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.

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.

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.

How to move your most important initiatives down the track.

We all have big goals we want to achieve. However, the goal setting isn’t the hard part. It is not enough to know what you want to do. It’s what you do do that matters. In order to achieve your goals, you have to take action. A lot of action.

The good news is that to accomplish your most important goals you don’t need to make things happen in giant steps. You simply have to make steady progress. I find it useful to think of my most important initiatives as trains. The objective is simply to move the trains down the track.

The Process

1. Identify your trains.

Start by focusing on your 1 to 5 most important initiatives. Remember, 5 is the max. More than 5 dilutes your attention and your energy. This is why we don’t have the Jackson 6, or go around high six-ing each other.

2. Start each day with your list of trains.

They could be businesses you want to build, fitness goals, work projects, passion projects, volunteer efforts, or travel plans. In fact, your trains can be anything you want to do, make or accomplish. Heck, your train could be to catch drops of Jupiter or to meet Virginia.

3. Write down an action you can take that day to move each train down the track.

Determine the next step in the process that will help you make progress. Always be thinking about the next task to take on, like A-ha said.

4. Take that action.

Some actions will move you inches. Some will move you feet. Some will move you yards. And others will move you miles down the track. However, all actions, large or small, will get you closer to your goal.

Keep Moving

The key is to get your trains movings. Your biggest goals, hopes, and dreams are like locomotives. They are heavy, powerful, and hard to get going. Simply getting the wheels to start turning can feel like a monumental task. Especially if your goal is to build a monument.

But once your trains start moving it is easier to pick up speed, like Sandra Bullock. You will soon find yourself taking more and bigger actions faster. Before you know it you will have momentum on your side. Your actions become habits. And you will start ticking off tasks like the clicking and clacking of a train speeding down the track. (By ticking off I mean completing. Not making-mad, like my parents used to say to me.)

At the end of each day, check to see if you moved your trains down the track. The answer should be clear. You either took action or you didn’t. If you did take action, note whether you moved inches, feet, yards, or miles. Of course, these are meant to be symbolic relative measurements. They translate to small, medium, large and Neil Armstrong-sized steps forward.

If you take no action your train will remain in the station. But through consistent action, your trains will reach their destination. It’s as simple and certain as that.

Key Takeaway

Move your most important initiatives farther down the track every day. Small, consistent actions start the wheels turning. Then come bigger actions with bigger results. Which ultimately help you build momentum. A train with momentum is very hard to stop. A person with momentum is nearly impossible to stop. Make yourself that person.

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

How snowballs can help make your dreams come true.

Do you have big dreams? Do you have lofty goals and imagine yourself as a big success? Of course you do! You are full of ideas about the things you want to make and do. Which is a great start. But it is the same great start that everyone has.

There are amazing things happening in your head. But no one else can see them. Except maybe your radiologist, and that woman from Long Island Medium. To transform your dreams and ideas into reality you have to take action. You have to make, and do. You have to press your ideas into the world. Here’s how it works.

A Lesson In The Snow

A thought is like a field of freshly fallen snow. They are both full of potential. But to transform the field of snow into something of your own creation, you have to reach down and grab a handful of it. You have to pack it into a ball. By doing so you have begun to convert an idea into something tangible and real. Suddenly you have something of your own creation. You have built the initial unit. (snickering) This is the first visible product of your thoughts.

Step 2

From there, you decide the next step. You can grab another handful and pack a bigger ball. You can place the ball on the ground and create another one just like it. And another and another. You can create a small line of snowballs. Then start a second level. You can create a circle of snowballs like the foundation of your snow fort.

Or you can put that snowball on the ground and begin to roll it. You can watch it grow quickly with thick layers of compounding snow.

Keep Going. Keep Rolling. Keep Growing.

That snowball, gathered and rolled, will grow as long as you keep rolling it. Stop rolling and the progress stops too. #PleaseDontStopTheMusic

But if you keep pushing you will get to a point where you need more people to push it with you. (Like Salt N Peppa did.) Find yourself a hill and let the universe work its magic. Suddenly, growing bigger is easier. Before you know it you will have a giant snowball thanks to simple, steady effort multiplied over time.

Where It Started

Remember, it all began when you squeezed together that first small handful of snow. That was the step that mattered most. Without that, nothing else was possible. There was nothing to multiply. Nothing to add to.

My Snowballs

I dreamt of starting my own advertising agency. So I took on a project from a friend. Now The Weaponry is a multi-million dollar business with offices in 2 states.

I wish I had a blog. So I wrote one post in the fall of 2015. Now I have written over 530 posts. Today my blog has been read in 130 countries.

I always wanted a family. So I asked my co-worker to go see a movie. Now Dawn and I have been married for 18 years and have 3 crazy kids. (My youngest, Magnus, just popped his head into my office, and in his best narwhal voice said, ‘Bye Buddy. I hope you find your Dad.’

Key Takeaway

Make snowballs. They are the easiest thing to create. But they make all the difference.

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

The cure for disappointment is getting back to work.

Sometimes things go wrong. Actually, things go wrong all the time. It’s as predictable as a celebrity divorce. You will miss out on opportunities. You will lose games, money, clients, and jobs. You will get knocked down and spun around. Because life offers up a never ending conveyor belt of challenges. And not all of them go your way.

Bouncing Back

The best way to deal with loss and disappointment is to get right back to work. It’s as simple as that. Because there is something magical about the feeling of making progress that heals the bites, burns and bruises of life.

She is highly bummed. And highly bunned.

As you work towards your next success you are putting the past failure in the rear view mirror. You are investing in the next win, instead of dwelling on the last loss. You positively reorient your attention and focus as you begin traveling towards your next accomplishment. And the psychological effect is huger than Hugh Jackman.

Building, improving and gaining momentum lead to happiness. They are clear indicators that you are heading in the right direction. The more work you put in the more gravitational pull your next great goal creates. Which is far better than the gravitational pull donuts create.

Getting back to work is beneficial in every area of your life, including your career, relationships, fitness, athletics, academics and spirituality. I have used work as my bounce-back strategy as a student, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur. And it has never failed me. Yes, the past spring and summer have thrown us all adversity. But don’t let that define your fall. Get yourself back on the right track, by getting right back to work.

Key Takeaway

Don’t let disappointment stop you. Let it start you. Get back to work. Rebuild momentum. It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are making progress. And don’t wait for someone else to give you an opportunity. Make one yourself.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, 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.

Between the sunrise and sunset lies the real magic.

This week I am on vacation at the beach. I’ve noticed that people at the beach love sunrises and sunsets. Shocker, I know.

Every morning vacationers and locals alike walk the beach at sunrise and take pictures of the sun coming up. The same think happens each night as the sun sets. It’s almost like a song from Fiddler On The Roof

But I notice that no one is taking pictures of the sun in the middle of the day when Earth’s favorite fire ball is in mid arc. But that is where the magic happens.

It is not the beginning or the end that makes the difference. It is the missable middle. When the work is performed. When actions are taken. When time and effort and attention are invested. That’s where the wow of the day lives. It is where the stories of our lives, careers and relationships are formed. Unless you are a lady of the night, or a cat burglar. In which case, I am impressed that you also read blogs. Who knew.

Highlighting the sunrise and sunset is like focusing on the bookends on a bookshelf.  They may be pretty. But they are not the value. The value is on all the pages in the books in between. Be sure not to miss them. They are full of gold.

Key Takeaway

Don’t forget the middle. It is where all the difference is made.

You can change your life in one day.

Earlier this week I filmed a video with a group of very talented health and wellness coaches. The work was for my client, StayWell, which pioneered corporate wellness programs more than 40 years ago. Today StayWell works with many of best companies in America, where they help improve lives every day. (Unlike Chick-Fil-a, who will not improve my life with a delicious Spicy Chicken Deluxe sandwich on Sundays.)

During the video shoot I heard inspiring story after story of how the coaches had a transformational impact on the lives of those they coached. But there was one particular story that really hit me in my profunditude receptors.

The Story

The last coach of the day told us a story about a man who she coached who had a variety of health and lifestyle issues to address. One of which was that he was an enthusiastic smoker. Which I translate to mean that he really liked standing outside, alone, by a backdoor that no one else uses.

The man knew he should quit. The warning labels on the cigarettes packs that told him that he was going to die if he actually smoked the cigarettes made that clear. But he had not yet summoned the resolve and a master plan to make it happen.

The coach suggested that he try  just one day without cigarettes. It was a pretty small challenge. Much easier than really quitting. The man tried it. And succeeded.

At the end of the day he realized that it had been several decades since he had gone a full day without a cigarette. He was very excited about his big day. And he wondered if he could do it again the next day.

That was 2 years ago. And he hasn’t smoked a cigarette since.

Easy Does It

Too often we think we have to do something monumental to get results. But that is poppycock. All you have to do is start. Do something. Anything. The littlest step in the right direction is progress. It helps you build momentum. Because success builds like a snowball. It always starts small. But as it rolls it can become massive.

It Worked For Me.

I always wanted to start my own advertising agency. But entrepreneurship seemed daunting. Until I broke it down into small, simple steps. Then I simply started taking one small step after another. Today I’m the Founder and CEO of The Weaponry. Which sounds like a pretty cool title. Because when you start your own business you get to give yourself any title you want. The Weaponry now has 2 offices, 17 clients from coast to coast, and more on the way.

Key Takeaway

Big accomplishments start with small steps. So take the smallest, easiest step forward you can. You’ll find that it is so easy that you can’t help but take another step forward. When you do, the next step will reveal itself. When it does, you take that step too. You don’t have to be prepared for the whole journey. You just have to be prepared for the next small step. Knowing and believing this secret is the first and most important step of all.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, 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.