J. Mark Miller http://jmarkmiller.net helping you get on the road to awesome Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:55:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Should I Determine My Goals? http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/how-determine-goals/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/how-determine-goals/#respond Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1497 I wrote in my last post about how one of the facets of The Incremental Life is to have goals and dreams in mind—a destination to work toward. There are those who have no problems with goal setting, but for those who do, this post if for you. People who have trouble setting goals often […]

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The Incremental Life How Should I Determine My Goals?

I wrote in my last post about how one of the facets of The Incremental Life is to have goals and dreams in mind—a destination to work toward. There are those who have no problems with goal setting, but for those who do, this post if for you.

People who have trouble setting goals often fall into one of two camps. They’re either people with little to no ambition, or people who don’t yet have a focus to point themselves towards. My guess is that, if you’re reading this, you’re more likely to fall into the latter group.

How do you set goals if you don’t know where you want to go? Bill Hybels, in his Simplify sermon series, directs us to ask a far better question.

Don’t ask what you should do; ask, “Who do I want to become?” And when you schedule your life around that idea, the rest will fall into place.

You see, the choices we make today are taking us down a path to somewhere, but is it where we want to go? Who are we becoming as we walk through life, and are those steps molding us into someone we want to become?

Take some time right now to write out a list of attributes you would want someone to use to describe you. Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Cheerful
  • Generous
  • Faithful
  • Successful
  • Entrepreneur
  • Famous
  • Humble
  • Leader
  • Servant
  • Honest

Now let’s take it to a higher level. Write out the eulogy you hope someone might give at your funeral someday. That’s the person you want to become.

Only then will you be ready to begin writing out your goals.

Hybels quote How Should I Determine My Goals?

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Are You Living an Incremental Life? You Should Be http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/living-incremental-life/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/living-incremental-life/#respond Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:00:58 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1482 The first step in seeing your goals and dreams realized is to realize that there are steps to reaching those goals and dreams. How’s that for a convoluted sentence? A successful life is one that is lived in purposeful increments. Proverbs 13:4 says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will […]

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The Incremental Life Are You Living an Incremental Life? You Should Be

The first step in seeing your goals and dreams realized is to realize that there are steps to reaching those goals and dreams.

How’s that for a convoluted sentence?

A successful life is one that is lived in purposeful increments. Proverbs 13:4 says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” (NLT) Some translations use the word diligent to describe those who find prosperity. Notice the proverb doesn’t say only Christians or religious people will prosper, or only those who pray a special prayer or live according to a secret formula—it specifically says those who work hard will prosper.

No Easy Prosperity Schemes Here

The kind of life that finds prosperity through hard work is what I call The Incremental Life. The Incremental Life isn’t sexy or exciting to outsiders, but it’s a life set up for success.  The Incremental Life looks something like this:

  • The Incremental Life has goals and dreams in mind—a destination.
  • The Incremental Life has steps mapped out toward those goals—a plan.
  • The Incremental Life has intentionality behind every step—a purpose.
  • The Incremental Life has no excuses for shortcuts—a work ethic.
  • The Incremental Life has counted and understands the costs—a budget.

Climb the Stairs

The Incremental Life is like the staircase of a tall building. Each small step is a mark of upward motion toward your ultimate goal. There can be dozens, hundreds, or thousands of steps between where you are and where you want to be, and getting there will sometimes wear you out and wear you down.

There are landings all along the way, each one with a door that opens up to a new floor to explore. You can choose to stop and explore that floor, but should you? Is there something of worth behind that new door? Will you be distracted or delayed in reaching your final destination on time?

Why take the stairs instead of the elevator? You have far greater appreciation for what’s been achieved because it wasn’t easy. You didn’t take the easy way of staying on always-level ground and pushing a button that magically did all the work to lift you up while you stood still. You moved higher only through determination, focus, and effort. Even if you had to stop and rest along the way, even if you went back down a few steps because you dropped something, or even if you had help now and again, you can say you walked every step from the bottom to the top.

The first step in seeing your goals and Are You Living an Incremental Life? You Should Be

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The Beauty of Contentment http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/beauty-contentment/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/beauty-contentment/#respond Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1469 Look Beneath the Surface For about the last year and a half—since I retired from full-time ministry—my family has been involved in a church in a community next door to ours. The average income in that community is probably somewhere between 2 to 4 times my family’s yearly income. I have to be honest and […]

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The Beauty of Contentment Pin The Beauty of Contentment

Look Beneath the Surface

For about the last year and a half—since I retired from full-time ministry—my family has been involved in a church in a community next door to ours. The average income in that community is probably somewhere between 2 to 4 times my family’s yearly income. I have to be honest and admit that there are times when I look at the houses of some of my new friends and acquaintances that I’m a bit envious. I see the nice cars they drive and other cool things I hear them doing—like taking expensive vacations—and a part of me wishes I could live that life. Discontent begins to stir in my soul.

But if you peel away the surface and look deeper, I guarantee you’ll find a person who’s life isn’t perfect. They have struggles and problems just like the rest of us, and we have no idea if they’re just really good at looking confident and secure in public but fall apart in private because of all the stress. That big house and the matching car and the vacations all come with hefty bills. Do we have any idea how far into debt they went to look so good?

I’ve gotten to know some of the people in the community through our church, but also through leading some of them through Financial Peace University. The reality is that they may have high paying jobs, but those jobs come with high-pressure and long hours. They may have big houses twice the size of mine or larger, but they also have mortgage debt sometimes 4 or 5 times my own. Not to mention that just about every subdivision in their city has an HOA that makes them pay yearly dues on top of it all. Even more burdensome is that some of them have several hundred thousands in student loan debt, two or three car payments or leases, several thousand dollars in consumer debt, and no money saved for their kids’ college or their own retirement.

Would you really want to trade places?

Stopping Comparison Ends Discontent

To be honest, their lives suddenly don’t look so appealing anymore. I maybe don’t make as much, but I don’t have the pressure and long hours. I get to sit at home in my living room near my wife and kids and pretty much set my own hours. My house isn’t as big, but I live in a house that’s now worth quite a bit more than we owe, so we could sell it at a tidy profit in the current market if necessary—plus we don’t have an HOA breathing down our necks.

None of this is to brag or put anyone else down and say that they’re just a bunch of irresponsible children. It’s just that when I look at the facts, I find that I have absolutely no right to be discontent with my circumstances. Looking beyond the surface at someone else’s life is a reminder to be content with where I am and with what I have. That car sitting out in the sun that’s had the glove box completely disintegrate and fall out? It’s paid for. My house that’s half the size or smaller than someone else’s? It more than meets our needs and honestly allows us to life in lavish comfort compared to most people in this world.

There’s beauty in contentment. Envy can’t find ground to take root in my soul, and there’s peace in knowing I have more than enough already. Who needs more?

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How to Stop Holding Boring Team Meetings http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/stop-holding-boring-team-meetings/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/stop-holding-boring-team-meetings/#respond Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1450 I’ve sat in hundreds of meetings over the years, if not thousands. Some of them have been great meetings—productive, encouraging, and full of interaction—but the vast majority have frankly been boring and perfunctory. Now to be fair, I’ve led some of those meetings myself, so I’m not just throwing former supervisors under the bus. I’ve been […]

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How to Stop Holding Boring Team Meetings How to Stop Holding Boring Team Meetings

I’ve sat in hundreds of meetings over the years, if not thousands. Some of them have been great meetings—productive, encouraging, and full of interaction—but the vast majority have frankly been boring and perfunctory. Now to be fair, I’ve led some of those meetings myself, so I’m not just throwing former supervisors under the bus. I’ve been a part of bad meetings in a wide range of environments, from faculty meetings to volunteer meetings to staff meetings. All of them, regardless of the organization, have had highs and low—unfortunately far more lows.

Yesterday, I wrote about how having an uninspired team is probably the fault of the leader in some way. One of the common problems uninspired teams often have to deal with is that the leader is failing to cast vision, and the meetings themselves are simply sucking time and energy from the team. Even great leaders can conduct bad meetings if they don’t understand the true purpose for those meetings.

Over the years I’ve managed to learn a lot of don’t when it comes to meetings. I thought I’d try to synthesize my thoughts in two lists. First, let’s look at the negatives.

How NOT to Conduct Meetings

  1. Don’t have meetings for the purpose of sharing calendars. You and your team should be using some kinds of online group calendar such as Google Calendar to share relevant dates and deadlines.
  2. Don’t have meetings to “make sure everyone’s on the same page.” You should be using project management software like Basecamp, Asana, or Smartsheet to keep your team on track.
  3. Don’t spend endless amounts of time in large group brainstorming sessions. Cultivate and encourage small group brainstorming and individual creative thought among your team. Stress that you have an open door policy when it comes to hearing ideas that anyone on the team is allowed to take advantage of.
  4. Don’t have meetings to lecture or micromanage your team. If this is happening most of the time in your meetings, then one of three things is true. You either don’t trust your team to do their job, you hired the wrong people for the job, or you haven’t effectively led your team.
  5. Don’t allow rambling or rabbit trails to take over your meeting. We all like to have fun, and most of us like to hear ourselves talk about ourselves, but don’t let personal reflections, funny interjections, or passing thoughts derail forward motion. Encourage everyone—including yourself—to keep it relevant so you can all get back to work.
  6. Don’t ever discipline an employee in a meeting. Disciplinary issues should be done in private or in the presence of relevant supervisors. This is true even if you feel the need to address an issue with your entire team or a subset of your team. Post reminders on a team bulletin board or communicate issues via email.
  7. Don’t allow your meeting to extend for more than an hour. Even if you haven’t covered everything on your agenda, don’t push through for the sake of completeness. You should front-load your meetings with the most pressing topics and work your way toward less critical items. When the hour is up, assign some “thought homework”to your team and dismiss. Save what went unsaid for the next meeting or send an email to the team about the remaining issues and encourage followup discussion.

So if you don’t synchronize calendars and projects or spend lots of time discussing business, what is the point of having a meeting? What should you be doing in a meeting? Here’s what I think.

How To Lead a Great Meeting

  1. You should cast your vision. It’s almost impossible to talk about your vision and goals too much with your team. If you’re passionate about what you and your company do, passionate about what you stand for, it should show. It should be hard to shut you up about your vision, and you should never be embarrassed about talking about your vision all the time. Over-communicate your vision to your team.
  2. You should be duplicating yourself. Meetings are the perfect time to teach your team, to share what you know, to help them learn, to help them be a success by becoming the best they can be. Share what winning looks like and how it can be achieved. Share about your failures and how you’ve overcome some and still struggle with others. If you want your business to be successful, then it’s your job to help your team be successful.
  3. You should be encouraging and inspiring your team. Not every meeting needs to be all about business. Sometimes it’s good to just load them up and take them out for lunch, or go for a ride on your boat, celebrate this month’s birthdays—do something fun. This is an obvious area where smaller and individual meetings will have more impact.
  4. You should be using meetings for creative thinking. Yes, have brainstorming sessions, just don’t let them run too long or get off track. There’s no rule that says you have to oversee their creative process. Gather the team, present your idea or problem, then unleash them to find creative solutions. Free them from the constrains of an official meeting period to go out and find what you’re looking for.
  5. You should be recognizing excellence. When an employee does a great job, you should make a big deal out of it. As much as discipline should be private, praise should be public and lavish—as long as it’s genuine. Don’t ever let it deteriorate into a means of showing favored status to a select few. Give it to everyone who earns it.
  6. You should be holding Q&A sessions. These might be planned or impromptu teachable moments. Whenever or however they happen, you should be taking time to regularly field questions from your team. Make sure your team knows that pretty much nothing is off limits, as long as it’s done in a respectful and relevant manner. Even if a team member questions your methods, you’ll find great benefit. It’s possible they truly don’t understand why you make decisions the way you do, so you can teach them your reasoning, or it may come to light that you really haven’t thought things through or there is a better way. Q&A sessions are as much for your benefit as your team’s.
  7. You should keep meetings short. In my opinion, there’s a diminishing return when a meeting is longer than an hour, even if it’s been a great session. Know when less is more and cut your meetings off. Do this consistently enough, and your team will come to each meeting more focused, knowing there’s a limited amount of time available, so they need to make the most of every moment.

I believe if you shift your thinking and approach about the purpose of your team meetings, you’ll soon have a team that begins to perform like rockstars!

Tell us about some great meetings you’ve sat through. What made them great? What made them so beneficial and memorable? Let us know in the comments.

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6 Reasons Why Your Team is Uninspired http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/6-reasons-team-uninspired/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/6-reasons-team-uninspired/#respond Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:00:22 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1442 So, you’re an entrepreneur who’s hired employees, or maybe you’re a manager with employees under your supervision, and it’s the most dreaded day of the week. It’s meeting day. Why the most dreaded? Because you know what’s about to happen. You’ll walk into the meeting room and present up your agenda to a bunch of glassy-eyed, […]

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6 Reasons Why Your Team is Uninspired 6 Reasons Why Your Team is Uninspired

So, you’re an entrepreneur who’s hired employees, or maybe you’re a manager with employees under your supervision, and it’s the most dreaded day of the week. It’s meeting day.

Why the most dreaded? Because you know what’s about to happen. You’ll walk into the meeting room and present up your agenda to a bunch of glassy-eyed, uninspired employees and wonder why you even bother getting the a lousy group together.

Why isn’t your team engaged? Why aren’t they participating, offering feedback, and asking questions?

Though I personally think there are some pretty big caveats to the phrase “everything rises and falls on leadership,” this is probably a situation where it’s likely true. It’s highly probable that YOU are disfunction on your team, especially if your team was once full of inquisitive, passionate go-getters.

Here are 6 Reasons Why Your Team is Uninspired

  1. You’ve fostered an environment of perfection. They’re afraid you’ll think they don’t know how to do their job if they ask questions. They feel like you expect them to know everything, or that they have to be able to figure it all out on their own. They’ve come to believe that you think asking questions is a sign of laziness or inability.
  2. You’ve made them believe you hate to be bothered. Too many times they’ve knocked on your door and asked a question or floated an idea only to hear you say, “I’m too busy.” You also seem to have an affinity for saying no before you’ve heard them out or taken time to consider what they had to say. So why bother any longer?
  3. You’re either a micro-manager or a dictator. You want it done your way, right away, without any deviation. Again, if there’s no culture for innovation or experimentation, if you are rigid in your processes, whey would there ever be questions during a team meeting?
  4. You hate either hate change, or you’re afraid of it. Oh sure, you say you love change, you love innovation, but your words and actions say otherwise. Why would your team push for change when you always push back or run away?
  5. You haven’t communicated your vision. Maybe none of the reasons above are true about you. If that’s true, then it’s possible that you simply haven’t clearly communicated your vision and goals to your team. You can’t just mention it in passing every once in a while, or make it a mission statement your team only sees when you hand them the new employee manual—you’ve got to bang the drum of your vision constantly and consistently. It needs to be on the tip of every team member’s tongue. It need to be part of the company culture.
  6. You hired the wrong people. It happens to the best of us, but you’re still ultimately responsible. Sometimes you’ve picked the wrong team members. For whatever reasons they haven’t bought into your brand and vision. The only value you bring them is a regular paycheck. There’s no curiosity, no drive, no desire to succeed when they help the business succeed.

These six reasons might have been hard to hear, but sometimes those in leadership positions need a hard wake up call. When your team is dysfunctional, you should always look at yourself first and ask, “What am I doing wrong? What do I need to change?”

Are there any reasons why teams are uninspired that you think I’ve missed? What have you done to grow and inspire your team? Please share in the comments.

For more ideas on how to lead and inspire your team, check out Chris LoCurto’s podcast on 5 Unconventional Ways to Inspire Your Team.

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The Tortilla Chip Theory of Success: How to Succeed Without Being Unique http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/tortilla-chip-theory-success-succeed-without-unique/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/tortilla-chip-theory-success-succeed-without-unique/#respond Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:00:28 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1425 Have you ever noticed how many different brands of tortilla chips are available in stores? Seriously, why do we need so many options? Tortilla chips are basically just corn tortillas cut into chip shape and fried in oil until just right. How many copies of the same thing could we possibly need? Better yet, how […]

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The Tortilla Chip Theory The Tortilla Chip Theory of Success: How to Succeed Without Being Unique

Have you ever noticed how many different brands of tortilla chips are available in stores? Seriously, why do we need so many options? Tortilla chips are basically just corn tortillas cut into chip shape and fried in oil until just right. How many copies of the same thing could we possibly need?

Better yet, how can all these separate labels be successful?

Admittedly, some are more successful than others—and possibly more recognizable—while others may disappear before too much longer. I’m sure you’ve already thought of a brand name or two that you enjoy and purchase regularly. Or maybe you thought of that little family-owned restaurant down the street that has the best chips and salsa you’ve ever tasted. Either way, the fact remains that there are scores and scores of different tortilla chip brands available.

So what’s going on?

Now, I could have chosen lots of different kinds of products to make my point, but I chose tortilla chips because they are my biggest temptation on my gluten-free, low-carb diet. The point is that these bags of tortilla chips coexist on stores shelves year after year and people keep buying them despite the glut of options. But, oh, what options!

We humans have different tastes. You know that no two bags of tortilla chips are truly identical. They vary in an almost infinite variety. Consider the following list of differences I came up with off the top of my head:

  • Taste: type of corn, amount of salt, additional seasonings or flavorings (Doritos!)
  • Texture: thick or thin, crunch, amount of oil, granular feel, restaurant style
  • Shape: traditional triangle, round, strips, scoops
  • Package size: regular, economy, family size, mega-super-jumbo
  • Price Range: clearance, value, generic store brand, brand name, premium
  • Values & Needs: certified organic, free trade, local, anti-corporate
  • Perception: brand recognition, brand loyalty, regional reputation, nostalgia

I’m sure you could come up with more. The reality is that all of these successful brands have discovered how to do what Seth Godin calls delighting your niche. If you can focus and create a consistently high-quality product, the next step is to discover your niche. Who is your target customer or audience and how can you delight them? That’s what you need to figure out in order to become successful in today’s market.

The truth is, your idea or product is probably not new, though you may have a unique or rare approach. So rather than trying to out do your competition and steal customers, you should focus on finding people who speak the same language you do and offer them a world-class product.

If you can do that, then you’ll find your brand of tortilla chips sitting on the shelves too.

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7 Tips to Help You Go Gluten-Free http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/7-tips-help-go-gluten-free/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/7-tips-help-go-gluten-free/#respond Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:00:48 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1417 There’s great debate about the rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet. Many so-called experts say that no one needs to follow a gluten-free diet unless they have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Others say there is such a thing a gluten-sensitivity, while still others try a gluten-free diet for weight loss. Originally, I was in […]

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7 Tips Go Gluten Free 7 Tips to Help You Go Gluten Free

There’s great debate about the rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet. Many so-called experts say that no one needs to follow a gluten-free diet unless they have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Others say there is such a thing a gluten-sensitivity, while still others try a gluten-free diet for weight loss.

Originally, I was in that final group, but it was during my family’s one month gluten-free weight loss trial that I learned I was truly gluten-sensitive. Three weeks into our trial we were out and about and I began to get very hungry. There are times when I get shaky when I need to eat and this was one of those times. We decided to make a quick run through McDonald’s for some items from the dollar menu. I chose to get a chicken sandwich, and had eaten most of it before we’d even left the parking lot.

Not fifteen minutes later my esophagus was on fire. I was suffering one of the most intense rounds of acid reflux in recent memory. In that moment I not only realized that I hadn’t had any reflux in three weeks, but I made the immediate connection to gluten.

Over the next few days and weeks I experimented with eating foods with different amounts of gluten and experienced both acid reflux and migraines. I had already battled migraines for years and was accustomed to keeping a food log when necessary to track down foods that caused or contributed to my debilitating headaches. Now I found that gluten was likely one of the last migraine triggers I hadn’t yet tracked down, and was causing acid reflux as well.

My main point here is that I have my own proof that I have a gluten sensitivity of some sort despite not having an official diagnosis. What started as taking a stab at weight loss by jumping onto a diet fad turned into a voyage of discovery. In the years since, two-thirds of my family have made the switch to a completely gluten-free lifestyle, and we’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

Here are 7 Tips I’ve Learned to Help You Go Gluten-Free

  • Make sure you understand what gluten is and where it’s found. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). Depending on your sensitivity, you may also need to avoid bulgur, farro, kamut, and spelt. That means you’ll have to pay attention to products that contain any derivative of one of those grains. For instance, beer contains barley, as does just about anything malted. Breaded products are rarely gluten-free. You’ll also need to be careful of deep fried foods at restaurants. Even though french fries are naturally gluten-free, they are often fried in the same oil as breaded products such as onion rings and fried chicken, so there’s cross-contamination.
  • Gluten-free shopping doesn’t have to be expensive. You can now find gluten-free brands at many big retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Kroger. Aldi even produces their own growing line of gluten-free products. Yes, many of these products will cost more than their generic counterparts, but you’ll often find something in the same price range as the name brands.
  • Don’t forget to look for coupons. Companies like Perdue, Udi’s, and Glutino regularly offer coupons for their products. Check online sources like coupons.com weekly for gluten-free product coupons, and look for special product circulars at local natural and whole food stores. You can sometimes find coupons on product manufacturer websites as well.
  • Check product ingredients carefully. Check the ingredients for wheat, barley, rye, and malt. Also keep an eye out for caramel coloring as it is sometimes derived from glutenous sources. Many products denote if they contain known allergens such as nuts, soy, milk, or wheat below the ingredients list. Also look for the Certified Gluten-Free seal.
  • Mexican restaurants are your best bet for eating out safely. Do your own homework, but as long you skip flour tortillas, you should be able to eat almost anything your local Mexican restaurant will serve. You’ll have to be more careful at fast food places like Taco Bell because they often stretch their ground beef with flour, or they use spice mixes containing flour. Many Asian restaurants also offer naturally gluten-free options.
  • See if your favorite restaurants offer gluten-free options. Many restaurants offer gluten-free menu items, or a specific gluten-free menu that you can ask to see. Check out websites such as Gluten-Free Registry and Find Me Gluten-Free to discover gluten-free friendly restaurants and business. Find Me Gluten Free even has an app for your smartphone.
  • Prepackaged gluten-free bread mixes are a huge time-saver! Try out the many different packaged gluten-free baking mixes until you find the mix that’s right for you. You can also try mixing up your own. Here’s a recipe I love.

Have you made the switch to a gluten-free diet? Do you have some tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments.

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12 Money-Saving Apps You Should Have on Your Smartphone http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/12-money-saving-apps-smartphone/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/12-money-saving-apps-smartphone/#respond Mon, 06 Oct 2014 14:00:02 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1382 There’s no doubt that smartphones have revolutionized how we get through our daily routine—and not always for the better. Make that pricey phone contract start paying you back by installing and diligently using these 12 Money-Saving Apps today. Checkout 51 Checkout 51 is an app that offers rebates from manufacturers. Simply sign up for a […]

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12 Money Saving Apps Pin 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your Smartphone

There’s no doubt that smartphones have revolutionized how we get through our daily routine—and not always for the better. Make that pricey phone contract start paying you back by installing and diligently using these 12 Money-Saving Apps today.


Checkout 51

checkout 51 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneCheckout 51 is an app that offers rebates from manufacturers. Simply sign up for a Checkout 51 account and install the app. You’ll soon be able to browse the available rebate offers. Choose the offers relevant to you, purchase those products at your local grocery retailer, then upload your full receipt with the Checkout 51 app. Your valid purchases will be added to your balance. Once you’ve earned at least $20, you can cash it out and they’ll mail a check to your door.


Ibotta

ibotta 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneIbotta also offers rebates on products found at your local grocery retailer. Once you’ve signed up for an Ibotta account and installed the app on your phone, you can browse through the available rebates. You unlock rebates by learning about products, watching video ads, and completing easy tasks. Now, just shop at your local grocery retailer then take a picture of your receipt with the Ibotta app. Verified qualifying purchases will earn you cash back rebates that you can cash out via PayPal once you’ve accumulated $5 or more. You can also link select store’s loyalty cards to your Ibotta account to make the rebate process even faster.


Snap from Groupon

Snap by Groupon 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneThe newest kid on the block is Snap from Groupon. Similar to Checkout 51 and Ibotta, Snap offers rebates on products at your local grocery store. Just install the app and you’ll soon be browsing through rebate offers, some of which can be redeemed as often as you’d like. Buy any of the products on your Offer List at any store, then upload a photo of your receipt within two days of purchase. Once your account reaches $20 you can cash out your earnings.


Walmart Savings Catcher

walmart 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneSavings Catcher is a part of the Walmart app that’s available for both iOS and Android. Just download the Walmart app and register for a new account if you don’t already have one. Once you’ve made a purchase at Walmart, simply scan the bar code or QR code at the bottom of your receipt and Savings Catcher will compare prices for you. If Savings Catcher finds a lower advertised price, you’ll be given the difference on a Walmart eGift Card.


Target Cartwheel

iphone cartwheel facebook 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneThe Target Cartwheel app offers digital coupons good for hundreds of products available at Target. Once you’ve installed the Cartwheel app, just choose the offers you’re interested in, purchase qualifying products, then show your mobile barcode to the cashier at checkout to receive your discount.


Jingit

jingit 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneJingit lets you earn cash shopping in-store and online with personalized cash back offers. Earn cash by checking in at your favorite stores, purchasing products eligible for cash back offers, and by watching videos, offering feedback, and other fun tasks. And anytime you see an advertisement online with the Jingit logo, click it and get paid!


Shopkick

shopkick 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneShopkick uses your phone’s GPS to learn your location and load coupons on your phone when you enter a store. You can also earn rewards and gift cards by earning points (Kicks) by completing tasks on the app or in-store. You can trade Kicks for gift cards redeemable at participating retailers.


Favado

Favado 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneFavado helps you save money by notifying you when your favorite products are on sale at grocery and drug stores. Favado lets you compare prices on products, organize you shopping list, helps you match coupons with sales, and more.


RetailMeNot Coupons

retail 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneThe RetailMeNot Coupons app lets your search for deals and coupons from over 50,000 retailers—both online and brick-and-mortar stores. You can get notified about deals, view offers at nearby stores, and get automatic alerts when you’re near a store with an offer. You can also use the app to share coupons with friends, redeem coupons online, and enter to win prizes from contests and sweepstakes.


ShopSavvy

ShopSavvy 4 products 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneShopSavvy is a barcode scanning app that helps you compare prices while you’re out shopping. Just use the ShopSavvy app to scan a barcode on a selected product, and ShopSavvy will show you prices for that product at online retailers. You may decide walking out of the store and ordering the product from home is a better deal.


GasBuddy

Gasbuddy 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneGasBuddy helps you save money by finding the cheapest gas near you. GasBuddy’s information is crowdsourced—fellow users report gas prices in realtime, keeping the database as accurate as possible under rapidly changing conditions. You can also earn points for reporting gas prices, and then redeem those points to enter drawings for free gas.


Key Ring

king ring 12 Money Saving Apps You Should Have on Your SmartphoneKey Ring makes sure you’re never without your loyal cards, membership cards, or coupons again. Key Ring lets you store and organize all your store loyalty and membership cards so they can be scanned at checkout from your phone. You can also discover special sales, and even enroll in loyalty programs directly from the app. You’ll also be able to browse weekly sales, create shopping lists, and share coupons via Facebook, Twitter, and email. You can store anything with a barcode, including library cards, gym memberships, and more!


Are there any essential money-saving apps you think I’ve missed? Please share it with us in the comments.

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Adventures in Being Ill-Prepared for an Extended Airport Visit http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/adventures-ill-prepared-extended-airport-visit/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/adventures-ill-prepared-extended-airport-visit/#respond Fri, 03 Oct 2014 23:31:33 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1374 Yesterday, my wife was flying standby on her way home from a trip out of state. About 30 minutes before I needed to head out the door and get to the airport—a 50 minute drive—a string of intense thunderstorms raced through the Dallas area. Even as I drove down the highway toward the airport, I […]

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airport 351472 640 Adventures in Being Ill Prepared for an Extended Airport Visit

Yesterday, my wife was flying standby on her way home from a trip out of state. About 30 minutes before I needed to head out the door and get to the airport—a 50 minute drive—a string of intense thunderstorms raced through the Dallas area. Even as I drove down the highway toward the airport, I listened to reports on the radio of wind damage, massive power outages, and flooded streets near my destination.

My original worry of not making it to the airport on time due to traffic was washed away as flights in and out of Dallas were either delayed or cancelled altogether. Her flight had been pushed back to who knows when, but it was too late to turn back and still be certain that I would be where I needed to be if and when her flight finally left the ground.

The 50 minute drive ended up totaling a little over 2 hours—including a pit stop for some dinner. Once I got inside the airport, I learned her plane now had a pending departure time a full two hours later than the original scheduled arrival. Originally, I thought I’d barely be making it on time, so I didn’t bring anything to help me pass the time—nothing but a half empty and quickly dying cell phone, that is. [Phone power 53% and falling. Flight estimated arrival: 8:10 pm.]

So what to do when you’re stuck in the airport with nothing to do. How could I make the time productive and interesting?

After over an hour of people watching, surfing Facebook on my phone, and walking the public areas, I remembered that there were likely several pens in the glovebox of my van, so I went out to take a look. Score! I couldn’t find paper, so I breezed by the airport info booth and snagged an employee parking flyer that was on the floor, a trolley transit flyer, and found my wife’s itinerary folded up in my pocket. Score!

Three pieces of paper doesn’t sound like much, but I write fairly small. That’s were these words I’m typing up now originally came to life. The words didn’t come easily at first, so I took some time to people watch and check Facebook on my phone again. [Phone power 44%. Flight estimated arrival: 9:15 pm.]

smartphone 459316 640 Adventures in Being Ill Prepared for an Extended Airport Visit

By the way, the speakers in this airport are really messed up. All the live announcements are garbled and the music all sounds like really bad 8-bit dub step. Magically, the prerecorded TSA announcements are clear and pleasant. Maybe government can do something right after all… [Phone power 39%. Flight estimated arrival: 9:25 pm.]

The funny thing is, I come up with ideas to write about all through the day, but it’s usually when I’m in the middle of something and can’t stop to write. I’ll jot a quick note somewhere and get back to it later. But here, sitting in this airport with nothing to do for hours, I’m a complete blank. So, I’m writing this rambling piece instead. [Phone power 33%. Flight estimated arrival: 10:45 pm.]

Oh! a blog post idea about goal setting! You’ll have to read it some other time…

I took some time to write my thoughts out, texted with my wife, and called to check up on my kids. Battery power is getting critical, so it was time to turn off all non-essentials. [Phone power 22%. Flight estimated arrival: 11:10 pm.]

I spent another fairly successful hour filling up most of the remainder of my three blank pages. In the end, my wife’s flight landed at 10:40 pm, and battery power sitting at 17% as we walked out of the airport.

In the end, I learned my lesson. Never again will I head out the door for any destination where I might end up sitting around without taking my go-bag—my backpack filled with my laptop, iPad, a book or two, and chargers!

What’s in your go-bag and how often do you take it with you when you leave the house? What are your ideas for staying productive in a non-optimal situation? Please share in the comments.

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What To Do When You Fail: 5 Action Steps http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/fail-5-action-steps/ http://jmarkmiller.net/2014/10/fail-5-action-steps/#respond Thu, 02 Oct 2014 20:07:26 +0000 http://jmarkmiller.net/?p=1366 So I woke up this morning and realized that I’d failed in a big, big way. I’m pretty disgusted with myself at this point to be honest. I made the mistake of stepping on the scale. That doesn’t sound like an event that should cause such a visceral reaction—until you know the story. You see, a […]

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When Youve Failed 5 Action Steps What To Do When You Fail: 5 Action Steps

So I woke up this morning and realized that I’d failed in a big, big way. I’m pretty disgusted with myself at this point to be honest.

I made the mistake of stepping on the scale.

That doesn’t sound like an event that should cause such a visceral reaction—until you know the story. You see, a few years ago I finally got fed up with my weight and decided to do something about it. I began walking daily when possible and tracked my caloric intake. In the span of about a year I went from just over 250 pounds to 183.

Soon after I hit my lowest weight—less than 10 pounds from my ultimate goal—my life took a pretty drastic turn. I retired from my vocation of 18 years to work from home as a full-time graphic designer. Needless to say, my routines completely changed, and I stopped dragging myself out of bed every morning. I stopped regularly counting my calories.

I made excuses for not getting out of bed to walk. “My joints hurt,” I said. “It’s too hot/cold/rainy/sunny,” I whined. “My new shoes give me blisters,” I moaned. I lied to myself and said, “I’ll get back to walking soon,” and “I can estimate in my head how many calories I’m eating each day.”

Today’s weight check-in tells a different tale. I’m embarrassed to say that I’m up to 223 pounds. I’ve realized that 20 of those pounds were packed on in the last two months! Ugh.

My initial reaction was guilt, disappointment, and anger. Guilt for letting things slide this long. Disappointment for losing the daily discipline that I’d worked so hard to build. And anger for getting fat again. But those are poor motivators for success.

It’s time to get back on track starting as soon as possible—which, for me, is tomorrow morning. It’s time to set my alarm, get out of bed, lace up my shoes, and hit the pavement. It’s time to be intentional and take disciplined action to reset my life and reach my ultimate goal.

If you fail to plan What To Do When You Fail: 5 Action Steps

Here are 5 Actions Steps You Can Take When You Realize You’ve Failed

  1. Acknowledge your failure (and ask for forgiveness if necessary). Don’t gloss over or sugar-coat your failure. Face it head on and acknowledge what you’ve done. If you failed someone else or caused harm in any way, ask for forgiveness. Don’t make excuses. Own up to your failure.
  2. Don’t wallow in guilt and self-pity. Yeah, you’ve failed, everyone one does. This isn’t an excuse, simply a realization that you’re not alone. The truth is, you can only fail at something you try to accomplish. Failure means you weren’t sitting around doing nothing—at least not at the start. It’s time to forgive yourself, pick yourself up, and start again without having a pity party.
  3. Determine where you went wrong. Figuring this out may be easy, but all too often our failures are gradual. We let down our guard and let our discipline slip momentarily, and then just make excuses rather than immediate corrections. Figure out why you failed so that you’re better equipped to avoid repeating the same mistakes, and better able to recognize a backward slide in the future.
  4. Craft an intentional plan. Ben Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” It’s critical that you put a plan of action in place. Your must have a specific goal that is attainable. You must also be able to measure your progress. Don’t forget to add a realistic deadline.
  5. Be accountable. Find a friend you trust enough to get in your face and tell you when you’re off track. Remember, people who love you are rooting for you—they want to see you succeed. Give them permission to tell you the truth when you need (but don’t want) to hear it.

What is a goal you need to take action on? How do you motivate yourself to overcome failure and reach your goals? Please share in the comments.

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