3 ways to create a memorable meeting experience

Why is creating an “experience” so important anyway?

We remember experiences. Studies have shown that we are more likely to recall information when it is attached to a sense, whether it’s touch, sight, smell, taste, or sound. We all know what it’s like when a certain smell or song sends us right back in time to memory from our childhood or past event in our lives. So what better way to create a meeting experience than to include one of our five senses?

Here are 3 ways to create a memorable experience during your next meeting:

 

Encourage Doodling & Play

Creating a playful environment is one way to generate a memorable experience. Not many meetings include hands-on materials like play dough, crayons, markers, construction paper, and pipe cleaners on the conference table. Go ahead…encourage your team to doodle/fidget during your meeting and watch their reactions.

By simply allowing, “play” and “doodling” during your next meeting your team has the potential to retain up to 30% more information presented. Don’t believe me? Check out this article and book by Sunni Brown. She’s is a doodle expert!

 

Provide Food, Food, and more Food

Smells are one of the strongest senses tied to memory so food can be key to a memorable experience. Plus, it’s the best part of the meeting, right? Now, a plain deli tray may not awaken our senses, but a hot Korean BBQ bowl with sautéed veggies, colorful toppings and a variety of sauces is another story. It’s making me hungry just typing it up!

Food bowls are very trendy right now and the presentation is amazing so try one at your next meeting. Sundae bars with tons of toppings, Detroit-style pizza, and Pastry/Bakery treats are all very popular this year. Using food to create an experience is always a win!

Seasonal Meeting Catering

 

Participate in a Team Bonding Activity

This is an easy one. No matter what team bonding experience you choose whether you’re volunteering, taking a food tour, or bowling, your team is likely to remember this type event. Especially since they’ll be engaging all their senses.Escape Room Team Building Activity

If you’re looking for a team bonding experience we have several options here at sparkspace including our summer exclusive with Kingmakers. Kingmakers is a board game parlor with game “sommeliers”. We also have our escape room (pictured above) and our North Market Foodie Adventure. For more information on our team bonding experiences click here.

 

The BEST Team Experiences for Every Budget

The purpose behind planning any type of team experience is to provide the opportunity to share ideas, experience new things, and bond with the people you work with. This team experience doesn’t have to require extra dollars, either. Below, I’ve listed a few (very) simple suggestions to help get you started on your next “BEST” team experience:

1. Sign up for (or plan!) a food tour.
Food tours typically range between $30 and $70 per person and they serve as not only a great way to experience some of the tastiest foods in your town, but also a brilliant way to get out and learn more about your community. No food tours near you? No worries! Research some local restaurants and plan one of your own, based on your own budget allowance!

2. Attend TrappedColumbus or another “Escape Room” Activity!
The “escape room” activity has recently grown into one of the most popular team building experiences, with hundreds of available locations and options to choose from throughout the country. Local to sparkspace, our favorite escape room activity headquarters is Trapped Columbus.

3. Go on a scavenger hunt.
Scavenger hunts present a fantastic opportunity to get out of the office, have fun, and work on building relationships, communication, and work tactics within your team. Dependent upon the size of your team, you can break up into smaller groups or go out individually on the hunt, making it a goal to work together in order to get to the finish line. (Check out https://www.teambonding.com/program-type/scavenger-treasure-hunts/ for some great ideas to help you get started!)

4. Volunteer together.
One of the easiest and most character-building ways to bond with your team is to volunteer together. This option is also completely free. All it takes to find where you’re needed is nothing more than a simple Google search within your community. You can also send out a message on social media to let others know that you and your team are looking for a great cause to volunteer for.

5. Host A Team Game Night.
Another simple, fun, and budget-friendly option for you and your team. Gather a list of everyone’s favorite games (if you’re in need of suggestions, give Apples to Apples, Taboo, 5-Second Rule, Monopoly, or Mad Libs a try!), coordinate a pot-luck style dinner, and plan for a fun night of eating yummy food and experiencing many laughs with your team as you work together on whatever game you choose!

As you can see, the trick behind making any team experience the “best” is not about spending more money; it’s about having fun, sharing ideas, experiencing new things, working together, and simply building relationships with the people you work with. If you can stay on track with that mindset, then I can promise that you’ll soon be able to walk away with your own “Best Team Experience” story to share!

The BEST Budget-Friendly Retreat Locations for 2017

“We can’t plan our team retreat offsite because it costs too much!”

At least, that’s what you’re made to believe, and while it might seem like a hopeless battle, here’s the good news: It’s not. You have every ability to become the office hero AND refrain from spending a ton in your budget in the process. Take an evening to research what your community has to offer and, before you know it, you’ll be swimming in a sea of options!

To help get you started, I’ve provided 5 of the BEST and most budget-friendly retreat locations for any team, anywhere.

(1) Local Parks
Parks are not only filled with natural light, fresh air, and beautiful scenery, but, you guys. They’re free. You might have to pay a small reservation fee for a pavilion or picnic area, but in the long run, you’re still going to be saving the big bucks and providing your team with a refreshing environment.

(2) Coffee Shops
Chances are, you’ve succumbed to holing up in a coffee shop on a day when you needed to get out of your office, and into a space that didn’t feel so much like, well, your office. You can do the same thing with your team! This option is not only (mostly) free, but it also comes with coffee. And scones. And all of those good smelling smells. Perfect for team-bonding and brainstorming and yes – your budget.

(3) sparkspace
Okay. I might be showing favoritism here, but come on. How could I NOT include sparkspace? If you’re in Columbus and looking for a fun place to go for a team retreat…why not come to the place that was literally created to save you from the same old “boring” meeting spaces you’re used to? Apart from providing all of the materials you need (A/V equipment, office supplies, snacks, beverages, and coffee galore), we hook you up with bright and inspiring spaces, *seriously* comfy seating, suggestions for team-bonding activities, AND a giant candy wall in the main lobby. You can plan a half-day retreat for $74 per person, which will get you all of this, PLUS you’ll be right smack in the middle of the Arena District which provides plenty of nearby restaurant options for a delicious after-retreat meal.

(4) The Bowling Alley
More often than not, retreats are planned with the intent to brainstorm AND have fun while bringing your team together. A great way to accomplish this goal is to take your team to the bowling alley! As long as you aren’t afraid to rock the funky shoes, bowling is an enjoyable, cheap, and easy way to get your team pumped up and ready to roll. Need to mix business with pleasure? Don’t forget that there are always plenty of tables and chairs to serve as a great space to talk, share stories, and brainstorm before or after the game.

(5) Someone’s House
This is quite possibly the easiest, most logical location of all. Go to someone’s house! Put together a potluck style lunch or dinner, pick a room, and relax in the comforts of home while you and your team go about your bonding and brainstorming business.

With these suggestions in mind, remember that it’s not only important to plan what you’ll be doing during your retreat, but also to plan where you’ll be doing it. With the help of your local community and an extra dash of creativity, you can and will plan a retreat to remember in a place your team will never forget.

Have some fun suggestions of your own? Leave them in the comments!

Why Team Building Does Not Work

I don’t believe in traditional team building anymore. Why? Because it doesn’t work. I know this because I used to facilitate a ton of it.

Traditional “team building” involves games and activities designed to (supposedly) help teams learn a concept or improve a skill — specifically the “soft skills” — like communication, collaboration, and creativity — that are so desperately lacking in many teams.

So, we play games, have a few laughs, and then “debrief” the activities afterwards. You know, to pull out the “learning” we were after.

Over time, I have realized that traditional team building rarely works the way the leader, or team, wants it to.

Here are 3 reasons why team building doesn’t work:

  1. It’s artificial, contrived, and not like real work at all. Yes, a fun activity encourages people to participate more fully, but most real work doesn’t even come close to being anything like a fun game. Trying to draw parallels between building something with Legos and working with real deadlines and real consequences is a real stretch for most participants.
  2. It’s forced on participants. After hosting team building events and team training workshops for over 15 years, what I have observed is 20% of the participants are really into whatever you’re doing, 60% are just going through the motions, and the last 20% are pretty much hostages who would chew off their arm to get out of there if they could.
  3. It tries to fix something, or someone, in one day. I can’t even count the number of times I talked to a leader of a team who wanted to do some sort of team building to address a long-standing, systemic problem with their team OR as a last-ditch effort to “fix” a bad apple or two on the team. I could write a book about why this is a bad idea. Chapter one would be titled, You Can’t Fix Long-Standing Problems by Playing Games. Chapter two would be: Don’t Team Build Your Bad Apples, Fire Them.

 

So, what DOES work to build better teams? The short answer: Team Bonding. Team bonding retreats are shared team experiences that encourage team members to interact in a non-work kind of way. They are free from skill-building or problem-fixing expectations. They exist simply to create shared experiences that encourage relationship building (i.e., create bonds). Team bonding retreats can also be quite memorable and often become an important part of company lore and culture.

Do we need stronger skills as teams? Absolutely. But I believe with all my heart that skill building is far more effective one-on-one. However, if you want to build a stronger team, build stronger bonds.

The 4 Retreats Every Team Should Take This Year

A once-a-year team retreat is great, but 365 days between retreats is an awfully long time, especially if you want to keep that “retreat spirit” alive in your team the other 364 days.

At sparkspace, we believe you should have not one, but FOUR retreats each year. No, not because we’re in the retreat business, but because we’ve seen the positive difference in teams who have regularly scheduled retreats.

Here are the four retreats every team should take in 2017 (and, well, every year really):

 

The Vision Retreat 

(November or December)

This is an annual retreat focused on the where you’re headed for the next year. In our annual vision retreat, we celebrate the successes of the past year, revisit our long-term vision for the company, and talk about what we need to get done in the coming year to make that vision a reality.

 

Team Bonding Retreat #1

(February, March, or April)

Team bonding retreats are shared team experiences that encourage team members to interact in a non-work kind of way. They typically include an element of fun, which is different for every team. Some teams may love a bowling tournament. Others may enjoy participating in a problem-solving activity like Trapped, where teams must solve a series of puzzles and challenges to escape the room or win a prize. It is important to understand that a team training session (like attending a leadership seminar together) is NOT the same as a team bonding retreat.

 

Half-Time Retreat

(May, June, or July)

Just like sports teams retreat into the locker room at half-time, teams need to retreat halfway through the year to revisit the vision, check on progress, and make adjustments as needed. The Half-Time Retreat doesn’t have to be as long or intense as the annual Vision Retreat, but don’t underestimate it’s importance. If you only visit your vision once per year, do you really think it has a chance of becoming a reality? Some teams we know make this a quarterly event, not just once or twice a year.

 

Team Bonding Retreat #2

(August, September, or October)

What? Another team bonding retreat? Yes. Absolutely. Team bonding retreats help your team know, like, and trust each other on a level that is almost impossible to achieve in normal day-t0-day operation. Consider making one of your team bonding retreats each year a philanthropic effort. When your team lends their hands to people in need, it increases the positivity and wellbeing of everyone involved.

 

One of the most important things to remember about team retreats is this: what gets on the calendar tends to get done. In other words, pull out your calendar right now and find four days in the next 12 months when you and your team can pause from working “in” the team to working “on” the team.

share the spark presents: THE OSU STAR HOUSE.

 Before I get into today’s (FIRST EVER) share the spark feature,
I’d like to request that you simply take a moment to think about the word
“homeless”.

I want you to really think about it.
Picture “homeless” in your mind.
Now imagine that “Homeless” is a person.
Who do you see?
A male? A female?
How old are they?
What do they look like?
Where are they, in this picture your mind has created?
What are they doing?

If you’re like much of the population, you’ve probably imagined someone very similar to the likes of “The Friendly Pigeon Lady” in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York–torn clothing, disheveled hair, and a few patches of dirt on their face and hands. Someone who has ended up homeless–perhaps by some immoral fault of their own.

What you probably didn’t imagine was a talented and hard-working 17-year-old, dressed in a well ironed button-up shirt, who’s exhausted from working 3 minimum-wage jobs—jobs that still don’t pay enough to cover the cost of living, let alone the monthly cost of renting an apartment in Columbus.

Long story short?
You, like so many others (myself included),
have fallen into believing a stereotype.

A stereotype that says homelessness has one set appearance.
A stereotype that says homelessness does not affect our youth.

This stereotype is exactly what Sarah Douglas and all of the team at the OSU Star House —the team that was kind enough to take the time to share their story, as well as give me a first-hand look at their facility–are hoping to break.

The OSU Star House-3

’Youth experiencing homelessness’, because I don’t like to put the symptom before the person”, Sarah (Volunteer and Donations Coordinator) explained as the OSU Star House story and tour began to unfold.

Walking into the main lobby, I was utterly entranced by the environment that surrounded me. In the room to my right, a doctor was welcoming a teen for a check-up appointment. In front of me, I couldn’t distinguish the youth from the monitors as I saw a crowd of people standing together in the full kitchen, cooking, laughing, and talking with one another. To my left, a room filled with computers, many of which were being used by the youth who were searching and applying for jobs.

Moving forward, Sarah lead me through the living room, the laundry room, the quiet room, the gymnasium, the donation room, and the art room.

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The Laundry Room: Youth are both welcomed and encouraged to wash their clothing, especially prior to going on a job interview.

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The Gymnasium/Workout Room: This room is open 24/7, and youth have the option to play basketball, soccer, ping-pong, use the weight machines, or play games.

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The Donation Room: Here, they keep any and all donations, as well as a supply of clothing (organized by size) that youth are free to choose from. In the next couple of months, volunteers will be coming in to install shelving units to assist in providing an even more organized environment!

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The Art Room: A space that provides youth and volunteers with the opportunity to team up and express themselves, freely. Volunteers teach various classes (painting/writing/etc.), to assist in motivating and inspiring the youth. This room is a favorite of the Star House youth.

Due to privacy restrictions, I was unable to capture “The Daily Needs Center”, which is a room that supplies youth with everything from socks and underwear to book bags and sleeping bags. Additionally, youth can also find daily necessities such as tampons, pads, diapers, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, shampoo, and conditioner.

 As the tour came to an end, Sarah and I walked back from the building offices, where she had introduced me to the on-site therapists, monitors, staff members, and an adorable therapy dog named Bailey (who just loves a good belly rub). Together, these people serve as the fuel behind the fire that is the OSU Star House.

Working to constantly encourage their youth to never lose hope and always believe in themselves, Sarah tells me the primary goal at Star House is to provide the youth with any and all resources necessary, and to do whatever they can to “humanize homelessness.”

Homelessness can happen to anyone”, Sarah explains as she accompanies me to the exit. “We want people to realize this. We want to humanize homelessness because it’s nothing to be embarrassed of. Some of the most successful people in the world have experienced homelessness, and we constantly remind our youth of that. It can truly happen to anyone.”

With that in mind, I would like to take this moment to thank Sarah, as well as everyone at the OSU Star House, not only for welcoming me into their space, but also for working so hard to make this community a better place. Thank you for being a true sparkler, and thank you for all that you do.

CUPCAKE-3

Please contact Sarah Douglas (douglas.409@osu.edu)
or visit the Star House website (https://starhouse.ehe.osu.edu/get-involved/)
for detailed information on how to volunteer and/or drop off donations.

A Few Promises About My Upcoming Book

I’m almost an author (meaning I’m almost finished writing my first book).

I’ve ALMOST written a book at least three times in the past (meaning I never really started). This time is different, though. I’m actually about 75% done with the first draft. If all goes well I’ll be pretty close to finished by the end of next week. I’m shooting to get it edited, proofed, and whatever other hoops I need to jump through so it can be printed by June 1st, or December 31st, or at least sometime before I’m 100 years old. Most likely June.

As I’ve watched others publish and promote their books lately, I have noticed a few things that, honestly, have made me go “ugggh!” Watching “the way it’s done now” has made me loathe the whole book publishing thing so much I have considered scrapping the book altogether on several occasions. Rather than do that, though, I’ve decided to make a few promises about my upcoming book. Although these are mostly promises to myself — so I may keep my sanity and integrity intact — I also think they’re pretty solid promises to make to anyone who might be even remotely interested in the book.

 

A few promises to you (and me) about my upcoming book:

 

 

I promise not to state, infer, or imply that my book will make your life 10,000 times better. I hope it gives you something to think about and encourages you to take some action, but that’s it. It ain’t the Bible and I’m certainly not going to pretend it is.

 

I promise not to mount a relentless campaign to get everyone to buy the book on the same day just so I can become a “Best Seller” for ten minutes on Amazon, The New York Times, or any other list. If I become a best seller, I want it to be because the book is so damn good that people buy it, love it, and tell their friends to buy it, too. Yeah, I know some “experts” will say I’m naive and that’s not the way it works. They can pound sand. Creating hyped up sales just so you can claim to be a best seller is borderline fraud and I just won’t do it.

 

I promise to keep it long enough to make my point but short enough to keep you awake. I read a review of another book on Amazon the other day that said “20% of the book was good, the other 80% was useless filler.” I’m working very hard to make sure nobody will be able to say that about my book.

 

I promise the book will NOT be a super long sales letter in disguise. Will I create a retreat experience from the content of the book? You bet (in fact, I already have). Will I leave key pieces of information out of the book to entice you to come to my retreat? Not a chance. I hate, hate, HATE that approach. I’m going to put it all in the book, baby. When you read the book, you’ll get it all. You won’t NEED to come to a retreat, but you’ll WANT to…and you’ll beg me to tell you when the next one is, ha ha!

 
With those simple promises I feel like I can finish this project and be proud of it, even if nobody ever reads it. That sounds funny to say about something that I am pouring so much time and energy into. But in the end, I think that’s WHY I can make these promises. I’m not trying to become famous or rich or “best-selling” by writing this book. I’m writing it because I think the topic is interesting, I like to write, and it’s a fun new experience for me. If anyone else enjoys it or benefits from it, well, that’s icing on the cake.

 

Almost forgot to tell you: The topic of the book is “Ordinary Superpowers”. I wrote about this in a previous blog post which you can check out here.

 

If you’d like to be notified when the book comes out, drop your email below. I hope you know by now that I won’t bombard you with emails about it, just one or two during the first few weeks after it comes out.

 

Notify Me When Mark’s Book Comes Out!



I’m Done With Zombies (And Politicians)

It’s Spring and I’m in the mood to change my mood. A few weeks ago I cleaned out my closet and gave away half my clothes, including my varsity jacket. That was a great physical purge that really boosted my mood (still does every time I walk into my closet). Now I feel the urge to purge some of the mental clutter.

So, I’m going to turn off the TV.

Specifically I’m turning off The Walking Dead and House of Cards. I got started on both shows about a year ago and binged watched every episode on Netflix. I’ve been keeping up with the pretend zombies and pretend politicians ever since. And yes, saying zombies and politicians in the same sentence is redundant.

As compelling as these shows are, I really don’t like the way they make me feel when I watch them. They suck my energy in a far worse way than most television does. It’s no wonder, really. Both of those franchises showcase the worst of humanity: violence, greed, murder, selfish ambition, and more. Every time I watch them I just feel…icky. Looking back, I am surprised I got addicted to them at all. Such is the case with any drug, I suppose.

Oh yeah, I’m not watching any more debates, either. Same reason. Only those usually make me angry and sad and a little depressed. Not sure how I’ll figure out who to vote for, but I’ll find a way I’m sure.

I’d say I’m not going to watch the news anymore, either, but I gave up watching TV news (and reading the paper) years ago. That, without a doubt, has been one of the most positive things I’ve ever done.

To be clear, I’m not going full out Amish. I’ll still watch a movie here and there. I’ll still watch Shark Tank and The Profit like all good business owners should. But overall I’m going to watch TV a lot less and be a heck of a lot more picky with what I put in front of my face from now on.

Just making this decision I feel better already.

Anybody with me?

 

How A Control Freak Learned How To Delegate

As an entrepreneur (read “control freak”) I’ve never really known how to delegate. That’s not a good thing, but I am getting better. Nothing helps build skill better than a taste of success, though, so here’s a little story about how I’m learning how to delegate. Finally.

Our building used to be a paint factory. I know, cool, huh? The way they expanded the factory over time was to basically build a new building right up against the old one. What this means for us is that we have these large windows (that used to be exterior windows) between our office and the hall of our building that leads to the bathroom. A few years ago we started writing interesting quotes on the windows so our guests would continue to be inspired even during their potty breaks.

One of our former employees had been our scribe for a long time because she had decent handwriting. When she left I took over the windows. I tried my best to tame my penmanship, which most days looks worse than a prescription from a doctor who has had too much caffeine. I was actually a little proud of myself for making it fairly legible and keeping the lines almost straight.

Fast forward to last Friday.

I had new quotes picked out for the coming week and was headed to the hallway to scribble them on the glass. Then I remembered that Alisha, our new team member, has very nice handwriting. I know this because she wrote us a thank-you note after her interview…a lost art, by the way. I tentatively approached her and asked her:

“Hey, um, Alisha. Would you, um, like a, um, fun little project?”

As you can tell, I was, um, really sellin’ it.

Her enthusiastic, “SURE!” gave me a little more confidence. I proceeded to ask her if she would write the quotes on the windows this week. She agreed and went right to work.

Now it’s important for you to know that I spent, oh, maybe 10 minutes total on all four windows when I wrote the quotes. As I watched her progress from the office she easily spent 10 minutes PER WINDOW. From the very first letter her version was so much better than mine in every way. She is clearly gifted in window quote writing. And while I did it just because it needed to be done, she LOVED doing it and threw herself into it 100% — another important point to remember.

Just to show you the difference. Look back and forth at the picture from the top of this post and the picture below. It is the exact same window. Although I won’t hear you, please try not to laugh at my lame, lame attempt by comparison.

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When I wrote the quotes, people would glance at the quotes (maybe) as they traveled the hallway. Now people regularly stop DEAD IN THEIR TRACKS and stare at them. I hear people in 1953 had the same reaction when they saw the first color television.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it so clearly demonstrates the power of delegation. Even in my second decade as a leader I still have a tendency to try to do everything myself. This isn’t good or even healthy, but I still do it. Even though I KNOW Alisha has way better handwriting than I do, I was reluctant to hand over the markers.

It’s hard to admit that other people can do things way better than I can. It’s helpful to remember that not only can they do them better, they actually ENJOY doing them and absolutely love it when I hand off something that I probably should have never done in the first place.

I now believe the vast — and I mean Grand Canyon sized vast — difference between Alisha’s window and mine was God’s way of telling me, “Hey dummy, see what good things happens when you let go?” I think he got tired of hinting and decided to hit me on the head with a neon dry erase marker this time. It worked.

I envy people who are great delegators. I definitely have a long way to go, but I’m working on it. Fortunately for me, the next time I struggle with delegating something, all I have to do is stop dead in my tracks and look at those windows on my next potty break.

 

My Top 10 Highlights From START by Jon Acuff

About once every six weeks I post my version of a book review, which is really just the top 10 passages that I ran over with my highlighter when I was reading it. If I share a book with you, it means it resonated with me enough to recommend it. But read the highlights and decide for yourself if it’s a book that you might like to read.

10 minutes ago I finished START by Jon Acuff. Jon has written a couple of NYT Best Sellers and partially rose to fame as a speaker and member of Dave Ramsey’s team. START outlines the 5 stages of a successful life: Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, Guiding. One of the main themes is that we don’t just go through the stages once, if we’re smart and have a bit of drive, we can go through the stages over and over to make our ideas and passions come to life.

Jon is very funny. He also uses the word, awesome, a lot. I mean a LOT a lot. Once I got used to that I really enjoyed the rest.

 

My top 10 highlights from START by Jon Acuff:

 

Age is no longer the primary factor that determines where you are on the map. Life is now less about how old you are and more about when you decide to live.

 

I’m not a fan of “finding your purpose.” I’m a fan of “living with purpose.”

 

Luck is a word people who are lazy use to describe people who are hustling.

 

I’ve learned something: no one has a positive internal voice. No one’s internal voice tells them, “You’re skinny enough. You sure are pretty. People are going to love that new project you’re working on. It’s going to be a huge success.” Which makes me curious about what your voices are telling you. Most of us tend to think they’re telling us the truth. We’ve heard them for so long that we trust them. We think they’re looking out for us, that they’ve got our best in mind. That they’re trying to protect us or help us. We think our voices are friends, but they’re not. They’re foes. (from Jon’s friend Al Andrews)

 

The second you choose to be more awesome, fear will ask you a question: “Who are you to do that?” Fear doesn’t care what your particular “that” is. You could be starting a business or quitting a job. You could be writing a book or becoming a nanny. Doesn’t matter to fear. The specifics never do. Regardless of what you want to do or who you are, fear will always see you as wholly unqualified for anything you ever dream or attempt.

 

Doubt and fear are like muscles. Every time you believe a lie about yourself, it gets easier to believe it the next time.

 

Often when you strike out on a new adventure…people will ask you, “Have you ever done that before?” And here is how my dad (and now I) answer when life asks us the question…’No, but I’m about to.”

 

Time is the only indication of what really matters to us.

 

1 insult + 1000 compliments = 1 insult

 

Do you know what’s better than words? Action. Actions always beat words. Action always beats intention. What you’ve done is always more powerful that what you’re going to do.

 

Check out START by Jon Acuff at Amazon

Check out my recent Top 10 highlights from:

 

BONUS QUOTES FROM START – If you have time, these are pretty good, too.

Most of us, when it comes to figuring out where we’re headed in life, never stop to ask the simple question, “Where am I?”

 

When a parent, a boss, a teacher, a spouse, or a friend tells you what you can’t be, they’re predicting a future they don’t control. They don’t know what 25 or 25 or 55 looks like for you.

 

Purpose is not a final destination.

 

When confronted with work and a reward, we would all prefer the reward first or at least as soon as possible. But the path to awesome doesn’t work that way.

 

I’ve never met a farmer who was surprised by his crops. Who stood on a front porch, in overalls I’m assuming, and stared at a crop of blood oranges when he clearly remembered planting soybeans. If you work hard, you tend to expect results.

 

You don’t need to go back in time to be awesome; you just have to start right now. Regretting that you didn’t start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow.

 

Fear tries to tell you two things about time: “Do it later” or “It’s too late” The first delays you with laziness. The second destroys you with regret. And neither is true.

 

Change has to be simple. Especially new change. It has to be easily manageable, or we’ll fail at it before we even start. We can add on other changes down the road, but when we’re beginning our journey, we just need to get one thing right. One tiny taste of progress. The mountain can wait. It’s been there for years and will still be there tomorrow. We don’t have to scale it all at once.

 

Nobody gets up early on the road to average. Nobody stays up late on the road to average.

 

  1. If I died today, what would I regret not being able to do?
  2. Are those the things I’m spending time doing right now?

 

What can you not stop doing?

 

We tend to add complexities to our challenges because if the problem is simple to solve, then we have to change. And change is scary. So when faced with a  challenge we really don’t want to fix, we tend to overcomplicate the issues.

 

Being awesome is about finding the core of who you are and what lights you up. Once you’ve discovered that, you can have a million different jobs.

 

Awesome doesn’t let the crowd determine the size of the performance. Awesome gets up for two people or 200. Awesome writes great books even if no one is going to read them. Awesome sweeps the parts of store floors that no foot will ever touch. Awesome can’t help itself.

 

The three best things you can do to get some experience are: Volunteer. Take a part-time job. Be led.

 

We often think talent is the key to awesome. But if you pull the curtain back on most of the people we’d call “geniuses,” what you find is an incredible amount of hard work.

 

Ask a farmer someday if the harvest season is easy.

 

You will work harder at something you love than at something you like. You will work harder than you have ever worked when you start chasing a dream. You will hustle and grind and sweat and push and pull. you will get up earlier and go to bed later. But that’s ok. Know why? Joy is an incredible alarm clock. It will wake you up and keep you up and pick you up and gently pull you through a thousand rejections along the way.

 

Being vulnerable about your failures is only half of the story; you have to be vulnerable enough to share your successes, too.

 

The real tragedy of a one-hit wonder is when someone succeeds once and then never tries again.

 

If you share honestly about your own failures, people can often avoid having the same thing happen to them. If you stepped in a hole na it hurt, it helps if you tell other people not to step in that same hole.

 

 

Check out START by Jon Acuff at Amazon

 

 

Why I Finally Gave Away My Varsity Jacket

This weekend I cleaned out my closet. This wasn’t just any cleaning, this was basically a closet transformation. Inspired by the book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, I took everything out of my closet and piled it on my bed. Then I held each shirt, each pair of pants, every shoe, and yes, even every piece of underwear, and asked myself “Do I actually like this?”

I decided to only keep things I like and get rid of everything else. Today, my wardrobe is almost exactly half the size it was on Friday, and I feel GREAT. In fact, I feel better than great. I feel LIGHT and FREE.

 

Letting Go Of The Weight

I let go of an incredible amount of “weight” in my closet. In fact, the heaviest thing, both literally and metaphorically, was my varsity jacket from high school. Before you think of me as a super athlete I will confess that my varsity letter was in tennis…and I’m pretty sure we had the worst tennis team in the State of Michigan, quite possibly the worst in all of North and South America.

Here’s the thing about my varsity jacket: I never liked it. I didn’t like it the moment I picked it up from the store (we had to special order it) and I haven’t liked it a single moment since. I didn’t like the way it fit, I didn’t like the way it looked, I especially didn’t like how hard and stiff the leather sleeves were compared to my older brother’s varsity jacket. The sleeves on his jacket were like a well-used baseball glove that had been oiled and broken in for a decade. Mine were like pieces of brand new cardboard that had been rolled into the shape of a sleeve. They never softened up, not one bit.

I wore it (some) because it was expensive and my parents shelled out their hard-earned money for it. In fact, I felt guilty whenever I’d choose another jacket to wear to school. It also constantly reminded me that I did NOT earn my varsity letter in basketball, which I had always thought I would…until I got cut from the team my junior year (sniff, sniff).

 

How Long Can Someone Drag Around Something They Need To Let Go Of? 

Do you know when I graduated from high school? 1985.

I’ve been dragging around that stupid jacket — that I NEVER liked — for over thirty years. I guess I thought if I crammed it in the back of my closet that I could basically ignore it, along with all the negative feelings I had for it (and because of it). But I’d been dragging those around for thirty years, too.

THIRTY YEARS. Sheesh.

About thirty hours after ridding myself of that stupid jacket, it seems incredibly silly that I had kept it sooooo long. It also feels incredibly great to let it go. I’m pleasantly surprised at how happy I am with the space I’ve created, both mentally and physically through this process. Of course, I got rid of more than just one jacket from my closet, but I realize now how big of a space that varsity jacket had been holding in my life.

Today I can’t help looking around at the rest of my belongings, rubbing my hands together with an evil grin and asking, “What’s next?” I’m sure every one of my possessions now fears for its life. Rightfully so. I’ve tasted a higher level of lightness and freedom, and I like it.

Have you ever given away an object that had this affect on you? What was it? Is there something in your life right now that you feel like you finally need to let go of that you’ve read this? Maybe it’s time.


tidy bookP.S. a special note about the book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up that I mentioned above: Several different people told me recently how much they loved this book. Whenever that happens, I usually pick up the book and read it. So I did. I can’t say I loved it as much as my friends did (I found the author very repetitive) and I won’t be including highlights of the book on my blog like I do with books I love. BUT, it inspired me enough to tackle my closet, my books, and someday soon the storage boxes in my basement. If you struggle with cleaning up your stuff and getting your life more simple and tidy, it’s a quick read and it might help inspire you, too.

 

 

Go Acoustic More Often

My friend and frequent collaborator, Whitney Bishop, was recently telling me about a weekend trip she was planning with her husband. It involved driving to a remote location in Kentucky and attending a concert in the middle of nowhere. She also promised her husband she would be leaving her laptop and iPad at home. The phrase she used to sum up her plans really jumped out at me:

“Every once in awhile you just have to go acoustic.”

When a musician goes acoustic, she/he has set aside all the newfangled electronic instruments and plays instead with the non-electrified version. They trade their electric guitar for an acoustic guitar. Or they swap their electric keyboard for a “real” piano.

I’m a big believer in unplugging on a regular basis (I’m the guy who bought a cabin in the woods last year, after all).  I’ve always thought being connected was an all-or-nothing choice. Either you’re on-the-grid or you’re off-the-grid, there’s really no middle choice. You either live the the Amish or you live like the city folk.

 

Going Acoustic Might Be The Middle Ground We’re All Looking For

Then I heard that phrase, “go acoustic,” and it made me think maybe there is a middle ground after all. Maybe there HAS to be a middle ground right now. Maybe the idea of going acoustic could help relieve the stress that being so connected all the time can cause and simultaneously help relieve the stress I sometimes feel by NOT being connected.  What if I just went acoustic more often, both at work and at home?

What if I stop bringing my iPad to meetings?

What if I spend just 30 minutes every day thinking or brainstorming with only a pen and paper as my tool?

What if I leave my laptop in my briefcase on the weekends, or even one day on the weekend?

What if I only use my phone as a phone (and not as a distraction device) when I am with family and friends.

What if I check Facebook twice a day instead of twice a minute?

What if one night a week I pick up a book instead of the remote control?

Any one of these ideas would give my brain the rest it needs from the noise of my electrified world without completely disconnected. I can still carry my smart phone with me, but I could be smarter about the way I use it. I don’t have to leave my laptop at work, but I don’t need to leave it open twenty four hours a day, either. I don’t have to cancel my Facebook account, just curb how often I look at it.

I have actually made a lot of these moves in the past year and it has helped free up a lot of time and brainpower, and has definitely lowered the stress in my life. I can now see that I have been going acoustic quite a bit more than I used to. The big difference today, though, is that I’m starting to look at going acoustic as a worthy goal in itself instead of thinking it’s only a baby step to getting completely off-the-grid.

Funny how a single word can sometimes make such a huge difference in the way you think, huh?

Anyway, I wonder if you have something to add to this idea. Does going acoustic work for you or do you have to completely unplug? What’s your favorite way to go acoustic? Did this idea shake up your thinking at all like it did for me? Leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you on this one.

 

My Next Big Thing (Maybe Yours, Too)

16 years.

That’s how long it’s been since I launched sparkspace.

I honestly had no idea my business would thrive for this long. Statistics do not favor startups. And yet, we made it past the first anniversary, then the fifth, then the tenth, the fifteenth, and here we are now, old enough to drive.

I believed in sparkspace 1000% from the start, as did our guests, clients, friends, and followers (and I am soooo thankful for all of them/you). What I wasn’t quite so sure about was ME. I wondered just how long I could stay interested and engaged in a job, even one I created. My previous record? 7 years. Before that? 3.

So, what’s the secret to staying engaged and interested for a long time (maybe even a lifetime)? It’s this:

Discover what your “ordinary superpowers” are and figure out ways to use them more and more all the time.

What are Ordinary Superpowers?

Ordinary Superpowers are your abilities, talents, and skills that pass this simple 4-part test:

1. They come naturally to you.
2. You’re better at them than most.
3. They help people (including you).
4. You love using them.

My ordinary superpowers are exploring new ideas & places, simplifying things, and communicating ideas conversationally through writing and speaking. I’ll be honest, I’ve known these were strengths for a long time, but I never fully owned them because I didn’t really think they were all that special.

The more I used them, however, the more I realized that not everyone has these abilities, and if they do, they likely don’t have my specific combination.

When I truly discovered my ordinary superpowers, started using them more proactively, and worked on improving them as much as possible, I began to have way more positive impact on the world around me.

THAT has kept me engaged for 16 years and counting.

As I share the idea of Ordinary Superpowers with others, I find people leaning in, wanting to hear more, and wondering out loud what their own ordinary superpowers might be. One of the things I love most right now is helping people start the journey of superpower discovery for themselves.

I believe it’s how you — no matter who you are, where you work, or what you do — can bring your absolute best self to the world, give your most powerful contribution, and experience true fulfillment in the short amount of time you’re given on this planet.

My Next Big Thing

Helping people discover, activate, enhance, and multiply their Ordinary Superpowers is what I’m dedicating all of my energy and resources to right now.

It’s my next big thing.

I can’t wait to keep sharing it with you. Here are two ways I plan to do that:

I’m writing a book about Ordinary Superpowers that will be published this spring. I’ll be sharing more about that soon.

I’ve also created a truly unique, one-day experience to help you discover, activate, and enhance your own ordinary superpowers.

Although I’ll be sharing my own exploration on the topic, this retreat is not about me, it’s about YOU. 100% of the content is designed to help you explore and maximize your own Ordinary Superpowers.

It will be immersive and interactive, brimming with amazing people and phenomenal content. It will be packed with positive energy and delicious food. I know when you leave you’ll look back on the day as an incredible experience.

I know that sounds like a lot, but hey, this is my next big thing and I plan on making it the best event I’ve ever produced in my 16 years at sparkspace.

I’m calling it The Superpower Summit because it will be a gathering of people who might just change the world with their superpowers. If you come, I know you’ll change YOUR world, for sure.

Are you interested? Want to know more about how to discover, activate, enhance, and multiply your own ordinary superpowers?

CLICK HERE to get all the details about the Superpower Summit at the one and only sparkspace.

Thanks! I hope you’re as excited about my next big thing as I am. I hope it’s your next big thing, too.

The Magic Of Being Part Of Something Bigger Than You

Last week’s post, I Want To Be Part Of The Magic, Don’t You? resonated with more readers than I expected. One of the responses I received was the letter below from Michael Mitchell of Water4, a charity venture that empowers local entrepreneurs in tough parts of the world to bring clean water to their communities. 

I asked Michael if I could publish his note to me and to share a link to Water4 with you. My hope is that you’ll be inspired by both. Enjoy.


Mark,

We’ve met once when you were at Oklahoma Christian University a few years ago, but it was in passing. I just wanted to tell you how much your post spoke to me yesterday. After 12.5 years working at OC, I recently took a huge career leap (or at least it feels that way to me right now) and left my position as OC’s Director of Admissions to join a nonprofit in Oklahoma City, Water4, that’s making a huge global impact in the fight to eradicate the world water crisis. 

I loved working at OC and had gotten to a point in my career where I was on a nice, stable glide path. There’s really no such thing as a career ladder any more, I know, but if there was, I was on it at OC. I was in a place and had taken the right steps to continue advancing in a nice fruitful higher education career at my alma mater. I was even doing something that I felt good about in leading a team in the Admissions Office and helping students make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. I’ve seen the power of Christian education to change lives and I was getting to be part of that process in the lives of hundreds of young people each year.

And yet… I’ve always had this desire deep in my heart to fight for people on the margins. And while I’ve found outlets for that at almost every stage of my life & career, I’ve never given that desire my full attention. Over the years, without realizing it or being able to articulate it quite like this, I think I stopped believing in the magic. 

Then one day, I learned about an opportunity with Water4 that would be an almost perfect vocational fit with my heart for people on the margins…and it was an opportunity that I was qualified for! And I was scared. Scared to raise my hand. Scared to let my heart get excited. Scared to leap when the position was offered. Scared to leave something comfortable, stable, and familiar. But I raised my hand anyway.

And here I am. One week into my “new” world as a fundraiser and storyteller for a cause that is literally saving hundreds of lives EVERY day. And I feel the magic. The magic of new beginnings. The magic of vocation & purpose in near perfect alignment. The magic of being part of something that is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN I AM.

Wow. This has turned into a much longer email than I originally anticipated it being. I just wanted to say thank you for writing that post yesterday. Your words almost perfectly articulate the swirl of thoughts and feelings I’ve been having the last several weeks.

Thank you for your words. You’ve been a blessing to me. 


Michael,

Thank YOU. And best wishes for you and Water4.

 

I Want To Be Part Of The Magic, Don’t You?

This past weekend, I took my family and my staff to Miracles & Magic, my favorite fundraiser of the year. It’s a 2-hour Las Vegas style magic and comedy show that over the years has raised over a million dollars for charities that benefit sick kids and their families. This year was the best show yet.

Two things all magic shows have in common:

  1. Magicians always ask for a volunteers from the audience.
  2. Almost every kid raises his/her hand, desperately desiring to be a part of the magic.

As I watched the kids jump out of their seats, stand on their tiptoes, and strain to raise their little hands just a tiny bit higher than the rest, I began to wonder, “When was the last time I wanted to be a part of something that badly? When was the last time I raised my hand and yelled ‘Pick ME!!!’?” More importantly, I wondered, “When did I STOP doing that? WHY did I stop doing that?”

Why did I stop jumping up and down, pleading to be part of the magic?

I came up with a laundry list:

  • When I was in middle school and high school, I worried more about what other people would think.
  • When I was in college, I focused more on what I thought I SHOULD be doing.
  • When I was early in my career, I was too concerned about my “professional image.”
  • When I had kids I became “too busy” for just about everything.
  • When I started my business I had too much to do and too much to lose.

There have been many times in my life when I wanted to be a part of the magic, but chickened out for one reason or another. There were jobs I wanted to take, places I wanted to go, friends I wanted to spend time with, projects that looked fun, and activities that I wanted to try. All I had to do to grab most of these things was raise my hand when the opportunity came up.

I absolutely knew when it was happening, too. Whenever magic invites me along for the ride, my heart beats faster. My palms get sweaty. I sometimes feel tingly all over or get goose bumps. That’s because magic comes standard with the fear of the unknown. We might get thrust into the spotlight. We might crash and burn. We might miss out on another, even bigger piece of magic if we say yes. It’s no wonder that even when we WANT to raise our hand and scream, “pick ME!!!”, instead we shrink a little in our seats, keep our sweaty palms in our laps, and hope the magic doesn’t even notice us.

And yet, we secretly wish the magic would yank us out of our chairs and force us to participate, don’t we? At least then we could say it wasn’t our fault if it didn’t turn out to be so magical after all.

I’m thinking again about the kids who were picked to be a part of the magic this weekend. Not a single one of them regretted raising their hand. Even if they were a little freaked out to be standing in the spotlight, I guarantee they thought it was awesome and talked about it all the way home. They’ll remember the experience for years, maybe even for life.

We never regret being part of the magic.

For that reason, the next time magic is seeking volunteers, I’m going to drop my excuses and raise my hand.

 

 

You’re Overqualified. So What?

Have you ever felt overqualified for something you really wanted to do? Or actually BEEN overqualified for something you were really interested in doing?

We have a rare full-time job opening at sparkspace. As part of our recruitment process I shared the job description with my network, including a post on my various social media accounts. One of the comments a friend of mine made really jumped out at me. She said:

“I’d apply, but I may be overqualified.”

Knowing my friends, it was probably intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but it made me wonder how many people don’t pursue jobs, careers, roles, or even projects that would be perfect for them just because they feel overqualified.

 

What Does Overqualified Mean Anyway?

When you feel overqualified for something that interests you, it typically means one of three things:

  1. It doesn’t pay enough.
  2. Your education, experience, or skill level is more than this job requires.
  3. You’re worried what people will think if you “step down” into a lesser job than you had.

I can’t do much about #1. If money is what drives you, or you have mountains of debt to pay off, or you have your heart set on a beach house, then you probably need to pursue opportunities that will help you finance these things.

#2 is legit, but only if you WANT to do what you’ve been trained to do. I’ve seen people who have invested tons of time, energy, and money into a degree or a career path and feel like they can’t just “throw it all away” to pursue something else…even if that something else would light them up WAY more than what they’re currently doing.

To anyone experiencing #3, I’ll say this: nobody is really paying that much attention to you. Ok, maybe your parents are, but haven’t we learned anything from every After School Special ever made? You know, the ones where the parents (or husband or wife or kids or friends) eventually say to the hero of the story, “We just want you to be happy.”

If you can pursue what you love doing, and you can make a living at it, why wouldn’t you?

 

What To Do If You’re Overqualified

I’m gong to say something you’ve heard a million times, but maybe this time it will mean something to you:

Life is short. Do what you love, love what you do.

And don’t let a silly little thing like being overqualified stand in your way.

 

 

What Will You Do In 2016 Just For The Joy Of It?

I saw this video on Facebook over the holidays and it really got me thinking about what, if anything, we do anymore just for the joy of it. If you’ve got six minutes, it’s worth watching, then come back here and read the rest of my post. If you don’t have the extra few minutes right now, that’s ok. Just scroll down and read the rest of the post.

 

What Will You Create In 2016 Just For The Joy Of It?

 

 

Stop Listening To The World

What struck me most about this story is that the hero of the story (the mom) wasn’t trying to go viral or create an internet sensation or start the next big thing. She just wanted to share something wonderful and pure with her daughter.

The world will tell you that you need to make your mark, start a business, or invent the next pet rock (or Beanie Baby or Google or Tesla electric car). You have to “hustle” and fight your way to the top. You have to pursue “greatness” or life is simply not all it can be.

One thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that when you get caught up trying to “make it big” you often stop doing the things you love to do just for the joy of doing them. You no longer pursue what expresses who you are and what you love, and instead you end up chasing what will make you the most money, or get the most likes, or build the biggest following.

I’m not against success or even fame and fortune, but I’ve learned those things make much better byproducts than goals.

Now is the time of year when we all think the most about the future. We make plans for the coming year, set goals, and make our resolutions. As you ponder your immediate future, I have just one question for you:

 

What will you do, participate in, or create in 2016 just for the joy of it?

Drop a comment below. I’m dying to hear your story!

Me? I’ve recently fallen in love with home roasting coffee. To do it well requires a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of focus and patience. It’s an activity that I completely lose myself in. Plus, there is absolutely no way I can make money at it (nor do I want to), get famous for it, or have any success other than an amazingly delicious cup of coffee. And I’m perfectly happy with that. In fact, as a capitalist entrepreneur, it’s good for me to lose myself in something other than business.

 

My Top 10 Highlights From Big Magic

About once every six weeks I post my version of a book review, which is really just the top 10 passages that I ran over with my highlighter when I was reading it. If I share a book with you, it means I loved it and recommend it. But you read the highlights and decide for yourself if it’s a book that resonates with you.

I recently finished Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Liz is best known for her mega best-selling memoir Eat, Pray Love. Yes, the one made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. I may be one of the few men who will admit that I loved Eat, Pray, Love (both the book and the movie), but I’m kind of an open book, which is probably why I like her writing so much.

 

My top 10 highlights from Big Magic:

 

Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction. Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means.

 

You do not need anyone’s permission to live a creative life.

 

Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one.

 

Speak to your darkest and most negative interior voices the way a hostage negotiator speaks to a violent psychopath; calmly, but firmly. Most of all, never back down. You cannot afford to back down. The life you are negotiating to save, after all, is your own.

 

Most things have already been done — but they haven not yet been done by you.

 

And always remember that people’s judgements about you are none of your business.

 

So when can you start pursuing your most creative and passionate life? You can start whenever you decide to start.

 

If money were the only thing people needed in order to live creative lives, then the mega-rich would be the most imaginative, generative, and original thinkers among us, and they simply are not.

 

The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust — and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.

 

Go be whomever you want to be, then. Do whatever you want to do. Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life. Create whatever you want to create — and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice. And that’s awesome.


BONUS HIGHLIGHTS!

Usually when I read a book, I highlight WAY more than 10 passages. This book was no exception. So, if you’re interested, here are the rest of the highlights that I thought were worth sharing from Big Magic.

Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.

 

You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass. It starts by forgetting about perfect. We don’t have time for perfect. In any event, perfection is unachievable; It’s a myth and a trap and hamster wheel that will run you to death.

 

The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is the it disguises itself as a virtue. In job interviews, for instance, people will sometimes advertise their perfectionism as if it’s their greatest selling point — taking pride in the very thing that is holding them back from enjoying their fullest possible engagement with creative living.

 

Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding. Because that moment? That’s the moment when interesting happens.

 

Interesting outcomes, after all, are just awful outcomes with the volume of drama turned all the way down.

 

But do not let your ego totally run the show, or it will shot down the show. your ego is a wonderful servant, but it’s a terrible master — because the only thing your ego ever wants is reward, reward, and more reward. And since there’s never enough reward to satisfy, your ego will always be disappointed.

 

Any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.

I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail. What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

 

People convince themselves that they have been robbed when they have not, in fact, been robbed. Such thinking comes from a wretched allegiance to the notion of scarcity — from the belief that the world is a place of dearth, and that there will never be enough of anything to go around.

 

You are not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words; it also doesn’t have to be important.

 

The results of my work don’t have much to do with me. I can only be in charge of producing the work itself.

 

You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.

 

There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.

 

I can’t tell you how many people said to me during those years (of Eat, Pray, Love’s wild success), “How are you ever going to top that?”…But such thinking assumes there is a “top” — and that reaching that top (and staying there) is the only motive one has to create. Such thinking assumes that the mysteries of inspiration operate on the same scale that we do — on a limited human scale of success and failure, of winning and losing, of comparison and competition, of commerce and reputation, of units sold and influence wilded. Such thinking assumes that you must be constantly victorious — not only against your peers, but also against an earlier version of your own poor self. Most dangerously of all, such thinking assumes that if you cannot win, then you must not continue to play.

 

Check out Big Magic on Amazon

We Lost $202 Million, But Gained So Much More

My family lost $202 million this weekend.

Thats what we would have in our bank account if we hadn’t lost the lottery this weekend. I know the exact amount because I saw it on a billboard at 4pm on Saturday. We were on our way to spend the night at our cabin. My wife said, “We should buy a ticket!” We both agreed that the little country gas station we pass on the way to our cabin  is exactly the kind of place that would sell the winning ticket.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a fan of any lottery…or casinos, or slot machines, or dog fighting, or turtle racing, or any form of gambling for that matter. I agree with Dave Ramsey that lotteries are basically an extra tax on the poor.

That said, just for fun we bought FOUR tickets on Saturday, one for each member of our family. Of course we agreed to split the winnings, so I’m not sure why we actually needed four tickets. I guess we thought it gave each of us more a feeling of ownership over our rather large future bank account.

Powerball tickets are $2 each, so we spent $8 total, which I consider to be the best $8 we’ve spent in a long time, even though we lost $202 million in the process. Let me explain:

Everyone Loves To Dream

Imagining what it would be like to suddenly have $202 million sparked a pretty lengthy discussion between me, my wife, and my two teenagers. If you know anything about teenagers, they’re not typically up for a lengthy discussion about, well, anything. They have an uncanny ability to answer even open-ended questions with one word answers. But ask them about how life might change if their allowance was increased by a couple hundred million bucks and they get pretty chatty.

Not only was the discussion lengthy, it was fun and enlightening. I learned a lot about what is important to each of my family members. I learned not just what they would buy, but what they would DO if they won the lottery (i.e., if money was no object). We all had different answers. None of our answers were right or wrong, they were just…us. Our answers revealed a lot about our needs, desires, and values. Also, nobody said they would buy a new family, so that was a relief.

A Better Way To Engage

I’m a future-thinker and an idea generator, so I do a lot of “what if” thinking. Normally when I try to engage my family in a discussion about the future, they roll their eyes (especially the kids) and say things like, “Chill out, Tony Robbins.” Not this time. This time they engaged fully in the conversation. This time it wasn’t ME asking them what they would do, it was the possibility of winning, the possibility of their wildest fantasies actually coming true that got them excited enough to share their thoughts in multi-word answers.

There is nothing more fun than dreaming with your family. Actually, dreaming with anyone is pretty awesome, but dreaming with your family is the best thing in the whole wide world. And there is no better time to dream than right now. The combination of a fresh new year approaching and the magic of Christmas makes right now the perfect moment to dream BIG. I highly recommend it.

So none of our four tickets won the jackpot. We’re ok with that. We didn’t expect to win. We did, however, learn more about each other in that one conversation than we’ve probably learned in the last several months, and we had a super fun time doing it. So we lost $202 million, but we gained so much more.

Let’s have some fun and dream BIG together!

What would YOU do if you suddenly found $200 million in your pocket? Share one thing or a whole list. Have some fun, dream BIG, and leave a reply below.

 

The Dark Side Of Feedback

“What do you think?”

“I think it should be bigger, and the font should be 14 point Helvetica. Oh, and the background should be blue, not green.”

I have about fifty conversations like this every week. Sometimes it is literally this very conversation about a marketing piece we’re working on. Other times it’s basically the same conversation, but we’re talking about a process or a problem we’re trying to solve instead.

I get asked for my feedback a lot. That’s what happens when you’re the big cheese and you’ve been around the block as many times as I have. I have a lot of experience and even more opinions, and I’m often asked to share one or the other, or both.

Giving and receiving feedback is an important part of any healthy, collaborative relationship. And yet…

 

There Is A Dark Side To Feedback

One of the most important things I’ve learned (ok, still learning) about giving feedback is that there is a dark side. Well, DARK side is a little harsh. It’s really more of a DOWN side. But with the new Star Wars movie coming out this week, I really needed a tie-in.

So, what is this mysterious dark/down side to giving feedback?

 

Most feedback only makes something different, it doesn’t make it better.

 

OUCH.

For quite awhile I found myself giving “corrective” feedback to my team just because someone did something differently than I would do. If they picked green and I was thinking blue, I’d say it should be blue. If a process had three steps and I thought it should be two, I’d say make it two.

Never mind that green looked just fine and the three-step process worked extremely well (maybe even BECAUSE of that extra step).

Hey, they asked me, so I told them what I thought was better.

Turns out, it was  — way TOO often — just different.

 

My Feedback Wasn’t Always As Useful As I Thought It Was

I started noticing a certain look on the face of people I would give feedback to. It was kind of a blank look, like they were trying very hard not to react to my feedback one way or another. I interpreted this to mean they were trying as hard as they could to NOT scream at me:

“THAT’S NOT ANY BETTER AT ALL…IT’S JUST DIFFERENT!”

So I paid a little more attention. When I gave feedback that really DID make things better, there might be a little nod and maybe even a small smile. When I gave feedback that made things better, people acted a little relieved, like they didn’t quite know what was wrong before and my feedback unlocked the mystery for them.

Nobody likes to refute your feedback, especially if you’re the boss. But even if you’re not in charge, most people will feel like they have to at least politely acknowledge your feedback, even when they don’t agree with it. If you’re not paying close enough attention, you might mistake this acknowledgement for actual approval and true appreciation, which it is not.

Don’t make this mistake. Doing so will only inform your already misguided ego that you are sooooo supremely smart and everyone NEEDS you to enlighten them and improve their efforts with your super awesome feedback, which, we have already established, is probably not all that super awesome, just super different.

 

I Needed A Filter On My Mouth

I decided that I didn’t like that blank look — you remember, the one they would get when they were trying not to murder me. I didn’t like the awkwardness I felt when I saw it, and once I realized that what it REALLY meant was that my feedback was probably creating needless changes and more work, I decided to do something about it. So I installed a filter on my mouth.

Now when someone asks for my feedback, I try very hard to pause long enough to ask myself, “Is what you’re about to say going to actually make it better, or is it just going to make it different?”

The difference this slight pause has made is actually quite dramatic. It has helped me build trust in my team, improved my feedback, and reduced a lot of unnecessary work. It has also led to new approaches and fresh thinking because it’s not all coming just from my head now.

Everything I’ve said in this post also applies for when I HAVEN’T been asked for my feedback, and I feel compelled to give it anyway. In the past I did this a lot more  and blamed it on the fact that it’s my company and I love it so much I just want everything to be as perfect as possible. So every time I saw something I thought should be different (not always better, mind you), I would speak up.

 

Small Change, Big Results

You might be wondering, “Geez, does he ever give good feedback?” The answer to that is yes, yes I do. In fact, I think I give better feedback now than I did even six months ago because “Different or better?” has become more than a filter for me, it’s really a daily mantra.

This has all resulted in one of the most painful realizations I’ve made yet: my way ain’t the only way to make something great.

It’s also one of the realizations that has helped me grow the most as a person, a coworker, and a leader. And the benefit to my company has been exponential.

 

Am I the only one who struggled to learn this important lesson? Are you still struggling with it? Tell me where you’re stuck, or how you’ve made your own improvement to feedback.

 

Any Fears Keeping You From Something Big?

Deep breath. Here goes…

I’m going to write a book in the next 90 days.

There, I said it. And it scares the hell out of me.

Not because I’m afraid of writing. I love to write. I’ve been writing professionally for more than twenty five years – first as a copywriter, then as an “information designer”, now as a blogger. Getting words out of my head is the easy part.

I’m also not afraid that people won’t like the book. I know that if I write it the way I want to write it, there will be an audience for it. Might be a small audience, might be gigantic audience. All I know is no matter the size, it will be the right audience.

The effort doesn’t scare me. I’ve buckled down and produced something new many times before. I’m actually excited to have a meaningful, sizable project.

No, what I’m afraid of is not following through this time. You see, just two days ago my Facebook feed prompted me with one of those “memory” posts — you know, where it says “1 year ago today, here’s what you posted.” It also gives you the option of looking at everything you’ve ever posted on that particular date. Well, wouldn’t you know it, five years ago — at this very same moment of the year — I announced that I was going to write a book.

I talked about it, posted about it, told all my friends about it, announced it to the world…

…and never wrote it.

I just caught myself involuntarily shaking my head at myself as I wrote that last sentence. That broken promise to the world (and to myself) is one of my few regrets.

However, today I’m not beating myself up. Today I’m celebrating because I’m ready. I’m committed. And I have what I think is a pretty darn good idea for a book that will help people get more fully engaged in life and work.

Today I know that my past does not equal my future. When I look back five years ago, I wanted to write a book because I thought I should write a book. Today, I want to write a book simply because I want to write a book.

Today, the thought of NOT writing a book scares the hell out of me. And that’s exactly why I’m starting it…today.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, first of all, you’re my friends and I wanted to tell you about this big thing I’m doing. Second, I wanted you to know why I may slow down on the blogging for a little bit while I knock this thing out. Finally, I needed to face my fear so I can remove that stupid obstacle once and for all. There’s no better way to do that than saying your fear out loud and sharing it with the world.

Got any fears keeping you from something big? That reply box below is a great place to state ’em out loud. I’ve got your back. So does everyone else who reads this, I promise.

 

 

Why It Is Important To Discover Your Essence

A week ago, if you had asked me why it is important to discover your essence I might have looked at you like you had two heads. A week later, I feel like it is one of the most important things you can do.

Last Tuesday, I took my staff to my cabin for a company retreat. We spent the morning celebrating our successes from 2015 and designing the future we want to see in 2016. These are my favorite kind of days.

I designed an exercise to help us think about what we should focus on in the coming year. The exercise worked. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, it worked way differently and way better than I expected. Instead of simply helping us choose a focus, it actually unveiled the essence of what we’re all about at sparkspace.

When I say, “essence”, I mean “the core of what we do”. It’s the one thing above all else that people look to us for. It’s the one thing we are uniquely qualified to provide. It’s what sets us apart and how we contribute the most to the world. In a sense, it’s our superpower as a company.

I won’t say I was completely shocked by what we identified as our essence, because it IS what we do every day (although we’ve never really articulated it).  However, I was a little surprised to discover that it is different than I thought it was. You see, we toss the word, “inspiration,” around a lot in our office. We’ve even used the tagline, “The Most Inspirational Business Retreat Center On The Planet”, for several years. But as we discussed what our guests and community want and need when they come to us, inspiration never even came up in the conversation.

It’s not that we’ve been hanging our hat on the wrong hat rack all this time. I think we HAVE inspired people in many ways. We’ve inspired teams to be more creative and collaborative. We’ve inspired people to live with more simplicity and balance. We’ve inspired our guests to have more fun at work. We’ve inspired businesses to re-think the way they go about their business. We’ve inspired more than a handful of businesses to redesign (or at least repaint) their conference room(s) back at work.

Like I said, right hat rack, but wrong hook. I believe this explains why sometimes we’re not always as successful as I know we could be. It explains why sometimes the directions we embark on don’t feel quite right. It explains why sometimes it just feels like there’s something missing, even when things are going well.

 

Why It Is Important To Discover Your Essence

When you know what you’re all about at your core…

…you have a much better idea of how to contribute at your highest level.

…you have a much better idea of what to say no to.

…you stop comparing yourself to other people.

…you stop comparing yourself to an unrealistic, perfect future version of you.

…you stop needlessly competing with others.

…you start living a more authentic existence.

 

In addition to having even more positive impact on your world, I’m pretty sure all of the above lead to more happiness and fulfillment for everyone involved, including you.

Oh, in case you’re wondering what we identified as the essence of sparkspace, here’s what we figured out:

 

sparkspace is all about helping people get fully engaged.

 

Knowing this won’t change everything we do (partially because we already DO this to a certain degree already), but I believe it has already shifted how we think as a company. No doubt this shift will manifest itself in many noticeable ways in the rest of 2015, throughout 2016, and beyond. Personally, I’m more excited than ever about what we do, and grateful that I can still feel this way even after 16 years in business.

I would love for you and your team to experience this same feeling, so I’ve created a simple tool to help you define your essence. This is the same exercise I took my team through during our retreat, so I know it works (well, it has worked at least once!). The exercise is simple, highly effective, and potentially life-changing.

 

>>Download the Essence Identifier tool now

 

I would love to hear what you think about the tool, or about this post in general. Helpful? Leave a comment below.

 

My Review (kinda) Of Life is Good, The Book

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I thought I’d share something a little different for the three people reading this who are actually working this week.

It’s a book review! Well, kinda.

My idea of a book review is to share my top 10 highlights (literally the top 10 lines in the book that I lit up with my bright yellow highlighter. I had a lot more than 10, by the way. Always do.). I figure this might be a good way for you to decide if you want to read it for yourself.

Do I think you should read it? Well, I did include it in my blog…

 

My Top 10 Highlights From Life Is Good, The Book by Bert & John Jacobs, founders of the Life is Good Company:

 

“It’s easier to knock something down than it is to build it up. But remember: The people who knock everything down never build anything.”

 

“If you choose to listen to the skeptics in your path, or let your natural self-doubts consume you, you’ll take the safe route every time. In doing so, you’ll pass up the chance to realize your full potential.”

 

“What if instead of harping on what’s wrong with the world, we could help people focus on what’s right with the world? If we really want to find solutions, why not create a rallying cry for optimists?”

 

“In business, if you bring a complex idea to market, you’ll reach hundreds. Simplify it and you’ll reach thousands. Simplify it to the point where the average person instantly understands it, and your reach becomes limitless.”

 

“Most people don’t think they can survive without email, but many can. What happens is that you are simply more selective about giving out your contact information. Before you say you could never do this, or you could never drop off Facebook or any other time-consuming social media, consider this question: What do you give it, and what does it give back to you?”

 

“Decide what and who is most important in your life, and say yes to them. Say no to everything else.”

 

“For most of us, the things that actually make us happy are the same things we loved as children: fresh air, laughter, and playing with family and friends.”

 

“Frustrated with a key relationship in your life? Stuck on a problem at work or home that seems insurmountable? The first key to creative solutions is admitting you don’t know the answer.”

 

“Dogs teach us so much if we’re willing to heed their wordless wisdom. Surely the greatest teacher in the “school of authenticity” is a slobbering ball chaser with a perpetually wagging tail. Always watchful, never judgmental, dogs love without reservation. And they’re just as comfortable with who they are, too. Wide-eyed wonder comes easy when your tastes are simple and your mind is open to the joy of the moment. Dogs don’t worry about the past or the future. Their focus is fixed on the present, and faults are forgiving faster than the flick of a Frisbee. They’re ways game to connect. Dogs not only accept what is, but they celebrate it wholeheartedly. They’re never too proud to ask for what they need, and they’re always at the ready when we need them.”

 

“When we are younger, everyone tells us we need more of everything. More education, more clothes, more money, more stuff. But as we get older, we all come to realize that the only thing we need more of is time. Time to do the things we love, and time to be with the people we love. Choose what you do with your time very carefully, and protect that time with your life, because it IS your life.”

 

Check out Life Is Good, The Book on Amazon

 

My Christmas Wish List For You

The Christmas decorations are up in all the stores (except Nordstrom), my daughter has changed the #1 button on my car to the insane station that starts playing Christmas music the day after Halloween, and a few days ago I saw a video on Facebook of the first snowstorm in Vail, Colorado.

Complain about it all you want, but there are definitely many things worse than extending the season that encourages peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women, and kids, and pets, and strangers).

While the Holidays are a time for giving to others, I thought it might be fun to share a list of things that I believe you should give yourself this Christmas (or at least sometime soon). Why? Well, I have a pretty good idea that you’re someone who does a great job at serving other people and always putting others first. That’s awesome and admirable…and often quite exhausting. Service-oriented people have a high tendency to wear down, burn out, and deplete themselves of the energy that being a service-oriented person truly requires.

I want you to keep serving, keep lifting others up, and keep living and leading your rockstar life to the best of you ability. For that reason, I really, really want you to take care of yourself. I know it’s hard, but you have to make YOU a priority.

Self-care helps you live a self-less life more effectively.

Plus, after talking about how to stand up to a bully last week and encouraging you to stop beating yourself up the week before that, I selfishly wanted to write about something a bit more lighthearted this week.

 

My Christmas Wish List For You:

1. FULLY CHARGED BATTERIES
The #1 way to keep up your energy is to regularly take time to refresh your body, mind, and soul. You don’t have to take a three week vacation to Fiji (although that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?).  How about getting a massage once a month, or having date night once a week, or spending 30 minutes reading for fun. The key is to SCHEDULE it. If you wait until you have time, you’ll neglect yourself because time has a funny way of always running out.

Some of my favorite battery chargers:

 

2. A NEW CALENDAR
I’m not saying that you should buy a new Justin Bieber calendar for your wall (unless, of course, you are a giant Justin Bieber fan, and you’re 13 years old).  What I AM saying is that perhaps you could give yourself a new ATTITUDE about your calendar. Protect it more fiercely and plan it more intentionally in 2016 than you did in 2015 (and 2014, and 2013, and 2012…). Schedule time for yourself (see item #1 above) and be very liberal with your use of the word, “no”. A new calendar really means stop overcommitting so you can give yourself the gift of breathing room instead.

If you love actual paper calendars like my wife does, here are a few for 2016 that I would totally hang on my wall:

 

3. CHILD-LIKE FUN
Almost every adult I know who engages, or re-engages, in child-like fun never ever regrets it. I believe that most of the fuddyduddy types who sit on the sidelines — you know, the ones who scowl at the “silly” ones who are actually having fun — secretly wish they could join in, but for some reason they just can’t give themselves permission.

I’m giving you permission. Let loose. Unleash your inner child. You’ll quickly gain more energy, optimism, and creativity — all things adults need lots more of these days, don’t you agree?

Here are some child-like fun things you can buy (you still have to USE them to get the benefit, FYI):

  • Coloring books and pencil kits for adults. These new ones from Crayola also include the colored pencils (you know, in case you lost the ones you had when you were six).
  • A longboard (like this one from Arbor Skateboards). It’s skateboarding, but way easier.
  • Mr. Potatohead. We have dozens of these around sparkspace and, yes, the grownups play with them all the time. Here’s a starter kit with lots of pieces and parts to make it even more fun.

 

What would you add to the list? Leave a reply below and add to the inspiration!

I know it’s still a little early, but what the heck: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

How To Stand Up To A Bully

We just finished another election season and we’re headed full-speed into a Presidential election year. That means there will be lots of people stating their beliefs about issues and candidates. There will be even more people debating and arguing against those beliefs. It will get ugly, as it always does.  It’s what happens in a democratic society with free speech. I’m actually ok with that. Yes, I wish people would always treat each other nicely and respect differing opinions, but I realize those things fall just under the “butterflies and unicorns” section of my utopia wish list.

What does bother me about our free speech society, however, is that it also brings out the bullies. There are trolls everywhere just waiting to pounce on anyone with differing beliefs and opinions. The problem with these trolls is that they are very effective. Most bullies become bullies by honing the craft of bullying into a Jedi-like mastery of insult and injury.

One masterful bully can shut down a hundred reasonable voices. People in general are very sensitive creatures. It doesn’t take much to bully someone into submission…or at least into keeping their mouth shut in the future. If you’ve ever spoken/published your ideas or opinions in a public forum (like, say, Facebook) you know exactly what I mean. It doesn’t take long for a bully to attack your ideas or twist your words out of context.

You can’t win a bout against a bully, and you can’t punch them in the nose like we’ve been taught in the movies. I’ve been drawn into more verbal fight clubs than I wish to admit, thinking I would prove to the world — and the bully — that I’m right and they are wrong. Not once did I even come close to winning. You can’t even get in the last word!

I’ve wondered for years how to stand up against a bully effectively. Through lots of trial and LOTS of error, here’s what I’ve discovered about bullies: bullies only win if you fight. Fighting gives them power — they feed on the fight. If you don’t fight, they have no power. Zero. None. Nada. They deflate quickly or leave the area in search of a fight elsewhere. Either way, they’re not your problem anymore.

How To Stand Up To A Bully

Check your motivation first.
Are you trying to let people know where you stand or are you trying to convert people to your way of thinking? In my experience, the conversion thing is usually an attempt to make myself feel more “right.” Oh, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to convert a bully anyway, so don’t waste your energy.

Take your stand, then take a seat.
The more you explain your stance the less believable (and more boring) it is. If you try to explain your stance on gun control with fifteen paragraphs, you’ll lose me at gun control. Just state it. We’ll get it. Plus, the more you talk, the more potential arguing points you give a bully.

Resist the urge to retaliate.
Bullies WANT you to fight, so they intentionally say things to entice you into arguing. They know exactly how to push your buttons. I want to fight back so bad sometimes I find myself typing a response as if I’m possessed by an external force. It’s even worse when it happens in person because I can’t delete things I say out loud without thinking. Must. Resist. The. Urge.

Let the bully flame out.
When you disengage from a bully, they fizzle FAST. I recently had one try to pick a fight with me in three consecutive comments on a Facebook post. I just ignored him and only engaged with people who weren’t being a-holes. He went away. They always do.

Delete if needed.
This applies whether you’re online or in person. Sometimes you just have to walk away. I’ve deleted Facebook posts that got ugly and I’ve physically left the scene when a bully takes over a face-to-face conversation. That way I keep my blood pressure at non-stroke levels and I remove the temptation to say things I really shouldn’t say to another human being.

 

By all means, take a stance. State your opinion. Share what you believe to be right. I wish MORE people would have the courage to do so. How great would it be for you and I to know exactly where the other person stands…and still be friends? No arguing needed, no evangelizing required, and by all means, no bullying allowed.

What do you think? Can we make that happen?

 

The Advice I’m Giving Myself This Week

Ok, that’s weird. He’s giving himself advice?

I have a confession to make. Every post I write, every podcast I produce, every interview I conduct, every keynote I deliver, and every workshop I facilitate has a target audience of one. That one is me.

Ever heard the phrase, “You teach what you need to learn”? I’m pretty sure it was written about me. Ok, maybe it was written long before I was born, but it definitely applies.

If you’ve ever thought I had even a shred of wisdom, it’s only because you and I needed to hear the same things at that moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m GLAD other people benefit from my work. And I’d love to say that is my primary goal. But if I’m being honest, my primary goal in most of my work is to give myself a giant kick in the ass. If it gently nudges yours in the process, then that makes me happier than you can imagine. It’s icing on the cake.

So here’s what I need to tell myself this week:

Stop beating yourself up.

Last week I had two speaking gigs. These were the first two speaking engagements I have taken on in over a year. Last year I wasn’t sure I wanted to do public speaking any more, so I focused my energy on other parts of my business, and I gave myself some time to explore and recharge. Then a few weeks ago I received two separate requests to speak on a topic that had been fascinating me for awhile — identifying and activating your superpowers. I figured two requests back to back was a sign that I should least put my toes back in the pool and test the water.

I put together a keynote presentation. I prepared like crazy. I even completely scrapped it and rewrote it a few days before the first gig because I wasn’t happy with it. Thanks to a lot of great feedback from my staff and one of my most trusted advisors, it ended up being a darn good presentation, if I do say so myself. And the first time I delivered it I pretty much hit a home run (or at least a triple).

Two days later I bombed.

Well, “bombed” my be a bit extreme. If you ask anyone who saw it they would likely say it was pretty good. But I knew better. I didn’t deliver that second presentation nearly as good as the first. Not even close. And I’ve been beating myself up ever since. In fact, after the event I was so frustrated by my own performance that I stopped at a Best Buy and just wandered around the store for thirty minutes to distract myself from my own negative thoughts. It didn’t work.

I was ready to pull my toes back out of the pool and hang up my public speaking career for good. Before making a rash decision, though, I decided to just give myself a little bit of time to decompress. I have felt this way before and after a few days I typically look at things more objectively and realize that it wasn’t so bad.

But…even as I write this I’m finding it pretty easy to conjure up those negative feelings again. I can feel myself cringing as I replay that second event in my head.

And that brings me right back to my advice:

 

Stop beating yourself up.

 

It wasn’t as bad as you think. Even if it was, it was ONE TIME. Out of hundreds. Maybe it’s motivation to improve, but it is certainly no reason to quit.

That’s what I needed to tell myself…and maybe you, too…this week.

 

4 Words That Can Change Everything…If You Let Them

I’m a big believer in the power of words. Words give a thought its first tangible form. Words make stuff real.

You see, a concept, theory, or argument in your head is rather worthless for anything, except maybe your own amusement. If it stays there, it suffocates. There’s no air in there, no room to breathe, and no room to grow.

Only when an idea gets out in the open can it really take off. Then you can test it, build on it, and actually make it into something that benefits the world.

How many great ideas have you had that you never spoke out loud to another human being? Bouncing them off your dog doesn’t count. Sure, dogs are great listeners, but not so great at giving you honest feedback. They’re also completely unreliable when you need to build something.

We’ve all had ideas that were born, lived briefly, and died within the confines of our own brain. At last count, I had, oh, a gazillion. The only ideas that ever become real are the ones that someone is brave enough to put into words. Words are always the first step.

Always.

How many times have you sat in a meeting, had an idea you thought would benefit the discussion, and yet kept your mouth shut? I’m a bit of a blabbermouth now, so people who know me might be surprised at how many times I DIDN’T share my ideas in meetings when I was younger. I walked away from so many meetings kicking myself for not speaking up. I watched projects struggle and even fail sometimes because I hadn’t shared my ideas. I’m not saying every idea I ever had was a winner, but I know I stifled more than a few good ones.

When you put your ideas out there, you’re putting them out there to be judged. Since they are your ideas, it’s pretty easy to feel as though you’re being judged as well. That’s why it stings so much when your ideas are shot down. It feels like a personal rejection. Amd then next time you’re even more reluctant to let the words come out of your mouth…even if you know your idea is a good one.

Here are four of the most powerful words you may ever speak:

“I have an idea.”

Well, they’re powerful if you actually speak them. You’ve gotta move your mouth and push enough air from your lungs so the words can be heard by other people. Then you need to follow them up with even more words that explain your idea as clearly as possible. The first four words are the hardest, though, for sure.

It is mind boggling how many times people have shared an idea with a coworker AFTER a meeting. 98% of the time their coworker responds with something like, “That’s a great idea! WHY DIDN’T YOU SHARE THAT IN THE MEETING?????????”

C’mon, you know you’ve been there.

Let’s practice right now. Say these words out loud with me:

“I have an idea.”

Say it loud. Say it strong. And when all eyes turn your way, let ‘er rip.

Your next idea might just change everything.

 

Do You Know Which Kind Of Learning You’re Doing?

Today’s post is by my friend, Val Geisler. While Val’s “target audience” is a little different than mine, we think a lot alike. I read her blog regularly and I always find myself nodding my head in agreement with whatever she’s saying. Plus, she’s like the Yoda of helping entrepreneurs get their, um, stuff together. This post appeared on her blog a while ago and as soon as I read it I begged her to let me re-post it on my blog. She said, “Get off your knees and stop begging me. You’re embarrassing yourself and everyone else here at Panera.” Then she gave me her blessing. So, here you go. I hope it resonates with you like it did with me.

____________________________

In 2014 (the same year I took 3 months off and had a baby), I spent over $5,000 on e-learning. Probably more if you consider the hours and hours I poured thru blogs and articles, researched and read forums, and responded to comments. Since time is money, that adds up.

But since I only have the income reports from my accountant to pull the actual numbers, let’s go with $5k. Not an insignificant number, by any means, though I realize that many have spent much, much more.

And if you’re anything like me, you might be wondering what I did with $5k worth of new information in my brain. Did I use all of it? Did it magically make it’s own investment back in spades? Do I have a textbook case of overwhelm with a side of exhaustion.

No, kinda, and maybe.

See, like a hungry college kid at the grocery store, I made a few hasty purchases. I bought a few courses that I was socking away for a rainy day. It was all Just In Case Learning.

Just In Case I decide to promote my business on Instagram more.

Just In Case my speaking career really takes off.

Just In Case there is a better way to set goals than the way I’ve been doing it for years.

And while Just In Case Learning may, someday, pay off, it’s actually glorified busy work (and busy work for my bank account too – I’ve yet to see any of my Just In Case Learning pay for itself). Just In Case Learning is what we do when we don’t know what to do. It’s the liberal arts degree of entrepreneurship. I should know, I have a degree in theatre.

The opposite of Just In Case Learning is Just In Time Learning. As in:

I learned about how to properly run Facebook Ads Just In Time before I wasted any more money trying to figure it out myself.

I nailed down my messaging with clear and concise copy Just In Time before I launched my new website.

I got the inside scoop on rocking a great webinar that sells Just In Time before I launched my big group program.

Just In Time Learning is the kind that pays for itself. Maybe not in actual dollars made after the course was over but in dollars saved by not spending them in the first place. Less output, more knowledge.

I gotta tell you, I’m a big fan of Just In Time Learning. It really takes the question out of “Should I do this program/buy this course/join this membership site?”. Here’s how I assess if it’s Just In Time:

  1. Do I need this information for the next 90 days of my business?
  2. Am I willing to put in the leg work (no matter how much) to learn it on my own?
  3. Would I like a guide in this information? Someone who has tested it out and honed it for me?

And that’s it. If I can answer Yes, No, Yes to those questions, it’s Just In Time Learning that I will happily invest in. No more busywork. No more wasted money.

I’ve been the hungry kid at the grocery store (in real life and in business). It’s a drain on my wallet and my sanity and I’ve committed to never going to the store hungry again. Just In Case Learning is so 2014. We’re over halfway thru 2015 (what. I’ll pause while THAT sinks in…) but I’m officially declaring it The Year of Just In Time Learning.

My Just In Time Learning list includes: How to Podcast and Writing a Book (how’s that for a sneak peek into my business game plan!)

 

What’s on your Just In Time Learning list?

 

About Val

Val Geisler is a Client Experience + Systems Strategist with a passion for digital entrepreneurs. After over a decade behind the scenes of everything from non-profits to multi-six-figure businesses, Val has the innate ability to think big picture and minute details at the exact same time. While this skill is most often found in soaring bald eagles, Val puts it to work here on the ground with her clients as she crafts truly unique customer experiences that stand out. Her clients love shaking off the weight of the day to day and finding the space and time to build their dream businesses full of happy customers and endless referrals.

Often seen geeking out over her favorite resources and tools on Facebook, Val is most likely found doing (slightly less complicated) puzzles with her daughter or finding a little bit of solitude on her yoga mat. Get all of her best tutorials, tips, and tricks for crafting your own customer experience at valgeisler.com/simple-solutions

 

 

Why Fake It ‘Til You Make It Is The Worst Advice Ever Given

“Fake it ’til you make it.”

ARRGGGGHHHH! I H-A-T-E that advice. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Here’s why:

Nobody ever faked their way to sustainable success.

Oh, sure, you can fake it for awhile. You might even fool some people into thinking you’re better, more skilled, or more confident than you really are. But somebody somewhere will see through your faux front, usually sooner than later. Because, you see, it is IMPOSSIBLE to fake it ’til you make it. To “make it” you need skill, competence, connections, confidence. All things you really can’t fake. All things that require impeccable authenticity. You have to actually own these things. There is no pretending.

I know some people mean well when they say fake it ’til you make it. What they really mean don’t get paralyzed by the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t be too afraid to get started, even if you don’t know how to start. It’s ok to jump in with both feet, even if you don’t know how to swim. That last one is a metaphor. You’d never tell someone who can’t swim, “Just jump in the deep end and fake it ’til you make it.” Personally, I don’t think you should ever tell that to someone in any circumstance.

Sadly, when some people say it they really are encouraging you to fake it, pretend, or give the illusion that you don’t have your head up your backside. These people scare me, because they don’t understand one of the fundamental keys to success:

Authentic beats fake every time.

Authentic doesn’t mean that you have all the answers, or that you know how to do everything. Authentic is admitting you don’t have all the answers. Authentic is admitting that you don’t know how to do everything.

Which person would you rather hire?

A. Someone who pretends to know everything, but doesn’t.

B. Someone who doesn’t know everything and admits it.

They both might succeed. They both might fail. I prefer the authentic one either way. I’m guessing you do, too.

So let me ask you this:

Which one would you rather BE?

By all means, if you don’t know how to do something, or you’re unsure, or you’re even a bit afraid, don’t let that stop you from giving it a try and figuring it out as you go. It’s ok to not know everything and it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you’re up front about it. If you fake it and you fail, you lose my trust. If you’re authentic and you fail, I’ll pick you up, dust you off, and help you back up on that horse.

The best news of all is that if you don’t fake it, and you keep trying, someday you WILL have all of the answers and you WILL know how to do everything because you’ll have REAL learning and REAL experience, not a pretend resume of lucky circumstance.

In my opinion, fake it ’til you make it is the worst advice ever given.

Be authentic ’til you make it might just be the best.

 

 

Put Your Worry To The Test

Think back 15 years. If you were in middle school 15 years ago, think back 5 or 10 years.

What were you worried about back then?

I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that the only worries you can remember were about pretty big things, like purchasing a house, entering college, or facing a health crisis.

But you worried about so much more at the time, didn’t you? You worried about your kids playing too close to the street, or getting your term paper done on time, or missing a deadline on a project. You worried that you weren’t being taken seriously at work. You worried about not having enough money. You worried about the fact that you were 2 pounds heavier than the last time you stepped on the scale. Gosh, you worried about SO MANY THINGS.

Sometimes we even laugh at ourselves about the things we used to worry about. 15 years ago I worried that I would never win a particular award that I thought would put me on the map. Seems absolutely silly to me now, but back then it bordered on obsession. I even hired a consultant to help me figure out how to win the award! As it turned out, I eventually DID win the award…and it didn’t change my life one bit. Oh sure, I got a nice trophy and a free dinner (along with a whole bunch of other people who also won the award that year). Other than that, life was pretty much the same afterward. If I hadn’t won it, I’d still be writing this post right now.

Now let’s flip this idea around and project into the future. Fast forward 15 years from now and look back. What are you worried about right now that 15 years from now you won’t even remember? What will you think is silly? What  are you worried about — if you’re completely honest with yourself — that really won’t make a difference in your life one way or another?

Worry does have a place in our life. It drives us to be on time, keeps us alert in dangerous situations, and probably prevents a lot of food poisoning (my wife is particularly paranoid about the expiration dates on food containers). Beyond that, it’s pretty worthless and rarely changes anything.

When you feel that familiar pang of worry creep into your brain, here’s a quick test to help you when worry is getting the best of you:

 

1. What EXACTLY are you worried about? Name it. Be as specific and detailed as you can be. Just naming and describing your worry can take the bite out of it quite a bit.

 

2. What’s the worst thing that can happen if it becomes true? Most times, the worst thing we can think of really isn’t that bad.

 

3. IF the worst thing happened, how would that change your life? Chances are, not much.

 

4. What’s the REAL possibility of your worry becoming reality? In other words, just how crazy am I being about this? A good example of this is worrying about your kids being kidnapped from the front yard by a creepy guy in a big white van. Does it ever happen? Sure. The FBI reported 332 child abductions by a stranger in 2014. Out of 74,000,000 kids in the US. WAY more kids get hurt climbing trees every year (something else to worry about, huh?).And, finally…

 

5. Will you even remember being worried about this 15 years from now? If the answer to this one is no, you know you have to let it go, right?

 

Anybody willing to put their worry to the test right now? Leave a comment below and let me know if this helped you!

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Every Step

If you don’t celebrate your accomplishments, how do you ever feel fulfilled?

If you don’t celebrate your accomplishments, how do you ever know just how far you’ve come?

If you don’t celebrate your accomplishments, then what was the point of achieving them?

I know why you don’t celebrate them. You don’t celebrate them because:

A. You’re already too busy working toward the next accomplishment.

B. Celebrating accomplishments is bragging and it’s poor form to brag.

C. You think nobody else cares about your accomplishments, so why celebrate them?

D. All of the above.

Here’s what I say: screw all of that. Celebrate. I’ll go first.

Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. I’m proud of it. It a HUGE accomplishment. It’s by far my greatest achievement. It’s been an even bigger feat for my wife because she’s had to put up with ME for 25 years.

FYI: I also celebrated #1 through #24, and I’ll celebrate the next 75. Yes, I plan to live to be at least 123.

The reality is life is short and it moves incredibly fast. Celebrate every step. That’s all I really want to tell you today.

 

 

9 Resources That Are Helping Me Think Bigger

I love the fact that you’re reading this. I feel very fortunate that thousands of people read my thoughts each week. You might just be visiting for the first time, or you might be a regular subscriber. Many of you are very loyal friends and followers, and a few of you might even qualify as bona fide groupies, ha ha!

This week I thought I’d pull back the curtain a bit and share with you some of the people that I read, listen to, and follow right now that are helping me think bigger. And yes, I might even qualify as a bona fide groupie in a few cases. The way I see it is if you like the stuff I share, then you might just like the same kind of people that I do. And I also suspect that you like discovering new resources as you continue your journey of self-development.

So here’s a sample of what’s influencing my thinking right now. I’ve curated my list down to 9 items. If I gave you my whole list it would go against my core values of simplicity and balance!

For each resource I’ve included a brief description of each and a link in case you want to know more. By the way, I’d LOVE to know who you’re following and what you’re reading/listening to right now, too. Leave a reply at the end of this post and let me know!

 

Blogs I’m Following:

Chad J. Willet

Chad J. Willet is an accomplished motivational speaker, actor and author. His first book, “SMASH THE BOX” covers the principles he has learned from his professional acting career. http://chadjwillett.com/blog/

 

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is a student of story. He’s the author of New York Times Best Sellers: Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Scary Close. He’s the president and founder of StoryBrand.com. http://storylineblog.com/

 

Live Your Legend

This is the website and blog of Scott Dinsmore. Scott tragically passed away recently, which I wrote about in last week’s post. His website is a great resource for those who are seeking to live and love life more significantly.  http://www.liveyourlegend.net

 

Podcasts I’m Listening To:

The Reductivity Podcast

Greg Tosi writes and speaks about personal development, leadership, productivity, overcoming fear, and finding your passion in life. Greg’s passion is seeing people reach their full potential through personal development, simplicity, and practical wellness. http://www.gregtosi.com/category/podcast/

 

Happier

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the blockbuster New York Timesbestsellers, Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, in more than thirty languages. On her popular weekly podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, she discusses good habits and happiness with her sister Elizabeth Craft, a successful television writer in L.A.  http://gretchenrubin.com/podcast/

Good Life Project

Good Life Project is the creation of Jonathan Fields, a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media-producer and entrepreneur. His last book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance was named the top personal development book in 2011 by 800-CEO-READ.  http://www.goodlifeproject.com/radio/

 

Books I’ve Recently Loved:

Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives  

Founder Kip Tindell tells the story of the birth and growth of The Container Store and reveals his approach for building a business where everyone associated with it thrives through embodying the tenets of Conscious Capitalism. http://amzn.to/1gK6cbt

 

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

In The ONE Thing, Gary Keller teaches you how to cut through the clutter, achieve better results in less time, build momentum toward your goal, dial down the stress, overcome that overwhelmed feeling, revive your energy, stay on track, and master what matters to you.  http://amzn.to/1QX32OC

 

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world’s best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it’s not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob’s love takes action. Bob believes Love Doeshttp://amzn.to/1QX5mVP

 

That’s it for now. I hope these help you like they’ve helped me. If you like this kind of content, let me know. If you think it’s beneficial, I’d be happy to share a list like this from time to time.

 

Don’t forget to drop a comment below and share what you’re reading and listening to as well!

 

I Simultaneously Hate And Need Days Like This

This morning I sat down to write my weekly post. I made the mistake of checking Facebook first and saw post from a friend of mine expressing his condolences for a guy named Scott Dinsmore.

I clicked through to find out what happened. And it’s been weighing on my mind ever since.

I didn’t know Scott, but I had read his blog many times and admired his passion for life and the way he encouraged others to find work that lights them up. The way his blog and movement grew over the past few years was evidence that his message inspired many, many souls. I especially love the name he gave it: Live Your Legend

His Facebook page is still up, but there will be no new posts from Scott. His website and blog look like he’ll be right back from his latest adventure, but he won’t. His last tweet starts with, “Going off the grid…” That’s pretty haunting.

Scott died climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania a few days ago. He was 29 years old, nowhere near old enough to have completed his own legend.

But nobody could deny that he lived it.

You don’t have to read very far into his blog to realize this guy loved life and lived it more fully than most. You also don’t have to venture but a few clicks to discover this was a guy who deeply impacted the people around him and touched many that he never even met.

I simultaneously hate and need days like this. I hate the fact that the world lost someone like Scott. It makes my heart hurt. It makes me feel like life isn’t fair. It makes me incredibly sad for his family. And yet, tragedy is often God’s wakeup call. It’s a reminder that this life is short, all we have is this moment, and it would be such a waste if we didn’t make the most of it.

I believe there is life after this one, but I also believe that this current life is a gift. It’s like we’ve been given a million dollars just to see what we’ll do with it. Will we piss it away carelessly and selfishly or will we maximize it, enjoy it, and share it with others?

Scott’s TED Talk from a few years ago has been viewed more than 2 million times. The message is great, but what I really love is Scott’s passion, excitement, caring, and authenticity. It’s raw, unpolished, and real.

It’s worth watching, and will likely touch you more than anything could say today, so I encourage you to take 17 minutes out of your million dollar life to watch it, then take a few more minutes to let it sink in. And, as always, feel free to leave a comment below and join the conversation. Truthfully, it would be great to hear from you.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate every one of you. Today more than ever.
 

 

4 Powerful Life Lessons From The Movie, Chef

If you were and I were at a party and we were talking about the stuff you talk about at parties, you would eventually ask me what my favorite movie of all time is.

I wouldn’t pause, I wouldn’t hesitate, I wouldn’t have to review my mental movie shelf to remember which movie collects the least amount of dust.

It’s CHEF.

CHEF was the creation of Jon Favreau, the brilliance behind the first two Iron Man movies AND Elf (Which is probably my second favorite movie of all time). It also features Robert Downy Jr., Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, and Dustin Hoffman. Pretty killer cast for an indie film that only grossed about $50 million worldwide.

Why do I love this movie so much? As an entrepreneur and business owner, I can relate to some of the struggles that the main character faces for sure. However, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to be inspired by this movie because it has some great lessons for anyone who wants to be happier and more fulfilled in this life.

I love this movie so much that I made my team watch it yesterday. We ordered Jimmy Johns, watched the flick, then spent a few minutes debriefing the story. I wrapped up the debrief by asking my team what they thought the big lessons in this movie are. Here’s what they said (and I agree 100%):

1. Do what you love.

Ideally, find work that lights you up. Doing what you love and making a living at it is one of the greatest blessings you could ask for. If that’s not possible, find ways to enjoy what you do, or at least parts of what you do. At the very least, find an outlet somewhere in your life to do what you love so that very important part of you won’t wither away and die.

In the movie, the main character, Carl, is forced by his boss to cook boring, routine menu items. Even before he sets out on the journey to create his own business, he finds an outlet for cooking the way he wants to by cooking at home. Warning, some of these cooking scenes will make you extremely hungry.

 

2. Find someone who’s willing to push you.

Think back on your life. Most of the great stuff you’ve done, you probably had somebody nudging you to do it, right? Early on it may have been a parent or a teacher, later on it was a coach or a boss, and we’ve all had friends that have encouraged us along the way, too.

The kind of people you keep in your life matters. If you’re surrounded by people who keep you down, you’ll stay down. If you’re surrounded by people who lift you up, you’ll rise more than you’ll fall.

Carl’s ex-wife sees the best in Carl. She can see things in him that he can’t see in himself at the beginning of the movie (because, we figure out, that she was there in the beginning of his career when he was alive and passionate about his work). She gently guides him — or, more accurately, chips away at him — until he takes her advice and opens a food truck.

I realize very few ex-wives a) would help their ex-husbands become their best selves, or b) look like Sofia Vergara. Again, it’s a movie, and I am willing to accept both of these ideas purely for entertainment reasons.

 

3. Step out of your comfort zone.

Growth requires discomfort. It requires transition. It requires work. There may be an “aha” moment in your life when you DECIDE to transform, but getting the new results you’re after can be a bit of a process. That process starts at the end of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to step into it. It’s not as scary as it looks, and the process can actually be way more fun than you imagine, even if it is hard work.

Even after Carl decides to launch a food truck, he still has boatloads of physical and emotional work to do in order to gain the fulfillment he desires by the end of the movie. The process is where he really comes alive and re-discovers what lights him up.

 

4. Get past the past.

Ego is a double-edged sword. Its a powerful force that drives us to create. It’s also a fragile object that is easily shattered by another’s opinion. When our ego is crushed, that’s a hard thing to get past. Some people never do. Sometimes it is the one thing, or the last thing, standing in between you and what you really want. Past hurt often holds our bright future hostage.

Carl’s ego is crushed by a food critic early on in the movie. To move forward, Carl has to accept that his ego is crushed. Then near the end of the movie, he has to face the critic, only now the critic wants to help him, to partner with him in a new restaurant. If Carl lets his hurt ego run the show, he’ll never transform. But, hey, it’s a movie, so of course he figures out a way to let his ego go and open the restaurant of his dreams.

Don’t laugh. I’ve seen this kind of transformation happen for real. Sadly, I’ve also seen many people get trapped by a hurt ego for decades, even for life.

If you haven’t watched CHEF yet, you’ve got the long Labor Day weekend coming up to enjoy it. That might be a good thing since you’ll want extra time to cook something for yourself after you watch it, ha ha! If you have already seen it, watch it again and I’m sure you’ll see the lessons we saw, and probably many more. It’s on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon.

By the way, have a great holiday weekend. I hope you use it to rest, relax, and recharge!

 

 

*article header image courtesy of Chef The Film Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/ChefTheFilm

 

 

The Only Way To Create A More Balanced Life

This week I thought instead of writing a typical post (although I hope my posts are not all that typical), I’d simply kickstart a virtual brainstorming session. The quality of comments on the past several posts has me thinking that the real brains behind this blog is YOU, not me. I want to tap into that amazing brainpower.

Many of us seek more balance in our lives. Wouldn’t it be awesome if balance was a single action we could take? However, balance is not an action itself. It’s the result of many choices we make and many actions we take (or don’t take).

We’ve been led to believe that balance is possible if we just stay in the middle of everything, if we just manage our time better, or if we carpool to soccer practice. But the real problem isn’t the way we distribute and attend to the stuff in our lives, it’s the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated. And by stuff I mean ALL the stuff — the physical stuff, the activity stuff, the relationship stuff, the emotional stuff, the financial stuff, etc.

Most of us now have more “stuff” than we know what to do with, and it makes us feel overwhelmed (another way of saying “out of balance”).

There is only one way to create a more balanced life: simplify it. It is so much easier to stay balanced when you only have to manage the stuff that’s truly important.

Simplification comes in many shapes and sizes and commitment levels. Here are a few examples of how I’ve simplified my life over the past several years:

  • I am debt-free. This has had the single greatest impact on my life, and the life of my entire family. It was also a multi-year process, so it’s definitely on the more difficult end of the spectrum.
  • I block my entire calendar. Instead of having an open calendar, I consider my calendar completely blocked. That way when someone asks for a meeting or I’m invited to an event, I have to ask myself if it is important enough to me to give up my time. I find myself saying no to a more things this way, and that’s good.
  • We make our bed every day (we take turns). This sounds almost silly, but it makes our bedroom feel so much cleaner and less cluttered. And on those days when life is bit out of control, being able to retire to an uncluttered, peaceful bedroom is awesome.

I could seriously make a list a mile long because I am always finding new ways of simplifying my life. But I would rather hear from you. How have you simplified your life, or an area of your life? What do you do to de-clutter, manage your time better, or stay focused on what’s truly important?

Leave a comment below. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

 

Enter weekly our comment contest!

We’re encouraging your comments with comment contest! Everyone who comments gets entered into our weekly drawing for a prize giveaway.

This week’s bribe, I mean prize, is a copy of The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks AND Standout by Marcus Buckingham. With these two books in your brain, I believe you can conquer the world.

Our most recent winner was Darcy Spangler! Congrats, Darcy!

 

Don’t Just Sit There!

Wrigley Field in Chicago is not, I repeat NOT waterproof. Not even close.

Last night I attended my first Chicago Cubs baseball game at the legendary Wrigley Field. It’s everything I imagined a classic old American ball park to be. I can say with no exaggeration they don’t make ’em like that anymore. For the first three innings I was in baseball heaven, not because I’m a sports fan (I’m not…just ask my wife), but because I love classic Americana. I’m a sucker for Airstream campers, roadside attractions like giant dinosaurs, and now Wrigley field.

But, like I have recently mentioned, it ain’t no rain shelter. I know this first hand because during the third inning it rained. It was more than rain, actually. In some circles it might have been called a hurricane or typhoon. It rained sideways. Needless to say, no matter where you were sitting you were going to get wet.

As the rains came tumbling down, my buddy, Bart, and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and silently accepted the inevitable. Since this was my first time in Wrigley Field, I was willing to wait out a little rain delay. Bart is a lot more manly than I am so I don’t believe the rain even phased him. Plus, he had a hat.

15 minutes passed. I was damp. 20 minutes. I was getting wet, but mostly on one side. 25 minutes. Even my underwear was soaked. 30 minutes. I began to wonder how long till hypothermia would set in and I’d be so delirious that I would murder my friend and use him as a human blanket until the storm passed. For Bart’s safety I suggested that we take our leave.

We sloshed down the steps from our seats, I took one last long look at the tarp-covered field, then we turned the corner and made our way down the final few steps to the concession concourse.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” was my involuntary response to what I saw: thousands of mostly dry people.

You see, the concession area IS water proof, or as close to waterproof as that old stadium can be. It was dry, rain-free, and full of people who were smiling, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying their dryness. I may or may not have intentionally bumped into a few of the happiest looking ones to share some of my water with them.

We paused in the middle of the crowd to absorb some of their heat before dashing out into the rain again in search of a cab. Even if the game continued, they were going to have to do it with two empty seats in section 224. I’ve never enjoyed a hot, stuffy cab ride more, although I do feel a little bad for the innocent people who had to sit in that wet cab seat after us.

The point of sharing my cold, wet misery with you is to encourage you to not just sit there. When you’re uncomfortable, unhappy, or feeling like a victim (i.e., caught in a circumstance seemly beyond your control), MOVE. Get up and move, change where you’re sitting, pick a direction and go. Just sitting there waiting for the storm to pass is a great way to drown. I’d rather die trying, wouldn’t you?

We often don’t move because we’re afraid we’ll actually end up in a worse place. If this is your fear, I’ll just ask you, “How many times has that actually happened in your life, and how many times has it NOT?” I’ll bet you a hundred dollars that the NOT answer wins.

Is it a guarantee that you’ll find shelter or comfort or a better situation? Nope. Could it be safer for you to stay right where you are? Maybe, but in my experience that is the exception, not the rule. When you feel stuck, or trapped, or cold and wet, or desperate, or frustrated, or alone, or even completely powerless, get up and move.

Of course, I wish I had thought of this last night.

 

Simple Fixes For Dramatic Life Improvement

I often overlook simple fixes that hold the power to dramatically improve my life.

Take my glasses for instance. I’ve always been blessed to have pretty good eyesight. My eye doctor even recently told me, “For a guy your age, your eyesight is about as good as it gets.” I took that as a compliment, although I did wonder what he meant by “a guy your age”.

I’ve never needed “real” glasses (you know, prescription specs). But recently I have had to purchase a pair or two or ten of reading glasses from Walgreens. I was a bit disturbed that they put them at the end of the adult diaper aisle. Maybe that’s what my optometrist meant by “a guy your age”. First reading glasses, then incontinence, then a walker, then the nursing home. Geez, I’d better start crossing more stuff off my bucket list.

So I have these reading glasses strewn about my life. There’s a pair on my nightstand, a pair that floats around the living room, a pair on my desk at work, a pair in my briefcase, and sometimes a pair in the bathroom because, let’s face it, some days that’s the only place a man can get enough peace and quiet to read an entire chapter of a book.

And yet, even with glasses almost always within reach, I forget to put them on. Oh, my eyes eventually fatigue enough to make the words too blurry to decipher. THEN I have no choice. Of course, when I wait that long to feel around my blurry world for my closest pair of glasses, I have usually developed a raging headache that stays with me until I go to bed.

I told my doctor about this, thinking maybe I finally needed glasses full-time. He said, “Why don’t you just put on your reading glasses sooner?”

I replied, “Really? That’s what they teach you in optometry school?” Actually, I only said that in my head. You should never question someone who has the tools to shoot puffs of air into your eyes. Out loud I said “I’ll give that a try, doc.”

It’s such a simple thing, really. Put on my glasses BEFORE I need them and my world becomes crystal clear and a whole lot more pain-free. So why do I forget something so simple, yet so life-improving.

Motivational guru Jim Rohn said it: “What’s easy to do is also easy not to do.”

What I try to do with my glasses is to make it super easy to put them on. That’s why I have several pair placed strategically (i.e., strewn) about the house. If I had to get up and search for my glasses all the time, well, then I’d probably have even more headaches. If they’re within reach, that makes it a whole lot easier to put them on when — I mean before — I need them.

How often have you written with a dull pencil that could easily be sharpened, or worked around a messy desk that could easily be cleaned up, or sat at a wobbly table that could easily be leveled with a folded up business card?

These seem like little things, but they can really wear you out, can’t they? When you fix them, isn’t life suddenly so much more enjoyable? C’mon, when you fix a wobbly table you know it improves your whole day.

Take a moment and look around your world right now. What’s a simple thing you can fix that will dramatically improve your productivity, your surroundings, your mood, or your quality of life? Drop it into the comments below, then go fix it. Better yet, go fix it, then come right back here and thank me. 😉

 

Join Our Comment Contest!

Each week we toss all the comments in a hat and pick one commenter to win a gift from sparkspace. This week we’re giving away a copy of Stand Out by Marcus Buckingham. This is a great book and assessment that will help you focus on and maximize the top 2 strengths that give you the most power in your life.

 

Last week’s post winner of a copy of Day Job To Dream Job was Janie Sahayda. Congrats, Janie!

 

Do You Shrink Or Shine?

A few weeks ago I read an article written by one of my long-time friends and collaborators. I immediately asked her if I could publish it on my blog and she said, “Heck yeah!” So this week, I give you the brilliant thoughts of my favorite change agent, Whitney Bishop.

 

Do you tend to shrink or shy away from opportunities to play bigger, to shine? For many of you, there is a pattern. You can play big when it’s time to show up for someone you love or someone you respect. You can play big when other people are watching or when your reputation is at stake. But what happens when it comes time for you to show up for yourself? Sometimes you shrink.  What’s up with that?

Each opportunity to step outside your comfort zone to embrace or create change in your life brings with it the natural tendency to resist, to hide, to shrink. It’s the night to the day, the calm to the storm, the yin and the yang.

In my life and career I’ve had many opportunities to shine and while I’ve risen to some, I’ve also shied away from some. So much of it depended on the amount of risk for me either financially, emotionally, intellectually. When I was willing to get quiet, get reflective and then get real about where I was selling myself short and withholding my gifts, I was able to move beyond the fear and the doubt and step into the spotlight and shine to the benefit of myself and others.

Here are 3 things you can do to increase your shine to shrink ratio!

 

  1.  Reflect and see if you notice a pattern. Awareness is such a key element of your personal and professional growth. When you become aware, you give yourself permission to acknowledge what is true, what has been true, you give yourself permission to change, to grow and to create another reality, another possibility.
  1. Identify an opportunity to shine in the next 30 days.  Look around your life, your church, your community, your work. Is there a way for you to show up in all your glory, bringing all of your skills and talents, your gifts and your grace to the situation? Do it! Make note of how you felt and the impact you were able to have as a result.
  1.  Adopt a new philosophy. If your first thought is “I can’t do that” make your next thought “Oh, OK, now that means I have to do that.” Develop a sense of adventure in your life. Challenge yourself regularly to step outside your comfort zone and into the stretch zone, where growth occurs.

 

Change the way you think so you can play bigger, have greater impact and SHINE baby, SHINE.

 

About Whitney

Whitney Bishop is a Change Agent who creates transformative experiences for those who are leaders in their lives, leaders in their organizations and leaders in their community.  Visit www.whitneybishop.com to learn more about the Whitney Bishop Experience.

 

 

The Comment Contest Continues!

IMG_2088Each week we toss all the comments in a hat and pick one commenter to win a prize. We had such a great response to last week’s giveaway, I’m going to give away the same thing this week — a copy of Day Job To Dream Job by my friend, Kary Oberbrunner.

If you or someone you know needs a good kick in the pants and a plan to grab their dream job, this book will get you there.

Last week’s post winner of a copy of Day Job To Dream Job was Debbie Pendell. Congrats, Debbie!

 

 

Why I Almost Didn’t Check Off The #1 Thing On My Bucket List

“Would you just buy a stupid cabin and STOP TALKING ABOUT IT ALREADY?”

I’m sure she said it much more nicely, but that’s pretty much what I heard coming out of my wife’s mouth.

Buying a cabin has been on my bucket list for, oh, at least a decade. I’ve been actively searching for the “right” cabin for about two years and finally started working with a phenomenal real estate agent several months ago (David Armentrout from The Raines Group, FYI).

Last week I finally bought a stupid cabin — a classic A-frame in the woods on a hill above a small, private lake. It’s basically a grownup treehouse. Of course it needs some work (don’t they all?), but it’s mine and I love it. There is no question in my mind that it is going to bring a lot of joy to me, my family, and the people we share it with for many years to come.

And it almost didn’t happen because of my own limiting beliefs and insecurities. I’d like to share three of them with you now, because, let’s face it, it’s fun to share your insecurities with thousands of other people.

 

Here’s why I almost didn’t check off the #1 thing on my bucket list:

1. I was afraid that if I checked off the biggest thing on my bucket list, I wouldn’t have anything else to shoot for. I guess deep down I thought once I achieved such a big thing, the next day I might shrivel up and die. It’s a twisted version of the fear of success. This is why it took me 2 years to finally buy a cabin AFTER I had decided to buy a cabin. TWO YEARS.

I finally decided there was only one way to know if this twisted thinking was true: take the plunge, buy a cabin, and see if I woke up the next day. It’s been over a week now and I’m still alive and no more shriveled up than I was before. Whew.

 

2. Buying cabins is what grownups do, and I’m not a grownup yet. Never mind that I’m 48 years old with a wife, two teenage kids, a couple of dogs, a business, and a house. Most days I still feel like I’m 18 years old and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. In other words, I am Peter Pan.

It’s times like these I have to remind myself that I’m 48 years old with a  wife, two teenage kids, a couple of dogs, a business, and a house…and none of them have crashed and burned. I am capable of taking the occasional grownup step.

 

3. Buying a 2nd home (even if it’s a cabin) feels selfish. After all, I have a pretty nice house already and I have the resources to rent a cabin whenever I desire. There are people around the world living in cardboard boxes. Heck there are people in my own community living in cardboard boxes. And I’m buying a 2nd home that I’m only going to use part of the time? Believe me, my conservative Christian upbringing was banging a pretty loud gong in my head.

I found myself rationalizing and defending my decision (mostly to myself) until I read this thought about Wanting What You Want by Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach. Dan makes the case that when you admit that you want something simply because you want it, you experience a pretty amazing level of freedom. This approach believes in the abundance mentality — it’s not an either/or proposition. The opposite is scarcity mentality — believing there isn’t enough to go around. I’m almost always an abundance thinker, but I had temporarily slipped into scarcity mode when it came to this stupid cabin. Thankfully, I slipped back out.

 

I know I’ve called it a stupid cabin three times now, but it really is awesome and I feel very fortunate/lucky/blessed to finally hold the keys. The whole process has been a pretty big growth experience for me, and will continue to be as we make our mark as the next owners of this retreat. And I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have to fight my way past some limiting beliefs to make something happen.

Now I just need to get a bed in the stupid cabin so I can actually spend the night there.

 

The Comment Contest Continues!

IMG_2088I’m still running a comment contest each week. I think I may just run the comment contest until the comments stop being so darn good (really, go back and read them)! Each week we toss all the comments in a hat and pick one commenter to win a prize. This week I’m giving away a copy of Day Job To Dream Job by my friend, Kary Oberbrunner

Last week’s post winner of a copy of The Big Leap was Chuck Clark! Congrats, Chuck!

 

So, What Have You Learned Lately?

Greetings from Nashville! Nashville? Yes, Nashville.

I’m in Music City to attend what is turning out to be a pretty amazing workshop called StoryBrand, which teaches the framework that most great stories have in common. The point is to apply this framework to my marketing efforts to help me clarify my message.

While we keep things pretty simple and straightforward around here, I am always trying to figure out how to simplify and clarify everything about sparkspace even more. I’m a pretty simple guy, I want a pretty simple business. So I keep working on it.

It’s not over yet, but so far, this workshop is truly one of the best workshops of any kind I’ve ever attended. That got me to wondering…

What’s the best personal or professional learning or development experience you’ve ever been involved in?

Was it a workshop? A seminar? A book? An online course? A coaching program? Meeting with a mentor?

Oh, by the way, that wasn’t a rhetorical question. I really want you to tell me what it was. Make a comment below and share your best learning or development experience with me.

 

The Comment Contest Continues!

I’m still running a comment contest each week. Each week we toss all the comments in a hat and pick one commenter to win a prize! This week I’m giving away a copy of The Big Leap, one of the books that has been a big part of my personal development this year.

Last week’s post winner of a “Be Brave” journal and wristband was Heather Hitchcock! Congrats, Heather!

 

Give Your Brain A Rest

The United States celebrated our Independence Day over the weekend. Many, myself included, took Friday off and made it a long weekend.

I turned off my computer, kept my phone in my pocket, and lived life fairly free from personal electronics. Aside from a few movies, the TV went pretty unused as well. Instead, I watched a fantastic parade and some equally great fireworks. I took two long hikes with my wife. I read a book printed on real paper.

After three solid days of living off the grid, my brain feels much clearer and my mood is much lighter. You probably think I’m going to say electronics are evil or something, but electronics really aren’t the problem. My problem is how much information I feed into my brain. It’s easy to overload on information, and it happens more than I think. It’s only when I take a break that I realize just how much information I put in front of my eyes every day.

Information is NOT knowledge or wisdom, which you can probably never get enough of. Sure, it can evolve into knowledge through assimilation, or wisdom through experience, but information that is not used is just mental clutter.

If I asked you to print every page you visit on the web or every post you look at Facebook and then put it into a filing cabinet (even if you’ll never view or use it again) you’d call me crazy. And yet, stuffing your brain full of information that you never use is equally loony, don’t you think?

And don’t even get me started on the self-defeating practice of comparing your life to what you see, hear, and read on the internet. That’s a topic for another day.

This week, take a break from information intake. Let your brain catch up and clear out a little bit. You’ll feel happier, more creative, and a lot less stressed.

This article doesn’t count, of course, because you’re actually going to do what it says, right?

 

Overcoming The Fear Of Taking The Wrong Path

We get a fair amount of flies in my house in the summer, mostly from letting the dogs in and out and in and out and in and out all day. We do have a fly swatter, but I hate to use it because, well, squashing flies against the wall is gross. I prefer to perform a daily prisoner release ritual.

We open our kitchen window a lot, so I can understand why the flies gravitate to that spot. It’s the closest thing they get to being totally free. The screen is a chain link fence (minus the barbed wire) that keeps them from flying back into the real world. They pace up and down that fence looking for a way out. I can almost hear them muttering, “I can’t be in here, I gots 10,000 babies to feed!”

Being the benevolent and kind warden that I am, I lift the screen so they can fly back to their families or the closest pile of dog poo, whichever they choose. I don’t judge.

Of course they don’t realize the screen is open. They continue to pace up and down the screen until finally they reach the frame that holds the screen together. At this point, they realize, “Hey, this is different. Maybe I should explore this.”

Here’s the weird part. After walking the entire length of the screen, which is about 18 inches tall, They will stand FOREVER on the frame, which is about an inch and a half tops. They poke around with their front feet, walk right up to the edge — repeatedly — then turn around and walk away, sometimes even retreating back to the screen for awhile before attempting the frame walk again.

Now, I may be projecting my own feelings onto these flies, but I’m pretty sure they want to be free. After all, they could fly freely through the house for weeks. My anti-fly-swatter policy must be well known in the fly community by now. But they congregate on my kitchen window screen, taking in the lush landscape just out of reach, longing (again, my projection) to feel the wind in the little hairs on their legs.

So, why do they stand there, millimeters from what they want, and not just reach out and take it?

I can so relate to these creatures. I have often been *this close* to something I want or need and not taken it, or have taken forever to make that final step over the edge. In fact, I would say this is a regular occurrence in my life. There are many reasons why I’ve been reluctant to take that final step in the past, but there is one more common than the rest:

 

The Fear Of The Wrong Path

What if I take that job and it’s not what I thought it was? What if I buy that car and it turns out to be a lemon? What if I tell my wife what I really want and she thinks I’m crazy? What if I move to Paris and discover I hate French food, even fresh crêpes filled with Nutella?

Fear of the wrong path is really fear of the unknown that focuses on a crappy outcome instead of a magnificent one. Here are two things I try to remember when the fear of the wrong path keeps me from stepping over the edge into something new:

1. There is no wrong path.
There are more enjoyable and less enjoyable paths for sure, but every path has value, even if that value is helping me learn what I don’t like or what to avoid in the future.

2. I can get off the path any time I want.
I’m a committed guy. When I choose a path, I feel like I need to complete it, or at least give it the old college try. I sometimes forget that if a path aint workin’ for me, I can always choose another path. Granted, changing paths may carry costs or consequences, but those are usually short term. A friend of mine asked me recently, “Would you rather have short term pain or long term pain? It’s your choice.” Wise words.

3. I make more right decisions than bad ones.
I’ve made millions of decisions in my life, mostly good ones. And I haven’t made a bad decision yet that killed me. The moral of this point is that I can trust myself. I can trust myself to make a good decision and I can trust that if I do make a bad decision, I’ll figure it out.

Back to my story about the flies. Watching the flies finally step over the edge is perhaps the most fascinating part of the whole prison release ritual. Rarely do they climb on top of the frame and take off right away. Typically, they stand there motionless for several moments. I believe in those moments they are reflecting at where they’ve been and laughing at themselves for being so timid about those last few steps. Then, literally (because my kitchen window faces west), they zoom off into the sunset as free as they can be.

I know that feeling. It’s the exhilarating feeling I get when I decide the new path is worth exploring and I step fully into it. Some of the feeling comes from finally removing the weight of the decision, but more often than not that exhilaration is due to the fact that the new path is WAY better than I imagined or way better than the path I was on.

A recent example for me is my decision to buy a cabin. It’s been a dream of mine forever. I have a vision of using a cabin as a personal retreat, but also generously sharing it with friends, family, and people who might not be able to afford to take a vacation (but really need/deserve one). I’ve been dragging my feet for at least TWO YEARS. I’ve used the excuse that I just haven’t found the right property yet. The truth is that I’ve been afraid of taking the wrong path, afraid I’ll buy a cabin and it won’t be as awesome as I thought it would be and then I’ll be stuck with a cabin that I don’t want after all. I’ve been standing on the edge of the screen like a scaredy fly.

I find stating it out loud often strips away much of the fear because I’m forced to hear it outside of my head, and my fear often sounds downright silly.

Your turn. What path are you not stepping fully into? Why not?

 

COMMENT CONTEST!

sparkspace drink cupAs a reward for interacting and leaving comments, I’m giving stuff away. This week I will be giving away one of our super cool drink cups that we sell at sparkspace. It says “Try Not To Be Distracted By My Awesome.” Our guests LOVE these and I think you should have one on your desk (because, well, you’re awesome). That’s why I’m giving away one to someone who leaves a comment. Before next week’s post, I’ll drop the names in a hat, draw a winner, and announce it next week.

We had so many great comments on last week’s post: Removing “Perfect” Roadblocks. Thank you to everyone who commented.

As promised, last week’s winner of one of my favorite books, “The Big Leap” was Sonya Ramsey. Congrats Sonya. Keep the comments coming!

Removing “Perfect” Roadblocks

We’ve had a lot of rain in Columbus lately. It has rained almost every day for the past two weeks. It hasn’t always rained all day, but it sure threatens to.  I missed a very short window to mow my grass last week. If I miss it again this week I’ll have to hire a farmer with a hay baler to cut it down and haul it away.

As a runner/walker, the rain has also put a major dent in my exercise routine.  I do have a gym membership, but I absolutely hate to use it in the summer when the great outdoors is so available and so inviting (that is, when it’s not raining cats and dogs).

I found myself looking at the radar on my WeatherBug app and excusing myself from heading out on a walk or run with excuses like, “Well, I can’t go for a run now. There’s a big green and red blob headed right toward my neighborhood.” Sure enough, that big green and red blob would show up within twenty or thirty minutes, validating my decision.

 

“Perfect” Roadblocks

But here’s the problem: I really need to exercise and I really need to get outside. I don’t feel well if I don’t exercise and I go a bit stir crazy if I stay cooped up inside all day, especially in the summer. And yet I let less-than-perfect conditions stand in my way saying, “Not today, pal.” It’s the “perfect” roadblock.

Here’s how it plays out with exercise. When I run, ideally (i.e., perfectly) I like to run at least 3 miles. That takes me about 35 minutes just to run (more if I need to shower, etc.). If the radar shows it might rain in 20 minutes, I shrug my shoulders and tell myself that running obviously wasn’t in the forecast for today.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few weeks and realized that this happens to me in many areas of my life. I have an ideal scenario in my head and if reality can’t match that scenario, I will scrap the idea altogether. Here are a few more examples:

– I won’t take on a project because it can’t be done as big or small or slowly or fast as I’d like.

– I won’t join an organization or committee because I can’t make all the meetings.

– I won’t contribute my time or money to charity work because I don’t have enough of either to “make a difference”.

– I won’t travel to other countries because I can’t afford “decent” (by American standards) accommodations.

 

I have really missed out on a lot of great stuff because of this mindset. Maybe you have, too.

 

Removing Perfect Roadblocks

I like to consider myself a bit of a forward thinker and a fairly decent risk taker. However, I have discovered I have a tendency to only move forward on something if the conditions are perfect. And by perfect, I don’t mean that it has to be shiny and flawless. I just mean that I have a desired scenario in my head — a picture of the way I think it should be. If reality doesn’t match that picture, I will often bail on any attempt to achieve it. I quickly realized this mindset (and resulting action or non-action) has caused me to miss out on some really great stuff in my life.

HOWEVER, a recent aha moment (yes, in the shower) led to a simple framework that has had a profound and positive impact on my life. Here is my new roadblock removing framework:

 

So, I can’t (insert perfect, yet unavailable scenario here),

but I CAN (insert acceptable lesser alternative here).

 

This framework allows me to rapidly shift my focus and mindset from what I CAN’T achieve (the perfect scenario) to what I CAN (the acceptable lesser alternative). Yes, it is a very simple framework, but it’s not always easy to employ.

I have found that I often allow perfection to be a roadblock, not because I have a “perfection or bust” attitude, but because I don’t always take the time to explore acceptable alternatives. While there may be a perfect scenario, there is usually a “perfectly good” scenario, too. Maybe several.

Now when I look at the radar and it looks like it’s going to rain in 20 minutes, I think, “So, I can’t run for 35 minutes, but I CAN run for 20.

The last time I checked, a 20 minute run may not be as good for me as a 35 minute run, but it’s way better than a 0 minute run.

 

Do you have any “perfect” roadblocks. What are yours? What would be possible if you explore, accept, and act on an acceptable alternative?

Have an answer? An aha? An additional thought? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

 

COMMENT CONTEST!

I thought I’d try something new this week. As a reward for interacting and leaving comments, I’m going to start giving stuff away. This week I will be giving away a copy of one of my favorite books, The Big Leap, to someone who leaves a comment. Before next week’s post, I’ll drop the names in a hat, draw a winner, and announce it next week. Sound fun?

 

How To Keep Email From Taking Over Your Life

I normally try to write an inspirational message in my weekly email (at least I hope it’s inspirational). Today, however, I’m going to get super practical.

Email is out of control for the vast majority of people I talk to. Nobody can get to the bottom their email inbox. Many people let their email take over their entire day. I even know some who check email BEFORE THEY EVEN GET OUT OF BED! That’s a horrible way to start your day.

If you listen to people talk about email, they speak as though they believe that it is a tool designed by Satan himself, and they may be right. That doesn’t mean it has to make your life a living hell.

I’m not the foremost expert on email efficiency, but I do have some tips that I’ve tested for myself and I know they work for me. I thought they might be helpful to you, too.

Here are my favorite tips to help you master your email (my two favorites are at the end of the list):

1. Plan your day before you check email. Look at your calendar, create your action plan for the day, THEN check your email. If you do it in reverse, your email will always dictate your schedule. Always. Without exception. Period.

2. Schedule blocks of time for reading and responding to email. When you check email frequently, it will suck your life away and cause you to constantly switch gears throughout the day. This takes more time and brainpower than you think.

3. Stop thinking “If I don’t respond right away I’ll lose customers or I’ll get in trouble.” This is simply not true for 99.999% of the email you receive. Responding within a few hours or even anytime on the same day is perfectly acceptable for most circumstances.

4. Stop using your email inbox as a to-do list. This has become a common practice and it is incredibly inefficient. Make a separate to-do list electronically or on paper and then move emails out of your inbox or delete them.

And now, my favorite two tips of all:

5. Create a single folder for all of the email you want to keep. Don’t waste time creating a complex folder system that you won’t maintain. Instead, create a single folder (I call mine Processed Mail) and move everything want to keep into that folder. The key is to move it quickly, like right after you make a to-do list item out of it.

**SPECIAL NOTE: YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT HOW EASY IT IS TO GET YOUR INBOX TO ZERO IF YOU DO #5!**

6. Use the search function to find old emails. Every email program has one and they work extremely well. This is how I am able to get by with a single folder for all my saved email. Even if I can’t remember the title of the email, I can type in key words, an email address, or someone’s name and it will find all of the email with those things in it. It’s a wonderful form of magic.

There are lots of other ways to get control of your email, but these are the biggies that work for me. Feel free to drop additional ideas and suggestions into the comments on the blog. I’d love to hear them.

That Was Not Your Only Big Shot

Ever watch American Idol or The Voice or The X Factor? Can I tell you what really bugs me about these shows?

The contestants.

Well, not the contestants so much, but their belief that this is their only shot at stardom. There is a common theme to all of the behind the scenes interviews with the contestants. It typically sounds like this:

“If I don’t win (or get on the show), I’ll have to go back to washing dishes at the IHOP.”

In other words, they truly believe this their one big shot and if they blow it, that’s it. Game over. If they said they were going back to the IHOP until they figure out what to do next, I’d be ok with that. But they imply that they are going back to wash dishes at the IHOP FOREVER.

It’s times like these my kids wish their dad was a math teacher or a funeral director, not an entrepreneur and personal development junkie. You see, I can’t just let a comment like that slide by without yelling at the TV in my best Tony Robbins impression, “DON’T BE STUPID, THIS IS NOT YOUR ONLY BIG SHOT.”

I then will turn to my kids and say something like, “You do realize that there isn’t just one big shot in life, right?” To which they roll their eyes and say, “Yes, dad, you say that every time we watch this show.” At least I’m consistent.

Are there big shots in life? Sure. Would winning American Idol or The Voice be a big shot? Absolutely. Is it the only way to succeed as a singer or become a pop star? Ask any one of the judges of those shows; not a single judge from Paula Abdul to Adam Levine became a star by winning a TV show.

Life is full of shots we can take. Some are small shots with small rewards and small consequences. Some are big shots with big rewards and big consequences. What we need to remember, though, especially when taking one of the big shots, is that it’s really only one of many.

Your next big shot may not look anything like the last one. In fact it may even be in a completely different arena. My junior year in high school I was cut from the varsity basketball team because I didn’t get along with the coach. I was crushed. Like some of those American Idol contestants, I really thought I was going to make the team, and I didn’t. Life as I knew it was over. I blew my one big shot to make the varsity. However, soon after being cut I had the chance to start a DJ business with my best friend. We ended up DJ-ing every dance and graduation party for two years, making really good money, and having a ton of fun. It also became a key stepping stone to a decade-long career in radio.

But that’s not the end of the story.

My senior year the school replaced the basketball coach (the one who cut me) after only one season. The new coach was a teacher who had only been hired the year before. He also happened to be my history teacher and tennis coach that year. After tryouts my senior year (which I didn’t attend), he found out through the grapevine that I was a pretty good basketball player and offered me a spot on the team, no tryout required. Wanna hear the kicker? I TURNED IT DOWN! By that point I was enjoying my new life without basketball far more than I ever thought I would.

Here’s what I know to be true from my own experience of taking a fair amount of big shots and missing:

If you keep working hard toward what you want, keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities, and you don’t let any one failure define your future, you tend to get more than one chance to do something big, rewarding, and fulfilling.

If you have recently (or ever) taken your one big shot and failed, remember this: if you’re still breathing, that was not your only big shot.

 

Are You Drunk With Distraction?

I heard this term the other day: “Drunk with distraction.”

I wish I could remember where I heard it, but, alas, I was not gifted with the ability to remember important dates, names of people I’ve met before, or sources of great phrases.

It’s a great line anyway. It perfectly describes the diminished ability — and potential damage — that is caused by the overabundance of distraction in our lives. Email, texts, and social media are some of the biggest culprits. So are constant interruptions by other people. Don’t even get me started on the absolute and utter productivity-sucking myth of multi-tasking.

Distraction (call it busyness, if you’d prefer) steals our energy, our attention, and our brainpower to the point where our ability to perform drops to mediocre at best. It also inhibits our capacity to make good decisions because we’re always making them in a distracted state.

Letting yourself be constantly distracted is like being drunk at work (or home or anywhere, really) and instead of sobering up, you just keep on drinking.

You wouldn’t get drunk at work, would you? PLEASE tell me you wouldn’t get drunk at work.

So why do you continue to allow yourself to be so distracted all the time?

 

 

How Much Is Enough?

I know you’re likely very busy after the long Memorial Day weekend so I’ll keep it short today with a simple question.

How much is enough?

How much money is enough?
How much time with your family is enough?
What position or title would be enough?
How many customers is enough?
How many vacations is enough?
What brand, size, or type of car is enough?
How many Facebook likes is enough?
How many awards, accolades, and “attaboys” is enough?
How big or “nice” of a house is enough?

If you want to get really serious about it, how long of a life is enough?

“Enough for what?” you ask.

“Enough to feel happy, satisfied, and fulfilled,” I reply.

There’s a simple answer to the question that is extremely hard for many to accept.

You have enough right now.

In fact…

If you don’t have enough right now to be happy, satisfied and fulfilled, there’s pretty good chance you’ll never have enough, even if you achieve everything you set out to achieve.

By all means, go after your dreams, set big hairy audacious goals, and work like crazy to make them happen. But don’t think for a minute that you’ll be a bit happier, satisfied, and fulfilled when you get there than you could be right now.

Happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment — those things are never achieved by a number. They are always achieved by your attitude and your gratitude for what you have right now.

And what you have right now is enough.

It’s Ok, Take Off The Mask

Last week’s post – No More Hero Worship – taught me a valuable lesson that I will summarize for you now:

Take off the mask.

I am always surprised when I write something personal — especially when I admit a struggle, mistake, or other imperfection —  that I get the BEST responses from people, and not just people who somehow think I’ve slipped into a deep depression (I haven’t, by the way). I get THANK YOUs for opening up and for NOT being perfect.

I wear masks, just like everyone does. In fact, I have a whole collection: I have the dad mask, the husband mask, the son mask, the writer mask, the entrepreneur mask, the boss mask, the Christian mask, the neighbor mask, the Golden Retriever owner mask…the list goes on and on.

Our masks are perfect, or as perfect as we can make them. We want people to feel like we’ve totally got our act together, we don’t really have very many problems, and life is good.

But that’s not real is it? I do believe that life is good overall, and we have the power to make it better. But the truth is life sucks sometimes and we make a lot of mistakes — every one of us. Heck, I’d bet my Golden Retrievers that even Mother Theresa made a few mistakes.

Masks look good on the outside, but they become a hot mess on the inside. Ever wear one of those cheap plastic masks as a kid? After a very short time, they got sweaty, sticky, and started smelling like your horrible 7-year-old breath. You wanted to take it off, but you kept it on because having the world see you as Wonder Woman or Spider Man was more important.

Ah, but you WEREN’T Wonder Woman or Spider Man, were you? The funny thing is that not a single person you came in contact with believed you were Wonder Woman or Spider Man. They just played along. They might have been entertained by your mask for a few moments, but there wasn’t a single person who wanted you to keep that mask on all the time. They wanted to see the real you. The real you was so much more…real. The real you was (and still is) a lot more interesting to have around than a fake Wonder Woman.

Another thing I’ve noticed about masks: They’re heavy and exhausting. You might not notice the weight right away, but over time they require more and more energy to keep on. If you wear them long enough, they eventually wear you out.

We wear masks because we’re afraid to show the real, flawed, imperfect us. We believe people won’t like us, they won’t date us or marry us, they won’t want to work with us, they won’t want us to be in their club, they won’t elect us as President of the United States or the Justin Timberlake Fan Club.

Presidential positions aside, those beliefs are simply not true. Everyone I really like, and I mean really truly like, is someone who is willing to take off their masks in public. I bet the people you really, truly like are the same way.

Feel like you’ve been wearing a mask a little too long? Is it feeling heavy? Are you starting to smell your stinky 7-year-old breath?

Maybe it’s time to take it off and breathe.

It’s ok.

Be vulnerable.

Be the real you. We always like the real you more.

 

No More Hero Worship (At Least For Me)

 

 

I’ve run out of heroes…and I think that might be a good thing.

You see, like many people, I seek out mentors in my life. If there is something I want to do, I will search for someone who seems to know what they’re doing in that area and I will follow them. I read their books and blogs. I watch their videos on YouTube. I listen to their podcast and interviews they do on other people’s podcasts. I even attend conferences just because they’re speaking there.

And then I make the huge mistake of turning them into heroes. It’s hard not to. After all, they really seem to have their act together. I mean, they’ve written a BOOK. They’re in demand. They have thousands of other followers who regard them as highly as I do. They are rockstars.

And then I meet them. Or I attend their “private” conference. Or I spend the big money on their most expensive product. And I am almost always disappointed. At some point I discover they don’t really know everything they say they do or they don’t really have their act together as much as they pretend to. They’re just great marketers. And once I stumble on that discovery, their hero status is immediately and permanently revoked.

I’ve lost 2 heroes in the last year this way. That’s kind of a tough blow, really. Think about it. Two people I put a lot of time and energy into following. Two people I spent a lot of money with. Two people I put a lot of faith in. Once the curtain was pulled back, I felt cheated and betrayed, not to mention I felt mad at myself for being so willing to blindly follow anyone like that.

But here’s why it’s a good thing. It has made me do some important self-discovery. I’ve had to question why I so quickly turn these people into heroes and why I willingly jump into the deep end of the pool with them. And why I’ve followed this pattern for decades.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: I don’t trust myself enough.

I create heroes because I don’t trust myself to figure it out for myself. I gravitate toward the promised safety and success of “tried and true”, which often turns out to be not that tried, and not that true, after all.

I create heroes because I don’t trust myself to lead. I sometimes forget leadership often means “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” And yes, that is from Star Trek.

I create heroes because I don’t trust myself to be imperfect. I have people who look up to me and — in my mind — expect me to be perfect. By the way, I do recognize the absurdity and laughability of this one. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel it.

So what am I doing with all this self-discovery? Well, for one thing I am not going to lift people to hero status any more (except true heroes like my dad and anyone who fights and/or survives cancer). I’m learning to look at everyone as just human. Some of these humans have a lot to teach me and I should learn whatever I can from them. But I have to back off the hero worship because it almost always ends in disappointment for me.

I say almost because once in a great while — like every 10 years — I meet a worthy hero who is is the real deal. By “real deal” I mean they are authentic, genuine, and not one bit full of crap. Of course, these people usually never present themselves as gurus or having ALL the answers. They typically present their flaws right alongside their fabulousness.

That’s the way I want to be, too. Promise me that if I ever try to present myself as perfect, you will remind me that I’m not. Fortunately, you won’t ever have to look very far to find proof.

I’m not exactly sure why I wrote this post or what you might get out of it. I think I just needed to say it it out loud, so thanks for listening.

 

I’m giving you a million dollars today

In just a minute I’m going to give you a million dollars.

But first, you have to do something. Don’t worry, it’s easy.

Think of something you say you really want in your life.

Maybe it’s a better job.

Maybe it’s a trip to Fiji.

Maybe it’s finally getting out of debt.

Maybe it’s a more loving relationship with your spouse.

Maybe it’s losing 20, 50, or 100 pounds.

Maybe it’s buying a sweet cabin on a lake (this one’s mine, but you can want it, too, if you like).

Ok, here comes the million dollar part:

Last week I read this brilliant question in a book called Supercoach by Michael Neill (personally I think this one question alone is worth buying the book, FYI):

“If you knew that you were going to be paid a million dollars for the successful achievement of whatever it is you say you want in your life, what would you do differently to go about getting it?”

I hope by know you’ve figured out the million dollars I was going to give you is just a mental exercise. Sorry, I had to get you to read this somehow.

So, if I paid you a million dollars to get off your butt and go get that thing you say you want, what would you do?

Let’s assume that money is not what’s actually holding you back (although you often think it is). For example, It would be really easy to say “Well, I’d just go BUY a cabin if you paid me a million bucks.” That would be true if the cabin I really wanted was available and for sale. But it’s not, so now what?

Rethink your strategy. You only THINK you’re doing everything you can to get it, but that’s not really true, is it? Whenever I’ve asked someone the question, “Are you doing EVERYTHING you can to make it happen?”, there hasn’t been a single person who could honestly answer yes. The answer is usually “No, but…” followed by a laundry list of excuses.

I’ve done a fair amount of searching for a cabin, but I haven’t done everything I could. I’ve driven by  several cool cabins and thought, “If only THAT one was for sale…” If I was going to do EVERYTHING I could, I’d knock on their door and ask them if they’re interested in selling their cool cabin. If they aren’t home, I’d leave a letter asking them to contact me first if/when they decide to sell their cool cabin. And those are just two things I could do that I’m not doing now. There are others. Lots of others.

I’ve got good excuses: A) They’re probably not interested. B) I don’t want to bug them. C) I’ll look like a stalker. D) If they get broken into next week they’ll be giving the Sheriff a description of stalker who dropped by last week to ask if their cabin is for sale. Oh, I could go on and on.

But if I was being paid a million dollars to make it happen, somehow I could figure out a way to make my excuses go away pretty quickly.

You know you don’t really need a million dollars to get rid of your excuses, right? When you REALLY want something, like deep down in your core, you don’t make excuses, you make it happen.

Now the really fun part: I just gave you a million dollars to make your excuses go away. What’s the first thing you would do to achieve what you really want?

Leave a comment, join the conversation, and rock on, my friend!

But what I really LOVE to do is…

I heard someone say something last week that I thought was pretty powerful. He was the CEO of a company that makes equipment that infuses fertilizer into soil (who knew, right?).

But what he does is not a fascinating as what he said at one point in the conversation. He said, “Everyone thinks I should grow this into a much bigger company, but what I really LOVE to do is invent things that help farmers grow better crops.”

Ok, it wasn’t what he said exactly that got me. It was HOW he said it:  “Everyone thinks I should…but what I really LOVE to do is…”

All I could think was that I hoped he was listening to himself because that’s a life-changing aha moment if I’ve ever heard one.

Since then I’ve been thinking about how he phrased that sentence. The way he stated his desire is an excellent framework that any of us can use to create our own aha moment.

“I think (or someone thinks, or everyone thinks) I should ___________, but what I really LOVE to do is _____________.”

Sure, you could apply this to your mommy and daddy, (i.e., My parents think I should be a doctor), but it goes way beyond that. All through our adult life we are heavily influenced by other people’s ideas and opinions about our lives. That’s not always a bad thing…unless you let it distract you from your dream, your driving passion, or your superpowers (the true gifts you bring to the world).

Bosses, mentors, advisors, family, friends, coworkers, colleagues, and customers will all tell you what they think you should do. That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Only you know that for yourself. But how do you discover what that is?

One great step is to plug your thoughts into the framework I’m sharing in this post. Give it a try:

 

“I/someone/everyone thinks I should ___________, but what I really LOVE to do is _____________.”

 

So then the next question becomes, “What are you going to do about that?”

I would really, really love to hear your version. Share yours below. I also want to hear from you if your answer is in the past tense, like if you’ve faced this kind of thinking at an earlier point in your life — it would be so valuable to others to hear it!

 

 

89+ Ways To Simplify Your Life

***For the record, I really hate the headline of this article because I get so tired of seeing these types of headlines. HOWEVER, when I saw how many ideas there were, I made an exception.***

I think I’ve become a simplicity junkie.

I say that because the more I learn about simple living, the more I want to know. I seek simplicity in everything. I’m constantly asking myself, “How can I make this more simple? or “What’s the most simple way we can do this?”

I devour simplicity tips like they’re M&Ms. I read articles and books on simplicity. I lost count of how many blog articles I’ve consumed. I make almost weekly trips to The Container Store to figure out how to simplify the various spaces that I occupy.

Yes, I realize the irony of a never-ending thirst for simplicity, and yet I keep seeking and learning and applying new ways to simplify my life and work.

Last week I harnessed the power of Facebook to gather even more tips on simplicity. I made this request to a couple of private Facebook groups that I belong to:

Name one of the best ways you’ve simplified your life.

As a simplicity junkie, I gotta tell ya, I got quite a buzz from the responses and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of replies. What I love about the ideas on this list is that they are real-world examples from real-world people. Some are tried, true, and well-known techniques. Others are fresh new tips that will give you some new things to try.

The responses are in no particular order and I have re-written them in tip form. Not all will apply to you or even be possible for you, but I believe there are a handful of gems in here for everyone.

And by all means, add to the list by leaving a reply. I find there’s always room for more simplicity.

Enjoy…and simplify!

1. Quit your job.
2. Do what you love, and release expectations (your own and others) about “should” and “the way it is done”.
3. Stop caring about the past…and future.
4. Stop watching the news.
5. Prep your meals.
6. Turn off notifications and badges on your phone apps.
7. Cut your wardrobe down to one load of laundry.
8. Move from your big home to a small rental near the beach.
9. Move from your expensive state/city to a more affordable one.
10. House sit for others instead of owning one.
11. Get rid of your television.
12. Stop arguing with people.
13. Use online appointment scheduling software.
14. Pay bills online.
15. Pay as many bills as you can automatically.
16. Hire a housekeeper (MANY SAID THIS!)
17. Work from home.
18. Have one set of sheets per bed so you never have to fold sheets or store all that extra linen.
19. Workout at home instead a a gym to save time.
20. Let go of grudges.
21. Get a Roku or Apple TV and get rid of cable.
22. Use Google Alerts to bring interesting news to you instead of surfing endlessly to find it.
23. Stop watching the news.
24. Stop reading the newspaper.
25. Learn how to say no.
26. Work closer to home.
27. Move closer to work.
28. Sell everything and live out of a backpack.
29. Distance yourself from negative people (even family).
30. Accept that not everyone loves you.
31. Stop trying to please everyone.
32. Upgrade physical products to digital products.
33. Clear out weeks’, months’, or years’ worth of accumulation.
34. Follow this rule: If you haven’t used it in a year, give it away.
35. Throw away all your socks and buy ones that are all the same.
36. Donate everything you can to a worth charity.
37. Put away all the dishes you really don’t need and stop using your dishwasher.
38. Stop caring what other people thing.
39. Cut boring people out of your life.
40. Stop worrying about matching socks.
41. Keep only 20 items of clothing.
42. Follow the “1 in 1 out” rule: for every piece of new clothing that enters your closet, one must leave.
43. Only have things in your house that are useful or aesthetically pleasing. Get rid of everything else.
44. Stop taking action that isn’t working for you.
45. Fix or get rid of broken stuff and stuff that doesn’t work well.
46. Reduce your overhead.
47. Follow Timothy Ferris’ DEAL philosophy: Define, Eliminate, Automate, Liberate.
48. Live life. Work to make it possible, not the other way around.
49. Make mindful decisions.
50. Move within biking distance of work.
51. Remove people who do nothing but waste time on nonsense.
52. Use Basecamp (the app).
53. Make a list of things that make you happy. Make a list of things you do every day. Compare the lists. Adjust accordingly.
54. De-clutter.
55. Put a carabiner on your keys and hook them to your purse or belt loop to keep from losing them.
56. Take Fridays off, but keep the kids in daycare so you can get stuff done or simply breathe.
57. Turn off Facebook notifications on your devices.
58. Get off Facebook.
59. Become your own boss.
60. Make an effort to be with positive people.
61. Unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t want to receive anymore.
62. Hire a virtual assistant.
63. Take one day at a time.
64. Use a service like www.GetMagicNow.com to get things done.
65. Get the kids out of the house ASAP.
66. Always be organized.
67. Exercise more so you have more energy.
68. Move outside of the US.
69. Take all school holidays off with your kids.
70. Get rid of your smart phone and get a pre-paid phone for emergencies.
71. Prep for your morning routine the night before.
78. Wear your workout clothes to bed.
79. Use Amazon Subscribe (a relatively new feature that allows you to automatically order items you buy on a regular basis, like laundry detergent).
80. Shop online.
81. Grocery shop at ALDI instead of giant grocery stores.
82. Become debt-free.
83. Stop buying lots of presents for kids’ birthdays and create memories instead.
84. Fire everything that isn’t working in your life.
85. Quit groups that you get no value from (or that get no value from you).
86. Clean out your bookshelves.
87. Stop making plans that fill up your weekends.
88. Give back (or turn down) a promotion or position if it is not the right fit for you.
89. When you’re in over your head, ask for help. Preferably sooner.

Your turn. Add your ideas in the comments below. What’s one of the best ways you’ve simplified YOUR life?