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?

Are you aware of the choices you make?

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

Eckhart Tolle

Change occurs the minute you stop allowing yourself to look past problems and see opportunities for a better future. Turn over the rocks, ask tough questions, hold yourself accountable for creating a better tomorrow. If you don’t, then who will?

Sometimes it can seem more beneficial and reasonable to ignore certain things. For example, perhaps there is a problem that doesn’t need to be solved right now or a challenge that will take more effort to address. It is okay to choose not to do something because the time isn’t right or because other things are a higher priority. However, it isn’t okay to bury your head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge their existence. Once you are aware, you have to address the situation, even if the answer is “not yet.” 

Are you taking or making excuses?

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”

Kenneth Blanchard

No excuses, just results. 

How can you create commitment if you aren’t measuring the right things?  

Hold yourself accountable first, then commit to delivering the results that matter.  

No excuses from yourself or anyone else…

Begin with the end in mind…

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.”

John Madden

There is a lot to unpack in these four sentences. However, I think the last two words are the ones that bring focus to all the rest. Without “be humble,” the other elements can’t happen or won’t happen. So the key here might be to put these two words at the front of each sentence. This is truly a case of ”beginning with the end in mind.”

Be humble; self-praise is for losers. Be humble, be a winner. Be humble; stand for something. Be humble; always have class.”

Hard to do any of the other items without humility.  Be humble, have meaning…

Are you taking the right medicine?

“Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself keeps you feeling young.”

Betty White

One of my former pastors used to constantly remind us that “holding on to anger and resentment is liking taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Perhaps the opposite is also true; focusing on kindness and love is an elixir for both you AND someone else. If so, this seems like a pretty good deal to me. So, what medicine are you going to take today?

Are you striving to be the MVP or the MEP?

“The most valuable player is the one that makes the most players valuable.”

Peyton Manning

Teams win games. Sure, there might be an MVP of a given game, and in football, it is typically a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, etc. For example, of the fifty-six Super Bowl MVPs (there was a “co-MVP awarded in 1978), an offensive player has been the MVP 82.14% of the time (including 1997 when Desmond Howard won it for Kickoff/Punt Return).

I can geek out on sports stats all day, but the point here is that no one person is THE team. Peyton Manning didn’t win the Super Bowl; an entire team did. His efforts in 2007, when he won the MVP award, made the whole team more valuable. 

Perhaps the NFL should rename the MVP award. Maybe it should be called the Most Empowering Player instead? MEP would do a better job codifying the true impact of one player on a team’s performance. They aren’t the most valuable; they enable the most value creation.

There’s a lesson here for all of us in leadership roles…

Go Bengals!

How is the water of your mind?

“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”

Bil Keane

In today’s hyper distracted and overbusy world, it takes extreme discipline to allow oneself the time to think and reflect on what is essential.

Sometimes the presentation of a simile brings everything into focus and can hit like a ton of bricks. That was my experience today when choosing this quote. 

It brings to mind a book I read last year, one of my favorites for 2021, “Stillness is the Key” by Ryan Holiday. Without intentional and planned stillness, one can’t think clearly. I think I might need to reread this one soon. It is time to let the water settle…

Author Unknown

Words are the driving force of the flywheel…

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”

Desmond Tutu

If you want to change something in life, whether vocational or personal, think about the words you use as water pushing the wheel on a water mill forward. It isn’t the wheel that creates the electricity or grinds grain into flour; it is the water that drives the wheel which provides the real power. So here are some thoughts on using language as the flywheel of change:

  1. Write it down!
  2. Spend time on the language, the tone, the intent. Press hard to ensure that the words chosen capture your genuine desire.
  3. Share it! Cast it out there to become a catalyst for thought and momentum creator. Your words will help others see a new future, a better tomorrow, a different outcome. 
  4. Turn the words into a story that others believe in, share, and extend. 
  5. Do it again, and again, and again…

Then you can participate in the new reality that your words helped to create.

By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT – travail personnel (own work)

Who are the right people to challenge and inspire?

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

Amy Poehler

“Challenge and inspire” is an essential part of today’s quote. It isn’t about finding people who make you comfortable and let you stay in your bubble of contentment. Just the opposite is true. Instead, you must find people who make you UNCOMFORTABLE in all the right ways. Only then will you grow and evolve and become the person you were born to be.

Who are the people you are intentionally curating into your life who challenge and inspire you?

What are the flywheels of your desired life?

“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.”

Zig Ziglar

One of my favorite leadership tomes is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Even after more than twenty years, the principles of effective organizational leadership outlined are just true today as the day the book was written. Some examples cited in the text as great organizations are no longer excellent or even in existence due to a failure to adapt to evolving market conditions or were destroyed by self-inflected shifts in focus and discipline. Regardless of how the examples cited fared, the principles of greatness are enduring.

Why do I bring this up? Meditating on the quote above brings to mind the power of the flywheel. When you identify those things that create momentum and compel progress, it becomes a self-sustaining and powerful driving force in your life. 

The simple image below highlights the cycle demonstrated through the quote above. How would this apply in the different domains of your life? Faith? Health? Work? Etc? What’s your flywheel?

A personal health flywheel example

Pause, and then be prepared to listen…

“Be still. The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

Ram Dass

The quiet moments of the early morning are my absolute favorite parts of the day. I am blessed to have the genotype which orients me to be an early riser. Dedicating the first hour of each day to devotional study, meditation, gratitude practice, quiet reflection, reading, writing, and simply pausing to think is a routine that I surrender only as a matter of extreme exception. It is just too essential for the progress through the rest of the day.  

Because I can be very disciplined and routine-oriented, I have to guard against my daily practice becoming formulaic and “religious.” So sometimes, I find it beneficial to turn it all off, grab a journal and ask myself one simple question.

“What am I ignoring or neglecting through busyness that I shouldn’t be?

It can be so incredibly insightful as to what you will find yourself writing if you give yourself the time to do so.  

Do the deeds that matter…

“The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention.”

Anonymous

Dreams are fun. Big dreams are what move the world and create a new future from the ether. What are your dreams? What are your intentions for the next decade? Year? Month? Week? Today?

What exact small thing will you do today that moves you toward your dream? If the answer is “I don’t know” then perhaps your dreams need some more work if you want a chance at bringing them to reality.

Do you have dreams or nightmares?

“To persist with a goal, you must treasure the dream more than the costs of sacrifice to attain it.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

Goals are admirable, but if you want to have something that will get you out of bed early in the morning and bring a burning focus to every minute of every day, there has to be a burning “why.” Call it a dream, a vision, or your purpose. Whatever it is, it has to be bigger than you, more significant than your ego. Otherwise, your goal is to make yourself bigger, and that’s not a dream. It’s a nightmare.  

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dusty

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