Are you seeking a good return on energy invested?

“If you have something to do that is worthwhile doing, don’t talk about it, but do it. After you have done it, your friends and enemies will talk about it.”

George W. Blount

Talking about action and worrying about what others might think are activities with low ROEI (Return On Energy Invested). Instead, channel every precious ounce of the finite energy you have into creating meaningful action.

Nike has it right, “Just Do It…”

Are you watching stars or satellites?

“We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

Omar Bradley

I recently spent some time in Montana, and the brilliance of the stars in the night sky was simply incredible. It was indeed one of the most impressive things I have ever seen.

I remember looking at the stars early one morning and seeing a moving “star” across the sky. It wasn’t a star at all but merely a satellite, something that was bright and moving but impermanent and gone in just a few moments. As soon as it was out of my field of vision, my focus returned to the stunning constellations and bright stars that people have viewed for millennia.

It can be so easy to shift attention to the newest shiny star in the sky. But those aren’t stars at all; they are merely distractions from the path. They are satellites that move and are gone from view. Focus on the stars instead.

What matters more, optimism or honesty?

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Vice Adm. James Stockdale

Admiral Stockdale indeed spoke from a place of deep personal experience. If you don’t know his story, I highly encourage you to click to learn more about him via the link embedded with his name above.  

Rather than write about my thoughts on this quote, I’ll simply share the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ here. Those words say it all.  

James C. Collins related a conversation he had with Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his period in the Vietnamese POW camp. When Collins asked which prisoners didn’t make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:

“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Collins called this the Stockdale Paradox.

Are you willing to embrace the brutal facts?

Every day should be Veteran’s Day…

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

 Abraham Lincoln

The words “thank you” will never be enough to convey the depth of appreciation and respect I have for those who have served our country and defended our freedoms. It isn’t enough to say the words or even make donations and attempt to assist those who have served. The ultimate way of honoring those who put their lives on the line to provide for our freedoms is to live in such a way that honors their sacrifices every single day. So what can you do every day in appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy?

Can you gain wisdom from quitting?

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.” 

 General Douglas MacArthur

Look back on your life and think of a time when you quit something that you now regret. What did you learn from this experience? Does it serve as motivation to carry on and persevere today when faced with challenges? The beauty of age is that you have earned the wrinkles formed by good and bad experiences. If you choose to accept the lesson, you get to show up today better because of what you have learned.

Are you prepared to work and willing to fail?

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” 

Gen. Colin Powell

My favorite part of this quote is “it is the result.”  Success is the outcome of the inputs necessary to create it. It isn’t predestined or absolute; it is what comes after you put in the effort.  

How hard would you work if you knew you were guaranteed success? Would you be willing to put in the extra effort, the “over the top” input necessary to make a difference? Would you be ready to learn from failure if you knew the outcome was absolute?  

Are you preparing to do the hard work and, if necessary, learn from failure? Only then can you achieve the desired results…

Are you leading with loyalty?

“Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.”

 Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Veteran’s Day is later this week, and to help honor the contributions of all of our Veterans, the quote from every day this week will come from a military leader.  

The beauty in this quote is the interpretation of what loyalty means for the different constituents. If you don’t demonstrate these behaviors, you certainly won’t receive loyalty from either group… 

Embrace the suck…

“Grit is the grain of character.”

 Edwin Percy Whipple

It is easy to forget that the only way we can grow is to face and overcome adversity.

Relish the setbacks.

Learn from the challenges.

Embrace the suck.

Five years from now it won’t matter, because you’ll be better…

Are you raw goods or something more?

“A bar of iron costs $5. Made into horseshoes, it’s worth $12. Made into needles, it’s worth $3500. Made into balance springs for watches, it’s worth $300,000. Your value is determined by what you are able to make of yourself.”

Author Unknown

Do you see yourself as raw materials or finished goods? Are you a component in something greater, or do you view yourself as the complete and finished thing?

Maybe the more important question is this. What are you working on right now to grow and improve? How are you seeking to add value to both yourself and the world? 

Is the work worth doing?

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Theodore Roosevelt

How do you know if the work is worth doing? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does the work positively impact the lives of others?
  • Do you get energy from the work itself?
  • Do you find yourself looking forward to doing more of the work?
  • Do you find yourself satisfied or simply tired at the end of a long hard day?
  • Can you imagine yourself doing the same work next week, next month, next year?

Are you intentionally trying to learn?

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

Norton Juster

Is it really “taking trouble” to learn from your mistakes? It is incredible how few people do this with intention and focus. Setting aside the time to conduct a review and learn is the entryway to continuous learning and development. The classic after-action review questions can facilitate the creation of so much wisdom.

  1. What were my intended results?
  2. What were my actual results?
  3. What caused my results?
  4. What will I do the same next time?
  5. What will I do differently?

Will you let your fears define you?

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Are your doubts an accelerant or a brake? Do you live in fear, or do you choose to use fears as a motivator? How can you turn “I don’t think I can” into “I am not sure, but I will give it my very best effort”

Where will you be in life if your fears hold you back?

Is that WHO you want to be?

What are you staring at?

“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.”

Vance Havner

How do you convert “one day” into a reality? It is so easy to dream and ideate, but the magic happens when you convert these dreams into actions. Dr. Covey described this as “begin with the end in mind.” The key word is “begin.” Without that first step, nothing else will happen…

Can you become the rising tide?

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

Paulo Coelho

There is the old saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The nuance here is that tide isn’t seeking to raise the boats; it happens due to the water movement, an external event. The same thing happens to those around us when we focus on self-leadership. We aren’t most effective at moving others because we focus on moving them; we move others when we focus on growing our leadership and capabilities. Leadership begins with self-leadership. Be the tide that raises all the boats around you.  

Are you throwing pebbles?

“Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success, and then just get a little more.”

Maya Angelou

 Momentum is a powerful force. If you throw enough pebbles at the top of the mountain, it will eventually become an avalanche. So you have to stay with it. Success begets success! 

Who are you?

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.”

 Vincent Van Gogh

What are those things you would do, for free, simply because you enjoy them so much? Maybe a better question is; who are you when you do the things that awaken the spirit within you?  

Are you willing to do the hard work?

“If your dream is a big dream, and if you want your life to work on the high level you say you do, there’s no way around doing the work it takes to get you there.”

Joyce Chapman

It has always amazed me how hard people will work to AVOID the work needed to do the job right. But, if you want to be successful, if you’re going to have an impact, if you’re going to make a difference, you have to:

Do. The. Work. The good work, the work that matters.  

There’s no way around it.  

Anything less is choosing to settle for something less than God created you to be. That’s a terrible choice.  

Are you writing the story you want to live?

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I don’t think I would change any of the adversity I have faced in life. However, there are some times and places where, given the opportunity, I would change how I reacted. Since I can’t change the story in the past, I must focus on learning from those experiences in order to change the story being written today.  Are you intentionally seeking to write a different story?

Are you alive?

“The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.”

Sir Richard Branson

Is it more important to you to live a perfectly “safe” life or one that has risks but also has rewards?  

Are you intentionally inviting reasonable risks into your life that will force you to stretch and grow? How do you even know you’re alive if you don’t have something that scares you a little? 

Are you building on success today?

“Success is a collection of problems solved.”

I. M. Pei

There is nothing quite so refreshing as having a significant problem to solve. There is nothing quite as rewarding as the feeling of having solved that problem.    

Every day is a new opportunity to add to the collection. What problems are you going to solve today?

Are you building yourself up?

“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.”

Jim Rohn

What happens if you don’t have goals or a plan? If you don’t have something you are intentionally working on, how can you expect to grow?

What do you see?

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Do you see your life as a series of challenges that you must endure or work, hard work, on the path to building your cathedral?  

Are you seeking challenges?

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”

Gever Tulley 

While there are many problems or challenges in life that I might wish to have avoided, there aren’t many outcomes of those challenges that I regret having in the quiver.  

Test yourself, not just to learn but to grow in your capacities for persistence & resilience.

Can you become the tide?

“We rise by lifting others.”

Robert Ingersoll

There is the old saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” What if, instead of putting your energy into rising with the tide, you spent your energy focusing on being the tide for someone else? How then would you be lifted?

Are you intelligently kind?

“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Some of the most intelligent people I know are also some of the kindest. They aren’t kind because they are smart; they are kind because they understand that we are not put on this earth to do for ourselves, but instead to do for others. So they use their intelligence to bring kindness to bear for as many people as possible.  

That’s what I admire.

Are you planting the seeds of future success today?

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.”

David Bly

This quote is akin to having a retirement philosophy based on playing the lottery. If you do the math, it just doesn’t work. If you don’t invest, you can’t reap the returns when you need to in the future.  

To be successful means you have to choose to sacrifice. You have to put aside that shallow want and buckle down and do the work. Only then can you begin to think about the harvest.  

Where are you planting the seeds of future success today? I.E., where are you putting in the work?

Is your identity based on where you are going?

“It isn’t where you come from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”

Ella Fitzgerald

So many people choose to live their lives with labels assigned to them by their past instead of creating a new identity. The beauty of life is that we are never merely a collection of experiences and the things we have done. We all have the opportunity to be something more, to become something meaningful. So, where are you going, who do you want to become?

Are you leading?

“Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin

If those in your care have fear, they will tell you what they think you want to hear. But, unfortunately, that isn’t leadership.

Besides, if everyone agrees with you, are you truly leading?  

Discretionary effort…

“If you’re interested you’ll do what’s convenient. If you’re committed you’ll do whatever it takes.”

John Assara

When a person is committed to something, you will put in the extra work required, no matter what it takes. I like to use the term “discretionary effort” to describe this. This is going above and beyond and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. The real question is this. What are those causes or initiatives that inspire you to do whatever it takes? Are you doing them?

Are you listening?

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”

 Doug Larson

If wisdom is the reward, what is on the other side if all you do is talk? What a shame to miss out on all that is available to learn, simply because you need to be heard…

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dusty

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