What I’ve Learned From Cancer

And why, yet again, I've learned to listen to my wife!

I have had cancer.

Before you get concerned, I have the kind you would want. Tomorrow, a doctor working a robot is going to remove 2% of my right kidney. A couple of days in the hospital, and that’s it. No chemo. No radiation. There is a 99% chance I’ll be cured.

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I’m sharing this with you because I’ve learned some things.

To set the stage, my wife has been bugging encouraging me to get a doctor for years.

Just so happened…

A couple of months ago, it just so happened that I woke up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in my calf. I’m the deepest sleeper you know. That’s never happened to me. I’d been on a couple long plane rides, and I had the thought that maybe this was  blood clot.

I got up and went to the clinic and was sent to the hospital for an ultrasound. I didn’t have a blood clot. In fact, I still have no clue what that pain was.

Just so happened that a few weeks later I tweaked my back setting up a booth at a show. I’ve had back spasms since I was 14, but this was different. It lasted longer. It hurt a little different.

Then it just so happened that I was doing some yard work and got poison ivy…bad. My back hurt. I was itchy. So I broke down.

What I Learned from My First Homework Assignment in 16 Years

A Letter to My Middle-schooler's Teacher

I got home from work a couple of weeks ago, and my wife informed me as I walked through the door that I had a homework assignment.




Last week, I announced the formation of Massimo University with my friend and partner, Rod Santomassimo. As a way of marking this new venture, I have produced a free video training series on creating digital presence. You can access this free training by Clicking Here. And it is only up for the next 8 days…

My oldest son is in middle school. One of his teachers sent home an assignment called “In a Million Words or Less…” The idea was for us – as parents – to tell the teacher what she needs to know about our son.

The premise of this assignment was heartwarming. She explained that she simply does not get to know every student like she would like – especially the introverted ones. She wants to be able to tailor her teaching to the student (she calls them scholars).

I very much appreciate that!

My wife also shared with me that I was going to get to do this as the “writer” in our marriage. (My wife could be an incredible writer if she wanted to be, by the way.)

So I sat down to write the following letter. Before I share it with you, I want to challenge you to do a couple of things:

  1. Become a student of your child(ren) – I have 3 children and they are completely different. I don’t want to parent them the same. I want to understand them and get on their level. I want to know how best to communicate with them. I want to relate to them on their level.
  2. Understand a little about personalities – Luckily (or providentially), my sister is a Meyers-Briggs consultant with her own business. She’s incredible. And she has taught me a bit about personalities. This has opened up to me a world of possibilities in parenting my kids. As a result of this knowledge, I think I will be able to avoid some mistakes that would have led to some scar tissue on their hearts.
  3. Support their teachers – You don’t have perfect kids. I don’t have perfect kids. Your children’s teachers have a very difficult job. They are overworked and underpaid. They don’t need crazy parents blaming them for everything their children do wrong. That doesn’t help the teachers. It certainly doesn’t help your children.

The 9 Steps to Pursuing the Hearts of Your Kids

I have three children.  As I write this, they are 12 (Will), 8 (Ben), and 5 (Maddie).  They completely rock.  They bring me great joy.  They add tremendous flavor to our family.  I also blame them for most of my grey hair though I doubt that is true.  And they could not be more different.

9 Steps Pursuing the hearts of your kids

My sister is a Meyers-Briggs expert so we have learned some about personalities.  Without going into a lot of detail, I am an INTJ.  My wife is an ISFJ and so is my oldest son.  He is literally the male version of my wife – personality-wise.

My middle son is an ESFP (I think) and is exploding with creativity and energy.  The thought to pick something up has never once occurred to him – ever.

My baby girl is definitely an extrovert, but I’m not sure on the rest yet.  However, she is girlie and tough as nails at the same time.

My family spends a lot of time together, which I love.  However, I don’t spend much time one-on-one with my kids.  So one of my goals for 2015 is to spend one-on-one time every month with each child.  I want to know them.  I want to champion the best in them.  I want to build a rock solid relationship with them.  I want to be a safe place for them.  All of these ideals require time.

In January, my son Ben and I were trying to figure out what we’d do together.  He came up with the idea that he wanted a blog like his daddy.  The kid is so creative and funny that I thought this would be a great outlet for him.  So we created www.ben-barron.com where he and I create funny videos. Feel free to take a couple of minutes and go check it out – and keep in mind that he is just 8.

So here are the 9 steps that any parent can follow to pursue the hearts of their children.

Why Intentionality Could Be the Most Important Factor in What Matters

I’ve missed you all.  Last year, when I left commercial real estate for the excitement of food safety, I knew my blog would change.  I wasn’t sure what I had to write about.  My posts have always flowed from my life.

Photo Credit - iStock.com

Photo Credit – iStock.com

Additionally, I wasn’t sure how my new role at a new company would play out.  I can tell you that it has been awesome.  We are disrupting a $3 billion dollar food safety industry and having a blast doing it.

But I have missed blogging.  I’ve missed having a place to clarify my thoughts.  I’ve missed engaging with you.  So this year is going to be different.

I heard Michael Hyatt say something this week that has stuck in my mind.  I can’t shake it.  It is the perfect thought to channel through your mind as we start a new year.  He said:

You never drift anywhere that is worthwhile.

Think about that.  The idea of being at sea with no force of direction.  You are just at the behest of the current.  The opposite of drifting is being intentional.

What I’m Doing Different This Valentine’s Day

Based on the reader’s survey I did last month, I now know that about 80% of my readers are male.  For those of you with daughters, I expect you will relate to this post.

Me and my baby girl

Me and my baby girl

My wife and I were married in 2000 – by far one of my best decisions.  I have the kind of marriage that has continuously exceeded my expectations.  She challenges me to be a better man.  She loves me.  She completely rocks.  I am blessed.

For whatever reason, we’ve never really engaged in Valentine’s Day.  I commented earlier tonight that every day is Valentine’s Day being married to her.  She promptly rolled her eyes and faked throwing up in her mouth.

But now I have a little girl.  I am going to take her on a date for Valentine’s Day because I want her to know four truths.

  1. Her daddy loves her.  I tell her all the time, but I want to create memories with her.  I want her to be able to look back and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love her.
  2. Her daddy thinks she is beautiful.  I’ve heard debate about this.  I’ve heard that it isn’t good to let your kids think they are beautiful.  I think that is straight from the pit and smells like smoke (as my buddy says).  I think a little girl longs to know that her daddy is captivated by her.  My little girl is beautiful.  I tell her all the time.  My favorite time of day is how she screams “daddy” and runs to give me a hug every time I come home – love it!  She will never wonder if her daddy thinks she’s beautiful.
  3. Her daddy wants to spend time with her.  I naturally do more things with my boys.  Tonight I took them to a local college basketball game.  I left her at home with her mother.  I can’t bear the thought that she could look back and wish we spent more time together.  I’m going to tell her with my words that I love her.  I’m going to tell her with my time as well.
  4. Her daddy will guard her heart.  I want to be a safe place for my little girl to confide in me.  I want her to know that I am going to protect and look out for her.  I want her to know she can trust me with her heart.  One day, some young man is going to come and ask me for the responsibility of holding her heart.  Until then, I want her to know that job is mine.  I take it seriously.  [And Clint from her preschool class – let this be a warning to you, little man!]

7D795C2D-559D-495B-BE7E-EAC96B06F311So this Valentine’s Day, we are going to go on a date.  I’m going to let her see how she puts a sparkle in my eyes.  We are going to laugh.  We are going eat sushi (at least I will).  We will probably go see a movie.  I am going to try to make her feel like the queen of the world.

Question: So what are your plans this Valentine’s Day? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why Your New Years Resolutions Fail – These 3 Reasons

For years, I’ve set New Year’s resolutions.  For years, I’ve been frustrated by them.  Regardless of when in the year you are reading this post, I challenge you to change the way you think about these resolutions.

photo courtesy of iStock.com

photo courtesy of iStock.com

My parents taught me to set goals when I was a kid.  I’ve written out my goals in various categories most years since.  I set goals in these categories:  spiritual, personal development, relational/family, health, career, and social.  Every year at about this time, those resolutions have gone by the wayside.

Last week, I launched my first ever reader survey. The purpose is to understand my readers better so I can provide better content for you. If you haven’t already, please take 5 minutes to fill out the survey. It is super easy.

I read a book last month that I highly recommend.  It is called The One Thing by Gary Keller.  Awesome.  He blew up some of the wrong thinking I had about setting goals.  I want to distill that information for you.

Myths of Setting Resolutions

Multi-tasking – My wife claims to be great at this.  I agree by the way.  Most women that I know, in fact, are much better at multi-tasking than I am.  However, multi-tasking doesn’t actually exist.  Scientific studies now prove that you can’t multi-task.  You just interrupt yourself – bouncing back and forth between tasks.

Some of us bounce back and forth quicker – some more efficiently.  Studies now prove that should you focus your entire energy on one task at a time, you will do them all better and faster.  I realize that my wife is now thinking that is a luxury she doesn’t have.

If you can, focus on one task or goal at a time.  I have been failing at my New Year’s resolutions due to multi-tasking.  I try to change too much about my lifestyle at the same time.

Habit Forming – I’ve heard for years that it takes 21 times to form a habit.  You’ve probably heard the same thing.  That is a lie.  Studies now show that it takes about 66 days.  This means most of us only focus on forming a new habit – or building a new goal into our lives – for 1/3 of the time it takes.

No wonder this has been a frustration for me.

Priorities?? – What are your priorities?  Do you know what the definition of priority means?  It means the main thing – the first thing.  Do you realize you can’t have more than one first thing?  You can’t have two first place finishers.  It is impossible.

It is only in the last couple decades that the word “priority” has had the pluraliztion “priorities.”  We have watered down the meaning of the word from the first thing to an important thing.  But no longer for me.  A priority is just one thing.

So here is my method for this year and beyond:

  • I have chosen the 6 habits (resolutions) that I want to build into my life this year.
  • One at a time, for two months (66 days), I am focusing all my energy on just one thing.
  • After the first habit is built into my life, I move on to the next most important one.

Imagine the impact this could have over the span of years.  Think of the productivity and greatness you could achieve.

So how do you know which one to start with?  Ask this question.  Which of these habits will make it easier or unnecessary to accomplish the others?

Question: If you get 6 habits to build into your life in a year, I’d like to know what you would choose. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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How do You Compare to These 20 Habits of the Wealthy?

One of my favorite movies of all time is Dead Poets Society.  My guess is that you have seen it, but if not, it is inspiring.  It contains some of the best quotes of all time.  My favorite is contained in this clip – see if you can pick it out.

“Sucking the marrow out of life!”  This line taken from a Thoreau poem describes a way of thinking.  A way of living life.

But it is just a quote.  To live like this – to maximize your potential – takes intentionality.  It takes discipline.  It takes developing habits that will produce the desired outcome – abundant life.

My mentor emailed me recently a link to a Dave Ramsey blog post.  In that post, Dave sites 20 habits found in wealthy people.  I have included this list below.  As you read this list, I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions.

  1. How do you stack up to this list?
  2. How many of these describe you?
  3. How does this actually make you feel?
  4. How could living life this way help you “suck the marrow out of life?”

20 Habits that Describe the Wealthy – from richhabitsinstitute.com

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor.

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.

11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.  (This is the one that is most interesting to me.)

12. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.

13. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.

14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.

15. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.

16. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor.

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor.

19. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor.

20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.

This list inspires me.  It reminds me of what I know I should be doing.  It encourages me to do better.

I shared this list for another reason beyond to encourage you to weigh your habits against these.  When Dave Ramsey posted this list, there was an explosion of reaction.  As a result of both the positive and negative reaction he received, he edited his post to include his commentary.  I challenge you to read what he has communicated there – click here to do so.

Question: So how do you stack up to this list? As we finish the last days of this year, what would you most like to change about your habits for 2014? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How The Power of Words Can Set the Course of Your Life

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  That is the biggest lie ever told.  Words have tremendous power.

Angry business woman pointing her finger and screaming

When I was in the 6th grade, I earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  I was determined to be the Karate Kid.  By the way, do you remember the little guy who was the smallest kid in your class.  That was me.

I had yet to learn anything about physics, however.  I did not know that regardless of unfounded arrogance, the big guy wins 9 times out of 10.  I started running my mouth to a 10th grader stuck in a 7th grader’s body.

What happened next was over in 15 seconds.  The 7th grader tried to throw me into my locker.  I bounced off the locker next to mine right back at him.  He hit me twice, and I laid on the ground looking up at him while everyone in the hall encircled us.  All of this happened because I couldn’t control my tongue.  Words have power – for good or for bad.

My dad had me write the 3rd chapter of the book of James 10 times.  I think I still have some of it memorized.  That chapter details the immense power of tongue.  This chapter calls the tongue a fire – a restless evil full of deadly poison.

You have heard the saying, “You will eat your words.”  That phrase stems from the book of Proverbs – chapter 18.  Verse 20 and 21 say this,

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.  The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Words have the power of life and death.  The way you use them will have a profound impact on the climate of your life.

5 Suggestions for Using Your Words Wisely

  1. Words can define the culture and tone of your family, business, etc. – Do you affirm the behavior that you want to see more of?  Do you praise your kids?  Does your wife know how beautiful she is to you?  Or do you criticize and tear down?  The words you use will absolutely set the tone of your business or family.  Don’t be the guy who complains all the time and wonders why his company has a negative culture.
  2. Gossip is a cancer – Gossip ruins culture.  It is a sign of cowardice.  It disrespects everyone involved.  Don’t allow it – period.
  3. Beware of joking and teasing – This is a sensitive subject for me as I have wounded many people by what I believed was innocent teasing.  Teasing destroys trust and breaks down communication.  It can strike at the insecurities of a person’s heart.  I grew up pretending like teasing didn’t bother me.  It did.  As a result, I kept everyone at a distance.  This wound impacted my relationship with my friends, my parents, and even my marriage.  It is something I’ve had to work through.  Be very careful with innocent teasing.
  4. Be intentional with your words – Some of us are naturally very thoughtful with our words.  Some of us are not.  I encourage you to understand the truth that King Solomon wrote about in the proverb above.  Words have the power of life and death.  Think about the good you can do with your words.  If you don’t, your words will control you.  And you will reap what you sow.  Use your words to bless and encourage.  Speak the truth in love.
  5. Silence – This is my challenge to you.  Build times of silence into your day.  We are bombarded with so much noise all day long that it is difficult to think.  A friend of mine said this morning, “The person who doesn’t know how to be silent doesn’t know who to speak.”  Those in my life that give life with their words are thoughtful.  They have these times in their day when they are silent.  Try it.

Question: How can you improve the life of someone you love with your words today? How can the power of your words change your company’s culture and effectiveness? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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How to Give a Real Apology in 6 Steps

If you are breathing, then you are going to blow it sometime soon.  I did this big time last week.  At the risk of writing my most transparent post to date, here is the story.


I was on a video conference call with 2 of my co-workers and two IT guys from a vendor my company loves.  They do incredible work for us.  They constantly exceed our expectations.  (If you guys are reading this, we love you!)

I threw them a curve ball at the beginning of the meeting.  I let them know that one of our key team members would be late to the call, and I changed the agenda.  From that point, the call did not follow my expectations.

I had entered the call in a state of frustration already.  As the flow of the call was not following my mental agenda, I became more frustrated.  I pulled up a chat box with one of my co-workers.  I typed, “These guys are ticking me off.”

I was sharing my screen with the entire call!

Our vendors gave an audible reaction to what I typed.  I was mortified and embarrassed.  As is often the case with me, they paid for my inability to effectively deal with my frustration – that was caused by something else.  It had nothing to do with them.

I knew I would be apologizing to them and trying to make it right.  I attempted to do so immediately after the call.

The Apology

An apology has two purposes.  The first is to show remorse and contrition.  The second is to rebuild trust where you have caused hurt and pain.  To reconcile a relationship.

America is terrible at apologizing.  Think about Jason Giambi apologizing in 2005 for PED use.  Except he didn’t.  Ryan Braun did an OK job of it 18 months after he emphatically lied to the world.  Too little too late.  Anthony Weiner did a really nice job on his first apology.  However, it was insincere and his behavior continued.

So here is how my dad taught me how to apologize.

6 Steps To Giving a Real Apology

  1. Say You are Sorry – This is where you need to start.  Demonstrate your remorse first thing.
  2. Take responsibility – Pride is your enemy here.  It is impossible to give a real and genuine apology without humbling yourself.  You cannot make excuses.  You cannot blame shift.  These invalidate the apology.  There is no other posture that works than that of humility.
  3. Name it – Actually say what you did.  This is so difficult.  Naming your behavior makes it very real.  If you are going to skip a step, this is the one you will do.  To name what you did shows that you are empathizing with the other person.
  4. Ask for Forgiveness – Most people stop before this.  You say you are sorry and then assume that you are forgiven.  Explicitly ask for their forgiveness.  This demonstrates that you realize that they have a choice in forgiving you.  Sometimes, they will.  Sometimes, they won’t.
  5. Make Restitution – This won’t always apply, but there may be something you need to do to make right the situation.  Ask them what you can do.  Then do it.
  6. Commit to do better – Your apology must be validated, over time, by your changed behavior.  An apology should end with a commitment to not do that again.  However, if you behavior doesn’t change, your apology will be shown to be a bunch of hollow words.

Question: What do you think you should do when someone does not accept your apology? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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