Time to Quit Feasting on Pork Rinds

Pork rindsPlenty of people are lamenting the new generation of workers from the Millennial group. You know what they say: “Entitled.” “Want to be promoted now.” “Everyone gets a trophy.” Some go as far as predicting an irreversible negative effect on business and industry as a whole.

I don’t believe any of this for a second. As a young man of 20, I exhibited all those same Millennial behaviors while in the Navy back in 1984, me and all of my peers. We turned out OK. The Navy is still afloat. It’s just a bunch of hype.

If you ask me, the REAL threat to business and productivity is the consumption of informational pork rinds. I know you’ve seen them. Infographics with a picture of clouds and a quote from people like Jack Welch or Steve Jobs. A pellet of wisdom that gets liked and shared. Your daily taste of informational pork rinds.

I love pork rinds. I fry them up whenever I smoke a bunch of pork shoulders. I even like the ones you buy at the gas station. The ones that taste like salty, smoky packing peanuts.

They’re not good for you though. You could subsist on them if you had to, but I’m sure it would do long term damage to your liver and kidneys.

Ten days ago I ran a little experiment. Using an app named ShareAsImage, I came up with a bunch of random statements and posted them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Some samples are below:

It took exactly 10 days for someone to finally throw the Bull**** flag. I was hoping I’d see it thrown on the first one, but yet most were ignored and sadly, a few were liked. I only hope nobody retweeted or forwarded them. The author was Ben Dover (say that name slowly…get it?) and I was the ghost writer. I was selling filet mignon, but really it was just a handful of pork rinds.

If you fell for it, please don’t hate me. It’s a wakeup call for all of us. We owe it to our personal and professional development to read and research healthy. To quit falling for fads (Mindfulness: Taking time to NOT think and be in the moment….REALLY?????) To stop forwarding pork rinds to your network (Managers light a fire under people, Leaders light a fire IN people with the obligatory happy and sad faces) and to fill your mind with solid substance. Classic books on management like The Fifth Discipline. Practical seminars like the Supervisory Skills Boot Camp (wait…that’s MY seminar!) and a strong network of true experts with proven results.

If you want to be the best in your field and a credible resource for others, take the time to improve your mental diet. More steak. Fewer pork rinds.

How to Sell the Middle Seat

airplane seat and windowA few weeks ago, while flying home from I-can’t-remember-where, I was brainstorming a bunch of blog topics. I was in a marketing mindset and so I thought about what would be the most difficult thing on the planet to sell. Then, as my neighbor bumped me while trying to reach his over-sized backpack under the seat in front of him, it dawned on me.

The hardest thing to sell to someone is the dreaded middle seat!

You read about hiring managers asking candidates to give them a sales pitch on obscure items like paperclips and pencils. A real challenge would be upselling a customer on the middle seat.

Why the middle seat?

It sucks.

  • You have to fight for control of the armrest.
  • You get neither the elbow room of the aisle seat nor the bulkhead to rest against of the window seat.
  • Your fellow passengers resent you.
  • You have to ask permission to get out of the seat to use the bathroom.

Did I mention it also sucks?

So it would be a tough sell.

I thought about the selling points:

  • You get to network with both seatmates simultaneously.
  • You don’t get whacked in the head by people’s backpacks like the person in the aisle seat does.
  • You don’t have to ask two people to move if you have to use the bathroom like the guy in the window seat does.
  • Sometimes people feel sorry for you and give you free drink coupons.

Most of this of course is B.S.

But a few weeks later I was trying to get on standby for an earlier flight home. It was the difference between getting to spend a little time with my family that night or roll up my driveway sometime after 1AM. I stood nervously at the ticket counter crossing my fingers and praying that there would be at least one seat left.

Finally the gate agent told me I was in luck. There was a seat. Just one seat.

…and you guessed it, a middle seat.

As I squeezed in between a fat bald guy that smelled like beef jerky and a woman with a small yapping dog in a soft crate under the seat, I knew I was one of the luckiest guys in the planet. I was in a seat. On a plane. Heading home early. Thank God I got a middle seat.

Sometimes we find ourselves complaining about circumstances beyond our control. This week I worked one-on-one with several employees who were miserable in their current positions. After doing some listening and helping them look at their situation differently, they realized that while they may not be happy, they:

  • had a job, that
  • paid a good salary, and
  • had good benefits, and
  • matched their 401K contributions,
  • and didn’t put them in any danger,
  • and occasionally offered little perks.

Sure sometimes it had all the luster of a middle seat, but it was indeed a seat. And that seat, for all it’s flaws, was there to take care of them.

This week, let’s all take a look at what we might see as a middle seat. Maybe we can learn to appreciate it for its real value.

What do you think?

How to “Plug Away” at Success

Part of the area I'm "plugging away" with Zoysia plugs.

Part of the area I’m “plugging away” with Zoysia plugs.

After nearly two years living in our house in TN, I’m finally ready for the perfect lawn to cover the area between my house and the barn.   I have 32 acres, 26 of which are wooded and the rest is pasture plus the area around the house. Over the past year, we removed about 50 trees around the house, ground up the stumps, leveled the ground, and planted some grass. The challenge is that the soil is full of rock (no wonder why Tennessee is synonymous with the nickname Rocky Top) and I need a really durable grass to supplement the Bermuda that was seeded.

Enter Zoysia!

Zoysia, a resilient type of grass that’s used on golf courses is perfect. The challenge with planting Zoysia is that it’s slow growing by seed plus seed costs a small fortune. To get your lawn in place faster, you have to plug it.   Plugging means taking chunks of the source lawn and implanting it into the destination. I guess this is the same principle used by doctors on bald, middle-aged men.   The plugs (on lawns) are about three inches in diameter, spread about six inches apart. Do this and over time your plugs grow together forming a sturdy Zoysia lawn.

Fortunately, my in-laws have a huge yard full of Zoysia and told me I could take as much as I need. I spent last Saturday getting about 120 plugs and Sunday putting them in. Now I just wait and see my hard work pay off!

We often hear about people “plugging away” at something. That implies that they work steadily and consistently, but after my Zoysia experience, I think it’s different than that.

My business and company grew as a result of “plugging away” and I certainly was persistent, but the real key was having multiple areas of focus that gradually grew into what I have today. Since starting out in 2004, I used a combination of contract work, social media, keynotes, products, coaching, consulting, volunteerism, and books, all simultaneously, and they lead to the consistent, one-brand solutions I have today. Like my eventual Zoysia lawn, It’s a smooth, good-looking process and company.

But enough about me. What about you? If you have a goal such as running a marathon, building a business, changing careers, or improving a relationship, why not consider “plugging away” at it? Here’s how:

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle
  2. Write your goal in the circle
  3. Draw a ring of circles around your center circle
  4. Brainstorm a list of situations that would lead you to your goal and put one in each small circle.
  5. Draw another ring of circles just outside the first ring.
  6. Brainstorm a list of actions you would need to take to create the situations needed to achieve the goal and put each one in one of those circles.
  7. Your drawing should look just like a patch of Zoysia plugs. Put your plan in motion and let the actions influence the situations that lead to your goal.

“Plugging away” is simply working hard and regularly on a broad-based plan. It’s worked for me in business, working well for me towards a beautiful lawn, and I know will help you succeed.

Planting season for success begins new each day. How about starting out first thing in the morning?

How to Get Your Name Dropped

Buzz Meter Thermometer Measures PopularityIn my previous post, we looked at why it was more important to have your named dropped rather than just be a name-dropper.

But how do you get that kind of credibility?   I think there are three ways to do it.

  1. Your Expertise. Expertise is something that all of us have in some way. There’s something we do that is unique to us. What would happen though if we really maximized that? I saw a sign once for a veterinary dentist that specialized in horse dentistry. I’m sure horse dentists aren’t that common and if you’re a good one, you’ll probably be paid quite a bit to do a teeth cleaning or whatever it is that horses require. There is also a good chance that someone will drop your name. “Oh you need to take your horse to Dr. So-and-So. She is American Pharoah’s dentist.”

That’s advice for a horse dentist. What kind of expertise can you provide and build upon?

  1. Your Performance. Regardless of what you know, how you perform is something that people talk about. Back when I was in the Navy, we would evaluate some of the sailors that worked for us. We always seemed to identify the high performers first and assign them important tasks. Their performance enabled them to be names that we dropped. Of course we had a few folks we referred to as “dirtbags.” Their names were dropped too. That list wasn’t one you needed to be on!

What does your performance say about you? Would your name be dropped as one of the superstars or one of the “dirtbags?”

  1. Your Connections. Usually, if you’re a great performer and have expertise, you probably hang around with great people. This means others will reach out to you for other experts. One thing I’ve found over the years is that people will reach out to me and ask if I know someone in a particular field or with a certain set of expertise. When I ask why they would even bother to ask me for that, they always replay that “you seem to know everyone.” There’s a lot of power that comes with a network like that. It’s a great way to build relationships and find the best and most qualified people for whatever task you need done. Of course this can cut both ways. If you surround yourself with losers and poor performers, this reflects on you as well.

What do your connections and your network say about you? Are you hanging with superstars or “dirtbags?”

Having your name dropped is way better than being a name-dropper. Take a look at where you stand in these three areas. No better time than now to build your credibility!

Are You a Name-Dropper?

Red carpetHave you ever run across a name-dropper? You know the kind of person I mean. Someone who brags about all the important people they know or how a particular lawyer, doctor, consultant they use has worked with a celebrity or somebody that everyone knows.

Name-dropping in that case is flat-out annoying and if you’re someone who does that, do us all a favor and stop.

There is a second kind of name-dropper that is a little more subtle, and those who do it aren’t doing it to brag on themselves. They actually do it to legitimize the work or projects they’re doing.

The other day I spoke with a woman who was setting herself up in a business similar to mine. I asked her what sorts of services she would offer to clients and she has some really amazing ideas. One thing stood out to me however: she named no less than 20 consultants, researchers, authors, and thought-leaders that she was following and was influenced by.

When she asked me what I thought, I challenged her with this thought:

I think it’s great that you follow so many people, but I would like to see you developing tools, ideas, processes, and curriculum that is based on YOUR research, YOUR ideas, and YOUR experience.

She agreed and I agreed to push her to innovate and create from her perspective. After all, if I am going to engage an expert, I’m more interested in what THEY know rather than who they can quote.

Maybe the goal should be:

Rather than being a name-dropper, why not be the person whose name is dropped?

How can you do this? You’ll get the answer in my next post!

Am I On the Right Path?

Choices of a businessmanThis week I taught a one-day workshop entitled How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. It was a career planning and development workshop.

I always start with class introductions and the two questions I want to know are:

  1. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  2. What do you need to take away from this workshop?

The first question is a fun one. The answers are usually a bit outlandish, like a princess, or an actor. Rarely does someone do the job now that they wished for as a child. It does provide a bit of perspective for me thought.

The second one is helpful for me as a facilitator. I need to know what my audience wants. For this one the answers are largely the same: I want to know if I’m on the right path.

This is one that all of us have or all of us will wrestle with. It comes from a wake-up moment when you realize how fast time has gone and how little you may have left. Then you want to know how to make the most of it.

If you’re wondering if you’re on the right path, I’d suggest asking yourself the following questions:

  1. How did you wind up in the job or career you have now? This is a big one. Did you pick this job or career as a stepping stone to something else or did you end up here?
  1. Have you identified a clear career goal that involves, as a foundation, something that’s really important to you? Most satisfying careers are aligned with a passion you have for something. Mine is aimed toward developing the next great generation of managers.
  1. Is the career or job you’re in aligned with your values? Your values are those things that define you and influence your decisions. Values come from our upbringing and the shaping forces from that upbringing. If those align with your job or career, you probably have some peace about where you’re at. If not, then it’s probably a big reason you’re unhappy.
  1. Who selected the career you’re in now? If it was a person or a circumstance, go back to that moment and reflect on what happened. My first career, a dental assistant in the Navy was selected for me through the circumstance of a poor economy and a somewhat deceitful Navy recruiter. Had I stayed that course I’m certain I’d be wondering if I was on the right path today.

These four questions are a starting point. The workshop I teach fleshes all of these questions out and more. You can begin to get some clarity by honestly answering the four questions.

Your work and career occupy the majority of your best hours. Why not take some steps today to figure out if it’s the best fit for you?

Do You Feel Lucky?

Lucky symbolsThis morning as I flew home from Hartford, I read an article in the Southwest Airlines magazine about luck. The author, a former contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire talked about his experiences and those of several other “lucky” people. In one example, he referenced a study done where two groups of people were told to count the number of photos inside of a newspaper. The groups were divided by those who felt they were lucky and those who didn’t. On page two, there was a full page article that stated in big letters “Stop counting. There are 43 photos. Take this paper up to the examiner and win $250.00.” Ironically, nobody in the self-proclaimed “unlucky” group saw that page. The ones who considered themselves lucky saw the page and it fit their paradigm. They were lucky and yes, here was another example.

The premise here is that all of us have equal access to luck. It begins by having the right mindset. My mother-in-law believes she is lucky because she always seems to find cash on the ground. Once she found $40.00 on the ground. On other occasions she’s found a few dollars. Last year I was shopping for groceries with her and she found a small wad of bills on the floor of the Kroger. It was $55.00. I don’t think she’s lucky, she simply knows she finds cash on the ground so she looks for it! If you look long enough, you’ll find it.

If you look long enough for luck you will find it. If you believe you’re unlucky, you’ll look for examples of how unlucky you are and you’ll simply confirm your belief.

I thought about the article and decided I was lucky. I tend to look for wins in business and usually get them. I’ve always felt as though I deserved to have a successful career because of the hell I experienced in the Navy and my first few years as an employee and sure enough, I’ve gotten it.

And shortly after I confirmed internally that I indeed was lucky, I found a Southwest Airlines envelope jammed into the magazine spine. When I opened it, I found a letter to a Mr. J. Elridge and it had two free drink coupons, expiring in September 2016!

Am I lucky or what?

The bigger question is….

Do you feel lucky?

Well do ya?

We All Make an Impact. What Will Yours Be?



This past Monday our black lab mix Sonny was hit by a car and killed. I had just let him and the other two dogs, Candy and Rambo, our toy poodles out as I did every morning I was in town. Normally the poodles come right back in and Sonny goes off on his morning rounds on our 32-acre property. I’ll go in and get some coffee and sit down to read the news on my phone and listen for him to scratch on the back door. On Monday though he didn’t come back. I think he followed some deer down to the main road and that’s where I found him.

I keep trying to think of some creative way to tie this in a blog post but actually I’ve got nothing.

Then I started thinking about our experiences with Sonny. Many of them were wonderful. How I’d run with him in Maryland before both of my hips got replaced. How he was so excited when we moved to Tennessee and he didn’t have to run in a small yard. How he’d love it when I’d take him outside and we’d walk the property. How I would sneak him an extra Beggin’ Strip when the poodles went into the other room. He knew he was my favorite.

There were some bad experiences too. His black hair that seemed to be everywhere. How we’d have to vacuum every SINGLE DAY! How he’d climb up on the furniture when he thought we were out of the house.   How he bit one of my daughter’s friends when she was in middle school and I swore we were going to be sued.

The one thing I felt this morning though, just 24 hours after I found him is that there is pure emptiness. He had an impact on all of our lives. We notice that he’s gone.

I’m sure there are times you feel like what you do and who you are don’t matter. The reality is that all of us matter. We all have an impact. Maybe the key is to realize that the impact we ought to leave should be a good one. When we’re gone, what people will remember is the void we no longer fill. I hope for all of our sake, it’s a good one.

R.I.P. Sonny


Fist breakthrough white wallThis morning as I sat in the airport waiting to board my 5:40 AM flight home, I pulled up the conference app on my phone from the HR conference I just attended and did a breakout session for about 50 HR professionals. I thought it went pretty well.

Since I was leaving a day early, I looked at the day’s agenda, namely who was doing the ending keynote. The woman that was scheduled was quite impressive. She has spoken nearly every month at HR conferences around the country and is booked pretty heavily in the coming months. I was amazed and jealous at the same time. I thought it was pretty cool to do breakout sessions two weeks in a row but to do the keynote (and they actually PAY keynote speakers while breakout speakers present for free – although sometimes you get a T-shirt and a coffee mug) multiple times blew my accomplishments away.

But then I told myself, “You’ve done pretty well. Breakout speaking is a good start. You’ve come a long way and should be proud. PACE yourself and you’ll get there.”

Then another part of me said, “Bull****! You can be every bit as successful as she is and more! You’ve got to PUSH yourself harder.”

That part of me won out. Then I thought about strategy. Here’s what I came up with. Maybe you’ll find it helpful:

P.A.C.E. vs. P.U.S.H.

PACEing yourself is good when you’re starting out. It’s a good place to be when you’re sure of your goal but not quite ready to go full speed at it.

  • Pick a Goal to Accomplish. This is fundamental. You have to define your target first.
  • Ask yourself where you need to improve. Look at what you lack as you aim toward that target. Then…
  • Check your Skill, Will, and Focus. If you’re familiar with my 3-Legged Stool of Great Performance™ model, this one makes sense. Do I KNOW what I need to know, do I WANT it bad enough, and do I know which areas to FOCUS on first?
  • Endeavor to make consistent progress toward that goal. Take a deliberate, methodical path to accomplishing that goal.

In my case though, I’ve moved past the PACE stage. I think I’ll just PUSH myself.

  • Pick a Goal to Accomplish. I have the target. Keynote more events, less breakouts.
  • Understand what barriers stand in the way. Not exactly sure yet, but I think it might have to do with marketing, networking, and more assertiveness on my part.
  • Shift yourself into overdrive. Pacing isn’t useful here. Time to speed up the process.
  • Hit each barrier with everything you’ve got. Sometimes going full speed makes the barriers less painful. Use the momentum to break through.

Now it’s up to me to make it happen. I know to PUSH, not PACE.

What about you?

  • Have you developed that goal yet?
  • Do you know if you’re moving beyond the PACE stage?
  • If you have to PUSH, do you have everything and everybody you need to help you?

Nothing good happens from a place of inaction. I’m ready to move forward. I hope you are too!

3 Ways to Have Peace About a Career Change

Peaceful Career MoveCareer decisions are among the toughest a human can make. Job changes are easy. It’s a choice between different assignments, salaries, and companies. Often they’re self-imposed, perhaps driven by a new opportunity from a network or a really attractive posting online. Sometimes they’re done without our permission in the form of a layoff.   Either way, the dilemma of “what should I do with my life” isn’t as important in a job change.

Career changes are much more complicated. Like a job, they can come from layoffs where the career itself might be going away or shifting radically. In other cases, it comes as part of a mid-life transition (What am I doing with my life? Is this what I want to do the rest of my life?). Making a radical career decision can be simplified by considering three perspectives:

  1. Where I’ve Been
  2. Where I Want to Go
  3. Where I Am Now

In 2005, I made the decision to fire my boss at the association I worked at in order to start my own training and consulting business. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time, much like that rush you feel when the roller coaster car is heading up that first big hill slowly. You know you can’t back out and you know the big drop is coming. It’s fear, resignation, and fun all wrapped in one big package.

My decision was made carefully. I considered the following:

Where I’ve Been. I did 15 years in the Navy and spent about five more working for three different organizations. I knew enough about the workforce both inside the military and out to sculpt a good business plan. I also collated every lesson I learned from the different bosses, processes, systems, and strategies I’d worked with up to that point. I managed to let go of some of the baggage that accompanied me out of the Navy and was poised to go.

Where I Wanted to Go. I knew I wanted to work for myself. I knew I wanted to develop the next great generation of managers. I also knew that for my business to grow, I’d have to develop good systems and structures and surround myself with really smart people.

Where I Am (or was in 2005). I knew I was financially prepared with multiple sources of income. I also knew there were plenty of projects I could tackle now that I was working for myself full time.

With all three in place, I had peace about my decision. I launched and never looked back!

What are you wrestling with now? If it’s a career change, take some time to consider the following as you make you decision:

  1. Where have I been? Do an inventory of your past experiences, knowledge you’ve gained, problems you’ve solved, and people you’ve met. Make a list of what you’ve managed to assemble personally up to this point. Now you know what you bring.
  2. Where do I want to go? Think about what you wanted to be when you grew up. Think about jobs and assignments that really resonated with you. Take some time and with the wise counsel of people around you, see how you can fashion that into a new career. Remember, it’s about what you’ve enjoyed and found rewarding, not just something that sucks less than what you have now.
  3. Where am I now? Take stock of your current situation. Your family situation. Your income needs. Be sure this is the right time to make that move.

Career decisions aren’t easy. They are stressful and uncertain. Yet by asking these three simple questions, you’ll get some clarity and hopefully some peace.

I’ve found the career that’s right for me. I hope you can do the same!