“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
Do you have everything you need to accomplish the dream you want to bring to life? If so, then why on earth are you waiting? Get after it, and stop making excuses.
If you don’t have every tool you might need at your disposal, why are you waiting? The magic “success fairy” isn’t going to magically show up at your front door and give you everything you need. No one has ever built something worthwhile and meaningful by waiting for “just the right time.”
Get off your rear end and figure it out. One year from now, you will be glad you did. If you don’t, then one year from now, you’ll still be waiting to start…
“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”
Howard E. Schultz
Life is too short NOT TO surround yourself with people who share a passionate commitment to a common purpose. Groups like this are force multipliers, where every ounce of energy seems to build exponentially.
Anything less is just a drain on the finite amount of energy you have to give to the world…
“Doing the easy thing makes you popular. Doing the hard thing makes you a leader.”
What is the difference between easy and hard? Perhaps one way to look at it is like this; it is easy to focus on what is best for YOU. Hard is concentrating on what is best for OTHERS, despite what it might mean for you…
“Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Is your life a debit or a credit to the lives of others? Do you bring value to people, or are you a person that extracts value from others?
Extracting value isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it matters significantly about where you want that value to be delivered. Is it for your benefit or the sake of those whom you serve? Which perspective will count and be meaningful after you are gone from this earth?
“Learning never takes place while you’re talking.”
The first place my mind went to upon reading this quote was the need to be quiet and listen when in others’ presence—the need to focus on asking quality questions and then listening, truly listening, to the responses.
Upon further reflection, I think there is much more to this, a much deeper level of meaning. What if I were to apply the same process and focus on myself? What if I were to ask myself the right questions and then focus on the answers that my mind creates?
Often in life, we spend all our time focused on the external but skip over or neglect the critical internal narrative and opportunity to learn by probing into our thoughts. Perhaps our most significant moment for learning will come from creating the ability to pause, the courage to ask and answer the tough questions, and the opportunity to reflect on and learn from the answers made within our minds.
As humans, we were explicitly created with this intention. “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.” Psalms 51:6 AMP
‘Learning never takes place while you are talking;’learning takes place when you are listening. What questions are you asking yourself, and are you devoting the time and attention to listen to the answers you create?
“One tree can start a forest. One smile can begin a friendship. One hand can lift a soul. One word can frame the goal. One candle can wipe out darkness. One laugh can conquer gloom. One touch can show you care. One life can make the difference. Be that one today.”
Every day we have a critical choice to make. We can happen to the world, or we can choose to let the world happen to us. Perhaps even more importantly, we have a decision to make regarding our lives’ impact on others. There will be an impact. Period. Full stop. The key is whether we are intentional with our decisions and how those decisions will architect others’ lives.
I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Andy Stanley’s new book “Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets” because I haven’t found anyone better than Andy at distilling complicated topics into meaningful and powerful questions. I just received my copy this week and have been DEVOURING it. Topically it is straightforward, but when you peel back the layers and ask yourself the questions he frames out, it is extraordinarily powerful. I highly recommend it.
One decision can make all the difference. What decisions will you make today that will positively impact the lives of others?
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
Frank A. Clark
Does the criticism you deliver well from a place of love and encouragement, or is it delivered in a manner that attempts to substantiate your authority or superiority?
If you genuinely bring a perspective of love and service to others, this quote will resonate with you. If not, then it might seem “soft” or “weak.” The key here is to identify and understand WHO you seek to serve with the criticism you are giving. Is it about you or someone else?
Last Tuesday, I had the incredible opportunity and blessing to share the day with two great friends and colleagues, David Childs and David Lillard of Spartan Planning and Branding. They are in Greensboro, NC, and were putting the final touches on their 2nd Annual Leadership Symposium aptly named “Spartan Pro Day.” Last year’s inaugural event was a resounding success, selling out and maximizing their venue’s capacity.
At the beginning of the year, David Childs asked me to be one of the speakers at this year’s event on the topic of leadership, and I was both thrilled and honored to play a small role in their vision of building leaders.
Year 2 was all set to build on last year’s success with space reserved at a venue twice the size, and present company excluded, an incredible roster of speakers. But, as the year progressed, the implications of a world forever changed by the pandemic began to influence their plans and thinking.
It would have been so easy for them to write off 2020, to say, “due to the state of the world and the restrictions on gathering, we are going to postpone Spartan Pro Day until we can produce the event safely.”
However, they both realized that there has never been a more critical time to highlight the impact of positive leadership and share content that would be highly powerful and meaningful to their constituents. So they did what great leaders do in a time of crisis and uncertainty. They pivoted to a new direction and held true to their vision of putting on a conference enabling leaders to “Grow Personally. Grow Professionally. Make A Difference.”
Spartan Pro Day is now a virtual event being held over the next three weeks, AND it is FREE OF CHARGE for anyone that would like to participate and grow.
Leadership is having a vision, and then doing whatever it takes to make that vision become a reality. As John Maxwell writes, “leadership is influence,” and Spartan Pro Day was an incredible influence on me, and I am grateful to have played a small role in bringing their vision to life.
If you are interested in enrolling, check out the link below. As a sports fan and a Carolina Panthers fan, I particularly loved the stories shared by Mick Mixon in his “Tales from the Press Box” session.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
Courage = “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”
I love the specific phrase “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person” from the definition above. How is the quality of your mind right now? What are you doing to enhance it? Do you know how or what to do to improve in this area? How can you demonstrate courage when needed if you aren’t intentionally caring for the quality of your mind or spirit daily?
It is interesting to think that one needs courage to practice any other virtue consistently. But to have courage, one must have a strong quality of mind or spirit. To accomplish this seemingly circular argument, you must have the fortitude to look in the mirror and hold yourself accountable for doing whatever it takes to heighten the quality of your own spirit. If you don’t, then you are choosing by omission to live a weak life, lacking in courage…
“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”
The ability to change is rooted in a certain degree of flexibility. Without this, change, growth, and progress are all limited. What is it that you “believe” that is limiting your growth? It is true simply because it is what you believe?
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Wikipedia, “An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Experiments vary greatly in goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results.”
How many of your major decisions, or minor ones, have you reviewed through the lens of experimentation? If all life is an experiment, how much of our time do we spending acting in such a manner?
There are three themes of questions: building blocks of experimentation that could and should be leveraged in our daily lives.
What is my hypothesis? What am I seeking to support, refute, or validate with this action or decision?
Based on the results of my experiment, what did I learn? What does a “logical analysis of the results” reveal?
Based on the answers to the above questions, what is my new hypothesis? What lessons on cause and effect will I carry forward into my next decision or set of actions?
When you start some new project, initiative, or idea, are you seeking to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis? Do you seek to understand the results in a non-emotional and quantitative manner?
Imagine how powerful our lives would be if we chose to live with an attitude of experimentation in all of our decisions? What if everything was done through a lens of learning and growth? Test and learn, evolve, and grow.
“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.”
It is funny how we start life with an attitude of learning and development, but somewhere along the way, we are taught that the result matters more than the attempt.
This belief creates a limit on what people can achieve because there are two key focal points. One, winning is everything, and I won’t try if I can’t win. Two, losing is bad, and I won’t try if the risk of losing is too high.
As young children, we attempt things with no fear of failure because we don’t think of our endeavor as a win or loss. We try, we learn, we develop. Then we grow up, and our measuring stick of success changes. Somehow we must rediscover our childlike attitude of going for it without the requirement of winning or letting the fear of failure limit our attempts…
“If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth. They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or kids on TV. When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self. If you compare your relationships, your success, or your anything against anyone else, you are not being fair to you. Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.”
I love the analogy used in this quote, the absolute truth conveyed by the pencil marks on the wall. Those were specific data points from a moment in time that can’t be changed or stretched to fit a different narrative or used to compare to someone else.
What are the “marks on the wall” in your life today? How do you measure your growth in a specific and objective manner, not subject to interpretation by or comparison to others? What are you doing to ensure that you are capturing your advancement in life and ensuring that you are continually moving forward and making progress?
Perhaps you need to create a measurement mechanism and a timeline for regular review to capture where you are at specific moments in time, just like those pencil marks on the wall.
Ask yourself these three simple questions two to three times per year. Use the same journal or writing medium, so as time passes, you can look back at your answers and see how YOU have grown and evolved.
Who do I want to be?
Why is this important to me?
How do I need to change to become that person?
Notice that none of these questions are about “what do I want?” Or “what do others expect?” These questions are about drilling into yourself and creating a discipline of regular check-ins to establish a baseline and measure your progress.
Give it a try. Go ahead and answer these questions today, and when you get done, put time on your calendar six months from now to do it again. Add another appointment for one year from today. You are making this appointment with and for yourself. Can you imagine how influential this journal would be ten, fifteen, or twenty years from today? I certainly wish I had started this practice twenty years ago, I can’t begin to imagine how powerful it would be to have a quantitative measuring stick of my evolution and progress.
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”
Challenges are a gift. Getting knocked down is a benefit. Having difficult problems to solve is an opportunity to come back better and stronger.
It’s not always easy to remember this when you face something you don’t know how you are going to overcome. It can be all too easy to feel sorry for yourself in the face of adversity. But when the time has passed, and you can clearly see the benefits of having been knocked down and how you emerged better and more robust, you can look forward to the next big problem to solve.
Imagine how your life would be if you never faced adversity if there were no difficult problems to solve. You wouldn’t be the person you are today, and you wouldn’t have a strong foundation to build the person you were intended to become.
Embrace the trials and the problems and the challenges. It is only through overcoming that you can truly grow…
“Why escape your intended purpose by copying and trying to be someone else? You will discover who you were meant to be only after you have shown confidence being yourself.”
There is nothing wrong with seeing things others do exceedingly well and being inspired and motivated by their efforts. But instead of merely copying what others do, and losing yourself along the way, perhaps a better way to approach it is with the toolbox concept in mind.
Think of each thing that inspires you as a tool that you would like to add to your toolbox. You aren’t copying and trying to be someone else; instead, you seek to add specific and value-added tools to your own unique set of capabilities.
Throughout a lifetime, no one will build a set of tools and skills as unique as yours. By collecting and curating a distinct collection of aptitudes, you will create a very specialized toolbox, one that is uniquely suited to fulfill your God-given purpose.
Perhaps it is through the collection of the right tools that you can uncover your real purpose?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV
“I will sprinkle compliments and uplifting words everywhere I go.”
It is amazing how powerful a few letters and syllables strung together in just the right order can be. Lives can be changed forever based on the words we use. Knowing this shouldn’t we choose words that uplift and positively impact the lives of others?
10 years from now what do you want people to remember about you and the words you chose to use? Will your words matter?
“It’s not about achieving the goal. It’s about who you become in order to achieve the goal. The juice is in the growth.”
Perhaps an alternative way to think about this is to turn the quote inside out. Have you ever achieved a goal that you desperately wanted, and hated the person you became through the process? I position it this way not to be a “Debbie downer” but to illustrate the power of purpose and the importance of choosing the right goals for our lives.
Perhaps we should stop making our plans based on achieving some specific thing or outcome, but instead, we should select our targets based on the process of growth that we will have to complete to make them a reality. Maybe we should choose our goals based on who we want to become through the journey.
Let me share a simple example. Several years ago, my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) and I traveled to Colorado and climbed Mt. Yale, one of Colorado’s famous “14’rs” (mountains that have their peak above 14,000 feet). We started just after daylight and achieved the summit just before midday. We enjoyed a few minutes at the top of the mountain, took some pictures, and then headed back down the trail for our 6-mile hike back to our car. My memories of that day, and most of the pictures we took along the way, are of the journey. It was the entirety of the shared experience, what it meant for our burgeoning relationship and a discovery of a shared passion for challenging hikes that made the journey meaningful and impactful. Achieving the goal was nice, but it wasn’t the thing that truly mattered. What happened along the way was what was actually important.
Do you choose mountains in order to achieve the summit or do you want to soak in the experience of the journey along the way? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 ESV
Is it the achievement of the goal that matters or who you become in pursuit of the RIGHT GOALS that is truly important?
“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D
How many things do you do in your day that bring you total and complete joy? How much of our lives do we spend pursuing these things versus the simple act of “survival?” I’m talking about the things you do not because you have to, not because you are required or expected to, but those that serve to restore and renew your energy.
Close your eyes. Think of something you love to do that truly invigorates your mind, body, and spirit. Now for the hard question, how much time do you intentionally allocate towards doing this activity? What would it take to do more? Why aren’t you doing it?
Now for the hard part, pull out your calendar and review your schedule. Find time in the next week to do this thing you love, which brings you joy. The time will pass regardless, shouldn’t you choose how you will spend it?
“Not seeing results? Feel like giving up? Consider this: The last thing to grow on a fruit tree… is the fruit.”
If you plant an apple seed today then it will take 6 – 8 years for the tree to grow and then begin to produce fruit. Does this mean you shouldn’t plant the tree? Water and care for the tree? Skip the hard work along way while waiting for the tree to mature to the point where it is capable of producing apples?
Consider this. When an apple tree does mature, and begin to deliver on the vision you had when you first planted it, it can grow 2-5 BUSHELS of apples PER YEAR. That’s a lot of apples.
The moral of the story is this. In our “everything now” world sometimes we get focused on eating an apple RIGHT THIS MINUTE. However, focusing on the right now might cause you to miss out on the incredible fruit that is just around the corner.
The ability we each have to deliver on our potential, and produce bushels of output impacting the lives of others, will come through disciplined focus and care on growth process, not on the fruit itself. The fruit is the result you achieve by not giving up on your dreams when the work is hard and you can’t see past the near term challenges.
If we don’t lose focus and hope we will mature and grow and learn to produce fruit for the world to consume in quantities which greatly exceed our current capacities. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
“When you take care of yourself, you’re a better person for others. When you feel good about yourself, you treat others better.”
It is amazing how the lens through which you view yourself impacts how you treat everyone around you. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish if you truly want to serve others and serve them well. What have you done yourself, and others, today?
“Empathy is the starting point for creating a community and taking action. It’s the impetus for creating change.”
Empathy is the ability to see the world through the eyes of another person. It requires putting down your own preconceived notions about what is or isn’t true, and making yourself vulnerable to being wrong. Empathy is about the willingness to have your own life changed.
Empathy isn’t feeling sorry for someone else. It isn’t about being more compassionate because you are “supposed to be.” Empathy is about truly caring, deeply, and profoundly caring about another human being’s needs and experiences.
Once you have experienced the world through the lens of someone else you can never unsee those things. You might be able to ignore or attempt to forget what you have seen but you cannot break that emotional connection and this implies great vulnerability.
Perhaps this is the reason so many are unwilling to attempt a truly empathic connection. To make yourself vulnerable carries a responsibility to change your own mind and then accountability to help create change for others…
“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
How would you show up tomorrow if you know you are being measured by your capabilities instead of your past accomplishments?
Isn’t this how we should always view our work and work outputs? I like to think of this as the mindset of a job interview versus a resume review. On one hand you are discussing what you can do, while on the other hand it is all about what you have done.
As I write this I can’t get the lyrics of the BTO classic out of my head… “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” This is the engine which should drive us all…
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
If you aren’t careful, the worries of the world, those temporary things which cloud the mind and distract from what is truly important, can occupy all of the space in your mind. As a rule, we humans tend to weigh ourselves down with things that, in the end, won’t matter and ignore the things that do matter.
The key to keeping the important things in focus is to intentionally carve out the time to reflect on exactly the sentiment expressed in this wisdom from Marcus Aurelius. I believe it means as much, if not more, in today’s age as it did when he wrote it almost 2000 years ago.
Take 5 minutes when waking up EVERY DAY to pause and reflect on the gifts and blessings that you DO HAVE in life. Perhaps start a gratitude journal to jot down these things. Do whatever you need to add a process of active gratitude into your life. I guarantee you will find your outlook for the day, month, year, changing. More importantly, you will find your outlook on life itself changing. You might find that these five minutes are the most crucial moments of your entire day.
“Self-reflection is a humbling process. It’s essential to find out why you think, say, and do certain things – then better yourself.”
Can you be real with yourself? Truly honest? If you want to create a better version of yourself, the first step is to curate internal conversations that frankly won’t be very comfortable. Sometimes the hardest person to be truthful with is the one who lives inside our own minds.
For me, this starts with a willingness to ask tough questions and then sitting down with a journal to write out my answers. I find the act of writing to be the defining factor that allows me to separate my internal narrative, the story I believe in my head, from a broader and more instrospective truth. When I write the worlds flow from my hands without a filter, without a conscious narrative that distorts the truth.
Of course, the most important step is to find the right questions. The easiest way to circumvent accountability and ownership is to avoid the questions you don’t want to have to answer. I found a good list of questions several years ago and I am going through an exercise now to answer each of these in order. These might not be the right questions for you but it is a good place to start. You can’t create the right answers if you don’t ask the right questions.
Challenge yourself to take the next 100 days and answer one question each day. Be honest in your answers, don’t overthink, just grab a pen and paper or your favorite digital journal and simply write. You might be surprised what you learn about yourself…
“Where ever there is anxiety there is opportunity.”
What makes you anxious? What are the things which provide you with a sense of fear, doubt or worry? Now think of all the products and services that are out there to address your specific anxieties.
Worried about passing away and leaving your family destitute?
Life Insurance = Check
Anxious about running out of gas on a road trip?
There’s an app, or ten, for that.
Anxious about having enough time to go grocery shopping?
Instacart is here to save the day!
This list could go on and on…
There are two things come to mind as I meditate on the meaning of this quote. First, there are lots of solutions out there which have been created with the express purpose of addressing a customer need or underlying anxiety. If one is anxious then perhaps a quick search is in order to see if there are already remedies available for your particular challenge.
Second, and most important, what is the true source of your anxiety? Why does one feel the way they do about a given situation or circumstance? For example, what is the real cause of the issue mentioned above about having enough time to go grocery shopping? Is it about having enough time to shop, or about being spread to thin in aspects of life and not having enough margin and balance?
Recognizing a sense of anxiety can be the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to identifying opportunities for solutions which can then be either purchased or created, or digging deeper and understanding the root cause of your feelings.
When in doubt it is worthwhile to bear this in mind, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:27 ESV
“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”
There are two voices inside your mind. One says YOU CAN and one says YOU CAN’T. The one that you choose to listen to will define your ability to grow and succeed in life. The beauty is that we each get to choose which voice we are going to follow. One is limiting the other is liberating. Which one will you choose today?
“If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one.”
Given the unique times we currently live in, where every day feels like groundhog day, it can be hard to think of and be aware of a desired and intentional future. But isn’t this the most important time to be future-oriented? How else can you provide meaning and context to the efforts that you are putting forth on a daily basis?
I am continually amazed by how many people don’t have a plan for their lives. In essence, they don’t have a life plan, they have an “existence plan.” Goals and dreams exist, but none of the hard and intentional work which is required to bring those things into fruition is ever done. I don’t understand this approach to life though I have been guilty of it many many times. It is so easy to get caught up in the here and now and forget all about the future you desire to create.
Whenever I get captured by the current moment I find it useful to think of my perception of time as a “dual-lens” metaphor.
On one side of the continuum you have the magnifying glass. An incredibly powerful and useful tool that allows you to see up close and observe intricate details about where you are right now in life.
On the other side of the spectrum you have the telescope. A powerful tool which allows you to see with great clarity those things which are an incredible distance from you.
Being able to switch between a “dual-lens” approach to viewing the world is the key to capturing the future, your future, and then bringing it into the here and now. You have to be able to see over the horizon and then create the specific focus needed TODAY in order to make the future you see reality.
Practice asking yourself this question. “Should I be using my telescope or my magnifying glass today?” Both tools are extremely useful, you just have to use the right one at the right time…
“One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.”
Failure is a daily occurrence. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, how much we strive, or how diligent we attempt to be in our lives. We will fail. And this is okay. Failure is an incredibly important part of life. Without failure, we wouldn’t know how to grow, or that growth is even needed. Recognizing failure for what it is, an opportunity, is one of the most profoundly liberating components of life.
How we react and respond to failure will define who we become. Every day is a new occasion to grow and learn. Every failure is an opportunity to improve. Every step forward is progress.
The key to growth, the key to change, the key to unlocking the person you were created to be is perseverance. With perseverance, one can achieve almost anything. With persistence and determination failure isn’t the end of the story, it is simply the beginning of the next story...
Perseverance is what allows one to overcome the daily struggles that we will all face. I am reminded of these words which the Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans, ‘Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ‘ Romans 5:2-5
Daily failure = daily opportunity. When you look at life through this lens it is amazing how much one can accomplish.
“Live life as though nobody is watching and express yourself as though everyone is listening.”
What does it mean to “live life as though nobody is watching?” For me, this is a call to live an authentic and purpose-driven life. To live without fear of judgment and comparison to others. It is the freedom to live a life that is unique and intentional and uniquely yours free of the need to perform based on on the expectations of others.
How about the phrase “express yourself as though everyone is listening?” For me, this is being highly aware of the power of your words and need to curate those worlds specifically and with great care. It is the knowledge that your words carry tremendous weight and must be aligned with your behaviors and actions. If you words aren’t chosen with car and thought then you run the risk of expressing yourself in a manner that is inconsistent with your beliefs and motivations.
Both of these things are so much easier said than done. It requires tremendous focus and the ability to balance two disparate aspects of your life and mind. It is the freedom to follow your calling and pursue your honest purpose and the ability to choose your words and deliver them with measured impact. It is being true to your calling, focused on the lighthouse over the horizon and yet be aware of the need to navigate wisely so as not to end up on the shoals represented by choosing your words poorly.
Freedom and focus. Honest and aware. That is the way to live…