The difference between success and failure

is the difference between knowing and doing. 

This idea was proven to me this morning as I got dressed and realized that my favorite suit had shrunk. While I could still button the jacket, it’s really tight. I couldn’t figure out how something that looked so good two years ago could fit so poorly now. What was the difference? Knowing and doing. 

Of course, suits don’t shrink. Something else had changed.

A few years ago, I got really excited about getting into shape. I researched, read and studied the most effective way to get my health in order and to drop body fat. God knows I needed to. At 335 lbs, I didn’t look well, I didn’t feel well and probably most importantly, I didn’t perform well. I pulled information from everywhere together, learned what I needed to do, made a plan and got to work. I changed the way I ate. I changed the way I exercised. I changed the way I slept. In the end, it changed my life as I lost 100lbs and never felt better in my life.  I gave away all of my fat clothes and bought new ones. I had burned the ships so I couldn’t go back. I was proud of my newly found discipline and how all of this new knowledge had impacted me. That’s when I bought my favorite suit. I looked good, felt good and most importantly, my performance was good.  Today this suit doesn’t really fit and it took me a while to figure out why. It’s tough because I still know all of the things that I knew when I got healthy. I know how I should eat, how I should train and how I should sleep. I have all of the knowledge it takes to look, feel and perform my best. It’s added up to a suit that doesn’t fit because I haven’t been doing.  This is a simple, embarrassing, and true story that highlights something really big with leaders today. Just like me when it comes to the simple disciplines that helped me get healthy, leaders know how to deal with difficult people. Leaders know how to establish credibility. Leaders know how to make people feel important. The problem in most cases isn’t that the leaders need more knowledge, it’s that they need to DO WHAT THEY KNOW.

Knowledge Isn’t Enough

That’s where the difference between knowing and doing becomes such a challenge. We live in a world where knowledge has never been easier to secure. We can get books everywhere. YouTube brings thought leaders to your fingertips. Blogs and online articles fill our social media channels. We’ve never known more than we know now and in many cases, turnover has never been higher, employee engagement has never been lower and the need for true leadership has never been greater. We know enough. It’s time to do. 


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 Clowns to the left of me, jokers on the right…

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If you’ve been on any social media channel recently, you’ve no doubt seen the graphic from CBS news describing the generational differences in the workplace. The content isn’t new or even that useful, but the reason you’ve seen it is because whoever designed the graphic described the Baby Boom Generation, then went directly to the Millennial Generation and completely left out Generation X. An entire generation was left off the graphic and social media had a hay day about it. As a member of the last half of GenX, I’m not insulted. In fact, I’m used to it. It didn’t offend me, but it highlighted something really interesting to me: Two Generations Can’t Get Along and We’re Stuck In The Middle. 

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Being bookended by two of the biggest generations in history has it’s advantages though. Chief among them, we get to be objective observers in a fight raging in American workplaces. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

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Every Generation Needs A Generation Who Are Lazy And Entitled

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Before it was settled (unfairly by the way) that millennials are lazy and entitled, it was us, GenX who had that honor. Before us, yeah it was the Boomers. They called us the M-TV Generation because, presumably, that’s all we did was watch M-TV. When the Baby Boom Generation was coming of age, it was said that they needed to “get a haircut and get a real job.” If you listen closely to Millenials, you’ll hear them describe the next generation, Gen Z or Post-Millenials that they’re lazy and entitled. It’s a fact of life. Your generation will always be better and had it harder than the generation coming of age. It strikes me as funny that everything being said of Millenials was said of Boomers first. It wasn’t true then and it’s not now. 

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Millennials Get A Bad Wrap

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We blame them for spending too much time on their phones. Cool, so does EVERYONE. 

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“Everyone got a trophy” It’s funny because they didn’t ask for them and they were given by the very people now complaining about them. There’s also quite a bit of science out there that says rewarding effort rather than outcomes is the best way to develop kids with grit and persistence. 

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“They job hop and never stay anywhere.” BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. The boomers won’t retire and Xer’s won’t be able to so in order to simply make a living, they have to move. Keep in mind they have more student loan debt than any generation in history so it seems like they have unrealistic expectations for income, it’s because their lenders have unrealistic expectations of loan payments. 

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We have in this generation, the most technically skilled and best-educated workforce we’ve ever seen. So much so that managers don’t know how to handle it so it becomes easier to just write them off as difficult. It’s untrue and unfair and companies that do so will be left holding the bag. 

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Millenials NEED More Compassion Toward Baby Boomers

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If it seems like you’re co-workers in their late 50s and early 60s are always tired and always cranky, maybe we should examine why. I clearly see it with my own parents. Up until recently, my Millenial brother was still living in their basement and my 85-year-old grandmother is aging just around the corner. Their parents are living longer and their children are staying at home leaving them as the sandwich generation; still raising kids while caring for aging parents. They had intended this to be the best years of their lives but they’re running themselves into the ground burning the candle at both ends. The patience that Millennials demand for themselves has to go both ways. 

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Just like I’m happy to be excluded from the CBS graphic, I’m happy to be excluded from the conflict, but since we’re stuck in the middle, GenX has a pretty good view of both sides and sees that neither is right and neither is wrong. Neither is difficult so much as they’re just different but if we work to understand those differences, the difficulty is diminished. 

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  Flattery won’t get you anywhere.


Flattery will get you everywhere if you use it correctly. The problem is that most people miss the mark and their attempt at flattery comes off as a cheap, inauthentic Eddie Haskell impression. (if you’re younger than 35, ask your parents). When used the right way, however, flattery can unlock doors, open conversations and lead to positive agreements. When done correctly, it truly can get you everywhere.

Why It Works

Helen Keller once said that people forget what you say and they forget what you do, but they never forget how you make them feel. Everyone likes to feel good and everyone likes a compliment. We like people who are like us, and we like people who like us. When we give a compliment to someone, we’re telling them that we like them. People respond to it because it makes them feel good and they remember how you make them feel. 

How To Do It

Flattery is really much more art than science. Getting the feel for it takes practice and time, but once it’s mastered, it becomes a potent weapon in persuading others. The best way to approach it is from a place of genuine sincerity. The reason why most people look through it and see past it is that they think it’s coming from a self-interested place. When we comment on something that we’re genuinely impressed by, that can vanish.  There is, though, times when over-the-top flattery works as well. Pulling this off takes timing and a smile. When both parties know that the flattery given has a grain of truth but is being exaggerated, it can be charming and funny which leads it to be appreciated. It becomes something of a bonding experience that you’re both in on the joke and it’s effective. 

Making It Pay

On several occasions in my life, I have put on what I call Charm Offensives. These have been times when I wanted a particular person to like and respect me. When I’ve done this, it has always been a combination of authentic appreciation for a skill or characteristic, along with thick, over-the-top compliments that make both of us laugh. In nearly every case, this has worked and helped to establish relationships. In fact, I made one of my very best friends with a charm offensive.  When you work in a small town, the local newspaper can be a really great ally to have. The publisher of that paper has a pretty powerful position. When I was trying to establish this relationship, I was honest with her that I wanted to be her friend and that I was on a Charm Offensive. I told her that I admired how hard she must have worked to become a publisher and that I appreciated her paper. Every time I saw her, I mentioned her paper as “the paper of record” and made jokes about how no one could miss their daily addition. It was a combination of over-the-top and sincere. She knew that I knew that some of it was bullshit but that behind it was a real admiration. My flattery won me the friendship.   

Put It To Use

Whenever we’re beginning to build rapport with anyone, it’s helpful to keep in mind that everyone loves a compliment. Everyone loves to feel good and everyone loves to be flattered. It’s a fundamental fact of life that flattery will get you everywhere. ]]>