Inspiration Starts With Why

After graduation, the second book I chose to read to continue learning (The Servant was first) was Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Sinek proves to be a deep thinker and a great analyst when it comes to dissecting the reasons we as consumers feel the way we do about products. Read this book if you want to understand with many vivid stories why you like certain companies and why some companies grow exponentially under certain leadership.

Sinek starts the book by talking about manipulation vs. inspiration, two ways companies can convince consumers to purchase their products. Within manipulation, companies use price, promotions, fear, peer pressure, and novelty to convince consumers to buy. But as he says in the following section, “manipulations lead to transactions, not loyalty.” Which is how Sinek leads into his argument to Start With Why.

Sinek says it is the inspiration that causes customers to develop loyalty to a brand. 

He starts his discussion on inspiration with the illustration below.

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He breaks up companies into three sections. Most fall into the outside circle of “what.” These are the companies that simply know what they sell. Some fall into the “how” circle which are the companies that understand what they sell and how it is different. However, very few organizations understand why they do something.

Those that do understand how they can inspire customers with their story. 

Throughout the book, Sinek uses real company examples to give vivid pictures of how this principle of starting with why inspires people. He argues that Apple sets itself far apart from all other computer companies because of its focus on the customers who see themselves differently from everyone else. They don’t focus on the product specs (as other companies do) but on the way that their products can change the world through entertainment and education. This inspires creative customers to believe that their success and impact will be linked with one of Apple’s products.

Another example he uses is the way in which Southwest Airlines was born. Its founders Rollin King and Herb Kelleher didn’t start the company because the industry needed another airline. It didn’t. But what the industry did need was an airline built off of unbelievable customer service. And they succeeded in that. Southwest continues to be an airline loved by its customers. Some customers even sent them money after the horrors of 9/11. And Southwest is the only airline to bring in a profit every year, even the years where the industry sees economic difficulty. All because they didn’t focus on just moving people. They focused on moving people with purpose and with a smile.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In my opinion, it is difficult to clearly convey an idea about something that is intangible. Starting with why is an intangible idea, however Sinek uses real-life examples that helped me understand how I can put the principle into practice.

For those starting something new, whether a business or a blog or whatever, I highly recommend this book.

Keep reading!

-Caleb

Why I Haven’t Written About Faith in a Long Time

Two and a half years ago, I was entering my fifth and final year of college at The Ohio State University. It was a tough run and one way I chose to mentally process all my experiences was through writing. I found it a slow, effective process to put my thoughts into coherent sentences (whether or not they were actually coherent).

So, as every rational, busy college student would do, I started a blog. The Buckeye Beacon as I called it. It was going to be the next thing that OSU students would read every week. I even imagined people recognizing me on campus!

A friend of mine, Ethan, would take turns with me writing a blog post every week. It gave our blog a consistent stream of posts while providing us a fun way of sharing thoughts and improving our writing.

We even reached a rather consistent three views a day. Not bad for a couple whippersnapper engineering students.

In May of 2017, I obtained that infamous bachelor degree, then subsequently exited the bachelor scene as I tied the knot with my girlfriend of two years. And I dropped off with my blogging. My Facebook friends actually got a break from Caleb’s stream of consciousness every week.

“He’s like everyone else on Facebook except he has way to much to say in one status update” I could imagine them saying. 

But I had a wife to spend time with every evening after farming my desk for eight hours at my new engineering job. I gave it a break. It didn’t, however, change the fact that writing continued to be an effective way for me to communicate. So, I wrote a book about graduating and entering the real world called Graduated and Clueless.

And I started this blog.

I have had this intense desire ever since I graduated to reach the greatest potential God has for me.

I wanted to grow in my leadership. I wanted to improve my communication both in writing and in speech. I wanted grow in my character and influence. And I wanted to have a consistent avenue through which I could communicate what I am learning and how I’m growing. The only problem is, I had branded The Buckeye Beacon as a spiritual-growth blog. Nothing’s wrong with that until you write about something personal-growth related and no one reads it. What a motivator.

Why not brand a new blog directed only towards personal growth for students and young professionals? Keep them separate. It’s like Church and State in blog form.

Now I had two blogs to write: one for my spiritual growth whenever I had time and one for personal growth every week.

This was when I realized: personal growth involves improving every major part of me. 

For me, Jesus Christ is the one person that affects everything I do. I believe in eternity (both Heaven and Hell) and the power of His blood to save me from my sins. Because of this deep belief, it influences my thoughts and my actions, my pursuits and my motives.

My faith directly affects my growth into who God wants me to be. 

I haven’t written on faith in a long time because I’ve been trying to focus my writing on branding a new blog. I will no longer be blogging at the The Buckeye Beacon but I will be sharing how faith influences me here at Master the Simple. I don’t want to feel like the two subjects I’m writing about are separate. They’re not because the one directly influences the other. Spiritual growth is even more important than personal growth and I will not be afraid to let the two connect.

If you don’t consider yourself spiritual, that’s ok. This blog still focuses on growth personally and professionally. However, my belief is that we are deeply spiritual beings and what I write will be impacted by that belief.

Thread Quest:

Do you allow your beliefs to impact the other areas of your life?

I certainly struggle with it. But I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

No Time to Drift (and 4 Questions to Help Prioritize Time)

A new condition has surfaced recently called FOMO (probably not that recent but hey, I’m frequently behind the times).

FOMO stands for “Fear Of Missing Out” and conveys in four words the reason so many of us experience priority issues. 

Take me as an example of the struggle. I have a hard time going to bed early. If I have the opportunity to meet up with a friend after work, I want to take it. We meet on the opposite side of town and we don’t meet that often so we’re generally out late. And that makes me tired.

Or given an opportunity that I may not have in the future, I’ll take it for fear of missing out.

I read a book in the past year by Michael Hyatt, a time management and productivity expert, called Living Forward. He says that no one gets to where they want to go by drifting.

If you have FOMO like me, you’re likely to drift.

That is unless you’re intentional about your priorities. This is where I’m at right now. Here are a few of my priorities that I’m working to pursue so I don’t drift.

CLEAN DISHES

Ok, so this is kind of a joke. But I seriously would’t finish this blog post until I finished cleaning dishes. I hate a full sink. Ok, onto the serious ones.

WRITING

I’m working on writing a lot more. For one, I wrote a book. Two, I’m writing on this blog once a week in order to help develop my writing voice more fully and improve my communication.

Priority: Practicing my writing voice regularly in order to gain more experience and understanding of effective communication. 

SPIRITUAL LEARNING

I’m trying to grow spiritually through the reading of my Bible and learning through fellow Christians’ writing and teaching. This is a particularly difficult one for me if I am being honest. I find it difficult to really spend the time that I would like on spiritual learning, particularly in reading my Bible. I read a portion of scripture every night with Bailey, though sometimes our comprehension is low due to heavy eyes.

I listen to 5 sermons per week outside of the sermon I hear on Sunday morning. I’m actively involved in a biweekly Bible study. As a part of my new year’s reading goal, I am working on reading 1000 pages of spiritual learning books. Currently I’m reading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Everybody, Always by Bob Goff.

This all will by God’s grace push me to a deeper relationship with Him. Of course, nothing I do will change His love for me but pursuing that relationship will make a difference on how I view His Word and how He works in my life.

Priority: Growing closer in my relationship to God so that I can more effectively share Him with others.

PHYSICAL FITNESS

I’m working to develop healthier habits when it comes to staying active. Given my new year’s goal, Bailey and I have been going to the gym regularly about 10 times per month. Recently this has been particularly difficult because of both of our schedules which is why we have been considering an earlier morning workout to start the day.

Priority: Developing habits of physical activity to remain healthy in the coming years.

FINANCIAL HEALTH

Bailey and I both have dreams for the future. We want to own a home in less than 15 years. We want to continue to cashflow the remainder of her education without taking out any loans. We want to continue increasing the percentage we give to church and other organizations every year. We want to consistently save for retirement by delaying gratification.

Priority: Budgeting monthly, tracking expenses, saving and talking regularly about financial goals. 

RELATIONSHIP WITH BAILEY

Bailey’s my wife and I value our relationship greatly. From our relationship will stem the growth we experience together (both personally and spiritually) as well as the environment in which our future children will be raised (Lord willing). Because of this, we aim to spend at least one night per week doing something together. Maybe it’s taking a walk and watching a show. Or grilling out. Or hitting a local rodeo (that’s a recent one). The key is we are attempting to strengthen our relationship so that our kids have a strong home in which they can grow up. And that will bleed into innumerable other areas of life.

Priority: Cultivating a loving and growing relationship with my wife and raising godly children.

Here’s the list I like quite a bit less.

THINGS I NEED TO WORK ON PRIORITIZING

  1. Sleep (I hate to admit it but the amount of sleep I get is abysmal)
  2. Biblical reading (I only read my Bible before work if I conveniently have time)
  3. Organization (I am utterly horrible at putting papers away, keeping my office clean and knowing where things are when I’m looking for them. Setting things down after work is something Bailey would say is one of her husband’s many flaws.
  4. Healthy eating (Yeah so I like mac n’ cheese a lot. What about it?)

 

So how do we overcome these areas in which we need to learn prioritization?

Here are 4 questions I ask that can help you determine your priorities as well:

1. What do you want?

Do you want financial freedom? How about a healthy lifestyle? Do you want it enough?

2. Why do you want it?

Are you tired of debt? Sick of living paycheck to paycheck? Do you not want to be winded when you get to your office after taking the steps? On a more personal level, you have to Start with Why as leadership expert, Simon Sinek, would say.

3. What steps do you need to take to prioritize [blank] starting today?

How about skip the Starbucks and put that $4 to paying off the student loans? If this is what it takes, open a bank account and put money into it every day that would have been coffee money. Or take a walk over lunch break if health is your priority. I try to do this daily and it is remarkably refreshing! Break these down into small, manageable goals. But make it something you can do today.

4. Who can help you with your priorities?

Does one of your friends have their financial life together? They’d be a great person to help keep you accountable. Do you know someone who’s fit and hits the gym? Ask them to help you. Chances are they will be more than happy to help.

Conclusion (YAY)

I want to be clear, I certainly don’t have all my priorities straight. I struggle with them, just like you. However, I know life is too short to drift or have regrets at the end so I better have a plan for my time now.

Also, I’m sorry if you got this whole thing in email. It’s super long.

-Caleb

Two Things I Want in Life (and How I’m Getting Past the Fear of Them)

alphabet-business-close-up-326642Where do you want to go in life and do you want it enough? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself over the past year. There are certain things I want to do in life. One is be a speaker. I want to become a master communicator and I believe that part of that involves becoming a master at verbal communication specifically. But the whole goal of this blog and my pursuit of growth is Mastering the Simple to Become an Expert.

And that means I have to start small and build up.

Take a conversation I had recently with my sister, Atalie, about pursuing a possible speaking opportunity to a small group. This was a friend’s young men’s group who showed interest in me presenting to them based on the topics in my book. The leader showed interest while I was writing the book and we agreed to talk after I finished.

“I really do want to be a speaker. I want to contact the leader about giving the presentation but I’m having trouble actually doing it.”

“What’s holding you back?” Atalie responded.

I embarrassingly said, “Ok, I’m afraid I won’t have much to say and that they’ll ask me questions I have no idea how to answer.”

“So share about how God has grown you this last year and tell them that you are growing just like them and may not know the answers” she said with almost no hesitation.

That calmed my fear and made me think this was actually doable.

It simplified the fear and made it easier to move forward.

Subsequently, I contacted the leader that evening and asked if they would still be interested in me presenting. I am on their schedule for the end of October.

Here’s another thing I have wanted to do in my life: write a book to aid others in their transition to life after college. 

I wanted it enough that I worked almost every weekend and many, many weeknights for four months in order to get it done. But writing something and actually putting it out there for others to read are completely different things. I wanted to reach as many students as possible and part of that involved contacting local bookstores to see if they would be interested in selling my books on consignment.

This made me nervous because of the possibility of rejection.

I had to take the first step. So I contacted a local, college hangout bookstore to see if they would sell it. Sure enough, today they contacted me back and said they would be happy to sell it at least for a period of time. Score! And an exciting score at that.

Here’s my point. I’m not perfect by any means. I’m learning right alongside you. I don’t have the guts I would like to have when it comes to speaking and putting my work out there. I haven’t contacted anyone else about the potential of speaking. I haven’t physically walked into any bookstores and asked to speak to a manager about holding my book yet. But do I want it? Yes. Moving forward in that despite the fear is difficult. But I want it enough to take the first step which gives just a bit more motivation to make the next step that follows.

What do you want to pursue? Do you want it enough to get past your desire of comfort to get out there and do it? Do you have strategies to get past your fears?

I want to hear from you in the comments!

Until next time, onward!

-Caleb

 

Brand Yourself: How Your Words Affect Your Influence on Others

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This is the second post in a series about personal brand. Check out the first post titled Brand Yourself: How Your Actions Affect Your Impact.

I can directly recall two instances from my years growing up where the words of others impacted me. One bad. One good. Both impactful.

The first was when I was about ten years old. I was at a good friend’s house and we had an intense game of Capture the Flag going. Another kid (we’ll call him Jason) about my age was on the opposite team. During a time-out (of which I was apparently uninformed), I tagged Jason while he was on our team’s turf. He informed me of the invalidity of my tag.

Subsequently, he said under his breath, “Idiot.” 

That hurt to my ten-year-old ears. I’ve never forgotten the sting that word had even though it was a result of a simple mistake.

The second instance was actually more recent. About a year ago, I met with a good friend at Panera to catch up and after bidding farewell, he slipped me a note. This isn’t an everyday occurrence so naturally, I opened it when I got in the car. A letter filled with encouraging words stared at me after I unfolded the piece of paper.

Some of the most impactful words were, “I truly respect you as the man of God you are.”

I open it and read it every so often because of the encouragement it is to me.

Both of these words or phrases branded these individuals in ways they don’t understand.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I have this rather deep insecurity creep in whenever I see and talk to Jason (since then, he’s become a great guy). But a simple word he spoke in the heat of a situation made more impact than he could have guessed. Contrarily, the guy who wrote me the letter remains one of my best and strongest friends to this day. And I guarantee he put a lot of thought into what he said to me. Here’s the point I want to make:

Every single word you speak will affect your influence on others. 

You can tear people down or build them up. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

What words do you use? Are they good for building up or for tearing down? Consider gossip. If someone is gossiping to me about someone else, I no longer trust them. If they talk about others behind their backs, I’m likely next.

Do you use profanity regularly? I recently had an encounter with a young salesman at a furniture store. He was familiar with a nice list of four-letter-words, lost my trust based on lies he used, and subsequently gave me a bad taste of the store because of his lack of professionalism. I’ve told at least a half-dozen people that I’ll never go there again.

If you want to have influence on your peers and leave a legacy, the words you choose will directly affect who will listen to you. I know that is the case for me.

What kinds of words do you use and how do you see them affecting your impact? 

I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

Read the next post in this series titled Brand Yourself: Four Questions to Ask Before Your Next Social Media Post

Money Growth: How Much Should I Invest for Retirement?

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I had a low-key babysitting job when I was twelve but that income was entirely active income. Not a cent of it grew without me doing anything. I had to actually provide a service to someone in order to add to my piggy bank (ok, it was actually a doggy bank).

Retirement, however, is a passive form of income. When money is invested in something like a 401(k), it grows passively. Meaning, you don’t have to do anything. (For more information about a 401(k) and its tax benefits, check out my blog post.) You don’t have to do anything to make it grow aside from investing it in the right places. If you invest in a 401(k), you literally make money while you’re asleep. How ’bout that!

But how much do I need to invest in order to have a successful retirement?

First of all, the fourth “baby step” of the Dave Ramsey plan (if you have read my book, you’d know I’m a fan) is to put 15% of your gross income into retirement. That means 15% of your overall income, including your spouse’s, goes into your 401(k) after paying off all your debt (so that you pay off debt with more intensity).

Fifteen percent is generally agreed upon in the investing world to be the amount that will provide a reasonable retirement nest egg. However, depending on whose advice you’re taking, this amount does not include the money that is contributed as an employer match. If your employer matches 5%, don’t put yours at 10% and call it good. Do the full 15% of your income. That way, the employer match will just be icing on the cake when you hit retirement. Now, 15% feels like a lot (it is, especially for young people). You will likely have to work your way up to it. Currently, Bailey and I aren’t contributing 15% because we are also cash-flowing her school and are saving for a house. But 15% is the goal.

 

Let’s look at a pretend real-life example of how much to invest.

Let’s assume that you, at age 22, just graduated debt-free and your overall income is $50,000 per year. By the 15% rule, you would be putting $7500 into retirement per year ($625 per month). If you invested that at an 8% return and never got a raise (not likely), you would have $2,669,622 by the time you turned 65. The best part is that $2,347,122 was growth from interest! And that’s not even including employer matches. That’s remarkable!

That amount of contributions may be unrealistic for you. I know it is for us currently. If you could only afford $100 per month to put into your 401(k) at an 8% return and never increased the amount you contributed, you would still have $427,139 by the time you turned 65.

There is a very high likelihood that you will get a raise and that you’ll be able to contribute more than $100 per month (plus, in today’s money, $427k won’t get you very far in retirement). To put you just over $1,000,000 (making you a millionaire if you are debt free), you would only have to contribute $250 per month. Again, your contributions would equal only a fraction of the full nest egg when you reached retirement. Then, in retirement, you would (hopefully) be able to live off of the yearly dividends that your retirement account produces in interest.

On a $1,000,000 account, assuming 8% interest, that would provide an $80,000 income. Plus, it’s quite possible to get higher than 8% in interest!

 

Chris Hogan, a retirement expert, says this in his book Retire Inspired: “Retirement is not an age. It’s a financial number.” I like that quote quite a bit because we’ve been seasoned to believe that we have to put 40+ years into a job we don’t like (jobs and passion is for another blog post) in order to live comfortably for the last 20 years or so of our lives. But according to Chris, if we know what financial number we are shooting for, we can retire earlier.

On Chris’s website, he has an excellent tool to calculate your R:IQ (Retire Inspired Quotient). In it, all you have to do is answer some simple questions about your goals and desired living arrangements and it’ll give you an amount of savings you should shoot for and the amount you would need to invest monthly to hit it. Check it out here!

What are you doing to save for retirement? What are your concerns about the subject? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

How to Avoid Being Old and Broke (And How a 401k Can Help)

cash-cent-child-1246954I wasn’t very good at saving as a kid. Money burned a proverbial hole in my pocket. I liked to get gum when we went to the grocery store because it felt good to spend a dollar. To this day, I tend to be a spender. In fact, in our budget, Bailey (my wife) and I call the money allocated to spending as our “blow funds” because it is for us to literally blow on anything we want. What makes me different from when I was as a kid is that I actually have a budget now to control that spending urge. I’m more future-focused! And part of being focused on the future is saving for retirement. That’s where the 401(k) comes in.

What is a 401(k) anyway? It is a saving system that allows you to invest money you earn so that it can exponentially grow for the future. This is how it works.

A 401(k) is offered by most employers. If one signs up for a 401(k), it gives the individual the opportunity to put a percentage of each paycheck into a retirement account. For me, I have my employer put 10% from each paycheck into my 401(k). This is called an investment because it will grow within the account. Generally speaking, one can expect a 7-10% rate of return on their 401(k) if the money is invested into good growth-stock mutual funds.

This is where the big bonuses of a 401(k) come into the conversation. They have major tax benefits! There are two kinds of 401(k)s: traditional 401(k) and Roth 401(k).

The traditional 401(k) is tax-deferred. This means that one defers paying tax to a later date and thus, the money put into the account is pre-tax. So when an employer directs 10% from an employee’s paycheck into the traditional 401(k), no tax is paid. In retirement, however, taxes must be paid when withdrawals are made.

The Roth 401(k) is similar but the employee pays tax before the employer directs the hypothetical 10% of the paycheck into the account. This means the money used is post-tax.

But when money is withdrawn in retirement, it is not taxed.

Let’s make this easy. Say you are able to save enough for retirement that your 401(k) is able to grow to $1,000,000 (which really doesn’t take much saving). Generally speaking, over a 40-year period with a 10% rate of return, you would have contributed 8% of your savings and the rest of it would be growth. So..

Contributions: $80,000

Growth: $920,000

Total: $1,000,000

With a traditional 401(k), your contributions would be pre-tax. Thus, you wouldn’t be taxed on your contributions, but when you retired, you would be required to pay taxes on the entire $1,000,000. This means that if you were in a 10% tax bracket, you would lose $100,000 to taxes and would have only $900,000 left.

With a Roth 401(k), your contributions would be post-tax, meaning you would pay taxes on only the contributions. If we assumed once again that you were in a 10% tax bracket, you would pay $8000 in taxes on your contributions but wouldn’t have to pay anything on the growth.

Here’s a summary on taxes paid:

Roth 401(k): $8,000

Traditional 401(k): $100,000

Now tell me, which would you rather pay? And which 401(k) do you think is better?

In some coming blog posts, I’ll cover the amount we want to save for retirement and what we can expect in growth.

I want to know in the comments, are you saving for retirement? What are your dreams for your “golden years”? Bailey and I want to travel. Let me know what you think!

Brand Yourself: How Your Actions Affect Your Impact

pexels-photo-708440-2.jpegPersonal brand – it’s definitely a buzz word nowadays. Think about big name influencers. Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, has built an enormous “personal brand,” as he calls it. A personal brand is what someone is known for (in his case, it’s his wine business and marketing knowledge). John Maxwell is known for his leadership and personal growth expertise. Dave Ramsey is branded as a personal finances expert. The funny thing is, none of this type of branding is what I want to cover in this blog post.

When you think of a brand, what comes to mind? I say “Nike,” you say “Just Do It” (or maybe “Colin Kaepernick” based on recent events). I say “McDonalds” and you think of burgers or “I’m loving it.” What do you associate with brands? Does your association involve trust? I’m an Apple fan. When I think of Apple, I think of a clean design and a user-friendly interface. But when I think of Microsoft, I think of the “blue screen of death” after many frustrating attempts at writing essays in high school (sorry Microsoft fans). My question is this:

When others think of you, how do they react?

Do people trust you? Can people rely on you being somewhere on time (this is a personal branding issue I am working through myself)? Companies put millions of dollars into developing their brands and the successful ones do so with great intentionality. Others don’t and they suffer for it. In the same way, if you want to increase your impact and influence, you must put great intentionality into your brand. How do I mean? Let’s look at one’s actions.

I would consider someone that I know to be a party seeker. It’s slightly different from a “party animal” but this individual definitely lives for the weekends. Here’s the problem. This individual doesn’t have much influence in my life because I have decided that I don’t want someone who drinks in excess (regularly) and has one-night stands to be someone that speaks into my life. I don’t trust this person’s opinions and advice because I see some major flaws with this individual’s actions and character.

Your influence with be accelerated or thwarted based on the brand you set through your actions.

On another scale, if you don’t develop the personal brand that you want to have, it can impact people’s opinion of you even in small matters. Do you get distracted easily from what you say you’re going to do? You start something aaand…. look there’s something else shiny that you can pursue! If this happens often, do you think someone will consider asking you to be a part of something large if they don’t think you’ll persevere?

I’m currently working on a series of blog posts about this personal brand topic and will continue posting about it in the near future. I believe it is the first step to developing the influence that you want to have. Everyone wants to make a difference in the world but that must start by developing consistency between your actions and your words.

How have you branded yourself and what actions can you take today to improve trust in your brand? For me, it means giving myself 5-10 minutes extra to get anywhere because I have an unrealistic expectation for the amount of time I’ll be on the road. I don’t want my lack of punctuality to impact my ability to influence others. Let me know in the comments what you are going to change today!

-Caleb

Read the next post in this series titled Brand Yourself: How Your Words Affect Your Influence on Others 

Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? (Book Review)

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Since last August, I’ve been reading a lot. Like, way (yeah, italicized and underlined) more than I’ve ever read before. Given that I am a recent college grad, I chose to start reading a lot more in areas that interested me to help myself continue to learn and grow intentionally. Consequently, I have read 11 books since August of 2017. Welcome to a new series of blog posts dedicated to reviewing books.

The first I’m going to write about is Linchpin by Seth Godin. The premise is that if you are a linchpin, you hold important things together, specifically at work but applicable in other areas of life. If you are a linchpin, you are indispensable. He starts the book by discussing the current conditions of work. Work used to have more meaning to it. Everyone was an artist until factories were developed. At that point, people became “a cog in a machine,” doing meaningless and replaceable work. Since then, work has become increasingly automated.

“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.” (p. 27)

How? Emotional labor. That is why working at a fast food restaurant is so replaceable. It doesn’t require emotional labor. You show up, make fries and leave.

“It’s called work because it’s difficult, and emotional labor is the work most of us are best suited to do. It may be exhausting, but it’s valuable.” (p. 63)

His first suggestions involve choosing something that requires emotional labor and is not asymptotic in nature. When something is “asymptotic,” it means that there is only so good you can get at it. Take bowling for instance. The best you can get is 300 points. That’s it. So by choosing something you can always get better at and in which you can grow more, it expands  your ability to become a linchpin.

This is where being an artist comes in. He doesn’t talk about artists in the sense of those who can paint, draw and sculpt. In fact, he has a section specifically labeled Artists Who Can’t Draw. Godin’s argument is that literally anyone can become an artist. The reason is because the word “art” is intrinsically deeper than what is conventionally understood. Because art is anything that require emotional labor.

What do you put your heart into? That is what require emotional labor.

And it doesn’t have to be “artistic” in nature. Recently, a coworker of mine told me that he isn’t a creative individual because he is an engineer. Having read this book, I countered.

“Don’t give me that. You are an engineer which means that you are creative. You have to develop creative ways to solve problems and make designs more efficient and effective!”

In the section titled, Do You Need to Be an Artist to Market Tofu?, Godin thinks you can. He says,

“I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.” (p. 91)

However, it goes deeper than that. Godin argues that being a linchpin stems from generosity.

“Becoming a linchpin is not an act of selfishness. I see it as an act of generosity, because it gives you a platform for expending emotional labor and giving gifts.” (p. 153)

Essentially, you are an artist and a linchpin when you are giving what you put your heart into as a gift. That gift may come with monetary compensation, but it can still be a gift. He used the beginning of the Linux operating system as an example. When Linus Torvalds developed the system, he gave it as a gift to his friends. But when the popularity spread, he became a linchpin because his gift turned into something that helped people domestically and internationally. When you are generous, you become a linchpin. When you go an extra mile for a customer, you are a linchpin.

I liked this book. What it did for me was it expanded my view of art and creativity. It helped me understand more about the creativity of all individuals and how it isn’t confined to just those who are right-brained. He gives a very detailed perspective of how artistry creates indispensability. It helped me understand more about how I can apply those principles to my own work.

This book will help motivate you to change up things in your workplace, challenge the status quo and grow personally and professionally. You can find it on Amazon here.

-Caleb

3 Simple Ways to Read Your Way to Leadership Everyday

pexels-photo-324129.jpegReading is considered an absolute must in most successful circles. Reading opens you up to new ideas, concepts, and strategies that can help you in your personal, spiritual, and business growth.

At the beginning of this year, I made a goal to read 4500 pages of books. That’s about twenty-two 200-page books in a year. Only twelve pages a day. Growing up, I didn’t read much. I was too busy exploring the pasture field or having supersoaker battles with the cousins. Up until I was 20, I had read probably fewer than ten full-length books. So this goal of 4500 pages was significant. But I decided it was worth it because as Harry Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

As of today (August 13th), I am one day ahead of schedule on my reading goal. I have read over 2700 pages and am working through my thirteenth book right now. It’s a habit by now so I want to share with you three ways to get your reading in everyday so that you can work towards being a leader.

First, if you don’t consider yourself a reader or you don’t think you’re fast at reading, reading gets easier the more you read. I sincerely believe I have gotten faster at reading since the beginning of the year. Also, fiction certainly has its place in your reading schedule (great for mental breaks) but ensure that you read mostly non-fiction to spur growth. Books on personal growth (Intentional Living by John Maxwell), business growth (Good to Great by Jim Collins), and spiritual growth (The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn) are great for spurring you to leadership. So are historical biographies.

Alright, let us look at the three steps. These are shockingly simple and will get you to twelve pages daily, too.

1. Read four pages before work in the morning

This isn’t for everyone. Some people barely make it to work on time. But if you can get up just a little earlier, you can fit a few pages in before you get to work. Do you eat breakfast before work? Pound out your four pages while you chow down your cereal. Four pages, that’s it. Or you can do it when you get to the office!

2. Read four pages on your lunch break

I have an hour lunch break so this isn’t hard for me. I know some people (even many at my company) only have a half-hour lunch break. You can still do it! Based on average reading speeds, you should be able to knock this out in about four minutes. Four pages, that’s it.

3. Read four pages before going to bed

Think you can stay up another four minutes before your bedtime or get in bed four minutes early? I know you can.

I know, unbelievable how simple those are. But think for a second, how might this simple habit get you to your goals and dreams? It’ll open up your mind to new perspectives, ideas, knowledge, and processes. Might a book motivate you to actually start a business? Or maybe it will help you solve relational issues at work. It’s almost unimaginable the direction that simply picking up a book can take you.

Let me know in the comments how reading affects you and what your goals are!