Your Ultimate (Web) Makeover

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Google yourself on the web. Put your name in quotation marks. If you have a common name, you may have to add a few other cues, such as company name, city of residence, or alma mater.

If the only hit that pops up is a Facebook photo of you in a toga guzzling a yard of beer or toking off a bong, you’re in trouble. If the only hits are a listing in the church choir’s roster for an Easter service three years ago and a mention in the news that you witnessed an auto wreck last spring…well, you’re like most of America.

But you can change all that. People want to do business with others who are web-certified entities:

Here are a few ways to improve your online reputation (especially when it comes to Google search results):

  • Create a clear, positive posting for LinkedIn. You can be invited to join LinkedIn or create your own account. To participate in Groups, find on you’re interested in and click the moderator to ask if you can join the dialogue.
  • Contribute an article to a publication. It doesn’t have to be a business piece. Maybe it’s a community project, or a remembrance of an unforgettable coach on a memorial site. Write something meaningful that demonstrates you have good taste and judgement.
  • Give a talk and publicize it. Many community organizations need speakers, and you may have the opportunity to post your talk on their website. The early-20s youngster of one parent I know joined a disaster relief group in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Despite initial misgivings about the young person’s safety, the experience proved positive for all involved. The parent went online to describe her hesitations and the evidence. Not an easy choice, but the comments showed a mother who was forthright and thoughtful.
  • Tweet intelligent tips. The best way to create Twitter traction, I think, is to recommend sites and gems on the Web that you find useful yourself. Don’t pretend you’re a star. Tweet others a fresh edge on camping in Nova Scotia or organizing their garage.
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Be Yourself

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At a Woodrow Wilson Foundation dinner in 2006, I was invited to be the emcee. Here’s what I said to kick off the occasion:

“I asked my wife, Carol Ann, what kind of words might suit the occasion. ‘Whatever you do,” she said,

  • ‘Don’t try to sound intellectual,
  • Don’t try to be sophisticated…or charming.
  • Just be yourself!’”

The roar of the crowd confirms how worldly wise Carol Ann’s advice was. Being yourself is hardly as easy as it sounds. For salespeople, sounding phony is a career kiss of death. Learn who your real self is and let it shine in the best possible light.


There are two myths about being yourself that deserve to be vaporized:

1. I can like everyone, if I set my mind to it. No, you can’t. And not everyone you meet will like you either. For every person you meet who says, “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met,” there’s another who says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” There will be people who just never warm up to you, and there will be people you won’t want to get to know no matter how pleasant or charming they seem. The wise salesperson knows the difference between being friendly and polite to everyone versus sensing when there is real chemistry.

2. People who lie to each other are more likely to agree.  If only that were true. You can pick up many business magazines and find stories about how two friends went into business together and wound up mortal enemies. Good friends will either learn to discuss only those things they agree about or else just agree to disagree when they have differences.   U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch and the late Ted Kennedy were good friends, but you never heard either one praising the other’s political beliefs during Senate debates.

As Raymond Hull, Laurence J. Peter’s collaborator in The Peter Principle, put it:
“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”

The doorway to being yourself is liking yourself. It is hard to have confidence in a salesperson who doesn’t like herself or himself.

Mackay’s Moral: Oscar Wilde had it right: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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Trust The Experts…To Be Wrong

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There are two types of experts…

and it’s very important to distinguish between them: There is the expert who can make something happen, and there is the expert who can tell you what he or she thinks is going to happen. Get all the advice you can afford from the experts in category one, but be very, very cautious about the category-two types.

Let me give you one example: One of my best friends was the president of a very distinguished regional brokerage house, and as such had more than a rooting interest in the economic outlook. The firm paid a sizable retainer to a prominent economist who provided them each month with short- and long-range economic forecasts. It was beautifully written, filled with clever quotes and closely reasoned arguments…and always wrong.

Nothing unusual there, as it has been said of economists that they are the only professionals who can make an excellent living without ever being right in their entire careers.

My friend knew all this, of course, but he was afraid to cancel the arrangement because of fear he might someday miss a major turn in the economy. He hedged his bets, though. When he had to make a really serious decision–a major underwriting, for example–he also used the economic forecast feature in Fortune magazine which he bought at the newsstand every other week–and got better results.

Whether it’s economists, the most prestigious of the professional pundits, or stock-market forecasters, or political analysts, or just plain old sports handicappers and racetrack touts, my advice is the same: Be extremely leery. Rely on these people to tell you why something happened, but don’t rely on them to tell you why something is going to happen. They don’t know any more than you do–and neither do their computers. When it comes to forecasting events with a large number of highly volatile variables, any one of which could determine the outcome, experts are less than expert.

Trust yourself and your gut, and you’re likely to do at least as well. 


Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter for more tips on business, sales, leadership, networking, negotiating and life.

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Take Your Work Seriously, Don’t Take Yourself Seriously

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“Dilbert,” which is carried in 1,100 newspapers, has helped us laugh at the crazy dynamics of the workplace. Now if we could only start laughing at ourselves.

The late and much beloved chief executive of Coca-Cola, Roberto Goizueta, had the ability. He could distance himself from a situation, and by standing back and observing things objectively, he could see the irony. Humor is a critical business weapon.

We’ve all worked for the humorless. There are the bosses whom I call “Rocky” who take on the whole world through earnestness. And we’re in big trouble if we don’t seem equally serious. We can’t joke that sales plunged one percent or that a supplier might not meet a deadline. In such offices you can cut the tension with a knife. And usually results aren’t what they could be.

No matter who’s the boss, we can still get a few laughs at our own expense–and be able to work better. A colleague of mine is a genius at this. If his plane is late and his blood pressure is rising, he distances himself. He often thinks to himself: “How will this ‘nightmare’ seem to me a year from now…a brief scene in this saga we call “life.” Another colleague, when stressed out, tries to imagine how he would explain his “predicament” to his six-year-old. Pretty quickly the concerns of the day start to sound ridiculous. He calls that “baby-proofing’ his consciousness.

There’s no excuse for total, self-aborted seriousness. It’s boring. It pushes others away from you. And it requires a whole lot of energy to assume such a world view. Oh, of course, there are times for seriousness. But we all know when they are. If the company can’t seem to achieve a turnaround there will be plenty of people focused solely on the bottom line. No chuckles there. When someone else has a problem, it’s showing respect to treat their situation seriously. In addition, as we enter a company or grow into a new job, we can leave the levity to others. At my company there are few managers-in-training who are a barrel of laughs. Learning the ropes is definitely serious business.

On formal performance appraisals, it might be a good idea if we introduced the category “Can laugh at themselves.” In an organization where a little self-deprecation is encouraged, people are more likely to take risks and therefore make mistakes. In the current global marketplace, where there are a few precedents anymore, plenty of errors of judgement are going to be made.

Mackay’s Moral: Lighten up.

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Inching Ahead Your Goal Line

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Great goals make you stretch, not snap.

You must stay focused on your goals above all else. Truly dedicated individuals won’t let anything interfere with attaining their goals. that’s why so few people become champions. It’s not easy.

The late Red Auerback, famed Boston Celtics coach, was one of the most successful basketball coaches in history. He believed that the basic principles for success were the same in business as athletics. At the top of his list was setting goals.

Good teams always have common goals. When you find that goals of certain members differ from the team’s, then the team will usually not do well. That’s why teams with outstanding individual talents sometimes do poorly, while others are able to blend average abilities into championships.

I witnessed this firsthand at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, when the huge underdog Lithuanian basketball team took the U.S. Dream Team to the final seconds before losing.

Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. Goals tend to tap the deeper resources and draw the best out of life. Achieving goals is a significant accomplishment.

Most importantly, goals need to be realistic: beyond your immediate grasp but within your reach in the foreseeable future. 

I remember a particular Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown is having a bad day…


Baseball is a game rich in wisdom. Look at all the specialists; designated hitters, set-up relief pitchers, closers, and on and on.

The lesson is clear. Want to excel in life? Master what you do, and, for sure, master one thing at a time.

Mackay’s Moral: You have to get to the plate before you can hit one out of the park. 

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4th-Quarter Game Changers

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Are life’s record smashing performances reserved for those sprightly early decades? Not for seasoned vets who know how to strew the seasoning.

  • Colonel Harland Sanders began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65, using $105 of his first Social Security check.
  • TV journalism maven Barbara Walters was 68 in 1997 when she cocreated The View and sold ABC on the idea. She and Joy Behar (now 68) are the only cohosts still with the show since its inception, which was lauded as “wildly different” from the get-go for its creative slant.
  • Management guru Peter Drucker wrote more than half of the 39 books to his credit when he was past the age of 65. And he was churning out riveting, fresh ideas into his 90s.
  • Angela Lansbury, 85 in 2011, wowed Broadway crowds two years earlier as the clairvoyant Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Therewith Dame Angela carted off her fifth Tony in an illustrious career.
  • Roy Neuberger–investor, art collector and philanthropist–made an old-fashioned killing off the 1987 market crash. He was 107 when he died on Christmas Eve in 2010. In his autobiography, So Far, So Good: The First 94 Years, Neuberger wrote: “I am not as good a walker as I used to be. When I was 80, I could walk very long distances…Three times a week [at age 94] I work out with a personal trainer…In 45 minutes I do 42 exercises…It costs $45, so it’s a dollar a minute–well worth it.”

Each embraced the make-it-happen mind-set of the never sidelined former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Formidable “Little Nell,” as her pals knew her, served on the National Advisory Committee to the Peace Corps in her 70s and even pitched Good Luck margarine on TV, donating the proceeds to charity. “I could not, at any age,” she summed up her life, “be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.”

Most of us learn to be our very best only after years of hard-tested effort. Mark Twin nailed it when he said: “The first half of my life I went to school, the second half of my life I got an education.”

No one can beat an experienced and determined mind, able and willing to apply new lessons.

Mackay’s Moral: It’s no accident they’re called your golden years. 

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Courage–What Sets You Apart From The Crowd

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In his final broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News a few years ago Dan Rather paid homage to people around the world who daily struggle with danger, sickness, death, disease, poverty and other challenges. Rather concluded his broadcast with the same memorable ending he used 24 years earlier when he took over from Walter Cronkite. He often used to end his broadcasts this way–he’d look at the camera and say one word: “Courage.”

That sign-off intrigued me. Courage is regarded as a major human virtue. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerve all rolled into one. I’m not a soldier, a policeman, a doctor or a relief worker. I’m a businessman. What does courage have to do with running a business?

Plenty. I admit that most folks’ daily lives are not filled with such dramatic challenges. We all face situations that require us to reach down deep within ourselves to do what is right and brave and occasionally difficult. Courage can involve making decisions that are unpopular or time-consuming or even expensive.

It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets you apart from the crowd…especially when the crowd checks out. 

In one of my all-time favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion is looking for, of course, courage. When he finally meets the Wizard, he has some questions (and answers):

What makes a King out of a slave? Courage

What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? Courage.

What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.

What makes the Sphinx the Seventh Wonder? Courage.

What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage.

What makes the Hottentot so hot? Courage.

What puts the ape in apre-ricot? Courage.

Whatta they got that I ain’t got? Courage.

And you know what comes next: The Wizard awards the Cowardly Lion the Medal of Courage so he would always be brave. That’s something we could all use.

Mackay’s Moral: Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 
Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter for more tips on business, sales, leadership, networking, negotiating and life.

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The 10,000-Hour Investment

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Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success continues his steady stream of thought-provoking bestsellers. This book will make a lot of people feel much better about not achieving instant success. Gladwell maintains it takes about 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of practice to attain true expertise.

“The people at the very top don’t just work harder or even much harder than everyone else,” Gladwell writes. “They work much, much harder.” Achievement, he says, is talent plus preparation…and the preparation part of the formula looms far larger than we normally assume.

Gladwell cites The Beatles’ rise to fame as unassailable evidence. They had been together seven years before their famous arrival in America. They spent a lot of time playing in strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany, sometimes for as long as eight hours a night. John Lennon said of those years, “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long.” Overnight sensation? Not exactly. Estimates are that the band performed live 1,200 times in their careers!

Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin, who has extensively studies the formula for success.

The emerging picture from such studies is that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert–in anything. In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals and what have you, the number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.


As Malcom Gladwell puts it, “Practice isn’t the thing  you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”


Mackay’s Moral: Some people dream about success, and others wake up and do something about it. 

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Never Look A Gift Mule In The Mouth

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The real pros know how to motivate themselves before they start having bad days. They look at work differently, not just not just as a means of making a living, but as a significant part of a quality life. Their particular mix of attitude, responsibility, cooperation and accomplishment make them a valuable commodity in any organization.

Joan is a busy realtor with an active family who also manages to organize a sizable silent auction for her church and spends time helping at her kids’ school as well. Joan’s willingness to get the job done, no matter what the job happens to be, has earned her the respect and awe of everyone who has ever worked with her. Does she have boundless energy? No. She’s not even a morning person. Her secret? “I have exactly 24 hours to make life better than it was yesterday,” she says. Joan would probably laugh if I told her she was a mule.

The quiet asset of determination can be as awesome as it is invisible.

Mules, by the way, like their jobs and perform well as a result. If they find themselves getting in a rut, they stubbornly haul themselves out. That quiet determination is a huge asset in business. The ability to get over the bumps is frequently the difference between success and Chapter 11.
Mules are often hard to miss because of their size and stature–especially the strain known as Mammoth Jack. That’s why their contributions are routinely taken for granted. One thinks of the 6-foot-3 Detroit Red Wings center Johan Franzén. Dubbed “The Mule” by his teammates, Franzén can also catch fire. He has, for example, surpassed super-star Gordie Howe’s number of game-winning goals in a month, a remarkable five.

Rationality may be another enviable mule trait. “My favorite animal is the mule. He has more horse sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eating–and he knows when to stop working,” President Harry S. Truman once remarked. Being a Democrat, Truman’s bias for the son-of-a-donkey mule comes as no surprise.

The mules–steady, willing, get-the-job-done employees–are worth their weight in gold. Don’t confuse the reliable, day-in, day-out dependability with a lack of creativity. It’s usually the mules, the folks who are there, who find the creative solutions to everyday problems. They know how things work. Mules know what Woody Allen meant when he said, “80 percent of life is showing up.”

Mackay’s Moral: Being a mule beats being an ass any day.


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Celebrate The Child In You

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Kids get excited about life. They see everything with fresh eyes, knowing they will find something new and different every time they look. Adults, on the other hand, look for what they know and expect.

Imagine what we’re missing!

We’ve forgotten the enthusiasm, the sense of surprise at experiencing new things, the fascination with solving puzzles. All are traits radiated by a great salesperson.

My friend the late Jim Rohn was a master speaker and motivator. He encouraged folks to “practice being like a child.” Jim sais there are four ways to be more like a child, no matter how old you are.

  • Become Curious. “Learn to be curious like a child. Kids can ask a million questions. You think they’re through. They’ve got another million… Kids use their curiosity to learn. Have you ever noticed that while adults are stepping on ants, children are studying them? A child’s curiosity is what helps them to reach, learn and grow,” he said.
  • Get so excited you hate to go to bed at night. Reawaken that can’t-wait-to-get-up-in-the-morning feeling–the feeling that you’re so excited that you’re about to explode.
  • Believe. Faith is childish, Jim maintained. “Adults too often have a tendency to be overly skeptical. Some adults even have a tendency to be cynical.”
  • Trust. “Have you heard the term ‘sleep like a baby’? That’s it,” Jim said.

The “trust” inventory may be the shortest supply chain in today’s business world.

Study successful salespeople, as I have for decades, and you will be constantly amazed at the youthful energy that keeps them hopping. Energy, imagination and credible sense of innocence–all boost a salesperson’s likability and trustworthiness.

“Curiosity, excitement, faith and trust,” Jim Rohn said. “What a powerful combination to bring back into our lives.”

Mackay’s Moral: Grow up and think like a kid again.

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