Response-Ability?

I’m reminded today that responsibility is really just response-ability.

Problems will rise up. Inconveniences will happen. You and I can’t control much around us, but we can control our response to those things. So here’s a trick.

When something goes wrong, ask yourself ‘how much of this am I willing to take responsibility for?’ 50% of it? 80%? 💯?

Because when you take 💯 responsibility, you have 💯 response ability. It may not be your FAULT, but it can be within your ABILITY to change it. But ONLY if you have response-ability.

For example, say I lose my job this year. It’s a tough time and things are terrible. So, how much response-ability am I going to take to change the outcome. Again, I’m not taking fault or blame… I’m only deciding not to see myself as a victim and take 100% response-ability in the outcome. I can simply decide that I have the ability to respond in the best possible way. I have the response-ability going forward to learn and grow and change the outcome of an otherwise terrible situation.

If I can do that, I am no longer a victim.

Here’s the downside: If I don’t take response-ability, I don’t have any power to change my situation or solve the problem. I’m at the mercy of another person, another company, another entity that doesn’t have my best interests in mind. And why would I do that?? Why would I give control of my one-and-only life to someone or something that doesn’t have my best future at the top of their priority list?

My encouragement to you is this: when life comes at you, when problems come (because they will), hold on to faith and hope. And take 100% response-ability to adapt and overcome. To learn. To grow. To serve. Make it your mantra to respond to struggle with the words, “I have 100% response ability in this situation.”

It could just change the trajectory of your life.

#impactivist#tgim#thankgoditsmonday

My Top 12 Books for 2020

The #1 lesson I learned in 2020 is this: Life is a game of inches.

For me, that meant doubling-down on the number of books I read this year and being SUPER intentional about what I put into my mind. Out of the 24 books I read (or re-read), here are my Top 12 in no particular order. As always, I’d love to know YOUR favorites.

  1. Ragamuffin Gospel , Brennan Manning. (I read this one every January)
  2. Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek.
  3. Can Hurt Me, David Goggins.
  4. Becoming Bulletproof, Evy Pompouras.
  5. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How To Lose Your Mind And Create A New One, Joe Dipenza.
  6. High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Became That Way, Brendon Bruchard. (I’ll re-read this one every year for a while… )
  7. Atomic Habits, James Clear.
  8. Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, Tim Grover.
  9. Braving The Wilderness: The Quest For True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brené Brown.
  10. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson.
  11. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcom Gladwell
  12. The 5am Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life. Robin Sharma. Definitely one of my TOP favorites!

What are YOURS?? What did you read this year that changed your life?

Reckless Optimism

Realism = Optimism

Like most of us, I’ve been called lots of things. Some good, some terrible, and some were just well-intentioned… but hurtful. People I looked up to used to call me a dreamer. But the more perspective I get in the world, I’ve begun to see I’m actually a REALIST. 

The reality is you find whatever you’re looking for. You know the whole ‘seek and you shall find’ thing? It’s legit. And when I’m frustrated and focused on crappy things (or people) in the world, you know what I find? More crap. More frustration. More things for me to feel superior over. 

But when I focus on all the good things, the amazing people, the blessings… EVERYTHING changes. The REALITY becomes that I get to see everything else around me that’s filled with beauty and wonder and goodness. Not 0nly does it change my outlook and the way I treat/see people, it changes the actual chemistry in my brain and body. 

So, I’ve decided to practice reckless optimism. I still believe most people are good, that I have a million more things to be thankful for than to complain about, and that as Impactivists we can take charge of our own lives and have an impact on others’. 

I know this is long, but if you’re still reading… I’m proud of you. Keep going. Love those around you with no strings attached. Give without expecting anything in return, and dance like no one’s watching. (They’re all on their phones anyway…)

Broken Heart. Clear Vision.

You feel me??

Who’s with me on this? You know those moments when you look back and think, “That sucked at the time… but I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t have to work thru all that mess..”? 

Jobs. Relationships. Friends. Or people you thought were your friends. Financial struggles. And even just tough seasons in life… it can knock you to your knees. 

I know it’s tough. But if you can see those struggles as a GIFT, everything changes. (Life doesn’t happen TO you, it happens FOR you.) Remember that those things are what made you strong. Those are the times you grew string muscles and a clear vision of who you wanted to become… 

The heartbreak sucks. The struggle sucks. The frustration and anger suuuuuuuucks. 

But you’ve survived 100% of your worst days so far. And watching people (especially our Impactivist group) interact with each other, encourage each other, and be vulnerable with each other is an amazing thing. It’s proof we’re onto something valuable in our little tribe.

And it’s proof of HOPE among all the craziness of 2020.

Thank you for sharing your lives with each other, and with me. Have a beautiful weekend!

Don’t Feed The Fears

Just some honesty here… I remember being (literally) laughed at by a best friend when I told him I wanted to be a songwriter and make a record. As a kid, I took that embarrassment and stuffed it down and didn’t tell ANYONE for years (even though I kept writing songs in my journal). I was so afraid of what people thought about me. (Any other people-pleasers reading this?)

Before he laughed at me, other family members told me it was foolish. A pastor chastised me. I thought, “If the people who know and love me most think it’s a ridiculous dream… then it must be.”

So it was 20+ years later before I released my first song on iTunes. Such a simple thing. So liberating. And so terrifying.

We all struggle with fear. We all tend to give too much attention to the voices that tell us why things CAN’T be done. Why you’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough… Some of those voices come from the people closest to us. And some of those voices are like ghosts in our own heads… leftover words spoken into us years and years ago.

In case you need to hear it today, fear is a thief. And once you stop feeding it, it will die.

So if you’re up for a challenge, I’d love for us to share our fears with each other. (YIKES!) What’s something .. one seed of a thing, that’s been put in your heart, that you’ve been afraid to do? Afraid to say out loud? Afraid to try? Is it too big? Too small? Too silly? Too irresponsible? Too grandiose? Trust me, I’ve said it all to myself…

Is there a fear you need to stop feeding? How can we help each other here?

(If you don’t want to share it here, you can join the private Impactivist group where we’re getting into details with this.. )

15 Ways To Say No

Saying the 14th and 15th letters of the alphabet is hard. In order to keep performing at your best and producing your best work, you and I have to become disciplined at saying no to the wrong things– even if they are ‘good’ things– so we can say yes to great things. I discovered just how insanely valuable it is to learn to say them while writing my book, Unleashing Your Creativity. If not for this lesson, I’d have died a slow and miserable death of overwhelm and over-commitment.

How do you learn to say no to people, friends, colleagues… without feeling guilty? Feeling like you’re letting someone down? Or without sounding like a jerk?

Easy. Peasy.

Just save this handy-dandy graphic I came up with, hang it where you’ll see it daily, and randomly pick a response that’s easy, painless, and works in your favor. (And when all else fails, you can blame it on me.)

What would you add to the list?

Working From Home, Tip #10: Less Meetings

Am I crazy here??

This is going to get me on someone’s blacklist. I just know it. But the last one in our list is the most important one of all: Do everything you can to schedule less meetings.

I’ll say it again for the people in the back: Do everything in your power to schedule less meetings.

In a lot of places, meetings tend to be the junk drawer of office life. If something’s on your mind, add it to the agenda and we’ll cover it in our meeting. Ever find yourself thinking, “What would I have done today if I didn’t have that meeting? What project would I have worked on? What could I have produced?”

I know I’m going to get push-back on this. I know it’s controversial. I’m not saying we should never have meetings. What i am saying is that 90% of all meetings can be reduced to an email or a phone call. I’m saying instead of blocking an hour for a meeting—-why did we arbitrarily schedule meetings in hour-long blocks anyway??— only block 15 minutes. Give everyone 2 minutes to hear the problem or the issue we’re trying to solve, and 13 minutes to come up with 5 solutions. Then spend the rest of the day testing the solutions. There’s no wasted time. The energy level is high and the output becomes productive.

Think about it this way: Lets say you call an afternoon meeting that involves 10 people. ten is an easy number to do math with, so lets say 10. And each of those 10 people makes an average of $80k a year in salary. So for a 3-hour meeting, you’re paying more than $1100 for them to sit and talk.

That might be a great investment if the results of that meeting produces a revenue of more than $1100 dollars. Until you gain an ADDITIONAL $1100, you haven’t made your money back from sitting in just that one meeting.

Especially when it comes to longer meetings, I’d challenge you to begin to ask “Is there something else we could be doing for 3 hours that might produce better results?

Maybe it’s a 15-minute meeting, followed by 2 hours and 45 minutes of focused effort? Maybe it’s a 30 minute meeting followed by 2 ½ hours of research and testing?

Research shows that fewer meetings generally lead to greater productivity. Many meetings generally don’t move the needle forward or get things done that couldn’t be done with a phone call or email.

Oh… this is going to be controversial. People are going to say, “well, we’re working from home now.. don’t i have to check in on everyone and get their status report and have zoom calls?”

Well.. maybe. Or maybe not? Maybe it depends. A lot of us have been working from home for a while now. How’s that working? Has productivity gone up? Or down? Are you more motivated and excited about your work? Or less?

When we’re first forming our teams, sure! Go for it! Get those zoom calls, get those conference calls, get everyone on the same page… but as things move forward, don’t fall into the trap that everyone has fallen into for years, which is thinking that ‘more meetings’ necessarily means ‘more productivity’. It doesn’t… in almost everything that’s EVER been studied. EVER.

It’s important to only do meetings that absolutely move the needle forward. Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe it’s worth a shot.

What do you think?? Have I gone completely crazy here?

Working From Home, Tip #9: A Hard Break

Tip #9 is short and simple. But, for some reason, hard for me to be consistent with.

Take a significant afternoon break.

Why? Because research shows when people work at home, they tend to work later, contrary to popular myth.

Maybe during the work day, you had to get out and run some errands, or pick up kids, or throw in some laundry. It’s just life. As a result, your work day runs into the evening more often. Instead of leaving your office at a designated time to commute home, you may end up working later into the evening– even after you break for dinner– and never really unplug.

Guilty. As. Charged.

I find that when I take a significant afternoon break, I can finish the workday strong without feeling guilty when I quit for the evening. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking 20-30 minutes to connect with my wife or kids. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk. Or squeeze in a quick workout. Or play with the dogs. Or take a nap.

Lately, I’ve scheduled a 3pm alarm on my phone, Monday thru Friday. When it goes off, I take my break. Squeeze in a quick walk. Some vinyasa. Or time with the family. That way, when I come back at 3:30, I can finish out the next 2 1/2 hours strong.

Try it! Set an alarm. Take a 20-30 minute break and go for a walk. Or a nap. Or, if possible, some playtime with the kids. You have my permission to take an extended, guilt-free moment to recharge and refresh. I promise, you’ll finish out the day stronger and more creative than if you’d plowed through it feeling fatigued. Nothing great ever comes from fatigue.

And those around you deserve your greatness.

Working From Home, Tip #8: Email and Social Media

Email and social media is a never-ending game. When writing Unleashing Your Creativity, I felt so snowed under by email. I discovered it was like playing Whack-A-Mole: I could keep swinging the hammer all day long and never really accomplish anything. I’d work a while, then ‘take a break’ and check my email. Then I’d get caught up in a rabbit hole of replies, responses, projects and unsolicited spam. Instead of recharging and clearing my head, I’d end up more frustrated and creatively wiped out. Then I’d trudge back to working on my book, scattered and less creative than before. Ugh.

So, I changed the rules. Unless I’m waiting for a specific email response to something, I only check email twice per day now.

Social media is the same way. Unless I’m doing research or business-related activities I only set aside certain times of the day to ‘just see’ what’s going on on social media.

And let’s be honest, if you wanna keep your mental health in check, some of you need to severely limit the time you’re spending trolling social media. With so much political and racial upheaval going on, you might need to take a break for a while and get your mind right.

(Or, at the very least, make sure the types of social media conversations you’re having are positive, inspirational ones like the Impactivist Group.

I think of email and social media as ‘playing Whack-A-Mole because it just never stops. No matter how many emails you delete, they keep on coming. Every time you respond to one, it’s like it’s an invitation for the recipient to send you another one. So I only check it once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. Rarely will I check it multiple times during the day unless I’m looking for something specific to a deadline or a project.

Reality Check: A lot of people check email and social when they don’t know what else to do. Amirite? Or amirite?

The beautiful things I’ve learned about email specifically are these:

  1. It’s never an emergency. No matter how persuasively it’s written it is or how it makes you feel, it’s not. If it were, you’d have gotten a phone call or a knock on the door.
  2. Don’t ever read it unless I’m going to deal with it. Either take action on it, respond to it, delegate it, or delete it. Don’t waste energy pretending to deal with it over and over until you finally hit the delete button. Do it and move on.
  3. If I set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening to ONLY focus on emails, I can keep my inbox under control and not play Whack-A-Mole. I can get my life back.

Bonus Tip: Since there are no real emergency emails, when I used to receive something out of the blue from a colleague or business partner that says, “Hey, Tom! I need X…. and I have to have it by noon”, or something similar, it generally made me feel anxious. Stressed. Even resentful at times. So, I adapted this response from mentor and coach Brendon Bruchard, and simply copy-and-paste it from a document on file, and send it guilt free. It simply says:

Dear ________.

Thank you so much for your request. As you can imagine, I receive lots of requests each month and the tasks or projects I’m currently involved in this week were scheduled weeks or months ago. I’m sure you understand that I have to do my best to honor those commitments that were made long before your request today.

Can you give me the absolute drop-dead deadline on this? Like, the day in which, if you don’t have it, we will all lose our jobs, our children will starve in the street, the world will descend into economic chaos and zombies will take over our city? Please let me know that date, and I’ll be happy to see if there’s a way I can honor your request.

Thank you so much!

With gratitude

Tom

I’m not even kidding.

And I’ve even gotten some replies back that say something like, “Oh… lol! It’s cool, man. I know you’re busy. How about by the 15th?”

And at that point, I’m excited to help because I can deliver my best without losing control of my life. And I’m not playing a losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

P.S. Feel free to copy and paste my email into your own as an experiment. What’s the worst that could happen??

Working From Home, Tip #7: Meal Prep

I need help with this one. I’ve never been one of those Sunday-afternoon-cook-and-cut-and-seal-and-label-it-all-for-the-week kind of guys. It’s never been my jam.

Ooohhh… and I love jam. And waffles. And Oreos. Sometimes, all in the same meal.

And working in an office, I can (more) easily pack something healthy or run grab something semi-nutritious within a few blocks. Borking from home? Fuggadaboutit. A lot of days I look up from my desk and it’s like 2 in the afternoon and I’m starving. Like, I look up and go, “wow! I didn’t eat any lunch…. or any breakfast!” I think to myself, “Oh my gosh, I could literally eat a baby whale right now”.

So I go to the kitchen and don’t think about what’s best for me to eat. I’m not thinking about nutrition and protein and vitamins. I’m thinking ‘what can I shove into my mouth right now?’.

So I go to the pantry and end up eating crap in the middle of the afternoon. Way too many carbs or super highly processed food. Basically junk. I might grab a bag of chips and a handful of Oreos and a Dr. Pepper… then back to work.

So then I end up feeling like crap. My mind is foggy from all the sugar. I’m in this carb coma because all the blood from my brain has rushed to my belly to help with digestion. I’m sleepy and a little cranky… then i get frustrated at myself because I know I should make better choices… so I start beating myself up and feeling like a failure, so my self worth takes a hit, and now my motivation to do my best work is completely in the toilet.

Ugh.

Anybody else every get caught in that spiral?

So meal prep, or at least preparing my snacks, has been hugely important. Not so much prepping all my meals for the week, but being conscious about having healthy snacks on hand (veggies, nuts, yogurt) and eating a sensible lunch.

And NO sodas. NO cookies. NO sugar. NO truckloads of overly processed carbs.

Dr. Mark Hyman talks about the fact that food isn’t just calories, it’s data. Your body takes in food as information. So whatever you eat ‘programs’ your body to act or perform in a certain way. I’m not saying you have to give your body the same ultra high performance foods that a world class marathoner or body builder would need, but you need to be aware that the food you put in your mouth, not only affects your body. It affects your brain. Your mood. Your attitude. Your energy. And your productivity.

And who wants to feel like crap all afternoon and then spend time with your family all grumpy and groggy and in a bad mood? That’s not how I want to show up for the people I love the most.

So being intentional about keeping healthy foods in the house has made a huge difference. Again… it’s common sense. But not common practice. And it really can be life-changing.

And as I said at the top… I’m not great at this. I could use some help getting better. Do you have any tips that work for you? What kinds of foods (data) are you putting into your body that seem to be helping?