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The Secret to Doing it All

Group of People Connection Digital Device Concept

Just yesterday I received this question from a reader:


I have been benefiting from your insight (very appreciative I found your information!) and I am seeking to implement the principles you share. I am amazed. I was thinking: you run Southwestern Consulting, you generate enormous amounts of actionable content, you have speaking engagements… all the while having a family and the responsibilities that go with it. What a juggling act it must be!

How do you stay ahead of the wave of time?

I’m starting out on building a platform and I wonder, will I have time to respond to comments like you do? Create quality content? And not sacrifice family relationships or my own health?”

– Pat

Thank you so much Pat!

Your comments are truly inspiring and uplifting to me. We do have a lot going on and I promise you there are many times where it is probably appearing like we have our act together far more than we actually do!

Needless to say, your note made me feel good to have someone take notice of how hard we really do work. Especially when the people we are working so hard for are people just like you!

My personal philosophies about productivity are clearly outlined in Chapter 5 of Take the Stairs (The Harvest Principle), in my Tedx talk, and of course in detail in Procrastinate on Purpose.

But I want to highlight the question “How do you manage to keep up with it all?”

Because there is a simple answer to it.

While it isn’t necessarily a secret, the answer is still dramatically under-realized by most people.

The answer to “how do I manage to keep up with it all?” is…

I don’t.

We do.

Me and my Wifey (AJ) do. Me and my Partners at SWC do. Me and our extraordinary “Special Ops” (Operations) team at SWC do. Me and our now private team of Vaden family assistants do.

We are a team.

We, as a team…do.

People often feel like it’s impossible for themselves to keep up with it all – and they’re right!

That’s exactly the problem. Most of us are trying to keep up with it all.

You can’t.

Only, you + a team can.

You have to have a team.

You must have a team.

It is our team that deserves the credit.

And I don’t mean that in a trite, cliché, politically correct, it’s the nice thing to say, kind of way – although I do love our team, appreciate them dearly, and believe in them.

I mean that you literally have to lead people. You have to inspire people to join a mission.

You have to create an outlet for them to pursue a cause.

You have to create jobs for people.

How do you do that?


You reinvest.

The way to building a team is you have to learn to reinvest.

And here is the key…

When you’re first starting out, you have to always reinvest more than you feel comfortable reinvesting.

There has never been a single time in the growth of our business so far (which is now an 8-figure business) where I felt like I had enough money to reinvest.

You always feel short of what you need.

But you have to do it anyway.

You can get Virtual Assistants at $2-4 per hour to start with simple tasks. And then you work your way up from there. Not to mention that you can get family, friends, neighbor kids, and interns to often help you out too.

If you’ll do your best to invest into them, they will do their best to invest into you.

My goal (and AJ’s) is to always keep reinvesting in other people. And one of my personal goals in the next 5 years is to have all of our top performing team members making more than any other person in the world who does a similar job function to what they do.

We want them to win. We want to create for them. We want to provide unparalleled opportunity for them.

When you reinvest in other people, you’re betting on them but you are also betting on yourself.

You’re betting that with the extra capacity they can give you, you can use that time to create more revenue, more opportunity, and more value.

And then once you do that, you reinvest again.

And again.

And again.

You build a team.

Slowly if you have to, but you must build a team.

Because you can’t do it all.

You need help.

You need other people.

And they need you.

And if you’ll create for them…

If you’ll work for them…

If you’ll risk for them…

Then you will provide rewards for them that they can’t get anywhere else.

And in turn, they will pick you up, support you, and carry you on their shoulders all the way until other people look at you one day and say…

“How in the world do you possibly keep up with it all?”

Task Tennis: The game that is destroying customer relationships and company productivity

Responsiveness is overrated.

We say we want quicker response times.

We think we want companies, colleagues, and individuals to acknowledge our question, comment, concern or complaint more quickly.

But I think that is very rarely what we actually want.

Responsiveness in and of itself isn’t very valuable. Letting me know you’ve received my message is nice, but what really matters to me is not how long did it take you to respond but how long did it take you to “resolve?”

Today in organizations, there is way too much deflecting, delegating, reverting and redirecting instead of actual resolving.

We do it in the name of being responsive and acknowledging people quickly – which is fine. But then there is often little follow up and execution in driving that matter to a successful conclusion.

It seems we are so driven to have a zero inbox or to-do list that we are often just looking for the shortest, quickest response to get something out of our queue and back into someone else’s with little effort.

It creates a game of task tennis where we are throwing something back and forth without ever actually advancing the ball down the field.

Like tennis, the loser ends up being the one who has so much coming at them so fast they simply can’t keep up with all the people who are deflecting tasks back to them rather than taking action and getting things done.

But over the long haul you don’t want to be a deflector. You don’t want to be known as the person who says, “that’s a good idea, let’s talk about that sometime,” but then never has any intention, system, or plan of following up.

And you don’t want to be a company that quickly and generically responds to customers saying, “you’re valuable to us,” but then you don’t actually do anything to remedy the problem.

You want to develop a reputation of action. You want to be known as a person who gets things done. You want to become someone who isn’t afraid of doing the critical thinking necessary to find a creative solution and who then creates mechanisms to get those solutions enforced and implemented.

In the short term sure, it’s easier to deflect responsibility, to put the task in someone else’s court and to do whatever you have to do to get it out of your inbox.

But that gets noticed negatively.

Because that isn’t productivity. That isn’t problem solving. That isn’t creating value.  And that certainty isn’t leadership.

It also isn’t what creates results for the company, trust with employees, and advancement for you.

Don’t be a deflector. Be a doer.

Don’t just be a responder. Be a resolver.

Are your meetings wasting thousands of dollars?

Meeting Mondays

The cost of meetings is extraordinary.

Every meeting has a cost that can be evaluated based on the concept we call MVOT in Procrastinate on Purpose.

MVOT is the “money value of time” which is literally what your time is worth based on your income to hours worked ratio.

So meetings are expensive but so is the alternative cost of poor communication.

At Southwestern Consulting, our business is one where people will work flexible hours, from multiple locations, on a variety of client projects, all over the globe.

So we created mad meeting Mondays.

Monday is the one day we ask everyone in operations and leadership to come in. And we try to schedule ALL of the company leadership meetings for all of the divisions on that day.

We meet. We talk. We discuss. We make decisions.

Yes, it’s very intense. Yes, for some of us we “lose” an entire day.

But then, the rest of the week we scatter all across the world, we deploy those decisions, and we execute those strategies. Because everyone has clear directives, priorities, and a rhythmic one week time frame to get them complete.

A meeting to us is defined as a regular recurring gathering of 3 or more people in the company. Whenever people are remote, they are still expected to call in for those meetings. We do not travel on those days. We either need to be in Nashville at the HQ, already be travelled to somewhere else so we can be stationary to call in, and/or travel Monday evenings after the meetings are over.

It’s not that you’re not allowed to “meet” with people or even groups at other times. It’s just that everyone knows that Monday is the official day for meetings. We run an insanely tight ship. Every one comes to the meetings with a “Rolling Topics list” (a calendar invite that we move emails to which make better discussions than reply all threads) and we crank.

For us, this practice developed more out of necessity than strategy. We’ve quadrupled in the past 3 years. We expect to double again in the next 2 years. We’re running and gunning and hustling. And the nature of our business is that people are virtual and we travel a lot (for speaking and consulting) so we’re doing our best to communicate and make things happen.

Having a mini “harvest season” of meetings like this helps reduce email flow, increases the urgency of the meetings, creates a consistent rhythm, reinforces communication, and facilitates faster decisions.

It just so happens that it also drastically reduces the number of meetings we have because they all must fit in on 1 day.

Most importantly, it creates 4 completely uninterrupted days to go out and get stuff done.

It’s amazing what you can get done in 4 consecutive days where you are not being pulled into meetings.

This may not work for you, but it’s critical that you have a coordinated strategy for meeting times across the company.

Otherwise you’ll lose thousands of dollars per person in productivity due to “meeting creep” taking over your calendar.

Would love to hear from you on this, what is your meetings planning strategy?

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Recognizing Your Sales Team

How to recognize your sales team the right way

It’s a funny thing that recognizing your sales team the wrong way can actually have a negative effect.

It’s a frustrating experience for a leader when you’re trying to go out of your way to lift people up and the reverse ends up happening.

Here’s a few helpful tips to remember to keep you from making some very common mistakes…

Recognize activity not just productivity – We of course want people to know how their production is compared to their goals but if you only recognize production (i.e. Sales or new customers) you will often find you pretty regularly are only recognizing the same people.

So don’t forget to also recognize activity or work stats (i.e. Hrs worked, dials made, appts set, referrals gathered). Because what gets recognized gets repeated and so you want to place a focus on the people who are working hard so that other people follow suit. These are people who are controlling the controllables and that is something repeatable that everyone can immediately aspire to.

Recognize the past not just the present – Very often recognition only includes the most recent week or month. But if you expand to include year to date, this quarter, or “best weeks” you’ll find a lot more opportunities to provide meaningful recognition to more people.

It’s especially important to recognize best days, best weeks or best months for individuals. Doing so creates an environment where people are competing against themselves to do their best, instead of only competing with others.

Recognition is about the presentation not just the prize – Leaders often think that you must have a huge expensive prize to make people feel valued or that it’s the prize that carries all the weight and it’s really not. Prizes are great, but as Mary Kay Ash used to say “you can give a $5 prize just make sure it has a $50 bow.” In other words, make the celebration big even if the prize is small.

You can make a big deal out of recognition by wrapping it nicely, doing a formal presentation, giving the person a chance to speak, or just in general focusing more and putting thought into “how” it’s presented rather than “what” is presented. Remember the goal is not to relay information; the goal is to make people feel special.

Recognize with emotion and not just logic – Too often leaders roll through recognition in a very matter of fact and boring manner almost as if if is their obligation to drag everyone through this part of the meeting. Instead, be enthusiastic, express genuine appreciation, and share with everyone how it makes you feel to see each specific person succeed. Verbal affirmation is a form of currency and it’s an unlimited resource so be generous with your praise.

In general, recognition should be less like reporting the news and more like throwing a birthday party. If it’s the former, it probably isn’t motivating anyone.

Recognize personally not just professionally – Recognition doesn’t just have to be restricted to what people do at the office- in fact it’s better if it’s not. Celebrate and announce people getting married, having kids/grandkids, running marathons, having their family members win awards, getting debt free, etc.

And make recognition fun by sharing an interesting fact about the person winning that not everyone knows. Or another fun thing to do is interview the persons leader, colleague or family member to get their positive comments on the person and include them when you announce it to the team.

Make sure to recognize the team not just individuals – At the end of the day you want to enforce the greater good of the team more than the performance of any individual. It’s important to celebrate individuals who exceed above and beyond but it can’t only be about them.

You have to constantly remind everyone that we’re working together as a team. It’s also important for everyone’s ego to acknowledge that no achievement ever happens in a vacuum. When one person does something amazing it’s always at least partially empowered (and usually largely empowered) by the team around them. So celebrate together, lift each other up and always focus on how the whole team is doing and not just the individual parts.

15 Steps to Hiring Good People


Businesses of all size fail to realize that hiring the wrong person is one of the most expensive decisions you can make.

With our Southwestern Consulting clients, we help them measure something we call COTO – Cost of Turnover.

It’s easy to underestimate not only how much money you spend advertising for the position, but also the MVOT (Money Value of Time) Cost for interviewing all of the candidates and then training the person you select. Plus, you have to factor in all of the time that you lose on a person when they leave. All of those added up together equals the COTO.

Point of the story: Hiring the wrong people is not only incredibly painful; it’s ridiculously expensive – and potentially fatal for a company of any size.

Between 2012-2015 we’ve had over 75 new people join our team and have quadrupled the size of our company. We’ve been hiring like crazy and while we haven’t done it perfectly, for the most part we’ve done a terrific job.

One reason why is because we hold our company culture as sacred. You have to workto be a part of our family. You have to want to be here. And you have to believe the things that we believe.

The rest of our team deserves to be surrounded by people who exhibit those desires.

If you do not, chances are you will either eject yourself from our culture or the culture will eject you. And that’s a good thing for everyone. Because while you may have the urge to hire quickly just to “fill the position” in the long term it’s much better to have people who are the right fit.

So here is a look at the process we’ve adapted and developed based on 150 years of experience from the Southwestern Family of Companies, learning from many of our coaching clients, and heavily influenced by the book Entreleadership  and the book Start With Why:

  1. Be clear on what you want – Spend time listing out all of the very specific tasks you want this new position to do. Put this in the job description. Let people know exactly what they will be doing. The clearer you are about what you need; the more likely you are to find the perfect match.
  1. Tell people what you believe – We often say “we aren’t looking for people who can do what we do; we are looking for people who believe what we believe.” The very first thing that all of our potential candidates receive is a copy of our Creed, which clearly lists out our values about how we do business. We also have lines in some of our job descriptions that say things like “Our culture is one of traditional and conservative values. We pray before group meals. We have bible verses on the walls. We don’t cuss at the office. We don’t tolerate whining, gossip, immaturity, laziness, entitlement or ungratefulness.” Your culture isn’t perfect for everyone but be open about it and you will find the people that it is perfect for. If they can’t fully commit to the principles on that page then this process is over now.
  1. Request the resume – Make sure the set of skills the person has matches the job description. Look also for any glaring discrepancies in their work history. Also the #1 red flag we look for is “inconsistency.” Is this person a “job hopper?” Do they seem to bounce around from industry to industry? Someone who is looking for a change is fine but someone who keeps changing jobs every year or two should be approached with extreme caution.
  1. 10-30 Min Screening Call – The first call (can also be in person) should be nothing but you asking them questions about who they are. What have they done? What do they believe in? What type of job are they looking for? Why are they looking? [Note: If you are “recruiting” the person (which is different from hiring) you might have to do more of the talking because you are “selling” them a bit. But still get them talking too.]
  1. “On the Hook Call” – This is a call where you talk to them about the position and share with them some of the positives (although usually not compensation) of the company, the role, and the mission of what you do. Basically this is an overview of the company and sharing big picture about the position. Don’t overpromise but you should get them excited about what you do. Still spend a bit of time asking them some tough questions about why they may want to join the team.
  1. Put them through the Ringer ­– Have them take a personality test. Have them submit a questionnaire about themselves. Our candidates have to turn in a list of all the books they’ve read and all the awards they’ve received. Make them review all of your online websites. And make sure you review their online websites – ie go look at all of their social media profiles. These things don’t all have to happen at once but they should start now and then go on throughout the rest of the process. (Important Note: Also, we don’t “chase” people. If they want the job they will do what is asked. If they don’t want to be a part of our team then they won’t do them. If they can’t complete a few simple assignments then they certainly aren’t going to be successful in the job once they are here. So, if they don’t want to be on our team that badly then we don’t want them on our team – regardless of how skilled they might be.)
  1. “Details Call” – Share a clear bird’s eye view of a day in the life of this position. Share the nitty gritty. The good, the bad and the ugly. You also typically start talking about compensation and any other bonuses/benefits in this call. Still be upbeat and positive and also still be selective and ask them tough questions about why they think they are tough enough to handle it.
  1. “Vision Call” – This is the call where you talk about long-term vision. Show them the opportunity for advancement. Show them specifics on any long-term benefits that could come their way (ie. Stock plans, ownership, profit-sharing, additional roles, leadership opportunity, ways they can make additional income working on special projects, etc.). Any questions about compensation that haven’t been answered need to be answered by this point.
  1. Partner 1 Call – You’ve had 3-4 calls by this point and you should know pretty well if you want to hire them. Assuming you think you do, then it’s time to get a second opinion from one of the trusted leaders in your company. It’s also helpful for the candidate to get a second perspective.
  1. In-Person Shadow Day ­– If at all humanly possible you want the candidate to come into the office and actually “see” the job. Watch someone else who is doing similar work. If there isn’t anyone then at least give the candidate a chance to see the office environment and meet some of the people. Even if only for a few minutes this makes a huge difference for them and for you. Then ask your team of their initial first impressions – they can be very telling. If travel is a big challenge then have them Skype into a meeting, or watch some of your salespeople make dials on skype.
  1. Partner 2 Call – At Southwestern Consulting we require at least 3 of our Partners (equity holders) or Leaders to sign off on any person before we agree to hire them. One of these 2 Partner calls is often a “scare them away” call where we do heavy emotional preparation about how difficult the job can be at it’s lowest. If they are going to chicken out, we want them to do it in the interview process and not after we’ve hired them.
  1. Spousal Interview – One of the final steps is you want to meet their spouse. As Dave Ramsey says you need to make sure “they aren’t married to crazy.” This person is going to be a part of your family and their spouse is the most important person in their family. That means you’re kind of going into business with them too. If they don’t have a significant other, then you might ask to take them and a close friend to dinner. If they are a young professional, you might want to meet their parents. If you can’t do it in person then try to do a phone call.
  1. Budget Review – We haven’t yet made this mandatory but we’ve talked about it and do it often. We “invite” each person who is looking to join our team to submit their monthly budget of expenses to us. We do this first to make sure they can afford to work with us. If we can’t pay them enough to meet their basic needs, then they shouldn’t join the team. Second, in our culture we heavily promote being debt-free and so we want to help set them on that track. Third, it really lets us walk “a mile in their shoes” and helps us understand their daily lives and some of their pain points and opportunities. Most of all, it connects us to them financially and inspires us to figure out a long-term game plan with them for how we can put them on a path to accomplish all of their financial goals by being a part of our team. Many people on our team have paid off 10s of thousands of dollars of debt and/or have become completely debt free by allowing us to help them in this process.
  1. Reflection – This happens on your own. You’ve taken them through the process, now you have to ask yourself “Do I really want them on my team?”. In our case we pray about them and ask God if the person is a fit. We also sometimes call it “The Hangout Test” meaning they have to pass the litmus test of the question “would I want to hang out with this person outside of work.” Get feedback from everyone who has met them from your team. You’re about to make a big decision and it’s not too late to turn them down.
  1. “The Selection Conversation” – This is a whole separate skill set and art form in and of itself. But there is a very important order and process to the way this final call should go. This is your opportunity to make commitments to them and to clearly get certain commitments from them. Collecting paperwork and outlining next steps is also a part of this meeting. If they are still with you at this point then they definitely want to be a part of the team but they still may have final fears or concerns that need to be worked through – most often fear. It is a graceful art to doing that during this conversation. The most important part at this point is to truly care about the person’s best interest. And if you truly believe it’s in the best interest of them and you then powerfully invite them to join your team!


We may not be the world’s best company at hiring people but our team at Southwestern Consulting is amazing. We attract great people, who believe what we believe, and our people are the reason for our success and growth. This process is at least a small part of it all.

Also, we don’t do this system perfectly every time, but we try very hard to stick to it closely. And we have all of our internal automation systems with Infusionsoft built around enforcing this process. This also isn’t 100% fool-proof as a system but it’s a lot better than what most companies do in hiring.

And if you think you might have what it takes to join our team as a sales and business consultant, or if you live in Nashville and want to be considered for our “Special Ops” team then you can apply by clicking here (if you dare :).

Ari Meisel: Less Stress More Productivity – Episode 122 of the Daily Discipline Podcast

Ari MeiselAri Meisel – In 2006, Ari was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Chron’s is an incurable inflammatory disease of the digestive tract. His case was severe, and required over a dozen daily medications and several hospital visits. After reaching a personal low point in hospital, he decided to do everything in his power to strengthen his weakened body. Through a combination of exercise, nutrition, and natural supplements he was able to fight back the symptoms of Crohn’s until eventually he was declared free of all traces of the ‘incurable’ disease.

Ari has since spoken at seminars and TED Talks. Through the process of data collection, self tracking, and analysis, he developed his company Less Doing. This was a way of dealing with the daily stresses of life by optimizing, automating, and outsourcing all of my tasks in life and business. Now, Ari focuses on Achievement Architecture, helping individuals be more effective at everything and advising several companies.

Show Highlights:

  • True delegation isn’t telling someone to do a task without following through and tracking the task to completion @AriMeisel
  • First optimize, then automate, and then outsource @AriMeisel
  • Telling someone to do something is not delegation @AriMeisel
  • Ari discusses virtual assistants and the benefits of working with them
  • Proper delegation is when you effectively communicate your needs to somebody so well that they can overcome hurdles all by themselves @AriMeisel
  • You should only deal with an email once @AriMeisel
  • Email management tip: to maximize your drive time in the car, call your assistant and go through emails over the phone @AriMeisel
  • 40% of emails don’t require a response @AriMeisel
  • The three D’s of email management – Delete, Deal with in now, Defer it until a later time @AriMeisel
  • Much of the overwhelm you experience is the result of not knowing what is causing the overwhelm @AriMeisel
  • Optimization is breaking delegation down to the smallest actionable step so they know how to take action @AriMeisel
  • Sometimes, delegation is a mask of laziness @Rory_Vaden
  • You can’t outsource everything and expect to put in no effort yourself @Rory_Vaden
  • Real delegation done the right way is leadership @AriMeisel
  • The great opportunity you have as a leader is to influence people’s thinking @Rory_Vaden
  • Just because you can do it right now, doesn’t mean that you should @Rory_Vaden
  • What is the most significant thing you can do with you free time? @Rory_Vaden
  • Stress is something you have to own and take responsibility for in order to solve it. @Rory_Vaden

To learn more about Ari, visit