The Energy Equation

this-basic-equation-is-all-you-need-to-know-about-saving-moneyThis title makes me sound like I am a physicist or something.  I assure you that I am not.  However, I am quite in-tune with human emotions and behavior.  While I’m now in marketing, my first love has always been psychology and sociology.  What makes people do the things that they do?  Why do certain groups form?  How and why do people choose to interact the way that they do?

I think that we all should question ourselves occasionally.  Why are we putting in extra hours?  Why do we love (hopefully) what we call work?  What is the source of our motivation?  What are we trying to accomplish?  It’s cliché to say stop and smell the roses, but it’s human nature to get caught up in all of the projects and responsibilities that we have.  It’s not human nature (at least not mine) to actually take time to be a part of our everyday experiences.  I’m still working on this myself, so, please do not assume that I am speaking from an enlightened state.  Nope.  This is more of a philosophical blog.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that our lives are made up of a never-ending (well it does end at sometime) series of moments and like the saying, “You learn more from your loses than you do from your victories” speaks to, at every moment of our lives, we are either winning or losing the moment.  Since no one that I know of is “winning” at every moment (with the exception of Charlie Sheen), I think it makes sense to reflect on our experiences.  Here’s the kicker.  You can’t reflect on something if you haven’t truly experienced it.

Maybe we don’t want to question ourselves.  Maybe we’re afraid of the answers we might find.  I’m sure that I wouldn’t be completely satisfied with all of my responses, but if you don’t uncover areas you can improve on, you’ll never reach your full potential.  The lesson here is that in all aspects of your life (faith, family, social, work) we should all be striving to improve.  Personally, I’d like to be a better teammate at work.  I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that being liked is nice and being respected is even better, but how many times are we actively assessing our interactions with others?  How can we create a rapport with people if we aren’t honest with ourselves about how we are treating or leading others.

So, the question is this: How much energy are we putting into “doing” compared to the amount we put into the assessment of the things we do?  My guess is that for myself and many others, there is an imbalance in favor of the former compared to the latter.  What do you think?  Do you have any tips or tricks?  How can we better assess ourselves?  Let me know by leaving a comment.

Without wax,



The Next Top Credit Union Executive: Takeaways

thankyou“I’ve got a pretty good idea what children are, and we’re not children. Children can lose sometimes, and nobody cares.”
― Orson Scott Card, Enders Game

First of all this is not a blog about losing.  Please do not let the quote fool you.  I just saw Enders Game (one of my favorite books of all time) in the theatre last week as it has now been made into a movie.  This blog is really about learning.

Most of you reading this know that I was blessed enough to take part in a competition that started with 141 candidates and I made it to the Final 5.  Things didn’t shake out the way I wanted them to, but in the end, the credit union industry has gained another driven, progressive and energetic leader and Next Top Credit Union Executive 2013 in  Amanda Brenneman from Maps Credit Union.  I was fortunate enough to spend several days with Amanda, Chad Huseby (@HUSE59), Zac King  and Rob Carabelli (@MHFCURob) this past week and I can tell you with 100% certainty that we all share the passion and desire to make an impact in the lives of the members we serve and the industry we love.

I would be lying to all of you and myself if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I left San Diego, but the saying goes, “You learn more from your loses than your victories.”  After 24+ hours, now I need to focus on what I can learn and how I can become a better credit union advocate, young professional and leader.  The Next Top Credit Union Executive Competition has taught me countless lessons about time management, presentation skills, networking and working hard while also completing my daily responsibilities.  I’d like to thank the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES), DDJ Myers  and Currency Marketing for making this opportunity available to young credit union leaders.

I’ve learned a ton about myself and one thing I can’t help but reflect on is how much amateur and high school wrestling has taught me about being a successful young professional and good person (my own opinion) in general.  The only way to make it to the Final 5 is to have self-discipline and that is most certainly required of anyone who has wrestled, had to cut weight and complete their studies while depriving themselves of their favorite meals.  In this case, it wasn’t about not eating delicious food, but I had to really pick and choose when I was able to participate in leisure activities and when I needed to write a blog, brainstorm for videos (Thanks to Jordan Destree for his professional video editing skills) or practice my presentation (58 live run-throughs, btw).

One on one.  When you wrestle, you compete to help your team score points, but essentially you are out there on the mat and whether your hand gets raised or someone else’s does, well, that’s all on you.  I think the same goes for public speaking.  When you’re on that stage, it’s your job to perform, present your message and “win” the crowd.  There are plenty of other similarities, but I think that you get the gist.

Last and certainly not least, I couldn’t finish this blog without thanking everyone who has supported me through the entire process.  I will undoubtedly leave someone out (not on purpose) but here goes.  I need to thank Jane Anderson for thinking enough of me to send in my first nomination.  Jane, you’re faith in my abilities and my project has meant the world.  Kevin Ralofsky, my friend, mentor and colleague also deserves special acknowledgement.  Kevin took a chance on me a little over 3 and a half years ago and to this day, we work together as a team and I learn something new from him every single day.  Kevin and his family have become a part of my family and I think that it is safe to say that I have become a part of his.  I’m not sure about what gave him the inclination to take a chance and hire a twenty-something with no knowledge of credit unions, but I am thankful that he did.

My parents.  My parents have always been a driving force in my life.  I think most children are always seeking ways to make their parents proud, so, I’m really no different than anyone, but not all children are fortunate enough to have parents who raised them to understand the importance of working hard for the things that you want, being respectful and willing to learn from anyone you can and being open to “losing”, but at the same time never making excuses.  I don’t really believe in luck and some people will say, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”, but I believe that everyone should work hard at everything they do and the better person you are, or, said differently, the more you give of yourself, the more blessings you will find come your way.

Friends and family.  My friends and family have been amazing.  For the last several weeks, I have been the most annoying Facebook “friend” and Twitter users that ever existed, yet people have rallied behind me.  People have spent their own time sharing things about me and doing their best to promote my efforts for the Next Top Credit Union Executive title and I can’t help but think, “Why?”  Their (your) efforts and the time you gave benefitted them (you) in no way and yet they (you) did it anyways.

I thank you all for what you have done for me.  Please know that I am grateful beyond any words I could possibly comprehend or type.  I intend to push forward and make this project successful and continue to develop new ideas.  Thank you for the outpouring of support and love.

Best regards and without wax,


The final #NTCUE push!


The good new is that after Tuesday at 5PM Pacific time, I will no longer clog your newsfeed or Twitter stream.  The bad new is that I am way behind in like (heart clicks) on the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) Next Top Credit Union Executives website. Can you please visit these link and click the heart button? You can even leave a comment and share them with your friends (They will love it .) That would a really nice thing to do, btw.

The heart button is always under the video or at the end of the blog.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  The people I have met along this journey and what I have already learned is priceless.  Your support means the world to me.

Without wax,


Wrestling and Business

kolat-islamov-single-leg-battleIf you’ve read any of my blogs in the past, you are aware that I am a former wrestler and my love for the sport did not die when my high school career ended.  I learned a lot from hanging around the wrestling room and actually being on the mat.  from time to time, I like to write about how the lessons I learned apply to what I do today.  My blogs are probably mostly a cathartic exercise for myself, but I’d like to think that there might be a lesson or two (alright one lesson) mixed in there.

I’m young-ish and I know I have a lot to learn about my field of work (marketing and advertising), but there are quite a few things that have become quite obvious in my not so tenured professional existence. In this blog I will talk about a few of them and those of you who couldn’t care less about wrestling can just skip over those parts.  Deal?

I’m a tactical person.  Maybe even to a fault.  I have the beginnings of a strategic mindset, but it still needs to be developed.  When you haven’t full developed a skill, you (me at least) tend to fall back on the things that you know that you’re good at and the things that need to be further developed get pushed aside.

What I’ve learned is this: You cannot continue to fallback to your comfort zone and you need to find ways to get the job done well, but push yourself to think about things differently.

A Story:

When I was younger, I was quite obvious that I would rarely be the stronger person in a wrestling match.  This was partly because I was too lazy to do the work I needed to do to gain strength.  Lesson learned.  Anyhow, because I wasn’t the strongest, I built my wrestling style so that I could use my leverage and hips to score a takedown every once in a while.  This worked on most opponents, but when it came to the big matches, I simply did not have the skills to win.


Sure, you can be successful by being good at a few things, but if you really want to be the best at your job, you have to evolve and you have to keep adding to your skill sets.

The outcome of your efforts has much more to do with your desire to finish a job well than it does with all of the events that lead up to the defining moment.

A Story:

Ask any amateur wrestler what practice was like and they will likely respond, “It was hell.”  Besides being “hell”, most practices are pretty much the same.  You drill takedowns, bottom position, top position, you go live and then you run.  Drilling is redundant and tedious, but it’s essential.  They say you perform how you practice and I would agree.  the problem with this is that practice and competition (performance as it relates to business) are two completely different mindsets.  One is a safe environment and the other can be terrifying.  When it’s one man against another in the middle of a gymnasium, you either love it or hate it.  It’s probably a healthy mix of both for most people, if it wasn’t why would they do the sport?  Anyhow, I used to practice and drill and drill and drill some more, but when it came to competition, I had a tough time finishing my takedowns.


Practice and preparation are key to opening up the door to opportunity.  The problem with opportunity is that you usually only have one chance to capitalize on it.  There are hundreds of setup moves in wrestling and a handful of ways to shoot a single leg, but if you aren’t willing to finish (see the job through), well, all of your efforts are for naught.  Whenever you take on a new project, make sure that you’re prepared for everything the project might present and be aware of the things that might occur out of nowhere.

 All the preparation is the world will never make up for a lack of desire to see a project through to the end.

There are plenty more “stories”, but this is long enough.  Leave a comment and let me know what else you think is important in order to build a foundation for success.

Without wax,


The Leadership Responsibility Litmus Test


Tom Brands on Responsibility

This is yet another wrestling blog that I will attempt to relate to leadership development.  Please take a second to watch the video posted above (hyperlink under the picture of Tom Brands, the Iowa Hawkeye Head Wrestling Coach.)  If you’re still somewhat engaged after that, please continue reading.

My blogs are usually long and drawn out, so, I will try to keep this one “shorter”.  In college wrestling, there are 10 weight classes.  Most matches are won by a point or two and for a decision win ( a win by less that 8 points) your team earns 3 team points.  I won’t go further into scoring, but hopefully you can see that matches are close and the outcome is determined by 10 head to head matches.  Last night, Friday, January 4 2013, the Iowa Hawkeyes won 7 out of 10 matches and won their dual against a tough Ohio State wrestling team by a score of 22-9.  You can do the math.

So what am I driving at here?  In the video interview, you see a fired up coach after a dominate performance by his team.  They won, he should be satisfied and hopeful about the future, right?  Wrong.  Even minutes after defeating one of the tougher teams in the Nation, coach Brands goes on to talk about everything they could have done better.  He mentions missed opportunities by his student-athletes, but most importantly, Brands says that he is responsible for what he considers a poor performance.

How easy is it for all of us to gloat and relax after we complete a successful task?  We meet our goals and we think, “Mission accomplished.”  On the flip-side of that, how easy is it for us to search for excuses when we fall a bit short of our intended outcomes?  Pretty easy.  It’s human nature for the most part.

What I want to drive home here are a couple things.  Intensity about what you do for a living is important.  Too much intensity can be unhealthy, but if you are not intense about what you do, this implies a lack of dedication to being the best you that you can be.

Performance standards.  We all have performance standards, but when we don’t meet them, how likely are we to be critical of ourselves like Brands is in the video above?  He could have easily said, “I’m an Olympic medalist, decorated NCAA wrestler and I have taught these wrestlers everything I know.  They just didn’t put it into action.”  When you think about it, after the last day of practice, a wrestling match’s outcome is completely out of control of the coach.  It’s not like in football where bad play calling can determine the outcome of a game.  Brands is a leader and a good one at that.  Leadership is not about beng always being right.  It is about putting people in places where they can be successful and overseeing the process.  It’s about intervening to offer assistance when needed, but what is most important is the willingness to accept when you may have failed to do all of the things you needed to do to give your team an opportunity to succeed.

If you take the wrestling aspect out of the equation and just look at the thoughts, ideas and standards that Brands mentions, I think we all can learn a lot about the characteristics of effective leaders.  Sometimes, accepting responsibility for a poor performance is the best thing a leader can do because it shows your colleagues that you have just as much skin in the game as they do.

Be passionate about what you do.  If you’re in the credit union industry and you’re reading this, you have a lot to be passionate about.  Passion leads to a healthy level of intensity and intensity breeds a level of self responsibility.  All of these things are related to each other.

What are some other characteristics of effective leadership that you can think of?

Without wax,