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If a picture is worth a thousand words...

The magic is found outside your comfort zone.

Success is not a straight line.

How do you know where to focus?

I often struggle with words like success, comfort zone and focus. When trying to set goals, one of my biggest challenges is understanding how all of these words fit into my journey. As it pertains to goal setting, I find when I am able to visualize these words in picture form, the words and my goals become a lot clearer to me. If a picture is worth a thousand words, today's post is the fastest 3,000 words you will ever read. Click on each picture to review it in a larger format.



We Win! 5 Musts for Epic Team Building

"Out of the office" Team Building at  National Conference Center  - Leesburg, Virginia

"Out of the office" Team Building at National Conference Center - Leesburg, Virginia

As I stood in front of the group, charged with leading them in a 90 minute team building activity, I was inspired by the cohesiveness they brought to the activity, having spent the previous 30 hours bonding, building and reinforcing the ties that brought them together. The group, an entirely volunteer board, pressed pause, and left behind the daily push-pull of emails, text messages, staff meetings, agenda making and dozens of other responsibilities (including their families), for the greater cause of coming together as a unit. They realized without this retreat, forging solid bonds is sometimes a difficult thing to do.

What I walked away with was something entirely different than I had expected. I only had a brief sliver of time with them (just about 90 minutes), but its impression will have a permanent mark in mind. It was me who walked away inspired, motivated and completely charged up. Although I already knew many of the people in the group (we all belong to the same Washington, D.C. area chapter of an association called Meeting Professionals International), the filter I will see them through from this point moving forward will be forever changed.

My takeaway and five points I think are valuable when considering any team building program:

Take it out of the office. Although short programs that will encourage team building can be done in the office, there is a huge value placed in doing team building outside the four walls of an office. Just the change of environment can make a huge impact. Meals, socializing and conversations all happen outside the team building activities, but this, in and of itself provides a great opportunity for team building too.

Ground rules should be set at the onset of any team building activity, allowing for open and honest conversation.

Encourage open, honest conversation. Ground rules should be set at the onset of the activity allowing for open and honest conversation. Team building provides an environment for change, growth and improvement for the greater good. Although bonding is obviously one of the results of team building, the sharing of ideas freely will help everyone grow in the group. Natural leaders will rise during this program and you will be amazed with the results.

Pass the pillow. I witnessed this firsthand and it was truly inspiring. At the tail end of the second full day of activities, everyone in the group had an opportunity to discuss what they have gotten out of the team building program. A pillow passed from one person to another helped control the conversation, if you had the pillow, the floor was yours. Even the quietest of participants (yes, there are always a few shy ones) had an audience. It was an emotional time. What I found most interesting about this portion of the team building retreat, was that this was an unscheduled portion of the program, but still had a tremendous impact on all attendees.

Team building provides an environment for change, growth and improvement for the greater good.

Open the no judging zone. You want everyone involved in the program to feel as though any comments they make or views they present will be heard, discussed and a part of the conversation without judgement. I sat in on several conversations before and after the 90 minute team building activity I facilitated that, outside of this environment, I feel would have never occurred for fear of statements made would have been judged by others.  A byproduct of spending two days with others?  The lines between business and personal become blurred and your judgement of them becomes less critical; you begin to understand what motivates and inspires those you are with. Keep this time as a judgement free time.

Stretch limits and explore new ideas. Team building activities challenge you to think outside the box. Although there are hundreds, more likely thousands of activities, they do not have to be physically demanding. When I pulled up to the retreat, there were companies doing ropes challenges and obstacle courses on the grounds of the retreat. Alternatively,  I have seen tabletop chocolate bridge building, television trivia and game show fun provide a great opportunity for team building as well. Inherent to the activity are the positive results when you have an opportunity to brainstorm with others. Troubleshooting solutions while breaking down obstacles and removing barriers are common, encouraged and expected results. This translates very well when the team building activities are completed and re-entry to the “real world” occurs.

Inherent to the activity are the positive results when you have an opportunity to brainstorm and bond with others.

It’s not what you do or even how you do your team building, but it is the sheer fact that you are doing it that creates an impact. Team building does just that, it builds your team. If you have not done it for a while and you are in a position to make it happen, I would encourage you to do it, soon. It will make a difference. What I found most interesting is that each time I go out to facilitate a team building project, I am the one that comes back pumped up, motivated and inspired, ready for action and feeling like a part of the team. We all win!



5 Practices to Wake Up a Winner

Since entering the work force I have experienced approximately 7,920 work days. Excluding some major holidays and a few sick days,  and including my workaholic stretch in the 90's and early in the millennium years,  I have tried just about every trick in the book to optimize sleep, maximize positivity and keep my mind, body and being in good shape. In spite of all the external factors that do their best to work their mojo, I knew it was always in my best interest to start my day off properly. I'm not talking about the obvious things like eating a balanced breakfast, getting the proper amount of rest and staying off the Red Bull and eighth cup of coffee before bedtime. But I am talking about little changes, that if made could have a lasting impact on my health and my productivity during the day.

You will find most of the (best) practices below will take very little effort to accomplish, but will help you wake up and get started on your day as a winner.

One positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.

When you snooze, you lose - Hitting the snooze button might make you think you are getting more sleep, but you are doing more harm than good. As your sleep becomes fragmented your body becomes even more sluggish. Those extra few minutes of sleep may be sending your body into deeper sleep stages, making you feel even more tired. Instead of hitting "snooze" several times in the morning, set your alarm later and wake up on the alarm's first call. Experiment with your biological clock to find out what your best length of sleep really is and do your best to stick to it.

Start from the inside out - Many people use their smart phones as their alarm clock. If you fall into that category, once you turn your alarm off, put your phone down. As your body gently shifts from asleep to awake, don't shock it into reality quite yet with Facebook, Twitter, email and your news feed. Instead, take that same time you were dedicating to see what others are up to and invest it on the wonderful simplicity of your breath in and out.  Five minutes of watching your thoughts pass by, focusing on nothing other than your breathing in and out will have a surprisingly wonderful lasting impression on the rest of your day. As an added bonus, end your day the same way.

Some days you have to make your own sunshine.

Counting counts - My daughter Rachel told me about a breathing exercise called 4-7-8 and I have been using it for months now with amazing results. Start with a full exhale. Then, breathe in through your nose to the count of four. Hold to the count of seven. Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight. Repeat a total of four times. This practice is useful first thing in the morning, before going to bed, when anxiety makes its way into your day or when tense moments occur anytime. It's also a great way to deal with a problem BEFORE you react.

Dance like no one is watching - Okay, so maybe dancing isn't your thing, but get your heart rate up even if only for a few minutes. If you have stairs in your house, try going up and down them five to ten times to get your heart rate up. Working out in the morning starts your internal "fire" earlier and will help you burn more calories than the same workout in the evening. The point is, get moving and start your day feeling motivated and feeling good about yourself with a bit of extra blood flow and cardio in the morning.

If you want to make your dreams come true, you first have to wake up.

The big bad mama jama - Among the huge list of things you should accomplish during your day, set your goal for the one bad mama jama that MUST get accomplished.  This "must do" is non negotiable and is the most important task on your list. If all else fails, this one must get taken off the list by the end of the day. Not only should you write this daily goal down, when you cross it off the list, do a small victory dance. Well done.

Side effects include (the fine print): Making these small changes will not just effect you, but will have a ripple effect on those around you.  You will feel better and be ready for all the day has to deliver. Each day you work from the above list,  you will be happier and more relaxed. You will get caught in a spiral of positivity as you begin your day properly. You deserve to wake up as a winner. 




7 Guidelines to Make Success Inevitable

2016 goals success doug sandler.png

What does the little voice inside your head tell you about your future? Many times, it will not be just one voice, it will be an entire choir of voices. The key to success is knowing that you are able to conduct the choir. It is you that is in control of the voices, and not the voices that are in control of you. If you treat the concept of success (as defined by you) as inevitable, success will be achieved by you. Become conscious of the inner voice and aware that it is constantly chattering. What is being said is of paramount importance, make sure is it positive, uplifting and constructive. The conversations you have with yourself should be encouraging you, as if success was inevitable. Here are 7 guidelines for proceeding:

Stop looking back - The past is just that, the past. Nothing you do will change what you have already done, so there is no sense in second guessing or worrying about how your got on the path you are on right now. You chose the path and it has gotten you exactly where you are today. Delight in the knowledge you are here and have learned valuable lessons because of the choices you have made. If you have a tendency to look over your shoulder (figuratively, of course), you can lose focus on all of the amazingness that is in front of you. Continue your amazing journey. It is uniquely yours. Your future depends on the decisions you make moving forward, not the regrets from your past. Let yesterday's lessons make for successful planning for your future.

One key to success is knowing that you are able to conduct the choir of voices in your head.

Focus your attention on what lies ahead - Have you ever tried riding a bicycle backward? It's a very challenging task. Not only is it difficult,  but it looks and feels so unnatural. When focusing forward, however, with your head up, it is much easier to keep your balance and to keep an eye on your goals.  The year ahead will be incredible if you believe it will be incredible. It will require you to make an effort and not only set goals, but put in place, actionable steps to help you reach your goals. Allow yourself some space to make things happen. While looking forward is essential for success, even with blinders on it is important to stop every once in a while to check your progress, evaluate your goals and make adjustments. 

When you come to the fork in the road, give weighted consideration to the road less traveled - The road less traveled is traveled less for a reason and far more satisfying than moving along with the masses. Make your life an adventure, filled with excitement. More adventure and excitement does not necessarily equate to more risk. But even if it did come with elevated risk, would you be willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone to achieve some amazing results? Taking the road less traveled will result in uncommon rewards. 

The best way to predict the future is to create it.
— Peter Drucker

Stop listening to those who have not traveled your journey - It is easy to be critical when you are directing from an armchair. Most of your critics will be armchair critics who have never endured what you have experienced. Those critics have not been in your shoes nor are they on your path. Instead of listening to their opinions, listen to the words of those that have traveled your journey. As human beings, by nature, we have a tendency to want to please others. Hold yourself accountable only to you and do not let their recordings play in your head. Life is not a popularity contest and there will be as many opinions as there are decisions to make. Do what is best for you and keep in mind that the best response to the sour thinkers is your success. Success is so sweet.

Do not run from change, embrace it -  The only constant in life is change. Once you begin to accept change in your life, stress, anxiety and pressure will be greatly reduced. Accepting change does not mean you need to accept everything that comes along, but you should learn to live life with a greater feeling of flexibility, an understanding the nothing is permanent, and an openness to opportunity when it is presented to you. Although your habits and routines will be tested as you begin the process of changing, it is okay, since the results will be personal growth, professional improvement and and a bigger vision for your future.

When you wake with passion, you work with passion.

Live life with passion - Anything worth doing, is worth doing with passion. When you wake with passion, you work with passion. Over the course of my career, especially early on,  I spent too much time focused on the financial rewards of working hard. For most of that time, I was working to make a living, not a life. I was able to buy stuff as a result, thinking it would make me happy. The more stuff I obtained, the more stuff I wanted and it soon became an endless cycle of desire, greed and unsatisfying results. I was clearly not happy. Once I started to understand the role passion plays in determining success, it became clear to me success was more about finding my passion and not filling a bank account, filling a garage or filling a closet. As my passion evolved, goals and dreams became clearer and I became more financially successful as a result. Start with passion and do what you love. Stick with it and you will be very happy with the results as well.

Don't be so hard on yourself - As you begin to set goals, develop a plan of action, and to work your plan, give yourself some slack. Happiness, positivity and a good attitude can be quickly sabotaged when you are too hard on yourself. Give everything you do your best effort and know that if you fall short of your goals, you simply need to reset your goals and go after them again. You are the only critic you need to answer to, so the six inches between your ears should be protected and precious space. You will get far more from yourself if you are encouraging, accepting and loving and less critical of every move you make.

This past year, 2015 has been a great one for me, but also very bittersweet. Professionally, my book, Nice Guys Finish First launched in February and by the end of March hit #1 on Amazon's charts. It continues to do very well and has been a dream come true for me. My Nice Guy community (blog readers and podcast listeners) continues to grow and I am proud to say that 2015 has brought 2,500 weekly readers to my website, a new crop of readers through my Huffington Post channel, over 20,000 Twitter followers, 5,000 LinkedIn connections and well over 20,000 downloads to my Nice Guys on Business podcast (thanks to my partner Strickland Bonner).  Those of you that know me personally, know my dreams came true when, in August,  I married my best friend and the world's most beautiful woman Danielle. This past year my daughter Rachel graduated from James Madison University and I look forward to seeing her dreams come true as she continues her music studies. My son Adam (yes that's right, Adam Sandler)  continues his studies in graphic design as college sophomore. Sadly, 2015 marks the year I lost my step-father of 43 years, Marty Finstein. Marty was the man of steel with the tin box. I am blessed to have my mother in my life and we miss him very much. I am grateful to have so much love in my life and know that 2016 will continue to put me on a direct path towards success. I welcome you to join me on this path. It is open to Nice Guys everywhere. By now, you have to realize nice guys finish first.

Nice Guys Finish First
By Doug Sandler



6 Inspiring Quotes That Have Stood the Test of Time (and my mom).

A challenging morning can be made less difficult by reading a few inspirational or motivational quotes. Sources for inspiration can be found in the quotes of former presidents, successful business people, inventors or even your parents. A deeper meaning for each quote can be determined by what is going on in your life at any given time. 

These quotes have helped guide me during challenging times, times of failure and times of victory. I hope they have significance in your life as well. As you read the quotes, let them simmer in your head. Allow each quote an opportunity to find meaning with you.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.
— Henry Ford

Your brain is an incredibly powerful organ. Electrical impulses fire off at incredible speeds and if we don't learn how to work the mechanics of our brain properly, it could possibly work against us, letting fear of failure or fear of the unknown block our way to success.  Feed your brain with positive self-talk, happy thoughts and keep yourself thinking about success (however you define it). You are in control of your behavior and your thoughts. 

Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
— Dr. Benjamin Spock

What does your gut tell you? The vast majority of the time you have the tools to make decisions on your own. What is good for someone else might not be good for you, so rely more on your ability to make decisions, taking your best interest at heart. When you trust yourself, you start to build more self-confidence. Ultimately, this will benefit you as well. When you make a wrong decision, get value from the lessoned learned, grow from it and allow it to help you trust yourself even more.

If I have nine hours to cut down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my axe.
— Abraham Lincoln

Preparation is very important, but there is a fine line between preparation and procrastination. Be wise enough to know the difference when it comes to you making decisions and taking action. Write down a list of the actions that you are fearful of. Maybe you are afraid of cold calls, public speaking, networking, making decisions, etc.  If these are troubling areas for you, when it comes to taking action, be sensitive to your inability to move forward. Prepare to be the best you possible, but don't wait for perfection. If you do, it will never come.

Anyone that has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
— Albert Einstein

Scientists, inventors, visionaries and entrepreneurs understand the importance of making mistakes. Learn the valuable lessons that mistakes and missteps can create. Look back to all the amazing things that you have been able to accomplish in your lifetime. You have earned many achievements. I can assure you that you did not go from point A to point B without a few, if not many, mistakes. Mistakes made is the Universe's way of asking, "Congratulations for stepping outside your comfort zone, what did you learn?" 

Some people come into your life as blessings. Other people come into your life as lessons.
— Mother Teresa

Not everyone you come in contact with will be your friend, no matter how awesome you may think you are. I had a tough time with this one. People come into your life for a reason. Personally, I'd prefer to meet someone with the hope that they are a blessing in my life, as I would hope to be a blessing in their life as well. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Think of the relationships you started over the past few years. Are all of there people still in your life as a positive influence?  Probably not. Appreciate the fact that some people are placed in your life as a way for you to grow. Do not see this as a negative. I have learned several valuable virtues including patience, diligence and perseverance from people that I no longer have relationships with, but needed them in my life at that specific time, to teach me these values.

Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.
— RosaLea Finstein (Doug's Mom)

My Mom, a frequent participant in the comments section of this blog, has provided a generous amount of content for my Nice Guys Finish First speaking and writing platforms. I will often label a quote, "Doug's Mom."  Although many of the quotes are tongue and cheek, they all have a deeper meaning with multiple interpretations. Although the exact origin of this quote is unknown, this "show me your friends" quote dates back, for me,  to her mother, my grandmother. I never had the honor of knowing her during my lifetime. Both professionally and personally you are who you associate with. Align yourself with positive, caring, empathetic people if you want to be a positive, caring and empathetic person. When you are working towards a goal, it is always a good idea to associate with others who have reached similar goals so you can learn from them. It may require effort to separate from some of your "negative" influences, as they might, at times, be disguised as things like television, Lazy Boy chairs or even a persuasive friend. 

There are many great sources for finding inspiration. Social media channels including Twitter and Instagram can provide great inspiration. Search engines like Google provide an "Images" tab for their query results to help me visualize the quotes I select for inspiration and motivation. Websites like BrainyQuote.com are wonderful as sources for content as well. Good stuff in equals good stuff out, and inspirational quotes are a great way to kickstart your thinking.