Six Months In – Amazing is Happening

I wrote back in January about my theme for 2010: Amazing Awaits. Then back in April, I summarized the first quarter of 2010. First of all, I must say 2010 has been crazy amazing. There have definitely been some amazing highs, but as with any roller coaster, there have been some downs as well. Here are some updates and where I’ve been this year and where I am going to try to go.

Business Goals

  • Sell my book (I have exceeded my sales goes by 400%)
  • Get published on six different blogs (Currently only on two, Primer Magazine and BackSeatFan)
  • Enter four writing contents (Haven’t had luck finding any that interest me)
  • Increase RSS Feed subscriptions (Haven’t had much luck with this, so maybe you should subscribe!)
  • Increase FOCUS email subscriptions (This has been a pleasant surprise. I am 68% to my goal)
  • Work with ten (10) speaking clients (Had six thus far this year! Interested…?)


  • Read 10 books (just finished number 7!)
  • Pay down half my student loan (On pace)
  • Paint four paintings (I have finished six so far!)
  • Run 25 miles / month (I am averaging 30/month)
  • Play in four tennis tournaments (I will play in my first one in four years next month!)

My Biggest Accomplishments:

  • On top of running, I have started to do one boot-camp a week with a friend of mine. It’s tough, but I absolutely enjoy it!
  • I began my research for my novel!
  • Started to eat healthier – and cook healthier!
  • Grown my network quite a bit
  • I launched a new!

Where I need work:

  • I have a lofty goal for getting my fans to sign up for my RSS feed (so why don’t you help me and sign up!)
  • Time management! Seriously, I have too much on my plate and a busy fall is planned, but I need to do a better job of managing my time and limited resources.

My Focus for Q2 2010:

  • I need to keep reading!
  • There are things with my family and my personal life that I need to keep to focus on.
  • My coaching program (which I’d like to launch this fall).

Now my question to you: How was your first half of 2010? What are you going to do to make sure the rest of the year is amazing?

Toy Story Builds From Screw Ups

I remember going to see the first Toy Story when I was a kid. I saw it in theatre’s with my dad and my brother. It was Pixar’s first animated film I quickly fell in love with Woody, Buzz and the whole gang. Everyone did.

Think about it. Growing up, our toys are our best friends. To us, they are alive. Some of us (myself included) even had imaginary friends. As kids, our imagination is free to run wild – and boy did we let it!

Now, as adults, we’re locked into what’s possible … what’s right … and what the research says.

I recently ran across an article about how the latest, and final, Toy Story came to life. One quote stuck out to me …

“We know screw ups are an essential part of making something good. That’s why our goal is to screw up as fast as possible.” -Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3 Director

Imagine if we lived and worked in a world that really thought that way! Yeah, go ahead and screw up! So… I’m going to give you permission today. Screw up! Screw up big time! But make it worth it. Learn something. Screw up challenging the status quo. You’ll be amazed at what becomes possible.

Life Size Jenga

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Last week Wimbledon kicked off (my second favorite tennis tournament) to much news. On the first day Roger Federer was down by two set to love and then from days two to four, American John Isner and Frechman Nicolas Mahut were locked in the longest tennis match in history. But somewhere on the hollowed grounds of SW19, other players were practicing, winning matches and playing, yes, life-size Jenga.

This photo is of my favorite player, Scot/Brit Andy Murray taking a turn at the game. Now tell me that doesn’t look awesome! Imagine that at a barbecue! Bags, the golf-ball game and life-size Jenga.

But this photo reminded me of something I try to tell share with as many people as I meet and speak to.

Never quit being a child.

Yeah, our bodies say we are adults and we are certainly (hopefully) smarter than we were when we were ten years old. But does that mean we can’t be kids? Does that mean we can’t have fun doing the little things in life. Or enjoying the small joys? Yes, we can still play with balloons!

Here is a video from a recent retreat I did at Drake University. I could tell watching these adults do this activity that this was the most fun they’d had at work in a long time.

My advice: always strive to have fun! You are just a kid in an adults body. Live it up!

Who is Going to Stop You?

I have written extensively, both on this blog about my journey as a speaker and also my journey as a writer and a politician. I do it for two reasons. First, I try to live my life as a journey and not just a destination. Secondly, I am a big believer in sharing my stories and the stories I find as inspiration for my readers. The following quote opens up Chapter 7 of my book Anything is Possible. The chapter is called: “Chase Your Passion.”

The question isn’t who is going to let me; its who is going to stop me.
-Ayn Rand

The book was published this past January, but in my next motivational book, I will definitely use the story of the 2009-10 Men’s UNI Basketball team. Do you remember them? Maybe this will refresh your memory…

I am a graduate of Northern Iowa and I bleed Purple and Gold (not the Vikings, by the way, the Panthers)! The reason I bring them up is because they are perfect examples of this quote. They were a No. 9 seed going up against a prohibitive favorite for the Final Four. But they didn’t blink. From the opening tip, they played with organized abandon. Kansas had been their before. Maybe they thought that no matter how hard the Panthers played, in the end, they were the better team so they would end up on top.

But the Panthers didn’t quit. They didn’t take their foot off the gas. They played their hearts out. It has gone down in Cedar Valley history. This Panther squad was the perfect epitome of Rand’s quote. Who was to stop the Panthers from not only believing but from living their dream? Ultimately, no one but themselves.

Picture this: let’s say the Panthers lose that game by four points. But the guys know they played their hearts and out and left every shot, every drop of sweat in their bodies on the court; sure they lost, but I think years from now they would look back and say they lived their dream. It’s cliche, especially in sports, but it’s true. For athletes and anyone with passions.

Who is to stop you? Who is to stop me from picking up a paintbrush with no training in the medium? No one. Just me.

So, what are you going to do?

More Thoughts on E-Mail Management

Recently I wrote my second blog post about managing and controlling your e-mail inboxes. I bring this up again for two reasons. But first – a quick refresher. In that previous post, I gave our three suggestions that I use to manage my own inbox. I set up specific times throughout the day to respond. I have a file/folder structure. And I have turned off all types of new message notifications.

Okay, so why am I writing about e-mail again?!

Some people will never understand.

In that previous post I mentioned about how I received an e-mail from someone a half hour after the first e-mail asking me if I had received it yet because I hadn’t yet responded. It happened again this past week, only in a grander sense. I got an e-mail and didn’t respond for two-and-a-half hours. That was simply because it came after one of my checking times and I did respond once the next time period came up. I got in trouble for my slowness in responding.

I responded that using the time-check schedule has made me more productive and thus, it was working. Didn’t matter. I needed to be available on my e-mail all the time. The fact that was left out was that there were no phone calls. I am always reachable by my phone. E-mail should never be the only form of communication. But it just goes to show that some people will never change and will never disconnect from their own worlds and their own needs. The key point here is this: we are all different. What works for me may not work for you, and vice-versa. But each person’s way is valid so long as it works. We should value and welcome unique management systems and work to understand them and work within them, instead of trying to get everyone to do it our way.

Research shows I’m right.

In a recent New York Times article, Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, they write about the problem with all the technology in our lives. Here are some takeaways from the story:

  • The nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment, said Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.
  • Mr. Campbell, 43, came of age with the personal computer, and he is a heavier user of technology than most. But researchers say the habits and struggles of Mr. Campbell and his family typify what many experience — and what many more will, if trends continue. He goes to sleep with a laptop or iPhone on his chest, and when he wakes, he goes online. He watches a TV news feed in the corner of the computer screen while he uses the rest of the monitor to check his e-mail. Major spats have arisen because Mr. Campbell escapes into video games during tough emotional stretches. On family vacations, he has trouble putting down his devices. When he rides the subway to San Francisco, he knows he will be offline 221 seconds as the train goes through a tunnel.

So, there you have it. And what is “it” you ask? I’m not sure actually. I just wanted to share my thoughts on e-mail and technology again. I guess what I’m trying to say at the basic level is that I urge you to manage your e-mail and technology usage so life and your passions can happen. That’s why I have my system.

How do you feel about all this e-mail and tech talk?

Best Rainy Day Books

I probably should have written this post during spring, but there are still some rainy days in the summer, so I thought it might be nice to share a few of my favorite books to read on rainy days.

The first book that comes to mind is one I reviewed recently, The Last Lecture. The book is of the size and content that makes it easy to read and relax to. Plus, the content has a way of turning a sour mood into one that begins to dream again.

Another book that probably didn’t come to your mind, but did to mine, is a fiction book I read while back in college. I took a lot of history and government classes and one of the books we read was Jeff Shaara’s, Rise to Rebellion. It was a fantastic and quite easy historical fiction read. Anyone interested in the history and story of America must read this one, rainy day or not.

Finally, a memoir. I also read this book a long time ago, but it still resonates with me. If you’ve seen the movie October Sky, you know part of the story. But Homer H. Hickam, Jr. writes a great book about the way life was in Coalwood, West Virginia, and the truth about the relationship between he and his father. Check out his memoir Rocket Boys to get the full story of dreaming and challenges.

Those are my three, what are your favorite rainy day books?

(flickr photo via wenedeux)

Be a Child

I met a speaker years and years ago (when I was in high school) and one of his core messages was quite simple: Grow up to be a child.” Sometimes when I speak to audiences now, I tell that story. Mostly because I didn’t really understand it then quite as well as I do now. I’m 26 years old now and I definitely want to be a child.

I am a fan of Matthew Mitcham’s on Facebook and he recently reminded me of this attitude. If you don’t remember, Mitcham won the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the 10m platform dive, and was my 2008 Most Memorable Moment.

He posted a few pictures on his fan page a few weeks ago of balloons. They were balloons he had made and a photo of the balloons in his bag, ready for their next victim. Well, he was asked some questions by his fans and here was his response: I love balloons. They symbolise happiness and celebration. I carry around a pack of assorted balloons everywhere I go :P

Therefore, I think I’m going to start carrying balloons with me! Why? Because he is right. Balloons make people smile, and I love seeing people smile. Balloons remind us to laugh and be kids. Those two things are important – priceless really.

When was the last time you played with a balloon? Or even blew one up? Or had a water-balloon fight?

It’s summer-time. It’s time to be a kid again. Never grow up.

It Is Amazing

Column Logo
*Beginning in 2010, I started writing a bi-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” which appears every other Wednesday.

My journey as a freelancer is about to reach it’s three-year anniversary. And what an amazing journey it has been. The day will probably come and pass just like any other; but then again, it can’t really. I know it is a special day. It is the day when I said, “Enough is enough.” In fact, if you’ve read my book, Anything is Possible, you know how I got started on this journey.

I was on the phone with Nathanael. We were just friends back then. We were just talking and catching up. Then he asked me a question.

“What have you done today to achieve your dreams?”

That was it. Simple. Benign. Nothing too deep. But it hit me. It hit me like the baseball did when I was 12. It hit me like Henry Wang’s forehand did when I was a tennis coach and the ball hit me square on the nose. I had no answer. Well, I had an answer but not one I was okay with.

I started to question my life. Keep in mind, I was nine months out of college and I was questioning my life. A little early for a mid-life crisis, but I was in mine. I was in deep. I started thinking about what I wanted my life to look like. I started to ask questions. In fact, I asked a lot of questions. I still ask a lot of questions.

From the moment Nathanael asked me that question, my path, my vision for my life changed. Forever. I am no where near where I want to be in this life, but I am certainly closer than I was three years ago. I’m closer than I was a year ago. Sure, there have been ups and downs – there is in any great journey. I am sure to have more. I have three speeches scheduled for this month, all within ten days of each other. One of the speeches is a full-day event. My first ever. What a crazy three years it has been.

But it hasn’t always been pretty. I have struggled. I have given poor presentations. I have been off my mark. It happens. It will always happen. But I take pride in the fact I am still learning. I like to know that I still have room to grow. It’s scary to think and a little disheartening to know that I still have room to fall and mistakes to make. I’d like to think those days are over. But so long as I am striving for something, I am going to slip. I’m going to fall. But here is the cool thing: I get to. I choose to. When I was asked that question, I chose to do something about it, instead of wallowing in my discontent.

I had a great conversation a few months ago with a friend I met last year. I had intended for it to be just a quick “Hey, how are you?” kind of a conversation. But it turned into an hour-long conversation about life and dreams. We both opened up about our past struggles and the battles we have wagged. But what he said that night has stuck with me. He said that no matter what has happened in our lives, its about your journey. He said you have to know yourself enough to go on your personal journey.

That’s what I’m doing. I’m going on my personal journey. And only I can do it. It’s mine. All mine. And I intend to live it. Success and failure. It is amazing.

The Last Lecture

This book has been on my list for nearly two years – ever since I saw his hour-long “last lecture.” It’s a shame I will never meet the man. I was worried this was going to be a sad, I’m dying, kind of a book. Quite the contrary. It was uplifting. It was inspirational. In a word, it was, affirming.

Why You Should Read It:

  • This book will help you remember why life is amazing, and beautiful, and worth living.
  • It will remind you of your life and your dreams as a child.
  • Randy’s thoughts on life apply to every aspect of life and business.

What You Can Expect to Walk Away With:

  • You will laugh and you will cry; and at the same time!
  • I came away with new ideas for my life … maybe you will too.
  • You will be a child again. Embrace it.
  • It’s not meant to be a guide-book or a tool-box for your life, but it is. It is a guide!

Please pick up this book. It only took me a few days to read through it, and even longer to sift through all my thoughts and emotions form it.

Here is a quote from the book:

Today’s talk was about achieving childhood dreams. But did you figure out the head fake? It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to live your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.

What are your dreams?

FOCUS: Play Your Hand! (v3n1)

Selected Life Lesson
You cannot change the cards you’re dealt, but only how you play the hand.
-Jesse H’s life lesson from Bonner Springs, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts…
I’ll go on record right now: I am a terrible poker player. I win a few hands, get excited, bet too much and then lose the house. Of course, I’ve never lost the house, but you get my drift.

Sometimes we get dealt a great hand. Some of us are naturally talented at something. It could be singing, it could be art, it could be sports. But it still takes work. Kenny Chesney and Michelangelo and John Elway didn’t just wake up one day and become superstars. No. They worked their tails off to become great. They saw the cards and played what they were given.

Me? I’ve often written about my running… I’m still doing it. It’s tough (I’ve got two leg injuries right now), but I’m still going strong. My body isn’t built to do long-distance running, but I’m training it to do just that. I’m changing my cards. You can too. We are all dealt cards, but it is how you play them that makes all the difference. Are you all in?

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