How you can make great improvements the easy way.

When I was a kid there was a lot of motivational material around our home. Most of it was in the form of cross-stitch art. Because during my childhood cross-stitch was a popular form of philosophical expression. And my home was a hotbed of the cross-stitch movement.

Over the past several weeks one of those pieces of cross-stitch motivation has been sparkling my brain again. Here’s the memorable and rhymey message:

Progress by the yard is hard. But by the inch, it’s a cinch.

As an entrepreneur, I love this message, because it reminds me that we can build a successful business brick-by-brick, action-by-action, and day-by-day. As long as we bring the IRS along for the ride.

As a writer, it reminds me that my books and blog posts are created word-by-word. Even my 290-page book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? was created one word at a time. (Ok, so it was actually written one letter at a time, but that would be measured in fractions of an inch, and that makes for a clunky cross-stitch message. So we will stick with words.)

As a coach, this message reminds me that great performances are built on tiny improvements in technique, strength, explosiveness, speed, endurance, focus and mental toughness. These are almost imperceptible individual improvements, that add up, in aggregate.

As a discus thrower in high school, I improved by 30 feet each year. When you convert 30 feet into inches you get 360. Which is an inch of progress every day for 1 year. (While also allowing a day off for Christmas, New Year’s Day, My Birthday, Thanksgiving, and Tubestock on the Connecticut River.)

As a person who wants to lose weight, the inch-by-inch approach translates to an ounce-by-ounce approach. This mindset has made it fairly easy for me to lose 20 pounds in the past 11 months. I’ll be sharing more about what I’ve done to accomplish this as I reach the 12-month mark of my weight-eviction plan. (Unless I accidentally lose all of my weight and have nothing left to type with.)

As parents, my wife and I teach the progress-by-the-inch mindset to our children. It has helped them excel in academics, athletics, music and hair growing.

Key Takeaway

Set long-term goals. And create a long-term, inch-by-inch action plan. Small gains made day after day add up to big differences over time. Because the easiest way to make great gains is simply by focusing on the smallest increments of progress.

If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why you should set a great example for other people to follow.

I am always looking for good ideas on how to live a better life. We are only here for a limited time. Like the McRib. So, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, or at least the words that Lin-Manuel Miranda put in his mouth, I am not throwing away my shot.

The latest idea I have been thinking about is what I am calling Exampleism. Which is like the word example, but with an ism at the end. And the idea is this:

Live in a way that everything you do is a great example for others to follow.

This is a great and valuable challenge. The best example I know of this is Jesus. He showed that if you are successful, not only will people follow in your ways, they will live better and more fulfilling lives, and they will get into heaven, buy your book (The Bible), and wear your merch (WWJD bands).

I find that when evaluating my actions and behaviors with the Exampleism criteria, I am a good example of many things most of the time, and I am a bad example of other things too often.

However, just like the Golden Rule encourages us to always think about how we treat others, Examplesism shows us every day where we are going right, and where we are going wrong, and need to improve.

  • When you encourage and support you are a great example.
  • When you smile at others you are a great example.
  • When you work hard you are a great example.
  • When you give your time, talent and Takis you are a great example.
  • When you neglect your health you are not a great example.
  • When you lie, cheat or rob casinos with 10 of your friends you are not a great example.
  • When you lose your temper at something your kids did instead of showing your disappointment and teaching them the right way, you are not a great example. I sometimes get this right and sometimes get it wrong. But I am working on being a better example every day.

Key Takeaway

Set your standards for all actions and behaviors. Then live up to your own standards. When you live in a way that sets a great example for others to follow you are pursuing the greatest success, and creating a great model for others to follow. That model, your example, will be the greatest impact you have on the world. And that impact will last as long as your example is followed. Which could be forever.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How Our Team Won An Impossibly Close Championship.

I have loved track and field since I first joined my high school track team as a freshman. I loved it when I was no good. I loved it when I set a state record. And I loved the whole self-improvement journey in between. (Other than the times that I threw up. Which was a lot.)

While track and field is thought of as an individual sport, some of my favorite memories were winning conference team championships, both in the Connecticut Valley Conference as a Hanover High School Marauder and in the Big Ten Conference, as a University of Wisconsin Badger. There is something about being part of a great team win that makes you feel like part of a gang. A very fit gang with good nutritional habits.

Today, my day job is running the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry. But in the spring, my later afternoon job is coaching athletes to throw the discus and put the shot on the girl’s track team at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin.

Conference Championships

On Tuesday afternoon we had our North Shore Conference Championship meet. Our conference is loaded with 10 great schools with top-tier talent and excellent coaches. (I note that because it is true and because some of them also read this blog.)

We knew the meet would be close, but just how close we never would have imagined.

The Homestead girl’s team is deep and talented. But so are our competitors. And despite our high hopes and the fact that we have won the team championship the past 2 years, we stumbled right out of the blocks. #UhOh

We had a talented runner, Sophia LaGalbo, hit a hurdle and take a nasty fall. We had an athlete we expected to score in several events, Korynne Moga, get hurt in her first event and have to drop out of the competition. We got disqualified in an early relay for passing the baton outside the zone. And we had other girls enter the competition ranked high in their event and wind up just outside of the top 8 places that score points. #gulp

As the defending conference champions this was all very disappointing. Especially as we watched other teams rack up great performances and the well-deserved points that go with them.

But despite the poor luck and poor performances, the Homestead Highlanders kept going. And we kept collecting points. Senior Savannah Fraley won the 800-meter dash like a rock star. And Eva Brandenburg dominated the 300-meter hurdle race. Plus Sophia LaGalbo, road rash and all, finished 7th in the 300 hurdles to add 2 more points.

Too Little. Too Late?

It was getting late in the meet and we were still well behind. But we had some late events with great potential to add points to the team total. In the 200-meter dash, Brandenburg took 3rd and Natalie Mueller took 8th to add 9 more points. Which was great. But that was followed by the 3200-meter run, where we had no entries, which was bad. Then came the discus results. One of the events I coach. And I was a very proud Coach-Dad when my athlete-daughter Ava took 1st place by 7 feet. And Senior Mariah Reynolds took 5th. This meant we added 14 points to the team total, which was great.

The Final 2

The meet came down to the final 2 events. The triple jump and the 4×400 meter relay.

We have a strong 4 x 400 relay. And we started strong with Grace Zortman finishing the first leg in first place. Then Shaylin Swenson ran an equally strong 2nd leg to lengthen our lead. Natalie Mueller added a great 3rd leg to maintain the lead. Which meant the race all came down to first-year track athlete Charlotte Lueck, a smiley and talented sophomore, and her 4th and final leg.

Charlotte, who is one of my favorite athletes on the team, came around the first 100 meters strong and steady. But a strong runner from Grafton High School charged hard and was right behind Charlotte by the time they reached the backstretch. But Charlotte kept her cool, and at 200 meters the challenger had dropped back several meters. The Homestead home crowd was going crazy. But on the final 100 meters, the race tightened up again, getting closer and closer as they approached the finish line.

But Charlotte held the lead and ran a very fast lap against very tough competition. Like all-you-can-eat-steak-buffet tough. With the victory, we added 10 more points to our total. Which meant that the conference championship all came down to the triple jump to determine if Homestead or Slinger High School would be conference champs.


Our team is great at the triple jump. Standout athlete Anisa Barnett won the event. And Sheba Bentum-Mensah grabbed 8th to help us rack up 11 more points. However, the Slinger Owls are also great at the triple jump. And they placed 2nd and 6th, to also scored 11 points. OMG!

The Final Tally

In sports, there are close competitions. And then there are really, really, really close competitions. In football, basketball and baseball you can win by as little as one point. And our track team would have been thrilled to have just one more point than our competitors. But we fell short.

However, in track and field, because of ties within the field events, (typically in the pole vault and the high jump, where competitors can finish at the same height) you can be awarded half points. And when the final total was tallied our team had won the North Shore Conference Championship by 1/2 of a point. A freaking half-point!

This meant that if any of our scorers had finished just one place lower we would not have won. It was the truest possible team victory. Every performance matters. There was no literally no breathing room. No room for error. But we won. And winning by 1/2 point is as good as winning by a mile. Maybe better.

There are 3 great things about team championships:

  1. Your teammates are there to help you out when you stumble, fall or pull a hamstring.
  2. Celebrating a victory together is far greater than celebrating alone.
  3. The win creates a team bond that lasts forever. And at the end of the day, the relationships and team memories are what you will remember and value most.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sometimes bad things happen. Keep going.
  2. Get up when you fall.
  3. Never give up.
  4. Work hard.
  5. Run your race.
  6. Lean on your teammates. You’ll go farther together.
  7. Finish Strong.
  8. It’s not over until it’s over.
  9. Sometimes 1/2 point is all it takes.
I am very proud to coach and win 3 conference team championships in a row with this crew of Laura Bosley, Jay Fuller, Me VonMe, John Krueger and Heather Krueger.

Congratulations to the following girls on their hard-fought team championship!

  • Ava Albrecht
  • Anisa Barnett
  • Scout Bonkoski
  • Eva Brandenburg
  • Savannah Fraley
  • Sierra Gill
  • Alexandra Gaskin
  • Korynne Moga
  • Natalie Mueller
  • Kyah McCray
  • Savannah Fraley
  • Shaylin Swenson
  • Charlotte Lueck
  • Sophia LaGalbo
  • Julia Gaskin
  • Sheba Bentum-Mensah
  • Mariah Reynolds
  • Emma Rader
  • Grace Zortman
  • Leila Lu Maye
  • Annika Johnson
  • Grace Zortman
  • Kelsey Hart
  • Caroline Garsha
  • Addie Kane
  • Amelia Horwitz
  • Ava Lamb

*If I missed anyone I am sorry. If I duplicated any names you are welcome. The search engines will find you first.

10 things to do to increase your personal energy.

There is one thing about me that people comment on all the time. It’s not my very subtle good looks. Or my intelligence. Or my sense of humor. It’s not even about my hair.

I get a lot of comments about my energy. In fact, recently, in a 24-hour span, I was asked where my energy comes from, I was told that my energy is even more noticeable in person than on the phone, and that my energy is just what my fellow elevator passenger needed that day.

Last week as the keynote speaker at an energy symposium in Dallas (thanks to David and Molly Sengstock), I gave a talk on how to energize your life. After my talk, the entire audience stuck around for 20 minutes asking more questions. This was despite the fact that my talk ended at 6pm and there was free alcohol and appetizers awaiting them just outside the room.

What makes this energy thing even more exciting to me is that I am in the last 10 days of my 40s. So as I approach my 50th birthday with energy that makes people comment I expect I am doing something worth knowing.

So lately I have been evaluating my personal energy inputs. I have collected a list of 10 things I do that contribute to my energy. But before we get into them it may also be worth noting that I don’t drink coffee or energy drinks. And I have never drunk alcohol. I don’t know the actual effect of the things I don’t do. So the rest of this is focused on things I do do. (I just dropped a do-do…)

10 Ways To Increase Your Personal Energy.

  1. Sleep. I make sleep a priority. I think of sleep like stopping at a gas station to fill your car with gas. Your sleep is doing the same thing for your body. (Except you can’t grab a Slim Jim and a 64-ounce Bladder Buster soda pop in bed.) Every night you should fill your body with as much sleep fuel as you can. Note: I also like to nap. Especially on the weekends. And when talking to boring people.

2. Eating. I make sure to eat 3 good meals a day. I prefer not to snack. But I have snacks around in between meals to keep me going. Together, sleeping and eating provides a great foundation for my energy. But I have also implemented a policy of only eating until just-full. This helps prevent me from feeling sluggish and chunky. I have lost 16 pounds over the past year with this approach. Being less fat is definitely more good for my energy.

3. Exercise. I exercise about 5 days each week. Exercising for energy is a paradox. Because while it is easy to feel like you are too tired to exercise, the exercise itself is energizing and ultimately increases your go. Within the past year, I have added significant exercise resources to my home gym. This includes a treadmill, elliptical trainer, Rogue Monster rack, bench, and about 600 pounds of free weights, and dumbells up to 90 pounds. I found that I had plenty of will to workout, but often lacked the time to get to the gym during normal operations. So the home setup has helped me get my workout on. And all that weight and equipment in my basement should make my house less likely to get sucked up in a tornado.

4. Work I Love. Your work is a major part of your life. Finding work you love adds significantly to your daily energy. When you look forward to going to work, performing the tasks required of your day, and when you are challenged in a healthy and enjoyable way, it fuels you. Rather than dreading work, your work becomes exciting and interesting. You start loving Mondays the way other people love Fridays. Or Applebees on a date night, eating Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake.

5. Smiling. The smile is like the pilot light of the human body. When you put a smile on your face, everything seems to catch fire. Your body feels the energy and responds appropriately. The people around you smile back and add their energy to yours. It’s remarkable. And overlooked. I smile a lot. Smiling is my favorite.

6. Goals: I have a lot of goals. Both having goals and making progress toward your goals are energizing. They excite, inspire and encourage you to bring more to every day. My goals keep me busy and focused. I suspect that my goals are one of the greatest sources of energy that I tap into that others don’t. So get yourself some goals that you really, really want. Like a Spice Girl.

7. Surround Yourself With Great People. We feed off the energy of others. I am no different. I love to be around ambitious, energetic, and successful people. I am inspired by the success and undertakings of others. They push me to do and accomplish more. I am always seeking more world-beaters to spend time with. Their appetite for work, accomplishment, and adventure is like positive peer pressure. Which is better than an appetite for destruction, Axl.

8. Time Scarcity: The lack of time I have left to achieve my goals and experience all that I want provides a great source of energy. It creates urgency in each day. That urgency makes me go. I know that time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future. Which means it is always go-time.

9. Optimism: If nothing else, I am optimistic. I believe that good things are coming. And I can’t wait to greet them. Or make them happen. I believe both me and the world around me will be better tomorrow. That belief is exciting. And energizing. I believe that hard work pays off. I believe I will reach my goals if I just keep working toward them, and I don’t get hit by a bus or a mosquito carrying malaria. I believe that new friends are around every corner. And I believe my friendships are getting better and deeper all the time. Those are great reasons to get out of bed every morning.

10. A Healthy Home Life: I really enjoy my home. I enjoy my relationships with my children Ava, Johann and Magnus. I am blessed with a wife I love talking to and spending time with, even after 23 years of togetherness. A healthy, happy and supportive home life helps feed and reinvigorates you.

Key Takeaway

Tap into your own energy sources. Start with the basics of sleep, food and exercise. Then discover the people, situations and activities that energize you. Set goals you really want to achieve. Work toward them every day. Smile. Believe in yourself, in others, and in the world. Share your energy with others. When you do, it will multiply and come back to you.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why it’s so valuable to think about who will show up for your funeral.

I am a big believer in beliefs. I like a good framework to guide my actions and behaviors. And as I wrap up the last few weeks of my 40s, I have been planning for a great new decade ahead. Heck, AARP has already invited me to the party.

I am wiser than I have ever been. The important things in life keep getting clearer. That’s why I approach my next decade with a new funeral mindset.

In this mindset, I regularly imagine the sanctuary where my bon voyage service will be held. No sound. So commentary. Just the attendance.

I am focused on who and how many people will show up. And who will shake the pews for me. (I come from a family of pew shakers who laugh silently at everything we find funny in church.)

I have always been concerned that I wouldn’t have many people show up for my last shindig. It’s a healthy concern about what happens if you do the wrong things in life. When I was in college Jeffrey Dahmer’s funeral was at my church in Madison, Wisconsin. I planned to go because I thought that would have been an interesting life experience. And it would have been. But I had a class at that time and decided not to skip it. I read in the paper that only 26 people attended the service. I expect most of them were there to confirm he was really dead. And to finish the job if he wasn’t.

Dahmer did bad things that left him with a lonely funeral.

I want to live each day in the opposite way. Which means collecting as many friends as possible. Maintaining and strengthening my relationships with my friends, and family. Conducting business in a fair and honorable way. And having a strong positive impact on my communities. I want to have a positive impact on people in both my innermost circle and my outermost rings of influence. And I want to remember not to eat anyone.

I want to be known as a listener. And as someone who shows up to help. I want to be known as a friend. I want to be enjoyable to be around. I want to share my time and knowledge with other people to have a positive impact on their lives. If I do all those things, at the end of it all, I hope people will dress up and come shake a pew with me for an hour. But just to be safe, I’m going to insist on serving delicious ham sandwiches afterward. And maybe free beer.

Key Takeaway

Always keep your funeral attendance in mind. Live in a way that will pack that house with those you have positively impacted. Put effort and care into your relationships. Build bridges. Mend fences. Share your gifts and lessons. Create great memories. And set a strong example for others to follow. Be a positive force in your communities. And the community will show up to confirm your contribution.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Here are the 3 types of opportunities available to you now.

Opportunities are the seeds of success. Just as the acorn becomes an oak, opportunities can transform into happiness, wealth, fulfillment, or success. And like little pigs, musketeers, and Charlie’s Angels, they come in 3 types:

  1. The opportunities that find you.
  2. The opportunities that you find.
  3. The opportunities that you create.

The first kind falls in your lap. The second kind you catch. The third kind you make.

If you wait around for the first type, you may wait forever, like an airline customer service representative.

The second type you need to look for. And you better be ready to compete for it when you find it. Kind of like parade candy. Or the t-shirt shot out of a cannon at a sporting event that isn’t even your size.

The third type will have no competition. Because without you it doesn’t exist. Like your next business, book or baby. This includes connections, creations, innovations and organizations of all types. Basically anything with a tion in it. Because the suffix tion turns a verb into a noun. Just like opportunities empower you to make things with your actions.

Key Takeaway

Keep your eyes open to find opportunities. But more importantly, keep your mind open to create your own. Because those are the most valuable and available variety of all.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Here are the 3 inspiring words for my next tattoo.

I don’t have any tattoos. At least none that I know of. But I like to think about what I would get inked in my epidermis if I was into such things. This little exercise keeps me looking for significant words, images and icons with the potential to provide a powerful, positive and long-lasting impact on my life. Yet, because I only think about it, I save money on both the inking and the laser removal cost when I realize the tattoo artists I hired didn’t use spellcheck on their work.

If you asked me today what tattoo I would get, I have a quick answer. There are 3 words that I would have written under my eyelids so I could still see them when I am wearing a turtleneck or asleep.

The 3 Words:

Opportunities Never Cease

I love this phrase. It is the optimist’s motto. It is the pessimist’s hope. It is the entrepreneur’s crack. It is the start of every great story.

This phrase is a great reminder that you can change the trajectory of your life at any point. You can improve. You can reinvent. You can shed your skin. Heck, you can even shed your backyard. Or your aquarium.

There are always great new opportunities:

  • To create new things.
  • To develop new relationships and improve or repair old ones.
  • To learn, grow and transform.
  • To establish a great habit.
  • To create wealth and prosperity.
  • To improve your attitude and outlook.
  • Create your legacy.
  • To have a positive impact on others.
  • To make minds sparkle.
  • To take control of your health.
  • To apologize.
  • To randomly write the word fart just to make people laugh.
  • To salvage a bad day.
  • To take the first step.
  • To drop the weight you have carried. (Both literally and figuratively.)
  • To discover how much you are capable of.
  • To start your winning streak.
  • To do something new for the first time.
  • To discover a new favorite.
  • To forgive yourself.
  • To reprioritize.

Key Takeaway

Opportunities never cease. Discover the opportunities all around you. They are gateways to growth and happiness. And they are the blank pages for you to fill with the great stories and successes of your life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Do you know the most valuable asset you will ever accumulate?

I just got back from a spring break vacation with my family. We were in Florida for a week. The weather was in the 70s. The Gulf of Mexico was blue and beautiful. Which is why my sons tried to sneak half of the gulf home with us in a saturated Nerf football.

Vacations serve as a great reminder that there are 2 ways to create tremendous wealth. At least there are 2 ways that won’t land you in an orange jumpsuit with a lifetime supply of gruel.

The first way we create wealth is through our careers. The money we earn, save and invest through our hard work creates both wealth and financial freedom. Which is good. Keep doing this.

The second way that we create wealth is through the accumulation of good memories. These memories are the result of our life experiences and enjoyable interactions with others.

While having money is good, it is mostly good because you can invest it in creating more memories. And memories compound in value every time you revisit them. You profit from them each time you reminisce, like Mary J. Blige. You profit from them each time you look at your photographs, like Nickleback, Ed Sheeran, or Def Leppard. And you profit each time you talk about your fun, funny or heartwarming stories with your friends and family. Do this as often as you can.

Key Takeaway

Your memories are the most valuable possessions you will ever own. Invest in creating more of them. Collect as many as you can. Spend time thinking and talking about your memories and you will become wealthier and wealthier in the most important way. The older you get the less you will be able to use the money you have saved. But your memories will rise in value all the way to the end. Because your collection of memories is your life. Never forget that.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The important event happening today that most people won’t see.

There is a cute story about 2 young fish who are just hanging out when an older fish swims past. The older fish says to the younger fish, ‘Hey boys! How’s the water?’ The younger fish smile and wave. Then, after the older fish passes, the younger fish turn to each other and ask, ‘What is water?’

It is a reminder that we often miss the things that surround us. In human life, it is not the water that we miss. And it’s not really the air either. Unless you are hiking at altitude. Or have emphysema.

The thing that humans don’t recognize is life itself.

I try to remind my family and friends of this regularly. When good, fun, beautiful and interesting things happen I take a moment to say, ‘This is your life.’

It is my way of saying, enjoy this. Recognize that this moment is life. Because your life is really just a collection of moments. Some are small. Some are large. But all are valuable.

Your life is not about what is coming. It is not about your hopes and dreams. It’s not about someday when you’ll be living in a big old city with Taylor Swift.

Your life is not the destination at the end of the journey. Because, spoiler alert, the end of the journey isn’t that great. Just ask Steve Perry.

If you don’t take a moment to recognize the moments of your life, as your life, the whole experience will pass you by without you even recognizing it.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Key Takeaway

Your life is happening right now. Don’t miss it. Awareness enables you to enjoy and appreciate the great things, large and small that make up your experience. Don’t waste this gift. Don’t settle. Do the things you have always wanted to do now. There is no other time.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

A quick reminder of how fortunate you really are.

As humans, we lose perspective on just how lucky we really are on a daily basis. We think about the things that go wrong and the things we don’t have. We take all the great stuff we do have for granted. You know, things like oxygen, water, and Panera.

Here’s a little reminder that 99% of the world is nothingness. It’s just a vast empty space, called space. It’s a dark and nearly endless void between the very rare somethings.

It is a frick’n miracle that you are here, on Earth, with the best resources in the known universe. Including chocolate, Wi-Fi and Magic Erasers.

It’s time to put what you have into proper perspective. You have amazing opportunities and privileges. To complain about what you don’t have misses the point by a lightyear or two, Buzz.

Forget your FoMo. Earth is the only life-sustaining stage, show or opportunity that you could reach within your lifetime. And yet you were born here. You are one lucky dog, Dawg.

Key Takeaway

Appreciate your life. Even the smallest details. Embrace the opportunity you have been blessed with. See it for what it really is: A miracle. Enjoy it to the fullest extent allowed by law.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.