What if We Lived in a Trailer?

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I asked this question to my wife a few months back.

What if we lived in a trailer?
Imagine the look on her face…

Odd question I know, and in no means do I mean to offend anyone. It’s just that…I’ve never lived in a trailer. That said, I can promise you one thing, I’m not afraid of it either.

There comes a point when you have to realize something.

What are you afraid to lose?

I came to the following conclusion. If I have my wife, and my son, we’ll figure it out from there. What else is there to really worry about?

  • House?
  • Car?
  • Vacations?
  • Clothing?
  • Stuff?

I won’t lie one bit. I like to have nice things as much as the next guy, but reading stoic philosophy led me to a better understanding of how to see things for what they really are and nothing more. As Ryan Holiday puts it in his book The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Filet Mignon – Aged animal carcass
Great Wine – Old grapes
A beautiful car – transportation

If you’re worried about what your “friends” will think, I’ll give you the obvious answer.

They’re probably not really your friends. Move on.

By all means have fun. Experience all life has to offer and don’t feel one bit of guilt. But don’t get over committed to an empty and endless pursuit of more.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to take a chance or two along the way. The fear of losing your expensive car lease needs to be reevaluated.

This feeling of freedom will provide you all the energy and clear vision you need to achieve your goals.

ACTION ITEM: It’s ok to be afraid, but don’t be afraid of losing the wrong stuff.

Anxiety, Neurosis, and Living a Life of Fear

There’s an epidemic gaining momentum in society.

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Obviously I don’t believe I’m alone or I wouldn’t write about it.  Anxiety and fear are leaving people feeling trapped, living a life alone with their own thoughts.

It all started for me about five years ago with my UC (ulcerative colitis) diagnosis.  What began as a disease of the large intestine and specifically the colon, spread to my head.

No it’s not cancer.  I’m referring to the negative thought process I became fixated on and concerned with 24/7.  Worry followed by more fear and worry.  Here is a small sampling of my thoughts from about five years ago to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

  • Is this going to kill me?
  • What (if anything) could I eat any more?
  • Would it cause another attack?
  • What if I’m not near a bathroom? (near is a distance 15-20 seconds away at a panic jog rate)
  • What if I can’t eat anything?
  • Would I still be able to travel?
  • What if I got sick away from home?
  • How embarrassing is this going to be?
  • Eat more bananas? Damn it! More bananas?

Why am I telling you this?

Because I believe this is merely a glimpse at my struggle, and although it may not relate to you directly, I believe others need to know it’s okay to be afraid, but accepting of their fears.  What’s not okay is to let fear take over your thoughts, actions, and emotions 24/7 and ruin your life.  For me, this fear lead to panic, anxious thoughts, and uninitiated worry.

A couple years ago on the outside, I may have looked like I had it together, but on the inside I was a complete mess.

The “trifecta” I was living with included more than just the UC diagnosis and fears.  At the exact same time I was kicking a nasty nicotine habit (which needed to happen), while also facing a growing infertility challenge with my wife as we longed to start a family.  Brick by brick, a house of fears and frustration compiled.

It wasn’t until a couple years ago I realized the best medicine for my body wasn’t the two daily horse pills I take. I needed brain training for a reboot.  I’d personally beaten myself down with thoughts and feelings of insecurity and anxiousness.  Everywhere I went there was an undercurrent of fear riding in my sidecar.  If you can relate, you know what I’m talking about. The weeds find a way to grow, and they grow quickly!

What does this fear feel like?

It feels like a racing heartbeat.  Clammy and shivering hands.  Chills.  Feelings of being exhausted and alert at the same time.  It turned situations where I was 100% comfortable a couple years ago into fight or flight adrenaline jolts.  It sucked.

So how did I start to take back control?

Slowly. One step at a time my thinking had to be rebuilt.  Here’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson says,

A man is what he thinks about all day long.

The quote (and I’m not sure who said it), “Everyone has something,” kept running through my head.  “I’m not the only one in the world dealing with this, so stop being such a pansy ass,” I’d say to myself.  It could be so much worse.  I had to make a choice and commit to positivity and living life every day.

Commitment to change happened.

Radical change happens when a line is drawn in the sand and a person must be put to a decision.  In poker you would call this an “all-in” wager.  I didn’t want to wallow in the bullshit any longer.  I decided I’d own it and talk about it openly.  I chose to show others my hand (more card-speak), my insecurities, and not be afraid or embarrassed.  After all, this was me.  All of me, as John Legend puts it.

A crazy thing happens when you speak freely about fear.  It gets released.  When it’s released, it doesn’t carry with it the immense weight as it does in your thoughts.  It disappears like smoke from a fire into the night sky.  Seemingly never to have existed in the first place.

Tony Robbins teaches three things to help you get to this action decision.  You can find the link to his post here (How to Create Breakthrough in Any Area of Your Life)

  1. Change your strategy, change your result.
  2. Change your story, change your life.
  3. Change your state—you change it all!

The kryptonite to my fear, my anxiety, my neurosis wasn’t a pill (although I must admit a steroid pack helps a brother out from time to time if he gets run down and my stomach needs a boost).  No.  The answer lived in my thoughts, beliefs, and actions.  A funny thing happens when this choice is made.  You gain momentum and energy, and you never look back.

Thinking alone won’t ever cure me from my stomach disease or associated fears, but I’m not looking for that any more.  I’m not cured, I’m informed.  I’m committed to not living a life of fear and being a shell of my real self.  If that means saying no to a few more things, or resting when my body needs it, then so be it.

When the next challenge comes along (and it’s guaranteed to happen), I will be more prepared.  I will be more present in understanding what I’m feeling.  In the meantime, I’m going to hop on this black stallion called life and break her to live my way!

ACTION ITEM: I’ve been thinking about this post for some time.  A great deal of emotion came about when thinking about it.  It makes me feel even better writing it.  But, it’s not about me.  I know without a shred of doubt there are people struggling like I did.  If you are afraid, SO IS EVERYONE ELSE!

Make a choice to beat it.  If you’re a friend, make a choice to help them.  Life is far too short to be afraid all the time.

Use The “F Word” More Frequently

 The word is FEAR

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As a society, we’ve let our fears pile up inside of our brains and multiply like a germ in a petri dish.  The more we let the fear live inside our heads, the more momentum it builds.  Momentum can be extremely beneficial or devastatingly punishing.  The less we challenge our fears, the stronger they become.  Fear is the antithesis of a muscle.  The less you challenge it, the stronger it gets every single day.

I NEVER want to post as a hypocrite, so I’m going to tell you a list of the recent fears I’ve tackled.  Each of these fears caused noticeable challenge and changes needing to be made to my life.  With each fear, I’ll provide some background.  I want you to know everyone has fears.  Not everyone will put them out in the open.

  1. Stomach Disease – A few years back, I was diagnosed with a stomach disease (Ulcerative Colitis) and it was extremely challenging for a while knowing when nature would call (i.e. I went to the bathroom a lot!).  To say this changed my life would be an understatement.  This caused me to be worried any time I went anywhere for more than 20-30 minutes.  Well I obviously traveled frequently for work, so this was NOT an easy task.  The bigger worry was the potential embarrassment I may encounter should the worst possible scenario happen while traveling with co-workers.  I was terrified about this frequently and until I finally told others of my situation, I felt like I was hiding potential doom every day.
  2. Cancer & Tobacco – My addictive personality and chewing tobacco made for a beautiful relationship (totally joking, but true).  I thought when I went in to get my stomach issues looked at I was going to be told I had cancer.  I mean after all, I’d earned it with the frequency of tobacco placed between my lip and gum.  Thankfully, this was not the case and all the reason to stop the habit immediately.  FEAR in this case won for the positive.  What wasn’t easy was kicking the habit.  Eventually I got there with the help of my wife and great friends, but I was literally afraid to quit at the start.  Sounds stupid (I know), but true.
  3. Parenthood – My wife and I planned to start a family soon after we got married.  This was a little over five years ago.  After a few years of it not happening, we thought it may never happen.  This fear wore on us.  It beat us down every time someone asked, “Why don’t you guys have kids?”  We didn’t have the heart to tell them we’d been trying, yet we did have the anger building up to stare right through them.  I truly believe it started to get better when we told others of our challenge and found many others like us struggling with the same issue.  For those that know us, we’re now the proud parents of a beautiful baby boy named Landon.  I think we turned the corner when our fears and anxiety met the light of day and openness of conversation with cherished friends.
  4. Complacency – This may seem extremely odd compared to the previous (and definitely more serious) elements of fear listed above, but it is real.  I’m terrified I don’t do enough.  I don’t take enough calculated risks and go bigger, faster, harder than I’m currently doing.  I fear someone else is putting in more effort and could be getting a step ahead of where I stand today.  For some reason, I believe this is the fear of growing older and not looking back with regret.  I can’t stand the feeling or thought of regret.

Why do I tell you all of this?

Because fears have a much tougher time living in your head and gaining momentum when they’re introduced to oxygen and the world.  I don’t know this to be 100% true, but tell me the number of times you’ve heard of someone, only one person, in the ENTIRE WORLD facing a challenge?  It doesn’t happen too often!

This is the exact reason we have to get our fears out.  Share them.  Write them down.  Talk about them with those you trust.  Fears do not stand a chance when they are introduced to: oxygen, friendship, and action.  The reason is pretty ridiculous and simple.  Fears grow with stagnation.  You have to do what author Jon Acuff suggests when he says, “Punch fear in the face!”

Fears are CRUSHED when challenged.

ACTION ITEM: I want to you put one of your fears out in the open.  If you’re comfortable with it, I’d really love to see a list of fears fill the comments section of this post.  The tribe will be there to support you.  I promise.  Get comfortable in attack mode.

When Money Isn’t An Excuse, Then What?

The answer to this question is different for every individual and every scenario.  Here’s mine.

I had the idea of starting this blog for about six months.  Here is a snapshot of my ideas.  I’ve probably got notes in three to four different notebooks around the house of different blog post ideas and perspectives.

What took so long?  What was I afraid of?

I’ll tell you exactly what was going through my head:

  • I was afraid of what someone might say.
  • What if someone challenged the thoughts I believed in my heart and soul?
  • What if no one read it?
  • Could I stick to it and continue to publish?
  • Would my friends be honest with me and offer candid feedback?

At the exact same time in my life, I happened to be listening to an audiobook last summer aptly titled, “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work that Matters”.  Read it or listen to it.  Here is a link and image to Amazon.com. Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters

Jon begins the book with a story (No! I’m not going to give it all away) about a flight he was  on from Dallas to Baltimore.  A wise Grandma leaned in after reading Jon’s book and said to him, “What do you do when all the excuses you use to not chase your dream are gone, what do you do then?”

Kick in the nuts!

A change in thinking occurred.  What if I wasn’t asking the right questions?  What if I wasn’t afraid of everything that wouldn’t happen and instead was afraid of everything that COULD happen?  Please read this statement again.

  • What happens when thousands of people read the content?
  • What happens when people use this blog to make better decisions?
  • What happens when readers of this blog communicate without me being the conduit?
  • What happens when the response and feedback is AWESOME?
  • What happens when the content changes someone’s life?

After listening to Jon’s book a few more times, I came to the realization that many of us are more afraid of how great something could be and the work that will come with it, instead of the fear of starting.  I understand this may sound crazy, but the reality is I had absolutely no excuse and nothing to lose choosing to START this blog.

Truth be told, I spent a couple hundred dollars on the hosting, the URL (for a few years), and a couple other odds and ends.  These investments are monetary.  The investment of my time and learning (as I’d never built a blog before) was the real investment.

ACTION ITEM: I really recommend reading Jon’s book.  I also recommend sitting down by yourself with a pen and a blank pad of paper.  Answer this question: What is keeping you from your AWESOME?

Why Am I Wearing Handcuffs

I’d like to introduce you to a pair of handcuffs.

Handcuffs = Mental Restraints

Handcuffs = Mental Restraints

Many of us wear them, but you won’t see them in plain sight.  Others are burdened by the immense weight of many pairs of handcuffs, but you won’t see them either.  With all this said, where am I possibly looking to find all these handcuffs?

They exist in the simple statements listed below:

  • I’m too qualified to do this
  • I’m too short
  • I’m too out of shape
  • I’m too new to the team
  • I’m too dumb to learn a new skill
  • I’m too new to the marketplace
  • I’m too upset
  • I’m too afraid to be challenged
  • I’m too depressed
  • I’m too emotional
  • I’m too young
  • I’m too broke
  • I’m too DAMN SCARED!

You see where I’m going with this?

Each of these statements are uttered by millions of people every day and in doing such, they might as well put on a pair of handcuffs for every one of them.  I know I’ve said them.  I’m sure you have too.

After listening to hundreds of podcasts on leadership and entrepreneurship there is a very common thread the very successful follow.

They DO NOT let others dictate their path to success or allow thoughts of “I’m too…” to cloud their thinking or progress.  They go for it and are unapologetic about their quest.

ACTION ITEM: It is almost as certain as the sunrise tomorrow; an “I’m too…” thought will invade your brain and the powerful work you’re masterminding.  My process to immediately counteract this is to:

  1. Embrace the Feeling
  2. Challenge It 
  3. Take Action Against It

 

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…

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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.

THIS FEELS GREAT!

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.

 

Know Thyself

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This post was the most challenging and most liberating posts I’ve written to date.  I needed to put into writing what I’d been thinking.  To be immensely successful personally, professionally, and spiritually in 2014 I needed to do an intense self analysis.  I needed to spend some time knowing what I am, and more specifically what I am not.

The purpose of this community is to sharpen our mental tools, be more positive, and to get better on a daily basis.   Negativity on the other hand makes the news and is around us at every turn.  This is NOT a negative post.  It’s an honest one.  There is a difference.  Below is a list of my challenges and how I choose to think about them in 2014.

Embrace Fear – I’m just as afraid if not more afraid as everyone else reading this post.  I’m most afraid of not being successful so I push on.  This is one of my biggest challenges and it prevents me from slowing down on a daily basis.  New ideas are needed.  New clients are needed.  New products are needed.  The more I embrace fears and take them head on, the stronger I become.  I will continue to be afraid, but I’ll embrace it and channel it as aggression with a focused direction.  I will not be consumed by fears I create.  The body and mind know the difference between real and created fears.

Be Myself – I’m guilty of always looking for more information and looking for a new angle.  It’s in my DNA.  A new book, podcast, or blog rich with information is always at my fingertips.  What I must remember is who I am, what do I believe, and what do I stand for.  How can I help others?  My friends and close relationships chose me for who I am, not who I’m trying to be.  What others think of me is their business.

Confidence Coefficient – I’m guilty of being cocky.  It’s in my DNA and a personality flaw I’m challenged with frequently.  I believe so much in achievement and confidence in my efforts it can quickly cross the invisible line into cockiness.  It’s really a double edged sword.  The more I win, the better and more invincible I feel (hence the confidence coefficient).  Without confidence however, winning doesn’t happen and I HATE losing.  I’m challenged weekly to remain confident without getting overly confident.  The key to maintaining a confident persona without getting cocky is to reflect frequently and to remember this.  The second I think I’ve arrived, I’ve already lost.

Be More Thankful – I’m an achiever addicted to winning.  I’m addicted to making the next move or knocking down the next big obstacle.  I don’t stop often enough to appreciate things.   Appreciate family, friends, relationships and a wonderful lifestyle.  I have so much to be thankful for, I need to stop and smell the roses more often.

Be There – I made a promise to myself in 2013 to “be there” more often no matter what for others.  Friends will need me.  Family will need me.  Peers will need advice.  Be there.  Nothing is as important as these pieces in my life so get moving and be there.  I found some of the most joy in 2013 by making this a focus.  It’s payed wonderful dividends.

Own My Talents – There can be much time invested and little return expected in focusing on what I’m not.  The same time however, will yield 10X returns if invested in what I am and where I can be most successful.   As previously stated, it’s extremely easy to find what we don’t have or what we lack.  To take a quote from Top Gun, “The list is long and distinguished.”  I’m going to invest (expecting a return) my time into what I’m really great at and watch the massive results happen!

Live Passionately – Compliments of the late Jim Valvano, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”  Few things move me like his 1993 ESPY speech.  I often admire the vibrancy and passion Jimmy had for life and how he shared it.  He wasn’t afraid of his emotions and embraced every day with those he shared it with.  The reason I bring this up is I struggle to share my emotions.  I believed it to be sign of weakness.  If you ask my wife privately she’ll tell you I’m not the most open person with my feelings.   I don’t know if I’ll ever be great sharing my feelings, but I can get better.

Give – I’ve always been a bit selfish with my time.  I struggle to know why this is, but fall short on answers.  This is getting better and will be my best year ever in 2014.  I’ll give more time to others and not just give with monetary means.  I have a goal set to volunteer a specific number of times in 2014 and I plan on crushing it.  I friend of mine Juan Teran (who I asked if I could mention in this post) challenges me every time we speak to share more of ourselves with others.  I’m thankful for his challenge and I will answer the bell!

ACTION ITEMS:  I challenge you to do a similar self analysis.  Be realistic and honest, but not hard on yourself.  The goal is not to leave yourself battered and bruised.  I’d really love it if you could share one of your challenges with our community so we can all get better.  Lastly, if you know someone who will benefit from reading this please share.

 

Jerry Maguire, Seth Godin, and the $90 Fear

I certainly hope you’re wondering what Jerry Maguire, Seth Godin, and cash have in common with fear.  Allow me a moment to explain.

I spent a couple weeks up late at night scheming and planning.  I’d been sketching and strategizing toward the final stages of my big idea and presentation to our owners.

I’d done my research and there was undoubtedly merit to the plan.  Two core business elements would be repackaged and sold as a combined offering to our clients.  The client would benefit and so would our business.

As stated, I spent a couple weeks working through the particulars: sales, training, process, execution, client enrollment, external marketing and internal marketing.  All of these elements were combined into one well thought out plan (my opinion) ready to be put in front of our ownership the day before everyone departed for Thanksgiving.

bb360634fb28151dcbf284acb1dc71b6839d21d7b039fc17a12a3048179f6a60Imagine something along the lines of Jerry Maguire, without getting fired afterward of course.

I ventured off to Copyworks the evening before the presentation to ensure I had professionally bound materials ready for the following morning.  I was going to have eight of the documents printed in sharp color and bound for an expert touch.  To be taken seriously I was going to make serious moves!

When the booklets were completed the charming yet shy girl at the front desk asked me how I’d like to pay for the books.  I politely asked if she took American Express and replied with, “Yes, it will be $90 sir.”

WHAT?!?!  Are there gold leafs in the booklets?  How on earth could this cost $90?

I was confused, frustrated, and for some reason embarrassed.  Maybe I should’ve asked (before I was in such a hurry – typical me!) what the price was, but it was a little too late for that.  I handed her my credit card and she completed the transaction.  There were a couple of books remaining to be assembled so I grabbed a seat in a stodgy old chair by the front store window.

I starred off into the cold dreary street and I got to thinking.  Was I really upset about the $90?  I certainly shouldn’t be.  I mean, I had the $90 and I knew it was going to cost something.  I didn’t plan on bartering for the goods.  That’s when the real question hit me.

“Zac, do you think your idea is worth $90 or not?”

I had a fear of putting the concept out in the open; to our ownership nonetheless.  I was taking a chance.  The perfect idea lived in my head and on paper, but it might as well have been in a vacuum.  Certainly no one was going to benefit from a idea in a vacuum.  It had to see the light of day and breathe in the cool wintery Iowa air.

Taking time to reflect, I’m glad the books cost $90 to print and assemble.  It made me take a good hard look at the material and the confidence in my idea.  After all, it only took $90 to get my mind right!  Thousands of people waste much more than $90 trying to find confidence in the midst of fear.

As fate would have it, a couple days before I published this blog post, the email below appeared in my inbox from the remarkable Seth Godin.

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ACTION ITEM: Don’t let $90 keep you from your idea, concept, or business plan.  I promise you, It’s not the money you’re worried about.  The sooner you understand this, the closer you are to launch.

PS – When you do launch, I encourage you to scream “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”  It feels awesome.