How to know who you should really listen to.

If you think you already know everything this post is not for you. This is for people who have a growth mindset. If you are trying to become smarter, stronger and more capable every day, you need to keep your ears open for good advice.

The problem is that not all advice is good. And most certainly, not all advice is right for you. So if you are trying to become a better entrepreneur, employee, parent, student, athlete of friend, how do you know when to listen to advice, and when to Leave it to Beaver?

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Britnie Turner

I stumbled across a nice quote yesterday on Instagram Stories from Britnie Turner, Founder and CEO of Aerial Development Group in Nashville. I don’t know Britnie, and I don’t remember how I started following her on Instagram. But I know she is a successful entrepreneur. I know that a percentage of the profits from each home her organization sells directly supports orphans and local nonprofits. And I know that spellcheck desperately wants to change her name to Britain.

The Quote

‘Only listen to people you want to be like and only in that area of their life.’ -Britnie Turner

This is excellent advice. The point is clear. Only take advice from people who are already doing what you want to be doing. Learn the tips and tricks of the people who behave the way you want to behave. Don’t listen to every voice in the wind. Instead, carefully curate the advice you accept.

Sliver Mentors

I love the second part of the message as much as the first. The qualifier ‘only in that area of their life’ is important. Because I believe in Sliver Mentors. Those are mentors or role models who can teach you how to do very specific things very well. This can be anything from how to make a great introduction, to how to give kind feedback, to how to respond to email, to how to show your significant other that you are thinking about them during a busy day.

Key Takeaway

We all have to develop our advice filters. That starts by knowing what we want our fully formed selves to be like. Study, listen and learn from the people who are already doing what you want to do. But don’t let them overstep their areas of influence. Uncle Vern might be great at teaching you how to fish. But that doesn’t mean you want to dance, dress or do business the way he does. So remember to keep the Q-Tips handy. That way when people who don’t already align with your ideals offer advice, it can quickly go in one ear, and right out the other.

 

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A simple, effective approach to conflict resolution.

Do you like arguing? I don’t. I think it is the lowest form of communication. Because it is not really communication at all. Arguing is like being in a boxing match. Because in an argument you hurl your point of view at another person, then defend yourself from their response. If your aim is to win an argument you’re fighting a losing battle. 

Understanding

What we should be doing is discussing to understand. We should demonstrate that we are listening and hear each other. It is the best way to make friends, build stronger relationships, earn trust, and become more likable. 

Conflict Resolution Technique

My wife, Dawn and I learned about a great conflict resolution technique early in our marriage. We were watching an Oprah special on relationships, and a guest on the show introduced a technique to help couples come to a mutual understanding. Dawn and I intuitively understood why this was such a smart technique. We began using this when we needed to resolve an issue. I expect this technique is pretty standard in couples counseling. But we haven’t been to counseling. We just watch Oprah together.

The 4 Steps

Try these simple steps the next time you find yourself in an argument, disagreement, dispute or any other word the thesaurus says you can substitute for conflict.  

  1.  The 1st person speaks, uninterrupted, until they have said everything they have to say.
  2. The 2nd person plays back what they heard, to show that they listened and understand the 1st person’s position.
  3. The 2nd person then speaks, uninterrupted, until they have said everything they have to say.
  4. The 1st person plays back what they heard, to show that they listened and understand the 2nd person’s position.

Being Heard

Through this process, everyone gets to say all they want to say. Even better, everyone has their feelings and perspectives acknowledged. At the end of the day, this is all we really want. Once we know that we have said what we want to say, and have been both heard and understood, we can stop arguing our point.

Professional Application

I use this approach in my personal relationships. But I also use this technique in my professional relationship with clients, coworkers and vendors. It is the best way I know to resolve a dispute or misunderstanding. It shows that you care. It improves customer service. And it can save you significant money in lost revenue, lawyers fees and alcohol therapy.

Key Takeaway

No one wins arguments. We win through understanding. Listening without interruption is one of the greatest gifts we can offer each other. Being heard and understood is more enjoyable than being fed grapes while being fanned. Try this simple technique the next time you find yourself in a conflict. You’ll see that everyone comes out ahead, when you stop arguing like a behind.

What happens when you start asking a total stranger all the right questions?

One of my favorite games to play is Connect The Dots. Not the game we played when we were kids, where you drew lines between numbered dots to form an image of a kitty or  Jack-In-A-Box. The version I like to play is with humans.

It’s pretty simple. When you meet someone new, you try to discover their dots and connect them to your own. This helps build a bridge or a common bond between two people. Note, I use the term ‘dots’ symbolically to represent someone’s key facts, personal history, experiences and friendships. I don’t usually draw lines connecting someones moles and freckles. Although I am not above it.

Madtown

Two weeks ago, after watching our local high school win a state championship at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, my daughter Ava and I attended a UW Madison track and cross-country reunion hosted by The National W Club. There were over 200 alumni gathered on the eve of the NCAA Cross Country National Championships in Madison. I saw dozens of former teammates and friends. But I also met new people. And we played Connect The Dots.

A Young Couple Walks Into A Bar…

Ava and I were standing near the entrance to the bar, when a nice looking young couple walked in. I recognized the woman immediately as Taylor Amann, a recent UW graduate and an All-American pole vaulter from Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wisconsin.

I had connected with Taylor in the spring, after I saw her LinkedIn profile and recognized that I may be able to assist her with some career connections based on her interest in fashion and retail.

We had exchanged a few emails, but had never met in person. So I approached her and introduced myself. Taylor was very nice, and acted as if she totally remembered our email exchange. She talked about her great new job as a buyer at the UW Bookstore. We talked about the interesting challenges of transitioning from college to the real world, and discovering our new identities after the end of our athletic careers.

Plot Twist!

Then I started talking to her boyfriend. And that’s where things got really interesting. His name was Clay. And since we had never emailed each other before, I started playing Connect The Dots.

I asked him where he was from. He said Ohio. This was a very good start. Because Ohio is dot-rich territory for me. I asked Clay where he went to college. I learned that he was a recent graduated from Ohio State, where he also played football.

I asked, ‘Where in Ohio did you grow up?  He said, ‘Dublin.’ Boom! I said, ‘We lived in Dublin for seven years.’ I asked, ‘Where did you go to high school?’ He said, ‘Coffman.’

At this point I knew we would have at least 2 connections. Because my friend Mike Ulring is the principal at Coffman High School. And I figured that Ava’s former babysitter, Rachel Weber, would have been in high school with Clay.

But I kept asking questions.

I asked, ‘Where did you go to Middle School.’ He said. ‘Karrer.’ That was the school our neighborhood went to, not far from where we lived in Dublin. So I told Clay that we lived across from Avery Park, in Hawks Nest subdivision. His eyes got wide and he said, ‘The stone that says Hawks Nest on it was in my yard!’ I asked, ‘Did you live on Jacana Drive.’ He said, ‘Yes!’  I said, ‘I have been on your roof!’

It turns out Clay Raterman and I lived 3 houses apart. And as soon as we connected the dots I knew exactly who he was. Not only did he remember me, he remembered Ava as a little girl who was always playing outside. We talked about our neighbors the Philbins, Sherbuns, McGoverns and Ashs. We recounted a legendary neighborhood story about Clay and his brother who ding-dong-ditched our next door neighbors, who found little humor in the prank. (The boys had painted a marshmallow to look like dog poop and left it in an unlit bag on the porch).

We also talked about the time when hurricane Ike hit Columbus and took part of the roof off of Clay’s family’s home. Mike Sherbun and I climbed on the roof to nail down a large corner section that had been blown off by the wind. We scrambled to cover the section with a tarp donated by my neighbor, Phil Turner, before nightfall came, and rain wreaked havoc on the exposed home.

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Ava, Adam, Clay and Taylor walked into a bar…

Two ships in the night.

Clay and I may have spent the evening within feet of each other and never talked. Or we could have said a pleasant hello and left it at that. We would have had no idea just how much we had in common, and how many people and places we both knew. We talked about Donatos Pizza and Jeni’s Ice Cream and other favorites Columbus originals.

There is something wonderful about discovering our common bonds. It makes us feel connected. It makes us feel like someone else knows us and understands us. Networking is nothing more than building your own safety net. When I play connect the dots, I am trying to make each of our nets a little bigger, and a little stronger.

Key Takeaway.

Get to know as many people as you can. Discover your common ground. We all have it. It’s just a matter of whether or not we find it. Turn strangers into friend. Make the world feel smaller and friendlier. You never know who you may be able to help along the way. Or who may be able to help you when you need it most. Like when a hurricane hits central Ohio, and dark is closing in. Or when you are a Buckeye, and you walk into a bar full of Badgers.

16 Things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. (Spoiler Alert: You’re 1 of them!)

Today is the day that we eat Turkey and give thanks. Those two things seem like strange pairings don’t they? I am going to be thankful for all I have, AND, eat a bird. It’s like celebrating Dads and Grads. They have nothing to do with each other, except they both happen in June, and they rhyme. But hey, sometimes that is all it takes.

As I prepare to ingest birds, cranberries and Grammy Beans, I am taking stock of all that I am thankful for this year. It’s quite a list. So in a particular order, here it goes.

Some Things I Am Thankful For in 2018

My Wife: I have always been thankful for my wife, Dawn. But when she fully supported my plan to leave a salaried job to bet on my ability to create a business that will support our family of 5, that made me crazy thankful. This lady is the best!

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Our family of 5, still eating and wearing clothes.

My kids: One of the greatest experiences for a busy business person is to go home and spend time with people who don’t care at all about what you do at work.

My Health:  I feel great. And according to the medical screening I just had, all of my numbers are right at the norm. Either that or I accidentally got some guy named Norm’s test results.

My Fellow Weapons We have hired more great people at The Weaponry this year. We now have employees in Milwaukee, Columbus and Atlanta. And we all work together, cross office, like one team based in Milumbta.

My Office The Weaponry has now been in our office space for a year. And we have made it feel like home. Next week we expect to sign a new lease. But we have to build in some flexibility clauses into our lease because we fully expect to outgrow our current space in the next few months. Which is a great problem to have.

Business Travel.  22 years ago I returned from my very first business trip the night before Thanksgiving. I had flown to El Centro, California with Dan Koel to photograph new tractors for Case IH in the irrigated California farmland just north of the Mexican border. I couldn’t believe how exciting it all was. Today I am thankful that I am just as excited about my career and the travel it offers. My trip to India in September was the pinnacle of work travel for the year.

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Me, Jake, Henry and Nina in India, during the couple of hours we had to go sightseeing.

Retainer Clients At the beginning of 2018 we didn’t have any retainer-based clients. So while we were growing at a healthy pace, we didn’t have much visibility into what was coming next. So our number one goal for this year was to establish retainer-based clients that would help build predictability into our machine.

Today we have 6 clients who pay us a monthly retainer. That has made it easier for us to commit to hiring more great people, and invest in other resources that allow us to deliver even better work for our clients. (Did you think retainer clients were the clients you get after your braces clients are removed?)

Heat The first time it got cold outside after we moved into our offices it was freezing in our space. Our building people sent specialist to seal our windows. Which helped some. But the biggest help was when we talked to our neighbors next door at DanceWorks, and simply asked them to turn up the thermostat. That worked like a charm. Go figure.

Hermann Miller No one has supported me over the course of the last year like Herman Miller. That’s because we have his really great Aeron desk chairs in our office. It makes a difference. Thanks Herman for building these. And thanks to Office Furniture Resources for helping us find these chairs lightly used, and at a good discount.

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Whoomp, chair it is!

Technology Thanks to technology, it has never been easier to launch a business. I am extremely thankful to a handful of resources that together create the central nervous system of our business. They are:

  • G-Suite
  • Asana
  • Slack
  • Gusto
  • Zoom
  • Dropbox

Insurance I am thankful that The Weaponry is able to offer our full-time employees both health and dental insurance. In 2018, our first year of offering such benefits, we were able to pay the full premiums on behalf of our individual employees. And it looks like we will be able to do the same in 2019. #Boom

My Commute  My drive to work is 17 miles. And it generally takes under 30 minutes. That is half the time I spent driving too and from work in Atlanta. I’m thankful for that every day. The only downside is that it now takes me twice as many days to finish an audiobook. That’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

My Car My Acura MDX turned 10 years old this year. And I still love driving it. As my Grampy once told me, ‘A man with miles on his car has money in the bank.’ I am thankful to not have a monthly car payment. It is one less thing to worry about on my entrepreneurial adventure.

Ideas My business and my career are based on new ideas. I guess this blog is too. I am extremely thankful that the ideas keep coming. Because truth be told, I have no idea where they come from. And like a drunk at bar time, I am afraid of being cut off, because God knows I have been over-served.

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Me with old and new friends in Atlanta last week.

New Friends I love meeting new people. I am a collector. I think you can never have too many friends. Unless you are trying to hide in the witness protection program. Then too many friends could totally blow your cover and get you killed. But because I am not in that program, yet, I like having as many people on my team as I can. In the past 10 days I have met, and had significant conversations with the following new people:

  •  Jim Lucke
  • Stephanie Orman
  • Scott Jenkins
  • Reed Connor
  • Taylor Amann
  • Clay Raterman
  • Nate Davis
  • Anne Krueger
  • Eric Wilson
  • Alok Data
  • Larry Compton
  • Peter Kirchof
  • Jasmine Butler
  • Patrick Howe
  • Spencer Reed
  • Josh Schlabach
  • Bill Johnson

My Blog Readers I am extremely thankful for all of you who read, like, comment or subscribe to this blog. I know you have a millions other things you could read, and an endless number of other ways to invest your time. I am appreciative and humbled every time someone tells me they read something I wrote. So thank you for reading all the way to the end of this post. You are so much better people than those who bailed after that Dad’s & Grads observation in the first paragraph.

Key Takeaway

There is so much to be thankful for that I can’t capture it all here. As you count your  blessing, I hope you count really high. I hope you get tired, and lose your voice from all your counting. There are so many things for us all to be thankful for that there really ought to be a day for us to just stop and be thankful. And eat a bird. Yep, that still sounds weird to me.

3 easy things you can do to prevent stress gunk.

Entrepreneurship is like joining the Stress Of The Day Club. Because entrepreneurship is hard. But motherhood and fatherhood and living in the hood are also hard. That’s because life is hard, and stressful. No one is immune. And not to spoil the ending, but none of us will make it out alive.

Stress Gunk

We accumulate stress during regular operating hours every day. If we are not careful, that stress leads to a the accumulation of a funky gunk. That gunk prevents us from performing at our best. In turns us into cranky pants. It also prevents us from being able to handle more stress.

I have found 3 things that help me eliminate the stress gunk in my trunk. Together these 3 ingredients are my de-stress recipe. Or destressipe.

1. Exercise

When I started lifting weights when I was a freshman in high school it changed my life. I tend to have a lot of energy. But when I lift weights it helps me burn off my excess, pent-up, or silly energy. Stress is a form of energy too. You can use it like a workout supplement to move more weights or endure longer endurancey things. The key is to workout until you’ve burned off the stress energy. It’s a great way to prevent your mind and body from going all Chernobyl.

2. Sleep

Sleep is your giant reset button. It is what helps replenish your store of energy, your tolerance for craziness, your focus, your stamina and your eye boogers. Whenever I get 7 hours of sleep at night I feel like I am unstoppable. I often nap on the weekends too. Because it is an investment in a better me. When I don’t feel quite right, sleep is my go to prescription. Because it is how your body naturally regenerates the best you.

3. Church.

Stress often causes us to lose perspective. Or maybe it is the loss of perspective that causes the stress. Either way, attending church is the best way I know to regain a healthy world view. I believe there is a greater power than me. And I don’t just mean the IRS or Dwayne Johnson. I’m on Team Christian. But I believe all of the major religions provide great perspective and guidance on how to be a better you and live a better life.

I try to attend church regularly. It helps me refocus, refresh, relax, feel supported, and forgiven for my mistakes. Communion also makes me feel a bit like a cannibal when I eat and drink JC. But that’s a different issue.

Key Takeaway

There are stresses, frustrations and losses that accumulate every day. We are drained by daily set backs. So we have to prevent the stress gunk from building up and fouling our systems. The key is to figure out how to reboot, regenerate, and respond positively.  Exercise, Sleep and Church are the back-to-basics keys that can help you find your balance again when you start to weeble or wobble. Try these proven approaches. They just may make you feel like a better human.

Do you know that your smart phone is robbing you every day?

Digital devices are amazing. They enable you to find the answer to virtually any question, any time. They help you fill in knowledge gaps like grout. Or mortar. Or caulk.

So we end up filling our free time by answering questions: What is the weather like tomorrow? Tap. What’s the balance in my bank account? Tap. What is Debbie doing? Tap. Is she still in Dallas? Tap. What was Gregory Hines famous for? Tap. What do you call water from the faucet? Tap.

The Dark Side

But these omnipresent digital devices have a significant downside too. They are depleting one of our most valuable resources: our free time. That precious time when we can let our minds wander in empty space. The time we can use to imagine exciting new ideas is disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, the planet is losing free time faster than we are losing rain forest (acutally I just imagined that fact in my free time).

If we are not careful we will squander our most fertile time to invent, improve and inspire. That time lost can never be recovered. Not even with LoJack.

The world needs more great ideas. So do businesses, communities, schools and households. Great ideas are born in the quiet spaces in between. Those spaces that are now being filled in with screen time.

Key Takeaway

Starting today, take back some of your thinking time. While you are waiting for something to start, or something to end, or someone to show up, keep your smart phone in your pocket or purse. Instead, let your mind go wherever it wants. If you give it enough time it is sure to arrive somewhere exciting and new. Once it does, pull out your phone and tell me all about it.

*If you know someone who could benefit from more free time and less screen time, please consider sharing this post.

16 important life lessons I learned from boogie boarding.

Vacation time is the most important time in your career. If you squander your vacation time it will have a negative impact on your work, your happiness, your family, your friends and your tan lines.

I spent last week on vacation at the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. My family of 5 loaded up our Family Truckster and drove from the western shore of Lake Michigan to the Eastern Shore of the second largest barrier island on the east coast. We drove because we bring 5 bikes and 5 boogie boards, which are hard to stuff in the overhead compartment on a plane.

Boogie On Board

I spent a lot of time boogie boarding. It is one of my favorite ways to spend a vacation day. Boogie boading is like life (#gettingdeep). I have thought a lot about why I enjoy boogie boarding so much, and what it has taught me. Here’s what I came up with.

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My daugher Ava and I about to boogie.

Top 16 lessons I have learned while boogie boarding.

  1. Be present. When you are boogie boarding you become totally absorbed in the moment. Like Bounty. Being present makes you feel alive. Feeling alive feels good.
  2. You have to choose the waves you want to ride.  Opportunities come at us over and over. We have to decide which ones are best for us. Others around you will jump on waves that aren’t right for you. Let them.
  3. You have to kick to get started. To catch a wave you have to start with a little forward momentum. Which means you need to get moving first. Never forget that. My son Johann (11) says ‘If you don’t start kicking you’ll just float.’ #truth
  4. Sometimes you are too early. We often get excited about an opportunity too early. Oh well. We tried.
  5. Sometimes you are too late. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I’ve missed many a great wave because I didn’t time it right and it got away.
  6. Sometimes what looks great isn’t. A job, a client, an opportunity can look perfect. But it doesn’t turn out that way. This will happen. A lot. But on the other hand…
  7. Sometimes what looks bad isn’t. I have caught waves that I thought would be forgettable, and they turned out to be the best rides of the day. My career has been like that too. Some of my favorite clients and opportunities started inconspicuously. Don’t write them off.
  8. There will always be more waves to catch. Whenever you miss an opportunity, know there will be an endless supply of others. You just have to paddle back out and get ready for them.
  9. Sometimes a great ride ends with a spectacular crash. This is part of the fun. It’s part of the story and the experience. Take the ride anyway.
  10. Sometimes you lose your suit. Waves and jobs and life all have a funny way of trying to return us to our natural state of nudity.
  11. Sometimes you get stung by jellyfish.  3 of the 5 members of my family were stung multiple times by jellyfish on our latest trip. The sting is temporary. The story is forever. And now we include a bottle of vinegar in our beach bin. #nobodygotpeedon
  12. Sometimes you swim with sharks. When you wade into the ocean you are entering the shark’s world. I have seen sharks several times while boogie boarding.  Look for fins. Listen for the Jaws music. If you see or hear these signs, quickly back out of the water while not smelling tasty. The sharks will pass. There are sharks in businesses and social circles too. Keep an eye out for them.
  13. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and hold on. Really great waves can get gnarly. In those cases you have to get primal. Hold on to your board. Shut your eyes to keep the saltwater and sand out, and try to outlast the chaos. The rest of life works the same way.
  14. The scarier the wave the more exciting the ride. That’s all I have to say about that.
  15. Rip currents are real.  There is always a chance you will get sucked out to sea. We review how to swim out of rip currents and rip tides with our kids every time before we boogie. We also talk to our kids about how to avoid drugs and drinking and the wrong crowds. Which are the rip currents of dry land.
  16. People on the beach wish they were doing what you are doing. But people boogie boarding are never jealous of those lying on the beach. The same holds true of entrepreneurship and exercise and all kinds of adventure. Because Active > Passive.

Key Takeaway

Take your vacation time. Enjoy as much life as you can. Take chances. Be Present. Learn from everything you do. And come back better than you left.