Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The time is now

I wanted to follow up on a prior post titled "Don't Hesitate". The issue of procrastination, putting things off, or making excuses is all too common among people wanting to make change. I see it over and over again and it's frustrating when you want to tell people that there is no better time than right now to make a change.

I've been helping someone with their budget who is really eager to get their finances in order. We sat down, went through the plan, and decided how to start. Well, wouldn't you know, something came up that is hindering them from starting to take control of this aspect of their lives.

This person has decided to move and feels the need to get other things in their life in order before thinking about the budget. Personally, if I were making such an important life change I would want my finances in order first. People can make as many excuses as they want if they don't make change a priority.

If you're serious about changing something in your life the time is now. No matter what else comes up between today and when you start, do not let that hinder you; there will never be a better time to begin.

Take a break

Sometimes that's the best advice I can give someone. Life can seem overwhelming sometimes (or all the time) and I am certainly no exception to that rule. I try to follow my own advice though and just get away. You don't have to climb a mountain (although I enjoy that) or walk on a deserted beach (that is nice too) to regroup. Sometimes I just drive with the radio off.

It is amazing to me how a simple time-out can make my problems seem so distant and the solutions seem so near.

I know I write about this often, but maybe I need to remind even myself about this key principle.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't hesitate

I lead a Financial Peace University (FPU) group as a ministry twice per year. Inevitably, it seems to turn out to always be one of the biggest groups that FPU has ever seen. I'm happy to offer my services for free during this 13-week program, and that is probably why the group is so big (120 people last time!).

Due to scheduling issues conflicts at the church, we've decided to keep this group to a max of 75 people. Time and time again I've seen people that want to make a change in their lives hesitate to the point that it's too late. We had more people want to sign up during the last of 6 orientations that for the first 5 put together. We had to cut it off, but I'm still getting calls and emails asking to join. The good news is that I teach this class twice per year, and it's also offered in the same format all over the country.

Is the hesitation or procrastination preventing you from reaching your goals? What's stopping you from becoming debt-free, losing weight, starting that business you've always wanted to start, or doing something you actually enjoy for a living?

I wouldn't be surprised if you took a hard look at that question and found out that the problem is you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stuck in a rut?

Take a break. Seriously. If you can't pay your bills, get away for a day, or even just take a long walk. Some of my best ideas hit me when I'm completely disengaged. I've been known to walk for miles and come up with completely new ideas that never even occurred to me before.

Even if you're doing well, try disengaging for 30 minutes today and see what happens. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Pro should make you more than they cost

That is a simple fact that cannot be changed. If they cost you more than they make, then you have the wrong person or company, or you should have done it yourself. I vote for finding someone worth their fee.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Plan your life, then get a job

The number of people I meet who hate what they do for a living really does amaze me. I talk to many people who are working a particular job that do so out of a responsibility to their family. After all, without money, there is no food.

The greater problem in my eyes is that with this mindset, these people are really being irresponsible with the gifts God has given them. I believe we are each created with a specific purpose, and to throw that purpose to the way side and not use it, is to not trust in our Creator.

I'm certainly the last person that would ever tell someone just to quit their job. Rather, I think you need to be responsible to those counting on you, while at the same time looking inside yourself to find that inner purpose. At that point, instead of simply jumping away from something, you'll be jumping to something. Develop a plan and carry it out. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lifting Weights

I know how important strength training is, especially for women. It strengthens your bones, helps prevent osteoporosis, and if you're looking to lose those last few pounds this is what's really going to do it. I used to struggle so much to figure out what I should be doing, with what amount of weight. I was always afraid of looking foolish in front of other people who were lifting.

Then I came across Activtrax. My gym had some advertisements for a free month of Activtrax (normally $9.95 per month) so I thought I would try it out. This is one of the best things I've ever done. If you have a gym membership you can go to their website ( and search by zip code you can see which gyms in your area they are linked to.

Once you sign up and choose your home gym you go do a strength test (they'll tell you how) and after that they create customized strength training workouts for you that are so easy to follow. You can also choose what areas you want to focus on and what you want the results to be.

Basically, all of the equipment at the gym is numbered. Your workout will tell you which piece of equipment to go to, how much weight to put on, how many reps and sets to do, and how much time you should rest in between.

It has taken all the guess work out of my workout and I now look forward to lifting weights!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Radio advertising doesn't work for most businesses

But most businesses do it wrong. Radio does work for most businesses if it's done right.

Here are some mistakes:

1. Not advertising long enough. You need to commit to at least 3-4 months before ever expecting to see any sort of return from your advertising. NEVER expect to see an immediate return from any marketing effort.

2. Relying 100% on radio. There should never be anything in your business that you rely 100% on for customers. What happens if that goes away? Radio should be a portion of your overall marketing effort. Make sure that it all aligns towards the same purpose.

3. Not running enough ads per day. You cannot expect to receive traffic from 1 ad per day. Many times I would rather advertise 5 times on the same day than just once each day of the week. Repetition is key.

4. Not staying focused. Instead of running an ad at 9am and 4pm, trying running them both between 2pm and 4pm. Again, repetition is key. It takes quite a few repetitions before folks are moved to take action.

5. No call to action. What do you want your customer to do? Visit your site, call you, sign up for something, visit your store? What ever it is, make sure you tell your future customers what you want them to do. I'm lazy, but if I'm pushed, I'll do it.

Always think through any marketing effort before you launch. Never launch without a plan.

Slowing down

"Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not loose heart." ~Galatians 6:9

Sometimes I forget that many of the changes we make in our lives require a long time commitment to complete. Like others, I sometimes look for the magic bullet, the get rich quick, the "do this one thing and your life will be changed" mentality. I'm so eager to get on with my plan and can hardly wait for my actions to have the outcome I desire.

This can apply to any goal you might have. For instance, those who want to loose weight. It's not easy to go to the gym 4 days a week and improve your eating habits only to see the scale budging by a mere 2-3 pounds. When our eye is on the end goal, we want to do whatever we can to reach it as quickly as possible; even if that means finding the easy way out.

But what if you were to reach your ultimate goal right now? What if there were some easy way to get it done? Would you have learned to change your life enough that you wouldn't go right back to where you started?

Right now, for me, it's paying off my school loan. I desperately want to be rid of it, but I know that I am learning many lessons along the way. If I weren't so diligent in making payments every month I might take my income for granted and run up debt elsewhere.

For people who are trying to loose weight - if you lost 20 pounds, would you change your life or would you go right back to being heavy?

I think it's important to remember that in the end, we will reap what we sow. Despite the fact that at times it's hard to stay on track I know that I'm doing what it takes to ultimately win.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bad marketing idea

Here's a bad marketing tip.

I just received an email from a company that I think is great; I've done a lot of business with them.

They sent a short note (captured as a picture) to me via email. It said Happy New Year and included their logo. It was nicely done, short and to the point.

However, there was no phone number to call or website listed. I couldn't even click on the picture to visit their website. Now I know their website address, but that would have required a little too much work on my part, so I chose not to visit.

What are the chances that nice email could have wound up in the hands of a prospective customer? I'd say pretty close to 100%. You won't increase your profits if you don't make it easy.

Books that inspire

I'm always astounded when I hear that the average person reads less than one book a month. Some people don't even read that much in a year! I can't imagine what my life would be like without books. At any given time you'll find me reading up to five different books. I think of books as a tool I can use to further my knowledge, better my life, and in general, give me something meaningful to do with my free time.

When I was finishing up with grad school I worried that I was going to stop learning. I didn't ever want to stop going to school because I thought that would be the point where I would have all the information I needed and I had to go out an apply it.

Instead, I've realized that I'm continually learning and I look forward finding new books that will teach me something. You can find a list of some of my recommended reading here.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Don't stop!

We're 5 days into January. You haven't stopped reaching towards your goals have you!

Put your plan, or something to remind you of it, somewhere you can see it each and every day.

I gave some recent financial clients a laminated picture of the Disney World logo to hang somewhere where they can see it every day. Don't lose sight of the end. They are going to be debt-free by 7/09, save the cash they were paying towards debt for 2 months, and go to Disney World... with cash two months later!

You will be able to read about them in the January 9th edition of the Raleigh News & Observer.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Tips for Reaching Your Goals

If there are two things I've learned that really work for me in achieving my goals it's sharing them with others and writing them down. I know these concepts seem simple and you've probably heard them from other people and haven't really given them a second thought. Let me tell you two examples of how these things have worked in my life.

When I was in college I decided I wanted to do something different than everyone else. I thought it would be cool if I attended grad school in Boston. So, I started telling people that I was moving to Boston when I graduated. The more people I told, the more cemented that idea became, until one day I truly believed it myself. Of course, I really did want to move to Boston, but I hadn't even been accepted into the school I wanted to attend. However, it was too late to tell people that I wasn't going so I knew I had to do everything in my power to get out here. And guess what? 3 1/2 years later here I am, still living in Boston, having finished up grad school and now working.

One of my loftiest goals has been to pay off all of my school loans in 3 years. Even I thought that was a bit of a stretch but I have committed to myself on paper that they will be gone by that time. I decided to make a timeline of my payoff and figure out how much I need to have paid off by what date. Periodically checking in with myself and realizing that I am still on track, even when I sometimes feel like I don't have traction has helped me immensely.

On a side note, I have made several New Year's "goals" that I wrote down on paper, along with the steps needed to achieve those. Just knowing that they are looming over me and that they are written down has forced me to think about them every day and decide if the things I'm doing are contributing toward those goals.

Anyone who is looking to achieve change in their life should absolutely try one or both of these things. For me, it has guaranteed success.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Take the stairs

My plan for staying in shape... walk.

We're all too busy to work out on a daily business or can't afford a gym membership. The good news is... you don't need to.

I stay in a lot of hotels. (Free workout facilities by the way). Most times I take the elevator up and down twice. Up with bags and back down when I check out. The rest of the time I'm riding the stairs. Doesn't take much time, zero cost, but lots to show in terms of exercise.

I bet there are a lot of things in your life that you could count as exercise. Mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway (unless you live in the South), walking to the store or riding a bike, etc. If you have more ideas, send me an email.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Generate a buzz

If you own a business or work in marketing you probably struggle with getting the best bang-for-your-buck when you're trying to get your name out there. You probably even struggle with this on a personal level if you're trying to get a promotion or a new job.

You always have to be thinking about what you can do to generate word-of-mouth for your business. It is the cheapest and most cost effective form of marketing that exists today.

When people talk about you or your business to their friends, you not only have a sales force working for you and your business, but the people your customers are talking to usually value the person they hear it from, and trust their judgment.

You immediately jump to top-of-mind positioning with your future customers, for very little cost. If you want to pay for referrals or generate more buzz, then do so. But don't just offer money. Develop something creative to get people talking. I friend of mine sells insurance and offer a monthly and yearly drawing for big prizes. You are automatically entered to win a flat screen TV at the end of the year each time you refer someone to him. That would get me talking.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Are you ready?

2008 is here! I hope you're done putting your goals on paper and have developed a plan to follow through with them. What's the point of dreaming if you can't ever make those dreams come true?

Remember to keep your goals SMART.

Studies show that when you take the time to write, you connect both the left and right sides of your brain. If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to make your goals happen, write them down and post them somewhere where you can see them every day.