Never Stop Learning

I follow a lot of successful entrepreneurs’ blogs and twitter feeds. Two themes regularly surface.

  1. Insatiable curiosity
  2. Unique life experiences

You could say these two go together. Curiosity can lead you down a path an uncurious person would never find.

A curious person who wonders what living in another country is like will pursue studying abroad, traveling, or going on a mission trip to find out.

A curious person who believes there is a better way travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles will dive into physics and spend a bunch of money to design a Hyperloop.

Successful people leverage their curiosity to learn through actively putting themselves into unique life experiences.

What about the other side?

Publishers Weekly published that 42% of college graduates never read another book in their life. Of those who do, 55% read only fiction. They stop learning. They wait for someone to pick them and tell them what and how to do a task for the rest of their lives.

Learning is not consumption.

There is a difference between learning and consumption.

These are my definitions:

Learning is an active pursuit of knowledge about a specific subject or subjects. (i.e. solving a problem)

Consumption is a passive accumulation of random and unfocused information.

Don’t have a problem to solve?

Pick a hobby.

I am a hobbies guy. In the last 10 years of my life I have picked up and, in some cases, stopped doing following:

  • poker
  • guitar
  • weight lifting
  • back to guitar
  • photography
  • web design and development

Dive into something that interests you. Learn as much about the topic as you can until you decide it’s your thing or not. Push through the hard part where learning slows down. This will help you build up some resilience.

I have learned a ton from my hobbies. For instance, I learned I will never be 230 pounds of solid muscle mass.

More importantly though, I learned how much I enjoy starting a project, figuring out how to teach it to someone else, and then moving on to a new one. This realization has helped shape what I do now.

Don’t stop learning. Pick something to pursue and focus on it. Allow it to take you into unique experiences you would not ordinarily go.

Write Every Day

I have always been a writer. I love it, and I encourage my oldest (he’s the only one who knows how) to write as well.

Strong written communication skills will help you in your personal and professional life. Here are my top 4 reasons I write every day.

Writing helps you clarify your thoughts.

If you are like me, your mind is constantly racing with thoughts. It can be your to do lists, something you are worrying about at work or with your kids, an idea you have, or maybe emotions that seem to be coming out of nowhere.

Writing will help you take abstract thoughts out of your head and make sense of them.

Writing help you realize what you know.

When you get lost in the day-to-day, you don’t stop to think about what you have experienced and what you learned from it. When you write, you increase your awareness of what is happening around you. Even more importantly, you increase your self-awareness and emotional maturity.

Writing helps you and helps others.

I love writing this blog because I love to share the things I have learned, the things I am learning, and the things I noticed.

I got some off-line feedback about a post I wrote. Really though, I wrote that for me…kind of a self-directed inspirational message slash kick in the pants to keep moving on a project I am working on.

In fact, most of what I write on this blog is about things I am working on or struggling with myself.

It can help you remember.

It’s funny. I was going through old journal entries the other day. I found a short blurb I wrote after I met with a friend for the first time. I simply wrote my thoughts on what I thought about him as a person. (Sounds weird, I know). Today we are great friends, and my first impressions held true.

I shared it with him, risking the embarrassment of admitting I wrote it. Ha! He thought it was cool.

So what should you do?

Write every day. Grab a journal, journaling software (I love the Day One for Mac and iOS), use Evernote, or whatever you feel like.

Set aside time at the beginning of the day and dump your brain out on paper. It doesn’t have to make sense. It can be a stream of thoughts. It can ramble. It is not for anyone else but you.

Try this for 5 days and see what you think.

Do I write every day?

I try to. But it doesn’t always pan out. If I don’t, no problem. You see, I have developed the love for it, so if a day goes by without writing I am usually wanting to the next day anyway.

Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just try it and week what you think.

Hearing, “I Believe in You!”

Sometimes all you need is someone to come along and tell you, “I believe in you.”

This happened to me, and it is powerful.

Listen, it’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. You do the same thing every day for 5 years. You face rejection after rejection when seek more. You sit and wait and nothing happens. And in each passing minute for this whole time you begin to believe this is all there is.

Though, deep down you know this isn’t true. You are destined for more, and you won’t be happy unless you try.

People around you begin to affirm the same group of skills over and over. You disregard them at first. You were taught to have humility, after all.

But you keep hearing compliments about the same group of things.

You finally decide to reach out to that person who you admire, someone invites you to a lunch, and you sign up for a mentoring program.

You are asked to set some goals for yourself and present them, only you can’t. You can’t think of a single specific thing you want. It drives you crazy…frustrates you to the point of tears.

It hits you…

“I have am afraid to let myself dream.”

This realization is refreshing.

Now when you hear these compliments from the people around you, their words are an affirmation.

Dots are connecting all around you. And, just as slowly as your thoughts of self doubt came on, a steady realization of self worth begins to grow in your mind.

You start to pursue interests in the direction of your skills and strengths.

You whole life changes all because some one came along and said, “I believe in you.” And, they challenged you to believe in yourself.

If you feel this way you need to do three things.

Pray about it.

I believe in a God who loves us and wants the best for us. I know first hand God will help you pursue something that honors him. He will help you through this.

Identify some mentors.

Pick few people 10 or more years ahead of you whose lives match the life you want to pursue. Write down their names and their attributes that appeal to you. It could be their marriage, career, etc.

Ask to meet.

Explain to them what you admire about their life. Ask them if you can meet with them over a meal of coffee to ask some questions.

For example, “I really admire the way you have built a successful business and a strong marriage at the same time. I want this for myself. Are you able to meet with me? I would love to learn how you do it?”

Most people love to help other people. Chances are someone helped them get where they are in life. They would love to return the favor.

Don’t get discouraged if you hear no. It may be this person doesn’t see the same thing in him or herself that you do. Or, they may have too much on their plate. A no is not a reflection of your worth.

For some additional resources, check out the Game Plan website and message series. This is from my church. Even of you are not a church person, there is some very practical and actionable advise and tools for you to use here.

You can also check out Michael Hyatt’s free Life Plan book. He does a fantastic job walking you through the steps toward living an intentional live. You will have to give up your email address, but that is a small price to pay for this excellent and free book.

Seth Godin on Formidable Leaders

I imagine this post by Seth Godin will go viral today in the leadership and entrepreneur communities.

What we’re looking for in a boss, in a CEO to invest in, in a business partner, in a candidate, is formidability. Someone to be reckoned with. Not someone with all the answers, because no one has all the answers. No, we want someone who is magic about to happen.

Can you create something out of nothing. Can you dream, plan, and execute? It does not matter if you are a stay at home mom, an employee or an aspiring business owner, being formidable will add value to your life and those around you. Go read the article. P.S. If you are interested in marketing, education, leadership, or business, go ahead and subscribe to Seth’s Blog.

Different Types of Thought Processors

When I first learned about this my mind was blown. Suddenly all of my relationships started to make more sense.

You need to read this if you want to improve communication in your relationships.

There are two different types of thought processors…verbal and non-verbal.

“What?? Not everyone is exactly like me?”

Nope. Sorry.

Verbal processors speak to clarify thoughts.

Non-verbal processors think before they speak.

Note: if you have ever been told to think before you speak, and it frustrated the crap out you, now you know why.

Verbal processors are generally extroverted.

Non-verbal processors are generally introverted.

A verbal processor is frustrated because people around them don’t quickly engage in conversation.

A non-verbal processor is frustrated because people around them are always changing their minds.

If you are married, you are one of these and your spouse is the other. Sometimes you drive your spouse crazy and you can’t even help it.

I have 7,000 new ideas every day. I think they are all great. I tell my wife about one. She hears it as, this is something Scott wants to do. The next day, I don’t even remember what I said, and she is busy planning the next steps in her mind. Frustration ensues. (Sweetie if you are reading this, it is completely my fault. You are perfect, and I love you.)

Here is the thing. This frustration can be avoided.

Verbal people. Preface your ideas with this. “This is just an idea, and not something I have completely thought out yet…”

Non-verbal people. Ask, “Is this something you are planning, or are you just thinking about it?” Also, this is very helpful when you are asked a question you don’t know how to answer yet. “I am not sure how to answer this. Let me think about it.”

The big takeaway is know other people process thoughts differently than you. If you do this, you won’t be as frustrated in your communication.

We Need More Leaders

Who inspires you? Why?

My guess is this person did something brave. They stood up for something or hung in there longer than the rest of the pack. They had a wild idea and the intestinal fortitude to take action.

The best, most inspiring stories are the ones where someone goes radically in another direction.

When I was a kid, I loved learning about Harriet Tubman. This lady escaped from slavery which is a bold move by itself. And then…

…she went back to help others.

I loved stories about Harriet Tubman. The idea of a bold super hero type woman leading a group of escaped slaves through a network of homes, hiding in secret basements under floors appealed to my young imagination. My mind would run wild, and I would day-dream about hiding under floors and traveling by night using the north star.

In my favorite story, Harriet Tubman hid from a search party by laying in a swamp. Then men and their dogs walked right by her, only able to find her walking stick. She was just feet from being discovered.

We love stories about people who take extraordinary risk to do great things.

We need more risk takers, people who go out ahead of a group and make things better for those who follow behind them.

We need leaders who develop more leaders.

We need men and woman who courageously do what’s right in the face of opposition.

We need people with both exceptional vision and execution skills.

We need those who are willing to shrug off criticism and ridicule because they know one day their decisions will be regarded.

Today someone is regarded as a foolish dreamer pursuing the impossible. Tomorrow, their story will be an inspiration to the masses.

Serving vs. Enabling

I am a huge believer in servant leadership. It is the idea that great leadership is achieved through serving those who are being led. Servant leadership leverages influence instead of authority.

In the dictionary, the word “serve” is defined as “performs duties or services for another person or organization.”

Simple right? Service essentially breaks down to “do for others.” You see this is where I got stuck. My definition was incomplete.

You rise and fall in your definitions.

Service is not simply about doing for others. There has to be an end goal in mind, or you will fall into the trap of enabling.

It’s the old give a man a fish metaphor.

A great servant leader has one goal in mind: improve the lives of those he or she serves.

It is do for, not do instead of.

Let’s take parenting for example. You are teaching your 4-year-old to tie his shoe.

Sure you can tie his shoe instead of him. His shoe will be tied and you will have performed the service of tying his shoe. But does this improve him?

The alternative is you spend the time to help him tie his own shoe. You sympathize with him through his frustration. You don’t give in to his pleas to have you just step in and tie his shoe for him. You stay with him as he fails over and over and over until…he finally gets it. This is a far better investment. This is true servant leadership.

Don’t get miss this point because of the simplicity of the example. This applies in all areas of your life.

At work, are you failing to invest in your team because you know you will do a better job yourself?

In your marriage, are you failing to have a tough conversation with your spouse because it is easier to just smile and ignore it?

With your kids, are you giving into their will and sacrificing teachable moments to avoid making them upset?

Or are you willing to step into a tough situation, walk alongside another person, set a standard, encourage them, teach them, and ultimately help them. Are you willing to do this even if they may get angry with you for a moment in time? Are you able to extend them grace and keep your composure?

I have been on sides of this paradigm. One leads to frustration, exhaustion, and feelings of anger. The other leads to progress, fulfillment, and improved relationships.

Quote: The Real Deal

The people at the fringe booths at a trade show, the ones who get rejected from every job they apply to without even being interviewed, the ones who don’t earn our trust or our attention — this isn’t necessarily because they aren’t talented, it’s merely because they haven’t invested the time or found the guts to cross the chasm to the side of people who are the real deal.

– Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog

Give Yourself a Time Limit

Are you having trouble finding the time to get something done. Maybe you want to write a blog post or build something, but you have no idea how to start.

Try this. Give yourself I time limit.

I do this every time I write for this blog. I simply pop open a browser window, open up, add 40 minutes and go.

It is amazing how quickly you can be motivated to take action when you trick your mind into thinking there is a deadline.

I use this for all kinds of tasks. I even use it for tasks I enjoy to keep myself from getting distracted.

  • sales calls
  • cleaning the house
  • getting ready in the morning
  • processing email
  • reading books and blogs
  • social media

It even works with longer projects. Let’s say you are working on something that you thinks will take a month to accomplish. Instead of giving yourself 4 or 5 weeks, give yourself a tiger deadline. Maybe 2 weeks.

You will amaze yourself with how well you can focus when there is a time line.

Want proof?

Remember that time (or times in my case) when you procrastinated on a school project. All of the sudden, the assignment you had a semester to complete was finished in 3 days. Why is this?

Work always expands to the container you give it.

If you give yourself a month, it will take a month. Will you actually work the whole month? Probably not. Instead, you will take time to “research” and “plan” and “get everything together.”

Then, with two weeks left, you will either decide to quit before you even started, or you will throw out all of your planning (read: procrastination) and take action.

Don’t fail to start or let distractions eat up valuable time. Give yourself a time limit. You will be amazed at how well you can focus and how much you can accomplish when you use time to your advantage. You will find time you had no idea you even had.

*Note: When I started giving myself time limits for writing, I would frequently go over. This is ok. It improves. This post was written, edited, and scheduled to be published in about 20 minutes.