The best way to get better is by dropping your bad habits.

You are a product of your habits. That is both good and bad news. Because some of your habits are constructive and make you better on a daily basis. Others are destructive and continuously hurt you. You’ll find many of those kinds of habits in country songs. And in prison.

Identifying Your Bad Habits

Do you know your most harmful habits? The ones that most negatively impact your life? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want you to take a moment to write down 3 to 5 of your bad habits. Then rank them starting with the most problematic. These are the habits that are most detrimental to your happiness, health, reputation, productivity, or success. I’ll wait while you create your list. (If you don’t create yours now we’ll automatically add procrastination to your list.)

My Habits:

I have a lot of good habits. I get a lot accomplished most days. I work hard. I write almost every day. I brush. I floss. I exercise regularly. I spend quality time with my family. And I put down the toilet seat.

But I wouldn’t have asked you to do anything I haven’t done myself. Here are the top 3 bad habits that I would do better without:

  1. Procrastination. I procrastinate on things longer than I wish I did. I have a backlog of incomplete tasks. And I have lost out on opportunities because I have waited too long to pull the trigger. Now, if I acknowledge that I don’t like my procrastination, but put off doing anything about it, that would be ironic, don’t you think?

2. Overeating:  I love to eat. And I am good at it. But I regularly eat more than I should. And I don’t like the impact it has on my physique. I developed the habit of eating a great deal when I was training heavily for competitive athletics. Back then I needed all the calories I could inhale. That was back before my metabolic slowdown, which happened somewhere in my 30s. Today my body doesn’t need the surplus calories from a Meat Lovers Pizza binger. And if I could change this occasional habit I bet I would feel more comfortable at a nude beach.

3. Screen time. I check my phone and computer far more often than I wish I did. This is complicated. Because like you, and Elon Musk, I have a complicated relationship with social platforms. As a blogger and author, I post and share a lot of ideas. Ideas that are intended to have a positive impact on those who read them. And the algorithms reward content that is interacted with. So interacting online is also important. But I would be happier to cut my online time in half. And I don’t care which half.

The Next Step

Now, I want you to pick one bad habit to attack. Because if you can eliminate one bad habit you will improve your life in a profound way. And if you can, you should.

The first step is to change your self-identity. Tell yourself, and firmly believe, that you are a person who doesn’t struggle with (your bad habit here). In fact, you are great at doing the opposite of (your bad habit here.)

To combat my procrastination, I have already adopted my identity as an action-taker and have rewired my decision-making system over the past several weeks. I recognize when decisions and actions are in danger of being put off. And I dedicate time to doing things now. It is making a huge difference, and I feel more me than ever.

Key Takeaway 

A key component of self-improvement is eliminating bad habits. Call them out. Write them down. And start picking them off one by one. Claim your new identity. Then create good habits to replace the bad. Because without your bad habits holding you back you will be much more 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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

When your window of opportunity opens will you be ready to go?

This time of year always brings out the Clark Griswold in me. Which means that in late November or early December, I like to decorate my house and yard with Christmas lights. Yet, I try to avoid stapling my sleeve to my house, and kidnapping my boss.

I don’t have a preset date for my lightification. Instead, I watch the weather closely. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it’s not much fun to hang lights when it is 20 degrees outside. Or rainy. Or huricaney. By contrast, it’s an enjoyable task to do when it is in the 50s or above and sunny. (For international readers, all temps are in Fahrenheit. At 50 degree Celsius I turn into bacon.)

This year we have had a wintry November in Wisconsin. The snow arrived early and stuck around because of the cold temperatures. But as I kept checking the forecast, I noticed that off in the distance, on Saturday, November 26th, the temperature was supposed to warm up into the 50s. However, cold and rain were predicted for the following day. So I knew that yesterday would be my window of opportunity. Cue the Eminem.

I cleared my schedule for light hanging yesterday. And just as predicted, it was sunny, warm and beautiful. It was a perfect day for the task. I hung lights on the front of my house and 8 trees and bushes in my front yard. The universe presented a great window and I made the most of it.

But great windows of opportunity aren’t limited to light hanging. (Thank God.) They occur in all areas of your life. And when you plan ahead you are bound to find them.

My Window Watching

I always wanted to start my own business. That was my long-term career plan. So in 2015 when I had former clients tell me that I should consider creating my own advertising agency and that they had work for me, I knew I had found my window, Pella.

I always wanted to write a book too, but I needed time to do the actual writing. So when the covid lockdown of 2020 began, I knew my writing window of opportunity had also arrived. I got to work. Two months later I finished the first draft of my book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And now it makes a great Christmas gift.

I look for windows of opportunity for travel, investments, and introductions. I look for windows for fun and for starting new businesses. I look for opportunities to support, teach and encourage too. My radar is always scanning for opportunities. As a result, I find them. And when I find an opportunity I act. And you should too.

Key Takeaway

Windows of opportunity are constantly opening and closing. But you have to be looking for them to notice. That’s why it’s so valuable to create a plan for your life, year, week, and day. Because when you know what you want in life you will recognize the windows of opportunity that open for you. Then it’s Go Time! Because opportunities don’t last forever. That’s what makes them valuable.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How you can get really smart by acting dumb.

In his book, My Father’s Business, Cal Turner Jr., the long-time CEO of Dollar General and the son of the company’s Founder talks about how his grandfather was one of the smartest people he ever knew. What makes this particularly interesting is that his grandfather dropped out of elementary school to help run the family farm after his dad died in a freak wrestling accident. (I’m assuming it wasn’t cauliflower ear.)

Turner goes on to say that his grandfather’s lack of formal education offered a significant advantage.

It says a great deal about Luther Turner that he was able to turn
his third-grade education into a plus. He was convinced that everyone he met was smarter than he, and that he needed to learn some thing from each of them. He became a first-rate observer, a great listener, and a dedicated student of life. What he practiced was more than empathy. It involved valuing the other person and his or her information, insight, and perspective.

– Cal Turner Jr
I was surprised to learn that Dollar General was never actually in the military.

To be clear, I’m not encouraging you to drop out of school after 3rd grade. (Very few of my readers are in the 3rd grade and under demographic.) But it’s important to recognize the danger of assuming you are the smartest person in the room. We all have blind spots which limit us. But if you remain open to the ideas of others you have the potential to become as smart as everyone you have encountered combined.

Key Takeaway

Everyone you interact with has amassed their own unique combination of knowledge and experience. Which means they have insights and perspectives you don’t have. Listen to them. Learn from them. Add their lessons to your own. The only limit to how much you can learn in life is your own curiosity and receptivity.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How to have the best life possible.

I am always looking for insights and advice on how to live a great life. I look for wisdom and nuggets everywhere. I expect you share the same interest in life advice since you decided to read this article based on the best-life headline.

When I find golden lessons I like to share them with as many people as possible. In fact, I recently published an entire book full of 80 of the best life lessons I have learned titled What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? The book lets you consume a lot of actionable insight without consuming the 20 calories packed into those delightfully bland non-cookie cookies. And since there are 80 lessons, the book saves you 1600 calories. So it’s kind of a weight loss book too. (But not really.)

Another Book Recommendation

But I am not the only one who writes about the valuable life lessons they have discovered. Ray Dalio’s #1 New York Times bestselling book Principles is full of great lessons on both life and work. Plus, it is the only book I own that comes with two of those built-in bookmark ribbon thingies.

While there are many great lessons in Dalio’s book here is his simple summation of the entire work.

In order to have the best life possible, you have to:

1) know what the best decisions are and

2) have the courage to make them.

-Ray Dalio

The key insight here is that you have to constantly improve your decision-making ability and increase your courage. Which means that we are all on the Yellow Brick Road with the Scarecrow and the Lion.

Key Takeaway

Constantly upgrade your decision-making skills. Know your own guiding principles. Study the outcomes of your decisions to learn what works. And study the principles of others so that you can adopt their best thinking as your own. Then live life according to your own proven principles. They will not only lead to better decisions, but they will also lead to positive outcomes that will increase your courage to make the right difficult decisions in the future.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Your future is the greatest mystery of all. But you get to write it.

I stopped into a bookstore at the airport in Minneapolis yesterday. Since publishing my first book 11 months ago I look at bookstores differently. Now I study them in great detail.

I am curious to know more about everything. The categories. The book cover designs. The titles. The displays. The shoppers. The best-seller list. The people who work in the stores who don’t look like they spend a lot of time in the sun. Or play sports.

Yesterday I was drawn to the mystery section. I noticed it was where the rockstar authors were. And the big names each had multiple books on the shelves. It was in the back corner of the store. The mystery books were clearly the smelly chunks of cheese that the owner placed at the far corner of the store to lure travelers through the bookstore maze to find the delicious story they want to read on their next flight to Des Moines or Myrtle Beach.

People love a good mystery. I used to read a lot of mysteries too. But now most of what I read is focused on self improvement. Because I discovered that the most interesting mystery of all is me. And my mysteries are endless.

  • Where am I going?
  • What am I going to do next?
  • What am I learning?
  • What plot twists lie ahead?
  • What is going to happen with all of these other characters in my story?
  • What kind of success will I have.
  • How much money will I make?
  • What don’t I know yet?
  • What am I about to figure out?
  • Where will I go?
  • How long will I live?
  • Who can it be knocking at my door? (Go away. Don’t come round here no more.)

Key Takeaway

Your future is the greatest mystery in life. You are both the reader and the author. Write an exciting next chapter staring today. Make yourself the hero. Add great characters. Surprise everyone, including yourself, with an amazing ending. Make it a story that inspires others to achieve their own greatnesss. But don’t wait. Because time is ticking.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Today is Election Day. But you make life-changing votes every day.

It is finally Election Day in the United States. Which means that the political landscape may shift dramatically today. But then again, it might not.

Either way, when you wake up tomorrow morning the political ads will be gone. And you’ll be happy to see commercials from your favorite local personal injury lawyers again.

I hope that you vote today. Or that you voted early, like me. Just don’t do both. And if the election doesn’t go your way don’t claim the election was rigged. It wasn’t. You were just part of the less popular crowd. And politics are a lot like high school.

The Everyday Elections

But today is not the only day you vote.

You cast important votes every day.

Not just for politicians or your favorite new Pringles flavor.

You vote with your actions. (And your non-actions.)

You vote with your time. (Investing or Wasting)

You vote with your attitude. (Positive or Negative)

You vote when you eat. (Both Quality and Quantity)

You vote with your habits. (Good or Bad)

You vote with your wallet. (This is more important than you realize.)

You vote people on and off your personal island. (You social savage…)

And you vote yes or no on hundreds of other decisions every day.

Remember, the choices you make each day make you.

Never forget that.

And don’t waste your votes.

Your future depends on it.

*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.

Embrace the difficult things in life. They make you stronger.

I face challenges every day. Big ones. Small ones. New ones. And ones I have seen a thousand times before. As an entrepreneur, I’ve signed up for a life of challenges. As a parent, I’ve committed to helping 3 other humans work through their challenges too. I often feel like a contestant on American Ninja Warrior: Work & Home Edition. But I enjoy hard things. I find great value in the difficulties.

When life throws challenges my way I embrace them because I learn from them. I get better. I discover more about myself and my character. I develop more skills. I realize how capable I really am. #AintNothingGonnaBreakMyStride

The challenges of life are like the challenges of sports. Or video games. They are forms of competition. They are there to test you. To force you to think, learn, strategize and grow. Challenges force you to add tools to your toolbox, plays to your playbook, and tricks to your bag of tricks.

Triumphing over your personal and professional challenges is a rewarding part of the human experience. The more challenges you face the more you feel like you have faced the same type of challenge before. Which means you face each new obstacle with a greater sense of confidence that you can handle it. Because you can, Toucan!

In their training, the military special forces go through some of the most difficult challenges that humans will ever face. But those very challenges also provide the tools and confidence to overcome anything they face later. Both in the military and while shopping at the mall.

The challenges of life are not to be avoided. Or lamented. They are what make life interesting. They are the primary source of self-improvement. They teach you and make you stronger.

To accelerate your growth you can also read about the challenges that others have faced, and how they learned and improved through them. It is why reading is so valuable. It allows you to learn vicariously through the challenges of others without losing a battle, a war, or a limb. Because you can only lose so many limbs of your own.

Key Takeaway

Life challenges help you learn and grow. Each one leaves you better equipped to face the next. Each one adds to your skills, experience and understanding. It is a critical part of the evolutionary process. And it strengthens us both as individuals and as a species. You grow. You adapt. You thrive. And you are better prepared to face whatever comes next.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The 4 simple steps to stronger human connections I learned as a coach.

Yesterday I coached my last youth football game of the season. It was a 3-month commitment of 4 to 6 days each week of practices, scrimmages, and games, beginning August 1st. Plus, as the defensive coordinator, I had to watch our game film at night and scout our opponent’s game film each week. It was a significant commitment of time, energy, and focus. And I loved it.

But there was one thing I didn’t love. The least enjoyable part of coaching in the Wisconsin All-American Youth Football League, WAAYFL, is all of the mandatory online training courses you have to complete to be eligible to coach.

Parents should take great comfort in knowing that their coaches have all been trained in nearly everything related to the health and safety of the players. In fact, I think that the next time I am on an airplane and they ask if there is a doctor onboard I will ring my call button and tell them that while I didn’t technically go to medical school, I did take the marathon health and safety coursework online required to coach in the Mequon-Thiensville Cardinal football program. So I should be good with whatever emergency they were dealing with up in the fuselage.

Yes, we learned how to coach the safest ways to hit and tackle. But we also learned about everything from concussions and heat-related health issues, to heart and neck concerns. And we learned to identify signs of physical and sexual abuse. It’s a lot of heavy stuff to wade through to coach a children’s game.

My Favorite Lesson

But there was one brief unit in our training that stood out the most. It may have felt insignificant to the other coaches compared to the heft of the lessons above. But for me, it offered the best new tool in my coaching toolbox. Granted, my coaching toolbox was pretty empty to begin with. (I only had an old roll of athletic tape and that quote about the size of the fight in the dog.)

The unit I loved was The 4 Points of Coaching Contact. It taught us the importance of developing a connection with our athletes. It provided a simple, memorable framework to follow to connect with each athlete at every practice. My language below may be slightly different than the WAAYFL shares. But the idea is the same.

The 4 Points of Coaching Contact.

1. Eye Contact: You should greet each athlete each day with your eyes. This means, making deliberate eye contact with them daily. (But don’t actually touch their eyes.)

2. Physical Contact: Greet each player with a handshake, fist bump, high five, or pat on the shoulder or back. No bum touching. (That was really part of the broader training.)

3. Ear Contact: This is not about ear flicking or Wet Willys. This is about connecting with a verbal greeting every practice. Say hello in whatever way you say hello. Make it heartfelt. Use their name. There is far great power in this simple act than most coaches realize.

4. Heart Contact: Talk to your athletes about something other than the sport. Ask them how their day is going. Ask about school, their family, or their other activities. Get to know them and develop a relationship with them as a non-athlete. Again, no physical contact with the actual heart is required. Or allowed.

Putting It Into Practice

I thought about The 4 Points of Contact every practice. It used the technique liberally. Although I didn’t hit all 4-points with every athlete every day, I purposefully connected with every athlete as much as was naturally possible. And it made a real difference.

But the impact of this simple relationship-building technique impacted me as much as it impacted the athletes.

Because every time I made eye contact with one of my players, they made eye contact with me.

When we would high-five, fist bump, or shake hands I felt the connective power the way they did.

When I greeted our players by name, they would greet me by name too.

But most importantly, you can’t touch someone else’s heart without them touching yours. It’s the universal law of heartiology. Or cardiology. Or whatever you call it. Remember, I’m not a real doctor.

Key Takeaway

You have an opportunity to connect with other people every day. Connect with your eyes, your hands, your words, and your heart. This approach works wonders in youth sports. But it works just as well in business, in school, within families, and amongst friends. In fact, these 4 points of contact are how we turn strangers into friends. And if you use this approach every day, you’ll find those friends start to feel like family. That’s what happened to our 6th Grade Cardinal Football Team in Mequon, Wisconsin.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

5 Keys To A Great Life.

This summer my family and I took an amazing vacation to the west coast. We visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, The Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park. Along the way, we packed in a lot of surfing, hiking, and In-N-Out Burger.

There was also a lot of togetherness. In fact, the togetherness is my favorite part of family vacations. I love having my family of 5 together in the car, at the hotel, at meals, and throughout our activities for a week. It’s one of the perks of taking your kids far from home when they have no money. They are happy to stay close so that they can eat.

The togetherness results in a lot of conversation. This morning I found a list I wrote of 5 Keys to a great life that I shared with my family during a conversation in L.A. The list was written on the notepad from the Loews hotel in Santa Monica. And just being able to bring my family to that beautiful beachfront hotel felt like I was winning at life. (This paragraph has been brought to you by the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. Where families can enjoy togetherness, beach access and notepads.)

Here is the list.

5 keys To A Great Life.

  1. Dream Big Dreams: The size of your life is determined by the size of your dreams. It’s the same phenomenon that links the size of a goldfish* to the size of its fishbowl. So think big. Dream big. Do big. *This is true of real goldfish. But not the delicious snack crackers, which come in only one size.

2. Take Risks: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Risks are the gateway to rewards. Take chances. Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. You’ll figure things out along the way. Bet on yourself. Because you have the ability to stack the odds in your favor through determination and hard work.

3. Develop Rare and Valuable Skills: Become really great at something special. The journey is extremely rewarding. The process of self-improvement is empowering. The better you get at a skill the more passionate you become. The world will reward you with opportunities that are not available to those without those skillz. Which will enable you to pay the billz.

4. Develop and Maintain Strong Relationships At the end of our days the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. Prioritize your human connections. Develop as many relationships as you can. Maintain them over time. Those connections will reward you in more ways than you could possibly count. Unless your rare and valuable skill is counting.

5. Become Self-Reliant: The greatest gift you can give yourself is self-reliance. Become a resourceful problem-solver. Learn to make your own money, cook, and change a tire. Self-reliance builds confidence. Both are attractive to others. The more you can handle on your own the more control you have over your life. This is the basic theme of every song by Destiny’s Child.

Key Takeaway

Dream big. Develop your skills. Invest in your relationships. And learn to count on yourself. Those basic steps make it easy to take risks because you know things will turn out well. After all, you’re going to make it happen.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The important life lesson I learned as a young driver in Vermont.

I grew up in Vermont. Which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The rolling Green Mountains of Vermont are heavenly. It’s where snow, maple syrup, and Ben & Jerry’s were born. I am always homesick for Vermont in the fall when the leaves perform their grand finale and the landscape explodes with color. It’s why leaf peepers flock to Vermont every fall. What? You’ve never heard of leaf peepers? Ask Larry, Darrell, and Darrell.

Vermont Driving

Vermont is still my favorite place to drive. You are greeted by one amazing view after another. You find yourself wowing a lot. At the bigness, the smallness, the coziness, the quaintness. Vermont is a very simple place that remains largely undeveloped and unpolluted by man-made sights and sounds. Which is why it is recognized as the least polluted state in America. (To be fair, there aren’t a lot of people there to do the polluting.)

When I turned 16 and started driving the quiet, winding country roads of Vermont, I was amazed by the beautiful and everchanging views through the windshield. However, I also discovered something surprising that I never noticed as a passenger.

The best views were often seen in the rearview mirror.

After I discovered this visual secret I found myself frequently checking the rearview in my old Ford Escort, my Mom’s VW Jetta, or my Dad’s Saab 900. I found that the rearview magic could be found in every make and model of car I tested.

Over the past few decades, I have learned that life is like Vermont. Both are full of beauty. And if you are doing life right, there is more beauty behind you every day. So don’t forget to reflect. On your life. On your career. On your successes. And on your growth. Because no matter what’s in front of you, you can always find an inspiring view behind you.

Key Takeaway

Check your personal rearview mirror regularly. Your memories, experiences, and successes of the past are beautiful things. They are reminders of life fully realized. Your personal rearview mirror will show you how wonderful life can be. It will remind you how great you can feel. It will teach you how much you can accomplish. It will reveal the positive impact others have had on you. And it will remind you of the positive influence you can have on others.

*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 new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.