Five Uses of Money

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that US household indebtedness has reached a new high.  After years of retrenchment following the 2008 housing collapse it appears that Americans have resumed their love affair with debt.  This new peak in indebtedness is being driven by student loans, car loans, and even the evil credit card.  Credit card debt topped $1 Trillion for the first time since 2008 and will likely reach a new all-time high this year.

What is so bad about debt, you might ask?

The reality is there are only five uses of money, and what you use in one area, cannot be used for other areas that should be a higher priority.  In this way, debt steals people’s financial future.

LIVE:  This is the money you spend on lifestyle

What house will you live in, what car will you drive, where will you live, what will you wear, what will you eat, what will you do for entertainment, where will you go on vacations?  These are some of the things that fall in this category.  For most of us, this is where we would like to see a large portion of our money go so we can have “a good life.”  What credit enables us to do is to get these things on other people’s money, but it comes at a price.

GIVE:  Charities, family, friends often need our help

Can you provide for your children’s college.  Would you like to support kids overseas, or your church?  Do your parents need help from a private duty nurse or paying for assisted living?  These are just some of the areas we might like to help with, but sadly we often cannot find the means to do so.

GUARD:  Health, Life, Auto Insurance, Emergency Fund

Most people who understand financial risk have a large portion of their income going to this area.  The cost of a major health issue or a major car wreck, especially involving others, can bankrupt a middle class household.  Many who do not allocate funds to this area have experienced financial ruin.

GROW:  Investments in self development, entrepreneurial and/or career endeavors and retirement.

This is the area where we expect money to produce a return in the future.  Investing in a college education, trade school, or certifications should produce higher levels of income.  Money spent to get your own business off the ground should help you attain financial independence.  Allocating a percentage of your income to retirement funds can provide for your future in your golden years.  Unfortunately, most Americans do very little for retirement and use debt to fund their educations and business start-ups which result in the anchor of indebtedness weighing down their progress.

OWE: Taxes, Debt Service

There is little we can do about taxes unless you do not produce an average income or better.  Even then you will have gas taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes eating away at your cash flow.  Indebtedness, however is within our control.  we make the choice on whether or not to go into debt.

BALANCE IS THE KEY

I have found it useful to take a look at your monthly spend and see how much of your hard earned money is going to each of these areas.  No one can tell you what percentages should go where, that is totally up to you.  Just remember, what you spend in one, you could spend on another.  Are you happy with what the balance looks like in your uses of money?  If not, you CAN change the equation.

TAKE THE WHEEL

You can eliminate debt to provide more cash flow to retirement funds.  You can buy used cars for cash instead of new cars on leases and free up hundreds of dollars a month to go in your child’s education fund.  You can choose to live in a smaller house to be able to travel more.  You are in control.  Be intentional about the life and future you want to create and start making moves to live your dream.

 

Grandma’s Advice for All of Us- Mothers Day 2017

I once listened to an EntreLeadership podcast  interview with Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, and about 50 other books.  I have always admired Ken’s ability to offer wisdom in a simple, succinct manner.  He told a story that I would like to retell for you (with some embellishment).

There once was a boy who loved his grandmother, but lived far away from her.  They had a very special relationship.  When he would visit, they spent most of their time making and eating home-made cookies, doing crossword puzzles together, watching game shows on the TV, and playing board games.

Grandma’s favorite board game was monopoly.  She taught the boy how to play when he was about seven.  The grandmother was a very sweet and loving woman, but when she played monopoly she turned into Donald Trump!  She was ruthless and she never lost!   One summer, when the boy was 10, Grandma told him if he ever beat her at a game of monopoly, she would give him a great treasure she had acquired from her father.  The boy asked what it was, but she would not tell him.

So he went home with his imagination running wild.  He asked his dad about it.  After all, Grandma was his mom.  His father said he remembered getting the same offer, but he never beat her, so he never got the treasure.  What secret treasure could Grandma be holding on to for generations?  There was only one way to find out!

The boy started playing monopoly at every opportunity.  He played with his parents, friends, and classmates after school.  He downloaded the monopoly app on his phone.  He was so obsessed his parents had to threaten to take away his phone if he did not do his homework and chores first.  Over the next few months he played hundreds of monopoly games, exploring new strategies, reading blogs on the game, and he started winning.  In fact, by Halloween, he rarely lost!

That year Thanksgiving was held at the boy’s house, and Grandma came.  She arrived Wednesday evening and had barely got settled into her room when the boy, monopoly game in hand, appeared and asked her to play.  With a wry smile the Grandma asked, “Are you sure?  I would not want to ruin your Thanksgiving!”  “I’m sure,” the boy answered with a quiet confidence that impressed the grandmother.  “O.K. then.  Let’s get started!” Grandma’s answered.

They set up the game in the dining room.  It was about 7:00.  As the game went on, family members started stopping by the game to watch, and none of them left.  By 10:00, the room held 12 spectators.  Team Grandma, and Team Grandson cheered and jeered as their player went to jail, landed on free parking, acquired a monopoly, mortgaged properties on the brink of ruin, then bounced back!  By midnight, the whole household was spent, and so was Grandma.  All her properties were mortgaged, and as she rolled the dice she saw her next stop was Boardwalk; owned by her grandson, and on it, a bright red hotel!

She conceded the game and congratulated the boy!  She told him it was the first time she had lost a monopoly game since she was ten years old, when she beat her father for the first time.  All the spectators offered their congratulations and condolences and headed for their beds, leaving the two players alone with the game.

The boy perused the board, surveying all his property and his enormous pile of cash.  He could not stop smiling.  The Grandma smiled herself.  She took his hands in hers, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Are you ready for the treasure I promised you?”  “You mean you are going to give it to me right now?” he asked.  “Absolutely!” she said.  ‘I always keep my promises.  Help me put the game away.”

So they put away the game in about 2 minutes.  The houses, hotels, property cards and cash all went back in their rightful places.  “There you have it!” Grandma announced.  “What?” the boy replied.  “Why, your treasure of course,” she answered.  The boy looked at her, uncomprehending.

Again, the Grandma took his hands in hers, looked him in the eye and said, “The treasure I promised you is this bit of wisdom from my father.  At the end of the game, and at the end of your life, it all goes back in the box.  All the things you have acquired will be put back into play for the next players.  All that really matters is who you have loved, and who loves you.”

At first, the boy was disappointed that there was not some secret treasure box filled with gold, but he looked at his grandma, saw the love and tears in her eyes, and gave her a huge hug.  “Thank you so much for loving me!” he said, then he turned to the table and put the lid on the game.

YOU Can Be an Overnight Success!

If you have ever wanted to become an overnight success, I have the formula.  If you want to know the formula, read on because I am going to share it for free!

Here it is:

Intense Focus+ Tremendous Effort… Repeat

Intense Focus+ Tremendous Effort… Repeat

Intense Focus+ Tremendous Effort… Repeat (For as long as it takes) = Overnight Success

The reality is almost nothing worthwhile is accomplished without the steps above.  Behind every overnight success is a lifetime of living out that formula.

So get up, Drink your coffee and get at it.

It may be today. It may be tomorrow; or the next day, or the day after.  You never know when you might become the next overnight success!Coffee

 

Leading From the Middle, 3Rs of Success

is_150828_middle_management_tug_o_war_800x600If you are a Middle Manager like me, you know you have the hardest job in the world.  If you are going to be successful in this role I have learned there are three traits you will have to acquire:

Be Resourceful:  Since you are not at the top of your organization you cannot prioritize your initiatives.  This often means you will have to be creative and find other revenue streams, other cost savings, and creative options to make your projects happen.

Be Relational:  Many times you will not have all the resources you will need to make things happen, so you will have to rely upon relationships you have created and good will you have established with others in your organization.  This means you will have to give more than you take.  Genuine servanthood will be key to achieve things when you lead from the middle.

Be Resilient:  Despite your best efforts, sometimes your priorities will not rise to the top for the organization, or worse yet they do and you fail to make the priority successful.  It will happen if you lead from the middle long enough.  When it does you will have to brush it off and start looking for the next way you can have impact.  You cannot lead from the middle while looking backwards.

 

3 Essentials for a Great Life (Hope, Hard Work, Habits)

It is Thanksgiving morning.  I think that most of us in the United States can acknowledge that we have a great life.  The reality of our situation compared to the rest of the planet has been the result of three essential elements that form the backbone of our nation’s prosperity.  In order for the next generation to prosper further, I think we need to reinforce these elements at this critical juncture in history.  Are we going to slide into the doldrums of socialism, or are we going to reawaken the hallmarks of our Free Market, Capitalist society?:

Hope

Hope says that no matter what trials and tribulations we face things can, and will, get better.  It is born out of a faith in an all-powerful creator that loves us like the perfect father and is “working all things together for our good.”  It is much easier to have hope if one believes in a benevolent deity than if all you are counting on is the selfish nature of man!

Hard Work

Work Ethic has always played a crucial role in the success of our society.  Combined with our innovation, it has propelled the United States to lead the world in productivity.  One driving factor is that entrepreneurial small companies still employ more than half of the workforce in the US.  The little guy can, and still does, get ahead.  This potential has been fueled even more by the advent of the internet and the ability to be productive from almost anywhere at any time.

Yet we have an epidemic of malaise that seems to have hit our workforce, and a political machine that wants to create a society dependent upon governmental intervention and entitlements.  Gone is the stigma associated with accepting welfare and unemployment. Instead we have a liberal elite who want to be seen as Robin Hood, stealing from the “evil” rich and distributing to the “less fortunate.”  In reality they are stealing from hard-working people who have been wise with what has been entrusted to them, often to support people who neither work hard, nor make wise choices with their lives.

There certainly are people with needs to be addressed, but government has proven to be the least efficient vehicle for that aid, and it creates generational dependence.  Rather than giving a leg up, they tread on the hopes and dreams that can lift people out of their current state.

Habits

This is where the rubber hits the road.  Is our society rewarding habits like responsible financial management, saving and giving, or is it rewarding irresponsible childish habits like living off the work of others, spending more than they have, and then expecting others taxes to pay their debt because it is not “fair.”  Are we rewarding the young adults who devise a plan to get the education they need to develop a career track, working their way through college doing internships that show they have learned things that have value in the marketplace, or do we reward the ones who spend 5 years at college on low-income grants playing beer pong and throwing keggers, and then come out and lament that the piece of paper they have been handed is not Willie Wonka’s golden ticket to wealth and riches?

I am so thankful for the freedom and opportunity our country affords.  I pray today that we do not allow hopelessness to rob us of the values that make us great.  I have children, and hopefully one day grandchildren, that need to be free to succeed and achieve an even greater life than the one I have been blessed to lead.

Winners Plan, Planners Win!

Do you want to win?  You better learn how to plan!  Almost nobody wanders into success.  Success in any arena takes intentionality. A successful life requires intentionality across all dimensions of life.  Zig Ziglar summed these up as the seven spokes in the “Wheel of Life:”

  • Career
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

In order to have the type of life we all dream of having we need to plan first to have time to devote to all seven dimensions, and then have a plan in each of these arenas, both short-term, and long-term, if you really expect to achieve results in each area.

Finally, you must realize that a plan is only a plan, subject to change.  A friend of mine who has retired from a distinguished military career including combat command says the army has a saying about this reality:

Fight the Enemy, Not the Plan!

We have to realize that no matter how in-depth and detailed our planning is, that when we go to execute on the plan, things change.  The enemy defies our expectations, unforeseen external forces come into play, we forgot to contemplate a variable altogether…  What do we do at that point?  If you want to win, you cannot run, you cannot wave the white flag…  We have to adjust the plan and press forward to our objective, even if that means a temporary retreat to re-engage under better circumstances.  Just because you made a plan, don’t be married to it!  You did not take a vow to serve the plan “til death do you part.”

With the liberating thought that plans are made to be changed, let me throw out a few challenges for planning across the dimensions of the wheel of life:

  • Career-  How are you doing on executing this year’s plan in your current career role?  Do you know your next step for promotion at your current employer, or advancement by moving on to another?  If you are an entrepreneur, what will take your company to the next level?
  • Social- Who are you planning on having over for dinner in the next month?  What are you doing to create or tie into a network of friends that you can enjoy life with when your kids have flown the coop?
  • Financial- How are you doing at living within your budget this month?  Does every dollar have a name?  Are you telling your money where to go before the month begins, or wondering where it went when the month is through?  What is your number to reach financial independence so you can literally do whatever you want to do for the rest of your life?  How long until you get to that number?
  • Family- Do you have time set aside on your calendar each day to connect with your spouse?  Do you have a weekly date night?  How about a night for a family devotion with the kids?
  • Physical- How many calories can you consume and maintain your weight, or how many do you need to cut to get to where you want to be.  What will you eat today to reach that amount?  How much will you need to exercise if you eat that Krispy Kreme?  Is there time on your calendar set aside for exercise?  Could you maybe combine that with time with your spouse, or time to pursue intellectual pursuits with audible books or podcasts?
  • Mental- What are you doing to expand your knowledge in your specific career track.  Who are you reading or listening to in order to become a better leader, better spouse, better father, better person?  Can you make use of that awful highway commute by tapping into the information superhighway?  Can you listen to podcasts on your commute, your run, or on the elliptical?
  • Spiritual- Do you have time on your calendar each day to pray and meditate?  Could you turn your car into your prayer closet?  Is there a group of like-minded people at your work place who might like to study scripture or a book exploring scripture, together.  What are you doing today to answer the most important question in life?  When you stand before the maker of the universe and he asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”

The biggest part of successful planning is committing to do it.  If you want success in an area of life that you are not winning in today, MAKE A PLAN!

My FitBit Died, Do My Steps Still Count?

The other day I was on a long walk with my wife and I realized my FitBit was dead!  I set a goal to walk 4 miles a day this year and I need those miles to count!  I was so distraught at this turn of events that I could feel my blood pressure rising.  After a couple of minutes of voicing my frustration my wife was so amused that she laughingly stated, “don’t worry honey, I’ll give you credit for the miles!”

Sometimes I think that we have created stressful environments as leaders by all the scoreboards, dashboards we try to look good on and accountability lists we all try to keep our names off of.  We spend all our time documenting results and justifying variances that we forget to enjoy the “walk!”

I know we need to measure results and have accountability in our organizations, but how often do we keep our teams from taking a new and better path that we see in the middle of a fiscal year because our incentive compensation is tied to things that seemed really important 10 months earlier when goals were set, but in reality will not have as much impact as something we recognize after the fiscal year begins?  Many times industrious self-starters tackle the new initiatives, but when goal review comes around, the miles on those initiatives do not count.

If you are a leader, make sure there is flexibility to tell your team to take that new path and you will still give them credit for that extra mile!

 

Strategy and Execution- Be Like the Buckeyes!

Yes, I am still basking in the afterglow of a College Football National Championship for my team, THE Ohio State University Buckeyes.  As I have contemplated their remarkable success this season, there are many things one could point to as keys to their success. Many of them apply to successful leadership in any setting:

Assemble the Best Team:  They won the last three games with a third string quarterback!  How deep is your bench?

Hire the Best Coach/Leader:  Gotta Love Urban Meyer!  His team would do anything for him.  Would your team do anything for you?

Strategic Plan: Their playbook was designed to beat the best teams in the country.  Is your plan up to your challenges?

Business Plan- Game Planning was impeccable.  Opponents were studied, their weaknesses identified, and their strengths too.  Plans to neutralize and dismantle opponents were made, communicate and practiced.  When it was game time, the team was prepared. How well have you prepared your team for this year’s challenges?

Project Plan– Each game comes down to the outcomes of 100 or so plays.  Each play is like an individual project plan.  Each is an opportunity to go through the “PDCA” cycle.

  • Plan:  Every play starts with coaches on both sides, as well as a quarterback on offense and someone who captains the defense making a “read.”  They take into account what the situation is.  Down and distance, what point they are in the game, what point they are on the field, and the scoreboard.  They look at the competitor’s formation, remember the things they saw on film, and determine what they think will work best.

The Play Call

  • Do: Each side calls their play based on what they think the other is going to do given the circumstances at that very moment and for that situation.  They break their huddles and approach the line of scrimmage.

The Audible

  • Check: Just before they engage, both sides get one last chance to assess the situation.  Is the opponent in the formation they expected, do they have the match-up for which they are hoping?  If not, they can make a change by calling an audible, a change in the plan based on something unexpected, or even an audible by design, because the initial formation was to mislead and the audible play was really the plan all along.

The Execution

  • Act: When all is said and done, they still have to run the play and every team member has to perform his task as designed and practiced.  Strength, speed, and intelligence still come into play, and that is why assembling the best team and having the best leader to prepare the team mentally and physically cannot be downplayed.  Blocks, tackles, ball exchanges, and proper technique must all be employed each and every play to achieve success on that play, in that game, and in the season to take home the ring.

The Outcome

  • Results: Every play has a result.  Some will be good for your team, some will be bad.  Those results are analyzed every play, in real-time by the coaching staff.  They are looking for the things that went right in hopes of duplicating them later.  They are looking for things that went wrong and sending pictures to players on the field of what to do differently the next time.  They are looking for mismatches to exploit, or mismatches to avoid.  Every play’s good or bad result is another opportunity to learn, make adjustments and improve.  The best teams are usually the ones who make the best mid-game and mid-season adjustments and, thereby, improve execution as the game, and the season goes on

The Next Play-

  • PDCA: The Cycle starts again, Plan, Do, Check, Act!  

I know there are a lot of other, more sophisticated tools out there for Process Improvement, especially in a Lean Six Sigma “Black” tool “Belt.”  There are certainly some projects that go beyond the scope for PDCA, but I have found that PDCA can work in about 80% of the projects I have led.  What PI process one chooses is not nearly as important as committing to Process Improvement.  Strategic plans, business plans and project plans will not fly on auto pilot.  The terrain is unknown and unpredictable.  vigilance and constant course correction is required to soar to new heights.

It’s Time for Me to Fly!  How about you?

Relationships on the Run lead to Ruin!

I heard the statement above on a podcast recently and, being the 3R’s of Success guy, it really resonated with me.  After all, look at the three R’s… I love it!  Beyond that alliteration, however, it highlighted some issues we all battle in our family life, career life, church life, any aspect of life, really.  It highlights two truths central to whether or not we will enjoy Success:

Truth #1 – Relationships Take Quality Time!

This is a tough pill to swallow in our microwave culture, but the reality is that without investing quality time in your relationships, they will be weak.  Relationships are fragile. When they are new, they must be tenderly nurtured, like an infant. When they are in their prime they must be fought for and courted like a lover.  When they are mature they must be savored for the true gift they are, because we never know how much longer we will have them.

This is true for our relationships with our spouses, or kids, our co-workers, God and those we seek to serve.  Relationships have a life of their own.  When two people have a relationship it is almost as though they have created a unique third entity that only they have the power to make strong, or to kill.  Their choices to pour into it, starve it, kill or maim it have consequences for the relationship, and the loss of these entities can cause grief and sorrow as much as the death of family member.

Truth #2 – Relationships are the MOST Important Things in Life!

If you believe Truth #1 and you want to have joy, peace, success and happiness in life, you have to put time and effort into the relationships that are the most important to you.  Zig Ziglar often said: “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

What is it you want?

Fame?  You cannot be admired without relationships.

Fortune? Without relationships what is fortune?  If you have no one to share the things you have and the amazing experiences wealth can afford, would it bring you joy?  To answer that question, picture a man who has every material luxury money could buy or that one could imagine, but they were all on a deserted continent without another living being…  Would the wealth still have meaning?

Purpose?  We already have our answer to this in the book of Genesis.  Adam had been created by God with a purpose, and he was fulfilling that purpose, tending to the Garden of Eden, and he had fellowship with God, but yet God concluded, “It is not good for man to be alone.” and He created Eve.  Clearly we are designed to have relationships with other humans.

Whatever it is that you define as success will only happen if you invest time and energy into the relationships that matter most to that success.  If you want to succeed in you career, pour into your team, and support the mission of your employer for the good of your customers.  If family is important to you, spend quality time with them, love them well, put their needs above your wants.  If serving your community is important, know that you cannot just go through the motions.  Life is messy, and you will have to get dirty to help others dig out of their problems.

Lastly, know that you cannot do everything.  You are not God!  You are finite and your time is finite, so you will have to prioritize what it is you are meant to do, and put it first on the list.  How do you know what your priorities should be?  My advice would be found in Matthew 6:33.  If that does not ring true for you, I probably am the wrong person for you to ask…

Stop Helping: It Hurts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a missionary at heart and have been on several short-term international mission trips and also have been a part of community outreach efforts locally through community and church groups.  Therefore, the new body of writing that has come out challenging whether the majority of that type of work is having a positive impact has made me really take notice.  The two books above make the argument that there are often unintended consequences of such efforts that wreak havoc on the economies and even the psyche of the people who well-meaning individuals like me think they are helping!

This premise reminded me of a lesson I learned recently on Dan Miller’s, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” Leadership Podcast and how we often do too much for those we lead.  The lesson was this:

The first time you do something asked of you creates Appreciation.

The second time you do something asked of you creates Anticipation.

The third time you do something asked of you creates Expectation.

The fourth time you do something asked of you creates Entitlement.

The fifth time you do something asked of you creates Dependency.

As leaders, the last thing we want to do is leave in our wake a group of entitled, dependent people to pick up the mantle when we move on!  Instead we want to raise up a confident, capable workforce led by new leaders who were once followers that learned to stand on their own two feet and think for themselves.  So how do we do that?

Here are 5 steps to create self-sufficient leaders:

Present the opportunity:  Code for bring them the problem!  Trust the people you lead enough to be transparent about the things that are scary out there!

Put Them in your Shoes:  Whether this is limited to a brainstorming exercise, or an actual delegation of authority, let them feel the weight of leadership decision-making.

Positively Reinforce Critical Thinking:  Whether their ideas are brilliant or off the mark, positively reinforce them for engaging in the process and, if necessary, coach them to see a better path without wounding their spirit.

Partner Them with Teammates:  If they are a superstar, partner them with people they can pull up.  If they have potential, partner them with people who can pull them up.

Pass on the Accolades:  When you have involved the team and the efforts are successful, make sure that the team gets the accolades.  Do not let them think you are taking credit for their work and accomplishments.

Zig Ziglar often said, “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people have everything they want!”  The corollary I would add after reading the wisdom gleaned from people on the mission field is, “Help others get everything they want in life by showing them how to earn it for themselves!”