Choosing To Be Meaningful

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make life an exclamation point

Life can be a period…or an exclamation point!

We decide our own direction. Perhaps some have more opportunities. Or better circumstances. But still, we all make choices. It’s our life. It’s our choice.

We can decide to be victims who are “unlucky” or we can decide that in spite of our challenges we’re going to climb to success. No matter how long it takes.

Too frequently I hear people talk about what they’ll do “one of these days.” Why, one of these days they’re going to do something they really want to do. One of these days, they’re going to do something meaningful!

How sad. To consider that years and years have been devoted to something that is meaningless!

Which is more difficult:

a) Getting up each day to do something you feel is meaningless or

b) Getting up each day attempting – perhaps not succeeding – at doing something you feel is meaningful?

Trudging through the day feeling like you’re not making a difference is among the toughest work out there. And hoards of people line up each day to join in. Daily, they go home beaten down, frustrated and defeated. Wishing life were better. Or just different.

But personal accountability means embracing the adage, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!” That’s where too many people surrender to the false belief that accomplishment is merely good fortune, luck or some other arbitrary energy beyond their grasp. Fooled by their own blindness to see the opportunities, they’re focused on the misery that seems to sum up their life. Unaware that R.E.M. had it right, “Everybody hurts…sometimes.” But not everybody embraces it and wraps it around themselves like a warm blanket. Resilient people toss it aside and get on with the hard work of choosing to be meaningful.

It begins with a choice, making up your mind. Choose to be meaningful.


Episode 188 – It Doesn’t Matter How Prepared You Are If The Room Is Empty

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You weren’t aiming for success.

How Being Unintentional Leads To Unintentional Failure

“I thought we’d sign up more people,” he said.

A haphazard, ill-planned, even more ill-planned execution of a marketing effort have left him depressed. Hundreds of dollars spent in in a direct mail campaign hardly qualified him  as a big spender, but for his small business it was a significant investment. At least in dollars. It was over $500 and he won’t spend that kind of money flippantly.

Unfortunately, he didn’t spend more than a single hour of effort. It’s not like he was throwing money at the problem. No, that wasn’t it. He wasn’t thinking that he’d simply write a check and all would be right with the world.

However, he was given to the false notion of “build it and they will come.” We’ve all done it. That is, we’ve not given enough thought to our offer, but succumbed to the thought, “Yeah, people will want this” when in reality, nobody wanted it. Other times, the offer may have been fine, but our timing was wrong. I’m reminded of the countless stories of Internet marketers who launched and forgot it was a national holiday where lots of people are traveling. Stupid mistakes that most of us with any experience have made at one point or another.

Sadly, those weren’t the issues that plagued him. Not this time. No, it was something far more sinister.

It was his fault. Period.

He simply hadn’t paid enough attention to the effort. Well, that’s not entirely true. He had given plenty of thought to the offer and the delivery of the offer. He simply had spent no time at all on filling the room.

If the room is empty, it doesn’t matter how prepared you are.

If people don’t buy, the quality of the product, service, presentation or “fill-in-the-blank” just doesn’t matter.

It’s that tree falling in a forest when nobody is there to listen quandary. It doesn’t matter how big a THUD the tree makes. Nobody can hear it. So, what does it matter?

The fact is, he wasn’t aiming for success, but he was expecting to experience success. It’s a natural law that God put into place.

Gal. 6:7 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

You reap what you sow. Not what you expect. Not what you hope for. Not what you feel you deserve. Not what you think you need.

What you sow.

Last time I looked sowing involved work. Hard work. Doing something. Going out into the field. Preparing the field for seed. Breaking up the hard ground. Then sowing the seed. Followed by cultivating the seed. Hours of weeding, fending off pests and doing everything possible to help the seed grow. Hours, days and weeks of hard work result in a harvest.

Patience is a virtue missing in many business plans.

I don’t mean formal business plans. I mean daily business plans. I mean the objectives people have in their business enterprises.

People want to sling the seed without much thought and reap a bountiful harvest. Well, wake up Mr. Seed Slinger, it doesn’t work that way.

We love outlier stories. Stories of blind pigs finding truffles, blind squirrels finding acorns and broken clocks being right twice a day. Those stories fill popular business culture. And it’s pointless to doubt them. It’s also pointless to spend your time trying to replicate them. Or to even listen to the details.

Close examination of how the guy hit a hole in one won’t help you do it.

Some things simply happen. Like the blind pig, blind squirrel or broken clock. To be sure, the golfer who hits a hole in one likely has some ability to play golf, depending on the distance to the hole. I mean, take  a guy like me who can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a golf club and I’m not going to ever hit a hole in one. But the world’s greatest golfers won’t likely have better odds over the average player, except for the fact that they’re playing golf more often.

Hope is a poor strategy, but so is trying to replicate an outlier.


Episode 187 – Taking Permission Is Killing Us

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If everybody gets in, how good can it be?

Apprenticeship is said to have begun in the 1300’s, but I don’t buy that. It’s much older than that.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t so structured until then, but didn’t it really begin when a skilled, experienced person decided to teach somebody else – probably a younger person?

If you look at the Bible you read the story of a young prophet, Elisha, taking the mantle from the older prophet, Elijah. We’re talking 9th century BC – well before the 1300’s. Older people passing on the skills, wisdom and experiences, and the responsibility to the next generation.

From artisans to prophets, not every craft was the domain of everybody who wanted to hang out a sign advertising themselves to be something they’d not yet learned. These were the days before this whole “take permission” mess. Nobody would dare take permission without first earning the right to know what they were doing.

Imagine the blacksmith opening up without knowing how to properly shoe a horse, or fix a wagon wheel. Possession of a hammer and anvil doesn’t make a guy a blacksmith, no matter how burly he may be.

Poor guy. He needed to live in 2013. He can take permission without any talent, skill or no how. Forget that we don’t need blacksmiths any more. Minor detail.

Open the gate. Let everybody in. Just anybody.

Wait a minute.

Too late.

It’s happened.

And we’re not better for it. Where there is no barrier of entry, the crap can make it even harder for the competent, capable artisans to rise to the top. That gate is resistance that necessary to maintain the tradition of quality.

There are something like 3 million blog posts written daily. If one post requires 15 minutes of effort – and many of them likely require much longer – that represents 750,000 collective man/woman hours spent writing blog posts. Daily.

What a waste.


A Moment Of Decision: The Lesson I Learn From Their Lies

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I have lots of conversations about stories. Late last week I was talking with somebody about rags to riches stories. They certainly do happen. In fact, I had commented about that terrific series of TV programs on the Men Who Built America. Some of those men went from rags to riches. A few of them went back to rags…proving that old adage about going from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in 3 generations.

The world of business has dominated my adult life. Effective selling is comprised of a whole lot of listening, asking great questions and telling terrific stories. Not lies. Stories. I learned those things before I graduated from high school. That was in the era of Watergate – which certainly had an impact on my cynicism. It was proof that things aren’t always what they seem.

Unfortunately, marketing and sales often involve corrupt practices. That includes making up tales that sound great, but aren’t true. The Internet makes it easier than ever to lie. Plenty of people do it.


While I was preparing to go inside the gym to workout, I fired up my iPhone and shot this short video.

Because I don’t care if the stories are true. It’s not the facts of the story that really matter in the context of the conversation we were having about rags to riches tales. What matters is the moment of decision. Most often they’re described in vivid detail to compel listeners to understand the depths of despair…the low point from which the person can climb to find success. It makes the rise seem more spectacular. It makes us think, “Man, if they could overcome that — surely I can overcome my problems.”

So what if it’s not true? I argued that doesn’t diminish the strength of the point – that sometimes we don’t decide until our back is against the wall. Sometimes we neglect to make the best decision until we’re forced to by circumstances that seem so dire we conclude, “What do we have to lose?” Or, we grow so tired of the despair we conclude, “I’m not going to live like this any more.”

Yes, truth matters. No, I don’t want to deal with or engage people who lie in order to get business or promote themselves. But, there are still important things we can learn – even from the most made up stories.