Stop, Think and Start Living Life

Proverbs 4:26

NIV- “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

ESV- “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”

Know Your Why

Often we hear stories of people who once had big dreams for their lives when they were in their 20s and 30s only to wake up one day and realize that over time they slowly moved off that course (probably without even realizing it). Along with this realization usually comes regret.

I heard someone say this one time and I’ve never forgotten it: “If you don’t know where you are going, you aren’t going to be happy with where you end up.” Too many don’t take the time to stop and think about where they are going. And when they look back, they don’t like where they’ve ended up.

What are five ways we can ‘ponder the path’ and prevent looking back with regret?

Stop
Just stop and as this Proverb says, ponder your path. Think about the direction you are moving in. Nothing in life is static. The truth is that we are either progressing or regressing. Which one are you?

Know Your Why
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s your hot button? Maybe your why is that you want to have financial freedom. Maybe you want to be able to provide for your child to go to daycare. Or even be able to be at home with your children. Usually the why is something larger than ourselves. Find out what your why is and get in the pursuit. Life is so much more enjoyable when we are in the pursuit.

Focus
Where and what is your focus and is it in line with where you want to end up? If not, the good news is that you can always re-focus. It’s never too late to start over or get a new goal.

Set a Goal
If you have a goal then you’re ahead of most people. If you don’t, then set a goal. What do you want to accomplish? What is your purpose? I believe that we’ve all been created for a purpose in life. We all should have goals.

Have Fun
Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Life isn’t going to be fun 100% of the time but we weren’t given the gift of life to not live it to the fullest. I see too many people who look miserable all the time. Live life!

This post is also live at http://www.brandonhelderop.com.

3 Tips I Learned Recently About Being Flexible

Recently, I encountered a potentially awkward situation during a meeting with a client. While in the middle of a meeting, I started to get a runny nose. The only problem? It wasn’t snot. I had a bloody nose. Of course my instant reaction was to excuse myself and let them know I had to run to the restroom. So picture me in the bathroom, head tilt back, a bloody paper towel in one hand and another shoved up my nose (Gross picture, right?), hoping nobody walks in to this potentially awkward sight. While simultaneously trying to get my nose to stop bleeding, I was attempting to think of an excuse since my client was probably wondering where I was and why I had been in the bathroom for several minutes. So what solution did I come up with? Since I am one to joke around, I decided to bring light to the situation and laugh it off with the client. I figured that if I could laugh about it and, at the same time, get the client to laugh about it too, I’d be in the clear. As a result, it worked and I spent the rest of my appointment with a kleenex up my nose. The good news is that we are working on a potential good-size project and we didn’t miss a beat.

I learned a lesson on flexibility through this situation. It’s easy to sit here and write about leadership lessons and principles. It’s another thing to encounter actual situations where you have to react properly and accordingly. There are going to be situations that come up where you didn’t exactly plan for things to happen that way. For example, I was all prepared for my meeting that day and me and my colleague had it mapped out. I have news for you: a bloody nose wasn’t on the agenda.

The following are three tips on flexibility in less-than-ideal situations that I learned from my blood nose incident:

1. Be honest
I didn’t really have a choice in my situation since I was wearing the truth on my face, but the worst thing we can do is be dishonest. If I had tried to play it off and returned to my client acting like nothing was going on, my nose would have started bleeding again and I would have had to excuse myself again. At that point, the client would be wondering why I keep leaving the meeting. He might even think that the reason I keep leaving is because I have something more important to tend to than him . Does anything good ever really come out of being dishonest? Rarely does that happen. Just be honest.

2. Laugh it off
This whole bloody nose incident could have been very awkward. Although it may be cliché to say this, I think it runs true anyway: It’s only awkward if you make it awkward. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I heard someone say once, “Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.” Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. John Maxwell says, “You better laugh at yourself, because everyone else is laughing at you!” This particular situation made for a good laugh.

3. Keep your goal in mind
Remember your goals and objectives. For me, I knew what my goal was for that appointment and what I wanted to accomplish. Even though I may have taken a detour to get to the destination, we still made it. More times than not, your journey isn’t going to consist of a straight line from the starting point to your end goal. Detours are going to occur. In fact, you should be prepared and expect them. However, don’t veer too far off the straight line. Keep your end goal in mind because all that matters is that that is where you end up. Whatever happens inbetween is just your story.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

6 Ways To Develop Your Business Skills

Editor’s Note: Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

In today’s fast-paced business world, information is moving quicker than ever and it’s never been more important for us to be on top of things and constantly learning and developing our business skills. Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” If we aren’t growing personally and professionally then we run the risk of falling behind our competition who I guarantee is. In order for each of us to become experts in our respective fields, we need to make learning a daily habit. As a result, the following are six low-cost resources available to you in order to hone and develop your business skills:

1. Books
There are an endless amount of books out there for you to read. Unfortunately, it seems like I run into a lot of people today that give me the excuse that they aren’t readers. Well guess what? While it may be cliche, leaders are readers. If you aren’t daily taking in new information and learning, you aren’t growing. My advice is that you just start somewhere. Find a good book by a reputable author. If you are looking to save some money, I’d suggest going to your local library to see if they have the book you are looking for. If not, look at purchasing it on Amazon. I purchase almost all my books on Amazon. You can get a book for cheap and have it shipped fairly quickly to your doorstep. I’ve even found some books in great condition on Amazon for as little as $0.99 and around $3.00 for shipping. It’s worth it.

As far as suggestions for books to get started with, I have some favorites that I recommend. However, it all depends on what you are doing and what you are looking to learn. If you have any questions or are looking for recommendations, drop me an e-mail and I can offer you a few suggestions.

2. Online Courses
Online courses are a great resource and there are several offered by organizations online. For example, right now I am in the middle of a course that is offered through the website, Udacity. The course I am taking, titled How To Build a Startup, is taught by Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and professor who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford, Columbia and Caltech among others. So I’m learning from one of the best professors and the best part is that the courses offered through Udacity are free. Also, did you know that Stanford is offering 16 free online courses for the Fall quarter?

3. Podcasts
iTunes has an endless amount of podcasts for you to subscribe to. One, in particular, that I subscribe to is a leadership podcast by Andy Stanley, the popular leadership author and speaker who is also the Senior Pastor of the mega church, North Point Community Church in Atlanta. Sometimes I’ll listen to his podcast while I am running. Podcasts are a great way to get some education time in while doing other things. Another great time to listen to podcasts is while you are in the car. If you are able to play your phone over the car speakers, you can get some education time in while driving.

4. Websites
There are a lot of websites available to you. The best part is that the only investment websites require are your time. I spend about an hour each day reading new articles. Here is a list of websites that I visit regularly:

For Business and Leadership:
Inc
Entrepreneur
Young Entrepreneur
Fast Company

For Social Media:
Mashable
Social Media Today

5. Seminars and Events
Seminars and events are great resources available to you. These events allow you the opportunity to hear the experts speak. I try to attend at least one event every month. Some of these events include topics such as start-ups, leadership and social media among others. For example, I will be attending TEDxDetroit on October 26. This event will allow me the opportunity to hear the Metro Detroit’s leading thinkers and creators. It will also be a great chance to do some valuable networking.

I’d recommend looking up some local organizations and finding out their event schedule. For example, if you are interested in social media, there are social media clubs and groups available to you no matter what city you are in that hold monthly events and seminars.

6. Mentorship
Do you currently have a mentor? If not, you are taking a big risk. I’d recommend pursuing mentorship in your field. You can do this by finding 2-3 experts in your field and seeking them out. Take them out for coffee and use that time to ask them questions and pick their brain. I’ve recently been doing this as I am looking to improve my social media knowledge. In the past month, I’ve gone out for coffee with 2 social media experts and had a conference call with another who happened to be in a different state.

It’s unwise to tackle a goal without any mentorship to keep you going in the right direction. John Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” Find a mentor and begin picking their brain for knowledge. There is a reason they are where they are and you are where you are. They have already made the mistakes that you would most likely make along the way. Wouldn’t it be ideal to piggy-back their wisdom and save some time, sweat and tears?

What other resources would you suggest?

Why Aren’t You Pursuing Your WHY?

Right now I’m reading one of the best books I’ve ever read called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In the book, Simon fires off so many nuggets that I could literally dedicate a series of posts just to this book. However, I was reading yesterday and came across a quote that really grabbed my attention and prompted this blog post:

“All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.” (Start With Why, pg. 134)

Simon goes on to tell Bill Gates’ story and how his WHY is to “help us all become more productive and achieve our greatest potential.” (pg. 134) Want to know a leadership secret? Because of his WHY, everything Bill does is dedicated towards his WHY and his cause. Great leaders have a crystal clear WHY and, as a result, dedicate their lives to finding new ways, different WHATs to bring their cause and passion to life. That’s why Bill and Melinda have the Gates Foundation. Through their foundation, they’ve led the charge for around 100 billionaires who have pledged to donate half their wealth to philanthropy as well as leading the charge to defeat malaria. Through these two missions, their goal is to help millions of people have the opportunity to realize their greatest potential.

Maybe your why isn’t as huge as Bill Gates’, though. Guess what? You have a driving purpose, a passion, a dream. As a Christian, I happen to believe that God has given each and every one of us a dream and a purpose for living. What is yours? If you don’t know, I would highly encourage you to take some time to think about it.

Now think about WHAT you are doing right now in your job, business ventures, free time, etc. If you know your WHY, are your current WHATs helping you achieve that cause and passion? If not, maybe that’s why you aren’t happy doing what you are doing.

Your WHY should determine why you do your WHAT. People tend to feel like they are in a rut because they aren’t following God’s purpose for their lives. The reason a WHY is so inspiring is because it encompasses something that is greater than ourselves. It shouldn’t just be about you. If it is, then your WHY is too small. If we pursue our WHY, we are intended to touch the lives of a large number of people. That’s how a God-inspired WHY works.

But not only that… if we pursue our WHY with passion, because it is touches the lives of so many others, it’s very possible that others may begin asking you if they can be a part of it. According to Sinek:

“When a WHY is clear, those who share that belief will be drawn to it and may want to take part in bringing it to life. If that belief is amplified it can have the power to rally even more believers to raise their hands and declare, “I want to help.” With a group of believers all rallying around a common purpose, cause or belief, amazing things can happen.” (pg. 136-137)

I’d really suggest that if you don’t know what your WHY is, figure it out. I promise you that God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has placed a dream and cause on your heart. I’ve heard it referred to as the “sweet spot”. It is up to you to figure out what that is.

Life will not always be perfect. However, it will be much more fulfilling if you can figure out what your “sweet spot” is and run at it with full speed and might. Pursue your cause so that great strides and achievements can be made. This world will be a better place if you are aiming to pursue your dream.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

How To Increase Your Influence

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the type of influence I have (and need to have) in the positions that I currently occupy as a husband, friend, mentor, co-worker, etc. More specifically, am I influencing others as I should by the example I am setting and, also, am I developing other leaders as a result of my leadership? As a matter of fact, what does influence even mean? There are two quotes that come to mind by John Maxwell, my favorite leadership guru, that describe influence. First, “Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” Second, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” And a bonus quote I like by former President John Quincy Adams who said, “If your actions inspire others to do more, to learn more, to dream more or to become more, you are a leader.”

Leaders that have true influence understand the stages of leadership. I’ve heard the stages of leadership presented by several leadership speakers/authors (however for the sake of citing I am taking from Tony Morgan’s website):

Set the Example
The first stage is this: true leadership and influence starts by being the example-setter. It’s impossible to inspire and lead others if you yourself don’t know the way, go the way and show the way as Maxwell says. If you want to position yourself as a leader in your organization, you’ll have to begin setting the example for others. If you are in sales and want to be the top salesman in the office, start by making more phone calls than anyone else. Recently, I ran into someone that was telling me that their company’s salespeople make 30 cold calls per day. Instead of doing the minimum and the status quo, he had instead decided to make a daily habit of calling 50. As a result, he was booking more meetings and creating a larger amount of new business than anyone else. Setting the example means being the bar-raiser in the organization.

Lead Others
Once you have become the example-setter and bar-raiser others to follow, people will soon want to know what you know so they can do what you are doing. At this stage, while you are still taking ownership, you begin to delegate responsibilities to others that are following you. Also, you begin to teach. They see you booking more appointments and bringing in more new business than anyone else and want to know how you are doing it.

Develop Other Leaders
While it’s important to lead by example and lead people, as leaders, one of the ways to judge our effectiveness is by the fruit we are bearing in the form of new leaders. My suggestion is to first find a mentor if you don’t have one already. However, make it a goal to find a mentee. That person is someone that you can pour into and offer guidance to just as your mentor will do the same for you.

Answer this riddle: would you rather have a million dollars or a penny doubled everyday for 31 days? Hopefully you chose the penny because on Day 31 you would now have over $10 million. Influence is such an important aspect of bearing fruit as a leader. Our own leadership influence is limited. However, as we develop leaders, our influence increases because it multiplies, just like the penny.

Inspire Leaders
While you should always be setting the example, leading others and developing new leaders, at stage four your focus changes. For example, a guy like John Maxwell has several leaders that he mentors in his organization, EQUIP. Those leaders are leading the charge and taking ownership of their positions. As a result, John’s focus doesn’t necessarily need to be on the first three stages. While all three stages of leadership are still essential, John’s job is to cast a vision and inspire his front-line leaders as well as those who read his books and listen to him speak. That should be the goal.

The truth is that not all leaders make it to stage four. Many may never make it to stage three either. However, it should be our goal to continuously grow. If we can set the example and be bar-raisers, lead an organization, develop leaders within that organization then we’ll position ourselves to be stage four leaders whose job is to inspire and cast the vision for our organizations.

It’s a process, though. You won’t be a stage four leader today or tomorrow. So make it a goal to start today by striving to be an example-setter and bar-raiser for your organization. Go the extra mile. Make 20 more calls than anyone else as my friend did. That will put you on the right track.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

Four People (Dead or Alive) I Would Invite To My Dinner Party

I came across a blog post recently that really got me thinking. The title of that post was “Ten People You Would Invite to Your Dinner Party”. Since the goal of having this dinner party would be to soak up wisdom and knowledge and learn from the greats, I’ve decided that four people would be a perfect number. In my opinion, a smaller group equals a more intimate and special setting. With that in mind, the following are the four people (dead or alive) I would invite to my dinner party:

Guest #1 – Ronald Reagan
If you know me, you know that I am extremely passionate about politics. I love studying past history and have spent many late nights reading about past Presidents and the United States’ Founding Fathers. One of my favorite Presidents is Ronald Reagan, not only for his accomplishments, but also for a few other qualities. First, Reagan was a phenomenal storyteller which allowed him to draw the interest of the American people and effectively connect. At my dinner party, he would keep us entertained with his entertaining stories. Also, Reagan had a great sense of humor and ability to lighten the mood when the time was appropriate. As the story goes, following the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, as he lay on the hospital table, he looked up at the surgeons and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans”. Another story goes like this: during mike check for his Saturday radio broadcast, Reagan came on and said to everyone’s surprise, “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes.” He had a great personality and ability to make people laugh.

In addition to those qualities, I would love to pick his brain on why he was so successful as President. In the future, I plan on running for political office so who better to take mentorship from than the one they called The Gipper.

Guest #2 – The Apostle Paul
If you’ve read any of my past posts on this blog, you would know that I speak often of the Vertical Alignment. The Vertical Alignment is how we prioritize our lives. For me, God is #1 in my life. Therefore, everything I do, believe, value funnels through my personal Biblical worldview of how I see the world.

The quality that stands out to me about Paul is that he was fearless and unapologetically bold about his faith. Paul knew he was called to be set apart for the gospel and, as a result, had purpose in everything he did and preached to all with absolute boldness. When someone is sold out for something like that, it is contagious and that’s why Paul’s ministry was so successful. My prayer is that I am unequivocally sold out for my faith like Paul was.

I would love to have Paul at my dinner party because I would love to be around somebody like that who is so contagiously sold out for his faith. Also, I would love to hear some stories that didn’t happen to make it into the Biblical canon.

Guest #3 – Rich DeVos
Hands down my business hero is Rich DeVos. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a background in network marketing that began when I was 19 years old. While I’ve since moved on to other ventures, I would not be the person I am today if not for my time in the Amway business (co-founded by Rich DeVos). A quality that sticks out to me about Rich is that he believes in people. That belief is so evident in the Amway organization. In Rich’s book, “Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People”, he writes, “It’s been said there are two types of people–those who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.” Rich is the second type of person. It’s no coincidence that the last phrase in that book is a simple one: I love you. I can attest that Rich uses that phrase. I was lucky enough to receive a few wedding presents from Rich in the form of signed books. Each one at the bottom is signed with “To Brandon. Love Ya, Rich”.

I want to emulate that kind of belief in and love of people and would love to pick Rich’s brain. Not to mention, he’s a phenomenal communicator and storyteller as well.

Guest #4 – John Maxwell
I love to read books on leadership. Specifically, my favorite author is the leadership guru, John Maxwell. In fact, it is because of him that I blog on the topics of Proverbs and Business. I heard a talk of his a few years back in which he told of many leaders he knows personally that consistently read the book of Proverbs each month (one chapter per day). John is not only a leadership author and speaker, he is also a pastor. I love that he comes at you, the reader and listener, with leadership knowledge based on a Biblical foundation.

If you are looking for a good book, you won’t go wrong by picking up any of his books. My favorite, especially, is his book Failing Forward. I’ve written in the past about an online community I’ve co-founded in Metro Detroit, along with two others, called Fail Detroit which is based on the idea of failing forward like John talks about in his book.

I would have a ton of leadership questions for John and he would probably get tired of all the questions I would throw at him. The guy has one of the greatest leadership minds so I’d definitely take advantage of having someone like that to talk to. Not to mention, he is also a phenomenal storyteller as well. Seems to be a common thread among many leaders.

I think this would have to be an all-night dinner party or maybe week long because between all the knowledge, wisdom and entertainment, I wouldn’t want it to end.

Your turn: What four people (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party?

Three Questions To Take a Step Back and Ask Yourself

Proverbs 10:6,9

MSG- “Blessings accrue on a good and honest life, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse. Honesty lives confident and carefree, but Shifty is sure to be exposed.”

In doing research for this post, I came across a quote I felt was applicable to this passage:

”Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson

I love that quote by Thomas Jefferson and it is so applicable when discussing the book of Proverbs. Honesty and integrity need to be the basic building blocks and the foundation for anyone conducting business. Nobody wants to be affiliated with a person who lies, cheats, tricks people, etc.

Recently, I was chatting with someone who was sharing with me their frustrations regarding a competitor that they know is not conducting business morally. This particular business owner has inherited a reputation within the industry for lying, cheating and, essentially, stealing from his customers. However, his customers haven’t picked up on that reputation yet. And as a result, to make things worse, he has had some short-term success as a result of these deceiving actions. And to add even more to the person’s frustrations that I was talking to, this gentleman is attempting to bring his competitors down by spreading lies about them in order to make himself appear better.

I was getting fired up just listening to that story. Definitely felt for the guy. Sometimes as someone who is striving to conduct business morally, it can seem flat-out unfair, especially when it seems like you are getting beat by the person acting without integrity. It may even be tempting to move to the other side since it seems to be working. My suggestion is to remember the passage above during these times. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people in the business world who are willing to strive for success by bypassing honesty and integrity. The Bible talks about how you reap the seeds you sow. If you sow negative actions, you’ll eventually reap negative results. Likewise, if you steadfastly remain firm, sowing good seeds, God promises blessings.

Business Ethics vs. Honesty and Integrity

We hear the phrase business ethics. Every organization seems to have something about it in their mission, vision or value statements. Conducting business with honesty and integrity goes way deeper than simply acting “ethical”, though. In my opinion, practicing business ethics doesn’t go far enough. There is way too much grey area. In my eyes, there is right and there is wrong. If God’s Word is your foundation (like mine is), then the difference between right and wrong should more times than not be black and white. There is no grey area with God.

As we are conducting business, my advice is that we take a step back and ask ourselves these three questions:

1. Am I treating my clients and employees the way I would like to be treated?

We all learned the golden rule when we were kids: treat others as you yourself would want to be treated. You wouldn’t want to be lied to or cheated against. We expect others to be honest in working with us. We should do the same to others.

2. Do I have to rationalize business decisions?

If we have to convince ourselves that doing something is okay, then it probably isn’t okay. God blessed each of us with a conscience that helps us decide between right and wrong. If we are struggling with a decision because our conscience is leading us in one direction but we want to go in the other direction, we may be rationalizing.

3. Do I do what I say I am going to do?

Our word is our bond. One of my favorite quotes is this:

“If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. If you lose a friend, you’ve lost something. If you lose your word, you’ve lost everything.”

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Simple as that.

Bonus question: Next time you are in a “sticky” situation and struggling with what to do, ask yourself this: Will I be able to sleep well tonight as a result of my decision?

Remember, one day we will have to answer to someone higher. In addition, the message above in verse 6 is that God’s blessings accrue on a good and honest life. There are a lot of people out there in the business world who claim to be practicing honesty and integrity but not enough living it out. My hope is that we can all aim to make honesty and integrity core principles in our business practices. Talk is cheap. Let’s strive to live them out.

Can you think of any more questions we should ask ourselves to make sure we are acting with honesty and integrity?