Christine and Steve Olson on Career Renegade TV

Jonathan Fields was kind enough to interview us on Career Renegade TV. We loved doing this interview. Jonathan is a great guy and makes you feel at ease. We planned to do audio only but at the last minute we decided to go for the video. Let us know what you think.

We talk mostly about Christine’s home based business, Christine’s Books and we also talk about entrepreneurship, family life, social media, and the current economy.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to talk with Jonathan, a published author who has interviewed web superstars like Gary Vaynerchuk.

Here’s the interview:

The Great Fargo-Moorhead Flood of 2009 – Amazing Pictures

Off-topic post…

As some of you know, I grew up in the Red River Valley where the flood of the century is happening. Three of my brothers are still there.

My brother, Paul is a photographer and hasn’t had time to document as much of this historic event as he would like. He has been sandbagging for days on end.

He posted some pictures of the area where he was volunteering today:

The family who owns this house is winning the battle for now. What you can’t see in this picture is the makeshift sandbag dikes which run for miles and miles on each side of the river. What these folks have done is absolutely amazing. I was told that if the average citizen hadn’t volunteered to save this city, 80% of the city would be underwater right now.

They have 18 inches of snow on the ground and are praying for cold weather so it doesn’t melt. Another blizzard is on the way early next week and that’s better than rain.

What you aren’t hearing in the media As Bob Collins is reporting at MPR, these makeshift dikes leak and need to be manned 24/7 with pumps. As the water leaks in they pump it back out.

To win this battle they are going to have to keep this up for another week.

The city has built contingency dikes outside the the dikes pictured above.

The National Guard patrols the streets, but looting and anarchy aren’t a problem. These people have come together as a community to fight for their property and their lives. You can’t imagine how miserable these conditions are, how hopeless the national weather service told them it was, and they refuse to quit. There’s no whining and no complaining, only smiles and a little gallows humor. No one knows if they will win, history will be written after the snow melts and the floodwaters subside. And still, able bodied men and women are going door to door offering their help to anyone who needs it. The biggest problem is – too many volunteers.

If you’d like to see more photos from Paul E Olson’s coverage of the Fargo Moorhead flood of 2009, visit his website.

He’s taking a walk downtown this evening to capture more scenes, and if they have a story to tell, you’ll see them here.

The Secret to Creative Growth

This afternoon, as I was lying down reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac I had a thought I wanted to share with you.

I saw this news clip earlier today, and the impact of it didn’t hit until now…

You can’t get ahead by hanging on. Clinging to where you are or what you had will never lead to growth, it leads to a slow painful death.

If you want to grow, you need to have faith, you have to let go and trust the bottom won’t kill you, that maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll bounce when you hit.

It’s the same reason drunks have the uncanny knack for surviving car accidents… they are relaxed at impact while sober people tighten up trying to avoid the inevitable and their own desire to survive helps kill them.

It’s like the football team playing the prevent. They aren’t playing to win, they are playing not to lose. The greatest comebacks in history were made against teams that had given up on playing to win and decided to try not to lose.

Clinging to what you have is an act of desperation. It isn’t creative, it isn’t helpful, and you won’t like the results.

The secret to creative growth is the opposite of clinging, it is the act of letting go.

The First Step Toward Ending Procrastination

In this post I am going to:

  • Illustrate a root cause of procrastination
  • Show a simple way to improve your emotional state
  • Stress the importance of action, regardless of inspiration

This post doesn’t address all the complexities involved in procrastination, but it does get to the root of one major cause.

Tell me if this story sounds familiar to you:

You need to work on a project. It could be any project, for school, for a customer, for an employer, for your spouse, or for yourself. Maybe it’s new software, a blog post, negotiating a lease, developing a brand, or getting in shape.

Your logical mind knows the project is within your abilities, that working on the project will be interesting and rewarding, and that you’ll find satisfaction upon completing your project.

But knowing the above doesn’t matter—you procrastinate anyway.

Why do you procrastinate even when you know taking action will be rewarding?

You have an emotional hang-up. It feels like a tightness in your chest—like a cross between fear and guilt. It’s an emotional dam in your creative stream. You want to bust that dam and get the stream flowing before you act.

So you tell yourself, “I don’t feel like doing this right now.” You aren’t lying to yourself—you feel sick about it, so you blow it off until you feel better. You find a distraction that gives you immediate relief, a video game, a night out, food, television, surfing nonsense on the internet, or even drugs and alcohol.

You’re hoped “a little fun” will make you feel better so you can get motivated. But now you’ve taken a night off, and when you face your project, that same ugly feeling returns, only more intense this time, and you escape into another distraction.

But you remember working on projects in the past, and it wasn’t bad. In reality, working on the project made you feel great. So why don’t you do it?

It comes from years of mental programming. As a child you started saying “I don’t feel like it” to your parents, other kids, and your teachers.

You’ve made it a habit to avoid things you don’t feel like doing.

You came to believe you had to feel a certain way in order to take action. Somehow your learning process was interrupted. You began to look for stuff “you felt like doing” and did only that.

But you got it wrong. You judged the worthiness of an activity based on the feelings you had before you acted. Emotional health is developed by acting and thinking in a way that is likely to result in a positive emotional state despite your feelings at the moment.

How you feel right now doesn’t matter. If you want to feel happy and free…

All that matters is the likely result of the next action you take.

I am not asking, “Is it likely to make you feel good for the next five minutes?”

I am asking, “Is the next action you take likely to result in confidence, pride, esteem, and happiness in the long term?”

Live in the now. It is the only place you can live. But use your thoughts and actions to build a better tomorrow. You were born to create tomorrow. Don’t leave it to chance.

One more time…

If you feel unmotivated and uninspired, act anyway. Get moving and motivation and inspiration will follow.

Seven Simple Steps to Realizing Your Dreams

This formula is time tested and proven by some of the most successful people who ever lived. It isn’t original, in fact, it is ancient. It’s been published in various forms hundreds, maybe thousands of times over the last 4000 years. If you already know it, read it again – repetition is key to personal growth. You can read volumes of productivity and self-help books if you wish, but these seven simple steps are the foundation of all personal change and all personal achievement.

1. Decide exactly what you want. Make it a goal.

Did you know most people never do this? If you ask the average person what they want from life, they can’t tell you anything specific. You can’t have everything, so you need to make a decision. If you don’t, others will make the decision for you. Don’t hunker down and wait for life to come to you.

Engage life and decide what you want to do with it!

Be specific. Don’t say…

  • I want to be “happy and rich”

It’s too vague. “Happy and rich” isn’t a destination or a goal. It’s too abstract and subjective. Instead say…

  • I want to lose 40 lbs and save $100,000 in cash

But it doesn’t have to be about health or money. Your goal could be anything specific. It could be…

Now that’s specific!

Be realistic. What does realistic mean? It means something different to each one of us. For me, becoming an NHL All-Star isn’t realistic. I don’t have the natural talent and I’m too old. But for you it could be realistic. Only you know for sure. The best way to know if your goal is realistic is to ask yourself “Do I really believe this is possible for me?” If you can honestly say yes, then it is realistic. I’m not talking about delusional thinking here. I’m talking about BELIEVING NOT WISHING you can accomplish your goal. Don’t lie to yourself.

2. Decide what you are willing to give to reach your goal.

Deciding on a specific goal is only the first step. Next, you need to give value in return. You can’t get something for nothing, even stealing requires some effort.

Examples:

  • If you want to lose 40lbs, you might need to spend more time in the gym and spend more money on healthy foods.
  • If you want to save $100,000, you may need to give more attention to the people you serve in business, your customers or your employer. You may need to spend time acquiring specialized knowledge so you can give more value to your customers.
  • If you want to build a 300 HP, 225 MPH, V-8, P-51 replica kit plane, you may need to volunteer your time and services to help someone else build a kit plane first, that way you can learn the specialized skills required.

Often it isn’t only what you need to give, it is also what you need to give up.

Examples:

  • If you want to lose 40lbs, you may need to give up soda pop, sweets, and lazy evenings on the couch.
  • If you want to save $100,000, you may need to give up expensive vacations, a big house, or a new car.
  • If you want to build a 300 HP, 225 MPH, V-8, P-51 replica kit plane, you
    may need to give up watching football and NASCAR on the weekend.

Once you know what you need to give (and give up), be willing to make the sacrifice. Everything has an opportunity cost.

3. Develop a plan.

Planning is essential to reaching your goal. Goal setting without planning is like trying to reach a destination without directions – you’ll end up someplace you didn’t intend to be. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t need to be the most efficient (although it helps), but it does need to layout specific actions and steps toward your destination. Your plan also needs to be flexible. You will meet unexpected obstacles along your journey, you will find flaws in your plan, so you will need to alter your plan.

4. Set a date you plan to reach your goal.

Someone once said goals are dreams with a deadline. That’s partially true. But I don’t like the word ‘deadline’, I like ‘target date’ instead. It’s flexible. A target date makes your goal and plan real. Leaving your goals open ended leaves no sense of urgency for action. Open ended goals are rarely achieved.

You need a target date, but things do change. I’ve worked in software for over 10 years and I’ve rarely hit a target perfectly. Sometimes they move in but more often they move out. Expecting to hit your date every time is like expecting to put every golf shot in the hole. You need to aim for the hole, but you’ll rarely hit it, so when you miss, you asses the distance to the hole – the obstacles and hazards, shoot again, and repeat until you sink the shot. Do not quit simply because you didn’t meet your first date, reorganize, set a new date, and keep going.

5. Put steps 1 – 4 in writing.

It is essential to write everything down. Writing them down shows commitment. Don’t use a computer. I prefer to write my goals by hand with a pen and paper and carry them everywhere I go. It has more psychological power when you see your goals in your own handwriting. Hand written goals have an almost magical property. When I reflect back I realize the 90% of the goals I have written down I have achieved.

6. Read your written statement aloud at least twice a day.

People have a hard time with this one. I did too. As a kid, I watched Al Franken as Stuart Smalley stand in front of the mirror and say, “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” To me reading goals aloud always felt a little… well… weird.

When you make a mistake, have you ever blurted out, “I’m so stupid” or when frustrated, “this is never going to work?” That’s called negative self-talk, and most of us do it habitually. And unlike positive self-talk, negative self-talk is socially acceptable. For some of us, negative self-talk is all we say about ourselves out loud.

If you have the same hang ups I had, you need to get over it. You need to learn to talk about your goals and your dreams aloud, both when other people are present and when you are alone. If you still can’t talk about your goals with yourself, get a personal coach, have regular meetings, and go over your goals aloud.

Why is this important?

Reading your goals aloud several times daily will program your subconscious mind to act on your goals and plans. When you make a habit of reading your goals aloud daily it becomes nearly impossible to procrastinate. Your subconscious mind will begin handing you new ideas and fine details and it will nag you when you’re lazy, if you you follow this step habitually.

7. Take action toward your goals every day.

Persistent action is critical. Every day make a habit of taking action. Dreams are not realized sitting around imagining the future, dreams are realized by taking planned calculated action. Massive action yields massive results, tiny action yields tiny results, no action yields no results.

Remember you don’t have to get it right, you just need to get going!

Free Range Learning

In 1984, during the 9th Grade I skipped 90 days of school, or about half the school year. I spent most of those days reading at the Penn Lake Library in Bloomington MN. The brilliant High School student in this video explains why my behavior wasn’t as stupid as you’d think:

Hat Tip to Dr. Scott McLeod and his outstanding education blog Dangerously Irrelevant. I wish him much success is his effort to revolutionize education.

There’s a lot of us that got absolutely shredded by the current school system. End it, please!

Everything is Amazing, But Nobody is Happy

Life comes at you in waves, some up, some down. Yesterday Christine and I had a few surprises that are going to be challenging. Sometimes, when you’re skipping along the sidewalk a bully comes along and pushes you into the mud. While life deals you unexpected challenges, it is your choice how you frame them.

Sometimes people rob us. Sometimes bad stuff happens to us, sometimes to people we love.  But wallowing in resentment and self-pity is self-destructive, and vengeance and violence create more injustice. The only good answer is… deal with it (however you must) and move on.

We’ve become a society of whiners who panic at the slightest setbacks. Things are happening right now that may change that mindset for many generations. One of the best things that came out of the Great Depression were ethical business leaders who were grateful for the opportunity to add value to the world.

Today, too many people are focused on what they can get, not what they can give.

I was talking to my father last night. He grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota during the Great Depression. He said many times during the 1930s his family went months on less than 25 cents. Roosevelt sent agents out to slaughter their cattle without compensation (the government wanted to reduce the supply of cattle to increase prices – it didn’t work). Eventually the government took their farm because they couldn’t pay their taxes.

Many years before the government killed my Grandfather’s livestock and stole his farm, he was drafted into the First World War and gassed on the battlefield. He survived, but it almost killed him. His lungs were reduced to 50% capacity and all his teeth fell out. He had recurring bouts of illness over decades where he spent months in the hospital while my Grandmother ran the farm and raised four boys.

You know what? They lived to be over 90 and I never once heard them complain about how hard they had it. In fact, they thought that life was amazing.

I recall my Grandmother’s first airline flight and how she couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was.

You can’t see how wonderful the world is while you’re complaining.

When we open our eyes, we see that life is truly amazing, how blessed we are, and that happiness is a choice.

This video brings that message home:

I found this video via Mark J. Perry who publishes the economics blog CARPE DIEM. I love economics. But what I love most about Mark J. Perry’s blog is how he consistently finds economic news that is POSITIVE. Thanks for the good news Mark!