Years ago, 2010 to be exact, I started my first website: a blog called Hustler’s Notebook. I had no idea where the journey would take me, but it was something I was driven to do. Like most websites and blogs, things got off to a very slow start: no traffic, no nothing, just content I wrote during my spare time. I kept with it because I found the process rewarding–forcing me to think in a deeper manner as my mission was to help others by sharing my own experiences and approaches to personal and professional development.

One day, probably 4-6 months after starting Hustler’s Notebook, things started to change. This website went from crickets to having a roaring audience. I contribute this to two things: writing from a unique perspective, and engaging with other websites and businesses to get the word out. Before I knew it, I was spending hours responding to hundreds and hundreds of comments. I developed many associations with other entrepreneurs, marketers and bloggers–a handful of which I’ve maintained contact.

During this time, I learned (at a slow pace) how to make updates to this website. Every week I’d learn something new to the point where I could do just about anything I needed and wanted. Eventually, some of my readers started asking me to help out with the design elements of their websites. And it was then, in 2011, when I thought of making a business out of it. And here today, I’m still running Growth Effect, an agency focusing on consulting, web design and online marketing. Amongst other ventures.

It’s interesting to look back in the past and view the journey in hindsight. Life is unbelievably good. God is incredibly great.

In 2011, I was offered an opportunity to have a book published. The contents of the book consisted of a handful of my blog posts from this site, Huster’s Notebook. All of the articles that made the book are below, as well as a few additional fan favorites.

– JkA, 2024

Date range: composed between 2010-2011.
Who Needs an MBA (or any Degree) When You Have Hustle?
This isn’t just about MBAs (master of business administration), it’s about higher education in general. Some folks don’t have access to it; it’s expensive, exclusive and the American system isn’t built for everyone to have the opportunity. It’s my hope that after you read this, the attitude around what a degree means changes in relation to one’s success, specifically for those who don’t have one…because I don’t think anyone needs a MBA (or any degree) if they have the proper focus and work ethic.

I used to think that the more advanced the degree, the better job, and naturally, the better the pay. The reason my attitude has changed is because over the past few years, many of my professional peers have had MBA’s…and I don’t have one. So not only do I play at the same park, I’ve done so without the same credential.

The Reality
Before I get too deep into this subject, I want to make it clear that for certain technical and industry-specific fields, degrees matter. You can’t become a lawyer without going to law school. You can’t become a physician without going to medical school. There’s no way around this reality. Most would agree that there should be strict regulations and educational requirements for highly complex and sensitive industries. But in my eyes, everything else is wide open.

The Black Belt Concept
Anyone can get a black belt if they dedicate themselves to doing so (I’m not insinuating that it’s easy…just saying that it’s not out of reach.) A person who reaches such a milestone will certainly know how to throw a perfect punch – at the air, and a perfect kick – at the air…but in the heat of the moment, they may not have what it takes to truly defend themselves outside of the Dojo.

Let’s apply the black belt to a college degree. Most people, given the opportunity, have the intellectual ability to get a college degree. It’s not THAT hard. And just because a person has a degree, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be good at any job. I took a number of speech classes in college (hated them by the way), got good grades, but I left college being pretty bad at public speaking. My grades said I was excellent, but my practical skills proved the opposite. Doing it in the real world is what helped me develop and get better at it.

Just because someone has a black belt doesn’t mean they’re ready for battle. It means that they have a high theoretical understanding of their discipline. You can learn all about swords, understand the dynamics of a sword fight, and even have perfect form. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to sword fight.

Organizations are starting to view candidates in this light. This is part of the reason why GPA’s don’t matter as much today, as they did in years past. They want people who can drive results; not people who can recite business definitions. I got A’s in each speech class that I took – and I was pretty bad at the time. If organizations looked at my A, they would think I was a great public speaker…the fact is, there’s no accurate correlation [generally speaking] between grades and real life ability. Same thing goes for degrees.

Work Ethic and Experience is the Key
I have absolutely no plan to go back to college to get an advanced degree. Why? Well because I KNOW that it would have minimal impact on me professionally, as it does for most that do so. I’m not trying to down play the major accomplishment – just saying that in the reality of my world – it wouldn’t do much to serve me.

My colleagues that have a MBA’s did receive some positive impact on their career. Which is great. I’ve done the same – without the financial burden (MBA = avg. $80k) or time investment (avg. 2-3 years).Their MBAs helped get them to the position their in…I used another method to get to the same position.

The Alternative
I’ve educated myself by being present and aware; by extending my learning in areas that directly contribute to my ability to do my job. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and taken on projects that have expanded my business intelligence. I’ve maximized on-the-job training. I take complete ownership of my role and responsibilities.

This approach has helped me become the standard in positions that I’ve taken. When you’re the standard, you become the point that others are judged from. It’s a position sure to help progress your career over what any degree can do, in my experience.

If you feel disadvantaged because you can’t fill up the Education part of your resume – don’t fear. Showcase your skill sets, accomplishments and willingness to self-educate outside of traditional study. Be willing to work harder than everyone else, which will naturally place you on the stage of being the standard. Before you know it, you’ll be working in the same peer group as those who pay thousands of dollars each month to cover student loan payments that they wish they would have done without.

I’m an Advocate of Education
From where this article has gone, you might think that I was against education. But in reality, I’m the biggest advocate of education that I know. I just try not to get caught up in academia and the prestige behind where he or she got a degree (only because it really doesn’t matter and most people don’t care).

A few months ago I shared in an article that colleges such as Yale and MIT offer free online courses open to the public. I actually take courses offered by these institutions based on subjects that I have interests in and that will help me be better at my job.

I have a lot of respect for those who have made the commitment to complete college; under graduate and graduate level. I also I have a great deal of respect for those who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college – because I think they can make just as big of a splash as the next person.

I have a bachelor’s degree. Having it served a good purpose at one point in my career. That purpose being that it satisfied a requirement to get a certain level of job when I graduated. That’s it. 75% (maybe more) of the courses that I took were pointless in the scheme of my life/career today. Who in the world needs a geology class if they don’t care one lick about rocks. How in the world can you make a Chinese Dynasty class a prerequisite, but fail to teach young adults how to manage money? The system seems a little twisted. It’s getting a little too expensive…and frankly, having a degree is more of a formality than a means for preparation.

For those of you who don’t or didn’t have the opportunity to go to college – I think you’ll be okay if you’re willing to focus and work hard. But for those who aren’t so willing to work hard, college degree or not, I’m not sure if higher ed will do a thing for you. Just because a person has a

Bottom line, college degree or not – you own your results…not some piece of paper, no abbreviations or letters after your name, not the state of the economy and surely not any excuses. If you want to win – then go do something about it…and win.

Disclaimer: I’m not advocating that anyone should pass on the opportunity to go to college. If you can go – don’t let the opportunity pass you by. But if you can’t…you now know that it’s not the crutch that society paints it to be.

How to Get to and Maintain a Higher Level of Motivation
With such treacherous terrains to maneuver through in life, we have to stay fueled from the right source in order to maintain a balance of motivation. And just as every car manufacturer recommends a certain grade of octane in order to properly power an engine; we have to properly power our motivational level with the right type of fuel. If the recommendation is premium grade, but a lower quality is used over a period of time, the engine will eventually breakdown. Fuel for motivation works the same way.

In recent weeks I’ve received a number of emails asking me for tips on grasping a higher level of motivation. I found this question challenging to answer because I believe our motivation is driven by personal factors; what is important to me may not be important to someone else. While I’ve battled with this, I’ve still kept the question fresh in mind to understand how I really feel about it.

To be motivated is to be driven. To drive (be driven), you must have fuel. It’s all about the type of fuel that drives us.

Synthetic Motivation = Low Grade Fuel
Synthetic motivation is the most common. There’s an abundant supply all around us and it’s cheap. It certainly wins in the area of quantity but lacks quality. Still, this type of motivation gives us a boost in energy and enthusiasm.

We get synthetic motivation from books and phrases like: “just do it”. We get it from watching ‘rah rah’ motivational speakers that raise our energy, although its lasting effects are minimal. Additionally, being falsely optimistic and faking positive thinking are symptoms of low-grade fuel. It motivates us but it has no weight; causing it to evaporate shortly after it magically appears.

We syke ourselves out to feel ready for ‘whatever’ even when we’re not…and temporarily it works. When you don’t really feel like doing something – but you push through it anyway; that’s synthetic. Nothing bad, in fact that’s synthetic fuel at its best.

As a result of its temporary properties and it being the main source of fuel within many of us, most people experience a roller-coaster-like effect when it comes to being motivated – it constantly fluctuates up and down. This is the most common type of motivation that drives most people. Everyone uses this stuff; some more than others.

Organic Motivation = Premium Grade Fuel
Organic motivation comes from a source of inspiration that lights a fire in us to change forever, not just for the moment. This type of fuel might not make us throw our hands in the air and holler “yahoo”, but it certainly affects our heart; giving us what we need to drive to wherever we want to.

But here are the challenges: this stuff isn’t cheap, it doesn’t have the same instant gratification-like properties as synthetic fuel, and its source is far less understood. Organic motivation takes time to set in; it has to marinate before we can feel its effectiveness. And this is why we gravitate to synthetic forms of motivation…again, because it provides quick, although not lasting results.

In a society where microwaves have become too slow, Internet connections are never fast enough and poor cell phone signals make our blood boil – we’re too distracted to have the patience to fully capture what organic motivation has to offer.

We get organic motivation from the things in life that we have an unwavering appreciation for. These things include spirituality, family, love, life goals, serving others, and other life-shaping events and realities that matter most in life. When we keep these types of things at the forefront of our thoughts, we develop a drive fueled from within; from a premium grade fuel source that can last forever.

Get an Octane Boost
The difference between organic and synthetic motivation is like comparing hormone infused cows with free range grass fed cows. Both give us burgers and steaks in the immediate, but we all know which is better for us in the long run.

We’re the culprits that don’t allow organic motivation to flow. Yes, we are to blame for not having a high level of motivation to win. We find more things to complain about than to praise. We rarely celebrate our wins. We allow the worries of the world to take over our thoughts and interests. These things clog the premium grade fuel line. It can’t pump efficiently when our mindset is in such disarray.

When we honor what matters most to us and live within the perspective of our life priorities – not only does that give us the power to squeeze the handle of the premium grade fuel pump, but the auto flow lever engages allowing it to flow on its own.

The Hustle Factory: Manufacturing Your Own Luck
The hustle factory is a mindset. It’s an action-based ideology that takes the popular idea of luck and removes its association with chance. In replacement, it defines luck as a result from deliberate action (or set of actions).

The Discovery of the Hustle Factory
I used to sit back and wait for things to happen. After awhile of getting very little results, I changed my seated position to observe others who seemed to have luck working in their favor. It didn’t take long to realize that those who were getting all the luck were coincidentally the ones who were actively working towards what they wanted luck for. All of these people worked in a factory…it was odd!

I was confused. I thought to myself: “why are these lucky people working so hard in some factory when they had it made already? Why are they so focused? Why don’t they sit back, relax and enjoy the luck?”

One day while observing from a window I noticed one of the lucky folk leave the factory. He sat back and enjoyed the luck he had amassed. I think he figured that the luck would continue because of the time spent in the Hustle Factory. I thought the same thing.

Luck Has a Dependency
The once lucky fellow quickly lost his luck.

Before long he realized that his lost of luck was due to his lost in taking action. He got off his seat and marched back into the factory. And what do you know, the luck quickly re-entered his life.

Call me crazy, but I identified a theory…the harder and more focused people worked (like those in the factory), the luckier they became.


I liked my new theory. But I LOVED the old theory because it was easier: sit back, wait and hope for luck to find me. The problem: a year passed without luck paying me a visit.

The Hustle Factory Gets “Lucky” Results
One day, I finally made the commitment to pay this little Hustle Factory place a visit. I was sure that I would prove it to be a bunch of nonsense…there’s no way that I had control over the luck I did or didn’t get.

I entered The Hustle Factory…

I worked hard with optimal focus…

…Luck paid me a quick visit.

I Can’t Take the Chance on Waiting for Chance
Does luck just happen? Do we randomly get lucky for the heck of it? If we sit and hope for luck, will it arrive?

I’m not talking about anything supernatural stuff here. I’m simply making the call towards what we refer to as luck.

In my personal life, I’ve only been on the good side of luck after putting in the necessary work to receive it. Sure, random “good things” have occurred to me from time to time that I didn’t expect – but I contribute those instances as results; reaping from something I had previously sown [at the factory].

Enter the Factory and Create Your Own Luck
As you can imagine, it’s not a crowded space. Why? Because nothing is guaranteed. All the onus is on you; your ability to withstand the rigors of achieving your goals. Many enter and many leave, never to return. It’s much easier to sit back and wish for luck than to create it. But it’s also much more effective to produce luck, than to hope for it – with no action.

Are you willing to manufacture your own luck?

I wish you well (not luck)!

Take Ownership to Elevate Your Results
We’ve all heard people speak about things never working out in their favor. If you’re anything like me, I’ve been guilty of it too. What I’ve come to learn over the years is that the majority of people that I know take very little accountability for the results they achieve (or failed to achieve). It seems to be common place for our expectations to rise without elevating our effort. That’s down right crazy and an impossible formula for success!

I’m not trying to burst any body’s bubble, but if that’s what it takes – then this article serves as my pointy needle – poking away at the misconceptions keeping us from reaching our maximum potential. I didn’t write this from the perspective of an expert; preaching that I know it all. Actually, I’m in front of the class on this one (a student). I often need to reset and remind myself to stay on track and to keep focused.

You Get What You Give
You’ve heard it before: “you reap what you sow”. So simple, yet so profound. If you’re unfamiliar, let me explain:
Every action has a definite consequence; good, bad or indifferent – depending on the action.
Example: If I plant an apple seed, I should expect an apple to grow. It would be foolish of me to expect a corn harvest. It’s that simple.

If you want certain results (reap/get), but you aren’t acting in a fashion to obtain those results (sow/give), then you’re off-balance in your expectations and hopes.

TIP: Be deliberate in your actions. Don’t just go with the flow, be definite in your direction. Be in flow. Average Joe’s get average results! It’s okay to be average if that’s what you want. But if you’re after more, you have to give more or at least give differently.

You’re Your Own Luck Factory
Sitting back, hoping and waiting for a lucky break isn’t the best strategy, I promise. The only break that may happen is your own heart after wasting days/months/years hoping for luck that never surfaces. Remember “You Get What you Give”…so if you want luck, you better do something to get it; produce it yourself.

TIP: Want to be lucky? Well make sure that your effort is in tune with your expected result.

Take Feedback Seriously, or Lightly Depending on the Feedback
How many times has someone taken the time to share advice that you completely disregarded? Maybe they said something that you didn’t like…or more so – your ego didn’t like! Take feedback from those who you respect seriousness – even if you don’t like it. What one person sees in you can be what everyone sees, except you. We need honest eyes to share how we may be perceived in the world. Relying on the eyes in the mirror are biased.

TIP: Pay close attention to feedback that you receive that hurts your feelings. It’s likely your ego that’s being hurt, which needs a nice bruising anyway.

Don’t forget the “H” Word…and I Don’t Mean Hustle
It’s inevitable to happen; you get a few wins under your belt, everything falls in place seemingly perfect and up goes the arrogance and out goes the humility.

TIP: Be grounded and humble. If you allow your fortune to go to your head, it just might fall to your feet.

So What, Be a Failure
Go ahead and take some calculated risks and pay no thought to the idea of failing. And since you’re on a role, go ahead and learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. You can’t learn success from your own successes…you have to stumble (fail) and learn from all aspects of the cycle.

TIP: Don’t limit your abilities by taking it easy on yourself. If you fail, it’s not permanent as long as you take away the significant lessons from the experience. This mentality makes it possible to always win, even in defeat.

You Own Your Results
This was the easiest article I’ve written to date. As my fingers glided around the keyboard and the glare from the light bounced off of my screen – I saw a very familiar face who needed this needle-poke for motivation [me].

All too often do we get caught up in our day-to-day tasks and forget to assess and celebrate our wins, or be honest about where you are in your journey to success. I hope this served you as it served me; a realization that we own our results through our actions…it’s simple: take ownership to elevate your results.

Personal Branding, Self Promotion and the Art of Tastefully Marketing Yourself
How do you feel about marketing yourself?

Does it feel too self-focused, conceited or arrogant? Whenever I write about personal branding, self-promotion or anything along those lines I feel like I’m coming off a bit shallow. But marketing is a powerful tool for a reason. Corporations spend millions upon millions of dollars on marketing efforts to create a brand, distribute the awareness of their brand, and of course to promote products and services. It’s a natural and essential part of business. This article covers the human side of the marketing coin – marketing yourself.

Self Promotion: The Road to Getting Known
To me, self promotion is a bit awkward at times. But no matter how we slice it, everything we do shapes our personal brand in one way or another. It’s a matter of us owning the promotion ourselves or allowing others to define who we are from their own perceptions or misconceptions of us. If we don’t own it, we risk being labeled in a light that doesn’t accurately represent who we are.

How to Promote your Personal Brand
It all comes down to being real. If you speak on something but never deliver, the void will always sit in the back of people’s mind about you. So it’s not a matter of saying what sounds good; it’s a matter of projecting what’s real.

Faking it until you make it won’t get you far. In time, the truth will catch up and you’ll be exposed.

A few tips to consider:
Don’t be someone else, just be you. It’s really simple and even natural if you’re honest.
Going over the top gets a negative effect…so don’t do it. Just imagine how annoying those $19.99 infomercials are on TV. Don’t be them.
Let it happen, don’t force it. It’s a thin line to walk between… and a line that you don’t want to crossover.

Marketing is a Skill. Marketing Yourself is an Art.
See, it’s not so bad is it. It’s taking the ranks into your own hand and marketing your business (yourself) in a deliberate fashion; in a light that you want to be seen in. It allows you to control the perception that others form, all while creating a name for yourself in the very image that accurately and honestly portrays who you are.

Improving Productivity: One Thing at a Time
Sometimes I feel like there’s an endless amount of stuff to do and I can never catch up. It’s become commonplace to have 50 different things flashing in my head at once. The flashes look like a collage of images–all referencing stuff I have to get done. As of late, I’ve been getting things done even with this mental madness, but it’s taking me far too long to execute and consuming way too much energy.

So I’m taking action to change.

Not too long ago I read a powerful article by Rob White on called Atomic Action. In short, Atomic Action is about getting stuff done and moving on to the next thing; all with total focus and without feelings of burden or stress. I started the read with the idea that my level of taking action was optimal…but reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I do in fact take action, but too often I have poor focus in concentrating on one thing at a time; I multi-task with just about everything.

The Truths
After reading Atomic Action and truthfully assessing how it relates to me, I determined the following about myself (in relation to productivity):

I’ve developed a habit of being busy, not always because I have to–but because I’ve associated not being busy with being lazy.
I want nothing to do with the word average, so I work-work-work in order to keep myself disassociated with the idea of mediocrity.
My level of focus is low when my discipline to focus is low.
I allow myself to be distracted far too easy and it happens way too much.
My issue isn’t taking ACTIONS (I do that just fine); the issue is taking ACTION (one thing at a time).
I’ve allowed myself to be driven by past failures.

I initially felt a bit frustrated and unsure about this realization. But in no time, I felt a release of burden. I knew this was a lesson that I needed. It was the key allowing me to move further up the steps of personal development; a requirement to reach the massive goals that I have.

Multitasking Creeps In
This is how multitasking sneaks its way into my life:

I start the day off on the right foot; a clean slate. However, slowly, sometimes quickly, things start flashing in my mind – things that I need to get done. So, I stop what I’m doing and begin the process of 3-4 other things. As I piecemeal those tasks, something else may come to mind and I start that task too. Before I know it, I’m flat out confused and poorly juggling all kinds of stuff with very little focus to each.

Never do I execute optimally when I multitask. I end up spending much more time than I should re-doing things because I didn’t do it right the first time.

Concentration and Efficiency
Imagine a concentrated cleaning agent. The more concentrated the chemicals, the more effective the agent is when cleaning. The more diluted the chemicals, the less effective the cleaning agent is. I use to see the diluted mixture as a better bang for my buck because it yields more uses (quantity). But in reality, it just takes more attempts (because it lacks quality).

Here’s the crazy thing…the amount of concentrated solution needed to clean a given spill doesn’t change whether it’s diluted or not. So the question is why in the world do we opt to dilute our concentration in the name of getting more stuff done? Diluting our focus lowers our performance quality.

Next Steps
I’m taking this seriously. Rob’s Atomic Action article was life-changing for me. Once total focus becomes my default method in getting things done, I believe that some of the things I currently dream about will start being things I experience daily.

[I believe] the following are [some] critical considerations to combat multitasking:

Overcome Lazy Thinking. Not having the discipline to focus on one thing at a time is an outcome of lazy thinking. I’m guilty as personally charged. Working on multiple things at once creates idleness and wastes energy. I’m going to become a more disciplined thinker by not just going with the flow. Instead, I’m going to ensure that I’m inflow with whatever I’m working on.

Push Through Resistance. Multitasking creeps in most often when we resist something that we’re working on. Instead of pushing through the resistance and overcoming it, multitaskers take the easy, yet ineffective route of believing that we have something equally important to work on. Resistance hits again and the process continues until we have way too many things to focus on at once.

Get Organized. I work best when organized. Having an organized Action/Task List in place frees my mind from having to remember each and every thing I have to do. I can simply dump and dive in when I’ve finished with one thing and ready to execute the next, instead of the contrary: relying on memory. Relying on my memory to recall 20 different things has proven to be disastrous and always leads to multitasking.

Improving Productivity
As I develop in the area of optimized productivity, I expect to become ten times more productive. I expect to get more done in far less attempts, and have more free time left over.
In time, as I become more efficient, I believe that I’ll weed out stuff that isn’t worthy of my attention; freeing me to take on bigger things, with complete focus, yielding grander results.

Birth of the Opportunist...Death of the Company Man
Not long ago I had a conversation with an older group of friends who asked me about my latest job. Their question came across as a bit condescending because they know my philosophy is much different than theirs. See, every couple of years for the past several years I’ve taken a new job. To them, a much older generation, it’s taboo to take on new opportunities outside of your current organization of employment–they see it as a sign of disloyalty and lack of commitment. However, this is the reality of our day and age. I see it as being loyal to what’s best for me and being committed to progression.

It’s an old school world view versus a current one. Neither one is right or wrong, or better than the other, in general. However, I think it’s important to understand the differences between the two.

I’m not advocating that anyone else take my stance or mimic the way I manage my career like a business; taking on new clients/opportunities (employment) that put my business (myself) in the best situation possible.

The Company Man
The company man’s allegiance is to his employer. His career goals are centered on working for one company until retirement, *hoping* to move up the ladder as his time progresses. His golden nugget is part job security and part comfort.

The company man’s career philosophy is a by-product of Generation X (post-WWII era) where an economy on the climb provided job security with ample room for growth. There was no reason to leave an organization, for even those who worked in the same position their entire career were able to afford their lifestyle. As a result, the company man didn’t proactively seek advancement outside of his current situation because they didn’t have to. He was loyal to his employer and expected to be rewarded for his loyalty.

The company man’s way of managing a career was conducive to the times of the past. But a new ‘way’ has been birthed because times have changed.

Birth of the Opportunist
Naturally, causes create effects. The birth of the opportunist is an effect of the times of Generation Y. Here’s a sprinkle of some of the ingredients to the cocktail responsible for birthing the opportunist (U.S. based):

multiple stock market crashes and mortgage meltdowns
industrial-size robots have taken away the need for manpower
ancient organizations have collapsed before us
we’ve witnessed government involvement in non-government business dealings (General Motors)
education has tanked–we now rank amongst third world nations in many categories.
college degrees are at an all-time high, per capita–but at an all-time low in career effectiveness
we have very little to no expectation that we’ll ever get back the Social Security tax that we pay out of each paycheck (…and what is a pension?)
we’ve witnessed huge organizations get bailed out of debt by the government while watching our neighbors loose their homes right before us.

What is an Opportunist?
Like the word hustler, the word opportunist has negative connotations that I don’t recognize. A Google search will tell you that an opportunist is a person who exploits circumstances to gain immediate advantage rather than being guided by principles or plans. I define an opportunist as someone that takes advantage of opportunities for her benefit first, completely within principle and with no intention to harm others. Her loyalty is not to a company, it’s to herself. She’s responsible.

Unlike the old school company man philosophy, the new school opportunists haven’t had the luxury of job security. At the time when jobs seemed to be the most stable, unemployment rates reached an all-time high shortly thereafter. In a business economy that mandates optimization, or trimming of the fat in order to be profitable, employees are always on the edge of the lay-off cliff. It’s a Lean economy where excess must be discarded.

Economy Stimulation
Anyone who seeks the next best opportunity knows that the average Joe rarely finds that opportunity. It’s the ambitious, dynamic, creative and strategic minded people that get the most abundant opportunities. Mindful opportunists have an understanding that their next opportunity isn’t a thing of chance, rather a creation from their effort; they must manufacture their own luck.

Opportunists are game changers. They’re the folks that revamp old business practices into new ones–helping an old rigid organization become a more agile one.

It’s All Risky Business
Companies have very little loyalty to employees. It’s not that organizations are bad; it’s just the nature of the beast. In order for them to stay afloat and to remain viable, they must shave poorer performing employees as well as unneeded positions. In today’s climate, employers are demanding more hours while paying less.

I didn’t write this in hopes for people to adopt the opportunist way of managing their career. I wrote this to debunk the old school ideology that society calls ‘the right way’. There is no global right or wrong way. There’s only a right or wrong way specific to you and your situation.

Being a company man has NEVER been something that I’ve considered. I’m a product of the socioeconomic climate. My road map has been to get a promotion within one year and move on to bigger and better opportunities at the 2nd year mark. I’ve learned that this is the best way [for me] to get 15-25% salary increases each year and not be stuck with the 2.5% average (US, intra-company salary increase, 2010–which is in decline).

It’s all risky business!

Do Looks Really Matter? Of Course The Do!
I’d like to live in a world where looks don’t matter. But, like you, I live in a world where looks do in fact matter. I’ve have some pretty telling examples of just how much looks can play into the way others engage with you in both personal and professional settings. The focus here is on the perceptions that we create by the way we present ourselves to the world.

This isn’t a feel good topic…it’s seemingly a bit shallow actually. But should that detour me from addressing this very prominently valid subject? NOPE! Sometimes we have to have tough conversations in order to fully hash things out.

If you don’t think that looks matter now – you may come to find out in a moment, that they actually do.

*NOTE: When I speak of looks – I’m speaking on your personal presentation only. I am not talking about physical characteristics that we have very little control over (like DNA). Sure, these do play a significant part, but that’s not the focus in this article.

I’m a realist and realize that much of what we see as our reality is really only a perception. In fact, I believe that we’re accountable for most of the elements related to the perceptions others form of us.

Looks Do Matter…Simple Proofs
We’re intelligent, visual and emotional people. And because of this, we’re affected by what we see. It’s really that simple.

– Most of the time we initiate relationships because of physical attraction first…the deal is later sealed (or not) by emotional connection.
– It’s no doubt that the image of food gets us hungry; secondarily the smell and then taste provide us with feedback needed to give it a thumbs up or down.
– We buy clothes because of how they look; followed by feel and function.
– Marketing efforts capture our eye first, then appeal to our emotions; leading us to purchase, or at minimum, gain interest.
– We tend to click the back button quickly after entering a non-visually appealing website.
– We often feel more confident when we like what we see in the mirror.+

First Impressions are based on Your Image
Here’s the deal – regardless if you take the opportunity to develop your brand in the light that most accurately and honestly depicts who you are – your brand will be built for you, possibly based on misconceptions and inaccuracies. If you don’t own your personal brand, they (everyone else) will own it for you.

It’s okay to be disliked. Everyone will not like you. PERIOD. A natural effect of being yourself is that some people will not like you for reasons you simply can’t control. But others will love you and respect you.

I Judge Books by Their Cover…and You Do To
Why? Because we are human. It just naturally happens. When we see a person for the first time, we size them up without thought. We automatically associate their appearance; the way they carry themselves, how they speak, etc. with something that we may or not be familiar with.

Imagine being in the seat of a professional recruiter and two candidates walk one in your office, both interviewing for a VP position. One candidate is well polished and the other is dressed in casual street clothes. Without speaking to either, do you form a judgment based on their appearance? Of course you do. It happens naturally without you having to strain in thought. You think “why is this person not dressed for the part?” And you may even automatically disassociate them from being a potential fit for position. In my book – this wouldn’t be an unfair conclusion.

The Point
The way you present yourself has a lot to do with how people treat you, support you and represent you. It’s important to understand that just because people shouldn’t judge you based on your appearance, doesn’t mean that they won’t. Do you know how hard it is for people who have tattoos on their hands and neck to get a job in a white collar environment? It’s tough. Of course a tattoo doesn’t mean that a person is any less qualified for the position…but it shouts certain messages about their own judgment in representing themselves. I’m not knocking tattoos at all. I’m just saying the way you present yourself has a heavy bearing on how others treat you…because looks really do matter.

Street Smarts Reigns Supreme and Experience is King
We’re within an information evolution. Unlike the past, it’s at our fingertips. No longer do we have to go to the library or review outdated encyclopedias…we can click a few buttons and “BAM” – there sits anything we want to learn.

We spend hours online researching and learning; hours reading books (hopefully) and even watching educational programs on TV (ok, that was a stretch). The point is that we all have access to the same information.

Education’s New Model
Even colleges offer free online courses. Not familiar? Check out MIT’s free online courses (over 2000 of them for free!). If MIT’s program isn’t prestigious enough for you, then maybe you should consider what Yale has to offer. Many colleges offer free education as an option these days; it’s the new model. They give direct access to lectures (video), presentations (PowerPoint), and some courses even have tests (not graded, but for personal assessment).

*Disclaimer – I have no affiliation to these programs. But if I went to Yale I’d form a Secret Society for Hustlers … just sayin’!

Do you get credit hours for these free online college courses? NO WAY! You have to pay for that. And pay a hefty fee. But, you have access to the information free of charge…it actually pays you if you’re willing to take action on what you learn.

My Early Experience with the King
Approaching my final semester in college, I was desperately trying to land a job and got absolutely NO love from employers. Taking out the earrings, throwing on a tie and enunciating my words didn’t do the trick. “We’re looking for someone with a bit more experience”, is the message I received over and over again. I wondered how in the world I could get experience if I needed experience in order to gain experience. [Yeah, I was confused too!]

In time clarity surfaced: employers were seeking young candidates to go in and be of immediate value, bringing in a new perspective and a fresh appetite to “make it happen”. The college degree may have been a requirement for the job, but it wasn’t enough to get hired.

This reality led me to change my resume strategy. Instead of my theme revolving around education and a roboticly’-described employment history, I changed it to show the color of my work experience first, and loosely highlighting my education last. Albeit minimal experience, the strategy worked. Including real life scenarios that dealt with challenges and wins from my [college] call-center job was sufficient enough to get me in line with solid opportunities.

WHY IS THIS? Providing examples (experience!) of intangible qualities at work, such as deescalating irate customers, was more important than being able to recite the employee handbook section that describes how to deescalate irate customers. Catch the drift? Anyone can learn…but not everyone is willing to execute what is learned and apply it. This is a unique selling point. And this is the essence of street smarts.

Street Smarts is Supreme
Street smarts is knowledge obtained through life experience. It’s a social form of intelligence that controls our social awareness: having keen judgment and making quick decisions. We simply can’t establish the qualities that make up street smarts in any other way than experiencing life; learning from our actions and their causes and effects.

Putting the information into practices broadens your knowledge and widens your perspective. It’s the information you learn and act upon that shapes your attitude, extends our thresholds; increasing your value.

Street smart people…

…may not possess a plethora of ‘likely unneeded’ data, but they have the chops to learn and execute on the fly.
…aren’t set on theories, but trial and error of real life application or action.
…rely on their intuition to guide them. They trust their gut.
Street smarts is supreme because it’s what makes up your intangible qualities. A street smart person has the ability to make connections between different pieces of information and situations…it’s being savvy.

Street smarts is…

…practical intelligence.
…common sense-based.
….attitude and skill.

Why Experience is King
Just think… how many books have you read that you loved, found highly impacting, but never applied the knowledge to your life. Essentially, overtime, the wealth of knowledge deteriorates because it wasn’t put to use. But if you put into practice what you learn, not just theorize it, your horizons broaden at all angles. Your perspective expands, increasing your practical intelligence (street smarts) and increasing the value you can offer to the world.

The day of the armchair learner is upon us. They think they know it all…but they only know it in theory. They haven’t put a thing into practice. They profess in a regurgitating fashion because they haven’t lived it or tasted it or experienced it. I think many of us fall in line with this from time to time (I admit). But this is a wakeup call to us all. Let’s pay attention to what we learn…put it into practice…so we can then profess it with new angles, which is only discovered by experience. Why is that…

…because experience is king.

What A Trip to Disney World Taught me About Experiencing Life, Money and Creating Memories
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take a 7-night-trip with my family to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. While it seems that this post may be a little overdue, I specifically waited to write this as I allowed the experience to set in. Today I’m happy to share with you a few of the lessons I learned about life and business from our magical experience at Disney World.

Life Lessons
Creating memories. As soon as I stepped foot off the plane I knew we were in the midst of creating life-long memories. Our two year old won’t remember the details of this trip, but through pictures we’ll all be able to re-live the amazing time we had. And this holds true on a day to day basis…it doesn’t take a vacation to create lasting memories, the vacation just sweetens the deal.

Money = options. Some people don’t hold value in money, or find it important in their life. They may even call money the root to all evil. Well I don’t think that way at all. Money isn’t a bad thing. I used to have a passive attitude about money and act like it didn’t matter much to me. Well, I take all of that back. This trip showed me that a lot of money is needed to truly experience what the world has to offer. I want my kids to be well traveled, beyond Disney world, so I have to hustle.

Taking breaks from the daily grind. We stayed in what is referred to as a “value resort”, meaning it’s less expensive than some of the other resorts. I couldn’t tell from the cost, but it was clear from the amenities. Our room had two full size beds and very poor technology offering (no wifi). To top it off, my smartphone barely got reception. While it was a little frustrating initially, it turned out to be a good thing, because it forced me to take a break from my daily grind. And when I returned home, I did so fully energized.

Business Lessons
Don’t sell products and services; sell experiences. Experiences create emotions. At Disney World, everything is based on experiences that create good emotions. Every ride is prefaced with a story line, putting you at center stage. Even though some of the rides were weak (the kiddy rides), they still left a lasting impression because the overall experience was high. And as a result of Disney providing excellent and memorable experiences, millions of families visit Disney World multiple times paying thousands of dollars each trip…NOT BAD!

Leave a Lasting Impression. By now, I’m sure you catch the drift that my family has nothing but good to report from our trip. The only complaint that I can come up with is that Orlando is incredibly hot and humid, and maybe the size of our room. These are pretty weak complaints considering I could have changed our room size by paying more and avoided the heat by going earlier (or later) in the year. So basically, no complaints…this lasting impression will surely result in us returning in the future.

Innovative offerings. Disney provides a plethora of park photographers that politely offer to take free pictures with their high powered cameras. Here’s the brilliant catch: they give you a card called a Photo Pass and download the pictures to the card. You can later review all pics taken over your entire Disney trip (all theme parks) from that one card, from the convenience of your own home. And in typical Disney fashion, the pictures aren’t cheap. Even though we took about 800 of our own pictures, of course the photographer’s pictures where some of the best. Why? Because they know exactly where to get the best photos including popular landmarks…plus all of their pictures included the entire family.

Disney sells an experience, not a product or service. While some theme parks and vacation destinations sell their offerings as a commodity, Disney doesn’t. This gives them the ability to charge the full value for what they believe their services are worth; allowing them to create the experience to keep their customers amazed and coming back.

Prior to this trip, I never made the separation between paying for things and for experiences. I get the difference now. Experiences last forever (memories)!

Being the Standard and Creating a Lasting Impression
Your appearance and overall presentation is what drives people’s first impression of you. But it’s your performance that creates the lasting impression. This is important because the lasting impression that you leave could be your conduit to new opportunities.

Last Thursday I concluded my service with my biggest client that I’ve been working with for the past two years.

side note: I’m not self-employed, but I manage my career in the corporate space as an entrepreneur manages their business. My employer is my client. Sounds a little strange/different – but this is my approach. [More on this in the future]

This past Monday I started a new assignment with a new client (new employer).

On the day I left my previous job, I received a number of emails from my peers congratulating me for my new opportunity…all normal and common stuff for a departing co-worker leaving under good conditions. Well, wrapped within all of the emails I received the following (verbatim):

“Thanks a lot for setting the bar and leaving….now we have to live up to it…”

The guy who sent me this email is the guy to get a hold of when you need to cut corners, and when you need to figure out ways to do the bare minimum and stay off the radar while doing so. He sent me this note not out of the goodness of his heart, but because he despises me for raising the bar that he now has to work under.

But most of my peers appreciated my contributions to the team. I’m 99% positive that I will cross paths with many of them in the future by way of opportunity referrals. And the upper management countered my offer to keep me (which I declined). They even offered to have me back in the future in an elevated role.

I left a lasting impression. And it wasn’t by accident…it was by design.

It’s Really Not that Hard Being the Standard
I learned early that a good portion of people work really hard at figuring out the minimum amount of work that they can do to get by. There’s a high interest in flying under the radar. Some folks are fine with being average and blending within mediocrity. They don’t care about progression…they just want to keep what they have; nothing more, nothing less. And to top it off, negative-talk normally floods the office.

When I discovered this as a young adult, I made it for me, what home runs were to Bonds and McGuire (but without cheating…no BALCO, HGH, steroids…nada). I made high-performance the staple of my personal brand. And for me high-performance is exceeding expectations by giving 110% effort and not wasting energy trying to do the minimum.

The Rewards for Being the Standard
Being the standard creates a lasting impression which leads to opportunities.

My brother Jamon (can’t seem to find a more updated profile), who graduated from college a few weeks ago has been working the same city and county construction job for the last three summers. His goal was to keep this job, but only while he finds another that allows him to benefit from his newly earned degree. He DOES NOT like his current line of work; it’s hot, hard labor and not what he’d want to do more than 2-3 more months.

Well, just last week a manager approached him with a new opportunity for an Inspector position where he’d be responsible for managing multi-million dollar projects. And what do you know, this opportunity came to him because of the following:

Working harder than everyone else.
Not complaining, despite working in tough conditions and a dangerous environment.
Having a voice and using it. He’s not afraid to say “no” when asked to perform unsafe practices.
Being a leader. Even though he isn’t in a leadership role, his work ethic and attitude position him in the light of a leader amongst his peers.
Showing an interest in progression. He made it known that he wanted more…and his actions proved it.
Jamon is only a temporary/seasonal employee and he’s been sought after over full-time employees who’ve been with the company for years.

He became the standard and made a lasting impression!

In addition to his current opportunity, he has others lined up from his job search. He spent an incredible amount of time working on his resume and designing it in a way that tells his story; the person, the student, his work experience, being a college athlete and what that combination can provide to prospective employers (he has a decent coach [wink/wink]). And he’s drawing interest wherever he applies.

So here he is sitting on a number of opportunities. Instead of waiting on luck, he’s manufacturing his own luck by hard work. In my eyes, and with no bias (yeah right), he’s setting the standard for the new college grad who has to incorporate some hustle to ensure that he stands outside of the box of competition.

What it Means to Be the Standard?
If you were a long distance runner, it would be your pace that others try to run at. If you were a student, it would be your grade that the grading curve was based on. Essentially, being the standard is a combination of high-performance, a pleasant attitude and stellar leadership.

PERFORMANCE. You purposely set the performance standard that must be followed by others. For instance, if you’re in sales and the team average for closing deals is three per month, well, you exceed that number on a consistent basis showing that the bar was set too low (without saying a word – your performance speaks for you). This may ruffle the feathers of your peers initially (like the email I shared above), but in the end, you create a lasting impression; showing that your personal brand represents high-performance. This gets the attention of leadership and has the potential to put you in line with new opportunities.

The “performance/being standard” philosophy applies regardless of the line of work. It’s not the easy route. The easy route is blending in with mediocrity, which has far less benefits.

ATTITUDE. It’s about more than just raising the bar of performance. Also tied in is the ability to be pleasant despite the possibility of being in a negative environment. This alone has gotten me promotions with significant pay increases. There’s something about being a source of good energy.

LEADERSHIP. When you’re a high-performer with a pleasant attitude; it’s only a matter of time until you develop a following that wants a taste of the success that you’ve achieved. It’s a great position to help put others in the best position possible. This sets up great karma as you work your way to the top. Taking another person under your wing gets noticed especially when you can help them become a standard in their own light.

I spoke heavily from work-related experience in this post, but the philosophy applies to life in general. We get back what we put out. If we’re lazy, and give half effort – we’ll get half of what we’re after. Imagine being on the receiving end of opportunities because you’ve left your mark, autographed by excellence.

Be the standard. Create a lasting impression.
Experience the new opportunities that come as a result.

The Side Hustle
A side hustle is simply a part-time business–it’s nothing new. But it is a great way for people that aspire to start their own business, to do so without having to commit all of their time and resources into one bucket. The ultimate goal is to start the side hustle small and grow it into a full-time business over time.

Starting a business is a major commitment and requires a lot of time. For this reason, many that aspire to embark in this area don’t take action because they think in the lines of all or nothing; either quitting their job to start a business or just hope for a lucky opportunity to arise.

Having a job shouldn’t keep us from moving our goals forward.

Prime Candidates for a Side Hustle
Everybody is a candidate. However, I believe that the prime candidates are those who have a main/steady source of income already in line. This includes a 9-5′ers, or business owners.

9-5′ers. One of the beauties of most 9-5 jobs is that work starts at 9am and stops at 5pm (or whenever you start/shut down each day). Besides whatever life has in store for you outside of business hours, you can carve out time to dedicate specifically to your side hustle.

Business Owners. Business owners that have a solid operation and are able to approach their business like a job and not a baby (requiring around the clock attention) are ideal candidates for implementing a side hustle.

Chasing the next check is a commonality for many small business owners–which typically takes up most of their time. Anyone in this position is not a prime candidate. Why? Well because their time is better spent on the development of their main source of income.

Again, everybody is a candidate, but not everybody is a prime candidate.

Why Start a Side Hustle (Part Time Business) Over a Full-Time Business?
It’s all about resources. Again, most people can’t afford to just quit their full-time job. So, a side hustle allows a person to grow their business and strengthen their operation over a longer course of time–without having to assume the full load of a traditional/full-time startup.

[Some] Important Considerations

– PACE. You dedicate a chunk of time to your side hustle each day or week. There’s no requirement to work around the clock. It’s also important to note that developing and managing a business at a slower pace will likely create a slower growth rate.
SKILL DEVELOPMENT. Since this isn’t a full-time gig, you have the time to develop the skills needed to establish an effective operation.
– SECURITY. Nurturing a business on the side can potentially become a significant source of income.
– LONGEVITY. This can one day be your sole source of employment.
– RISK. There’s a chance that your business won’t be viable. This is a potential for any business, both full time and part time. Risks should be understood (calculated) but not avoided.
– RESOURCES. When business picks up, you may find that you have more than you can handle yourself. It’s wise to build a team of people that you can outsource work to.
Don’t Get Caught in the Negative Web

This part goes completely left. But I think it’s important to mention…

There are a number of websites online that are dedicated specifically to whining about their 9-5 jobs. They have aspirations to become entrepreneurs but choose to spend their time complaining about how much they hate their job, but do nothing about it. Don’t get caught in that trap. Joining those pity parties will surely keep your situation as is.

I admit, I found myself starting to take part in that nonsense earlier this year. Upon my discovery that I was going down that track, I stopped wasting my time and I started thinking about what would become my side hustle…

My Side Hustle
You may have noticed a decrease in postings here over the past few months. To my fellow bloggers–you may have noticed a decrease in my presence at your website over the past few months. Well, it wasn’t a result of laziness. I’ve been working on the development of my own side hustle called GROWTHEFFECT.COM–a web design and digital marketing company that focuses on helping small businesses capture the eye of their local markets. As I’ve developed this business (still in final stages of development), I’ve done so by dedicating scheduled blocks of time to it, while maintaining my 9-5 job.

It’s been an interesting, fun, challenging and educational journey. Not only have I had to build the back-end operations, team, legal stuff, website (still under development) but I’ve had to do so while managing everything else in life. I’ve been able to make this happen by following a very deliberate schedule, which included a decrease of time spent in some of my other endeavors.

It’s not a race. The side hustle is the crockpot version of developing a business…not the microwave version.

It’s become common these days for people to take action after getting laid off, or some other life-changing event. But why wait…make a move while momentum is on your side.