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!