Five Pennies

If you're like me, and I know I am, I hate having stuff in my pockets.  Whether it's my phone, glasses, wallet or just loose change — can't stand any of it in my pocket.   And yes, I've left my phone, wallet, and glasses behind at times. Still not worth it.

Assuming you might feel this way, there's a trick that might be useful to you.  

I was in a professional sales capacity and having difficulty keeping up with my cold calling numbers. This is back in the days of actual, door-to-door, cold calling.   In order to manage my daily cold call goal, I put pennies in my pocket and removed one each time I completed a cold call. If my goal was five that day, then after five cold calls my pockets were empty! Funny how motivation works - the results of increased sales and thus, increased commission was not as motivating as getting rid of those uncomfortable pennies!  Maybe that's because the return on effort paid much faster with the pennies, not sure, but it worked.

At networking events, I might have put five pennies in my pocket with the goal of meeting five decent contacts — and getting rid of the pennies as soon as the goal was achieved — which definitely sped up the process as much as it clarified the goal and focus.

For me, the pennies typically represented a source of discomfort greater than the discomfort of chasing my goal. For you, it might be more about the focus, or the reminder. As long as it motivates action.

How could you use this?  It's all about actions — things you control in order to cancel out a penny.  Some ideas — put five pennies in your pocket and pull one out each time you —

  • Praise or encourage someone
  • Remember someone's name
  • Meet someone new
  • Make a cold call - email, phone or old-fashioned door-knocking
  • Say thank you

You could even keep all of them in your pocket until you hit your daily goal.  Might get you to the goal faster. Lots of ways to leverage the five penny philosophy — and it doesn't have to be five or pennies for that matter.

If you want to get crazy...maybe put rocks in your pocket. Whatever it takes to motivate you!

Awake or Asleep

My wife and I were recently having a discussion about people and moodiness. She reminded me that in the beginning of our relationship nearly 30 years ago I told her that I can't stand moodiness.  Thankfully, I must have said it in an appropriate manner and more important, Amy has never been a moody person. 

As we talked about our past and current disdain for moodiness, we landed on a common excuse for it — being tired.  It's fair to say that often people whose demeanor seems to scream "Take notice: I'm in a bad mood right now!" are often just tired. Being tired is a poor excuse for a lousy mood.   Very little is.

My friend shared a great statement years ago that has always stuck with me, and came right to mind in this conversation:

 "If you're supposed to be awake, be awake; if you're supposed to be asleep, be asleep. Don't confuse the two."

I love that statement!

He shared it with me when we were driving home late one night, or actually, early one morning. He was singing some old country song, and as always he was full of energy and enthusiasm.  I asked how he does it and that's when the statement of wisdom was shared. And it stuck.

I really believe there is great insight in his words. Yes — we all have times when we're tired beyond the norm or when some unforeseen tragedy occurs and we go through depressions of mood — understandable. I'm talking about the other 99% of the time.  When we're just in a bad mood because of a variety of excuses, the most common of which is tiredness.

Wake up! If energy is low and fatigue is high, change! Be awake. Be energized. Be present.  Or maybe take a nap.  And then…  

Be awake or asleep; don't confuse the two.

Get Up

Parting words from a guy who sold me his road bike – "Eventually, you'll fall."

Considering it’s a road bike, meant to ride up to 40+ mph downhill, and maybe averaging 15+ mph overall, that didn't sound too inviting. Especially on some of our rural back roads. They're the oil and chips kind. Know them? If you fall, all skin and likely other critical fleshly matter will transfer to the road very quickly. Might as well be glass chips! Not a good place to fall. Seriously.

I'm used to running. If I fall, I have some vote on how badly, feel a little silly, check who saw me, get up and go. Haven't fallen much, and definitely more painful to the ego than the body.  Plus, I'm much more in control when running. If a deer comes out, I move; if a squirrel or other small rodent runs across my path, I can jump (can't say that actually happened); if a motorist is veering my direction because he is texting (that's happened a few times!), I can move quickly.  On a bike – nope. Any of those at the wrong time and down I go. Ego aside, it could be pretty bad.

So, when he said I'd fall at least once...

I was grateful when I did.

I was at my mailbox, rolling to a stop as I prepared to start my ride. At the point of stopping, I smoothly twisted out of my right clip but was leaning slightly left. That's a problem. And it took a millisecond to decide what to do. Take the fall. I was not moving at that point, so any attempt to push or fight would have created movement, and on our road – oil and chips – it could have been much worse. Fortunately, I just fell dead left. Yep, it hurt, a little. And yes, I looked around first. Clear. And fortunately, with little damage, I ventured out for a nice ride.

I'm glad I got that fall out of the way! And I sure hope there are no others...

But isn't life like that? You do your best, and you will fall. Sometimes, it's good to fight; other times, maybe it’s better to just take the fall. But every time, at least figuratively, if not literally, it's always good to get back up.


I'm a runner. Been running since I was in high school. Ran a marathon at 16. Ran a mile in under 5 minutes. That one's not especially remarkable as most high school track milers can do that. It just sounds good to me now!  I used to run 7 miles every day, in the summer, around noon. Incidentally, my favorite part of the day came a few minutes after the run. The rest?  No. The water?  Yes!

And yet was I in good shape? Depends. In good shape for what?

During the summer before my college senior year, I took on an internship as a sales person for a staffing company.  It was more of a favor to my mom, who knew the owner.  So selling was important, but I also was the backup for any key "temp" workers who selected to no show on any given day.

Well, this was the day. Nearly 100 degrees, major humidity, and the guy who did not show up was intended to be a landscape helper.  So I became that guy. No worries, though.  Landscaping - cutting grass, trimming shrubs, edging, whatever. It would be no match for me.

And as I showed up on the property, meeting my supervisor, it was even more evident this would be no big deal. This guy was clearly out of shape, or at least he sure looked like it.  I figured if this guy can do manual labor in this heat, I'll breeze through it.  Way wrong.

When I arrived home at the end of the day, I pushed myself upstairs, fell on my bed and passed out. I don't remember if I napped for hours or just called it a night completely.  Boy, was I whipped. So much for correct assumptions.

That guy probably went home and worked a second job or grabbed a few beers with his buddies. But not me, Mr. 7 mile a day, noon-time-in-the-summer, super runner. Checkmate.

Oh, I was in shape, but definitely not the right kind of shape for the kind of work I had to do. It got better, as I was asked to be there several more times.

Bottom line. Things aren't always what they seem. The one who looks like he can, maybe he can't. The one who looks like he can't, maybe he can.  Be open-minded, less judgmental.  Or better yet – don’t judge at all. Be more accepting.

And definitely be humble.

Deer in the Headlights

Years ago I remember driving with a friend of mine down a hilly road near our home.  He's a hunter, has been all his life. Me - never hunted.  There were cornfields to our right and homes on our left.  It was evening - dark out - at the time, and we live on the outskirts of town - rural country.  He saw a deer, then another and a few more. I saw none of them.   

Or did I?

I remember learning about a little part of our brain that might have something to do with the answer. It's called the Reticular Activating System.  As I understand it and without going into depths I'll never be able to explain, the RAS acts as a sort of filter between the subconscious and conscious - determining what we should be aware of and alert for on the conscious level.  Various factors play into why we're subconsciously driven to filter our environment in differing ways, but I can share my understanding regarding this experience with my hunter friend.

As a hunter, he's trained and motivated to be hyper-aware for "opportunities" - in this case, deer.  Even though he was not hunting, his brain, or RAS, was still filtering based on priority and importance.  Deer are important to him. Not so much for me.

I believe I did see the deer, but I did not know it, because my RAS filtered it out - not important, or not relevant to me.

Makes me wonder what I've missed in my years because somewhere along the line I became trained not to see. Not just based on relevance or importance, but on experience and perhaps belief. When you got your new car, so did everyone else, or so it seems - because you were more aware.  When you named your newborn that highly unique name, seems so did everyone else at the same time! Again, it didn't matter before, but now it does, so you notice.

Goes back a bit to the idea that we get more of what we focus on, or as in Earl Nightingale's, timeless classic, The Strangest Secret, "We become what we think about." If we change what we think about - a newborn's name, a new car - we change what we're aware of and alert for.

Bottom line to me is I need to change my RAS to work for me, not against me, by being intentional about my focus, my priority, and even my beliefs.  Intentional about a great marriage, great kids, great business, great health, ...

You get the idea. I want to see the "deer" when it matters and because it matters.