The Death of the To-Do List.

Seems like every major software player (and many entrepreneur little guys) has a software package that will let you track your to-do list.

In this day and age of over extended, too many choices, can I please just get a break: stress…you’ve really got to have a to-do list.

Whether it’s on paper, your smartphone, tablet, computer or written in ink on your hand, a to-do list is part of the uniform of the US society.



However, a to-do list falls very short of actually helping us to get the things done that matter most to us.  We’ll get caught up in adding and then checking off to-do items and pretend that we’re getting things done.

In reality, because we’re not getting the most important things done, it stresses us out.

So today I’ll challenge you to make a separate list with just 5 things on it for this week.

This list is your must-do list.  It should be things that, if done, will make a difference in your life. Important, satisfying differences…

Every must-do list should be updated at the end of the week.  Add 5 new things and then move forward in getting the most important things done in your life.

What’s on your must do list?

Who Are You?

Who are you?


Not what you do for a paycheck.

Not what other people say you’re talented at.

Not what your spouse expects you to be.

Not how many houses, cars, TV’s, smartphones, etc. that you own.

Not what society tells you to be.

If you took 30 minutes today and sat down to try to define who you really are, what would you discover?

Are you being true to who you really are, or are you living someone else’s life?

Don’t you think it’s time to live the life that only you can live?

Life is short and you have a unique life that can contribute to the world.

We need you to be who you really are.

Leave average behind!

Triggering Stoplights and How to Run a Business

The road out of our neighborhood dumps right into a super busy 5 lane, business laden, artery. Thankfully, there’s a stoplight to let us get across without having to dodge the oncoming 45mph traffic.

But there’s a catch:  Many people don’t understand how to trigger the stoplight and they end up causing a huge problem for themselves and others behind them.

The road is marked well, huge white line that you should stop behind.  It’s set back from the actual artery road by about 10 feet and as a result, folks creep past it for some reason.  Here’s the problem though: in failing to comply with the rules, and a lack of understanding of the process that causing stoplights to change, these folks end up really upset that they can’t get through the light and usually end up running the light.

I see the same things happening in businesses around the country. Managers and Leaders not following the rules of ethics and interpersonal relationships and a lack of understanding of what causes human motivation end up with employees that are screeching through the intersections of the corporate world causing all kinds of problems.

Sadly, many companies expect that command and control tactics will generate revenue (and while they may to a point, the personnel costs are extraordinarily dangerous) resulting in turnover, lack of loyalty, and a general malaise that is reflected in the lowered bottom line.

We all want to be treated fairly, valued for our contributions, placed in roles that play to our strengths and have peers and leaders who care for us as an individual.

We crave a company that understands what fires our passions and how we can make a contribution that has meaning and value.

When we don’t get those things we end up with a dysfunctional intersection of red lights and people running through them to get where they want to go.

Make an investment today in learning how to motivate and understand your people.  Invest in training in the DISC personality assessments and implementing strengths based roles in your company and watch the change that will happen.

For you strong CS personalities – here are the three major ways to trigger stoplights:

  • Straight timed lights – mostly found in older rural areas with light traffic.  They change on a set schedule…you’ve just got to wait.
  • Induction loop sensor lights – look for a little black or grey box or rectangle in the pavement in front of the white line showing you where to stop (see the picture at the top of this post). The metal in your vehicle will induce an electromagnetic field as it passes over the wires telling the lights you’d like them to change.  (Motorcycle folks take note – you want to be on the middle line right near the top of the box to get best results…trust me on that one!)
  • Motion sensor triggered lights – the cameras mounted on the stop light poles have a fixed field of view that they scan for motion of a car coming to a stop.  When they sense the motion it triggers the light.  During the times the sun is shining in the camera you might need to flash your high beams a few times to produce enough contrast for the sensor to trigger.

Our neighborhood has the induction loop trigger and when you pull past the white line, there’s no way to trigger the light.

You’ll sit there forever wondering why the traffic light is broken, when all you had to do was follow the rules and have a basic understanding of the process.

The Value of Taking a Sabbatical

In early April of this year I was experiencing significant burnout.

My goals, family, current day job and building a client base for Lead Thru Example all took a serious toll on my mental and physical well being.

I’m a driven individual, but I could see that unless I took a significant pause, that I’d be functionally useless in all my roles.

So for the past 2 months I’ve slowed down significantly, taking a “staycation” version of a Sabbatical.


I only allowed myself to do those things that were absolutely necessary to keep the bills paid.  This meant a lot less activity on social media and the blog, letting my coach know that I needed a few months off, and focusing on building enjoyment time into my “must do” calendar.

The results have been very positive!  I’m back to being able to see the joy in what I do and not just the “have to do” side of my life.

I’m a recovering people pleaser, and this time has been spent intentionally focusing on me and saying “No” to those things that aren’t part of my priority list.

If you’re finding yourself in a situation where life has lost all of it’s joy, don’t hesitate to pull out of all but the essential items in your life and re-group.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint (I’ll have to remind myself constantly…).

Have you ever experienced a refreshing time of Sabbatical?

Pareto, Facebook and Necessary Endings

A few weeks ago I took stock of where I was making my content available on the internet and the relative amount of engagement that I was getting at each “location”.

As a result of that review, I made some changes to the way that I publish my content. It was a hard process, because I had many potential outlets and hated to shut down any of them.

But necessary endings are part of life, and looking at the bang for the buck through the lens of the Pareto Principle (my good friend the 80/20 rule) it make sense to shut down a few things to allow me to foster the relationships and content that has the greatest potential to help folks make a difference in the world.

Pareto Online

First to go was my public Facebook page. There was not a whole lot of interest here and I was seeing my reach get less and less due to changes in the way that Facebook decides what is shown on the newsfeed of my followers. After a head’s up to my followers, I shut it off. While I do maintain a personal Facebook page, it’s for family and close friends only, I don’t open this network up to folks outside those circles.

Then I stopped the Google+ and Instagram: feeds that were not resulting in much engagement and discussion.

This leaves me with just a few quality channels of content distribution that I can tailor to the specific group of folks who want to engage with me:

  • - is my home base. The center of my platform where I spend most of my time sharing the top content. This is where I share content relating to you and I leaving average behind.  I cover a wide range of subjects here: leadership, technology, life planning, simplifying, etc. It’s where I share what I’m learning in my quest to live a life that makes a difference in the world. If you’re wanting to get the highest quality content from me, sign up to get my posts right to your email at
  • – this is the hub of my leadership development and coaching platform. Shared by both myself and my wife, is the place where we refer potential coaching clients and those folks who are focused on leadership development and life planning content. is a distillation, a narrowing of the field of the areas that I have interest in. It’s a smaller subset of the things that I’m sharing, but focused on just those few areas that give folks the most bang for the buck in coaching, leadership development and life planning content. Again, we encourage folks to visit the site and sign up to get our posts delivered via email to ensure you don’t miss an article.
  • Twitter: The primary place that I post not only my coaching, leadership development, but also my Leaving Average Behind challenges, and anything else that catches my professional interests.  Twitter is the primary social network in terms of engaging in discussions and back and forth about the content. Of the social channels, @jdregan is the top of my list, with me engaged at least daily (and sometimes multiple times per day depending on what’s going on in the world). I’d love to connect with you on Twitter!
  • LinkedIn: Focused on encouraging and challenging leadership and management change, LinkedIn is a location where I cull all the content that I think of posting online and share between 25-30% of the top most information. It’s the professional, streamlined social sharing and engaging that I do. You’ll find me at two to four posts per week.

Paring down and simplifying these online venues has led to significantly more time for me to interact with others and cleared the “mental” overhead associated with maintaining various online outposts. While it was challenging, I’m really glad that I took the time to make the changes.

I’d encourage you to look at your life and do some necessary endings in the areas that aren’t helping to further your goals and dreams.

Seasons come and go, embrace this concept and keep moving forward…leaving average behind!

Rock Tumbler: What my favorite childhood toy taught me about life.

When I was a little boy, one of my favorite toys was a rock tumbler polishing kit.

The kit included a mechanized tumbling drum, some starter rocks and a couple of pouches of different polishing grits. It looked just like this one:

rock tumbler

You took the rough and nasty looking rocks, added some water and then the polishing grit (most coarse first) and then let the rocks tumble for over 24 hours in a rotating drum that was louder than a diesel semi using the jake brake.  You’d pull out the rocks, clean off the grit and then repeat the process with an finer grit. This process would happen 4 or 5 times and at the end you’d have the is incredibly beautiful polished rock.

I believe that learning to focus on your dreams, striving to leave average behind, is a process a whole lot like rock tumbling.

First you’ve got to deal with the coarse grit and really polish (grind) off the rough edges.

  • Discover your passions.
  • Simplify your Focus.
  • Learn new skills.
  • Build new relationships.

This is a noisy and sometimes painful process, but without the rough grind…no future polish is possible.  It’s this stage of the process where it’s easy to quit because there’s a lot of resistance and not much visual progress (I’m right in the middle myself and it’s very tempting to quit right here). But the little boy in me remembers the finished product and that keeps me moving into the next steps…

After you’ve got your edges removed you continually have to refine each step of the process.  Iterating over and over again to finally end up with that gemlike quality that is the dream that you’re chasing.

One of my arch-nemesis words comes into play in this part of the process: perseverance!

We’ve got to put the time in, let the process do it’s work and: keep. going. forward.

It’s not an easy process.  However, like the average looking rock that went into the process, there’s a gemstone inside each of us waiting to be unleashed!

Azurite Rock Polished

Azurite Rock Polished

What are some coarse polish items that you can get started on this week?

How to get your news fix quickly

Last week I posted about how to free up between 25 and 55 minutes each day by no longer watching the news on TV.

You can read the post by clicking here.

In response to the question of where do I get my news from, I wanted to share my personal process for staying abreast current events.

news feed icon

It’s simple (of course) and takes me less than 5 minutes to skim through the headlines and then see what, if anything, I want to get more depth on.

I’ve created a Twitter list that curates 10 news organizations posts.  I made the list public so anyone can view using their web browser. You don’t have to be a Twitter person to view the list.

Just click or link to

You’ll note that the news organizations are widely varied in their world views.  From Fox News to CNN, BBC to English Al Jazeera, and few local St. Louis feeds, I’ve purposely chosen to get as wide a perspective on what is “news”.  Using this method, it’s easy to weed out the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) stories and also see agreement in what stories all sources are reporting on.

Following these various news organizations also allows me to see what people of different perspectives than mine believe is important. While I may not agree with their viewpoints, I believe it’s important to understand where people are coming from. I appreciate the differences we all have!

Take a look at my Twitter news feed and see if it helps you to streamline your news gathering. Feel free to start your’s all about what works best for you to get the news you want without wasting your time on the FUD on TV news.

What other ideas do you have for quick news fixes?


One quick step to free up 25 to 55 minutes each day and significantly lower stress

Two of the biggest complaints that my coaching clients have is that they are:

1. pressed for time and
2. stressed out.

I suspect that you’re suffering from the same pressures that they do…

One of the greatest tools of a good coach is questions. Questions allow the client to assess themselves and discover patterns of behavior that are holding them back from their dreams and making a difference in the world.

When I start to ask probing questions about their daily time blocking (what they routinely do every day):

I usually find one easy way to help them remove stress and reclaim between 25 and 55 minutes of their time – every day!

That’s up to 6 hours per week of time that can be used for their important personal development time! Can you imagine what you’d do with an extra 6 hours per week?

Time to change

Here it is in a nutshell, the simple process that you can apply to your life starting tonight.

It’s step One of One: Stop watching the news on TV!

Depending on watching habits this can include up to 55 minutes of local/national news programs, or can be astronomically higher when watching cable news channels.

“But I’d be uninformed” is a typical fear response. I assure them that not watching news on TV has no correlation to having an informed world view. In fact, most of what passes for TV news are FUD stories. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Try this exercise if you watch the news on TV: Write down the title of each story during the newscast and what the overarching message of the story is.

At the end of the newscast, look at the list. Do you really need to know about those stories? Are they really news, or just an attempt to scare you into watching more?

Using Twitter or Web sites allows you to scan through the news. You don’t even have to read the story to get details and as your list will show you, most “news” is really not that critical to your daily life.

Spending just 5 minutes of time reading a news feed online will get you fully apprised of the situation. Now there’s 25 to 55 minutes of free time you can choose what to do with!

Fill the empty time that used to be TV News with other important items: family dinner time, discussions with spouses or kids, a nice walk out and about, or just use it to sit down with some nice music on and decompress from the day (instead of winding yourself back up by watching the FUD).

It’s going to take a few days to break the habit, but once you realize how much stress is gone from not feeding yourself a diet filled with FUD, you’ll never go back. I went through this process a few years ago and don’t regret a minute!

Give yourself the gift of an extra 25 to 55 minutes per day, all it takes is one click of the remote.

How much does your stress level drop by not watching TV News?

Says Who? Expectation, Rule Following and Innovation

My entire life I’ve not been a morning person.

Not in the “I prefer to get up a little later” vein.

I’m a “I physically hate mornings” kind of person.

My mind gets sharp and running  around 9 pm and works great up until 3 am if I let it go (college was a fun place to learn about my alertness cycles).

According to many leadership and business experts, this is a crushing problem for me. You see, according to these experts, I need to get up early in the morning, plan my day, have a quiet prayer/meditation time, get breakfast and be ready to go to work and execute to be successful.

After much research and personal experimenting I respond to these experts: Says Who?

Says Who

With a quick Google search I can come up with pro’s and con’s to being both an early bird and a night owl. I’m sure I could start a passionate flame war on either or both sides of the issue.

And I’d be missing the point entirely…

What’s the point you ask? We need to question the expectations that are part of our normal life. If the answer to “Says Who?” is a nebulous answer like: “people” or “because that’s how we do it” then there’s a real possibility that the expectation is challengeable.

I add the usual disclaimer for the smart ass who wants to break the law, do things that are morally or ethically wrong, and just be a pain: Don’t be stupid. Be smart and use your intelligence to think things through and free your expectations.

If we always do what the bulk of people expect of us then we will get absolutely middle of the line, normal results. By default we’re following the herd and meeting the expectations of the majority.

But innovation doesn’t happen in the majority. It’s the outliers, those who are far from the middle, on the fringes, that make the difference. Precisely because they don’t follow expectations, they are free to innovate and come up with great new ideas. Innovators question the rules. Not to be a rebel, but because many times the rules are holding back changes that need to happen.

I know that you’ve all run into this at your jobs. There are rules that are in place that make no sense, or serve no purpose, but carry over from year to year. What happened if you challenged expectations?

Change would happen! Innovation could happen! Expectations could be exceeded!

I’m living example of what happens when you both follow the herd blindly and when you decide to change and question the rules.

  • My following the herd example is a painful one: I’m badly overweight. I bought into the fast food, processed and pre-packaged norm of America, and after years of a quick bite to eat over lunch and sometimes dinner, it really shows. Who says that eating cheap, fatty, fried, salty foods is good for me? Why the heck am I doing that to myself? It’s time to innovate my eating habits…starting with questioning the expectations of what kind of food is really healthy.
  • My questioning the rules example is much more positive: I don’t sleep when everyone else does. I sleep when I’m tired and this means that I typically sleep between 1:30 and 7:00 a.m. I plan my day to begin at 10:30 pm each night. I have a day job, so when it’s done at 5 pm I come home and might take a nap to clear the psychic cobwebs. I have dinner, spend a few hours with my wife and dog, and then I “get up” and do crazy productive work once the rest of the world sleeps. I get more done in those hours than I could following a “traditional” sleep schedule. It works for me. It might not work for you, and that brings us back full circle.

Society, majority, rules, etc. continues to cajole: You have to [insert rule here].

Our response should be: Says Who?

Find out what works to bring your creative and productive passions to life and make it happen. If it’s not normal, that’s ok, normal hasn’t been working all that great lately anyway.

Where are some areas that you could grow your innovation by asking: Says Who?