How Much Longer?

We can’t go on a road trip with kids without hearing the classic question, “how much longer?” If the trip is any where near an hour or more we will hear it and probably over and over.

We asked the question as kids too because all kids want to get to the destination faster. Waiting is hard. The interesting thing is we grow up, but we still have these same feelings and emotions of wanting to “arrive” sooner. We may not outload in our whiny voice ask the question like we did as kids, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking it.

Only now it isn’t about asking how much longer until we get to the hotel. As adults the questions we ask are more like:

“How much longer until I lose this weight?”

“How much longer until I’m out of debt?”

“How much longer until I can get my new car?”

“How much longer until my business is profitable?”

We all ask these types of questions of ourselves. We can even start asking them in the annoying, whiny voice like when we were kids. That is not a good sign.

All worthwhile things take time. Patience is so important in life. It may be boring. It may not sound like the million dollar solution, but it just might be. Patience is a sign of maturity. Unfortunately, many of us never seem to grow up. We are stuck asking those whiny questions like a 5 year old. We may dress it up to sound more sophisticated but it is the same basic question.

Why does it matter? Because impatience ultimately leads us to make a stupid decision. It leads us to get the car payment we shouldn’t get. It leads us to make the investment gamble we should have never made. It leads us to try the craziest fad diet ultimately causing our weight to yo-yo even more.

The irony in it all is that our impatience ultimately adds times or sometimes keeps us from ever getting there!

With a little more patience, we tend to make wiser decisions that are better for us in the long run.

How patient are you?

Don’t Let It Distract You

It doesn’t matter if you are the sales professional, the small business owner or the mom (and maybe all 3!), life can throw lots of distractions our way!

None of us our immune to it. You mix our professional lives with our personal lives and the instant access technology that we have on us all the time and it is a recipe for distraction.

This is one of the main reasons that certain people excel over the rest.  I’ve observed this working with sales professionals.  The top producers are not just the best “sales people,” but they maintain their focus more consistently.  They keep the main thing, the main thing.

This isn’t always easy to do, especially when we feel we have several “main things.” Afterall, our family is certainly a main thing.  Of course, we have to allocate enough time to a given task, but then the key is to be fully present.

I’m very serious about my office worspace.  Both my physical desk as well as my online workspace like email and apps that I use.  I wasn’t always this way. I used to have stacks of things (distractions) all over. These are things that I didn’t want to deal with, but I was always looking at them.  I learned it not only distracted me, but also drained my energy to look at it all the time.  For me, I learned I don’t want all these things to create even more negative energy by thinking about them all the time.

I created systems for myself.  When a distraction pops up, I have to ask myself is this both important and urgent? Rarely is it both. If not, I put it away to be dealt with in the appropriate time.  This allows me to focus my energy on the main thing and be more present.  That is the thing that if I do it, I’ve been productive.  If I allow the other stuff to crowd my space, it is so easy to be worn out at the end of the day, but totally drop the ball on the main thing.

I don’t always do this well.  It is much easier said than done.  But it is a secret among the most productive.

What is your main thing?  What distracts you from it? What can you do to better eliminate those distractions so you can focus on your main thing?

That Was My Idea!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a suggestion or come up with a brilliant plan only for my wife to remind me that she has suggested it multiple times to me!

I’m just like the rest of the world. The idea didn’t become a great idea until it was MY idea! I’m not sure why, but we tend to reject new ideas or plans that didn’t come from us. It is human nature. Often times as we hear something a few times and possibly from multiple sources, we begin to process it and make it our own.  Suddenly, we have ownership in the idea and we love it!

Understanding this is important when dealing with people.  Great leaders get it.   Their mission is drive the business or cause forward.  They realize the best way to get people to buy in is to have some ownership in the new strategy.

There is a lot to be said about how great leaders do this, but it is worth remembering that people buy in when they have ownership in the idea.

What can you do to help others have ownership in the idea, plan or strategy?

There Are No High Performance People…

I heard a good quote. I wish I had fully understood it earlier in life. Like many people in life, I counted too much on natural talent or searched too much for the home-run solutions.  Here’s the quote:

There are no high performance people only high performance habits.”

For as long as I can remember, I would have agreed with that quote, but living it is the key. I wanted the rock hard abs like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. I really did. Unfortunately, my eating habits were much more in line with Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.

Sylvester Stallone didn’t get that way after one good workout or one good day or even month of eating right.  He sacrificed daily.  I’ve heard him talk about his eating and workout habits especially during those times.  They were high performance habits for sure!

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t perform at high levels with poor habits.  It may work to be average at something.  Our talents may help us slide by, but to perform at the higher levels at anything we have to pay attention to our habits.

Are you trying to be a high performer without the high performer’s habits?

Addicted to the Wrong Emotions

I don’t recall where I first heard this idea, but I remember it challenging me to think.  The idea is that we often gravitate towards unhealthy emotions.  These are emotions that we don’t want yet we often go back to them like an addiction. Deep down we have become comfortable with these unhealthy emotions and often times gravitate towards them even when we shouldn’t.

There is much more to this idea and why people may find meaning and comfort from unhealthy actions or emotions, but I’ll share how it impacted me.

Stress. This is really a feeling or an emotion. We all experience stress in life.  Sometimes it is even good.  Stress can make us focus with great intent to make a deadline or study for that big test.  Stress also weighs heavy on us. Some of the most healthy foods on earth are under so much stress from the environment parts of the year that they develop antioxidants which turns them in to the healthy plants.  So stress is not always bad, but even the super plants of the world can’t live under constant stress. They need a break.

This idea of returning to unhealthy emotions even when maybe life didn’t call for it impacted me as it relates to stress.  What I begin to realize about myself is I hadn’t gotten too comfortable with stress.  Maybe deep down I associated stress with productivity.  Stress meant that I was achieving or doing what I was supposed to do.  Maybe the stress emotion blocked out something else.  I’m not certain for all the reasons, but all I know when I reflected honestly I realized I returned to stress too often.

The crazy thing is I hate the feeling of being stressed. But I have the ability to bring it on even when life isn’t always demanding it of me. I’m not saying I’ve figured this all out or that I never get stressed, but I have learned when I’m feeling stressed that I need to take a step back.  Ask myself some simple questions like:

“What am I stressed about?”

“Is this real stress or am I returning to stress for no valid reason?”

“Why do I feel the need to be stressed right now?”

Simply asking the questions goes a long way towards lowering or even removing the stress.  It no longer has the power when we identify that the monster in the closest isn’t even real.

Stress along with many of his emotional cousins are very real and often times need to be let out. Often times there is a very real underlying problem that needs to be fixed before the stress will go away.  We all know this, but I’m talking about returning to it even when there isn’t an underlying problem. Knowing the difference requires us to reflect and be honest with ourselves.

What about you? If you are honest with yourself, have you gotten too comfortable with the wrong emotions?

Is Giving Other People’s Money Really Generous?

My son came to me recently saying that he wanted to give one of his friends a gift.  It wasn’t an item of necessity.  It wasn’t the friend’s birthday, but my son knew it was something his friend wanted and he wanted to give it to him.

I thought that was a very generous gesture and told him if that is what he wants to do with his money that is great. At that point, the conversation changed. It turns out he wanted me to give his friend the gift.  He wanted to be the one to give the gift to his friend, but he just didn’t want to be the one to pay for it.

I told him I loved that he is thinking of others, but I also asked him if it was really generosity when he wasn’t willing to give his own money?  In the end, we both contributed to the gift.  He was willing to give with his own money, but only when he didn’t have the option to give with someone else’s money.

I couldn’t help but think that this is the real challenge with government.  Politicians are always spending and giving away other people’s money.   It is so easy to sound generous when we aren’t giving our own money.  I’m sure every single one of us could give millions of dollars away of someone else’s money in no time if given the opportunity. But is that really generous?

Generosity is so important.  As individuals, we should have the right to be generous with our own money.  We should teach our children to be generous with their money.

This is a much better approach than the government trying to be generous on our behalf.  After all, if the government gets too generous giving all our money away, we may not have the ability to be generous ourselves.

Individuals will give. Just like my son. At first, he wanted to give using my money, but when that wasn’t an option he gave on his own.

What do you believe about generousity?  Is giving away someone else’s money really being generous?

The Act of Measuring

I started thinking about the future and setting different goals early in life, but goal setting didn’t always work for me. Sometimes I’d set big goals and do nothing to move towards them. All this did was hurt my confidence. I still found value in setting goals and I still do today, but I’ve learned there is more to it.

I’ve learned that the act of simply measuring may be more powerful than the actual goal setting itself. In fact, I’ve learned that when we simply measure something on a consistent basis that we improve and naturally get a little better. Ultimately, we will end up hitting “the goal” even if we didn’t set it!

For some reason, we tend to resist this. I’ve observed this in myself and also working with others.  If I ask, “what is your goal?” Most will throw out an answer.  However, if I ask to see where they have been tracking their activity towards that goal, most have no idea.

Tracking our steps and jogging miles is a great example.  We could set a goal to start taking 10,000 steps a day.  That is a healthy long term goal, but the important part is tracking and measuring it.  Simply getting a Fitbit or Garmin is all we have to do. By simply tracking and watching, we naturally start taking more steps each day.  Most people will take more steps just because they measure it even if they don’t even set a goal to do so!  Every one of us should probably wear a fitness watch, but this applies to all other areas of life as well.

Not everything is as simple as buying a Fitbit.  Some areas require more diligence to measure our activities, but I believe the act of measuring is just as valuable if not more valuable than the act of goal setting.

Personal finance is the same.  How many people want to be a millionaire one day?  How many people actually track their finances and know where their money goes? Budgeting is great, but simply tracking and measuring causes us to manage our money better.

How are you doing at measuring?

 

My Chair…

I have a favorite place and chair where I have my quiet time when no one else is awake. It is a place to pray, read, and think.

I read in one of John Maxwell’s books a long time ago about how he creates the right environment for him to simply think.  I believe it was in his book, Thinking for a Change.  That stuck with me. After reading that, I created my place. My chair with books and the environment that encourages me to be still and pray, reflect and think. I am sitting in that chair as I write this.

In our fast pace world, it is important for all of us to take time each day to be still. We can pray any time and anywhere, but having a quiet place is helpful.  Our environments have a huge impact on us.  Our work environment is important as well. Different office environments are setup to encourage workers.  Creative people have work environments that inspire creativity.

I found the same to be true for simply thinking.  It may be different for you.  The environment that suits you best may be different from mine, but it is worth creating that place for yourself.

Where is your chair? Where is your place that you go to be still to pray and think?

 

 

The Trouble with Opportunity

We live in the land of opportunity.  As Americans, we have more freedom to pursue opportunities.  Our country was built by all the men and women who had an idea and pursued it because they could. Doing so created opportunities for others.

As I write this, we are in the middle of very unusual times due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It is changing people’s habits and the way many people do business. Some things are temporary but there is no doubt it will change much of the way business is done.

While this does hurt many businesses and industries, it also creates new problems for people to solve which means opportunity.  There will continue to be new opportunities for people in our great country.

There is a challenge with opportunities though especially for us entrepreneurial minded people.  We have to be open-minded.  We have to be willing to take risks and pursue new opportunities, but we should remember that the “new car” smell on the new opportunity doesn’t last forever.

I have observed this with people when they pursue a new opportunity.  They start a new business or take a new job.  It is new and fresh. It is full of endless potential.  They see themselves hitting levels they never thought possible because of this new opportunity.  There is no flaws in this business. All we see is the potential.  It has the smell of a new car and then…

At some point, the new opportunity we were once so excited about has the odor of a 12 year boy and last weeks take out.  Suddenly, the new business is not so new any more. Maybe it is leaking a bit of oil.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  The plans were fool-proof yet the business is now leaking a bit of oil.  It can be fixed of course, but maybe it would be better to just go get a new car that smells perfect. Maybe we should pursue a new opportunity.

This is the trouble with opportunity.  There is always more opportunity. This requires wisdom. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it is always good to pursue it. After all, if we pursue everything, we pursue nothing.

There are times when we must pursue something new especially in today’s fast changing world. But we should take caution.  Too many people have a pattern of pursuing the next thing as soon as the “new car” smell is gone and they never get any where. It is always the next idea that will be the breakthrough.

Every great idea eventually gets dirty. It may be a great opportunity, but we will always have to push through the times when it may not look that great. It takes wisdom to know when to push through and when to move on. That is the trouble with opportunity.

Do I Have to Finish It?

I love to read good books. Few things make us think and challenge us to grow like reading.  I’m a slow reader. I wish I was faster, but it takes me a while. It doesn’t really matter how fast we read, but what we learn from it.

Over the years I have observed what sometimes throws me off or messes with my reading habit. One of the things I noticed is when I get stuck in a book that I’m just not connecting with for some reason that my reading slows way down.

I may skip my normal reading times or not read as long when I’m not connecting with a book.  Finishing things is important to me. I’m not sure if it is my personality or what, but if I start a book I feel like I have to finish it. Over time I realized I needed to get over that.  I needed to be OK with putting a book on the shelf when I’m only half way through it.

That felt a lot like quiting to me as crazy as it may sound. But once I recognized that it was actually hurting me and my overall reading habit, I got over it. After all, I am reading to learn, grow and apply what I’m learning.

So now my strategy for reading is different.  Most of the time I do finish a book, but any time I get stuck, I’ll put it on the shelf.  I can always go back to it and I often do.  Maybe right now that book just isn’t for me or maybe only the first few chapters were for me. I’ll move on to the next one.

This strategy keeps reading more exciting for me. Now if you are a person who has never finished a book, this may not be for you.  But if you are a consistent reader who sometimes gets stuck, maybe you should give this a try.