Martin Brossman – About going into business for myself

Martin Brossman
Martin Brossman

I think my passion for small business really started with my father. One of the greatest joys of his career was the feeling of independence he experienced while working as a management consultant. His rate of pay was a hundred dollars per day, which was a big deal at the time. Another benefit to his independent job was that we got to spend time together. I was able to help him perform one of his job duties by assembling manuals, which is where I observed his passion for independent work. He enjoyed the feeling of being in charge of his own fate, even though he was responsible for everything associated with his business.

Even though these early experiences with my father planted the seeds of independent work in my mind, I realized I needed to get some work experience under my belt before that route would become feasible. During a period of time working as a manager of Radio Shack, I found myself wanting more out of life than that position could offer. As I wondered where to go next, it didn’t take long for me to zero in on IBM, because it seemed like the premier company to work for at the time. I soon discovered that my target position was laden with prerequisite work.

From the time I set my sights on IBM, it took me over four years to reach my goal. I attended classes at Wake Technical Community College and got accepted into a co-op program with IBM field service. By this point, my enthusiasm was running high, so I contacted IBM’s field service manager, Don Cate, repeatedly. I gave him updates about what I was learning and experiencing about every six months or so, saying “Hi, Don, I want you to know I’ve learned these skills since we last spoke, so when you hire me, I’ll be ready for you.”

Don finally answered my call one day, saying, “Martin, I’m either going to have to hire you or call the police. There’s just no other way about it!” I was understandably upset to hear that response, so I said, “Don, I really want to work there, but I don’t mean to be a burden to you, I only want to keep you updated.” He surprised me by chuckling, “no, I’m really calling you to give you a job. I want to bring you in on the project. I know we’re going to find a place for you after the project is over because I’ve never known anyone to pursue a job at IBM so relentlessly.”

Well, after seven years, I discovered that the corporate world was not right for me. IBM’s Human Resources offered to administer personality tests, so I took one of their Myers-Briggs type tests. The person who interpreted my results pointed out that for all the indicators of 90% of the IBM MERS, I did not overlap any of the points. These test results confirmed my feeling that I didn’t fit in that environment. I realized I had been suppressing my natural predilection toward independent thinking by working at IBM.

With this newfound clarity, I began studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming. While I was helping the teacher demonstrate techniques, one of my classmates noticed that I had a gift for coaching. She said that I seemed to have a talent for guiding people and helping them get what they want, and others in the room agreed with her. What a novel idea, I thought. In 1990-1991, when I began pursuing the idea, there were no certification programs devoted to personal or business coaching that I could find. However, my interest was piqued, so I started looking for people who were making a living as a coach.

I found some personal coaches and business coaches, and I hired them to teach me the ropes. I also remembered that my customers at IBM had often commented that the best part about working with me wasn’t my helping them with their computer problems, it was the advice I gave them about their lives. These customers’ comments gave me the validation I needed to see value in following this new path. It dawned on me that I have a good ear for hearing what people need to do next in order to move forward in their lives and I have a real passion for helping people live their dreams.

If you’re going to live your dreams, you have to make a good living to support those dreams. That’s what drove me to becoming a success coach. In 1995, I left IBM to start out on my own, using my side PC business to keep me afloat until I felt confident enough to sell it to a gentleman who maintained it for many years before he retired, having raised several children on its income.

Once I sold my side business, I devoted myself to building my business life coaching practice, which I call “success coaching.” My approach is based on the idea that real success comes from having integrity in both your personal life and your business life. I focused first on small business owners because they are closest to my heart and my practice grew from there. Here’s why I love working with small business owners: often in a large corporation, people can get lost in their efforts to manage the perception of some perceived indicators versus actually serving the customer who’s currently in front of them. The process of having to create real value for your individual small business customers creates a clear level of integrity. For example, if you own an ice cream shop, you’ve got to deliver a consistent quality of ice cream and service to keep customers happy enough that they’ll want to keep coming back and buy it from you again.

What’s so appealing to me about small and micro businesses is the intrinsic integrity involved in the enterprise. To illustrate what I mean, let’s pretend you have a coffee shop. No matter what kind of person you are, if you don’t deliver an honest cup of coffee and follow through with the integrity of taking care of your customers, you’ll go out of business. This is a grounding type of phenomenon that doesn’t occur as easily in the corporate world, only in micro or small businesses. I innately understand the dynamics and integrity of the small business world much better than how to manage a corporation’s stockholders’ short-term perceptions.

What’s more important than actually delivering a great product? What is best for the customer and then charging a fair rate that matches the value. So it’s a win-win for them, a win-win for me, in the sense of, I’ve got to make enough profit to keep going, getting involved in my clients’ businesses, working for many years on my practice. Then around 2006, I realized how much I love training.

Around this time, my friend David Williams was teaching around the state in the small business centers, and I started joining him on his trips. We had a great time together and I really enjoyed myself. At the end of one of the classes, I told him that I loved taking care of the participants and teaching them, and I could tell that he loved it, too. I remarked that I’d like to become more involved, so when he moved on to do other things, he let me take over the business of teaching and training. It felt like a gift to me, to be able to teach all over the state at the small business centers. I realized how critical it is to serve these small communities; we start from the ground up.

I’ve been teaching and training since 2008, and I’ve learned so much about what a wonderful state I live in. In keynote addresses all around the United States, I’ve spoken about what I’ve learned from my experiences teaching in North Carolina. I’ve seen many solutions arise from people falling in love with their communities, finding what’s great about them, and encouraging folks to buy from local small businesses instead of big corporations. My core mission became clear after doing a lot of personal development work, looking at what I wanted to commit my life to. Because being on this planet, focused on my needs alone, just being here to serve my own self-interests, didn’t seem meaningful enough to keep me interested.

It just didn’t. It’s like, “okay, then I get more toys, then they get things, is that it?” Not that I don’t enjoy technology and toys, of course I do, but that’s not enough. After I realized I needed more, I crafted the mission that oversees all of my life, which is to help people live lives that they love so much that on their own deathbed, when they reflect back over their entire life, they’re literally moved to tears by the life they live. The quality of their life was so exceptional, outstanding, beautiful, and fulfilling that they’re moved to tears by the life they lived. That only happens by giving to others. It doesn’t happen by just serving yourself. That’s the core mission of my life. I implement this through helping individuals, helping towns, helping businesses, helping communities, and having the gift of being part of their world.

Hear the full story in this

How to Be an Unstoppable Entrepreneur

A rocket launching doesn’t take a break while getting into orbit!

by Martin Brossman
Are you thinking of starting a small business, wondering what it takes to be an entrepreneur?  I’ve been self-employed since ‘95.  As a success coach, one thing I know for sure is you have to be driven to be self-employed.  I wake up every morning understanding time is money and time is the one thing you can not get back.

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean jumping off a cliff hoping a parachute will materialize on the way down — there is no wisdom in reckless gambling — entrepreneurship requires wise choices and financial prudence.  

My approach to grounded, successful entrepreneurship is “bootstrapping,” where you take small financial risks that you can afford, make specific & measurable goals that you believe in wholeheartedly, lean into your business with “sweat equity,” set solid boundaries with family & the other parts of your life and focus in solid blocks of uninterrupted time on your business.

One example of a small but strategic risk is selling stuff on eBay.  Taking carefully calculated steps to make money like this won’t set you back too far if you fail at it, so then you have the financial resources to try something else and you haven’t wasted a lot of time.

When you work for yourself, you’ve got to remember that your time is money.  Most people who work at a job disregard their time.  Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.  This fact may require certain conversations with friends and family and even yourself because this fact will never change.  

Some people start a business then immediately go on vacation, or they take a lot of breaks during their day-to-day operation.  You have to wonder how anything can launch successfully in that kind of atmosphere.

On the other hand, I see plenty of workaholics who are extremely smart & competent but believe everything they do has to be perfect.  The toughest job I have is working with a perfectionist who’s transitioning to self-employment because, for them, nothing is ever good enough.  They let their need to be perfect rob them of too much valuable time.

I like to use the metaphor of a rocket ship.  Imagine the amount of energy it takes to launch a rocket ship into space breaking free of Earth’s gravity.  When you launch a business, if you take a break, the rocket ship explodes.  

A key lesson to learn from perfectionists is the cost of over-preparedness.  I’m not saying it’s wise to jump in unprepared, but there is such a thing as spending too much time and energy on getting prepared.

Before launching a home-based or internet-based business, get clarity on what’s motivating you.  Ask yourself, “what am I here for?” and “where will I go when I get knocked down?” You’ve got to keep your motivation high so you’re ready for massive rejection.

One way to keep your motivation up is to reward yourself once you’ve achieved a goal.  For example, you might give yourself a night off after reaching some sales milestone.  I encourage clients to keep generating rewards constantly to keep their fires burning.

When I’m coaching someone, I think of structures that they can build in their lives that will move them forward so they don’t need me anymore.  I want clients to choose to keep working with me, using me as a catalyst to greater levels of success instead of relying on me out of necessity.  

I like to create structures for clients that box them in, so to speak, so they move forward in calculated ways.  When you’re self-employed, it’s important to set up structures that support your life and your business.  You need two key data points:

  1.  The truth, even when it hurts, and 
  2. The motivation to get out of bed every day.

When you have people and structures in your life that will always tell you the painful truths when you need to hear them and people and structures that motivate you when your energy dips, then you have real power in business.

So, what’s going to get you on fire?  What’s going to get you to lean into your idea, service or product?  What are the constructive ways you can get yourself hungry?

I say that the worst place to stay is your comfort zone.  The best way forward is to play to your strengths then use them to push outside your comfort zone.  What are your strengths and how do you see yourself extending out from them?

I started working with an artist, for example.  During my evaluation of his business, it became clear what was missing was the artist.  When I asked him about it, he said, “that’s outside my comfort zone.”  I replied, “when our work together is finished, that will be your starting place.”  

By playing to your strengths you will eventually make enough money to pay other people to manage your weaknesses.  I have an assistant who manages my time.  Everyone in my life appreciates her influence.  Every time my business breaks down it’s because I tried scheduling something on my own.  She provides an invaluable service for my business.

If you have a skill or a passion, use it!  Use what you have to make money.  I know some artists who make a decent living playing music on the corner.  Lauryn Hill got discovered singing in the subway tunnel in New York.

I know a car enthusiast whose car detailing business failed.  He used to make a living detailing cars, but when the money dried up he started selling parts on eBay.  Now he’s making more money than he was before.

A common sticking point for a lot of people moving from day jobs to self-employment is the belief that they’re not good in sales, or that doing sales is inherently evil.  If you believe that, you need to remove it from your mind or you’ll never be successful.

I used to believe that.  When I was tech support at IBM, they told me I was great with people and asked why I wasn’t in sales.  I was a real smart-ass, I’d say, “I don’t lie and I don’t play golf.”

After I left IBM, I realized I would starve if I didn’t grow up from the little child in me who said, “I don’t do sales.”  I had to re-define sales:  selling is a service, it’s being of service to others, it’s giving value to others and it is a great honor to do ethical sales.

I invite you to share my definition of sales and drop the old one.  The old version allows you to avoid committing to your business and shows a lack of understanding of win-win sales (yes, they do exist!).  That old mindset of sales gives you a way to let yourself off easy.

If you have that attitude, you are dodging responsibility, avoiding maturing and not moving forward with your business.  Everyone has a cross to bear, everyone has a story.  Overcoming your Achilles’ heel brings meaning to your life.   

I’m dyslexic.  I was put in the retarded class in 4th grade.  That was the ugly word we used back then.  It was so easy for me to use that excuse, but now I am proud to say I have 4 books out.  I stopped giving my power away by blaming someone else.  

Lots of people feel justified blaming the pandemic for their failure.  A successful entrepreneur stopped asking, “when do we get back to normal?” a long time ago and started asking, “how do I make money in this world as it is right this minute?”

Listen for demand.  Listen for needs.  Find out where people have a problem that they’re willing to spend money on the solution.  Train your ears to this and you’ll train yourself into a successful niche business.

My niche is finding what it takes to make a person unstoppable & locked into their dreams to the point that they can’t wiggle out of them.  

If you’re considering self-employment, don’t ask, “can I do it,” ask “what will it take to make this work?”  Set time limits on what you’re going to do.  Make a full commitment.  

Here’s an example:  my alma mater’s president got a lot of online complaints regarding the school’s insufficient number of dorm rooms for students.  I said, “why not declare that in 3 years you’ll have this solved?”  Be willing to say, “I don’t know how this will get done, but we’re moving forward to resolve this and I need everyone’s help.”  

Successful entrepreneurs commit in such a way that they’re not afraid to fail.  Successful people know that you can be accountable even when you fail.  Leadership requires the courage to move forward no matter what — courage is built on the willingness to fail.  Courage is the willingness to hit the ground over and over regardless of the outcome.

I see so many young people who have no confidence.  Why?  Because they haven’t been allowed to fail enough.  This is heartbreaking.  Let’s get them out in the world taking calculated risks that will give them confidence.

Entrepreneurship is the greatest personal development course you could ever take. 

Life Begins Outside Your Comfort Zone by Martin Brossman

I’m a success coach, speaker, and author.  I work with small business owners and professionals to amplify their message, their brand, their presence, and their success on the web and on the ground.  Since I left IBM in ‘95, I’ve been helping people become unstoppable, so that no matter what happens in their businesses or in their lives, they keep moving forward.   

I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned from my 25 years of experience about moving forward through adversity and making things happen, whether you’re so busy you can’t think straight or you’re in a slump.

In this context, I’ve observed that people fall into one of two continuums: either everything is going well & they’re operating in their comfort zone, or things are not going well & they’re stuck.  I refer to the first one as a rut, which I define as a casket with the ends kicked out, and the second as a complete breakdown where they’re paralyzed like a stunned deer.  

I believe that life is most fulfilling for the majority of us when we’re leaning into life with a sense of urgency so that it’s more like riding a fun roller coaster than sitting in a boat on a calm pond or floating silently like a lily pad.  My passion is helping people find their way to their own powerful momentum.

Years ago on a tour of Zen monasteries in Japan (in the early 80’s), I asked the guide, who was wearing a professional blazer and carrying a little tour guide flag, about the stacks upon stacks of unopened barrels of Saki I saw there.  Imagine visiting an American church with unopened stacks of barrels of beer!  She explained how they would be opened at the semi-annual celebration.  

Sake Barrels
Sake Barrels

I said, “so the monks meditate about six months up here in the mountains eating very simple food, living very simple lives…then you have a rip-roaring party with the entire town where you run through with giant torches, almost burn the place down & get completely plastered.  Then the monks come back and meditate for another six months?!”  She replied in her very soft, polite voice, “that is correct.”

Japanese Tour Guide
Japanese Tour Guide

For me, it was such an eye-opener because up until then, I believed life was about maintaining the perfect balance. The Japanese monks taught me that life doesn’t come at us in perfect balance. 

Real life is more like a roller coaster than a tranquil pond — those who find a way to enjoy the roller coaster see it as an adventure.  Of course, life is rife with danger, but with a slight adjustment in our perception, we can reframe our fear and turn that energy into fuel for our business.

Back in 2008 when the market collapsed, I asked expert Realtor Linda Craft what she planned to do.  She said, “the same thing I did in 2001 — I asked myself, ‘how do we succeed now and how do we make money now?’”  At that moment I remember thinking that complacency can be as dangerous to a business and to a person as a national disaster.

The key to avoiding the danger of either kind is to check where you are on the continuum on a regular basis.  How do we do that?  We put safeguards in place for when disaster strikes —  we need to do the same to avoid complacency.  What do we do to keep ourselves on our edge, invigorated & excited?

I was honored with an invitation to speak at my university’s senior business class about entrepreneurship, where I gave the students an assortment of quotations that I wrote.  The one that grabbed most of their attention was, “If your life is boring it’s because you are boring — life begins outside your comfort zone,” which illustrates the importance of pushing beyond normal, everyday routines. 

T-Shirt (Available on Amazon)

What do you do to push yourself outside your comfort zone?  What do you do to keep yourself on your edge?   

Ham Radio is my hobby; I recently passed my advanced amateur radio license exam and began trying to learn Morse Code, for which I have no aptitude, but I got a lot out of trying.  Find something you’d love to master then give yourself time to practice and permission to fail.  Failure is the fertile ground where confidence is born.  

I’ve observed too many young people whose parents didn’t give them enough opportunities to fail and get up afterward, which is the best doorway to self-confidence.  If you always win, you don’t understand boundaries, you don’t know your real strengths, you can’t grasp the meaning of a win.  If you win all the time then you never build trust in yourself or in the natural process of life.  Failure teaches us what our gift to the world is.  Adversity teaches us what we’re made of, so to speak.    

What are the barriers to staying on our edge?  Being busy, for one; letting constant activity pass for purposeful action.  Another is letting your focus veer off your mission by asking the wrong question of yourself.  In my experience, the successful person asks themselves “what will it take for me to make it?” and the unsuccessful person asks, “am I going to make it?”

During my years of coaching, it’s been fascinating to find that most people stop themselves even though success is within their reach. The most common obstacle to success can also be the most effective resource, depending on the person’s mindset.

What will it take?  First, you must start challenging your beliefs about what you can & can’t do.  But I don’t mean forget the laws of gravity or physics!  For example, if you have a child with special needs, you may not be able to suddenly quit a job with health insurance benefits; you may take a longer path to make sure that the child’s needs are met.  You can stay focused on your dream and stay grounded in reality.

Start exploring what you would really like to do, then look into what it would take to get there.  You might find that it morphs into a fulfilling hobby on the side while you keep your primary job, or you might discover a different position in a similar field.  No matter where you go, you will grow from the experience of standing in new possibilities while keeping your feet on the ground.  By moving forward like this, step by step you will stimulate your creative juices and develop discipline at the same time.

Many years ago while I worked for IBM I practiced coaching with some co-op students.  I worked with one named Sanford Tally who wanted to have his own radio station.  After a few years passed I found out that he didn’t get what he’d wanted despite all the planning we had done.  I was concerned that we were not successful.  

When I asked him about it Sanford said that through our work together he realized he did not want all the responsibility and hassles of a radio station, he really wanted the autonomy that he thought at first a radio station would give him. This realization led him to create his own technology security business that he still enjoys today. 

I had a co-worker named Tyler at IBM who was also a talented guitarist.  At the time I didn’t know much about playing music but I appreciated his gift for playing and he generously helped me build my coaching skills.  He replied, “well, I haven’t really thought about it but sure, let’s go for it.”  Tyler knew he wanted to help fellow musicians but he had no idea in what way.  We filled a big whiteboard with a map of his dream of owning a studio where small bands could practice and perform.  

Sadly, years later Tyler died in a motorcycle accident.  As I sat at his funeral, I listened to his loved ones describe his accomplishments.  What I heard matched what we had put on that whiteboard!  I choked up, realizing the significance of asking him the question, “what do you really want?”  Even though Tyler’s life was cut short, he got to do the thing he wanted most.  We should all be so lucky.  Expressing gratitude moves us forward no matter where we are.

We can either transform our relationship with (or shift our perception of) adversity or be enslaved by it.  We can either stay in our comfort zones or go for what really rings our bells.  Plenty of people have regrets; regardless of the outcome. Most people regret the chances they let pass them by. Very few regret the chances they’ve taken.  

My mission with success coaching, speaking, training, and the social media management certificate program is to help people lead such meaningful lives that on their own deathbed they will be moved to tears by the life they’ve lived.  Whether I’m helping a doctor become more likable with his patients and increase his practice, or I’m helping a sales coach exceed his quota so he can spend more time with his family, we’re focusing on playing a bigger game & living a larger life, a life full of vitality & excitement.

My coaching practice is based on referrals; I take on a limited number of clients at one time.  In addition, I post a lot of free content; if you’re interested, Google me and check out my website Martin Brossman & Associates LLC | Supporting individuals ….

To schedule Success Coaching with Martin Brossman call 919-847-4757 and select option 1.

Link to T-Shirt “If your life is boring, it’s because you’re boring”

Humor in the Workplace – Lessons learned from taking humor to cancer patients

Carolina Health and Humor Laugh-mobile

Martin Brossman with the Carolina Health and Humor Laugh-mobile – 2001

Humor in the Workplace 

By Martin Brossman
©2017 Martin Brossman & Associates LLC

Humor to me is much more than telling a silly joke.  It’s about a state of being, an attitude of looking for humor and joy in things.  It’s about realizing that you can create humor and joy in just about any context.  

I learned this empirically during the years I volunteered at Duke Hospital taking a humor cart around to cancer patients. At first a volunteer with Carolina Health and Humor, I expanded my own humor horizon over several years as a volunteer trainer and certified humor presenter, grateful for the honor of receiving the Volunteer of the Year award from Governor Hunt in 2000.  These years taught me that humor goes way beyond making someone laugh.  

One particular afternoon when I was first volunteering, I had taught a workshop for a group of very stressed-out corporate employees before heading to my volunteer shift.  It was especially obvious to me that evening that most of the patients in the hospital beds were more alive and courageous than many of the people who had sat in the classroom with me earlier that day.  There in the oncology ward, I met people who sometimes had very little time left, who were lit up by telling me a joke or wearing a Groucho nose-and-glasses on a head which had lost all its hair.

As my experience grew, I began to teach the new volunteers coming to help out with our cart, The Laugh Mobile, that their job was not to entertain the patients.  Our job was to bring compassionate humor into their rooms, allowing them to experience whatever they needed to experience, in the context of humor and joy.  I created definitions of these concepts for the volunteers:

Joy–a state of serenity that allows us to embrace whatever experience we are having in a constructive way.

Compassionate humor–humor which creates a joyful environment that allows a person to have a greater sense of being accepted.

But it was the individuals who taught me the far-reaching effects of even small doses of joy and compassionate humor.  One particular woman needed a multiple organ transplants due to cancer.  I made a balloon dog for her, telling her it knew two tricks, how to lay down and STAY when I taped it to the wall. She said, “ Maybe the dog could look out for organs for me.”  I said, “ Great idea, let’s hang it up here on the wall so it can get a good view,” and attached the little blue balloon dog so that it overlooked the room.  I enjoyed listening to her stories of her grandkids and then moved on to the next room, wearing my red clown nose; I announced myself at each room by knocking on the door and saying, “Can I come in?  They just let me out.”

When I returned two weeks later, I noticed she was gone. I was concerned about what happened to her, but the hospital could not tell us anything about the patients.  During my rounds.  I visited a man’s room and there on the wall was a slightly shrunken version of that blue balloon dog I had made two weeks before.  I said, “I see you have a pet. I didn’t think they let pets in the hospital.”  He told me that he was waiting for an organ transplant and a woman he met on the ward had gotten word that organs were available for her, so she had given him the watchdog that worked for her. Then he smiled. I realized that my balloon dog was a great example of what I was there for.

Another time I walked into the room of an elderly woman who looked like she had been hit across the face with a baseball bat.  The family was in the room, and you could have cut the sadness with a knife.  Her eyes lit up a little bit when she saw me come in with my clown nose on.  I explained the Laugh Mobile to her, asking if she would like to check out any humorous books and tapes. She saw I was really listening and answered, “I used to enjoy walking here in the halls before they had to remove my teeth due to cancer.  I trusted instinct and said to her, “What are you going to say the next time you walk around the halls?”  It caught her slightly off guard in a good way, and she sat up in bed with a smile and pointed over her shoulder.  She said, “You ought to see the other guy.  It was a heck of a fight!”  The family members also sat up, in a shock at the change in her state.  You see, I was listening for humor and not trying to entertain her.

What does this have to do with humor in the workplace?  Everything.  Because at work we so often become overburdened with significance, losing track of the more important things in life and forgetting that all of that could change in a moment.  Many times I entered the oncology ward tired or in an off mood, but I never left it that way.  It reminded me of the importance and the responsibility I have to bring joy and humor into my own life, versus waiting for someone to entertain me.  For years I used to carry a clown nose in my car and would put it on if someone seemed to be suffering from too much anger.

The Laugh Mobile taught me a few things about humor and the workplace.

1.  The value of listening for humor in other people.  
This doesn’t mean inappropriately laughing at something that is painful to them.  It’s an attitude of looking for opportunities at work and in life to laugh together.  Humor is like a muscle that atrophies if you don’t use it.

2.  The importance of being able to laugh at yourself.
If you haven’t noticed, you are human. We, humans, do silly things with our emotions and biological brains, so you will get over things more quickly if you can laugh at yourself.  

3.  The wisdom of compassionate humor in leadership.  Some people believe that leadership and humor don’t go together.   Yet look at some of the most effective and compassionate leaders you have known in your own life.  I am sure you can recall a time when they were able to laugh at themselves.   And the most memorable leadership quality is a compassionate perspective that permits the type of real unconditional listening that allows talent, contribution—and yes, actual workplace joy—to flourish.

Love to hear your views on humor in the comments below.

Volunteer of the Year Award to Martin Brossman

Volunteer of the Year Award to Martin Brossman for my work with the Laugh Mobile 

Want to bring more humor and joy to your group, association or workplace? Here is Martin’s program on it: Instant Humor Just Add Life:

To connect to Martin Brossman just Google his name!
To schedule time with him contact his assistant Colleen at –
To see more of Martin’s professional talks see:

Learn more about Rog Bates at or call him at 919-604-5488

Going Beyond Conflict Resolution is Embracing Conflict as a Doorway to New Opportunities

Conflict ResolutonThe bottom-line cost to avoiding conflict is tremendous, but few people are taught how to be effective with conflict. My introduction to the subject surfaced just out of college when I discovered I did not have sufficient tools to deal with conflict on the job.   Promoted to manager of a retail store with one of the highest levels of shoplifting in the city, I decided I’d better learn about conflict pronto.

That was the start of my training in the martial art of Aikido, which views physical conflict as a state of imbalance. It teaches that we become stronger in the process of transforming conflict. In Aikido, instead of trying to be stronger than your attacker, you come from a centered place and then meet them, blend with them and ultimately lead them to a place that does little or no harm to the attacker. You are responsible for your own well-being and that of the attacker. When I mapped these principles on to the conflicts that occurred in my retail store, I discovered that I not only resolved the conflicts but also developed more loyal customers and trusted friends.

Later when I joined IBM, I had become so adept at handling conflict that a manager from upstate New York flew in to meet the customer service rep—me– who “liked having people yell at him and could save large contracts.”

So what are the core principles I discovered?

1. Understand their upset.

Treating conflict with calm controlled behavior is like putting gasoline on a fire. If you have ever been really upset and someone kept telling you to calm down, what did it do? Yes, you need to come from a centered, grounded place, but you need to move into their world to understand that their concern is real for them. The quicker you can validate it in an authentic way, the quicker you can move them to a more harmonious win-win solution.

2. Get clear on your commitment.

Are you committed to looking good? Being right? To winning? If so, you are almost guaranteed to lose. More productive commitments might be enhancing the relationship, giving the best service, or finding the gem of value in every criticism. Of course when you’re upset or rattled by a conflict it’s hard to remember what you are committed to. I recommend the Aikido technique of breathing deeply, becoming centered by putting your attention on your center of balance (about 2 inches below the navel).

3. Enter their world.

Next blend with your opponent to see through their eyes and allow yourself to become concerned to approach their concern. You truly validate their issue by understanding it, not justifying or giving “good reasons.” From there, with a clear commitment, work with them to create a new solution that aligns with your commitment and addresses their concern.

4. Assume positive intention.

Stay engaged with them until it is resolved. This requires you to develop the ability to be with other people’s upset and not lose your own commitment.   At IBM there was a client who was so hard to deal with that they passed her on to me. She was a small, aggressive woman with great influence in many departments. When I came in she would meet me part way and start yelling about the current problem. “How can you work for a company that builds junk like this!” I would simply start listening, but really listening like I wanted to be part of the story. One observer said that when she yelled at me she would be shaking up and down and it almost looked like I was doing the same while listening to her. As she continued complaining I would ask if there was anything else–and there always was. Then, surprisingly, after a few minutes of this she would suddenly get quiet, turn her head to the side, and ask cheerfully, “Do you want a Coke?” I would say yes, adding that while she was getting it for me I would start working on the machine. The account was saved and I managed it for several years.

By avoiding dealing with conflict we miss building character. We miss the chance to transform an adversary into a loyal customer. And we miss the deepened relationships that can be found on the other side of a conflict when we choose to do more than manage conflict and actually embrace it. Don’t miss those opportunities!

c2014 –Martin Brossman – (919) 847-4757 – Martin offers professional development training on this and other topics that can be found by going here.

Life Coaching: How to Find and Live your Mission  

Steps along a PathIntroduction

To become fully productive and thoroughly enjoy what you are doing, it is important to pursue your purpose in life or your mission.  This applies to both men and women.  A mission is not a stage of development but a continuing set of activities with a common theme, enabling the expression of yourself in your work.  Finding a mission in life is elusive, typically difficult, and also highly individualistic. Yet, finding and pursuing your mission is rewarding beyond belief.

 Purpose, Meaning and Mission
By Martin Brossman

Finding your purpose in life is often thought of as something that will become clear at some point in the near future–like a delivery person coming to your door saying, “Sorry I am late, but here is your clear purpose in life–go live it.” In my years of working with people on this it has almost always been more like catching a glimpse of a shadow in the corner of your eye then working to remember that image and sculpt it into stone.

Years ago I told a good friend and mentor that I was afraid I might pick the wrong purpose in life.  He replied. “Only a prince can dream of a castle.” He was so right, but it took years with many moments of insecurity and doubt to realize this was true. Finding your purpose is more an act of trial and error, noticing which actions truly light you up and then allowing life to move you or touch you enough to even know when you are lit up. It is also more about noticing when you are on your path and when you are off of it. I often use the tool of my imaginary scenario of passing over and being asked by God, “What did you do with the beautiful gift of life that I gave you?” Because the answer for many would be: “Well, I kept busy.” A humorous wake up to the profound loss we would feel with that response.

Instead of frantically searching for meaning, it seems more practical and elegant to simply select a mission and live from it for a while, and then evaluate how it needs to be changed or adjusted. It is a dynamic process, not an end point. Many of us are so driven that we can’t hear what we are called to do. You have to become conscious of your own “driven pattern,” and slow it down or step out-side of it long enough to find out what is calling you.

To get clarity on your mission here are two questions to ask yourself: “When you leave this world what do you want to be remembered for? And ” Are you truly in action on making that happen or do you have a lot of good excuses about how you are almost living your mission?.

If your mission is evading you, it could be that the image you have of yourself is not sufficient for the mission of your life. It is almost like you need to NOT be yourself– the person you think you are—but to be your true self. The identity is built for survival, not for living a fulfilled or fully expressed life. A human being just surviving is not a pretty sight.

A favorite example of mine is a female scientist who wanted to retire early and live in the mountains with her dogs. I asked her to “look back” at what she would like to have done with her life, and rather reluctantly she explored it. She discovered that she would have liked to have worked on creating sustainable food sources for third world countries, a mission essentially unrelated to her current position. I asked her to do some research on the new-found idea, while we simultaneously worked on her retirement plan. To her amazement she found someone virtually down the hall from her office working on a solution for crop destruction in third world countries, and made arrangements to work with them.  She has now happily set aside retirement, enjoying her new fulfilling path—and met her new husband through the work!

Another big obstacle to uncovering our true mission can be our desire to: “fit in;” “be reasonable;” and “not make any waves.”  We worry about “looking good” and “waiting for the right time.”  Yet when you take into account the amount of unnecessary suffering and real suffering on this planet, there is NOTHING REASONABLE about truly creating a life that you love.   Creating and living a meaningful mission today can be considered UNREASONABLE, in the good sense of the word. George Bernard Shaw  expressed it (and forgive him for his use of the male pronoun): “The reasonable man  adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world  to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  I invite you to be positively unreasonable!

Another favorite example is a woman, who after a devastating divorce and some health challenges that wiped out the rest of her money, was discouraged and working at a coffee shop. She had no confidence and felt she had no idea what her purpose or path next was.  I discovered that some of the highlights of her career were when she taught modern dance and danced professionally for a while, but for health reasons she felt she could no longer do that. When describing either coordinating dance or dancing she became a different person, one with clarity and focus. She even stood up to demonstrate something as though she were compelled and could not help herself. Then she said “I would love to have that clarity now”. I suggested a new viewpoint, and in a remarkable turnabout, she reinvented herself by designing the world as a stage. Thus she gained the clarity and action to see what was next. I even got her to see the coffee shop as a stage and the younger people that were not so nice to her as great actors playing their part. Something then crystallized or clarified, and the new clarity was that she could teach yoga and now owns her own studio. She is loving what she is doing.  Her life is now about beauty and strength in motion – an evolution from the dancing that she could no longer pursue.

The Elusive Mission
By Bruce Oberhardt

 How does a person find a life-long mission or purpose?  Is a mission truly a life-long pursuit?  Does it unfold either rapidly or slowly from something else? When does it begin? When does one find it or recognize it?

 I am a problem solver, and I have solved many important problems in the development of biomedical technology and in business, as well as in areas entirely outside of science and work.  However, I believe my problem solving skill set is not directly applicable to finding a mission in one’s life. Perhaps this is because a mission in life is about one’s life, and life is not a problem to be solved but a series of realities to be experienced. Hopefully, as one moves through life, there will be many meaningful experiences, including interactions with other people, that will provide a path consisting of work or service that makes one happy and fulfilled – a joyful path.

This joyful path is the path that you will follow when you find your mission. You will be traveling down a new, yet familiar, road – one with a purpose. You may be very close to this road right now but not know it; or you may already be on it and not know that you are. Eventually you will feel the mission experience that is unique to yourself and that could evolve as your experiences evolve. It is like a connection of the dots that will provide fulfillment and joy in a way that perhaps nothing else can.

 But once you have found it, how long will the mission last? That most likely depends upon you. It can also evolve in new directions, again depending on you and your experiences. You can try different things in the hope of finding your mission or transforming it. Perhaps it is best to not directly seek a mission or to change it when it appears but rather to let it evolve and/or just come upon you.

Sometimes the realization that you are on a mission will hit you like a sledgehammer.  Sometimes, others will tell you what they observe. In the end, you will know.

We would love to hear your views in the comments below.

 By Martin Brossman and Bruce Oberhardt

Lean more about Bruce Oberhardt at  and all of Martin Brossman websites online:

Life Coaching: Martin Luther King and how Petey Green effected the burning of Washington.

Martin Luther KingThis is an article I wrote many years ago on Martin Luther King Jr. day and thought it would be good to re-post it here on Martin Luther King Day. The photo was one that I remember seeing on many friends wall growing up and is on my wall of hero’s in my office. Also if you have never seen the movie “Talk to Me” I recommend it about “Petey” Green. I remember how “Petey” Greene speaking on the radio changed the course of riots in Washington DC over Kings death. How a “nobody” re-spoke Kings message and changed history.

Martin Luther King & the burning of Washington

While at the friends meeting the day before the Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday I remembered my experience as a youth when King was shot. This was a time before I had become truly committed to non-violence. My skin is white and I was raised in Washington DC, where almost all of my school mates skin was black. I remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot as if it was yesterday. One of my class mates stood up and said in rage how angry he was about the white man killing their peaceful leader and that all white men were rotten. I was as angry as he was and agreed (not remembering the color of my own skin). He then turned to me and corrected himself and said not all white people are bad.

They let us out of school early that day (in downtown Washington DC) and I was walking to the bus stop. A gang of boys, coming down the street towards me, said, “look a Honkey, lets get him”, I looked at the gang like a stunned deer. My friends seeing me, standing alone across the street, ran over to me and said, “lets go”. We ran as fast as we could to my bus stop and I got safely on the bus. When I arrived home my mother met me at the door, I could tell she was very scared. She had bags packed as the door and said “Washington is being burned, we may have to leave.” She then stated in a very serious voice, “I want you to understand something that this is not what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and black people are not violent they are just very scared and upset.” She was very supportive of Martin Luther King Jr. and did not want me make a generalization about the riots toward all African Americans. Of course this was funny, in a way, because I was as angry about the death as those rioting. What I did not realize then was I had become racist against white people.

There was another hero of this time period that not many people know of, Pete Green, an African American. He got on the radio and started talking to the people who were burning the city. Openly admitting, in what was called jive, that he had spent time in prison, Pete spoke to the people stating that their action did not honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. He stayed on the radio repeating the same basic message for hours. The burning ended, this man had single handily stopped the violence & burning in Washington through non-violent means. He was applying the words of our hero and leader, proving that Martin Luther King Jr’s message was still alive even though he wasn’t. This had a profound effect on me that I did not truly realize until later in life.

Look out for the ordinary people making an extraordinary difference in your life and community! Take the time to thank them.
Love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Martin Brossman (919) 847-4757

Connect with me on: Google+

Business Coaching: You need mud and guts to build a log cabin

Log Cabin - Martin Brossman

Photo by Anora McGaha

Moving from salaried to self-employment often takes some core behavioral changes.

In my business coaching practice over the years I noticed a pattern with very smart salaried professionals who left the corporate world and went into business for themselves.  They generally would not know where they had to have their work close to an exact fit and where they could fill in later, having a plan for refining that area when needed.

Carrying over corporate workplace “rules”

My observation was that there is a sort of unconscious legacy from the employer-employee brand of productivity. When you are an employee on a fixed salary, your employer does not mind if you work 40 hours on a project or 80 hours on it since it costs them the same. But when you are the business you can’t run a business that way and succeed.

Part two of this corporate carry-over is not realizing how much time in a “day job” is spent avoiding the possibility of criticism. I was working with a newly self-employed client who got their first very bad review on-line and was devastated by it. I told them this was the best thing that could happen to them because learning how to respond and learning how to stay centered in the presence of real criticism occurs to help us develop the muscle of recovering faster the next time.

These two examples are common challenges of someone transferring from working for someone else to working for oneself. Your time really is MONEY and if you want to have it all together you will miss the market. A mentor said to me once when I was reviewing my own shortcomings,” What do you have when you have your stuff all together? Tightly packed stuff ready to blow.” Look at history, the more you study famous people that made a real difference, the more you will find some aspect of their life that was just not all together. And chances are if they had it all together they may have never had the time to make the difference they did.

If you build it you’ll need mud

To build a log cabin in the 1800’s you had to use clay or mud to fill in the cracks, and you were always at risk of the elements destroying it. It took courage to build something like this that could be taken away quickly with a big enough storm. If you wanted the wood to fit perfectly without the need of mud it would take an infinite amount of time to find the perfect logs. Not to mention the rock foundation needed to make sure the logs were kept off the ground to keep them from rotting (very bad at the bottom of your log cabin).

Now I am not encouraging you to just be quick and sloppy; I simply want you to choose what level of precision is needed to move fast enough in your business to not lose all the competitive advantage of getting your offering or product out. One of the points that Bill Davis of Team Nimbus always promotes is that the biggest competitive advantage of a small business is speed of execution. If you want to change how you greet people on the phone, for example, you just do it. But if McDonalds wants to change their greeting it will take some time at a global level.

The secret recipe for guts

Many ex-corporate people damage their competitive advantage because they don’t understand how their corporate jobs may have taught them skills that are counter-productive to being self-employed.  Also, maneuvering through the new transparent social media-driven marketplace, they can be derailed by public criticism on the Web. This is where guts or courage will grow if you let it. Courage is developed in healthy people by taking thousands of micro risks, not just big reckless ones. You almost need to get some real criticism where you get knocked off your horse enough so you can develop the muscle to see what occurred, learn fast from it and get back on track.

Changing your vocabulary for success

So where are you trying to “get it just right” instead of getting it good enough so you can focus on the few key items that need to be very accurate?  Instead of saying I can never be “that expert”, ask yourself what smaller part of your field you can claim some expert knowledge in. (This does not mean I am encouraging more self-proclaimed experts, we seem to have plenty of them.)

Here are two questions to help recharge your goals. Where can you contribute a useful perspective from your own experience that may be of value to someone else instead of trying to be an all-knowing expert? Are you taking enough risk that someone might criticize you? if not, you are probably not playing big enough to make a business successful.

I’ve heard that people at the end of life do not say, ” I wish I did not do X. They say, ” I wish I had at least tried and even failed X, Y and Z”. My friend, Pat Howlett, has a gem of advice for new businesses:  fail fast and fail often. To that I’ll add, don’t be reckless, but alter your relationship to the word failure. This will make you more powerful than those who try to “admit failure”. Saying “ I failed” is different than ” I am a failure”. The former can be said with power: “I failed, what can I learn, let’s move on.”


by Martin Brossman – Success Coach – Call for your coaching session (919) 847-4757


Life Coaching and Training – Be careful with justifying “tough love” in training and coaching

Success and Life Coach Martin Brossman giving a Keynote addressWhen I teach or coach. I love having just enough edge to keep people engaged. But I have discovered that if you go too far you can injure, or drive people away.  As Pat Howlett says, I have made every mistake in the book at least once and sometimes seem to have to repeat it a few times before I learn from it. One time I made a very mild joking comment to a guy in a class I was teaching and then, after the break, noticed he had left. I had a gut sense something was off and called the woman in charge. She checked with him and found out that he thought I was making fun of him in front of the class.  From my perspective, I had actually made a comment with the intention to validate him, but my intention did not matter. Communication is based on the response you get, not what YOU think you communicated. Not attending to this is not teaching, it is broadcasting, poorly. I got permission to talk to him and said, I notice that you left and am concerned I may have said something to offend you. He said no (which did not match what I knew) and I said, in a different way, the validating statement I made to him. He then said that someone “might” have misunderstood that and I thanked him for pointing that out. I was driving back home at the time and we talked for about 30 min. He then told me what he was doing and I made my best effort to give him real added value for the time, followed by making sure he could get access to the content he missed.

This experience helped tune me in to recognize what seems to be a trend in justifying a type of “tough love,” even from presenters and coaches. For example, asking questions in front of the room like, “Who STILL does not have a Facebook page?” in a tone that is showing those who raise their hands as stupid, like that presenter has the right to embarrass someone in front of the room.  If you are going to be tough you have to have earned enough trust to do it .And if it is in the room you have to make sure you leave them highly empowered. I truly have made this mistake before but now I watch that edge very carefully.  It is the line between being evocative and provocative.

For a coaching example, I remember one day where I had two very different clients (the details have been changed some to protect confidentiality).  The one in morning was a former line backer. Very big and tall, an intimidating guy and really smart. We were not making progress and I don’t take money from people I cannot make progress with. Most of the time I just come to an agreement to take a break and sometimes I see it is valuable for them to take a break to integrate what we have done, so they know they can do it on their own. Half way through our session in his office I just laid into him about the fact that I was going to fire him if his BS of manipulation did not stop right now. I then described in great detail the strategy I had figured out about how he manipulated people. He was almost pinned up against the wall with me letting him have it. He agreed to work, and I will never forget two things: the look in his secretary’s eyes when I left, and his walking me to my car with tears in his eyes when he said “Thanks, I really did not realize how I intimidate and manipulate to get my way, and how much life I have missed doing that.” Then that afternoon I worked with a women who said, “To figure out what I need to do next in my life I would have to bring a bunch of stuff to your office and show it to you.  We both sat on the floor with the things around us, and I had her take her time to explain each item and how it moved her. I asked questions and made sure I understood each item. Then I really came up with the core purpose of her life and how it tied to what she needed to do to feed herself. Clearly the same “tough love” approach I had used earlier with the linebacker would have been true violence to this gentle client.

Using the right level of engagement is what is required. My commitment in teaching and in coaching is to do my best to see through the eyes of every person in front of me and speak to that, even if it is 500 people. Listen to what really is needed, not simply applying one technique or another. If a little toughness is needed I make sure I have earned the right to use that by demonstrating compassion first. If I make a mistake, I also make the effort to clean it up–not try to justify it by making something wrong with them.  My commitment is to come from compassion and to be willing to do what it takes to make my clients’ and students’ goals a reality. Sometimes I do a great job with that and sometimes I need to learn something new.  At times advisers wanted me to move away from being a “coach” since almost every one calls themselves a coach today and  it really is not a profession like lawyer or doctor. To me coaching is what I do…being in the trenches with my clients as though it is my life at stake…not being a tough drill sergeant on the sidelines or just a cheerleader.

I welcome your honest views on this and if you would like to discuss coaching or training with you contact me.
Martin Brossman
Success coach, Trainer, Author
Be well,
Martin Brossman
Raleigh NC (919) 847-4757 – Washington DC (202) 362-3166




“Should My Business Be on Google Plus?”

There are no black-and-white answers to questions like this, so I’ll answer this question with a few other questions. What benefit(s) do you see in being there? If you develop a presence on Google+, will you have time to meaningfully contribute on a regular basis? Are your customers or potential customers on Google+? If so, what are they doing there?

My honest take: wait. At this point, the future of Google+ is uncertain. They are competing directly with Facebook. Most people on Google+ are also on Facebook, so your time is probably better spent there. I might make an exception if you work for a social media or PR firm, if you’re a Virtual Assistant, or if you’re in any situation where your clients specifically expect you to stay up to date with Google+.

As with any social media network, I would strongly suggest that you formulate specific goals before signing up for another social network. Also, don’t buy another horse unless you have time to feed it.