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How Environment Shapes Success

Yesterday, Cressey Sports Performance coach Miguel Aragoncillo delivered an outstanding in-service that led to a great discussion of characteristics of our clients who've had the best long-term success. Without a doubt, the one that stands out above all else is consistency. If someone continues to show up consistently - all other things held equal - they stand the best chance of making great progress toward their goals, whether they're performance, aesthetic, or a combination of the two.

The discussion immediately made me think back to a slide from my presentation on long-term athletic development on this year's Perform Better tour. In this slide, I talked about how the path to success is actually a circle.

Everything begins with having an environment that individuals find motivating and inviting - which drives interest. This might come from them relating to the like-minded training partners, music, unique programming or coaching styles, or any of a number of factors. Very simply, it has to be an environment that drives enthusiasm, the next component of the circle.

Enthusiastic athletes are more open to learning, whether it's about their unique movement issues or how they approach nutrition. This enthusiasm opens up a window for education.

When you get a motivated, enthusiastic, educated athlete, you've set the stage for a greater level of autonomy. When someone has the education and desire to change - but also the independence to do it on their own - you've created an optimal scenario for results to take place.

And, the more results you get, the more buy-in you receive in the form of increased interest - and the circle starts anew.

None of this should seem revolutionary, but you'd be surprised at how many individuals try to jump in at the education portion. They assume that everyone who walks in their door is interested and enthusiastic, and that isn't always the case. This is one reason why I'm always particularly cautious not to overwhelm folks during their initial evaluations; I'm actually far more interested in building rapport and making them comfortable in our environment than I am in telling them all about how they have brutal hip internal rotation or a serious lack of rotator cuff strength.

[bctt tweet="Initial assessments should start a relationship while tactfully delivering (not forcing) education."] 

I try to view each client in the context of this circle to see how we can best optimize their experience with us and improve consistency. Do we need to do a better job of making them excited about the environment? Or, do we need to build on the enthusiasm they already have with a stronger educational component? Or, do we need to help them come up with strategies to best incorporate the knowledge they have to develop more autonomy to facilitate further progress? At the end of the day, it's a unique mix for every individual, but this framework can help you to get to the bottom of it.

I'll leave with a closing thought: when you get a 15-16 year-old athlete who has gotten to the autonomy stage that early in his athletic career, it is an absolute game-changer. These athletes not only follow everything you put on paper to a "T," but also become even better active participants in the training process. They're better communicators who ask good questions and help you to develop the best programming and coaching approaches to get them results quicker. And, when you combine this high motivation and early independence with someone who is a gifted natural athlete, you can see absolutely incredible progress. 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/7/17

It was an eventful weekend in the Cressey household, as we had our first trip to the emergency room with one of our daughters. Everything is fine, but it was another not-so-subtle reminder of how two-year-olds can change your plans on a moment's notice! Since I didn't do any writing myself this weekend, here's some good stuff from around the 'net:

Forget Career Hacks - Dr. John Berardi penned one of the more insightful articles on professional success that I've read in recent years. I love this equation because it demonstrates to folks that passion is necessary, but ineffective by itself:

Brandon Marcello on Life as a Performance Strategist and Consultant - This is some outstanding stuff from Brandon Marcello, one of the brightest guys in the field of performance enhancement. Mike Robertson interviews him for his podcast.

10 Important Notes on Assessments - I reincarnated this post from the archives yesterday, and though it warranted sharing here as well.

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Coaching Strategy: Shut Up More Often

I really love strength and conditioning. I see athletes as similar to choose-your-own adventure books where you have to find the right assessment, programming, and coaching strategies to get them to where they need to be. Each case is unique, so I get genuinely excited in trying to solve new puzzles every day.

Early in my career, though, that excitement often got the best of me. My brain would race faster than my mouth could keep up, and I used my mouth more than my ears and my eyes. Looking back, I threw way too many questions, observations, and cues at athletes. In talking so much, I probably not only confused them, but also missed out on invaluable chances to listen more and learn about their stories - which would help me solve these puzzles. Now, I talk much less and do a lot more listening. My goal in every assessment is to listen 80% of the time and only talk the remaining 20%. And, in my coaching interactions, I try to be as to-the-point as possible, using fewer words and more body language and gestures to convey my points.

Not surprisingly, I feel strongly that shutting up more often has made me a far better coach. Improving in any of life's challenges - athletics included - is about learning to tune out the noise - and too many coaching cues are just distractions as you're trying to learn how to move correctly. Interesting, as author Adam Grant recently pointed out on Twitter, there are academic parallels to this. A 2014 study (described here) reported that "when kindergartners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted and scored lower on tests than when they were taught in a room with bare walls." When we're trying to learn - whether it's our ABCs or how to trap bar deadlift - loads of distractions are our biggest enemy.

With that in mind, you have to ask yourself: "As a coach, am I a facilitator or just another distraction?"

If you're giving an athlete 58 visual, verbal, and kinesthetic cues all at the same time, you're overcoaching and overwhelming them. Moreover, if you're asking them asking them about their weekend while they're in the middle of sets, you're likely taking them further away from their goals. As I've written time and time again:

[bctt tweet="Good coaching cues are clear, firm, concise - and TIMELY."]

As much as it may hurt to admit it, sometimes, the best way to get athletes to where they want to be is to shut up. The next time you're struggling to get an athlete to make the adjustments you're trying to accomplish, take a step back and simplify your coaching approach with fewer words.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/31/17

I hope you all had a great weekend. My wife and I had a fun time in Chicago over the weekend at the Perform Better Summit and got a chance to catch the White Sox/Indians game. Here are a few good reads for the weekend:

2017 Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar - We just announced that this popular annual event will take place October 22 at our Massachusetts facility. We hope you can make it!

Mike Irr on Winning an NBA Championship - I've been friends with both Mike Robertson and Mike Irr for close to 15 years now, so how can I not love this podcast? There are some excellent insights from Irr, who just won a world championship with the Golden State Warriors.

Skills Capture a Niche: Relationships Help You Retain It - This was a great post from my business partner, Pete Dupuis. He discusses the concept of niche development in the fitness industry.

Teammate - I just finished David Ross' autobiography and really enjoyed it. I'd highly recommend it to any baseball player, coach, or parent without hesitation.

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Catcher @jake_clinard knocks out a set of plate-loaded slideboard lateral lunges. -- This is one of my favorite exercises for enhancing hip mobility and stability in multiple planes of motion at the same time. The counterbalance in front helps the athlete to get a clean hip hinge without moving through the spine. And, the slideboard increases the eccentric challenge and makes the athlete more cognizant of not racing through reps. -- Resist the urge to hold more than 10 pounds in the hands, though, as it usually makes technique worse. You're better off going to a DB or KB in the goblet position if you want to progress the loading on this one. -- Nothing better than building strength through full range-of-motion if you want to preserve that ROM over a long season (or lifetime!). This kind of work is huge for catchers for preserving mobility as the season progresses. #cspfamily #catching #mobility #centralcatholic #hudsonma #teamnb #sportsperformance #performbetter

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

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Register Now for the 6th Annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar!

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, October 22, we’ll be hosting our sixth annual fall seminar at Cressey Sports Performance. As was the case with our extremely popular fall event over the past five years, this event will showcase the great staff we're fortunate to have as part of our team. Also like last year, we want to make this an affordable event for everyone and create a great forum for industry professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike to interact, exchange ideas, and learn. We're happy to have Perform Better as our official sponsor again this year as well.

Here are the presentation topics:

Pete Dupuis -- Gym Ownership In Hindsight: A Decade of Lessons Learned

After designing three different gyms, negotiating five different leases, and building a team of ten fitness professionals, Pete has an informed opinion on gym design and management. In this presentation, he'll introduce you to five of the best, and five of the worst decisions we've made along the way in ten years of operating Cressey Sports Performance.

Miguel Aragoncillo -- Improving Performance for Rotational Athletes

In this presentation, Miguel will analyze performance for rotational athletes, along with discussion on case studies and techniques as they relate to asymmetries, kinetic chains, and biomechanics. This two-part presentation will feature a lecture discussing the understanding the possible origins of dysfunction, and a hands-on component which will dive into a live assessment and exercise selection.

Chris Howard -- Low Back Pain: A New Perspective on the Same Old Problem

Nearly every fitness professional has encountered an athlete or client dealing with lower back pain. In this presentation, Chris will blend his experience of anatomy and muscular referred pain patterns with strength and conditioning and soft-tissue strategies to illustrate how he treats clients experiencing lower back pain. Whether you are new to strength and conditioning, or a seasoned veteran, you will see lower back pain from a new perspective following this presentation.

Nancy Newell -- Constructing Female Confidence in a Male-Dominated Gym

Some male coaches feel uncomfortable coaching female clients. They struggle to formulate an approach with which they're confident, and the client experience is often negatively impacted as a result. In this presentation, Nancy will help coaches learn how to “dance” the line between being awkward and awesome, while sharing her personal philosophy on how to build female confidence in a male dominated gym.

Eric Cressey -- How Posture Impacts Pain and Performance

Posture is one of the most controversial topics in the fields of health and human performance. In this presentation, Eric will look at the related research and present anecdotal evidence and case studies to bring some clarity to the debate on just how important having "good posture" - if it even exists - really is.

John O'Neil -- Foundational Strength: Laying Groundwork for the Untrained Youth Athlete

In this presentation, John will take a comprehensive look at how we acclimate our untrained youth athletes to the training process at Cressey Sports Performance. This information will include the technical and tactical aspects of executing training sessions in our semi-private group-training model.

Jordan Syatt - How to Build Your Own Successful Online Fitness Business

With this presentation, we kick off a new CSP Fall Seminar tradition: bringing back an accomplished former CSP intern to present from his/her realm of expertise. We're excited to have Jordan back for a no-nonsense open dialogue in which he fields your individual questions and outlines everything you need to know to make a name for yourself in the fitness industry while helping thousands of people all over the world.

**Bonus 3:00PM Saturday Session**

Frank Duffy w/Andrew Zomberg -- A New Approach to Mobility and Injury Prevention

It is important to understand the difference between functional mobility and flexibility in order to help maximize your movement capabilities. In this interactive presentation, Frank will demonstrate the protocols he implements in improving his CSP Strength Campers' movement quality for long-term success.

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main St.
Suite 310
Hudson, MA 01749

Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.99

Date/Time:

Sunday, October 22, 2017
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar 9AM-5PM

**Bonus session Saturday, October 21 at 3:00pm.

Continuing Education

0.8 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (eight contact hours) Pending (each of the previous five CSP fall seminars have been approved)

Click Here to Sign-up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign-up (Students)

We’re really excited about this event, and would love to have you join us! However, space is limited and most seminars we’ve hosted in the past have sold out quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, The Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a heavily discounted nightly rate of just under $65.00. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.

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Brandscaping and the Fitness Industry

When we are changing diapers, my 2-year-old daughters always request the ones with "Big Bird" on them. The images on the diaper don't change how effective it is at doing its job, of course.

And, if the paper towels don't have a picture of Olaf from "Frozen" on them, a temper tantrum might very well occur - even if any regular ol' paper towel would get the job done just as well.

They adore the Mickey Mouse sippy cups my mother bought them even though they aren't any better at delivering the beverage than a generic cup.

All of these are perfect examples of Brandscaping, a concept to which I was introduced by Andrew Davis in his outstanding book by the same name.

In its simplest form, brandscaping is an approach to developing partnerships with other brands who also cater to your target market. Davis spends considerable time discussing how Tony Bennett's resurgence in the past decade has a lot to do with joint ventures with Lady Gaga and the Muppets; they've modernized his classic approach to create a new synergy.

As an more applicable fitness industry example, Cressey Sports Performance (baseball strength and conditioning) and New Balance (baseball training apparel and shoes) are a great synergistic fit - and it even led to a limited edition training sneaker.

Referrals to and from physical therapists are another example, and the list could go on to include pitching instructors, massage therapists, meal preparation services, and a host of other complementary services. If we look at the classic "here's how you can grow your business," brandscaping is likely the single-best way to grow the "same product, new market" component. Your brandscaping partner recognizes your specific expertise/offering and brings new folks to it. You, in turn, do the same for them. Everybody wins.

Unfortunately, though, a lot of fitness professionals get in their own way and "obstruct" opportunities for brandscaping. A big mistake is definitely trying to be everything to everyone. If you're training everyone from cardiac rehab patients, to fitness competitors, to basketball players, to powerlifters, chances are that potential partners are going to struggle to see the specific realm in which you'd be a good partner. When you have a really broad collection of offerings, it's a challenge to market to them. The cardiac rehab patients might hate the internet, the fitness competitors love Instagram, the basketball players are on Twitter, and the powerlifters are on Facebook.

Moreover, some fitness professionals mismanage their web presence, even if they have a specific, marketable niche. As an example, if you train high school athletes, but a huge majority of your social media posts are about beer and partying, that's going to be a huge turnoff to their parents (who pay the bills). And, if you're a rockstar when it comes to training middle aged corporate executives, they're likely going to be turned off if all your social media content is shirtless photos of you from your recreational bodybuilding hobby.

In wrapping up, there are really three huge takeaways for you as you try to grow your business.

First, someone else has your ideal customers. Think about how you can partner with them in a mutually benefical relationship.

Second, your ideal customers or brandscaping partners might not be able to appreciate how good a cross-referral or co-banding relationship with you could be because you keep getting in your way. Think about the image you're creating publicly for your business or brand.

Third, don't let your two-year-old daughters boss you around like mine do to me.

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Simplified Shoulder Solutions

I've devoted a lot of my articles to shoulder assessment, training, and programming over the years. Some have been lengthy articles (like my lat strain feature), others have been quick hit posts (like this bear crawl vs. crab walk one), and some have been video technique tutorials and common mistakes, like this:

When you've been at something a long time, the natural tendency is to chase increasing complexity. The more complexity you chase, the more novelty you encounter - and that novelty is what keeps folks engaged when they "specialize" in the same joint over an entire career. One thing I've done well in this regard is to chase complexity in my own education, but kept our application of these principles simple in the way we evaluate and coach athletes. Because, at the end of the day, this is what it comes down to:

[bctt tweet="Shoulder health is about keeping the ball on the socket. Period."]

Keep in mind that we're speaking specifically to the glenohumeral (ball and socket) joint, when in reality the entire shoulder girdle is comprised of many different articulations). As I mentioned, though, the point of this blog is to simplify this discussion.

There are a lot of factors that impact how well one is able to do that. It could be cuff strength, scapular control, ligamentous laxity, previous injury, bony changes, faulty thoracic positioning, tissue density, core control, and a host of other issues. These things all - in one way or another - impact how the ball and socket interact.

As strength and conditioning and rehabilitation specialists, you still need to understand the most common injuries incurred at the shoulder. You must appreciate population specific norms. And, you need to understand the assessments that determine whether static posture and movement quality are where they need to be. However, you should never get away from always bringing these concepts back to the fact that they all have to do with ball-and-socket interaction.

As Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." That's both the goal of this particular blog, and also my upcoming Shoulder Assessment, Corrective Exercise, and Programming seminar in New York City on August 20. Today is the deadline for getting the early bird registration rate, and I hope to see you there!

Also, I'll be delivering the same course near Washington, DC on September 17, if that's of interest. You can learn more HERE.

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Fitness Business Entrepreneurship Thoughts: Lead Generation

Most fitness industry folks are convinced that their single biggest area for improvement is lead generation. If only they could get more people to know about their gym - and possibly even take a tour - then they'd absolutely blow up.

I hate to burst your bubble, but while your lead generation might need work, in the overwhelming majority of businesses, systems and retention are where the biggest opportunities for improvement exist. You see, if you shore things up on these two fronts, you'll create a better product and dramatically increase the number of word-of-mouth referrals you get. Over the life of your business, word-of-mouth should blow any direct mail or Facebook advertising you do out of the water, so why not work on the things that impact it the most?

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I should actually talk a bit about lead generation, as the truth is that it's probably more complex than it's ever been.

If you look back 15-20 years, a lot of folks weren't on the internet - and they certainly didn't have social media. It was really, really hard to get in front of people affordably if you were a small business. If you didn't have the cash to pay for radio, TV, newspaper, or billboard ads, your only option for generating leads began and ended with pounding the pavement to shake hands and kiss babies. Nowadays, things are a whole lot different; you can get in front of just about anyone pretty quickly and easily.

If this wasn't the case, a kid from small town Maine named Cressey - who didn't even play high school baseball - wouldn't be training more than 100 professional baseball players each offseason.

This modern marketing world creates opportunities, but also a lot of noise. People are bombarded by more marketing messages than ever before because we have more devices (phones, tablets, computers, radios) and mediums (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Email, etc) than ever before. There is so much noise that people are completely desensitized to the marketing messages that are being sent their way. That means that top of mind awareness is substantially harder to achieve.

What does this mean for lead generation in the fitness industry? You have to get in front of people regularly and via a number of different marketing channels. If you're reading this blog, you probably hear from me here, on various social media channels, and via email. Perhaps you read an article by or about me on another website or print magazine or newspaper. We might have interacted with one another at a seminar, or we might have a mutual friend who recommended that you check out EricCressey.com.

The point is that you have to stand on your head to make expertise easy to perceive. It's just not good enough to just pay for a newspaper ad and hope for people to show up.

This is particularly complex because everyone will perceive expertise differently - and in different places. Teenagers aren't really on Facebook very often, but it's a great marketing avenue for those over the age of 30. Some of the people there might like video content, and others may prefer writing. Every lead must be generated via a unique marketing mix, and that can make it very challenging to be really successful across multiple niches. At Cressey Sports Performance, we can easily market to baseball players, coaches, and parents, but it'd be really hard for us to build a successful discharge program for cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation patients. It's an entirely different demographic that we'd struggle to access.

Bringing things all back together, some closing thoughts:

1. You probably generate a fair amount of leads but need to do better at making sure they aren't disappearing out the back door while you're so focused on getting more people in the door.

2. You may need to prioritize optimizing your systems to put yourself in the best position possible to deliver a high-quality product (both training and environment) that will yield more word-of-mouth referrals.

3. Make expertise easy to perceive across a variety of marketing mediums, especially if you're trying to cater to multiple demographics.

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Fitness Business Entrepreneurship Thoughts: Long-Term Planning May Not Be For You

In my blog the other day, I alluded to how I never really thought I'd open a gym. It kind of just happened. And, this experience has led me to the belief that the concept of having a ten-year plan is absurd. Heck, even five years seems like a prohibitively long time to have a plan in today’s rapidly changing world.

I went to college in 1999 thinking that I was going to be an accountant. I transferred in 2001 to pursue exercise science, and went to graduate school to pursue a career in strength and conditioning research. In 2003, after a month on campus, I realized I hated organic chemistry and loved training athletes. I moved to Southern Connecticut in 2005, and then to Massachusetts in 2006, then Florida in 2014. These were twists and turns in every direction that couldn’t have been accommodated by a rigid career plan.

There are a lot of people reading this blog who are probably stressing about moving to a different college major, making a career change, or relocating for a change of scenery or new opportunity. There are also business owners who are super concerned about building a brand that they can ultimately sell. They're focused on writing books and delivering seminars about the training they do with their clients before they've even truly evaluated whether that training actually works well.

As is usually the case with the training side of our industry, a quick solution is always to simplify. Before you start looking at being hugely successful in the long-term, try focusing on being consistently successful in the short-term with whatever it tackling. To paraphrase a hackneyed expression, you have to win the battle before you win the war - and in entrepreneurship, you have to have a successful business before you make the leap to truly building a brand. As this graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates, why have a ten year plan when less than 40% of small businesses are even around at that time period? And, you can bet that this number is substantially lower in the fitness industry, where many start-ups are trainers who have zero business training.

I think that this can actually be a big challenge for some upstart companies when they deal with business consultants who are very focused on developing something that can eventually be sold for $100 million dollars. In the push to create systems for scaling things larger, entrepreneurs can lose sight of shorter term opportunities to be profitable and evolve as a business. For this reason, small business consultants usually have much more to offer to fitness start-ups.

The fitness business is challenging. Competition is high, the industry is constantly evolving, and there is a lot of "noise" that can distract consumers from pursuing even the highest quality training options. For this reason, most fitness businesses are better off focusing on "winning the day" than "winning the decade."

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Fitness Business Entrepreneurship Thoughts: Opportunity Cost

As I noted in my post on Cressey Sports Performance's 10th anniversary, I wanted to use the next few days to outline a few thoughts on the entrepreneurial side of fitness over the next few days. They'll be quick ones - just a few paragraphs each - but hopefully impactful for those of you interested in the business of fitness.

To kick things off, I'll talk about opportunity cost, a concept that is actually remarkably applicable to all industries, not just fitness. Briefly, dictionary.com defines opportunity cost as "the money or other benefits lost when pursuing a particular course of action instead of a mutually-exclusive alternative."

It's probably best explained with an example. If you go on vacation, the opportunity cost of that time is continuing to work. You leave town and spend a bunch of money on flights, hotels, and touristy things - all while forgoing income at work during that time period. Most people only consider what they spend on the vacation, but your opportunity cost is that lost income. It might also be experiences that you could have had during that time you're vacationing.

To be clear, I'm not saying that you should skip all your vacations and just work all the time. I'm just saying that absolutely everything in life has an opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of the coffee I'm drinking as I type this could be a glass of water or tea.

Early in your career, the opportunity cost of your time is far less expansive. You need to make money and build your reputation, so you should take on just about every client and continuing education opportunity that comes your way. And, if you want to be successful in writing and speaking, too, then you need to write and speak at every opportunity, even if nobody is or reading listening. The opportunity cost of your time is basically just watching the same episode of Sportscenter for the 47th time.

Having spent two years at business school before transferring into an exercise science program, opportunity cost was something of which I was keenly aware of at a young age. With that in mind, during my undergraduate and graduate years, I worked like a dog. I eschewed a social life in order to pick up every hour at the gym I could and do as much reading and writing as I possibly could. This tradeoff proved to be wildly important, as it helped me to build invaluable career capital and financial stability that opened many more doors for me down the road. As an example, I took time off from work, paid for a hotel room, traveled to Washington, DC, and spoke for free at this event in 2006 - and it proved to be a huge boost for my career.

Now, many years later, I have harder opportunity cost decisions. In the past week, I've gotten invited to speak in China, Brazil, Poland, and Minnesota. Each one of these poses different travel demands and compensation scenarios that all need to be weighed against time with family, hours coaching at CSP, what I could earn devoting that time somewhere else, and the impact I could have in other capacities. Eleven years after speaking at that DC event, there really isn't any circumstance under which I'd take that particular gig again.

A seminar halfway around the world would have been an instant “yes” in 2007, but now, it requires 18 months of planning and time away from family that I’m reluctant to take on. And, I’ve turned down multiple jobs in collegiate and professional sports over the past few years that would have been absolute dream jobs ten years ago. The "dream" changed – and it happened far faster than I could have ever imagined.

With all that in mind, here are three important takeaways from today's post:

1. [bctt tweet="Good decisions when opportunity cost is low set the stage for high opportunity cost choices later."]

2. [bctt tweet="Say 'yes' a lot when young and building a career. Say 'no' more than 'yes' once more established."]

3. [bctt tweet="Before you say 'no' or 'yes,' think about how you can shift that decision from 'either/or' to 'and.'"]

With respect to point #3, I'd highly recommend Chip and Dan Heath's outstanding book, Decisive.

That'll do it for this post. I'll have another brain dump for you soon.

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