You Wouldn’t Believe What Happened To Me

You Wouldn't Believe

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m 100% sure I’m tired of hearing this.  “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me!”

I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but I feel like one of our biggest challenges societally is victim thinking.  It’s a borderline epidemic in our country and continues to spread.  Like any horrible plauge, “this one is airborne,” so watch out! keep-calm-and-avoid-the-plague-5

If you’re unsure or may have a tough time putting your finger on what I mean exactly I’ve listed a few of my personal victim thought favorites below:

  • It must be nice to have <insert anything you deem of monetary value>
  • My boss just doesn’t get it.  She doesn’t want me to succeed
  • Nothing ever seems to fall in my lap like it does for <insert friend>
  • We never have any money to do what we want
  • I can’t do that.  They’ll never let me!
  • Zac is sooooo lucky.  I wish I was that lucky
  • Woe is me…

Do you know any of these people?  I know I sure do and there is one common thread in all victim thinkers.  Everything happens to them, nothing happens because of them.


If you’ve read previous posts on this blog you’ll know I despise “Keeping Up With the Joneses” or living someone else’s life.  I liken victim thinking challenge as equal to the challenges noted in the last sentence facing us today.

It’s easy to live wanting, hoping, wishing, and EMPTY lives.  It’s easier to explain to those around you that it’s entirely someone else’s fault for: where you are, who you are, and what you may become.  You’re a punching bag and everyone seems to get two turns throwing haymakers.

Stop.  Good news alert!

There are three holes in our head we can focus on to impact massive change to victim thinking.  They are:

  1. Your mouth
  2. Your left ear
  3. Your right ear

The simple control of what comes out of #1 and into the latter two holes is life changing.  The beauty and simplicity of this is each of us controls this choice.  No one makes it for us.

If you have 12 minutes (and I know you do) you must meet Sam Berns.  He makes every word written on this post come to life!  Sam could easily be a victim, but he made the difficult choice not to be.

 ACTION ITEM:  Control victim thinking with your ears by being able to spot it quickly and decisively.  The next choice is up to you.  My common response is “run like hell” when you hear it.   The second control should be predictable.  Speak less often about what happens to you, and find opportunities to reflect on things that happen because of you.

Lastly, if you find value in this message and have implemented any of the above or even have a comment for the readers of this blog I’d really love it if you would share.  It would mean a great deal to me personally!!

The Most Overlooked Leadership Skill

Here is a list I found from Forbes titled, “Top 10 Qualities that Make a Great Leader“.  Pretty good list.  However, I truly believe there is a gapping hole in this list.  What powerful leadership skill is being overlooked?

I think it’s an extremely simple skill and maybe that is exactly why it is overlooked and often difficult to master.

The skill: Vulnerability Screen-shot-2012-08-09-at-9.21.01-AM

As most of you have already jumped to a conclusion on my addition, I’m going to ask you to pump the brakes for a definition of vulnerable.

vul·ner·a·ble: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. (Of a person) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.

There is some very powerful language used in this definition.  Here are a few impactful words that really stand out to me.

  • Susceptible
  • Attack
  • Harm
  • Support
  • Risk

Immediately this doesn’t feel right.  It feels to me like a “vulnerable” leader is a weak leader.  Not exactly the skill set pouring out of leadership books for the last 20 years.  However, is the world different today than it was 20 years ago?

Team members and successful organizations today want to have something to believe in.  More to the point, they want to work with someone they can TRUST.  There are many ways to earn trust, but I think one way is to open up and show your true colors.  Possibly even more important, showcase you don’t know everything and have made mistakes.

Transparency is a word I’m not terribly fond of currently because of its massive overuse in political jockeying.  But, transparency is a reality of being vulnerable.

The vulnerable leader understands better than most their strengths, and the biggest time saver of all, their weaknesses.  The vulnerable leader knows what they don’t know.  The vulnerable leader has struggles (as we all do) in life and isn’t afraid to let others in to see the real person battling these struggles.  The vulnerable leader is a servant leader.

Contrast this with the old school leaders we learned about growing up.  The leaders who pushed with an iron fist, strong will, and an indestructible armor of confidence.

The reason the vulnerable leader will continue to gain traction and transcend board rooms is simple.  There are far too many choices today to work for the selfish leader.  Business success is about having great relationships.  How many great relationships are you in today where the cornerstone of trust was laid with vulnerability?

ACTION ITEMS: It’s okay to let others in and let them see the real you.  I can promise you, it’s far more rewarding than obsessing over the maintenance of perfection.

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.


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.


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


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…


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.

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.


31 Things I Learned Turning 32

Yesterday (March 15) was my birthday.  Beware the Ides of March.  I took some time to reflect on the previous year and just where I’ve been. 31

The 31st year of my life was a really challenging and wonderful year.  Below is a list of 31 things I learned in the last 365 days.  I’ll also leave you with what I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming year.

1. Be myself – every day

2. Read more

3. Embrace fears – everyone is scared (Jay-Z)

4. Say “Thank You” more often

5. Ask more questions

6. Meditate often

7. Listen to more podcasts (most are FREE)

8. Help accomplish goals for others

9. Don’t take myself too seriously

10. Start more: projects, relationships and solutions

11. Launch a blog and share something great with the world (check!)

12. Waiting sucks – go now!

13. Buy a gift for an unsuspecting friend

14. Find a mentor or mentors

15. State your intentions clearly

16. Buy a drink for your friends

17. Don’t be the smartest guy in the room

18. Challenge yourself to get better every day

19. Goals are great, discipline is paramount

20. Get uncomfortable

21. Save a little for a rainy day

22. Eliminate average: thoughts, actions and people

23. Dress for success

24. Ask for help – no great thing was ever accomplished alone

25. The Masters (golf tournament) is a really magical place.  Thank you Juan for the tickets!

26. It’s okay to say NO

27. Tell a better story

28. Donating time can be more valuable than money

29. Take time to recharge

30. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer

31. The number of people who REALLY CARE is astounding.  Thank you to all of my friends!  I hope I can repay you.

Looking forward to year 32, I can tell you without reservation I’m most looking forward to being a dad.  Everyone tells me it’s a life changing event and I’m ready for the challenge.  Come August 2014, Beth and I will be welcoming another Keen Mind into the world.

ACTION ITEM: Take time to reflect on what you’ve learned in the last year.  I’d really love it if you’d share your thoughts in the comments below with our entire tribe.


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.