Passive Narrative vs. Intentional Narrative: Who’s writing your story?

The world you live in is different from mine.  That’s not code for socioeconomic status, marital status, or any other situational “thing”.

Your world is seen through a filter guided by a narrative you are creating.

We all tell ourselves stories about the world.  I wrote an article last year about a marketing tactic that made me angry.  The local grocery store printed an unusually low price with a large font price printed for its wine. Below the price in a barely legible font size, are the words “when you buy 4”.  Just below, printed in the same font is the price for 1 bottle; much higher.  The same store has added 12 packs of premium beer to this tactic.  I see this and immediately lose trust.  I see the store trying to “trick” me.  My internal voice starts to update my “narrative”.  It’s like Jimminy Cricket teaching me the ways of life.  Mr. Cricket tells me that customers are so savvy these days.  Costco, Bevmo, and even Amazon are all undercutting local grocers and each other.  Wine still costs to produce, ship, and market.  The stores MUST find ways to get savvy customers to pay more for wine.  This tactic must work since they keep doing it.  My lovely wife, Jamie,  sees this exact situation but has a completely different conclusion.  Her narrative, her “Jamie-ney Cricket”, tells her a story of kindness and opportunity.  She sees the store working hard to find opportunities for the customer to save money.  “Unfortunately they can’t pass savings on for just 1 bottle, but who needs just 1 bottle of a good wine anyway?”


Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

Your narrative forms your outlook on life.  It passively changes through experience over time.  Someone blessed with opportunity and seemingly constant fortune and good luck will most likely have a much more positive narrative than the hardened, out of work, disabled war veteran.
This blog and your life are not about living “passive lives”.  Your success, your “awesome” comes from “intentional living”.  You can change your narrative, thus changing  your attitude.  I have decided to make 2014 the year I get intentional about changing my narrative.  Here is a list of 3 things I am doing to re-write my story:
  1. Loose the victim status. Read my article on characters to learn more.  I simply change the subject internally as the victim starts to show up.  While this is not always easy, it has already started to change my view on things.
  2. I am re-writing stories about people/companies I had negative thoughts about.  Being angry at the grocer over wine prices is a waste of time and energy.  It is reasonable that Jamie’s point of view is actually legitimate.  It is certainly a better story than mine.  Anyhow, what’s really the worse that can happen?  I pay 3 bucks more for a 12 pack of beer.  It’s still great beer.
  3. Re evaluate my influences.  I’ve hear it said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.  Often times I get negative or gossipy and realize that I am the instigator.  Sometimes its the other person.  Usually a re direction of the conversation changes the mood.  It really works the same with other people as it does in your own narrative.
You tell yourself multiple stories everyday.  As you seek to achieve the awesomeness we both know you were meant to, you must be in control of the “pen”.  Your story must be one in which you win, learn from mistakes, and are worthy of the task at hand.  Start with a positive story about the world around you.  A positive “you” will attract more positive people.  We know from experience (and this post) that it’s much harder to be positive than negative.  This means that positive people are working hard, living intentionally, and can bring that “average of 5” up a bit.
Think about 2 things in your world that you believe to be true because that’s your story.  Shake it up a little and question the characters in that narrative.  Start simple (like Target is better than Walmart).  Dig a little deeper as things become more clear to you.  Share your thoughts.
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7 Steps to Start Creating Margin

Life with 5 kids and a sales job that has me driving 100-200 miles per day is very busy.  2013 was a new beginning for me as I re-awakened the intentional monster within me.  This gnawing feeling of knowing I can do much more in all pillars of my life (faith, finances, career, family, fitness), created a 2013 of discovery.  2014 will continue this path and will add elements of achievement and accomplishment that will undoubtedly create more discovery.

It Gets Crazy Busy After Keynote

It Gets Crazy Busy After Keynote (Photo credit: Sklathill)

 What I have discovered is no matter how much I need to accomplish in a given day, I only get 24 hours.

The goals I have created based on my family’s mission and my obligations are difficult, time/focus consuming, yet achievable.  I wrote a post a while ago about the tyranny of the mundane.  As my goals (and family) get larger, these “mundane” tasks  wreak more havoc on my ultimate plan.  In a nutshell, my vision is to achieve my personal and professional goals, enjoying every step of the journey without sacrificing family time or assuming I can be “daddy” or a “better husband” once my goals are met.  Bottom line is I need more margin.  I need to do laundry, grocery shop, soccer practice, dishes, etc.  I need to be organized and eliminate clutter.  I believe there are many readers attempting the same thing.  Here is a list of  7 important things to start with as we eliminate clutter and enjoy our lives more.

1.  Live intentionally. Schedule time to plan tasks based on goals you have defined.  If you are doing activity that doesn’t match these goals, STOP!
2.  Overoptimism is over booking.  Understand that you can only accomplish so much.  Stop scheduling your days/weeks tasks based on perfect world, ‘“best case scenarios”.
3.  Eliminate redundancies.  My grocery shopping has been a weekly event with at least 2 stops and sometimes 4 stops (Trader Joes, SuperWalmart, Costco, and Stater Bros Grocery Store). As a goal oriented person I have given myself 4 weeks to research and implement a way to shop for 2 weeks at a time and break my stops to Costco and Trader Joes.  I am looking into automation through Amazon Prime, but the Jury is still out on this.
4.  Timing is everything.  I am more focused and productive in the morning.  It makes more sense to schedule creative and focus centric tasks in the morning and the more mundane tasks in the afternoon.
5. Remain Curious.  While I wouldn’t recommend changing your routine on a weekly basis, be open to learning new ways to do things.  I am a growing fan of the Simple Life Together (SLT) Podcast, Beyond the To Do List, and many other productivity/effectiveness Podcasts.
6. Consider going digital.  Eliminate as much clutter and accessibility issues as  possible.  I am a huge fan of Evernote.  I used to stumble around in an anxiety induced stupor looking for things like birth certificates (always needed to sign up for kids’ sports), shot records, social security cards, etc. I am in the process of migrating a lot of my “filed’ documents into Evernote.  The accessibility is amazing.  I will be writing more on the Amazing Evernote in the near future.
7.  Automate.  I recently heard the phrase “touch it once” on the SLT Podcast.  Certain emails and other electronic documents can be automatically stored into Evernote for reference and easy retrieval.  Programs such as “If this then that” are valuable tools.  As I stated earlier, Amazon Prime can eliminate stops to the grocery store (free shipping).  Hiring gardeners, dry cleaners, and housekeepers can create margin usually at a nominal cost.  Unless you enjoy these tasks, you can be working toward your ultimate goals or simply relaxing while someone else does the work that must be done but you don’t want to do.
With these 7 steps, I have only just begun.  Number 1 on the list is the overall theme of this blog:  intentionality.  If you are living intentionally, you are either doing these things or will eventually to come the conclusion that these are valuable pieces of advice.  Share with me some of your tools.  I am particularly interested in automation tools and how to reduce the grocery shopping burden.
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Clipping My Wings & Productivity

Who says they can just “wing it” when it comes to getting things done?  Typically someone who is underachieving. I had my wings clipped many years ago.  If you are like me, you are busy.  I heard Dan Hayes of the Simple Life Together Podcast (SLT) say “Busy is the New ‘I’m fine’”.  People wear busy as a badge of honor.  Busy without purpose and focus is just a waste of time.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m not going to be productive, I’d much rather do it on the couch than running around in circles.

How do we avoid being busy without accomplishing anything or more likely, busy while accomplishing “little”? Clip your wings! Planning with a purpose, being intentional with and an end in mind changes the nature of your activity beyond filling the day to “feel accomplished” to actually accomplishing things.  Often, a productive day is a shorter day since you move with purpose from one task to the other without wasting time.  Productivity Gurus  David Allen (GTD) and the late Steven Covey (7 habits), talk about goals and objectives.  Take time to plan.  If you aren’t a “planner”, start small.  Here’s a list of 3 things to start with:

RAF Flypast - Red Arrows

RAF Flypast – Red Arrows (Photo credit: Mikepaws)

1.  Define your Goals:  From spring break travel, to organizing the garage for spring, to building a business or planning your retirement, start with the end in mind.  Most people don’t even get this far.  Defining your goals will give you a tangle and “clean” target to work toward.
2. Build your Plan: Creating a simple plan to intentionally achieve some or all of your goals gives you a road map.  Have you ever been driving on a road toward a new destination not sure if you should be going North or South.  The anxiety is torturous.  Once I decide to hit the Onstar button for directions, even if I’ve been going the wrong direction, I get back on track and feel great.  Why? Because I know that I am on the path to my destination.
3. Execute:  There are people who plan but don’t follow through, and there are people who do things but have no plan or direction, and finally there are a group of successful people who do both.  Planning without execution is only a dream.  Create  a plan that is realistic and fits your season in life.  Check in periodically to make adjustments and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not 100% on target.  Keep on Keeping on!
These 3 steps are the foundation to clipping your wings and living intentionally with purpose.  How will you start today to live with purpose and intentionality?
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Living in a French Fry Economy

A few weeks ago, we took the kids to Mcdonald’s to spend their gift cards.  Hot to trot, the kids were not only getting lunch at McDonald’s, they were “buying” for themselves.  Our 8-year-old daughter, Angelina ordered the small Chicken Nugget Happy meal, while our 6-year-old, Bradley ordered a hamburger Happy Meal.  As insane as it may sound, those meals come with different size french fries.  Angelina got a “mini” bag of fries, while Bradley got a standard size.  Anyone with multiple kids understands the ensuing drama of unequal distribution of french fries.  Jamie stopped me cold before I could purchase another order of fries to even the “pot”.  She told Angelina that she and I would eat about a third of Bradley’s fries, thus making his fry supply equal to hers.  To my utter amazement, she was happy with this solution.  Bradley, still a little guy, was none the worse.

negotiating with kids

negotiating with kids (Photo credit: cafemama)

My political/economics antennae was raised immediately by the French Fry economy.  On one hand, it solved our problem.  Both kids were happy.  On the other hand, we had to steal from one to make the other happy.  Redistribution of wealth in our nation sometimes works this way.

Many people are simply happy to have something they don’t have taken away from someone else, regardless of how that person attained it.

In a childish economic “tantrum” they are made happy by politicians who take from the “rich” to simply “even the score” or “punish” the rich. People can be motivated by selfish needs by wanting something taken from another person (such as money in the form of taxes and redistributed as a “benefit), and given to them.  That is not always wrong, but often times it is.

What is more baffling is how people are ecstatic to see someone loose.

Do we live in a French Fry economy?  Too many people are naive to the fact that their french fries are being taken to appease a voting block, or a special interest.  Many don’t understand the basics of economics.  Who wins here?  Is it the poor person who is exactly a bad off this year as he was the last 10 years?  Is it the “rich” person who is

worse this year because politicians felt a need to “punish” him to make the poor person/voter happy?  Are the “rich” who turn a blind eye to this “blissfully ignorant”?  Are the poor cheering for “punishment” simply “useful idiots”? This is baffling to me.

How would you solve the French Fry dilemma?
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How Target taught me about Self-Authenticity

I used to think I went  through fazes throughout the year: from crazy Halloween decorating,  and “spooky baking to an overbearing Christmas spirit to the  New Years organization fad.  Even the Spring “gardening” and the summer desire to make Ice Tea in bright-colored jars.  For so many years, I was astonished by the foresight and customer knowledge Target Stores possessed.  obviously they were capitalizing on the seasonal needs of their customers.  Recently, however, I read an article by Jeff Goins about the DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.  I resonated with the anticlimactic, even empty feeling  after Christmas.  I am searching for more.  I search for more because I am accepting the wrong things as ends in themselves.  Target isn’t listening to the customer, the customer is listening to Target.  Target, is in fact the puppet master.  This isn’t Target’s fault.  This is my fault.


Self-awareness (Photo credit: Shasha ma)

What does the “Target Puppet Master” have to do with seeking our awesome self?  I have written extensively on authenticity.  Lately, I am thinking  a lot more about self-awareness, what I call “self-authenticiyty”.  I must first discover who I am are before I can be authentic.  Marketers at stores like Target create a lot of noise.  That noise becomes clutter for those working to organize their self-awareness.  It’s time to turn the volume down on what other’s tell us we should be or should want.  It’s time I listen to what I want.  If you relate to the is, get intentional in your self-awareness. Take time for yourself and be brutally honest.  This isn’t about quitting your 6-figure salary to open a shore-front pizza store.  It’s about being honest about what you want, defining it, admitting it, and planning how to achieve it.  When you know what you want, you’ll know if that desire to buy 18 different sizes of Rubbermaid storage bins serve your purpose or the Marketing department at Target.

How is 2014 different on your search for self authenticity?

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I Love Being the Victim: unmasking our true self

Sometimes I feel like I encourage or at least don’t stop things from happening and I embrace being the victim. Am I playing a character? Do I find meaning in martyrdom? Maybe it’s easier to be “successful” if I have a perceived handicap (ie; single dad, not enough money, feeling sick). My electricity gets shut off because someone “screwed” up the auto pay, or the insurance didn’t cover the damages because I was “misled”.  I can’t wait to rant and rave about these things happening.  I have to succeed in spite of negative things happening…shall I restate that I GET to succeed in spite of negative things happening.  I am a walking and talking self-fulfilling prophecy of victimhood. This easier than pushing myself 100% at 100%. Why is this? Insecurity? Possibly. Insecurity is rampant and very dangerous. I often see “confidence” used to cloak insecurity.

Many Faces

Many Faces (Photo credit: whoaitsaimz)

Once discovered, it usually looks a lot like arrogance and incompetence. I also see many people hold back, even apologize for simply “trying”. I had a public speaking professor once tell the class the cardinal sin of giving any speech is to apologize for at the beginning .  Recognizing this as a “defense mechanism”, we were trained as a class to clap uncontrollably (all in fun, as it usually got a laugh and eased the tension ) anyone who would apologize. We all got 1 or 2  rounds of applause before we learned our lesson.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self and being, well…your “self”. Read my article on playing the “character” . I’m reminded of Brene’ Brown’s great work Daring Greatly. She discusses the need to be vulnerable to find our true happiness.

Vulnerability is not just “opening up”,  it is the culmination of discovering our true self and not only fearlessly putting ourselves out there everyday, but fighting to keep the “characters” off our personal stage.

So now we must be ready to discover our true self by unmasking our characters, and fearlessly seeking what we are all about.

Will you fight to keep the characters away? Do you know who your “character” is?

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Washing My Car Makes Me a Better Person: cleanliness and effectiveness

Cars used to be more than transportation to me.  They were a sign of my freedom.  A 4000 pound representation of my identity.  My identity when I was 17 was hard working and nearly broke (at least by today’s standards).  I was driving a used Honda civic I had souped up with rims, loud exhaust, and a very loud stereo system.  My little red Honda was fast, fun, and sometimes furious. On days I wanted to push the limits, I made sure to vacuum and wash her.  She simply seemed to run better when clean.

If you know me personally, at least personally enough to ride in my car, you know that my car is not always a picture of show-room perfection.  Having a job that involves driving from customer to customer all day, and coming home to lots of stuff to do with a big family doesn’t always give me a chance to clean.  Just like the days of my little red Honda, though, a quick cleaning of my car seems to make things run a little smoother.

The value of simplicity is lost on many of us.

Busy-ness creates tight schedules, pressure, and “space” for thought.  Living a cluttered lifestyle hampers creativity for most people I know.  Steven Pressfields infamous “resistance” lays in the midst of all that clutter. Whether it be creativity or simple productivity, clutter, busy-ness, dirty-ness, or disorganization, when we don’t control our “stuff”,  controls us. The good news is you have a choice.  You can choose to change this.  I write incessantly about living intentionally.  Create some time in your life, maybe one multi hour block per month to check in with neatness and organization.  Having a clean inbox, desk, car, kitchen, etc will NEVER happen automatically.  Give yourself a goal around organization and neatness. Your month may seem like a slow unwinding of your cleanliness, but that’s ok.  If you build time into your week or month to RESET it, you don’t have to stress.

Beautiful Garden and Palace

Beautiful Garden and Palace (Photo credit: Daniel Petzold Photography –

My best work comes in a clean car, clean office, and freshly polished shoes.  Reward your efforts with a small deliverable after you have cleaned your office.  Cook something exciting after you’ve cleaned and organized your kitchen.  Oh boy is it fun to cook when you can find the basil and oregano. Take your spouse out for some Froyo in that shinny clean car.

This post isn’t about cleaning or organizing.  Notice how I don’t give a 5 step how-to?  This is about control.  You are Mission Control. You decide how you want to live and work. You don’t need a new book deal, or a raise, or even a job at all to make these adjustments.  You just need intentionality and some action.

What is the most important CLEAN space for your life?  How do you maintain your sanity while maintaining your commitments?  Please Share!


5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You React

Jamie and I used to fight a lot more than we do now.  Sure, Jamie is a woman, and I am a man and well, sometimes that is like water and oil, but there is something different at play here. No matter how many times you mix the water and the oil, they react the exact same way.  The water does not “adapt”, the oil does not “seek to understand”.  The water does not realize if he (or she) would just open up a little, they could create a something great together.  That’s the thing about people, we can change how we react to people.  Whether it be a romantic/spousal relationship, a professional relationship, or with your children, you get to learn from your reactions and change.  We all bring “baggage” into relationships.

Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of...

Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of Japanese-Americans evacuated from certain West coast areas under United States Army war emergency order, who have arrived at a reception center at a racetrack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divorces, past business failures, and children who repeatedly make mistakes, and much more “luggage” clutter our psyche.  It’s a challenge to check that baggage at the door and change.  We make ourselves vulnerable to “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.  But without that vulnerability, we are doomed to fail or at the very least stop growing (which I consider failure).  Here is a list of 5 questions to ask yourself before you react to a situation.  While the cliché reminds us that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, let’s not forget the road to heaven is paved with the same stones.

 1.  How do I want the other person to feel by what I am going to do or say?  Is it Love, trust, happiness, fulfillment?  Or am I trying to “teach her a lesson” and prove that she was wrong? Do I want her to feel bad or do I want her to feel loved?
2.  Am I ok if this person doesn’t realize I fixed his/her mistake?  Sometimes a person’s mistake warrants a lesson in order for him/her to grow from it.  Sometimes, your wife simply left the dome light on in the car and you should quietly turn it off. Make it about the other person, and not your own ego.  You don’t always need “credit”.
3.  Is this something that I can learn to love, or in a business situation can I find endearing and even helpful?  Being chronically late to meetings is not an endearing professional trait.  Your wife, however chronically late because she is doing wardrobe for your 5 children most certainly is.  Choose your reactions.  Be 10 minutes late to church with a beautiful family covered in smiles, or be on time in a fit of frustration with messy hair and frowns…the choice is yours.  A co-worker may be a dreamer and you may be Mr Practical.  Find the symbiosis and make it work rather than fight.
4. What’s the upside to what I am going to say or do?  This should be a question you constantly ask yourself.  In personal relationships, it’s the key to success.  Walking into a dinner party with your wife is not the time to tell her that her blouse clashes with her pants.  What POSSIBLE good can come from that?  Asking for feedback from a colleague (or offering) at the wrong time (such as 4:59pm on a Friday) has no real upside, unless you are trying to get out of a Saturday trip to the in-laws.

Everything and every action has some inherent risk to it, make sure your “upside” is worth that risk.

5.  Am I doing this with a spirit of giving and love?  I am not always positive or optimistic in my thinking.  Sometimes I/we must check in to uncover our true motives.  If something has a hint of negativity built in the  intentions, take a break and re think your actions.
Print these questions out and try for a week.  Comment to me how your interactions change for the positive.


Don’t be afraid to take charge: 5 Steps for preparing to lead

Movies can move the human spirit.  Scenes such as the speech in Miracle where Kirt Russell plays Coach Brooks addressing his 1980 Olympic Hockey team before the game of their lives move and inspire.  Who can forget Al Pacino inspiring his football team to fight and claw toward victory? And of course, Mel Gibson as William Wallace inspiring an outnumbered army to fight for freedom.    These scenes, and many more like them have a common thread.  These speeches were given by men who faced whatever fear they had and took charge.  Most of us won’t be leading Scottland toward war and freedom.  We do, however, lead our companies, our teams, and our homes toward success…or failure.

Last July I was summons to Jury Duty. Click here to read the leadership lessons I learned from this experience.  I was selected and voted unanimously as the foreperson. It was hardly an electoral victory, as no one else wanted to do it. Why is it that when real life kicks in, so many people take a step back rather than a step forward?
Leader Of The Pack

Leader Of The Pack (Photo credit: Property#1)

It is a lack of knowledge and preparation  holding many would-be leaders from emerging.

Whether you plan on overtly leading a team (such as being a CEO or manager) or leading from within (a peer leader or project leader), you must prepare yourself.  Here is list of five things to consider as you begin to prepare:
1.  Be The Industry Expert.  What is happening in and around your company, companion companies and competitors.  This is so important.  If you aren’t in tune with what matters most to your company, market, and industry, how can you add value?
2.  Stay up to date on what’s happening in the world.  Last year’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing was all that anyone talked about for well over a week.  ObammaCare, Fiscal Cliff, or Dancing with the Stars.  Whatever is big to your customers and to those you lead is an opportunity to connect.  Don’t forget to be sincere.  No need to binge on 50 episodes of Breaking Bad before your next meeting, but find common ground and stay in tune.  Also, world events are very real, and impact many people beyond just the work place.
3.  Read diverse material.  I have met many people who are shocked that I read 30-40 books per year.  Many people tell me they don’t like to read or they don’t have the time.  That is ridiculous.  Audible has a 15$/month membership where you get one book per month, and the library is free (minus my mounting late fees).  Listen while you drive or excersise.  Don’t just read, read diverse topics.  I read about sports, business, faith, biographies, and many other topics.  Not only are you smarter, you are more interesting as you read more.
4.  Network.  This is another “no kidding” mention.  It’s imperative that you reach out to colloegues in and around your industry.  All to often we are locked in our little silo.  Some perspective of the outside world keeps reality a lot closer.
5.  Practice.  Whether you are in sales pitching products all day long, management, observing these pitches, or executive leadership developing strategy, you must be intentional in finding time to practice in a safe environment.  My organization usually takes us out of the field 3 or 4 times per year to practice our messaging and strategy.  Make sure you are doing this.
Leadership is not easy, but its necessary for success.  Whether you are a bona fide “titled” leader or someone who leads through action on a project basis, fear not.  You are on a quest for to find your awesomeness.  Be intentional in all of these areas and you will grow in you leadership and your success.
Challenge:  Go to your local library and get a free library card and check out 2 books and start reading.