5 Companies That Made Me Feel Special On My Birthday (Lessons In Customer Relationship Management)

This month I celebrated my birthday.  That meant a barrage of emails and text messages from family and friends, birthday cards arriving in the mail, as well as dinners, parties, and a full Facebook wall of “happy birthday” messages from close and even not-so-close acquaintances.  I mean, my birthday is a BIG DEAL.  Yet, while a lot of companies out there know about my birthday, only a handful made use of this valuable information.  Here are the few that did:

 

1. The Dermatology Group

The day before my birthday, I received a text from a strange phone number.  At first, I saw the “Happy Birthday” message and thought it was some clever spam text message.  But then I looked more closely:

Turns out, it was from The Dermatology Group…a dermatology office I visited almost 5 years ago when my regular dermatologist didn’t have availability for an appointment.  I was simply blown away!  Pure genius.  They remembered me, even though I didn’t remember them.  By the way, my regular dermatologist didn’t send me anything for my birthday…time to reconsider where I take my business?

LESSON: Text message marketing works!  Text messages are very personal and have close to a 100% open rate.  Great way to reach customers, if done correctly.

2. Starbucks

Free drink on my birthday from Starbucks

Starbucks has a great program where they send you a free drink postcard in the mail that you can redeem any time during the month of your birthday.  This perk is reserved only for people who register on the My Starbucks Rewards website.  My free Venti Cappuccino was delicious.  Thank you, Starbucks!

LESSON:  It’s always nice to provide an incentive for people to give you their personal information. This is also a good way for Starbucks to get people in their stores, and I’m sure many people purchase something else to go with their free drink.

3. Banana Republic

One of my favorite clothing stores, Banana Republic, sent me a $15 off coupon in the mail that was good through the end of the month.  There was a catch…it could only be used with a Banana Republic credit card purchase.  That didn’t bother me, and I went in there the other day and bought a nice button-down shirt with the coupon.

LESSON:  They got me in the store, I got a good deal, they made a sale.  Everyone wins.

4. Johnson & Johnson ACUVUE Contact Lenses

I was impressed to see this message in my email inbox:

Of all the types of businesses that might acknowledge my birthday, I never would have thought my contact lens brand would be one of them.  Yet, Johnson & Johnson recognized an opportunity to connect with me on a personal level, which helped solidify my favorable view of their ACUVUE brand.  Although I’ve only been using this brand for a little over a year, I’m sure they’d like to have me as a long-term customer.

LESSON:  Your communications with customers don’t always have to be based on trying to sell something or offering a special deal.  An occasional non-suggestive communication is refreshing.

BONUS LESSON:  It doesn’t matter what your product is, you can always find ways to make a personal connection with your customers.

5. The Challenge Forum

The Challenge is a website that helps people build their own internet businesses, with video tutorials as well as member forums.  I’m a member, and although I haven’t visited the site in a while, I was happy to see this message in my email:

“We at The Challenge Forum would like to wish you a happy birthday today!”

Of course, I’m sure this was a simple automated email generated by their online forum sofware.  But I’m a member of A LOT of online forums, and this was the only one that wished me a happy birthday.  Maybe that’s why I don’t even remember most of the forums of which I’m a member.

LESSON:  A simple acknowledgement of someone’s birthday is a good way to make sure they don’t forget about you.  In many cases it is so easy to automate these messages in ways that cost nothing but help keep your customers/users engaged.

Honorable Mention: Continental.com Cruises

About a week after my birthday, I checked an old email address that I don’t use anymore, and found this message in the inbox:

I definitely appreciated the acknowledgement, but wondered why it was sent to my old email address.  When I clicked on the “change email settings” link at the bottom of the email, I found that they already had my current email address, yet for some reason this email was sent to my old address that was no longer shown on my account.  Not sure how that happened, or whether it will continue to happen in the future.  But thanks, anyway.

LESSON:  Yes, it’s the thought that counts–but make sure you’ve got the correct email address.

Did any companies impress you on your most recent birthday?

Is Success an Accident? 5 Key Factors for Success

Recently, I interviewed a successful business owner as part of an MBA project.  Our conversation eventually became a casual discussion about entrepreneurial success, as I tried to gain insight into how he became successful.  I was quite surprised by his explanation…

He said it was an accident.

I felt both bewildered and intrigued by this explanation, and continued to ask more questions.  There just had to be more to it than that.

Yet, this explanation is not unheard of when entrepreneurs talk about their success.  So what’s the deal?

Here is the quick version of his story:

After graduating from Harvard, he worked for a prominent company for a few years and then decided to take an extended trip to Thailand.  There, he discovered that “backlinks” were being sold for only a few dollars each (if you don’t know what backlinks are, don’t worry).  Knowing that backlinks were selling in the U.S. for over $100, he set up a business with friends to profit from the geographic price arbitrage…and made a ton of cash.

He then took some of the money he earned from that business and rolled it into other online businesses, ones that required minimal time investment, so he could enjoy a fruitful lifestyle in Thailand, where he now lives permanently.

Ok great, sounds simple enough.  But was his success really accidental?  On the surface, it might appear that way.  He made it sound as if it was something he just stumbled upon…like finding a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk.  He could barely believe his own good fortune.

I tried to challenge him on the “accidental” nature of his success, but he just didn’t see it any other way.  He insisted it was an accident and that he just got “lucky”.

But as I dug deeper, a different story emerged.

The more information I gathered from him, the more I understood that his success was no accident.  Rather, it was a combination of several factors that contributed to his “luck” along the way.

Here are the five key factors for success I took away from my conversation with that business owner.  With these factors working in your favor, you just may be able to create your own “luck”……

1. The right background, network, and experience

How many people out there would have recognized a price arbitrage between backlinks selling in Thailand and the U.S., even if it was put right in front of their face?  Probably not very many, since most people outside digital marketing probably don’t even know what backlinks are.

He obviously had the right background and expertise to understand the subject matter.  And having a network of fellow Harvard grads to tap into when looking for business partners didn’t hurt either.

2. The ability to recognize opportunities

Opportunities are everywhere, but few people recognize them.  This ability starts with having the right background and expertise, but it goes beyond the baseline knowledge.  You need to be able to see the future…to see an unmet need in the marketplace and envision the solution.  People with this ability can magically find themselves “in the right place, at the right time”.

The business owner I interviewed had this ability.  Not only did he have the baseline knowledge, but he was perceptive of what was going on around him, and saw there was money to be made.

3. The ability and capacity to act on opportunities

Simply being able to recognize opportunities is worthless unless you have the ability and capacity to act on them.  Time and money can be two of the biggest obstacles, and getting around them can be challenging.  This often comes down to resourcefulness.  Having the right network and expertise is helpful here, too.

The business owner certainly had the means to act on the opportunity that he uncovered.  He had the time, and he was in the right location.  He knew the right people.  And while I don’t know how much money was required to start his first business, this was clearly not a problem for him.

4. Actually taking action

Having the ability to take action means nothing unless you actually do it.  This is where many people fall short.  The first step is always the hardest, but once you are in motion, things have a way of becoming easier.

The business owner took action, rather than just talking about taking action (as so many people do).  He made the conscious decision to go for it.  Getting over that initial hurdle can be challenging, but once you do, you’re in business.

5. Being persistent

Taking action is just the first step.  Long term success depends on your follow-through.  This includes deciding on your goals–your definition of success–and then creating a plan to achieve those goals.  And then following your plan through to the end, making any necessary adjustments along the way.

The business owner didn’t stop until he got what he wanted.  He built upon each success and kept going until he achieved the wealth and the lifestyle that he wanted.  And then he sat back in awe of his accidental success.

I’m sure there are other factors for success, but these five stood out the most from my interview.

In my opinion, success is not an accident.  Even when success may sometimes seem accidental, these factors are likely working beneath the surface.  Get them working in your favor, and you have a great chance of becoming successful.

How do you feel about this?  What are some other factors for success?

How (Not) to Introduce Yourself On LinkedIn

If you want to build strong connections in your LinkedIn network, you will need to start by making strong impressions.

Here is an actual request to connect I recently received via LinkedIn:

Not the way to make an impression on LinkedIn

Does this look familiar to you?  It probably does.  That’s because this is the way 99% of people introduce themselves on LinkedIn.

This generic approach is generally acceptable when you are connecting with people you know–friends, family, coworkers, etc.

But when you are trying to expand your network or reaching out to someone you don’t know very well, your introduction better be a little more creative and a lot more personal than that.  Use the opportunity to make a good impression.

Your introduction should consist of two or three short sentences about who you are and why you want to connect with the recipient.  I always like to begin with “Hi (person’s name)” and end with “Best regards, (your name)”.

Here are some examples of effective ways to introduce yourself on LinkedIn in different situations:

  • “It was nice meeting you at the ____ event.  I enjoyed talking to you about ____. Let’s be sure to stay in touch.”
  • “I am a fellow member of the ____ LinkedIn group and I saw your comment about ____.  I’d love to stay in touch so we can talk more about it.”
  • “It’s been a long time since we talked, hope you are doing well.  How are the kids?  I see you are now working at ____ company, how is that going?  Let’s be sure to stay in touch.”
  • “I was looking at your profile and I see you are a fellow alumni of ____ university.  I also noticed we have some similar interests.  Maybe we can chat sometime over drinks.”
  • “I was looking at your profile and I am very impressed with your accomplishments.  Please accept my request to connect, I’d love to talk to you about how you accomplished ____.”
  • “I was checking out your blog and I really liked your post about ____.  Please accept my request to stay connected.”

You get the idea.

When introducing yourself on LinkedIn to someone you’ve never met, being personal becomes even more important.  If you just use the generic “I’d like to add you…” message, that person will have no idea why you are reaching out to them.  Usually they will just think you’re creepy.  And even if the person accepts your request, you didn’t really make any connection with them.

Your motivation for reaching out to someone should always be very clear.  Don’t expect the other person to ask you about yourself.

The bottom line:  It never hurts to add a little personalization in today’s world where people too often hide behind their computers.

How do you connect with people on LinkedIn?

Attempting to Escape Email Overwhelm

Our hotel balcony in Mexico - not the place to be checking email.

Our hotel balcony in Mexico - not the place to be checking email.

If you’re like me, you probably find yourself constantly looking at your phone to check your emails and messages every chance you get.  During my trip to Mexico last week, I decided to conduct a little experiment by keeping my phone off the entire time to see what would happen.

Admittedly, I didn’t plan on keeping my phone off while in Mexico.  In fact, I paid a few dollars to add an international data plan to my phone for the six days I would be there for the sole purpose of being able to stay on top of my messages.

At the airport in Cancun, while waiting for the hotel shuttle to arrive, I busted out my trusty Blackberry and started going through the handful of messages I missed while on the four hour flight.  I looked around and saw most other people in our group were doing the same.

But then something hit me.  Maybe it was a burst of that warm Mexican air.  I looked up at the blue sky and the swaying palm trees.  Then I looked down at my Blackberry.  And then I thought to myself–what am I doing?

That was the last time I looked at my phone for the rest of the trip.

The Result

We had a great time in Mexico, and I was stress-free without the constant nag of my Blackberry.

Upon arriving back to the US, I turned on my phone for the first time in six days.  And that was when the result of the experiment truly revealed itself:

Out of the hundreds of emails I received, only about ten were important enough to warrant further action.

That’s right.  Ten.  And even those messages were not extremely urgent.  It turns out email isn’t that important after all.

Taking Action

As a result, I decided I needed to put an end to the email madness.  So here are a few things I will be doing to get out of the habit of incessantly looking at my emails:

  • Disable message notifications on my phone–I don’t need to know every time I get an email.  Only keep vibrate notifications enabled for text messages and phone calls.
  • Limit reading messages on my phone to only two times per day–once around mid day, and once in the evening.
  • Turn off the red/green indicator light so I am not tempted to look at my phone every time I see a red light.
  • Unsubscribe aggressively to newsletters, product updates, or any other automated emails that are clogging my inbox.
  • Be conscious of situations where people use their phones as a way to avoid human contact, such as elevators.  You’re in an elevator for all of 30 seconds–are you really going to get anything important done during that time?  Say “hi” to someone instead.
  • Stop reading or sending messages and emails while in the car, even in traffic or at stop lights.  Any messages received while driving can wait until I get to my destination.

Being less connected to email means more productivity in your business life and less stress in your personal life.  Less stress means better quality of life.  It’s that simple.

I’ll let you know how things turn out.  So far, it has been pretty liberating.

What are you doing to escape email overwhelm?  If you haven’t already, I challenge you to conduct a similar experiment of your own.

12 Reasons Why an MBA is Valuable Beyond the Classroom

MBA studentGoing for an MBA involves a lot more than simply attending classes.  As an MBA student, you have opportunities all around you that can add to the overall value of your experience–if you are smart enough to take full advantage of them.

It makes me cringe when I hear people say things like, “you don’t need an MBA”.  Of course, you don’t need a lot of things.  That’s not the point.  Just because an MBA might not be for everyone doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

Before I get into the value of an MBA outside the classroom, let’s talk about what is happening inside the classroom.  There are some people who say that all an MBA means is that you are good at taking tests and operating in a classroom.  I’ve got news for those people:  What goes on in an MBA classroom is a lot different than what went on in your 8th-grade classroom.

In business school, you learn by doing.  Here are just a few things I’ve learned in my classes, aside from the actual subject matter taught in the courses:

  • How to communicate effectively.
  • How to make a presentation in front of a group of people.
  • How to work on a team of people with diverse opinions.
  • How to negotiate, persuade, and gain buy-in for your ideas.
  • How to systematically approach and solve problems.

An MBA program is a perfect training facility to develop these important “real world” skills.  One of my professors recently noted, “It doesn’t matter how much you know–what matters is how well you communicate what you know.”   Learning how to formulate opinions and then articulate your ideas to others is a central focus of an MBA program.

Beyond the in-class coursework, there are many factors that make an MBA valuable, and I’ve attempted to list the most important ones below.  While this list is about b-school, I think most (if not all) of these reasons could apply to any kind of degree, whether it is an undergraduate degree or any type of advanced degree.  I chose to write this list based on the MBA specifically because it is the one I’m going through right now (so it is what I’m most familiar with).

Here are my top twelve reasons why an MBA is valuable beyond the classroom, in no particular order:

1. Your professors are valuable industry contacts. In business school, many of the professors have been around the block a few times.  Some of my professors have held prominent positions at Fortune 500 companies.  Others have launched startups in various industries.  And almost all of them have done consulting for large companies. This means your professors are a wealth of industry experience and great contacts to have both during and after your time in school.

2. Your fellow classmates are great additions to your network. Your classes are filled with people who want to better themselves, advance their careers, and achieve great things.  Talk to them.  Make friends.  Since you are all in it together, there is a sense of camaraderie that you don’t get in most other situations.  So take advantage of the opportunity–classmates can help each other in a number of ways, and you never know who you will run into down the road.

3. There is an alumni network waiting to help you. Every school has an alumni network that is designed to help current students get advice, help, contacts, etc.  These alumni volunteer their time to help out students like you.  Even alumni who don’t officially volunteer with the school will likely be receptive to you if you reach out to them via LinkedIn or other means.  And when you graduate, you will be one of thousands of alumni who all went through the same MBA program.  Don’t underestimate the bond that fellow alumni share.

4. You can spend time in another country by studying abroad. I’m a little biased on this one because I studied abroad in Australia during my undergrad studies, but I believe everyone should consider spending some time abroad.  In business schools there are all kinds of international programs ranging from a couple of weeks to several months.  This is a great way to experience a foreign culture and learn about doing business in international markets.

5. The university library is full of great resources. The library at your college or university is a lot different than your local library.  A business school library has subscriptions to all kinds of relevant journals, publications, and databases that would cost you a ton of money to subscribe to on your own.  And you don’t even have to go there physically–there are all kinds of online databases that you access from your own computer.  These resources are great whether you are writing a research paper, a magazine article, or a business plan.

6. Strangers are willing to help students. Yes, that’s right–even complete strangers show a greater willingness to help you when they know you’re a student.  I don’t know why this is–maybe it makes them feel more like an expert.  But telling someone that you are a student when asking for help immediately gets them to take their guard down.  I’ve used this to my advantage many times to interview people in various industries and even land consulting gigs.

7. It’s easy to get recognition. There are so many opportunities to get recognized in business school, including business plan competitions, case competitions, academic awards, and volunteer opportunities.  Sometimes you will even have opportunities to get your work published in trade journals.  And schools are always eager to publish the accomplishments of students through their newsletters or website.

8. Business incubators can help you start your business. If you are a budding entrepreneur, some business schools can provide you with a free or low-cost business incubator to help you get your business off the ground.  This can include office space, utilities, technology, and access to business advisors and investors.  Even if your school doesn’t have its own business incubator, it is probably affiliated with a school that does.

9. There are tons of student clubs and organizations to choose from. One of the best ways to meet people with similar interests is to join a club.  Business schools have a wide variety of organizations–some are business related and some are not.  There might be a local Toastmasters’ chapter, an entrepreneurs’ club, or even a wine club.  Join several of these organizations–they are a great way to expand your network and learn about specific topics.  If there isn’t a club at your school for a particular topic that interests you, you can start your own.

10. There are always interesting events going on around campus. In business school, you have the opportunity to attend seminars, discussion panels, workshops, or book signings right on your own campus.  My school even had a speed networking event where I made a lot of great contacts.  Make sure you join any available email lists (sometimes called “listservs”) to find out about what is going on at your school.

11. Your school offers free career counseling services. Most colleges and universities have an Office of Career Management (or “Career Services”) that can help you with everything from resume writing to mock interviewing.  Not sure exactly what path you want to take?  They can help you figure it out.  They also offer exclusive job listings from companies who want to hire candidates from your school, and many times they facilitate on-campus interviews.  Does it get any easier than that?

12. Being an MBA student or graduate increases your credibility. Now, I know some people are going to say that what you’ve done in the “real world” is more important than what you’ve done in the classroom, and that is true.  But, whether you are a current MBA student or an MBA graduate, you will benefit from some degree of increased credibility.  Earning the degree is an achievement in itself, but it also implies that you are an expert in your field, and that you have a certain level of dedication and work ethic.  It’s up to you to make the credibility stick, by substantiating it with your actions, knowledge, and achievements.

Of course, being a student does not guarantee you will gain value from all of these factors.  But being a student makes it easy to take advantage of these opportunities because they are right there in front of you.

The value you derive from an MBA outside of the classroom will largely depend on your reason for pursuing the MBA in the first place.  That is one of the great things about it–you can customize it to your needs and your situation.  As with anything else, your experience in business school is what you make of it.

What are some other ways an MBA is valuable?

Using Social Media Internally – Is Your Company Ready?

Some companies still don't get it when it comes to internal social media.

Companies are finally beginning to use social media for more than just external communications such as marketing and recruiting.  Now, they are starting to use social media within their own organizations, as companies think of social media as a means of enabling a them to connect with current employees.  However, this is a very small part of what social media actually is.

A New Way of Thinking

The core purpose of social media is to allow people to interact with each other, and in order for a company to truly embrace social media it needs to facilitate these interactions.

In essence, a company is its own network of people, and therefore in order to embrace social media from an organizational standpoint, a company needs to think like a social network.  Social media is not just about having a buyer/seller (or employer/employee) relationship–it is about having a person to person relationship.  It is a totally different way of thinking than what companies are used to.

Open Source Information Sharing

One of the big problems that companies are faced with is a lack of information sharing across an organization.  The better an organization can share knowledge and developments internally, the less its overall progress will be impaired by individual departments constantly having to “reinvent the wheel”.  There is an extreme inefficiency in this respect, where different departments operate in silos and there are no collective means of storing information centrally to be used or accessed by the entire company.  Internal wiki’s and/or message boards are some ways of approaching this issue, in addition to a host of other social media tools.

Companies are already a wealth of diverse resources–think about what they could accomplish if they not only shared knowledge across their organization but also effectively crowd-sourced solutions to company problems.  In the world of social media, everyone has a voice.

Challenges

Social media is still very much in its infancy in terms of companies adopting it as part of their internal organizational framework.  Naturally, this will present many challenges to companies as everyone is trying to figure out the best ways to go about it.  Companies will need to be ready to face the following challenges:

Cultural Change & Resistance

As I mentioned earlier, embracing social media means thinking in an entirely different way.  Companies need to be aware of the resistance they may encounter when attempting to roll out programs that might not fit into the current ways of doing things.  They may encounter resistance from upper management or from employees.  Some causes of resistance might include:

  • Fear of the unknown (ie – not fully understanding social media)
  • Not seeing a cost justification or ROI
  • Privacy concerns
  • Lack of trust toward employees
  • Laziness to change the status quo
  • Disinterest in participating

Companies rolling out social media initiatives need to be prepared for this resistance.  Also, the level to which a company introduces social media will need to be incrementally in sync with the speed that the corporate culture is capable of being “upgraded”.  There needs to be a balance between what is possible with what is realistic.

Protecting Proprietary Company Information & Trade Secrets

When most people think about privacy in relation to social media, they usually think privacy of personal information.  This is a very real issue, but privacy goes even further than that.

In an organization where information sharing is encouraged and prevalant (for example - situations where large amounts of company knowledge or information is stored in a centralized location where all employees can access it), it can make it easy for someone to go in and steal quite a bit of information before leaving the company.  Therefore, companies need to recognize the risk this poses to their proprietary information and take that into account when building out any form of social media within their organization.  There is no simple solution to this issue, and companies need to weigh the costs vs. benefits of information sharing.

Conclusion

In summary, companies need to think way outside the box when attempting to integrate social media with their internal organizational structure.  At the same time, they should act incrementally and keep pace with the speed at which changes in corporate culture can occur.  Either way, there will be growing pains.  But companies who set clear goals and develop a strategy to meet those goals will be more successful with implementing social media internally.  By doing so, they will unleash the benefits of improved information flow and sense of community within their organization.

What are your thoughts on implementing social media within an organization?  Is your company already embracing social media internally?

Before You Set Goals, You Need to Define Your ‘Definite Major Purpose’

Find your Definite Major Purpose - the possibilities are endless

Me overlooking the Hudson River Valley from the peak of Bear Mountain, NY

It is much easier to make decisions in life when you have goals.  And it is much easier to set goals when you know who you are, what you stand for, and what you want out of life.  That’s where your ‘Definite Major Purpose’ comes in.

There are several different approaches to creating a Definite Major Purpose, dating back to the first introduction of the concept by Napoleon Hill.

Definite Major Purpose is often described as a single statement that defines what is most important to you.  Some gurus advocate making the statement as specific as possible, sometimes telling you to include a specific dollar amount if you are seeking wealth.  Others tell you to make it a bit more general, similar to a mission statement.

The approach I like best is the one I learned from the guys over at Internet Business Mastery, whose podcast I’ve been listening to for years.  They teach that your Definite Major Purpose should be an outline of what they call your ‘Fulfillment Factors’.

Rather than stating exactly how much money you want, recognize that money and material things are not necesarily fulfilling in themselves.  The idea is to seek and define what fulfills you.

To help guide the process, Sterling and Jay pose questions such as:

  • Why am I here?
  • What is the top purpose of my life?
  • What fulfills me above all other things?

These are powerful questions that not only help define what you want, but also define why you want what you want.  The why is the key.

By identifying the underlying factors that drive your desires, you will have a framework through which you can set goals and make decisions in every aspect of your personal or professional life.

It took me about an hour of brainstorming to come up with a rough list of Fulfillment Factors that eventually became my Definite Major Purpose.  Then it took a couple of weeks to refine it to the point where I was completely satisfied with it.

I saved it in a Google Doc so I could access it from anywhere.  It is very important for me to be able to view my Definite Major Purpose on my Blackberry, because that way I can refer to it whenever I want (and I do on an almost daily basis).

Here is the Definite Major Purpose I’ve come up with for myself.  I’ve categorized everything under a few specific areas:

Relationships and Family

  • Spend time with my wife, family, and friends, and start our own family.
  • Allow my wife to stay home with our kids.

Physical and Mental Health

  • Live a long, healthy life—eat healthy and keep a steady workout schedule.
  • Continually be a lifelong learner, and always read books for fun and education.

Financial Stability

  • Comfortably afford a reasonable lifestyle, education for our kids, health insurance, and still be able to save money.
  • Be able to comfortably afford a nice home.
  • Continue earning money into retirement, and pass on wealth to my heirs.

Freedom

  • Have more control over my daily schedule, and work less hours overall.
  • Be able to travel whenever/wherever we want without being bound by money or obligations.
  • Be able to live where we want without having to worry about the job market in that area.
  • Be able to take my time to enjoy life without feeling rushed.

Personal Fulfillment / Self Actualization

  • Make a difference to the world around me and in the lives of other people.
  • Create and bring new ideas into reality.
  • Further develop my skills in writing and photography.
  • Always feel an inner sense of peace, balance, relaxation, understanding, and appreciation of life.
  • Be seen as a person of stability, wisdom, intelligence, expertise, and integrity.

Going through this exercise has given me a great deal of clarity.  Now that I have my Definite Major Purpose, I use it every time I am faced with a decision.  It has allowed me to avoid falling into the trap of living passively and taking whatever comes my way.  Now, I have a clear picture of what I want my life to be, and I can take deliberate steps to help me achieve that vision.

I can also weed out the parts of my life that are not in alignment with this vision.  I’ve passed up more than a few “opportunities” that have come my way because they were not aligned with my Definite Major Purpose.  In the past, I might have moved forward with those opportunities only to find them unfulfilling down the road.

And as I set goals for myself on an annual or ongoing basis, I am able to ensure those goals are designed specifically to help me get what I really want out of life.

I may refine the wording or structure of my Definite Major Purpose from time to time, but the essence of the ideals it represents will always remain the same.  I refer to it almost every day, as a reminder of what’s important.

So, what is your Definite Major Purpose?