Make your Mark – 2000s version

When it is time to ‘Make Your Mark’, the first thing to decide is what your Mark is. Marks are highly personal. We generally do not mix our Mark with another persons Mark, except in the short term, when it is a group action such as building a bridge.

People are often sidetracked and disenchanted by the first step of Making their Mark. They pick lofty and important goals, planning to write their name in history books. After a small amount of time they give up in frustration. Making their Mark is relegated to the realm of dreams. Don’t let this happen to you. Make your Mark as lofty as you dream!

Once you pick your Mark, always work towards it. If your Mark in life is to be a company president, or great scientist you can not immediately start working on your resume for the positions. Smaller tasks come first to get you prepared for the big goal, What working towards your Mark means is ensuring that what ever you are doing or are going to do helps you move towards Making your Mark, and not away from it.

Not one person of the literal billions who have lived and died, started out famous. Each of the long time famous people earned their Mark in the world. Rosa Parks , Sitting Bull, Juan Cortina, and others, did not start out with their Mark already made. It took most of their life to Make their Mark. They all started as mere mortals, and over their lifetime they achieved enough successes, to have made individual Marks that will carry on through the ages.

Making your Mark is not easy, it was never meant to be easy. Making your Mark is not a Western movie, spending a few months on a dusty plain fighting a range war over barbed wire, or water rights. Making your Mark is living a lifetime of holding a vision of who you want to be somewhere down the road, and doing your best not to become distracted or give up.

Making your Mark, is a life long endeavor. Making your Mark is filled with challenges, setbacks, and occasional defeats. Making your Mark means reflecting on your character. When it seems that you will never achieve what you have determined to do, you have to look deep down inside of yourself, and find what you are made of and use it.

Making your Mark means identifying strengths you never new you had in the face of adversity. Making your Mark means walking your own path when everyone else is taking a different route. Making your Mark can mean making tough choices.

Making your Mark means not quitting just because you can or you want to. Making your Mark means one day you sit down and realize you made a difference, and though it may have taken you a lifetime, you accomplished a goal that few people in the world will ever reach. Making your Mark means that no matter what happens, you have done what you set out to do, and the world is a better place for it.


Follow Through Goal Setting

I was pulling into a parking place at a fast food place for a cup of coffee when I observed three young boys ride up on their bicycles. They only had one bicycle lock, and there was no convenient bike rack to place their bicycles in. I watched as one boy stood by the bicycles, and the other two walked around the front of the building looking for a secure place to lock their bicycles to. The two boys walked back to the boy guarding the bicycles and they had a short discussion of how and where they were going to lock up their three bicycles with one lock as I opened the door and walked inside.

I asked for, received, and paid for my coffee, and walked to a small table in the corner. The boys walked through the entrance, and the boy who appeared to be the oldest walked up to the counter where he was asked by the person running the counter if she could help him.

“Do you still have one dollar drinks?

“Yes, any size drink for one dollar.”

“I would like a large soda and three straws.”

Noticeable lack of manners on the boy’s end of the conversation, but that is another post. The boy was given his large soda cup and three straws. He paid his money and joined his friends at a booth to share their drink.

For about thirty seconds all was well with the boys. Suddenly one boy says loudly that he does not want any more of the soda because one of the other boys spit in it. Of course it was denied by both of them, and the accuser reaffirmed his accusation of spitting in the shared soda cup along with a name and pointed finger.

The questionably guilty boy stated he was not spitting into the soda. He was blowing bubbles, as he always did with his soda. The third boy sided with the accuser, stating how that is wrong to do that when they all three were sharing a soda. He finished saying he did not want any more soda either, pushing the cup to the bubble blower.

Both offended and defensive, the accused bubble blower did not know what to do. He had a whole soda to himself, but his friends were angry with him. They were telling him how they spent their money on a drink for all of them, and he ruined it by blowing bubbles into the soda and getting spit in the soda. The guilty boy, not being able to think of a way out of the dilemma, stood up and walked to the soda machine where he poured out the soda, and threw the cup away.

While this may be a short story of a small event concerning three young boys sharing a soda, there are valuable pointers and tips that may be gleaned from this situation.

The boys had a plan which was mostly successful. They applied previously tested and beneficial problem solving techniques to their small group. The boys had learned to cooperate getting to the fast food place, which was over one-half mile from the closest housing, and across a busy six lane street, which is at times no small feat in itself.

The boys had cooperated pooling their change to buy a shared soda. Arriving at the restaurant, the boys used sound teamwork techniques in finding a spot on the building where their bicycles could all be locked together. They behaved as expected once inside, with two of the boys going to a booth, while the third ordered their drink. They each had their own straw to drink from.

Up to this moment the boys were working as a team. They probably have been in each others company long enough they knew what to do without thinking about it. Each knew his role and each of them perhaps was pliable enough to exchange leadership roles and direct activities as needed.

Where their plan unravelled was in the actual drinking of the soda. The soda was the ultimate prize. All their planning, working together, and coordination was accomplished for this single goal of having a cold drink on a hot day for as little money as possible.

What the boys failed to plan for was how they would enjoy their soda jointly. Their planning and teamwork fell apart at this moment. They had not previously discussed their expectations of each others drinking habits before buying the soda. Each of them thought the other two would drink in a manner they all would find acceptable. As a result, their plan was not accomplished and they all lost something in the process.

Often we find ourselves in the same situations in our own life. We each have goals or end points of some type we are always working towards, wether business or personal. We flesh out our plans and start putting them into action. We make small adjustments and tweaks as we go. If we planned well enough, and we enjoy a little good fortune we arrive at our goal. Now what?

People who have achieved a long range goal, and then lost it shortly thereafter are all around us, all we have to do is look. Couples marry, and between the husband and wife they are working three jobs to afford the things they want for their life. Then they separate because they have grown apart becoming strangers.

Successful business people who spent years building their business lose it over something that has nothing to do with running a business. Each week we may hear or read of someone wins a lottery or receives a substantial amount of money, only to wake up broke a few years later.

It is important to have a plan no matter how vague it may be. It is vital to have a plan that includes the end point in it. Whether the end point is sharing a soda, working towards a future, or building a business, it is as important to plan through the process of achieving the desired result as it is taking the first step of turning an idea into action.


Public and Private Life Lists

I am going to create a list of “I wants”. Many of us spend our lives making lists that start with, ‘I want’. Whether it is a grocery list, a checklist for a new computer, a new cell phone, even what we want in a partner or ourselves, we make and use lists all day every day.

One of the most used ‘I want’ lists is the famous, “To do” list. Even thought this appears to be a list of unfinished tasks, it is really a list about ourselves. Placing tasks in a list with some order of preference makes it not seem as much of an ‘I want’ list as a means to an end.

Another common ‘I want’ List os the shopping list. Whether the list contains grocery items, clothes, or make up, it is still an, ‘I want’ list. We write it out, drive to wherever we need to go, and put the items on our list into our cart or basket.

duelistOf all of our personal life lists, the list I find the most interesting are the lists we keep private. These lists are the most important lists in our life, and usually are not written down for anyone to find. These private lists are different lists of things we either want or do not want that define who we are.

One list may be a list of what we want to have the ability to attract a partner. Another list may be a list of items we are going to change in ourselves. There are other more private lists we have. We all carry around short lists of thoughts and habits we never let anyone else know about, such as our most secret desires, major flaws we believe we have, and our secret list of what is really important.

Keeping all these lists can be a good thing or bad depending on what we do with our list collection – and it really is a collection. Taking some time to review on our own secret lists, how do our private lists compare with our public self? Are our public and private lists similar, or do they have major differences?

For example somewhere on our public list there may be an entry to be generous when the occasion comes up. When we find ourselves in the public spotlight we are generous with what we have. Looking at our private list however we see that generosity is not on our private list. Our only entries for generosity applies to getting others to be generous with us.

Looking closely at our public and private lists it may be there is a lot of contradiction between our two lists. The list of items we show the world and our private list reads as if it were created by two different people.

It is not a simple matter to take out your private lists and live them in public. Social pressure to conform arrives via family, friends, church, and other sources. Anything public is a strong motivator to follow the group ideals. Doing what the group wants is the safest way to navigate life. However, doing what the group wants in public, and doing what we want in private is a tremendous drain on our own personal resources.

Having opposing lists of public and private actions, using one list or the other depending on momentary circumstance creates a large amount of inner conflict. Having this inner conflict swirling around, and determining our action by whether we are in public or private prevents us from really living in a manner that is of the most benefit to both our private and public self.

If you go over your public and private lists that comprise your life, and you find two different ‘I wants’ on your two lists, one of the responses needs to go away. Your public ‘I want’ should  be replaced by your private ‘I want’. Your private ‘I want’ list may not be what your social group wants, and that is okay. As long as your private ‘I want’ list is not immoral or illegal, following your private list all the time is healthier for you and your social group.

Serving two masters at one time can not be done. When you review your lists, decide who is truly the captain of your ship, those around you, or you. If you decide you are the Captain of your ship, lead from within following the private ‘I want’ list that defines you, and let go of the faulty, problem fraught  public ‘I want’ list which comes from outside of you.


Life’s Problems Simple Solutions Guide

If you ever have the opportunity to hear a child negotiate for something, take a few minutes and really listen without being obvious about it. Children know valuable lessons about negotiation that we as adults have forgotten. Children when negotiating adults use the rule of three, which I too am very fond of.

The rule of three is a very good rule and has many uses. If you are not using it for problem solving, now is a good time to start. We all have problems in our life. Or perhaps it is better to say small issues arise in our life that we did not create. Whether it is the alignment of the moon and stars, or Monday morning traffic, or Murphy’s Law something is never too far away from occurring that we will need to fix.

Most of our encounters with problems happen for one of two reasons. We are repeating the same pattern over and over while expecting a different result, or we are experiencing something new in our life. When we experience something new in our life we do not have a lot of experience with it. So it is normal that problems can and do occur. Being ready for problems makes them smaller and helps us resolve them faster.

When starting something new in life, it generally should be done is stages. This is true whether is starting college, going to a first job, or dating. There is always a defined starting point for something new, and of course this is where a first problem has an opportunity to happen.

problemsTo make problems smaller, and make them go away quickly we need a plan. A plan is simply thinking about possibilities before they happen. Your plan does not have to be elaborate, and it should not be complicated. Making a plan for each stage of your new endeavor and identifying potential problems and solutions before they occur can be the difference between a bump in your path or a serious setback.

Knowing what problems may occur should be a given in everyones life. When starting something new, if you do not have enough experience to know what problems could occur, ask someone else who may have experience in that area of their life. Ask others what problems have they experienced or observed. When someone mentions a problem that could be a problem for you, ask them what their solution was, and how their solution worked.

When starting something new that is important to you, jot down a sequence of milestones you want to see happen. Each milestone is a place where problems can happen. As you write out each milestone jot down any situations that could happen that could keep you from your goal as you think of them.

Now you have a good idea of your goals along the way and what problems can occur. Identify what you feel may be the top three problems. Decide how you will resolve each problem you have identified. It does not matter whether what you identified is serious or not, the process or the doing is what is important.

You are truly ready to go after your goal. You have your milestones laid out, and potential problems identified. If a problem pops up, hopefully you already have thought ahead and you have a solution in place. You have just turned a problem into a non-issue because you can introduce your solution immediately and the problem can be resolved almost as soon as it happens.

Practicing identifying, milestones, problems, and solutions to potential problems before they occur helps life flow the way you want it to. While it is not possible to foresee everything, as time goes by, you will develop a keen insight into your life and where it is going.


Life Plan 101

Throughout our life we plan. We plan for Christmas, our birthday, the weekend. Now is a good time to take our learning from planning those events to creating a life plan. Life plans can be as simple or as complex as needed.

planThere are many types of plans in use, and this one may not be the best plan for you. This plan has a lot going for it though. It easy to follow. It is simple to use, simple to add on to, and simple to take away from as your needs and wants change. You are not locked into using something formal that needs special paper, or page layouts. The main points of this plan are carried in your head, so it is always available to review, use, and revise in the moment.

I think of this as a Plan Of Three. I like the number three because three is a small number and easy to remember and recall. I enjoy the way the number three is integrated into almost all aspects of life. I will leave it up to you to identify the influence and use of the number three in your own life. In this life plan think of each number, i.e., one, two, and three as life markers or placeholders, and not concrete stopping points in your life.

At its simplest, the Plan Of Three comprises three place holders of future life times. The first marker is closest to the present time. The second marker is a medium stage out there somewhere in the future. The third and final marker in the Plan Of Three is as far out as you can visualize your life.

The first marker in the Plan Of Three is your near future. It may be next month, three months, or six months from now. It is a place holder for those everything that will happen soon, or you want to happen soon. The time placement of the first marker is up to you. The amount of time you perceive as your near future is your first place marker in your Plan Of Three.

The second marker in the Plan Of Three is an intermediate place holder for your intermediate future for the completion of your longer term goals. For some the middle marker is three to five years away, for others it may three to five months away. Where your middle point is for you depends on how far you think you can reasonably form a plan for your future.

The third and final point is your far off future. Think of this point as a lighthouse or beacon for your life. It is your conscience, and your direction. It is where you want your life when you are far into your future. This marker guides you and gives your life direction. Every decision and direction you go in your life should be aligned with your third marker. This third marker in the Plan Of Three is a time and place you will never get to. Your life will finish before you ever reach this point. It is a culmination of everything you have done with your life.

Taking a piece of paper or opening a notepad and start now. Here is a simple example:

1. Finish this semester of school or college. Complete something to make myself more valuable to my employer. Finish my plans of improving my business. Lose ten pounds.

2. Start thinking about where I want to work when I graduate. Find creative ways to improve my work life, or my business. Do I want to marry or stay single. Start planning for my life out of school or college.

3. Make decisions that I can look back on with pride. Take on projects or volunteer work that is of value to others. Follow my beliefs. Be honest and true to those within my sphere of influence. Make plans for my retirement. Decide where I want to live the last years of my life.

In each of the steps of the Plan Of Three there are options for sub steps. How many you should have is up to you, but generally three sub items is a good choice, and usually not more than five under each marker of your plan. More sub items becomes to much to manage, and you end up managing your life plan rather than your life.


Self management by example

I sometimes joke about all the positive life values poker teaches anyone who wants to play a reasonable game. One of the top needs is learning and studying the game you want to play. A crucial skill is knowing your opponents. The most critical aspect of the game is to be truthful with yourself and know why you are playing. Do you aspire to be a pro, have fun, or beat yourself up?

The better poker players are chameleons. They will try to represent any type of personality necessary to help separate you from your money. They know why they are sitting there, poker is their livelihood and knowing that is part of what they need to maintain their lifestyle.

I had read an interesting book over a decade ago, by an author named Chin-Ning Chu. In her book, Ms. Chu makes an interesting case about an aspect of business that most of us never think about. Ms. Chu suggests that your business must rate at the top in your life. Once you understand this, and other concepts she suggests, you know what you need to do to excel in business.

Professional poker players understand this concept perfectly. If you sit down to play poker, it is their responsibility to do their best to take your money. Anything less than their best effort is a waste of their time, a flaw on their character, a threat to their livelihood, and an insult to you. Everything they do is focused on their ability to win money. That is the career they have chosen for themselves, and they do their utmost to be better at it than anyone else.

Thanks to Ms. Chu, I understood this idea when I started playing poker, I was not aware it applied to gambling. There was a poker game where a regular player was terminally ill. I came to learn that a few regular poker players at the poker room had wagers on when the man would die! I was appalled at the time to think that I was sitting down, next to people who would bet money on when a person would die from their illness.

A few weeks ago, Ms. Chu’s thinking made perfect sense to me, as this betting on death memory popped into my thoughts. In a flash I understood there was nothing appalling about those players! These were businessmen who correctly placed profit above everything else in their life. These people are a shining example of the American Dream for business! Admittedly, in many other cultures, particularly Ms. Chu’s, their action would not rate a second thought.

I have mentioned in a previous post that many business owners will not do whatever needs to be done to maximize profit. These players acting correctly as businessmen, attempted to maximize their profit. There is a lot to learn from this example, as distasteful as you may find it.

Like it or not, we are running our own business. When we are out in public, be it a social event, workplace, or somewhere else, we are selling ourselves, whether we are conscious of it or not. We belong in the business of self management in our daily lives.

People we come into contact with rate us, evaluate us, and put us on some scale of their own making. The question I have for both of us, is what do we do about it? We can’t ignore what is. We rate other people on our list, moving them up or down as we think they fit in our lives, and now we know they do too. Knowing this our options come down to one simple question. What are we willing to do to excel at our own lives and maximize ourselves?