Why Coffee Shops Are Better Than Golf Courses for Small Business Deals

I’m admittedly not an avid golfer. I’ve never negotiated a deal on the green. But, I have closed many deals over a fresh cup of java. I personally find coffee houses to be the perfect neutral grounds for dialogue, be it business or personal. And you can switch it up a lot, especially if you’re not just relegated to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. I’m all about driving local economies and supporting small businesses. That’s why, specifically here in the city of Memphis, I only frequent coffee shops such as Republic Coffee, Avenue Coffee, or Cafe Eclectic. Aside from the convenient access to food and beverages, here’s why I say that coffee shops are better than golf courses for small business deals:

  • More Cost Effective – now, I know greens fees vary depending on the type of facility and the golf market where you live/play. But, even at the cheapest, you’re looking at about $10 per person for a 9-hole round of golf, and that’s without accounting for a cart, clubs, or food and drinks. That same $10 per person becomes a beverage or two and something to snack on at a coffee shop. As a small business owner, I’m always looking to maximize my dollars, and golfing just isn’t an optimum choice.

  • Not as Restricted by Weather Conditions – who’s going golfing when it rains? Maybe Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but not many others. Inclement weather could delay negotiations on an urgent business matter, if you’re staging the talks at the golf course. With a few exceptions, coffee houses have roofs and walls. Come rain or shine, we can go get a deal done at a local coffee joint while also warming our souls with a couple hot cups of joe.

  • More Inclusive – coffee shops are usually very diverse, whereas golf courses are usually the opposite. Coffee shops are grounds for all to come, whether they’re a seven-figure-earning executive looking for a place to skim the New York Times while they enjoy their coffee, or whether they’re a just-over-broke college student looking for a place to get a last minute assignment done because they have no internet service in their apartment. Everyone should be able to feel comfortable in the coffee shop environment. Golf courses are more for the exclusivity crowd (which there are times when that is beneficial, too).

  • More Intimate Setting – the best coffee shops have environments that are welcoming and relaxing, yet simultaneously invigorating and help spark creativity and productivity. They make you as a customer feel connected to all within the facility, yet there’s space for a bit of privacy and discretionary conversation.

  • FREE WIFI – yes, I’m aware that most club houses on golf courses also have WIFI, but often to gain access you must first become a member. That’s not the case when strolling into a coffee shop.

  • Focus is on Collaboration versus Competing on the Golf Course – breaking bread together and having a tasty beverage brings about a more cooperative, collaborative energy than does golfing. I mean, out on the green you’re keeping score and vying to win. Even if you do so happen to break bread together at the golf course, it often occurs after the game’s been played, when egos are slightly bruised and pride is a distraction.

  • What’s ordered (and how) are key indicators for the business relationship moving forward – I use these opportunities to observe and take mental notes on the habits, customs and courtesies of my counterparts. How long did it take them to decide on what they wanted from the menu? Were they polite or slightly rude to the customer service representative? Do they keep it simple, or do they go all out on what they order? Do they substitute something due to allergies? (this is helpful when considering gifts later)

How Hip Hop Sharpens My Entrepreneurial Mind

First and foremost, this post involves HIP HOP. I’m not referring to just the average, payola-radio-rotation, mindless, ridiculous and foolish rap for dummies. I myself am a poet and a lyricist, so content very much matters to me. Examples of HIP HOP artists whose music helps to sharpen my mental include: Immortal Technique, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Nas, Damian Marley, Big K.R.I.T., J. Cole, Pharoahe Monch, The Roots, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Ice Cube, Wu Tang Clan and Killer Mike, just to name a few. How exactly does their music help me? Even better, how can their music help to sharpen you and your mind? I’m glad you ask. Shall we proceed? Yes Indeed.

-CONCEPTUALIZATION/IDEATION

Example:

-VOCABULARY EXPANSION

Example:

-CONFIDENCE BOOSTER

Example:

When the Armageddon’s dark and dread
A lot of weak hearted weep and moan
Only the strong will continue, do you have it in you?
Come, we’ve got a journey to goAnd when the battle get sour and dread
A lot of weak hearted wither and moan
Only the strong will continue, I know you have it in you
I know you have it in youHey, the victory’s found in truth
Like innocence found in youth
Self defeat is your own dispute
And man, you put yourself in your own shoesEither you’re winnin’ or losin’
Don’t you get it confused
Play a star and you know your own movie
Playin’ of the role you choose, so

Stand up and fight if you know that you’re right
And know you will never fail
Tippin’ the scale and the wind shall prevail
And the boat shall forever sail
(Nas & Damian Marley – “Strong Will Continue)

-EMPOWERS THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

Example:

He said I write what I see
Write to make it right
Don’t like where I be
I like to make it like
The sights on TV
Quite the great life
So nice and easy
See now you can still die from that
But it’s better than not being alive from straps
Agreed
A mead notebook and a Bic that click
When it’s pushed and a wack ass beat
That’s a track that’s weak
That he got last week
’cause everybody in the stu [NOTE: short for studio]
Was like that’s that heat
A base heavy medly with a sample from the 70s
With a screwed up hook that went
STACK THAT CHEESE
Something something something
STACK THAT CHEESE
Mother sister cousin
STACK THAT CHEESE
He couldn’t think of nothing
STACK THAT CHEESE
He turns down the beat writers block impedes
Crying from the next room a baby in need
Of some pampers and some food and a place to sleep
That plus a black Cadillac on D’s
Is what keep him on track to be a great MC
(Lupe Fiasco – “Hip Hop Saved My Life”)

-RAISES AWARENESS OF VARIOUS ISSUES

Example:

[Verse 4: Immortal Technique]
I survived the cointelpro assassinations.
AIDS epidemic, Crack era, fractured a nation,
The Interpretation of American Democracy,
Is best exemplified in it’s foreign policy dichotomy,
I live a double life of political philosophy,
But revolution follows me, the struggle for equality,
Against the morally bankrupt claiming to be born again,
It’s a civil war again like MS-13s origin
Ban ethnic studies claiming our culture will swallow them,
But you can’t conquer people and build a country on top of them,
And then feel offended that they breathe the same oxygen,
Your family values lack the wisdom of Solomon,
But Operation Condor and Operation Bootstrap are Polisci 101,
Research for the new jack,
It’s hard to reach Communist Utopia tomorrow,
When your hands are in a fuckin glass jar like Che Guevara,
Forget the distorted historical facts you were given,
Slave trade was the capital for capitalism,
Trapped in a prison mentally, dying existentially,
Separated from people you can’t see yourself to be,
Then racially integrated into a burning house colony of an empire,
Economically burning out,
Can’t win a debate so they sponsor every threat to me,
I wonder if agent 800 is standing next to me!
(Immortal Technique – “Young Lords”)

-HELPS TO MAINTAIN HUMILITY

Example:

Life is a beautiful struggle
People search through the rubble for a suitable hustle
Some people usin’ the noodle, some people usin’ the muscle
Some people put it all together, make it fit like a puzzle
Come on, say it now
Life is a beautiful struggle
People search through the rubble for a suitable hustle
Some people usin’ the noodle, some people usin’ the muscle
Some people put it all together, yeah
(Talib Kweli – “I Try”)

What Teaching 2nd Graders in Summer School Taught Me About True Leadership

I’ve been in many leadership roles, within the military, business, academics and beyond. All come with unique challenges. But, by far, my most challenging role as a leader was over this past summer as an ELA summer school teacher for 2nd graders. They are a fun but tough bunch. As a teacher you come into the classroom with tons of plans, benchmarks, milestones and data, ready to “grow some brains” as the students would call it. I walked in with a vision and an understanding of where I wanted my students to be by the end of the summer. Then, from day one I realized that what I wanted didn’t matter if my scholars didn’t want it for themselves. And in order for them to want to achieve the vision and big goals I set, they needed to understand why those plans exists, and most importantly what was in it for them as individuals and as a collective. In other words, as Simon Sinek so eloquently explains in one of his TED Talks, they didn’t buy into the “what” or the “how” until they understood the “why”. The following five tips will surely help with the “why” and the overall effectiveness of your leadership.

  1. Communicate Inside-Out: WHY-HOW-WHAT (instead of just the what and the how)

  2. Be Intentional About Developing Your Desired Culture: when it comes to leading, cohesion, loyalty, mutual respect and collective pride isn’t happenstance.

  3. Focus on Assets: I call this counting your blessings, rather than worry about what’s not

  4. Listen More & Talk Less: I can sure run my mouth, but I’ve learned to hush up and listen up more often. Great leaders listen to all stakeholders involved, even if they’re just 2nd graders.

  5. Engage the Community: we’re all connected, therefore we’re all affected. Continuously seek out alliances, advocates, and others you can help out.

Books to Read While in Transition

Reading can be therapeutic, especially during times of change and transition. I find it important to fuel positive thinking, develop new skills, sharpen strengths, resolve weaknesses, act on passions, and stay focused on the road ahead while also maintaining creativity when I experience transition and change. Reading has gotten me through many change windows, be they chosen or by default. No matter what’s caused a change or transition for me, things have always turned out better afterwards. I truly believe that part of that success comes from being an avid reader, particularly of the books listed below.

Here are MY TOP 10 RECOMMENDED books to read during your own windows of change and transition:

I was sent this book in the mail by Teach For America to read in preparation for attending their Summer Institute Training. When I got it, I looked at the cover and thought “I’m sure this is a pretty good read for someone, but I already know where I’m headed”. Then, I tossed the book on a shelf and forgot about it for about two weeks. About a week or two prior to packing up my household for a pending move to Memphis, I again came across this book, just sitting on the shelf collecting a little dust. For some reason I decided to give it a chance (probably because I was bored that day). I can say that, once I flipped it open and started reading, I didn’t put it down until I read from cover to cover. By far one of the best books I’ve ever read. I was already headed north I felt, but after reading this I had to recalibrate my internal compass so that I could start heading in the direction of “true” north.

Such a simple concept, yet this book is wondrous. Since reading it my approach to networking and connecting with others has profoundly changed for the better.

Seals are tough, extremely intelligent, disciplined, highly effective, and just plain bad-ass. Maybe serving in the military like Mark Divine and I did is not your heart’s desire, but who doesn’t want to improve themselves and be bad-ass? Read this book and learn to think like an elite warrior, to lead authentically, and ultimately to succeed at new heights.

Paulo Coelho is one of my absolute favorite authors. I read any and all of his books for escape and for that exciting literary adventure that most readers crave. When you just need a break from the daily hustle and grind, but you don’t want to just cut on the TV and do nothing, crack open this book and take a thrilling journey.

Written by a pioneer of virtual reality, this book raises some vital questions and concerns about our rapidly expanding technological capabilities across the globe. Even better, there are a ton of resources, suggestions and solutions offered throughout the text. A very intriguing book, for techies and non-techies alike.

Here’s a brief but excellent read from a much newer author than the others listed here in my top ten. This book is great to use for reflection and goal-setting during a transition. This book is especially good for chronic procrastinators.

This book is witty, hilarious, and inspirational. I bought this book and read the entire thing at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport during an almost 14-hour layover while traveling from South Korea back home to Atlanta, Georgia. Passing the time while reading this was a non-issue. Before I knew it, I was done with the book, and my plane was just about to start boarding. It helped that I also took the train into downtown Seattle to do a bit of exploring, but I clearly could not spend my entire layover trekking through the city of Seattle unless I wanted to miss my flight. Reading this book saved my sanity while waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

Honestly speaking, much of our transitions in life may involve our finances in one way or another. Whether you’re planning how to spend, save and invest a recent pay raise, or whether you’re working diligently to repair and improve your credit, this book will absolutely provide more than a few useful tips and information that you can apply immediately.

As a military veteran myself, I truly admire Mark Divine and the way that he’s continued service and honor beyond his time as a Seal. Though we deal in different root ideologies, I always learn and benefit from the material that he writes and shares in other media forms. I’m certain that you will find this book just as great to read as the other one I listed earlier in this post.

Filled with parables, ancient wisdom, prophetic words for the days ahead, and always applicable laws and commandments for a peaceful and productive life, this is a read that’s good for any and all circumstances in life.

Lessons I Learned From My Neighborhood Fruit Stand: “For Everything, There is a Season.”

Nothing need be added by me. Just read this great post by Dar’shun Kendrick for yourself…

kendricklaw

I live in Lithonia, Georgia 20 miles east of the city of Atlanta. Some think it’s the country but to me its semi-urban. I represent 54,000 Georgians in the House of Representatives all the way to Loganville (that’s country!). One of the BEST parts about public service is the diversity of people within in my District. I have a man who has about 3 acres of land beside his house on a busy highway (Highway 124 to be exact) and he grows fresh fruits and veggies every spring and sells them on his fruit stand in the front yard. Nothing makes me smile more than driving past this man’s yard on the way home and see this 60 or 70 year old plowing away in the fields in his front yard. I say “THAT IS PASSION!” —-because I have a low tolerance for dirt and sweat.

The other day…

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Things Not Taught In Business School…(a repost from FreelancersUnion.org)

School can only teach you so much.

The real lessons of entrepreneurship are picked up along the way. While you undoubtedly would have learned important things and formed new networks in business school, this acquired wisdom — your experience with clients, with projects, and with keeping your own deadlines — is probably worth more than the $200,000 you would have spent going to business school.

Here are 4 things you’d never learn there:

1. How to read people

“Business always comes down to people situations,” the CEO of IMG once said.

Whether you’re closing a business deal, nailing down project specs, or reviewing drafts, the work that you do is rarely as important as how you communicate that work to your clients.

This isn’t about reading people so you can manipulate them to do what you want. Being able to read your client means:

  • You can tell when they don’t trust you — and you can work to build their trust
  • You can tell when they’re about to back out of a deal (before it happens) — and work to prevent it
  • You can tell what communication style they prefer — so that you don’t either bog them down in details or make them nervous with too few
  • You can tell if they’re scared or if their boss is breathing down their neck — so you can be extra careful to support each decision you make with “boss-pleasing” statistics (for instance: “I chose to put the button there because studies show that it has a 45% higher click rate in that position.” Scared employees love to hear statistics so that they can back up their choices to the higher-ups.

Learning how to read people is just one aspect of emotional intelligence. And you don’t even need to be social or an extrovert to read others; in fact, it has been show that introverts are much better at accurately interpreting people’s facial expressions.

2. How to deal with work you don’t enjoy (or are failing at)

As a freelancer, chances are that you’ve started a business in a field that you enjoy. Even if it’s not your “passion,” it’s something that is intimately intertwined with your life.

But how do you deal with projects you hate?  The will to continue and push through this kind of work is not something anyone can teach you, and still doing your best in such circumstances and not complaining about your stupid project to everyone you know is a lesson acquired with effort.

And then come more serious failures: What happens if you loved knitting on the side, but when you tried to make it a business, you suddenly hate to even look at a knitting needle? The strength to put an end to a business that fails, or that you hate, takes an unbelievable amount of energy.

All of these things involve grit and resilience. In the dictionary, grit is described as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says “resilience is a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence, which together empower one to reappraise situations and regulate emotion.”

Regulating emotion is the tough part.

When you get stressed or are in the midst of a failure, studies show that the regulatory, forward-thinking, and creative problem-solving parts of your brain go quiet. So when you’re stressed you’re literally less equipped to deal with the challenges in front of you with emotional intelligence.

This is why so many freelancers have turned to meditation and other spiritual practices. They allow us to recenter and coming back to our work with our full selves. But you have to discover what works for you. There will come a time when the stress of running your own business, a difficult project, or a failing business will force you to develop these strategies.

3. Gratitude for what you have

This one is kind of cliche (which is probably the reason business schools don’t talk about it). Gratitude for what you have, for the clients you have, for the work that you do, is a business lesson much more energizing and vitalizing than knowing the difference between an LLC and a C-Corp.

I love these tips from ZenHabits:

  • Morning gratitude session. Take 2-3 minutes each morning to give thanks, to whoever or whatever you’re grateful for. You don’t have to do anything, other than close your eyes and silently give thanks. This one act can make a huge difference.
  • Say thank you. When someone does something nice for you, however small, try to remember to say thank you. And really mean it.
  • Call to say thanks. Sometimes you might think about something nice that someone did for you. Perhaps you remember during your gratitude session. When you do, pick up the phone and call the person, just to say thanks. Let them know what they did that you’re grateful for, and why you appreciate it. Takes a minute or two. If it’s too early to call, make a note to call later. Even better is telling them in person, if you happen to see them or if they’re on your route. Almost as good is a thank-you email — keep it short and sweet.
  • Give thanks for “negative” things in your life. There’s always two ways to look at something. Many times we think of something as negative — it’s stressful, harmful, sad, unfortunate, difficult. But that same thing can be looked at in a more positive way. Giving thanks for those things is a great way to remind yourself that there is good in just about everything. Problems can be seen as opportunities to grow, to be creative. See the prayer below for more on this.

4. A sense of worthiness

This is arguably the most important “business” tool on the list.

The truth is that how you feel about yourself is how other people are going to treat you. If you consider yourself a technician who mutely carries out clients’ wishes, you’re going to get treated like one. If you think you’re only worth $10/hour — yes, you guessed it.

We talk a lot on this blog about how to price your servicesincrease your rates, andcommunicate value to your clients. But absolutely none of this is possible without feeling like the services you offer are worth having.

There is not even any advice I could give you for gaining a sense of worthiness. This is one of those things that comes with experience — and for most people, it also comes with age.

(reposted from: https://www.freelancersunion.org/blog/2014/05/29/4-things-no-one-teaches-you-business-school/)

The Inevitable Numbers Game in Entrepreneurship

As the saying goes, “numbers don’t lie”. People can fudge numbers and lie through them, but even such fake numbers can tell the truth on real fraud. I brought up this saying because the numbers generated through business accounting are critical to a company and its life span. All of the many different financial reports and analysis ratios act as medical screenings, communicating the health of an organization to stakeholders. They let management and leadership know what’s working, what’s not working, where the pain points are, and where the strong points are. It details to investors how strong of a performer a company can be for their portfolio. When generated properly and accurately, they give lenders confidence to extend resources. They document patterns and trends that can be used for very helpful assessments. And yes, they keep everybody in business honest (more often than not).

Since I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person regularly tuned in to Shark Tank, you’ve probably noticed how the sharks often vet which businesses that they’re willing to invest their money in by asking many questions pertaining to financial reports, particularly Balance Sheets, Income Statements, and Cash Flow Statements. They want to know the numbers because it’s like a medical professional checking a patient’s vital signs.

That said, the numbers game is inevitable when it comes to successful entrepreneurship. Great branding along with stellar pitches made by charismatic founders will open a lot of ears and salivate plenty of venture capitalists’ taste buds – until the numbers come into question. Too often I see entrepreneurs give awesome pitches and build tons of excitement, only to crash and burn because they either don’t know their financials, or because their accounting numbers reveal an out-of-shape organization on the brink of a health crisis.

Some advice for winning the numbers game:

1. document everything

2. keep hard-copies and digital copies of receipts and other vital financial records

3. enlist professional accounting services as soon as feasible, whether in-house or outsourced

4. become very familiar with your balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements

5. don’t just leave it to the “accounting folks” – as an entrepreneur, treat reviewing your financials like checking your own medical vital signs

 

 

By: Lex R. Brown II

The First Two Years of Startup Grind

Customer Discovery is one of the most vital aspects of the startup grind. It’s a process involving really nailing down a legit target market, verifying a need for your products and/or services, and discovering the true pain-points for which you can provide solutions. Customer Discovery also helps in price setting and in generating effective marketing strategies.

David Cummings on Startups

The first two years of a startup are a grind, and that’s if it’s successful. If things aren’t going well, the grind can continue on indefinitely. Startups take a tremendous amount of time and energy to get off the ground, and it isn’t glamorous.

Here are a few things that are part of the first two years of the startup grind:

  • Repeated customer discovery interviews
  • Multiple pivots and iterations in the search for product/market fit (see Pivoting is More Common Than Expected)
  • Tons of administrative tasks like getting a business license, health insurance, general liability insurance, and interfacing with lawyers
  • Finding an office and getting furniture, internet, phones, and more (it’s a strange rite of passage many entrepreneurs go through dealing with the challenges of finding a good office with a short lease and flexible terms)
  • Fundraising trials and tribulations to raise money from investors (raising money by selling products to customers is…

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5 Important Lessons I Learned When I Stopped Being Lazy…

(repost from an article by Adam Fogle)

1. Open my mind, embrace change and strive to do better.

2. Learn from the experiences of others rather than trying to figure everything out myself.

3. Read. Never stop reading.

4. Surround myself with great people and great ideas.

5. Be positive and get excited about new opportunities and obstacles.

10 Reasons You Have To Quit Your Job In 2014

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1) The middle class is dead. A few weeks ago I visited a friend of mine who manages a trillion dollars. No joke. A trillion. If I told you the name of the family he worked for you would say, “they have a trillion? Really?” But that’s what happens when ten million dollars compounds at 2% over 200 years.

He said, “look out the windows”. We looked out at all the office buildings around us. “What do you see?” he said. “I don’t know.” “They’re empty! All the cubicles are empty. The middle class is being hollowed out.” And I took a closer look. Entire floors were dark. Or there were floors with one or two cubicles but the rest empty. “It’s all outsourced or technology has taken over for the paper shufflers,” he said.

“Not all the news is bad,” he said. “More people entered the upper class than ever last year.” But, he said, more people are temp staffers than ever.

And that’s the new paradigm. The middle class has died. The American Dream never really existed. It was a marketing scam.

And it was. The biggest provider of mortgages for the past 50 years, Fannie Mae, had as their slogan, “We make the American Dream come true.” It was just a marketing slogan all along. How many times have I cried because of a marketing slogan. And then they ruined it.

2) You’ve been replaced.

Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class.

The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?”. 2008 finally gave them the chance. “It was the economy!” they said. The country has been out of a recession since 2009. Four years now. But the jobs have not come back. I asked many of these CEOs: did you just use that as an excuse to fire people, and they would wink and say, “let’s just leave it at that.”

I’m on the board of directors of a temp staffing company with one billion dollars in revenues. I can see it happening across every sector of the economy. Everyone is getting fired. Everyone is toilet paper now. Flush.

3) Corporations don’t like you. The executive editor of a major news publication took me out to lunch to get advice on how to expand their website traffic. But before I could talk he started complaining to me: “our top writers keep putting their twitter names in their posts and then when they get more followers they start asking for raises.”

“What’s the problem?” I said. “Don’t you want writers that are popular and well-respected?”

When I say a “major news publication” I am talking MAJOR.

He said, “no, we want to be about the news. We don’t want anyone to be an individual star.”

In other words, his main job was to destroy the career aspirations of his most talented people, the people who swore their loyalty to him, the people who worked 90 hours a week for him. If they only worked 30 hours a week and were slightly more mediocre he would’ve been happy. But he doesn’t like you. He wants to you stay in the hole and he will throw you a meal every once in awhile in exchange for your excrement. If anyone is a reporter out there and wants to message me privately I will tell you who it was. But basically, it’s all of your bosses. Every single one of them.

4) Money is not happiness. A common question during my Twitter Q&A (that I give every Thursday from 330-430 PM EST), asked at least once a week, is “should I take the job I like or should I take the job that pays more money”.

Leaving aside the question of “should I take a job at all”, let’s talk about money for a second.

First, the science: studies show that an increase in salary only offers marginal to zero increase in “happiness” above a certain level. Why is this? Because the basic fact: people spend what they make. If your salary increases $5,000 you spend an extra $2000 on features for your car, you have an affair, you buy a new computer, a better couch, a bigger TV, and then you ask, “where did all the money go?” Even though you needed none of the above now you need one more thing: another increase in your salary, so back to the corporate casino for one more try at the salary roulette wheel. I have never once seen anyone save the increase in their salary.

In other words, don’t stay at the job for safe salary increases over time. That will never get you where you want – freedom from financial worry. Only free time, imagination, creativity, and an ability to disappear will help you deliver value that nobody ever delivered before in the history of mankind.

5) Count right now how many people can make a major decision that can ruin your life.

I don’t like it when one person can make or break me. A boss. A publisher. A TV producer. A buyer of my company. At any one point I’ve had to kiss ass to all of the above. I hate it. I will never do it again.

The way to avoid this is to diversify the things you are working on so no one person or customer or boss or client can make a decision that could make you rich or destroy you or fulfill your life’s dreams or crush them. I understand it can’t happen in a day. Start planning now how to create your own destiny instead of allowing people who don’t like you to control your destiny. When you do this count, make sure the number comes to over 20. Then when you spin the wheel the odds are on your side that a winning number comes up.

6) Is your job satisfying your needs? I will define “needs” the way I always do, via the four legs of what I call “the daily practice”. Are your physical needs, your emotional needs, your mental needs, and your spiritual needs being satisfied?

The only time I’ve had a job that did was when I had to do little work so that I had time on the side to either write, or start a business, or have fun, or spend time with friends. The times when I haven’t is when I was working too hard, dealing with people I didn’t like, getting my creativity crushed over and over, and so on. When you are in those situations you need to plot out your exit strategy.

Your hands are not made to type out memos. Or put paper through fax machines. Or hold a phone up while you talk to people you dislike. 100 years from now your hands will rot like dust in your grave. You have to make wonderful use of those hands now. Kiss your hands so they can make magic.

One can argue, “not everyone is entitled to have all of those needs satisfied at a job.” That’s true. But since we already know that the salary of a job won’t make you happy, you can easily modify lifestyle and work to at least satisfy more of your needs. And the more these needs are satisfied the more you will create the conditions for true abundance to come into your life.

Your life is a house. Abundance is the roof. But the foundation and the plumbing need to be in there first or the roof will fall down, the house will be unlivable. You create the foundation by following the Daily Practice. I say this not because I am selling anything but because it worked for me every time my roof caved in. My house has been bombed, my home has been cold and blistering winds gave me frost bite, but I managed to rebuild. This is how I did it.

7) Your Retirement Plan is For S**t. I don’t care how much you set aside for your 401k. It’s over. The whole myth of savings is gone. Inflation will carve out the bulk of your 401k. And in order to cash in on that retirement plan you have to live for a really long time doing stuff you don’t like to do. And then suddenly you’re 80 and you’re living a reduced lifestyle in a cave and can barely keep warm at night.

The only retirement plan is to Choose Yourself. To start a business or a platform or a lifestyle where you can put big chunks of money away. Some people can say, “well, I’m just not an entrepreneur .”

This is not true. Everyone is an entrepreneur. The only skills you need to be an entrepreneur: an ability to fail, an ability to have ideas, to sell those ideas, to execute on those ideas, and to be persistent so even as you fail you learn and move onto the next adventure. Or be an entrepreneur at work. An “entre-ployee”. Take control of who you report to, what you do, what you create. Or start a business on the side. Deliver some value, any value, to any body, to somebody, and watch that value compound into a carer.

What is your other choice? To stay at a job where the boss is trying to keep you down, will eventually replace you, will pay you only enough for you to survive, will rotate between compliments and insults so you stay like a fish caught on the bait as he reels you in. Is that your best other choice? You and I have the same 24 hours each day. Is that how you will spend yours?

8) Excuses. “I’m too old”. “I’m not creative.” “I need the insurance.” “I have to raise my kids”. I was at a party once. A stunningly beautiful woman came up to me and said, “James, how are you!?”

WHAT? Who are you?

I said, “hey! I’m doing well.” But I had no idea who I was talking to. Why would this woman be talking to me? I was too ugly. It took me a few minutes of fake conversation to figure out who she was.

It turns out she was the frumpish-looking woman who had been fired six months earlier from the job we were at. She had cried as she packed up her cubicle when she was fired. She was out of shape, she looked about 30 years older than she was, and now her life was going to go from better to worse. Until…she realized that she was out of the zoo. In the George Lucas movie, THX-1138 (the name of the main character was “THX-1138″) everyone’s choices are removed and they all live underground because above ground is “radioactive”. Finally THX decides better to die above ground than suffer forever underground where he wasn’t allowed to love. He wasn’t free.

He makes his way above ground, evading all the guards and police. And when he gets there, it’s sunny, everyone above ground is beautiful, and they are waiting for him with open arms and kisses. The excuse “but it’s radioactive out there!” was just there to keep him down.

“This is easy for you to say,” people say to me. “Some of us HAVE to do this!” The now-beautiful woman had to do it also. “What are you doing now?” I asked her. “Oh, you know,” she said. “Consulting.” But some people say, “I can’t just go out there and consult. What does that even mean?”

And to that I answer, “Ok, I agree with you.” Who am I to argue? If someone insists they need to be in prison even though the door is unlocked then I am not going to argue. They are free to stay in prison.

[Or, you can see my Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Dealing with Excuses.]

9) It’s ok to take baby steps. “I can’t just QUIT!” people say. “I have bills to pay”. I get it. Nobody is saying quit today. Before a human being runs a marathon they learn to crawl, then take baby steps, then walk, then run. Then exercise every day and stay healthy. Then run a marathon. Heck, what am I even talking about? I can’t run more than two miles without collapsing in agony. I am a wimp.

Make the list right now. Every dream. I want to be a bestselling author. I want to reduce my material needs. I want to have freedom from many of the worries that I have succumbed to all my life. I want to be healthy. I want to help all of the people around me or the people who come into my life. I want everything I do to be a source of help to people. I want to only be around people I love, people who love me. I want to have time for myself.

THESE ARE NOT GOALS. These are themes. Every day, what do I need to do to practice those themes? It starts the moment I wake up: “who can I help today?” I ask the darkness when I open my eyes. “Who would you have me help today?” I’m a secret agent and I’m waiting for my mission. Ready to receive. This is how you take baby steps. This is how eventually you run towards freedom.

10) Abundance will never come from your job. Only stepping out of the prison imposed on you from your factory will allow you to achieve abundance. You can’t see it now. It’s hard to see the gardens when you are locked in jail. Abundance only comes when you are moving along your themes. When you are truly enhancing the lives of the people around you.

When every day you wake up with that motive of enhancement. Enhance your family, your friends, your colleagues, your clients, potential customers, readers, people who you don’t even know yet but you would like to know. Become a beacon of enhancement and then when the night is gray, all of the boats will move towards you, bringing their bountiful riches.

– – –

Don’t believe me. Stay with a boss that hates you. A job that is keeping you locked on a chain around your neck, tantalizing you with incremental increases in pay and job title. Stay in a culture that is quietly replacing the entire middle class. This is not anyone’s fault. This is the tectonic plates of economics destroying an entire suburban culture that has lasted for almost 100 years.

Until you choose yourself for success, and all that choice entails, you will be locked into the prison. You will stare into your lover’s eyes looking for a sign that he or she loves you back. But slowly the lights will fade, the warmth of another body will grow cold, and you will go to sleep dreamless in the dark once again.

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