Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Living a Life without Regrets – Finding Your Purpose(s) at Each Stage of Life

In August 2010 it was a long day riding my Yamaha FZ1 through big sky country in Montana from a tiny, campground just south of Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park. The air was quite brisk in the early evening at my camping spot as I setup my portable “pup” tent at over 8,000 feet and then had to jump back on my sportbike for a short ride down to the public showers.

My bike outside of Death Valley NP. FYI: Don’t ever ride thru Death Valley in August!

With all of my camping and heavy riding gear left behind, it’s amazing how much lighter (and exposed) you instantly feel with the cool, high-elevation air cutting through thin layers of clothing.

As I’m dismounting my motorcycle at the public shower, a minivan pulls up next to me. The mom quickly gets out, followed by 3 cute, blonde-haired “mini-mes” of their mother in a frenzy of giggles and activity.

The father walks around the back and then just stands there. Literally, and a bit awkwardly, staring at me gathering up my toiletries.

“Nice bike,” is how it always starts.
“Thanks.”
Struggling to continue the conversation, “Where did you ride from?”

Not one to miss the opportunity to share my epic adventure, I obliged the small talk. “Just south of Glacier last night but I’ve done the whole west coast starting in New Mexico, riding across to California and then north along the Pacific Highway almost to Canada. Do you ride?”
“I used to ride dirtbikes but had to get rid of them,” as he glanced back towards his minivan, his wife straining to let him enjoy his memories while not interrupting to ask him for some much-needed help.

Then it came as predictable as the sun rising in the east, “Do it while you’re young.”

The last time I’d heard that was just a few short hours earlier as I stopped to take some pictures in Northern Yellowstone at a scenic overlook.

It had become a bit of a disturbing joke to me. Since I was riding alone, there was no one else to share it with, but it was always a bit depressing because what was unsaid was much more important than what was said…

“Do it while you’re young… or you’ll never get to do it at all.”

Ouch. How depressing.

Never could I imagine the day that I didn’t regularly yearn for the thrill of a motorcycle.

Whether at the track or on a trip to the grocery store, for almost a decade I only rode motorcycles and drove sports cars while changing my address over 22 different times and moving between 8 different states.

Then, my son was born and it all changed.
Instantly.

My main modes of transportation shifted from a Buell 1125R and a Camaro 2SS 1LE to a rusty 15 year old Chevy pickup for a child seat to fit in the back.

The pickup was because, I reasoned, at least I’d have a vehicle to transport my bike to the track for the occasional track day. Two years later and still no track days.

But it wasn’t because there weren’t any opportunities to ride.
My wife gave me plenty of leeway to go ride if I wanted to.

I simply don’t want to give up my time with my family.

How to live without regrets

We all have purposes in life. Unfortunately, most people talk about “a purpose.” Something singular.

This is doing you a huge disservice. No one has “a purpose”.

We all have many purposes.
Each stage of your life has a different set of purposes.

As a student, my “purpose” in life was to learn. Learn to become the best engineer possible, learn to interact with people from all walks of life, learn leadership, learn to struggle, learn to overcome tough exams with minimal sleep, and learn to come together with a group of friends to achieve seemingly insurmountable tasks with no money and diets of Taco Bell.

As a young graduate, now in the real world, my purpose was to find my professional calling and passion. Learn how I could impact the most lives and generate the greatest value in the world. For me, my purpose was to find, buy, run or start a business and I clearly understood that I wanted to achieve enough financial success to support a future family.

My other purpose was to enjoy life to its fullest by exploring the world which often involved motorcycle and car trips to over 2-dozen national parks along with any other adrenaline-inducing adventure I could find. At one point, I flew to Australia to look at buying a business on 3-days notice.

In my mid-20’s and early 30’s those were my purposes and I lived them fully.

Now, in my mid-30’s it’s to spend time with my young, growing family.

The secret to not having any regrets?

Live out your full purposes at the right time in your life.

What happens when you mix-up the timing of your purposes?
You have a mid-life crisis.

When you’ve enjoyed adventures when you have little responsibility and few bills, you don’t feel that you’ve missed anything when responsibility and bills inevitably come along,

When you feel like you’ve missed out on some of that adventure because you got married too young or started having a family before you were ready, you turn 50 and buy a Corvette.

Far be it for me to ever disparage someone from wanting a Corvette. I bought a Z06 in my early 30’s and hated it. It was simply unusable as it couldn’t make it over a speedbump without painful grinding. Been there, done that.

Now when I’m playing toy cars with my son, I’m not thinking, man, will I ever have that Corvette?

Of course not everyone buys a Corvette. Maybe you buy a $2,000 purse, get plastic surgery, buy a Harley, or insist on a fancy vacation your family can’t afford.

Maybe you have an affair (or fantasize about it), get divorced and then run around, or just become depressed as you realize your youthful energy, beauty, and naivete aren’t coming back.

Certainly, treating yourself to an expensive gift isn’t wrong.

But if you’re doing it to “make-up for” something you missed before, you’ll quickly realize the new purchase depresses you when you finally admit that you can’t stand the Corvette scraping the ground when pulling into your driveway.

Don’t play catch-up with your dreams

A sure fire way to never be happy and content with life is to continually try to catch-up with “missed opportunities”.

Recently I asked a friend with a growing brood of grandchildren if he had any regrets raising his own kids as I was hoping to not make the same mistakes myself.

His answer was that he wished he’d spent more time with his children when they were all very young instead of relying so much on his wife to handle everything.

If you currently have a young family, they are your purpose. Loving, serving, teaching and being with them.

That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, but the last thing you want to do is give up that time with them to fulfill missed dreams and desires from your youth. Trying to chase those old dreams will simply result in you missing your purpose in the current stage of your life.

That’s a vicious cycle.

As your children age and go off to college, you’ll once again regret missing your purpose and then have a hard time letting go.

If you want to live a life without regrets, determine clearly your purposes for this stage of your life, prioritize them and live them fully.

To fulfilling your ever-changing purposes,
Bryan

Set Business Goals for 2012 in under 60 minutes while munching on cookies

This is the most powerful thing you can do for your business this week or next.  A simple 1-2 page plan to cover your goals for the next 52 weeks is the best way to generate massive results this year and every year. And, yes, a useful, simple plan can be put together in under 60 minutes… While munching on cookies if you’re so inclined.

Here’s how…

  1. Write down your personal goals. Your business is a means to an end. If it’s not providing what you need personally then what’s the point? This goes for you whether you are an owner or team member. If your boss doesn’t understand your personal goals or you are the leader and you don’t understand the personal goals of your team members, you’ll never attain full engagement. These goals may be, “work only 40 hours per week“, “take off early in the fall to coach my son’s soccer team“, “take an extra week of vacation this year with my family“, “donate an extra $5,000 to charities this year.” Whatever your personal goals are, write them out.
  2. Write down your business goals. Now that you have your personal goals outlined, your business goals for 2012 need to be in-line with your personal goals. If they’re disconnected you won’t be nearly as motivated. Based on the examples above, if your goal is to only work 40 hours per week and you currently average 50 hours per week, your business goal becomes, “outsource, delegate, or kill 10 hours of work per week“. If your goal is tied to increased profits, such as having more money to donate to charity, then you need to figure out exactly what you will need to add to the bottom line and then work backwards from there. For instance, if you want to have an additional $5,000 for charity that would be $1250/quarter. If you convert half of your leads to sales, have an average dollar sale of $2,000, a net margin of 10%, and you average 45 sales per quarter, that means you need an additional 12.5 leads per quarter OR to increase your average sale to $2278 OR increase your margin to 11.4%. Do any one of those 3 things and you’ll have your extra $5,000 per year for charity. Better yet, target a smaller improvement in each one.
  3. Brainstorm ways to achieve your goals. Now that you have concrete personal and business goals, sit down and write out everything that comes to mind that might help you reach those goals. In most instances we know that we’re wasting 10 hours per week doing low-level work that someone else can do if we just provide them with a bit of training and a procedure or checklist. Or we know that to get a few extra leads we can develop our referral program or by focusing less on website traffic and more on website conversion. Whatever the ideas, just write them all out. Don’t cross anything off or ignore it at this point. Just get it on paper or into a document.
  4. Put each brainstorm item into the Business Triangle. To help us organize the ideas and start putting together a plan for how we’ll achieve each one and who on your team can help you, categorize each idea into one of the categories from the business triangle: Sales/Marketing, Service/Operation, Finance/Administration. If the idea doesn’t fit succinctly into one of those areas it probably fits into all 3. For instance if you need to improve your pay structure, performance reviews, or buy a faster server, any of those things will help all 3 areas of the triangle. For those items, I put them under the Multipliers/Leverage category since they can multiply or leverage your entire business.
  5. Prioritize each item according to the 80/20 rule. Now go back through your list that’s currently broken into those 4 categories and put the items that are most beneficial in each category at the top of the list and least beneficial at the bottom. Take into account how long each item will take. For instance if the one that will be most beneficial will take you 20 hours and require the help of 3 other team members but there are 4 others that can be accomplished with 2 hours of work each, you are probably better off accomplishing the 4 smaller tasks, enjoying the benefits of those, and getting a few wins under your belt to feel confident tackling the bigger project.

In 60 minutes, that’s about all you can accomplish. From here, the next part is actually the toughest. You need to break down the To-Do list into weekly, digestible action items. Whether those items are for you or for someone else they need to be in bite-size chunks so you can feel confident in tackling 1 each week.

This is where an experienced business coach, consultant, or small business engineer can be immensely powerful. Not only can he help you determine exactly where to improve your business to achieve your goals, he can provide resources and weekly actionable items to keep you on track. He’ll save you enough time and money along the way that his service should pay for itself.

As a matter of fact, I’ve developed a Leadership Action Checklist that includes over 50 actionable improvements I’ve seen small businesses make to improve their bottom line and rely less on the owner. That list alone would almost entirely cut out steps 3 and 4 above.

Here are a few more tips on writing out your goals…

When writing goals, they need to be specific, actionable, and time-constrained. For instance, here are a few examples of poorly written goals:

  • Make more money
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Take more vacation

Here are examples of how to make those goals more powerful:

  • Be able to increase my salary by $50/week by the second quarter of 2012
  • Attend 90% of my daughter’s cross-country meets (which require me to leave the office by 2:30 12 times in the fall)
  • Take 4 Fridays off this summer to take weekend trips with my family to A, B, C, and D and 1 Friday off in the spring for a trip with just my wife to E

The difference between the powerful goals and the “generic” ones is immense. Your mind can picture the second set of examples very clearly and it puts PRESSURE on you to get it done. The first set of goals can easily be pushed off or even “checked off” after achieving a fraction of what you originally intended by that goal.

To make the goals even more pressing, share them with your business partner, spouse, or business coach.

To your personal and business success in 2012, Bryan

P.S. I’m working from home this week surrounded by Christmas cookies so, though I intend to do my 2012 business plan while munching on cookies, and I highly recommend it, it’s not required.