The America I Know and Love: My rebuttal to Slate.com

I don’t write about politics on my personal blog.

As a rule, I try not to touch the topic with a ten-foot pole, outside of ‘liking’ the occasional Tweet or sharing the occasional Facebook post.

But, today, I’m breaking my rule.

It’s time to set the record straight by addressing some things that are blatantly false and negatively influencing readers. I don’t want to attack anyone, just the opposite, in fact. I want you to step away from this blog piece feeling incredibly encouraged.

What I recently read in a Slate.com article sickened me. It was chock-full of gross misrepresentations and blatant deceptions.

I’m sick of lies, aren’t you?

I was a Democrat

Let me start by saying I love this country.

It’s not hard for me to express how much I love America. I was born and raised here and enjoy every bit of it regardless of who’s president.

I also grew up and identified as a Democrat.

There’s nothing wrong in saying the D-word or being affiliated with that party. I certainly don’t hate anyone who believes differently than I do. (PSA: You shouldn’t either.)

There’s two reasons I subscribed to this political party. One, was because of the influence of my parents and the other reason was because of where I grew up.

Politically, I grew up in northeastern Minnesota on a place known as the Iron Range. Living in this region meant you leaned to the left of the political spectrum. Growing up in northeastern Minnesota in the late 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s meant you voted blue. If you grew up here, it meant you were a Democrat.

I am a Conservative

For me, something snapped when I went to college.

I formed my own worldview that would later catapult me to the conservative worldviews I hold today.

Which is odd because most colleges are diametrically opposed to a conservative worldview.

Two events in my life triggered my tip towards conservative values. The first was when I met the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

The late Senator and I shared a brief interaction at a college campaign event I attended. I asked Senator Wellstone some straightforward questions about funding for students of Minnesota state universities and what he was doing to help. Twice, he completely avoided the question and instead pivoted into some speech about how he’s focused on protecting the middle class and the working class.

The exchange with the Senator bothered me. It wasn’t his lack of an answer that bothered me, as I fully expect politicians to be vague when answering questions. What upset me was the way he handled himself leaving us “common folk” feeling like we didn’t matter. That’s when I determined the Democratic party that I grew up believing was good and right, was wrong (for me, at least).

My affection and love for the United States Constitution is the other conviction that drove me to form my conservative worldview.

I believe we have a Constitution for a reason, and like the late Charles Krauthammer, I think the Constitution is one of the most miraculous and extraordinary documents ever written.

I subscribe to the belief that states can govern themselves with limited federal oversight. I also believe in low regulation. I’ve rarely seen anything that’s micro-managed through regulation produce anything that’s good.

I believe that every single American citizen has the right and freedom to give themselves a better life through education, wealth, and service. Every American deserves the freedom to obtain this through hard work.

These benefits (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) are freedoms that should never, ever be taken away from American citizens. These freedoms are also the foundation of my conservative worldview.

Living in northeastern Minnesota, I was influenced to think that conservatives are bad people.

I was influenced to think that conservatives are money-grubbing monsters who hate the poor, the widowed, and the elderly. The media and most of the teachers who educated me perpetuated this worldview.

But, that’s not the real world and that’s not what I experienced.

Over time, I slowly began to learn that conservatives were not bad people or the monsters that the media led me to believe.

No President is that diabolical

In a recent Slate.com article, author Lili Loofbourow called the President corrupt and weak.

To make a generalization that President Trump is “corrupt and weak,” based on some unproven improprieties, isn’t right. No one is that smart or diabolical to be involved in that many scandals of corruption, all at the same time.

If these so-called scandals were true about the President, then that’s one heck of a storyline that some writer needs to turn into a money-making Jack Reacher novel.

Let’s replay this narrative that the left will want you and I to believe:

  • A sitting President single-handedly rigs an entire election with foreign help from Russia (and cleverly run Facebook ad campaigns).
  • He does so while sleeping with a pornstar.
  • He continues to do so while making billions of dollars from government contracts that were guaranteed with help from his business cronies.
  • Law enforcement, attorneys, and the FBI have zero indictable proof that he’s somehow breaking the law, and not one law enforcement agency has any tangible evidence of any of these allegations.
  • Even though we have some of the finest and smartest law enforcement officials on the planet, not one of them has a shred of anything tangible that links our President to any of the wicked deeds that are being portrayed by the mainstream media.

It sounds like one, big conspiracy theory doesn’t it?

No one is that diabolical to commit these evil acts, and somehow do them in less than 24 months after taking office.

Your rights and my rights are not being eroded

As a nation, we’ve never been as free as we are today. Let’s break down these freedoms.

  • The Women’s suffrage movement granted women the right to vote, in 1920.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed everyone to vote, no matter your skin color.
  • Abortion’s are legal, per the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. (this will never be overturned)
  • In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it in all fifty states.
  • Divorce is legal so you can get out of any marriage, straight or gay.
  • While guns are still legal in the U.S., there are now more background checks and regulations than ever before, along with bans on specific types of weapons that didn’t originally exist with the creation of the 2nd Amendment.
  • LGBTQ and Transgenders have rights and protections.
  • Everyone has the freedom to live and work wherever they want.
  • Access to money (and debt) has never been easier through credit cards, banks, etc.
  • Organized religions are being regulated at higher numbers than ever before, and yet everyone still has the freedom to pray to whatever god they want.
  • Immigrants CAN enter into the United States unlawfully and can even receive basic benefits despite not being lawful citizens.
  • And, sadly, anyone can still burn the American flag in protest without being arrested.

So, tell me, what can’t a person do in America?

What is SO bad about living in America that you’d need to write an article titled “The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone?”

What I see is a list of freedoms that only continues to grow.

The lies we are told

What grieves me is that I see a nation of sheep, myself included, that are led astray by stories that are nothing more than crafty fables with words that tickle our ears.

Oh, the lies we are told – lies that are spoken with little to no consequence.

It’s disturbing that authors are writing pieces about virtues such as truth when the very basis of many of their so-called truths are built on a foundation of poison.

The constant bombardment of lies makes you jaded, cynical, and fills you full of hatred.

These lies are told in small, disguised methods. The lies are told to the young, the impressionable, and the gullible. The liars and deceivers say ‘the way this country is being run is wrecking your life and keeping it the same is called capitalism. Things could be better and that’s called socialism.

These lies are being published under the guise of op-ed’s and opinion pieces. These lies are published by large media outlets, aka the mainstream media. These lies say things like it’s okay to tax (and punish) businesses to a high degree, make healthcare complicated and expensive, despise the wealthy, regulate everything including the internet by calling it neutral, and extend zero empathy.

And, if I disagree with what you say, protest in mob while physically attacking me and my family with vengeance.

This is the result of the lies you and I are being fed. These lies aren’t coming from the current White House, either.

The America I know and love

Kids aren’t being violently ripped from their parents at the U.S. border, civil rights are not in danger, and Roe v Wade will never be overturned.

Are there issues that exist in America? Yes, there are.

Is our nation perfect? No, far from it.

But it’s a million times better than the alternative. Like I asked earlier, what freedoms that we’ve been granted in the last one hundred years are being taken away?

The answer is none.

The America I know and love has veered far off course and requires serious changes to get back on track. Much of the damage that’s been done to our country can’t be undone in one election cycle.

There’s been more than forty years of bad policy, trickle-down economics, bad trade deals, career politicians following in their father’s footsteps, philandering adulterers who perjured themselves to a grand jury, and eight long years of a community organizer who used the office of the president as a training ground.

The America I know and love has been fed a lie that that the rich are bad and shouldn’t get to be successful. Yet, isn’t success, wealth, and the American dream what’s being sold to entice immigrants to come to America? Isn’t this the country where we preach to immigrants the beauty of a life where they can build something special on a foundation of freedom and prosperity?

Maybe I’m mistaken. Maybe the American dream, to some, is when all these riches are given to them by the government through the philosophy of sharing the wealth.

The America I know and love stays out of the pocketbooks and lives of its citizens. It fixes a tax code that’s incredibly counterproductive and celebrates small business owners, gay or straight. It doesn’t criticize those who cut spending on services that are barely used and mostly abused. It doesn’t raid social security, while taking little action with regard to improving the quality of life for our nation’s veterans.

The America I know and love doesn’t lie about an income inequality problem that’s mostly a myth. Greed is insatiable, yes, but greed is only insatiable for those with power, authority, and a sense of entitlement. The America I love embraces protests, as long as there’s a positive outcome and action.

Do you see many positive outcomes and positive actions from groups like Antifa or others? I don’t. What’s intentional about screaming, looting, committing acts of violence, all in the name of protesting?

Are we a nation that simply runs to protest when we don’t get our way like a spoiled child, or are we a nation that takes action in order to have positive impact? After all, wasn’t it Martin Luther King himself who encouraged action by stating “if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

I won’t ever respect a protest without positive action behind it.

I’m not sad living in America. I’m encouraged because for the first time in decades, I feel empowered, even emboldened. There’s a large wave of Americans, both young and old, who are equally as empowered and emboldened as I am, and who are taking action.

Just search for #WalkAway Campaign and you’ll see exactly what I mean. I’m proud to stand with my fellow American’s who are champions of the #WalkAway movement.

Our nation is at a point where a breakthrough is necessary, and it begins with us, it’s citizens. If we believe every negative thing we hear and see, we will become that negative thing we focus on.

The America I love is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about the love our forefathers had for one another when they formed this great republic. They argued and fought but did so because they cared for and loved one another, not because they wanted to kill each other. They saw the need to create a nation that governed itself with civility, law and freedom.

They saw the need to desperately flee one tyrant 3,000 miles away and avoid a nation with 3,000 tyrants less than one mile away.

Charles Krauthammer once said “Ideas matter. Legislative proposals matter. Slick campaigns and dazzling speeches can work for a while, but the magic always wears off.”

Don’t believe the literary magic you read online, especially the ones that are slick and dazzle you.

Instead, believe in the America that offers the freedom to hope, worship, and pursue a life of liberty and happiness.

I Have Tourette Syndrome and Why I Love It

Famous Marvel Universe screenwriter and producer Christopher Markus said, “hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”

He couldn’t be more right. 

When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Tourette Syndrome. (aka TS)

This is my story of being diagnosed with TS and why I love it. 

The diagnosis. 

It all started when I was about 7 or 8.

I started having these weird, uncontrollable movements with my body.

I couldn’t explain them. My parents couldn’t explain it. No one could explain it.

At first, these uncontrollable movements came in the form of flexing certain parts of my body like my hand, arm, or neck. Then, I eventually started making weird sounds that I couldn’t control. The sounds were even more unusual, like small grunting sounds or a faint barking. (I know, it sounds really weird) 

It was insanely scary. 

My parents didn’t really know what to do so they sought help from neurological experts and doctors where it was finally determined that I had a rare neurological disorder called Tourette Syndrome. (aka TS)

The worst part: I was about to enter my tween and teen years with an affliction that awkwardly drew attention to myself through very unnatural means. The tween years and teen years can be mean and cruel, and that’s without without drawing attention to yourself with TS.

Here I was making noises and movements that resembled something out of the Rob Schneider movie, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.

The next 5-10 years would be pretty tough.

What is Tourette Syndrome (TS).

First, let me explain what TS is not.

TS is nothing to be scared of. It’s not a disease, it’s not a bacterial infection or a virus. You can’t spread it by shaking someone’s hand or by breathing on someone.

TS is a neurological disorder. Meaning, I was born with it. 

To give you some context, here are some common types of neurological disorders that you’ve probably heard of, that are similar to Tourette Syndrome:

  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

TS is nothing like the devastating nature of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Epilepsy, but living with it (especially as a kid) is still hard. 

TS is characterized by one main symptom: repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. Remember the weird movements I talked about earlier? Those are called tics.

Tics are a part of life for TS’ers. Tics can change, they can go away, and they can get worse under stress.

That’s what TS is and isn’t.

Living with Tourette Syndrome (TS).

The disorder is named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the pioneering French neurologist who in 1885 first described the condition in an 86-year-old French noblewoman.

The early symptoms of TS are typically noticed first in childhood, with the average onset between the ages of 3 and 9 years.

TS occurs in people from all ethnic groups; males are affected about three to four times more than females. It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of TS, and as many as one in 100 exhibit milder and less complex symptoms such as chronic motor or vocal tics.

Although TS can be a chronic condition with symptoms lasting a lifetime, most people with the condition experience their worst tic symptoms in their teens, with improvement occurring in the late teens and continuing into adulthood.

While having TS is challenging, you can live a pretty normal life. 

Normal being running, jumping, making decisions, and doing long division. 

Dealing with Tourette Syndrome (TS).

In many ways, I felt like a guinea pig in growing up with TS.

Not only was I on medications that had other unintended consequences, but there wasn’t much in the form of support, outside my family. 

Dealing with TS wasn’t as simple as taking a magic pill and the problem went away.

Dealing with TS was far from easy. At the time, the late 1980’s, TS was rare. Less then 100,000 people worldwide were diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. That’s less than .002% of the entire world’s population being diagnosed with TS. 

If only there was an actual easy button, like the Staples commercials.

I dealt and coped with TS through a variation of ways, some good and some bad.

  • Medication helped me cope, but it also messed with my metabolism and caused weight gain. (as if having TS and being a teen was bad enough, I was instantly the resident chubby-kid)
  • I would cope by isolating myself from the shame and embarrassment of not being able to interact with my friends because my tics were so bad. 
  • I struggled with a negative self-image of myself because I was overweight and stressed, and I was suicidal and depressed. 
  • I read books and comic books. (Silver Surfer was my favorite comic hero)
  • I would write.
  • I even read the dictionary and encyclopedia when I ran out of books to read. 
  • I played baseball up through little league and developed a love of soccer.

Dealing with TS has other interesting challenges, too. I tend to be a perfectionist, who hates clutter on desk surfaces and counter-tops. I rearrange things when I travel and even fluffy carpet needs to be pointed 100% in the same direction. 

Sounds nuts, I get it. I’ve had to get really creative in working through the struggles of having Tourette’s. Looking back, however, I wouldn’t trade the experience of dealing with it for the world. 

What I learned from Tourette Syndrome (TS).

Christopher Markus, one of the screenwriters for the Marvel movies, said “hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”

I believe he’s right.

You can consider hardship as this terrible, unfortunate event, which makes you hard and bitter. Or, you can use hardship to learn and grow.

I’ve never viewed hardship, trials, or failures as a bad thing. I’ve always viewed trials and hardship as something to mold me and shape me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy pain or humiliation. I don’t think any reasonable person does. But, I also understand that trials in life exist and that life isn’t fair. Not everyone wins, not everyone gets a trophy (and shouldn’t) and not everything is rainbows and unicorns. 

Even though life ain’t always fun and sometimes you wonder if the good Lord is punishing you, you must choose where to emotionally live.

When encountering life’s trials and hardships, you have the freedom to chose how it affects you. We all have this freedom. You can choose to live in these circumstances or you can choose to move past them and focus on finding the joy in your situation. 

A CEO friend of mine put the word grateful into his companies core values because of how impactful it is to find joy when walking through the valley.

When battling the symptoms of TS, in the in the thick of my teen years, I was ridiculed by my fellow students, mocked by mean kids, and teased incessantly. I wanted to die. I thought my trial would never end and most days wanted to be invisible. 

Then it all changed. 

How Tourette Syndrome (TS) changed me.

As I grew through my late teen years, many of my more severe tics and symptoms of TS went away.

I eventually stopped taking the medications that helped subdue my tics, and my body returned to normal. 

My tics slowly went away and my confidence improved. I began the journey of healing through many of the emotional hurts and wounds I had experienced during the worst times of growing up with Tourette Syndrome. 

It was like a new beginning. I refused to be a victim and refused to live defeated. 

TS has changed a lot about how I view things.

At 40, I now view trials through a different set of lenses. My life, and yours too, is a direct reflection of the perspective we hold.

When you and I look at the state of our lives, what does it reflect? What does it reflect about who you are and how you see yourself? What does it reflect about your relationships, your work, your hobbies, and your purpose?

Is your life merely happenstance, or are you intentional in creating a life that reflects a rich tapestry of moments?

TS changed me in that I started to realize that my life doesn’t need to be an artificial state of bliss, yet it doesn’t have to be dead, either. Just because I have a physical ailment that’s awkward and sometimes embarrassing, doesn’t mean I’m doomed to living a pessimistic, monotonous, and frustrating existence chock full of cynical patterns.

I love that I have Tourette Syndrome and that the experiences of living with TS refined my attitude. I embrace my 32 year old diagnosis because it’s a part of me that’ll never change. I’ve overcome many things that others have not. I’ve learned forgiveness, perseverance, and empathy when many around me will never get to endure this life-lesson.

What’s your Tourette Syndrome?

Everyone has a “thorn”, or their own version of Tourette Syndrome. 

In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away…but he said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses…I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

That “thorn” is some weakness or experience that’s shaped you or impacted you, something to keep you grounded because of your weakness. For me, that grounding is in Christ because I am weak, so His grace and strength lifts me up. 

Maybe you’ve struggled with, and beat, breast cancer.

Maybe you’ve gone through a divorce, or the death of a child or spouse. Perhaps you’ve suffered emotional or physical abuse, had an abortion, are a recovered drug addict, or a recovered alcoholic. Perhaps you’ve even cheated death.

Whatever it is you’ve gone through, you have a choice when learning to live with your thorn.

You have the freedom to choose to use this adversity as a means to finding purpose in your life, as well as incredible joy and growth, or you can fall into the common trap of letting something negatively define you as some sort of victim.

Whatever it is you’ve gone through, or are in the midst of, use your experience as your ministry to encourage others and encounter tremendous joy.

And if you’re a fellow TS’er, like me, I’d love to hear from you and encourage you. Email me by clicking here and I’d love to listen to your story. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5 Things I Learned in 2017

2017 was a good year.

I saw some births, some deaths, and some new beginnings.

I saw a close friend lose his battle to cancer. I left a comfortable career with a quickly-growing company. I made some personal decisions that forced me to get outside my comfort zone.

Yet, 2017 was a year of tremendous growth.

So here’s the top 5 things I learned in 2017.

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat

I used to work with this guy who would tell me one thing, then do another.

Know the type?

He’d say what he wanted to do, then completely fold under pressure. He was fearful. He was afraid to do the right thing because he was comfortable, fat, and happy. He was afraid to rock the boat.

If he rocked it, he’d likely be branded as “negative” or “stressed.” If he’d done the right thing by causing some much-needed discord as a catalyst to growth, he’d possibly have lost his job. (highly unlikely, but possible)

He was the kind of guy to tell you one thing, and then do another. He lacked courage and conviction. He’d talk a good game, but lacked the backbone to draw a line in the sand when a difficult conversation needed to happen.

These are folks who lie to themselves and lie to others around them. It’s a false harmony they’ve created in their minds as a survival technique. It’s a terrible way to work and live.

Last year, I started rocking the boat. I began with speaking up, and speaking out. I finally grew a backbone.

As a consequence to rocking the boat, I was unfortunately labeled as stressed and negative, but I wasn’t.

For 39 years I’ve lived under the guise that it’s okay to lie to people because it’s unkind to tell the truth to someone when it might offend them or hurt their feelings.

Are you okay with lying or being lied to?

Or would you want someone to offer you radical candor, like author Kim Scott did, when she needed to hear it the most?

When you choose to introduce change by rocking the boat, you’ll encounter resistance along the way. You’ll encounter resistance from your own insecurities and resistance from those around you. Keep rocking the boat.

Stand up for yourself

Let me clarify this point by first stating what it’s not.

Standing up for yourself is not punching someone back if they insulted you. It’s not vengeful or retaliatory. Standing up for yourself is not about teaching someone a lesson.

Standing up for yourself is learning to be transparent and authentic. It’s going to be difficult at times, but if you learn to express yourself openly and honestly, you’ll feel like a hundred pound weight is lifted off your shoulders.

Often times, we hide behind halfhearted smiles and nods instead of saying what needs to be said. This discipline takes lots of practice, but learning to be authentic about what you are feeling or thinking is step number one. Once you get in the habit of making yourself heard without being overly accommodating or defensive, people will be more open to hearing you.

Standing up for yourself means you’ll learn to how to handle when someone attacks you. You’ll learn the value of facing those who want to override you, as there will always be personalities who are set to attack mode. When you learn to properly stand up for yourself, you’ll be able to remain calm yet assert yourself when you feel like someone is trying to bully you. You’ll avoid becoming frazzled by reacting with low blows. When those around you attempt to browbeat you, walk the high road but stand your ground and stand up for yourself.

Filter your relationships

There are givers and takers in this life.

Givers are those who put into you. They are those who encourage you and challenge you to be a better person. They’re honest with you, they push you, they force you to think. Givers impart wisdom and sound counsel that’s geared to make you uncomfortable, yet loving enough to motivate you to be a better version of yourself.

Takers on the other hand are people who are critical, lie to you, and make excuses through a victim mentality. Takers are manipulative and rarely change. Takers go behind your back with gossip. When you encounter takers, you have to set up boundaries and keep them at a distance.

Takers are false victims. They typically have a pessimistic attitude and struggle taking responsibility for their lives. Takers are also bullies. Bullies don’t laugh at themselves, rather they laugh at others. If this person in your life makes fun of others but isn’t self deprecating, they’re a taker and need to go. Think of this person as dramatic and loud-mouthed. Bullies want submission and that’s the unhealthy relationship of a taker.

If you want to grow and mature, surround yourself by mature people by getting rid of the takers in your life.

Be open and honest

A few years ago, I was in business with a very good friend.

My friend is intense, ambitious, and driven. Because of this, he sometimes came off as unapproachable. Others we worked with would come to me to voice frustrations, instead of going to him. They would complain and vent, without being open and honest with my friend.

It was maddening. I became a go-between and I hated it.

After while, I simply challenged those on my team to go directly to my partner-in-crime to talk with him, open and honestly.

Few actually did. They chose to talk about my friend and colleague, instead of talking to him. They weren’t open and honest and failed at the most basic form of communication: direct one on one dialogue.

It’s tough talking about sensitive topics. Choosing to be open with someone can be incredibly scary.

But wouldn’t you like the freedom of a good nights sleep because your conscious is clear, rather than perpetuating a bigger problem?

In 2018, choose to be more open and honest with those around you. Don’t be the go-between and encourage those around you to tackle issues directly.

Quit

You have to love three things about your job, or whatever it is you do as a vocation.

You have to love the people, the place, and the product/service your company is selling, in order to not be miserable.

If any of these is completely out of alignment, then consider a professional career change.

The motivation I needed to question this aspect of my career came from a friend of mine who ultimately died from cancer. I did some deep introspection while watching him struggle.

One of the things he said he’d miss most was the smell of freshly cut grass.

He also said he had regrets in his life. Regrets that would bother him until his death. I listened and learned a tremendous amount while praying for my sick friend.

He encouraged me, even pushed me, to take the risk I was apprehensive to take. The fear of not taking a risk scared me more than taking a risk and failing, so I did.

I quit my job as the head of marketing at a quickly growing SaaS company to pursue being self-employed as a solopreneur.

You can listen to the story on this podcast.

The company I quit had an awesome product that solved a HUGE problem for small businesses. From a marketing perspective, it was great to market. It offered amazing automation results, had virtually no competitors, was innovative, and game-changing for technology businesses.

But the people and place were changing. The culture wasn’t the same when I first started and I didn’t like what I saw. So I did something about it. I took action by quitting and went back to the world of self-employment.

I couldn’t be happier.

One book that inspired me was The Reluctant Entrepreneur by Michael Masterson. Check it out, here. If you’re considering making a change from a W-2 employee to self-employment, you need this book.

Don’t just take a paycheck to take a paycheck. To me, that’s the same as stealing. Instead, formulate a plan to take the plunge into doing something you love. There’s no such thing as a dream job, so don’t chase that. Rather, find that one thing that you love to do and chase it until you catch it.

What were some of your highlights in 2017?

Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them.

The Two Reasons Why Traction and The Rockefeller Habits Won’t Help Your Business

Every few years, a new business methodology gets published that gains traction (pun intended).

And like the ice-cream flavor of the day, these leadership and management principles eventually fade with the onset of something newer and more innovative.

(I am a huge fan of Traction by Gino Wickman, btw)

What I’ve found, however, is that implementing change through a philosophy like Traction can fail and there are two main reasons for this.

The two primary pitfalls in applying any business management approach are ego and lack of alignment. These are the two nails in the coffin that will kill how successful you are, or aren’t, in how you effectuate your growth plan.

Being an agent of change inside your business is hard enough to accomplish, but ultimately won’t work unless you have the following pieces in place. (keep reading)

The positive news is this: when these pieces are in place, you’ll eventually catapult your company into something you only dreamed of.

Why business leadership and management philosophies (like Traction) won’t work

I’ve worked in multiple Fortune 1000 organizations, as well as with dozens of high-growth start-ups, and have used a myriad of business management ideologies.

I’ve had the pleasure of learning portions of Six Sigma, The Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish, and most recently Traction by Gino Wickman.

They’re all great, but they’re only as good as the team that works to execute them. To do this, you and your team need to be aligned on three important pieces for this to be something you celebrate. Your team has to have the right balance of people, process, and technology.

People_Process_Technology

People

The team you have in place needs to be talented, experienced, and committed to the process. They need to have access to the best technology tools in order to execute the plan.

If you have employees that are junior in skill set, or have employees who’ve never worked in other environments with you benefiting from their experience in navigating difficult times, you’ll fail.

Here’s a metaphor: a professional football team won’t make it to the Super Bowl with a bunch of inexperienced rookies and college grads. (no offense to college grads)

A Super Bowl caliber football team needs to possess the right balance of veterans and rookies who are utilized in the right roles, the right system, and under the best coaching tutelage. Your teams skill set, experience, and background should complement one another.

Growing from $5M in annual revenue to $20M in annual revenue takes different people doing different things. You’ll have to make tough choices with your people and even let go of certain team members as you grow, in order to make your company vision a reality.

I’ve found the toughest part of getting this arrangement solidified is the fact that your loyalties will be tested. You will have to let certain people go and hire new ones. The same employees, contractors, and team members that helped you grow from $5M in annual revenue to $10M in annual revenue won’t be the same ones who help you get to $20M in revenue, and beyond. It’s impossible to do the same things, with the same people, and expect a different result.

Processes

Second, if you have broken processes, and don’t address them through action, you’ll fail.

These are processes that you can identify AND actually document with the intent to address them through action. And let me stress action. Action is important because without taking action, you’re just talking about the problem without actually solving it.

Each business function needs to have an outlined and documented set of processes which are realistic to execute. Sales, marketing, operations, human resources should have their set of operating processes so every one is working from the same playbook.

Technology

Third, you need the technology tools necessary to execute your mission and vision.

Let’s take sales for instance.

  • Your sales teams needs to have the right amount of leads to sell to.
  • Your sales team needs to have a scalable sales process in order to sell your product or services.
  • Clarity wins deals and confusion loses, so your sales team needs to have a product/service that’s gone through a systematic product development process to make it easy for your buyer to buy.
  • Your sales team needs to trust the delivery of your product/service.
  • Your sales team needs sales goals and a CRM software or business management software for accountability.

Another example of having the right technology tools is marketing automation software.

If your marketing team is operating out of spreadsheets, you’ll fail. There’s nothing like a good pivot-table to get a marketer excited, but attempting to grow a company from $5M in annual revenue to $20M in annual revenue using spreadsheets means you’re doing it wrong.

Another example of having the right technology is in the function of accounting and billing. Cash flow and financial management is absolutely paramount to your business.  If you don’t have the right collections technology and financials tools, like QuickBooks, in place, you’ll fail.

People, process, technology. Get these aligned because it’s important.

One of the biggest reasons business leadership and management philosophies (like Traction) fail

Ego.

One of the biggest reasons business leadership and management philosophies stymie is because of ego.

When you have inexperienced managers, with little to no experience leading growing companies, along with an over-inflated sense of self, you’ll fail on executing Traction, The Rockefeller habits and other management philosophies.

Here’s are six examples of what ego looks like.

Ego doesn’t recognize the need to learn and change.

Many, not all, business leaders think they have every answer for every problem. Admitting they could improve by learning something new is like admitting a weakness. That’s ego. Admitting you need to learn is not a weakness. Don’t be afraid to be judged by others or what they think about you when you ask questions and accept opportunities to learn from others. Good leaders and employees seek wise counsel by asking questions of those around them. Asking questions and seeking wise counsel, keeps your head in innovation and helps you improve.

Saying ‘no’ to new opportunities and ‘yes’ to being focused.

Steve Jobs once said that focus is about saying ‘no.’ He’s right. Jobs said ‘people think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means…it means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.’ If you’re in business, and you haven’t mastered your current target audience through offering them your solution, then don’t chase another industry or audience. Focus on being the #1 or #2 market leader in your specific industry, along with achieving your profitability goals, then chase something new.

Over-estimating your abilities and the abilities of your team.

A lot of business leaders think they’re smart enough to figure out everything.  Ever been there? I have. Business owners are expected to wear multiple hats, but don’t kid yourself that you need to wear every hat, every day. Having self-confidence is one thing, but as you grow your business, you need to have people on your team that are more talented than you are, at what they do. Don’t let ego fool you into believing that you’re a master at everything in your business, because you’re not. For instance, I was afraid to tackle my accounting and bookkeeping and afraid to learn about how to track and measure the numbers inside my business. Instead of trying to do it on my own, I hired a CPA and outsourced this function. Now, this person can focus on tax deductions, tax codes, and regulation related to my company. Once I learned to let go of over-estimating myself, I instantly became less stressed and can now focus on running my business.

Micromanaged.

This one is huge. Like a lot of business leaders, I’ve struggled with this. I feel like having control puts me in position to eliminate worrying about things I can’t control. Yet, the more I try and control through micromanagement, the more that gets missed. Most business leaders certainly care about the details but often focus on the wrong things by not accepting that those around them aren’t perfect. Expectations won’t be met and this needs to be perfectly acceptable because if you’re expecting perfection 100% of the time, with no margin for error, you’re going to frustrate yourself and everyone around you. Did I mention that good people leave your company when you frustrate them? Instead of being overbearing, critical and constantly wondering what your team is doing, you need to create trust and accountability among them, so everyone can communicate freely. Easier said than done, but understand that micromanagement kills innovation and productivity.

Every decision involved me.

This is another gut check moment. Just because you love your logo, your tagline, or favorite color, doesn’t mean that another logo, tagline, or color scheme isn’t the best possible option for your business. You may not like a specific color, a certain team member one of your managers is hiring, and might not agree with the decisions your employees are making, but that’s not the heart of the problem. The problem is you being involved in every decision. You can’t be involved in every decision in order to be successful at executing Traction or The Rockefeller Habits. The real problem with you being involved in every decision is the mindset that won’t allow other ideas to be suggested or considered. The ego problem I’m talking about here is the mindset that remains inflexible. Sometimes you’re simply going to have to accept that the best decision isn’t yours and you won’t have any input into the outcome. Your business isn’t about you, rather it’s about your customers and helping make their lives better. Focus on that instead of being involved in every decision.

You cannot back down and the need to ‘win.’

Ego always wants to be right. Even if this means teaching someone else a lesson because you couldn’t lose. When you get into a spirited discussion on ways to make your business grow, do you back down when listening to others thoughts and opinions or do you persevere until you’ve gotten your way? Do you waste time fighting the wrong battles by looking for ways to win, or do you set aside your pride and fight for something that will help your team embrace your vision? Great leaders know when the battle is over.

Get aligned

These principles are tough to do.

Unless you’ve started and grown a business, it’s hard to understand the struggle of starting and growing a company. The good news is you’re not alone. By embracing these business principles and learning to let go of things you once strongly embraced, you’ll grow your company, your people, and have more peace in your personal life.

Align your people, process and technology and eliminate ego inside your company.

Click here to learn more about Traction.

Check this out to learn more about how to align people, process, and technology.

Why Anger Isn’t Bad, Unless You Do This One Thing

 

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A few years ago, I had a pretty intense conversation with a very close friend.

We worked together. We prayed together. We enjoyed life together. We were close.

But during this one particular phone conversation, my colleague was angry. He was angry about life, business, and a plethora of other things.

And the entire exchange was one of the most hurtful conversations I’ve ever had with another human being.

Why it hurt

The conversation was painful because my friend chose to use his anger to wound others, namely me.

The anger in the conversation was vindictive, cutting, barbed, and poisonous.

It was also inappropriate, uncalled for, and completely unwarranted.

How do you react to others when you’re angry or offended?

I’ll never forget how I felt as he attacked me, during our conversation. I felt belittled, small, and unloved. I felt like the child of an angry parent who passes their frustrations onto their kids through a physical beating.

I became defensive as my main goal was survival. And as the discussion progressed, my emotional state and mindset was transformed into a warrior, as a byproduct of fight or flight syndrome.

Like someone who was prepared for verbal-battle, my reaction was to fight, and bear my sword and shield, while clinching my teeth with raw emotion that propelled me to strike back. The verbal conflict that ensued was mean and crude.

When the dust settled, after about an hour of dialogue, there were tears and emotional-lacerations that would need to be healed.

But being angry wasn’t the problem. Being angry isn’t a bad thing, unless in your fit of emotional indignation you intentionally attack and hurt others.

How to react

In Matthew 21, Jesus discovered some men were cynically profiting from those who came to worship in His Father’s house.

He too was angry. Jesus expelled these men and said “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'”

But Jesus’ anger was far different from ours.

When we get angry because we feel offended or because we feel someone is keeping us from doing something we want to do, we get upset and lash out.

When you and I feel this way, we seek to hurt the person who is preventing us from getting what we want because our anger is centered only on ourselves and our desires.

But Jesus’ anger wasn’t like this.

Instead of a selfish anger, His is a righteous anger. He was angry because the merchants were treating the Lord’s House with contempt. He was angry because they were cheating and treating people unjustly.

And when God gets angry at sin, it’s because He knows the terrible damage it does to us, whom He loves.

  • Unjustified angry outbursts put your heart at risk because of the physical damaging effects on your cardiac health.
  • Needless anger increases your risk of stroke.
  • Unnecessary anger weakens your immune system and can make anxiety worse.
  • Anger is often times linked to depression and can even shorten your life.

Unless your anger is a righteous anger, like that of Jesus’, it’s going to cause emotional issues, physical problems, and damage your quality of life.

Fools give vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm

Proverbs 29:11 says, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm.”

Don’t excuse your anger.

Don’t let it destroy you and relationships around you, because left unchecked, it will.

The goal of being an emotionally healthy person is to learn to react to life’s frustrations with patience, instead of anger.

What to do

Have you unjustly attacked someone recently, (knowingly or unknowingly) because you let your anger get the best of you?

Have you wounded someone with how you angrily reacted when you were offended or didn’t get what you wanted, because you were focused on yourself and your desires?

I have.

If this is you, then seek restoration in your relationship. Seek forgiveness. Go to the person whom you offended and tell them you’re sorry and ask for their forgiveness.

This will build trust, show humility, and over time repair what was broken.

And when you’re angry, choose to react to life’s frustrations with patience, instead of anger.

Why Every Fargo Realtor Needs To Blog About Special Assessments [and what every Fargo home buyer needs to be aware of]

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One of the most frustrating things about my move to Fargo is special assessments.

I have about $45,000 worth of them to pay off, as a part of my newly built house.

Special assessments, also known as specials, can be confusing and frustrating.

So I wanted to write about them to help you because I figured by being helpful you’d avoid some of the stress I uncovered when learning about specials.

Not to mention very few realtors or real estate offices in the Fargo-Moorhead area are blogging about them. And they should be. They should be talking about special assessments because by educating readers, they’d fill their sales pipeline with potential clients by building trust and credibility.

If you’re a resident of Fargo or someone like me who recently moved here, you need to know about special assessments and how they impact you. Because they will.

What are special assessments?

If you live in a house, condo, or town home that is part of a planned, covenanted community, you most likely have to pay monthly Homeowners’ Association (HOA) fees and, at times, you will have to pay special assessments (referred to as specials. credit: www.answerthepublic.com)

Special assessment is the term used to designate a charge that your local government or municipality can assess against a real estate parcel for certain public projects. This charge is levied in a specific geographic area known as a special assessment district (SAD).

Pretty boring, right?

In West Fargo, specials are a method the city uses to pay for infrastructure improvements. Specials cover things like the diversion project, which protects Fargo from flooding, water main replacement, etc. The cost of these projects is divided among home owners in a geographic area.

It’s essentially a method of financing that’s legal because of the local law. Not all city projects are paid for in this way, just most of them are in West Fargo. Some infrastructure projects are funded through the city’s general fund or bonds.

What is the special assessment fund?

When you pay your specials, the money goes into a designated fund.

Think of a HUGE checking account with millions of dollars in it. These funds or accounts are set up for expenses incurred for capital projects.

But this fund is different and separate from your taxes.

Special assessments vs taxes.

Property owners, like you and me, often confuse property taxes and assessments.

They’re not the same. For instance:

  • Special assessment costs originate from a lump sum that’s divided over a period of time.
  • Taxes do not originate from a lump sum.
  • Taxes are deductible when you file your federal tax returns.
  • There is no tax benefit for specials.
  • Assessments, not taxes, are determined by local assessors.
  • Taxes are determined by school boards, town boards, city councils, county legislatures, village boards and special districts.
  • These jurisdictions are responsible for taxes, not assessments.
  • Your specials can also increase at any time, while your taxes may actually decrease (or vice versa). It’s crazy, I know.

If, like me, you feel your assessment is too high, then you need to discuss it with your assessor and work to contest your assessment amount through your locally elected officials. (a huge battle to fight, by the way)

What special assessments are tax deductible.

The short answer is none.

When you file your annual taxes, homeowners can deduct the cost of state and local real estate taxes on federal income tax returns. According to the Internal Revenue Service, property taxes are deductible only if they are imposed uniformly on all properties in a jurisdiction and based on the assessed value of a property.

Special assessments do not fit this criteria, however. There’s zero tax benefit with specials.

How are special assessments calculated.

While taxes are paid annually, through a monthly payment escrowed inside your monthly payment, specials are a lump sum divided over a period of time.

For me, my specials are in the amount of $45,000 and broken out annually over a 12 year period. $45,000 divided by 12 = $3,750.

That’s a lot of money. I pay that amount annually just for my specials. My taxes are completely separate…and similarly expensive.

My property tax cost is calculated differently and the annual cost is determined by your local school district, whereas specials are calculated by the cost of infrastructure.

Specials can make it tough when buying a home.

I’m not a millionaire.

Therefore I’m not flush with tons of cash to be able to afford anything and everything that I want to buy. Including costs associated with a new house.

When I was considering building a house, I knew that location was the most important aspect. Next, I knew that choosing a house with a great layout was key.

Then there were specials. I essentially had to tack on $45k in expenses (or whatever the specials costs were in that area) and plan accordingly.

Early on my journey to buy a home in Fargo, it sucked. I was priced out of homes in a certain price range because of special assessments.

And some of those homes that I was interested in buying are still sitting for sale, a year and a half after I moved to Fargo from Minneapolis-St. Paul. That’s sad because someone’s paying for them and somehow that cost is being passed on to you and me.

Specials can make it tough when selling your Fargo home.

A quick story. There was a house for sale in a neighborhood close to where I now live. It was newer, and really nice. A rambler with a lot of details that I loved.

But…the house had over $50,000 in specials on it. For me, that’s a lot.

Then, a competing house across the street hit the market. Same price, similar specs and just as nice. Only it had $20,000 in specials, instead of $50k.

If you’re a buyer which one do you think you’ll choose? The one with the lower specials, of course.

The point is this: special assessments can make it harder, or easier, to sell your place depending on the amount of your specials that are owed.

Specials are a part of life, plain and simple. While they’re annoying and costly, it’s pretty hard to completely avoid them.

Before you buy your home, or build one like I did, be sure and ask questions. Lots of them. No one is going to educate you or tell you about these points related to specials.

You’re going to have to take responsibility and educate yourself through a lot of research.

Blog about specials.

And if you happen to be a Fargo realtor, you need to be blogging because its one of the best and most economical ways to get customers and keep them.

I’d consider blogging about all kinds of topics, specials included.

And if you happen to be moving to Fargo or recently moved here from another area and have questions about specials, email me by clicking here. I’d be happy to give you some good advice and wisdom to help navigate these murky waters know as specials.

 

How to Accept the Apology You Never Received

Note: This is a guest post from Lisa Arends of Lessons From The End Of A Marriage.
In an ideal world, everyone that causes harm to another, either intentionally or unintentionally, would immediately offer up a genuine apology: accepting responsibility, acknowledging the pain, express empathy and remorse, immediately changing behavior and, if appropriate, making amends for the damage caused. But we know that rarely happens. And it never happens as quickly as we would like.Instead, we receive a “sorry” tossed out with little thought and nothing to back it up. We hear, “I’ll do better” and better never comes. We may find that in place of an apology, we instead receive blame and misplaced anger as defensiveness leads instead of empathy. The apology may be discounted by the excuses that accompany it. We may see an utter lack of comprehension at the pain that was inflicted.

Or we may just be listening to radio silence, waiting for an apology that never comes.

An apology that maybe we don’t even need.

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Why do we want apologies?

Children are taught almost as soon as they can talk to say “please” when they want something, “thank you” when they receive something, and “I’m sorry” when they hurt someone.

At the most surface level, we view an apology as a basic ritual of societal order that preserves a sense of fairness and responsibility.

Apologizing has become almost a knee-jerk reaction for many.

How often have you bumped into somebody or inadvertently cut someone off with your grocery cart and had the word, “sorry” out of your mouth without thinking? Even in such a minor interaction without much empathy or remorse behind the word, the apology still carries importance. When it is uttered, it acknowledges the infraction and its impact on the other person. When nothing is said, the other person feels invisible and insignificant.

At its most basic, an apology says, “I see you.” And a lack of an apology is a passive rejection.

What do we expect from apologies?

Pain wants to be heard; the need for our suffering to be acknowledged drives our need for an apology.

And the greater the perceived damage, the greater the perceived need for an apology. We all have an inherent sense of fairness, a balance of how things “should” be. When someone harms us, that balance is disrupted and we presume that an apology will make strides towards correcting that imbalance and restoring a sense of fairness.

We often see an acknowledgement of the slight and remorse for the actions as the keystone in the bridge to healing. As though once that apology is received, the remainder of the recovery follows. And so we wait.

Because we want to be heard. Understood. And the pain keeps screaming until it is recognized.

What are the limitations of apologies?

Apologies can never undo what was done.

They are not a magical eraser than removes any harsh words or caustic actions. When we imbue them with these special powers, we increase our expectations to a level that can never be reached.

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No apology will ever be good enough to abolish the pain and reverse the damage. Just as you cannot control somebody else’s apology, they cannot mitigate your suffering.

You can’t outsource healing. You have to do it yourself.

Do we need apologies?

An apology or a lack thereof is a reflection of the other person’s character, not your worth.

When somebody causes harm and refuses to accept responsibility, they are telling you who they are, not who you are.

When someone is too cowardly to admit fault, they are showing you their shortcomings, not yours.

And just because somebody displays an utter lack of empathy, it does not mean your pain is not real and valid.

When you wait for an apology, you are allowing the person who harmed you to continue to harm you. You’re letting them decide if you get to be okay again.

And is that really a decision you want to place in the hands of someone who lacks empathy and courage? If this person is still involved in your life and they are unable or unwilling to authentically apologize, take a good look at your boundaries.

Is this someone that you want to remain in your life?

How can you accept the apology you never received?

The most critical component of accepting an apology you never received is to eliminate any magical thinking you have about apologies.

They are no holy grail of healing. They do not have the power to erase what has happened. Once you realize that, it becomes easier to let go of the driving need for acknowledgement and amends. An apology is only required if you give it that power.

Your well-being should not hinge on somebody else’s shortcomings.

Their inability to accept responsibility is their problem.

Not yours.

Your healing is your responsibility. Accept it.

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If you’re having trouble accepting an apology you’ve never received, this online course can help.

 

About the author:

Lisa Arends is the author of the best-selling book Lessons From the End of a Marriage and a frequent blogger. Lisa inspires others through her blog, which is a space for those who have experienced the trauma that comes from the end of a significant relationship, and are seeking to move beyond grief and anger. Check out her blog. Be sure and check out Lisa’s online course, where she aspires to help those who feel victimized and stuck as the result of divorce. Learn more about her course, here. Continue reading