Weekly inspirational thoughts from our founder and chief imagination officer, Mark Henson.

share the spark

Share The Spark

In last week’s post, I shared some thoughts on how to Live Like You Give A ****. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if it would resonate or offend. Thankfully, it resonated.

At the same time, Alisha Thomas from my team published a post announcing something we’re calling Share The Spark — our new & improved, slightly-more-formalized effort to give back to our community as a company. At the time, I didn’t put these two two ideas together, even though one of the challenges in my post last week was to Give like you give a ****.

As I sat down this morning to write my weekly post to you, I struggled and struggled with what to write. I started two different posts and scrapped them. As a last resort I thought I’d just share Alisha’s post with you. Then it hit me — it was the perfect follow up to last week’s post. And it was clearly what I was meant to share with you this week.

I invite you to read Alisha’s post over on the sparkspace blog. And I hope you’ll be as excited as we are to share the spark.

Live Like You Give A F

Live Like You Give A ****.

Vegetarian tacos.

That’s where this all started.

One of my kids is vegetarian. The only problem is that this kid doesn’t like “vegetarian” food, so the meal choices are a) mac & cheese, b) black bean burgers, c) salad. Obviously, that’s not going to cut it long term, so last week I searched Amazon for a good vegetarian cookbook.

One immediately jumped off the screen at me and I thought, “Now THIS is a cookbook I can relate to.” It’s called Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give A **** (asterisks = my favorite swear word). The irreverence definitely caught my attention, and the recipes looked delicious and fairly simple (my top 2 cooking criteria for sure). I ordered it immediately.

I’m pretty sure there has never been a cookbook with a more clear wake up call in the title or the introduction (you know, all those pages that come before the recipes…the ones you never read). It forced me to admit that I HAVEN’T been eating like I give a ****. Not really.

The title rattled around in my head for days. The more I thought about it about the title, and its attitude, I started wondering what would happen if I modified the title and applied it to other areas of my life. I suspected it might challenge me to really evaluate how I’m showing up (or not) and participating (or not) in the various areas of my life that I claim are important to me. Here’s the list of modified titles I came up with:

Husband like you give a ****.

Parent like you give a ****.

Lead like you give a *****.

Do your job like you give a ****.

Run your business like you give a****.

Volunteer like you give a ****.

Learn like you give a ****.

Play like you give a ****.

Help like you give a ****.

Listen like you give a ****.

Write like you give a ****.

Speak like you give a ****.

Give like you give a ****.

LIVE like you give a ****.

Looking at all those titles — and admitting I’m not living up to all of them — has made me realize a few things:

1. I can’t give a **** at the same level in all areas of my life at the same time, and that’s ok.

2. I probably give a **** about too many things at once. Some/many/most of these things could be let go, or postponed until a time when I have the time, energy, etc. to truly give a ****.

3. If something is taking up my time, energy, etc. that I don’t give a **** about, why is it on my list in the first place?

Who knew a cookbook could make me think so much?

Sorry for all the ****, but sometimes a little **** is just what you need to hear.

You can blame the vegetarian tacos if you like.

markonly

 

It's Time To Be The Boldest Person In The Room

It’s Time To Be The Boldest Person In The Room

There is a reason why you’re not getting where you want to go.

There is a cause for not getting what you want.

There is a correlation between how you’re acting and what you’re trying to achieve.

Here it is:

You’re not being bold enough.

No one has ever made a difference by sitting around and waiting for something to happen.

No one has ever accomplished anything even remotely interesting watching from the sidelines.

No one has ever won a fight by being timid.

There is a time for waiting. But it’s not now.

There is a time for going with the flow. But it’s not now.

There is a time for letting someone else take the lead. But it’s not now.

Right now, it’s time for you to be the boldest person in the room.

Deep breath. Ready…set…go.

Proof That Nice Guys (And Gals) CAN Finish First

Have you won a gold medal in the Olympics?

Have you won 70 different titles in your field?

Have you overcome cancer, not once, but twice?

Have you started your career over multiple times?

Have you used your passion, your life story, and your gifts to make a difference in the lives of countless others?

Have you remained a humble, generous, genuinely nice person through all of it?

Scott Hamilton has.

This weekend I listed to an interview with Scott on Donald Miller’s Building A Storybrand podcast. It was one of those “just what I needed to hear right now” kind of interviews. Scott talks about keeping your fire alive, overcoming adversity, and most importantly, how to win in life.

It’s so refreshing to hear a story about someone who disproves the idea that “nice guys finish last.”

I thought you might like to hear it, too, so here’s a link to the episode:

Listen on the Building A Storybrand website

Listen on iTunes

(The interview starts at 10:25 if you want to skip right to it)

 

Have a great week!

 

markonly

 

Better Than Expected

Has Anything Ever Ended Up Better Than You Expected?

Have you ever ended up someplace you didn’t expect?

Maybe you’ve ended up on the side of the road with a flat tire. Or you’ve ended up in the emergency room. Or sitting across from someone who is telling your your services are no longer needed. I know, nice start to a post, right? We usually associate unexpected endings with something worse than we were shooting for. But have you ever ended up in a place that was BETTER than you expected?

I Think Prince Got It Right

 

After Prince died I became fascinated by all the things I didn’t know about Prince. People started coming out the woodwork to tell the world how authentic, principled, and generous he was.

I’ve reflected on this a lot, and I think Prince got it right. He lived his truth. He paved his own path. He stood up for what he believed. He passionately pursued his art. He befriend, mentored, and supported the underdog. He quietly, yet powerfully contributed to causes large and small. He invested in his fans and his community. He honored his faith. 

All of this can be summarized in a short, worthy philosophy that I hope to embody in my own life. Maybe you do, too.

Make YOUR music. Do good. Love people.

 

It might sound simple, but when we get to the end of our days, these are the things that will have mattered.

 

markonly

Think You Can't Say No?

Think You Can’t Say No? Yes, Yes You Can.

You’d think such a short word would be easy to say, but saying no is hard! If you can’t say no, or if you’re not very good at saying it, or you can say it but you absolutely HATE it, you need to read this short post all the way to the end.

I like being the guy who says, “Sure, I’ll help!” I love providing great service to people, and I really don’t like to let people down. So I used to say yes…a lot. Every open moment on my calendar basically became first come/first served. Wanna grab coffee? SURE! Need a volunteer at Church? I’m your guy! A coach for soccer? I don’t know the first thing about soccer, but why not!

And, oh yeah, I also had a business and a family that both wanted my attention, too.

Along the way I discovered something about myself: I need a lot of down/free time in order to maintain high levels of creativity, energy, and focus. I was not born with an unlimited supply of these items and when my calendar is packed full, they get (and stay) depleted quickly.

I suspect you were not born with unlimited amounts of creativity, energy, and focus either.

You Must Learn How To Say No

You don’t just have to learn how to say no, you have to learn how to say no with confidence. It’s the #1 way to control the flow of your life. It’s like having a magic doorway that YOU control, and it only grants entry to the people, tasks, events, and opportunities that are truly the best use of your time.

Last week I shared how to double your free time to do more of the things you really want to do. I also promised I’d share my thoughts this week on how to say no. So here you go:

 

1. Block your calendar.
Look at your upcoming week or month and block every spare minute on your calendar. This is counter-intuitive because you’re thinking, “That time is really open.” But it’s not. Until someone takes it, ALL of it belongs to you.

If you do this — and you believe that you OWN all of your open time — when someone asks for some of it, you’ll think more carefully about it. Now you’ll be giving up YOUR time instead of just booking time on an empty calendar.

You can plan specific things to work on during your time or you can just block it with no label whatsoever. Entirely up to you and how you work best.

 

2. Consult your calendar first, every time.

If you have blocked your time effectively, your calendar becomes your protector. When your time is already spoken for, you can honestly and confidently say “I don’t have time right now”. You might also find yourself taking on less — which is NOT a bad thing — because you’ll start to realize how little time you really have to be amazing at what you do. And you’ll start getting better and better at protecting your time from things that distract you from that.

 

3. Know what your Kind, Confident No sounds like.

The only way to know what your Kind, Confident No sounds like is to a) craft it and, b) practice it.

If you’re always prepared, you won’t default to saying yes when someone requests your time. You also won’t say “maybe”, which is really just a delayed no 99% of the time.

Time is the only excuse you need. Don’t waste time creating any other story. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the time to do that right now” works in every situation. If you feel like that’s too cold, you can throw in “But have a great time” or “I wish you the best” or “I’ll do the next one” (but only if you mean it).

Many requests you can turn down via email, but you will also have to say no face-to-face sometimes, which is way harder. It is extremely helpful if you’ve heard yourself say it out loud several times. Practice speaking your no until you can say it with confidence and kindness. I find the car is a great place to practice saying things out loud. It’s also a great place to sing Zach Brown Band songs at the top of your lungs.

 

 

By the way, the ONLY thing people ever request of you is your time. It doesn’t matter if they’re asking for a report, a product, a meeting, a quick phone call, a volunteer, a service, etc. You may be delivering these “things” to them, but what they’ve taken from you is your time. Every time. And you don’t get it back.

I hope these last two posts help you gain back some your precious time (and creativity and energy and focus). Let me know if they’ve helped, ok?

And if you’ve got a solid way of saying no with confidence, drop it into the comments below. We can all use more examples and inspiration.

 

How To Double Your Free Time

How To Double Your Free Time

Does it seem completely impossible to double your free time? I promise you, it’s not.

Your life — if it’s anything at all like mine used to be — is crazy busy.

Between work obligations, family schedules, volunteering for school, community, and Church events, and everything else you’ve overcommitted yourself to — you no longer have any free time, except maybe one or two weeks of vacation (and even that you have to work your buns off to get ready for).

Life zooms by even when you’re NOT crazy busy. It definitely speeds up up even more when your calendar is completely packed. As the wise man, Ferris Bueller, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.”

I’ve been in your shoes. Not literally, that would be weird and creepy. I mean I know what it’s like to have a crazy busy life. I’ve got a wife, two kids, two parents, two dogs, a house, a yard, a business, friends, and a community that all want my attention. And that’s when there’s NOT an emergency or crisis to deal with.

There have been many points in my life when I didn’t feel like I had a minute of free time. Here’s what all those points have in common: they sucked. They drained my energy. They were no fun. So a few years ago I decided to create more free time in my life to do the things that I want to do, the things that energize me, the things that help me clear my head so I can bring my best self to everything I am committed to.

And it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.

How To Double Your Free Time

Doubling your free time is completely doable especially when you don’t have much to begin with. If you only have 30 minutes of free time (or Me-Time as I like to call it) each week, gaining another 30 minutes doesn’t seem out of the question, does it?

What if you could gain an hour, or two, or TEN? Before you shrug it off as impossible, I want you to finish this article and use the tool I’m going to give you.

The two main things that helped me create more Me-Time were:

  1. Identifying what I could change or let go of.
  2. Learning how to say no with confidence.

Next week I’ll share with you the recipe for saying no with confidence. This week I have a very simple, yet incredibly powerful tool to share that will help you learn how to identify the areas of your life where you might be able to double your free time — sooner than later — to do the things you really want to do.

Sound good? (I know it does. I just asked to get you to say “Heck yeah!” in your head).

The Me-Time Multiplier™

I recently created a tool to help identify the major time-takers in your life. It also helps you decide which ones you can change, let go of, or rearrange to create more free time every week, or even every day. I tested it out on my team (they’re always my guinea pigs) and they said hands-down this is the most helpful tool I’ve ever created.

It’s called The Me-Time Multiplier and you can download it for free below.

It takes as little as 10 minutes to work through it. Even if you’re time-starved right now — maybe ESPECIALLY if you’re time-starved right now — it is SO worth taking the time and you’ll start to see results almost immediately.

Here’s what it covers:

  • Clarifying your Me-Time.
  • Your Top 5 Time Takers
  • Your Top 5 Interruptors
  • Your Top 5 Time Wasters
  • Your Top 5 Repetitive Tasks
  • Your top 5 Most Dreaded Activities

Download the Me-Time Multiplier For Free

 

I hope the Me-Time Multiplier helps you, liberates you, and allows you double your free time (or more) so you can keep yourself inspired and energized. If you use it, I’d love to hear about your experience, so drop me a note, ok?

markonly

A Few Promises About My Upcoming Book

A Few Promises About My Upcoming Book

I’m almost an author (meaning I’m almost finished writing my first book).

I’ve ALMOST written a book at least three times in the past (meaning I never really started). This time is different, though. I’m actually about 75% done with the first draft. If all goes well I’ll be pretty close to finished by the end of next week. I’m shooting to get it edited, proofed, and whatever other hoops I need to jump through so it can be printed by June 1st, or December 31st, or at least sometime before I’m 100 years old. Most likely June.

As I’ve watched others publish and promote their books lately, I have noticed a few things that, honestly, have made me go “ugggh!” Watching “the way it’s done now” has made me loathe the whole book publishing thing so much I have considered scrapping the book altogether on several occasions. Rather than do that, though, I’ve decided to make a few promises about my upcoming book. Although these are mostly promises to myself — so I may keep my sanity and integrity intact — I also think they’re pretty solid promises to make to anyone who might be even remotely interested in the book.

 

A few promises to you (and me) about my upcoming book:

 

I promise not to state, infer, or imply that my book will make your life 10,000 times better. I hope it gives you something to think about and encourages you to take some action, but that’s it. It ain’t the Bible and I’m certainly not going to pretend it is.

 

I promise not to mount a relentless campaign to get everyone to buy the book on the same day just so I can become a “Best Seller” for ten minutes on Amazon, The New York Times, or any other list. If I become a best seller, I want it to be because the book is so damn good that people buy it, love it, and tell their friends to buy it, too. Yeah, I know some “experts” will say I’m naive and that’s not the way it works. They can pound sand. Creating hyped up sales just so you can claim to be a best seller is borderline fraud and I just won’t do it.

 

I promise to keep it long enough to make my point but short enough to keep you awake. I read a review of another book on Amazon the other day that said “20% of the book was good, the other 80% was useless filler.” I’m working very hard to make sure nobody will be able to say that about my book.

 

I promise the book will NOT be a super long sales letter in disguise. Will I create a retreat experience from the content of the book? You bet (in fact, I already have). Will I leave key pieces of information out of the book to entice you to come to my retreat? Not a chance. I hate, hate, HATE that approach. I’m going to put it all in the book, baby. When you read the book, you’ll get it all. You won’t NEED to come to a retreat, but you’ll WANT to…and you’ll beg me to tell you when the next one is, ha ha!

With those simple promises I feel like I can finish this project and be proud of it, even if nobody ever reads it. That sounds funny to say about something that I am pouring so much time and energy into. But in the end, I think that’s WHY I can make these promises. I’m not trying to become famous or rich or “best-selling” by writing this book. I’m writing it because I think the topic is interesting, I like to write, and it’s a fun new experience for me. If anyone else enjoys it or benefits from it, well, that’s icing on the cake.

 

Almost forgot to tell you: The topic of the book is “Ordinary Superpowers”. I wrote about this in a previous blog post which you can check out here.

 

If you’d like to be notified when the book comes out, drop your email below. I hope you know by now that I won’t bombard you with emails about it, just one or two during the first few weeks after it comes out.

 

Notify Me When Mark’s Book Comes Out!



I’m Done With Zombies (And Politicians)

It’s Spring and I’m in the mood to change my mood. A few weeks ago I cleaned out my closet and gave away half my clothes, including my varsity jacket. That was a great physical purge that really boosted my mood (still does every time I walk into my closet). Now I feel the urge to purge some of the mental clutter.

So, I’m going to turn off the TV.

Specifically I’m turning off The Walking Dead and House of Cards. I got started on both shows about a year ago and binged watched every episode on Netflix. I’ve been keeping up with the pretend zombies and pretend politicians ever since. And yes, saying zombies and politicians in the same sentence is redundant.

As compelling as these shows are, I really don’t like the way they make me feel when I watch them. They suck my energy in a far worse way than most television does. It’s no wonder, really. Both of those franchises showcase the worst of humanity: violence, greed, murder, selfish ambition, and more. Every time I watch them I just feel…icky. Looking back, I am surprised I got addicted to them at all. Such is the case with any drug, I suppose.

Oh yeah, I’m not watching any more debates, either. Same reason. Only those usually make me angry and sad and a little depressed. Not sure how I’ll figure out who to vote for, but I’ll find a way I’m sure.

I’d say I’m not going to watch the news anymore, either, but I gave up watching TV news (and reading the paper) years ago. That, without a doubt, has been one of the most positive things I’ve ever done.

To be clear, I’m not going full out Amish. I’ll still watch a movie here and there. I’ll still watch Shark Tank and The Profit like all good business owners should. But overall I’m going to watch TV a lot less and be a heck of a lot more picky with what I put in front of my face from now on.

Just making this decision I feel better already.

Anybody with me?