Category Archives: leadership


If you’re like me, there are so many tasks that demand our attention.  As I get deeper into the business world and try to manage family, work, hobbies, and recreational activities I find it so easy to get overwhelmed.  A couple years ago I stumbled upon David Allen’s project called Getting Things Done, often abreviated GTD.  What a concept!  Get things done.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.  Yet it’s extremely relevant because life is really about what you produce.  You can think, dream, plan all you want – believe me, I have!  But at the end of the day it’s ultimately about what you have done, what you have created.

As I wrote about last week, I am really against New Year’s Resolutions.  I see too many people pursue drastic lifestyle changes from fitness to nutrition to reading to you name it.  And it’s just not an effective way to facilitate changes.  At the same time, the new year is naturally a great time to reflect on the previous year and plan out some goals and changes for the next year.  This is a good thing, a natural thing, and I would argue one that successful people have mastered.

Do you have a concrete workflow?

Today I want to challenge you with this: do you have a workflow?  Do you have a set of routines, a list of tasks, or some plan that you follow on a fairly regular basis?  I guess I’ll let some people off the hook right now.  If you can get up, go to work, be less than inspired, come home and make some dinner after watching a few shows only to return to the tv after dinner, then this post isn’t for you.  But if you’re someone who wants to start a business on the side, start a non-profit organization, volunteer somewhere, serve at church, write a book, or change the world, then let’s keep this going.  That was a little rant, but let’s be clear: you were created to create.  I give you ultimate freedom to decide the scope of that creativity, but contribute something to this society – we need you.

So for me, I wear a lot of hats.  Here’s a quick overview of the projects on my plate:

  • I am developing this blog which will eventually lead to a small business
  • I have a rough (very rough) outline for a book which is very related to the business
  • I’m pursuing a masters degree in leadership and management (not really) from all the books and blogs I read
  • I’m pursing an actual masters degree in Kinesiology from UW
  • I tweet daily as I go through #EatThisBook
  • I’m collecting recipes for another book, a fun recipe e-book to come out this summer
  • Oh, and I have a family!

I do not (do. not.) say this as a form of bragging.  If anything it would be easy to argue that I’m spreading myself out too thin.  But this is my reality, and this is my attempt at being transparent (it worked).  Here’s my point: none of this gets done if I do not have an excellent workflow to manage these projects.  And in another attempt at transparency, I’ll admit that I currently do not have that workflow developed.  But I’m getting there.  Here’s the kicker: I know from experience that things will contantly demand my time, and I will be a slave to the fun and interesting things on Twitter, blogs and Facebook if I am not careful.  Instead I need to have a workflow that ensures I get done the work that’s most important.  Sometimes that changes per day, even per week.  But it should intuitively make sense that without a solid structure for the day, without a process and protocol for managing inputs that happen over our 18 waking hours of the day we cannot expect to be as productive as we should.

So I don’t have the answers, for you at least.  I have a great start for myself.  But I want to challenge you to reflect on your daily workflow and determine if some changes (yes, slight changes) could make your day more productive.


Shipping Friday

On Friday I’ll be shipping a new website for H&H Arborists.  It’s been a fairly big project because I’ve worked with two programmers and a photographer.  I’m acting more as an executive producer, but I’m ok with that.  I received the latest copy tonight and I’ve been working on our last round of adjustments for a couple hours.  I’m so excited to go live with this site.Shipping this Friday!  You?

Shipping is important for small businesses and creative people.  I ship blog posts about twice a week.  I try to ship interesting things on Twitter (which posts to Facebook, to some people’s dismay).  But what I’ve realized is that successful people need to ship.  Shipping just means putting out quality product.  Some people think it should be perfect.  I think it should be a work in progress.  Of course you always want it to be excellent, but don’t wait for perfect.  Is anyone perfect?  You’ll find a laundry list of failures when you look closely at any “successful” company.

Shipping gets it out the door and into the hands of people to use it.  You can always make adjustments, right?  When Tom sent me this last draft tonight, I learned a ton about things I should have thought through.  So I’ll make some adjustments and ship on Friday as planned.  It will be a huge sense of accomplishment and the learning will continue as I mess with the site more and help it evolve.

Do you ship?  Do you create?  Blogging is a great way to ship.  Twitter is easy because you can grab other people’s important Tweets and retweet.  Do you have a book in you?  You could write the first chapter and I’d help you get it online for the world to see.

Think about what you have to offer and make a plan to ship by next Wednesday.  You thought I’d say Friday, didn’t you.  Ship Wednesday – because you can.

Poking Thoughts Into Seth Godin’s New Book

Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s new book is titled Poke The Box (Amazon affiliate link).  If you are at all interested in creativity and starting a business, Seth is your guy. It takes a little bit to figure out his style of writing. It’s not smooth, it’s not polished, but it’s effective. He has one of the most read blogs in the world – for a reason.

Why should you read Poke the Box? Because you want to start something. You have an idea, a business, a book, or a blog and you want to create. Not everyone may have this, but you do. “But will anyone care? Will anyone read it?” Doesn’t matter. Go. Do. Ship.

In the business world you want to ship. Create a product, offer a service, and ship it. Send it out. make it go viral. Ship. “But it’s not ready yet… I need a few more weeks to get it finished.” Ship.

One of my biggest goals last year was to start this blog. I had a blog going over on Blogger but I wanted my own self-hosted WordPress blog like so many of the men and women I admire online. But it wasn’t ready. It didn’t look finished, the content wasn’t complete and I couldn’t stand putting a project out there that I wasn’t fully proud of or wasn’t fully complete. Then I realized it would never be exactly where I wanted it to be – it needed to get published, it needed to ship. I launched the next week.

Go buy it - I loved it on Kindle App for iPad

You see failure isn’t an option. “It isn’t an option” a.k.a. “it’s going to happen.” Failure is essential for success. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t been taking many chances, and chances are your product isn’t very good. Check that – it probably *is* good, and that’s the problem. You’re looking for extraordinary.

I go on this “failure” rant because it’s one of my favorite part of Seth’s book.  Do you know how many times Joe Torry got fired?  Fired!?! He failed at his job and they fired him! Three times.  Have you ever been fired?  He was fired three times.  Oh, and now he’s one of the most successful managers in Major League Baseball.

I’ve written about failure before.  I’ll continue to fail and I won’t like it but i know it’s essential for success. Poke the box is about poking the box and taking initiative. Create something. Then ship it. You may fail, you should fail. But you’ll be on the cutting edge and if you really care, you’ll make your adjustments and ship again.

Go buy Poke the Box.

If I’m Doing My Job Right…

For eight years I volunteered at Blackhawk church with the college ministry.  I was a student at the University of Wisconsin and as I grew in my Christian faith, it was my desire to help build a program and a ministry where college students could build community and foster an environment where they could grow in their faith.  As a member of the leadership team, we were constantly challenged by our college pastor to replace ourselves.

The idea is that true leadership is not based around one person, but a team.  Taking this idea one step further, the goal is for each member of that team works with others underneath them and develop then next generation of leaders.  The goal is to replace yourself.

As a personal trainer, my job is to instruct and motivate my clients towards a healthy lifestyle.  I find great joy in talking through a new workout, a goal of finishing a half marathon, or scheduling weekly check-ins to monitor a client’s progress.  Personal training is a journey that the trainer and client take together.  But if I’m doing my job right, I’m working myself out of a job.  This may seem counterintuitive.  But I’m not interested in keeping a client for 3, 5 or 10 years.  Even as a business model, I would not consider myself successful if I was still training a client for that long of a time.  This is because I value education and take great pride in teaching my clients the principles of training and discipline that lead to and sustain an active lifestyle.

On this particular blog, I find this message very applicable.  Some of my former clients read the blog.  Other potential clients may be reading the blog.  The point is that I want to establish a platform in person and online where I am a continual resource for exercise training methods and best practices.

So wherever you are in your fitness journey, this is an invitation to engage with this website.  If I’m doing my job right, I’ll educate and inspire you to make healthy choices.  After awhile you may not need my services anymore.  But your friends will.  And so you’ll send them a link and get them started on their fitness journey.  I’m always trying to do my job so well that I’m needed less and less.  If you’re still around, it’s because you want to be – not because you need to be.

Creating a Fitness Routine Part 4 – A Series of Adjustments

I can still hear my defensive coach from high school.  I can see him out of the corner of my eye, pacing around the team and insisting that “life is a series of adjustments.”  Very few – I mean very few – phrases have stuck with me over the years.  But Coach Lecher (“lek-er”) had a phrase that I’ll never forget.  He used it in such a brilliant context – defensive football.

In the game of football, the defense can game plan and strategize all they want.  But often the defensive unit will succeed based on their ability to adjust to what the offense is doing and find a way to stop it – make and adjustment.  “Life is a series of adjustments.”

In part 1 of this series we talked about recognizing previous failures at exercise and using this as a learning tool for moving towards a successful plan.  In part 2 we talked about SMART goals.  Part 3 had to do with keeping detailed records of your fitness routine.

Today I’d like to encourage you to listen to Coach Lecher with me – “life is a series of adjustments.”  You’ve undoubtedly had weeks where you didn’t get all your workouts in.  You’ve had workouts where you couldn’t workout as long as you had hoped.  One day of lifting was you vs. the weights, and the weights won.  This happens all the time in exercise. You’re good, but if you’re so good that you never have setbacks, what are you really accomplishing?  (You need more challenge.)

Life happens – and we need to adjust.  I’m learning this right now with our adjustment to life with a kid, and soon two kids.  My time gets pulled in new directions in this stage of life.  I’m also a personal trainer – I hear the excuses all the time.  (I think I heard the worst one this week, but I better keep it to myself in case he’s reading.)  We all have a list of things that take up time and then other lists of things that seem to just pop up and take even more of our time.

So when things get in the way of your workouts, or a workout beats you up pretty good one day, what’s your response?  Will you be passive and allow the set-back to just happen?  Will you promise yourself it will never happen again?  Will you play the blame game?  Will you chalk it up to bad luck?  Or will you process the set-back, regroup, and find a way to move towards your SMART goal?  Tim Sanders wrote about this last week.

Engage with your workouts.  Engage with your goals.  Engage with all the details of your life and then come up with a game plan.  When you get knocked around a bit, try to hear the words of my defensive coach, “Life is a series of adjustments.”  Big or small – make that adjustment and take another step towards your goals.


I feel extremely compelled to write this morning.  Productivity has been heavy on my mind this week, and it was reinforced this morning during my run.  I’m only giving myself 10 minutes for this, though.

My blog is currently in the middle of a series entitled “Creating a Fitness Routine.” If you haven’t read about our process check out the three posts here:

I have to admit that staying productive can be tough for me.  Most days at work we’re very busy with the tree work, training, and keeping things up and running efficiently.  But when I sit at the office in front of a computer there are so many things reaching out for my attention:  Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, email (personal, business), and that doesn’t even include news sites so I can know what’s going on in the world. 

How is a man supposed to concentrate when everything is so readily available?

This isn’t new information, but maybe just a reminder.  Or maybe it’s just me processing this on my blog.  What it comes down to is prioritizing.  For me the question is not “What do I do first?”  The better question is “What do I not do?” 

  • I don’t need to have email open all day.  I can check it 3-4 times rather than always having it in real-time.
  • I don’t need to have Twitter open all day.  Checking for 5 minutes twice per day is plenty.
  • My Google Reader will keep those items stored and unread, also for the end of the day or even better the weekend.  

I know this post may not make sense to my readers, so sorry for the little rant here.  If I were giving this more than 10 minutes I’d explain more of what I’m doing (specifically) to stay productive. 

For now, I’ll just tell you that saying no to email and Twitter is a good thing (albeit very difficult).  My Moleskine notebook is my best friend.  And I’ll live today with my favorite line from one of my favorite books, Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart:

“Organize and lead.  I say it again, organize and lead.”

Any successful leader must first be able to lead himself.

Creating a Fitness Routine Part 2 – Goal Setting

This is part two of our J2K Fitness Challenge.  In part one we talked about how we can learn about ourselves in our failures, and that in fact failure is essential for success.  I ended part one with instructions to write down some obstacles that have gotten in the way of your training programs in the past.
Now with those in the back of our mind, let’s start writing some goals.  Goals, both short and long term, are extremely important in creating a fitness routine.  In college as I was learning about physical and health education we learned about S.M.A.R.T. goals.  At first it seemed a little over the top, but over the years I’ve come to realize how important each component is to the success of your goal.
S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
Specific           (What *specifically* do you want to happen)
Measurable     (How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?)
Attainable        (Is your goal within reach but still challenging?)
Relevant          (Is it your goal or someone else’s; how does it fit in your life?)
Timely             (To be completed next week, next month or next year?)

Without a goal we will never accomplish what’s important to us.  The world distracts us in many different ways, so we need to focus.  And when we establish a goal, it needs to have the five SMART components.
Take that sheet of paper and start formulating your S.M.A.R.T. goals.  Nothing is written in stone, remember?  You may write these goals and then make some changes a few weeks into the program.  Life is a series of adjustments.  But we’ll continue our J2K Challenge by writing some goals.

Creating a Fitness Routine Part 1

Admit it – you haven’t had that much success in this area.  You’ve had a few exercise routines come and go over the years.  Maybe you’ve tried running or getting on the bike, but it didn’t last more than a couple weeks.  You’ve tried some diets that didn’t produce the results you expected.  And weight lifting – after a week you were so sore you never made it back to the gym.

Score:  Intentions 44  

            Results   0
Deep inside everyone knows they could be a little healthier.  We all want to eat a little better and workout a little more.  We have something to prove to ourselves.  Forget the guy at work who always gets a good workout in – we have something to prove to ourself!

This is the first article in a new series called J2K.  Kind of catchy, right?  J2K.  It’s a project for you, by you, with me.  But mostly it’s for you.  This is a story you’re going to write about your fitness experience.  “But Hans my fitness experience, if I’m really honest, has been a story of failure.”  I’m with you.  I’ve failed too.  But luckily history provides proof that even when we fail, we can still learn and succeed.  Here’s how the J2K Fitness Challenge derives its name.

Virgin Atlantic Airways is an airline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin label, a forward-thinking business group known to be highly innovative.  In 2000 they made a $67 million investment to create sleeper seats, reclining seats for their business class.  

Although sleeper seats had long existed in first class, airlines had not yet adopted them for business class. Virgin was the first to announce it would be offering “a bed in business,” says Joe Ferry, Virgin’s head of design, who led the design of the J2000 seats. Within a year, however, Virgin’s idea was one-upped by its chief competitor, British Airways PLC (BAB ), which rolled out a truly flat bed. While customers were initially enthusiastic about the J2000, some complained about sliding and discomfort. In the end, says McCallum, it “was wildly unsuccessful. Everybody acknowledged that it was not as good a product as our principal competitors’.” Agrees Ferry: “We were an also-ran, which didn’t really sit well with us.”

But Ferry didn’t get fired.  In fact, CEO Gordon McCallum entrusted Ferry with more money – $127 million to over-haul the upper-class seats.  The new version, launched in 2003, has been a solid success.  Called the “upper-class suite,” Ferry’s makeover made a design leap beyond merely being flat.  Flight attendants flip over teh back and seat cushions to make the bed, allowing for different foam consistencies for sitting and sleeping.  While Ferry hoped the new seats would eventually improve Virgin’s business-class market share by 1%, they’ve already exceeded that goal.  (Source:

Failure is not the end of the story.  Many leadership experts and business professionals would testify that failure is in fact necessary for success.  So we begin J2K with a look at our failure.

When you think back to your attempts at creating an exercise program for yourself, what has gotten in the way?  What’s made your routine fall apart?  What one aspect would you do differently to improve your chances at success?

The first part of the J2K Fitness Challenge is to get one piece of paper for some thoughts.  Write “J2K Fitness Challenge” at the top and brain-storm a couple reasons why exercise hasn’t worked for you in the past.  That’s it.  Come back in a couple days and we’ll talk about what to do with those thoughts and we’ll formulate some goals.  But not just any goals – we’ll formulate S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

What I Learned From the Haiti Challenge

This Haiti Challenge has been a mini-series on The Game Plan.  I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s made me think of the project from many different angles.

It helped people: 10 days ago this money hadn’t been given.  The need arose, people responded, and money was donated.  People benefited from our work.

Teamwork wins:  I’m very proud of the fact that my efforts in combination with the efforts of my team produced more dollars than would have been donated with just one person. Some would have donated anyway, some donated after reading the Challenge.  We formed a team.

Not everyone will join:  My biggest frustration and learning moment is that not everyone will join the cause, as good and as necessary as it may be.  I admitted in my first post of this series that,

It’s too easy to pass up opportunities to help.  I’ve done it so many times in the past.

I knew only a small percentage of my friends on Facebook and the blog would respond.  My blog has a small readership, and I know I have exactly 416 friends of Facebook.  But I honestly thought I could get at least 20-30 people to donate $5 or $10.  This honestly baffles me.  Maybe it shouldn’t b/c I’ve passed on other similar opportunities to give.  It’s leaving a sour taste in my mouth, so I’m done digitally processing this thought.

(Alright, tt’s still pissing me off)

People appreciate a good story:  I thoroughly enjoy researching a topic and presenting it to my readers and friends.  This story of course was a global disaster, but I took it and organized a sub-story for people to join.  If I’m frustrated with those who didn’t join, I’m equally joyful with those who did.  They joined my story. 

Social Media will be a platform for really good things:  Not everyone is into Twitter and Facebook.  I hope they will see how quickly good information and stories can spread if we get involved in networks that are so viral.  And texting generated so much money.  Technology can be such a powerful tool.

Every cause needs a champion:  I’m not saying I championed this Haiti cause, but I moved towards it.  For 7 days I was a leader for a really good cause.  This disaster will pass, recovery will happen.  In the big picture this is a small story.  Serious but small.  What are the bigger stories?  What stories need to be told?  What stories need a champion?  How has God gifted you or given you experiences that have drawn you towards a cause or problem that needs to be solved?

I’m not going to go back and delete that point about my frustration with those who didn’t join.  I know many may read it and be turned off by my harsh words, but I can live with that.  My frustration is equally directed at myself b/c in years past I haven’t put my money where my heart was.  Hypocrite?  No.  I’m learning and I’m growing.  I’m willing to challenge people to excellence even if I can’t always produce it myself.  I want to be in the game and leading myself and those I love towards goals that are bigger than ourselves.

Jack wrote his check to World Vision on Friday.  I wrote my checks this morning – $45 each to World Vision, Compassion, and Red Cross.  Thanks for reading about this Haiti Challenge.  Let’s continue to do good things and cheer each other on to greatness.

Final Numbers for the Haiti Challenge

There was no way I was going to process the reports from Haiti and not do anything.  It was impossible.  Over a two day period I watched Twitter and glanced at nytimes and  I saw the tragedy unfolding and knew that as a God-fearing man and father of a little boy that it was my responsibility to take action.  Families were being torn apart and forced into extreme conditions.  It was my obligation to assist in whatever way I could to the relief efforts. 

What I did was not revolutionary.  It wasn’t even my idea.  I was reading my Twitter feed and saw that Bebo Norman (singer from Nashville) was donating $5 for every person that mentioned that a link where you could donate: 

Help Haiti. Donate to Compassion’s Disaster Relief. Roshare & I will give $5 for every person that RT’s this link from TweetDeck

Bebo has 5,000+ people “following” him, so you can do the math and see how their bill could add up really quickly.  But the idea inspired me.  I talked to Katie about us donating, and then I decided to create my own Haiti Challenge.

I’m happy to report that my team raised $133 in six days.  The challenge was posted on Facebook and on my blog.  One of my blog readers then decided to match whatever I had to match.  So “Jack” is contributing $133.

Our grand total is $399!  Sorin just found four quarters in our couch, so you can tell people that the Haiti Challenge raised $400. 

I would like to thank each person who joined my team for this effort.  When people work together for a single cause, big things can happen.  $400 isn’t even a drop in the bucket for the problems in Haiti, but that money will certainly provide assistance to someone who needs it a whole lot more than we do.

(Stay tuned: my next post will include additional thoughts about this project and I’ll report when I write the check and where it goes.)