The best first step to take to be highly successful.

Last week I was a guest on the ContenderCast Podcast with host Justin Honaman, Justin interviewed me about entrepreneurship, and the things I have learned by launching and running the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. We discussed lessons from my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? And we talked about his transition from Diet Coke to Coke Zero. (This paragraph has been brought to you by Coke Zero.)

I can’t wait for the podcast episode to drop. I expect it will change my life the way Sara Blakely’s life changed when she went on the Oprah Winfrey show. So don’t be surprised if the world starts wearing my undergarments too.

Advice

One of the great questions Justin asked me was, ‘What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?’

My answer was clear and instant:

Spend time with people who have already done it.

But that advice is not specifically for want-to-be entrepreneurs. Or wantrepreneurs.

It is the best advice I can share about any type of success and achievement.

The best way to achieve a massive goal is to spend time with people who have already done what you want to do.

When you spend time with superstars their mindset rubs off on you. Unlike tickets on the Polar Express, their mindset is transferrable.

Spending time with high achievers is like going to a Success Optometrist. They help you see success in much greater detail. You see the actions they take, the mindset they have adopted, and the relationships they develop and maintain.

When you see those things up close you realize that you can do all of those things too. Suddenly, your belief in what is possible expands. Your risk tolerance increases. Your view of money transforms. And your excuses fade away.

There is an intelligence that increases with increasing levels of success. It can appear mysterious or unattainable from a distance. But once you have a front-row seat to higher levels of success, it demystifies the process. It’s like seeing how magic tricks are actually performed. You quickly realize there is no magic. There are simply skills developed, practiced, and perfected until it looks like magic.

Key Takeaway

Seek out successful people. Step into their orbit and let their positive peer pressure propel you. Notice the way they act, read, and think. Modify their approaches to your needs and style. Soak up the education and inspiration. It will change your life like nothing else can. Because when you are close to those who model the behavior you want to see in yourself you can’t help but replicate it. It’s like a language immersion program. Only the language is success. Soon you’ll notice others who want to get close to you and learn how you do what you do. That’s when you know it works.

*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.

Why I love my gaps and you should too.

I’m willing to bet that you are not as great as you want to be. If you are, you can stop reading here.

(I see you are still reading. Which means that either I was right, or the brakes on your eyeballs don’t work.)

You may not be as fit, rich, successful, kind, patient or brave as you wish you were.

In fact, you probably fall short of your ideal on a lengthy list of skills, states, and attributes.

That’s a gift.

The gap between where you are now and your ideal provides the motivation to act. It provides the motivation to improve. It creates the silent force that propels you. It fuels your hunger, drive, and growth.

And ultimately, your gap helps close your gap.*

*If The Gap at your local mall has recently closed it’s not your fault. Unless you were the manager.

The 2 things that can help anyone become happy, fulfilled, and successful.

Everyone has the potential to be highly successful. Everyone. Regardless of your background or socio-economic factors. Regardless of the opportunities you thought were or were not available to you. Even if you don’t currently maintain a minimum standard of personal hygiene.

The 2 Things

There are 2 things you need to achieve greatness, happiness and any other type of ness you are after.

  1. A Model

You need a model of success to follow.

Ask yourself some simple questions. Who do you want to become? What do you want to be like? This could be anything. A great parent. An influential teacher. A successful business person. An accomplished athlete. A great stay-at-home Dad.

Then look for your model. The person who has done what you want to do. A model that can show you what you could create or become.

Best of all, you don’t need to know what you want to do to find a great model. Simply start looking for people who are happy and fulfilled. When you find a person you admire or envy and want to emulate, you have found a model. But you still get to choose which model to choose as your North Star.

2. A Path

Once you have a model, you need a path. Your path is like your personal Yellow Brick Road. It is the course you must travel to achieve the model. And depending on your path it may or may not contain lions, scarecrows and trees that throw apples at you.

In short: The model is your destination. The path is how you get there.

The path provides the instructions and the coursework. The path includes the dos and don’ts. The path shows you the roads to travel, complete with onramps and interchanges.

The path includes books, schools, and teachers. It includes habits, practices and processes. And it may include other models to study.  And in my experience studying models doesn’t even feel like studying.

Mapping The Path

Once you find the model you want to follow you need to discover their path. Mapping their path becomes your research project.

Potential Questions To Ask Your Model

  • What did they do?
  • How did they do it?
  • When did they do what?
  • And where?
  • Why did they make the decisions they made?
  • Who helped them?
  • What would they do differently now that they know what they know?

Don’t guess. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t spin your wheels either. The answers are there for you to discover. If your model is someone famous, or dead, research their story. You will find many of the answers you need through a little digging. (To be clear, I mean you can dig into their story, not dig up their dead body.)

Key Takeaway

Begin looking for your model today. And when you find that person, discover their path. The path is where the transformational magic happens.

If you have become a model, share your path. Share what you know. Inspire others. Bring others along. If you have found joy, happiness, success, and fulfillment in your life consider showing others how you did it. It may be the most valuable work you ever do.

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

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

How to know where you are on your improvement journey.

Anytime you try something new you will be bad at it. Or at least relatively bad at it. And I don’t mean like Michael Jackson or George Thorogood.

But when you are trying to develop your skills and abilities there is a useful way to think about your improvement journey.

Simply focus on increasing the percentage of times you get it right.

At first, you may get a specific technique or execution right 1 in 1000 or 1 in 100 tries.

This means that you’ve moved your percentage from 0% to 0.1%, or from 0% to 1%.

That’s amazing progress.

In fact, it is the most important progress of all.

Then just keep going.

At 2% you are 100% better than you were at 1%. Or at least that was true according to old math.

Now, focus your efforts to increase your success rate from 1 in 100 to 1 in 10. 

Then advance to 5 in 10.

Next push yourself to 9 out of 10. Like the dentists who recommend Crest toothpaste.

Then keep pushing yourself until you can nail 99 out of 100 attempts.

Key Takeaway

Self-improvement is a percentage game. You’ll likely never get every task right 100% of the time. But get as close as you can. Pay attention to your performance percentages. It is the easiest way to track your progress. Keep pushing yourself. The challenge is fun, rewarding, and most importantly, quantifiable.

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

+For more tips and techniques for your self-improvement journey check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

6 Tips To Establish New Power Habits.

A great life is built on great habits. Do the right things repeatedly and you will build momentum. Do the wrong thing repeatedly and you build a rap sheet.

Your great habits have a compounding effect. Each great step helps amplify the step before. All of which will earn career, social, health, and even financial capital that will open doors for you.

I was on The Morning Blend this week talking about habits. You can see the segment here.

But How?

Habit development is a process. Here are a few of the most important things to know to get the process right, like Bob Barker.

6 Tips To Establishing New Power Habits.

  1. Start with your identity.  Identify as an exerciser, reader, money saver or a neat and orderly person. Once you identify as the person who does these kinds of activities you will do the kinds of activities your identity identifies with. It’s always a case of the chicken and the egg. So just decide that you are a chicken and start laying eggs.

Remember: Identities are all made up anyway. (Just ask Madonna.) None of us came out of the womb as runners, readers or pop singers. We were all just naked and unemployed. One day you simply decide you want to take on an identity and you go with it. The great news is that you can add to or change your identity any day.

2. Make it easy at the start. If you have chosen to identify as a runner, don’t go out the first time and run until you barf. You won’t want to come back. Instead, run until you feel good. Don’t go past that point. Stop before it hurts or feels negative. Run for a couple of minutes. Not a couple of miles. Make it enjoyable, make it easy. Make yourself want to do more next time. In the beginning (#NameThatBook) the most important thing to do is simply create the system or process. The length doesn’t matter.

3. Optimize and intensify over time. Once the routine is established you can adjust it to be more productive. Lengthen the duration of activity. Increase the intensity and focus. But raise the bar slowly and you will build even more momentum.

4. Market the habit to yourself by putting cues in your path.  If you want to journal, leave your journal and pen out where you will be reminded to write. Put your exercise clothes on your dresser or bathroom counter so they are easy to pick up and put on. Place your laundry to be put away on your bed. This provides additional obvious cues and reduces friction to action.

5. You can change your life in one day. Quitting smoking may be hard, but it’s not hard to not smoke for a day. The same holds true for exercising, eating well or playing an instrument. Commit to one day, each day. It will make you feel like a winner every day. You will be inspired to do more when you feel like you are winning.

6. When you have a problem starting or maintaining a habit there is a problem with your system. If your habit is failing it isn’t you. It’s the system. Tweak it to make the habit stick. Make it easier. Change the timing. Change the setting. Use technology for prompts, reminders or encouragement. Pair it with a different reward. Find what you need to nail it.

Key Takeaway

Use good habits to create good habits. Set your identity and your actions will follow. Underdo it at the start. Allow yourself to be an amateur. Create obvious prompts. Optimize and intensify over time. Keep stringing together good days. And just don’t stop.

*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.

It’s never too late to start doing what successful people do.

There is a great way of doing everything.

  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Cleaning
  • Whoopeeing
  • Saving
  • Eating
  • Volunteering
  • Tax preparation
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Investing
  • Treating your spouse well
  • Etc. (That simply means there is a lot more stuff on this list. Not that there is a great way to et cetera.)

There is also a far-from-ideal way to do everything. In fact, there are many far-from-ideal options. They make for good reality TV, bad dental hygiene and something we now call comorbidities.

What Successful People Do

Successful people do things the right way. They develop strong habits. They create great processes and systems that ensure that things are done the right way.

Join The Club

But success is not a private club. The doors are always unlocked. And we all have an open invitation.

To join The Successful People Club just start doing things the right way. The way you know they should be done.

Take the actions you know you should take.

That builds momentum.

Success is a result of momentum.

Momentum is a result of executing good habits.

Habits are simply doing the right things the right way regularly.

But it all starts by doing the right things once.

You can do that today.

Then do it again tomorrow.

It’s easier than you think.


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

+If you like this type of message, you will like my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media. It shares 80 life lessons the universe is trying to share with you.

How highly successful people win even when they are tired.

Sunday was the first day of Daylight Saving Time in America. We all gained an hour of sunshine but lost an hour of sleep. Which is a pretty good trade, unless you are a vampire.

Late Sunday afternoon I told my 14-year old son Johann that it was time for us to go to the gym. Not surprisingly, he told me he didn’t want to go. He said he was tired. I told him that I was too. But that we were going to go lift weights anyway.

When we got into the Jeep I knew it was time for a Father-Son talk. Thankfully, it wasn’t going to be one of those Father-Son talks where you have to use all the anatomically correct language and try not to giggle.

Me and Johann the moment I first held my book.

As we pulled out of our neighborhood and headed towards the gym I told Johann that I was about to share one of the most important lessons I would ever share with him. And I wanted him to listen closely. Here is what I said:

The Daylight Saving Day Lesson

You will always be tired. For the rest of your life, you will be tired every frick’n day. And being tired will always be an excuse you can use to get out of doing anything.

But if you use the I’m tired’ excuse you will never accomplish great things. You will never have big successes. You will never break away from the massive pack of average.

When you are tired, you have to go anyway. Work anyway. Compete anyway. Exercise anyway. Maintain your best habits anyway.

Become the type of person who does things despite being tired. And you will build momentum. You will separate yourself from others who use being tired as an excuse to not do what they know they should do.

You will do special things. You will make something great of yourself. You will make your parents proud. You will make yourself proud. And you will know that you are a badass. A badass who gets tired, like everyone else. But when you are tired and don’t feel like doing hard work you do it anyway. That’s how you win at life.

-Dad

Key Takeaway

You will always be tired. Don’t use it as an excuse. Go anyway. And use it as proof that you are a tough mofo who does the necessary work, even when you are tired. Because that’s what great people do.

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

+If we are on the same frequency, you’ll also enjoy my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Surround yourself with rockstars who have already done what you want to do.

In 2016, after having been an employee of three successful companies for 19 years, I became an entrepreneur. I left behind the predictable employment, the benefits, the 401(k) and the Free Lunch Fridays.

I pushed all my chips to the center of the table and bet on myself when I launched the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. (The chip reference was supposed to be a poker thing. Not a potato chip thing. #JustClarifying)

Me and a wall at The Weaponry.

But when I left my job as the Executive Vice President and Executive Creative Director of the largest advertising agency in Atlanta to start my own business it never seemed crazy to me. Because I knew a lot of other people who had started successful businesses. They seemed a lot like me. And they all looked like they were fed, sheltered and clothed. (Wait, yep, they were definitely clothed.)

My man Troy Allen started a design agency before starting the wildly successful Rise Brands.

I knew a bloggle of bloggers before I launched this blog.

I knew a stockyard of people who invested in stocks before I bought stocks.

I knew a neighborhood worth of people who owned rental property before I properly rented my property.

I knew dozens of authors before I wrote my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

Writing my own book didn’t seem hard. Not even the hardcover.

Always Remember:

You Are Becoming More Like The People You Spend Your Time With.

Your peer group is your mirror group. To upgrade your likelihood of success upgrade your friends. Surround yourself with doers and diders. It creates positive peer pressure that pushes you to do better, more impressive things. The Joneses I know are badasses. And I want to keep up with all they are accomplishing. (Shout out to Bryan, Jill, Adam, Patti, Garrett, Kristen, Sharon, Courtney, Arnita and Rachel! Sorry you guys didn’t make it into that new truck commercial.)

My college teammate Bryan Jones is hard to keep up with, but I am trying.

Key Takeaway

Your friends are your on-ramp to success. Surround yourself with others who have already done the next big thing you want to do. It decreases the perceived degree of difficulty. It increases the odds of you successfully completing the same challenge. And the more successful your peers are the more insight they offer to all you can accomplish in your lifetime.

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

+ If this type of thinking resonates with you, you will also like my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

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.

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.