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What I’m Reading Right Now

Filed under Books

I always enjoy a good book and am continually trying to learn and better myself as a person.  Here’s a few books I’ve read recently and a few that are in the on deck circle to be read…

  • Drive by Daniel Pink – The subtitle is “the surprising truth about what motivates us,” which is a good summary.  For the longest time, people have been motivated by what Pink describes as carrots and sticks.  Do something good, you get a carrot (i.e. money).  Do something bad, you get a stick (i.e. written up at work).  But in today’s world, we’re motivated less by carrots and sticks and more by doing work that matters, working autonomously, and achieving mastery in our work.  Great read.  Also pick up A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation by Pink. 
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin – I’ve read most of the books Godin has put out and am a big fan of his blog.  This book was basically about how to become indispensable in what you do and focusing on work that’s important.  I thought it was a solid read, but I think it was a little wordy and repetitive at times, which is unusual because his blog posts do an extremely good job of cutting the fluff and getting right to the point in a short, simple way.  Nonetheless, I still thought it was a good read. 
  • A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller – Donald Miller is a unique writer that really can cause people to think.  This was an interesting book because of how it was written.  It’s the story of Miller working with a couple of film guys to develop a screenplay for his life.  So it’s basically a reflective book of the author evaluating and examining his own life and challenging the reader to the do the same. 

On the soon-to-be-read pile…

  • Buyology by Martin Lindstrom – I’ve had this book recommended to me by a couple of different people.  It’s basically answering the question “why we buy?”  Looking forward to it.
  • Switch by Chip & Dan Heath – I read the Heath brothers first book Made To Stick and like most others who’ve read it, I would rank it in the top 10 books I own.  So naturally, anything else they put out I’m assuming will be good. 
  • Just Don’t Fall by Josh Sundquist - Josh is a good friend and a fellow youth speaker and has an amazing story.  The nutshell is he found out he had cancer in his left leg when he was nine, had to have his leg amputated, and eventually went on to compete four years ago as a downhill ski racer in the 2006 Paralympic Olympics in Italy.  The book shares his journey and story throughout all this.  I’ve known Josh personally for a few years now and while I know his story is powerful, I know the guy is the real deal.  Super cool, down-to-earth dude who wants to make a difference. 

Anything you’ve read or are reading that you’d recommend?  

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What’s Your Sentence?

Filed under Thinking Out Loud...

In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy.  “A great man,” she told him, “is one sentence.”  Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.”  Franklin Roosevelt’s was: “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.”  Luce feared that Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph.  (this was an excerpt from “Drive” by Daniel Pink)

When I read this recently, I really liked the idea.  One sentence to summarize your life.  One sentence to provide focus and purpose in your everyday world. 

So…what’s your sentence? 

When your time has come and all is said and done, what do you want people to say about you?  Not some glowing biography or lengthy obituary…just one sentence.  Just a few words strung together to describe your life.  What would you want that sentence to say? 

Would you want it to describe the kind of friend you were?  How you treated others?  What you did to make a difference in the world?  Your accomplishments at work?  The kind of family person you were? 

One sentence. 

What’s your sentence? 

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The Power Of An Audience

Filed under Speaking, Thinking Out Loud...

As a youth speaker, I’ve seen a lot of different audiences.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Some that just woke up and drain the life out of you and some of that have had too much caffeine and everything in between.

And while the speaker is the person at the front with the microphone, the audience really has a lot of power over how the “show” may go.  I’ve seen this first hand in what I do, but I’ve also had two different experiences recently as an audience member that amplified this fact.

A few weeks ago I went to a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game.  It was in an arena that seats somewhere around 10,000, and it was about half full.  If you’ve ever seen the Harlem Globetrotters put on a show, you know it can be very entertaining and highly interactive.  But this crowd was dead.  There was no energy in that arena at all.  Sure the Globetrotters did their part to engage the crowd and put on a good show but the crowd was lifeless.  And as a result, it tainted the overall experience.

Last week my wife and I attended an improv show in New York City.  It was hyped like the next big thing but we got to the theater only to discover we were one of only 20 people in the entire audience.  So the show starts and if you’ve ever been to an improv show, you know it’s based on audience interaction and participation.  Well, this audience wasn’t participating.  I felt bad for the performers…it was like pulling teeth to get feedback or suggestions from the audience.  And again, as a result, the show was very lame. 

But the interesting thing was that while the performers in each setting did their job and worked hard at it, the “show” itself was mediocre due in large part to the audience.  Even though the audience is not on stage and not performing, an energetic and engaged audience would have created a completely different “show” in both experiences. 

Speakers, artists, performers all feed off the energy of the crowd.  The more energy there is, the better the show will be.   

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The Best Decision I Ever Made

Filed under Family, Personal

Eight years ago today I married the love of my life.  We dated for five years before that, so for those keeping score, that’s 13 years we’ve been together.  And 13 years later, I’m still just as crazy about her. 

She’s an amazing wife and incredible mother to our two daughters.  There’s no one else in the world I’d rather spend my life with.  And she’s really hot as you can tell.

I love you Sheila!   

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The Most Honest Car Buying Experience I’ve Ever Had

Filed under Personal, Thinking Out Loud...

Over the weekend, we bought a new van.  Well, not a new van but new to us.  (First of all, don’t judge me…I look cool driving it)

If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle before, you know it can be a little stressful.  In the back of our minds, I think we all wonder the same thing: “Is this person trying to screw me over?”  It’s like we like as soon as we sign the papers and drive off, all the lights on the dashboard will come on, the tires will automatically deflate, and a timer will start counting down saying the car is about to explode. 

But thankfully, our transaction was one of the least stressful experiences (side note…we found it on Craigslist…still one of my favorite sites).  Why?  Because the seller was honest.  Not just kind of honest, but over-the-top honest. 

He told me about every possible little thing that was wrong with the van (which wasn’t much thankfully).  Even little things that most people would leave out. 

“There’s a tiny scratch here.  There’s a little wear there.  This button doesn’t work.” 

You know what was weird though?  The more negative stuff he told me about the van, the more comfortable I felt.  Strange I know.

But it gave me reassurance that he was being straight up with me.  He wasn’t going to hide anything.  I knew that if we drove away and the bumper fell off, this guy didn’t know about it or he would have told me. 

It just reminded me how important honesty is in our society.  It’s one thing to be honest about all the good stuff but to volunteer to share the bad stuff too…that’s honesty. 

Keep that in mind next time you sell something…you interview for a job…you turn in a paper…your parents ask where you were last night.

Be honest.  It works.         


The Challenge Of Risk-Taking

Filed under Thinking Out Loud...

We know that taking a few risks in life is important, but some are more accepting of risks than others.  Some people seek the thrill of adventure and are constantly taking risks.  Others prefer the security and stability of staying where they’re at. 

But for all of us, the challenge of taking a risk is this…you don’t know how it will play out.  You can’t see the future.  You don’t know how people will react. 

And so as a result, a lot of times we stay on the sideline.

But not knowing how it will play out is part of what makes it risky.  If you always knew how everything would go, life would be boring. 

So embrace the unknown.  Take a risk today.  Who knows?  It could change your life.       

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How You Can Help Haiti…

Filed under Current Events, Thinking Out Loud...

I don’t know about you, but as I watch the news unfold regarding the tragedy in Haiti, I feel compelled to do something.  My guess is you feel the same way.  The challenge though is whatever we do, it feels so small compared to the great need of that country.  But the bottom line is something is better than nothing.  I’m no different than you.  I want to help. 

So here’s what I’m going to do…

On my website, I’ve got books, t-shirts, and wristbands available. For any purchase you make between now and Sunday, January 17 at midnight CST, I’m going to donate 100% of the money to the relief work in Haiti.  That’s right.  One hundred percent of it.  I won’t get a dime of it. 


So not only will you get a copy of Reality Check, a sweet t-shirt, or a bunch of wristbands out of the deal (all with free shipping of course), you’ll sleep good tonight knowing every bit of the money you spent went to support the relief efforts in Haiti.     

Sound good?  Go here to get started…

But don’t be greedy and keep this deal to yourself.  Spread the word.  Tell your friends, neighbors, parents, teachers, co-workers…even that one kid who eats glue…he could use a cool t-shirt.  Make it your Facebook status.  Tweet and re-tweet it on Twitter.  Post the link on your blog (  Get the word out.

One other quick note…even if you’re not interested in buying anything (it won’t hurt my feelings), I hope you’ll do something to help out.  Volunteer at your local Red Cross.  Organize something at your school.  Get your youth group involved.  DO SOMETHING! 

Remember…every little bit matters.  Do your part.


What else are YOU doing to support the relief effort in Haiti?

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Are You Willing To Commit To It Or Do You Just Like The Idea Of It?

Filed under Thinking Out Loud...

There’s a lot of things we simply like the idea of.  I like the idea of…

Making good grades.

Earning more money. 

Writing a book.

Running a marathon.

Having a great relationship.

Traveling around the world.

Far too often though we simply like the idea of ______ but aren’t willing to commit to doing what is necessary to actually accomplish it.  We’re not ready to make the sacrifice, investment, or overall commitment to actually doing what we’d like to do. 

So for most of us, it will stay like that.  An idea we simply like…but aren’t committed enough to accomplishing. 

What a crappy way to live life. 

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6 Ways To Make Your 2010 Goals Stick

Filed under Personal, Thinking Out Loud...

If you’re like most people, late on December 31st you came up with your mental list of a few “resolutions” you wanted to keep for 2010.  And if you’re like most people, now that we’re 11 days into the year, you’ve probably already thrown in the towel. 

Why do we do that?  Because resolutions don’t stick.  Goals do. 

One of my goals for this new year is to run a half-marathon.  I’m not some avid runner by any means, but I do want to stay in shape, so it seems like a solid goal to shoot for.  So here are 6 things I’ve done to help make this goal stick for 2010…

  1. Write It Down – Don’t leave it floating around your brain.  You’ll forget it.  Get a piece a paper, write it down, and stick it someplace where you’ll see it everyday.  Your pillow, your mirror, that cute guy you stare at everyday (you’re stalking him anyway, you may as well accomplish a goal in the process!).  I typed out my goals for 2010 and have them printed out and on my desk.   
  2. Make It Specific – Lose weight.  Earn more money.  Make better grades.  Those are all good goals, but how do you know if you’ve accomplished them?  For me, I could have set my goal as simply: run.  But I wanted to make it specific: run a half-marathon.  You should be able to tell if you accomplished the goal or not. 
  3. Set A Deadline – Are you going to accomplish that goal this year or could you push yourself a little more and accomplish in the next 60 days?  The less time you give yourself to accomplish the goal, the more focused you’ll be on making it happen. 
  4. Tell The World – By simply sharing my goal to run a half-marathon, I feel like I’m really committing to it.  Why?  Because I’d look like a loser if I don’t do it.  Tell your friends.  Tell your family.  Announce it on Facebook.  Let the world know you mean business. 
  5. Make An Investment – Don’t waste money, but if you’re serious in accomplishing your goal, you’ll invest a few shekels in yourself.  For me, I registered and paid for my entry into a half-marathon in Chicago.  The best part: it’s non-refundable.  What is it for you?  Buy a book.  Buy a domain name.  Sign up for classes. 
  6. Be Held Accountable – It’s one thing to tell the world, but take it a step further and have someone hold you accountable.  For me, I’m running the half-marathon with my brother-in-law.  We’ve both signed up so not only do we not want to disappoint ourselves, but we don’t want to let the other one down. 

What else can you do to make your 2010 goals stick?

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My 2009 Highlights…

Filed under Family, Personal, Speaking, Travels

As we wrap up 2009 and begin to turn the page towards 2010, I know a lot of people are happy to leave this year behind them.  And while it has been an unusual year (the economy, housing market, bailouts, Speidi, Susan Boyle etc), it’s always a good thing to pause and reflect back on the past year.  Sure there were some low points, but I’m confident everyone had some great moments as well.

Here were a few of the highlights for me from 2009…

  • Moving into our new house back in March
  • Building a fence at the new house (a labor of love)
  • Going to Hawaii with my hot wife and no kids (she couldn’t keep her hands off me)
  • Traveling through a true blizzard in North Dakota
  • Being named to GO Magazine’s “20 Under 30″ list
  • Taking my girls on trips to Chicago (twice), St. Louis, and Dallas
  • Completing several puzzles with my daughter
  • Being able to speak at NPC several times
  • Attending the Home Run Derby with my Dad
  • Taking a cruise to the Bahamas with my hot wife (she still couldn’t keep her hands off me)
  • Driving a convertible around Yosemite National Park
  • Visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame with my Dad
  • Ordering a 2nd printing of my book Reality Check
  • Doing the opening keynote at the BPA National Leadership Conference
  • Both my sister and sister-in-law got married (and my daughter made a lovely flower girl)
  • All the time spent at the pool over the summer with my girls
  • Creating the student money website

Here are some additional stats from my travels and speaking schedule from this year…

  • 55 Events
  • 134 Presentations
  • 73,000+ People Spoken To
  • 51,000+ Miles Traveled
  • 19 State Spoken In
  • 61 Nights In Hotels

As I was going back through my calendar, I could recall so many of the places I was able to go, the students and teachers I was able to meet, and am once reminded how fortunate I am to do something I love. 

What about you?  What have been some of your highlights from 2009? 

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    Grant Baldwin is a relevant leader and an engaging communicator who is making a significant impact in the lives of students across the country.

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