2021 Success? Simpler Than You Think!

“Congratulations on your recent graduation!” My daughter recently heard those words when she completed her undergrad studies at the University of North Florida and obtained her degree in Elementary Education.

In many ways, we all graduated last year. We survived one of the largest health threats in human history. We obtained our PhD’s in both Economic Survival and Realigned Social Norms and Customs. Instead of a diploma, we get to flip the calendar over to 365 new chances under the name 2021. The degrees we earned will mean nothing, however, if we don’t recognize the struggle it took achieve them and understand the lessons that emerged.

My 2020 degree was a tough one to obtain. What I am about to share with you is not intended to create a score board of who had it worse last year. My intent is to give you a glimpse at my personal journey and how it impacted my choices during the year. The cauldron of 2020 formed my resolve for the new year ahead. Perhaps what I learned will help you create a smoother path in 2021.

The year started with news that my mother had been placed in hospice care. She had only a few months left after her two-year battle with Alzheimer’s. The news was not unexpected, but still difficult to hear. We were in the process of selling her home as well and this new timetable put additional urgency and stress into the mix.

Mom and Dad moved into that house just a few weeks before I was born in the early 1960’s. They lived there together until Dad passed from a massive heart attack in the late 1980’s. Mom continued to live in the home until we had to move her into assisted living due to the progression of her disease. I grew up in that house and hoped it would stay in the family forever.

Mom passed on Good Friday in April, just a few days after we closed on the sale of her home. Her death was devastating but somehow a comfort – she was no longer in pain, she was once again with my Dad, and she could move on to her new role as an angel watching over our family. The loss of the house has been much more difficult for me – all of my childhood memories were there, and I had no idea of the impact losing it would have on me. Nearly 60 years of living, loving, learning, arguing, hugging, laughing, and crying took place within those walls.

Within weeks of Mom’s funeral, I returned home and was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer. Five years ago, I had colon cancer, had a resection and a clear scan, and went back to living life. This time the same type of cancer had reappeared on my liver, in my shoulder and in spots on my lungs. Stage 4 metastasized cancer now in three areas, not just one as before.

I immediately started radiation for my shoulder and chemotherapy for my liver and lungs. 15 radiation treatments, 12 cycles of chemo, and hundreds of hours in doctor’s offices, scanning machines or infusion rooms later, I received a clean scan. I have now been moved to maintenance oral chemo and reduced infusions.

My prognosis is excellent but the words “treatable, not curable” have been thrown around, so the future is not as clear as it was five years ago. I am dealing with mild neuropathy in my fingers and toes and I have few other nagging side effects from the powerful cocktail that was pumped through my body for six months. I am lucky – my oncologist was very concerned in April. He is just short of amazed at the response I’ve had to the treatment so far.

Oh yeah, and there was that worldwide pandemic thing going on as well. Talk about becoming the “boy in the bubble” – if the contagion wasn’t bad enough, my compromised immune system escalated my fear of exposure to pretty much anyone, anywhere, anytime.

So, what could I possibly learn during a year like 2020? I had many choices to make during the year, and the one that became clear to me was to simplify my life – not just weekly, or even daily, but hour by hour. There were a cadre of influences and circumstances that could have shaped my psyche and outlook last year. Most of them were out of my control. A few were firmly in my grasp. I chose to focus on making the most of each hour.

Even when I had the chemo pump at home (a total of 553 hours, or 23 full days last year), it was my choice on how to deal with it. Many of those hours I felt completely uncomfortable while connected to the pump – I slept in a recliner, had to learn to bathe in a whole new way, and sometimes the side effects were menacing. My choice was to focus on the outcome – I had to keep the pump for 46 hours at a time. Every so I often I would say to my wife “36 hours to go” or “just 16 hours til this cycle is over.”

Walking into the infusion room 12 times was another challenge. I spent well over 60 hours in that room, surrounded by strangers who were there for different types of cancer treatment. Several of them looked older or in worse shape than me. A few of them passed away. New patients would appear and join our bizarre brotherhood. My choice was to focus outwardly and to be as upbeat and pleasant to everyone as possible. By mentally moving outside my situation, it simplified the game and gave me a purpose for being there other than my health.

I learned the name of every nurse, assistant, phlebotomist, and office worker and spoke to them graciously and energetically. I had seen what they had to deal with every day. I didn’t want to add to their challenges by being a grouch or acting scared. If I could help lift them up a bit that would make each of our journeys better.

Even during radiation therapy – which can be intimidating with the huge machines and cold treatment rooms – I spoke to each of the techs with my normal humorous, positive tone and got to know them individually during the fifteen straight days I visited the facility. At the end of the treatment, the lead tech told me they were going to miss me coming in every day. She said they looked forward to seeing me because I picked them up emotionally and made them happy – something they tried to do for other patients all day long, but they felt the positive energy from me instead. By simplifying the process and just focusing on the next hour in front of me, I was able to release good energy to those around me.

My oncologist and radiation therapy doctor both said that they believed my attitude had everything to do with the quality and extent of my response to the therapies. They both had gotten positive vibes from me in person and their staffs had mentioned many times how much they enjoyed working with me. I was happy and humbled to hear the impact I’d had on others during such a trying time. What it taught me is that I am in control of my attitude, my outlook, and my ability to share positive energy with others.

Somehow, I achieved that simplicity of thought in the middle of a life cyclone: losing my mother and my childhood home; dealing with a serious medical diagnosis and the possibility of a reduced life span; and coping with a deadly virus that shook the foundations of our country. If I can do that in those circumstances, then you can do it as well in your daily life.

Clean out your closets – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Decide what and who is most important in your life and your work – focus on the positives, eliminate the negatives. That may mean staying away from negative people and influences and choosing activities that make you a better individual instead of the bad habits you have developed. Are you willing to make those tough choices?

Make time to act on your goals and if you are a list maker, write down the things you want to do and the challenges that are holding you back. Once you see them on the page they probably won’t seem as large as you perceive them to be. Are you ready to interact with your goals and not just ponder them?

Focus on the hour in front of you only. Do the most you can with those 60 minutes to help others or to move yourself forward. Try to connect with the passions that drive you, especially in work. Are you using your gifts and dreams to make forward momentum or are you ignoring them and staying stagnant?

Finally, leave the world better than you found it. That means at work, with your kids, with your neighbors, maybe even with your doctors and nurses. Be a light that people are attracted to – think about your impact on those around you. What do they say about you when you aren’t around – is it positive or negative? You control that reaction completely.

Simplify, simplify, simplify – we all learned to do it in 2020 whether we realized it or not. Now take this skill and apply it weekly, daily, hourly. 2021 has 365 chances for you to use the PhD earned in 2020 and transform yourself into the new sleeker, simpler, more focused person. You can do it – if you make simplification a way of life, not just a random idea.

Happy New Year!


Like Doing Puzzles? Life is Full of Them!

Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, my family decided to resurrect an old tradition of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Not just any puzzle, mind you, but a thousand-piece puzzle based on Hostess snack foods (see the attached photo). It seemed simple enough – lots of different foods, brand names, colors and shapes, and of course multiple Hostess logos throughout the scene. The more diverse the images the easier they’d be to fit together – right?

Well, as Coach Lee Corso says. “Not so fast, my friend!” It took several people over 3 hours just to find all the external edge pieces and then fit them into place, forming the frame of the design. In between the fantastic holiday feast, the football games and holiday movies, and catching up with family members, we somehow found time to gradually work on the puzzle project. Six different family members spent close to 20 total hours taking turns trying to find homes for the remaining 900+ pieces of Hostess goodies in the picture.

Soon, it was the last night of our get together and still almost a third of the puzzle was scattered on the table. I am a creature of habit with a burning desire to finish tasks, living every day trying to check off the boxes of my To Do List. Uncompleted tasks make my skin crawl. The puzzle had become a nemesis for me, and I was going to do everything in my power to finish it before the holiday gathering was over. I sat down at the table around 10pm, determined to find homes for all the wayward puzzle slices.

Soon, my son and daughter joined me at the table. My wife jumped in as well. They know me well and realized that I would not go to bed until the puzzle was completed. We took turns battling with the 300 or so pieces left to place on the board.

I quickly noticed that each of us had unique skills when it came to placing pieces correctly into the puzzle. My daughter saw shapes clearly and could look at a spot, see the outline of it and then quickly find it on the table. My wife and son saw themes – words that worked together or colors that should blend together well and each would start placing five to seven pieces at a time based on the remaining holes in the puzzle. My method was a bit more plodding and methodical – I worked outside in, using the shape and color of the next piece needed, then searching for it in the unplaced piece pile.

Within a couple of hours our newly formed team had cut down the task to about hundred pieces. My wife got tired and headed to bed, my daughter got a little bored and stepped away from the table occasionally, while my son and I plowed ahead with the process. In another half hour, we were down to 20-30 pieces – we knew we were going to finish it! Our enthusiasm got us through the next 15 minutes and when my son plopped the final piece in place, we celebrated with a high five and a quiet yell of approval (didn’t want to wake up the whole house)!  I took several pictures of the completed masterpiece, knowing it would be destroyed the next day and put back into the box.

We were each proud of the accomplishment and chatted about it the next morning over breakfast. Then it began to occur to me that putting the puzzle together was quite a metaphor for teamwork, strategy and problem solving. Several family members contributed to getting the puzzle 70% completed but it took hyper focus, determination and a recognition of individual skills that led to getting it fully assembled. All of the answers to our test were on the table in front of us – we didn’t need special tools, a handbook, an outside advisor, or a YouTube video. Everything we needed was in front of us. We just had to use our individual talents, help each other when needed, and stick to the plan.

During the process, team members occasionally changed sides of the table to get a new perspective on the situation. We took breaks and recharged with snacks or beverages. And we encouraged each other and tried to make the task fun. The end result was worth the effort and concentration it took to achieve the goal.

Similarly, each of us encounter “puzzles” in life on a daily basis. My daughter is graduating from college soon and is focused on contacting potential employers and navigating the landmines of the interview process. My son is writing, producing and performing original music – he is always on the lookout for the right collaboration or connection that will help him grow as an artist or expand his universe of listeners. My wife is a realtor and is having the best year of her career in the middle of a pandemic. As for me, I constantly push myself to learn more, do more and be the best I can be – specifically so I can share that knowledge with others. I am a teacher, coach and trainer at my core.

Each member of my family, me included, has the answers to the next test right in front of us. The key is to recognize what the challenge really is – without emotions getting in the way. The puzzle we worked on didn’t care if we solved it or not. Getting frustrated, or tired, or angry at the pieces didn’t change anything about the process needed to fit them together. My Dad always said, “If you can’t solve the problem, change the problem.” That’s what we were doing by changing sides of the table or taking a break or grabbing a snack. The problem was not with the puzzle – it was within each one of us. If we had allowed emotions to rule, I guarantee the puzzle would not have been completed.

The simple point is this – take the next puzzle in your path and break it down before trying to solve it. Organize your thoughts the way we did with the pieces. Put your emotions on hold and let your real skills take over. Involve others who may have a different perspective and learn from what they see or can add to the process. Don’t be afraid to change your thinking to get clarity on the solution needed. And finally, believe that you CAN and WILL solve the problem in front of you. Your mindset will rule your ability to succeed or fail – especially with a thousand-piece, adult size, real life puzzle in your way. Embrace the challenge as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop your skills. Practice this method and soon that huge, crazy, untenable puzzle will look more like a child’s game than a roadblock to success.

If you need help getting your puzzle plan together, I’d be happy to chat with you about it.

Much success!

Brad Raney

Reflections on an Amazing 2017!

2017 to 2018

Even though it’s a few days past the end of 2017, there is always time to take stock and to say Thank You to people who helped my business continue to grow last year. Give me a few minutes to show my appreciation to a few of the corporations, organizations and groups that I was blessed to work with in ‘17 – I am humbled and honored to have shared some of my insights, strategies, tools and inspiration with these folks!
At the beginning of each year our goal is to improve our knowledge base, stretch our coaching and training platforms and skills, and to raise our sights on new opportunities. Here are some of the outstanding people we worked with and how they utilized our diverse (and growing!) topic and product base to help their group or company get to the next level of performance in 2017.
The breakout topic for Personal Performance Partnership this year was by far the exciting and effective communication session called Are They Hearing What You Said – or Something Completely Different?! The program was morphed into more than a dozen different formats from keynotes, to breakouts, to full blown workshops, and more. ATH got rave reviews at every stop and is now certified as a Continuing Education credit course for local SHRM chapters, HR Florida state events, the Society of Emotional Intelligence NE Florida, and is pending for several others around the country.
The journey for ATH started at the Central Florida SHRM session in Gainesville, FL in January. Thanks to Jenna White for inviting me to do the session and thanks to Joe Johnson of the Gainesville Chamber who recommended the session to Jenna for consideration. After the mini-workshop at the CFSHRM meeting, Tim Lambert immediately asked me to submit the session to the HR Florida State Conference for consideration. Tim is on their board and recognized that this deep dive communication topic is perfect for anyone in HR, management, or sales, or who wants to drastically improve their communication skills easily and quickly.
I took Tim’s advice and submitted the program and was thrilled to later be asked to present at the state conference in Orlando in August! Thanks to Terri Greene of HR Florida for inviting me to participate in one of the largest and best attended HR state meetings in the country. My session had several hundred folks and the high energy and interactive nature of the topic got the room laughing, thinking and engaged in developing better verbal, non-verbal, and intentional communication strategies. My session was rated among the best of the event and I have made some good friends and business connections as a result of the 2017 HR Florida state conference experience!
The path with ATH continued as Kelley Mannel, President of the Society of Emotional Intelligence NE Florida, asked me to present the topic at a chapter meeting. The response was again tremendous and resulted in several leads and other speaking engagements related to communication and dealing with change.
Lenny Melad of ImpactJAX also asked me to present ATH at one of the group’s meetings and the feedback was amazing. From that meeting, Brandi Kiehl encouraged me to submit ATH to the board for SQL Saturday #649 in Jacksonville – an annual event for coders and tech-ie types. She thought the topic would really help some of their attendees who know their products cold, but sometimes struggle with interacting with others in their organizations and with end users. I spoke to a capacity room at the University of North Florida where the event was held and received incredibly positive feedback again about the value of ATH.
One final major group that wanted ATH was the CoHEsion Conference Summit in Mobile, AL. Linda Griffin and Carole Wardroup saw the topic as the keynote kickoff for their two-day event and so ATH was morphed from a workshop style into a discussion keynote for over 200 people. This version of ATH frankly scared me because it hadn’t been done in a format like that before – however, the message still hit home as I received extremely positive feedback, follow up emails, and have developed several great contacts from the session.
While ATH was the hot item in 2017, our other major topics still got considerable work as well. Climbing Your Personal Mountains was featured at Keiser University for a student oriented workshop – thanks to Lisamarie Winslow, Campus President of KU for inviting me back again to her terrific institution! CYPM was also the topic of choice for Tim Delapaz of RMX Construction and their Annual Meeting held at the Jacksonville Marriott. The topic hit home for these hard working roofers and home improvement professionals and they also bought 10 copies of my Reach YOUR Peak book for sales incentives in the future.
Another popular topic for us is Advanced Time Management Strategies and one of the great events utilizing that one this year was the Infinity Financial Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL. Jimmy Summey invited me to do a mini-workshop for his key leadership team at the event and it was a great experience for them and for me.
There are always new programs and formats being developed by our company, fueled by the fact that we custom craft every presentation to the needs of the attendees. Two sessions stand out as examples of the customization and unique hands on approach that we bring to every client.
The first one was the Patel Family Retreat in Palatka, FL. This was a full day workshop on a Saturday with over two dozen folks that had come from all over the country to see their relatives in Florida. They wanted a full day of professional topics for attendees from 10 years old to over 70 years old. I was confused during our discussions leading up to the event as to what they really wanted – but eventually the light bulb went off when Harry and Chase Patel explained to me that they wanted a leadership based session for all the attendees regardless of age – because they wanted them to gain knowledge of how to become and develop as leaders. They expected the tweens, teens, young adults, adults and seniors to be open to learning and growing – even during a vacation in Florida! – and to my great surprise some of the best questions I got during the session came from a 12-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, and from the oldest gentleman in the room. The topics included were Climbing Your Personal Mountains, Advanced Time Management Strategies, ATH, and Next Level Leadership. What an event – I am sure that I learned as much from this amazing family as they learned from me!
Another event that helped grow our topic pool came from the IIBA-NEFL group, led by Ken Perry and Paul Venditti. Their board has invited me in several times to speak and this time wanted a tailored topic on leadership to fit into their themed monthly plan of events for 2017. We talked several times and after some refining I was able to deliver a brand new topic called Leadership 2.0: STRIVE to Connect! After the session, Ken Perry called Leadership 2.0 “World Class leadership training” and the 30+ high level folks in attendance were quick to agree. And just so you know, the IIBA-NEFL is where ATH debuted back in 2015 based on their needs – this group keeps pushing my company into new areas so I expect Leadership 2.0 to gain traction in 2018 similar to what ATH did last year! (This topic was refined for the Patel Retreat into Next Level Leadership later in the year).
Consistently, two of my most popular topics are VOWELS for Jobseekers and Advanced Networking Strategies – I was privileged to share that info with CrossRoads Career Network (my 7th year of working with them), the Savvy Job Hunters Network (for the 5th time), and for Onward to Opportunity Cohorts (for the 5th year, approximately 30 total sessions). Thanks to John Gray and Chuck Petruska of CCN, Pam Ottesen of SJHN, and Patty Piazza and Anthony Bush of O2O for continuing our strong relationships and for allowing me to share my gifts and knowledge with their amazing job seeker groups!
Once again, to all the folks I got to work with this year – thank you, gracias, merci! I am humbled by your support and your trust in the programs and topics we provide. 2017 was a great year…now it’s time to go out and make 2018 even better. I hope to see you at an event soon!
Happy New Year!


The Ultimate Support System!

Support system 2

Sometimes things surprise you. Sometimes you overthink potential opportunities and get lost in the details. Other times, you don’t really know what to expect so you keep your expectations in check, just hoping for a positive outcome. The story I want to relate to you today falls in that last category.

Recently, I was contacted by a C-level business person who was planning a full day retreat for about 25 folks. We set up a time for me to do a client needs analysis with them to learn more about their specific needs. During the CNA with he and one of his business partners, we talked about several topics that could be included in a full day workshop, the potential day and time, and the investment level he had in mind – pretty typical discovery type material. He told me that folks would be coming from all over the state and from as far as Boston for the event. Sounded like an important semi-annual or annual gathering for the company and those types of events are one of my specialties.

When I asked about the age ranges of the attendees, I got a surprising answer. He said their youngest attendee is 10 and the oldest in their mid 60’s. I have worked with a lot of millennial owned companies in the past couple of years, so if he had said the youngest age was 17 or 18, it wouldn’t have shocked me. When he said “10”, I doubled back on the question and asked “Did you say 10 years old?” He responded yes. Then I asked if this was a son or daughter of one of the attendees, and he said yes.

There was a significant pause in the conversation as we each thought about the answer he just gave me – and then he realized what was happening. He said “Brad, perhaps I didn’t make this clear – this is a FAMILY retreat. We get together twice a year and for this one we wanted to make part of it a learning experience. We want the young people to have training in leadership, time management, dealing with challenges – a lot of the topics on your website. The adults can also benefit from the session and they will then reinforce what they learned with the children. 10 is the youngest, but we have high schoolers, early college aged kids, and young adults, in addition to the parents that will be there.”

I was driving during this discussion and at that point I nearly careened off the road into a ditch. I have spoken at family events before but it has always involved a light-hearted topic or a pure motivational discussion – these folks wanted deep dive business training for their family gathering…I was shocked…then I was frightened…then I was envious…and finally, after I got my emotions in check, I was intrigued. We finished our discussion, I sent them an outline of the day’s events, we worked through it a couple of times and the full day workshop was set.

The retreat was this past weekend and I have to tell you, driving down to the location I was pretty nervous. I know how my 16 and 20 year old kids would react to me telling them that during our family vacation we were going to take 7-8 hours to learn new business related skills – believe me, it wouldn’t be positive! I couldn’t help but think about how difficult it was going to be to keep their attention during the four different modules that we were going to cover in the session. I was concerned that after lunch they would be nodding off or playing games on their phones and disrupting the entire process of the workshop. Worse, they could be ducking out of the room to go to the bathroom or go outside at the resort just to get away from me and “working” on a Saturday. This would make the parents uneasy and they would go after them and then I would look up and half the room could be gone at given any moment.

The reality is that these folks are not a typical family. They have an incredible bond and respect amongst them. They all bought into the concept of a day of learning – so much so that all of the younger attendees (and there were about 10 of them) placed their cell phones in a box in the back of the room before each module began. No one got up to leave the room during the sessions – they were engaged during the interactive elements of the workshop – asked incredibly mature and pertinent questions – genuinely looked like they were enjoying the process – and at the end of the day they had great feedback to share with the group. One young man in high school stood up at the end of the day and said, “Well I just want everyone to know that I wasn’t sure what this was going to be about and that the day might be really boring. But after hearing Brad’s topics and message, I am really glad I was here today. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with my friends and maybe even teachers because this stuff was flat out awesome!” The whole room broke into applause – and I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

I love what I do and I think I’m pretty good at it, but when that young man said what he did about the training and his reaction to it, I was humbled. This group opened my eyes to an incredible culture of support, a clear vision for the future of their family, and a love and commitment to their children and their ability to thrive in the world. The adults loved the workshop as well and I’m very happy it was meaningful for them to attend. However, I was a given a special opportunity to witness the ultimate support system in action right in front me – jealous that my family doesn’t operate that way right now – but encouraged that I can try and make it that way in the future. I definitely learned as much during the workshop as the family members did – and for that experience, I am eternally grateful!


Another Terrific Year – Thanks for a Great 2016!


Once again it’s time to stop, take stock and reflect on the year that has passed – and spend some quality time thinking about the year ahead. Even more important for me is that it is also a time to say THANK YOU to the people and organizations that helped my business grow to new heights in 2016. Allow me a few minutes to give big ups and appreciation to some of the companies and groups I was lucky enough to work with and to mention some of the programs and topics that helped individuals, teams and corporations find the tools they needed to climb their individual mountains!

Each year is a new opportunity for you to try different things, improve your skill set, and expand your horizons. 2016 was no different for my company as we continued to enhance our topic base, created brand new presentations, creatively modified our most popular programs and used the strength of my second book Reach YOUR Peak! Become CEO of Your Success! to reach new heights and new audiences.

Thank you to the great team at Waterstone Mortgage for having me do a combination of two topics at their Annual Sales Rally at the gorgeous Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando. They asked me to combine my Climbing Your Personal Mountains and Advanced Time Management Strategies for a unique 90 minute program which ended up being a huge hit!

I got to spend some quality time in the Gainesville area last year as well and loved sharing my Climbing Your Personal Mountains topic with the terrific staff of the Gainesville Regional Utilities at their quarterly meeting – we are talking about me coming back for other meetings in 2017 because of the great response to the ideas I presented. Also in Gainesville, I got see my good friend Joe Johnson of the Chamber and he had me once again speak to his outstanding Connect jobseeker group, for the 8th time – must be doing something right!

Staying with that job seeker theme and two of my most popular topics – VOWELS for Jobseekers and Advanced Networking Strategies – I was privileged to share that info with the Jax Chamber’s New Path group (for the 10th time), CareerSource Professional Network group, the Blue Star Families military transition event (for the 4th time), the Savvy Job Hunters Network (for the 4th time), and the Crossroads Career Network group (for the 7th and 8th times).

I was excited to share a brand new topic on leadership (Authentic Salesmanship: Focusing Managers on What REALLY Matters!) with the Association for Talent Development Annual Event at UNFmy second year in a row to present at that terrific gathering. I adapted one of my popular topics (Are They Hearing What You Said – or Something Completely Different?!) for another leadership event, this time at The H.I.L.L.’s Leadership Development Series at Nova Southeastern University and got rave reviews for the mini-workshop I created for them.

A trip to Tallahassee was where I got share my Advanced Time Management Strategies topic with the Meeting Planners International of Northeast Florida, and we are talking about how I can help other MPI’s across the country with some of my programs. Another road trip to Fort Myers lead to me presenting a new topic about the Ever Changing World of Advertising to the Southwest Florida Attractions Association – they loved it and that exposure led to some great corporate training events for me in that part of the state.

I was also humbled to be included in the Hardy Administrative Professionals Conference at UNF for the second time, this go round as the main keynote speaker. I shared a version of Climbing Your Personal Mountains tuned to the needs of the 300+ admin pros in the audience to great reviews. This event was unique in that the first 100 folks who signed up for the event received a copy of my Reach YOUR Peak book, and I was happy to sign as many as possible before and after the session.

The Beaches Division of the Jacksonville Chamber had me in to speak at their Business Growth Series in Ponte Vedra Beach, and I grabbed their attention with my Are They Hearing What You Said topic – I received great feedback after the event and many calls in the weeks following asking for advice in using the info I shared in day to day business operations – very gratifying!

I always love speaking to Rotary Clubs and I got to see two tremendous organizations this year in the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville and the Rotary Club of Mandarin. For each one I did a slightly different version of my Climbing Your Personal Mountains topic and the info resonated well the attendees, leading to several corporate training sessions.

Once again, to all the folks I got to work with this year – thank you, thank you, thank you! I am humbled by your support and your trust in the programs and topics we provide. 2016 was a great year…now it’s time to go out and make 2017 even better. I hope to see you at an event soon!

Happy New Year!

What Does “Planning” Mean to You?

planning-1What Does Planning Mean to You?

Fall is often the time of the year that businesses across the country, large and small, complex or simple, each engage in a similar activity – planning for next year.

The word “plan” is thrown around a lot and is used in various euphemisms…”Fail to plan or plan to fail”…”If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a clue”…”A dream is a wish tied to a detailed plan”. The definition of the word plan is interesting and revealing:  “An intention or decision about what one is going to do – a detailed proposal to achieve something”.

Hmmm….so planning is really just crystallizing your intentions, putting them down in writing, and then making decisions based on your desired outcome. Sounds simple enough – but the flip side of this word is pretty scary… the absence of planning means no intentions or decisions about the growth of your business – no ideas to review to help set goals or mile markers – no checklist of do’s and don’ts to guide your path in the year ahead.

Regardless of what you think planning is – your business needs it and you need to take action now to form a solid plan for 2017.

If you are struggling with creating a living, breathing, detailed plan of attack for next year, we should talk soon. My “SWOT 2.0 – The Ultimate Analysis and Action Plan Tool!” workshop is the perfect remedy for your situation. This session is done either on site at your business or off site at a hotel or meeting space, and runs either 4 hours (half day) or 7 hours (full day).

You may have done a SWOT before, but not like this one! We dive deep into each Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat of your company, develop Action Steps based on those results and then run those Steps through the SMART goal methodology. The result is a detailed Action Plan with tasks assigned to specific team members or managers with agreed upon completion dates. This Action Plan will form the basis for your 2017 annual plan and will help drive the activities, milestones and results for your company month by month, quarter by quarter, and for the entire year.

The investment is nominal compared to the results you will achieve. Learn more about SWOT 2.0 on my site at www.BradRaney.com on the Sales, Leadership & Management page or contact me at 904-343-0169 or Brad@BradRaney.com. It will be time well spent for both of us!

Here’s to your success in 2017!

Thanks for a great 2015!!

2015 & 2016This is the time of the year for reflection, for self-analysis, for planning…and most importantly for being thankful to those who have helped you along the way in 2015. Please indulge me while I give a big tip of the holiday cap to a few of the companies I had the privilege of working with this year.

Not only was 2015 my company’s most successful year to date, our topic base was widened and deepened with newly created programs, expanded previous programs and special requests from companies that eventually turned out to be some of the most dynamic engagements we had this year. The release of my second book Reach YOUR Peak! Become CEO of Your Success! has led to many of the speaking and training opportunities I was fortunate enough to have this year, just as I had hoped it would!

Thank you to the fine folks at the STEAM: Building Blocks of Workforce Leadership Seminar in Gainesville, FL, for having me in to do my “Take A Trip to Outer Space: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!” topic for their lunchtime keynote. Also in the Gainesville area, I got to visit my good friend Joe Johnson at the Chamber and work with his outstanding Connect job seeker group for the sixth time. Another visit to Gator-central in the summer had me sharing my “Climbing Your Personal Mountains” topic with the outstanding folks of Florida Food Service at their vendor kickoff breakfast.

I was thrilled to share a new topic on leadership (Next Generation Leadership: STRIVE to Connect!) with two Association for Talent Development groups this year – first in Jacksonville at the ATD Annual Event and then in Chattanooga, TN for a special luncheon mini-workshop at the beautiful new Wilson Air Center. Speaking of leadership, I was honored to have been asked by the leadership team at JAXPORT to put together a full day sales workshop for their group, which we held at Keiser University.

Another new client this year were the Meeting Planners International of Northeast Florida – in fact this turned out to be two events for the same topic (Advanced Time Management Strategies), one at the beautiful Bowing Oaks Plantation in Jacksonville and a second early next year in Tallahassee. This collaboration has led to several exciting opportunities with MPI across the country in 2016 that I’m finalizing right now.

I was also humbled to be asked back for the third time to speak to Paul Venditti’s outstanding IIBA Northeast Florida group and this time we did something new – I used my “Are They Hearing What You Said – Or Something Completely Different?!” mini-workshop to rock the house and get the attendees thinking differently about how they interact and communicate with others.  That same topic was one of two that I did for the Keller Williams Jacksonville Realty Mandarin office, with the other one being “Climbing Your Personal Mountains”. Both the IIBA and KW folks have asked me back for next year and we’re working on dates right now.

The final experience I want to share involved Cengage Learning and their North Texas division headed up by Ellen Edwards. Ellen runs the show for multiple offices in her region, heard me on a podcast, bought an e-book of Reach YOUR Peak and then reached out to get a special rate on dozens of books for her annual sales summit. She used the book as the roadmap for the summit and I even Skyped in for two hours to help her with two deeper focus topics. Her usage of my book is exactly why I wrote it the way I did – it is a perfect workshop on its own or combined with other activities!

Once again, thank you to all folks I got to work with this year – I appreciate your support and confidence in the programs and topics we provide. This year has been outstanding for not only my company’s growth, but for opportunities to work with new organizations, to meet some incredible people and to push the bounds of my creativity to new heights. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Living Urgently Without Being Frantic!

Now tomorrow yesterday

Today is the beginning of my 55th trip around the sun and this one has a bit more meaning than some in the past. I guess special birthdays started for me at 6 – old enough to go to school on my own all day. Then we got to 10 – double digits! – and all the “what a little young man you’re turning into” talk started. 15 was a big deal – learner’s permit, high school, college talk started. 16 of course is huge – driver’s license, independence, huge jump in the level of decision making needed to survive.

After that I guess 18 was cool – in college, old enough to drink (back in 1979!) and vote. Reaching 21 was fun – right of passage, “now you’re a man”, deeper responsibilities. For me 25 was awesome – I started to get respect for having a level of knowledge that others would listen to but I was still young enough to believe I was invincible. 26 wasn’t that great – my Dad died from a massive heart attack. At 28 I married the woman God gave me (just celebrated 25 years together earlier this year) and life really changed in depth, meaning and importance. 30 is a big deal for most guys and it was for me too – I bought a car to celebrate – typical male reaction to getting older!

At 35, we had our first child, my daughter Savannah and that was one of three epiphany moments in my life. My son came around when I was almost 39 and completed our family – also made me take a hard look at the values I wanted to pass on to both of the kids as they grew. 40 was good to me – I enjoyed still feeling very young and energetic but now having some “sage wisdom” to share with co-workers, friends and family.

I turned 50 and realized that it was time to start another business and that “I wasn’t getting any younger” but my dreams weren’t going to get any closer. I decided to focus my efforts on my spiritual gifts of writing, speaking and empowering those around me to be the best they can be and used those pillars as the foundation of my company. I also realized at 50 that men in my family don’t live that long – my Dad died at 60, my brother at 57. I am much healthier than either of them but just giving myself the internal goal of making it to 61 was a wake-up call.

This summer I had another kind of wake-up call, this one with a lot more impact. After feeling run down and not recovering as fast from sports and tough yard work, my wife pretty much made me go to the doctor for a check-up. I found that I was anemic (iron deficiency anemia) but the lingering question was why. After weeks of tests and analysis, a colonoscopy revealed a small mass in my colon – it turned out to be cancerous and surgery later removed the tumor from my body. My prognosis is very good although I will still have to do some preventative chemo and lots of follow up tests, exams, scans, and more pretty much for the rest of my life. By the way, all of this could have been prevented with a colonoscopy at 50 – if you haven’t had yours, get it done immediately!

The real eye opener in this process were the numbers that started to appear in my life in a brand new way. “8” now meant my red blood count – when it should have been 13-17. “5” was now the gold standard for another group of words I had never associated with me before number of years of survival after a cancer event. “80-90” represented the percentage of folks who survive my type of cancer for at least 5 years. “40-50” now means the percentage of people who have some kind of recurrence of my cancer after 5 years. “12” is now the number of chemo treatments I’m facing to try and improve those recurrence odds.

We have numbers in our lives every day. If you drive to work, there’s a percentage chance that you will be injured or killed in a car accident – it’s pretty small, but it’s a real number. The same type of number applies when you board a commercial airline flight or hop onto a commuter train. My daughter is on a college campus every day now and unfortunately there’s a tiny number associated with her campus dealing with a shooting or lock down. If you smoke (and please STOP if you do!), you have a whole set of odds on a chart that are not positive the older you get. There’s a percentage associated with the number of shark attacks, lightning strikes, random violence, accidents in your home and even meteors falling from the sky that could affect any of us at any time.

The purpose of this blog is not to depress you or scare you into never leaving the house. The reason I’m sharing my story is help you understand that to really flourish in your personal and professional life, you must live urgently but not frantically. Focus on your goals, hopes, dreams and aspirations – give them real life, not just some wishful quotes on a page. Surround yourself with positive people and BE one of those positive people to others around you. Stand for something you believe in and encourage others to do the same without discounting or demeaning others that believe something different.

Live for this day – Each Day is a Gift – and plan for tomorrow and other days to come…but don’t spend time worrying about possible outcomes or pitfalls. Live with the passion you’ve been gifted and be a light of inspiration to those around you – your spouse, children, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers. Live with the urgency that we all have a clock ticking somewhere on our lives – don’t panic and ruin the day you have with fear and trepidation about future unknowns. Hear the clock – but let it motivate you, not paralyze you.

I told my wife last night that my plan for the next 5 years has changed and that I’m focusing on doing the most I can, the fastest way I can, and the best I can, given the days I have left. I may live 40 more years (my Mom is 87 and members of my family have lived well into their late 90’s) or I could get hit by a bus this afternoon. However, hearing a phrase like “5 Year Life Expectancy Rate” and now associating it with my life has given me a new level of purpose, dedication and I’ve even raised my lofty goals to new heights – because within that 5 year window I am going to work harder and love what I do more than I ever thought possible before discovering my health challenge this summer.

My birthday wish is for you to do the same thing. Run your life through the passion prism that you already own. Focus on the positives, live loudly, love proudly, and help others along the way. My Dad always told me to do three things every day – something for yourself, something for someone else and something needs doing. I have written blogs on this philosophy which I dubbed The Daily Three. Well, my Daily Three just got a lot more urgent…but I’m not getting frantic…I’m getting focused and ready for the fight. I hope you’ll do the same!


Real World Impact from Reach YOUR Peak!

RYP CoverNormally, I don’t use my blog space to brag or boast about my activities. However, after a sales leader in Texas recently responded so positively about my new book Reach YOUR Peak! Become CEO of Your Success! I had to share it with you. Her passion for the tenets of the book and her usage of the book as the basis for an upcoming sales summit is EXACTLY why I wrote RYP!

During a recent phone conversation with her, she told me the story about how she first heard about me and the book. She is the director of sales for a large publishing company and covers a large region in Texas that includes lots of driving. On a recent trip between Austin and Lubbock, she was listening to podcasts that she’d recorded and one of them included me as a guest on the BE Culture show. (This show is produced in Houston and the guys I worked with on the program are top notch!) She said that when she heard me ask the question “Are you working to survive, or are you working to succeed?” she did a double take, pulled the car over and backed up the recording. She then started listening to the discussion more intently and taking notes while parked on the side of the road.

When she finished the podcast, she resumed her drive, and later that week when she got home she contacted me and asked if she could get an e-book version immediately. After she read it, she contacted me again to ask if she could get a discount for several dozen books to use in her upcoming sales leadership summit. Her plan was to get the books to the participants several weeks before the event and to have them work on assignments before the summit. Since then we have been talking about having me personally involved in the summit with her group and as we were working out the details of doing a WebEx or Skype appearance for me, she relayed the following in a letter to me:

“I have the leadership summit soon and I would love to go over with you what I have planned:

12pm – I have them share what the VOWELS meant to them using the questions you have in the back of each chapter;

1:30pm – We are going to focus on two of the Tools for Success – Personal Branding and Time Management (would love to have you do this session with us via WebEx!)

Mid-afternoon – managing performance discussion using examples they sent me as well as conflict resolution

4pm – We are going to record what they prepared for next week regarding their SWOT analysis and then continue that discussion the next morning over breakfast

I do want to share with you how very impactful your book was for me and I was delightfully surprised even more the personal impact which in turn is impacting me professionally as well. I have had a successful track record at work, but unfortunately intensity was only intense in one of my three areas and your words have put into my mind, my heart and my actions MY OMT (one more thing) of being more balanced for my husband, two sons and the idea that it is ok for me to relax and rest, so thank you!

It has additionally impacted the leaders on my team– when I talk to them they are now referring to setting goals for themselves, changing what they are doing with their reps to set SMART goals and even referring to some “mountain goats” they might face. I had them read the book and assigned reading groups prior to next week to hold one another accountable and it has really been a wonderful experience for my team!

All I can say is WOW – I’m humbled, thankful and happy that my work, and this book in particular, can have that positive an impact on not only a sales organization, but on the personal relationships that surround it. The way she planned her summit with the book as one of the focal points is spot on for what I imagined when I created RYP. The book has 16 chapters but it’s really 16 mini-workshops because it utilizes To Do Lists at the end of each chapter that involve more interaction, even some 360 degree views, with the reader. Each chapter builds on the one before, like building a house from the ground up. Using RYP as the foundation for a sales training event, series of meetings or the main focus of a summit will yield great results – just like the DOS in Texas did with it!

If you manage a sales team, own a business with a sales force, or are a sales professional looking to move to the next level in your career, you should read and consider using RYP in your next training session or meeting. There are blogs on my site about every chapter of the book, so check it out and if it makes sense, then let’s have a conversation about to putting a program together to help you and/or your team truly Reach their Peak!

The Daily Three!

The Daily Three!

Business man with checkboxesSometimes the best advice you can receive comes from a trusted colleague. Other times, quality advice and suggestions can come from close friends or your spouse. Once in a while you may get a superior idea or thought from someone you barely know. All of these sources are important and are part of your circle of positive influence. Nurture them, respond to them and most of all LISTEN to them – the nuggets of knowledge you need to succeed or make a better decision may be in that 3 minute phone call, a casual conversation or a 4 line text.

For me, one of the sources I rely on for great advice has always been my Dad. He hasn’t given me any new advice in over 27 years because he passed away from a heart attack in 1988. However, I have squirrelled away many of the insightful, unique, meaningful and occasionally brilliant ideas and philosophies that he had and often shared with me in many forms during the years.

Sometimes he communicated with me via a hand written note that he would slip into my tennis bag, reminding me to stay calm or focused during a junior tournament match. Once in a while, he would stop me in the hallway and put his hands on my shoulders to get my full attention and then share his thoughts with me with his incredible, deep, resonating, radio/TV/stage voice – in those moments, it felt like God was talking through him to me. But most of the time, his wisdom came to me in the form of a type written letter or note, straight from his ancient Royal manual typewriter – the same one he used to write newspaper articles, radio reports and TV newscasts from for dozens of years.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to keep all those letters – I wish I had. I would love to read them again and perhaps share them with my kids. However, I remember the true game changers – the ones that got my attention immediately and caused me to change a behavior or open up my mind to something new. I want to share one of those with you today – I hope it’s as meaningful for you as it has been for me through the years!

This one is called The Daily Three and it goes like this. Each day you should do these three things – the order doesn’t matter, the manner in which they are done doesn’t matter, but the intent of all them is to leave a positive impression or complete a necessary task. The point is to concentrate on achieving these three things each day – if you do so, you cannot help but have a great day…which leads to a great week…which builds into a great month and year…and ultimately allows you to live a full and happy life!

Here’s the list:

1. Do Something for Yourself! God made you and you are special. You must take care of your body, your mind and your spirit every day. Give yourself some credit for being who He made you to be and reward yourself with something fun, relaxing or educational every day. You deserve it! Laugh, enjoy and have fun – it makes your soul sing and gets you in the frame of mind to do the second of the Daily Three.

2. Do Something for Someone Else! Keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunity to help someone else each day. This could be something major like a household project for a neighbor or friend in need or participating on charity or civic club group to help deliver food or clothing to those less fortunate. But often this part of the Daily Three will be a small thing for someone you don’t know – opening the door for a lady, allowing someone to turn in front of you when you are driving, paying for the person behind you in line at a fast food restaurant, or simply listening and responding with something positive to someone you meet. Helping those around you is a Godly thing and is part of the reason you are here!3.

3. Do Something That Needs Doing! Yes, my Dad was all about task completion as well! He had to-do lists all over the house – on sticky notes, on chalk boards, typed out on paper – it didn’t matter how he had to remind himself, he always found a way to make sure he “moved the ball” each day on a project or list of things that had to be done. I am exactly like that now. I have always been known as the most organized person in any group I have ever worked with. I now teach organizational and time management skills to individuals and companies. Whatever your mechanism for checking a task off your list, make sure to do it every day. This one of the Daily Three doesn’t have to be laborious – far from it! I find great joy in seeing my to-do list shrink and it gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and pride to know I have completed what I started out to do!

Try incorporating The Daily Three into your routine and see what a difference it can make in your productivity, happiness, and sense of well-being. If you need help with it, don’t hesitate to reach out to me – I’m happy to help!