Important Jay-Z Letterman Lessons

Not many people know this, but when I was in my early teens, I carried a photo of David Letterman in my wallet. I was a diehard fan of his rebellious comedy. Who else rents a convertible, let's the roof and windows down, lights a cigar, and drives the car through a carwash? Without early Letterman there would be no Tom Green, Jackass, Eric Andre, or countless YouTube pranksters. I still love artists who push the boundaries.

Letterman's new Netflix special, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, has been awesome so far. I just watched his interview with Jay-Z and it did not disappoint. I decided to write notes and share them with you here. Get ready to be inspired. 

But first, I have another thing to admit, I'm completely ignorant of Jay-Z's music. Maybe it's because at my age, I like to hear the familiar. So I listen to much of the same music I've always loved. Understand, I totally crave discovering new music, I just don't have the time. I've also never been a major hip-hop fan. This is probably from lack of exposure more than anything else. I'm no longer surrounded by friends who would share music liberally. I love plenty of "old" hip hop, but I just never got around to discovering Jay-Z's work. That said.... I've just downloaded everything and I'm digging in. Leave a comment with some newer music I should check out if you please.

Jay-Z with David Letterman Netflix.jpg

Jay-Z is Picasso

At the start of Letterman's interview, he referred to Jay-Z as Picasso. Even Heather has talked about how much she admires him. Unsurprisingly, Letterman asked thought-provoking questions that led to me sharing this with you here. Here's what I learned from his interview.

Awake feeling grateful each day. Ask yourself what you're grateful for when you open your eyes. I usually wake up and my mind immediately begins to race with the daily tasks I need to accomplish. Instead, I need to slow down and focus on what I am thankful for. Our health, my family, my friendships, my home, my work, Peggy sleeping on Heather's side of the bed instead of mine.

Use your free time to create. Jay-Z did this writing rhymes on scraps of paper when he was on the street selling crack. Yes, he was a crack dealer in the projects at just sixteen years old. He would earn money to help his single mom raise four kids. My birthday will be the first day of regularly writing a daily journal. I fully commit to the idea of doing this for self-discovery and to leave Ella and Sam something special after I've left this planet mentally or physically.

Become a mentor. Mrs. Lowden, a high school teacher, took Jay-Z under her wing. I've tried to do this with community groups in Nashville, but haven't done a good enough job. I'm excited to reach back out and get this ball rolling again. Organizations like Oasis Center, Thistle Farms, Big Brothers, Conexcion Americas are all solid starting points.

Aim to create content that will last forever. I believe that by teaching improv, I'll impact participants for a lifetime. This work has me so excited. The public facing content I create may be in the shape of a podcast and certainly more writing like this post. Evergreen is key. I plan to keep this all in mind as I consider my next book.

Get to know different people. The more I know about you, the more I can relate to you. This understanding helps us become more compassionate about what others are going through. Volunteering my time will help. Attending events that draw different types of people is also important. Mix it up.

We need to understand and be aware of the invisible similarities we all have.

There is an emotional transcendence that occurs when you become a parent. This happened for me too, it's like you suddenly reach a new level of maturity. Letterman asked why this doesn't occur for other moments in our lives, Jay-Z replied it was fear stopping us.

He explained that we need to understand and be aware of the invisible similarities we all have. For example, we all crave love, integrity, and loyalty. Fear comes from the things that make us different from one another on the outside like our races, sexes, clothing, economic status symbols.

Letterman asked what Jay-Z's thoughts are about the Trump administration and where America is. Jay-Z explained that he thought Trump was a good thing for a key reason.

Trump is forcing people to have a conversation. You can't really address something that's not revealed. He is bringing out the ugly side of America we wanted to believe was gone. And it's still here. We've still got to deal with it. We have to have tough conversations. For example, why is every third black or Latino man in America in prison? Good question. I highly recommend you watch Thirteenth on Netflix for more about this urgent question.

Let's face it, we might not become the next Picasso, Jay-Z, or Letterman. But we can live rewarding lives if we follow this wisdom. That's my plan.

Be thankful, become a mentor, connect with people who are different than you, create your art and make it stand the test of time. 

Damned Gum Balls

Blood oozed from his head, in pain from a sudden slip and fall along the pathway to our front door. Our guest was a friend of a friend's who had joined us for dinner. It was dark outside as he walked along our path back to his car. Suddenly, he felt something round under his foot that left him clutching for the air above as he lost his footing. Thankfully, he was alright, minus the scrape along the back of his head. 

I've come to hate the damned gum balls that fall from the trees into our yard each autumn. Don't let the name of the tree fool you, Sweet Gum, there's nothing sweet about them. They even have a bunch of different names to confuse homeowners: American sweetgum, American storax, hazel pine, bilsted, redgum, satin-walnut, star-leaved gum, alligatorwood, and Liquidambar styraciflua for you tree nerds. 

If you think stepping on a piece of Lego hurts, try taking a casual stroll beneath one of these suckers this time of year. Each time the kids run outside in socks or bare feet to play with Peggy, I cringe that they will fall victim too. 

In fact, I almost unknowingly impaled Sam as I ran the lawnmower over a pile of gum balls recently. They projected from the machine at him like he was trapped in a batter's cage with the machine gone all Maximum Overdrive.

One man's trash is another one's treasure 

We bought our house because of all of the trees on our lot. This time of year, the Sweet Gum trees change color and are quite pretty. For a moment (just a moment), I consider how much I enjoy them. Then I remember what lies beneath, waiting for its prey. 

I decided to read up more on the evils of gum balls and discovered, to my horror, that they are treasured items to others. A quick search revealed multiple sellers on Etsy!

Sweet Gum Tree Balls

One description reads, "These look great as home decor with some real or fake red berries in a bowl for the holidays, in potpourri as decorative filler, or use to make ornaments." 

Even during a Thanksgiving stroll through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I discovered packaged gum balls for sale. The packaging called them "Pork-E-Pine Eggs". When left in a cool, dry place for seven months, they would hatch into baby pen-cushions.

Now how could a spiky ball function as a comfortable pen-cushion? Perhaps it was a typo that was supposed to read "pin-cushion". Still, who would want to stick a pin and watch these nasty things ooze? Yuck. 

But somebody buys gum balls. Enough people buy them to warrant packaging them and selling them in stores and online.

If I asked Peggy, I am certain she would tell me how much she loves them. Each time I'm outside with her in our yard, she adorably picks up a gum ball in her mouth, drops it, and happily paws it across the yard. The gum balls have become wonderful play toys for our little puppy.

Another man's treasure. 

Ramble on Success

A ramble about success

I think I'm wiser from every failure. Every diet I've tried, every attempt at mindfulness and meditation, every new habit that has failed. I am too hard on myself each time I quit or fail.

I'm not unhealthy. I'm not stressed to the point of sleeplessness or suicidal thoughts. I can relax, I can breathe deeply, I can organize my day and stick with each task until completion.

I've learned these things from my sometimes feeble attempts. I understand what's needed to accomplish items when I aim to, I simply choose not too.

I choose not to stretch multiple times a day. I choose not to exercise. I choose not to work on the proposal, or plan, or manuscript. It's not you, it's me. My own worst enemy, they say.

I'm learning each day I procrastinate. I learn because I read the articles and books, I listen to the experts telling me what I must do to succeed.

Luck & Chance

We don't get their full, truthful transparency. We get the vision of excellence designed by the experts' marketing and publicity teams. We don't see their actual successes that actually fund their journey into expertise. Or maybe we do, but that's not the sexy part of the story. We don't hear about the luck and chance that got them to where they are today. Because so much is about this - luck and chance.

I can't rely exclusively on luck and chance though. Nobody should. But making attempts to improve myself gets me closer to the luck, closer to that chance encounter. Trying and failing gets me closer to the success I long for. And that success isn't the Ferrari or fancy home. It's extended vacations with my family. It's the peace of mind that the house has been paid for. It's knowing that the kids can go to college without the massive debt they should otherwise expect. It's having Heather home with me and traveling to my speaking engagements. It's knowing that our retirement savings are secure and ready for us to unplug from the day-to-day. A house on a lake with a wood-burning fireplace. Maybe a hot tub too. 

What is Success?

Having these visions alone is a success. Most people don't envision what their success looks like. Waiting in the car, in the fall sun, writing this as I wait for the kids is success. Happy, healthy, smart, silly kids... our success. Excited to see Heather when she gets home from work. Success. Leaving to Chicago for Google, success. Leaving to Louisville for my own engagement, success. Running my own business with wonderful clients, success. Writing and having my book published, success. 

Take a minute to consider what your success looks like. Now consider all of your successes to date. You're more successful than you think.

I'm 45. I'm just getting started. 

Try Love

 Photo from Unsplash by Cerys Lowe.

Photo from Unsplash by Cerys Lowe.

I wrote something on Facebook the other day in a moment of anger. I won't bore you with the details but it included an F-bomb. The gist was I was denouncing racists, specifically white ones. They seem to cause the most damage in the world, as I am certain you will agree.

Unfortunately, some family members were among the first to see and comment on the post (I usually try to keep the mood casual and entertaining on social). The post wasn't intended for family. It was intended for the tiki-torch yielding, racists who continue to give people like me (also a white male and occasional tiki torch patron) a bad name. 

As an immigrant myself, I felt that I needed to say something because every white person should be speaking up and against the racism, sexism, homophobia that we continue to see these days. And yes, I know that social media isn't a place to win people over by arguing with trolls. But I feel that we could all do our best to balance out the vitriol with more kindness, empathy, and love. I know in my heart that there are far more good people than the not-so-good. Some people are even brave enough to win them over

So I thought I would clear my head on the blog today about this topic. I'll leave you with words by Martin Niemöller. He was a Protestant pastor who became an outspoken enemy of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Setting and Achieving Your Goals with Overlap

How to set goals

Imagine yourself in a car at night, driving down a long, barren road with flat empty fields along both sides. You have been driving for many hours, and you have no idea where you are headed, or if you will ever reach your destination. You don't know this because you never decided where you are going. You are just driving with no plan.

You might be enjoying the feeling you get from the freedom of the open road. However, eventually, you will begin to get frustrated and feel stressed by the uncertainty of not knowing where you are going.

Setting yourself personal and professional goals will help you set and reach your destination. If you have no goals you will eventually run out of gas along the side of that barren road.

Don't quit your day job.

I was reminded of the importance of goals as I read Sean McCabe's new book, Overlap: The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Side Passion Into a Successful Business. McCabe is an entrepreneur who has had several successful businesses over his career. We met in-person at Jeff Goins' Tribe Conference recently and spoke more about his book. He wrote it to encourage readers to go after what they truly want to do professionally. He doesn't preach what others do about quitting your day job. Instead, he encourages you to carve out time to work on a side business that can bring you joy and reward you financially. This all begins and ends with the goals you set for yourself.

In Overlap, McCabe describes his own goal of writing the book and how he completed it in just one month. He describes his process of writing 80,000 words over two weeks. McCabe includes a clever strategy to help readers set and reach their goals.

A strategy to achieve your goals.

Begin by creating a long list of all of your life goals. McCabe recommends determining which of the goals on your list will have the biggest impact on your life if accomplished in one year. He then says to start a new list and write that one goal on the top of the page. Follow this with twenty bulleted items that will get you to accomplish that goal. Dedicate one day for each item and repeat this for twenty days. 

I would add that you might need some extra time on some of the items, but you will be surprised how little time it actually takes to complete them when you write them down. It also helps to reconsider watching YouTube and Netflix during this period because focus is key.

McCabe writes, "Successful people know what they want, and they invest every ounce of their energy in going after that one thing. You can achieve many great things in life, but you can achieve only one truly great thing at a time. If you try to pursue many goals at once, you will not succeed at any of them." He adds that you should visualize achieving your goal. He says to, see it, actualize it, and internalize the fact that it will happen. Never feel you have failed to reach your goal, just that you haven't achieved it yet.

Make an on-going list of what is effecting you positively and what's doing so negatively. Doing this will help you understand what is slowing you down from achieving your goal and what is helping.

Communicate your goals.

A key message in Overlap is to communicate your goal every day to everyone in your life. Make them associate you with the goal you plan to accomplish. It needs to be on their minds when they think of you. You can even add the people in your life to your list. Some will support you all the way, while others may try to talk you out of it or even speak negatively of your goal.

McCabe writes, "If the people in your life don't know what your goal is they can't help you achieve it." He goes on to remind his readers that we need to know the goals our friends have and do our best to support them as well. As I always say, networking is a two-way street.

Why not pull your imaginary car over right now? Fire up Google Maps or grab the old Rand McNally from the glove box. Choose your destination. You are far more likely to make your journey a success when you know where you want to arrive.

Leave a comment with your goal. Maybe we can help you get there.

Struggling with a Decision? Put on 'Six Thinking Hats'

Use six hats to solve a problem

Have you ever struggled with making a decision? Maybe you are stuck with a problem right now. I recently learned how six hats can help you overcome your challenges. I want to share this process with you here to test it for yourself. 

I learned about the Six Thinking Hats from Jim Kwik, a guest on the James Altucher podcast. Kwik is a widely recognized world expert in speed-reading, memory improvement, brain performance and accelerated learning. Kwik credited this methodology to Edward de Bono, the author of the book, "Six Thinking Hats."

In the interview, Kwik explained how to use de Bono's process to help you overcome your mental blocks and struggles with decision-making. I have been trying this myself and I am amazed with how well it works. 

The idea is, we often address challenges by thinking as ourselves and approaching them as we normally would. We don't approach the problems in different ways. Albert Einstein said, "We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." 

Problem Solving with Six Hats

Picture yourself with six hats. Think about your problem by putting on one of the six hats and taking notes on how you should address the issue. Each hat is a different color and each hat makes you think differently about the problem.

White Hat: Picture the white color of a lab coat. This is your scientific hat. Think of your problem through the lens of logic, data and facts. What information do you have that can't be denied?

Red Hat: Your red hat represents your heart. Look at the problem from emotions and consider how it makes you feel. What assumptions and feelings do you have?

Black Hat: Imagine a judge in his or her black robe. The black hat makes you judge the problem. Why may your problem fail?

Yellow Hat: Yellow is positivity, like sunshine. Consider the optimistic point of view to your problem. It presents benefits and values. It is the opposite of your black hat. What happens if your problem is solved? 

Green Hat: Your green hat is for out-of-the-box thinking. What is a creative solution you haven't considered? Think of new ideas and solutions. 

Blue Hat: Your blue hat is the blue-sky approach. This hat listens to all of the aforementioned hats and delivers your solution. It helps you discover the decision to your problem.

I have started addressing my challenges by following the Six Thinking Hat process. I use my whiteboard in my office and six colored markers to sketch out my answers. Doing so has brought me great clarity and much faster decisions to the problems I face in my business and life. 

Edward de Bonos famously asked, "If you never change your mind, why have one?" His approach to considering solutions to your problems in different ways is brilliant.

I highly recommend trying this process for yourself. I also recommend listening to Altucher's interview with Jim Kwik for clever brain hacks to help you improve your decision-making. 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I had a colleague reach out to me to ask whether she should continue as a self-employed marketing consultant or become an employee. Here was my advice. 

Ask yourself what you want to do most. Do you want stability but give up some freedom for it, or would you prefer potentially more reward but also more chaos? Working for yourself is always a bit chaotic and stressful (trust me, I know). So it's key to decide which lifestyle you prefer. If you choose employment, remember there are always options to work on a side hustle. ;)

Entrepreneurship or Employment

Entrepreneurship is wonderful and hellish at the same time. It is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with working as an employee. I did this for most of my career. I feel better for having done it, because I learned so much about how a business is run, and how to correct common problems and concerns that aren't visible to the outside world. 

As simple as this may sound, create two Pros and Cons lists. One for working for yourself and one for an employer. Do this on paper with a coffee (or stiffer drink). Close your computer. Put your phone in airplane mode. Don't get back online until you have completed both lists. 

I bet you'll see your answer right in front of you.

Now here's some music to help you work on your decision...