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Character Counts – Or Does It?

Now here is a fascinating discovery. The word “character” appears only three times in the Christian bible.

That’s right. Three.

This is the count from the NASB, probably the most word-for-word English translation of the original manuscripts.  As jots and tiddles go, it pays attention to every one of them.

It only shows four times in the ESV – my preferred translation. Some translations show a slightly higher count (The Message shows it 20 times.) But it is still much lower that one might expect.

Yet character is such a prominent part of modern day self-help, education, leadership and even evangelical literature.

So what’s up with that?!

By contrast, other words are vastly more prominent in Christian scripture.  Here are a few word count comparisons.

Character – 3
Moral – 4
Integrity – 27
Forgiveness – 141
Hope – 154
Truth – 206
Faith – 381
Love – 529
Spirit – 558
Righteous – 629
Heart – 856
Lord – 7,918

Did you get that last one? The word ‘Lord’ occurs a whopping 7,918 times!

Character counts.  But not as much as we might think.

Of course, I would never discount the importance of character. It’s much preferred in humanity.

Nor would I rely extensively on “word count theology.” I’m simply stating a curious observation from a recent personal study.

Could it be that one of the reasons for the tragic absence of character and integrity on the global scene is because we who are quickest to point it out offer remedies in a completely upside-down and backward manner? Or we glibly offer no remedies at all other than calling it out?

Rethinking Our Focus

What might happen if we gave the same prominence to the words of scripture as did the Author of the words?

Instead of gnashing our teeth at the repugnant behavior of others, we might do well to set our minds on the rock-solid revelations of Lord, God, Righteous, and Spirit (all of which are reflected in the names of God within scripture).

There is a historical precedent that wherever there has been a refocus on the presence of God amidst the collapse of character, the resulting bias has actually led toward a change of human hearts and minds that lead to a restoration of integrity, morality, and character.

Setting aside our worrisome pre-occupation with the decline of character in our nation could well be the first step to restoring it.

It’s worth a thought. As risky as it may sound.

Right now, the other way sure doesn’t seem to be working so well.


December 11th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

Who is the greatest? Small Group or Sunday School?

A decennial debate is once again upon those who grapple with the ways church does its churching.

Which is the better format for church community?  Sunday School or Small Group?  It’s all laid out here in a recent three-view series.

I find it’s not so much about the model but the methods used within the model. Triumphs and disasters have happened in every format…usually caused by a breakdown in how they were conducted.

One thing I learned as a pastor a long long time ago in a galaxy far away – was that we as church-goers tend to 1) be fickle in our preferences and thus glorify the good old days, 2) get very comfortable with our communities and thus resist change, and 3) become bored with scripture because we handle it only in didactic terms vs. as a lifelong conversation with its Author.

That can be a deadly trifecta for a living stone.

And it almost dictates that every half-generation or so the church becomes restless with whatever community model it practices.

It happens like clockwork. And it’s all but designed that way.

Eventually, we discover that the form doesn’t matter so much as the function.  What matters is that the relationships – upward, inward, and outward – are tended and cared for as much as any building in which it meets.

As one old church sage put it…there ain’t nothin’ new under the sun.*

Not the Small Group. Not the Sunday School. Not even the debates about which one is the greatest.

* Ecclesiastes 1:9 (very loosely paraphrased)


December 5th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

There’s Wisdom in This Standing Appointment

The first three chapters of the Book of Proverbs are perhaps the most meaningful morsels of wisdom in the entire Christian Bible.

I keep a standing appointment with them at the beginning of every month.

Slowly over three days, in the early morning hours, Proverbs 1, 2 and 3 join me for coffee conversation.

They are uniquely rich conversations that provoke, encourage, and never disappoint.  These ancient deposits of living minerals run long and deep with much to talk about.

Sometimes it’s a hint of God’s personality and brilliance; sometimes a rich commentary on current events. Other times it’s a much-too-personal exhortation of my thought-life and behavior amidst a trial or conflict.

They are wise yet accessible; provocative yet present. They are the epitome of truth and grace.

My time with them has provided immense reinforcement for my life journey in faith, hope, and love.  It’s as if they are a veritable conversation with the one they call Jesus in later parts of that same Bible.

Because of the unique character of the conversation I am able to lose the tendency to grade myself or fear the future – if but for a moment.  But that’s long enough to be reminded those things are not what a spiritual journey is about.  It’s simply about the daily practice of living with bigger things in mind than just myself, my fears, and my ‘grades’.

So I once again remove the rickety props of my own limited understanding of this life and this world.  In exchange, I’m offered a much superior perspective than mine on the genesis of wisdom, understanding, and the things that bring life into a world full of death.

After our visits, I always feel rejuvenated with hope and a sense of abiding promise.

I’ll keep those monthly appointments on my calendar for as long as I am able to show up.


December 3rd, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

Maybe You Should Write a Manifesto

Manifestos have played a significant role in history.

Most of them we don’t even know as a manifesto.  We may not even be sure of what a manifesto is.

Simply put, a manifesto is a point of view, a set of beliefs, an envisioned future, along with the obstacle and remedies most likely to be on the path to that envisioned future.  All this in writing, of course.

Manifestos can have an unusually provocative influence on our thinking.  Some for audacious purposes such as the Declaration of Independence.  Some for unsavory purposes such as Main Kempf. And still others with unwavering spiritual insight such as the Christian Gospel.

A quick review of manifesto examples herehere and here will help you get on board with their kind and their potential.

There’s something about the intentionality and cohesion of a manifesto that gives them a particular weight.  Consequently, the gestation period for a good manifesto is usually measured in years, not weeks.

Writing a manifesto is not a quick exercise.  Yet most of us have what amounts to a manifesto forming inside of us.

The Value of Ordered Thinking

Writing a manifesto helps order our thinking.  It can help congeal what we believe and why.  It helps us to know what we think, why we think what we think, and project that thinking toward an envisioned future that would impact more than just ourselves.

Such ordered thinking could be a timely commodity in a world of politically intense sound bites and endless rhetoric.

It’s one thing to shout sound bites at one another.  It’s a very different thing to have thoroughly developed thoughts, ideas, ideals, and remedy’s from which we could write a manifesto if asked.

Words that illuminate, communicate and sustain a dream, a vision, a resolution, a revolution, or some expressed outcome that add redemptive value to a needy world.  These are the active ingredients in a manifesto.

I’m in the process of writing one.  It’s been incubating for years. Hopefully, we’ll see it taking shape sometime soon. Where it goes from there, we shall see.


November 25th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

The Subtle Treachery of Drift

Drift is a threat to any purposeful activity or pursuit.

Fundamentally, drift occurs when a system experiences a shift or decline in energy, direction or both. It can happen at all levels and stations of business, work, and life.

Previously successful brands can find themselves adrift when new market forces go unnoticed or disregarded.  Programs and projects that have a storied past can find themselves adrift when there is a lack of clarity what to do next.

Couples and careers can end up adrift when essential relationship tasks are disregarded as unnecessary.

But merely being at the helm of things is no guarantee drift won’t happen. Seasoned professionals can unwittingly find themselves adrift and off course, producing devastating consequences. The tragic demise of Korean Air Flight 007 in 1983 is one infamous example.

Perhaps the second law of thermodynamics may be more broadly applied than we think.  Given enough time without reliable external inputs, any isolated system will increase in entropy (disorderliness) and find itself with reduced capacity to produce desired outcomes.

Isolation is the co-conspirator that gives drift its toe-hold in a system.

As drift begins its subtle work, it is treacherously deceptive and can go undetected for long periods of time.  Drift is patient, clever, and doesn’t like to draw attention to itself.  It has its own whimsical, unspoken agenda to go nowhere as quietly as possible.

Drift can apprehend your business, your work, your relationships, your goals and given enough time, it quite literally takes you somewhere you never intended to go.


November 20th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

Mind Nutrition Requires a Diet of Good Words

Good words are like mental protein. It’s a good idea to have a sufficient daily intake of them.

But in a world of declining attention spans, how are meaningful and important ideas and concepts ever to be conveyed?

Probably still using simple words and sentences.

With one exception.

Many of those words will be assisted by pictures.

Long ago pictures were used to write where words were not accessible.  Hieroglyphics is one good example.  Emoji are another.

Pictures are multipliers of words.  Non-scientific estimates have been as high as a thousandfold.  They are to concepts what fertilizer is to corn.  In the same space, the yields can be noticeably greater.

We’ll need pictures if we are to feed a growing world population of diverse and often confused minds with meaningful words and ideas.

But there is one important caveat.

Sometimes the best pictures are the ones formed in our minds as we thoughtfully read good words.

And so while our culinary preferences might be for pictures, good mental nutrition requires a steady diet of words.

Consumed in well-written sentences, they will provide the succulent meals of important ideas that nourish the mind, encourage the heart, and inspire us to do the work to which we are called.

A good word can give us a lot to chew on.

Enjoy.


October 29th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

Why Patient Results Are Better Than Viral Wins

We are at a disadvantage in our daily pursuits to the extent what we do is done expecting immediate results.

Sometimes the results we desire take a long time in the making.

Having a product or idea go viral is the latest form of overnight success.  But maybe it’s not such a good idea to take our cues from something otherwise used to denote the movement of disease.

Maybe a better metaphor for results worth pursuing could take its cues from something that denotes the movement of cures.

What kind of change might that bring to our creativity, work, and relationships?

Sometimes in the chase to make something go viral, we end up concocting something that becomes unhealthy.  But in patiently working over a period of time, we end up creating something that becomes vital.  Regardless of whether we work for a cure or a cause, a resolution or a solution, a deal or a dance.

Historically, the best ideas ever discovered were a long time in the making.

The better our attunement to the deeper longlasting kinds of success, the more our heart and soul can participate in ways that are not at cross purposes with our character and causes.

It might not take your breath away, but it could well put wind in your sails.


October 15th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

There are a thousand lines of thought behind every one line quote.

I love a good quote.

They are like tasty morsels of words almost as good as a bite-sized piece of chocolate.

But they don’t usually suffice as a meal.

The real nourishment for action comes from embracing the thoughts, ideas, and experiences that are behind a quote.

That is what sticks to your ribs when you seek to put a quote into action.

 


October 7th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

Focus For Unfocused Entrepreneurs

It’s been six months since my last post.  That can make it difficult to focus in on what to write next.

It’s quite a long time in the Land of Bloggingham.

My last post caused me to stop and recalibrate the direction of this blog, my coaching business, and my entrepreneurial life.

I’m an abstract thinker in a concrete world.  I can easily find my pursuits drifting out to sea to the point where I look up to see no land in sight.  I then have to get my bearings, turn and motor back home, and usually, scratch my head to recall what it is I really do for a living.

It is one of the treacheries of entrepreneurial life – captured well by this sobering piece of ancient wisdom.

“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”*

Most entrepreneurs can attest to be working the land one day, then realizing the next that they may well be following a worthless pursuit.

Since I throw all of my pursuits into the entrepreneurial basket, I’ve come to hate this question – what are you doing these days?

Yet there is one answer that may make sense to no one else but me and serves to anchor my work and life, whenever I realize I may be drifting toward a worthless pursuit.

Doing What Needs to Be Done Next

The best answer I can give you is simply that I do what needs to be done next.

Day in and day out.  Hour by hour.  Sometimes moment by moment.  In all areas of business, work and life.

It simplifies things for me.  Keeps me focused even when so many things remain out of focus.

Over the past several years it has kept some dreams alive while helping me grieve the loss of others.  It has helped me love others well when I didn’t feel much love at all.  It has also helped transform my interior world in many wonderful ways.

Doing what needs to be done next.  No more.  No less.

It’s a concrete way to move through an abstract world – keeping me afloat without going adrift – and balancing my dreaming with my doing.

And how about you?  What are you doing these days?

 

* Proverbs 28:19


May 28th, 2017 by Brad Hobbs

How To Navigate A Professional Storm

I want to share about a personal struggle through a professional storm that I have never shared publicly.

Until now.

And I have to tell you, it is a little uncomfortable for me to do this.

Everyone Has A Story

You and I both – every last one of us – have a unique story that is unfolding in our business, work, and life.  We may not aware enough to tell it.  

But it’s there.

I’m sharing a little of my story to encourage you to step up and take ownership of your own story by getting clear on what you will, and will not, do in 2017.

There are simply too many demands in your pathway that would love to consume however much of your life you’re willing to give.

If you do not have a systematic way of deciding where best to spend your time and attention – you run the risk of a slow leak of both over time.

And then you wake up one morning…

…to a burnout that comes out of nowhere and threatens to run out the door with your sanity in a headlock.

It Happened To Me

I know because it happened to me.

Almost four years ago to the day, I entered one of the most chaotic seasons of my professional life.

I’ll spare you the gory details.

But suffice it to say, I was at the point where I had depleted every last reserve of relational, emotional, mental and spiritual energy I had.

In the course of 48 hours, I made the most abrupt career decision I’ve ever made in my life.

I was in full-time ministry and for the life of me was at wit’s end. I could not continue any longer.

So I left.

The Year From Hell

I had no idea what I was going to do next. I just knew it couldn’t be that.

That was January of 2013.

It was the year from hell in every way possible.

To be honest it extended well beyond just one year.

Very few people around me knew what was up. Which was more than a little awkward.

I spent most of my energy arranging various forms of self-protective facades.

I Needed Help

While I had a faith that anchored my soul, I still needed help.

I needed something to help me order my days toward some kind of meaningful future.

Something substantial enough to move me past all the distracting fears, uncertainties and doubts that would be waiting for me.

It was in this season that a friend introduced me (via email) to Michael Hyatt.

In his work, I found ideals similar to mine. But even more urgently for me, I found actionable insights that gave me decisive handles to hold onto.

They did not calm the storm.

But they allowed me to firmly navigate the storm without losing my grip, losing my heart, or tossing it all for a cocktail.

Professional Storm Training

It’s a topic for another day.  Yet I found that when facing one of life’s many storms, we do the equivalent of fighting it as opposed to navigating it.  

At the point in time I stopped trying to calm my professional storm, I found the resources within to ride it out.

As I began intentionally applying many of Hyatt’s insights to my work and life, I began to emerge from the fog with a sense of purpose.

I began to concretely reconstruct a life path that would have been missed had I lingered in self-pity, mediocrity, or just an every-two-year-job-hop.

Selling Waffles From The Trunk Of The Car?

Of course, transitions are rarely neat and pretty. I waffled plenty of times.

In fact, I could have sold waffles from the trunk of my car!

Eventually, I was able to formulate a definitive direction with a clear set of goals.

It didn’t matter if the direction would pan out.

It just felt good to be moving again.

If I had not taken the deliberate steps found in 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever through which to order my days, I’d probably still be waffling and wandering as many ‘serial entrepreneurs’ are prone to do.

So yes.

Some things are worth a little “putting yourself out there” if you are convinced it could help others like it helped you.

I would like to invite you to see for yourself the principles that helped give me my bearings during a professional storm.

You can find them by going to 5 Days To Your Best Year Ever.

Take a quick look for yourself.

Most importantly, do something now to prepare for the inevitable personal and professional storms that lay ahead.

Because all of us will need good navigation tools when those times come.

 


December 7th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

The Single Most Likely Reason Behind the Cubs’ Big Win

The Chicago Cubs pulled off their long-sought historic World Series Championship this week.  Stories of this young teams crescendo have been flooding the water cooler zone all week long. I’ll show you later on how this has a lot to do with your personal success formula.

By the time the tenth inning rolled around Wednesday night it felt like even half of Cleveland might have well been pulling for the Cinderella win.

There is something about a Cinderella story that captivates, motivates and inspires.

No doubt the blogosphere is pulsating with 3 Lessons, 5 Observations, 7 Principles that will be picked off this victory as proficiently as Kyle Hendricks timely pickoffs at 1B.

To join in this celebratory principle-izing, I’ll share the one thing that stands out the most to me.  And it might well be worth tweeting.

Behind every big win, is a big heart.

This is the story of a group of guys with big hearts, working hard to play together as a big team in the big leagues, seeking to thwart an alleged big curse against winning the big one.

This is clearly the bigs, skippy.

Regardless of whether you believe in curses of that kind, things like that do create their own constant supply of head trash over time.  This one had become the David and Goliath of head trash.

It’s an archetype for most any kind of success.   It also demonstrates that every great success we see on the outside had it’s origins in small things we can’t see on the inside.

Success is an inside-out thing.

Much too often we get so wrapped up in the external appearances of success – the money, cars, lifestyle, titles, zip code. We fail to see what really goes on that looks more like drudgery and failure than it does victory.

Success is often not so attractive in the making because it usually follows a long succession of repeated attempts that end in failure.

Success is Personal.

Much more personal than we think.  Every business, every career, every life and every event or game within life must find those things that uniquely come together in a systematic way to accomplish goals, and yield the desired outcomes.

It can be very empowering to realize that anyone can find success who is willing to embrace just how personal success must be.  Your success does not have to be my success and vice versa.  Any top professional knows that.  And they play their game – the one they’ve developed that builds on their personal success formula.

It begins in the heart, long before it get’s on the playing field. Or in the office.  Or in the classroom.  Or at the dinner table.

But it is very hush-hush that success is really found by following things that originate and formulate in the heart, and not by the external things we see on the outside.

We would do well to ponder that.

Because when success is elusive, going back to the heart of things is the only way to understand what needs to change.  Sometimes it may even be our very definitions of success.

When success does happen, it might be good to understand what can be repeated and reproduced in others.  It becomes a wonderful way to give forward and give back.

What is your personal success formula?

At every level organizations, teams, families, individuals have an opportunity to discover their own unique and personal success formulae.  Literally, the heart behind their success.

Beyond following the principles, the formulas and the recipes to glory that can be a dime-a-dozen, we can land on those things that from the inside-out will produce the big-hearted wins in our own lives.

Because we all need a good Cinderella story at one time or another.


November 4th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

When Government Protection Becomes Friendly Fire

We stepped into a hornet’s nest recently.  Quite by accident.

Which I suppose is the only way one steps into a hornet’s nest.

Apparently, my wife and I run a sweat shop.

At least that’s what our state Department of Labor seems to fear.

Two months ago we hired a friend’s daughter (a HS Senior) for some after school and Saturday help. About 12 hours per week on average. This little gal has been bopping around the store since grade school. Her mama even worked in the store with us for awhile.

Then enters an auditor from the TN Dept of Labor, Child Labor Standards Unit, Shower Curtain Ring Division, Office of Gotcha.

Ok, I made up that last half.  That’s from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

The auditor asked to see our records for all minors in our employ (only 1 of our 11 employees – our friend’s daughter) including proof of age and record of 30 minute un-paid breaks for any shift over 6 hours.

ME:  Umm records? Yeah…’bout those. See this is Savannah.  A friend’s daughter. She just started working here.

Officer Gotcha:  We still need records.  Including proof of unpaid breaks.

Me:  Unpaid breaks?  Well… see one little quirky perk about our culture is that we don’t require our employees to clock out for their breaks. We’ve always done that and our team respects and appreciates it much.

Officer Gotcha:  That’s all well and good for everyone except a minor.  I’m gonna need to write you up.

Me:  Well, that fine, but is this a citation? A ticket?  Am I in trouble?  Is there a fine?

Officer Gotcha:  I can’t say but any concerns you have can be addressed through your legislator. 

And so our state Department of Labor decries our child labor infringement in a legal complaint that was served to us this week. 

Fine: $4000

As in $500 times eight different days that our friend’s daughter worked under such undocumented and slavish conditions.

We will appeal – in the name of all that is decent and just.

And in the name that is on our business checking account!

Have We Lost Our Minds?

I appreciate why laws such as these came into existence.  We truly must protect innocents from exploitation and slavish work conditions.

Yet I fear we are losing (or actually, have lost) our capacity as a society to govern with common sense and sound judgment within the spirit of the laws of our land.

It becomes a slippery slope to a form of “gotcha government” that audits and enforces mindlessly and diminishes the productivity and prosperity of the very land it seeks to protect.

Whether it’s in the form of overly complicated tax codes, opportunistically placed red light cameras or letter-of-the-law enforcement.

Without regard for situational context and the realities of an imperfect world, we stand the chance of frustrating our own desires to make things better if we do so mainly and mostly through legislation and litigation.

Ends cannot justify means without sacrificing the heart and soul of even our best intentions.

That goes for any society, religion, or organization that has ever touched the face of the earth.

Local business exists to serve its community through products, jobs, and value through taxes.

Gotcha government left unchecked jeopardizes that small but consistently productive golden goose.

If you support these thoughts, please forward to a member of your local business community and encourage them with your support. 

They will immensely appreciate the gesture.


October 28th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Why Separating Business and Family is Impossible

My wife and I own a small mom and pop business in our community.

We’ve had it for a little over ten years.

In that time it has completely changed our understanding of the role of small business – I mean REALLY small business – plays in our economy.

We employ eleven people. Three of those are full time. We have over ten thousand customers in our database and thrive on repeat business and word of mouth.

Our tiny business serves a not-so-tiny number of people.

And it is one of the most gratifying things Judy and I have ever done.

Sure, it has its ups and downs.

The ups include being an integral part of our community and provide a product that numerous families depend on everyday. (Our business is a consignment shop for children’s and misses clothing).

Another up is the team we’ve assembled. Quite literally the best team I’ve ever worked with in business.

The downs include the 24/7 always-on-your-mind nature of owning a small family business. The occasional customer ‘situation’ that can suck the ever loving life out of you. And managing daily cash flow – where most small businesses can falter.

Still, this gig is a wonderful part of our family and our community.

We are a family business.

According to Forbes Magazine, family businesses account for over half of our overall GDP. There are 28 Million such small businesses in the US. Almost 80% of those are non-employer businesses. That means they, in essence, created their own jobs. In my mind, that is a significant contribution to a community.

While the failure rate in the first few years is high, these businesses go on to provide almost 2/3 of the job growth.

I remember when Judy and I started our business ten years ago, we had one part-time employee, quite a bit of stress and many mistakes. But when we opened the doors our mindset was this.

Let’s love the people, provide good service, carry a good product, and trust that these things will be sufficient to add value to our community. We also prayed a lot.

There was no separating business and family. There still isn’t. Much to the chagrin of our five children.

Yet through the business, we feel we have extended our family considerably. Far from trying to separate the two, family and business have come together is ways we never expected.

I’m going to write more about family business in the coming weeks. I would love to hear your stories about experiences owning or supporting a family business. Please email me at brad@bradhobbs.com


October 21st, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

How to Survive Startup Vertigo

I’ve been in somewhat of a sales slump lately.

It began when I shifted my coaching practice to a predominantly online business model.  

To be honest I’ve enjoyed making and taking the time to write and create.  It’s one of those necessary ‘must do’ kinds of work for me – life giving and gratifying.

But it’s an altogether different business model from what I’m used to.

When Tech Becomes Distracting

It doesn’t help that there are a lot of fascinating moving parts to the online business world.  Enough to keep this engineer brain distracted for hours tinkering with tools in my tech stack.

There are so many possibilities nowadays.  It creates what I have sometimes heard called the vertigo of freedom.  Having so many cool, innovative possibilities can make it incredibly difficult to settle in on one with which to conduct business.

Yet ultimately my cool tech stack won’t remain fun if it doesn’t produce what it was meant to produce.

Real Business Revenue

As with any business, at some point, you’ve gotta figure out a business model to generate cash.  Not just any cash.  Profitable cash.  The kind you get to keep and reinvest in the business or buy a boat.

As I’ve grappled with this issue over the past year, it reaffirmed the importance of systems and processes, even in a young startup venture.

Good Process Leads to Good Outcomes

They may not always be precisely the outcomes you planned for.  But they will be good outcomes.

But where there is no process, there are is rarely good outcomes in the business world.

It’s Never Too Late

It’s never too early to begin establishing good systems and processes for a business venture.

The way I’m trudging through this business evolution I find myself in is by systematizing everything I can and setting aside the rest.  Even my creative time.  I find that if I don’t systematically write to create something publishable, I essentially am just journaling to myself. 

Which is all well and good.  I’m a journaling fanatic.

But my ambition remains to write and create to help others.  To bring value to their world of business, work and life in general.

So here’s to the systems. The routines.  The processes.  Those sometimes mundane things that are definable, repeatable and transferable and do most of the heavy lifting in this world.

May we never forget the order you bring to the universe and to our lives.  And to all the ways business is done well.

I’m counting on you to help me build this next business I’m creating.

 


October 7th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Solopreneurship: The Most Overlooked Career Paradigm For Seniors

Today I turn 55.  And it has been bugging me for the past week

Fifty-five is when things begin to happen to people.  From the eyes to the toes, to parts in between, things seem to lose some of their youthfulness.

It’s the age when the government considers you a senior citizen.  I don’t know if that is true of all governments, but it’s ok so long as you like pancakes.

IHOP Restaurants offer a 55-plus menu with smaller portions and lower prices.  It’s not clear to me how much bacon you get with it, though.   (more…)


September 27th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Just-In-Time Learning: 5 Ways Savvy Entrepreneuers Stay Just Smart Enough

Browsing through a stack of unopened emails, I recently came across one from Khan Academy.  I remembered subscribing to their email list a few years back. Since then I had paid little attention to them.

As with all such email subscriptions, I have them routed into one of seven Airmail Smart Folders for browsing sessions like this one during those moments between tasks. It keeps my daily in-basket much less cluttered.

Today one particular email caught my attention because I had been seeking ways to help my youngest daughter with High School Geometry. And by “ways to help” I really mean “ways to save face.”

It’s been a few years since I sat down with Pythagoras and the guys, and I feared being rather useless as a dad-tutor. Those words really don’t go together anyway – dad and tutor. If you’re a father to a teenage daughter, you know exactly what I mean.

But this email piqued my curiosity enough for me to peek at the app they were promoting.

 Khan Academy App
 

Turns out, I already had it installed on my phone, but had totally forgotten about it!  I’m sure I have a lot of other lonely apps gathering kilobytes of dust on my phone.

I clicked on the app and quickly discovered a virtual paradise of lessons on High School Geometry.  Dad my boy, you are brilliant!

Of course, I just used two more word pairs that are never used together in the Hobbs household. Paradise and Geometry. Dad and brilliant.

But the moment reaffirmed both the need and the opportunity for a kind of learning that happens regularly, whether we realize it or not – just-in-time learning.

Just-in-time learning.

Most of us have been through school under the “just in case” mode of learning.  A degree program, classroom instruction, and now a few online tools to assist.

Contrast that with “just-in-time” learning which is more granular in approach, and addresses the needs of the moment.  We initiate it’s stores of knowledge only when we are ready for it.  In return, it provides immediate real-world training at just the right time.  

A little Googling – one of my favorite forms of JIT anything – helped me understand the differences in these two modes of learning.(1)(2)(3)

Just In Case Learning
Just-in-Time Learning
  • Instructor-led, “sage on the stage” classroom delivery by elite credentialed experts – physical or virtual
  • Virtual instructor-led classroom content
  • Pre-Packaged Content
  • Off-the-shelf Learning Programs
  • Limited in time and scope to what is delivered in the classroom
  • Written FAQ’s
  •  Online courses, tutorials, and tools created by information entrepreneurs and ‘normal people’
  • Social media communities with content, case studies, and cool hacks to get things done
  • Phone, chat and other virtual communication methods
  • Ongoing subject matter training with ‘conversational customization’ by a coach or mentor.
  • Open to social media groups who have similar experiences and needs

It is unlikely that either will replace the other in the foreseeable future. Both have their place and role in the shared mission of eliminating ignorance and developing the skills and abilities necessary for an individual to grow and for a society to thrive.

In this digital age of endless information at our fingertips, our learning options are truly unlimited. They can also be very personalized.  What becomes more important than the mode, is the skill of learning how to learn amidst all the choices.  This is the uberskill that is foundational to them all.  

For job-seekers, being teachable is one of the most sought-after traits by an employer. Those who have been teachable in the past are the ones that now have the best skills in the present.  It’s a habit that will keep producing returns in the future.  

Just-in-time learning is vital in this day and age. It has emerged as the front-runner among methods of acquiring and developing relevant skills and putting into practice the things that create value. It’s part skill, part attitude, and part paradigm shift in the way we acquire and develop the knowledge and skills we need to be successful in business, work, and life.

Here are five simple ways to begin transforming your mindset into a JIT learning laboratory.

  1. Browse.  Know what is out there.  Browsing can lead to serendipitous discoveries that become relevant later when the time is right.  Acquiring an advanced knowledge of search engine queries is helpful.  Learn how to search, and budget time to browse.
  2. Clip and save what may be useful in the future.  Save your brain cells for what you need right now; store everything else in a personal digital library.  I use Evernote with Skitch largely for this purpose. That way it is searchable in the future. A cool feature of Evernote in a Chrome browser is your relevant Evernote notes about a search topic will come up alongside your Google search results.evernote_organizatino_tips2_-_google_search
  3. Organize your learning library. Again, Evernote is second-to-none, especially accompanied by Drop Box. The key here is being able to quickly access relevant information when you need it. Taking a few extra seconds to set up a file folder system, and a simple system of tags can increase the speed of accessing critical materials when you need them.  It does take some effort to make just-in-time, just in time. 
  4. Learn by doing instead of just by reading and thinking.  To some, this is a no-brainer.  But I’m a reading and thinking junkie.  Literally to a fault.  I have to be reminded often that you really can’t ponder your way to success in any discipline.  You ultimately have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  We learn best by doing.
  5. Find a coach or mentor.  Every top professional has a coach.  This is someone who can come alongside you to multiply the impact of what you learn.  They can also help translate those things into practical, actionable insights that must be in play in order for mastery to happen.  

Regardless of what business you are in, or the size of your organization, just-in-time learning can be your new go-to way to keep yourself and your team well trained and fit for scaling the mountain of success in front of you.

It’s a necessary skill to have, a great attitude to cultivate, and sound practice to invest time developing.

Even if it’s been years since your last Geometry class.

 

Image credit: rvlsoft / 123RF Stock Photo


September 23rd, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

Learn to Love a Job You Don’t Like

Have you ever noticed that some jobs are easier to learn than others?   

When I was a teenager I worked one summer at a hardware store.  For whatever reason, I was great at merchandising and customer service. But I was lousy at the register.  To this day in my own retail store I fumble, stumble, and pace like a turtle when it comes to ringing people up. 

I literally try to avoid it.  I can setup the system.  But I’m lousy as using it. 

Go figure.

Do You Like Your Job?

The statistics suggest more people dislike their job than like it.   And let’s face it, some jobs are just easier to like than others.  

Being a gourmet chocolate tester?  Like.

A paid Disneyworld mystery shopper?  Like.

Portable toilet recycler?  Not like.

The guy who cleans up after the elephants at the zoo.  No thanks.

Shove-It Moments

Some jobs we love, others we disdain.  We’ve likely all had those “you-can-take-this-job-and-shove-it” moments where we literally wanted to do just that.

I’ll just call them our “shove-it” moments for sanitary reasons.

When our shove-it moments start being too numerous to count, we usually have a job we do not like. 

Three Redemptive Responses

At least once a year I pause to reflect upon three redemptive responses to those kinds of moments.  Ones that can even teach us how to love those jobs that we really don’t like.  

Together they can reset our thinking and restrain our reactions to the proverbial bad day at the office.

Focus on What You Can Control

Whether it feels like it or not, you have options and control over more things in an unlikeable job than you might imagine.  These include:

  • What you say
  • How you respond
  • How you handle strong emotion (in you and in others)
  • What you think about
  • How you grow your skills
  • How you deal with disappointment, stress and setback
  • How you look at your life and your future

Feeling out of control is a miserable thing, and a key factor in  many unlikeable jobs – regardless of the pay grade. 

We are never going to have control over all the circumstances surrounding our jobs.  Too many people, systems, quirks, and jerks.  I get it.  When we confuse what we cannot control with the total reality of our work, we rob ourselves of the one thing that can make the biggest difference.

Our self-control.

The Conversation In Your Mind

Several years ago I attend a seminar on helping people and communities who are bound up in chronic poverty.  Probably my biggest takeaway from the whole morning was this one thing.

A key contributor to poverty comes from the inability to keep a job, than it does the ability to find a job.

In play was what happened in those shove-it moments. 

A correlation was found between poverty and those who tended to lose their temper or react to an unlikeable circumstance in ways that cost them their job.  

It was a recurring and impoverished mindset before it ever became an economic reality.  It brings to light an ominous truth about the power of what goes on between the ears.

Every pernicious thing in this world got its start as a conversation in someone’s mind. 

The good news, however, is that every redemptive remedy begins there as well.  That’s why taking control of our thoughts is such an imperative. 

It may not turn your job into a likable one, but it can transform how you live and work in light of it.  Which brings us to the second solution to the problem.

Practice Your Serve

Alongside the shove-it moments is another dastardly companion that is actually the job mindset itself.  A job mindset is expressed through very acceptable notions like ‘getting a job’, ‘having a job’, or ‘my job’.  I even used it just a few paragraphs earlier.

Yet I think it sets us all up for failure.  Let me explain.

Believe it or not, your employer did not hire you because you needed a job.  They hired you because they needed your help.  They needed your mind, your back, your time, your focus, your skills, etc.  Whatever it is that you do, it was the need for that to be done that led to your hiring in the first place.

The work that you do is actually an opportunity for serving and loving.  In this case, love is an action and not a sentiment. 

The difference in mindset then is stark.  When we look at our work as a job to be possessed, as opposed to a need to be served, the way we approach our work can be more vulnerable to shove-it moments.   

If you went to a favorite restaurant and the server approached you with an attitude that said “I’m here only because I need a job, not because I want to serve you” you would not think kindly about a large tip.

So why would you do that at work?

It may not change your circumstances…but embracing a serving, and even loving, mindset could rehabilitate the kind of impoverished thinking that sabotages your best efforts to do well.

You have an opportunity to turn an unlikeable job into an endearing one if you choose to treat it as an opportunity to serve instead of an object to be possessed.

Look for The Purposeful Bigger Picture

This one is a bit nuanced, but it could be the most important one of all.  Here is the premise.

All work is purposeful, but not all purposes are workable.

Because we are not sovereign in our wisdom and understanding of this world, there will be purposes that we carry into our work that will never be workable. 

I came straight out of engineering school into the IBM world.  My very first day I looked at my manager across from the desk and told him, “Someday I want to be President of IBM.”  True story.  Embarrassing, but true.

I still recall the amused look in his expression.  He was a long-time IBM manager who fortunately knew how to handle such youthful exuberance.

It would take ten years – packed with an enormous number of shove-it moments – before I would submit to the idea that this probably was not going to happen.  My purposes at IBM simply were not workable.

Purposeful Work Amid Unworkable Purposes

So were those ten years then purposeless?  Were they wasted years?  Did I miss my calling because of chasing that unworkable dream?

Not. At. All.

Those years were enormously purposeful.  From the skills I learned to the people I met, I see now those IBM years as a part of something much larger than my youthful career ambitions. 

What I did for those ten years was purposeful work.  Even though my purposes for them would prove to not be workable.

I believe there is a way to have work that is life-giving, where we are in control, serving a corner of this world, and doing purposeful work even amidst unworkable purposes. 

By admitting these three subtle changes into our thought life, we can learn to love the work that we do.  Even in those jobs that we may not like.


September 2nd, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

What Season is Your Business In?

Most areas of the continental US enjoy parts of every season. One of the reasons we enjoy Knoxville so much is the robust sampling of each.

Often by the end of one season, we begin to be ready for the next.

For example right about now the thought of a weekend in the mid-90’s is not at all as appealing as it was back in February.

But there is one thing I’ve learned about seasons.

Our mindset regarding them can make all the difference in how we experience them.

That goes for business and commerce, as well as climates and communities. Because in case you’ve forgotten, business is very much seasonal.

A business can enjoy those warmer seasons of abundance and harvest. They also will experience the austere times of flatness and contraction.

Every market summer of gains ultimately has to be met with a market winter of consolidations. It’s never a matter of if, but when. With proper planning and diligence, every period of pull-back can prepare you for advances and new seasons of growth.

It all depends on upon your mindset.

Are you tracking the seasons of your business?

Do you anticipate them? Plan for them? And systematically cultivate the agility necessary to respond to them like a Scandinavian responds to the freeze?

It’s a worthy question to ask yourself – both on an organizational and personal/professional level.

If you live long enough you’ll understand what it’s like to have a vocational winter. But live even longer, and you’ll know the joy of a spring season of renewed vigor and growth where you never thought it could happen again.

With seasons, our mindset regarding them can make all the difference in how we experience them.

As you move along the route through which you ship value to our world, be sure to incorporate these three questions into your reflective times.

  1. Understand – What season am I in?
  2. Anticipate – What season might be next?
  3. Plan – How can I best prepare for that next season to happen then while remaining fully engaged in the one I’m in now?

The future sometimes has a tendency of knifing it’s way into our lives unexpectedly. Whether we see it coming or not, the savviest way still is learning how to be ready in season and out of season.

Seeking how to flourish in them all.


August 25th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

How to Boss-Up Without Being Bossy

Elizabeth’s anger and frustration were apparent.  It was also justifiable.  A few employees had just been discovered taking small liberties with inventory.  They were using very poor judgement at best and stealing at worst.

The team members worked hard and brought a lot to the business.  So the gravity of the moment pulled heavily on Elizabeth, and she knew it was time to do something.

Managing her anger would be as difficult as choosing the rights words.  Too reactive and intense (I caught you jerks red handed!) would dissolve any hopes for a redemptive outcome.  Too lax of a response and the team could lose respect for her with unspoken words of passive aggressive behavior and sloppy business practices that could threaten the business.

It was time for Elizabeth to “boss-up”.  But her mind was far from knowing what to say and do, much less how to say and do it.

We’ve encountered our fair share of sloppy practices and dangerous habits in our own store that crept in over time because they were left unchecked. Most of us who own small businesses probably have, if we’re honest with ourselves. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Ultimately the responsibility for any actions that we allow, or disallow, in our stores falls squarely on us as owners. To the point of a popular meme…we have to boss-up.

That does not mean we must be bossy. It means we just have to be willing to BE the boss…the overseer, the leader, the buck-stops-here person…consistently, day by day.

Many times our fear of being too bossy, or sometimes the carnage from having been overly bossy, leaves just enough head trash to keep us from actually BEING the boss.

When that happens we can lose our voice in our very own businesses. And THAT is the most dangerous behavior of all.

You don’t have to be bossy to boss-up. Reaffirm (or establish) what the boundaries of play are. Just like our Olympians must play within the boundaries of their sport, so must our employees.

It may take several conversations over time to get the point across. Rarely do bad habits change on one authoritative edict…especially if they’ve been allowed to form over time in a bossless-vacuum.

Throwing up a sign or sending a snarky email won’t make up for boss-lessness.

We boss-up without being bossy through simple acts of conversation.  Actually talking to your team – directing them away from sloppy business practices calmly…yet persistently firm…one conversation at a time…over time.

You can even try that yet today.

 


August 18th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs

One Way Your Sales Process Could Leave a Bitter Aftertaste

Two purchases I made recently reminded me of an important sales dynamic.  One that even the best of sales processes can sometimes neglect.

Both purchases were things I needed at some point in time.  Yet neither purchase was one I had been looking to make right then.  There were simply other more pressing matters on my plate.

In both cases the sales came about because the two sales professionals involved entered my sphere of time and attention to relationally connect with me, and share a little of the value they often deliver.

Both were good at what they did.  Our brief conversations always felt like a walk in the woods chat, instead of the one-sided demands of a toddler.  The initial sense of distraction was replaced by a momentary respite of conversation that good sales professionals know how to precipitate.

In both cases I made a purchase. Both purchases were appropriate, timely and not superfluous to my needs.  I have no regrets about either of them.

Yet the aftertaste of the two purchases were subtly different.

(more…)


July 28th, 2016 by Brad Hobbs