Intention comes from the Latin word, Intentio which means stretching, thought, purpose. I came across this and found it fitting as we bring 2017 to a close. Wow. What a year. Looking back there were great strides as well as mistakes made. I spent more time out of Arkansas this year than I ever have in my entire life. I completely reworked my business model and set a new trajectory for the career I've created for myself. One of the most important lessons I learned this year is having a true support system. Surrounding myself with people who will keep me accountable, keep me honest, and most importantly, challenge me.

As this year comes to a close and new dreams and goals are set for 2018, I'm reflecting on some lessons learned in 2017.

Be Honest With Yourself

This year I learned that being honest with yourself is vital to mental and emotional stability. From personal life to business, if being honest with yourself isn't at the top of your list, it should be. Clear direction only comes by being 100% open and honest with where you're at and the next step to take on your path. Without brutal honesty to yourself and those around you, each step seems more fabricated than the last.

You Don't Need Permission

After completing over 10 of the largest events I've ever been apart of this year, I've realized that the only person you need permission from is yourself. Stop waiting to create. Action is always talked about yet rarely ever taken. Stop asking permission to create that next project, host an event, or share your talent with the world – take action and create. I learned that surrounding yourself with people who are brutally honest and those that have an interest in your success is important. These are the ones that will help you, push you, and hold you accountable. The world needs your passion, talent, and energy. You don't need permission to show us what you can do.

It Takes A Village

I've heard several younger individuals this year address how they are self-made and how they did it all by themselves. I cringe every time I hear that. In my own life, not only can I not do it alone, but it takes what feels like an entire village to get the most minute task accomplished. We all have those that have given us a hand up. Let's not forget where we came from and those who have helped get us there. To those in my life, you know who you are, thank you. It's because of you and the support you've shown that I wake up every day thinking of new ways to create and add value to my world.

I started to film a short YouTube video to accompany this post, however, I'm a super sentimental guy and I couldn't hold it together long enough to get through filming. Words cannot express how grateful, humbled, and truly amazing 2017 has been. I can't wait for 2018 to get here. It's going to be a year like no other. My heart is definitely full.


Book List - FW18

I have a problem. There I said it. I love to read. As the months turn colder, I always find myself reading more. It's during the fall/winter months that I get inspired and recharged for the spring/summer. I have a strict policy of only reading non-fiction. For some reason, I just don't like reading fiction books. So if you're looking for fiction based titles, this isn't the list for you. This season I decided to put together a book list of my favorite reads as well as some I'm going to be reading this year. I've noted which books I've read(*) and which I'm going to read(+).


Leadership & Personal Growth

To view my complete library, click here.

The Death of Fort Smith

Over the past 10 years, Fort Smith has seen a 32% decrease in manufacturing. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Over the past 5 years, we've seen a 14% increase in Professional and Business Services, which is awesome. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

As our city's population has grown only 2.2% from 2010 to 2015. I think it's important to address what our community looks like moving forward and the future of a fleeing generation. While companies like ArcBest, OK Foods, Baldor, and the University are incredible, two of which are my clients, that only accounts for around 6421 jobs (as of 2014). What about the other 81,773 of us?

Small business is the fuel of the present and our future.

Recently I've found myself in several conversations where people have expressed topics like Trane leaving, Core Brewing not moving forward with its downtown distillery, and why we can't seem to fill the Whirlpool building. Every time I get in these discussions my simple question is, what is the alternative? While our chamber and other ambitious organizations seek to fill our communities with industry and jobs that don't rival those of our neighbors in NWA, we seem to lose track of who will be living here in the next 5-10 years.

Here's another interesting fact: 45% of Fort Smith's population is under the age of 34 (as of 2015), and 17.1% of that group is under that age of 18. What?!

We're expecting the upcoming 17.1% of our population to work in some sort of industrial job? I'm sorry, but that doesn't work. I have five interns, under the age of 19, that work with me on an active basis. If you'd like to understand the likes and dislikes of a community, surround yourself with young people. I've learned more working with these students than I could have ever learned by reading statistics.

Working with these students has been the source of inspiration for BASH and Arkansas' first streetwear company, HEM Apparel, that will launch in the Fall. We must listen to what this generation wants and built it to suit. Don't like the music? It doesn't matter. Don't like how they dress. That doesn't matter either. What matters is that their ideas, start-ups, and passion for humanity, are scalable, profitable, and we must have them as an essential business function of our community.

I commend organizations like, Future School, for promoting career readiness over test scores, and groups like EAST Initiative (which has a program at both Northside and Southside) for giving students technical skills and knowledge for the 22nd Century.

The death of Fort Smith will come down to one thing: Perspective. Fortunately, it's not too late.

I say this all the time to prospective and current clients, we aren't better than any one company, we're just more aware. We are expected to have a good and functioning product, but what sets things apart is the awareness and ability to understand the future. The same goes for our community. Perspective is everything. If we, as a community, can't see that Trane leaving or a major manufacturer closing down is the push we need to spur more creative and sustainable jobs, forget it. We've stopped evolving. 100 job losses are 100 opportunities for small business ideas and growth in our community. No, it isn't easy and it will require some action, but why be good when you could be great? Think I'm biased? I'm actually a non-college educated 24-year-old who chose to stay in Fort Smith to build my own business with zero funding. It doesn't get any more grass roots than that. What's your excuse?

Seen properly, everything that happens – be it an economic crash or a personal tragedy – is a chance to move forward. Even if it is on a bearing that we did not anticipate. - John D. Rockefeller

So what will you do? What is your part? I'm angry. I'm angry that we can't seem to see past 5 feet in front of us. I'm mad that only a few individuals in our community (thank God for them) understand the role of my generation and the generation after me. I'm mad that we focus on antiquated forms of "creative processes" and excuses for why we aren't innovative. I'm doing my part, be it with little to no money, but I'm trying. What will you do?

The Chamber of Commerce has created a great initiative for young people in Fort Smith called the Junior Leadership Academy, however, I'd like to see them actively promoting small business and assisting in real, tangible, resources to help small business get started in our community.

I've spoken with City Administration several times and they are 100% behind new growth. I would like to see public support from our Board of Directors for the little guy and not just big business. In addition, an initiative or partnership with the chamber to streamline facilitating new businesses that involve permits or zoning concerns.

Most importantly, I want to urge our citizens to think bigger. While our foundation is built on history and heritage, this doesn't mean our present and future will survive on those things alone. It won't and it hasn't. Our kids are fleeing this place because we're not oriented to the proper perspective or even the value of that perspective. I spoke with a young entrepreneur who has recently moved his business to NWA, he told me: "I can't do business here because of value. It's dependent client to client, but if you don't want to pay me for what I'm worth and the value I bring...then why would I live or invest my time here?" We have got to realize and understand the perspective that this upcoming generation brings to our community and the value of it for the future.

While the purpose of this article isn't to highlight the negative, it's meant to do the opposite. Recognize that the future is here. The generation to prepare for is here. We must adapt and keep up the good work we've been seeing recently.

I'll end by saying thank you to everyone who has pushed this community forward and who will continue to just do it without permission. The Unexpected, Peacemaker Music & Arts Fest, Gateway Master Planning, 64.6 Downtown, Bordertown Brew Fest, FSDBA, Chaffee Crossing, I could go on these are all amazing things happening. The growth of small business in Downtown is incredible. Let's keep it moving. Get educated on the positive. Get involved.


Mind Games

Have you ever wanted to give up? Not the kind of give up that lets you step away from a project and return to it. But the kind of give up that shakes you to the core of who you are? That kind of give up is the throw in the towel, it's all over give up.

Lately, I've been feeling the urge to give up all while feeling the motivation and drive to keep going. How do both of these things co-exist? That I'm not sure about, but I can tell you from experience, waking up one day with the desire to give up can quickly be overshadowed with the drive and ambition to keep going. This ladies and gentlemen is called mind games.

Mind games happen most frequently to me when the odds are stacked against me. When I'm under a deadline, when I've messed up, or when I know I've failed at something, mind games happen. Today as I was cleaning the house, doing mindless tasks, the pressure of real life (whatever that means) set in. All these mind games flooded my head. Everything from upcoming bills, current projects for work, the fact I haven't been to the gym in like...well, you know, a long time – it all hit me. I stopped and evaluated what was true about these things, if any at all. An overwhelming sense of give up set in for a moment. I shook myself out of it and reminded myself of why I can't give up. Regardless of the screaming voices in my head, some in real life, to quit, I made the decision to push through it, finished cleaning, and started instantly working on my dreams again.

Casey Neistat shared a great vlog entry the other day about being a "sellout." He shared that when we dreamed as kids we had this grand idea of what the world was and how we could accomplish anything we set our mind to. He then pointed out that when we get older this thing called "reality" sets in. It's the bills, the work, the minutiae of life. Some of us never recover from that reality setting in. Then, there are some of us who push through that "reality" to fight for our dreams until slowly and surely the "dreams" and "reality" categories are side by side acting as one. I'm not necessarily to that point yet, but I'm fighting to get there. Mind games are a part of this process. The process of wading through "reality" straight up sucks sometimes, but it's worth it. Some might not understand, actually, the majority of people won't understand. They will call you, "dumb, irresponsible, and often, crazy," but that is the exact slush you have to push through.

Anyone who said that pursuing your dreams was easy hasn't ever pursued a dream. It's dirty, it's rough, and honestly, I'm not sure what's on the other side of that, because I haven't gotten there yet. If you're that kid (or adult) that is ready to give up because of your environment, what your friends or parents think, or because you feel you can't become something great – don't. I've been that kid and there is light at the end of the tunnel. The world needs your ideas, your vision, and your tenacity to make great things happen. You aren't alone.

Celebrate the wins, work vigorously through the hard stuff.

Next Level

Have you ever noticed how social media is so deceptive? We've talked about it since it's inception, but social media is a delusion of the best parts of an individuals world wrapped up into a carefully curated social feed. Recent studies have called this, "forced positivity." Basically, this theory is the ultimate comparison of one individual to another. I'm no stranger to this, I'm as addicted as anyone else.

So I decided to do a little experiment. January 2-6, 2017 I decided that I would segment my time. Working in 150-minute segments without looking at my phone, email, or social media. My results were shocking. Who would have thought I'd be more productive? Duh! Those feelings of constantly checking feeds or comparing myself to what someone else is doing are slowly starting to creep away. Have you ever seen someone who's emailing frantically just to be emailing frantically? Being busy doesn't mean being productive, and comparing yourself to that type of person is a lose-lose situation.

Being busy doesn't mean being productive. Click To Tweet

How do we become more effective and better at realizing we don't have to compare ourselves to the person next to us?

What God has called YOU to do is different than the person next to you

Realizing that what you were designed for is not the same as your neighbors is easier said than done. We feel this constant need to be compared to others in our field, our area, or even our home. We were all designed with a unique an individual purpose that only we can carry out. You're an essential component of the organization you're involved in, your home, and your community.

Perception Is Reality...Sometimes

Although I do subscribe the thought that perception is reality sometimes things aren't quite like they seem. That could be in someone's professional life or personal. You never really know what someone is going through or where their head is at. This is why comparison is so dangerous. From finances, relationships, even to mental health, you can never predict where someone's at just by looking. It's much easier to say that "oh, they are at that point in life because they have more resources or more money," it's much harder, however, to look at life through their lens and except things unseen.

Today I'm going to do a much better job at not comparing myself to others and being content with doing what I know I should do.