The Best Books To Read Over the Holidays

File:University of Massachusetts at Amherst library interior view of bookshelves.JPGThis post is for people who read a lot.  If you haven’t read at least 100 books over the last 10 years then you can stop reading now.

The best books to read over the holidays are not new books or even books that are only new to you.

Instead, you should read books that you’ve already read.  Books that you already know inspire you.  Books you already know have massive insights. Books you already know motivate you.

During the holidays, there is no reason to take a chance on a book you know nothing about.

The reason why is simple.  Time is a premium during this time of year.  It’s better to optimize it on rereading a quality book that you haven’t read in a few years and refresh that feeling of excitement you had when you first read it.

 

Reality Check: Expectations get punished not rewarded

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Rewards and punishments are part of training everything from humans to dogs like this one. This is a picture of dog agility and obedience trials at a show provided courtesy of Keith Moseley via Flickr. No animals were harmed.

When you’re expected to do something, you will never get rewarded for doing it. However, you will get punished if you don’t.

Applying this concept to a job is the perfect example. When you apply for a job, everything in the job description is what you’re expected to do. You’ll never get a raise or bonus for doing what’s in the job description. On the other hand, you can get fired or disciplined if you don’t.

This basic principle is applicable to everything from marriage to entrepreneurship.

If you want to reap the rewards in anything you do, you must first be clear on what is expected from you.  Do that first and don’t expect anything special in return.

After you check the box of meeting expectations, then and only then do you have the opportunity to exceed expectations and earn the chance at receiving a reward. 

The next time you do something that doesn’t receive a special thank you, acknowledgement, or reward when you thought it should have, consider this concept.

Interview: My Journey from Corporate Job to Full-Time Entrepreneur

chris-mance-interviewAt the beginning of December I did a fun podcast interview with David Hutcherson, the host of The Power of Part-Time.

During this show, I share a ton of stories I’ve never shared outside of my close friends and family about my life working in corporate America and how I ended up deciding to quit my job. I also talk about what it’s like working from home  and the ups and downs of being your own boss as well as why part-time entrepreneurship doesn’t work.

Please listen to this interview here or watch below, then tell me what you think.

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21 Reasons Why You Should Quit Your Job — How Many Apply to You?

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Contrary to popular belief, quitting your job is nothing like jumping off a cliff.

I like to brag about the fact that I quit my job to go after my entrepreneurial dream 18 months ago. I talk about the day I did it here and the books that inspired me to do it here.

Ever since then, I try to convince everyone I meet to do the same. I even offered a steak dinner at the finest restaurant in Atlanta for anyone who quit that Monday when I presented at ProductCamp Atlanta earlier this year.

To help encourage you to quit your job and go after your entrepreneurial dream, below is a list of 21 reasons why you should do it.  If at least 7 of these items apply to you, then reach out to me and let’s figure out a plan to get you to take action.

 

 

21 Reasons Why You Should Quit Your Job

1. You thought about quitting your job more than 3 times in the past year

 

2. You don’t like authority

 

3. You’re worth more as a freelancer than as an employee

 

4. You don’t get paid more when you make your company more money

 

5. You’re in a dead end job

 

6. Your job encourages you to live an unhealthy lifestyle

 

7. Your only reason for having a job is for security

 

8. You haven’t got a raise in over a year

 

9. You enjoy taking risks

 

10. You enjoy playing poker

 

11. You enjoy change

 

12. You hate Mondays

 

13. You hate your job

 

14. You hate your boss

 

15. Your boss hates you

 

16. Your spouse or significant other thinks you should

 

17. Your spouse makes enough money to cover your lifestyle

 

18. You have a side hustle that is making money

 

19. You don’t want to die with regrets

 

20. Your friends and family support you

 

21. The only thing holding you back is fear

 

3 of My Best Blog Proofreading Tips

best-blog-proofreading-tipsOne of the biggest challenges in writing a daily blog is proofreading. It’s no small task for a single individual to churn out a new blog post everyday. Churning out an error free blog post everyday is practically impossible.

Since the time when I wrote my first blog post back in 2003, browser spell checking and auto-correct functions have taken care of most of the routine proofreading tasks. However, these simple spell check functions also provide a false since of security.

If you’re a regular writer, you know that routine spell checking and auto-correcting doesn’t even touch the tip of the proofreading iceberg. It may actually hurt more than it helps.  The tough part of proofreading is catching the accidental misuse of words that are spelled correctly. This is what my 3 tips focus on.

Proofreading Tip 1: Read Your Blog Post Backwards

When I say read your blog post backwards, I don’t mean literally read it word for word backwards. What I’m saying is to start at the beginning of the last sentence, and read that sentence normally while proofreading it. Then move to the beginning of the second to the last sentence and do the same thing.

Keep moving backward to the beginning of each sentence until you get to the start of the first sentence in the post.

The reason why this works is that when you read a post from start to finish your mind reads what you were suppose to write instead of what you actually wrote. When you read from the last sentence backwards, your mind does not get into the flow of the content, so it’s easier to see the words you actually wrote.

Proofreading Tip 2: Check the Common Misused Words

Here is a list of the words I misuse the most.  I always go through each post and double check that each of these words are used in the right context.

  • A, an, and
  • They, The
  • Then, Than
  • There, their, they’re
  • Where, were
  • Lose, loose
  • Its, It’s
  • Effect, affect
  • Alot, a lot
  • Your, you’re
  • to, two, too
  • Knew, new
  • right, write

It’s not that I don’t know how to use these words. It’s often either the auto-correct changing it to the wrong use of the word, or me typing too fast without thinking.  Either way, double checking these words is a must.

Proofreading Tip 3: Write, Take a Break, Then Proofread

It’s best to never publish a post just after you write it. No matter how many times you proofread, you will always miss something when you publish right away. This is the sequence I use:

  1. Write the post
  2. Proofread it one time to catch the obvious stuff
  3. Take a break and go do something else for 20 to 30 minutes (One of the things I like to do is go find an image for the post during this time)
  4. Go back and do the hardcore proofreading

When you take a break, it helps your brain to forget what you were trying to write and read what you actually wrote.

Finally, there is a good chance that when you write a blog post about proofreading there is a grammar mistake or typo in it. So while I did my best to proofread this post, feel free to drop a comment below if you find something I missed. While you’re at it, share your proofreading tips too!

Daily Blogging is the Art of Writing Even When No One is Reading

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Writing a daily blog is like setting up chairs for an event you’re hosting only to have no one show up.

Have you ever had the fear of hosting an event to only have no one show up? Spending all day setting up chairs, then at the start of the event all the chairs are still empty…

That’s how starting a daily blog feels.

Today I have officially been writing this daily blog for 47 days straight without missing a day. My previous personal best was 45 days in a row back in the spring of this year.

When I started this new blog, my first goal was to reach a new daily blogging personal best. Now that I have achieved this, I’ve realize that the key to keeping a daily blog going is mastering the art of writing even when no one is reading (i.e. hosting the event even if no one shows up) .

As of this weekend, on average, the blog post I write on Saturdays and Sundays only get read by 1 or 2 people (me and my wife if I’m lucky). Even on a good day, during peak hours, I’ve maxed out at 40 people.

For example, yesterday I really enjoyed writing a blog post I titled The Peanut Butter and Jelly Manifesto. I feel really good about what I wrote and think it’s worthy of a Facebook like or two.  Even a re-tweet.

Yet, only one other person read it (and they didn’t even share or comment on it).

Paltry numbers like this deterred me during my first attempt at a daily blog. This time around I’ve accepted the fact that I’m writing for myself more than I’m writing to get readers.

The art of writing when no one is reading is simple. Set personal goals that have nothing to do with traffic numbers, track your progress, and repeat.

My first goal was to break my 45 day record. Done.  Now, I want to go after a streak of 365 daily blog post in a row. Basically, that’s it. Of course I want to write inspirational and insightful content on this blog, but that’s not really measurable. So while I’m trying to find that inspirational and  insightful voice, my goal right now is to show up consistently, everyday, regardless of how many people read what I write.

Cheers to the party of one!

 

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Manifesto

File:Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Sandwich.jpg
This peanut butter and jelly sandwich may one day become illegal in elementary schools. Will you fight to keep it?

I can remember in elementary school there being a kid who ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single day for lunch. Literally.

This was the late 80s. Now, just over 20 years later, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is borderline illegal to bring to school. It’s practically contraband.

I know you must be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. So, let me explain.

A few weeks ago I packed my pre-school son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his brown bag lunch. That day at lunch time I got a stern, yet awkward email from school.  It stated:

[Your son] has a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich for lunch today. Because of the number of students in his class with severe peanut allergies (prescribed EpiPens), we had to alter his normal lunch procedures.  In order to ensure that no other student is exposed to the Peanut Butter, [Your son] has to sit away from the class, next to the teacher, and cannot start eating his sandwich until the teacher has served all of the other students and is sitting next to him.  He does not appear to be bothered by the wait, but we wanted to make you aware of the changes we have to make to accommodate his lunch.

My first thought was WTF!  My son is an outcast because of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

I decided not to respond to the email and instead just let it go since it was not really that big of a deal. Although now I have this lingering feeling that this may be a trend spreading across the country.

A trend that is indicative of an emerging new normal in our society.

A normal that makes it okay to inconvenience or offend in the name of accommodating the exception. A normal where the exception becomes the rule even when the exception is not the rule. A normal where normal is not normal anymore.

Obviously, phasing out the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the American lunch menu is not a one to one correlation to a referendum on a new normal. Yet, I still believe the rise and fall of the American peanut as a staple in our diet presents us with a tremendous amount of symbolism.

Every generation experiences changing norms.  Normal always has and will always be a moving target.  While the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not something I’m personally willing to stand up and fight for, there are other norms that I won’t compromise.

With that said, the Peanut Butter and Jelly Manifesto is simple:

It is up to each family to recognize what things they do, say, and believe that are becoming unacceptable in our evolving society. Then, they must decide to either adopt the new normal or stand up and fight for the values they’re not willing to compromise.

Everyday You Experience Someone’s Dreams

The Cooking SchoolTonight my wife and I enjoyed a holiday party at a fantastic venue.  It was at an urban farm in College Park, GA owned by one of the instructors at the Cooking School at Irwin Street.

The event was a series of mini-cooking lessons and taste test all while enjoying wine and laughs with friends. Needless to say, my wife and I had a great time.

I am sharing this story as a result of a comment my wife made about the event on the way home. She said that tonight we got to experience someone’s dream.

When she first said it, I had know idea what she was talking about.  As she explained, however, it really touched a chord in me.

She explained that the idea of having an urban farm, a cooking class, and hosting parties for groups like ours was the dream of the owner. Tonight, we were part of that dream.

This got me to thinking… Everyday we experience someone’s dream. From the local pizza shop to the big box retailer to this WordPress blog I am writing on right now. At one point, it had to be someone’s dream before it became a reality.

The guy who owns the local pizza shop dreamed of owning that pizza shop years before he opened it. Sam Walton started off making $75 a month working at J.C. Penny before making the dream of the first true Walmart come to life on July 2, 1962. Matt Mullenweg majored in Political Science before dropping out of college and pursing his dream to become the Internet blogging king as the founder of Automatic, the company behind this WordPress blog.

I’m saying all of this to say that nearly everything in life outside of nature started with a dream in one person’s head. Phones, apps, cars, restaurants, toys, furniture.  Everything!

It’s quite amazing to think of the world in this way. For me, it makes me excited to think of the dreams in my head right now that will one day create an experience for someone else.

What A Bad Day Really Is

File:Titanic-New York Herald front page.jpeg
The people traveling on the Titanic were having a bad day, you’re just having a moment.

We all have bad days. The day usually starts just like any other day. At some point, however, you realize it’s going to be one of those days.

One of those days where nothing gets accomplished on your to do list. One of those days when you overeat and ruin your diet. One of those days when you run into the client from hell. One of those days…

My thought is that a bad day is really not a bad “day” in the sense of the word. It’s more like a bad breakfast, a bad commute, a bad meeting, a bad morning. From there, we then let this turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The moment we claim that we are having a bad day is when the prophecy takes control of us. We give our power away. We lose control of our feeling.

Then, we start attracting bad stuff into our world.

The next time you get ready to fix your mouth to say you are having a bad day, STOP. Stop yourself from giving away control of your feelings to others. Take a deep breath, then let it go.

The Books That Inspired Me to Quit My Job

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Random guy reading on the beach in Croatia courtesy of Flickr.
I like this picture because the scene of this guy reading on the beach makes him look like someone who just quit his job. If he did, he would be reading one of these four books.

I quit my job nearly 18 months ago.  I tell the story of that exact day here.  As I look back, there were four books that inspired me to take action.

Book 1: Tony Dungy’s book The Mentor Leader

Book 2: Seth Godin’s Manifesto about Starting… Poke the Box 

Book 3: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Book 4: Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs

I highly recommend these four books to all entrepreneurs.  Especially, first time entrepreneurs.