Sunday, May 31, 2015

Change Takes A Long Time

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #7)

If you are serious about making changes in your life, you have to be clear that this is more than a public declaration.  Transformation is not something that happens with the wave of a magic wand or a statement of intention.  Change happens via a series of ongoing actions over a long period of time.

Intention is not action, and only actions can lead you to launching a new you.

There are disagreements on how long it takes to create a behavioral change.  Many authors and motivational guru's proclaim that it takes 21 days to turn an action into a habit, but I have read recently that scientists who study habits say there is no set number of days involved.  Each person is different.  One article on said it can vary from 18 days to 254 days to form a habit.  This means it is not the calendar, but resilience of the commitment that matters.

If you are serious about implementing change in your life and career, you have to be dedicated over the long run to your metamorphosis.  Understanding that there are no quick-fix programs or other fairy dust will make the process more enjoyable and help keep you focused.

As I have mentioned in other articles in this series, one of the hardest parts to re-invention is getting others to recognize and acknowledge your changes.  I do not think others want you to change, even for the better.  We live in a world where fast judgments rule the psyche. Once someone has assigned a label to another it is hard to get them to pay attention.  To change their perception means admitting they were wrong, and nobody like to be wrong.  Additionally, people are often jealous of the achievements of those around them, and this causes them to seek ways to undermine your progress (even if just in their own head).  The only thing that will overcome how others see you is the passage of time and your consistency to the new path you are forging.

Accept that change takes a long time, and work hard to keep your efforts alive as you march toward your new goals.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Communicate Your Changes To Others and Yourself

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #6)

A hard part of change is how you present yourself and how you and others respond to your planned adjustments.  Early in life we develop a self image that we present to the world, and it becomes a very complicated to implement a re-invention when there is a transformation of self.

Not only will other people not accept "the new you", you may not either.  A comfort zone by definition is comfortable.  To become different means work, and you will find resistance all around you. Others will often reject your efforts as it makes them uncomfortable, especially if they see your changing as somehow threatening.  This can be a matter of making them feel insecure about their own lack of achievements, and nobody wants to feel inferior.  

It is said you can store live lobsters in an open topped box.  When one lobster begins to crawl out of the container the others will use their claws to pull it back in.  Sound familiar?  It happens with humans, too.  Make an attempt to better your situation and those around you will attempt to hold you back.  Be prepared for some in your life not to be as supportive as you would have imagined.

Yet the biggest obstacle in your path might be yourself.  Many of us self sabotage our own growth.  A critical inner-voice will challenge you, making you question if you are really worthy of the new life you seek, and your subconscious can take you back to old routines fairly easily.  I find this with diet and exercise, as I intend to make good food choices, but after the second piece of cake I realize that I was not paying attention to my new routines, and acted from my old paradigms.

Sometimes we fear the unknown, and thus it is easier to stay put in our current situation.  We may say one thing out loud as to what we want, but the change we desire can also be scary.  Much like we cannot let the other people stop our progress, we cannot let fear paralyze us.  Face it and be honest about what is scary about the life tweaks you are undertaking.  

Transformation means being vigilant to the process and being sure you are regularly communicating your changes to yourself and others.  Do not allow distractions from the outside or the inside to hold you back.  The rewards of the new life should surpass the discomfort of the process, and you need to remember this as you develop a new self identification.

If you make a mistake, do not beat yourself up.  Instead get back on the track and keep trying.  Others may say "see, they are not changing", but if you know that you are making progress, don't let the naysayers get you down.  Have a positive attitude and know your motivation as to why you are making these shifts.  

Over communicate the details of your journey with others and yourself.  Change takes time, and nothing will speak louder than your actions.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, May 25, 2015

Get Rid of Useless Stuff

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #5)

Over time we often accumulate a lot of stuff.  Some things we own are important, valuable, and have sentimental ties.  There are many items that are used often or are saved for a specific purpose However, if you are like me, over a lifetime it seems we collect a lot of crap.

My ongoing experience is showing me that to re-invent I need to regularly purge my stored "stuff".  I am not advocating living as a minimalist, although I will admit that I admire those who can let go of so much and live with a realistic view of their needs. Our society has placed such an over-emphasis on material things that it has become so hard for people to throw things away or donate them to others.

The truth is I am good with this concept of cleaning out the clutter in theory, but I am not good at it in practice.  I am not a hoarder, but I do have a lot of junk that I do not use or need. There is not much I possess that has generational family sentimental value, and I doubt my kids would ever want any of the things that are placed on my closet shelves.  When my parents passed away and my brothers and I sorted through their items, we found little that we needed to save.  

Stuff can hold us back and clog our storage space.  This is true of closets and our minds.  The more often that I go and throw out physical items, the more I seem to let go of mental road blocks.  My closet is a perfect metaphor for my brain, as the more I can eliminate from the shelves, the more attention I can place on the things I have decided to keep.  

While my progress is slow, I do have an occasional ritual where I set a timer for 15 minutes and purge items from my drawers, closets, and other storage areas.  I place belongings in the trash or create a donation pile for Goodwill.  This is a hard task, as for some reason I want to hold on to clothing or other things that trigger memories.  Throwing away items is hard, but in an effort to move forward and continue to learn, grown and change, looking backwards is not congruent with my goals.

If you want to re-invent and re-launch your life, sometimes you have to make a fresh start.  Let go of the past, and make room for new stuff and experiences that you will encounter in the future. 

Purge the excess and live in the now. Get rid of useless stuff.  We don't need nearly as many trinkets as we have been lead to believe.  There is freedom in tossing out the old stuff.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Read, Listen, Learn, and Understand New Information..... Everyday

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #4)

Re-invention is not easy.  You cannot rely on your past knowledge and habits to take you in a new direction.  To re-launch in a new direction you must become an avid learner of the new career or lifestyle that you seek to conquer.   

Often people make assumptions about their new life, and make decisions based on what they feel and think.  This is often a recipe for failure. To undertake major change without an understanding of reality will mean more mistakes.  

Devote time to learning as much as you can about a new career, industry, etc...  Do this in advance of making the leap, but also everyday until you have become the master of that universe.  Then remind yourself to never stop learning.  Read books and articles, listen to podcast, take classes, practice new talents, and talk with people who have achieved the level of expertise you seek. Always be seeking new knowledge.

Never before in history have we had such access to information.  The internet has put everything we could ever want to learn at our fingertips.  Plus we now have a direct way to contact people who are living the lives we desire.  And still many fail to take advantage of the ease of learning and making key connections.

Sites like Coursera have put college classes, taught by professors at the top universities, online and free of charge.  I have taken several Coursera classes, and they are an awesome way to access top academic educational ideas and theories.  You need not be enrolled at Harvard to participate in a class taught by one of their professors, and they will challenge you to think bigger.  

Additionally, there are podcasts on any topic you can imagine.  With a smart phone and access to iTunes and Stitcher you can turn time in your car or at your gym into an education session.  Everything under the sun is discussed on podcasts, and while not all of them are awesome, there are many that will change your life if you listen regularly to the advice and the stories that are shared.

Interviewing experts is also a fantastic way to learn.  My own podcast, "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do", was born out of my desire to learn more about life as entrepreneur and to be inspired by people who are living in entrepreneurial ways.  I was told that if you interview 50 people, you will never be the same again. This was great advice, and now after 73 interviews I can assure you that asking smart people to share their experiences is a fast way to learn, grow and become inspired.

If you are serious about a fresh start (at any age) you must become a dedicated student.  Those who will succeed at talking their life in a new direction will be those who are learning everyday.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Find A Mentor

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #3)

If you want to reinvent your life and discover success in new ways, find a mentor (or mentors) who will show you the paths toward success.  

Too often we look at career and life options and think their is only one way to achieve success.  However, in many industries and business disciplines there are several options that will lead people to their goals.  What we see from the outside looking in is often different from what those who are doing it experience on a day to day basis.

The world of professional speaking is a good example.  What most people think is the life of a speaker is very different than the realities. It can look fun and glamorous, and while there are many perks, people miss that it is a lot of work to grow a career as a paid presenter.  Most observe a speaker on stage during their talk or in the few minutes before they head back to the airport.  All the preparation, research, rehearsal, travel, travel delays, and lonely nights away from family are not understood.  When I first changed directions to become a full time speaker I had already spent countless hours building friendships with those who were working speakers. I had found serveral who were willing to mentor me along the way, and their guidance was paramount to my future. They showed me the realities of the industry, and that made it much easier to grow my own career.

A mentor / mentee relationship can be many things.  It can be a formal arrangement or a causal friendship.  The mentor can be a peer or a more experienced professional.  The key is to be able to learn from what your teacher has experienced in the past and to take those lessons into account to shorten your learning curve.

I have heard of some who claim their mentors are historical figures or industry legends whom they have never met.  They create ongoing conversations in their minds with Abe Lincoln, Henry Ford, or Martin Luther King. The key is that they are seeking the advice in the writings and reputations of their heros and getting guidance from them (in albeit an unorthodox manner).

There are many ways to find a mentor, but you have to be looking for the right person.  It can take time, and not everyone who is successful is the right choice. The old saying is "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear".   The first step is identifying someone, but then making sure the other person is willing can be just as hard.  Making the ask can be scary as people fear rejection and do not know how to describe what they are seeking.  Additionally many potential mentors do not know what is involved in such a role, and they are often trepidation about the time commitment and responsibility.  

Yet when it is right, it is right.  It is not just the mentee that learns and grows from the relationship, but also the mentor.  Experience alone is not how we teach others, so having a positive connection and an ongoing give and take makes the situation "win/win" for all involved.

Many people advertise and charge money to "mentor", but I believe a real mentor is not seeking financial compensation.  Executive Coaching is not the same as being a mentor.  Coaching is very task oriented and often based on a time-limit (set by the length of the financial agreement) while mentorship is based on the relationship and is open-ended in regards to time, based on the mutually agreed upon skills development.  The key is to not mix up the two.

I am not saying coaching is a bad thing, I have worked with coaches who have helped me overcome several career road-blocks, but the best mentors are there for the long-haul and transcend into meaningful friendships.

If you are looking to make a change, it is important that you find others who have "been there and done that", as otherwise you are going into your new world with blinders on.  It is easy to make assumptions without experience, but those who have lived the life you desire know what is true.  

Good luck, as finding a good mentor will have un-matched influence on your success.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Surround Yourself With Great People

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #2)

If you want to change your life, surround yourself with people who are living the life you desire.  Jim Rohn famously said "You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with".  Think about that and look around at how your peers choose to spend their time.  It is your future.

Recently I was chatting by phone with an person who wants to have a career as a professional speaker.  I asked her "How many speaker friends do you have?"  She had no reply.  After a few seconds she asked "Do you count?" (we were are not yet really "friends", as we just met).  I am unclear how anyone can enter a new industry or lifestyle without knowing people who are living in that arena.

It can be difficult to make new friends as we get older.  For Generation X or the Baby Boomers it might seem like they have all their friends in place for life.  Yet people will come and go from your life at all stages if you are open to sharing your world with others, you can find the right people.

Early in life we have school, clubs, sports and other formal and informal activities that bring us together with new people.  Relationships are forged through shared experiences, but in today's hyper busy world we tend to be isolated quite often.  Thus to make new friends you must put in a serious effort.

To find create new connections you first must act like a friend.  What do friends do?  They care.  They listen.  They put the other person first. They make sacrifices.  Etc....  In real life we often behave in opposite ways to those we do not know, thus making it even harder to get to create friendships.  

It is like dating; all parties must be committed to moving it forward if you want anything lasting and meaningful to occur.

Join organizations, and get involved.  If you can't find the right organization, start your own group.  Try getting people together for coffee or drinks on a regular basis. It has never been easier to reach people with shared interests.  But realize that meeting someone once does not make them part of your network.  Meeting them once makes them somebody you have met once.  There is a big difference between a single encounter and a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.  Be patient and work to understand the motivations and needs of others, in addition to your own.

Remember, not everyone you want to make part of your inner circle will want to be your friend.  That is okay.  There are plenty of great people in the world, and you can find the right tribe with effort and patience. 

Additionally, there are times when friendships come to an end.  While sad, it is not uncommon and should not create excess drama.  You cannot make people be part of your world, so happily enjoy the memories and then surround yourself with the people who have come to share the next chapters of your life.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, May 15, 2015

Don't Worry About What Others Think

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #1)

As the members of "Generation X" hit the big 4-0 and big 5-0, the time has come for us to take charge of our lives.  We were educated by the baby boomers and those who came before to expect a world that changed.  The reality of today is different than what we went to school to learn.  If we allow the expectations of others to hold us back from forging our own paths now, we may not get another chance.  

Now is the mid-point of life for Gen X.  This generation that was thought to be slackers are proving to be cunning entrepreneurs who make things happen. Those who are finding the most success are not worried about what others think, and instead are taking action.  

Those of us in this generation that is sandwiched between the Boomers and Millennials do not get the same amount of press coverage as those on either side, but we don't care.  We just do stuff and make things happen.

If you want to get a fresh start in your life or career at this middle age you cannot be worried about what other people think.  Very often we place our identities in our our job titles or other outside labels that are assigned by those around us.  You are a doctor, lawyer, husband, mother, etc....  Your past actions are what the world assumes your now is all about.  But in our hearts many of us know we are ready to re-launch.

None of us are any one single thing, and if we want to make a change in our life in our 40s or 50s we cannot be hung up on conclusions that other people have jumped.

It is easy to get caught in a role that begins to feel like a ever deepening hole. We wonder if we are too old to do something new. If you are seeking a fresh start that gets you closer to your real self, then you cannot be stuck in your past.  

Clearly your relationships with those closest to you matter as do their feelings.  But outside your family and closest friends, why in the world should you care how outsiders judge you?  We are being judged all the time and it does not matter one bit.

When I launched out on my own as a speaker many of my "friends" discussed how they thought I would fail in my quest.  While I might have failed (happily I have not), the journey of trying was the important thing to me.  I had longed to start my own business for many years, and if I had not done it at age 42, I am certain regret would have always been present.    

Hearing what others thought about my goals, especially those who secretly gossiped negative opinions (oh yes, if you say something bad about another person, even in confidence, rest assured they will hear of your sharp tongue) could have derailed the whole thing and sent me looking for a regular job.  But I did not care.  The time had come to own my dream.  My wife and kids were supportive, and that was all that mattered.

There will always be naysayers, and this stops many people from ever trying to go for a re-invention.  The time is now for Generation X to drop any assumptions, labels, and limits.  Today is about a fresh start.

Have A Great Day

thom singer  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Handwritten Notes and Showing Up In-Person (Better than a text???)

A good friend of mine mentors a college student. The student had interviewed for a job, but the company had not responded to her after the initial interview.  She was curious what to do, so my friend recommended writing a handwritten note and hand-delivering it to the person she had met with a few weeks earlier.

For a digital native the idea of handwritten note and an unexpected physical visit to the company seemed like advice from Mars.  But, she trusts her mentor, and instead of sending yet another email she showed up with her note.

Her is the email she sent my friend:
Dear "Mentor"-
I wanted to thank you for your advice last week to write a hand written thank-you note and to hand deliver it. Going there unexpected was one of the scariest things I've done so far but I feel like it was probably one of the most effective things I could have done. The lady I interviewed with explained how the next person that was supposed to contact me hasn't reached out yet because they have been out sick with strep throat. Here's to hoping I hear from them soon; it is a dream opportunity.   
    Thank-you again; I think I really needed that push out the door. This first year after school has ironically been one of my steepest learning curves. 
All the best
Even in our text and email world, the personal touch goes a long way.  I applaud this Millenial for going the extra mile.  I hope she gets the job.

There is often a lot of debate about the power of the handwritten note and the personal touch, but it still works.  I think that many who argue against this "old school" approach are simply not wanting to put in any effort.  Too often people think "how do I streamline my actions to make my own life easier".  This is selfish thinking.  Instead, it might be smarter to think "how can I put myself out and do extra work that might make me uncomfortable, yet shows the other person they are worth it".

What do you think?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Random Haiku #2

Mothers Day Memories
Fun lady who made us laugh
Left life far too soon

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Random Haiku

People do not see
Seeking heart searching daily
My soul is alone

There Is No App For Real Life

Everyone is on a journey, regardless of if they realize it or not.  

Being the person in charge of your own life is hard work, and requires considerable attention, or you will just drift about responding to the actions of others.  A boat without sails, oars or an anchor tends to get pushed around by the tide.
"If you do not design your own plan in life - chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan.  And guess what they have planned for you?  NOT MUCH"  - Jim Rohn
Running my own solopreneur business for six years has been a great experience.  I like the independence and the freedom, but still struggle with the ups and downs from income fluctuation and uncertainty.  It is hard to keep up with all the moving parts, and sometimes things fall apart or I feel overwhelmed.  Over time I am getting used to the flow of being a solo-business professional, and I tend to not get as stressed out as I did a few years ago.  I have a plan, and I know where my journey is headed.

On the personal front there is always so much going on that I rarely feel I have mastered the art of enjoying down-time.  Don't get me wrong, I desire relaxation as much as the next person, but my brain keeps pumping out ideas and reminding me of the ever-growing "to-do list".  The ability to escape from the reality is allusive.  There is so much to get done that the stress can be a real factor.

Those who master success, both in their personal and professional lives, are the ones who can keep focused and calm.  They are content with the journey and the destination. 

My dad recommended being "slow to anger, and fast to forgive".  This is good advice, as it seems in our pressure filled society people are always pissed about something.  They focus anger at others in a way to feel better about their own life.  I am sick and tired of those who are angry at someone or something all the time (anyone with me on this one?).

In our social media crazy world it is easy to disconnect from the human relationships that matter the most.  A like, link, share or follow is not really a relationship.  We have replaced conversation with instagram posts.  The key to success is the people you associate with, and having real friendships with people who care can make your whole journey a much better adventure.  There is no app for real life friendships.

Some of the people I talk with are not feeling they are surrounded by enough supportive and caring friends or business associates.  I am also finding that as we get older it becomes more difficult to establish new friendships.  People are set in their ways, and are too busy to invest in new connections.  Effort is needed to make, grow and keep your relationships.  To make a friend you first have to be a friend.  And this is a commitment.

In an effort to cultivate the human connections, try to find ways to reach out to others and encourage them.  People don't care about your goals, they care about their own goals.  Do you even know what the people around you want to accomplish?  I know that some of those closest to me assume they understand my motivations, but they really have no clue (because they never ask).  I am working to ask more questions about what others want.

This journey of life is hard. Develop a plan and find the right people to help you along the way. And have some fun, too.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Get What You Want

"You can have everything in life you want, 
if you will just help enough other 
people get what they want."  -Zig Ziglar

The plan was to write a long post based on the above quote.... but it speaks for itself.

Who have you helped lately?  Don't make excuses or rationalize your own "busy".  Do something to help promote another person's career or otherwise assist them in getting to the next level.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, May 01, 2015

Should a Speaker Do More Than Speak?

A client recently asked if I was willing to "play" while I was at their event.  They were wondering if I was willing to go beyond my role as a speaker, have some fun, and help them with some other projects while present at the multi-day conference.

My initial reaction was "YES" (saying yes leads to cool things), and it turned out to be the right thing to do.  They wanted me to be the "man on the street" interviewer for a video they were filming during the opening reception on the first night.  Not only did I help my client fill a role they needed, but I had an amazing time wandering around with the camera man and chatting with members, board members and exhibitors.  Playing always equals fun.

The association was working with CNTV (Convention News Television), the industry leader in bringing the exciting television production experience to conventions, conferences and trade shows.  Their professional crew helps organizers generate new revenue, increase attendance, provide a member benefit and extend the life and reach of the event.  I had met the CNTV people at several events where I have been a speaker over the past few years, but this was the first time I got to "play" with them.

Should speakers do more than speak at your event?  Should you ask them to play?

Well that depends on your speaker and the goals of the organizers.  If Bill Clinton is your keynote speaker, he wont be doing add-ons throughout your three day event.  But non-celebrity speakers should be willing to participate in activities that improve the attendee experience.  

In the busy meetings world where everyone has to multi-task, speakers who are part of the team can do more than one presentation.

To be fair, not every speaker's business model is the same, and thus not all can devote a full day, or several days, to your conference.  However, you can always ask them to take on more than a single role.  It is common for speakers to provide pre-conference videos and post-event webinars, so asking them to be more involved onsite is not an unreasonable request.

But be respectful to the speaker and treat them as a valued team member... not a vendor.  Do not get angry if their answer is "no" (again, their business model might require them to get to work on other projects after their speech to your audience), and never over-schedule their day (I had one client three years ago who abused my schedule and that was no fun).  When you are engaged in "playing" together you can uncover awesome ideas.

Asking your speakers to do more than speak can be win-win.  Most of my speaker friends are seeking ways to provide extra value, and clients who work with their speakers can help inspire whole new product offerings. 

As for my evening as the "reporter" for the conference video... it was one of the most fun nights I have had at a conference (and something I am now able to offer to other clients).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.