What fills your passion bucket?

Passion, noun: strong and barely controllable emotion. (Oxford English Dictionary)

What do you think of when you hear the word passion? You probably think of romance, love, a passion for someone who makes your heartbeat escalate. I love this definition of passion, a strong and barely controllable emotion.

Passion isn't just for lovers though. Passion is for the driven, the convinced, those of us intoxicated with what could be. Each of us has a passion bucket of sorts, a holding place inside our souls where we store and ferment this insatiable desire to experience what drives us the most. Not just anything can fill your passion bucket, only those interests and experiences that make you come alive.

What fills my passion bucket

There are times in my life where I find myself reserved, even deflated by whatever's come my way. One of the best ways to revive my spirit is to remember what fills my passion bucket. Of course, my wife, my soon-to-be daughter, my faith, and my family are important, but my passion bucket is about what personally inspires me. It's not all serious stuff; in fact, some of what fills my passion bucket isn't terribly world-changing at all, but it fuels my spirit.

Here are just a few of the interests that fill my passion bucket:

  • I love helping people.
  • I love listening and singing to great music, especially classic rock.
  • I love encouraging people.
  • I love creating something of significance.
  • I love playing music with other great musicians.
  • I love a good party.
  • I love sports.
  • I love listening to a great clean comedian, like Brian Regan or Jim Gaffigan.
  • I love a good board game or card game, especially Poker Night.

I feel more alive and engage when my passion bucket is sloshing over the side. My heart is happier. My thoughts are more inspired. My energy is at its highest. I am more empowered when I experience what inspires me.

What fills your passion bucket?

What inspires you? What are those experiences where you go, "I live for times like these!" Is it outdoor concerts? Is it great food from other parts of the world? Is it a hike through the mountains? What are those experiences where you would pay someone to experience them and the cost is almost no issue?

Think of 5-7 experiences that make you come alive the most and experience at least one of them this week. The more alive you feel, the more you can make an extraordinary effect on the world around you.

What Brené Brown taught me about what matters more

I recently read a quote from Brené Brown that stopped me in my tracks. It's from her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,

"What we know matters but who we are matters more."​

We live in a world drunk and confused on two dynamic battlegrounds: our knowledge and our identities. Between selfie sticks, bloated GPAs, and scratching and clawing to prove our indispensable worth to bosses, friends, and even strangers, we lose a life of energy fighting to maintain what's already secure.

Your success is not who you are. Your failure is not who you are.

Your kids, your house, your car, your job, your sphere of influence, your intellect, your church, your causes, your friends, and your family, love 'em or hate 'em, are not you.

What you feel may be a reflection of who you are, but even our emotions are coy and deceiving.

What you think may be a reflection of who you are, but our minds are easily deceived and wickedly biased.

The way you keep and carry yourself may be a reflection of who you are, but mirrors and scales are two of life's biggest liars.

You are you because you are loved.

You are you because you have a chance to brighten someone's day.

You are you because you are here on purpose for a purpose.

You are you because even the best of you is still a work in progress... and that's a really good thing.

In the words of Dr. Seuss,

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

Who you are matters far more than anything you will ever or could ever do. It's exhausting to try leveraging what you know and what you can do in lieu of who you already are in God's eyes.

May you find rest and joy in who you already are and who you're called to be today.

Doing work you love still involves work

“It just doesn’t feel like work!”

How many times have you heard someone say those words about their dream job? It’s true! When you’re in the role or responsibility that fits your unique personality and skill set, work doesn’t feel like work.

This is a huge blessing, but it’s also a big deception. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” This is the bedrock of Behance’s 99U Conference: innovation driven by perspiration. (Forbes)

One of the biggest challenges I hear from new entrepreneurs or anyone starting a movement is that it takes a lot of work. “I didn’t expect it to take this much work!” Yep, I understand. The biggest misconception of chasing your dreams is thinking everything will come easily because you’re finally in your sweet spot. Doing work you love still involves work.

I love writing. I dreamed of pursuing writing full-time three or four years ago. In October 2013 I got the opportunity to launch my dream as a full-time writer. Writing comes easily to me, but I also have to work a lot to take what’s natural and try to make it exceptional. It’s more than simply stitching words together; it’s closing the thin but extremely difficult margin between good and great that countless writers fail to achieve.

It takes work. Lots and lots and lots of work. Chasing your dreams requires more work than you ever expect. It also brings more reward than you’ve ever received. Doing work you love still involves work.

If you’re just beginning on this journey, you may scoff at the idea that you’ll notice how much work is needed. And then, one day you wake up and you realize you’re working 12, 14, maybe even 16-hour days. In fact, the average entrepreneur often puts in between 60-70 hours of work every week. (Inc.com) I thought this was supposed to be easy!

The key is pairing exceptional work ethic with God-given natural abilities. That’s where the Picassos and Beethovens and Elon Musks and other world-changers find their origins. Chasing your dreams will probably take longer than you want but not as long as you expect. If you dedicate yourself in the confidence that God’s created you to do a unique work, you will succeed.

What’s been your experience with doing work you love? Does it still feel like work? What are the successes or struggles you’ve experienced along the way?

Social media and the thief of comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

It’s easy to compare yourself to others, especially with social media today. What we often forget is that Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook don’t tell the whole story; they’re only the highlight reels of people’s everyday life.

Social media is the new fairy tale. I’ve found myself mindlessly scrolling through social media posts and starting to think, “This is how my life should be.” Most of social media isn’t real though. You don’t see people posting pictures of their screaming kids or posing with their 1989 Chevy Blazer with the hashtag #blessed. Social media is just one of the many arenas of comparison.

The question that drives comparison is simply, “Am I enough?” Smart enough. Good-looking enough. Successful enough. Happy enough. A good enough parent. Am I simply enough?

It’s because the thief of comparison steals the joy of where God has placed us right here, right now.

Benefits of comparison

Here are all the benefits of comparison:

That’s not a typo; there are zero benefits of comparing yourself to another person.

What comparison will do is create a bitter spirit, “God, why haven’t You blessed me like that person?” Comparison creates an entitlement attitude, “I’m a way better person than so-and-so. I deserve a better life.” Comparison also fosters a lack of gratitude and perspective, “If I only had what that person appears to have instead of this regular, vanilla life I’m living.”

When we stop comparing ourselves to others is when we can start embracing the lives we have. The world doesn’t need the next Steve Jobs or the next Justin Timberlake or the next Michael Jordan.

What the world really needs is the first you.

Today is about saying “I’m more than enough because of how God made me.” Today is about taking charge of your God-given talents and using your opportunities to leave your fingerprints on the world. Today is about being yourself because the world needs the first you, the one God made you, not anyone else, to be.

Closing chapters in your life

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck revisiting the same chapter in your life?

I love reading. Sometimes I’ll skip ahead a chapter or two to see if I can get an idea where the story is going. The problem is I have to keep my place where I was reading. So, I stick my fingers in between the pages to keep track and fold the pages over as I glance ahead. As much as I want to read ahead, the pages folded over my fingers are hard to read and parts of the story don’t make sense.

I need to finish one chapter before I can begin the next one.

Life is a lot like reading. We try to glance ahead and fast-forward some of the boring parts or the uncomfortable scenes. We want to get to the “good” parts, the parts that are exciting and full of fun.

Closing certain chapters in our life will make our story richer and more meaningful.

This is why a newly married man should’t spend his Saturdays playing video games. He needs to close that chapter of bachelorhood.

This is why a set of new parents don’t have the luxury of staying up till midnight. They have a built-in alarm clock called a baby ready to go off at any hour.

This is why some friendships and relationships need to be ended forever. The more you allow negative and toxic relationships to continue in your life, the longer that chapter of your life continues to stay open and infected.

This is why you can’t keep reliving the glory days of high school or that one job or boss that was so great. As memorable and fantastic as they were, it’s okay to remember them, but it’s not okay to dwell on them. Living in the past distracts from the future. Even great chapters can distract away from the rest of the story.

Chapters in your life will come and change. Some of them are closed on their own. Some are up to us to finish and finish well.

May you have the courage to close out unfinished chapters of your life. May you look to the future while celebrating and learning from the past. May your story go on as you begin new chapters today.

The inability to do nothing

I love history, especially learning about the Civil War and WWII.

One of my favorite stories comes from the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. It was the second day of the battle and the Union army stretched across the two hills, Big and Little Round Top, with their soldiers stretching all the way back to Gettysburg. On their far left flank was the 20th Maine under the direction of Col. Joshua Chamberlain. He and his men were placed at the end of the line by Colonel Vincent with these words,

Whatever you do, you can’t let them come through here.

Joshua Chamberlain Brady-Handy Collection - writetojoncook Jon CookIt was literally do or die for Chamberlain and his 385 men. If the Confederates flanked the 20th Maine, they would have the high ground and quick access to Big Round Top. Fighting began that day at the middle of the Union Army, but the rocky sides of Big Round Top were too steep for the Confederates.

The 15th and 47th Alabama Infantry regiment, numbering over 4,000 under the direction of General Hood, repositioned to the far end of the Union line, directly in front of the 386 men from the 20th Maine. The 15th and 47th Alabama charged up the hill towards the 20th Maine who began firing from behind a thigh-high makeshift rock wall. Chamberlain and his men repelled the first charge… and a second… and a third… and a fourth.

In the fourth charge the Confederates almost made it to the rock wall, only to be repelled again by the 20th Maine. Chamberlain and his men were reduced from 386 down to 80 with one, maybe two shots of ammunition left per man. They had already spread out their line to double its length at a 45-degree angle to counter the Confederates repositioning further down the hill.

The 15th and 47th Alabama were now reinforced by the 4th Alabama, 4th Texas, and 5th Texas regiments, regrouped again for a fifth charge.The 20th Maine looked to their right, to the 83rd Pennsylvania: no help. No reinforcements, virtually no ammunition, no chance. The Confederates slowly started making their way up the hill.

Col. Chamberlain stepped to the top of the rock wall, crossed his arms, and looked down at the charging Confederates. Listen to what he said about that moment,

We can’t retreat. We can’t stay here. When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act. Fix bayonets!

Chamberlain Little Round Top - writetojoncook Jon CookChamberlain later said it was his inability to do nothing that moved him to action. He ordered a right wheel and bayonet charge. The extended line of the 20th Maine and 83rd Pennsylvania fixed bayonets to their empty guns and charged down the hill. Chamberlain and his eighty men captured over 400 Confederate soldiers, many while holding empty guns.

Many historians believe that because of Chamberlain’s inability to do nothing, it saved the Union Army and the United States. His charge preserved the Union. His inability to do nothing moved him to do something extraordinary.

Inaction is still action. You have a choice for your future; choosing to do nothing is a conscious choice for mediocrity or worse. When it comes to your dreams, where is your inability to do nothing? Are you unable to be indifferent towards creating a better future? Are you unable to stand by while evil and negativity invade our world? What’s your inability to do nothing when it comes to leading your team?

May you have a great inability to do nothing. May you be moved to act when uncertainty and even surrender would be easier. May you have the courage to do something extraordinary when faced with overwhelming uncertainty.

Doubters, dreamers, and mending broken hearts

“Doubters are just dreamers with broken hearts.” – Atticus

Why do we dream? Why do we doubt? In the tension between dreaming of what could be and doubting those same possibilities lies a valley of broken hearts. For every Little Engine that Could saying, “I think I can, I think I can,” is a former-dreamer-turned-cynic saying, “Probably not.”

Why do dreamers become doubters in the first place? It’s because of failure.

Doubters, dreamers, and mending broken hearts - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Doubters allow failure to define their future instead of repositioning their past. Doubters allow disappointment to constrict their hope for tomorrow. “It didn’t work now; why will it ever work in the future?” Doubters see broken engagements, job firings, failed startups, abandoned causes, even abandoned faith, and think that failure is the ultimate end-all of dreamers.

That sounds depressing, right? Is there hope for doubters? What if doubters could be dreamers again?

I’ve seen a lot of failure in my thirty years of living. I’ve “failed” plenty of times, more than I care to remember.

I’ve also seen dreams come to life. I see people every week who defy the odds and embrace new opportunity. We dream because we believe the best is yet to come. We start new ventures, take new first steps, even begin new stories because we believe in a Heavenly Father who gives good, even great gifts to His kids.

Turning doubts into dreams again

One of the biggest reasons why people doubt is because we’ve been told to lower expectations. “Life is full of disappointments,” “You’ll never have enough,” “That’s just how life is sometimes,” “Quit setting the bar so high.” These are the voices of people who have learned to settle, to expect less out of life.

Life is richer, deeper, and more powerful when we dream. If your own life is distorted towards doubting your own dreams, you’re not alone. You’re also not a lost cause.

Turning your doubts into dreams again is about seeing God-given possibilities as exactly that: gifts from God. Take your opportunities. Start that class. Make that call. Go on that first date. Send that email. Schedule that meeting. Draft that book. Rally for that cause. Start your new business.

Your dreams are powerful. Let your possibilities stretch beyond what you think is possible because that’s where dreams call home. May you turn your “probably not’s” into “what could be” and may you dream again.

Time is the new money

Money used to make the world go ’round, but now we realize it’s only time that matters.

What’s more valuable, your time or your money? I love this quote from Jim Rohn,

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”

If you live in the U.S., you live in the most lucrative society in the history of the world. Money is everywhere and anyone can earn at least a small fortune with enough sweat equity and opportunity.

Time is the new money - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Money is not the greatest currency; time is. This is why many Millennials are valuing their time over their income. I love this concept, “This group of individuals is emerging as self-starters: entrepreneurial thinkers with creative potential and the capacity to work even harder than Baby Boomers, but on their own terms.”(Levo) It’s not about making a living anymore nearly as much as using your time to make a difference.

I’ve never heard of a death-bed confessional where someone wished they had more money. However, I have heard of multiple instances where people wished they had more time. My grandpa passed away a few years ago. I would go to great lengths to get more time with my grandpa. It’s because time is finite while money is relative.

Valuing time more than money

Your time has a greater price tag on it than your bank account. It would be tempting to be a miser with your time as much as you might already be with your money. A generous life can be a blessing to so many, including yourself.

Here are some areas that may be in desperate need of your time and attention:

  • One-third of couples spend less than 30 minutes of quality time together a day. (Huffington Post) Watching a TV show doesn’t count. Shut off the dumb TV and take a walk, enjoy a talk on the deck, do anything that actually interacts with the love of your life. Your spouse doesn’t need another purchase; they need your attention.
  • Your kids don’t need more money; they need more of your time. The average live-at-home dad in the U.S. spends seven minutes a day in conversation with one child. (The National) Don’t let your wallet do your parenting.
  • Volunteering for a charity or nonprofit can increase your level of happiness, sense of self-worth, lower your stress, and help you live longer. (Harvard Health) Most importantly, it’s how we best express the love of God: by giving of ourselves without expecting anything in return. It’s tempting to just write a check. Don’t take the easy way out; sign up to give your time to personally help someone.
  • Less than half of U.S. adults meet the minimum CDC daily physical activity guidelines. (CDC) Being physically active, even walking for twenty minutes a day, can help prevent type 2 diabetes and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, and some cancers.

How are you valuing your time more than money?

What James Harrison can teach entrepreneurs about participation

Should kids receive participation awards?

That's one of the big questions in the wide world of sports this week. James Harrison, veteran linebacker of the Pittsburgh Steelers, recently learned that his two sons were given participation awards after an athletic event. Harrison took away the "awards" and returned them to the organization.

Here's part of the caption Harrison shared on his Instagram post about the "awards,"

"I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut [you] up and keep you happy."

Now, obviously kids and adults have different needs. Some kids need more "wins" than others, but it's amazing how much entitlement is fostered through ridiculous practices like giving participation "awards". The practices we adopt as children become the principles we embody as adults.

Fact of life: you will lose at one point or another. And no one should give you a participation "award" for losing.

Fact of life: kids who receive participation "awards" can grow into adults who expect eight weeks of vacation when accepting their first job out of college.

I applaud Harrison for not allowing his sons to expect awards simply for showing up. What I love about entrepreneurs is that we can't afford to expect participation "awards" simply for launching a business. Success comes more easily for some than others. It's when we don't succeed that we learn the most. Getting a prize for losing only weakens the learning opportunity.

Participation awards and entrepreneurs

If you're looking to launch your dreams, there will be opportunities for compromise. People will offer you participation "awards" that will pull you away from your dreams. The most common participation "award" for entrepreneur is a job offer. It's safe and a reliable paycheck and peace of mind, especially if you have a family to support.

Some entrepreneurs need to consider those offers because the dream isn't working out the way you planned. For many of us though, these are just temptations to settle for a lesser future.

I've received six job "offers" in the past eighteen months, some with extremely good salaries and benefits. I politely declined, but I do one thing with each of those offers. I file them in an email folder. When I'm discouraged or hit a rocky patch on the road of entrepreneurship, I open that folder and review each of those offers. It'd be natural to think that would be even more temptation to accept one of those offers, but for me, it's a reminder why I declined every single one of them.

May your dreams involve opportunities to compromise. It's in those opportunities where your resolve and faith in God's calling on your life is reinforced. It's where you're reminded that you can't expect participation "awards," only real victories from hard work, dedication, and refusal to compromise.

Thank you, James Harrison. You've reminded me again why I work so hard and can't afford to settle.

Who says you can’t?!

“Jon, writing isn’t your strong suit.”

My English professor’s words rang in my ears. I was three weeks into her class with three grades on the weekly two-page papers: C+, D, and F. Three papers, each of them with regressively worse grades. It was the first “F” I’d ever received.

Who says you can't - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I didn’t care. I hated English. It was my least favorite subject throughout middle school and high school. When she said those words, “Jon, writing isn’t your strong suit,” my immediate reaction was indifference. Who cares? Who are you to tell me what I’m good or not good at? My end reaction was defiance: I’ll show you.

I was so upset that I worked twice as hard to improve my writing in her class. She didn’t really like any of my writing that entire semester and I finished with a C+ in her class. My whole goal was to prove her wrong. My intentions were wrong, but I improved.

I took a literature class a few semester later, and that’s where I fell in love with writing. It’s because my literature professor told me, “Jon, you have an amazing imagination. Now, let’s put it on paper.” It took someone who saw what could be, instead of what currently is, to call out potential for the future.

We live in a world of write-off’s:

  • “They’re currently failing. They probably won’t survive the program.”
  • “She’s struggling to make ends meet. She’ll never be good with finances.”
  • “He’s not learning as fast as we want him to learn. He’ll never be a somebody.”
  • “They’re taking a break from attending. We’ll never see them again.”

None of these voices are God’s. They don’t know everything, and they certainly don’t know the future. These are the same types of voices who said, “Jon, writing isn’t your strong suit.” God had other plans.

I’m now writing three to four hours a day as a full-time writer. It’s not because I’m still trying to prove that one professor wrong. In the rare times that memory does cross my mind, I just have to laugh because God has a sense of humor and there’s no way I’d be where I am without God’s help.

You may be hearing these voices echo pessimism and predictions of your failure. Take it in context. Listen for God’s voice speaking through or in spite of those voices. They could be right, which is why you shouldn’t just write them off. It’s likely they’re wrong for one reason: they don’t know the future.

Ignore the nay-sayers, whack-a-dreamers, and Debbie Downers. They don’t know the future. Listen for those who can see what could be instead of just what is today. Wise mentors can call out greatness in your future for you to pursue in the present.

Most importantly, your goal should never be to prove your critics wrong; it should be to prove your Creator right.

How your mind, heart, and gut determine your success

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle

Think about what makes you… you.

Your brain is more than six pounds of gray matter; it’s the cranial hub for billions of neural pathways and firing synapses exploding into muscular actions and reactions, thoughts, memories, and even dreams. The difference between brain and mind can be paper-thin and yet, it can also be worlds apart.

Your heart is more than a blood pumping muscle; it’s the bedrock of your emotions. You give your heart away in love, but that never refers to your actual muscular heart. Your heart is wild which is why your ribs are a cage. Some of the smartest, most accomplished people in the world have made daring, courageous, and sometimes stupid decisions because they were following their heart.

Your stomach is where your body stores and processes food, but it’s also where your instincts live. It’s what goes haywire when you’re uncomfortable, nervous, and afraid. So much of who you are is grounded in the connection between your amygdala in your brain and your chemical instincts in your stomach. Sometimes it’s innate but inarticulate to the point where we use words like, “I just have a gut feeling about this.”

The integration of you - writetojoncook Jon Cook

How your body responds to risks, failure, and challenges

It’s in these three areas, our mind, our heart, and our gut, that we ignite our dreams. You may want to go back to school, which is what your heart wants to do, but your mind plays logic and reason as saboteurs. “You’re too old,” “You didn’t do well in school the first time, why now?” “It’s too much work,” “There’s no guarantee you’ll have a job ready when you graduate.”

You may be wanting to start your own business. This isn’t some random idea; it’s been burning a hole in your gut for years and now you’re wanting to make the leap. What does your gut tell you? What does your heart say? What is your mind trying to convince you to do?

When it comes to chasing your dreams, your mind, your heart, and your gut are all essential to your success. Trust your gut, even when it seems impossible. Listen to your heart, especially when you’re tempted to compromise or take a shortcut. Train your brain to feed on hope and opportunity, not objection and anxiety.

Leverage these three powers and your dreams will thrive. Lose touch with any of these and your dreams will be short-lived. May you use these God-given abilities to listen, learn, and follow how He leads you to pursue extraordinary opportunities ahead.

Do you deserve rest?

Did you feel guilty the last time you actually took a day off?

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: you work your butt off, kick your feet up on the weekend, and still feel lazy? Do you ever feel guilty while you’re resting, almost like you should be doing something productive?

You could work 50 or 60 hours a week, and still feel like you don’t “deserve” your rest. If you haven’t been working hard, then you don’t need rest; what you need to do is work. If you have worked hard, then rest isn’t just an option; rest is a necessity.

Do you deserve rest? - writetojoncook Jon Cook

It’s hard for me to take a day off and simply rest. I feel like I have to be constantly doing something, even if it’s not work. For the past (almost) two years, I’ve worked my butt off to build a business. It’s not uncommon for me to work hard Monday through Friday and then do house projects or other “non-business” work on the weekends.

God gave us the gift of rest. He called it the Sabbath. In the ancient times the people of God recognized the Sabbath as one day, Saturday according to the Gregorian calendar, that they simply didn’t work. It was a time to rest and breathe and think and decompress from six days of work.

After Jesus came to earth, Christians began recognizing Sunday as the Sabbath day. A lot of people still stick pretty tightly to Sunday being a day of rest. For me, I still try to keep at least one day a week, usually Sunday, as my rest day. And yet, there are still Sundays where I feel unproductive.

The truth is, resting is doing something. Resting can be very productive. Rest is a reminder that it’s not all about me. Rest is a reminder that the world spins on with or without me. Rest reminds our hearts that God’s power, not our own, sustains our lives.

How to find rest

  • Go to bed earlier. One of the highest spiritual disciples can be sleep. If you’re needing more rest, start with sleep. Don’t fall asleep to your phone or the TV. Just go to bed without an electronic glow lulling you to slumber.
  • Get away from the familiar. Drive to somewhere beautiful and soak it in without distractions.
  • Unglue your eyes from your screens. This means your phone, tablet, computer, TV, Apple watch, anything with glowing pixels needs to be detached from your focus.
  • If you’re really pressed for rest, block out time in your calendar (half-day or a full day) as a meeting that cannot be moved. It’s way easier said than done, but if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, you need your rest or there won’t be a you to rest at all.

What are some other ways you find rest? Share your thoughts in the Comments or by replying to your subscriber email.

Dream Chaser: Aaron McHugh

Every once in a while I like to feature another dream chaser, someone hustling their way to a better tomorrow. These are people I’m blessed to cross paths with, encourage, and serve in their work. Believe me, your life will be richer and better because you get to know these people, too.

Aaron McHugh - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I met Aaron McHugh last summer when a mutual friend introduced us. Aaron needed help with his eBook Don’t Quit Your Job. Fire Your Boss. The title caught my eye as interesting and then I saw that Seth Godin endorsed it. You officially have my attention.

Don’t Quit Your Job. Fire Your Boss. is a fantastic read. In the trendy, sometimes escapist world of entrepreneurism, the easy answer is to start your own venture when work isn’t going the way you’d hoped. Aaron turns the “flight” work attitude of many in our society on its head in this work. Do yourself a favor: download a copy today.

Aaron McHugh - Work Life PlayI love the premise for Aaron’s platform: Work. Life. Play. His podcast features a myriad of voices speaking into these three areas. Some of his previous guests include Andrew Todhunter, Erica Dhawan, Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, and Tripp Crosby.

The crazy thing is that blogging and podcasting aren’t Aaron’s full-time job. He’s already built an incredible platform through his side hustle. (Spoiler alert: you can also build your dreams through side hustle.) He’s also an Ironman triathlete, mountaineer, and an avid adventurer.

One of the most inspiring experiences I’ve witnessed this year is watching Aaron reposition significant parts of his life. He and his wife recently sold their house, served at a youth camp/ranch for part of the summer, and Aaron’s currently biking through the Colorado Trail, a 500-mile excursion.

I get to be a part of helping Aaron build his platform. There are some incredibly exciting opportunities on the horizon and I can’t wait to see what God continues to do through Aaron. There are a few easy ways to connect with Aaron’s voice:

Thank you, Aaron, for the privilege of playing a small part in your platform.

Be a Mercedes-Benz, not a Ford

Ford is a good car manufacturer, but it’s no Mercedes-Benz.

Ford makes a series of good cars. Ford helped set the initial standard for pickup trucks with the F-150. You may be a Chevy fan or a Dodge defender, but you can’t deny that Ford makes good cars. If they didn’t, no one would buy them. As great as you may think Ford vehicles may be, they’re no Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz is on pace to overtake BMW and Audi as the top-selling luxury car brand in the world. (Statista) Mercedes-Benz makes luxury cars with rocket launch-style flip covers for their ignition switches.

Ford sells more cars than Mercedes-Benz. More people buy Ford vehicles than Mercedes-Benz at used-car dealerships. More people can afford a Ford than a Mercedes-Benz. And yet, Mercedes-Benz is valued at $22.5B compared to Ford ($12.5B), a $10B difference!

Be a Mercedes-Benz, not a Ford - writetojoncook Jon Cook

When it comes to chasing your dreams, do you want to be a Ford, or a Mercedes-Benz. Whether you are or are wanting to become a writer, a brick-and-mortar entrepreneur, a speaker, a nonprofit, an artist, whatever your dream may be, you have a choice: create a dream that appeals to the masses (Henry Ford), or create a premium experience affordable and appreciated by a select few.

Luxury doesn’t have to be pretentious (Aston Martin), but it needs to feel extremely valuable. A Mercedes-Benz is more than the price tag. It’s an experience for which people pay a premium price. What might be a luxury add-on for a Ford, like leather seats, are standard features on a Mercedes-Benz.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of “Ford” writers. There are countless “Ford” businesses. There are artists who will never have the luxury type of art appeal and style of a Mercedes-Benz quality. And that’s okay.

I don’t want to be a Ford. I work very hard to reject a Ford-type quality of my writing. I wouldn’t say I’m a Mercedes-Benz-level of writer yet, but I’m working on it. Not everyone loves my writing. Not everyone loves driving a Mercedes-Benz; they’re horrible cars for hauling dirt or pulling a trailer.

As you create art, hone your craft, and build your business, you need to ask yourself, “Do I want this to be a Ford, or a Mercedes-Benz?” Again, there’s nothing wrong with Ford, if you want to be grouped with a main-stream appeal.

If you want to be exceptional, premium, even luxurious, the Mercedes-Benz of your industry, you need to work harder, push for elite quality, and make luxury add-ons become standard features in your work.

10,000 hours, quick wins, and becoming a humble master

Does 10,000 hours make you an automatic expert at your craft?

You’ve heard about the 10,000-hour principle: invest 10,000 hours in your work or art and you’ll become a master at your craft. Malcolm Gladwell first proposed this idea of the 10,000-hour principle in his book Outliers. (If you haven’t read Outliers yet, it’s an exceptional read.) It’s an attractive principle: put in 10,000 hours and the world is your oyster.

The problem is the 10,000-hour principle seems to only apply to industries and arts with set parameters, like chess, tennis, and golf, among others, where the rules simply do not change. A recent study by Princeton University of 88 sub-studies involving deliberate practice showed only a 12% difference on average across disciplines. The 10,000-hour rule is no guarantee of world-class success.

10,000 hours, quick wins, and becoming a humble master - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Investing 10,000 hours as an entrepreneur is extremely different from becoming a Grandmaster at chess because there are very few rules and the context is ever changing. I still believe that I will be a much better writer (my vehicle for entrepreneurship) if I invest 10,000 hours. However, there’s no guarantee of exact success because writing is both subjective and ever evolving. New words are created, paragraph sizes change, and even the latest version of The Elements of Style says prepositions are now allowed to end sentences with.

I’ve only been on this entrepreneurial path for almost two years. I’ve written over 1,000 blog posts in five years, approximately 1.1-1.2 million words between personal writing and business writing. It may sound impressive, but I’ve also written some “stinkers” just in the past two years. I’m blessed to have some very prominent clients who rely on my writing to build their business, so getting “quick wins” can easily tempt me to think I’ve arrived as a writer.

The best masters of a craft are the humble ones. They know that 10,000 hours does not guarantee future success, only expertise for the world of today. A series of bad choices, or sometimes only one, can destroy your reputation, your expertise, even your livelihood with a snap of the fingers. The difference between a world-class expert and an out-of-work job hunter is a change in technology or industry. Think about how many microfiche experts are still alive today.

10,000 hours is an excellent goal in achieving expert skill. Quick wins are good to build momentum and confidence. But, it’s the expert who values the moment of relevance that will make a lasting impact.

As you pursue your dreams, cherish the journey. Remember how much work you invested to be where you are today. It’s not easy to become exceptional. Knowing how hard you worked to become a master and knowing how quickly it could all be irrelevant is what makes humble masters truly great.

How resting improves your work

How often do you rest?

I’m not talking about just getting a good night’s rest, although the CDC does say insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. I’m talking about taking a rest during the frantic scramble through your everyday life. The type of rest we all need allows us to detach our brains from work to enjoy different rhythms of life. Without rest, I’m just pounding away on the treadmill of success while someone slowly cranks the tempo higher.

I don’t always rest well. Sometimes I push myself so hard for so long that I lay down to take a short nap on a Sunday afternoon and wake up two hours later. A really long nap is usually a sign to me that I’ve been pushing myself to the max.

How resting improves your work - writetojoncook Jon Cook

We need rest to make our work better. If you push yourself past the point of rest, your brain will begin forgetting or missing details, your body will begin to shut down, and you will slowly lose your effectiveness. Rest gives your brain a chance to breathe, to think, to declutter the debris of the stress, pressures, and demands of life. Rest is your spirit saying,”Timeout. Take a knee.”

Rest allows art to season. Rest reminds me that my business is actually God’s business and I get to be a steward, not try to be some demi-god. Rest lets my inspiration, passion, and inner drive take in the sights and sounds of God-given success. Rest lets me see where my dreams are and refocus before pursuing them again.

Examples of rest

Regular rest comes in a variety of ways:

  • Napping. Ronald Reagan took an afternoon nap every day that he was President of the United States. Other fantastically successful men, such as Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, and Napoleon Bonaparte regularly napped as well.
  • Unplugging from screens. Close the computer, take your thumbs off your tablets or smart phone, turn off the TV, and just enjoy life without a screen for a day. Set an email auto-responder if you need to that lets people know you will respond… tomorrow.
  • Turn off your phone. This goes hand-in-hand with getting off your screens, but not everyone has a smart phone. Have someone screen your calls for a day, only taking or returning calls if absolutely necessary.
  • Get away from the familiar. Take half a day and go down to the river or up to the mountains or wherever you can go that is a distance away from the familiar. Spend half a day in a small town, maybe get some ice cream or tour a library or old train depot. Go to an overlook and just sit for an hour. The point is to get away from the familiar to unlock your tightly wound brain.
  • Quit something on your schedule. Just quit it. Write an email of resignation, make a phone call, do whatever you need to do to quit a schedule-clogger. Several highly successful people make a habit of quitting one commitment once a week. It frees you up to be constantly starting something new and keeps obligation from forming.

A well-rested body and mind are positioned for greater success. You need rest to make your work more meaningful. What are some other ways you’ve found rest?

Who’s in your corner of the ring?

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – John Watson

Part of intentional living pushes the spotlight off your life and highlights the value of others. The quote from John Watson has changed my perspective. We often don’t know even a fraction of the struggles and hard decisions other people are facing.

Notice the people walking past you today. Do you notice how many people look weary and strained? Notice the bags under the eyes. Notice the slump in their shoulders. Notice the blank look in their eyes. It’s when we truly notice others that we start to see their God-given value worth protecting.

Who's in your corner of the ring - writetojoncook Jon Cook

It’s easy to get so caught up in our own little worlds and schedules. It’s easy to miss the struggle of those around us. Some of the heaviest burdens to carry are emotional, relational, and mental. It’s hard to see the intangible weights that may be crushing those we care about the most.

Everyone is in a fight. It may be a smaller battle, like a tough project at work. It may be a much larger battle, like beating cancer or the death of a loved one. It’s tough to see the budget fears, marriage struggles, problems with kids, pending layoffs, over-crowded schedule demands, and other heavy fights to overcome.

If you’ve ever watched a boxing match, you’ll notice there’s a group of people in each corner of the ring. Between rounds the fighters retreat to their corners and get swarmed by people. They shout encouragement. They give experienced insight, even calling out dumb mistakes the fighter just made. They patch up the fighter from the beating they just took.

In the prize-fighting ring of everyday life, the contender always needs a bigger cheering section. Each of us could always use one more person in our corner of the ring.

Today is about being an encouragement. Give your co-worker a hug around the shoulders (in a non-creepy way). Send someone an encouraging note. Pick up the phone and text or call someone to tell them you’re a fan of theirs.

If you’re in a battle of your own today and it feels overwhelming, reach out to someone. It may sound selfish, but it’s so good for your soul to know that you’re not alone. Confide in someone you know, like, and trust. Ask them to give you a little pep talk. And when they encourage you, find someone in need of a pep talk and share encouragement with them.

Find someone today who could use another person in their corner of the ring. Share an encouraging word. Pray for them. Help patch up their soul from whatever beating they just took. Listen to them. Let them know they’re not alone in their fight. Be in their corner of the ring.

Build a platform, not a kingdom

There’s a fine line between building a platform and building a kingdom.

First off, as a Christian, I know I’m not here on earth to build my own kingdom. My job is to introduce people to Jesus and let His love and grace show them the way into His kingdom, not mine. As an entrepreneur, as a communicator, even more simply, as a human, it’s easy for me to try building my own kingdom.

God gives different people unique opportunities to be influential, to have a “platform,” as it were. Bloggers have platforms, speakers have platforms, CEOs have platforms, politicians and musicians and cause-creators and business owners all have platforms.

Build a platform, not a kingdom - writetojoncook Jon Cook

My perspective changed from kingdom to platform when I realized why God gives me opportunities. I don’t blog to share my message because it’s the greatest in the world. There are lots of people with better messages than mine. I share because I know God’s brought over 2,600 people into my life who look to me for hope and inspiration. It’s my job to share whatever God-given words I can to make their days and futures brighter.

Platform vs. Kingdom

The tricky part is to keep your focus on building a platform instead of trying to build your own kingdom.

On a platform, others can share their message with you. In a kingdom, it’s about who’s in charge and dictating their will to the people.

Platforms raise others up. Kingdoms are about putting yourself in the position of power, the ruler of your castle.

Platforms have steps and space to invite a large group of people to share who may not be able to before stepping onto the platform. Kingdoms have moats and walls and siege towers to fight off anybody who seems like a threat.

Can platforms be distorted into kingdoms? Absolutely, I’ve seen plenty of platform builders turn into kingdom creators by putting their selfish desires in the center of their message. It’s not hard to do. Selfish kingdoms are built when we put ourselves at the center and keep others at a distance.

When we try building our own kingdoms, we tell God that our life purpose is about making a big deal out of us, not Him. That’s when things get dangerous very quickly. Keep asking, “Who is this for, and why am I sharing it?” If the answer to either of those questions ends in “me,” you’re building a kingdom, not a platform.

Creating a platform worth sharing

If God gives you a message or talent to share, He will give you a platform from which to share. It starts with knowing why He gave you your talent or message. We are gifted by God to be a blessing to others. Creating a platform that shares hope and blessing and inspiration to others is a gift. It starts with knowing how to share what you’ve been given.

If you have a message, the first step is simply sharing your message. If it’s a public speaking message, start sharing with one person, then five, 17, 25, a hundred, and more as God opens those doors. If you have a knack for writing and a message to share, start blogging, write a book, put something down on paper to get started.

Are you building a platform to share your God-given message, or are you building a kingdom with you at the center? There’s so much potential for good in building a God-given platform. It would be a waste if we try to create our own kingdoms in place of platforms.

What are some ways you focus on building a platform instead of a kingdom? Share your stories and thoughts in the Comments below or by replying to your subscription email. I’d love to hear from you.

5 Lessons I Learned on Blogging (Five-year Blogging Anniversary!)

I started this blog five years ago today.

I had no plans of becoming a writer. In fact, I hated English class all the way through college. My mom made me take a writing “intensive” in middle school, which I hated. I took a literature class during my senior year of college and I actually enjoyed it. I still didn’t want to become a writer, but I began appreciating the art of writing.

Now, five years into personal blogging, one year as a freelance reporter, and almost two years as an independent writer, I’ve learned a few things about blogging. Here are five lessons on blogging that every aspiring writer should know:

1. If you want to be a writer, get your at-bats by blogging.

This isn’t my first blog. I started a Xanga blog (remember those?) in college and wrote three posts before abandoning it. It was only after I started this blog that I wanted to write more. I realized that if writing was going to be in my future, then I needed more practice.

I blogged over 250 times in my second year of blogging. I just crossed the 1,000-post mark as a blogger. By my calculation, I’ve written close to a million words in the last five years. I still make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I still write some “bleh” posts. But, I’m also successful because I’ve put in the effort. Excellence isn’t an accident.

Five lessons I learned on blogging - writetojoncook Jon Cook

2. Consistency is key when it comes to blogging.

If you want to build a blogging platform, you need to be consistent. Consistent message. Consistent posting schedule. Consistent format. Consistent tone of voice. Consistent sharing strategies. If your audience can’t clearly share who you are and what you blog about, you’re inconsistent. For example, I blog about intentional living, being an entrepreneur, and following your God-given dreams.

3. Your audience and platform will change over time.

My own platform slightly changed around early April this year. I’m revising many of my past posts to fit my new content focus. It’s not what I expected, but it was clear my platform was changing. The key is not making huge changes to your platform, or you will confuse or lose many of the people who follow your blogging for a specific content message. Be open to small course corrections and know why change is necessary.

4. Write engaging, helpful content.

Blogging is a fantastic way to grow your business as an entrepreneur. You can share your ideas, product and service info, your back story, even upcoming deals and comparisons to competitors to attract the right clients to your business. If your content stinks though, no one will want to read or share it.

Share success stories. Share struggles. Make it fun at times, serious at other times, super practical and real-life. Your readers want to know there’s a pulse pumping through your key strokes. Make them see the human in you, man.

5. Writing is not for everyone.

I’m a good musician, but I should never record an album. I don’t have the musical chops to create a great-sounding album. It’d be decent, but it wouldn’t sell more than a few records (thanks for your support, Mom).

In the same way, not everyone is a writer. I work with a variety of dynamic personalities: life coaches, speakers, business coaches, counselors, fitness trainers, etc. Many of them have an impression that they have to write a blog to be successful. With all the technology avenues available today, you don’t have to write blog posts. You can create a podcast, do a video blog (called a vlog), or any number of things that would classify as blogging.

If you’re not a writer though, don’t try to write. You’ll end up frustrated, upset, and your audience will be silently (or not so silently) begging you to stop writing!

Here’s to five years of blogging! Thank you to the over 2,600 readers who share this incredible journey with me. May you be blessed for being a blessing to me.

What are some other tips you’d add to this list?

Chasing your dreams isn’t impossible, just difficult

There will be times when your dreams seem impossible.

The idea of chasing your dreams can be very inspiring, even romantic at times. Over two million U.S. works quit every month. (Forbes.com) A Business Insider survey of 225 executives shows that 22% of them want to start their own companies. (Business Insider) The chance to start fresh, create something extraordinary, become your own boss, and craft some dream job out of thin air is exciting.

Chasing your dreams isn't impossible, just difficult - writetojoncook Jon CookIt can also be terrifying. Sure, being your own boss sounds great, until you realize it’s up to you to make connections, attract clients, build a product or service, and all the other sweat equity-demanding tasks it takes to succeed. If you’re launching a brick-and-mortar business, you need funding. This means meeting with venture capital firms, creating a one-page pitch sheet, practicing your elevator speech, and shaking more hands and remembering name after name.

If it sounds impossible, it’s not. It may seem impossible, but it’s not. It may feel like an insurmountable mountain. It’s not. Chasing your dreams isn’t impossible; it’s just difficult.

There’s only one thing driving that impression of the impossible. Fear.

How fear shackles our potential

The fear of the unknown can make difficult tasks seem impossible. Fear can hijack our momentum, our hope, even our inspiration. Fear inoculates our passion and makes us think, “There’s no way you can do this. You don’t have what it takes.”

Some of my weakest moments as an entrepreneur is when I’ve let fear invade my future. I objected loudly when Kara and I first even considered drawing any type of substantial paycheck from my business. It was “too soon,” or “we needed to build up a reserve for the business,” or “let’s lower our budget to accommodate, even though we already significantly lowered our budget.”

These were all excuses driven by fear. If we actually drew a solid paycheck, it was go-time. No safety net. No coasting by on savings. It felt more real than ever and that’s when I saw God start to really bless my business.

As a Christian my hope is in the God who made me and calls us to do what seems impossible. When we get to the end of our abilities is when we first encounter faith. This is where God steps in and creates God-sized opportunities to continue the “impossible”. We know that the God who first began a good work in you will see it through till the end. (Phil. 1.6)

How to overcome fear and follow your dreams

Do you know how to take what seems impossible and turn it into difficult? Start with one step. Make a phone call. Send an email. Set up a coffee meeting. Start your research. File your patent application.

If you have an action plan, you already have a jumpstart. If you’re a person of faith, this is great time to pray and ask for faith to see what seems impossible as how God sees it. Mount Everest may seem impossible, but it’s still being climbed by a tremendous variety of people. It starts with a single step.

Chasing your dreams isn’t impossible, just difficult. Are you willing to do the work it takes to do the difficult and make your dreams a reality?

Why the Work-Life Balance is a myth

You will never have work-life balance.

It’s just not going to happen, and that’s a very good thing. In fact, the very concept of striving for a work-life balance implies that there’s already an imbalance. There is an inordinate amount of pressure for employees to be productive even when they’re off the clock. A survey of employed email users found some staggering results:

  • 22% are expected to respond to work email when they’re not at work;
  • 50% check work email on the weekends;
  • 46% check work email on sick days;
  • 34% check work email while on vacation. (Mother Jones)

Having a work-life balance also implies that there’s a “work” you and “real-life, off-the-clock” you, like there’s an element of you that is unaffected or not present after you start your work day.

Newsflash: a small hyphen between two words doesn’t magically create a perfect balance in your everyday life.

Why work-life balance is a myth - writetojoncook Jon Cook

You will spend one-third of your life working. Your work is where you will spend at least forty hours a week, over two thousand hours a year, for forty-plus years. That’s a lot of time. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll probably spend 50-60 hours a week for the first five-plus years working on your company, so factor in another couple thousand hours.

If you get eight hours of sleep a night, that’s another third of your life. That leaves a remaining roughly eight hours a day for driving, errands, meals, soccer practices, Netflix marathons, and playing with your dumb dog that keeps digging up your garden.

A balanced life demands you only get a set amount of time to work on your project and a specific amount of time taking your kids to the playground. Can you imagine telling your four-year old, “Sorry, Daddy only had 38 minutes to swing with you because he spent 38 minutes on the Brownstone project on Thursday. Gotta be balanced, kiddo!” Worst Dad of the Year.

Your life is full of imbalance

The truth is you do not spend the same time, energy, attention, and stamina on every area of your life and work. When it comes to chasing your dreams, you will naturally be more inspired and driven to do what excites you than clocking in at a job you hate.

The key is embracing the imbalance. You will have days and weeks where your day job sucks a significant amount of your energy. You will also have times where your home life captures the lion’s share of your attention. Instead of fighting to be exact with your time, pay attention to areas where you need to invest the right amount of time: your family, your sleep, your significant other, your health, etc.

Whatever season you’re in, you need to know why you create time to chase your dreams. Some weeks it may be four or five hours, while other weeks may be only fifteen minutes. Capture the time you do have to invest in your dreams while you can.

You’re chasing a better future, a hope in something better than where you are today. It’s going to be messy and imbalanced and unpredictable and frustrating at times. That’s called life, and the beauty is that your life’s work doesn’t have to be confined to a time slot or a day shift. Your time is found in the in-between and the cracks of availability to create something extraordinary.

Invest sweat equity in your dreams

Chasing your dreams takes work. Lots and lots and lots of work.

Many people have a declining work ethic, if one at all. Before you make any assumptions though, this isn’t a Millennial problem; it’s a people problem.(PayScale) Add in even more people who do work hard, but they’re exhausted from their everyday responsibilities. For this crowd the idea of working even more to pursue their dreams is out of the question. This doesn’t change the fact that pursuing your dreams takes work.

Invest sweat equity in your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I regularly wake up between 5:45 and 6:30 to start my day. There are multiple days every week that I work until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. It’s because I need to invest the time now so that I don’t have to work as much in ten or fifteen years. I’m making the investment now because I know the sweat equity of today is worth the payoff tomorrow.

So, how do you find time to invest the sweat equity you need to build your dreams?

How to find time in your day to pursue your dreams

It starts with changing how we talk about time. “I don’t have the time…” is a lie. You do have the time. Everyone has time. “I don’t make the time…” is a truer reflection of your scheduling priorities. You make time for what’s most important to you.

The average U.S. adult watches five hours of television every day. (NY Daily News) For those of you saying, “I don’t have cable!” watching Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Fire, those all count as TV. What if you cut down to “only” four hours a day? What if you cut out only half an hour? That’s three and a half hours every week you could give towards building a better future.

Dreams demand sweat equity. It takes putting extra effort into your side hustle to make your dreams a reality. If you can devote only fifteen minutes a day towards your dream, you will have over 91 hours invested in your dream in one year. That’s tantamount to taking a two-week leave of absence from your job to invest in your future… without losing vacation time.

What are you willing to do now to invest of your dreams of tomorrow? What type of sweat equity can you invest today that will build towards a better future? Your dream needs to be worth the demand.

What are some ways you invest sweat equity into your dreams? Share your input in the Comments or by replying to your subscription email. I’d love to hear from you.

Passion is the suffering of your dreams

Passion is a powerful force, especially when it comes to pursuing your dreams.

Passion drives us to love and to defend, to hone our crafts and pursue what’s most important to us. The English word passion comes from the Latin word passio, which means suffering. Passio finds its roots in the earlier Latin word pati, meaning “to suffer,” the same word that we use as the base for patience.

Being patient can be painful. Pursuing your dreams demands a lot of patience and a lot of “suffering” along the way. For every door of opportunity standing wide open, there are the slams of ten doors of rejection still ringing in your fragile ears. Dream-chasing requires passion, a drive to pursue your God-given potential with full knowledge that this may be the toughest road you’ll ever travel.

Passion is the suffering of your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

My own dreams have a history of bumps, bruises, and brick wall moments. I worked for four years to develop my writing with more than my share of setbacks and rejections. I’m published two short books (<100 pages) and know I have so much more to learn about writing. It’s why I get up every day and write for 3-4 hours because I know I need to pound out a million words to make 50,000 worth my future reader’s time.

Passion for your dreams means you’ll face opposition. People won’t always understand your dreams. It’s okay, it’s not their dreams to understand; these are your dreams for a reason. You’ll question your sanity as you fill out that application, make that phone call, sit in the pre-interview room, or make that demo. You’ll suffer as you share your dreams that come straight from your gut, only to see people start shooting holes in your dreams’ potential, or worse still, shrug indifferently.

What it takes to pursue your dreams

Chasing your dreams will take longer than you want, but not as long as you expect to become reality. For every time you experience rejection or setbacks, just think, “I’m closer now than I used to be.” Keep pushing forward. Keep chasing your dreams. Keep making the most of the network connections, coffee conversations, and new opportunities that can push your dreams further down the road.

It’s when our dreams suffer patiently that they can age and mature into reality. The struggle makes us more grateful for the success. The sequence of rejections makes us cherish the instance of acceptance. This is why our passion drives our dreams, because we know that a dream without blood, sweat, and tears is not a dream worth pursuing. Without passion, without the work, the time, the practice, the intense attention, and the “suffering,” a dream simply stays a dream.

May your dreams gloriously “suffer” today because your passion is working for their success. May your passion finds its place in building for your better tomorrow.

Book Review – Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job (Jon Acuff)

“You should just quit your job and follow your dreams!”

People told me that for three years, even after transitioning to a new job. It sounds fantastic, even romantic this idea of giving your boss the what-for, boxing up your cubicle, and hitting the exit with your dreams throwing doves in the air and fireworks erupting overhead. Life couldn’t be any better!

Jon Acuff Quitter book review - Jon Cook writetojoncookThe problem is, it doesn’t work that way. Quitting your job doesn’t put food on the table and pay the mortgage. In fact, one of the best ways to fuel your dreams is to make the most of your day job while working on your dreams. Hustling your butt off with intentional dream-chasing on the side is what will elevate your reputation with your day job boss. It will also build skills and perspective that will better fuel your dream job.

In Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job, Jon Acuff gives his own insight into dream-chasing while in a day job. If quitting jobs were an Olympic sport, Jon Acuff would be somewhere between Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. He quit six jobs in eight years. Six full-time hours, 401K-matching, benefits-providing jobs. His journey from cubicle copywriter to renowned author involved a long trek through Day Job-land (not a real land, I just made that up). Quitter is his testimony to those wanting to hit eject from the 9-to-5 but without the right roadmap to succeed.

I thoroughly enjoyed Acuff’s exploration of the tension between day job and dream job. It takes time and sweat equity to create a side hustle that can become a dream job. I also appreciate how he doesn’t just encourage readers to quit their job today. The ultimate goal is to quit your day job, but you need an action plan in place to give your dream job as much chance for success as you can before you quit.

If you’re caught in a day job you hate and want to leave, Quitter is for you. If you having a dream you want to pursue, Quitter is a must-read. Don’t quit your day job, at least not yet. Create an exit plan, do your best at the day job you already have, and work your way to the work you love. Being a Quitter takes time and your time may be right now.

  • Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job may be found at Amazon.comBarnes & Noble, and other popular retail sites.
  • Follow Jon’s writings at acuff.me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

New Week, New You – Hare Speed with Tortoise Drive

What if the hare had the tortoise’s determination?

In the fable of the tortoise and the hare, the hare had plenty of speed, but it was the tortoise who won because he didn’t stop. When people try to connect this story to real-life application, it’s almost automatically assumed someone is either the hare or the tortoise. You’re either a fast starter with no perseverance or a “slow and steady” plodder that will eventually win.

I’m calling bull-crap on that notion. What if you combined the hare’s speed with the tortoise’s drive?

New Week New You - writetojoncook Jon CookThis week’s New Week, New You is about combining the hare’s high-octane potential with the tortoise’s no-quit attitude. The whole reason you started your side hustle is to create a future off-ramp from your 9-to-5 to your dream future. It takes hard work, determination, and a constant drive to succeed. It also helps if you’re putting that type of drive into an area where you’re naturally gifted, like the hare’s speed.

Many dream-chasers start out being fueled by the novelty of their dreams. After a while, the novelty wears off or they realize it takes a lot of work to realize your dreams, and they slowly lose interest in the race. A lot of dream-chasers don’t block out the time to work on their speed or training and slowly plod along. Some of them eventually succeed, but it often takes them several years.

New Week, New You creates a two-fold purpose: blocking out time to work on your dream-chasing speed, and creating a scheduled roadmap for investing in your dreams. This is a predictable path to follow that keeps you from distractions, like the hare, if you follow a regular plan. It also helps you get better and faster in your dream area.

How to combine the tortoise and the hare in chasing your dreams

There are five questions you need to ask when creating a hare/tortoise hybrid for chasing your dreams:

  1. What’s my current dream-chasing speed? (If you’re making awesome progress (hare), but missing some details and opportunities, you may need to work on your quality of progress (tortoise). If you’re not going very fast (tortoise), but all the details are in perfect order, it may be time to kick into the next gear.)
  2. Why do I want to improve in my “hare” or “tortoise” areas?
  3. Who can I learn from to improve in my “hare” areas? “Tortoise” areas?
  4. What does a hare/tortoise hybrid look like when chasing my specific dreams?
  5. How do I implement the right changes to create a great hare/tortoise hybrid for my dream-chasing?

In the end of the story, the tortoise always wins, but it wouldn’t be even close if the hare had the right attitude. When it comes to chasing your dreams, having both hare and tortoise qualities will make your dreams improve in dynamic ways. Don’t be just the tortoise or the hare. Be both together and watch your dreams succeed.

What are some ways your dreams are like the hare or the tortoise? How can you change your approach to embody both of them well?

 

Act out your dreams

Do you have the guts to launch your dreams?

Chasing your dreams is a process. You start with defining your dreams: what you want to do with your future. The next step is planning your dreams: put S.M.A.R.T. goals with specific details and deadlines to your hopes and aspirations. Then, it’s show-and-tell time, sharing your dreams.

All of this is a build-up to your launch: acting on your dreams. This is actually executing your action plan to turn your dreams into reality, and it’s also the ending point for many dream-chasers. Studies show that 70% of goal setters fail to reach their goals! (Douglas Vermeeren) That’s because pushing the big red button on your dreams is the most fear-inducing part of chasing your dreams.

Act out your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I’m not a fearful guy, very few fears (getting eaten by sharks being one of them), but I felt a noticeable vomit-swallow when it came time to publish my book Launch Plan: Your Path to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur. Would people even read it? Was it even good enough for publishing? I put in dozens and dozens of hours to craft this book and I needed to trust it was at its best.

Kill the myth of the perfect dream

Your dreams aren’t going to be perfect, so kill that myth right now. Go ahead, take it out back and give it a proper burial. You can’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect day or the perfect situation to say, “Yes, it’s time to launch my dreams,” because that will never happen.

Here’s the secret to acting on your dreams: do it. Just do it. Take a look at the first action step on your plan and just do it. No excuses. No dilly-dallying. Do the first thing on the list. And then, breathe easy, smile, calm your shaking hands, and do the second thing on the list.

The more steps you can take towards accomplishing your goals and dreams, the more inspiration you will feel to continue.

Share your dreams with me

It also helps to share your success with the right people who can encourage and support you along the way. If you have dreams you’re chasing, I’d love to hear about them. You can join our New Week, New You group that’s chasing dreams outside the 9-to-5 realm. Tag @writetojoncook on Twitter or Instagram and add the tag #NewWeekNewYou to share your story.

Share your dreams

“You should never share your goals and dreams.”

This is the advice many people believe and even promote: dream-sharing should be outlawed. Really?! That seems ridiculous. Sharing your goals and dreams can open incredible doors of opportunity and accountability.

I believe in sharing your dreams. Some of my biggest dreams became reality only after sharing them with people I know, like, and trust. If I kept those hopes and aspirations locked away in my brain, no one would know how to encourage and support me in my pursuit of those dreams. When I shared those dreams with the right people, God used their connections and skill sets to open up the right doors ahead.

Share your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

3 reasons why you should share your dreams

The past five years of dream-chasing taught me three reasons why you should share your dreams:

  1. It creates accountability with people who can ask you on your progress.
  2. It gives others a chance to use their God-given skill set to help you.
  3. It opens opportunities through the right people who have the answers and resources you need.

There’s a unique distinction between #2 and #3: People who listen to your dreams can personally help you, and/or they can also get you connected with the right people who can also help you. Connecting with a well-established network is a great way to realize your dreams.

Never share your dreams in these situations

There are certain situations where it’s wiser not to share your dreams.

  • When you’re with a nay-sayer. Haters gonna hate; that’s just what they do. On the other hand, according to Samantha Bun, there are some benefits to sharing your dreams with nay-sayers.
  • When you’re in a job situation that sees your dreams as a threat. Politely, respectfully decline talking about your dreams while you’re on the clock. You’re not getting paid by your day job to talk about your dream job. Be a great worker and do what they’re paying you to do. If you do want to talk about your dreams with a co-worker, do it over a beer at Happy Hour.
  • When your dreams aren’t defined or planned. Sharing well-defined dreams with an action plan in place also adds credibility to your pursuits. Shannon Skinner wrote an excellent article for HuffPost Living on not sharing your dreams until you’re ready.
  • When your creative idea or intellectual property is prone to theft. If you’re any type of creative and your dream involves an artistic idea, be careful who’s around when you share your dreams. It’s best to share with a small, select group of people you trust than openly share with just anyone. When your dreams are works of art is when you can proudly display them for the world to see.

Sharing your dreams takes guts. It creates accountability with the right people who can help you stay on track. Take a deep breath and start sharing your hopes, goals, and aspirations with the right people.

What are some ways you share your dreams? What are some lessons you’ve learned from sharing your dreams?

Plan your dreams

Yesterday I shared about defining your dreams, putting specific details to your hopes and aspirations. Today is about planning your dreams.

General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” When it comes to planning your dreams, it’s tempting to try creating a perfect plan. There’s no such thing as a perfect human plan; only God’s plan is perfect, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. It’s better to have a good plan with some fuzzy details than a seemingly perfect plan that gets wrecked in the first two weeks.

Plan your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Defining your dreams creates an end goal for you to target. In yesterday’s example defining your dream is opening your own coffee shop. That’s your end goal: own a coffee shop, but how do you get there? You have to plan your dreams and create a roadmap to get to your final goal, the coffee shop.

Do you really need a plan? Why not just go rent space, buy equipment, hire people, and boom, coffee shop?

Four benefits of planning your dreams

There are four huge reasons why you need to plan your dreams:

  1. Planning creates a trackable roadmap to help you stay on target along the way.
  2. Planning gives you action steps to know what to do next.
  3. Planning keeps you from wasting time wondering what you should do.
  4. Planning helps you identify and eliminate distractions.

As the saying goes, “Plan your work, and then, work your plan.” The cost of not having a plan is greater than having an imperfect plan that needs slight corrections.

How to plan your dreams

The second of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to begin with the end in mind. This is fantastic advice when it comes to planning your dreams: begin with the end goal, identify the steps that need to happen to get there, and then, work your way backwards on the timeline until today.

For example, if you want to launch your coffee shop in January 2016, you will need licensure, equipment, staffing, build-out/remodeling, training, inventory acquisition, promotion and marketing, business structuring (LLC, “S” Corp, or “C” Corp?), and investment acquisition (who’s paying for all this?). It can take several weeks to get licensure in place from the state, city, and any other municipalities, including the health department.

Your first step is doing your research and then listing out all the necessary steps. Put them in chronological order and put specific dates to each of them. This is part of your business plan, which will become your roadmap for launching your coffee shop. Again, it’s not going to be perfect and there will be unexpected changes along the way, but do your best to factor in variables.

A written, detailed plan will give you a roadmap for launching your dreams. Write down your dreams, give them deadlines, and just breathe. This may seem intimidating and scary and just flat-out vomit-inducing, but you’re now armed with a great action plan to succeed.

What are some other tips for planning your dreams? Share your stories through the Comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Define your dreams

What are your dreams?

This is an open-ended question I hear people ask all the time. How do you respond? We each have our dreams, those aspirations and ideas that are fragile whispers of a hopeful future. Some dreams give you goosebumps. Others make you so nervous you want to vomit.

I have dreams that make me feel both sensations: inspired excitement, and white-knuckling, toilet-hugging nerves. What’s helped turn my dreams into reality is defining my dreams in very specific details. Now I have an action plan for what steps to take to achieve my dreams. Building S.M.A.R.T. goals attached to abstract dreams is what takes away some of the intimidation. Seeing your dreams become reality starts with defining your dreams.

Define your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Why you should define your dreams

A dream isn’t a dream if it’s within our capacity. That’s playing it safe. And boring. And predictable. It’s the vanilla flavor of living. A dream starts with knowing that where we are doesn’t encompass where we hope to be someday. By defining our dreams it gives us a future to target.

If you have a dream of opening your own coffee shop, you need to define what that looks like. What’s your shop’s name? Where would you like to be located? Where’s a good place to open a coffee shop? What type of coffee and other products will you offer? Creating a written business plan is a great way to start defining your coffee shop dream. Building a website to share your new coffee shop’s story, even if you don’t have an address yet, continues defining your coffee shop dream. The more you can define and refine your dream, the easier it will be to share your dream with the right people (more on that tomorrow).

Start with defining your dream. Put details to your hopes and aspirations. Create S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals and attach them to different parts of your dream. The better you understand your dreams, the more easily you will achieve them.

What are some ways you define your dreams? Any suggestions and stories you’d like to share?

New Week, New You – How to find your tribe

Who’s in your tribe?

In 2009 marketing guru Seth Godin shared a TED Talk about finding your tribe. The concept is simple: find people who are like you with the same type of value system as you who want to travel with you down the path of life.

Over the past few weeks of New Week, New You, we’ve talked about the Side Hustle and about building a Life Team. It’s Sunday night again and you’re dreading the alarm clock shrieking awake in a few short hours. Wouldn’t it be easier to start your work week, even at a job you hate, knowing that you have a whole tribe of people cheering you on with each new day? Your tribe can be that cheering section.

New Week New You - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Having a tribe of people in your corner is crucial towards your dream’s success. I started building my tribe back in 2010 when I first started blogging. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was passionate, consistent, and honest. These three qualities helped open so many doors of conversation over the past five years. My platform’s changed a lot in the past few months and I’m learning more about a new side of my tribe.

What makes someone part of your tribe

The idea sounds easy enough: find people like you who believe in what you do with shared values and ideas. The truth is, it can be a lot harder than it seems.

One of the myths about tribes is that they need to be thousands upon thousands of people. A great tribe can be anywhere between 80-100 people. The quality of the tribe’s support and commitment to seeing your platform succeed is more of a determining factor than sheer numbers. I’d rather have 100 fully committed tribe members than 10,000 half-hearted, indifferent “members”.

What makes someone part of your tribe is that they believe in you and your message. You will have nay-sayers, but they’re not part of your tribe. Critics can be a part of your tribe as long as those critics truly want to see you grow and succeed. Your tribe will defend your message, sometimes before you even have to do it yourself, and challenge you to keep pushing and learning with your platform.

I currently have over 2,500 people in my blogging tribe, but not all of them are fully engaged. I’m not nearly as interested as doubling those numbers as much as raising the engagement level of the ones already in my tribe.

I started my business Keynote Content in 2013 with significant support from my tribe. I can’t imagine trying to launch my dreams without my tribe. Your support is invaluable to me and I want to say thank you for your role in helping my dreams become reality.

How to find your tribe

Finding your tribe can take time, especially if you’re just getting started. Whether you’re starting your own business, launching a new venture, cause, or movement, or building a platform to share your voice, it starts with being honest and focused. Know your purpose, share that purpose clearly, repeat. This will attract the right people with the right interest to the messages that they need or want to hear.

Your tribe will respect your dreams. Your tribe will challenge your thinking. Your tribe will share your aspirations and messages with their friends, family, co-workers, weird neighbor cat lady, anyone they think will benefit from what you share. Your tribe is a community to kickstart your dreams.

When you find your tribe, it’s like coming home. It’s a safe community, but not a placating society. People you know, like, and trust are responding to you, “Yes, that’s exactly what I needed to hear! Keep sharing!” That’s when you know you’ve found your niche, that’s when you know you’ve found your tribe.

New Week, New You

Each week I’m posting a “New Week, New You” blog post on Sunday afternoons/evenings to give you inspiration, challenges, questions, and ideas to help kickstart your new venture. It’s a new week and you’re building a new you.

  • Share your ideas, frustrations, wins, and unexpected discoveries with me via social media. Tag @writetojoncook on Twitter orInstagram and add the hashtag #NewWeekNewYou.
  • Invite other people to join you with their own journey towards a better tomorrow. There’s something powerful about creating extraordinary futures together.

Read your veggies

Broccoli stinks.

No, seriously, broccoli stinks when it’s cooked. It doesn’t smell nearly as good as fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. And yet, broccoli has far more health benefits than a Toll House cookie. Your stomach says yes to the cookie, but your mind (and your doctor) say, “You should probably have some broccoli.”

There are so many benefits to reading. Michael Hyatt shares about the five ways reading makes you a better leader. I’ve personally shared before about reading to succeed. Reading is a fantastic way to grow your mind, challenge your perspective, and mature your thought process. It needs to be the right type of reading to provide the benefits your brain needs.

Read your veggies - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Reading fluff novels is like cotton candy for your brain: it’s enjoyable, but not sustainable or nutritious. Not all fiction is fluff, not by a long shot, but much of fluff reading is fiction-based. Your reading diet is just as important as a well-rounded physical diet. You need to read your veggies.

Benefits of nonfiction reading

The average child in the U.S. spends less than four minutes a day reading nonfiction. (ASCD) Research shows that reading nonfiction over fiction/narrative has a dramatic impact on comprehension tests and aptitude placement for college courses.

I’m in the middle of six books right now, only one of which is fiction. My brain is being stretched in several directions and I’m loving it. Is the reading easy? No. Is it always enjoyable? Honestly, sometimes it’s a little boring (like broccoli), but I’m able to recall specific parts of my reading in meetings and during projects that’s helping me in tremendous ways. Vitamin-rich veggies aren’t sexy, but they are beneficial.

How to change your reading regimen

How-to books, historical accounts, biographies, philosophy, psychology, theology, these are all great examples of literary veggies. Nonfiction is the salad bar of the book world: eat more greens! Your mind will benefit from the verbal vitamins that drop from the pages of good books. If you have a solid reading diet feeding your mind, that’s when you can also enjoy a little dessert in some fluff reading.

Changing your reading diet is a lot like changing your diet. If you do a crash diet, your body will react. If you put down Twilight and start three philosophy books, your brain will hate you. Guaranteed.

Start slow and make minor changes over a long period of time. Maybe you start with reading a chapter a night or every other night in a more challenging book. Whatever your new process is, stick with it and feed your brain the information it needs to thrive. You will think more clearly, process more proficiently, and articulate your perspective more efficiently with a better reading regimen.

What are some changes you’ve made to your reading diet?

Making the switch from self-employed to owning your business

As an entrepreneur, my focus is on my immediate work.

Today is a great example of work needing done that only I can do at this point in my business. There’s no other support staff who can fill in for me, answer calls, write content, or interact with clients. It’s just me… for now.

The truth is, an entrepreneur without employees doesn’t own a business, they own a job. A recent poll study by New York Enterprise Report shows that thirty-three percent of small-business owners work more than 50 hours/week with an additional 25% reporting that they work 60 hours or more. 70% of study respondents also admitted to working at least one weekend on a regular basis. (Inc.com)

Without a staff in place, this cycle will continue as long as the entrepreneur can keep up with the pace. This isn’t an ideal lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination!

Making the switch from self-employed to owning your business - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Building a business means you have an infrastructure in place that doesn’t demand your immediate attention every work day. The goal should be owning a self-sustaining business that can survive without you, but will thrive with you.

Transitioning from owning a job to owning a business

It takes time to transition from owning a job to owning a business. If you’re a new entrepreneur, start with setting your rates and then filling your schedule. Once your schedule is full, raise your rates and then work to fill your hours again. Lather, rinse, repeat until you have enough of a cash flow to merit hiring support staff.

Entrepreneur.com has a great article about knowing when and how to hire additional staff. The answer is different for every business, but hiring ahead of your growth is usually a wise decision. Hiring the right staff will allow you to focus on what you do best, why you became an entrepreneur in the first place.

It’s much easier to pursue your dreams if you’re not neck-deep in the weeds of dreaded to-do’s. The two biggest reasons why you should hire are 1) to free you up from tasks you hate, and 2) to fill in your areas of weakness. The sooner you can hire the right staff at the right time, the faster you can focus on what you do best.

What are some ways you’re transitioning from owning a job to owning a business? Share your stories via the Comments below or by replying to your subscriber email. I’d love to hear from you.

Hard work beats talent. All day. Every day.

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” – Kevin Durant

Talent is cheap, exciting but cheap. According to research by Clear Company HRM, talent forecasting is changing now more than ever. Every year the NFL Draft is filled with potential. Every graduation class is filled with potential. Every college is looking for applicants with both potential and pedigree: what could you do, and who did you come from that already did something?

The truth is potential and pedigree will always lose to perseverance. Hard work beats talent. All day. Every day. Guaranteed. I’ve seen phenomenally talented people waste their gifts and lose out to lesser-talented but more motivated competitors.

Perseverance outpaces pedigree when it comes to potential - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I’m not the most talented writer. I’m not the best speaker. I don’t have an MBA or own a multi-million dollar company yet. I don’t come from a white collar family or an Ivy League education. I don’t have a pedigree of business and worldly success.

What I am though is motivated. I get up before probably 95% of people that I know, work harder than the same amount of people, and have great mentors and systems in place to build towards a fantastic future. Any gaps that I have are outpaced by my willingness to get my butt out of bed every morning earlier than a vast majority of people. It’s because I know I have a God-given dream to make a difference.

Perseverance and potential = Hall of Fame results

Average talent with an exceptional work ethic can create great results. Excellent talent with that same exceptional work ethic is what creates the Beethoven’s, the Michael Jordan’s, the Taylor Swift’s, and the Jay-Z’s of the world.

Don’t let your pedigree or someone saying you “lack potential” be the determining factor for your future success. You have God-given dreams and ambitions for a reason. If God’s called you to pursue a specific direction, He’s already given you the talent you need to succeed. All you have to do is put in the sweat equity and trust His plan.

Now’s the time to pursue your dreams. Now’s the time to work your butt off for your passion. Now’s the time to keep your pedigree or potential from becoming your new glass ceiling and push to exceed even the loftiest of expectations.

What’s been your experience with talent and hard work? Share your stories through the Comments section or by replying to your subscriber email. I’d love to hear from you.

Chasing your dreams starts with small steps

Every journey begins with a single step.

We know that statement is true. You might have even heard it said a dozen times, maybe even quoting it yourself. Every journey begins with a single step, one action, one conscious effort to do something.

One of my business influencers Chuck Blakeman recently shared these words,

“People say nothing is impossible. I disagree. I see people doing nothing all the time. Some people are really good at doing nothing.”

It’s comfortable and easy to keep your dreams in neutral because dreams are safe and clean when they’re abstract.

So, we choose to do nothing out of fear that the something will shake us loose from our comfort zone. Spoiler alert: chasing your dreams is awkward and uncomfortable. If you want a perpetually awkward and uncomfortable life, chase your dreams.

The key to chasing your dreams and embracing your God-given potential is to do something now. It starts with taking small, focused steps in the right direction. It’s one phone call, an email, a coffee meeting, an introduction, a question.

A phone call can lead to a dialogue. A conversation can lead to getting on a plane. A flight can lead to a handshake in person and a deeper discussion with long-term realities attached. It all starts though with a small decision: pick up the phone. It continues with a series of greater decisions: continue the conversation, book a flight, and meet in person.

Big dreams require small steps

If you want to realize big dreams, you need to take small steps. They may seem insignificant. They may not measure as seismic shifters on your future. In truth, they may not even seem that sexy or important, but they add up towards a greater purpose.

It’s when you put 10,000 small steps together that you realize you just walked a few miles. That’s when progress is made. Two hundred phone calls can ignite a completely different future. Three hundred pages can be a memoir or a manifesto that redefines your future and the future of your readers. Ten thousand hours can make you a world-class expert in your area.

It starts with stitching together a page here and a page there. It starts with making the next phone call. It starts with fifteen minutes of practice a day.

Chase your dreams one small step at a time and over time you will see your journey add up to life-changing progress.

Finding the content dosage for your platform audience

How often should you share with your platform audience?

Whether you’re a podcaster, blogger, speaker, writer, or any other type of platform builder, you probably wonder how often you should share your messages. Do I blog once a week? Three times? How often should I podcast? How long is too long of a blog post?

This is a concept I’m trying to master. I once blogged well over 200 times in one year and saw tremendous results. I tried continuing the same pace the following year and saw a decrease in engagement. Now, I post 3-4 times a week, but I’m starting to change that frequency as I refine my new platform focus.

Finding the content dosage for your platform audience - writetojoncook Jon Cook

It’s important to find the right message frequency and content length to best fit your platform audience. Think of it like using the recommended dosage or the boiling point for water. If you only need to take 500 mg of Tylenol, taking 2,500 mg is a bad idea, even deadly. Water boils at 212°F so expending the energy to heat the water to 300°F wastes energy and still only boils the water. If your goal is getting boil water, use the right energy to get to the boiling point, no more.

Share less with your platform

Some platform builders need to share less frequently. Quantity never guarantees quality. If you’re doing two podcasts a week, your audience may not have the time, nor frankly the interest, to listen to two podcasts, Trim down to one podcast and now you have twice as much content to parse down to only the best of the best. Your overall podcast quality will improve and your audience will appreciate a more sustainable listening rhythm.

If you’re a blogger, pay attention to your audience engagement. This is way more than Google Analytics or site stats. I don’t pay hardly any attention to analytic stats, but I pay huge attention to email responses, comments, shares, and likes. This means people are actively engaging with my blog posts, not just opening them.

How to find the right content dosage for your platform audience

The key to finding the right frequency and content dosage for your audience is trial and error. If you’re posting every day, Monday through Friday, trim down to M-W-F and see how your audience responds. If you’re posting once a week, try posting a few more times a week to see if it bumps up your engagement level. A simple readers’ survey is another great way to get feedback on what your audience wants.

You’ve been given your platform to serve people, not trumpet your message and tell the world how great you are. Use your platform to share the right size and serving of your content to best meet your audience’s needs. It doesn’t hurt to leave them wanting more, so err on the side of less is more.

What are some ways you’ve tried to find the right frequency and length of content for your audience? Any tricks or tips you’ve learned? Share your thoughts via the comments below or simply hit reply to the email.

New Week, New You – Building a Life Team

Who’s on your Life Team?

All throughout history we see examples of people who excelled because of the wisdom of others. Kings had prophets and sages. Presidents have Cabinets. CEOs have advisors and boards of trustees. There’s wisdom in many voices speaking into your current and future life from years of personal experience.

Who’s speaking into your life? If you were to list a group of mentors, advisors, and confidantes for your life and decision-making paradigm, who would make your list?

New Week New You - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Last week I shared about “New Week, New You,” how you can use select, scheduled time outside your 9-to-5 to build into a better future. If you want to create a New You, you need people who can help you learn and refine the Current You. One of the wisest decisions you could ever make is to build a Life Team to speak wisdom into your future trajectory.

What is a Life Team?

A Life Team is responsible for giving honest feedback when asked on decision opportunities, your personality growth, and reflections on your personal, business, financial, mental, spiritual, and emotional journeys.

A Life Team is not responsible for your decisions; that’s your responsibility. They do not make decisions for you; again, that’s your job. Their job is to give wise advice to best help direct the rest of your life.

A Life Team is a legacy-building supporting cast, collectively saying, “How can we help support and encourage you to make the most of the one life you have?” They take the entire breadth of your remaining life and seek to optimize your impact on the world around you.

Criteria for a life team member

There are a handful of people who are on my Life Team. It’s a very organic, messy part of my life and I regularly interact with each member throughout the year. My Life Team has given me advice on some of the biggest decisions of my life and I’m in a much better place because of their insight.

When it comes to building your own Life Team, there are three questions you should consider:

  1. Do you know, like, and trust them?
  2. Are they willing and capable of speaking absolute truth to you, even if you don’t want to hear it?
  3. Do they have nothing to personally gain or lose by speaking into your life?

If the answers to these three questions are all “yes,” then welcome to the team. I’d recommend keeping your Life Team to no more than five, maybe six individuals. It’s helpful if they know their role in your life and that you honor their role on your Life Team with the types of decisions and opportunities you present to them.

New Week, New You

Each week I’m posting a “New Week, New You” blog post on Sunday afternoons/evenings to give you inspiration, challenges, questions, and ideas to help kickstart your new venture. It’s a new week and you’re building a new you.

  • Share your ideas, frustrations, wins, and unexpected discoveries with me via social media. Tag @writetojoncook on Twitter orInstagram and add the hashtag #NewWeekNewYou.
  • Invite other people to join you with their own journey towards a better tomorrow. There’s something powerful about creating extraordinary futures together.

What to do when your ideas get stolen

“They stole my blog post!”

I couldn’t believe it- another blogger ripped off an entire blog post I wrote and posted it as their own! They changed about five words in a several hundred-word blog post, but it was virtually intact word-for-word.

At first, I was furious. Who do they think they are, stealing other people’s work? I contacted the blogger and they promptly took it down, but I was still upset!

What do to when someone steals your idea - writetojoncook Jon Cook

As I thought about it more, a different thought popped in my head: at least they think my work is worth stealing. Their laziness is keeping them from developing as writer and that’s a shame. It’s not the first time another writer has stolen my work, and hopefully, it won’t be the last.

I want my ideas and work to be so good that people constantly try to steal it. Nobody sells knock-off paper plates; no, they try selling knock-off china or Rolex watches or Rembrandt’s. Great work is protected and valuable because it’s targeted by thieves.

The greater crime of creative ideas

The greater crime is when nobody wants to steal your ideas. If it’s crappy work, no one wants to steal it, let alone buy it! If you put in a ton of time on a project for work and your boss takes the credit, it’s easy to be upset. That’s when you need to realize, “They wish they created something this good. If it wasn’t valuable, they wouldn’t take the credit.”

If someone tries to steal your work, they need to be confronted. Many people hate confrontation, especially if you have them dead to rights. Be absolutely certain of the theft, and then, do something about it. Make that phone call. Send an email. Tweet at them. Do whatever you need to call them out for their theft.

And then, smile and know that someone thought your work was worth stealing. And keep working on your craft. Keep improving and refining your work so that even more people will value it in the future. The real crime is creating mediocre work that no one wants to steal.

Creating the life you want

What’s stopping you from creating the life you want?

In the past six months, I’ve heard more people tell me, “I just wish I could live the life I really want.” And my usual response is, “What’s stopping you?” And then the excuses start. There are some legitimate excuses, like financial obligations (read: debt) or personal responsibilities (caring for an aging parent).

Creating the life you want - writetojoncook

For the most part though, the reasons people give are convenient crutches that are keeping them from running in a fantastic new direction. It’s hard to run if you’re relying on crutches. Here are some of the more common excuses I hear…

“If I only had the right degree…”

If that’s truly the case, then you need to create a game plan to get the right degree, make time in your schedule, and go back to school. By the way, a new degree doesn’t guarantee your success.

“If I only knew the right people…”

Guess what? Meetup.com, LinkedIn, your already established business network, even friends, family, and whatever other connections you have are all great starting points. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Ask for an introduction. You have not because you ask not.

“If I only had more time…”

You, me, Mark Cuban, and the President of the United States are all given the exact same amount of time every single day. How we choose to invest that time says more about our priorities and attitude than anything else. You don’t have the time to create the life you want because you haven’t prioritized that time. I know single moms who built fantastic companies after their kids went to bed or during their lunch breaks. Time is not the issue; priorities and the willingness to sacrifice are.

“If I only had more opportunity…”

There are over one billion people living in India. English is not one of the native languages, and yet, for the past fifteen years, Indian villagers have used English Windows PC kiosks to develop into some of the best computer programmers in the world. (BBC, Web Kiosks for India’s villagers) Do NOT let opportunity be an excuse for creating the best life you can.

Start creating the life you want today

You will never live the life you want as long as you let an excuse stand in your way. It may sound harsh, even ignorant (“But you don’t know my situation!”), but it’s up to you to do something about it. You have an extraordinary set of God-given talents and potential. You are the one with the opportunity to create the best life you can. The richer and more fulfilling your life is, the better you can bless the world around you.

Get rid of your excuses. Create a game plan for a better future. Start creating the life you want today!

New Week, New You – Meet your new friend: the Side Hustle

It’s Sunday night, the time when many of us dread the alarm clock of Monday morning.

Last week I posted about how Sunday evenings are the most depressing time of the week. It’s easy to get the Sunday Night Blues when you realize it’s only a matter of hours until the workweek starts.

Let’s face it: you’re not happy. You’re not fulfilled. Your job is a joke. Your career path, well, what’s that? It’s more like a career pinball, kicking around the dark and dusty corners of your 9-to-5, hoping to score as many points as possible before you drop down the chute again for Tuesday. Lather, rinse, repeat until Friday, and then, do your Friday happy dance.

New Week New You - writetojoncook Jon Cook

You need a new direction, a fresh canvas to scratch out your dreams and put plans into place for a better future. Meet the side hustle. No, it has nothing to do with hustling pool. The side hustle is all of the work you can put in outside your 9-to-5 to create a better future. This is your side “job”- even if you’re not getting paid for it right now. You’re hustling your butt off to make something extraordinary, even if it may not be much talking about right now.

A side hustle has four characteristics:

  1. It’s important to you;
  2. You feel fulfilled working on it;
  3. You can develop it into an excellent product or service; and,
  4. Potentially profitable enough to replace your 9-to-5.

Examples of a “side hustle”

You might be thinking, “I like this idea of a side hustle… but I have no clue what that might be.” Here are some examples of side hustles,

  • Starting your own business
  • Going back to school
  • Creating a patented design
  • Writing your first book
  • Developing or refining a skill
  • Monetizing a hobby, like blogging, collectibles, Etsy crafts, etc.
  • Building a nonprofit or identifying a cause worth supporting

These are just a few ideas of what a side hustle can be, but there are so many more possibilities.

Schedule time for your side hustle

If you want to create something significant with your side hustle, you need to schedule it as a priority. Friday night is for hanging out with friends or partying. Saturday is for sleeping in, chores, more hangout time, and maybe a fun event on the town. Sunday night can be your night to work on your side hustle. Block out time on your calendar and say, “This is when I’m building a better future.” And then, keep your appointments. And share your progress with me.

New Week, New You

Each week I’m posting a “New Week, New You” blog post on Sunday afternoons/evenings to give you inspiration, challenges, questions, and ideas to help kickstart your side hustle. It’s a new week and you’re building a new you.

  • Share your ideas, frustrations, wins, and unexpected discoveries with me via social media. Tag @writetojoncook on Twitter or Instagram and add the hashtag #NewWeekNewYou.
  • Invite other people to join you with their own side hustle. There’s something powerful about creating extraordinary futures together.

How the most depressing time of the week can create new opportunities

Did you know that the most depressing time of the week is Sunday night? (Huffington Post, “Sunday Night Blues”)

Monday gets more than its fair share of hatred, but Sunday evening is actually the most depressing time of the entire week. It’s when most of us realize that the weekend is over and we have to drag ourselves back to the cubicle farm or micromanaging tyrant (read: “boss”). According to a recent survey by Monster.com, 78% of respondents admit to feeling “Sunday Night Blues” and 59% of U.S. respondents admit to an abnormally high feeling of it.

How the most depressing time of the week can create new opportunities - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I used to dread Monday mornings. A dearth of meetings, dozens upon dozens of emails from higher-ups, and countless politics were the three-headed monster of my week. I would get home on Monday evenings and just sit in silence for several minutes. It wasn’t until I started my side hustle that I began to feel any motivation to even go in on Mondays.

What if you could use Sunday nights to kickstart your dreams? The side hustle is an amazing venture that can add value, purpose, and potential to your life. It’s in the side hustle where you’re spending time outside your 9-to-5 job to launch your dreams. Write that book. Start your own business. Create a mastermind group. Go back to school.

Do something that you’ve always wanted to do, but do it, for cryin’ out loud! Take your Sunday night blues and let them fuel your motivation for a better future. Walking into work on Monday will be easier if you know you created something awesome on Sunday night. The more you can build into your Sunday nights, the closer you’ll get towards taking back your Mondays.

“New Week, New You”

I’m starting a new series of blog posts this Sunday night called “New Week, New You”. Each Sunday night will feature a new blog post topic to give you the butt-kick you need to start your side hustle. One week it may be a challenge, like make a phone call to someone in an industry where you want to be. The next week it may be an inspiring story, like my friend who worked for nine months on the side to build his own company and then launched the day after his daughter was born.

It’s not just a set of blog posts though. You’ll get to share your own stories via #NewWeekNewYou so we as a community can be inspired and challenged by each other. This isn’t about me; it’s about creating a community where we can celebrate and fuel off each other’s successes.

Take back your Mondays, do something worth your time on Sunday, and get rid of your Sunday night blues!

Who are the loudest voices in your life (and why are you listening to them)

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Just because someone has a loud opinion doesn’t mean it’s ever right. A screaming baby has more volume than a CEO, but I wouldn’t want a newborn running a Fortune 500 company. It’s never wise to give a platform to someone based purely on the volume of their opinion.

It’s easy to let the loud opinions of a few dictate the direction of our dreams. When I was in my early 20’s, I let people with over-the-top opinions influence me towards making bad decisions. What I’ve found is that people with bullhorn opinions tend not to care how the consequences of following their opinion affect you.

Who are the loudest voices in your life - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Chasing your dreams means you’re going to make decisions people won’t always understand. You’ll start projects, make changes, and pursue opportunities that will leave people scratching their heads. And the opinions will come. And loud opinions will start to dominate, especially if when you hit rocky patches in your dream-chasing journey.

And that’s when you’ll need to decide: who do I need to be the loudest voices in my life, and why should I listen to them?

Who should be the loudest voices in your life

My faith is important to me, so the loudest voice in my life needs to be God. This is why I spend time every morning reading the Bible, praying, meditating, and listening for His influence on my life. This is the compass for my dream-chasing. My dreams are nothing without God’s blessing and direction.

If you’re married or in a serious relationship, your spouse should be the loudest human voice in your life. They know you better than anyone else, or at least they should. If you have kids, their opinions come right after your spouse’s. By the way, your spouse came before your kids and your kids, not your spouse, are supposed to eventually leave your house. Your kids’ opinions may not always be right, but they’ll probably be the most honest.

If you have a business partner, they should be the next loudest voice in your life.

Why should you listen to them

Hunter S. Thompson once said, “He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.” You need wise voices speaking into your life as you chase your God-given dreams. You’re going to make mistakes, but you know that. You’re not going to be perfect, but having people you know, like, and trust who want what’s best for you in your life is important for your learning process. They can help steer you in the right direction.

If you know which voices to listen to in your life, it’s much easier to shut out the noisy opinions just looking for an audience. Build a virtual Cabinet for your dream-chasing War Room and shut out other voices who don’t know or understand all the planning and work that goes on behind the scenes.

Loud opinions are usually just that: loud. Wise and trusted opinions can help you get the insight you need to succeed. Know the difference between the two.

Put deadlines on your dreams

Dreams become reality only when they’re put into action.

You have dreams and ambitions. Maybe it’s quitting that soul-sucking 9-to-4:59 routine and pursuing your dream job. Maybe it’s writing that novel, starting a movement, creating a mastermind group to tackle a social justice issue, or inspiring change in others. There’s a cause burning inside of you, but it will stay only a smoldering possibility without a plan of action.

Put deadlines on your dreams - writetojoncook Jon Cook

I knew I wanted to pursue writing full-time for three years before making the leap. And yet, it wasn’t until I put specific details and deadlines on my dreams that they became my new reality. Author Napoleon Hill said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” A dream is only a hope, but a goal is a dream with an action plan.

Putting deadlines on your dreams is the best way to realize them. You need practical steps to achieve your dreams, the very definition of a goal.

How to turn your dreams into goals

The best way to set goals is to make them S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Take your dreams and turn them into S.M.A.R.T. goals.

For example, let’s say you wanted to start your own custom cabinetry business. You can’t just say, “Goal 1: Start work tomorrow as a custom cabinet maker.” There’s nothing S.M.A.R.T. about that, just a dream with a leap into the unknown. Where will you work? Who will be your customers? Where and how will you get your supplies? How will you market your business?

One of the first S.M.A.R.T. goals for launching a custom cabinetry business might be, “Research and contract with the top three wholesale cabinet material manufacturers in my state by the end of the week.”  It fits all five elements of S.M.A.R.T. goals and puts a deadline on your dreams.

Put deadlines on your dreams

Now, sometimes deadlines need to be extended because life just happens. At the same time, I’ve often found that deadlines light the right fire at the right time to inspire me towards the desired action.

Deadlines can be intimidating because they make you sweat the details. Deadlines keep you up at night. They can hijack your mind for weeks on end. And they’re also responsible for some of life’s greatest achievements.

It’s time to put some details to your dreams. You’ve waited long enough. You’re all out of excuses. You can do something extraordinary if you put an action plan to your hopes and aspirations today. It’s time to give your dreams their marching orders.

What are you doing today to put your dreams into practice? Share your story through the Comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Create a living legacy that’s worth your time

What do you want to be your legacy?

The number one death bed regret is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” (Huffington Post) Now, I don’t mean to be morbid, but it’s easy to think of a person’s legacy only after they’ve passed.

I think that’s short-sighted. Thinking legacy only begins to take shape when a person dies devalues the ethos of legacy. Some of the most powerful legacies today are living legacies: people making a difference in the world around us. Entrepreneurs, philanthropists, social justice advocates, medical researchers, these are just some of the few creating wild significance while breath still inhabits their lungs.

What if we reimagined life years before that final death bed regret? What if you had the courage to live a life true to yourself now? What would you change? What would stay the same? What would it take to turn your life into a living legacy?

Create a living legacy worth your time - writetojoncook Jon Cook

How to build a living legacy

Spoiler alert: life is not about you. You’re not here to build your kingdom. God put you here on purpose with a purpose for a purpose: to make a big deal out of others, especially Him. Any attempt to build your own legacy with selfish intentions will crumble with time. Your life legacy cannot begin to take any significant shape until you start seeing others as more important than yourself.

You can start building a living legacy in a few simple ways:

  • Build someone else up every day. You can be a mentor, an encourager, advocate, even just a good friend, someone who adds value in someone else’s life today. Every one of us could use another person in their corner of the ring. Be that cheerleader.
  • Seek significant change, not just successful opportunities. Anyone can build wealth, but few achieve significance.
  • Live a generous life. Be generous with your time, attention, resources, money, connections, wisdom, even listening. A generous life is one of God’s greatest glimpses into heaven on earth.
  • Duck the spotlight whenever possible. This allows you to highlight others who deserve far more attention than you do. Tipping your cap to others who deserve the applause embodies a gracious life.

Five questions to ask when considering your legacy

When you see your life’s purpose is to enhance the lives of others, there are five questions you can ask to help build a lasting legacy:

  1. What do I want to be true of me?
  2. What is the significance I want to embody as a testament of my life’s work?
  3. Whose lives do I want to influence for tremendous opportunities in the future?
  4. How do I want my name to be remembered?
  5. What emotions do I want to inspire in others after they know my story?

None of these questions are bound by an end-of-life experience. All of these questions can be answered and refined as you live each day. Michael Hyatt recently announced his coming book Living Forward, co-authored by Daniel Harkavy, that’s due to be published by Baker Books next spring. This already looks like a tremendous resource to help you develop your living legacy.

What are some other ways you can build a living legacy?

Sorting the profound and the profane in your potential

You are capable of extraordinary potential.

There are literally billions upon billions of synapses and nerve endings firing and circuiting through your brain as these words drop from the screen through your optic nerves and into your neocortex for split-second processing.

And it’s in that same main hub of conscious thought and language communication that you have tremendous potential for two separate lives: the profound or the profane.

Sorting the profound and the profane in your potential - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Profound living vs. profane living

Now, I’m not referring to profanity when I talk about profane living, although that may be part of the expression. Profane living is a life of fear, insecurity, regret, resentment, even hatred and complacency. It flies in the face of your God-given potential and says, “No thanks, I’ll live in a limited capacity instead of embracing extraordinary opportunity.” It profanes the opportunity you’ve been given.

A profane life is most pronounced in the lies we entertain and the lies we even tell ourselves. “You don’t have what it takes,” “Am I good enough?” “You’ll fail just like everyone else has.” “Who am I to start my own business?” “I’ll never succeed.”

Quit drinking that Kool-Aid; you were made for more than that.

A profound life reaches past where you are today. It creates something worth celebrating, a life of significance that enhances the lives of others around you. It’s what helps us create and share art, music, romance, philosophy, hope, justice, and most importantly, love.

When it comes to chasing your dreams, it’s easy to flirt between the profane and the profound. One moment you’re making that call, quitting that job, or scheduling that interview. Things start to feel significant, even profound in their meaning. The next moment you’re in the third bathroom stall puking your guts out and wondering, “What have I done?!” Hello, fear.

Profound, profane, profound, profane, lather, rinse, repeat.

What would it take to embrace a profound life and leave a profane past behind?

Living a profound life

Embracing a profound life starts with the words you allow yourself to hear. It starts with changing your mental narrative. Kara and I talked today about how poisonous it is to entertain negative thoughts. Negativity isn’t reality, even if reality is sometimes negative. Negativity profanes our potential. Gossip profanes our spirit.

There are five significant shifts that define a profound life:

  1. A profound life pursues significance.
  2. A profound life is filled with people who speak constructive criticism out of hope, not Negative Nellie’s out of jealousy.
  3. A profound life kicks fear in the face by chasing the possible inside the seemingly impossible.
  4. A profound life knows that chasing your dream will be filled with uncertainty and still doesn’t give up.
  5. A profound life doesn’t let your inexperience or lack of pedigree change the trajectory of your calling.

You were made to live a profound life. Now’s your time to do something significant and leave a fear-inducing profane life in your rearview mirror.

What are some ways you’ve embraced living a profound life?

Why dream chasers need dream seekers

When was the last time you looked for a complete stranger in a crowd?

That’s the whole premise of a crowd: it’s usually filled with strangers, people you don’t know. If you’re at a sports event, the mall, airport, or festival, there’s no shortage of people you could meet. The point is that you’re not interested in meeting everybody everywhere, only certain people for certain purposes.

I’m really good at finding people I know in crowds, but I stink at finding people I’ve never met before. Why? Because I don’t know who to look for, what their names are, or what they even look like unless someone tells me. Finding someone in a crowd is much easier if that person is also looking for you.

Look for people who are looking for you - writetojoncook Jon Cook

When it comes to chasing dreams and doing work that matters, you need to be looking for people who are looking for you. Dream chasers need dream seekers.

So many people try to get connected with big-name people in their new industry that have no interest in meeting them. It’s like looking for someone in a crowd who isn’t interested in meeting you. A random stranger at a ballpark isn’t going to give me the time of day unless I have something they’re wanting. Why should they?

Dream chasers need dream seekers

Dream chasers need to find dream seekers: people who are looking for a dream that’s worth investing their time, energy, and attention. Maybe you have a great story to tell in the form of a book, a feature-length film, or as a speaker. You need to look for a literary agent or platform builder who’s also looking for a great story to share.

You don’t need the greatest filmmaker or even a popular name in your industry that might have some connections for you. You just need the right person who is looking for what your dream entails, a dream they can believe in and promote with you.

We as dream chasers have a quantifiable amount of energy; we can only do, be, and effect a certain amount each day. Don’t waste your energy trying to catch the attention of the wrong people. Spend your time, energy, and attention looking for the right people who are looking for you.

How to find dream seekers

It’s helpful to know how to find dream seekers. Where do you start? How do you know that someone is looking for you and your dream? There are some simple steps for finding dream seekers and inviting them to support your dreams.

1. Ask people you know, like, and trust who they know, like, and trust who might be interested in your dream.

2. Do your research on that person. This is full permission to stalk the crap out of them. Google them. Look them up on social media. Read their blog or website, if they have one. You need to know why they do what they do before inviting them to support your dreams.

3. Take the initiative to contact them. Don’t text them. Don’t DM them via social media. If you have their phone number, call them. If you don’t have their phone number, email them. The best approach is calling them. It’s more personal than an email and communicates higher value.

4. After you’ve established a healthy connection with that person, repeat steps 1-3 with them.

Dream seekers can help turn your dreams into realities. It takes work, lots and lots and lots of work, but the reward is worth the hustle.

What are some ways you’ve found dream seekers who can support your dreams? Share your stories in the Comments section below so I can celebrate with you.

If you don’t have time to read, don’t expect to succeed.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde

Reading is one of the most overlooked benefits in life. People constantly ask me what I’d recommend to help them improve professionally. My response is usually a question, “What are you reading lately?” There’s a reason people say leaders are readers. The average CEO reads four to five books a month. (Refresh Leadership) If you want to succeed in life, you must bury your nose in a good book to learn from others what you don’t know.

My love for reading began with being able to read in preschool. My mom would take us to the library (remember those?) on a regular basis and we’d leave with arms full of books to devour. I read anywhere between 10-20 feature-length books a year and between 80-100 eBooks.

Read to succeed - writetojoncook Jon Cook

Reading rates among U.S. Adults

Seth Godin recently shared that 23% of Americans read zero books in 2014. Zero. Illiteracy is not all to blame with 14% of American adults being unable to read. (U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy) That still leaves over 27 million U.S. adults fully capable of reading who simply choose not to read.

With social media, radio, and TV clanging for our attention, the thought of devoting a few hours to consuming a book is seen as, well, “not worth our time.” If that’s the case, then why do some of the most successful people in the world, fiscally or not, consume the most amount of books?

I’m currently in the middle of reading six books and I feel like I’m still missing out. What I don’t feel is uninformed and uneducated. The power of reading transforms even the most obscure individuals into industry leaders and world-changers. Just by reading one book this year you will be learning and advancing more than over 75 million Americans.

How to create a reading habit

You may not be an avid reader. In fact, you may hate reading, but if you’re wanting to develop this life-changing habit, there are a few easy steps to grow as a reader.

  • Pick a nonfiction book your friends recommend. It doesn’t have to be several hundred pages long, but it should be at least 150 pages, give or take a few. It’s important to note “nonfiction” as the genre. Maybe it’s a book on a hobby you enjoy or a person you admire. The point is to feed your brain without kicking it into autopilot, which is what happens with a lot of fiction books.
  • Sacrifice one time-consumer in exchange for reading. Maybe you only watch six hours of Netflix each night instead of seven. To grow you must sacrifice.
  • Schedule your reading. Block out a half-hour or an hour of time for reading. It may be every night or every other night, just pick a regular time and stick to it.
  • Read. I know, that’s earth-shattering advice, so I’ll say it again: read. You may be bored and fidgety within the first few pages. Just let yourself get into the pages and focus on what you’re reading.
  • Discuss what you’re reading. Maybe you should join a book club or use an online discussion forum to talk about the latest book you’re reading. Other readers can draw out observations and experiences from books that you won’t. This will enhance your overall reading by learning from other readers.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading right now. What are some great books you’d recommend? What are some other tips or tricks for developing as a reader?

Life is an opportunity, not an obligation.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

Nobody loves the feeling of obligation. It’s the dinner party with extended family members you really can’t stand. It’s the work retreat that’s “optional,” but then you’re asked during your annual review why you didn’t attend. I’ve attended plenty of events because I felt obligated.

Obligation is a slimy word, a compulsion powered by internal grudges. What’s the point of doing something if you’re guilt-tripped into it?

Life is an opportunity, not an obligation - writetojoncook Jon Cook

There are times in life where we confuse what seems like obligations with true opportunities. It’s the difference between “I get to…” (opportunity) and “I have to…” (obligation). You woke up today for a reason. God gave you an opportunity to live today, right here, right now, with a purpose.

Life is filled with opportunities.

Mary Augustine once said, “We become happier, much happier, when we realize that life is an opportunity rather than an obligation.” Life begins to change when we change how we see potential “obligations” as fresh opportunities.

“I get to serve others.”

It’s a blessing to be a blessing. I’ve served with countless people in food banks, pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, orphanages, all over the world. It’s never been about me, but I still come away feeling like I was blessed more than I could ever bless others. Serving others changes you.

“I get to work today.”

Over 17.5 million Americans are currently unemployed. (Trading Economics) The fact that you and I get to go to a job, even a job that you might despise, is already an opportunity. You get a paycheck. You get to eat. You get to learn from others with more experience. You get to mentor those who are newer to your industry. Work is one of life’s greatest opportunities.

“I get to walk/talk/hear/read/write/sing today.”

How many people would kill to have all their senses and abilities? The fact that you are fully functional in your body is opportunity enough to use all those functions to share hope and blessings.

“I get to spend time with my family.”

Your family may drive you nuts, but I guarantee you an orphan wouldn’t mind one bit.

“I get to pay a mortgage.”

You may be upside down in your house by $100k. Your house may have all sorts of issues, but you still have a roof over your head. God gives us opportunities, like owning a house, to be a blessing to others.

“I get to be stuck in traffic.”

This means you have a car or you know someone who does who’s blessing you with a ride. This means you also have time to listen to the radio, audio books, music, or talk.

These are just a few of the ways we can rethink “obligations” into opportunities. Today is about seeing opportunity in life. We have a chance to live on purpose. We get to share hope, grace, second chances, and generosity. We get an opportunity to make the most of life today.

Book Review – Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (Seth Godin)

Purple Cow Seth Godin - Book Review writetojoncook Jon CookSeth Godin is arguably the marketing guru of our time, or at least one of the most influential marketing voices. I’ve followed Seth’s writings for several years now. I recently finished his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable and I was thoroughly challenged and impressed.

In the world of marketing, several “P” words set as marketing factors: promotion, price, placement, and others. The problem is none of those truly work as well anymore. Enter the Purple Cow.

A brown cow is boring. Any cow of any normal shade or hue is still boring. What isn’t boring is finding a cow that’s purple. It’s worth noticing. It’s worth telling your friends and family about, “Did you hear I saw a purple cow?” It’s remarkable.

Online marketing glut has created so much noise that we see browns cows everywhere. The key is creating a purple cow experience that leaves customers raving and sharing with their friends and family.

Godin explores several companies who created “purple cows” in their products or services, like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Apple, and KrispyKreme. These companies weren’t worried about pricing or placement first; they were concerned with creating a remarkable product or experience worth sharing: a purple cow.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable was originally written in 2003, so some of the concepts are now dated, but that’s to be expected with any book on marketing. It’s also not a very long book, so don’t expect an exhaustive exploration of a fairly simple concept. It’s a very well-written book that summarizes a basic concept many entrepreneurs, business owners, and ideators struggle to apply but it will dramatically change your business efficacy if put into practice.

I would highly recommend Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable to anyone wanting to stand out with your marketing message. It starts with creating a remarkable product, not aggressively pricing a subpar experience. It starts with a purple cow that people will talk about.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dreamers slay dragons, not lizards

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman

Knights and dragons are the tales of heroes with terrors to vanquish. Fire-breathing dragons the size of 747s are what make heroes quake and take a solid gut-check before slamming down their visor. Dragons bring out the best in heroes.

How many stories have you read about a knight riding out to save the day from the terrifying destruction of a gecko?

Spoiler alert: none of them, because that’s a terrible storyline. No gecko, especially not the GEICO gecko, will ever be grouped in the “terrifying, destructive” category of wild beasts. Geckos don’t carry the risk and danger of a dragon.

Dreams are worth the fight

Why do people not chase their dreams? Because dreams can be scary. It can be paralyzing to see the path God’s calling you to follow and it looks like a massive dragon landing in front of you. The size of the fear has a direct connection to the size of opportunity for extraordinary living.

Of course, dragons aren’t real, right? They’re make-believe; the stuff of legends and lore… just as reliable as many of our fears and insecurities. They may loom large, even terrifying right in front of us, but dragons can be beaten.

Dreamers slay dragons, not lizards. Dreamers see monstrous obstacles on the path ahead and still charge forward. Dreamers recognize the risk, the danger of facing a fire-breathing future of uncertainty and fear and even critics… and still ride on.

Facing the dragons of your dreams

The “dragon” of your dreams come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Maybe you writing your first book and you’ve never been published.
  • Maybe you’re starting your own school or community center and have no funding.
  • Maybe your dreams is a marriage you’ve always wanted and need to work on.
  • Maybe you’re being led to launch a new movement for a cause close to your heart.

All of these can come with their own “dragons”: obstacles, objections, and even direct opponents to your opportunity. Some of these can come from external sources, and some can come from inside yourself.

If chasing your dreams was easy, everybody would do it. If making 100 phone calls and getting 100 “no’s” was easy, everybody would make them. If starting a business or a nonprofit were easy, more than 10% of new businesses would survive the two-year mark. If writing your guts out for several months in hopes of your manuscript being read was easy, everyone would write a book.

This is your battle, your chance to fight for what’s good and right and honorable in this world. This is your dragon to be slain. This is your dream worth fighting for in this world. It’s time to fight for your dreams today.

How to build self-discipline

Building self-discipline requires a plan of action.

Over the past few days I’ve shared about how self-discipline can enhance every area of our lives. A lot of people don’t realize there are nine areas of our lives that need self-discipline. Building self-discipline is one of our greatest God-given opportunities to enhance the world around us. How to build self-discipline - writetojoncook I used to sleep in till 8:00 or 8:15 each morning during the work week because I didn’t have to be to work until 9:00. When I launched as an entrepreneur, I started waking up earlier to focus my mind before the day. I moved my exercise routine to the morning and now I get up between 5:30 and 6:30 to exercise, read, blog, pray, and read the Bible before beginning my work day. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen without an action plan. Lacking direction is one of the leading excuses people give for not having self-discipline. “I want to be better in [this area of life], but I don’t know where to start!” This is why you need an action plan to build self-discipline. As the saying goes, a failure to plan is a plan for failure. It’s time to start building your action plan.

Five steps for creating self-discipline

Building self-discipline starts with super practical steps: what can I do today to start building for tomorrow? There are five basic steps to take when building self-discipline.

  1. Know why you need to change – What will happen if you change? What will happen if you don’t change? Put emotions and future realities into the explanation; this needs to feel deep and personal. For example, I choose to exercise five days a week so I can enjoy life as a fit grandpa in thirty years. I also believe my body is a gift from God and I want to be the best manager of this body for my entire life. Both of those reasons have deep, emotional connections to them.
  2. Set a goal – Fitness, diet, time management, whatever the area may be, set a goal. Remember: your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
  3. Create a strategic plan – This is your roadmap for meeting your goals. What are you going to do, when are you going to do it, and how are you going to get there?
  4. Recruit accountability – Who can help you stay on track to meet your goals? Recruit their help with regular (daily, weekly, bi-weekly) check-in times.
  5. Track your progress – Change that is measured can be best improved. You need a system for measuring your progress towards self-discipline. Wearing a FitBit is a great example of tracking your fitness progress. Doing a schedule audit is a great way to track your time management. Whatever you choose to use, keep track of your progress and make corrections as needed.

Follow these five steps and you will see results. Whatever area of life in which you choose to build self-discipline will begin transforming. I’d love to hear your success stories. Tag me on social media @writetojoncook and share your progress with me!

Discovering the nine areas of self-discipline

Self-discipline is more diverse than you might think.

Yesterday I shared about the infectious nature of self-discipline. Many people have experienced an exponential effect from creating self-discipline in one area of life. It starts as a new exercise routine and within a matter of months, if not weeks, they’re more cognitive and efficient in their workplace, less grumpy in communication, and more attentive in their dietary needs.

The nine areas of self-discipline

Discovering the nine areas of self-discipline - writetojoncook

Photo permitted under Creative Commons Zero licensure – Check out Joshua’s work @ www.joshuaearlephotography.com.

When it comes to your personal life, there are nine distinct areas that require self-discipline. None of these are exclusive areas; they all have some sort of connection to each other in some context.

  • Fitness – This needs to include both weight-resistance and cardio. You need both your engine (your heart) and your system (arms, torso, and legs) to operate well for an optimal fitness levels.
  • Food – This is more than just eating regularly; this is eating intentionally. How much value do your meals communicate to your body?
  • Finances – Live within your means. Save money, Invest for retirement. Don’t spend money you don’t have to impress people who only care about your financial status; spoiler alert: you don’t want those people as “friends”.
  • Time – You, Barack Obama, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Downey, Jr. all have the exact same amount of time each day. How we spend it says more about the value we place on it. Time isn’t money; time is more precious than money will ever be.
  • Career – Are you disciplined in your work responsibilities, or is it obvious you could improve? Don’t wait for your next review to develop new skills, increase your productivity, and lead your team in tackling your work opportunities.
  • Relationships – Self-discipline in relationships means you don’t date losers and energy vampires. It means you do what you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Self-discipline means you’re loyal, honest, reliable, and practical in maintaining good relationships.
  • Faith – We all believe in something. My faith is very important to me, so self-discipline means that I spend time every morning reading the Bible, praying, meditating, and living out my faith in practical ways.
  • Mental – This is probably the trickiest self-discipline to identify because we often don’t realize how many negative mental narratives we entertain. Creating self-discipline in our minds means we pay attention to the voices we allow ourselves to hear. It means we also protect our minds from “Debbie Downers,” energy vampires, destructive critics, jealous doubters, and especially against abusive influencers.
  • Hobbies – How many times have you seen someone take up a hobby, like swimming or playing the piano, and it’s created a more disciplined approach in how they treat other areas of their life? The mental and kinetic focus it requires to learn scales on a piano can improve your attention span and cognitive skills.

Creating self-discipline in these nine areas will enhance your life and how you impact the world around you. Life is too short, God is too good, and the life Jesus calls us to follow means too much not to make the most of the life He’s given to us.

How has your life changed because of self-discipline in these nine areas? Please share your experience below.

The infectious nature of self-discipline

Self-discipline is contagious.

Self-discipline can start in one area of your life and completely transform the rest of your life. How often do you see someone starts exercising regularly and then they’re more focused at work, less stressed in meetings, and soon they seem like a completely different person? It’s because self-discipline in one area can quickly create self-discipline in other areas.

The infectious nature of self-discipline - writetojoncook

How financial self-discipline improved our marriage communication

Kara and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in early 2012. We had close to $20,000 in debt between grad school student loans (guilty as charged), a car loan, wedding debt, and credit card. This past September we paid the very last of the student loan debt and we’re now totally debt-free except our mortgage. (Read more about our debt-free journey here!)

Getting disciplined in our finances actually increased self-discipline in other areas of our life because self-discipline is contagious.

Self-discipline in our finances helped improve communication in our marriage. If you’ve never put together a legitimate budget with your spouse, be prepared for a Master’s Class in conflict resolution and communication. The leading cause of divorce in North America today is money fights and/or money problems. (Dave Ramsey) Kara and I improved in our understanding of how we communicate our overall expectations for marriage, a self-discipline started by getting on a written budget and clearly communicating our financial expectations.

Self-discipline in one area of life can transform your entire life

The elusiveness of self-discipline is that adopted discipline, choosing to be disciplined, is far more effective and lasts longer than forced discipline, like military or microclimatic control. You need to choose to be disciplined, which means you need to get to a point where the numbers on the scale, the tightness in your chest, the anxiety in your brain, or the misappropriation of your bank accounts needs to grate your nerves to the point of change.

If you choose to pursue self-discipline, prepare for other areas of your life to be transformed. It’s not some magic pill or fairy wand; it takes hard work! Self-discipline allows us to make the most of our God-given opportunities to create the best life possible to share hope, life, and peace with those around us.

Over the next two days, I’ll be sharing more about self-discipline, the nine different areas of our personal lives that need self-discipline, and practical steps for creating self-discipline in your own life.

Fighting the scarcity mindset

How do you react when you hear the word no?

For a lot of people, the word no is a deal-breaker. Uh-oh, someone said no, so whatever you hoped for is out of the question. For others, the word “no” is a redirection: someone had the opportunity to be a part of your future and they chose to decline. It’s on to the next opportunity with the next person.

The difference in response is a textbook example of the scarcity mindset vs. an abundance mindset.

Scarcity vs. Abundance

The scarcity mindset is what’s adopted by those who believe in limited opportunities, scarce resources, and a “me vs. the world” control-driven mentality. It’s what keeps people from celebrating the success of others. Scarcity withholds recognition and waits for the other proverbial shoe to drop. It’s a suppressing and limiting mindset.

Fighting the scarcity mindset - writetojoncook

The opposite is an abundance mindset: there are plenty of opportunities, resources, and potential for great things if you’re willing and open to partner with the right people at the right time and work hard to seize those opportunities.

Scarcity says, “I have to fight to keep my customers happy or they’ll leave me for my competitors.” Abundance says, “How can I create so much value for new and existing customers that people will be begging to stay?”

Scarcity says, “I don’t want to know my competition; they’ll probably just steal all my ideas!” Abundance: “If I can partner together with other “competitors,” what might we be able to create together?”

There are over seven billion people in this world. The U.S. economy processes trillions of dollars in business a day. The European Union also processes trillions of euros in commerce a day. Asia, South America, and Africa also process astronomical commerce every single day… and you’re worried about 10-15 customers?

An abundance mindset sees virtually limitless opportunities and says, “Let’s create something so remarkable to help as many people as we can that we’ll be lucky if we stay current with the demand.” Abundance is what drove entities like Facebook, Apple, Harley Davidson, and AirBnB to become so incredibly successful.

Stephen Covey describes an Abundance Mindset in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

Switching from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset

A lot of businesses and churches suffer from a scarcity mindset. It’s easy to white-knuckle your operations and clients or congregation attendees in some fear-driven attempt to maintain control.

It’s the insecurity that arises when you hear someone say they admire your competition’s latest commercial or event. It’s the nosiness that starts to flare up when someone mentions your “competition” in a passing conversation.

A scarcity mindset is poisonous because of the fear behind it. Spit it out. Quit drinking that Kool-Aid. We need to switch from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. It’s the belief that God is a good God and gives good gifts to His children. It’s the belief that it’s our job to add value and hope and even share abundant life with those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Creating an Abundance mentality

An Abundance mindset means you welcome conversation with supposed competitors. Abundance means you partner with other talented people and see what you can create together. Abundance means you’re focused on creating significant, remarkable experiences that will enhance the world around us. Abundance means you celebrate the success of others, not jealously criticize from a distance.

Peter Diamandis shared a TED Talk in 2012 called Abundance is our future. It’s well worth your time to review and consider the impact it may have on your own mentality.

Have the courage to make the leap.

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

I remember the first time I went to jump off a cliff into a lake. Trees, open dirt, edge of the cliff, air. And then nothing for five seconds. The rush, the adrenaline of jumping made the ice-cold splash into the mountain lake almost bearable for my middle school body. Brr!

Have the courage to make the leap - writetojoncook

It took me several minutes of uncertainty before I decided to take the leap, but I’m glad I did. How many times do we stand at the edge of opportunity and toe the cliff’s edge? How often do we shy away and say, “It’s okay; I’ll just watch.”

We see others make the leap, even hear them shout encouragement, “You can do it! It’s so much fun!” And yet, it’s only when we choose to leap ourselves that we feel the rush and excitement for ourselves.

My own leap came in the fall of 2013 when I started Keynote Content. It didn’t take much to compel me to leap, but I was still uncertain of the results. Now, over a year and a half later, I see that making the leap was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

You may be facing a leap, a chance to jump into a new opportunity. Maybe it’s going back to school when you might be much older than your classmates. Maybe it’s writing your first book. Maybe it’s starting your own business or a nonprofit. Maybe it’s leaping out of a bad relationship, business partnership, a rat race of a job, or a toxic church situation. Maybe it’s asking someone out. Maybe it’s a leap into the complete unknown, but you just know you need to jump in with both feet.

“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage”

Having the courage to leap into a God-given opportunity is part of what makes us human. God doesn’t create us to be safe and predictable; we’re called to this wild adventure of life and it’s not for the faint of heart.

I love the theme throughout We Bought a Zoo that sometimes all it takes it is twenty seconds of insane courage.

What will it take for you to make the leap today? How has courage helped you leap into new opportunities? I’d love to hear your stories below.

Work smarter, not always harder

You don’t always have to work hard to be extremely productive.

Many Americans are hard workers. We built the Ford F-150, created the Craftsman wrench, and perfected coal mining. Americans work more hours per week on average than any other country in the world. (20 Something Finance) The problem is that simply working harder and harder has a law of diminishing returns: you can only work so hard before you start to crumble.

Work smarter, not always harder - writetojoncook

Is working hard a curse?

I’m all for working hard. I love putting in a full day’s work, especially as an entrepreneur. God created the gift of work before Adam sinned; it’s a gift, not a curse.

When you’re in a job you hate, it can feel like a curse. Part of that curse is that we think we have to work harder, put in more hours, and do things the way they’ve “always been done” without considering, “Is there a smarter way?”

A hamster on a wheel works very hard and goes nowhere. Work doesn’t always have to be hard if you can work smarter. A strong man can carry a large piece of furniture up a flight of stairs… or anyone can use a furniture dolly, save their strength, avoid injury, and carry the furniture even farther.

Tips for working smarter

Sometimes you need to work hard to enjoy smart work, like setting up a template system or scheduling a series of meetings. Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend four hours sharpening his axe. This echoes Stephen Covey’s 7th Habit of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw. No matter what you do, full-time, part-time, or volunteer, there are several ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of your efforts through smarter work. Here are a few examples…

  • TED.com has a fantastic series of TED talks about working smarter. Enjoy!
  • If you travel a lot for work, why not create a standard packing list? Instead of spending 30-40 minutes before every trip thinking of what you should take, you can spend one hour creating a packing list and save yourself several hours from reinventing the wheel.
  • Life hacks are a great way to learn simple solutions to everyday tasks and hassles. For example, wear sunglasses if you’re driving in the rain. It increases the contrast of the road and makes lane stripes easier to see. You’re welcome.
  • Block out 15 minutes at the end of every day to do three things: review your day, preview the next day, and triage upcoming tasks. Refine the Mind has a fantastic list of Time Management Tips.
  • How long does it take to think about a better solution? Two minutes? Ten seconds? Thinking of smarter work solutions doesn’t take as long as you might expect. Before starting a task, it’s worth asking yourself, “Is there a better way to do this?”

What are some ways you work smarter than you used to work?

5 disciplines for staying relevant in any industry

“I’m not relevant anymore.”

My friend’s words rang in my ears over a cup of coffee. He’s spent fifteen years in his industry, works in a very prestigious role, and by all appearances looks like he’s positioned well for the next ten years. On the inside though, he knows he’s behind the Bell curve.

5 disciplines for staying relevant in any industry - writetojoncook

So, we wound the clock back. Becoming irrelevant doesn’t happen overnight. The good thing is that it’s not a death sentence for anyone: you can be relevant with a few key decisions each day. There are five disciplines that can help you stay relevant in any industry, no matter your age or background.

Read

The old adage is true: leaders are readers. The average CEO reads five books per month. (Refresh Leadership) Reading feeds your mind, heart, and soul with fresh insight and challenges your perspective. Don’t just read what you think you might like. You need to read a variety of content from a range of voices, especially ones with whom you know you don’t see eye-to-eye, to stay relevant.

Ask better questions

Everyone ask questions, but not many people ask good questions or the right questions. The next time you have a question about a process or a person, pause first… and then think of either a better way to ask the same question or consider if there’s a better question to ask. Asking better questions will get better results. The goal in asking better questions is to create better thought, richer discussion, and more productive results.

Learn a new skill from a young person

The average age of a U.S. small business owner is 50 years old. (Experian) Facebook launched over ten years ago. Twitter launched almost ten years ago next March. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful platforms for leveraging your business future.

And yet, so many entrepreneurs and business professionals are still disconnected from social media. Learning a new skill, like how to use LinkedIn, the difference between Google Drive and Google Docs, and even how email marketing works are all valuable skills. Social media will change. Technology is always evolving.

One of the best ways to stay relevant is learning new skills from a young person, like how to use Periscope effectively. I’m only thirty years old, but I’m already looking to college students for what I can learn from them. The day we stop learning is the day we die.

Connect with new people in your industry

Want to stay relevant in your industry? Meet new people. Go to networking events. Ask others in your industry who they think you should meet. Ask them why they thought of that person. And then, buy that person a cup of coffee or a beer, whichever works for you. Connecting with others and connecting others are two important skills that add value to your network and to the future success of others.

Create a life plan

This isn’t a five-year plan. A life plan is a set of principles and aspirations that you hope to be true in your life. For example, part of my life plan is to live faithfully, joyously, prayerfully, and generously in how I approach my everyday life and relationships around me. This hope will help me stay relevant because people want to be around others who are faithful, joyful, devout, and generous in how they treat others.

What do you do to stay relevant in your industry?

Why chasing your dreams requires naiveté

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

Our world says being naive is automatically a bad thing, “Grow up! Quit dreaming. How naive, that’s not how the world works!” Dreamers are and need to be naive though; it’s in our blood. Naiveté comes from a French phrase that means “instinctive belief,” a very different definition than the one we’ve accepted.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’re ignorant of reality because we as dreamers need to balance our dreams with our current reality, though we hope and plan to affect that reality for the future. For dreamers to succeed, we need an instinctive belief that what we dream to do is within the boundary lines of what’s possible.

Why chasing your dreams requires naiveté - writetojoncook

Too naive not to be published

I published my first book in September. My second book Launch Plan: Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur went live on April 22nd. I’ve never met with a book publisher, spoken to a literary agent, hired a professional editor, went to a book trade show, traveled for a book tour, did a book signing, or even got a rejection email from a publicist. By all pedigrees, I’m below the level of “mutt” when it comes to being an author.

And yet, I am one.

Nobody told me I had no business publishing a book, let alone two. Chasing your dreams takes a thorough dose of naivety. You have to be pretty naive that God has you on a special path to step out in faith. It takes guts and tough conversations and making one more phone call, sending one more email, having one more conversation than you want to have. It also takes naiveté, that instinctive belief in the possible.

You need an instinctive belief that your dreams are possible… or you will fail. (Click to tweet this!)

Naiveté can fuel your dreams

I love that I get to help others launch their dreams. I get to work with single moms trying to build a business. I get to work with first-generation immigrants from all over the world working to create a new life for a better future.

It’s not about me; it’s never supposed to be about me. It’s about helping entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, dream chasers, and career changers find their God-given purpose. It’s also about protecting that instinctive belief, that naiveté, that what God’s created for their future is within the realm of opportunity.

What are some ways you’ve embraced naiveté when it comes to chasing your dreams?

You can’t create motivation

Motivation is like musicianship: you either have it, or you don’t.

It’s much easier to hire motivated people than hiring just anybody and hope they’re motivated. Dave Ramsey says he’d rather redirect a horse already running than try to turn a donkey into a thoroughbred.

This isn’t Newton’s first law of motion where an outside force can influence the movement of any stable object with enough momentum; that’s not how motivation works. As much as you might try, you can’t create motivation, only contribute to it. You can yell and incentivize someone all day long, but it’s still up to them to change.

You can't create motivation - writetojoncook

Motivational posters don’t work; they’re only wall decor with quotation brackets. Carrots on a stick don’t work. Raises and bonuses don’t work. Incentives can only carry you so far with inspiration, but they can’t create true motivation.

Motivation can’t be fabricated or coerced, only ignited within the individual.

I’m naturally very stubborn. It can be a very good attribute as an entrepreneur, but very bad for responding to God’s direction. There are times in my life where outside factors all point towards necessary change. All the lights on the virtual dashboard of my life flash “warning, warning!” but it isn’t until I feel internal motivation that change actually happens.

The same is true for pursuing your dreams. Whether it’s going back to school at forty, launching your own business, writing a book, starting a cause, or changing career paths, nothing happens until you have the motivation to change. No motivation, no change. Period.

Motivation is God’s way of igniting internal change for good. (Click to tweet this!)

God allows circumstances, conversations, and opportunities in our lives to cause motivation. Motivation happens when it’s more difficult to remain where we are than to change our circumstances.

  • Maybe it’s a spouse saying something needs to change or else.
  • Maybe it’s hitting the ceiling of your skill set that you’ve ignored sharpening for years.
  • Maybe it’s seeing the writing on the wall before the down-sizing and knowing your future is in limbo.

Whatever your situation may be, you have a God-given opportunity to change. It’s up to you to seize that opportunity and change for good, for something worth fighting for in your future. Motivation is a fire waiting to be lit to fuel your life for tomorrow.

What’s your motivation? How has your life changed because of what’s motivated you?

Part of our story: “L” Cook

L Cook - CSPN Baby Announcement - Logo 1

Kara and I are beyond excited to announce that we are expecting Baby “L” Cook this fall, due Oct. 22nd, just in time for the World Series. Mama Cookie is currently 15 weeks along and we can’t wait to meet our baby. After trying to get pregnant for well over a year, we thank God for answering our prayers.

(In case you may not be familiar with baseball, the letters in the graphic above for C, RHP, and SS are C = Catcher, RHP = Right-hand pitcher, and SS = Shortstop.)

We would love your prayers as we anticipate our growing family. Please pray for…

  • Safety and health of our baby.
  • Improving health for Kara. Morning sickness/nausea has been a beast the past month or so, but things are looking better now.
  • Wisdom for us as we enter the wild world of parenting.
  • Growing our village – we truly believe it takes a village to raise a child and we’re carefully praying for God to bring people into our lives who can share godly wisdom, discipleship, and encouragement as part of our “village”.

If you’re not hustling, you’re wasting.

Chasing your dreams takes hustle: that higher gear of hard work, determination, and drive that’s filled with passion.

God gives us opportunity and it’s our job to sprint towards the life He’s created for us. God doesn’t say, “I’ve created a wild, exciting adventure for you with unbelievable blessings and memories to make… but take your time; it’ll all come to you eventually.” NO! He gives us a path to follow and then says, “Go get it!”

Abraham Lincoln hustle quote - writetojoncook

I haven’t always hustled. In fact, I was pretty lazy in my pre-teens and early high school. My dad taught me what it meant to work hard and chase after what matters. I kept learning how to hustle better all through college until I became an entrepreneur. My grades in college were bad my first two years (sub 2.5), so I learned how to study the right way, take better notes, pay more attention, and my senior year were my best grades in college.

Hustling as an entrepreneur has to be redundant: what entrepreneur doesn’t need to hustle? If you’re not hustling, you’re wasting! You’re wasting time, resources, opportunity, networking, clients’ attention, even a chance at more sleep, whatever that is.

I get to wake up usually between 5:30-6:30 a.m. and I end my work day around 6:00 p.m. Hustle is the pace car for my everyday life and I love it! Gary Vaynerchuck says, “Without hustle, talent will only carry you so far.” I want to push both my talent and my time to the highest gear possible in pursuit of God’s path for me.

Hustling shows God we’re taking His plan for our lives seriously. He loves us no matter what and His love isn’t based on how hard we can work. At the same time though, God gets giddy when He sees His kids pursuing His path with a full throttle on life.

What would it take to kick your life into “hustle” mode? The pace of your life directly reflects how highly you see the opportunity God’s called you to pursue. Are you coasting through life or are you kicking into higher gear?

How has hustling changed your perspective on God’s plans for your life? What are some ways you’ve changed your schedule or mindset to make the most of your God-given opportunities?

Banning “busy” from everyday conversations

We need to treat “busy” like the four-letter word that it is.

Everybody’s busy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, the average U.S. employee puts in 7.6 hours of work before coming home and spending an average of at least two hours in household activities. That’s already a big time commitment.

Banning busy for our everyday conversations - writetojoncook

Between being married, having kids, working a job (at least you should be), tracking your budget (another really good idea), taking care of your house/chores, grocery shopping, exercise, meals, sleep, and commuting between all of those responsibilities, anyone would be busy!

Saying you’re busy nowadays is like saying you’re on Facebook: everybody is, unless you’re Amish… and even that’s up for debate. The point is people ask you how you’re doing and you say, “I’m busy!” Well, no shock, Sherlock, that’s a fact of life!

“Busy” is tiring

Busyness isn’t a novelty, nor is it a badge of honor. I came across these words from Anese Cavanaugh, founder and CEO of Dare to Engage, earlier this week,

“Being busy does not make you more important, it does not make you more productive, it does not make you more valuable. It just makes you tired.”

You may be busy, very, very busy… but are you productive? A hamster on a wheel is busy. I’ve worked with a variety of people and clients who are “busy” according to their schedule, even from their appearance, but they’re not productive.

Busyness is effort exuded while productivity is effort directed. (Click to tweet this!)

Being busy is an excuse

The truth is we’re not really as busy as we think we are. If the right opportunity with the right people came across your schedule today, we’d clear everything and follow that opportunity. We need to take that mindset and transfer it to the myriad of excuses we use in the spirit of busyness,

  • “Sorry, I’ve just been swamped.”
  • “I’m really busy and haven’t gotten to it yet.”
  • “There aren’t enough hours in the day.”
  • “I’ve been go-go-go all week and just haven’t had the time.”

Do whatever’s necessary to turn your busyness into productivity. You can actually be more productive in less time if you’re focused in your attention, disciplined in your efforts, and doing one task at a time. Track your to-do list and time management to see how your productivity increases with those three tips. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

Getting rid of “busy”

For now though, let’s work to eliminate “busy” for our conversations. It doesn’t add value, only serves as an obvious statement for a vast majority of the population. Treat it like the four-letter word it’s become.

Saying you’re busy is a tired response, but being productive is inspiring. We get to inspire the people around us today. I’d rather share the exciting things that I get to be a part of instead of just reporting on the pace of everyday life.

How does being busy affect your everyday conversations? What are some ways we can replace “busy” with a better response?

Killing your darlings

“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner

William Faulkner was a genius writer, a Nobel Prize-winning scribbler of works that shaped much of the roaring 20’s and Great Depression years. Faulkner’s quote refers specifically to elements of your writing style: characters, dialogue, theme, or whatever you think is essential to your writing success.

Killing your darlings - writetojoncook

Sometimes you have to sacrifice your “favorite” character because they’re not as essential as you wished they were. It can feel like killing off your best friend. It’s brutal to experience as a writer. Who would do that?!

I believe Faulkner’s quote has a bigger context than just the art of writing.

Pursuing your dreams means sacrificing ideas, opinions, or traditions. At some point in pursuit of your dreams you will line up all of these and vote the weakest one off your survivor list. It happens. It’s necessary.

Sometimes you need to take a favorite idea of yours and give it a proper burial. Sometimes you have to let go of the way things used to be to make way for something newer and better. Sometimes you need to choose not to have an opinion because it’s a learning opportunity.

Your opinion is important. Your ideas are yours, buried treasures just waiting to be shared with the world. You like the way you’ve done things in the past; the warm blanket of tradition can be pretty soothing in the midst of ongoing changes in life.

All of these are your darlings, precious to you because you’ve carried them with you for so long. One of the few guarantees in life is change. Nobody really loves change. I hate change for the sake of change because that’s pointless, but change is still inevitable.

It’s in the motion of constant change though that we’re forced to a crossroads with many of our mental darlings, our ideas, opinions, and traditions: stay the same and be left behind, or kill your darlings.

That sounds harsh. It is. It hurts to change our opinions. It hurts to leave tradition. It crushes us to think the ideas we’ve held onto may not be as good as we thought. And so, we do the unthinkable and change our minds, killing our darlings in the process.

Some of the most meaningful lessons I’ve learned is when I’ve had to kill an idea, opinion, or tradition of mine, especially as an entrepreneur. Do I miss some of those darlings? Some times, but it’s amazing how infrequently they cross my mind as new darlings have entered my thinking.

Pursuing your dreams means how you think about what you think about will change. New ideas, new traditions, and new opinions can’t form until the old ones are removed. God will call you to change your perspective as you pursue the dreams He’s called you to follow. That’s part of the dream-chasing process.

Have the courage today to know when to say goodbye to your darlings. You have the chance to change. Don’t let your dreams escape you because you’re too busy holding on to a dying idea, opinion, or tradition.

What are the darlings, your ideas, opinions, or traditions, that you need to kill today?

Lions, monkeys, and ignoring your critics

“If size mattered, the elephant would be the king of the jungle.” – Rickson Gracie, Brazilian 8th degree Jiu-Jitsu black belt

Have you ever seen a lion run away from a monkey? Not gonna happen. Even if it’s a gorilla, the lion know they have the upper hand. 600 lb. of elephant-hunting attitude with teeth and claws are reason enough to crown the lion king of the jungle.

Lions, monkeys, and ignoring your critics - writetojoncook

What’s the size of the dream in your heart? How convinced are you of what you were created and called to do? If God is for you, who can be against you? Nobody! For you to pursue the dream God’s laid out for you, you need to act like a lion. It’s the natural instinct of the lion to behave like they’re on a mission because of how they were created.

Pursuing big, scary, God-fashioned dreams takes guts. It also attracts critics: shrieking, cowardly monkeys who only get close enough to distract and annoy lions from the path you’re following. Monkeys throw poop at others and make a lot of noise when they feel threatened. If that reminds you of anyone in your life, congrats, you just found a monkey in your life.

I’ve listened to my fair share of monkeys in my life. In fact, I’ve had to push past more critics in the past two years than probably my entire life combined. I’ve wasted time caring about the opinions of people who have no real interest in enhancing my future, only criticizing my present. One of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made is muting the monkeys in my life.

Your dreams are yours to follow, nobody else’s. They may not always make sense to others, even to you, but they’re still your dreams to pursue. Maybe it’s starting your own business as an entrepreneur. Maybe it’s changing careers. Maybe it’s going into ministry or starting a nonprofit where there are plenty of monkeys, even other staff. Whatever your dreams may be, they’ll draw out the monkeys in your life.

The people closest to you, other lions in your life, should be your spouse or significant other, best friend, mentor, other friends who will support your journey. They will walk with you as you pursue your dreams.

Other lions may challenge you along the way, but they do it in a way that’s face-to-face like a lion, not from the safe distance of the trees, like a monkey. If they think you’re headed in the wrong direction and truly care for you, they’ll risk the comfort and safety of future friendship to call you out in person. Only monkeys stay at a safe distance.

Don’t listen to the monkeys in your life. Critics are loud, obnoxious, and unwilling to take their own risks. Unless they’re willing to get out of the trees and onto the path you’re following, treat them like a distraction. They’ll tweet at you, post negative comments on social media, even send long, passive-aggressive emails stuffed with negative criticism but no offer to dialogue or wisdom ’cause that’s what monkeys do. Ignore. Delete. Block. Repeat. Works like a charm.

Keep walking the path God’s called you to follow. Your dreams demand a lion’s heart of courage. Don’t be distracted by your critics. Pay attention to those you know, like, and trust in your life to give you wisdom for the journey.

And know why you’re following the path ahead.

4 Catalysts to your Potential

You were created for significance. You were made with far more potential for greatness than you even realize.

No matter who you are, your potential, or even how much natural ability you may have, there are four catalysts that directly affect your God-given potential: Character, Relationships, Abilities, and Industry Credibility. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, cubicle-dweller, C-Suite executive, blue collar, white collar, rich, poor, man, woman, old, or young, these four catalysts are essential to your future success.

4 Catalysts to your potential - writetojoncook

I’ve tried to do plenty of things on my own. Pride has been a struggle of mine for my entire life. I’ve also tried to be a “lone wolf” and do things on my own without anyone’s help. In both ways I’ve failed miserably.

On the other hand, when I’ve embraced these four catalysts in my life is when my potential has been the most realized. You will only be successful to the extent you embrace these four catalysts for the benefit of others.

Character

Your reputation is what people think of you, but your Character is who you truly are when no one is around. Your Character is what will be remembered long after you’re gone. If your Character is suspect, your potential will always be in danger of imploding.

Your Character includes your work ethic, your trustworthiness, your loyalty, and your commitment to doing the right thing, no matter the cost.

Relationships

Too many of us have the mindset, “What’s in it for me?” In reality, the Relationships we hope to enhance for the greatest potential can never be approached with such a toxic attitude. “What’s in it for us?” is a much healthier mentality to have and it adds value to what we can accomplish together.

Your Relationships are more than just who you know; they’re about how you interact with and optimize the Relationships in your life to benefit everyone, not just yourself.

Abilities

It’s one thing to be naturally good at something; it’s another thing to leverage your Abilities in the right direction with the right people for the right reason. A hamster on a wheel works incredibly hard, but a woodpecker is focused, driven, and relentlessly committed to its end goal.

Be a woodpecker in how your focus your Abilities for long-term success. Let older, wiser people speak their perspective into your Abilities and how they think your Abilities might be best directed.

Industry Credibility

Where Character has to do with your personal reputation and integrity, your Industry Credibility has to do with industry reputation: how the arena where you operate views your level of expertise. Rick Warren once said that much of his message and approach to ministry hasn’t changed in 35 years of being a pastor, but it was only after Saddleback became a massive church that people began to listen.

Building Industry Credibility takes a lot of work and at least some time. Read, study, ask questions, and gain trust in your industry, all with humility and a teachable spirit. Your Industry Credibility will come if you faithfully learn your role and contribution to your industry.

Character, Relationships, Abilities, and Industry Credibility – all of these are catalytic to your greatest future success. Lose them and your potential will collapse. Embrace them and your potential will soar beyond your wildest dreams.

How have you seen your own potential enhanced or hindered by these four catalysts? What are some other catalysts that can affect your potential?

Think twice before getting your college degree

College isn’t for everyone. In fact, some people shouldn’t go to college at all.

I’ve worked with middle school and high school students for over ten years now. Ten years ago I would have recommended graduating seniors go on to college, get their Bachelor’s degree, and find a great internship to kickstart their career. College isn’t for everyone though, which is why trade school, apprenticeships, and my personal favorite, entrepreneurship are all great routes for high school upperclassmen to consider.

Think twice before getting your college degree - writetojoncookSince the economy downturn hit in 2008, it’s changed the way businesses are viewing candidates. It’s no longer the same subgroup of applicants pigeon-holed into consideration for a particular opening. More and more businesses encountered over-qualified candidates applying for under-paying, lower-level jobs because they weren’t finding other openings more suited for their experience, education, and salary expectations.

Five years ago I began my Master’s degree at the very bottom of the economic fallout. I withdrew after one year for a variety of reasons, haven’t returned or regretted leaving, and may never finish my Master’s. With what I get to do now as an entrepreneur, I don’t need a Master’s – what am I going to do, give myself a raise?

Think twice before going to college

Getting a college degree, whether it’s an undergrad, graduate, or even your doctorate, isn’t the guaranteed pedigree it used to be. There are several factors to consider before getting your college degree…

  • Student loans – I highly recommend cash-flowing your education, if at all possible. The average tuition cost for a two-year MBA degree in the U.S. is around $80,000. (Investopedia) Before you consider jumping into your Master’s degree, think about the financial obligation.
  • Income loss during education commitment – The average U.S. income in 2013 was $44,888.16. (SSA) If you go part-time at work to pursue your education, you compound the financial commitment in reduction of wages to offset your educational responsibilities. Of course, this isn’t a new concept, but the
  • No guarantee of increased income – Multiple college graduates over the past five years have told me how hard it is to find a job in their field. These aren’t the C-average students; these are straight-A, highly recommended students with glowing recommendations from department heads coming off excellent internships.
  • Bloated tuition costs for traditional universities and colleges – The average tuition increase for college education in the U.S. is projected to rise at a rate of 5% for the next ten years. A four-year degree for an in-state resident in the year 2033 is projected to cost almost $95,000 in tuition alone! (Savingforcollege.com) Factor in that the average college student changes their major three times during their college career and it even further extends tuition costs.

Are college degrees good? Absolutely. At the same time, there are cheaper, highly effective ways to get a proper secondary education without breaking the bank or your income stream. You don’t have to go all four years to a $35,000/year state school when you can get a great Associate’s degree at your local community college and transfer to the school of your choice after your second year.

College is a fantastic experience. I enjoyed my college experience and still encourage high school grads to consider college as their first option. What’s changed is that I ask if they’ve considered other options besides college, just in case it may not be the best option available for them.

Launch Plan - CoverIf you haven’t considered the entrepreneurship route, I’d be more than happy to give you a free copy of my new book Launch Plan: Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur. This will give you all the insight you need to jumpstart your future as an entrepreneur, whether that includes a college education or not.

We all need as much wisdom as we can get, which is why I do what I do: helping people launch significant dreams to enhance the world around us. College may be a great starting point, but think twice before assuming it’s the best route for you.

Getting rid of energy vampires

Your three most valuable assets each day are time, attention, and energy.

  • Popularity can’t buy you more time than the same 24 hours we all receive each day.
  • Saying someone is a priority doesn’t guarantee they have your attention.
  • Money can’t buy you more energy, only enough espresso and caffeine to trick your body into compliance.

Research shows that over 134 countries have laws restricting the maximum length of a work week, but the U.S. is not one of them. (U.K. HRM) Factor in that over 85% of U.S. men and over 66% of U.S. women also work more than 40 hours/week and it’s no wonder so many people complain about not having enough time, attention, and energy.

The biggest threat to your energy level

Getting rid of energy vampires - writetojoncookWe have schedules to block out time for what’s important to us. People have screen restrictions, phone baskets by the dinner table, and distraction-free writing to keep our attention intact. But what steps do we take to protect our energy?

Energy is more than just how much sleep you get each night. Isn’t it frustratingly profound how drained you can feel after eight hours of sleep? It’s not your mattress’ fault, or your spouse’s, dog’s, cat’s, kids’, or even your diet’s fault. At least, not all the time.

There’s a good chance your energy loss has to do with the people you allow to influence your life both professionally and personally. My faith is very important to me and I see specific places in life where my faith is stronger when I’m around people who encourage my faith. My heart is fuller, deeper, and richer because of time spent with people who remind me of grace and second chances and a call to follow Jesus closer.

The converse is true that I feel spiritually drained when I spend time around people who gossip, are legalistic, abuse grace, even criticize me for not meeting their religious paradigm in crystal-clear comparison. They’re energy vampires, sucking the very lifeblood out of everyday life.

The subtlety of energy vampires

Just to make sure you don’t think I’m simply picking on religious people, let me clearly say that energy vampires can be anywhere. Jon Gordon has a fantastic blog post that warns about energy vampires. It be much easier if they had fangs we could see and fight off, but their work is far more subtle: negative comments, objecting to your dreams, destructive mindsets, manipulation, gossip, and judgmental criticism.

Before you know it, they’ve walked on to their next victim and you’re left wondering, “Why do I feel completely deflated?” It’s because an energy vampire has perforated your lifeblood. I’ve worked with several energy vampires before, people who leech onto your personality and suck all the joy out of life through hyper-criticism or negativity. Then, they leave you gasping for optimism and a sense of mental balance as they seek out their next victim.

How to protect your energy from energy vampires

You are not living at your fullest potential if you are still allowing energy vampires to influence you. There are key steps to protecting your energy from energy vampires…

  • The Energy Bus Jon Gordon -writetojoncookGrab a copy of Jon Gordon’s book The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive EnergyAs with all books, including the Bible, just because I recommend reading it doesn’t mean I officially endorse everything in it. Eat the meat, spit out the bones.
  • Identify energy vampires in your life. I can guarantee you have at least one of them. Whether you choose to confront them one-on-one about their effect is up to you, but I’d only recommend doing that on a case-by-case basis. Think about it. Pray about it. Ask wise people you know, like, and trust to help you discreetly and respectfully identify energy vampires in your life.
  • Kick out those energy vampires, just like letting the wrong people off the elevator of your life. Make room for the right people. The wrong people in your life are just taking up room.
  • Put up healthy emotional, mental, spiritual, and maybe even physical boundaries to protect yourself from energy vampires. If it’s someone prone to gossiping, call it out as soon as you hear it and change the subject. If it’s someone who constantly criticizes your work in a negative way, don’t give them permission to speak into your work; find someone else who can give you honest, constructive criticism. Read Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s book Boundaries if you need good language for communicating boundaries. (Read my review of Boundaries here.)
  • Exchange energy vampires with energy givers. This aren’t the “sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns” crowd of eternal optimism; these are people who have a positive, but grounded view of life who have enough life experience to clearly define current realities while hoping for better futures.

Your life will be a more meaningful experience when you remove energy vampires, distance yourself from negative influences, and use all of your God-given energy for whatever He’s called you to do.

Book Review – Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Simon Sinek)

I first came across Simon Sinek’s work via his TED Talk Start with Why. This led me to recently read his book that serves as the backbone for this TED Talk, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

Why do you do what you do?

Start with Why Simon Sinek - writetojoncookThat’s the question posed by Sinek and championed by some of the most inspirational and successful leaders and businesses in history.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t plan on having hundreds of thousands join him on the Lincoln Memorial steps; he simply had a dream.
  • The Wright Brothers didn’t have the best resources or really hardly any money at all, but that had passion to achieve the gift of flight.
  • Steve Jobs didn’t personally create the MacBook, the iPod, or the iPhone, but it was his inspiration and status quo-defying approach that pushed Apple to truly think differently.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” writes Sinek. This is the ground-swell many leaders are missing when it comes to the vision and direction of their business. Many of us know what to do, but we don’t know the driving purpose behind our work.

This book isn’t for someone looking for the “how-to” or “what” to do with their business. I think some readers might even mistakenly read this and think it’s the magic formula for profitability.

The intended audience of this book is the collective group of leaders who already know what they do. They already even know how to do it, but they’re looking for the deepest cause behind why they do what they do. And it’s in this search for reason that Sinek gives a fantastic forum for exploring your why. It’s because of my reading of this work that I’ve made adjustments to some of my own business direction.

One of the very few objections I might have with this work, if any at all, is that some of the concepts became redundant towards the end. This may not be a bad thing as many readers need multiple exposures to the same concepts before meaning can take root.

I found Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action to be one of the most thought-provoking and paradigm-shifting works I’ve ever read. If you’re an entrepreneur, CEO, or leader searching for the why behind what you do, you would be well served reading Sinek’s work.

  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action may be found at Amazon.comBarnes & Noble, and other popular retail sites.
  • Follow more of Simon Sinek’s writings at Startwithwhy.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How to find a mentor

Everyone needs a mentor in their life.

I’ve been blessed to have multiple mentors guiding my entire life, both personally and professionally. From as early as I can remember, I’ve had mentors of some sort speaking wisdom and truth into my life. I’ve never regretted asking a mentor for advice. A significant part of who I am is because of the mentors God has placed in my life.

John Keating Dead Poets SocietyThe concept of having a mentor isn’t a new idea. We see the call to discipleship all throughout the Bible. The term “mentor” actually comes from Homer’s classic work The Odyssey where Odysseus asks his friend Mentor to look after his son Telemachus while Odysseus is away fighting in the Trojan War. We see mentor-types all over culture: Yoda, Don Alejandro, Mr. Miyagi, Uncle Ben Parker, Gandalf, and one of my favorites, Robin Williams’ character Professor Keating from Dead Poets’ Society.

Mentors can bring valuable wisdom, intentional questions, and third-party perspective that we can’t find in our own efforts. Steven Spielberg once said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”

Without the presence of an older, wiser mentor in your life, you can miss out on valuable insight and growth for a more meaningful future.

Why do you want a mentor?

You need to know why you personally need a mentor. A mentor can’t fix character; they can only point out character strengths and flaws. A mentor can’t make you successful; they can only give you wisdom that you have to implement for yourself.

The first step is finding a mentor is knowing the purpose behind having a mentor in your life. That may mean identifying areas of growth that need nurturing. It may mean getting direction and help articulating hopes and dreams that you feel called to pursue. What it ultimately means is submitting your life perspective under the influence of someone you trust will enrich your future.

How to find a mentor - writetojoncook

How to find a mentor

When it comes to finding a mentor, there are several important questions to consider in your search…

  • Who do you know, like, and trust whose life you respect?
  • What does their reputation, personal, and professional life attract you to their influence?
  • How well do you know them? And, how well do they know you?
  • Are they approachable with good questions?
  • Do they have the heart of a teacher?

There may be other questions and concerns to think through along the way. Whatever process you follow, know that your life will be richer and deeper because you choose to learn from someone further down the road of life than you.

Don’t kiss your brain goodbye

We live in a world confused about intelligence. A PhD candidate is lauded for their industry break-through on neural pathway mapping while the same student is then encouraged to just go get hammered this weekend because research demands have been a beast to endure.

Why would someone so undeniably intelligent make such a brain-evicting decision? Because as much as our world values knowledge and intelligence, it undervalues wisdom, specifically the wisdom of God.

Don't kiss your brain goodbye - writetojoncook

Other faiths and beliefs champion the idea of “emptying your mind” and just going with whatever happens. “Free your mind” is the mantra many pursue. Eastern mysticism even encourages a meditative descent to Alpha level where you mentally detach your brain to the point of immobility. Being mentally incapacitated is seen as a positive, even revered.

Having faith is not a contrast to intelligent living; in fact, a life of faith is stronger because of the demands of faith. C.S. Lewis wrote these words in his work Mere Christianity,

“Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.”

At no point does God ever call us to kiss our brains goodbye. The six inches between our ears is one of God’s greatest gifts. To not use our brains to their fullest potential is one of the worst misappropriations.

There’s a huge difference between stepping out in faith, well aware of the potential risks, and just making dumb decisions. This is why the Apostle Paul encouraged the Roman believers to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12.2) and later he also reminded Timothy that God gave us the gift of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1.7).

Part of following Jesus means we actively engage our minds in crucial areas of our lives:

  • Reading good books that stretch both our faith and our brains.
  • Having conversations with people who think very differently than we think.
  • Challenging the status quo of our beliefs and theology, especially if we’ve blindly accepted whatever someone has told us about faith, God, the Bible, and life in years past.
  • Asking tough questions of our community and ourselves.
  • Searching for our greatest purpose in life with faith to know God’s ways may not make sense to us, but we can still use our brains to consider what He’s called us to do and to be.

May you use your mind today to actively engage the world around you. May your thoughts align with the thoughts of our Creator. And may you think about the difference your mind can make in the lives of others today.

The five biggest fears challenging your potential

God made you for a reason. It’s absolutely bonkers how much He’s gifted you with the chance to live here and now with the talent you have. He’s made you to do something significant, maybe even world-changing, but if you’re not careful, there are five big fears threatening your potential.

Fear of failure

Let’s start with the obvious one: the fear of failure. No normal person craves failure. Being a success is innate in all of us. Here’s the greatest truth to facing the fear of failure: if God’s called you to do it, it won’t fail. If the worst thing that could happen is failure, so what? What would happen if you fail? Now, build an action plan to do your part in following the opportunity God’s called you to pursue.

Fear of being unpopular

Following God’s plan for your life isn’t always popular. People have done “bizarre” things when stepping into their God-given potential. It’s not always understood. It’s not always liked, even hated out of jealousy or pride. Some times it means you need to break away from bad relationships, poor careers, even losing “friends” in pursuit of your fullest potential.

Your future success needs to be built on relationships with people who are worth having in your life. The people of your past aren’t in your present for a reason. Think about that.

The five biggest fears challenging your potential - writetojoncook

Fear of inability

I think we all struggle with the feeling of inadequacy at some point in our lives. Do I have what it takes? Am I good enough? I’m not that talented, am I? It tools faith to remember that a good and loving Heavenly Father gives His kids good and beautiful gifts to make good and beautiful things. If God’s called you to do something, He will make sure you have all the talents and resources you need to succeed.

Fear of the unknown

Why do we people fear the dark? Because we fear what we don’t know. All throughout history God has called people to do extraordinary things when facing the unknown. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t know how many people would show up on the Lincoln Memorial steps. Abram had never even seen the Promised Land. Mother Theresa didn’t know the lives she would change when she followed God’s call to serve in the slums of India.

Never let the fear of the unknown hold you back from following the God that you do know.

Fear of success

The final fear is a subtle surprise: the fear of success. It’s easy to fear failure because each of us has experienced failure at some point in our lifetime. What’s not as easy is realizing that the fear of success can be just as petrifying. We fear success by failing to admit we might be destined for greatness. This gives us pause, makes us second-guess ourselves, and whispers in our ear, “Who do you think you are?”

God didn’t create us to live mediocre, vanilla lives. He called us to do great and magnificent things for His glory that we cannot even fathom.

This is why fear needs a knockout punch.

This is why fear needs eviction.

This is why our hearts are neither breeding ground nor haven of safety for the lies of Satan and the self-doubts we harbor within.

Release your fears today. Let God give you the courage to embrace the potential He’s given to you. May your greatest days ahead be set free from any fears holding your place today. Be free from fear.

The myth of 22-62 (and how to change your career trajectory)

There are two ages the American population has set as the range for your greatest significance: 22 and 62. You’re “supposed” to graduate college at 22, right? You’re “supposed” to retire at 62, right? And in between those two ages is forty years of making your mark on the corporate world.

No pressure.

At what point did we buy into the myth that 22 to 62 was forced into the this formula:

  • Work an internship and then entry-level job (3-5 years)
  • Promote to a junior-level position (10-15 years)
  • Promote again to a senior-level position (8-15 years), and then,
  • Ultimately get promoted to the big boys’ (or girls’) table as a C-suite executive where you enjoy the fat bonuses and country club membership for the remaining five to ten years.
  • Retire and enjoy either your country club or your Country Buffet discount, depending on how well you planned for retirement.

The myth of 22-62 and how to change your career trajectory - writetojoncookAmericans have been told the lie for years that we have to indenture forty years of our lives for the chance to enjoy life as we want. That all changed with the economy downturn of 2008-2013. Businesses disappeared overnight. Market conditions weeded out straggling employees. Retirement accounts took a massive beating (my own account lost over 45% value), but many have recovered.

What hasn’t recovered is a sense that retirement is a ready option for many Baby Boomers and younger generations, including my own. That’s not a bad thing; in fact, I think it’s a very good result of the economic upheaval.

We need to think differently about the forty years of the American worker’s timeline. Former senior-level account managers quickly find themselves competing for junior-level or even entry-level positions with 20-somethings freshly tasseled from college. The chance to reinvent yourself for a new career or skill set is more inviting that ever.

Whether you’re 25 or 55, now is your time. Give yourself an education via Google. Teach yourself a new technology. Get to know new network connections. Maybe even start your own business. Whatever the opportunity may be, you can create a new future with the right resources and a fresh energy.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s worth your time and effort. Your only excuses are the ones you allow yourself to accept. Use your God-given opportunity to make the most of the time you still have ahead rather than mourning the status or benefits you used to enjoy.

Life isn’t over when you hit 62. Life doesn’t only have to start as soon as you change your tassel. Life is now, no matter your age, and your future is brighter than ever before. Make the most of it.

6 Up’s that will transform your personal and professional life

Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Butterflies, Rome, and Google weren’t made overnight. Any thing worthwhile takes time to develop.

Here are six “Up’s” that can transform both your personal and professional life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a cubicle-keeper, working mom or college student, nine-to-fiver or night shift worker, the power of these six principles are indisputable. Put them into practice and they will greatly benefit every part of your life.

Six Up's to transform your personal and professional life - writetojoncook

Get up

What if you didn’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning? What if your passion and drive to do something significant popped your eyes open each day?

Your life will be dynamically improved if you’re pursuing a future that doesn’t require an alarm clock. If you’re not excited to get out of bed in the morning, start searching for a purpose on why your feet should hit the floor each day. Read, pray, research, ask questions, create a Life Plan, do whatever it takes to find your purpose and then get after it!

Dress up

This is more than just basic hygiene. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie every day, but how you dress communicates how you want to be treated. I don’t ever dress casually during the business day, even when working from home. Dress up for new opportunities and to be taken seriously.

Show up

Show up when you say you’re going to. Show you care by being there when you need to be. Show up and make a difference by actually being present while you’re there. Simply showing up on time and where you need to be puts you ahead of probably 70% of your competition.

Speak up

Speak up for what’s right in this world. Speak up against the evils you see in everyday life. Speak up with what needs to be said, even if it’s not a popular opinion. Be tactful, be humble, but always be truthful when you speak up.

Stand up

Do you have a boss who berates you? Why would you stay in that situation? You wouldn’t stay in any other relationship that belittles you, right? Then, why let your boss be the only one because you happen to have a paycheck attached to their influence?

Stand up for yourself and put up really healthy boundaries with people who are invading your emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

Never give up

Hey, remember that one person who quit the first time things got tough? Neither does anybody else. There’s nothing inherently wrong with quitting, as long as it’s done in the right way for the right reasons. Many times quitting is a cop-out for those who don’t want to fulfill their commitments.

There will be times when you need to quit, but that’s usually not the case. When times get tough and life isn’t exactly rainbows and sunshine, never give up. Hang in there longer than you think you can. Pray for strength to persevere when it’d be easier to quit. It might be your marriage or your kids or your job or your church or your commitment to a friend or community: don’t give up.

Did I miss any “up’s”? What are some other ones you’d add to this list?

New eBook – Launch Plan: Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

So many of us have a dream we want to launch, but we don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s writing your first book. Maybe it’s starting your own business. Maybe you have an incredibly powerful story and don’t know where or how to get your first speaking opportunity.

This is why I wrote my latest book Launch Plan: Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur. I’ve spent the past several months developing a flight manual to help you launch your dreams.

Launch Plan - Banner

Launch Plan; Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur is the by-product of countless conversations with family members, mentors, former co-workers, strangers, and friends. It’s the culmination of time spent at restaurants, in coffee shops, in terminals, across plane aisles, at conferences, and across kitchen tables at different places literally all over the world.

In this book I help entrepreneurs explore and understand several of the crucial elements of running your own business. Here are just a few of the topics we cover:

  • Business legal structures – what’s the difference between an LLC, “S” Corp vs. “C” Corp, how much liability should I assume and when?
  • Marketing your company as an entrepreneur – How do you get your brand message to the right prospective buyers?
  • Dealing with rejection – How to navigate hearing “no” more time that you’ll ever want to hear it.
  • Raising capital funding – what’s venture capitalism, difference between venture capitalists and angel investors, how to run a Kickstarter campaign.
  • Building your team – how to hire the right staff, how to protect and share your company’s vision, leadership principles for entrepreneurs.
  • How to sell or close your business – what steps do you need to take to safely close down your business.

Whether you’re a brand-new dream-chaser or a serial entrepreneur, Launch Plan: Your Path to becoming a Successful Entrepreneur has the resources you need to thrive as an entrepreneur. Pre-order is now available at Amazon.com and officially launches on April 22nd!

The most important part of Launch Plan

If there’s one thing I want all my readers to know, it’s that Launch Plan isn’t about me. It’s about giving other people the insight they need to turn their dreams into reality. My job is to give you the right information and celebrate what you and God are able to do with Launch Plan.

Share Launch Plan!

There are three huge ways you can help spread the word about Launch Plan

  • Once you get a copy of Launch Plan and want to share your experience with me on social media, tag @writetojoncook on Instagram or Twitter and add the hashtag #LaunchPlanBook. This helps me see how God’s using this resource to change your life and the lives of people who will benefit from your dream coming true.
  • I would also be honored if you would share your review on Amazon starting on April 22nd or share with me by email.
  • You can also share this post via social media or email using the share buttons below.

Can’t wait to hear from you! Houston, we have lift-off!

How to set lifetime goals

Setting goals is a great way to achieve success and meaning throughout your life. A ten-year study of Harvard MBA graduates found that the 3% of new graduates who set clear, written goals for their future earned ten times as much on average as the 97% of their classmates who didn’t have clearly written goals. (Sid Savara)

Goals give us a defined roadmap for actualizing our future potential.

Setting goals that are S.M.A.R.T.

For goals to be effective though, they need to be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. (For a great explanation of S.M.A.R.T. goals, check out MIT’s resource on Performance Development.) The more detailed and intentional your goals, the better your chance to accomplish them over time.

How to set lifetime goals - writetojoncook

I’ve set goals my entire adult life: goals in my career, exercise, hobbies, sports, monthly goals, weekly goals, all types of goals. It was only in the past two years where I started considering legacy or lifetime goals. Legacy sounds a bit morbid to me (just me personally, not saying the word legacy is morbid, but that’s just my opinion), so I choose to call them lifetime goals.

My faith is the most important thing to me, so my primary lifetime goal is to bring glory to Jesus Christ, my Savior. As that ultimate goal sets my paradigm, there are other S.M.A.R.T. goals that I’ve set as lifetime goals.

Three of my lifetime goals

There are several lifetime goals I’ve set, but here are three of them…

  • Live faithfully, joyfully, prayerfully, and generously in how I approach my everyday life and relationships around me.
  • Create a dynamically positive legacy that lasts well past occasional memories and chance reminders.
  • Be financially successful to the point where my family and others may be empowered to do incredible things, but not so much that they don’t have to do anything. (I stole part of this idea from Warren Buffett. If you have to borrow, borrow from the best!)

Now, none of these three are as specific as a weekly or monthly goal, but they are specific in their intentionality. They’re measurable in the emotions and responses that can be measured from people who will last beyond me. They are attainable through the power of God working in my life. They are realistic in that every day is a choice opportunity to either add or detract from their possibility. And finally, they are timely in that they are lifetime goals.

Set and share your lifetime goals

Have you taken the time to set lifetime goals? What do you want to accomplish and contribute in your lifetime? Why would you want to set lifetime goals?

If you haven’t set lifetime goals, I’d encourage you to take some time today or later this week to sit down and write out at least 2-3 S.M.A.R.T. lifetime goals you want to achieve in your life.

Take as much time as you need to craft, rehash, scrap, and refine them, but then share them! Share them with your spouse, best friend, co-worker, family member, business partner, whoever you want.

Share your lifetime goals with me on social media!

If you want to share them with me on social media, I’d be honored to hear from you. Tag @writetojoncook and #LifetimeGoals on either Instagram or Twitter so I can celebrate your lifetime goals with you. If you have questions, let’s start a conversation.

5 questions for finding your big “why”

People crave purpose. I truly believe that at the heart of each of us is an innate desire to mean something. You matter to God, which is the whole point of why you’re still here.

I talk with people on an almost daily basis about purpose. Why are you here? What value are you adding to the people who cross your everyday path? Why do you do what you do?

Finding your big why - writetojoncookSimon Sinek’s classic book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action introduces the premise of starting with why. Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Some of the most inspiring ideas and movements in history began with no expectation of greatness or accolades.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream with no guarantee that his dream would be actualized.
  • Da Vinci was not widely recognized as a genius inventor until after his death. He was initially considered a failure as an artist because he only finished a handful of pieces.
  • Mother Theresa began her work in India as an obscure social worker who wanted to love people unconditionally.
  • John F. Kennedy had a dream to land a man on the moon, but never lived to see that dream be fulfilled.

These incredibly inspirational people did something significant and meaningful because they found their purpose and followed opportunity.

You and I have as much opportunity, if not more today, to step into our ultimate purpose, to create something lasting and world-shaking for the world around us. It starts with finding our “why” behind what we do.

5 “what” questions to help you find your big “why”

One of the best ways to identify your purpose is to ask great questions about the details and context of your purpose. Here are five “what” questions that can help you find your big “why”…

  1. What inspires you without any external motivator, including money? Translation: what do you love doing without a paycheck attached?
  2. What catches your attention that you can spend hours investing in?
  3. What’s something both significant in purpose and important to you personally that will last beyond your final breath?
  4. What would get you out of bed in the morning without an alarm clock?
  5. What would you invest as much time as possible in without expecting any applause or recognition?

Once you find your “why,” it will begin changing your everyday paradigm. Conversations take different directions. Priorities change. Schedules shift. Decisions begin to take on more weight and meaning when thrown through this new lens of life.

What’s your “why” behind what you do? What steps are you taking today to find your purpose for today and beyond tomorrow?

Share your “why” with me on social media

I’d love to hear you share your “why”. If you read through the five questions and find your new “why,” share it with me on social media (connect with me on Instagram and Twitter). Tag @writetojoncook and #mybigwhy. I’d love to hear from you!

Taking back Mondays

Thank God it's Monday

What if we renamed TGIFriday’s to TGIMonday’s? How weird would that sound? Is there a reason why Monday is treated like the redheaded step-child of the week?

It’s because we allow ourselves to be trapped into careers that have no meaning or purpose. We stay within the safety of our collegiate degrees, letting the alphabet soup of M.A., B.A., and B.S. dictate our future instead of pursuing other areas. We stay in jobs we hate because we’re only ten years away from pension eligibility. We keep from pursuing new opportunities because we’re so burnt out and depressed with the same old-same old of our “rut-ine”.

Here’s an idea: why not create a career future that you don’t have to plan vacations to escape from it? What if you didn’t need an alarm clock to get your butt out of bed on Monday morning?

Do you think it’s impossible to start something new? Anyone can re-create themselves in six months or less.

  • I’ve seen an almost twenty-year veteran of the grocery business begin a highly successful insurance career in just two weeks!
  • I’ve seen an aspiring author write their first book over their lunch breaks, late night writing sessions, and during travel… all within four months!
  • I’ve met a single mom entrepreneur who launched her speaking career while working full-time and raising two boys.
  • I’ve met a sixteen-year old who helped raise enough money to launch two orphanages in Africa while serving on the leadership team for two different community groups.

You are all out of excuses!

It’s not Monday’s fault that your job stinks. It’s not Monday’s fault you don’t have joy and hope and a bright future because you chose not to start something new and fresh last week. Quit blaming Monday for your half-hearted attempt at pursuing your dreams.

You have a dream to create something significant. You were made to pursue something more than the 9-to-4:59 rat race. You have greatness within you made for a moment like today. Start a conversation with a potential business partner. Look into getting the degree you’ve always wanted. Talk with your spouse about your dream job… and then create a plan together to get you in that career.

It’s time to take back Monday. It’s time to say, “Monday, you’re the start of something new!” It’s time to start something today that will change all your future Mondays.

It’s time to say, “Thank God it’s Monday!”

Letting the wrong people off the elevator of your life

I like riding in old elevators, the ones with the red velvet carpet, the hand-crank, and the elevator operator sitting on the bar stool. It’s charming and a flashback to yesteryear.

Riding on an elevator with strangers probably wouldn’t make any normal person’s top 10 things they enjoy the most. Elevator rides are usually a mix of uncomfortable (avoid eye contact at all costs), sometimes horrifying (bad gas in a crowded elevator), but a great conversation opportunity if you’re with people you care about.

elevator-buttonOur lives can be a lot like elevators. As God calls us deeper into His story and fresh opportunities, we get to ride along through the highs and lows, constantly meeting people along the way and journeying with them for a bit until we go our separate ways.

As God takes your life further, you will notice there are people you need to let off the elevator of your life. Maybe they’re the ones who start pushing all your buttons (just like the brat pushes all the floor buttons in the elevator) and just look for some sort of reaction from you. Maybe they’re people who give you a bad vibe or they change the entire climate of your life as soon as they enter, and not in a good way. Maybe they’re people going in a different direction than you and you know it won’t last long, so you wish them well.

Letting someone off your life’s elevator isn’t a bad thing! We want to celebrate the people who have traveled with us and added value to our journey. You want to create room for the right people, people you want to be with you, to be in your life. That can’t happen if the wrong people are in your life.

So, how do you let people off your life’s elevator? It depends on how much they’re changing the climate of your elevator. It’s easy to show someone they exit to your life and put up really good boundaries if they’re being offensive and abrasive. It’s another thing if you know they’re detracting from the direction and potential God’s calling you to pursue.

Balancing tact and truth with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is the best way to help let people off your life’s elevator. I’ve let several people off my life elevator, even lately, but not all of them are aware of it because it was by their own choosing and I didn’t object. I’ve also had good, direct conversations with other people to clearly communicate that we have no future together for a variety of long-term empirical reasons. Again, use your God-given discretion, the truth of Scripture, and wisdom from older godly people to give you advice on how to handle each conversation.

Next stop: who do you need to let off today? Be honest, be gracious, but be specific. And look for who God wants to join you on your next stage of life. Elevator rides can be a lot of fun and a great experience with the right people, just like life.

Why your calling has very little to do with you

Why are you here?

This is a huge question people ask because we seek purpose: why am I here? It’s a very existential, personal, and profound question. As with many western thinkers, Christians in America (including yours truly) have turned “calling” into an individualized endeavor. What is God calling me to do?

WHY-AM-I-HEREIf we look through Scripture though, we see multiple times where God calls groups of people to do extraordinary missions. Jesus called many of His disciples in the same conversation, even the same sentence as other disciples. In the early Church Paul and Barnabas were called together, then Paul and Timothy, Barnabas and John Mark, the seven deacons (Acts 6), and many more.

God gives us our calling as followers of Jesus in the context of community, the Church. Why do something great without a context to experience the benefits of greatness? Why be a blessing without people and situations to bless? God uses people to build His kingdom together, not just individuals.

When I start believing my “calling” is about what God wants to do in my life, it halts the vision of why He gives us gifts and opportunities in the first place. It’s not about me; it’s never been about me. It’s about “we” – who can we bless together? Whose lives can we radically change together? Who can we point to Jesus together?

My richest, deepest, most powerful ministry memories and moments are when I’m serving others with others, not just serving by myself. The heartbeat of God is to see His children working together to invite more people to be a part of His story.

This is the Kingdom of God, not individualized single chairs at tables set for one, but banquet tables with plenty of chairs for more people to celebrate. When we see our calling as what God is calling us to do, we better understand the heartbeat of the Father.

May you listen for who God is calling you to partner with for His mission. May you ask why are we here. And may we embrace our calling from God to help build His kingdom together.

3 questions guaranteed to transform your productivity

At least once a week people mention to me they wish they could be more productive.

I intentionally schedule in fifteen minutes at the end of every work day to triage the next day and ask myself three questions. I first came across these questions a few years ago and they have revolutionized how I see my productivity.

  1. What do I need to stop doing?
  2. What do I need to keep doing?
  3. What do I need to start doing?

Forbes.com has an exceptional article on these three areas: stop, keep, and start. CEOs, entrepreneurs, a wide variety of leaders ask themselves these questions. All. the. time. It’s a never-ending, always-striving exercise to continue improving your productivity.

productivityThe best person to answer these questions is yourself. Other people can share their perspective into your situation. In fact, I highly recommend you ask those closest to you that you know and trust to get their input. It still comes down to how you personally answer these questions.

What do I need to stop doing?

This may be the easiest question to answer. We all have things we want to dump off our plate of responsibility. Identifying those time-wasters or the good but not great time commitments we’ve made is one of the easiest ways to clear your schedule.

Bob Goff’s advice is to quit at least one thing every Thursday. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, maybe it’s something seemingly small, like stop watching one of your seventeen TV shows. Whatever you choose to stop doing, make it a point to clear your life for new opportunities.

If you absolutely don’t have to do it, or it’s not essential to your everyday success, get rid of it.

What do I need to keep doing?

These are the non-negotiables: ya gotta do ’em. This is your job, your spouse, your kids, anything that’s essential to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re not sure what might be essential, you should consider these essentials:

  • Sleep – Studies have shown that getting less than six hours of sleep a night for two weeks or more is the equivalent to drunk driving. ‘Nuff said.
  • Exercise – You either make exercise a priority now, or your body makes your health a demand in the future. Besides the obvious physical benefits, stress relief and mental clarity are just a few of the other many benefits.
  • Meals – Good, healthy meals are essential to your long-term health. Don’t sacrifice meals on the altar of “Gotta get things done!” Our bodies and minds function significantly better when we’re well fed.
  • Community – We were created to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself from others around you. People who isolate themselves from regular (read: weekly) community interaction suffer higher health risks, greater effect of depression and anxiety, and a much lower outlook on life.

What do I need to start doing?

There are new opportunities you get to embrace with a less-cluttered schedule. By clearing your schedule, you create enough margin to say yes to better opportunities. Numerous CEOs and other high-level leaders say they say no to virtually everything so they can say yes to really good opportunities when possible. This automatically skyrockets the value of your schedule when you first ruthlessly value your time.

Increasing your productivity isn’t just an efficiency hack; it’s a better way to leverage your God-given time each day into intentional stewardship. Exceptional productivity is a great part of creating a legacy where God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Treating rear view mirrors like windshields

It’s easy to live in the past.

It’s the high school quarterback who wears his letterman’s jacket to the 30th reunion to remember the glory years. It’s the 30-something who can’t get over their college sweetheart six years after the big break-up. I kinda laugh inside when I hear people talk about the good ol’ days like they never left. We all remember the past because it’s powerful, but it’s still the past.

rear-view-mirrorThink about the rear view mirror in your car. There’s a reason it’s so much smaller than the windshield: what’s in the past is not nearly as important as what’s still to come. When we put so much emphasis on the past that it distracts us from the future, it’s like constantly looking in your rear view mirror instead of looking through the windshield.

Your past may have some incredible highlights. Huge success can be intoxicating to revisit in our minds. What keeps us from growing and stepping deeper into what God’s called us to do is when we focus on how great things may been in the past. We can trick ourselves into subconsciously thinking, “That’s about as good as life will get.”

We serve a great God who wants to continue working in lives even beyond what we could ever hope or imagine (Eph. 3.19-21), even greater than what we might already consider our greatest moments in life.

Thinking about the past isn’t wrong, but constantly dwelling on the past is. When we unglue our focus from what’s been, whether it’s good or bad, we can focus on what God’s bringing our way down the road of life. A lot of times we let sin, Satan, or selfishness keep us focused on what’s in our past.

God wants you to turn your eyes towards where He’s taking you now, off the rear view mirror of your past and to the windshield of your future. I truly believe the best of life is yet to come if we allow God to continue transforming our hearts through the Gospel. Who you’ve been in the past, as good or as jacked-up as you may have been, is the perfect starting place for God to do something in the future that will blow your mind if you let Him have full control of your life’s direction.

God wants to do incredible wonders through your future, but you might miss it if you’re focused on your past. Quit staring in the rear view mirror of your life. Ask for wisdom to see the road ahead where God’s taking you. May the windshield of your future be bigger than the rear view mirror of your past.

Keep your eyes ahead, pray for clarity to see, and watch what God will do next.

Staying in second never wins

Do you know what’s the most heartbreaking medal to receive in the Olympics? Silver.

I’ve never heard someone say, “When I go to the Olympics, I hope to get a silver medal.” It’s not in our DNA to finish second. I’ve also never seen someone win a race because they stay behind the leader. At some point you need to make the decision to move ahead of whoever is in first place by doing something they’re not doing.

Second placeToo many of us are content with the “Me too!” approach of life. If it worked well enough for one person, let’s just do the same thing. I will admit, there’s a convenience to staying in second place. There’s no spotlight, not nearly the same pressure to set the pace or try something new and risky.

There are some who might say staying in the pack is very strategic until the perfect timing. Although that may be true in some situations, I’ve found it’s usually a convenient excuse from people who don’t have the work ethic to set a new pace in life. Translation: they’re lazy. Coasting in someone else’s wake is safe and comfortable and constantly sets the ceiling of potential at 2nd place.

Break from the pack and do something different today. It may be having a conversation that most people wouldn’t have the guts to start or finish. It may be launching your dream on the side while you hustle through your 9-to-5 job. It may be breaking away from a mediocre business partner that doesn’t have the same aspirations as you do. It may be confronting whoever bolted down the glass ceiling in your life or work.

Whatever your second place may be, is it worth waiting for the “right timing,” which may be the wisest idea, before making your move? Or, is today the day you say, “I’m sick and tired of just following someone else because it’s convenient and safe.” Great and revered men and women throughout history have a long track record of breaking from the pack to attempt greatness and legacy-booming bravery.

Today may be the day you decide to set a new course in pursuit of what God’s calling you to do. Quit being comfortable. Break out of the pack. And push for a life worth remembering.

Whitman, Apple, and the Powerful Play

Apple iPad Air Robin Williams Whitman 2014Last year Apple ran a profoundly impactful ad for its new iPad Air. It’s a montage where Robin Williams reads from Walt Whitman’s ponderous poem “Oh me! Oh life!” which finishes with the million-dollar question, “What good amid these, O me, O life?”

And Whitman’s answer to his own question struck me dead in my tracks.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
This was one of the last poems he ever wrote and I believe he was introspectively asking himself, “Did I contribute? Was my work worth my life?” Now, I believe many things very differently than Whitman did, but over 115 years have passed since he first penned those words and still, these words resonate with so many of us.
Yesterday I shared about why living a remarkable life needs to be an aspiration, not an abnormality. Whitman’s words remind me of a quote from author John Green,

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”

If you’re facing the nine-to-five 4:59 rat-race straight in the face or you’re having the same shallow conversations with the same surface-level friends, it may feel like your entire day is like waiting for the “Skip Ad” option on a YouTube video. Just. be. over. now!

That’s not life; that’s existence.

What’s your contribution? Whose life have you enhanced today? Whose smile was made possible by you? Where are you sharing the grace of Jesus and the hope of the Gospel and the promise of second chances from a big, loving Heavenly Father?

Though Whitman may have only seen life as the powerful play, I believe the powerful play is God’s story. We get to play a part in His masterpiece. We get to pick up the brushes and pens of our existence and paint our stories on the mural of life inside His almighty plan. This is the powerful play that in the words of Augustine, our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.

May you find rest in your identity as a child of God. May you live in the knowledge of a bigger story that God’s calling you into deeper. And may you contribute your verse to God’s story today.

Vanilla Ice Cream, Purple Cows, and Remarkability

I don’t like vanilla ice cream. Since we’re on the subject, I also don’t like Vanilla Ice, but I’ve made my peace with him. Back to vanilla ice cream.

It’s extremely rare for me to eat vanilla ice cream by itself. Do you know what vanilla ice cream is good for? A la mode. That’s it. Vanilla ice cream rides the coat tails of other foods to the winner’s circle. Oreo cookies are vanilla ice cream’s meal ticket to greatness. With Oreos, helloooo Cookies & Cream. No Oreos? Vanilla.

And yet, according to the International Ice Cream Association (yes, that’s a real association and yes, I might apply), vanilla remains the most popular ice cream flavor.

Why do we as a society, as children of God with innate creative impulses imitating of our Heavenly Father, why do we value blandness in things like vanilla ice cream?

Because mediocrity is safe. People are more accepting of average because it doesn’t make anyone look bad and keeps a cushy status quo.

When I first started leading worship, many of the song arrangements were vanilla. That was the exact description used by a good friend in the band: vanilla. He’s also one of the best guitarists I’ve ever played with, so to hear his honest assessment was both humbling and inspiring. I thought, “I don’t even like vanilla as a flavor. Why would I want vanilla-flavored music?”

purple_cowsI love the idea of remarkability. In Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, he describes being remarkable as something worth talking about. No one talks about a brown cow unless it does something entirely unexpected, but anyone would stop in their tracks if they ever saw a purple cow.

We have a God-gifted responsibility to ignite remarkability. We need to create remarkable art, remarkable music, remarkable businesses and innovations and dreams and enterprises and opportunities and conversations worth talking about.

Vanilla-flavored status quo is what keeps you in bed till 9 a.m. Vanilla keeps you on the sideline of life saying “Maybe next time.” Vanilla is splashing in the kiddie pool of opportunity when the chance to hit the ocean is staring right in front of you. Vanilla-flavored living tries to ride the coat tails of others instead of taking brave steps yourself.

You have the chance to create something worth talking about today. Create remarkability in your home, your office, your conversations, even your prayers today as you ask God to give you a remarkable opportunity to get rid of a vanilla-soaked faith and perspective. Quit playing it safe. Be brave. Try something new. Get rid of vanilla.

And be remarkable today.

Wherever you are, be all there.

I love my iPhone. And yes, I used the word “love” for many reasons, not all of them good. I spend too much time on my phone, many times I’m being productive with work, but even that should have its limits. A lot of times though, I’m just wasting time scrolling through social media feeds, Instagram, ESPN, even playing Spades.

smart-phone-addictionJust so I’m clear, it’s not my phone’s fault. It doesn’t matter what type of phone it is, iPhone, Droid, flip, or brick, it’s still a piece of technology. Phones are amoral in and of themselves, incapable of good or evil on their own.

The problem is me.

My friend Marty shared some wisdom with me a few weeks ago, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Ever since he said those words, I’ve been thinking more about what he said.

Have I heard this type of wisdom before? Multiple times. I’ve even shared this same concept before: be present when you’re present. It’s not a new concept. The Roman philosopher Seneca even shared these words, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

It’s another thing to take a good, hard look at how well your life reflects this wisdom. This is just as much for me as anyone else. We need to untether our eyes and thumbs from the all-powerful pixels and quit being screen addicts.

The past two weeks I’ve been working to detach myself from my phone more and more. Some days I’ll intentionally leave it upstairs and listen for the beeps instead of keeping it constantly by my side. Baby steps, Bob, baby steps.

I encourage you to start owning your phone instead of your phone owning you. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:

  • Put down your phone. When you’re around other people, try not to use your phone unless you’re making a call. Not sure the answer to a question? Say, I don’t know, instead of just Googling it.
  • Spend time with people who took the time to physically be present with you. People who are calling, texting, messaging, Snapchatting, and emailing you probably don’t need your direct answer. In fact, it’s likely the importance of their need is quite lower than our emotional, Pavlovian reaction might indicate.
  • Limit your screen time, just like a good parent should for their kids. Being an adult is about having the discretion and maturity to delay gratification for a better reason. Just because you have a job to afford a smart phone doesn’t mean you have the maturity quotient to manage your interaction with it.
  • Use your phone to set up face-to-face community with others. Why talk with your best friend on the phone for an hour when you can invest even more time with a 30-minute lunch together? Get face time with your friends, and I don’t mean FaceTime on your iPhone.
  • If you’re really struggling to detach yourself from your smart phone, maybe your phone needs to be kidnapped for a few hours. Or exchanged for a dumb phone. I don’t know any owners of dumb phones who say they spend too much time on their phone. I have heard multiple people say they downgraded their phone to a basic flip phone and it’s been very liberating. Which one’s the dumb phone now?

It may not be your phone, it may be something else: TV, video games, email, computer, anything. Whatever your distraction (read: addiction) may be, you owe it to the people around you, especially your family, to yank your eyes away from it and spend more time being present with them.

Wherever you are, be all there.

Book Review: The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company (David A. Price)

I’ve been a fan of digital animation studio Pixar’s work since I first saw Toy Story as a 5th grader. The world of animation came to life with their characters: Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head, even the little green Army men. When I first picked up David A. Price’s work The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, I already had high expectations and there was no disappointment.

The-Pixar-Touch-The-Making-of-a-CompanyPrice does an exceptional job detailing both the timeline and the dynamics of Pixar’s early years. I love how he unpacks Pixar’s history in the context of Silicon Valley, Apple, Adobe, LucasFilm, Microsoft, Disney, and a variety of other world-changing tech enterprises. I knew that Steve Jobs owned Pixar at one point, but it was a completely different experience hearing the backstory and influence he had on its trajectory.

It’s easy for any biography-type work to get bogged down in the details of yesteryear, but I really like how Price used the natural timeline of Pixar’s movies to pace his work. From A Bug’s Life to Cars and The Incredibles, you can see the progression of Pixar’s work through the years as nothing short of fascinating.

The most impactful part of The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company is how much Pixar learned from Disney’s storytelling process. I love studying the art of storytelling, so to see Pixar’s initial struggles (Ratatouille?) and wise decision to learn from the masters at Disney arrested my attention to the point where it almost felt like I was in their brainstorming meetings myself.

The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company is a story of passion, creativity, and “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” bravery it takes to launch something as dynamic as a digital animation studio. Throughout this story you see more traditional, established entities push back against Pixar’s creative process, dragging their heels and even rejecting Pixar’s initiative in transforming the entertainment world.

This is the story of youth and innovation without the experienced wisdom of years screaming in its mind, “This cannot be done!” I’m inspired as a storyteller, innovator, creative, and entrepreneur by the courage and risks Pixar took to make something truly remarkable.

The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company can be found at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other popular retail sites.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Relativity, Fifth-Dimensional, and Interstellar

Interstellar - 01Over Christmas break I saw Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar. In a word: wow. If you haven’t seen Interstellar yet, I’d highly recommend seeing it well before bed time since I didn’t get home until after midnight and stayed up till 1:30 a.m. processing through the movie.

I love Nolan’s use of Kaluza’s theory of fifth-dimensional gravity as it affects the space-time continuum. Space-time has long been accepted as the traditional fourth dimension (pre-1900s). In relativity theory the combination of space and time into the space-time continuum has baffled many brains much smarter than mine for centuries.

It isn’t a big mental leap to assume that the space-time dimension is directly affected by gravity on different planets throughout Interstellar since the gravitational pull on Mercury, as example, is roughly one-third of what it is here on Earth. In the same amount of time it would take you to jump up and down on Mercury, you could jump up and down three times on Earth. What may seem like a short period of time is enough to make us think more happened in that time that we thought. In Interstellar a difference of a mere thirty minutes on one planet’s surface meant a decade of Earth time (“true time”) had passed outside the gravitational pull of the planet’s atmosphere.

I think many of us want to slow down time as we get older. Parents of young kids have told me over and over again, “I just wish I could freeze time. They grow up so fast!” The truth is we don’t have that luxury, which is what makes time so incredibly precious.

The decisions and behaviors we make inside the vacuum of time (“I’m in my own little world,” no, you’re on your own little world) can sometimes greatly influence the next several weeks and months, even years that we don’t fully realize until the time is already passed.

Interstellar is only a movie, but like many stories, it speaks more truth about realities we’re needing to face against lies we’re choosing to believe: “I’ve got plenty of time,” “There’s always tomorrow,” “We’ll figure that out someday,” “It’s not worth my time,” etc. You and I and everyone else on this planet have the exact same amount of given time in a day: 24 hours. How we spend the time is in direct relation to the value of the time itself.

As gravity keeps us grounded to the physical Earth, what’s keeping you relationally grounded to those closest to you? How do you keep time and space at healthy levels so you don’t blink and miss those moments right in front of your eyes?

As the saying goes, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. May your plans and time and space and relational pull to those around you be enhanced by the moments God places you in today. May you not blink and miss God-given moments because you were too busy being on your own little world today.

The Chicago Cubs, New Year’s Resolutions, and Making Life Changes

It’s January 2nd, which means two things: 1) most importantly, it’s my wife Kara’s birthday. Happy birthday, Babe! How in the world did I get so blessed?

2015-new-years-resolutionAnd, 2) probably 95% of New Year’s Resolutions are on life-support. Maybe the percentage isn’t that high, but the stats are outrageous. According to a 2014 study by the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 45% of Americans regularly make New Year’s Resolutions and another 17% jump into that mix from year-to-year.

Of the more than 180 million Americans who fall into those categories, guess how many of them actually succeed in their New Year’s Resolutions?

8%. Eight percent!

The Chicago Cubs have the same odds of winning the World Series this year that an average American has of keeping their New Year’s Resolution. (Vegas Insider MLB Futures) You’re welcome, I’m glad I can give you a great laugh to start your day.

The whole reason I say this isn’t to be some Johnny Raincloud. The truth is you don’t need a New Year to become a new you. Some of the most successful diet plans are started in September and October. You need life change. You need dynamic, intentional series of future-building decisions to turn away from who you’ve been to become the best person God’s called you to be.

Life change only lasts through the power of Jesus. I’ve tried to change myself on my own horsepower before. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. It doesn’t last. Sure, it may last for a little bit, but I need the power of the Gospel transforming my life to become a more complete person in Christ. For all the times I’ve tried and still screwed up, I find my second chances (and third and fourth and fifth) in knowing Jesus is fighting for me to succeed in becoming more like Him.

CandH ResolutionsLife changes need a road map to happen. In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Covey shares the principle, “Begin with the end in mind.” A lot of people say they want to lose 10-15 pounds. Joining a gym doesn’t lose the pounds. Going to the gym and actually exercising, changing your diet, drinking plenty of water instead of soda, coffee, or other sugar-packed crap, and managing your sleep and stress levels is how you lose weight. Failure to plan is a plan for failure. Lasting change happens when your plan is detailed, accountable, and measurable.

With the grace of God, you can step into new opportunities, lose that weight, think more positively, build new relationships, open conversations for better business, better community, and closer connections with others in your life. Life change is less “I hope to…” and more “I’m going to!”

You can commit to change your life today and your New Year’s resolutions may be a part of it. 2015 can be your best year yet if you choose to make life changes based on the power of God, the grace of the Gospel, and a road map of what steps you need to take to get there.

Happy New Year 2015!

It’s a new year, a fresh start. Standing on the cusp of a new year gives me plenty of excitement and hope to dream big, audacious dreams and ask God to pull me deeper into His story for my life.

It’s safe to say 2014 was a whirlwind for me. I grew in many areas and regressed in a few as well. 2014 was a Master’s class in rebuilding my future with Keynote Content. God has opened some incredible doors of opportunity with people whose names I’ve only heard of till now that are becoming more and more everyday faces to me.

2014 also held many struggles, both personally and relationally, where God is opening my eyes to see how much I need to surrender and be refined by His love and grace in my life. I’m learning to love deeper, listen better, and learn how to better put Kara’s needs more above my own. It’s frustrating and rewarding and grace-demanding and apology-provoking and ultimately, I hope it’s focused closer to the love God calls me to as a husband, friend, brother, and servant of Christ.

2014, you were a great experience of chasing dreams, more than a few courageous, future-defining moments, and times where the fear of the unknown and facing realities I didn’t want to face felt like 15-round boxing matches in my heart.

2014, it’s been a ride, but your time is over. 2015, buckle up, I want you to be the best year of my life yet. Game on!

Happy New Year 2015

Streakers, Haters, Eminem, and Motivation

Have you ever noticed what happens when someone runs onto the field at a ball game? You probably don’t even want to know, especially if that person is stylin’ their less-than-svelte birthday suit. For all the attention streakers are desperate to attract, here’s what actually happens…

Treat Haters like StreakersThe TV crew ignores them. No cameras, no highlights (unless they get flattened by some security guy), only a brief mention that someone’s being an idiot by interrupting the bigger purpose of why everyone’s there.

No one goes to the game to see the streaker. No one.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about haters. “Haters gotta hate.” “I’m gonna shake it off, shake it off.” Celebrities, high school students, entrepreneurs, even megachurch pastors posting long videos callin’ out their “haters”. Really? If you say your haters’ words don’t matter, why post a video?

It’s one thing to have someone give you feedback that’s difficult but true. Discounting uncomfortable feedback as someone “hatin’ on you” is cowardly and immature. There’s no such thing as tough love; love is honest and truly cares for the other person enough to have a relationship in place that can handle truth in love.

Haters are the people with no agenda but to be annoying. Nothing is right in their eyes, only judgment. No positive criticism, only soul-stomping negativity with no plan or intention of building value into your life. Lots of haters are usually out for one thing: attention through distraction.

For any true haters in your life who have clearly no interest in adding to your future, here’s one piece of advice:

Treat haters like streakers. Don’t give them attention. Ignore their advice. Don’t give them air time in your mind. Don’t let them be the loudest voice in your life.

The lyrical genius and urban philosopher Eminem said, “Behind every successful person lies a pack of haters.” If the disciples and prophets of God listened to every hater in their ministry (pagan kings, Jewish kings, false prophets, persecutors), they wouldn’t have had the courage and motivation to push past their opposition to claim the calling God placed on their lives.

I had a professor in college who once told me I was lucky to pass her English class. Little did both of us know that God had bigger plans for my writing. Do you know how often I remember her words? This is the first time in ten years. If I got stuck in the opinion of one prof who had no interest in caring for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So, for the people who have no investment in your life who seem to care more about themselves than your best interests, know why you’re motivated to continue on the path you’re on in life. “Haters” create great bulletin board material for you to point to God’s work and plan in your life as it unfolds.

10 Things I’m Grateful for in 2014

thankfulA friend of mine recently mentioned she starts every day listing 10 things she’s grateful for. I’ve started making my own mental list each morning. It changes a little from day-to-day, but I highly recommend trying it for a fresh perspective.

1. The Gospel. If there’s one thing God’s reminded me of this year, it’s the scandal of His grace and my need for it.

2. Kara. This year I’ve learned more about what love really is through Kara. She works incredible hours and supports my work in such selfless ways.

3. Pursuing my dream. God continues to bless my work through Keynote Content in ways that astound me. I get to help people build their dreams and refine their messages and I have to pinch myself on a regular basis.

4. Being close with family. I know many people who are not close to their family geographically and relationally. Having both those realities is a huge blessing.

5. A great new community of friends. Kara and I love our small group. You are the community we’ve been craving for several months and we love Tuesday nights with you.

6. A thriving, Gospel-centered church to worship and serve with in God’s bigger plan. We are blown away by the love and support of Harvest Bible Chapel.

7. Good health. Many friends and family members have experienced a variety of medical struggles this year and I’m very grateful for good health for both Kara and me.

8. My blogging tribe. 2,300 of you are walking with me through this blog. You share your encouragement, push back, two cents, and words of wisdom in ways that make my life richer and deeper.

9.  Gracious friends who helped us transition into Denver: the Cobbles, Weinmasters, and Greg Kremer. When Kara and I decided to move back to Denver, we entered the long process of selling our home in St. Louis and navigating a ferocious housing market here in Denver. The Cobbles, Weinmasters, and Greg all blessed us with places to stay, kitchens to cook in, and families to enjoy while we lived out of suitcases.

10. Freedom. Freedom to share my opinion, to believe what I want, to talk and learn with people who believe very differently from me, and to be wrong at times with the opportunity to admit it.

May you be blessed for the many of you who have been a blessing to me this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

You Control Your Climate

I live in Colorado and I’ve seen gnarly storms come screaming over the mountains that make the temperature drop 50 degrees or more in one hour. Sunshine one minute, blizzard and ice an hour later.

medium_8026724727I’ve also seen the climate of a room change with one single comment or one person even entering the room, for both the good and the really bad. Frosty. Cold. Warm. Blustery. Those aren’t just words to describe the weather outside; they can also describe the climate of your relationships.

A simple truth that’s easy to forget is that you control the climate of your relationships. From the minute you walk into the room or start a conversation, you can have a barometric effect on any conversation.

As the husband and the spiritual leader of my house, it’s my God-given responsibility to control the climate of our marriage. My mood and tone and words and reactions all have a direct impact on everyday life, especially my relationship with my wife Kara. I set the tone on how Kara and I respond to situations and circumstances that come our way. Even if she’s had a bad day and has every right to be upset, it’s still my God-given role to give her a healthy context to process through her day in a healthy way.

The same type of climate effect is true with your co-workers, your friends, children, neighbors, even in how you handle conflict. The pressure and internal temperature you bring into the room says a lot about your perspective and priorities.

Sometimes relational storms need to rage because the status quo has dipped into unhealthy habits, but every storm has an end and the clean-up process is where healing can begin.

If you’re in a relationship that’s in an unhealthy place, whether romantic, business, or friendship, it might be time to change the climate. Be true, be careful, and be wise because storms can hurt people, especially relational storms.

May your climate give you every opportunity to bring hope and growth to the people around you. May you have the courage to ask those closest to you for an honest reading of your relational climate. And may God give you the power to control your climate through the ongoing work of Christ in your life.

Why Being Old is an Attitude

This past Sunday I turned 30. I was blessed with literally hundreds of birthday wishes. More than a few of those also added a reference to me getting old. “Everything’s gonna start falling apart now.” “Thirty was when I started aching all the time.” “Just wait till you hit forty!”

Wow, thanks for the encouragement.

Yes, there is some truth to the human body experiencing more physical difficulties with each new year of life, but I believe being old and living young are two different things.

Age is only a number unless your attitude is otherwise. How you age says more about your life than your birth date.

Mark Twain shared this perspective on one of his friends, “He died at thirty. We buried him at sixty.” His friend had stopped living any semblance of passion-driven life and wasted the second half of it.

George Blair - 93 years young and he water skies in bare feet.

George Blair – 93 years young and he water skies in bare feet.

The truth is I know many people who seem to have lost their purpose of living years ago with no intention to reclaim it. These aren’t people in their 50’s or 60’s; these are people in their 20’s and 30’s! No passion, no drive, no exercise routine, not pursuing any community or purpose, or having any goals on their horizon.

I also know many more people who inspire and push me to continue living a full and engaging life. These are people like Bob Goff, a man well past 60, who is doing incredible work with Restore International all over the world, personal trainers in their 50’s and 60’s teaching young bucks like me how to be in the best shape we can be for the rest of our lives, actors like Christopher Lee and Betty White, both 92 years young who still insist on memorizing all their lines, and pastors and ministry leaders who are actively learning social media and other technology because it can be used to better impact the future of the Church.

Your birth date is no excuse for not living like tomorrow doesn’t matter. Those aren’t my words; that’s the wisdom I heard an 80 years-young man say six years ago. That’s why I exercise on a regular basis. That’s why I make it a point to keep learning and growing and asking tough questions and learning to love and listen better because that’s what life is about.

In the words of the beautiful Sophia Loren, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Life is a gift from God our Creator. Don’t waste it. Don’t let your past success give you any allowance to coast through life. Fight for tomorrow. Fight for something worth investing in: a legacy that you lived life at the fullest to the richest for the most and best of the opportunities you could ever experience.

Age is a number while living young is an attitude. Live young today.

The BHAG’s of my 30’s

Yesterday was my 30th birthday. Wow, 30. It’s about time.

Don’t get me wrong, my 20’s were an incredible experience. God blessed me with trips all over the U.S., parts of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I got to see all 30 MLB ballparks with my beautiful wife, including a trip to the World Series. I got to publish my first book and get accolades from a writer whose opinion I value very highly. I lived in four states, moved nine times (technically, eleven times, but two of those were temporary), served in four different churches, and bought two houses.

Wow.

There were also plenty of things from my 20’s that I’d like to leave in the past. The beauty of discipleship is that God draws out our weaknesses and imperfections into the light of the Gospel so we can see those places where we need deeper surrender to His work. This past year God has allowed me to detox from some negative philosophies about life, my identity, and ministry. I’ve also grown through the patience and support of good friends and Kara. My “fuse” is longer, the delay between my thoughts and my words is better, and my heart is fuller because of Jesus’ work in my life.

bhagNow, it’s time to crush my 30’s. In Jim Collins’ book Built to Last, he introduces the idea of setting Big, Hair, Audacious Goals, or BHAGs, for businesses. Collins described BHAGs this way,

“A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.” – Built to Last, p. 94

I love setting goals, which is why I’m setting at least seven BHAGs to wrestle down in my 30’s…

  1. Write a New York Times best-selling book.
  2. Give a TED Talk.
  3. Be a confidant for missionaries, pastors, and ministry staff on sabbatical or furlough. I’d share more details, but there are already dreams and details happening that are building towards this reality.
  4. Become a dad of four, maybe five. This may not seem like a BHAG, but other parents I know assure me it’s often the scariest part of their life.
  5. Share the stage with a New York Times’ best-selling author as a co-presenter or panelist.
  6. Spend more time learning from people who have different, even completely opposite views than I do. What makes this Big, Hairy, and Audacious is that very few people willingly engage with others who they know think, act, and believe different than they do.
  7. Stay in the best physical shape I possibly can. I worked very hard throughout my 20’s to start my 30’s in great physical shape. If you’re wondering how big, hairy, and audacious this is, think about how many fit 40-something’s you know. If you don’t make time for fitness now, your body will make time for health conditions later.

I’m not even going to predict or confront how possible any of these are, but each of them are within the realm of potential. I may go crazy or pull out whatever’s left of my hair by 40. It doesn’t matter. My 30’s will be the greatest decade of my life…until my 40’s. By the grace of God, I hope to tackle all of these to their fullest with all glory to God and Christ my Savior.

Just burn the box.

I work with a lot of creative people. Fascinating artists, designers, people who can take anything and make a snapshot-inducing experience that bends your mind with inspiration and wonder. It’s with birds of my own feather where I’ve come to reject the box of standard thinking, the box of non-creativity.

Burn the boxPeople talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to creativity. Do you know what’s wrong with boxes? They’re ugly. They have an unnatural shape: a square. Do you see anything else in creation that’s perfectly square that isn’t man-made?

And yet, we often limit creativity to carefully drawn lines of predictability. Why do we have a “box” of creative boundaries in the first place? Is it convenience? Laziness? Fear that what we might create at first isn’t very good, so why bother trying?

As Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Out-of-the-box thinking needs to be less about forcing creativity without changing our lethargy towards thinking and creativity. We lack inspiration to be creative because we’ve desensitized ourselves to our Creator’s all-present creative work.

I don’t like being in the box of non-creativity. It’s dark inside the box. It’s controlled and limiting and not conducive to imitating our Creator through mini-creations in replication through worship. My most creative moments in life have come when I push past the expected, the convenient, the previously published, and create a mashup of ideas that are unexpected to me.

When we say, “Let’s think outside the box,” it needs to be a call to shake off the uninspiring, the everyday ho-humness of our routines we lock ourselves into for the sake of convenience. Artists and musicians and teachers and craftsmen have told me story after story about their most creative moments. Do you know what the common theme was in their most creative moments? “I tried something creative I’d never done before…”

Get outside the box. Remind yourself why your creativity deserves to be outside the status quo of non-creativity. Don’t ever settle for the convenient way of thinking.

And then, just burn the box.

All 30 MLB Stadiums, Ranked First to Worst

Jon and Kara at Coors FieldEarlier this year Kara and I were able to complete our bucket list of visiting all 30 MLB stadiums before turning 30. What an incredible adventure! We’re talking about developing an eBook for future MLB ballpark chasers with info on the best restaurants in and around each ballpark, parking and transportation suggestions, tourist tips, and lots of other good info.

As part of our “30 before 30” MLB Tour, we developed a seven category ranking system to accurately rate and rank each MLB based on our experience. The rankings may change moving forward as new stadiums are built, environments change, and team dynamics are affected. For now though, this is our list of all 30 MLB stadiums ranked first to worst. Enjoy!

  1. AT&T Park – San Francisco Giants
  2. Turner Field – Atlanta Braves
  3. Nationals Park – Washington Nationals
  4. Busch Stadium – St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox
  6. Coors Field – Colorado Rockies
  7. Oriole Park @ Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles
  8. Miller Park – Milwaukee Brewers
  9. Globe Life Park – Texas Rangers
  10. PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates
  11. Angel Stadium – Los Angeles Angels
  12. Chase Field – Arizona Diamondbacks
  13. Rogers Centre – Toronto Blue Jays
  14. Minute Maid Park – Houston Astros
  15. Target Field – Minnesota Twins
  16. Yankees Stadium – New York Yankees
  17. Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia Phillies
  18. Marlins Park – Miami Marlins
  19. Comerica Park – Detroit Tigers
  20. Petco Park – San Diego Padres
  21. Great American Ballpark – Cincinnati Reds
  22. U.S. Cellular Field – Chicago White Sox
  23. Kauffmann Stadium – Kansas City Royals
  24. Citi Field – New York Mets
  25. Safeco Field – Seattle Mariners
  26. Wrigley Field – Chicago Cubs
  27. Progressive Field – Cleveland Indians
  28. Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Dodgers
  29. Tropicana Field – Tampa Bay Rays
  30. O.co Coliseum – Oakland Athletics

Thank you, Dave Ramsey. You changed our lives!

When I graduated from college in 2006, I got my first “real” job, so I decided to buy my first “real” car. I bought a 2002 Subaru Outback, $15,999, give or take a few. No negotiation, no credit history, no worries, if my Dad would just co-sign with me, a credit union was more than happy to finance it for me. Slightly more than $19,000 later and I was the proud (read: broke) owner of my new set of wheels.

To top it all off, my bank found out I got my first “real” job. Congratulations, Mr. Cook, we’ll set you up with your first credit card with a limit of $17,500… for a kid with no credit history, no first paycheck yet, and no discipline at all when it came to credit cards.

My monthly car payments were $385.32. I remember because I was ticked each month I wrote that dang check to the credit union. Finally, I’d had enough. In January 2009 I talked my bank into giving me 12 months of 0% financing on the zero balance credit card, eating the transfer fee for my car loan, and moved the entire car loan balance onto that same credit card. Thankfully, the elephant of a bad idea had slowly been reduced to $10,885.

Over the next 11 months, I met my goal of paying off my car before Christmas, but it was just the largest evidence of a completely broken personal system. Sure, I lived on a “budget,” in one of the loosest senses of the word…if you call spending $200/month on cable and entertainment on a $40,000 income a “budget”.

When Kara and I were engaged, we started talking about money. Money fights and money problems are the number one leading cause of divorce in America and we wanted to be proactive. Enter Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University.

Dave Ramsey - 01

I’d heard horror stories about Dave Ramsey. “He doesn’t let you have any fun!” “You have to use cash only in an envelope system!” “You’re going to be broke, abandoned, bald, and probably homeless because you can’t go into any debt!” In fact, a former boss of mine even said, “We’re not going to promote Financial Peace University because people come out of there more messed-up than when they go in!”

Well, we’re completely debt-free except our house, have two months of savings in the bank, and less concerned with financial emergencies than ever. You’re right; we’re just straight messed-up.

Do I believe everything Dave says? Nope. There are still times where I hear Dave talk or read something he wrote and go, “Hmm… Dave, I don’t agree with that.” I’m sure there’s plenty I say where other people don’t agree with me, so that’s that.

What I do believe is in the power of financial stewardship, especially as a follower of Christ. I’m a Christ-follower first and a Dave-fan after that, which means my faith and the finances God’s given to Kara and me are ours to handle very carefully as gifts from God, not just a reward for doing my job.

Whether you’re a Dave Ramsey fan or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I know how much it’s changed my life. We regularly give “Total Money Makeover” to newlyweds we know because we know how much our marriage has changed because of FPU.

Thank you, Financial Peace University, for changing our financial future. We’re on a budget, we have a plan, and we’re never coming off it. Ever. I’ve seen life done without a plan or purpose, especially finances, and we’re never going back.

Thank you, Dave Ramsey. You’ve changed our lives. WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEE!!!!

Dream Year Denver Pitch Night

Last week I had the privilege of sitting in with 40 other entrepreneurs, creatives, dream-chasers, and difference makers for the Dream Year Denver Pitch Night. Six speakers, 20 slides each at 20 second slide timers. All of it to share their dreams.

Dream Year Denver Pitch Night - 082114The first dreamer shared with me about swimming in the most densely populated great white shark waters because that’s where she wanted to learn how to surf. I heard from an artist who followed God’s call to Africa to teach children how to paint and design. I heard two marketing entrepreneurs share about creating marketing campaigns for massive brands with the requirement that half of the budget be put towards a nonprofit social cause.

I’ve been following Ben Arment and his team for almost five years now. It’s been incredible watching his team grow into the Story conference, the Dream Year experience, and many more endeavors. It was my privilege to finally put a face to a name when I met Ben after the presentations. Without a doubt, Ben has been one of the more inspiring voices behind my decision to chase my dreams.

“I have a dream” may seem cliched, but I guarantee you the power of a dream is more alive than ever today. The most valuable buried treasure are the dreams and ideas we never share. I experienced the pictures, videos, passion, and hope of dreamers that night. Some dreams start as a whisper, barely a diamond in the rough, if one at all, but Dream Year is the launch pad so many of us need to eradicate our excuses.

If you have a dream burning inside of you (or, in other words, if you’re human), you need to check out Dream Year. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an aspiring world-changed, Dream Year has the language of opportunity and a community of others discontent with staying the same that we all need around us when chasing big, hairy dreams.

Thank you, Dream Year team and Ben, for your incredible work and inspiration. May you be blessed for inspiring me and many others.

What Moneyball Taught Me About Ignoring the Odds

I love baseball. The dirt and field and chalk lines and foul poles and the musky scent of leather as you breathe deeply into your glove. Baseball is a great sport. Kara and I have been to all the MLB stadiums and we’ve been season ticket holders for the Rockies. We’ve taken date nights to go see baseball movies. One of my favorite baseball movies is Moneyball, the story of Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics, and the 2002-2003 Athletics baseball teams.

What Moneyball Taught Me About Ignoring the OddsIn case you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a short synopsis: at the end of the 2001 season, Beane knew he was at a complete disadvantage financially compared to teams like the Angels and the Yankees. The A’s payroll: $41 million, Yankees: $200+ million. You don’t have to be a math whiz to notice a little disparity there. Beane knew he was way behind the arms race of baseball payrolls and the A’s didn’t have nearly the resources of the Yankees.

So, Beane turned to sabermetrics, the competitive strategy built on select statistics from players, made popular by Bill James’ book Baseball Abstract. On-base percentage, slugging percentage, and pitches per AB were just a few of the statistics Beane and his Athletics staff considered when building their 2002 roster. Spring training was basically the biggest collection of no-names that baseball’s ever seen.

The A’s set an A.L. record of 20 straight wins (Aug. 13-Sept. 4) and ended the season with a franchise-record 103 wins and the A.L. West division title… after losing Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen, and Johnny Damon the year before. Sabermetrics worked and it has changed how many teams, including the 2004 World Series champ Red Sox used sabermetrics to break their 100-year championship drought.

There was nothing about the A’s strategy that made sense outside of Oakland. Their roster didn’t have the resources, connections, trade bait, or track record of productivity that the Yankees had, and yet they won just as many games as the Yankees that year.

What Moneyball Taught Me About Ignoring the OddsYou may not have the resources of a Google, Apple, NBC, charity: water, Saddleback, Chick-fil-A, or any other massive name changing the world today. You may not have the connectivity of a Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, Scott Harrison, Dave Ramsey, or Blake Mycoskie. You may not even have the current skill set of any number of dynamic speakers, entrepreneurs, ministry leaders, or business executives.

But, if God’s calling you to a fantastic dream, none of that matters. The wisdom of God sometimes confounds the world around us, and sometimes we will be mocked for our dreams. Sometimes we are chided, ignored, disregarded, and even confronted for chasing God-given dreams. There will be times your dream may feel like bad math based off chaos physics, but if you will choose to follow God’s path for you, He will bend conventional reasoning into faith-rewarding skills and resources.

It doesn’t have to always make sense for it to be significant. Moneyball and chasing God-given dreams are two completely different worlds, but the principle is the same: challenging the status quo is one of the most dynamic ways to start changing the world around you.

Defy the odds, challenge conventional wisdom, and step out in faith to follow the path God’s made for you.

And, guess which team is the best team in baseball in 2014? The Oakland Athletics.

Perspiration fuels Inspiration. All day. Every day.

Perspiration fuels Inspiration - 01People love being inspired. Braveheart, American Ninja Warrior, Dead Poets Society, we love things that inspire us.

Doing something significant starts with inspiration. What’s driving you to do what you do? What is God pressing into your heart that you’ve got to be a part of? It’s deep in your core where passion and inspiration get ignited.

The problem is inspiration without action is a very short experience. Inspiration is the ignition, but perspiration is the fuel.

I’ve heard multiple songwriters say that songwriting is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. Sure, sometimes you have the lightning-in-a-bottle moments where a song basically writes itself, but most of the time it takes significant work. Thomas Edison said this, “Genius is one-percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Being an entrepreneur is tough. I’ve been on this entrepreneurial journey for almost a year now. It’s one thing to say you’re hanging a shingle to start your own business. It’s a completely different story when you’re past the honeymoon phase of being your own boss. Many entrepreneurs start this journey because of an inspiration, but the successful ones are the ones who push through adversity.

It’s in my God-given DNA to get out of the cave, kill something, and drag it home. It’s the 50-60 hours I average per work week that involve far more sweat equity than cash flow right now. Am I inspired? Absolutely, I love what I get to do! Are there moments where inspiration feels beat-up and it’d be easier to look for job openings? Honestly, yes… but that’d be cheating for me.

I keep an email folder of job offers and openings different people have emailed to me over the past year. I haven’t asked for any of them; they just show up in my inbox. The reason I hold onto them is that they’re fuel for my fire. I don’t want to go back to the way things were because the opportunity to build something significant is worth the perspiration to fuel my inspiration.

Hard work goes further than light bulb moments. My determination to push through monotony is what separates me from others who hit the wall of hard work. Inspiration is the starting line, but perspiration is the marathon. I’d rather run a fantastic marathon than a short-lived sprint.

Perspiration fuels inspiration. All day. Every day. Hard work without purpose just makes you a hamster on a wheel. Inspiration without execution only makes you a theorist. We need both to make dreams a reality and build something that lasts.

What’s driving your inspiration today?

Brain Dump – August 15, 2014

  • Robin Williams was one of the first actors I ever recognized and truly appreciated. His sense of humor and incredible acting talent is an unmatched combination in my eyes. No actor has his comedic genius, and no comedian has his acting chops. You are missed, O Captain, my Captain.
  • Depression is an incredibly difficult condition. I heard a highly respected Christian counselor once say that everyone suffers from some level of depression and anxiety, but the difference is not knowing the level to which each of us is experiencing them. King David, Saul, and Job are just three examples of people in the Bible who experienced severe depression. There’s no shame in suffering from depression, only an opportunity and a responsibility to reach out to others around you and get whatever help you need.
  • I’ve followed Matt Walsh’s blog for a short while now, and this week’s backlash to his post on Robin Williams’ suicide reminds me of three truths: 1) a controversial blog post needs layers of accountability before you hit “publish”, 2) we live in a vitriolic society of intolerance under the guise of alleged tolerance as long as you maintain status quo, and 3) we all need grace.
  • The town of Ferguson is about 20 minutes from where Kara and I used to live in St. Louis. Racial prejudice and bigotry will continue as long as we keep feeding both of them. There’s guilt on both sides of the skin-shade aisle and my heart breaks for the families and community of Ferguson. Pray for Michael Brown’s family and for peace in Ferguson.
  • If you don’t understand the situation, then it’s best if you keep quiet and read from multiple perspectives to gain an accurate understanding. This includes the following: Ferguson, ISIS, Hamas, Gaza v. Israel, Syria, Ann Coulter, controversial books, and of course, politics.
  • Praise God for the Christians being rescued from the Sinjar mountains surrounded by the ISIS. The U.S. did what was right and intervened in the name of justice.
  • It’s times like these where I pray for God to renew this world. As the Church, we are the voice of good news, the Gospel of peace and grace and sin-shattering forgiveness. It’s up to us to make a difference through our message and our methods. Game on.
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