Sunday night, I went to Subway for dinner with my fiancee. There was no expectation of great service from the sandwich artists behind the counter. I really expected the normal assembly-line sandwich that I am accustomed to. It isn’t bad. It is good food. It just isn’t usually a remarkable experience.

This night would be different!

Caleb. One man. He made the difference between the standard submarine sandwich experience and this very fun one. It started out normal enough. A cheerful greeting, getting our sandwiches made quickly and professionally with a side of good humor. Then, after I had paid, he told me a joke. Just one. He wasn’t trying to be a stand up comedian. He saw that we were wearing tshirts from our church. After asking us about it, he said, “Can I ask you a question?” I assured him that he could. His question was, “How many of what kind of animals did Moses take on the ark?” It isn’t a new joke, it has been around for ages. “Moses wasn’t on the ark.” I responded. He laughed and said, “You get a free cookie!”

As we sat and ate our sandwiches, chips and free cookie, we noticed that he did similar things with each customer. While he may have given away a handful of cookies, I noticed that each and every customer had a great time. Not just an average sandwich on the way home time, but a truly smile from ear to ear great time! I am much more likely to pick that particular Subway to stop at when in that part of town now. I would be willing to bet that the other customers also felt the same way. It wasn’t just the free cookie. It was the jovial fun way in which it was “won” by each customer who came through the door. I am not sure how many riddles he cycles through in a day or if each customer gets an original, but I didn’t hear him use the same one twice.

So Caleb who works at Subway on Pleasantburg in Greenville, SC. You have a raving fan of your great customer service here. Congrats!

 

20150217_163022[1]Sitting in Starbucks, I am surrounded by graphic designers, bloggers and authors…or at least those who aspire to those titles. Those who create are doing good in the world. If you are creating art, be it with paint, a computer, words, steel or some other medium, you are to be commended.

I was just chatting with a young man named Ryan. He has submitted articles for publication…and received rejection letters. Anyone who has tried to publish anything has likely collected a few of those. We have all been rejected. The key is to not let that affect your worth. You are valuable! Your work in valuable. It might not be the right fit for that publisher, but if you believe in it, keep going. If you can’t get a traditional publisher to take it, self publish. There is less and less stigma attached to it every day! Two of the top ten books on Amazon last year were self published titles. I encouraged Ryan to keep writing. I encourage you to keep up your art too!

Maybe you are an artist working in the visual arts who can’t seem to get a show. Have your own! Clean your apartment, mount your work,  get the coffee on and invite everyone you know to come see it. Maybe you will even sell a piece or someone there will realize that you really do have talent and will make a call that gets you a show. Believe it or not, gallery owners need artists just as much as the artist needs the gallery show. I owned a gallery for a while in Missouri. It was always nice to see the pleased look on an artist’s face when they have shown you their work and you offer them a show. The truth is, I would have loved to have offered a show to every artist who had the guts to walk in and ask. Sometimes, their art didn’t fit our niche. It didn’t mean they weren’t talented when I rejected them for a show. In the same way, if you have been rejected, it doesn’t mean that the gallery owner didn’t like your work. It could just be that it wasn’t the right gallery. (You might ask the owner or gallery manager if they know of a gallery that would be interested in your work.  Often I  knew of another gallery in the area that would love their work and was happy to send them with a recommendation or even call the other gallery owner from my office to set up a meeting for them.)

Are you a musician, practicing long hours in your basement? Those practice hours are indeed necessary, but if you want to get out of the basement and play in front of people, you will need to be proactive. Like the artist, if you aren’t getting gigs, start your own. Send out a Facebook invite to the debut show of YOU! (If you are in the Upstate of South Carolina, send me an invite!) You aren’t trying to pack out Madison Square Gardens yet, but maybe you can pack out your living room. Next time, shoot for the back yard for your first outdoor concert!

The point of my book I Choose YOU! is that the traditional gatekeepers are losing their power. It is enough to choose yourself and then do everything you know to do to make your dream come true.

A young lady recently asked me how to get started in marketing. My advice to her is the same as it would be for just about any new field. I told her to read a few good books on it and then pick a small, local company and offer to market them for free. If you are successful, then they may want to hire you. If they don’t, you will have a successful campaign in your portfolio.

The key is to keep doing your art! Whatever form it may be, keep it going and get busy helping other people discover you. They won’t look for you in your basement.

If you aren’t a Kindle reader and you want I Choose YOU! in paperback — You can get it here.

 

One of the games was dancing while balancing a miniature Reece’s Peanutbutter Cup on a spoon. The last couple to keep from dropping them won a free admission for the next week.

As the writer for Startstuff.net, I really do love starting new things. This blog is to catch you up on the latest adventure.

My friend Robert and I saw a niche in the dance world that wasn’t being filled. (That is key to starting anything…find the niche that no one else is already filling.)

We found an ideal location.

Then we launched a new dance scene.

That was the easy part. Now comes the harder part. Each Tuesday evening, we will be there. We will do our best to create excitement and make sure that everyone has a wonderful time. We keep working to show how we are different from competitors.

So far, it has been a very enjoyable experiment!

If you happen to be in the Greenville, SC area on a Tuesday evening, stop by and see us!

 

Poking around the money information in the U.S. Census Bureau can be quite enlightening. It seems that in 2002, 75% of Americans were in debt in some form. Now, that number has dropped to below 69% of Americans being in debt. This is good news, but if you are in that 69%, it doesn’t much matter does it? For the 6% who got out of debt in those years, it is a big deal though. I wrote about increasing your net worth a couple days ago. One of the greatest ways to increase your net worth is to take away the negative column. Remember that net worth is (Total Assets – Total Debt = Net Worth). So if there is nothing in that debt side, then everything you gain is adding to your net worth.

So how do you get out of debt?

Hint, for most people, just making more money isn’t the key. It is knowing where your money goes. Some people are Starbucks rich, but dirt poor. They see their checks go bye-bye one $3.65 Grande Cappuccino at a time. If you have an expenditure like that, cutting it out can save you big money that you can put toward paying off those student loans, credit cards, auto loans, home loans etc. The above example of the $3.65 a cup drink…if you normally drink one each morning on the way to work, consider bringing one from home or drinking a cup of water instead. Over a year, that equals well over a thousand dollars. (One a day would be $1,332.25 + tax)

I am not saying that you should never have anything just for enjoyment. I am currently writing in a Starbucks as I drink a bottle of San Pellegrino Italian Sparkling Grapefruit. It is in my budget. Knowing when and where you will spend your money is the key. It isn’t that you never spend anything. That method is unsustainable for most people.

Go after the smallest debt first. If you owe $250 on a store credit card. Get that knocked out. It might not seem like a big deal when you have $50,000 in student loans, $85,000 left to pay on your house, $15,000 in other assorted credit cards, but getting one debt completely paid off is psychologically good for you in addition to helping you slightly financially. Maybe the minimum payment was only $10 a month, but if you only paid that, it would take you a few years to get it paid off. If you can take that extra $3 a day you are saving by skipping the Cappuccino and put it toward that card, then you are making real progress. A couple months and it is gone. At that point, you have that $90 a month + the original $10 a month to put toward the next largest card. As you tick off each debt, it will be a very freeing feeling!

You may quickly find that you are enjoying seeing those debt numbers go down and your personal net worth number climbing toward a positive number. It may even inspire you to pick up a part time job on the side just to use for paying off the debt faster. (Don’t up your budget when you get the extra job or a year later, you will still be working two jobs and not have made much progress on the debts.) If you can make an extra $50 a week doing something on the side, that might not seem like a lot, but over the year, that adds up to $2,600. Would that pay off one of your credit cards?

In addition to making slightly bigger payments, there may be some other things you can do to get out of debt. Do you have a lot of junk in your garage that you could sell on Craigslist, Ebay or a good old fashioned garage sale? Could you part with that really nice car that you are paying $600 a month for in exchange for a more modest vehicle that would still be reliable transportation but you could either pay cash for or significantly reduce your payments or the length of time you are paying for it?

If you are still renting, could you move to a more economical house/apartment? Whether renting or owning, would it be possible to take on a roommate to share expenses with? If you have too much house, it might even be good to sell your home and buy a cheaper one significantly reducing your payment. You might even have significant equity in the home you sell and be able to put that money into owning a much higher percentage of the smaller home. Let me explain. If you currently live in a house that is valued at $215,000.00 and you have paid off $35,000.00 of it. You still owe $180,000.00 and it is a long way from being paid off. If however you could sell it for the $215,000.00 that is its current value and take that $35,000.00 and buy a $75,000 house, it will still be a decent roof over your head but now you only owe $40,000.00 and since you had so much money down, you won’t be paying Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Your payment will drop to about $400 a month or less instead of the previous amount which frees up a good bit of funds for you to pay off other debts with each month. Now instead of having an extra $90 a month to put toward debt from cutting out the cappuccino, you could have an extra $1,000 a month to pay off your credit cards with. Wouldn’t that make a huge dent!

Don’t forget to have some fun along the way, but by making some changes in your life, getting out of debt sooner rather than later or never, you will find that life has much less stress!

To put all my cards on the table, at the time of writing this blog, I no longer have any credit card debt, no student loans or other revolving credit debt. I do still owe money on my home, but this month, that will drop below the $4,000 mark. I can’t wait to be completely debt free! To be sure, I will share that moment with my Startstuff readers! So I am preaching to myself as much as to you. I am in progress on this journey with you. WE can do it!

 

If you are reading this, it means I decided not to delete it. I am writing in March for a post in May. Here is why I am sharing that intro information:

Robert Whitney and I are starting a new venture on Tuesday Nights in Greenville, SC. It is exciting as we plan things out. There is the rush of creating something new. There are great expectations of what the possible future could be. People are getting involved and it looks as though at least our first night is going to be a great success and we are anticipating a fun time for all involved. That is the upside.

The downside. Some of the people I thought would really be supportive have turned out not to be. I guess my own  naivete shows here, but I didn’t expect starting something like this to cause me to lose friends. I am expecting to gain many great relationships, but not to lose existing ones. You would think as the guy who writes for Startstuff that I would have figured this out by now. I guess I have … but not before a relationship took a serious dent.

In life, sometimes we make moves and we find that we can’t please everyone. Do what you can to work things out with the offended party, but at some point remember that they are also human, have their own emotions, and may be hurt by your actions (Even when sometimes that doesn’t make sense to you).

Here are some questions I had to ask myself as I deal with this:

  • Am I doing anything that will hurt the offended party?
  • Is their reason for not wanting me to go forward because they are looking out for my best interests in some way that I am not seeing?
  • Am I being selfish?
  • At this point, (after the fact), is the relationship fixable? What would that take from my part? What would that take from their part?
  • Am I doing what I can to keep the peace? (Remember that you have no control over the other party’s emotions, feelings, actions, words etc. You do however have complete responsibility for your’s.)

Hope these questions help you if you are starting something that not all of your friends/family/coworkers are on board with you for.

 
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