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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.

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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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Maximize Your Happiness This Summer

My first big opportunity in the auto business came in the summer of 1986 when my father, determined to avoid the nepotism so prevalent in family-owned businesses, purchased a tiny Ford dealership in Honor, Michigan and commissioned my brother and me to run it by ourselves.

We were thrilled at the prospect of being among the youngest dealership owner/operators in the country. And since it was so small–we opened with seven employees–we personally connected with virtually every customer who walked through our doors, getting to know many of them like family over the years.

I recall one local couple in their early 60’s who purchased a new Ford pickup to haul their newly acquired travel trailer. The husband, having worked in a blue collar job all his life, would tell us how much he was looking forward to retirement. “The last few years have been miserable,” he said, “but when I retire and never have to work another day in my life, then I’ll finally be happy.”

But within four years after his retirement party, the happiness that this hard working man so looked forward to never came: he died of a heart attack.

The Illusion of Happiness

Stories like this are all too common; they illuminate a critical perspective of people who live well. Happiness is never a destination. The problem is, we’ve been taught our entire lives that it is–that if you work hard then you will be successful and only then, once you achieve some milestone in your life like getting married, becoming partner in your firm, or, in my customer’s case, retiring from your job, will you be happy.

by Dennis Ottink via Unsplash.com

In his revealing book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares some fascinating findings on the relationship between happiness and accomplishment:

“… New research in psychology and neuroscience shows that it works the other way around: We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”

Years ago, a friend emailed me a document titled, “The Way to Live” by an anonymous author. I think I’ve shared this simple yet profound treatise on living proactively with hundreds of people:

“We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be more content when they are. After that we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when?”

I think the reason this advice resonates so strongly with people is that it’s so intuitively true; at some point in our lives, we’ve all succumbed to this line of thinking.

Here’s the BIG IDEA: As we embrace the changes brought by the summer season, remember that the road to success doesn’t culminate in happiness… it begins with it.

What compromises are you making in the pursuit of maximizing your happiness? What would it mean to the quality of your life if your sense of well being wasn’t connected to any future outcome or circumstance, but to the joy of the journey?

This post has been adapted from my 2015 blog post.

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Four Superfoods of High Energy Addicts

As you launch into the New Year, here are some powerful insights on nutrition to help supercharge your health and vitality in 2016!

I’ve always been a bit obsessive about energy. Despite all you read about time management, the way I see it, performing at your best every day is much more about managing energy than it is managing time. You could have all the time in the world, for example, along with a clear sense of purpose, powerful goals, and deep convictions, but if your energy level isn’t there—if you are frequently tired, lethargic, or sick—chances are, you will squander whatever time advantage you have.

A high energy lifestyle starts with food.

by Abigail Keenan |stocksnap.io

But let’s face it, eating for maximum energy is hard work in a world where no matter where you go, you are assaulted by highly processed, sugar-infested, chemically-treated junk foods that cause your body’s insulin levels to act like a yo-yo.

If you struggle with energy ups and downs that frequently frustrate your ability to get things done, here are four superfoods that, according to leading nutritionists and high performance athletes and trainers, pack the most nutritional bang for the buck. Think of them as the “Rolls Royces” of energy-addicting fruits and vegetables!

(1) Avocado. This popular super-food–is it a fruit or a vegetable?– has more potassium than a banana, but without the high carb content that causes your blood sugar to spike, then drop through the floor (along with your energy). A great source of vital healthy fats, avocados are also high in copper, help reduce cholesterol, fight hypertension, and taste great!
(2) Sea Vegetables. These nutrient-rich superfoods include seaweed, kelp, dulce, wakami, and many others. High in metabolism-boosting iodine, sea vegetables aid digestion, have huge amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium, and can be easily added to salads, soups, stews, rice, etc.
(3) Chia Seeds. Another great source of calcium, chia seeds are also high in boron, which make them perfect for promoting bone health, fighting arthritis, and enhancing energy. Since chia seeds absorb more than 12 times their weight in water, they make you feel full and satisfied long after eating. I have found that the best way to consume them is to add 2 – 3 tablespoons to a smoothie. Although many people soak them before eating, I don’t—and they digest fine.
(4) Cruciferous Vegetables. This vegetable family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. These nutrient-rich, energy-producing super-veggies stimulate your body’s own detoxification pathway system, neutralize cancer-causing carcinogens, and help lower estrogen levels. My favorite way to prepare: Cut them into small pieces, place on a cookie sheet, add some olive oil and sea salt, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Delicious!

Although I was blessed with a fast metabolism, athletic body type, and a naturally high energy level, I am constantly exploring new ideas and approaches to optimizing my energy. After reading about “superfoods” a year or so ago, I began to incorporate them into my diet daily—with outstanding results. And if you’re looking for an easy way to consume them, check out my smoothie recipe, which include 3 of the 4 superfoods on the list (see below).

Question: What are your favorite high energy foods? How do you prepare them? Do you have any other habits you can share for increasing energy? I’d love to get your comments.

Get my nutrient-rich, energy enhancing smoothie recipe here:

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Do Your Wear Busyness as a Badge of Honor?

My wife, Debbie, and I attend our share of social gatherings. Lately, I’ve begun to notice that when we encounter people we haven’t seen in while and the obligatory ice-breaking question, “How are you doing?” gets asked, the most common, nearly reflexive response from people is, “I’m crazy busy.”

As author and leadership expert Michael Hyatt points out, in a culture that increasingly values preoccupation and overcommitment, “crazy busy” has almost become a statement of validation, reinforcing that I am significant and that what I am doing is important.

But this addiction to personal drivenness comes at a steep cost.

By José Martín | unsplash.com

For some, it can lead to health problems, divorce, substance abuse, or emotional breakdown. For others, it can slowly steal their peace and lead to a “dumbed down” lifestyle where meaning is suppressed and the heart is rarely engaged.

The antidote, according to David Allen, author of the blockbusting productivity book, Getting Things Done, is gaining a sense of control and perspective over your life.

If you find yourself mired in the “crazy busy” trap, here are three restorative habits that will help bring balance and purpose to your work and life.

  1. Schedule thinking time. Years ago, we lived in a subdivision that was located near our local airport. I can recall as I sat in the window seat flying home from a business trip what a completely different perspective I had looking down on my neighborhood from three thousand feet verses ground level. Similarly, scheduling time alone to think and process your life delivers the same sense of perspective that you rarely experience at “runway level.” Try setting aside a few hours every month to simply think. It will seem weird at first, but as Harvey Firestone said, “If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.”  Those ideas simply won’t come when you’re addicted to urgency.
  2. Keep a journal. Three years ago a mentor challenged me to keep a journal. Which, after my initial resistance, has turned out to be a game changer in keeping me from succumbing to what leadership blogger Bill Zipp calls, “the rising tide of demands, details, and deadlines.” I typically journal three to four times per week. The discipline of recording my thoughts helps me gain greater focus, unravel thorny problems, process negative emotions, and maintain a balanced perspective on my work and life. To learn more, check out Michael Hyatt’s post, The 7 Benefits Of Keeping A Daily Journal.
  3. Create a life plan. As author Daniel Harkavy, says in his outstanding book, Becoming a Coaching Leader, “Most people spend more time planning their vacation than they do planning their lives.” As as result, they drift along, ending up at destinations they never would have chosen: a failed marriage, a health crisis, or an aimless career path. Creating a written life plan is a powerful process that puts you in control of setting clear priorities for every area of your life. Having created my own life plan five years ago (I update it twice a year), it has become one of the most useful tools for me in living a more intentional and productive life. For more inspiration, read Michael Hyatt’s 7 Reasons Why You Need A Life Plan.

Sure, there will be seasons in our lives when we run at full throttle — but they should be the exception, not the rule. Resisting the temptation to wear busyness as a badge of honor and pursue an intentional lifestyle driven by clear priorities can be one of the biggest difference makers in your life!

My challenge to you: Pick one of the three initiatives listed above and try it for 30 days. If you truly commit yourself, I guarantee you will feel differently about your personal effectiveness.

What do you think? What would it mean to your life to gain greater control and perspective? Leave me a comment.

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