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.]]>

Who are you trying to impress? It’s a question that I get all of the time. Anytime someone asks me, they aren’t referring to my attitude, they are, without fail talking about the way I’m dressed. Every day, I wear my uniform with pride. I wear a tailored suit, a pressed shirt and dark tie. I make sure that my shoes are shined and hair is cut. I take a great deal of care to make sure that when I present myself to the world, that I’m presenting a polished, professional image. But there’s only one person that I’m trying to impress and that’s myself. I set high standards for the way that I look and the way that I carry myself not because I want others to notice me in vanity, but because I do my best work when I feel best about myself. I write and I speak a lot about standing out because it has its advantages. Men and women who are well dressed are instantly given more credibility, but it’s men and women who carry themselves with confidence who are trusted. This is what my suit does for me. It fires my confidence. This wasn’t always the case. My grandfather wasn’t a cinema star during the golden age of Hollywood. He drove a tractor. My dad isn’t a slick suited attorney, he is a carpenter. Both were good men that taught me a lot of about the value of discipline and hard work but when it came time to put together an executive image, I was on my own. After struggling for years a salesperson, I realized that it didn’t matter what I was selling. Having the greatest product or service in the world didn’t matter if I couldn’t get taken seriously by gatekeepers or decision makers. It was a lack of confidence that was holding me back, but I didn’t know it at the time. That’s when I began studying those that succeeded where I failed and I noticed that in almost every case, it was small details that made a huge difference; shiny shoes, a dimpled tie, a properly fitting suit. When I worked on these details, I began to see myself differently and the world noticed. Every day the most important sale we make is the one we make to ourselves. Every day we have to sell us on our own abilities before anyone else will buy them. It might seem silly, but that’s what looking the part does for me.  It might be something completely different for you, but whatever it is, you have to find it and do whatever it takes to close that sale because your success depends on it. That’s why I work so hard at looking my best. I don’t do it to impress anyone. I do it for me, and that’s reason enough. ]]>

In a recent blog series I’ve posted titled, A Blueprint for Looking The Part, I laid out an easy to follow formula for looking as if you belong the rooms of influence. Today’s post take a different view; how to stand and out be noticed for our executive image. Before I get into the specifics, I want to note that I’m talking about standing out, not sticking out. There’s a world of difference between the two. When we stand out, we’re noticed for the positive and taken seriously, when we stick out, we’re noticed for our negative and dismissed before we begin. That’s why standing out is so important. Standing Out Means Nailing The Details. The foundation for standing out begins with conservative wardrobe staples. It’s a tailored suit in either gray or navy. This works for both men and women, though gray is more flattering to females. In order to make the foundation work, the tailoring has to be right. This means the jacket sleeves don’t fall to the thumb but instead leave at minimum a 1/2 inch of shirt cuff to show. Pants break slightly at the ankle and the hem falls just at the shoe. These details seem small but they’re noticed. Beneath the suit, the next item is a crisp white shirt. I have written about its virtues before and I’m certain I will again. It’s classic and clean makes everyone more attractive. Details are important here too. Don’t let it balloon at the waist, keep it fitted and make sure your sleeves are long enough. It may seem conservative, but that’s exactly what will make it work. With a foundation of a conservative, well-tailored suit and crisp white shirt, the next detail is what will make us stand out. Pick one accessory in an unexpected, bright color. For ladies, it might be a great pair of red heels or a brightly colored handbag. For men, it could be a brightly colored necktie (solid colors work best), or an unexpected color of shoes like a chocolate or caramel colored brown. Just one accessory, in an unexpected color against the conservative backdrop of the suit and the shirt, will stand out, seem fun and personal. There are simply two rules to make it work. 1. Pick Just One Detail More than one item will take away from the statement accessory. Let it stand on its own by being great. A great pair of shoes, a scarf, and a standout handbag seems as if we’re trying too hard. The same can be said for a bright tie, matching pocket square, and tan shoes. One detail stands out, too many begin to stick out. 2. Where It With Confidence Whichever accessory you choose should appear as if you chose it after careful consideration and never gave it a second thought. The purple tie, the orange pumps, the periwinkle scarf, all of them should be worn as a badge of honor to highlight individuality. When we stand out, we need the confidence to back up the statement we’re making. Own it. We all have the interview, the sales call, the presentation when we need to separate ourselves. Our style will never be more important than our substance, but make subtle and slight changes and we’ll be remembered and that’s always the goal. ]]>

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“I read your blog. You’re too obsessed with dress codes. People don’t care how people dress, they care about what they know and what they can do.”

This was in an email from a friend of mine who read my two-part series from last week called The Blueprint For Looking The Part. To be honest, the only part that disappointed me was that they left their comments in an email and not in the comment section of my blog. I responded and asked if they had a problem with my sharing our conversation as a blog post. Since they agreed, I’m sharing it today. My response to this email is that they missed the point. I didn’t write about a dress code, I was writing about image. It’s my firm belief that image is crucial to success. Being intelligent is great, having a high emotional quotient is important, but image is what breaks down the barriers so that others can see the great skills we have.  As crucial as image is, there are two parts. Part one is the external image; the way others see us and that’s important. Part two is internal image; the way we see ourselves and that’s the entire ballgame.

The Value of External Image

There’s a thought that anyone concerned with their image is vain or self-centered but this is misguided. Of course, this can be taken too far but the value of our external image is that having a healthy one allows us to be taken seriously. Young leaders today, especially, face three big challenges: Getting Noticed, Being Taken Seriously and selling their competence with humility. This is why the packaging matters. Having the right image makes you much more likely to be taken seriously. Only when we’ve gotten attention and we’re taken seriously can we prove our worth. External image plants our competence in the minds of our target audience early so we don’t have to work so hard later and that is its true value.

The Value of Internal Image

The real value to me of looking the part isn’t how others see me but rather how I see myself. When I look as if I belong at the table, my confidence increases. I don’t think I ‘m alone in this. There is obviously more to being confident than the clothes we wear, but it’s a crucial firs step. When we see ourselves as competent people who get things done, we begin to act like it and that’s where the true value lies. Feelings lead to actions and actions lead to results. Before we can sell ourselves to anyone else, we must first sell ourselves on us. Looking the part is where this starts as it helps cement our internal image, starting the feelings of success. I’m not sure I convinced my friend of the important role image plays in our success, but I’m really happy that the debate took place. It allowed me to crystalize my thinking on the subject and if nothing else, I further convinced me which only improves my internal image and as I say, that’s the ballgame.  ]]>

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In part one of this series earlier this week, I laid out the foundation of a blue print for looking the part, the basics; white shirt, blue blazer, gray slacks or trousers, shined black shoes. In part two, I will lay out optimizing this meet virtually any scenario.

The basics work because of it’s simplicity. It’s a uniform that can be worn day in and day out with no one taking notice. Keep the shirt gleaming white, the trousers creased and the shoes shined and you will always look like an executive, even if you haven’t earned the title yet. All of that said, there are times when the basics need to be tweaked for the situation. In some cases, it’s too casual and in others, it’s too formal, but the beauty in it lies in the fact that it can be easily optimized to fit the situation.

The Formal

In those rare events that the basic look is too casual, we can easily remedy this situation by taking two additional steps. If you’re a man, the addition of a slim dark tie and a folded white pocket square takes the basic business casual uniform and puts it squarely in business territory. In truth this has a lot to do with the trousers. Where cotton khakis with shirt and blazer and it doesn’t matter if we add the tie or not, but by stepping up to gray, wool trousers, the addition of a tie and pocket square makes the

look feel complete and put together.

To nail the details here, its crucial that you follow certain rules with your tie. First, keep it slim. My preference is for 2 1/2’ inches at its widest point. Second, keep it simple. Stick to dark solids like navy and charcoal, basic stripes and small pin dots. Lastly, keep it impeccable. If you’re tie has a soup stain, throw it out. You want nothing to take away from you and your skills and giving the appearance of being a slob does just that.

For the pocket square, a white cotton handkerchief works really well. Keep it white and keep it simple. a basic straight fold, sometimes called the Presidential, is always appropriate. Keep most of it in your pocket and let only the top of the fold show.

Nail these details and you will fit in in just about ever event outside of a funeral.

The Casual

I have long subscribed to the theory that one dresses for the job they want, not the job they have. That being said, sometimes, the basics need to be toned down and made more causal. For those cases, a very easy fix is to remove the blazer and roll the sleeve to the elbow. With this look, the white shirt, still gives the clean, well put together feeling. The trousers still say that you take your job seriously, but the rolling of your sleeves will be taken as a sign that you’re willing to work. There’s a reason it’s a trick utilized by almost all politicians.

If it’s too cool to roll your sleeves, consider the addition of a black cotton sweater. Stick with crew neck with a good fit keep your shirt collar inside the sweater collar. This keep the clean, professional look, but also keeps the causal feel.

To nail the details of the causal option, carefully roll your sleeves to your elbow. a neat fold indicated attention to detail and that’s always a good sign. If a sweater is added, keep it black or charcoal and make sure it fits you. it should somewhat form fitting but not like spandex. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but if done correctly, it’s a solid casual business causal. 

Looking the part is much easier than we like to make it.  With so many options its easy to get confused and overwhelmed. That’s why sticking to the basics and optimizing it along the way is always the best option. A white dress shirt, a blue blazer with gray trousers and black shoes works every time, you just have to tweak it as you go along.

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At some point in time, every one of us finds ourselves in a position where we need to look the part and look like we belong where we are. For some it’s a job interview, others it’s a client meeting and for most of us, it’s a big presentation that we hope to nail.  In every one of these situations and countless more, our appearance matters a great deal and I’ve found it helpful to have a blueprint to look the part.

Every industry has its own standards and ever person has their own taste, but I’ve broken my blueprint down into three can’t levels, Basic, Casual and Formal, that will work for every gender, every build and every industry, they just require a little modification.

Basic

10496When using a blueprint to build a building, it always starts with the foundation. The blueprint to look the part in no different. It’s made up of four main staples that are available to everyone.

When it comes to being well dressed, the first rule is dressing appropriately for the situation. I love a good suit, but it’s not always appropriate and neither is a polo shirt and khakis. Often times, one is just as inappropriate a the other. A crisp white shirt beneath a tailored Navy blazer with gray trousers or slacks and shined black shoes, however, works in ever scenario. Why?

A crisp White Shirt

There is simply no cleaner look than a sparkling white dress shirt. Male or female, every skin tone and build benefits from a white shirt.It’s timeless and it’s understated and it works because it shows that you take your job seriously. Like all things, the devil is in details, so make sure its impeccably clean, with a point collar and clear or white buttons. Make sure the fit is good with sleeve length that stops where the wrist meets the hand.

A Navy Blazer

Like a white shirt, Navy is a color that works on everyone. It’s dark enough to help slim anyone’s appearance, but not so dark as to be confused with a funeral suit. Wearing a blazer is again, an understated way of showing you take your job seriously. To nail the details of this look, have your jacket tailored. It should hug your torso without giving the appearance of a sausage casing and should leave between a half and one inch of white shirt sleeve showing. As for buttons, it’s a matter of taste. I prefer brass or silver, but plain blue work too, just make sure there are only two and to leave the bottom one open.

Gray Trousers or Slacks

There are those that argue that Khaki works just as well and I don’t have a problem with cotton khaki pants with a blue blazer but if you’re going to nail the look, your bottom half needs to be gray. Gray pants are a step above khaki because they indicate a bit more depth. Everyone has khakis but only people who really know how to dress has a pair of gray wool trousers. Getting the details of the pants right requires that the color be right; make sure they’re mid-gray and not charcoal, and that they fit correctly. Too tight you give the appearance that you’re over weight and too loose and you look like a kid being dressed up for a wedding. The hem should just touch the deal and there should be a sight break at the ankle. This works for both men and women.

Black Shoes

When it comes to footwear, we all have a lot of options. Sometimes too many options make things harder and that’ why I prefer simple. For men, a pair of black cap toe shoes and for ladies, a pair of basic black leather pumps. Both should reflect a shine that took some time to develop. Shined shoes indicate an attention to detail that others notice as soon as they meet you. Black shoes reflect a higher shine and should be considered your go to shoe. To nail the details, avoid brogues or wingtips and pocus on making the heels and the toes of the shoes shine.

Sticking with this foundation, we can present a professional image in virtually any room and on most any stage. On Friday, I will discuss how to optimize the basics to match any casual or formal situation, but this is the solid foundation on which you can build a mansion.]]>

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One of the subjects that I’ve become obsessed with recently is the idea of managing my energy. Working full time as a United Way Executive, a city councilor, coaching clients, speaking to almost any audience that will have me, providing communication training for teams, being a husband, a father and trying to stay sane requires insanely high levels of energy. While I take pride in my discipline, I’m always looking for ways to improve and that’s when I stumbled upon the best best advice I’ve ever heard of for having more energy.

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Yes, I know, we all get enough diet advice, but how many of us follow it? It’s my bet that the reasons most of us don’t follow it is that 1. we get way too much information and  2. it’s all so complicated.

I picked up this advice in a fantastic little book called Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull. In the book, Sull makes the point that simple rules are easier to follow than a sex of complex rules. Shocker, I know, but think about it: how many complex diet schemes have you started and then abandoned? I’m guessing more than one.

If you follow this simple rule, you actually fuel your body with real food.No more of the factory produced toxins that lead to blood sugar spikes only to be followed by the inevitable blood sugar crash and the low energy that it brings.

By following this rule, I eat when I’m hungry. I eat until I’m full. I just don’t eat anything that I can’t pluck, pick or kill. This means fruit instead of Snicker bars, vegetables instead of Cheetos and a nice steak over a Big Mac. Not only is it delicious, it keeps me on a consistently high level of energy all day.

One thing to keep in mind: this isn’t a weight loss strategy. I’m not advising anyone on how to lose weight. It’s a strategy to better manage blood sugar levels which will translate into higher levels of energy throughout the entire day. I’ve experienced this myself. I’ve been pretty fanatical about my diet for a while now, but by eliminating all of the processed “healthy” stuff from my diet, I’ve found that I’m better able to attack every day and stay present longer when I’m engaged with someone. The side benefit has been watching my pants fit better and having more room in my suit jackets, but that’s all it is, a side benefit because nothing can top the feeling of winning the day. 

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that it sounds way too easy to work, let me remind you that things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. Don’t get trapped into thinking that complex is better than simple. If you’re struggling with consistent energy levels, I’d urge to give it a try for a couple of weeks and see if you don’t agree that it’s the best advice you’ve ever heard.

If you have advice on how to best manage energy levels, please share it in the comments section below.

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Disciplines

Last week I wrote a blog post about developing confidence. One of the key points of that blog post was keeping commitments to yourself, or as Jim Rohn would say, “not neglecting the daily disciplines.”

I firmly believe that its one of the biggest drivers of being confident; knowing that you’re going to do the things you promise yourself that you will do. But what should you be promising yourself?

Outside of the daily disciplines that are required for our work; making phone calls,  answering emails etc., there are ten things that every success book ever written suggest as daily disciplines. I’ve included those ten things here, but would love to see what your additions would be.

1. Get Quiet

Prayer, meditation, listening to Led Zeppelin while counting your breaths, whatever you have to do to quiet your mind. The discipline of focusing our thoughts gives us an expanded ability to focus our attention when it’s really needed.

2. Shine Your Shoes

This one is metaphorical. I take it to mean literally buffing my shoes every morning as I put them on, but not everyone wears shiny shoes. It means take some pride in your appearance. The way the world sees you is important, they way you see yourself is even more so. 

3. Focus on Your Goals

The importance of goals has been beaten to death. It’s safe to say everyone knows that we need written goals, but we also need to focus on them. I recently began the practice of writing them down every morning and ever night. This discipline brings a new focus to what I actually want.

4. Plan

Great days at the beach may happen by happenstance, great days at work however as carefully planned and ruthlessly pursued. The discipline of reclaiming our agenda and actually moving through the day with purpose requires planning. We must set our schedules, organize our tasks and plan our attack because either you run your day or your day runs you.

5. Move!

Some people run, some people walk and others lift heavy things but we as a species weren’t designed to sit all day in front of glowing screens. Finding a way to move in a way that we enjoy is a discipline that simply cannot neglect.

6. Tend To Your Brand

Our personal brand is what sets us apart from others in any work environment. It’s what helps pay the bills if we’re self-employed and it’s what get us promoted if we work for someone else. The discipline of every day tending to our brand is critical. It means having a presence online and being consistent. It means looking your very best and it means carrying yourself with purpose. All of this requires daily discipline to keep our brand relevant and exposed.

7. Read

Books, trade journals, blogs, newspapers, and magazine, whatever it takes to be informed, to learn the skills and develop the knowledge is critical. The average American CEO last year read over 60 books. The average American was lucky to have read one. It’s a fundamental fact, Leaders Are Readers.

8. Journal

One of my favorite quotes comes from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: “Our heads are for having ideas not storing them.” When I mention keeping a journal, I’m not talking about a teenage diary, I’m talking about an organized method for collecting the thoughts that pop into our heads so that we can filter out good ideas from bad and turn ideas into something of substance. Keeping a journal is a daily discipline that should not be neglected.

9. Practice

Not every day is game day, but when game day comes, we need to be sharp. The only way to get sharp is to practice. That means if you’re a salesperson, we practice our pitch, if you’re a nurse you practice your technique and your bedside manner, but everyone needs practice. We get paid for game day heroics, but those don’t come without failures on the practice field of life.

10. Love

This seems too touchy-feely but that’s not how I mean it. Often times, people will do things for others that they will not do for themselves. Loving our families, our neighbors ourselves and our God brings meaning to the things that we do and allows us to work for something bigger than ourselves. Those of us lucky enough to have those people in our life need not neglect the daily discipline of loving them.

 

I’m actually pretty proud of my list because to me to encompasses all of the things that we must do every  day if we are going to live an authentic and full life. I’m sure it’s not complete however which means I would love to read your additions. Share yours in a comment below.

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