Never yield to pessimism.

I am an optimist. Both by nature and by nurture. It enables me to see the good in people and in situations. It helps me see solutions and silver linings. And it continuously contributes to my happiness. Like pizza. Or laughing gas.

An optimist is hopeful and confident about the future and the potential for success. An optimist is not an eye doctor. (But an eye doctor can be an optimist.)

Optimism vs Pessimism

Optimism is the precious metal of mindsets.

While pessimism is useless.

It’s a dead end.

A forfeit.

Never yield to pessimism.

There is no value in being pessimistic about humans.

Or politics.

Or law.

There is no need to be pessimistic about our economy.

Or the state of humanity.

Or your future.

These are all things that we can influence.

Humans confront challenges and we respond.

We change things for the better

Errors get corrected.

New solutions are created.

New possibilities are created.

Humans always seek better answers and better outcomes.

We believe in happy endings. Like Walt Disney. And Robert Kraft.

And we make them come true.

What Does That Say About Me?

Yesterday was the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend. It was a great day to sleep in, relax and recharge.

But I was up at 5:30am. Which was 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I had things I wanted to do and didn’t want to waste any time. Because like Ben Franklin said, the early morning has gold in its mouth. (And so does Lil’ Wayne.)

After starting my morning by investing 90 minutes in a personal project I quickly got ready for my day. I headed down to my office in Milwaukee. On a Saturday. I was there from 8 am until 5pm, working on a special project that I will share more about soon.

After I wrapped up things at work I quickly drove home, cleaned up, and within an hour headed to American Family Field, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, for a fun night with my wife Dawn and my kids Ava, Johann and Magnus. We went to a concert featuring country artists Parker McCollum, Brothers Osborne, and headliner Eric Church. The show was incredible. And long. Eric Church played so long that I was afraid that when I returned to my parking space my Ford Expedition would be replaced by a pumpkin and a family of mice. #BibbidiBobbidiBoo

By the time we got home, it was after 1:00 am. I got to bed at about 1:45 am. It was a Jam Master Jay-packed day.

This morning, on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, after getting to bed at 1:45 am, I woke up at 6:30 am. Because I have things to do.

I could have slept in. I had a hard day of work yesterday. I had a late night of play. And today is the Sunday of a long holiday weekend. If any day was made for rest, this is it. Like Kenny Loggins said.

But you are what you do. Your actions are proof of your commitment and character. I have made a commitment to myself to show up and take care of my business. To work on my personal projects. I have long-term goals. And they require consistency, no matter what.

I like doing hard things. I love delaying gratification. I enjoy sacrificing comfort and ease. Because you can trade them for bigger prizes later.

This morning I have the chorus to one of Parker McCollum’s hit songs playing in my head. Reflecting on his recent actions in the song Pretty Heart, McCollum asks the question, ‘What does that say about me?’ This morning, I’m doing the same.

Key Takeaway

What do your actions say about you? Are they proof that you are who you say you are? Are they reminders that you can count on yourself? That you are consistently investing in you? That you are taking care of yourself? That you are living up to your values and personal vision. These are important questions to ask. And the answers are in your actions.

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

+If you appreciate this message you’ll also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

This week I was blowing out candles and a new list of goals.

It was my birthday on Wednesday. I had a lot of friends and family members reach out to me to wish me a happy birthday. But my birthday fell on a cool and rainy Wednesday. Which meant that I wasn’t able to enjoy the outdoor activities I usually enjoy on my birthday, like biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and nude sunbathing.

While my birth day itself was not remarkable, I spent time planning for a memorable year. This is one of my favorite annual traditions. It helps me focus on the things that are most important to me. I want to experience happiness, fulfillment and success in all areas of my life. So I set a number of goals. Here are the areas I focused on for my next 365 days.

  1. Marriage: I set goals to strengthen my relationship with my wife Dawn. This makes everything else work.
  2. Health: I have to take care of my machine. But I haven’t seen a doctor in 7 years. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did see a doctor walking down the street. But this year I plan to see one at a checkup.
  3. Parenting: This is my most important job. So I am focusing on how to further build my children’s confidence. And keep them out of government-issued jumpsuits.
  4. Travel: I have major life travel goals. And I want to cross 2 of my major destinations off my list this year. (I also want to go visit them.)
  5. Business: These are my goals related to the growth and success of The Weaponry, the advertising and idea agency I launched 6 years ago. It’s my 4th baby. But probably the best behaved.
  6. Career: I focus on where I am going next. (I have a long way to go and a short time to get there.)
  7. Job: I focus on becoming better in my current role. Sidenote: Entrepreneurs can’t say take this job and shove it. Because you are both the shover and the shovee.
  8. Self Education: I set goals for becoming smarter and more capable. (There are a lot of books involved.)
  9. Fitness: The best way to feel young is to feel fit. So I have a couple of important goals here. Including building out the workout room in my new home so that I can maximize my personal fitness.
  10. Faith God knows this is important. (I can’t tell if I just used God’s name in vain, or out of vain.)
  11. Financial: This is what funds everything else. I keep it simple and focus on my net worth. Like Shakira’s hips, the numbers don’t lie.
  12. Home: I have goals that focus on our family nest. And how to make it our favorite place in the world.
  13. Key Relationships: At the end of our days the only thing that will matter is the impact we had on each other. Here I focus on my relationship with my parents and my sisters. I focus on my relationship with my high school friends, college teammates, college roommates, and local friends. And if I am a good friend, I will have more people to focus on next year.

Key Takeaway

A great year doesn’t just happen. You make it happen. And it all starts by knowing what will contribute to your happiness and success. Refocus and rededicate yourself every year to your personal improvement and relationship development. It’s the best way to live the life you imagined.

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

+For more ways to get the most out of life, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Why you should surround yourself with people who make you better.

The most exciting project you will ever undertake in life is you. You get one opportunity to make one human as amazing as possible. And you have complete control over that human. Except when you get the hiccups or your arm falls asleep.

An amazing life can be defined and measured in a hundred different ways. But you get to choose your own definition. And the unit of measure. Better yet, like The Urban Dictionary, you can change the definition as you go.

But no matter what your self-improvement journey looks like, there is one rule that will never fail.

The best way to become a better person is to surround yourself with better people.

The right people will inspire you. Encourage you. And set a great example for you to follow.

They will share what they have learned. They will push you to push yourself further. They will show you the way. And challenge you to keep up.

The right people will open doors you didn’t know existed. They will demonstrate new techniques. Illuminate new ideas. And show you what you’ve been missing.

Better people pull you up. They suggest others to follow and learn from. They provide better criteria. And set new standards.

Spend time with others who will raise your expectations. Sharpen your thinking. And broaden your view.

Surround yourself with people who maintain good habits. Who will embarrass you for your bad habits. Who will expose your ignorance. And offer you better alternatives.

Spend time with others who reveal your strengths. Who will fuel your confidence. Who will help you strengthen your foundation. And who introduce you to more great people who will exert even more positive peer pressure on you. That is simply the best way to become your best self.

Pro Tip:

Thanks to modern technology and the Gutenberg printing press, you can also surround yourself with great people through books, social media, podcasts, or blogs. The principle is the same. And it’s a great way to augment your social circle if you live in Alaska, have awkward social skills, or live in a concrete dorm with a lot of bars, and barbwire that makes it hard to grab coffee. #ThereIsAlwaysAWay

Key Takeaway

Great people are contagious. When you spend time with them their greatness spreads. It inspires you to do and be more. They provide both a model and a path to follow. And they introduce you to more great people. Which has a compounding effect on your own self-improvement.

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

+For more of the best life lessons I have collected, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Make the most of your magic ingredient.

Yeast is like magic. It is the secret, almost invisible ingredient that makes bread rise. It creates action and life. It creates transformation. And alcohol. And stank.

But yeast only works if the conditions are favorable. If the environment is too cold it won’t activate. If the temperature is too hot it kills the yeast that makes the magic. #TooHotInTheHotTub

The human spirit is like yeast. It is your magic ingredient. It is the will to win. The drive to succeed. The hunger for more.

The human spirit fuels your resilience and determination. It is the force that will transform you into something even more remarkable tomorrow. Something far more remarkable than bread. Or beer.

But just as yeast needs the proper conditions to activate, so does the human spirit.

Remember

If you are a business owner, leader, parent, teacher, coach, or the person who runs Fight Club, you are responsible for creating the environment.

Your most important job is to make sure the environment doesn’t kill the magic ingredient.

Great people won’t stay in a toxic work environment.

Great athletes won’t stay to play on a negative team.

A lion tamer won’t stick his head in the mouth of a stressed-out lion. (At least not more than once.)

And most importantly, a poor home environment will prevent children from growing into the amazing adults they were born to be. We can’t let this happen.

Key Takeaway

Create an environment that lets the human spirit work its magic. Or seek out a supportive environment for yourself. And magic will surely follow.

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

For more, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The valuable life lesson Will Smith could use right now.

Everyone makes mistakes. Will Smith reminded us of that on Sunday night. And if you are a learning, growing, improving human your mistakes make you better prepared for the next challenge life throws your way. And life is going to throw more challenges your way. It’s what life does.

Early in my career, I made a mistake kinda like Will Smith’s. Granted, there were no Oscars involved. It was not on national television. I wasn’t mad at Chris Rock for saying that my wife looked like one of the fittest, most beautiful Hollywood actresses of all time. (You go Demi!) And I didn’t actually touch anyone.

But I did overreact to a coworker who had done something wrong.

In the moments that followed my overreaction, my boss gave me one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my career. He simply and calmly told me:

When you are right, don’t respond in a way that makes you have to apologize.

It was great advice. It perfectly reframed my mistake for me. I could see that I was in the right, until I wasn’t. Yes, I had been wronged. But I became wronger. The court of public opinion would have acquitted me, until my behavior was such that they could no longer support me. #IWishIKnewHowToAcquitYou…

For two decades now that piece of advice has been written into my decision-making code. When I am processing how to respond to aggravations, slights, irritations, and insults I frequently access that code. And it always helps me make better decisions. As a result, I don’t give my power of rightness back to those who have wronged me.

Key Takeaway

When you are right, don’t respond in a way that makes you have to apologize.

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

+For a full collection of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Do you have a role model? Mine may surprise you.

We could all use a good role model. Someone to model our behavior after. Someone who has work and life figured out. Someone who inspires us to think better about the big picture. For some that person may be Jeff Bezos, Sara Blakely, Jesus, Kim Kardashian, or Willie Nelson. To be clear, not all role models are created equal. No judgment. (Ok, a little judgement.)

If you are looking for a role model to pattern your thinking after I have a suggestion. Look to Hedge Fund Managers. (You thought I was going to say Bezos, didn’t you?) Like Jeff Bezos, the people who run hedge funds are among the wealthiest in the world. They bring in clinically insane amounts of money for their funds and their investors.

But the money itself is a lag indicator. It is a result. Which means you have to jump in the DeLorean and go back to the original lead indicator to see what makes the hedge fund manager so successful.

At the foundation of the hedge fund is a very simple philosophy. It’s a mindset that any of us can follow. The hedge fund is built on this basic belief:

No matter what happens, I will win.

-Hedge Fund Managers

The fund managers place Big Ben-sized bets on what they expect to happen. They place educated bets that derive from studying the past. They place data-driven bets on the future. And they place smart bets that I assume come from eating a lot of Smarties.

Yet all investment funds do this.

What sets hedge funds apart is the hedge. (Not the popular landscaping boundary made of bushy greenery.) The hedge in hedge funds means that you also place bets that things will go the opposite way that you expected or intended. Which means that you put contingencies in place to capitalize on shifts in markets, conditions, and trends. Or to protect yourself in case a dictator with small tators decides to invade a peaceful neighbor and jack up the world economy.

The hedge fund manager expects the unexpected and expects to win anyway.

I am an entrepreneur. But if you cut me open (please don’t) you’d probably find a hedge fund manager. Because I believe that I will win no matter what happens.

2020

2020 was considered by most to be a doo-doo dumpster fire year. But there were many people who ended up benefitting from the pandemic in significant ways. I was one of them. Because the pandemic created new opportunities. My business, The Weaponry, did well because of how we responded. My personal life benefited from more time with my wife and children. I had more time to exercise than I usually do. I used the gift of time during the lockdown to write my first book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? Because I simply decided that no matter what happened, it was going to benefit me.

Key Takeaway

In every situation, there is a way to win. Find it. Think like a hedge fund manager. Find your way to profit no matter which way the wind blows. See the opportunities disguised as bad news. Swim when the sun shines. Read when it rains. There is always an upside. Find it. And make it work for you.

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

+If you’re on a personal growth journey check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? on Amazon. It features 80 life lessons the universe is trying to share with you.

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.

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 on your heels or toes right now?

It is easy to feel unbalanced right now. COVID-19 has infected every area of our lives. It’s not just our health. Work, school, worship, restaurants and bro-hugs have all been impacted. As the coronavirus blows across the country, and creates a new abnormal normal, it is time to check your stance.

Today’s question is:

Are you on your heels or toes right now?

Heels

If you are on your heels, you are letting the current situation get the best of you. You are not well balanced. You are simply reacting. And you can easily be knocked over by the next challenge that comes your way.

Toes

Right now you need to be on your toes. It means you are actively managing your situation. You are ready for whatever comes next. You are prepared to take on the next challenge. You are in a position to help others. And you are thinking ahead.

The Opportunity Stance

If you are on your toes it means you are seeing opportunities emerge. Today there are chances to help put your time and talent where it can be most impactful. There are opportunities for learning, growth, and skill development right now. In fact, this may be the best opportunity for self improvement you have ever had. Unless you have been to rehab.

Innovation

If you are on your toes you have the ability to innovate. You see the business opportunities and investments opportunities that are here today, or coming tomorrow. Which is only a day away. There will be a great demand for new ideas to better prepare us for our next great challenges. They have to come from somewhere. Why not you?

The Right Way

If your are on your toes you can help others get right, do right and be alright, alright, alright when the virus clears and we are back to full speed. It means that you will be the first to move when the red light turns green. And when the light changes, we will enter one of the most exciting eras we have ever known.

Key Takeaway

Even in this unusual and challenging time there is so much good around us. And so much more good ahead. Don’t miss out on any of it. Every great story needs a challenging plot twist in the middle to make the ending better. So make sure you are on your toes right now. Be ready when opportunity calls on you. And let’s make the rest of the story the best part of all.

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