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 Clowns to the left of me, jokers on the right…

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If you’ve been on any social media channel recently, you’ve no doubt seen the graphic from CBS news describing the generational differences in the workplace. The content isn’t new or even that useful, but the reason you’ve seen it is because whoever designed the graphic described the Baby Boom Generation, then went directly to the Millennial Generation and completely left out Generation X. An entire generation was left off the graphic and social media had a hay day about it. As a member of the last half of GenX, I’m not insulted. In fact, I’m used to it. It didn’t offend me, but it highlighted something really interesting to me: Two Generations Can’t Get Along and We’re Stuck In The Middle. 

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Being bookended by two of the biggest generations in history has it’s advantages though. Chief among them, we get to be objective observers in a fight raging in American workplaces. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

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Every Generation Needs A Generation Who Are Lazy And Entitled

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Before it was settled (unfairly by the way) that millennials are lazy and entitled, it was us, GenX who had that honor. Before us, yeah it was the Boomers. They called us the M-TV Generation because, presumably, that’s all we did was watch M-TV. When the Baby Boom Generation was coming of age, it was said that they needed to “get a haircut and get a real job.” If you listen closely to Millenials, you’ll hear them describe the next generation, Gen Z or Post-Millenials that they’re lazy and entitled. It’s a fact of life. Your generation will always be better and had it harder than the generation coming of age. It strikes me as funny that everything being said of Millenials was said of Boomers first. It wasn’t true then and it’s not now. 

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Millennials Get A Bad Wrap

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We blame them for spending too much time on their phones. Cool, so does EVERYONE. 

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“Everyone got a trophy” It’s funny because they didn’t ask for them and they were given by the very people now complaining about them. There’s also quite a bit of science out there that says rewarding effort rather than outcomes is the best way to develop kids with grit and persistence. 

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“They job hop and never stay anywhere.” BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO. The boomers won’t retire and Xer’s won’t be able to so in order to simply make a living, they have to move. Keep in mind they have more student loan debt than any generation in history so it seems like they have unrealistic expectations for income, it’s because their lenders have unrealistic expectations of loan payments. 

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We have in this generation, the most technically skilled and best-educated workforce we’ve ever seen. So much so that managers don’t know how to handle it so it becomes easier to just write them off as difficult. It’s untrue and unfair and companies that do so will be left holding the bag. 

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Millenials NEED More Compassion Toward Baby Boomers

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If it seems like you’re co-workers in their late 50s and early 60s are always tired and always cranky, maybe we should examine why. I clearly see it with my own parents. Up until recently, my Millenial brother was still living in their basement and my 85-year-old grandmother is aging just around the corner. Their parents are living longer and their children are staying at home leaving them as the sandwich generation; still raising kids while caring for aging parents. They had intended this to be the best years of their lives but they’re running themselves into the ground burning the candle at both ends. The patience that Millennials demand for themselves has to go both ways. 

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Just like I’m happy to be excluded from the CBS graphic, I’m happy to be excluded from the conflict, but since we’re stuck in the middle, GenX has a pretty good view of both sides and sees that neither is right and neither is wrong. Neither is difficult so much as they’re just different but if we work to understand those differences, the difficulty is diminished. 

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This is a true story. I haven’t even changed the names to protect the guilty.  If you’ve poked around this blog at all, you’ve noticed that discipline is a big subject for me. In just about every post, I will somehow allude to the fact that discipline separates winners from losers. I’m a big believer in not neglecting the small daily disciplines that add up to big successes. I’m constantly telling people to sweat the small stuff.  I’m also a big believer in hard work. I even wrote a post about how my generation watched their parents preach work/life balance to the point that they forgot to work. It’s a pretty big high horse I’ve been riding around on and that’s why for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I was stuck. I, Mr. Discipline, was being lazy. I, Mr. Sweat The Small Stuff, was neglecting all of the little things that I knew were easy to do. I was embarrassed, I was ashamed, and I was depressed. 

How Could This Happen?

While I was still showing up for work every day, it had been a long time since I had been showing up in my life. It was kind of a fog and I slowly moving through it, making all kinds of good excuses, and I was good at it. In fact, I am a world class excuse maker. I blamed the fact that they fair ended. I blamed the fact that I didn’t like summer. I blamed the fact that no one was reading my blog. I blamed my diet. (There’s actually something to this one, but that’s another story.) I was blaming everyone and everything except for some reason, I couldn’t blame myself.  Let me add at this point that the two things that I despise the most are weakness and laziness. I despise them the most when I see them in myself and for the month of August, it was on full display. I wasn’t eating well. I was weak. I wasn’t going to the gym. I was lazy. I wasn’t developing content, reading, working on myself or for myself. I was being lazy and weak. 

The Big Mo

Just recently, after a really enlightening coaching call where I was called out on all of my bullshit, I was hit with a startling realization; I’m not dealing with a laziness problem, I’m dealing with a momentum problem.  If you know me at all, what you’ve read above is probably pretty surprising. I’m known for my work ethic. I’m known for my discipline. I’m known for having only one speed; wide open. I don’t take days off. I don’t take breaks and I don’t cheat on my diet. I’m pretty much an all or nothing sort of person. Moderation has never really worked well for me. And this is my problem. I’m not good at taking a break before I need it. I keep going until I’m burned out and then the laziness and weakness that I despise so much creep back in and steal my resolve. I haven’t had the discipline to rest and it’s killed my progress.   As long as I’m rolling, it’s pretty easy to keep me moving. I enjoy working and I enjoy the process. I actually enjoy the discipline. It’s once I stop, that getting me moving again become a task of monumental proportion. One day off becomes three. Three days turn into a week and then I’ve wasted an entire month making excuses. The frustrating part of all of this is that it could have been avoided if I had just forced myself to slow down. Not stop, but slow down before I needed all of my efforts again. I didn’t but wish like hell now that I had. 

What This Means

This is a longer, more personal than normal post. I’m writing it because of this realization that a really good coach helped me hit upon has lessons applicable to almost anyone. Building virtually anything is a game of momentum. It’s so much easier to keep going than it is to start over from a dead stop. In the future, I’m going to be more mindful of when I just need to slow down and find the strength that I know I have to find the discipline to rest. ]]>

Without question, every time I have felt frustrated by my situation in life it has come down to an inability to be the leader of my life. I have looked at circumstances and wanted things to be different but could not or would not step up and lead myself to a better situation. I wanted everything to somehow magically change for me. If anything is going to change, however,  I have learned that I must step up and lead myself. Here the three basic principles of self-leadership:

Set A Vision

It has become a cliche to quote the biblical phrase that without vision, people perish, but it gets repeated for its truth. Leading ourselves requires that we set a compelling vision for ourselves, our life and our future. This means getting crystal clear on what it is that we want. Too many of us have no idea. We show up to work in order to live, but we have no vision of what it is that we’re working for. Setting a vision will give us something to plan for, something to strive to. It gives us a target to hit because, without it, we’re not aiming for anything. 

Pursue With Courage

The scariest moments in life are often when we set out to chase something we see for ourselves. This is scary because often times, we’re the only ones who see it. Like Columbus attempting to circumnavigate the globe (without oppressing indigenous people), we must pursue our vision with courage. We must feel the fear and go forth anyway. Self-leadership requires courage because once we set a vision we will want to back out. Our friends will call us crazy and it will get uncomfortable. In these moments, our courage will be the only thing keeping us from giving in. We must set a vision, but we must also pursue it with courage.

Execute

There is a time to plan and a time to work that plan. Leadership of ourselves requires that we know the difference and be great at both. Simply put, we must get results for ourselves and the only way to do that is to execute. This means we must put in the work. We must focus our energies and our efforts and act when the time comes. Too many people believe that if they simply set a vision that the universe will magically provide it. The truth as put by Gary Vaynerchuk is that “the law of attraction only works when you do.” There will always be people who talk about getting it done, but people who lead themselves execute and get results.  Nothing in our world will change until we do. That is an absolute fact. If we’re going to see change in our lives, we’re going to have to lead it. When we set a vision, pursue it with courage and execute, we become the leaders of our own lives and when we do, everything will change for us. ]]>

Like a kid at Christmas, I can hardly sleep because once again, Awesome Week is here! By Awesome week, I a, of course, talking about Auglaize County Fair week. A time when my family carries forth a tradition passed from generation to generation that all enjoy and look forward. It’s a vacation, a family reunion, and celebration all wrapped into one. We love it. Not everyone, however, shares my family’s enthusiasm for the county fair. In fact, a lot of people tell me to my face that we’re crazy for spending our entire year working for this week of heat, humidity, and expense. They don’t get it and they ask me why we wrap so much ourselves into showing livestock and being at the fair. “Isn’t it expensive?” they ask me. I always answer the same way; it’s an investment. Now before I go any further, let me say this, we lose money. We lose money when we buy a steer for our kids to show. We lose money when we buy feed for the steer, on the electric for our barn and on all of the equipment we buy for the cattle. We lose money every year, but it’s still a great investment because we aren’t investing in cattle, we’re investing in our kids. Showing cattle has taught my son and now my daughters lessons that I know they couldn’t learn anywhere else and that’s why its the best investment I will ever make. Because our time in the barn my kids have learned: Life Isn’t Fair There are few kids in our county that work harder in the barn than my son does. He’s up at 5:00 every morning and he’s in the barn until about 10:00 every night. He’s always brushing, washing and working because he loves it. Despite all of his hard work, however, it’s more than likely that he’s still not going to win. I love that he’s learning this lesson when he’s ten rather than being shocked when he gets his first job and watches someone that doesn’t work as hard as he does get promoted. Life isn’t fair, but he’s learning to work hard for himself and not just to please someone else. No Matter What Happens, Don’t Let Go Jack weighs about 70lbs and Caroline is about 50lbs soaking wet with boots on. Both of these kids are in control of animals that weight well over 1000lbs and sometimes it gets messy. When a steer needs to eat, drink or just wants to run there’s little that they can do to stop them. There’s one rule that they all follow though, and that’s no matter what happens, don’t let go of the rope. Later in life there are going to be setbacks and challenges and life is going to pull the in several directions at once. It’s in those moments when I hope they remember the rule that no matter what happens, to never let go. Win Or Lose, We’re In This Together From September until August our barn is full and our kids spend a lot of time there but from May until the Fair is over there are a lot of early mornings and late nights as the final push starts. Every single day all three kids work together to get all of the cattle washed, dried and brushed. To get manure picked up and feed in the bunk. They work together to move heavy bales of hay and to pull stubborn steers and when we get to our county fair, everything that happens both good and bad is celebrated as a family. Some day when they have families of their own it’s my hope that these days stand out as vividly in their minds as they do in mine and that their kids learn to count on one another the way that mine do today because win or lose, we’re in this together. There’s an online magazine called Showtimes that covers the show industry. In it, there are results for shows and promotions of others. Our whole family loves it and one of their promotions is the hashtag #ThisIsWhyWeShow. During Awesome Week this year, I’m watching my investment pay off as lessons that have been taught all year are celebrated. It might not make sense to anyone else, but when I see their hard work pay off and the smiles they give walking out of the show ring I can tell anyone that This Is Why Wee Show.]]>

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.  ]]>

If you want better answers, ask better questions.
The key to being our most productive, and getting the most from our day, is to improve the quality of the questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis. Here are my three top questions that will help anyone put forth their best effort every day:

What Are My Top Three Targets For Today?

This, to me, is the best place to start, but I have found that setting three big goals for every day is the best way to keep myself focused and engaged. When I set out to accomplish three big, hard tasks, it builds my confidence, pushes me closer to my bigger goals and centers my day on things that a truly important. When I hit my three targets for a day, I have something to keep score with and I know that I have been productive. That’s why its best to set these targets first thing in the morning, before the day has gelled and before any other plans have been set. This is essentially getting the big rocks planned first so that the pebbles can settle in around them.

What’s The Most Effective Thing That I Can Do Right Now With The Tools I Have Available?

For years, the overriding question of being productive was to ask “what’s the most effective thing that I can be doing right now?” This is a solid question, but a better one involves the tools that I have at my disposal. Try as hard as I might, I cannot call clients if I don’t have a phone. I can’t type a blog post if I don’t have my laptop. I can’t shoot a video without my phone. These are all important and effective things that I do, but they require the correct tools. This is why I break my task lists down based on the tool that I have. If I’m at my computer, I have a list of thing that I can only do while I’m sitting there. This allows me to take advantage of a two-minute block of time between appointments so that I don’t waste found time.

Will This Take Linger Than Two Minutes?

Two minutes is my magic number for any task that comes across my desk. If a task is going to take less than two minutes, I just do it. I don’t schedule it or overthink it, I just knock it out. Simple, easy and done. If the task is going to take longer than that, I schedule it. I find an empty block on my schedule and place it there so that I can give it the kind of attention that it truly deserves. I have wasted so many afternoons trying to finish something that I started in the middle of the day and felt completely drained afterward because I didn’t get any of my major targets accomplished that day. Had I asked this question, I could have scheduled it accordingly and felt safe in the knowledge that what gets scheduled gets done. If we want better answers we must ask better questions. By asking myself what my top three targets are, what I can accomplish with the tools I have available to me and whether or not a project will take longer than two minutes, I have the answers to win my day, every day.]]>

As I’ve done for both January and February, and as I hope to continue to do as the year goes on, I’m posting today a reading list of some of the most interesting books I’ve found this year. In today’s post, I feature four very different books that I have enjoyed tremendously and hope you will as well.

Talk Like Ted

On Monday, I posted that reading books will not make you a great speaker. I stand by that post, but this book gives a great deal of detail about effective communication. The strength of Carmine Gallo’s book is that he goes into great detail of what makes some of the most popular Ted Talks work so well. From highlighting the use of humor to a conversational style to the ideal length of a presentation, there is a lot of great information in this book.  So much so that I was able to put aside the author’s love affair with Steve Jobs, which is prevalent throughout, but this book is a solid read.

The Way of Serenity

If you’re anything like me, you probably think of the Serenity Prayer as something that’s said at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It wasn’t until I read this book, that the power of this simple prayer struck me. Written by Jonathan Morris, The Way of Serenity gives real world application for the Serenity Prayer that anyone, Christian or not, can find useful.  During some of my most stressful moments, I have in fact used the principles in this book to bring myself comfort. It’s well written and insightful which means I devoured it in a day.

The Power of Habit

This is a book that has been recommended to me for a long time but I had put off reading because I thought I knew about how habits are formed. I was wrong. What I enjoyed about this book the most was the way Charles Duhigg wove a series of stories to illustrate the way the human mind develops habits throughout the entire book. I learned a lot about human psychology, triggers, and toothpaste reading it and enjoyed the entire book. I waited too long to pick it up and I hope you, dear reader, don’t repeat my mistake.

The Laws of Success

Just about everyone I know has at minimum heard of Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. The Laws of Success was the precursor to this great book and is built on many of the same principles. This book has a lot of great ideas within its pages, but the best part of the entire read was the dated references for a book written in the 1920’s. Jim Rohn had said of Think and Grow Rich that “some the ideas were a little weird because Napoleon was kind of weird”, well this book puts it on full display. I especially enjoyed the author’s advice to take an enema for a headache. It was weirdly entertaining and worth checking out. I have long said that the only thing reading will make you good at is reading. That’s because knowledge without application is useless. Read these book, apply what you learn and set yourself up for greatness in 2017.    ]]>