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Leadership Lifecycle

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I learned a valuable leadership lesson today, or more specifically, I was able to finally articulate a leadership lesson today, and I really felt I had to share.  I believe the entire premise of leadership in our typical corporate structure is flawed, and although I have always had this bubbling around the edges of my mind, for some reason today it snapped into focus for me.  I think this is the very reason that so many of us that are actually good at being leaders feel such a deep dissatisfaction with it.

This may be different in different organizations, but in every organization I have ever worked for, our goal is to make our selves redundant.  Your goal is to create a machine that runs so flawlessly that it can run even without your presence or attention.  On the surface this makes sense.

Our primary mission as leaders is to train new leaders under us in order to grow the machine.  The most common first step for this is to train someone to replace ourselves.  That way we can move on to bigger and better things.  After all, one of the first questions in an internal promotion interview is “Who did you train to replace you?”  From the perspective of the machine, this even makes a certain amount of sense.  Yet it doesn’t address the needs of the leader.

We often see what happens when this process fails.  No new leader is ever trained behind.  The unit stays mired in a spiral of failure.  The leader fails to address the problems of the unit to allow to growth.  The same issues arise over and over again until either the leader resigns out of frustration, disgust or shame, or the corporate machine acts out of self preservation and removes the faulty piece.  This outcome is bad for the leader, and they must start over in a new machine.

What we rarely discuss is what happens when that system succeeds, yet the life-cycle can’t move on.

Let’s say the leader succeeds.  A new leader is trained behind him.  All of the performance issues of the unit have been corrected, and the machine is able to move along with equal performance whether the leader is present or not.  No further training, coaching, or input is really required from the original.  Yet for one reason or another, that leader has no where to go.  What becomes of that person?

The more cynical or lazy among us would look at that setup and say “That person has it made.  He can show up forever, do virtually nothing, and continue to get paid for it.”  Many people would love to have that position.  A good leader isn’t one of them.

For me and so many others like me, we are only able to define ourselves professionally by the struggles we overcome.  We are put in the positions we are in because of how we react towards our team.  We want to meet the budget.  Grow our market.  Launch the new product.  We want to see our new hires sell their first item, their first 1000 items, get their first promotion.  When all of those milestones are gone, what is left?

We become the parents whose children have grow and succeeded beyond ourselves.  The linebacker whose team won the Superbowl while we were injured.  The commander whose troops have all been released.  Without people that need us, and depend on us, our entire careers have become hollow.  We have succeeded, and thus have given ourselves no meaning.  We are the pages leftover after the book has been completed.

A wise leader of mine once told me, the time to leave is after you have everything running perfectly.  That’s when you go off to find a new mess to fix.  At the time I dismissed him as crazy.  At the time, I wasn’t a leader yet.  I wish I had followed that advice.  The greatest death a man can have, is to live long enough to realize he has gotten too old.  It took me all this time to realize, that’s what happened to my career.

Today I looked on my assistant, my protege, and my best friend.  I realized that he doesn’t need me anymore.  All of my crew have learned everything I have to teach.  I saw the future without me in it.  There will be new stories written, and new victories to be had.  Yet never again will they include me.  I have passed from it being us against the world, to them against the world without me, and unfortunately, it happen while I was still there.

If you know someone that leads, and is unhappy, reach out to them.  They just want to feel needed, because they can’t know any greater professional pain than to see themselves succeed into oblivion.

My goal for a new job

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 First off, I just have to say, technology is an amazing thing sometimes.  I couldn’t get the old writing juices flowing this morning, so instead, I can write on my “lunch break” on my phone.  How cool is that?  You never know where you will have the time and quiet to write, so why not be ready?  Ok, yes, I am easily amazed, but I couldn’t resist sharing that.

 Now that I am down to my home stretch at work, I have started to think a great deal about what I want from a new job.  Since goals that don’t get recorded, don’t get accomplished, I am writing a wish list for myself of things that I want from a new job or career path.  That way I can take a look at what it is I really want to do.

 I do find it amazing to see even as I scratch this list out, how much I have changed over the last five years.  When I was job hunting before, I was so concerned with staying inside of my comfort box.  I looked only at pay and benefits.  That was it.  Bonus points for being able to sell technology products.  Now, while I still care about being able to support my family, I don’t care about any of that crap now.  So I am writing myself a shopping list of what I want, that way I remember.

 When you come up to a career transition, you should do the same thing.  If we continue to only accept the status quo, we will never change our outcomes.

 1) I want to be self employed fully within 3 years.

 I have changed so drastically in the last few years, I see this being doable, even if I don’t exactly know in what form yet.  At this point I have so many ideas, I just need to throw them at the wall and see what sticks.  I will certainly be starting out doing these things PT on the side.  I will have to go get a mainstream job at least at first.  

 So here is how I will measure success with that.  I want to make 10% of my income in the first year, 30% in the second, and 60% in the third.  If I can make 60% replacement income with something that’s only PT, there is no reason you couldn’t exceed your income by doing it full time.  If I don’t hit that number, I stay in the mainstream world.

 2) I want to work with my wife

 Working a job by myself would be boring, and take time away from my family.  I like spending time with her, and if you do what you like, you never work a day in your life.  Our chicken book was good because she co-wrote it with me.  Tribal succeeds when she helps me with posting and reaching out to people.  So whatever job venture we embark on has to be done together.  God has forced me to be humble by making me desire to write, but only write well when I have the help of my soulmate.  At least my ego won’t inflate. 

 3) I want to work with my hands

 We always say work smart, not hard, and that’s good advice.  Unfortunately, so many of us are taught that if we work with our hands, we are a failure.  Working with my hands is very freeing for me.  It allows my mind to wander, create and dream, while I am doing something else.  It keeps me from getting burned out.  So I want to build or create something with my own hands.

 4) I want to work outside

 It took living in the desert to teach me that I like to be outdoors.  I also realized that I don’t like being in the desert outdoors anymore.  So I want to be able to work where I can feel the wind on my face.  I want to work where I can feel the sun on my back some days, and the fog in my face on other days.  I want to see trees, grass and blue sky.  This office wall crap is for the birds.

 5) I want to listen to music while I work

 I never thought this would be a big deal for me, and it might be a product of my home theater sales background, but I loved having a stereo in my office at the store here.  I could plug in my tunes and get my work done while listening to music.  I want to have that with my new gig.  Whether it’s music or podcasts, my brain works better when it has something to absorb while I do other things.

 That is my dream list.  We will see how many of those I am able to achieve in the short term.  In the long term, these are a requirement.  I am glad that I thought this out.  I think too often we are afraid to seek what it is we really want, because we are told it can’t happen.  Well heck with it, I am going to MAKE it happen.

You need to work your passion

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Sorry for being offline for a few days on the blog end.  Sometimes things just come up.  I did actually hit my goal of 5 for the week, just not in the method I would choose.  Hopefully this will be nice and inspiring to make up for it.

Clearly business topics have been on my mind lately, for a variety of reasons.  With the upcoming move, it is likely that I will be finding a new employer unless the heavens align.  Which is fine with me, after five years in one place, it really is ceasing to challenge me at this point.  Having founded this community, I am discovering hundreds and thousands of people that share similar passions, many of them with small businesses of their own that are supporting themselves, and I want that for me.  On top of that, it’s spring, and I think everyone gets antsy for change in the spring.  Well, it’s spring in Arizona.  Sorry New England peeps that got 40″ of snow last night.  If it helps, I am jealous.

I am also not the only one going through this transition right now.  For every post I see about someone who has a small business up and running, I see at least one saying they want to start that, and they don’t know how.  While I admit that I am in that boat a little myself, I think that I have a good way of looking at this situation, and I can help.

I think we all get to this point.  We have been working for the Man for a long time, and something about it becomes annoying.  We don’t like the hours.  It’s not challenging enough.  We don’t like the people we work with.  The commute sucks.  Something.  It is impossible to work somewhere and be happy forever.  So the fact that we reach that point is unsurprising.

boredatwork

This is where people start to go wrong, and if it isn’t you, don’t worry about it.  We all know someone in this trap, so I am not calling out anyone in particular.

What is the first thing people often start thinking of when they get sick of the job they have?  Replacing the income.

Which makes sense.  No matter how homesteadarific you are, odds are good you need at least some money coming in.  So the fact that your mind goes there is at least understandable.  Except for one problem.  Whats the only reason you stayed at the job you hate as long as you did?  Money.  So you are about to take one slave driver and replace it with another.  That is either a good way to make yourself miserable, or quickly destroy a passion of yours.

Now I am not saying that money is evil or bad.  Money is a tool, just like a hammer or a gun.  In and of itself it is nothing.  It’s what we do with it that matters.  So what do we do?

Do what you love to do, and people will support you.  More importantly, if you are doing what you love, you will never hate your job.  How would you like to never need a vacation, because you love what you are doing?  So would I, which is why I haven’t started a business yet.  I love to write.  So I write a blog, and we wrote a book.  Neither of those things feels like work to me, because I love doing them.  I would assume that passions shows through, since I have gotten so much positive feedback.  This isn’t because I am an amazing writer, its just because writing brings me joy, and I like sharing it.  That’s why I can’t write when I am stressed or sad.  It would be an insult to my craft.

If you are the best in the world at something, no matter what that happens to be, you will make money with it.  So pursue your passions.  If you like doing something, you will naturally want to do it more often.  We call this practice.  The more you practice, the better you get.  Thus, given time, you will become better at it than anyone else.

So you might be thinking, that sounds great, and I really wish I could pull it off, but I just can’t.  I have a family and a mortgage.  I want to buy things at some point.  I have to do something just to make money whether I like it or not.  Well you don’t, and I can prove it.  The average household income in America is $42,000 a year.  For the sake of simplicity, lets use $50,000 to make the math easy.  How do we earn $50,000 a year?  We convince 1000 true fans of our work to give us $4 a month.

There is a principle called the Thousand True fans principle.  It basically looks like this.

truefans2

What do you have to do to earn $4 a month?  Sell one candle to somebody.  Sell one bar of soap.  Sell one copy of an Ebook (that is priced higher than mine).  Make one loaf of bread.  Sell a dozen free range eggs.  And do a really good job of selling yourself while you do it.  We live in a country where people shell out $7 a DAY on coffee.  You can convince someone you provide $4 worth of value in a month.

If you stop thinking of it like a $50,000 chunk, and start thinking of it as a $4 problem, you will automatically do a better job with it.  You won’t make stupid compromises and short cuts to make yourself more money because you think you have to.  You will be focusing on whats important, doing something you love.  Start with that.  Thanks to the glory of the internet, you can find 1000 people that are into whatever it is you do.  So stop worrying about what you think you need to do to succeed, and do what you love.  You will profit more in the end.

Successfully casting your sales net

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Today is the last day for our mini-sales boot camp.  If, you haven’t read the other two, scroll down a bit and read those first.  Today’s once again builds off of them, so it gives you the best footing to start from.  It’s kind of funny, when I started the first post I wasn’t sure I had enough content to make a decent dent.  Then it turned into three days.  Who knew.  The first day was about your mind set in sales.  Yesterday was about some tips to help you make it easy for your customers to buy.  Today is about casting your net.

castinganet

Casting a net, if you don’t know, is an image often used in sales to describe the process of bringing in your customers.  Your customers are like fish, and you want to hook them (although hopefully not club and gut them, that would make repeat business difficult).

Reach Out:

So as with the net theme, your initial focus needs to be reaching out to others that would be interested in the product or service you are making.  At the time of this writing, you can no longer just make a site, and hope people stumble across it.  Get out there and interface with people that you can offer your products to.  You are an expert on what you do, so its time to leverage that capital.

Of course you want to have a Facebook page, so reach out to other pages in the field.  Post a quick greeting and introduction on their wall.  Say who you are, what you do, and why they want to know about it.  Then, invite them to come like you.  That invitation at the end is huge.  Call them to action.

Next, find some forums relating to what you do.  So for example, if you sell chicken food, find chicken websites.  Answer a few questions on the forum each day, and have your web information in the signature file.  It doesn’t even have to be questions relating to your product.  Just interface with as many people as you can in a positive fashion, they will naturally want to come see you.

Lastly, find some people of influence in your field.  Maybe people with successful pages, blogs, or non competing businesses.  Ask them if you can submit a product for review, or a guest post on their blog.  When approached with humbleness and gratitude, most people are more than willing to help.

You are the brand, build it every day:

Now I mentioned this the last few days, you are selling you, just as much as you are selling your widgets.  So you need to focus less on what your product can do, and more on how you can help people, most likely by using your product.  This does tie in the with suggestion above with the message boards.  Your answer’s aren’t “goat soap will help you skin” they are “I can cure that skin problem with my goat soap”.  This makes you the solution, not a Google search for goat soap.

If you don’t have a blog, or some sort of blog function on your website, you need one.  You also need to update it regularly.  Static web-pages are out.  They will get torn off of the Google rankings over time, and on a more basic level, if you site never changes, why do I ever need to visit it more than once.  Pick a time interval to update your site on, and stick to it.  Daily updates would be best, but the most important thing is consistency.  We want to give people a reason to come back and see you over and over again.

Your updates don’t just have to be about widgets.  Remember, we are building your brand.  Look at me, my goal is to sell books, and maybe a physical product at some point.  I don’t just write about one thing.  I write every day.  Some posts are really good, sometimes I don’t capture the magic, but there is always something new, and that encourages people to come back.  The more times they come to see you, the more chances you have to help them.

Asking for the sale:

The last tip I have is probably the most universal failing of  new sales people everywhere.  They are afraid to ask for the sale.  They somehow think what they are doing is a great thing.  They have invented the amazing widget, or written the perfect book.  With this thing, they shall change the universe.  Yet if they ask for money for it, it somehow becomes dirty.

First off, the old myth is true.  If you don’t ask for the sale, your odds of completing one go down by at least 50%.  If you as a sales person feel weird about asking, its much weirder for the customer.  Most won’t do it, and just wander away.  So mathematically, if you want to sell something, you need to ask people to buy it.

Secondly, I feel that people look at this wrong, and that goes double in this particular homesteading community.  We do these things because we want to make a difference and change lives, especially our own.  So if we have a product, or a service, that we truly believes solves problems and helps people, aren’t we doing a disservice by not offering to sell it?  If I have a great new chicken food that makes birds happier and healthier, aren’t I damaging chickens by not selling it?  If my soap makes you look 10 years younger, aren’t I being cruel by keeping it to myself?

If you have followed everything I layed out, you have built value in, and a brand around, your ability to help people with something.  Whatever that thing happens to be.  The right thing to do is go out and spread that thing to as many people as you can, and the way to do that is to sell it.  Otherwise, you can’t afford to help people anymore.  So go out there and succeed.  Win with your business, because a win for you, is a win for everyone you help.

Sales tools to sell you better

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Normally the sequence of my posts doesn’t matter much, but if you are reading this, and haven’t read yesterday’s post about a sales mindset, you should go back and read that one first.  That one was the call to action and mindset change, this is some actual tools and tips you can use to boost the sales of any business you have started.  Remember, it’s your business, and the key to your business is you.  You are the only thing you do that can’t be replaced or outsourced, so leverage the crap out of you.

Social Media is the new communication:

When was the last time you received an email that was critically important?  In the last 6 months, I have only received 1 email that I didn’t initiate, that was important, from a non-family source.  I am clearly in the majority, look how every email box company in the universe talks about how great their spam folders are.  How many e-marketing books have you read where the goal is to build a big robust email list?

Why?  What does that email accomplish for you?  It gets you chucked off into a spam folder never to be heard from again.  You just went through all the time and effort to convince someone to connect with you so you can squander the opportunity to talk to them.  People communicate on social media now.  That’s where you need to engage them.  It bridges the gap between advertising, which is one way, and a conversation, which is two ways.  You want to be able to engage your customers, hear back from them, and find out how you can serve them better.  Most importantly, you need to make it easy for them to do your hard work for you and spread your message.

Everyone needs a business card:

Whatever it is that you do, you clearly like doing it, or you would choose something else.  I am willing to bet that comes up in conversation when you are out and about in the world.  So you have just done a great job of pitching your widgets to me, and our conversation is at an end.  Which of these two is more likely to work?

Yeah, go check out my blog.  Its http://www.reallylonguniquename.wordpress.com/posts/extrawidgets/orderfromme

or

I would love to hear from you again on my site.  Here is my card.  I will be on later today around 5, hop on and say hi.

Bam.  You hand them a card.  In their mind you just went up a level in professionalism.  You have taken the burden off of them for remembering the long site name.  You should also have all of your social media outlets listed on there so they can interact with your community.  Most people, with the best intentions in the world, won’t remember your site name until they have been there a few times.  Help them give you money.

Business cards don’t have to be expensive, or super flashy, just functional.  You can get 250 of them for “free” at vistaprint if you are willing to subject yourself to lots of ads.  Then you just pay $6 for the shipping.  Go order some today, and always have a few with you.  You never know when you need one.

Have a specific call to action in mind:

The purpose of all sales is to get someone else to do something you want them to do.  Whether its buy a product, like a Facebook page, comment on a forum, etc.  The first step to getting someone to accomplish that mission, is to know what you want them to do, and work towards that all the time.  Do you want people to Like your Facebook page?  Then work on that today, and nothing else.  Do you want to sell bars of soap?  Try to close as many bars as you can.  Do you want people to spread your page to others?  Do that.

There is a tremendous power in clarity and focus.  If you focus on one things, you will make it happen.  If you focus on 10 things, you will probably accomplish none of them.  That’s why multitasking is a myth by the way.  Its not possible to work on more than one thing at once.  Try multi tasking while cleaning your house.  You start 10 things and finish none.  Its a whole lot of work to accomplish nothing.

Sell a want, not a need:

This runs exactly counter to every sales book you have ever read, I can guarantee it.  They almost all think you should sell a need.  After all, if somebody needs something, they have to buy it right?

Well yes they do, but when someone is forced to do something, they look for the absolute cheapest way to get it done.  They are mad they have to do it, and it becomes all about the price.  Don’t believe me?  You have to eat right?  Go follow around a broke college kid and see what he eats.  Tell me ramen, beer and hot dogs aren’t involved here.  Do you want to try selling him on a grassfed beef burger with a free range egg on top?

When somebody wants something, they will do everything in their power to keep it, because to cut back is admitting defeat.  How many broke people keep their cable and can’t pay their mortgage?  My wife was in collections, its more than you think.  They will sacrifice the needs to keep the wants, so be a want.

Hopefully you found some of these helpful in looking at your business.  I actually have a couple more, but I am going to save those for tomorrow, as its time for my day to get rolling.  Get out there today and call some new customers to action.

You are in sales (Yes you are)

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The process of starting this community, this blog and in writing my book has given me a chance to interface with some of the most amazing people.  There is a huge and thriving homesteading world out there, and so many of us want to branch away from the mainstream, and just immerse ourselves in the homesteading life.  It seems so simple on paper.  I don’t want to work for The Man anymore, so I will just start my own business.  I will sell natural eggs, or plants from my garden.  The widgets change, but the basics stay the same.  Build a great product, mention it  little, and people will beat a path to your door to buy it.  If you are lucky enough for that to happen to your, that’s amazing.  Go for it.  In all likelihood though, that’s not how it will play out.

This is fresh on my mind because it has come up repeatedly in the last few days with some friends of mine, as well as some people I have met by chance.  They either have a product already, or they are thinking of creating one, and they are really doing themselves a disservice.  Whether its a book, or a business plan, or a product, you are all making the same mistake.  I don’t want to be specific with anyone, because I don’t want anyone to get offended, but you shouldn’t  be anyway.  So many of us are making the same mistakes.  I have a little bit of mindset adjustment for you today, then some more concrete tips for you tomorrow.

I have a great desire for any small business person to succeed.  I shop locally whenever I can.  I try to support businesses that give me good service.  I look for positive options when I can.  I have no greater desire than to see the dreams of all of my friends lead them to freedom from “The Man”.

I have been in sales for my entire adult life in one form or another.  Most of that time has been selling consumer electronics, but I have had stints in moving other large ticket items, including a brief failed experiment in selling insurance.  I have made a living for my wife and I, through my ability to sell a product.  I have acknowledged that I am in sales, and they pay me to be good at it.  More importantly, I AM good at it.  In a small moment of self adulation here, I recently crossed the $1 Million mark in sales at my current employer, which is pretty impressive.  That part isn’t important to the story, but I am damn proud of myself so I threw it in.

You are in sales too.  You just might not think of it.  In fact, you probably don’t.  What do you think of when you think of a sales person?

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Maybe this?

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Maybe if you turned off the 80s channel you are thinking of this?

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Yes, those are all sales people.  You have either been one of you haven’t, but I would say 99% of the people reading this right now have been through this.

sales2

That’s a job interview where the woman sold herself.  If you have ever gotten a job, you sold yourself.  If you didn’t get hired, you sold yourself POORLY.  So yes, you are in sales.  Sales is simply another way of saying you convince somebody to do something you want them to do.  Married?  You are in sales.  Trying to get the kids to do something, but don’t feel like yelling?  You are in sales.  The moment you start thinking of it that way, the moment you will do better with your business.

The conversation that brought this up today happened in the most unlikely place.  I stopped to get some fresh alfalfa for the girls at the feed store today.  I stop at the same place about once a week, so the guys recognize me by now.  I got into a conversation with the loader guy, and I found out that he is an amateur photographer.

Now, he started off great.  I personally don’t give a crap about art.  If you do, awesome.  I just don’t get it.  Other than a mild interest in old propaganda ads, I don’t really care.  This guy though was doing a great job of getting me excited about his work.  He was telling me about his latest piece.  A picture of a cow, just alone and silhouetted against the backdrop of the Tucson mountains.  He described it in such detail, that I was actually intrigued.  He told me how he had this great site setup were it was really easy to order stuff and how he just uploaded it this morning.  He also told me the name of the site, and his username on there, which would probably allow me to look it up.

So why don’t I have a picture preview of his work in here, or a link to the site?  Because he didn’t realize he was in a sales engagement, and he failed at it.  I am not being mean.  I gave him some tips, which I will share with you guys tomorrow.  I straight up told him that I wouldn’t remember the name of the site, or his username.  He didn’t even have a piece of paper to write it down on.  My brain doesn’t hold that stuff, and neither does anyone else’s.

His problem is that he doesn’t realize he hasn’t harnessed his greatest asset.  Himself.  Every time you talk to someone about what you do, you have an opportunity to make a sale.  If you go into that with he intent that you will move some product, you are significantly more likely to succeed.  He doesn’t realize he is in sales selling his art, so he isn’t.  He is relying on a construct to do that for him, and that won’t work.  No tip, no trick, no website, no book will make up for that for you.

Like I said above, I have some tips and suggestions to help you succeed in your business, and I will cover those tomorrow.  What you need to realize today is that you are your greatest asset to making your business succeed.  Whatever you make or produce, I can find someone else who makes it.  What I can’t find, is another you.  No one else will convey your passion like you.  No one will pound the pavement like you.  No one will motivate to close a sale like you.  No one will deliver the same level of service as you.  IF, you realize that YOU need to sell it.  You are the single biggest thing that will make your business succeed, and YOU are the single biggest thing that will make it fail.  Realize that in your mind, an sell yourself to the world.

New Year Hype

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I posted a quick blurb on the Tribal Future Facebook page yesterday, but I thought I would take a minute to expand on it.  I posted, the new year will be exactly the same as the old year, except for the books you read, the people you meet, and the actions you take.  Now at least part of that is a quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, but as far as I know, I am the only one that added action to it like this.  If I am not, don’t tell me.  I always liked Charlie’s original quote, but to me it fails to capture the truth.

CharlieTremendousJones

What changes?

Knowledge without actions is useless.  I know that eating McDonald’s is bad for us, but I still do it.  I can meet 100 successful business owners, but unless I emulate their actions, I will not emulate their success.  I can watch a yoga video, but if I am watching it from the couch, its not going to help much.  We control our own future, and it takes action to change it.

Why bring this up?

Because its New Years, and my Facebook page is full of people HOPING for a new year.  Setting new years resolutions they have no intention of keeping.  Simply hoping that life happens to them.

I grew up in Pittsburgh.  A town full of people moaning that the old days were gone, and why doesn’t somebody bring them back.  I know that attitude exists everywhere, but there seemed to be a lot of it there, and it always offended me.  The future is what you make it.  If you make it about you bitching in a bar about how good other people have it, that’s all it will be.

C'mon, it just needs someone else's elbow grease

C’mon, it just needs someone else’s elbow grease

Don’t just say you set a resolution.  You wanna make more money, get a second job.  You wanna learn to speak a language, estudio la espanol.  You wanna lose weight, stop reading this blog over a pizza.  Whatever you wanna do, the only person stopping you is YOU.

I found a great site called 13skills.com that I will be using to help myself learn some new things in 2013.  I would invite all of you to check it out.  I will have some more detail on it later today.

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