The Most Important Lesson For This School Year?

In a world consumed with constant distractions and multitasking, it seems like we’re becoming more like bumblebees—paying short visits to one flower after another. We’ve never faced “incoming” like this before, and it’s affecting our attention spans, stress levels, and ultimately, our productivity.

So, how can we help our children navigate this noisy world where they’re being pulled in so many directions?

In my years of evaluating leaders, I’ve come to appreciate what virtually all of them have in common:

  1. Vision: an overarching idea of where they want to go. The person they want to become. The impact they would like to have in this world. The life they want to live.
  2. Intentionality: a commitment to setting goals and plans to turn their vision into a reality. Goals that are challenging but realistic, specific, and measurable.
  3. Relentless Effort: they are self motivated and focused like laser beams to achieve their goals and implement their plans. They don’t just work hard—they work smart. They have high standards and manage their time effectively and efficiently. And, they regularly review whether they’re on track and make midcourse corrections along the way.
  4. Resilience: an ability to overcome and learn from their mistakes, shortcomings, and failures. They don’t let disappointments defeat them; rather, they face their challenges head on and persevere.

With a new school year upon us, this is a great opportunity to teach your children and students how to apply these concepts in their lives. Arguably, this could be their most important learning lesson of the year!

So, whether you’re a parent, teacher, mentor, or coach, have the children under your influence set new goals and strategies for the coming year. Encourage them to develop at least one goal in each of the following categories, and to create action steps (with deadlines!) for achieving them:

  • Career: surveying career matches, attending job fairs, creating a resume, sharpening interview skills, meeting people in careers of interest, etc.
  • Education: improving a GPA, taking valuable courses, reading specific books, watching/listening to media-based programs/trainings, etc.
  • Character: developing strengths, addressing weaknesses, modeling qualities/soft skills of admired people, etc.
  • Relationships: improving existing relationships, building new ones (peer, network), etc.
  • Skill: learning a new skill for personal growth, fun, creativity, etc.
  • Service: volunteering time and talent to support your community
  • Experience: checking off a “bucket list” item or two

The more we can instill the value of setting goals, plans, and strategies for life in our children at an early age, the better positioned they will be to achieve success, fulfillment, joy, and impact. Otherwise, especially in this day and age, they’ll be destined for distraction and random (at best) outcomes. It may be a mindshift for them, but they and their dreams are worth it! And, trust me, one day they’ll thank you for it!

3 R’s for the New Year: Reflections, Resolutions, and (No) Regrets

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Looking back on 2015, do you have any regrets? Are there things you did and wish you hadn’t—or things you didn’t do and wish you had? Any relationships that are strained? Opportunities missed?

We all have regrets from time to time. However, you can minimize big ones (or avoid them altogether) if you periodically ask yourself the regret question and then actually do something about it. The new year is a great time to start, but reflecting on our regrets and resolutions is a great practice to adopt all year long.

For many people (myself included), personal reflection time is the area we sacrifice when our lives get busier. Unfortunately, when this happens, we can get out of balance, grow impatient, and often burn out. We’re not at our best. That’s why it’s so important—at New Year’s and all the year through—to take time to unwind and reflect. Frankly, it’s the only way we can go deep with ourselves—to explore how we’re doing and consider where we’d like to go. Find a place that inspires you and quiets your soul, and let your mind ponder some new growth possibilities. (If you are a person of faith, it’s a great opportunity to include prayer for discernment and wisdom.) You’ll be surprised by your renewed spirit and by the new ideas and insights that can surface during quiet times like this.

I also find there is wisdom to be gained from older people who are in a naturally more reflective stage of life. When I’ve asked some of them about their life regrets, I’ve heard things like:

  1. I didn’t spend enough time with my loved ones.
  2. I didn’t tell my family and friends that I loved them often enough.
  3. I was too stubborn or proud to admit my mistakes and apologize.
  4. I chose bitterness over reconciliation.
  5. I allowed my life to be consumed by work.
  6. I was too hesitant to take risks, try new things, and believe in myself.
  7. I wasted too much time.
  8. I didn’t appreciate the little things in life.
  9. I valued things over relationships.
  10. I worried too much.

Do any of these apply to you? Be honest! Although regrets run the gamut, did you notice that most involve relationships and priorities? This is why it’s so important that our life be balanced and our priorities right. When we see something is out of order, let’s resolve to make a mid-course correction.

After some time for reflection, ask yourself what resolutions you’d like to make for the upcoming year, especially those that might minimize regrets next New Year’s Eve. The Oxford English Dictionary describes resolutions as “(decisions) to do or to refrain from doing a specified thing from that time onwards, or to attempt to achieve a particular goal, usually during the coming year.” What have you been doing that you’d like to stop doing? What have you not been doing that you want to begin? Are there new growth opportunities or experiences on your bucket list? Then don’t stop there. Turn your resolutions into goals and your goals into executable actions. That’s living with intentionality!

This discipline of regrets, reflection, and resolution is a good one for all ages. Consider sharing it with the young people in your life. It will help you—and them—make needed changes and “relationship repairs” along the way. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to reach the end of 2016—and even to the end of life—and be able to say, “NO (or few) REGRETS?”

Image credit: Brianna Showalter
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Out with the Old, In with the New!

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A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most of us think, “What are the things I could improve in my life, if I had a fresh start?” For some reason, “January 1st” symbolizes new possibilities and a chance for a “do-over.”

In what area of your life would you like a fresh start? In your parenting or other relationships? Your performance at school or on the job? How about being more financially savvy or more organized? Or, maybe yours is like mine: to take control of busyness and reserve more time to reflect. All of these are admirable aspirations—but how can we make them a reality?

Most successful people accomplish their aspirations by staring with dreams and then establishing goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your aspirations for 2016 and beyond, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.

Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals.  It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:

  • Education and learning
  • Career
  • Marriage and family
  • Finances
  • Community service
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • Physical goals (sports, etc.)
  • Talents and skills
  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Retirement

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., three to five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals.  From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture. Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track.

(Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)

Finally, start making daily to-do lists, prioritized by importance and urgency. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:

  • Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
  • Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
  • Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”

What are your aspirations for 2016? Beyond that? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has gained the most ground in accomplishing their goals.

Leadership for a Lifetime: Vision

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.

~Lawrence J. Peter

For those of us who grew up in the Sixties, July 20, 1969 will go down as the most inspirational day of our lives. We gathered around our TV sets in wonder as Neil Armstrong spoke these immortal words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Our nation was brimming with pride.

A mere eight years earlier, America’s new and charismatic president had a vision. As far-fetched as it seemed at the time, JFK challenged Congress to support an initiative to put a man on the moon (safely returned) by the end of the decade. Amid a pool of skeptics, the vision was cast and NASA would successfully achieve this unimaginable mission with months to spare. It was one of the greatest moments in world history.

Question: would this have played out as it did if JFK hadn’t offered his bold vision? Not a chance. It illustrates so well why history’s greatest achievements and admired people are guided by an inspiring vision or purpose.

We might not be in the same league as JFK, Lincoln, Jobs, Disney, Edison, Franklin, Columbus, Mandela, MLK, Gates, Graham, or Mother Teresa, but in our own ways, we can all live with vision, too.  And when it comes to training our younger generation, it’s one of the most important leadership lessons of all.

During the high school and college years, a young person’s focus is clearly on the next step and specifically, on their eventual careers. While this is understandable, it can be argued that a more holistic approach to vision casting is essential. After all, a career is only one aspect of our lives and many if not most people change careers several times.

Is vision just one of those things that you either have it or you don’t? Not necessarily. Environment, training, and role modeling can have a huge impact on a young person’s inclination or ability to live with vision. Here are some suggested topics for parents, educators, and mentors to cultivate vision-mindedness in the young people we’re influencing:

The Big Picture:

  • What difference would you like to make in this world? Describe your dreams.
  • How would you like to be remembered? (The eulogy/tombstone ideas might be a little morbid!)
  • What does “success” mean to you?
  • Whose lives inspire you the most?
  • How can your passions and interests intersect to have the greatest impact?

College:

  • How will you define “success” in your college years?
  • What will you like to have accomplished in terms of academics, career, credentials, experiences, skills, relationships, and personal growth?

Career:

  • Knowing that the career decision needs to be one of the most well-researched in life, describe your 1) interests and passions, 2) natural skills and strengths, 3) personal preferences (on the job and in the working environment), and 4) ability and willingness to fulfill training requirements.
  • What perspectives can help determine that the careers you’re considering would be a great match for your skills and interests?

Service:

  • Reflecting on your passions and talents, what are some ways you can serve humanity?
  • What problems, community needs, and people groups do you feel most drawn toward?
  • When have you felt most fulfilled when helping others?

Family:

  • What are your hopes and dreams when it comes to family?
  • What do you consider the most important elements of a strong, healthy, and purposeful marriage and family?
  • What qualities will you be seeking in a lifelong partner?

Personal Growth:

  • Knowing that great leaders play to their strengths, what are your greatest assets and areas for improvement/growth? (A recommended resource for discovering your assets is this personal balance sheet assignment.)
  • Who do you admire most and why?
  • What are the traits of the person you wish to become?

As the young people in your life develop answers (and some guesses!) to these questions, it’s important to emphasize that our vision evolves over time…few are cast in stone. The key is cultivating a visionary mindset that reflects their entire life and recognizing that each vision is uniquely valuable. No one’s vision is their vision and no one can impact this world like they can.

Great leaders live with vision.

Finding That Job!

One of the greatest unknowns for college students is predicting what the job market will be like when they graduate. After all, it’s four years down the road and lots can change in the meantime. The answer will be based on the state of the economy and the supply and demand picture for their career choice. Unfortunately, these factors are simply outside of our control.

Even if a young person’s path doesn’t include college, they’ll still be facing this kind of uncertainty. If the unemployment rate is low, chances are they’ll have little difficulty landing a good job. If it’s high, who knows how long it could take? Plus, they’ll have to work that much harder just to get their foot in the door.

So, how can all of us help? What are ways parents, educators, mentors and friends can help young people find the jobs they’re looking for—and progress once they find them?
Young adults need to be savvier and more competitive than ever to find, land, and advance in the jobs of today’s work place. Here are some suggestions you can share to help position them for a thriving career:

1. Use your existing networks. No matter how talented we are, we all need people who will go to bat for us, both personally and professionally. Their invaluable assistance can take the form of introductions and connections, references and advocacy, decision-making in our favor, an information source, or general help. They help us gain access to strategically important people. It’s like having our very own sales force!

The employment recruitment process has changed night and day since I was younger. Nowadays, it’s all about online applications that seem to disappear into the proverbial black hole—it’s SO impersonal and frustrating. Somehow, some way, our application needs to stand out. No doubt about it, the best way is to have an insider advocating on our behalf. It adds a measure of dependability and reassurance to the hiring manager, and that’s huge. It may not land us the job, but it helps get us into the game.

2. Broaden your base of employment prospects. Spread your net wide. Talk to others in your field. Read trade journals and industry bulletins, blogs, and newsletters. What’s going on in your industry of choice and where are the jobs? There are likely companies for which you could work that you haven’t even considered. My editor’s son is a land use planner who works for a county government. He recently discovered that a large aircraft manufacturer in our state regularly hires land use planners. He was surprised; he’d never even considered the thought of working for a company like that. Now that he knows, it’s an avenue he plans to pursue in his next steps.

3. Be flexible with respect to location. This point is short but important. Many times you’ll have to go to the job; it won’t come to you. The more flexible you can be about this, the more marketable you are.

4. Develop your competitive edge. Our world is much more competitive than ever before. Our economy has become service-oriented and knowledge-based, which has changed everything. Now, you have to demonstrate something special (i.e, skills, experiences, and achievements) in order to land the job and advance in your career. Together, these make up your competitive edge. Consider what would stand out about you to future employers during your eventual job search. Go the extra mile to become better qualified through experiences and continuing education. If you’re lacking a skill or a professional qualification, attack it with full force! Demonstrate an attitude of continuous improvement and a commitment to excellence. Show results and impact. Create great personal stories that will inspire employers. If you don’t, remember that someone else will—and they’ll wind up with your job or promotion!

This is only part of the picture! Join us next week for part two of this blog: How to Market Yourself and Move Ahead in Your Career Field.

How have you found and moved ahead in your job(s)? Do you think things are easier, harder, or the same for young adults in today’s job market? How can we help encourage students in finding and landing the right jobs? We’d love to hear your thoughts?

Positioning Students for Workplace Success

Are the young people under your supervision—children, students, or employees—prepared to soar in their eventual career? Not just to land the job, but to be a workplace MVP?

 

With high youth unemployment and all-consuming scholastics and activities driving their schedules and priorities, many of today’s young adults are entering the work force sorely lacking the skills and maturity they need to thrive in the real world. We hear from employers all the time: “They may be book smart, but they’re certainly not life smart,” or, “They can write a resume and complete an application, but they lack the intrinsic qualities and life skills we need in our employees.” Many students understand how to succeed in the “front end” (resume and interview skills), but aren’t trained to succeed once they land the job.

 

At LifeSmart, we’re excited to announce our newest resource designed to help create future workplace superstars! Our new DVD, How to Be an MVP Employee. offers invaluable perspectives from employers and four road-tested strategies for succeeding in any career:

  • Selecting a career that plays to their natural strengths and interests
  • Modeling the qualities employers value
  • Delivering on-the-job excellence
  • Contributing to their employer’s success

 

This 45-minute live presentation at Appleton West High School includes illustrations, skits, training, and strategic insights to promote career readiness and workplace excellence. Viewers will gain practical wisdom about what separates those who soar from those who stagnate in their careers.

 

For $79, you can bring this valuable training into your own classroom or group. How to Be an MVP Employee will help prepare the young people in your life to reach their career heights and to succeed in the increasingly competitive landscape of today’s workplace.

 

For more information or to order, call (920) 319-3169 or email at dtrittin@dennistrittin.com.

Financial Literacy: Keep It Simple!

As a nation, we have been witnessing a tragedy of epic proportions. Debt, deficit spending, and credit card use have taken control of the lives of millions. The result has been skyrocketing bankruptcies and enormous stress on individuals and their families. How can we avoid this situation? One way is to AVOID the credit card trap altogether!

           

I grew up in a family with a very modest income. However, we were never financially strapped. My parents’ method of managing their finances was a simple one, but it worked. They stuffed with cash for key expenses and lived on what was inside. No credit cards, no loans, no overspending. No more money in the envelopes meant no more spending. Simple. I have adapted my parents’ conservative, simple approach through budgeting and banking and we’ve always lived financially stress-free.

 

The same is not true for the majority of Americans. The credit crisis is enormous on both a national and an individual level. Bankruptcies are at a record high and most families would say that they are experiencing at least some level of financial stress. How did this happen? A couple of things have caused it:

 

·      The widespread availability of credit cards, coupled with a lack of discipline to use them responsibly (studies show spending via credit cards is substantially greater than cash only)

·      Financial literacy is not a priority in many education institutions, despite the importance of budgeting and investing in daily life

·      The rise in consumerism and the strong focus on buying “things” in our culture

 

The long and short of it is that easy access to credit cards and loans has given consumers a false sense of financial security. This lures them into spending more than their income can support. The debt builds and accrues interest, making the monthly payment grow every month. Today’s average family has several credit cards with monthly balances well into the thousands? Eventually, there has to be a day of reckoning and these large balances and interest charges MUST be tackled.

 

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to live debt free. It’s easy—just be disciplined and abide by this basic principle: Use credit wisely and sparingly and resist making purchases if you can’t pay with cash. Keep it simple—avoid the credit trap and you’ll relieve your financial stress.

“Credit buying is much like being drunk.

The buzz happens immediately and gives you a lift. The hangover comes the day after.”

Joyce Brothers

 

Do you have some good strategies for (or questions about) avoiding or overcoming credit card spending and debt?  Do you keep it simple? What’s YOUR method? Jump into the conversation on my website and leave your comments. Then keep the conversation going: please forward this to friends and encourage them to sign up for our weekly email at www.dennistrittin.com/newsletter.aspx..

 

5 Tips for Getting SMART about Retirement

When you envision retirement, you probably don’t see yourself depending entirely on Social Security as your main source of income. Unfortunately, many people do, and are alarmed at how little money they have to live on in their golden years. Consequently, many seniors are heading back to work for some “financial supplements,” which is also affecting job opportunities for younger people.

 

It’s time to get SMART about retirement—and here’s a catchy acronym to get you started. The five tips in this acronym will help you develop an investment program now that will give you the financial freedom for later on in life: Start early and Make room in your budget, knowing the growth of your wealth is a function of the Amount you invest, the Rate of return you earn, and the Time period over which you invest.

 

S—Start early

It is never too early to begin strategically planning for your financial future! If you only take away one thing from this blog, may it be this: beginning your investment program as soon as you start your career should be a top priority. By investing early in a long-term program, you’ll have the best chances of building substantial wealth for your retirement. You might be thinking, “Why now…I’m not retiring for 30 years!” The answer is simple—the power of compounding your returns over many years is enormous. Here’s an example:

           

If Brad invests $2,000 per year at a 7% return from age 18 to 27 and lets it grow at that rate until he’s 65, he’ll have a much larger nest egg than Madison, who waits until age 31 to start investing $2,000 each year until age 65. That’s right! Brad’s $20,000 produced greater wealth than Madison’s $70,000! So, start investing ASAP!

 

M—Make room

With money, come choices and tradeoffs. Each time we buy now, we lose the opportunity to buy something of even greater value in the future. It takes self discipline to resist the now for the sake of the future. There’s no getting around that making room in your monthly budget to invest is the only way to build assets for your future.

 

A-the AMOUNT you invest (more is merrier)

The more you invest, the greater (and sooner) your wealth will grow. Strive to invest at least 15% of your income for your retirement, and take this amount into account for your monthly budgets (while considering your employer’s plan). By doing so, you’ll significantly supplement your Social Security income. If you want a retirement lifestyle similar to your career years, you simply have no choice.

 

R-the RATE of your return (higher is happier)

It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. The higher the percentage rate of return after expenses, the greater the wealth you’ll build. Develop a well-diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds that fits your risk profile and beats inflation. The earlier you start, the greater risk you can afford to take and the more wealth you’ll accumulate.

 

T-the TIME period over which you invest (longer is better)

Remember, it’s a snowball effect. The longer the time period that you invest, the more wealth you will accrue. A $10,000 investment with a 7% return grows to over $76,000 in 30 years. That same investment is worth only about $20,000 in 10 years. Make sure time is on your side!

 

           

Being SMART about your retirement takes discipline, but the impact is astounding!

 

In what ways have you begun planning for your retirement? Have you followed these SMART steps? What challenges or obstacles have your run into? We welcome all of your questions, comments, and suggestions!

 

8 Ways to Find Your Purpose

“Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.”

Washington Irving

           What in the world are you doing here?  Ever asked yourself that question?

            Your life purpose is an incredibly powerful force that will direct your life and determine the legacy you will leave behind you. Find a successful person who is content and fulfilled, and you’ll likely find a life guided by an inspired purpose or mission, and a person who has applied his or her unique talents to a worthy cause.

            Knowing your life purpose—what makes you tick, what motivates you, what you are alive on earth to do—is what ignites passion.

            What makes YOU tick … and if you don’t know, how can you find out?

            Passion inspires initiative and creativity. It’s what builds momentum and creates enthusiasm. It also sustains hope and perseverance in difficult times, and provides a reason (and enthusiasm!) for getting out of bed every morning. However, it’s not always easy to identify what your particular passion is.

            Life purposes can be cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers).

            How can you discover your life purpose(s)? Here are eight questions to ask yourself that can help you figure it out:

1.     What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?

2.     What problems would I most like to solve?

3.      What needs or people tug at my heart?

4.     What inspires me the most?

5.     What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?

6.     Whose lives would I most like to emulate and why?

7.     What are my special gifts and talents?

8.     Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?

            Once you ponder these questions, see if a picture emerges about what inspires and motivates you. Then, as that picture solidifies into an identifiable sense of purpose, calling, and passion, start thinking about how you can live it out. Keep in mind that there may be more than one, and that it may evolve or change over your lifetime.

            Whatever you do, don’t set your life purpose on a shelf and forget about it. You are a unique individual with gifts, talents, and perspective only YOU can give to the world.  No amount of money, fame, or accomplishment can ever compete with that!

Someday, you’ll want to be able to look back on your life and say, “Mission accomplished!” What’s your mission? Are you living it out with purpose and passion? Please visit us on our website and share your comments;  we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

What’s on Your To-Do List?

Sometimes I wonder how we all survived before sticky notes. They sure come in handy for jotting down my daily reminders and holding myself accountable!

 

The discipline of writing out a daily prioritized task list (organized by importance and urgency) is a hallmark of a productive person. I begin each day with a to-do list, and it certainly has made me more focused and effective. (And, yes, when unexpected items arise, I add them to the list and cross them out after completion. There’s power in a sense of accomplishment!)

 

Here’s an idea. What if we took this concept beyond its daily application and take a “sticky pad” approach to planning our lives? After all, the most successful people begin with dreams and then establish goals and plans to make them come true.

 

How can the sticky note approach work for you?

 

Poor or random planning puts your dreams in jeopardy and, at best, makes it take that much longer to realize them. But, even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? Think of areas like your education, career, service opportunities, family, finances, health, experiences, passion areas, and interests.

 

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some shorter-range goals that will help you achieve them. You can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture.

 

At the same time, don’t forget those daily to-do lists!  You’ll be amazed how much more you accomplish. It doesn’t have to be a fancy leather-bound day-timer to keep you on track.  Many times all you need is a vibrant-colored sticky note placed somewhere visible to remind you what you hope to accomplish that day! Oh, and once all your items are checked off the list, be sure to take some time to celebrate for a job well done. You deserve it.

 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Lawrence J. Peter

 

What kinds of goals have you established for the short-, intermediate-, and long-term? What strategies have you learned to help accomplish them?

We’d love to hear your ideas!