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Random notes on FEAR and CHANGE

  1. What is fear? What causes it? Is it in our DNA? Is there anything we can do to stop it?
  2. Why do we let fear control our lives? For most of us, I think it’s habit. But you can eliminate bad habits, and form new ones!
  3. It might also be a feeling of powerlessness…that we simply do not have the ability to live any other way.
  4. How pervasive is fear in our business life? I don’t know, why don’t we ask management? Usually, they create a culture of top-down (fear-based) leadership that intimidates and rules through fear.
  5. Can you be fearless? No. But you can hone your courage, which is simply being afraid, and moving forward anyway. It’s ok to be afraid. Everyone is. I love the story of the accomplished actor Henry Fonda, that even into his final years, he vomited before going on stage, due to fear. But he went on stage anyway…
  6. How do you develop the skills to not be deterred by fear?
  7. How do we deal with the “easier said than done” problem with fear? Meaning, yeah, easy for you to say that you have to dive straight into that scary thing. Well, for one thing, dealing with this is the difference between success and mediocrity.
  8. What can management do about this? Empower their people, don’t making your response to mistake be a punitive one (for the right things, anyway). Top down managers are why employees feel fear in the work place anyway.
  9. “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce
  10. How does fear prevent us from going after dreams?
  11. How does fear inhibit innovation, creativity, making art, etc…?
  12. Is this a one-time fix? Or is this something that requires ongoing work, focus, and effort?
  13. For me, when I’m hung up on something because of fear, often the best antidote is just to start. It’s amazing to me how the fear melts away when you are just in it, working the problem. Despite knowing this, I still sometimes procrastinate. Can we learn to do better at this? Is this a muscle we can strengthen?
  14. How do we deal with the fear of rejection…this idea that people will respond negatively to our work? Is it as simple as not caring what people think? In that usually people’s reaction is a reflection of their own insecurities? Or jealousy that you shipped your work, and not them?
  15. Are people lazy? Or just afraid? Meaning, are they spending all their free time watching Netflix because they are bums? Or just because they are afraid of failure, and watching TV is safe?
  16. Why do people fear change? We don’t like the first day of school, or a new job, because it is unfamiliar, but the second day is SO much easier, because we know what to expect. Is that all fear is? A lack of familiarity?
  17. “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” Woodrow Wilson
  18. “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Albert Einstein
  19. Isn’t it good for the soul to frequently make a decision that “feels like the first day of school?”
  20. You know how when you rearrange a room, and then when you next walk into it, there is that feeling of excitement about the new set-up? It’s that feeling one is trying to generate when you incorporate change into one’s life. Not all change results in fear, it can (and should) lead to excitement.
  21. “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Stephen Hawking
  22. Isn’t there something to be said to the old maxim, “Do something each day that scares the hell out of you…” Honestly, this is the simplest, easiest trick to employ when learning how to combat your fear. You should force yourself to do just this.
  23. Obviously, the more you try spooky stuff, the further you develop the muscle that makes it easier to tackle intimidating projects/things going forward. This is WHY you should do something scary every day…
  24. “You are an animal of nature, fully endowed with hearing, sight, intellect, and dangerous defenses. You are not easy prey, so don’t act like you are.” Gavin de Becker
  25. I sometimes wonder if we are afraid of success. As in, what is the cost to us if this new idea, new product, new movement actually succeeds? Does that change things? Do we fear that change? Are we frightened of the heightened expectations? Or are we retreating to the safety of the status quo?
  26. “Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.”
  27. “True security lies in the unrestrained embrace of insecurity – in the recognition that we never really stand on solid ground, and never can.” Oliver Burkeman
  28. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” FDR
  29. People don’t fear change. People fear sudden change. People fear revolutions. People don’t fear evolutions.” Simon Sinek
  30. “I think there’s so much aversion to risk-taking, I don’t think that’s the right direction we should be going. You have to take risks if you want to learn anything about yourself.” (Video, Lhotse)

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Random notes about awareness

  • The big question is WHY are so many people unaware of the world around them?
  • Awareness is a superpower.
  • Because if you are aware, you are way ahead of many around you.
  • This is one of those things that does require near-constant attention and focus. Being aware takes work.
  • Aware (definition): a·ware / əˈwer / adjective: having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact. “Most people are aware of the dangers of sunbathing.” Also: concerned and well-informed about a particular situation or development.
  • Self-awareness (definition): self-a·ware·ness / self əˈwernəs / noun: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. “The process can be painful but it leads to greater self-awareness.”
  • “You cannot vent and self-reflect at the same time.” Cy Wakeman
  • Just the other day, my elevator stopped on a floor, the door opened, and some young gun professional was standing there, looking at his iPhone. He was completely unaware that a car, with me impatiently waiting in it, was waiting for him. Naturally, as the door started to close, he noticed and jumped in, getting awkwardly squeezed by the closing doors, making for an embarrassing ruckus. He was unaware of the world around him. Don’t be this guy.
  • It’s being aware that when you walk out of a door, there might be someone in front of it.
  • If you are walking down a sidewalk, and you stop suddenly, not noticing someone is walking right behind you.
  • Or the person who pushes out his chair at a restaurant, not even realizing someone is standing right behind him. Just a quick glance please.
  • Are you aware of the critical trends affecting your world?
  • Are you aware of the history? It does repeat itself. Everyday. If you want a crystal ball, just read some history.
  • Are you aware of the news? Now, I don’t want you to spend hours consuming news, but Lord, be aware of what’s happening in the world.
  • (My trick with the news is to glance at trusted source headlines…)
  • Conversation is so much more interesting when you are aware of the world around you, and can add real commentary, insight, and perspective.
  • There is a fine line between consciously unplugging from the world (which is encouraged from time to time), to being ignorant and clueless to what is happening around you.
  • LISTENING is obviously a key to awareness, and I love this bit from Farnam Street’s Shane Parrish: “Listening is difficult because it involves suppressing your ego long enough to consider what is being said before you respond. In a world where few people listen, good listeners stand out. So what is it so hard? When someone starts talking, our minds listen for: 1. Reasonably guess what they are going to say. (E.g., “I know what you are going to say.”) 2. Identify a pattern. (E.g., “I know where you are going with this.”) 3. Something we disagree with (E.g., “That’s wrong.”) When one of those things happens, we stop listening and our mind starts preparing our response. At the moment, the conversation becomes about us. When the other person does the same, gold becomes lead. Instead of making the conversation about you, work to understand the other person’s perspective as well as they do. You don’t have to agree. You do have an obligation to understand. A conversation is not a race to make a point, but rather an exploration of someone’s mind.”

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Random rules for life

“The trick in life is learning how to deal with it.”

HELEN MIRREN
  1. Do not wear sweatpants or flip flops on an airplane. 
  2. Do not stop suddenly on a sidewalk.  
  3. Don’t stand directly in front of an elevator door. Provide space for people to get out. 
  4. Pause between bites of food. Savor it for chrissakes. 
  5. Read every day. 
  6. Expend more calories than you consume. 
  7. Spend only what you have. 
  8. Keep only what you need and cherish. 
  9. Leave a small footprint. 
  10. Use checklists. 
  11. Be present. 
  12. Get help when you need it. 
  13. Prepare and do your research. 
  14. Do not multitask. 
  15. Or, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” (Publilius Syrus)
  16. Be grateful. Write it down when you can. 
  17. Communicate. Clearly. And often. 
  18. Sit up straight. 
  19. Recognize that the journey is often more important than the destination. Enjoy it. 
  20. Come up with ideas. Try them. 
  21. Be mindful of the people around you. 
  22. You are responsible for your own happiness. 
  23. But serve others too. 
  24. Don’t waste. 
  25. Drink your water. 
  26. Light lots of candles. 
  27. Respect others. 
  28. Don’t waste time on social media. 
  29. Keep learning. 
  30. Say “I don’t know” when true. 
  31. Be aware of your surroundings. 
  32. Learn from history. It’s happened before. 
  33. Follow the rules. Except when they need to be broken. 
  34. Speak your mind. Respectfully. Seek to understand the other side. 
  35. Remember how loud you are eating chips direct from the bag. 
  36. Apologize when necessary. Often when not. 
  37. Spend some of your life looking up from your phone. 
  38. You don’t need that much stuff. But what you do have should be good quality. 
  39. Don’t live with regrets. 
  40. Wash your hands. 
  41. Listen to whatever music you want to. Even if it’s Air Supply. 
  42. Vote. Or stop bitching. 
  43. Identify your creative outlet. And practice it. 
  44. Make lists. 
  45. Stretch. 
  46. Breathe. 
  47. Meditate. 
  48. Practice personal responsibility. 
  49. Practice self-reflection. 
  50. Blow your nose. Don’t snort/sniff. 
  51. Slow down. Take your time. 
  52. Eat your fruits and vegetables. 
  53. Celebrate your victories. But quickly move on to preparing/training for the next one. 
  54. Find joy. You are allowed to be joyful. 
  55. Think long term. Play the long game. 
  56. Practice growth mindset, not fixed mindset. 
  57. Use only one parking space. 
  58. Mind your own business. 
  59. Be nice to staff. You’re not more important than they are. 
  60. Tip generously when deserved. 
  61. Pay more for good, quality food. 
  62. Get a mentor. Or a dozen.
  63. Be a mentor. 
  64. Let ladies out of the elevator first.
  65. Put the toilet seat down. Every. Time.
  66. Change out your hand towels at least a couple times per week.
  67. Learn/practice discipline.
  68. Keep strict control of your calendar.
  69. Learn to say no.
  70. Always be simplifying.
  71. Don’t hope for a better life. Simply BE a better life (inspired by Kant).
  72. Improve the world by improving yourself (also inspired by Kant).
  73. If you are going to drink wine, drink the good stuff.
  74. Every now and then, listen to some classical music, just for some cultural balance in your life.
  75. YOU choose your response to any input (a random Tweet, news article, something your spouse says, etc.). This is your Stoic power, so, choose wisely.
  76. There is NO excuse for a complicated “unsubscribe” process.
  77. Only buy really good quality notebooks and ink pens.
  78. Actively seek out people smarter than you. And learn from them.
  79. Never wear a button-down collar with a suit.
  80. Breathe again.

Check back often. I will continue to add new “rules” as life presents them to me…


“Everyone should tape these to their refrigerator.”

BILL D.

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What a slice of pumpkin pie taught me about the importance of mastering your craft; by William Childs

Inspiration is everywhere if you are open to it. Sometimes, it may visit you when you least expect it. It happened to me recently at a lunch meeting at a restaurant in King of Prussia, PA called J. Alexanders. I was meeting with Mr. Ed Harris, the Chief Marketing Officer of The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, and an adjunct professor, of marketing strategy at Saint Joseph’s University. After we finished eating, Ed remarked to me that I might want to try the pumpkin pie.

Not wanting to disappoint Ed, I agreed. Before the pie arrived, Ed warned me that it would be the best pumpkin pie I would ever eat. A bold statement, to be sure. I mean, I trusted his judgment, but the best ever? Well, I found out how correct that statement was after I took the first bite. I realized immediately this was no ordinary pumpkin pie.

I gently put the fork down while attempting to maintain my composure. Ed looked over at me with a satisfied look, and asked, “Well, what do you think?” I had to admit, that was indeed the best pumpkin pie I have ever tasted, and I only needed one bite to realize it. Now, I believe that most people, given the proper ingredients could probably make a decent pumpkin pie. I’m just not sure everyone could make a life-changing one. Or at least one that could make me contemplate the meaning of mastery and craft and how some of us function at levels of greatness that few ever reach. 

Whoever made the pumpkin pie that day was no ordinary baker. They created something remarkable and so delicious that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for months afterward. It made me think about what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary? What are the essential ingredients of success? I found a compelling answer in poet Reyna Biddy, who said this, “Trust in your craft enough to admire it, study it, perfect it, breathe it. Never stop getting better at whatever it is that you love to do.”

I don’t think it matters if you’re flipping burgers, writing screenplays, conducting orchestras, teaching high school science, roasting coffee or painting houses. We all should be following Biddy’s advice. Far too many of us are content with the status quo, and I find that unfortunate. Mastery does not reside anywhere near mediocrity. Yes, you can earn a good living being average. But why would you want to? Seriously. Nobody should ever be content with average. While I can appreciate that not everyone is prepared to do whatever it takes to master their craft, I believe that mastery is attainable for those who work hard at it. 

There are a myriad of factors that are involved in an individual’s journey to mastery, but there is one essential that is the fuel you’ll need to get you to the Promised Land. Passion. Without it, you won’t be able to sustain the energy and drive required for the road ahead. The ability to find your passion is really about finding your authentic self. You will also have to add in some resolve, a heaping amount of determination, equal parts optimism, and top it off with some love and bake it for 30 years.

Harris knows how mastery plays a role in both education and marketing. “As educators, we should never stop learning. In fact, the power of knowledge will continue to be a key ingredient for success. Students need to remember that learning doesn’t end when you receive a diploma. Whether you’re marketing experiences, apparel, or even food, the best companies understand that consumers seek value and quality. When you have quality products that are unique in some way compared to the competition, it makes our job as marketers easier to craft a memorable story that connects with an audience.”

I will always be grateful to those who consistently show up every day willing to put the time in, who are always looking for ways to improve their skills, and who are profoundly invested in the outcome of the service they provide or product they make. Those who take the status quo and turn it into status whoa! They never settle for good enough, and they are always looking for ways to improve both themselves and the people they work around. If it weren’t for them, the world would be a pretty average place. In that world, I would never have had the opportunity to experience how amazing a slice of pumpkin pie could taste when it’s baked with mastery.


THE AUTHOR: WILLIAM CHILDS | Creative Director | Brand Storyteller | Columnist | Optimist
Bill is an accomplished creative leader with a history of delivering award-winning campaigns for a variety of businesses. Relentlessly dedicated to the skillful and creative translation of strategic business objectives, he’s known as a collaborative mentor and champion of fearless creativity. With a career spanning three decades, Childs knows how to take an acceptable idea and turn it into an exceptional one. His reputation of setting high creative standards while helping to create a culture of genuine collaboration and engagement is one of things he’s most proud of across his career. Recognizing and mentoring talent, and building high-performing, cohesive teams is one of his passions. Email. Website. Twitter. LinkedIn.
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I’m the model for the word banal

ba·nal / bəˈnäl, bəˈnal / adjective; so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring. “Songs with banal, repeated words.”

I was having a tough night the other day, and in my despair, I did the worst possible thing:

I logged into Facebook.

What I saw was a lot of silly stuff: complaints, ranting about things with which people had no control, meaningless ads, silly memes, friendaversary videos, 37 photos of the same event, generic birthday greetings from people who haven’t communicated since the last birthday, and countless other things that offered little value to me.

But then I saw the worst possible thing on Facebook: My own postings.

Most were all, in a word, banal.

And I proceeded to delete most of it. In that moment, where I was admittedly in a deep funk, what I saw of my own postings sickened me.

Well, maybe sickened is too strong a word. But it made my skin crawl.

Especially to those who follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with the platform. I just can’t figure out its purpose in my world.

Instagram is the photo album of my life, and I’ve strictly curated connections there that bring joy to my life. For me, it’s a simple platform, as compared to Facebook. LinkedIn is where I do my business and foundation networking. Twitter, well, that’s long been deleted as a cesspool of hate, division, and nonstop complaining/bitching/whining/trolling.

But Facebook, I don’t know.

If I am being very honest, I really only have an account there to co-maintain the Facebook page of our foundation. If not for that, it’s quite possible I would have long ago bailed on the platform. And not for any reason other that I feel useless there. And the banality from the other night confirmed it in my troubled mind.

But back to my banality. Let me offer you a simple apology. How boring. How useless. What a waste of your time.

As I am writing this, I have Mozart playing in the background (Jupiter symphony). Now that’s real. That’s art. That’s memorable and worth thinking about, talking about, and consuming.

Not the slop I post on Facebook.

Now, I suppose you are waiting for me to present what one SHOULD do instead. Well, again my apologies, but I have no idea. And that’s part of the problem, in that FB is different for everyone using it. It’s pretty hard to craft a simple strategy that will be of benefit all BILLION(S)+ users.

Maybe the real problem is that my life is banal. Or at least that’s how I see it. What published content did I leave on my Facebook page, you ask? Well, simple: material that my wife tagged me on, a bit of stuff about my Mother, and then our charitable/foundation work.

My wife, Mom, and serving others doesn’t seem banal to me. But, in all likelyhood, it might to others.

Who knows. But if I have to leave one bit of value here (and this is really a note to self), it’s this:

Yeah. I still have no idea.

My new mission in life is the work of our foundation, so I guess most of what I will Facebook about will be about our charitable work. Maybe, in the end, that will finally bring a sense of purpose to the platform.

I’ve long maintained that Facebook is different for everyone, and that everyone will use it differently. And perhaps the truest lesson to be discovered by this rant is to stop worrying about it. Cuz it’s likely that most people scrolling through their feed could give a hoot about what I post or don’t post.

How banal is that?


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Fear and the Problem of Doing Nothing; An essay from Katie Rasoul

I have come to truly appreciate the importance of surrounding yourself with people who motivate and inspire you. Through cultivating a vibrant network and saying yes to most opportunities, I often find myself in the room with people who are badass changemakers. Although I am not suggesting comparison, it often does compel you to examine where we do and do not take action in our lives.

When you are surrounded by people who are not just talking about it, but DOING it, it makes you question any moment of your existence that you were wasting on meaningless work. This is often the lesson of the old or dying; regrets about spending our time in a way that was for someone else or on something unimportant (e.g. e-mail). We long to live a life without regret. A life that we spent being true to ourselves, supporting the ideals we believe in, with the people we hold most dear, on the work that is part of something bigger than ourselves. Yet, why do so many of us go about our daily lives not willing to ignite change?

What holds people back from making change? 

It’s simple. Fear.

We stay somewhere we aren’t entirely happy in our own lives because we are afraid of the unknown, the risk. We stay in jobs that drain our spirit because we fear what a step “back” might mean about us. We post on Facebook with “outrage” about a social justice topic, but do nothing to change the daily systemic atrocities that got us there. We do nothing because we are afraid that rocking the boat means we will have less.

The detriment from our inaction is the erosion of our own happiness and fulfilment, and the wearing away of our trust in each other to work and live together for better lives in the future. Like anything that requires maintenance and attention, if we allow fear to cause us to do nothing our relationship with ourselves and others will go from “fixer-upper” to downright uninhabitable.

Now is the Time

We are in a time now where taking action must have its spotlight. Here is how I can tell that the tide is turning towards action right now:

  • This Burger King PSA (yes, you read that right) about bullying went viral. The fact that they made this is amazing, but the statistic of how many people did something when they saw bullying is, well, not.
  • Alleged harassers like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are being called out, fired, and dropped. People are speaking up and taking action.
  • A record number of women took office in congress in the 2018 election. Emily’s List shows over 49,000 women expressing interest and readiness to run for public office.

We are in a terribly divisive time in our political context right now, but what that does mean is that there is motivation for more people to participate in the conversation instead of sleeping through it. What an opportunity this can be!

A “Do Something” Starter List

Looking for some inspiration to start doing something where you were silent or stuck before? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Respectfully speak an opposing viewpoint at holiday family dinner this season
  • Visit websites, donate, or give time to areas of social change rather than just “like” or repost about them
  • Have open discussions with other changemakers in your community, like On The Table
  • When you see bullying, misogyny, racism, or harassment, say something in that moment
  • Ask for what you deserve at work (Time with your boss? That promotion? Flexibility?)
  • Take a step, however small, towards something that sets your soul on fire and repeat weekly

So often, we feel compelled to try and solve the WHOLE problem and then freeze because we are overwhelmed. We can’t do everything, so we do nothing. Instead of knowing all of the right actions to take, just know the next small step that can lead towards the intended result. 

I am not perfect, but in every small choice to take action, I attempt to make the choice to make an impact. The small actions matter, and add up (big actions are welcome too). The problem of doing nothing is that it means we have finished what we’ve set out to do. If your life ended today, would you feel like you did all the things?

All is not lost, friends. Take heart, and take action.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is a leadership coach, keynote speaker, and Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or www.katierasoul.com

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Condition your mind for innovation and the ideas will come; An essay from William Childs

Global speaker and serial entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman (Priceline.com, uBid.com, ColorJar) has a unique daily activity he uses to help him condition his mind for innovation.

I once attended a talk where Hoffman spoke about an exercise that he does every morning he called “info-sponging.” It’s the process by which he will spend up to twenty minutes a day reading. It could be from a newspaper, a book, a website, or a magazine article. It’s the one time of day where he focuses on soaking up as much new information as he possibly can. The trick to this daily ritual is that the topics he chooses are not always directly related to anything in which he’s currently working. The whole point of the exercise is that he reads material or subjects designed to open his mind to new thoughts.

Hoffman believes that the best way to stay sharp is to have a broad information funnel. He also stressed that curiosity in all aspects is a key factor in discovering new ideas. 

I’m grateful to people like Jeff Hoffman, who push past boundaries, who will eagerly sail into the unknown in his quest for new knowledge. Where would we be as a civilization if we didn’t have people who were insatiably curious, or who consistently rejected established norms to challenge societal dogma?  

The other exciting item that captivated me that he spoke about was how to look outside your industry for new ideas. Anyone looking to disrupt the industry they work in may find it daunting to do it from the inside. In other words, if you work in health care, you must look outside your industry for innovation. Hoffman explained it like this, “If you work in health care, what do you work on all day long? Health care. What problems do you solve all day? Health care problems. If I asked you, ‘Hey, I’m going to conference on banking, do you want to go?’ You might say, ‘No, I don’t work in banking, why would I do that? I work in health care.”  Hoffman would urge you to take a leap of faith and go to the banking conference.

Take for example, the drive-up window. The first recorded use of a drive-up window, was the Grand National Bank of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1930. Until then, you had to go physically into the bank to transact all your business. The first drive-thru window for food was opened in 1947 by Red’s Giant Hamburg on Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri. Is it possible that perhaps the banking industry inspired the drive-thru window for food service? I don’t believe it would be a stretch for anyone to assume that connection. It is rather interesting that both innovations got their start in Missouri. 

Innovation takes many forms and sometimes it’s difficult to measure what its true impact will be. The ride hailing company Uber was never going to be created by a taxi company. Just as Airbnb was never going to be coaxed into existence by a hotel chain. But yet, those companies have completely disrupted their respective industries.

History has shown us examples of this theory in action. Archimedes, in the original “eureka” moment, discovered a method for measuring the volume of an irregularly shaped object in relation to the gold in the king’s crown while he took a bath. Gutenberg is credited with combining the idea of block printing with a screw press that was mainly used for olive oil and wine production. His idea brought print to the masses with his Gutenberg Bible. 

So what issues or business challenges could you be solving by looking outside your industry for answers? It again comes down to getting out of your way and being willing to expand your comfort zone. 

Consider adding info-sponging to your daily ritual. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers; you just need to be ready to take action when your “eureka” moment arrives.


THE AUTHOR: WILLIAM CHILDS | Creative Director | Brand Storyteller | Columnist | Optimist
Bill is an accomplished creative leader with a history of delivering award-winning campaigns for a variety of businesses. Relentlessly dedicated to the skillful and creative translation of strategic business objectives, he’s known as a collaborative mentor and champion of fearless creativity. With a career spanning three decades, Childs knows how to take an acceptable idea and turn it into an exceptional one. His reputation of setting high creative standards while helping to create a culture of genuine collaboration and engagement is one of things he’s most proud of across his career. Recognizing and mentoring talent, and building high-performing, cohesive teams is one of his passions. Email. Website. Twitter. LinkedIn.

Image from Shutterstock (Wachiraphorn Thongya)


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Are you ready to die?

I have arrived at a weird place in my life.

My father passed away two years ago. My mother is late-stage Alzheimer’s. I turned 50 years old this year. A few contemporaries and friends have recently passed away. And several close friends are fighting valiant, yet scary, battles with cancer.

And…I will declare that I am ready to die.

Now, let me explain, and be VERY clear: I do not WANT to die. I have more to do and accomplish, and as of this writing, healthy. But,

  • I can honestly say I’ve achieved what I wanted in life, and am at peace with my place in the world.
  • I am happily married. To have a partner who accepts me and my flaws, and enjoys the journey we are on, is beyond measure.
  • Legally, with trusts, life insurance, retirement planning, etc., I FINALLY have all my personal and family affairs where it all needs to be. If I go suddenly, Stephanie (and my mother) will be taken care of.
  • After many, many years, my debts are paid off.
  • After ten+ years of work and focus, I have gotten my life simplified and minimalized, and I only own now what I truly need and treasure.
  • I no longer have a fear of missing out. I am content with how I have chosen to live my life. And I can celebrate what others are doing with their lives. No jealousy.
  • I can finally embrace stillness and quiet, and now relish it. Before, I always felt I had more to be doing, and couldn’t allow myself the luxury of quiet.
  • And finally, launching The Todd & Stephanie Schnick Foundation has given me the project and purpose that will fuel, sustain, and energize me until my final days.

Understand this: it took me nearly fifty years to get to this point of being ready to die. Lots of trial and error, lots of setbacks, lots of stress and agony. But guess what? I am finally there.

I also have to admit that (many) past life mistakes, my Dad’s surprisingly quick death, and the harsh realities of caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s, have given me the impetus to think (and take action) on these things.

Now, important to remember, I don’t get to coast and amble into the sunset. This life that I have built will require ongoing maintenance. This will require daily work. This will require strict discipline to keep the weeds at bay. Because if I am not careful, it can all come tumbling down.

And I am more in tune with my health, at least the desire, to get much more focused on making smarter decisions on how I eat, exercise, and work on my mental health (the former me would never have admitted I needed to work on my mental health). There is much room for improvement on living a healthier life, but honestly, I feel like with all of the above settled, I can now finally focus on it.

I am not going to claim that life is perfect. I still have bad days, I still have doubts, I still question things, I still have bad days at work, and even the work of the foundation brings a lot of frustrations. But this mindset I have achieved gives me a platform to handle these negatives in a calmer, more adult fashion. Or at least the opportunity to do so. 😉

But I must admit that it feels very satisfying to know that should I find myself suddenly on my deathbed, I would be in a place where I would be at peace, feeling that I’m leaving the Earth in a good place.

Oh, like all of us, I have regrets, but now I wouldn’t dwell on them. You cannot imagine, strange to say, the joy that brings.

I am not a fool, this place that I am in life can change. Life has a funny way of dealing new cards that shift the balance. But I feel that I am less susceptible to those kinds of harsh impacts.

As I said, it took me a long, long time to arrive at this mindset. And looking back, I am proud of the long and winding road I took to get here.

Yes, this little manifesto is to inform you of two things: Arriving at this place in life is possible, certainly so if I can get there. And you have to begin the work on it now, and become committed to it. It will be rewarding, but not easy.

At the end of the day, I can now say I am ready to die. Are you?


“Tongue-in-cheek combined with a wink” image via Shutterstock (Gill Copeland)


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Do 5 things each day

You only have to do five things each day:

  1. Read
  2. Create
  3. Move
  4. Fuel
  5. Interact.

Read.

You need to learn each day. You should be reading. I’m not necessarily talking about Page Six, but rather consume content that moves you forward with your thinking and understanding. Don’t read short-form Buzzfeed copy, rather, read long-form material that makes you learn something new. Don’t binge on mindless schmutz, instead, view a documentary that gives you a new perspective. The most successful and impactful people on Earth read every day.

Create.

Don’t just consume. You need to create something. You can write, you can journal, you can take photographs, you can play music, you can paint, you can invent and make stuff. You can identify and solve problems with your daily work and career. You can parent your children to be good citizens. You can mentor people who need the benefit of your guidance and experience. Or you can build something that serves mankind. Just don’t sit and mindlessly observe the world go by. Rather, understand what your verse will be, and write it.

Move.

Our body is made to move. It is not made to lay on a sofa or sit at a desk. I am not suggesting that you need to run a marathon each day. But move. Walk instead of drive. Take the stairs instead of the elevators. And as often as you can, get your aerobic exercise. Moving also includes stretching, breathing, and lifting weights. The cure for most things that ail us is getting that heart pumping. If you want to be agile and ambulatory in your later years, you need to keep moving. Every day.

Fuel.

Here, I mean three things: eat healthy foods, get your required sleep, and take some time for yourself. Stop having SugarPops for breakfast, and stop gnawing on CheesePuffs whilst laying on the sofa at night. Eat real foods, get your fruits and vegetables. And get your eight hours of real sleep (almost nothing is as important as this). Finally, you do need down time to recharge your batteries. Do not scrimp on this. You owe it to yourself.

Interact.

Last night, my wife and I had a six-hour meal with some friends. And it was invigorating. Human beings need social interaction, we are actually designed for it. Now, as an introvert, I certainly need my alone time, but it is actually healthy to engage with people (good for mental health). I am not talking about sitting together and watching a film silently, rather, I am talking about real discussion and active engagement. This is how we begin to improve our relationships and truly understand not just others, but ourselves.


Photo credit: Shutterstock (from 4 PM production)

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Four Conversations to Change Regarding Millennials; An essay from Katie Rasoul

I read a lot of articles and commentary regarding generations and the workplace because, well, that is a big part of my work. I have long been a proponent of changing the narrative around generations, particularly on how we describe Millennials, because what I read and hear is incongruous from what I see in the real workforce and the world at large. As part of changing how we view and discuss nearly 80 million people, I have noticed a few key trends that are underrepresented in the ether.

From one Millennial to the world, here are four things to consider viewing differently if we want to foster a world full of belonging, progress, and leadership.

Stop Claiming Millennials are “Killing” Things

I am going to have to adjust my Google Alerts because I receive a daily Millennial alert that lists endless articles about Millennials killing things. Enough with the click-bait that a whole generation of young people have systematically murdered retail, restaurants, banking, wine, real estate, napkins or straws. You name it – we ruined it. Perhaps there are other factors we should consider, such as 30 years of doing business the same way being a reasonable lifecycle that ends in change. For every study that Millennials don’t want to buy homes, there is another one saying they do. Let’s give a little latitude here and call it what it is: human preferences changing over time due to economic and societal changes, and being driven by the speed of technology and innovation. By the time with get to Gen Z with this old argument, I am concerned we will be blaming them for actual murders. An alternative way of viewing this could be seeing the huge opportunity to innovate looking forward.

Interested in reading more? Check out What Will Millennials Kill This Year?, by S.J. Velasquez via BBC.com.

Replace the Word “Millennials” with Humans

Like the old “kids these days” adage, we love to throw around the word Millennial for just about anything. What if, and hear me out, we replaced the word Millennials with the word humans? How would the headlines read? Often not reported is that at the macro level, what the Millennial generation wants is the same for humans of all ages. Gen X and Boomers benefit from finding meaning in their work, that is not just a crazy idea for the youth. While the “how” and the “why” may vary over time, the time to remove the word Millennial from quests of basic human needs and enlightenment has come. We can just say humans.

On the flip side of this, because of the overuse, there is a sort of negative connotation attached with the term “Millennials.” Try this litmus test – if you say something about the Millennial generation, and then replaced it with another group of humanity (e.g., Gen X, Baby Boomers, people of color, LGBTQ) would you still feel okay saying it? If someone said “Old people are so entitled, they want everything handed to them,” how would that make you feel? I just inserted the phrase “old people” in where I often hear “young people” or Millennials. Just writing it makes me feel like a jerk, so this is a great example of how it can be harmful to lump any group of people together, even Millennials, to make a negative claim.

Millennials Probably Don’t Read Headlines about Millennials

Because we are feeling a bit battered and bruised from reminders that were killing everything and that we are the worst generation to ever walk the planet, many Millennials don’t even associate themselves with the word. In fact, a 2015 poll showed that two-thirds of Millennials don’t actually identify with that word. As I see headline after headline discussing Millennials, I often feel like everyone is talking about me rather than to me, and they are often written without input from an actual Millennial. I love seeing more younger voices reporting viewpoints, but they are often labeled as the “Millennial” contributor, as if their input couldn’t stand on its own. We rarely label a 60-year-old male writer’s work as the “Baby Boomer” perspective, it just is what it is.

Read more about the power of connotation: Millennials: The generation that 66 percent of millennials would rather not associate with, by Hunter Schwarz, via The Washington Post.

Are Millennials Ready to be Leaders?

Sometimes we are so busy shaming Millennials that we forget that the whole generation is getting older. Older Millennials (depending on how you define the years they were born) could now be up to 37 years old. As a 36-year-old Millennial myself, I have been a home owner for over eight years, I have children, and have been in leadership roles for well over a decade. I think we are underestimating the capabilities and accomplishments of a generation by questioning if we are just now arriving at leadership competency.

This Forbes article caught my eye recently because of a visceral reaction that I had reading the title. To be fair, the author lays out averages – such as the average age of first time managers being 30 years old. But for high-performing older Millennials, this feels like old hat. Many in their thirties are leading in executive level roles, starting their own businesses, or running companies. If we just now think they are ready, that means we promoted them already without any support or training, or we have totally underestimated them and possibly failed to get them ready for their succession planning. There is value in providing emerging leaders with the resources and coaching they need, as well as the latitude and understanding that yes, they are going to do it their own way.

Read the article here: Millennials Are Ready To Be Leaders: Here’s How They’re Doing It, by Larry Alton, via Forbes.com.

I don’t intend to be the rebellious voice of a generation, but these gaps I see are pervasive in the conversation around Millennials. The world I see has young leaders ready to disrupt and innovate to meet the disruptions. I see young leaders who are willing to be the voice of what they believe in (not because they wanted to be, but because they were the there). I see young leaders desperately seeking to make a difference, not just autopilot their life a way. I observe closely because I feel as if I can learn so much from my peers and the generation coming up behind us.

I know that we can do better, and offer open arms to a group that represents 80 million people and the largest percentage of the workforce. We have to do better, with stakes that high. Everyone’s future depends on it.

About the author:

Katie Rasoul is the Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.

Find out more by visiting www.teamawesomecoaching.com or join the Team Awesome Community for awesomeness coming straight to your inbox. Follow Team Awesome on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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