Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Single White Envelope

The Single White Envelope


A single white envelope lay dormant in the mailbox. From the outside, I don’t recall there being any indication of what I might find within its sealed shell. Like the many days before it, I put my hand inside the aging green container, collected the gift left behind by the dutiful mail carrier, and forcibly closed the rusty-hinged door with the sound of scraping metal that was followed by a loud snap.

Having arrived home only moments earlier, my mind was racing through a checklist of tasks that I had to perform that evening. As I walk up the driveway toward the house, I stop at the car to pick up the laptop, lunch bag, and any other remnants that I may have accumulated that day.

Once inside the house, I dropped everything down on the kitchen table and proceeded to remove my shoes. Currently, I have a no shoes on the carpet policy, which was implemented to save the last few clean fibers from being trampled upon by the outside world. Yes, there are dark trails and heavy stains all over the floor, but it’s never too late to maintain what you have.

After putting my shoes away, I came back to the table and proceeded to open the letter. I started by tearing away at the corner and forcing my index finger into the newly made hole. Aggressively, I ran my finger down the envelope, which created a long tear in the sealed flap. If I was more refined, maybe I would have used a fancy letter opener, but this correspondence looked more like junk mail than anything of importance.

Mindlessly, I ripped out the paper from its securely sealed cocoon and unfolded it one layer at a time. It took me a few moments before the contents fully registered. “Wait, I think this letter is serious.” I thought.

Instead of simply skimming the words for context, I went back to the top and read every word. At first, it didn’t make sense. What was the author trying to say? Was this thing really intended for me? Again, I read the letter in its entirety only to come to the same conclusion. This thing has to be wrong. Is this a joke? I asked myself.

Unable to take further action that night, I put the communication back in its envelope and made a mental note to call the telephone number located near the top of the page when I get in the office the following day.

Fast forward through the details of the call, I found out the next afternoon that I was the intended recipient of the letter and the contents did, in fact, affect me directly. In that moment, I could feel my heart racing. My skin warmed intensively and I could feel my pores open with perspiration. What now? I thought in a panic.

I looked around the empty office space in search of an answer. My eyes shifted left to right as the ideas traveled from one part of my brain to the other. “Think, think, think...” Taken from the pages of Jimmy Neutron, I pleaded in silence.

Then it hit me, “...Brain Blast!”

Over the next hour, I reached out passionately to my network of key supporters and friends. I shared the situation with them in honest detail hoping to get some movement in resolving the issue. While the answer to this riddle would require more time and energy than could be mustered in this single day, I found comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. To hear that there are those who were willing and able to help make all the difference in the world.

In the following weeks since I first received the letter, I have been blessed to find that I am in good hands. The individuals who are now involved have taken a stand to aid me during an experience that could have easily make anyone extremely uncomfortable. There have been no talks of compensation or a transaction of any kind. All I have received from them is full support, in earnest.

It is in this very moment, as I write these words, that I feel so overwhelmingly blessed to have a circle of friends, business partners, co-workers, frat brothers, family members, and even associates that have my best interest at heart. Be it through prayer, financial, physical, and even moral support, I know that I am surrounded by some really amazing people who care about me and my well being. Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever begin to repay them for what they’ve done and continue to do for me. Please know that I am indebted to them and will do whatever I can to pour the same “goodness” I feel back into their lives. While words will never fully express my genuine and heartfelt gratitude, let me at least begin by writing a huge “THANK YOU!”

As I take a moment to reflect on this experience, let me share with you some thoughts.

Get Some Good People In Your Life

I cannot stress how important this truth has been for me. It is in moments like this where I am at the end of my own ability and resources, that God sends a blessing through someone else. Knowing this, take this opportunity to surround yourself with generous, loving, supportive, and positive people who consistently pours life into you through their words and actions.

Trust In The Lord For Everything

The year 2017 is only one example of how amazing God is and how mysteriously he works. While filled with challenges and opportunities for growth, there is no way that I could ever have conducted the intricately intertwining characters, events, and an overarching storyline that God is writing as we speak. I don’t know how the story ends, but I do know that He has it all under control. When in doubt, trust and believe that the Lord is working it out for our good.

Be Patient

The situation that I’m generically describing is but one piece of a larger story. Unlike a television sitcom, life doesn’t always wrap up so neatly within a 30-minute timeslot. No, sometimes the resolution takes much longer than anyone could anticipate or even fathom. Whatever life looks like for you now, learn to be patient with certain things. Remember what do they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Be Thankful For Whatever The Outcome

This idea for consideration may not be an easy one to swallow. Trust me when I tell you that this past year delivered some crushing blows to the midsection. There were times that I cried out in pain, confusion, and angst against the numerous fiery arrows being shot in my direction. “Why?” was a common question that I asked both silently and aloud. Regardless of the outcome, I have learned to thank God for it all. Be it “good” or “bad,” the events serve a much larger purpose and I’m thankful that I could live through and learn from those experiences. 

As I bring today’s article to a close, I hope that you got something of value from it. Please feel free to share this lesson with someone who you think could benefit from it and drop me a line in the comment section below.

Remember, today is a new day with an opportunity to turn it all around. Keep your head up because you were destined for greatness.

Until next time...

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Importance of Taking A Break

 



It is morning. The sun is up and I see a cold icy blue light piercing through the bedroom blinds. In the distance, I hear the airy sound of passing vehicles as they commute up and down the nearby highway. Outside of my window, the occasional sound of small birds chirp enthusiastically between one another while a neighbor’s basset hound conducts its daily wakeup howl. 

At the moment, I’m sitting in my bed with the computer resting on my lap. Here goes another attempt to write something that I can publish to the world. Yes, in the back of my mind, I’m fully aware that it’s been 37 days since my last article. Trust me, I feel the pressure.

As I finish the last paragraph, I hear the lyrics from Aaliyah’s song, “Try Again” echoing in my head.

“It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, without a dope beat to step to.”

I feel the same way. I shouldn’t have left you hanging.

What happened? You may be asking. Well, that’s a really good question and one that I intend on answering in today’s post.

Let me begin by sharing that 2017 was a really interesting year. In hindsight, it feels like one of the most dramatic and stressful years to date. While I won’t go into detail about the numerous events, just yet, I will share that they fully tested me in so many ways. While not very popular at the time, I now stand grateful for the experiences.

As the year came to a close, I was looking forward to the downtime. Honestly, I needed a break and was already planning to live in my pajamas for most of the holiday. What I didn’t foresee was how badly I needed to disconnect from the world.

It was after the car accident last month that I went into “survival mode.” My focus was on securing transportation and addressing a number of pressing issues. As you can imagine, the stress from the year along with the various priorities that I faced in December left me drained. I was exhausted.

While I was still able to fully function at work and with friends, I was biding my time until I had no further responsibilities to uphold. It was then that I simply let go and put down every weight that I was carrying. I got lost in solitude and it felt great. Days turned into weeks. Unfortunately, living in stasis is not something one should subscribe to for the long-term.

Eventually, I grew tired of the inactivity, laziness, and lethargic flow of my days. It was time to pull myself out of the muck and mire. It was time to reconnect with my purpose and get back to what is important to me.

So, what lessons did I learn from these past 37 days? What takeaways can we garner? In following sections, I share a few ideas that come to mind.

It’s OK To Take A Break

The first lesson that I walked away with is that it’s OK to take a break. With the introduction of technology, it feels like we are always ON. Through email, text messages, mobile phones, social media, and instant messages, I can be accessed almost instantaneously. We are bound to our roles in society, within our jobs, and within our everyday life that unless we are intentional about breaking away, we can eventually burn out at the most inopportune times. 

Schedule Regular Breaks

When I am in full swing and being extremely productive, I don’t want to stop doing what I’m doing. In fact, I can often be found working hours upon hours trying to accomplish a goal without a single resting period. In the moment, it feels great, but the pendulum often swings equally as hard in the opposite direction.

A better strategy is to be intentional about the periods of time that I work. Some experts suggest that 90-minute sprints are the sweet spot for productivity. After that 90-minutes, remove yourself from the task and do something that will allow you to rest and recharge your batteries. Some ideas may include walking around the office or outside in the fresh air, stopping to have a light conversation with a coworker or friend, and grabbing a bite to eat with your circle of influence. Whatever the activity, be sure to peel yourself away from the work and just relax.

In addition to the small breaks at work, consider taking time in the evening to put down your tasks and simply enjoy the fruits of your labor. Walk with your spouse around the neighborhood, workout in the gym, do crossword puzzles in the backyard, go fishing, watch a movie, listen to music, meditate, or relax in a rocking chair with a cool refreshing drink.

Remove the Technology

While technology has allowed for more access to people and information, it also has a way to tether us to the world. During our moments of downtime and relaxation, consider removing cell phones, laptops, tablets, and any other device that competes for our attention. Enjoy dinner with the family and set an imaginary forcefield around the table where any electronic doodad immediately dies. No distractions, just good ‘ol family time. This can easily extend to date night as well. 

Get Alone With Yourself

Outside of the physical and mental decompression that happens during a break, there is the opportunity to reconnect with yourself. For me, I find alone time to be extremely beneficial toward understanding what I want or need in that moment. My desire to be social often requires that I give a lot of myself. Be it a listening ear, words of encouragement, or the ability to see someone else’s perspective, I find that I’m using energy to relate and support others.

While I have some pretty amazing friends, co-workers, family members, business partners, and customers, I recognize that I have to get away from everyone in order to “zero out” or bring everything back into balance and alignment with who I am inside. One friend calls this my “Michael Jackson moment.”

Apparently, looking back over the previous 37 days, I spent a great deal of time seeking balance and solace, but it could have just as easily be achieved on a more consistent basis. Consider an alone time in the early morning or late at night where you just write in the journal. Use this time to detach from other people’s wants, needs, and focus this time on giving you what YOU need. 

Rest on Sunday

As a child, I was taught that God rested on Sunday. As a result, we too are instructed to take the seventh day for ourselves. This means no work, no chores, no nothing whatsoever for the entire day. In writing that, I already know how much of a challenge it will be to sit still and chill when there is so much work to be done. However, based on this past season, I completely understand why it’s necessary.

Take a Real Vacation

This is another hard one for me because I feel guilty taking time off work, but I recognize the value of taking a real vacation. Now, it’s not required that you go somewhere fancy, but I found my first trip to Mexico was such an amazing adventure. I came back to the world feeling completely relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle my mission and purpose. Because I was out of the country, my mobile phone didn’t allow for calls or the Internet. It was just me, my friends, and the experience of an all-inclusive resort. Wow!

Now, as an active member of a travel club, with nearly 30 trips under his belt, this suggestion has been practiced and appreciated plenty of times. However, it is important to note that a real vacation means NO WORK. Get away from the office, emails, voicemail, and anything that will distract you from enjoying the moment in paradise. 

Conclusion

As I bring this article to a close, I do hope that you got something of value out of it. As I have learned from this recent experience, you have to give yourself permission to take a break or your body, mind, and spirit will take one for you. You can’t be your best if you’re running on fumes. Just as being productive is valuable toward your business or mission in life, so too is a period of rest.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bruised But Not Broken



Last night, while driving home from Goldsboro, NC, I was in an accident. Outside of a scratch and some soreness in my shoulders, back, and neck, I walked away from an incident that could have been much worse. 

It was about 9:30 in the evening and I was only minutes away from my destination when a large deer suddenly appeared in the middle of the road. In response to this new information, I quickly applied the brakes hoping that I could decelerate the vehicle fast enough that I wouldn't run directly into it. With only seconds remaining, I attempted to move over into the left lane and avoid a collision, but then the car started to swerve from the rear. To correct the vehicle, that was now heading toward a ditch, I turned the steering wheel in the opposite direction to compensate for the fishtailing effect that was in motion.

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room on the highway to apply corrective action a second time because the car was now sliding sideways toward the guardrail. Eventually, the front corner of the vehicle banged sharply into the protective railing and whipped the vehicle around where the backend of the car then slammed into guardrail. Still in a continuous motion, the 2005 Chrysler Pacifica finished its 360 degree spin and then limped across the highway until it came to a complete stop in the median's ditch.

I sat there quietly while the car continued to make various dying sounds. The lights were flickering off and on while a dinging noise alerted me to a message in the dashboard. I could see steam escaping from the front of the vehicle, which smelled like the remnants of the car's coolant hitting the hot engine.

In all of the craziness that just transpired, I begged the question, "Why is this happening now?" It felt like such an inopportune time knowing that I would have to buy a newer vehicle with money that I did not have.

Not understanding the bigger plan, I gave up trying to comprehend the purpose of it all and just sat there peacefully in my seat while saying a prayer out loud. "Thank you, God, for keeping me safe and protecting me from something worse. I don't know why this is happening, but I trust that you will bring me through this. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."

Once the prayer was over, all I could do was laugh. It felt unreal that all of these apparent misfortunes would be happening around the same time. Just as we get through one situation, another one popped up in its place thus adding to the weight that I'm having to carry. For a moment, I thought about Job from the Bible and all that he had to go through. Thankfully, I'm not dealing with the extensive issues he dealt with, but I understood his pain. In those moments when everything seems like it's going horribly wrong, it's then that I feel led to simply thank the Lord for what's right, for the lesson, for the opportunity to grow and improve.

I don't know why or what the plan is for all of this, but it's not for me to worry about. I've placed my fears, concerns, and anxiety on God and trust that he's going to order my steps and find a way where there seems to be no way.

Over the next hour or so, I was accompanied by the North Carolina Highway Patrol and my girlfriend, Brandi. Together, we game planned our next few moves. I would call my insurance company, State Farm, and arrange for the car to be towed to my house where they would later come and pick it up for further assessment. In the meanwhile, Hertz reserved a rental car for me, which I could pick up the following day.

In the time that I was waiting for the tow truck to arrive, Brandi pulled out her small first-aid kit and started cleaning the cut on my face. With a brown band-aid now positioned near my left eye, I walked around the car, took a few pictures, and then began removing personal items that lay scattered around the interior cabin.

While I tried to remain calm, I felt a bit scatterbrained at times. I found myself taking extraneous steps around the incapacitated vehicle while trying to organize myself. What should I be doing now? I asked.


At one point, I walked over the scene of the accident in an effort to remember the particulars of the event. When people say, "It happened so fast" I can totally relate. The street told the complete story as the tire marks outlined the path of my vehicle. I walked the curved lines and replayed the car hitting the guardrail and littering the street with coolant. Dirt and auto parts lay dormant on the pavement leading to the car that rested silently in the dark.


Eventually, Brandi took me home and held me in her arms. Few words were spoken for the remainder of the night. While I knew that the course ahead may be rocky, in that moment I just wanted to focus on the here and now. I can't change what happened and there is no point in asking "why" when rebuilding is far more important. So, I allowed myself to ignore everything and breathe.

At one point, Brandi repeated the words, "One step at a time..." to which I completely agree. With the Lord's help, we've overcome other challenges and we will soon overcome this one, too. Using the words from Pastor Matt Fry, "If he's done it before, he'll do it again."

As I write these words, I just wanted to share with you my story. Yes, it's easy to feel sorry for ourselves and focus on everything that's not going right, but that's fruitless. Instead, I've decided to take a shower, get dressed, make my bed, and go into the next minute with a positive mindset. I'm still here. All is not lost. Yes, things have happened, but it's not the end of the world. Focus on what you can do with what you have and allow the Lord to take care of everything else. Trust that everything will be okay and that there is a reason for it all.

Before I bring this post to a close, I do want to openly thank God for his protection and movement within my life. I also want to thank my girlfriend Brandi for being there during all of the difficult times we've had to face. I would also like to thank State Farm Insurance, Hertz, and the NC Highway Patrol for aiding me when I needed a helping hand.

Moving forward, I'm going to have to find another vehicle. While the rental car will provide some short term assistance, I'm in need of a longer term solution. I guess that part of the story is still unwritten, but know that I will share it with you as it unfolds.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Teach By Example

Teach By Example


About 5 years ago, I made a thoughtful decision to start a business by way of a network marketing company. While the first few days were a bit rocky, I soon experienced a level of success that exceeded my expectations. Over the next 10 months, I worked closely with the leadership and reached another point of achievement. It felt amazing!

Not long after, my friend and mentor, the one who was guiding me on this journey, made a decision to move a couple of hours away. This meant that we wouldn't see or work in the same way that we had been during the preceding months. It was both scary and exciting. It was scary because there was still so much to learn, but exciting because I was being promoted into a leadership role. 

What I realized almost immediately was that I was great as an individual, but wasn't as strong as a leader. I remember one lady on the team telling me that she was happy for my success, but wondered how she could experience it for herself. It was then that I stopped doing the activity that helped me realize success and looked instead to encourage her to increase her activity. My plan was to talk about the strategy that I employed and massively educate the team on the how-to's. 

Eventually, this young lady closed her business and I had to start rebuilding where I left off. The lesson I learned in that moment was to never stop doing what works

A year or so after that experience, I had another amazing run with a team of go-getters. They were hungry, excitable, and highly energetic. It was so much fun and I learned a lot about how to build and support a team of entrepreneurs. I loved it! 

Process for Teaching

Today, as I continue my work with new business owners and share the building lessons that I've learned over the years, I was reminded of the process by which we help others find success in this industry. Not just in this industry, but life in general. The process involves the following steps:
  • Step 1: I tell you how to do it.
  • Step 2: I show you how to do it.
  • Step 3: You do it, I watch you, and then I give feedback.
  • Step 4: You do it all by yourself.
  • Step 5: You teach someone else how to do it.     
Since the very beginning, I was good for telling you how to do it. I would quickly move to watching you do it, with feedback, and then letting you go. While it seemed to work fine, I knew there was something missing. Today, it's as clear as a window after Windex. I completely ignored step number 2, which is the show you how to do it. Be it at the office, at home, at the gym, in the fraternity, or now in the business world, I skipped such an important step in the learning and teaching process.

It is by doing the activity and inviting you to join me on the journey that one gets to hear and see how something should be done. It's small, yet powerful. Again, by going to the gym, attending the class, talking to prospects, loving your spouse, and reading the books that I show you how to experience success in your life. That point was so good, I had to reiterate twice.

So, as we go into this day, let's take the action that we wish to teach and invite others to come along for the ride. "Oh, you want to learn this valuable point, huh? Great, how about you sit back, relax, and watch me go to work." 

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I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

4 Tips for Setting and Following Through on Your Goals




While reading, "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi, I came upon a chapter that talked about setting goals. While the book is focused on improving relationships and connections, the author's dive into goal setting prompted a serious self examine. Honestly, I haven't been great in this department. Yes, I have some written goals, but that's about as far as I've gone. Not good!

As I continue to work on improving me and my overall situation, I realize that without goals I can be quite shifty. Often times, I find myself asking the following questions:

  • What should I be working on? 
  • How should I be spending my time? 
  • What is my number one priority at the moment? 
Without goals, I end up spending time on things that aren't moving me forward toward anything of significance. Yes, I have a well oiled calendar with time allotted for any number of tasks and meetings, but are those activities the right activities? What am I saying "Yes" to that really should be a huge and emphatic "No?"

In the following sections, I share a few ideas on setting goals and ways to hold yourself accountable for reaching those targets.

1. Set A Realistic Goal

The first step is to set a realistic goal with a specific due date. For us procrastinators, having a deadline is a great way to ensure that this goal and all the subsequent tasks do not fall into the "someday" category.

2. Work Backwards from the Due Date

With a goal and date set, now it's time to pull out the calendar and determine what has to happen between now and the due date. What steps or tasks have to be completed in order to achieve the goal? As you come up with those items, be sure to add them to the calendar.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

Personally, having someone other than me to be accountable to is a great way to add pressure. I find that if I keep the goals and their related tasks solely to myself, it's easy to ignore deadlines with plenty of self promises to finish at a later date. This cannot happen if I seriously want to achieve my objectives.

In the past, I have used social media as a way to hold myself accountable. By stating my plans openingly and in the public eye, I had people who were watching my activity level closely. It's uncomfortable and embarrassing to be called out for not doing something that you said that you would do.

4. Up the Ante for Maximum Compliance

While your accountability partner could be your boss, friend, spouse, or business partner, there is the possibility that you will still fall short because there isn't enough at stake. For me, missing a deadline with my boss is something I am not willing to do, especially on important and high profile tasks. However, should you need more pressure, consider doing something that will make falling short extremely painful. 

One example would be to put money on the line. In the event that you don't reach your target, you lose that hard earned money toward a cause that you are adamantly against. This is another place where your accountability partner could come in. Give them a post dated check with expressed instructions to send the money if a goal is not reached by the agreed upon deadline. No amount of excuses or heartfelt pleading can stop the process. The only way to stop the clock is to achieve the goal.   

If you're open to that idea, consider using an online resource like Stickk.com, which is a free service that I've used in the past to lose weight. Instead of writing a check, you set a dollar amount backed by a debit/credit card. Next, you determine the goal, deadline, and weekly tasks that lead to the successful completion. Each week, you check in with a referee (your accountability partner) and report on whether you've completed the tasks for the last 7 days. If not, you lose a portion of the total dollar amount. To really apply pressure, agree to a figure that will cause serious discomfort.

Questions for Discussion

The purpose of this article is to initiate some form of action within our lives. To help get the ball rolling, let's answer these questions in the comment section below:
  • What are 3-5 goals that you want to achieve right now?
  • When are you planning on completing those goals?
  • What are you willing to do each week to accomplish the larger goals?
  • Who will serve as your accountability partner?

Share It! 

I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

Toll-free: (919) 912-9121
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