4 Tips for Creating Success in Small Business

4 Tips for Creating Success in Small Business

4 Tips For Creating Success in Small Business

It’s hard to be successful.

If success it was easy, everyone would be rolling it. The truth is, it’s hard to run a small business regardless of the type. Ask anyone who owns a restaurant, a landscaping company, a real estate agency, or a veterinary clinic. Ask anyone who makes a living as a writer, or a plumber, or a hair stylist. Anyone who is self-employed. Are you one of these people? Are you struggling to keep things going? You’re not alone!

One of my favorite quotes is this: Experience is something you get ten minutes after you needed it. Even if you have a great mentor, a great coach, a solid support team, and sufficient resources to do whatever it is that you do, you still have to figure it out as you go. You still have to jump in the deep end every day and learn how to swim, especially in the early years. You can and should seek guidance, but the only way to fully learn it is to do it. As they say: experience is the best teacher. Here are 4 tips to help you along the way.

  1. Realize that Hard and Bad do not mean the same thing.

Hard: adjective. Difficult to do or accomplish; fatiguing

If you are considering going into business for yourself, whether part-time or full-time, you need to know a few things. Arguably the most important thing to know is that it’s going to be hard, but that’s okay. You’re going to work harder and struggle more than you ever have, but that’s okay. It’s the nature of the beast. Hard does not mean bad. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It just means you have to want it more than anything else.

One of the reasons it’s hard is that you are often isolated and alone. As social creatures, we rely on one another for input on everything. When you are running the show, there’s no supervisor to turn to for guidance, no one to offer an opinion or give you feedback. This can be scary, and it can be stressful. It’s important to build a network of professional contacts that you can engage with, and it’s really important to find a mentor of some kind. A mentor is someone who has done what you are trying to do, and can give you expert guidance. These people may not be there for you in the moment, but they’re there for you to follow up with later, and that’s a huge help.

  1. Don’t rely on the friends and family network for feedback

When you need honest, objective advice, don’t expect to get it from your friends and family. Their job is to support you, not your business. They are going to be concerned about hurting your feelings, and will often be incapable of telling you what you need to hear. That’s why you need to be part of a peer group. There are a lot of Facebook groups for whatever it is that you do, and strangers who know your line of work can give you invaluable insight into your situation with blunt honesty. They have the expertise to help your business, and the emotional detachment to tell you the truth.

It takes some time and experience to develop the thick skin required to hear the truth without being devastated by it. We need to know if we are making a colossal mistake, and it can hurt to find that out, especially when we have put our heart and soul into something. However, if you want to put your very best out there, and maximize your chances of success, this is something you have to learn to embrace. This is especially true when we are trying to do our own marketing and create our own advertisements.

  1. Embrace Structure

Some people are naturally inclined to be structured, and some people are naturally inclined to be chaotic. It’s important to know which way you are wired. If you are a chaos person, you will have to work extra hard to be successful. It’s still doable, but you have to create some structure for yourself.

Structure is important in a business for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, you need to keep track of every penny that comes and goes through your business, and that’s no easy task. I’m fortunate in that I enjoy bookkeeping, and I’m naturally very organized (some call it OCD, but I know where everything is, and my books are always up-to-date). If you struggle with this, you need to either design a strict regimen that you hold yourself to, or you need to hire someone to do it for you. Taking a bucket filled with a year’s receipts, credit card statements, and bank statements to a CPA and hoping to get your taxes done is not the best way to handle it. If you don’t know how to use QuickBooks, which means inputting every expense and income item, and reconciling all of the accounts each month, you need to do yourself a favor and learn how. Take a class, or find someone to teach you. It’s important.

Other structure points are important, too. You need to make lists of things that need to be done today, this week, and this month, and make sure you use and update them. You should create a checklist for recurring tasks so that nothing gets overlooked. Use a calendar on your phone to remind you of upcoming things. Don’t rely on your memory to keep your business running.

  1. Commit to Continuous Improvement

Society, business, technology, and processes change constantly, and you have to evolve with it or you will get left behind. There are a lot of resources out there that will help you get better at everything you do. There’s no reason to be an army of one, blundering around learning every lesson the hard way. Seek out other people who are doing what you do, and build a network of professional contacts. Share notes, share experiences, and help each other grow. You can find professional groups on MeetUp, Facebook, and other online forums. Your local Chamber of Commerce can also guide you toward local resources.

Another great way to learn more about running your business is to subscribe to podcasts. If you don’t regularly listen to podcasts, you are missing out on a huge free resource. Find a podcast app for your phone (I use Stitcher, but it can be any of them), and browse the Business topics until you find Entrepreneurs. In this category, there are some terrific weekly podcasts like Finding Mastery, StoryBrand, and Entreleadership, just to name a few. You can even listen to past episodes, which I highly recommend doing. These podcasts are filled with interviews of successful people, and you can learn a hundred lifetime’s worth of experiences by listening to them, and tweak your own business practices with what you learn.

Life, which includes running your business, is a journey. It’s all about taking each step, and making it better than the step before it. The destination is important, but the process of getting there is where your focused energy has to be applied. Always be willing to learn, and never assume that you know everything that you need to know. Now then, let’s get to work! (You can start by subscribing to this blog in the box below).

 

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Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

How To Increase Your Financial IQ

How To Increase Your Financial IQ

How To Increase Your Financial IQ

We all know about IQ, and what you’ve got is what you’ve got. Some of you may know about EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, and this is something that we all need to improve on, but that’s a topic for another blog. Today we’re going to talk about Financial IQ, or FQ. I wanted to title it Financial Understanding Quotient, but suggesting that you may have a lousy FUQ seemed like it could be taken wrong, so we’ll stick with FQ.

Understand Your Spending Habits

The first thing you need to realize is that most people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want. They buy what makes them feel good. Go to any gas station and park for an hour and people-watch. You’ll see beater cars that are falling apart, and the driver will go inside and get a pack of smokes, a case of beer, and a handful of lottery tickets. If you go ask that guy about getting a better car, he’ll tell you he can’t afford a car payment. He doesn’t realize that he has a $400-a-month gas station habit that’s keeping him out of a decent ride.

Another common thing is spending everything we make: buying the most expensive house/car we can afford, moving up to the next cable package when we get a raise, etc. Half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings. We live in a consumption culture, so we’re doing exactly what we’ve been trained to do, but it’s not in our best interests to live this way.

Where Does It Go?

There are some basic categories that our general purchases fall into. Analyze each thing you buy, and see which of the following categories it fits into:

Essentials: Real food from the grocery store, gas, house payment, electricity, insurance, medicine, car repairs, a new washing machine when the old one dies, and things like that. These are not expenses that we can avoid, nor are they frivolous in nature.

Feel Good: Starbucks, soda, Gatorade, booze, restaurants, unnecessary clothes, movies, cable TV, vacations, make-up, manicures, books, hobby things, etc

There’s nothing wrong with buying some Feel Good things, but you need to be smart about how often you buy, and where you are getting things. If you are trying to save money, or shrink your budget, you need to limit your Feel Good purchases. Lots of people are visual leaners, so using a budgeting tool can help you see how much you’re spending on these things every month, and where you can make some changes. There are some great free budget spreadsheets available through Excel, and other online resources.

Emotional Buy: This is the shop-aholic, compulsive spender, “but it was on sale, I had to buy it” person. The goods/services purchased were not necessary except to make you feel better temporarily.

It’s important to know why you’re buying something, and just to be clear, the fact that it was on sale is not a good reason to buy something. Is it an emotional buy? Are you feeling down/sad/mad/hurt, and subconsciously you know that buying yourself something frivolous will make you feel better? These purchases are often followed by guilt or remorse. That’s an addiction thing, just like drinking or drugs. Be honest with yourself about your motives, and if you have a problem, get some help. There are 12-step groups that are free and effective.

Status Buy: Things that you buy to impress other people.

Some of the things we buy are pure ego. We buy them to affect how other people perceive us. One of the current fads I see people throwing large amounts of money at is the jacked-up truck with massive tires, custom rims, and the back end slammed to the ground. This is a pure Status Buy, because it has absolutely no other function. Other things would be expensive/high fashion clothes and accessories, tech gadgets, expensive watches, jewelry, cars, etc. The money spent on things in this category would be better spent on counseling so that you don’t need to buy things to impress other people.

Impulse/ Bad Buy: Anything at a gas station except gas, high-interest financing (Rent-to-Own places, payday loans, title loans, bad car loans, credit card debt), anything you can’t afford but buy anyway, recreational drugs, etc

I have a friend who is addicted to gas stations. He goes 2 or 3 times a day and gets something to drink, and maybe a granola bar or a pack of cigarettes. For what he spends in a day at the gas station, he could buy in bulk at a grocery store and it would last him a week or longer. He’s wasting at least $300 a month, and he could save that without cutting his consumption simply by buying smart and breaking a habit. My advice? Pay at the pump, and don’t ever go inside a gas station.

Anything that’s on the Bad Buy list needs to be dealt with. Paying off credit card debt is paramount to financial freedom. As your Financial IQ increases and your buying habits improve, then you won’t need to finance things with high interest rates, or take out payday loans.

Create New Spending Habits As You Build Your Financial IQ

Being conscious of your actions will help you increase your Financial IQ. Get in the habit of categorizing everything you buy, whether it’s at a store or online. What kind of purchase is it? If it’s a non-essential, reconsider it. Again, there’s nothing wrong with buying Feel Good things, but if it’s going to negatively impact your budget or your goals, then you always have the option of putting it back. It will still be there later. If it’s an Emotional, Status, or Impulse buy, just don’t do it.

Set some financial goals, and make a savings plan for the money you’re now going to have. Put a specific amount into your savings account, or your 401K, or your coffee can in the freezer every payday. Only 25% of Americans have more than $8,000 in savings, and that’s the quarter you want to be a part of!

Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

Living VS Existing

Do you ever meet people who seem to have an amazing life, with exciting activities and various things going on all the time? Most of us know someone like that. Now, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: do you know anyone who doesn’t do anything other than work (if they have a job), watch TV, and sleep? Most of us know lots of people like that. For some people, existing is enough; it’s all they want out of life. For some of us, existing isn’t enough; we need more.

Life happens outside your comfort zone. If you want more out of life, then you have to be ready to step away from the same old, same old; you have to be willing to do things you’ve never done before, learn knew things, meet new people, explore the unknown. This is a scary experience. You’re going to feel uncomfortable and nervous, like you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s okay! That means you’re doing it right.

Jump in the Deep End

Whatever it is that you want to do, the only way to do it is to do it. If you want to start playing soccer with the open league on Saturdays, the only way to do it is to go to the field on Saturday and get involved. There’s nothing wrong with doing research, don’t get me wrong. With some things, proper research is critical.

The trap lies within the tendency to “research” whatever it is indefinitely, and never actually get started. We judge ourselves by our intentions (rather than our actions), so it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re living, doing stuff, getting more out of life, etc, when all we’re really doing is thinking about it. So, set a timeframe that’s realistic, learn what you need to learn, and get started.

Judge Not…

There are two ways to fool yourself about how you’re doing. One is to measure yourself against someone who is a master at what you want to do. The other is to measure yourself against someone who is a novice at what you want to do. Neither one of these is an accurate way to measure how you are doing.

The only true way to measure your progress is to measure yourself against yourself. Where are you at now compared to six months ago? A year ago? If you’re in the same place, then you haven’t improved much. That’s okay if you are where you want to be. For me, I have a long way to go. However, as I write this, I’m miles ahead of where I was last year at this time.

For example: a year ago, I had just completed my first book, Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband. I didn’t know that I needed beta readers to help me find and fix problems with the writing before I moved forward with it. I didn’t know how to find an agent or an editor (or if I even needed one), I didn’t know that my writing skills were lacking, I didn’t know how to do anything that I wanted to do to get my book published. So, I went to a writer’s seminar, where I met some people. I joined a writer’s group. I began building a network of contacts. I went to a major writer’s conference, where I learned all kinds of things and met some industry professionals. I found online resources that taught me a lot about the processes. I planned and wrote two more books, each better than the first one. I learned things, I improved my process, and I expanded my network.

If I measure myself against Stephen King, then I am a failure. If I measure myself against someone who has written a rough manuscript but doesn’t know what to do next, then I am doing great. Neither one of these are accurate, though, and they don’t tell me how I’m doing.

In 1 year, my circle of writing people has increased from 1 to over 75. My knowledge on the craft of writing has increased tremendously. My experience has increased through the writing of 2 more books. My knowledge about the publishing process has increased significantly. My goals for 2018 outline a very specific process for getting my 3 manuscripts turned into published books by this time next year. Next year, I should be able to compare where I’m at then to where I was at when I wrote this blog and see major forward progress. That’s how I accurately measure myself.

Life Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

You must accept that change is the name of the game. If you want your life to be different in some way, then you can’t be resistant to change. It sounds like an obvious point, but you have to be conscious about it, because most of us are naturally resistant to change. One of the best tools I’ve found for this is listening to podcasts for small businesses. Some of them, such as StoryBrand and Social Media Marketing (two great podcasts, free tip!) interview top-level business coaches and business leaders every week. I have learned an immense amount from the very best experts about things I didn’t even know I needed to know.

One of the things they say all the time is that life happens outside your comfort zone. Top CEO’s of major corporations talk about feeling like they’re in over their head, and how they learned how to keep on going from someone else. How to avoid becoming paralyzed by fear. These are things I need to know as a small business owner, because I deal with them, too. Guess what? I’ve found all sorts of ways to apply things I learn from those people to seemingly unrelated things, like my website development business, my writing, and my personal life. It’s all tied together, and I don’t have to learn all the lessons in life the hard way. I can learn from others, and podcasts are a fantastic resource for that.

It Never Ends

Life is all about the journey. The journey, at least for some of us, is all about growing, improving, learning, becoming better, doing more, and living. I want more, and I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to make that happen. You can, too. You can develop the discipline and the knowledge to do what you want to do, be who you want to be. You can start today. You can start right now. Go. Do. Be. Live.

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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Set Yourself Up For Success

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set Yourself Up For Success

Set yourself up for success: it sounds obvious, right? No one is going to intentionally set themselves up for failure, right? Wrong. We do it all the time. Self-doubt, or lack of confidence, makes us do things that keep us from succeeding. That’s right, we take specific action to avoid succeeding at something we want. We believe that we can’t do any better than we’re doing. We don’t think we have what it takes. No one in our family has done it. Our friends don’t support us. Whatever. We have an endless list of reasons.

Inaction is an Action

One of the most common forms of self-sabotage is doing nothing. Opportunity comes knocking, we deliberate, we hem-haw around, we fantasize, and opportunity leaves. Then we either get depressed about how good things might have been, or we go the sour grapes route and tell ourselves it probably wouldn’t have been very good anyway.

It’s also very common for our friends and family to keep us down. They tell us that we can’t do it, and that we shouldn’t try. They remind us of all the times we’ve already tried and failed. They mean well, as they’re just trying to protect us from failure and pain, but they are doing us more harm than good. Sometimes doing more in life means changing out some of the people in our life. Growing pains.

Develop An Attitude of Gratitude

The first thing you need to do to set yourself up for success is check your attitude. Do you find that you are critical, dubious, and skeptical of everything that’s outside your bubble? If so, you need to start retraining your brain to think positively instead of negatively. That sounds hard, and that’s because it is hard. I know, because I did it. I was one of those people that could find a fault with anything, and a reason to pass up on every opportunity. Guess what? I got tired of living and thinking that way, so I changed. You can, too.

Know Thyself

If you haven’t taken a Myers-Briggs personality assessment, you need to do that today. It takes about 15 minutes, and it will help you for the rest of your life. In a nutshell, there are 16 personality types. Once you know which one you are, then you read up on the characteristics of your personality type (another 10 minutes). That 25-minute investment will help you gain self-awareness, which will guide you to make better decisions based on your tendencies.

For example, I am an INFJ. I know that I am extremely idealistic, which is the core of my personality type. Therefore, I’m never going to be successful trying to scam people. I’m not even going to be a good salesperson, because if I don’t believe in something 100%, I’m not going to be able to push it. I also know that I put 150% effort into everything I do, and therefore I need for my job to matter. Knowing my personality type keeps me out of the wrong career fields.

You can take the free assessment online at www.16personalities.com

set yourself up for successWalk Through The Fear

One of the things I was amazed to learn is that everyone experiences fear, even successful people. The thing is, successful people don’t get mired down in the fear. They acknowledge it and keep on going. My mentor was fond of using a reference from one of the darkest points in our country’s history to nail home the point. He said, you gotta keep walking. When you hear the dogs barking, you keep walking. When you hear the men shouting, you keep walking. When you see the torches burning, you keep walking. You gotta keep walking to be free.

It’s about sticking with it, and not giving up. Persistence, tenacity, determination. Refusing to quit when it gets hard, or scary. It’s always going to be hard and scary, and that’s okay. Fear should keep us from touching the hot stove, but it shouldn’t keep us from going in the kitchen. Recognize it as a tool instead of a master.

Believe In Yourself

If you really want to set yourself up for success, you have to believe that you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Most people won’t ever even come close to achieving what they’re capable of. Therefore, you shouldn’t do what most people do. Find a mentor, someone who has what you want, and do what they do. Learn from them. See that they are just a person like you, and that you can do anything they have done, and maybe more.

Michael Phelps isn’t a super-human, he’s a guy that lives up to his potential and swims through the fear. He acts, he takes opportunities. He believes in himself, and he accepts that failure is part of it, and that it’s okay to fail. He tries anyway. How about Martin Luther King Jr.? Do you think he ever experienced fear and self-doubt? You bet he did. And he still got up every day and tried. Elon Musk. Winston Churchill. Taylor Swift. All people, all have dealt with fear and self-doubt, all walked through the fear and succeeded. None of them were born with a superpower. You can do what they have done.

Set Yourself Up For Success

You don’t have to become a world-renowned celebrity to have success in life, and you shouldn’t judge yourself by impossible standards. Determine what you want to do with your life, and figure out what you need to do to accomplish that. Then set a series of goals to get you from here to there. You need to know what the definition of success is for you, based on your goals. Believe in yourself. Follow someone else who has walked the same path. Dream big. Live big. Set yourself up for success. You can do it!

Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

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The Side Hustle

The Side Hustle

The Side Hustle: Take Control of Your Life (and your finances)

So much of what we do is dictated by how much money we have available. We all have things we’d like to do, like spend a week in Europe, but it’s not something we’re likely to afford. In my last blog, we talked about ways to save money so that you can enjoy life a little more. This week we’re going to look at ways that you can take control of your life, and your finances, with a side hustle.

If you’ve got a good job, keep it!

A lot of us live in an area where the number of places to work are pretty limited. You might even be maxed out on what you can earn without moving somewhere else, and with spouses in their own career, and kids in school, moving isn’t always a good option. That’s okay! You can increase your income right from home if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Invest a little, advance a lot

One of the positions I inherited when I began running the business aspects at our veterinary clinic was Webmaster. Ooh, sexy title, right? I didn’t know the first thing about websites, so I spent about two minutes on Google and found an online class through my local community college. For $109, I took a six-week online class in basic WordPress. When I got done with that, I took the advanced course for another $109. (ed2go.com offers a lot of affordable classes, check them out.)

So, in three months I learned all about building WordPress websites. After practicing on our website for a while and finding my groove, I built a website from scratch for a friend. Then I built one for another business here in town, and then one for a social organization. Suddenly, I had a side hustle of building and maintaining websites. I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it, but it generates about $600 a month for me, and I use that money to pay for the editing and production of my upcoming books, writers conferences, and so on.

YouTube is your friend

Depending on what you want to do, you might not have to spend any money to learn what you need to know. I have an artist friend who is a hands-on, crafty kind of person and likes making her own stuff. She found some how-to videos on YouTube about making your own watercolor paints, and decided to give it a shot. It took her a few tries to find a really great blend, but she stuck with it until the paints were just right. She decided to open a shop on Etsy.com and try selling her handmade paints, and that has blossomed into a thriving side hustle for her.

Find Your Groove, Build Your Side Hustle

Handmade items are all the rage these days. People are choosing artisan crafts and products over mass-produced items, and they’re willing to pay the extra price for them. You can easily learn how to make really nice scented hand soaps and laundry soaps, hand-carved wooden spoons for the kitchen, crocheted personalized potholders, candles, jewelry, and a million other things. Are you a welder? People LOVE horseshoe art, giant chickens made out of scrap metal, and things like that. Websites like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon give you a ready-made platform to sell your wares, and you can do it all from home on the weekends.

If you are into more intellectual things, you can do bookkeeping for a local business, or create marketing emails. Almost all local businesses need someone to create and post social media content on Facebook. Do you know how to make quality memes? It’s not hard, if you’re willing to learn. Were you an English major? There are a lot of authors out there who need an editor, or a proofreader. Maybe you can sell your photos on Shutterstock, or become an event photographer for local weddings. Do you have a drone? Drone videos of events or businesses can be a good side hustle, as well.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

Having a successful side business requires a lot of commitment and self-discipline, just like having your own fulltime business. You’ll have to change your lifestyle to fit it in. You’ll probably have to cut out something to make the time, but for most people the only thing being sacrificed is sleeping in on the weekends and watching TV. You have to decide what you want out of life, and what you are willing to do to get it. If your purpose in life is to binge-watch TV shows and movies, or play video games, then this probably isn’t a viable option for you. If you want to take control of your life, your time, and your money so that you can do more, then creating a side hustle is a great way to make it happen.

Crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s

No one wants to get in trouble with The Man over taxes. As you are gathering information and forming your plan, make sure you read up on the business regulations in your state. It’s important to track every penny you spend and earn with your side business. You might need to form a legit legal business entity, which is much easier than you think it is. $300 and ten minutes on Legal Zoom will take care of most of that, and the only other big thing is opening a separate bank account for your business. Some towns or counties require you to pay an annual business license fee (mine is $100 a year), but again, a few minutes on the internet will help you find out what you need to do.

  Go Do What You Do!

If you’re tired of watching others live the dream on TV, then sell your TV and do something productive with your time. You’d be amazed how good it feels to do something like this; to create your own business and know that you made this happen, your hard work and effort brought it to life, and it’s generating the money you need to go to Comic-Con, or DisneyLand, or to buy that new car, or to build a nice retirement account. Don’t be a victim. Take control of your life, and live it!

 

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Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

There’s More to Life

There’s More to Life

There’s more to life than you’re getting out of it

Work, eat, sleep. Work, eat, sleep. Work, eat, sleep. It’s a routine of necessity in the beginning, when we’re young and just trying to figure out how it all works. Work, eat, sleep. On the weekends it’s sleep, TV, sleep. Maybe we party on Saturday night with a few friends. There’s more to life, but we’ll figure it out at some point, right?

Time marches on

Now we’re in our thirties, our forties. We’re still doing the same thing we’ve always done, because it’s what we know. We don’t want to disrupt the routine because we’re afraid of change. We’re afraid of the unknown. Even though we’re not getting anything out of this existence, it’s safe because we know what to expect. There’s more to life, but we’ll figure it out at some point, right?

I’ll do some living when I retire

Yeah, that golden dream. Of course, lots of people do retire well, and some of them even have active retirements and go see the world. Realistically, though, 30% of Americans will not live to 65 or older. Of those that do, 70% will have less than $100,000 saved, which basically means they are retiring broke.

So, there’s more to life: how do I get it?

First, you need to brainstorm. Come up with a list of things you want to do, a bucket list of sorts. Make some different categories.

J. Boyd Long

 

Do some homework

Figure out how much money you need to do each of these things. Some of them are going to be expensive, and some of them won’t be as much as you think. For example, even if you live in Kansas, as long as you have a car, you can spend a weekend on the beach at either ocean for well under $700.

There’s more to life than television

Who has $700? Well, you can, if you are disciplined about saving it up. Here’s an easy way to save money: stop drinking soda. Every time you go to a restaurant and order water, you’ll save $2. Every time you don’t go inside the gas station and buy a soda or a Gatoraid, you save $2. For a lot of people, that adds up to $50 a month or more. Would you trade a year of drinking soda for a weekend at the beach?

Another easy way to save a lot of money in a short amount of time is to shut off your cable TV (or satellite). You can watch plenty of stuff on Amazon Prime or Netflix. If you stop spending $100 a month on TV and save that money (that’s the hard part), you’ll have $1,200 in a year. That’s more than a trip to the beach from Kansas. Two years, and you’re looking at that trip to Paris.

Another way to save money is to keep on driving your old car. I’m driving a 16-year-old truck. It’s been paid for since 2005. Every month that I don’t buy a new truck is another $500 saved. Maybe $1,000, with truck prices as they are these days. I’ll have to buy one at some point, but the longer I put it off, the more stuff on my list I can do.

Life is filled with wasted opportunities

There are lots of things you can do to fund an active, fulfilling life that you can enjoy while you have the opportunity. Not everything costs money; some things only cost your time. You can get involved in community groups like the Lions Club, or join a local theater group or arts council. There are car clubs, airplane clubs, model car and model airplane clubs, exercise clubs, kayaking clubs, state park hiking clubs, and things I don’t even know about. There are MeetUp groups that do all kinds of activities for all age groups in almost every town. Google it.

With the advent of the internet (which you can access free at your library if you don’t have it at home), there is really no excuse for wasting away in front of the television. There’s more to life; find a purpose for living. Find something you are passionate about, and go do it. Find other people who are passionate about the same things, and expand your horizons. Learn something new. Have fun for a change!

There’s more to life than spending money

By the way, here’s a good idea: take half the money you’re saving with all this new insight, and put it in a retirement savings account of some sort. Don’t keep yourself trapped in the bondage of the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality. That’s a trap. Life is short, so live it while you can, and put some away for later while you’re at it. If you do make it to 80, you’re going to need it!

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

J. Boyd Long

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Setting and Achieving Goals

Setting and Achieving Goals

J. Boyd Long goalsSetting and Achieving Goals

Setting and achieving goals is one of those things that few people think about, fewer try, and even fewer actually do. It’s in the same category as dieting, exercise, and making good life decisions. But we all have intentions of doing things, right? So why don’t we get anything done?

Distractions

People have never been busier than we are today. Technology has helped us fill every second of the day with something. What do people do if they’re waiting in line for more than ten seconds? Pull out the phone and check Facebook, send a text, look at the headlines. There are approximately a trillion television shows that are so addicting we can’t bear the thought of missing a minute of them. New movies come out all the time. The kids have a million things going on.

Lack of Direction

A lot of times we have vague ideas about things we’d like to do, but we haven’t ever taken the time to think it out. One of the negative side effects of being busy every minute of the day is that we don’t have time to think about things. So, if we don’t stop to figure out exactly what it is we want to accomplish, then we will never achieve anything outside the whirlwind of daily life.

How Can I Change?

First and foremost, you have to want things to be different more than you want to avoid the stress of change. It sounds simple, but it isn’t easy. Change is hard, change is scary, change requires time and effort and commitment, and we just don’t like that stuff.

People will endure amazing hardships just to avoid change. I call this ‘being committed to the Known Quantity.’ Some people will stay broke, because being broke is easier and safer than committing to learn and work at something they haven’t done before. Other examples of people choosing the Known Quantity over change: staying in bad relationships, staying in a bad job, not trying something that you think you might like (sky diving, painting, bowling, writing, new career field, new food item, new friend, etc), not stopping something you don’t like anymore (drinking, drugs, smoking, watching TV, toxic friendship), and the list goes on.

Okay, I want to change: How do I start setting and achieving goals?

Start small. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Right now you are filling up 24 hours a day with stuff, so in order to start doing something new, something else is going to have to be sacrificed. For me, that was the television. I wasn’t very committed to it anyway, so it wasn’t too painful, but I realize that other people feel differently about that.

If you are trying to instill a meditation or exercise regime, getting up twenty minutes earlier in the morning might be all you need to do to create a timeslot. Routine is very helpful for establishing new things, so try to do it at the same time every day until you get established.

Become a List Maker

Making a list of things you need to achieve each day and each week is a great way to keep yourself on track. I have a variety of goals, and they change on a regular basis, so I have to write things down. For example, I am trying to build a network of authors on social media, so I have a goal of sending at least 2 Facebook friend requests each week, and following 3 authors on Twitter each week. I also have a goal for how many words I want to write each day, or how many pages I want to get edited.

Each Sunday, I go down my list from the previous week and list what I actually accomplished beside my goals. I have two accountability partners, so I email them the results as well. At the end of each month, I write out my weekly goals for the upcoming month. This way I know exactly what I want to get done, and the timeframe that I have to accomplish it in.

Tracking and Rewards

One way to keep yourself engaged is tracking your results, and rewarding yourself. Once setting and achieving goals becomes a part of your daily life, it’s good to be able to look back over your goals history and see how much you have accomplished. It’s also a good way to see if you are setting your expectations appropriately. If you see that you are consistently failing to meet your goals, then you need to figure out why. Are you trying to do too much, or are you not trying hard enough to get it done? If you are hitting every goal every time, perhaps you can challenge yourself to do more.

Rewards are also fun. While ice cream is great, it might not be appropriate if your goal is to eat healthier, or to lose weight. Make sure your reward is good for you and your new lifestyle. I’m not very good at rewarding myself, so this is something that I need to work on instituting. I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, so maybe an extra 30 minutes of reading time each week would be a good reward for me.

Accountability Partners

When it comes to setting and achieving goals consistently, nothing has helped me keep my focus more than accountability partners. I wrote an entire blog on that topic, so I’ll just give you a link to that topic here: Accountability Partners Blog

So, there you have it: you can do way more than you think you can. All you need is an overwhelming desire to do something, some direction, a list or two, and a buddy. Once you start down this road, you will be amazed at where your life can go!

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Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

What in the world is DimWorld?

What in the world is DimWorld?

What is the DimWorld series all about?

DimWorld is the series of books I’m writing, in case you’re not familiar with the title. I’ve made a few vague references to it in blogs here and there, as well as some posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (I’m easy to find: @JBoydLong on every platform), but I haven’t given a breakdown on the concept of the series, and today I’m going to fix that.

In the DimWorld universe

DimWorld is short for Dimension World. The concept here is that every time there is a major event in history, a new dimension is formed. For example, in our dimension Columbus landed in the Bahamas and was welcomed/accepted by the natives. This was a major event because it led to the colonization of the Americas by Europeans. So, at that point a new dimension was formed in which he and his entire crew were killed upon arrival. That, of course, had a massive impact on the future of Europe, as well as North and South America.

There are lots events throughout history that spawned new dimensions, and events within each of those dimensions that created new dimensions. All dimensions share a history up to the point that they split, but they all have a different present, and a different future. There are dimensions where major wars had different outcomes, or empires survived rather than falling (or vice versa), assassinations and rebellions that either took place or didn’t take place, and so on and so forth. The possibilities are unlimited.

DimCorp

DimCorp (Dimension Corporation) is a company that deals in raw materials and natural resources. They developed the technology to move between dimensions using DimGates, which they use to take resources from under-developed dimensions and sell them in advanced dimensions.

They use the indigenous populations in the less-developed dimensions as a workforce, and usually as slave labor. This allows them to mine resources like copper, tin, and iron at a very low cost, and transport it directly to where it needs to go in another dimension. DimCorp has expanded both their production and their sales across a variety of dimensions, making them the richest and most powerful entity in existence.

Introducing Quentin and Eissa

Quentin is our main character in the series, and Eissa is his best friend. Quentin is a 40-year-old IT computer geek who has spent most of his life philosophizing with Eissa about the problems with people and society, but never actually doing much of anything about it. He’s a good guy, and well-intentioned, but it never crossed his mind that he might be able to do something to make the world a better place.

On the day that a DimGate appears in front of them, their world is turned upside down. They cross into another dimension, and find themselves trapped in a world where the United States only goes as far as the Mississippi River. Everything on the other side is controlled by the Native Tribal Alliance, and the war between colonists and natives is still going strong. Eissa, a Native American, suddenly finds herself far behind enemy lines.

Our unlikely heroes eventually find some help in the form of Bob and Tocho, a pair of aging rebels who spent their lives fighting DimCorp. The more they learn about the victims of greed, the more incensed they become, and when they finally get a chance to go home, they are also offered the chance to stay and fight.

The series follows their adventures and exploits as they try to stick up for those without a voice, as well as confront their own inner problems along the way. Eissa’s brash tongue and quick wit create laugh out loud moments as she tries to help Quentin as he struggles on his quest to find his purpose in life, and the confidence to fulfill it.

Where do things stand?

Foundation and The Cacao Insurrection are the first two books in the DimWorld series. They have both been written as first drafts, and the goal is to have them rewritten, professionally edited, polished and published by fall of 2018. If you subscribe to this blog (and please do!) you will stay updated as we get closer to the release date.

Author Justin Boyd LongJ. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the sidebar, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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Do You Have the Right Job for You?

Do You Have the Right Job for You?

The right job for me

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know that we have a bottle-baby kitten right now. This isn’t the first time one of these has shown up at our door. As a veterinarian (and crazy cat lady), my wife attracts these sorts of adventures. As a work-from-home hermit, I end up spending a lot of time playing, feeding, and cleaning up pee, as well as typing with a feisty helper climbing on my arm, chewing on my finger, or sleeping in my lap. There’s usually the sound of the wind chimes on the front porch to create ambiance, as well as the sounds of the horses downstairs in their stalls.

Not the right job for me

I used to work in an office where the phones rang all the time, people were in and out demanding this, selling that, complaining about so-and-so, and the drama of office politics was always being played out in one ridiculous way or another. Before that, I was a mechanic working for the Army. I spent my days working on vehicles in a giant concrete parking lot where it was miserably hot in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. Office politics was a favorite game there too; played with fervor by the amateurs and professionals alike.

J. Boyd LongI’m glad I had jobs that I wasn’t cut out for, in places that I don’t perform well. Those experiences gave me a solid perspective against which I can measure my life today. Without them, I wouldn’t have any way to realize how perfect this job and lifestyle is for me. I wouldn’t know that the office politics between the cats (vicious, but only on occasion) isn’t so bad, that when I have to pause the bookkeeping to go pick up a baby donkey and bring it to the vet clinic, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, for peace and quiet. Those things are important to me.

Know what makes a job the right job, or the wrong job

If you’ve read my previous blogs, then you know I’m a big fan of understanding myself. Did you think this was about kittens? This is about knowing yourself, knowing what sort of environment is good for you, and what is bad. I’m an introvert, a Ravenclaw, an INFJ, an anti-conflict kind of guy. I’m also smart and logical and creative, and I like to do things the way that I deem best, and I don’t handle command-and-control people being in charge of me very well, especially when they’re idiots. I certainly don’t work well under micro-managers, or people that demand that you are busy every moment of the day for the sake of appearances, or people that need to dominate you to get their self-value. Before I knew these things about myself, where did I work? In all the worst places for me to be, because I was choosing them based on money alone.

Know why you do what you do

Knowing these things about yourself, and then finding an appropriate place to work that fills your needs and minimizes your stressors, are a major cog in the wheel of happiness and quality of life. It’s scary to quit a job that pays you well, especially if the place you’ll be happiest doesn’t pay as well. That’s when it’s important to know what you can afford, how you can adjust your lifestyle expenses, and what’s most important to you. Everything has a price. Once you know what you value, you can make informed choices and take action to improve your life. Or, you can do the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result. People do it every day.

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Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.

What is your Dominating Emotion?

What is your Dominating Emotion?

What is your Dominating Emotion?

Where do you get your inspiration?

This is probably the most commonly-asked question when people are interviewing authors. It has always irritated me when someone I’m interested in is being interviewed, because I see it as a complete waste of time. My thought is, Come on! You get to ask Stephen King 5 questions, and this is the best you could come up with? I want to know how complex and huge his map and diagram system is for his world-building, and how he kept everything straight between books before computers became commonplace (Most of his books take place in the same town/region, so the different stories have a shared history/future to a degree). I want to know what motivated him to finish The Stand, which took him 10 years to complete. You know, interesting things like that!

Back in October I went to the Florida Writers Association annual conference. On Thursday I spent the whole day listening to a workshop presentation by David Morrell. Who? Yeah, I asked the same thing when I saw it on the program. David Morrell wrote a book in the early 70’s called First Blood, which later got turned into the Rambo movies. He’s also written about 40 other books since then. He’s a really interesting guy, and I learned a lot from him.

One of the things he talked about is where you get your inspiration to write. This isn’t an answer that you would give an interviewer, but it’s a concept that I found really interesting. He said that your writing is generally based on your Dominating Emotion. For him, a lot of his books are playing out various dysfunctions of his childhood. As he has grown and matured, his dominating emotion has changed, and so has his writing.

My Dominating Emotion

I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting to know myself over the last ten years, so this wasn’t too hard for me to figure out in terms of what my writing is all about. At the very core of my gut I have a fiery ball of helpless rage that surrounds a core sense of injustice. There are atmospheric layers of feelings like inadequacy, lack of confidence, need for approval, and all that stuff, but it’s all built around that sense of injustice, both on a personal and a global level.

I was conscious of this when I started planning the DimWorld series. I wanted to take my characters through an enlightening and perspective-changing series of experiences similar to my own journey of understanding myself and the world around me. What I didn’t know is that most writers do this, whether it’s conscious or unconscious.

How it shows up

It’s all in the struggle that your characters are going through. For David Morrell, he struggled as a kid with society as a whole, and with his step dad, who was the tyrannical authority figure in his life. This is represented in First Blood by Rambo’s struggle with the Vietnam War, and with the police chief. Rambo got screwed over by the world, and instead of getting support from what’s supposed to be a trusted leader, he got screwed by him, too. Morrell actually had Rambo die in the book, killed by the police chief.

In the DimWorld series, my characters discover that there are other dimensions. A company called DimCorp has developed the technology to travel between the dimensions, and they use this to go to under-developed places, enslave to people there, and force them to mine resources which are then sold to other, wealthier dimensions.

The goal of my characters is to stop this rape of the world(s) and mistreatment of people, but it’s an impossible task. It’s 4 people versus a megalith company, a giant with unlimited power and resources. The story is exciting (at least to me!) because they realize this and decide to fight anyway, and find ways to make a real difference.

This is a near-exact representation of my perception of life. Some of it stems from my childhood, some of it comes from being an INFJ personality type (we have a powerful sense of idealism and morality), and some of it comes from my conclusions about the human race.

So, what do I do with this?

I got to watch my friend and writing partner Angelique Bochnak as she had a moment of self-discovery during this workshop. We spent a few minutes during a break dissecting her book The Blood Trials and concluding that she is working out some anger issues, just like the rest of us.

I brought home the concept of a dominating emotion and talked to my wife about it. She’s a veterinarian, and her dominating emotion is much different than mine. Hers is centered around compassion, but it wasn’t really something that she had thought much about.

I think it’s a great exercise for everyone in the pursuit of self-understanding (and isn’t that a big part of being alive?). So, I challenge you to determine what your dominating emotion is. What drives you to do the things you do? What is your quest? The holidays are coming, so maybe this will give you something to talk about to all those people you love/hate/don’t know very well. The other challenge is to think about the book you’re reading right now. What can you surmise about the dominating emotions that drive the story? And what in the world happened to Stephen King that has taken him so much writing to work out?!

I need your help! Please take a moment to subscribe to this blog. It’s totally free, and you’ll get a copy of the blog in your email each week. You can sign up in the side bar on the right, or at the bottom of the screen if you’re reading this on your phone. Thanks for your support!

Author Justin Boyd Long J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the sidebar, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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