Powered by Teamwork

Powered by Teamwork

““Building product is not about having a large team to manage. It is about having a small team with the right people on it.”~ Fred Wilson

powered by teamwork

Fact: a true iconoclast is unicorn rare. Popular culture has sold us on the idea that innovators dig within their souls and against all the odds come up with the solution to save the day—all alone. T e pictures history paints of the Tomas Edison’s and Henry Fords is that they did everything from unclogging toilets to making accounts receivable calls on top of being innovators. What would Jeff Bezos be  going right now if the thousands of Sues and Bills stopped pulling orders in his warehouses? Bezos wouldn’t be rolling himself in the glory of imagining and implementing new programs for Amazon; he would be wondering why his team fell apart.

The true success of any innovator is not limited to his or her invention or idea, but the often-forgotten success lies in how that person created and maintained their team. The symbiotic relationship between “the idea” and those that make the idea a reality can never be dismissed. One might think of this as the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials where a bar of chocolate ends up in a jar of peanut butter followed by the tagline, “Two great tastes that taste great together.”

As you develop your confidence and skills as an innovator or change agent, remember that team-building is critical to your success. The more genuine you are with your vision, the more infectious it will become for your team. Your goal is to empower your team to make good creative decisions, as well as being committed to your vision at the same level of passion you are. If you can do all of that, you will be amazed at the platform effect your team will produce.

Consider this …

1. Find at least two mentors who will give you feedback about your leadership strengths and your blind spots

2. Identify the top three most critical tasks or areas of responsibility in your business or team for which you are not the ideal person to carry them out.

3. Develop a plan to get those tasks or areas of responsibility completed by someone who’s skilled and/or naturally gifted in those areas.


For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Walking the Tightrope

“There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” ~ Jack Welch

walking the tightrope

 The Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes carries with it a few metric tons of sound life advice. Two of the constant themes throughout the book are “there is nothing new under the sun” and “practice nothing to excess.” As you read through the book, it quickly becomes apparent that humanity has the same set of problems today as existed 3,000 years ago. One verse that directly applies to that commonality is Ecclesiastes 10:19 (KJV): “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry, but money answereth all things.” In context, the writer of Ecclesiastes is reminding us that, as far as earthly matters are concerned, money is necessary for our physical needs.

That need for income extends to our families as well. The care of my family is of utmost importance for me and is one of my greatest responsibilities. Half of caring for our families is working to supply food, clothing, shelter, and providing advantages. It is difficult to remember that aspect of “family first” when an important meeting bars us from attending a school play or soccer game. During those times we must be stashed with the knowledge that our hard work provides the costume for the play and the best soccer cleats on the market. But we must not use this rationale as an excuse to be an absentee parent. Make every effort to attend the dance recitals, soccer games, and cheer competitions of life. Don’t be too hard on yourself when work requires that you occasionally miss.

The other lesson Ecclesiastes 10:19 gives us is that laughter and merriment are components of the good life too. Work-life balance for leaders starts by assisting our team members to achieve that in their own lives. When we assist our team with those goals, we not only find solutions for ourselves, but we also build loyalty within our team members.

Leaders from Jack Welch to Sheryl Sandberg say that work-life balance is impossible. I disagree; however, I know from experience that it’s an elusive art—almost literally like walking a tightrope. To over-lean to one side, our personal lives and families suffer. To over-lean to the other, our work, our company and potentially our financial security suffer. Learn the art of tightrope walking. You’ll be glad you did.

Consider this …

1. On a scale of one to ten (one being best and ten being worst), rate yourself on the aspect of work/life balance.

2. Identify two or three things you can do to make personal improvements in this regard

3. Now identify the two or three things you can do to help your team members walk the work/life tightrope more consistently and confidently

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide)

Frame of Reference

None of  us see the world as it is but as we are, as our frames of reference, or maps, define the territory.” ~ Stephen Covey

frame of reference

Business borrows terms and concepts from many disciplines, but possibly none greater than physics. T e underlying science of momentum and line of sight is easy to connect, but frame of reference is harder to noodle. Imagine you’re riding in a train traveling at a constant speed. If there was a smooth track and the window blinds were shut, you might not be able to tell the train was moving at all. Someone standing along the tracks would see the train zipping along with the full force of its velocity. If two of the train’s passengers were throwing a ball back and forth, to them, the ball would appear to f y straight. Those standing on the tracks would see the ball taking a parabolic course due to the train’s forward motion. To say the ball is flying straight and on a curved path simultaneously is a true statement. The difference in perceiving those dual truths is one’s relationship to the train—one’s frame of reference if you will..

As leaders, we can be blinded by our frame of reference. Imagine you’ve set a tightly scheduled team goal. One day you see a team member doing absolutely nothing at her desk. She is literally sitting there with her eyes closed and you go ballistic. From within your frame of reference, she’s wasting precious time. From her vantage point, she’s quietly rehearsing her closing pitch for a client call that is occurring in ten minutes. Without the proper frame of reference, your tirade rattled her enough that the call was suboptimal and now so are your numbers.

Earnestly questioning your frame of reference, or your “mental models,” is a critical skill of top performers. If you’re prone to act quickly and decisively or to make snap judgments, make sure you understand all the frames of reference before doing something rash.

Consider this …

1. How quick are you to form snap judgments?

2. Recount a time when making a snap judgment or being decisive without all of the facts got you into trouble.

3. Practice the skill of questioning before you blindly act. Ask questions like, “Why?” “Why not?” “What if?


For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Creating Forward Momentum

“Trust your gut feeling about things, listen to what others are saying, and look at the results of your actions. Once you know the truth, you can set about taking action to improve. Everyone will be better for it.” ~ Jack Canfield

creating forward momentum

Coffeehouses throughout America are filled with people throwing out great idea after world-changing plans, so why are people sipping on lattes instead of making them happen? Many people seem to have bought fully into the notion that success is just “one idea away.” If someone would just buy into that idea, fame and riches would follow. To an extent, “one idea away from success” is valid. However, simply having the idea is only a portion of the equation necessary for success.
Ideas must be implemented. Should we not have the skill set or impetus to move thought to action, one’s chances for success are grim. I’ve heard it said that “It’s not enough to stare up the steps. One must also step up the stairs.” And so it is with our ideas. 

Having an idea is the easy part. A brainstorming session can create a dozen brilliant ideas that we can get all giddy over. Until we take one step, just one step breathing life into that idea, it’s a useless exercise. Tat one step can be a baby step, but it must be designed to create forward momentum. Let’s say you have an idea for a website and you’re in the daydreaming stages. Go ahead and buy the domain name before you plan anything else. In many cases, you’re looking at a twenty-dollar investment, but it’s a symbolic step. You now own the vehicle to make your website a reality. The next small step could be creating content or designing a logo.

Timetables aren’t as important as building forward momentum. If you’re familiar with the “Compound Effect,” you know that seemingly small actions, consistently applied, over time, yield MASSIVE results. Whatever helps you move forward, even as tiny as those seemingly small actions are, will eventually build on each other. You’ll likely find that momentum is not a linear, but an exponential expression of growth. Small successes build an excitement that you will be unable to contain. Tat enthusiasm will become infectious as you have tangible wins to show to others. Ten there will be no stopping you.

Consider this …

1. What three ideas have you been dreaming of yet waiting to implement?

2. Which of these three would produce the greatest results for you if they were implemented quickly?

3. For that one, most important idea, what “seemingly small action,” could you take right now to create forward momentum? Take that action!


For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Making Good Things Better

“Good is the enemy of great.”~ Jim Collins

Making good things better

 New, better, faster, stronger, and exciting are words that are usually coupled with innovation. We want to positively impact our world by showing everyone a spectacular idea that no one else has ever conceived. We want the Mona Lisa piloting a fighter jet while sipping a latte of ideas to validate our coveted title as “innovator.” That’s great, go get ’em, tiger … but is that what your business needs? Does innovation always have to center around the “we’re going to do something new and different” to make an impact on your operations? At some points in a business’s lifespan, the organization is sailing along smoothly. During these times, the best innovations might just come from scraping the barnacles of the ship’s hull. We need to look at our worst practices that drag down productivity and
profitability. Admittedly, examining what our company does lousy isn’t f ashy, but it can be hugely impactful.

A few years back, a major grocery chain was looking to increase their margins. They had always shipped their 12 pack sodas in low-cut cardboard trays. Someone in logistics realized there was no need to do this. Each of the pallets the logistics center was sending to stores was shrink-wrapped so the cases of soda wouldn’t skid of the pallets in transportation. After some testing, the theory held and the cost savings on cardboard alone were hundreds of thousands of dollars, every cent of which dropped straight to the bottom line. Tat innovation is about as mundane as they get, but the impact was greater than rolling out a new product, with far less risk.

What we want and what our business needs can be two different things. A truly innovative leader assesses the whole business and applies creative fair for problem-solving where the need lies.

Consider this …

1. Take a walk. Get out and meander around your project, business or workplace. Just walk, and observe, ask questions … and think.

2. Each time you do this, go back to your of ice and take notes on the feedback you receive, on your experiences, your observations, and your ideas.

3. After you’ve done this a few times, identify two or three “improvements” you can make to how the work gets done and share them with your team.

Work together to implement them!


For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

To Build Strong Teams, Build Strong Teammates

“Building a great team is the lifeblood of any startup, and finding great talent is one of the hardest and costliest tasks any CEO will ever face.”~ Jay Samit

to build strong teams, build strong teammates

“Turnover costs are too high; we have to retain our employees!” shouted HR.

“If he can’t do the job, get rid of him and f nd someone who will!” shouted the executives, even more loudly.

The paradox of reducing voluntary attrition while holding a disposable workforce mentality catches many of us in a precarious position. Time and budgetary constraints never allow for enough training or development, and it’s tempting to use the sink-or-swim method of developing team members. When a new associate is struggling but was promising enough be selected for your team, we have two options. We can plug someone else in the slot and hope for the best, or we can coach and develop that team member to help them reach their potential. As leaders, we have an obligation to provide our team members with the necessary tools for success.

If we think someone is too broken for their job duties, consider a little-known art form from Japan. Around the 15th century, the Japanese began mending cracked and shattered pottery in an exceptional fashion. The process is called kintsugi, which translates to “golden joinery.” The artisan infuses the cracks and tears with a lacquer laced with a precious metal—most often gold. At the end of the process, the vessel is both useful and a unique work of art. The philosophical motive behind kintsugi is that breakage and subsequent repair should not be disguised, but should tell the history of the object.

How different would our organizations be if we practiced kintsugi on our associates as the first option? How many hours is it worth trying to mend your broken vessels? Is the loss of output, interviewing, advertising costs, and disruption of team dynamics is worth a few hours of extra training? Turnover costs are difficult to fully pin down, but spending an hour or two each week with an underperforming team member is much cheaper than starting from scratch. 

Consider this …

1. List three areas of underperformance on your team or in your business right now.

2. What are the common themes of the three areas of underperformance?

3. How can you practice kintsugi to transform the situation in your business?

 Make it happen!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Clear Your Desks

“Don’t assume, ask. Be kind. Tell the truth. Don’t say anything you can’t stand behind fully. Have integrity. Tell people how you feel.”~ Warsan Shire

clear your desks

 “It had to be on Friday,” thought Sam as he closed his email. A contingent from corporate wanted to stop by Sam’s satellite office—on casual Friday. Sam made the rounds informing everyone jeans and T-shirts were to be replaced with business professional attire this particular Friday. Disgruntled moans could be heard in Sam’s wake, and he purposefully waited to tell Christy until last. She was the office’s cheery glass-half-full person, and Sam liked to end these bad news tours on a positive note. As predicted, Christy took the news in stride saying she had a new outfit she’d wanted to try on and Friday would go swimmingly.

Then Sam saw it sitting on Christy’s desk. It was an 80s troll doll holding a gold painted spork. The atrocious thing  was part of an interoffice gag, but the sight of it made Sam panic. He’d never met anyone in the visiting corporate group. What would they think of the troll? What would they think of the knickknacks on anyone’s desk? No, Sam would not be remembered as the spork troll manager. He ordered everyone to clear their desks of personal items, and said that the only things visible should be work products.

Friday rolled in, and Sam’s office was as sterile as an operating room. The corporate visitors got the nickel tour while Sam answered all their questions about operational facts and figures. As Sam walked the delegation out to the parking lot, one of the visitors hung back and introduced himself as the new regional VP of operations. He asked why Sam’s office did not participate in casual Friday or allow his team to have personal items on their desks. After Sam’s admission that he’d put the shine on for the visit, Sam received the worst dressing down of his adult life by the VP.

What message does it send our team members and superiors when we put on a dog and pony show “for company”? Our team members easily recognize duplicity in our leadership, and those up the ladder are presented a false picture of working conditions. Where’s the integrity in that?

Consider this …

1. Be honest with yourself. Are there any areas, at home, with friends, or at work, where your words don’t match your actions?

2. Where might you have “duplicity” in your leadership practices?

3. Where is the biggest culprit and what might you do now to make it right?


For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Team Successes Are Leader Successes

“The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.” ~ Tony Dungy

I once heard of a business leader who was fond of saying he was constantly trying to work himself out of a job. When pressed on the meaning of the enigmatic phrase, he said it related to his perceptions of team development. The better his team was at performing their job duties, the less they needed him for guidance in day-to-day matters. When he had developed a team that no longer required his leadership, he had effectively “worked himself out of his job.” Any of his team members could seamlessly step into his job role, and both he and the team members could advance to the next challenge.

This point may never come with some teams, but what a grand example of servant leadership. Working your way out of a job is not the path of least resistance for a leader. It’s infnitely easier to ding team members on their missteps and show your superiors how you’ve held the team accountable. While accountability is a necessary component of any team, accountability for the sake of covering one’s lack of team development is a copout.

To be a true leader, one must check his ego at the door and embrace the notion that team successes are personal leadership successes as well. One must not be threatened by a team member’s individual achievements. Rather, true leaders recognize their measure of success is based on how well their team performs. That requires “working yourself out of a job,” and in doing so, you will be working yourself into your next job.

Consider this …

1. In what areas can your team excel if you were to develop them and let them go?

2. How can you make the lives of your team members better?

3. Make a plan to improve the lives of your team members, to develop them to their fullest potential, and then step back and let it happen. 

 Make it happen!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Five Simple Things

A few words of wisdom from an old guy

simple things

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend to share some “life wisdom.” As I reflected on how I would respond, I thought about some interesting stats I recently read in an “Inc. Magazine” article by contributor Matthew Jones.

Over 40 million people suffer from anxiety, 14.8 million have some form of depression and almost 8 million people suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. In 2016 alone, the US spent almost half a trillion dollars on medications — that’s half of the global medication market.

I’ve long been a proponent of the link between mental and physical health. it has become clear to me over the years that there is an undeniable link between what goes on in our head and what happens in our lives. I’ve also spent much of the past 25 years studying the topics of leadership, personal success and workplace high performance. I’ve studied these topics academically, as a university professor and I’ve studied them practically, as a global business executive working in multiple countries, across five continents.

Relying on my research, as well as on my personal and professional observations, here are the five pieces of wisdom that I shared with my friend:

  1. Master your thoughts and change your life.

The single greatest battle you will ever wage is the one that goes on between your ears. But I am amazed at how many of us can develop such bad habits in our ‘thought-life.’ I’ve become a proponent of the simple equation T + F + A = R. Simply translated, our Thoughts lead to Feelings (or emotions). These feelings and emotions generally spur us to take some form of action and, as a result of those actions, we get a specific result. A simple example might include our beginning to think about losing weight. As we think about it, we begin to imagine what it will be like when we are slimmer, trimmer and in better shape. These thoughts begin to evoke certain positive feelings and emotions which lead us to tie on our walking or running shoes and start moving. When done consistently, over time, we begin to lose weight. This makes us look better, feel better and as a result, we continue the process.

This process also applies to inventions and disruptive innovations. You see, everything that exists in our man-made world today first began as simple thoughts. Those thoughts generated specific reinforcing feelings, which led to focused actions and as a result, we have things like automobiles, televisions, computers, smartphones, and the like.

Negative thought patterns are where we get into trouble. We develop an habitual negative perspective on many of the external events that happen to us, or around us, and that fuels a chain of negative thoughts. Those thoughts generate negative feelings and emotions which lead us to habitually do unhealthy or unproductive things.

Consequently, if you don’t like the results you’re getting, examine what’s going on between your ears. Make no mistake about it, the person who masters his or her thought-life, recognizing the inextricable link between thoughts, feelings, actions and results, is the one who has a leg up on generating sustained success.

2. Discover your calling and then dream big dreams.

The word “calling” is not one that is used very frequently within the professional workplace. The terms “mission” or “purpose” are much more common. It has become my personal and professional conviction, however, that each of us has a very specific calling (mission or purpose) for which we were created. This calling is not something we create, it’s something we discover.

For some people, their vocation IS their calling. These people have the opportunity to earn their living doing what they are specifically called and uniquely gifted to do. My father-in-law was a pastor. My wife was a pediatric nurse practitioner. Many others in the “helping professions” such as teachers, counselors, clergy, health care providers, and the like get to wake up each day and go to work and simultaneously fulfill their calling while doing so.

For others, and I place myself in this category, their vocation SUPPORTS their calling. In other words, the work they do on a daily basis, for which they earn their income, may not specifically be in line with their personal calling, but the work they do creates a platform from which they can fulfill their unique calling.

I will say, when I made the connection between what I believe I am specifically called and uniquely gifted to do and the work that I do on a daily basis, it was a complete and total game-changer for me. Take some time to make the conscious and emotional connection between how you earn your living and how it intersects, connects with and/or otherwise supports your calling.

3. Walk the tightrope of Results & Relationships.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been studying top performance among individual contributors, leaders, teams and organizations for over three decades — both academically and professionally. One question that drives me is this: “Why is it that so many people can generate sustained top performance, while others can only get spotty results at best?” This question has driven me for my entire career as I have examined top performing individual contributors, leaders and teams across startup companies and small businesses, large corporations, academic institutions, and non-profits.

What I, and many others, have found is that top performance requires a delicate balance between Results and Relationships. Furthermore, refusal to understand and honor this balance will result in one’s ultimate failure. In order to help me explain this balance, I like to use a simple set of scales.

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If, for some reason, an individual places an undue focus on one component over the other, suboptimal performance will be the end result. For instance, if one develops an over-reliance on the Results aspect of performance, at the expense of Relationships, s/he will likely experience wild success very quickly. That is, until s/he alienates everyone close by who must help sustain those results (e.g. stakeholders, customers, superiors, team members, etc.)

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If, on the other hand, one places an extreme focus on Relationships, at the expense of Results, s/he will be very popular. People will love him or her, until s/he loses everyone’s respect because of inconsistent results. In both cases, the scale becomes completely imbalanced and performance is drastically affected.

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At the end of the day, sustained top performance requires a balance between the ability to manage things and to lead people, including the ability to manage oneself.

4. No matter how much you earn … spend less.

Unfortunately, the urge to spend money today is at an all-time high. We are constantly bombarded by outside pressures from print, online and broadcast ads to buy more “things.” In my younger years, my wife and I used to say, “We can’t save any money, because all of our friends keep buying things that we don’t need.” That quip may seem humorous on the surface, but it rings so true for many people … and its effects can be devastating.

We have become a “monthly payment” society. To prove it, consider the first question we ask when shopping for a car, a home, new furnishings, or any large-ticket item. “How much is the monthly payment.” Instead of buying large-ticket items based on their inherent value, we buy them based on what we can “afford” each month. This fosters a “cash flow” (income minus expenses) mentality as opposed to focusing on our “net worth” (own minus owe). As a result, most people live paycheck-to-paycheck and are often one or two checks away from financial ruin. We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like.

Two very simple practices can easily and automatically aid in controlling expenses. The first is an exercise everyone should conduct regardless of their current financial condition. For the next 30 days, track every penny you spend. Take 10–15 seconds after each and every transaction and record that purchase by either asking for a receipt, and/or by recording it on a small pad. Regardless of the method you choose, record all of your expenses and identify the reason for the expenditure (savings, food, auto, clothing, etc.) At the end of the 30 days, categorize your expenses and look at the trends. Use that information to make positive changes in your current practices.

The second method is to invoke a “cooling off” period prior to making impulse purchases beyond a certain amount. We use a threshold of $100 and 24 hours as the basis for our cooling off period. If we find something that we weren’t looking for, that costs $100 or more and we have the strong impulse to purchase it, we invoke a 24-hour waiting period before we purchase it. If the desire to purchase it after a full-day wait is as strong as it was on impulse, we will then consider the merits of making the purchase. This helps us better determine whether it’s more of a “want” or a “need.” Your threshold might be $25, $50 or $250. Whatever it is, establish it and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did.

One final principle for sound financial management is to “pay yourself first.” Make a habit of living on 70% of your take-home pay (net income) and saving/investing/giving the remainder. And, deduct your saving, investing and giving proportions FIRST, immediately upon receipt of your pay-check. Ideally, this would be automated with your bank so that you NEVER see the money. Establish several accounts (Giving, Savings, Investing, etc.) and then have that money automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into those specific accounts.

Here are my recommendations for an ideal distribution of your income:

10% Giving — Used for paying tithes and other charitable giving

10% Short-term Savings — This your emergency fund. It should contain a minimum of 3–6 months of living expenses to rely on during unplanned drops in income (illness, disability, pregnancy, etc.) Once 3–6 months has been accumulated, shift this money to your long-term savings (below).

10% Long-term Savings — Used to eliminate consumer debt first and invest second. Begins as 10% of your net income, but increases to 20% once you have a fully-funded emergency fund.

10% Education — For your personal education/development, as well as for the education of your children.

10% Entertainment — Used for recreation, vacation, etc.

50% Necessities — This is for all required living expenses.

Of course, it may be difficult, or even impossible, to BEGIN with these allocations; however this should be your goal or desired state. Establishing the process, even if the allocations are a bit different to start, and then diligently following it, every single pay-day is very important. Quite frankly, the process and discipline to follow it every single pay-day is more important than the allocation percentages themselves.

Finally, a word about debt. U.S. consumers are now drowning in personal, consumer debt. In face, credit card, auto & student loans and home mortgage debt are either at or near all-time highs. In a new study by Northwestern Mutual, the life-insurer and financial services company found that 45% of Americans who currently have debit, spend “up to half of their monthly income on debt repayment.” An interesting article in Business Insider summarizes this fascinating, yet deeply concerning study.

For the most part, consumers are “debt slaves” to credit card debit (likely the most expensive), auto loans, student loans and home mortgages. A few rules of thumb to prevent becoming slaves to consumer debt include:

a. Treat your credit card like the utility bill and pay it completely off each month. But to do that, you must refrain from buying anything on a credit card that you can’t pay off come payday.

b. Be willing to drive a used car. New cars lose thousands in value the minute they are driven off the lot by a new owner. And usually, three years into a five-year auto loan the debt on the loan exceeds the value of the car. So, be willing to drive a nice four or five year old car, for which you can pay cash, and make a faux “monthly payment” to yourself so that in five or six years (when the car is 10 years old), you can trade it in and pay cash for a slight upgrade (another four or five year old car).

c. Match your chosen educational institution with your desired major and career goals. The fact of the matter is, private and out of state colleges and universities cost considerably more than in-state public institutions. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying DON’T attend private or out of state schools by any means. But I am suggesting that you match your ultimate educational and career goals against one another and then conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the extra cost is worth the planned outcome. If it’s not, you might want to scale back your educational aspirations a bit in order to bring them more in line with one another. Secondly, if there is a risk you might drop out after a semester or two, consider starting off in a good two-year school, until you get your higher education legs under you. The impact of two years of college on wages is no different if your two years come from a community college, a state four-year university, or a private institution. Two years of college is two years of college, from a wage earning perspective. So, if you are a high risk student, consider a less costly alternative for your first year or two.

5. Give more and you’ll live more.

Now, this isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’ve had to develop it as an “acquired taste” over the course of my life and career. Giving has not always come easily for me. Growing up, I lived a good, middle-class lifestyle with a wonderful family. One thing my parents taught me well was the value of hard work. So much so, that I have worked extremely hard my entire life, beginning in the fifth grade mowing yards, continuing through high school where I worked at a local gas station. Upon graduation from high school, I entered Army Basic Training. Throughout college, I worked full-time as an emergency medical technician, paramedic and respiratory therapist. Money was always something I worked very hard for and when you work that hard for something, you don’t tend to loosen your grip on it very easily. Little did I know the enjoyment I would receive once I learned how to give more freely. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the ancient scriptures from multiple religions are abundantly clear about the importance of giving.

But giving does not always refer to giving financial gifts. It can also refer to giving of your time and your talents as well as your treasures. In fact, one of the best and greatest gifts we can give is the gift of our time. In 2005, Tim Kellerman and I wrote about giving the gift yourself in our book The Abundance Principle. In doing so, we offered a few suggestions of ways we can make ourselves available to others, including:

  • Write a letter of encouragement to someone who might be discouraged.
  • Spend an hour with an old friend and say how much you appreciate him or her.
  • Hug a member of your family and say why you love him or her.
  • Visit someone in the hospital and pray a prayer of faith.
  • Gif the gift of kindness to someone who needs help.
  • Spend some time in a nursing home encouraging the residents.
  • Volunteer your time in a local charity.
  • Offer to babysit the children of a single parent
  • In some other way, use your special abilities or talents to help someone who might not even know what you’ve done.

The burning question you should ask yourself is this, “If generosity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict, or even to charge me?”

There is a story about a wealthy gentlemen who took a detailed inventory of his personal belongings every year. Upon reviewing the listing of his possessions, he would retrieve his most prized possession from the list. After spending a little time with the treasure, he would then proceed to give it away. He described his purpose for doing so, “If I am able to give away my most prized possession, then I truly own it. If, however, I am unable to give it way, then it owns me.” The poignancy of that story hits me squarely between the eyes. Mother Theresa is quoted to have said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.”

When we realize that giving of our time, our talent and our treasure does not rob us of anything but actually generates both tangible and intangible increase in our lives, we start to live in a totally different way. When we make the leap from saying, “What must I give?” to saying “What can I give?” life takes on a whole new meaning. Trust me … this leap doesn’t happen overnight. It happens because we consciously choose to starting giving more … and as a result, very gradually at first, we start living more!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field GuideThe Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

A Future Orientation

“The world makes way for a man who knows where he’s going.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I’ve repeatedly seen it — successful people have a future orientation. They may not know exactly how they’re going to get there, but they have a crystal-clear vision of their intended destination. Underlying this vision, storming towards the uber-successful is a three-step framework involving Clarity, Focus and Execution.

I first learned the power of this trinity by accident. I worked my way through college as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for a hospital-based ambulance services. I decided to major in respiratory therapy for one simple reason — I wanted to be a member of the flight team aboard Angle One at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The day I began the professional portion of the respiratory therapy program, I waltzed into the department director at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and declared, “I just began respiratory therapy school, and when I graduate, I’m going to come here and fly on your helicopter. So, if you’d like to hire me now, you can train me during the next few months so I’ll be ready when I graduate.”

I didn’t get the job that day, as you might imagine. A few months later, after observing me during a clinical rotation, that department director hired me. The day after I graduated, I was a member of the Angel One Flight Team and for the next several years, I had the honor and blessing of living my dream. Fate had another surprise in store for me: another member of that Team was my future wife, Lori.

Successful people have clarity on where they are going. They develop a relentless focus on that destination, and they understand how to impeccably execute that plan. Those three keys can make the difference between where you are and where you want to be.

Consider this …

1.) What does your ideal future look like in three, five, and/or ten years? Spend the time necessary to develop crystal clarity on that desired future.

2.) On what things must you intently focus to fulfill that vision or to arrive at that desired destination?

3.) What things must you achieve or accomplish in the next twelve months to take you as far as possible toward that vision or destination?

4.) What key actions must you take daily or weekly in order to achieve or accomplish twelve-month milestones?

Make it happen!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

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Todd Greer

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“I have worked with and around Jeff for over a decade. Jeff is a tenacious business leader and attacks challenges with a no-nonsense, thoughtful, innovator’s mindset. Equally important, he is an expert at the “human-factor,” which can completely undermine an academic approach to problem solving, and he interlaces his understanding of psychology and sociology with his many years of practical experience to produce results.”

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CEO, SpotRight, Inc.

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“The task of taking vision to a reality seemed very daunting at first, but Jeff Standridge enabled, coached, and gave me the confidence to enthusiastically push through that process. His insight is always structured, clear, logical and most of all, effective. I could not have navigated this process as efficiently without his help. “

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“Jeff is an outstanding person. He has a unique capability to address and overcome professional challenges without losing the human face of the business. His international expertise is amazing. He manages and respects cultural differences and knows like anybody how to make the business grow and become profitable, all with a great sense of humor and friendship. He is a natural leader who motivates his people to work and focus on solving difficult business problems.”

Eduardo Ramalho
Consultant, Speaker and Professor, former CEO of Acxiom Brazil
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