To achieve great things don’t let preparing turn into procrastinating.

We all have big things we want to do. Goals, dreams, and aspirations are easy to find. Just ask any waiter in Hollywood. What is harder to find is goals met, dreams realized and aspirations achieved.

You can spend a lot of time thinking about the great things you want to do. You can talk about your plans. You can write them down and sketch them out. You can listen to podcasts and read newsletters and books. You can go to seminars, workshops, and meet-ups. And all of those things will feel like progress

But Oklahoma sooner than later, planning and preparing simply turn into procrastination. Because there are only ever 3 things that matter in the achievement process.

The 3-Step Achievement Process

  1. Where you are now.
  2. Where you want to finish.
  3. What you need to do next.

You already know where you are. (You do know where you are, right?) So once you know where you want to finish you have to quickly move your focus to what you need to next. That is the entire planning process.

The rest is doing.

  • If you want to start your own business, you should be working on your product or service, or finding customers.
  • If you want to write a book, movie, or play, sit down and start writing. (Unless you have a standing desk.)
  • If you want to become an investor in real estate or business, freaking buy something.
  • If you want to be an entertainer, start entertaining people.
  • If you want to travel the world, go somewhere you haven’t been.
  • If you want to be a nude model, lose the turtleneck sweater.

Key Takeaway

The difference between dreamers and doers is action. Once you know what you want to accomplish find the next step forward and take it. Once you start moving the next step always reveals itself. Gobble up those next actions like Pac-Man eats dots. Then keep going until you have cleared the board and you are ready for the next level. That’s what achievers do. And you will achieve by taking action.

*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.

My 2 goals for 2021 are More and Better.

Here we are again at the beginning of a new year. The shelves have been restocked with hope. We have resolutions to keep and gym memberships to use. Okay, so you aren’t going to the gym because of covid, and because you have some kind of exercisey-thingie at home. (I have been going to the gym, because there is no one else there.)

The Resolutionary War

I don’t make resolutions. I set goals. And I have 2 very simple goals for 2021. They cover everything I want to do this year.

My 2021 goal: To do more and better.

I want to do more on the X-axis. I want to get better on the Y-axis. And I want all of the arrows in my life pointing up and to the right.

I want to do more of everything.

  • More fun
  • More joy
  • More work
  • More growth
  • More rewards
  • More winning
  • More exercise
  • More reading
  • More adventure
  • More volunteering
  • More helping others
  • More quality time with my family
  • More time spent with friends
  • More Dinty Moore

But it’s not enough to simply do more. I want quantity and quality. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Like tastes great and less filling.

I want to do everything better.

  • Better work
  • Better play
  • Better husbanding
  • Better parenting
  • Better friending
  • Better thinking
  • Better ideas
  • Better writing
  • Better contributions
  • Better skills
  • Better quality time
  • Better health
  • Better commitments
  • Better investments
  • Better conversations
  • Better advice
  • Better leadership
  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Better Baby Buggy Bumpers

Key Takeaway

It’s impossible to know exactly what lies ahead over the next 12 months. But you can commit to growth and self-improvement. Your capacity is a matter of self-perception. Self-improvement is a mindset too. Getting your mind right is how you get your life right. So here’s to a More and Better Approach to everything in 2021.

Suddenly it is now or never for your 2020 goals.

You started 2020 with exciting goals to achieve. But the aspirations of New Year’s Day probably feel like a lifetime ago. Whether you set goals specifically for 2020, or goals to achieve in your lifetime, you began the year with something important you wanted to accomplish. If the wild ride that is 2020 has caused goal amnesia, take a moment now to remember your goals for the year. (cue the Jeopardy music…)

It’s go time.

Today is December 1st, and you are down to your last month of 2020. The next 31 days are what you have left to work with to make personal and professional progress this year. Don’t let the remaining time slip away. These are the days to remember. Cause they will not last forever.

Remember, self-imposed deadlines are the key drivers of accomplishment and self-improvement. And as Buddy knows, elf-imposed deadlines are the key drivers of elf-improvement.

Don’t worry if you can’t complete everything in 31 days. A good start is plenty valuable. In fact, the more you can accomplish in the next month, the better you will be positioned for a great 2021.

Things You Can Still Do In December

  • Lose weight
  • Start exercising
  • Read a book
  • Start writing a book
  • Begin a business
  • Create a meetup group
  • Expand your network
  • Look for a new job
  • Volunteer
  • Give Blood (A life goal I accomplished in November.)
  • Learn a new skill ( I just subscribed to Master Class)
  • Develop a new product or service
  • Take a class
  • Learn to ski, skate, scat or ska
  • Improve your business development efforts.
  • Begin to learn a new language
  • Create a plan for your financial security
  • Spend quality time with your family. (Over Thanksgiving my family focused on family game nights again.)
  • Reconnect with an old friend or family member
  • Quit smoking, drinking or drugging (It only takes one day as I wrote about here.)

Pro-gress Tip

Break the goal or project you want to make the most progress on into 31 smaller pieces. Do a little each day. Or break the goal into fewer chunks, depending on what day you first read this post. However, if you are reading this on December 31st I suggest you skip the last 2 paragraphs and get straight to work.

Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. (I recommend starting with elephant ears covered in powdered sugar and cinnamon.) And the best way to complete your 2020 goals in December is 1/31st at a time.

Key Takeaway

Get going. The rest of the world may use the excuse that the end is near and give up, but the positive procrastinators say It’s Go Time! Don’t let these 31 days slip away. They are your opportunity for progress, change, new beginnings, or completion. It’s not too late to salvage 2020. Let the progress you make over the next 31 days be your holiday gift to yourself.

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

If you need encouragement here it is.

If you want to do great things find your Encouragers. They are the people who will listen to your crazy dreams and tell you that you should. Not that you shouldn’t.

Spend time with those who believe in you. It will make you believe in yourself. Find people who have bet on themselves and won. That mindset is contagious. Like the coronavirus. Only it’s good for you.

Too often when we have dreams, especially big crazy dreams, others see the problems and not the possibilities. They know it will be hard. They focus on the downside, the drawbacks and the pitfalls. But focusing on the downside doesn’t make dreams come true. Just ask Hall & Oates.

Don’t spend time or give credit to those who discourage you. They are quite literally trying to rob you of your courage.

Courage and effort are all you need in order to do hard things. Courage helps you get going. Courage helps you keep going. Courage is the bridge between believing and knowing. And it is the only way to get where you want to go.

Courage is a super fuel. It’s more valuable than gold, diamonds or oil. Because it propels humans. Courage is one of the most valuable resources you have because it helps you power past bumps, barriers and boundaries. You know, The Killer Bs.

Courage is the fuel to try. To dare. To do. Courage creates movement. Courage is what makes people take the leap, take on an enemy, speak up, speak out. And it’s what makes you throw a bucket of water on a wicked witch.

Increasing another human’s courage is one of the most valuable things we can do on this planet. When I told people that I wanted to start my own advertising agency no one told me not to. In fact, the response was quite the opposite. Everyone I talked to about my plan encouraged me to make it happen. So I did.

Now it’s your turn. Now is your time. And I’m happy to be your courage donor. I signed my card and everything.

Key Takeaway

If you have a dream you should follow it. If there is something you have always wanted to do, go do it. If you want to turn your passion into your profession don’t let anyone stop you. If you want to travel, volunteer or build something special you should make it happen. You can do it. And I encourage you to.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message I encourage you to share it with them.

What happened after I had my This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moment.

The summer after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I didn’t have a job. No full-time job. No part-time job. I was living in Madison, lightly looking for an entry-level position in advertising. But not looking in a way that gets the job done. In fact, I still hadn’t set foot in an ad agency.

The Ricki Lake Show

On a hot afternoon that July, when real grown-ups were at work, I found myself lying on my couch in the middle of the day watching The Ricki Lake Show. And suddenly the reality of my situation hit me like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. 

I was a good student. I went to a great school. I now had degrees in both Journalism and Psychology. I had ambition. And goals. And pride. And bills to pay. And here I was in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, plopped on my couch, watching a crappy talk show, because I had nothing more important to do with my time. I thought, WTF? (even though WTF hadn’t been invented yet), This can’t be my life.

In that moment, my life changed. I rose from the couch, an unemployed man on a mission. I bounded up the staircase to my bedroom. I grabbed a scrap of paper on my desk that my Profesor Roger Rathke had handed me weeks earlier. On the paper was written Paul Counsell and a phone number.

Paul Counsell was a college buddy of Profesor Rathke’s, and the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, one of America’s great advertising agencies. He was someone I was told I should call. But I hadn’t.

I plucked my corded 1990’s phone from the wall, punched in the phone number, and was introducing myself to Mr. Counsell less than a minute after dumping Ms. Lake. And things started changing.

From that phone call I got an informational interview. Then a job offer as a copywriter. Then I started my real job, with a salary and benefits, and opportunities for growth and travel. All doing what I always wanted to do. I met my wife Dawn at that job. And I met a client there who years later would call me out of the blue, just like I called Paul Counsell, and encourage me to start my own advertising agency. Which I did.

Today I am the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Over the past two decades I have worked with some of the best brands in the world. And the best people. My career has taken me to Argentina, Iceland and India. My wife Dawn and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date tomorrow with our 3 kids. This is my life. Because I got off the couch and made it happen.

Is this your life?

Are you living the life you imagined?  The life you thought you would have when you graduated from high school or college? Or did you fall behind, veer off course, or never get started? Have the recent health and economic crises spun you around and left you wondering what’s next for you?

If you are not living the life you imagined, I hope you have your own This can’t be my life moment. Because that moment can change everything. It can motivate you to take the actions needed to get you where you always wanted to go. There are on-ramps everywhere. So take one. Make that call. Or make a thousand. Change jobs. Change careers. Start your own business. Get back to work. Get away from toxic people. Get near sunshine people. And can-do people. And finally, do what you always knew you could.

Key Takeaway

This-Can’t-Be-My-Life moments are a gift. They are the push you need to get to the place you are supposed to be. The first half of 2020 was full of challenges and setbacks. But it also created opportunities. Take advantage of them. Get off the couch. And make your life happen.

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

It’s time to think beyond the bear in the trail.

I am a long term thinker. I view lives and careers as long journeys with lots of transformation along the way. I expect to drive my own change and growth. Which comes through a combination of planning and action. Or what might be called plaction.

The Bear In The Trail

However, the COVID-19 crisis has caused me to take my eye off of the long view. Over the past several months I have focused almost exclusively on short-term thinking. It’s as if I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and suddenly encountered an ornry bear blocking my path. Instead of focusing on reaching Mount Katahdin, I needed to focus on the bear-virus, and live to hike another day. As result, true long-term improvement initiatives have been on hold for months. Darn you bear-virus.

Back In The Saddle.

But today my team at The Weaponry will gather again to think about our long term vision for the first time in months. We will open our planning and improvement session by describing what the fully formed version of our advertising and idea agency looks like. Then we will focus on what we need to do to close the gap between the ideal version of The Weaponry and the organization that exists today. However, we will have nothing to do with The Gap closing at your local mall.

We then assign each person a set of tasks, or rocks, to complete over the next 90 days to help us improve our organization. This approach, which is part of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) outlined in the book Traction by Gino Wickman, has proven to be a highly effective way of helping us grow and progress. Because it ties our vision to meaningful and fruitful actions. Which helps us gain traction towards our goals.

Traction
This is a great resource to help you drive continuous business improvement.

Thinking Long Term

To achieve your long term goals you can’t remain in survival mode for long periods of time. You have to work with purpose towards your vision. You have to recirculate the ideal vision with your team and consider the next actions necessary to reach your vision.

This approach is valuable for organizations. And it is valuable for each of us as individuals. We need to know where our own north star is, and navigate towards it. Even in challenging times. Evn in bad weather. And even after wrestling angry bears.

Starting The Second Half

As we start the second half of the year, remember what you planned to do 6 months ago, before COVID-19 blew you off course and threw you into survival mode. If your original 2020 plans no longer apply to the new world reality, make new plans now.  What can and should you do now to progress over the next 6 months? I know this may be challenging. But in the inspirational words of Arthur Ashe:

‘Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’  -Arthur Ashe

Key Takeaway

Move forward. We have been doggy paddling long enough. it is time to reimplement some time-tested swim strokes. Remember where you are headed. Or, if you haven’t determined where you are going, now is the time to decide. Determine the short term actions that will lead to your long term goals. Be purposeful. Be consistent. And you are sure to be closer to your ideal 6 months from now.

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

4 things I have done wrong in my first 4 years as an entrepreneur.

After 19 years of working for other advertising agencies I started my own business 4 years ago this week. As the Founder & CEO of The Weaponry, I have made some good decisions over the past 4 years. But I have also made mistakes. As I look back at the past 48 months here are 4 things I did wrong that I will try to get right in the years ahead.

4 Things I Did Wrong Over The Past 4 Years.

1. I didn’t think big enough

My goals are big. And hairy. And audacious. To achieve them I need to push myself more. I recently read Grant Cardone’s book The 10X Rule. And I know my next challenge is to think and act bigger on a daily basis to accumulate the progress it takes to get to Goalville. I also know that if we don’t stop sheltering at home soon I will be 10X-ing my body fat.

2. I didn’t start a newsletter.

We launched The Weaponry’s first real website in the fall of 2019. (Yes we waited 3 years to launch a real website. You can read about that here.) I knew the next thing we should do is launch a newsletter. It would offer us a chance to regularly share additional value with our clients and friends of The Weaponry. We planned it all out. In fact, we have had our first edition 90% created for 6 months. We bought our Mailchimp subscription in the fall. And we have paid for it every month since, without sending a single email. Booo. We have been extremely busy over that same time period and haven’t made it a priority. But we will. (If you send your email address to info@theweaponry.com I will create a special first newsletter for you.)

3. I didn’t take enough chances.

Entrepreneurship requires you to take a fairly significant leap of faith. I had no problem Carl Lewis-ing into this adventure. And right or wrong, I am comfortable betting on myself. But I I have been conservative with our investments.

Specifically, I have been slow to invest in additional team members who would allow us to expand our offering, our impact and our t-shirt wearing population. It has helped put us in a confident position during the Corona-cootie crisis. But when I turned 40 I realized I didn’t want to lie on my deathbed and regret not starting my own business. Now I don’t want to lie on my deathbed and feel like I wasn’t brave enough either. Fortune favors the bold. So do barbecue sauce sales. And I want to be much bolder between now and next February 29th.

4. I didn’t offload enough responsibility 

When you first start a new business every box on the org chart has your name in it. Eventually you erase your name and put someone else’s name in that box. Over the past 4 years I certainly have moved many of my responsibilities to others. But I am still handling more than I should. Which means that I should be transferring more of my load to others, and hiring additional people power. This would allow me to focus more time and energy on the things that would have the most positive impact on our clients and on our own business. Plus, I am pretty sure there are lots of other people who can buy stamps and bottled water as well as I can.

Key Takeaway

I am thrilled to have started my entrepreneurial journey. I know that The Weaponry has become a valuable resource for many. But there is so much more opportunity ahead. It is important to recognize the positive things we are doing first. To give ourselves credit for the attempts and the accomplishments already in the books. But if we want to be great we have to push ourselves. We have to give ourselves a regular performance review from our deathbed to see where we should focus our time and energy while we still have the chance. It turns out I still have a lot of work to do.

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

Now you have 6 days to make magic.

We are almost at the end of 2019. But more importantly, we are almost at the start of 2020. A new year. A new decade. And a chance to make the movie you are starring in turn out just the way you want it to. #happyending

6 Days To Finish Strong

But right now you have 6 days. 6 Days to finish 2019 strong. To tie up lose ends. You have  6 days to put more marks in the win column. To complete things you started. To connect with people. To get your steps in. To start, make or do that thing you said you would start, make or do this year, but still haven’t.

6 Days To Start Strong

You also have 6 days to give yourself a running start at 2020. To hit the new year and new decade with momentum. You have 6 days to start building a new habit. To put plans in place. To make this year THE year for realzies. You have 6 days to write down your goals and a plan to achieve them. You have 6 days to plan a year of adventures and vacations and bucket list-worthy activities.

The Swing Days

These are the 6 swing days. The 6 days between Christmas and New Years can make your year. If you waste them all no one will notice. Much of the western world is in neutral right now. Or in a return line at Target. But if you take advantage of the fact that not much is expected of you right now, you can make a sprint to the finish line, or a sprint to the starting line that could change everything. (Note: swing days are not affiliated with swingers or swinging. However, you are so money. And you don’t even know it.)

Me Time

I did much of the hard work to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, during this period 4 years ago. This year I will be in the office working during at least 3 of the next 6 days. I will work to give my business an unfair advantage by running while others are resting. And I’ll spend some of my time resting faster than other people rest.

Planning Time

I will plan my vacations and vacation days for 2020 over the next 6 days. By planning them out I pace myself, and make sure I don’t get to these same 6 days next year burnt and crispy. I don’t want to end my year as a couch zombie, because I don’t have the energy to do anything else.

It’s Go Time

Don’t be that person who says they don’t have time for the things they really want to do. Take time now. Plan time in the upcoming year. And make time work for you.

Key Takeaway

Time is your most valuable asset. You have 6 days left to spend wisely. Invest your 6 days where you will get the best return on your investment. Think long term. But act right now.

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

If you want results do what my son does.

When I first became a parent I was prepared to drop knowledge on my kids. I had prepared a syllabus of over 30 years worth of life lessons. They were sorted into 3 files. The first was labeled Smart Things I Did. The second was labeled Dumb Things I Did That You Should Avoid. And the third file was simply labeled Bill Cosby.

Magnus

What I wasn’t prepared for were are all of the lessons that my children would teach me. My latest lessons have come from my 9-year old son Magnus. Magnus, has taught me a lot about socializing. He has a remarkable ability to make instantaneous friendships anywhere. His social intelligence is as good as the best adults I know. He’s like a little Dale Carnegie on the playground, just winning little friends and influencing little people.

Losing Teeth

But as impressive as Magnus is at socializing, he is world class at losing teeth. It’s an odd thing to be great at, I know. But lately Magnus has lost teeth at a meth addict rate. I think he has lost 8 teeth in the last 2 months. In fact, I don’t know how he actually chews anything anymore. #popsiclesfordinner

IMG_6832.JPG
Me and Magnus and all of our hair at the top of the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon. 

Talk Is Cheap

However, it is not his quantity of tooth loss that impresses me. It is the style. You know how I know when Magnus has a loose tooth? He puts the tooth in my hand. Before that he doesn’t talk about it, complain about it or brag about it. He says nothing until the tooth is out. Even then he doesn’t really talk about it. He just shows me the results, and smiles an ever toothlessier smile. And every time he surprises me (and the Tooth Fairy) with absolutely no advanced warning, I am more impressed by his ability to quietly take care of business.

The Reminder

I meet people all the time who go on and on, (like Steven Bishop, down in Jamaica, with lots of pretty women), about their big dreams, lofty goals and ambitious plans. But talk doesn’t bring a dream to life. Discussions don’t achieve goals. And ambition doesn’t execute a plan. Talk is the cheapest of all commodities. Action is the the most valuable. And it’s the only currency you can use to buy your goals and dreams.

Key Takeaway

Success requires action. To be successful do more. Talk less. Complain less. Analyze less. And focus on results. Don’t tell the world what you are going to do. Show them what you’ve done. Then, after the work is all done, you can sit back and enjoy the rewards. Just like my son Magnus does.

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