On the topic of differentiation, or why do you matter?

be different, rather than being betterWe all want to be unique, right?

​It seems that throughout life we are taught that we need to blend in.  Be like everyone else because differentiation is a bad thing.  Pursue the same things as everyone else.  This is especially common in school, a place that is notorious for stamping out the free-spirited.  Even more, when I was in the military, you did not want to be known as an outlier.  However, this goes against the very nature of us as people.  We long to be special…special to ourselves, to our family, to our friends, and our peers.  There is an excellence in each of us, I’ve shared this before.  Why does it matter?

​Different is remembered.

​Do you remember the song “Tubthumping” by Chumba Wumba?  If not, check it out here.  That song will forever be in my memory not because I found it to be particularly good, rather it was so different from the other music on the radio.  A more recent example of this is Dragostea Din Tei by Ozone, found here.  These songs were all over the radio, and while I did get bored of them, their unique sound memorializes them because of the differentiation.

​Different is appreciated.

​We get bored of the same old things in our day-to-day lives.  We certainly do live by habits and patterns, but there is certainly something to be said about the things that come and break up the monotony.  Even the most change-averse individual needs some kind of variety at some point.  With this in mind, being that “something different” can put you in a position to be an authority on a subject.  There is a guy that makes good money off his website that is solely about worm farms ( super-differentiation!).  I am seriously curious about what other incredibly specialized (yet oddball) ideas are successful out there.  This guy has been interviewed on many different podcasts for entrepreneurs because of the importance of being different.

​Different, itself, is unique.

​None of us specialize in all of the same things.  Our strengths may be similar but to the same degree and in the same order? Very highly unlikely.  The elements that make you who you are, are definitely worth celebrating.  After all, you are the only one riding on your rollercoaster through life.  Sure, others may have a corkscrew followed by 3 loops and a 1 mile drop, but maybe not in that order.  Also, maybe spread out over their course because they cannot handle the degree of insanity that you are comfortable with.

Differentiation is the key to your happiness.

​It seems that as we get older we become more accepting of this pattern to our lives where we wake, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat.  Its up to you to shake that up.  You ever play blues saxophone onstage in a small bar in downtown Providence?  Me neither, but one of you out there has, I know it because I saw your show.  It was incredible.  Want to know why I haven’t?  Because I don’t know how to play blues saxophone.  Keep working on those skills.  I may not be a blues musician, but I can listen to it with the best of them.

​I’ll find my own way to differentiate myself from all of you people.

More Side Hustle Going On…

Get your hustle on!

​If you had read my past post, you may be stuck trying to figure out what you can do.  I had an opportunity to sit down with a buddy of mine the other day, and he was talking to me about his hustle.  I was asking him where he got his ideas.  It led me to thinking that maybe I could share some of the ideas, he had, with you.

​The hustle is all around us

The easiest approach to start up your hustle is to list all of your skills.  Identify the things you can do, even at an amateur level.  Perhaps you can organize your receipts like it is no one’s business (not my skill.)  Maybe you are fantastic at cleaning out your sock drawer and finding those elusive left socks (also not me.)  These are all skills that can be applied to different needs, but in order to get started you must understand your abilities.

How does that even apply?

​The receipts are easy.  First, it implies you are great at organizing.  Second, you are going to be able to store these in such a way that you can easily find them even after a year or longer.  This kind of organization is hugely useful both to businesses and regular people.  With the socks, it is a similar situation.  You can find the items that are missing, and even among similar items, keep it all straight.

​Now obviously, this is very simplified, but what I want you to see is the skills could focus on anything.  I am a huge believer that no matter who you are, you are excellent at a number of things.  With this in mind, there are also many different subjects that may appeal to you.

​Okay, whatever, where do I make my money?

​First off, have you looked around yet?  Craigslist is the easiest one to jump into.  Their gigs section has a bunch of different categories.  Though some of the posts are creeps looking for “models”, just be safe with your work.  Additionally, you can check out message boards to see where people are getting side work.  Even something as simple as a Google search for “(your interest) sidework” will yield many ideas or websites.

​Another thing to do is to tell your friends and family about the things you want to do.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had side work fall in my lap because friends of mine have given out my information.  I have fixed computers, helped people move, delivered random items, and toyed around with so many different things.  It bears repeating, BE SAFE with your work, and don’t take on anything that is either illegal or questionable unless you want that kind of risk in your life.

​What can I expect from hustles?

​No one can tell you this with any degree of confidence.  This will be totally dependent on your drive, and how much time you want to dedicate to this.  If you want to do the “ever-popular” driving for Uber, just be aware of all the factors.  Perhaps you want to start delivering pizzas, or anything along those lines.  You’ll need to keep in mind the wear that it puts on your vehicle, the gas, and the time you are spending doing it.  If it is worth the hourly breakdown, then by all means pursue it.

​The side hustle is a personal aspiration.  If you want more, then get more.  Reach out to me if you want to discuss this further.

On the importance of being a good leader

Everyone knows we need good leaders!

​For years now, it has been common to see articles profess the need and importance for good leadership in organizations.  Even the classes I took in school talk about the differences between managers and leaders.  However, it seems as if everyone is concerned with the “finished product”.  How does one become a good leader?

​Why is it important?

​Good management is the difference between a business succeeding or failing.  Good leadership, however, is the difference between surviving and thriving.  Without a good team at the helm an organization can certainly get by for some time.  It will not last, though, unless upper management recognizes the importance of good leadership.

​What makes a good leader?

​There are many different attributes typically associated with good leaders, and you may even recognize some in yourself or those that you report to.  Some of the more commonly identified characteristics are: honesty, integrity, vision, team-building, courage, and communications.  Additionally, leaders are rarely focused on themselves, rather it is more important to achieve common goals.

​Isn’t it a fact that leaders are born, not made?

​There is no scientific evidence that suggests leadership is a trait we are either born with, or not.  Just as we are taught many of the skills and abilities we exhibit, leadership is no different.  Though it is true that some will excel while others may not, there is nothing that proves we cannot teach the necessary skills to be a good leader.

​How do I begin this journey?

​If you are asking this question, genuinely, then you have already started the process.  Leaders continually seek to improve themselves.  Through self-reflection, you can begin to identify the areas with which you are strong, and find the areas you need to improve on.  How are your communication skills?  Are you the type to go on a power trip the moment you have some authority?  Do yu ask for feedback and input on decisions?

​One of the common ways to become a great leader is to identify someone in your life that you feel exhibits the necessary qualities.  Reach out to them and ask if you can go to lunch with them, or meet for coffee.  Ask them to mentor you.  If you have analyzed your own qualities, share them with this individual and ask for their honest opinion.

​Don’t feel discouraged if you have trouble getting going down this path.  The best leaders begin as followers, and there is no way around that.  If you need help finding a mentor, reach out to me.  I work with a network that can help align you with someone.

Finding your niche – or why it is important to self-study

I’m sure my niche is taken.

​​Normally I’m not the type to talk in terms of us all being unique and special.  I do believe that there is a unique excellence in each of us, though.  In that sense, I wanted to discuss finding your niche in life.  I don’t mean to imply that it should be something no one has ever heard of.  Just because you have an uncle that was a pig farmer, don’t assume that you aren’t meant to be a pig farmer (or that you are.)

We, as people, grow in life when we do the things that challenge us.  However, in order for us to flourish, as individuals, we must pursue the ideas and activities that interest us.

​Be different, like everyone else.

​Looking back at the things I have enjoyed doing, I feel confident that business was definitely the right choice for me in school.  I pursued economics for undergrad, and Operations Management for grad school.  No matter what, I wanted to be involved in the growth and development of an organization.  I came to this realization when I thought about the fact that I have worked since I was 15.  Though this is not a unique situation, I was working full-time hours at that age.

I realized that I enjoyed making money, and I have been fortunate to find myself in many different wonderful opportunities to make money.  Not all of my jobs were a blast, but every single one brought life lessons for me.

​What does this have to do with my niche?

​When you look at the things you spend your time on, what do you see?  Is it family? Friends? TV?  Whatever it is that gets your time, that is what you will become.  For this reason I dedicate a significant amount of time to reading, learning, and experimenting.  What was the last book you read, or podcast you listened to?  Was it something to help you learn a new skill, or something to just pass the time?

How can I find my niche?

​This blog has often held a very prominent focus on personal development.  Many of the ideas I have had, and ventures I have toyed with, can be linked directly to some of the podcasts I subscribe to.  Some of the ones I am listening to right now are the following:

  • ​Freakonomics Radio
  • The Side Hustle Show
  • Side Hustle School (Excellent for quick listen, only 10 min per episode)
  • Stuff You Should Know
  • TED Radio Hour

​There are so many different topics, and podcasts out there that I am nearly 100% confident that you will find something that interests you.

​Leave a comment and let me know what you think?  Have you found your niche?  Do you have ideas on finding where you best fit?

The importance of the side hustle…

What is this about side hustle?

​Many of you that know me outside of this blog know that I love a good side hustle.  For those of you that don’t know me outside of this, you know now.  A side hustle is anything that makes you money outside of your job.  Or, to put it much better, courtesy of the podcast, “The Side Hustle Show“, “Your 9-5 makes you a living, but your 5-9 makes you feel alive.”  This can be anything from writing on a freelance website, or dogwalking, or really anything.

Why do you need a side hustle?

​Who doesn’t like some extra money?  Maybe you want to use the money for a vacation, travel, or to buy that cool new tv for the living room?  I have my own plans for this money, but the best part for me is the fact that I am honing my skills in areas I may not have much opportunity in otherwise.

​What are some of these hustles?

T​oday I was looking through some posts that people were looking for help on.  I came across someone looking for some help with web design.  Though this is something I don’t do in my day job, I have designed my websites for all of my own projects.  So, why not?  I reached out to him and we are talking about what he wants to do, and maybe it will turn into something.

​Another side gig I am working on now has me setting up a DVD with a menu and overall finish work on a film that will be presented at several film festivals coming up.  I have never had any work in that kind of thing before, but I am curious by nature, so why not?

​One of my friends is a drone pilot, not the military kind.  He is working on his own hustle that will have him using his hobby of flying to make him some extra money.  He also is very interested in photography and videography, so it just seems to be a natural fit for him to make money doing these things.

Couldn’t this make these things less fun?

​Sure, everything has the potential to lose its luster.  However, the side hustle is awesome simply because YOU are the one in control.  When it stops being fun, stop doing it.  Move onto something else.  No one said you had to choose one role and stick with it.  I am more like a shotgun, I’ll land on the target, but I am COVERING that target.

On continuing to eat and live keto-adapted

Ugh, Keto, again?

​Many of you have seen some of the pieces I shared with recipes that are keto-friendly.  Additionally, some of you have reached out to ask me for more information.  Recently, however, someone reached out and told me that it is not a sustainable long-term plan.  Now, I don’t know what is considered long-term.  I, also, do not know how long I will continue to pursue keto, but I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.  I want to share with you some of the tips related to keto.  If you have questions, absolutely reach out to me.

​What is this Keto thing, in 50 words or less?

​Keto, short for ketogenic, is a “diet” that focuses on a macro blend of approximately 80% Fat, 15% Protein, and 5% Carbs each day.  The goal is to get your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs.  This is accomplished through carb-limiting.

​How long have I been doing keto?

I started the ketogenic approach in Sept 2016.  That places me in the tail end of my 7th month.  When I started, I was coming off of a lean diet that had very boring foods and flavors (or lack, thereof!)  Keto stuck out to me because I could eat all of these seemingly forbidden foods and still lose weight.  Naturally, I did not believe it, but what did I have to lose?

​What are some of the tools that help me to stay on track?

​For all things related to the science behind ketogenic, the two best sites I can recommend are bodybuilding.com and ruled.me.  Both sites offer an incredible amount of information including discussions on the validity and viability of this approach.  If you are curious about it, I would strongly suggest starting there.
​Additionally, for meal planning, I cannot recommend EatThisMuch enough.Their system makes it easy to plan out your meals, and if you pay for the membership, each week, you can get an email of your grocery list so you have everything in one place for when you go to the store.

Why am I sharing this?

​Since adopting keto, I have lost a total of 25 pounds.  I feel great, despite the first week or so with that crappy “keto flu”, but once I added more salt into my diet, that was no longer an issue.  My workout took a hit originally, and there are days where I feel as if I cannot seem to do the same numbers.  However, it has forced me to re-orient myself to stop caring about the weights.  So long as I get a solid workout, with weak arms and all, what does it matter if it is a 35 lb dumbbell or a 45 lb.?

For transparency, I am an affiliate with ruled.me, and any purchase of one of their plans does provide me with some compensation.  That being said, in no way does this take any legitimacy from Craigs’s work on that site.

Flying too high and going too fast! – Helicopter Stories

Helicopters are AWESOME!

My neighbor, such an awesome guy, gave my son an RC helicopter.  His kids had received them but never used them.  LB (my son) was super excited to play with it, but we were unable to get some time to play with it until just the other day.  This thing is nice.  Feels solidly built, has an internal Li-Ion battery and the remote control is the only part that has batteries that need to be replaced.

Crisis Strikes!

I started off nice and slow getting used to the control and lift of the helicopter.  Then I started trying to get it to hover so I could work on control.  Well, I got ambitious, and it went too high then dropped to the ground.  Picked it up and dusted it off, everything seems fine.  However, something is off, as the rear rotor no longer turns.  The helicopter cannot lift off of the ground now.

What popped into my head was something my wife had said to me not long ago.  She had said that I have a tendency to go “all in” on something only to find that when my interest wanes I am already moving on to something else.  I don’t know how to have an alternative there.  I don’t even know what the alternative would be, since I would think that we should be able to move onto something else that interests us.  However, her point was still valid, as there are some times in which I cannot quite decide when to hold, or when to fold.

The helicopter brought to mind the old story of Icarus, flying too high and too close to the sun.  He paid the ultimate price for wanting to go higher and higher.  I thought more about this today when I was taking the tail apart to see if I can figure out what happened.  My curiosity won’t let me quit on this investigation, but it is also kind of fun.  If I can get this working again then it is important not just for the joy it brings to LB, but also for the symbolism associated with the repair and eventual emergence of helicopter 2.0!

I’ve closed with this before, but never has it been so appropriate, so…Onward and Upward!!!

If Communication is such a good thing, then why are we so bad at it?

Communication is found everywhere you look

Everyone professes things like “communication is key to happy and lasting relationships,” or “the key to client satisfaction is communication.”  Yet with all of this focus on a singular element, it seems we are not that good at communicating.  We’ve all been in situations where we could have, or should have, said something but held back.  Additionally, we have all had relationships that have grown out of recognizing incorrect assumptions we have had about an individual.  But why aren’t things better?

​Experience is a funny thing

I can easily recall many situations in which communication has improved a situation.  When delivering bad news I know that delaying the delivery never results in anything positive.  Additionally, when delivering something good, it further enhances the positive experience by sharing it with others.  I would struggle to come up with more than one experience where communication actually hurt a relationship or situation.  That one situation was quite an experience but definitely an anomaly.  Bearing this in mind, I still find myself wondering why I hesitated to share a piece of information with peers.

​Communication is just information sharing, right?

​Though it is a simplified statement, it is not incorrect.  Communicating with peers, clients, or complete strangers does more than provide us with a brief moment of entertainment.  When we share ideas and information we are creating an environment for further growth.  This may or may not happen.  However, you will most assuredly miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.  I find myself wondering if I could be sharing more, but I know there are some that worry they are sharing too much.

​How do you decide whether or not to share something?

​This is a tough one, and I am sure many others may be more qualified than I am in answering this.  However, one thing I have been considering for myself as of late has been an idea that has been attributed to many included Buddha, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rumi, etc.  This idea is: before I speak my idea must pass through three gates before being shared.  First, is it true?  Next, is this communication necessary? Last, is this message kind?

​That sounds a little too hokey.

​Sure it does, and I am new to this, so trying it really hurts no one.  However, a guide such as this maybe a decent starting point.  After all, there are times when the unkind is necessary to share so long as it comes from a good intention, right?  What do you think of this?

What’s the big deal with active listening?

While I start this story, how about you get in your listening mode…

​According to research, we are not very good at listening.  This is disheartening when you consider the importance of listening: learning, understanding, enjoyment, etc.  Apparently, we listen to, and recall, between 25 and 50 percent of what we listen to.  This means that whenever you are talking to your spouse or boss, they may not be listening to all you are saying.  However, it also means that when they are talking to you, they are receiving the same courtesy.  Hopefully the bulk of the message is found in that 25-50%.

​How do I improve my listening if it is automatically so low?

​In order to improve, it would behoove you to learn active listening.  Active listening refers to a technique that is often associated with coaching.  Don’t let that scare you away, as you don’t need to be a “life coach” or anything like that.  It is simply making a conscious effort to not only hear the words coming from the other party, but to also understand the entirety of the message.

​It help to think about all of the things that happen when you are listening to someone.  You may be distracted by any number of events in your immediate area, or by your counterpoint that you are planning for when they stop talking.  In some cases, your listening may be interrupted simply because you are bored and your mind wanders.  Knowing that these are possibilities should help you to identify when it is happening and re-focus back to the discussion.

​How can I control my listening?

Experts suggest that in some cases it helps to repeat back the other party’s words in your head to reinforce the message.  They also recommend actively engaging in the conversation to let the other person know you are listening.  These affirmations can be based on body language, such as nodding, or through “uh huh” and other vocalizations.  The same experts will point out, though, that you must be careful as some of these affirmations may be misconstrued as agreeing with the speaker.

​Great, now instead of listening, I’m accidentally agreeing…

​To keep this from occurring, it is necessary to interject from time to time and say things such as “what I’m hearing is…” followed by how you interpret the message.  This provides further affirmation that you are listening while also providing reflection points that can be used for discussion.  It is important to note, however, this must be a careful interjection rather than an interruption.

​In closing, keep in mind that when we talk, we are not learning.  We are telling others what we know.  To listen is to learn, and when you consider return on investment, learning wins every time.

Why you should never eat alone, and thereby at your desk…

Why does it matter if I eat alone?

When it comes to eating lunch, many people treat it as a social event.  However, there are also a bunch that choose to eat at their desk during work, or alone in their car.  Just stop!  I have recognized fairly recently that even if I bring a lunch, there is no reason to not have a lunch partner.  This is another opportunity presenting itself for me to learn from someone else, or bounce around some ideas, or simply catch up on his, or her, life.

What do I do to eat?

​Typically, I am the type to sit at my desk and eat.  This is partly due to the fact that I devour my lunch very quickly.  While I could be taking advantage of the rest of my break period to take a nice walk outside, I don’t.  I could also use this walk to further good conversation with a friend or coworker, but I don’t do that either.  The other day, though, I sat down with a coworker and we were discussing our five-year goals, and the multiple paths to reach them.

​The conversation was very enjoyable, and before I knew it, lunch was over.  These opportunities don’t seem to come often enough, but I am realizing that I am the one responsible for that.  I could just as easily reach out to any of my colleagues and ask them to join me.  After all, there are plenty of people at my office.  For the longest time I kept telling myself that I don’t take much time to eat, so there is no need to make something of it.​

​Yeah but I talk to my colleagues all the time, I don’t necessarily need lunch for it.

Of course, but perhaps you should consider inviting someone you don’t talk to frequently.  I got some of this idea from the book ​Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.  Each lunch could be an opportunity to learn something new about someone, or to learn something new about yourself.  I definitely enjoy my opportunities for personal and professional growth.  Naturally, this idea resonates with me.

​What are you asking me to do?

I would like you to pledge that you are going to start by inviting someone that you don’t speak with frequently, to lunch.  You can start off small and reach out to Paul in Finance, or Serena in HR.  Just tell them you’d like to chat with them and see how they are doing.  Be present and enjoy what life throws your way!