Now that we’re through Christmas, and with 2021 firmly in our sights, I wanted to reveal my guiding phrase for the new year: Week In, Weak Out.
A Quick Year in Review
For many of us, 2020 has provided some tremendous growth opportunities. The changing world of remote work has given us commute time back while adding the stress of working around children.
The political discord in our country has given us the opportunity to listen and empathize with others.
The ongoing quarantine has revealed just how much we were wired for community, social gatherings, and physical contact.
Along the way of each of these national and global issues, have been the individual issues of our own stories.
Some of my personal notes from this year include:
Helping business owners transition to the quickly changing world of HR needs in the midst of a pandemic and forced shutdowns.
The selling of one house and the purchase of another.
Home renovation projects (here’s looking at you broken water pipes!).
Cancelled vacations, family visits, and social gatherings.
Kids entering puberty and leaving toddlerhood.
Elise starting a new job and her master’s program
All of this has revealed to me some of my next growth opportunities. As a success-oriented high achiever, I need my life to be at peak performance.
My guiding phrase for 2021 to help me achieve that is to get better: Day In, Day Out, Week, Weak Out.
Future Growth Opportunities
2021 presents the next great growth opportunity.
Already, my coaching schedule is filling up. The new year always brings new challenges, HR laws, marketing campaigns, and growth strategies. Business owners are looking to turn the page on 2020 and start fresh in 2021. To help them (and all success-oriented leaders) I need to be at my best.
Leaders are hurting. Many are hurting. Most are facing burnout. All are tired.
Helping leaders stay healthy is why I started coaching in the first place, for me to do that well, I need to be healthy myself.
Here are some of my next growth opportunities in the new year:
Read and implement the knowledge from 100 books.
Take an extended work-free family vacation.
Help 100 business owners grow and expand their businesses.
Take Elise on a date at least once a month.
Some of these goals are continued extensions of daily habits, some are drastic increases in my thinking and mindset.
One personal project, however, is consuming a large portion of my time and mental space. It is the main thrust of my idea to grow Week In and Weak Out.
One of the biggest failures American society has done for men is to provide significant and meaningful markers for manhood. We’ve largely left our boys to figure out puberty, manhood, emotional maturity, and personal development to themselves.
I decided to do something about it, starting with my own kids.
Starting at age 8, and continuing every three years until age 21, each of my boys will take a trip with me where we talk about growing into responsible manhood.
For my oldest son, that starts this year. We’re taking a trip to talk about his coming puberty, self-care and hygiene, service towards others, mindset, and selfless love.
Each and every trip will build on the last. We will spend time in the wilderness, examining what it means to be a well-rounded man.
The only way I can help him do that (and any others that join our journey) is to first work on myself.
Habits, routines, and discipline are built in the daily execution of small, repeatable, success steps.
Day In. Day Out. Week In. Weak out.
That’s how we grow. Every day, do something to get better. The next day, repeat that task and do something else. Next week, you’ll notice a small improvement. Soon, you’ll notice your weaknesses leaving.
Grit is stronger.
Compassion is amplified.
But only through consistent and deliberate attention. Done every day.
Day In. Day Out. Weak In. Weak Out.
I’ll be posting about this journey constantly. To keep up to date, find out more, and be a part of the journey, click any of the links below.
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If I ever find my eyes wandering aimlessly over my computer for more than five minutes, I know something is wrong. That’s when I tell myself: create, define, act.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to know how I fit so much in. A partial answer is that I use the Full Focus Planner. Over the last several years of use, that continues to be a big reason. I schedule everything meticulously.
But there’s another truth at work. Deeper magic, if you will. I mean deeper magic much in the same way C.S. Lewis does in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the book, after Aslan’s death and resurrection, the lion is explaining to Susan and Lucy how he was able to come back to life. He explains that in many ways, the witch was right. The circumstances dictated that a sacrifice be made. The witch, operating under the belief of how ‘magic’ works in the world knew that the laws had to be accounted for.
But, Aslan explains, there is deeper magic at work. Something that the witch knows nothing about. She doesn’t know about it, because it was created before her. The laws of deeper magic were in place long before the witch arrived on the scene. The magic that the witch knew about (the laws of the universe) were satisfied and yet, a deeper magic freed Aslan from the curse of death.
The Full Focus Planner is great. There’s a reason I’ve used it for the last three years and will continue to use it, but tools are only as good as those using them.
If all I own is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
If I have a security system but never turn it on, it will fail to protect my home and family when it’s needed.
Having a planner and failing to use it isn’t any better than not having a planner at all.
Over the last several years of using the planner, I’ve noticed that I’m still ineffective at times. To remedy this, I had to set up a new ritual that helped me get back on track.
I noticed that at certain moments of the day, I’d lose efficiency and productivity. This wasn’t failure based on exhaustion or overwork. Instead, it was because I lacked a proper plan. I knew I had things to do, but didn’t know how to go about doing them. Instead, I’d spend time looking at social media, scouring the depths of YouTube, or looking for new dad jokes.
None of which will help me reach my goals.
To change the drift, I created the ritual to create, define, act whenever I feel myself veering off course.
That mantra has helped me get back on track with my goals, accomplish meaningful and significant tasks, and free my mind to focus on my work.
Now, telling myself to create, define, act is more than a mantra, it is a call to arms. A battle cry that gets my body moving. It breaks me free from the monotony of mindless action and issues a challenge to my mind. It is a call to greatness.
I drift when I fail to have a plan. As has often been said, I was then planning on failing.
Whether you use the Full Focus Planner or some other calendar management system, the idea behind create, plan, act can help you too.
Create. Plan. Act.
The first idea is to create. Create a goal. Vision. System. Plan. For me, this means to actually get into the planner and start to outline tasks. I drift when I don’t open my planner and put things into timeslots. My life drifts off course when I don’t intentionally plan my steps. Work fails to get done when I fail to put significance on my time.
Step one is always to create the plan. If you notice that you are having trouble focusing, begin to ask questions of insight: Do I know what I’m working on? What’s next? Who do I need to connect with? What is most important to me? How can I make progress?
Creating your plan of action is what breaks you free from drift. By creating a plan you free your mind up to focus on what it sees in front of you. When you create your goals, you connect the logic of your brain with the emotions of your heart and are inspired to take action.
Once your goals are created, write down the steps to the plan. This can honestly be as simple as first I will…, then I will… For me, it follows this system of progression:
1.) What are my larger goals for the quarter?
2.) What steps did I take to accomplish those goals last week?
3.) As a follow-up, what goals do I need to accomplish this week?
4.) Which of those goals can I accomplish (or make progress on) today?
First, you create your system and belief for success. Write down your goals and visualize your success. Then, write down the plan to accomplish those goals.
Only one step left!
The final step is to act. I’ve discovered that this usually ends up being the easiest step. The irony is that before I began this planning phase, that was the one thing I couldn’t do. The acting was hard because I didn’t have a plan. By creating the vision and building the plan, I gave myself the freedom to act appropriately.
I can cure my aimlessly drifting in just a few minutes by following the simple plan to create, plan, and act. By following this formula, I bring clarity to my projects and eliminate brain fog, confusion, and misguided wastes of time that prohibit me from reaching my goals. Wherever you’re and, and whatever you’re working on, just remember to create your goals, make your plan, and then act with intention.
The only way you will reach your full potential is if you intentionally spend time fostering key relationships.
My wife and I have been married for fourteen years. Together, we have four amazing children. We met in college. Separated by a year, I had my eye on her stunning beauty even before she officially enrolled in the school.
You see, she stopped by on an official visit one week as a soon to be music major. She poked her head into the concert band I was a part of to check it out. I remember being captivated by her beauty the moment I laid my eyes on her. I even offered to help chaperone her around the campus for the weekend, but was told by the band director to go, “nowhere near her.”
Before long, she was at the school, I mustered up every ounce of courage I had, and attempted to talk to her. As an extraordinarily shy young person, I’m sure I was incoherent at best and downright possessed sounding at worst. But I had done it! I talked to the woman of my dreams.
From there, a blossoming friendship started, followed by dating, engagement, and marriage. Over the last fourteen years, we both completed our undergraduate degrees. I’ve also added a master’s and doctoral degree, started my own business, moved us from Kansas to California to Colorado and back to California. Every leg of our journey has been full of heartbreak and triumph, setbacks, and victory.
Building For Better
While I could write a book on how amazing she is, and the many ways she has sustained me in our years together, here is what is of most importance now: I truly believe that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be half as successful as I am without her by my side. Even as an introverted and fairly well-disciplined individual, I recognize and understand the necessity of vital and life-giving relationships.
It has been her unwavering belief and support in me that has gotten me through the darkest days of my life. It was her tenderness and compassion that got me through the most difficult work experience of my life. Surrounded and attacked by an unhealthy work environment, she got me through it and encouraged to keep pressing on. Feeling the weight of doctoral school and my growing thesis, it was Elise that reminded me what I had been called to do. Overwhelmed by personal failures and stuck in unhealthy mindsets, she encouraged me to change my thinking and alter my end destination in life. At every step of my journey, she has had the strength I lacked to keep me pushing on towards my goals.
Fostering Key Relationships By Sharing The Burden
If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. This proverb gives us our final key insight into the Shift mindset: we must make this journey with other people. One big key to success is having someone else to share the burdens (and joys) of life with. In fact, research has shown that a lack of human interaction results in, “psychological and physical disintegration, and even death.” Anyone who faced the massive work from home transition during 2020 no doubt felt the reality of that.
During the COVID quarantine of 2020, my wife’s grandmother had to change skilled nursing facilities when one shut down. She was moved over the course of the weekend but then forced to self-isolate for two weeks because of the threat of the virus. When family checks on her two weeks later, this healthy and robust woman was near death.
After she was moved in, there was no social interaction. Additionally, the staff couldn’t interact with her outside of handing her food at her door because of the quarantine. In their haste to get her isolated, the facility neglected to hook up her television or hang pictures on the wall. Her furniture was not set up in a conducive manner for her new room, making it difficult for her to use the restroom. She was socially isolated with no physical interaction of any kind for two weeks and found it physically difficult to move about in her own home for basic human needs!
No wonder the end of the two weeks found her near death. We immediately started preparing for the worst. Several family members took time off to be with her, in what we thought were going to be her last days. They set up her phone, television, and artwork. They gave her fresh meals, rearranged her furniture, and took her on walks. In less than a week, she regained her strength, physical abilities, and desire to live. That’s the power of human interaction with other people.
Finding,Building, and Fostering Key Relationships
I’ve recently become a fan of examining ancient cultures. What can they teach us about our modern society and ways to improve or existence? One of those areas of study has been the ancient Spartans. A formidable fighting force, their battles are legendary. These men, from age seven on, trained to do one thing: fight for Sparta. They ate together. Trained together. Went to school together. Slept together. Hunted together. The reason they were so good is that they knew their partners and those beside them in battle so well. It was built into their training.
Similarly, a sister city, that of Athens, developed a similar policy. However, as the Spartans focused on war and battle, the Athenians focused on government and society. In her book on ancient civilizations, Susan Bauer recounts how Athenians ate together frequently. It was not just expected and encouraged, it was demanded. They even had a policy in place that should you decide to eat by yourself before the community meal, you were to be ridiculed.
Ancient peoples knew, whether, through political necessity or societal continuity, that relationship mattered. In our digital world, much of this has been lost. As a society, we are increasingly comfortable in digital interaction. As a result, physical relationships have become an art. In spite of this waining of personal-physical relationships, they are still vital and necessary. Your success will always be limited if you don’t have others in your corner working alongside you. If you’re looking to build or deepen those significant relationships, here are three keys to success.
The easiest place to start and build the necessary relationships to sustain success is through affinity. Find like-minded people who are traveling the same journey. This is one reason I hold master-mind groups. These hour-long group coaching sessions pair people of similar professions and experience together for group coaching and accountability. While mine typically revolves around business owners, health professionals, and leadership development specialists, masterminds exist in all fields.
You can also plug into local networking groups. Many times these are less formal, less expensive, and provide another benefit. In addition to networking with like-minded individuals that can encourage and support you, you’re also expanding your network and potential client base. Your new clients are not only those in your particular group but all of their contacts as well.
Friends also fall into this category. Find another friend with an entrepreneurial spirit and hold weekly accountability. The financial investment in these is free, but it’s still a highly motivating factor. Schedule a thirty-minute session with each person getting fifteen minutes to share. In your fifteen, share the following: what your goals were for the week prior, how they went, what your new goals for the week are, and the consequences of not completing them. These consequences could either take many forms. On the grand scale, there could be the realization that if you don’t take action, you never will, and this business idea will die inside of you. At times, you may also need to make the consequences more practical and agree to by your friend’s lunch at the next meeting if you don’t accomplish everything on your list.
Once you have your foot in the door with an affinity relationship, the next level is a diverse one. This is one far too many people miss. We’re so used to seeing like-minded people that we fail to see anyone different than us.
This is detrimental to your personal development. Ironically, after years of researching and writing on burnout, I decided not to write about burnout for my thesis. At least not directly. Instead, some of the job changes I was experiencing at the time caused me to shift my focus to this issue of diversity. I examined how a diverse culture affects community engagement and reception. Whether you want to look at churches, non-profit organizations, or business culture one thing across all spectrums of research is clear: the more diverse the team, the better they perform, the better they provide better user experience, and the final product is better in every way. In short, here is my 180-page thesis: if you want to make a lasting impact seek diversity.
Diversity can have many factors to it. Race, religion, gender, educational background, and socio-economics are only a few. The more diversity you can bring in to your immediate sphere, the better you will be. This happens, because each person is better able to help show you your blind spots. If you assemble a team that looks and thinks just like you, you will potentially end up with a phenomenal product …. for no one but yourself. Instead, diversity allows different participants to share their points of view and create a stronger end product. Intentionally seek out a diverse team and ask them to point out ways for you to grow. You’d be surprised how much they point out, and how quickly you can make those changes.
3.) A Level Above.
The third area for those key relationships is what I call the “leveled up” relationships. These are people who in your eyes have leveled up beyond where you currently are.
Think about it. Do you want to take relationship advice from your uncle who has been divorced four times or from someone who has been happily married for fifty years?
Do you want investment advice from your broke friend who sleeps on their parent’s couch or from a millionaire?
Once you’ve identified areas for personal growth or new habits you want to make, finding those relationships can start with looking for those that have already leveled up in that particular area.
Prefer video lecutures? I’ve got you covered there too! SHIFT is available (with additional material) as my Elite Mental Academy. Sign up for my newsletter to receive special pre-release pricing and bonus offers.
Over the weekend, my eight-year-old wrote a story. It centers on Kaid and Bob and their experience in a typhoon. Like any good story, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s conflict, dialogue, character progression, a climax, and resolution. In ten pages, all handwritten and illustrated, he took the reader on a pretty spectacular journey.
He was so dedicated to it, he spent almost all day Sunday putting the finishing touches on it. After he read it to me, you could see the pride beaming from his face. He felt accomplished. He knew he had done something hard, and seen the positive results from it.
More than that, it was actually a really well-written story. He’s clearly got a good grasp of what makes a story compelling and has started the long process of mastering it ahead of him.
I’m extraordinarily proud of him.
It also reminded of something we often forget ourselves.
What’s Your Story?
You are in the midst of a story.
You are telling the world something about you.
2020 has been hard. Devastating for many. A huge setback at best and the fear of final failure at worse.
But your story isn’t over yet.
You get to author the end.
It can feel daunting. I get it.
I know you feel overwhelmed. Totally understandable.
I know you wonder about your business, your relationships, your family. That’s what great leaders do.
But I also know …. you got this.
Reframing The Possibilities
Recently, I had several conversations with individuals exploring coaching before the end of the year.
One, a young twenty-something female was worried about her kids. The other, a late-career professional staring at the end of his working career both began the same way: “Justin, 2020 really messed me up.”
One had their whole career in front of them. The other only had a few years left before retirement. Both were worried that 2020 proved to be the end.
It’s helpful in these moments to remember that you own the rights to your story. You are the star. In the main drama that unfolds over your life, you are the lead actor, executive producer, and director. You have an incredible amount of power to dictate where your life goes.
I hope you find that liberating. Far from being over, your story is only just beginning. 2020 is not the end, it is a new beginning.
In my son’s story, the friends were displaced from their homes by a natural disaster. By the end of the book, they were off trying to find a new place to live.
Your story may be similar. Your life, your business, your family, your income, your routine has been displaced. You are working from home where you balance kids, a spouse, work, Zoom, a distanced social life, walking the dog, chores, and some quality downtime.
That’s why I firmly believe that now is the best time for you to seize this opportunity and do something great.
Do Something Great
So what’s your story going to be?
There are 13 weeks left in 2020.
Each one of those is precious.
Embedded within each is the chance to reclaim your life. You now have the opportunity to seize this moment, do something great, and transform your life.
Your day is over.
This month has just begun.
Your story hasn’t ended.
The plot may have shifted, but greatness is still in front of you.
Rise up, warrior, and seize this day. Reclaim your story. Rewrite your legacy.
Recently, my wife and I were enjoying some coffee in the morning when we noticed headlights pull into our driveway. This isn’t too unusual or a call for alarm as we live three blocks from her parent’s house. They will sometimes stop by in the morning to see the kids before school.
However, three minutes after noticing the lights, they hadn’t come to the door. Then, we heard the sharp screel of an angle grinder, followed immediately by our car alarm going off.
As I ran outside, there were three individuals attempting to steal our catalytic converter and turn it in for recycling money. I found out from the cops that it’s a popular crime, and one hard to track. Most of the time, car alarms don’t go off. We were able to escape any major injury or damage to the car as we called the cops and they sped off.
However, one phrase has been a recurring phrase for us in the house following the event is: “Deal with it.”
Deal With It.
While they didn’t get anything of value, it was a huge invasion of privacy. Worse than that, there were two individuals I could plainly see, one providing lookout in the car and the other cutting away beneath our vehicle. What I couldn’t see, was the third individual lurking around the corner who charged me when I stepped out my front door to see what was going on. Narrowly escaping, I pushed my wife and kids back inside to the safety of our home and called the cops once we were alerted to the danger.
That night, I noticed that I had a lot of anxiety. Worried they would come back and attempt to finish their theft, or worse, left me unable to sleep. The next several days were all stressful as we tried to process not just the attempted theft, but the invasion of privacy and safety as well.
As we process the event and deal with the consequences and trauma of the event, I realize how many times in life we don’t “deal with it” when problems arise.
Work situations are ripe with circumstances and experiences that haven’t been dealt with.
A coworker makes an inappropriate joke or demeaning remark and is never called out for it. Instead, he assumes everyone agrees with him since nothing was said.
A manager ridicules an employee unfairly and abusively. The “leadership style is defended because “that’s just the way he is.”
A brewing team conflict is allowed to simmer because of the false belief that product launch and marketing execution is more important than team health.
A series of pet-peeves builds mounting frustration towards a full-blown argument where harsh words are used.
The pressure of increased sales at work diminishes the quality of life at home, leading to personal withdrawal and isolation.
The busyness of life limits personal connection time and family bonding, leading to a fractured family unit and unspoken angst.
You get the point. You’ve also likely been there. Perhaps you even are there now. But high performers know that you can only be as strong as your weakest area of life. If you’re struggling to deal with any aspect of conflict, drama, or trauma, your success will falter and your breakthroughs will be limited.
Instead, based on the experience of the recent attempted robbery, here are three ways to help you process conflict in your life so you can deal with it appropriately.
1.) Give your emotions space.
The first step towards healing for Elise and I was to give our emotions space. We first had to acknowledge what we were feeling: sadness, anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, panic, and worry were quick to come out.
Strong leaders know they need to raise their emotional intelligence. Through consistent and deliberate practice, they engage their emotions and learn to master and express them appropriately.
2.) Share in deep conversation
You can’t deal with problems if you don’t talk about them. Once we acknowledged our emotions, we shared a conversation based around healing. What did it mean for us to deal with this situation effectively? How could we overcome those negative emotions and find hope? What did the other person need? How could we support them?
The good news is that we are all okay. The better news is that we can work for a better tomorrow. This experience provided us with the opportunity to look at our house in a new light and discover what made it a good target. Poor outside lighting contributed to the criminals picking our house. So too, did several other factors. We were able to see those, remedy them, and create a safer environment for our family.
In life and work, we can do the same. Interpersonal conflict doesn’t have to be the norm. In fact, it shouldn’t be. In his book Thrive By Design, Don Rheem tells us that we are wired to perform better in teams. Those around us should make us better. If they aren’t, we have issues to address. By addressing them, we make the team better. When we make the team better, we get better. When you get better, you can attain peak performance. By reaching peak performance, you can skyrocket your success.
It is inevitable that conflict, disagreement, and discord will arise in life. However, we don’t have to live in it constantly. Instead, we can rise above it by giving our emotions space, engaging in deep conversation, and working towards a better future.