What is your plan for the day?

“No excuses. No explanation. You don’t win on emotion. You win on execution.”

Tony Dungy

To execute, you have to have a plan. Of course, it might be the wrong or even a terrible one, but you must have a plan in mind when you begin each day. The time will pass, the day will end, and when you look back later in life, you will see a series of days well spent pursuing plans that mattered or wasted time and squandered opportunities. I don’t know about you, but the latter certainly makes me emotional. So there are no excuses; get after the day with a plan in mind!

Are you willing and able?

“The will to win is worth nothing unless you have the will to prepare.”

Anonymous

Sleep in or work out?

Studying industry news or an extra episode of a Netflix show?

Many people want to win, but very few are able to enforce their will to make it happen.  

How about you?

Are you willing to go the second mile?

“Do your work with your whole heart and you will succeed – there is so little competition.”

Elbert Hubbard

One of my favorite verses from the New Testament is Matthew 5:41-42. Here Jesus is teaching that when one is pressed into work, you are to do so beyond the minimum commitment (in those times, this was one mile carrying a heavy load) and go the second mile. Can you imagine how few people are willing to DOUBLE the required effort and do so willingly? No wonder there is so little competition along the second mile. 

‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.’ Matthew 5:41 

How are you curating your quiet spaces?

“The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.”

Greg McKeown

How do you feel when setting aside time to think? Do you feel guilty for not being busy? Are you distracted by thoughts that you are ‘missing’ something on one of the many digital devices that easily enslave us?

How about a quiet space? DO you have a place or routine that allows you to think without undue distractions? What does quiet ‘sound’ like for you? Is it mental peace and quiet or something more? Do you require physical separation from the noisy world?

We each have 168 hours or 10,080 minutes to invest each week. How many of those minutes are you able to intentionally spend in that quiet place doing the deep thinking required to enable long-term success? Be honest with yourself; if the answer is zero, how are you going to change the answer?

Are you building bridges or barriers?

“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)

It is incredible how stuck people become on winning, at all costs. Instead of viewing a challenge with the long view and thinking about win/win solutions, much energy is spent winning the moment’s battle.  

Our world today is filled with so much uncertainty and volatility (VUCA is a post for another day) that aligning where appropriate instead of hunkering down to fight alone is a much more strategic and long-term approach.  

Be a builder, but know what it is you are building…

Do you have a plan to learn?

“The swiftest way to triple your success is to double your investment in personal development.”

Robin Sharma

Where do you want to be one year from today? What is the gap between where you want to be and where you currently are? Do you have a personal development plan to close that gap? Do you have a prioritized list of books to read, podcasts to listen to, and online courses to sign up for? Perhaps more importantly, have you scheduled the time to do these things? Is it on your calendar daily, weekly or monthly? If the answer to any of the questions is “no, ” what are you waiting for? Success is on the other side of hard work.

“But I don’t have time to do these things!” 

It is easy to let our time be an asset we don’t manage. So easy to watch one more episode of the latest show on Netflix. So easy to skip the hour you have set aside to read to handle urgent but unimportant emails or tasks. Doing those things might be fun or necessary, but they aren’t helping you grow. If you want to be better, different, or more successful, you must invest the time. Schedule the time. Start with something simple, but schedule it. Plan your work so you can work your plan.  

Next, find a mentor, ask them for one book to read, and then do it. It’s your life you are managing; manage it. Finally, ask yourself, on August 8th, 2022, how much will I have grown? The time is going to pass; use it wisely and with intent.

Are you focused on the right problem?

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place the blame.”

Courtney Lynch

“I should have handled this differently than I did, and I own that. Now, what are we going to do differently next time to ensure a different outcome? I will be holding you accountable for meeting our mutually agreed upon expectations. Are you willing and able to own those results?”

That’s certainly a lot better than “what the heck were you thinking,” or any other variety of blameshifting…

Are you failing to succeed?

“Sometimes failure is the tuition you pay for success.”

Craig Groeschel

One of my favorite exercises to complete after any significant initiative, personal or professional, good or bad, is the After Action Review.  These five questions allow you to codify success or failure and begin learning and growth.  

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

In preparation for any key initiative taking the time to think through a variation of the first three questions is highly impactful and will maximize your likelihood of success.  

  1. What are my intended results?
  2. How will I measure those results?
  3. What will cause these results?

Everyone will fail; the question is whether or not you can convert this experience into one with a positive return on investment? Why pay the tuition if you aren’t going to learn anything? 

We are each accountable and responsible…

“To be accountable means that we are willing to be responsible to another person for our behavior and it implies a level of submission to another’s opinions and viewpoints.”

Wayde Goodall

“Willing to be responsible to another person for OUR behavior.” I particularly like this portion of the quote; it means you must maintain a willingness to be accountable for your behaviors’ impact on others, whether intentional or not. 

The second portion of the quote, “implies a level of submission to another’s opinions and viewpoints,” conveys that one must actively seek an understanding of how your behaviors impact others. Since you are responsible, you are then accountable for that impact.

We don’t live in a vacuum, our behaviors have a profound impact on the lives of others, and we can’t blindly say, “that’s just the way that I am.” That isn’t accountability.

The freedom to be better…

“Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.”

Albert Camus

The 4th of July is THE American holiday. It is a time when we get together with friends and family and celebrate our nation’s birth and the freedoms we enjoy with cookouts and fireworks. However, it is so easy to take those freedoms for granted. Perhaps today should be more than barbecue and outdoor fun. Today is an opportunity to reflect on the chance you have to choose to be a better person. Our Freedom wasn’t free, and we should leave the world a better place than when we arrived. Happy Freedom to “be better” day!

man with fireworks
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

To feel alive, find a way to be outside…

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.”

Edward Abbey

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take the boys for a hike at Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National park. My goal was to get them outside for some good exercise and expose them to something new and different. I spoke to the park ranger, who suggested an easy trail that wouldn’t overwhelm short legs but would give plenty to see and experience along the way, and we set out on our adventure.  

We discovered remarkable rocks, amazing sticks, daddy long legs, turkey vultures, and weird bugs along the way. We discussed different plants and the challenges of walking on trails with lots of roots and rocks. Then, at the mid-point of our hike, we “discovered” a two-hundred-year-old cabin built entirely by hand that blew the boy’s minds. (Although the giant chocolate chip cookies I surprised them with might have been the discovery that genuinely excited them.)

A simple three-mile hike “for the boys” turned into a grand adventure and a reconnection with nature for me.  

Three things I learned or was reminded of yesterday.  

  1. There is incredible value to being “disconnected,” especially in today’s hyperconnected world. My mobile phone didn’t work for about four to five hours, and for that brief time, no distractions were pulling away from the incredible world around us. It amazed me how quickly I could put the phone aside when I knew it wasn’t going to work. There was no draw to check emails, texts, or other messages. This disconnection allowed me to be present in each moment without fear of “missing out.” Instead, I didn’t miss out on what was going on right there in the moment.  
  2. Being outside in nature is a constant exercise in “new” things. I have been in love with the outdoors my entire life. ‘Ranger Rick,’ ‘National Geographic,’ ‘Sports Afield,’ and ‘Outdoor Life’ were some of my favorite readings as a young boy. However, no matter how much you have read or seen, there is always something new to experience or do. Nature is wild and dynamic; it is never the same experience twice. I was reminded of this as I answered constant questions and explained different plants, scat signs, and other things you can only find when you get out in the woods. It was new for the boys and new for me.
  3. Being outside and seeing the grandness of the “wilderness” (as it were…) is a phenomenal way to recharge the batteries and reconnect with our heritage as a species. Humans are not built to live in concrete boxes, breathing sterile air in temperature-controlled environments with no discomforts other than self-imposed mental stressors. We are made to be part of nature, to be challenged by nature, and to feel alive because of nature.  

This was supposed to be a trip for the boys, but it ended up being for me. ‘Wilderness’ is essential for the soul, just as water and bread are vital for the body.

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Who is helping you execute your great ideas?

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything. It takes a team to win.”

John Doerr

“Hey, wouldn’t it be great if…” 

How many great ideas have you had in life? How many initiatives are started but never finished or reached the goal line? Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you wish you could improve your focus and discipline and ensure that the most important things are executed fully?

The key to execution is building a habit of exceptional discipline. While you can do this independently, it is much easier if you have a team to help hold you accountable along the way. So who is on your team, and how are you guaranteeing relentless execution through robust dialogue, feedback, and accountability?  

Do you want to look back in ten years and measure yourself based on how many remarkable initiatives you started or how well you executed the most critical and impactful things?

The Facts vs. The Truth

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.”

Maya Angelou

Fact: A lot is going on right now, and I don’t have time to write a daily blog post.  

Truth: I am a better leader, learner, and thinker when I take the time to write.

Fact: I have a limited and finite amount of time; I have to ensure that I spend it in a manner that maximizes return on invested time.

Truth: Writing clarifies my thinking, and the returns compound over time.

Fact: I don’t know how many people will ever read or be impacted by what I write.

Truth: I will…

Focus on the force…

“Your focus determines your reality.”

Qui-Gon Jinn

It seems appropriate to use a quote from a Star Wars character on May the fourth. I imagine most folks won’t know the source (I didn’t either, in full disclosure), but the wisdom within is powerful regardless of whether a “reel” person said it.  

You can apply this to almost every possible expenditure of your precious life energy.  

If you focus on the things that make you angry, you will be angry. 

If you focus on the people you love, you will feel love.

If you focus on the things that don’t matter, your life won’t matter.  

If you focus on being a force OF good, your life will be a force FOR good. Maybe there is something to this “force” stuff.  

May the force be with you…

Your obstacle is a gift…

“Smile at the obstacle, for it is a bridge.”

Medusa

One of the books that I reread regularly is “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holiday. I love seeing how people we now hold in high regard had challenges and roadblocks in their lives that would have stopped the average person in their tracks. However, as you read their stories and understand the obstacles they faced, you learn that in many cases, it was the obstacle itself that provided them the opportunity to become the person we now esteem.  

The obstacle you face is the gift; it is the moment of opportunity you have been waiting for. What are you going to do with it?

Are you willing to receive the gift of coaching?

“One of the most important things about leadership is that you have to have the kind of humility that will allow you to be coached.”

Jim Yong Kim

It is the greatest gift in the world when someone takes the time from their day to provide you with feedback, perspective, and insight that permits you to keep growing. Accept the gift with grace and understanding. If you want to be a scholar of leadership, you must be willing to be a perpetual student. You will never “win” and know everything there is to know or be good enough to stop learning. Thank goodness for the folks who are helping us learn!

Will you ”be” happy in ten years?

“People care so much about being happy that they can’t be.”

Maxime Lagacé

Ten years ago, what was the one thing you wanted to achieve or have to be “happy?” Do you even remember what it was that occupied your mind and mental space? 

Quick, what is the one thing you are working on RIGHT NOW that will make you happy?

Will it matter in ten years? If the answer is no, then why are you letting it occupy so much of your headspace? Let it be…

Are you willing to give yourself the space to listen?

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”

Frank Capra

A hunch, the whisp of an idea, the almost imperceptible needling at the back of your mind that you can’t quite reach. There is so much power to listening and seeking to understand what your subconscious is trying to tell you. The challenge is that we rarely give ourselves the time and space to hear. We are too busy doing and perceive movement as progress. Instead, we get caught on the treadmill of life and miss out on the hunches that are trapped within our minds. 

What is creativity trying to tell you today? Will you give it the space needed to hear what is going on?

How’s the space in your mind?

“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

In today’s age setting aside the time and space to create a “quiet mind” is almost viewed negatively. It is socially more acceptable to be busy all the time than to give oneself space to read, reflect and learn—what a shame. 

Progress and growth aren’t created in the margins of life; it is made when one makes room for a blank page to do the new and creative work. To build strength, you must give yourself space to breathe, think and reflect.

What are you willing to turn off to allow yourself this space?  

a notebook with blank pages beside a pen and cup of coffee
Photo by Cup of Couple on Pexels.com

Are you humble enough to be willing to grow?

“Humility is the surest sign of strength.”

Thomas Merton

Are you willing to be wrong? The ego will tell you that others are wrong, don’t understand, or aren’t smart enough to appreciate all that you know.  

If you already know, you can’t grow, and if you can’t grow, you can’t get stronger. So if you can’t get stronger, you can’t get better and if you aren’t getting better, then by default, aren’t you getting weaker? 

Humility is the key to growth. Knowing you don’t know and can learn and serve others allows one to build their influence and impact, which is strength…

Are you focused on success?

“Success in business is all about people, people, and people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its biggest competitive advantage.” 

Sir Richard Branson

The inverse is also true; if a company doesn’t understand the sentiment above, their people will be their most significant competitive disadvantage…  

Are you focused on being advantaged or disadvantaged? Are you enabling growth or devaluation? 

People, people, and people. Where’s your focus?

Are you being silent with your gifts?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

My devotional study verse for this morning aligns well with today’s quote. If one is going to serve, you cannot ignore your gifts. You cannot overlook the opportunity to lean in and give your talents away. 

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You can’t choose to be silent about things that matter because when you do, you are being selfish with the gifts and talents given to you. After all, why did you receive them if not to make a difference in the lives of others?

Will it make the boat go faster?

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston Churchill

I recently heard the story of the British Rowing Team, who in 1998, after a 7th place finish in the World Rowing Championship, realized that if they wanted to break free from mediocrity, they would have to do something very different. Their answer was to use one clarifying question to bring a relentless focus on the goal they sought to achieve. Their question was, “will it make the boat go faster” and they used this query to frame every decision they made both individually and as a team. As a result, two years later, they successfully won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.  

What does this have to do with today’s quote? Great question. In today’s world, distractions are more accessible than ever. It is easy to find “barking dogs” to throw stones at and find oneself pulled further and further away from the things that matter. So before investing time and energy into ANYTHING, perhaps it would make sense to tune into the clarifying question that brings focus to your life and allows you to put down the stones and bring all your energy to bear on reaching your destination.   

What’s your “will it make the boat go faster” question?

Are you appreciating the journey?

“In reflecting on the times of my life, it occurs to me that the difficult, arduous experiences always pass, or at least wane to a tolerable level. On the other hand, thankfully, the positive, uplifting aspects of my life journey seem to hold strong and steady throughout, as long as I appreciate and nurture them.”

David L. Weatherford

Challenges are meaningful, influential, and clarifying. However, if not careful, one can index towards a mental state where all you see are the challenges and forget about the good things in your journey. The words “as long as I appreciate and nurture them” are extremely important. If you don’t, then all you will ever see are the “diffficult, arduous experiences,” and you’ll miss all the gain these experiences have brought to you. 

How are you nurturing and appreciating your life journey’s positive and uplifting aspects? For myself, a gratitude journal is a daily practice, and I can’t imagine where I would be without it…

What is the worst that can happen?

“One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.”

Randy Pausch

One of my favorite thought exercises is to ask myself, “what is the worst that can happen?” Once you understand the worst possible outcome and what you can do about it, it liberates you to drive forward with understanding and intent. If the worst happens, you know what to do about it, and you are mentally prepared.

So, what’s the worst that can happen?

What are your fundamentals?

“In a world of constant change, the fundamentals are more important than ever.”

James C. Collins

What truly matters? At the end of the day, week, month, year, how will you know you have been successful? Things will change, but the things that matter and are essential are constant. If you don’t clearly understand your fundamentals, the things that are important and must be held as the standard, how can you ever be ready to face change? How will you ever be able to say “no” to the things that aren’t?

Are you looking for the icebergs?

“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”

William Arthur Ward

What are three things you discovered about someone yesterday that enhanced your opinion or perspective or understanding of them? Are three too many? How about two things? One? Did you discover the best in anyone at all yesterday? Last week?

My point is that if you aren’t intentional about seeking the best in others to discover the hidden value lying under the surface, you won’t find it. It is lying there under the surface, like an iceberg. You only see what you are looking for, so start looking under the water. 

If you are looking for value, greatness, understanding in others with intention, authenticity, and curiosity, think of the impact on the relationships around you. Think of the impact on YOUR quality of thinking and life. Your best self shows up when you help unlock the value others provide…

Focus on a target and hold it there…

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target and hold it there, you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”

Zig Ziglar

Getting started is easy. Choosing a target is easy. Writing out a plan of attack, you guessed it, easy too. 

What’s hard? These four words, “and hold it there.”  Yet, this is the key to long-term success. This is the key to unlocking the potential buried inside yourself. One must have relentless drive, determination, persistence, and patience. Sticking with it, holding your focus when it gets hard, that’s when the magic happens.

Success isn’t a lottery ticket. You can’t depend on getting lucky; you count on doing the work, the hard, brutal, sweat-inducing work. To everyone on the outside, it might look easy, but you’ll know better. Hold it there… 

Is it written down?

“Clear, written goals have a wonderful effect on your thinking. They motivate you and galvanize you into action. They stimulate your creativity, release your energy, and help you to overcome procrastination as much as any other factor.”

Brian Tracy

What is the one thing you wish you had done LAST year? Was it written down? Would it be a regret or an accomplishment if it had been?

Are you thinking about acting? Or acting on thinking?

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.”

Jerry Sternin

How many times have you known the right action to take, but for some reason not done so because you didn’t have the energy, the time, or some other ‘excuse?’

What if you took the step, instead of thinking about it and delaying, you were simply focused on the very next right action.

How would your thinking evolve?

What’s the worst that could happen?

What ”habit of committing” are you embracing today?

“The habit of committing far more time to learning and thinking than to doing is no accident.”

 Charlie Munger

Reading a good book, whether for pleasure or to embrace new knowledge, is one of life’s great delights. There are so many incredible texts that have been written through the ages that inspire deep thought and shift one’s perspective on a variety of topics. But, unfortunately, it is harder now to find time to read and apply the learnings to one’s life due to the constant competition for our attention from all variety of distractions.  

I love the phrase “habit of committing” from today’s quote. Doing this is the hard part and the component that requires rigor and intentionality. Purposefully setting aside the time to curate a daily discipline of reading, learning, thinking is the secret of personal growth. If you aren’t deliberately investing your time towards activities that spur learning and thinking, you are simply spending your time. There is a tremendous difference between time expended as an investment and time merely spent.  

How will you curate a habit of intentional investment into learning and thinking? What good book are you going to start reading today?

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dusty

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