Day 5: Check Your Baggage: Lose the Guilt this Season

It’s Day 5 of the Simplify Your Summer series and I’m wrapping things up (except for the live Q&A session of course) by talking about ditching the guilt this Summer.

Watch the video:

If you’re ready to let go of the guilt this wedding season (and forever), here’s my formula:

  • BYOBF (Be Your Own Best Friend)
    • Realize everyone experiences needless guilt.
    • Cut yourself some slack.
    • Know that you are more than enough, just as you are.
    • Get present. Go out for ice cream, do something productive.
  • Take on the motto: “No Guilt, Just Results”
    • If you’re slacking, go big. Go skydiving. Have a picnic.
    • Don’t just sit there moping on Facebook.
    • Refuse to live in the past.
    • Instead, ask “what is the opportunity right-freakin-now?”

It’s all about changing expectations and letting go so you can be happier and more productive right now. If you want to learn more about that process, check out my blog post on Being like the Roomba®.

Get the rest of the Simplify Your Summer expert tips delivered straight to your inbox and get access to the live Q&A with Jeff Hellenbrand on May 20th at

8 Reasons Why Being Broke is Better for Business

nationaltreasureNobody likes being broke. I’ve been broke (or close) more than once in my life and I usually don’t appreciate it much at the time. As entrepreneurs, we want money. And from what I can tell, we want it for two very important, and very different, reasons. The first reason is that we want to stay alive and feed our families. The second is that we think making a lot of money will fill our need for security, stability, freedom, success, etc. We all need money to live. As for that other stuff (the need for the things money represents), money isn’t going to give you that. Get over it.

Most of the wedding entrepreneurs I know who are still working to get their business off the ground would practically kill for a loan. Any cash-bump would be a godsend at this point.

This post is for you. You don’t need a loan, a grant or a large settlement. You don’t. Being broke is actually better for business and I’m going to show you why:

  1. You can’t throw money at problems. Throwing money at problems is a short-term solution that is almost always wasteful. If you don’t have money, you have to actually address the issue-at-hand. Getting to the root of the problem and taking care of it (rather than covering it up by throwing cash around) is a much healthier, cheaper and more responsible, long-term solution.
  2. The success of your business will probably not come down to money. I’ve heard people say that the number one reason businesses fail is because they don’t start out with enough capital. Okay, you need way more money to start a business than you think you do – I totally agree on that (I’ve lived it). But I see this as a total cop out. Money is one of many resources. How about connections, time and hustle? Are you using those to the best of your ability? Learning to fully harness resources other than money is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business.
  3. It forces you to hustle. People who’ve made it sometimes sit back and enjoy their success while their business slowly goes under. Just see Richard St. John’s 4-minute TED talk. If your bank account is hovering just above zero, you have no time to waste. You’re forced to spend your time on your most important job: getting paid.
  4. You have the added motivation of thinking money will make you happy. Most rich people eventually learn that money truly can’t buy happiness (again, see Richard’s TED talk, link above). If you’re broke, you haven’t figured that out yet. You can use the double motivation of money and happiness to make your business successful, even though you’ll only end up with money and not necessarily happiness.
  5. You don’t waste money. Companies who begin making cash hand over fist often start spending money like there’s no tomorrow. After all, if there’s money in the bank, why not spruce up the office and buy that new car, right? When you’re broke, you don’t have extra cash to spend. You properly vet advertising opportunities and other investments because you can’t afford to mess it up. This results in better decisions, better returns and more money in your pocket.
  6. You take REALLY good care of your clients. I offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee. There were times in my business where it would have been difficult for me to come up with a refund – I was that broke. Thankfully, no one had any reason to request a refund. During that time, I worked hard. Not just to get new business, but also to look after my clients. I knew that a great experience meant a killer review, which would ultimately lead to more business. Companies with cash sometimes think it’s not their job to make every client happy. You’re too broke to think that way. Every client matters. A lot.
  7. You have to be creative. People with too much money can waste it on print ads and bridal expos that don’t work. Not you. You have to find other ways to get the right clients. Whether it’s inviting a fellow vendor to coffee for one-on-one networking (and brainstorming), creating a one-of-a-kind bridal event with other vendors or volunteering in an organization with plenty of engaged folks (or something even cooler, even more out-there that no one else has tried before), you’re doing things that other vendors just aren’t doing.
  8. Being broke is good for the soul. And a happy soul is good for business. When you’re broke, you can’t fill the voids in your life with money. For me, that’s meant that instead of expensive activities used as an escape (read: hookers and blow), I choose to spend time on soul-replenishing stuff like taking the pugs for a long walk, spending more time with my wife and playing pickup basketball. Doing things that matter with people you love makes you grounded and connects you with you. Then, when you’re in a sales meeting (for example), instead of slipping into “salesy” you, you stay who you are, because you actually know who you are.

Alright, that’s my list. What do you think? Am I insane? Am I right? Do you feel better about being broke yet?

Being broke may be good for business at first, but it’s no way to live long term. If you’re tired of being broke, take the Get Better Brides Process to find out where you’re going wrong. Join the Bootcamp: Meh to Marvelous in 6 Weeks. Hire a marketing consultant. See a shrink. Do something.

Tuesday Tech Tip: Songza Saves the Day

staring-monsterFor today’s tech tip, I wanted to do something fun. Music is like breathing for me. If I go too long without hearing it or making some, I start to lose my mind. is my go-to place for free streaming music. It’s not for everybody, but it’s my cup of tea, especially now that I’ve used it for a bit. Songza was one of the very few online music services that also worked in Canada, which has been nice for the last six months.



Why not Pandora?

Pandora is pretty sweet, except that when I want to listen to Elliott Smith, I create a channel based on him and then I get to listen to everything that sounds like him. But almost never him.

Why not Spotify?

Don’t get my wrong, Spotify is amazeballs. I’m just not cool enough to create my own playlists every day. I want a service that plays music I like and introduces me to new stuff without me doing the legwork.

Why Songza?

Songza’s claim-to-fame is it’s music concierge service, which is really cool in theory. When you first land on the site, it gives you some listening options based on the time of day and day of the week. So on a Friday evening at say 6pm, it will give you options like “Cooking Dinner,” “Pre-Partying,” and “Chilling with Friends.” You then choose from a short list of genre’s and lastly pick from three different playlists. If you like to work with music on (I know I do), there’s even an option during weekdays for “Music without Lyrics” so you don’t get too distracted.

I’ve used the concierge a bunch and I pretty quickly found that I didn’t like a lot of the playlists. However, I also found a handful of playlists I absolutely love. And those playlists occasionally get updates so I can keep listening to them without things getting stale.

Here are my top lists (I’m into Indie bands that aren’t cool anymore):

  1. Handclapping & Footstomping
  2. Guitars & PBRs
  3. Coffee Shop Indie

And just like Pandora, if there are a couple of songs on the list you’re not into, you can always give them the thumbs down.



7 Lessons from Living on the Ocean

View from the front yard, courtesy of @emilypearl on Instagram.

View from the front yard, courtesy of @emilypearl on Instagram.

We’re back in the U.S. after an inspiring six month stay in a little cabin at the foot of the mountains on the Pacific Ocean of Canada. Considering that it’s snowing in Minnesota right now, you could say we’re missing the sun and the (little) waves. It was hard to say goodbye to new friends, but it’s been great to be close to family once more.

During our time by the ocean, I learned a lot about myself and what it’s like to live someplace you’ve been dreaming about. Here are some lessons I took from the experience:


  1. You can’t get away until you unplug. Even in such a remote place, if you’re on Facebook, you’re plugged in. It wasn’t until I turned off my phone that I experienced the peace and stillness of the place.
  2. Beauty is everywhere. We lived in a stunningly beautiful place. But there were ugly things about it. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that beauty is everywhere, but our experience is determined by what we focus on. If we dwell on what we don’t like (e.g. shoveling), we miss the overwhelming beauty right in front of us (e.g. snow on tree branches).
  3. People are more important than place (to me). I loved living by the ocean. We were pleasantly surprised by the fun, artistic and intelligent community we found thriving in that little town. In the end, it’s the people I’ll miss the most. If I had to choose, I’d take good people over a beautiful place, but I don’t think you have to choose. I want both.
  4. Doing nothing is essential. I made it a point to spend time doing nothing while sitting on the water. It was hard. I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked. When I did do it, I felt centered, calm and at peace. I made better decisions, listened to others better and listened to myself better. I felt connected and happier. It wasn’t the ocean (though that didn’t hurt), it was being still on purpose. Doing nothing is important for everyone and it’s essential for introverts.
  5. Everything is a tradeoff. In Chicago, when I was dreaming of the ocean, it was easy to complain about the smell of poo emanating from the sewer. Have you ever lived on the water? In general, it smells bad. You get used to it, but the point is that no place is perfect. It’s about knowing what’s most important to you in a place and choosing wisely. (In short, the grass may be greener, but it may also give you a rash.)
  6. Less is more. We took only what we could fit into our little car when we left on our road trip. Our tiny four-room cabin made for a tight fit, but it rarely felt cramped. Instead, it forced us to be creative. Getting by on less felt good. Having less stuff to worry about, store and manage felt great.
  7. Moving won’t change you. We had big ideas about hiking and exploring. But we’re homebodies. We did get out of the house more, but our lifestyle didn’t change drastically just because our environment did.

It was a wild ride. And though some of the lessons I learned may be slightly depressing to those of you who’ve been dreaming of being somewhere else, I hope you take away a more inspiring message: that what matters is not what you see, but how you see it. It can be easy to get down on the place you live at times (especially when it snows in late April). What I found on the ocean was that what happens inside of us is more important than what happens around us. We tend to expect external things to make us happy, which is weird, because they rarely do. Happiness, the kind that lasts, comes from within.

Tuesday Tech Tip: Gratitude Journal iPhone App

gratitude journal screenshotIf you aren’t familiar with the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, it can be pretty damn awesome. This study revealed that people who kept a gratitude journal (as opposed to a journal about neutral or negative events) exercised more regularly, felt better and were more optimistic. It also suggested that people who kept gratitude journals were more likely to have made progress toward their goals.

If that’s not enough, I can attest to the power of gratitude. Keeping a journal has made me more optimistic and happier. Instead of focusing on all of the stuff I don’t like in my life, it’s training my brain to constantly seek out the good. I end up feeling more fulfilled and satisfied on a daily basis. It’s made me more productive and even more confident.

As a coach, I help people reach huge goals. And it’s awesome. But here’s the thing: reaching your goal won’t make you happy. If you aren’t happy now, nothing is going to change that. Especially (according to studies) if you’re living above the poverty line. It’s faster and easier to change your perspective than it is to try to make a bunch more money to buy shit you don’t need (to impress people you don’t like). Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best, most sure-fire ways to change your perspective. And it’s cheap!

I don’t care if you keep a paper journal, use this app or find another one. I just hope you start taking note of what you’re grateful for.

I personally use the iPhone app Gratitude Journal, which comes in at about two bucks. It’s clean, simple, easy and fun to look back at things I’ve been grateful for over this past (very busy and adventurous) year. One surprise for me were the daily quotes. Some of them suck, sometimes they repeat, but overall I’ve loved the quotes and I’ve been impressed by the fact that they’re lesser known (I don’t often say “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.”) and still really powerful. Why shell out for the app? Because it looks better than my handwriting, the alarm reminds me each day and the calendar view lets me see whether I’ve been staying on track or slacking. What are you grateful for?


Meh to Marvelous Transformation: Day 9

Today, in her Meh to Marvelous Transformation, Michelle shares her takeaways from the Stop Struggling & Start Killing It tele-class. She gets back in touch with her mission and values. She also talks about a new way to look at procrastination.

What’s your mission? Having a powerful, values-aligned purpose for your life and your business will ignite both. Without it, you’ll have to stop and re-evaluate each time a new opportunity presents itself. With a clear purpose, you’ll be able to instantly identify which opportunities fit perfectly and which ones you should pass up. If you need help knowing what yours is and how it fits into your business, email Jeff.
So… What’s your purpose? Write it down and live it!

“Michelle came to me because she was looking to make some huge changes in her life and kickstart her new business. She’s an experienced florist living in a major city and she is totally devoted to her kids, including a daughter with special needs. Michelle’s motivation to start her own business stemmed from her desire to spend more time with her daughters. She’s keeping a video diary of her progress in this 90-day Meh to Marvelous transformation.”

What to do when “Working Smarter” Doesn’t Work

NBC shows the stark change in technology use in the last seven years.

Are you a productivity junkie? I am, or at least I was. Since college I’ve been obsessed by finding the best life hacks, web apps and productivity tools to automate my life, be effective and efficient and simply get more done in less time. I love learning about this stuff, but I’ve lost interest lately. Let me tell you why.

I’m experiencing the law of diminishing returns. When you start learning how to be more productive, you can shave hours off of your work day. After years and years of research, though, the improvements keep getting smaller and smaller. Because I know that the likelihood of discovering a technique that will have a huge impact on my productivity has been dropping steadily, the hope and excitement have started to wane. Continue reading

Tuesday Tech Tip: The Real Price of an iPhone

I know that most of my readers already own iPhones (or another smartphone). This post is for you, but it is also for every person who has ever said, “iPhones are too expensive.” Really, it’s for anyone who carelessly throws around the word “expensive” without taking value-received into account.

Let’s talk about expensive for a minute. I’ve owned a couple of bad Android phones (there are good ones). I paid $80-$100. They lasted me maybe one year, although the screen cracked in my pocket on day two of owning the cheaper one. They were frustrating. I didn’t really enjoy using them so I tended to keep them in my pocket. The cost to me was more in the agony than in the price tag, but neither was pleasant.

I paid $400 for an iPhone that will last me more than two years (at this point, though, I’m definitely feeling the need to upgrade). For our purposes, we’ll ignore the resale value, which allows us to get a decent amount of money back, especially after a year (two is pushing it). I also understand that the iPhone per-month cost includes data and phone minutes which are not cheap. But I think the cost is negligible when we look at things this way…

Let’s look at just some of the things I use my iPhone for on a daily basis:

  • Sleepcycle: tracks my sleep and helps me wake up at the perfect time
  • Alarm Clock
  • Recipes (for breakfast)
  • Timer (for coffee)
  • Email
  • Scan and send documents
  • Check the Weather
  • GPS with traffic (for driving across town and dodging brutal traffic)
  • Portable Music Player (while walking the pugs)
  • Hi-Res Pocket Camera (for snapping a once-in-a-lifetime pic of Relvis avoiding a puddle, which I can then Tweet in realtime)
  • Location-based Reminders (I get reminded to send an email right when I need it: just as I walk up to my front door)
  • Motivation (see previous post all about the Lift app)
  • Watching movies on the go
  • Playing video games instead of being bored in the waiting room
  • Showing off pictures of the ocean to a friend at the bar
  • Meditation (I like the Simply Being app)
  • Yoga (there are so many apps)
  • Skyping with the nieces and nephews
  • Exercising at home (I like Workout Trainer)
  • Looking up random facts at a party to end a debate or maybe looking at pictures of cats (this is my way of covering the entirety of the internet)
  • Learning about the stars at night (using the amazing, but not free, Skyview app)
  • Calendar (My calendar is up-to-the-minute because I use Google Calendar.)
  • Oh, and occasionally I need to call someone and I use it as a phone.
What this list doesn’t address are the deeper benefits I receive. Benefits like better sleep and more exercise make me healthier. Sharing pics, Facebook and skyping with my nieces helps me stay connected to my family. These are meaningful things that technology makes even better.

This is not an exhaustive list, though it is exhausting. The simple point is that I use my iPhone from the second I wake up until my head hits the pillow. I also know when to turn it off and enjoy life gadget-free. But given that I’m getting priceless value (with almost no headache) using it at least two hours each day (that is beyond-conservative to the point of absurdity) I estimate the cost to be around 25 cents an hour (and more realistically, 5 cents or less an hour). An hour! Think how many things on that list you could knock off in an hour…

Don’t get me wrong, smartphones are a luxury. Is $400 a lot of money? Sure. But if we’re talking about the one device you use for absolutely everything every day, then, actually, hell-to-the-no. It’s a steal at twice the price.

The iPhone is easily the least expensive and best value of anything I’ve ever owned.

How is your service like the iPhone? Do you offer value that just gives and gives and gives? Is one of your benefits the fact that your service is hassle- and worry-free?

Is generosity Your Crutch?

You’re a generous person. In your wedding business, you go out of your way to help brides. I’ll bet good money that you go the extra mile for your clients. And that you’re at least a little proud of just how generous you are.

And that’s awesome. Except when it’s not.

Are you giving away discounts and extras constantly? Why? The fundamental question you need to ask is this:

Am I doing this because I want to be generous or because I am afraid? Continue reading

Are Your Friends Dream-Killers?

Bad Luck Brian Meme“You are the average of the five people you hang around the most.” Ever heard that? I think it’s a little scary. I have definitely seen this play out in my own life: from my sense of humor to my accent to how much I work out. I influence my friends (and my wife and my pugs) and they all influence me. When it comes to your dream and taking your business where you want it to go, are your friends an asset or a liability?

Here’s how you find out (without asking them). Just think about sharing what you really want with them (even if it means moving away from them or doing something they might not totally agree with). How do you think they will respond? Are they behind you 100%? Do they want you to be really happy even if your dream seems silly to them? Do they shit on your dreams? If you’re not sure, tell them and find out.

If your friends won’t support you when it comes to having the life you want, they aren’t your friends.

Do you need to make any changes to your close friend-lineup? This is as much about ditching the dead weight as it is about building a support team for yourself. My clients often find that as their perspective changes, some friends naturally drift away and new, more supportive friends come into their life. It’s a bold, life-changing move. Are you game?