Looking forward to being with BBVA team!

Date: May 21, 2015
Time: 09:00am
Event: Compass BBVA Leadership Forum
Topic: Leadership from the Cubicle
Sponsor: Compass BBVA
Location: Birmingham, AL
Public: Private

Looking forward to presenting for the Information Engineering Management program at in Hoover.

Date: May 20, 2015
Time: 11:30am
Event: IEM Lunch and Learn
Topic: Social Media for Technology Professionals
Sponsor: Information Engineering Management
Venue: Hoover Library
Location: Hoover, AL 35244
Public: Public

Six Steps to Find Your Perfect Business Idea

So maybe I am slow. Maybe I do not listen as well as I thought. But I am getting it. After a few of you have decided to take me up on my free coaching call in return for an iTunes review, I see a pattern. You want to find a business idea that fits you. At least that has been the trend to date. I hope to play back parts of the calls in future podcasts, but clearly you all want options. You want to love your work. You want to have the artificial limits of salary taken off. You want freedom to do the work you love. So – now I am listening. Here are six steps to help you find that perfect business idea.

Six Steps to Find Your Perfect Business Idea

1. Start with the calling

Your calling is what you are uniquely gifted to do. It offers you a mix of things you love, people you want to serve, and skills you have. I know, many of you have taken career assessments in the past, but all those are based strictly on skills and job characteristics. Sure, three things matter in finding work that will pay – passion, skills, and demand. Without all three you have a mess. But skills can be learned – at least enough to get you in the space. And demand can be uncovered by learning how to connect your passion to demand. But passion – that is tough. You just have to have it. So – start with passion.

How do you find your calling? Easiest is by do the exercises in my ebook How to Find Your Calling. Download it here now.

2. Throw out your assumptions
On every coaching call I have had, I find clients are loaded with assumptions about markets and business ventures. While I may have limited expertise in your area, I often know that your assumptions are wrong. Some of the most common assumptions are:
  • You cannot make money doing what I love.
  • It takes a ton of cash (I find people usually end up at $100k) to start that kind of business.
  • My spouse will not support the idea.
  • I do not have what it takes to make it happen.
While on the surface these assumptions can be correct, with planning and coaching you can move them all. It takes a little work – but it is very doable.
3. Narrow down your list to your top five
Once you have done the calling exercise, you will have a ton of ideas. You need to narrow the list. Why? So you can take some time to explore a limited list. If none of the limited list works out, go back to the full list. I like to get down to 3 to 5 ideas. Often they are related so that helps.
For now, just take your list and circle the top 3 to 5 interests.
4. Search out people successful in those fields
Now find people in your field and go talk to them. Learn from the experts how to get started.
5. Let other people know that you were looking at ideas.
Share them. You never know who you might meet from these connections
6. Keep looking
This is not a process that really fits into step 1, 2, and 3. You have to keep looking and plowing along to find it. So start back at your list and keep talking and listening.
This process looks very similar to the reverse interview concept because it is. This is the same methodology we use for starting companies the same methodology we use for generating jobs the same methodology we use for generating interest. They’re all the same thing. You were looking for ways to make money flow by serving others.

Two Results to Expect from Your Search

Your eyes will be opened. As you begin to encounter people really doing the work and making a living, you might find you are miles away from your original ideas. They will open you mind and educate you on how to best get to where you want to be.
Your spirit will be stirred. Your mind has been opened to new ideas and new possibilities. You might decide to jump, or you might rethink the whole thing and decide you like where you are now. But, you will never be the same once you know and see how people are making a living in ways you never knew.

097: Engineering Your Career – Turning Your Technology Skills into Bigger Cash [Podcast]

Do you have the technology skills, but feel left out of the leadership and decisions? Do you feel under appreciated? Is it as if all the important decisions go on with limited input from you – even when they are stupid decisions? How can you become part of the bigger conversation and get the bigger salaries to go with it? Do you need to do some engineering for your career?

Engineering Your Career - Turning Your Technology Skills into Bigger Cash

“Creative Commons” by pippalou is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Todays podcast is brought to you by Contactually. A great tool for managing all those social media and email contacts!


Have questions you want answered? I plan to start a Questions and Answers segment of this podcast soon. So here is how to ask YOUR questions!


Shoot me a Twitter or Facebook message with hashtag #COOQA.


Key Principles for Engineering Your Career

  • It isn’t about technology stupid
    • No one talks about a hammer. The hammer is the technology.
    • People care about the result of using the hammer.
  • Only those who get noticed get rewarded – The Janitorial Principle
    • You never notice a janitor unless they have done something wrong.
    • Key is to add value in natural ways.
  • Question the power – The power is not the answers you give – it is in the questions you ask.
    • What are we trying to accomplish here?
    • Why?
    • What does success look like?
    • What happens once we have success? What does that mean?
  • It is always about the people
    • team members
    • customers
    • leaders

What Can You Do Now to Engineer Your Career

1. Ask Better Questions – Who are the leaders and thought leaders. Seek out chances to ask them questions.
– What challenges are they facing?

The goal is to learn how your technical skills can solve their problems. But, you have to know about and really understand the underlying problem.

Often the problem being worked on is not the real problem. Recently I was working with a company who had a lot of effort in developing prototypes. But they needed to ask what the purpose of the prototype was. They needed to win over investors. Once a few questions were asked – they realized they needed less work to get in front of investors – at a savings of $200k.

2. Ask for Counsel  – Everyone likes to be asked for advice. Seek out thought leaders to get feedback on your issues. The result will be that you get into a discussion and will learn of bigger things going on around the company.

3. Make Meetings Count 
– Listen for the purpose of the meeting. The REAL purpose.
– Ask the “elephant in the room” question. You are not the only one who wants to know the answer.
– Ask the question behind the question – in other words – keep asking why.
– Example: A friend started paying attention to the purpose of the meetings that droned on all day. He started asking the obvious question. Before the meetings he would ask the purpose. Often with one phone call before the meeting, he solved the problem. The result was no meeting and a savings of wasted time. When he does find himself in a meeting, he asks about the desired outcome.  his simple questions of meeting purposes has him labeled as the get it done guy.

4. Bring People Together. Be the one who knows of the other technology people who should be at the table. They may be in the same company. I was working as a consultant for a large organization. A few rows over from where I was meeting was another team working on a significantly different problem. But – one of them knew me and knew I had expertise in their area. Soon I was brought in to help solve their problems. The real winner (for me and them) was the person who introduced me.

To do this – grow your network intentionally. How? Check out Networking for Introverts!

096: Doubt, Fear, and Indecision [Podcast]

Are you suffering from doubt, fear, and indecision? I am. In fact, I have been for some time. It is a dark and deep hole. I have been wondering where to go next. It is not a matter of work alone – it is much deeper. For the past few years I have even turned into a sorta hermit. I quit meeting and networking. I was just sick of it all. Everything seemed empty and hollow. Some of the steps I took I think actually prolonged the misery. I was burned out and bored with the entire game, so I just checked out. While we all struggle with these very feelings from time to time, staying here for a long period of time can result in depression, anxiety, and physical pain.

doubt, fear, and indecision

Get Active! — “Creative Commons” by Joshua Sortino is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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5 Steps to Conquer Doubt, Fear, and Indecision

The kicker came when I tried to leave my mastermind group. They pursued me and would not leave me alone. I was irritated at first, but that lifeline has jerked my chain. I had to make some changes. So this post is about what I am doing now. I run into so many people who are struggling from the same issues where doubt, fear, and indecision are ruling their lives. I can sense it. Often it shows up first as boredom. Boredom is a dangerous place to be (more on that later).  So I wanted to share some steps I am taking now to get moving. They are helping – but it is very slow indeed.

  1. Break up the routine. Doing different things in different ways. You are in a rut, so break out of it in simple ways. Go to work a different route. Eat lunch at new places. Take up a new hobby.
  2. Take action. Even if you do not know exactly what you need to do next, you probably have some ideas. Take small actions. Make a weekly plan to do SOMETHING toward your likely new goal.
  3. Journal. Think. Meditate. Whatever you do to clear your mind, do more of it now. And if you do not journal – perhaps now is a good time to start. It helps you get thoughts onto paper and get clarity.
  4. Connect. Reach out and meet more people and ask for feedback and learn about their path. This goes with #1 above, you need to get new people in your life, at least for now.
  5. Get active. Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, says when you lose your job, you need to double your time in the gym. Whatever you do, get moving and get active. If already active, get more active. It helps clear the head and helps you think.


 A note on Planning:
Planning is an awesome thing, but planning when you do not know where you are going is not productive. Imagine if you were going on vacation, and did not know where. Before you would start planning for the trip, you would decide the destination.  Plans depend on the desired destination. Do not stop and get caught up in planning when you have not decided where you are going.

Some other ideas:

  • Pray. I did not say this on the podcast – perhaps I just assume it. But wow, I should never assume. Pray. Ask for guidance.
  • Start a vision board. Find pictures that show the life you want to be living, and capture them and put them on a board. They can be places you want to live or travel or things you would like to own or do. Just a picture for what you would like life to become like. Your brain really connects to images – so give it some positive images.

Be at Hoover library for Information Engineering Managements first lunch and learn of the season! See you there.

Date: April 30, 2015
Time: 12:00 pm
Event: Engineering Your Career - Turning Your Technology Skills into Bigger Cash
Topic: Engineering Your Career - Turning Your Technology Skills into Bigger Cash
Venue: The Hoover Public Library
Location: 200 Municipal Lane
Hoover, AL 35216

095: Who You Spend Time With Is Who You Become [Podcast]

Do you like who you are when you are with your friends? Jim Rohn, business philosopher, says that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I totally agree with this, and I have seen it modeled in my own life. If you look around, I am sure you see it in yours. But, who SHOULD you be spending your time with and who should you be avoiding? And how do you get around those people you want to be around?

Who you spend time with is who you become

“Creative Commons” by Luke Chesser is licensed under CC BY 2.0   

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If Who You Spend Time With Is Who You Become  then …. Who Do You Want to Be Around

  • Child Test – Next time you are hanging with friends, ask yourself “would I want my kids (even if you do not have any) to be with these people?” If yes, you may have a winner. If no, then you need to ask yourself why you are not comfortable.
  • Encouragement Test – You want to be around people who encourage and motivate you. Not that they need to complement you constantly, but they somehow inspire you to be a better you. These people are often willing to call you out when you need it.
  • Model Test – Are they living the life you would like to be living. Something about them is admirable. Could be they are successful in your business field, or could be they are stronger Christian’s. Whatever it is, they model something you admire and want to be more like.
  • Reciprocity Test – This is not a one way relationship, you can add value to their lives. You do not want to be a user or a predator (see below) so you want to make sure you add something into their lives also. Even if these people are mentors, you need to have something to offer in return. It may be just friendship or allowing them to guide you and help you – but they need something from you just as you need from them.

Who Should You Avoid

It is nice to talk about who we want to spend time with  but who we should avoid is a tougher call – often because we are already heavily embedded with them. There have been times in my life when I looked up and realized I spent almost all of my time with the wrong people. One common way to realize this is that you find yourself doing things they do, and you do not like yourself for doing it.

This is a tough situation. So start with looking for why these people are the wrong people.

Note: Getting away from these people takes a lot of strength and courage, but the first step is identifying the problem.

Bad Influencers – This group can be full of fun and adventure – but in the end they are destructive.

  • The Drama Queen – This person is always in a drama. They often need you, and often at bad times, such as late at night.
  • The Deceiver – Mixed in with the drama king or queen is the deceiver. I do not mean people who tell you lies, that is likely all of us. I mean those who habitual twist the truth and deceive you. People who lie so often they begin to believe their own lies.

Predators – These kind of people drain you and your energy and motivation. Problem is, they are often people very close to us. I see many people who are dating in these destructive relationships.

Predators are often insecure and need you (or someone else) in order for them to feel important and needed. They can be hard to spot, and it is even worse if you are one.

  • The Controller – They often will manipulate you into spending time with them through guilt. They may want to even dominate you and your time when you are at a party or around others. Signs of this is they answer questions for you, or when someone else is talking to you, they come up and get in the conversation and turn it back to themselves.
  • Uses you – These people are all about them. They act like friends as long as they need something, but then they disappear until they need something again.
Negative Souls – Some people are not really bad but they are negative. They talk bad about people, often in a nice way making it hard to spot. They may assume the rich are evil, the poor deserve to be poor, or that people of other races are trouble and cannot be trusted.
More commonly, they are the ones who will complain about work, the boss, the company, and co-workers. Very likely, they are who you are having lunch with today.

How to Change Your Bad Influencer Network

1. Admit you cannot change them

Our first mistake is to think we can change someone. We see this most often when someone realizes they are dating the wrong person. They think “he or she is wonderful if they would only start….” and then they begin to justify it with all kinds of words.

– He/she is really a good person, just a little confused.

– He/she just needs to get away from their parents/friends/hometown and then they will be OK.

– He/she is really trying to change, it just takes time.

If you find yourself saying ANY of these things – look in the mirror and tell yourself you are now the deceiver. You are deceiving yourself and your friend. In fact, you might be part of the problem. They might change only when you get out of their life. They may need the wakeup call. You might be the bad influence. You might be their crutch. Either way, you have to take action to change you, not them.  


2. Add in the right people

The best way to get away from the wrong people is to replace them with the right people. Get involved in something else. Go where the people who you want to be go. The classic is men and women who hang out in bars hoping to meet Mr or Miss Right.

When you do add in the good, expect turmoil. You have gotten comfortable with the drama. And your destructive friends will often make it difficult.



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Also, if you enjoyed the show, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review. That would help tremendously in getting the word out! Thanks.

094: Should I Charge for My Services [Podcast]

A recent message to my voicemail (message played on the podcast) was challenging me on why I charge for my service when so many people were in need. The question reflected what I often hear from people starting in business “Should I Charge for my services?”

Should I charge for my services

“Creative Commons” by Sonja Langford is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Three Views on “Should I Charge for My Services?”

We can view this question “Should I charge for my services?” from three different views:

  • The person who needs help and does not have the money to pay
  • The business person who needs to feed their family, but wants to help those in need
  • The non-profit, who sees it as their job to serve for free.

Here are some realities of this question:

  • No money = no value: I do not mean that your free and volunteer services are not worthy, but when people do not pay, they do not value. Just look at any neighborhood where government money is used to support or supplement the rent. Only a few of those homes will be well kept. The others are not valued. No investment.
  • Non-profits chase money: The sad truth about non-profits is that they have to chase money to stay in business. So rather than focus on those they are there to serve, they have to focus on those who donate and support their mission. Running a non-profit well is a very challenging job – and few are up to it.
  • For profits have leverage: When I want to impact a large group, I need money to do that. If people are paying, then I have resources to expand my message and help more people. Done for free I can only impact those I can work with directly. With income, I can hire help and get resources to expand.
  • For profits give: The best leverage of a for profit business is that they can (and most do) provide for needs of others. When someone comes with a need and cannot pay, the business has leeway to offer their services for reduced rates or free on a case by case basis.


So if you are desperate and need help, do not be afraid to ask for what a business might be able to do. And if you are a business, do not be afraid to charge what you are worth.

093: When to Start a New Venture | Interview with Howard Ward [Podcast]

This is a guest post from Howard Ward. Howard writes a blog about turning critical thinking into critical doing called “The Critical Doer” and you can follow at criticaldoer.com

For anyone looking to start a new career or a new business, what you want to do and how to do it are not the most difficult decisions in putting your dream in motion. In reality, the most difficult decision is when to begin and the answer generally revolves around one thing…risk.

Opportunity knocks

Opportunity Knocks “Creative Commons” (edited) by lobnaSaleh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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For the purpose of this discussion, risk will be defined as the difference between two points that exist in any decision…known and unknown. Most people understand this concept, and even follow the natural extension of the thought that risk mitigation is the process of critical thinking that shrinks the difference between known and unknown.Where many struggle however, is the point in the process where a decision is made on an acceptable level of risk where action can begin. It is human nature to want to drive risk to zero. In reality, nothing will ever happen if you feel compelled to drive risk to zero. The following graphic illustrates the relationship between risk and opportunity:

Risk vs Opportunity

As you can see, when risk is zero…so is opportunity. As willingness to accept risk increases, so does opportunity but you’re also keenly aware that potential for negative outcomes increases as well. If you ever want to move beyond thought and get to action, you must decide on an optimum level of risk. From the optimum point, you must establish a range of acceptable risk that will drive your decision to open the door when opportunity knocks…once. Here are some ways you can attack risk and drive it to an acceptable range where action can begin in order to capitalize on an opportunity that will bring you fulfillment:
  1. Prepare before you begin. For a major undertaking, ensure you are physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially prepared. Any new venture will bring challenges. They’re difficult enough when you’re prepared…they’re likely insurmountable if you’re not.
  2. Get the facts straight. Numbers, not adjectives, are the basis of a business plan. It’s likely someone is already doing something similar to what you’re considering…you’ll be surprised how willing they are to mentor you if asked. Read books and take classes to expand your knowledge base…you know what you know, but not everything there is to know.
  3. Build a network. Careers and businesses are about people as much as products. Get involved with folks who can share knowledge, make contacts, provide mentoring, or heaven forbid, even become customers!
  4. Commit to action in the acceptable range of risk. Many good deals are completely lost by sacrificing acceptable for optimum risk. Strive for the optimum point of risk to begin, but if you’re in danger of losing an opportunity while risk is in the acceptable range…pull the trigger and never look back.
  5. Plan for success. You probably already know to plan for failure, but you’d be surprised how many ventures ultimately fail because they had no plan to capitalize on their initial success. Ensure you are equally as prepared to build on success as you are prepared to deal with failure. Additionally, when your only contingency is for failure, you are handicapping yourself as humans tend to self-fulfill expectations. Expect to succeed, have a plan for it, and make your self-fulfilling prophecy a positive one.
Managing risk is a part of life. You can either manage it, or it will manage you…and the opportunities for fulfillment will be marginal. There is a measure of science for calculating risk and shrinking it to a manageable level. The acceptable range however, is a personal decision that you must make in order to have a point for launching into a sea of opportunity…or continue treading water where you are. I encourage you to take the last step to decide the timing to pursue your opportunity of a lifetime and boldly answer the door when opportunity knocks.
You can find more about Howard Ward at criticaldoer.com.
Some of Howard’s Related Posts:

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Sharing with homeschool parents on planning for college and life.

Date: June 19, 2015
Time: 02:00PM
Event: High School : Keeping the End in Mind
Topic: High School : Keeping the End in Mind
Sponsor: CHEF
Venue: Gardendale First Baptist Church - South Campus
Location: Gardendale, AL
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.