It isn’t my intention to offend anyone with the title of this post, but I use it for two reasons: 1. I’m giving up profanity for lent, making this my last hurrah, and 2. Motivation is BullS**t. I say this because you can’t motivate me and I can’t motivate you. We can only motivate ourselves, and it’s our job to figure out how to do it. Hacking our own psychology to get the most out of our potential is our most important job, every day. Last fall, I had the opportunity to shake hands with my hero, Mark Sanborn. When I was a sophomore in high school, I watched the renowned leadership speaker at the Ohio State FFA Convention. I was hooked, and knew, watching him on stage that day, that that’s what I wanted to do with my life. When I met Mr. Sanborn at the Columbus National Speakers Association meeting, I told him that he changed my life. He laughed at me and told me “no, you changed your life. I just helped you find the tools.” He was right. He didn’t make decisions for me and he didn’t show up and put in the work. I did those things. He simply changed my perspective and gave me insights on how I could do it. He didn’t “motivate me,” he instructed me. Education is valuable. Getting insights that allow us to become who we want to be is important. Ultimately, however, we have to do the lifting ourselves. We have to find whatever it is that motivates us to get better and leverage it. I’ve written before about how I strive to look my best because it motivates me to be my best. Washing your car, shining your shoes, cleaning your desk, all of these little things can be motivating. Listening to your song, reading inspiring books, watching inspiring movies can too. These things can lift our mood and help give us the tools, but we have to pick them up and use them ourselves. Motivation is bulls*t. I can’t motivate you, and you can’t motivate me. We only motivate ourselves, but with the right tools used correctly, that’s a job we’re all capable of doing. ]]>

My senior year in High School, I’m sitting at the National FFA Convention in Kansas City when I learned the greatest lesson FFA has to teach, I’m spellbound as the legendary Agricultural Broadcaster Orion Samuelson is giving the keynote address. Mr. Samuelson, the titan of our industry gave a great speech that for 45 minutes held the entire audience captive in his hands.He closed that day, as he often does, by quoting the Robert Hastings Poem The Station. It was an aha moment that I will never forget.

“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls. But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there our dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering – waiting, waiting, waiting for the station. “When we reach the station, that will be it!” we cry. “when I’m 18” “when I buy a new 450sl Mercedes-Benz!” “when I put the last kid through college” “when I have paid off the mortgage!” “when I get a promotion.” “when I reach the age of retirement,I shall live happily ever after!” Sooner or later we realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us. “Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today. So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.”
We often forget that we get but four short years to wear that jacket and therefore forget to relish the moments while we’re in them. The greatest lesson that I learned in FFA is that the station will constantly outdistance us. We must enjoy the trip and keep grinding as we chase it. Our station will come soon enough.]]>

On Monday, I wrote a post in honor of FFA Week about the moments that turn our lives around. Having these moments are one thing, but using the power of these distinctive moments for real change requires us to understand the emotions behind them. Here are the four emotions that lead to real, life long change:

Pride

There are two kinds of pride; stubborn pride that holds us back and the pride that comes from being proud of an achievement. The first is useless, but the second can be a game changer. Taking pride in something we worked really hard for is a great way to take a moment that turns our life around, and make it count.

Disgust

In Monday’s post, I wrote about my disgust moment when Mr. Brown told me that I had the talent, but lacked the maturity. That was a moment that turned my life around because of the guilt that came from knowing that he was right. If I hadn’t had that moment in the field that day, I might never have become so obsesses with developing a professional presence. Disgust can be powerful if we use that moment to determine how we want to never feel again.

Joy

I know very few people aware enough to know when they are experiencing pure joy, but I saw it last week on the face of my five-year-old. She was terrified of her bicycle until she finally learned to ride. Watching her glide up the sidewalk, the look on her face could only be described as pure joy. It was also a moment that turned her young life around. That joy on her bicycle inspired a new level of confidence in her own ability. It’s only been a week and she’s a different kid. That’s the power of joy to turn your life around.

Love

Ask any new parent about the changes they make in their life when their bundle of joy arrives, they will tell you about the incredible power that love for another person can have on shifting your life. Parents sell cars they love because they love their children more. They give up nights out because they love moments at home with their kids. They give up fancy vacations because love calls for college savings. Love is the most powerful emotion there is for leveraging the moments that turn our life around. People will often do for others what they refuse to do for themselves because of love. That’s where the power comes from. We all have the moments that turn our lives around, but knowing and leveraging the emotions that those moments bring, is a great way to turn those moments into real change. Feel the pride, the disgust, the joy and the love and use those moments to change your life forever. ]]>

There are moments in the course of our lives that shift who we are, change us for the better and completely turn our lives around. Moments that mark a turning point between who we were and who’ve become. This post is about one of those moments. I keep a list of topics that I want to cover on this blog and every day I sit down to write, and this topic creeps into my mind. While I knew I was going to write it eventually, I had this week in mind, because this is an important week. This is FFA week and I can’t think of a more fitting time to write about the moment that turned my life around, than now. My life was forever shifted in 1995 when I walked into the Agricultural Education classroom at Wapakoneta High School. It was there that two extraordinary people, Mr. Ron Brown and Mr. Chris Turner, helped give some direction to a skinny kid with a big mouth and love for cows. They gave me an outlet to channel my passions and the tools to communicate a vision. They challenged me to reach for more. The biggest shift came my junior year when I was using my skills as a speaker for far less than beneficial results. Mr. Brown pulled me aside and told me that he thought I had the skill to become a State FFA Officer if I could just grow up and act like a professional. I felt guilt, and I felt anger, but most of all, I felt that he was right. That discussion shifted who I am. Later that spring, I ran for and was elected to State FFA Office. With that election came the awesome responsibility of leading the more than 22,000 FFA members in the state of Ohio. A position that in the beginning, I was completely unprepared for. When I arrived in Columbus for our first meeting, wearing a clip-on tie and cowboy boots with my official dress, it was clear that I needed some polish. I have always been amazed that mentors in my life have come to me in pairs and when I met Mr. Steve Gratz, the Ohio FFA Executive Secretary, and Greg Dague, the Ohio FFA State President, they saw it too. It was working with this incredible group of people that I learned to stand out and not sticking out. Where I found the discipline and focus required to achieve my goals. It was a moment that turned my life around. It’s the reason I still wear the FFA ring that my dad gave me when I left for Columbus that first time. We all have moments in the course of our lives that shift who we are, change us for the better and completely turn our lives around. It’s important that identify and celebrate these moments. To be mindful when we find one. These are the moments that help to define us and shape who we are. They’re worthy of remembrance, because without them. who knows where we’d be.     ]]>

Have you ever gone to bed tired and laid there only to stare at the ceiling, unable to sleep? This used to happen to me, virtually every night. I had the best of intentions of getting up early, full of energy ready to tackle the day, but those plans lay wasted in the 3:00 am glow of my alarm clock. Bad nights were wrecking my mornings. Then things changed. It had nothing to do with the thousands of sleep drugs that are advertised on TV or some superfood sold in a health store. I simply began looking at my evening the way I look at my morning. Everyone is writing about their morning routines. I posted mine a few months ago. Morning routines set you up to win the day, but having a solid evening routine can do the same thing for a good night’s sleep. Here’s mine:

I Make A Plan

Like all things, getting to bed on time starts with a solid plan. Leave work late, rush through your evening meal, still want to spend time with your family? It can wreck the entire night. Make a plan to leave work on time. It starts the dominoes falling in the right direction for a change.

I Limit Caffeine In The Afternoon

I love stimulants. I love coffee and caffeine but when I drink a diet coke after 2, sleeping is a struggle and this has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Sticking with water in the afternoon and early evening allows me to sleep much better at night.

I Shut Off My Ringer at 8 pm

There are those that advise staying off of your phone all evening. This being the real world, however, I shut off my ringer beginning at 8 every night. I use an application that does this for me. What this does for me, is allow me to read online articles, cruise through social media and even text a family member, without having to respond to every email that pops in. This makes using the phone my decision and not based on someone else’s emergency. 

I Review My Calendar

Knowing what I can expect the next day allows me to not worry about it as I try to sleep. Taking a couple of seconds to see what meetings are scheduled and where I need to be, takes the guessing about tomorrow off of my mind and lets me sleep.

I Read

Instead of television, spending my last thirty minutes reading helps relax me to the point of sleep. I wish I could read fiction, but since I choose not to, I typically read a biography at night. It’s one of the best ways of shutting down that I know of.

I Journal

Getting everything out of my head is the absolute best sleep aide that I’ve ever found. I use a template that allows me to capture the high points of the day and drift off free from thoughts of things left undone or projects that need to be tackled tomorrow. I have them safely recorded somewhere so there’s nothing pulling my attention away from sleep.

I Listen To Audioprograms

Ok, this last one is weird and I don’t recommend it, but I got hooked on listening to audiobooks and lectures as I sleep and now I’m addicted. Using a pair of Bluetooth “bedphones”, and YouTube and on my Firefox browser, I fall asleep listening to things that inspire me. It puts me right to sleep every time. I really believe in the saying that he who wins the morning wins the day, but we can’t win the morning if we’re up all night unable to sleep. This is a routine that works for me. I’d love to read yours. Post in the comment below.  ]]>

On Monday, I wrote a post about my belief that we need not fear over committing and should learn to say YES rather than no. It sparked an interesting discussion with a friend of mine who asked: “How will I get it all done?” My answer is simple in theory but definitely not easy in practice and that’s to play with blocks of time. If you’ve never worked within a block schedule, it might look like it requires more discipline than you’re used to. It does. but that discipline buys you a lot more freedom and creativity as well. Here’s how to start.

Gather Your Projects

Putting a list together of all of the projects that need your attention is an important first step. It will allow you to see where you need to put your focus and when. I use Google Keep for this, but scratching it out on a legal pad or journal works too. List everything you’re working on with its due date and you’re ready to start.

Put the Big Rocks In First

I do not have space and you do not have the patience for me to retell the great Stephen Covey’s big rocks and aquarium story, you get it. the only way everything fits is if the big rocks go in first. When we play with blocks of time, the first things we schedule are our big rocks. These are client meetings, meetings with our superiors and appointments that take top priority. Get these in first and everything else will fit in around it.

Schedule Appointments With Yourself

After we’ve listed all of our scheduled appointments with others, it’s time to schedule appointments with ourselves. I like to work in 30-minute blocks and these are sacred promises that I make to myself. Schedule time to work on:
  • Projects from the master list
  • To process email
  • To make phone calls
  • To run errands
    • To read
    • To write
    • To think
Place these blocks directly on your calendar. Once they’re there, focus only on the things that you promised yourself that you would do.

Plan Weekly, Adjust Daily

Setting a plan a week ahead allows us to take a larger view of everything we need to accomplish. Spending Friday afternoon mapping out a game plan allows us to be in control over our schedule rather than our schedule controlling us. But like any good game plan, it requires daily adjustment. Meetings change, emergencies happen and things will throw off the best schedule. This is why we adjust every morning. A word to the wise, however, make your adjustments first thing in the morning. Knowing what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it before you ever show up for work gives us a feeling of empowerment that will allow us to attack the day.  This is the basic outline for a good block schedule; know your projects, schedule the big things first, schedule time with yourself to complete your projects and make your plan a week ahead. There will still be moments when we wonder what the hell we’re doing and we’re still going to have times when we don’t know how we’ll get it all done, but by playing with blocks of time, we have the control to say YES! and keep moving forward. ]]>

Have you noticed that everyone is telling us to say no?Books, podcasts, even one of my favorite bloggers wrote a piece last week about saying no. From where I’m standing, it looks as if there is a real fear of over commitment going around and the answer that everyone is giving us, is to say no. I disagree. I believe that if we’re going to build something of value, we can only do it by saying YES. Before I go further, let me state upfront that there are certain things we should not be saying YES to; illegal narcotics, cigarettes, toxic people…you get the picture. We shouldn’t be imitating Jim Carey in the awful movie Yes Man, and say yes to EVERYTHING, but we should be saying yes a lot more than we are. I believe in saying YES because I’m convinced that that’s where the opportunities that change our lives come from. After all, the number of salespeople that failed for taking too many meetings remained constant at zero last year. The same is true of speakers that spoke too many times, musicians that played too many events and bloggers that posted too many posts. If you’re staying busy developing your craft, no matter what it is, you cannot fail. But we don’t say YES. We hymn and we haw and we worry about overcommitting. This is a new fear that we have to slay and slay quickly. There will be times as we build our lives that we will take on too may things, we spread ourselves a little too thin and have too many irons in the fire, but this is how we grow. This is how we figure out how to get it all done. This is how we develop the creativity to be great. As I write this, I can hear the cries of “work/life balance” echoing down the street, but we all know deep down that there’s no such thing as true balance. Even if it were, it wouldn’t make us happy. We were put here to grow, not to stay stagnant, in one place and we can’t grow saying no. Speaking only for myself, I thrive on a busy schedule. If I don’t have a lot going on, I can feel complacency setting in and I know I’m in trouble. To avoid this, I take virtually every meeting offered to me. I get a lot of job offers and I’m never interested, but I usually take the meetings anyway. The reason is that I never know what other opportunities will come from it. If an opportunity to speak comes my way, I will always take it, even if it doesn’t pay as well as I would like. Why would I close the door on an opportunity to make new connections and grow my business? This only happens when I say YES. There are a lot of people out there telling us to say no. Let our competitors listen to them and when they’re turning down opportunities, we can pick them up because we’ll say yes and use them to build something great. Every worthwhile experience I’ve ever had only came to me when I said YES. Try it out, it’s the best way to grow! ]]>