Do You Need a Business Plan

Do You Need a Business Plan?

I get this question very often, many startups ask me how to put a business plan together, what goes into a basic plan, and how long does it have to be? Well unfortunately the answer is, “It depends”. But that is also fortunate!

You see, every business is different. Some are single member, some may have contracted services. Some may have goals to scale big in 3 years. The needs will all vary and they will all need different kinds of plans. But a plan is needed.

Here is a short video explaining my why on this:

There are several approaches to getting a business plan going. BPlans has a simple one, or if you want to use their Live Plan service it’s very intuitive and you could turn one out in a month if you were focused. There is still the one page canvas if you’re just looking to map things out as well.

Whatever the need is, look at what you are asking of the business. If it’s sales volume, generating exposure, or gathering following you’ll have to have those things in your business plan. Use S.M.A.R.T. goals if you can, and have a coach or trusted peers help you out if you can. I hope this is helpful, leave any questions in the comments below, happy to help!


Asking the right question

Asking the right question

As a startup consultant I get asked a lot of questions, but sometimes I get things that are a little off target. Asking the right question is critical for staying on target, especially when a new company is navigating unfamiliar waters. Don’t get me wrong, I love curiosity and when clients are inquisitive but I also think directing feedback is very important.

On target
On target

Occasionally I get asked if a new business idea is ‘a good idea.’ Is that the right question? 99% of the time it really doesn’t matter because I’m not the target market for a business idea. Yes I see a lot of ideas come my way but I have a hard time convincing entrepreneurs that my perception is irrelevant. But I turn it around and emphasize that if I were the market that would buy the product/service/offering then yes it would matter what I thought.

It really comes down to focusing on who would be a potential buyer/user is and seeking structured feedback about the market need and their opinions about what the best solution is. If I’m the target market then great, I’ll talk with you all morning about my experiences and perceptions. If I’m not, then it isn’t valuable to put too much stock into my opinion as I won’t buy. When the market votes with its dollars then yes, take that seriously. But don’t build a business concept around opinions that aren’t potential buyers.

Build the idea around the wants, needs, and desires of the potential buyers. That way you can adjust your offering to be the best solution your market needs and stay ahead of the competition. There are ways to solicit feedback from a market segment, that I can help with.  Find out what the competition offers and based on feedback, build a better offering that will excite your users and clients. Standing out is important because there are many businesses that create sub par solutions and compete on price. If you offer something great then your customers can have something to talk about.

So direct your questions to the right segments, ask things that will give insight to the existing need and build something your customers will get excited about. Many industries have competition that is building average and sub par offerings, if you can build  a product or service that is unique and addresses nuances that don’t exist then people can go to you for a solution that is better than most. That’s how to effectively compete and stand out. And for small biz asking the right questions will get you there faster. Let me know how I can help with this.


Tribute to a great teacher

Simple but powerful lesson
Simple but powerful lesson

I got word that one of my favorite teachers from high school had recently passed away from his battle with cancer. In my younger years there were a handful of individuals who affected me in a very positive way at a critical time in my life. One of the most memorable teachers had given me two great lessons that I still appreciate more than 20 years later. My tribute is a glimpse into how I learned them.

As a teenager I had struggled with depression and direction. There were nights where I had no idea why life existed, or why people continued living the meaningless lifestyles our society perpetuated. At that time I needed support, direction, meaning, and challenges. When I signed up for my Junior year classes in high school I decided to take as many social sciences as  I could fit in, one of them being Sociology with a man named Steve Younk. I figured learning about culture would be a great compliment to the psychology class I was going to do so I settled in. I was hoping to understand society and culture more, and I did. But I got far more than that.

Throughout that semester I learned about the 5 institutions of society (Government, Religion, Economy, Family, and Education) culture (values, norms, and beliefs) and how they build and influence. But I also gained two other invaluable experiences. I felt like I could dig deeper and understand more about assumptions made in these cultural influences. As the semester went on I felt challenged. Challenged to understand more, to connect the meaning to every day life, and think critically.

One crucial thing I needed at that time was to be challenged. When I had something to try and achieve, the meaninglessness that I was muddling through began to dissolve. I could achieve something in my educational experience and have it be practical. I felt like I wanted to get the best “A” in the class I could and felt excited to learn and apply it in my daily life. This was the strongest experience with critical thinking I had in high school and it served me very well when I went to college. Studying as much chemistry, math, and religion as I did, it took a critical eye to be able to do that and for that preparation I am grateful.

The second thing I took away from this Sociology class was how to examine myself. I remember Mr. Younk had challenged the class one day with a question,

“What have you learned?”

Seems pretty simple on the surface right? But no, there is more to it. We were told that to properly answer the question we’d have to be able to first be able to communicate what we knew prior to the class in terms of society and culture. We’d have to know our influences, our sources of understanding, and talk about coming in contact with new information. We’d have to explain how we encountered new theories and ideas and whether or not we agreed with them and why. To be able to explain ‘what we learned’ required us to know ourselves well enough to not only have an awareness of these lessons but articulate it well enough to communicate the change we experienced. That required a significant level of self awareness, especially for a teenager.

Mr. Younk had suggested having that as our final exam for the semester, just one question. I prepared for it, but it never unfolded that way. We had a final exam that was much easier, more related to text book concepts and past exams. But I’ll never forget the importance of that question because it has resonated with me through every experience I’ve gone through. I examine how I’m different after graduating high school, college, and being a parent. I examine how I exceed my goals in the gym after changing my routine. I examine how I’m different after going through a hardship, a job, or achieving something new.

If I had to distill this into a smaller bit of wisdom, I’d put it this way:

How are you different now, after going through what you just did? What did you gain or let go of? Where were you and how is now different from then? What was the lesson, the achievement, and in what way are you changed?

That is how to apply the lesson, examine yourself today vs. yesterday. This year vs. last year. This job vs. last job. How are you better? What are you doing to learn more and get better? We never know how far our influences will travel, I’d doubt Steve Younk had an idea this blog post would be written. I think the best way I can pay tribute is to share these two lessons and hope that it inspires others. I hope people can challenge themselves to be better than yesterday.

Here is a link to the guestbook for Steve Younk’s page on Caring Bridge. Consider signing it or leaving a donation on Caring Bridge. Or at least look at it to see how valuable a teacher he was and how much impact he’s had in this corner of the world:

Thank you

acting on feeling do what you feel

A different approach, and new training results

Over the last few years I’ve struggled with the balance between analyzing and feeling. 15395-a-healthy-young-man-lifting-weights-in-a-gym-pvThese are two traits I have, the former is a gift I came into the world with and the latter is something I’ve been developing. I’m all for training and developing the weakest link, as that is usually what holds you back in physical performance, development, and professional endeavors. So I decided to try a feeling approach to one area of my growth to see what result would come of it. Completely unlike me.

About 18 months ago I got back to the gym on a regular basis. My youngest son was just over a year old and we were able to utilize the child watch services at the YMCA. This opened up an opportunity for me to train at least once per week and get some physical balance back. The first 6 months were spotty, I generally showed up and mostly was just doing treadmill and a little weight training to get my muscles back in shape. Results were OK, I was able to regain my past performance like running a few miles easily and enough strength to bench press my own weight again.

After 6 months there this point where you plateau and don’t really gain too much. This is a critical point where you can either grow or lose motivation, both physically and psychologically. I initially thought about constructing a new workout routine, something suggested on or along those lines. But one day something felt really good when I was on a machine and finishing a set. I felt like that particular exercise was exactly what my body needed that day and getting me needed growth. This next idea came to me out of nowhere:

“What if I only trained what I felt like my body wanted to train?”

I decided that I wanted to try training in a way that felt good, not seemed good. In the past I was an avid reader of Muscle and Fitness magazine and really learned a lot about form, techniques, different nutrition and many other ‘Weider Principles‘. I had put together many routines and corrected many mistakes from this, but I also plateaued several times over the years.

I gave this approach a shot at first, going to the gym with no structure felt very aimless and I worried if it enough. But giving my body the chance to tell me what it needed and respond to it wound up feeling very good. Sure there were days where I only wanted to do legs or routines where I didn’t do parts that would balance things out. But I did experience a balance in my training. I discovered my body would feel good when I trained antagonistic muscles (triceps vs. biceps, hamstrings vs. quads, etc) and I didn’t have to plan it. The desire was just there.

Best of all, my results were there. I saw my need to increase weight and do that often. I naturally found myself doing exercises that I normally didn’t like doing (I dread Romanian Deadlifts) and best of all I was intrinsically motivated. I didn’t have to push through something I didn’t want to do because of  a planned structure, I was going with my flow.

Here are the lessons I learned from training to the feeling rather than training to the routine:

  1. By training to the feeling I was able to meet the greatest need
  2. By using feeling I was able to focus my training and get more out of each exercise, not distracted by ‘everything else I needed to fit in’
  3. I got to my peak performance quicker than I had in the past
  4. I’m far more motivated by doing what I want to do than what I have to do

After a while I came to a balance with this approach, I would go to the gym with a routine in mind but I’d allow myself the opportunity to feel how my body is doing in a given day. Then I’d allow for a change in plans if I felt I needed it, and forgiving myself very quickly if I didn’t hit those other parts for the day. I knew I’d get back to them.

This change in routine produced great results:

  1. From start to 18 months I increased my bench press (weight for sets, not one rep max) by 13%
  2. My leg press weight increased by 28%
  3. Most of my antagonistic muscles (triceps and biceps in particular) were trained at a weight increase of 26-36%

I’m not training to compete in any sort of event. My motivation is to continue to grow stronger and be healthy. The interesting thing is I did eventually hit my next plateau and had to learn a new skill to break through that. I’ll share that secret in the updated post. But for now I can share that training to the feeling is worth a try, especially if a jolt is needed in your training routine.


This is where business and spirituality meet

Wooden mala

Most of what I do doesn’t really fit in a box. I’ve tried for years to find the connections and an application for all the interests, talent, and experiences I’ve had. I’ve done assessments, informational interviews, volunteer work, certifications, and meditations to try to find the connection or application. After reading a Facebook post by Chris Brogan about not being able to find a box to fit in to, it really made me slow down and look at myself. Yes, I have many talents and yes I fit into some areas. But there really isn’t a box I fit into.

Here are the interests I was trying to find a place for:

  • I earned a degree in Religion with an emphasis in comparative religion
  • My minor is in chemistry and I understand quantum physics
  • I had done local theater for 16 years
  • I’m a whiz with business financials (P&L’s get me excited!)
  • Business Model Canvas also excites me
  • I’m Level 2 Reiki Trained
  • I’ve done some impressive process improvement projects turned best practice
  • I’ve learned Zen, tantric, and shaolin meditation
  • I learned boxing, Oom Yung Doe, and Kung Fu techniques
  • I’m a car guy and the terms EJ20, Hemi, and VQ35 make me grin
  • Talking the difference between gross margin and bottom line are fun
  • I know the Chinese astrological signs and tendencies of my family and how to work with them
  • I’m a certified business coach
  • I am a career coach and know what Holland codes mean
  • I can perform a few Tibetan chants in multiphonic vocals
  • I know how many beads are on a mala

When I slowed down, considered Brogan’s post, and spelled out what I do, it was then that I found the place where all of these things needed to go. Right here, me.  And I need to then share it with my readers. Yes, this is what I bring to the table. I can create a professional development plan, incorporate your MBTI type with the 5 Elements, and help you launch a business all in the same conversation. It’s  bit crazy but it works. Not everyone needs all of that, but there are some that do. That’s why I’m here and why I do it.

I’m happy to serve relate in a way that some quirky and unique individuals may need. I’m not for everyone, only those who need this approach. So I think I’ll write about these topics, offer perspective on how some of them relate to each other and connect the dots in ways people may not expect. This is where business and spirituality meet. Drop me a line or connect to me on social if you want to learn more.


Quarter Mile With the Hand Brake On

Inner Conflict Creates Friction

Inner conflict does some unfortunate things to the self. Most annoying is the distraction that pulls attention and energy away from the work towards the goals and aspirations we have.  Inner conflict takes several forms including self doubt, self sabotage and confusion. Sometimes the mind gets overly critical and puts us in analysis paralysis. It’s like trying to race the quarter mile with the hand brake on.

This inner friction not only reduces the effectiveness of the efforts exerted but saps motivation when the mind perceives an increased challenge. And the worst part of all of this is that it is self imposed. How can one be aware of these unfortunate actions? There are a few questions to ask to consider if this is happening:

1.  How often is there a consideration of the ‘downstream effects’? While it’s good to anticipate the cause and effect relationship of actions, if it consumes too much energy or starts to paralyze you from moving forward it may be too much.

2.  Is there a trend towards not being able to find a positive outcome? If most roads lead to an undesirable consequence then are there too many limiting beliefs or constraints in the analysis? Might want to take a wider look at options available.

3.  Are there a high number of ‘conflict fantasies’ where negative situations are played out in the mind? Planning how to deal with potential roadblocks or conflicts is good to ensure a positive outcome but over indulgence in this winds up feeding negative inner emotions.

Where does it come from?

Several factors can lead to these exaggerations in the mind including unresolved conflicts from the past, unexpressed emotions in relationships, stress not being managed, or balance in physical/psychological/emotional/spiritual needs. Often times there are situations, interactions, people or themes that can trigger the out of balance reactions of the mind. Understanding and having awareness of these triggers are key to resolving the over active games that our minds generate. Really the only way to put these things to rest is to give the triggers attention, go to the core of why they are there and to then resolve the discord. It’s a choice, and may be a runaway train if you’re not careful.


Ego is not your Amigo

The Ego is one of the most analyzed concepts I’ve worked with over the last 5 years. Ego often times over analyzes, over protects, and exaggerates perceptions of daily life and over compensates in the name of self preservation. Between the Ego and the Higher Self, there is much disagreement and conflict. One is trying to serve the self and the other is serving a greater purpose. Different perceptions set the stage for the different feelings of action, often times leading to uncertainty and confusion.  The ego has a somewhat predictable approach to things, here are several characteristics of ego based thinking:

1. Ego is often times concerned with the safest possible outcome, not always in the best interest.

2.  Ego language often uses terms like should, must, can’t, and won’t.

3.  The Ego perception can be judgemental on the self and others around.

4.  Ego considers what makes sense, not what feels like the right thing.

5.  Ego can be very filtered by conditions which would make things predictable. Predictability means safety in the ego understanding.

The Ego is that part of us that tries to keep us safe. It categorizes, filters, and looks for something that could be a threat. By putting things in boxes it tries to relate us to known, previous experiences in order to better anticipate uncertainty and danger.

For those of us with a strong critical thinking ability, ego can be relentless. Previous encounters help set up standards and correlations, telling us how things should play out. By assuming what ‘should’ be, an unhealthy standard can be created and measuring others in a manner that is without compassion or understanding. Given few facts, situations or people can easily be held to a standard. Let me provide some examples:

1. If you are doing career or financial planning, it would be easy for the ego to find a standard that you ‘should’ be achieving and questioning ‘why aren’t you there yet?’

2. Are you on a training routine at the gym? By assessing others around you, the ego might question why you haven’t risen to a ‘higher’ level of performance like ‘those other people’.

3.  In working through a relationship challenge or personal conflict, does the language in your head question ‘why you don’t handle things better?’ or ‘why do people always get the better of you’?

The theme in these is the judgement and type of language used. Generally speaking, ego language is very black and white, all or nothing, consists of put downs, and promotes division rather than cooperation. The standards that ego sets are sometimes punishing. Here are some better ways to look at situations:

1. Can you consider where you are at in the right now instead of where you should have been?

2. Can other successful outcomes be reflected on and applied instead of believing the ‘all or nothing’ standard?

3.  Has a goal been set and attempted to achieve? If so then the effectiveness can be evaluated and adjusted for improved outcome. If not, then it’s probably not worth thinking ‘where you should have been’ and would be better to start planning for goals.

There are many perspectives to take on situations and Ego language can be very unhealthy  when left unchecked. By letting go of these harsh standards and working towards improving method and approach, a better trend towards achievement can start. Ego is not your Amigo and should not be given the amount of  energy it demands. There are healthier ways to work with this.

Critical analysis of a plan or path to a goal can be good to make sure you’re on track. Using the ego as a tool for progress instead of serving it can make the self more powerful in getting to where you need to be. Being conscious of who serves who puts things in check and removes one of the biggest roadblocks to moving forward. Getting in the way of your own self.

The job seeker’s Catch 22 mindset

Yesterday on LinkedIn I read a post about the Entry Level Epidemic that college grads face.  Tracey Edouard wrote a strong piece about the feelings that what I feel both grads and job seekers sometimes encounter when they are venturing into the next leg of their professional journey.  The article can be found here:

Having coached adult job seekers as well as college students I discovered one concept in Tracey’s article that really got to me:

“Companies won’t hire you because you don’t have enough professional experience, but how else are you supposed to gain professional experience if you’re not given a chance to work in the professional field?”

I call this the Catch 22 mindset which I’ve seen many times.  This belief is a self perpetuating loop that will keep you in the cycle of never getting experience.    Searching on a job board and going through the application process and getting screened is not the only way to get a job.  During my stint as a career advisor for students in the medical field, I wouldn’t allow my mentees to fall into this trap.

As a former job seeker I felt well qualified for positions only to get rejected after a week or two.  After repeated attempts and failures, my ego painted a picture that narrowed my hopes and possibilities.  That personal experience allowed me to understand how that state of mind began and built a limited view of the world around me.  In my journey I did learn new ways of adapting and moving beyond that point.

  1. Get volunteer experience in the areas you want to work in.  Is there a university, non-profit, or municipality that could use some assistance on something despite lack of budget?
  2. If you can’t find a volunteer experience, start a project and make one.  I know of a person in my network that wanted to get more into marketing so he decided to be a campaign manager for a local candidate in an upcoming election.
  3. Create a community group that does projects for the surrounding area.  There are some great local groups that do very good things for charity.  In my area, WGirls chapter does quite a bit of good.

The fundamental problem I have with the Catch 22 experience model is that there is so much external locus of control with the perspective. Yes, there are certain aspects of the deck that are stacked against recent grads, but instead start looking at what you can control. When in college, it is important to start building your experience early on (like sophomore year) so you can have a couple years of transferable experience.

I believe college students could benefit from more mentorship.  A capable mentor can help you structure what you want to do and help navigate the changes that occur in college studies. I changed my major in my senior year from a BS to a BA. I did not have mentors or seek other professional guidance that would have helped me establish clarity. I roamed and searched in my 20’s and stumbled in my early 30’s. Looking back I wish I had more mentors along the way to authentically help me.  Here is what I’d advise to others:

1. Start planning your sophomore year.  Create plans for 1 year, 2 years, and 3 years out to clarify your goals post graduation.  This doesn’t have to be etched in stone but it will help start the process.
2. If direction is a challenge, look for some assessments and a coach/professional to help you with it. I’ve seen good things come from MBTI, Enneagram, Talent Dynamics and more.
3. Join professional groups to meet people that can help. I do some work with the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee and they have a fantastic student program. Find something that can put you in contact with those who can be of service.
4. Every 6 months, do a head check. How is my perspective, what are my limiting thoughts, what is motivating me right now? If it’s healthy then keep feeding that process. If there are unhealthy things then hit those head on.

In my opinion Awareness is the key to it all. An honest examination of your beliefs and willingness to create your own opportunities are your ticket to success.  Career opportunity is not a closed loop, but a rather complex journey in which we all probably need guidance at some stages.  Take control, ask for help and don’t lose heart.




Animal Symbolism

For many years I’ve  been fascinated by dream interpretation and symbolism. I’ve always felt as if there were important lessons to be gained from our subconscious mind processing our day’s happenings. One perspective I came across a few years back was looking closer at animal symbolism and interpretation. I’m a huge fan of Carl Jung and his work on archetypes and dreams and I find his style of symbolism to be intriguing and useful.

This could be a huge post, hundreds of pages long if I weren’t careful so I’m keeping it focused on animal symbolism. One very useful book I like to reference is called Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. He draws upon a very spiritual look on how animal symbolism had played out in North American history and how it can still be relevant today.

One technique I like to use is to read about the animal symbols and how they were interpreted by medicine men and shamans. His book will talk about animal behaviors as well as traditional history and interpretations of animal symbolism. Then it wraps up with possible interpretations of animal symbolism and what it might mean in the reader’s life. Here are a few examples:


Associated with Visionary Power and Guardianship as well as higher levels of consciousness. How would you feel that vision and soaring to new heights is relevant to your world right now?


Associated with Wisdom and Folly, sometimes coyotes are incredibly wise and understanding creatures but if those around you don’t understand, you may need to simplify things in order to communicate that perspective. They also hunt in packs by coordinating and cooperating. Is cooperation an aspect of one’s life that needs work?


Associated with transformation. Since frogs start off as tadpoles in water, and then eventually grow legs to navigate on land, there is a tremendous amount of adaptation and trasformation in this symbol. Are there aspects of life which need transformation in order to move forward? Since frogs start off in water and then land, how do the elements of Earth and Water become relevant?

Sometimes these animal symbols won’t make sense when you first think about dreams and what plays out. But in the context of a deeper wisdom it may illuminate a much needed perspective on what is going on in one’s life. But if a bizarre dream of your parents sitting in water holding a frog doesn’t make sense, try thinking of the wisdom of the symbols and consider if a moving beyond old family patterns and transforming the self to something beyond that would be a benefit.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a reference book that will give meaning/interpretation to cover all situations but consider what animal symbolism could teach you. One must make their own assessments and interpretations based on situational and personal relevance. Are there animals you seem to be naturally drawn to? Have there been odd symbols that didn’t make sense but could have a deeper meaning? Feel free to share some things that stand out or seem like they would be worth exploring, I’m curious.


The Five Elements

There is an interesting concept I came across in some of my Eastern studies relating to the five elements. In Chinese astrology for example, not only is there an animal symbol for your birth sign but also a corresponding element relating to what part of that year you were born in. Also in certain Tibetan traditions, five elements were useful in bringing balance to the self. Let me lay out a summary of the elements and what they may mean.

Earth: This is a very solid, grounding type of energy. Things like dirt, metal, and stone are examples of this. The Earth element can bring about stability, heaviness, or solid protection if needed.

Water: A very flowing, fluid type of energy. Water conforms to it’s container, holds no shape of its own, and is less dense than Earth. It can represent the ability to flow with changes around the self, is sometimes associated with vast ‘oceans’ of wisdom, and other times can be a tsunami of force.

Fire: This energy is passion, motivation, drive, and motion. The element of fire also tempers and purifies. Sometimes things need to be burned away to give way to something new, this is another way in which fire can help.

Air: The element of air also takes the form of wind, fresh perspective, change, and freedom. Very light and expansive, air can be a sense of peace and freedom in certain cases.

Space: This element is the fifth element, a little more abstract. All matter occupies space, this is where the potential lies. The larger the space the more one can allow in to certain situations. It can be expansive or restrictive depending on the need.

In all of this lies the concept of balance. Within all of us is aspects of all of these elements and a certain strength in each of these. The energies of these elements can be strong, weak, or in a relative harmony. The goal is to try and assess where each of these reside and what type of adjustment may be needed.

For example, I worked with a manager who tended to be hot-headed. When too many things came his way he tended to be short, make rash decisions and at times lash out. Interestingly enough, one of his favorite past times was boating. He felt relaxed and peaceful while on his boat. In this case his element of fire was probably too strong and water was a way to ‘flow’ better and even out some of his temper.

In another case, a job seeker who is unhappy in their position but is afraid to leave the security of where they are, may actually have too much Earth element (grounding) and could use a little fire to motivate.

Another example could be the pessimist who thinks that they are out of options and can’t actually change their situation. This individual would benefit from increasing the element of space to allow in possibility as well as increasing the element of air to usher in some fresh ideas and perspective.

It gets interesting when you start using elements to assess workplace culture, work styles and leadership styles. When elements are incorporated into the perspective then it sometimes is easier to see potential solutions to change. A stagnant work culture may need more fresh ideas (air), then introducing new trainings or newer personnel may be useful.

What I suggest now is thinking about these concepts in different aspects of work and life and see if you can measure them:

1. What elements seem to be more prevalent?

2. How do you think they are weighted? Too much, too little, neutral or in balance?

3. What counter elements could be introduced to bring a better balance?

4. What activities or solutions could reflect those counter balancing elements?

Let me know what you think, I’m curious to hear your assessments!

career career coaching career shift Uncategorized

Observations from coaching job seekers

I recently gave a presentation on, “How to Navigate a Career Transition” for the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.  As I was thinking about what to share in this session, I really felt torn because I really only had 45 minutes or so to present  some key take aways.  Navigating a jump in career can take different forms and can be a relatively planned event or a chaotic chain of unfortunate circumstances.  I decided to cover more of an outline of what I use as a process in identifying direction, strategy and resources to help people along.

One trend that really stood out to me in my experience coaching was that seekers had the most trouble with communicating scope in both their resume and the interview process.  I think that most workers in the field wind up doing their day to day jobs and hitting benchmarks, metrics, or whatever it is called in the organization.  Few stop (or maybe don’t have time)  to reflect on the depth of work they do.  Which is really too bad if you think about it, a worker may spend 8-14 hours in a work day and not even having the chance to contemplate what they have done before tending to the next committment.

Here is an observation I’d like to share: You will do better in position as well as in a career transition if you are aware and conscious of your accomplishments and understand your scope. Here are some examples:

-It’s one thing to tell someone that you are a supervisor.  It’s another thing to say you have been a supervisor in position for  over 5 years, had been responsible for performance management of 55 team members and led that team in the best safety streak the company has seen.

-It’s one thing to say you worked in a coffee shop but it’s another thing to communicate that you’ve trained over 25 employees in the last 18 months in a high volume store.

-It’s one thing to say you’ve taken on special projects but another to tell how you led a process improvement initiative which saved the company 100 labor hours every month.

One way to stay out of this trap is to meet regularly with a mentor to talk about your career experience.  A good mentor can have discussion to help see different angles in situations as well as be a sounding board for your concerns.  Also, by telling someone your goals it kind of forces you to stay on track.  Mentors can either be in your company or outside. A very wise woman in my network recently taught me you can have a ‘kitchen sink’ of people you can regularly count on to help you out.  It doesn’t hurt to tap your regulars for their perspective.

By utilizing this type of resource one can keep professional performance and goals at the forefront as well as get outside perspectives on the situation.  So when it comes time to write your resume or answer the interview question of ‘what was that result?’ you will have plenty of examples in mind because you had been regularly reflecting on them.


Been too long

Ok, I know it’s been too long but I’ve been regrouping and putting together some new ideas.  Much more to come, stay tuned in the next 4 weeks for more updates, new visual, and of course more quirky content.


What is a Quirky Optimist? Pt. 1

So anyone who knows me and hears “Quirky Optimist” usually stops, has 2.5 seconds of thought and then lights up because it really fits!  But what does it mean?  Here is the first of many posts on “What is a Quirky Optimist” which will include references to influences on my humor, perspective, and philosophy on life.  So here are several things that you could call quirky influences on me, enjoy:

Monty Python troupe of the 70’s spawned so many great actors, I really appreciated their dry sense of humor.  Love these clips including the Ministry of Silly Walks  and the Constitutional Peasant.  (You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power because a watery tart threw a sword at you!)

The Tick was a 90’s comic about all the rejected superheroes and how they get assigned to “The City” to fight the villains (which seemed to be of equal quality).  This episode of The Little Wooden Boy had all the elements including a pretend side kick, the Swiss industrial spies which used gigantic Swiss army knives, and a giant whale who runs across the continent.  Does all this make sense, no.  But pretty entertaining.

The movie Student Bodies was a horror movie from 1981 which was actually more of a spoof on the saturated genre at the time.  Think of it like a Scary Movie before spoofs were really popular.  Much of this movie was absurd and I loved the sense of humor in it.  And it has a rubber chicken scene.

Other quirky things about me include my love of Subaru Boxer Engines, sleeper cars, red wine (due to my appreciation of Three Musketeers stories).  I had pet ferrets for a while, now just a shih-tzu with a very strong opinion on how things should go.  I make my own stir fry sauces (because they’re better that way!) and have at least 4 ways to make my own coffee.  I am a coffee snob by the way…

But also I’m an optimist because I choose to be.  I feel that every day we all have choices in how we act as well as respond to the world around us.  I feel like we can choose between optimism and pessimism.  If I thought we didn’t have free will I’d likely be a pessimist, however since I see there are choices and we can (to reasonable degrees) have control over our situations that it only leaves optimism as a responsible solution.  If we can make the most of what we have, likely we will get more than if we didn’t try at all.  I have a post I wrote on Berni Xiong’s site about how Muhammad Ali was an inspiration to keep swinging, and how it is possible to make change.  I’ve found in my life that if you try, you can make something happen.




Sand Castles

By Jason E Mueller

20130725_185237I’ve had  a few things on my mind lately that have been weighing on me.  I’m noticing individuals facing some pretty serious situations, literally life and death.  I feel for them, shared that I would send thoughts and prayers their way as that’s all I could really do.  One of the people in my network (pretty close to my age) is dealing with their spouse being in hospice right now and trying to navigate their young child through the process.  How does one keep it together while facing something like that?  I have a family member who is facing health issues and will need surgery, I need to be there for that person on that date so I’ll take a day off of work for that.  But it’s a reminder to me that I’ll have to face those around me leaving this world at some point.  No one lives forever, things will change dramatically.  It’s all a matter of when.

Am I ready?  No.  I admit that right now.  If I were then the universe would be throwing me that one so I would have my turn experiencing and growing from end of life situations.  At least I have the awareness to know this so I can better prepare myself for when the time comes.  Here are some questions I’m asking myself right now:

“If someone close to me were about to pass, would I have any regrets?”

“If I didn’t have a chance to say good bye, what would hurt me most about that?”

“What would I want to do differently today if a close family member passed at the end of this year?”

“What great thing could I do right now or share right now that I think would benefit someone close to me that was going to pass?”

“What mundane things are distracting me from what is important right now?”

Back in my coffee shop days I had a customer come in by the name of Johnny.  He was a retired firefighter, cancer survivor, and seminary student.  Based on limitations from his struggle he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to being a minister, something he felt would be the best use of his future years.  He told me one day about the estate he was settling in his family, Johnny’s father had passed away six months prior.  I’ll remember this conversation vividly, he told me that he was working to put to rest all of the matters in the estate but there were some brothers that were fighting over money and inheritance.  Johnny was very disappointed to see family come to that point and that it would likely disappoint his father if he could see that going on.  He then told me that his father was a great saver.  He didn’t have much income but was great at budgeting.  Johnny’s father had always put money away for retirement so that when he was not able to work anymore, he would have a resource to draw from.  A very admirable trait.

But then Johnny stopped.  He said, “Jason I wish my father wouldn’t have done that.  He saved and saved but could have lived more in the moment.  For example he always admired Cadillacs, I wish he would have bought one and enjoyed it because all of that resource he put away is now dividing his family.  I wish I could have seen him enjoy things more when he had the chance.  And then there wouldn’t be a huge estate to fight over.”

Yes.  We should be conscious of how we are living in the moment.  Saving for retirement or emergency is in my opinion a good thing to do.  But like anything else, balance should be struck.  We can over compensate, put more away than we need to and rob today of the chances we have.  We can over allot our money, our time, and our attention to other things in hopes that we are building security.  My challenge to all of you reading this is to take note of happiness level related to how we go about this.  Does the amount of time we dedicate to our work add security while allowing us to enjoy the present?  Or do we punish ourselves by putting so much time into doing a “good job” that we don’t recognize the loved ones around us.  Or notice the impact we have on them.  Do we take advantage of the opportunities that we are provided or are we grinding away at our routine, blind to the answers we seek to make our lives better.

I have a very grounding, Zen exercise I like to do every summer which helps me to be able to slow down enough and be present.  Identify how many shades of green are on the leaves of trees while they blow in the wind.   Here’s a hint, it’ s more than one.  When you can identify that number, you’ve probably slowed down enough to notice things more effectively.  You may have to actually go up to the tree and take a closer look at one of the individual leaves (pull one off if you have to).  That’s fine, but the main point is to regain some of the awareness that meaningless routine tends to erode from our consciousness.

If you raise your awareness and go through your day in a conscious manner (rather than unconsciously doing the same thing over and over), you will be able to know more of how to interact with those around you and make things meaningful.  My hope is that decisions will be made in a more clear manner, interactions with loved ones will be enjoyed more, and those times where we find ourselves searching for something but just don’t know what…will decrease in number.  Time is short, life is limited.  Let’s do ourselves a favor and really live life and not get caught up in minutia.


Sometimes we build castles in the sand, our structures being representations of the art we envision.  But they won’t last forever, eroded by waves and wind, there is a limited time we can enjoy the beauty of them while they stand.  This sculpture of impermanence is a perfect reminder of how short a lifespan our creations have before they are returned to the seascape from which they came.


acting on feeling do what you feel intuition listen to your gut

The value of intuition

I have to admit, one of the most challenging lessons for me to learn has been to listen to my gut.  It’s taken me years to get to the point of doing something when my intellect hasn’t yet rationalized it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had hunches telling me to try something, everything from calling someone to stock picks, to just saying something to the random person next to me.  The root of this challenge has been balancing my left and right sides of my brain but in the last few years I’ve been blessed with lessons in going with intuition.

For example, when I saw Amy Clover of Strong Inside Out was doing a national tour to raise money for the non-profit, To Write Love On Her Arms, something drew me to look at that.  I’ve been a fan of Strong Inside Out for about a year now and it didn’t surprise me that a fundraiser like this would take place.  When I looked closer there was a call for contacts in numerous cities as about 20 were scheduled and 10 more were needed for her 30X30 project.  Chicago was listed as a tour stop and contacts were needed in the west coast and east, but something stopped me.  A feeling said, “What about Milwaukee?  Why not ask?”

It really made no sense.  Most of the tour stops were being held at Lululemon locations, and I had no connections to the organization.  I had never spoken to Amy before and she didn’t have connections in Milwaukee.  I hadn’t even heard of anyone in my network talk about 30X30.  And I even wondered, how would this benefit me?  I had no reason to reach out, nothing made sense.

So then I decided to try anyway, there was a hunch and I had a feeling prompt me to take action.  Not knowing why I typed a message on the Facebook page for the organization I simply asked if Milwaukee would be a possibility since Chicago was so close and what would it take to make sense to have another point on the tour?  The simple reply was, “yes if there was interest.”

So not knowing how to totally gauge interest or how to quantify it to a solid number I reached out to 2 people that I knew would be interested and could help.  Berni Xiong and Ambrose WB were more connected in that arena than I was so I sent the message, “I have something for you.”  We were able to come up with a list of partners and strategy for getting the word out and really did a good job at assessing the interest level.

Here’s the kicker with this, action and inaction will both produce consequences.  And sometimes people are in the right place at the right times to do something that needs to be done.