Real World

Bring Your Own Awesome podcast

There are so many amazing, inspiring people in this world. So many who are making a difference and making the world a better place through their dreams and actions. We hear about the ones who are famous, but most of them happen to live next door.

As I’ve traveled, presented, facilitated, coached, and consulted throughout my career I’ve been blessed to meet seemingly regular people who are quietly going about doing extraordinary things. People whose lives probably look a lot like yours and mine as they strive for that next level in what they are doing.

Sure, I love listening to Tim Ferriss or Brian Rose (London Real) interview the big names at the peak of their game, but I have a hard time relating to most of the guests. The people who inspire me and whose stories I want to hear and learn from are the ordinary yet amazing and that was the genesis of the Bring Your Own Awesome (BYOA) podcast. I’m a fan of Dan Waldschmidt and his blog, book, and podcast. For years, I’ve appreciated (and been inspired by) his relentlessly practical approach to personal development and success. We got to talking about the idea for BYOA and were soon launching it as a mini-series on his regular podcast, EDGY Conversations.

BYOA is Dan and I co-hosting short (15-30 minute) interviews with people who are bringing a whole lot of awesome to their lives. Small business owners and entrepreneurs, sales people, writers, musicians, physical trainers, consultants, and more. Regular people with families, bills, and full-time jobs who are going full out body, mind, and spirit to create the lives they want. Social media glamorizes “living the dream” and reduces success and inspiration to memes and unattributed quotes, but that’s not reality. Dan and I dive in with our guests to the gritty real world hard work that goes into pursuing their dreams, what they’ve learned, and the advice they’d give others.

And we have a lot of fun along the way.

Have a listen and join the conversation.

Apple Podcasts: http://edgy.es/podcast
Google Podcasts: http://edgy.es/google

Listen from the website: Edgy Conversations podcast

 

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Doing What I Know

When I was a kid, I used to really enjoy watching the GI Joe cartoon. If you remember back to 1983 or so you know they always ended each episode with some sort of lesson and would say, “Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.”

Knowing is important. Ignorance doesn’t solve too many problems. But, knowing is not just half the battle, it is ONLY half the battle. Knowing isn’t enough.

Derek Sivers summed it up as, “If more information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” Similarly, Tony Robbins once said, “Most people know what to do, but few do what they know.”

Knowledge is important, but it’s just the start.

Ever go to a conference or seminar? Attend a webinar or read up on a topic? Ever pay for advice from a doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer? Of course you have. The more important question is: how much of that knowledge have you actually put into action? How much focused effort did you spend following the instructions, executing the plan, or taking action before moving on to the next conference, book, expert, etc.?

The past three months or so I’ve been on an intense learning curve. I’ve paid for knowledge, expertise, and advice through conferences, trainings, consultations, and books, but have only sort of done what was advised. Sure, I started with best of intentions, but that quickly faded against established habits and routines, as well as the unanticipated and unexpected steering me off track.

Yesterday, the question hit me: what if I went all in on this advice? What if I wrung every last bit of goodness out of each dollar paid and instruction given?

Where could I be in my life if I simply did what I know?

Where could you be?

Back When I Used to Be Focused

I used to be super focused. Maybe you can relate. Was there a time when you were younger and had more drive, energy, and concentration than you do now?

For me, I look back at my time in grad school as high-water mark for conquering my goals. I was in a program where I only had a mild familiarity with many of the subjects and the professors covered the topics at a review speed.

I quickly realized that I was behind before I started and had to sprint to even catch up. I decided early on that if I didn’t pass it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t put in the work. I went completely head down, nose to the grindstone, relentless about getting work done, and it paid off in my grades and opportunities that came to me through the program.

These days, I often feel like I’m working more and accomplishing less. I feel scattered. I sometimes find it hard to concentrate on any one task before my attention is drawn to another task. Days, weeks, months zoom by and, though I was busy, I can’t remember what I was working on. It is ego crushing to think about how I’ve lost my edge.

Except…

And this is an important except. You may have had a different path, but I suspect your journey feels similar.

When I was returned to school in my late 20s, I focused on my classes and had almost no distractions. I was married, but we didn’t have kids yet and my wife worked insane hours so we didn’t see each other all that much. We lived in a tiny apartment and didn’t have to take care of the yard or do maintenance on a house, we didn’t have pets, or hobbies. We didn’t have any spare money so we didn’t really go anywhere. There were no smart phones (I didn’t even have a cell phone at that point), the internet was slow and less entertaining, and we had about four channels on the TV. All I did was go to school.

As I type this, I’m stunned with the realization of how ridiculous the comparison is of my life now to my life then. Back then, I literally had one focus. Today, I have higher expectations and demands in every area of my life. I have a complex and mentally taxing job, kids to keep up with, a wife that likes seeing me from time to time, pets, hobbies, trying to improve my health, weight lifting and running, finding time to read, carving off part of my day for personal development, keeping up with a yard and house and maintenance on several cars, staying current on social media, watching movies and TV, wanting to write and podcast, and, and, and…

And I feel unfocused and scattered? Weird. Every single part of my life has become more complex, more demanding, with less certainty, and requiring more time and attention, yet I still have the same amount of time in the day.

I’m feeling a little silly now for ever looking back to then with any kind of nostalgia or seeing that as my peak. Thinking about who I was then, I would have never been able to juggle today’s life demands and certainly not at my level current of expectation. It wouldn’t even be close.

That doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t improve today. The increased demands mean I need to be even more intentional about my priorities and discerning with my time. It means I need to be present with people, seek and destroy the distractions that aren’t improving my life, and do more planning, preparation, and reflection. I need to be hyper-clear on what I want to accomplish and judicious and ruthless with my time, energy, and focus.

 

“Pretty Good” is a Trap

Being at a point in your life where things are pretty good is a dangerous place to be. Comfort is quicksand. You sink slowly into it, unconcerned at first. By the time you realize you’re stuck it’s extremely difficult to pull yourself out.

Any of this sound familiar:

  • Hard work and a few good opportunities early in your career put you at a point where you’re comfortable enough to relax a little. Maybe you buy a nicer house, a better car, and don’t worry so much about the budget. Until you find yourself in the paradox of being broke while making really good money.
  • Spending a decade or so building a solid relationship with your significant other makes it easy to devote less attention to the relationship. And then a little less. And then it’s on auto pilot.
  • As work and family start taking up more of your time, your friends start receiving less. But that’s ok because they are also busy with careers and kids. Then, one day, you realize you haven’t added any new friends to your life and the good friends have faded away until the relationship is nothing more than a quick “happy birthday” on Facebook.
  • You know you’re not as fit was you were in your 20s (who is, right?), but looking around you can see you’re in better shape than most desk jockeys. It makes it easy to forget that “better than bad” isn’t necessarily “good.”

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that “entropy increases.” In other words, things break down unless we continually put energy back into them. If we’re not giving continual focused attention to our finances and career, relationships, fitness, etc. it’s safe to say they are in the process of decaying and falling apart.

Having things going pretty good in our life can fool us into thinking we can coast. It tricks us into believing we no longer need to give it our attention. Then, by the time we do notice our lives are so far from where we want them to be it feels like it’s not worth the effort to get back.

But that’s a lie. It is.

Got Goals? So What?

Forget goals. Knowing what you want is important, but it’s just the start. The bigger question is are you getting to where you want to be? In your career? Relationships? With your health and wellness? Finances? Spiritually and emotionally?

A few days ago I was hit with a one-two gut-punch of a question: “How much time do you spend every week making progress on your goals?” Then, “How much time have you spent this week making progress on your goals?” And, the finishing uppercut, “How much progress have you made this week?”

Like many reading this, I consider myself a goal-driven person. Yet, these questions splashed me with ice water cold truth: I have stopped being fully intentional about my success.

Over the years, I have slipped into treating goals as an intellectual exercise instead of as the outcomes I am absolutely committed to taking heroic levels of action to create. Sometimes I would achieve a goal and sometimes I wouldn’t. There was no consequence, no accountability, if I didn’t, I’d simply put it on the next year’s goals.

I’m stunned and embarrassed by how little intentional weekly action I was actually taking. Sure, I was taking some action – enough to fool myself into thinking I was on track. But most of my “action” was actually only thinking about maybe doing things, completely ignoring some actions all together, and I was keeping busy doing a whole bunch of stuff kind of related to my goals but not moving me forward. It’s a reminder that being busy and taking deliberate and intentional action are two very, very different things.

Ego bloodied and bruised, I put together a simple document to help me get intentional about planning and taking weekly action. The document lists about my goals for the year with weekly outcome/progress I plan to make (a mini-goal), the actions I am going to take, and when I will do them.

I learned a few things putting this together:

  • Creating a weekly goal forces me to very clear on my annual goal.
  • Identifying weekly action forces me to be very clear on my weekly goal.
  • Many of my goals were more vague intention or general direction than specific outcome.
  • Progress comes from daily action and on really big or unclear goals, that’s easy to forget.

I was reminded that, for me, the word “goal” is soft. I tend to use it to mean “something I would like to see happen.” For me, I need to use a different word. Maybe “priority” as in: “What are my priorities for the year?” No, even that doesn’t have enough edge. How about a combination of “commitment” and “results” as in: “What results am I absolutely committed to achieving this year?”

Let me ask you:

  1. What are your goals? What are your priorities? What outcomes are you absolutely, 100%, come-Hell-or-high-water, committed to creating?
  2. How much focused time did you spend this week working toward those outcomes? And how does that compare to activity not related to your outcomes?
  3. What are the obvious ways you could (will) increase your focused actions?

You Already Have the Answers

“Seminar Junkies” is a term used to describe people who go from one seminar to the next, always seeking better ideas, BUT rarely using what they’ve learned. Because they never use the knowledge, their lives don’t change, so it’s off to the next seminar, searching for that life changing nugget of information. If it’s not seminars, it’s books, or websites. The addiction is to seeking information instead of taking action.

This is important. The best ideas in the world are absolutely worthless, until the moment we put them into action.

More information is rarely the problem. The real challenge is applying the information we already have. Tony Robbins once said, “Lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know.”

Where are you waiting for more information before you take action? Where are you not taking the action you know you need to take? OR where are you already taking action, but need to dial up the amount of effort or just get more consistent?

Information is important, but it just gets you in the game. Knowledge doesn’t create results. Action does.

If I Die Today, It Will Be Too Soon

She never saw it coming but was likely dead within seconds. It was no one’s fault. No irresponsibility or neglect. Just an accident. Just bad luck. Wrong place at the wrong time. A few seconds’ difference and she would have been simply scared or hurt, not dead.

As far as dying goes, it was about as good as one could hope for: nearly instant and never saw it coming. As far as the death of a child goes, it was hard to take. No one to blame, no bad intent, no mistakes made. Nothing anyone could have done different. One second happy, the next second dead. No answers, only questions.

***     ***     ***

I carry an oversized coin in my pocket as a reminder my time is limited. On one side it reads, “Memento Mori” which translates to “remember death,” or “remember you will die”. On the back is a quote form Marcus Aurelius: “You could leave life right now.”

Face it. We’re dead. You, me, everyone. We just don’t know it yet.  Weirdly, that’s not pessimistic or fatalistic or even just negative. That’s just the reality. I find the potential of what we can do with that reality inspiring.

***     ***     ***

I had a medical scare once. I was 31. Some symptoms sent me to the doctor. It looked bad. As in, “hug your loved ones and say goodbye” bad. I was so worried I didn’t tell anyone, not even my wife. It took three days to get the test results back. Three very lonely days with a lot of time to think about things. To think about things we don’t normally think about.

At the time, I was working for my mentor, who was an absolute rock star in his field, and had been for decades. I enjoyed working with him, learned new things daily, had responsibilities beyond my experience, earned a great living, and I walked away from it. What happened?

It turned out to be nothing, but during those three days I asked myself, “What if this is it? What if I only have months? Have I done enough?” The answer was a clear “NO!”.

I needed to do more, to have a bigger impact, to change lives.

The first life I changed was mine. I changed locations, changed careers, and had a bigger impact.

But then time passed and I forgot I am going to die.

***     ***     ***

My father died a year and a half ago. Lymphoma, likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange, destroyed him. He had started slowing down several years prior but no one was surprised. He was getting old and still outworking everyone around him. It all had to catch up some time.

Then it was a lot of trips to the doctors. No one really knew what was wrong, but he required frequent transfusions. He felt fine, other than he’d die without fresh blood. Eventually, more tests revealed the truth.

He called me a week before Thanksgiving to tell me he was dying. His doctor gave him no more than three months to live. As hard as that call was to receive, I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it was to make.

He made it to January 30. The best/worst moment of my life was being there for him when his contribution to the world stopped.

***     ***     ***

I don’t think we humans really understand our mortality. I don’t think we’re wired for it. We’re programmed to survive and, paradoxically, it’s hard to survive if you fear death. Without hope, without vision, we give up. We have to believe we’ll keep living or we’d never get out of bed.

But the downside of that is we are blinded to our mortality. We live in denial. We understand death on an intellectual level, but few of us get it on the emotional, Truth-with-a-capital-T level.

If we did we’d worry more about our effort, our contribution, our legacy. We’d spend less time watching reality TV and more time maximizing our reality. Less time muting our emotions and more time turning the volume on our lives up to 11. Less time enjoying distractions and more time realizing our purpose.

We say our lives matter, that our legacy is important, that we care deeply about our contribution, but the Truth of our priorities lies in what we spend our time on.

***     ***     ***

There is a funeral today for a little girl whose potential will never be realized. Her opportunity to make a difference ended the moment she died. That’s hard to think about, let alone write. It feels mean to type that sentence, but I’m not disparaging her. Her passing doesn’t negate who she was or the love she had for her family and friends. It’s just the reality that whatever contribution she was going to make to the world ended in that moment. And that moment came too soon.

My father died with untapped potential. Wickedly smart and deeply human, he left with too few benefiting from his wisdom and compassion. That’s hard to think about, let alone write. It feels mean to type that sentence, but I’m not disparaging him. His passing didn’t negate who he was or the love he had for his family and friends. It’s just the reality that whatever contribution he was going to make to the world ended in that moment. And that moment came too soon.

There will be a funeral for me someday. Today, tomorrow, thirty or fifty years from now, I don’t know. My passing won’t negate who I was or the love I had for my family and friends. It’s just the reality that whatever contribution I was going to make to the world will end in that moment. And that moment will come too soon.

Whether I will die or not is not even a question.

The real question is: what will I do before I die? How will the world have been better for my being here?

The clock is ticking. I better keep moving.

 

 

 

Building an Email List for Fun and World Domination

“Dad, I think that’s the guy from Shadow of Whales.” We were standing in line, waiting to get into the venue to see Catfish and the Bottlemen and Green Day. My daughter pointed over to a red haired guy holding a clipboard and walking alongside the line.

She had her phone out and was swiping through a year’s worth of photos before I could even ask, “Are you sure?” She pulled up a photo of him standing next to her from June 2016. We had seen Shadow of Whales open for Marinas Trench at a bar in Austin over a year ago. Neither of us had heard of them before, but after their set, the bass player wandered through the crowd talking to people and my daughter got a picture with him.

My daughter stopped him as he approached and asked, “Are you in a band?” Yes he was. “Is it Shadow of Whales?” Yes again. He was excited she’d recognized him a year later and introduced himself as Jeremy (@jeremyboyumsow). The three of us talked a bit, then he asked a small, but very important question.

*****

Noah Kagan (@noahkagan) was an early employee at both Facebook and Mint.com and is now an entrepreneur. He has founded a couple of companies focused on business promotion and growth.  On the side, he blogs, podcasts, and makes videos on entrepreneurship, marketing, business promotion, sales, etc.

Noah often advocates collecting emails to create a connection with customers and improve sales. I like to believe I have a pretty good understanding of business and after hearing and reading Noah’s ideas and advice, I thought I understood the business imperative behind email lists.

I didn’t.

*****

I am a huge fan of Ryan Holiday’s (@ryanholiday) books. All of them. Whether it’s about marketing, Stoic philosophy, or creating lasting art, Ryan packs about three lifetimes worth of wisdom into each book, yet makes the topics understandable, applicable, and practical.

He is also a voracious reader and has a monthly newsletter where he summarizes all the books he’s read lately. In a presentation at the launch of his latest book, he mentioned that he started this newsletter well before writing his first book as a way to collect email addresses and build a following. He figured people who like to read (i.e., potential customers) would find the newsletter valuable and once he’d published a book himself, he would have a way to directly reach his customers. His plan seems to have worked: over the years, he’s grown the list to 80,000+ subscribers, while becoming a best-selling author.

Again, I thought the idea was pretty cool, but only in an abstract way, not in a here’s-something-I-need-to-do way.

I was wrong.

*****

It’s easy to forget that bands are really small businesses. They sell products (music) and services (concerts) to their customers (fans). In the Revolver Magazine article The Youth Are Getting Restless, veteran metal vocalist Randall Blythe discusses how technology and competition have greatly reduced the barriers to entry and made it very difficult for new bands to get a foothold. (Sound like what’s going on in other any other industry? Maybe in every other industry?)

He makes the comment, “I encourage everyone to play music – it’s great fun and good for the soul – but I’m never going to lie and say your chances of actually making money from it are anything other than dismal.” In the age of file sharing and freemium streaming music services, bands today make almost no money from selling their music.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine having a business where your primary service or product is not – and never will be – your primary source of income. So, if music sales aren’t profitable, how do bands make money? Randall goes on discuss what he recently saw a few new bands doing right: “They all worked hard to gain new fans, which is how you sell merch, which is the key to making a living as a band today (honestly, that’s it – I am really just a glorified black T-shirt salesman.)”

There’s the formula: Gain new fans + sell t-shirts = $$

But how do you gain new fans? How do you build an audience?

*****

Jeremy asked, “Would you like to get our new EP in exchange for your email address?” My daughter enthusiastically agreed and he passed her the clipboard to add her name and email. We said goodbye and he continued working his way down the line.

In an era when music isn’t profitable but building a fan base and merchandise sales are, Jeremy was out in the hot Texas sun talking to everyone who would listen about his band’s music and trading their music for emails.

*****

I’m pretty far from anything resembling an expert in email marketing. My only qualification is enjoying the work of actual experts like Noah and Ryan. Even though I’ve heard them both discuss the importance and approaches to capturing email addresses as a way of building and selling to the customer base, I realize now that I only understood it at the intellectual level. I didn’t really get it before, not truly.

To really understand it I had to see it at the most real of levels. A guy and a clipboard with the hustle and initiative and dedication to approach strangers and build an email list one conversation at a time.

That’s what he’s willing to do to grow his business.

How about you?

DNS (Did Not Start)

With two months to go, 60 more days to prepare, I quit. I decided not to run my first marathon. That failure has nagged at me since.

Early May 2016 I signed up to run a big marathon in Las Vegas in November. It was a strategic decision. I figured I’d be more motivated to complete the event with the investment of an event two states away. It would be an excuse to have a fun trip with my wife. I’d be back in my home state, and the temperature and weather would be great. Plus, it gave me six months to get into shape.

My kids thought it was cool and my daughter spent her allowance to buy me a key chain that read “26.2”. I told her I hadn’t done it yet and she responded that she knew I would.

Her faith wasn’t unfounded. I like to take on big challenges that scare me a little, I like to compete, and although I’d never run that far before, I used to run nearly daily. There was a time when I enjoyed actively pushed hard against my comfort zones.

But something funny happened on my way to the marathon. I never quite got my act together. Four months into my training and I was still doing the same (actually, less) distance as I did my first month. I feared getting hurt by pushing too far too soon, but never did enough to acclimate and build a solid base. I spend all my time thinking about running, yet most of the thought was around excuses not to run far, or even “reasons” to not run at all. It became obvious I simply wasn’t going to be able to complete it, so I killed the idea.

The worst part of quitting was telling my kids I wasn’t going to run the marathon. I felt like I let them down. My daughter tried to encourage me by insisting I could do it, and I had to explain there just wasn’t time. That hurt. A lot.

Still does.

Looking back, my mistakes are obvious. I tried to use an expensive event and trip to motivate me, but never went all in by booking flights and a hotel. It because a huge barrier where it was easier to not go because I didn’t want to spend all the money if I couldn’t complete the run. The race also had a four and a half or five-hour time limit, which didn’t allow much cushion if I needed to walk or rest. Fear of failing loomed large.

My biggest mistakes? No consistency and I didn’t embrace the pain. I would have been better to run a mile a day for the first month than the haphazard, almost random training schedule I was using. I feared short runs would set me back – not far enough to improve conditioning, just far enough to get sore and prevent running the next day – so I simply did not run enough. Staying inside the comfort zone was much nicer than getting uncomfortable.

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid.

I realize now that every big goal I’ve achieved in the past has been accomplished because I was obsessed with it. Consumed by it. Focused to the point my wife got a little concerned.  I simply refused be beaten by the goal and was relentless in working toward it.

Over this weekend I registered to do a local half-marathon in early August. New goal, new plan, new focus, new obsession.