Kickstart your day with this powerful and simple habit.

Your first act of the day sets the tone for how your entire day will go. Some people cuddle with a cup of coffee. Some read. Others exercise. While still others begin their morning by repeatedly jabbing at the snooze button on their alarm clock as if they were picking a fight with the Pillsbury Doughboy.

My First Habit 

My first act of the day is simple, and more impactful than any of the above. The very first thing I do each morning when I wake up, is smile. I smile and instantly the day is good. It makes me feel as if the day is a game that I am ready to play. I feel funny and playful. Because smiling to yourself in the dark for no reason is a funny thing to do. But it puts me in the right frame of mind for the 18-hour adventure ahead.

Life Comes At You Fast.

Like everyone else, I face challenges every day. I have 3 semi-domesticated children (12G, 10B and 7B). I have a home that regularly throws me surprises. I have a commute that I don’t control. I own an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, which comes with employees, contractors, clients, finances, insurance and a landlord. And they all have the potential to hip-check my plans each day.

But that first smile in the morning makes me feel as if I won the day before the sun even gets out of the starting blocks. It sets the tone for everything else. It reminds me that funny things are going to happen that day, and it is up to me to see those events as humourous, and not tragic, vengeful or a clear sign of how much the universe hates me.

Put a smile to work for you.

Try it yourself. It is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. And if you have not yet smiled today, do it now.

guy-smiley
This is Guy Smiley from Sesame Street. Fun fact: while he was a guy, he was not actually smiley, because he was stitched without smiling functionality. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

If you find that a morning smile helps set a positive tone for your day let me know. If you have a great way to start your day that might help me, please share. I’ll take all the help I can get.

*To learn more about how I approach life and business you could shadow me 24-7. Or you could subscribe to this blog. It’s really up to you.

Why you should take more big chances.

I would never take candy from a stranger. But I will take life lessons from anyone. Even Rick Pitino. Pitino, the controversial former basketball coach at the University of Louisville (and Kentucky, The Knicks, The Celtics and Providence) is back in the news again. Not for having naughty relations in a restaurant with the wife of his assistant coach. Or setting up recruits with ‘hired lady friends’. He is back in the headlines today, rumored to be a potential new head coach of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks.

What Rick Told Me.

All this Pitino-talk reminds me of an interesting story he once told me. That’s right. As I was driving to work in Atlanta, Rick told me about his first encounter with the 3-point shot. No, Rick and I weren’t carpooling to pass the notorious Atlanta traffic. I was listening to his audio book, Success Is A Choice.  

Eastern Kentucky v Louisville
Rick Pitino, checking out the scoreboard of his life.

The Power Of The 3-Pointer

Pitino thought the introduction of the 3-point shot would have a significant impact on college basketball. In fact, the first year the 3-point shot was introduced to the college game he told his team that he expected them to take fifteen 3-point shots in every game.

The Russians

Then a funny thing happened. His team played an exhibition game against the Russian national team. And the Russian team attempted twenty-one 3-pointers, in the first half!  Of course many of those shots were nothing but nyet. (Sorry, I could nyet help myself.)

Even though Coach Pitino knew the 3-pointer would have a significant impact on the game of basketball, he grossly underestimated it. Probably because he was surrounded by athletes, not mathletes. Because shooting 50% from 2-point land gets the same result as shooting 33% from 3-point land.

50% from 2-Pointville = 33% from 3-Pointtown

Bigger Rewards

This math holds true in business and in our personal lives too. Taking smaller chances reaps smaller rewards. Taking larger chances reaps larger rewards. So stretch, grow, try, and learn. You can attempt shots with lower percentages and still enjoy a higher payout because of the higher value of each shot made. Don’t limit yourself to the easy stuff. Sooner or later you will regret it.

So step back and think bigger. Try the hard things. And pretty soon you’ll find you’re success rate on the hard stuff will catch up to the success rate on the easier stuff. You’ll be lighting up your own scoreboard. And when you do, you can tell me all about it as I drive.

*For more life lessons I’ve learned from winners and sinners consider subscribing to this blog.

How to prevent your dreams from crashing into a ditch this year.

Have you engaged in some self-evaluation over the past week? I have. The start of a new year has a funny way of forcing us to take stock of what we have, how we look, the state of our careers, our relationships and the effects of our bad habits. Then, once a year, we take actions to course correct. But this once-a-year-course-correction approach is severely flawed. Almost as flawed as my ability to properly fold fitted sheets.

Life is a highway

Imagine your ideal life as a road. All you have to do is drive on it. Now, imagine you find yourself veering ever-so-slightly towards the ditch, or oncoming traffic. When should you make a course correction? As soon you recognize you are veering! But what if you don’t? What if you only steer once a year?

The problem with annual corrections

If you only make a course correction once a year, you will only ever make a maximum of 100 adjustments (and that’s making some generous assumptions about your longevity and the age at which you scribbled your first New Year’s resolution).

At just 100 adjustments over a lifetime, one of two things happens. You either veer far off course each year, or you travel really, really, really slowly to prevent winding up in the ditch before the end of the year. Either way, 100 lifetime corrections severely limits your ability to travel your ideal path.

Driver Safety Quiz

Question: How often do you need to make subtle adjustments when you are driving an actual car on an actual road?

Answer: Every few seconds.

What should you do instead?

It’s simple math.  An annual evaluation and course correction will allow you 100 chances to follow your true path. A monthly correction will provide you with 1200 chances.  Weekly evaluations provide 5200 lifetime adjustments. While a daily course correction will provide you with 36,500 chances to travel your true path (plus roughly 25 leap days which you can use as you please).

I’m not saying you need to course correct every day. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t.  But a weekly or monthly inventory check will dramatically improve your odds of attaining your goals and living into the life of your design.

So don’t wait until the end of the year. Start by re-evaluating your course today, one week into the new year. If you are not heading towards your own true north, make the necessary adjustments now. Keep recalibrating. And steer yourself exactly where you want to go.

*If you want to read a post from this blog more than once per year please subscribe to receive about two posts per week via email.

How to be more courageous in the new year.

What would you do if nothing scared you? Would you wrestle a rabid alligator? Be the first person on the dance floor?  Jump out of rocket ships? Invite a family of termites to your log cabin for a long weekend? Or would you do something even scarier, like change career paths in your prime?

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Fearless you would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, fear is the greatest tranquilizer on Earth. It can stop a talented human like you in your tracks. Fear can prevent you from becoming the amazing person you were born to be. I hate that.

Fear vs Courage

I’ve had several conversations this week about fear and courage. It becomes a central topic this time of year as we aim to renew ourselves each January. So I’ve turned to one of my favorite quotes on the topic from Cus D’Amato. Cus was one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time. He used to train World Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson. If anyone knows about fear, Cus does. Here’s what he says:

I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward?  What is the difference between being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.  -Cus D’Amato

iron-ambition-mike-tyson-and-cus-damato-book-review-by-thomas-hauser-1

Whoa!

The key is not being immune to fear. Because everyone feels it. The key is to keep moving and keep doing despite the fear. What you feel is irrelevant. What you do makes all the difference.

Me and Fear

Since I founded the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I have been meeting fear on Main Street at high noon every day.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what the second quarter of the year looks like. And I don’t have a back-up plan.

But I show up every day. I put one foot in front of the other. I keep moving forward. And I keep winning. I keep living into the life I want and traveling the career path I created in my head. If it all ended tomorrow I would be proud to have been brave enough to try. Brave enough to leave a predictable path for the potential of a greater reward on many levels. The fear just makes the victories sweeter.

Key Take Away

At the beginning of the year you should have big plans and goals for yourself. You should want to become a better You. But perhaps the most important goal you should have is to simply step towards the fear and fight through it. We all feel fear. It is hardwired into us. Bur fear is just a yellow traffic light. You get to choose whether you treat it like a red light or a green.

*If you know someone who you think needs a little push to get them to step towards their fear, please share the Cus D’Amato quote with them. When facing fear it helps to have all the ammunition you can get.

 

The best way to make your New Year’s resolution stick.

Happy Resolution Season! Today kicks off the magical four-week period at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to change their lives for the better. If you are a regular gym-goer it is the worst time of year. Because when you arrive for your regular workout some dude who hasn’t exercised in eleven months is wheezing and dripping all over your treadmill.

What do you want to change?

You probably have a list of things you want to start, stop or improve. I applaud that. But far too often, despite the fresh optimism of the new year, we fail to turn our resolutions into powerful new habits. So I will share my secret, counterintuitive technique that makes it much easier to create a healthy new habit.

How Hard Do You Work?

It is natural to assume that if you want to make a major change in your life you should work hard at it. That approach works for some. The beaver loves to be busy. The sled dog loves to mush. But the couch potato loves to potate on the couch. For most people the hard work simply reminds them how much they dislike the hard work.  That’s why the activity hasn’t developed into a habit, yet.

I was at the gym when it opened this morning to start the year with a leg workout. (I’m not actually as svelte as stick-figure me).

The Easier Approach

My secret formula to goal achievement is to put in less effort. While it is natural to think that hard work in the gym or the office will get you better results faster, your long-term success will be hampered. Because most people quickly grow tired of the work, the suffering, the pain or the sacrifice.

Get Lazy to Win

When I start a new habit, or resume my workout routine after a pause, I do less than I could. I do less than I should. And that is the key. By under-exerting myself I keep the activity enjoyable. I check the box. I know I worked out, or spent time on the project, or studying or whatever the case may be. But I only did the minimum. Or the medium. But never even close to the maximum. At first.

This does 3 things:

  1. It makes me feel accomplished.  After all, I did work towards my goal. I got on the cardio machine. I lifted weights. I created an initial sketch of the business I wanted to start. I skipped dessert. (Yay me! I’m doing it!)
  2. It makes it fun  I did the parts that make the endeavor enjoyable. I worked up some sweat. But I didn’t push hard enough to suffer. I didn’t cramp. I didn’t feel like throwing up. I didn’t overload my brain. And most importantly, I never wished that it was over.
  3. It makes me hungry for more. This is the key. I know I can do more. I know I have more in me. Even in this early stage. So I look forward to more.

Calluses vs. Blisters

Hard works requires calluses. You need to build up layers of your own armor. You do this through repetition. Slowly, repeatedly over time. Your body develops a tolerance to the work and the motion. So you can withstand more.

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But most people blister. They work harder than they are prepared for in the beginning.  And their body or brain rejects the work. The effort is seen as a threat rather than a treat. You get sore. The pain says stop. The skin bubbles and peels off and then you bleed. All the feedback is negative. The rational person rejects the entire activity. Then retreats to the couch again to potate.

But people who slowly build calluses keep going. They see the improvement they are after. Which means they can increase the effort without decreasing the fun. They feel accomplished and prepared for more. It’s a beautiful thing.

Staring my business

When I started my adverting and idea agency, The Weaponry, I had a vision for what the perfect, fully-formed agency would look like. But I started small. And slow. I didn’t worry about all the things I should be doing, or that I would eventually need to do to make the business in my head a reality. If I tried to do it all from the beginning I likely would have been overwhelmed, stressed or scared. Instead, I did a little bit more every day. And it’s been fun the entire time. The kind of fun that keeps me coming back for more.

The Key Take Away 

Don’t kill yourself in January. Underdo it. Make it fun. And make yourself want to come back for more. Plan for long-term success. But allow yourself time to build momentum. By doing so you can change your life forever. Starting today. Isn’t that exciting? So do less. Enjoy more. And get a little bit better everyday.

Happy 2018. This is your year!

*If one of your goals is to read more in 2018, subscribe to this blog. I’ll share a few hundred words to read a couple of times per week. Which is not enough to hurt you.

A short reminder for the shortest day of the year.

Christmas brings renewed hope for Christians.

The new year provides a fresh start for us all.

And the new fiscal year offers businesses a chance to measure new growth.

But don’t overlook the importance of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It’s a symbol that every day for the next 6-months will have a little bit more sunshine than the day before. This is a great reminder that even the darkest times hit a maximum. And after that maximum, things get a little better, and a little brighter every day.

 

 

Focus more on the things you love.

My business plays in a fun sandbox. Brands across the United States and Canada come to my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, looking for smart new ideas. Our team of strategic and creative thinkers explore ideas that extend far beyond what most clients could create on their own. Clients love us because we reveal new possibilities. And because we do ridiculous things that make them laugh a lot in meetings.

Exploring the Possibilities

Clients often hire us to help them reimagine their brand. On a recent project our team presented our client with 40 new logo options to choose from. Yes, 40. We pride ourselves on offering a great range of thinking so that everyone can find something they like. You know, like a buffet. Or a boy band.

Once we concluded the share of new logos and opened the floor for discussion (ok, so the floor didn’t really open), I was surprised by the very first comments that followed. One of the clients said, “I REALLY don’t like option 9.” Then he spent several minutes elaborating on why he didn’t like option 9. After several others shared their favorites, this client spoke up again and said, ‘Did anyone else dislike option 9 as much as I did?’

The Weaponry Way

Let me let you in on one of The Weaponry’s secrets. The reason we show multiple ideas is because our clients might not like them all. I’m fine with that. My friends at Coca Cola sell a wide range of drink options so that we can all find something we like. I love Coke and Gold Peak Tea. I don’t focus on the fact that Diet Coke tastes like liquid bike tires.

It is a waste of time to focus on the things that we don’t like. Or the things that don’t work. I think of the creative process like finding your way through a maze. Once you find yourself at a dead end, immediately turn around and start exploring another option. To stop and focus on that dead end, or worse, go back to the dead end to see it again, and think about how dead that end really is, is a waste of time.

Maximizing

A few years ago I did a Strength Finders analysis. The test concluded that I am a Maximizer. Which means I don’t spend any time focusing on what happened in the past, or what can’t be changed. I focus on the possibilities in front of me and how to make something good into something great. Which is a good construct to have when you are a professional creative. Or an entrepreneur. I help my team and my clients find ideas with a lot of potential, then bring out the maximum potential in each of them.

The Take Away

Focus on the things you love most. Spend your time looking for the solutions, the answers, the wows. The beautiful building, the kind act, the smart idea, the great looking jacket, the blog post about focusing on the things you love (that you loved enough to like and share). When you see something that doesn’t work for you, move on. Focus on the great, the exciting possibilities, the things that make you happiest. You will find more good in the world. Let’s all let go of our own option #9. The other 31 options are better anyway.

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