Category Archives: Thoughts

Thoughts that pop into my head. Things that I ponder from time to time.

What color are your handcuffs?

Have you heard the term “Golden Handcuffs”? I hadn’t heard of it until my brother mentioned it to me in a conversation a few years ago. Typically this refers to deferred benefits to keep an employee
Golden handcuffswith a company for a stipulated amount of time. What if you are self-employed?  There isn’t anyone that is holding you there, but there is another type of golden handcuffs that has nothing to do with employment at all; whether you are self-employed or work for someone else. Golden handcuffs can be self-created. You forge them yourself through obligations that you have made to mortgage companies, auto loans, private schooling, vacation clubs, resort fees, etc. The list goes on and on. When we see the glitter of something that we desire that has a hefty price tag on it and bite, we are not much different than a fish striking an attractive lure. Many times we find that the lure isn’t real; it’s just a pretty feather, shaped like a fly or worm. Either way, it has a hook in it. It’s called monthly payments or the outgo of cash in exchange for that thing or service we desire.

Take this simple test to see what color your handcuffs are

Hopefully, you have some record of where you spend your money per month. You can go online and find a sample budget. Here is one here.
Step 1   Find out how much you spend
You have to remember to add all of the things that you spend money on per month. Don’t forget things like:

  • Nail salon
  • Coffee breaks
  • Life insurance
  • Home repairs
  • Gifts (Christmas, birthdays)
  • Vacation
  • Auto repairs, licensing, taxes, and tires
  • Lesson Fees
  • Clothing
  • Medical deductible fees for office visits
  • Vitamins
  • Cosmetics
  • Haircuts
  • Subscriptions
  • Bank charges
  • Credit card payments
  • Dues
    colorful sample budget

These things above aren’t even big things like Rent, Food, Utilities, etc. Once you add all of these things up, write down the total. Now, take this amount and divide it by .70. (federal and state taxes) This amount is the gross amount you need to earn. Hopefully, you make more than this amount. Were you surprised?

Step 2    Go through and change the amounts or eliminate those things that you are willing to live without.

How did you do? You will quickly learn what color your handcuffs are. If you can’t cut anything, your handcuffs are made of gold. If you can only cut back on a few things, they are made of silver. If you can cut back 25%, your handcuffs are made of brass. If you can cut back 50%, your handcuffs are made of wood, and they aren’t handcuffs at all! What most of us find is that we have become accustomed to certain creature comforts and we aren’t willing to give up any of them, even to reduce stress and launch out on something that we are passionate about. We would rather have our stuff and perks than to change our lives. So, is it time to put up or shut up as they say? This depends on:

A. Do you enjoy what you are doing and the money is merely a result of doing something you love?

B. Do you dislike what you do and would instead do something else but the money that you earn from it is too hard to turn down?

If you answered A, congratulations, you are not wearing handcuffs of any color. If you answered B, what color are your handcuffs?

different color handcuffs

The new Coke formula mistake you may be making!

Diversification is good, but don’t diversify due to boredom.

Do you remember New Coke? It was created in 1985, a new formula of Coke. What a marketing blunder. You’ve heard the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Coke along with many other companies have messed up a very successful business model by getting bored with what is working, thinking that others are getting bored as well, so what do they do? They mess with a very successful product that has performed very well. I’m sure it wasn’t just boredom, but wanting a larger slice of the market or copying what similar companies were doing.
old coke and new coke. Coca Cola is a successful company.

It’s easy to point the finger at other’s blunders. Being successful is difficult

Being a copy cat is easy. We see what someone else is doing and figure that we can do the same thing or we “should” do the same thing. One of my favorite sayings is “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” I will have to admit that I have fallen prey to this tactic. If you have a successful business, idea, family, blog or product, don’t change it to change it. If it is successful and you are bored, then let someone else run it and start something else. Don’t change it because you are bored and then lose business or interest from others because you have left your core values. Do what you do best.

5 Guys Burgers and Fries. A Successful Company.

Whenever I go into a 5 Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant, I am amazed at how simple their menu is. They don’t offer Fried Chicken, BBQ and corned beef sandwiches, they offer great burgers and fries. They also provide hot dogs, but that is not why I go there. I go there to five guys store front. Five Guys is a successful company.get a great burger and fresh Idaho fries. If they ever change their fries to some skinny fries, I will stop going there. They have a simple success story. I’m not trying to promote their restaurant, I am just amazed at their simple menu and hope they don’t start offering Gyros and Pizza. Stick to your core values. Know why your customers and audience love what you do and stick to it!

I am as guilty as the next guy

Yep, I’m as guilty as the next guy, but not the next Five Guys! I started my business online as an air compressor parts supplier. After repairing power tools for a good amount of time, I realized there wasn’t a whole lot of money to be made on small power tool repair, so I started repairing air compressors, the bigger ones that construction companies use. I began to make a profit and didn’t have to work so hard fixing small power tools. I started offering air compressor parts online, and the business started to grow. My mistake was that other companies were providing all kinds of power tool parts, drill parts, saw parts, leaf blower parts, you name the power tool, and they were offering parts. What did I do? I became a copy cat and started doing the same thing. After about ten years, I realized that I had left my core values. I could not concentrate on what had made me successful, and I didn’t have the time to focus on my core business. Instead of going deep I was going wide and shallow, and my margins began to slip.

Ripping off the band-aid is hard

I wrote several blog posts about ripping off the band-aid.  I wrote it because the band-aid I needed to rip off was 1,000’s of products that I had put on my website that were not air compressors. This was going to mean a loss of sales, but I had to do it. I had to get back to selling just burgers and fries, what I knew best. On January 24, 2019, I did just this, and it hurt. All of the thousands of hours I paid people to add all of this product would now be removed, but once I did it and accepted the results, I have found that by focusing on the core business that I know, I have seen my margins increase. I have fewer suppliers now, but I have more time to spend time with them coming up with creative ways to market their products and even coming up with our solutions when companies stop making a specific part so that we can help our customers continue to use their existing equipment.

It’s hard to go back to something when you think you were moving in the right direction, but continuing to walk away from what I know was keeping me up at night. I’m glad about the decision that I made to return to what made me successful. Maybe you will too, that is if you have gotten bored and changed the formula for your own Coke.

master tool repair index page

 

 

Has your creative brain left the building like Elvis?

Do you remember what you said to your mom or dad when you were young in the middle of the summer? “I’m bored.” I don’t know about you, but I sure did. We lived in the country. There were three television stations at that time and AM radio. During the day there was hardly anything to watch on TV. We either played outside, read a book, built plastic models or did anything else that would keep us busy. At the time, I wished I lived closer to the city, but in retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t. I had a chance to be genuinely bored, but I came up with some creative ideas! There was nothing that I couldn’t do. I built 12′ tall rockets, underground forts with tunnels, tree houses, bike paths, go-kart tracks, and my own bobsled track in the winter.I'm bored picture. Get creative!

The typical day for many

See if this describes you, or maybe someone that you know. You wake up, and you check your cell phone for texts, after that, emails, then all of your social media posts. After this ritual, you shower, grab a quick breakfast sandwich, get in the car and then head to work. At work, you keep your email open and check the inbox every 90 seconds. It’s time for lunch, so guess what you do during lunch? You check your cell phone for texts, then emails, then all of your social media posts.social media icons on cell phone

At the end of the workday, you leave work wondering what you got accomplished. You drive home fed with the latest news and music blaring. After dinner, you watch your favorite shows until it’s time to go to bed. You head off to bed, checking your social media posts one more time, then drift off into dreamland. When you wake up in the morning, you repeat this whole process.

Boredom births creativity

To be creative, you have to get away from pretty much all distractions. This requires being bored. Constant stimulation doesn’t allow our minds to have to work with that creative side of our brain.  If we are always spoon fed input, our brains start turning off these circuits of creativity in our mind. The neurons in these creative areas of our brain almost say, “Why should we try to bridge that synapse? You give me constant input from the time you wake until the time your head hits the pillow. I’m not needed any longer.”  The creative part of your brain has just shut down. It’s going to take a while for those rusty wheels to get going again.
A creative and colorful rendition of a human brain.

Can I be creative with a welder?

I started welding a few years back. This past Christmas, I received a book on using welding for making some artsy designs instead of just repairing broken things. I had a few pieces of metal in my garage, but for the longest time, I just stared at them. I couldn’t think of a thing that I could make. I almost gave up, but after about 30 minutes, I took these two pieces of metal and said to myself, “What can I do with these two pieces?” I held them up in all kinds of different positions until I finally came up with something, but it took just staring at them, no music in the background or TV to distract me. Finally, I figured out that I could put a design on the metal, thanks to the craft book. After I created a design, I thought of a use for the old muffler pipe, and voila, an idea had been birthed! This could not have been done if I had any of my distractions to keep me from creating something. Give it a try. Be bored on purpose and sit there with a pen and paper. Who knows, you might come up with something that we will all be reading about!
My creative genius. A welded artwork pencil holder by Gill Trotman

Perform these 7 daily tasks to ensure you don’t repeat 2018!

Do you want something different out of 2019?

I would imagine that many of us want 2019 to be different than 2018, even if 2018 was great. Life is about change. We don’t stay at the same age we were last year. Things change around us, and so do we. Our friendships change. We form new ones and old ones many times drift away. The friendships that we keep, they evolve. They tend to vary based upon what life brings our way.  The world around us changes. Staying stuck in one era is not healthy. Who wants to live in the past? This robs you of the joy of the present. For others, 2018 was a learning experience. I hope that you learned something from 2018, and apply what you learned to 2019.

new year saying, a new chapter, new vers, or just the same old story? ultimately we writ it. The choice is our. Alex Morritt

Band-aids, do-overs, rinse and repeat et al

Here on my blog site, I have covered the band-aids in our life that need to be pulled off, do-overs that are done the same way and how life can be a rinse and repeat of the previous day, like Groundhog Day.  Today, I will start the new year with this encouraging and eye-opening thought. Unless you apply what you learned from 2018, you are destined to repeat it in 2019. New Year’s day is all about resolutions, but I feel that unless you can look back on 2018 and write down what you did that brought value to you and others and what you did that detracted from your life, 2019 will be a repeat.

Take one hour to do this and 2019 will be different

Take some time to sit down where you will not be disturbed and where there are no distractions. You may have to get up early or stay up late to do this, but it is essential.

  • Write down those things that you did this past year that brought you joy and peace.
  • Write down those people who are in your life that encouraged you, challenged you and who you want to grow deeper in a relationship with.
  • Look at areas where you wanted to grow, learn or change and pat yourself on the back for doing so.
  • Now, look at the past year and write down what brought you stress, heartache and a sense of unfulfillment.
  • Are there people in your life that you need to distance yourself from to stay emotionally healthy? Write these people down and how you can distance yourself or talk to change the relationship honestly.
  • What did you pour a lot of effort, not just token effort, but a lot of effort into that did not bring back much of a return for the time that you invested? It’s time to stop that, our if you can’t stop it for whatever reason, not put as much effort into it knowing that the effort will go unrewarded.
  • Write down what you are going to focus on in 2019. There are only so many hours in a day. To begin something new, something old has to be given up.

the time for change is now
So, the challenge is, will you take the time to make 2019 one of the best years of your life? If so, put down that glass of champagne and take a look back in the rearview mirror. It’s worth it. You don’t want to back up over your former self. Be careful that you don’t repeat those things of 2018 that made you less than you were meant to be! You deserve it; it’s your life.

Strive to be a Fezziwig instead of a Scrooge

Do you remember old Fezziwig in Charles Dickens Christmas Carol?

He was Scrooges old boss when he was an apprentice. The man was a jolly old soul who wanted his employees to stop their labors and enjoy the holidays, so he cleared the work tables and had that first office party!image of old fezziwig
Scrooge should have learned from old Fezziwig, but he didn’t. He chased after the money and left his memory in the past.

I want to be a Fezziwig instead of a Scrooge

Typically, I’m a Fezziwig on the outside, but a Scrooge on the inside. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas, I seem to have work always on my mind. One of the things that I am learning is this thing called mindfulness. For someone my age, it’s a new concept. You see, in the back of my mind, I feel that if I keep this constant thought of work going, it will solve itself while I’m doing other things. Well, this hasn’t worked too well. I want to be fully present this Christmas season.

When the ghost of Christmas past brought him to his old boss Fezziwig, Scrooge said, “Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again!”
“Yo ho there! Ebenezer! No more work
tonight! He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to
make our service light or burdensome. The happiness
he gives is..as if it cost a fortune.”

It wasn’t how much that Fezziwig spent, it was that he knew when to stop working and to enjoy life. He exercised mindfulness before it was in style! It’s not that work isn’t still there, but when we are with our families this Christmas, let’s fully be with them both consciously and subconsciously. Let’s give them 100% of our attention, interacting with intent. If you start to sense Scrooge creeping up inside, remember old Fezziwig and how much joy he brought to those around him. God bless us, everyone.”

I don’t have a choice, it’s time to take that first step

It has come to the point that I don’t have a choice. Writing my previous blog on ripping off the band-aid has made me come to grips with a particular band-aid in my life. If you keep a band-aid on too long, what happens? The skin starts to turn white and instead of it healing, it starts to retain too much moisture. This is called skin maceration. It’s not very appealing.  Well, it’s also not very attractive when we put off pulling the metaphorical band-aids off in our lives. If we just kind of pick at it, then it’s not only annoying to ourselves, it’s annoying to others. Do you think everyone else doesn’t see what’s going on; our indecision? We are not doing this for others, but it affects those people in our lives when something that is not healthy for us continues to be front and center in our lives. It’s sort of like the proverbial elephant in the room.
elephant sitting on a couch with two people in the room.

Make the first step

Inaction breeds only more inaction. We have to start somewhere. If we just begin to make that first step, then the other steps will follow. I know that it is hard to make that first step. What if my first step is in the wrong direction? What if my first step is wrong? What if, what if…… Ok, here is a what if for you. What if you don’t make that first step to rip off the bandage? What if your health, both emotional and relational suffer even more? Can you imagine being in this same spot next year, going over the same questions and living with the same consequences that you are living with now? How would that feel? If it doesn’t feel right now, then next year, amplify it about three times, and that is what it will probably be like.

Take the first step

stair steps first step.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.  It doesn’t matter if it is dark or if it is the middle of the day. You can feel your way and make that first step. Hanging out in the basement of your life, any stairway will take you up to where the light is. Pick a staircase, put your toe on the first step and raise your body one step into the light. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to leave the musty basement behind.

“Should” and “Shouldn’t”

Should and Shall

Based upon Webster’s dictionary are a command, law, regulation, inevitable, expectation, determination, obligation, propriety or to soften a direct statement. Shouldn’t merely is should with ‘not’ attached, in other words, a command NOT to, a law Not to, etc. So, what is the big deal? I know that there are things that I
should do and there are things that I shouldn’t do, but WHY is the BIG question. Many times, it is under a moral obligation that I should or shouldn’t do something, and this is a good reason. What would be a lousy reason not to do something? I would say if you do or do not do something due to a feeling of guilt or duty. We should do things because we feel they are the right thing to do; it agrees with our moral compass. We shouldn’t do something because we feel obligated to do it.

do and don't thumb up and thumb down. Should and Shouldn't

In my opinion, doing something for that reason is not fair to the person or purpose at hand. Unless we can do something with our full heart, then why do it at all? I am not talking about obeying laws and rules that are meant for our protection or other’s protection. I’m talking the more gray areas like going to an event that we honestly do not want to go to or visiting friends out of obligation, not out of true friendship. This may sound selfish, but I believe that we do ourselves and others a disservice if the reasons for our acceptance or denial of the event are out of the wrong motivation. We need to be honest with ourselves and the people making the request. This is the only way that we will truly build meaningful and honest relationships.
card invitation. Should I attend?
Growing up, I heard a whole lot of should and shouldn’t statements. Many of these reasons were for my good, but many of them looking back, was to be socially polite. As adults, we have the option to opt out if it does not fit within our schedule or if we are not interested. The key is to reply with honesty, “I’m sorry, I will not be able to attend your event.” You don’t have to go any further if you do not wish but at least RSVP. Not replying is rude. If asked why you will not attend, then be as honest and courteous as possible.  The person asking deserves an honest answer, and you deserve the respect of the other person for your reasons that you do not wish to attend.

I’m going to try and be as honest as possible the next time I have the should or shouldn’t question facing me. I want meaningful relationships. I want to be honest with my friends, and I want them to be honest with me. Anything other than that is a pseudo-relationship.

Stop! Don’t start your day yet!

Please, don’t start your day yet.

Stop right there. You are getting ready to put your life on auto-pilot. Your life is not a Tesla. Don’t start your day until you have finished it.
Red Tesla model S - auto pilot

Autopilot is only for planes and some cars

You do not need auto-pilot for your life. You only get one shot at this. If someone said, “Here, I have deposited $1 million dollars into your bank account. The only stipulation is that you must be purposeful as to what you spend it on.” Would you then go and spend it on whatever hit your fancy at the moment until you had nothing left in your account? No, of course, you wouldn’t, but why do we do this with something that is worth much more than money, our lives. Learn to start your day on the right foot.

Every day is a do-over

Yep, every day is a do-over. We have the opportunity to right the mistakes of the previous day. We don’t have to treat life as if we were shampooing our hair. Rinse and repeat.  When you wake up in the morning, there are of course specific routines that we perform that are good and necessary for all of us, but after these routines have been performed, now it is time to figure out how you want today to be different than yesterday. In this age of texts, emails, voice mails, Skype, Hangouts and the plethora of other means of communication, we have to turn off, shut off, disable those things that demand our attention. Many of these things are merely digital reminders. They aren’t even human! If this day that you have been given, and by the way, each day is a gift, is worth living, then give yourself the best chance to make it better than yesterday.

Each day is like a ski jump

For me, each day is akin to a ski jump. Once you leave the gate, it’s all downhill. Gravity takes over, and there is no stopping.
sitting at the top of the ski jump

I don’t know about you, but it is almost impossible to stop that quick gliding down the slope. Once you start your day, it seems as if gravity takes over.  I liken it to standing at the gate, without your helmet, maybe one ski isn’t fastened in the bindings properly, you left your goggles at home, and then it begins. It’s too late. Your day has already started and at this rate, it’s not going to go well. You have to prepare before you make that long ascent to the top of the ski jump. At home, you would double check to make sure that you have all of your equipment, your skis are waxed to the condition of the slope, you have had ample protein and hydrated your body so that you are ready to go. Also, spending time in prayer or meditation will settle your mind. If I was going to go down a ski jump, all I would do is pray “Oh God, why did I agree to do this!”

Finish your day before you start it

Yep, you heard it right, finish your day before you start it. Know what you want to have accomplished before the end of the day. Know what is going to make the most significant difference in your life today and for others. Make that a priority. Carve out the time required for this. Don’t let anything short-circuit your plan. It’s not enough to think about it.
cartoon character holding oversized pencil with a task list. Start your day right with a to-do list.I find that writing things down solidifies them in my mind. Doing this at home NOT at work is the only way to clear your mind from the distractions. The nonspoken demands that just being in the atmosphere of work tend to kill that quiet space. Once you are at work, you have started that slide down the ski slope.

You will find that this works

I challenge you to try this for one week. If this does not work, then you can unsubscribe to my blog. For those of you that are not subscribers, if it does work, then subscribe.  I have found that this method does work. It is VERY powerful if you will do this in quiet before you begin your day. The goal is to stand at the top of the slope, confident that you are prepared, then let the wind blow through your hair as you glide to the best day of your life!

ski jumper flying in the air

Who loves pulling off a band-aid?

I don’t know about you, but I hate pulling off a well-adhered band-aid.

Knowing that the band-aid is probably going to take off some of the hair on my arm while I quickly yank it off makes me want to leave it there. Ok, it’s getting dirty, and it has gotten used to it’s home on my arm. Do I need to pull it off? They say that just pulling it off quickly is the best practice. Pulling it off slowly only lengthens the pain.
image of a band-aid

Where am I going with this analogy?

I’m at a spot in my life where I’m not comfortable with where I am.  I’ve painted myself in a corner. Even though at the same time, I don’t want to exert the work required to make a change. It’s sort of like, well, pulling off a band-aid. You know that something needs to be done because we can’t live with an old band-aid on our arm, but it’s going to hurt to make the change. There are uncertainties. Will the wound be healed underneath? Will I have to put on another band-aid? Well, you know, the only way to find out is to rip off the band-aid or make that change in your life so that you can find out.

I know I need to make a change.

Yes, I know that I need to make a change, it’s become obvious.
I told my wife, “We can’t go another year like we just had. Work has gotten to the point where it is affecting us physically and mentally.” We were looking for that buoy that we could sail to. Without the buoy to navigate to, we were merely going to sail in circles.
red buoy in the ocean

You see, that buoy that we are circling, has a long cable that goes to an anchor at the bottom of the channel. It’s not going anywhere, but then, neither are we. To sail away from this buoy means going into the open sea where we can’t make out where the next buoy is. Ok, I’ve skipped to another analogy. Hey, this is my blog, deal with it! I need word pictures to make sense of my thoughts. I’m sick of the buoy that I am circling, but like a band-aid, it’s gonna’ hurt to rip it off and leave.

What to do when there is no clear direction.

If you have been living with this band-aid way too long or circling this buoy so long that you’ve begun to talk to it and gave it a name, then it’s time to make the change. Rarely do we make changes so radical that we can’t retrace our steps if it is a bad decision. If this is the case, then why do we delay? It’s what I call the band-aid pain aversion syndrome. You know that there ARE changes that you could make today so that tomorrow isn’t a repeat of today, but the question is, will you? Even if there is no real clear direction, after a while, we have to have faith that some action is better than none.

There is a whole ocean out there with different lands to explore! Can looking at the same old life buoy be that pleasant compared to the mysteries of what life has to offer? Deep inside, you know that NO decision IS a decision.

Come on, pull off that band-aid!
image of band-aid with text rip off like a band-aid

 

 

Hey Entrepreneurs, LIGHTEN UP!

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

I have been self-employed most of my life. An entrepreneur is all I’ve ever wanted to be. As a child, I had businesses that I started; they weren’t much, but I knew that I wanted to create something that was lasting and create my destiny. I grew up with stories of my relatives who invented things like the peanut harvester, shock absorbers, and other machinery. Many of my relatives had made the trek to Alaska and started their own business to take advantage of people moving there to seek their fortune. I knew that I wanted to be part of that history as well.

entrepreneurs  are born, not made

Entrepreneurs are born, not made

I have always had that entrepreneurial spark. I thought that since I had that entrepreneurial spark, everyone had it. What I have found is that I was wrong. You see, If you compare people’s personalities to vehicles, I have been trying to make very lovely sedans into sports cars.  A sedan is excellent for getting around town, dependable and a good value for your money, a sports car, not so much. It is made for two things and two things alone, speed and maneuverability.  I can put a cool steering wheel and nice rims on a sedan, but it’s still a sedan. I’m not saying that you can’t add some skills to people who want to learn new leadership skills, you can. But to try and take someone that wants to be great at their job and shoving them into a leadership position is just wrong.

The quicker you learn this as an entrepreneur, the better

Ok, so you are the entrepreneur, you are wondering why everyone that you give an opportunity to is not taking you up on it and not meeting your expectations. “If I can do it, then they can do it.” you think to yourself. WRONG! If they had that entrepreneurial spark, they probably wouldn’t be working for you. If you hired an administrative assistant, let them be a great assistant, don’t try and shove them into a position they never wanted. If you are looking for people who have an interest in learning to develop that entrepreneurial talent that they ALREADY possess, then that is fine, make sure you know what YOU are looking for in potential employees.
happy being me - an entrepreneur

To those past and present employees that I have tried to make into something you never signed up to be, I am genuinely sorry.