The power of our words is greater than we think!

In August 2015, Mohammed Qahtani won the Toastmasters International title of World Champions of Public Speaking.  He competed against 33,000 competitors from around the world for this honor.  His speech was entitled “The Power of Words” and it is truly worth the viewing.  One of the pieces I really liked was his mention that “a simple choice of word can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.”

As an example, let us think about the following statements:

  • The first car smashed into the other car.
  • The first car bumped into the other car.

Reading the first statement carries with it implications of intention, speed, and violence.  What comes to mind is injury, and costly repairs.  The second statement sounds like it was accidental, low-speed, low-impact and no injuries.  Both statements could be heard in the same courtroom during a dispute over a car accident.  It is fairly easy to determine which statement belongs to the lawyer of each driver.

Just as the words can be used to sway a jury’s decision, they can also make or break your relationships with others.  This often pops into my mind because I have been guilty for some time of using the word “should” when it is better to use “could”.  The word “should” in most contexts implies that I am giving a veiled directive, or telling the individual that I know better than they do.  On the other hand, using “could” implies a collaborative approach.

Do you feel frustrated when people tell you that you “should” do something?  Personally, I prefer suggestions over directives.  Through personal experience, it seems most people would rather be part of a team than to be bossed around.  Being part of a team means that everyone has an opportunity to know why.  “Could” statements foster this kind of environment, while “should” statements can weaken it.

Whether dealing with employees, volunteers, or family, significant thought should be put into the words that we use.  They have the power to help just as much as hurt, and it is up to us to consider others.  Another piece of this, though, is the permanence of the words.  With the popularity of social networking, we live in a time where our words posted online become permanent records.  So consider that when posting a comment about that video on youtube.

When composing an email, or a message to be delivered to others, you must consider the implications of the words you choose.  Consider how the message makes you feel, or ask someone to listen and critique.  The more important the message, the greater attention and care you should dedicate to its delivery.

On the idea of never eating alone. Let’s team up!

I have a friend who also happens to be my mentor.  Dennis is always willing to give his time, insight, and experience.  One of the things that I enjoy when I meet up with him is his energy.  He always has ideas, and I wish that I had the same mind.  One of the things that helps him to operate this way is Dennis reads books…A LOT.  When he reads, he thinks of ways to apply what he has read to his own life as well as others.  He introduced me to the idea that people should never eat alone.  Every meal could be an opportunity for us to learn, to grow, to build.  This idea comes from the book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.  This is not a review of his book, rather I would like to share the general idea.

Everyone knows that networking is key, and has been for years.  However, with the proliferation of networking events, our inboxes are flooded with invitations.  Such messages as network after work, or stop by for drinks.  These events do certainly serve a purpose and many groups have become quite polished.  However, I cannot be the only one tired of being around the “network jerk”.  These are the people that are just there to blanket the event with their business cards simply hoping to gain something.  Whether needing a new job, new clients, or anything else, this person is at every event.  Don’t be that guy!

Keith Ferrazzi’s book talks about a different approach in that it suggests informal networking events where you leverage your network to invite people you may not know to come with people you do know, for dinner or some meal.  His idea of never eating alone is wonderful to me.  It resonates so well because I am missing opportunities to talk to others when I consider how often I eat lunch, alone, at my desk.

Whether at home, a restaurant, or a cabin in the woods, it provides a more familial atmosphere that promotes better energy and conversation.  I think this is a really good idea, and one of the things I hope to incorporate into my life in the coming new year.  Though my business-mind calls it “expanding my network”, to be honest I want to expand my team.  I want to bring more positive people into my life, more adventurous people, and I want to do it in a comfortable way.

What would this look like?  I envision something happening every two weeks where we all get together for dinner and we all are allowed to bring someone else if we would like.  Anyone is welcome, and it can be hosted at home or at a restaurant.  Depending on how well this works, we may be forced to use a restaurant.  Either way, the goal is to provide an event for sharing of stories, successes, obstacles and anything else.  We can be our own brain trust, and it could be something wonderful.

You don’t need business cards, and don’t bring a resume.  This is not a place for you to find a job.  The rules are simple: bring a story, a friend, good conversation, or any combination of the three.  If you want to be a part of this, send me a message or comment on this post.  We all have so much going on in our lives, let’s take an hour or two for ourselves.

Have you tested and identified your limit?

Paul Engemann performed that song “Push it to the Limit” on the soundtrack to the movie Scarface, and it is a very catchy song.  Filled with sounds that just scream 80’s, I cannot help but to listen when it comes on.  The lyrics always bring to mind someone driving in a fast car on a long and open road.

speed-limitThis song came to mind tonight for me as I took one of my businesses to the next level.  My FBA business has been successful in dealing with some retail and online arbitrage here and there, but today I dove headfirst into the world of wholesaling.  I could have stayed in the area I was operating in, but I like to test the limit.  To be clear, I am not operating at the same level as many, many other sellers.  We all have to start somewhere, though.  I feel pretty good about it, but there is always that nagging feeling that I may fail.  To that I say, “SO WHAT?”

“Yeah, but not everyone has your drive.”

Oh, I know.  However, what if I told you that you don’t need to have my drive?  After all, what works for me may not work for you.  There is a basic framework that applies no matter who you are, or what your circumstances are.  It is so basic that you already know it!

  1. Identify
  2. Plan
  3. Implement
  4. Evaluate
  5. Repeat

The first step is to identify your goals.  Are you writing them down and looking at them from time to time?  I keep mine on a paper in my wallet.  After all, low-tech/no-tech is the new thing. 

Next, you must plan your steps so you are working towards your goal.  For me, and many other people, it helps to work your way backwards from your goal.  This helps me to confirm that I have not missed anything.  For example, if my goal is to be the CIO at my job, then it would help to identify the roles that would put me in line to achieve it.  Looking from the ground up may be tough as there are so many different paths.  However, if I look at the CIO role and recognize that the company prefers someone that has an MBA, and serves on the board for a charity, then it gives me something to work towards.

The third step is to implement the plan you have crafted.  Depending on who you ask, this may be the step that is most fun.  At this point you get to put into practice the steps you had identified previously.  Worth noting, though, is the fact that this step will require a great deal of patience.  Many schools offer accelerated MBA programs, but 18 months is still 18 months.

After all of this work, it is time to evaluate your current standing.  At this point, one of two things should happen: Adjust or Replace.  If you have not reached your goal then you have opportunities to continue leaning in that direction, so you adjust.  Perhaps you have accomplished your goal and it is time to set your sights on something else (replace).  Notice that maintain is not an option?  This is simply due to stagnation being the result of maintaining.

At this point, you are ready to begin the process anew.  Whether you have new or adjusted goals, it is time to begin planning how you will achieve them.

That was easy, wasn’t it?  Having served in the military, I have come to recognize that the only limit we have is ourselves.  If you are determined to accomplish something, then you will find a way to do it.

Idle Hands, or how I am slowly building JARVIS

I am now back at work after taking some time off.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the “down-time,” my wife pointed out to me that I just cannot be idle.  Always looking for projects to work on, this time it was starting to get a little out of hand.  I added more sensors to my home automation, including a pair of Amazon Echo Dot devices.  Next, I also rewired a couple of light switches in the bathroom so the light and exhaust fan were on separate controls.  Since I was working on them, why not put them on smart switches, too?  Soon after, it was apparent that something was up with my home automation controller.  So I swapped that over to a Samsung Smartthings controller.

These projects just keep rolling into one another.  I have convinced myself that it is purpose-driven innovation, not laziness.  After all, it is a safety concern to walk downstairs with laundry and no ability to turn on the lights.  So let’s make them automatic!  But the same thing happens with the front door on Grocery day.  This one has not been solved yet, but I’m getting there.

I know many people see this as senseless, but how cool would it be to walk around the house and not touch light switches?   Make the lights automatically turn on, and then off again when I leave the room?  Or how about the exhaust fan in the bathroom, humidity is up after the shower is done running?  The fan will come on automatically to get rid of the moisture.  Strangest thing to come from these changes is the fact that my “future-thinking” of mounting an ipad in the wall is no longer necessary.  So it looks like I am going to have to prepare to patch that one soon.

End result is my home electronics are voice controlled now.  With a simple “Alexa…” followed by a command, lights and fans are turned on and off.  This is extremely useful when I am changing my son’s diaper.  But, how simple is it?  My 3 year-old is now using Alexa to turn on the bathroom light so he can brush his teeth or use the bathroom.  He is also learning he can ask Alexa to play songs like “The Wheels On the Bus!”  I just need to find a way to block Alexa from purchasing things on my Amazon account.

Anyway, enough electronics talk.  It is a funny story simply because my wife reminded me that I went through something similar when my first son was born.  When we had first brought Lukas home, I went around the house working on projects since I could not handle being idle.  We were still in the process of finishing our lower living room.  It started with a desire to replace wood paneling with drywall.  Then, since some of the carpet was ripped, I figured I’d replace carpeting with tile.  Then the ceiling tiles broke so I figured drywall that, too.  But wait, the ceiling is opened up so install that floor heating system.  Currently, the lower living room still does not have a completed ceiling.  Also, the door I built going into the basement needs to be replaced with an actual framed solution.

The reason I bring this up, however, is simply to think about the idea that I cannot be the only person that struggles with the whole “idle” part of life.  When I was in the Army, it was a very real joke that the motto should just be changed to “Hurry up and wait!”  It seemed that no matter what the event was, you hustle to get there then wait for things to happen.  Maybe I just can’t give myself time to do nothing, or maybe it is me compensating for all the work that my wife does with our children.  I don’t quite know, but having started two businesses, working a day job, and still trying to make my own little J.A.R.V.I.S. (from Iron Man) it seems that any time I have 2 minutes of free time I try to fill it with 10 minutes of work.

Believe me, your mornings could be much better!

good-morningsSome mornings I struggle to drag myself out of bed.  I know there are many people that suffer from this same problem, and I wish I had the solution to this issue.  I find myself using music to wake myself up most mornings and that seems to help.  Then I got the bright idea to try some music I don’t enjoy.  The idea being that I’ll want to get up and going, but I found myself waking up in a less than positive mood.  Some mornings, getting myself into the bathroom and splashing cold water on my face works.  While other mornings, setting my alarm early enough to get up on my own terms works best.

The awesome people over at DailyBurn have a great article on this, and how to trick yourself into becoming a “morning person”.  In this case, the term refers to someone that can bound out of bed and run right into the day.  However, the parts that I find most difficult are getting 8 hours of sleep, and powering down.  I pride myself on being a new entrepreneur, but just like the rest, I never seem to have time.  With my 8-5 job and a desire to spend time with my beautiful wife and child, when can I do “my stuff”?  So I take from my sleep time.

Whether at the start or end of the sleep cycle, I am stealing the time from myself, right?  However, one thing I would like to try is just waking up earlier.  One of the keys in the article I linked to was to give yourself a reason to wake up.  What better reason than some valuable “me” time to work on my projects?

Though I do like to call myself a “morning person”, I still have some work to do.  Maybe I need to just go all in and try out The Rock Clock