Failure is a Debt Needing to Be Paid

No matter your viewpoint on debt, there is one universal truth.


One of my favorite and most repeated lines from the movie Rounders is from the character Teddy KGB.  The Russian mobster says, “Pay him, that man his money.”  Here is the YouTube video.

So how is failure a debt waiting to be paid?  

  • If you have zero debts (failures), you’re taking ZERO chances.
  • Most debts we’re accustomed to are due monthly.  Failure isn’t a one time occurrence.
  • Some debt is good.  It means you own something.  Failure means you’ve taken ownership in your future and learning from experiences.
  • Debts don’t last forever, neither does failure.
  • Failures are investments in your future.  Just like paying down debt.

Debt Reduction and Failure Production

Dave Ramsey is a widely popular financial author, speaker, and radio host.  Dave has a very simple formula for paying down debt with the ultimate goal of living “debt free” as his followers scream on his radio show.  The key to his formula is what Dave calls “The Debt Snowball.”  This could really be summed up as momentum.  Start with small debts and begin paying them off as fast as possible.  With each debt you conquer you gain momentum and habits are formed.


Anyone ever tried creating a failure habit?  Seems almost counter-productive.  What if instead you were interested in the behavior of not being fearful of failure.  This the debt needing to be paid.

The #1 fear I have with growing people is mediocrity.  When a person achieves a small amount of success there is the opportunity to throttle back and settle.  Mediocrity sets in and growth comes to a screeching halt.  Instead consider the alternative.   The debt of potential failure coming due.

Now the achiever has a different outlook on the future.  They continue to challenge, push others, and push themselves.  Does it always work out?  Of course not.  But the learning doesn’t stop either!

ACTION ITEM:  The Debt is due for you this month just as it is for me.

Life’s a %itch

That’s right folks.  Life’s a PITCH!


Wait, not what you were expecting?  No time for negativity here.  In each of our lives, we’re going to rely on our PITCH to get things done and get what we want.  Everyone has something to sell, some are just more committed to it than others. Imagine what’s being sold right now, this very moment by various professions throughout the world:

  • The College Coach – Selling a top recruit on their school, their style, and the athlete’s eduction (maybe).
  • The Non-Profit – Leaders are out selling their ideas and asking for donations to make the world a better place.
  • The Teacher – Looking to get more resources for his/her classroom to enrich the learning experience for his/her students.
  • The Interviewee – At some point, you will be looking for that dream job.  The only way to get it is sell yourself against the steep competition.

And the list goes on…

Knowing this fact of life, I’ve provided a list of five elements that help me deliver a better pitch and get more of what I want.

  1. The Buyer’s Side – Here’s a simple statement.  Over 50% of presentations are lost immediately because there is no understanding of the buyer’s side of the proposal.  Where did I get that number?  If you only understand your half, you can’t possibly win the other 50%.  Get to know and understand your buyer’s thoughts, feelings and emotions.
  2. Rehearse – Over and over again.  A coach would never expect an athlete to perform at a high level with zero practice.  How do you expect your idea to be bought without rehearsing it?  Couple tips here.  Record it so you can play it back to yourself for feedback.   Secondly, practice it again.  You can only benefit from the repetition.
  3. Storytelling – If you’re following my work, you know my love affair with storytelling.  I believe the ability to tell a great story will separate the good from the great pitch.  This ties directly into the first point.  Understanding the pains and hardship of our buyer will help you draft the perfect story.
  4. Visuals – If at all possible, make the story easy to understand.  We’re blasted with more and more messages every day.  Our job is to make the story simple, easy to understand, and not require a semester’s worth of research to buy-in.  Visuals will help you accomplish this task.  Think of when you were a kid and participated in Show and Tell.  Doesn’t quite have the ring to it if there is nothing to show and we only TELL.
  5. ASK – Every pitch needs to come with an ask.  Selling yourself, a product, a service, or anything is only talking unless you ask the other side for commitment.  If you’re preparing to pitch, prepare to ask.

Use these tips to your benefit the next time you have something to pitch.  If these tips help you get more of what you want, it would mean a great deal to me if you’d share this post with others.

ACTION ITEM: Pitch, Pitch, Pitch, and PITCH your ideas!  No one ever won them all, but you’re guaranteed to fail if you never try.

Choking with Fear

Some of the biggest leaps I’ve experienced personally or professionally are directly related to fear.  Tell me you know that feeling…


Your face is becoming flush from the fire hose of blood rushing to your head,

your lips and mouth become desert dry,

your fingers become cold and lifeless,

your throat feels like you’re trying to swallow an entire loaf of bread,

a chill runs down your spine,

you tremble,

your voice cracks,

fear and the situation are taking over complete control of your entire body and you’re helpless.  Something must change.  You think to yourself, how the hell can I possibly get out of this scenario RIGHT NOW?  What are you to do?

Here is the answer you weren’t looking for.  CHOKE THE FEAR BACK.  Don’t run.  Choke it back!

I recommend grabbing your fear around the neck with a kung fu grip and choke the life out of it.  Stare with steely eyes into your fear and let it know you’re not going anywhere.  Grit your teeth and squeeze as tight as you can.  You’ve got things to do and a life to live.  You could liken this experiment to an out of body experience.

I do realize all of this is easier said than done.  After submitting your fear to the floor like an accomplished ultimate fighter, you may feel exhausted.  But give it some time.  The feelings of complete exhaustion will subside and adrenaline will invade your bloodstream.


I struggle with fear every week of the year.  But I must tell you, with every conquest it just keeps getting easier.  The more we learn to live in uncomfortable surroundings, the more dangerous we become.

My personal goal is to become lethal with a unconditional confidence in disagreeable surroundings.

Here is a fear I work on every day.  A few years back, I was diagnosed with a stomach disease causing frequent and immediate bathroom breaks from time to time (no more detail needed).  This consistent anxiousness led me to being slightly afraid of eating with a group of people because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  Bigger challenge, I’m in the people business.  I meet people, hundreds of people every year over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks.  Conferences and board rooms are where I get down.  The silver lining with my fear is I have no choice but to attack it and work through it.

I leave you with this quote from someone slightly more accomplished than me.  “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live,” Dorothy Thompson.

ACTION ITEM: Start small.  The saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, plays well here.  Focus and tackle one fear at time.  Build your confidence and momentum by stringing together victories.


Women Are Where It’s At

You’ve got to be wondering just exactly what the hell it is I’m thinking starting with a headline like this.  Pretty simple really, I firmly believe women hold the cards in the new economy.  Here’s this week’s cover (May 2014 Edition) of FAST COMPANY.  Ironic…nope!



As we move quickly out of the production/information economy of the late 20th century, and deeper into the service economy of the 21st century, we’re seeing a woman’s leadership, sales style, and compassion take center stage.  I’m not going to relate this to a glass-ceiling conversation.  More, an observation on psychology and physiology of the working woman in 2014.

Think about these changes happening right in front of our faces:

  1. Every single aspect of the new economy is social and involves conversation.  Every one. Blanket statement – Who’s better at engaging in a conversation, men or women?  DUH!  Want to see a wonderful infographic on girl power in social?  Click here (once you’re done reading of course) from Entrepreneur.  Women DOMINATE Every Social Media Network.
  2. The world is service-demanding (not just service-focused) like never before.  Having understanding and empathy are extremely important.  Who’s good at this?  I’ll give the edge to the ladies.
  3. Selling.  The conversation wrapped around selling is a different style and dialogue today.  It involves education and not over the top closing techniques.  Selling could be replaced with nurturing the consumer today.  Can men do this?  Yes, they certainly can.  Are women possibly better at it today?  I think so.
  4. Flexibility and working relationships.  I firmly believe women for the most part are wired to be more compassionate than men.  Therefore, as new challenges approach and compassion is needed to keep key team members, women will play a crucial role in understanding their teams and the flexibility they need to continue growing.

As if women haven’t controlled men’s hearts and minds enough for the last 2,000 years.  Honestly though, if I were starting a business tomorrow the first thing I’d look for is female leadership.

Not to fear men, we’re still needed in the workplace and we haven’t become obsolete just yet.  But if you think long and hard about this, you know we’ve got some learning to do from our female counterparts.  I recommend you listen.

ACTION ITEM: Men, we have to open our eyes and our hearts.  Social Media superstar Gary Vaynerchuk (who happens to be a man) says it frequently.  Companies and businesses are being built today on thousands of micro conversations and customer engagements by people who actually CARE.  The world of one to many is dying in front of us.  Embrace this change and evolve.

Women, continue to be who you are and what you’re great at.  Don’t forget to stop every now and again and give us guys a few pointers along the way.

PS – thanks to Beth Keeney for feedback and the social media infographic from Entrepreneur!


I Need You to Lead This Week

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I’m not your boss and I hope I never will be. Much bigger plans are in your future. However, this is what your boss is thinking.  I promise you.

Everyone around you is thinking this, but no one will say it.  I’m saying it to you now.


Here is a list of people in your life thinking this:

  1. Your spouse
  2. Your team at work (especially the quiet ones)
  3. Your boss, management team, or ownership
  4. The little league team you coach
  5. Your neighbor
  6. The charity you volunteer for
  7. Your friends

There it is.  I said it, now what will you do about it?

ACTION ITEM: This one’s up to you…


Closing the Say-Do Gap Will Change Your Life

The Say-Do Gap

The Say-Do Gap

I’d like to start this post off with a heavy helping of humble pie.  Here is a small list of things I said I was going to do, but haven’t yet accomplished or followed through on in 2014.

  1. Completing 36,000 push-ups (100 per day).  Truth be told I’m at about 2,000 (20 per day).
  2. Volunteering more to a charity (count = 0).
  3. Launching a supplemental income strategy.

Ouch!  I learned one thing from this exercise.  Writing these things down brings a world of reality to the things I “said” I was going to do in 2014.  Good news is the year isn’t over yet.  Plenty of time for more “doing” in the upcoming months.  That’s not to say I haven’t accomplished anything this year either.  I have, but I don’t think listing them is going to provide you any value.

If you’re like me, you’ve got to be wondering, how do I “do” more and close the gap?  To get to the root of the issue in closing the say-do gap, I’ve included a list of items that help me personally. The great news is I really believe the more you do, the more doing momentum you create.

  1. Write it down.  The power of the written word is well documented.
  2. 20 mile march.  In Jim Collins book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, he references the 20 mile march.  Effectively this related to companies willing to make the march every day.  20 miles.  Not 10, then 100, but 20 miles every single day.  This screams DISCIPLINE.
  3. Honesty mirror.  Do what I’ve done and conduct a fair self-evaluation.  Don’t beat yourself up, but be honest.
  4. Share accountability.  In today’s society, this is easier than ever.  Make your do-list or goal public.  I’ve seen people use social media to lose a great deal of weight and keep it off.  Why?  Basic human behavior.  We’re terrified of not reaching our goals once made public.  On the other side of it, we LOVE the positive feedback we receive when others believe in our struggles.
  5. Help someone else.  This is also in our DNA.  Helping others makes us feel good.  It also gives us the motivation we need to make the next move on our path
  6. Take the next step.  Not a leap, or jump, or risk, just the next step.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion. ~ Sir Isaac Newton

This blog is the result of me closing the say-do gap.  Plans were written down, ideas were scribbled, and I studied many blogs before I launched A Keen Mind.  What go me started?  Me.  I wrote the first post.  Starting this and seeing massive progress in other areas of my career changed my personal and professional life.  I know it can do the same for you.

ACTION ITEM: One thing that fails me is having a too many items on my DO LIST.  It plagues me with a lack of focused energy.  Use the six tips above to start closing the say-do gap for your list.  Keep the list short and start achieving.  Momentum will soon take over and then…WATCH OUT!


4 Key Ingredients to Masters Magic

Hello friends.

It’s Masters week and I want to discuss my experience last year at Augusta National with you.   Below please find a video I did after returning back home.  You’ll also find four key ingredients I took away from this remarkable experience and how Augusta delivers the magic.

The Masters

The Masters

  1. Committed to the Cause – Every single person on the grounds at Augusta National is all-in on serving their patrons.  The moment I understood this was in the bathroom actually.  There may be more bathroom attendants in the restrooms than there are patrons.  Every single time a patron uses a bathroom stall or urinal they are cleaned before the next patron visits.  I never thought I’d write something remarkable about a restroom experience, but I stand corrected.
  2. Over Deliver – I’d heard the stories.  I’ve seen the faces of friends change upon hearing the words “Masters Tournament” when uttered in a conversation.  I’ve watched hundreds of hours television and studied hole by hole breakdowns on the web, but I wasn’t ready for the experience when it happened.  Everything I heard, or saw, or thought I would experience was BETTER.  The grass was greener, the hills were steeper, the greens were slicker, it was more energetic, and more beautiful than I imagined.
  3. Compassion – I spoke earlier about the bathroom attendants.  You won’t find a single worker or volunteer who isn’t excited to welcome you to the Masters.  My favorite memories exist of early mornings walking through the East Georgia fog and you’d hear it.  “WELCOME to the Masters,” an older gentleman would say greeting the patrons as they walked into Disney World for adults.  But the voice wasn’t just an older man who treasures the game of golf.  It was every single person on the grounds and every one of them was compassionate in their delivery of the magic.
  4. Attention to Detail – The closest word I can come to grips with to define the grounds at Augusta National is perfection.  Some say you can’t achieve perfection, but I can promise you this.  You can get damn close with a serious attention to detail in every element of your pursuit.  This level of commitment can be found everywhere you look and with every experience you have.

ACTION ITEM: The Masters opened my eyes to how truly great an experience can exist in today’s cluttered and cynical world.  Surround yourself with truly wonderful people with an equal or greater fire in their belly.  Unite in a purpose and let your passions pave the way.  The rest will be magical.

3 Keys to Being Intentional

Chris Hogan is the wildly popular host of Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcast.  I was listening last week and he said something that really resonated with me and I thought would be of great value to this audience.  (I included a link to the EntreLeadership podcast at the end of this post)

Chris said, “A person must choose to be intentional with their actions.”  WOW.  What an extremely power-packed quote.

There are a couple points of this powerful sentence I’d like to dissect in greater detail.

1 – Choice.  We’ve all heard about the power we wake up with every morning.  The power to choose.  We can choose our attitudes, our friends, and our future, if we have the right mindset.  Or conversely, we can let others choose for us.  The world and time can pass us by and we’ll be waiting on the sideline watching.  Every one of us has the power.  The difficulty lies in activation.

2 – Intentional.  I feel the most powerful relationship to this is purpose.  Another great word to insert would be deliberate.  We can be intentional with everything in our lives if we choose.  I think this is one people struggle with a great deal because intention is deeply rooted in having a plan.  I know I can be more strategic in my thinking and it doesn’t have to be about work.  I need to be more intentional with my dear friends and family.  I need to be focused on helping them achieve their goals and aspirations.  I need to be intentional about listening more and continuing to learn.

3. Actions.  I don’t believe for a second Chris’ quote ended in the word “actions” by chance.  After all, Chris works with intention.  The last word of his quote provides the energy needed for most of us to move.  Lets reflect back to the top of the list.  Choice, we all have this power.  It then isn’t a question of if, but when?  Next we focus on intention and having a purpose.  What is your purpose and do you have a game plan?  Without action the first two elements of this post are ideas in a notebook.  They’re a sketch on a bar napkin or that idea stashed away in your email.  Actions separate the average from the elite.  Action will bring your closer to your goals.

“A person must choose to be intentional with their actions.”

ACTION ITEM: Start being more intentional with something small, but take action.  Have a greater purpose or goal in mind and be intentional on your path to achievement.  The velocity of reaching your target will greatly increase.

Lastly, here’s a link to listen to the EntreLeadership Podcast.

Hustle 2.0

Hustle.  What the heck is that?

An insanely popular word in business today, but not yet as overused as some other buzzwords.

I believe one individual is highly responsible for transforming this word from the sports world to the business universe.  That person is Gary Vaynerchuk.  Gary is a mentor of mine and yet we’ve never met (with the exception of him signing my copy of “Thank You Economy” while at a convention in Las Vegas).  I think he’s a pretty righteous dude.

Are you ready to HUSTLE?

Are you ready to HUSTLE?

If you don’t know Gary I’ve included a link here to a recent interview with Inc: How to be Mr. Hustle and Have a Life, Too.

Gary is a pretty famous cat, and frequently references the word “hustle” in his conversations with other entrepreneurs, business coaches, media outlets and his own company VaynerMedia.  What I think is seriously overlooked though is the definition of the word hustle and how it’s helped Gary amass a thriving company and extremely successful career in social media.

Lets entertain a couple definitions or uses for the word hustle.

1. Zac displayed great hustle by diving on the floor numerous times in tonights basketball game.  This instance of hustle defines another level of hard work.  Hustle = perspiration or effort.

2. Zac got hustled in a game of golf (happens from time to time).  This instance of hustle refers to me getting swindled.  Not a great feeling or association

So what is this “hustle” Gary talks about and how is it different from pouring sweat and pool tables?

I believe Gary uniquely defines his hustle by the level of engagement he’s willing to invest in himself and his company and the context it’s delivered in.  His hustle most definitely includes massive effort, but massive effort isn’t what defines his success.  Gary’s definition of hustle is in the micro conversations and hundreds of engagements he’s willing to support (every one of them with a purpose nonetheless).

The 2014 definition of Hustle 2.0 involves 50% effort and another 50% strategic execution.  Notice I said strategic execution and not planning.  Planning is great, but there are no results.  Execution is the down and dirty result.  Execute frequently with exceptional context and you’re on the Gary V track to HUSTLE 2.0.

ACTION ITEM: Hustle isn’t limited to only your effort in a given event or scenario.  It also has to do with your level of engagement.  Combine both ingredients to get a Gary V level of hustle happening in your life

The Most Difficult Leadership Question. Why?

I just finished listening to a wonderful audio book by Todd G. Gongwer titled, “Lead…for God’s Sake.”

It was recommended by a friend I work with.  Little did I know I’d spend the better part of the weekend listening to the parable and consuming all the book had to offer.

The parable itself was extremely moving, but as I often do I immediately started relating it to other topics I recently consumed.  Before we continue, you must watch the content below.  It’s a TED talk by Simon Sinek.  The consistencies of the two pieces of content are palpable and instantly triggered me to transcribe this post.

Ask yourself this.  Why are some coaches more successful than others?  The rules of the game don’t change when a select coach is on the sideline.  Yet some coaches amass hundreds of wins, and others struggle to get buy-in and likely lose.  Losing leads to finding a new profession.  In the parable, the main character was a head basketball coach struggling to accomplish his goals.  “His” selfish goals.

Simon says (no pun intended), “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.”  He repeats more passionately, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it!”

In the book, “Lead…for God’s Sake”, a high school student challenges the historically successful coach with a powerful and life-changing question.  She asked politely, “Coach, WHY do you do what you do?”  Surprisingly, the wise old coach couldn’t answer.  He didn’t know the WHY, he only knew the what.  The “what” equalled winning games in his life.  It’s what he did.  Not WHY.  However, his current situation involved losing more games than winning.

I go further.  Listen to Simon’s story about the Wright Brothers and their competitor who was seeking only riches and fame (what).  The Wright Brothers had an unwavering belief and limited resources.  But they understood and embraced their WHY.  Who will forever be remembered for first taking flight?

The last thought I’ll leave you with is Mr. Sinek’s final thought.  “There are leaders and there are those who LEAD,”  says Simon.  He goes on to say, “Those who LEAD inspire us!”  The book and this TED talk give zero leadership value to position and power.  Inspiration doesn’t come with a promotion and it will never follow a title.  It lives within the WHY.

Pick up a copy of “Lead…for God’s Sake” and see how high school janitor Joe Taylor (fictional character) truly leads others from a seemingly inconsequential role.

ACTION ITEM: If you can’t tell me or those close to you the WHY in your life, please pause and reflect.  Find your WHY and be prepared to unlock all the riches life has to offer.  These riches will be in the form of more happiness, experiences, and relationships.