Finding The Margins In Your Life

I’m a regular listener to Dan Miller’s “48 Days” podcast.  Dan’s podcast/site focuses on helping individuals find meaningful work and incorporating that work seamlessly into our everyday lives.

In his latest podcast, Dan used a term that I’ve come to appreciate – making sure that we have “margin” in our lives.  The concept is simple.  Resumé experts tell us to leave ample (white) space so the resume is more aesthetically pleasing to the reader.  We like margins in our books (those of us who still read physical books) so we can highlight, underline, and make notes in the margins.  In other words, we need space.

Having margins in our lives means having the personal space to operate on our own terms.  I’m not talking about shirking our responsibilities to our family, work, or anything else to which we have a regular commitment.  But finding margin means you might need to re-assess your responsibilities (and other parts of your life) so you can avoid this kind of talk:

“I’d really love to write that book/screenplay/play/magazine article/great American novel but…”

“I really need to hit the gym and lose this extra weight  but…”

“We really need to stop eating out.  I’d love to cook but…”


In writing my e-book and posting to this blog, I needed to find the margin in my own life.  Here are three questions that I used that might be of help to you:

What’s really important to me?

If it isn’t a real priority, let’s be honest, we’ll usually find a way to avoid doing whatever it is.  So when considering what is important, keep it to a short list of 2-3 things.  For example:

1) Get to the gym three days a week
2) Spend an hour a day writing my book
3) Have a date night with my wife one day a week

Like goal-setting, keeping things simple allows our conscious (and subconscious) mind to focus on these few things.  Plus, this keeps it easily measurable. (Did I make it to the gym three times this week?  Did I have a date night with my wife?)

What can I cut?

Your mind can be your best friend or own worst enemy.  When I was writing my e-book, I had a pretty simple goal of writing at least 500 words a day.  This was cool for the first few weeks as I would get up early before work and knock this out.  After a few weeks, I stopped getting up and put writing off until the evening.  Big mistake.  I would find myself watching TV, going to jiu-jitsu class, surfing the internet, reading, etc.  Now, none of these things are bad, but they were not writing my e-book.

Cutting things out is not easy.  We are, after all, creatures of habit.  If you’re used to playing video games three hours each day, watching TV all evening, or eating out each night, decreasing or eliminating these activities may be tough.  See question number one.  This is why you need to make sure what you want is a priority.  If not, “Halo” or “The Bachelorette” will end up overriding your goals.

Am I being brutally honest with myself?

Being honest with ourselves can be tough.  We like to make excuses to make us feel better and cover up weaknesses or deficiencies.  I’ve gained 20 pounds because I need to work late and I just don’t have time to eat well.  I’m stuck in this lousy job and I just don’t have the time to update my resumé and research other job opportunities.  I wish I had more time to (insert hobby here) but work/family/personal commitments are preventing me from doing so.

The margins in our lives don’t just magically appear.  It takes work, sacrifice, and effort.  In assessing areas to cut and identifying our priorities, we need to be honest throughout the process.  I’m not eating right and I’m not making time to go to the gym.  I’m complacent in my job and I’m being lazy (and scared) about pursuing a better position.  I want to paint more but I just don’t have the guts to tell people no.

Only you know what’s missing from your life right now.  And without margin, these important things will get drowned out by the minutae and not-as-important things of our everyday life.  Eventually, we get to the point Thoreau calls “men living everyday lives of quiet desperation.”

And who wants to live life this way?  Now go find your margins.

What have you been putting off in your life and what can you cut out (or decrease?)

Post your answers below.

The New Kindle Book Has Dropped!

Late last year, I was sitting in yet another industry conference and listening to the speaker talk about “An Introduction to…” or “How to succeed in…”  Having been in corporate life for nearly 20 years, I must have attended more than 100 of these seminars.  Some were very valuable, some, not so much.  And in all these seminars, I can remember only one that addressed corporate culture and its unwritten business rules.  This became painfully (and often times hilariously) clear through the years as I watched co-workers (and myself of course) break these rules – often leading to embarrassing and awkward situations.  These rules also came to mind while conducting hiring interviews with fresh out-of-college millennials (which I described in a previous post).

So I decided to put my thoughts down in a Kindle book, “The New Jack Guide To Corporate Survival”, which will be temporarily available (for free!) on the Amazon Kindle platform.  In the book, I talk about some of the written (but mostly unwritten) corporate survival rules.


With summer approaching, more than likely, you know someone who is graduating from college and heading into the workforce for the first time.  Maybe your son or niece has landed an internship or will be working part-time over the summer.  Maybe you or someone you know is re-entering the workforce after a long break.  Whatever the case may be, hook them up with the book and help them avoid some of the common “new-jack” mistakes.

And as always, if you have comments, stories, or feedback on the book – feel free to leave me a comment (here or on the Kindle site) or just shoot me an e-mail at

Thanks for reading!



The Calendar Don’t Lie

“The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: “I did not have time.”

– Franklin Field

I’ve been reading Jon Acuff’s new book, “Start – Punch Fear in the Face.”  For those unfamiliar with his work, Acuff writes about pursuing his dream of writing and speaking for a living.  From a 200-word blog written in his kitchen to a bestselling author and sought after speaker, Acuff shares his journey to inspire others (I suggest picking up his first book, “Quitter,” which is excellent as well).

In Start, Acuff writes about how the calendar doesn’t lie.  In other words, for things that we say are priorities or areas in our life that we know need our attention, does our time (calendar) reflect these priorities and areas needing attention?

Let’s say you wanted to jump ship from your current job.  How much time did you spend today, this week, or this month updating your resume, researching companies, or reaching out to individuals to obtain their advice about changing jobs?

Or if your goal was to lower your weight and blood pressure through exercise, how much time did you actually spend exercising today, this week, or this month?

Or, more importantly, what did you spend your time on?


There’s a saying…“What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.”  I’m not saying we should be breaking out our planners or scheduling every single thing that we should be doing, but the principle behind “calendar don’t lie” is simple (although the execution may be difficult):

Live life intentionally.

Seems simple until you look at the calendar and realize the goals and priorities you set for yourself have taken a back seat to things you weren’t even aware of: TV, video games, social media, etc.  The point is not to stop doing these things, but to be aware of what we’re trading when we do choose to do these things.

The main point of Acuff’s message is to not let years layer on top of years only to wake up one day and realize time has slipped away without having done what you wanted to do.  This is a common concern in middle age.  We settle into a daily routine of work, family, responsibilities, and repeat.  This cycle continues until you wake up one day and think, “Damn, where did all of the years go?”

So what are your two to three priorities and/or dreams and what are you doing today to move you closer to these things?  Granted, we all have our daily responsibilities, but we should all purposefully carve out that time.  That might mean 30 minutes of writing or exercising early in the morning or late at night.  Or it might mean leaving work on your desk so you can make it home in time for dinner with your family.  Whatever your goals and priorities may be, be mindful of the time that you’ve given it.  Periodically check in to see where you’re at.

You should be able to quickly assess where you stand.  The results will tell you.  Plus, the calendar don’t lie.

What important things have you been putting off lately?

Post your comments below.

Sometimes Good Enough Is Simply Good Enough

The other day, I ran into an old friend at the gym.  I complemented him because  it was clear he had lost a bunch of weight since the last time I saw him.  He thanked me and said he had already lost more than 20 pounds…but that it still wasn’t “good enough.”

This reminded me of another chance meeting,  this time with a guy I knew who trained Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  I asked him how training was coming along and he said it was OK, that he was getting in three to four days a week but that it wasn’t “good enough.”

Thinking about the the term “good enough,” what does this really mean?  To some people, 20 pounds would be a huge life-changing accomplishment.  And for the guy who was “only” getting three to four days of training in, well, I know guys who are lucky to get that many days in a month.

Over the past few months I’ve caught myself saying these same types of things…

You should be saving more of your paycheck…

You’ve only read one book this month.  What happened to reading two?

Only a 30-minute run?  Why didn’t you run longer?

You should have written more today.


Admittedly, this type of thinking drives me (and my family) crazy.  It’s as if your efforts are somehow meaningless or inconsequential.  This isn’t to say there are times when you need to stretch and try harder.  For example, if I was planning to run a marathon, running 30 minutes a few times a week wouldn’t be good enough.  But there are also times when good enough really is good enough.  There are seasons and times in our lives when any more becomes inconvenient, extremely difficult, or something we just don’t want to do.

Now, let me be clear.  I’m not talking about completely blowing things off that we need to do or should be doing (like exercise or spending quality time with our family).  I’m talking about not trying to do everything…and then feeling bad for not doing everything.

For example, there were days when I was spending many, many hours in the gym, six days a week.  My younger self would tell my 42-year-old self that the three-days-a-week workout was unacceptable.  But at this point in my life, I just don’t have that hardcore passion for lifting like I used to have.  Keeping myself in good physical condition and shape is good enough.  I have no desire to be a bodybuilding champ or the biggest dude in the club.

So the next time you start questioning yourself, ask the following.  You might find that what you’re doing right now really is simply good enough.

Who Am I Comparing Myself To?  Comparison is a killer because it can affect every aspect of your life.  Work, family, friendships, and even hobbies can become fodder for comparisons.  Keep in mind that everyone’s circumstances are different.  What is appealing (or possible) for someone you know may not be appealing (or possible) for you.  For example, that co-worker who works 13-hour days? Maybe you don’t want to trade your family dinners or gym time for those extra hours at work.  Getting your work done and having this personal time is good enough.

Am I Being Honest With Myself?  I’m a terrible swimmer.  I did a few mini (sprint) triathlons using a modified side stroke.  My swimming would be the equivalent of doing a marathon by crawling on all fours.  Children and senior citizens were blowing by me.  Know what I learned?  That I don’t really like swimming or training for triathlons.  The reality is I don’t have the patience or desire to do these things.  And without the desire, the ability to sustain the ups and downs of difficult training (including swimming) disappear.  Being honest with yourself can be difficult.  But it will save you a lot of time and stress in the long run.

What Season Is This?  The bible talks about the seasons of life.  We are constantly evolving.  This includes our thinking, relationships, desires, and goals in every area of our life.  What was important to you yesterday may not be that important today.  Like my bodybuilding example, what you considered a priority yesterday may be reduced to a watered-down version of just good enough today.  Conversely, something that is extremely important to you (like eating dinner with your family each night) might have to be temporarily put on hold while you pursue that degree at night.

What’s The Desired Outcome Here?  Ultimately, what are you trying to accomplish?  What are your priorities?  Depending on how you divvy up your time, trying to get in family time, workout time, spiritual time and personal growth time may be difficult.  So what if you can only read 15 minutes a day?  That’s 15 minutes you got in while being able to do everything else that was important to you.  Never discount the power of incremental improvement.  And maybe you didn’t have dinner with your family, but you were able to go out later and get frozen yogurt together.  That’s good enough.

What Happens If I Don’t?  Finally, ask yourself, what are the consequences of “good enough?”  If they are truly unacceptable to you, then course-correct.  If, for right now (or the immediate future), it’s good enough – then let it go without stressing about it. Remember, we can always choose our direction, and like a mad scientist, we can experiment and change what is and isn’t working for us at any particular point in time.

What are you doing in your life right now that is good enough?

Post your comments below…

A Brief Visit With The Ghost Of Career Future

The worst days of those who enjoy what they do, are better than the best days of those who don’t.

– E. James Rohn


I ran into a long-time co-worker the other day.  She has a great position, excellent benefits, and is dutifully taking care of her family – paying the bills and putting her kids through college.  I remember having this very same conversation with her ten years ago:

 Me: “What are your plans?”

Her: “Nothing.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’m staying right here.”

Me: “What about retirement?”

Her: “I can’t.  Maybe in a few more years once my kids graduate from college.”

Me: “How about a new job or position in the company?”

Her: “Nah.  I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Then it hit me.  I was basically talking to myself in the future.

My friend is an honest, thoughtful, and responsible person who is taking care of her family like a good wife and mother is supposed to.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  What I see and hear though are the ghosts of career years passed.  I remember her telling me, at one point, how she wanted to work in law enforcement.  But now, her verbal and nonverbal cues scream comfort and, worse than that, resignation – resigned to the fact that this will be her final career stop until she either retires, her kids finish college, or God forbid, she is laid off.

Even though she’s older than me, we both come from a time where our career paths were pretty much laid out for you.  In fact, the running joke was when someone from management came and tapped you on the shoulder (literally) it was time to be promoted.  I always found this analogy funny because it sounded like some sort of mafia ritual.

But times have definitely changed.  There are now only a small percentage of companies that you can stay with your whole career while periodically getting the “tap on the shoulder.”  Looking back at that same conversation ten years ago, you know what I told myself then?

 “That won’t be me.”  Guess what?  That is exactly me.

the mirror that reveals the inside

So now what?  Do I feel sorry for myself?  Reminisce about “the good old days?”  Blame my parents, spouse, kid, environment?  No.  We can all begin where we’re at and:


As soon as you can, do whatever will move you towards your ideal work life – whether it’s sticking to the “9 to 5” world or starting your own business.  Start a niche blog about something you’re passionate about.  Develop (and sell) that product.  Write your book.  As for me – in addition to reading (and listening) to all the materials I could get my hands on about midlife change, career re-engineering, and life transitions – I started this blog and took a few online writing and career development seminars.  I had a magazine article published for the first time.  I started exploring other career options where I could leverage my strengths.  If you’re reading this and are currently (or have been) in the corporate world, you can relate to my story.  And for those of you starting out or are new in your respective careers, take this advice from someone already far into the corporate game:

The phenomenon of the “golden handcuffs” is very real.  The mind and body are naturally lazy and enjoy steady, predictable routines.  When you’re accustomed to a nice job, steady paycheck, and great benefits, your mind and body will fight you tooth and nail at the first sign of desired change.  The “handcuff” refers to that which keeps you bound and tied up – the job and all of your responsibilities (bills, children, mortgage, etc.)  If you know what you’re doing is not what you want to be doing, get out before you get locked down.

Hand cuffs and coins as security concept

Find your sweet spot.  On the flip-side, if you really love what you’re doing, consider yourself very fortunate.  I’ve seen career discontent survey rates as high as 50%.  The key to finding work that you are passionate about is to intersect your values, strengths, personality type, and interests.  For this, you will need to grab a notebook, find a quiet spot, and take some time to map this whole thing out.  This one-hour (or however long it takes) exercise will pay dividends in helping you determine exactly what you want to do (or point you in the right direction).

Experiment with it.  There’s no need to completely jump ship from your job.  There might be opportunities within the company that are a better fit for you.  Have a conversation with the manager of another department.  See if you know anyone from a different division, take them to lunch, and pick their brain.  You might even be able to find volunteer or internship opportunities in your area of interest.  This is a great win-win opportunity.  You get the experience and the business gets the free help.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  Look, you might get that opportunity to try a new position and find out that: 1) it wasn’t what you thought it would be; 2) it really wasn’t a very good fit; and 3) the job really sucks.  Congratulations!  You can compare yourself to Thomas Edison and his legendary thousands of failures.  You didn’t fail…you just found something that didn’t work.  Like Jay-Z says, “On to the next one…”

One of the characteristics of a midlife crisis is waking up one day and feeling like you’ve squandered all of your years in a job you did not love.  You didn’t become that ballerina, NAVY Seal, or professional baseball player.  The beautiful thing about life, though, is it gives us choices.  Yesterday’s dream career might be gone (or the shelf life expired), but you can always find (and pursue) that new career dream today.

How do you define career happiness? 

Post your comments below…

Colin Kaepernick And The Beauty Of Opportunity

“Many an opportunity is lost because a man is out looking for four-leaf clovers.”

– Anonymous


I’m writing this post on Superbowl Sunday, what many people consider to be an unofficial American holiday.  Right now there are millions of people barbecuing, pouring ice into coolers, and straightening chairs in front of their 70-inch flatscreen HDTV’s in preparation for the big game.  This is especially true here in Northern California, home of the San Francisco 49ers.

If this were a rock concert or big movie premiere, the star attraction would be Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers.  For those who don’t follow football, Kaepernick’s story reads like a Hollywood movie script.  A second-round draft pick local boy (Turlock, CA) takes over for the starting quarterback after said quarterback suffers a concussion.  Local boy explodes onto the national scene and ultimately leads his team to the pinnacle of pro sports – the Superbowl.  What a great story and lesson in making the most of one’s opportunity.

Opportunity: A favorable juncture of circumstances.  A good chance for advancement or opportunity.

I’ve read that there is no such thing as luck, and that the real equation for “luck” is:

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck


Traditionally, when you think of luck, you think of good things happening out of the blue.  You find a $100-bill on the ground.  You win $500 on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine.  Your family wins a trip to Disneyland at your kids’ school raffle.  Sure, these are signs of luck.  But I like the Colin Kaepernick type of luck which is preparing and then maximizing your opportunity for a great outcome.

With luck, there’s an implication that we have nothing to do with the good that happens.  However, when we take the time to prepare and take advantage of opportunities, I think luck comes more frequently and our chances for success increases greatly.  Think if Kaepernick was not prepared.  What if instead of spending endless hours watching tape, working out, and studying the playbook, he resigned himself to being a scrub back-up quarterback with no shot of starting for an NFL team.  Instead, he sacrificed, put in the work, prepared, and made the most of his situation to propel himself (and his team) to sport’s biggest stage.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in your own life as well.

I have a friend who was passed over (actually, blown off) for a managerial position.  He handled it like a true professional.  No whining.  No bitching.  No backstabbing.  Instead, he went straight back to work doing the best he could.  He prepared.  Several months later, a new VP came in.  When my friend’s manager left (the prior VP who gave him the runaround), the new VP was so impressed with my friend’s attitude and work ethic, he promoted him immediately.

wall and opened to sky door on a white background

So how can we capitalize on our own opportunities and make our own Kaepernick-like luck?

Know Your Destination: What does your idea of success look like, both personally and professionally?  When we know our destination, whatever  it may be (be debt-free, make X amount of money per year, coach my child’s little league team, etc.), we are able to make decisions consistent with that vision.  Our mind goes to work (both consciously and unconsciously) looking for ways to fill these desires.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open: DUH!  I know, but this is a lot harder than it sounds.  We’re creatures of habit.  Our brain looks for the path of least resistance.  Without purposeful thoughts and direction, we unknowingly turn our autopilot switch “on.”  Wake up.  Eat breakfast.  Get kids ready for school.  Go to work.  Pick up kids.  Eat dinner.  Watch TV.  REPEAT.  In knowing your destination and actively looking out for opportunities, we help our brain filter the millions of distractions that come our way each day.  A few years ago, when I was thinking of buying an iPad, I didn’t really notice the number of people carrying these things around.  Once I started planning my purchase, it seemed like everyone I saw owned one.  In the same way, your mind will subconsciously help you with what you’re looking for.

Prepare: Whatever it is you want, you need to prepare for it.  If it’s losing weight, starting your own business, being a better spouse, do what you need to prepare.  Read books.  Watch You Tube videos on the subject.  Download podcasts.  Read blogs.  By preparing, we can step up in confidence and,

Say Yes: You can study and prepare all you want, but in the end it’s all about the action we take.  When there’s a good opportunity to fill your desired vision, take it!  Remember, there’s no such thing as failure…only learning experiences.  Have an opportunity to get away on a couple’s vacation? Take it!  One of the coaches asks you if you can help out at practice?  Take it!  The boss asks if you can volunteer for a project?  Take it!  If it’s consistent with your vision, put your preparation into action.

99% of us will never know what it’s like to play in the Superbowl (that’s OK with me because I shudder when I think of being hit by a Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis).  But we can take a lesson out of Colin Kaepernick’s playbook – that awesome and special things can happen when we prepare and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us.

How do you make your own luck?

Super Bowl Tickets, Pythons, and 5 Ways to Better Decision-Making

Would you have sex for a Super Bowl ticket (with a stranger)?  This is what one guy wants in exchange for his highly coveted Super Bowl XLVII ticket.

Or how about swallowing dozens of giant cockroaches for a free python?

Then how about drinking a few gallons of water for a Nintendo Wii?

Guaranteed someone will take the guy up on the tickets.  As far as the python and Wii, unfortunately the individuals who both said “yes” to these challenges subsequently died.

Why do we make decisions like this?


For the most part, I’m a pretty risk-averse person.  I tend to over-think things before actually making a decision.  This can be good or bad depending on the situation and possible outcomes.  This isn’t to say I’m not prone to impulsive decisions either:

When I was 13, I stood in line with my best friend for more than six hours to watch the first showing of Return of the Jedi (hey, I was only 13).

In high school, some friends thought it would be fun to go out “egging.”  The homeowner and several of their friends caught me and another friend.  Thankfully the police rolled by.  Put it this way, they had no plans on calling the police.

In college, my car broke down.  I went to the Toyota dealership “just to look” and, several hours later, walked away the proud owner of a brand new Toyota truck…at a bargain 19% APR.

As a full-grown man, I left work and drove an hour just to get an autograph and picture taken with my favorite bodybuilder of all time – Lee Labrada.


Maybe if we were C3PO, our decision-making would be rational with a high probability of success.  Unfortunately, sometimes we let our emotions hijack the rational side of our brain that says STOP.  It’s the same emotion that tells us it’ll be fun to go out egging, eat huge roaches, or flood our body with water.

So how can we make better decisions?

Define the Problem: What exactly are you trying to accomplish?  By defining the problem, our mind automatically starts to search for solutions and alternatives.  Can’t afford a Wii?  Maybe you can get a temporary part-time job or a loan from a family member.  I need a car but do I need one today?  Maybe I can get a ride or take public transportation for now until I figure things out (instead of buying a brand new car at 19% APR).

Determine the Risk: The two who tragically died performing those stunts probably didn’t think there’d be that much risk involved.  I mean, it’s a contest, right?  And a business wouldn’t have this contest if there was real danger involved.  This is where you need to be disciplined enough to call on your left brain for analysis.  In determining the risk, you’ll need…

Sufficient Information: Getting enough information to make a decision is critical.  Granted, you may not be able to obtain all the necessary information, but you should get enough to be comfortable.  Sufficient information allows us to assess any dangers involved and helps us properly prepare to support a positive outcome.

Avoid Peer Pressure or Overconfidence: Probably two of the biggest reasons for poor decision-making.  Having your friends in your ear screaming “do it sissy!” probably doesn’t help when you’re about to undertake something of significant risk (think college fraternity hazing rituals and binge-drinking).  Overconfidence is your ego telling you you’re capable of doing things (when you really aren’t) – like swimming in the ocean when you can hardly swim a lap at the YMCA pool.

Listen to Intuition: Call it sixth sense, the voice inside, or guardian angel, your intuition will tell you if something is no good.  It’s the warning system that floods your entire body and manifests itself through a racing heart, constricted breathing, and an overall sense of unease (like fight or flight).  Your intuition is pretty much always right.  It’s usually our ego and peer pressure that shuts it down.

Despite following all of these steps, things can still go badly.  That’s OK though.  Mistakes, bad decisions, disappointments, and failures are all part of the learning process.  In fact, no matter the outcome, it serves as a reference point from which to draw upon in the future…which will ultimately help us become better decision-makers.

How do you avoid making poor decisions?

Plant Something Today!

I was looking at my blog the other day and thinking about making some changes to the design and navigation of the site.  Then it hit me that I actually built this site from the ground up (with help from books, You Tube, and other blogs, of course) and posted 47 articles already.  Rewind one year back to December 2011.  I had no blog, no articles, and no clue about how to write for an audience, let alone throw stuff out for everyone in the world to see.  So what happenned?  I planted something.

As the new year begins, gyms will get crowded and Whole Foods will double its sales of organic food, vitamins and weight loss supplements.  Self-help and self-development books will fly off the shelves.  It’s New Year’s resolution time.  People will sit down, reflect, and write down a list of changes they want to see or implement in the coming year:

Save more
Lose weight
Learn a new language
Write a book

Mend broken relationships

Reflecting and planning are a good thing.  But more importantly, we have to take action.  We have to plant something.

Young plant growing in sunshine

I’m not talking about planting a tree or vegetables (although these are good things, too).  I mean do something to move you in the direction you want to go.  Do anything, no matter how small.  Buy a few books on the subject.  Find some popular blogs.  Sign up for a class.  Take someone out to lunch who has already done what you want to accomplish and pick that person’s brain.

If you’ve been successful at anything – let’s say, your job; a martial art; writing; relationships; etc. – chances are you were terrible or clumsy at it at first.  But once you planted the seed and kept at it, through patience, repetition and hard work, you inevitably got better.  You can now look back and say, “Wow, look what I’ve accomplished!”

I mentioned this blog as an example because I literally started from an idea.  It was something I wanted to do but had no clue where to start.  My “planting” was simply doing some research, visiting various sites, and reading “how to” articles.  No matter what you want to do or where you want to go, guaranteed there is someone out there who can help you get to where you want to be – and help you with those first few difficult steps.

Plant something today, keep after it, and look back in amazement when this time in 2014 rolls around.

Happy New Year!

What are you planning to plant this year?

Six Ways To Decrease Your Holiday Joy

Syndicated sports talk show host Colin Cowherd has this rant about how Christmas is one of his least favorite holidays.  Ugly sweaters, too many relatives, Black Friday, and the mad rush for gifts are all aspects of Christmas that some of us would rather avoid.  Me, I love this time of the year.  The winter weather, vacation days, time spent with family and friends and anticipation of the New Year make this a time of reflection and celebration.

However, if we’re not careful, we may do some things during the holiday season that can make this celebratory time less enjoyable.

Here are six things to avoid:

Overeating: H is for holiday, not hibernation.  You don’t need the extra layer of fat for extended slumber.  “It’s the holiday” or “I’ll work it off next year” are not good reasons to stuff your face with endless servings of sugar cookies, pot roast, and mashed potatoes.

I remember, one year, eating two whole pumpkin pies over a period of three days.  I thought my skin was turning orange.  It’s good to indulge during Christmastime.  Just don’t go too crazy.  The extra ten pounds and the need to buy baggier clothes is not a good way to start the New Year – even if joining the gym is one of your New Year resolutions.

Being “That Guy” at the work holiday party: I remember a co-worker telling me a story about drinking a little too much at a managerial function, walking up to the CEO, and saying, “What’s up (insert last name of the CEO)?!”  This is a pretty good way to end your career.  Same with being loud and obnoxious, making inappropriate remarks to the single (or married) women, or beginning your sentences with “Watch this…”  Also, if there’s karaoke involved, it’s probably not a good idea to do your R. Kelly “Bump n’ Grind” impression complete with gestures and hip movement.  It’s OK to loosen up and have a beer or cocktail…but not several.  “That guy” antics don’t disappear after the new year.  In fact, they’ll probably still be talking about you at next year’s holiday party…if you still have a job.

Overspending: I remember reading some crazy factoid that talked about how a lot of credit card debt included Christmas expenditures dating back several years.  You want your kid to have the brand new i-something or gaming system.  You want to surprise your wife with expensive jewelry.  I mean, Christmas is all about giving, right?  Like overeating, though, we shouldn’t have the attitude of, “I’ll worry about it next year.”  Carrying consumer debt is never a good idea and a terrible way to start the new year.  Take a look around the house.  What once was a “must buy gift” is probably sitting in the closet or on a shelf collecting dust.  Check out two of my favorite blogs regarding holiday purchases: The Minimalists and Zen Habits.  You don’t have to be that extreme, but some good ideas to reflect on.


Not Connecting: Christmas is the ideal time to play catch-up with friends and family members you don’t see during the course of the year.  As hectic as the holidays are, ironically, it’s also a time when companies shut/slow down and people tend to take time off.  It’s also the season of parties and get-togethers.  In addition to family house-jumping, I usually meet-up with friends at a bar or restaurant.  We also attend different family functions to connect with relatives we haven’t seen for a while.  I look forward to these times of just relaxing, hanging out, and strengthening these relationships that might not get much attention during the year.

Not getting a jump on next year: Yes, the holidays are a time to relax, eat, and reconnect.  Things at work usually slow down.  People are focused on their holiday plans.  But this is also an ideal time to get a jump on the next year.  I’m not saying go all-out on your personal and professional plans, but maybe lay the foundation and start on some things.  Maybe that project that’s due in Q1. Or get going on some of the goals you’ve written down for yourself.  While everyone else is in a food coma, you’ll already be three steps ahead when you roll into 2013.

Not being reflective or thankful: If you’ve made it through another year, no matter how difficult, you should be thankful.  Take some time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished.  More importantly, be thankful for the things you have now.  As you enter into the new year, think of some of the things you want to change, get done, or accomplish.  If you’re fortunate enough to have some time off, make sure you spend some time giving thanks.  For example, I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to stop and read this post/blog.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Six Sure-Fire Ways To Kill Your Credibility

Credibility – “The quality of being believable or worthy of trust.”


I recently attended an industry training seminar and saw an old co-worker.  This former manager abruptly left the company after several months of abrasive behavior, confrontations with co-workers and questions about her overall integrity.  I couldn’t help but think about the integrity part as I watched her pick up her certificate of completion (they handed them out first thing in the morning) and walk right out of the conference room.  She never came back.  In other words, she left a half-hour into what was supposed to be an eight-hour training class.  

Whether it’s in business or our personal lives, how much time would you spend around someone you didn’t trust?  Would you buy something from them?  Invest in their product?  Have dinner?  Go on vacation?  Probably not.

Credibility is extremely hard to build but very easy to lose.  Like my aforementioned co-worker, after a few slip-ups, whatever good will she had built with her direct reports, peers and higher-ups had quickly deteriorated.  Several years after leaving the company, people still mention her name and cringe.  Now that’s leaving an impression (in a bad way).  Don’t let this be you.  Avoid these six credibility killers:

Lying – This is the quickest and easiest way to end your credibility.  Once your lie is revealed (no how matter how small), every time you open your mouth, people will: 1) Remember the time that you did lie; and 2) Wonder if you’re telling the truth.

Not Helping – I remember being at a work volunteer event where we were helping clear trails at a local park.  At one point, it was just me, one of my department mates, and another guy from a different department who we didn’t know.  The guy from the other department proceeded to put his shovel down while telling us what we had to do.  By not helping, you’re telling the rest of us that you’re lazy and can’t be counted on when needed.

Trashing Others – We all need to vent sometimes, and yes, your gripe or complaint might be legitimate.  But how often and how violently are you trashing other people?  What are you saying?  When you verbally assault people behind their back, the person you’re talking to starts to wonder what you’re saying about them when they’re not around.

Taking Credit For Other People’s Work – If you’ve ever:

stolen someone’s idea;

asked someone for significant help;

worked with others on a project;

and then took credit for all the work that was done, keep in mind these same people will not trust you or want to work with you ever again.

Break Confidentiality – “Just between you and me” is supposed to mean “Just between you and me.”  When someone tells you something in confidence, it should be, well, confidential.  The fact that this person thinks highly enough of you to share something in confidence should be taken as a compliment.  Don’t blow it by telling others.

Taking Shortcuts – I’m not talking about shortcuts that actually increase efficiencies or improve processes.  I mean shortcuts that totally circumvent your duties or responsibilities.  Take for example tragic accidents where a bridge collapses or gas line explodes because an inspector chose to sign off on a safety inspection without actually completing the inspection.  The attitude of “it’s no big deal” can suddenly become a very big deal if something blows up (sometimes literally).

We’ve all screwed-up and probably did one (or more) of the things mentioned above.  The critical thing is how did we respond?  Did we immediately address the situation and course-correct or did we just blow it off?  Even the smallest of actions eventually lead to habits.  These habits result in severe consequences in both our professional and personal lives.  Treat your credibility as something sacred and guard it closely.  Even if you don’t realize it, people are watching you everyday.


What are some other credibility killers?