Archive for July, 2008

Futile Job Search Sparked Church Shooting

July 28, 2008

Todays’ USA Today shows this headline for the horrible shooting that took place at a church in Knoxville, TN yesterday.

“It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV told reporters on Monday.

Authorities also discovered a letter from the state government telling Adkisson he was having his food stamps reduced or eliminated, police said.

“He did express that frustration, that the liberal movement was getting more jobs,” Owen said. “And he felt like he was being kept out of the loop because of his age.”  The gunman, Jim Adkisson, was 58.  He had been working as a truck driver but neighbors didn’t think he had been working steadily in the past six months. 

There are so many ways to respond around this dreadful incident.  Obviously I believe there are still opportunities for work in America.  They don’t look like the old jobs — but they are opportunities nonetheless if we can reframe our thinking and expectations.  I know owner-operators have been hit hard with the current gas prices – and it may be wise to move on to something else.  But trucking companies are simply raising their prices and are still paying their drivers well.  Yesterday, I drove a truck back from Indianapolis to Nashville and spent a lot of road time reading the back end of trucks where the companies are looking for more drivers – at $.49 a mile.  At 400 miles a day, that’s still $1000 a week. 

Landscapers and construction managers are telling me they can’t find enough people to keep up with their work commitments.  Many of them are working their available workers 12 hours a day in an attempt to keep up.  I have a construction project that we would love to have completed, and the contractors I have bidding on the job are saying they are 2-3 months out in work committed. 

Change can lead to frustration, anger and murder – or it can lead to seeing new options for different, but meaningful and profitable work. 

At the risk of sounding too simplistic, let me end with this:

“When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”  —Alexander Graham Bell

Think You Can?

July 26, 2008

This week in an interview the host asked me what were the three things I wanted listeners to remember.  This is what I gave her:

1. Expect Change.  The workplace is going to remain volatile and unpredictable.  Our only choice is to decide how we will respond.  If you make those decisions in advance you will reduce the uncertainty and vulnerability.

2.  Look inward for your best ideas and solutions.  85% of the process of having confidence about your career direction comes from looking inward first.  Define your unique skills and abilities – then 15% of the process is the application.

3.  You are not in a “recession” unless you think you are.  The old Henry Ford adage is true – “Whether you think you can or think you can’t; either way you’re right.

Oh the “inexpressible comfort”

July 21, 2008

In last week’s teleseminar I responded to the avalanche of questions regarding “What’s Holding You Back?”  In addition to lack of money, fear, procrastination, and no time – I received an unexpected category – that of no spousal support. 

Comments like this:

— My problem holding me back is my husband. ….When I want to do something, I take off running, deal with the problems when they arise but my husband is the most negative person and always picks apart everything and tells me all the reasons why it won’t work. I think I have some very good ideas but he won’t even listen. I am 46, deep in debt and he says my ideas are stupid.

Not having the support of those closest to you is a major deal.  I know this may sound cheesy but the most amazing thing I’ve ever done is to marry the women I married.  She’s my biggest cheerleader – she’s given me the freedom to try and fail – and yet continued to love and support me.

We got married very young – and our first home was an 8′ x 42′ foot trailer.  Our first child was born while we lived in that trailer – I built his first bed over the wheel well in the middle room – which was really just a hallway.

At 17 years old, shortly before we got married, Joanne gave me a little romantic book with this quotation highlighted.  It became one of the important reference points for our many years together:

Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.   Dinah Craik — A Life for a Life, 1859

Years later when I lost everything in business and we owed hundreds of thousands of dollars – Joanne reminded me that we were totally happy in that little trailer and if we needed to go back to that it would be perfectly fine with her.  That attitude and unconditional support has been invaluable in allowing me the freedom to really find my path – and the ultimate success we know today.

I say that as a way of acknowledging that lack of spousal support is a major deal.  When I work with guys who are going through transition – and they get excited about something innovative and non-traditional – if their wife is not on board – I encourage them to just go find another job. 

Now – that being said.  What can you do if spouse or family and friends are not supportive of your new ideas and the direction you’d like to go.

One of the hallmark characteristics of highly successful people is that they spend time around people who are already performing at the level at which they want to perform.     

Some quick tips:

  1. Join 2-3 organizations with like-minded people.  Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, TEC, Inventors Group, BNI, are just a few of the possibilities.
  2. Form your own mastermind group.  I have a group that has been meeting every Wednesday morning for over 8 years now.  We share ideas, study books together and support each other in many ways.
  3. Read good books.  You can open the door to positive, exciting ideas and environments immediately.  Here’s my Recommended Reading List.
  4. Seek out a good counselor.  Even if you have to go by yourself, find a compassionate listening ear to provide feedback and guidance.
  5. Be the person you know your were meant to be.  Don’t pass blame on anyone.  Hold your head high and be someone who exudes confidence, boldness and enthusiasm.


And yes, that’s Joanne and me on the RR tracks.  We took our oldest grandson on a train ride last week and were showing him the best way to walk the tracks (holding the hand of someone you love and trust) – as he was taking our picture.

The Red Velvet Rope

July 21, 2008

Have you ever been at one of those big opening night events – where all the important people walk the red carpet on the other side of that red velvet rope?  Well let’s imagine that you have a red velvet rope for your life?  Who are you going to let inside?  What “friends” do you really want to spend your time with?  What relatives do you want to allow inside your red velvet rope?  If you have a business, what customers will you select?

Don’t just think this is being self-centered or egotistical.  If you have no red velvet rope you will find that your life will be taken over by people and activities that may not be in your best interests.  In working with a young lady just recently released from prison, she is seeing that her old friends and hang-outs set her up for the same self-defeating behaviors that led her to prison.  She needs to break those connections, hold her red velvet rope up high and decide who gets in. 

This is just like setting and living by your own goals – if you haven’t identified your goals, I can assure you you’re living out someone else’s goals for your life.  If you don’t have a red velvet rope, you’ll have customers stealing your valuable time, family members who just want to pull you down to their level, friends who don’t embrace your desires for a higher level of success, and activities that waste your highest areas of contribution.

So define who and what you will allow inside your red velvet rope:

  • What kind of people do you enjoy being around? 
  • What goals do they have for their own lives?
  • How are they enriching the lives of other people or making the world a better place?
  • Are they happy, creative and optimistic?
  • What activities do you find energizing and invigorating?
  • What kind of environment brings out your best talents and makes you feel purposeful and fulfilled?
  • Now what people and activities will get past the red velvet rope that protects you?

You might just be amazed at the increase you will see in peace, productivity and profits.

Remember the Aesop fable about The Man, The Boy and The Donkey?  Trying to please everyone is futile.  Even Jesus said Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!  (Luke 6:26)  Use your red velvet rope to weed out the undesirable parts of your life.


Thanks to Mike Estes at for mentioning this concept from Michael Port’s Booked Solid to me at a recent lunch conversation.

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.  Bill Cosby

Who cares what the price of gas is – I’m working

July 8, 2008

With the cost of gas and real estate soaring, more companies are recognizing the value of embracing the “distributed worker.”  In Palo Alto, California they are seeing a 10 percent increase in office vacancies.  The reason is not a slowdown in business, but rather, a result of more companies encouraging their employees to telecommute.

Charlie Grantham, executive producer of the Work Design Collaborative, a Prescott, Arizona-based consortium that focuses on researching and defining the future of work says companies can reduce operating costs by 40 percent per person by letting them telecommute.  Yeah – I know you have the image of the slob sitting at home with no shirt, nursing a beer, and watching ESPN while pretending to work.  However, research coming in does not support that picture.

Cisco Systems, for instance, estimates a 25 percent increase in worker productivity among telecommuters.  IBM has saved millions on real estate costs; Sun Microsystems reports that they saved $67.8 million in real estate costs in fiscal 2006. More than 18,000 Sun employees participate in their telecommuting program.

Deloitte estimates a $40 million savings in reduced employee turnover costs; and Google has found that you can often hire higher-quality talent by taking the work to the talent.

And we haven’t even mentioned what it does for the worker.  With 50 mile commutes common, the teleworker would immediately get about a $250/month raise from the gas savings alone.  And what about wardrobe savings; and lunch at home rather than popping into the local restaurant where a Coke is $2.00?  To say nothing of the reduced stress.  This morning as am “working” I saw a deer in my front yard, stopped to fill my bird feeders and take a short walk, had my daughter and granddaughter stop in for a few minutes – but still am right on track with the deadlines I set for today.

The new “results-only work environment” (ROWE) seeks to demolish decades-old business expectations that equate physical presence with productivity. The new goal is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

Both companies and individuals had better be open to this option if they want to stay on the leading edge of innovation. Otherwise, they risk losing out to companies like Best Buy and IBM, who are already seeing the direct effect this new way of working is having on their bottom lines, and the happiness of their workers. Those high-rise office buildings can be leased to the government for prison cells or to farmers for veal-fattening pens.

My life sucks and it’s Adam’s fault

July 7, 2008

I get lots and lots of questions and comments each week.  And yes, I try to write in ways that prompt your thinking – and challenge some old traditional beliefs that may not actually be true.  We frequently establish our beliefs because of tradition and repetition – even if they are not true.

One self-defeating belief I see repeatedly is that I can remove responsibility for my miserable life by blaming Adam.  That God punished Adam by making him work.  Thus work for me now is a curse – a bitter pill – something to be endured but not enjoyed.  Here’s a crystal clear description from a reader this week:

I am a 48 yr.-old career changer who has fallen flat on his face financially after leaving my first career as a CAD operator to pursue my passion of teaching Bible.  I’ve invested too much into getting a master’s degree to turn back, so I feel like vocationally I’m back at square one, just starting out.  I’ve come to see that seeking after our “dream job” more often than not leads to disappointment and despair–especially as we age and feel we are running out of time.  We should rather learn to recognize the value in what we are already doing, and find our contentment in being good at it.  Remember, work is part of the curse incurred by Adam’s sin–we are not promised fulfillment in it.  God blesses each of us as He sees fit–some with great marriages, for instance, others with good health, and still others with rewarding careers.  Though we make our plans, ultimately it is He who directs our steps and determines our path.

Okay, so why try?  We are cursed because of Adam’s sin.  God doesn’t promise us fulfillment in our work.  Some enjoy it, some don’t.  It’s all a matter of chance.  Suck it up and accept your lot in life.

If I believed that I would close the doors of my business tomorrow.  Everything I teach and speak about promotes that work is a gift from God.  We have the privilege of integrating our God-given calling into fulfilling, purposeful and profitable work.  If you’re not experiencing that kind of work, don’t blame God.  We are not little robots that God delights in seeing miserable.  I believe it grieves Him to see us put up with work that does nothing but extract a paycheck.  Seeking after our “dream job” does not lead to “disappointment and despair” unless we were wishing and dreaming rather than creating a clear plan.

In Genesis 1 we read that God placed man in the garden to “tend and keep it.”  This was before any sin.  In Isaiah 65 we are told that in heaven we will have work assignments and will “fully enjoy the work of our hands.”  The Bible is full teachings regarding the benefits of work that matters.  Settling for less than enjoyable work is a cop-out; not a mature acceptance of some imagined punishment.

Are you making money?

July 7, 2008

This morning I read in one of my business magazines that it costs the government 1.67 cents to make a penny.  Somehow that struck me as totally absurd.  How could they possibly justify making pennies when each one costs them 1.67 cents?  Now you and I are not the US government.  We have to make our businesses make sense.  We can’t just tax our customers more to cover our mistakes and inefficiencies.

(I might add here that even if you are an “employee,” you are in business for yourself.  You must provide a valuable service for your employer or you will not continue to be paid.  If it costs your employer to have you around, he should release you to go bring value somewhere else.)

Another way to “make” money is to use sophisticated copy machines to reproduce counterfeit money.  Of course, that’s illegal and will land you in prison.

Actually, we don’t “make” money – we “earn” money.  When you hold a dollar bill in your hand you should see it as a certificate of achievement.  You provided a service or product that someone valued more than that dollar.  There is nothing shameful about it.  You had to serve someone to receive that dollar. 

So it appears there are numerous ways to get money:

  • You can make money the way the government does – going in the hole on each penny you make.  Or just take it from someone who has gotten it honestly.
  • You can make counterfeit money – and risk going to jail.
  • You can beg for money or expect luck to bring it your way – expecting free money from the government, the lottery, good fortune, or the charity of those who earned it.
  • Or you can earn your money by providing a valuable product or service to someone else. 

Governments and churches re-distribute wealth; they don’t create it. Giving people money they did not earn only destroys their self-esteem and leads them to an unhealthy dependency.  The only real win-win solution is to teach people how to earn money.  Earning money creates wealth for all involved.  Earning money is a privilege – and in the process we have obviously provided a service for a boss, customer or client.

Don’t try to “make” money.  Just be clear on your unique value and people will gladly give you their money.  If you understand this principle you will understand that wanting wealth is not greed – it’s looking for more ways to be of service to those around you.

Meet me out back, Dude!

July 5, 2008

To survive in today’s business economy you better be willing to be creative.  Anyone can make a hamburger, sell t-shirts, or provide web and email services.  But McDonalds, Threadless and GoDaddy have set themselves apart from the competition by being creative.  Here’s another example.  We all know the airlines are struggling – with many already in bankruptcy.  But Southwest continues on with profitability.

Here’s a glimpse into their creative culture.  Back in 1996 Stevens Aviation threatened to sue Southwest for using the motto “Just Plane Smart.”  Although Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher is a lawyer, he challenged the CEO of Stevens to an arm wrestling match to settle the issue.  Kelleher lost the 2 out of 3 competition – or did he?  The event created world-wide exposure for the company and is now sometimes referred to as the greatest publicity stunt ever.  It created such good will for both companies that Stevens Aviation agreed to let Southwest use the slogan anyway. 

What are you doing that is creative in your business?   Are you just offering a good service at a fair price?  That may not be enough in today’s workplace.  Seth Godin says you have to do something “remarkable.”  Like having a purple cow in the middle of a herd of Holsteins.  Or arm wrestling your competitor.

Abused Wife Syndrome

July 1, 2008

No, this is not really about abused wives.  But I had a client use that phrase recently in describing his repeated return to the work of his professional training (yes, one more dentist).  In his mind, there was a strikingly similar pattern.  He would break away for something more rewarding, experience a challenge or setback, and return to the work he despised yet knowing it was where he could make the most predictable income.

Last night Joanne and I went to see the new Steve Carell movie, Get Smart.  In one poignant scene Anne Hathaway is afraid she is going to get sent back to a desk job, rather than being a field agent.  She moans and says, “Yes, I can imagine that, just like I can imagine scraping a cheese grater across my forehead.” 

Do you do your work only because of the paycheck you get?  Do you long to leave for something more enjoyable?  Have you tried another path only to return to what is more familiar?  Unfortunately, wives, dogs, and children often get trapped in these patterns of going back to negative and abusive situations.  The emotions and self-esteem issues there may be complicated and confusing.  However, the stakes are dramatically lessened with a “job.”  A job should not be the definition of “who” or “what” you are.  You can leave today and not change the overall purpose or direction of your life.  Your “Calling” is a much larger concept than what you do daily to create income.  No divorce is needed to walk away and into a more fulfilling and rewarding type of work.  

And you can leave the cheese grater in the cupboard.


“The tragedy of a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives.”  — Henry David Thoreau