less than, as if you’re living in the dreary shadow of your big goal where witnessing sunshine will not happen until the goal is reached.

Scott Adams (the Dilbert comic writer who has a net worth of $75 million) put it best, setting goals and focusing on them makes you feel like you’re living in “a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.” Our shared disdain for goal setting is rooted in the following psychological and statistical issues set out in my highly mathematical equation:

Humans can’t predict the future. Even the psychic promising to reveal your fate at $99.99 an hour can’t…Trust me.


92% of goals fail


We wrongly believe that happiness will be achieved only once the goal is reached


The duration of the happiness experienced upon achievement of said goal is 2 seconds=

A life spent mostly in a state of unhappiness and anxiety, burnout and, therefore, a low probability of success.

“You’re so wrong”, you say, “so long as you have SMART goals[1], you’ll succeed and stay motivated”. I disagree. SMART goals spell out a useful way of tracking progress towards a goal, while completely ignoring the overwhelming feelings of anxiousness that cripple you along the unenviable path you believe (pray!) will lead to success. It also fails to teach resiliency, while glossing over the architecture (i.e habits and systems) that is essential to reaching your goal.

The same applies to DUMB goals[2] – the nouveau “millennial spin” on SMART goals recently popularized by a non-millennial public speaker and author of The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard. DUMB goals, he claims, should replace SMART goals because the latter fail to inspire, motivate and encourage meaningful innovation.

Brendon justifies his position by pointing to massive accomplishments, such as getting us to the moon, the concept of equal rights and our ability to spur revolutions with a click of a button…or Tweet. These “moonshot” achievements would never have occurred had it not been for some people deciding to set DUMB goals and then harnessing the inspiration from these DUMB goals to forge ahead.

Sounds nice, but reading about and speaking to those who’ve made it through to the end, DUMB goals do very little to actually help you “win”. And, just like SMART goals, they do even less to shelter you from “pre-goal attainment misery”.

Although I do enjoy the occasional molecular-gastronomy meal, I prefer all of my business and life advice to be less new-agey and more of the tried and true steak and potato variety.

So, what’s the solution?

Goals no matter how SMART or DUMB, smugly ignore the fact that success is borne out of systems and habits. The problem is that these precursors to success display no immediate progress. Instead, systems and habits are accretive in nature and display value only after years of learning, gathering wisdom and sharpening skills. In other words, on a daily basis, you don’t feel like you’re any closer to the goal, but looking back at the process (which takes years), you will.

So, what’s the solution? Put plainly, the solution is to forget winning, forget losing and to even forget the goal. Instead, focus on learning and perfecting your rituals, systems and habits.

What are systems and habits and why are they better than goals?

A system is the architecture of how you’re going to achieve “the big goal”. Your habits are individual components, such as the frame, wiring and footings that make up the architecture. For example, if you’re launching your own business and have a goal (which you should ignore once you know what it is) of earning $1 million in revenue, your systems range from your sales, marketing and client retention processes, as well as your own systems for ensuring that you avoid burnout. Your habits are what you do on a daily basis, such as picking up the phone and calling 10 prospects or waking up at 5:00 am to exercise.

The reason why systems are better than goals is because it helps us avoid living in the shadow of our goals. We want to experience happiness now, while still staying motivated to attain our goals. Systems do this by satiating our need for immediate gains because systems deliver daily wins (i.e. working out for 30 minutes every day), rather than the big goal that’ll take a year to achieve (i.e. losing 30 pounds). Knowing that you followed through with the habit is rewarding and won’t be overshadowed by the seemingly impossible goal.

While each of our systems are different, they should all be evaluated and viewed as a learning tool. For example, maybe waking up at 5:00 am and working out hasn’t moved the needle on the scale. Do you need to eat better? Sleep more? Exercise more? You need to know if the system is actually working in order for the big win to be achieved.

The Twist

You’ll never achieve happiness or success if you fail to know about the MOST critical factor that can deliver this to you. And it has nothing to do with goal setting, systems or habits. It has to do with relationships. As Prof. Glibert’s widely acclaimed book, Stumbling on Happiness and his ongoing research shows:

Grandma was right about some things … friendships and a good marriage are keys to happiness, she was right. Probably the single best predictor of a person’s happiness is the quality and extent of their social relationships. People with solid friendships, and people with healthy romantic relationships, are usually quite happy, regardless of almost anything else that happens in their lives. Social relationships are a better predictor of happiness than your physical health.

So, if the above sounds like too much work, then grab a couple of drinks on the patio with good friends and socialize your way to happiness and success. After all, we finally have the weather to do it.

[1] For goals to work, many Silicon-Valley types claim they must be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.


[2] Brandon claims that DUMB Goals must be:

  • Dream-Driven
  • Uplifitng
  • Method-Friendly
  • Behavior-Driven

Greed is not Good. But Envy Is.

The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them!

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will […] save […] the malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much. Gordon Gekko.

Gordon Gekko got it wrong.

Greed isn’t good. Because greed is never satisfied. Greed creates an endless void that motivates poor decisions, causes the destruction of critical partnerships and inflames one’s sense of inadequacy. But, Envy. That’s different. Envy is good. And now there’s science to prove it.  

Distinguishing good from bad and how to use it

If you want to learn how to leverage this “deadly sin”, you first have to understand the difference between good envy (benign) and bad envy (malicious).

A simple example is as follows: you feel malicious envy towards a colleague who gains undeserved success. This type of envy makes you want to knock them down a peg or two … or ten.

You feel benign envy, however, when you feel that your colleague’s success is very well deserved. And their success, in turn, makes you want to work hard to achieve the same success. Simply put, benign envy inspires you to pull yourself up, while malicious envy narrows your efforts on how to pull the other person down.

This distinction is critical because focusing on bringing someone down does nothing to get you ahead. Malicious envy is like a frustrating game of whack-a-mole. Someone better will always pop out while you just waste your time losing tokens, your drive to succeed and, ultimately, the prize.

As soon as you start plotting someone’s downfall, stop. And remember: your personal success is much better revenge. The person you envy doesn’t care about how you feel and is likely getting ahead of you because they’re working and developing a better toolbox of talent, relationships and skills. To compete, then, it’s best that you focus on sharpening your skills and business model and not dulling those of who you envy.

Warning: avoid admiration like the plague.

Believe it or not, admiration can be just as dangerous as becoming a sloth. Philosopher Kierkegaard believed that admiring someone is like admitting defeat. Your admiration implies that you’re not good enough because you’ll never be able to reach that standard yourself. So, you give up, turn on Netflix and burry feelings of inadequacy under the “false gods” you’ve created out of reality TV stars. It sounds pretty ridiculous. Except science says it isn’t.

A group of PhDs and Professors from Tilburg University (The Netherlands) published a paper, Why Envy Outperforms Admiration, that supports Kierkegaard’s seemingly antisocial conclusion. The logic is as follows: the pain we experience when feeling envious is so terrible that we’ll do just about anything to avoid it.

The fastest and easiest way to avoid this pain is to convert our envy into “admiration”. We’ve distance ourselves from feelings of defeat and inadequacy by shining the spotlight on the other person.
Such distancing, however, pushes us into sloth territory because it demotivates us. We say to ourselves “well, they’re better and I’ll never get there, so I’ll sit here and admire them and give up on going for it”.

The critical component to your success, then, is learning how to veer away from admiration and straight towards envy. How? Simple. As soon as you start slipping into the black hole called admiration, remind yourself of the following: admiration makes you feel kinda good, but benign envy makes you feel really good.

How benign envy makes you feel really good

In his book, The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You), Simon Latham affirms that envy is good because it gives us hope. And hope, in turn, makes us feel better. Envy motivates us to improve and strive for more because it makes us change our expectations about what is possible for us to achieve.

Through numerous examples, Simon shows how a healthy mix of self esteem and good envy can motivate and fuel our belief in ourselves. Good envy, Simon says, inspires you to carefully watch the target of your envy. This careful observation effectively pulls back the curtain on your target. You discover that her process and work is what made her a success and not some innate talent you fundamentally lack. You now see that you’re capable of achieving the same and you’re more likely to hit your mark because you have clarity as to how to “get there”.

How do I leverage envy to motivate and plot my success?

When you come across someone who you envy, it’s critical to know what to ask. Good questions produce a great path to achieve the same. Here’s an approach I’ve used to convert my envy into what I need to do next:

  1. Ask how the “target” of your envy achieved his success. What got him there? Is it education? Work habits? Business model? Connections?
  2. Next, dig deep on the HOW. If you choose connections, for example, repeatedly ask yourself “HOW” he got those connections until it’s broken down into something that you can achieve to get the ball rolling e.g. join group X.
  3. Next, look at what you’re doing and ask yourself what stopped you from being the one on top. How come you’re not at that level? Think about this independently from how your target achieved his success. For example, is it low self-esteem? Fear?
  4. Finally create a plan that incorporates the answers in questions 2 and 3.

Be creative when mapping out your plan on how to propel yourself forward and into the realm of your target. There are no bad approaches – unless it’s illegal or hurts someone, of course.

If you’re stuck for ideas, call up your feelings of envy because envy has a relationship with your ability to make creative solutions and smarter decisions. A conclusion, once again, backed by an interesting study that exposed its participants to:

“… comparison targets who either threatened or boosted self-evaluations and then completed a performance task. Participants exposed to the threatening target performed better than those in a control group, whereas those exposed to the nonthreatening target performed worse.” (Johnson & Stapel, 2007)

Just like fats – small doses of envy can actually be good for you…so long as you can distinguish the good from the bad and simply don’t over-do it.

What do Oprah, Jobs and Disney have in common besides being filthy rich? They got fired.

Passed up for the promotion? Don’t seem to be getting ahead? Got fired? This will help you deal with disappointment.

Have you been through this? You’ve sacrificed time with your family, weekends and evenings to be a stellar performer. Yet, you’ve been passed up (again) for a promotion while your slacker coworker seems to be skyrocketing up the corporate ladder.

How about this? You’re called in for a routine meeting only to learn that you’re being let go due to changes in the corporate structure, culture or management. It couldn’t happen at a worse time – you have two small children and a mortgage.

And this? The client you’ve been banking on decides to pull out of the deal, leaving you with the no choice but to rack up credit card debt to pay your staff.

Or this? Your significant other needs “to talk” about “us”…. and he’s not a “talker”….

All of these scenarios have one common theme: the gut-wrenching wave that starts slow and then hits you hard. In other words, the nauseating feeling of disappointment.

If you haven’t experienced this before you’re either lying or you’re seriously living below your potential. And if you have, then you’re on your way to living a better life and, perhaps, millions. At least that’s what the most successful people claim.

Here’s a secret that I thought was blatantly obvious: I’ve experienced endless moments of disappointment in almost every facet of my life. From dinners I’ve slaved over that ended up tasteless and over-spiced to huge clients breaking their contracts (or stringing me along) to television shows never making it past the idea phase and partners walking away when I needed them most.  Oh yeah, and there was that time in high school when I was fired because I refused to sell people “junk” shoes.

Despite disappointment being a major theme in my life, I’ve never talked about it. Perhaps because it’s embarrassing and because it seems to happen to no one else but me! Or so I thought. As it turns out, the reason why we don’t talk about disappointment is because no one wants to post a picture of themselves eating a failed dinner, getting a divorce or emptying their cubicle. Our secrecy around disappointment is, well, disappointing because it limits our ability to maximize on this experience.

I don’t mean to trivialize facing a setback. In fact, each of my big disappointments did temporarily force me into the fetal position. However, the lessons I’ve learned were unforgettable and critical to me living, doing and acting better.  And, as Google tells me, it turns out that the “greats” would all agree.

I’d like to save you the time and pain of trying various solutions to overcoming disappointment (read: whiskey is not a solution). After years of developing rebound systems and endless hours of research, I’ve finally compiled the most critical steps to pulling a Steve Jobs – coming back stronger and better – after falling flat on your face.

The FOUR critical lessons from those who’ve made it “big”, despite huge set backs.

Step 1 – Don’t react

Yes, you’ve just been unjustly let go or you didn’t get the promotion. But, don’t throw the stapler. Do you really want to have enemies? The answer is no. In fact, it’s critical to gather your supporters at this juncture and ignore the people who want to see you fall further down. It’s your supporters who will help you figure out the next step, tell you what’s really going on behind closed doors and may even introduce you to your new career. What is more, if you act out now, that’s how they’ll remember you; not as a levelheaded and brilliant individual, but a crazy person who can’t be trusted when things get difficult.

For example, I have one friend who drank far too much and decided to “drunk dial” a couple of co-workers during the middle of the day. He was brilliant and had a fabulous reputation in the legal industry. Now, no one will hire him because he’s a “loose cannon”. So, sit back and reflect. Don’t pass judgment until you have information on what’s going on.

Step 2 – Deal with the rage

I endorse some “why me?!” time. Deal with the pain because, if you don’t, it’ll come up later and your anger will feed upon itself and taint all aspects of your life. It’s been my experience that bitterness and disappointment seems to breed more bitterness and disappointment. This then breaths life into Murphy’s Law and kicks off a series of unfortunate events.  Avoid this outcome by giving yourself a week to beat up your pillow, eat pizza, drink wine and binge on Netflix. Then move on to step number three.

Step 3 – Reframe loss as opportunity

The biggest regrets of not only famous people, but everyone, is not quitting earlier, not having the guts to start their own business, taking jobs for money, rather than opportunity, and living a life that was not authentic to who they are.

Given the fact that what you do with your life will be the source of whether or not you lived a life of regret, reframe this setback as an opportunity to create the life you want. Whenever I have a setback I think: this is awesome – I get to rebuild my life the way I want it to be!? How often do I get to try a new career or do something different? Reframing the loss into opportunity will spur creativity and help you through the final step.

Step 4 – Separate your job from who you are

We’ve all tied our identity far to tightly with who we are. Our self esteem and value is based on titles and how much we earn – this is especially true of the Millennials and just about anyone raised pursuant to theNorth American values.

Our unhealthy belief that what we do is a reflection of our moral and social value explains why facing a setback feels so personal and makes us feel so lost. I felt this sense of “falling into the abyss” after law school. I learned quickly that I’d never practice law and felt exceptionally depressed and anxious. How else will the world know I can read and I’m not that dumb if I’m not a lawyer!?

The solution: first, root your identity in what you like to do and not your job title. Then, test out what you think you like to do by volunteering or talking with those who are in the field. For example, I enjoy leading and finding creative solutions when everyone else is approaching it with a traditional lens. So, I launched a company that did just that. Famous actors and entrepreneurs saw that they enjoyed creating, so that’s what the perused with vigor and with satisfaction. Their only regret (and mine)? They didn’t do it sooner!

Epic Failures: Yes, the Rich & Famous Have Flopped Too

I’ve always found it comforting that I’m not alone when facing disappointments and setbacks. For a motivational boost, just peruse through what the best of the best have faced…one of who was told he was “too stupid to learn anything”.

A collection of failures from Business Insider, Australia:

  • Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded. His second act turned out to be bigger and better than the first.
  • Walt Disney’s newspaper editor told the aspiring cartoonist he wasn’t creative enough.
  • In the 1980s, Mark Cuban lost his job as a salesman at computer store. That was the last time he worked for someone else.
  • J.K. Rowling spent too much time at work brainstorming story ideas.
  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his severance check to start his own company. Now he’s one of the richest people in the country.
  • Anna Wintour made waves for her innovative shoots, but editor Tony Mazalla thought they were a little too edgy. She got canned after a mere 9 months.
  • Madonna lost her job at Dunkin Donuts for squirting jelly filling all over customers.
  • A Baltimore TV producer told Oprah Winfrey that she was “unfit for television news.”
  • Jerry Seinfeld didn’t know he was fired until he showed up for a read-through and his part was missing from the script.
  • Sallie Krawcheck, often called one of Wall Street’s “most powerful women,” was fired from Bank of America in 2011.
  • Before being named NFL Coach of the Year, Bill Belichick was kicked to the curb by the Cleveland Browns.
  • Right before they started Home Depot, co-founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank were fired from their jobs.
  • The manager of the Grand Ole Opry told Elvis he was better off driving trucks.

The Small Business Sense gives us a few more stories of failures….I’m not sure if I’d lasted! Here are a few:

  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school 3 times before getting his huge break.  Spielberg is known for directing mega hits that include Jurassic Park and Jaws.
  • Tim Ferris, known for his best selling book “The 4 Hour Workweek” was turned down by 25 publishers before it was finally picked up.  Tim’s book went on to sell millions of copies making him a force to be reckoned with in the Entrepreneurship landscape.
  • Colonel Sanders is the entrepreneur who founded KFC “Kentucky Fried Chicken” when he was 56 years old.  His recipe was reportedly rejected over 1,000 times before a restaurant picked it up.

And, finally, a few more stories by Business Insider (Honda has a particularly incredible story of defeat and triumph):

  • Soichiro Honda’s unique vision got him ostracized by the Japanese business community. Honda was a mechanical genius who idolized Edison and rebelled against the norm. His passion for aggressive individualism was more fit for the United States, and he found himself alienated him from Japanese businessmen, who valued teamwork above all else. Honda then boldly challenged the American automotive industry in the 1970s and led a Japanese automotive revolution.
  • Vera Wang failed to make the 1968 US Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue, but was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. She began designing wedding gowns at age 40 and today is one of the premier designers in the fashion industry, with a business worth over $1 billion. (She also found another way back into skating, designing costumes for skating champion Nancy Kerrigan.)
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.” After that, things stayed bleak for a while, as Edison went onto be fired from his first two  jobs, for not being suitably productive. Edison went on to hold more than 1,000 patents and invented some world-changing devices, like the phonograph, practical electrical lamp, and a movie camera.

If the steps, above, seem like too much then just read these failures and success stories for a little boost. Clearly, you’re not on your own as you strive to push through disappointment and setbacks. In fact, as the stories of our heroes demonstrate, it’s just a necessary part of the road to success.

The Mistake: Tenants Need to Know About Estoppel Certificates

We all hear about the big commercial deal where millions or even billions exchanged hands. But what we don’t hear about is an unusual document that can make or break that deal. Yet, few agents not only don’t know about this document and even fewer address this document during lease negotiations. This means that you can be leaving your clients exposed to risk and that you’re not using your full negotiation power to get better terms.

What is this Document?

This powerful document is the Tenant Estoppel Certificate (TEC). The TEC is a legally binding document where a tenant represents or promises certain things to be true. These “things” relate to the relationship between the landlord and the terms of the lease. Common “things” found in TECs are:

  • Dates: when the lease started, when it was last renewed and its expiration date;
  • Rent: how much rent the tenant pays and what’s due over the term of the lease;
  • Defaults: if either party defaulted on any rights and responsibilities under the lease;
  • Contact information: the parties’ addresses, phone numbers and email information;
  • Deposits and Letters of Credit: if any deposits exist and if interest is being collected, how the deposit can be used and so on; and
  • Renewals or Extensions: if such rights exist, the terms and the notification periods.

Why have it?

The TEC is a promise made to a lender or a potential buyer. The lender or buyer want these promises because they support whatever the landlord claims to be true about its leases, rent and so on. Clearly, the TEC is imperative to the due diligence process of the sale or refinancing of a property. After all, if you’re going to spend significant amounts of money, you’ll want the security that it won’t be hit with financially devastating surprises.

In other words, a TEC prevents unsubstantiated surprises because it provides the buyer or lender with a “snapshot” of the status of the lease and because it legally precludes the tenant from maintaining any claims inconsistent with the terms in the TEC.

For example, after we acquired a property, I’d be inundated with tenants claiming they wouldn’t be paying a few months of rent because the previous landlord owed them money for tenant improvements. Before I did a thing, I’d look at the TEC that the defaulting tenant signed. If what they said was inconsistent with the TEC, I’d tell them they had no claim or right to avoid paying rent.

What do I do if I see it?

Recognize this as an opportunity to negotiate in certain terms into your lease. The TEC is very important to landlords and you can use this provision to extract better rent rates or other terms important to the tenant. To be clear, when the obligation to sign the TEC arises it’s not the time to negotiate terms in the lease; rather, it’s just the time to ensure that the terms in the lease are true.

The most common issues related to TECs are who pays for the preparation of the document, how many times the landlord may request a TEC and what terms the tenant will agree to in the TEC. Pay attention to these issues and ensure that you put in as many “caps” as possible. But, this is just scratching the surface….

Many leases will further include a “deeming provision” if the tenant does not object to or execute the draft estoppel within the required timeframe. This means that, if the TEC goes unsigned, the tenant is deemed to have accepted the representations in that draft TEC it received. Some leases will further allow the landlord to appoint its own agent who can sign the TEC on tenant’s behalf. This is highly problematic, especially if the tenant disagrees with the representations in the TEC, because the tenant will be held to the potentially incorrect statements in the TEC. Examples include exaggerated rental rates or the elimination of any specially agreed rights.

Tenant representatives should further request that the obligation to sign an estoppel certificate is mutual. This means that the landlord will also have to sign an estoppel certificate should a prospective subtenant request one, for example. Also, request that both parties must agree to all of the terms in the TEC, that the tenant has a right to add in her own comments and that the default isn’t the landlord’s standard TEC. This ensures that the tenant isn’t unwittingly held to certain representations that are inaccurate and can advise the potential purchaser or lender if the landlord is not upholding its obligations.

Consider how much time the tenant has to review the TEC and what happens if the tenant doesn’t respond on a timely basis. Ensure that you define your review period as X “business days” to avoid getting confusion over whether or not holidays and weekends are included in the calculation.

Finally, delete any language that deems the draft submitted approved or appoints an agent to sign the document should the tenant not reply in a timely manner. As mentioned, above, if the tenant misses the opportunity to review the document this may hold her to unfair or untrue terms.

What should I tell my tenant to do when the obligation arises?

If you think a tenant doesn’t have to provide a TEC, think again. The power to require a tenant to sign a TEC typically stems from a term in the lease, as alluded to above. And not providing a TEC could result in serious repercussions.

Distinguish yourself as an excellent agent by guiding your client through the potential pitfalls of a TEC. Consider the following as you help:

  • Ask the tenant if she received the certificate under the stipulated time period and in the form that the lease provides. You want to make sure your tenant was given enough time to review the document and the landlord may have put itself under an obligation to provide the TEC a certain number of days before the TEC must be executed.
  • Review not only the lease, but also all of its amendments. Compare the terms of these documents to the estoppel provisions to ensure accuracy. For example, check that the names and addresses of all parties are correct and that all documents are included in the definition of “Lease”. I’ve come across missing documentation during this process which could be problematic if there is a foreclosure or need for refinancing.
  • Confirm that the landlord hasn’t defaulted on its obligations. Speak with other tenants and walk the property to determine if the landlord has not yet fixed a defective HVAC, for example, as required under the lease.
  • Be sure that the TEC reflects any special terms negotiated between the landlord and tenant. For example, does the TEC include the tenant’s option to renew, expand or terminate early, as well as any tenant improvement rights, self-help remedies and audit rights? Confirm that the TEC doesn’t negate any of these rights.
  • Be specific when responding to any statements requiring the tenant confirm that the landlord has not defaulted on its obligations “to the best of tenant’s knowledge”. The tenant may only have knowledge about specific types of landlord obligations, especially if the tenant operates in multiple facilities.
  • Confirm how much the tenant is paying by contacting the tenant’s accounting department and reviewing the latest rent invoices.
  • Don’t let any landlords pull a fast one by using the TEC as an opportunity to expand the tenant’s obligations or delete the tenant’s rights. If something is unclear, qualify the language be inserting “as required under the Lease….”

Remember, success in the real estate business is all about the value you can provide to your client. By knowing a bit more about the secret TEC you’ll be sure to stand heads and shoulders above the crowd, as well as protect your client.

How to manufacture luck

The game of luck and why every parent, teacher and person should know the rules.

I’m disappointed in myself. It’s recently come to my attention that people believe that I naturally love getting up at 4:45 am in the morning, exercising and writing. And that I have a lot of “luck”, that I always hit my goals and that I have an innate level of intelligence. The truth is: I don’t.

The reason why I’m disappointed is because this perpetuates the “luck” myth: some people are lucky and  if you’re not one of the lucky, then give up. Or don’t start. This myth discourages us from believing in ourselves, seeing our own value and, consequentially, suffering from low self-esteem, low motivation and a anaemic sense of responsibility for one’s successes and failures.

I’ll admit, luck does have a lot to do with how things unfold in our lives (bet you didn’t expect that one!), but not how you think. Luck is a game, not a given. And once you’re able to understand the rules of “luck”, then you’ll be able to rig the game in your favour.

A quick story on how luck benefited me will elucidate the rules of luck.

Stumbling upon the game of luck

I was and am not “the smart one” in my family. My older sister is. She’s a genius (no exaggeration) and teachers loved her. And here’s how I got lucky:

  1. Teachers assumed that I was just as brilliant as my older sister. They unquestioningly loved me and encouraged me. They gave me the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that I was not that capable, to put it lightly;
  2. My teachers expected that I’d excel just as well as my sister. And I expected the same of myself because that’s just what we all have to do. Excuses or leniency were concepts beyond my little brain. So I had not choice but to do it;
  3. I’m a classic middle child who had a classic middle child upbringing. This meant that I craved adult approval and attention outside of the family. I got it from getting good grades. This emotional drive for my teacher’s approval (a powerful tool) motivated me to meet or exceed expectations; and
  4. I had no idea that my sister didn’t have to work hard to get good grades. I thought everyone had to study at least 6 hours a day… in grade four.

Why is this lucky? Because, as it turns out, if people believe that you are smart, driven and successful, they unknowingly help you become these beliefs. In other words, everyone rigs the game in your favour and then they tell you and everyone around you that you were “predestined”.

I told my parents about my “lucky hunch” and they (read: dad) laughed and told me that everything is innate and that we have no control over the outcomes of our lives….Guess what, (dad), they were wrong. Because this hunch is a real heuristic called the Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect.

Parents and anyone who manages people – pay attention to this effect – it could make or break your child or employees.

Clairvoyants and manufacturing luck

Thirty years ago, the brilliant leaders of the Israel Defense Forces were tricked by a psychologist named Dov Eden. Dr. Eden told the IDF that he could predict who’d become the top performers before they ever started training. He poured over the assessment results of the IDF applicants. From this information alone, he identified who of the group would emerge as “stars” during the training period and, sure enough, and much to the amazement of the IDF, he was bang on.

The identified “stars” scored 9 to 10 percent higher than their peers in almost all categories during the training period. Was Dr. Eden a clairvoyant? Did he have a secret sauce? No. He simply drew upon a classic study conducted by the Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal. A study that may have ruined a bunch of children’s lives….

Psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson believed that a child’s performance was related to the teacher’s expectation of the child. In other words, reality (the child’s “innate” abilities) can be altered by the observer (teacher). This alteration creates a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the teacher’s expectation that the child is innately brilliant will result in the child being brilliant. Here’s how the study worked:

All students in a single California elementary school were given a disguised IQ test at the beginning of the study. These scores were not disclosed to teachers. Teachers were told that some of their students (about 20% of the school chosen at random) could be expected to be “intellectual bloomers” that year, doing better than expected in comparison to their classmates. The bloomers’ names were made known to the teachers.

At the end of the study, all students were again tested with the same IQ-test used at the beginning of the study. All six grades in both experimental and control groups showed a mean gain in IQ from before the test to after the test. However, First and Second Graders showed statistically significant gains favoring the experimental group of “intellectual bloomers”. This led to the conclusion that teacher expectations, particularly for the youngest children, can influence student achievement.

Two simple steps to manufacture luck

This week’s blog stems from this study and offers the following conclusion:

  1. Challenge your views about yourself. Remember that your abilities to a large degree are not innate, but rather a product of circumstance and the viewpoints of other people. This means that you should ignore that grade one teacher or the harsh parent who defined you as uncreative, lazy, stupid or a “failure” and strive (if you want). Aggressive analyze the origins of these definitions and understand that they’re nothing more than opinions unlikely based on fact….as Rosenthal pointed out.
  2. Get cheerleaders: These people are critical. If they think you’re great, then they’ll help you along by opening up doors and giving you the introductions you need to move forward. Getting cheerleaders is simple. Just show a willingness to learn, work and take criticism.

Follow these two steps and remain persistent and watch how your luck suddenly changes.

The Surprising Bad Habits That Cause Failure… 

And what we can do to change them

Real estate investing is not easy. I know because I’m trying to do it and because my clients (real estate agents and investors) tell me horror stories.

My experience searching for my “first” makes it obvious to me that investing in real estate is like starting your own business, earning a black belt or sticking to the salad when those fall off the bones short-ribs look AMAZING. It takes discipline.

It’s also becoming obvious that I have three particularly bad habits which are common, but surprising, among many first timers. These habits need to be kicked. Because if they’re not, then it’s very likely that I’ll (and anyone that share these) will fail.

Read below for my top 3 bad habits and how I’m working on changing them. If you feel this whole “I’m a failure!” feeling is getting old, I recommend you examine this quick list and see if you need to make a change:

It only took her 1 month to drop 50 pounds, why can’t I just lose 5?

Call it obsessive comparing or impatience. We all do it and it’s not because we’re millennials. This impatience is a big trap because:

  • you’re basing your conclusions on something that hasn’t been verified (we all exaggerate a bit…and we all know about the legitimacy of those “lose-weight-without-dieting” and “make a million dollars without working” schemes. They totally work!)
  • you’re probably comparing your beginning to someone else’s end – which can be daunting, discouraging and make you feel inadequate. You see only the curated facebook pictures and not all of those mundane hours of (*gasp*) work; and
  • it puts you in a mindset of “I’m not good enough and I can’t do that, so why bother?”.

All of this obsessing is draining and it will lead you nowhere, guaranteed. This is because your energy won’t be focused on what you should be doing. And that’s….

Networking and finding the veterans in your field who can provide you with everything from war stories, to investing models and, yes, shortcuts. After all, it’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, rather than your own. If you’re motivated by competition, use your role models as people who you want to compete against – just don’t be envious or jealous. It always shows and it will hurt the relationship.

I’m keeping my goals a secret – someone will steal them!

I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs, real estate investors, students in competitive fields (I’m looking at you, law students) fail miserably because they believe that someone will steal their idea. They work in isolation and do everything by themselves. This is a big problem because it forces the suspicious to become a jack of all trades and master of none. They do nothing well and experience very little headway because they’re busy working in their business and not on it. The suspicious also lose the richness and value offered by different perspectives and opinions. Need an example?…

When starting Groundworks, my mission was simple – to improve the way the law was practised and delivered – but, how I got there changed several times. If it didn’t share my idea and work on concept, I would have failed.

I spoke with countless real estate agents, lawyers and CEOs of everything from fitness clubs to investment companies and food chain supply managers with the goal of refining, re-evaluating and revising the delivery model in order to produce a better end result. And during this entire idea sharing process – not one person stole my idea. Everyone’s busy with their own goals. Or binging on Netflix.

Paralysis by Analysis

I am very risk adverse. So much that I worked FOUR jobs in undergrad to avoid taking on any debt. It gets better: I mull over ideas for so long that I typically forget what it was that I was originally mulling over! My risk adverseness has also caused me to miss many great opportunities and, most importantly, delay what I really wanted do in life.

I know plenty of people who believe that you should only make a decision once you are ready and only after you’ve assembled and reassembled all possible information. I also know that these people have done very little. This is because you’ll never have all of the information. And you’ll never be ready. Just ask anyone who’s had a kid or quit her job to start up something new (and successful, of course). Were they 100% certain and ready? Doubt it.

Of course, mulling through the details is important, but don’t place the majority of your focus on the need to analyse at the expense of the need to act. This is because inertia will set in … after all, an object at rest stays at rest. Especially if that object feels nervous moving.

If you need a motivator think of this: it’s very unlikely that you’re making an analytical decision. Too many brilliant people have proven that even with all of the information we need, we still base our decisions on “gut” and we still make mistakes. We’re just really bad at predicting outcomes, not to mention what makes us happy. So don’t try.

My quick solution: when getting nervous or over analytical, remind yourself that only action gives you experience and it’s only experience that will encourage you to move.  And, yes, it’s only moving that will get you closer to your goals. And it’s only the achievement of those goals that are tweetable and instagram-worthy (haha).

Doing anything new is daunting. But, as many people agree on their deathbeds – it’s much better living a life of “oh wells” than a life of “what ifs”.  And I’ll take the wisdom of those reflecting on life over those who are just moving through it.

Lessons from a Lawyer & Entrepreneur: How to avoid cold calls & deal with rejection

Dealing with Rejection and Other Unpleasantries of Being an Entrepreneur, Lawyers, Sales Agent…and a Human Being!

I was having lunch the other day when a friend said to me “how do you deal with getting rejected SO often?” While this does make me sound like a reject, which is partially true, his comments followed me talking about how many doors I’ve knocked on (translation: cold calls) and how many “go aways” I received before I realized a better way to pitch my idea and grow my company. Read on for some hard-earned advice.

Why do we still cold call when nobody likes doing it and nobody likes getting them?

A short story to start. Part of my entrepreneurial life included me helping two founders build their private equity firm. I immediately noticed why these founders were not accelerating. They were great at numbers, but not great at selling.  That’s putting it nicely. The founders came from the world of 5-martini lunches, cute assistants and expensive suits to show power…. and not from the world of equal-pay, caller-ID and “Google is a verb”.

Despite me showing them the stats on cold calling (that cold calls are more likely to cause you and the prospect indigestion and not a sale), they ignored me. I was, after all, a young girl who did not know a thing about anything. So, despite my protestations, I made those cold calls, annoyed a lot of people and wasted incredible amounts of time.

Why was this useless? First, phones are no longer used for receiving calls. If you call, you’ll be ignored because people don’t pick up inbound calls, especially if they don’t recognize your name. Second, your voice-message is a waste of breath and time. This is because we’ve seen a massive drop in how often we check our voicemail.

That may be your experience, but people answer the phone when I call!

Great. You’ve probably annoyed. them And they’ll then associate their irritation with you, your company and your product or service. Apply the Golden Rule here – would you want to be the receiver of a call that throws you off? Probably not! Because: a) we’re hardwired to like predictability and a random call scares us and makes us wary of the caller; b) it interrupts our Facebook-kitty video-watching time and we all HATE being interrupted during these moments; and c) we prefer finding out about services via our trusted friends – i.e. Google, social media, celebrity twitter endorsements and YouTube videos. In sum: if they want you, they’ll find you. If you call out the blue, they’ll put you on the blacklist.

Don’t believe me that cold calling doesn’t work? Here are a few stats from HubSpot:

  • 90% of the time you’ll get rejected
  • Left a voicemail? No one checks them. In fact, Coca Cola & JP Morgan have dropped voicemail altogether
  • Call back rates are less than 1%
  • Less than 2% of cold calls get you a meeting
  • And, of those meetings, less than 20% will buy your product or service.
  • Calling 6,264 people will get you 4 sales. Have fun.

Fine, Negative Nelly, so do we make it work?

While you cannot avoid making a call for the rest of your life, you can, at least, reduce the angry hang ups and the anxiousness you get every time you start dialling.

Rule 1: Don’t Cold Call

Everyone you call must have a connection or knowledge of your company. Ask yourself, has that person or company shown interest in your services? For example, have they signed up for your newsletter or commented on a blog you or your company wrote? Did you meet at a tradeshow? Did someone refer them to you? If any of the above is true, it’s no longer a cold call.

Rule 2: Get to Know the Company

Ask yourself, is your product or service relevant to them? Why? What problems do they have? Don’t know what their problems are? Perfect! Send your prospect a short email asking for a call to learn about some of their pain points. I’ve done this and it’s worked like a charm. Be sure, however, that you DO NOT sell during this call. This is just one way to move quickly from cold to warm (if you want some draft emails, let me know and I’ll send you a few).

It’s critical to know everything about a company – this helps you determine if you have the right product for them and if you’re wasting your and their time. Knowing details about the company by scouring the news will not only impress the decision maker, but also show that you’re an expert in your field and, therefore, should be trusted.

Rule 3: Get to Know the Person

Guess what? People make up companies and it’s people who make the decisions. So, get to know the person before you call. The purpose is not to be stalkerish or to have a conversation about their cats. But, rather, to understand how these people are likely to make decisions. Do they have a strong accounting or legal background? Or are they more creative? People’s education and position will dictate how they’ll evaluate your service – if they’re from the “avoid risk” mindset (read: lawyer, accountant), show that you can reduce their risk with your service. If they’re someone with an HR or sales background, show them how you can make the customer experience more pleasant. Essentially, understanding the person you’re calling will help you figure out how you can make them look good by saying yes to your product or service. After all, that’s what it’s all about!

Rule 4: Stand out during the call

Start ALWAYS by saying their name. Our names are the sweetest things that we could possibly hear. Next, be interesting. Some ways to do this are by being totally frank about being nervous. I have and it’s worked well for me. Start by saying:

“NAME, thanks for taking my call I’m YOUR NAME form CO and I’m, frankly, very nervous calling you as no one likes giving or receiving a call out of the blue! So, I’ll keep it short – have about 1 minute?”

Now, keep it to 1 minute and tell them when you’ve reached this marker. They’ll appreciate it. During the call be enthusiastic and positive, reference some research you’ve done on their business that prompted the call. And if you catch then at a bad time say:

“How about this, why don’t I shoot you a short email with a bit about what I want to talk about, this way you can evaluate whether not it makes sense to talk? We’re both busy and I hate wasting anyone’s time”.

Get the info and follow up within 30 minutes or they’ll forget you.

Finally, How to Deal with Rejection

The bad part about cold calling is that it’s not about you. This means you have to do a lot of prep and talk about them (remember, it’s not about you), while cleverly slipping in how you provide the right solution.

What about the good part about cold calling? It’s not about you. What I mean is that people are so wrapped up in their own lives, problems and insecurities that they won’t even remember the call in a week. So, if there’s a mistake in the call or if you happened to screw up and stumble and bumble, it doesn’t really matter. Your screw-up is eclipsed by what people are typically thinking about: how they can make a buck, spend a buck or watch more kitty videos.

Another rejection tip: remind yourself of all of the amazing sales calls, interactions and wins you’ve had. Focus on the fact that you’ve done good things in the past and that you’ll do them again.

Finally, we’ve all been rejected. Even the famous, beautiful, smart and successful. The lesson is this: the path to success is paved with “nos”. Have fun.