On Monday, I posted a short blog about not wasting life. Yesterday, I posted a video about becoming the pragmatic leader of your life. Today, I want to share with you the best way that I’ve found to accomplish these goals; the best way to not waste life, and be the pragmatic leader of our lives. It’s a solution that comes down to writing our own script. On television, on Broadway or in Hollywood, a production is only as good as the script written for the performance. A film can feature Academy Award winning actors and have the greatest director, but if the script is bad, the whole production will fail. See Gili for further example. The problem for most of us, however, is that we don’t have a script at all.  There’s no plan to move our plot along, and when this happens, we follow someone else’s, putting us in the position of wasting our precious minutes and being followers, rather than leaders of our lives. We’re not in control of our lives anymore and if makes us feel stressed and rudderless. We need to write our own scripts. Sylvester Stallone wanted to be an actor. No one would cast him. What did he do? He wrote his own script. It’s time for us to do the same. Our script is comprised of three crucial parts: Our goals, our targets, and our agenda. Miss anyone of them, and you’re like Christopher Walken in a bad movie. The script is the key to success.

Goals

What is that we want? Out of the day? Out of the week? Out of our lives? This is where the script starts because as Stephen Covey has taught us, we must begin with the end in mind. How much more energy would you have every day if you knew that the actions you were taking would put you closer to achieving your goals? Write them out every morning and focus on what you want. This is the critical plot of our script and we can’t miss it.

Targets

If our goals are the plot of our script, our targets are how we move the plot along. We don’t want this to drag in the middle, so we need to keep moving forward. The best way I’ve ever found to do this is to set three targets every day that will move me closer to my goals. Three hard things that I will accomplish every day no matter what. Having targets gives us something to measure ourselves against, to find wins no matter how small and keep the positive momentum going. If we’re not striving for our target, whose are we reaching for?

Agenda

A successful day is planned in advance. A great day is scripted from beginning to end. The most productive people I know time block their day. They design their day before it ever starts. If we’re going to write our own script and not waste the moments of our lives, we have to get the most out of those moments. For me, this starts with an entire work day blocked out the way I want it to go. It probably won’t end that way, but writing it first, puts me in control of the changes because I wrote the script. We have all of the life we need if we don’t’ waste it.  To not waste our lives, we must become the pragmatic leaders of our own lives. To become the leaders of our lives, we have to write our own scripts. The strength of our production depends on the strength of our script. When we write our goals, our targets and our agenda, we’re scripting our own success.  ]]>

All year long, I have two favorite holidays. I love New Year’s day and I love Memorial Day. One feels like a look ahead and the other like a look back. Today, for Memorial Day, my family and I will visit 10 cemeteries and remember not only those who lost their lives protecting our freedoms but also those from our lives whom we’ve lost. Visiting the headstones of grandparents, great-grandparents and aunts and uncles has been a family tradition that we’ve passed onto our children and everyone seems to enjoy it.
Every year, there’s one place that I enjoy going the most and that’s to a bronze plaque located in Fryburg’s cemetery that commemorates all of the locals who served in World War Two. There are fifteen names on the plaque and one asterisk. The lone asterisk is for the one man who lost his life in that great war, my great great uncle Joe.  This post isn’t about his sacrifice or his service. He died in 1943 and almost everyone who knew him is gone too, but what always strikes me about that plaque is how young he was at 19. A young life cut down before his prime like nearly 450,000 others. For him, life was short.
What about the rest of us though?
We say it all of the time: “Life is short”. But is it? This weekend, I’ve been reading Seneca’s On The Shortness Of Life and in the first chapter, he makes the point that we have all of the life we need if we wouldn’t waste it. It shifted my thinking about life and how I live it. How many days have I lost to idleness? How many times have I been on my phone scrolling needlessly through Facebook when I could have been having a real conversation with the person next to me? How much of my life have I wasted?
For hundreds of thousands of brave young men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield, yes, life is short. But for the rest of us, what’s our excuse? We have all of the life we need, if only we live it.
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Every once in a while something happens that can change the direction of your life if you let it. Mine happened one morning two years ago when I opened YouTube and clicked on a compilation video of gym fails, and the most annoying thing on the web happened to me….An ad popped up. But this was no ordinary ad. This was Joe Rogan, you know the guy from fear factor, staring directly into the camera and asking me the strangest question:

If your life were a movie, and it started now, what would the hero of your life’s movie do right now? He said, far too often we define ourselves by our past and say, well that’s me, but that’s not you, you’re the person that’s learned from those failures and you can choose to be the hero of your own movie.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTuElM6T50w[/embedyt]

I just about fell out of my chair as his words hit me right in the gut and two thoughts raced through my mind.

  1. How am I so inspired by a guy who used to make people eat worms for money?
  2. What would the hero of my movie be doing right now
I wasn’t quite sure of the answer but I knew what the hero wouldn’t be doing. I’ve watched a lot of movies and I’ve never seen the hero wasting his time watching YouTube at 9:00 in the morning. And then the ad continued. I had the chance to skip it like I do with every other ad that pops up, but I didn’t. I sat there with my eyes transfixed on the screen and watched as this tattooed MMA commentator hit me with the brutal facts of life. And it closed by telling me to be inspired. To write down who I want to be and go forward as the hero the hero of my movie. [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QJSvjjgb3g[/embedyt] I went looking for more and on his podcast, he said in every movie the hero starts out in the gutter. A guy with a gun in his mouth until he sees a picture of his kids, Arnold Schwarzenegger rolling out of bed and putting pizza, ice cream and potato chips in a blender for breakfast. But then something happens and that loser, that guy whose life is going nowhere, takes control. At this point, I was thinking WHY NOT ME?

Now, I couldn’t tell you what the guy was selling or why the ad was on so from that standpoint, it was pretty ineffective, but all of a sudden, my hair was on fire. I saw possibility in everything.

When I looked at my desk I asked, who works like this? Not the hero of my movie, so I cleaned it up.

I looked back at my computer that had YouTube playing and asked, who watches Youtube in the middle of the day? Not the hero of my movie, I turned it off and started making my task list.

After I had listed all of the things that I had been putting off, letting slide and simply neglecting, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders with a crane.

In a little over two hours of time, I had completely reorganized my office, written two pretty important letters and finished a project that I had convinced myself would take months. Who could have pulled off this amazing feat, The hero of my movie, that’ s who?

Was this going to last? Who knows.

Zig Ziggler once famously said that motivation isn’t permanent, but neither is bathing, that’s why they recommend you do it on a regular basis.

Every time I feel myself begin to drift or my mind to wander, I ask myself, what would the hero of my movie do right now. That little line has kept me going ever since. 

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This is going to be a very personal post. Please consider yourself warned upfront. If you’ve ever read Stephen Covey, listened to Tony Robbins or had any exposure to the personal development materials in the last fifty years, you have no doubt heard of Victor Frankl’s 1946 classic, Man’s Search For Meaning. Besides being gripping, heartbreaking history, this book is the foundation upon which the personal development industry has been built. It’s a great book that should be required reading for everyone about his struggles in a Nazi concentration camp. The basis of the book comes down that the only meaning that matters in the events of our lives is the meaning that we give them. This post is about one of those moments. Eleven years ago today, Carrie and I excited drove the hospital with the anticipation of meeting our first child. She wasn’t due for another week, but our doctor was set to induce labor on the morning of May 24. Looking back, she and I were both young and naive but we were ready to be parents. Carrie labored for a couple of hours until it was decided that the baby’s heartbeat was too faint to continue and it would probably be best if she were delivered via c-section. What I remember most about this moment is how terrified I was at the thought of this very common and routine procedure. Looking back, this was the safest part of our entire story. Our little girl, Kennedy Grace Fisher, came into this world 11 years ago today and she was born with a severe heart condition that she never recovered from. She lived three months before her mother and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to let her go. This is where Victor Frankl comes in. It is incredibly hard to find meaning in the loss of a child. It’s an unspeakable pain that can cause even the strongest people to lose their minds, but the only meaning that matters is the meaning that Carrie and I give to this moment of our lives. Through this dark experience, there are rays of light that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. When our little girl was sick, our entire community came together to help us. There were chicken dinners and fundraisers, donations in our name and donations to our family. While we had always valued our community prior to having Kennedy, going through this cemented a sense of responsibility for us to pay that forward. To help where we can when we can. This is something we will sharing with our other children today when we make our annual trip back to the Ronald McDonald House where we stayed for three months to donate a meal and personal care items to families staying there. After the kind of support we were shown, we feel that there is no better way to honor the life our little girl than to give. We also came to know, through this, that no matter what, we can always count on one another. The bond that Carrie and I have after having to make such a difficult decision so early in our marriage is one that cannot be broken. No matter what life may throw at us; financial problems, disappointments or hard times, we know that nothing will be as hard as what where we’ve already been and that’s a meaning worth giving. Lastly, losing our daughter has left me with her story. In my work as a United Way Executive, I share this story frequently because a United Way Agency helped us when we needed it most. I share her story not to raise money, but so that other families can get the help they need should their time ever come. Sharing her story to help others again, gives some meaning to her tragedy that helps us find the light when we need it most. Eleven years ago today, I became a father for the first time not knowing that in three months I would have to say goodbye to our angel. If I got the chance to live it all over again I would, regardless of the pain because of the meaning I can find in my little girl’s life and death today. The only meaning that matters in the events of our lives is the meaning that we give them. It’s my hope that you’ll find the positive in yours.  ]]>

Right now, I’m kind of struggling. Oh, I know, I’m not supposed to tell you that. I am supposed to cultivate and curate the image of the person that has it all together in order to come across as credible with the advice I give. I could do that, but I would rather be honest with you tell you the truth. I’m struggling. You see, like everyone I know, I have a lot that I want to get done. That doesn’t make me unusual, but the fact that I’m stalled in my progress makes me frustrated. My frustration lies in the fact that most of the things that I need to do require the help and support of people who also have a lot that they want to get done and our priories aren’t the same. All I want to do is to act, but at the moment I have to wait. Up until this morning, this was causing me a lot of stress until I discovered something that I am finding to be a universal truth.

Planning is a poor substitute for action unless planning is the only action you can take.

While I thought about all of the things that I want to accomplish I noticed that there were a couple of steps that I had missed, which led to a couple of things that I could do. Doing those things led to the discovery that I didn’t have all of my action plans exactly as I would have liked. Now, ordinarily, I am a big advocate of just getting started. That planning, as valuable as it can be, is also a tool of procrastination, and that action can overcome a lot of shortcomings. Action is a priority because that’s how things get done. Until you can’t act. This morning, as I revisited my action plans, I noticed that not only was I getting more clear on what I want, but my stress and anxiety were wilting away as well. It seemed that my mind needed to be doing SOMETHING, and if actually acting wasn’t an option, planning became the next action. I began to feel better almost instantly. There are times when all of us need other people to accomplish our goals. It’s important to keep in mind that those other people have goals of their own. While I am a strong advocate of helping other people get what they want in order to find win/win solutions, it’s not always possible. In these situations we can choose to be frustrated with our lack of progress, and I have been guilty of doing this more times that I can count, or we can take the next action, even that’s only to plan. It’s true that planning is a poor substitute for action unless planning is the next action we can take. Keeping this in mind is how I’m overcoming my struggle. I hope it works as well for you.]]>

The end of May means that another class of high school and college seniors will end yet another chapter of their lives before making their splash into the real world. Before they get there though, there are three quotes from the movie world that I believe hold some important truths that might be the keys to building great careers.

“If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation”
There is a lot of power in this quote from Don Draper, a man who more than any who never lived, was able to recreate himself. The point of the great quote is that each of us has that same power. If we don’t like what’s being said about us, we can change the conversation. We’re in control of our brand. If we don’t like what our boss says about us, we can change that conversation. If we don’t like what our customers are saying about us, we can change the conversation. By this I don’t mean change the subject, any fool can do that, and they will indeed look foolish. What I mean is to get better. To make the conversation about how great you are, rather than our failings. Every day we get to choose if we’ll show up in our lives, and if we choose to correctly, we can change the conversation.
 “Earn This.”
I love the movie Saving Private Ryan and my favorite scene comes at the very end of the movie when Tom Hank’s character is dying on the bridge and he pulls Matt Damon’s Private Ryan close to him and tells him to “earn this.” It’s a powerful scene that calls to mind all of the sacrifices that went into saving Private Ryan. Most of us will never have someone die for us on a bridge, but all of us have people that sacrifice for us to make it to where we are. It might have been parents, teachers, coaches, mentors or a combination of all of the above, but there are those who paid a price for us to be successful. Our job is to earn it and we earn it by paying it forward. If people help you get to the top and you don’t return the favor to those still struggling, you’re dishonoring the many sacrifices that others made for you. The absolute greatest gift that you can give those who have helped you is to help others. Be a mentor, an example, and guide to others and earn this.
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
I’m not sure why every man I’ve ever met loves Braveheart, but I think this attitude has a lot to do with it. Condemned to die but given an opportunity to save himself, Mel Gibson’s William Wallace refuses to take it. When they tell him that he’s going to die, he responds with every man dies, but not every man really lives. This is a great quote to keep in mind as we build a career. We spend a lot of time planning, thinking and stressing about our future. We map out steps and pursue our goals strategically, but in the end, we’re going to die anyway. Now some will read that sentence and think that I’m being nihilistic, but I can assure you that I draw so much from that thought. If I’m going to die anyway, I don’t want to miss anything while I’m here. It’s why I advocate always saying yes and doing as much as humanly possible. Every man dies, not every man really lives. The class of 2017 is leaving school ready for the workforce. I truly believe that keeping these quotes in mind is not only the best way to build a career but a life as well. The time has come to make the splash. Make the most of it.  ]]>

 

Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight.
Ronnie Coleman’s quote about bodybuilding, on its surface, might not seem applicable to the business world, but when we dig deeper, we find that it is. Phrased another way, everyone wants to be successful, but not everyone wants to do the unpleasant things that success requires, and a lot of times, that unpleasant thing, is working for free. One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “how can I get paid to speak?” My answer is boring, and a lot of people dismiss it, but the answer is to get really good at speaking. To get really good at speaking, you have to speak a lot. This means speaking for free, a lot. Once we’re really good at speaking, people will pay us for it, but we have to build the skill first. We have to lift the heavy ass weight. I have some friends that dream of being paid writers. Do you know how many of them write every day for free? That’s right, the answer is zero. If they would simply put 500 words on the screen every day, they would within a year, develop the skills to be paid to write. They’re bright, and gifted people, but they haven’t developed the discipline and skill required to collect. They haven’t lifted their heavy ass weight. If you’re working in sales, how much of your after-hours time to you spend studying your products, your company, and your industry? How much time do you spend off the clock developing your communication skills, learning to better use language and understanding persuasion? The best I know put in a lot of work when they aren’t getting paid to make themselves better. They read the books, they take the classes and they go to Toastmasters meetings because they see the time they spend doing these things as an investment that pays dividends when the time comes to use the skills. These people lift the heavy ass weight. There is a pervasive attitude that only suckers work for free. This is a real shame because a lot of opportunities are missed due to this worldview. I can’t tell you how any opportunities have come my way because I spoke even though the group couldn’t pay me.  Those opportunities all more than paid for work that I put in for free, but the bigger payoff came from the habits that I developed and skills that I honed. When I lifted the heavy ass weight, good things happened and weight got lighter. You may not want to be a bodybuilder, but I would still urge you to lift the heavy ass weight. Do the unpleasant things like working for free, because the results are more than worth the price you pay when your skills are good enough to collect.]]>