Travel, business, leadership, life: What's your quest?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a certified executive & leadership coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc., and leader of the ASPIRE Success Club.

I can't imagine a better time to write about The Happiness of Pursuit than early in a new year. If you want to think bigger and challenge yourself in a meaningful way, the examples, ideas, and inspiration found in Chris Guillebeau's latest book will prompt you into action. 

Happiness of Pursuit book - GuillebeauThis book focuses on one thing: quests. Not just traditional goals or good ideas, but epic projects that require focus and purposeful intensity in order to fulfill them. Rather extraordinary in scope and often several years in duration, I relate them to what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras refer to in their book Built To Last as BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals - that can be established in any area of work, leadership, or life.

The quest begins with a dream because, as Guillebeau writes in the prologue, "If you want to achieve the unimaginable, you start by imagining it." The quest presents a challenge, requires sacrifice, and leaves you a better person than when you started. The adventure changes you and brings meaning and fulfillment along the way.

Guillebeau begins by explaining his own quest: to visit all 193 countries before turning 35. He shares his experience throughout much of the book as well as highlighting others' inspiring quests, such as:

  • Circumnavigate the globe, solo, in a small sailboat.
  • Take, process, and edit one million photos.
  • Produce the world's largest symphony.
  • Refrain from talking for a period of time (which turned out to be 17 years).
  • Read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in one year.
  • Give $10/day, every day for a year, to a different charity.

That's just for starters.

Big. Bold. Time- and energy-consuming. Perhaps a little nuts, right? Guillebeau does a nice job addressing all of these components in the book. He emphasizes how your quest must come from the heart; it isn't about impressing others, and in fact others may question, or even poke fun at, your quest. "Not everyone needs to believe in your dream," Guillebeau wisely states, "but you do."

I read with particular appreciation his ideas around fear. I have found in my coaching practice that many people hesitate to dream big or set bold goals because of fear - often the fear of not achieving them. I continually emphasize it's not as much about achieving the goal, quest, or dream as it is about who you become in the process: What you learn, how you grow, the transformation you experience. Guillebeau adds, "You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn't exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority."

Your quest may come from a variety of sources: the idea floating around since childhood, the more recent thought that just will not let go, the thing that breaks your heart. Oftentimes, your quest will essentially find you rather than the other way around; you'll know it when it strikes. And it will certainly evolve as you go.

This book is a particularly good read if you are:

  • in a rut and need a burst of inspiration;
  • ready to think bigger and bolder;
  • feeling an inkling for "something more;" or 
  • need a kick in the pants of any sort!

To be fair, I live in this space of big dreams and bold goals that Guillebeau writes about, so I am a bit biased. I believe everyone can benefit from creating some of these big, exciting projects in their work and life. They provide a sense of ongoing excitement and unusual focus. They allow you to get jazzed about something in the future while savoring and acting in the present moment. They help you prove to yourself that you are capable of what you set out to do.

On top of that, little compares to the feeling that comes with embarking on a significant, thrilling, not-fully-certain challenge - and achieving it.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Whether or not you feel ready to take on a quest just yet, there's one activity sure to get your creative-dreamer juices flowing: Start your Life List (a.k.a., bucket list). What would you LOVE to do, try, experience, see, or create if time and money were in unlimited supply? Personally and professionally, solo and with others, self-focused and other-focused...what comes to mind (and more importantly, to heart)? 

Start writing those ideas down. Not in to-do list fashion, just as a fun Life List that you can add to whenever an idea arises. I have currently challenged the ASPIRE Success Club members to come up with 101 items for their lists, and I encourage you to do the same. Not only will this spark your creativity and open your sense of possibility, it will provide clues to your passions and purpose as well.

And who knows? You might just decide to turn one of those ideas into your next quest!

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders, executives, and meaningful achievers to succeed and make a difference in work they love! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Guillebeau, Chris. The Happiness Of Pursuit. Harmony, 2014. 

Iowa's next economic frontier

 - Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.

Fifty thousand jobs.

That’s what is projected to be created nationally in the biorenewable chemicals industry within the next five years, BiochemFullReport_title_pageaccording to “Bio-Based Chemicals: The Iowa Opportunity”, a new report commissioned by the Cultivation Corridor with support from the Iowa Biotechnology Association released earlier this month.  What’s more, the paper argues a significant segment of those jobs could be created right here in Iowa. But they don’t have to be.   Back to that in a minute.

The paper was researched and written by Dr. Dermot Hayes, the Pioneer Hi-Bred International Chair in Agribusiness, professor of economics and professor of finance at Iowa State University; Dr. Brent Shanks, an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and the Steffenson Chair in Chemical and Biological Engineering at ISU; and Dr. Jill Euken, deputy director of the Bioeconomy Institute at ISU.

The report’s findings are striking.  Thanks to the rich supply of Iowa biomass suitable as feedstock for biorenewable chemical production, access to a foundational network of over 50 ethanol and biodiesel production facilities across the state, and nascent biorenewable chemical investment opportunities before us today, Iowa is better-positioned than most domestic competitors to capitalize on the next frontier of bioprocessing in the United States.

Despite Iowa’s obviously discernable advantages in the budding biochem space, however, the Hayes report suggests that the absence of a statewide economic development incentive tailored to address the unique needs of this budding industry stands as a serious impediment to the state’s potential to emerge as a center of gravity for biorenewable chemical investment and job creation in the coming years. The report reminds that the last bioeconomic boom Iowa saw- that of the ethanol industry - did not have to happen here and suggests that it was targeted state incentives which are directly attributable to the decision to choose Iowa over other Midwest states by more than one-third of the ethanol industry. The same dynamic, the report suggests, exists today relative to the biorenewable chemical industry. 

About nine months ago, I blogged about the tremendous opportunity seen in a coming transition from petroleum-based feedstocks to bio-based feedstocks for some of the world’s highest-value chemicals [Why Iowa needs to think like an oil company; May 27, 2015] and how important it was that Iowa leverage its virtually unmatched domestic competitive position to become the destination of choice for biochemical investment in the same way we became the preferred choice for biofuels investment.  I wrote the piece as the Iowa Legislature was debating a proposal to create an economic development tax credit to help entice the industry to choose Iowa, just as we did as a state more than a decade ago to entice biofuels investment. The measure failed [for a quick analysis of what happened, click here and scroll halfway down].

Part of the urgency I suggested we had as a state in 2015 to be a first mover was the fact that other states had begun talking about creating their own biorenewable chemical economic development legislation, and it behooved Iowa to be the first. With the legislature’s failure to act in 2015, the first mover window closed; Minnesota passed the nation’s first biochem legislation last year. Despite that, the 86th Iowa General Assembly has an opportunity before it in 2016 to enact what would be the country’s strongest economic development incentive to help grow the biorenewable chemical industry here, where it belongs.

What’s different this year than last? Thanks to the Hayes report, we’ve got the data to support the assertion that the biochemical industry holds exceptional promise for job creation in our state, much as the biofuels industry did and continues to do.  Among the report’s findings:

  • First-generation biofuels have been important economic drivers for the state of Iowa. Ethanol production alone in Iowa accounts for $2.23 billion per year in state GDP and supports more than 8,693 jobs. However, due to a new Renewable Fuel Standard which rolls back ethanol blend requirements to pre-2007 levels and ongoing feedstock limitations for biodiesel, alternative value-added bioproducts are critical to the future growth of the biomanufacturing industry in Iowa. 
  • Project opportunity exists today. At least five potential bio-based chemical production projects were identified through an industry interview process to as part of the report.  Representatives of each project indicated a biorenewable chemical production tax credit would be fundamental to the ultimate location decision in or outside Iowa.
  • Iowa has competitive advantages in several subfields of the emerging biorenewable chemicals industry. This advantage arises from
    • The availability of byproducts such as glycerin and distillers oils from first-generation biofuels facilities
    • The existence of several underutilized wet mills in Iowa, or close to Iowa
    • The fact that first-generation biofuels can themselves be upgraded into higher valued chemicals.
  • Iowa’s research and technological infrastructure in biorenewable chemicals and materials is second to none. The National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC) led by ISU is the only competitively awarded federal research center solely dedicated to the development of biobased chemicals. Key capital infrastructure needed for biobased chemical development exists at ISU through the BioCentury Research Farm and the Bioeconomy Institute and the University of Iowa through the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing (CBB). The collective capabilities of these entities for enabling biobased chemicals exceeds those available in any other states.
  • The global petrochemical industry developed in clusters of close proximity to feedstock sources: oil refineries. The bio-based chemicals industry will develop in a similar manner - the economics of agglomeration suggests that industrial biomanufacturing clusters will develop from established biomanufacturing sites rather than from new green field sites. Iowa has more deployed biomanufacturing capital assets than any other state. 

What now, you say?  Read the report [or at least the executive summary]. Contact your legislator. Let him or her know how important it is that we not let another year go by without enacting the biorenewable chemical tax credit.

Brent Willett, CEcD, is executive director of Iowa's Cultivation Corridor.  Contact him:

Human: 515-360-1732

Digital: bwillett@cultivationcorridor.org / @brent_willett / LinkedIn.com/in/brentwillett

Tax credits for a few vs. business deductions for everyone

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-Joe Kristan is a founding member of Roth & Company P.C

Every targeted tax break is a choice to favor one business or economic activity over another. Most years, that choice is hidden in the budget process. Not this time.

This year the General Assembly can choose between two tax policy approaches. The choices:

  1. A provision to allow all profitable businesses in the state to deduct currently their costs of purchasing machinery and equipment, up to a generous limit -- one identical to a provision in the federal tax law. It is used widely by farmers and small businesses, benefiting thousands of filers.
  1. A series of provisions -- some new, but most at least a few years old -- that provide tax credits to selected businesses and industries who convince the General Assembly that they deserve special treatment - and regardless of whether they actually have taxes to pay.

As things stand now, the Iowa General Assembly seems likely to choose the second option. And that says a lot about how poorly the Iowa business income tax system treats smaller businesses.

Option 1 is the "Section 179 deduction." The federal tax bill, passed in December, makes permanent the $500,000 annual limit on the deduction, which allows taxpayers to take a current deduction in the year machinery and equipment is first used; otherwise, the deduction is spread over a period of years through depreciation deductions. This limit has been at $500,000 for several years on a temporary basis, and Iowa has allowed the same deduction since 2010.

The $500,000 limit has been popular. It is available regardless of whether your business is bio-chemical, renewable fuels, films, or another economic development flavor-of-the-month. It’s simple to administer – you just use the number you claim on your federal return.

Governor Branstad recently told Iowa business leaders that the state can't afford to renew the $500,000 amount. Instead, the deduction will be limited to $25,000 per year in 2015 and future years. This tax increase could net the state somewhere around $90 million in additional revenue in any given year. Because it is a matter of timing, it is close to revenue neutral over a five-year period.

Option 2 is to expend the millions of dollars of tax credits in the budget targeted to promote specific industries, lure businesses, or favor certain investments. For example, the budget includes a new credit for "Renewable Bio-Chemical production." While the number of taxpayers who would receive this credit is unknown, it's safe to say that it is a tiny fraction of those who benefit from the $500,000 Section 179 limit. It's possible that fewer than 100 Iowa businesses will qualify for the new credit.

The budget also continues to fund a refundable research credit, which operates as a $40 million cash grant program to some of Iowa's largest businesses. It funds another $37.4 million renewable fuel and bio-fuel credits, and $20.1 million in sales tax refunds to big businesses lured to Iowa by the economic development bureau. Altogether, the budget provides around $277 million in tax credits to lure new businesses or to subsidize business behavior the state has deemed worthy of special favors. These credits are permanent; they generate no offsetting revenue in future years.

Might these special favors be better for the economy than some farmer or small business who buys a new tractor or machine? You could make that case, but it would be plausible only if these favors were enacted by a process where the state looked at the vast menu of possible industries to support and carefully evaluated which ones were more persuasive. That never happens. Instead, the credits follow the path of the notorious Iowa film industry credits, where an industry gets some legislators and business boosters excited and builds support -- sometimes with "studies" funded by booster groups. There is no evaluation of the opportunity costs, of whether the funds would be better used elsewhere.

Boosters of these favors will remind us of what wonderful employers the recipients of these special favors are. While that may be true, the employers in every county who stand to lose their Section 179 deduction are wonderful too -- and in this budget, they (and their employees, suppliers and customers) pay for the special favors. They may not feel that they're less important than the industries favored with tax credits. There are a lot more of them. Whether their numbers will enable them to prevent having their taxes increased remains to be seen.

Joe Kristan wrote this piece. He speaks only for himself, not for his firm, colleagues or clients.

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