New Year’s Eve Reflection…

“There we both sat and rested for a while, facing the rising sun the way we’d climbed, for looking back can sometimes help you on.”

Dante

On December 31st of each year I like to sit, preferably by a fire, and simply reflect on the year that is just ending and contemplate what is coming in the new year. I find that thinking through the goals and objectives I have for the coming year framed through the lens of the year just ending provides remarkable clarity and insight.

One of my favorite exercises on New Year’s Eve is to think about what I would like to be thinking about and reflecting on as a key success next year on 12/31The question I specifically like to reflect on is: “What specific things must I accomplish in the next 12 months to make the year a success?  “Next year on 12/31 what do I want to have accomplished or completed?”

I hope everyone has a very safe, happy and prosperous New Year!

Fear of the unknown…

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

As 2018 draws to a close it is a natural time to pause and reflect on the year behind as well as the year yet to come. In thinking about this quote it brings to mind some questions that I am going to use to spur my thinking and reflection time.

What is coming in 2019 that excites me? Scares me?

What “unknown” happened in 2018 that should help me prepare for 2019?

What needs to come to an end to make the next year truly powerful and impactful?

What “known” thing or circumstance do I need to let go of?

Just a few questions that I am using to reflect on this year and prepare for the year ahead.

10 words or less…

“Greatness is more than potential. It is the execution of that potential. Beyond the raw talent. You need the appropriate training. You need the discipline. You need the inspiration. You need the drive.” 

Eric A. Burns

All the raw talent in the world won’t create a champion. The champions are created in the training room practicing their skills and building on their God given gifts. This takes desire and motivation beyond simply “doing your best.”

What gets you to give the extra 10% that no one is asking for? What motivates you to push beyond what is expected? What drives you to excel?

If you can’t answer this in 10 words or less then keep working on it. It has to be on the tip of your tongue when you wake up, when you go to bed, when you hit hard times, when you lose, and when you win. That’s how you push yourself to get better.

What price is worth your life?

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

This is so easy to forget when we are busy and in the thick of getting things done. Every decision we make about where to spend our time is a decision on where to invest our life.

How do you decide on where to invest? More importantly, how do you decide when to stop investing? In other words, how do you decide that something is no longer worth investing your time and energy, i.e, your life? Sometimes if we have been doing something for a long time we don’t even realize that we aren’t getting value anymore.

Where would, or should, you invest your precious life?

You don’t win on emotion…

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

Tony Dungy

Execution is everything. Without great execution nothing else really matters. The greatest idea or plan in the world is worthless without relentless execution and a focus on getting the work done.

One thing that stands out for me on this quote is the “you don’t win on emotion” sentence. Emotion can be great fuel for winning and can be a tremendous catalyst for action but it won’t be the reason you win. Without intense focus and direction all the emotion in the world won’t create great execution.

Too often, myself most certainly included, emotion has been an excuse or a “reason” for poor performance. Things like “I am just not passionate about this,” or “my emotions got the best of me” are just excuses for not executing the game play properly.

Look in the mirror. The only person that prevents you from getting the work done is yourself. “No excuses. No explanation. You don’t win on emotion. You win on execution…”

Make the time…

“Family and friends are hidden treasures, seek them and enjoy their riches.”

Wanda Hope Carter 

During the holidays we get to see family and friends that we might not see but a few times a year. During the year we get always seem to be so busy that we put those we love lower on the totem pole that we should, or at least I know that I do…

One thing that I am committing to doing in 2019 is planning the year out in advance with specific times for getting with friends and family and sharing time together. It seems crazy to be looking out a year in advance but without intentionally planning the time I know that it just won’t happen. I am not committing to specific events, just blocking the time on the calendar and lining up key relationships that I want to really focus on growing. Not sure how it will work out, but I know that it can’t hurt. Plan your work, work your plan!

Merry Christmas!

“The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.”

Helen Keller

The joy and power of the gift that we celebrate today is beyond all measure and comprehension. I hope and pray that everyone can find the true joy of Christmas in their heart today and keep it forever.

‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas!

What it is about…

“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” 

Calvin Coolidge

It’s not about gifts, it is about giving…

It’s not about me, it’s about others…

It’s not about being right, it’s about being together…

It’s not about us, it’s about Him…

Tell me how this doesn’t apply the other 364 days of the year? Merry Christmas Eve!

Slow down…

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast — you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

Eddie Cantor

The Christmas season always seems to go by too quickly. It is an endless stream of activity and events and then you blink and it is just gone. I feel this way every year.

This is an example of life itself. We can become so focused on getting to the goal, that we forget to pay attention to what is going on around us. I can easily see where you might even forget where you are going, and why.

I am committed to slowing down a bit these next few days and really focusing on the WHO I am spending time with and WHY we are celebrating together.

Take it all in, the time will pass by far too quickly…

The joy of giving…

“Christmas is a tonic for our souls. It moves us to think of others rather than of ourselves. It directs our thoughts to giving.”

B.C. Forbes

This quote reminds of two verses that I was studying this morning.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

It is easy to forget with all the hype in today’s world that through Christmas we are celebrating an eternal gift received by giving to others thoughtfully and without a focus on ourselves. Today I am committed to focusing not on the tasks or shopping lists, but on the pure joy of giving to others.

Find gratitude!

“It is so easy to forget how blessed we are! That’s why maintaining an attitude of gratitude is something we need to do on purpose.” 

Joyce Meyer

Sometimes we can be so busy that it is hard to stop and really reflect on how many gifts and blessings we have been given in life. Having gratitude just for the simplest things that we so often take for granted.

I love to read about history and I am always amazed at just how hard life was not all that many years ago. Yet today we get frustrated if our Starbucks coffee isn’t perfect or if someone gets the closer parking spot and we have to walk 30 more feet.

Every day we are the recipient of some blessing or gift. Take the time to find and express gratitude daily. It will change your life.

If you want to hear the music, do the work…


“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

Peter Drucker

A great symphony isn’t of any value unless there is an orchestra there to bring it to life. To convert the written notes into the music which fills the air takes tremendous effort, collaboration and direction from many people all aiming for the same thing, to bring to life what is essentially just a written plan.

I don’t know anyone who achieved anything without dedicating themselves to the work necessary to turn their plans into a new reality. There are no free rides in life. Do the work, the hard work, or you won’t be able to hear the music…

What great looks like…

“What’s celebrated is repeated.  The behaviors that are celebrated are repeated.  The decisions that are celebrated are repeated.  The values that are celebrated are repeated.”

Andy Stanley

Very bluntly I am not good at this.  It has always been a challenge for me to pause and slow down long enough to celebrate success.  For anything that is accomplished I am immediately thinking and working on the next thing.  As a person who derives my motivation internally it just doesn’t hit my radar screen.  This is not a good or positive trait and is one that I continually have to work on.  I find that this quote does an excellent job driving the “why” behind the celebration and reinforces what a leader must do to help their team achieve continued success.

To perform at a high level a team must know what great looks like.  When they achieve success celebration is what reinforces the behaviors that it took to get there and instills them into the culture.  In essence, celebration is creating the culture of the team or organization based on success and winning and instilling a desire to do it again.  

Thinking more on this it brings some questions to mind.  Without a celebration will anyone know what great looks like?  How would anyone know to do it again?  If you don’t celebrate, will people know what it is that is valued by, and expected from, you as a leader?

Expectations vs. Recommendations.

“When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable — if there are no consequences — that poor performance becomes the new standard. Therefore, leaders must enforce standards.”

Jocko Willink

I have long held to a simple yet effective three step formula of leadership responsibility and accountability.  

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Coach, Train, Provide Feedback to those expectations
  3. Hold accountable to the expectations

It is the leaders responsibility to ensure that his or her  team understands what is expected of them, that the proper coaching and training has occurred, and then that absolute accountability to those expectations has been enforced.  

Without enforcement then any expectations are merely recommendations, coaching and training is a waste of time, and accountability doesn’t mean anything…  

Decide!

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

Amelia Earhart

There is great freedom that comes when you make a tough decision.  It is like the clouds part and you can see the blue sky and the sunshine after weeks of rain and fog.  Just making that decision can feel like a tremendous weight is lifted from your shoulders. 

So make a decision!  If it is the wrong one then you can make another one but don’t wait.  Waiting for perfect information, perfect timing or perfect insight means that nothing ever gets done.  

I am reminded of this verse from James that has been a guide to me in my decision making many times in life.  “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

It’s not personal!

“A great leader doesn’t avoid conflict and a great leader doesn’t doesn’t leave a body of emotionally destroyed people behind. A great leader solves problems.”

Andy Stanley

The great leaders I have worked with always made it about the problem to be solved, not the person.  They are exceptional at addressing both poor results and poor behaviors swiftly and directly.  They didn’t leave a wake of destruction in their path because they didn’t make it personal.  They focused on the desired outcome and addressing whatever is that happens to be taking a person off course.  

Does it take courage to do this?  Yes, of course it does.  Not many people thrive on and enjoy high conflict situations.  It takes an ability to keep the focus on the business at hand and not let the fear of conflict dissuade you from having the direct conversations that are needed.  

I’ve work with leaders who were anything but exceptional at this as well.  They either would ignore the situation entirely, talk about it behind another persons back and undermine their credibility, or they would be like a volcano and erupt.  All of these behaviors (and many more) are the types of things that emotionally destroy people and undermine the influence of leadership.

The key for success here is to ensure that when dealing with situations where conflict is needed be swift, seek to understand, and live by the principle ‘It’s not personal!’

Where do you find the truth?

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

Maya Angelou

I’ve long believed in the old saying: “In the mind of the believer a perception is a fact.” The “truth” is created because of the facts we want to believe in, even if they aren’t true.  The facts we choose to believe, or the ones that we seek out, can obscure the real truth from us.  

That is why it is so important to get perspective from others.  We need insight from people that don’t see the world the same way we do.  Only through searching out other ‘facts’ can we ensure that we are seeing the truth.  

Who do you go to to help find clarity and perspective?  Who’s perceptions do you trust?

What are you doing for others?

“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

What are you doing for others today?  In the next hour?  Right now?  

Sometimes in today’s world it can feel like life’s most urgent question is: “what are you doing for yourself?”  It is easy to get caught in a spiral of me me me because that is what society seems to be all about.  Especially with social media, etc.  

I do think it is important to answer this question in the proper tense. ‘What am I doing’ versus ‘what have I done?’  It feels that answering in the past tense is looking for praise or a pat on the back.  Focusing on doing for others keeps it future oriented and not about ourselves.  

Perhaps it is worth creating a mechanism and intentionally reflecting on the answer to this question?  Just once a day or once a week for 10-15 minutes?  

Do you have a bilge pump?

“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

Author Unknown

The bilge is the lowest part of a ship or a boat.  This is where the water that manages to get in collects and builds.   In order for a boat or a ship to operate safely there has to be a bilge pump to remove this water.  Without it the water would continue to gather until the boat, and the people on it, are in jeopardy. 

What is your bilge pump for life?  How do you remove the negative that is going on around you and pump it out so that it can’t build up and weigh you down?  

My bilge pump can be a variety of different things, depending on where I am and what is going on in my life at the time.  Generally speaking though I need a few things. A good long run or workout.  A good book to read.  Separation from those that are negative influences.  Doing these things sounds easy but without intentional focus and commitment they won’t happen and I’l be stuck with rising waters and a sinking boat.

What does P.I.G. mean to you?

“Think P.I.G. – that’s my motto. P stands for Persistence, I stands for Integrity, and G stands for Guts. These are the ingredients for a successful business and a successful life.”

Linda Chandler

What do these things mean to you?  

Persistence – Never giving up.  Overcoming whatever life throws at you.  Whatever it takes to to get the job done.  Over.  Under.  Around or through any obstacles.

Integrity – Never compromising on your values and ensuring that your actions manifest your beliefs at all times.

Guts – Having the courage to do both of the above, no matter what anyone else might think about you.

A+ or bust…

“I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

Steve Jobs

It is amazing how impactful great talent can be on a team.  The right person elevates the performance of everyone around. They are a force multiplier beyond just what they contribute individually.  However, the reverse is also true…  

The wrong person can weigh down the team and limit overall performance.  If an A+ player runs circles around B or C players then B and C players are simply dead weight that slows everything down.

Be the best, don’t ever be comfortable being or hiring a B or C player.  If you are hiring people, hire the best, don’t ever settle.If you are a B or a C player today then call it like it is and figure out what you need to do to grow and become an A.  If you are an A, figure out what you have to do to become and A+.

Never settle with less than the best, from yourself or from those around you…

Good decisions start with good questions…


“Leadership isn’t making all the decisions. It is making sure the right decisions are made.”

Andy Stanley

Sometimes the best decision a leader makes is to ask the right questions.  When this is done effectively it puts the leadership focus on making the right decision, not on the decision maker themself.

I will fully admit that this is much easier said than done.  Knowing when to ask the right questions and when to be the decision maker is a delicate balance that comes through experience and trial and error.  But when it is done correctly it creates leadership growth both in the decision makers and those that they lead.   

Invest your effort into asking the questions that drive towards making the right decisions.  It creates a double win.  The right decisions are made, and so are more leaders…

Make your hours count…

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
 
H. Jackson Brown Jr.
This one hits right between the eyes doesn’t it?  As I read it though it occurred to me that all of these great people accomplished their incredible feats over the course of their lives.  They are measured on the totality of their contributions, not a single event or action.
Sometimes we get so caught up living in the here and now that we forget that our greatest impact might not have happened yet.  It might be a current work in progress or it might be the thing we do tomorrow.  We should work to make all our hours count, but we shouldn’t spend all our time counting the hours and measuring our success based on what we get in return for each of those hours.
As Andy Stanley has said “Your greatest accomplishment may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”  And I believe this applies whether you have children of your own or not. You can replace “raise” with “serve” and the meaning and impact is the same.  Use your hours to impact others and you’ll make a difference.

Happiness as a choice is the vaccine…

“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed, or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.”

Joel Osteen

The little things are the stressors that wear us out.  The ones that make us lose sight of what’s truly important. When we embrace the little things that make us angry and upset we are building a negativity cancer inside ourselves.  

There is no doubt that there are more opportunities to be stressed and offended in life than there are seconds in the day.  Looking for the anger, offense or stress has to be the biggest waste of energy on the planet.  Nothing positive can come out of it.  It reminds me of the old saying, “allowing these types of things to impact you is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” 

Happiness is a choice, and it is a choice that is a vaccine to the cancer of negativity that can build, but only if you allow it to happen.

 

 

Like nails on a chalkboard…

“If you allow the status quo to persist, you can’t expect to improve performance, and you can’t expect to win.”

Jocko Willink

“The way it has always been done…” these words are a death knell for  change.  Hearing that as a reason not to do something is like the proverbial ‘nails on a chalkboard’ (if anyone even know what that means anymore), it just makes my skin crawl. 

The status quo represents the way things have always been. That will never lead to necessary growth and change.   I much prefer an attitude of “relentless discontent with the status quo.”

That is the only way you can create change and win…

 

 

Why do you have limits?

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

Bruce Lee

How do you know if you have gone too far?  For that matter how do you know if you haven’t gone far enough?  I have always believed that limits we have are completely self-imposed, especially the physical ones.  Everything we can, or can’t, do is within our minds control and the ability to overcome and break through starts with the limits we impose on ourselves.

The question that comes to mind for me revolves around the answers to the ‘why’ questions.  Why are we striving? Why are the limits there?  Why are we trying to break through them? I am reminded of this verse from Galatians as I reflect on today’s quote.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭NIV
‬‬

There are no limits other than those we choose to impose upon ourselves. How we set them, or break through them, will depend on our answers to the ‘why’ questions

Wonder or wander?

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.”

Arapaho

I wonder how much growth and change has been initiated by ideas that occur when people are “in the shower.”  I know that this is a cliche but it certainly appears to be true from folks that I talk with regularly.  Getting outside of a normal thinking environment and allowing your mind to work unburdened by daily stress and routine demands is so important.  

Now though, it makes me think of the quote differently.  What if you changed just one letter in the above?  What if it read, “If we wander often, the gift of knowledge will come.” I think I wonder best when I wander… 

 

How do you find happiness?

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
 
L.M. Montgomery

I just finished reading a fascinating and compelling historical fiction titled “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan.  It is an incredible story about a young Italian patriot in WWII fighting against Nazi tyranny and oppression. When I read stories like this and what others have gone through it really puts everything in life firmly in perspective.  

One of my favorite passages in the entire book reads: “How do you find happiness?” Anna paused, then said, “You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have.  When you find them, be grateful.” “Father Re says the same thing,” Pino said, “He says, to give thanks for every day, no matter how flawed.  And to have faith in God and a better tomorrow.”

Finding happiness and enjoyment is truly a choice and a belief that, no matter what, there will be a better tomorrow.  

Waste of energy…

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
 
Maya Angelou
 

Why exert effort on an immovable object? I think this applies to complaining about things that you can’t change.  In fact, complaining as a rule is a waste of effort and energy.  I can’t think of one time in life where I have felt better for having complained without then taking some action to create change.  Complaints because you just have to be heard don’t result in change.  So why bother?

 

 

Hard work fuels happiness…

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.”

Andy Rooney

I had the opportunity to go hiking today which is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend time outdoors.  It was a tough hike, very wet, slippery, and steep.  The hike to our particular destination was 3.5 miles, which doesn’t sound that far except that it was almost all downhill on very muddy and rocky terrain.  I probably spent 90% of my time looking down at the ground picking out safe places to put my feet so I wouldn’t trip and fall.  At the end of the hike was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  It was truly worth worth every second of effort and focus.

As I was taking in the incredible vista and marveling at the beauty of God’s kingdom it occurred to me that if I had’t had to work so hard for the view, it might not have been so impressive.  The view was spectacular, but if I had simply gotten out of the car, taken a picture, and gotten right back in, it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much. The joy found in the view came as a result of the work put forth to get there.

Interestingly enough, the 3.5 mile hike back, which was all uphill, passed in a flash and didn’t seem nearly as hard as the hike in.  The happiness from the accomplishment provided all the  fuel that was needed…

Today is YOUR adventure!

“Today is life — the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”

Dale Carnegie

Remember the passion that you used to have to wake up on a Saturday morning as a kid?  Perhaps it was cartoons, unlimited cereal, or playing outside all day long.  There was such excitement for the weekend and the day of adventure that lay ahead.

Why does that feeling have to be relegated to a memory or a rare occurrence?  The day ahead is an adventure, regardless of how old you are, or whether or not it is a day off or a day at work.  The day holds promise and beauty if you simply choose to embrace it.  Embrace today with gusto!

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