Saturday, June 29, 2013

Create - You Have Something To Offer

When you look at the world, we have a problem. We consume more than we produce. This isn't meant to be an economics lesson, just suffice it to say that we use more than we can afford.

I can't speak for you, but if you're like me (age 26), you rent a condo/townhouse/room. If you're lucky enough to "own" a house, the bank really owns it and you're paying them for the right to own it in 30 years. You probably have a car that is on lease or loan. If you're engaged or married (and male), you probably got your spouse a ring that needed 12-month interest-free financing. (She doesn't even own that pretty ring!?) Oh, don't forget those college loans. Do you sense an imbalance?

Now, I'm not preaching to anyone. I'm still a proud owner of debt. I'm not going to go all green-earth on you and tell you to live off the land and push away from modern society. That's a great plan if you want it, but it's not what I'm here to promote.

Now that I've painted a pretty gloomy picture, let's look at the positives. There are a lot more borrowers than there are lenders. Okay, scratch the economics lingo. There are more people buying things than there are people creating things. There is a whole world waiting to buy something that you create. You, yes you, have something to offer...if you create it. 

"[Sheer Ambrosia] is giving the entire
world (thanks to the internet) a chance
to have some of the best baklava around."
One example: Sheer Ambrosia International Bakery and Catering. While living in Draper, UT I had the pleasure of meeting the brains behind Sheer Ambrosia. Without giving a life story, let me tell you that she knows how to make baklava. In fact, it's the best baklava I've ever tasted. Now, with that kind of talent she could have provided great food to friends and family. But instead, she recognized her talent and is giving the entire world (thanks to the internet) a chance to have some of the best baklava around.

Do you have a talent worth sharing? Let me answer that for you: yes, you do! Not everybody cooks. Some people can quilt, sew, or make jewelry. Heck, an entire business was created simply by making accessories to Crocs! Your talent doesn't have to be something you can hold. People like Stephen Covey created a business sharing his ideas.

So think of who you are, what you're good at, and find a way to create it for others. You may be the next Stephen Covey. But even if you aren't, you'll feel better about yourself because you'll be giving yourself to the world and making it a better place.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Proposal: Making Sara and Kevin Official

Monday, June 24th was a night over two years in the making. To be honest, I think both Sara and I would have preferred this day to have happened a long time ago...but a mission in Utah prevented that from happening.

The buildup started during the middle of the previous week. After much discussion, we just decided to go ring shopping. I've learned that Sara is someone who prefers action/touch to discussion/theory. So we went shopping. Our second stop was Kay's. In the midst of trying on all of the rings, one just stood out. I should have known in that moment that we didn't need to shop anymore, but I wanted to be thorough. We continued ring shopping for two more days and finally made the BIG purchase. ("Big" may have different meanings to the men and women reading this)

You may be wondering why we went together to ring shop. After all, that takes a lot of the surprise out of the big question, right? Well, Sara is a wise girl. She knows my fashion sense is not a strength of mine. She might call it a weakness. Because of that I think she wasn't about to let me make such a big decision on my own. I'm grateful for her wisdom because I wouldn't have had the slightest clue what to look for!

Then came the big night. I doubt there was any surprise, but that didn't stop my game plan. Our first "real" date was to a small mid-scale restaurant in Vienna, VA called Maple Ave. We happened to return there for a reservation at the exact same table from two-plus years ago. Not only was it sentimental for Sara but I must say the food is just wonderful. I'd recommend it to anybody looking for a good, unique meal.

Then came part two. We got in the car and drove downtown to the tidal basin and monuments. Last time we made this drive it was our second date. All was the same except I was driving this time. Sara knew what I was doing. When we got there we made the same walk that we did before, only this time minus cherry blossoms. We walked through the FDR memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. As we looped the tidal basin we took a seat near where we sat two years earlier. It was there that I told Sara I wanted to tell her how she had won my heart. Even though I was leaving on a mission I wanted to make sure she knew where I stood. I didn't plan on her waiting for fact, I told her not to! (That shows how well she listens to me) Nevertheless, that was the spot.

After our reunion at the tidal basin was over, we looked for a bench to sit on. It was on that bench that Sara first told me we would try this thing out. Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn and the bench I was looking for was a half mile farther than I thought. Whoops! Luckily, Sara was so excited that she didn't seem to mind the mishap. After we found our seat, we chatted for a bit, waited for a private moment, and asked the question. "Will you marry me?" I don't think there was much in question...but I still had to ask. She said yes! plan a wedding and a life.

Paula Deen: Is the standard too high?

There have been many noteworthy news stories over the past few days. One that doesn't sit well with me is the Paula Deen racism "controversy". Before I delve any further, let me put one thing out there. To use racial slurs is not acceptable by anyone under any circumstances. Nothing I will say changes that socially accepted truth.

What doesn't sit well is the idea that any person in the public light must walk in near perfection or else they will be cast aside like a cheap goldfish. Yes, it is inexcusable for Paula Deen, or anyone, to say the things that she said. But, if we're going to be honest, I believe almost all of us have said crude, vulgar, or inappropriate things at one time in their life. Many of the comments referenced are from many years before her television career. If all of us were judged on the misguided comments of our younger days then I don't think we'd have any public officials or well-respected celebrities.

There are many good things about our 24/7 new cycle that we have today. Information is easier to access than ever before. But we must be careful not to blow mistakes out of proportion. I'm no Paula Deen "lover", but she seems to know what she's talking about when it comes to food. Why, then, can we not accept her fault (or mistake) and allow her to share her expertise with the world? If we're not careful, we'll be out of experts before long.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Elevate Your Thoughts; Elevate Your Life

As I've reacclimated with life as a "normal" individual (that may be a stretch for most of us) I have realized one important lesson. The things that we put into our minds is critical. You might think I'm about to discuss the declining morality around us but I won't do that. Rather, it's important to keep ourselves focused on who we are, what we want to achieve, and who's been able to go there before us.

One of my personal goals is to find some way to improve life for those around me. A way I track that goal is to see if I can start my own business. Why? Well, a truly successful business person is somebody who improves the lives of others when you get down to basics. However, there are many subtle forces that keep me (or you) from achieving that goal or similar goals.

For one, much of the world around us encourages us to "go with the flow". We shouldn't leave the crowd, after all, because the crowd is a very safe place. Any attempt to break out of the typical mold is met with resistance and criticism. On top of that, new ideas are typically met with doubt until they've reached a certain critical mass of success. I remember a time when I told myself, "Kevin, you can't possibly get an iPod. Why would you want all of your songs on your computer? CD's are much more safe and reasonable." Now, I don't even have digital copies of my songs because I get all my music from cloud-based Spotify. The norm is to be critical of change.

This is why I believe it's necessary to put good information into your mind and soul. I'm not talking about statistics or techniques. I'm talking about a positive way of thinking. Enter Entrepreneur on Fire. This half-hour daily podcast interviews successful entrepreneurs. They rarely get into the technical aspects of the business but instead spend time discussing what obstacles were overcome to reach success. That kind of information is what fuels hope, optimism, and creativity. Without a mindset founded on those three things, flashes of brilliance will never come. So while I know everybody's dream is not to build a business, I believe everybody needs positive inputs that will elevate their thinking to what is possible rather than what is "normal".