Archive for March, 2010

Stop Working – Get more done!

March 30, 2010

Yes, I know the obvious disconnect in this title.  We all believe that if we just work more, we’ll get more done.  But I’ve found that’s not necessarily true.  My best productivity comes from having a mix of work and regular breaks.

Where are you and what are you doing when you get your best ideas?  Over the last twenty years I’ve asked this of hundreds of clients and friends.  The most frequent answers are “when I was in the shower,” “when I was walking on the beach,” “when I was reading a book,” “when I was on the treadmill,” or “when I was relaxing in the bathtub.”  Seldom does anyone claim to get their best ideas when they are fully immersed in their work.

What happens when you lay down to rest, when you put on some great music, or when you take a walk in the woods on a beautiful fall day?  Most people find their breakthrough ideas when they are relaxed and doing something unconnected with their daily work.  When Leonardo Da Vinci was working on The Last Supper, he would spend days painting from dawn until dusk; then without warning, he would take a break for a day or two.  The duke who contracted his services was not amused, preferring that Leonardo would “never lay down his brush.”  But Leonardo persuaded him that “the greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.”

Look for small breaks in your daily routine.  Don’t think you can work non-stop for 50 weeks and then do all your relaxing in a two-week vacation.  Don’t think that the only productive thing you can do in a 10-minute break is to answer 5 more emails or squeeze in one more report.  I heard recently that the average businessperson now experiences 170 interactions per day (phone calls, emails, face-to-face conversations) and has a backlog of 200 to 300 hours of uncompleted work.   But sometimes the best thing to do with 10 minutes is to watch a hummingbird or to water your plants.

Here are things I often do in 5-10 minutes:

  • Fill my bird feeders
  • Walk down our long lane to get the mail
  • Read an article in one of my favorite magazines
  • Relax with a cup of tea and muffin
  • Play a game of Quiddler with Joanne

Here are some 1-hour breaks I enjoy:

  • Meeting with the Eagles Group on Wednesday morning
  • A massage from 4-5:00 on Friday afternoons
  • Weeding on of our many flowerbeds
  • Meeting a friend for lunch

Don’t let the unending list of work to be done keep you from your own version of these healthy and necessary insertions of relaxation and creativity.  You might be surprised at the increase in your overall productivity.

This is Holy Week.  I’ve heard from several friends who are going to “unplug” from email, FaceBook and Twitter for this entire week.  Could you unplug from some of your normal activities and feel more productive?

Here’s a fun 24-hour clock that deducts each activity as you list the time required.  See you day evaporate with nothing but work and other responsibilities – if you don’t plan in your own relaxation and creative rests.

24-hr Time Clock


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Secure but miserable…

March 22, 2010

Here’s a question that’s very similar to others I receive about ten times a week:

Dan, I have been working at a job for about 2 years, and I’m completely miserable.  The pay is decent and also the benefits/yearly bonus. But I just can’t stand the job.  I have an idea for a great business that I would love but I’m terrified of leaving the “security” of my regular “job.”

Being secure in something where you are miserable is an oxymoron and an illusion.  If you are miserable you are not providing your best work.  And if you are not providing your best work you are not as valued as you may think.  Your misery is very likely obvious – and thus, management is probably already looking for ways to cover your responsibilities.

Your real risk is not in leaving to try something new but in thinking you can just stay where you are and keep things the same.

Here are five tips for having the courage to start your own business:

  1. Recognize “risk” is the sense that you are not in control.  Preparation reduces risk dramatically.
  2. Start with your passion – build the business idea around that.
  3. Share your idea with everyone.  No one succeeds alone.  Find people whose skills compliment your own.
  4. Recognize that enthusiasm is contagious.  Your enthusiasm will act as a talent and money magnet.
  5. Create a clear plan in advance.  You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

Sometimes the biggest risk is in not taking one.

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“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise; risking more than others think is safe; dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.”

Give me $80,000 salary and I’ll catch lunch

March 22, 2010

I just read in our local paper that a high school senior, right here in my home town of Franklin, TN, just received a fishing scholarship to attend Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee.  The fishing team coach, Garry Mason, says they wanted to be the first college in America to offer fishing scholarships.  He says they are looking for young ladies to be on the team as well.

On what appears to be a related note, collegegrad.com reports that 80% of the 2009 college graduates moved back in with their parents upon graduating last year – most without jobs of any kind.

“Many factors are responsible for the trend of recent graduates moving back in with their parents,” says Adeola Ogunwole, CollegeGrad.com Director of Marketing and PR. “The economy is tough right now. Every year, living independently becomes more expensive and entry level jobs become more competitive.”

Another factor, said Ogunwole, is that “Gen Y” students–born in the 1980s and 1990s–tend to have close ties with their parents, depend on them for support and guidance, and feel no stigma at moving back home after graduation.

At Center College in Danville, KY you can get college credit for their course in the Art of Walking.  At Alfred University in New York you might want to enroll in Maple Syrup, the class that looks into the profession of making maple syrup.   And if you’re looking for a grant to help with those college expenses, check these out:

  • The Sammy Award: $7,500 is awarded to students who demonstrate academic success and leadership skills and can wear a milk moustache.

“Many recent graduates are turning down good job offers, holding out for better jobs and salaries in the belief that a college degree entitles them to more than entry level,” says Ogunwole.

Or maybe it’s because they got degrees in “university studies,” political science, Biblical literature, mass communications, American history, maple syrup, the art of walking, or fishing.

Ouch – but it’s worth it?

March 19, 2010

Thousands of guys get vasectomies in March.  Guess why?  Is it because they are suddenly feeling responsible as heads of families?  Or because they are going to focus on adoption rather than fathering more children of their own?

Actually the increase is because the guys want to be able to sit on the couch and watch the March Madness basketball games.

Across the country, urologists like Dr. Stephen Jones of the Cleveland Clinic find that the number of scheduled vasectomies tends to jump by 50 percent the week that the tournament begins.

Here’s a really blatant audio ad for the 24 prime seats at an Oregon urologist’s office.  Snip City

Isn’t there an easier way to get a few days off work to watch the basketball finals?  Couldn’t you come up with something more creative than this?  And what are you going to do next year?  Get a reversal or just go for another body part?  Let’s see – the tonsils and appendix should be good for two more years.  Then those questionable knees might need some work – oh and the gall bladder’s been acting up.

Or you could create your own work like these folks and structure your work schedule any way you want it.

Chicken Poop and Life Direction

March 16, 2010

I feel bad for kids today who come out of college without ever having had a job.  Those first jobs are a great way to experience the real world and help clarify your true talents.

I sold Christmas cards, peddled sweet corn out of a little trailer, cleaned fence rows, shoveled cow manure, bought and sold bicycles, waxed cars, and grew popcorn before I was 16 years old.  By the time I got to college I knew I wanted to use my brains more than my muscles.

Here are just a few jobs held by people who you may know for other vocations today:

  • As a teenager Mick Jagger worked as an ice cream salesman. After entering the London School of Economics, Jagger also worked as a porter at a mental hospital.
  • Need a rat catcher? Call Warren Beatty. He caught rodents to pay the bills before hitting it big.
  • Warren Buffett’s first job was at his grandfather’s grocery store, although he eventually worked his way up to a gig at J.C. Penney.
  • Before rising to prominence with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne worked in a slaughterhouse.
  • As a young man, Matthew McConaughey wanted to get away from Texas for a while, so he spent a year in Australia. To support himself, he took on a number of jobs, including one that involved shoveling chicken manure.
  • Jimmy Stewart was a man of many talents, from acting to being an Air Force general. As a young man, though, he had a job painting the lines on roads and also spent two summers as a magician’s assistant.
  • Bill Cosby played four sports in high school, but he still found time to sell produce, shine shoes, and work as a stock boy at a supermarket.
  • Tom Cruise’s family moved around a lot when he was young, but during one stint in Louisville he picked up some extra cash as a paperboy.
  • Brad Pitt did all sorts of things to earn a buck while he tried to start his acting career, including dressing as a giant chicken to promote an el Pollo Loco restaurant.

Most early jobs are not a mistake or misdirection – they are simply part of the clarification process.  But if a young person is “privileged” enough to not have to work they often and up with a fine education and a life that is off track.  Or they discover at age 45 that they are living someone else’s dream.

Help your kids this summer by allowing them to work for the money they want for movies, cars and goodies.  What they get may be far more important than a few dollars.

Making a Living…or

March 16, 2010

How many times have you heard someone say about their work – “Well, at least I’m making a living.” Maybe it would be more accurate to say “I’m making a dying.” The work they describe is unfulfilling, boring, and stressful.  They dread going in on Monday morning – and every other morning.  Often they are embarrassed about their work and admit readily they are doing nothing meaningful; only extracting a paycheck in exchange for their time.

Does that sound like “making a living?” I don’t think so.  They may brush it off as just something we all do; that work is never going to be purposeful and enjoyable.  They may pretend it doesn’t really matter.  But then I hear painful phrases like, “I feel like my soul is being sucked out of me,” or “I feel like a prostitute – in exchange for my life I’m getting a paycheck.”

If you’re caught up in the typical American view of work you may say you’re making a living when in truth something inside you is being killed each day.  Every day, millions of people rush to get to jobs they don’t love and yet those people defend their choices as responsible, practical, and realistic. How can it be responsible to live the biggest part of our lives devoid of meaning, joy, and purpose?

“Making a Living” implies that you are releasing those skills and talents that make you fully alive.  Doing work where the time just flies by – work that you would want to do even if you were not paid for it.  Work that is meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful and profitable.

In a recent issue of Rick Warren’s ministry newsletter, the author of The Purpose Driven Life was talking about this idea of meaningful work. Rick referenced this verse from Ecclesiastes 10:15 (Today’s English Version):  “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.” How do you like that? Have you been worn out at work lately? Did you know that you’ve just been put in the category of being “too stupid to find your way home?”

Well, maybe that’s a little harsher than it was intended to be and you’ll find softer language in other Bible translations, but I like the message. Don’t be so busy trying to “make a living” that you’re too busy to make a life.

And I don’t even have space here to describe what most people are doing to themselves when they think they’re “making a killing.”

Oh I’ll bet you were….

March 9, 2010

I am increasingly amused while reading current resumes.  I know that in today’s competitive workplace you need to stand out and I am the first to say that a resume is a place to brag on and embellish accomplishments.  However, we are seeing a blurring of embellishment and downright misrepresentation.  The rule of thumb seems to be – exaggerate and confuse.

Rather than reporting being a greeter at Wal-Mart, the new resume shows “customer service coordinator for Fortune 500 company.”  The grease monkey at Jiffy Lube becomes a “petroleum distribution specialist.”  Yesterday’s taxi cab driver appears on the resume as a “transportation logistics manager.”  The credentials for an 18-yr-old McDonald’s worker become “Engineer for meat inspection and preparation.”  The kid who asked three friends to join FaceBook is now a “social media consultant.”

Keep in mind that today’s “VP of Personnel” was a likely a struggling college student herself a few years ago.  She probably knows the tricks of the trade, having presented herself as a “human resource specialist” rather than a babysitter.

The bottom line is this:  the purpose of a resume is to help you get an interview.  But in today’s workplace it plays only one small part in the hiring process – if any.  You can bypass the competition with:

  • An overview of a major project you’ve handled
  • Photos or examples of your work
  • Extraordinary letters of recommendation from people your prospective employer knows well
  • A website that showcases your talents
  • A blog that is compelling and engaging

If all you have is a great resume, you may be seen as simply one more person needing a job, whether you are a recent college graduate or a former CEO.  Be prepared to show how you are remarkable, amazing and spectacular. Then present yourself with confidence, boldness and enthusiasm.

Have any bad ideas?

March 7, 2010

We all want the next great idea – the Frisbee, the Hula Hoop, the iPod, GPS or Tootsie Roll.  In working with people I often ask them to list 20 ideas for things they could imagine and would enjoy doing.  And then I watch them struggle as they filter each idea – often with a quick “Yes but” that destroys even the consideration of a possibility.

What if I asked you for a list of 20 things you would hate doing?  As soon as you have some life experience, knowing what you don’t want is often the most helpful tool in the process of clarification.

Maybe creating a list of 20 things that wouldn’t work is the best tool for finding the next great idea.  If you’re making adhesives, you don’t want a product that doesn’t stick permanently – but then you discover Post-It-Notes.  You wouldn’t want a magnetron that melted a candy bar when you got too close – but then you discover the micro-wave oven.  The last thing you want in your sterile labrotory is mold – oh wait, that’s penicillin.

Your mistakes, failures and bad ideas may be the very ingredients you need to uncover your greatest idea ever.  Could you learn how to generate more bad ideas?  It seems the good ones just magically slip though.  Don’t miss the opportunities brought to light by your mistakes.

Is this a scam?

March 3, 2010

Here at 48Days we field a lot of questions where readers want to know if something being promoted is a scam.  Just today someone wanted to know about a Robert Kiyosaki business idea.  The dictionary defines “scam” as to obtain money from somebody by dishonest means.

If someone asks you to send $4000 as a processing fee so he can release his uncle’s money from Nigeria and share the windfall with you, trust me, you’re being scammed.  But most ideas are not that easy to read.

If you see a training course to teach you how to write your own book and after spending $495 you didn’t get a deal from any major publisher, were you scammed?  If you spent $1250 for a windshield repair business and never even recaptured your investment, were you scammed?  What about if you went to an investment training seminar and then proceeded to lose your own capital?  If you purchased a business opportunity to do medical billing – which included you buying an expensive computer system, and then you found out the only key to success in this is being able to market and sell your services, were you scammed?

I have purchased thousands of dollars worth of seminars, workshops, training programs and business opportunity products over the years.  I consider this an integral part of my ongoing learning process.  Yes, I have a library of “millionaire” tapes that provided little useful information, “business opportunities” that consisted of photocopied government forms, teleclasses where there was too much background noise to hear the presenter, and hot cashew vending machines that quickly produced moldy products.

But I have never considered that I was scammed.

The real key is to see the learning that takes place for you in this process.  Not every college course offered any real value – but it was part of a larger process to help you clarify your best options.  I recently worked with a young couple who had just sent over $20,000 to an invention company that promised them wealth and fortune.  We know they will never see any return on the very ordinary ideas they submitted.  But my counsel to them is that some people are sitting in classrooms spending $20,000 a year hoping to get a good idea here and there, and some people are getting their “education” in other ways.  Either way, it’s a legitimate way to be moving toward the right idea for your ultimate success.

Bottom Line:  There’s less risk from getting “Scammed” than there is from doing nothing.

I want a raise

March 2, 2010

This message arrived early this morning as the thought for the day from the Napoleon Hill Foundation.

“Those who do no more than they are paid for have no real basis for requesting more pay because they are already getting all they deserve to earn.”

If you look around you, it will be apparent that there are two types of people in the world: There are those who say, “When this company decides to pay me what I’m worth, then I will do what they want me to do.” The second is the person who says, “I’m going to be the best I can be because that’s the kind of person I am. I also know that if I consistently give more than expected, I will eventually be rewarded for my efforts.” It is easy to see that the positive person contributes most to the organization. Yet, very few people are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve success. Make sure you’re a member of that group.

I know this may seem like a tough concept but the principle is pretty simple. If you stand in front of the wood-stove of life and say, “Give me some heat, and then I’ll put some wood in” you’re going to experience a long, cold winter. In real life, work is required before compensation is given.

  • Expecting a guaranteed salary with benefits before proving your worth is an antiquated model. Be willing to prove your value with no guarantee – it will dramatically expand your opportunities.
  • Expecting a raise because you’ve been there one more year is an antiquated model. In today’s workplace you get a raise when you add more value.
  • Expecting a raise because your personal expenses have gone up is an antiquated model. Your personal obligations have nothing to do with your compensation.

Be clear on your value to an organization — and then negotiate a fair exchange.