Living Life’s Contradictions

I believe, life is meant to be lived on both sides of the coin, not the extremely narrow margin on the rim…never tipping one way, or the other.

For goodness sakes…please try BOTH. Now!

How could one day, I act one way, and then, a short time later, be on the entire other side of the spectrum? Because I believe life is about managing both sides of a situation, learning from it, growing as a person, and living as a contradiction the entire time.

My life is one big contradiction.

Some people have a BIG problem with this. Like it was once written: a person can only stand for one thing, or act only one way for their entire life. I know what that sounds like…BORING.

Curious as to what I’m thinking about?  Here are the contradictions I’m living at this very moment.

  1. Money – I’m traditionally a very frugal person. I’m an investor, a saver, playing the long game. However, how do you know how many turns on this earth you get? None of us know. That being said, every so often I’ll spend money like a teenager with my first paycheck in hand. New Jeans – Yup.  New Sneakers – yup. New Johnston and Murphy – why not.  Anything else I can find in that 24 hr period. Contradiction. Yin and Yang. Stretch and reflex. Contradiction.
  2. Work-Life Balance – I’m not about finding 50/50 balance in the often talked about, seldom lived, zen world of “work-life balance”. I think “balance” is whatever makes a person happy. For me, that’s a few weeks in a row of being really into work. I mean INTO it, thinking about it in the morning, on the weekends, at night, etc. Studying it. Burying myself in the business and thinking about it. I love it. Conversely, a couple times a year I love just unplugging for a few days to clear the body and brain. No connection. No pitches or P&Ls. Stretch and Reflex. Contradiction. Balance so it seems, for me.
  3. Management – I’ve always believed a leader must lead from the front, and yet, can’t ever be afraid to jump in and “push the broom” so the saying goes. Alternatively, spend too much time in the details or “pushing the broom” and others can’t grow. Challenges in delegating show themselves like a bad skin rash. Contradiction…do both!  When and where it makes sense. Many aren’t comfortable with this grey advice.  I’m sorry. It’s reality. If there was a leadership equations for the 100’s of personalities out there, we’d of figured it out by now.
  4. Tortoise and Hare – There are places in my life I can think very long term and exercise tremendous patience. There are MANY others where I’m consistently impatient (ask my better half)…like REALLY impatient. Focusing every day on what can be moved, improved or accomplished now. Many small wins, compounded over time (Slight Edge Principles) is how the game is won. Consistently balancing the tight-wire of when to push, and when to pause and let be. Contradiction.  Be patient but also be ready to SPEED UP!!! FASTER FASTER.
  5. Time – I believe in investing in others. Investing in their hopes, dreams, causes, and helping think through troubles. Knowing that somewhere in the world, the good deed will come back my way and bear fruit because I’ve sure needed the help! Somehow. Someway.  Alternatively, and admittedly so (The Right Selfish), I can get very selfish with my time. Focusing much of my energy internally to audit my thoughts, feelings, and current path in life. It is a “Give and Keep” tug of war. Contradiction.

I believe humans need and thrive in some element of change and/or newness. Stay status quo and insurmountable boredom takes over. Ask any client who has fired an agency because, “they’re happy, but wanted to see something new” – that’s called losing!

Structure is good, but boredom is without a doubt the enemy of Thriving. Thriving is the key to happiness. This is why I live the contradiction. Balancing what works or normal on one hand, while not being afraid to cut ties and try something entirely opposite on the other. Why not?

That is balance for me.

It might not work for you or anyone else for that matter.  But that’s the point.

Find your balance.

ACTION ITEM: Find and embrace your contradictions. Balance ensues and you’ll grow in the process.

The Quality of Your Life = The Quality of Your Questions


“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

The inspiration for writing this post is actually a Tony Robbins quote I came across a few times now in my recent readings.  It’s an extremely valuable statement because it shapes the lives we lead every day.   If we don’t change our questions, and direction, we are likely to end up where we are going.

So that we may better understand the two directions available to each of us, lets look at conflicting lifestyles and frame both viewpoints with the questions each asks.

Let me tell you about the “wanters.”

Life happens to these people.  Here is what their questions sound like:

  • Why me?
  • Why can’t I do this?
  • Why does my boss hate me?
  • Why can’t my parents just be wealthy and leave me a big inheritance?
  • How is it I never have enough time?
  • Why does he get a raise, and I never make any more money?
  • What can I do to be more lucky?
  • Why do I have to learn this?
  • How can I provide as little effort as possible and still get paid?

A strong “victim” pattern exists to the style and direction of these questions.  There is little to no control.  Please read through each of these questions again and take a deep breath.  I’ve asked these questions too.  It doesn’t make us bad people, we were just ignorant to what else was out there.

The cure for ignorance is curiosity.

That said, what questions can you ask to get more out of your life, career, or business starting today?  Here are some I’ve learned over the years.  Ask, and a better life awaits you.

  • Why not me?
  • Why not now?
  • What more can I learn?  (What don’t I know, that I should know)
  • How can I provide more value to differentiate myself, my product or my company?
  • What can I learn from his/her success?
  • What does success look like?
  • What more can I do to help?
  • What do I want from life?
  • What can I say “NO” to?

What did you notice?

There is a strong pattern of “ownership” in this question pattern.  I could keep going, but instead I found this wonderful link on Forbes.  35 Questions That Will Change Your Life.   There are categories and I found the “Self Awareness” grouping the most insightful.  I really encourage you to dive into the list when you’re done reading.  There will be a couple “frying pan to the face” moments with at least two questions you read.  That’s what we’re looking for!

I ask three questions to myself and my wife frequently to evaluate who we are,  where we are, and where we’re going.  Life moves fast, and believe it or not people and goals change over the years.  Use these three question to reset your course, or provide better direction along your journey.

Three Powerful Questions For a Lifetime of Fulfillment:

  1. What are my world-class talents? (can’t have more than three) – WHO AM I?
  2. What achievements make me really happy, fulfilled, or satisfied? – WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING?
  3. What do I really want from life? – WHY?

The questions aren’t the hard part.  It’s the brutal honesty required in the answers and actions that sets believers apart from achievers.  Side note, if you really want a ton of money to buy expensive clothes and drive a Ferrari, be honest.  Do NOT lie about who you are or what you want.  It will either slow you down immensely or set you back.  Be honest and own it.

“Change the questions you ask yourself and change the direction of your life” – Tony Robbins

ACTION ITEM:  For me the art of asking the right questions is an acquired skill.  Skills are developed over time.  Personally I feel I’m a few levels away from my black belt in asking the right questions so I continue to practice.  Every day I try and change the angle of a conversation with a  better question.  Think first, then ask and don’t forget to listen.

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.


Find Your Dimmer Switch

Are the lights on?

I just got done listening to an Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast from John Lee Dumas (great podcast btw).  The guest was JD Roth, former owner of Get Rich Slowly and current blogger at More than Money.  JD’s response to one of John’s questions really hit me.  The question was, “can you please tell the fire listeners about a lightbulb moment you had?”

JD’s answer wasn’t what I thought I’d hear.  He said his lightbulb moment was more of a dimmer switch than a lightbulb.  It was a slow progression not an instant aha moment.  I believe more now than ever people are in desperate search of this aha moment.  They’re looking for the fastest way possible to make a million dollars or lose 50 lbs.  “Aha” means I figured it out and sold it in the same instance. Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.05.33 AM

Trouble is the world doesn’t work this way.   I hate to be your dream crusher, but “aha” isn’t realistic.  You may have a better chance of winning the lottery.  JD’s lesson was it’s going to take some focused effort and work.  Oddly enough the pursuit of his dream required patience.

Back to the lightbulb/dimmer switch.

I give an immense amount of thanks to Justin Wise (@justinwise) and his Think Digital blog.  My wife follows Justin’s sister on Iowa Girl Eats (an immensely successful food blog) and recommended I checked Justin out.  My dimmer switch was on.  The light was extremely dim, but the power was flowing to the light.

This step was what I’ll refer to later down the road as “ignition.”  It got me started.  I dove head first into Justin’s teachings and maybe more importantly his network.  I dug into his podcasts, I followed Casey Graham, and I got introduced to Pat Flynn on Twitter.  I link to each of these guys as they’ve provided me with a ton of value.  A TON! I don’t care if you’re interested in launching a blog, starting a business, or just getting deeper into the learning process.  These guys will help.

I’m learning more about business now from a multitude of different angles and business possibilities than the pervious five years combined.  I’m using their teaching here in my blog and with team’s in the office.  The results are simple.  A Keen Mind is growing by the day and I’m seeing great results in my professional life.

The dimmer switch analogy is terrific because it’s real life.  Not some fairly tale we’re bombarded with daily on social media.  It takes time, an immense effort, and more focused power to reward the light we’re all looking to achieve.

ACTION ITEM: The first thing I’d do is subscribe to John’s Entrepreneur On Fire podcast.  There are nearly 500 episodes with really great content available.  The second thing I’d do is take a hard look at your goals and your dimmer switch.  Is it on?  If not, START.  If it’s on, focus on the next steps you need to take to burn that light a little brighter!




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!


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.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 9.30.31 AM

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

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 5.55.34 PM

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!