Archive | October, 2013

How to Live to 100: Nine Habits Shared by the World’s Longest Living People

They’re known as the “Blue Zones,” areas around the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live 100+ years). They include parts of Japan, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, and even Southern California.

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n 2005, author Dan Buettner launched a research project seeking to learn the longevity secrets of these vibrant cultures which culminated in the 2008 publication of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Although I haven’t read the book, Beuttner’s research has been well documented. His work is a fascinating summary of what makes the world’s healthiest people so healthy.

Despite the fact that people live longer today than ever before, lets face it, most of us know very few people who make it even close to 100, much less any full fledged centenarians. Yet Beuttner ‘s work features people like Francesca Castillo of Costa Rica, who, at 100 years old, still cuts her own wood and clears brush from her yard with a machete.

What sets them apart? Is it purely genetics, or are there specific practices we can identify and adopt to help us increase our own life spans?  Here are nine habits which, according to Beuttner, centenarians throughout the world’s  Blue Zones all share:

(1)  Walk…a lot. This reminds me of the recent best selling book, “Eat, Sleep, Move” by Tom Rath,  who pointed out that sitting more than six hours a day is the most underrated public health problem in America.  According to Beuttner, “Blue Zoners” walk practically all day, not because they necessarily want to, but because most of them don’t own a car. While that’s not an option for most people, (something that, in my line of work, I’m grateful for!) Beuttner recommends finding a place to live that favors activity and connectivity.

(2) Don’t Retire…Refocus. Blue Zoners all share a deep sense of purpose for their lives. They greet each day with a compelling reason to live. The traditional notion of retirement simply doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.

(3) Find a de-stressing ritual. Although faced with the same worries we all have, they deal with stress through a variety of daily rituals, such as spending time with friends.

(4) Follow the 80 Percent Rule. In the age of super-size portions, centenarians only until they are 80 percent full.

(5) Eat lots of vegetables In the Blue Zones, the least expensive and most popular dishes are plant based. Most eat limited amounts of meat and very little refined sugar and carbohydrates.

(6) Drink a little wine Contrary to popular belief, centenarians, by and large, are not teetotalers, although most drink limited amounts and wine is the drink of choice.

(7) Cultivate strong friendships Blue Zoners are found to have a core group of life long friends who provide stability, intimacy, and support.

(8) Be Part of a Community There is a strong sense of belonging in Blue Zones, a deep-seated cultural expectation of people caring for one another, often centered around religious faith.

(9) Stay Married According to Beuttner, a positive, committed  relationship adds at least six years to life expectancy.

Here’s a question: What would it mean to the quality of your life–and the strength of your personal brand–if you had the physical, mental, and spiritual capacity to live 100+ years? Also, which of these nine habits resonate the  most with you? Which ones challenge you? I’d love to get your feedback!

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Promoting Your Personal Brand Part II

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In my last post, I shared how the “elevator pitch,” one of the classic communication tools of the 20th century, became the standard for persuasive selling.  In part II, I will uncover six keys to authentically communicate any idea in a way that really connects with your listener.

Imagine you are being interviewed for your dream job and the interviewer starts with one of those wide-open questions that catches you off guard, like, “Tell me about yourself;” or “Who are you and what do you believe is your life’s purpose?” Would you be able to answer a 30,000 foot question like this concisely or would you stutter and stumble? I’ve discovered that even the most loquacious people have trouble with abstract questions because they demand a little too much clarity. And in verbal communication, clarity is rarely demanded of us.

But that’s changing.

In 2008, investor Stowe Boyd was evaluating several start up companies but wanted to avoid the self-promotional rhetoric associated with interviewing eager entrepreneurs. So he sent an unusual request: Anyone looking to meet with him must first send him their pitch using Twitter. As Boyd put it, “it cuts through the PR babble and forces companies to summarize what they do in 140 characters or less.”

What a great idea.  Over 150 after its invention, the “Elevator Pitch” is replaced by the “Twitter Pitch.”

Regardless of the label, persuasive communication in the 21st Century is all about brevity. If the thought of presenting your best ideas within the limitations of a Twitter post scares you, here are six keys to getting your point across in a way that reaches,  resonates and gets a response.

(1) Don’t pitch, create a conversation.
It shouldn’t be sales or news. It should create an opportunity for influence and persuasion. Your goal is for your listener to respond with, “tell me more.”

(2)  Focus on the listener. This helps with making a connection and inspiring action. What will the listener do after your conversation?

(3) When you want to persuade, the past isn’t as important as the potential.
Explain what you might be able to do with, through, and for your listener. Speaking to the future connects with your listener’s goals instead of your personal highlight reel.

(4) Value is all about uncovering what you can offer that is special and unique.
You must present something a little surprising or people will say, “So what?”.

(5) Use stories to engage your audience, highlight your skills, and convey your ideas. Stories add context, meaning, and uniqueness to your message. Most important, sharing stories that resonate with others will make you relevant–and this is the essence of communicating your personal brand.

(6) The best conversation is the clearest, where you get to the point quickly.
Be natural, sincere, and authentic—not gimmicky. Understand the difference between someone who loves to talk and someone who has something to say. Make it simple; this attracts people to your message.

As an example, here’s another video by National Elevator Champion Chris Westfall on persuasively sharing your experience in an interview. Notice how Chris puts all six steps to use in a way that resonates with his listener.

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Promoting your Personal Brand: How to Communicate with Clarity & Influence Part I

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In the 1850’s, and American engineer name Elisha Otis devised a solution to a long-standing problem that would not only save lives but pave the way for the modern skyscraper.

Back then, many American buildings had elevators, but due to their simplistic design, they were rarely utilized to carry people. Most consisted of a single cable supported by ropes and pulleys which pulled a platform up and down a shaft. If the cable snapped, which happened all too frequently when the platform’s load exceeded its capacity, it would crash to the ground, causing severe damage to its contents.

To solve the problem, Otis affixed a wagon spring to the platform and installed ratchet bars inside the shaft which acted as a safety cord if the cable snapped, preventing the platform from falling.

Like the introduction of air bags in cars in the 1980’s (I remember the first car we sold with them–a 1987 Ford Tempo), convincing the public that elevators were safe enough to ride was the next challenge.

In an ingenious act of showmanship, Otis rented out the main exhibit hall in New York City and build an open elevator platform and shaft visible to the public. During a convention with hundreds of onlookers, he climbed the platform and directed his assistant to raise it as high as it could ascend (about three stories). Then, as onlookers gasped, he calmly took an axe and chopped the  rope holding up the elevator. Within seconds, however, Otis’ safety spring engaged and the elevator stopped in midair. Looking out at the stunned crowd, he reportedly shouted, “All safe, ladies and gentlemen. All safe!

Otis, as you may have guessed, went on to found the Otis Elevator Company, but his bold demonstration became an iconic metaphor for persuasive communication known as the “Elevator Pitch.” Years later, as the post-Industrial Revolution ignited the direct sales industry, self-improvement pioneers like Dale Carnegie coined the term “elevator speech” around a simple idea: If you find yourself in an elevator with your boss, your sales prospect, or anyone you want to persuade, you must be able to express who you are and what you do in the relatively short span of an elevator ride. The “elevator pitch” is one of those terms that has persisted for generations to mean a short persuasive speech that introduces a person to a product or idea. But in today’s information-overloaded culture, it is gradually losing its impact– for these reasons:

(1) We are Over-Saturated with Communication. Today, the average adult attention span is around eight seconds, thanks to a near constant bombardment of messages from traditional media, social media, text, email, etc

(2) People are More Accessible. Unlike Dale Carnegie’s generation, when the only way to get your boss’ attention was running into him in an elevator, most managers, even those in high positions, are much more accessible. Many CEO’s, even in large companies, sit in cubicles or in open floor plans that allow constant contact and collaboration.

(3) Conversation is King. Unlike the “old school” pitch, which focused heavily on pushing your agenda, people today have less patience for being “sold.” To get your message across, you need to initiate a conversation instead of a pitch–and there’s a big difference.

So what does persuasive communication look like in the 21st century? What’s the best way to engage others and sell your ideas? To help illustrate, watch these short video clips by National Elevator Pitch Champion Chris Westfall as he shares his insights on the “new” elevator pitch. Then, in my next post, I will unpack the keys Westfall uses in the video to create a compelling first interaction and how you can use these same steps to build and communicate your personal brand.

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How Easy Are You? Four Keys to Creating Lifetime Customers

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Weeks ago, I received this email from a good customer describing his recent experience in our body shop. As a business owner, this is the kind of feedback you thoroughly appreciate and that reinforces the value of having competent, highly engaged professionals serving our customers.

However, more than sincere praise, this feedback underscores the key difference between the type of service that merely satisfies customers from the kind that builds long term loyalty.

I’m writing you to let you know of some stellar service I recently experienced at Bill Marsh Body & Paint via your employee, Aaron. A week ago I had the misfortune of a self-imposed accident where I blew out the back window of my 2010 Jeep Wrangler (purchased at Bill Marsh). I brought it in to the Body Shop where Aaron was extremely professional. He quickly communicated with my insurance agent, got it into the shop the same day, called me in the morning with an update, and called me later that day when he discovered a part would not be in so that I could coordinate my rental car transportation. On top of that, he learned the price I was paying for my rental car, called the rental car manager, and got me a 50% discount on my rental car.

When I showed up the next day to pay and pick up my car, the person at the front desk knew who I was when I walked in the door, had my paperwork ready, and got me out the door quickly.”

 

Nice feedback, but not necessarily over-the-top spectacular. What’s the big deal? What was it about the way Aaron handled this that, in my opinion, turned it from a merely satisfying experience to a loyalty-building relationship?

According to the latest research, there are four principles of customer loyalty clearly reflected in Aaron’s actions:

(1) Being Friendly Isn’t Enough. Nowhere in the customer’s account does he mention how nice, friendly, or engaging Aaron was. Not that friendliness isn’t important–it is. But the research clearly points out that being nice doesn’t, on its own, create loyal customers. Friendliness, courtesy and engagement today, are expectations–entry level requirements–than competitive advantages.

(2) Communication is King. Notice how, throughout the customer’s experience, Aaron stayed in touch, keeping him informed of the progress on his repair every step of the way.  In my 25+ years as an automobile dealer, I’ve found that the overwhelming majority of customer complaints stem from communication breakdowns rather than quality or workmanship issues.

(3) Anticipate Customer Concerns. When something went wrong–when the part didn’t show up on time–Aaron not only made contact, he anticipated the customer’s potential concern by pro-actively securing a discount on the rental car. Then, when the repairs were completed, he made sure the front desk knew the customer’s name and arrival time. Nothing was left dangling for someone else to figure out–Aaron managed the entire experience.

(4) Make it Easy. According to a recent study published in The Harvard Business Review, customer loyalty has more to do with how companies deliver on their “plain vanilla promises” than on how dazzling their service experience might be. Reducing the customer’s effort–making the process easy–is the real key to creating lifetime advocates.

By nailing each of these four keys, Aaron went beyond merely satisfying–or even delighting–the customer to creating a loyal advocate.

For the record, we work hard to be friendly and engaging with our customers. It’s the key to making a great impression and establishing the trust and rapport necessary to build relationships. But friendliness will only go so far. We could have treated this customer like royalty, with a bottle of chilled Perrier placed in each drink holder when he picked up his Jeep. But if he had to call us repeatedly to find out the status of his repairs, make his own arrangements when he discovered the part wasn’t there on time, or was forced to wait while our staff searched for his paperwork when he picked up his car, these soft touches would soon be forgotten and our customer would be far more likely to consider trying someone else the next time.
The Big Idea? Be nice, but pay more attention to removing the obstacles and reducing the effort your customers must expend to do business with you.
Do you agree with this? What, in your experience, are the critical touch points and outcomes that make you loyal to a business or service provider? I’d love to get your input.

 

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