The 3 Most Important Things a Leader Must Do

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At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, you’re going to wake up and realize that you no longer have a job. Okay, that could be because you built up your company and sold it, but more often than not it’s because you have surrounded yourself with great talent and you are no longer needed in the day to day operations of your company. You might be bored, you might feel inadequate, or you might start causing problems in your business just to have problems to fix (I’m not the only one that does that, right?).

Sure, you may not be working in the business any longer, but it is still your “job” to lead the organization. You are no longer doing the financials, making sales calls, interviewing, writing contracts, etc. So, you show up to the office and do what?

Here are the 3 most important jobs of a leader:

  1. CAST THE VISION >>> Sharing the vision with your team and with the public can not happen enough. It is your job to spread the vision through every conversation, every interaction with the media, through social media, marketing, and branding. Teaching and training is one of the best ways to spread the vision to a wide audience. Some people will love it (and you) and some people will hate it. But by sharing the vision you will attract the people that should be in your life and who will help you grow your business. Casting the vision wide and often is your job. 
  2. PROVIDE FOCUS, CLARITY, AND DIRECTION FOR THE TEAM >>> Now, you’ve shared the vision and it could be ten, twenty years out. You’ve attracted talent who want to be on the journey with you and then see the vision… vaguely. They are excited about it, but don’t quite understand how to get there or how they are going to contribute. It’s your job to provide extreme clarity and focus on exactly what needs to be done that day, that week, that month, to drive the entire organization forward. Cultivate a culture of great questions and allow your team to push you and challenge your thinking. The vision might be crystal clear in your mind, and you’ve got to slow down long enough to explain your vision so that your team can put it into action. And then take it a step further. There are going to be stretches of weeks and months when shit is just hitting the fan. This is when you really need to double down and keep your people on track. Keep them focused on one thing. They will get off track, sometimes daily. Bring them back to the one thing that they have to do. Sometimes this means telling them to set aside a smaller project and extending a deadline to focus all their time and intention on another priority. But tell them. Otherwise, they are trying to do it all, and getting nothing done. Setting the direction and keeping your team focused is your job. 
  3. REMOVE ROADBLOCKS >>> Once your team understands the vision and is focused on the most important ways they can individually contribute to the company goals, then it’s your job to keep the path ahead clear for them to do just that. When your team needs a tech tool to increase their productivity – get it. When your leadership team needs 15 minutes to get your thoughts on a proposal they are about to send out – schedule time. Do what needs to be done to keep the train moving down the track. There is nothing worse than having your team held up because they are not getting the answers they need or they don’t have the correct software or are distracted by a minor project that can wait. Removing roadblocks is your job. 

BONUS: And maybe it goes without saying, but all of the above would not be possible if you are not constantly working on yourself, your personal and professional development, and increasing your leadership lid. You will not be able to serve others or be the leader you need to be if your own tank isn’t full. Read, journal, exercise, meditate, attend conferences, teach. Do whatever you need to do in order to grow and to keep making your world bigger so that  your team and others continue to see you as a vehicle for their success.

This may seem like an oversimplification, but I didn’t say these were the ONLY things a leader must do, but that they were the most important. As I mentioned before, at some point your job will be simply to read or to think, but make sure you are sharing what you read and learn with others. Cast the vision, provide focus, clarity, and direction, and remove roadblocks. That is your job as a leader.

 

It Only Takes 5 Seconds to Achieve Success

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Last week I read The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with picking food off the floor – though in theory the concept is the same. You have 5 seconds to take action. Five seconds before your mind talks you out of it and it’s too late. This applies to anything in your life – exercise, saying I love you, asking a question in an interview, asking someone out on a date.

Let me give you an example: You see a woman you’ve always wanted to ask out and for the first 5 seconds you are ready to go talk to her. You’re nervous, your adrenaline spikes and then boom – 5 seconds have gone by and you’ve convinced yourself that she would reject you and you decide not to do anything and she walks away without even seeing you. Sound familiar? Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t really matter what the woman says! The gift is that you took a chance, took action and went for it! Maybe the woman turns out to be your soul mate. Maybe you never see her again after that brief interaction. Who cares? You did what 99% of the population doesn’t do. You broke free of the trap of mediocrity and limiting beliefs. You didn’t settle. You didn’t allow fear to paralyze you. You took action.

The problem is that most people wait for the right feeling before they will take action. Newsflash! You are never going to FEEL ready. You’ve got to take action first. Remember your physics lessons? An object in motion stays in motion. The feelings will come over time and will start to align with the action you’re taking, which will make you want to take even more action. Before you know it, you’ll have created a virtuous cycle of good feelings and great results! But the only way you feel good is to actually start moving. I wrote a whole blog about this over a year ago and it still applies. Action precedes motivation and emotion. 

That being said, I didn’t say it was going to be easy. It’s still going to suck getting up at 4:30am every day to work out. But it only sucks for the first 5 minutes or so, and then you feel great! You know what I’m talking about. You only feel great about something after you’ve taken action towards it. Most people are waiting for a feeling before taking action and it just doesn’t work! Most people see those who are taking action and assume that they love taking risks, that they love being vulnerable, that they love staying up until 2am to work on their novel. But that thinking comes from their desire to rationalize why others can do it and they can’t. But you don’t want to be “most people,” do you? Believe me, the people who are sacrificing sleep in order to crush a goal do not love it all the time. But they made the choice to break free from their own mental prison and refused to let themselves talk themselves out of achieving their goals.

Use Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule as a tool to break free from mediocrity. The next time you want something in your life – whether that is to resist the chocolate cake or to get out on the dance floor at a party – take action! 5…4…3…2…1… MOVE! This super simple principle will change your life. You’ve got 5 seconds to choose success. Get after it.

Everyone is Talking About the F-Word. But, Do They Really Know WTF They are Talking About?

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Look, I’m just as guilty as the next person to use industry jargon to inspire my team, recruit rockstars (see what I mean?), and share the vision and mission of Adam Hergenrother Companies. I’m playing to my audience and I know it.

Disruption. Empire Builders. Synergy. Unicorns. Talent. Leverage. Grit.
Failure (and all the various versions: Fail. Fail Faster. Fail Forward). 

Buzzwords abound in the business world particularly when you’re talking about entrepreneurship. And while I generally don’t think there is a damn thing wrong with using whatever words you need to to get results, are we really considering the meaning behind these words and using them in the right context? Or are we just tossing words around to sound like we know what we’re talking about?

This week, I want to talk specifically about the F-word: Failure. This one is pervasive. It seems like everyone wants to wear the word like a badge of honor, yet, some people still can’t seem to admit when they’ve failed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been in an interview and asked the question, “How long would you be wiling to fail before you succeed?” and gotten a noncommittal, aspirational answer like, “I don’t really believe in failing.” Or, “I don’t think I’ve ever failed, I’ve just learned.” Really? You’re telling me that when you got a divorce or when your third business venture went bankrupt, you didn’t fail? Sure, you learned a ton of lessons along the way and are going to be able to apply those to your next opportunity. But you still failed.

Here are two things I really want you to get here:

  1. Just because you failed does not mean you are a failure.
  2. Failing forward means you actually have to FAIL!

Failing is not fun. It’s going to hurt. You’ll know it when you feel it and it won’t be easy to brush off as a “learning opportunity.”

Failure is defined as a lack of success. When you’re failing it feels like you are in the middle of the woods with a dense fog all around you and you can’t see your way out. But just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Take each minute as it comes, each hour. And before you know it, you will have come out on the other side. As long as you don’t give up, don’t throw in the towel, and don’t say, “to hell with it,” you may have failed, but you are not a failure. Keep trying, keep shifting course. It’s the actions that will determine the outcome. You fail at securing a new client? Good. Pick up the phone and close another. You fail at starting an online coaching business? Fine. Take a business course and start another. You fail at finishing in the top 10 of the Tough Mudder? No problem. Sign up for another race and train smarter.

You failed. So what? Success will come if you keep your eye on the prize. As long as you have a clear vision for your future, no matter how many times you may have failed, you’ll keep plugging away until you’ve achieved the objective. It’s in the absence of life goals and a clear vision where failure can completely derail you from ever trying again. And that is the ultimate failure.

Your turn. Time to practice your vulnerability. Share your biggest failure in the comments. What happened? And what did you do next?

 

 

Is There a Lack of Talent in the Marketplace?

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As I mentioned last week, our company is in massive growth mode and with that comes the addition of new team members. The majority of my leadership staff is in the middle of hiring other Executive, administrative, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. talent. Over the past few weeks as interviews have ramped up the frustrations have come out.

I wanted to share the email I sent to my team about hiring and growth, in the hopes that it may help you gain clarity on who you need to hire and let you know you are not alone. Finding top talent is hard!

Hey leadership…

Most of you right now are in the midst of grinding through your daily responsibilities of growing a large company – which in itself is a feat! Nearly all of you are also in the process of hiring people for your team or division and/or the people that you’ve hired are now trying to hire people in order to compensate for our growth.

Awesome.

What I want people to feel and understand and what I sense is a bit of frustration with trying to hire right now is the “lack of talent” that is showing up for interviews. You all know that talent is rare, yet we think that just because we put an ad out there that talent is going to show up! Surprise…they don’t. Some of you whom I’ve hired I’ve known for 20 plus years and others have been in relationship with me for years before we got into business together.

This is why it’s so important that we are always, always looking for talent. You won’t know when you’ll need them and it takes years sometimes to find them! It’s a grind in itself. Talent isn’t hanging around waiting for you – they are off kicking ass somewhere which is exactly why they are talent. They are rare. You all are rare. Don’t lose sight of this as the entire organization grows. You will need the best people on the planet by your side as we go to war! Make sure you’re purposeful on getting in relationship with the best of the best.

The paradoxical challenge is that most people are scared to hire better talent then themselves. Interestingly, it only hurts you and your division when this happens as your own growth becomes stifled by the people you hire and conversely your own growth is lifted up by the people you hire. Your choice.

People are our number one asset. Let’s get in business with the best!

Never give up,

Adam

The conversation following this email was even better. My leadership team shared ahas and additional challenges they’ve had while interviewing. The lessons are great, but the stories are even better (I can’t share all of them here – but suffice it to say, what happened to basic business etiquette and interviewing skills!).

Here are a few of my team’s top takeaways:

  1. Never stop interviewing!!! Build a huge bench.
  2. Always go with your gut, even if the person looks great on paper, in their [behavioral assessment], in their work history, etc.
  3. It’s okay to start over again from scratch. It’s better to know now the fit isn’t quite right than 90 days in when you’ve invested all kinds of energy into getting someone up to speed.
  4. It takes a LOT of interviewing when you have high standards… but it’s worth it!
  5. It is our job to find [talent], get into relationship with them and stay in relationship with them – sometimes for years until the right opportunity becomes available.
  6. Referrals from your SOI, friends, family, past colleagues, other industry leaders, etc. are your best sources for talent.
  7. Do not compromise on your standards or try to make someone fit into a position. You know when it’s right or not.

To sum it up? Do not compromise on your standards. Do not settle for mediocre talent. You will only get mediocre results. Do not hire out of pain. Have patience. Follow the process. Do not get into business with anyone less than the best.

There isn’t a lack of talent in the marketplace. There is simply a lack of focus and time on task. It could take months or years before you find the right person for your company. But if you start looking now, when it’s time to grow, you’ll be ready.

 

What New Graduates Need to Know to Survive After College

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Last weekend was graduation weekend around the country. Smart young kids, optimistic, yet often disillusioned, about what to expect in the “real world.” Political undertones ran rampant in commencement speeches and I think, in many cases, the graduates’ best interest was lost to the speakers’ agendas. I was on the radio earlier this week – my regular Monday morning spot on WVMT – and the host, Charlie, and I started talking about these speeches and he asked me, if I had given a commencement address over the weekend, what I would have said.

Well, I can tell you, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with politics and it wouldn’t have had anything to do with hopes and dreams. I do not believe that people deserve participation trophies, but I do think that they should be encouraged to show up and fail! I believe in hard work, in the grind, in the struggle. And not everyone wants to hear that. My companies interview a ton of young adults, some fresh out of school, and while this may be a generalization, this next generation of our workforce is largely entitled, devoid of any knowledge of common business etiquette, and lacking the work ethic needed to survive. Harsh? Maybe. But true? I think so.

As these new graduates embark on the next chapter of their life, here’s what they need to know to survive after college:

  1. Stop worrying about what you are going to GET from life, and start focusing on the experiences. Too many young adults, hell, adults for that matter, are so concerned with what they deserve, with what they should get from the world, that they are missing out on the gift of just living. I’m sorry to break it to you, but your parents, your professors, your boss, the world, doesn’t owe you anything. You are not here on this Earth to get any one thing, because you’re not going to be able to take any of it with you when you leave. I spent some of my first years out of college chasing the next deal, the next lake house, the next Porsche, trying to accumulating things instead of focusing on just experiencing life. A stimulating conversation, training for a Spartan race, or coaching a fellow colleague are going to do so much more for your growth as a human than any designer suit ever will. It is the experiences that shape who we are. It’s the experiences – good or bad – that teach us and help us grow. And without growth, we’re just dying. Do not get caught up always searching for the next best thing. There will always be something new and better out there. Instead, look inside at who you are and how you can grow every day by having as many new experiences as possible. Sure, those experiences may involve buying a Porsche, but I urge you to only keep it for 6 months, sell it, and use a faction of the money to fund a trip to Africa with your family. Invest the rest of the money in real estate.
  2. You better work. I see a lot of people early in their career who think they will be a Director level team member or CFO after only 1 or 2 years of work experience, with no notable contribution to their organization. I don’t know if they got too many participation trophies growing up or what, but I want to see you work. Being successful is not easy. Success does not come looking for you. You’ve got to hustle, grind, work smart, AND work hard. There are too many graduates who think a social media internship in their college’s Alumni department warrants them a position as social media manager. Yes, it can certainly help, but what else did you do? Did you build a massive social media following through viral videos on YouTube? Did you create a blog and write weekly content that got picked up by a national news outlet? The competition is real. Talent is a commodity right now and you need to step up and stand out. The work doesn’t stop now that you’ve graduated from college, the work has only just begun. The quicker you can wrap your head around the long game – yes, it could take 7, 10 or 15 years to get that dream job you have your eye on – the more you will be able to stop trying to GET something and start enjoying the journey and the experiences along the way. It all works together here.
  3. Be open to opinions other than your own. People seem to be so one-sided and closed-minded today. They know one way to do things and think it’s the only way instead of stopping to listen to the other side or to a different perspective. Life isn’t so black and white. Most of the time, you’re not going to be right. So start listening! It doesn’t mean that you are going to change your values or views, but by being open to new ideas and new ways of thinking about issues, you are going to gain more knowledge and be able to move forward with a deeper understanding and clarity on an issue. This way of thinking and processing information will help you in all areas of your life. Everyone is entitled to their own values and beliefs. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but go into those conversations as just another experience – listen, ask questions, and offer your perspective. But remember, your life doesn’t depend on whether you “win” that discussion. You never will anyway. Everyone has an opinion. Share yours. Listen to others. And maybe, just maybe, you will learn something new or start looking at things differently. That’s growth.

It’s really quite simple. These new graduates have the world in their hands and they can either dive head first into this new world to experience everything it has to offer, work harder than they ever have before, and be open to learning along the way or they can sit back and wait for life to happen to them. It’s just another choice. But I vote for option 1.


While the real work is just beginning, all the graduates should be proud of what they have accomplished so far. Take a minute (or two) to celebrate and congratulations to you all! We are always looking for hungry individuals to join our various teams. Think you’ve got what it takes? Visit www.adamhergenrother.com/careers/ or email careers@adamhergenrother.com.

Identity: Who You Really Are or What You are Hiding Behind?

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Father. Husband. Leader. Brother. Entrepreneur. Business Owner. Triathlete. CEO. Son.

Identity is a funny thing. When I’m introducing myself at a conference, I’m Adam Hergenrother – CEO & Entrepreneur. When I’m meeting people at a family gathering with my in-laws, I’m Adam – Sarah’s husband. Your identity – how you (and others) label and categorize yourself within your world – is a powerful thing. But it can either be empowering or crippling depending on how much external validation you attach to it. Did I change between the conference and the family party? Nope. But how I labeled myself for the benefit of society did.

How deeply rooted is your identity and sense of self? Can you have more than one identity? What happens when your identity is threatened? Is identity an internal or an external manifestation? Do we even need an identity? What happens when your identity (your ID card) has expired?

Do not confuse your identity with who you are at the core. Identity is an external manifestation of how you, and others, see you and how you believe you fit into society. You can be a chameleon – shifting your identity based on the audience or who you need to present yourself as. Or, your mother, former partner, or college professor may have “assigned” you an identity that you have grown into – good or bad. Over the course of your life-time you may fiercely protect an identity that you believe shows who you really are internally. You may lose yourself and find a new identity. You may be afraid to give up the identity that the world sees you as because your ego is getting in the way or because it has served to protect you from other parts of yourself you don’t want the world to see.

The key is to dig really deep and think about how you identify yourself and how the world identifies you. And then it is entirely up to you whether or not you want to accept that. You have the power to be whoever you want to be. You are probably already living true to yourself on the inside. Are you sharing that with the world or is your fear holding you back? There can be a ton of internal conflict around identity. Identity crises are real!

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Let me give you an example: Ava is a successful lawyer who kicks ass and takes names daily. She works 80+ hours a week, getting up at 5am to email clients and works well into the night on depositions or case reviews. She has received several Rising Star awards, has started a blog to document her trials and triumphs as a young attorney in a small coastal town, and she takes a minimum of 1 pro bono case per month. She is Ava the Attorney morning, noon, and night. From the outside, she has it all – successful career, recognition in her industry, a promotion on the horizon, a supportive partner at home, and new puppy. But what we don’t see is that Ava works every weekend, eats take-out at her desk, falls into bed at midnight and mindlessly watches old episodes of Friends, she hasn’t had a real date with her husband in months, she doesn’t exercise, and often cancels plans with friends because she can’t fathom one more commitment on her calendar. Before becoming Ava the Attorney, Ava was multi-dimensional, loved spending time outside, could get lost in a good book for hours, and had a Etsy shop where she sold her artwork. But she has lost herself along the way to becoming Ava the Attorney. That is her only identity, which she wears proudly, but also often feels like a fraud. She has more to offer the world, and while that identity has served her well over the past 10 years, she wants more and knows she is more than just an Attorney. Full on identity crisis. Does Ava have to give up her success as an Attorney to also be a successful wife, artist, friend?

On the inside, Ava is all of those things, but she has only allowed one part of herself to shine through – Ava the Attorney. The world sees her in one way, and one way only, and Ava is constantly trying to live up to that expectation, while sacrificing other parts of who she is. But let me tell you something. You, or Ava, are not doing yourself or the world a favor by stiffing those others parts of who you really are! It will not be easy, but it will change your world if you are able to align your external identity with what’s going on inside. Ava may continue to hide behind her Attorney identity for many years until it becomes so suffocating that she breaks and is forced to make a change. But it doesn’t have to get to that point! You can crawl your way out of the deep hole of identity that you have placed yourself in or that someone else has forced upon you.

The strongest desire in humans is the desire to stay consistent with who we think we are (i.e. the identity we have created). Every choice we make, every action we take, is based on the desire to stay comfortable, to stay consistent, with who we believe we are. From the clothes we wear, to the partners we attract, to the jobs we take, to the sports we play, to the people we hang out with… all of those choices are based on an effort to stay consistent with who we think we are. But who are you really? A mother? A father? A teacher? A preacher? No. Those are just labels. In the example above, Ava’s ID (identity) card has expired. It is time for a reinvention or at the very least time to make room for some other identities to come out and play! But, do we even need an identity? I would argue no. Identity works for the short term and can certainly serve a purpose, but it should not hold you hostage! Humans are complex creatures.We are really just the person behind that label, witnessing the world.  You can either hide behind an identity that you or someone else has created or you can work to find out who you really are on the inside and say to hell with the labels! Most people are still trying to get something from life instead of realizing that life is just something we experience. When we realize that experiencing life is enough, then we don’t need the labels. You’ve already won by actually living.

Let’s keep the conversation going. What is your identity? Is that an identity that someone else has given you or one that you have assigned to yourself? Is that who you really are? Does it tell your whole story or is something missing? Post in the comments below!

Lessons from the Desert – St. George Ironman 70.3

Well, I did it. Raced the Ironman 70.3 in St.George, Utah – one of the most challenging courses in the world. 90 degrees, 30 mph winds, and nothing flat in sight. Finished in 5 hours and 16 minutes and placed at #280 out of 2,700 participants (50 pros). It was incredibly hard and one of coolest things I’ve done. So fun, in fact, that I just signed up for another 70.3 in Arizona this Fall. Some may call that crazy. I call it committed.

So, I’ll keep this one short and sweet, because I have to hop on my bike in a few minutes – the Lake Placid Ironman is less than 3 months away!

Here are a couple of things I learned while completing the Ironman last week:

  1. You must focus on execution and breaking every task down into small, manageable actions. For example, heart rate zones, eating every 30 minutes, drinking two bottles of Gatorade every two hours, etc. By breaking the race down into smaller (measurable) actions it enables you to push through the really bad patches during a race, in business, and in life. One foot in front of the other. Count your breathes. Push through.
  2. It’s easy to run a marathon or lead a company when things are going well, isn’t it? But what about when things are going really bad? Two employees quit, your kids are acting out in school, you got kicked in the face during the swim portion of the race… what do you do? Give up or rev up? Practicing emotional fitness daily (journaling, meditating, reading, exercising, yoga, affirmations, counting your breaths, etc.) will allow you to push through and survive. Before you know it you’re out of the bad patch and on to the good. Just know that a bad patch will come again and if you are emotionally fit, you will be able to weather the emotional, physical, or mental pain.
  3. Those bad patches we were just talking about? They will end. Everything ends. No matter how much pain you are in – at some point it will be over. Maybe not as quickly as you would like, but it will end. Just be confident enough in your ability to weather the storm. Be emotionally fit enough to take whatever comes your way and know you can make it through.
  4. Keep your emotions in check – stay in control. This is especially true for the week leading up to the race or a big business event. Don’t let yourself get all hyped up and all in your head before the big day. Stay controlled as much as possible leading up to the race or speaking engagement and then unleash hell! When the gun goes off or you are handed the mic, let that built up energy out and execute. Using that energy prematurely on worrying, over-thinking, stressing out, or pushing yourself too hard, may make you tank during the event.
  5. Follow a model. Let me say that again. Follow a model. Whether in business or while training you need to follow a plan, but be open to making adjustments and tweaks along the way to optimize performance. You are rewarded on race day for what you do for the days/weeks/months/years leading up to the race. There is no cheating here! Follow a model.
  6. Celebrate! You just crushed it. Have a glass of wine with friends, have a cheat meal, take a day off, do whatever it is you want to do to celebrate. And then get back at it. Better yet, go schedule your next race or competition. When you hit a big goal or milestone you should celebrate! But don’t lose site of your long term goals and make sure you have a plan for your next big opportunity. Growth is what drives us and is why you signed up for that race or got into business in the first place, right?

How do you stay emotionally fit? How do you celebrate? What big goal or milestone do you have coming up in the next six months? Share in the comments below!

 

5 Things You Need to Decide Before You Become an Entrepreneur

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I studied business and finance in college and like any optimistic kid from small-town America, I had my sights set on Wall Street. Bright lights. Big city… where dreams are made of, the lights will inspire you… New York. Corporate America, working for “the man,” those were things that got me excited. While I didn’t end up in NYC, I did land a job working at a large national company as a financial controller. I had it all – a great salary, expense account, and an assistant. But it wasn’t enough. I was bored. I felt trapped. Working for the man wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I didn’t want the corporate credit card handed to me. I wanted to earn it. I didn’t want to follow someone else’s established way of thinking. I wanted to make my own rules. I had been put into a tiny box and I had a decision to make – climb the corporate ladder and hope to earn an equity stake 30 years down the road, or get out. I had a burning desire to do more, be more, create more, grow more. So, I quit.

And just like that I was an Entrepreneur (or unemployed, depending on how you want to look at it).

I hadn’t been working any side hustle. I didn’t have a nest egg. I took a leap of faith and never looked back.

Being an Entrepreneur is a sexy thing to do these days. Shark Tank has popularized the art of the pitch, everyone and their mother (literally) has a GoFundMe page for their latest project, and if one more of my friends asks me to buy a nutrition supplement I’m going to… Okay, don’t get me wrong, I respect the hell out of what these people are trying to do. They’ve got goals and they are going after them. But how long do these people last? A couple weeks? Maybe a year while the product goes to market and if it doesn’t sell, they’re done? Are they building a business or working on a passion project? Yes, it is possible and preferable for the business to be building to also be your passion, but it’s not always the case. And while this may not be a popular opinion, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur or to build a business. They’re just not. And that’s okay! Be true to who you are and stop chasing what’s cool right now. Because ten years from now, maybe the sexy thing to do will be to study and work in a technical field and you’ll be kicking yourself for not following your dream of becoming a dental hygienist.

Being an Entrepreneur isn’t all perfectly curated Instagram photos and working from your home office overlooking the beach. Sure, that can be a part of it if you want, but if that’s why you’re doing this whole entrepreneurship thing then it’s probably not really for you. I would suggest you go work as a social media strategist for an entrepreneur!

You will not always love your business, at times you will hate it. Your business isn’t something you can dabble in on the weekends or pick up work on when you’re feeling inspired. When you are building your business it is hard, it is all consuming, it is long days and even longer nights, it is pain, it is struggle, it is sacrifice, and if you do it right, it will be the greatest thing you’ve ever done.

Still want to be an entrepreneur? Here are five things you should think about before you take the leap.

  1. What are you willing to sacrifice?  Are you willing to give up nights out with your friends? Are you willing to give up Sunday brunch with your girlfriend? Are you willing to give up a paycheck for weeks, months, even years? Are you willing to sacrifice sleep? Are you willing to give up relationships? There will be people in your life who don’t understand what or why you are building this thing – and they will try to tear you down.
  2. How long are you willing to fail?  We always talk about failing forward. But here’s the catch – you actually have to FAIL! And be okay with it because the faster you fail, the faster you learn and grow! If failure’s not for you, then you may want to rethink being an entrepreneur.
  3. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?  Ego may get you started. The $$$$ may get you motivated. But neither one will get you through the dark nights when you are questioning every decision you’ve made and whether or not you should keep going or shut down the whole operation. Your purpose (yes, your passion) has got to be bigger than you, your ego, and your bank account. Dig deep and really determine why you want to build a business.
  4. Will your family be involved in the business?  Many entrepreneurs and small business owners keep it in the family. It can be amazing (and cheap) or it can go horribly wrong. Do whatever works for you, but figure out who will be involved in the business and why. Is it because you’re doing Cousin John a favor or is it because Cousin John is a kick-ass sales professional? Choose wisely and set boundaries. If you are thinking about working with your spouse, set very clear boundaries between work and home and more importantly between what roles you are each taking on in the business. There can be too many cooks in the kitchen (at home and at the office).
  5. Do you want to be self-employed or do you want to build a business?  What’s the difference between being self-employed and building a business? Let me give you an example: You’re self-employed when you own a coffee shop, manage the coffee, shop, open the coffee shop, do marketing for the coffee shop, make the coffee, etc. Essentially you control your schedule, it’s your baby, but you have a job. Being a business owner means you own the coffee shop, lead the vision for the coffee shop, hire someone to manage the coffee shop and open additional coffee shops in the region, and make the coffee, only if you really want to. Basically, you don’t have a “job”, you are removed from the day to day operations, and you only insert yourself in the business when and where you want to. Both can be extremely fulfilling, you just need to decide what’s right for you and for your vision of why you wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place.

Are you an entrepreneur or have dreams of being one? Where are you at in your business journey? How many times have you failed and kept going? I would love to hear from you. Share your entrepreneurship story in the comments!

 

How to Be a Corporate Athlete

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As I’ve ramped up my training for my Ironman this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an athlete. They don’t just exercise, they train. They don’t eat, they fuel. They don’t just race, they compete. They don’t just rest, they recover. All critical parts of being a world-class athlete. So how can we apply these same concepts to the business world and create corporate athletes?

I already know most of you think like athletes in terms of growth – you want to improve day after day and are always working on that next goal. But what really sets athletes apart is not the training, the competition, the fueling… it’s the recovery. We’ve got to start thinking like athletes who put extreme focus on recovery – emotional, physical, mental, social, professional, and spiritual recovery.

Remember, all gains are made in recovery. Have you ever seen a cyclist after a big competition? They will literally lay down, legs out straight, and not move and sometimes barely walk before or after a race. And when you break down muscle fibers during intense exercise, they rebuild themselves stronger during your recovery periods in order to be prepared for the next intense session.

The same can be applied to your business. Entrepreneurs, leaders, business owners all work extremely hard, but too few of them are making time for recovery. Without recovery, you’ll break. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to take weeks off at a time and completely unplug. In fact, too much recovery is bad for you. Think about it – sleeping 15 hours a day will hurt your body and emotional fitness. But on the flip side, too little sleep, 3-4 hours, is bad for you too. You’ve got to find the sweet spot. The optimal amount of recovery time will vary slightly from person to person, but we must make time for recovery of our minds, our souls, and our bodies. This recovery time will in turn make us stronger and prepare us for the day ahead. Remember, after an intense day at the office, you must recover so the cells in our minds can recover and rebuild in order to handle the next big stimuli (i.e. problem). Think of it as a staircase. You step up (intense session which breaks down your mind/body), then there is a flat landing (recovery session). This repeats over and over again on your way up the stairs (growth). As you recover, each step becomes easier and your growth will start to compound.

So, the key is to incorporate recovery points throughout your day. Here are a few examples:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours each night (which means you’ll have to say no to things at night in order to go to bed early – nothing good happens after 8:30pm anyway!)
  • Take 5-10 minutes every 90 minutes to clear your mind, breathe, meditate, do some pushups or handstands, whatever will clear your mind in order for you to recover and refocus
  • In the middle of the day, take 20-30 minutes and breathe, read a book, meditate, go for a walk
  • Get up an hour early to start your day with meditation, journaling, reading, thinking
  • Add 30-45 minutes of daily exercise – just get moving! Run, walk, dance, swim, do yoga or martial arts, hike, chop wood . Just do something that creates energy within your body. This is where clarity comes from.
  • Take a vacation (even a long weekend), take time off and get out of your daily routine

Start small. You don’t need to master recovery in one day. Start by taking a 10 minute break and walking around your office or turn your chair away from your computer screen and practice deep breathing. Just stop and take action. You will start to feel the effects of these recovery periods almost immediately. Once you start with these small recovery points, you’ll eventually start adding more recovery time to your life.

As a leader, you’ve got to take this one step further. My Ironman training coach, John Spinney, always likes to remind me that his number one job when coaching professional athletes is to manage recovery. It’s his job to know when to make the stop. Just like John manages his athletes, you must actively manage the recovery of your team members. Create daily recover periods for everyone. Push your team hard, push for the results, but allow for recovery time. Take a group walk, do 10 jumping jacks on the hour every hour, have a dance party a 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Build these recovery habits for yourself and your team and you’ll be building a big life and big business faster and more effectively.

Athletes and corporate athletes have the mind set that if they aren’t making large enough gains or gains at all that they need to put more stress on there body (i.e. work harder) which then puts you into a vicious cycle of less recovery and poorer results. In order to get that pop or jump in fitness (or life) we need to recover so that when we are working we are giving it 100%. There should be no gray area. You’re either on or you’re off. You are either fully engaged or strategically disengaged.

To be a corporate athlete, you must take time for recovery. Recovery equals results.

This One Thing is Keeping You from Finding Happiness

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I was at the airport earlier this morning after a quick trip to Austin for instructor training for a new leadership and leverage course. Airports, the happiest places on Earth, right? Right… But, they are an interesting case study for the human race. Airports are a snapshot, a microcosm, of the country. And you can easily see who is engaged, who enjoys their work, who has completely checked out, who is impatient, who is calm, who is entitled, who is gracious, who is happy, etc.

Here’s what I think is happening here. Those people who are stressed, unhappy, and disengaged have certain expectations for how their life should be (maybe even what is owed to them) and their current life conditions aren’t matching up. Sounds pretty simple, right? But it’s actually a major problem that is keeping all those people at the airport, and all the people in the world, from truly being happy. People who are “suffering” suffer because they don’t feel like they can change their situation. Wake up. Get out of victim mentality. Everyone has the ability to change, you just have to want to.

Let me give you an example. Nick just graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Business and a minor in Finance. He played right wing on the hockey team for four-years, started a non-profit on campus, and had an internship on Wall Street. He started interviewing for jobs 4 months before graduation and believed he should land a job at a top investment banking firm in NYC. Graduation day arrives and still no offers. Fast forward 6 months and Nick has taken a job at a local credit union and has moved in with his sister to save money. Nick is unhappy. Why? Because his current life conditions do not align with what he thinks he should have.

Here’s another example for you. You’ve booked first class and are ready to sit back and relax and enjoy your flight. Expectations – early boarding, extra leg room, and sparkling water over ice. Then, your first flight gets canceled, you’re rebooked on another flight and aren’t sure if you’ll make your connection. Your current life conditions have just changed and are no longer in alignment with your expectations. Do you get mad or do you accept it and move on? Well, when you’re trying to get home to get to your daughter’s dance recital… you adjust your expectations quickly. You take whatever seat they’ll give you – even the middle seat in the back row next to the bathroom (and just hope you don’t get your ass kicked in the process!).

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have big goals and big visions and be constantly working towards them. Nick should keep sending resumes, building his network and skill set and keep pushing to land that job in NYC – if that is really what he wants. And by all means, keep booking first class! But I would challenge him (and you) to look at your expectations for yourself and question whether or not that is really what YOU want, or if that’s what you think you SHOULD have based on what your parents want, what society says you should have accomplished by the time you’re 30, or what the media is saying millennials want. Stop and really consider what you want. Dig deep. And then go deeper.

Okay, so you’ve done some extensive self-examination. Now what? What do you do when your current life conditions don’t match your expectations? How can you bring your expectations and vision for your life into alignment?

You have two choices. One, you can adjust your expectations. When you really took a look at what you thought you wanted, did you still want it? Maybe not. Perhaps that dream of owning your own business was really your grandfather’s dream and you would prefer to take a salaried position at a start-up. Perhaps your belief that all of your free time should be spent volunteering was really developed from your community’s belief that you should give back, and you would rather just write a big check and call it a day! You don’t have to be anyone that you don’t want to be. You are in control of who you become. How you spend your time is your choice. If you’re not happy, you may be striving to live up to expectations that aren’t even your own. Recalibrate. Choose the path that is right for you and boom – your current life conditions will come into alignment with your expectations.

If you took a look at your expectations and decided that yes, those are exactly the things that you want, then it’s time to change your current life conditions. This is not going to be easy. It’s going to require time, discipline, and consistent effort. Your life isn’t going to change overnight. But the journey will be a hell of a lot easier if what you are moving towards is actually what you want, and not what someone else told you you should have. When your daily actions and daily disciplines (no matter how hard) are moving you towards your goals, you will be happy. It’s when these aren’t in sync where the stress, tension, and unhappiness come in.

People are not happy when their expectations (whether their own or ones imposed by others) are not matching up to their life now. But the beauty of the situation is that you can do something about it! The happiest people have the lowest expectations. They don’t have expectations of what they want or who they must be, but rather their expectations revolve around just experiencing life. The happiest people are the ones who are grateful for just waking up and having another day to live. When you have that mindset, then anything else that happens that day isn’t stressful, because you’ve already had a victory for the day – waking up! This doesn’t mean that you don’t strive for growth, it just means that when you are building a massive business or working out five hours a day, you’re enjoying the challenges along the way and letting go of your pre-conceived expectations.

Want to be happy? Change your expectations, or adjust your daily activities to get to you goal. Your choice. Your happiness is entirely up to you.