Working Towards a Better Future

James Altucher, in his book Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream, encourages us to recognize that the middle class is dying, job security is non-existent, and that the only way to long-term happiness and financial stability is by choosing ourselves and living life on our own terms.

James acknowledges that this is not easy and will include many ups and downs, may need baby steps, and is scary. He openly shares his own failures and lessons learned, as well as the stories of other successful entrepreneurs. 

Part of what James learned is to take care of his body, mind, and spirit, which he does as part of his "daily routine." He is always staying open to connecting people and ideas and practices flexing his idea "muscles" on a daily basis. He suggests making a list of ten things daily to keep those muscles in shape. That list can be of business ideas, books to read, topics to research, or whatever inspires you, and will not only make your brain sweat, but will also help you focus and sleep better.

Two of the entrepreneurs James includes are Bryan Johnson of Braintree and Sara Blakely of Spanx. Neither quit their day jobs until their business concept was proven first, which I find practical and inspiring.

It's so easy to say "follow your dream" or "be your own boss," but the reality is far from that simple. Most of us work because we have bills to pay, and whether we'd prefer to be our own boss or not, those bills will not wait for that dream to be realized. And if you have others dependent on you, you have a responsibility that is greater than your personal dreams. 

That's why the most inspiring thing behind this book and others that encourage following your dreams via a side-hustle are that they recognize reality and help you figure out how, even within those constraints, to work towards that better future.

How are you working to stabilize your future? Is it with a side-hustle or some other method?

Don't Hire for Exact Fit

When was the last time you jumped to a conclusion about someone, either based on first impressions or based on their resume? Did you give them a chance to prove you wrong? 

I've written before about why our mind takes these shortcuts and some tips to break through them, but chances are, most people are not only unaware of doing this but don't really care. It's so much easier to think you're always right and move on.

But depending on your role, this can be short-sighted and have consequences. For example, if you're a recruiter or hiring manager and you're jumping to conclusions, perhaps you've lost someone who could have made all the difference to your team.

I've done plenty of my own recruiting, both as the HR person and as the hiring manager so I understand needing certain basics and taking shortcuts when you're inundated. But there's a difference between the experience and skills needed to get the job done and the rest.

So if you're looking for a leader who has the experience to do the job but perhaps is not an exact fit, what will you do? Will you just throw that resume aside or will you dig deeper and perhaps have a conversation with that person? If they've demonstrated true leadership and are now looking to break out of their niche, will you give them a chance or choose the standard fit?

Ultimately what should matter most, especially for higher-level positions which are more about hard-to-define and hard-to-prove skills is who the person is. How do they think? What do they believe in? What do they aspire to? What have others they worked with/for thought about them? These are far more important for the success of your team then whether they've done this exact job elsewhere.

Besides, if you give them a chance and they have something to learn and contribute, they'll be more engaged than the person who's done the similar job elsewhere.

Have you given someone a chance to prove your first impression wrong?

Inspire to Influence

Ben and Kelly Decker, in their book Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action, show us how to take words from the realm of information to the realm of inspiration, which is what's necessary to influence people to action or change.

As they point out, especially in our current state of information overload, the only way to get heard, and be remembered, is to make your communication both audience driven and high in emotional content.

The emotions are what will inspire your audience's trust and get them to remember what you've said.

On the trust side, you need to be authentic at all times. People will be carefully watching what you do as well as what you say to see if they can trust you. If there's any disconnect between your actions and words, the words will be totally discounted and only the actions believed. Ben and Kelly also share many "behaviors of trust" that can help you, including how long to hold eye contact and how to use pausing to boost your credibility.

On the memory side, use SHARPs (stories, humor, analogies, references, and pictures and visuals) to reach your audience on an emotional level, get beyond all the noise and distractions, and help them remember what you've said. For stories, some tips to keep in mind are to start with the end in mind, make the audience care, and to make it personal.

Beyond all the interesting anecdotes and useful tips, the book wisely points out how we all communicate all the time. Regardless of our title, industry, or function, we need to influence someone. Whether we're asking our boss for a raise, a peer to support our initiative...or our son to do his homework first, if we can do this in a way that inspires our audience, then our efforts will be easier and more likely to succeed.

When was the last time a speaker inspired you? Can you determine how he did so?

New Year's Reflections

2015 was a year of extremes, much change, and also much growth for me. Although I hope to continue the growth into 2016 and beyond, I really hope there are less extremes...and a bit more stability in 2016.

Part of the change (and growth) was committing to an EMBA with the Jack Welch Management Institute and starting a great new role with  Much of the growth came from reading great business books, many of which I've written about either here or as part of the Actionable Book Club (ABC). 

Being part of ABC and its community was definitely one of the highs of 2015. Even when I was in a low otherwise, looking for work and stressing about what was coming next (and when), joining an ABC monthly call and being part of the discussion and learning always made me feel better.

And the great folks at ABC even sent me a holiday gift.


This beautiful journal asks you a question a day, and leaves room for 5 years' worth of answers. The intent is for you to grow daily and see how you and your answers change from year to year. I'm looking forward to thinking through the questions and seeing where this learning journey and journal take me.

To start it off, the first question asked on January 1st is "What is your mission?" My answer: "To live a life true to my values and strengths, be there for my loved ones, and continue to contribute and grow." 

What is your mission? Has it changed since last year?