Lessons from 2013 and looking forward

Updated to Business on December 18, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

It’s that time of year. All I want to do is shut down, get off the computer, and eat chocolate. Okay, I also want to ski a lot, spend lots of time with my family, and write.

It’s also the time of year I always have more time to look back and look forward, with less distractions. How about you?

The first exercise I did was to list everything I created/accomplished in the last 12 months. This was fascinating.

I am always busy. Hours at the office, writing in café’s, running off to pick up a child after school, or climbing on a plane for an engagement. So where did the time go?


This was a year of new starts. We produced two of my Advanced Speaker Academy retreats (Kelowna and Vancouver) and I loved them. For a new program I was thrilled with the caliber of participants. The conversations were excellent and it was exciting to see changes happening in the room! I definitely want to offer ASA again in 2014 (watch for those dates).

We also produced two on-line courses (speech design and webinar training). Lots of learning there, but I was happy with the production and we had a great response from participants. I will repeat these, but will make the programs shorter and easier for people to complete (probably over 2 weeks instead of 4 weeks.)

I launched the Experts Enterprise web site and podcast. That was a lot of work and I know there is still more to be done as I refine that brand. I wrote dozens of blogs for the site and we are now at episode 25 of the podcast (about one half of these were interviews). A good startbut now I have to grow the brand.

EE logo

My keynote presentations were down in numbers this year. That always hurts my bottom line. I think the focus on building the Experts Enterprise brand took my focus off the keynotes. On the other hand, my free presentations, mostly to the expert audiences, were up.

I promoted and delivered some 24 webinars this year (way too many – more on that below.)

I was more active on social media and was successful in getting interviewed on lots of podcasts, like Mixergy, Eventual Millionaire, Entrepreneur on Fire, and Suitcase Entrepreneur. I highly recommend this strategy if you want to grow your on-line brand.

We also got my book sales up on both Amazon (especially on Kindle) and back of room. That was a very satisfying result, especially for a book that has been on the shelves for three years.GMAB Cover Web

And we increased our billable coaching hours dramatically this year. A good financial return and extremely satisfying work.


Growth year.  2013 was the build year. 2014 has to be the growth year. I could keep moving to new experiments, but I’ve invested too heavily into the EE brand. Plus, I know there is a demand for solid advice on how to build a successful expert business.

Less volume, bigger numbers.  I’m going to cut back on the number of webinars I deliver. Each webinar eats up a couple of days and I need that time back. The podcast and blog provide the ongoing content. I’m going to reserve webinars for special announcements.

Build core programs. I love designing and delivering live events for experts. In 2014 I will be building on programs I already know that work. Advanced Speaker Academy, Experts Intensive, and Webinars for profit. I’ll add one new program that will be called “Your Ultimate Time Machine”.

Drop costs. I wasn’t watching my numbers this year and it hurt me. I need to pay more attention to our operating costs. As much as revenue is always the goal, there is a chunk of change I wasted in admin. costs that I can cut back on. I always am reminded that I have to go out and find every dollar that disappears off the financial statements.

Away more often.  Being in Nepal for the month of November was a big lesson in letting go. I loaded P1090607-croppedup the emails, podcasts, and blogs before I left and then did nothing with the company for a month. It was a great feeling to be released from thinking about the company and I really needed the “down” time to think and write.

My plan for ’14 is to have more mini retreats for family, writing, and adventure. I know that even three days away engaged in a completely different activity can restore my energy and focus. In the next month I’ll be loading up the calendar with those plans.

I know you don’t need to know what I’m working on(!) but I offer these reflections to maybe provoke you to do some reflection about your directions. And here are three thoughts for your company.

  1. Take some time to reflect and plan. My planning process was delayed because I was in Nepal for all of November. Regardless, I still allow at least two weeks to process the thinking I need to do for my planning.
  2. Challenge assumptions. It’s easy to keep pushing a bad plan. A good example is the webinars I worked so hard on this year. I’m convinced that if I did half as many I would not only save a lot of time I would get better results.
  3. Keep your plan simple. You won’t review a complicated plan, or excel chart, so keep your plan simple. I use a single Word doc. to record all the major decisions for the year. That’s backed up with a wall calendar, excel spread sheets, but it’s the one page doc I review the most.

I know 2014 will be another remarkable year. I know that because I plan to make it that.

And that’s my wish for you as well.


All the best to you and your family in the holiday season!