To increase your value surround yourself with better people.

In real estate, it is valuable to be the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood. It is not just for the smaller utility bills, and because there are fewer places to lose your keys. It is because the rest of the bigger, nicer homes will drive your value up by association. #HomeOwnersAssociation

Humans

The same holds true for humans. There is tremendous value in associating with humans that are better than you. Think of better as further developed than you in areas that you want to improve. (Because rockstar, there ain’t nobody better than you are going to be!)

But what does it mean to be a better human? It could mean the people you are spending your time with are:

  • Smarter
  • Braver
  • Kinder
  • Funnier
  • More adventurous
  • More driven
  • More generous
  • Healthier
  • Fitter
  • Wiser
  • Sexier (not a chance)
  • Wealthier
  • More patient
  • More thoughtful
  • More educated
  • More confident
  • More openminded
  • More Benjamin Moore

The Positive Pull

When you associate with people who are better at the things you want to be great at they will pull you along with them. They serve as a constant source of inspiration. They provide a better model for you to use as a measuring stick. And they can show you the path to get where you want to go. Like Glinda showed Dorothy.

Key Takeaway

To increase your personal value spend more time with people who are better than you. They will motivate you to grow, learn and act. They provide a gravitational pull towards better. And they will enhance your personal brand through association. Because good people who spend time with great people are destined for greatness themselves.

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

Are you maintaining or progressing?

As you put in your work this week recognize how much of what you are doing is maintenance. How much of your work is done just to remain where you are? Cleaning. Fixing. Taking out the trash. Paying rent. Trimming your nose hairs.

This is work. And it needs to be done. But it is doggy paddle type of work. It keeps your head above water, which keeps you alive. But it won’t get you on a box of Wheaties.

Progressing

The valuable work creates progress, growth and improvement. Things like learning. Reading. Studying. Experimenting. Asking yourself big questions. Expanding your skills, social circle, or comfort zone.

Key Takeaway

Dedicate more of your time to progress. It is where the magic happens. It is what makes life fun, exciting and fulfilling. Do it day after day. That compounding effect transforms you and enables you to become the best version of yourself. And better every day.

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

How to use the power of unhappiness as motivational fuel.

The more of life that I experience the more I realize that my happiness is fueled in large part by my unhappiness. It feels dumb to write such a thing. But it is absolutely true.

Here’s how it works.

  1. I have a vision for who I am, and what my life is like.
  2. Everything that is already aligned with that makes me happy.
  3. All the areas where I fall short of my vision make me unhappy.

The unhappiness is a combination of unsatisfied, disappointed, frustrated, and embarrassed. However, that unhappiness is where my motivation comes from.

Family And Friends

In my head, I see myself as a great parent, husband, friend, and family member. But in reality, I am not always great at those roles. Certainly not as great as I want to be. I’m not as level-headed or as patient with my kids as I would like. I am not always as supportive or responsible as a husband-partner as I should be. I’m not always the kind of friend who walks in when the world walks out, or whatever the cross stitch about friendship in your grandma’s bathroom says. And I am unhappy about all of this.

Business

As an entrepreneur, I experience a lot of unhappiness. Because I have significant goals and expectations of my business. And I have high expectations of myself as the leader of the business. But if it all came to an end tomorrow I would be massively disappointed that me and my businesses didn’t accomplish more. Which is how the first kid tossed out at the National Spelling Bee must feel.

However, that unhappiness I experience, which stems from my personal and professional shortcomings, drives me to work, grow and improve. That drive is a huge source of happiness for me.

  • The work makes me happy.
  • Growth makes me happy.
  • Improvement makes me happy.
  • Hitting new milestones makes me happy.
  • Contributing the way I expect to in my relationships makes me happy.
  • Clapping along, and feeling like a room without a roof makes me happy.

Getting To It

Getting up at 6am to get back to work makes me happy. (It is currently 6:55am and I am about to finish writing my second blog post of the day.) Every step forward makes me happy. Executing the plan makes me happy. Laying the groundwork makes me happy. And watching Adam Sandler golf movies makes me happy. Especially when he fights Bob Barker. #ThePriceIsWrong

I recognize that I don’t have to be at the destination to be happy. Traveling there does the trick. Building, growing, and progressing are highly rewarding. As long as I am on the right path and moving in the right direction I get a little happier every day.

Key Takeaway

Your unhappiness is a great navigational tool to lead you to happiness. Determine the source of your unhappiness and you will know the direction to travel to find what you are after. Lose weight, get in shape, start that thang you always wanted to start. Do more. Strengthen your weaknesses. Become the person you always wanted to be. Those things can lead to a lot of happiness. Unhappiness is simply point A. Let it motivate you to get to point B.

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

Prepare to turn your opportunities into inflection points.

All of the good things that have happened in my life have a common theme. They happened because I prepared to take advantage of an opportunity point. Which means I put in work or research before an important moment. Like a Boy Scout would do. Although I was never a Boy Scout. I heard the Be Prepared motto and felt I got the gist of it.

When my big moments came, I drew on the work or the research I had performed to maximize the opportunities. I performed impressively. I made a strong impression. I drove a result. I became memorable for being prepared, capable, smart, insightful, knowledgable, interesting, thoughtful, or resourceful. Then, I was able to cash in my preparation for rewards. Just like you cash in your tickets for prizes at Chuck E Cheese.

Opportunity Points

Make sure you know what your opportunity points are. Here are a few examples:

  • Competitions
  • Meetings
  • Job interviews
  • Sales calls
  • Tests
  • Dates
  • Sorority rush
  • Meetups
  • Performances
  • Parties
  • Introductions
  • Tradeshows
  • Seminars
  • Auditions
  • Conferences
  • Social media encounters
  • America’s Got Idols

Preparation allows you to convert an opportunity point into an inflection point. A point where things change for you. A new door opens. An angle of growth steepens. The trajectory of your life alters in a positive way. Suddenly, people want more of your time. Which means the value of your time goes up too.

How to capitalize on your opportunities.

To turn your opportunities into inflection points try the following approach:

  1. Look at your calendar. (You do have a calendar, right?)
  2. Identify the opportunity points. (They are everywhere.)
  3. Determine what you could do today, and each day before the event to be best prepared to make that event a moment of inflection. (Start with researching all you can about the people and the topic you will encounter. Don’t be afraid to stalk. That’s how I found my wife. Training and practice are also important.)
  4. Do the prep work you determined would be beneficial. (It is not enough to know what you should do. You gotsta do it for realzies.)
  5. Convert preparation into performance. (Boom!)
  6. Make the most of your moment. (Like in that Eminem song about spaghetti.)
  7. Come out the other side on a new trajectory.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

-Maybe Seneca (But maybe someone else. They can’t find any credible witnesses.)

Key Takeaway

Every week we encounter dozens of opportunity points. Once you recognize them you can prepare for them. That preparation allows you to capitalize on the opportunity. Sometimes the rewards are small and grow over time. Sometimes the rewards hit in major ways that alter your life path immediately. But if you don’t prepare it is as if the opportunity wasn’t even there. Don’t let that happen.

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

Do people seek you out for your skills and abilities?

At the beginning of your career, you practically have to beg for an opportunity to show what you can do. Because you have no experience, no contacts, and no juice. No one looks for a specialist with no experience. A person with no experience and no skills is the easiest thing to find. Which is why no one would watch a show called America’s Got No Talent.

When I first began my career I asked for informational interviews, because there were no job openings for advertising copywriters with no experience. But as I developed my skills and gained knowledge and experience everything changed. I became an increasingly valuable resource to my employers, coworkers, and clients. Suddenly, my time and my attention were in serious demand.

Eventually, my clients encouraged me to start my own business. So I opened the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Today, clients, employees, interns, and partners seek us out. Because we add real value to all of those groups.

As you grow and develop, ask yourself if you are becoming sought after. (The FBI’s Most Wanted posters don’t count. But a ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions does.)

Questions To Ask Yourself.

  • Do people seek you out?
  • Is your time in demand?
  • Do people want to get your phone number, email, or social contact info? (Even if it is because you are a hottie with a karate body.)
  • Are people trying to hire you?
  • Are you approached about consulting or coaching?
  • Do you get requests to pick your brain? (I wrote about my dislike for brain-picking here.)
  • Does the media ask your perspective?
  • Are people willing to pay a premium to work with you?
  • Do you have a non-ironic fan club that you didn’t start yourself?

Who is Seeking You Out?

If you are being sought after, ask yourself the next critical question: Who is seeking you out? Do people seek you out who have no other options? Or are they people with means and resources? The more options the people who seek you out have, the more it says about you, your value, and your skills.

Key Takeaway

Commit to a career of continuous self-improvement. Develop your skills until people come looking for you. Then keep developing your skills until everyone is looking for you. That is the surest sign that you have developed rare and valuable skills. Which gives you maximum control over your career.

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

Why you should approach self improvement like a sport.

I first published this post a few years ago while reflecting on my track & field career. I recently shared the post with some track athletes and coaches who really appreciated the message, especially the Key Takeaway (so you could just jump to that). So I decided to repost it again during the heart of track season.

Pre-Note: Wednesday I was at a track meet and took the cover pic of our family friend Eva Brandenburg hurdling. Eva and my daughter Ava (confusing right?) have played basketball together since 5th grade, and are now having fast starts to their freshman track seasons. Keep an eye out for Eva. She is going to do special things!

Here is the original post, now in an unoriginal post...

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110-meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I have enjoyed every event I have ever competed in (except the 1600 meter run). I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet, you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance, or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle of self-improvement applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

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

Are you surrounding yourself with the best people?

If you are growing and developing at a rapid rate, you are likely to outgrow your peers. That means outperforming and outranking friends and co-workers who are your age. It means that the professional group you belong to will someday feel less stimulating and helpful. It’s what happened to Doogie Howser in daycare.

As you learn, grow, and advance you will need new peers to support, inspire and push you. Seek out those who are already at the next level. Or 2 levels up. Put the power of positive peer pressure to work for you.

Jim Rohn once said, ‘You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.’ (Actually, I bet he said that a whole bunch of times because it’s a really good line.)

Attitudes and expectations are contagious. Surrounding yourself with ambitious and accelerating humans is like sharing a lollipop with someone who has Chicken Pox. (Or huffing with someone who has COVID-19.) You are likely to catch what they have. Which makes you more likely to do the things they do. Like UB40 said.

Key Takeaway

Pay close attention to your peer group. Seek out the best people to spend your time with. Find others who have been where you are going. Or people who are on their way now. You’ll travel farther and faster together.

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

How to turn your setbacks into success.

Progress is not linear. It zigs and zags. It stalls. It reverses. In fact, progress moves like a good 1980s breakdancer. It often leaves you spinning on your head. And wondering why you are carrying around a large piece of cardboard, and a boombox.

But don’t fear the setback. Setbacks are a profit center. Because, like Alanis Morissette said, every time you lose, you learn. Which means that setbacks are full of education, growth and things you, you, you oughta know. They make you smarter and stronger if you let them.

Obstacles, challenges, and losses provide game film to study. They reveal weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and flaws. And they teach you how to strengthen your weaknesses so you can overcome challenges the next time you face them. Luckily, life supplies a Hong Kong Buffet of challenges to overcome. So you will always have more opportunities to put your loss-based learnings to good use.

Key Takeaway

Don’t lament the setback. Embrace it. Dissect it. It provides a very specific, high level course in personal or professional development. Enroll in that class. Take good notes. You’re sure to come out smarter and more prepared than you started.

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

Are you sinking, floating, treading water or swimming?

How is your life going?

How is your career going?

How often do you stop and ask yourself these questions?

(And how often do you get asked 4 rapid-fire questions to start an article?)

Self-Evaluation

If you don’t perform a simple self-evaluation regularly you are likely to waste valuable time and energy moving in the wrong direction. Or not moving at all. And honey-child, your time is far too valuable to be wasted.

The 4-Mode Method

We are always in one of these 4 modes: Sinking, Floating, Treading Water, or Swimming. (We are also sometimes in pie à-la-mode, but that’s a different story.) Use the following criteria to determine how things are going at any given point.

Sinking

Sinking means you are not keeping up with the most basic requirements. You are falling behind. You are regressing. You are deeper in effort-debt each day. Sinking is failing. Untreated health issues, substance abuse, and other addictions can all contribute to sinking. Without an intervening act, sinking will lead you to the bottom of the pool. If you are sinking you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you don’t, sooner or later you won’t be able to ask for anything again. (That went dark quickly…)

Do you sink you are sinking? (Ask in your best German accent.)

Floating

Floating means you are putting in the minimum effort. You are waiting. You are doing nothing to improve, grow, or progress. You are simply letting external forces have their way with you. Floating leads to a lot of regret at the end of your days.

Don’t be a floater. Also, don’t wear a white shirt in the water.

Treading Water

Treading water means you are putting in an effort. You are expending energy. But it is ineffective. All of your motion is simply enabling you to hold your current position. Your intention is good. But your results are not. It is like floating but with a terrible return on your calories burned.

Treading water is motion without results. It’s also what people are doing in scary movies before the underwater thing attacks.

Swimming

Swimming means you are making progress. You have forward movement. You have coordinated efforts. Swimming means that you have discovered a repeatable process that works. You have direction. You have a goal and you are working towards it.

Just keep swimming.

Key Takeaway

Always be swimming. Know what you want and work to get it. It’s the only way to get ahead. And it’s the best way to make the best use of your time.

*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.