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You are really weird.

Growing up, we are taught to fit in. Being the weird kid is a sure way to become separated from your peer group. We continue this belief as we get older. Most people stay in their comfortable lives not taking the risk to be different.

You aren’t going to do anything significant without moving out of your comfort zone. Most people pretty much do what they are expected to do. People don’t want to be different because it is perceived to be too risky.

Many businesses wonder why they grow to a certain level then stop growing. They are just like every other business. Nothing makes them stand out.

Hugh MacLeod is an artist and an author like no one else I know. He is famous for drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. His language can be a little strong, but that is what makes him weird. It is also what makes him memorable. He is knocking it out of the park because of who he is. His is selling his art for hundreds of dollars. When he wrote his first book “ignore everybody” it was an instant best seller because he had such a strong following. People like him because he is unapologeticly weird.

Another example is Lady Gaga and is certainly an example of someone who is very weird. She has created a brand for herself that is shock. It works for her because that is what gets you to first notice her. She is actually a very talented singer and musician. She skyrocketed to stardom because of her weirdness.

I’m not suggesting you use foul language like Hugh or dress like Saturn to get noticed. I am suggesting that you find something that is unique about you and expand it to the point of being weird. Ask yourself what makes you unique. What do people remember about you?

If you cant find how you are unique take time now to find it or determine how you will be different. No matter where you are in life. If you are a student, if you are just starting your career, if you have been in the same job for years, if you are retired, what do people say about you that makes you like no one else? If people arent talking about how you are different, they arent remembering you.

How will you be picked for a scholarship before someone else? How are you going to be promoted? How is someone going to select you or your business over all other businesses? Why would anyone be your friend?

This where I tell you how I have found success being unique? Well, just because I write about it doesn’t mean I have succeeded at it yet. It doesn’t mean that I don’t know what to do.

What I believe makes me unique is that I am a stereotypical professional looking white guy. I am also an introvert that loves speaking in front of groups of 5 or 6 or groups of hundreds. I wear a tie almost every day. I am emotional and really enjoy good chick flick movies. I enjoy going shopping (even if all I do is window shop). One of my favorite stores is Bed Bath and Beyond. I also play the Tuba.

Some people may call you strange. If so, do you really care? No question that they will remember you. When you are weird you are closer to being your authentic self. You are closer to enjoying what you do because you are able to be yourself.

“What is right for one soul may not be right for another. It may mean having to stand on your own and do something strange in the eyes of others.”
– Eileen Caddy

What makes you unique, unlike anyone else? What are you going to do to make yourself unique?

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What do you do? . . . in 60 seconds

When someone asks you “what do you do?” what do you tell them? Weve all been asked this question. People ask me “so what is your site about?” even more now as the sites readership increases. What has surprised me is how off guard I find myself. I have a fairly detailed “about” page on this web site but I find it hard to put that in to a short verbal description.

An elevator speech is a statement that lasts no more than a minute. It gives the listener a quick understanding about what you do. Keeping your “elevator speech” to no more than 60 seconds is a good idea not only because it is an average ride on an elevator, but also is the attention span of the person you are talking with. If you can’t grab your listener with a compelling message in less than 60 seconds, they will never remember you.

Last week I was at an event where I had an opportunity to meet a lot of other professionals. As clear as I am about my writing project, I really struggled with verbalizing what my writing was about when asked. I was able to practice several different versions, some felt right while others were . . . well . . . horrible.

So with this week’s experience I have been working on my elevator speech. I would love to hear from you on this subject. I could use your help.

  • What is your elevator speech?
    • What is important to include?
    • What is important to exclude?
  • If you don’t have an elevator speech, have you ever been caught off guard like I was?
  • If someone asked you what My Simple Inspiration is all about, what would you tell them?

If you have never commented this is a good time to comment. A lot of people will be helped by your thoughts and ideas (especially me). When writing a comment, you will be asked for your email and name but please know that this information stays with me.

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Are you following the crowd? Make a difference with your own path.

Our culture expects you to follow the traditional path. It’s sometimes “easier” to follow what everyone expects you to do. You go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, work until you can retire, retire and eventually die. Following this path is what everyone else does.

Following the traditional path will make it difficult to discover what makes you unique. Following your path (and not someone else’s) is how you will find your passion and purpose in life. People who simply follow the traditional path are not seeking their purpose. Determining  your path and then following it will get you to your destination quicker.

Everyone has a unique combination of skills that were given to you. This combination is like a recipe except this recipe can’t be made again. The combined flavor of the recipe that makes you tastes like nothing else in this world because you are the chef. You determine what ingredients will make the recipe better. It will take time, but you need to understand the unique combination of ingredients that make you you. Knowing your unique skills and talents will help you determine what you become. Follow your own path.

What is your heart telling you to do? It is up to you do decide which influences are good for you and relinquish influences that are not considering your best interests. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didnt do than by the ones you did do. So throw off your bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain

What are some unique ingredients make you unique? What do you do that no one else does? Leave a comment here.

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Pay to play: Change your life by paying for it

You probably want to become better at something. If not, you should. We were designed to be better than the day before. My high school band director always said, “just be better than you were yesterday”. What motivates you to fully commit to being better? What prevents you from breaking through to the next level?

Sometimes a new commitment is necessary to break through. To make a significant jump will require you to pay a price (money, time, energy, public announcement). It needs to be something that causes a bit of pain or risk (aka sacrifice). Without sacrifice, you will not commit to make the change.

When I was deciding what platform to use for this blog, I could have gotten a free blog from Google. I choose instead to pay for this blog through WordPress. Of course I benefit with a paid platform with better features. What I also get for paying is that I am more committed to blogging now. It was a little painful to part with that money. This pain is worth it because it is one more component that keeps me motivated.

The pain you feel makes overcoming that pain more satisfying. To get a college degree, you have to commit to several years of hard work and a chunk of money to get the degree. To have a great marriage, you must commit to work through conflict, make compromises, and sacrifice your personal time. To become a great athlete, you must commit to countless practices in bad weather, time away from friends, and sore muscles.

To make a true change in your life you must pay for it.

  • Determine what you want to change in your life. Don’t think about how you will do it, just determine what you want to change. Write it down with as much detail as possible.
  • Make a plan. Write out what you will need to do to accomplish your goal. Organize your list by putting it in order by what needs to be done first through completion.
  • What will it take to change? What price will you have to pay to achieve your goal? List everything you know you will have to “pay” to achieve your goal.
  • Pay the price.If you need to buy something buy it. If you need to carve out time schedule it. If you need to announce it tell everyone.
  • Do it. Commit to doing it. You may not make meaningful progress every day. “Just be better than you were yesterday.”
  • Appreciate the pain. When you are in pain, not having fun, wishing you were doing something else, remember that this pain is what will get you to your goal. Celebrate the pain because that is the only thing that will help you achieve your goal. The more pain, the more satisfying your result will be when you accomplish your goals.

What change do you want to make in your life? What have you been putting off because you want to avoid the pain? Read other people’s comments or write your own here.

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Hand me that rake: Tools for results

Now that spring is here, I like to clean up the yard, mow the lawn, edge the flowerbeds, and spread mulch. It is important to get everything cleaned up to make the yard look beautiful again while setting the stage for easy upkeep through the summer months. Before I can do any of this, I need to make sure the lawn mower is tuned up, the wheel barrow tire is inflated, and the edger blade is sharp. This is pretty simple stuff that most people can easily do. What is more difficult is using your tools to maintain throughout the season. Not only tools but time and dedication to weed, fertilize, water, and prune.

Have you or someone you know planted a garden but didn’t plan for taking care of it? If not, weeds grow, the plants are stunted or dry up, the fruits fall to the ground or spoil on the branch. Projects can be easy to get started, but without calculating what is needed to maintain the project and finish can get you over your head before you know it.

When preparing for any project, make sure you have all the tools for the job. Take that little bit of extra time to plan, determine all the tools you will need, gather them so that you not only start the project but finish it.

A few years ago I started blogging. My only consideration was to start. I didn’t have a plan, a purpose, or an end goal in mind. I really didn’t know what I needed to be a blogger. I blogged about topics that came to mind. They were scattered and unorganized. Over time I blogged less and less. Eventually I realized that I stopped blogging. What result did I create from this blog experience? Not much of anything that I or anyone else can use. Looking back now I didn’t have a plan or the tools to be a blogger.

For your next project, plan and gather your tools.

  • What result are you shooting for? This is the Stephen Covey habit of “begin with the end in mind”. When I decided to create this blog site I decided that I wanted a blog that people could look forward to and count on. I envisioned how my blog would look and how people would interact with it. I determined the purpose of the blog so that the content is consistent.
  • Plan. List the steps it will take to start and maintain. For several months, I created a simple project plan that listed major tasks I needed to accomplish to set-up and maintain this blog site.
  • Collect your tools. Determine the tools you need to create your results and to continue to create those results. You will probably have some tools but others you will need to get. One tool I needed was a blog hosting service that met my needs. I decided that a free blog site wasn’t going to get the results I planned for. So I subscribed to a professional blog service.
  • Learn how to use new tools. If you haven’t used these tools before, take time to learn how to properly use them. I watched videos and followed tutorials to learn how to use WordPress.
  • Get to work. You can only spend so much time preparing. As soon as you have enough to get started, start. Don’t wait until everything is perfect before you start (this will be a post later). I could have planned forever but my accountably group pressed me to start on April 1 with my first post.
  • Review. Evaluate how successful you are at achieving your original plan. Make refinements and continue with your project.

What project are you preparing to start? What do you need to get started, and what do you need to keep it going? Read other people’s comments or write your own here.

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You are lying to yourself. You wont remember.

When you make a commitment, how d0 you follow-through? How often have you told yourself, Oh, Ill remember that., but then later realized that you forgot? Everyone has the good intent of remembering or doing it later. How often do you really remember? Its amazing how complex our brains are and how much information can be stored but I still forget the thing I said we would do yesterday.

 

I have a system for any commitment.

  1. Write it down. It all starts with writing it down. I carry a small notebook with me to record any commitment. I write down as much detail about what I need to do. For years I used a FranklinCovey® binder but have recently moved to a Moleskine® notebook.
  2. Transfer notes to a list. I review my notes at least daily (each morning) as I plan my day. I prioritize my list of commitments and action with the most important ones first. I only have one list (no post-its).
  3. Mark it complete. Nothing comes off the list until I do it.

When I make a commitment, I ask myself, Am I really going to do it?

  • If the answer is no, I try to be honest with myself and with the person I commit to. I dont commit if I don’t really expect to do it.
  • If I really intend to do it, I write it down. I write it down right now. I do not wait or convince myself that I will remember. I write it down now.

Dont be fooled after you get in the habit of writing down your commitments. Because you are writing down your commitments, you will tend to remember more. Writing things is an additional connection to your brain. Many times the act of writing is enough to remember later what you said you would do. At some point you may think that your memory is better. You start remembering without referring back to your notes. Once you stop writing down your commitments, you will begin to forget again. It is an evil natural cycle to keep you from doing what your commit to doing. Don’t fall for it.

You dont necessarily have to write down your commitments. You simply need to record it in some medium. Leave a voicemail for yourself or make a recording on your smart phone. Sure you dont like listening to your voice, but get over it. It is a great method for when I can’t write it down. Later when I listen to the recording, I add it to my prioritized list.

I even go the extra step and schedule what I commit to into my schedule. I block time when I will focus on completing the commitment.

How do you ensure that you do what you promise? Have you ever made a commitment but forgot to do it?

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What’s most important?

Have you ever found yourself spinning your wheels? I felt like this the other day when I had been working hard all day doing all sorts of activities but by the end of the day, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much. I didnt feel like I made any real progress that would have make a difference in my life or anyone else’s. A good test of this is when someone asked me what I did yesterday, and I could’t remember what I did. Looking back now, I hadnt planned my day.

In a previous post I described a way to determine how you spend your time. It helps you create a list of the activities you do every day and apply how much time you spend in these activities. Maybe you have a good understanding of how you spend your time but are you spending your time on activities that provide you the best results?

I reference Stephen Covey because his method of determining the most effective use of your time is the best I have found in 20+ years of searching. In his book “First Things First”, Covey determines the most effective activities by using a formula of urgent vs. important.

  • Activities that are important are what you personally value, and contributes to your mission and high-priority goals.
  • Activities that are urgent are what you or other people feel requires your immediate attention.

Covey uses quadrants to illustrate how to categorize activities.

  • Quadrant I (important and urgent): These are activities that are a crisis or are an impending deadline. This is an activity that you must address now. Activities in quadrant I will always happen because we cannot predict the future.
  • Quadrant II (important but not urgent): These activities are time spent in prevention, planning, building relationships, and even recreation. These are activities that help you manage activities in all the other quadrants. The time you spend in quadrant II activities the less time you will spend on a crisis.
  • Quadrant III (not important but urgent): These activities are interruptions, a ringing phone, some routine meetings, or popular activities that are time bound. These activities pull your attention for something happening right now. You may not discover that it is not important until after you are involved in the activity.
  • Quadrant IV (not important and not urgent): These are activities that really don’t add any value. Examples include, trivia, busy work, and escape activities. Don’t confuse these activities with recreation. Recreation can be an important activity to refresh and renew you. Too much recreation can turn in to a quadrant IV activity if you spend too much time on it or if it really doesn’t help provide you energy to do more important activities.

If you did the activity from my previous post, continue in the right column next to each of the activities you do. Label each of the activities with a Q1, Q2, Q3, or Q4 label. Those activities with a Q3 or Q4 label make plans to remove these activities from your day.

If you are serious about being effective, you will spend more than half of your time doing Q2 activities. The rest of your time is in Q1 activities. When you find yourself in a Q3 activity, try to determine quickly if this is important to you or not. Of course spend the least time in Q4 (almost no time here).

Successful people that I know are not spending much time on Q3 and Q4 activities. What activities are you going to remove from your list? Leave a comment here.

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Taking control: You dont have to do everything

There just isn’t enough time to get everything done. Not only have we heard people say this but you have said it to yourself. The problem with that phrase is that you don’t have to do everything. What you need to do are the things that are most important. And, there IS enough time to do what is important. Winston Churchill said, It is no use saying, We are doing our best. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

Everyone has 24 hours every day, 168 hours every week, 8,736 hours every year. Think of the most successful people in the history of the world. They have (or had) the same amount of time that you and I do. They just decided to spend their time differently.

A common defense is that you don’t have control of your time. People will say that other people or responsibilities determine how their time must be spent. That is not entirely true. Most of the time consequences are determined by other people or responsibilities. What you need to decide is whether you can accept the consequences for how you spend your time. Sometimes those consequences are unbearable but if you are honest with yourself you still make the decision. How you spend your time is within your control.

Stephen Covey (author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said, “The way you spend your time is a result of the way you see your time and the way you really see your priorities.”

Whether you plan how you spend your time or not, you are already making decisions about what’s important. What people usually don’t do well is determining what the most important things are beforehand.

To start to have an understanding of how you spend your time:

  • Make a list of everything you do in a given day. Write this list in a column. Some examples might be, sleep, getting dressed, breakfast, commuting, meetings, lunch, exercise, preparing dinner, dinner, family time, reading, email, watching TV, doing homework, playing games, laundry, extracurricular activities, etc. Add whatever else you do to this list.
  • In the next column write down how much time each of these activities takes for you to do each day. (keep it simple and use half hour or quarter hour increments)
  • Add up the total.

What is the number that you added up?

  • Is your number less than 24 hours?
    • If so, what activity do you do that you did not put in your list. Add that to the list and add the total time again.
    • If there isn’t anything else to add, where did you miss judge the amount of time you spend? The 24 hours doesn’t change. You are spending your time doing something. Label it and add it to your list.
  • Is your number more than 24 hours?
    • If so, what did you list that you really don’t do. If someone else actually does that activity, then remove it from your list (ex. delegated tasks like housework).
    • If you still have a number greater than 24 hours, review your list and adjust the time to what is real. Ill make a bold statement here but I can say with confidence that it is impossible to spend more than 24 hours in a day. Make the numbers right.

This exercise should help you realize where you are spending your time. Are you spending your time doing things that are making a difference in your life or in someone else’s life? If not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing those activities. Only you can manage your own time and decide what is most important. A future post will show how you can determine which activities you should be spending your time doing.

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What do you do? A follow-up.

Special Notice: Be sure to check back next Tuesday, June 28 for a special blog post. I will describe the experience I had this past weekend when my blog site was featured on WordPress.com. For those of you who found this blog last weekend and stick around until next Tuesday, I think you will especially appreciate it.

In early May, I published a blog about preparing an elevator speech. I was unprepared when people asked me so, what do you do?. It is a good idea to be prepared for this question. It is you golden opportunity to discover if you can make a connection with someone new.

I got a lot of help from an accountability group I meet with each week. We all worked on our elevator speech and are ready for someone to ask us what we do.

The next time you ask me what I do, I should respond with something like this:

I love inspiring people to make good choices. I am an experienced speaker and writer. My focus is on personal accountability and effectiveness that leads to productive leadership. I am writing a book, I blog at least twice a week, and I speak to groups of all sizes. I am publishing my first book by the end of the year.For example . . .

Why did I craft my elevator speech this way?

  • Make the other person ask a follow-up question. Kandis Boyd offered a great suggestion to start of with something that makes the other person ask another question. I really do love inspiring people to make good choices. Dont you want to know how I do that?
  • How do you do that? I continue with saying that I do that through speaking and writing.
  • What is it? I explain that I focus on personal accountability and effectiveness that leads to productive leadership.
  • What do I produce? I describe what I am working on right now (writing a book, blogging twice a week, and speaking).
  • What one goal am I working on? Telling the other person that I expect to write a book by the end of the year shows them that I have a specific objective I am working toward.
  • For example. . . I can tell a story about a recent success like being a featured blogger on WordPress.com freshly pressed.