No do overs…

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
 
John Wooden

I don’t know about you but there just never seem to be enough hours in the day.  The world today is busier than ever and the distractions are relentless.  

I really love this quote because it makes you sit back and thing about the work you are doing.  If you are doing something to check the box, achieve the minimum standard, etc, then why are you doing it all all?  If it is something that needs to be done right, what needs to go in order for you to have the time to accomplish the task at hand?

Part of the challenge in today’s hyper busy world is that it is easier, and more acceptable unfortunately, to do more things, at the bare minimum level.  That doesn’t create long-term sustainable success.  Focusing on the few things that really matter, and then executing them to a degree of completion that ensures they won’t have to be redone is a guaranteed way to stand out from the crowd.  

Besides, if you are so busy, how can taking the time to redo anything be a palatable option!  Get it right, get it done, move on to the next important thing.

It’s a daily fight…

“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”
 

Napoleon Hill

No person is perfect, we can all get better in a multitude of ways.  To do so though means you have to strive.  You have to lean forward and seek growth.  You have to overcome our inherent human laziness and aversion to extremely hard work.  It is a daily fight to be better and to grow.

I know I struggle with always wanting to do more, to take on more.  To push harder.  I never want to let my natural self be stronger than my desired self.  It is a daily choice.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t.  But one can never ever give up.  There is a better version of yourself on the other side.

 

 

Grind it out…

“Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work. I had to put in the time to get back. And it was a grind. It meant training and sweating every day. But I was completely committed to working out to prove to myself that I still could do it.”

Andre Agassi

There is almost nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment when you complete some momentous, all encompassing objective.  The type of project where it took 100% of your effort and commitment.  These are the ones where during the work it is so hard that you are just gutting it out, getting it done, never willing to compromise and deliver less than what you know you are capable of doing.  

There might be almost no better feeling, but it only works to motivate you in the future if you take the time to reflect, learn, celebrate success, and then reset your head for the next one.  I have to remind myself of this all the time as I am likely to jump from one all-encompassing thing to the next.  Take a few minutes today to pause, reflect, breathe.  

Then go grind it out and get it done…

Right vs. Acceptable…

“Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.”

Franz Kafka

The definition of “acceptable” in the dictionary is: “meeting only minimum requirements; barely adequate.” 

I can’t think of too many times in my life where “acceptable” is actually acceptable.  When it comes to the things that are important, the places where I choose to invest my time, effort and energy, meeting a minimum requirement just doesn’t cut it.  It reminds me of the old adage that my Dad, and I am sure many other parents over the years, instilled in my brother and I from a young age.  “Any job worth doing, is worth doing right.”  

I remember that being a mantra that would haunt me as a kid if I was doing some chore I didn’t want to do.  When Dad would check on my progress  if my work didn’t meet the standard he had set for me he would make me do it again.  I learned quickly that if I didn’t want to have to do it over, I’d better do it right the first time.

As I reflect back on it now the key I learned was this.  You must have a clear definition of what great looks like for anything that you are doing and choosing to invest your precious time in.  If you don’t know what great looks like, how can you possibly measure your progress and hold yourself accountable for doing it right?  Otherwise, you run the risk of simply being acceptable.  No one celebrates a merely acceptable effort.

 

Own it…

 

“Good leaders don’t make excuses. Instead, they figure out a way to get things done.”

Jocko Willink

A very wise person once told me, “there is only one way to point a finger.  You extend your hand, point your finger out, and then you turn your hand around and point it at yourself.  If you are going to point a finger at someone that is the only acceptable way to do it.”  

Successful leaders must have this trait of personal ownership and discipline.  If they don’t, they will not achieve the level of impact that God created within them.  The gifts that you have been given will be unrealized.  The opportunity to serve and give to others through the influence of your leadership will be diminished.  

We all have hundreds of opportunities to demonstrate this type of leadership every single day.  It starts with personal accountability and discipline.  If you expect something.  Do it.  Don’t whine about it.  Don’t complain.  Don’t say, “that’s not my job.”  No one cares to hear that.  No one wants to be around that person.  You don’t want to be around that person.

Will you fail at this?  Yes.  I fail daily.  But failure is an opportunity to learn, to get better, to pick yourself up and do it harder, faster, with more vigor the next time.   Over,  Under.  Around or through.  Whatever it takes to get the job done.  That is the attitude that a person with extreme ownership embodies.  There are no excuses.   

If you haven’t read Extreme Ownership  by Jocko Willink then you owe it to yourself to find a way to add it to the top of your reading queue.  As the title suggests it is all about ownership and accountability.  You are responsible and accountable.  No one else is.  Period.  End of story.  

What are you going to learn today?

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”

Josh Waitzkin

“Static, safe mediocrity.” Just those words alone make my skin crawl.  Learning, and being willing to change because of what you have learned, is key to breaking free from the trap of “static, safe mediocrity.’

So what are you going to go learn today?  Not just a check the box thing where you can say you learned something new.  But what are you going to go learn that has the power to challenge the status quo or how you think?  

If you don’t seek to learn something new daily, something that challenges you, you are well on the path to “static, safe mediocrity.”

 

 

 

What you do matters…

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Yesterday someone came up to me and told me how much they enjoy receiving the daily quote and that they share them with a friend every day.  She said that a few weeks ago her friend messaged her late in the day on a Sunday afternoon to find out why she hadn’t sent her the quote yet.  She was laughing when she told me this and said, “so I logged in to my work email so I could forward the quote to her even though I was off of work.”

When I was listening to this I was struck by the fact that I really have no idea who gets the daily quotes, who reads this blog (if anyone), and if those things make any impact on the lives of others.  Hearing that it mattered to just one person is such powerful affirmation that the effort we put forth really matters.  I have long held the belief that if by doing these things only one person is ever impacted that it is worth the effort.  

I have been blessed to work with some incredible leaders over the years.  Those whom have inspired and impacted me simply through their presence and the leadership example they created through their actions and behaviors.  A certain few of them I haven’t seen in almost 20 years, but their influence on my life and leadership carries through to this day.  When I think about great leadership impact I think of these individuals and how they, simply through their presence and actions, cast such a such a powerful influence on myself and I am sure many many others over the years.  

My point to all this rambling is this.  Show up.  Be authentic.  Genuinely care.  When you do these things it will matter to someone.  You might never know the impact but your presence will be felt.  And one day, someone will share with you how it matters and they in turn will inspire you to reach further and do more.  Your effort matters…

Get up and fight!

“One word: ‘Fight.’ Anyone can do it when it feels good. When you’re hurting, that’s when it makes a difference, so you have to keep fighting.”

Erin Cafaro

Why do you work so hard?  What is that drives you to get out of the bed in the morning? On the bad days, the tough workouts, the days where you are hurting but you choose to keep fighting, what is it that motivates you?

Knowing the answer before those days happen, and they will happen, is critical. It will be the rock that you anchor on when the tough days come.  In searching for my quote this morning I also found this one:

“Burnout is when long term exhaustion meets diminished interest.”

Unknown

Burnout happens when you don’t have that driving goal or objective clearly defined.   It is the difference between good and great.  What makes you get up and fight?  Even when you are hurting?

 

Do what you can do!

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

John Wooden

I really love this quote as I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the phrase “focus on the solution, not on the problem” which was one of the quotes from last week.  It is amazing how easy it is to allow oneself to focus on why things can’t be done, as opposed to what can be.  It drives me crazy to hear, “that will never work” or “oh, I can’t do that.”  Not that I haven’t been guilty of it myself more than a few times… How do you flip this around when it comes up?

I’ve found that focusing on one simple question can reframe the thinking when I, or others, get caught in the “excuses trap.”  Because let’s face it, if you are focused on what you cannot do, you are making excuses.  The question is this; “What one thing can I do to create change in this situation?” 

Success in anything requires taking ownership and finding the path forward.  Getting caught up in the reason why something won’t work is a guaranteed way to get bogged down and achieve less than you are capable.

Thank you…

“For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.”

Unknown

Thank you…

Thank you to all of those who served our country. Thank you to the families that sacrificed while their loved ones were away from home on long deployments.  Thank you for hearing the call of patriotism and freedom.  Thank you for giving yourself, so we can all be free.  Without you there is no such thing as freedom.

Thank you…

The future is now…

“When you do the things in the present that you can see, you are shaping the future that you are yet to see.”
 
Idowu Koyenikan

The future is made today, one focused action at a time.

Sometimes it is really hard to know exactly what the future is going to hold. But you can see today, and what needs to be done today.

It’s easy to get lost in the dreams of tomorrow but without hard work and focus on what is in the here and now, the future, no matter how well conceived and envisioned, will never happen.

What do you need to do today to make the future possible?

Create a daily discipline around what matters most!

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

I’ve been guilty of this one more than a few times.  Doing a great job on something, spending time getting it right, but it not being the most important use of my time or energy.  Why does this happen?  

Focusing on the things that matter means you have to be highly intentional at taking the time to understand the problem and thinking through what the most important or impactful solution will be.  Where should the effort be focused?  Sometimes you identify the right thing, but the situation and environment changes and the initiative or effort should be dropped.  That can be hard to do, but it is critical if you want to make real progress.  

Create a daily discipline of asking yourself “what is the most important thing for me to be spending my time on today?” Ideally this should link back to your most important goals, or the “big rocks” as Dr. Stephen Covey calls them.  Otherwise, it is so easy to get off track because we are doing something that is fun or that we particularly enjoy…  

 

Action vs. Excuses…

“Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.”

Anthony J. D’Angelo

Being solution oriented is the antithesis of being excuse oriented.  Think about people you know that are wired this way.  What do they talk about?  Their problems, not what they are going to do about it or how they are going to change things to solve the problem.  

You have to understand the problem of course, but once you understand the only way to fix or change anything is to create action.

How much time and effort do you spend focused on the problem versus figuring out what you are going to do about it?  

The distracted age…

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The digital age could also be called the distracted age.  There are so many competing demands for our attention. When was the last time you were in a meeting, at a restaurant, or simply having a conversation with someone when you didn’t see some type of digital device in their hands?  I know I am guilty of being distracted on a daily basis.  The pull of the digital device is a black hole for creative energy and focus.

How much great work is sacrificed because 100% of our effort isn’t focused on the work at hand?  I know that when I make the decision to attend a meeting with only my paper notebook in hand that my focus and participation is so much better.  Yet it is so hard to do with regularity.  Study after study shows that multi-tasking is a myth, yet we all do it and think  that we are are the exception to the rule, that we are able to multi-task with great effect.

It isn’t possible to spend 100% of our time focused and distraction free, but what if we just started by deciding to do it only once per day on whatever the most important thing is for that day?

Today try to attend a meeting, have a conversation, or spend some focused work/thinking time without a digital distraction.  See how how it impacts your productivity.   Give it a try, how can it hurt?

No excuses…

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
 
Jim Rohn

 

What is your standard excuse?  Too busy?  Not enough time?  “So and so wouldn’t let me?”  For some folks the search for the excuse doesn’t take very long.  They have an entire quiver full of “excuse arrows” ready to go whenever things don’t go there way.  

This is one quiver that should be empty.  All the arrows burned and broken.  There are no excuses.  There are reasons and choices.  Period.  Throw away any excuses and see how much more you get accomplished.  

 

 

Failure must be an option…

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

James Cameron

I would argue that if your goal doesn’t scare you just a little bit, it isn’t set high enough.  If your goals are too easy, they just aren’t going to make you stretch.  They won’t make you push, make you dig deep and find that extra effort and energy you didn’t know you had.  

Goals shouldn’t be targets set to where you know you can hit them, they should scare you because you really don’t know if you can reach them.  Only then will you find what you are really made of.  

Are you willing to aim so high that you might fail?  If failure isn’t a real and potential option, your goals are too easy…  

 

Gratitude is the foundation of riches…

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I know that I have so incredibly much to be grateful for in life.  We all have so much to be grateful for.  When I read this statement from Bonhoeffer (and if you haven’t read any of his works, or the exceptional biography written about him,  I highly encourage you to check them out) I was reminded of the power of including gratitude as part of your daily routine.  

It is as simple as writing down three things that you are grateful for each day.  I wrote about this back in July but I wanted to mention it again as I don’t think the power of this habit can be overstated.  I can speak from experience because of late I have been in a particularly busy season and this is one of the habits that I have allowed to go to the wayside.  Shame on me.  Without this daily perspective and attitude of thankfulness it is hard to keep the thief of joy at bay.  But a simple practice reframes the mind and lets one carry forward to serve others with a cheerful heart.  

I challenge you to simply try it for a week.  First thing in the morning, or just before bed at night, write down three things that have happened in the last 24 hours that you are particularly grateful for.  See how you feel after a week.  Then see if you can complete the month.  What better month of the year to express Thanksgiving than November?

See what happens.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

How can you choose happiness?

“People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln

It is amazing how true this quote is.  Some people, who have everything, are never happy.  Others, who by the measure of the world, have nothing, are incredibly happy.  Why is this?  What is the difference between these types of people?  Why do some people choose to be unhappy and others choose to be happy?  

Over the past several weeks I have been doing a devotional on happiness and one verse has been stuck in my mind of late.  “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 

If you are working for something else, for a bigger calling, happiness isn’t dependent on receiving affirmation from this world.  Something to ponder.  Happiness is a choice…

Seek wisdom, or risk being a fool…

 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
 
Proverbs 13:20 ESV
 

We are product of the people we spend time with, the things that we watch and read, the groups that we associate with.  This quote applies both to the people we spend time with, and the things that we choose to watch and read.  

I love to read and to learn new things that challenge my beliefs and perspectives.  Reading is a great way to get outside of your own perspective and find wisdom from others; it’s another way to walk with the wise.  In my mind not reading and seeking new information is the same as choosing to be a companion of fools.

It doesn’t mean you have to read to excess or try to read a book a week.  Just pick one book, and walk with the wisdom that is being shared.  You don’t have to agree with all of it, in fact you probably shouldn’t!  But pick one book that interests you and commit to reading 15-30 minutes per day.  

Seek wisdom.  Seek knowledge.  Seek to learn from the wise.  Or you will run the risk of being one of the fools mentioned above…

The power of the pack…

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. ”
 
Rudyard Kipling

The fastest way to bad, or at the very least sub-optimum, decisions is to rely only on your own knowledge and perspective.  The very best leader that I know ask a ton of questions, even if they might already have an opinion, or know the answer outright.  Their assumption is that they don’t know everything and their answer will be strengthened by gaining perspective from others.  Then those leaders act…

The power of the wolf comes from the pack and the reason for the power is the relentless focus on a single thing, survival.  It isn’t a committee of wolves talking about what might be important to accomplish one day.  It is a pack focus on the hunt, on survival.  Nothing else distracts from this focus. 

In our lives we might belong to a pack (or several) but how many of those packs have a burning focus that channels all the energy and effort towards accomplishing one thing?  If that doesn’t happen, you aren’t a wolf in a pack, you are a sheep in a herd…

 

 

Tackle the tough stuff first…

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.”
 
Jim Rohn
I have a long list of things I want to do better.  Things that I need to be better at in order to continue to grow and improve.  Wishing won’t make them happen.  I have to pick the two or three that are most important, or perhaps just the one thing, and then create a plan to make it better.  Then it is all about execution of that plan.  
The watch out is to ensure that I pick the right thing(s) to work on.  Picking the simple one because it is easy or fun, versus the one I really need is where the hard work comes in.  You have to tackle the stuff you might not want too…  But that is how you grow.  It’s the only way to grow.

Solving for simplicity…

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

Charles Mingus

There is such beauty in simplification.  However the natural order of things seems to be focused on making things more complicated.  In business it seems to be how folks justify their efforts and contributions.  I know I’m guilty far too often of this.  

It is fun to solve complicated problems, those are the things that stir the heart and engage the mind.  Though in recent years I will fully admit that true joy has come from finding ways to make the complex simple.  Maybe it comes from being a father and needing to find ways to explain things to my kids.  Perhaps it is wisdom that comes through experience and hard knocks.  Regardless, bringing clarity and focus through simple and uncluttered thinking adds so much value to life. 

Here are some sample questions to reflect when thinking through how to make the complicated simple:

  • What is the single most important thing to focus on?
  • What is the easiest way to solve this problem?  Fastest?  Best?
  • Can I explain the solution is on a single page?
  • What are the questions that WILL be asked?  How can I answer them as directly as possible?  

 

Losing is a choice…

“When you reach an obstacle, turn it into an opportunity. You have the choice. You can overcome and be a winner, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a loser. The choice is yours and yours alone. Refuse to throw in the towel. Go that extra mile that failures refuse to travel. It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure.”

Mary Kay Ash

Winning is a choice.  But then, so is losing.  

I was watching game four of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Dodgers on Saturday night.  In the bottom of the 6th inning the Dodgers scored four runs to take a 4-0 lead in the game with only 9 outs remaining for the Red Sox to try and come back and win the game.

The night before the Dodgers had won the game with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 18th inning to win the game 3-2!  (the longest game in World Series history).  So a 4-0 lead going into the top of the 7th inning was a commanding lead.  But the Red Sox players are professionals and they are winners and they didn’t panic.  They chose to overcome.  The Red Sox scored 3 runs in the top of the 7th, and then another run in the top of the 8th to tie the game.  

Then in the top of the 9th they went on a rampage and scored 5 more runs to move the score to 9-4.  But did the Dodgers give up?  No way.  They lost the game but not before scoring two more runs in the bottom of the 9th.  Final score 9-6.  I love that neither team quit.  They just keep slogging it out. 

My point is this.  At any point someone could have decided “this is too much, we can’t win, I need to quit and rest myself for another game.”  But that isn’t what champions do.  They win, they persevere.  They rise to the challenge and if they lose, they get up and they try harder.  Failures quit.  Winners don’t make that choice.  

Someone has to win a game in the end, but no one has to quit…

Focus & Clarity

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
 
Henry Ford
 

There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes when you are part of a team.  The energy that comes from working with others towards a shared vision is palpable.  Success becomes the result, not just a goal or a thing to be achieved.  

Without teamwork I would argue that while a specific task or objective might be achieved, the true opportunity is left unfulfilled.  Teamwork unlocks the magic of what could be. 

Why then do teams get off track?  Lack of a crystal clear vision or goal and clearly aligned team and individual objectives that bring focus and clarity to the work at hand.  Without this there is always going to be some sand in the gears so to speak.

If you haven’t read “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr I highly recommend it.  One of the best books I have read on creating focus and clarity as a team.  Truly exceptional.

 

Make your words count…

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Abraham Lincoln

I rarely regret saying too little, but I have often thought perhaps I have said too much.  Reading this quote makes me think and reflect on the quality vs. quantity question.  Far better to make the words count than just have them add to the count…

Pause… And think…

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.”

Warren Buffett

Take a deep breath…  Pause…  Will how I react now to whatever this situation is carry more impact a year from now than the actual situation itself?

I want that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.  (no, not really) But having a “pause & think” button would a great skill to further develop.  When I think of the times when I have reacted more emotionally, or when I see others do it, it seems to happen when people “need to be right” as opposed to being focused on “doing what is right.”

Perhaps working to always separate yourself from the need to be right and only focusing on doing what is right can be the “pause and think button” we need in life and leadership.

 

Finishing strong today sets up tomorrow…

“Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”

Robin Sharma

When you think about it it is easy to start strong.  There is excitement for something new, a focus on starting a new adventure, etc.  But after a few weeks or months things slow down.  The pace drops off.  That’s when the real work, the real power of focus begins.  

Without a strong finish, everything else is really meaningless.  Well, maybe not meaningless, but certainly greatly diminished.  The power of a strong finish doesn’t just impact whatever the current project or initiative is though.  It sets the tone for the next one.  It builds a platform of performance that you and your team can use to leverage for the next time.  Finishing strong today isn’t just about today, it is about the future.

Be the change…

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.”

Bob Dylan

There is such power in these words.  Changing your behavior is hard, but much easier if you have a clear picture in your mind of what, or who, you want to be.  Then you just have to do it one simple step at a time, one day at a time.  

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor is the person you were born to be.  You have to decide to make the changes, and then just do it.

 

Simplify one thing at a time…

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” 

Hans Hofmann 

What are the unnecessary things in your life?  I struggle with taking on too much, always have.  But then life is crazy and stressful and I have no one but myself to blame.

Like all things it isn’t about changing EVERYTHING. Just change ONE thing.  Eliminate one unnecessary thing.  See how it feels.  Then find another one.  Do it again.

Does your garden need to be tended?

“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?” 
 
W. Clement Stone 

A beautiful rose is a product of its environment.  The best seed won’t grow into its potential without the right soil, the right amount of water, the right sunlight, the right amount of intentional tender loving care.  

No one is surprised if a garden looks ragged and overgrown when it isn’t cared for.  Why should your life or leadership be any different?  What part of your environment needs to be adjusted for you to achieve maximum potential?  

Does your garden need to be tended?

Are you living life itself?

“We find greatest joy, not in getting, but in expressing what we are. Men do not really live for honors or for pay; their gladness is not the taking and holding, but in doing, the striving, the building, the living. It is a higher joy to teach than to be taught. It is good to get justice, but better to do it; fun to have things but more to make them. The happy man is he who lives the life of love, not for the honors it may bring, but for the life itself.”

R.J. Baughan 

This is very broad and profound and each sentence is worth mulling over and evaluating how one chooses to live their life.  I’m going to take a couple days and really dig into each of these and see where I “score.”  The  last sentence is so great.  “The happy man is he who lives the life of love, not for the honors it may bring, but for the life itself.”

Are you a happy man (or woman)?

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