Myself or others?

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about looking after those in our charge.”

Simon Sinek

What percentage of your time do you spending looking at leadership through this lens? How of much of your energy and effort is focused on delivering on this principle?

Generally speaking we are naturally wired to focus on self before others. Overcoming this tendency is a critical step towards becoming an authentic and true leader.

“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Think of the leaders you have worked for and with. Did they demonstrate these principles? If yes, then what is your perception of, and attitude towards, their leadership? If no, then the same question applies. Which one did you respect more? Which one motivated you as a person? Whom do you want to emulate?

Reflect on and answer this simple question for yourself today. “Who am I focused on taking care of, myself or others?”

Unlock the power of discipline…

“Discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want to get.”

Andy Andrews

What is it that you want to accomplish? What is a result that you deeply desire? Exactly how much do you want it? Are you willing to do the work to achieve it? More importantly, are you willing to do the work after the excitement fades? When the effort is no longer fun and has become pure drudgery and sticking to it is really hard to do? That’s when real discipline comes in to play. Talk is cheap, action is cheap too, at least for the first few days. Then the real work starts.

Anyone can motivate themselves to take the first step in a journey. Even the first hundred steps might not be that hard. But what about the steps after that? What if you don’t know exactly how long the journey is going to take?

Discipline means sticking to your plan, doing the work, focusing on getting the next step in the journey right, not worrying about whether there are 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 more steps remaining. Doing the right work, the right way, right now, is all that matters. If you can do this, for the things that are truly important, you have discipline. If you can’t, then you can develop this powerful trait, by just doing it, day in, day out, one day at a time.

What is important enough to you to put forth this kind of effort, with no guarantee of success? Answer this question and you will uncover what it takes to unlock the power of discipline.

Mediocrity…

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”

Andrew Carnegie

It is easy to motivate yourself to do the fun things, those activities that are rewarding and enjoyable. But do you have the internal drive to do those things that need to be done when you don’t want to do them? That is where the need for motivation comes in. If you can’t push yourself to do the effort that matters, when it isn’t necessarily enjoyable, you will never be all that you are capable of becoming.

So what drives you? What gets you out of bed in the morning with energy and vigor ready to do the hard work necessary to achieve your goals? If you can’t answer this question immediately then I highly recommend that you spend time figuring this out. Because if you don’t, then life will be mediocre…

I can think of nothing worse than to know that you have achieved less than you were capable of simply because you didn’t have the discipline and motivation to do the work.

How do you measure prosperity?

“Without labor nothing prospers.”

Sophocles

That which we work for and earn through labor is what we truly value. Getting something without putting in the effort creates a false happiness that is both temporary and fleeting. But when you do the work, and you put in the effort, and you then earn the reward, you appreciate the experience in a far different way.

True prosperity isn’t measured on the scale of money or things. Real prosperity is relishing the joy that comes from hard work done well. Those that find this, have found alignment with God’s calling in their life.

If you look at prosperity through this lens how does it change your measures of success?

Start the day with a plan…

“The key to victory [is] creating the right routines.”

Charles Duhigg

Over the years I have found that having a morning routine is what sets the day up for maximum productivity and enjoyment. I have tried many different things in an attempt to find just the right way to start my day and while I haven’t settled on a “perfect” routine just yet I am pretty happy with the routine listed below that I use to start each day the right way.

  1. Ice Water – I start each morning with a big (32oz) glass of ice water to rehydrate after sleeping. Yes, even before my beloved coffee… Double bonus is that there is nothing like a glass of ice water to wake up the mind!
  2. Meditation – This is a relatively new addition to my routine but is now a critical component of my morning routine. I meditate for 15-20 minutes each morning as soon as I have had my ice water and before I look at any type of electronic devices.
  3. Devotional & Journal – I find that reading, studying and praying over a scripture based devotional is very powerful, especially after time spent in meditation. The second part of this routine is a daily journal. The topics I write about can be anything that is on my mind but I always include a portion of my time focused on gratitude and those things that I am especially grateful from the previous 24 hours.
  4. Leadership Quote & Blog – Yes, I choose my quote and write my blog post each morning. Occasionally time compression will dictate a later quote or blog post but 99% of the time this is part of my morning routine. I have found that I really enjoy framing my day by taking time to reflect on leadership or life.
  5. Physical Fitness – I have come to the realization that in order for me to be at peak effectiveness I need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Sometimes I can’t always get it in during the morning before work, but if I can find a way I will. I am much more focused and efficient through the day when I start the day with a hard workout.

What are your routines? Do you feel “off” when your routine is disrupted?

Don’t be mediocre!

“Mediocre people don’t like high-achievers and high-achievers don’t like mediocre people.”

Nick Saban

Why be mediocre? If you are doing something, anything at all, and mediocre is all that you can give it, then stop. Quit wasting your time and your life and find something that you love and become a high-achiever in that area or field. Everyone can find something they love enough to be a high-achiever. You owe it to yourself, and those around you, to be a high-achiever. Otherwise you will never be around people that you like…

What is the forecast today?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Alan Kay

What do you want your future to look like? Can you imagine it? Taste it? See it so clearly that it is almost real? Does it feel like a prediction or a just a dream?

There is a big difference between those that predict their future and those that only dream about it. Dreamers might see their dreams come true, but only after they step forward into creating the necessary effort to make it possible. Once a person makes that critical step they move from dreaming into the world of prediction. Prediction says “I believe this will happen based on my knowledge, experience and the action I am taking.”

Does this guarantee every prediction will come true? Of course not. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we think they will. Sometimes this is for the very best. Because it allows us to recenter, dream again and predict a new and even better future. We control our own forecast through the choices and predictions we make.

What is your forecast today?

Live life…

“…stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along.”

Robert J. Hastings

These simple things are the ones that create cherished memories and how you know what it feels like to be truly alive. If you aren’t creating the space to do them intentionally then are you really living? I can’t think of one time where I have regretted spending time in the manner listed above. However, I can think of many times where I have missed out on, and now have remorse about, the truly meaningful experiences that I skipped in the name of “productivity” or “getting things done.”

If you don’t do the things that matter when you have the chance will you regret it later? What if you were to score your success in life based on how you have lived your life to this point than how successful have you been?

What would you need to change to improve your score?

Don’t waste a second…

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”

Napoleon Hill

Sometimes it can be so easy to become consumed by future goals and objectives. We can easily miss the opportunity to simply be present and impact the world positively right here and now. I know that I fight this battle daily but I am not going to surrender. Because time spent living for the future, or in the past, is a waste of the present moment. Life is too precious to waste a single second…

Create your legacy through the journey…

“It’s the journey that matters, soak it in.  Learn lessons out of it.  Impact positively so that if you never get to your destination, at least you’d leave a legacy to be remembered.”

Emem Uko

I need to get this quote tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. Actually, I simply need to meditate and reflect on this sentiment regularly so that I can ensure that I am focused on what is truly important and make the necessary adjustments when I lose perspective. I’d much rather be remembered for how I behaved along the journey than whether or not I reached my destination.

Where are you on your journey? Are you focused on the destination or the trip itself?

Advise vs. compel…

“To advise is not to compel.”

Anton Chekhov

When someone asks you for advice are you focused on giving them your perspective or your permission? If you are offering advice in a “tell people what to do” manner then you are creating and reinforcing a hierarchal culture that seeks permission before acting. So be very careful that when you offer advice isn’t seen as a directive.

If you cross the line and deliver a message that is focused on compelling others to do things your way, and only your way, you are killing creativity, innovation, engagement and discretionary effort. There is a time and a place for issuing a mandate, but by and large it isn’t when people are seeking advice or perspective.

Do you lead yourself first?

“Great leaders last because they lead themselves first.”

Andy Stanley

Self-leadership is the most important component of becoming a successful leader. How can you expect anyone else to follow you if you don’t set the example and demonstrate that you can lead yourself?

So what does this mean? It carries much more meaning than simply leading by example. It requires tremendous self-awareness and the ability to get outside of your own head to see yourself, and your behavior, and then determine what changes need to be made to become the leader you know you are capable of becoming.

The model of leadership effectiveness that I personally use follows these core principles: (see previous post here)

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Coach and train to the expectations
  3. Evaluate performance against the expectations
  4. Hold accountable to the expectation

The real self-leadership question is whether you are holding yourself accountable to following these same principles? If the answer is no, then you have work to do because you aren’t leading yourself first…

Recognize the daily ledger…

“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.”

Neil Armstrong

What happens if the work of the daily grind doesn’t occur? Not only will the fireworks not happen but neither will all the very important, and very necessary, effort that is needed to make the regularity of life possible. Every day people do work that is completely unrecognized because it isn’t part of a big show. But the cascading impact of that work is too important to ignore. The barista that takes pride in their craft and doesn’t just “mail it in” and treats their customer with genuine warmth. The postman that delivers the mail that includes a birthday present for a child. The manager that stops talking long enough to truly listen to their team member.

What we do and contribute in life is far more than the big fireworks show. It is how we live and interact with others every single day. I challenge you to find one person in your walk today who is doing their normal ledger and tell them “thank you.” The impact that you then make on their life is so much more important that the moment of time it takes for you to recognize and appreciate the small efforts that in turn have made your life better.

Recipe for failure…

“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy. Do what is great while it is small.”

Sun Tzu

Rarely do great works become easier because you put off starting. Rushing to get something done at the last minute isn’t a mark of high efficiency but is instead an indication of poor planning and prioritization.

I used to believe that I did my best work when I was under the gun, under the pressure from needing to hit a deadline. The truth is that I was using that as an excuse for not setting aside the time to tackle the hard work before it became a last minute time crunch.

Doing the hard work is much easier when you plan for it appropriately. Waiting until the last minute isn’t a plan, it is a recipe for failure…

How to get out of your own way…

“One of the greatest tragedies you can experience is to come to the end of your life and realize that… your failure was due in large part to your inability to get out of your own way.”

Mark Goulston

Do you know your weaknesses? Are you aware of the behaviors and tendencies that you exhibit that prevent you from being as productive, impactful or fulfilled as God created you to be?

If you are aware do you have coping mechanisms and an active plan to address these shortfalls? Do you revisit that plan regularly and hold yourself accountable to its execution?

Do you have a list of friends or confidants that you have shared both the list of weaknesses and your action plan with? Have you given them permission to hold you accountable? Have you asked them to be candid and direct and not sugar coat feedback when they see something that you need to know about?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions then you are at high risk of being the person who can’t get out of their own way. Don’t settle for being as good as your worst weakness will permit you to be. Change the narrative and elevate yourself.

Finish what you start…

“Done is better than perfect.”

Anonymous

When I picked the quote this morning I was reminded of something that I once read that an experienced pilot had said when asked about a bumpy landing. “As long as my takeoff and landing ratio is one to one then I consider it a successful flight.” The measure of success is DONE. Not started, not perfect, not “mostly done,” but DONE.

How do you define done? Do you have a clear definition of that in your mind when you start any initiative? If so, then what gets in your way of achieving it? Finish it…

Busy on purpose…

“Everybody ends up somewhere in life.  A few people end up somewhere on purpose.”

Andy Stanley

Do we sometimes get so busy that we forget why we are living? It seems that we can easily forget that life isn’t about being “busy” and having a lot of stuff to do. I recently read a passage in a book that was talking about “busy” as way of showing our importance and relevance in life. The busier we are the more important we must be. This world we live in today is all about being “busy” and having a lot going on. In many cases it is perceived that if you aren’t stretched to the max you must not be very good or successful in life.

That’s why I like this quote from Andy so much. It makes me think about being “busy on purpose.” Am I headed in the right direction and is my busy focused on what matters or is it focused on me? It’s okay to be busy, but only if what you are doing really matters. Otherwise it is just activity…

Finish what you start…

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Anonymous

And the secret of staying ahead is to finish what you started…

How do you find the right balance between “try a lot of things and keep the ones that work,” and “don’t start something new until you have finished what is most important?”

This is a question that is rolling around in my head of late. Start the right things and finish them. See them all the way through, no matter what. Starting is easy, finishing strong is much harder.

Learn from the past, focus on the future…

“Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

Pope John XXIII

Why do we let “the past,” which is only a memory in our minds, get in the way of what is possible in the future? Unfortunately it is human nature to get wrapped up in what didn’t work or what went wrong and we lose focus on what is yet to come. The key is to focus on learning from the failures with the intent to use that knowledge to get better.

If you value every experience as an opportunity to grow and improve then you will be able to learn from the past but focus on the future.

More than a job…

“Leadership contains certain elements of good management, but it requires that you inspire, that you build durable trust. For an organization to be not just good but to win, leadership means evoking participation larger than the job description, commitment deeper than any job contract’s wording.”

Stanley A. McChrystal

Who are the leaders that have inspired you to go further than the description or the definition of what is required from your role? The best leaders I have ever worked with are exceptional at inspiring because they were incredible at building trust. I knew that they had my back no matter what and were genuinely interested in me as both an employee and a person. Once you have experienced that type of leadership, nothing else quite measures up…

Today will be the foundation…

“My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

Miles Davis

Today might be the day that one day you will look back on and realize was the foundation of everything. Since that is the case what will you be doing today to make sure it is one that you are proud of?

Health & Longevity

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

Herophilus

Over the past few months I have really been digging into understanding complete health and how the body is a complete system that God has designed so beautifully. Maybe it is getting older but I really want to learn more on how to optimize later life health by making the right choices today. I don’t want to get to a later stage of life and not be able to actually live. Here are a few resources that I have used of late to further my understanding of complete health.

The Drive – Peter Attia – A friend turned me on to this website and podcast and I have found it to be completely fascinating and thought provoking. The content is wide ranging but the focus is on optimizing healthy for longevity. It is a great place to start.

Sleep is your superpower – Dr. Matt Walker – One of the key realizations I have made in recent months is that I am chronically sleep deprived. I have long believed that I am good to go with only 5-6 hours of sleep per night. After reading the book by the same presenter in this Ted Talk I have completely shifted my thinking. The clinical research is just to compelling and convicting to ignore.

Think & Eat Yourself Smart – Dr. Caroline Leaf – The Mind, Brain, Body connection is fascinating and compelling. Reading this (and several other books by the same author) has given me great perspective on the importance of really paying attention to what you feed your brain and body. Both through nutrition as well as the thoughts you put into your mind.

Ten Percent Happier – Meditation & Mindfulness – Doing everything possible to keep the body healthy is only part of the equation. Understanding the mind’s role and how important it is build healthy habits for mental care is fascinating. I have tried several apps for meditation but this one has become my favorite along with the “Waking Up” app created by Sam Harris. As a newbie to mindfulness I like using these two apps in tandem to learn and grow this powerful and important skill.

These are just a few of the resources I have found to be valuable over the past 6-9 months. There are many more and I still have quite a bit to learn but that is the joy of life, it is a journey, not a destination…

Thinking through writing…

“You don’t really understand your thoughts until you express them in words.”

Elmer L. Towns

I do my best “thinking” when I am actually writing. Putting words to paper, or in my case to the screen, is when I can really find myself thinking through what it is that I am trying to convey. “Thinking out loud” via writing has become my favorite way to clarify my thoughts and truly understand what it is that is rattling around inside my head. This is one reason that I started this blog just over a year ago, to get into a discipline of daily writing and thinking through my writing. It works, at least it has for me. Give it a shot, write daily and see what happens. I’ll bet you find much greater clarity in your thinking.

How do you handle the rip currents of life?

“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”

Eckhart Tolle

This quote makes me think of how one should react if caught in a rip current at the beach. The reason rip currents are so dangerous is that most people will panic and try and swim against the current. Expending your energy going against the current is futile and will only serve to tire yourself out, which is when tragedy can strike. Instead, you should do these four things:

  • Don’t panic – Rip currents don’t last forever and will typically end in 50-100 feet.
  • Don’t try to swim against the current – Trying to go against the current is futile and how you will wear yourself out. You aren’t strong enough to do it, don’t try.
  • Try and swim parallel to shore – Keeping shore in sight and moving at an angle with the rip current. The current typically isn’t more than 20-40 feet wide so this can give you a chance to exit the current so you can then swim to shore.
  • Relax & enjoy the ride – Because the currents don’t normally last more than 100 – 150 feet then you can ride it out and once it dissipates you can then try and swim to shore or call for help.

How do these tactics apply to the metaphorical rip currents that can, and will, pop up in life? Taking the time to think through each of these steps whenever something comes up that you didn’t plan for or expect can put an entirely new perspective on whatever you are dealing with. The bottom line is this, when you are caught in a rip current, don’t put all your energy into resisting it, you won’t win…

The right balance…

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Chinese Proverb

How do you find the right balance between relaxation and tension? To always be relaxed is to not be growing and changing. To have too much tension is to be untrue to yourself and this happens when you are trying to be someone you aren’t.

Questions to ponder. Who am I and how do I need to grow to be an even better version of that person? How can I be sure that the tension I create is positive and not negative? How can I ensure I don’t stray from my core beliefs and principles?

What did you learn from yesterday?

“Each day is the scholar of yesterday.”

Publilius Syrus

What did you learn yesterday that will make today a little bit better? What are you going to do with that information?

Once you have answered these two questions then what is stopping you from taking action?

Communication upgrade required…

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

Bryant H. McGill

Over the past few weeks I have had a number of long conversations with my 10-year old daughter and is a joy to see her growing into a special and unique person with her own thoughts and I ideas. I have also become mindful of the fact that my listening and conversation style with her needs to mature and grow as she is doing the same. No longer are the conversations purely about answering “why” questions with her wanting to understand the world. Now she wants to express what she thinks and believes. Instead of simply listening to answer or respond back to her I need to listen to hear and understand what is going on in her mind and in her world.

This experience and awakening has been a good reminder to me of how easy it is to get into a “communication routine” and not really hear what another person is saying. I fully understand how powerful it is to truly hear what another is saying, but knowing and doing aren’t always the same thing. The good news is I now have another great person to practice this skill with.

What “communicate routines” do you need to upgrade?

The ultimate gift…

“Work hard, don’t quit, be appreciative, be thankful, be grateful, be respectful, also to never whine ever, never complain, and, always, for crying out loud, keep a sense of humor.”

Michael Keaton

I can’t think of a better list of traits as a parent to work to instill in my kids. In order to do so I have to hold myself accountable to living this list on a daily basis. A few of them I do well but there are some that I need to be diligent and guard against setting a poor example. If my children adopt these traits then I feel I will have done my job as a parent in preparing them for the world. This is the best gift I can give them.

Quicksand…

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

Jean Paul

How is it that you only start to really understand the value of life and time when you have gained some experiences and taken a few knocks? As the sand in our hourglass slides past are we focused on maximizing the value of each grain? Or are we lost because we are focusing on the next big thing that may or may not be important at all?

Don’t let a single grain of sand slip through unappreciated and unvalued. This is our one and only life. Why would you waste any of it?

Get moving…

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.”

Carol Welch-Baril

I remember a time when I viewed exercise as work, something to be loathed or done only as a matter of necessity. Something changed along the way in life and it has gone from being a necessary evil to a desired passion and a complete need.

Today I have to get exercise of some sort every day or I just don’t feel like myself. It is amazing how much the simple act of a going for a walk or a run can completely change your mind and elevate your thinking. I can’t imagine life anymore without exercise and movement. In fact, strangely enough, now going on a trip or seeing a few days ahead that are going to create difficulty in working out cause me tremendous stress. Amazing how life can change.

Pause. Breathe. Reflect.

“In everyday struggle maintain your cool and emotion. To heal a wound you need to stop touching it. Keeping yourself calm in times of stress will not only have immediate smoothing effects; it can also, over time, help you lead a healthier, happier life.”

Dr Anil Kr Sinha

It is amazing how much you benefit when you simply pause and take a deep breath in a stressful situation. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a stressful situation to make the practice of pausing and taking a breath incredibly worthwhile.

Pause. Breath. Ask yourself this question, “Will how I react to this situation right now matter one year from today?” If the answer is no then why are you expending any emotional energy on it?

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