Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Veteran Entrepreneurship and Lean Business Start-Up


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Michael I. Kaplan is an event speaker, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and military veteran.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The BEST Leaders Know the TRUE Value of Change. Do YOU?



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The BEST leaders live by a truism: ordinary people make decisions; extraordinary people make change.  The best leaders know 4 valuable truths about change, beyond the obvious advantages taught to everyone. I’m going to share them with you now. 



Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

1 Question Can Reveal Your Life's True Purpose





As we advance through professional life, everyone we meet seems to ask the same questions. What motivates you? What are your goals? What are your talents and skills? Those questions are useful and necessary, but they don’t touch on the most critical issue: your purpose in life.


Michael I. Kaplan is an event speaker, military veteran, bestselling author and entrepreneur.  You're invited to subscribe to his YouTube Channel, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Money CAN Buy Happiness: Give Me 6 Minutes and I'll Prove It To You





I’d like to invite you to join me in a thought experiment. It’s a plot with an unexpected twist, designed to challenge beliefs, and look at the age-old question, “Can money buy happiness?,” from an entirely new perspective. 

This isn’t about how you view MONEY; it’s about how you view HAPPINESS. So, give me 6 minutes and let’s talk about it.  Click the YouTube video link below to start the conversation.


Michael I. Kaplan is an event speaker, military veteran, bestselling author and entrepreneur.  You're invited to subscribe to his YouTube Channel, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Discovering Happiness and Life's Purpose


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As a professional speaker and author, Michael I. Kaplan’s mission is to challenge beliefs, and change perspectives, and get to the truth. It’s all about discovering truth. The videos in this playlist are designed to do just that. Don’t be too quick to judge; nothing is ever as it seems. Don’t judge the videos by their titles. The plots always have a twist, and the ending is always unexpected.

Enjoy this new playlist, and until next time, have an outstanding day and remember: chance favors the prepared mind.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

6 Military Leadership Principles for Peak Business Performance


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The United States military is the greatest leadership school on the planet, regardless of the branch of service.  Having served on both sides of the military and business equation, I can say without hesitation – whether you’re a small business on Main Street, or a Fortune 500 CEO in the C-Suite – military leadership principles are invaluable to your business. That’s true for individuals and organizational units as well.

The United States military is the greatest leadership school on the planet, regardless of the branch of service.  Having served on both sides of the military and business equation, I can say without hesitation – whether you’re a small business on Main Street, or a Fortune 500 CEO in the C-Suite – military leadership principles are invaluable to your business. That’s true for individuals and organizational units as well.
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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Hidden Value of Hiring Military Veterans


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If you’re a corporate hiring manager or a professional recruiter, when you see the phrase “military veteran” on a job candidate’s resume, what image pops immediately into your mind?  If you want to discover the real value of hiring veteran talent, look beyond the skill sets, and focus on our mindsets instead. What you’ll find might surprise you.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a Military Veteran with 25 years of experience with entrepreneurial small business ventures, and a Notable Alumni from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia.  

He is a passionate advocate for veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce and consults for those considering the pursuit of entrepreneurial small business ventures.

Michael is a professional speaker, bestselling author, and instructor who designs and instructs professional development training programs for academic institutions, Chambers of Commerce, and business organizations.

For further information -- or to discuss a speaking event -- please contact Michael via email at tempestpublishing@gmail.com.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

YouTube Video Series: 10 Myths Limiting Your Success


If you have dreams and aspirations to live a successful life – and we ALL do – don’t let “dream killers” stop you from pursuing a great future with these ten common myths. Know the truth: they are false excuses used by people with no intention to succeed

With these myths (lies and excuses) out of the way, there’s nothing to stop you from pursuing your passion and purpose in life. In this video playlist, professional speaker and bestselling author Michael I. Kaplan destroys the myths of “Special Advantage” as a reason for success, and as an excuse not to realize your goals.

The content for this YouTube Video Playlist was taken from the 2017 edition of "The Prior-Service Entrepreneur: Veteran Entrepreneurship and Lean Business Start-Up" (May 2017).  Click the images below to watch the videos.



10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  INTRODUCTION
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  INTRODUCTION


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  GENETIC ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  GENETIC ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  INTELLIGENCE ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  INTELLIGENCE ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  TALENT ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  TALENT ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  INNOVATION ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  INNOVATION ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  WINNER'S ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  WINNER'S ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  PERSONALITY ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  PERSONALITY ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  RISK-TAKER ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  RISK-TAKER ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  GENDER ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  GENDER ADVANTAGE


10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  GREED ADVANTAGE
10 Myths Limiting Your Success:  GREED ADVANTAGE


Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Latest YouTube Videos from Michael I. Kaplan


Latest Videos




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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Battlefields and Businesses: Success Requires Situational Awareness





TOTAL AWARENESS:  In the military, it’s called “360-Degree Situational Awareness.” In the business world, it’s called “focus and attention to detail.”  In both worlds, it’s a requirement to be successful, and the person who has it has a distinct competitive advantage.

In this video, Michael Kaplan -- a military veteran, instructor, and bestselling author -- reveals two simple exercises to improve attention to detail, develop enhanced memory skills, and explains how this competitive advantage can be leveraged in the business world.


Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Successful Negotiation Secrets: Find the 18th Camel





Negotiation ISN’T a business skill; it’s a LIFE skill we use in business.  Life requires you to negotiate EVERY day -- in your relationships, career, and daily interactions with people you meet -- so you may as well be exceptional at it.  

In this short video, Michael discusses a successful negotiation strategy that highly-trained professionals use for a distinct competitive advantage: they find the 18th camel in every situation.


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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Monday, June 5, 2017

5 Questions to Ask when Researching your Business Concept





Your entrepreneurial DNA has kicked into overdrive – you’re motivated, optimistic and ready for independence – and in the back of your mind you’re making plans to launch a venture. In between your innovative thought and a successful business launch, a few steps must be taken to ensure your idea is viable. 

The first (and most important) step in evaluating your idea is conducting market research.

It’s understandable that aspiring entrepreneurs get excited about their ideas; after all, that’s what entrepreneurs do best. They experience an epiphany that serves as the foundation of an idea, envision all of the problems in the world this idea has the potential to solve, and begin to mentally calculate how their idea will impact a potential multi-billion dollar market. 

Unfortunately, in the midst of this burst of enthusiasm, many potential business owners consider market research to be of secondary importance.  That’s troubling for those who make that mistake, but fear not: you’re not going to make that mistake.

The thought of spending hours sifting through reams of data is not very appealing to most people, but this holds especially true for “creative types” who tend to focus on the big picture as viewed from the top of Mount Success. As a result, it is assigned secondary importance or overlooked altogether. 

That makes as much sense as buying a vehicle sight unseen and writing the check without knowing if there’s an engine under the hood.

As you conduct your initial research, keep in the back of your mind that fact that an idea that doesn’t stand up to research also doesn’t immediately make is a “loser.” Ideas are everywhere and can be mixed, blended and adjusted to fit the market conditions you discover. Your initial concept may be great with a little “tweaking” here and there.

1. Is it unique? A concept can be unique by being so innovative that no one else is doing it at all, or because you have little or no competition in your particular area. If you think your concept is unique but a Google search reveals there are 700 companies in your local area already engaging in your concept, you need to rethink your idea.

2. Is it viable? When entrepreneurs tell me they have the next best idea for XYZ product or service, and all they need to make it happen is hundreds of hours of university-level research and $30 million dollars for development – neither of which they have the budget to fund – chances are the idea isn’t viable. If you have the perfect retail storefront location, but the rent is so high your business will never be profitable, the idea isn’t viable.

3. Is there a need? In a free-market economy driven by the laws of supply and demand, potential demand will dictate if your idea is needed. You could develop your idea for a latent market and create the demand yourself – larger companies do that all the time – but that tends not to be a cost effective option for start-ups. It’s much more realistic for a new business to address a need, build a cash cushion and work on latent markets at a later date.

4. Is your idea reproducible? If your business concept cannot be reproduced in your absence, your company will never grow beyond your limits. That may be fine in your mind – you never wanted to franchise or expand anyway – but what happens if something happens to you? In addition to getting vacations and enjoying quality personal time, a business that can operate in your absence can also expand and grow with unlimited potential.

5. Did you conduct a SWOT analysis? This is a structured planning method that measures your idea against its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities (problems) and Threats. This can reveal design flaws, incorrect price structures and falsely held assumptions. It will also reveal information about your customers, competitors and collaborators very quickly. SWOT matrix software is available online for free; just download, fill in the data fields and see the result. If you don’t like the results, tweak your idea and try again.

If this quick first-stage test reveals your business concept is sound, you can then move on to stage two. This is a more detailed and tedious version of the first stage – time is measured in weeks and months, not in hours – but at least you’ll be enthusiastically driven by the fact that you’re probably in possession of a winning business idea.

Take the time to do your research; to be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Successful entrepreneurs know that to be prepared for victory is preferable to being unprepared for failure. 

They also know that chance favors the prepared mind.


Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

6 Truths Entrepreneurs Know About Self-Assessment





The underlying purpose of honest self-assessment in your pursuit of a successful transition into entrepreneurship and small business start-up is rather simple: you need to develop an accurate idea of who you are and what you want

Most rational adults with a strong moral compass would agree that honesty is a virtue of the highest order. They would also be the first to affirm that honesty – in spite of the fact that it occasionally creates conflict and discord – is the best policy.

If as a society we value honesty to such a high degree, why do we have such a difficult time being honest with the one person who has the most gain from our honesty: ourselves?

We have been exposed to competing philosophies regarding honesty that cause our mind to become conflicted. On one hand, we understand that honesty is a virtue. On the other hand we have come to understand honesty – as it relates to ourselves – as a negative event. I hear those I interact with use phrases such as “the brutal truth,” “painful truth” and “the truth hurts” when approaching the topic of self- assessment. 

Not only is this terribly misguided, it is also completely unnecessary. Even worse, it’s completely impractical.

These competing messages regarding honest self-assessment result from a lack of understanding of the concept itself, and are further compounded when the process is incorrectly applied. Let me share with you now some of the insights I have developed over time with respect to the “self-assessment exercise,” both in principle and in application.

This process is especially relevant when applied to the assessment of skill sets that former wage-earners will rely upon to successfully transition into small business ownership.

1. Honesty, in and of itself, isn't painful. What is painful is the judgment we impose upon ourselves after the truth has been revealed. Objective truth free from the limitations of self-imposed judgment is the first key to success in this exercise. If your self-assessment process is to be truly productive, it needs to be as painless as possible. 

It also needs to be free from your self-imposed judgment regarding the event in question. Otherwise, while “the truth is trying to set you free,” your uncontrolled judgment is placing you back into chains as quickly as you manage to escape from them.

2. Self-assessment shouldn't be used to showcase faults. If you have ever been the recipient of the phrase, “C’mon … just be honest with yourself,” you are probably aware that whatever follows from the persons’ mouth will be negative. However, when you’re saying that phrase to yourself for the purpose of self-assessment, it should have a positive focus. 

That doesn't mean you ignore your weaknesses and previous failures; that would violate the honest spirit of an accurate self- assessment and deprive you of the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. What it does mean is you change the way you prioritize your assessment – positive strengths first and negative weaknesses last – and in so doing you change your orientation and focus.

3. Self-assessment doesn't create reality; it reveals it. Barring the most traumatic experiences that create amnesiac episodes in certain patients, it’s safe to say that most of us are aware of our own strengths, weaknesses and emotional issues. We can choose to ignore or deny them, but the truth is our response does not in any way change the fact that issues exist. 

When you engage in honest self-assessment you will not, for the most part, discover issues you did not know previously existed. What you will do is discover why they exist and how they can be reconciled to your satisfaction.

4. Self-assessment is an incremental process of discovery. When executed correctly, honest self-assessment is a gradual process that eventually becomes both comfortable and habitual. The process is continuous; once started and executed correctly your ability to self- assess in an honest manner will become second nature. Getting to that level of comfort is the challenge.

5. Self-assessment is a private process no one sees but you. Honest introspection is about freedom: freedom from judgment, freedom from external pressures and freedom from outside interference. That said, while no one can see the process of self-assessment, I can assure you that everyone will see the benefit and no one will miss the absence of falsely-held beliefs.

6. Self-assessment reduces the possibility for self-sabotage and low self-esteem. By knowing what truly drives you – embracing your strengths and acknowledging your areas of opportunity – you tend to make better decisions based on objective fact. Logical decisions based on fact tend to yield a higher probability of success (by minimizing the opportunity for failure), which in turn leads to higher self-esteem. There’s nothing quite like the victory of a success to boost ones’ confidence.

When you rationalize away the obvious, logically justify the irrational and ignore the reality you know is lurking beneath the surface you become a prime candidate for self-sabotage and low self-esteem. No one will fault you for what you aren't, and even if they do it makes no real difference at the end of the day. No one will fault you for what you are incapable of doing, and those who do make no difference anyway.

Now that the true nature of honest self-assessment has been revealed, embrace the concept of finding some areas to focus on during your introspective time. It’s easier to hit a target you can recognize and spot from a distance.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it … and chance does favor the prepared mind.


Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Message to Military Veterans Considering Entrepreneurship





Military veterans from all branches of the armed forces are a special breed apart from their civilian counterparts. Their experience as a veteran has prepared them to face unforeseen challenges, overcome insurmountable odds and demonstrate leadership in a wide variety of environments. 

Their dedication to training, ability to accept responsibility and unrelenting commitment to achieving objectives conclusively demonstrates the strength of their character.

Despite extraordinary risk, they chose to serve their country with distinction, realizing the potential reward for their patriotism could be nothing more than the ultimate sacrifice of their life. While that may be behind them it will always be a part of them; it will shape their mindset, perceptions, and responses forever. 

Their military experience has also created for them a less noticeable (albeit just as permanent) benefit: it has made them the ideal entrepreneurial role model.

The purpose in writing "The Prior-Service Entrepreneur: Veteran Entrepreneurship & Lean Business Start-Up" is two-fold. First, it is crucial to prove to veterans that despite the personal obstacles – overcoming commonly held myths, disadvantageous mindsets and the naturally occurring fears associated with acclimating to a civilian environment – they have both the capacity and ability to pursue an entrepreneurial path and achieve success. Their experience, dedication, and commitment to the defense of American freedom have proven that conclusively.

Second, and more importantly, it is imperative to prove to the military and veteran communities that they have the power to do so. Given the challenges imposed upon individuals in modern culture, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. When veterans believe they have the power to succeed and openly state as much, they are actually affirming their power and a sense of control that cannot be taken away from them. Power is never taken away; it is always relinquished freely. 

Veterans don’t need to be told that twice; their experience has proven that every time they put on a uniform and prepare their mindset for battle in defense of America’s freedoms.

What differentiates veteran business owners from the pack is not their creativity, brilliance, or pedigree. What makes veterans inherently different is their refusal to relinquish their desire to succeed, and renounce their dreams. When society quits, they don’t. 

It’s the veteran’s time now. Their country is calling them again to seize the moment to act, and conquer the challenge of a small business as they have conquered other challenges in their military past ... successfully.

The promising future your sacrifice guaranteed for all Americans can begin for you, today.  Claim it.  It's yours ... you earned it.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

"The Prior-Service Entrepreneur: Veteran Entrepreneurship & Lean Business Start-Up"

ISBN: 1546986693
Format:  Paperback, 364 Pages
Price:  $21.73

Details:  This Second Edition of the 5-Star original text has been updated for 2017, and now features:
- Additional Content:  Creative financing options when banks won't lend
- Over 100 Graphics:  Throughout the text to benefit visual learners
- Updated Content:  Statistical data reflects 2016-2017 trends
- Larger Text:  Easier to read, higher quality printing
- New Formatting:  Improved layout, design, and editing
- Digital Version:  Available to Higher Education on VitalSource

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Build Your Success on a Foundation of Positive Support





In addition to the two primary motivators of human behavior, expectation of reward and fear of punishment, social acceptance would have to rank as one of the most important desires of the human condition. We are gregarious creatures by nature and social interaction serves many of our basic emotional needs.

We may be somewhat limited in our professional capacity to pick and choose with whom we interact, but in our personal lives we have absolute control of our associations. Once you make the decision to adopt an optimistic mindset in support of your goal to achieve success, the people who you choose to allow access to your thoughts and emotions becomes very important.

In short, people you associate with on a personal level have the ability to directly impact your probability of success. 

Understanding this fact imposes upon you the responsibility of picking your acquaintances wisely. Only those who respect your self-esteem, encourage you to be successful and enhance your quality of life should be allowed within the protected inner circle of your personal space.

Conduct a quick mental inventory of those people you currently associate with regularly, both in person and online. After 30 minutes of conversation do you feel energized and uplifted, or do you feel drained and agitated? 

Those who fall into the latter category are toxic personalities – I refer to them as “psychic vampires” – and serve no useful purpose in your life. Regardless of the marginal benefit they provide to you as a “friend,” their infectious negativity demands that they be purged from your social circle as soon as possible. 

Actually, upgrade that timeline to “immediately.”

If that sounds harsh and judgmental on my part, consider what hangs in the balance on the other side of that equation: your success. Now that you’ve committed to a life-changing endeavor in pursuit of achieving your goals and dreams, do you really see the need to be surrounded by pessimists – spewing the negative message of their twisted fatalistic vision – who are going to undermine your optimism at every opportunity? 

That makes as much sense as putting a drug addict in charge of a chain of pharmacies with the expectation that their personal behavior won’t interfere with their business decisions.

In the words of the Greek philosopher Plato, “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person, or they can stunt your growth and cause you to wilt and die.” You’ve made the decision to rise to the level of exceptional; it’s time to upgrade your expectations for those you call acquaintances.


I’m not suggesting you need to find perfect friends; there’s no such thing. Nor am I suggesting you need to have friends that share your particular vision, and agree with everything you believe. What I am suggesting is those who actively oppose you at every turn need to be removed. 

Once you have made the decision to surgically remove the cancerous personalities from your circle, employ the 5 strategies below to reconstruct your network with positive people who support you.

1. Project your unbridled optimism. You’ve heard the sayings: “like attracts like” and “water seeks its own level.” They’re true. When you outwardly project optimism, like-minded positive people are attracted to you like a moth to a flame. As a bonus, pessimists hate optimists and they’ll avoid you like the plague.

2. Create a litmus test. Set a standard for those people you will befriend. Are they emotionally grounded and optimistic?  Are they goal-oriented and committed to personal and professional growth? Are they there for you when you need them? This isn’t being judgmental; it’s demonstrating discernment.

3. Join local professional groups. Find local organizations with members who share your professional interests, even if they only meet once a month. There’s a good chance if they took the time to get off the computer and out of the house, they’ll be the type of people with whom you’ll want to interact.

4. Utilize online focus groups. Social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook can give you immediate access to unlimited numbers of people who share your goals. Utilize the genius of market segmentation and maximize the utility of social media.

5. Incorporate “Peer Review." Once you develop a support network of positive thinkers, a pessimist might sneak through the fence once in a while. If your group feels uncomfortable with a new arrival, trust their judgment enough to investigate and act accordingly if they prove to be correct.

The choice to surround yourself with optimistic people who share your positive vision is a conscious act. These will be the people who never doubt your abilities, encourage your success and will be there for you when it matters most. 

Misery loves company, but so does success.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

1 Question Can Reveal Your Life's True Purpose





The quest for professional advancement causes each of us to cross paths with numerous people, each of whom seem to be asking the same questions. What motivates you? What are your goals and aspirations? What are your skills and talents?

The questions are useful and necessary, but they fail to get to the heart of the most important issue.

In my conversations with career transition coaches, corporate recruiters and academic advisers I’ve never been asked what I believe to be the most important question of all: What do you believe is your purpose in life?

Has anyone asked you? If not, I’m asking you now.

Over the years I’ve discovered one simple question which, if answered correctly, can reveal your life’s purpose and lead to a level of fulfillment yet to be imagined. What’s the question?

“What is the greatest compliment you could ever receive?”

For the record, not all compliments are created equal. While there may be an infinite number that can inflate an ego, there’s only one compliment that will truly feed your soul.

It's different for each of us, of course, but it's out there waiting to be discovered.


When I ask my clients this question their response is usually the same: “I never thought about it before.” That’s not surprising. We live in a society that extols the virtue of humility, and justifiably so. We’re conditioned from youth to minimize and deflect praise, even to the point of uncomfortably rejecting it outright.

That makes the pondering of praise almost unimaginable.

I promise this question doesn’t violate social norms. The correct answer won’t drive anyone to stare proudly at their own reflection in the mirror with a sense of superiority. Quite the opposite.

The correct answer to this question – once discovered – will inspire you to gaze skyward and feel thankful for being relevant. Moreover, it doesn’t even need to sound like a compliment when offered.

I’ll share with you, as an example, the greatest compliment I could ever receive from anyone: “Michael, that’s interesting. I never thought about it like that before.” Is that even a compliment?

To me, an author and instructor, yes. When I hear those words I perceive an epiphany moment in which a person’s perspectives are broadened and a world of hidden possibilities has been revealed to be acted upon. If those actions effect a positive change in someone’s life, my purpose has been fulfilled.

In many cases it’s simply a matter of giving voice, through the use of words, to thoughts a person already had but hadn’t found a means by which to express it to their satisfaction.

When you discover your own personal answer to the “compliment question,” a few amazing things will happen almost simultaneously.

First, a mental blueprint of the future reveals itself. It will inspire you to launch yourself into life each day, driven by a sense of purpose and focused on a path of relevance.

Next, an explanation of the past reveals itself. You’ll discover threads of commonality woven through seemingly unrelated actions and events, and perceive the underlying motivation (purpose) that drove you to participate.

Finally, the foundation for your legacy question has been firmly established: “How do I want the world to remember me after I’m gone?” When you wake up each morning and embrace life with this question in mind, everyone you touch feels the positive impact of your purpose and focus.

So, let me ask you now: What’s the greatest compliment you could ever receive, from anyone?

What answer will inspire you to humbly feel thankful and relevant? What answer will inspire you to embrace life each day with a sense of purpose? What answer will inspire you to create such a positive impact on others that history will remember the difference you made?

When you discover the answer, act on it.

The world needs your purpose and relevance now, and the unwritten history of the future will ensure your positive impact is never forgotten.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

5 Lessons Special Forces Taught Me About Business





I had the pleasure of speaking at a Wounded Warrior Project workshop on business and entrepreneurship in Tampa, Florida. During our question and answer session a young veteran made a statement that I found incredibly interesting and that served as the inspiration for this article.

The gentleman – a US Army veteran who served as a sniper instructor and team leader – prefaced his question about resume writing with the following statement: “I was an infantry team leader and a sniper instructor, which doesn’t have any real value in the corporate world. So, I wanted to know if you could tell me how …?

Stop right there. I vehemently disagree.

Veterans entering the civilian workforce have to understand that their resumes should actually reflect much more than hard skills and transferable skills; they have to reflect and promote the benefits of life experiences that will prove to be “mission critical” to prospective employers. Further, those benefits need to be communicated to prospective employers effectively.

More importantly, it’s our responsibility as military veterans to educate Corporate America to this fact as well. Not sometime in the future, but now.


My message to civilian employers and aspiring veteran job-seekers is rather straightforward. While you may not immediately see a direct correlation between military training and the job in question, be advised that those experiences have created a mindset that’s directly relevant to succeeding in any business environment.

Consider the 5 following lessons that prove this fact to be true.

1. Planning is essential, but contingency plans are critical.
In the military we rely on the Operation Order to guide our missions, hoping that the intelligence data our mission is based on is accurate and timely. We plan, we train and we prepare to execute the mission flawlessly. We’re inserted into the area of operation and begin our movement to the target when our team leader suddenly exclaims, “WAIT … there’s not supposed to be a river here.

When veterans come face-to-face with Murphy’s Law, they can adapt and overcome. They have contingency plans that allow them to think and react quickly. Highly flexible and reactive individuals don't view chaos as stressful, but as an opportunity to act with determination and distinction. They didn’t get this ability from reading a book.

2. 360-degree awareness gets the team home safely.
The ability to be completely aware in hostile and non-permissive environments saves lives in combat situations. There’s no room for “I should have seen that coming” when it comes to explosive devices or rifle barrels protruding from windows in buildings.

Veterans with this experience have command over their business environment. They walk into offices and immediately scan the walls for informative plaques, and guide introductory conversations after noticing a lapel pin or a class ring on the hand they shook. They seal deals and get the team back successfully.

3. Wait for the best shot, not the perfect shot.
In sniper school we’re trained to patiently wait for our shot, unaffected by our environment. When the target presents itself, we act: range it, dope it, scope it and pull the trigger. We’d like a perfect shot, but we know that if we hold the scope on target too long muscle fatigue sets in and our scope begins a figure-8 wobble. When that happens, we missed our opportunity.

Veterans in the civilian workforce hope for a perfect outcome, but they’re not afraid to execute when ready and make course corrections along the way if needed. They don’t suffer from “paralysis by analysis,” and they certainly don’t succumb to “deer in the headlights” syndrome. They’re doers and fixers.

4. Know when to advance, stand down and retreat.
In our modern age of special operations warfare, small teams of highly specialized personnel with a high degree of autonomy are tasked with successfully executing tactical operations with the hope of having a strategic impact. We’ve been trained to exercise good judgment: we know when it’s right to execute, and we know there are times when the situation requires us to quietly stand down and retreat unnoticed.

Veterans in the civilian workforce don’t let pride and ego override this reality. When a meeting is going badly they know how to gracefully end the conversation and exit with dignity. When contract negotiations stall, they have the judgment to know when to maneuver to a successful conclusion and when to stand down for another opportunity. They didn’t obtain this critical life skill in a classroom.

5. Individuals are strong, but teams are powerful.
Special Operations personnel are the most well-trained and highly lethal individuals on this planet. We also know that despite our strengths we have to sleep, and in a hostile environment that would be impossible were it not for the other members of the team remaining awake and alert. When we execute our missions, we’re as focused on the safety of the team members to our right and left as we are on the mission in front of us. As a cohesive team, the effectiveness of our combined individual skills increases exponentially.

Veterans in the civilian workforce live by the mantra “first my mission, then my men, then myself” and know the powerful capabilities of a cohesive team. They derive satisfaction from their individual accomplishments but realize their potential increases exponentially as a unit. They despise self-absorb, back-stabbing sycophants. If you’ve never heard the term “Blue Falcon,” I encourage you to look it up now.

In summary, if I handed you my resume you’d never see these skills listed … but they’re there. You may not believe Special Forces training is relevant to the sales job you advertised … but it is. The next time a military veteran applies for a position with your company, look beyond the resume and the rifle.

What you’ll discover about our military veterans and their professional capabilities will pleasantly surprise you.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Entrepreneurship 101: Experience ≥ Education





There is little doubt that formal education is valuable; if you are in a position to pursue higher education I strongly encourage you to do so. Studies have shown a direct correlation between higher education and higher wages.

That’s wonderful news if you aspire to work for someone else. However, not having a formal education does not automatically condemn you to failure.

When I was a teenager the common belief was that in order to succeed in life one had to possess a college degree. The parents of every friend I knew assigned as much value to that belief as they did to the law of gravity.

My parents were no exception as evidenced by the disciplinary measures imposed upon me each and every time I came home from school with a bad report card. My parents had the best of intentions and for that I am grateful.


Unfortunately, in the process of encouraging good grades and higher education, the unspoken (but well understood) consequence of not pursuing a degree was a life destined to be plagued by failure and mediocrity.

My parents didn't lie to me – they told me the truth to the best of their ability as they understood it – but at the end of the day they were wrong.

For the purpose of full disclosure and honesty, I have formal degrees from good institutions of higher learning and I am proud of the fact I invested the time to pursue them. However, I did not finish my undergraduate degree until after I had created and sold my first restaurant concept.

The degree followed my success; not the other way around. When I’m asked if my formal education contributed to my initial entrepreneurial success, I can answer “no” with complete honesty.

Once again, I am not offering this insight as an indictment of formal education. There are successful people that have exceptional academic credentials, and having a formal education is of benefit if you have the desire and the resources to pursue it.

Below are some notable and successful entrepreneurs who were college dropouts. While you know these people for their successful ventures, don’t forget for a minute that they all “started from nothing” in their garages or basements.

When they dropped out of college and started their business concepts they were no different than the majority of American entrepreneurs – broke, struggling and told by others they would "never be successful."

1. Mary Kay Ash: Founder of the popular cosmetics brand Mary Kay, Inc., Ash not only did not go to college – she never saw inside the four walls of any school. Billionaire.

2. Richard Branson: Founder of Virgin Group, Branson dropped out of school when he was 16. His empire now consists of more than 400 companies. Billionaire.

3. Giorgio Armani: Founder of a popular fashion brand, Armani dropped out of medical school because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Billionaire.

4. Jenny Craig: Founder of the popular weight management system, Craig never went to college. Billionaire.

5. Carl Lindner: Founder of United Dairy Farmers, Lindner dropped out of high school at age 14 to help his parents deliver milk for their dairy. Billionaire.

These examples are just of a few of the thousands of success stories in which people relied on their goals and motivation instead of academic credentials. Those who dropped out of school were told at the time they would “amount to nothing.” Those who never even went to school were all but written off by society.

There are other high profile billionaire dropouts that have founded successful companies – Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Steve Jobs (Apple).

While they may be considered to be the "exceptions to the rule," there's no reason why YOU can't be the exception to the rule until proven otherwise.

I encourage everyone to pursue higher education if the opportunity exists, but it’s proven that lack of formal education won’t automatically bar you from success and prosperity.

In life, the School of Hard Knocks is just as good as an Ivy League education in the hands of those with the mindset and determination to succeed.

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Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.