20 Great Gift Ideas This Holiday Season

Post author: Mic Johnson

1. Give thanks.

2. Give someone a call that you’ve been thinking about.

3. Give help to someone who didn’t ask for it.

4. Give yourself permission to get outside of your comfort zone.

giving5. Give yourself the gift of being true to yourself.

6. Give the gift of a LIKE, a re-tweet, a comment, and a share.

7. Give a smile.

8. Give common courtesy.

9. Give your time.

10. Give a referral.

11. Give a hand.

12. Give food and clothes to a homeless shelter.

13. Give hope.

14. Give hugs.

15. Give encouragement.

16. Give love.

17. Give enthusiasm.

18. Give inspiration.

19. Give patience.

20. Give compassion.

And when you’re done with all of these, give yourself a pat on the back.

How To Personalize Invitations On LinkedIn’s Mobile App

Post author: Mic Johnson

Ok, full disclosure here. I train people and companies on how to leverage LinkedIn both personally and professionally. And for a long time even I didn’t know how to do it. I looked and looked and couldn’t figure it out. But I knew there HAD to be a way to do it. All I knew was that it certainly wasn’t obvious. So I finally broke down one day and contacted LinkedIn directly and asked…

“Why can’t I customize LinkedIn invitation requests from your mobile app?”

Of course they replied back and said “You can” and went on to tell me how. I felt like an idiot, which I’m assuming isn’t how LinkedIn wants their users to feel. But I digress.

To prevent you from feeling like an idiot and to further prevent you from sending that mindbogglingly annoying and impersonal “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message ever again, here’s all you have to do:

1. Find a person’s profile on the LinkedIn Mobile App by searching for their name in the SEARCH box. Click on their name. It will take you to their personal profile. (Note: This is for the iPhone. I’m assuming Android devices are similar.)


LinkedIn Mobile Search

2. Click on the COMPLETELY UN-OBVIOUS three little dots in the upper right hand corner of the screen. DON’T CLICK ON THE COMPLETELY OBVIOUS BIG FAT BLUE CONNECT BUTTON because it will automatically send the aforementioned mindbogglingly annoying and impersonal “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message.


3. Choose CUSTOMIZE INVITE. Type your customized, personal, thoughtful invitation message and hit SEND.

Customized LI Invite

That’s it. So totally NOT OBVIOUS, right? One of these days LinkedIn will finally listen to my pleas to have customized invites be the default option anytime you click the BIG FAT BLUE CONNECT BUTTON.

But until then, at least now you know what to do. Happy connecting!

(Thank you to the awesome Jay Senter from the equally awesome Prairie Village Post for allowing me to use him to illustrate this tip for you! PVPost.com is a hyperlocal news site covering government, sports, events and business in northeast Johnson County, KS.)

Want to grow? You’ve got to show up and be seen. Here’s a real world example:

I love it when the real world gives me a great analogy. Something happens that I can use to explain a concept in way that’s easy to understand and remember. I have a great example of something happening this week to share with you… but first, let me set things up a bit.

You probably know that an important part of successful growth is showing up. Being seen. And telling your stories.

The challenge is always time. We’ve all had thoughts like, “I’m too tired to go to that networking event tonight” or “I don’t have time to write a blog post this week.” It’s because most people overload their calendars, and I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say that’s been a problem of mine, but I keep working on it.

It’s okay to pick and choose how you show up so that you can keep some balance in your life, but be sure to make it a priority to show up every week… at least twice. When you show up, people you know see you and think about the relationship they have with you. Sometimes, those thoughts spark the, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you!” conversation. You also get to meet new people and expand your network of relationships.

If your brain is wanting specifics when I say showing up, I’m talking about social media, networking events, coffees, lunches, peer advisory group meetings, catching a Royals game with a client, speaking at events, exhibiting at trade shows, or rallying your team to volunteer for a local not-for-profit.

These kinds of interactions are how the majority of businesses in Kansas City sell their products and services. We can say that with confidence because we’ve asked the question at every one of our clients and it’s ALWAYS the same answer. The majority of new business comes from existing customers buying more, or existing customers referring someone new to you. And because that’s how it works, showing up dramatically improves your chances to get more business.

Now for that example I was talking about…

Yard SignsThe real world analogy is how painting companies get new business. They put a sign in your front yard with their phone number on it. The sign sits in your front yard for days as the painting crew cleans your house, preps your house and then paints your house.

Dozens of people in your neighborhood drive by and see that you are getting your house painted. It makes them think, “oh yeah, we’ve been needing to do that.” And what’s even more interesting is that your neighbor assumes the painting company is trustworthy because you’re using them… and you wouldn’t hire someone that’s awful, right?

We had our house painted recently. Town & Country Painting put their sign in our yard. They started doing the work. And two days later, I saw another Town & Country sign in a neighbor’s yard two houses down the street. I talked to Hart, the owner of Town & Country, and he told me that’s all the advertising they have to do. Yard signs and business cards. And they’re booking new customers in May of 2016, so it’s working.

And no matter what your business is, the same simple truth applies. If you show up, tell your stories, build new relationships and do good work, you will succeed. But it only happens if they know about you, so make sure you’re showing up!

Thanks to the Kansas City Royals, I’m Exhausted.

RoyalsParade1Post author: Mic Johnson

I was trying to decide what I wanted to write about today and all I could think about was the Kansas City Royals.

Let’s be honest…that’s all that most people in Kansas City have been thinking about for the entire month of October.

And if we’re really honest, it’s all that most people in Kansas City have been thinking about since the Royals won the 2014 Wild Card Game, went to the 2014 World Series and came oh so close, and then won the 2015 World Series.

I still can’t believe it. I think all of us feel that way.


It had been 30 years since the city last came together to celebrate a championship.

And that parade…oh, that parade…800,000 people gathered on a gorgeous, sun-drenched November day…and celebrated the Royals and the city unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

It was one of the best days of my life…of our lives…and one of the best days in the history of this city we call home.

Boy, I thought October 2014 was “The Best October Ever” and then 2015 came along and blew…my…mind.

RoyalsParade2And now I’m exhausted. We’re all exhausted. But it’s one of those “I’ve had more fun than a person should legally be allowed to have in one month” kind of exhausted.

So thank you to the Kansas City Royals.

Thank you to the city for a parade that made Kansas City shine brighter than it ever has.

Thank you to the people of Kansas City.

This has been a love affair like none other.

Ok, that’s it. I’d write more. But I’m exhausted.

(P.S. – Opening Day is April 4, 2016…against the, you guessed it, New York Mets.)



Join Blue Gurus at the next Hats Club event on 11/11/15 – Jason is one of the Marketing Panelists

Post author: Jason Terry

The Hats ClubHello friends! In the past, people have asked me where they should go for good networking opportunities. They’ve also asked me to let them know the next time I’m speaking or presenting in a public forum. If you fall into one of those categories, I’ve got an event you should consider going to.

What: The Hats Club Presents: What marketing should you be doing in today’s environment?
When: November 11th at 4:00pm
Where: PlexPod Coworking Space – 10000 Marshall Drive, Lenexa, KS 66215

Register Now: Click here to get your tickets at EventBrite. Tickets are $15 and spots are limited to the first 60 people. The entry fee covers a couple of adult beverages and appetizers.

Blue Gurus (Mic isn't really taller)There are at least three good reasons for you to attend this event:

  1. It’s a great group of people for networking.
    Some of my very best friends and clients are part of the Hats Club.
  2. The venue is awesome.
    If you haven’t been to PlexPod yet, this is a great opportunity to check out what a coworking space looks and feels like. We’ll be in their cool stage area. Not sure if they’ll have the smoke machines running, but it’s a great space.
  3. You’ll learn something.
    There’s a lot of professional experience represented in the marketing panel, and we’ll be taking questions about what works today as compared to 3-5 years ago, the importance of physical branding (like shirts, signs, etc.), where to focus your online marketing efforts and more.

What’s the panel going to talk about?

You want to grow your business and you’re actively looking for new customers and new opportunities. You need to be marketing your business. But marketing, like so many other things, has changed drastically… even in just the last 2 or 3 years.  What might have worked great for you a few years ago probably doesn’t even make an impact today.

The integration of Traditional and Digital marketing is the topic of this month’s Hats Club meeting.  We’ll be doing a facilitated panel discussion on marketing ideas that entrepreneurs and small business owners should be thinking about

I hope to see you there!

Let me know if you plan on coming so I can be sure to connect with you at the event!

What Working For 3 Startups In The Last 10 Years Has Taught Me

RoadLessTraveledPost author: Mic Johnson

In the past 10 years, I’ve worked for three startups. The first one was Valiant Solutions, a recruiting company based out of North Carolina. When I joined them, they were a year old and had less than 10 employees. For the last 6 years, I’ve been with Blue Gurus. We’ve been a 2-person company for the bulk of our nearly 7  years in existence. Finally, in January 2013, my wife Missy and I started MJMeetings, a meeting and event planning company for corporations and professional associations.

Recently I was reflecting on what I’ve learned through my experiences over the last 10 years: the ups and downs, the wins and losses, living a personal and professional life that are completely intertwined, and more. I’ve included a few of them below. If you’re an entrepreneur, own a small business, work for a small business, or are thinking about going into business for yourself, I hope the lessons shared here help you in your journey.

You Won’t Get The Payoff If You Aren’t Willing To Take The Risk

When I started with Valiant Solutions, I’d left my previous employer with nothing lined up and was selectively unemployed for a few months. When I started with Blue Gurus, I parted with my previous employer, was again selectively unemployed for a few months, and eventually approached Jason and said, “I don’t need a salary. I don’t need benefits. I don’t need a certain number of hours a week. I want to switch careers and I want to work with you.” When Missy and I started MJMeetings, she’d never been her own boss, never worked in a startup, and had never had to sell before. And, no, Missy and I didn’t win the lottery and didn’t inherit money. We’ve taken calculated risks and (so far!) they’ve paid off. And I’m not just talking in financial terms. I’m talking about quality of life, stress level, work-life blend, our overall happiness, and more. ROI isn’t all about money.

It Takes Time To Discover What Your Brand Is

In the first couple of years working with Jason in Blue Gurus, I was very unsure about what my own personal and professional brand was. And though we knew we wanted to work together, we weren’t sure what that would look like. As time went on, we developed the model for the services we offer today. In addition, I became more and more confident in myself both personally and professionally. I know who I am. I live a life true to myself and my values. And I believe in what we do and how we do it. I’m seeing Missy go through the same process now with MJMeetings. There’s nothing I can do to fast forward the process for her. She has to get there in her own way and in her own time.

You Don’t Have To Do Everything The Way Everyone Else Does

You will have all kinds of people tell you that you can’t do things or that you should do things a different way. While it’s always helpful to have people around you that care about your success and happiness, ultimately you’re the one that will make the decisions and have to live with the repercussions or benefits of those decisions. That voice you hear inside you is the one you should ultimately listen to.

Trust Your Instincts

If there’s one thing that I would underline a hundred times, it’s this one. I can’t tell you how many times this has come into play over the last 10 years. In fact, as I think about nearly every career and personal move I’ve made, my instincts were always the guiding force. Be true to yourself and the rest will fall into place.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

I’ve found myself saying this a lot in the last couple of years. If I were to define the world of small business entrepreneurship, this would be it. If you ever feel comfortable, you’re doing something wrong. With time, you learn that instead of trying to get comfortable, it’s more important to embrace being uncomfortable. Doubt, anxiety and fear are a part of the process.

Consciously and Carefully Build A Network of Awesome

The world is full of people looking out solely for #1. I call them TAKERS. It took me longer than I want to admit to figure this out and it’s true in both your personal and professional lives. Learn to identify those people…and then stay away from them. Instead, build a network of awesome people. I do this in a variety of ways and am very selective of where, and with whom, I spend my time. One way I make sure I’m with awesome people regularly is through my peer advisory group, Introducing Awesome. There are very few things in business as valuable as a network of people that truly care about, and want to help, each other.

It Sucks Losing Clients

There’s no way to sugarcoat this one. It happens. And it sucks. And sometimes it happens when it has nothing to do with what or how you deliver your products or services. And that sucks even more. But that leads me to my next lesson…

Keep Watering

I wrote a blog post about this one awhile back and it still holds true today…and it will for all eternity in business. You have to keep going. You have to keep showing up. You have to invest time in people and relationships. You have to continue to help people. You have to keep delivering. You have to keep finding new clients. You have to keep dealing with adversity. You have to ask for help. Grab the hose…and keep watering.

Maintain Your Balance

Everything you read and hear when people talk about starting a business is that you have to burn the midnight oil, practically kill yourself, sacrifice time with family and friends, lose sleep, give up working out because you don’t have time, eat crappy food, and so on. I know a lot of people that have done that and I’ve read one too many articles that glorifies that type of behavior. And I never bought into any of it. You can too. “Success”, however you personally define it, may not happen as quickly for you when you take the road less traveled, but remember, you don’t have to do everything the way everyone else does.

If You Thought You Were Patient Before, You Were Wrong

Most of the time things in business and in life don’t happen as quickly as we want them to. I thought I was a patient person before when I worked in the corporate world…willing to do my job and wait my turn for the next opportunity. But being involved with three startups has taught me about a level of patience I didn’t know I had and never would have predicted I could have dealt with.

You Have To Have The Tough Conversations

It’s not all a bed of roses. Life and business throws us curve balls all of the time. Some people think they can just work harder and that will solve everything. Hard work certainly has it’s merit, but more importantly you have to be willing to have the tough conversations along the way. You have to work with people whom you trust, be willing to be vulnerable, be willing to look yourself in the mirror, and be willing to make the tough choices along the way. Jason and I have done this a few times over the last 6 years. It’s never easy, but we always feel better after doing it…because we come from a place of honesty, caring and genuine love and respect for one another. There’s no better way to do it, in my opinion.

Enjoy The Ride

The road less traveled by isn’t full of litter and other travelers. It can be lonely at times, but it also allows you the opportunity to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the process of learning, growth, overcoming obstacles, and building the life you want for yourself. Understand that the road isn’t always smooth, but the ride is totally worth it. I hope these lessons sparked some thought in you. I’d love to hear what other lessons you’ve learned from your own experiences. Comment below or send me an email at mic@bluegurus.com.

Have You Tried “Seven Words About Me”?

Post SevenWordsAboutMeauthor: Mic Johnson

Recently I was at my monthly “Introducing Awesome” peer advisory group meeting and I asked the group about a business challenge I was faced with.

During the course of the conversation, the incredibly talented Alana Muller of Coffee Lunch Coffee fame, suggested I take a look at Harry Campbell’sSeven Words About Me” website. I’ve met Harry before, but hadn’t heard about Seven Words About Me. So I  checked out the site, which says it “helps you Get Real about you leadership style and skills.”

The process is super easy and only takes about 5-10 minutes to create a user account, enter in a few email addresses of people you know, trust, respect, have worked with, etc. and then hit “SEND.”

Once you do that, it sends an email to each of the people whose email addresses you entered. They receive an email that looks like the following:


FeedbackWhen a person clicks the link, a screen appears with seven boxes. The person enters whatever words come to mind when they think about your personal and professional brand.

And the results are sent back to you ANONYMOUSLY.

For those of you who haven’t given much thought around your personal and professional brand, this is a great place to start as it helps you understand how others see you.

For those of you who think you know who you are and how you present yourself, this is a great way to validate those beliefs or show you areas where you might need to improve.

I submitted 20-25 email addresses of clients, peers, family and friends so I’d have a good mix of people who I interact with on a semi-regular basis.

Much to my surprise, I’ve received 17 responses so far and all of them are stored on the “My Dashboard” (see the “Feedback” image) area where I can easily look at all of the responses that have come in.

For me personally, it was an extremely validating process. Most of the words that people used to describe me align with how I see myself both personally and professionally. It’s given me further confidence that, as I often say, “what you see is what you get.”

Now there were also a couple of words (impatient, stubborn) used where I wish I could’ve gotten more details on why the person felt that way, but because it’s anonymous, I’ll never know (unless they read this post and want to take the time to talk to me about it, that is!).

If you’ve never tried Seven Words About Me, do it today. It’s simple. It’s free. It only takes a few minutes.

And you just might be surprised by what you learn.

6 Thoughts From My 10-Day Summer Vacation

Hi everyone…it’s Mic. My wife Missy and I recently got back from a 10-day vacation in California. We had a great time and I wanted to share a few thoughts and experiences from the journey:

1. Take vacations.

http://www.danapointharbor.com/This one might seem obvious, but I thought it was worth mentioning because it’s easy to get busy and never get a vacation on the calendar.

Each and every one of us needs to make a conscious effort to take time off and unplug from the stress that comes from work and day-to-day life.

Missy and I typically take 3-4 day “long weekend” vacations and I have to say it was really nice to have 10 days to disconnect and enjoy ourselves.

2. Go someplace you haven’t been before…and EXPLORE.

I’d never been to San Diego before. I really enjoyed the tour of the USS Midway, riding a golf cart around Coronado Island, checking out the Gaslamp District, eating an amazing meal at Juniper and Ivy (owned by Richard Blais, winner of Top Chef All Stars), and doing a beer tasting at Ballast Point Brewery.

3. Become one with nature. Check out a National Park.Sequoia National Park Bear (Custom)

It was a long drive from San Diego, but we really enjoyed our visit to Sequoia National Park.

We did a couple of hikes, saw the world’s largest tree, and were thrilled to see four black bears and several deer.

On top of that, just being out in a peaceful, natural setting with nature and the fresh air was extremely relaxing.

4. Spend time with friends and family.

Jocko and FamilyDuring our trip, we were able to reconnect with friends living in California that we’ve known for years. We were also able to spend an afternoon with Missy’s cousin and family, who we hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years.

I’ve known this for years, but sharing experiences with friends and family is what life’s all about…and we really cherished the opportunity to mix that into our vacation.

Reconnecting (and laughing) is just so darn good for the soul.

5. Eat well.

Missy and I are total foodies, so enjoying a few good meals is always a part of our vacation experience.

I mentioned the incrTuna tar taredible meal at Juniper and Ivy, but we also enjoyed my favorite food, sushi, while on Coronado Island, had some great Mexican food in Orange County, and grilled out one night with friends.

You only get one shot at this life, so eat well.

6. Do something you’ve never done before.

I’ve often said “Outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.” While it can be hard to practice that in your day-to-day life, vacations give you the perfect opportunity to do something different.

On this trip, we went sailing for the first time ever. My friend Mike Sailing had been taking sailing lessons and chartered a boat from Dana Point Harbor.

It was a lot of fun, even though the dramamine didn’t quite prevent a few of us from feeling sea sick. Hard to get your “sea legs” growing up in Kansas, I guess.

In closing, I hope this post has inspired you to plan your next vacation. I’d love to hear about any exciting adventures you’ve already experience or have coming up!

Who knows…maybe you’ll inspire me to book my NEXT vacation!

Mic Tree (Custom)


All We Have To Do Is Hold On

Hi there, it’s Mic here. I’ve been thinking about the following topic for quite some time. Inspiration hit recently and the following post flowed out of during yet another rainy Sunday morning in Kansas City. I’d love to hear your perspective as it relates to your own life experiences. As always, thanks for your continued support of Blue Gurus. We appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

I’m fascinated (and, in some instances, deeply saddened and disturbed) by how often one’s happiness, confidence and self-worth are so closely intertwined with one’s career and financial situation.

I routinely hear about people who are miserable, lost and defeated by their career and financial situation. Anxiety, fear, uncertainty and depression are their bedfellows. I also routinely hear about people who are happy and confident (and, in some cases, overconfident) by their career and financial situation. Optimism, hope and security are their bedfellows.

Ironically, in many cases, those are snapshots of the same people (myself included)—just at different times in their lives.

Roller coasterThe illusion of course is that any situation or level of happiness or unhappiness is permanent….though it most certainly often feels that way when you’re in the moment.

That is coupled with the illusion that we’re entirely in control of our career and financial destiny. Many people like to believe that everything they’ve accomplished has been solely through their own hard work. While hard work is definitely important, the reality is that luck, timing, opportunity, courage, risk tolerance, socioeconomic status and countless other circumstances all factor into the ever-evolving equation.

No one has it all figured out. As the saying goes, “Man makes plans…and God laughs.” It’s never as good as you think it is and it’s never as bad as you think it is. Life pulls us in all different directions…sometimes in the same day. The happiest people make a conscious effort to keep perspective and remain humble no matter where life takes them.

If I’ve learned anything throughout my life, it’s this:

Life is like a roller coaster. All we have to do is hold on.

Introducing Awesome

Post Author: Mic Johnson

Many of you know that one of my goals in life it to proactively get away from people who suck. The flip side of that goal is, of course, to spend as much time as possible with people who are awesome.

It was with that in mind that (per Jason’s recommendation) I started my own peer advisory group over two years ago. The name of the group is Introducing Awesome (IA) and is composed of people who I felt very strongly were innately awesome. We meet once a month for a couple of hours, sometimes over drinks, and sometimes in a conference room. The group was formed with a simple mantra:

 “Bring awesome people together and let the magic happen.”

Introducing AwesomeIA is intentionally cross-generational and comprised of people who naturally and instinctively love helping others.

The group has evolved beyond my expectations and and continues to lift each other up, help each other through the ups and downs of business and life, and turn to one another for trusted advice.

I’m routinely inspired by the members of Introducing Awesome and wanted to take a minute to introduce you to the group I affectionately call “The Awesomes”….

Shawn Kinkade – Shawn is the President of AspireKC. I routinely refer to him as “The Best Business Coach in Kansas City.” Shawn is definitely one of the first people that come to mind when I think of awesome people. His monthly Business Book Reviews are also one of my must-attend education and networking events.

Cynthia Kyriazis – Cynthia has owned Productivity Partners for over 20 years. How many Productivity Coaches do you know? I know one…and she’s awesome.

Brad Douglas – Brad is Vice President and Retirement Plan Consultant for Alliance Benefit Group. The first time I got together with Brad we talked for over 2 hours. He’s one of the most inquisitive people I’ve ever met and is someone I could spend hours talking to about life and business.

Jennifer Peek – Jennifer is the Managing Partner of Peek Valuations. If you need help understanding the financials of your business and how to improve them, Jennifer is who you want to talk to.

Alana Muller – Alana is a Networking Coach & Consultant and the author of Coffee Lunch Coffee. I knew Alana was awesome the first time I met her. She’s intelligent, motivated, well connected and is another person that’s great at asking questions and helping drive solutions.

Melissa Eggleston – Melissa is a Director, Private Banking at Alterra Bank. I knew Melissa was awesome within minutes of meeting her. Melissa loves helping people, always has a smile on her face, has an attitude that is infectious, and sees the possibility in everyone and everything.

Jacob Wayman – Jacob is a Provider Engagement Consultant at Humana. He’s passionate about Healthcare, passionate about helping others, passionate about being a Rotarian….heck, he’s passionate about all that he does! Jacob brings a youthful energy and enthusiasm to IA and has benefited from the experience of the group as he develops into a young professional.

Andrew Hinrichs – Andrew is a Partner at HinrichsZenk & Pesavento. He provides accounting services specifically focused on the dental industry. Andrew is a classic entrepreneur who wears many hats and goes a million miles an hour. He’s intelligence and drive are contagious and he’s come to truly value all of the business perspective and experience of the IA group.

Laura Wildman – Laura is the President of MomCorps Kansas City and is the newest member of IA. Laura is a strategic search partner and helps link highly qualified candidates to job openings with her clients. I met Laura a couple of years ago. I knew then that she was awesome and we’re thrilled to have her a part of the IA team.

It’s been an honor for me to get to know these people personally and professionally. They inspire me every time we get together.

If you, your business, your clients or someone you know would like to know more about the services that these people offer, reach out and set up an initial phone conversation with them to learn more about how they can help.

Take it from me. They’re awesome.