Category Archives: Resilience

Sensible Goal Setting

Goal setting is as much an art as a science. Whether in the realm of spiritual, mental, or physical, our goals should be challenging yet achievable.

If we are setting goals in an area where we have a lot of experience, meeting these two criteria is not too difficult. For example, I have been a runner for most of my life. I know my limits on speed and distance. So I can readily set physical fitness goals that stretch my ability but not to the point where I have little or no chance of meeting them.

More difficult is setting goals in a field in which we are inexperienced. I would be hard pressed to set reasonable goals as a painter since I know very little about either its artistic or business sides. For some goals it is not necessary to benchmark them. I have a goal to travel to all 50 states. The only criterion I used to set it is the belief that the only way to really know our country is to visit every state.

For other goals, having points of reference or a basis of measurement is more important. Fortunately the Internet provides us with a medium through which we can fairly quickly gather information we need to make adequate goals that can be refined as we gain experience.

Since our topic is entrepreneurship many of us will want to set a goal for our income. If you have been in the military for most or all of your working life, it may be difficult to set a realistic goal in civilian life. Is an income of $500,000 a year after five years in business realistic? Let’s look at some statistics from the IRS (all data is from 2009, the most recent year it was compiled):

Total individual tax returns filed: 140,494,127

Top 25% of earners (35,123,531 taxpayers) made at least: $66,193

Top 10% of earners (14,049,412 taxpayers) made at least: $112,124

Top 5% of earners (7,024,706 taxpayers) made at least: $154,643

Top 1% of earners (1,404,941 taxpayers) made at least: $343,927

Put another way, to get an A in income earning we have to make $112,124 in adjusted gross income.

Do these facts put into perspective earning a $500,000 annual income? Only 0.35% of taxpayers do so, which is not to say that you should not make it your goal, but to understand how difficult it will be to achieve it.

There are metrics for just about any goal we want to make. The key is to find them and figure out our capacity to meet or beat the standard they appear to set.

While we are on the subject of IRS statistics, recently I read on article titled “How the Rich Got Rich.” Author Jeff Haden’s concludes the way to get wealthy is to own a business. I could not agree more.

Bringing Order to Chaos

Fitness. Lifestyle. Bringing your dog to the office. Finding a great business idea. A disparate list, no?

While I will plead guilty to writing about that which interests me, it was by design that the topics appear disconnected. That is often how business works. You plan a series of meetings for advancing your next marketing initiative and instead spend the whole day handling a personnel crisis. Entrepreneurs must cultivate agility in their thinking.

This week I am going to focus on synthesizing a couple of issues. It may seem contradictory to promote fitness while also noting that the entrepreneur’s lifestyle does not afford us more free time. Indeed, striking a balance between work, family, and fitness is probably the biggest challenge we face. How do we do it?

Robert Burns may be right when he wrote in To A Mouse:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still planning and time management are crucial to fulfilling all of our responsibilities. Some tips:

1. Plan your day the night before

By doing this you will not waste time in the morning deciding what you need to do. Whatever you did not complete that day has to be completed during the coming day along with whatever else has to get done that day. By planning the evening before you will set your mind to work on the challenges ahead rather than focusing on what went wrong in the past. I'm not suggesting that there's nothing to learn from our mistakes, only that we view them in terms of how they can propel us forward.

2. Do not do it unless it will move you closer to success

Reflect back on today and the day before. What things did you do that were a waste of time either because someone else should have done them or you were avoiding an unpleasant task? Schedule only those activities that will advance you toward your goals.

3. Commit to completing the tasks you have planned

Tasked yourself to call on ten potential clients or cold call for two hours? DO IT. It does not count if you stop after the eighth rejection or take two fifteen-minute breaks as part of the time. By the way, it also does not count if you have a particularly productive marketing session and decide to quit early. Keep in mind that the extraordinary success that day compensates for a fruitless day. Geoffrey James has 14 ideas for getting “insanely motivated,” and some may help you stay committed.

4. Do the things you dislike most first

Hate admin work? Get it done when you are fresh and motivated. Cannot stand cold calling? It should be the first task on your list. If you are easily demotivated, bookend the disagreeable task with a couple of short ones that you know will go well in order to launch you in a positive direction and give you something pleasant to look forward to so you will persevere.

5. Kill two birds with one stone

Simon Wood-Fleming, the CEO of Pandora Media Inc., has some great thoughts on this topic and time management in general in a wsj.com article (the online version of The Wall Street Journal). One of the topics recently addressed in a number of business publications and blogs I read is setting aside quiet or contemplative time. Steve Jobs conducted meetings while walking. Especially after an important conference call or meeting, I run for 45 minutes to ruminate on what happened and/or to stimulate creative thoughts. Many times our mental or spiritual fitness plans can be combined with a family or business commitment.

6. Be on the lookout for time-saving ideas

My nickname when I was a navy chaplain in Okinawa, Japan was OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) because I was constantly looking for ways to improve the Base Chaplain Office’s efficiency. But even this old dog learns new tricks. About a month ago I read a blog post by Michael Hyatt on how to handle email more efficiently and it has saved me at least 30 minutes a day, not to mention eliminated the nagging concern about unresolved emails.

The key when adopting a new process, as well as better managing your time, is to commit to using it for a specific length of time, say two weeks. If it does not work after that time, perhaps you can modify it in a way that better fits the way you operate. If not, discard it and move on to the next one. In general, I recommend you work on one time management skill at a time, make it a part of the way you operate, then add the next layer on top of it. Rather than trying to take on too many new methods and having the whole plan explode, build slowly but surely and you are more likely to make progress.

Living a Dog’s Life – Time to Rethink This Old Saw?

Recently having lost my dog, memories of him have been much on my mind of late. So perhaps it was kismet that last week I came across an article about dogs in the work place. For the last three years I ran my company my Jack Russell Terrier Jiggers was my constant companion.

My Dog Jiggers

I joke with my wife that I spent more time with him than her, but in fact it was true. I worked from home and he slept in the chair in my office, walked with me to my mailbox several blocks away, and accompanied me on my weekly visits to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf where I graded papers. I will never forget the afternoon when a mom with two small children walked by us and confused Jiggers with Milo, the dog in The Mask. They were so excited to see the “movie star dog.”

VCU Study: Office Dogs Reduce Work-Related Stress

Little did I know that according to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, people who bring their dogs to work accumulate less stress during the day. As well, 50% of those who brought their dogs to the office reported their productivity increased. For the business owner, employees who were allowed to bring their dogs to work felt they received greater support from their employers.

Since the results of this study resonated with my own experience, I thought it was worth looking into this issue further.It turns out that although humans and dogs have been bonding for over 12 millennia (several years ago in Israel a 12,000-year-old human skeleton was found buried with its hand resting on the skeleton of a 6-month-old wolf pup), little research has been done on human-animal relations. This despite the fact that about two-thirds of U.S. households have at least one pet and the pet population has grown from 40 million dogs and cats in 1967 to 160 million in 2006.

It turns out that although humans and dogs have been bonding for over 12 millennia (several years ago in Israel a 12,000-year-old human skeleton was found buried with its hand resting on the skeleton of a 6-month-old wolf pup), little research has been done on human-animal relations. This despite the fact that about two-thirds of U.S. households have at least one pet and the pet population has grown from 40 million dogs and cats in 1967 to 160 million in 2006.

In 2008 the National Institutes of Health held several meetings of experts in human-animal interaction. One study indicated that pet owners had better cardiovascular health, even improving longevity after a severe heart attack. Another looking at married couples seemed to indicate pets improved marriages. It found spouses with pets had lower blood pressure and heart rates, responded more mildly, and recovered from stress more quickly. Getting more exercise appears to be another benefit of pet ownership.

Children seem to benefit from pets too, giving them an outlet for releasing anxiety as well as helping them develop empathy.

Jiggers the Mental Health Worker

Many years ago when my father was in a nursing home, I asked the staff if I could bring my dog the next time I visited, knowing it would cheer up my father to see and pet him. To my surprise, they agreed.From the moment we walked in the door Jiggers spent every ounce of his being greeting each person as if he were finally being reunited with his dearest, long-lost friend. And they loved it. That first visit after spending time with my father he met dozens of people. The change in their bearing was remarkable. Whether in wheelchairs or walkers, standing up or lying down they went from being downcast to

From the moment we walked in the door Jiggers spent every ounce of his being greeting each person as if he were finally being reunited with his dearest, long-lost friend. And they loved it. That first visit, after spending time with my father, he met dozens of people. The change in their bearing was remarkable. Whether in wheelchairs or walkers, standing up or lying down they went from being downcast to elated.

Jiggers furiously wagged his stubby tail, positioned himself so they could pet him, and made them feel important. He became the talk of the home and his visits were eagerly anticipated. During all of the months of visiting his enthusiasm never flagged. To Jiggers, there were no strangers or insignificant people.

While there is too little research to draw firm conclusions, studies indicate that my experience was not a fluke. It appears that animal-assisted therapy reduces pain in patients with life-threatening illnesses and relieves distress among cancer patients. The full NIH article makes interesting reading.

Why Dogs on a Business Blog?

We probably never give a thought to the fact that farmers and ranchers have brought their dogs to work for centuries so we can learn something from agri-business. Bringing our pets to work may give us an edge through a less stressful, more productive workplace. Perhaps we can attract and retain better employees. And maybe we will improve our overall quality of life. And the best part – as the business owner we get to decide the pet policy.

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