All In or All Out

Early in the movie Tommy Boy, “Big Tom Callahan” is trying to convince the bank to give him a loan for a major business expansion. He tells the banker, “In business, you’re either growing or you’re dying. There ain’t no third direction.” And he’s right. Anyone who has worked a day in their life knows that a business can’t sustain itself if their line remains flat. And a business certainly can’t survive if the line goes downward.

And I am writing today to take this a step further: your life.

While it may not be as drastic as losing your company, you can and will lose your passion and focus if this question is not answered in the affirmative each and every day.

All in on life

I played tennis in high school. I started my career near the bottom of the junior varsity ladder. I had a lot to learn about the game and hard work. But I slowly worked my way up to No. 6 by the start of my senior campaign. And it wasn’t easy. The people ahead of me had earned their positions, but some of them took it for granted. Sure, they did work, but not always as hard and sometimes even half-assed practices. I never did that. When I was on the court, I always came to work and get better.

Playing on that team is one of my fondest memories and it is because of the lessons I take with me, especially from my wonderful coach, John McKay. He pushed us ridiculously hard for a boy’s tennis team. But I’m glad he did. He made me a better player and a better person.

But I remember one practice in particular one of the five people ranked above me was not trying in practice and it was terribly obvious. When we met each other in line, I called him out. It didn’t have much impact because I was lower on the line, but I stood my ground. Sure, I took it seriously, but I firmly believe anything worth doing is worth doing right.

In sports, and in life, I believe if you half-ass practice, the performance will be the same. And that quite simply is a waste of time and talent.

So, I’m taking this lesson from Gary Hirshberg and trying to ask myself each and every day, “Are you in, or are you out?

If you’re in, go all in. Double-down. Bet the house.

photo via malico

Newsletter: Execute Now

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The definition of execute is quite dramatic: “to carry out; accomplish; to execute a plan or order. But it is definitely true. I mean, think about it.

When you take a plan or an idea and you decide to make it happen, you execute it. You take the plan and put it into action. That’s why this year is going to be exciting.

For me, my goal for this year was simple: Build Something. I thought I had been building something, and to a certain extent I was, but I needed to shoot bigger. Now for 2012, I’m not sure what I am going to build, but I’m slowly getting clarity on that.

Why Now?
You may be asking yourself: Why Richard, are you executing your plan now? Haven’t you been doing that for the past five years?

Well, that is a complicated answer. But it is yes and no. I thought I was. But then I realized after two recent conversations that I really was not executing on my goals.

So now, I am doubling-down and working to make it happen.

What If I Fail?
What is the worst that can happen? I don’t reach this goal and I find something else to chase after? I lose some time? I lose some money?

I can chase another passion. I can find time. And I can always make more money.

Failure is a part of life. In fact, it’s essential. Think about it: What if you won at everything you did?! How would you ever grow?

An old saying in this genre goes something like this:

Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

And “turkeys” can mean anything. It can mean your friends. Your family. Your coworkers. Your significant other. Anyone who says you can’t do something. Maybe they are right that you won’t be successful, but only you will know the outcome if you do something about it.

Don’t Procrastinate
Years ago, I fell in love with Ellen DeGeneres. This was before her hit daytime talk show back when she was doing stand-up comedy. Her set had a great running joke about how easily distracted she was working at home.

Her line at the end of the set was simple: “Procrastinate now. Don’t put it off.” While it is a funny line, it is not how anyone with a dream or goals should think.

If you don’t do something about your dreams and your goals, who will?

It is your story to tell. It is your movie script to write and your painting to paint.

So what if you fail? I mean, seriously … so the hell what! Go make it happen.

Take the plan and execute it.

FOCUS: Fail to Know!

Selected Life Lesson
Never give up on a dream that you can reach, because you will regret it in the long run.
-Anonymous from the 2008 Leadership On and Off the Field Conference

Richard’s Thoughts…
When I received this anonymous life lesson four years ago, I immediately gravitated towards it, but it hasn’t become top-of-mind until the past couple of weeks. You see, I have made a decision to double-down on my life and career and start to make it happen. Sure, I might fail. But that’s why.

If I don’t try, I will never know. And that is the central question I pose to you today. Are you listening to your own heart? Only you can go after your dreams. It is okay to fail. In fact, it is needed.

And when you do try – and fail – you’ll know. You’ll know you gave it your all. You’ll know what to do the next time. You’ll know how you really feel. And it is in that moment when you will be living.

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FOCUS: Live Your Passion!

Selected Life Lesson
Always be passionate about what you want to pursue. Always think you can never give up.
-Taylor B’s Life Lesson from Haven, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts…
Having and living a life full of passion is a wonderful thing. But how many of you and your friends actually execute on your passions on a day-to-day basis? I recently re-launched my website because I am doubling-down on my own passions. I am working to make it happen.

Are you? Better yet: What are your passions? Do you know? And if you do know, are you doing anything about them?

You see, passions are great. But if they are just sitting up on the shelf collecting dust, what good are they? They become a box of dusty baseball cards that are depreciating in value. Perhaps today is the day to double-down on your passion. Dust off the box and get moving!

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Mental Health Days

Working in one of the entrepreneurial capitals of the world, I have kept my finger on the pulse of the trends not only in the types of business being created, but also the business management behind them. One of the many perks being given out today is an idea around no vacation policy. It is definitely an interesting concept and I have met people on both sides of the fence of this discussion.

In fact, I recently wrote about how my generation appears to be obsessed with being overworked.

For example, if you take a day off of work because you have a physical ailment, that’s not going to raise any eyebrows. But if you take a day off to deal with stress and emotional issues, people view that differently and some may even accuse you of slacking off and being weak.

A few weeks ago I chose to work from home. I wasn’t feeling well. I could have taken a day off, but I wanted to push through. In the end, it all worked out, but I needed the “mental health day.” We work hard. Me especially. My tombstone will probably read: “Worked himself to death – but he sure had fun!” I suppose that is better than it saying: “Was born, smiled a few times and now he sleeps.”

I don’t wish to make light of death, but I am here on this Earth to live. To thrive. To make a difference. And that is what I intend to do.

My goal when this year began was to “Build Something.” I didn’t know what the “something” was and I am still clarifying it, but I’m getting there. This will be a journey we go on together.

That’s why mental health days are so important in this day and in this time. You need the time to think. To clear your head. To relax all the muscles in your body. That is where clarity comes. And then life can begin.

(flickr image via niemster)