What’s Next?

If you have ever read about training for U.S. Navy SEALs or other elite military units, you are probably familiar with the advice that is given to those entering basic training: “Don’t look ahead: simply focus on the task at hand.” Sounds like process, right? – Matt Dixon; The Well-Built Triathlete, Turning Potential into Performance

At this point in the New Year everyone is still talking about New Year’s Resolutions and making goal setting a priority. But somewhere in the hustle and bustle of everyday life a huge percentage of people are going to fail at their goals and simply give up. You might be doing great so far but once the kids go back to school and life goes back to “normal” those changes you promised to make to your eating and spending habits are going to start getting harder.

According to the Huffington Post only 8% of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions with most falling off the wagon within the first 3 weeks. People who set both short and longer-term goals at other times throughout the year tend not to fair much better.

The problem seems lie in the area of planning and the prevalence of an all or nothing attitude. Personally, I want to try and cut down on the carbohydrates and sugar in my diet, but it was my neighbor’s birthday yesterday and he insisted that I eat a piece of his double chocolate birthday cake. Well, there goes the New Year’s Resolution, I may as well forget it!

A better approach is to take the advice of the Navy SEALs, just focus on the task at hand, or look at the famous 12 step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and take it one day at a time. Hardly anybody hits a home run in their first at bat, loses 20lbs in a week or wins an Oscar the first time they step in front of a camera. Life is a process and incremental change is far more sustainable than going for the big splash all or nothing game changer.

To say that 2018 was a challenging year for my business would be an understatement. One of my stated goals was to increase sales 20%. Sales decreased, and I missed my goal by a whopping 37%. There were lots of things that went wrong last year that contributed to this huge miss but at the end of the day a lot of it had to do with my inability to hit the smaller, day to day markers that would have led to a better chance of success. I lost focus on the task at hand.

Goal setting is not the problem. Stephen Covey famously told us to begin with the end in mind, that’s goal setting but he also told us to put first things first, break-down each task to a series of simple steps and just keep doing the next thing.

So, before you give up on your New Year’s Resolutions or say that your goals are unrealistic or just too hard, take a breath. Achieving your goals is a process, break it down and ask yourself – what’s next?

New Year’s Day – 2019

Who stands firm?  Only the one whose ultimate standard is not his reason, his principles, conscience, freedom, or virtue; only the one who is prepared to sacrifice all of these when, in faith and in relationship to God alone, he is called to obedient and responsible action.  Such a person is the responsible one, whose life is to be nothing but a response to God’s question and call.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Back in 2015 I published a book on ethics, you can check it out [here].  My previous book had been on finance so in the summary I wrote for the book jacket I said;

Here, I go beyond questions of personal finance and economics and dare to ask an utterly different question: “What is the will of God?”  Meekoethics is not an attempt at finding a definitive answer.  Rather it is an honest exploration of the questions behind the question and a call to all Christ-followers to sit in submission to the answers they find, get comfortable with discomfort and let God be God. 

The Marlboro Man – who wouldn’t want to be that guy?

Giving control over to God is exceedingly difficult.  We live in a society that prizes individuality and champions the rugged individualist.  For decades the epidemy of manhood was the Marlboro Man, the strong loner who rode his horse, smoked his cigarettes and presumably didn’t give a care about what you thought of him. 

Today the ads may have changed, we no longer prize cigarette smoking as a sign of individuality, but the message remains the same.  Follow your own path, be your own person and the world will respect you for it.  But is that really who we are meant to be?

I’m an introvert but I’m also very social, that’s what the S in ISFJ stands for.  Being a social introvert requires a level of submission to a greater sense of community than most people are willing to attempt.  It is through social interaction that I can observe and listen for the will of God. 

Ultimately it is by listening for and hearing God’s call in my life that I remain focused on the things that truly matter.  Aligning yourself to God’s call often requires releasing things that we hold close, aspects of our personality and worldview that we have developed over years of personal reflection and practice. 

It also means releasing things that we once thought where part of God’s will for us.  That’s the hard part.  Maybe it was God’s will for us to think and behave a certain way, for a time, but no more.  The only way we are going to know that is by listening to God, through social interaction and community, and being willing to let go of things that are no longer working. 

It’s January 1, 2019 and people all over the world are making New Year’s Resolutions.  We are resolving to do new things, stop doing old things and become all around better people.  Most of us will fail in a matter of days, falling back into old habits and old patterns. 

Why?  I’m not qualified to answer that, but I believe that part of it is the fact that we lack proper motivation and accountability.    Before you make a New Year’s Resolution, ask yourself why, what do you hope to get out of this change in behaviour?  Next, pray and make sure that your desire for change is in line with God’s will for your life.  Finally, look for confirmation and an accountability partner, someone who can confirm the voice of God and walk the path with you helping to you stay motivated.    

 Happy New Year – Time to heed the call.

Goals and Resolutions – 2018 Version

Every year around this time I sit down and work on my goals for the coming year.  Not New Year’s Resolutions per say but a handful of things that I plan to do on a regular basis over the course of the year to reach my major goals.

It’s a two-step process.

In accordance with the second of Steven Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I begin with the end in mind.   What are my major goals for 2018?

1 – Complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon

The Olympic Triathlon is the official distance run at the Olympic games and is approximately one quarter of an Iron Man.  It consists of a 1500 m swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.  World class athletes can generally complete an Olympic Tri in about 2 hours.  The world record is 1:39:50, set at the World Championships in Cleveland Ohio in 1996.  That record has stood for over 20 years and is the stuff of legend in the Triathlon community.  I’ll be happy if I complete my Olympic Tri in under 4 hours.

2 – Finish my Third Book

My first two books came relatively easily to me.  I poured a lot of pent up energy into those books.  My third effort has been quite a bit harder.  I’ve been writing a book on Leadership for about 3 years now and it’s just not working.  Probably because I don’t really have a lot of experience in leadership.  I’m more the solopreneur type so writing about leadership seems a bit disingenuous.  I have several other books sketched out so I’m going to return to my favourite topic – behavioural economics, and work on something along those lines.  I’ve also started writing a memoir of sorts, maybe that could be something, we’ll see, keep an eye out here for more information as these projects grow.

3 – Develop the Financial Coaching Aspect of my Practice

The Meekonomics Project, (financial coaching) has been near and dear to my heart and my plans since the very beginning.  For the past six years I’ve focussed on building my financial practice along traditional lines, Life Insurance and Investments for the family market, Disability Insurance and Group Health Plans for businesses and business owners.  But that’s not where my heart is.  I have a passion for the poor, disadvantaged and victims of predatory lenders.  The Meekonomics Project is my assault on the PayDay Lending industry and stewardship planning for the working poor.

4 – Grow my practice to $85,000 in gross income

Two years ago, I made $74,000, and I thought I was on my way.  The next year I struggled to make $60,000 and this year I will make about $66,000.  These past two years have been hard.  I made a few mistakes, missed a few opportunities and got drawn off on some tangents.  To hit these goals, I need to remain focused and learn to filter out the noise that could pull me off track.

So those are the major goals.  But how are we going to get there?

Covey’s third habit is to put first things first.  In other words, work backwards from the end goal and figure out what to do next.  As a result, I have figured out five daily goals that are going to move me closer to the four major goals every single day.

1 – Go to the Gym for an hour at least 3 days a week  

There are several different triathlon training programs on line.  Most of them say that you can train for an Olympic Tri in about 10 weeks.  They all require at least six days a week in the gym, but I don’t have that kind of time.  I’m pretty sure I can modify a program to work over a 3 day cycle and be ready to complete the distance in about 20 weeks.  In fact, I’ve been working on this for a few months already and should be ready to complete the distance by April.  If I do, great, if not I will save eight months to work on it and hit the goal by the end of the year.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

2 – Spend 30 minutes in prayer and meditation every day

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Why isn’t this the number one priority?  If I was a good Christian boy nothing should take precedence over spending time in prayer, but hear me out.

This list is semi-chronological, and I have learned from experience that if I get up early and do anything other than get out he door and go the gym, it’s not going to happen.  Therefore, for the three days that I plan to go and train for the triathlon, nothing else happens until I can check that off the list.  That being said; my 30 minutes of prayer is the only thing that I am committing to doing every single day.  It keeps me grounded and on point for the rest of the day.

There is a lot more I could say about the importance of connecting with a higher power, however you define it, but I think maybe I’ll save that for another post.  For now, I’ll just say this, releasing my stresses and worries to the God of the universe while at the same time expressing my hopes and dreams and confessing my short comings is incredibly relaxing.   Starting my day in a state of peace and relaxation is the best way I’ve yet found to remain centered, balanced and calm.

3 – Reach out to 40 Individual Clients and Prospects each work day

Working backwards from my goal of making $85,000 this year I need to make approximately 2 new sales per week.  Decades of statistical research in the insurance and investment industry has proven that it takes 5 face-to-face appointments for every sale.  Many of those appointments are simple policy reviews and service calls that don’t necessarily lead to anything new and of those that do require additional services it usually takes 3 or 4 meetings to move someone from prospect to client.  That means I need at least 10 appointments a week.

The same research has show that it takes approximately 20 client “touches” to book an appointment.  Again, many of those touches are simple check in calls or emails that don’t necessarily lead to a meeting right away.  All of this to say that I need to reach out to 200 clients and prospects a week to book 10 appointments.  Broken down over the course of a 5-day workweek that amounts to 40 unique “touches” per day.

4 – Initiate 5 Cold Introductions to new Prospects each work day

This is the law of attrition.  If I’m reaching out to 40 individual clients and prospects each work day it stands to reason that a percentage of those prospects are going to be non-responsive or say they aren’t interested.  All that research about the number of sales and the number of meetings also says that a little better than 10% of your prospects will die on the vine.   So, to keep the numbers consistent I need to be reaching out to 5 new prospects every day.

5 – Write 500 words or film 2 minutes of video each work day

I’m a writer and writers write, ‘nuff said.

Not everything I write will be worth publishing and not every piece of video I record will make it out of my phone but like training for a triathlon the daily discipline will help to improve the final results and hopefully lead to a lot more content on my blog and another book.

500 words is approximately one typewritten page and takes less than 2 minutes to read, the perfect length for a blog post.  2 minute videos get more views than 20 minute videos.  It’s about accessibility, short sweet and too the point, that’s what a blog or vlog should be.  Save the longer thoughts and more detailed analysis for the books.

This combination of major goals and daily goals aren’t exactly New Years Resolutions.  They are more like an execution plan.  I do have a few resolutions tough.  These are simple tweaks to my personality designed to boost my productivity, social capital and emotional connections.

1 – Just Do It

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity.  If a job takes less than 5 minutes to complete it should be completed immediately.  If it takes less than 15 minutes to complete it should be completed by the end of the day.  If it takes more than 15 minutes to complete make an appointment to work on it before the end of the week.

2 – Smile   

Happy people are proven to be more successful people, especially in sales and customer centric industries like financial services.  Even if you don’t feel happy, smiling has been proven to trick your brain into thinking you are happier and so becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Smiling puts people at ease and increases your credibility so that they like you more.

3 – Say Yes as much as possible

Defaulting to yes, even when it’s a yes, but or a yes, and is far better than saying no.  In difficult situations, starting with yes makes you appear as though you are a problem solver even when the eventual outcome is not what was originally desired.  Saying yes is collaborative, while no is confrontational.

So, there you have it.  My goals and resolutions for 2018.  What do you think? Do you have goals or resolutions?  I’d love to hear them, please comment back.

How to Fail in 2015

The gleaming mountain of success is actually a pile of trash – a pile of mistakes we have made. The difference between the successful and the troubled is not error-free living; it is that by discovering and implementing a life calling the successful stand on their pile of trash while the troubled sit under theirs. – Dave Ramsey; forward to Dan Miller’s 48 Days To The Work You Love

happy new year 2015

Let’s cut to the chase shall we?

It’s the end of another year and everyone is busy planning what they will and won’t do in the coming year. Statistically we know that most so called “New Year’s Resolutions” will be broken within the first week, a few will make it through the first month or so and even fewer will make it about halfway through the year. The actual number of New Year’s Resolutions that survive an entire year however is infinitesimally small. So let’s fast forward to the last quarter of 2015 and pretend we made it.

I want you for a minute to forget about what the actual resolutions or goals are. That’s not the point here. I’m sure you don’t need my help to dream about what you want for the coming year. I want you instead to think about what your plan is to get there. Stephen Covey said in his famous “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to begin with the end in mind so that’s what we’re going to do.

It’s now December of 2015 and you are one of the few people who actually kept your New Year’s Resolution. How did you do it? What was your first step? Then what? And most importantly what did you do when you failed?

Mark my words; you will fail at some point. If your resolution is to run a 5k every day and on day three you get up to a foot of snow and you think, “what’s one day?” you will have failed. The question isn’t if you will fail or even when you will fail but what you will do with that failure.

If your definition of success is 100% perfection you will fail. If your definition of success is continual growth and development then you should welcome failure, it’s the only way you will learn what doesn’t work.

I actually love it when I fail at something. (Okay that’s a lie, nobody likes to fail, it hurts too much but,) Failure is the only way I can learn what doesn’t work. The key is to fail early enough in the process that you can learn from it, adjust course and still achieve the results you were after in the first place.

If you view failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone to success did you really fail at all? I don’t think so, you just eliminated one pathway to success.

So get out there and fail. Just don’t make the same mistake twice. That’s how you become a success and, as Dave Ramsey so aptly put it “stand on your pile of trash” in victory.

Don’t Panic!

It’s my birthday!

Maybe it’s because my birthday comes smack dab in the middle of the summer, just weeks before the start of a new school year and all that but I tend to view it as a time of reflection and goal setting similar to New Year’s Resolutions. Call it New Year 2.0 if you like.

Yesterday one of my co-workers asked me what my birthday plans were and how old I was going to be. I didn’t miss a beat and told her that I would be the answer to the meaning of life the universe and everything and that my main goal in life was just to stay calm and not panic.

She didn’t get it.

don't panic

All you “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fans out there don’t need any further explanation.  But for the uninitiated, I’m 42 and if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this:

There is nothing that can happen in life that you can’t make worse if you panic.

My journey through this life is far from over. With any luck, and if genetics are anything close to an accurate predictor, I figure I have at least another 50 years ahead of me. I’m not even middle aged yet! But here are a few things I’ve learned so far that have kept me alive and help keep me from panicking as I go.

1 – Don’t take unnecessary risks.

Use any and all of the safety equipment that is available at all times; seat belts, safety goggles, and batting helmets are all optional, putting them on takes less than a second. So does losing an eye or getting a concussion from a 90 mile an hour fastball. Jumping out of a perfectly good air-craft is crazy and wearing sunscreen is a good idea.

2 – Buy insurance.

Shit happens. Cover your ass so that when it happens to you it’s easier to clean up.

3 – Have a goal and implement a plan.

Goal setting and planning is only half the story. It’s not enough to have a goal and make a plan you have to actually do it. It speaks to your level of integrity. If you can’t be accountable to yourself how can you be accountable and trust worthy with others?

4 – Always carry a towel.

Towels are among the most versatile pieces of fabric ever invented. Versatility is the key here, if you are as adaptable as a towel there is practically nothing the world can throw at you that you won’t be able to handle.

And of course –

5 – Don’t Panic.

That should be self-explanatory.

Have a great day and remember the answer to the meaning of life the universe and everything is 42.

New Year’s Resolutions

Statistics tell us that by now at least one in four of you have already broken your New Year’s Resolutions.  By next week it will be it will be over 30% and by the end of the month over half of the New Year’s Resolutions made amid the champagne and euphoria of December 31, 2012, will have deflated and been cast aside along with the balloons and streamers of that long forgotten party. According to www.statisticbrain.com only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions ever become permanent changes in a person’s behavior.

Many of you I’m sure are smiling to yourselves and thinking, “that’s why I don’t make resolutions.”  Bull!  You do so make resolutions, you just don’t tell anyone about them because you’re afraid of the ridicule if you fail.  The same study published on the website above says that 45% of people admit to making a New Year’s Resolution every year and 17% admit to making them some years.  I’m sure the real number is much higher than that. 

The number that really stands out to me here is that people who admit to making resolutions are 10 times more likely to succeed than those who don’t.  Why is that?    

One word – Accountability!

When you let people know what your resolution is, you are now accountable to the people you told to see it through.  It becomes real.  That’s perhaps both the number one reason why people claim they don’t make resolutions and why those who do fail so miserably.  There is little to no accountability. 

I talk a lot about community on this blog.  Developing and maintaining a community of love and support from family and friends is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.  Most people don’t want to be held accountable for things, it’s a scary word that brings up images of punishment and consequences but it doesn’t have too.  Accountability can still be gentle and loving.

Many people will say that they don’t need the accountability of a community that their actions and decisions are between them and God.    But that’s a cop out.  God exists in relationship, and he is most visible through human relationships.  That’s why Jesus said that “where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” [Matthew 18:20]

So if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution, especially if you are struggling to keep it, bring it in to community and allow those closest to you to join on the journey with you and hold you accountable.  I promise God will honor that and join you as well.  And if you still don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions that’s okay, but when you decide to make a major life change that requires a change in behavior don’t try to do it alone.  These things always work best in community.