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What is important to you?

May 1, 2012 1 comment

No room left for the big stone.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder, the saying goes.  The distance from my blog has made me very fond of it recently.  I need it.  The nearly hundred posts that I wrote a year ago are a great little insight into some topics that I am very passionate about, from personal responsibility, finance, business to being a husband and father.   

 

Since the last post, I’ve expanded and improved my business.  We now cover half of the state of Michigan.  I’ve hired some great new contractors and refined my business plan for the future.  The first full year of business met my goals, and year two has nearly surpassed that initial goal and we’re only just starting the second quarter.    

 

So why am I back, I’m back because the focus on the business has made me lose the focus on my life.  It’s over taken everything.  I’ve allowed it to become all-encompassing to the point where I’m not enjoying it.  I just toil in the daily tasks and that’s not where I want to be or where I started out going.  I want to be able to enjoy my family and my life to the fullest and only I can choose to change my current course. 

 

A leadership lesson I learned long ago was to imagine a jar.  Outside the jar you have one large rock that is just a bit smaller than the jar and a pile of pebbles.  The large rock signifies the one important “thing” in your life.  The pebbles are all the other little “to dos” that creep up.  I’ve filled my jar with pebbles and now cannot fit the rock.  I’ve got it backwards.

 

I’m here today to dump out the pebbles, add the rock and let those small pebbles fill in around the rock.  What’s in your jar, a bunch of pebbles or your rock?

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The focus of busy

July 8, 2011 1 comment

What is busy?  Each of us have our own personal definition.  It could be getting up and rushing out the door to your job in the morning feels “busy”.  Or it could be the stay at home mother (or father) with a couple of children who has to juggle appointments, nap time, lunch, play dates and a myriad of other daily ventures is equally busy.  Whatever your flavor of busy might be, you’re busy because you’re doing something.  Try to be busy with something you love though.

Focused and busy

When I was deployed to Iraq, I was fairly busy.  I would wake up, run 3 to 6 miles, get cleaned up, eat and then walk around and visit a bunch of Soldiers or prep for a convoy mission.  I was always checking out something.  In the heat of the day after lunch I could probably relax for a little bit, to read a book or catch a nap.  Then I would check out the command center in the afternoon and evening, have a meeting or two, eat, catch a movie and then do it all over again for about 400+ straight days.  Those were long days, some longer than others.  The busyness of those days has taught me that I can handle “busy” and nothing is busier than a houseful of children I’ve come to find out.  Not even a wartime deployment could adequately prepare me for the energy of mutiple children under the age of five.  And that’s okay.

Being busy has the ability to focus you on what is important.  You have no choice but to utilize your limited amount of time and resources in a manner that not only supports the task at hand but your entire life.  Being busy is a good thing.  It gives you focus.  If your busyness is focused on a task that you love to do, you’ll probably feel time just melt away as you conduct your business.  Focus your energy and time on the things and people who you love and you won’t have to toil a day in your life.

The wisdom of a seven year old

June 15, 2011 2 comments

Sometimes the wisdom and clarity of a seven year old makes me stop and think.  My daughter and I were talking about her future and what she wanted to be when she grows up this past weekend.

I too was surprised

She mentioned that she wanted to open a book store.  Her love of reading has blossomed over the past year and she reads everything she can get her hands on right now.  She is currently reading Stuart Little and a Star Wars trivia book.  She can thank her Dad for having both of those lying around.

As the discussion progressed I stated in all of my wisdom that a bookstore might not be the best business to open in the future.  Large books stores like Border and Barnes and Noble are currently going through some tough times and are failing.  I also added that most people may read books on an electronic device in the future like a Kindle or Nook.

She thought about my genius laden insights for a second and simply said, “Kids probably won’t have a Kindle.  They’ll still need books.”  She’s right.  She’s absolutely right.  It’s going to be hard to replace children’s books because kids need those thick, colorful pages to gnaw on and have read to them at night.  Children will still need books.

What glaringly obvious facts are you overlooking in your everyday life?  If you’d like to know, my daughter will be available for a consultation.  It won’t be cheap.  Bring your check book.

Marketing and other voodoo

June 13, 2011 3 comments

“I just don’t know what is working and what isn’t working.”  Have you ever thought or said that about your business marketing strategy?  Do you have a strategy?  Is it the radio ads that are working?  Is it the Google ads?  Is it organic search?  Is it word of mouth and referrals?  I don’t know.  Even when a customer says “We found you on the internet” what does that even mean?  You’re probably listed on sites you didn’t even know you were listed on.

Lost at sea or headed toward land?

What do you do if you can’t put your finger on it?  I’m a bit of a stickler for details and the details are eluding me.  The good thing, is that something seems to be working.  Are your customers still coming in?    Mine are.  I’m just not sure exactly why.  I’ve blogged about this very issue before and yet I’m still unable to collect the data in a fashion that tells me what is working.

I’ve been told that a potential customer who actually needs your service needs to see your advertising between seven and twelve times just to “maybe” think about using your service.  Maybe.  So maybe, just maybe (that’s a lot of maybes) the equations is the sum of all parts equals one customer.  I really don’t know just yet but you can be sure I’m going to find out.

Here’s what I know so far.  Marketing that does not give direct feedback is sort of like magic to me.  Radio for example, I have no idea who is hearing my message.  I only get a report saying that the ad played.  Whoopee.  I knew that going in.  I even have a specific phone number to track calls but that is not even a fool proof method.  What does work is talking to people directly.  I like that.  I like the feedback.

So I am paddling in the lake of marketing uncertainty only really knowing that I’m exerting effort but the tide seems to be sloshing me all around without a discernible course.

What’s worked for you?

To the class of 2011, Choose debt free! Part Two

June 8, 2011 2 comments

This is part two of the blog, To the class of 2011.  It picks up with my predictions for what the class of 2011 might expect now as they move forward with their lives over the next couple of years.

Here’s how the scenarios might look to a majority of you.

A.  You go away to college and have no idea how much it costs.  Tuition, room and board, gas, phones, utilities, rent, cable, internet etc.  No idea.  That’s okay!  You have a $500 scholarship and your FAFSA application.  You’re covered!  (Not really.)  Let’s continue; You are doing great at school and you are secretary of the student council, volunteer at the local animal shelter and have a fantastic 3.45 GPA in Political Science.  Once you take off that silly hat, you need a plan.

You are doing an amazing job and continue to do so for the next couple of years.

Fast forward to college graduation and now you are one of the lucky who made it all the way through unlike some of your roommates who just have thousand of dollars of debt and no degree.  You’re different because you have tens of thousands of dollars of debt WITH a degree.  You’re in great shape! (Not exactly.)  At 22 years old the world is yours for the taking.  If you’re going to work for your Uncle’s Firm and have a job all lined up you are in the minority.  Congratulations.  Most people don’t have a good job lined up.  Most people have to go out and look for a job.  The funny thing is, that after four/five years of college, you failed to learn how to write an effective resume and how to interview.  Uh oh.

So now you’re broke, don’t know how to interview and your resume consists of one line of education and work experience totaling assistant shift supervisor in the cafeteria.  With 9% unemployment nationwide (it’s still going to be rough in four years from now) what sort of rock star job to you think you’re going to get?  For a large number of people who aren’t engineers and computer science majors you’re probably going to revert back to what you know.  A job that you probably held BEFORE you left for school.  You’ve moved back in to your parents place because you can’t afford rent right now.  Good thing they kept your bedroom the same.  There is one big difference though, now you have fifty thousand dollars worth of student loans to pay off making $10-$15 an hour.  Ouch!

You see, the debt you incurred changes your mindset.  Instead of being able to do the unpaid internship across town, now you have to go and work in an unrelated field.  Instead of getting married to your college sweetheart you hold off because he is also living at his parents house because of his student debt.  You’re entire life changes because of that debt.  Keep that in mind when you sign on the dotted line.  Your choices have consequences.

This is not 10 years or even 15 years ago when my contemporaries were securing their first jobs outside of college.  It’s going to be much harder for you not just because of the job market but because of your debt load.  Student loan debt is one of the only debts that you can NEVER get rid of, not even through bankruptcy.

All this is yours forever (or what will seem like forever) if this is the path you take.  You’ll be hitting 40 years old and still paying the same tired old bill because your 18-year-old self signed up for it.  So, high school graduate, don’t you think it’s time to take another look at how you’re actually going to pay for your education?

Or you could consider this.

B. You work.  You work like you’ve never worked before.  It won’t kill you, trust me.  You’re 18 and healthy.  In this scenario you may work at a job or trade that requires you to work your way up and pay your dues, all the while they pay you while you earn valuable experience.  Great!  Keep doing that.  Just keep saving and paying with cash.

If you still want to go to college great!  You can do it.  Here’s what I propose.  Go to work.  Get two jobs.  Live at home.  You’re parents probably wouldn’t mind especially if you keep doing chores.  It’s a great deal you’ll soon find out.  Save for that first semester and go to the local community college.  Do that for two years.  You heard me TWO years.  During that time you’ll have done a couple of things.  You will have learned how to WORK and how to SAVE.  You’ve personally funded your first two years of school AND you’ve saved enough to move on to a four-year school to graduate.  You are putting yourself through college and you’re only making about $25k a year for the last two years.  Great job.  You also wont’ be afraid to pick up a part-time job while you are at your new university either.  Because at this point, just working one part-time job while taking fifteen credit hours is a breeze.   Now this route may have taken you more than four years.  That’s okay.  Maybe it took you six years and now you are twenty-four years old with a college degree and ZERO debt.  Not only that, you have YEARS of work experience under your belt in a myriad of different industries.  You had the freedom to switch jobs because you could!  You followed your passion one, $13 dollar an hour job at a time while you fit in class and studying.  You have a new appreciation for hard work and what your efforts are worth.

The difference between these two scenarios in easily quantifiable.  It’s a debt load equivalent to a starter home or a brand new 5 series BMW.  It’s massive, ugly and will be a part of every decision you make until you are at least forty years old.  That debt isn’t going to go away when you get married or have kids or try to buy a house or a new car.  All the time the debt load will be there for the person in Scenario A.  The people in Scenario A followed the masses and didn’t realize it was leading them down a path chained to a massive bill that they can never get rid of.  Education at any cost is silly.  Do it smart, don’t learn the hard way and pile on the debt.  The group in Scenario B worked hard, saved and paid for cash at the tender age of 24, they are debt free.  They are free to follow their hearts and dreams without the burden of an extra, interest bearing bill every single month for the next fifteen or more years.

You decide which one makes more sense.  You’re an adult now.  You can do what you want.

Our new normal

June 6, 2011 12 comments

Ahh the good ole days!  They were great.  Just about everyone drove shiny new car, had a job that paid very well with benefits, stocks and other investments normally grew at a reasonable pace and life was easy and predictable. 

The good ole days aren’t coming back folks.  Now is the time of Our New Normal.  Brace yourself.  

Will work for silver.

For those that will wallow and be victims of the new normal, this blog is not for you.  You can’t go back in time, you probably can’t even re-create it because the conditions surrounding the good ole days are gone. 

So what’s the new normal?  The USA isn’t the THE superpower in the world anymore.  The dollar in your pocket is on par with our Canadian neighbors to the north and unemployment is going to stay about 9% for the foreseeable future just has it has for the recent past.  Also your house isn’t worth squat.  This is the new normal. 

What else is new?  College degrees are over priced and carry less and less value.  For the college graduate, what awaits them isn’t much different from what they left five years earlier, their bedroom at Mom and Pops.  But now they are burdened by a heavy debt load that they were ill prepared to handle and currently unable to afford.  You can’t sell your degree either.  That paper your degree is printed on isn’t worth the $40 to $75 grand that you financed.  Bummer.  The new normal.

For those that don’t go to college high paying manufacturing jobs are not around like they were 20 years ago.  Getting an entry-level job at the big three in Detroit pays about $14 an hour these days.  I hope you know something about computers or the internet.

So what do you do with this information?  The new normal doesn’t sound so good does it?  Ahh but all these facts I’ve laid out are just random bits of information.  People are living their dream outside of the doom and gloom news reports because when it boils right down to it we are not statistics.  We are hopes and dreams wrapped up in these terrestrial bodies and yet our energy to create is limitless and cannot be contained.  Now is the time to embrace the dreams you hold in your heart.  It’ll never be cheaper to create, hire and build your dreams as it is today.

Behold the power of the new normal.  The new normal is the internet, smart phones, twitter, interconnectedness, opportunity, low costs, low risk and the ability to build your own dreams all with just a spark of inspiration from your brain.

Are you too focused?

June 2, 2011 3 comments

Focus. What is focus? Is it the central point of all of your energy? Do you have it? Do you need it?

Can you be scatterbrained most of the time and then turn on the focus with an internal switch? I don’t know. Most successful people that I’ve come across are singularly focused on their goals. They have immediate, short, medium and long term goals. Each builds on the other. Goals coupled with focus are good to keep you on the path to where you want to be.

Over focused or just right?

Now, what if focus is bad? What if your focus blinds your vision? The only thing you can see is that small focused point on your own personal horizon but fail to see amazing opportunities along your journey?

It’s a tough balancing act. If you are personally not able to un-focus you may need to keep someone close to you that can help see the big picture for you. Too much of anything, even focus isn’t a good thing. You need to be able to take in your current situation and surrounding otherwise you might miss a fantastic opportunity.

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