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Ever have trouble breathing?

Ever have trouble breathing?

Maybe you got hit hard and had the breath knocked out of you or maybe you choked on a McNugget. Doesn’t matter because while you were choking, you only wanted one thing: to breathe. Everyone knows that desire, which sets the stage for this video.

In the video above showing Giavanni Ruffin’s workout, you should know that he doesn’t play football at Miami or Nebraska or LSU or Southern Cal. He goes to East Carolina. Not exactly a name you see in the national championship. Yet that doesn’t seem to alter his work effort. He clearly has bigger aspirations.

Once you’ve seen the video above, you may want to hear the remaining 10 minutes of this Eric Thomas’ talk. Below, you can see the original two-segment piece recorded as he spoke to a class at Michigan State University.

Want more? Here, Eric channels Jim Rohn (“the 5 people closest to you…”).

Think back to the story about the athlete who wants to be rich and whose head is being held underwater. Think about how hard he fought to get back above the water and breathe. Think about how bad you JUST WANTED TO BREATHE the last time you were choking.

Now focus that level of desire on your business.

Ask yourself the question Eric asks….How bad do you want it?

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What’s your plywood?

“When youâ??re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, youâ??re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. Youâ??ll know itâ??s there, so youâ??re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” – Steve Jobs

What’s your plywood?

PS: Thanks for raising the bar, Steve. Be well.


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Ditch Diggers and Self-Starters

As much as Seth’s oft-hypocritical blog annoys me (a no-comments blog from a guy who preaches interaction?), his post on the need for external motivation is worth pointing your way: Self-starters matter.

I’m not saying that non-self-starters don’t matter and I’d never assert that motivational tools, speakers, reading and the like aren’t of value – far from it.

What I am saying is this:

  • If you want to be the one who keeps their job while others are getting laid off, you’d better be the one motivating yourself. It’s your responsibility and no one else’s.
  • If you want your business to stick around while others are wilting around you, you should be the one leading your industry to a better place before a competitor or a government entity forces it upon you; and you’d better be the one hiring the people who don’t need someone like Lombardi or R. Lee Ermey to get them out of bed in the morning.


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Corvettes Everywhere

Ever notice that when you decide to buy a new Corvette (or a F-150, for that matter), you start to see your chosen new vehicle everywhere you go?

For me, the last month has been like that.

No matter where I turn, in person or on the Net, I’ve found myself running into people during or just after they experienced an event that brushed away all the distractions that clouded their minds.

We’re talking about life or life’s work changing moments of clarity.

If you were reading a few weeks back (if not, welcome!), I discussed the arrival of some clarity (in my work) that came to me while I was caring for Dad.

I think that’s natural and we probably all go through it when we experience a change in our lives that’s as impactful as that.

Clarity has become the Corvette that’s everywhere.

The Big Game

The challenge of the “Taking Care” post requires bringing your “A game”. Often.

But do you bring it all the time?

It’s tough because it’s pretty easy to fall off the “A game” wagon if you aren’t focused on it. You get swamped or you let yourself take a job or a client that really doesn’t fit you well and you can easily find yourself doing something you aren’t passionate about.

When that happens, maybe the second string does the work. For you, the second string may not be that bad. It might even be better than anyone else’s first string.

But it isn’t your first string.

Just like those Corvettes that seem to be everywhere, so are folks realizing that their game isn’t what it could be – even if their game is better than most.

Close Enough

Last weekend, I learned that an acquaintance in Colorado had one of those moments of clarity – a big one. It came in the aftermath of a near-death experience. Given that it was Rick, it doesn’t surprise me that he was awake for it.

Rick had this to say about his moment of clarity:

On reflection I wondered why I was so apathetic about the outcome (of the life saving health care he was receiving) and now I believe I know why. I have simply not been doing the kind of work I was capable of…

That doesn’t mean he’d been doing poor work. He doesn’t. But he knew he had more in him and that “close enough” wasn’t.


Someone recently mentioned that they appreciated that I blog so regularly. Since I don’t feel it’s “regularly” I didn’t say anything since I blogged daily for years. The current pace – driven by time and passion rather than schedule – seems a tad lazy to me.

To them, it seemed amazing to write as much as I do now.

A friend of mine has taken a photo every single day since (at least January 1st, 2010). When your game is at that level and you’re using it to energize your creative side, you can’t, you won’t…let yourself skip a day because your “A” game is at a different level than most others.

Not long ago, the Flathead Beacon won a pile of awards, including best weekly newspaper in the state – garnering a comment from one judge that the Beacon is the best “regardless of category”. Realizing that a bunch of talented, award winning professional journalists have to deal with my freelance column next to their work every week makes you realize you need to raise your game yet again.

Motivating The King?

I didn’t follow the NBA Finals too closely this year. I heard there were some great games. Let’s just say I was distracted.

Sometime between games 4 and 6, I read a quote from LeBron saying that he had to get himself up for game five (and then game six) because he didn’t bring it in game four – that’s the game where the flu-weakened guy named Dirk owned it.

If the NBA Finals don’t motivate you, what could? Call me confused.

Play like it’s The Finals. That’s how a courageous King earns the right to roar.

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Twelve Days of You

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Think about your day.

What did you do yesterday?

Were you productive? When I ask that, what I mean is this: Can you reel off a list of high-priority things that you accomplished?

Did you waste any time?

How much of each hour did you spend on real, focused, dedicated work that actually produces a profit (either directly or indirectly)?

Let’s go on the assumption that you are one of the most productive people around and spent 50 minutes of each hour doing work of a nature that I just described.

That leaves 10 minutes to stretch, hit the restroom, and do whatever.

The Price

What’s that cost?

At a billable rate of $50 per hour, that ten minutes is only worth $5.00.

Or so it seems.

If you only work 40 hours a week, that 10 minutes consumes 400 minutes (about six hours) a week, worth $200.00.

In terms of time, that seems like a lot. In terms of money, maybe not so much.


Until you multiply that times 50 weeks a year, when it becomes… Ten grand. 300 hours. 12 days.

Yet, you’ll assert that you don’t have enough time.

If you were focused and organized, what could you get done in twelve days?

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Taking Care

One of the lessons my dad impressed on me when I was old enough to begin to “get it” (or so I thought) was “Be a good listener.”

Naturally, the meaning of that phrase changed for me over the years.

  • As a teenager, it had a rather obvious meaning, “Pay attention and you might learn something.”
  • As a college student, the meaning changed a bit, but the fundamentals were the same.
  • As a newly married guy and later as a dad, I fine-tuned it a bit for the roles I found myself in.

Ultimately, it was about listening before speaking or acting. A handy business lesson if there ever was one.

At work, it became far more complex as it became about listening…really listening to customers (including other people’s customers) about the detective work necessary to create and retain customer loyalty, and sometimes, about figuring out what wasn’t being said while the words still flowed.

Sometimes the most important words from a customer are the ones they fail to say.

Despite the complexity that lesson has taken on at times, the core message is still the important one – a message of listening to learn, one of the most valuable lessons my father taught me.

What level of care do you deliver?

My current context for the most personal level of service was set by Hospice of Cumberland County (Tenn.), but the who and what isn’t really the context I’m trying to get at. The level itself is what I want you to arrive at, regardless of what you do.

Consider the level of care that you’d give to a sick family member. It’s likely to always exceed that given during the course of business, but it’s a standard of care that you can consider when designing different levels of service in your business.

A level of care we’re speaking of is very personal. It isn’t suited for just any business and perhaps not for just any customer, but that isn’t my decision to make about your business. Fact is, it might be perfect for a subset of your customers…or perhaps all of them.

As personal as the end of life care you’d provide for a family member? Isn’t that a bit much? Sure it is.

I suggest that because it brings a level of personal touch to what you deliver that you might not ever have considered. While you still might not deliver something that’s of the same class as end of life care for a family member, it might just provoke a thought that transforms your high end business. That which transforms your high end business quite often transforms the rest of it as well.

What level of care have you failed to offer to your clients? Beyond levels of care, what care itself are you failing to deliver to your clientele?

Doing it right

The other lesson I remember most is “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” The unspoken second part of that is “That doesn’t mean that you should do less.”

You might wonder if there is a conflict there, but I don’t believe so. Doing the job the best you can, each time, doesn’t mean perfect. It just means best for you given the skills you possess at that time *and* with a commitment to continuous improvement.

Not starting a project (or a piece of work) because the outcome can’t be perfect is far worse than finishing it with your best, yet imperfect effort. What have you not started because you felt you couldn’t deliver perfect?

Oh and the third part…focus. Doing things right requires focus on those things. Doing 100 things poorly serves no one well, least of all you. What efforts are you making to get and stay focused? To deflect, destroy or defer distractions?

The undercurrent

Over the last seven weeks, I had many opportunities to learn while caring for my dad. Whether from him, my mom or their friends, the lessons were almost always about taking care.

Are you truly taking care of your clientele? Is there a level of care that you’ve neglected, ignored or simply failed to design?

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9 minutes of “Will power”

Yesterday, I happened across this video montage of Will Smith interview clips that has him discussing what motivates him.

His comments on persistence, work ethic and competition are a good listen and well worth the 9 minutes.

Do you have that kind of will power?

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What *finally* tripped your trigger?

During a recent mastermind session, the gang was talking about motivation and decision-making.

While that was stirring around in my head, I managed to stumble across CC Chapman’s insightful post about inspiration.

Stir in the TED Behind the Scenes video included in CC’s post, which I’ve included above. I strongly suggest you read CC’s comments even though the video is included above.

A few takeaways from the video:

  • Everyone fears failure. Even Sir Ken and the other TED speakers.
  • None of these people are perfect.
  • They all seem to have a very clear vision of what they want to accomplish and what’s really, truly important to them.
  • Watch what Raghava KK says to Ken Robinson after Raghava’s talk – and how Ken responds.

Little Things

A takeaway from the mastermind chat was recognizing the importance of the little wins that happen when you’re just starting toward a big goal. These little wins are, at first, what fuel us to become what everyone else eventually sees as an overnight success.

A friend who has lost almost 100 lbs over the last 2 years reminded me of this when saying (paraphrased) “No one sees me doing the hard stuff. The sweat. The celery. They only see the result, and they have no idea how hard it was to get here.”

That friend didn’t say that angrily, but was recognizing that few see the bulk of the effort we make on the way to our goals. The people who didn’t see the loss 500 calories at a time after an hour on the treadmill almost every day for 2 years know better, but some still have the impression that it disappeared overnight.

Little successes. A mile in 15 minutes today. A mile in 14 minutes after 2 weeks of effort.

Doesn’t seem like much unless you’re the one having those successes.

Translating that elsewhere

Those small victories fuel the confidence to keep going, regardless of the goal you’re chasing.

I remember a sale to the Wyoming Red Cross and having the X-Prize folks use my software back when almost no one had heard of them (much less me). Those events were a couple of the small victories I look back on that were essential to building the confidence that helped me move forward.

Remembering those got me to wondering about the small victories that encouraged you. I’d like to hear about them.

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Bill and Leo’s Spiral of Habits

It started with Bill Gates and MS-DOS.

It ends with Leo from

Quite the odd couple, you’d think.

Until you read what they have in common.

Maybe then it will continue with you.

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The Last Five Minutes of the Day

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Once again, Peter Bregman has a story about how to turn around a day, a career, or maybe even a life.

In five minutes.

Check out today’s guest post from Harvard Business Review.