The solution is what matters…

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”

George Washington Carver

If you are making excuses it is a failure of leadership.  Period.  If you are looking to assign fault, you are making an excuse.  You have already failed.

I’ve heard folks say, “I’m not making excuses, I just want to make sure you understand the reasons why this happened.”  I firmly believe that the only difference between  ‘excuses’ and ‘reasons’ is the action plan needed to drive change.  Reasons without action are just another name for an excuse and excuses don’t come with actions. 

The problem with excuses and “reasons” is that the effort is spent focused on the problem and all the reasons why something didn’t work.  This doesn’t add value in any way.  Now I am not saying it isn’t important to understand root cause and effect, but understanding is only important if you are then focused on doing something about it!

I recently read something really profound that puts this in perfect perspective.

“Focus only on the solution to the problem – never on the problem itself.”  

If you are solution oriented, you can’t be making excuses.  If you are ‘problem oriented’ then excuse-making and failure will be your best friends.  If you are looking for a reason something happened to take action, great.  But make sure that ACTION is what you are focused on creating, never excuses…  

Excuses = Failure…

Do not be afraid…

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Rosa Parks

The minute that you let the fear of being wrong, of failing, or of making a mistake paralyze you you have already lost.  You will make bad decisions when you are trying not to lose or if your decisions come from a place of fear and doubt.

Taking action is what allows you to break free from fear.  You don’t have time to focus on being afraid if you are making decisions and implementing those actions.  So what if you make the wrong decision?  What if it gets worse?  That’s okay, if you have a bias towards making decisions and taking action you can make another decision, you can learn and get better.

Did you know that “Do not be afraid” or “do not fear” is written in the Bible 365 times?  One of my favorite verses (any many others folks I am sure) is Psalms 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Make up your mind to make up your mind.  Decide to address whatever it is that makes you fearful and take action.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

Asking good questions is the key to the future…

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

Albert Einstein

I recently finished reading a biography on Einstein,  (Einstein: His Life & Universe by Walter Isaacson) that was a fascinating look inside the mind and accomplishments of one of histories great thinkers.  He had an insatiable curiosity and hated conformity throughout his life which framed his ability to question everything.  He was flawed as a human, as we all are, but is a truly fascinating study and this book is a very worthwhile read.  

I tend to think about the world in a slightly different order than outlined in the quote above.  For me it is Future, Past, Present.   For example, taking some time regularly to think about questions framed out in this way: 

Questions for tomorrow: What is truly important?  What do I hope and dream about?  Why does this stir my soul?  What is my purpose?  How can I live that authentically? 

Questions for the past: What did I learn?  Why did this happen?  What could/should I have done differently?  What was my greatest regret?  Greatest joy?

Questions for today: What should I be doing differently right now?  Given what I know about the past, and where I want to go in the future, what is my focus for today?  How am I actually living versus how I desire to live?   What will I need to do today to make this happen? 

There are tons of other questions to ask yourself in each of these buckets.  Ultimately our ability to grow is based on asking great questions, learning from the answers, and implementing changes today based on those answers.  

I firmly believe that if we ever stop asking questions, we stop growing.  The potential future self that is locked inside all of us dies with those unasked questions…

 

Don’t skip over the stretch…

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

In fitness and exercise stretching is the key to preventing injury and enabling your body to perform at an optimal level.  It is a very intentional practice that, if skipped, leads to stiff and sore muscles, sub-optimum performances and potential injuries later.  Stretching is a key activity because it enables the future, but you have to choose to do it.  

I think that growing through our experiences in life requires the same intentional effort as stretching before or after exercise.  Pausing to reflect on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, what specific experiences have taught you is critical if you want to enhance your abilities and achieve new levels of growth.  Another way of saying this is that by choosing to actively reflect on your experiences you are stretching your mind and soul versus simply living a passive existence.  

Taking the time to intentionally pause and learn is the mental stretching that enables any experience to become a foundation for bigger and better things.  I have met a lot of people in life who have a “something happened TO me” attitude or perspective about their experiences.  Reframing this to focus on what you can learn shifts this to become a “something happened FOR me.”  These are the people that inspire and motivate me.  They choose to take any experience, whether good or bad, and not be defined by it but to instead learn from it and redefine their life based on having been stretched and grown.  

How are you stretching in your life?  Are you taking the time to intentionally learn and grow from the experiences that happened for you?  

Stretching is a choice that enables future performance and prevents injuries.  It is an exercise that is best done daily by simply taking five minutes at the end of each day to ask yourself “what have I learned from my experiences today?”

If you want to grow, don’t skip the stretch…

Accountability starts with self…

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

Courtney Lynch

On of my long-time favorite mantras is “fix the problem, not the blame.” Instead of investing your effort into finding out who who is at fault, and why they are accountable, focus on what happened and what is needed to fix it.  I love the way this quote frames out that accountability is a result of leading by example.  You can’t have accountability if the leader doesn’t walk the talk by accepting responsibility.  This seems so obvious, yet rare in practice.  
It is far easier to try and “hold others accountable” instead of first focusing on our responsibility as leaders for the outcomes and engendering an ownership mentality.   If you want to create a culture of accountability, take responsibility for the results.  
Accountability starts with self…

Where do you choose to invest?

“Giving up something now for something better later is not a sacrifice. It is an investment.”

Andy Stanley

What is really important?  Is the things we have now, or those we want in the future?  Where would you choose to invest your time or energy in order to achieve something better later?  

If you know the answer to that question then the real question is this one…  

Why don’t you?

Perfect isn’t possible…

“Progressive improvement beats delayed perfection.”

Mark Twain

Perfect isn’t possible.  Once you come to terms with this then there is no need to wait hoping that you can get there.  How many great ideas, projects, initiatives, etc. never see the light of day because the “timing isn’t perfect,” or the idea, project, initiatve “isn’t perfect yet?”  

This doesn’t mean that there is an excuse for shoddy work or poor execution.  You can still be striving for great, but waiting for perfection means that you will be waiting forever.  Make change happen.  Make mistakes, learn, grow, get better.  Do something! Just get better.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Just don’t wait to create change because you are hoping for perfect because it will never happen.  

 

 

Close the gap…

“It is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.”

Max De Pree

The gap analysis is a management tool used to determine the difference between where we desire to be and where we actually are today.  The key to effective use of this tool is a Gap Analysiscandid and honest critique of actual performance with no self-deception on what reality truly looks like.  Once you identify the gaps between the desired future state and true reality only then you can you create the action plan needed to create the change that needs to happen to bring the future vision to life.  The key here of course is the ability to create lasting growth and change.

I love this quote because it applies every single time you read it, no matter where you are in your journey through life.  There is never a time when we can sit back and rest on our laurels and previous accomplishments and be content with where we are.  We are always on a journey towards becoming what we need to be, and must be ever viligant in our need to grow and change.

When we think about why we are on this earth, and the impact that we want and need to make on the world around us, how can we ever stop working on ourselves?

 

 

Complacency = Death

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”

John P. Kotter

It always amazes me how many points can be scored in a football game during the last two minutes.  When the pressure is on, and time is of the essence, great teams step up and score points.  The 2-minute drill highlights what a team is capable of when acting with urgency and removing any and all complacency from their behaviors.  

I have long believed that a sense of complacency is the most dangerous thing that a person or a team can ever develop.  The dictionary definition of complacency is, “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”

Complacency scares me to death…

Operating with a sense of urgency is a natural guard against complacency.  Living with a sense of urgency shows up in the little things in life.  Watch people and you can tell those that bring a sense of urgency to all aspects of their lives.  You can see it in how they walk, how they respond to questions, what decisions they make, etc.

Urgency isn’t fear.   Urgency is moving and acting with intense purpose and drive because that’s how you choose to live.  

Listening is power…

“Leaders who refuse to listen, will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say”

Andy Stanley

I once heard someone say that if you want to be a more effective leader you have to be more interested, than interesting.  This was followed with with what I believe is some of the best advice I have ever received.  That as a leader, in order for you to really be effective, that the number of questions you ask must outweigh the number of statements that you make. This has always been incredibly convicting for me and is something that I continually work on improving.  

The dangers of talking more than listening seem obvious, but why do so few people actually practice the true art of listening?  Is it because they like the sound of their own voice?  That they believe what they have to say is the most important thing?  Or perhaps, they just don’t understand that the best way to impact and influence others comes through listening and seeking first to to understand BEFORE being understood.  

If you aren’t really listening, then as Andy says, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by people who only tell you what you want to hear….  

How do you choose to invest your energy?

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

Lee Iacocca

Victor Frankl wrote that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The easy thing to do is to get angry, be emotional, put blame on circumstances beyond your control.  The hard thing, but much more important, is to look inwards and say “what can I do to change the outcome, to overcome?”

Choosing to invest the energy into something positive means getting past your own flawed beliefs and frustrations and seeking ways to do something, instead of just having something done to you.  It is a complete game changer in regards to how you see and respond to the world around you.  

Dwelling on what we can’t control requires an energy investment as well but it is an investment with negative returns.  Is this how you’d choose to spend your precious energy and time?

Doubt can be fuel for the engine of accomplishment…

“If people are doubting how far you’ll go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”

Michele Ruiz

There are two powerful lessons for me in today’s quote.  First, I recognize that some of my greatest motivators in life have been when someone has said “you can’t.”  For me this fires an immediate “I can” mentality. Looking back on life I can see a number of really positive outcomes that were seeded by the doubts of others.

Second, the danger of being a person that casts their own fears and doubts onto others.  In hindsight I recognize that some of the “you can’t” people had limiting beliefs about their own abilities and for some reason they needed to project that onto others.  They weren’t happy unless their “I can’t” mentality was twisted into a “you can’t” and shared.  I never want to be this person.

How have the doubts of others fired your engine of accomplishment?

 

 

Learning while waiting…

​”Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

Joyce Meyer

Ah, patience…definitely not one of my strongest virtues.  Though I can’t think of one time in my life where patience hasn’t been rewarded in some way or another.  Though in many cases not in the way that I expected.  

I believe there are two ways one can handle being patient.  First, one can have the “why isn’t this happening already?!” approach.  This is where not having a good attitude can be very dangerous.  It makes it hard to remain positive and learn anything beneficial.  

The second, and much more powerful approach, is is to refocus and ask yourself this question, “What am I supposed to be learning during this season of waiting?”  Doing this requires that one have a positive attitude and it enables your ability to grow and learn while waiting.  

If you can reframe waiting to view the world through the lens of learning it can change how you feel about being patient.  Don’t misunderstand, being patient is still extremely challenging, but maybe waiting is more about learning than it is achieving…

 

Take a day…

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Maya Angelou

How is it that you recharge?  What do you like to do that helps you relax and refresh so that you can step back into the fray with your full focus and effort?  

I will fully admit that I am not good at all at doing what Maya outlines above.  My mind is always working on something and it is typically about work in some way.  Frankly, my best thinking, the time when I can achieve the most clarity, is when I have changed environments and given myself the space to think through relaxation and rest.  Research has shown again and again that the brain functions at it’s peak ability when it is properly rested and refreshed.  

Find a way to give yourself a break and disconnect from the challenges you face for a day.  They just might not look as daunting when you come back…

Strategy vs. Execution…

“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.”

Morris Chang

I love how this quote frames the importance of both strategy and execution so succinctly.  How do you measure success?  Is it by having great intent, or by achieving great results?   It is the results in life that matter right?  But only if they are created through intentional focus and effort.  Time is going to pass either way, so we better make it count… 

Talking with versus about others…

“Never find fault with the absent.”

Alexander Pope

This is a great reminder and one than can be a a tough pill to swallow.  At times it seems much easier to talk about people than to talk with them.  It is something that we all do, but a practice that we must guard against if we want to increase our influence.  What are the dangers that this creates as a leader?

First, if you are finding fault with someone, and talking about it with others, then you are tearing down the walls of trust, not building them up.  The person that you are discussing someone else’s faults with can never be sure that you aren’t doing the exact same thing when they aren’t present.

Second, putting the focus on the person not the problem distracts from whatever the real issue at hand might be.  If you want to be effective in fixing something, then you have to address it head on.

Third, your example to others be creating this type of environment encourages politics and individual agendas.  It does not enhance teamwork or collaboration.  The most effective leaders set the example that others will emulate.  Do you want your team talking about others behind their backs, or addressing challenges with and for each other?

Ask yourself this one question.  “Would I have this conversation with the person in the room?”  If the answer is no, then why not?  Isn’t that the more pressing challenge to figure out?  Talking about people is easy, and cowardly.  Talking with people can be challenging, but courageous.  Which type of leader do you want to be?

Planning is an investment…

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

battle black board board game

If you want to be successful in the game of chess you always have to plan ahead and think through your next several moves.  You don’t know how your opponent will react to your plan, nor do you know what moves they planning to make, but to have a chance at winning you can’t simply be reactionary, you must make the effort to plan ahead.

How much of our time do we spend planning versus reacting?  I have found that time invested in planning enables one to both act, and react, with purpose, design and intent.  Effort expended without having first spent time intentionally planning ahead is always reactionary and tactical.

Will plans fail?  Of course they will.  There is no way to anticipate every outcome, see every possibility, know every possible challenge that will rise along the way. However, I believe that the investment of time in planning allows one to simultaneously exist on two planes.  First is the the proactive, what do we want/expect/intend to happen? Second, what will we do and how will we react to the world around us?

Time is the currency of life.  How do you want to spend it?  Will you spend it with intentional purpose to create a desired output, i.e., planning?  Or will you spend it in a tactical way, never in charge of or responsible for how it is used, i.e., reacting?

 

Sometimes “done” is just the beginning…

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

adventure alps amazing beautiful

Do you climb the mountain to get to the top, or to see how the world looks from the peak?  Is it the journey that matters or is it simply a task to be checked off the list?  

How often do we achieve some dream, goal, or destination to simply mark it “complete” and then move on to the next thing?  I know that I am guilty of this all too often and I that by doing so I am missing the real value of achievement; what you learn from having experienced something new and building a new set of lenses through which to view the world.  

Why is this so hard to do?

Is it simply easier to numb yourself with the next new thing than it is to look internally and say “how could I have done this better?” or “what did I learn that can help me the next time?” Or perhaps it is simply that achievement has become the idol in life where the pursuit of more is the way of our modern world and this takes precedence over reflecting on what we have learned and how we have changed.  

Maybe getting to the destination isn’t the goal at all.  It is simply the beginning of a new journey.  A journey that will be forever different because of our experiences and the lessons learned on our way to the our last destination.  The next trip is different because of what we have experienced.  But only if we take the time to pause and reflect on what we have seen.  

 

Dwell with intent…

“I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become.”

Oprah Winfrey

Is the glass half full, or half empty?  Are others out to help you, or persecute you?  Are you helpful, or helpless?  Are you a conqueror or a victim?  We all know people who  choose to fit into the  “negative” side of these questions.  They are focused on dwelling on what happens to them instead of focusing their energy on how they can change, grow, learn and evolve.  If one is determined to be taken advantage of, they will be.  How we frame the way we see the world becomes our world.  I also know people who focus on the “positive” aspects and they are the ones that truly inspire and motivate me.  They too have become what they dwell on, and have incredible impact on the lives of others because of it.  

The same trap applies in leadership as it does in life.  Do we dwell on the things we can’t control and look right past the things that we can influence and impact? Does our leadership focus on serving others or being served?   Focusing on the wrong side of the equation can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, for better or for worse.  The good news is that we have a choice.  Who do you want to become?  What is it that you need to dwell on to make that happen?

Why limit yourself?

“If you don’t have the information you need to make wise choices, find someone who does.”

Lori Hil

“Why” is the most powerful word in the English language.  Well, I guess that is a fairly broad statement, but I will certainly make the statement that “why” is the most important word in English as it regards to leadership.  What on earth does that have to do with today’s quote?  Glad you asked. 

Far too often we bog down and spend so much of our time talking about “what” we are going to do without understanding “why” something has happened.  Digging deeply into the why, and getting input and perspective from others, is critical to making good decisions in life and leadership.  To seek information, to make good choices, to lead, one must understand whatever situation or challenge is in front of you.  To be able to do this you either must have all the information yourself, or you have to go out and get it.  If you don’t have all the information, and who ever really does, you have to be willing to admit that fact and actively seek to gain it from others. 

So why don’t people do this more often?  Why is this such a challenge in life and leadership?  Asking for input and perspective from others takes self-awareness.  It takes humility.  It means understanding that you don’t have all the information, you don’t have all the answers, you don’t have all the knowledge.  Asking “why” takes courage and a willingness to learn without having a bias towards your own self-beliefs.  In today’s world admitting that you don’t know something is challenging for many people and leaders.  Of course the flip side side far worse, if you don’t seek perspective then you are stuck with whatever you have been able to learn on your own.  The more we rely on what we already know, the less likely we are to make wise choices.  Find someone who knows more than you do, and ask lots of questions.  Why limit yourself to only what you already know?

Too much of a good thing…

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

Norman Vincent Peale

Praise feels good and at the right moment can be just the thing you need to hear to persevere in a challenging situation.  It can be the catalyst to help launch you to new heights.  Taken too far, it drives the ego and becomes the reason for doing something instead of being recognition for hard work and effort.  

Criticism doesn’t always feel good but it is the most impactful message (for me anyway) that helps one grow and develop.  I know that I have made vast improvements (with tons of opportunity for more growth) based on receiving open and honest criticism.  The key is to have trust in the messenger and know they are relaying the criticism in an effort to help, not harm you.  

When looked at through the lens of leadership it works the same way.   Praise is fun to deliver, criticism isn’t always the same way.  Here again the key is trust.  Do our team members trust that we are delivering both praise and criticism to help them grow and prosper?

As William Shakespeare wrote in “As You Like It,” there can be “too much of a good thing.”  Feedback that is all praise fuels the ego, if it is all criticism it destroys the passion.  The key is to find the right balance and not shy away from one or the other.

 

Make your bed…

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

Admiral William H. McRaven

I remember my Dad reinforcing the classic line “anything worth doing is worth doing well” over and over with my brother and I as we were growing up.  For him it didn’t just apply to the big things, but it was the small things too. My Dad grew up on a dairy farm and one of the life lessons I learned from him was regardless of what you WANTED to do the cows NEEDED to be milked every day.  There was no such thing as a “day off” or the shirking of your responsibility.  Doing the little things, every day, the right way was just how it was done on the farm or else you wouldn’t have positive results and be able to provide for the family.  

If you haven’t seen Admiral William McRaven’s commencement address to the University of Texas in 2014 it is an instant classic.  Frankly it is one that I need to watch several more times to get all the pearls of wisdom that are contained within these nineteen minutes.  Enjoy and go change the world!

Give the gift…

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

For some reason this reminds me of the age old philosophical question of, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?”  If you feel grateful to another person, but don’t share it, does it have the impact it could? I am HUGE proponent of daily journaling and specifically of keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing down the 3-5 things each day that I am grateful for, and why, has really been impactful in my life over the past 3-4 years.  To learn more check out this article on The Transformative Power of Gratitude.

As I read this quote it makes me think that perhaps I have been stuck in first gear regarding my gratitude habit. I journal daily about what I am grateful for, but I haven’t made sharing that gratitude a daily priority.  There are so many incredible gifts that we receive in life, isn’t the best and most appropriate response to simply say thank you?

Take it to the next level…

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.”

Vaibhav Shah

10 years ago Guy Ritchie teamed up with Nike to make an ad for the 2008 World Cup that shows a local league soccer player making it to the big dance.  What I love about this ad is that it doesn’t show only the glitz and glamour, though it does show plenty, but it also shows the hard work, the effort, the sacrifices, the puking…  All the effort that went into making it to the “next level” is never seen by the fans in the stadium.

In today’s world everyone seems to covet the trappings and glories of those who are successful but very few understand or embrace the thousands of sacrifices it took someone to to get there.  

Ultimately I believe real success isn’t measured in public glories and in the spoils of victory.  Success is defined by the person you become, and who you impact by how you live your life.  For me achieving “success” and getting to the “next level” means digging deep and focusing on who I want to become and making that a priority over having comfort and ease in the here and now.  Those might never become “public glories” and I am perfectly fine with that. 

 

All the small things…

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

Robert Collier

Great things aren’t built in flash.  It takes planning, focus, determination, and consistent effort to build anything that is worthwhile.  All too often we want the big deal, the big result, the next “big thing” without having put in the effort required to build it.  Those great things won’t and don’t happen without a ton of work that is built on the foundation of the daily activities and habits we embrace.  Those efforts, performed with great clarity and focus, are creating the foundation for our successes in the future.  It is these small efforts that build great things.  It doesn’t work any other way, so don’t take for granted the small things, for those habits will define who you become.  

If you could travel back in time five years what small things would you tell yourself to start doing in order to change and grow toward greater successes and learning in the future?  What prevents you from starting them today? 

 

‘Done’ vs. ‘Excellent’

“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.”

Thomas J. Watson

This is convicting when you take the time to step back and really think about it. When you finish a project or a task what matters to you more; is it the fact that you ‘finished it’ or the fact that it was done with excellence?  Sometimes I’ll admit that simply being able to check something off my list and say “done” is more important to me than taking the time to think about how well it was done.  

If it is worth checking off your list, it is worth doing well.  Ask yourself these questions the next time you complete a project or task.  Was this my best work?  If I could have spent more time or energy on this would it have been better?  Should it have been better?  Was this unambiguously excellent?  

 

Plan your work, work your plan…

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Stephen Covey

Why is this easier said than done?  I know all too often I look at my calendar to see what I have coming for the week instead of starting with my goals and then scheduling time to work on those things that are most important.  It is a case of reacting versus being proactive with my time.  

There aren’t enough hours in the day, so how you choose to invest them is critical.  What is the one thing that you want to get done this coming week to ensure that you can meet your goals?  Have you intentionally set aside the time to get it done?  The time will pass, how to spend the time is up to you.

Do you own, or do you rent?

“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”

Pat Summitt

Ownership.  What does it mean? Think of the difference between renting a home and owning a home.  When you rent, you treat the home differently.  You don’t worry about the little things, you don’t put the extra effort in to care for or protect the property.  For example, you might ignore the roof that only leaks when it really storms, or the sink that leaks on occasion.  Maybe instead of ignoring the problem, you just call someone else, the owner, because it isn’t your problem.  You don’t have to fix it.  But if you own the home you pay attention to these problems.  You know that if you don’t address them quickly it is likely to become far worse, and much more expensive to repair.  

If you are the owner, you write the checks.  And by checks I don’t just mean in terms of money.  You have to fix the problem.  You are accountable for how you, the asset, the team, the organization performs.  It starts, and stops, with you.  You must look to yourself first before you look to others, regardless of fault because you are responsible and accountable for fixing the problem, whatever that problem might be.  

Have you ever heard the saying “drive it like a rental?”  What exactly does this mean?  It means when you rent a car you don’t treat it the same way you would if you owned it.  You don’t have to care about the maintenance, what it is going to drive like next week, next month, next year.  You don’t have to care because you aren’t accountable for your decisions, or in some cases the lack of a decision.  The rental car won’t be your problem in the future. For renters it is someone else’s problem.  Even if you caused it…

We all have an active decision make, do we own or do we rent?  This project, this initiative, this team, this relationship.  Yes, sometimes ownership sucks.  It isn’t fun to have to fix problems, especially if you caused them, whether intentionally or not.  But it has to be done, because if you don’t, who will? If you don’t look inwards first with self-awareness and reflection and have the accountability to own it, you are just renting your space as a human and a leader.  Don’t be a renter…

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

Paulo Coelho

I love Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist.”  It is one of my favorite reads and another book that I try to read at least once a year.  If you haven’t read it is the story of a young shepherd boy who is on a desperate search for a worldly treasure.  He keeps his eyes open along the way and pays attention to the many omens that he finds to bring him to the treasure he truly seeks.  It is an easy book to read and carries much deeper meaning than what is available at first glance.  

What does it mean for you to “concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want?”  For me it means clearly answering, with great detail, these questions:

What does success look like?  What is it we are trying to achieve?  What will it feel like when we get there?  How will we know we have achieved our goal?  What would prevent us from getting there?  These are key questions and ones that cannot afford to be overlooked when planning out our goals.  Far too often I find that we have good ideas but don’t put in the effort to clearly define what exactly it is that we are trying to achieve.  

For me “keeping your eyes open” is doing the hard work up front to paint a crystal clear vision for yourself of what it is that you want to accomplish.  Without this it is just muddy and subject to many detours and deviations along the way.  It reminds me of Yogi Berra’s quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  

 

 

How do you measure return on investment?

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”

John Ruskin

Who am I going to become, versus, what am going to get?  These are fundamentally different questions.  I’ll admit that I have spent a lot of my time in life thinking about “return on investment” and that I haven’t spent nearly enough time time thinking about it at an experiential level.  

Working hard is fun.  It is awesome to put in the effort and the labor and see the results that come from it.  But perhaps the most important results are the ones that we don’t measure through tangible “things” but are instead the experiences we have gained and the relationships we have built.  Those are the things that shape us, mold us and create the platform that we build upon for the future. 

To measure success more holistically I think I need to spend some more time thinking about the question “who am I going to become from this effort?” 

 

Discipline = “No!”

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” 

Jim Rohn

In today’s world everything is beeping and dinging and chirping to get your attention.  Their is a constant barrage of information coming at you to try and take part of your precious time and energy.  In this world of continuous distraction how can you focus, where do you start?  

It starts with writing down the goals.  I’ve found that anything short of a written goal is simply a wish or an aspiration.  Writing the goal down, meditating over it, thinking through the necessary steps to make it a reality.  That’s where it starts.  But that isn’t enough.  Actually taking action and putting those steps in place on a daily and ongoing basis requires the discipline to say no to the things that going to get in the way of making that goal a reality.  

I think that is the key.  Discipline isn’t some great “yes” to suddenly doing the right things.  Discipline requires a strong “no” to the things that are going to get in the way of your goal.  Knowing what needs to be done, and then having the conviction to do them, is critical.  

It reminds me of the great quote by Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” 

To enhance your ability to make your goals a reality what do you need to have the discipline to say “no” to?

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