A Question of Balance

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11,910,000,000

This is how many results Google told me it had when I searched for Starting Your Own Business. It’s a popular topic. It seems everyone has an opinion on what it takes from going to where you are at to getting where you want to be.

Make sense?

A lot of it is sound advice – Incorporation options, types of insurance you might need to carry for your business. Stuff like that.

But ya know what?

I saw nothing about creating balance in your life BEFORE you decided that you’d be be hob-nobbing with Elon Musk.

Nothing.

Cue the crickets chirping

Okay, I didn’t review all 11,910,000,000 results, but you get my drift.

I’ve been doing what I do for the past twenty years. I have helped all sorts of people, all shapes and sizes and all with creative ideas. I’m not sure what that makes me in the pantheon of coaching and I don’t think it’s bragging to say I’ve learned a thing or two during those twenty years.

So………… Before you hop in full-tilt-boogie, print up business cards and sink a ton of money into one of those a-million-dollars-in six months programs, consider doing this first.

Create some balance in your life!

When I conduct a discovery session, I ask a question.

Tell me what you do to cope with the stress in your life? Do you remember the Atari game Asteroid? You moved a cursor back and forth while enemy space ships hurled bombs at you from on high. The more bombs you destroyed, the quicker the next wave came at you. The more you concentrated on destroying all the bombs the more bombs came.

Does that sound like your life? Hint, hint. It sure does sound like mine. Know what I mean Vern?

I get a lot of stock answers. I run, I golf, I take long walks.

I ask if there is time during the day for you to close your eyes for ten minutes or so and focus on relaxing; centering, setting an intention or simply allowing yourself an oasis in time to relax. I ask if they are open to learning how to practice that technique effectively.

It’s called meditation and you don’t have to hover off of the ground and chant or wear a flowing robe while burning incense. Unless that’s your thing. It allows your mind and body to shift into neutral to create a restore point of clarity.

Sorta the drain cleaner of the spiritual realm.

Starting and maintaining your business will require you to test the limits of your internal resources. Imagine if you never changed the oil on your vehicle or never replaced the filter on your furnace. In a while things would break down.

When we are stressed,tired and frustrated we make mistakes.

Lemme tell you a story.

A few years ago I was working on a promotion for Small Business Week. I was offering potential entrepreneurs a special coaching package. I worked on it for a couple of weeks and published it with a link to my special offer. I waited, and waited, and waited.

While I was crafting my path to fame I was juggling at least three other projects and, oh yeah, I was way too busy to shift into neutral and meditate. Too busy! Business is Business. That hippy stuff can wait. Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos don’t meditate. Do they?

After two weeks I had zero responses. Huh! These people must be half crazy not to take advantage of this offer.

The phone rang. (No kidding it really did!) A friend called to ask me if I knew that you can’t insert a link to another page and then save the page as a JPEG file. (I swear to God he was stifling a laugh.) It won’t connect. When I hung up I checked the page. He was right. No one could register because I was too busy to sit down, chill out and think things through.

I’m a By-God-Entrepreneur.

The only person I could blame was me!

Ever done that? Blamed yourself for something and then slid down the murky slide of self doubt. It’s like getting muck stuck on your shoes in the horse barn. The harder you try to get it off, the messier it gets.

I am going to ask you to do something for yourself for one week. I am asking you to remove the distractions when you’re working on a project or offering and turn your phone off!

I learned a technique a few years ago that is a big aid in organizing my time and being productive when I need to be productive.

Yup, it’s an egg timer. When I sit down to work on a project or prepare for a coaching session I set the timer for thirty minutes. When the bell dings I stop and walk away from my desk and whatever it is I’m working on.

I am able to disengage.

That’s one example. I’m sure you can discover other ways throughout your day to take some time and recharge your batteries. You don’t need to become a Zen master or a yoga guru to get the benefit of creating an oasis in time.

Best of luck to you and I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together!

Success Begins With Learning to Bring Our “A” Game

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Our thirteen year old grand daughter had a flute recital a few Sundays ago.

Some of the performers were seniors in high school and had been preforming since they were six. She is in eighth grade.

She was nervous at the start but regained her composure and acquitted herself well. Given the short time she had been playing I thought she did extremely well.

She didn’t concur.

She was mortified.

When we gathered around her afterwards she pronounced that she wasn’t pleased with her performance and looked on the verge of tears. She rattled off a whole list or errors and faults.

Driving home that afternoon I reflected on a time when I felt the same way she had felt after her perfomance.

A few years ago a connection of mine invited me to attend a visitors day their networking group was hosting. I’d been in business for fifteen years at the time and felt more than confident in my ability to impress this group.

When the day came I sat around a table with twenty five other people. Each had a minute to talk about their business. When all the members were finished, visitors had the same opportunity.

Did I tell you I was pretty confident?

When the time came for me to speak I stumbled and fumbled and pretty soon an alarm went off and the timekeeper cried Next person!

I was embarrassed. A large part of me wanted to eat a few more donuts and get the heck out of there, never to return. A voice inside of me said Hey buddy, this is the major leagues!! Guess what? You don’t belong here!

I was tempted to thank the person who invited me, stop at a hardware store on the way home, buy a shovel, dig a hole, crawl in, never to be heard from again. I was hosting a fully catered pity party with me as the honored guest. The more I thought about it the angrier I became. The world the universe, the cosmos was to blame. Everyone but me.

As I sputtered along vowing to get the person who invited me to attend in the first place, the words of Joyce Meyer somehow crept into my psyche. You can be pitiful or you can be powerful but you can’t be both.

Which means what? I answered!

I don’t know about you but when my self inflicted misery is in full tilt boogie mode you better not get in my way. Know what I mean, Vern?

I knew what it meant. I didn’t want to know, but I did. My mom used to put it a little less delicately. Sh*t or get off the pot!

It took a few days a few weeks but I realized my anger stemmed from my misaligned belief that just because I thought I was all that plus a bag of chips the rest of the world hadn’t taken notice !

I went back to that networking group and I am glad I did. In the two plus years I spent with them I learned a lot. A lot about business, life and relationships. I became a better coach because I was with people who challeneged me to become better.

Sometime in the near future I am going to share that story with my granddaughter and I am going to add the three things I learned from the experience.

You deserve to be successful. If you don’t believe in your ability to succeed in life, why should anyone else? The knowledge that we deserve success is a powerful motivator. It’s going all-in. It’s believing that you really can accomplish whatever you want. It sets you apart from those who simply “phone it in.” It means that you know who you are and the price you want to pay to get there and;

You are worth all the effort you invest in yourself. Success is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. When you believe you deserve success the effort you invest to obtain it almost comes naturally. Practice can be dull, boring and sometimes frustrating. But, just when there is no end in sight, we have a breakthrough. The breakthrough comes from hard work and dedication. IOW(In other words,) There is no magic!

I would stand before the bathroom mirror and rehearse my one minute commercial each week until I felt it was natural and sincere. When I walked into the meeting room I knew what I was going to say and what the impact was supposed to be on my audience. My success came from a lot of boring hours staring at myself in the mirror, week after week, working on my delivery.

You can read all the books you want be inspired by the guru’s and poo-ru’s in the galaxy but it means squat unless you embrace the next thing I’ve learned in life:

You are who you hang around with. It’s so important to choose wisely. The people who invest in themselves and believe in themselves associate with other people who feel the same way. Those people lift us up, they challenge us to be better. They are not the status quo. We learn from them and we copy or emulate their behavior and add our own unique flare.

Those people, the people who lift us up don’t understand good enough! They believe in excellence, which BTW (By the Way) has absolutely nothing to do with the perfection that often causes us to crash and burn. Excellence means you are making your point, walking your walk or singing your song better than the other folks in lock step with you.

It also means that those other people who are motivated and believe in themselves will challenge you to become better.

You have to ask yourself what it is you want from life and when you discover it, devote yourself to getting it.

It’s called bringing your A Game. It’s called being the best you. When we learn that we have learned a lot.

Remember the lesson of the seed too in its sending a shoot down so that it may be rooted and grounded, while at the same time it sends a shoot up to be the plant and flower that shall gladden the world. from God Calling

The Chain That Binds

Before an elephant can be trained it has to be tamed.

A trainer fastens a chain to its ankle and anchors the chain to a stake in the ground. The elephant is conditioned to stop when the chain provides resistance. Once trained as a baby this elephant who has the power to tear the stake out of the ground, doesn’t. It’s been trained and conditioned to accept limitation and it behaves that way for the rest of its life.

Ever seen how huge and powerful an adult elephant is?

They should easliy remove the stake and ramble and amble wherever it chooses.

But it doesnt.

Somewhere deep inside the elephants mind, when the chain pulls taught it reminds it there are limits to where it can go and what it can do.

And what it can’t do.

It’s been conditioned.

Just like me and you.

Someone or a bunch of someones told us we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

So we didn’t

I am tempted to write another ten paragraphs telling you why we behave the way we do, but ya know what?

We already know.

Breaking that chain, metaphorical or real is a matter of how strongly we believe in our own power and passion. In our lives, our careers and our businesses, we decide what we’ll accept as a limitation and what we won’t let hold us back from our goals and dreams.

It’s up to us

Namaste

5 Reasons to Meditate (And how it can help your life and career.)

I have learned that everything – our successes and our failures; our hurdles forward and our reluctance’s to grow – all emanate from the relationship we have with ourselves. It is the bruises and bumps that our soul’s endure that either motivates us or holds us back in our lives, and our careers

I heard this a number of years ago when I was on a retreat. I found it to be true. When I choose to be open and explore who I am and why I am – no matter how painful that may feel at the time – it allows me an opportunity to heal and to grow.

When I have a discovery session with someone I ask is if they have a meditation practice or carve out some quiet time for themselves to reflect on what’s going on in their lives. When they learn to seek themselves through meditation, they are always surprised how things begin to flow for them.

Over the years I have discovered five benefits of creating a successful meditation practice

Meditation can help deal with stressful situations  I have practiced meditation since the late 1980’s. It is my go-to remedy when I feel the muscles in my shoulders and lower back slowly start to tighten until I am the last person you want to be in a room with. Stress breeds stress which……… wait for it……….. breeds more stress. When I’ve worked myself into a dither over something I probably don’t have any control over to begin with I take a pause.

Okay, on top of being really good looking I read minds.

So you want me to leave my workplace and go off in a corner and chant for an hour?

Well, not exactly.

Close your eyes, inhale a deep breath, hold it until the count of five and then slowly exhale, five times.

But isn’t stress natural and inevitable? 

Yup, it is but if we learn how to deal with stress and create strategies to control it we are in control of how it affects us.

While you am concentrating on your breathing it disengages your mind for a short period of time. The whole exercise takes less than a minute.

Which leads me to my next point.

Meditation can help increase focus and attention. The phone is ringing, your smart phone is dinging, and three people are impatiently waiting to dump their issues in your lap. Your head is spinning.

I used to drive myself crazy trying to win a war I had no business fighting.

I started taking time at lunch to relax and rest my mind. I didn’t have a smart phones with apps. I had a cassette recorder with some guided meditations on tape and I’d sit in the car and take some time to reboot.

A smart phone and a good set of ear buds can get you focused and back to dealing with priority issues quicker than you think.

Meditation can boost your creativity Contrary to centuries of mythology the quickest way to advance your career is not to marry the bosses children or suck up to an executive vice president. It’s learning to think and approach an issue from a different perspective.



It’s a great way to get noticed, but…………… (There is always a but ain’t there!) you have to clear out all the useless traffic that’s cluttering your mind like the 405 on a Friday afternoon! When we’re not thinking clearly, we cant focus on creating solutions and we shut down and rather than having the confidence to take a risk with a suggestion or solution that no one else has thought of.

The operative word here is thinking clearly. Daily meditation can help you locate that nasty old clutter and remove it so you can focus on your natural creativity.

Meditation can help overcome anger and confusion I cant’ think of anything worse than being stuck!  First we get frustrated, then confused and if we don’t work our way through the issue, we get angry.

The anger is directed at ourselves because we haven’t figured out an answer to our dilemma. (Even though we like to think it’s because our fourth grade teacher never called on us.)

There are all sorts of modifiers we use when we want to describe being angry. What they mostly say is that our internal field of vision is cloudy and uncertain. Meditation allows us the opportunity to explore our inner self and create ways to deal with our anger and confusion. C

Meditation is a practice not an event. Okay technically this isn’t a benefit but if we don’t embrace this notion right from the beginning we are apt to crash and burn – big time.

When I began meditating some thirty plus years ago I almost stopped after a few days. I had this notion that I should be deep in some foggy thought process for at least an hour each day and wipe my mind totally blank during that time. Otherwise, I wasn’t doing it the right way.

Fortunately a good friend set me straight.

Like everything new, meditation takes time to get the hang of. I started with five minutes each morning and worked my way up to ten. Some days I was surprised when the my clock went ding and some days I kept wondering if the darn thing was busted. Ten minutes! It seemed like 10 years. 

Today I meditate for no longer than thirty minutes each morning.

Clearing our minds? Some days its a breeze. Some days it’s a struggle. What I’ve learned is to hang in there, brush my thoughts away very gently and focus on my breath.

I’d suggest you begin with some guided meditation. It’s like learning to ride a bike with training wheels.

There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The key is to create a practice that benefits your life the most. When you do you will begin to see some positive changes in your life:

You’ll have more energy

You’ll focus on your goals

You’ll open yourself to more self development. 

I promise.

The Wisdom of My Father

I never heard him drop the F-Bomb

He didn’t need to.

He never went along with the crowd and if the prevailing notion of the day lined up with what he believed, so be it. If it didn’t, as he often said, “tough toenails.”

He knew a lot about a lot of things but you never heard him make you look bad. If he thought you were wrong he’d put it in the form of a question and allow you the opportunity to back track a bit and save face.

In the fifty seven years that I knew him, he only recommended one book for me to read. It was Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. He, himself, never had a problem in that area.

When I was old enough I worked summers in the factory he began his career in as a timekeeper. When people saw my name they’d ask me if “Are you Tom’s boy?” I never heard a negative word about him. This high praise came from men who found fault with the good Lord himself.

Don’t ever try to negotiate something with him when he believed his position was the right one. He was never mean or nasty. He simply held his ground and if you didn’t agree, after awhile he’d shake your hand and walk away. No hard feelings.

You could never convince him to do something he didn’t believe 100 percent in. Contrary to my mothers exhortation NOT to have opinions, my father had them and he held firm to them.

If you are thinking I am beginning to make a case for sainthood you’d be wrong. I came of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He and I disagreed on a lot of things especially the War in Vietnam. It made for some interesting dinners.

Looking back, as loud as those arguments became he never made them personal. He would tell me my thinking was flawed but he never attacked me as a person. He told me when I was older I’d look at things differently.

My dad believed in three non-negotiable things.

Your faith in God,

Your family

Your career.

Those were the three things that came before anything else.

I was working third shift when Joan called to tell me my dad had been hospitalized. He’d become violently ill in the middle of the night. It could be his heart. They were running tests. (Turned out to be his gall bladder.)

That morning I reached him in his hospital room. I told him I was going to pack, rest for a bit and head for Milwaukee. He stopped me and said, “You have a family and a job. You take care of them. They come first.”

The last words he spoke to me came two days before he went to be with the Lord. He had an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and every word was spoken softly. He pulled me close to him, raised the oxygen mask and said

It’s been a good, long life. But gosh, it’s gone by so fast

He was 87.

There was always a sense of who he was and what he had to offer this world. He made no apologies for how he felt or what he believed and deep inside of him was a strong sense of compassion and understanding for just about everyone he met. You didn’t have to agree with him to be his friend.

He’s been gone for seven years. When I look back I’ve always wondered how he came to be so resolute and firm in who he was and what he believed. I believe it was the unshakable confidence he had in himself.

There’s a lesson there.

Four generations My dad, me, my son Matt and my grand daughter Ava-Jo

A Heroes Journey is published each Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM CST

My Mother’s Wisdom

January 30, 2019

We’ve laughed about it over the years. The three things my mom told us every morning as we walked out the door for school.

As a kid they seemed annoying. Designed as something to inhibit the budding free spirit every adolescent craves. I guess Mark Twain’s old saying about how dumb my parents were at 14 and how smart they became in seven years when I reached 21 was accurate.

My mother was a child of the Great Depression. She was the fifth of six children who lived past infancy. Her father died when she was eleven and she left high school after her sophomore year so she could get a job with health insurance for herself, her mother and the one sibling that remained at home.

She worked in a dairy until she was twenty one when she and my father married. For the next fifteen years or so she worked in our home. During that time she developed a real passion and talent for drawing, painting, china painting, ceramic sculpture and was the best cook and baker I’d ever met.

We even had a kiln in our basement.

My father loved my mother without reservation. In other words, unequivocally. I am still in therapy because he refused to pay the additional twenty five dollars to upgrade my bike from a three-speed to a ten-speed but he paid put a 220 voltage outlet in the basement for my moms kiln.

Somewhere from those experiences in her life came the three things we heard each and every morning – Our marching orders.

Keep your eyes straight ahead. She wanted us to be safe. She wanted us to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. If you looked to the left or to the right, you’d be tempted to pause and investigate and only God knows who or what was over there. You might get hit on the head and sold to a circus.

You have no opinion. Opinions get you in trouble. Trouble finds the teacher. The teacher call mom. My brother and I would sit on the steps towards our basement trying to figure out which one of us was about to get in trouble. (Most of the time the call was about me!)

You can have all the opinions you want. Just keep them locked tight in your head and you’ll be okay.

Keep your big mouth shut! If you know me, you know this was the suggestion (?) most difficult for me to master. Along with having lots of opinions I was usually pretty vocal in letting the world know what those opinions were.

I’m driving down the road one morning trying to find a way to complete this post. It’s hung here for a few days now and I was getting worried.

Why does Wednesday morning always get here so quickly?

It dawned on me that my mom put stuff out there the way she knew best and what her life experience had taught. I mean, how many kids do you know leave school to be the sole support of their family?

So, while I was sitting in yet another meeting that showed little chance of going anywhere meaningful I re-crafted her three rules of life into what they’d come to mean to me.

Always keep looking forward. Keep your eye on your goals and don’t let anything or anyone distract you from where you’re headed. 

Keep growing and keep learning. Keep close watch over what you believe today and always compare it to where you were and where you want to go. Keep your options and your opinions open and closely held.

Choose your counsel wisely. A friend once put it to me like this: There are 3 or 4 people I’d get out of bed for in the middle of the night and get out of jail, no questions asked. They are the people I have learned to trust. A few more who I’d help; but wonder why they called me.

Finally there is everyone else.

I’d tell them I was sorry and go back to sleep.

The moral?

There are those people we’d do anything for. Keep them close and cherish them.

My mom went to be with the Lord January 1 of this year. She, along with her wisdom will be missed.

P.S. Happy Sixty Third Birthday to my brother Joe

A Heroes Journey is published each Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM CST

Above All Else: To Thine Own Self

Can we talk?

I promise it will stay just between me and you.

Is it just me, or do we spend a lot of time investing ourselves in things we are really not committed to begin with?

Did you ever notice it’s never small things?

It always has to be big and significant.

Getting out of debt in one year when our spending habits rival that of a small country and saving and investing is a nice thought.

Loosing fifty pounds and running a triathlon when we haven’t moved off the couch since God was a little boy.

Stuff like that.

What’s really sad is we don’t come up with this stuff on our own. We’re told that if we don’t buy in to these programs there is something wrong with us.

It’s called marketing our pain.

Let me find your tender spot.

Let me show you how everyone else – all the cool kids, are handling life and then wrap it all up by asking:

Don’t ya wanna be just like them?

At some point in time we all did. We wanted to stop pressing our noses against the window and be allowed into the party. We are told they have something we don’t have and for a jar full of magic beans it can be ours.

Some of us, people like you and me, discovered there was a better path.

Living in pain is a really steep price for admission to the party.

Come closer. Just between me and you.

They’re not our goals. They’re the cool kids goals, who BTW really aren’t any cooler than you or I. We’ve just been led to believe we are lacking.

We are Pavlovian in our behaviors. We perform on command. One morning we wake up and we decide right then and there we are going to change how we live and who we are in thirty days or less and we’re mystified when things don’t change.

When we don’t reach the level of peak performance immediately we automatically declare ourselves flawed because, after all, the gurus tell us if we follow a guaranteed, time tested prescription we’ll gain instantaneous success and if we don’t…………..

If we don’t succeed post haste it has to be some sort of fatal, genetic flaw inside of us After all, their process is a seven figure revenue generator. They know whats best for you and I and the universe. They help you identify your pain points and then they throw salt on them until you yell Enough!

We open our wallets, take out a third fourth and fifth mortgage and when everything is not coming up roses we’re told we didn’t read the fine print.

The results, you see, are not guaranteed.

Within that statement lies a tremendous truth.

The only person who can guarantee results in our lives is me and you.

Years ago I attended a seminar and one of the speakers asked us to write ten positive things we identified in ourselves. Things that made us stand out and be successful. We could take as much time as we needed.

Next we were asked to write ten negative things we identified in ourselves and we were given a ninety second time limit.

A show of hands at the conclusion of the exercise told a chilling tale. Hardly anyone, me included, finished the list of positive attributes. Nearly everyone, me included, finished the list of negative attributes in the allotted time and most of us finished early. ( I exceeded the requirement.)

We’ve been conditioned to improve, constantly. It’s never accomplish, savor and enjoy. It’s always move on to the next thing. Nothing is ever good enough. Why are you still sitting there? Don’t work to your strengths. Remove your weaknesses. Nothing is not good enough.

And all that rot

If you’re like me your inbox got flooded with postings during the month of November and December. They exhorted us to begin turning the page in 2019. Time to set goals. Time to change. Time to be the me I always wanted to be. (Sans a few extra pounds I am happy with me!) Time to get with the program. Time to earn six figures in sixty days by building a list of 2000 personal connections overnight.

So is it any wonder, that when we sit down at the keyboard, fingers poised to create greatness, that a small voice deep inside tells us we’re never going to make it anyway. Why bother. You haven’t succeeded before and you wont again.

I am going to ask you to hold my hand and take a huge leap. I am going to ask you to look at the goals you’ve recently set and as yourself this question:

Are these truly my goals? Did I set them with my own unique DNA in mind?

It’s difficult at first to break away from the madding crowd. To reboot, to look at the map and realize it has been upside down for quite some time

Stepping out and charting a course with our specific skills and talents in mind is heady stuff and there probably will be pain and doubt and all that stuff that makes us stronger and wiser.

You may not get there right away but when you do the feeling of accomplishment cant be beat

You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go  ~Dr. Seuss

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A Heroes Journey is published every Wednesday at 7:30 AM