Put yourself out there

Figuring out what you want in life can sometimes be difficult but when you do figure out my advice to everyone is: Put yourself out there!

Recently I have been having some really interesting discussions about producing, creating, and sharing. The first discussion started during a meeting where a fellow colleague of mine (let’s call her Sharon) was discussing a friend of hers (let’s call the friend Amanda). This friend of hers, Amanda, had been pitching a television idea to a few executives only to find out that it would be turned down. However, only months later a very similar television show is now one of the most exported shows from Canadian broadcasting yet. Amanda was heartbroken. This lead Sharon to telling me all about how terrible the television industry can be. While I am usually all ears and ready to listen my response was something that I don’t think Sharon was ready to hear. While I sympathized with Amanda’s story I was not willing to bend on the fact that one singular television show idea should completely define Amanda and her work. My response was something like ‘well I hope she has continued to work on really amazing shows.’ What I heard back was sad. Sharon proceeded to tell me that Amanda was crushed and that after this heartbreak she was thinking of switching into a new industry. End of story 1.

Secondly, I remembered about a month ago reading a great piece from Rian about Going Out on a Limb so I had to go back and re-read her great piece on the topic. In particular I loved this line: I hope you have something like that, something that pushes you to get out into the world and be more “you.”

Thirdly, as a I continue to do some research and write a few notes on several books I am writing/dreaming I revisited Hugh MacLeod’s amazing book Ignore Everybody And 39 Others Keys to Creativity. I loved the simplicity of the read and the advice given the first time I read the book. Nothing changed the second or third time for me. Hugh’s idea around keep producing and working hard is just common sense and something that we don’t hear or put into action often enough. I mean if we love doing something why don’t we just do it?

Then the next thing that happened as this post was beginning to take shape I woke up yesterday only to find that my good friend, Susan Murphy, had written this piece: The number one thing holding you back from creating great content. Suze had written this piece so nicely and for me the message around FEAR being the number one thing holding people back really resonates. I work with people and organizations all the time that are afraid of putting themselves out there. They have these brilliant ideas or these amazing talents and they just never seem to be willing to believe in themselves and put themselves out there. Just like Suze said, it’s because people are afraid. Think about it, how many friends do you have that you encourage to bake more or sing more or dance more because they have amazing talents. We all know friends who amaze us with their hidden talents and we are very quick to point them out, we encourage them to share their talents with us, we sign them up for karaoke, we drag them to open mic nights, we post their poems up, we ask them to be in videos, we love them and we push them. But when the finger gets pointed back at us we tend to shy away from it, why is that? 

Then I saw this amazing demonstration of this young girl PUTTING HERSELF OUT THERE and I just had to write this post and share the story:


I mean really in truly what did this girl have to lose? She was either going to get a job offer, which I’m sure she never thought would actually happen, or Ellen would see it, think it was funny or not, would maybe show it on air and have a good laugh or not, or the WORST thing Ellen that could happen…Ellen would never see it and nothing would happen. I mean really are any of those things really that bad? She tried it, she put herself out there and it paid off. Yes I know this is an exceptional example but I could post at hundreds of more links that have articles written on the same topic and/or have similar stories to the young lady on the Ellen show. So I ask this again, what are you waiting on? What hidden talent do you have? What do you want to do in this world? Why the hell are you not doing it?

So what are you doing, why are you still reading this post? Get out there!

Small things matter

For a few days now no matter where I seem to be looking or what I seem to be reading (Airbnb: From Stars to Hearts) I am reminded, overwhelmingly I might add, that the small things matter. I always love this message. I mean it sounds obvious. But it is something that I think we often forget as our world moves faster and faster hurdling forward.

When businesses start ‘the small things matter’ seems to be a philosophy that we all understand and follow instinctively. You send thank you notes, you take those out that have supported you for drinks, you spend extra time with your staff, you certainly never released any products or services without testing them to death, you looked after all the small things. Somehow though as we begin to grow we forget the small things. Two of the best (worst?) industry examples of this is how telecommunications companies (Bell, Telus…)  along with the banking world (RBC, BMO…) all have special, ongoing promotions for NEW customers. It is nice to get a special discount or a welcome note. But to this I ask why not a loyalty discount that wants to make me stay (yes a $2 discount coupon is nice but you just gave my friend $500 for switching)? What about a thank you note for being such a loyal customer for over 10 years, perhaps even hand written if you truly care. Perhaps a free month after a year of service wouldn’t kill you? Perhaps even having technical support that seems to want to help me would be nice, is that too much to ask for? Where in all of our business dealings did we forget that we are human beings? Where did we forget about relationship building?

Funny how changing something as simple as the stars on Airbnb to hearts made such a big difference to their business. This is the kind of minute detail work that is needed if you wish to succeed in your business. Almost all of the clients that come to me are looking at the bigger picture and are looking for a re-brand or an overhaul and sometimes that just doesn’t have to be the case. If you take the time to get to know your audience and you understand what matters to them, at the moment (because boy o’ boy can it switch), then making small changes can mean a big difference for you.

Appreciate your customers, appreciate those who supported you early on, make them feel special (because they are), and never stop thinking about the little things (of course don’t sweat them either, but pay attention to them).

So what small things can you think of that might make a big difference?  What small things matter to your customers? To your audience? What small things matter to you?

Tales from the home office

Get your ass out of bed, stagger tiredly to the kitchen, grab a cup of ‘pick me up’, grab your internet machine, slouch down into your comfiest chair and now you’re ready to get to work! Sound inspiring? Oh and the episode doesn’t end there. Your house will never be cleaner, your dishes will never be washed so many times, clothes and closets will be organized and reorganized, pets will get a whole lot of attention (even if they are your neighbours pets) for anyone that ever finds themselves working from home this might be a more familiar story than you think. You are not alone, many people all across Canada and the globe are choosing (forced) to work from home, some more productive than others. Some of these home workers are graduate students doing research, entrepreneurs, or telecommuters.

For all those working at home who are suffering from ‘anythingotherthanworkitis’ I have some tips. Some tips that have helped me, and tips that have helped those I work with.

  1. Wake up and GET out of the house. Go for a walk, grab a newspaper, meet people. Yes, even in the winter if you live where it is cold, get the hell out of your house. I have found this to be the thing that wakes me up in the morning, gets my brain moving, and allows me to get out of my pajamas and into some clothes that may be more conducive to looking like you might do some work today.
  2. Trick time. One thing that I have found to be super helpful while learning how to work from home (or period) has been to break things down into the smallest amounts of time as possible. For instance instead of completing a WHOLE chapter in one day, challenge yourself to finish just 2 sentences. You will find that as you sit down to just finish 2 sentences you will get into the ‘groove’ and you will work longer. The hardest part to most tasks is getting them started.
  3. Write it down. Yes, simple but effective. If you can’t see it glaring at you in the face then it is just that much easier to avoid.
  4. Share it. Even better than writing it down share it with someone. This helps to make yourself accountable. I have done this with several of the athletes I work with. If  they have papers to write and they want to make the deadline a week earlier than when it is due they will arrange to send it to me. Otherwise, they will just not be able to trick themselves into completing the paper before the real deadline.
  5. Rewards! I use a Smarties/M&M/Skittles system. Incredibly sophisticated as it is this system allows me to reward myself in little jolts of excitement. Pretty much weekly there are 2 bowls on my desk, 1 bowl is filled with some form of sugar rewarding rush while the other is empty. Every time I deem something that I have done as productive I take one candy and place it in the other bowl. When the bowl that was empty is full I know I have done lots of productive things, I get to eat the candy, and I take a day off. So how will your reward system work? Will it be as sophisticated as mine?
  6. Rest. When you work from home it can be all encompassing. There is no such thing as taking work home-it’s all around you all the time. Just because it is readily available doesn’t mean you have to work ALL the time.
  7. Take notes. My home office is filled with books, has a wall that is painted in white board paint, and has hundreds of sticky notes in it. There are a million things you could be doing and should be doing. You will get phones calls and emails galore, people will decide that since you work at home they can connect with you at any time. For those people they get nothing more than a courteous ‘I will take a note of that and get back to you tomorrow’. Not only will other people barge in on your time but your frigging brain will always be bombarded by messages from everywhere. Now that you are at home you can turn on the TV, the radio, people are walking outside, you can freely surf the internet. All of these things can lead to hundreds of hours of time flying by. When I’m watching TV show X at 6pm I might have a brilliant world changing idea. Do I jump up and get working on it? I write a note ‘start working on world changing idea tomorrow.’
  8. Find your time to work. All of the above stated, you work at home so your hours don’t have to be 9 to 5 (most of the time). I love this about my work. I am an early riser and I love working in the hours when every one else is not. I get a whole lot of work done with almost no interruptions. I mean facebook statuses are rarely being updated at 5:30am at the feverish pace that they are at say 10am (less distraction). Find the hours you work well in and make those your core hours.

Now for all you folk who actually go to a place of work that is not your home do not think for a second that we home office workers are fooled by what your schedule can look like as well.

So what are some of your tips? How do you work from your home office? I would love to hear some ideas and suggestions.

It’s a numbers game…but what do those numbers tell us?

Many of you may have noticed, I disappeared. Without any warning I just dropped off the “internet” for a little while. The reaction was actually the most interesting part. I got quite a few emails from those who were looking for more ass-kicking. It is amazing to me how much we can touch people’s lives without us never even knowing it. For months and months I had been writing away and posting  things all over the place. Then I decided to take a break. Hide out at a cottage for a while and enjoy some sun and allow for some much needed re-energizing, yes indeed, even a professional ass kicker needs to give his boots a break once in awhile and get his feet firmly back under him. It has been a really wonderful summer! But now I’m back and ready to share some more of my learning from my own life and those around me.

So what have a I learned lately? Well 1 thing is for sure. You are making a difference in people’s lives everyday whether they tell you that or not. Therefore, keep plugging away and doing the work that you love because it is helping. Fascinating to me though that we don’t tell people how much they help us or change our lives so quickly. After receiving some emails after I went “off-air” it made me think-‘wow do I do that to people? Do people help me and I don’t really let them know what a great job they are doing?’ So my mission this month is to thank every person who is excelling at their job and excelling in life to provide me with quick service, friendly smiles, filling my head with wonderful and inspiring information, and all the other good stuff that exists in life. I honestly can’t say that I do that now. I know I complain a lot when I get bad service, someone cuts me off in a line, and/or I get ripped off on some bill but what if I spent more time thanking those that are doing all the little things right? Wouldn’t that make my life and theirs so much better. Perhaps that is the lesson: Ignore those who are not helping and appreciate those who are. Even if it is just the little things.

Ok so what about the title? What about the numbers? Well when I just kind of went “off-air” (it should be noted I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, it just happened) one of my really close business friends scowled at me and said “WHAT ABOUT YOUR NUMBERS? Shawn you have to keep writing, you have to stay in contact, you have to constantly be publishing, and creating new things, you will lose ALL of your people.” My friend even asked me how often I check my numbers. Believe me I understood where he was coming from. I know that readers like new content and that they do get distracted and venture off onto new things. That said though I’m not NUMBER crazy. I don’t look at my statistics everyday maybe not even every week. I look at the numbers casually but what I’m most interested in is making connections. I want to really understand who it is that is reading the things I write, why they are reading it, and how else I may be able to help. I really want to just get to know people. The best thing about my numbers (at least what I think, and really isn’t that all that matters) is that people from over 50 different countries are reading what I write. I love that I have a chance and have connected with people doing amazing things from all around the world. This internet thing can be just so amazing. It gives us a chance to meet like-minded and diametrically opposed minded people from almost every nook and cranny. I know these numbers get me excited. Even more than the numbers, names get me excited, stories get me excited, personalities get me excited. So what do your numbers tell you? What do you want your numbers to tell you? Loyalty vs Breadth? That is always the question for me.

The lesson I learned from the numbers discussion: Numbers can be important and fun to watch. It helps you understand growth patterns and it can help you decide what is relevant. But, and this is a big BUT don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Remember you are a person and that all the content you are writing is for other PEOPLE. Get to know a few of them if not all of them and you will be amazed at what you can find out.

Welcome back and thanks for sticking around! Next time should I let you know I’m taking a hiatus?

A new club in Ottawa-make the changes you need

I’ve been working on this one for a while and after a few years of people asking to make it happen I have finally put together some pretty good material. I am excited to offer this new LIVE professional ass kicking club. Just like the boot camps that people are joining to lose weight, gain muscle, and overall get physically fitter this club is going to kick people’s butts and minds. This club will work to help you lose some of the negativity and hesitation you have in your life, it will help you gain some self confidence and assurance, it will push you mind to grow and to act. This club will be the difference for some in their ability to succeed or fail. This club will push people’s limits and will ask them to achieve beyond their limits. If any of this sounds like something you would like to have happen in your life then please by all means check it out, send me a message, or like batman just shine the symbol of a boot in the air and I’ll be there.

If you think you need a quick kick in the butt or you know someone that could then sign up today: http://bootclub.eventbrite.ca/

Don’t forget your fans and your supporters

Lately I have been blessed with some really great supporters. Really my whole life has been filled with supporters. I grew up in a really small town where everyone knew you whether you wanted them to or not. My small town was a place where the good and the bad was aired on a daily basis in our small shops, in the gas station, in the grocery store, in the barber shop. People talked a lot and shared the news and excitement of the day. My small town was like a real living soap-opera with all kinds of subplots and twists and turns. If you were a student and you smoked for the first time at the high school chances were your parents knew before you got home. This small town became my breeding ground for support. I’m sure some don’t feel this way but to me growing up in a small town provided me with just the right people to give me my early kicks in the ass and my gentle pats on the back.

I will never forget growing up in that small town and just now when I saw this amazing video “Tribute to the Helpful” I could not think about anything other than my hometown.

There is a whole lot of support out there if you are willing to look for it, embrace it, and pass some of it along.

How do you remember your fans and supporters? I try my best to stay in touch, to send cards, to write small notes. Every chance I get to speak in front of people I mention their names and talk about how important it is to find your team, to find your supporters, your fans, and never ever go a day without thinking about them. And finally, when you can, support them, help them, do for them what they would do for you.

So who are your fans? Who supports you? Do you even realize all the small things that people do to help you move forward?

Thank you to those out there who have ever helped me become the person I love being today! I will forever be in gratitude to you.

Thank you for helping me be a better athlete, a better teammate, for showing me what followership and leadership is all about, thank you for helping me communicate better, thank you for volunteering your time to help young people develop, thank you for rarely saying no but rather saying how can I help?, thank you for making me stand on those stages and give those speeches, thanks most of all for just being there and having an ear willing to listen. You are all amazing and you have to know I think about you lots and your legacy lives on as I continue to pass on the lessons you have taught me to others.

Please I ask one thing: Share a story of one of your most memorable supporters/fans in the comments section, I love reading those stories.

Don’t fail to have a great career

When Larry Smith’s video from TEDx Waterloo first came out I was one of the first people to watch it in awe. I loved it, Mr. Smith was speaking my language. It’s true you know, most people will fail to have a great career. Not for any other reason than they have let themselves, in fact they have even talked themselves into a career that is not as stellar as the one they once imagined or dream of now. That’s not to say that many others along the road don’t help out but man do we, as human beings, usually do a number on ourselves. We talk to ourselves a lot in negative tones, in disbelief, and we are really afraid of failure. What if we slip up? What if we look silly? ‘What if’s’ out the ying-yang and instead we often choose the easiest path, the one that is filled with praise, A’s, and gold stars. We choose the path that those around us tell us (sometimes openly, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes what we have convinced ourselves to hear) we will be best at. Now most of you will get in this ‘chosen’ career and feel comfortable, you will learn along the way to deal with some of the bumps, you will put in several years months (remember I’m dealing with millennials now and believe me, we, yes I’m close to being one of you, think we should go from school to CEO and that we could run the company better than anyone) before you start to resent how the office/place of employment runs.

Well Larry Smith has some wonderful things to say about all of this so I will leave you with him now. But please do think of 2 things for me:

  1. What are your passions? Really, what are they (yes they, you have more than 1, work to figure out what they are, WORK!)? How could you use them to earn some money?
  2. What pisses you off about this world? What would you do to change it?
Now a little Larry Smith: