Get Up & Get Going!

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“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” Aristotle

As I wrote about in The Secrets of Morning People Revealed, mornings are uniquely important in five distinct ways:

  1. Your willpower is at its highest
  2. Your mind is less scattered
  3. You’re less likely to be interrupted
  4. You increase the availability of time
  5. You start your day with a sense of accomplishment

If you’re going to change the world, you need to get up early. You’ll get more done and you’ll see unique, amazing, and wonderful things. So, get up and get going!

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3 Reasons Why the Struggle is More Important than the Goal

58733825_lI’m not a runner, but I ran six half-marathons once. Growing up in New England, it was always a dream to one day run the Boston Marathon but training for and running six half-marathons was all I needed to realize how difficult that would be. I learned that running is hard and running long distances is even harder. Although I only conquered the 13.1 mile race, I learn a lot about myself and what I could do if I didn’t quit.

“If you’re going through hell, keep on going. Don’t slow down, if you’re scared, don’t show it.” Rodney Atkins

The truth is, long distant running is not about bragging rights, personal records, t-shirts or race medals. It’s about challenging yourself to do something difficult. Most people see what happens on race day but they don’t witness the months of training and the hours spent grinding out the miles day after day. There is excitement the day you sign up for a race and the day you finish a race, but the real work and struggle is done in the middle.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Theodore Roosevelt

I have been reading Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and it has me thinking about the importance of the hard work in the middle of any difficult challenge and how it changes you. As an entrepreneur, I can fully relate. There is excitement in starting a new company and setting out on a new course. But, after the newness wears off, the hard work begins. Most people never see all the effort that goes into getting a new business off the ground and how it affects the people involved. Miller talks about this in a passage called “The Thing about a Crossing.”

It’s like this when you live a story: The first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative, and you’re finally out in the water; the shore is pushing off behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The distant shore doesn’t seem so far, and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of your boat and walking the distant beach. You think the thing is going to happen fast, that you’ll paddle for a bit and arrive on the other side by lunch. But the truth is, it isn’t going to be over soon. The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of the story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

As Miller suggests, the hard work in the middle of any difficult challenge is more important than the ending. There are three distinct reasons for this:

The struggle builds character. An easy life is one that doesn’t change you. Challenge brings about change. The struggle requires determination, courage, intensity and perseverance. Some days it takes everything to keep going especially when the end seems nowhere in sight. It’s those moments, like being on the ninth mile of a half marathon on a bridge in the cold, windy, pouring rain, that you find out who you are. If you don’t quit, you learn you can do amazing things.

The struggle builds relationships. As I wrote in 5 Reasons to Celebrate the Tough Times, persevering through a difficult challenge with a team or another person builds strong bonds that last a lifetime. When you suffer and struggle together, you build a defining moment in your relationship. You build mutual respect. You create a mental catalog of similar experiences. This is why I can instantly reconnect with shipmates from the Navy or the people I worked with during a difficult labor dispute. Donald Miller learned this while biking across the country with fifteen strangers. After the first three weeks of struggling, he said, “the pain bound us together.”

The struggle builds the story. Every great story has a hero’s journey. The main character must struggle and overcome a major obstacle or challenge. As an audience, we become endeared to the hero as he endures hardships and trials. This is the same with people and organizations. We are attracted to those who have faced trials and overcome. We appreciate the cancer survivor, the wounded veteran, and the entrepreneur who struggles for years to build a great company. We love stories like that of J.K. Rowling, who lived on welfare and struggled to get by as a single mother before she became the world’s most famous author. The tougher the story, the more people are interested in you.

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” Theodore Roosevelt

The thing is, if you find yourself in the middle of a struggle with seemingly no end in sight, you’re in a good place. The hard work in the middle of any difficult challenge is more important than the ending. You are growing as a person and learning what you are capable of. You are building your character and the relationships with the people around you. You are also building a story worth remembering. So, if you’re going through hell, don’t stop. Keep going.

What do you think? Have you experienced growth in the middle of a difficult challenge? How has that changed you as a person? If growth comes through a struggle, why do we always seek out a comfortable life? What does it take to become comfortable being uncomfortable? Let me know in the comment section below.

Everyone Can Help Give Veterans a Fighting Chance

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Photo Credit: Chris Davies, U.S. Navy Veteran

I remember the feeling I had stepping off the USS Tennessee for the last time. It was 1994, I was 26 years old, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. For the five years I served on active duty, the Navy pretty much told me what to do. They also taught me everything I needed to know to be a successful line officer on a nuclear submarine. What they didn’t teach me was how to transition to a civilian job.

I recall going to civilian job interviews and being asked questions I had no idea how to answer. Business jargon was a mystery to me. It was like I had been living on another planet for the past five years and, after seven deployments, I guess I had been. Luckily for me, I was hired by a company that was recruiting former nuclear naval officers. They understood my background and didn’t care that I knew very little about the job they needed me to fill.

I was also lucky to connect with several Navy veterans at my new company who mentored me and helped me make a successful transition to civilian life. As I said, I was lucky. But veterans shouldn’t have to rely on luck to be successful. For most veterans, making the transition to the civilian world is significantly more difficult than my experience. The biggest challenge they face is just finding a job.

As stated in my article Six Reasons You Need to Hire a Veteran Today, many companies pass over military veterans when reading resumes. The reason is they have both a lack of understanding as well as misconceptions about veterans. They often overlook veterans for key job openings because they don’t understand the work history and military terminology on the resumes of veterans. They also have misinformed assumptions of what veterans are like based on popular culture.

As a result, more than 340,000 veterans are out of work as of May 2017. Even though the unemployment rate for veterans has improved, there are still 340,000 Americans who have served their country with honor who can’t find a civilian job. Something has to change!

This is where organizations like the Foundation for VETS (Veteran Employment Transition Support) are stepping in to make a difference. They are helping veterans, employers, and the economy by working to reduce and remove barriers to civilian employment. One of the ways they do this is through intensive research that provides practical solutions to both veterans and employers alike.

This month, the Foundation for VETS launched a series of new studies to examine, and subsequently inform, the veteran employment transition landscape. This new research will answer many valuable questions including finding out what specifically are the most challenging aspects of the employment transition experience for veterans.

The great news is that everyone can help. The Foundation for VETS is looking for civilians, veterans, active-duty military, and human resource professionals to participate in an anonymous, 10-minute, online survey. This survey is being authored by four PhDs who are all professionals in the employment research space. The outcome of the research will lead to actionable solutions, not just services, for transitioning veterans.

If you are looking for a way to honor veterans and help in their transition, take 10 minutes and fill out this survey. Your input will be extraordinarily valuable.

What do you think? Did you take the survey? What do you feel are the greatest barriers to civilian employment for veterans? Why are there so many misconceptions about veterans? What can organizations like the Foundation for VETS do to help? Let me know in the comment section below.

Patton on Micromanagement

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“Keep on advancing… whether we go over, under, or through the enemy,” General Patton told his troops, and they did.

Under his leadership, the 3rd Army swept across France, crossed the Rhine and charged straight into the heart of Germany.  In 1945, his troops captured more than 10,000 square miles of enemy territory in one 10-day march. In the end, Patton and his Army achieved their mission of liberating Germany from the Nazi’s.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” George S. Patton

Like other great leaders, Patton understood he didn’t need to micromanage his troops to get them to do extraordinary things. A leader’s role is to cast the vision, set the goals, establish the boundaries, and get out of the way.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Too often, leaders think they need to know everything, direct every activity, and be involved in every decision. When you do that, it comes across that you don’t trust your team. You don’t think they are capable.  In the end, you are limiting the success of your team. They will only be as good as you are. You will never be surprised with their results.

What do you think? Have you worked for a micro-manager? What was that experience like? Was the team’s success limited? Do you have experience working with a visionary leader? What was that like? Did it frustrate you when they didn’t get involved in the details? Let me know in the comment section below.

The Secrets of Morning People Revealed

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For most of my life, I couldn’t stand morning people. They seemed so annoyingly happy. They got up early, they planned their day, they worked out and they always seemed to be in a good mood. I was the guy who maximized the snooze alarm, quickly got ready and rushed out the door with my extra-large cup of coffee. It was only until I tried getting up early that I learned their secrets.

“Love it or hate it, utilizing the morning hours before work may be the key to a successful and healthy lifestyle.” Jennifer Cohen

I must confess, I’m a convert. Where once I enjoyed staying up late and sleeping in, I now treasure my mornings. I understand why they are so important. Since I’ve started to get up early, I’ve had much more control over my life and I’m not the only one. According to research, morning people are more proactive and productive than night owls and tend to be more successful in their professional lives.

“On its own, waking up early isn’t a superpower or anything special. Its real power is that you gain access to the highest quality hours of the day.” Srinivas Rao

Why is that? Why is early rising a common trait found in many world leaders, successful CEOs and other influential people? Srinivas Rao suggests the main reason is that you are accessing the highest quality hours of the day. Early morning is a time when you can do deep work and focus on activities that add meaning to your life. He also points out that mornings are uniquely important in five distinct ways:

  1. Your willpower is at its highest
  2. Your mind is less scattered
  3. You’re less likely to be interrupted
  4. You increase the availability of time
  5. You start your day with a sense of accomplishment

“Most of the people spend their mornings running around trying to prepare for the day, and spend whatever is left of the day in much of the same way – in a rush.” Roxana Jones & Arnaud Saint-Paul

Successful people understand getting up early is essential because it sets a positive tone for the work day before it even starts. Jonathan Chan suggests this is because the entire day is in front of them. Night owls tend to be playing catch-up because most of the day is already gone by the time they get up. Instead of being super productive in the morning, they tend to be working to keep up with everything they wanted to do that day. They end up stressed, filled with anxiety and unable to fall asleep which continues the cycle.

“It’s simple: If you want to be more productive, get up early.” Ryan Holiday

I get up at 4:00 am every weekday. I know that sounds crazy but this is my favorite time of the day. Since my official work day starts at 8:00 am, this gives me four hours to prepare for the day. Here are six things I do every morning.

Serve. The first thing I do every morning is prepare the house for my family. I make coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I take out the trash and I organized the kitchen so it is neat and tidy when my family gets up.

Create. The morning is when I read the latest leadership and business articles from my favorite writers. I also write content for my blog. I find I am most creative first thing in the morning.

Think. I use the morning to visualize my week and my day. I try to think about the most important activities I need to get done.

Plan. I like to map out my day by looking at the key things I need to get done. I also know I’m most productive in the morning, so I put the most difficult tasks in my schedule before lunch.

Sweat. I enjoy working out in the morning and I look forward to my time in the gym. I have a home gym (which I highly recommend) so there is no excuse for not working out. I exercise for about an hour while watching the news. I accomplish two things through this, I burn calories and get up to speed on current events.

Learn. I have a long morning commute so I spend the time listening to leadership podcasts and audio books. I also record voice memos of the things I’m learning to journal them later in the day.

“If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.” Larry Page

I have gone from hating morning people to becoming one. Since converting, I have found I am more productive, organized and focused. I now start the day accomplishing big things like thinking, writing, planning, learning and working out. I feel like I am gaining extra hours in the day. While the world sleeps, I’m up getting things done. Being an early riser isn’t for everyone but it’s a practice I will continue for a long time.

What do you think? Have you become an early riser too? How has that changed your productivity and performance? What are some things you do in the morning? Can night owls be just as productive? Do sleep habits change as you get older? Let me know in the comment section below.