Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stone Throwing 101

In our world of politics for the sake of politics and joining groups we "believe in" more-so because we want to fit in than because we actually believe, it gets pretty silly sometimes.  We all have disagreements and, quite frankly, the world would be a very boring place if everyone shared the same views.

One thing that I think we often miss (myself included) is that we get overly emotional when those disagreements pop up and we never take the time to ask, "why?"  "What exactly do they believe that makes them disagree with my viewpoint."  "Why is there perspective different than mine?"

By asking these few simple questions, it not only allows us to look at opposing viewpoints a little more objectively, but it also allows us to be sure that we understand our perspective.

In a world of hasty decision making, let's slow down and try to understand why the disagreement exists before we start throwing stones.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Take your time

I am fortunate enough to still have my grandfather around.  This man, who didn't go to school past the 5th grade, is the best engineer that I've ever known.  He's never held the title of "engineer," but that man solves problems.

So what is his method?

Whether we were putting on a new roof or sharpening drill bits in his garage, he seemed to move too slowly (for my taste) from one stage of a task to the next.  As I grew, I began to realize something.  I've never seen him do re-work.  How?

Because he took the time to THINK.  He had the entire problem mapped out in his head long before his calloused hands touched a tool.

In our society of action and reaction, we rarely take the time to stop and think without the distractions of a cell phone, PC, iPod or people.  We need to think outside of life's chaos, possibly in the solitude of an early morning before the rest of the world is awake to whisk us away.

Try it some time.  Find at least 15 minutes that you can have with NO distractions.  It may be at a park or in the stillness of your kitchen at 5:00AM.  Focused thinking about the actions that we need to take relieves stress, makes us more effective and gives us an advantage over the rest of the high-paced non-thinkers of the world.

Let's try to find 15 minutes on our calender this week and take some time to think.  You may realize (like I did) that you're pretty rusty when it comes to focused thinking so keep practicing!

Monday, August 29, 2011

How high should I aim?

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." -Michelangelo

Why do we aim low?  Because we're afraid of failing.  Because we don't have enough confidence to aim higher.  Because it's easy.

When you aim high, you take a risk.  You may struggle financially.  You may lose a few "friends" because you tried something that they are unwilling to try.  Or... you just may succeed!

You only get one shot at this life thing.  Go for it.  Stop sitting around and waiting for the pieces to fall into place.  Get up and gather the pieces yourself.  It may be risky, but at the end of your journey, the risks you take will be your greatest memories.  And with all of those great memories to fill you up, you won't have room for regret.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Do you believe what you believe?

What do you believe?  Or, in a more grammatically incorrect way, what do you believe in?

We all believe in something.  We believe in God.  We believe in a friend.  We believe in science.  We believe that Steak 'n Shake has the best milkshakes ever.  Whatever it is, we all believe in something.

When is the last time you questioned what you believe?  Not in a cynical, self-centered kind of way, but in a brutally honest, skeptical kind of way.

We need to take a healthy approach to questioning the things we believe in.  We learn by asking questions and seeking out the answers.  So, before we discount someone's belief or blindly create our own beliefs based on someone else's, we need to take the time to question and learn.  That way we can be sure that we believe what we believe.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don't keep quiet about this

I read this story ( about the FDNY not being invited to the 9/11 Memorial this year... and, quite frankly I'm disappointed.  It made me think...

Does it feel good to be appreciated?  Of course it does.  Many studies also show that employees would sacrifice higher salaries for a feeling of being appreciated.  Yes, it's that important that we'll sacrifice money to hear someone say that we did well.

So, what stops us from showing appreciation?  We've all been in situations where someone has done something well and we neglect to thank them.  When you have a wonderful meal, do you ask your waiter to let the chef know how much you enjoyed it?  When you order a pizza in the middle of winter, do you truly thank the delivery driver that did exactly what you didn't feel like doing?  I know, I know... those are "services" that we pay for.

What about the person that does the grocery shopping in your house?  Or the one that cleans up the messes?  Or the one that goes to work every day?  Do you sincerely thank those people?

We sometimes forget the value of appreciative words and actions.  Don't be quiet about it.  Take some time to thank someone today. Sincerely tell them how much you appreciate the things that they do, big or small.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Defining failure

"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way." -Mark Twain

You've failed.  Scary, right?  Did you ever stop to ask yourself why you've considered something a failure?  We often neglect to define failure.  We just feel like we failed.

We hear a lot about goal setting, but we don't often hear about failure setting.  Failure is something other than not reaching our goal.  There is a gray area between success and failure that allows us to re-adjust our path and continue forging ahead with new knowledge.

The gray area is where we remain unbroken with the ability to use that new knowledge to create new ideas, solve new problems and have a renewed sense of purpose.

There is more great news about the gray area.  It holds tremendous advantages for those brave enough to enter.  The few that do will learn things that there is no other way of learning.  So grab the cat by the tail and let's get started!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I think your method is outdated

So we have this really annoying intercom at work.  REALLY annoying.  Every few minutes you hear, "Josh Layhue call 123.  Josh Layhue... 123, please."

It's not the message that is annoying, it's the method.  It's also boring and predictable.  The next time you need to get someone's attention, be creative... be unpredictable... and don't be annoying.

If you're running a business, it can seem effective to blast your product to every person you know every time you see them.  And you may find short term results, but ultimately you're going to become that annoying intercom system that everyone despises.  You'll become predictable.

As an alternative, you may try building relationships with people.  One thing history has told us is that relationships continue to work while intercom systems have become outdated.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stress Relief 101

Do you have a difficult choice to make or an uncomfortable situation to resolve?  Some are more difficult than others, but many of us would answer "yes" to that question.

What's your method for handling these difficulties?

Here is what mine used to be:
  1. Ignore the situation for as long as possible until I could no longer stand the consequences of not making a choice
  2. Try to resolve an extremely difficult situation in very little time due to procrastination.
Don't use that method.  Stress is killing us and using that method leads to days or even weeks of stress.  Try this one:
  1. Write down the one task that you don't want to do today (it is typically the most stressful)
  2. Under that, write down the very first action that you need to take to complete that task
  3. Complete that action as soon as possible (literally, as soon as you can complete that action, do it)
  4. Write down the very next action that you need to take.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the task is complete
This method is a huge stress relief because you're focusing on completing the most stressful tasks first.  Get them out of the way quickly and get back to life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Were you born this way?

Creativity is kind of useful in life, relationships and business.  I would argue that it is critical to successful problem solving, but I hear this a lot:

"I'm not a creative person."

I've heard that line a thousand times (and said it even more).  Then I realized something.  I've never committed myself to being creative.

We tend to think that you're either born creative or you're not.  In reality, if you want to be good at anything, it takes practice (I know.  I'm full of unique insights).  You can be creative if you really want to be.  Maybe the issue is truly that you don't care to be creative and that's perfectly fine.  I want to learn to play the piano, but I don't want to practice.  So I'll just be okay with not knowing how.  However, if you want to be creative, commit to getting better at it.

Most of all, creative thinking takes committed quiet time, which is probably why most of us drop the idea of it pretty quickly.

Here's the point: you can be creative.  You have two questions to ask yourself first:

  1. Is this something I really want to learn?
  2. Am I willing to make the sacrifice and commitment that it's going to take for me to get better?
Pretty simple, right?

So, are you creative?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pull over!

I've made the 3.5 hour trip to visit family and friends quite often over the last few years.  Recently I started thinking about what those long trips must have been like before all of the modern conveniences we have along the journey today: gas stations with made to order meals, fast food restaurants galore, and even drive through prayer booths for those REALLY rough trips.

On several of these trips (after long family visits and getting a late start on the road home) one relatively primitive stop was essential. The Rest Area.

Where would we be without a place to rest?

We all need our "rest area" for life, also.  When the days seem too long and too short all at the same time.  When you have more going on than you know what to do with.  When it seems there's just not enough oxygen to go around.  We need to stop in the rest area.

For me, this isn't just a mental place.  We all need that place to go where the world will just have to wait until we get back.  The place where we can focus on the positive things and return to life refreshed, encouraged and energized.

Do you have a rest area?  If not, today would be a good day to look for one.  Pull over and take a break.  You and everyone around you will appreciate it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Are you on call?

The cell phone is a wonderful invention.  And now with smart phones, our world is a completely different place.  I can buy and sell stocks, check the weather or find a restaurant in seconds from my smart phone.  I can even post intimate details about my hourly activities that no one cares about.  It's awesome!

There is one downfall of our instant world.  We are always on call.  It used to be acceptable to call someone, leave a message and understand that they would call you back when they had time.  Now, if our phones rings (or beeps, or vibrates) we feel an obligation to answer it immediately regardless of the circumstances.

To really enjoy life and enjoy the people in our lives, we need to remove distractions.  For most of us, we can remove our biggest distraction by shutting off our phone.  What's more important, the possibility of a phone call or being able to repeat back the intimate details a story that your child tells you?  Or being able to look a friend directly in the eye and be fully involved in a conversation from beginning to end?

Stop being on call.  The people in front of you are that important.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's hard work (not) achieving your goals

Everyone is so busy these days, but where are we spending our time?  Little league, working long hours, family reunions, relaxing, playing sports, Facebook-ing, reading blogs.... the list goes on.  We're spending all of our time.  The question is, are we spending our time wisely?

Here's an interesting exercise that I tried the other day.  Write down your goals.  Seriously, grab a pen and paper or open up Notepad on your computer and write down a few serious 1-year, 5-year and/or 10-year goals (here's a cool place to get some ideas:  Make sure they are measurable, desirable and obtainable.  Maybe you want to own a home, payoff debt, move to a new city, take a vacation to Belize.  Whatever it is, write it down.

Next, write down the things that you spend most of your time doing.  This is more difficult considering the fact that most of us have a very skewed sense of time when it comes to determining where we spend our time.  We tend to think that we spend "all" of our time working and "none" of our time playing.

Now here's the interesting thing.  Look at those two lists and see which (if any) of the things that you're spending your time on day-to-day are getting you closer to your goals.  If your lists are anything like mine, you'll be amazed at how divergent the two are.  The actions I was taking were never going to get me to my goals.  So I had to ask myself the question, "Why am I doing what I'm doing?"

If you are not spending time on things that are getting you closer to achieving goals it's time to decide if you need to (a) change your goals, (b) change your actions or (c) accept the fact that you're not going to reach your goals.

So, are you working toward your goals today or just passing time?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Are you contagious?

Do people have what you have without even knowing it?

We rush through our day with our minds focused on what we want.  We often fail to realize just how much impact we can have on the people around us.  And it's easier than we think.  A genuine smile... a sincere compliment... actually listening when someone is trying to talk to us.  Of course we can always take bigger steps like paying for a stranger's lunch or volunteering our time.

The point is to start somewhere.  Devoting a few minutes a day to putting someone else's needs before our own has tremendous impact on our home, our community and our workplace. Caring is contagious.

The irony of it all is that when we do nice things for other people, we feel better about ourselves.  Try it.  You'll be addicted... and contagious.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sad but true...

Someone I went to high school with was shot and killed this week in a small town near where I grew up.  The emotion was flowing on Facebook from all of those that knew him... friends, family, acquaintances.  So sad and senseless.

After reading some of those heartfelt messages, I started thinking about how many of those kind, beautiful, uplifting words were spoken to him while he was still breathing.  I hope he heard a lot of them.

I think we often make two big mistakes when it comes to the people we care about (I make a lot more than that, but we'll save those for another blog):

  1. We assume that they know how we feel because we know how we feel, and
  2. We don't take the time and energy to put our feelings into well thought-out words to express our true emotions.
We tend to drastically underestimate the effect that kind words and true love have on a person's life.  Start small.  Be creative.  Tell someone close to you that you love them... TODAY.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't complain about ______.

Is it just me or is much of the world on a slippery slope of complaints?

From blaming others for problems we've brought on ourselves... "Stupid credit card companies charge me 25% interest!"

To making personal criticisms of people we've never met instead of critiquing ideas... "Obama is such a jerk."

I have a challenge for you.  Just try this today.  Don't complain about anything!  Instead, put a positive spin on the situation.  What do you have to lose?

Try this approach:

  1. Ask yourself if it's really THAT important (getting cut off in traffic is not worth the effort that it takes to complain... seriously... relax).  If it's not worth it, don't.
  2. If it is important, ask what can you do to help.  Ask what you can do to encourage others.  Ask what you can do to inspire people.
  3. Do it!
"Any fool can criticize, condemn or complain... and most fools do."
-Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How do I get one of these?

A mentor.

I want one.

I kinda need one.

Why wouldn't I want to find something I want to improve and learn from the best?

But where do I find one?  That's a tough question.  Do I sit around waiting for someone that wants to mentor me or do I set my sights on a candidate and stalk them until they give in?

So, first things first... where do you look?  And who do you ask?  You should probably start by defining what area (or areas) of your life you're trying to improve (spiritual, business, financial, etc.).  Then, make a list of people that are experts in that area.  Dream big and don't sell yourself short!

Now the hard part.  Figure out how to contact each of your potential mentors.  This is the step that is going to weed out the people that don't want it bad enough.  Be creative!

Before you actually contact anyone on your list, do two more things.  Prioritize your list and make a script of what you will say when you contact them.

Okay... last step.  Gather up some self-confidence and take the leap!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The power of accountability

Why do you show up to work every day?  I know a few of you have jobs that are so fantastic that you can't think of anything else you'd rather do... but for all of the honest people out there, we show up because we made a commitment and we're held accountable for it.

If you have goals that you're serious about achieving, you need to find someone to hold you accountable for those goals.  Someone that knows what you're supposed to be doing and isn't afraid to give you a little kick in the butt when you start slacking.  Your accountability partner needs to be someone that can be brutally honest with you.  So who's going to hold you accountable?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Are you?  Are you REALLY?

Why do we need inspiration?

We tend to focus on what's in front of us, the here and now, as opposed to the goal.  We need people with a clear, distinct and constant vision of a goal in the forefront of their minds to remind us that we have a goal too.

And it's not just that we have a goal, but maybe more importantly, that it is possible to reach that goal.  Or maybe it's not.  But it's worth trying for.

If you're looking for some inspiration, check these guys out:

If you're still not inspired, get some sleep and try again tomorrow.