Why nobody is listening to you or your message.

I’m sure you’ve been there. Mid-conversation, when you realize that you didn’t actually hear the last few sentences the person in front of you just said. You are also kidding yourself if you think nobody has ever trailed off into deep internal thought while you were sharing your heart.

The frightening thing is that this happens in all types of settings. Nobody is exempt. You could be in a business meeting, conversation with your spouse, a developmental conversation with a team member, or even sharing your hopes and dreams with somebody you care about. So what can you do to make sure that you are being heard in a world full of distractions?

Here are a few pitfalls you might be falling into and how to fix them.

1.You’re not listening.
You’re probably thinking, “But wait, I thought this was about people listening to me?” Sure it is, but there are some preliminary steps to being successful here.

Have you ever been in a group setting where people are having dialogue about a particular topic and people are fired up and then somebody references something you once said to them that resonated and had impact? Then you had that moment inside of you where you were like, “Yes! I said something right! And somebody actually heard me!”

Or how about being in a one on one conversation and the person you are talking to, repeats back to you something that you had mentioned earlier in your discussion? Apparently they were gasp actually listening to you.

Don’t those moments feel incredible? There is tremendous power in being heard. In a way, to be heard is to be known. It’s to be cared for. Every human wants that, if they say otherwise, they are lying.

If you want others to hear you out, make sure you are reciprocating. When they feel you have taken the time and the care to listen, what you have to offer will have more weight.

2.You’re talking about yourself too much.
I know your Mommy told you that you are special and you are…to her. The truth is, most people are interested in themselves, even when it sounds like it’s about you.

A few years ago I got a promotion I had been working very hard to get. After my promotion, a lot of people approached me and asked me “What did you do to get promoted?” And regretfully, looking back on that season…I talked about myself. A lot. The truth is, what they were actually asking me was, “What do I need to do to get promoted?” Which would have completely changed the dialogue had I caught on to this early enough.

If we are doing step 1, and truly listening, then we will be better at answering the right question. Regardless of how it is asked. When you are giving answers that are actually relevant and applicable, the person in front of you will be more likely to listen.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says “So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

3.There is too much noise.
With the creation of the internet, a lot of industries have completely changed how they connect with people. This has been both good and bad. When I was melting faces off in my younger days while in my band, we had to network like crazy to get our music out there. The internet was just beginning to be in everyone’s household. Within a few years, there was so much music available on the internet because anybody could upload and share it. That also meant there was a lot of garbage out there. One, now, has to sift through tons and tons of music to find something that is appealing or different and that you might actually enjoy.

Music is just one realm of noise contribution. There is so much noise to sift through on a day to day basis as it is. If others are doing something similar, do something different. Make sure your message stands out enough to cut through the noise.

4.You are not simplifying enough.
If you give your team or others an exhaustive “How to” list with bullet points and sub points, it’s too complicated. The longer your message, the more likely your listener will lose interest. Have a clear “What, Why and How.” The least amount of words you use to communicate, the better. Yes, use less words.

Here’s why. Have you ever had that person around who never talks and then one day they open their mouth and say something really profound? Had another person blabbing, thrown out that same statement in the middle of their ongoing speech, would it have landed with the same impact? The fewer words we use, the more impact each one will have. Be simple. Be intentional. This will give your words weight.

5.You’re not relevant. 
I’m sure you’ve seen a commercial where they go on and on about being family owned and share how their grandfather started the business? And then you ask yourself, “Is your Grandfather coming to fix my toilet when I need a plumber?”

Going back to step 2, it is not about you, but the listener. Nobody wants to hear about how long your company has been family owned. They want to know if you can address their need and fix their problem.

If you are one who goes off on tangents and bunny trails, it’s too much work to follow you. You will lose people. Stay on topic. Stay relevant.

Avoiding these common pitfalls will allow your listeners to remain engaged and truly hear your message.

Which pitfalls are most common to you? What will you try to keep your listeners engaged? Do you have a relevant story to share that others might learn from? Feel free to share in the comments.

Why being self-aware is vital to your success.

You’ve heard it before, people talking about mindfulness, meditation and self-awareness. It’s truly not a new concept. Many have dedicated their lives to its core values and moving the world towards world peace, such as Chade-Meng Tan (author of Search Inside Yourself). As of late, there has been a much larger focus on Emotional Intelligence and happiness in the Psychology world. A topic seemingly left in the dark for so long.

There are so many facets to this behavioral process and science, but today we are really going to keep it simple and focus on 2 things: Why it’s important to be self-aware & how not to use your self-awareness.

Let’s dig in.

1. Why it’s important to be self-aware.

A few months back, I had some coffee with my friend, Fadi. I already knew this was going to be a great time because I love sitting down and having meaningful conversation with people and I am also a coffee addict. Basically, if you don’t like coffee, I’m not sure if you’re truly human.

Anyway, back to the story, coffee with Fad the Bod (that’s how he refers to himself). While enjoying the nectar of the gods, we chatted about life and our own creative outlets and how we had become stagnant with them.

At this meeting, we both agreed that we would have a pact with a small group of people (him, myself and possibly 1-2 others) that we would meet once a month to discuss our current creative endeavors to support one another and also hold each other accountable.

We both agreed that we would need a little bit of time to decide exactly what our creative endeavors would be and then have it ready to share at our first monthly meeting.

I drove home, so excited. Myself and a few others were going to be meeting regularly to cultivate each others dreams and passions. As I was thinking about what it was that I would do, originally wrestling with ideas of drum videos, making music or teaching others music stuff, I realized none of those things would bring fulfillment. I had spent most of my life playing music. I love music, but I learned a while back that it is not what fulfills me (check out more of my personal journey here). But I was ecstatic. So I asked myself why was I so excited. I quickly realized I was more excited of the prospect of being a part of others pursuing their passions (which is what brings me the most joy in life), than I was about even having a creative outlet.

That was it. My focus would be sharing that message and encouraging others. That’s how More than Dreamers was born.

Had I not stepped back and assessed myself and my emotions, I could have easily made my focus the wrong thing. Sure I may have come up with a fun creative outlet, but it may not have aligned with my core purpose. I’m in my 30’s now. I’m not sure about you, but I just don’t want to waste any more of my life on pursuing the wrong thing.

So when we talk about being Self Aware, you should be assessing what or how you are feeling. Step outside yourself for a minute (this is where that meditation stuff comes in handy), and ask yourself about your feelings. It’s weird at first, I know.

Once you’ve landed on what/how you are feeling, then you need dig one step deeper and ask yourself why you are feeling that way. Doing this will allow you to make better decisions for your life. It will ensure you have a true purpose behind your actions. You will know why you are doing what you are doing. In turn, you will also know what personal fulfillment you are gaining (or not gaining).

2. How not to use your self-awareness.

I have a friend whom I have known for many years. At one point in time we even had the pleasure of working together. There was a season where this person was really dedicated to growing in their job and getting promoted. We had worked for a great company who invested in their people and allowed us to spend time digging into our individual strengths and weaknesses. One of their weaknesses was “composure.”

That is a difficult one for a lot of people. What this essentially meant was that they had a difficult time keeping it together in tough situations. Those who struggle with composure may be that friend, that you never truly know what you are going to get from them day by day. They could be fine one minute and completely blow up the next. They may be the one who can’t hold back their facial expressions when they disagree or are in disgust. Basically, they don’t have a poker face. They can’t hide their emotions at all.

Back to my friend. This got them in trouble every once and a while. And while knowing this was their main area of opportunity for improvement, they often used it as an excuse as to why they sometimes reacted the way that they would. They internally decided (and sometimes audibly said) “This will always be my weakness and I know that.” The problem with that sort of mentality was that it gave permission to display the exact behaviors they knew they needed to improve upon. Until they remove their excuse they won’t be able to get past their area of weakness.

I’ll share another example, this time a personal one.

A few weeks back I had an opportunity to spend time with some leaders that I highly admire and respect. It was a rare opportunity to showcase my talent and the work I had been currently focusing on. In preparation for this meeting, I did a self-development activity, assessing my skill level of specific leadership behaviors. In doing this, I uncovered that my main area of weakness is dealing with ambiguity or uncertainty (I’m not much of a spontaneous person outside of work either). I like to be prepared. More specifically, I like to be prepared in front of people who I believe to be much smarter than myself. I like to know and feel that I am adding value to whatever I am actively participating in. Simply put, I like to have a purpose.

The timing of this opportunity was an additional challenge. My team of 8 was down 2 people. I had picked up the responsibilities of one of those positions, in addition to my own. I was also on several other strategic teams in my market and all of this only allowed me to be in my building with the team I lead 3 days a week. Oh, I was also going on vacation the next day and needed to write 2 weeks worth of schedule for 40 people on a scheduling tool that just had its biggest update in the 8 years I have worked there and was up and down for hours at a time.

I was ready for vacation. I was also scatterbrained, exhausted and now paranoid about this upcoming meeting that I had absolutely no time to prepare for…all the while knowing (or being self-aware) that my main weakness was dealing with the unknown.

I let that last thought rule me.

Instead of going in excited to discuss all of the work I had been doing and seeing a positive impact, I was obsessing with the fact that I had no idea what to expect from this. So I went in to it making an excuse for myself. I shared how exact moments like this make me uncomfortable and I struggle in situations where I don’t feel prepared. The problem was, that is not always true. In front of the team that I lead, I lead with confidence because I believe in what we do everyday. In real life, I am not terrified of not knowing an answer, because I rest assured that I know how to find an answer. (everything is on google, you guys.) 😉

I went into this meeting representing one aspect of myself that was only the case sometimes. I used it as an excuse by allowing it to dictate how I responded in the moment. Later, I received feedback that I came off lacking confidence. Which was valid.

Do not allow your awareness of your weaknesses be an excuse for sub-par behavior.

The great thing about self-awareness, is that once we discover things about ourselves, we also have the power to change. Once we are aware, we can spot moments where those behaviors or mentalities creep in and we can choose to use the space in between that moment of self-knowing and our reaction to respond differently.

How will you choose to use self-awareness to make better decisions for your life? How much time do you invest in knowing yourself better? Feel free to share your story or thoughts in the comments below.

Why You Remain Stuck and How to Save Your Soul.

There you are. Preparing your coffee before you head to a job that just doesn’t do it for you anymore. Well, it pays the bills. But it doesn’t make you come alive.

There’s that shiny thing off in the distance, you know it. The thing you’ve always wanted to do. The thing you would always rather be doing. Maybe it’s playing guitar, maybe it’s directing a movie, maybe it’s writing a book about that awesome idea you once had long ago.

But it’s a part of life, right? You have bills to pay and maybe even mouths to feed. It’s just not the time to take risks. So you stay here. Stuck.

You reason with yourself.
How could you be so selfish as to take a risk that could put yourself and others in jeopardy of not having the things you need to get by? No, you are a responsible being who has priorities and things to get done.

You’re used to making a decent amount of money. It took you years to get to this place, to make all this income, why take a step backward?

You allow the influence of others to hold you back.
Remember that one time your parents sat down with you to have a serious chat about your life and when you would finally decide to give up pursuit of these crazy dreams? You all agreed that if you weren’t “successful” by a certain age, you would pursue “other things.” That age has long since passed. Why would you go back on your word?

Plus, your friends who you grew up with through college, the same ones who used to dream alongside you, also have “grown out” of their dreaming phase. You only reminisce now while you are out having drinks. Then go back to your respective comfortable lives. They tell you they will put in a referral for you, at another job you know you would hate but at least it pays more money.

You failed big time and decided not to get back up after that last time.
You gave it everything you had. Energy, hopes, money, time. You finally had a chance to prove yourself and you missed it, hard. You had to go back home with your tail between your legs. Maybe asked your parents to move back in with them for a short time while you got back on your feet. You became bitter at your broken dream. Your ego crushed. You became numb, finally pursuing other things. But still, every time you are at a concert with friends and see somebody playing that bass guitar like they were born to do it, something dies inside of you all over again.

It was time to move on. It was time to “grow up.”

This “stuck” is almost always a mental barrier that we have created for ourselves (Unless it’s a restraining order. It’s there for a reason. Obey). The scary truth is that you have one life to live. One life to live to the absolute fullest. One life to leave a print on the world. One shot to leave it better than you found it. One life to make a lasting impact. In some way, I think that’s enough reason to be a little selfish. Not only that, but a better example to the rest of the world for how we should be doing this life thing. What kind of example do you want to be for the next generation? One who is brave, takes risks, pushes the world forward? Or one who sticks with what is safe and comfortable, and tells them to do the same later on in life?

Ok, so now that I may have gotten you a little fired up, let’s talk about what it takes to move forward. Let’s dig into the whole “saving your soul” part of all this. I’m not referring to the after life here, that’s for all of eternity. Today, we are only going to be focusing on this life. The one you are in right now. The one you should be getting the absolute most out of, because nobody else is going to do it for you.

Here’s the first step to saving your soul:

Believe.
Listen, it’s the first for a reason. It also happens to be the most difficult. The one that everyone gets stuck on. Again, that mental barrier. It’s when we get stuck in between our own two ears. In our brain place.

Let me tell you something about believing. It is much harder than un-believing. Un-believing happens in an instant. Something happens, a truth is exposed, and BOOM, you un-believe. Kind of like when you discovered that Santa wasn’t real. After that, you never believed otherwise.

But believing, that’s the hardest of all. It’s even harder when you’ve gotten to the stage of un-believing. I can’t convince you to believe in yourself in an instant. You have probably spent most of your life trying to convince your self to believe in you. This can only come from digging deep. Drowning out all of the noise and then making a decision. Sometimes the decision has to come before the belief does. You make the choice to believe, even if you’re not quite there yet. It’s like a commitment or pact with an old friend. This time, the old friend happens to be you.

So after making a promise to yourself to believe, even though you may not be fully there yet, it’s time to become a stalker. Well, a friendly-internet-troll kind of stalker.

It’s easy for us to sit at home in our comfy-bitter chairs and internally judge those who have achieved our dream status. We make excuses for them such as, “Well, their dad was already in the industry, so of course they were a shoe-in.” It’s easy for us to reason why they achieved their dream and we didn’t.

So I am going to ask you to go back to your now comfy-curious chair, get on the internet and sit there for a little bit longer. Long enough to search for actual people who achieved your dream status and research them. Yes, I am asking you to become an internet troll (I wasn’t lying earlier). It is VERY likely you will discover plenty of stories of people who put in a lot of effort, a lot of hard work and who had a whole lot of failure. I promise.

Do this enough, and you may begin to feel some warmth melting the ice off of your cold bitter heart. What’s that? Un-belief starting to melt away.

Don’t forget. You made the pact with yourself. The choice to believe. Guess what? Others have done the same. They promised themselves. Find some of these people. Connect with them. Something is going to happen. Here’s the next step in saving your soul.

Take Action by becoming a master at your craft.
Ok, you’ve proved it to yourself. You actually have seen and believe that some of these crazy dreams could become reality. Yes, seeing seems to be believing, but one day we will get ourselves to where we no longer have to see to believe (that’s another blog for another time).
In The Art of Work, by Jeff Goins, he shares the journey of the apprenticeship to mastery that took place in the Middle Ages. This required a student and a teacher. In our case today, a mentor. Apprenticeships would begin as early as the age of twelve. My guess is that you’re probably not twelve and we’re not in Kansas anymore. That’s ok. Because you made a choice, remember. To believe and you are going to do this thing. It’s time to go back to being a student. Reach out to others considered Masters and take on a posture of humility and be ready and willing to grow.

So how do you make this work? How do you effectively manage your time when you already have your day job and plenty of other responsibilities?
Dedication. This comes by saying that fulfillment of this choice has more weight than your need to watch T.V., than your need to hang out with friends every night (they’ll understand if you cut back to only once a week), than your need to sleep in at every chance you get. Simply put, it’s going to take a lot of effort and intentionality.

In this season you are greasing up the squeaky gears that have gone rusty over time. You are sharpening your skills. Researching a ton on your craft and others who are successful doing what you want to do. Not to mimic, but to gain perspective on where the market is at within your particular field. But mostly, you practicing the hell out of what it is you need to be doing. If it’s building guitars, you are crafting day and night. If it’s writing, you are waking up at 5AM every morning and writing new content and learning your voice. If it’s App Development, you are tinkering with all relevant technology and figuring out how things work, perhaps late at night with coffee sitting next to you.

An important thing to note, is that you could get stuck here for much longer than necessary. Especially if you happen to be one of those awkward perfectionists, like myself. You’re scared to show anybody your work because it’s not perfected yet. DO. NOT. WAIT. FOR. PERFECTION.

Find a mentor, practice, then create. Continue taking action. It should not always be the same action. Once you have invested a sufficient amount of time (If you are in this place for longer than 6-12 months, you need to get moving) as an apprentice, it’s time for the next step to becoming un-stuck.

Why you remain stuck and how to save your soul.

Building a Network and Marketing yourself and your goods.
Bleh. Yes, I used the words networking and marketing. This post just got adult real fast. But you can choose to man up and learn about self-promotion, or stay a closet dreamer for the remainder of your Earthly life (I’m pretty sure we already went over why that would suck).
I am not sure if you are a podcast junkie like me, but if you are, you may have heard the term “solopreneur” maybe you haven’t. Basically, it’s a bunch of crap. Being “solo” will never get you anywhere. Remember, you probably have bills to pay and potential mouths to feed, being “solo” will not get you those things. You need help. You need customers. You need teachers and you yourself should also be a teacher in order for all of this to work out. You need a network. Is a single person stranded on a desert island, successful? I don’t think many will see it that way. So convince yourself now that you need people and also that people need you.

That’s where marketing starts. Convincing others they need you (or your product). It feels gross and sleeze-bally saying that, I know. But if you aren’t convinced they won’t be either. Donald Miller has a great post about self-promotion titled, “Some Thoughts on Self Promotion and Why Arrogant People Think it’s Wrong.” You should definitely check it out if you still need to convince yourself.

Remember earlier when we talked about being brave, taking risks and pushing the world forward? The world isn’t going anywhere and not single person will be affected if you don’t. It’s selfish to withhold your gift from the world. We could all be better off because of what you as a human had to offer (what if Thomas Edison never invented the light bulb and electric power distribution? The world would be a whole lot darker.)

So what’s after that? Anything. Everything. Never stop dreaming. Never stop taking action. Get yourself un-stuck. Do it for yourself. Do it for the next generation. Do it for the world to know your gift.

Where are you now? What can you do to move forward? Please share your thoughts and/or your story in the comments below. This is a place of community. Let’s believe alongside each other and be a resource to one another. I look forward to hearing your story.

It may be time to rethink your “hope.”

Hope is an odd thing.

We all have it. Hope for something; something better, something new, something familiar.

And the thing is, unless we attain it, our heart, it hurts.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” An old Proverb says.

We can even try to silence this hope. Or even attempt to fulfill it with other things, but the longing is always there.

Over time we may have even convinced ourselves that it is no longer worth it, to continue to hope for that thing. It’s just too far off now, or perhaps “too childish.”

But the longing is there. It is truth. Just silenced.

We hope to become wealthy so we play the lottery or hope to strike a jackpot at a slot machine in Vegas. Maybe we hope that we get a large promotion so our families will be taken care of from now on. Perhaps we hope that the right person will cross our path and lead us to the big break we always wanted. Or maybe we even hope that we will run into the person of our dreams while sitting at home, browsing the internet.

But what have we done with this hope?

If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Then, this hope, or this faith, needs a little help to allow it to be so.

Hope is something that we know to be true but does not exist yet. Isn’t it, then, ok, to cause its existence? Perhaps, more than ok? But necessary?

This “hope,” then, may evolve to: Dedicating oneself to a craft and after several failures over time, finding success and becoming wealthy. Creating a place of refuge for your family through dedication to hard work and love. Networking, putting ourselves out there and creating opportunities until people know who you are and what you have to offer, seeking you out. Going out and living life to the fullest, being confident in who you are and run into somebody else dong something similar and fall in love.

What is hope if we have not put forth action behind it? It’s merely just a thought, one might reason.

Truly, we are capable of more.

Is your heart sick? Or are you doing something with your Hope?

3 Reasons why it’s time to be Millennial-Friendly.

If you haven’t yet noticed, there are a lot of young hipsters waiting to rule the world.

Being on the early-end of the millennial generation, there’s something within in me that refuses to self-identify with this group. But the truth is, I am part of it. A lot of us are. Regardless, of my own personal bias, 22-year old Dominique was absolutely what we would consider a millennial stereotype by today’s standards.

Luckily, I had some incredible people present in my life to get me through my wandering season.

If you aren’t on board yet with the millennials gearing up to take over the world, hopefully your mind will be changed by the time you get through this post. Here’s why we need to stop bemoaning this young group and start supporting them in their endeavors.

They are the smartest group of people to exist.
Hear me out on this one. Step back. Push your “but their a bunch of immature adolescents” stereotype aside and listen.

Think about it. The millennials grew up with something most of us have not. The internet and modern technology. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING is available to these young people at their fingertips in nano-seconds. Smart phones have replaced the need for a college education. (Whoa, I’m getting a bit progressive here, I know.) Blogs, YouTube, Online Workshops and Courses, Development in Niche markets without wasting time to learn a bunch of other crap you will never use again; it all makes up for endless possibilities when it comes to discovering a talent and learning all that there is to know. Now, they have to be willing to put forth the effort (more to come on that).

Even if these young people don’t know something, they know how to get the information and fast. Generally before most of us do.

They think differently. They don’t want to look at the world the same way that we have. They want partnership and camaraderie, not competition.

We need them.
Yes. We do. They are the future. They want what’s next and they know what they want. We don’t. We have no clue what they want. Basically, they are that family member that you have to buy a birthday gift for but has everything. We need them to see what’s ahead. We need to figure out exactly what it is that appeals to them and establish a new framework from that.

They need us.
Regardless of whether they know it or not, it’s true.
They are dreamers, but often without ambition. They know what they want but they don’t always know how. They have knowledge and desire but not experience. They need direction. But most of us are over waiting to prove ourselves correct that they either fail or never get started. They can sense our disbelief. Sure they believe in themselves, but that added layer of support is invaluable. Do you remember when you were young and sat face to face with somebody older that you greatly respected and admired? Do you remember when they believed in you? It made all the difference.

So let’s be that. Let’s push our egos aside and see what these young people are able to do. I have a feeling it’s going to be incredible. We can either be with them or against them. I’d rather be a part of pushing the world forward than trying to force it to remain the same.

How about you?

The dream killer: perfectionism.

Perfectionism is a sure way to never get started or to never be ok with the work that you put forth (and therefore, we withhold it). Either route is a dream killer.

Hi. I’m dominique. I’m a perfectionist. A perfectionist who prefers to think that I am not a perfectionist. That might even be worse. I haven’t decided yet.

The odd thing is, I 100% believe in the need for failure. The lessons learned are invaluable. They shape who we are and who we will become. I know this. I believe this. I know I need it.

Then there’s the whole “balance” thing. You know what I mean, “practice makes perfect.” blah blah blah. So does that mean I SHOULD strive for perfection? (this is me reasoning and rationalizing crazy with myself)

I have always just had this very strong internal need to do and achieve something great. But “great” by who’s standards? Well, my own, I guess. These really really REALLY high standards I have set for myself.

And so I feel it necessary to bring my A Game 100% of the time. I don’t half-ass anything ever. I can’t.

Eventually this will lead me to a point of exhaustion and stretching myself too thin. Or even confronted with life (or my very honest Mexican Mother) that I am not present and am too focused on the wrong things. That’s never fun. Then I’m exhausted AND feel like a giant ass hole.

But ultimately, what I’ve discovered, is that perfectionism is rooted in fear. Fear of something less than worthy. If it’s not perfect, it’s a poor representation of me. And remember, I want greatness.

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So I stop. I sit in quiet. I remind myself that I am human. And these super high standards I have put on myself, I would never allow another human to beat themselves up over. So I shouldn’t beat myself up either. And neither should you.

If we beat ourselves up to the point where we refuse to dream because we refuse to fail, then we’ve lost. I just don’t think that’s what this life is about. The world needs our gifts and our thoughts. It’s about you being you and me being me. Each day we can each bring what we have to give. Some days we will have more to offer than other days. That’s ok. It’s ok to be honest about it.

We don’t need perfection. We just need each other. Honest. Raw. And real.

So let’s remember to take it easy on ourselves. I know I could use a reminder every once and a while, and even a little encouragement here and there. You may too. If that’s the case, here you go: You’re doing a great job. Thank you for all of your hard work. It matters and you make a difference. Don’t try to convince yourself otherwise.

Now, go and remind somebody else who may need to hear that as well.