Pounding Head (A poem by ME)

Pounding head
Fuzzy light
Bulging eyes
Neck so tight...

Follicles of hair
aching bad
Face muscles
I've never had...

Computer screen
Blinding Brain
Squinting forward
lots of pain...

Late night work
Morning coming
Deadline tomorrow
Constant drumming...

Pounding Head
Lousy Week
Just don't care
Going to sleep.

No Credit For Victory vs. No Blame or Excuse For Defeat

Allow me to spare those of you who might read this from having to waste time reading a long dissertation about why Blaming and Excuses are a waste. Here is the fact:

BLAMING & EXCUSE MAKING satisfy only those who make the excuses, and rob the excuse makers of the opportunity to learn and progress.

The single most successful businessman and exponential thinker I have ever personally known says regularly, "I will take responsibility for ANY defeat, and NEVER blame or make an excuse... but I will TAKE NO CREDIT FOR VICTORY." (His name is Spencer Hunn, and I WILL give him credit for the quote.)

I intend to focus my blog tonight on the POWER of taking NO CREDIT FOR VICTORY. This topic is sort of similar to not Blaming... but a bit different - it is why you shouldn't "BLAME" yourself when good things happen - but give credit instead to the reasons for your good fortune.

I'm not a "Blame-guy" or an excuse maker. (I'm not talking about giving my wife excuses on why I was late picking my daughter up from school - I am full of those excuses!), but the kind of excuses you give yourself - for not taking a business risk, or blaming the economy for your circumstances or whatever.

I just don't waste time Blaming others and begrudging things when stuff doesn't go my way.

But there is a HUGE weakness I have: I am quick to take credit for victory.

This is not to say that I publicly stand up and tell everyone all the reasons why each time I succeed it is 100% my doing... but inside myself... I am far too quick to give myself credit for victory... and that practice is DANGEROUS. In fact it may be just as dangerous to sustaining success as excuse making or blaming.

Here are some examples:

1. The Real Estate market was SOARING nationally... yet each time Jake completed a profitable transaction, he gave himself credit. (After making a profit on selling a home Jake thought, "I must be one of the smartest people around... this is so easy for me... why doesn't EVERYONE do this?") Jake gave himself far too much credit.

A far more realistic observation might have been, "How fortunate I am to benefit financially from a strong housing market just like EVERYONE else... I am grateful to benefit from good timing. My result is NOT unique. (While those of us who made money in Real Estate might deserve a small amount of credit for capitalizing on an opportunity, the reality is that when the momentum stopped, we were stuck!)

In this case, refusing to allow myself to take credit for a victory might have saved me a lot of losses and heartache.

2. Recently I observed a young man (I'll call him Walter) begin to have modest but quick success in a business venture. In the beginning he made minimal but consistent effort into the business, yet his work quickly multiplied with little effort. Several senior partners in our venture recognized his quick success, and complimented him to give him encouragement. He was awarded with a gold ring for recognition.

Immediately this Walter believed he was the origin of his good fortune in our project. Rather than recognizing the good fortune of his quick success, he took credit, and began to parade his shiny new ring, and believed himself too important to continue his minimal efforts. I believe that Walter was truly talented in the business venture, but gave himself credit too readily... and in little time at all the success that had found him so quickly was gone.

How fortunate for me to be able to observe Walter and his youthful foolishness... because I MYSELF am actually EXACTLY AS FOOLISH... but perhaps only a few years - and missed opportunities wiser.

3. Consider similarly the gambler, who upon entering the Casino promptly wins $1,000 on a hand of Black Jack. However silly it may sound, he truly believes he is "Just Lucky", that somehow, the Casino Gods and statistics do not actually apply to him.

To sum it all up, this type of "TAKING CREDIT FOR VICTORY" is DANGEROUS... because it can rob us of clarity that allows us to reasonably achieve success.

So as one of my New Years Resolutions: Take no credit for victory.

My thanks to Spencer for opening my mind to this important principal and idea: There is power in taking no credit for victory, but instead identifying where the credit really belongs and recognizing it.

Magic Formula Turns Life's Challenges Into Building Blocks

My last post, Challenges become Blessings, Weaknesses become Strengths is sort of a journal entry about some of the more serious life challenges I have been confronted with in the past several months.

I decided while I slept last night, that there must be more to learn from this topic... there must be a FORMULA that can be gleaned from all of this.

Here is what I came up with:

  1. Identify the Challenge. Spend time REALLY contemplating the Challenge. Is the Challenge simply "Not enough money?" (Everyone I know would claim that challenge - or is "Money" a SYMPTOM of the REAL PROBLEM). It may help to write down the challenges, and then group them if necessary... into Challenges and Symptoms, or groups of challenges. Don't think you can stop at just one! The most difficult challenges come in groups.
  2. Take ownership of the Challenge. Take personal responsibility for it. No room for blaming others or wasting energy on feeling sorry you have to go through it.
  3. Ask empowering questions of Yourself. "What would I need to do in order to make more money even though... (INSERT CHALLENGE HERE)." If this step is going to work, you are going to have to BELIEVE that you CAN overcome the challenge.
  4. Learn from others and ask for help. When mired in the agony of our own challenges this can be the toughest. It is tough to admit to others we are stuck or in need of help... but it is a big world, and there are lots of people who have gone through it before. I would LOVE to expend some of my energy really trying to help someone else untangle a life's challenge! So if you have no else to ask, ASK ME!
  5. Go to work, while you plan. TAKE ACTION. Sometimes the biggest breakthroughs in life come in working, NOT in planning. It is no wonder that the Wright Brothers' very first airplane did not fly... it took dozens of iterations and modifications to finally get one that would work. I have lived this principle if nothing else. My Dad always says that "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, at first".
  6. EVERYTHING serves a purpose toward your goal. If "More Money" is your problem, and the only thing you can come up with is taking a second job delivering Pizza to earn more money - then listen to personal development books on tape while you drive, and resolve to ASK every person you see who has more of what you want than the people you know how they did it. Then take the information you gain, and re-apply it to your challenge.
  7. Repeat. Check out my blog on REPETITION = GREATNESS. The simple fact is that setting Goals regularly and working at them will nearly always lead to a more productive life. Carefully managing ones expenses will surely lead to greater financial freedom, and working at ones Challenges will strengthen a person in nearly every way.

If you had looked at my list several months ago it might have looked something like this:

Step 1. Challenges & Symptoms:
1. Have no money
2. Need to finish building 5 houses
3. Banks refuse to lend money
4. I am not earning any money to pay my bills
5. Homes costing more to build than they will sell for
6. Committed to finish homes, and now I have to find a way to earn a living
7. Investors have all taken a bath in the market
8. Nobody wants to invest in housing
9. Owe the Bank $20,000 per month in interest
10. Some anonymous coward smeared me on a blog
11. Subs don't want to do work for fear of not getting paid
12. Heading into winter
13. Can't afford to employ anyone to help me resolve this mess
14. Everyone I know seems to be blaming me for the problem
15. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! I feel like dying!!!

That seems like such a short and simple list compared to all the emotion I felt... but perhaps that is the power of making a list? By creating a list it forces us to consolidate our challenges into concise statements, instead of staying stuck in an emotional quagmire.

Step 2: Personal Responsibility; & Step 3. Ask Empowering Questions:
1. I gotta EARN... "How can I find a way to earn lots of money in a smaller amount of time, and still spend the time I need to deliver on the other promises I have made? (How do I find some "time & money leverage" to create personal income?)
2. Probably can't deliver on all of the promises I have made at once, so I had to prioritize which promises I focus on now, which ones I simply break, and which ones I postpone. (I went to people and gave them the option to wait for me to be ready, to move on without me because I could not deliver at this time, or simply quit altogether. Generally, people appreciated my candor.)
3. I enlisted the help of the banks in ensuring subcontractors that they would get paid for doing the work... this came as a result of asking: Who else wants me to get this work done as much as I do, and would be willing to vouch for what I am doing? The answer was simple - the Bank!
4. What can I do to cut down on the budget, AND ensure the work gets done right, and on time? In order to save money, and get work done, I actually went to work Myself, acting as an assistant to many of the skilled tradesmen on the homes. (My participation in the work allowed the Subs to cut their labor costs, and ensured they would show up to work with me... but there was a HUGE secondary benefit: This created a strong spirit of "teamwork" with some of my Subs, and we all went to work together... sometimes working on things that might normally have been outside of our skill set - like my HVAC guy, my Countertop Guy, and a finish carpenter working side by side with me to do everything from helping the Plumber install toilets and lids to helping the Electrician put cover plates and switches on everything, even down to trash pickup, etc. These subs once enlisted in the cause were even calling their friends and contacts getting them to come help out, and so on! AMAZING!)
5. Stating the challenges AS THEY WERE to my previous equity investors FINALLY helped us draw some "lines in the sand" and move on from a stalemate of "who flinches first". This got some momentum moving forward, and helped us stabilize a deal that should have been resolved back in May.
6. The entire mood of the effort changed... instead of me looking for people to blame, and others following my lead, EVERYONE either checked out completely, or enlisted in the cause... which they could do because they could see and feel that we were on a MISSION!

Step 4 & 5: Learn from others, and TAKE ACTION.
I have eluded already to some of the specific actions that I took, and how sometimes the actions I took yielded a result that was different or better than I intended. In the process there was plenty of calling around and asking what others had done. One specific example of this is a 13 acre piece of ground we had purchased for several million dollars... and was now because of the housing market - worth a fraction of the price we paid. I had read several articles in my favorite Real Estate publication, Builder & Developer Magazine, that encouraged me that more affordable housing was a trend that would stand a chance at survival, and when in a conversation with an officer at my bank he indicated he would support a density change, I immediately took action and began Re-Developing the land we had acquired. Literally we had nearly finished the development as 50 single family lots, but I stopped the construction THAT DAY and began amending the project. We started with increasing the density from 50 to 90, and have proposed versions as high as 225 units... the final unit count is currently around 187... but I definitely learned from others, and took action... and those two concepts have saved the deal.

Step 6: Everything Serves a Purpose Toward the Goal.
I still get bad news every day. An investor withdraws capital or support from a deal, a bank had previously committed to fund payment to subs now has changed its story, new business partners I was excited about opted to go a different direction, or a renter who is helping to cover a mortgage on a home we are carrying loses his job and can't or won't pay rent... all impacting the PLAN. Not too long ago my wife's vehicle was repossessed by the Bank, leaving us with only one car. (This is embarrassing to share, but should help clarify the realities of the situation we are in.) I could have dwelt on the negativity, and seen the glass as half empty... or as half full. The way we both chose to see this was that large SUV's had gone down in value significantly, and that the car was not worth what we were paying on. Now we had a monthly savings of her car payment, the insurance on that vehicle, and other fuel and maintenance costs! Now we had more money to dedicate toward the goals we had... and I have not given it much thought since. (We will surely have to deal with the deficiency and other things, and I completely regret that circumstances have become so dire at times... but all that is left for us to do is keep going!)

Step 7: Repeat.
Now on to new and different challenges! Like "My wife doesn't have a car", LOL! While I am unsure just what these new challenges will be, I am confident that I will face them head on and wind up victorious, because I have done this in the past. And so have you!


Challenges become Blessings, Weaknesses become Strengths

There can be no doubt that 2008 has been a year of Challenges and Weaknesses.

Generally, weakness in the economy and the failings of companies large and small, and many leadership weaknesses, from myself personally to governmental leadership shortfalls, to bank execs, and more, we are set to jettison the past year with abundant examples of Weakness...

All of this weakness has of course spelled a year of Challenges for all of us. Millions have watched as retirement funds shriveled to record lows. Many of us sheltered by the once warm-and-fuzzy comfort of knowing we had a Home Equity Line of Credit we could tap in a time of need have alarmingly been put on notice that these "Reserves" are frozen by the bank, meaning (say it isn't so!) we are relegated to financing our not-so-awesome Financial Year's Holiday Season with CASH or perhaps nothing at all... We can all agree that Challenges have abounded, and many as a result of Weakness on our own part, or that of others.

How Grateful I am that these two things are inseparably connected!

There is salvation in the connectedness of Weakness and Challenges. Consider the following evolution: Weaknesses become Challenges, which command our Focus & Energy, which in time begets Time & Effort, which creates the Overcoming of Challenges, which leads to Strength and Efficiency.

In fact, I believe that this cycle, when combined with God's inspiration and a spirit of willing work and lack of blaming can be attributed to every major accomplishment Man has ever developed. Consider the following:

Heavy Rock in Field commands a solution, and "Viola" we have the Lever & Wheel. Lever & Wheel are refined and set to work to become Wheel & Axel, which become Wagon and Gears, which become Steam Engine which becomes Locomotives, Cars and so on, and the rest is history... from the Panama Canal to the Empire State Building... and look at all we can do now! (Although I still refuse to shovel my driveway)

Around October this year, I decided that I would complete a home I have been building for 2 years... and complete it before Christmas NO MATTER WHAT. I went to work, and while other important priorities (such as this Blog) may have slipped in the process, I am thrilled to say that on December 19th, 2008... it was FINISHED! FINALLY!!!

My late-year 2008 challenge was to find a way in a lousy economy to finish the house I was building full time, keep pushing forward on many of my other critical Real Estate projects and objectives, continue supporting a fledgling new business I'm working on, and still find a way to provide financially for my family, and have the means to pay for Christmas. While I fully believe that each family has been confronted with their very own "Tall Order" of things to do... this collection of tasks seemed to me to be a nearly insurmountable.

As I attempted to zero-in on a game plan, I really felt that just finishing the house alone could easily require 12 hours per day... in fact every one of these objectives could require a full time effort. I had 4 or 5 projects that would demand my full-time attention, not just one. All I could do was resolve to work on all of them, and give every day my very best... and that is exactly what I did.

Many intriguing truths revealed themselves to me throughout this process. One stand-out is that I had no one to blame for the mess but myself... so I was empowered to take complete and total personal responsibility. (What a blessing!)

I knew that any time spent complaining about or blaming "The economy", "lack of funds" , "being exhausted", or "investors pulling the rug out from underneath me" would in the end, not create the result I had decided I would generate. I simply could not afford to spare one eating or sleeping, much less to blaming... and this sort of singularity of purpose became my sanity in the last 3 months!

Literally, EVERYTHING in my world became one of two things: Either 1) A building block by which I could accomplish my nearly-impossible task, or 2) A hindrance to the very same task.

I found a freedom in calling people and explaining what I was going to accomplish and then in asking them if they could help in the work. I was simply sorting between those who doubted or did not support or believe in my cause, and replacing them as quickly as possible with those who could, or would.

Of course there were times late at night, when I was the only person who could be fully enlisted in the goal, so I would work late into the night, alone just working to complete the goal. Other times, my willingness to do the work myself inspired other to work beyond their usual limits of 5 or 6 o'clock at night to stay later and help me finish.

I have even had several occasions recently when I was in need where I even went back to the naysayers for help, and I was able to extract some help from them as they could see my goal getting closer to reality.

I owe a very special debt of gratitude to my wife, my Parents, Troy, Terry, Gabriel, AJ & Justin, Ron, Jay, Rick, Burt, and Curt for getting on board with my goals over the past couple of months and helping me see these things through!

I am so grateful that in the process of getting more done in a short period of time than I ever thought possible, I feel like even more was accomplished than what was intended. In the process of all of this, not only were my goals accomplished, but I feel I lived what it means to have a Challenge become a Blessing, and Weaknesses become some of my Strengths.

I am so grateful for the direction of God in the process. There have been dozens of specific circumstances where I have felt I was literally led or directed to find the very last box of whatever I needed to finish the house, or say just the right thing to a bank officer to have them hang tough with my group so I could rally my equity team.

Through these small but simple serendipities or coincidences, I find nothing "miraculous" in the accomplishment itself. I truly believe that ANY person could have done the same work - or better in less time. The miraculous part of this experience has been its effect on me.

The reality has been that in my life, all of the Challenges that seemed so insurmountable were not... but I feel stronger and better for having gone through them. The challenges have presented me with the opportunity to confront the weaknesses uniquely mine, and get stronger as a result, and having done both and overcome what was just months ago so daunting, is extremely gratifying... and for me - a little life miracle.

So now I embark upon the New Year with feelings of renewed energy and spirit. I carry feelings of loyalty, gratitude and indebtedness to those who have stood by me through so much adversity and who have worked with me at my tasks as I have worked at theirs. I embark the New Year with continued resolve to improve who I am, and to chase my dreams.

I am appreciative of the opportunity to be a Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Friend, and Person living in this world full of so many Challenges and Blessings!