More Thoughts on Dealing with Adversity (and 10 lessons learned from my journey)

More Thoughts on Dealing with Adversity (and 10 lessons learned from my journey)

Courage

 

Hello from the air….Air travel – I’m always fascinated by it.  I write from 10,000 feet (or whatever it is).  For some reason, flying brings out a lot of creativity for me.  I think it’s the disconnection, although I did buy the wifi to send a few emails for work, etc.

I’ve heard from many people about my post earlier this week about embracing adversity.  I think the overwhelming sentiment is that it was encouraging to hear, refreshing to hear.  For that, I’m eternally grateful.  Your words mean more than you know. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I know I haven’t written a lot in the last year so please forgive me for posting a bit more than I have been : )

By all accounts, at least surface accounts, you would call me successful.  If we were in a room together, you might even call me an extrovert, maybe even the life of the party.  I  don’t say that to brag or anything like that.  I say that to emphasize that a smile or a joke can simply be a cover.  I’m not saying I’ve always been miserable….there’s been plenty of happy and amazing times.  But, there’s always been a chronic underlying feeling of, shall I say – despair?  Not sure that’s the right word but I do know that not being real and not dealing with the “crap” of life is a slippery slope.

As I said before, we’re taught at an early age to keep everything in.  To deal with things and be strong.  I get it.  I’m not saying we all need to go unfiltered and shout to the world our deepest thoughts or issues.  That’s not it at all.  But, we do need to assess when we need a helping hand or someone to talk to.  Maybe it’s writing…maybe it’s prayer.  Something to allow for an outlet…otherwise, we internalize and things get pent up.

Think about garbage day.  Each week you probably go through a ritual where you take out your trash.  For us, it’s every Thursday.  It’s a ritual that morning if I’m in town to go throughout the house, gather all the trash and recyclables and fill up our brown and green trash bins.  We take the stroll around the kids toys and bikes in our garage, out to the driveway and down to the end.  The trash company comes later that day and picks it up.  We go out that night and bring the trash bins back in, empty.

Think about your life this way.  What if you were able to take out the trash each week?  To cleanse yourself of any destructive feelings or habits.

Again, maybe it’s just keeping a grateful journey and writing each week.  Maybe it’s coffee with a best friend.  Maybe it’s talking through things with your significant other.  The important thing is to have an outlet.

My outlet used to be sports as a kid.  Academics as well.  That turned into drugs and alcohol, then to work, even to gambling (albeit not big bets but a distraction from reality, nonetheless).

My dad was going through some stuff when I was a kid.  I think I was 10.  My dad was in the hospital and our school guidance counselor called me into the office.  She asked me how I was doing.  I think I just shrugged my shoulders and said “great”.  She asked about my grades and I think I said I was getting straight A’s or something like that.  So, it began…internalize and find ways to compensate.  That’s the earliest recollection I had to masking any feelings.

This was subtle of course, but over time, and as adversity and pain increases, this habit of keeping things in is a recipe for disaster.

I love my parents dearly.  They are both amazing people.  They didn’t have the best relationship when I was growing up.  In fact, their relationship ended with my mom and dad getting into a bad argument and the police showing up.  My dad spent the night in jail…nothing physical happened but it was close enough.  I know they loved each other but they just couldn’t co-exist anymore.

Instead of dealing with this, I took the road of not addressing how I was feeling.  I didn’t feel worthy b/c after all, it wasn’t me that was going through it.  It was them.  Again, recipe for disaster.

So, why do I tell you all this?  Well, I think I’m trying to be transparent b/c I know there’s probably something or someone going through tough times…and they need to know that it’s okay to feel pain.  In fact, it’s a necessity.

One of my friends and mentors, Kary Oberbrunner, talks about this a lot.  He says that we need to embrace Acute Pain in order to extinguish Chronic Pain.  One of the most influential books I’ve read, in fact, was The Deeper Path, which Kary wrote.  In order to free yourself from a lifetime of pain, you need to dig deep and uncover the root cause – not just the symptom. Essentially, it’s being authentic…it’s being vulnerable…and, overall, being courageous.

There’s tremendous bravery in vulnerability.  I never knew that but I’m learning more and more everyday.

So, what can you do?  There’s got to be some action steps right? : )

Here are some things I wish I embraced more and have learned are crucial in the process:

 

  1. Be real with yourself.  Don’t hide from your feelings.  Own your story.  It’s really the only way.
  2. Write – Forget about what you’re writing, just write.  Get your thoughts out.  This is cleansing.  It will bring clarity.
  3. Start a grateful journal – Just write 1-3 things a day you’re grateful for.  This can be as basic as the air we breathe or the smile on your child’s face.  This will build a positive mindset ritual.  It’s a great way to start or end your day
  4. Pray – For me, I’m learning more and more each day to seek God.  I find power in praying for others and praying with others, especially my wife and kids.
  5. Know that it’s never too late – There’s always time.  There’s always a way out.  No matter how painful your experience is, know this.  As the guys at Focus 3 talk about – it’s not about the Event, it’s always about the Response.  You always have an opportunity to change your response.
  6. Find someone you trust and confide in them – When I started to do this, to actually start to open up and let people in, things started to change.  It just took a while to get to that point.  Just one person.  That’s all it takes to get the ball rolling.
  7. Seek professional help – There’s absolutely no shame in this.  I used to think differently and that was my biggest mistake.  A good therapist is just like a coach or a good friend, except they’re well versed in dealing with these kind of things.
  8. Get Moving – Break a sweat…go for a walk, a run, whatever…it will help you think clearly.
  9. Perfection is a myth – Everyone has issues.  The universal emotion we all experience is pain.  As Kary wrote about in The Deeper Path, we start our lives experiencing pain (at birth) and we end our lives typically in some sort of pain.  It’s something we all feel.
  10. Learn to embrace your adversity – I’ve heard the saying Use your adversity to your advantage (I think from Darren Hardy).  What if you changed your mindset?  And, actually leveraged your adversity to help yourself or others.  That’s powerful – a complete paradigm shift!

Don’t wait.  If you’re going through something or know someone who is, the time is now.  Right now.  Life is too short.  I believe we are all put on this Earth to leave a lasting legacy and do something amazing.  Each and every one of us.  Not being authentic equates to playing small in this world.  We aren’t meant to play it small.

I hope this transparency helps you or someone you know.  I realize this is putting myself very out there.  I’m okay with that.  I’ll take the bad with the good and if just one life is enhanced b/c of this, it’s all worth it.

Thanks for reading.  I’ve kind of decided to post things somewhat unfiltered.  It’s part of the overcoming of my perfectionist tendencies : )  Sorry if I’ve jumped around a bit!

Jon

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the see of an equal or greater benefit.”  – Napoleon Hill

Embracing Adversity (The Ultimate Lesson)

Embracing Adversity (The Ultimate Lesson)

Own My Story

I guess the old adage is true.  As we age, we become wiser.  Or, maybe it’s that we learn to let go of the pride we learned to blanket ourselves with at such an early age.

We’re taught, especially the guys, to keep our feelings internalized.  To keep your chin up….to never let them see you sweat.

Failure is bad.  Second is simply the first loser.  This is what is tattooed on our psyche at an early age.

The fact is, the world isn’t getting any easier.  We live in a non-stop world of one upmanship (is that a word?  Maybe not : ).

Look at my perfect life.  This is many times the default response.

What if the truth is that perfection is a myth and pride is the wrong way to approach anything?

What if we all decided to be real?  To look our fears in the face….to punch our fears in the face?

My name is Jon…most of you know me in some capacity…whether you’ve read anything I’ve written or we know each other more intimately.  It’s nice to meet you.  You may ask, why are you introducing yourself?  Well, if I’m being honest, I’ve let pride and a never-ending quest for perfection keep me from being real.

You see, I’m as imperfect as they come.  So, I guess I’m re-introducing myself to you : )

If you look at me from the outside, it looks like I have it all together.  A healthy family, 3 kids, a dog, a great job, a nice house, nice car….etc., etc.  What if I told you that I struggle?

And, even more, what if I told you that I know a lot of you struggle?  My friend Kary talks about the universal emotion that everyone experiences…do you know what that is?  Most you probably think – Love….maybe joy.  What if I told you the universal emotion we all experience….is Pain.  Pain.  Hurt.  We all hurt in some way.  Maybe you’re not going through something now, but if you look deep inside, I imagine you all have experienced pain in some profound way.

What if we changed our perception of this pain?  Is it possible to embrace our pain…to embrace our struggles.

I believe the answer is a firm YES.  And, it’s taken me a long time to realize that.

I grew up with a charmed life.  I was good at a lot – sports, academics, etc.  But, that also brought about a desire to be…well, perfect.  And, when failure came, I had no idea how to handle it.

If my parents had issues (they eventually divorced)….it wasn’t let’s face it and talk about it…it was, let’s internalize it and go find success in another channel like athletics.  Then, when adversity hits, like maybe not living up to my potential in my athletic career (that’s short for getting benched at one point on my college soccer team)…I become a failure in everything else.  At least this was the story I started to tell myself.

Then, the snowball effect takes place…and instead of dealing with struggles, I internalized everything.  Well, except for my therapists throughout the years.

For the last 20 years, I’ve struggled.  If you know me and hang with me, you probably have no idea.  In fact, you’d probably be very surprised.  The truth is – I’m really freaking good at compartmentalizing things.  I know b/c my therapist and I talk about this now : )

My hope is that we all learn to own our stories.  I say this b/c I know that in the last year I’ve finally taken significant steps toward owning it.  It’s small steps…and putting this out more publicly is part of that process.  But, I think that by me owning this…I’m hoping that it gives others the hope that being real and embracing life’s struggles may be the key to overcoming them.  After all, the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6) – Daniel’s faith and his EMBRACING of the lions (that could have taken his life at any moment)…that’s what got him through it.  In fact, there are some accounts that say Daniel pet the lions and the lions were purring.  What if we looked our struggles in the face and accepted them…pet them…and take on the mindset of – this is part of me now. I have a choice…we all have a choice.

In the last four years, I’ve lost a pretty close friend to suicide and another close friend’s wife for the same reason.  I can’t fathom the pain they were going through.  I do know that they were probably too proud….too perfect….to just accept their situations and their frailty….and to seek help.

Today, I tell you about my struggles with anxiety and depression, not for you to feel sorry for me.  And, not for me to feel better about myself.  I tell you b/c I know that so many go through some type of pain….and so many of us feel like we can’t let our guard down and show our weakness.

But, I’m learning that in our openness…in our “being ok” with our weakness…well, this actually produces a strength – maybe a strength we’ve never imagined.

I’m a Christian…yet, I never really have been an ultra believer.  It wasn’t until the last year, where I’ve been accepting my circumstances, that I’ve felt a real connection to my faith.  It’s true – in the well, that’s where the power is.  Don’t forget that. No matter what you may be going through.  As I said at my friend TJ’s funeral in March, where there’s pain, there’s hope.  Where there’s death, there’s life.  Sometimes we have to kill our old selves off, to experience a rebirth of what we’re really meant to be…to do…to stand for…to live for.  Maybe that’s the secret to life.

Last July, I had the opportunity to speak on stage at an event called the World Domination Summit.  I stood before 2,500 world-changers and talked about a project I worked on with my friend Adam.  You can learn more about that project here, but I’ll give you the summary.  Adam lives at Creative Living, a non-profit I serve on the board of.  Creative Living provides independent living for the physically disabled.  We have a 24/7 Resident Assistant on-site to help with things most of us take for granted – like picking up something we dropped or getting a glass of water.  Adam’s story resonated with me greatly.  He struggled with depression and drug abuse, which led to his accident.  He was also a very successful athlete.  We partnered together and raised almost $10,000 for him to get an editor and publish his book.  I didn’t realize it at the time but Adam was put into my life to make me realize that being real, being authentic, was the true path to happiness.  He always had a smile on his face and was very up front with his mistakes, his struggles and his determination to make good on his life, despite his circumstances.  It’s funny b/c Adam would probably tell you that I helped him a lot (and am maybe even a mentor).  The truth is that, and I didn’t realize at the time, but Adam was teaching me this whole time.  Maybe that’s why his story resonated with me so much.  He’s living the Hero’s Journey.

I talked about our project on stage and was blessed to hear the sounds of 2,500 people applauding Adam’s accomplishment. But, something didn’t feel right.  With that success and that experience, I felt an emptiness like I had never felt before.  Here I was being a Catalyst for someone else….and, yet, I wasn’t being a Catalyst for myself.  I felt an overwhelming sense of not being congruent at that moment and for months after.  I knew the answer was being more authentic.  But, it takes some time to put it out there.

Little by little things started to happen….and, by the way, this continues to be a major work in progress.  Being more real with Michelle, my wife.  Dealing with struggles, with imperfections, has opened the door to a more powerful relationship.

You see, when you’re not real with what you’re going through, you start to mask everything.  You start to despise failure and failure begins to creep up on you.

Over time, my work product suffered.  9 years ago, at 30, I was on top of my career.  I was the up and coming sales rep – just got a big promotion.  But, that was short-lived as my insecurities would eventually take over.  Little failures here and there (and there are many in a sales career), and my old ways of striving for perfection and falling short came crawling back.  This led to doubt….and doubting yourself is a recipe for disaster.  I love to speak publicly, always have.  But, there was a time when I couldn’t speak with confidence.  In fact, there was a time that I had panic attacks even in basic sales presentations.  I was able to mask them pretty damn well, but on one fateful day, I had one during an internal meeting where I was presenting.  And, had to fake a headache to get “off stage”.  It was embarrassing to say the least.  Here I was, someone who loved to speak and who’s bread and butter was talking and presenting….and, I could barely get up in front of people.  Looking back, this was all a symptom of a larger issue.  This issue of not being authentic…not embracing my challenges, not opening up about constant anxiety and depression.

Look, there are so many things I look back on over the years and question.  Part of me feels really bad that I’ve been writing on The Catalyst Project for the last few years when, in fact, I’ve been the one who probably needs the most help : ) I’ve been thinking about being more public with these struggles for a long time.  I know that keeping things in caused a lot of harm to me and the moment I started opening up more, my world began to change.

My hope is that this gives you hope.  My hope is that we all stop looking at people on the outside and think they have it all together.  I know it’s difficult in this social media world we live in.  I’m a fan of social media by the way…it has many amazing things and keeps us all connected.  It does, however, provide a platform where we only show our surface areas…our smiling faces and amazing vacations.  My fear is that our younger generation is growing up on social media and ONLY seeing the positive side of everyone’s lives.  I know it’s a big challenge in our community and I’m sure many of yours.  The truth is that almost everyone, if not every single person, has stuff they deal with that is ugly.  And, I truly believe that if we can all embrace this ugliness a little bit more and not run from it, we’ll all be better off.

So, I guess this post is somewhat a call to arms.  For me, for you, for all of us.  It’s very easy to hide behind the curtains of pride.  But, I think it’s time we start to live a more authentic, congruent life that we’re meant to live.  Life will kick you upside the head.  If we embody a sense of faith, a sense of hope, and a sense of being okay with the mess…maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to live a life we were meant to live.

My big advice is to not take things at face value.  There may be someone out there that can find benefit in your authenticity. And, someone out there who may just need your shoulder to cry on…or your ear to talk to.

I’m continuing to own my story.  It’s a work in progress.  It won’t always be pretty, but I’m embracing that.

What about you?  I’d love to hear more about your story.  Don’t hesitate to reach out.  Maybe there’s power in all of us telling our stories….our true, authentic stories.  It’s not too late…it’s never too late…to write a new story.

God bless,

Jon

 

 

 

How to Increase Your Influence (and 21 lessons from a career in sales)

How to Increase Your Influence (and 21 lessons from a career in sales)

In the movie Glengarry Glenross, there’s a famous scene where Alec Baldwin comes into the room. Jack Lemon, Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey are real estate salesmen.  Baldwin is the big boss from corporate.  The sales numbers are down and he’s coming to fire the boys up.  Lemmon is pouring a coffee and Baldwin tells him to put the coffee down (okay, not that nice – here’s the link but be warned there’s some vulgar language).  He tells him “Coffee’s for Closers”.  It’s become a rallying cry for sales people.  We even use it in our business sometimes.  While I agree that closing is important in sales, I think people get the wrong impression.

Sales isn’t just about closing the deal.  It’s got be the right deal.  It’s more than that, actually. It’s got to be the right deal for both sides.  If it’s not, one party is going to walk away with a bitter taste.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen.

Some people hear the world sales and they immediately cringe.  What about you?

I’ve learned that sales is really about influence.  The more real influence you can build, the better you’ll get at “selling”, whatever that is for you.  There’s a saying that says “It’s not personal, it’s business.”  While there’s some truth to that, I don’t like it all.  My personal feeling is that all business should be personal as well.  Think of yourself not as selling something;  Think of yourself as adding value to someone or something.  That’s personal if you ask me.  That’s real influence.
I think there’s a lot we can learn from learning how to sell better.  After all, I’m a firm believer that we’re all in sales.  We sell to our significant others, our kids, our parents, etc.  We negotiate all the time (see the kids reference again). We can call benefit from understanding some of the keys that make you better at sales.

I’ve been in the corporate sales world for the last 15 years.  I have the great pleasure of working with some dynamic clients and I get to build personal and business relationships that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  I’ve also been through A LOT of sales and negotiation training.  Some good, some not so good.  And, I get to see some great influencers in action in my colleagues.

Mea culpa here – I’m a work in progress when it comes to being the best I can be.  I’ve struggled at times and I’ve succeeded at times.  I know that without the struggle, there is no appreciation for success.  My aim is that some of the roadblocks and faulty assumptions I’ve had in my career may help you overcome any challenges you have around this topic.

Now for some lessons I’ve learned along the way on influence and sales:

  1. Think win/win – Many people think of sales or negotiation as one person wins and one person loses.  That’s the wrong way to look at it.  If you think in terms of win/win or even win/win plus where you expand the pie a bit and add even more value than originally thought, you will be much further ahead.
  2. Think from the other person’s perspective – This is hard to do, but really challenge yourself.  Think about whatever it is you’re selling from their perspective.  What makes them tick?  Why and how would what you’re trying to sell help them?  John Costigan and Chris Daltorio are the best in the business (they run a sales training company called New Velocity) when it comes to sales training and they have a concept called Why x 3 – if you can get someone to open up and really get through the layers of why, you’re well on your way to the sale (and establishing some real trust). A mentor of mine, Kary Oberbrunner, likes to say – “when you know the why and you’ll know the way.”  I love that.
  3. Listen – You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  Ask the right questions and listen.
  4. Be authentic – Be yourself.  There’s no one right selling style.  Bring your own personal flavor.  People buy into authenticity.
  5. Begin with the end in mind – I’m stealing this from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits but it’s great in everything you do.  You can even start out the conversation with something like “Hey, I know we both want to have a successful outcome (and state what that is), my goal is to get to that outcome and I’m committed to that.”  Your conversation will go much smoother if you state this up front.
  6. Be humble – You’re only as good as your last sale.  I’ve been on the hero list in sales and I’ve been on the zero list. Don’t settle for either.  If you’re at the top of your game, know that someone is coming after you.  If you’re at the bottom, know that tomorrow is a new day.
  7. Have a sense of urgency – It’s a sign of respect.  If someone asks you something and need to get back to them.  Get it done quickly.  This builds trust quickly.
  8. It’s not about the close – ABC, always be closing, is a misnomer.  I believe you close a deal long before it officially closes.  It’s the tiny investments you make along the way.  The handwritten notes, the consistent value touches….the little things. Those make the biggest difference.
  9. Sometimes the deal starts with no – If you get to no, that’s much better than getting to maybe.  If you truly understand the WHY behind the no, you may be able to see the light to yes and explain yourself (or your product) better.
  10. Embrace the grind – Sales isn’t easy.  I think it’s an art form in a lot of ways.  There are days when it’s a drag.  You get told no a lot and you have to solve a lot of problems.  Just like any worthwhile cause, if you embrace the process, and take it day by day, good things will come.  I didn’t understand this a few years ago and my results suffered greatly.  Fortunately, I’ve matured a little bit.  Now, I expect the struggle.  It’s part of the beauty of achievement.  Read this by habits guru James Clear on embracing the process.  It’s profound.
  11. Lead by action – Leadership isn’t about a title.  If you influence people to do more and be more, you’re a leader. Leaders inspire action and they lead by example.
  12. Influence = Sales – In the book, “Influence”, Robert Cialdini talks about people and companies that were able to sell more simply buy stating the “because” or the “why” behind what they were offering.  Saying I want you to do this or buy this isn’t enough….saying “I want you to do this because X, Y or Z” is much more compelling to that person.  If they know your why, they’re definitely more apt to buy in.
  13. AAV- Always Add Value – This goes for the entire sales process…and beyond.  Once the sale is closed, you still have to add value.  That’s the key.  If you can over-deliver, you will never be outsold.  Bob Burg, along with John David Mann, wrote a great book called “The Go Giver”.  The concept is, if you focus on giving to others you will get a lot more in return than you ever expected.
  14. Mindset is the killer app – I’ve heard writer Jonathan Fields say this.  I wholeheartedly agree.  With sales, with winning, with success, with anything, your mindset is typically a key determining factor for your outcome.  Just like an athlete, when you’re in between the lines, it’s go time.  Stay focused on the outcome you want to achieve…add value…and you’re going places.
  15. Give credit to others – Sales, especially in the corporate world, is usually the combined effort of a lot of people.  Give credit to the team. It’s not all about you.  As Zig Ziglar said, “The more you get people what they want, the more you’ll get what you want.”
  16. Prepare for Success – Think about what you’re going to say in advance.  Before a meeting, visualize it going well.  Before a presentation, actually close your eyes and see yourself giving the presentation of your life.  Feel the energy.  Before a phone call, write down the key points you want to get across.  There’s no substitute for preparation.  I love the saying, “Luck is simply when preparation meets opportunity”.  I’d rather be lucky than good…how about you?
  17. Invest in success – Practice your craft.  Read books.  Get training.  Find a mentor.  Get better everyday.
  18. We are all a work in progress – The goal is to fulfill our potential.  It’s not easy and it takes a lot of work to get to the top.
  19. Be a difference maker – Find ways to make a difference.  Whether it’s in work or in life.  Think outside the box.  Think about the solution and not just the problem.  Be different.
  20. Be a connector – Make connections.  Introduce people to each other.  You’re making deposits in the relationship bank accounts that you may leverage in the future.  As my friend Scott Dinsmore says in his writing (and he even teaches a whole course on it!), you can “Connect with Anyone”.  If you master that craft, you will gain some major influence.
  21. Surround yourself with other difference makers, influencers and connectors – Jim Rohn says, “You’re the avg of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”  I love this.  Surround yourself with rain makers and game changers and you will become one.

There you have it.  Remember, success is something you have to earn daily.  Greatness is something we all want but very few attain.

Influence leads to impact.  If you want more of an impact, whether that’s financial or, more importantly, on others, getting better at being more influential is crucial.

So, how about you?  What do you do to increase your influence and impact?  I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments!

 

5 Ideas on How to Live a More Intentional Life

5 Ideas on How to Live a More Intentional Life

5 Ideas on How to Live a More Intentional Life

What if your life ended today?

I know, tough question. It’s a question I started to wrestle with when my kids were born. In fact, it’s why I started putting my thoughts in writing and really why I started a blog a few years ago.

So, what if your life ended today?

I ask again, b/c I think it’s an important thing to think about. Would you be happy with the legacy you’ve left behind? Would you be concerned about staying up late to scour the social media landscape? Would you turn on another episode of The Bachelor? (Ok, I must confess, Michelle gets me to watch that sometimes and I kind of like it). I’m not saying it’s bad to watch TV or anything like that, but if you’re feeling unfulfilled and questioning your real legacy, maybe you should think about how to be intentional about it.

It’s easy to spend time checking email on your phone (yes, guilty of this as well), when you should be pushing your kid in the swing. It’s hard to be intentional and to really make an impact, isn’t it?

What if you made a decision to live a more intentional and impactful life?

What if we all did?

Would the world be a better place? Would you be happier? Would your kids be more fulfilled? Your friends? Your family? Your co-workers?

I’d venture to say that if we all lived with more purpose and intention on doing the really meaningful things in life, we’d all be better off.

So, how do you do it? I don’t have all the answers that’s for sure, but here are a few ideas that might help:

#1 – Awareness – I think the first step is always Awareness. Do you want to live a more intentional life? Do you want more purpose?  If you do, congratulations, that’s the first step.  Now, it’s time to think about what that means to you!
#2 – Identify – Determine what your intention or purpose is? It can be faith-based, it can be time-based (i.e. spend more time with your kids), it can be rest-based (i.e. relax more)…and, it can be a mix of a lot of things. The important thing is to identify what it is you want
#3 – Visualize – Really see and feel what it feels like to be living with the intention you want. If you want to be happier and enjoy life more, spend some time alone, close your eyes and envision what that looks like. Write it down. Journal what it feels like when you’re at that point. Write like you’re experiencing it. Not, “I’d really like to feel happier…”, but more like, “Man, it feels so good to be spending time with my family and enjoying every minute of it. We always eat dinner together and talk about the day and it feels so rewarding.” Get it? Write or think it like it’s already happening.
#4 – Practice – I’m such a big believer in practice. Practice isn’t easy. You fail a lot when you practice, but the more you practice, especially if done right, the better you’ll get. I see my 7 yr old soccer team get better every week and start to pass the ball effectively. We’ve been harping on it for 2 years and it’s amazing to see little snippets and the progression of making it second nature. They actually think about passing before I have to yell out to them. Same goes for life. Over time, little by little, being intentional about something and practicing will undoubtedly lead to something. It won’t always be perfect, that’s not the goal. And, to #5…
#5 – Embrace Imperfection – Perfection is elusive. I’d venture to say most people have perfectionist tendencies, me included. Perfection is a bad goal. It will leave you disheartened more often than not. What if you embrace the process and embraced the practice? I have a feeling you’ll get pretty good at whatever it is you’re striving for.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately and I know I mentioned my close friend, TJ, who passed away recently. We used to talk a lot about goal setting and being intentional. We didn’t always accomplish what we talked about but it definitely helped to put it out there and really have purpose around something.

The picture below is his second lesson of thirty-nine, he wrote. I like this a lot – it’s a great intention when you’re trying to make someone feel good. Learn to look people in the eye and say hello. If you ask someone how they’re doing, mean it, and wait for them to respond. It will go a long way, I promise.

TJ Lesson 2

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/37035967@N07/9568337082″>Machu Picchu Mountains</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

A Simple Lesson (TJ’s Lesson 2)

A Simple Lesson (TJ’s Lesson 2)

  

This is lesson #2 from one of my best friends TJ, who died recently from a brain hemorrhage. 

He left 39 lessons that his kids will always have. They are full of wisdom. Many are quite simple like this one. 

Simply saying hello and really meaning it when you say “how are you” is something that can plant a seed in someone and really put a smile on their face. It’s also a sign of respect. 

I’m teaching my kids to look people in the eye when they talk to them. It’s not natural all the time as kids are usually a little shy in front of adults. I see them absorbing it and embracing it though. 

Thank you my friend for all these great lessons!

Embrace the Struggle (TJ’s Lesson 1)

Embrace the Struggle (TJ’s Lesson 1)

TJ Lesson 1

Without failure, there’s no understanding of success.

Without pain, there’s no hope for a better place.

Without the knowledge of death, there’s no embracing life to the fullest.

I recently had a very close friend of mine die. His name is TJ. He was 39. Just 39 – he died unexpectedly of a massive brain hemorrhage. He was playing music and playing with his kids on a Friday night, kissed his wife good night, I’m sure…then, by noon the next day he was unconscious and struggling to live. He died later that night.

39 years….leaves behind 3 beautiful children and a wife, as well as many other friends, family, co-workers & acquaintances. He went to bed that night and had no idea it would be his last time going through the daily rituals of life on earth. The good news is that his legacy will live on.

The truth is, we never know when our last breath will come. Life is short. It hurts a lot sometimes, but it’s important to embrace it as best you can.

Just last year, TJ completed his first Marathon. He struggled to finish. I remember talking to him during his training and I know it was a grind, especially with a growing family. For anyone that’s run a marathon, you know the time commitment of the long runs and the mental commitment to prepare. I ran three in my younger days and didn’t have a family yet so it was a lot easier to train. He talked about the grind and the challenge of race day. It’s a metaphor for life. You can read the entire post on his experience training and running here.

Life will knock you upside the head. It will. Some of you are probably going through some very challenging times.

Know that you’re not alone. Life is many times about struggle. I’m learning that life is often times about EMBRACING…THE…STRUGGLE.

In a marathon where your legs are burning up and cramping and you still have six miles to go, or in life where it feels like there’s no hope…and, you tell yourself that maybe it’s better to just quit – know that sometimes it’s the next step that gets you headed in the right direction.

There’s a great scene in Finding Nemo (I’ve seen it many times with my kiddos!) – Dori is a fish, voiced by Ellen Degeneres, that goes on a journey with Marlin (Nemo’s dad) to find Nemo. Dori drops a scuba mask that Marlin thinks is the only chance to help him find his son. He’s frustrated and ready to give up and Dori tells him “When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do?” – then goes on to say “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

So, as life gets you down and you find yourself questioning what’s next. You find yourself in a hole wondering how you’ll ever get out. No matter your circumstance, no matter the situation, there is hope. Sometimes it’s one day, one step, one breath away.

Sometimes, you just have to keep swimming!

TJ lived a great life. He was a great friend to many and was a man of deep faith. I believe fully that his legacy will live on. He wrote a post on his blog last year that outlined 39 life lessons. I’ve had the privilege of putting his daily lessons into an image each day so that others may benefit from his wisdom and life experience. This picture at the start of the post was taken in recent years of him standing on a beach at sun rise.

 

5 Fool-proof Keys to Using Checklists (So You WILL Dominate Your Day!)

5 Fool-proof Keys to Using Checklists (So You WILL Dominate Your Day!)

Do you utilize checklists to manage your day?  Especially for consistent tasks that you need to perform each and every day.  If you’re not, you need to.

Checklists can literally be a life saver.  Just ask Atul Gawande, who wrote a fantastic book called “The Checklist Manifesto”.  Gawande is a general and endocrine surgeon and also a professor at Harvard.

Another fantastic writer, Malcom Gladwell, wrote the following about Gawande in his review of the book:

Over the past decade, through his writing in The New Yorker magazine and his books Complications and Better, Atul Gawande has made a name for himself as a writer of exquisitely crafted meditations on the problems and challenges of modern medicine. His latest book, The Checklist Manifesto, begins on familiar ground, with his experiences as a surgeon. But before long it becomes clear that he is really interested in a problem that afflicts virtually every aspect of the modern world–and that is how professionals deal with the increasing complexity of their responsibilities. It has been years since I read a book so powerful and so thought-provoking.

Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it’s just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality. Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success.

I think Gladwell ties this up nicely.  I love how he mentions the distinction between errors of ignorance and errors of ineptitude.  Ineptitude is what Gawande has focused his research on.   We’re simply not making proper use of what we know.  Who’s to blame us though?  With everything coming at us, who has time to make a checklist and to refer to it?  That’s precisely the reason we must step back and evaluate this.  And, develop tools and resources that take out the human error element.  As I wrote about in my last post on Decision Fatigue (9 Sure-fire ways to overcome decision fatigue), we have a finite number of decisions that we can make in a day w/out losing steam.  Our brains are simply not wired to go at full speed all day long.  So, why not cheat a little – and create smart checklists that help you drive decision-making the right way.

I speak from experience here in that I used to go through many frustrating days of non-productivity.  It wasn’t until I found the folks at GTD (Getting Things Done) back in 2006 that my approach began to change.  I’ve had many other influences throughout the years, but I can tell you that implementing a systematic approach to your work is imperative in this day and age.  This includes setting up specific checklists for activities that you  have to do consistently.  It’s not a one-size fits all approach, but I’d like to share with you a checklist I use that keeps me on track daily in a few key components of my work and life.  Keep in mind – this is a living/breathing document and it changes often (things are added and things are taken away depending on what’s working, etc.).

I utilize a productivity tool called Toodledo which is a combo of web-based and app-based for my iphone.  I’ve tried MANY other productivity apps and I always go back to this.  Part of what Toodledo does is enable you to setup lists and outlines.  These are perfect for a checklist you want to put together that can be kept in an automated fashion and utilized daily.

I wanted to give you a real-world example I use to make it more applicable.  I have a couple screen shots and explanations below.

But first, let’s get to the 5 keys to creating and maintaining checklists that help you get great results:

1 – Make it easy to update – I used to do this on pen/paper but it was just too hard to keep creating everyday.  I found that I would get lax on this and my productivity ultimately started to regress.  Using an automated tool changes the game for this.

2 – Create areas of focus – All checklists aren’t created equal and it’s easy to get things mixed up if you have a whole bunch of stuff intertwined.  This is why I keep things like fuel separate from work.  Although both are important, they need to be kept in there own spot.  This enables you to focus on one core area and crank out whatever actions you want to take.

3 – Be consistent – Make it a habit to do this daily.  Just like anything, it may take some time to make this an engrained habit (like brushing your teeth).  Why don’t you test yourself – or, how about I test you now : )  – How about a challenge for the next 7 days to keep a checklist and use it daily?  If you miss a day, so what….get back on the wagon and do it again.

4 – Be flexible – This needs to be a living document….meaning it’s ok to change things.  Figure out what works for you.  The important thing is that you’re utilizing a checklist to enhance your productivity.

5 – Perfect isn’t the goal – It’s easy to make a checklist and get all bent out of shape if you don’t check everything off.  Let’s face it – we’re not always going to be on our A game.  Don’t fret if you don’t check every box.  Maybe it’s time to adjust and take something off the list.  Either way, get back on it and get after it again tomorrow.

And, now for a more in-depth look at how I use my checklist:

Screen Shot 1:  This highlights the key areas of focus for checklists I keep and refer to daily.  The beauty of an automated checklist is that it starts anew everyday.  No thinking, no re-doing.  You’ll see here I have 7 core areas.

toodledo daily list high level

Fuel – This is my most important checklist and includes things like water consumption, supplements, food, reading, etc.  All the stuff that primes me for the day and gets my mindset right.

Home Chores – These are just a couple of simple things I try to do to help my wife before my workday starts

Work Prep – Behind fuel, this is my #2 priority to make sure I’m aligned and in the right frame of mind for the day.  It’s the old adage – You plan your work…and then work your plan.

Work – Of course, the big chunk of my day…I try to make it  a priority to get at least 3 as un-interrupted 90 minute focused sessions as I can. That’s where real work gets accomplished.

TCP – This is my stuff for The Catalyst Project – everything from writing to reading to connecting

Personal – This is my down time and I try to be intentional about the time I spend with family and friends

Rest/Recover – An often over-looked component of productivity, I’m intentional about taking breaks throughout the day and, of course, getting enough sleep at night.  You should be too!  This could be a game changer.

Screen Shot 2:  This shows the Fuel section of my checklist broken down into specific tasks.

toodledo example - fuel

You’ll see here specific things, some only taking a minute that provide the fuel I need to start my day off right and maintain my energy and performance throughout the day.  Having a checklist to refer to helps immensely to keep me on task.

Remember, it’s not about being perfect.  This may seem overwhelming to you but I promise that utilizing a checklist will help you more than it will hurt you.  Imagine waking up and knowing exactly what you want to do.  Instead of waking up with a little stress resting on your chest, you’ll wake up confident and ready to tackle the day with your checklist.

Keep in mind, there are many other lists you can keep (like Project Lists, Action Lists, etc.), however, a standard checklist for things you want to do daily is imperative to consistent high level achievement.

As always, thanks for reading!

COMING SOONProductivity University – I’m excited to announce that on January 4th, 2015, I’ll be starting a 10-week training class based on key productivity and performance principles.  I know time management and getting the right things done is a struggle for a lot of people (believe me, I’ve had my share of challenges with this).  My goal is to help you move the needle and get more productive and effective – and I figured what better time to do this then to start the year off right!  It will be a virtual course with video lessons and a weekly collaborative call.  Stay tuned for an opportunity to sign up for the pre-launch team and more details.

Be well!

Jon

9 Sure-fire ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue

9 Sure-fire ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue

 “There’s no greater waste of energy or resources than doing well that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

Do you feel distracted as you go through your day and your life in general?  I know I do at times.  There’s hope for you and me but you’ll have to be aware of this first.

I was listening to a great podcast the other day – The Tim Ferriss Show.  I’m sure a lot of you have read Tim’s stuff (Four Hour Work Week, Four Hour Body, Four Hour Chef) or have at least heard of him.  I highly recommend his podcast….very enlightening stuff.  Mostly he has some pretty cool guests (Tony Robbins, Peter Thiel, etc.) and he occasionally does mini episodes to talk about various things.  The guy is a complete lab rat when it comes to optimizing productivity and performance.  You can check out his podcast here.  They’re great for listening to when you’re working out by the way.  Good stuff.

In this particular one, he talks about the law of diminishing returns we go through when we have to make too many decisions.  He calls it decision fatigue.  It got me thinking…

It breaks down like this – imagine you have 100 points each day and every decision you make causes these points to diminish.  Everything you do has an effect on this account.  If you wake up everyday and have to make decisions on what clothes you’re going to wear and what you’re going to eat, that’s going to take away from your capability to make a good decision.  If you don’t have your work day planned out in advance, at least how you start your day, you’ll be more apt to check email first thing (and get sucked into someone else’s agenda!!).  Or, it will be much easier to get distracted and jump on social media when you should be getting higher impact work done.  As the day progresses, the account is diminished and you’re much more likely to be distracted and, ultimately, make bad decisions.

I’m such a big proponent of getting your highest impact work done early in the day.  I know some of you may be night owls and that’s okay – the good news is that I believe you can replenish this account throughout the day.  I think being productive at night probably has more to do with the small number of distractions coming in, however (not much email at midnight, at least compared to 2 in the afternoon).  The bottom line – get your big stuff done when your energy is the highest and your mind is the clearest.

Here are some keys to minimizing the effect of decision fatigue and maximizing your output for the day:

1.  Start your day with a plan that you set the day before – This should be the last thing you do before your workday ends.  Plan tomorrow.  Keep it simple but at least set a plan.  This leads to number 2.

2.  Create a checklist for the first 60 minutes of your day – make it foolproof. I’ve tinkered with this quite a bit and I’m a believer.  If 60 minutes is too long, try 30.  Clearly list out what you’re going to do and just get to that list right when you wake up (even put “make coffee”, “make bed”, etc. on there.  Remember, dumb it down so  you don’t have to think about it when you wake up.

3.  Use checklists for routine tasks – For things like packing for a trip or a weekly review of your work, keep a standard checklist you can go back to.  I travel almost weekly so having a list of everything I need to pack helps immensely.  I use a combination of Evernote and Toodledo to keep these lists.  Either works great.

4.  Plan your meals, especially your first one – A crucial, crucial component to productivity optimization.  If you can do this the night before, even better.  Lately, I’ve been hard boiling eggs in advance – it’s quick, easy – just add a little sea salt and some hot sauce and you’ve got a tasty meal.  I’m a fan of smoothies first thing in the morning too.  Again, the better you plan these basic things the more decision capacity you’ll have for bigger ticket items throughout your day.

5.  Limit the number of choices you have to make – Automate wherever you can.  Delegate the things that others can do better than you.  Focus on what your strengths are and find others that can fill in the gaps.  I know plenty of people that hire out virtual assistants and swear by it.  Remember the 80/20 rule – 80% of your results comes from 20% of your work – if you can be an assassin when it comes to that approach, you’ll do very well, I promise.

6.  Learn to say no – This one is hard.  I struggle with it.  Many people are pleasers, me included.  It’s a recipe for disaster – I’m telling you. Build your muscles slowly with this….try saying now in a respectful way.  I promise it won’t be as bad as you think.  From there you’ll gain confidence and will realize the value of this.

7.  Pay attention to when you get distracted – When your decision fatigue is up what distracts you?  Is it social media?  ESPN?  TMZ?  Your dog?  There are plenty of things.  Become aware of what you do when your points are down.  Simply being aware will help you make better decisions.

8.  Use timers – I think this may be the biggest productivity hack I know.  All smart phones have timer apps now.  If you’re struggling and need to push through (and don’t want to take a break), set a time for 10 minutes and just get after whatever it is you’re doing.  When the buzzer goes off, see how you feel.  I know a lot of times, I pass through the resistance and get into a flow state and can get a lot done in 30 minutes or so.

9.  Take breaks – An often looked-down upon thing, taking breaks is essential.  Just like an elite athlete, you must take a step back to recharge yourself.  This goes for small breaks during the day as well as longer breaks throughout the year (i.e. multi-day disconnected vacations, etc.).

Definitely check out Tim Ferris’s podcast – it’s really good.  I think it ties nicely into The Catalyst Day producitvity document I created as well.  It’s all about being intentional and having a plan is crucial.  Remember, the better you plan you work the better you’ll be at executing…and adjusting when your decision fatigue ratchets up and the game is on the line.

Good luck.

Jon

P.S.  If you think someone can benefit from this, I’d love for you to share it via the buttons at the top.  Thanks!

 

 

 

flow=mojo (thoughts on accelerated productivity)

flow=mojo (thoughts on accelerated productivity)

The flow…the mojo.  Do you have it?  Have you ever felt it?  The flow is something you get when you’re working on a task and time stands still.  It’s effortless almost.  You’re so immersed in what you’re doing that you forget about time – by the time you come back up you’ve usually have a pretty cool output…it can be magical.  And, it can be cultivated.  A lot of people wait for a muse or for the perfect moment.  Here’s the thing – there are too many distractions these days to not be intentional about getting your mojo going.  You following me?  You MUST be intentional about getting your game face on.  I don’t care if it’s at work or spending time with your loved ones – being intentional is key (yes, that means putting your phone away when you’re having a conversation with someone).  I love watching my kids or any kid for that matter – watch a kid play and get immersed in whatever it is their doing.  My daughter Reese will spend hours at the craft table coloring or drawing.  I  love it.  It’s the most pure form of focus.  I’m afraid we lose that as we get older.  
 
I live for the Flow…I don’t always attain it but I know it when it’s there.  I know that there are a couple things that get me there (and I bet you have a couple key things as well).  Limiting distractions is number one.  Using a timer is number two.  And, number three is planning my work and working my plan (this should probably be number one actually).  I’ll give credit to the folks at GTD (Getting Things Done) for that one.  In a nutshell, we can only do a Next Action (i.e. If the Outcome you want is fixing your bike there are probably a couple steps you need to take to get there….so, a Next Action might be “Research fixing flat tires online”).  I tell you this b/c the more comprehensive your lists of actions are (and in contexts – i.e. At Phone, At Computer, Errands), the better you’ll feel about what you’re not doing.  
 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book called “Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience”.  Fantastic read.  Boiled down, true flow is the intersection of doing something that’s challenging enough to you and something you have a high level of skill with.  
 
So, I ask you – when was the last time you experienced your mojo, your flow?  Furthermore, when are you at your best?  When is your mind most clear?  What are you doing when time stands still?  Understanding the answers to these questions may unlock the door for you to up your game considerably.  
 
Good luck.
 
Be well,
Jon

Awareness

Awareness

Hi and greetings from St. Louis.  I’m at the airport, just returning from a funeral service for a friend/colleague’s dad.  Second funeral in the last month….although the last one was much younger – a good friend’s wife passed away at the early age of 40.  For this one, Mr. B. was close to 80 – not that it’s any better.

I’m reminded of the fragility of life.  As I see Emerson (my 10 month old) take her first steps (and she’s walking a ton already!), I reflect on how important it is to embrace life.  It’s so easy to say….very hard to actually live.

My dad was recently diagnosed with Lewi Body Disease, which is form of Dementia.  It’s been a pretty good dose of perspective.  I’m damn proud of him.  He’s been courageous throughout and has a good sense of humor about it.  I’m scared too for him….his health is declining fairly quickly.

We are all busy….all busy.  I get it.  Work, family, friends, social life….we are going, going…and going.  I get it.  It’s time we smell the roses a little bit isn’t it?  We strive for the nice house and new car and the epic vacation….but are we really living the day to day the way it’s meant to be?  Are we enjoying and embracing the journey?  I say this as a mea culpa b/c I know that I need some help with this.  How about you?

I marvel at Emerson’s first steps….my son Gabe’s work ethic on the soccer field and his sweet smile off it….and Reese’s charming and eccentric personality.  But, I’m afraid that sometimes I’m not in the moment.  My wife and I were watching some videos of the kids from about five years ago last night….kind of random as they popped up in my Dropbox folder.  Wow – time is flying!  Gabe was just a little tike with a cute little voice…..and now he’s growing up so fast.

That’s okay.  It starts with awareness.

I’m challenging myself to be more aware….to be more present.  I throw that challenge out to you as well…are you embracing the moment?….the struggle?….the joy?….

How about we do it together?

All the best,

Jon

**Here’s my dad with baby Emerson….and Gabe and Reese enjoying a fun day at a Pumpkin Patch recently!

Blog Post_Dad and kids