Staying Alive, Staying Alive

A few weeks ago, during my Tuesday night basketball game, somebody fainted.

Not feinted, as is usually the case. I mean fainted. As in plop, straight down to the ground, right there in the middle of the court.

And so we all rushed over and stood around him, wondering what to do.

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Wondering, because out of the 20+ men present, our combined medical knowledge was discouragingly weak.

How weak? Let’s just say that in the competition that night for “Most Prepared to Treat a Possible Heart Attack Victim,” it was a tie between a financial planner who claimed to “watch a lot of Discovery Channel programming” and a guy whose dog had recently given birth.

Luckily, our fainting man sat right back up and was ultimately, perfectly fine.

Nonetheless, it was scary. And, given that the vast majority of participants at this weekly event are well north of 40, we knew this could happen again.

And so the following week, a dozen of us showed up at the local fire station on Wednesday night and plunked down $10 each for a crash course in CPR.

I have to confess, I found the whole thing a bit confusing. Yes, they’ve done a commendable job of dumbing down the complicated business of restarting a human heart (any medical treatment that hinges upon singing the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” while being administered is clearly intended for the liberal arts majors among us).

But still, a lot to remember.

One detail, though, did stay with me: As the person performing CPR and if there are bystanders present, before beginning, you are supposed to pick somebody out of the crowd, point directly at them and shout, “You there! Call 911.”

The key point, apparently, is “pick somebody.” Because, as our cheerful instructor Dave cautioned, if all you do is shout, “Somebody call 911!,” it’s very likely that nobody will assume they are somebody (still with me?).

He went on to explain that with no one “officially” in charge, most people will conclude that others are more capable and more experienced, and therefore do nothing. By singling out an individual, that person is suddenly empowered to take action.

Guess what? When it comes to asserting a point of view and behaving as an expert, we solo professionals often think the same way – somebody(s) else knows a lot more than we do.

Outside the confines of a company – in a place where job titles, org charts, tenure, office size, etc., have little significance – the solo professional world is also one in which nobody is officially in charge.

Which means that if you’re waiting for the local newspaper to call you up and happily inform you that “we’ve been watching and you have earned the right to speak your mind,” you’ll be waiting for a long time.

Instead, I recommend taking a page from my new friend Dave, the CPR instructor: Assume authority and take decisive action. Share your point of view, take a position, publish lots of content, offer lots of advice. (tweet this)

Might you make a mistake, be disagreed with or even say something stupid? I guarantee it.

But, as Dave observed, “Everyone else is as scared and unsure of their capabilities as you are. Just remember that when somebody’s heart stops beating, their chance of survival decreases by 10% every minute. Even if you don’t perform all the CPR steps perfectly, doing nothing is the worst possible action.”

When it comes to standing out from the crowd, being seen as an expert and growing your business, that’s about the best advice I’ve ever heard.

(You there! Click some of those social media buttons below right now. And speaking of taking a position, leave a comment, for crying out loud.)

 

38 thoughts on “Staying Alive, Staying Alive

  1. Jen @ Daycare In Demand

    I love this post, Michael! So funny and so true. I would add that a corollary to this assumption (that someone else is more qualified) is the related assumption that someone else is already handling it – “it” being calling 911, serving the market you’re meant to serve, etc. – even if you don’t assume that they’re more qualified. This can knock people out of the game, too. The bottom line is that you need to take action and claim your authority regardless.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great points, Jen. I think the concept of “taking action” was the biggest lesson for me to learn in becoming a solo. When I was an employee, way back when, taking action often had much more risk than reward potential. As a solo, nothing happens until we give something a try!

      Reply
  2. Don Maher

    What a great post Michael! I think we all hold back just a little bit because we feel that we might make a mistake if we put everything out there; I know I do.

    It’s nice to hear that others may be feeling the same way.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You are defiitely not alone on that one, Don! I think “everyone is scared” tends to be true more often than not.

      Reply
  3. Sharon

    I love that “atta boy” I should and can do it attitude Michael. Sometimes taking responsibility for the actions and energy we put out turns into a win/win situation for all. You helped to make my day a successful one. Thank You!

    Reply
  4. Jonn Karsseboom

    Excellent point about taking charge. Another commendable point I took away? When you walked away from that game you realized an obvious vulnerability. Then you did something to prepare yourself for the next time. (And you wouldn’t have realized that vulnerability if you hadn’t played the game.) Bravo Michael! Bravo!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s a great point Jonn. I have to credit a guy named Barry who runs the program. He sent that email out within a few days and it was good to see how many people showed up for CPR. Now, of course, if anybody goes down again, we’ll probably be fighting over who gets to take charge!

      Reply
  5. Brad Howe

    Nothing like a memorable analogy to make the lesson memorable, too. Two for the price of one, one might say…

    Wait a minute–what price? That was actually free!

    Thanks, Michael.

    Reply
  6. Michael Hume

    This newsletter was “Money” as Guy Fierri would say. There is so much to learn out there you could spend your entire life learning new stuff (or at least until you run out of money).

    At some point, the earlier the better, you have to “Just Do It!”

    P.S. Hey Michael – you just got a bunch of free Facebook advertising. I accidently posted this comment on my Facebook page so all my friends will see it too.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thanks for the accidental post, Michael! And I agree, you can only set the table for so long before you invite some guests.

      Reply
  7. Susan Rivera

    OMG Michael – hilarious! I worked in the medical field for years – I can just SEE you guys hovering anxiously, peering down at your fallen comrade! Hopefully he has had a cardiac treadmill test since that incident? (Way too) often, when someone drops to the court unconscious they never get up again. Really.
    That said, I REALLY needed to read your “take” on the CPR lesson – I’ve been anxious lately – more business has brought more issues and I may not have “pleased 100% of my customers 100% of the time” lately. I remind myself that I’m the best in my field (of beads:) and have the answers to the questions. Have a great weekend,
    Susan :)

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Susan! Yes, the guy seems to be fine (I don’t know if he ever actually lost conciousness).
      But on the business side, I’m glad you’ve been so busy! That has it’s own set of challenges, of course, but good to know your business is cranking.

      Reply
        1. Michael Katz Post author

          Hey, I’m a marketing guy. We’re all about being vaguely right. Fainted, unconscious, what do I know?!

          Reply
  8. Kim LaFever

    I loved reading this, what a hoot, and glad he’s ok. It’s such a great reminder because even if someone has already invented a method to do something similar to what I do, it doesn’t mean it’s better. Even if it is better, it may not be unique or may not speak to the people I am trying to reach or I might just have special Kickass Kim sauce that they can’t offer. I picked a fairly narrow client target: teaching introverted, mostly analytical technical people leadership and communication skills, yet barely a week goes by that I don’t come across someone already doing this (albeit I am also I am looking for them via google alerts). It’s not like they are running Super Bowl ads and are household names so there are plenty of ways for me to be that somebody taking charge and spreading the magic.
    Wonder what they do with my web address in this posting logic?

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I agree Kim. Other people doing what you do – even if it’s the exact same thing on the surface – doesn’t matter. You can be an accountant (for example) who has a dog in the office or an accountant who wears a tie on a Friday afternoon in the summer. Both selling the same thing, but some people prefer one style and some the other. The key for us solos, i believe, is to reveal enough of who we really are so that our peeps can find us. Plenty of clients to go around for everyone!

      Reply
  9. Don Davies

    Okay…enough of the love in.

    1. I’m getting more and more reticent to click out of my e-mail program and come to your site to read the newsletter. It stopped me from reading the last one. Just wondering if what you win doing this is worth what you might lose.

    2. Noticed that I could get a free copy of your book if I sign up for your newsletter. Of course, being a loyal reader of several years, I get zilch. Hardly seems fair.

    3. During my career counselling senior executives of major corporations, I always took charge and suggested the right strategy and decided on the right course of action. What I found interesting is those who reported to the executive were always resentful of my attitude, but they always said nothing and went along…waiting for me to make a mistake so they could jump on it. And interesting dynamic your solo professionals should be aware of when they take charge. The way to survive is, of course, to never make a mistake.

    4. Finally, my personal story about CPR. I played hockey on our City Fire Department team…with the people who teach CPR. We played in an arena next door to a fire hall. We had a very young and fit firefighter collapse on the ice during a practice. Twelve firefighters rushed to his aid, taking his skates off, shouting his name, beginning chest compressions…and I was the only one who thought to go next door and inform the crew there so they could come down with an inhalator and stretcher to take him to the hospital. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. Talking about it later, one of the firefighters admitted that the fact it was one of their own made it difficult. They’re usually the most calm and objective person on the scene capable of barking orders and performing the procedures while the family and friends of the victim are in a state of panic. In this case, everyone responded emotionally. It might not have made any difference in the outcome, but I’ve always been affected by that experience. As a consultant, the key thing you bring to any project is your objectivity. You’re not biased or emotionally involved in the outcome. You look at the facts and decide the best course of action. Most of the time, that’s exactly why my client wanted me there. His or her underlings never wanted to step forward. They always asked, “What do you think we should do?” That way it wasn’t their idea and they couldn’t be blamed for its failure. What they didn’t realize is they couldn’t be credited for it’s success either.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Don! Some thoughts…

      1. It’s definitely a trade-off on the clicking thing. Adds a step for the reader, etc. But, early results (this is my 4th issue this new way) have led to about twice as many social shares per newsletter and three times as many comments. And the comments themselves are much more thoughtful and in depth (like yours) than before. It seems that when readers see the comments of others, it feels more like a group conversation, as opposed to people clicking reply and just interacting with me one on one (your “enough of the love in” comment is an example).

      2. When people come to the site, they see other things. Like the free book (send me your email and I’ll send you one). But they also notice webinars, products and all that.

      So taken together, 1 and 2 add up to more upside than downside (I think). I was a “never make them click” guy too for years, but I think the world has changed sufficiently that the balance has shifted. In particular, if you’re not maximizing social media, you’re leaving a lot on the table.

      And that’s a tough story about your hockey experience. Luckily ours turned out fine but it clearly could have gone either way.

      Thanks for making that extra click, Don; i hope you and your insights keep coming back!

      Reply
  10. Claudine Laforce

    Excellent advice as usual. Funny you should mention the “Staying Alive” song. My husband and I saw an AED in the local coffee shop this week and my husband mentioned that the “Staying Alive” song is now actually in Canadian CPR manuals for resusitation! Good timing. :)

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Amazing, huh? Check the link below from Carlos for the British health system’s hilarious explanation.

      Reply
  11. Kris Boehme

    Michael,

    I was actually planning to respond to one of your newsletters for the first time when I saw Don Davies’ comments, which gave me encouragement.

    For me, although I would prefer to have the entire newsletter in the e-mail as opposed to “clicking through” to your website, I have another reason other than the minor inconvenience. I have been a loyal reader since 2008 and actually set up a folder to save newsletters with ideas that were particularly relevant to me / my solo bookkeeping practice. With only a portion of the content in the e-mail, I would be saving a link that might not be valid at some point when I want to review the material. Any thoughts on that?

    I also want to tell you that I subscribe to only two newsletters of this type to help avoid inbox overflow, and always read yours the day it arrives. As mentioned above, your ability to provide a “lesson” along with a relevant story makes it more interesting and more memorable, and keeps me wanting more.

    Thank you for what you do.

    Kris Boehme

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Kris!
      And I’m glad seeing Don’s comments helped get you involved in commenting.
      Short answer is that the links to each article are permanent (at least as permanent as anything else on the web). Even when I did a complete site overhaul a couple of years ago, we redirected the old links so people could still find old articles. So as long as the site is up (no plans otherwise), you’ll always be able to find things.
      The search bar in the top right corner of every page on the site is pretty good too, so you can always find things if you can just remember a bit of it!
      Michael

      Reply
  12. Katherine Andes

    Your point about not waiting for someone to “anoint” you as an expert is sooooo true. A number of years ago, when I was pretty darn green at SEO copywriting and web content development, I started writing about the topics. Mind you, I only had a handful of clients back then, but I was able to help them and then write about it. It wasn’t long before people were calling me an “expert.” And I got more clients. Along the way, I learned that sometimes I disagree with other “experts.” When that happened, I realized I had more self-confidence than I had previously thought. Yes, there are people who know way more than I do, but I know enough to help the folks in my world. You just need to be an “expert” to the folks in your world.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Wow, that is a great point about being an “expert to the folks in your world.” All of us know lifetimes more about our area of expertise than do our clients and prospects (that’s why they hire us). But most of us are so distracted by the people we see as competition, we often forget that.

      Reply
      1. Katherine Andes

        Thanks, Michael. Yes, I was distracted and intimidated by my competition at first, but I knew I had to put myself out there to survive, so I did it anyway. It was critical to surviving.

        Reply
  13. Pamela Van Nest

    “Everyone else is as scared and unsure of their capabilities as you are.” Ain’t that the truth! That is why coaching is so important. My coach can pose those “reviving” questions that get my Inner Wisdom beating strong (to follow your metaphor). As I play this metaphor out Michael, I see the powerful questions as the paddles, and the “stand clear” is notice for inner critics to back off. Thanks for that directive, off I go to blog!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m tempted to continue the metaphor, Pamela, by saying that your post got my blood pumping. But I’m going to resist.

      Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thank you so much, Joyce, I’m honored. And I’m glad the newsletter hit the mark for you (now I better finish up the one that’s coming out later today!).
      Michael

      Reply

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