Writer’s Block: 6 Steps to Cultivate Creativity

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For years, I used to think writer’s block was an inevitable, insurmountable obstacle I had no power to overcome. I thought creativity flowed from inspiration, and inspiration was summoned by the art gods in some sort of esoteric, supernatural ritual. Years later, and I’ve come to realize inspiration is for amateurs and there are very simple ways to harness creativity. Here are a few:

Creativity isn’t captured, it’s cultivated. Change your mind about how creativity is developed. Imagine if you were a comic book artist that had to produce a fresh strip of comics weekly for a paycheck. What would you do if you were fresh out of ideas? More than likely, you do what you had to do to find some. A lot of people have been led to believe being creative is a mystical, deeply spiritual process that requires divine intervention. In reality, it’s more about developing good habits and refining work. The first step is changing your paradigm  to recognize it’s an intentional process in which the artist is expected to participate.

In the long run there is not much discrimination against superior talent.
 – Carter G. Woodson

Practice capturing the moment. As a college sophomore I was blessed to be part of a group of writers that helped me shape my ideas about writing and creativity. When we got to the subject of writer’s block, the idea of capturing the moment was introduced. This simply means, as a writer you have to discipline yourself to write things down. If you keep a small notebook and make a habit of writing ideas, thoughts, and inspirations you will increase your creativity by a million, bazillion percent. Don’t miss the moment. Inspirational moments are like snowflakes; there are many, but no two are alike. A musician friend once told me he makes a habit of going to bed empty, meaning every night before his head hits the pillow he records all of this ideas.
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: Carter G. Woodson once said, “In the long run there is not much discrimination against superior talent.” Many incredibly talented people have average ability coupled with above-average work ethic and discipline. As a writer, one way to expand your creative perimeter is to write often. The more more ideas you write, the more ideas you have, and the more ideas you refine, the more you have to choose from. Some will be great, some will be good, and others will be average. The overall goal is to have catalogs of work that display your creativity, versatility, and development process.

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Make writing a priority: Have you ever thought, “I know I should write, but I just don’t feel like it?” Of course you don’t, that’s why you have to force yourself. Instead of suffering from writer’s block, schedule a writing block (a chunk of time to create) and guard it like a mama pitbull over her pups. Turn off the phone, TV, YouTube, laptop (if you’re not using it to create), or anything else that could be a distraction. No meetings, movies, or answering crisis phone calls! Treat your writing block as if it’s your job. A job for which you are the CEO!  

Connect with a community of writers: As an African proverb states, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go further, take others with you.” Everything we know we learned from someone, and sometimes these people are right in front of us. Try searching sites like Meetup.com to locate writing groups you can collaborate with. You can also find people that can challenge your ideas and develop writing accountability groups.

“Remember, sometimes art is a fruit that most benefits the partakers, not the producers.”

 

Don’t be afraid to fail: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s trash is another person’s treasure, so don’t trash your treasures. Remember, sometimes art is a fruit that most benefits the partakers, not the producers. Don’t be afraid to be as innovative as your mind can imagine! Have fun the process and create fiercely. Try the Bruce Lee approach, “Let no limits be your limit and no boundary be your boundary.

There is no magic formula to becoming a great writer or developing creative ideas. It’s as simple as this: the more you practice correctly, the better you become. Sometimes the hardest thing about finishing a project is just getting started. I hope these tips help you on your journey to becoming more creative and unblocking writer’s block.

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Talent is Cheaper Than Table Salt

Stephen King, world renowned novelist once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” Turn on the television and it’s easy to spot exceptional talent; it’s all around us in music, film, and sports. Take for example Gabby Douglas, the first African-American woman to win gold in the women’s individual event and the only female gymnast in history to earn both team and all-around gold in the same Olympics. Before claiming these prestigious and historical titles, Gabby spent years in intense training. At fourteen she moved 3000 miles from home to train with Liang Chow to prepare for the Olympics.

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The point is there is always a story behind the glory, but far too often we want the latter without sacrifice. In an interview with a Jamaican journalist, six time Olympic champion and the world fastest man, Usian Bolt said, “In this game everybody’s got talent, but training will get you to the next level.” One thing is for certain: the world is not devoid of talented people, but it has a deficit of successful ones. I don’t mean lots of money, fame, or recognition. I’m referring to the success that enables you to know you have spent each day whole-heartedly walking in purpose and in passionate pursuit of God’s vision for your life.

In a society inundated with the lure of microwave success and YouTube fame it’s hard to recognize the value in mastering the minute and mundane. Mastering the mundane enables you to operate from a platform of stability and focus. Remember the lesson from those Karate Kid movies? Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off, repeat. You want to be a writer, poet, musician, athlete, under-water frog juggler? The truth is there’s always a story behind the glory and you have to put in the time if you want to shine. Are you simply waiting for opportunities or are you working diligently to create them?  Got talent, so what? Proverbs 13:4 reminds us, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Dawn never sets twice to wake a man up nor does opportunity knock. There’s no magic formula for success, just good old-fashioned discipline and hard work. Success is the result of preparation, unwavering faith and forward momentum after failure.
Learn more. Fail more. Become more.

Don’t Get Off the Treadmill: 7 Questions to Ask Before You Throw in the Towel

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Usually, when I meet someone I ask them two important questions: “Where are you from and what do you do?” Often, this stimulates more conversation and I get to hear great ideas and big dreams. Sad to say, so many of these ideas never  materialize because the visionary quits prematurely. Everyone faces challenges in business. In fact, it’s a part of life in general. Learning to stick and stay the in the face of obstacles is often what separates dreams fulfilled from dreams deferred. Asking the following questions when you’re facing discouragement can help you refocus and regroup.
1. Why am I here? No building can exist without a foundation nor can any successful business thrive without a clear vision. When you find yourself discouraged, discontent and dissatisfied, take some time to ask yourself this question. What is your mission? Why did you start your business? What are your core values and what excited you enough to start your journey? Often times when you revisit your initial passions and driving motivators you can realign your purpose and productivity.
2. Is this worth it? James Allen, author of As Man Thinketh once said, “Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him to himself.” When tough times inevitably arise, your response to them is what’s most important. Beginning with the end in mind enables you to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. There are far too many people who do not want to put in the hard work necessary to become successful. Instead, they become anesthetized by the culture of instantaneous results not realizing there is no shortcut to a legacy or microwave for success.

For kicks, try this: place a bag of popcorn in the microwave and let it run for five seconds. Then stop it and let it start again for another five seconds. You can do this for years and years; however the popcorn will never ever pop. Why? Simply because it’s not being microwaved consistently at the right temperature for the right amount of time. Your consistency for a sustained amount of time gets results.
3. Do I invest in personal development? Abraham Lincoln once stated, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” Your organization is a reflection of your leadership. Your leadership is a reflection of your character, and your character is a sum of your manifested thoughts. Personal development is so easy to do that it’s equally as easy not to do. What’s the latest book you’ve read? What about the last workshop, webinar or conference you’ve attended? Roman politician Marco Cicero said, “As a field, however fertile, cannot be fruitful without cultivation; neither can a mind without learning.” How have you invested in learning more about yourself and about your business?
4. Do I have a support team? We all know the saying “birds of a feather flock together”, so what happens if you’re flying solo? Frequently, young entrepreneurs are good intentioned, but ill-informed and attempt to conquer creative conquests without support. Having a good, competent, qualified support team is like having a good pair of tires. When they’re working well few people notice, but when one is flat the car is immobile. Since no man is an island, it’s good to have people in place that not only genuinely support you, but have some of level of experience in your area of business. It’s one thing to have motivators; it’s another to have motivators who move us in the right direction. Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do so learn to lean on others for help.
5. Have I left everything on the field? There’s a story of a man that wanted to become a lifeguard. He signed up for lessons and went faithfully. Test day came and he got into the water and performed just as he was taught in previous lessons. Then, the final test came – he had to backstroke fifty meters. Once again, he jumped in and performed just as taught, but around meter thirty his body grew weary and he slowed down. As he approached meter forty, he moved even slower. He decided it was just too hard so he stopped moving, and unsurprisingly he sank. The instructor grabbed him, brought him to the surface and turned him around to see his progress. To his surprise, he was only four meters away from meeting his qualification. He is like many of us. Sometimes we are so close to our next contract, client or deal, but we give in before we see results. Have you done everything in your God-given ability to succeed? Can you honestly say you’ve left everything on the field? If not, this is not the time to get off the treadmill!
6. Did I do my research? I speak with people all the time who have great business ideas but have not done any research. They don’t know industry trends, costs or competing businesses in their market. It has been said, “A question correctly stated is already half-solved.” What questions have you asked? Have you taken the time to understand the trends in your business? Have you spoken with someone you consider successful in your industry and sought advice? Most businesses fail within their first five years largely due to miseducation and misinformation. Simply put, creativity and ingenuity solely do not precede success. Albert Einstein put it this way, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perseverance.” Part of that genius is knowing what to expect. This comes through diligent research and education.
7. Have I tracked my results? This is vital in keeping a proper perspective concerning your effectiveness and comes through documenting progress. This is important because at times we confuse our real investment with our emotional investment. For example, you may invest countless hours thinking, rehearsing and replaying your failures and future endeavors, but have you actually invested an equal amount of real time in income generating activities? Sometimes eight hours of worry can feel like forty; that’s why it’s critical to document your work. Time capitol isn’t the same as emotional capitol. Don’t let the latter confuse you and fuel a hasty, uneducated decision.
Keep your eye on the prize, get a game plan and be confident in the calling God has given you. Faith tested cannot be trusted, and the entrepreneur life is definitely a faith journey without shortcuts, back roads or straight lanes. Reach for the stars and remember the big shot was once a little shot that kept on shooting. I’d love to hear from you. Email me questions, comments or stories to mistertimswain@gmail.com.

There Is No Plan B: A Message to Aspiring World Changers

superheroEveryone has a dream. Everyone has a goal. Everyone was born with an innate desire to become someone that contributes to something bigger than himself. That innate desire is called purpose and far too many people are living below the level of greatness God put in us. There is a time in our lives when we have to face the grim reality that we are today’s answers for tomorrow’s problems. When we fail to be who we are called to be the world suffers. Barack Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” Want to be a world changer? Here are 6 things to help you get started.

Be committed to self-development: 

Self-development is foundation for success. Leaders teach what they know and reproduce who they are. It’s unlikely to find a successful person that hasn’t worked on himself just as much as he’s worked on others. Lao Tzu believed, “He who conquers others is strong, but he who conquers himself is mighty.” Often times, the most engulfing snares and visceral fears come from within, but seldom do we take the time to seriously assess ourselves. There are three important questions every person must ask himself: (1) what do I want, (2) why don’t I have it and (3) what am I willing to do to get it? If you want to be successful find someone who has gone where you’d like to go and learn from them. Whether a spiritual leader, business expert or community activist, find someone to model. You can also read books, attend seminars and often times access a plethora of free resources at your local library. Remember, you are the change you wish to see in the world. Whatever you want to see happen must first start with you.

Be insanely myopic concerning your goal:

There is no plan B. Ever wondered why you see horses race with blinders? Horses have peripheral vision and when racing they can become distracted. Jockeys use blinders to keep them focused. When you set a goal, motivation will get you started, but commitment will keep you going. Commitment is doing what you said you’d do long after the feeling is gone. When you take the time to focus and resolve in your mind the goal has already been accomplished there is nothing that can stop you. A great example of this is Diana Nyad, who recently became the first person in history to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without the assistance of a shark cage. This was the fifth attempt of a thirty year journey. After the 53 hour voyage she said, “I have three messages and one of them is never ever give up.” By the way did I mention she is 64 years old? She had an unyielding resilience, unconquerable desire and laser focus.

Surround yourself with people that are headed in the same direction:

We’ve all heard the phrase, “birds of a feather flock together”, but have you ever wondered why? Scientists researched geese flying patterns and found out the V formation they assume serves two very important reasons. Number one is energy conservation. When all the birds are doing their job then each bird’s energy is multiplied. The second reason is communication. In the V formation it is easier to communicate with each other. Because of this, the V formation is commonly used among pilots, military regiments and more. You are an average of your five closet friends. Where are you flying and who’s to the left and right of you?

Work for something bigger than you:

Proverbs 1:7 tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. This knowledge is more than a mere understanding and conceptualization of principles. It is connected to a deeper understanding of life and character. We’re all in pursuit of some kind of knowledge. We want to know who we are, why we are here and what to do with the time we’ve been given. When we decide to work for something greater than ourselves it does three things: (1) gives us meaning, (2) motivates us when discouraged and (3) puts life’s vicissitudes in proper perspective. Author and activist Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Who are you working for? God? Family? Your community? Learn to work for something greater than yourself and see how much further you can go.

Have a strong “why”:

Your why is the absolute fundamental, rudimentary, nucleus of your passion. This is the sole reason you strive towards a goal. Your why should make you cry. Simply put, you have to tap into something you’re so passionate about it will make you vehemently defend it when no one else will. Your why, when all else fails, will keep you in the fight regardless of the disappointments, discouragements, dejections. This has to be written down and takes some introspective reflection to discover. Usually, it’s something you will do whether or not you got paid for it. Sometimes the problems that bring us the most frustration are the ones we are here to solve. What makes you MAD (Motivated And Determined) enough to make a difference?

Get rid of your excuses:

George Washington Carver believed ninety nine percent of  failures come from the people who have the habit of making excuses. An excuse is any reason given that helps us justify why we don’t do what we know we are supposed to do. We all have them and choose when we want to employ them to escape the accountability of reality. That is to say, we use today’s excuses to pacify yesterday’s failures. They have been with us since the beginning of time and will be with us tomorrow. Regardless of their believability, they eventually prove unfruitful. Remember Adam’s excuse for breaking God’s commandment? Remember what Moses said when he was called to lead the people? What about you? What excuses do you make? Learn to identify them and be responsible enough to take a punch in the gut by the grizzly truth when necessary. Think about the past five years of your life and assess whether or not you’ve moved closer to your goal? If not, then why? What will you do differently today that will ensure the next five years aren’t like the past?

Mark Twain suggested twenty years from now we will be more disappointed by the things that we didn’t do than the ones we did. Remember the world is waiting on your voice, gifts, talents and abilities. One of greatest tragedies is to have lived a lifetime only to realize that you never really lived. Make a difference and DO IT TODAY!

A Soldier’s Story: An Interview with Army Specialist Jorel Covin on Family, Finances and Service

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Like many of today’s veteran’s, Army Specialist and aspiring entrepreneur Jorel Covin saw the military as an opportunity and route of escape from inner city pressures and a pursuit for a better life. Similar to many of today’s youth, Covin was raised without his biological father, bullied and wanted to earn quick money. Within six days after graduating from high school he arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island welcomed by an impeccably groomed drill instructor shouting the infamous phrase, “Get on my yellow footprints!” This was the beginning of a military career that yielded many great experiences; however when faced with establishing a better life for his family this father quickly realized some assignments came without orders.

MTS: Tell me a little about yourself.

SC: I’m a Specialist in the Army Reserves and my wife of ten years is Active Duty Army. We have three beautiful children: thirteen, nine and seven.

MTS: Why the military?

SC: I mainly wanted to get rich quick. I wanted the clothes, new car, high credit limits, girls and everything else that would make me look and feel like a baller. I was also bullied as a kid and wanted to prove something to myself and my bullies. I wanted to leave my small town and see the world. I thought it was an easy ride to pay for school and travel.

MTS: Tell me about life prior to the military.

SC: My mother worked very hard to support my brother, sister and I. Although she divorced my dad when I was about 5 years old, I was well taken care of. I had good grades in high school, but didn’t reach my full potential because I wanted to be cool and hang out. My hometown is small and I just wanted to get away. I didn’t have a clear plan or vision. I saw the military as a free ride to simply get away and experience something different.

MTS: Tell me about your military career.

SC: I did two years in the Corps, one year in the guard, and currently serving in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve).

MTS: What were some of the most important lessons you learned in the Corps?

SCWell, the military is black or white; either you like it or you don’t. I learned a lot of important things, especially resilience and a “suck it up and drive on” kind of mentality. The military taught me how to roll with the punches and get the job done. This helped me because when things didn’t go my way after I got out, I had to learn to be flexible and roll with it. I learned some things in the military, but I also had a great mom that taught me. The military is partly responsible for this, but my mama had already instilled values in me.

MTS: What was the adjustment like after being released from your initial term with the Marines?

SC: It was kind of tough. As I said when I enlisted I didn’t have goals, a plan or anything and that didn’t change for me. It was tough trying to find a job because I was competing with other veterans that had more qualifications and higher rank than me. I went back to the same neighborhood, saw some of the same people and worked the same job I had before I left. It was at a country club.  I didn’t really know how to manage my money so I didn’t have anything and had to start over. It was really tough.

MTS: What were your expectations about life during and after the military?

SC: Well, I thought I was going to have a lot of money for college, have a job after getting out, but realized that wasn’t the case. Although the military teaches you a lot of skills; the military is not going to hold your hand. You have to take the initiative to ask questions, find out about programs that help you and learn how to grow up so you can survive in the civilian world. The success of the soldier falls on the service member. I didn’t start with a plan so I got nowhere. I needed help and I had to adapt and overcome.

MTS: Would you say the military prepared you for life after duty?

SC: Well, like I said you have to take initiative. In some ways it did and in others it didn’t, but my success isn’t the military’s responsibility. It’s mine, so I had to make some choices in my life. I’ve made some mistakes and some good decisions, but I’ve grown and learned.

MTS: What are some of the other things you have learned?

SC: The military’s pay isn’t enough for my family and I. With higher rank comes higher pay.  For a single person it’s cool, but I have a family. I have to work another job. The truth is you don’t join the military to get rich. If you think you will; you’re going to have a rude awakening. I mean it’s good security because you know how much you’re getting paid and when you’re getting paid. You have good health benefits and insurance. That’s something we all need and we have it as service members.

MTS: What are some of your future aspirations?

SC: I want to help the youth and other veterans have hope and let them know about the resources that are out there. Just because I’ve made some mistakes doesn’t mean they have to; I want to help them in life. I also want to start a Christian promotions company to spread some positive messages in the world. My wife wants to start a women’s shelter to help them [women] deal with the real struggles they go through. I’m also leaning towards becoming a teacher by taking advantage of the Troops to Teachers program.

MTS: From the things you’ve told me it sounds like there are a couple of themes resurfacing. Some of them are: taking personal responsibility, the importance of planning and power of making quality decisions. Does this sound about right?

SC: Yes, that’s about right. People have to understand just because you join the military doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan and work on your future. I mean it’s not for everyone because only about one percent of the US population serve.  If you’re young and considering the military then ship off tomorrow! Learn to plan and use the benefits you will get like the networking skills, world travel and interactions with different types of people. Be smart and use it to your advantage.

MTS: What advice would you give someone on being successful?

SCWhen you can’t see the finish line, just work the path you’re on. Don’t be afraid to leave home because it will be right here when you get back. Have a relationship with God and keep Him first. Keep your record clean because you will need to have a good reputation. It will open up doors for you later. Know that it’s never too late. My wife was twenty-seven and a high school drop out with three kids when she changed her life. She got a GED while I was deployed, took the ASVAB three times, took remedial classes and loaded 15 college hours in a single semester at one point just to enlist. All of this while raising a family. If she can do it, then you can as well. We got to a point where we got sick and tired of living under. We got tired of depending on the system for assistance and realized it was keeping us under. It was just enough to make it, but not enough to be satisfied; we got tired of that. I was a grown man and wanted to take personal responsibility. At first it was hard but we made a covenant between each other and God and moved in faith. My leadership built up my wife’s leadership and now I am a support for her as she prepares to deploy for her first tour in Afghanistan. Just don’t give up and work what’s in front of you. You’re not ready to reach two thousand if you can’t reach two.

Jorel’s story is similar to that of many veterans. While there are many benefits that derive from service, there are some inescapable life lessons crucial in your success. The military can accelerate, and even amplify some of these lessons, but it doesn’t replace them. Jorel and his wife are an incredible example of the power of planning, taking personal responsibility and persistence. I encourage you in whatever your life’s course to learn from these lessons and be a proactive agent in your success! For more info on veteran programs and assistance, please contact your local Veterans Affairs Office.

Hey Young Homie: Six Communication Do’s and Don’ts for the Young Professional

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Establishing your company and distinguishing yourself from other businesses in America is its own challenge. The last thing you want to do is hinder your business’ development because of poor communication. Here are six do’s and don’ts to help you build your reputation and professionalism.

Do respond to messages promptly: In this fast-paced, social media-immersed society it’s easy to forget to return that call, reply to that email, DM or Facebook message. If you’re serious about establishing yourself as a young professional then you’re going to have to learn the art of timely communication. Depending on your business, it’s standard to return calls, emails and text messages within 24-48 hours. “I’ve been busy” or even “crazy busy” is not an excuse for unprofessionalism, poor communication and bad habits. It won’t fly in the corporate world so it shouldn’t in your business. Also, be sure to use your out of office and vacation responder if you’re going to be unavailable for more than 2 days.  Make a habit of doing this with friends and family now so you won’t lose clients over it in the future.

Don’t over-commit: With so much happening it’s easy to fill up your calendar with work projects, social engagements and other things until you’re immersed in an impossible to-do schedule. Sometimes it’s work demands; other times it’s poor time-management and a conquest to save the world that leaves us with unfulfilled commitments. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself needing to back out of engagements and projects more than completing them, this is a sign you’ve put too much on your plate. This impacts your credibility and dependability; inevitably, too many rescheduled appointments will make you seem flaky and unreliable. The last thing you want is great products or services, but a bad reputation. If the word on the street is you’re not a good business professional, you may find yourself on the street.

Do what you said you would do: One of the most telling signs of an unprofessional is his/her lack of follow-through. This coincides with the previous tip. If you tell someone you’re going to call, email, text, DM or write them, DO IT! Learn to keep order in your life by writing things down. The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind. Don’t be too witty to whip out a notepad or iPad to take note of everything you’ve committed to do.

Don’t let your voicemail and ringtone send an untrue message about you: There have been countless times when I’ve called someone for business and have been greeted by a ring-back tone with offensive language and vulgarity. Learn to create a simple, effective and pleasant greeting for your business line. If your personal and business line are the same, go professional. Learn to transition into professionalism with grace and wisdom. There’s a time and place for some things, not everything, and you want to ensure everything about you communicates professionalism. Better to make the right first impression than to try to create a new impression later.

Do learn how to say NO: This is arguably one of the hardest skills for an emerging professional to learn. Frequently, we take on too many projects out of a fear of missing “the right opportunity” or simply because we are addicted to overworking – aka workaholics. Remember – every opportunity isn’t the best opportunity and, even if it is, that doesn’t mean it’s the right opportunity for you. Learn to unapologetically say “NO” and keep trucking. Better to keep your commitments than to get caught in a pile of tasks you can’t complete. The key is to under-promise and over-deliver and not vice versa.

Do learn how to professionally answer the phone and leave a voicemail: When you answer the phone always greet potential clients with your name and company name (if you have one). For example, “Good afternoon, Bob Warren”, or “Good afternoon, Warren Industries, this is Bob speaking”. This is a simple principle that goes a long way. Also, when leaving a voicemail, speak slowly and give your info clearly. It’s always bad when people can’t return your call because they didn’t hear your name and/or number. You may say, “Well, that’s what Caller ID is for”. That’s true, but to be safe always leave a message. Always leave a message. Always leave a message. Did I mention it’s good to leave a message?

Professional communication will take you far and when you master these simple principles, you will set yourself head and shoulders above your peers. Communication isn’t simply what we say; it’s how we say what we say when we say it to others.

Young, Married and BROKE: 5 essentials for cash-deficient newlyweds

If you’re like me it seems like the moment when you stand across from the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with will never come. You spend countless hours daydreaming, making preference lists, praying and even secretly social media profiling (aka Facebook stalking) potentials. After you finally meet the person, it’s like nothing matters and together you’re inseparable. No obstacle is unconquerable and life is all around good. You spend months making decisions about flowers, friends and center pieces. Then, just as quickly as it takes you to say, “I Do” the day goes. You’re left crazy in love, and often times insanely in debt. So what do you do now? Here are five essentials if you find yourself young, married and broke.

Talk to a good financial counselor: Just because you’re currently broke doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way so it’s good to start getting advice.  That means strategic planning with real numbers, real people about real life circumstances. As comforting as the “love conquers all” ideology is, it will not prove profitable if you’re facing foreclosure or sitting in the dark because of an unpaid utility bill. Having an objective perspective will give you the reality check necessary to understand and realistically assess the challenges faced by young, broke newlyweds. You can also attend classes on financial literacy and planning (see suggestions below).

Spend time discussing personal philosophy on money: I’m blessed to have a wife that shares the same fundamental beliefs about money, stewardship and its purpose in our lives. We both hold the central value that God gives us money as a resource, but it’s not THE source. Differences in opinion about how money is spent, how much and when it’s spent can create tension if not discussed in depth. Simple things like whether or not you will tithe, and or give can be the beginning of big disagreements if not talked about beforehand.

Volunteer: Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “We must remember intelligence is not enough. Intelligence, plus character-that is the true goal of education.” There’s no better way of developing character than by serving others, and the great thing is there is no shortage of need. By serving others and volunteering, not only do you take the spotlight off your situation, you can also develop relationships that may or may not lead to great opportunities. Sincere service will inevitably enhance your capacity to lead, develop your leadership potential and help cultivate marketable experiences.

Start your own business: Starting your own business can be a very intimidating process, but it’s also very rewarding. There are many reasons why some people start their own business. Some want more time freedom, while others may seek financial freedom and more income. Depending on the nature of your business the payback for your investment can be immediate. There are numerous networking marketing opportunities that require a start-up fee, but give you access to great training and the potential to grow a lucrative business. There are also tax advantages to owning a business and you’ll be able to develop new skills and meet new people. Be wise and research smart to ensure you select the right opportunity for you. Home-based businesses can provide additional income and be a productive use of time in between landing a big gig.   

Avoid moving in with your family: I know for some of you this one may be too late, but it’s ok. There’s still time to get out. This can sometimes be a sensitive subject, especially if you’re young, married, broke and running out of options. The reason I say avoid this is because as newlyweds you need time to learn and discover each other without the added pressures and expectations of family members. Leaving and cleaving is what bonds you together. If you leave, cleave and return, often times you get burned. The normal pressures of trying to create together time, facilitate conflict management and decision making can easily become exacerbated by well-intentioned, but boundary-crossing family members. If possible avoid it at all cost.

The wedding is only a day, but marriage is a lifetime. Unfortunately, seldom do young and madly in love folks invest as much time preparing for the marriage as they do for the ceremony. There are lots of things to think about after you say I do and you don’t want to find yourself making every major life decision based on your financial position. It’s not a pleasant way to live and ultimately creates an uncomfortable and tense environment in your marriage. Plan right, practice smart, listen to wise counsel and trust God. For more resources, please visit the following links: 

Some of my most used financial resources come from Dave Ramsey and Crown Financial.Image