Archive for July, 2010

Do you have any “bad” ideas?

July 31, 2010

I just got a question from a podcast listener.  Brad from California asks:  “Dan, I hear you share about all your good ideas.  Do you ever have a bad idea?”

I had to pick myself up off the floor after laughing so hard.  Do I ever have a bad idea – oh yeah.  About 10 times a day.  And you know why?  I don’t know of any way to get to the good ideas without going through a whole lot of bad ones.  If you are waiting to share or experiment with an idea until you have a perfect one, chances are strong that 10 years from now you’ll still be waiting.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein

Most people are afraid of good or bad ideas.  Good ideas require change and that’s intimidating.  Bad ideas make us look foolish or stupid, or waste time and money.

But take a look around you.  Anyone who is doing something great had a lot of bad ideas to get to where they are today.  I don’t know of any exceptions.   If you haven’t “failed” recently or had a bad idea, success will likely elude you as well.

Yes, I have bad ideas – lots of them.  I’ve failed with writing ideas, seminar ideas, product ideas, and employee ideas.   Perhaps I should track them for a time period.  I suspect my ratio is about 15 bad ideas for every 1 that has real potential.

My advice:  Welcome your “bad” ideas.  They are your friends.  Treat them with the love and respect they deserve.

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” – Emile Chartier


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Just ask the horse

July 26, 2010

I heard a story about a man riding a horse at breakneck speed.  It appears he’s going someplace very important.  A man standing along the roadside shouts, “Where are you going?”  To which the rider yells back, “I don’t know.   Ask the horse.”

This seems to be essentially the story I’m hearing from lots of people today.  They’re riding the horse of circumstances, their habits or other people’s expectations.  If that describes you, it’s time to grab the reins and move your life in the direction of where you really want to go.

One of the defining moments of my life occurred when I was about 13 years old.  The direction of my life was pretty clear.  My dad was a farmer – and expected me to help him and to eventually take over the family farm.  I acknowledged that because of my circumstances and the family I was born into, farming would in fact be my future.

Then I somehow got a copy of the little 33.3 rpm recording of Earl Nightingale called The Strangest Secret.  The central message was this – We become what we think about.  That opened a door to a whole new world of possibilities for me that has never been closed.

What are you thinking about?  If your mind is controlled by the bad economy, the recession, the unemployment, the unfairness of the company, the hurt of a past relationship, or the limitations of your formal education, your “horse” will be taking you toward scarcity, misery, and unhappiness.

Honestly, I still enjoy many things about farm life, and love the pleasures of living in the country on our little farm today.  But what I saw as limitations are gone.  And yes, that’s really my tractor – a 1937 Allis Chalmers B.

Where is your thinking taking you?  Is some wild horse of circumstances misdirecting you, or are you moving exactly in the direction of your dreams?

Click here to watch a 3 minute video of The Strangest Secret.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…..and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4: 8-9 KJV)

Homeless yes – stupid no

July 23, 2010

I’ve been chuckling about this story for a couple of days now.   Still not sure quite how to frame it.

Last weekend a 29-yr-old homeless guy in Penryn, CA broke into a bar that had gone out of business.  He bought a six-pack of beer across the street, got into the vacant bar, put up an “Open” sign and began serving customers.  With that initial six-pack income being reinvested he was open for four days before the police got wind of what was happening. But at that point he had over $1300 in cash and merchandise.

Placer County sheriffs arrested Travis Lloyd Kevie on charges of burglary and selling alcohol without a license.  He had been serving about 30 customers a day the Sheriff’s Department said. 

There has been global attention on this story.  The small town residents say there has been so much publicity the bar could reopen successfully now.  The owner is more amazed than upset.

I think I see a movie and a book deal in the wings.   Check out the video linked above.

So what do you think?  Should this homeless dude be locked up for being a criminal?  Or would you give him an opportunity because of his ingenuity and boldness?  What could he have done to engage his creativity without doing something illegal?  What do you think he’ll be doing in the near future?

Angry Thursdays?

July 23, 2010

A new study that tracked key words in tweets indicates that people are angriest on Thursdays. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard ran tweets from the last three years against a word list to plot the country’s happiness and angriest times throughout the week.

So why would people be angry on Thursdays?  Here are some of my guesses.  On Mondays people are still feeling okay because of just having the weekend off.  By Wednesday they realize the week is already half gone.  On Friday they know they are almost home free.  But on Thursday they are just ticked off to have to be at work.

Okay – the underlying premise is that people don’t like the idea of working at all.  Who are these people who are still trudging off to work each day that they hate?  Why haven’t they joined the ranks of those of us who have found – or created – work that is meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful and profitable?

Oh and apparently I should have called my last book No More Thursdays.

So what are you doing to make Thursdays a great day?

Ready to Die? Just Retire

July 20, 2010

Our culture has tried to convince us we deserve to be able to retire – to remove ourselves from this thing called work.  But is that a privilege or a curse?  Research continues to mount showing those who retire at age 55 have double the risk of dying before reaching 65 as compared to those who work beyond age 60.

In The Prophet, poet and philosopher Kahil Gibran says this about work:  “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.  For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.”

Don’t become a stranger unto the seasons.  Don’t step off the platform of meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling work.  Gibran continues:  “And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret…..Work is love made visible.”

I know you don’t want to stop expressing love to those around you.

I’m planning for my retirement party and my funeral to be on the same day.

“Not-only-for-profit”

July 18, 2010

Not all businesspeople are greedy.  We’ve heard the Bernie Madoff investment stories, heard about banks that lend to unqualified candidates, and have seen the get-rich-quick promises on late night TV.  It’s easy to quickly classify all businesspeople or for-profit companies as greedy.  And I agree, greed is typically a short-sighted model for taking advantage of others.

But on the other side of greed is the fear of money. Too many people shun the idea of making money as evil and believe good can only be done by non-profits.  These individuals then spend 80% of their precious time begging for money in lieu of working on the cause about which they are passionate.  Don’t get caught in the delusion that being destitute is a necessary situation for helping the world.  In fact, it will cripple your ability to do so.  Money is like fire – it can burn you and leave you disfigured, or it can keep you warm and safe.

Since Adam Smith, economists have understood that “self-love” leads to quality products and social benefits.  If a baker makes wonderful bread, he/she brings nutrition and pleasure to the community as well as financial rewards for himself and his family.  It is not his “benevolence” but self-interest that provides the most benefits for everyone involved.  And there can be true authentic “benevolence” as well.

Good intentions and a pure and giving heart are not enough.  Economic accountability is a good thing.  If an organization’s efforts are secured by God, the government or the heartstrings of generous individuals, it can be run inefficiently with little measurement of accomplishment.  The businessman has no such cushion.  Either something of value and fair exchange is produced and delivered or the business will not survive.  In that sense, the business model requires more honesty and transparency than the non-profit.

I love running a business.  I love not being handcuffed by a publicly traded board of directors or by the required board for a non-profit organization.  We can make decisions quickly about giving and blessing – and about sound financial opportunities.  I am deeply grateful and feel privileged to be able to have a “not-only-for-profit” company.

How would you categorize your work or business?

Have another matzo ball – please

July 16, 2010

Know anyone who is angry about being fired, or about a failed business or a disappointing relationship?  Do you see how that anger continues to cripple that individual – not the company, the business partner or the brother-in-law – but the individual holding on to the anger?  That anger saps creativity, causes attempts at goodness to appear artificial and renders a split soul.

The #1 characteristic of highly successful people is “integrity” as documented in The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley.  Integrity means whole, unbroken, undivided.  It describes a person who has united the parts of his or her being into a spiritually rich and unified wholeness.

At the Passover Seder, when Jews celebrate the memory of their exodus from Egypt, they taste a bitter herb to recall the old days of slavery, but then immediately override that bitter taste with matzo and wine, symbols of liberation.

We all have situations in our lives where we have to choose between the seductive appeal of getting even, attractive but harmful to our “integrity,” and the cleansing power of forgiveness and moving forward.  You give up power by remaining resentful – and regain strength and authority by not giving in to the temptation to get even.

Have a little matzo and wine tonight and walk into tomorrow with your head held high.

Bogus Oil Spill Jobs

July 15, 2010

As with any disaster there are immediately people who are capitalizing on the Gulf Oil Spill. Bogus ads for oil spill clean-up jobs in the Gulf are appearing in newspapers, online, and in email inboxes. Many of these scammers claim they have jobs waiting for you once you pay them for training or certifications.  Others require you to pay a fee to “apply” for positions.  Some are using emails that appear to be from BP or they falsely claim they’ve been authorized by BP to hire clean-up crews.

The typical red flags for scams apply here:

  • Guaranteed jobs – no company makes guarantees about placing someone in a job
  • Up front payment – legitimate companies don’t ask for training expenses in advance
  • Vague offers – we have “thousands of jobs” and “get hired today” and “$40 an hour” are come-ons
  • Your financial information is required – no real employer asks for your bank information to hire you.

Here are some helpful sites for legitimate information about possible jobs:

  1. Deepwater Horizon Response
  2. BP
  3. Alabama — Environmental Cleanup
  4. Florida — Florida Attorney General
  5. Louisiana – the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office
  6. Mississippi Mississippi Department of Employment Security

The kind of people who would take advantage of a disaster and the vulnerability of people desperately needing jobs defies description.  There are far too many real ideas available for making money to have to resort to scamming good people.  I have to assume these leeches are lacking intelligence, morals, ethics and creative thinking.  Avoid them.

Honoring my wife and killing myself

July 7, 2010

Here’s a question with a common theme:

“Dan, I have a successful side business built around a weekly podcast I’ve been running now, part time for the past 5 years. Successful meaning it fills a need, has a large, loyal following and it generates a good supplemental income.  I’m miserable at my full time job- not only is it an hour and a half commute, 50+ hours a week taken away from my family, odd working hours and the salary not being competitive I’m physically drained and not mentally or physically healthy.  I’m thinking of going full time internet business because when I put 100% of myself into it –  I come alive, the business financially comes even more alive and I’m able to balance my life out.

The problem is my wife is not supportive of the idea. She feels safer with the weekly paycheck and the health benefits. I feel as though I’m honoring my wife but suffering inside and cheating my kids of a Dad during the best years of their lives.”

Let’s just deal with three major issues here:

  1. The job is “safer and more secure.”  In today’s workplace that is probably not true at all.  No job is secure.  And if you are miserable, you are likely beginning to sabotage your position there.   You simply cannot do well in a job where you are miserable, physically drained and unhealthy mentally.   Your chances of success are greatly enhanced in doing work where you “come alive.”
  2. With your current state of misery your feelings of “honoring” your wife will certainly turn to resentment – sooner than later.
  3. The fact that your wife wants you to continue in something where you are miserable and killing yourself raises some real red flags about your relationship.  Sit down with a coach or counselor and present the facts as you have here.  Get some outside advice about your best options.

My wife, Joanne, would have been very content if I had just gotten a regular job with a paycheck when we first married – or anytime since then.  But she laughs in thinking about me having a “real” job.  She knows how I am wired for change and innovation and she supports that in me even though there has been little “security” through the years.  “Honoring” one another in marriage means embracing how God has uniquely gifted each of us – and trusting that passion and joy will release more success than obligation.

Confused and Stunned – awesome!

July 2, 2010

Is now a time to try something new – perhaps something you’ve never done before?  Or should you sit out the “recession” and wait until “things get better.”

“The times when everyone is confused and stunned can present an enormous opportunity because no one’s really doing anything,” says Dell Computer founder Michael Dell.  “I think this is the time when the seeds of really successful new businesses will be created.”

Designer Kenneth Cole says, “When things are going well, people want to do what’s working and more of it.  It’s only in difficult times that people are open to creative alternatives.”

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, points out that some of the greatest businesses were built in recessionary times.  “Money is easy to find in boom times, which leads to far too many businesses getting out of the gate that don’t deserve to be started.  When money is scarce, better ideas face less competition and better execution can lead to greater success.”

Whether it’s changing career paths or starting your own business, there’s never been a more opportune time than today.  July 1st marks the beginning of the second half of 2010.  And what better time to claim your “independence” than on July 4th.  Recognize you are in the driver’s seat, break ties with the mother country if necessary and begin your personal revolution. And remember, “things” get better when you get better.