Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

Lessons learned from going large (part 1)

February 21st, 2011

I’ve been MIA from blogging and a lot of things lately, mainly because I landed a large project at the end of last year that carried into January.

Traditionally, I don’t see myself as a project guy, but 2010 was not a great year numbers-wise. Taking on this project gave me an opportunity to make up some ground on those pesky financial goals of mine.Continue Reading on the CFC Blog >

The New Salary Guide

October 19th, 2010

There have been some interesting articles lately about salary and how it relates to happiness. This is a topic that has been debated for years and will likely be talked about for years to come. It was talked about in TIME (read) and also this post from the Wall Street Journal (read)

I think one of the ways to put this all into perspective is to ask what you’re sacrificing to get where you want to be. And take a look at this list of do’s and don’ts; I think we all have to sacrifice to be successful, but let’s make sure we’re sacrificing the right things.

Do sacrifice –
Pride: Sometimes pride must be sacrificed for a brighter future. You may need to wait tables or work a job you don’t like in order to create that space to succeed later. Pride can also get in your way when it comes to asking for help or advice. I wish I was quicker to humble myself sometimes and ask for that advice. How often has pride lead to destruction? Think about it.

Instant gratification: It’s so easy to have things now, to just charge it and worry about debt later. But I think we would all agree that the stress of debt can be unending. Some of this could be unavoidable, sure, but most things we can live without. This is a hard one for me, but something I’ve committed to work on. Everything about our society tells us we can have it now, so why wait? But imagine what your life would be like without any debt.

Some of what you have: No matter how much or little you have, being a generous person will lead to a better life and sense of well-being.

Don’t sacrifice –
Your health: I know it takes hard work to be self-employed. But once you start sacrificing your health, you’re headed for a crash. It’s simply not worth it and won’t help you in the end.

Your relationships: I’ve been blessed with so many wonderful relationships. I certainly could have been more ‘business-like’ in some of my dealings and went for the option that made more money, but I’m just not willing to do that at the cost of relationships. I believe what Zig Ziglar said to be true, “You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Morals: This should go without saying. But in an era of shady bank dealings, corporate scandals and political cover-ups, it seems like we’ve lost our morals sometimes. The truth is, even if something goes unnoticed, you will feel the repercussions of poor choices in some way or another down the road. It’s just not worth it.

What are some things you are and aren’t willing to sacrifice for that extra coin?

Head in the clouds.

October 12th, 2010

I have to be honest. I’ve had my head in the clouds lately. All my discipline and routines seem to have flown right out the window.

Initially, I felt guilty that I had lost some of my focus. But the truth is, sometimes you walk, sometimes you run, and sometimes you just need to sit still. The other thing I’ve noticed is that when my head is in the clouds, I tend to dream more. I think about how things could be or what if this or that. Sometimes I get so focused on pushing the cart forward that I forget to stop and see if the cart could be improved in some way.

This head in the cloud feeling has resulted in limited blogging for me recently, but it has certainly given me all sorts of ideas.

I have, however, written a couple of posts for the Creative Freelancer Blog. Below are some links. Check it out:

The ol’ client bait and switch…read more

I’m so mad I could spit!

More to come…

My love of reading.

August 11th, 2010

I once hated reading, but I disciplined myself to do it anyway and now have a genuine love for books. I always ask people what they’ve read recently and I’m always shocked when they respond with something like “Oh, I haven’t really read many books since college.” Oh really? Not only is that just plain sad, it’s a quick way to get passed up in the marketplace.

There are so many smart people out there writing such great stuff. Honestly, too much great stuff. I would read for hours if I could, but I’ve found that an hour a day minimum keeps me satiated. Here are a few tips for making reading a part of your day:

Commit to a time.
I personally like mornings. I get in early and clear a few things off my list. Then around 8:00 am, I take an hour for reading at the local coffee shop. I also enjoy an hour outside in the park as a great way to mix up my day.

Have a system.
My reading consists of blogs, e-newsletters, articles and books. I’ve given up on trying to stay current and clear out my RSS feed. I just commit to that hour. In that hour, I dedicate 40 minutes or so to my current book and another 20 minutes to the digital stuff. (Stay tuned for a future post where I will describe in detail my system for collecting and reading digital content.)

Finally, I share with my friends what I’ve been reading. I find it addicting to give away books or share a title that may prove helpful. You’re not just reading for you. You’re also building knowledge that you can give away.

So, speaking of sharing…read any great books lately? Feel free to comment about your favorites.

The elephant in the room.

July 28th, 2010

People are always surprised when I dive right into an awkward conversation with little or no fear. The truth is, nobody (myself included) likes awkward conversations. But I would much rather talk about the elephant in the room when there’s still hope of getting him through the door instead of waiting until he grows so big that he punches the roof off the house.

Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful when approaching a tough subject with someone:

Regardless of how awkward or perhaps hurt you feel, a little respect for others can go a long way. You blow your top and nobody wins. Be mad at the situation, yes, but not the person. This takes humility, but everyone wins when people are humble.

Being clear about how you feel and defining the desired outcome will help you keep some of the emotion out of it. Being passionate is fine, but if your emotions get the best of you, that’s when the false accusations start to fly. If the situation warrants, you may also want to put together a list of things to cover or solve in order to keep the conversation on target. In some situations, this list can be emailed in advance to prepare everyone for some elephant herding.

Courage with the end in mind.
It takes courage, but approach the situation with the end in mind. How much energy and time is wasted avoiding awkward conversations? The truth is that some things just won’t go away on their own. You can wish all you want, but at some point that conversation needs to happen. The sooner you dive in, the sooner it will be over, no matter the outcome.

What is that thing you’ve been avoiding? That conversation that just needs to be had? It’s time. The elephant is getting bigger while you read this. Take steps to deal with it this week.

[photo credit]

The apprentice.

July 21st, 2010

I’m not talking about Donald Trump here. Back in the olden days, many tradesman had an apprentice that learned whatever skill that tradesman practiced. It seems that we’ve lost some of that in the modern era, which is really sad. This post goes out to both the mentor and mentee.

For the mentee.
Find yourself a mentor, someone who’s been around the block a few times and will be open to sharing their experiences with you. In my 14 years of business, I have always had someone wiser that I spend time with. It started early on with my dad before we even started Crossgrain together and I was growing up in the family business. I was his apprentice and learned a ton about business and hard work. It continues for me today in the form of an advisory board. My point is that it can take on all sorts of forms, but you should always have a mentor. Be transparent and be humble and get out and find someone to meet with.

For the mentor.
You are needed now more than ever. So many young entrepreneurs are looking for guidance and it’s really your responsibility to show the young guys the ropes. That’s right, I said “your responsibility.” I feel like every successful person has achieved success because of the people and experiences in their life. To me, that means they owe a debt and the only payment due is to share that knowledge with someone else. Don’t wait for someone to ask, insert yourself into a young person’s life and give them the gift of your experience.

P.S. The rule of being mentored is that at some point you have to give back as well. Even if you don’t feel like you have anything to give, there is always someone that you can pass along your knowledge to. Knowledge is not for you to hoard; it’s for you to share with others. This is why I never turn down a coffee or lunch with a young designer. I might not be able to share much, but I can certainly share myself.

(photo credit)


June 24th, 2010

There’s something about getting things out in the open that really helps us work through our junk and keeps us humble. It’s easy for us to buy into the lie that we are the only ones facing a certain issue, that somehow our problems are unique. I believe every human being is unique and special, but our problems are shared.

When I finally open up and share something, that’s me choosing to move beyond denial and arriving at a point where I can learn something. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up and been inspired by someone else’s comments. Most people love to help. People don’t like to ask for help, though. Funny how that works.

Now I’m in no way suggesting that you become someone who complains or constantly begs for help. At some point you have to push through your stuff solo.

But being transparent is about helping others. You’re transparent FIRST so that others may be encouraged by your struggle and determination to work things out, Second, you’re transparent so that you can learn something. Being transparent is different than asking others to take away your problems, it’s about all of us learning together.

Be more transparent, I say. We have much to learn from each other. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You get laughed at? I’ve been laughed at before. You cry? Yeah, I’ve done that. You get yelled at? Sure, that’s happened before too. Trust me. That person you think has it so figured out? He is just as broken as the next guy.

Learn your reset button

June 22nd, 2010

Been in a funk lately? Feel like no matter what you do you can’t seem to get back on top of where you were last month or last year? Sometimes it’s important to just hit the reset button, even in the middle of a hectic time.

When I’ve had enough and I’m at that point where working at my desk almost becomes counterproductive, I hit reset.

What’s this reset button I speak of? It could be something fun, maybe time with family or friends. Perhaps it’s time spent alone or off listening to a lecture. For me, the best reset is time alone or time spent on my bike.

You also need to know what you are going to do after the reset. If you don’t have a plan for next steps, your day away could easily turn into a couple days or longer. You want to make sure when you reset, you do it correctly. If not, you could be in danger of taking a day off only to return and feel the same burn out as before. Add discouragement to the mix and it just gets worse. To create my post-reset plan, I write down three characteristics of a time when I felt productive and happy and like I was really handling things.

Finally, I hit the reset. Just close up the office and leave for a day. I don’t think about work in that time; just truly take time to reset. When I come back the next day, I focus on doing those three things or taking on those characteristics from a better time.

Sometimes it’s counterproductive to fight; hit the reset and don’t feel guilty about it. (Radio Shack has some reset buttons for sale if needed)

Privacy is not online

June 17th, 2010

I laugh when I see everyone so up in arms about Facebook’s privacy policy. Or when people complain about the ads on a page being relevant to your content, like Big Brother is watching us.

First of all, are we really that shocked? I think people buy into the illusion of privacy when using something password protected. That somehow companies like Google and Facebook will always play nice and not share content. The truth? Privacy online is a farce. That’s right, I said it. It doesn’t exist. If you want something to remain private, don’t post it online. Period.

I’m not expecting the likes of Google, Facebook and others to protect my privacy. That’s my job. It’s so easy for us to blame others because we think it somehow negates our own responsibility. We should also keep in mind that most of these services are FREE. But free always costs us something, right? Quite frankly, I’m fine with Facebook bots reading my content. I’m fine with the advertising on my page being somewhat relevant to my interests. I would rather see an ad for something I would buy. But I guess that’s because I understand that Facebook is not private.

The bottom line: If you want something to be private, DON’T POST IT ONLINE. Just sayin’.

Everyone has something to give

June 4th, 2010

It’s funny to watch my two boys interact, especially when the older one teaches the younger. While watching them, it struck me that no matter the age, we all have opportunities to mentor.

Someone in college has something to give incoming students. Someone in high school could read to younger kids. You get the idea. But when most people think of mentoring, they often think of an older person with 30 years of experience mentoring someone much younger. But I think we all have something to give.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a mentor or maybe you just don’t see the value. But I personally never turn down a young designer’s request for coffee. So much of who I am as a person is the result of the wisdom of others. Who am I to hoard that information? It’s in my head so that I can give it away.

The younger generation is desperate for mentors. Please, for the sake of us all, get out and share what you’ve learned. Even, as in the case of my two boys, if it’s just teaching someone how to properly run around the park screaming. I can think of plenty of times in my life when such a lesson would come in handy.