The Power of Nice

This week I feel I made it big on a business deal I’ve been working on for months.

I say “feel” because I’m not so sure if I won as big as I think I did.

A more objective person could come along and say: “Oh boy Hannah – you got the short end of the stick here!” But you know what frankly I don’t care about a hypothetical “other person”.

I  feel good and that’s what matters.

The greatest part of my win isn’t that I feel as though everything went my way – the greatest part of my win lies in that I am so proud of me.

I am so proud that I stuck to what I felt was important to me as a human being and all the while I really really  feel I was really really  nice throughout the process.

It was a project that had caused me anxiety – many times I didn’t feel like being nice and I could have just let rip – but I chose to be nice instead.

I’m first to admit that I’m not the nicest person I know. And I can now share with you that never has it been more clear to me how much niceness has become a lost commodity.

I think, (and I’m speaking from personal experience here) people are afraid of being nice because somewhere along the way they learned that being nice meant losing in the long run.

Some have learned that being nice means you’ll get walked over and taken huge advantage of.

The saddest part I guess is sometimes seeing some people  who’ve been turned into monsters on cheap steroids because they are terrified that even the slightest smile will lose them all power and credibility they have managed to scrape together in their careers.

Even worse than that perhaps are people who’ve allowed bitterness to set in. They seem to not see that the people they do business with do not deserve to be treated from their place of bitterness. And the question I ask is this: why drain those you come into contact with when it’s so much easier to be nice?

I’d like to share with you one of the incidents I’m least proud of in my career: I once worked with a young man who I thought I was meeting for the first time.

“You look really happy today,” he said to me.

“What makes you say that?” I asked beaming.

“You’re smiling,” he answered.

“But I’m always smiling,” I answered.

He didn’t say anything to my last remark.

I then got the feeling that this was not  our first meeting. So I prodded and eventually he told me that he had worked with me before. I hadn’t been very nice to him, he said. In my mind this was our first meeting. But he had, for what seemed like years, carried around my horrid treatment and behavior toward him.

He went on to tell me that after that terrible day we’d worked together he saw me often and all he could think of was what a bitch I was.

Sorry I try not to use horrible words- but he was expressing himself and he could find no better word to describe me at the time. And he was right. From how he described I’d treated him- there was no better word…

I am so glad I had the opportunity to profusely apologize to him. I didn’t excuse my behavior (because quite frankly I don’t remember the incident) I just apologized. He graciously accepted my apology and we started a new page.

On the flip side of that: One of the proudest moments of my life happened just last week.

A woman sent me a message. She told me she knew me from when we were kids. Try as I might I could not remember her. (Ok so I don’t have the greatest memory). But from the way she spoke and the details she gave me of how we knew each other – I knew she was for real.

In short, she then told me how nice I’d been to her when we were children. She remembered an item of clothing I gave her. And she remembered that I’d styled her hair. Even now I’m on the verge of tears each time I think of her writing the following to me: “You made us feel that we were the best kids in our area.”

She’s a grown woman now, married with three children. And yet she, for all these years had, carried, in her heart and memory, something nice I did for her so many many years ago.

Ask me the legacy I’d like to leave behind and I’ll tell you the latter.

My first editor was a nice boss. Most times I did so much more than was expected in my job just to prove to her that all the niceness she poured on me was not wasted. She always told me how brilliant I was and what an amazing career she saw ahead of me.

Most bosses are so terrified to compliment their subordinates either because their jealous of the brilliance they see or they feel any show of niceness is an indication of weakness.

I can tell you that long after I’ve flown away from the safety of my first editor’s niceness I still have her on a platinum pedestal because it takes an amazing strong person to catapult another to greatness.

When doing business or working remember that the world is not a very nice place. Most people are forced to deal with not very nice people.

I have tried the “hard-core bitch” approach in business and in my career- it hasn’t worked for me. I’m glad. Because honestly – I think there is so much more power in being nice. And the even deeper truth is I want people to remember me as the one that honoured them not the one who treated them like trash.

It’s true what Maya Angelou once said: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So going back to my “win”- maybe I could have gotten more out of the deal had I been  less nice – but I am so happy with what I got. Simply because I believe that in a world where nice is so rare I’d like to believe I was a breath of fresh air. And I’m kinda guessing that going simply on how happy my clients were – I’m sure they’ll be sending more business my way. And even if I don’t get another cent from them – I’m proud of the impression I believe I made.

No matter which way I look at it – the price of nice was totally worth it.


The Pursuit of Wow

When I was fourteen I heard a sermon from Dr Myles Munroe that would forever change my life. And haunt me.

As I sat among hundreds of people listening to this Bahamian preacher – I, for the first time heard about purpose. For the first time in all my fourteen years I was being told that I had been created for a purpose and it would be a travesty to never fulfill that purpose.

I became obsessed with this notion of “fulfilling my life’s purpose”

I pondered and agonized over it for years.

When I did finally “find” my purpose I couldn’t articulate to others what I was going through. Now I can. The clarity came as I begun reading Purple Cow.

In Purple Cow Seth Godin speaks of a book Tom Peters wrote years ago. It was called the The Pursuit of Wow. Godin describes The Pursuit of Wow as “A visionary book that described why the only products with a future were those created by passionate people”.

What dawned on me? You may ask. It’s that simple. Purpose is passion.

One of the things Myles said in that unforgettable sermon went along the lines of: “The richest places in the world are graveyards. They are full of unwritten books, unpublished poetry, incomplete dreams… unfulfilled purpose.”

So the issue that plagued the better part of my teens and beyond was: What could I leave the world? I didn’t want to die with all the great stuff that was in me. But the question was what was that stuff!

If we go on Tom Peters’ belief that stuff is passion.

I’d tried many ventures. Most had been to generate an income. Eventually when I thought I’d found the perfect venture that would catapult me to a healthy revenue flow I called my dear friend Mercy and asked her: “Merce do you think I’ll make money from this business.”

And Mercy answered, “Hannah you’re asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking yourself is am I passionate about this business? That will determine how successful you’ll be.”

With regard to finding the right business for me- truer words were never spoken.

Purpose is passion.

That thing that you love and find such joy in- that is your passion. It is is your purpose.

That thing that causes people to say WOW when they experience you through your work- that is your passion. And that is your purpose.

That thing that overflows in you, that you’re just dying to give and share  even if you receive no monetary return for it – that is passion that is your purpose.

That thing that drives you to enrich the lives of others even when it costs you precious time, sometimes money and yet provides no tangible reward but brings you inexplicable joy – that is your passion. That is your purpose. The joy you get from doing it- that is the reward. And in most cases you’ll find that you’ll earn a healthy living from living out your passion.

There were so many times I’d envy people who would glow in a very annoying manner and blurt out: “Oh I just LOVE what I do!” You’ll find that even the richest people will envy this bunch of irritants.

Why? There’s such fulfillment in doing what you love that no amount of money can bring.

After all is that not what we all seek – joy and happiness?

I can honestly say that finally I am doing what I love.

What makes my business different to the million others that offer what I do? I’m so passionate about what I do I’m willing to go to crazy edges for it.

This is not just about caring about customers and clients because those come and go – it’s about creating something that those that do come can walk away touched, changed, joyful.

Sometimes you may think – oh but if I do that how will I compete? First get the knowledge you need to be great at it – whatever it is. Second – don’t lose sight of what you love i.e. Don’t cut corners for money. When you’re passionate you will offer stuff that nothing can compete with. People will come back to you again and again because of the experience.

Maya Angelou once said this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will ever forget how you made them feel.”

Here’s an example:

We have a seafood store in our neighborhood. I go there for my seafood not because it’s the most fantastic place to buy seafood but because of Gary the shopkeeper.

I’m a tremendous cook but I SUCK at making seafood. But not if I buy from Gary.

Usually when I walk into his store he’s locked away in his office – but when he sees me he comes out with a jovial, “Hello Hannah!”

And I tell Gary what I feel like eating that day. He takes me to whatever seafood I fancy for the day and tells me exactly how to make it. When I’m extra nervous about a new dish he calls me at home later to see if my concoction was successful (with his guidance it always is).

Will I go anywhere else for my seafood? Not as long as Gary lives and not as long I’m in driving distance of him.

For me, Gary doesn’t sell seafood, he shares his passion for seafood and in the mix just happens to peddle some seafood while he’s at it.

Gary is a kindred spirit for I too finally live the joy of doing what I love.

I go to bed thinking of it. I breathe it every moment I get and awake every morning joyful to have the opportunity once more to do what I love.

How did I stumble upon it? I was blessed enough to get to the place where I could dump all my inhibitions in the garbage and truly focus on my pulse – my heartbeat and that rhythm that has been playing in the background of my life for as long as I can remember.

I am no longer haunted. I’m free!

When you live out your passion, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you, you are fulfilling your purpose on this earth. And therein lies the joy we all seek.


Hannah Viviers is a financial journalist and founder of HV Public Speaking

The more you learn the more you’ll earn

If you think this post is too long – you’re in trouble.

I’m hungry for knowledge – famished even.

I’ve been gobbling business literature as though my very life depends on it. Well my business does.

My recent obsession and increased appetite for amassing as much knowledge as I possibly can came from the need to, in a nutshell, earn more.

A few years ago I went on an MBA level program. That did much to trigger the entrepreneurial bug that was gnawing at me.

A few months ago I read Free Prize Inside and I’m a different business woman.

So revolutionary was this book’s call to a different way of marketing and doing business it fuelled me to start a project I had only been talking about until then.

Before reading the book I was overwhelmed with making a decision regarding my career.

I’d just had my baby and all of a sudden my whole world morphed into another planet. Everything I thought about where my life was heading and everything that seemed so important before paled in the face of raising a happy, healthy, confident, passionate and driven human being.

Being a mom took centre stage. But the thought of being a stay-at-home mom and losing my financial independence terrified me. So I begun to scour my brain for what I could do to earn an income that would allow me to spend as much time as my son needed from me.

I prayed. I stressed. I prayed some more. And then – I kid you not – it just came to me. As a first time mom I had so many questions. The internet was a wonderful resource but there were questions other moms I knew seemed to answer better.

There were some issues about being a mom that were so deeply personal and in some cases highly controversial they left me confused and doubtful of how to act in my son’s best interest. And thus came my decision to start a blog about such issues. At first I started blogging about what I was going through as a mom – I found a gazillion similar experiences from other moms on the net – and so my blog I knew was nothing new and it surely wasn’t unique. But my husband said to me, “The fact that you’re running it – that’s what will make it a success.” I took that encouragement and ran with it.

Ok I take that back – I didn’t run immediately. First I was paralyzed by fear. I was a new mom. I knew so little about being a great mom that some may say I knew nothing. And then how would I earn an income from the site? There were so many resources like mine. Some were just way too advanced, way too established for me to compete with – I was entering territory that I, not only knew so little about, but was not beefed up to enter.

Then my step-son told me about a book he was reading that was revolutionizing how he viewed his business. He’s a graphic designer – there’s a dime a dozen for those too – and yet he was speaking with a new found confidence I hadn’t heard from him before. He lent me the book. Well let’s just say that after reading the intro of the book – the paralysis I’d suffered from begun to disappear.

By the time I was done reading the book I had a very good idea of where I was going with my new found passion and I started writing down some of the fantastic ideas of how I would make it work.

My site is still a work in progress (we’re launching this week! Yay!) But here’s the thing – I’m learning that my passion is not enough. Sitting at home blogging and loving what I’m doing isn’t going to get what I’m doing to market if I don’t business up. And the only way to business up is to learn more about business. Duh!

This seems so obvious but I cannot tell you how many people I meet who have tremendous earning potential but are battling financially and tell me “Oh Hannah I just don’t have a business mind!”

Then get one! That’s my response.

You won’t get a business mind by osmosis you have to actually go out and get it.

I do believe that some people are born entrepreneurs – but even they fail if they don’t take the time to step back from their God-given drive and learn how business works.

I know people who are in serious debt not because they don’t have money but because they don’t know how money works.

And then I know people who earn meager salaries but seem well-off because they know how money works. Most of these people took the time to learn how money worked and made the little they had work for them.

A few years ago I went to a talk where the speaker advised us to look at what poor people do and not do it. This sounds condescending and snobbish but I’ve also heard that if all the money in the world were distributed equally to all peoples of the earth – within a year those who were rich would be rich again and those who were poor would be poor again.

Don’t believe me?

A few years ago a young film maker in the US shot a very interesting documentary on what a homeless man would do with a hundred thousand dollars.

His film crew identified an unsuspecting homeless person and began following him around. A while into the film the crew set it up so that the homeless man would “find” a briefcase with a hundred thousand dollars in it – cash. He kept it. And by the time the film was finished he had spent every last cent and was HOMELESS AGAIN!

The homeless man went on Oprah – and get this – he blamed society that he had lost the ONE- HUNDRED-THOUSAND-DOLLARS!

Believe me now?

Back to the talk I attended: The speaker went on to tell us that he found the dynamics on a plane very interesting. According to him if one took a peek at the folks flying economy, one would find that some fliers there were sleeping, others looking out the window, some reading magazines, or novels, others watching the in-flight movie or listening to something or other from some gadget, or playing games on some or other gadget – go take a peek at the fliers (on the same flight) in business or first class – more often than not he said these were either working on their lap tops, reading newspapers or business literature of some sort – in short they were doing something to increase their knowledge.

And he left us with this line, “You’ve got to learn more to earn more.”

I think of short distance track athletes. Being super-fast is a gift they have. But even they need coaches to teach them how to get the most out of their bodies. The more they learn about certain fitness techniques and the more they train the better they get.

Why will a discerning company pay more for a person who has studied more? This is one of the reasons I urge my clients to always include literature they are currently reading in their résumés. It shows a prospective employer that they are pro-active in gaining knowledge.

Reading will expose to you to tremendous ideas. But you have to be strategic in what you’re reading. Don’t waste time on reading how to be an amazing golfer when you have no intention to be a golfer (unless you want to impress on the golf course while networking).

Think of buying books, taking courses, attending workshops and conferences not as expenses but investments in your career. Because ultimately – what you learn and how much you learn will determine what you earn.

Get reading!

P.S. I’m currently reading Purple Cow.

Example from my résumé:

Business Literature I’m reading

I have just completed Business Writer Seth Godin’s Free Prize Inside which delves into his theory of a revolutionary way of marketing.

This way of marketing is one that has seen the successes of companies such as Google and the continued fortitude of giants such as

I am now reading Godin’s first eBook, Ideavirus which champions individuals to create fantastic new ideas and spread them in massive proportions.

I am also reading The Brand Called You by Tom Peters which is about how one can create a formidable brand of themselves in the marketplace.

One of my favourite Peters’ articles includes Green is green! Not! The piece chronicles the greats such as Steve Jobs founder of Apple who not only reached new frontiers but created them.

Hannah Viviers is a financial journalist and founder of HV Public Speaking

You wanna “change the world.” Really?

So one of my brothers will probably hate me for saying this – but I’ll ask his  forgiveness later.

He’s been talking about writing a book I think South Africa desperately needs.

It’s a simple, quite obvious, form of marketing which is why I think he’ll do so well with it.

Problem – he’s still just talking about it.

Yeah he’s been real busy working killer hours, taking exams – and the list goes on… but when you’ve got a dream – something’s gotta give. It’s just gotta.

I’ve a really smart friend (let’s call her Mercy) (ok so that is her real name) anyway – I remember a conversation we had a while ago. In it I told her of all the things I wanted to do with my life and my career but just didn’t have the time or the energy for.

“Excuses,” she said.

I told her I was not making excuses I really was – and I proceeded to give her a whole list of reasons I couldn’t pursue what I really wanted to.

Her response was this: “Every time you say you don’t have time or you don’t have the energy to pursue what you really love – you are saying you don’t think you’re worth it. You’re saying whatever it is that you say you love so much is not worth your time or your energy.”

And then I didn’t have much else to say. She was right.

I’ve often heard that the things that are really worth doing are terrifying.

Sometimes the reason it scares the crap out of you is because what you see yourself achieving seems so much bigger than you. It should be. Otherwise where would greatness come from if we all did only what we could?

Sometimes the reason pursuing what you really want to paralyses you with fear: it demands that you claw your way out of your comfort zone. And that can REALLY SUCK sometimes.

Ask any successful person (who had to work for it from scratch) if they had a clear plan of what they wanted to do to get to where they are.

Ask them if it was easy sailing.

Ask them how many times they didn’t cry or wanted to call it quits because it was way harder than they ever thought it would be.

Ask them about how scary it was being broke and/or being ridiculed.

We look at the great – smiling their successful “I’ve arrived” smiles and we envy their stature.

What we don’t see (so often) are all the scars that thickened their skin while they were getting to the “arrival” point.

Working hard and reaping the rewards may sound fantastic, but it’s not that great when what you’re working hard at is not really what you want to do with your life.

I’d like to leave you with an illustration:

Most of us have more than one field in our lives.

Each field requires work and most times it’s not easy to ensure that each field receives as much care as it should.

When we drive (or walk) by our fields we can say: “I’m working hard on this – oops I’m kinda of letting that slip – and on that field over there, I’m really lazy on that one.”

If the one you’re really lazy on has the potential to define your life’s work – it may be worth tending to. The world is waiting.


Hannah Viviers is a financial journalist and founder of HV Public Speaking

Building a powerful network

May I speak with you in person?

Those are perhaps the most underestimated seven words in business.

In a world where we’ve never had more ways to communicate I agree with those who say that truly never have we been so disconnected.

In business the mostly commonly used channels of communication are emails and phone calls.

For the person who is building a reputable personal brand – this is not good enough!

Try for a while asking: May I speak with you in person?

Try this with your subordinates, your superiors, prospective employers and employees, existing clients and prospective ones, colleagues and just every one you can as you’re making your way to the top or retirement (whichever you choose).

Most times we may feel the person on the other end of the line is too busy to meet with us – but just try asking, “May I speak with you in person?”

Better still try a more assertive yet polite request: “When would be a good time for us to speak in person?”

Meeting people in person does one very powerful thing – it brands you on their minds – maybe forever.

Well that all depends on how you deal with that “in-person” meeting.

There may be opportunities that come your way that you might not be interested on taking right now – still ask the person offering (be it a project or job) “When would be a good time for us to meet and discuss this?”

On occasion you may have a brilliant plan or request to ask of people you do business with. Should their response be negative take the no as an opportunity to meet the person on the other end of the conversation with “I totally understand your position. When would be a good time to chat about this in person?”

Structure the request in such a way that the person on the other end does not see the meeting as a waste of their time.

When you are granted the opportunity be WOW!

Dress as though your career depends on it (it does). Prepare for the meeting as though you were going to pitch for your dream job (ultimately you are).

Be courteous and as one of my friends says, “Be confident but not arrogant.”

Be the kind of person you would like to business with.

Handle yourself in such a way that even though you walk away with what may seem like a “no” it’s a BIG FAT YES to you as a credible, fantastic, person to do business with.

And herein lies the difference between a person who’s creating a powerful network every chance they get – and one who’ll probably be constantly failing to grow their business/career because they’re not enriching their network.

As one guy put it: “Your network determines your net worth.”

Whatever it costs you to make that connection – be it time or monetary (buying lunch or tickets to a rugby game or a motivational dinner/conference) don’t see this as an expense – see it as a long term investment for where you’re going.

Be assured that if you get this right – word will spread about you.

Capitalize on a strategy so few people underestimate: human beings are social beings and still need to connect in a way social cyber networks will never satisfy.


Hannah Viviers is a financial journalist and founder of HV Public Speaking

Great is the new ok

While most people in my time zone were sleeping this morning here’s what I eventually figured out – there isn’t time for “just great.”

Today I found out that really cutting edge companies treat their prospective employees with tremendous pizzazz so that even before the candidate they want works for them they are already the employer of choice.

I also found out that for people who are more concerned with developing their careers than merely receiving a “better” paycheck – interviewing a prospective employer during your interview is not a bad thing.

Far too many people work for paychecks instead of seeing each move as an opportunity to get them where they want to get in their careers.

A short while ago I found out that I should look at things other than pay and happiness (for the short term).

I found out that getting published has become one of the easiest thing in the world.

And with a smart way of using the internet – being famous just got a whole lot simpler. And no it’s not by having a million friends on facebook.

In short – all these changes didn’t happen overnight. Nothing really does – except mushrooms in crap.

So yeah it’s hard work. But consider how much work you put into your current job (which you’re probably not so crazy about). How weird is that? Working hard at something you hate to get to somewhere you’re not really keen on getting into…

And I found out that being just great wasn’t good enough. I had to create a whole new  level of greatness.

Why? Because yahoo! was great before Google took over, Google was phenomenal until facebook came along… you get the picture.

Anyone who says everything that could be done has already been done and there’s “nothing new” – well they’re just lazy – and bitter that they didn’t come up with facebook or something else spectacular.

So I step out today with much trepidation in a world that seems to have changed so much since last I checked.

But also I’m excited because now I’m at the place where I have a pretty darn good idea of how I can get to writing my very own check – with lots of zeros.

Hannah Viviers is a financial journalist and founder of HV Business Training