Last year, during what I always refer to as the most awesome week of the year, Auglaize County Fair week, I sat with my wife under our tent embarrassed of our situation. We had made it through our sons first year showing steers at the fair but it was a real struggle. We kept our cattle at my parents’ house because we lived in town. We hauled them to the fairgrounds in a rusted out trailer way too small for all of our stock. We were borrowing everyone’s equipment trying to get by while using some of the same tools I had used when I showed nearly twenty years ago. We wanted it to be fun, but it was hard for both of us because we wanted better for our family. That’s when we started talking about all of the things we wanted to change in our lives and in particular in our show cattle lives. You see, this had become more than just a family hobby, it had become a way of life for all of us. As we were talking, we started making a list. We needed a barn of our own. We needed a new trailer big enough to haul all of the cattle. We needed our own fans, and our own equipment and everything we thought we needed we put on a list that Carrie was making in Google Keep. I was a big list that was going to cost us more than we thought we could ever pull together. And then a funny thing happened, we actually started getting the stuff on our list. Not everything came at once and none of it just magically appeared, but things started coming together for us to actually afford, buy and have things that we were dreaming of. Now, at this point, you might be thinking, big deal, you wanted some things so you went and got it, but that would be totally underselling how unrealistic our list seemed to us when we made it! We were sitting under that tent because we couldn’t afford to do anything else at the fair that day. We were daydreaming about a better future for ourselves with absolutely no idea how we could ever make it happen, but somehow it did. This is why I’m convinced that making a list is a magic tool for getting what you want. Jim Rohn once said that goals are like a magnet because they pull you in the direction of their achievement. He has to be right. I’m not saying that we just sat around and felt good and waited for everything to come to us. Carrie and I both worked really hard to get the stuff on our list, but I am saying that by knowing what we wanted, we were pulled in the direction of getting it. It has been a magic tool. Today we’re moving into the Auglaize County fair. We will be leaving from our own barn, hauling cattle in a brand new trailer loaded with all of our very own equipment. Every thing on that trailer today was once only a dream put on a list when we sat under that tent that day last year. If you feel discouraged at all, make your own list and see if the magic tool can get you what you want.]]>

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

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This summer has been a blur. Literally, one big scene where everything sort of moves into one frame and I can’t make anything out of it. Since we’ve moved to our new home, moved show cattle to our new barn, watched countless baseball games, have been washing, clipping and pampering show cattle and on top of all of this, trying to be a functional family, out time has been stretched beyond thin. We get up at five and we turn in around and in the middle, it’s go go go and I have been missing a key element of my daily routine; my reading. At first I didn’t notice anything different about myself. I didn’t read one morning and everything seemed to be fine in the world. No one died, no big deal. One morning became two, and then a week and a snowball. my routine has been thrown off and I haven’t been nearly as diligent as I had been but I didn’t notice it until one day, I couldn’t write. I went to the well and it was dry. That’s when I realized where my mistake had made it’s presence felt. When I stopped filling my mind with ideas, it stopped generating them. I was hit with a fundamental truth; if you want to tell great stories, you have to ingest great stories. I missed it. Ideas for his blog cranked right out as long as i was reading at least a book a week. When I took the time to watch great speeches on YouTube, my presentations got better. When I stopped, so did the flow of thoughts and new ideas to explore. Figuring it out was an important first step, but fixing it required more. Here’s my plan:

Read First

In the last couple of months I had settled into a routine of doing a lot of other things in the morning. When I come in from the barn, I should be using that time, before the rest of the house is awake to read. Using this hour allows me to crank through pages of material and gives my thoughts a spark for my ultimate thinking place; the shower.

Hit YouTube Once A Day

Not for cat videos, I’m not advocating a waste of time, but for TED talks. I have a love / hate relationship with TED. For some reason, it’s become some gold standard for public speaking and it really shouldn’t be, but most of the videos online fit their tag of ideas worth spreading.

Forgive Myself

Ok, this seems so touchy feely, but really, why beat myself up? I can’t go back and read the books, I can only improve going forward. We all hold ourselves to high standards and that’s good, but there’s no point in holding a grudge against ourselves because we failed to meet them. Move forward and get better. This summer has been a blur. Next week, is the greatest week of the year, the week I refer to as Awesome Week because it’s our county fair week. We’re all excited, but I promise, I’ll have a book.]]>

In almost every success book I’ve ever read has given the same bit of advice; get a mentor. It’s good advice but what it always leaves out is how to go about getting one. I’ve been blessed to have some truly great mentors in my life and in my career. Some of them have been formal, most have been informal relationships with wise people who have helped me navigate some of the hardest situations to get through. This is the formula that I’ve always followed and as simple as it sounds, it has always served me well.

Ask For Advice

Do you like giving advice? Sure you do. Everyone loves giving advice we just don’t all love taking it. When we ask someone for advice, however, we’re showing them that we value their opinion and reap the benefit of their wisdom. It truly is a win /win! We get information that can be helpful to us and the person we’re asking feels important and therefore likely to help us in the future. Every mentoring relationship I have ever had began with me asking for advice from someone with more experience than I had and it has always worked well for me.

Actually Follow The Advice

There are few things as annoying as someone who is always asking for advice but never following the advice they’re given. It’s been my experience that people love to give advice and in general, will be very generous with their time as long as they feel as though their time isn’t being wasted. When someone we want to mentor us gives us advice, we need to follow it. This again shows respect for their wisdom but will also lead to results for us. There’s no use in asking if we’re not going to use what we’re given.

Report Back Results

If we’re trying to build a real mentor relationship, reporting back our results after we follow the advice we’re given is a HUGE step because it does two really important thing: It gives us another opportunity to interact with our potential mentor and it allows us to show that we value the advice we’ve been given. Again, most people will be generous with their time to help someone, they will be more generous if we keep them informed of our progress. Sometimes the advice they give works perfectly. This is great! Go tell your mentor how brilliant their advice (and by extension, they) are. Other times, it doesn’t work at all. This is great! Got tell your mentor how you tried their advice but it didn’t work out. In most cases, they’ll help you work through another solution. Either way, this is a great step of building an important relationship and that’s how mentorships are really established. One of the fastest ways to grow is to use the experience of those who have been there before. To follow their path but avoid their mistakes. Getting a mentor is a great step but it isn’t always easy. That’s why I ask for advice, follow what they tell me and then report back. In almost every case, this has worked great for me. Give it a shot yourself and let me know how it works for you.]]>

What will you do this weekend? This is a simple question that most people throw around as small talk, but the two days we spend away from work might be two of the most important if we use them correctly. if your plans include using substances to black yourself out, here’s a little tip…you’re doing it wrong. The good news is, however, that there is a blueprint prepared for a great weekend, we just have to follow it. In her wonderful book What Successful People Do On The Weekend, Laura Vanderkam lays out some the keys to spending our off hours in a way that allows us to better use our working ones. Her study has revealed that successful people do the following with their weekends:

They Unplug

I guess it’s not good for us to be with our phones 24/7 or something? I don’t know I tried it once and I actually survived. Ok all jokes aside, having some time when we’re not glued to our devices is a great way to recharge. Even if it’s just for a few hours on a Sunday morning, getting unplugged can help us reimagine our lives and careers and it just might lead to the next key.

They Reconnect With The Important People In Their Lives

In my house, it’s really hard for my wife and me to have a meaningful conversation through the week. With packed schedules and kids activities, we find ourselves in survival mode. That’s why weekends are so important. It’s a time when we can actually talk and enjoy one another’s company. Chances are good, you’re a busy person. it’s what makes you successful.Be sure you’re using your weekends to connect with those who are as invested in your success as you are.

They Engage In A Hobby

I’m not going to lie, all of my good ideas come to me in the barn. It’s my happy place that allows my mind to relax and generate new ideas. Working in my barn is my hobby. Successful people find a way to engage in activities that allow them to be creative and use parts of their brain that they don’t use Monday through Friday. It might be gardening, it could be golf, whatever it is, pursue it and use your time to experience something you enjoy outside of work.

They Plan For The Week Ahead

It amazes me how much more productive I can be on a Monday morning if I have taken the time to make a game plan Sunday night. Planning crystallizes my thinking and prepares me for what lies ahead. if your idea is to leave it all go until Monday, you end up in a cycle of catch up and living for the next weekend. That’s a recipe for unhappiness. Every battle is won before it’s fought and every successful week is planned during the weekend. What will you do this weekend? Too many people I know will use their two days to try and escape from the other five and wake up Monday morning hungover and in debt. The successful ones will unplug, reconnect, pursue a hobby and make a plan. The choice is yours, I just hope you choose wisely.]]>

Last year at this time, I posted a blog called the Backside of Thirty. I wrote that post about my 36th birthday and the feeling of frustration related to starting fast and being stuck. Since today is my 37th birthday, I thought it appropriate to revisit that post and discuss how different things feel after another trip around the sun. Last year, writing that post seemed to be a turning point for me. My work on City Council wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as it had once been and I began taking steps to move on. I realized that while I enjoyed my United Way work, there was a lot more that I wanted to do and more that I wanted to contribute. Last year I felt trapped and stuck in the wilderness. A year can make a big difference. The biggest step that I’ve taken in the last year has been to truly commit myself to my craft. While I do a lot of things, I consider myself to be a communicator first. In the last year, I have focused heavily on getting better. I read more than I ever have. I write more than I ever have and I’ve found new ways to put myself in front of an audience. This commitment has given me what I sorely needed last year at this time and that’s the feeling of accomplishment. Giving myself targets to hit and constantly striving to make sure that I do has put me back in control. I’ve bet on myself and more often than not, I’ve won. That’s not to say that this last year has been easy. There have been a lot of early mornings and late nights writing blog posts, recording videos and working on keynotes, but every one of those days has been more than worth it. This is the price I pay for chasing a dream and it’s never too high. The lesson in all of this is that if you feel trapped, stuck in the wilderness or just plain unhappy, commit to what you love. Don’t walk away from your paycheck, but don’t turn your back on your passion either. The gift I gave myself this year has been to join the Slash/Economy. To not wait until everything was perfect or until I had everything, to just commit and start. Since taking this step, I’m a year older, but most importantly, I’m a year happier and I have myself to thank. D it for yourself, because trust me, if I can do it, I know that you can.]]>

Can I tell you about the feeling that I hate more than any other? It’s the feeling I get when I read a really great article, hear a really great speech or see a really awesome video and think to myself “I wish I had written that.” That feeling of regret is so sharp that it stings for days. The reason it hurts so much is that deep down, I know that I could have written, spoke or recorded something as great as what I am witnessing, I just didn’t. Someone else had the same powerful idea that I had burning inside of me, but they actually did it while I just thought about it. Knowing that it isn’t that I’m not good enough but because I didn’t act is the worst feeling in the world to me. As I was writing the blog posts Monday and Wednesday about sacrifice and commitment, I couldn’t help but think of this feeling. Yes, sacrifice is sometimes painful but not nearly as painful as this feeling of regret. Jim Rohn said it best when he said that that discipline weighs ounces but regret weighs tons. It’s been my experience that this is more than true. You see I’ve spent all of this week talking about what we gain when we’re committed enough to sacrifice, but I haven’t mentioned at all what we lose when we don’t. The feelings of regret that foster when we’re not committed enough to do what is necessary, to sacrifice for our larger goals, sucks our confidence and eats at our self-esteem. When we let ourselves down by not giving it everything, we don’t see ourselves the same. Do it enough and it has the opposite effect on our self-belief that being committed and making the sacrifice has and it’s devastating. I have felt this feeling a lot in my life. There have been countless times when I failed to do what I know that I should and I had to live under the weight of regret rather than the temporary pain of sacrifice. It’s because of these moments that I strive to do all I can whenever I can. It’s a feeling strong enough to change the way I look at work, at life and the job I have to get done. It’s a feeling so painful that I hope you feel it soon as I’m confident it will change your view too.]]>

On Monday, I posted a blog about how the sacrifice is always worth it and then I doubled down on that very topic yesterday in a video.  When talking about achieving something big, the dues that we pay and the things that we give up are always more than worth it because of the confidence it instills in us that we can do it. It’s a cycle that feeds itself. Sacrifice, while it might not look like it on the surface is a key to happiness because it’s a part of something much bigger; commitment. Reading is a passion of mine. I spend a lot of time doing it and I am yet to come across a story of anyone who has ever achieved anything great without being 100% committed to their success. Think about it, even people who appear to be a total accident spent years in preparation. Alexander Fleming didn’t just see mold growing on bread and know that it would save millions of people one day when it became penicillin. He spent years developing his skills as a botanist, and a biologist putting himself in a position to make a life-saving discovery.  He might not have been committed to penicillin, but he was committed to himself and to science. I bring this up because commitment is the cornerstone to greatness. It’s the driver of ambition and the fuel for achievement. Commitment to a larger vision, to our goals and to our future is what helps us sustain the hard times and endure the sacrifice and here’s the thing, we can’t fake it. We can’t say that we’re committed and start late. We can’t say that we’re committed and quit early. We can’t sleep all spring and hustle up harvest come fall. Commitment is something that shows up every single day. It’s been mentioned here before about our family’s passion for show cattle. It’s a shared hobby and passion that the whole family enjoys. One of the places I love to discuss our hobby is in a Facebook group where members share pictures of their livestock, give helpful advice and buy and sell cattle. What always amazes me is a number of people who, one week from their county fair when their cattle will be shown, post pictures and ask for help to get their cattle looking better. This is like walking twenty-five miles of a marathon and then expecting to win because you’re willing to sprint out the last mile. That’s not commitment. You can run it that way, but you’re going to lose and look silly doing it. Commitment is grinding it out every other day so that when the time comes, you’re prepared and win or lose, you can live with the result knowing that you did everything you could possibly do to get that far. Commitment is a gift that we give ourselves because it allows us to be responsible for our lives. This week, my theme has been sacrifice and commitment because we all deserve to see for ourselves the results we get when we do what it necessary, no matter the cost to achieve something we care about. Consider this your challenge to make your commitment, to sacrifice for the larger vision and build your own results. As I wrote on Monday, I promise that it’s worth it.]]>

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4li62FWNMuA[/embedyt]

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