From Dan Peña – Executive Coach and Mentor to the High Performer.

Dear Friend and Subscriber,

In recent weeks I have been globetrotting selling an investment idea. It is not a new idea, but it is different vis-à-vis the current sentiment in the financial world. Of course what better time to evoke change than during a time of financial chaos? I could relate countless stories when I have counselled ad nauseum to go against the conventional wisdom, but I won't! I made a quasi guarantee / promise to someone, I respect a great deal, to keep these letters short.

Instead I will use two of my favourite quotes by men I have great respect for, who have put their mark on the investment business and financial world. One was one of the great investment gurus of the past and the other is currently, the greatest investor of the last 40 years and perhaps of all time. In fact I am going to make these quotes the topics of my keynote speeches for the coming year! Of course I might not get as many invitations when they, "The Corporate World", hear what my topic will be for 2003!

Sir Siegmund Warburg, founder of what is now called UBS Warburg was a living financial legend in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and into the 70's. Warren Buffet, the "Sage of Omaha" as he is called has been the benchmark for investment excellence through the 70's, 80's and 90's till now. Together they cover the spectrum of the last 60 plus years. Strangely enough they both said about the same thing, in very different ways. They both had some very direct words to describe, what is referred to as the "herd mentality" of the financial community. A mentality that is alive and extremely well all over the corporate and financial world!

"The primary point seems to me always to be the quality of the service and the courage to persist in giving well-considered advice, no matter how unpopular that might be at times."

"Most managers have very little incentive to make the intelligent-but-with-some-chance-of-looking-like-an-idiot decision. Their personal gain/loss ratio is all too obvious. Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press."

All my 32 year career I have fought conventional wisdom vigorously! I have also been a very strong proponent of extreme discipline! Whilst there are cultural reasons around the world justifying different ways don't work everywhere, this is a very small %. France is different than California – True! Germany is different than Australia – True! And the UK is different than Italy – True! The real issue is "high performance people" around the world are 98% the same. My extensive experience shows different cultures, or should I say mediocre people in different cultures, use the "culture card" as an excuse to under perform. Or in many cases, they haven't been exposed to enough of the world to understand there aren't that many differences. As I have often said, "Playing not to lose, isn't playing to win."

An extreme example of this culture card would be if you worked and lived only on a small island (not the UK) in the middle of nowhere, all your business life, you would have a very different view of the world.

In my world wide recent search many, in fact almost all very senior execs, admitted under pressure, what I've written above is true beyond any reasonable argument! Yet, in most cases they still couldn't take the brave move. Playing not to lose (personally) is still their "comfort zone." I stopped asking myself why long ago! I have not allowed it to deter me, though I have mellowed a little in recent years. Doing things successfully outside the box is a rush! Doing things when told I can't, still is a great rush! My book "Your First 100 Million" lists my "You Can't Do That's" – as do my web site Start your own list NOW!

During this globetrotting I have also had the pleasure of visiting with three friends. One is a former working colleague. The other two are people I have on going business relationships with now. All three have one thing in common. A trait I have written about for a very long time! One is in his mid sixties, one mid forties and one is thirty. Even with this great age disparity they share the desire to accomplish their dreams. They have goals and things that still get them up in the morning with a jump in their step. At thirty you would expect that to be the case anyway. But the thirty year old has endured more adversity than you can imagine. Most would have chosen another endeavour and given up on their goals way before thirty. The mid-sixty year old has accomplished a great deal, plus looking the big "D" in the eye. Death blinked! In addition to his dreams he has gone on to help others stare down the big "D". The mid-forty year old, an accomplished world-class senior executive leader has succeeded way ahead of the curve and could easily sit back on his accomplishments. That would certainly be the "safe corporate CYA" thing to do! He hasn't!

All three are fighting the fight everyday! All have benchmarks for excellence! All are benchmarks of excellence!

If today were a test, how would you grade yourself? Remember what gets measured gets done! Measure yourself each day! Live every day as if it were your last! The greatest risk is not taking one! Play to win!

To Your Quantum Leap

Daniel S. Peña, Sr