All We Got Is Time

As we continue on our journey to reaching our potential, we must remember, it is not about what has happened to you, where you came from, how long you have been here or where you are at today. It’s about what happens next and what you did with what happens to you and how you deal with what you are given. No matter who you are we are all given a time limit the day we were born. We can’t hide or run from it. We must embrace it. We must be ready to take action on every opportunity we get. To help me along the way I utilize these four simple principles as a guide to keep me moving forward.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint

As human we tend to be  A and Z thinkers, we obsess over how to start, and then we dream about what the end result will be. This type of thinking naturally leads us to neglect B thru Y.  From time to time, it will be important to remember “why” you started and where you want to end up, but we must not forget reaching your end goal is always is a process of many small things completed over an extended period of time. It is vital that you give B thru y some love. How do you do this? It is simple.

Instead, break up the task at hand into small pieces. Do what you need to do right now. Accomplish that thing. Then, move on to the next thing.

Never stop moving forward

The most straightforward and easy habit to form is reminding yourself constantly of what you control. Whenever you feel the emotion of anger, frustration, or thought of giving up remind yourself you are in control.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Look at the situation objectively. It is what it is.
  3. Ask yourself what do I control?
  4. How or what do I need to solve this?
  5. Now, move forward.

Embrace failure

Here is the thing, you can never create a plan that can prepare you for trying. You just have to do it. The amount of time you spend talking about your plan vs. actually taking action on your plan will end in you living a life full of regret. The best part about trying is that no matter what it will lead you to two outcomes:

  1. You fail. We learn the task or idea we thought was possible was not.

What action can we take:

Ask yourself: What went wrong here? What am I missing? What can be improved?

  1. You succeed. We learn that the task or idea we thought was possible was.

What action can we take:

Ask yourself: What went right here? How can I improve? How can I maintain it?

Guess What? Life goes on and no matter the outcome you learned. If you failed great. If you succeeded great. At least you know you tried. Remember, nobody ever regrets trying.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions

One of the ancient stoics practices is to remind yourself of this question: how important is this moment or issue hundreds of year from now? The answer is… probably not very important. Sadly, what you do today may or may not have any impact in the future. The fact is time will continue to march forward with or without you.

Depending on how you look at it you might feel the exact opposite of taking action. However,  the stoics posed this question to themselves to make them truly understand who they really were and allow themselves to fully believe in what they were supposed to do. It forced them to ask even more profound questions which can answer the most underlying reasons for why we choose to do anything in our lives: Why are you here? What is the point? What is the purpose? Why wake up today?

These questions are simple, but yet so difficult for people to answer. Why? Most of us are afraid to find the answer.

Good thing it’s day one.

 

We Are Our Choices – The Stories of Steve, Richard, and I

As I have discussed in my previous posts, reaching your potential is a long journey that will most likely last a lifetime. Your future is not necessarily in your control, but throughout each day we have the opportunity to shape it by the choices we make. At times you will be tested, self-doubt will creep in, and you will want to give up. In those moments believing in yourself is vital, but the next most important thing is the choices you make to continue to move forward.

Today, I want to share a personal story and examples from others on how much power you have at this very moment to make a choice that can alter your future for the good or the worse. 

Let me start by asking you this:

Do you ever wonder why some people in your group of friends in and outside of work seem to progress their life or career faster than you?

To be honest, it’s simple and truthfully outside of any external factors it has nothing to do with luck or fate. The answer lies in the choices they make.

Years ago, I was like most people. Waiting for others to help me reach my potential. I remember being at my first job out of college, sitting at my desk, waiting for the next 1-on-1 with my boss to get feedback or waiting for the leadership team to give me training. The classic line that every single experienced professional will tell you is “Be proactive, go talk to your boss. Ask if there is anything you can do more of”. We have all been there, sitting and waiting for someone to tell you how to get better.

One day, while I was waiting for my 1-on-1, I had this feeling like this moment had already played out so many times before. Now looking back, I realize of course it has. The feeling that I remembered was how I felt after a 1 on 1 with my boss or after training or doing what everyone tells me to do. I felt good, and at times I learned something. But I started to wonder: Is this the rest of my career, waiting for someone else to help me?

So I made a choice. Instead of waiting for my boss to give me training, or teach me something, I realized I must take ownership of my own development. If I couldn’t do that, then nobody would ever be able to truly help me reach my goals. I decided I would learn as much as I could about business, sales, and leadership by myself, and then record and apply my learnings to my day to day job.

What choice did I make to start to improve myself?

You have many different ways to learn and get better. I decided books were the first and best route at the time. Sales books, biographies, self-help, business, non-fiction, whatever I could get my hands on. The key was not necessarily in the books themselves, it was the choice I made to take control of my own improvement that was important.

For me, books were helpful; for others, they might respond more favorably to something different. Whatever it is, the point is that I stopped waiting for others to help me and took matters into my own hands.

How did this choice to read books impact me?

I wanted to be in sales since I graduated college, but due to the economic climate in 2009 I took the first job I got offered. My passion was sales but sales jobs were hard to come by at the time for entry level reps. After a ton of hard work, I was given the opportunity to join a top tech company in Chicago to do sales. My very first sales manager told me something that I will never forget. He told me he hired me because in the interview process he was so impacted by the amount of effort I put into reading books about sales. He had interviewed candidates who had more experience than me, but I used my knowledge that I acquired from the books I read about sales and business to show him that I could learn quickly and apply it. This made a lasting impact and helped me to get the job over others with more experience. Looking back, my decision to start reading was the best thing I ever did, because ultimately it launched my career.

One of the early books I picked up was Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin.” After reading it, I took away two stories that are now the foundation of my life, and my sales team. It is the stories of two men named “Richard and Steve” and how their choices will impact their careers.

The Story of Steve (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Steve works at the Stop and Shop near my house. He hates it. He works at the cash register, and it seems as though every ounce of his being projects his dissatisfaction with his job. Steve won’t make eye contact. Steve takes a lot of breaks. Steve doesn’t start bagging until the last possible moment. Steve grumbles a lot.

The thing is, Steve spends as much time at work as his co-worker Melinda. And Melinda is engaged, connected and enthusiastic. Steve has decided that he’s not being paid enough to bring his entire self to work, and he’s teaching all of us a lesson. Melinda has decided that she has a platform, and she uses it to make a tiny difference in every customer’s day.

The sad part for me is that while Steve is busy teaching the store a lesson, he’s teaching himself that this is the way to do his job. He’s fully expecting that his next job, or the job after that or the job after that is when he’ll become the linchpin. If he waits for a job that he feels deserves his best shot, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever have that job.”

The Story of Richard (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Forty years ago, Richard Branson, who ultimately founded Virgin Air, found himself stuck and most likely to be late for a business meeting in an airport in the Caribbean. They had just canceled his flight, the only flight that day. Instead of freaking out about how essential the flight was, how badly his day was ruined, how his entire career was now in jeopardy, the young Branson walked across the airport to the charter and inquired about the cost of chartering a flight out of Puerto Rico.

Then he borrowed a portable blackboard and wrote, ‘Seats to Virgin Islands, $39.’ He went back to this gate, sold enough seats to his fellow passengers to completely cover his costs, and made it home on time. Not to mention planting the seeds for the airline he’d start decades later. Sounds like the kind of person you’d like to hire.”

So, I leave you with a question: Who do you want to be? Richard or Steve? It’s up to you to decide. You are in control of your destiny. This world owes you nothing. You must take ownership of your choices. No one else will help you unless you start to help yourself.

Now WAKE UP! It’s Day ONE. May the choice be with you.

 

Don’t Stop, Keep Going

After reading my prior posts, you learned that to start achieving your potential you need to be able to believe in yourself and redefine what the idea of success means. Hopefully, you have done both! If not, It’s OK. Step 1 is the hardest step to complete, and even if you do, it’s hard to maintain. Trust me. Others in your life will tempt you to follow the “rules,” and you will continuously feel tested with the vicious cycle of worrying about the past (failure) and future (success), which will try to prohibit you from making choices and taking action. You will feel like you want to give up and start to doubt yourself, but you must continue to move forward on your journey, and remind yourself of these four things:

1. Remember your “Why”:

Your “why” is your purpose which is what drives you and what wakes you up every single day. When you have moments where you want to give up, your “why” is the single most important thing to remember. You don’t need to focus on your “why” in the broader sense of your life but think about your “why” for this moment, which also allows you to be fully present. It helps you focus on what is right in front of you, and it gives you the meaning and motivation that you will need to continue forward.

Further questions to ask yourself:

Why are you here?

Why have you gotten this far?

Why do you wake up every day?

Why should you continue to move forward?

2. What you can control, and your supposed “superhuman idols” control:

Writing down what you control and what your idols control is a great exercise to help you realize that you both control the same things. Typically, people will notice three things about their role models: 1. They put in more effort. 2. They learn every day 3. They are not afraid to fail. That’s it. Understanding you can be as great as they are by noting these things is an incredibly powerful feeling.

Further questions to ask yourself:

How do they go about their improving their skill or ability?

How did they get to where they are?

How hard did they work? What specifics outside of pure talent did they do to be successful?

How many times did they fail?

3. The present moment:

Stop worrying about what happened yesterday or what is going to happen tomorrow. Focus on the here and now. In this moment, how can you just merely contribute? Ask yourself each day, what did I do to add value to the world? These questions will allow you to see how much you accomplish in just one day. You realize that you make an impact and you quickly start to understand how you have the ability to do amazing things in your life.

4. How you respond:

This goes along with the prior point of focusing on the present. What has happened in the past is what it is. Every second spent talking about regret, could have, should have, would have is time you are wasting that could be spent on moving forward. If you are serious about reaching your potential, we need to get going. We have more steps to take in this journey. Make a choice and TAKE ACTION.

You might think it can’t be that simple, but it truly is. As humans, we tend to overcomplicate EVERYTHING. It’s time to cut the bullshit. You need to WAKE UP! The good thing? It’s Day One. So, my first question to you is: Are you ready to make the choice to move forward?

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Mondays, I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin.

In my last post, I discussed the idea of how you can reinvent your life and the idea of success. This book has helped me solidify these thoughts and has become one of my top ten favorites. It can help further explain my thought process and help paint a clearer picture of how important it is that you write your own rules.

“My goal is to persuade you that there is an opportunity available to you, a chance to significantly change your life for the better. Not by doing something that is easy or that you have been trained to do, but by understanding how the rules of our world have fundamentally changed and by taking advantage of this moment to become someone the world believes is indispensable.” – Seth Godin

Brief summary of LinchPin: Are you Indispensable?

Seth Godin discusses the idea of how the world has significantly changed, and how in the past it paid to follow the rules. He explains that there have always been two teams: Management and Labor, but now there is a third team: Linchpins. Linchpins are the type of people who make their own map and don’t follow the guidelines of corporate America that have been set in stone for hundreds of years. He shares ideas and stories about how you too can do this and once you do, reaching your potential will never be easier. And Seth makes it clear that it starts with YOU and YOUR CHOICES.

Things I learned from the book:

  • The world has evolved, and it will only continue to evolve. If you keep complying with the system, you will fail to achieve your potential. If you want to reach your goals, you must create your own map.
  • The world is changing because of innovation. The first people to fail are the map-followers, non-risk takers, the fearful and scared to be different. Those type of people gets lost in the fast pace world we live in. It is unfortunate because they were told to “follow the system” and over time it has failed them.
  • Innovative employees are typically the most successful. As a manager, at times I feel like I need to control every situation, and that is unnecessary. Let your employees think for themselves.
  • We have a choice every single day. You can choose to be great, learn, and contribute or you can follow the process and do what others tell you to do. I will take the former.
  • People don’t take a risk because they are afraid. Schools (not all, but most) created a fear like environment. Pass or Fail. We were rarely taught “It’s ok to fail. Get back up. Just give maximum effort.”
  • It’s OK to be unique. You have a purpose. You have your own thoughts and views. Share them with the world. Don’t be scared. If you don’t it will be challenging to reach your goals.
  • Life is about choice: Are you going to choose to be part of the machine or are you going to pave your own way?

Other things I learned from this book:

Seth explains that when you become a linchpin, you strengthen your abilities in these 7 areas:

  1. Provide a unique interface between members of the organization
  2. Deliver unique creativity
  3. Manage a situation or organization of great complexity
  4. Lead customers
  5. Inspire staff
  6. Provide deep domain knowledge
  7. Possess a unique talent

Where does average come from?

  1. You were brainwashed by a school (not all, but a majority) and by the system into believing that your job is to do your job. You have to follow the rules and instructions.
  2. We all have a little voice inside our heads that’s angry and scared. That voice is what Seth refers to as the “resistance” (your lizard brain) and it wants you to play it safe and be average.

The law of linchpin leverage

People who we view as “ultra-successful” or “brilliant” are only truly this way for short bursts. The rest of the time they are doing work that anyone could do. The difference is that for 1 minute or 5 minutes they think differently about how they can contribute and create value in this world. At your job, take a second to think about how you could do it better or create more value because that is what Linchpins do. The ones who do not choose to think this way become replaceable.

We live in a fear driven culture

The “system” prohibits you from being innovative and standing out. We have created a sense of fear in the world that employees cannot share their thoughts and opinions because they must follow the rules. We must break down the walls and barriers to innovation. We all have ideas. Whether they are right or not shouldn’t prohibit someone from speaking up about it. Because we are afraid to take a risk and create our own map, we tend to say things like this:

    • “I don’t have any good ideas”
    • “I don’t know what to do”
    • “I didn’t graduate from (insert brand of some prestigious educational institution here)” –  I LOVE WHEN I HEAR THIS. WHO CARES WHERE YOU WENT TO SCHOOL. IT’S NOT WHERE YOU WENT, IT’S WHAT YOU DO.
    • “My boss won’t let me”
    • “Well, that’s fine for you, but my gender, race, health, religion, nationality, shoe size, handicap, or DNA don’t make it easy”

There is NO map

This is simple. As I mentioned in my last post, everything is invented. We are all human. We all have a purpose. We all have a voice. We are all powerful. If you believe in something, go DO IT. Nobody is in control of you except for yourself.

How has this book impacted me?

As a young kid, I always remember thinking and asking myself “why this”, “why that”. I have always been a curious person, and I have always wanted to be unique and different. This book reassured me that it is OK to want to be that way. It is what makes me a human and not a cog in a machine.

Seth also opened my mind up to the ideas of “choice” and “innovation”. He made it OK and furthermore necessary to challenge the status quo if you are going to reach your potential. He also shares two stories that I actually printed out and laminated for my sales team. I have all my new hires read it, and if you have or still do work for me, you know the story of “Richard and Steve”. I will shortly be sharing a post with those stories. But for now, I can say that we are always given a choice and the people who choose to create their own map end up finding their potential.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Time to create your own map, and become indispensable. Purchase Seth’s book here: Buy the book here! and I highly recommend you subscribe to his blog: Click here to view his blog and subscribe!

 

We All Have A Purpose

Hi! My name is Jeff Brandwein and this is my first official blog post. Today, I want to share with you two things: who I am and why I created this site.
My official Day One began in Chicago on March 15, 1987. Fast forward 30 years and I am currently a Sales Manager at a software company by day and a suburban dad by night.
So, basically what I am saying is….I am just like you. I mow my lawn, I change my son’s diapers, and I pack my lunch for work. And above all, you and I are human.
We fail. We fear things. We have tough moments. We doubt ourselves. BUT yet, we are powerful. We have a voice. We have dreams. We have hope. For some, it’s hard to believe. To me, it’s just a mindset. Life at its core is actually pretty straightforward. The challenge is trying not to over complicate it.
One of the things that fascinates me the most is that as much as we have in common, we are all unique. And I firmly believe that what makes you unique is your mindset.
Your mindset is where your purpose lives; your purpose is what drives you, it’s what wakes you up every single day. Some find it early in life, some search their whole lives and never find it, and some simply give up. It’s hard, I know. But trust me. We all have a purpose, whether you believe it or not.
For me, it has been quite the journey. There has been a lot of failing and subsequently a lot of learning, but I have never given up. Through all of these life lessons, I can proudly say I finally figured out why I am here.

My Purpose: To help others realize and achieve their potential

How did I find it? Well, it is a long story (more on that later). For now, I will tell you this: think of your purpose as a massive puzzle. It takes time, it’s confusing, it makes you think, you will need others to help, and you will fail more times than you succeed trying to put all the pieces together. BUT you can solve it. When you do, it will lead you to your potential.
With my newly found purpose, I built this site. I want to share with you all the different avenues I used to help me, and I have three simple goals to help you along your journey.

  1. Share content and methods from articles, books, and people who have accomplished their dreams and reached their potential.
  2. Share my own thoughts on life, my learnings from the books I read, and of course, recommend books that have helped me on my journey.
  3. Most importantly, it is my hope that at least one person can reach their potential, find their purpose, or become a better person because of content shared here. That’s it. Just one.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day one.