4 Proven Techniques to Grow Your Greatest Asset



Some time ago I wasn’t confident in myself, didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted in life and I wasn’t moving forward. I was constantly feeling insecure, had doubts and fears, and these prevented me from taking action.

I was also seeking happiness from external sources, trying to go after many things at once (the wrong approach!) and do what others expected me to do (to be accepted and liked).

But all that led to unhappiness. Nothing really felt right no matter how much I followed conventional wisdom. I was investing time in all these little struggles when in fact I should have been fixing my relationship with myself.

Because I am my biggest asset.

And I realized that the only way to build wealth and live a happy and meaningful life is to keep learning and growing spiritually.

That was a big realization. And a much needed one. Once I asked myself what I really wanted, kept my why in mind, stopped listening to others and connected with my inner self instead – great changes started happening in every area of my life.

So if you’ve been neglecting yourself in some way and wonder why you’re not living a better life, here are some ideas to keep in mind:

1. Understand that you are your biggest asset

Be aware of the powers within you first. That simple thought will keep you motivated and consistent on your journey to personal development. It will also give you the confidence you need to take action, without listening to the naysayers. Remember to visualize your success.

If you think about it, all this makes things so much easier. I, like many others, was trying to find assets in outer things in life. I felt under pressure, struggle and disappointment because of the lack of progress. All this because I was looking in the wrong place.

All the answers were inside me. And yours too can be found deep within.

All we need is already here. We just need to get clear about it and go after it.

2. Start doing work you’re passionate about

One of the greatest ways to find contentment, contribute to the world and be productive, is to do work that matters, work we’re passionate about and work we are already good at.

That’s why defining your passion is a crucial step to greatness. It’s what will turn your life around once you find and follow it.

However, many people aren’t sure what that is, don’t know where to look, or are convinced that they don’t have a passion.

Don’t worry, we are all passionate about at least one thing and our passion has already found us. We just need to see it between the distractions in daily life.

Analyze how you spend your time daily. See what topic you love talking about and what you can be doing for hours without getting exhausted. Look for signs of enthusiasm and increased energy and focus when you’re doing a particular thing.

Your passion doesn’t need to be obvious, like painting or writing. It can be the way you do things – maybe you like to teach others or give advice, or make their life easier in some way.

Whatever it is, your path will be a lot clearer once you define what you love doing. Then, your job will be to follow it and find a way to turn it into your career.

3. Improve your focus

Productivity is the ability to fully engage in one activity and get it done in a shorter period of time. That’s a skill that can be learned and improved over time. It’s really powerful as it saves us time and guarantees quality results.

So take small steps daily towards finding focus.

Here are some habits to develop:

  1. Do one thing at a time – stop multitasking.
  2. Eliminate distractions you can control – tell people not to bother you while you’re working, put your phone away, don’t indulge in emails and social media in that time and let go of random thoughts about the past and future. Just be present.
  3. Find your most productive time – for everyone that’s a different part of the day. Defining and making the most of yours will double your productivity.
  4. Say NO to more things.

If you find what you love doing the most, and wake up an hour earlier every day, for example, just to do some focused work on an idea connected to your passion project, you’ll soon get closer to leaving your job because of it. Big things start small. If you hustle on the side first, results and opportunities will come pretty soon.

4. Grow your strengths

One of the mistakes I made was concentrating on trying to fix my weaknesses.

Big mistake on my part!

Don’t be like me.

Instead, spend time getting better at what you’re already good at. That’s a great investment with a lot of potential.

Everyone has weaknesses. But it’s pointless to try to turn them into something useful, while we can get better and faster results growing our strengths.

So define what you’re good at and go master it.

Following the advice above will lead to other amazing changes too.

You’ll be a better leader by becoming the best version of yourself and become a role model to others.

You’ll contribute to the world by doing your best work. This will be your legacy too.

In time, you’ll feel so good about yourself knowing you’re growing your biggest asset and seeing all these results both on the inside and in your life. That will create happiness and confidence within yourself.

Eventually, you’ll build wealth, live happier, and build great relationships. And that won’t happen by taking something from others. Just the opposite. You’ll use your own resources and constantly be on the grow.

So what about you? What step can you take today towards growing your biggest asset?

Sarah Williams is a Berlin based lifestyle blogger, passionate about self-development. She believes that true happiness stems from controlling your body with your mind and maintaining happy relationships. Sarah shares her thoughts at Wingman Magazine.

Unhappy at Work? How to Tell Your Boss


I had it all — a great company, terrific coworkers and a short commute. The only problem was I really didn’t like my job. I spent most of my day alone, crunching numbers for data research. There was no creativity and little human interaction. I wasn’t happy, but I labored on, dejected and frustrated.

One day, everything changed. I had stopped by my boss’s office to answer a question. Instead, I faced one: “Is something wrong?” Instead of brushing it off, I told him I wasn’t happy. It was more than a bad day, I needed something more in my job.

My boss sat back, stunned. Trying to backpedal, I added, “I like the office and everyone here. I’m just not satisfied in this role anymore. I need a change of pace, a challenge, something.”

That was all it took. My brilliant boss saw a good worker in distress and took action. I still crunch numbers, but I can deal with it because I also get to lead a new team. It’s not easy, but I love the challenge, interaction and creativity it brings.

A friend of mine had a similar experience. He was really good in sales, but, at the end of the day, he wasn’t fulfilled. He was more proactive than I and took the matter to his supervisor. I’m pleased to report that he’s now a satisfied — and effective — client manager.

If you’re discontent at work, you don’t have to suffer in silence or change jobs. Don’t wait to have an outburst like I did, either. There’s another option. Get some help by going to your boss and asking for help. Not sure how to do that? Here are some ideas:

1. Get a Grip on What’s Bothering You

Do you know why you’re dissatisfied? I felt unhappy for weeks, but I never took time to pinpoint the problem. Don’t make that mistake. For a week, write down everything that bugs you about your job, no matter how insignificant. When that’s done, you have data. Time for analysis.

Read through your list looking for commonalities, patterns and repetitions. Then you’ll be able to name your issues, such as too many assignments, interrupting coworkers or lack of a challenge. When you approach your boss, you can be specific. Even great bosses can’t read minds.

2. Scrutinize Scrupulously

While you’re considering what makes you unhappy, look at your life outside work as well. Sometimes people are sad and disinterested all the time, but it’s more obvious at work because of expectations and pressure. If you constantly feel helpless, tired, negative, irritable or worthless, these are all signs of a bigger problem. You may be one of the 14.8 million adults affected by a depressive disorder. In this case, a doctor will be more help than your boss, at least initially.

3. Prepare a Plan

Now that you’ve identified your problems, you may see ways to fix them. Since you’re in the middle of it all, you might be the best person to suggest some changes — or not. Either way, you’ll probably be asked for solutions, and you can either make proposals or honestly admit you’re flummoxed.

Think about what it is that would make you happier in your job and list out some things that can help you get it – maybe it’s taking on an additional project or getting to work from home once per month to get done the writing you’re too unfocused to do in your cubicle. Sure, it may mean asking for more work but if it’s fulfilling work it could be the answer to your troubles.

4. Try Talking

OK, you have a handle on what’s bugging you, and you may even have some changes to propose. Time to set a meeting with your boss. Just don’t approach this as a doom and gloom scenario, or your boss’s schedule may suddenly be full for the next two months. When you request the appointment, keep your attitude positive. You really do want things to get better, and this meeting is another step along the way.

5. Set the Stage

You hope the meeting will send you on a path toward a happier workplace, so show it. Have a productive mindset. Go in calm, cool and collected. You’ll be more efficient — and you won’t make your boss uncomfortable or annoyed at having to deal with shouting, sobbing, whining or whimpering. Be positive about the process, and your boss will be, too.

6. Sit in the Spotlight

Remember, this isn’t a gripe session about the rest of the staff. It’s about you. Tell your boss you want to be more engaged in your work. Make the case for becoming a better employee. You’re more likely to get assistance if it improves the bottom line.

7. Paint the Picture

Be upfront with your unhappiness, and use your data to back you up. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s no wonder — you had to start five new projects in the last week. Constrained? Because of the chain of command, you’ve wasted time seeking approval for little decisions you’re capable of making. Unappreciated? You put in way more than 40 hours last week but saw no additional compensation through overtime or comp time.

Don’t be accusatory or negative. In a professional manner, state your facts.

8. Recommend Resolutions

This is the time to pull out your list of suggestions — if you were able to generate it. Your boss will appreciate knowing what you think will solve the problem. They’re not a mind reader, remember? You won’t necessarily get everything you want, but it’s a good starting place. If not all your ideas are feasible, go on to step nine.

9. Solicit Suggestions

Request advice and make sure to take notes. This not only helps your recall, but it also shows the boss you’re serious. If an answer seems vague or incomplete, ask for details. You’re here for help, so it’s up to you to get it.

10. Take Action

By the end of the meeting, you should have a plan of action, so it’s time to get busy. If it’s a long list, don’t become overwhelmed and give up. Take it one step at a time. If the going gets tough, remember: This is about you being happier at work. Your boss will also notice — and appreciate — that you followed through.

Get out of your rut at work. You may not have put yourself there, but, with help from your boss, you can crawl your way back out.

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

Always Leveling Up

I got an opportunity to work for one of the best companies in the world. It’s an opportunity that I can’t pass up.

Challenging myself is a big part of my work happiness.

So when a headhunter emailed me in LinkedIn and asked if I was interested in working at USAA. I said YES!

The position is to help with with User Experience on their website. They found me because I’ve worked hard to build up my resume over at Domino Connection.

It’s my other business that pays the bills.

Always Have Fun

Work Happy Now is fun, but I haven’t earned much money from trying to help people become better leaders at work. I think I’ve earned about $200 in the last 6 months from this site.

I thought when I started Work Happy Now that once I build a reputation in the industry that all kinds of business owners would contact me to help them create a great place to work.

Happy employees equates to higher retention of employees, higher earnings, and better results.

I do get contacted every 6 months or so, but most of the time these companies just inquire and don’t hire me to help them.

So about 5 years ago I stared helping companies improve their websites with a separate business. I use a lot of the techniques I’ve learned at Work Happy Now to help them improve their company, so all my research and writing has paid off.

Passion Project

I’ve come to appreciate that Work Happy Now is just a passion project. I hope to continue to keep delivering great content, but I can’t promise how much I’ll be able to research and write.

I’m going to try my best, but I could use your help.

Everything happened so fast that I haven’t had much time to process everything. From the time I found out that there was a job opening I was offered and job and given a start date, it only took 3 weeks.

We moved up the family vacation, so we could see my family in Pennsylvania and my wife’s family in Missouri.

Help the Cause

Now I have to make my new job a top priority, but I refuse to let Work Happy Now just fade away.

If you are interested in helping me keep Work Happy Now going over the next year please contact me. I’m in need of an editor and two writers.

Would you be willing to help me continue to help people work happier.

I would also be interested in bringing in a partner if I can find the right fit. I would be willing to split a portion of the revenue if you can help me continue to grow this passion project. So if you have a similar passion for work happiness please contact me, so we can talk about your ideas of growing.

How to Resolve Emotionally Charged Conflicts


Last month I was talking with a client and we weren’t seeing eye to eye.

I wanted them to try some new ideas because I wanted to see if we could improve our results. They were resistant.

I don’t want to give too much detail away, but we hit an impasse.

Of course we stayed put with our current plan, but I knew we needed to make some improvements.

I felt like I lost the battle, but there was no winner.

We kept getting the same results. We have another meeting set-up next week and I’m hoping we can start to make some small changes.

I’m sharing this with you because I interviewed Daniel Shapiro who is the Founder and Director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program. He wrote a book called Negotiating the Nonnegotiable.

He explains why this happens.

In his book and our interview he explains that it comes down to communication.

Too often we don’t consult with the people in our lives and they feel left out. The something goes for employees and co-workers. They want to be involved. They want to know that we care about their input.

As you listen to the interview think about how you can use these ideas to help you improve your relationships at work and how to get people to listen to your ideas.

If you liked this podcast subscribe via iTunes. (If you like the podcast please go and rate us on iTunes. Thanks.)

In this interview you’ll learn:

1. The different tools we have during a conflict.

2. How to consult with others so they feel listened to.

3. How do you turn an adversary into a partner.

4. How to ask questions that open people up to your ideas.

5. Reframe the language that you use to get a better response.

You can also check out Daniel Shapiro’s website here. He is a Harvard expert on the psychology of conflict resolution. You can check out his book Negotiating the Nonnegotiable on Amazon here.

What was your favorite takeaway? (Just let us know in the comment section.)

Do you want to learn how to improve your employees performance? My leadership coaching can help you implement the ideas in this interview. Let me know if you are interested in improving your leadership skills so you can improve your team’s results.

10 Leadership Secrets From Top Business Books


Think about your boss for a moment. What do you think are the reasons for his success? What are his qualities that inspire you? Why do you want to become like him? Let’s learn about the answers to these questions by taking help of the leadership books.

Leadership has got multiple facets and each and every facet plays a key role in the success of the leader. Everyone wants to become a leader. People like to have followers who admire them. Leaders are responsible for the success or the failure of the organisation. If they could effectively manage the people, culture and work in the organisation, no one can stop the organisation from achieving heights.

If you are a student who is about to enter the corporate life in a year, learning leadership lessons can help you get an edge over your competitors. If you are a manager who is facing challenges in managing people, work or culture in the organisation, leadership lessons are essential for your career.

1. Every team member should wear the crown of a ‘leader’ and take charge

Becoming a leader and leading a team is an achievement, but when the responsibilities of the leader becomes overwhelming, the achievement can soon turn into a nightmare. Rather than having a single leader loaded with work, developing a team of leaders with each member acting as a leader can help in developing a team with excellent team coordination. By growth of each employee ultimately the organisation grows. This idea is suggested by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Cliff in their book ‘A team of Leaders‘.

Imagine a situation, where you don’t have to give explanation for a decision, instead your team members point out the benefits of your decision as they can relate themselves to you. Life will become so easy for the leaders and the overall potential of the organisation increases.

2. A Motivated Employee is twice efficient than a demotivated employee

What do you think is the reason behind the continuing success of an organisation like Google? It’s the Motivation. Not just external motivation of the employees is important, internal motivation plays a crucial role in the long term success of the organisation. This idea is given by Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about what motivates us who is connecting the dots between motivation and Organisation Effectiveness.

If the employees are just externally motivated by giving rewards and appreciation they may adopt an unethical behaviour in order to achieve the rewards which destroys the culture of the organisation. If they are internally motivated they’ll trust the values of the organisation, put in extra effort and be ethical.

3. Empathy towards your employees will win half battle for you

If you empathize with people and understand their emotions you can learn about things like ‘what motivates them?’, ‘What are the different problems faced by them’ and ‘How can you help them grow?’ It you want to become an effective leader, you need to influence your employees which is possible only if you are emotionally intelligent.

Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence relates Emotional Intelligence with leadership. He describes how leaders can positively influence the people they lead so that they can work at their best potential.

If you are empathetic to your employees, you can get the insights about inside the organisation as well as outside it by developing a healthy equation with your employees. Invite your employees to a dinner party after they failed in a project, appreciate the effort put in and see the difference in their behaviour.

4. Focus on developing the strengths of your employees

Have you ever heard of a leader who is the master of all? Even Steve Jobs was fired from a company he himself created. No one is perfect. As Devora Zack suggested in the book ‘Single Tasking’- Multitasking is a myth. Successful leaders are successful because they can delegate work to their followers on the basis of their strengths and don’t focus on managing their weaknesses. By surrounding themselves with the right people having the right skills they can develop an effective team.

Tom Rath and Barie Conchie in their book Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, And Why People Follow explains that effective leaders focus on developing strengths of the people instead of managing their weaknesses.

By knowing your strengths you can use them to become successful in academic, career and personal success. It can help you become a successful leader because now you will be able to identify strengths of other people and recruit them accordingly.

5. You can’t become a leader overnight

What if your employees are not satisfied with your leadership? Instead of talking to you about an issue, they talk against you behind your back? Leadership is about influencing the people and gaining followers which can’t happen in a day. By prioritizing effectively both people and tasks it is possible to become an effective leader.

Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader within You and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership explains the different laws and steps to be followed to become a successful leader.

It requires patience, commitment and learning from your mistakes. Along with personal development if you can contribute to the development of others you are an effective leader.

6. Predict the uncertainties of future and decide the right path

Leader is a person who could successfully navigate his followers in times of uncertainty and help them deal with difficulties without getting demoralised. It’s important to develop a strategy to achieve the long term goal of the organisation.

Alfred Lansing in his book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage tells the story of the leader Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 members voyage across the Antarctic Circle in a very difficult environment of extreme cold, no food and stormy winds.

There will be times when you face opposition from people against your decision, but staying confident, firm and strong with your decision will help you gain followers slowly and exponentially.

7. Storytelling and Character Building are an effective way of getting followers

Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. in his book Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature tries to emphasize the storytelling is an effective way of making a resonating effect in the minds of the employees where by relating themselves with the characters of the story they can modify their behaviour according to the needs of the organisation.

If you want to be the inspiration of others, develop character and trust among people, and only then you can help others to grow. If your employees perceive you as honest, fair and intelligent, then only they’ll be able to understand your vision and will be willing to contribute their 100 percent.

8. Promoting Innovation by developing a favourable culture in the organisation

Leader who ensure creating a conducive environment for creativity to flourish; values employees, customer and competitors; and works in the interest of everyone is a real leader.

Tony Hsieh in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by telling about his journey from selling Linkexchange (his first company) to getting Zappos (second company) out of bankruptcy and selling it to Amazon, highlights the effect of culture and core values of the organisation on the creativity and productivity of the employees.

Lazlo bock in his book ‘Work rules’ highlights the reasons behind the success of the Google from an HR perspective. The key behind Google’s success is its culture where no unilateral decisions are made. Every decision is made after the consent of all the group members whether it is performance appraisal or product design or launch of a product.

Employees when given freedom, equal powers and responsibility become more loyal, confident and creative. When people who are more intelligent then you are hired, commanding them may result in reducing their efficiency. They are smart enough to manage their work and innovate independently.

9. Expand the pie

Imagine working with people who competed with you for the position you are currently on. Appointing them to work under you is a big risk. They may try to throw you out and take your position.

Doris Kearns Goodwin in his book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln explains the reasons behind the success of Lincoln who took the risk and appointed his competitors to his cabin as he considered them to be the best men whose service is needed by the country.

Understanding the human behaviour and knowing what motivates them can work wonders for a leader and turn enemies into allies. You can talk and analyse the situation of conflict with other person to find a way that ensures benefit of everyone.

10. Guide the Change

Assume that you work in an organisation which lacks creativity. Being aware of the rising competitive forces, you know that your organisation won’t sustain for long. How will you guide the cultural change of the organisation?

Developing your strategy, gaining trust of everyone and analysing the positives and the negatives of the change will help you guide the change that you are planning to bring in your organisation. Have a plan B ready if the change doesn’t go according to the way you planned. For example- If you are adopting a new technology for your product, don’t discard the old technology completely.

Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to great‘, studies the reasons behind the sustained success of the great companies like Kimberly-Clark, Nucor, Walgreen’s and Wells Fargo. These companies could move from below average to successful company’s status only because of the vision and guidance of their leader.

In the book ‘Only the Paranoid survive‘, Andrew Stephen Grove emphasizes that it is important for long term success of the business to be prepared for changes in the market by anticipating them. The earlier and more accurately you identify these changes, the more freedom you have to choose your response, because your original business will provide the resources to jump-start the new business.

Leadership is not about micromanaging or making your employees scared of you, it has multiple aspects. Each and every aspect is important. You become a successful leader only when you adopt a holistic approach and contribute in the growth of others. Don’t dictate people because of your positional power. Instead influence them with your leadership power. Read these books and apply its suggestions in your life and become an effective leader.

This is a guest post from Vandana Shivani of Keynote where you can read Book summaries.

* All links are affiliate links to Amazon.

How to Say No to Soul-Sucking Tasks


You’re busy. I get it. You get lots of emails. You work a lot. You’re really important to lots of people. You usually get nods of approval when you talk about the depths of your busyness.

But I’m not impressed.

Look, everyone is busy. It’s not impressive anymore. Bragging about being busy is like a fish bragging about floating downstream. Neither busyness nor floating requires any effort. Busyness is an inevitable consequence of our culture.

You do, however, have to do quite a bit of work NOT to be busy. You have to do even more work to be busy with the right things. Saying “no” is one of the most difficult parts of my life. Falling asleep thinking about work happens more often than not. Giving my time to the right people in the right proportions happened once in 2007 (and it was an accident). The current of busyness is strong and swimming upstream is not easy.

So how do we swim upstream?

Do you want to be a better leader at work? Then we should talk about you can improve employee engagement and happiness. Click here to see how more happiness can help your organization.

Your Goals Aren’t The Problem

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.  – Steve Jobs

There is a common practice among productivity gurus called the “M.I.T.” or “Most Important Task.” An MIT is a single, actionable task for the day. If all you accomplish today is your MIT, you’ve had a good day. Setting daily MIT’s is a great habit.

But when I first implemented MIT’s, I failed constantly. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t decide what needed to be done. I couldn’t decide what didn’t need to be done. I had too many priorities. I wanted too many things. My MIT’s were inconsistent. I couldn’t focus on one task without feeling guilty for not completing the other 10 things I also considered “most important.”

Sure, I could write down one MIT every day. Sure, I had a mission statement. Sure, I could tell you about my passions. But for every spoken priority, I had so many more unspoken, unwritten priorities. The truth is that clarifying one’s goals and aspirations is only half of the equation. And it’s the easy half.

The hard part is clarifying one’s anti-goals. The almost-passions. Someone else’s aspirations you’ve unknowingly adopted. The I.I.T.’s (“Important-ish Tasks”). The passions you’re “supposed” to have.

The Un-Priorities.

The Un-Priority

The thing about an Un-Priority is that it often looks and feels just like one of your real priorities. An Un-Priority isn’t something you don’t want to do, but something you do. Un-priorities are the mostly-good things that make you too busy to follow-through on your priorities. They’re the shadows of your real priorities. Prioritize an un-priority and it will give the illusion of progress, but will bring very little long-term satisfaction.

To help you identify some of the un-priorities in your life, I’ve broken them down into a few categories. Just like the first step in reaching your goals is to identify them, the first step in eliminating un-priorities from your life is to identify them. Grab a piece of paper as your read through these categories and see how many un-priorities you can identify in your own life.

Someone Else’s Priority

Many of the priorities we adopt from others are really good. My mom is a priority in my life because she is a priority to my dad. I learned to prioritize my mom by adopting someone else’s priority until it became my own. Of course, I’ve adopted a lot of priorities that I don’t want. Those are tricky. My dad wants me to move closer to home. My boss wants me to start traveling to give presentations. Acquaintances want to “stay in touch.”

These priorities didn’t originate with me, but I feel pressure to keep them. These un-priorities don’t bring fulfillment to my life, but rather function to please someone else.

Our lives only have room for so many priorities, so we need to be quick to label the expectations of others as un-priorities and turn our attention somewhere else. It may feel weird (or even mean), but the sooner you label someone else’s expectation of you as an un-priority, the quicker you can move forward with your true priorities.

Too Many Priorities

The people on this planet who end up doing nothing are those who never realized they couldn’t do everything. -Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy

In any sport, there is a clearly defined out-of-bounds. Un-priorities are your out-of-bounds. The grass may look the same on either side, but the line tells you where you need to be. Un-priorities aren’t bad things. They’re good things that take you a little too far out of the game. Shrink your field of play. Define your out-of-bounds so that you can play the game you want to play.

If you’re like me, you default to treating every project, every opportunity, every goal, and every person as a priority. But if you want your life to matter in any way, there can only be room for a few priorities. To be busy with the right things means you have to label a lot of really good things as un-priorities. Not the bad stuff. The good stuff.

What are the good things that are stretching you so thin that you can’t give yourself to what matters most? Where do you need to draw an out-of-bounds line, even for the things you value?

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Some un-priorities are so commonplace that they are generally believed to be priorities. They look and feel like priorities, but they aren’t. They’re counterfeit priorities. Let me give you some examples.

Priority: Cultivating friendships

Un-priority: Daily Facebook use

Un-priority: Christmas cards

Priority: Rest

Un-Priority: Netflix

Un-priority: Excessive alcohol use

Priority: Communication with customers and co-workers

Un-Priority: Constantly checking email

Priority: Lifelong learning

Un-Priority: Over-consuming the news

Priority: Being a loving father and husband

Un-priority: Over-working to “provide”

Cultural stigma and peer pressure are powerful forces. Don’t let them push you to make pointless or harmful activities a priority. Label them an un-priority and move on.

Unspecific Priorities Are Un-Priorities

When is enough enough? If I’ve never taken the time to decide, I will be susceptible to over-work and giving my best time to the wrong priorities (or maybe the wrong proportions to the right priorities). Let me throw out some examples. In all of these, your ability to say no to un-priorities is dramatically increased if you have been specific and clear on your priorities.

Vague Priority: Serving my local church

Specific: Serving through handyman work for widows and single mothers

Specific: Volunteering once every month in the church’s nursery

Specific: Mentoring a high school student every other week

Vague Priority: Loving my wife

Specific: Asking a thoughtful question every day after work

Specific: Planning (and never missing) a weekly date night

Specific: Being home by 5:30 every day, leaving all work at the office

Vague Priority: Improving my resume

Specific: Working on a side business daily from 5-7 a.m. (no more, no less)

Specific: Spending 30 minutes every day learning Spanish via Youtube videos

Specific: Increasing measurable work metrics by 20% over the next 60 days and then asking for a raise

How can we know when enough is enough? Be specific. How can we prevent our most important priority from overshadowing our other priorities (and becoming its own un-priority)? Be specific. It’s all about drawing that out-of-bounds line.

Closing Remarks

While it’s not bad to be busy, it’s dumb to be busy with the wrong priorities.

If you don’t want to be defined by your un-priorities, you need to identify them. Remember the tips we discussed.

  • What un-priorities are the expectations of someone else?
  • What un-priorities are the result of having too many priorities?
  • What un-priorities are the product of peer pressure or cultural normalcy?
  • What un-priorities have resulted from lack of specificity?

If you haven’t started an un-priority list, start one now. What is your most profound un-priority? Check the comments to see if others are struggling with the same ones.

Author bio:

Matt Smelser is an aspiring doctor, the founder of GY20R, and is glad that you read this entire post. He is from Colorado, but currently lives in Lincoln, NE. He often speaks in the third person, like he is doing right now. Whether you’re young or old, he thinks that you should check out his blog Get Your 20’s Right.

How Difficult Challenges Define Your Career


When you wake up in the morning what is usually your first thought?

I need more sleep.
I can’t wait to get today started.
I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.

The first thought is important, but the next thought is more important.

What do you do with that first thought?

If your first thought is that you don’t want to go to work then…

Your next thought can continue down that negative path or you can catch that thought, shake it off and bring yourself back into a more positive mindset.

So instead of thinking how awful work is you could think about how you are going to do something great at work.

This of course doesn’t always happen, but when you try to do great work it’s much more likely to happen.

Positive Mindset

I’ve been practicing this quite a bit.

I try




to work on my mindset.

It’s that vital to my success.

It starts with me trying to expand outside my comfort zone and do something that challenges me.

I didn’t use to think this way. Challenges were my kryptonite.

If something went wrong I thought why the world wanted me to fail. I searched for the negative.

Through researching work happiness since 2008. Reading a ton of books and articles. “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck was a game changer. And I mean a ton of books and articles.

I watched all kind of TED talks like the importance of playing games.

I found that my mindset leaned toward the negative. I wanted things to be easier.

When a project failed I would fall into a depressed state.

I stopped trying at work and I coasted. I hurt my career.

Have Fun

That’s when I started meditating more and being a watcher of my thoughts. I created the 30 Day No Complaining Challenge and I got more clarity on what I needed. I needed to have more fun. I stopped taking each thought so seriously and began to be more playful with how I thought about my life.

Having fun at work meant I was doing work that mattered. I cared about the outcome and was willing to work hard to make it happen.

Now I’m more willing to take risks because the risks I take define who I am. If I play it too safe I see this in my yearly review.

I feel more alive when I’m doing something that frustrates me, but instead of letting my anger take over. I notice it, smile at it, and take a break. I know I’ll figure out an answer even if it means giving up on a project that just isn’t working.

It’s the risks you take that define a career.

Passion Projects

I teamed up with a partner to get the Core Values Method out into the world. It’s a project that’s fun and near to my heart. I continue to work here at Work Happy Now, helping companies improve their company culture, so employees can live with more passion at work. I’m working on software to help companies collect better feedback from their employees.

It’s a lot of work, but it stretches me to grow personally and professionally.

I believe leaders need to put the focus on having more ways to have fun at work. Fun that encourages better results. They need to have more fun managing employees performance. They need to find ways to get people sharing ideas.

Coaching Skills

That’s why I’m expanding my coaching services. I want to coach leaders in the workplace. I know I can make an impact that will change the course of many lives.

Last week I was in a meeting and a CEO of an accounting firm was there and he was asking me about what I did. I told him how I help my clients get feedback from their employees and customers. Then we use that to improve the employee and customer experience.

He was intrigued.

Then I explained how more companies should use feedback loops in their company with their employees.

He frowned for a split second.

I was losing his interest.

Then I explained that a passionate employee will bring in 10x the amount of referrals and revenue than a passionate customer.

I explained how one employee can affect the experience of thousands of customers depending on their role. If each customer matters then it starts with having happy and engaged employees.

Now I had his attention back.

I told him if he didn’t work on his company culture then his company would just not grow as fast as it should.

Now he was hooked.

We have a conference call scheduled for next week.

Making an Impact

I’m sharing this with you because this is one of the main reasons I want to expand my coaching services is that I want to also help leaders and business owners. If they only understood how to track and improve employee experiences they could then see how it affects revenue. 95% of the time they are closely tied together.

A company with a vision, purpose, core values, good products, and high employee engagement usually means they are wildly successful.

You keep a close eye on your profit margins then why wouldn’t you keep a close eye on your employee engagement?

So that’s what I want to help leaders do in the workplace. Help them improve their team and company culture, so employees are engaged and happy.

That means managing their performance, so you can measure their success and help them improve.

I’m using the same tools and system:

1. Create a Core Values document.
2. Develop feedback loop.
3. Work on coaching skills.
4. Develop a system to measure and improve your employees performance and happiness.

So if you have a passion for improving your leadership and business skills then you should fill out the application.

I have two applications:

Leadership coaching (Leaders in the workplace who want a more engaged team that gets great results)


Business Coaching (Business owner looking to improve how their company listens and communicates)

An Open Letter to All Bosses Who Don’t Listen

Open Letter to Your Boss

This article was inspired by an email I received from a reader last week:

Dear Karl,

I truly want to work happier, but I feel stuck. I received your email last week about being a great leader. I’m sad to say that my boss is a true jerk. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he is always too busy or when I try to speak up he just cuts me off. There is no way he would ever ask for my feedback. I feel lost. I have a young child and I really don’t want to look for another job. I like my work, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand working for my boss.

Thanks for whatever advice you can give,

Struggling at Work

Here is a nice supplement to this article – 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement

Here is my reply (An open reply to all the bosses who fail to listen to their employees problems and ideas).

Dear Struggling at Work,

I’ve been in your position before.

My first boss out of college who wouldn’t listen to me and also kept putting me down. After researching a company shirt for him he wanted an update, so I went into his office.

After one minute of explaining the different local print shops we could use, he held up his hand for me to stop talking.

He asked me if the sizes come in Double XL. I wasn’t sure. I told him I could go and find out.

He shook his head, looked down into his lap, then at me and said I could have a monkey do a better job on this project.

He killed my confidence with that one sentence.

I share this with you because I’m a proud man, but as a young man I was afraid to stick up for myself. No one deserves to be treated that way and I didn’t have the confidence to be strong.

Every time I would try to present an idea he would brush me off. He didn’t even try to pretend like he listened to me. He just ignored most of my ideas.

I wish I could share with you that eventually I stuck up for myself and my boss respected me. This never happened.

I worked there for two years and hated working for him the whole time I was there.

I was lucky to have a great manager, in another department, that helped guide me. He hated to see me leave the company, but he supported me.

That was over fifteen years ago.

Now I’m much more confident and willing to speak up. It’s taken a lot of practice, but so worth my energy.

My hope is that you have or can find someone who can help guide you a work, someone in a different department, HR, a mentor, or a coach.

I realize that many bosses aren’t very good listeners, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements in the working world. Bosses and managers should seek training to improve their listening skills and be better coaches to their employees.

They need people like you to lead the way.  They need someone to say you aren’t very good at this right now, but I know you have the talent to be a great leader.

I know it’s hard to step up and say something difficult and maybe feels impossible, but it’s not. Boss by boss and manager by manager we can encourage them to be better listeners so they create a happier work culture. When they understand that with improving their listening and communication skills they will help build a stronger team.

Real improvements in the workplace cultures through America and other top down managed cultures need a wake up call. They must know that these bad habits can’t continue.


You don’t need to do this one your own. You have a lot of power if you are willing to ask for help.

For example you could ask for help within your company. You could seek help and advice from someone outside the company as well, to see if they’ve been through something similar and how they improved their situation.

Guess what?

They probably have.

When we are willing to go find help and be a little vulnerable that’s when we can work on improving ourselves and our career.

Your turn…

How do you find the strength to ask for help when you need it the most?

Would you like to improve your leadership skills? Then take a look at how I help people with my leadership coaching program. I’m taking applications for next month.

5 Reasons You Should Write Down Your Core Values

Core Values

I waited.

I’m not sure why, but my light was green and I hadn’t pressed on the gas peddle.

Then a big truck came barreling through the intersection.

My jaw dropped.

I should be dead right now.

I don’t know if it was divine intervention, my gut instinct telling me not to go, or just dumb luck.

Whatever it was that prevented me from not pressing the gas pedal just saved me from a world of pain, maybe even my life.


We are all connected.

Quantum mechanics has revealed some amazing discoveries. Every atom that interacts with each other becomes connected. We live in an amazing world and the smarter we get the more complicated things become. I guess that’s why so many of us yearn for our younger days when we were young, stupid, and happy.

I’m still on this earth for a reason.

I’ve survived Cancer and I’m enjoying my work and life a little more each day.

I’ve survived working with many difficult bosses and I’m still here.

That’s why understanding my why to my major decisions is so important to me.

I don’t want to waste my time making a decision. I want to be able to say Yes or No quickly so I can enjoy my life instead of feeling insecure.

My Core Values bring clarity to my choices.

You might find other reasons how your core values help you, but here are what I believe to be the top 5 for me and many of my clients.

1. Your Core Values show you your true nature

Before working with Tim, one of my coaches. He asked me to send him my top 8 core values from a list he sent me. I smiled. Easy peasy.

I sent him my top 8 values.

Then we got on the phone and he had me compare each value to each other to one another.


Happiness was my #1 core value.

After we ranked them he began to ask me questions. I soon discovered that for me happiness was a crutch for me. If it didn’t make me happy then I wouldn’t do it.

The problem with this is that sometimes you need to do hard work that feels uncomfortable so you are happier in the future. Hard now, happy later.

As humans we are very bad at making good decisions based on future happiness, but allowing me to get a deeper understand of my values and Tim not allowing me to take the easy way out my values become more clear.

2. They guide your life.

Within a week I my top core value had switched from happiness to truth. I seek to uncover the truth in myself and others. I stopped taking the easy way out and began to get more curious about the truth behind my problems.

For example I would get frustrated with reports that I would write for my boss because he either didn’t like them or wouldn’t read them. I would rationalize that I needed to keep them short.

The truth was that I was being lazy because writing the reports didn’t make me happy. So I saw my true nature and knew it wasn’t fair to my boss or me. I believed in doing my work well or not at all, half my effort wasn’t cutting it. I began to put all the detail necessary to make sure that he saw the full picture and that I was delivering great work.

What do you know?

I was happier because I was delivering a reports. My boss began to read them too.

3. They help you with your career goals.

After I was laid off and started my own business, I was using more of my core values than ever before. My clients formed a deeper connection with me. It started off slow at first, but it began to happen again and again.

I decided to publish my core values because I wanted my clients to see who I was and how I delivered my services. A few of my clients have asked me about my core values, but many of them just feel confident and safe in who I am because I’m so public about who I am and what I deliver.

It’s become one of my best trust building tools. I wouldn’t be as successful without being so open about my core values.

4. They save you from making bad choices.

I get a lot of emails asking me to promote products and give me money to advertise on Work Happy Now. I turn down 99% of them because of my vision for my company. I want everyone to do work that they are passionate about and have a great group of people helping them reach their goals.

If I was worried about making an extra $100 from the site I don’t think I would have the trust that I do with my clients and readers.

5. They ease your stress levels.

This is a big one for me. I didn’t live my core values for many years. I avoided work to avoid getting in trouble.

When I started my own business and I get to choose who I work with and who I don’t I began to go after more purpose driven companies, which means I get to work with people who are as passionate about their work as I am.

Because I choose to work with companies that are purpose driven instead of money driven. I believe that we have similar core values. We believe in working toward a larger goal instead of immediate gratification results.

I work harder now than I ever did, but because I believe in the growth mindset every project has an opportunity for me to learn. If a project doesn’t grab my curiosity I say no to it.

How about you?

Have you ever ranked your personal core values? It’s really cool experience. I do it with 99% my clients. The real secret sauce is how we use your core values to help you make smarter choices.

If you are interested in uncovering your top core values then you are in luck. I’m scheduling 5 free core values sessions with people who read Work Happy Now.

Are you an owner of a company, feel stuck in your career, manager of a team, or want to improve your leadership skills at work?

Then fill out my contact form (type “core values” into message, so I can separate you from other contacts) and I’ll send you an email.

I’ll pick 5 people to work with. The process usually takes about 30 minutes. I’ll send you a list of core values then after you send me 8 I’ll send you access to my calendar to schedule a call. I will be recording the session and I’ll ask for your feedback.

This is a $250 value that I’m giving away for free because I’m looking to get a better understanding of using values in the workplace. I want to do this session then hear from you a week later to see if it helped you at your job.

What are your top 3 core values?

Why Great Leaders Have a Growth Mindset

Growth mindset quote

It’s 10am.

Mark knew it was time for the team meeting, but he really didn’t want to go.

It was always the same thing. People would joke around for 10 minutes. Then Cindy and John would dominate the conversation to see who could one up the other. Alex would try to chime in with calm and reason and Cindy and John would talk over him.





Mark would look over at his manager and he would be rolling his eyes or looking down at his iPad. Mark liked his boss, but at some point he stopped caring.

Old Patterns

Many of the old patterns exist because that’s what people do. They get into habits. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but habits are at your work.

It’s the bad habits that hold us back.

I came across a popular talk from Carol Dweck.

She talks about the growth mindset. I clumsily wrote the growth mindset back in 2008. I believed I could be a good writer someday. Almost there. Just a few more years. :)

Read what she has to say about her research:

“We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset).” Carol Dweck

Do you believe you are still learning and growing?

Every leader must be able to believe that s/he can learn and grow. If they are stuck in old habits and can’t break free you get the typical scenario that I described above.

Breaking Old Patterns

Habits are not easy to break, but it’s possible, if you believe it’s possible.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

A man after my own heart. He had the growth mindset back in 1901. He was also an Environmental Activist. The dude was amazing.

Enough about my man Theo.

You can break these bad habits by creating an employee feedback loop. This is where leadership separates the average from the really good. Listening to tough feedback and using it as an opportunity for growth.

Now imagine if Mark’s boss had a growth mindset.

He would see the meetings weren’t productive and he would take action. He would probably start the meeting by stating the obvious then begin by asking each person, what we should do to improve the meetings.

He would list each idea on the meeting room white board. Then ask people to vote on the ones they think would work the best.

Then he would implement the top 3 ideas by asking the group who would like to make sure we follow these ideas in every meeting. If no one steps up then he would do it. If someone stepped up he knew he had an ally to help him.

Either way it would happen.

Be a Great Leader

A great leader knows when to make the tough choice. Even the best leaders can lose sight of what is working well and what needs to be improved. So that’s why you have to create a feedback loop to help keep you in check.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

I truly believe that everyone should consider themselves a leader at work. So you should be asking your co-workers and your boss how you can improve.

It can be a hard conversation to have, but one that will help you grow your career.

If you consider yourself a leader at work then you should get the 7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagementto help you at work. I’m also offering a new type of coaching that I haven’t offered before. I want to help more business leaders improve their employees happiness and productivity. If you are on my email list I’ll send you a special offer to help you create happier and more engaged employees. Just click the button below:

7 Proven Ways to Encourage Employee Happiness and Engagement
Below is a cool infographic from Carol Dweck that helps you understand how to bring more of a growth mindset to your work. It’s focus is on students, but you can apply these mindset techniques to your work as well.