Thursday, November 30, 2017

Organize for Excellence

If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Have you ever wondered why that expression is true? It’s because busy people are masters of time management. Busy people don’t think of each day as 24 hours - they think of each day as 86,400 prioritized and planned seconds. While our calendars are divided into 30 minute increments, our lives are not. We have 86,400 opportunities each and every day, and we get to choose how to use every single one of them.

Manage Your Time
Most of us manage time in a reactive, rather than proactive, mode.  That is, we react when emails arrive, we react to the pile of papers on our desk, we react to phone notifications, and once those are done, we look at our to-do list. We need to manage our time based on a prioritized to-do list. Focus first on the most important item on your to-do list, then focus on the next priority. With each task, ask yourself, “What’s the best use of my time right now” and then focus on that task until it's done.  

Manage Your Calendar
The to-do list is best suited for items that aren’t constrained to a given start and end time.  Items that have a specified start and end time belong on your calendar.  Notice that it’s your calendar - not your calendars.  While you may use different calendaring tools for work and home, stay organized by always having a single, master view of your calendar that drives your daily actions.  When putting items on your calendar, ask the question, “Is this the best use of my time?” If you want to have a date night on Friday, put it on the calendar.  If you want to work out every morning from 6-7am, put it on your calendar. The calendar should reflect your priorities and represents your plan of how you choose to spend your time each day.

Manage Your Distractions
Everything screams for your time. Phone calls, texts, emails, and notifications are all competing for your time and focus.  Unlike  powerful computers, our brain is only capable of focusing on one task at a time. In fact, attempting to multitask only reduces productivity as your brain has to re-orient itself every time your focus shifts to a new task.  When emails arrive or notifications pop up on your phone, resist the urge to give them your attention until you’re done with the current task.  When you do handle mail, whether snail or email, handle it once and only once. Do one of four things with mail: act on it, file it for reference, delete it, or create a task on your to-do list to act on it later.

Manage Your Downtime
Every day, we waste countless, valuable seconds. If you want to better manage your time, especially when you find a few unexpected minutes of downtime, have some “filler” tasks on your to-do list.  Put some tasks on your list specifically for those moments, and label them as filler tasks. For example, create tasks called “filler: read professional development articles” or “filler: read the Bible” or “filler: meditate." That way, when you’re in the doctor’s waiting room or a meeting is starting late, go to your to-do list, find a filler task, and act upon it immediately. While those small blocks of time seem insignificant, they add up quickly and can become your best productivity tool.  

Putting it Together
Life’s short, and you can go through the motions of life and allow time to control you, or you can take action and take control. Too many people use the excuse, “I’m too busy.”  While they’re busy using the excuse, people who are much busier are finding ways to get things done.  There’s never a good time to do something. You need to make the time to make it happen. Rather than letting those 86,400 seconds slip away every day, put them to work for you.

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 

Check out Enjoy the Journey on at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at

Friday, November 24, 2017

Define Yourself

Who are you? No, I’m not going to start reciting 1970s rock songs. But who are you and what do you stand for? What are you passionate about? What causes would you die for? What defines you as a person - a worker, a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend, a neighbor? We have one shot. That’s what we get. One shot to make a difference. One shot to leave a legacy of greatness. One shot to dream your dreams and make them come true. So I ask again, who are you?

Tell Me About Yourself
We are asked this question a lot - in interviews, in social situations, in business settings.  How often do we answer by citing our job title?  "I’m an accountant.” “I’m an engineer.”  “I own my own business.” Given the setting, that may be an important piece of the answer, but it’s not the whole answer.  Think about the roles you play in life… a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend, an employer, an employee, a child of God, a boater, a recreational athlete, a volunteer, an avid reader. You are defined by the sum of what you do in life, not how you earn a living.  Life’s not about finding yourself, it’s about defining yourself!

You Are Your Character
Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking” ~ J.C. Watts. Character isn’t a one-and-done. Character isn’t defined when you’re on easy street.  Character is defined one decision at a time; it’s carefully molded over a lifetime as one rides the good times but also perseveres through adversity. Life’s short, and there are a million excuses waiting for you. You can always take the easy way out, and you can always rationalize why you didn’t succeed.  But that’s not what we're called to do. We were put on this planet to fulfill destinies far greater than ourselves. We were designed to live a life of character. Character is a statement to the world that answers the question, “Who are you?”  

Legacy = Purpose + Passions + Priorities
In last week's blog, I talked about the 3 Ps in life:
  • Purpose - the reason you believe you were put on earth; the legacy you plan to leave for generations to come
  • Passion - how you enjoy spending your time, talents, and treasure
  • Priorities - your North Star in life that guide your decisions, your actions, where you will and won't spend your time, and where you will and won't sacrifice
When you put together the sum of all three, you're defining your legacy.  You’re writing the story of you, which will be passed on for generations to come. You’re defining the mark you are leaving on the world. Maybe your past hasn’t been so great, but today is a new day and a new you. Your story begins today - write it! 

I encourage you to carve out 15 minutes this week and do the following: 
  1. Think about the many roles you play in life.  Write them down. Consider the message that each role sends to others about you.  Are you a child of God? What’s your career? What roles do you play in a family - parent, child, spouse, caregiver? What are your hobbies and volunteer activities? How else do you spend your time? Write them down, and the next time someone says, “Tell me about yourself,” tell them about the whole you.
  2. Think about your character. How would others describe you during times of crisis?  If you're not sure, ask those around you. Do you display honesty and integrity even when it may work against you? Do you persevere instead of looking for an easy way out?  Do you own problems and take accountability for solutions instead of pointing a finger? Do you do the right thing even when nobody’s looking? In what areas can you improve your character?
  3. Define your legacy. Write it down.  Write down the words you’d like to have people say at your funeral. Write down the words you’d like to have people use to describe you generations from now… Godly, family-oriented, kind, loving, caring, generous, compassionate, results-oriented, driven, motivated, inspirational, fearless.  It’s up to you.

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 

Check out Enjoy the Journey on at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Living the Dream

"I want to play professional baseball." "I want to be a rock star." "I want to be a movie star." "I want to be an astronaut." As kids, we all had dreams, and we weren’t afraid to dream big because nobody had ever squelched our hopes and dreams. No kid ever dreamt of mediocrity. Yet as adults, we view life from a mediocre perspective.  We say things like “TGIF" and "hump-day" as if our lives only have joy and meaning on weekends. We set low standards such as “getting by” and “paying the bills” as  acceptable.  When we use words like “living the dream,” why are we more sarcastic than serious? What ever happened to those child-like dreams? 

Your Four-Minute Mile
For hundreds of years before 1954, running a mile in under four minutes was deemed physically impossible.  It didn’t just seem impossible, it was scientifically determined that humans were incapable of doing so. Roger Bannister refused to believe that this was impossible. He programmed his mind and body as if the four-minute mile was a foregone conclusion, and to solidify his place in history, he then trained as if it would happen.  While others were explaining to him the science of why it was impossible, he was busy making it happen.   On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile in history with a time of 3:59.  Within a year, someone else ran a four-minute mile.  Now, it’s almost routine. We all have self-limiting beliefs. We all have limits imposed upon us by others. Maybe it’s time to break the paradigm and program your mind and body for success.  What’s your four-minute mile?

Think Like an Infant
If babies were negatively programmed like most adults, they would never learn to walk. Most of them would never even try to stand up, as they’d be afraid of failure. They’d be afraid to fail, afraid to get laughed at, afraid to not be conforming to the ways of the world. They simply wouldn’t try. For those that did try, they would fall once. They’d point a finger and blame their parents, their environment, the carpet, and anything else to justify their failure. Worse yet, they’d try, fall once, and use the “c” word. They’d doom their destiny by saying, “I can’t.” Fortunately, the human brain protects infants, but over time, people are conditioned to dream smaller and to fear failure. It's time to dream big, abolish fear, and relentlessly pursue those dreams. 

Go Big or Go Home
What would it take for you to live the dream?  First, define the dream. What are your three P’s in life: your purpose, your passion, and your priorities?  If you don’t know, it’s worth carving out some time to think about it.
  • Purpose - the reason you believe you were put on earth; the legacy you plan to leave for generations to come
  • Passion - how you enjoy spending your time, talents, and treasure
  • Priorities - your North Star in life that guide your decisions, your actions, where you will and won't spend your time, and where you will and won't sacrifice
Using the three P’s, now set a far-reaching goal. Run a marathon, learn a new language, take an exotic vacation, grow into a new career, lose weight, find new ways to spend more quality family time, go on a mission trip… the sky’s the limit. Aim high and go for it!

Putting it Together
Life’s short. You were meant to thrive, not just survive. Don’t sell yourself short - destroy all false self-limiting beliefs, destroy all fear of failure, aim high, go big, and go for it!  If you do, I promise the journey of a lifetime.

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 

Check out Enjoy the Journey on at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Omnidirectional Leadership

You’re a leader.  If you’re in a position to motivate, influence, and drive positive action, you’re a leader. Leadership isn’t a title, it’s a role found in every business, every team, every family, and every community.  In the circles of your life, chances are you hold multiple leadership roles, which require different leadership styles. Omnidirectional leadership is about knowing the perspectives from which you lead and when to use each one...

Real World Leadership Lessons
On most Saturday mornings when the Michigan weather permits, I can be found enjoying a long bike ride.  Often, I’ll cycle with my team in a peloton, in which real-world omnidirectional leadership lives and breathes.  It starts when the leader creates or finds a course.  They communicate the course to the team, set the start time, and identify a target pace. The leader will often start at the front of the peloton, guiding the way, and setting the example for others.  Once the direction is established, the leader will often rotate to the back of the pack and allow someone else to lead from the front.  From the back, the leader keeps an eye on the team and ensures everyone continues following the direction by staying on-course and on-pace.  After leading from the back, the leader rotates back through the peloton, where they grind it out with the team and provide motivation and guidance from within.  Note that each leadership perspective has different responsibilities, and the exceptional leader is adept at leading from each perspective.  

Lead From the Front
Great leaders are proficient at leading from the front. Much like the cycling example, they have a destination in mind, they communicate that destination, they map out a course, they communicate the course, they guide people along the path, and they lead by example.  In business, this comes in the form of a vision, mission, strategies, and operating plans.  In a family this can come in many forms, including a vision, goals, and plans. In any setting, it requires communicating the direction early and often, and it requires a high degree of walking the talk.  That is, great leaders don’t bark orders, they role-model the behavior they’re looking for. People may not always listen to what you say, but make no mistake, they’ll always watch what you do.  The biggest challenge when leading from the front is that leaders can stray too far from the day-to-day activities to be effective.

Lead From the Back
Leading from the back is just as important as leading from the front. Once the leader has set and communicated (early and often) the vision, mission, strategies, and plans, they need to empower, motivate, and inspire their team for success.  In the cycling example above, this is where the leader moves to the back of the pack, monitors the team, makes sure they stay on-course and on-pace, supports the team with course corrections as necessary, and enables their success. In business and in life, the leader has to empower the team. That is, make sure they have the right skills, knowledge, abilities, tools, and environment in which to be successful.  The leader then motivates and inspires their team, which is about transforming the leader’s vision and goals into the team’s vision and goals.  "The task of leadership is not to put passion into people, but to inspire and elicit it -- for the passion is there already." ~Ty Howard.  The biggest challenge when leading from the back is that leaders can't become passive - they need to keep leading. 

Lead From the Inside
Sometimes leaders need to roll-up their sleeves and get into the weeds with the team.  Leading from the inside often provides the best one-on-one opportunities to teach, coach, and mentor. This perspective also puts the leader closest to the team, which improves their ability to identify and address problem areas real-time.  Most importantly, it creates a great opportunity to develop the next generation of leaders. By first role-modeling leadership behaviors and then allowing others to emulate those behaviors, it provides an invaluable, real-world experience.  I’ve seen this done exceptionally well on several occasions where projects required late nights, and the leader stayed late with the team, provided some much-needed pizza and encouragement, and helped support the team so they could be successful. The biggest challenge when leading from the inside is losing sight of the forest through the trees. 

Be Flexible
Whether it’s your workplace, athletic team, family, community, or other circle over which you have influence, no single leadership perspective will work in all situations. Leading from the front is a great place for a leader to start. Setting and communicating the vision and roadmap early and often is a critical success factor.  Leaders need to return to this perspective on a regular basis. Leading from the back is effective when the team already has a clear direction and requires empowerment and support to stay on-track.  Lastly, leading from within is especially useful when there are challenges in which the team needs more focused coaching and attention. "The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." ~Albert Einstein. Be focused, be flexible, and most of all, be determined to drive positive action and game-changing results.

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 

Check out Enjoy the Journey on at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bear Fruit for Success

The fundamental premise of your employment relationship, your personal and familial relationships, and all of life’s relationships is your ability to create win-win solutions.  The win-win solution is when both parties have needs, and those needs are met in ways that are mutually beneficial.  If I win, you win; if I win more, you win more.  Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything you want in life, if you’ll just help enough people get what they need. It all boils down to this… bearing fruit.

Historical Origins
In Biblical times, Jesus talked about bearing fruit as a fundamental principle of how we live. He said, "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” ~John 15:16 and "...every healthy tree bears good fruit” ~Matthew 7:17. Bearing fruit was a directive, a sign of health and vigor, and a fundamental expectation nearly 2,000 years ago, and it’s even more fundamental than ever today.

Blossom Where You’re Planted
The best way to bear fruit is to blossom where you’re planted. Maybe you're not in your ideal job. Maybe you have a challenging teenager. Maybe you or a family member has an illness.  No matter where you find yourself, be the best you, and make the most of the situation. Excelling in a suboptimal environment sends a loud and clear message to the world that you are committed to success, focused, able to persevere, and deliver results against any and all odds.  It's those victories that set you up for bigger, more visible challenges.  Once bearing fruit becomes a part of who you are, future success is a foregone conclusion.

Relationships: Ask the Question
How often have you heard someone complain about a friend who can’t maintain a relationship, and they say, “But he’s such a nice guy”?  Guess what, he’s not bearing fruit. Being nice is a form of fruit, but can he make people laugh, can he make people smile, can he provide, is he a good conversationalist, is he a good listener, does he bring value to the relationship, does he meet his partner's needs? Napoleon Dynamite said, “Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” Sure, it’s a funny quote, but what he’s really saying is, “People only want to be in relationships with those who bear fruit.” What fruit do you bear in your relationships?

Work: Ask the Question
We all want to get paid a decent salary, receive competitive benefits, and do meaningful work.  In other words, we want our employer to bear fruit for us. Let's take a look at the flip-side. Your employer wants to know what fruit you bring to the table. Are you a hard worker, a quick learner, passionate about your work, skilled with interpersonal skills, do you produce results, do you exert a positive influence on those around you?  In other words, what fruit do you bear in your work environment such that the employment contract is a win-win?

Life: Ask the Question
Take a look at all aspects of your life.  Let's look at a spiritual example. Do you go to church and expect the church to fill you up spiritually, or do you get engaged, volunteer, and try to bear fruit for the church? Or let's suppose your kid plays sports. Do you expect the coach to teach, lead, guide, and mentor your child while you sit on the sidelines criticizing their coaching and the quality of referees? Or do you find a way to support the team by helping out, assisting the coach, fundraising, or bearing fruit for the kids in the form of being a positive role model?

The Challenge: Deliver
Bear fruit.  Plain and simple, bear fruit. Look at all relationships in your life and ask yourself, “Do I have the right skills to bear fruit and engage in meaningful win-win relationships?” If you’re not sure what fruit you’re bearing, chances are you’re not bearing either the right fruit or enough fruit. Figure out what fruit you need to bear, and start producing.

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 

Check out Enjoy the Journey on at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at

In the Zone

Only 19 miles to go to the finish line. I just need to focus, one step at a time, pace, form, hydration, nutrition… hey there’s a bird!  Bac...