Opportunity is in the Eye of the Beholder

Make sure to keep yours open

In late February of 1946, Raytheon engineer Rod Spencer went to work with a peanut cluster bar in his pants. The snack was not for him. He liked to break the bar apart and feed it to the squirrels and chipmunks during his lunch break.

Opportunity revealed: the Amana Radarange

On this particular day, Spencer’s furry little friends went hungry. He was working on a military- grade magnetron when he realized the peanut cluster bar had melted in his pocket. Curious, Spencer grabbed an egg and placed it underneath the vacuum tube of the magnetron where it promptly exploded, covering the excited engineer in warm egg. The following day Spencer amazed his co-workers with history’s first batch of microwave popcorn. A new appliance had been invented, and a year later a $10-billion-dollar industry was launched.

Million dollar ideas probably cross paths with each of us on a regular basis. But there’s a reason not everyone is a millionaire. There’s a reason opportunity runs into us and never leaves a mark. In fact, I think there are three:

Plan B – Part II

Freedom takes the strangest forms

Earlier this year on January 17th, with no warning whatsoever and with no reason given, I was fired from the job I’d been at for over 6 years. I can’t say I was surprised, however, as I swung the axe myself.

The two Bobs. Time for Plan B.

The idea was born as I sat on my deck, appreciating all that my wife and I have worked for, and the thought struck me: what if I lost my job tomorrow? What would we do?

Plan B – Part I

If you don’t have an alternate route planned out, the universe chooses one for you

As we walked back to the car after eating at our favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant, the entire family came to a dead stop and stared at an SUV parked close to ours.

This guy needs a new Plan B

My oldest son spoke first.

“Dad, I think this guy needs a new Plan B.”

The Man In the Arena

Teddy Roosevelt's Magnum Opus

One hundred and seven years ago yesterday, barely one year removed from his second term as President of the United States and less than a decade before his untimely death from a blood clot at age 60, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech to a crowd of thousands at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. The title of the hour-long speech was “Citizenship in a Republic,” but it’s a brief segment of that talk that is still remembered today. For a man who put across more than his fair share of memorable speeches, the short segment now referred to as “The Man in the Arena” may be Teddy’s best-remembered words.

Teddy Roosevelt's The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

These words struck a major chord with me the first time I read them and that chord continues to reverberate throughout my life. It’s the only speech I’ve ever ordered a framed copy of, and I fight the temptation to allude to it in everything I write. But on the anniversary of the originating speech I thought it fitting to honor the man and his words.

Thank you, Teddy. Thank you for being a man who lived the strenuous life, a man unafraid to be marred with dust and sweat and blood, a man unafraid to stumble, a man who dared greatly, and for being a man who boldly marched into every arena you sought to conquer.

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5 Years Distilled Down to 5 Minutes

A personal development stove-top reduction

Inspired in part by Derek Sivers, and in part by Michael Pollan (“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”), here is everything I will be writing about over the next five years distilled down into a few simple statements.

Establish goals and work backwards.

Take action. Start now.

Create a no exceptions policy around the “engine” driving you towards your goals.

That’s it. I’ll be expanding upon those three points and ideas related to those three points for the next five years. I won’t run out of things to say. I currently have a backlog of 44 writing topics lined up for my next 44 posts. And generally for every one post I finish, I add two more topics to the list. But you don’t need to read any of them. Just follow the three directives above and you’ll be able to accomplish practically anything you set your mind to.

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Top 10 Reasons People Never Get Started

Trip hazards before you even make it to the starting line

What stops someone from taking action? Why invest so much time in what they are going to do only to never start? How can they plan a journey of a thousand miles and never take the first step?

Traffic Light

Establish Goals. Take Action. No Exceptions. These are the three core concepts to my method of accomplishing the biggest goals and dreams any individual or organization may have. Of the three, the one that seems the simplest and without need for explanation – Take Action – is actually the one concept where I see most projects and goals stumble, fall, and collapse. An average plan haphazardly followed will beat a perfect plan that remains locked in a drawer every single time.

Not For Sale? Buy It Anyway.

Don't Give Up. Make Something Happen

If you want to buy a blue bicycle, you can’t limit your search to a store that sells only red sports cars. This was my thought as I listened to a friend of mine complain that there was nothing good on the real estate market right now. Looking to purchase investment property, he had just finished looking at our neighbor’s house for sale. I sympathized with him and said all of the polite things, even though I was thinking that if my wife (Clair) and I had taken that same approach we never would have been the house on the other side of the fence.

Not For Sale

After spending Thanksgiving of 2012 with my family in Oklahoma and seeing how much our kids loved my sister’s huge backyard, we returned to Texas with our minds made up on moving to a house with at least one acre. There were a few other upgrades we wanted as well, but the extra outdoor space was number one on the list.

TAKE ACTION: The 14 Days That Saved Tesla Motors

Just a few months after having their Model S named Motor Trend’s 2012 Car of the Year, Tesla Motors found themselves staring down the barrel of a crisis that threatened to shut down the factory that produced the Model S and perhaps even the entire company itself.

Elon Musk being interviewed in March 2013 by Chris Anderson.

About six weeks ago, I finished reading Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk. Amid the dozens of stories I dog-eared and highlighted, the story of how Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded to that crisis stood out above all others. His secret is really no secret at all, yet I am constantly amazed at just how often companies and individuals fail to do the same thing Musk did. Specifically: Take Action.

According to the book’s author Vance, in the first quarter of 2013 Tesla’s issues had become terminal and without a combination of selling more cars, correcting service issues, and an in-flux of cash, a Tesla stock tumble of massive proportions was a likelihood. The company was at a crossroads and something had to happen.