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.


Six Temptations of Good

This post is the result of a habit I created a few years back after I received a sheet of paper from a very successful client.  He told me all I needed to be successful was outlined in what he provided.  If I could focus on these elements every day, success would be sure to follow.

It was only one sheet of paper with copy on one side and six very simple temptations we each battle every single day.  The title of the document read, “When Good Isn’t Enough.” I had to share because it is the perfect piece of content for A Keen Mind.

1. Leaders stop working on themselves

2. Leaders stop thinking BIG

3. Leaders of successful organizations “lead from the front”

4. Leaders stop developing others

5. Leaders stop holding others accountable

6. Leaders abandon the basics.

Give this just a moment of thought.  There are hundreds of business and success books published every year.  I’ve probably read 100 of them and each creates separate buzz within the topic.  Yet when I get back to working on myself as leader I always come back to this simple and short list.

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Here is a snapshot of my hand written list transcribed on the inside of by BIG IDEA notebook.

ACTION ITEM: Keep this link and list handy.  Share it with others looking to conquer a good mindset.  Review it frequently and take action against the temptations of good and I promise you success will follow.



How I Got Caught Recording Myself

What better way to start off this post than with a selfie recording in my office?

A Keen Mind Recording

Zac Keeney Recording

Yes, this is me (Zac Keeney) the author of “A Keen Mind” blog at work in my office while writing this post.  But I’m not here to talk about taking a picture of myself, I’m talking about using audio to record and prepare for your next BIG ASK.

I label a BIG ASK the next big thing you’re looking to do.  Maybe you’re looking to: get a raise, pitch a piece of business, ask for a promotion, or speak at a conference.  Most of the time, you’re going to need some help to accomplish any of these events.

The key to any BIG ASK is preparation.  Not only in your mind, but with what comes out of your mouth.   Maybe more importantly than what comes out of your mouth.

I’ve found one of the very best ways to do this is record yourself.  If you’re thinking this is going to take some investment into technology or something grand I hate to disappoint you.   The device you need is likely less than three feet from you or may even be in your hand as you read this post.

It’s your smartphone; 99% of them have a record feature.  Use it.

I was recently working on a presentation for a speaking engagement and my wife came downstairs into the office only to walk in on me giving my presentation.  I guess it looks kind of weird seeing someone talking into their phone, but it was worth it.

Step 1 – Recording.  I recommend recording a couple different times.  If you’re just starting out you won’t hit your flow right away and that’s the point.  Just record it.

Step 2 – Listen for the pain.  This is the fun step if you’re prepared for it.  I have a great deal of fun picking apart the errors or weak moments of storytelling in my audio.  The key here is to think you’re critiquing someone else.  It’s human nature to want to provide feedback.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at shows like American Idol.  We love to critique and provide our point of view.

Step 3 – Rinse and Repeat.   Record, listen, critique and practice again, but get better.  Your comfort level and confidence in performing the BIG ASK will come off second nature.  You’ll be in a state of flow after a few times and you should be really having fun with it.

ACTION ITEM: The next BIG ASK you have coming try recording yourself in advance.  I promise you’ll be more prepared and success will follow.


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!

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.