Teaching Character

I want my kids to be smart and successful, but I also want them to be good. I want them to be the kind of people other parents would like to see their kids marry. I also want them to make sound,values-based decisions that will help them be safe and happy.

So, like most parents, I spend a lot of time trying to instill in them virtues like honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, and kindness.

But building character is more complicated than teaching math or manners. It involves the heart as well as the head. The goal is to make good thoughts and conduct a matter of habit. I want my children to know what’s good, want what’s good, and do what’s good.

Effective character building is captured in the acronym T.E.A.M. – teach, enforce, advocate, and model.

We teach character by promoting and developing the values and ethical virtues that make up a good person – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. We need to be sure kids understand what each of these traits look like.

We entrench these values by enforcing them, by backing up our rhetoric with appropriate consequences. What you allow, you encourage.

Advocating values means passionately and relentlessly stating our commitment to good character so our children have no doubt what we want for them and expect from them.

Finally, and most crucial, we must teach positive values by example, modeling the virtues we want to see in our children. We teach values by the way we deal with pressures, frustrations, fatigue, and other everyday actions, especially what we say and do when we think no one’s looking.

This is to remind you that character counts.


Starting Your Own Business…

Starting your own business may sound like an undertaking of epic proportions. The truth is, it’s not.

Yes, you’re going to have to work hard, and commit to working on it at all hours of the day, but actually getting set up is simply down to making sure you’ve “checked all the boxes,” which is exactly what this business startup checklist aims to help you do.

I’ve broken the tasks down into manageable categories and included links that will help you complete each stage of getting started.

1. Find a good business idea

A good business idea isn’t just one that turns a profit. It’s one that’s a good fit for you personally, for your target market, and for your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you can live and breathe.

• Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself

What is a SWOT analysis?

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. As the name implies, it is an organized list of your business’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

The purpose of a SWOT analysis is to help you develop a strong business strategy by making sure you’ve identified and considered all of your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats it faces in the marketplace. We’ve created a downloadable, SWOT analysis guide that will help you plan and grow your business better. 

Come up with a business idea that caters to your strengths

How to start inventing things (or how to find something to invent)

• Define what success looks like for you

• Do your research: What are popular businesses today?

2. Test your business idea and do market research*

The adage goes, “ideas are a dime a dozen”—but what about good ideas? How do you really know you’ve hit upon something that’s going to work on all levels?

We use the lean planning methodology to figure this out. Of course, you may also want to start by getting out and talking to real people—do they really want a fancy Basque restaurant in their neighborhood or is another donut shop going to be more to their taste?

Define the “problem” your business is solving

• Summarize the “solution” your business offers

• How urgently do people need what you are selling?

Will your business continue to be relevant as time passes? How will you adapt?

Define your target market

Define your ideal customer

• What’s your market size?

• How easy is it to acquire a customer, and how much will it cost?

• Figure out the best place to set up shop

• What advantages does your solution have over your competitors?

• How much money and effort will it cost to deliver value?

Do you know your industry?

• Outline the team that will help you execute your idea

• What key responsibilities will each team member have?

• Will team members share ownership of the business?

• Create a basic financial plan

• What up-front investment will you need before you can begin?

Estimate your basic expenses and forecast sales to ensure that you can make a profit with your business

Map out business milestones or goals and when you plan to achieve them

• How long will it take to get to market?

Validate your idea

• Interview potential customers to ensure that they have the problem you are trying to solve

• Interview potential customers to validate that your solution is something your customers will pay for

• Determine if your initial price points will work for your customers

* While we advise students and new entrepreneurs to do market research before they start, we’d like to clarify that you should not let “doing market research” hold you up if you already know your market. The reality is, the vast majority of real startups are driven by people who know their market from experience and who are ready to bet the farm on it! Market research does not have to be a part of the business planning process.“If you know your market, move on!”

New Year’s Resolutions and Why We Should Stop Making Them…

It’s New Year’s Day seems like the perfect time to begin your new goals and vision. Everyone around the world is celebrating, emotions are high, and the earth is to bloom into revived life over the next few months. Most of us will ride the wave and make a few resolutions, promising ourselves that we’re going to get out of debt, lose weight, or simply reinvent ourselves.

We do all of this and by end of February, we fail. We forget all those promises for losing weight, getting out of debt, or reinventing ourselves.

Making New Year’s resolutions is an old habit of the human race, extending all the way back to the ancient Babylonians, who were making resolutions over 4,000 years ago. They made promises to their gods to pay off debts and returned borrowed items—promises that, if kept, were thought to flatter the gods in the coming year.

There’s another reason we’ve been making resolutions for so long. The very nature of celebrating the New Year brings our faults to the limelight. The season is changing, the year is turning, and the feeling of inconsistency reminds us that we have a chance to begin again.

“Resolutions are a way of erasing the mistakes of the past through the promise of a better future.”

Even though we’ve had over 4,000 years of practice, we’re exceptionally bad at keeping these promises to ourselves. While 41 percent of Americans make a habit of outlining New Year’s resolutions, only about 5% will keep them.

Why is that? Why do we continually make the same promises to ourselves year after year, only to fail time and time again?

It’s simple: we’re imprisoning ourselves to change one day a year.

Humans are creatures of habit and hope. We get caught up in the motivating emotion of the New Year, thinking we can do anything. We make promises, intending to keep them. But when that emotion wears off, our motivation disappears. We stop going to the gym. We start overspending again.

So what’s the trick to sticking to our guns throughout the entire year rather than misfiring by the end of February?

We need self-discipline.

Consider this. There are two types of writers—professionals and amateurs. Amateur writers have only a fraction of the output of the pros. Why?

Because they wait for inspiration to strike. They sit and stare out the window, awaiting the romance and intrigue of that Perfect Moment—that instant when the rays of sunlight align just right, when a swarm of butterflies swirl past, when the clouds arrange themselves into sacred shapes.

In other words, they do nothing.

Professional writers, on the other hand, work constantly. They place butts on seats and set fingers to keyboards. They don’t need the extra emotion of the Perfect Moment. For them, every moment is the Perfect Moment, because they’re not running on emotion; they’re running on discipline.

Resolution makers are those amateur writers, working only in the heat of the moment, and then stopping as soon as it’s over.

Don’t be an amateur resolution-maker. Be a pro. I’m going to share a few steps of what you can do instead.

Make Goals Year-Round

Don’t confine your major goal making to New Year’s Day. When you see a need in your life, make a promise to yourself to fill it.

That means, if you notice that your pile of debt is beginning to get out of control around mid-year, make a July resolution. If you start putting on some Thanksgiving pounds, make a November resolution.

Make these resolutions with the same eagerness and candor that you would feel on New Year’s Day. Remember every month, every day, every hour, and every breath is a new beginning.

Take advantage of them all.

Rely on Discipline

The biggest mistake most people make is relying on emotions to motivate them.

Emotions are erratic. They change and flow like sand dunes in the wind. Would you build your house on a foundation of sand?

No you wouldn’t. You’d build it on solid rock. And what’s more solid than iron will?

Willpower is a muscle like any other it can be weakened through discontinuance, or strengthened through regular practice. And the output of strong will is self-discipline, which is the factor that will have you keeping your resolutions past the dreaded February mark and on through the rest of the year for the rest of your life.

Discipline helps us build good habits, and good habits build good lifestyles. Emotion alone cannot do this for us.

Start With Small, Well-Defined Goals

The best way to initially build self-discipline is to set small, easily-attainable goals. Whether you want to lose weight or become more socially active or learn how to repair your car, start small.

Once you make a habit of making small promises to yourself and keeping them, you can move on to bigger and better things.

A great way to ensure you keep these promises is to make them straight forward. Don’t say to yourself, “I’m going to lose weight.” That could mean anything, and the concept of anything is paralyzing.

Instead, tell yourself that you’re going to walk for an hour a day or do a particular workout three days a week at the gym or at home. Tell yourself that you’re going to start using something like a envelope system to better manage your money. Proclaim that you’re going to go out on a date with your spouse every Friday.

When you lay out the details of a goal, you make it real. And real is far easier to follow than unreliable.

Be Consistent

So you’re making resolutions all year round, you’re starting small and straight forward, and you’re building discipline and willpower. That’s great. But there’s one last thing you need.


You can’t stop when things get difficult and they will. The key to consistency is being honest with yourself upfront. It’s going to be hard to keep going to the gym. Tell yourself that. It’s going to be difficult to save your money instead of going out to see that movie you’ve been waiting for.

But being consistent means making the right choices over and over again not just in the days directly after the New Year.

To do this, you need to eliminate negative thought patterns. Don’t let yourself dwell on how hard a resolution is to keep. Accept that it is hard, and move on. Think on the benefits, on how pleased your future self will be that you actually achieved it.

Finally, hold yourself accountable. If you can’t, get a friend to hold you accountable. Get several friends. People who talk about their resolutions are 10 times more likely to keep them.

Stay positive, stay honest, and stay accountable. There, you’ll find consistency.

A New You

When the next New Year’s Day rolls around, you’re not going to do a thing. Do you know why? Because your resolutions will have already been made. You’ll be ahead of the game, and far ahead of your friends as they make their easily-broken promises to themselves.

So endeavor to break the 4,000 year chain of failure. Don’t worry about New Year’s resolutions anymore, and you’ll soon join the 5 percent of people who actually succeed in reinventing themselves.

3 Questions To Ask Yourself When You’re Lacking Motivation

When you’re feeling unmotivated, ask yourself these three simple yet powerful questions.
If you feel like you’re in a bit of slump right now, you’re not alone. These unmotivated, uninspired times can occur when we lose our focus and rush through our day-to-day life without a grounding intention. And they can happen to anyone, usually taking us by surprise.

It’s so easy to do. When I’m just trudging along, I often think everything is fine — telling myself, “Hey, I’m just trying to get through the week!” Then all of a sudden, in a random moment of clarity — on the drive home, waiting in line for a sandwich, or lying in bed at night — I notice that I feel demotivated, lost, and even a little sad.

What can you do in these down moments? Tune into your intuition — don’t silence that little voice. And ask yourself these three simple yet powerful questions.

What isn’t working?

No matter how busy you are, if you suddenly realize you’re in a slump, something is not working for you — personally or professionally. Are you working in a job you hate? Are you neglecting your health? Are you serving someone else’s needs and not your own?

Ask yourself what’s missing. Go deep and identify what it is that’s lacking in your life. In a few moments of concentrated silence, your inner voice will tell you. Listen to it.

What is my why?

When you lose your “why” in life, you’re like a ship in the ocean without a destination, at the mercy of the elements and external forces. A truly fulfilling life is lived from the inside out. What is your why for being here on earth? Why are you dating this person, working so hard on that project, or neglecting your dreams?

So rarely we ask ourselves this crucial question: What is my why, my intention, my goal? I remind myself of my why whenever I face the sting of rejection. My why keeps me on track and allows me to get over the bumps in the road, which are part of the process when you are building anything worthwhile — an entrepreneurial venture, a creative pursuit, a healthier body. Your why is what keeps you going.

What do I need to do now?

A hard truth in life is that nothing works until we do. Action is the only thing that can get you out of a slump. Action is the ultimate antidote to worry, fear, and procrastination. You don’t have to build Rome in a day either. You can boost your energy with a simple task, like tidying your desk, taking a walk, or just getting around to those overdue errands.

Motion creations emotion and momentum — two critical factors that are dormant during a slump.

One of my clients recently cleaned out her closet, which propelled a much larger action plan in her life regarding her career. Just doing one thing that was cleansing and constructive got her moving.

The enemy of a slump is activity. And one small step at a time adds up to real transformation. For my client, one positive change on a random Saturday in her home paved the road for more positive changes that are happening right now in her office.

Once you’ve answered these questions, ask yourself: “What small step can I take today?” Then get on your way! Your future self is high-fiving you from afar.