10 activities to do away from work that make you better at work.

Happy Labor Day! This is the day we set aside to honor working people like you. Your work is important and noble. It helps you pay for your groceries. And therapy. But today I hope you don’t work at all.

Instead, consider these 10 non-working activities that make you better on the job.

  1. Rest Recover, refresh, and renew. Take time to rest so that you don’t burn yourself out at work. (Yes, I realize that activity #1 is technically an inactivity.)

2. Exercise This keeps your body strong. A strong body is a strong asset during the work day. And if you can run a 5K, rock climb or lift Instagramable weight, then stapling the coversheet on your TPS report should be a breeze.

3. Read: Reading helps you discover new ideas. It inspires. It sparks creativity. It expands your worldview. It enables you to bring new thinking and perspective to work. And like Southwest Airlines, reading helps you get away.

4. Socialize: Develop and maintain relationships to improve your mental well-being. Socialize to expose yourself to new opportunities in a clothes-on-kind-of-way. All of this contributes to your workplace success.

5. Sleep: Experiment to discover your optimal amount of sleep. Then hit your number as often as you can. Getting the quantity of sleep your body loves will help you wake up ready for the world, like an 80’s band. And ready for the work day ahead. Waking up each day feeling strong and rested for the work day ahead is a beautiful way to start your day.

6. Travel: When you see new things it exposes you to new ideas. It leads to a greater understanding of the world and all of its beautiful diversity. Which contributes to creative thinking, problem-solving, and points with your travel loyalty program. (You did sign up for the loyalty program, right?)

7. Spend time with nature. Spend time away from the human-made world to recharge and gain perspective on life. It is a great way to slow down, destress and break out your cute outdoor clothing. While you are out there you have time to think. And thinking is the worker’s most valuable activity.

8. Volunteer: Offer your time, talent, and energy to do meaningful work without pay. It reminds you of the ways your work can create a better, more caring world. It reminds you that there are many ways to add value and contribute. And that there are many ways to be compensated for your efforts that are not monetary.

9. Laugh: Laughing is living. It relieves stress. It makes you feel like everything will be alright. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. See the world as a great comedy and your perspective will contribute immensely to your enjoyment of both your work and play.

10. Spend time with your family: Make sure to balance your commitment to work with a commitment to family time. Spend quality time with your spouse and children. (If you have them.) Spend time with your parents and siblings. (If you have them.) It will remind you why you are working in the first place. (Especially when you see your kids’ smiling, crooked teeth in need of orthodontia.)

Key Takeaway

You don’t become a better teammate, employee, or leader by spending all of your time at work. You become better away from work. Use your time off to become a better, smarter, more relaxed human. Up your creativity, connectedness, and curiosity away from work. Then show up to work a little better every day. Now go make the most of your Labor Day. I want to hear all about it on Tuesday morning.

*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.

The important career lesson my daughter learned from her summer job.

My 16-year-old daughter Ava has a new job this summer. She is a cashier at our local Piggly Wiggly grocery store. The store name sounds both deliciously made-up and midwestern. Ava doesn’t know it yet, but it will also provide her with a fun talking point for all future job interviews.

Like any eager Dad, I like to talk to Ava about her job and what she is learning about life, business, and pigs. In my head, I imagine that our talks will be an important part of her success story. Like Robert Kiyosaki’s childhood talks that inspired the book Rich Dad. Poor Dad. In reality, she’s probably going to write a book called Nosey Dad. Annoying Dad.

Ava really enjoys her job at The Pig. The store is central to our community and she gets to see people she knows all day long. When she gets home from work I like to greet her with questions like, How was work? And, How was the paper-to-plastic ratio today? And, What are the Bosleys having for dinner tonight?

The Bigger Lesson

Last night I asked My-favorite-child to share the greatest lesson she has learned from her job so far. So she did. And the answer was far better than I was expecting. Which is why I am writing about it now. Here’s her answer.

What’s the greatest lesson you have learned from your job so far?

I’ve learned that a good job is not so much about the actual work you do as much as it is about who you are doing it with.

I expect that in your actual career the kind of work probably matters more. But the key to happiness at work is to surround yourself with people you enjoy spending your time with.

The wrong people can make you miserable, even if you enjoy what you are doing.

But the right people can help you enjoy what you are doing, even if you are not crazy about the work itself. And even if it’s not your dream job.

Being surrounded by the right people will help you do your job better than when you are around miserable people. Because when you are around happy people who take pride in their work, you will want to too.

Happy people rub off on each other, and lead to better customer service.

I’ve now learned that both good and bad atmospheres build on themselves. But in opposite directions.

Last summer my work environment was terrible, all the way from the top managers to the lowest levels of the staff. It was a hard place to work. And toxic.

But this summer, the work environment is so positive and enjoyable that the positive relationships between coworkers keep building, and then spill over to positively impact the customers’ experience.

-Ava Albrecht (16)
My deep-thinking cashier.

Key Takeaway

A good job is less about the work you do and more about who you do it with. Find work you like to do, and people whom you enjoy spending time with. And you will win at life. And work.

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

+For more of the best life lessons the universe has shared with me, check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

I met a man who loves my all-time least favorite job.

Yesterday a window washer came into my office to wash my windows. I found the experience fascinating. Not because I had never seen someone wash office windows before. But because I have.

My summer job before my freshman and sophomore years in high school was working at the office complex where my dad worked in Vermont. I was on the grounds crew. Actually, I was the grounds crew. (It was just me and ol’ ground.) I also helped with construction as they built and remodeled buildings. I painted and did other odd jobs. The odder the better.

But on days when it rained, Frank Gilman, the owner of the office complex, sent me inside to wash windows.

I hated that job.

In fact, if we were sitting around a dinner table, bar or campfire and we started swapping stories about the worst jobs we have ever had, mine would be washing windows. And mind you, I have shoveled manure and picked rocks out of fields all day long.

The last time I was asked to wash windows I washed a couple and then said I wasn’t feeling well so that I could go home. I wasn’t exactly lying. Because I was really sick of washing windows.

But the man in my office washing windows clearly enjoyed his work. He was experiencing no pain from all those panes. I’m no doctor, but he didn’t look the least bit sick of washing all those windows.

Realizing that I could learn something from this man, I asked him how long he had been washin’ dem windows.

He proudly replied, ’30 years!’

Wow!

30 frickin years!

What struck me about his response was that it contained the enthusiasm that I would offer if someone asked me how long I have worked in advertising.

Yet this man had made an entire career out of my least favorite job of all time.

But I didn’t tell him he was wrong. And that his job was horrible. Or that I would have rather spent the past 30 years in the Gulag than firing Windex and dragging squeegee.

Instead, I sought understanding. I asked him what he liked best about his job.

He smiled and replied, ‘The views.’

Key Takeaway

We are all wired differently. We see, experience and enjoy the world differently. Your views and opinions are your own. They are not universal. There are other humans with very different ideas and ideals than you. And there is far more value in learning from others whose experiences and choices are different than yours than in telling others how wrong they are for being different. Step back and see the big picture. It offers quite a view.

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

+For more of the best life lessons the universe has taught me, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

You don’t need a passion to have a fulfilling career.

I used to think that in order to be really happy in your career you had to find something you were passionate about. Then you just make that your life’s pursuit. But I no longer believe that is true. And neither should you.

Passions are: 

  1. Difficult to find
  2. Difficult to define
  3. Difficult to turn into a lucrative career.
  4. Likely to make you cut off your ear and mail it to someone you admire. #WayToVanGogh

The problem is that most people’s passions are things like music, art, yoga, puppies, food, sleep, alcohol, video games, and sexual activities. These are all good passions. And it’s easy to express how much you love these things with bumper stickers. It’s much harder to turn them into lucrative careers.

To become really happy with your career you don’t need to start out with a passion. 

You simply have to find an interesting challenge. 

If you are into problem-solving or skill development, almost anything can be considered an interesting challenge.

Next, focus on getting really good at that interesting challenge. As you get better and better at it, people will notice. They will turn to you first as a trusted resource. Then people will turn to you as an expert in that area. And that feels great. (Unless you are a hired assassin. In which case you probably have mixed feelings.)

Through the process of becoming really good at your chosen work, you are highly likely to develop a passion for your area of expertise. Consider that most people aren’t born with a passion for supply chain management, textile manufacturing, or currency trading. But a surprising number of people die with those passions.

Which means that when you dive into an interesting challenge, the challenge itself can ignite your passion. We develop passion in areas that make us feel strong, skilled and admired. We become passionate when we understand nuances and develop extreme intelligence in specific areas. Because what we are really becoming passionate about is self-improvement, mastery, and excellence.

Key Takeaway

Passions develop over time. Don’t make finding your passion your goal. Instead, recognize that the world offers an endless supply of interesting challenges and problems to solve. Grab one of them. Any of them. Then dive in. The challenge itself will be interesting. Your professional development will be fun and rewarding. Your expanding knowledge, skills and perspective will increase your value to others. Which is highly rewarding. And somewhere along the way, your interesting challenge alchemizes into your passion. When it does your work no longer feels like work. It feels like passion. And it will make others wonder how to discover their own passion so that they love their work as much as you do.

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

+ For more life lessons the universe is trying to share with you check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Tuesday is the most important workday of the week.

Like cogs in a machine, or tools in a toolbox, every day of the week has a different purpose.

Tuesday is the Do-Day.

After setting the goals and objectives for the week on Monday, Tuesday is the day to make things happen. Bite off big chunks. Pull the long levers. Create evidence of progress.

Tuesday is for tackling. Not tinkering.

Tuesday is for chopping. Not chipping.

Tuesdays should be spent in the shop.

Or in the lab.

Or at your desk and cranking.

Or on the pole and spinning. (If that’s the kind of work you do.)

As Redman said, Tuesday is time for some action.

There should be clear quantifiable evidence of progress by the time you turn off the lights Tuesday night. You should have sunk your treads deep in the soil of your workground, gained traction, and propelled your projects forward.

Tuesdays are great days to work alone. Put away your phone. Hold your calls. Forget about email for a day. And make some frick’n magic.

Spend as much time as you can afford in Total Focus mode.

Remember that scene in Elf when the rest of the workshop is disappointed in Buddy for only making 85 Etch-A-Sketches?

That’s a Tuesday mindset.

Key Takeaway

Tuesday is the difference-maker. Tune out the distractions. Get to your most important work of the week. And make things happen. The progress you make on Tuesday creates momentum that propels you the rest of the week.

*For maximum impact, share this message with your team on a Tuesday morning.

+For other important life lessons the universe is trying to share with you check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How to use your 3 currencies wisely.

There are 3 currencies in life.

There is money, time and energy. You can use any of the 3 of them to acquire the things you want.

The exchange rate for these 3 currencies can vary greatly. And just like wampum, travelers checks and Chuck E Cheese tickets, there are good uses for each.

If you use money, you can have things quickly.

If you use energy you can force the things you want into existence.

If you use enough time you can get anything you want. But squander your time and you will get nothing, and not like it.

The combination of time and energy creates force. It is the amount of force you create that determines how quickly you attain the things you want. Including money.

Key Takeaway

Understand your currencies. Know which of them is most accessible to you right now. Know which one is most valuable for each of your needs. And budget them to get everything you want in the proper order.

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

+If you’d like more nuggets of inspiration, insight and Chuck E Cheese-type references, check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Are you taking on enough electives and special projects?

Work is unavoidable. Even outside of your professional work there is always personal work to be done. Your personal work falls into 3 categories:

  1. Chores These are the basics you have to do daily, weekly, monthly or annually to maintain the status quo. (And to keep all your teeth.)
  2. Electives These are the things you choose to do that set you apart from others. (Even without tattoos and piercings.)
  3. Special projects These are the bigger challenges you take on that have the ability to transform you. (In non-surgical ways.)

Chores

Chores don’t come with a choice. You don’t have the option not to do them. Although you can choose not to do them well. Or often. Which drops you below the basic human level of acceptability. Which is a great way to get yourself on a TV show like Hoarders, Intervention, or My 600-pound Life. You can, however, choose to do your chores very well. Which is a good habit to get into, and sets the tone for how you approach everything else in life.

Electives

Electives are the things you do that you don’t have to do. These are the activities that separate you from others and help make you interesting. They give you flavor, like Flavor Flav. They create your differentiation and your unique advantages.

Your electives include your hobbies, and interests. They also include all of your self-education, reading, podcasts, studying and training. Your electives include exercise, cooking, and meditation. Seeing a therapist or a coach are great electives. As are writing, volunteering, coaching and creating music. If you have a hard time coming up with interests to include in your work bio, online dating profile or obituary, you probably need more electives.

If there is not much elective activity in your life then you are not doing as much as you could to create joy and competitive advantages. And you are probably not making the most of your time.

Evaluating your electives is a great place to start when evaluating your life, trajectory, happiness, and achievement. Happiness is rooted in your electives. Make sure you have them, and that you participate in them frequently enough to find enjoyment, fulfillment and growth.

Special Projects

Special projects create opportunities for transformation. They are often an expansion of an elective. Writing a book, going back to school and trips to an exotic location are all examples. So is starting a business, a major physical challenge, or a significant career change. Special projects often provide an inflection point in our human experience, sending us on new, better and more enlightened paths.

Key Takeaway

Make sure you are always dedicating time to your electives. They are your difference makers. They are the building blocks of an enjoyable life. They fertilize your happiness. Your electives are gateways to bigger, more important activities that can become defining events and undertakings of your life. It is hard to transition directly from chores to special projects. Your electives are the bridges that help get you there.

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

+ If you find value in this type of idea check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How much turkey will you leave uneaten?

Life is like a whole roasted turkey. You know, like the one you ate yesterday for Thanksgiving. It’s up to you to decide how much meat you are willing to go after. And how much you are willing to leave. But make no mistake, there is far more available than most people are willing to extract.

We all start with the easy and obvious. The big hunks of opportunity and enjoyment that everyone focuses on. Those pieces are so easy to find that they can fool you into thinking that the big stuff is the only stuff. Like Oreo Double Stuf.

But then there is all the other less obvious meat that life offers us that is often even better than what typically steals the spotlight. It requires more work and exploration to find. It rewards the curious and open-minded. It rewards those willing to get messy. And it is well worth the effort. Just ask Andy Dufresne.

The act of exploring for more is rewarding in itself. Finding the hidden value is extremely satisfying. Adding it to your life creates endless advantages.

Key Takeaway

To get the most out of life dig deeper. Look closer. Find all that was served up for you to find. The return on the time you invest is well worth the energy. The greatest treasures are not sitting on the surface. They were saved to be enjoyed by the few willing to put in the work to seek them out.

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

Are you maintaining or progressing?

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

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

Progressing

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

Key Takeaway

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

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

The secret to success summarized in just 11 words.

If you want to be successful in life there are no shortcuts. But there is a short formula for success that is easy to remember. Because it rhymes, like LeAnn and Buster.

Here it is:

Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell. And advertise.

-No One Really Knows Who Said It First

It’s a simple statement. Just 11 words. And 4 periods. Like a hockey game that goes into overtime. But it is dense in value.

Early to bed. It’s a reminder to get plenty of sleep. If you want to accomplish great things you’re going to need all the energy you can get. Your bed is your recharging station. So treat yourself the way you treat your smartphone, and make sure you get recharged to full power every night.

Early to rise. Getting up early is the best way to make the most of your day. Waking up early gives you bonus time to get more elective work in before the mandatories of the day. Remember, it is your elective activities (exercising, reading, studying, writing, practicing, preparing, volunteering, etc.) that separate you from the masses. By that, I mean the general population, not the church services.

Work like hell. Work creates value. The more you work the more value you create. The more value you create the more you are compensated. Note: the compensation goes far beyond money. Note Note: the compensation also includes money. #AwYeah!

And Advertise. To maximize your positive impact on the world people need to know you exist. You need to be top of mind. When you are top of mind more great things come your way. You need to share the word about your capabilities and willingness to help. Adverting helps people connect their dots to you. It helps others solve their problems with your help. Which makes you more valuable to the world.

Key Takeaway

Start each day early to accomplish as much as you can. Put in as much work as you can. Because we exchange work for gold (gold metals and medals, gold moments, gold relationships, etc.) Let people know who you are and how you can help them. Because the world is full of challenges that you can help overcome. Then get to bed early to rest up and get the most out of tomorrow too.

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