The Hardest Work You’ll Ever Do

I hate to gossip.  But, this one is juicy.

I’m about to tell you the inside scoop on the toughest working relationship I have and the painstaking work I’m enduring to make the best of it.  I promise not to name names, but you can start guessing if you know me that well.

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First, a little background on the relationship is appropriate. 

My challenge is pretty simple really.  However, it’s a relationship years in the making with both ups and downs.  Great successes and challenging failures have resulted from this individual.

I’m trying to make this person the best they can possibly be, but I don’t exactly know where that ceiling is.  I continue to challenge and push, but no two days are the same.  I struggle with what sometimes feels like two creatures wrapped in the same person on a different day.

Here are some of the other challenges I have with the individual:

  • Can sometimes lack focus and have too many things happening at once
  • Works too much from time to time
  • Is always looking for more
  • Has a hard time letting go and delegating
  • Will not accept mediocre
  • Can be selfish
  • Is a picky eater (ok that’s not a real gripe, but it is true)

So who is this person and how can I stand to keep him around?

 

Any guesses?

 

It’s me.  Zac Keeney.

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The hardest work I’ve encountered in my career is responsibility for my own path.  It continues to be the hardest work I’ll do because I’m not satisfied with where I am today and what the future might hold.

Please don’t misunderstand this for being ungrateful.  I’m extremely thankful for all the people I get a chance to share the day with.  But success today is far from final.

I will promise my readers this.  No one else is going to take responsibility for your career or your future.  It’s on you and those you surround yourself with.  You and I hold the keys.

That is exactly why this is the hardest work you’ll ever do.  There is no one else to blame for your results.  IT’S ALL ON YOU!  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and it would become a mundane task lacking joy.

The books to read, people to meet, challenges to take head on, and the passion to continue growing.  It is the hardest work you’ll ever do and it won’t end.  It will also be the most fulfilling because YOU OWN IT!

Yes, you will have many people help you along the way.  No one truly does it all on their own.  Thank them.  Offer to help them and repay your success with an obligation to send them down a similar path.

If you’re anything like me, my strong personality pushes back from time to time and I need a wake-up call or a swift kick in the ass to continue.  Just don’t give up!

ACTION ITEM: If you can look in the mirror and say the work you’re doing on yourself is sufficient, I challenge you to look for more.  What more can you do to challenge yourself?  It wasn’t meant to be easy and the product (you) isn’t finished yet.

 

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

 

Failure is a Debt Needing to Be Paid

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

DEBTS MUST BE PAID!

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.

Habits.

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.

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!

Chelsea

Chelsea

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.

I NEED YOU TO LEAD THIS WEEK!

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.

We’re Waiting For You

I was listening to a podcast today by John Lee Dumas (Entrepreneur on Fire) and I heard something that sparked this post.  Coincidentally enough, I saw the following post from a friend on Instagram earlier this week and it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Here’s the post (thank you Maria)!

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The title of this post is, “We’re waiting for you.”  We’re waiting for you to take a chance and be the ENTIRE person you can be.  We’re waiting for you to take risks, challenge your thinking, and take the next step in your journey. 

The angst of the wait is simple.  Not one subscriber on this blog or relationship is going to tell you when you’re ready.  Nor will someone give you permission if that’s what you’re in search of.

It’s likely you’re ready to take the next step or make big moves, but you’re waiting for the horn to sound or flag to drop.

I hate to disappoint, but I’ve never seen the sign when it’s ok to start or embark on a new journey.  You just start.  There is no official starter with the gun shouting, “On your mark, set,…BANG!”

Every time you start, take another chance, or challenge conformity it gets a bit easier.  Soon, (as the image states it) “it becomes a habit.”  Habits are really hard to stop (I speak from experience).

What I will tell you is everyone around you is waiting for you to BE MORE.  They’re just not going to beat down your door and show you the path.  They’re just as human as you and I, and we’re working on our own journey.  Take responsibility for your future and give people the eye opening experience they’ve been waiting for.  Until then, we’re waiting for you.  We need you!

ACTION ITEM: In the near future choose the uncomfortable.  It will take work and it won’t be easy, but the accomplishment you’ll feel will release the endorphins needed to start your habit.  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao-tzu

Normal is a Plague

Normal Distribution

Normal isn’t something most strive for, but then why do so many end up there?  Below I’ll give you my acronym for NORMAL and why its something we must fight against every day of our being.  I venture back to this acronym when I feel myself gravitating back to the status quo (this is no where near where I want to be).

N – Needy.  This person needs everything.  They need to be taken care of.  They need to make more money.  They need to get a new car.  The challenge I have with these needs is they’re most always superficial and the person committed to the need isn’t ready to make the sacrifice.  I also find there isn’t a great deal of appreciation for what they currently have.

O – Others fault.  I think this one causes me the most pain.  The normal people I see have everything happen “to” them.  Nothing is their own fault or the result of their actions (or lack thereof).  These are the finger pointers.  Except the old adage says, “when you point the finger there are four pointing back at you.”

R – Reactionary.  Normal people are reactionary.  It’s almost as proven as gravity.  Normal people don’t create, initiate, and certainly don’t make moves.  They wait for life to smack them in the face or for someone to tell them what’s next in this great event we call life.  This really sucks.  Take a step back and imagine living a normal life for the next 60-70 years except look at it from the perspective of someone telling you what to do the entire time.

M – Motionless.  Normal people lack activity.  I’m not calling them lazy, but there is no momentum being created in their lives.  Motion creates emotion and emotion is married with passion.  Passionate people rarely live normal lives.

A – Angry.  After a little thinking on this topic this one hit me like a frying pan to the forehead.  Normal people are angry.  They’re angry they can’t get what they want or perceive they want.  They’re mad at their boss, spouse, kids, job, you name it.   I promise you these “normal” people can be found at a local watering hole 5pm on a Friday.  They’ll be the one complaining angrily about what’s not going their way.  Have a beer, but STAY AWAY from these people.

L – Lack.  Normal people live in a state of lack.  Normal believe they lack: skills, toughness, money, resources, drive, happiness, and the list goes on.  They live with lack thoughts and lack the mental toughness to get out of the normal life.

Newsflash.  I didn’t one single time say normal people are bad people.  Normal is a choice, a lifestyle, a mindset.  It’s one i choose to run from at all cost, but one I’m not immune to.

ACTION ITEM: Normal thinking is popular and is easy to get drawn into (like a tractor beam).  Continue to develop your Keen Mind and realize when this is happening.  Ensure your thoughts and actions are moving away from the NORMAL as quickly as possible.

Achievement Addiction Addressed

We’re a nation of addicts.  Uppers, downers, and achievement.  Yes, achievement.  I too struggle with this addiction.Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 11.02.02 AM

This week I got to reading about achievement addiction throughout generation Y and millennials.  What struck me as very interesting is the way many of us attempt to measure ourselves and those around us with our stack of achievements.  I decided to compile a list of a few of those things I see every day.

1. Your College/University

2. College GPA

3. Where You Live (City, Zip Code, Neighborhood)

4. Your Home Size

5. Name Brand Anything/Stuff

6. The Car You Drive

Truth be told it’s really hard not to be addicted to achievement, especially in today’s world. I know I’m a happier version of myself when I’m “achieving” or accomplishing goals.  It feels good.  I’m definitely not going to tell you to underachieve.  Those words will never come out of my mouth.

What I started to learn wasn’t so much about the feeling, it was the pursuit of why the achievement is needed.  Why do I need to feel this way?  What am I chasing in order to fuel these false achievements?  Who (more importantly) do I feel the need to compare myself with?  This is the scariest one!

Keeping up with the Kardashians has never been more prominent than in today’s society.  What I realized I needed to work on was the the idea that the achievement won’t ever overestimate who I really am.

In a famous NFL rant, then Arizona Cardinals head coach Denny Green screamed, “They are who we thought they were!” Here’s the clip

Green was referring to the undefeated Chicago Bears after the Cardinals blew a late game lead and squandered the opportunity to send the Bears home with their 1st loss of the season.

The lesson, I am who you think I am.

I came across this post on LifeHack.orgDo You Have An Achievement Addiction.  The element that brought me to blogging about it on A Keen Mind blog was the following statement, “Addicted to achievement, we forget there is a huge difference between success at a task or goal and success as a person.”

Stuff.  Achieve, accumulate stuff, and sometime hopefully many years down the road after my eulogy a garage sale of grandiose scale will take place.  Thrifty shoppers from miles away will be able to buy my once treasured “achievements” for pennies on the dollar.

Conversely I like to think of achievement as a legacy.  What can be taught, shared, or left behind, so that many years or generations from now it may still impact others?  This is a true measure of success and achievement.  Did I make those around me better?  Was I successful in leaving a legacy of: positivity, challenging others to be their best, and a winning mindset?  These are achievements and what I’ll work to strive toward.

I can’t promise you I’ll stop buying things or working toward a newer home or automobile.  What I won’t do is allow these purchases to be the measure of my achievement.  PS – if a Ferrari is in my future, I’m not going to get out of its way!

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ACTION ITEM:  Live your life for all the achievements.  Not only the ones associated with a price tag.