First who…


“If I were a young coach today, I would be extremely careful in selecting assistants.”

John Wooden

The people that you serve with are a direct reflection, and an extension of, your choices about who you are, your character, and who you want to be in your leadership of self and others. Picking the right ones is critical for both short-term and long-term success.

My first, and probably most influential, leadership mentor was a retired full bird U.S. Army Colonel. When I was leaving that company for another role he shared with me some of the best leadership advice I have ever received. Specifically it was on the topic of hiring and selecting talent: “Dusty, no matter what, if I could pass along one bit of advice it would be this. Never, ever, delegate completely the hiring of key talent and leaders. Always be involved in the process and ensure that you get to talk with them, even if they won’t be working for you directly. It will make a huge difference over the long haul. You have to be responsible for the quality of the leaders in your organization since you will be accountable for their performance.”

I haven’t always done this perfectly but it has been a guiding principle for me almost my entire career. The quality of the work produced by the team is dependent on the quality of the leaders that are guiding them. Never ever shortchange the leadership selection process.

What are you doing today that will matter in the future?

“The future depends on what we do in the present.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Ten years ago what were your dreams for the future? Did you achieve them? What future did you want to create? How did you make it happen? 2009 doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago, yet a lot has happened over the past ten years. Did those years build up to create what you expected and desired? How will it look over the next 10 years?

Was there anything you did today that will create the future you want in five years? Ten years? Sometimes it might be the big things, others just the small things but the focus has to be on doing the right things today that will be meaningful in the future that you want to create.

Focused vs. Busy…

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

John Wooden

Busy. That seems to be the perpetual state of the world. Everyone is so very very busy. But what is being accomplished in all this busyness?

Sometimes it feels like we wear being busy as a badge of honor, that the more we have going on, the more important or worthy we are. Maybe this is just me. I know that I’m certainly guilty of this. People will ask me how I am doing, or how my weekend was and I catch myself saying “it was great, just busy” or “I’m good, just really busy right now.”

The real question is this. Are we busy doing the right things? Are the efforts we are putting in the right ones, or are they just the ones that take up our time? Are we achieving results that matter through focused effort, not just showing up and being busy?

Busy is a choice. It isn’t a bad choice, especially if you are focused on achieving your goals and impacting others. But if busy is the idol, the perpetual state of being, do you have time to look up and make sure that you are still going in the right direction?

I commit to this. When someone asks me how I am doing, I am taking the response of “busy” out of my lexicon entirely. If I can’t give a real and substantive answer, I’d be better off simply saying nothing.

The most important variables…

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

John Wooden

This is probably one of my favorite quotes. It states so clearly the danger of this world if you remove just two key variables. Humility and Gratitude. Without either you are going to go astray.

Why do you have your God given gifts and talents? Is it to serve others or serve yourself? If you have fame then how are you using that fame to serve others or impact the world? I would argue that if you aren’t using your gifts to serve then you are treading dangerously close to the definition of conceit.

The minute you believe you are better than someone else, that your life has more value or meaning than another person you have lost your way. My Dad used to tell me that “everyone puts their britches on the same way in the morning. No person is more important or deserves better treatment because of their role or wealth.”

How do you guard against conceit and selfishness?

Plant seeds through your actions…

“Your influence on people and situations comes from your ability to be a role model.” 

Capt. John Havlik

I know that I still have behaviors and actions that come from seeds planted over 20 years ago by significant role models and mentors in my life. Those individuals taught me things not through explicit words, but just through their daily actions. They demonstrated servant leadership through their actions and in turn have had a lifelong impact on me.

Who are the role models in your life that have inspired and motivated you? What was it that they did that made an impact on you? Have you taken any of those examples and built them into your life and actions? Your daily actions and examples are planting seeds that you might never see grow but could be incredibly impactful on the lives of others…

When to start? TODAY!

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.  Let us begin.”

Mother Teresa

How often do we spend our lives living in the past by lamenting what didn’t happen or trying to hold on to our previous accomplishments? Conversely, how much time do we spend living and thinking about the future and what we want or desire? I will admit that I am very guilty of the latter scenario, spending a lot of time and energy on what I think or want to happen. It is a constant battle to bring focus to what I need to do RIGHT NOW and put that same energy to use today.

Our supply of energy and time is finite. How we choose to invest it TODAY will create the future we want but only if we invest wisely. You have to start now. What is the very simple, finite, and clear thing you can start today that would impact the lives of others or yourself? Got it? Do it…

We choose our circumstances…

“We are not creatures of circumstance; we are creators of circumstance.”

Benjamin Disraeli

What are the choices that you will make today that will impact your circumstances tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Are you willing to decide or do you surrender that decision and let the world or others decide for you? Perhaps more importantly, when you see the need for change, the need to take action, do you make that decision with specific intent or do you sit idly by and let it pass, thinking perhaps that “I’ll deal with that later.”

We all have the opportunity to change and grow but to do so means that we have to be responsible and accountable for making the necessary decisions. Growth is a choice, not a requirement. Our circumstances reflect those choices. If you don’t like the circumstances you find yourself in, make different choices…

Others first…

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3

This is counter to today’s “me focused” culture. Social media is the ultimate “look at me” tool and all to often we measure success in the number of “views or likes.” I would argue that in many ways success is measured through the lens of selfish ambition or conceit.

At the end of the day, when you reflect back and think about whether or not it was a successful day, what is the measure you use to determine success? Is it how much you accomplished? How much money you made? How many of your tasks you were able to complete?

Or is the measure of success reflected more in these questions. How many people were you able to help? What was the impact you made on another persons life? How many times you were able to smile at someone and say ‘thank you?’ Did you impact someone’s life for the positive today?

At the end of our lives success will not be measured in earthly things or our total number of “likes” but will be measured by the people that we impacted and the lives that we touched. To do so means that we have to put others ahead of ourselves and reach deep to find ways to serve. We must give ourselves away in order to truly have a successful life.

Fear not…

“Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Thinking things through is a great skill and one that will pay dividends when things don’t go exactly as you planned (and that will happen to all of us sooner or later). But worrying, obsessing, getting lost in the fear of “what if” or “why me” doesn’t help improve our chances of success.

There is a big difference between preparing and worrying. How we handle this difference makes such an impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. Planning is proactive and positive. Worry is negative and emotionally draining.

There are so many good bible verses on worry but here are two of my absolute favorites that I go to whenever I cross the chasm between planning and worry.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Can we guarantee success?

“Effort does not guarantee success, it only removes the guarantee of failure.”

Eric Davis

No matter how hard we work at something success is never guaranteed. All the hard effort in the world just might not be enough. But if you don’t put in the effort you are absolutely going to fail. I think the real key is how you answer this question:

If we don’t put in our best and maximum effort will we look back later and wonder if failure happened because we didn’t try hard enough?

Will it matter in 10 years?

“In ten years’ time will you look back at your past week and be glad how you chose to spend it?”

Freequill

Ten years is a long time! Think about that in regards to your choices for this coming week? Will they be impactful and matter ten years from now? If you wanted the week to matter what would have to be different? What about one year from now?

Don’t be the egg that doesn’t hatch…

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

C. S. Lewis

I’ve always been amazed by the fact that when a baby bird is breaking free from their egg that the struggle they are going through is critical to their growth and survival. In fact, if you help them they are likely to die because they haven’t been strengthened through the effort.

We are like that too right? We need the struggle and effort to be prepared for the world ahead. We need the crucible of change, hard effort, and struggle to grow. Otherwise we just stay the same and stagnate. I would argue that stagnation is the same as the egg that goes bad…

The sand in our shoes…

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Muhammad Ali

When I was younger I went hiking and had a pebble/sand in my boot but since I was in a hurry to get to the top of the mountain I didn’t want to take the time to stop and clean out my boots. I paid dearly for that decision as I naturally developed a huge blister and the entire hike down the mountain was painful.

A similar thing happened to me when I was racing Ironman Florida. I was on the run portion of the race and my shoes/socks were bothering me but I didn’t want to slow down and take the time to readjust and figure out how to get more comfortable. In that moment of the race it felt like those couple of minutes would be a real loss of momentum. Of course, as time went on the problem compounded and the last 5-6 miles of the race were really really painful.

How often does this apply in life? We are on a mission, headed towards our objective and there is “sand in our shoes?” We don’t want to slow down or take the time to take care of ourselves when that is exactly what we should do to ensure that we can achieve our longer term goals. It’s not the objective itself, it is the little things that add up that make achieving that objective possible.

NO!

“Every yes must be defended by a thousand no’s.”

Jeff Walker

Yesterday I wrote about focusing on the important, not just the urgent. It made me think about the discipline required to say “no” to all the things that invariably come up in life that will then allow you to focus on the really important things. If you don’t say “no” then you will always be a slave to everyone else’s priorities and not putting the focus on those things that you have said are most important.

I will fully admit that this is an area where I have to be constantly diligent and focused or I will go astray. One tactic I have found that really helps me is taking my objectives and breaking them down in to weekly focus areas and then daily key priorities. Writing those down every morning ensures that I stay on point (or at the very least have a constant reminder throughout the day).

Bottom line. If you want to say yes to the really important stuff you have to say no to all the things that will get in the way.

Tyranny of the urgent and unimportant…

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

Stephen R. Covey

What gets in the way of doing the important things in your life, your work? Having a goal, a set of goals, just isn’t enough. You have to intentionally set aside the time to ensure that you aren’t being distracted by all the stuff that comes up that is urgent and demands to be done “right now.” Those urgent things will bog you down and take over your life if you aren’t really really careful and intentional about how you spend your time and energy.

One of those urgent things for me that gets in the way of what is truly important is answering and managing email. There can be just so much of it coming at me in a given day and sometimes it is hard to keep up. About four months ago I found an app that allows me to “pause” my inbox and only receive email a few times a day unless it means a certain set of criteria (from certain people or with certain keywords). This has been a game changer for me because it allows me to control my time and schedule when I am going to read and respond to email. It prevents the urgent (whether real or perceived) from taking time from what is truly important.

What can you do to find the balance between the tyranny of the urgent and the truly most important things? Any successes you can share?

Courage > Comfort

“You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

Brené Brown

Which of these appeals more to you? It is easy to say “courage” but then you have to follow it up with action. I think another way of saying this is “You can choose change, or you can choose complacency, but you cannot choose both.”

It takes courage to change. It takes courage to recognize that something needs to be better. It takes courage to take action and hold yourself accountable to a higher standard than anyone else.

If you choose comfort that is your choice. Just don’t be upset if you don’t achieve what you dream about. It takes courage not comfort to achieve your dreams.

Excellent attitude…

“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude.”

Ralph Marston

How do you define excellence? Doesn’t the way you define excellence, and your commitment to it, define your attitude? Does that attitude inspire others with your vision of excellence and engender the same ideals in themselves?

What does it mean to you if someone were to describe you as having an “attitude of excellence?” Does that reflect who you are and what you believe?

What are you willing to quit doing?

“You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.”

Charles Buxton

What do you wish you had time for? How long have you been wishing for it? What is it going to take for you to be able to do it? What are you willing to quit doing in order to make the thing you want to do happen?

I often wish that there were 36 hours in a day. But there still wouldn’t be enough time do do all the things I want to do. Since I can’t conjure up more hours in the day I guess I’ll focus on answering the questions written above. I think the last one is the most important…

Steadfast & Persevere…

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”

Bill Russell

We are all going to get knocked down every once in a while. Without some setbacks now and again how does one develop mental toughness and the determination to overcome? Interestingly if you substitute ‘steadfastness’ and ‘perseverance’ for ‘concentration’ and ‘mental toughness’ you have a very similar parallel from these verses in the book of James which I have been studying for the past several days.

‘Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Without concentration and mental toughness, or steadfastness and perseverance, one can’t learn from the inevitable trials and setbacks in life and emerge a better version of themselves…

Always a student, never a master…

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Conrad Hall

There is always more to learn. Sometimes the lesson taught might be the same, but the learnings are far far different. The master is one who has no more to learn. No more to grow, no more to see. To claim mastery is to give up humility. Never a master, forever a student.

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10

To seek mastery above all else requires the surrender of humility. Not a worthy exchange…

The antidote…

“Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. And I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better.”

Harvey Mackay

I am always amazed at how many people choose to be miserable. They choose to see the negative and be cynical about the world instead of embracing the beautiful and the positive. It is a choice that we all have and that we all make on a daily basis.

I certainly am not perfect and can have those moments of negativity as well. However, when that happens I have found that perfect antidote is to pause and simply reflect on what I am grateful for right at that very moment. Without fail I have found that gratitude is a very powerful counter to negative thinking.

The impact this has on you will absolutely have an effect on those around you. We like to be around positive people. Negative people are the ones who just suck the energy from you.

On those bad days or in those bad moments we should pause and answer this question. “What I am most grateful for in my life right now?”


What’s on the scoreboard?

“Work and live to serve others, leave the world a little better than you found it.”

David Sarnoff 

When you get up in the morning and orient yourself to the day ahead do you calibrate your mind to keep score of how much you are going to get or how much you are going to give? How do you put points on your scoreboard for life?

Accountable to our own standards…

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”

Ray Kroc

You have to set higher standards for yourself than you do for anyone and everyone around you. But standards alone aren’t enough. You have to hold yourself accountable to those standards, and do so publicly, if you want to lead others effectively. There is no quicker way to undermine your own leadership than by being a “do as I say not as I do” leader.

We are all going to fall short at times and fail to meet our standards. We are human, it’s going to happen. However that isn’t an excuse, we have to be self-accountable before we can hold others accountable. Amazingly enough, when can be transparent enough to publicly show our shortfalls, and how we are going to address them, our leadership influence grows.

Ownership starts with self. Leadership starts with self…

Sometimes we all need a good swift kick in the pants…

“Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.”

Baltasar Gracian

I’d like to think that no one can give me a swift kick me in the pants harder than I can do it to myself but that isn’t remotely close to being true. We can’t see our own blind spots and sometimes it takes a swift kick to remind us that we do in fact have them.

I can say without any doubts that I have learned some incredibly valuable lessons throughout life from those swift kicks. They were the ones that helped me shape my dreams and reshape myself. They were the kicks that got me back on track when I had gone astray. Those kicks have been the ones that fuel me when the going gets tough. I am grateful for every single one of them…


Just do it…

“The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them you immediately begin to create momentum.”

Tony Robbins

Goals that are too far over the horizon are hard to use to motivate yourself to do the things that need to be done now. Taking that goal and breaking it into the building blocks that you can focus your energy on is what really matters.

The Nike slogan says it best. “Just do it.”  If you don’t you can’t build the momentum you need and you have no one to blame but yourself.

Comfortable being uncomfortable…

“Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti 

“Tradition” is just an another way of saying “that’s the way it has always been done.” Security in what has always worked is just another step towards irrelevancy. In today’s world we have to become comfortable being uncomfortable…

A new beginning every day…

“The magic in new beginnings is truly the most powerful of them all.”

Josiyah Martin

Every day is a chance for a new beginning. I know that I fall short of my capabilities daily and every morning is an opportunity for a new beginning. It’s easy to overlook this in life. We get caught up in what is going on and forget that we have a choice every morning to treat the day as a new beginning, a powerful chance to be more…

The first thing I thought of was the joy of finding Christ as my Savior and how that is a truly liberating and powerful new beginning.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Best & Worst…

“We can not predict what will happen tomorrow, but we can prepare ourselves to face it.”

Ophelia Callens

What is the best, and worst, that can happen? When you think about life in these extremes you can begin to prepare for a future that might become reality, but isn’t guaranteed.

Sometimes being prepared is all the difference needed to turn a worst into a best instead…

Like water in the desert…

“The sweetest of all sounds is praise.”

Xenophon

Receiving praise is like discovering water in a journey across the desert. Too far between and you will wither and die. Too much and you become desensitized and unappreciative.

How do you ensure that you give the right amount regardless of what you do or do not receive?

Lay the foundation well…

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Walt Disney

All the goals, resolutions, objectives and aspirations in the world don’t mean a thing if you don’t execute against them. But execution alone isn’t enough. You have to have very specific and measurable actions and outcomes that show whether or not you are making progress towards those goals.

Saying “I want to lose weight” isn’t good enough. Nor is “I want to weigh ABC pounds.” Those are nice, but you have to have a plan. You have to break those goals into smaller objectives that are specific and measurable. Then you have to do them and hold yourself accountable for getting it done.

None of this is rocket science, I am sure it is all stuff that you have read before. But then why do so many people fail to accomplish their goals? Why do so many people (including myself) come off the rails and fall short of their goals?

I believe the answer is simple. We (most especially me) get focused on the over the horizon goal and lose sight of the shorter term, here and now “next step” goals and the results that come from achieving these objectives.

Think of it this way. If you want to build a house you have to have a vision, and then create a plan. Then you must get architectural drawings to ensure that you have specific work steps detailed and outlined. But at some point it comes down to getting started and doing the hard work that no one will ever see. Digging the foundation and laying the bricks that they entire home will be built upon. If you take any shortcuts there and don’t do your best work the house will never last and it will never live up to the vision you created in your mind.

Today is the day where you must start working to achieve your goals by breaking the work into measurable components and then as Walt Disney said, “quit talking and begin doing.”

Time to start the new year!

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.”

Anne Frank

I love this quote when thinking about the new year. Too often we get mired in where we have been, and forget about where we are going and, more importantly, who we are going to spend time with.

I am very goal driven so it is easy for me to get locked into a regimen of objectives and tasks and forget to focus on the people I am blessed to have in my life. One of my goals for 2019 is to capture the special moments each week involving the people I love and journal about them so I can capture those moments and not lose them in a sea of forgotten memories. Who knows, maybe some of those moments will be the best days of my life!

I hope you have a blessed and Happy New Year!

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