How to prevent your dreams from crashing into a ditch this year.

Have you engaged in some self-evaluation over the past week? I have. The start of a new year has a funny way of forcing us to take stock of what we have, how we look, the state of our careers, our relationships and the effects of our bad habits. Then, once a year, we take actions to course correct. But this once-a-year-course-correction approach is severely flawed. Almost as flawed as my ability to properly fold fitted sheets.

Life is a highway

Imagine your ideal life as a road. All you have to do is drive on it. Now, imagine you find yourself veering ever-so-slightly towards the ditch, or oncoming traffic. When should you make a course correction? As soon you recognize you are veering! But what if you don’t? What if you only steer once a year?

The problem with annual corrections

If you only make a course correction once a year, you will only ever make a maximum of 100 adjustments (and that’s making some generous assumptions about your longevity and the age at which you scribbled your first New Year’s resolution).

At just 100 adjustments over a lifetime, one of two things happens. You either veer far off course each year, or you travel really, really, really slowly to prevent winding up in the ditch before the end of the year. Either way, 100 lifetime corrections severely limits your ability to travel your ideal path.

Driver Safety Quiz

Question: How often do you need to make subtle adjustments when you are driving an actual car on an actual road?

Answer: Every few seconds.

What should you do instead?

It’s simple math.  An annual evaluation and course correction will allow you 100 chances to follow your true path. A monthly correction will provide you with 1200 chances.  Weekly evaluations provide 5200 lifetime adjustments. While a daily course correction will provide you with 36,500 chances to travel your true path (plus roughly 25 leap days which you can use as you please).

I’m not saying you need to course correct every day. I’m also not saying you shouldn’t.  But a weekly or monthly inventory check will dramatically improve your odds of attaining your goals and living into the life of your design.

So don’t wait until the end of the year. Start by re-evaluating your course today, one week into the new year. If you are not heading towards your own true north, make the necessary adjustments now. Keep recalibrating. And steer yourself exactly where you want to go.

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The one simple thing that separates Dreamers from Doers.

Everyone has a dream. Me. You. MLK Jr., Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Yet the number of people who do something to make their dreams a reality is really small. Like Pluto vs. Jupiter.

So what’s the difference between Dreamers and Doers?  I’m glad you asked. Wait, I asked. Well, I’m glad I asked because you should know the answer.

A Deadline.

A goal is a dream with a deadline.  -Napoleon Hill

Time constraints motivate you to action. If you are serious about your dream, give yourself a deadline to make it a reality. Because a deadline tells you what you need to be doing now. (Hint: You can start by setting a deadline to take the first step. I do this a lot.)

When you were in school it was easy to set goals like these:

  • Make the varsity team.
  • Make first chair violin.
  • Get the lead part in the play.
  • Go to a party with cool kids.
  • Become an emcee of the Winter Carnival Talent Show and orchestrate a stunt to get the show shut down forever.

In school you have 4 (or 5) years to bring your dreams to life. That finite amount of time is a critical driver. Because you can’t stay in school forever (unless you were this guy named Brucey from my hometown).

But once you get past your schooling you start to float in an odd, timeless space. It’s like losing the effects of gravity once you leave Earth.  Time is still slipping by. You just don’t notice it until it’s too late. Like alcohol in a really fruity drink.

We all need time to ground us.

Time scarcity is what tells us what we need to do NOW.

If you want to accomplish great things, travel exciting places, learn new skills or start a business, you need deadlines. The deadline creates the urgency to act today.

When I turned 40 I set a goal of starting my own ad agency by the time I was 42. I easily beat the deadline. The time limit forced me to start moving. And when I started moving things developed quickly.  I set timelines for other business plans at the same time. Those plans are coming to life now too. On the other hand, I have a whole mess of dreams that I haven’t given deadlines. Those dreams are just floating out there, like Sandra Bullock, calling to George Clooney.

Dreaming is fun and easy. But it won’t translate to wealth, experience, accomplishment or pride without a deadline. Set one for yourself. Or set a lot of deadlines. Accomplish a lot. I’m giving you until midnight on Sunday to take the first step.  You’re on the clock. Tick…Tick…Tick…

Why lying is so good for you.

I used to think I was an honest person. I can only think of one promise that I’ve made and not kept, since 8th grade. On the night I graduated from high school I promised my friend Simon Phillips that I would sign his yearbook. And I still haven’t done it. A few years ago I reached out to Simon through Facebook to apologize and to try to complete my obligation. Apparently he forgot all about my unkept promise. I have not.

But smack dab in the middle of what I had considered to be a very honest life I realized two shocking truths:

1. I tell lies all the time.

2. I have no idea how smack and dab came to qualify the middle of something.

The lies I’m talking about are not little white lies. Not exaggerations of something mostly true. They are complete and utter falsifications and fabrications. Big league lies.

My string of outlandish lies goes back to high school. I can remember saying that I was the boys high school state record holder in the discus. I first told this lie when I was a scrawny freshman who had only thrown the discus in one meet. And in that one meet my best throw was 60 feet shy of the state record! I was a liar. Yes, I was a liar. And my pants were certainly on fire.

The lies continued in college. After a couple of rough semesters academically my GPA indicated that I was a terrible college student. But I lied and said that I was a great college student who got great grades and made the Dean’s list. All lies.

Once I started my career in advertising the lies just kept coming. Before I even landed a job I started telling outlandish lies about my accomplishments, accolades and income. I was a one man lie-athon.

But a funny thing happened after I told all those lies.

They started coming true.

Sure enough, in the last track meet of my senior year I broke the state high school discus record by 3 feet.

In college, I followed up a couple of terrible academic semesters with 7 straight semesters that included making the Dean’s List, being named an Academic All-Big Ten athlete, achieving a GPA of at least 3.5 every semester and graduating with a GPA of 3.88 within my psychology and journalism majors.

In my advertising career the lies keep coming true too. I lied when as a young writer I said I could help attract fun clients to the agency  where I worked. Then I helped the agency pick up Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea•Doo watercraft, Evinrude outboard motors, as well as CanAm ATVs and the Spyder Roadster

Building on that success I then joined a relatively unknown regional agency and lied about how we were going to work with some of the world’s best brands. And over the next few years we won business with Nike, Coke, UPS, Nationwide, Chick-fil-a and Wells Fargo.

The truth is, you need to lie to achieve great things. You have to believe the unbelievable to achieve the unachievable. (That’s some Jessie Jackson-worthy rhyming, right!?!)

Whether you call it lying or living into your dreams or positive thinking or envisioning or auto suggestion, this powerful tool is about lying to yourself so convincingly that you make the lie a reality. Which is exactly what I am doing on my quest to create the perfect agency. I believe it can be done. And I believe I’m the right person to do it. Which is a huge, and completely unsubstantiated lie.

I don’t know of any other way to make great things happen but to tell myself they will, even when there is no basis for it in reality. So I encourage you to try lying to yourself today. If you don’t feel great, say you do. If you haven’t achieved great things, say you have. Say it often. Every morning and every night, in the mirror. Lie to yourself.  Lie until you don’t even realize what the truth is anymore. And then make it all come true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a yearbook to sign.

 

I’d like to hire the fly that landed in my ranch dressing.

Finding great people to improve your team is one of the greatest responsibilities of leadership. But how do we really know who to hire? I recently read that Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Beer (maker of Samuel Adams) said that each new hire must raise the overall average. But a resume only tells us part of the story. References come from people who say nice things (I always use my Grammy). And softball skills only add value between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So you have to be prepared to recognize great talent wherever you see it. Recently I was having an excellent restaurant experience in Nashville. My family and I ate at one of our favorite restaurants near Vanderbilt (no, not Cracker Barrel). It was a nice day so we ate outside. The food and service were great. My kids behaved. But near the end of the meal a funny thing happened. A fly dive-bombed into my ranch dressing.  I was too surprised and amused to be mad at the little fella. But needless to say his appearance pulled the plug on all chicken dippin activities.

I quickly discovered that you can learn a lot about someone when they are up to their neck in dressing. The longer I watched him (I assumed he was a guy and named him Flynel Richie) the more I admired this little bugger. In fact, before I paid the bill I saw three of the most important attributes I see in great co-workers in little Flynel. So what do great teammates do that lesser teammates do not?

1. They go for what they want.

Flynel knew what he wanted. You must too. You need to know exactly what you want in your career. Write it down. Focus on it, dream about it. Whether it’s a better job, more money, or a nice crunchy crouton, set the image in your mind.  Then when you see the opportunity to make progress towards it you dive-bomb your goal like my little guy.

2. They keep on moving

Rodney Atkins had a hit country song in 2006 called, “If you’re going through Hell keep on going.” Since we were in Nashville I assume the fly had heard that song.  Because that little guy was motivated. He kept moving. Kept working. Kept pumping all six of his little multi-jointed legs. He never gave up.  And he kept making slow but steady progress.  Flynel was the kind of fly you’d want to share a foxhole with.

3. They build connections.

The thing that ultimately saved Flynel was his networking skills.  As I watched him work his way across the Great Ranch Lake he kept looking at me. Seriously. In that moment I was his only friend, his cheerleader and ultimately his lifeline.  He looked up at me as if to say, ‘Hey Sport, imagine if you were me.  Pretty rough, huh? Just a fly who saw some delicious ranch dressing he knew he wanted, went after it, and got in a little too deep. Yeah, I see you sitting there with your wife and kids. I’ve got a wife and kids. And I’d sure like to make it out of this dressing to see them again.’

So I lent him a hand. Actually, I lowered him a butter knife.  He walked on. I airlifted him out like the Ranch Dressing Coast Guard. I wiped him off.  And set him on the ground. The little guy Tebowed for a moment and then took off.

I took a moment to reflect.  I have a strong vision of what I want in my career.  I am careful not to lose my head in the dressing. And you’re not likely to find me giving up. But I sure hope I’m making personal connections strong enough to ensure that when I need help someone will lend me a butter knife.