Without question, my favorite holiday of the year is New Year’s Eve / Day. Not because I want to treat it as a party or because I’m looking for a fresh start but because it is simply the greatest two days to be a college football fan! This afternoon, Alabama and Washington will play the first playoff game and then my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes will endure a titanic struggle with the University of Clemson. I truly can’t wait! It seems like a lifetime ago since the final four playoff teams were announced, but on that selection Sunday, a lot was made of the way teams were selected. Because Washington made it, experts wondered, does this mean that nonconference schedules don’t matter and that teams should just focus on winning their conference? Because Ohio State made it, those same experts wondered, does this mean that conference championships don’t matter and teams just need to play tough nonconference games? Who’s right? Neither. Want to be in the playoff? The recipe is simple; Be Great.  Dominate the teams in front of you and leave no question in the minds of anyone that you belong there. (that’s how Alabama got in) There’s a huge lesson from this that can be applied to professional life. If we want to be selected, if we want to stand out and if we want to make the playoff of our lives, all we have to do is be great.

[tweetthis]Want to be in the playoff? The recipe is simple; Be Great.[/tweetthis]
  We must dominate the obstacles in front of us and leave no question in minds of anyone that we belong there. Beginning with ourselves. When we show up and dominate and look like we belong, it doesn’t matter how weak our competition is, people will take notice because we pass the eye test. Those that don’t get selected may question if we belong and what the qualifications actually mean, but if we’re in, it doesn’t matter. Let 2017 be the year you choose to be great. Convince yourself that you’re ready to be dominate and leave no question in the minds of anyone that you belong. This is your year, go make it happen.

Oh yeah, and GO BUCKS!

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What a year it’s been! As a society this year we’ve experienced numerous celebrity deaths, a bitter and divisive election and a Cubs World Series win. We’ve seen a record high stock market, record low unemployment and yet another Star Wars movie.  All of this is on top of personal triumphs and tragedies, wins and losses and ups and downs that have either made for a great year or one you’d rather forget. Either way, if you’re the same person today that you were when this year began, you’ve failed as a human being. I don’t write a lot about the subject of motivation. I avoid the subject because I think there’s enough traffic in that space as it is and I’m not sure I’m qualified to motivate anyone as it’s enough of a job to motivate myself, but for just a moment, think about 2016. Was it the year you wanted? If the answer is yes, congratulations! You’ve built the confidence necessary to make 2017 even better. If your answer was no, Congratulations! You’ve learned the lessons necessary to make 2017 your year. You see, the only way you failed is if you didn’t try. This year has been a mixed bag of emotions for me. I wrote on my birthday of the strange place I was finding myself, but I’ve also persisted forward to achieve new goals as I’ve left my others behind. It’s been a time of self-doubt but also self-discovery and I’ve never felt more excited about my future than I do right now. As I write my last post of the year, it’s my sincere hope that you feel the same way. What a year it’s been indeed! Remember this moment because when you look back next year at this time the person you are today will be a shadow of the person you will have become. Don’t let up now, you’ve only 365 days to get there. ]]>

I’m a firm believer that January is the most important month of the year. The momentum we build now can, if we do it right, carry us through the entire year. I also believe that Starting 2017 Strong starts having a great reading list for January. Here are four books that I’m sure will get us started on the right foot:

The Common Denominator of Success

This beautifully written pamphlet was actually delivered as a speech by Albert EN Grey to a Life Insurance convention in 1940. It’s a very quick read, but it is a very powerful thought that successful people form the habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do. Set yourself us for a powerful year by reading this great book during the first week of the New Year. Read it free here…

How To Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie’s classic how-to tome for dealing with people is a timeless book that never goes out of style. I make it a point to read it once every year because I still get a great lesson every time that I do. This book should be on your January reading list because nearly every problem we encounter is related to the dealing of people and the solution can be found in these pages. There is so much to be gleaned that its worth the reminder even if you’ve read it before.  A great 2017 will require great people skills, further develop yours by reading How To Win Friends and Influence People in January.

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us

Seth Godin has written a lot of great books and his daily blog should be required reading for all of us, but my favorite book he’s written is Tribes. His brilliance comes from the fact that he argues that now is our time to build a movement followers based on mutual interests. If you’re working in the Slash/Economy, building a tribe is as critical to your success. This book shows you exactly how to do that. We must find and connect with people of mutual interests to further our ambitions if we’re going to make 2017 our year. That’s why Tribes should be on our January reading list.

The Power of Full Engagement

I’ve written about James E. Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s classic book before, but it needs to be on your list for January now. The tagline is how managing energy, not time is the key to high performance and personal renewal. Since I’ve put into practice the principles of this book into practice, I’ve found this to be true. Getting the most of 2017 will require getting the most out of our energy. Read this book now and set yourself up for your best year ever.   January is the most important month of the year only because the momentum that we build now can carry us through the rest of the year if we do it right. Read these four books in January to build your momentum and Start 2017 Strong.  ]]>

I love the last week of the year. Especially at the gym. This week, the squat racks are empty and the benches are available. It’s a stark contrast to next week when the New Years Resolutioners, the New Year New Me Crowd, will invade our friendly confines making it impossible to get on the equipment in a timely manner. Every year, it’s the same, and every year, they’re all gone by Valentine’s Day. I will never vilify people who are interesting in making themselves better, but most of us go about it the wrong way. We start with great intentions but those eventually fade and the resolutions we made fade with them. The truth is resolutions don’t work. Plans do. Starting 2017 strong starts with using this last week of 2016 to finalize those plans. A great plan will, as I laid out in November, identify what we want, why we want it and the action steps required to get it.  If we took the time to list these, now is the time to go back through it and make our last minute edits. If we let it slip through the cracks our calendars, now is the time to answer those questions. As we make our edits, we should do all we can to include three critical elements.

Make It Emotional

The more emotion we put into this plan, the more power we have to stick to it when times get tough. It’s the emotion that keeps us going back to the gym, not the logic.

Make It BIG

It’s hard to get excited about small goals. Make our plans as BIG as we can to keep us motivated throughout the entire year.

Take The Long View

People tend to over esitmate what they can do in a day but underestimate what they can do over the course a year
This anonymous quote sums up perfectly why resolutions fail. People don’t see progress so they quit. As we finalize out plans, we must take a long view and realize that it’s only through consistent action that we’ll achieve our goals. Take the long view and we can see how those little actions add up to big achievements. This week is, for most of us, is the slowest week of the year. That makes it a great time to finalize our plan to make 2017 our best ever. Saturday, the ball will drop, the Buckeyes will win and our year will be here. Be ready when it comes by using the emotions of your plans, making them big and taking the long view and we’ll still be here after March.  ]]>

This week, I’ve dedicated this blog to the Slash/Economy, a subject that I’m incredibly excited about. If you’ve not yet Embraced Your /Slash, I truly believe that 2017 is the year to start, but only if you’re willing to make three very important commitments:

Commit To Starting Early

Don’t you find those people that brag about getting up so early annoying? I certainly do, and I won’t brag about getting up at 5 am every day, but I do it. I didn’t say that I like it, but I’ve committed to it and here’s why: There aren’t enough hours in the day to be a Slasher unless you expand your day. If I don’t use my mornings before my family is moving around, I’m forced to choose between spending time with them or writing/marketing/preparing/branding.  I refuse to make that choice, so I start early. There are those that don’t but choose to stay up late. I won’t say they’re wrong, but I know there’s always a chance that something (probably sleep) will pull me away if I don’t do it first. If you choose to wait, be warned this can happen to you.

Commit To Getting In Great Shape

The dark secret that no one talks about in this Slash/Economy is the amount of energy required to be great at more than one thing. Working one fulltime job can wear you out, killing it at two and keeping the commitments of being a friend and family member can downright take it out of you. For this reason, it’s my belief that it’s an absolute must that we take care of ourselves and commit to getting in great shape. I love virtually anything sweet. Candy, cakes, coke…but the crashes they bring, the insulin resistant fog and the inability to make it past 3:00 pm without a nap aren’t worth the taste. When I tell people to control their diet, it’s not because I think I’m a medical professional, but because I know the difference it’s made with my own energy levels. Make your commitment, take control of your diet and find a way to move. Trust me, you’ll need the energy.

Commit To Constant Learning

Last year the average American read one book. The average CEO, however, read 50. It’s so tempting to get so busy pursuing everything we want in our primary careers and our passions that we neglect our own education, but this is a mistake. No matter what industry we work in, our goal should be to become, and be seen as an expert. This doesn’t happen by osmosis. Read books, blogs, trade journals, watch YouTube videos, listen to audiobooks, attend seminars. Commit to constant learning because in our new Slash/Economy, it’s the experts that hold the power. This weekend brings joy to a lot of people. I truly hope you enjoy it and spend time with the people that you love and care about. When it’s over, I hope you begin to gear up because 2017 can be your year. The year you Embrace Your /Slash and join us. Just make sure you’ve made these commitments first, and you’ll be ready to rock come January.  ]]>

On my first day at The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!), my first assignment was an essay on the subject of what I wanted to do when I left school. It was a simple assignment where we were supposed to write two pages about our future plans. I wrote ten. I wrote so much not because I was eager to impress my professor or because I’m naturally long-winded but because there was so much that I truly wanted to do with my life. I remember that essay very well because I outlined that I wanted to work in the ag industry, I wanted to teach, I wanted to run for office and I wanted to speak. When I wrote that essay, I never thought that I’d end up doing it all at once. 16 years later, I’ve learned to embrace the / Slash as I own cows with my brother / Lead a Youth In Government  Program with my local YMCA / Serve on City Council / Lead a Nonprofit / Speak / Train and Coach and the honest truth is, I can’t imagine being fulfilled not doing any one of these things. I will admit that it makes for a hectic schedule and I’m not always as great as I’d like to be at all of them, but it’s been by Embracing My / Slash that I’ve carved out a place for myself. It was Henry David Thoreau that observed ‘that most men lead lives of quiet desperation” I have no doubt that this is true, but I think it’s because there aren’t enough of us fully Embracing the / Slash. We all have responsibilities and it’s often impossible for us to just drop everything and chase our dreams. But that doesn’t mean that those dreams must die. I’m a firm believer that if there’s something we want to do, we must start now and we must start where we are. I’ve been inspired this year by Janna, a personal trainer that has Embraced Her / Slash and worked at photography, Kevin a radio host that has Embraced His / Slash and worked at nutritional coaching and Amanda, a realtor that has Embraced Her / Slash and opened a staging business. These are people that want more out of life and aren’t willing to wait for it to happen to them, they’re making it happen for themselves, where they are. These are just a few examples of how the world is changing. There was a time when having more than one career was so taboo that people kept it hidden, but that’s no longer the case. Now is the time to do what we love, even if it means doing more than one thing. Let 2017 be the year you Embrace Your / Slash. ]]>

I never thought it was for me. I thought people that worked more than one job were either desperate, broke or both. That was until I had an unlikely opportunity turn into something more. In January of 2015, during a meeting of United Way Partner Agencies, the conversation turned to a big presentation that all of our agencies are required to give to our allocations panel. In this room full of nonprofit experts, very few were comfortable giving a presentation. I offered to lead a workshop on presentation skills and they took me up on it. One agency director liked it enough to recommend me to her state association who invited me to speak at their conference and then a funny thing happened; they paid me. That day changed a lot of things for me. I enjoyed myself so much that I wanted to do it again and again. The first thing I did was hit up some of my friends that I knew were working at two careers to ask them how they did it. Between their advice, and a lot of intense self-study, I’ve learned a lot about this movement that I call the Slash/Economy, where there’s a slash / in your job title. I’ve learned that its both a science and an art but if we are to survive in this new Slash/Economy, here’s what we need to know:

Do What We Love

There’s an old saying that do what you love and you’ll never work again. It’s great advice to end up broke because very few of us can feed our families only doing what we love. That said, at least one side of our slash needs to be something we love doing. That love with fuel the passion for getting up early and staying up late to get better. Success in the Slash/Economy starts with love.

Keep It Fun, But Make It Work

In talking with friends of mine that are making it big in the Slash/Economy, they’re all doing it because it’s fun and they love it, but at the same time, they do it consistently as if they had to. Doing it when you want to is a hobby and there’s nothing wrong with that, but having a second career requires a mindset of viewing both sides of our slash as work.

Be Ruthless With Time

Working two fulltime jobs while having a family and other commitments requires above all things, the ability to bend time to meet our needs. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my time as a Slasher has been that I absolutely must keep myself scheduled in a calendar that I can trust myself to look at. This means keeping everything in one place no matter how big or how small. If we’re going to do everything well, we must be ruthless with our time.

Choose To Be Great

The difference between a professional and a hobbyist is a commitment to excellence. It’s not enough to be good at one career and great at the other. If we’re going to use a slash to describe ourselves, we must be great at both. This takes time and it takes commitment, but more than anything it requires that we choose to obsess over both our careers until we’re truly great at both of them.

Build A Personal Brand

A lot of the people I’ve interviewed with want to leave the Slash/Economy one day for the career that they love. Until that day comes, they’re feeding their families with one career and their soul with another. The only way that anyone ever gets to leave though is if they either quit doing what they love or get so well known for what they love that it will pay all of the bills. Those are the only two ways out. This means we must become experts, get the packaging right and nail the promotion. If not, we’re just like the poor souls in Hotel California, we can check out anytime we like, but we can never leave. I never thought it would happen to me, but I’m now a proud Slasher. The more I learn about the subject the more excited I get because I see so many others that are killing it doing what they love and paying their bills at the same time. Survival in this new Slash/Economy requires new skills, but when we love what we do, show up to work, are ruthless with our calendars, choose to be great and build a personal brand, we’ve got the foundation for a great start. ]]>

This week, I’ve spent a great deal of time looking back on 2016. Monday, I highlighted the three biggest lessons I learned this year.On Wednesday, I featured the top five apps I used in 2016, but today, I look forward to the ten most important things we can do to build better personal brands in 2017.

Make A Plan

The most important step to take for a better personal brand in 2016 is making a plan. I love Brendon Burchard’s approach of focusing on developing a different skill every month. This requires making a plan before 2017 starts assigning the skill to the month.

Hire A Coach

What good coaching does, more than anything is force clarity. When we’re clear about who we are, we have a much better idea of how to authentically build our brand. If you’re looking for a coach, I cannot recommend my friend Christy Shell any higher. She’s awesome and can help bring out the best in anyone. Find her at www.zealcoach.com

Commit To Using One Tool For A Calendar

This seems like a really small thing, but getting all of our commitments out our heads and into one place we can trust to look will save mental energy for battles that matter.

Buy A Journal

One of the biggest keys to a great personal brand is self-confidence. One of the best ways to build and maintain more confidence is having goals and plans. If we’re writing our goals every day, we keep them fresh in our minds and build the kind of confidence that inspires it in others.

Schedule An Hour Each Day To Read

By picking great books, trade journals, blogs and newsletters, and blocking time on on calendars to build our knowledge base, we can further establish ourselves as experts. Block out the hour and see your reputation grow.

Buy A Great Pen

My mentor told me to buy the best pen I could afford. It’s not to impress others, but to remind myself every time I take a note that I’m a professional. Having a great pen in your pocket will inspire you to take more notes and feel better when you do.

Commit To Writing Once A Week

Like great coaching, writing forces clarity. More than that, however, it helps to establish credibility as an expert. Use LinkedIn, your own blog or your company website, but commit to putting out one piece of content every week.

Invest in Communication Training

I have found that very few things will help set us apart from our competition more than being an effective public speaker. This isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. If it doesn’t for you, get professional help and make your presentations a key part of building a better brand.

Join Toastmasters

What I get from Toastmasters is a guaranteed audience to practice in front of and safe place to fail with instant feedback. After getting professional help, get your stage time and join Toastmasters.

Develop A Uniform

Walk through the cereal aisle with a child and we quickly see how important packaging is to a brand. How we look helps to build our brand because it’s a huge part of our image, both how others see us and more importantly, how we see ourselves. Develop a signature look and stick to it as a uniform. The consistency will further a reputation and help build a better brand. My top ten list might not be complete and total, but it’s a good start for building a better brand in 2017. If I missed one, please tell me about it in the comments below.  ]]>

Technology can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be a distraction but it can also be a tool depending on how we use it. Here are five simple and free apps that have made a big difference for me this year as I’ve leveraged technology to help me reach my goals:

Google Keep

I have written several posts about the most underrated app that I know of, Google Keep. Some people dismiss it because they want it to be Evernote, but it was never intended to be as robust, it’s awesomeness lies in its simplicity. I use Google Keep to manage all of my task lists, to plan presentations, for quick notes and reminders and to clear my head. Color coded post-it notes that sit on my desktop, phone and tablet and sync between all devices are incredibly handy. I can’t recommend this app highly enough and if you aren’t using it, you ought to be.

Calm

Let me say this first, I suck at meditation. Sitting alone with and focusing on my breath is not something that I am good at and that’s why I’ve had so much resistance to trying it. Then I found Calm. It’s a very simple app with guided meditations that will help you both learn to meditate and track your progress. Every personal development book written so far this year has mentioned mindfulness as a major key to success. With so much hype, I knew I had to at least try it. I’m still not very good at it, but Calm has made the process a lot easier to practice/

Coach.Me

Think about the huge list of things that we know we should do every day yet somehow can’t get around to. This is how I felt about journaling, tracking my workouts and logging my meals. That’s when I discovered Coach.Me. It’s a very simple app that tracks your progress with any goal you enter, gives you daily reminders and gives you credit for building a streak. The biggest thing that has ever held me back with some of my small disciplines has been a lack of accountability. Coach.Me gives me the accountability I need and keeps me moving in the direction of my goals.

Audiopocket

I love YoutTube. I love how there are so many awesome lectures, books, songs and speakers that we can access for free. What I don’t love about YouTube is that unless you pay for YouTube Red, you can’t do something else while the video is playing. Enter a simple solution: Audiopocket. All I have to do is find the video that I want to listen to, hit the share button and send it to Audiopocket. This awesome app converts the video to an audio file and streams it to my device, giving the flexibility to listen to any YouTube video while I drive, work or workout. It’s a great app that allows me to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want and it’s free.

Journey

As I’ve mentioned before, Journaling is an important discipline to develop. While some people love a pen and paper, I much prefer to type my thoughts. Journey is a terrific app that seamlessly syncs between multiple devices and allows for tagging, filing and sorting to keep things orderly. I for years had used Diario, but could not for the life of me to get it to sync. Journey uses Google Drive which means its as reliable as it gets. It even allows me to store my template and hit the same points every day. It’s a wonderfully simple free app that’s made a difference for me. Technology can be a blessing and a curse. I choose to use its powers for good and bend it to fit my needs. These are the best five apps I’ve used this year, in the comments section, tell us what’s been best for you and we can learn together.  ]]>

After climbing the mountain of 2016, we can almost see the summit. We get this week, the scheduling train wreck that is the week leading up to Christmas and then we’re standing on the precipice of 2017. Just like any good climb, I’ve learned some things along the way this year that I believe are worth sharing.

I Can Figure It Out

Over the Fourth of July Holiday this year, I made the leap from the incredibly simplistic Google Sites website that I had been using to a more professional WordPress site.  When I started, I knew nothing about web design, hosting my own website, or putting one together. I did know that I had to figure it out. I still have a ton to learn and I don’t intend to stop trying to get better, but figuring this out has given me a confidence boost that I never expected.

Everyone Wants To Help

I made a commitment at the end of 2015 to take my speaking and coaching business to the next level but I had no idea where I was going. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year, however, is that people love to be consulted for advice. In 2016, I’ve been blessed with the advice of a lot of great people about marketing, business administration, leadership and presenting. I’ve learned this year that if you ask for help in an honest and genuine way, people love to help, they’re just waiting to be asked.

People Need To Be Reminded

When I was in high school, one of the popular books of the  day was titled, Everything I Need To Know I Already Learned In Kindergarten. While this an exaggeration, this year has taught me that by and large everyone already knows what to do. We know how to communicate, we know how to brand ourselves and how to be more productive, we even know how to get and hold an audience’s attention. We simply need to be reminded of these things from time to time. This year, I had the opportunity to present a workshop at the Toastmasters District 40 Fall Conference. There was absolutely nothing new in the material that I shared. I believe there was value, however, because the workshop participants were presented with the same information in a new way. They were reminded of what they already knew and it hopefully helped them to change the way they looked at the subject. A big take away for me this year is that people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.   When we get to the top of the mountain, we look back not just to see how far we’ve come, but to count the lessons we learned that can make our next climb even better than this one. As you stand at the summit of your year, what has 2016 taught you that will help make 2017 your best year ever?  Leave your lessons in the comments section below and let’s learn together!        ]]>