How to move your most important initiatives down the track.

We all have big goals we want to achieve. However, the goal setting isn’t the hard part. It is not enough to know what you want to do. It’s what you do do that matters. In order to achieve your goals, you have to take action. A lot of action.

The good news is that to accomplish your most important goals you don’t need to make things happen in giant steps. You simply have to make steady progress. I find it useful to think of my most important initiatives as trains. The objective is simply to move the trains down the track.

The Process

1. Identify your trains.

Start by focusing on your 1 to 5 most important initiatives. Remember, 5 is the max. More than 5 dilutes your attention and your energy. This is why we don’t have the Jackson 6, or go around high six-ing each other.

2. Start each day with your list of trains.

They could be businesses you want to build, fitness goals, work projects, passion projects, volunteer efforts, or travel plans. In fact, your trains can be anything you want to do, make or accomplish. Heck, your train could be to catch drops of Jupiter or to meet Virginia.

3. Write down an action you can take that day to move each train down the track.

Determine the next step in the process that will help you make progress. Always be thinking about the next task to take on, like A-ha said.

4. Take that action.

Some actions will move you inches. Some will move you feet. Some will move you yards. And others will move you miles down the track. However, all actions, large or small, will get you closer to your goal.

Keep Moving

The key is to get your trains movings. Your biggest goals, hopes, and dreams are like locomotives. They are heavy, powerful, and hard to get going. Simply getting the wheels to start turning can feel like a monumental task. Especially if your goal is to build a monument.

But once your trains start moving it is easier to pick up speed, like Sandra Bullock. You will soon find yourself taking more and bigger actions faster. Before you know it you will have momentum on your side. Your actions become habits. And you will start ticking off tasks like the clicking and clacking of a train speeding down the track. (By ticking off I mean completing. Not making-mad, like my parents used to say to me.)

At the end of each day, check to see if you moved your trains down the track. The answer should be clear. You either took action or you didn’t. If you did take action, note whether you moved inches, feet, yards, or miles. Of course, these are meant to be symbolic relative measurements. They translate to small, medium, large and Neil Armstrong-sized steps forward.

If you take no action your train will remain in the station. But through consistent action, your trains will reach their destination. It’s as simple and certain as that.

Key Takeaway

Move your most important initiatives farther down the track every day. Small, consistent actions start the wheels turning. Then come bigger actions with bigger results. Which ultimately help you build momentum. A train with momentum is very hard to stop. A person with momentum is nearly impossible to stop. Make yourself that person.

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

Welcome to the best day of the year!

There are a lot of great days in the year. In each 365-pack there are 52 Fridays, 52 Saturdays, and 52 Sundays to enjoy. Which means you have 156 golden days before you throw in banner days like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and the days you get free stuff from stores.

Then there are your personal vacation days, which are diamond days that enable you to live your best life. Add blockbuster days like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Taco Tuesday, and there is a lot to look forward to each year. (Note: substitute your favorite religious, national, and food holidays for any days mentioned above that mean nothing to you.)

Daylight Saving Day!

Today is among my very favorite days of the year. Because there is nothing quite like Daylight Saving Day. I think of today as the day that the house landed on The End-Of-Daylight-Saving Day. And now all the Sunchkins are dancing and singing and slathering on more SPF.

Today the sun sets an hour later than yesterday. This simple shift of an hour of sunlight makes everything better. Starting today, we have more light in our lives. Which means more useful, productive and enjoyable time. It means you will still have daylight to enjoy when you get home from work, school or jury duty.

Sunshine is a gift. It illuminates and provides hope. It energizes. It makes the world feel more positive. With an extra hour of sun gold, we are all able to do more. Live more. And see more.

Today is a day for us all to recalibrate too. Take a moment to enjoy and appreciate the extra light. There is much more good ahead. And there is a little less darkness every day.

Key Takeaway

Today is a great day to recognize the power of sunshine. Sunshine is gold. It energizes us. It provides hope. It makes everything better. But remember, you have the power to provide sunshine every day too. Share your energy and positivity with others. Never forget that you have the ability to make every day the best day of the year.

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

The great value of reading through your old notebooks today.

I love great books. I have several of them lately. So far in 2021, I have read The Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki (again), Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. by Ron Chernow, and The Magic of Thinking Big by Daniel Schwartz. I highly recommend all of them. Although Titan is 832 pages. So if you are low on time you may prefer to ready about someone poorer.

What I’m Digging Now

However, I have also been into another fascinating series recently. These books are not by a well-known author. They are not flying off the shelf. In fact, they have never even been published. Because the other great books I have been reading lately are my own notebooks. Like James Garner, but without the nursing home and the dementia.

I have a shelf of old notebooks. They are filled with notes, quotes, ideas and doodles. There is humor and profound thought. Lessons and charts. There are business ideas T-shirt designs. And there are inappropriate comments I had in meetings that I wrote down and nudged over to the person sitting next to me to read.

Pro Tip: Always sit next to me in boring meetings for the notebook nudge.

Each time I crack open an old notebook I feel like I am transported to a day of discovery and creation in my past. I find so much inspiration in these books that I regret not looking at them more frequently. I also appreciate the really boring meetings more in hindsight because they filled pages with doodles and funnies.

Plan A Revisit

Make sure to find time to read YOUR old notebooks. There is gold in them thar quills! And it is waiting to be cashed in by you.

Whether you keep notebooks, sketchpads, journals, diaries, or even notes on your phone, make sure to revisit them regularly. Because once you begin filling the blank pages, they are transformed into books you have written.

Your notebooks are full of inspiration, reminders, lessons, and quotes. They are sprinkled with great ideas you’ve had, or heard. The ideas captured in your notebooks are likely your most powerful, memorable, and important. They spring from your greatest moments of inspiration, and the depths of boredom. And either will do.

They may contain plans you’ve had, strategies you’ve considered, or challenges you faced. They may hold the schedules of days in the past, that you can look back on and see when important steps were taken that positively impacted your path. They may serve as your personal history books of dates, plans, tasks, priorities, meetings and obligations. With the gift of hindsight you can determine the value of your actions, and perhaps the cost of your inaction.

Notebooks from talks, presentations, seminars are particularly useful. Because at those time you were exposed to new people, ideas, lessons, methods, and insights. Often times the value we reaped in such situations goes unrealized until we revisit our notes again.

Only You Can Think That Thought

Your life experience and perspective create thoughts that only you could have. Which is why they are so valuable. But you are also so busy that a fleeting thought is often gone forever if not captured in your notebooks. Which means that your notebooks are often full of gems you never would have rediscovered any other way.

Key Takeaway

Some of the best ideas you have ever had are found in your old notebooks. Make sure to revisit them. Remind yourself of your best lessons, thoughts, and plans. They can serve as inspiration, comfort, or humor. Of all the books that you should reread, the books you’ve written yourself often hold the most value. Keep them close. Read them often. And profit from the rediscovery.

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

Never stop competing.

When you were young you competed all the time. You competed in the classroom and on the playground. You competed in the sports you played, or for the part in the play.

You competed for the best position in the band, orchestra or choir. Or you competed in chess, robotics, or forensics. Perhaps you competed for student council votes, in milk-tasting, in dance-offs, and with your Uncle Rico.

Then you competed for the attention of the boys or girls you were attracted to. You dressed nicely, took care of yourself physically, hygienically and follicly. You were thoughtful, kind, and you smelled good.

You competed to get into the good school or program. Then for the great job, the promotion, the raise. You competed to attract the great customer, client, project, or assignment. And you cared about the obscure awards that only your industry cares about. Like Outstanding Use of Whiteout in The Annual Low-Tech Secretary Awards.

Today, ask yourself Am I still competing?

Am I competing with my personal best? Am I still trying to learn, grow and improve? Or am I slowly coasting to a stop like a car that has run out of gas? Or like a skateboard that has run out of skateboarder?

Am I competing at work? Am I pushing to win for my customers and my teammates? Am I still trying to add more value? Are my biggest contributions still ahead of me. Or am I still milking my success from the 1900s?

Am I competing for my spouse or significant other? Am I taking care of myself? Am I treating my snuggle bunny in a way that makes me hard to beat? Am I still being thoughtful? And romantic? Do I buy flowers on non-holidays and when I don’t have to apologize for something I did, said, forgot, or broke?

Am I competing against time? Am I trying to do as much as I can within the limited time I have on this planet? Or at least during my pre-embalming fluid-filled time on the planet? (I have no idea how to properly hyphenate that last statement. If you are still competing in hyphenation let me know).

Key Takeaway

Never stop competing. Keep growing and improving. Keep pushing yourself and finding new ways to contribute. Keep competing for your spouse or significant other as if they have lots of other great options. Because they always do. Re-earn your role and your respect from others every day. Compete to make the most of every day. It is the best way to live your best life.

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

An inspiring reminder to never give up on your dreams.

A few years ago Andrew Young spoke at my office in Atlanta. I was thrilled by the opportunity to hear him speak. Young is a political rockstar. He was a U.S. Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta. Before all that, Young was a key figure in the American civil rights movement. And he was the first person mentioned by the Village People in the song Y.M.C.A.

I knew Young’s talk would be inspiring. But like so many memorable moments in life, one of the greatest sources of inspiration from his talk came from an unexpected surprise he shared.

As Young recounted the excitement and profound significance of the civil rights movement, he talked about just how impressive Martin Luther King Jr. was. He said that the whole movement was full of leaders. But Martin, as Young called him, was the clear leader of leaders.

However, it was a quick and simple fact thrown in for humor that still sticks with me 5 years later. Young shared that when King was in college at Crozer Theological Seminary school he got a C in public speaking. And no, a C in Seminary school does not stand for Christ-like, or Crazy-good.

Drink this in for a moment. As a pastor, reverend, priest, or rabbi your number one job skill, other than knowing a hell of a lot about God, has to be public speaking, right? And King was struggling in that department.

Yet we all know how the story ends. Ultimately, King is best known for his public speaking. In fact, there may be no one in American history better known for their public speaking skills than MLK.

If you asked me to name the 3 most famous speeches in American history I would say Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech, and then I would probably throw in Billy Madison’s ‘The Puppy Who Lost His Way’ speech, because I can’t really think of any others.

The fact that King, who became one of the most inspiring speakers in history got a C in public speaking in college adds to his inspirational legacy. It reminds us that where we start is not where we end. It reminds us to unearth our hidden talents, develop our skills and think about where we are going. Not where we have been. It also reminds us that disappointment and dissatisfaction can be powerful motivators.

In other words, have a vision of your fully realized dream state, and work to make it your reality. Which is exactly what MLK Jr. did.

If you are willing to focus, practice and work there is no limit to how great you can become. Overcoming initial discouragement is critical. Recognizing where you are in your journey and visualizing how much more you are capable of is key.

Remember, the worse you start out the more you are capable of improving.

Key Takeaway

Where you start is not where you will end. Focus on the process of improvement. If you are willing to put in the work, effort, learning, and practice there is no telling how much you are capable of. In other words, if you have a dream, keep at it until it is real. It is really up to you.

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

Are you accepting your destiny or making it happen?

There are two ways to think about life. The first is to think that everything that is happening to you, or going to happen to you, is already predetermined. Your story was handed to you, fully written, and you are simply following the script. The second way to think about life is that nothing is written. You are the one doing all the writing. The world is waiting for you to figure out the next chapter.

Driver or Passenger?

The first approach assumes that nothing is up to you. The second approach assumes that everything is up to you. Your position on this issue leads you take on two very different roles. One allows you to be passive. The second requires you to steer. It says that nothing happens until you make it happen. Like Mariah Carey.

However, there is a third option. One of the most accomplished Americans of the 20th century, and one the most quoted philosophers, said this:

“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happenin’ at the same time.”

-Forrest Gump

This Gumpism is useful in explaining the universe and our role in it. It says that there are multiple forces at play at all times. It says that there are things we get to decide and things that are out of our control. It acknowledges that we all come into this world with some predetermined conditions, whether the insurance companies like it or not.

The Dealing

We are dealt a hand of cards that we have to begin the game with. Some hands are more advantageous than others. But the game isn’t over when the dealing is done. The dealing is just the beginning.

The You Factor

Gumpian doctrine allows for our own choices and decisions. It provides room for our grit, determination, motivation and action. We have the ability to set our minds on our own course, with our own goals and our own strategic plan. We simply must recognize that we don’t get to march unimpeded towards our goals, like Michael Strahan’s phony sack of Brett Favre in 2002 (as seen in this 20 second video clip).

The Cross-Traffic

There are too many people on this planet, all with their own goals, hopes and dreams for us not to get caught up in cross-traffic and competition on the way to what we want. There are natural phenomena and acts of God (or maybe Morgan Freeman or George Burns) that become obstacles in our way. All of which make life more challenging, and more interesting.

All Things Considered

Acknowledging that there are both pre-determined and self-determined forces at play is both a comfort and a frustration. It allows you to go after what you want. But it also means you may not find it, or that it will take longer, or be different than it was in your head. Because there are nearly 8 billion bees in this hive we all share. And some of them will occasionally get in your way. When they do, you may have to yield, but you never have to stop.

Key Takeaway

We all deal with a combination of destiny and autonomy. So set your own goals, chart your own course, believe in the greatest you that you can possibly imagine. But know that you are going to experience resistance and disappointment. Perseverance is king. You may need to try again, or take a detour to get where you want to go. Don’t be easily deterred. You may simply need to wait until it is your turn to complete your mission. That is half the fun.

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

Why you should reunite your tribe.

I am a dreamer. I love to think about things that would be cool to do, have, make or experience. But I have also learned that if you step towards the things you dream up, you can also make them real. Like Real Deal Holyfield.

One of my favorite things to dream about is people gatherings. Recently, I had a conversation with my high school classmate Kelly (McKeown) Gaudet, who lives in Denver. We talked about how fun it would be to have a Zoom call with our classmates from Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire.

That’s Kelly. (She’s the one on the left.)

What Kelly didn’t know is that I am kinda like an assassin. Because once I start talking about a social gathering like that I won’t stop until the deal is done. Ok, I don’t know if that’s how assassins really work, but that’s what they said in the movie The Bodyguard. Which is where I got most of my assassin knowledge. (Side note: I always think assassin sounds like a verse of the Hokey Pokey: You put your assassin, you put your assassout, you put your assassin and you shake it all about…)

Taking Action

The week after Kelly and I talked about how fun it would be to have a class reZoomion, I announced that we would be having a reunion on our class Facebook page. Because I have learned that if you make thing up, and act like they are real, them somehow magically become real.

Some of my classmates at our last in-person reunion. (Before there were non-in-person reunions.)

Getting The Party Started

A funny thing happened last Thursday night at 8:28pm ET. People who haven’t seen each other in years, or decades, started piling into our class Zooom call. In fact, It was the most attended Zoom call I have been part of in the past year.

It was amazing to see so many friends from our class of 150-ish students together again. We debated exactly how many kids were in our class, with several participant noting that their class ranks were lower than the class population I stated (it’s hard to be 155th out of 143).

Unlike a traditional high school reunion where you tend to gravitate to the people you knew best, we all spent the whole call together. As if we were sitting around a campfire back in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, one by one, we each took a couple of minutes to update our fellow Marauders on our lives since graduation. We each shared:

  • Where we lived now
  • What we have been doing
  • Who we have been doing it with (snickering)
  • Who was the last person/people we saw from our class in real life

You’re Unbelievable, Like EMF

What we heard was amazing. Unlike at our 10-year reunion when we all just getting started, the stories now are remarkable. We were all blown away by the adventures and accomplishments of our classmates.

We had become educators and doctors. NASA scientists and lawyers. Sales experts and IT specialists. Entrepreneurs and professional singers. Marketing executives and CEOs, Nurses and farmers. Financial experts and artists. Hospitality leaders and physical therapists. Engineers and End-of-Life Doulas (bet you didn’t see that coming). Musicians and carpenters. Therapists and consultants. One of our classmates joined from Africa where she is working on human rights initiatives (thanks for joining in the middle of the night Willow!) And best of all, we had stay at home Moms, busy with the most important job we will ever have.

Many of our classmates had written books and traveled the world. We have spread across the continent and well beyond. I couldn’t help but be inspired by all that my classmates have done. And all that We have done as a class.

ProTip: The best time to do a social Zoom call is on Thursday night, starting at 8:30 ET. This avoids weekend conflicts. It also clears work obligations in all 4 U.S. mainland timezones.

Zooming Overtime

We stayed on the call for over 3 hours, with some people staying for 4 hours plus. We laid plans for an in-person class reunion in July, which I am thrilled about. Because you don’t get to make new old friends. And no one knows you like the people you grew up with know you.

Over the past year, we have all learned not to take the ability to simply spend time with friends and family for granted. Make sure to connect with your favorite people and reconnect with your long-lost people. Life is short. And at the end of our days, the only thing that really matters is the impact we have on each other.

Key takeaway.

To reunite your social groups, don’t be afraid to make the first move. You are likely to find others grateful for you taking the initiative. Strengthening our social bonds strengthens our mental and emotional well being too. Gather your tribe. Fuel that sense of belonging. And reinforce your social safety net. You never know when you may need it.

Thanks to my classmates for a fun and surprisingly profound Thursday night. I look forward to more!

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

To experience far greater success adapt an experimentality.

If you are like most people, you have enjoyed some success in life. But if you are like almost everyone, you haven’t enjoyed as much as you would like. To enjoy greater performances, better results, and more success you have to experiment. And this requires an experimentality.

An experimentality is a growth mindset. It is willing to learn and try new approaches in order to get better results. It is believing that good is not good enough. And that there is always a better way, José.

Constants

There are 2 parts to your experimentality. First, there are the constants. These are the aspects of your approach that don’t change. Your constants are the parts of your plan that are proven to work. These become elements of your repeatable process. Not only should you have constants in your approach, you should be constantly increasing the number of constants, like Constance.

Variables

The other part of your experimentality is your variables. These are the things you change to test the possibility of driving even greater results. There is more risk in the variables. But you will never change the magnitude of your success without adjusting the variables.

Like a David Copperfield show, this is where the magic happens. Changing the variables is the only way to experience breakthroughs. You have to be willing to try new ways, or you will always get old results.

10,000 to 1.

Thomas Edison said he never failed in his lightbulb experiments. He simply discovered 10,000 approaches that didn’t work. But through experimentation, and changing the variables, he found 1 approach that not only worked, it changed the world.

Without Edison and his experimentality, the world wouldn’t have known the lightbulb, the phonograph or the electric grid. And without Edison, nothing would appear above your head when you have a good idea. Plus, we wouldn’t have, ‘How many (blanks) does it take to change a lightbulb’ jokes. Scary right?

Whether you are trying to change the world, or simply change your world, keep changing the variables. The new approaches, techniques, and inputs are certain to impact your outputs. Some of them will lead to significant, vast, or even epic improvements. It’s up to you to determine which inputs those are.

Key Takeaway

Adopt an experimentality. The only way to get different results is to try different approaches. Keep track of your experiments. Note the impact of each adjustment. Because each one will get you closer to your goals. And one of them is likely to blow things wide open. Keep pushing until you find it. Don’t stop until the lightbulb burns bright.

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

The 2 things you need to get better at anything.

You are the greatest project you will ever have. As a human being, you are the most complicated machine on Earth. Which means there is no limit to the amount of self-improvement you are capable of.

Your improvements can be highly specific. They can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, psychological, philosophical, or professional. But even these broad categories that all end in -al barely scratch the surface.

You can get better at signing your name, walking, selling, replacing an organ, or serving a tennis ball. You can get better at eating hot dogs. Just ask Joey Chestnut. You can get better at streaking. Just ask the dude who invited himself onto the field at Super Bowl LV. Heck, you can get better at eating hot dogs while streaking. And if you do you can probably get a sponsorship deal.

The 2 Ingredients

Regardless of what you want to do better, there are 2 key drivers of self-improvement: the things you learn and the things you do. Because you improve through a combination of knowing better and doing better.

1. The things you learn.

This is all about gaining new information. This can come in many ways.

  • Reading books, magazines, articles, and reports.
  • Watching instructional videos
  • Taking classes and courses.
  • Learning from others through discussions, conversations, observation, and spying.
  • Working with a coach or mentor
  • Experimenting
  • Experience

2. The things you do.

All the knowledge in the world does no good without action. Your actions drive results. Those actions include:

  • Effort
  • Focus
  • Commitment
  • Practice
  • Habits
  • Stamina
  • Optimization

Key Takeaway

Learn all you can. Then put that new knowledge to work through your deliberate actions. By doing so you will end each day better than you began. You are the greatest project you will ever have. And you are nowhere near finished.

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

Why passing grades are not good enough in the real world.

There are 3 grades to everything. Which means everything you do can be evaluated, sorted, and stacked into 3 distinct categories. Everything.

Failure

The first grade is failure. It means you didn’t live up to the standards set. It reveals you either didn’t know or didn’t try. You never want to be in this world. Because failure never fails to fail. It is the easiest thing to do.

Passing

Passing means you met the standard. But that is it. The problem with meeting the standard is that everyone else worth a poo also meets the standard too.* It is not differentiating. It is just enough to get you into the game. (*Italicized, rhymed, and infused with poo for memorability)

A passing grade puts you in the commodity category. When you simply meet the standard you have to keep on fighting. You have no leverage. You are like a teeter with no totter. You have to lower your wages or your fee because so many others are right where you are. The world of the passing grade is crowded. Which means you have to stand in line for doors you may never get through. #anightattheroxbury

Flying Colors

The only grade that gets ahead is Flying Colors. When you push beyond the passing grade you earn this enviable distinction. This is where you earn options. People seek you out when your performance, product, or service is in this range.

When you earn Flying Color grades you can choose what you do and who you do it with. You can charge a premium. You can maximize profit. Maximize opportunities. This is where you have options. Because you are adding value. And when you add value first you can extract value.

Key Takeaway

The top tier is the only group that has control over their world. This is where you should always push to be. It takes more work. But not that much more. Plus, there is inherent joy and satisfaction in doing a job at a high level. Aim here. Get here. Take control of your opportunities here. Never settle for less.

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