Why it’s so valuable to think about who will show up for your funeral.

I am a big believer in beliefs. I like a good framework to guide my actions and behaviors. And as I wrap up the last few weeks of my 40s, I have been planning for a great new decade ahead. Heck, AARP has already invited me to the party.

I am wiser than I have ever been. The important things in life keep getting clearer. That’s why I approach my next decade with a new funeral mindset.

In this mindset, I regularly imagine the sanctuary where my bon voyage service will be held. No sound. So commentary. Just the attendance.

I am focused on who and how many people will show up. And who will shake the pews for me. (I come from a family of pew shakers who laugh silently at everything we find funny in church.)

I have always been concerned that I wouldn’t have many people show up for my last shindig. It’s a healthy concern about what happens if you do the wrong things in life. When I was in college Jeffrey Dahmer’s funeral was at my church in Madison, Wisconsin. I planned to go because I thought that would have been an interesting life experience. And it would have been. But I had a class at that time and decided not to skip it. I read in the paper that only 26 people attended the service. I expect most of them were there to confirm he was really dead. And to finish the job if he wasn’t.

Dahmer did bad things that left him with a lonely funeral.

I want to live each day in the opposite way. Which means collecting as many friends as possible. Maintaining and strengthening my relationships with my friends, and family. Conducting business in a fair and honorable way. And having a strong positive impact on my communities. I want to have a positive impact on people in both my innermost circle and my outermost rings of influence. And I want to remember not to eat anyone.

I want to be known as a listener. And as someone who shows up to help. I want to be known as a friend. I want to be enjoyable to be around. I want to share my time and knowledge with other people to have a positive impact on their lives. If I do all those things, at the end of it all, I hope people will dress up and come shake a pew with me for an hour. But just to be safe, I’m going to insist on serving delicious ham sandwiches afterward. And maybe free beer.

Key Takeaway

Always keep your funeral attendance in mind. Live in a way that will pack that house with those you have positively impacted. Put effort and care into your relationships. Build bridges. Mend fences. Share your gifts and lessons. Create great memories. And set a strong example for others to follow. Be a positive force in your communities. And the community will show up to confirm your contribution.

*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.

Here are the 3 inspiring words for my next tattoo.

I don’t have any tattoos. At least none that I know of. But I like to think about what I would get inked in my epidermis if I was into such things. This little exercise keeps me looking for significant words, images and icons with the potential to provide a powerful, positive and long-lasting impact on my life. Yet, because I only think about it, I save money on both the inking and the laser removal cost when I realize the tattoo artists I hired didn’t use spellcheck on their work.

If you asked me today what tattoo I would get, I have a quick answer. There are 3 words that I would have written under my eyelids so I could still see them when I am wearing a turtleneck or asleep.

The 3 Words:

Opportunities Never Cease

I love this phrase. It is the optimist’s motto. It is the pessimist’s hope. It is the entrepreneur’s crack. It is the start of every great story.

This phrase is a great reminder that you can change the trajectory of your life at any point. You can improve. You can reinvent. You can shed your skin. Heck, you can even shed your backyard. Or your aquarium.

There are always great new opportunities:

  • To create new things.
  • To develop new relationships and improve or repair old ones.
  • To learn, grow and transform.
  • To establish a great habit.
  • To create wealth and prosperity.
  • To improve your attitude and outlook.
  • Create your legacy.
  • To have a positive impact on others.
  • To make minds sparkle.
  • To take control of your health.
  • To apologize.
  • To randomly write the word fart just to make people laugh.
  • To salvage a bad day.
  • To take the first step.
  • To drop the weight you have carried. (Both literally and figuratively.)
  • To discover how much you are capable of.
  • To start your winning streak.
  • To do something new for the first time.
  • To discover a new favorite.
  • To forgive yourself.
  • To reprioritize.

Key Takeaway

Opportunities never cease. Discover the opportunities all around you. They are gateways to growth and happiness. And they are the blank pages for you to fill with the great stories and successes of your life.

*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.

We all make mistakes. Here’s how to make the most of them.

I recently had a talk with someone who had made a mistake. They didn’t break any rules or laws. The mistake was more of a personal accountability issue. It was like a failure on a mental fortitude challenge. The kind of mistake that won’t get you in trouble with the law, but it could get you voted off an island.

After discussing the mistake I shared 2 simple lessons with this person. Because there are lessons in everything. Kind of like high fructose corn syrup.

The 2 lessons:

  1. Know how The Ideal You would handle this type of situation. The Ideal You provides a north star for navigating all decisions.
  2. Allow this experience to help your self-confidence, not hurt it. This is the key difference between a learning and a losing situation.

When you identify a mistake and can quickly learn and adjust from it, the mistake is a win. A positive. A way to quickly get better. You fail fast, learn, and improve. It’s a basic success formula for startups and sitcoms with teenage casts.

When you make a mistake don’t continue to beat yourself up over it. Because then you deal with both the mistake and the loss of self-confidence. Which is a lose-lose proposition.

Mistake identification and correction should always lead to both growth and an increase in confidence. After all, you have just learned how to avoid the same mistake in the future. You are better equipped. You have more experience. And more knowledge. All of which should make you feel more confident. Like Demi Lovato. Or like you used Sure deodorant.

Pay careful attention to your mental trajectory when you leave a mistake. If you are still pointing down, you are mistaking wrong. You have already made your error. You have learned your lesson. You already know what to do better next time. So point your attitude arrow up and to the right. It is time for growth and improvement. Time to rise and shine.

Key Takeaway

When you make a mistake learn from it. Let the learning add to your confidence. Emerge from a mistake better and more prepared for whatever comes your way next. Give yourself permission to be an amateur at everything. Then just keep getting better with every mistake you make.

*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.

How positive and negative thinking end up in very different places.

As I drove south for spring break I kept noticing signs that I was entering different watersheds. A watershed is an interesting geographical designation. It means that a drop of rain that falls in that area will flow into a specific river, sea or other body of water. And while it is poetic to think about the flow of that pure drop of rain, the forces of a watershed work just as well on a spilled can of Mountain Dew or that 40-ouncer you poured out for your homie.

Attitude Flow

The same dynamics that govern water in a watershed also apply to your thoughts and attitude.

Negative thoughts land in a negative watershed where they will collect with other negative thoughts. They create a river of negativity that will naturally flow into a sea of negativity. And in that sea, everything sinks. No one wants to go there. Yet almost everyone ends up there at some point. Kinda like a funeral home. Or the Newark airport.

Conversely, your positive thoughts land in a positive watershed and will naturally flow into a river and ultimately a sea of positivity. That Sea of Positity provides boundless buoyancy. It is where everyone wants to be. And the cost of admission is simply a positive attitude.

Key Takeaway

Your attitude determines your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your future. This flow of thoughts into watersheds is a universal law as reliable as gravity. So choose your attitude carefully. Because it will dictate your destination.

*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.

The award I have been obsessed with since high school.

When I was in high school I participated in track and field each spring. It was the perfect sport for someone like me who lives at the Venn diagram intersection of interested-in-self-improvement and terrible-at-baseball.

Track & field is simple to understand. It provides clear and immediate feedback on both your performance and your improvement. If your times go down, or your distances go up, you improved. If your measures go backward, you are going backward. As Jerry Reed sang, ‘When you’re hot you’re hot. When you’re not you’re not.’ Nothing is subjective.

However, at the end of each season, there was one subjective element: The Awards Banquet.

At Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire, there were 4 awards handed out at the Track & Field Team banquet.

1. Freshman Of The Year.

2. Most improved.

3. MVP

4 The Samuelson Award for Oustanding Athlete (The award was named after the Samuelson family that Olympic gold medal marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson married into. Her husband Scott has now held our high school’s pole vault record for 47 years.)

During my 4-year high school track and field career, I won 3 out of 4 of our school’s awards. But there was only one of them that I really wanted.

Freshman Year

I was totally forgettable my first year. While I scored enough points at meets that season to earn a varsity letter I wasn’t turning any heads. My good friend Ben Soderholm was the Freshman Of The Year. No contest. Ben was special right out of the blocks. Looking back now I figure that God knew that his life would be a sprint and he better get started fast to get as much in as he could during his relatively short life. (I miss you bro. Also, I realize that you probably don’t read my blog posts anymore. Or do you…)

Sophomore Year

My sophomore year I improved 30 feet in the discus and 7 feet in the shot put. I placed well in our conference meet and in the state championship meet in the discus. At the banquet, I was named the Most Improved Athlete.

Junior Year

My junior year I improved another 31 feet in the discus, and another 6 feet in the shot put. I was the state champion, New England Champion, and broke our school record in the discus. I also ran some hurdles, sprints and high jumped too. None of those performances would have won me any awards other than Most Willing To Be Vulnerable. At the banquet, I was named the team MVP.

Senior Year

My senior year I won a state championship, repeated as the New England champion, and set a state record that would stand for 12 years. At the banquet, I won the Samuelson Award as the Outstanding Athlete (male or female).

Me and my Mom and Dad after my last high school track meet in East Hartford, CT where I defended my New England title in the discus and broke the state record.

While I was certainly honored to win the Samuelson Award, I was envious of my teammate who won Most Improved. I was obsessed with that award. It was my personal quirk. But that quirk served me well. And the obsession with the MIA award is what won me the other 2 awards.

Reflection

I wanted to improve so much each year that I would be the obvious and undisputed Most Improved Athlete each year, no matter how good I became. It was a healthy obsession. (Not a case of possession obsession.) I loved the work. I loved the sacrifice. I loved the process. And I loved the results like Joan Jett loves rock n’ roll.

Looking back several decades later, I also loved what the process of improvement in track and field taught me about improvement in the rest of my life. The desire to greet each day a little better than the day before is core to my mission and my self-image.

Today, I am focused on self-improvement in various roles including:

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Friend
  • Entrepreneur
  • Marketer
  • Investor
  • Coach
  • Author
  • Speaker
  • Person who has a body. (I am focused on improving my fitness. But this construct made it awkward to state that. Sorry.)
  • List maker

Today, much of my self-improvement comes from reading, studying, and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t. It comes through listening to the wisdom of others. And through trial and error. It is a product of accumulating knowledge. As a result, I get better at things slowly, but steadily.

The most encouraging part of my journey is that I can feel the improvement. Just as I could tell that I was improving as an athlete thanks to the tape measure, I can tell that I am better at the 10 roles listed above. And as I get better at these, other people inquire about my approach to each of these roles. I have found that the simplest measure of your improvement in any area is whether or not people are asking you for insights and advice on that topic.

Key Takeaway

Life is one long self-improvement journey. Take what you learned about self-improvement through athletics, music, dance, acting, scouts, or any other childhood activity and apply it to your adult roles. Get a little bit better every day. The compounding effect of your improvements will change your life in ways that you can’t even imagine.

*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.

When your mind and body wrestle who wins?

The human is the most fascinating of all machines. It is a walking, talking, taco-eating miracle made of 2 distinct parts.

First, there is the physical part. The body. It’s the part of the human that we can see and touch. (With consent.) It is the most obvious part. But it is also the least interesting.

The second part of the human is the mind. This is where the thinking takes place. This is where humans are most interesting and differentiated. If you think people look different on the outside, you would be shocked by how different people’s minds operate. For proof, see the new Netflix series Dahmer. (Or just take my word for it and you will sleep better tonight.)

For better or worse, your mind and body are married for life. Like Thunder and Lightening, Brooks and Dunn, or Mike & Ikes. Your life is a result of how well your mind and body work together.

The key to the mind-body collaboration is who is in control. Because both highly successful people and highly unsuccessful people know what they should do. The difference is that successful people do what they know they should and unsuccessful people don’t.

The Question

Who is in control, your mind or your body?

Who determines if you get out of bed or hit the snooze button?

Who determines if you thumb through your phone or work on that important project?

Who determined whether you exercise?

Or eat the way you know you should?

Or take any action at all?

If your mind is not telling your body what to do, your body is in control.

Mind Your Mind.

Your mind knows your goals and vision. It knows what needs to happen to get there. Your body doesn’t have goals beyond rest, food, pleasure, and safety. So if your mind has goals that expand beyond those 4 areas, it has to be in charge, or you will never achieve your goals. Unless your goal is to be featured on My 600-Pound Life.

When you experience moments of weakness or laziness, recognize that you are experiencing a battle for control between your mind and body. If your body wins, you lose. But if your mind is in control, and can make your body do what it needs to do, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

Key Takeaway

The key to long-term success, accomplishment and happiness is that your mind must be in control. Your thinking, planning and visioning must lead to the right actions. It is not enough to think and know. Accomplishment and progress come through doing. So provide your body with the fuel and sleep it needs. Then let your mind take over to accomplish the rest.

*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.

Develop your MacGyver mindset.

When I was a kid MacGyver was one of my favorite TV shows. The hero of the show, Mac MacGyver, was always finding himself in precarious situations, typically involving nukes, Russians, and bombs with timers. MacGyver faced certain death in every episode. Which, of course, was the appeal for young Adam to watch.

But spoiler alert: MacGyver never died. He always found a way forward. He survived by detecting and collecting the scraps of stuff around him that he could use to save himself. A bit of gum. A paperclip. Some harmless chemicals that when combined created all kinds of harm to the handcuffs, ropes or unharmable doors that restrained him.

This sums up all you need to know about MacGyver. I love the tagline: He acts fast and thinks faster. I would add that his hair was always in place.

The thing that stands out to me today about MacGyver, other than his sweet era-appropriate mullet, is that he had a finally-tuned radar that could detect things that could help his cause. He noticed items that the rest of the world simply didn’t see. Because if the bad guys trying to ruin MacG realized the potential in those bits and scraps they would not have left them within his radius when locking him up and leaving him for dead, or worse…

Human Radar

One of my significant assets is that I have developed my own human radar. I can scan a situation and find the valuable scraps that were left to help me find my way forward. Except my scraps aren’t usually paperclips, dental floss or mullets.

My bits and bobs are things like contact information. I may notice a book reference, a motivation quote, or a class. It could be a person near me who has a contact or experience that is highly valuable to me. Or a relevant example that I can use to help teach or coach.

My lifesavers could be as simple as reminders to drink more water or get more sleep each night. They could be random QR codes that make me realize I can use such codes to allow for quick and easy book purchases by people who come to my book talks. Or my lifesavers could be round fruity candies with a hole in the middle. In other words, these items are varied and random. But they are all there to help me find my way forward. Or to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Key Takeaway

There are little bits of lifesavers all around us. The key is developing the radar to recognize them and their ability to help you. They could be people, quotes, contact information, books, technology, or reminders that you need at the moment. But when you can recognize the solution to a problem you are facing or the answer to the question you have asked, you are in a powerful position to receive all the great things waiting for you.

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

+ For more positive ideas to apply to your life, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

When you are great at what you do, no one cares what you wear.

Yesterday I had a bee and wasp specialist come to my house to handle a situation. A buzzillon yellow jackets found a small opening in my siding, and Goldilocks-ed their way into the just-right attic space above my garage, where they built a watermelon sized nest.

Dennis, aka The Bee Guy, (not to be confused with the Bee Man, Bee Boy or Bee Gees) walked up to the spot where the yellow jackets were throwing me a house swarming party, and calmly said he could take care of the problem. He said, ‘But first let’s look to see if there are any other areas of concern.’

Those Little Stingkers!

We walked around the house, and sure enough, he found another active area on the back side of the house that we hadn’t noticed. Then he got to work. He treated both of the nests, and soon it was clear that these Georgia Tech mascots were no longer active residents in my home.

The Kicker

Dennis never put on any protective gear. He never put on any netting, or armor or even bug spray. He did his work in jeans and a short sleeve shirt. And he did it really well. He talked me through each step. He even walked me through the proprietary equipment he used that he had invented and created himself. I could tell that Dennis knew his profession as well as anyone could (I bet he got all bees in school).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be fooled by clothing. It is easy to buy the right clothes to look the part. It is much harder to have the skills the part requires.┬áThere is no direct relationship between clothing and expertise. I have found over and over again that people who are truly experts don’t get caught up in looking the way you think they would or should or could. So focus on gaining knowledge and experience. Become great at what you do. The more value you offer others, the less value they will place on your appearance. Which is good news for a man who looks like me.