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Leadership Letters: Changing Your Colors

Leadership Letters: Changing Your Colors

Changing your life isn’t easy, but knowing where to start can make all the difference.

I know this video is a little slow, and hard to hear, so I’ll try to summarize this with an outline below.

  1. The video starts with margarita glasses that each have a hole drilled into them. This represents your mind, your life, and you as a whole. As life goes on things drain out of us.
  2. If you don’t keep putting into the glass, it will be empty. If you don’t put back into your life you will be empty.
  3. If you keep putting the same color into your glass, the color of the water will never change. If you don’t change what goes into your mind and your life, you will never change. That is only OK if you are EXTREMELY happy with your life and who you are.
  4. You change yourself and your life by controlling what goes into your mind. What are the things going into your mind?
    1.  What you tell yourself. No one believes they themselves are a liar so you believe what you tell yourself.
    2. What is said and done by the people around you.
      1. Choosing your friends is very important. You want to be around people who say and do things that promote the ideals and actions you want to become.
      2. You have a responsibility to say and do your best because you are influencing the people around you. This is especially true for the people you love and care about.
    3. What you read greatly influences you.
    4. The music you listen to, the TV you watch, etc. etc.
  5. If you are around someone in need, and your glass is empty, you have nothing to give. You can only give what you have. And the more you have the more you can give. You have a moral responsibility to fill yourself with good things so you can give to those around you, especially those you love.
  6. If you don’t control what is going into you, you become like your environment, gray, colorless.
  7. But you can begin to change at any time by deciding what you want to become and then filling yourself with people, thoughts, books etc. etc. etc. that support that ideal of what you want to become!
Crucial Conversations: A Crisis Is A Terrible Time To Talk

Crucial Conversations: A Crisis Is A Terrible Time To Talk

A crisis is a terrible time to talk, and here is why.

For thousands and thousands of years almost every crisis a human faced was a physical. Think about it.

  • We were hunting a wooly mammoth or running from a tiger.
  • We were using a spear or running from a spear.

We have been trained to very quickly go into crisis mode – fight or flight – when a crisis exist, and for very good reason. These are not situations where we have time for a lot of thought. This “training” takes on some very real physical attributes.

The hairs on the back of our neck actually do stand up. Then our adrenal glands start pumping adrenaline into the bloodstream. Blood in our brain literally moves away from cognitive thought processes and into reactive parts of the brain responsible for fighting or running. Blood also rushes to our muscles and our brain gets even less. Lastly, to help us all survive, this reaction spreads to those around us. Simply seeing someone else in crisis makes us go into crisis mode.

All of this served us very well when almost all our crisis situations were physical and they still do serve us well in a physical confrontation. If someone breaks into your house with a knife, you want all this to happen so you can protect your family.

The problem is, most of our crisis today are not physical, they are crucial conversations and situations, but often our bodies still react in exactly the same way. This is a problem, because the outcomes are going to be disastrous nearly every time. Consider the table below.


Body’s Physical Reaction
To Adrenaline

Effect During A Physical Threat

Effect During A Crucial Conversation

Increasing the heart rate, increasing blood pressure

Intensity of emotions increased

Decide based on feelings, not thought out. Words are not chosen well. Our enunciations are laced with emotion.

Redistributing blood to the muscles, expanding the air passages of the lungs.

Increased physical strength and endurance

We can argue much longer than is good. We can go off on tangents for far too long.

Increased activity in the reactive part of the brain and away from cognitive thinking

Make quick reactive decisions.
Brain needs to WIN NOW!

Extreme sense of urgency.

We want to win this argument even if it hurts our long term cause or situations

Skin becomes flushed or red, enlarging the pupil in the eye

Warns those around us there is a physical threat. Scares predator away, brings friends to our aid.

Causes others in the conversation to also go into crisis mode. Conversation nearly impossible.

In short, we face our crucial conversations with the intellect and thoughtfulness of a grizzly bear.

OK, so we know this happens, what should we do about it.

  1. Recognize when a conversation is crucial. This may be easier said than done but if you look for just a few things, you can do it.
  1. Is the subject or situation something that is important to me?
  2. Have my words suddenly become stronger? Often people have certain words they normally don’t use but when they start into crisis mode, the words come out. (Hint: if you language is normally laced with expletives, stop using them and then when you do you’ll know you are in a crucial conversation)
  3. You step forward, move forward in your chair or cross you arms in front of you.
  4. You interrupt the person who is speaking.
  5. Any of these things are done by the person you are speaking with.
  1. Listen actively. If you sense the conversation is crucial, you can listen actively.
  1. Closely listen to the person and let the completely finish their thoughts.
  2. Then you say, “Just so I’m sure I understand you correctly: You’re telling me…” and paraphrase what they said back to them. This gives you time to actually think and, if you sincerely want to understand them, they will know you care, and will often calm down.  Responding with sarcasm does NOT count as active listening!
  1. Exit the conversation well. In this move you want to not make a decision or say anything you may regret, but also not just ignore the conversation or situation.
  1. “I’m sensing we both care a lot about this. I think we should take a little time here to think out what we really want to accomplish. Let’s not talk about this anymore not but get back together in an hour and at that time start by considering our long term goals first.” This method does the following:
  1. Takes a break from the immediate crisis.
  2. Recognizes it is important by setting a follow up time.
  3. Changes the emphasis of the conversation from this minute to long term.

Special consideration for couples, business partners or teammates! Often times these skills are used the least with people we care about the most or have the most “on the line” with. Why? Because our emotions are strong with these people and we expect them to listen better to us. This simply isn’t true.

So with those closest to you, agree on a word or phrase anyone can say that will end the current conversation and signal that everyone should retreat to separate rooms or safe places. This will only work if it is respected and strictly obeyed by EVERYONE, EVERY TIME, NO EXCEPTIONS. If you do this though, it is very powerful. After a while the sense of respect you have for each other goes up dramatically and your ability to discuss important things while remaining calm is greatly improved. You both will have a greater sense of security around each other and you will be far more open. But if you break the “rule” and don’t end the conversation when the other person asks you to, you lose their trust, respect, and ability to have crucial conversations. This is a big deal!

All this comes from a fantastic book called Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson. I strongly recommend it to everyone. You can all attend courses. See VitalSmarts.com.


Jumping To A Fulfilling Life

Jumping To A Fulfilling Life

I’ve been working on a short guide to a fulfilling life for a while now, but didn’t know how to present it or what to really do with it. It’s not great, just something I’ve been doing personally for a while and I tried to figure out how to share it. I’d write more, but this video by Steve Harvey says it better than me. So watch the video, and if you’re interested in “jumping” but not sure where to start, download the guide and give it a try. What do you have to lose…except a mediocre life.

Download 3 Step Guide To A Fulfilling Life

Boating Safety Tips

Boating Safety Tips

BoatSafety_LargeEvery time you take your boat out on the water is a new experience. No matter how many trips you have under your belt, it is best to freshen up on boat safety before each voyage. Be sure you and your passengers follow these safe boating tips and practices to help promote an incident-free return from each outing.

Before Setting Out on Your Boat

Ensure that your boat is operating properly before heading out onto the water. Follow this pre-departure checklist to help you avoid any potential problems.

  • Share your float plan with a friend or relative. Be sure to include your destination and expected time of return.
  • Check fuel levels and add as necessary.
  • Check your engine. For in-board engines, open the hatch to look for fuel or fluid (oil, coolant, etc.) leakage or excess water in the bilge, or the lowest section inside of a boat. For outboard engines, check the fuel system for leaks or heavy gas odor. Excessive fuel vapors from either engine type can be a sign of a serious problem.
  • Ensure all lights are functioning and in place.
  • Check for any electrical issues such as loose, disconnected or corroded conductors.
  • Test radio/communications devices.
  • Run blowers to evacuate fumes and vapors from the bilge prior to starting your engine.
  • Attach your boat and vehicle keys to a floating bobber.
  • Check the local weather, sea reports and boating forecasts. As the operator of the boat, you have a responsibility to pay attention to the weather and should not head out if adverse conditions are expected.
  • Have an emergency/evacuation plan in place, and go over it with your passengers.
  • Review the vessel’s controls, location of personal flotation devices and location of fire extinguishers with your passengers.

What to Take Aboard

No matter how careful you, your passengers and fellow boaters may be, accidents can still happen. In the event of an incident, you should always have these items with you while you are out on your boat:

  • Boat certificate and registration.
  • Towing policy paperwork (if you have one).
  • Personal flotation device (PFD) —with protective packaging removed—for each passenger.
  • Charged and functioning fire extinguisher.
  • Fully-stocked boating emergency/survival kit.

Staying Safe on the Water

Having a good time while out on the water includes getting everyone back to shore safely. Whether you are navigating or just along for the ride, everyone plays a critical role in boating safety. Be sure you and your passengers practice these safe boating behaviors on every outing:

  • Do not exceed the number of passengers safely allowed on your vessel.
  • Make sure all passengers remain in their proper, seated positions on the boat while it is in motion.
  • Children should wear a PFD at all times – this is required by law in some states, so be sure to check local laws, rules and regulations. Adults should consider wearing them as well, and at a minimum, they should be readily available.
  • Shut off the engine while passengers are loading and unloading for recreational activities such as tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and swimming.
  • Monitor gauges at the helm (voltage, temperature, fuel) to help promote safe operation and identify any issues as soon as possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, like water conditions and other vessels, to help you react to any potential dangers in a timely manner.
  • The primary and backup operator (if you have one) should abstain from consuming any alcoholic beverages prior to or during the outing.

Article Courtesy of Travelers Insurance

St Henry Garage Sale 2016!

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Personal Planning – A Fulfilling Life Beats A Happy Life Every Time!

Personal Planning – A Fulfilling Life Beats A Happy Life Every Time!

To-do-listDownloadable Tool: The 4 Step Guide To A Fulfilling Life.

Every year, at least for the last 10 years, around this time I do a little life planning.  I’ve found it to be EXTREMELY helpful, so I thought I would share it.  It’s not terribly ingenious, but it takes some time.  If you are honest with yourself, it will probably be very helpful.

Most successful businesses develop business plans.  I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Most people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”.  So some years ago I was working on a business plan when I suddenly realized I had never applied those planning principles to my personal life.  I did it, and have never quit.

I’ll try to to give you a brief overview, but you need to download the guide above. It has much more detail and suggestions.

Step 1: Discover what you were created for.

A fulfilling life beats the crap out of happy life, every time! What gets you up in the morning?  If you were guaranteed success in a perfect world, what would you do all day long? Be passionate about something.  Life is too short to live in desperate mediocrity.  You don’t have to set the world on fire, but life is better when YOU are on fire.

Step 2: S.W.O.T.

Define your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats…and then there is the Bonus Question!

Step 3:  Define your roles – where do you really make a difference?

We can only do so much so we need to know what we need to do and what we are are good at, and what we like to do. It’s one of those things that once you think about it and do it, it will add a lot of clarity to your life.

Step 4: Pick 2 or 3 goals, make a plan, and get going.

Don’t overdue it, but challenge yourself.  Decide on a few steps that will get you started on each goal.  Now put the paper somewhere you’ll handle it regularly.  Mine is my screen saver and at the top of my prayer journal.  Plan on looking at them every 3 months and see where you are on your goals, change your steps, or pat yourself on the back.

It’s that simple.  Now get excited, get growing, and get going.

Downloadable Tool: The 4 Step Guide To A Fulfilling Life.


What’s The Story With Those Pink Flamingos?

What’s The Story With Those Pink Flamingos?

MPL slider image 4“What the heck is the deal with all those flamingos?”  We get the question all the time, and its a great question with a fun answer.

The story starts in 2012 when Preferred Insurance was celebrating our 100th anniversary. As part of that celebration, we decided to make 2012 the “Year of Giving Back”.  We started Quotes4Causes (giving $10 to charity for every quote we give) and vowed to get more involved in our great community and raising money for local charities.

One of our favorite charities was and still is Serving Friends And Families Ministries, and we were looking for a way to raise a little money for them.  Hillary Staugler was doing an internship with us at the time and I asked her to look for some ideas.  She surfed the web for a little while till she found something crazy enough to get my attention.

Flamingo Flocking Is Born

Or this is what Hillary came up with!

We created 10 flocks of flamingos and different volunteers at different charities were in charge of each flock.  They started by putting them in a few yards, along with a sign saying “You’ve Been Flocked!  Call Preferred Insurance”.  When the people would call in we would tell them that for a small donation of $20 to the charity, we would send out our “technicians” to remove the flamingos.  However, we don’t have any cages for the flamingos, so they needed to tell us whose yard the technicians should move the flamingos to…and the whole cycle would start over again.

That summer, with the help our great community, our lovely pink ladies raised over $3,000.  They also became our mascot and gave our agency a new favorite color – pink of course.  The flamingos still go “flocking” for multiple organizations every summer, and they pretty successfully annoy enough people to not be forgotten.

The neatest thing about this story however, is how the experience changed us, Preferred Insurance Center.  When 2012 –  “The Year Of Giving Back”  came to an end we knew it had been a great year.  All our fundraising and getting involved had given us a new purpose and energy.  We were better people, in a better agency, with a better attitude.  There was no going back.

From 2012 to the present (2015) our partners, clients, neighbors and flamingos have helped us raise or give over $75,000 to local charities.  Our new attitude has put smiles on a lot of faces, and we have grown from 6 team members to 13.  It’s been a crazy ride on an awesome pink rollercoaster here in God’s theme park we call Life.  If it sounds like fun, give us a call, we’d love to have you come along for the ride.  Just hop on, put your hands in the air, and scream like a girl till you’re stomach hurts from laughing.

7 Easy Steps for Creating your Wedding Guest List

7 Easy Steps for Creating your Wedding Guest List

guestsCreating a guest list may seem seem stressful,
but it certainly doesn’t have to be! Here are 7
simple steps for creating your perfect wedding guest list.

1. Consider your budget
Before you can decide how many guests you would like to invite, you need to have an idea of how much you are willing to spend on the wedding. Typically two of the biggest expenses for a wedding include food and liquor, which are both per-head costs. Therefore, changing the guest list size is the surest way
to increase, or decrease, your costs.

2. Set a target number
Considering your budget, along with your vision of your wedding day, work with your fiancé to set a target number of guests. Keep in mind, a small budget doesn’t mean a small guest list; you will just have to make sacrifices elsewhere.

3. Talk with the “VIP’s”
Deciding who gets to choose what percentage of the guests can be tricky if one or both sets of parents are involved in the planning or are contributing financially. Share your general vision for your wedding along with your target number, and ask each party to create a list of their desired guests with that in mind. Make sure to emphasize that these lists aren’t final, and there’s room for discussion.

4. Prioritize
Many experts, such as Sharon Naylor, author of The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette suggest creating multiple lists. Looking at the lists that you and your fiancé have created, along with the lists you’ve received from the parents, create 3 sub-lists:
List A: Immediate family and close friends. These are people you can’t imagine your wedding day without.
List B: Family members and friends who would be “nice to have” in attendance.
List C: Those you don’t have a strong relationship with.
This will help you narrow your list down (after discussing with all those involved in the planning).

5. Stick with your list
Waiting to see how many will attend, and then inviting others at a later time if there’s space is not recommended. You don’t want to risk insulting your guests when they find out that they weren’t on your “A” list. Especially if you live in a small town, as you know word spreads easily.

6. Consider the Yield
According to data analytics from RSVPify, around 20 percent of invited guests are expected to decline the invitation. Keep in mind though you are likely to have more yeses for a hometown wedding (especially if you and your spouse are from the same town).

7. Get organized and use a collaborative system
To help you keep an organized guest we have created a easy-to-use, free wedding planner which you can download below!

Download MPL Wedding Planner!



Budget for a Better Wedding

Budget for a Better Wedding


3978938250_9cb51c28dc_zPlanning for a wedding is exciting! Looking through bridal magazines, scrolling through Pinterest, creating that vision in your mind of your dream wedding. But in order to make  that “wedding board” on Pinterest a reality, or really bring that vision in your head to life, it is important to consider how you are going to strategically allocate your funds. I know, I know, budgeting may be… (is) the less glamorous part of the planning process, but it is necessary. Having a thought-out budget will make your planning process much less stressful. After all, the best budgets are there to guide you, not make you feel guilty or stressed…they’re designed
to keep you from losing control.

Here are four pieces of advice on budgeting.

1. Make a Priority List of which wedding elements are important to you
Is catering most important to you? What about your wedding photos, or the dress, or entertainment? Sitting down and really thinking about what is important for your wedding will help you decide how much of your budget you want to allocate to each category. In the long run it will assure that you are not sacrificing anything that is really important to you.

2. Consider the “Miscellaneous”
As you begin to plan your wedding you will realize that there are many elements that go into a wedding. Some that you may not really consider when you are looking at the “grand scheme of things”. Our advice is to consider those wedding costs that come before, and after, the wedding. Bridal Guide has a list of 30 things to consider when it comes to forgetful costs. To avoid stress, we recommend allotting about 5% of your budget for a “just-in-case” fund.

3. Do plenty of research
Do plenty of research, invest your time in meeting with all kinds of experts, getting printed price lists, and really knowing the ballparks of what everything costs. Then sit down and look at your available funds to figure out what kind of wedding you will have. As you get vendor estimates, keep them organized so you can compare vendor prices later on when making a final decision.

4. Stay Organized
Our biggest piece of advice. There is a lot of planning that goes into having a fabulous wedding and staying organized is the best way to have a seamless planning process. We have created an easy-to-use Wedding Budget worksheet in our downloadable wedding planner to help you get started. Even better, the worksheet does the math for you so you don’t have to!

Features of the My Preferred Life Wedding Planner:

  • Budget Planning
  • Planning guests list
  • Makes for an easy organized to do list
  • And MUCH more!