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Entries in success (4)

Friday
Apr262013

startitude

Some days are easier than others. And some days, it's like trying to drag a toddler out of a toy store. You still feel the love, but you'd rather be anywhere else. 

Days like that, it would be easy to roll your shoulders and say, "That's OK. I give it a good effort every other day. I can slack off this time." Maybe you're blocked. Maybe you're tired. Maybe you just have  nothing to offer.

Days like that come around more often than I'd like. This is one of them—a day when I've started this post three times, and even with a pretty good chunk of stuff written I've scrapped it because it wasn't honest or it wasn't my best work or it wasn't moving me forward. But then I think about why I do it, and that does tend to push me forward. 

My first and highest rule is to do what I do to glorify God. That ain't easy, especially in an age where friends and family may roll their eyes or condescend or flat out tell you that you're a nut for believing in this "God stuff." 

My second rule is to do what I do to help you. Yeah, you specifically. I pray about you, did you know that? I pray, before starting every one of these posts, that God will give me the words to glorify Him and to reach you. I want you to get something meaningful out of these posts, to take something away with you that makes your life better (even if just a smidge) and that you can spread around to the people you love, to help make their lives better, too. 

So if what I'm writing doesn't do both of those things, in my estimate, I scrap it and start over. And if I can't think of something that will meet both of those criteria, it can put me at a stand still. 

What I've discovered, though, is that if I start the work in honesty and earnestness and with those goals in mind, it tends to form itself despite me. Yeah, I may scrap the work a few times. I may have to shift and go in a different direction. But the work is still there. It still makes its entrance.

One of the most important things you can do to be successful and accomplish your goals is to start. To try, to push through when it's hard. This isn't new advice, right? You've heard this before. I have, God knows. Every day, practically. Start. Try. Push. 

You have to actually have a goal, of course. You have to have a direction. But if you don't take a step, even if it's the wrong step in the wrong direction, goals tend to be dreams more than reality. Moving from dream to reality takes action.

You may go backwards for a while. That happens, and it can be frustrating. But when you know where you're trying to go you can more easily judge whether an action is a step in the right direction or just a wrong turn. You can correct course easier and faster. And sometimes, going in the wrong direction for a bit gives you a chance to see things from a new perspective, to appreciate the journey more, to learn something knew you can bring to the game.

This morning started off as a tough one for me, just because I didn't know what I should actually write about. But once I started, and restarted, I found that I had a message after all. I had part of the story to tell. I could move forward.

Know where you want to go. Know when you need to be there. Know why you want to make the journey. Map out a route. And then take a step. Start moving, and even if your destination changes along the way you'll have a whole lot of new experiences and accomplishments under your belt, teaching you new ways of thinking and giving you new tools for dealing with the next challenge you encounter.

Like "What should I blog about today?"

Monday
Apr222013

succesification

I read a lot of books about leadership and success. I also read a lot of "self help" books, geared mostly toward changing the way you think and behave. I read tons of biographies and case studies. I may or may not read more of these things that you, but I like my odds. 

The thing is, it's not like I started reading these over the weekend. I've spent years reading about ways to improve myself, in every avenue of life. And yet, for the longest time, even though I knew a lot about how to reshape my life into what I wanted it to be, I spent a great deal of my time doing and being the opposite of what I wanted.

Why?

There's a pretty simple answer to that, and it's one that makes me want to *head desk.* The fact is, reading tons of books about leadership and success and personal growth is a wonderful tool for getting your brain in gear and learning how to better yourself. But nothing you read is going to matter one bit until you DO SOMETHING.

The secret ingredient for success is action.

It took me a long time to get to that idea, even though I can specifically remember saying it, even as far back as my early 20s. I knew, even then, that knowing something wasn't enough. Acting on what you know is what gets you past ho-hum and into ho-boy!

Goal setting is another area where I've always fallen short. Every single book you read about leadership or sucess of personal growth tells you to write down your goals and revisit them often. I've written down goals over the years, but never really focused on them. I never revisited them. So what good were they? Until I'm ready to review those goals and take action on them, the answer is "not a lot."

As part of goal setting, I've read a lot about creating a "vision board." This is sort of a visual cue for your goals. You create a space where you can hang magazine clippings and photographs and small visual things that remind you of what you're trying to achieve in all areas of your life. Pictures of cars or houses you'd like to own, the physical fitness you'd like to achieve, careers you'd like to get into into. It seems strange, and the idea has been co-opted by some from the "new age" set, but the truth is vision boards are simple marketing in action.

I work in marketing. I know from experience that if you can get someone to identify with your product or service on a personal level, to connect to it through as many senses as possible, they are going to be far more likely to buy it. Ad campaigns use photos and video of happy people doing fun things, whether or not those have anything to do with the product itself, so that you can start to associate the product with "the good life." How often have you seen a commercial for a medication that never actually shows the medication? Instead you see happy, healthy people surfing and mountain climbing and playing in a park with friends and family. Message: "If you use this medication, your life will be as good as this one is." 

So having a vision board is like creating a marketing campaign for your own "product," your life. Set your goals, and then reinforce those goals by creating a vision board—your own "marketing campaign"—so that you are constantly giving yourself the message, "If I work toward my goals, I'll have the life I want."

The other side of this is adjusting as you go

Sometimes you think an action will lead to achieving your goal, but discover that things don't quite work the way you intended. Because life is inherently unpredictable, you have to be open to trying a new tactic when you don't get the result you want. Study what someone else is doing, through books and films, to get a result you'd like to have, and try it their way. If it doesn't work out the way you intended, study someone else, take what you learn, and try again. Measure what works and what doesn't, and adjust course until you get the result you want

The final bit is a piece of advice for getting where you want to go is something I actually fight with folks over. Seriouslythey see this as so profound, so revolutionary, so insane, they can't believe it would ever work in millions years. I hesitate even to give you this secret, for fear you'll scoff and never believe me again. But here goes. Deep breath ...

If you want something, ask for it.

See? Told you it was radical. Some people have been known to hear this advice and run, screaming "heretic!" all the way. 

But the truth is, most of the time we could easily have exactly what we want in our lives if we'd just take a chance and ask for it. I have seriously put this into effect in my own life. I ask for a better deal in stores. I ask if I can have something for free. I ask for a better position or a pay raise. 

The biggest barrier? Overcoming the sense that I'm somehow being offensive by asking for what I want. We are so accustomed to just taking what we get, accepting every price, accepting every offer as "the price, the offer," it actually offends our sensibilities when someone asks, out plain, for what they want! If you can get over that irrational fear, you'll find yourself getting more and more of what you want out of life. 

Sometimes, all it takes is to ask and you'll get it. Other times, you'll get a counter offer, which is equally as good. The guy at the store says, "You can't have it for the price you want, but if you bring in a coupon from online or come in next week you can get it on sale." Your boss says, "You can't have a raise, but if you give me a sales goal and meet or beat it in three months I'll raise your salary." Counter offers let you know the "rules" for getting what you want, and knowing those rules lets you map out the steps to acheiving your goal. See how that worked out? 

There's actually a Biblical grounding for asking for what you want:

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

Matthew 7:7-11

Ask, search, knock. Sounds like action steps to me. Success in any part of your life requires you to take action and go out and find it.

Everyone wants a formula for success. Turns out the Bible has had one all along. But it helps to have things broken down for us into easy, step-by-step chunks. So I've worked up a formula that may be helpful:

Goal setting + Education + Reinforcement + Ask For What You Want + Taking Action + Adjusting Course  = Get the outcome you want

I think this is pretty simple. And I'm seeing results from applying this formula in my own life. But here's a little extra bit, a multiplier, that will accelerate and even exponentially increase the results you get from the formula:

Get the outcome you want X Glorfiy God in all you do = Get more than you ever dreamt possible!

Success isn't really that hard to achieve. Yes, it can be hard work to get the exact result you want, but the process is simple and straight forward. God wants more for you than just success, though. He wants to multiply your success, and give you a life above and beyond your own intentions. God has an intended life for you that is levels and levels above what you intend for yourself. So take action, but take action that glorfies Him. You'll find your success multiplying daily. 

That's math even I like. 

Monday
Apr082013

failureocity

You are a complete and utter failure. Me too, actually.

Ain't it great? Wow! What freedom! What a wonderful gift! Can you believe that we ... err ... some of you have that "look" on your  face. OK, let me back up a bit.

A while back I was thinking about my life. Mostly I was thinking, "Wow. I really haven't accomplished anything worthwhile, have I? And I'm overweight. And I'm in debt. And I tend to make some bad choices. I'm pretty sure God's unhappy with me."

Best. Thought process. EVER.

Because it was around that time I started to realize I have to actually change something if I want to live the life I want to live, and that God intended me to live.

Haven't accomplished anything worthwhile? Did I plan to do anything worthwhile?

Overweight? Was I adjusting my diet, and was I exercising more often?

In debt? Was I improving my financial education and making to changes to how I think about and manage money?

Bad choices? Was I learning from them, and consciously deciding not to repeat them?

God's unhappy with me? Can I blame Him? What have I done to please Him? What have I done to glorify Him? What have I done to be obedient to Him?

Thank God I finally woke up. I spent the first 40 years of my life vacillating about right and wrong, about wealth and poverty, about health and sickness, about all the aspects of my life I was unhappy with, and whether or not I was unhappy enough to CHANGE THEM. 

I wasn't. Or rather, I was, but I wasn't willing to change them. I hadn't made the decision to make changes in my life. I hadn't asked God to change me, because I was afraid of the pain that would come with change. But above all, I was afraid of failing.

Thing is, I actually made a thinking error right from the start. See, I made this assumption that God was unhappy with me based on the fact that I was unhappy with me. And sure, maybe God would have preferred I make better choices. Maybe He was displeased with the choices I was making. But "unhappy" is a long way from "not loving," which is how I was thinking of it. I was thinking, "I haven't done anything to earn God's love."

Brrrrt. WRONG! Back to zero. Re-read the rules. You are playing the wrong game. No wonder you're losing!

God may well be unhappy about your life and your choices. But that isn't the same as not loving you. He loves you, no matter what, because He made you to be loved. He sent Christ as a sacrifice, the embodiment of God and man, to die in our place for the evil and sin in our lives, and to be reborn to prove God's power over evil and sin and death. He did that so that He could just love us, straight up, without us having to do a thing to "earn it." 

We do not have to earn God's love. We have it. We do not have to earn God's forgiveness. We have it. We have only to accept Christ as the guiding force in our lives, the strength in our hearts, the rule for how we think and behave and decide. All of that, it's what Christ came here to make available to us.

And we fail.

Oh yeah, we fail. Big time. We lust. We envy. We lie. We steal. We cheat. We experience wrath and anger. We are gluttonous. If you don't fall somewhere in that list, I bet we can dig for a bit and find something that applies to you. Because we fail. It's what we do.

And God knows that. And He's OK with it. He loves you "even though."

That phrase has special meaning for me and my wife, Kara. When we were planning our wedding, our minister sat with us to counsel us about marriage and the decision we were making. And when he wrote our vows, he included something in them that he had brought up during those sessions. "God loves you even though." Even though you sin. Even though you become angry. Even though you doubt or disbelieve. Even though you fail. God loves you even though.

Look, we're all falling on our faces, all the time. It's going to happen. You should try your best to avoid it, try to make changes, try to be a better steward of the gifts God has given you. But you're going to fail sometimes. It's part of the package. 

God loves you, even though.

And God is your only way to improve. It starts by asking him to change you.

I recommend reading Lord Change Me, by James MacDonald. I first encountered this book when I started attending Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, and it was a great start for changing my life to the glory of God. It offers very practical advice and a structure for asking God to change your life, and for turning away from the sin that has dominated you in the past. 

Short version: Ask God to change you. Repent (turn away) from the sin in your life by proclaiming, "I'm dead to that. And Christ is alive in me." And act on what you know to be good while avoiding what you know to be sin. 

You're going to fail. God knows I do, every day. And when you fail, your first impulse will be to feel an overwhelming guilt and shame. Go ahead. Feel it. Then pray a sincere apology to God, and start again with "Lord, change me." Make the request every time you fall, and make your best effort to die to sin and live in Christ. The effort is worth a lot.

Failing does not make you a failure. In the end, every failure is just a chance to learn and grow and become stronger and better than before. When you pick up and keep going, the failures in your wake become the steps you climb to reach new heights. God is waiting for you at the top, but he's also walking along beside you, to help you get to where you're going. Trust that. Trust that even in failure, God has your back. 

You are amazing. God made you, so you know it's true. 

Friday
Mar292013

hopeitude

I was reading Following Your Bliss, Right off the Cliff on the New York Times website. Long and the short of it, "Following your dreams is risky and sometimes you fail." 

Duh. But yeah, it's true and it's something to think about during the planning process for your business (or your side business, or your community program, or wherever your dreams fit in the scheme of things). Sometimes the dream isn't enough.

There's some science in this article, about the part of the brain that controls worry and the pain that comes from it. And to overcome that physiological reactionso that we can take action and attempt to make our dreams come true, despite the risk of pain and failurewe feel hope.

I love this line from the article:

As paradoxical as it sounds, [Michael Derring] said, “If you stop worrying about the outcomes, you will achieve a better outcome.”

Stop worrying about the outcomes? Yikes! Most of the time, it seems like "worrying about the outcomes" is all we do! But there's a sweet sort of logic here.

The article is more or less saying, "Don't let your emotions become invested in the business." Don't put your self-worth on the line for a shoe store or an auto shop or a novel. If you fail, you'll believe you are the failure. But that's not how failure works. A person isn't a failure. Only actions can be failures. A person is a decision-making, action-taking, hope-and-faith-having machine. We make decisions, we take action, we have hope and faith that it will work out. And if it doesn't ...

If you approach a business or any other endeavor with the attitude that, should it fail, it isn't the end of the world, you can pick up and recover, you're chances of success actually increase. You're willing to take more risks, for starters, and risk is the price of momentum. You may take actions you wouldn't have taken before, in a more cautious mindset, and those actions lead to results, and those results may end up bringing you increased benefits. Or they may blow up and fade out. It happens.

From a financial standpoint, this is why you want to be smart about the way you invest in a business. Make the decision early on to stay away from debt. Take on investors, but don't take on loans. Investors know that they're taking a risk, and that it may not make a return. Lenders don't care either way if you succeed or fail, they expect repayment with interest and they'll try to destroy you if you don't follow through. Investors empower, lenders enslave. 

Trust me on this one ... I'm enslaved to a lot of lenders at the moment.

From a spiritual standpoint, this is why you want to ensure that your business is built to glorify God. God likes it when we do things that are empowering, that build something that brings good into the world. Staying focused on God's Ultimate Rule—Love your neighbor as you love yourself—means you're doing everything right. You won't have to worry about mistakes coming back to bite you in the ... assets. The business may fail, due to a lack of demand or bad timing or myriad other reasons, but it won't take you with it. 

So what happens after failure? Learning. This is the point where you pray and ask for wisdom. "Show me, Lord, where it went wrong. Show me how I can pick up and start again. Show me how to change my plan and build something that glorifies you." God never denies the request for wisdom. He just requires you to commit some brain power and effort to it.

This article ... I'm on the fence about it. I get a real "don't pursue your dreams because they're risky" vibe from it. But there are points made that are more encouraging. Hope—that's a good message. So read it as a cautionary tale. Have hope, but also have a plan. Have a goal, but don't worry about the outcome. Invest, but don't enslave yourself to the dream. You belong to a greater power than dreams.