Archives For growth

THE LITTLE BOOK OF PERSONAL GROWTH (BY DAN BLACK)

Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.

John C. Maxwell

When I was a child, my parents measured my growth by marking my height on the door frame of one of the rooms in our house.  I could see growth happening, because my mark kept getting higher on the wall.  I eventually passed my mother.  Then I passed my father.  And eventually, my mark on the wall was over 6’5″ above the floor.

When it comes to my height, I stopped growing many years ago.  But this doesn’t mean I stopped growing.  I still pride myself on my appetite for personal growth.  I read books.  I listen to podcasts.  I watch educational videos.  And I hang out with smart people.  I participate in these activities to make sure I keep growing.

Personal growth doesn’t happen by accident.  If you want to grow (or STRETCH as I like to say), you have to be intentional.

Today, I’m excited to announce the release of Dan Black’s new eBook, The Little Book of Personal Growth.

In the short book, Dan unpacks the meaning of personal growth, and he provides a road map for helping readers create their own plan for personal growth.  The book outlines the five stages of personal growth.  Then Dan unveils the ten core benefits of engaging in regular personal growth.  He discusses the components necessary for personal growth.

Dan does a great job recognizing that we have different learning styles.  He describes nine methods readers can use for their own personal growth.  And finally, he walks readers through a simple step-by-step process for developing a personal growth plan that will take you to higher heights on your personal growth chart.

If you are looking for a power-packed, concise read that will push you higher on your personal height chart, you should check out The Little Book of Personal Growth.  Click here to get your copy.

How tall are you?  What are you doing to help yourself grow?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

(Please note:  I received a preview copy of The Little Book of Personal Growth for free as a gift from Dan Black in exchange for my pre-purchase of his new eBook and for my agreement to participate on his launch team for this book.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life and your personal growth.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The Little Book of Personal Growth by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

6 ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY TO PREPARE FOR YOUR PROMOTION TOMORROW

Being ready isn’t enough; you have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.

Pat Riley

I talk to young engineers and professionals all the time.  They want to know my story, and they want to know what they need to do to get to the next level.  It’s important for everyone to have a plan and goals for their career.  For many, this means they are looking for the next promotion.

What do I have to do to get promoted?

It’s a fair question everyone must ask themselves, their co-workers, and their management, if they want to achieve their career ambitions.  Over my 20+ year career, I have moved from an engineer to a project manager to an operations manager.  Each step on the journey has required patience, persistence, and plenty of planned actions.

Today, I will help you identify six actions you should be taking today if you want to move closer to the promotion you desire.

6 Actions You Can Take Today to Prepare for Your Promotion Tomorrow

  1. Talk to a person who is already in the position you want to be in next.  If you want to become a salesperson, talk to other salespeople.  Go out to lunch with them.  Grab a cup of coffee with them.  Pick their brains, and find out what they like and don’t like about their positions.  These conversations will help you understand the realities of the position you are pursuing.
  2. Talk to your boss about the position you want to be in next.  Communicating your career aspirations with your boss is a good idea if you want support moving along in your career.  Your boss has the opportunity to be your biggest advocate and career counselor, but this won’t happen if you don’t talk to him about your career goals.
  3. Look in the mirror and learn about yourself.  Take time to do a self-assessment.  I’d recommend looking into the DISC profile, the MBTI profile, and StrengthsFinders 2.0.  These “tests” will reveal key information you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses.  These kinds of assessments will also reveal more about you and what kinds of positions are right for you.
  4. Get the training you need for the next position.  What training will best prepare you for the promotion you desire?  Some people say that an MBA isn’t worth very much anymore, but my MBA was a major part of preparing me to move from a project manager to an operations manager.  Seeking out training helps you learn, and it also demonstrates to your managers a commitment on your part to grow.
  5. Work hard in your current position.  Don’t expect your promotion to be handed to you.  If you don’t work hard in your current position, your managers won’t believe you are capable of working hard at the next position.  If you want a promotion tomorrow, you better work hard today.
  6. Pray.  Don’t underestimate the power and importance of prayer in your career journey.  Prayer isn’t a magic wand to get you to the corner office.  Instead, prayer provides an opportunity for you to hear from God on your direction.  Prayers may seem passive, but I believe it’s active.

When was the last time you received a promotion?  What steps did you take to get the promotion?  What steps are you taking now to prepare for your next promotion?

Did you sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge yet?  Sign up below!

BOOK REVIEW_THE 3 GAPSARE YOU MAKINGA DIFFERENCE_BY Hyrum W. Smith

Gaps in our lives drain the power needed to make a positive difference in the world.

Hyrum W. Smith

The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by Hyrum W. Smith officially releases today (January 11, 2016).  I received a preview copy of this book courtesy of Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence.

I took time to read this book between Christmas and New Years, and it provided a few great insights and ideas for me to pursue as I seek to clarify my beliefs, values, and priorities.

While I’m still wrestling with Smith’s assertion that the pursuit of personal inner peace is the ultimate goal of man.  I deeply agree with the thought that we can make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us by clarifying our beliefs, by confirming our governing values, and by intentionally managing our time.

The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference?is a quick read that will challenge readers to fill the gaps they may have in their beliefs, values, and time.  Personally, I was challenged after reading The 3 Gaps to write my own personal constitution, to define my governing values, and to practice the discipline of daily planning.  If you are looking for a book with practical advice to help you stretch, you should consider picking up a copy of this book.

What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing when it comes to your beliefs, your values, and your time?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

(Please note:  I received a copy of The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? for free as a gift from Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I believe this book can be a helpful tool for being more intentional with your life.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The 3 Gaps: Are You Making a Difference? by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

HOW I PLAN TO HIT MY TARGETS THIS YEAR

I have big plans for 2016.

I have a lot on my list of things to do, and it seems like my schedule is packed.

How will I get it all done?

I had the privilege of meeting with a coach last week, and we talked about the challenge of trying to fit it all into the time I have this year.

We all have the same amount of time.  We have 24 hours in a day.  We have 168 hours in a week.  We have 52 weeks in a year.  And this is the same for everyone.  President Obama has this amount of time.  Bill Gates has this amount of time.  You have this amount of time.  And I have this amount of time.

With this time we have choices to make.  How will we use the time?  What will stay in our schedules?  What will we remove from our schedules?

Reaching your targets for 2016 requires you to make choices.

And this is true for me.

As I said before, I have big plans for 2016, and this means I have some choices to make.

For most of last year, I posted here 5 days a week.  I felt like I needed to be consistent by posting every day Monday through Friday.  This was good, but I only have a limited amount of time to write (and to do other things).  Writing has become an important part of my life.  I have some specific goals related to my writing that I want to achieve this year, but I won’t be able to meet these targets without making some changes.

With this in mind, you may see some changes to my posting patterns over the next few months.  I will still post here regularly, but I will also be using some of my writing time to go after some other things (more on that to follow).

I’m learning that sometimes less is required for more.  And maybe this is what you need to come to terms with this year.

What changes do you need to make to your schedule and your current commitments in order to reach your goals this year?

success plan

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

Benjamin Franklin

Earlier this summer, I was elected to be president of my Toastmasters International club.  It was an honor to be selected for this position, but it also comes with a lot of work.  I have to kick-off and close our club’s bi-weekly meetings.  I have to plan and lead our club’s executive committee meetings.  And I have to interface with fellow officers, club members, and guests.

One of my responsibilities as the club president and member of the club executive committee is to create a Club Success Plan.  Essentially, this is a document to record the club’s current status, challenges, and goals for the coming term.  And the Club Success Plan provides a place to write down a plan for overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.

This week spent time completing the Club Success Plan, and I’m excited for the results when we look back at the plan throughout the term and at the end of the term in June.

As I was working on the plan, I reflected on the importance of writing a success plan for other areas of our lives.

What do you want to accomplish this year?  What goals do you want to achieve?

Do you have a plan to get there?

Typically, we talk about goals at the beginning of the year.  Everyone gets hyped up on New Year’s Resolutions.  The enthusiasm lasts for a few weeks or even a few months before we settle back into our normal existence trying to survive the pushes and pulls of our busy lives.

By the time we get to this time of year, our resolutions and goals are long forgotten, and we are trying to make it to the next weekend.

As Benjamin Franklin said, many of us fail to achieve our goals because we fail to create a plan for getting where we want to go.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail.  I like to succeed.  I like to achieve.  I like to make progress towards my goals.

Writing a personal success plan doesn’t have to take forever.  You can write a success plan for yourself using these simple steps:

5 Steps To Creating A Personal Success Plan That Works

  1. Evaluate your current condition.  Self-assessment is critical to creating a personal success plan that works.  What is working well?  What isn’t working so well?  What changes do you need to make in your life?  Take time to evaluate you.  This may require time away from the things that normally distract you, and it may require feedback from those who know you best.
  2. Determine your goals.  Where do you want to be in one year?  What do you want to achieve?  There is no point in completing a success plan if you don’t take time to determine your goals.  If you don’t know where you want to go, you can be certain you will get there – no where that is.
  3. Recognize the obstacles and challenges in the way.  What is keeping you from achieving your goals?  Is it time?  Is it skill?  Is it lack of knowledge?  We all face challenges.  When creating your personal success plan, you have to know your weaknesses and challenges.  Being aware of these will help you make changes to get around, get over, or get through the obstacles in the way of achieving your goals.
  4. Write down a map for overcoming these obstacles and challenges and for achieving your goals.  Create a SMART roadmap to reaching your goals.  Be specific.  Have measurable check points along the way.  Make sure your goals are attainable and realistic.  Finally, determine the timetable for reaching your goals.  When you write down your road map, be as detailed as possible.  Who is responsible for reaching your goals?  What help do you need to meet your goals?  What specific steps will you take to make sure you succeed?  Write it down!
  5. Work your plan.  Finally, a plan does nothing without action.  Once you’ve created your plan for success, follow through.  Take the necessary steps to succeed.  Stop along the way to evaluate your progress.  Then keep going.  Don’t stop until you reach the end – SUCCESS!

What do you want to succeed in the next year?  What is your plan to succeed?

What measures have you taken to achieve your success goals?

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Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.

Napoleon Hill

I made a decision to shrink my garden this year.  I am just way too busy in this season of my life to keep up with my normally ambitious garden.  This year my garden will be about one-third the size of last year.  I will be using the square-foot gardening method to make the most of the space which now consists of four four-by-eight foot garden beds.  One of the beds is dedicated to asparagus, and a quarter of another bed is dedicated to horseradish.  This means I have approximately eighty square feet of garden space to plant.

Last night, Leanne and I planted two kinds of lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and kale.  I’ll do another planting in 10 to 14 days.  Around Mother’s Day, I will plant tomatoes, peppers, beans, and a few other vegetables that require warmer temperatures.

I like the work that goes into a productive garden.  And I like the produce that eventually comes as the temperatures get warmer (as long as I keep the deer and groundhogs out of the garden).  Produce will not happen unless I put the effort in to plant the seeds.   A productive garden does not happen by accident.

This is true for many things in life.

My kids will not automatically turn out respectful and well-adjusted unless my wife and I put the work into them planting seeds that point them in the right direction.

My career will not just move in a desired direction unless I put the effort into it and take time to learn the skills and embrace the experience required to take me there.

My faith will not grow unless I take time to feed my soul with God’s Word and unless I plug into other believers who will spur me on to greater heights.

In all areas of our life, growth does not happen without hard work, without planting the right things into our lives, and without stretching ourselves.

How have you experienced growth in your life recently?  What do you attribute to this growth?

Where do you need to grow right now?  What’s stopping you from growing?

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What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

Henry David Thoreau

This is one of my favorite times of the year.

Besides taking several days off between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I get to spend more time with my family.  We’ll be traveling out to Western PA to celebrate with my wife’s family.  I also like this time, because it gives me time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the year ahead.

I’m a big goal setting person.  It helps me to stay on task with stretching towards things that keep me growing and learning.

For example, my 2014 goal list included exercising 250 days, running 1500 miles, and writing a book about track and field.  Today, I will hit my 250th day of exercise.  I am just 10 miles shy of my mileage goal, so I should surpass that later this week.  And I wrote and self-published my first book, On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field in April.

There were a few goals I didn’t reach, and I’m okay with this.

I’ll be reviewing my list, and making new ones in the next week and a half.

I think it’s good to have goals, but it’s also good to frame them from the right mindset.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9

I want my goals to be in-line with bringing glory to God.  I think he wants us to stretch and grow personally, and I think he wants to draw us closer to Him.

As we approach the year ahead, this is a great time to sit down, reflect, and revision the year ahead.

Be intentional about the year ahead.  Live your life on purpose.  Set goals, and go after them!

Are you planning to set goals for 2015?  What is one of your goals for the year ahead?  How did you do on your goals for 2014?

I think when things linger, that’s when they become a distraction. I don’t want any distractions.

Derek Jeter

We all have hopes and dreams.  We all want to accomplish great things in our lifetime.  We all have important things to attend to on a daily basis.

And we all get distracted.

Distractions sidetrack us from achieving our hopes and dreams.  Distractions derail us from the things in life that really need our attention.

The world is full of distraction, and I am guilty of falling into the traps of distraction.  This is not my intention, but it is the predicament I find myself in more often than I care to admit.

What can I do to get rid of distractions in my life?

It’s time we make a change.  It’s time we deal with the distractions that derail us from doing great things.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

7 Keys To Getting Rid Of Distraction So You Can Accomplish Great Things

  1. Step away from the phone.  Let’s be honest.  The latest smartphones are pretty amazing.  They send and receive e-mails.  They send and receive text messages.  They give you access to the internet.  They let keep you busy with stupid games (I just have to get to the next level of this game!).  And oh yes, they even take phone calls.  They are great, but smartphones are a major distraction.  In order to get a handle on this, we must learn to put boundaries on our phone time.  Maybe this simply starts by having a “No Phone At The Table” rule during mealtimes.  But maybe you need more phone related boundaries, so you can concentrate on what needs to be accomplished next.
  2. Turn off the television.  It’s easy to get sucked into the next show or series.  And perhaps a little TV isn’t a bad thing.  But what happens when you HAVE to get home on time to watch this show, or you put off something with great importance because you are glued to the television?  I don’t know the statistics, but I know the average American watches way too much television.  Imagine if what we could accomplish if we used those hours more productively.
  3. Make a to-do list.  I’m a huge list guy.  Lists help me keep track of what I need to accomplish, and it also shows me what I’ve completed so far.  When we have so many things to accomplish, we sometimes don’t know where to start.  We suffer from a type of paralysis, because we can’t clearing define what needs to be done.  Taking time to write down the things you need to do is a great way to clarify what really needs your attention.
  4. Learn to prioritize.  You’ve made your to-do list.  Now you need to prioritize.  What things need your attention first?  What is urgent and important?  This is probably where you should start.  What is important but not urgent?  This should probably be next.  What is urgent but not important?  Maybe this shouldn’t even be on your list.  What is not important and not urgent?  This would definitely be something to consider removing from you list.  Dealing effectively with distractions improves dramatically when you learn to prioritize.
  5. Focus on one thing at a time.  Sometimes we have to multitask.  I get it.  Moms are especially good at multitasking.  The reality though is we aren’t as effective when we are focusing on more than one thing at a time.  Taking time to focus on one thing produces a better product, and it helps to alleviate the distractions that come from focusing on too many things at the same time.
  6. Ask for help.  Get someone to hold you accountable to staying focused.  The power of accountability is underrated.  If you are easily distracted, tell someone about it.  Tell them what you are trying to accomplish.  Ask them to hold your feet to the fire as you work towards this goal.
  7. Pray.  Prayer is often overlooked as a solution to anything.  I believe there is tremendous power in prayer.  If you are struggling with distractions in your life, start by praying about it.  God cares for you, and I’m confident He can help you deal with your distractions.  In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells His followers to ask and they would receive:  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

What distracts you?  How do you deal with distractions in your life?  What is one thing you can do today to eliminate distraction from your life?

At some point, the leaders in your company, church, or organization will step down.  They will retire.  They will leave the organization.  And they will leave a vacancy in leadership.

Who will step up and fill the leadership void?

Maybe it’s you!

I’m excited to announce the release of a new book by Jonathan Pearson.  Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make provides insight and advice for those who will fill the leadership gaps left by those who have gone before us.

I read Next Up with a keen interest.  The book was an encouragement for me as I consider my own future opportunities to move further up the leadership ranks in my own endeavors.  And it was also an encouragement as I consider how to encourage the future leaders of my organization.

In Next Up, Pearson provides 8 key shifts that every person must make to advance in their leadership mindsets.  For example, he talks about the importance of shifting from unreliable to consistent and from passive to passionate.

If you are a leader or you want to be a leader, you need to pick up a copy of Next Up.  It’s a powerful, quick read.  You can pick it up, by clicking here.

What are you doing to prepare for the next step in your life and in your leadership?

(Please note:  I received a copy of Next Up for free as part of a giveaway during the launch of this book.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I truly believe this book can be a helpful reminder to any reader in helping them to take steps to become better leaders – at work, in the community, at church, and at home.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase Next Up by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

Yesterday for our Easter celebration brunch, I decided to make cinnamon rolls.  My Mom is the queen of cinnamon rolls, and I figured it was time I give it a try for my family.  I have such great memories of smelling and tasting Mom’s famous cinnamon rolls when I was growing up.  Living so far away now, it has been a long time since I indulged in this delicacy.

I started out by following the recipe in one of our cookbooks.  I combined flour and yeast.  Then I added warm milk, sugar, and butter.  I mixed the dough for a few minutes before adding more flour.  I then proceeded to knead the dough for several more minutes.  I was started to dream of the smell and flavor of the cinnamon rolls.

Then my plans started to unravel.

I set the dough aside for an hour to let the yeast do its work.  According to the recipe, the dough should have doubled in the hour.  When I came back to check on the roll dough, I was disappointed to discover that the dough did not rise.

The yeast was bad.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples to be aware of bad yeast.

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Matthew 16:6

It’s a great reminder.  We need to be careful about how we fill our minds and hearts.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

4 Ways to Help You Find the Good Yeast

  1. Use God’s Word as the standard.  It all starts here.  Be careful not to take God’s Word out of context.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were known for taking parts of the Law from the Old Testament and forgetting other parts.  In their focus, they missed out on the coming of the Messiah.
  2. Surround yourself with people who will help you grow.  It’s important to find people who will build you up and point you in the right direction.  The wrong people will drag you down and point you towards the wrong way.  Who do you have in your life who helps you grow?
  3. Get rid of the bad yeast.  When you discover a bad influence, you need to do some pruning.  What is the bad yeast that you need to remove from you life?
  4. Be intentional about seeking out the good yeast.  In Philippians 4, Paul charges believers to think about things that are just, noble, trustworthy, and praiseworthy.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes focus.  It requires us to be intentional.  How are you being intentional about finding the good yeast?

I ended up making the cinnamon rolls anyway.  They actually tasted pretty good, but they just weren’t the same as the ones my Mom makes.  Time to throw away the bad yeast in our refrigerator, and time to get new yeast – good yeast!

OnTrack3dCover04132014Tomorrow is the big day!

On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field officially launches tomorrow on Amazon.