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What is Your Average Speed in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?

One of the biggest insights I’ve gained on success and personal development in recent years is the disproportionate impact of habits over goals in improving performance. In fact, I blogged on this very topic at the beginning of 2017, based on my own research and personal experience.

That’s why, for this week’s post, I’m excited to share a recent article by author and speaker James Clear that presents a powerful strategy to propel your personal and professional growth by refining your habits.


What is Your “Average Speed” in Your Life, Your Health, and Your Work?

I have a friend named Nathan Barry who recently finished writing three books in just 9 months.

How did he do it?

By following a simple strategy. He wrote 1,000 words per day. (That’s about 2 to 3 pages.) And he did it every day for 253 straight days.

Now, compare that strategy to the classic image of a writer hiding out in a cabin for weeks and writing like a madman to finish their book.

The maniac in the cabin has a high “maximum speed” — maybe 20 or even 30 pages per day. But after a few weeks at that unsustainable pace, either the book is finished or the author is.

By comparison, Nathan’s maximum speed never reached the peak levels of the crazy writer in the cabin. However, over the course of a year or two his average speed was much higher.

This lesson extends far beyond writing.

For example, anyone can feel a burst of inspiration, head to the gym, and push themselves for a single workout. That’s maximum speed. We waste a lot of time obsessing over it. How hard was your workout? How motivated are you? How fast are you pushing it?

But what if you were to average all of your days in the last month? How many of those days included a workout? How about the last three months? Or the last year? What has your average speed been?

Look at it this way and you might realize, for example, that you were sick for a week and there were a couple times when you skipped the gym after a long day of work and you were on the road for two weeks as well. Suddenly, you realize that your maximum speed might be high every now and then, but your average speed is much lower than you think.

From what I can tell, this principle holds true for your work habits, your eating habits, your relationship habits, and virtually every other area of your life.

The Surprising Thing About Average Speed
Here’s the surprising thing about average speed: It doesn’t take very long for average speed to produce incredible results.

So often we waste our time and energy thinking that we need a monumental effort to achieve anything significant. We tell ourselves that we need to get amped up on motivation and desire. We think that we need to work harder than everyone else.

But when you look at people who are really making progress, you see something different. Nathan wrote 1,000 words per day, every day. And nine months later? Three books are finished. At no point did he necessarily work harder than everyone else. There’s nothing sexy or shocking about writing 2 or 3 pages per day. Nathan was simply more consistent than everyone else and, as a result, his average speed for those 253 days was much higher than most people.

Of course, the natural question that follows from all of this is, “How do I increase my average speed?”

Let’s talk about that now.

Habit Graduation: How to Increase Your Average Speed
Recently, I was told about the idea of “habit graduation.” That is, graduating from your current habit to one level higher. Basically, habit graduation is about increasing your average speed.

Here are some examples…

  • If your average speed is eating three healthy meals per week, can you “graduate” that to one healthy meal per day?
  • If your average speed is exercising twice per month, can you “graduate” that to once per week?
  • If your job is crazy and you only talk to your old friends on the phone once every three months, can you schedule those calls into your calendar and “graduate” that habit to once per month?

You get the idea. Habit graduation is about considering your goals and your current average speed, and thinking about how you can increase your output by just a little bit on a consistent basis.

I’ve thought about how I might apply this myself.

For the last eight months, I’ve published a new article every Monday and every Thursday without fail. Now, I’m considering “graduating” that habit to the next level.

For example, I could follow Nathan’s strategy and write 1,000 words per day. Presumably, this would allow me to continue writing two articles each week while also working on other useful things — like a book of my own.

Where to Go From Here
We all have an average speed when it comes to our habits. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, that average speed might be much slower than we’d like.

The truth is, anyone can get motivated and push themselves for one day, but very few people maintain a consistent effort every week without fail.

The important thing isn’t to judge yourself or feel guilty about having a lower average speed than you would like. The important thing is to be aware of what’s actually going on, realize that it’s within your control, and then embrace the fact that a small, but consistent change in your daily habits can lead to a remarkable increase in your average speed.

In your health, your work, and your life, it doesn’t require a massive effort to achieve incredible results — just a consistent one.

It’s time to graduate to the next level. What’s your average speed?

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Whatever the Project Is, Start Today

It’s almost time for us to welcome the new year of 2018! One of the many things I love about the Christmas and New Year holiday season is reflecting and planning: Looking back on the key themes and accomplishments of the year gone by while setting ambitious goals for the coming year. Here’s a question for you:

If the last year of your life were a movie, what would be the genre?

What I like about this question is it acknowledges a subtle truth: Your life is not a series of isolated events; instead, your life is connected to a bigger story.

Jim Rohn is one of the most influential business philosophers and personal development authors of our time. His article, 13 Ways to Improve Your Life, continues to inspire me and this year, as the SwingShift and the Stars season officially comes to a close on December 31st, #8 really stood out to me:

8. Invest your profits.
Here’s one of the philosophies that my mentor, Earl Shoaff, gave me: Profits are better than wages. Wages make you a living, profits make you a fortune. Could we start earning profits while we make a living? The answer is yes.

As Jim mentions below, “faith without action serves no useful purpose” — and Love INC is an organization that truly embodies this famous saying. They serve as a cooperative effort between churches and community agencies to provide effective help for our neighbors in need. Love INC is doing work that no other organization is doing–and they need our help. Your donation becomes part of Love INC’s story, and therefore part of your neighbor’s story–your action will make a big impact! And giving back in this way becomes part of your story now and in the years to come. Before the SwingShift donation deadline of December 31st passes, I’d like to humbly make one final request for you to join me in supporting Love INC. (And it’s your last chance to make that tax-deductible donation for the year!)

I’m a big advocate of laying the groundwork for setting clear, compelling goals with actionable steps and New Years resolutions are no exception. It’s a wonderful time to create goals that will inspire, motivate, and positively change you all year long.

But why do so many of us wait until New Year’s Eve to create these goals and start making change?

Why not now?

For my final blog post of 2017, I’d like to share Jim Rohn’s inspiring article, Whatever The Project Is, Start Today. 

Prove to yourself that the waiting is over and the hoping is past—that faith and action have now taken charge.


Whatever the project is, start today.

Knowledge fueled by emotion equals action. Action is the ingredient that ensures results. Only action can cause reaction—and only positive action can cause positive reaction.

All of that said, there are still so many people who are really sold on affirmations. There is a famous saying that “faith without action serves no useful purpose”—and how true that is! Now, there is nothing bad about affirmations when they are used as a tool to create action. Repeated to reinforce a disciplined plan, affirmations can help create wonderful results.

But there is also a very thin line between faith and folly. You see, affirmations without action can be the beginnings of self-delusion. And for your well-being, there is little worse than self-delusion.

The man who dreams of wealth and yet walks daily toward certain financial disaster and the woman who wishes for happiness and yet thinks thoughts and commits acts that lead her toward certain despair are both victims of the false hope—which affirmations without action can manufacture. Why? Because words soothe and, like a narcotic, they lull us into a state of complacency. Remember this: To make progress, you must actually get started!

The key is to take a step today. Whatever the project is, start today. Start clearing out a drawer of your desk… today. Start setting your first goal… today. Start listening to something motivational… today. Start putting money in your new “investment for fortune” account…today. Write a long-overdue letter… today. Anyone can! Even an uninspired person can start reading inspiring books.

Get some momentum going on your new commitment for the good life. See how many activities you can pile on your new commitment to the better life. Go all out! Break away from the downward pull of gravity. Start your thrusters going. Prove to yourself that the waiting is over and the hoping is past—that faith and action have now taken charge.

It’s a new day, a new beginning for your new life. With discipline you will be amazed at how much progress you’ll be able to make. What have you got to lose except the guilt and fear of the past?

Now, I offer you this challenge: See how many things you can start and continue in this—the first day of your new beginning.

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5 Key Practices of Great Hospitalians

Having spent countless hours researching, training, and championing customer service in our 300+ employee company for the past decade, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the vast difference between service and hospitality.

Most people view them as interchangeable. They’re not. There’s a big difference  between the two and knowing the difference can give you a huge advantage in building both your business and your personal brand.

Service is what you do for somebody.

Service at a restaurant or hotel is hot food on warm plates, valet parking, or 24-hour on-call concierge. In my business, it’s fixing your car right the first time, having it ready when we said it would be ready, or offering free pickup and delivery within the city limits. Excellent service is important, but it’s not enough.

Hospitality is how you make people feel.

Hospitality goes well beyond service. It is impacting the way a customer experiences the interaction, delivering the emotional connection you make with your customers. Renowned restauranteur Danny Meyer describes it like this:

“If a waiter puts a spoon on the left side of the table I’m sitting at, this is service. But if a waiter remembers that I didn’t like the big spoon with my soup last time I was at their restaurant, that’s hospitality. Service is a monologue. Hospitality is a dialogue.”

In my business, it’s the service advisor who, while checking in her customer’s vehicle, notices a bumper sticker or something else in the car that indicates the customer has children in dance, or is a military veteran or a fly fisherman, etc. Or the salesperson who remembers the dream vacation his customers were planning the month after they picked up their car—and then calls to see how their trip went.

Great customer service doesn’t always feel good. But great hospitality AND customer service always feels good.

In the digital age, as more and more customer service becomes commoditized, hospitality is a powerful strategy to differentiate your business from the competition. It’s also the most effective way to build your personal brand. High hospitality people practice the following habits with passionate consistency:
1. They are curious, always asking probing questions and demonstrating genuine interest in others.
2. They are high in emotional intelligence, starting with self -awareness.
3. They consistently display optimism and kindness.
4. They demonstrate a high level of empathy.
5. They have a growth mindset, always willing to put themselves out there to learn new skills and make new connections.

Perhaps the best attribute of hospitality is that it can be employed by any business or individual, anywhere. Although it may seem simple, it’s not easy. Authentic hospitality requires the consistent practice of presence; of looking out verses looking inward, taking the focus off yourself. Danny Meyer could not have said it better:

“You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s a great time to start thinking about how being a “hospitalian” means presenting the best version of yourself; thinking of yourself less and putting others first, even family members who may get on our last nerve during holiday gatherings!

How can you put aside your need for affirmation and gratitude and commit to becoming a “hospitalian”? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

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Optimism Rules: Why We Should Embrace Good News… Despite the Headlines

Is the world really going, as my grandfather used to say, “to hell in a hand basket?”

Reflecting on the headlines in recent weeks, you might be tempted to think so. Two devastating hurricanes displacing millions, a destructive earthquake in Mexico plus racial violence, global terrorism, renewed threats of nuclear confrontation… the list goes on.

Not so fast…

Before you conclude that things are worse than they’ve ever been and our children and grandchildren are consigned to a far more difficult life than we’ve known, let’s look at the facts. According to research, the most salient indicators of human flourishing–food, sanitation, poverty, violence, literacy, freedom, and the conditions of childhood–have all vastly improved in the last generation. Some examples:

1. Contrary to the belief among most Americans that worldwide poverty is getting worse, the number of people living in “extreme poverty” (less than $2 a day, according to the United Nations), is decreasing by over 100,000 people every day. Similarly every 24-hours, more than 300,000 people throughout the globe gain access to electricity–unprecedented in human history.

2. Worldwide child mortality, a long-established barometer of living standard, has fallen by over 55% in less than one generation. Again, this is unprecedented in human history.

3. According to national statistics, violent crime rates in the United States are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years.

4. At the turn of the century, the average life expectancy was just 31 years (due in large part to rampant child mortality). Today, it’s well over twice that–71 years.

In addition, consider that the most superfluous comforts we experience today were, as late as the dawn of the 20th century, unimaginable luxuries. And only a few hundred years ago, a family of six children in a western country like Germany considered themselves incredibly fortunate if four of them survived to see their eighth birthday. (As a parent of three and uncle of twelve, I couldn’t imagine how painful this would be.)

These and other facts compelled NY Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof to call 2016 “the best year in the history of humanity.” 2017 may well be even more promising.

As I write this, understand that I am an eternal optimist, primarily because my life experience has been such that I’ve never had a compelling reason to view life as anything but positive. I completely understand that others have not been so fortunate, and I empathize with people who have endured unexpected tragedy and hardship.

But the fact is, negativity has been ingrained in our culture for a long time. Performance coach Ben Bergeron, in his NY Times Best Selling book, Chasing Excellence, notes:

“Almost two-thirds of English words convey the negative side of things. Positivity, therefore, must be a learned behavior.”

With so many positive trends in the world taking place in our lifetimes, why does optimism seem so counter-cultural?

The most obvious reason is the media, whose ratings-driven agenda sensationalizes the negative. Apparently, good news doesn’t sell–at least that’s what can be concluded from the current headlines. If it’s true that, as a cynical journalist once quipped, “no one wants to hear about a plane taking off… only when it crashes,” then the media plays a significant part in skewing public perception toward a negative, even nihilistic, view of the world.

But to me, the more troublesome and convicting reason is the responsibility that we play in our own dim view of things. Writing in the Breakpoint commentary, best selling author and radio host Eric Metaxis notes:

“Quite simply, we often enjoy being angry about the state of the world, especially when it allows us to blame someone else. We are addicted to news-induced anger.”

Author Brené Brown coined the term “common enemy intimacy” to describe how our mutual anger and frustration–usually at some person, political party, or institution–becomes a replacement for openness, curiosity, and optimism. How true.

I don’t mean to understate some of the difficult problems facing the world today. There are plenty of vexing cultural, technological, moral, and environmental concerns. But there’s also plenty of reason to be positive–there is no better time in all of human history to be alive, and the future looks bright as well. (And for Christians like me, we have all the more reason to be optimistic in light of God’s promise to redeem and restore all things. In fact, the New Testament actually mandates that Believers focus on the positive–see Philippians 4:8)

Yet, as Metaxis concludes:

“That’s why it’s so important—while acknowledging the desperate evil and suffering around us—to appreciate the good news, the progress, and the things we have to celebrate. After all, how can we truly comprehend what’s wrong with the world if we don’t recognize when something is going right?”

What do you think about the state of the world? Do you think things are getting better or worse… and how does your attitude towards the future shape your hopes, dreams, and plans?

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