Find Your Dimmer Switch

Are the lights on?

I just got done listening to an Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast from John Lee Dumas (great podcast btw).  The guest was JD Roth, former owner of Get Rich Slowly and current blogger at More than Money.  JD’s response to one of John’s questions really hit me.  The question was, “can you please tell the fire listeners about a lightbulb moment you had?”

JD’s answer wasn’t what I thought I’d hear.  He said his lightbulb moment was more of a dimmer switch than a lightbulb.  It was a slow progression not an instant aha moment.  I believe more now than ever people are in desperate search of this aha moment.  They’re looking for the fastest way possible to make a million dollars or lose 50 lbs.  “Aha” means I figured it out and sold it in the same instance. Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.05.33 AM

Trouble is the world doesn’t work this way.   I hate to be your dream crusher, but “aha” isn’t realistic.  You may have a better chance of winning the lottery.  JD’s lesson was it’s going to take some focused effort and work.  Oddly enough the pursuit of his dream required patience.

Back to the lightbulb/dimmer switch.

I give an immense amount of thanks to Justin Wise (@justinwise) and his Think Digital blog.  My wife follows Justin’s sister on Iowa Girl Eats (an immensely successful food blog) and recommended I checked Justin out.  My dimmer switch was on.  The light was extremely dim, but the power was flowing to the light.

This step was what I’ll refer to later down the road as “ignition.”  It got me started.  I dove head first into Justin’s teachings and maybe more importantly his network.  I dug into his podcasts, I followed Casey Graham, and I got introduced to Pat Flynn on Twitter.  I link to each of these guys as they’ve provided me with a ton of value.  A TON! I don’t care if you’re interested in launching a blog, starting a business, or just getting deeper into the learning process.  These guys will help.

I’m learning more about business now from a multitude of different angles and business possibilities than the pervious five years combined.  I’m using their teaching here in my blog and with team’s in the office.  The results are simple.  A Keen Mind is growing by the day and I’m seeing great results in my professional life.

The dimmer switch analogy is terrific because it’s real life.  Not some fairly tale we’re bombarded with daily on social media.  It takes time, an immense effort, and more focused power to reward the light we’re all looking to achieve.

ACTION ITEM: The first thing I’d do is subscribe to John’s Entrepreneur On Fire podcast.  There are nearly 500 episodes with really great content available.  The second thing I’d do is take a hard look at your goals and your dimmer switch.  Is it on?  If not, START.  If it’s on, focus on the next steps you need to take to burn that light a little brighter!




5 Valuable Characteristics From My Wife

In honor of my wife’s birthday today I wanted to share with you five of her most brilliant characteristics and what I’ve learned from her Keen Mind.

I frequently refer to Beth as my “better half” in conversation.  You may shrug this off as a joke, but I’m not the least bit kidding and here are five reasons why.

Five Characteristics I learned from my wife

5 Characteristics – Photo Courtesy of

1. Selflessness – If Beth kept a list every day of who she was worried about, or was looking out for I can promise you she would be near the bottom if not last on the list.  I have no idea what makes her this way but it’s really easy to admire.  Family, friends, co-workers, recent acquaintances needs all come before her own.  This is tough love for me as I can be selfish from time to time.  Beth won’t allow it.

2. Flawed – Like every single one of you reading this Beth has her faults.  However, unlike most of us she’s well aware of what she is and what she isn’t.  She doesn’t struggle with what she’s not.  She doesn’t lose sleep over it, and she’s certainly not interested in pretending.  It’s not worth her time.  Once again I’m learning.  I used to strive to be perfect.  Perfect for her is being happy with who she is.

3. Organized – Yes those that know her well will tell you she’s very organized, tidy, and clean.  Oddly enough, I’m not referring to her cleaning skills.  I’m talking about her mental organization.  No one I know is as mentally organized as my wife.  She can turn herself off when she needs rest and power up when extra energy is needed.  This can only happen with a well programmed brain.  She’s working with me on this one as I have a tough time: shutting down, turning off, letting go, etc.

4.  Curious – Beth is 100% up to try new things.  Although it may not be with reckless abandon she’s a gamer to try new things.  We’ve traveled without notice, tried new and exotic foods, and she helped me launch this blog.   This is one characteristic we both comply with and I hope never diminishes.

5. Challenge – Beth will frequently challenge my thoughts, plans and actions.  It’s funny because I consider myself a pretty good schemer of new concepts and plans.  Yet, every one of them I run by her gets better, more streamlined or more valuable after our discussion.  She’s honest with feedback and we don’t always agree (if you know the competitive streak in each of us this gets interesting).  I really appreciate this as she’s challenging to help me or my project get better.  There is never negative intent and she’s compassionate about helping me see a different angle.  Lastly, I’m working at this one as well.

ACTION ITEM: I try to end every post with an action item and this is no different.  Today I’d love it if you read this to wish my wife a Happy Birthday!!!  You can tweet her at @Beth_Keeney or if you’re friends with her on Facebook send her a note.  Thanks again all!


Why I Stopped Lying to Myself About Balance

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I would venture to say in the last five years I’ve read over 100 books, blogs and quotes about work/life balance.  Each one of them reflected on finding the perfect balance of work and life.  This balance would be achieved by allocating time between family, work, hobbies, your faith and exercise.  Those finding balance are quick to tell everyone they encounter about their “perfect” life and what you can learn from it.

Here’s the problem with this scenario.  The word “perfect” is different for everyone and I SUCK at balance.

I stopped lying to myself about it because I don’t even like balance and my personality isn’t setup for it.  The second I realized this, I immediately felt better about the balance I did have in my life.  I found myself wanting a balance I would probably never achieve, and even if I did achieve it, it wouldn’t make me happy.  Anytime I find myself “wanting”, it’s time to press pause.

Pause for happiness.  That’s what true balance is about in my life.  If you want to relentlessly pursue balance in your life, do it because it makes you happy.  Do it because it makes you a better person to be around.  Not because a blog said it’s the only way to salvation.

Honestly, I like my work.  My perfect balance is being 100% involved in the work I’m doing and the people I’m accomplishing with.  It means sometimes not being able to shut off my mind and to look at challenges from unique angles at weird times.  This makes me happy.  I love a new challenge and being able to make a positive impact.  I love letting creative solutions flow and working to make a difference.  I also love spending precious time with family and friends.

That said, I’m trying to make progress.  I’m working on getting more involved spiritually, volunteering and I work to make time for my wife and growing family by getting away where it’s just the two of us (soon to be three of us).  I know when the next Keeney does come into the world, this will likely change and I’m ready for what the next version of balance looks like.

ACTION ITEM: Balance isn’t a final destination.  Balance is an evolving thing requiring effort and determination.  All I’m asking you to do is understand what balance looks like for you, not what someone else has decided their “perfect” balance looks like.  If someone doesn’t like your version of balance, it’s their opinion.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset


I just got done reading, “Mindset, The New Psychology of Success” thanks to a recommendation from a friend on Twitter (Chris Wood – follow him @ChrisWood415).

This fantastic book took me about three days to read and I’ll likely read it at least two or three more times.  The reason why, is the information contained in this book is absolutely necessary for all leaders today.  NECESSARY!

The book compares the fixed and growth mindset and the affect each has on leadership, ability to learn, and overall mental capacity for growth.  I’m extremely visual so I’ll make the following comparison.

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Specifically the Fixed Mindset: I see this as a ruler.  The fixed mindset is always focused on measurement.  Best, brightest, smartest, most successful, etc.  These people and leaders are in it for the “I” and accomplishment for themselves.  Likely even at the expense of others.  History tells us the brutal stories of great fixed minded leaders so focused on their own greatness and power that they neglected to see what was really happening to their empires.

The ruler is also inelastic.  It can’t and does NOT change.  You could say the fixed mindset would agree with, “It is what it will be” nothing more or less.  Intelligence is fixed.  You’re either blessed to be smart or dumb.  You’re either “gifted” or normal.  You have the skill or don’t.  The book outlines many leaders of enormous companies with this mindset and the fatal flaws that occurred because of it.  I won’t tell you who they are because I think you should read the book yourself.

a-ball-of-clay-webThe second mindset is the Growth Mindset.  I associate this to a ball of clay.  A ball of clay isn’t sexy.  But it’s shape and form are not yet defined.  Through different experiences, pressures, and the impressions of those around it, the clay will take on a new shape.  Possibly many different shapes in its lifetime.

The growth mindset is one we should strive for.  Growth minded leaders are not the smartest, brightest, most ego driven.  They’re in it for the “we” and for the team.  They appreciate the challenge and feedback of others so long as its focused on the betterment of the entire group.  Growth minded leaders are in it for the challenge and not entirely the absoluteness of the outcome or result.

Looking at this from a personal perspective I can tell you I battle to be a better growth minded person.  I grew up with a mindset of achievement and look what I did.  It was the fastest way to get ahead.  Win more often.  I’m great, look at me, I’ve accomplished, I deserve reward.

I believe it’s the result of age, experiences and the willingness to learn that this is changing for me personally.  Perspective is a wonderful teacher if you just allow it to sink in.  Lastly, I’d like to thank Carol Dweck for writing this terrific and easy to read piece.  I hope to share it with many others.

ACTION ITEM: I highly encourage you to make the small investment to read this book.  But please don’t stop there.  Share it with a friend, not to call them out as a “fixed” mindset person, but to challenge them to think differently and get better!  To make this easy I’ve provided a direct link to the book below.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Compassion is NOT for the Weak

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One thing I absolutely, 100%, DO NOT want you to think is I’m only focused on immediate achievement and winning at any and all cost regardless of others thoughts and feelings.  This is not me and shouldn’t be you either.

I hope if you asked those close to me, one of the first things they would mention about me is compassion and genuine care for others.  This is not a mistake and takes a TON of effort.  It also means you can’t fake it.

I think this a foundational element of having and developing a Keen Mind.  Achieving and winning are good things.  Helping others achieve is a GREAT thing.  If you’re only operating for yourself, your own goals, and in your own mind I will promise you will not truly achieve what you could’ve if you took a moment to look around and help others achieve in the process.

Please don’t underestimate compassion for weakness.  Just because someone is kind, or has a big heart does not mean they’re weak.  It doesn’t have a single thing to do with their decision making or ability to lead others.  It means they’re a human being ready for a challenge and there’s never been a better time to be a great person than now.  Why do I say this?

Ten years ago you could only tell those near you about the wonderful people you met in the hopes that some day long down the road you’d serendipitously cross paths in an airport lounge.  Today you can connect with them nearly immediately via social networks.  Powerful tribes are being built right now because of the tools we have at our fingertips.  What a wonderful time we live in!

Compassion will get you further in your career or endeavor than almost any other attribute you’re working on today.  The reason is founded in the most basic of human principles.  People love to help and associate with those who show their true colors and they trust them.  Love is a powerful word.  Notice I didn’t say “like” to associate. Great things will be accomplished by focusing your Keen Mind on compassion and doing well for others just as you’re doing well for yourself.

ACTION ITEM: Instead of working on just you today find someone else to help.  Call, email, text, FaceTime, do something to help the lives of those you count on each and every day.  Your reward will be astonishing!

Post Action Assessment

If you ever attend a meeting, presentation, speaking engagement, or event with me there is one question I’m almost certain to ask when the engagement concludes.

I will say, “What did we learn?”

Lessons learned from the U.S. military is to thank for this.  They’ve been teaching leadership for over 200 years at West Point and they’re pretty damn good at it.  I’m extremely interested in the leadership styles of our military as I find a deep appreciation for their dedication, focus, and buy-in to each other.   If you’re really interested in leadership I invite you to buy, “Leadership Lessons from West Point” below.
Here is a link: Leadership Lessons from West Point

Not only should you ask what was learned during the engagement, but also do an assessment of what worked and what didn’t.  I find it ridiculous that sports teams do this routinely after every event.  However, because we’re in business and our game happens all day every day we don’t.  That’s weak!   If you really want to get better you must assess right after engagement.  It’s our way of keeping score.

Take 15 minutes and write it down.  Things get more real and entirely more accountable when written down.   To do this use a CRM (customer relationship management) database if you have one in your company.  The notes will never leave and you can reference them again in the future.  If you don’t have access to a CRM the lead of a pencil, ink of a pen, or keystrokes in an email to yourself will still yield positive results.  Save in a client folder for your next meeting.

The most important element of this process is creating the habit to do a rigorous self-assessment after all important engagements.  I promise you positive results are sure to follow, but you have to be honest.


  1. Tomorrow- find a meeting, pitch, or client call you can asses.
  2. Write it down.  What did you learn and how do you intend to get better?

Always take the time to asses right after the event.  You will NOT remember everything a day or two later.   Even five honest minutes counts!

Olympic Women I Admire

I’m going to tell you about two Olympic women I admire and it’s for reasons most won’t accept.  The two women I’m talking about are Hannah Kearney and McKayla Maroney.  The reason I admire each of them is they both know, “Second place is the first loser!”


Here’s how Wikipedia describes Hannah Kearney: Hannah Kearney is an American mogul skier who won a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics.  This blog post was triggered from an interview I just viewed of Hannah with legendary broadcaster Al Michaels.  More on that to come.

McKayla Maroney: She was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics and was the 2012 Olympic vault silver medalist. She defended her World title and won the gold medal on vault at the 2013 World Championships, becoming the first US female gymnast to defend a World Championships Vault title. Maroney is also known for her “not impressed” face, which became an internet meme during the 2012 Olympics

mckayla-maroney-pissedThis image should sum up the “not impressed” response with her silver medal in the 2012 vault.  Maroney was the odds on favorite to win Gold in 2012, but faltered in her last vault yielding the gold medal to another competitor.  She was NOT happy about it and I LOVE IT!  She was the best and expected to win.  When she didn’t her competitive side got the best of her emotions.

Each of these two women competed at the highest level and delivered what they believed was not their best effort during competition.  For this reason they were unsatisfied in their medal efforts.  Many will dream of competing in the Olympics, much less medaling in an event.  Even so, Hannah andMcKayla remain unsatisfied.

I mentioned the interview with Hannah and Al Michaels prompting this post.  Al asked Hannah if she had time to let the bronze finish settle in over the last 18 hours and if she now appreciated the medal finish.  She did the right thing and said she was happy to win the medal for her country.

The best part, she was still angry and I LOVE IT!  Her body language and feelings of discontent were palpable.  She’s a competitor at the highest level and was still furious with her lackluster effort.  She excepted nothing less than 1st place and a 2nd gold medal in Sochi.

Others will tell you these women got what they deserved with their effort and they’re probably right.  It doesn’t mean however they were going to settle for 2nd or 3rd place.  Their fire burns too hot to settle for anything but first place and that’s why I admire each of them.  Winning is the only option in their minds.

I stated in my bio about my obsession with winning and the acceptance for nothing else.  Most “normal” people will tell you to relax or to let it go.  Accept your outcome and be thankful for 2nd or 3rd place.  What these people will never understand is we can’t.  Even if we could, we would rather finish in dead last.

ACTION ITEM: Don’t be afraid to compete and not to accept 2nd place.  Keep your fire burning hot and continue to get better.  It makes the feeling of winning all the better!


Embrace the Suck

This phrase was made popular during the Gulf War and military executions in the Middle East fighting the war on terror.  You can almost feel the meaning by just reading it aloud. ETS

Embrace.  Grab your current situation, circumstance, or place in life.  Own it for now.  It doesn’t have to be forever.  Embrace, but don’t take it to the grave with you.

Suck.  I love the down and dirty feeling you get from this declaration.  Words like: challenge, struggle, and adversity could easily be inserted but they don’t have the chutzpa of suck.

Every day the great nation we live in provides us with a wonderful power.  We have the power to choose.  You must choose to embrace the suck.  This may seem counter productive to the strong-willed contingent who will think to fight it.  “Fight the suck,” they’ll say.  I’ll tell you why this is not the case.

I’ve learned this separates us from the reality of the situation and draws us deeper into the struggle.  The sooner you own and believe in the struggle, the better. It doesn’t mean you will eventually succumb to the challenge, it means you understand where you are and that is a milestone in itself.

Simply understanding when you are in the suck will change your viewpoint on your predicament.  Ben Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”  Ben was a pretty sharp cat, but what he forgot to add was adversity.

To bring a sledge hammer of real talk to this post I’d like to tell you how I recently chose to embrace the suck.  Over four and a half years ago my wife and I decided we wanted to start a family.  As weeks turned to months and months to years we become jaded with the process.  It’s consuming when all of your friends and family members want to know, “why don’t you have kids?”

We are two healthy young adults.  In our lives, my wife and I achieve what we set out to achieve.  However, no matter how hard we tried, we were faced without what we wanted most.  A child.  This is an extremely empty feeling, but one we had to embrace and support each other in the journey to parenthood.

I believe our support in one another and our mental conditioning made us reflect on our challenges and embrace them along with one another.  It certainly wasn’t what we were asking for, but it is where we were.   We chose to embrace the suck.  Hopefully it wasn’t going to be forever.

ACTION ITEM: The next time you face adversity, take a moment and step back from your situation.  Get outside your own thoughts and see your challenge for what it is.  Use this moment to place a cat-like grin on your face and say to yourself, “I choose to embrace the suck.”  You’ll feel better and you’ll attack the adversity instead of giving it unneeded fuel to burn.


Success Bible

Watch the video below.  I’ll tell you exactly why you need to start a success Bible today.

I mention in the video the book, “The Winner’s Bible.”  I suggest you pickup a copy of the book on the Amazon link below.  Dr. Spackman will help to teach you how to rewire your brain with the simple but elite tools used on some of the greatest athletes in the world. 

Winner’s Bible: Rewire your Brain for Permanent Change

As I continue to practice what I preach, I’ve included a couple little nuggets of emails I’ve saved over the years.  I read these from time to time for a quick pick me up or for a jolt of confidence.

The messages themselves are very short and sweet, but every time I read them I feel better.

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How many emails, messages, notes should you keep?  I think the specific number is up to the individual, but I’ve probably got 15-20.  They’re from different clients and different experiences in my life.  The purpose is to put a smile on my face, confidence in my mind, and wind in my sails.  It works every time!

ACTION ITEM:  Please, Please, Please start your Success Bible today.  Find an old email or two you’ve kept and get them organized into a folder.  I’ve also seen hard copies kept with people.  I choose to keep them available in my GMail account so I can access them anytime, anywhere.


I Hate the Word Customer

One word you won’t  hear me use is “customer.”  Just the sound of it makes me cringe and sends shivers down my spine.  It should make you feel the same way and I’ll tell you exactly why right here.

Customer Concept

My mom used to say, “Hate is a strong word Zachary.  You really don’t hate something.”  She is right, but I do hate the word customer.  Here are four reasons why:

  1. Customer – sounds and feels cheap
  2. Customer – is transactional and might as well mean one and done.  Wham bam thank you ma’am.
  3. Customer – means nothing long-term to me.  I’m not interested in short term relationships.
  4. Customer – every time you think of using this word, please substitute the word “client”

As a community, we are in search of clients and client partnerships.  Customers are expensive with your most valuable asset, time.  Investing a great deal of your time in a “customer” better yield a very sustainable profit opportunity.  Otherwise, I suggest we shift our mindset to prospecting, pitching, winning, and servicing the hell out of clients.

After asking a few people about the word customer, one popular response I received is, “What about companies like Apple, Amazon, and Zappos?  They rave about customers.”  I’ve read a great deal about product evangelists and to me the terminology and mindset screams client to me.  Repeat buyers focused on attributes outside of just price alone as a differentiator.  These legendary companies listen to the challenges their clients present in their lives and the provide solutions to solve them.

All that said, how will you know when you’ve found a client and not a customer?

Client relationships aren’t one-sided and demonstrative.  This is extremely important.  A great client relationship should feel good in your gut.  Each of you have something to benefit from the solutions you’re providing.  A client relationship will be open and share valuable information with you and your team.  This information will guide your focus on the client’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and plans to continually move the business forward.

The number one element of a great client relationship in my mind is the presentation of new challenges from the client.  This is what I live for.  Give me or my team the opportunity to help the client ease a pain, fill a need, or monetize an opportunity.  Bring it on!  Clients will challenge, customers will demand.  Customers will brow beat, throw a fit, curse your services, or tell you how lousy something is working.  This equals ZERO motivation and sometimes distain for the relationship.  Clients understand your value and will challenge you like a great coach working to get more out of his star talent.

ACTION ITEM:  Change your mindset today and stop using the word customer.  Today you will start looking for and working tirelessly to serve CLIENTS.  It’s much easier to grow the business you currently service than to always be relentlessly be focused on a new customer every day.  Keep them coming back for more!