How This Entrepreneur, at Age 32, Has Already Built a Thriving Restaurant and Entertainment Company

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One of the things I find deeply fascinating are the backstories of incredibly successful individuals. We know them for the accolades they receive for their success and for their public profiles. But when you dig a little deeper into those stories to find out makes them tick, you often discover a wealth of knowledge that will help guide you along your own journey.

You may initially label these people as “lucky” and wish that you too could attain their level of success, but it’s not just their success where you should be looking . . .

Instead, what all highly successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, athletes and all others at the top of their game possesses is an unwavering desire to be the best, master their craft, relentlessly fight until they get to where they want to go and never stop learning and getting better.

I recently had the great fortune to sit down with one of these individuals, Carmen Rossi. Rossi is an attorney and extraordinarily successful restaurant entrepreneur who’s relatively young, at age 32. He is the founder of the Chicago-based company, 8 Hospitality Group, a restaurant, hospitality-development and management company that has 900-plus employees. It specializes in food and beverage marketing, branding, promotions, public relations and operations.

8 Hospitality Group, Rossi told me, sees food and beverage as a lifestyle that is maintained through valuable experiences and mutually beneficial relationships with the community.

I spoke with him further about how he was able to achieve entrepreneurial success at such a rapid rate. An attorney by trade, he built one of the most dominant hospitality companies in Chicago — one that continues to expand and reach new heights. Here are four key things that Rossi attributed his success to, attributes that I think could greatly benefit others on the entrepreneurial and professional paths.

1. Move past the fear.

In my work as a keynote speaker and consultant working with some of the biggest brands in the world, I have concluded that one of the biggest reasons why so many organizations and individuals stay stagnant and never experience major breakthroughs is fear. When Rossi earned his law degree from Northern Illinois University and later discovered that he wanted to take a chance in the hospitality market, with no background in hospitality management or culinary arts, he was initially consumed with fear.

“The biggest thing for me in that moment was that I had to move past the fear. I was absolutely terrified, but I was willing to bet on myself, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made,” Rossi told me.

One of the biggest pieces of advice that I ever received which has positively shaped my life is to “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Fear is a common emotion, but the best of the best fully understand that once they feel the fear, they don’t let it paralyze them from taking action and going after what they want.

What are you fearful of right now? Write down that fear and then take the time to put in your calendar what your next course of decisive action is going to be. As Rossi put it, “You can’t build anything of great value and achieve lasting success if you let fear be the driver of your life.”

2. Be “pro” community and government.

When I asked Rossi what he saw as separating him from everyone else, he mentioned his philosophy of being pro-community and government. “The hospitality industry is a great way to engage the community and make a positive difference in the local government,” Rossi said to me.

The takeaway here, he said, is how he decides on new concepts, how he’s always thinking about how he can actively engage the community and positively influence civic and social issues within that community. “You see a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses trying to find ways to shortchange the government,” he said, “but I have found that the more I can get involved and make a difference in the local government is where the real change and success lies.”

How has this philosophy paid off for Rossi? Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel appointed him as commissioner on landmarks while Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner selected him for a member of the Illinois Economic Development board. Even if you yourself have no desire to get involved in politics in any capacity, making a positive difference in your local community and being “pro-government” can catapult you to business success just like as it has for Rossi.

3. Be a “craftsman.”

The one specific mindset that has been a huge driving force in my success, first as a professional athlete, and now as an entrepreneur, is the mindset of a craftsman. By that, I mean becoming a lifelong learner of your craft, committing to never stop growing and relentlessly searching for ways to maximize your potential and get better at what it is you do.

Rossi said, “When I travel and go to other cities, I am constantly looking for ways to adopt new concepts and refine my approach and what my next move will be.” He continued, “I guess you can call it ‘obsessiveness,’ to a degree, but I think that all entrepreneurs need to have a healthy amount of obsession if they truly want to succeed in the long haul.”

One of the best decisions you can make that will take your performance and professional success to the next level is to commit to a never-ending development of yourself and your craft.

4. Don’t let crisis define you.

“I think a huge determining factor in whether someone has the guts to be a successful entrepreneur and win in business is to never give up the fight and break stride after you repeatedly get hit in the face and knocked down,” Rossi said to me.

Besides fear, I think that the inability to move past failure and keep standing when the going gets tough is what holds many back from living their absolute best life and tapping into their full potential.

It’s important to note that I am not talking just about adversity in business, but about life in general. Life will always throw you curveballs and unexpectedly take your breath away at times, but the one thing you control is how you respond. “I have had a great deal of struggles and adversity throughout my career, but one of the hardest things that I ever had to do was continue to move forward when I lost my mother unexpectedly. It crushed my entire world, but I knew that I couldn’t let this crisis define me or get in the way of my grand vision,” Rossi said.

Already, they’ve helped shape Carmen Rossi into the successful entrepreneur he is today, allowing him to build a thriving organization that is taking over the Chicago hospitality market.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

4 Ways to Decrease Stress and Maximize Performance

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Stress is one of the biggest factors holding people back from creating transformational breakthroughs in both their personal and professional lives. If you don’t know how to handle stress, it could become the factor that, at first, keeps you from performing at your absolute best, and ultimately — if not addressed — kills you.

This threat is widespread, of course, because, in the business world, the demands, obligations and expectations entrepreneurs face to continually deliver exceptional results, seems never-ending. Not to mention that, when you combine all of the different personal obligations you face, you begin to see why stress so often is called the silent killer.

Certainly, there are many different strategies that highly successful people use to deal with stress and not let it get the best of them. But I thought that instead of citing the experts, I’d share four particular things I personally pay attention to on a daily basis. All have greatly helped me to decrease the amount of stress in my life.

And while, initially, they may seem simple and just plain common sense, remember: What’s common sense isn’t always common practice.

1. Maximize endorphin production.

Nothing has positively benefited my life more than getting into the habit of having a workout during the course of my day, especially when I have a lot going on and feel stressed out.

One of the quickest and surest ways to diminish the negative side effects of stress is to get your sweat on. When you partake in some sort of physical activity during your day, your body releases endorphins, which end up triggering a positive feeling in your entire body. Not only will you decrease your stress by getting a workout in, but you will be lightening your mood and setting yourself up for a more productive day.

Personal experience: A few months ago,, I was completely worn out and on the verge of burnout. I was traveling all the time and giving the upper hand to my excuses as to why I wasn’t working out and taking better care of myself.

After three weeks of feeling miserable, I knew I had to do something fast. It didn’t matter where I was in the world: I made a commitment with myself to get two workouts in each and every day. So, I did a quick workout first thing in the morning to jump-start my day and then another workout later, which usually consisted of cardio at the end of the day.

This was the exact same routine I’d used when playing professional football and college football. Even though I was no longer an athlete, this routine of maximizing my endorphin production twice a day worked exceptionally well. I started to feel a whole lot better about myself and noticed positive changes in my work.

The message here is, you don’t have to get in two workouts each and every day like me, but you should make it a priority to maximize endorphin production at some point during your day. I have found from personal experience that one of the most efficient ways to increase productivity, reduce stress and spark creativity is to just get moving.

2. Learn how to say “no” more often.

As an ambitious and highly motivated individual, I find that one of the hardest things to learn over the years has been to say “no”more often. When you are looking to take your life and business to the next level, saying “yes” and agreeing to every little opportunity that presents itself is almost second nature.

But the fact of the matter is that many of the daily obligations and opportunities we agree to aren’t going to move the needle for us. Of course there are things that need our attention, as the day goes on, which we didn’t plan for, but I advise planning your day the night before and never having more than five tasks on your daily to-do list.

What this simple habit does is force you to zero-in on what matters most for that particular day that will give you your biggest return on energy and time.

Personal tip: Another key strategy that has helped me say no no more often is having in front of me at all times a list of the three biggest priorities that will impact my business the most. When a decision is needed or an opportunity comes knocking, I glance at those priorities — an action which then guides me, on where my time and energy will go.

If the opportunity doesn’t include one of those three things on my priority list, I will decide whether it needs to be delegated to a team member or if another course of action needs to be taken. Learning how to say no more often is a game-changer.

3. Go make someone else’s day.

One of the main reasons why a lot of us get easily stressed and let anxiety and worry take a place at the forefront of our lives is that we get too caught up in our own little world. Yet, there is so much more to life than what we ourselves are experiencing.

When I notice that I’m feeling stressed and that my daily workload is getting the best of me, I make it a habit — and it’s one that brings me great joy– to go make someone else’s day. For you, this might involve calling up a friend and asking how his or her day is going, lending a listening ear to someone who has it much worse than you do or giving back to the local community.

There is no right or wrong way on how to make someone else’s day, but the next time you feel stressed, I challenge you to explore different ways to be of service to someone in that particular moment.

Personal tip: I keep a stack of cards next to my desk, and not a week goes by where I don’t write a thank you note to someone that I am extremely grateful for. My grandfather always used to tell me when I was younger about the significance of handwritten notes, and I haven’t forgotten that advice to this day. Want to instantly elevate your well-being? Go be of service and make someone else’s day.

4. Monitor what you put into your body.

One of the first things people turn to when they’re stressed is junk food. Indulging in your favorite treat from time to time won’t harm you, but when you consistently fail to fuel your body with the right food, you’ll lose your chance to achieve a level of peak performance.

According to Mark HymanNew York Times best-selling author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, eating whole, real food restores balance and reduces the negative effects that stress has on your body. Replacing harmful substances such as caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars with clean proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats helps regulate your hormone levels — including the stress hormones.

Personal tip: I tell people all the time that one of my best decisions for elevating my performance and decreasing stress levels was getting my blood tested to see what my deficiencies were, then hiring a nutritionist to show me how to fuel my body to fill those specific needs.

After one month of changing my eating habits and getting rid of the junk, I felt like a new man, able to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time than what I’d previously achieved. You can have all the success in the world, but if you don’t have your health, that success means absolutely nothing. So, make your health and what you put into your body a priority. Use the four strategies I’ve described.

And, don’t let the hustle and bustle of life and negative side effects of stress be the reason why you don’t begin the journey of living your best life. Today.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Turn Crisis into Clarity and Ignite Growth

Image credit: Gibson

One of the most challenging and daunting tasks any leader will face is learning how to successfully lead through change and not only survive extreme adversity but still create massive growth.

In life as well as business, there will be times when negative, perhaps unthinkable, situations arise, and we are forced to think fast and make our move.

Often, people in these circumstances fall victim to curling back up in their comfort zone and avoiding further discomfort, by any means necessary. But in business, this becomes a tragic formula that over time can force an organization, regardless of size, to close its doors. As an entrepreneur and leader of that organization, you must not only be obsessively good at putting out fires but at figuring out how to turn crisis into clarity and the ignition of tremendous growth.

As a former professional athlete, called on to perform under intense pressure and turn negatives into breakthroughs, I learned what separates an average player from a great one. The same exact characteristics are needed to win and thrive in business.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Tim Leman, chairman and CEO of Gibson, an Indiana-based insurance, risk-management and health-benefits advisor. Tim has an amazing passion for leadership, and his track record of success shows it. Under Leman’s leadership and guidance, Gibson has endured a lot of rapid change in the marketplace and has risen to become one of the top insurance agencies in North America.

Leman is also the author of the book rEvolution, the powerful story of his  transformation from a first-time CEO to head of a thriving professional services firm. rEvolution provides personal insights and practical guidance on how to utilize a business crisis to bring about change, evolution and growth.

Leman and I discussed his evolution as a leader and five key leadership traits that helped him turn crisis into clarity and ignite growth.

1. Resilience

All great leaders, regardless of industry, are extremely resilient and never quit at the first sign of trouble. In 2009 and 2010 ,when the recession was in full swing, 10 percent of Gibson’s workforce was laid off.

“We were in financial turmoil and it would have been so easy to give up and sell in that moment of time,” Leman told me. Even though giving up and selling the company would have been the easiest route, Leman remained resilient and didn’t give in. “Without dogged perseverance and a tenacious personal belief system I wouldn’t have made it,” he acknowledged. “You have to survive to even have the chance to evolve. Don’t give up the fight.”

I couldn’t agree with Leman more. The best leaders, teams and organizations never give up the fight regardless of how tough things are at the moment. So, get connected to your personal belief system just as Tim Leman did. Why do you do what you do? What’s your long-term vision? How do you want to be remembered as a leader?

In order to build a great company and successfully lead through change, you must become the most resilient person you know. Don’t give up the fight!

2. Introspection

Being introspective doesn’t happen right away for a lot of leaders. One of the easiest things in the world to do is to constantly place the blame elsewhere and never look within to question your own actions and beliefs.

“What changed for me was getting crushed in my ‘360’ reviews [employee and supervisory feedback], which started the process for me of looking within and then wanting to change for the right reasons,” Leman told me. “The best leaders are always looking for ways to maximize their efficiency and be better more of the time. One of the best ways to do this is to make it a priority to take a weekly or monthly review of your leadership style and ask yourself how you can become a more effective leader.”

Leman added, “The ability to self-correct is critical to improving your leadership style. Leaders without followers can’t drive change. Become more self-aware or find others to help you.”

3. Adaptability

The market and world we live in is constantly changing, which means that as leaders we must be more adaptive than ever and willing to change, as well. And change is hard; change is extremely uncomfortable. But it’s an absolute must if you are looking to create extraordinary breakthroughs.

Leman said, “Nothing is static these days, and you can’t afford to be, either. Transform or die. It’s a message that you have to be communicating to your team all the time.” He went on to say, “The more prepared your team is to live in a fluid and evolving world, the easier it will be to implement necessary change in your organization.”

Be adaptive and willing to step out of your comfort zone. Some of my own biggest breakthroughs in business have taken place when I forced myself to get uncomfortable. You will never experience greatness in anything if comfort is what you seek.

4. Collaboration

“Collaboration is about input and influence versus coercion. Your people want to be heard, understood and most importantly, actively involved,” Leman said to me.

The greatest leaders and coaches in the world will be the first to tell you that the success they are experiencing is because of the people they have around them. Not only have they done a great job of creating more leaders and positioning themselves around the right people, but they have also created a collaborative culture where everyone is in tune with what is going on.

To give you a perfect example of what this culture may look like, Leman decided that he wanted to be 100 percent transparent with his employees and start sharing all the financials with them and where the company was headed. This authentic approach did wonders for him as leader, and he was able to create a culture based on trust and honesty. Authenticity is a quality that will always help a leader prevail.

5. Clarity

One of the most fascinating things about the work I do as a keynote speaker is to experience firsthand the disconnect between management and everyone else within an organization. Before each and every speaking engagement, I spend a great deal of time with the leadership and then with some of the other employees.

And it’s always amazing to me to hear leadership describe the company’s vision as one thing, while each employee I talk to says something completely different. Great companies don’t have this disconnect: Everyone within the organization is very clear about what the vision is and what’s required of him or her each and every day at work. “No strategy or tactic can trump organizational clarity,” Leman said. “Clarity creates an organizational road map to success. It drives faster and better decision-making while increasing trust.”

I hope these five traits that have helped Tim Leman build a great company and turn crisis into clarity and growth add value to your own leadership style wherever you may be in your journey.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

4 Ways to Create a Powerful Morning Routine

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One of the most important things that you can do to ensure that you have a positive and successful day is to become obsessed with how you spend your pre-work morning hours.

Unfortunately, many people never take the time to analyze their morning routine. A typical morning for most consists of picking up the phone right after they wake up to check email and social media, hitting the snooze button multiple times and never being intentional about positively fueling their mind and body before the workday.

The problem is, it’s challenging to perform at a high level and make an extraordinary contribution in the world if the above describes how you start your days. Instead, being intentional about how I start each and every day myself, and creating a powerful morning routine to do that, have been two of the most beneficial things I’ve done toward achieving my goals, increasing my energy throughout the workday and becoming a more positive person.

Here are four things you can do each day to create a powerful morning routine.

1. Wake up two hours before you have to be anywhere.

I’m not going to be one of those people who tell you that in order to achieve those audacious goals of yours, you need to wake up ridiculously early, but I am suggesting that you start waking up at least two hours before you have to be anywhere.

This early start gives you enough time to work on yourself and feed your mind, body and spirit before your hectic workday is off to the races. The reason why I assign this “number one” on my list is because it’s nearly impossible to create a powerful morning routine if you’re rushed and in a hurry.

2. Read something uplifting and inspiring. 

One of the best habits I have incorporated into my own orning routine has been to make sure I read something uplifting and inspiring for a half hour every single morning.

If 30 minutes seems too long, then start with just 10 or 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter if you are reading an actual book or a blog that you find inspiring, or listening to an audiobook. Just make sure you find the time in the morning to read something uplifting and inspiring instead of perusing negative news or checking your email right away. Fueling your mind with positive messages first thing in the morning helps you to build the self-confidence and motivational boost to go out in the world and make that specific day a masterpiece.

3. Practice daily gratitude.

There is so much written about gratitude and its importance, but a huge percentage of people still don’t practice it. Knowing that something is important and great for you and actually practicing it in your own life are two different things. Scientific research from multiple leading psychologists shows us that those who practice daily gratitude are more likely to be happy and successful.

I have found that the best time of the day to practice gratitude is first thing in the morning. I have used a gratitude journal for years, and it has been a complete game-changer for me. I currently use The Five-Minute Journal, which helps guide the process for you. Practicing daily gratitude will always be part of the discussion about a powerful morning routine and the best way to start the day.

4. Get moving.

I learned the power of doing some type of physical exercise first thing in the morning when I was an athlete. In college, as well as in the NFL, my friends and fellow teammates and I always had morning workouts; and I started to notice a pattern after a while.

When I worked out early in the morning, as opposed to the days that I didn’t, I noticed that my day was markedly better. I was not only more productive but more positive, and happier, as well. Even if your workout is just 20 minutes, you should get some sort of physical exercise in the morning.

Exercise increases endorphins and helps start your day in a positive way. A New York Times article I read described how exercise not only helps to build a better brain, but also increases brainpower. So, no matter where I am in the world or how crazy my travel schedule is, I make sure to do some sort of physical exercise — a staple for creating for myself a powerful morning routine.

The key to creating a powerful morning routine, then, is to find out what works best for you and then execute that plan each and every morning. These four practices are simple and practical, but have impacted my life in a profound way. Whether you use one of them or all four, they’re sure to help you in your own pursuit of a powerful morning routine.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

2 Practical Ways to Build the Mental Toughness You Need in Business — and in Life.

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If I had to pick just one quality and characteristic I was able to take away from the game of football that greatly impacted my life as an entrepreneur, it would be mental toughness, without a doubt. Playing the game of football since I was a little kid and then eventually getting the wonderful opportunity to play at the highest level in the NFL has transformed my mindset more than anything else.

Of course I learned the incredible importance of teamwork, culture, leadership and other important qualities, but the resilience that was instilled in me from the game of football is what I am most grateful for.

If you think that football players or other professional athletes are born with a special kind of mental toughness and that it becomes second nature for them right away, you are wrong. Mental toughness is something that you can strengthen and develop over time regardless of what you do for a living.

recent study by University of Miami neuroscientist Amishi Jha found that mental toughness and resilience are skills that can be learned by and trained for by collegiate football players. The results showed that just like physical training, practice and repetition are key for mental training. Even though this particular study was limited to collegiate football players, its results were great news for everyone because they apply not just to football players, but to many different industries and occupations.

Why mental toughness is so important.

If you feel mentally defeated, chances are small that you will ever get to where you want to go. Whether we are talking about athletics or business, winning, first and foremost, will be absolutely everything. There is nothing that you can’t do or become when you have a phenomenally strong mindset.

A big part of having that focused mindset is being able to keep pressing forward when the going gets extremely tough, staying positive when negativity attacks and persisting over and over again until you finally reach your destination. That’s the true definition of mental toughness: displaying an enormous amount of belief, fight and dedication toward a goal that you are passionately pursuing. If you take a look at any category of high achievers regardless of industry, you will quickly realize that they have displayed an extraordinary level of mental toughness to get to where they are.

How to build mental toughness.

The University of Miami study showed that one of the best ways to build mental toughness is through practicing mindfulness on a consistent basis. Mindfulness is all about directing your energy and thoughts on the present moment without any judgment. I was first introduced to the power of mindfulness training when I was in college playing football for Indiana University.

Once a week, we would have a sports psychologist come in and lead the team in practicing different breathing exercises and body scans.(guided meditation focusing on different parts of the body). When we first started these routines, I was skeptical, to say the least. I thought there was no way all of these weird-looking exercises and the act of focusing on my breathing could impact the way I played on the field.

But I was so wrong. Not only did my focus on the field increase, but my anxiety and stress decreased after a few weeks of really giving these practices a try.

Based on my own experiences, I can offer two practical ways that may help you — as they did me — build mental toughness and resilience, starting today.

1. Practice mindfulness daily.

Practicing mindfulness daily is a game-changer. Not only are studies showing the importance of mindfulness and detailing the amazing benefits that it provides, but people like me are extoling it based on personal experience.

Mindfulness calms your mind down from the noisy and chaotic world that we live in; and that calm, in turn, equips you with the strength and peace of mind to keep moving forward even in the face of extreme difficulty. Being in tune with the present moment and living fully right where you currently are helps diminish the fear that holds many people back and provides them with the clarity to focus on what’s most important.

I use the Calm app, which has worked wonders for me. It has a variety of different breathing exercises and body scans that the app walks you through step by step. Practicing mindfulness daily doesn’t just help you build mental toughness, it can change your life in so many different ways such as decreasing daily anxiety and drastically increasing your overall well-being.

2. Step out of your comfort zone daily.

This one may be a lot more difficult than practicing mindfulness, but making it a daily habit to step out of your comfort zone builds an incredible amount of strength.

Just as you would go to the gym to get stronger physically and strive to make your muscles grow, stepping out of your comfort zone daily is what helps you expand your capacity for mental toughness.

The more I seek to step out of my own comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the time, the stronger and better I feel. When I plan my day the night before, one of the first things I do is ask myself how can I step out of my comfort zone for that particular day. You can’t build mental toughness and become resilient by always playing it safe and operating only out of the confines of your comfort zone.

In short, being resilient and mentally tough is a non-negotiable if you want to step into your greatness and become the best version of yourself. Give these two practices a try. They may well help you get there.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Make Someone Else’s Day, and 3 Other Ways to De-Stress

 

Image credit: Warner Bros.

A survey from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that close to half of all working adults say that their job negatively affects their life. And that certainly resonates: It’s easier now more than ever to get stressed out and adopt unhealthy habits into our everyday lives.

What’s more, the biggest problem about this epidemic is not the actual stress in itself, but our inability to do anything about it. Instead of thriving on all cylinders and being a top producer in our chosen lines of work, most of us settle for a state of survival.

Of course it’s important to work extremely hard, put in the long hours and do everything in your power to make sure you are living up to your full potential each and every day. However, that doesn’t mean you neglect your emotional, mental and physical health in the process.

Here are four things that will help you eliminate stress and reclaim your happiness.

1. Make someone else’s day.

Remember the famous Clint Eastwood line from Dirty Harry? Why not turn it around? Because one of the easiest ways to eliminate stress and put a smile on your face is to find a way to make someone else’s day. When stress beats us down, it’s usually because we put too much focus on ourselves.

We may be way too hard on ourselves, setting unrealistic expectations at work, and feeling consumed only with what we currently have going on in our lives. But when we make it a priority to be of service to someone and “make someone else’s day,” we just might learn one of the most fulfilling ways for minimizing stress and reclaiming our happiness.

2. Go on a digital detox.

One of the best decisions that I ever made was to go on a digital detox for one full week. I stayed off social media, never once opened my email and even made sure that my phone was in a completely different room locked away for the whole week.

This was a very powerful action that provided me with just the right amount of solitude and soul searching required to get back on track and come back even stronger. In the technology-driven world that we currently live in, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of comparing our success (or lack thereof) to someone else’s achievements. It’s easy to let social media run run our lives. It’s easy to forget about what matters most in life.

I am not suggesting that anyone go on a technology detox for a full week like I did. But I am encouraging that people at least try it out for maybe a weekend or just one day. I am positive that you will enjoy the sense of relief and calmness that will result.

3. Let gratitude be the driving force in your life.

Every single time that I have been stressed out and on the verge of burnout, my absence of gratitude has always been the main reason why. It’s virtually impossible to be stressed out and feel terrible about yourself when you are in a constant state of gratitude.

And in case you’re wondering what that means, there are plenty of ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily life. I write in a “gratitude journal” each and every morning. The first thing I do when I wake up is write down three to five things that I am grateful for that day. Instead of worrying about what I have to do over the day ahead or taking a look at the hectic calendar waiting for me, I turn to gratitude first.

Another way that I bring gratitude into my life is by going on a daily gratitude walk. I learned this daily practice from my friend and bestselling author Jon Gordon. Before I listen to music or a podcast, I’ll go on a scenic walk early in the morning and say out loud everything that I am grateful for. This energizes me and is a profound way to start the day. Stress has no chance of surviving when you are in a constant state of gratitude. Don’t believe me? Check out this Newsweek article which reports on five scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

4. Get lost in a great book.

One of my favorite things in the world is to read and get lost in a great book. There is something magical about picking up a great book and not letting your worries, fears and stresses win the battle of your mind. Great books have the potential to change lives.

Even though I read a new book every week, I have a stack of ten or so more familiar books that I always turn to when the going gets tough and I feel the hustle and bustle of life starting to really get to me. All it takes is for me to pick up one of these great books and start re-reading it for 15 minutes.

Reading a great book helps me to see the world in a different light and forget about all of the problems going on in the world. I might do the same for you: Getting lost in great books has totally changed my life; and I know it can do the same for you as well.

Stress doesn’t have to get the best of you and steal your happiness. I hope these four ideas help you just as much as they have benefited my life over the years.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Never Let Fear Hold You Back Again

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Nothing holds people back from tapping into their full potential and becoming the best version of themselves more than fear. Fear shatters dreams, prevents organizations from achieving major breakthroughs and is the root cause as to why so many end up going to their grave with all of their talents, hopes and wishes still unexpressed.

Whether it is the fear of public speaking, fear of pursuing an enormous dream, of failure or of what others may think of you, it’s not actual fear that is holding you back. It’s the made-up story that you continually tell yourself about the fear that is stealing your happiness, your peace of mind and your ability to unleash an unlimited amount of potential into the world.

Fear itself, of course, is normal. When you set out to pursue your deepest desires and live a bold life, it’s completely natural for fear to creep in and scare you from time to time. What makes all the difference as to whether your fears paralyze you or catapult you to new heights depends on your reaction and response to the fear.

There have been many times in my life when fear held me back. The experience I remember most was getting hurt in my very first game in the NFL. I was playing for my hometown team the Chicago Bears and living a dream of mine that I had desperately wanted since I was a little kid. In the blink of an eye, however, I lost my dream and was left broken-hearted and emotionally crushed.

Fear attacked me from all different sides. Not only did it get the best of me, but it also dominated every thought, action and belief I had at the time.

I was officially a victim of my circumstances. The fear of the unknown, of failure and of what others thought of me caused me to go into severe depression and lock myself in my room for weeks. Fortunately, I was able to overcome that dark period of my life where fear was the main driver of my destiny.

I still get scared all the time. Fear still creeps into my life on a daily basis multiple times throughout the day. The only difference now is that I know how to never let fear defeat me and prevent me from living courageously.

Here are two ways that will help you to never let fear hold you back again.

1. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Fear can only win and get the best of you if you don’t take action and push forward. One of the easiest things that you can do to ensure that you never let fear hold you back from this point moving forward is to feel the fear and do the task anyways. As soon as you feel the fear, take action and get moving as quickly as possible.

Unlike what a lot of people think, you don’t need to have everything figured out and know every little detail before you get moving. It’s great to prepare and have a plan, but once you do everything in your power to put yourself in a position to win, the next step is to become obsessed with taking action.

Regardless of what type of fear we are talking about, when you make it a habit to “feel the fear and do it” anyways, you not only build self-confidence, you also gain incredible strength little by little. Amazing things begin to take place for those who feel the fear and still take massive action.

2. Change your personal philosophy on failure.

Even though I have been referring to all kinds of fears leading up this point, the fear of failure is the one fear that inhibits most from going after what they really want and breaking free from the chains of mediocrity. When you start to view failure as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to help mold you into the person you need to become, your life will never be the same again.

As I state in this short video clip from a recent keynote that I gave to a large group of leaders, the best of the best view failure and adversity as a tremendous gift.

The tough times are there only to help us become the best version of ourselves. When you make this mental shift and change your personal philosophy on failure, the fear of failure will never hold you back again.

When you start to become intentional in your actions and do something each and every day that takes you out of your comfort zone, fear has absolutely no chance of winning. Live boldly!

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Keep Fighting and Pressing Forward When the Going Gets Tough

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A lot of people like to think that there is some secret formula to achieving extraordinary levels of success and breaking free from mediocrity, but there really isn’t.

The one and only secret to crushing your goals and experiencing the success that you always dreamed of is to take relentless, persistent and massive action every single day of your life. Every peak performer knows the importance of this truth. The reason why the majority neglect it is because of the ridiculous amount of work required of them. What’s more, there is absolutely nothing exciting and sexy about that workload.

Persistence may not always be the “fun” thing to do, but it always will be the right thing to do when you are in pursuit of greatness, when you’re looking to maximize business success or achieve a game-changing goal. Being persistent requires you to get out of your comfort zone most of the time and force yourself to take action, even when you may not feel like it.

The following icons certainly understood this:

  • Henry Ford massively failed and went broke five times before he finally got his major breakthrough.
  • Beethoven was ridiculed for how he handled the violin, and his teacher told him that he was hopeless as a composer.
  • Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor for an alleged lack of ideas. He also went bankrupt multiple times before he built Disneyland.
  • Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching.” Wrote Darwin in his autobiography: “I was considered by my father a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.”

More such stories? Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old and didn’t read until he was 7. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was eventually expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School. The University of Bern declined his Ph.D. dissertation as irrelevant and fanciful.

The script for Star Wars was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th Century Fox finally produced it. It went on to be one of the largest grossing movies in film history.

When former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker wanted to play football in junior high, but the coach told him he was too small and recommended track instead. Never one to quit, Walker ignored the coach’s advice and began an intensive training program to build himself up. Only a few years later, he won the prestigious Heisman trophy.

These are just a few examples of all the wildly successful people who failed before succeeding to such heights that they could rewrite the history books. Remember, we all fail at one time or another. That’s life. And no matter whether our failures are large or small, we have to persist and keep fighting. We’re all a “work in progress.” Even the geniuses.

Here are two actionable ideas to help you keep fighting and pressing forward when the going gets tough.

1. Study the greats. 

I am an avid reader. I read a new book every single week, but one of my favorite types of books is autobiographies. I enjoy reading about the incredibly successful who went on to change the world with how they lived their lives.

When you pick up an autobiography of one of the greats, you quickly realize the amount of persistence and fight they possesed, even in the face of extreme uncertainty and hardship. When I find myself going through a difficult time, one of the first things I do is pick up an autobiography of a world-class achiever.

Reading that individual’s story reminds me of the power of never giving up, and passionately always fighting for what you believe in and desire. The next time you find yourself going through a difficult period in your life, pick up an autobiography, watch a documentary or find some way to study the greats. Success leaves clues.

2. Never lose sight of your major goals. 

One of the first things that happens when people gets knocked down and come face to face with adversity is that they lose sight of the original goal or vision.

Instead, these individuals let the negativity they are currently experiencing come to the forefront of their minds, which prevents them from taking action and moving forward. I myself carry a notecard with me everywhere I go that has all of my major goals written on it. When I get knocked down, experience a negative curveball thrown my way or just lack the inspiration to keep fighting, I look over this notecard and am immediately connected to the grand vision I have that keeps me going.

Do the same thing: Put your major goals into your phone, on the front of your computer screen and in your purse or wallet. All throughout the day, especially when the going gets tough, read over those major goals and remind yourself of the great vision that you have for your life. When you make it a priority to never lose sight of your major goals, there is nothing that can permanently hold you back.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Destroy Your Fears — for Good

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Just as happens with a lot of things in life, we all have choices to make regarding how we live: Are we going to choose to let our fears overtake us and wallow in our failures? Or, are we going to rise above these things and live a faith-filled life?

By “faith-filled life,” I mean always believing that the future is going to be bigger than the past and that there is absolutely no limit to our potential. The decision is ours; no one can make it for us. But it’s a decision that has to be made, because the more we experience adversity throughout our lives, the more our fears will creep in and rob us of our peace and happiness.

Interestingly enough, fear, failure and faith have a lot in common. When we fail at something, we let fear stop us from trying again. And when we operate out of fear, we set ourselves up for a negative and limited belief for a future that is still unwritten.

Faith focuses on the positive, while fear focuses only on the negative. When people experience a setback or failure, they immediately begin to believe that there is no choice but to accept the outcome of that negative experience. They lose sight of the fact that the first step in conquering adversity and uncovering the gift that lies within every failure is to constantly develop and strengthen the faith muscle which will help them destroy their fears and move forward.

As physician and Holocaust survivor Emannuel Teney put it, “As your faith is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.”

Destroying your fears 

We’ve all had numerous failures and setbacks throughout our journey. And, like most people, we may be afraid of trying something new — afraid we’ll fail again. But, if we are going to thrive despite the bad times, we absolutely must destroy our fears.

That is certainly no easy task, considering how much our fears have been ingrained. Where a lot of people go wrong is that they don’t do anything the moment fear begins to invade their thinking. They let it build up inside their minds; and, over time, fear is all they know.

When that happens, they are guided by their fears, instead of faith and hope. They never come to the realization that letting fear lead the way is a recipe for a life of mediocrity and “settling” for an average, lesser version of themselves, rather than the best version.

And don’t we all want to be the best version of ourselves?

As the Rev. Charles Stanley said, “Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.” 

I wholeheartedly believe that so many people struggle with overcoming major setbacks and failure in life because they haven’t destroyed their fears. They fail, become frightened, then listen to, and end up living, their fears. This paralyzes them from taking action and doing what’s necessary to get them where they want to go.

I want to share with you two exercises that have worked wonders for me, for destroying my own fears:

1. Take out a sheet of paper and grab a pen.

For this exercise, it’s important to find a quiet location to help you get deep into your thoughts and bring you clarity. The goal here is to start writing every single fear that has ever crossed your mind and still has power over you. This fear could be preventing you from taking action, from talking to a certain man or woman. This fear could be preventing you from following your passion in life.

Whatever it is, write it down. A few years ago, I did this exercise and wrote down almost 200 fears.

Now the fun part: From every day going forward, pick one thing on your fear list. Pick one thing that you’re afraid of and force yourself to just do it. It could be picking up the phone and calling someone you have been wanting to talk to, but kept putting off. It could be making that first introduction to someone you’re interested in.

It could be enrolling in a class you’ve thought about pursuing. Or even starting a business. This exercise, done properly, will help you drastically shatter your fears. It has provided me with so much courage over the years and reminded me that the majority of the fears holding me back were only in my mind — and were false.

2. Shift your mindset — from the negativity of failure to the positivity faith and hope. 

Most of our fears aren’t even real. We let made-up scenarios — worries — play out in our heads and then run with them. Over time, we really start to believe those scenarios, which more than likely, are self-diminishing instead of self-empowering.

We must engrave in our minds that the only way fear can hold us back is if we let it. The only power it has is the power we give it. Shift your mind from the negative clutches of fear to the positivity of the beautiful gifts we receive when faith and hope in a bigger future are present. Then, from that point on, always look to strengthen your faith, not your fears.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

3 Ways to Defeat Resistance and Get Your Most Important Work Done

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Have you ever been in the situation where you really wanted to get something important done but all of a sudden your internal dialogue took over and you ended up talking yourself out of actually doing it? If I had to guess, chances are you have. It’s more than likely that all of us at some point have been in a similar situation.

I come across people on a daily basis who go on and on explaining how badly they want to write a book, start a business or pursue a passion. And, as the conversation continues, the next thing that comes out is a list of reasons why that hasn’t happened yet.

Unfortunately, most will continue their lives without realizing their goal. It’s not that they lack talent or that something is wrong with us. What has happened is that like millions of other people, we’ve let one of the biggest dream killers, resistance, completely take over our lives and decision-making ability.
We all have big hopes and aspirations, but as time goes on and we grow older, we let that resistance creep in and prevent us from tapping into our full potential. And the thing is that the more important and special something is to us, the stronger and more powerful our resistance will be. One of the best books I have come across that details this process is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I highly recommend it because it explains that it’s not just creatives who deal with resistance; it’s anyone who desires to live a bold and highly successful life.
I have had my own battle with resistance over the years and have learned how to minimize its effectiveness each time I feel it gaining an edge on me. Here are three ways I’ve defeated resistance and gotten my most important work done.

1. Just get started!

Resistance is at its strongest when you’re getting ready to start something. When I first sat down to write my book, I stared a few minutes at the blank screen, knowing exactly how much I had to write, and immediately came face to face with resistance.

Multiple excuses began to pop up, and the last thing I wanted to actually do was to start writing. But the turning point came when I stopped thinking about the thousands of words I had to write that day and just made getting started my main focus.

Once I was able to just get started, everything was downhill from there. When you direct all of your focus to  taking the first step, you destroy resistance little by little. The last thing resistance wants you to do is to start on an important project or work that truly matters. Whether that project is writing a book, starting a business or pursuing a passion, just focus on taking that first step.

2. Compete with yourself.

One of the major benefits of being a former athlete is that I am always trying to compete with myself and have fun with everything that I do. Instead of looking at resistance as some dreadful and awful experience, I try to have some fun with it and make it a game. At the end of each work day, especially when I am in the process of working on a major project like writing a book, I will keep score of how many times I have beat resistance. Nothing feels better than to get to the end of the day and look at how many times I have successfully defeated resistance.

This ends up increasing my fulfillment, happiness, and overall satisfaction for that particular day. This simple and fun practice has drastically transformed the way that I work. I encourage you to find your own practice and what works best for you. What works best for me may not be the best solution for you, but that’s not the main point. The most important thing is that you give yourself permission to have fun with resistance instead of let it cripple you from performing your best on a daily basis.

3. Get extremely clear.

When you get extremely clear about what you’re  trying to achieve, who you are as a person and the overall mission and purpose for your life, the resistance you’re up against loses a great deal of its power.

Returning to my efforts to write a book: Once I got extremely clear about why I wanted to write in the first place and the type of impact that I wanted it to have on people, I got motivated to take action. A lot of times, resistance gets the best of us because we forget the importance of gaining clarity before we start something.

The next time you feel resistance overpowering you, then, stop what you are doing and spend some time getting connected with your major life purpose, your biggest goals and dreams for the year and anything else that motivates and excites you. A simple mindset shift like this can make a profound difference in not only your ability to beat resistance, but in the way you feel about life.

I strongly believe that every one of us has a unique talent and ability that can be used to make a tremendous difference in the world. Don’t let resistance get in the way of preventing you from leaving your mark on the world.

Just as author Steven Pressfield said, “Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.”

Don’t let resistance interfere with your becoming the best version of yourself.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

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