Sometimes life kicks you in the balls

Sometimes, life kicks you in the balls…

I got some news today that rocked my world. The kind of news that won’t enter into a majority of your lifetimes.

But I will tell you, it’s knocked me on my ass. And naturally, this kind of news always happens when your life is operating at its outer limits.

They say God only tests those capable of handling it. Maybe so. The last thing I wanted was to hear this particular news. But nobody asked me. Life dealt the cards. And so it is…

Why do I mention this? A few reasons:

The show must go on. Life must go on.

I mention it because 99.99% of the world I interact with won’t know about my news, they won’t know what has made its way into my life. They won’t know the demons I am carrying, and those of the people I care about.

The fact is, business doesn’t stop for personal reasons. The economic engines of the planet keep turning, no matter what details impact the lives of the players playing the game. The world keeps turning.

But that’s actually good news. The sun will come up tomorrow. That’s a fact. And that is something to build upon, and keep faith in.

No, the hard core business point of this post?

Two things:

1. The people you are selling to, the people you are marketing to… Many of them are dealing with their own demons, with burdens you know NOTHING about. Just be aware of that. And take that into account when you are assessing people’s reactions (or non-reactions) to your outreach.

2. You have to know that things will keep moving, whether you are on the horse or not. You may get kicked in the balls, but that doesn’t mean the entire planet stops turning for you. You have to clear your head and process your demons, sure….

But you also have to know that the people you work and partner with will expect things to keep moving. Just remember that.

Good people will understand and accept what you are dealing with and be patient and understanding, but their world has to keep turning to.

Keep that in mind as you engage (or disengage) with the world around you.

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How to deal with things that fill you with dread

50:50Ok, there are things going on in your life that fill you with dread.

DREAD: noun
1. Great fear or apprehension.
“The thought of returning to work filled her with dread.”
synonyms: fear, apprehension, trepidation, anxiety, worry, concern, foreboding, disquiet, unease, angst

Dread, things that keep you up at night. Things that cause your heart to sink when you think about them. Things that cause agony and stress. Things that make you say “If it wasn’t for my worries about this, my life would be near perfect.”

Well, sorry. Life isn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take on the things that cause us dread. Here is my simple strategy for dealing with things that cause me dread:

1. List them out. Write them down. All of them. I swear, but the mere act of identifying and acknowledging them is a therapeutic process it its own right. You are no longer pretending these things aren’t really eating you up inside. You own them now. And that’s empowering.

2. Next, ask if any of these things you dread will result in death? Seriously…

If not, then what are you really worried about? Any problem can be dealt with. If it doesn’t result in death, what’s the worst that can happen?

[Look, if you are dealing with a life-threatening illness, that's an entirely different matter altogether. And Godspeed to you, let us know how we can help.]

3. Next, review your list a second time, and jot down ONE step you can take to begin to resolve the issue, solve the problem, fix what’s broken, whatever. JUST LIST ONE THING. You don’t have to solve the problem here with this simple first step.

Most things on your list probably will require time and several steps to address it enough to get to a point where it will no longer be something you dread.

But identify one step. One item. One thing to advance the ball down the field.

And even if you stop here, you will immediately feel better. I know I do. Makes you feel back in control again, you know?

And there’s power in that.

4. Finally, take/start that action. Make the move. With the mere act of completing step number three, you know how to start.

So, start.

Because you know as well as I do, too many people never actually take that step. I am guilty of this too.

If you take no action, you will go right back to where you started from. Dreading stuff.

And that’s a rotten way to live…

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Click here to live the intrepid life.

Photo from Unsplash.

The work never ends…

New York CityTake a look at the picture embedded in this post:

This is a photo taken by my iPhone as of 646PM EST, New York City. I am in the city for a trade show gig, and this is the view out of my hotel room near Times Square, from the 22nd floor.

You cannot tell from the photograph, but it is an office building near 7th and 53rd, and despite the hour approaching 7PM, the are people still working in most windows in this tall office tower. I am going to assume this tower is just over 50 stories.

This is but one building in New York City. Think of all the buildings on the island of Manhattan.

Then, I think about my hometown of Atlanta, and all the buildings in that city. People still there working.

Then I think about your city. And all the buildings there…

Then I think about buildings and office parks all over the planet.

There’s a lot going on. People working, twenty-four hours a day. That’s a lot of work.

But then I think about me, and all the work I’ve got to do. And I am overwhelmed.

I’ve just wrapped what has been the longest, craziest, busiest two weeks of my professional life. (And don’t forget I’ve worked a few presidential elections…)

I feel bad for a few of my clients that I owe some project work for. I am a little behind due to my insane travel schedule.

I catch myself hoping that I can get caught up and perhaps, even get a little ahead of the game.

But, if I am honest with myself, it won’t happen.

I do the best I can, really I do. But I feel like I just won’t ever be caught up with everything I am supposed to, and everything I WANT to do.

Here’s the thing: The work never ends.

It will never end. I likely won’t ever be fully caught up with all I want to do.

Despite loving my work, I am swamped. This means, from one perspective, that I have a lot of hired work, which is a good thing.

I’d certainly rather be busy than bored, looking for something to do.

Now, if I didn’t love my work, I guess I’d have a real problem.

I look across 53rd Street, and gaze at the people through my window, and wonder if these people enjoy their work? Are they doing something meaningful?

Are they fulfilled? Are they avoiding troubles at home? Are they waiting out the traffic on the streets below?

Or are they buried deep doing all the work they have to do, regretting the grind they are in?

Who knows.

All I know is that I have to do two things:

1. Accept that I will always be busy, especially if I am providing value to clients.
2. And two, being busy is ok, and to be expected, if you are doing something meaningful, beneficial, and worthwhile to people you care about.

What I know now is that the work never ends.

And I am hereby accepting it.

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Learn more about doing meaningful work.

With regards to 2014, you are over-thinking it

Hugh MacLeodHey. Good news. This is the only post you need for your 2014 planning purposes.

You don’t need to make 30 resolutions. You don’t need to update your massive list of goals. You don’t need to set mystifying expectations to impress everyone on Facebook.

You are over-thinking it.

Here are the two best pieces of advice I’ve read in all the run-ups to the new year:

1. Stop worrying about goals. Set up systems instead. Create a system, executed regularly, that ultimately leads to achieving the goal. Focus on the system instead. [I've seen this all over the internet. Have no idea to whom to attribute it to. Sorry.]

2. Don’t set yearly, or even monthly, goals. Focus on today. Just one day. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today. [This is from Austin Kleon.]

That’s it. That’s what I am going to do. A very simple focus.

Most people analyze the coming year with great fanfare, and lay out all kinds of plans, schemes, lists, and timetables.

Why they do this, year after year, I don’t know. Those bold, ambitious, and (overly) complicated plans mostly fail.

And why this exercise HAS TO happen around January 1st is also frustrating. “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around,” said some actress in Vanilla Sky. Truth.

Look, I am guilty of this too. I can probably point you to a handful of old posts here that talk about a lot of these things.

But no more. I am simplifying things considerably here.

I am also NOT suggesting you can go through life with no actual goals, as many writers on the interwebs suggest.

You clearly have to know where you would like to go.

But too many of us focus on the very distant finish line.

Instead, we need to focus on the very next step.

So take it.

Go.

And Happy New Year!

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2013 was the best year yet in terms of folks joining the mailing list. So pleased many of you are with me. CLICK HERE to join the Intrepid family!

Drawing by Hugh.

Stop talking about it

Todd SchnickWas talking to a client this morning…

They are in the process of retooling their business. And are in the process of examining some hard questions about what they do, who they serve, and exactly who they are.

Important questions all.

But at some point you have to shit or get off the pot, to use an old Nixonian phrase.

I mean really, get to it already. Stop debating. Stop wondering. Stop procrastinating (if you want to get down to it).

You’ve explored this enough.

I am not negating the importance of those questions, they are after all very important. But I know for a fact that this company knows what they sell, who they sell to, and what their value proposition is.

They just don’t all [as a complete team] believe it. I mean really believe it. In their guts. In their core.

And this is why they fail. Why they wander. Why they struggle. Why they meander aimlessly through the desert.

Look, get on the horse, and start riding. You have a good sense of who you really are, what your purpose really is. And you can in fact adjust your course along the way, but start on the damn journey.

You know what you have to do. You know exactly the hard work that lies ahead. Is that what you are really avoiding? Is a commitment to that hard sacrifice the big road block holding you back?

If yes, you have bigger problems. And bigger questions that have to be answered.

If no, then what the hell are you waiting for?

You have goals that need to be met. You’ve been talking about them for years. The cold hard numbers of the company CRM are staring you in the face. So stop talking about it and just hit the pavement, and start doing it.

You can continue talking about it. Or you can start executing.

Simple.

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Photo credit: By me. Of me.

Leaving YOUR mark verses leaving A mark

As I write this, I’m sitting in seat 3D (the view from 3D above) on a flight from Madison, Wisconsin back home to Atlanta.

As soon as she was allowed to do so, as soon as the plane hit 10,000 feet, the lady in front of me slammed back her seat to the full recline position, banging my knee and the iPad.

Now, of course, she has full rights to do this. She is perfectly allowed to do this.

It doesn’t mean she has to.

This is what I mean my leaving “a” mark.

It means leaving a wake. It means people remembering you for something not worth remembering you for (or writing a bitchy essay about).

For being selfish. For thinking of yourself.

I never recline my seats on planes, especially when I ride economy. There just isn’t room for the person behind me. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I hate it when people do it to me, so I won’t do it to them. And trust me, being 6’3″ I have every need to recline my seat to get extra leg room.

Now, I do think there is good and worthwhile pursuit in leaving “your” mark.

This is your reputation, this is what you stand for. This is what you want people to remember you for.

I want people to think of me for being helpful and of service, for sharing ideas that (hopefully) make people think, and for living the intrepid life. And I attempt to act accordingly.

People who leave “a” mark slam seats to full recline position, they leave their trash on their table at a fast food joint for someone else to clean up, they don’t recycle, they throw their towels on the floor at the hotel because they know someone else has to worry about it, they park their car taking up two parking spaces…

You get the idea.

These things might not bother you, and perhaps it is silly of me. But I believe strongly in not leaving “a” mark, for I learned this principle on an Outward Bound trip to Montana while in college. Our guide had a set rule: when we leave camp, no one will know we were ever here.

I try my best to apply that rule to where I tread on this earth. For I feel that leaving “a” mark makes it much, much harder to leave “your” mark…

And that’s what we are really here to do.

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Get off your butt and do that thing right now…

Aaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

I did it again.

I can’t believe I did it, but yeah, I did it again.

And I am really frickin’ angry with myself.

I had a project hanging over my head, and I dragged my feet on the frickin’ thing for months.

Months.

MONTHS!

Frickin’ MONTHS, for Chrissakes.

Finally, I got off my scaredy cat butt and tackled the thing.

And guess what?

I mean, you won’t believe it…

Well, yeah, you might believe it…

When I finally tackled the project, it took me about 70 minutes to complete.

That’s all.

70 minutes.

Seventy – frickin’ – minutes.

And another thing: the project went off without a hitch. And the result?

The result of this project that has nagged at me for months…produced a result better than I could ever have hoped for.

The truly sad thing is I have laid awake at night dreading this silly thing.

For months.

Months…

I mean months.

Aaaaaaaagggggggghhhhhhhhhhh…….

Words cannot explain the frustration this has made me feel. And to make it worse, I’ve even written about this before (click here).

So, fine. It is what it is.

We all do it. We all do it everyday.

So, let’s not beat ourselves up about it. We are human, after all, and hardly perfect. But the time lost agonizing over this project, all the stress endured worrying about it, frankly, is hard to forgive myself for. What a silly waste.

And of course, the joy of finally getting it done, the satisfaction of the (more than) successful completion of the task is very happiness inducing. I am wondering why I didn’t simply do my work to bask in this joyful feeling.

I don’t know. As I said, we are human.

So, to both of us, think about the nagging project you have to do, the one you think about all the time, the one that causes your stomach to sink and ache, that you lay in bed thinking about at 515AM in the morning, the one where you put on a lousy television show or read a celebrity gossip columnist to get your mind off it…

You know the project. You’ve been thinking about it as you’ve read this post.

Get off your butt and do that thing right now…

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Jump up for more creativity

I was on my way to Chicago the other morning. On my casual walk to my gate, blasting Lenny Kravitz in the ear buds, I saw something that made me smile:

…a kid running up and down the concourse jumping up and down, trying to touch various signage.

He was laughing and having a ball.

I used to do that too, and being a taller kid, I often achieved my touches. ‘Twas victory.

But at some point, I stopped doing it. We all do. At some point I suppose it becomes weird for adults to run down airport concourses.

Shame.

Even me this morning, as Lenny was cranking his cover of American Woman, I so wanted to stop, slip on the air guitar, and jam and sing.

I didn’t.

Again, shame.

At what point does society and culture beat this out of us?

Is is school? Is it our parents? Is it other maturing kids that make fun of you? Our own sense of growing shame?

I wish we could stop this, and turn it around.

I wish we didn’t judge people for having fun and being goofy. I wish we didn’t look at people strange for singing out loud to their iPod.

There’s obviously a time and place for professional and respectful behavior. But, as a collective people, I wish we could let loose more. Feel less shame. Not give a damn what other people think.

This is important. Why?

Well, I think it would make people happier and less stressed, for one thing.

But in a business setting, I think it would make people more human, which would make them better salesman.

And I think it would unleash dramatic new surges of creativity and innovation. And Lord knows, every organization needs more of that.

We are creative, shameless, and wickedly curious as kids. I’m not the first to talk about the idea that we lose those as we get older.

So let’s do one thing today: Make one shift in your mindset:

Stop judging adults who jump up and thwack airport concourse signage (or do other whacky, fun things). They aren’t doing anything that impacts you personally.

If we all do that, the world will be a happier and more creative place.

P.S. And if you see me touch the sign, run up and high five me!

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Drawing by Hugh.

Pushing the envelope? Or not?

Very sadly, a high school classmate of my wife’s passed away this week.

A story like this is always sad, especially since he was a young man (early forties). And more so since he recently quit a standard career to finally pursue (and achieve) his life-long dream of being on radio.

So why am I writing about this? And what possibly does it have to do with you, my dear reader?

This:

Hearing this news made Mrs. Schnick very sad. We’d learned he was sick, and had been monitoring his progress over the last several days. The news hadn’t been good. And when he passed, Stephanie wept for him, and she and I offered a toast in his honor.

But here is why I am telling you this story:

Over the course of the evening, Stephanie told me stories, recollections, and other anecdotes that she recalled from his life. And then she said:

“The guy was always pushing the envelope…”

Boom.

Wow.

I suddenly panicked. Would people say that about me? Would they say, “Todd sure pushed the envelope, he sure lived on the edges…”

Or would they say, “Yeah…him? Yeah, well, Todd was the status quo. We always knew where he stood. There were never any surprises with Todd.”

Let me assure you. I don’t even want to be associated with the status quo.

And neither was Rich, my wife’s friend. He stood for something different. Pursued a life-long dream.

And that’s what people are recalling upon his passing.

In my humble view, there is no higher honor.

And that’s what we ALL should be striving for. To have people talk about our vigor, our passion, our willingness to push the envelope.

Is that the way YOU are living? Is that the way you are constructing your days?

Yeah. Me either. Observing my wife lose her friend and hearing her talk about him has been a wake up call. And I share the story here to wake you up too.

Conduct business pushing the envelope. Live your life pushing the envelope.

If Rich’s story is any indication, it might end tomorrow. And honestly, we want people to reflect upon our passing in the context of pushing envelopes and walking on edges…

…not following rules, meeting societal expectations, or going to a job you hated.

No. Rich stood for something else. Honor that….

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JOIN THE LIST HERE, and live a more intrepid life.

Drawing by Hugh.

Some random productivity hacks that work

Here is a random collection of little things I do to hack my productivity. These work for me. They might not work for you. But perhaps, they inspire little ideas that might help you out or blaze a new path.

1. I shifted my use of the Lift app. At this point, all I do with it is track and build habits that improve both my mental and physical health. Here, I track the distance running I do, the amount of water I drink, meditating, and silly things like getting my daily push-ups and sit-ups done for the day. I figure if my health is poor, I won’t be very productive…. So, moving on…

2. iPhone voice recorder – When I am out in the world, I get random ideas or think of some action items I need to execute. I will use the voice recorder on my iPhone to record these little notes. My weekend routine involves jotting down all these notes into my Moleskine to process and implement.

3. I use Any.Do to track and monitor my human contact. Whether I need to call or email someone, this is where I monitor and organize. The app syncs to my iPhone and iPad, and there is a nifty extension that integrates nicely into my Chrome browser. So, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I can quickly access my daily contacts, and take action.

Todd Schnick4. Moleskine notebook – This is my favorite everything. I love jotting notes, sketching flowcharts, org charts, doodles, quotes, and all kinds of general nonsense in this notebook. I’ve finally found the perfect pen to use as well (Uniball Vision fine/black). The notebook I use is the Moleskine soft cover squared notebook (5 X 8 1/4″). It is perfect for me. This is now where I track all of my To Dos and action items. I’ve used countless tools to track my action items, from CRM systems to iPhone apps to other tools. At the end of the day, I still like to review a real, handwritten list, and check them off when I do it.

[Check this out --> I don't use this system, but this is a cool model to use for a handwritten notebook, and a cool website if nothing else...]

As I accumulate tasks, ideas, and other action items on my various collection points, they all get moved ultimately to my notebook, which goes with me most places. Every weekend, I rewrite all tasks fresh in one sheet (or two), to remind me of what still needs to get done. Remember, I do not log human contact – those contacts are all collected and organized into the Any.do app.

moleskine5. Field Notes – There are a few occasions where I do not want to bring my larger Moleskine to a meeting, say a lunch meeting. I also use smaller Field Notes that can easily fit into my pocket. I order the three-pack notebooks, graphed, sized 3.5 X 5.5″. In these, I take random notes and ultimately transfer them to the Moleskine or add to Any.Do where appropriate.

6. Whiteboarding – Sometimes you just have to stand up and sketch out stuff on the wall, you know? And when I am done, 50% of my sketches are ignored, 50% get transcribed into the Moleskine…

7. Post-it notes – Sometimes, when I have just three or four key tasks that I need to get done in a day, I will pull out the post-it notes, write each To Do on a separate note, and post them on the wall, in order of importance, right in front of me. It feels nice to rip the post-it off the wall when the job is done. And, just focusing on the minimal key tasks helps keep me on track.

8. Followupthen.com – Just discovered this tool, and I really like it. This is a really functional tool to send email reminders to yourself about misc. tasks. You can have email reminders sent to you in five minutes, on specific dates or times, or daily at recurring times. And when you get your reminder, you have “snooze” options to remind you at your requested intervals. It is pretty slick. Methinks in a year’s time, this tool will become a bigger part of my productivity regimen…

In fact, email yourself a reminder…try it here –> 5minutes@followupthen.com

So, that’s it. A few simple productivity hacks. Let me know what you think. And if they work. And if you have any other ideas…

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