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.

3 Things To Do to Build Mental Strength

success magIf anyone has ever gotten into conversation with me for longer than five minutes, I will probably bring up Navy SEALs at some point. I have huge respect for those who serve our country. So, when I was in the airport grabbing some seltzer water and almonds and saw Jocko Willink – the ultimate SEAL – on the cover of Success Magazine, I had to grab it. There was a killer article about Jocko’s training routine, mindset, schedule, and business ventures. And it got me thinking about how important mental strength and emotional fitness are to success. In fact, it’s everything. All success hinges on overcoming the voice inside your head that is trying to hold you back and hold you down. Though, I wouldn’t mind having Jocko’s voice inside my head every day. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go check out his podcast. It’s good.

When you master that voice, you win.

You’ve probably all heard the term self-mastery before. Self-mastery is nothing but overcoming that voice inside your head that says “No,” or “I can’t,” or “I’m too tired,” or “I shouldn’t have to,” or “I’m not good enough.” Life is about setting goals that cause us to push through challenges and obstacles. That’s where growth comes from. The interesting thing about setting big goals and finding a way to conquer them is that most of the time the grind of business building or the grind of training for an Ironman isn’t fun. It’s just not. It’s boring. It’s requires sacrifice. It’s hard. But when you grow, you build mental strength.

Here are 3 things you can do to build mental strength:

  1. Get up early. Which means you have to go to bed early. Nothing good happens after 8pm anyway. But the key is that you have to have a purpose to get up early. If you have a reason to get up in the morning, you go to bed. So, when your opportunity clock goes off in the morning do you hit the snooze button or do you choose victory? When you choose victory first thing in the morning, your building mental strength. Every time you hit the snooze button you are training yourself to break your promises. And the crazy thing is, these are promises you’ve made to yourself! Set the stage for your day and get up early. Get up early and read, meditate, go for a walk, journal, or exercise. It doesn’t really matter what you do. It’s about that victory in the morning that sets the stage for future success. Getting up early allows you to have time for you. No demands. No distractions. You get to set the course for your day.
  2. Implement small daily disciplines. Discipline is freedom. This is a gem I borrowed from Jocko. The more disciplined you are the better habits you create and ultimately the more freedom you end up experiencing. The discipline to get up early gives you the freedom of more time later in the day. The discipline to not buy the latest iPhone or a new car gives you financial freedom. The discipline to workout every day gives you energy, strength, and physical freedom. Small daily disciplines start creating small daily habits that eventually start leaking into every aspect of your life. If you don’t allow yourself to cheat on your daily discipline of flossing your teeth, then you are training yourself to not cheat on your daily workout, or not cheat on the time you have set aside for your family. But discipline isn’t easy. Discipline is hard. This is where mental strength is forged. Focus on your long-term goals and then the daily habits you can take to get you there. And then take action. When you do what you say you’re going to do – DAILY – you will create a huge life.
  3. Challenge yourself in a structured environment. Do you want to live a mediocre life? No! I bet you don’t. But it’s easy to get comfortable, especially when you have achieved a certain level of success. So, you have to choose to get outside your comfort zone in order to grow and one of the best ways to do that is to take on a new challenge within a structured environment. For example, join a Toastmasters and start practicing your public speaking, or sign up to run a marathon and get a running coach, or take a course to help you start the business that you’ve wanted to start for years.

    When I decided to sign up to complete an Ironman, I had an instant mental shift from exercising to training. Exercise means you get a good sweat on, feel good, and have a decent routine. Exercise is great! But training means you get on your bike, or lace up your running shoes, or get into the pool with the intent of beating your previous pace. You are working on improving yourself but with extreme focus and purpose and with a much higher level of accountability. It’s the difference between reading for fun and reading because you know you will be giving a presentation and graded on it. It’s the difference between going for a jog and training for a Spartan Race with the intention of beating last year’s PR. You are no longer just going through the motions. You have a goal, you have a score card, and you are constantly being pushed by that coach or that program to go beyond what you thought was possible. That is where mental strength is made.  Because training gives you purpose, it strengthens your ability to push through when that voice is telling you to slow down or quit. And then that mental strength stays with you when the next obstacle or challenge is thrown at you – and you know there will be some.

Mental strength is built by embracing challenges and pushing through them. Struggles and obstacles are our greatest gifts because they force us to grow. Mental strength comes from believing you can’t do something and then doing it anyway. Do not allow yourself to give yourself an out! Commit to getting up early. Commit to daily disciplines. Commit to a new, structured challenge. You’ll be building mental strength each step of the way.

Choose victory.

5 Ways to Secure Your Company’s Reputation

best placesThis week we moved into a brand new state-of-the-art office building – the new headquarters for Hergenrother Enterprises (KW Vermont, Hergenrother Realty Group, Adam Hergenrother Training Organization, BlackRock Construction, and Hergenrother Foundation). Last week, Hergenrother Enterprises was named one of the Best Places to Work in Vermont. Both of these accomplishments were a testament to the hard work of my incredible team and garnered a lot of positive press.
I’ll take it! Because it’s not always this way. These moments in the spotlight are great, but fleeting. They will be up for a day, maybe two, and then replaced by the next big story – usually something controversial or provocative – whatever will get the most attention. For every positive piece of news about you in the media, there are five conversations swirling around the business community maligning your reputation, questioning your business practices, or just spreading rumors about you and your leadership. The funny thing, is the more success you have, the more people will try to tear you down.

There are two ways to build the biggest building in town:
1. Build the biggest building in town.
2. Tear down all the other buildings around you.

I will always choose option one. But my competition and your competition may choose option two and you’ve got to be prepared. So how do you get your company to stand out among the noise? How do maintain your company’s reputation day after day? How do you secure your company against the competition who may be determined to tear you down?
Perception is reality. It is your job to ensure that your company’s perception is pristine, that you are leading your company from a place of integrity, and that you are sharing your successes widely and often. No one else is going to do it for you.

strategic givingHere are five things you can implement to secure your company’s reputation against the competition:

  1. Earned media. Public relations. Free press. Whatever you want to call it. Go get it. The more good news you are putting out into the world, the better. It can be as simple as sharing a press release about your company’s latest charity event or sharing each new hire on social media. It’s great when your company receives an industry award, but if you aren’t sharing that with your followers, your customers, and your clients, they will never know. Publishing a weekly blog or monthly newsletter that highlights an employee or the success of a recent wellness initiative, all stack the cards in your favor. I’m not talking about paid advertising here. I’m talking about sharing your company’s story and inviting people to get involved – whether that’s with an upcoming volunteer project or to submit their resume for a career opportunity. I know your company is doing great things. It’s time to let the rest of the world know.
  2. Strategic giving. At a certain point in your career, you’re going to start getting asked to donate or sponsor events several times a week. I get it. There are thousands of amazing organizations, all with limited funding and resources. But your resources and charitable donation pool is limited too. This is where you’ve got to get strategic. With the funds that you do have allocated to charitable giving, make sure to work with organizations that you are passionate about and who align with your vision and mission. Your giving will go much further when you not only give monetarily to two or three organizations that your believe deeply in, but that you will also wiling donate your time to.
  3. Company culture. Your employees and business partners can be your biggest allies (or your biggest adversaries) when it comes to protecting your company’s reputation. Who knows the inner workings of your company better than your staff? What will they say about your company?  Is your culture strong enough to withstand your competition’s attempts to tear you down? Do you have weekly, monthly, and yearly company events to bring everyone together? Are you transparent when there are issues? Do your employees know they can come to you with concerns? Focus on your people. In fact, your people are the ones that create the culture, not you. Culture does not come from the top down, but from within the organization, based on each of the people you bring into your world. Protect your company culture fiercely. If your culture is strong your team will be your biggest defenders and advocates when there is a bump in the road.
  4. Leave your ego at the door. As you build your empire and start having more success, the target on your back becomes bigger. You are a threat to other businesses, and really at the core, you are making other people feel less significant. You will have people attack you personally and you are going to want to attack back; it’s just human nature. Don’t. It is not about you anymore. You have a company and hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, who depend on you for your sound judgement, integrity, and ability to remain calm and collected in the face of chaos. The decisions you make are not for you, they are for the good of the company. It doesn’t matter what is said about you, it’s about what is best for your company’s reputation, and what is best for the people you are responsible for. There is no room for ego at the top.
  5. No comment. When you’re faced with negative press, when rumors are flying, and when you’ve got reporters calling for an interview (and at some point this will happen to all of you as you’re building a business), just pause and consider your words carefully. Haters are gonna hate. You don’t want that negativity in your life. Take the high road. Simply reply no comment, or consult your lawyer for an appropriate response. If you don’t add fuel to the fire, the fire will die. Instead, focus on your team (point 3) and all the positive work you are doing and share (point 1)!

Did you notice that all of the points above are about YOU and your company? They have nothing to do with you competition. Keep your focus on bettering yourself and your company every day and you will always win.

Focus on Daily Execution for Big Results

half ironman floridaLast Saturday I completed my first triathlon – a half-Ironman – in Clermont, Florida. On the Friday before my race, I had a call with my coach and he told me to forget about the time goals that I wanted to hit, because I was putting too much pressure on myself. He told me to focus on the second by second, minute by minute execution. Literally focusing on breathing every stroke cycle, high turnover and staying long, then having a quick transition, and executing my hydration plan on the bike, drinking every few minutes and eating every 30 minutes, staying at a high cadence, and not exceeding a certain heart rate. Forget the goal, focus on the small activities that my training had prepared me for. I placed 2nd in my age group, and 14th overall. That’s what happens with models, systems, training, coaching, and finally, pure execution.

Focusing on the small points of execution got me thinking about how important our daily, our hourly, and even our minute by minute execution is. Every day we start with extreme focus and clarity on our big goal, or our big why, our one thing, but can often get sidetracked, if we don’t focus on the activities, the execution, that will get us there. But it’s in those small, often mundane moments, where growth really happens.

I didn’t place in the top 15 in the Florida Challenge because I was telling myself to run faster, swim harder, hit your time goals! I placed in the top 15 because I forgot all about that and focused on putting one foot in front of the other, focused on my heart rate, focused on fueling myself properly. Yes, I had a goal. But the goal became secondary to the execution. Because I knew that if I executed on the activities, the goal would take care of itself.

Now, it’s simple to sit here now and say this, but is really hard. It’s hard to focus on the small, purposeful execution when your body (or business) is screaming and telling you to stop and give up. In any intense physical training (marathon, CrossFit, dance, etc.), just as in business, you are going to hit rough patches where your mind goes sideways and wants you to quit. Halfway through my race, my mind started trying to convince me to cancel my full-Ironman this summer! The key is to be able to pause long enough to get your mind right – everything ends and this is where grit is developed. It is the ability to push through the rough patches that allows you to find the sweet spots. Grit and character are not forged in the midst of success, they are developed when it’s completely dark and you can’t see your way out.

Will you allow it to make you or break you?

Anyone can train, build a business, or lead when things are good. But how many people can lead themselves and others when times are tough? The good news is, it is something that can be learned. Grit, resilience, and perseverance can all be developed, as long as you’re willing to do the work and get uncomfortable. The next time you hit a rough patch in life or business, just stop and breathe. Control your breath, say an affirmation (mine is “I demand of myself to create massive and pure energy within me now.”), or count to 100 3-5 times. These small actions will center you again, clear your mind, and enable you to fight forward.

I’ll say it again, small actions. Small actions to clear your mind and refocus. Small acts of execution to lead you to big results.

I knew I needed to leave the comfort of my stable job (making $42,000 a year, private office, expense account, assistant) to be an entrepreneur in order to grow and live the life I wanted. But the first step was actually quitting! And I did quit to become a real estate agent. In 2006. People thought that I was crazy because of the crash, but I knew that if I focused on just setting ONE appointment a day, I’d hit my goals. That became my small action every day. It didn’t matter how long it took. I could prospect for 12 or 16 hours a day. I just knew that I needed to start small in order to go big. Fast forward a couple of months, and my one small action became hiring an assistant. And slowly, then suddenly, I had an entire team around me. Next thing I knew, I woke up with five companies. Small actions.

bruno-nascimento-149663Let’s look at another example – weight loss. If you have a goal of losing 6 pounds in one month, you must focus on the small things – daily caloric intake of food and daily caloric output through exercise. Every bite matters. Every step matters. Start small to go big.

These examples are all around us. Just ask anyone who has ever accomplished anything extraordinary how they did it. I guarantee they won’t tell you about some momentous moment when extraordinary just showed up. They are going to tell you about their daily habits, their extreme time management, their hourly execution, their small actions that got them there. Again, simple, but incredibly hard. But this is your competitive advantage! Most people can’t handle the mental discipline it takes to execute on the small (often monotonous) daily actions. They give in and give up. But not you. Not if you want to win.

Remember, don’t lose sight of your future self or your big why. That will always be what drives you and guides your daily actions. But if you just shift your focus to the daily execution of what must get done to move the needle forward, you will win.

 

 

How to Move Forward When You Can’t See the Path Ahead

 

the falls 1I just got back from three days off the grid, completely unplugged and fully immersed in the natural beauty at the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Falls. Clarity and inspiration were a given.

The business world is such a whirlwind. Some days you have extremely clear vision, tons of energy, and feel unstoppable. Other days? It can feel like you are in the middle of the Northern woods of Maine on a foggy day with no idea which way is out. You can feel trapped, confused, frustrated, and lost. It can paralyze you. The fear can stop you and cause you to shoot off your last rescue flair and call it quits. But this is where the magic happens. This is where you can either retreat, or find out what you’re made of. And you know what? Most of the time when we’re lost, we are only 10 feet from the edge of the forest. It’s when you can’t see where to go or what to do next that you must use all the courage, models, emotional fitness, and grit you possess to find a way out. Stop, re-calibrate, take a look around, and find a path through the trees (even if you have to create it).

falls 5I felt this fear and uncertainty about halfway through my expedition to Havasupai Falls. We had finally made it to the waterfall and were on the edge of one of the cliffs overlooking a huge pool below. The pool was super deep and only about 55 degrees. The wind was whipping at 25 mph due to the energy of the falls. The current below was incredibly strong. Our guide lead us out on to the cliff, tiptoeing on a 2 foot wide shelf so we were over the middle of the pool. The five of us, plus our guide, were huddled on this ledge about 8 feet away from the crashing falls and then shit got real. Our guide explained that we were going to dive into the pool and swim through a four foot underwater tunnel that would lead us into a huge cave. He reminds us to swim really hard because the current is strong. Our guide prepares to jump. To make it worse, he crouches down, takes 4-5 really deep breaths and then launches head first into the current at the base of the falls and disappears. I’m up next. As soon as he hits the water, we’re supposed to count down from 10 and jump. I get to 5… and think, is this guy f’ing kidding me, right now? I can’t see where I’m going. I have no idea what to expect. But I breathe deeply, remember his words, “Dive deep, swim hard, and you’ll be fine.” …1… I jump. The current is stronger than I thought it would be, the waterfall pushing me down, and then I hit a wall. Literally. I think, shit, I need to come up for air, but I don’t. I just go deeper and reach for the opening. I keep swimming. I keep moving. I push my way through the water and BOOM. I enter a magnificent cave – one of the hidden gems of the world. I made it.

We all made it. Each one of us had the same thoughts and feelings before we jumped, but we were strong enough to get out of our heads and find a way to move. One of the guys in my group even hit the wall, got turned around and just kept at it until he found the hole through the water. The look on his face when he made it through and into the cave was priceless. We all had that look. Overcoming fear, pushing your limits, and coming out the other side knowing what you are capable of, knowing you can accomplish something like that is an incredible feeling.

Little did we know that jumping off a cliff and swimming through an underwater tunnel was not the only way to get to the cave. We could have just swam right up to it on the west side of the falls. But I guarantee we wouldn’t have had the memories or the feeling of accomplishment that we did if we hadn’t tested our physical and emotional fitness. Our willingness to dive in and to keep moving without knowing exactly how to get there was the real gift. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other in that moment.

So, when you’re deep underwater or lost in the woods, what do you do? Do you freeze? Panic? Give up? Or do you take a step forward? Do you keep moving? Do you take action?

adam mountainYou are 20x more capable than you think you are. You must trust yourself and be confident in the fact that you can get through anything… if you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Life and business are all about failures. Failures allow you to see what is working and what needs to be fixed or improved upon. And you won’t always know the answer. You won’t always see a clear path out. If success were easy, it would be as natural as breathing; we would all just be doing it.  But it’s that challenge of not knowing and moving forward anyway that forces us to grow.

How do you test your emotional fitness? When was the last time you pushed the limits of what you thought was possible for yourself?