The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.

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A Limitless Summer

Summer is officially here and it’s time to look ahead to what you’re going to do with your life this summer and what you want from the rest of the year as well.  One of the most important decisions we make throughout our lives is what we’re going to do with each and every day.  We have to make decisions about working, spending money, the people we’re going to allow into our lives, how we treat others, how late we’re going to stay up, how early we’re going to get up, our values, what we eat, resting and rejuvenating, where we want to live, where we shop and countless other things.

We not only have the challenge of making the decision, but of making the best decision and turning our decisions into results too.  We don’t always make the best decisions nor do we always follow through on the decision we make.  If you want to see your life improve, it’s time to start making better decisions and get better at following through on those decisions.

How do you make the best decisions for your life?  First by not blaming anyone else for things that go wrong that you are really to blame for.  You can’t always anticipate what others will do or predict the crazy things that go on around the world, but you certainly can do something about the choices you make in your life.  Second, don’t use the “I don’t know” excuse.  There are so many answers available online that you can access with just a couple of clicks most likely, so to say you’re uneducated or not smart enough isn’t an excuse anymore.  Finally, become a doer.  Watching and learning is important, but it’s what you do with what you know that ultimately matters.

This summer I encourage you to take time to watch and learn.  Don’t let the excuse that you don’t know something fly anymore, choose to learn and improve your life.

“Your inability to see other possibilities and your lack of vocabulary are your brain’s limits, not the universe’s.” Scott Adams

Books for Business Success 2

A couple of years ago I shared this post about some books you could consult to learn about business.  I believe that one of the best ways to be successful in business is to do your homework.  Sometimes that means doing stuff, other times that means listening and learning.   Today I’m highlighting some books for you to check out in addition to those I shared in the other blog post (all Amazon non-affiliate links) and invite you to share the books that you’ve learned from in the comments.

Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling

Blockbusters by Anita Elberse

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy by Lewis Howes

Connect by Josh Turner

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall

Life After Debt by Rob Kosberg

Seven Laws of Teaching by Milton Gregory

Mastery by Robert Greene

Bold by Peter Diamondis and Steven Kotler

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

What books would you add?

Learning for Success

Do you know what one of the biggest secrets to success is? It’s really simple and it’s something we do from a very young age: learn. OK, maybe it’s not so simple, but it’s a very obvious answer to problems that plague many of us in reaching our goals and dreams and achieving victories in all aspects of our lives. Learning is one of the biggest keys to success, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to improve yourself and your life. Thanks to technology today you don’t have to spend thousands on degrees or go to a far-away college to learn something new (although for some things like medicine it’s recommended), but there are tons of opportunities online, in books, in courses and in audios to learn and teach yourself all kinds of skills that can improve, maybe even drastically improve, your life and your success potential.

People who are willing to learn (and actually can follow through on what they’ve learned) have a much greater potential for being hired as well as having success than those who are stuck in who they are and what they know. If you’re not willing to learn or try something new your future is very limited. Others might see more potential in you than you’re currently living up to but unless you’re willing to do things different or get the necessary education you won’t be able to live up to that potential. Showing that you’ve been taking courses and dedicate some of your free time to learning makes you look more appealing to potential employers because it shows them that you’re someone they can teach about their culture and how they do things and you’ll be receptive to learning from them and trying things their way.

So if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut go to your local library and check out a couple non-fiction books or find an online course you can take and learn something new. And while you could wait until the holidays are over I recommend starting now while you’re feeling that frustration, don’t put it off any longer.

“Today, when I hire, I look for people who want to be trained and molded.” Bobby Flay

Empowering the Next Generation

One of the biggest gifts you have as a parent or caretaker of a young one is the gift of empowering them. I know many people who grew up in homes and environments where they were told that they would not amount to much and that they were worthless and had better shape up. While some of those people did need to shape up, many of them were just at a disadvantage or just not understood by others. Often when we don’t understand something we have knee-jerk reactions that cause us to rush to judgment and block us from really discovering the truth.

Yes, parents and caretakers like teachers, principals, pastors and community leaders should care for the youth, providing food, shelter and support in education (whether school or in finding work), as well as guidance about what’s right and wrong, but it’s just as important to raise the youth to know how to figure things out on their own, be able to take care of themselves and let them be who they want to be rather than fill the box we think they fit in.

Schools teach many of the basics that are helpful in getting through life like math, reading, writing, history, science and physical health. But too few schools are providing the real tools that students need to get through life. We’re missing out on teaching leadership, finances, communication, relationships, critical thinking and community building just to name a few. We’re only giving the youth some of the tools they need to make the most of the lives and gifts they’ve been given. So instead of just talking about homework with your kids, ask them what they did that day to make a difference, ask them what bothered them, talk about problems of the world and solutions for them as well, expose them to unique opportunities and people so that they see the world through different perspectives, and encourage them to get involved in things that interest them, not just things that look good on resumes and college applications, but things that will help them be stronger, smarter and more equipped to take on the future.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

Learning from Failures

I’m not perfect, I’ve made lots of mistakes. The fact that I learn something new everyday and there’s lots that I know I don’t know about means that I’ll be learning for the rest of my life and still not learn everything. The same is probably true for you. Life is one learning experience after another. Every day brings new opportunities, new chances and new people into our lives and it’s up to us to choose if we want to use them to the best advantage or if we are going to waste them.

What do you do with the mistakes you make, with the lessons you learn and the things you see other people do and fail? Do you mentally put them into a file to pull out in the future when you face a similar situation? Or do you just shudder and hope that never happens to you? The only way that we can make the world into a better place is if we make wiser choices in the future.

Change happens whether we want it to or not, the choice we have is how we go through that change. Do we try our best or do we let it run us ragged? Hopefully it only takes a couple times of being run ragged for us to learn our lesson and start being more proactive and attentive to what goes on around us and how it affects us. You don’t have to get it right the first time, everyone fails occasionally. But if you do want to get it right at some point in time you have to keep trying.  Don’t be discouraged by your failures unless you’re not using them to make fewer failures.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” Will Rogers

Day of Discovery

Today in the USA is the day that we remember the adventures of Christopher Columbus. There are many things that we could talk about with regards to him, and there has been some criticism about him in recent years, as there are of other early explorers. But today I don’t want to talk about his failures or mistakes but rather his sense of adventure, his bravery and his passion for discovery.

Today’s technology makes many things a lot less scary or intimidating because we can learn so much before we ever embark on the adventure. That doesn’t mean the adventure is any less exciting, it means we’re better prepared to succeed rather than fail, and we’re better prepared to take advantage of the things we could explore instead of being forced to come back and try it again at some other point in time.

“Going where no man has gone before” isn’t a statement we can really use these days but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do it bigger or better than has been done before. Today we can learn things that weren’t possible because we can take the discovery to the next level, adding on what has been learned in previous explorations.

But Columbus and his crew were going where no man had gone before and didn’t have anything close to the technology we do today. So what can we really learn from him? That we’re limited only by the limitations we give ourselves. The world is open to all the adventures you want to have and discoveries you want to pursue. It’s just a question of whether or not you’ll go for it or let someone else have the fun, adventures and thrill of discovery.

Learning and Overcoming Fears

Welcome to a new month! Are you excited about what this month holds, or are you dreading what always seems to be the beginning of the downhill roller coaster rush to December 31? Last month we talked about lessons, this month we’re talking about a very relevant topic, one that you’ll probably discuss a couple of times with your kids: fears. Fears are these incredibly powerful thoughts that can really hurt us, hold us back and blow reality out of proportion. Sometimes fears are a good thing because they can keep us from doing really stupid things. But most of the time fears hold us back from living our lives and having big dreams. We’ll be talking about a lot of different aspects of fear this month, but I wanted to start off sharing a quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.”

Families are supposed to be there for each other through good and bad, we’ve seen how that sometimes fails, after all we’re all human. We all have room for improvement, especially when it comes to each other, and as we learned last month we’ve got lessons happening all the time in our lives that we could be learning from. This month’s topic will challenge us, no one really likes to think about their fears, let alone try to conquer them. Some fears we outgrow, like being worried about getting cooties from our desk mate, but other stay with us throughout our lives.

But this quote brings up an interesting point. If fears are something we’ve learned, does that mean we can un-learn them or learn something other than them? After all, I can’t un-learn that people used to think that the world was flat, but we can learn that that’s not the truth and the real truth is that the world is round. Having learned all about lessons last month, this month as we talk about fears don’t forget that even fears can teach us a lesson. One of the biggest lessons fears teach is the lesson of caution. But fears aren’t the end of the story, and nor are they the beginning of the story according to Marianne Williamson.

When you or your kids are facing a fear this week take time to put a little love into the situation. Fears don’t have to stay fears, they can be overcome or reduced with love and support in most situations. What fears need a little love in your life?

The Business of Emotions

As we close out this month’s discussions on lessons, I wanted to share one last lesson we can apply to our businesses, this one on topics related to sales. Why do people choose to work with or buy from you? There are tons of reasons why people choose you including (in no particular order):

-visibility through marketing or product placement
-testimonials on your site or the internet
-convincing sales page or website
-you have what they think they need
-features offered
-referral from a friend

And the list could go on. Businesses work really hard to make their products and services visible, to gather testimonials, to write content that is convincing, to come up with helpful products and services, to come up with new and inventive features and to encourage customers to share with their friends.  We keep tinkering with each of these to try to get it just right  so we can improve our conversion rate and have more satisfied customers.

Businesses spend more money and time than ever perusing metrics to see what’s converting, what isn’t converting, and testing different things, partly because we’re able to track more than ever. If you’re serious about having a successful, growing business metrics and conversions are something you have to consider. If you are doing something that’s not effective you won’t be successful, right? Instead of wondering what’s not working metrics allow us to see what is or isn’t working.

However, there’s one factor that can screw up our nice orderly world of numbers every time: emotions. As much as we can do to direct people’s emotions or encourage them to feel one thing or another there’s a lot we can’t control when it comes to emotions. You may have the most awesome product or service in the world, one that logically should be very successful, but if people aren’t “feeling it” it may be a big flop.

So what’s the answer? Don’t just make decisions on logic and numbers alone, take into account how people may feel about your product or service and make time to talk with your intended audience and get their feedback.  You should take into account numbers and logic but don’t forget that most of the memorable and successful ads, businesses and campaigns had to do with feelings, or an emotional reaction they encouraged.

“Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.” Samuel Adams

Lessons to Grow

How does success happen? It doesn’t happen because we’ve experienced loss or failure, or because someone told us we couldn’t do it, although those things can motivate us to become successful.  Success happens because we take action, action that will help us accomplish our goals or dreams. This month we’ve talked about lessons and what we can learn from the things that go on in our lives and in the lives of those around us. One of the most painful, but often the most empowering, lessons is that of loss, failure or judgment. When we face loss, failure or judgment we’re forced to make a decision: will we let it damage us, or will we let it teach and improve us?

I don’t know about you but I have friends who were told in high school that they would amount to very little. It’s not easy to overcome that negative and self-esteem-killer talk. It’s amazing how powerful simple little words can be! The old saying may be that “Sticks and stones will break my bones/But words will never harm me,” but it’s not really true: our words have incredible power, more so than ever with all of the technology that we have in 2015. We’ve seen the power in just 140 characters to ruin people and business’s lives, so it’s not that difficult to see how powerful (and damaging) our words can be. But when words are used to empower the result can be nothing short of world-transforming.

When we put actions behind our words, actions that are based on what we learned from our words and the words of others we face a choice: will we take actions that will hinder us or will we choose words that will allow us to grow and succeed? I don’t know about you but I’d much rather choose things that will make me grow, because it’s only when we grow that is there a possibility of things becoming better than they are. If you want things in your life to change, the answer is not to curl up into a little ball and cry. It’s to let go of what holds you back and grow. What steps will you take this week to grow your life?

“I don’t mind sacrifice. I don’t mind discipline. But a good coach allows people to blossom. I’ve seen that. I didn’t have it.” Dominique Moceanu