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September 8, 2014 Biz Books

Lifelong learning builds business success

“One Cent Lemonade to Million Dollar Deals — 25 Jobs & 25 Lessons I Wish I Learned Sooner” By Pamela J. Goodwin ($19.99).

From a lemonade stand to a Dallas-based commercial real estate business, Goodwin has been there and done that — not without missteps. One of the first things she learned: How to stay motivated. You can set goals and strive to achieve them and still get nowhere. Why?

Habits are one reason. What got you where you are will never get you to where you want to be. You must change the way you do things. Achievability factors in, too. Be realistic about your plan. Too many people try taking giant steps first; they usually fail because they've bitten off far more than they can chew. Staying motivated involves identifying the baby steps and executing them. Small victories provide ongoing encouragement and create an “I can do more” mindset. She keeps a daily journal, which she rereads when obstacles appear in her path. Recalling how she overcame obstacles in the past frames her response to dealing with the “now.”

Goodwin also points out that what you know can only get you so far. You'll always need the assistance of others who can show you what you don't know. It takes time to build a network of people who can support your efforts, help you connect the dots and provide honest feedback. To build a successful network, spend time connecting the dots of others.

Whether you're climbing a corporate ladder or running your own business, “Your marketing power grows with your network.” Pay attention to your personal brand. Become known as a doer who likes challenges.

She views failure as part of staying motivated, too. Nothing ever goes as planned. She states, “If you give up, you'll never find your way to the right answer.” If you quit on yourself, don't expect others to help you.

Key takeaway: If you want to increase your momentum, get out of your way!

• • •

“The Leap — The Science of Trust & Why It Matters” by Ulrich Boser (New Harvest, $26).

While the headlines often highlight differences, humans want to trust others. Our brains are hardwired to do so; they secrete Oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that increases the bonding urge. Hugging someone or shaking hands releases low levels of oxytocin — both in yourself and in the person you're touching. You don't even have to touch to feel oxytocin working; making eye contact and sharing experiences as part of a group releases the bond-creating hormone.

Reciprocity plays a role in trust-building, too. Those following the “Golden Rule” get that. But we need some assurances that others play by that rule. Boser cites eBay's Feedback Forum, which rates satisfaction with sellers, as an example of indirect reciprocity. Buyers look at the seller's rating and decide whether or not to bid. Rating apps, Angie's List and Yelp are other examples.

Culture has a substantive effect on trust as well. People act like their environment teaches them to act. In a corporate sense, GM's ignition switch debacle stands as an example. People at all levels were programmed by organizational culture to downplay problems.

Then there's the cultural aspect of Prisoner's Dilemma (a risk game developed in 1950) in which two prisoners could gain a short prison term by cooperating or risk a lengthy prison term for failing to snitch on the other. A recent study showed that, if the participants experienced cooperation in their everyday lives, they were more prone to choose the cooperative outcome. And, they made the decision to cooperate quickly — less than a second. Those that were asked to “think about” their decision were far more likely to do what was in their self-interest.

The bottom line: Oxytocin aside, trust remains a choice that builds from considering and understanding the perspectives of others.

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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