So much more yet to learn…

“The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.”

Idowu Koyenikan

I have been reading and listening to a ton of books and podcasts on mindfulness and the power of the mind/body connection. It is incredible to see how powerful our mind is when we choose to activate it. I admittedly geek out over the science side of things and I really love learning the nitty gritty stuff about how everything works together from a mind, brain, body, biology, and human physiology perspective. It is hard for me to learn something at a surface level. On almost any topic, if I find it truly intriguing, I love to go a mile deep and get as many different perspectives and opinions about whatever that particular topic might be.

One of the most compelling things that keeps resonating in every thing I read and study on the topic of mindfulness is the power of human choice, which starts in your mind, not in your body with a first-level dependency on our own individual biology. We all have the power of choice, and when we make that choice, whether it is to exercise our mind, our bodies, our souls, those choices have far reaching and deep consequences both within ourselves and those that are around us. God’s gift of free will is so incredibly powerful and when we exercise it with a focus on Him and His Kingdom it can have profound impact to our entire world.

The more I learn, the more I understand that there is so much more yet to discover…

If you are interested in this topic here are a few good links to check out:

What is the worst that can happen?

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

Lee Iacocca

What are all the things that could feasabily go wrong with a particular plan or decision? You could spend eternity trying to guess and reason through all the possible uncertainties and outcomes. Perhaps the better question is, “what is the worst possible outcome, what is the worst thing that could happen if we are wrong?”

Understand the risks, and if it they are bad enough, ensure your decision mitigates the risk by having a plan ready to address the possibility. One thing is for sure, you can never be prepared to addresses every uncertainty in life. Deal with the ones that matter and have a plan that allows agility to handle the ones that you can’t anticipate. EXECUTE!

Time to execute…

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Nelson Mandela

Have you ever been in the situation where things are moving so slowly that it feels like nothing will ever get done? That time drags on and more reasons are found NOT to do something? That the focus has shifted to the negative instead of accomplishing the work that needs to happen?

Look in the mirror and ensure that you are ready to say that “the time for planning, thinking, debating, arguing and talking has passed. It is time to execute.” Hold yourself accountable for creating action, not debating the merits of action.

Intelligent fools…

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

E. F. Schumacher

Today’s quote reminds me of a post from a few weeks ago that you can find here.

The burden of communication is on the one who is communicating, not the person who is to receive the message. Great communicators find ways to make the message simple, to reduce complexity, to convey only what matters to the story they are telling. If someone insists on making it complicated, it is more about themselves than the person they are trying to communicate with. This isn’t to say that there aren’t incredibly intricate things that must to be conveyed but the ability to do so will be completely dependent on one’s ability to simplify the information. Having all the data and information in the world won’t help if you can’t convey it in a meaningful fashion.

Here are a just a few questions and tips to consider when you are working to simplify the complicated:

  • What is the story I am trying to tell?
  • What is the single most important thing I need the other person to understand?
  • How can I make this simpler? How can I make this simpler? How can I make this simpler? (Yes, I repeated that three times, it is the continual asking of this question that allows one to distill down to the essence of what matters.)
  • What are the questions that I want to be asked?
  • Why does this matter to my audience? If there is a single word or thought that doesn’t matter can I kill it?

There are a million great questions and ways to further refine the complex but it starts with a deep desire to communicate clearly and cleanly with the focus on the audience and what they need to understand, not what you need to convey. Otherwise, you run the risk of being labeled an intelligent fool…

One year later…

“I think self-discipline is something, it’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.”

Daniel Goldstein

It has been just over a year ago since I started this blog, June 19, 2018 to be precise. (If you are curious about why I do this you can read about it here.) It has been an awesome journey and I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, and what I believe to be most important, through this daily practice. I originally started with the goal of blogging daily for one year with the intent to step back after a year and see if I felt that it was still beneficial or if perhaps I wanted to take a different path.

The discipline required to post daily has been a great exercise and I believe it has been as valuable to me as writing the actual musings. Knowing every day that I must write something and very intentionally think about the deeper meaning and implications of a quote I have chosen has been an exceptional learning process and there is no way I am quitting now. It is fun to select the right quote and write about it every morning. It has become part of my daily routine and, like exercise, is something I have truly learned to enjoy. My posts might not be ready by anyone at all but that truly doesn’t matter to me, it has helped me grow through the practice of self-discipline. Thank you for allowing me to occupy a lit bit of digital space.

Have patience…

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”

Saadi

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? How about the first time you gave a presentation or spoke publicly? Both are hard and it likely took a lot of effort and energy to master these skills. But through dedication and repetition those difficult tasks become easier and even routine (well, maybe not for public speaking). To master the skill you have to weather the storms and deal with the inevitable setbacks and bruises. The key is to have a goal that is more important than any temporary pain or frustration. Only then you can achieve your dreams.

The right kind of friend…

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

William Shakespeare

Friends like the ones described above are rare and precious jewels. How do you ensure that you have friends like this in you life? Focus on being this kind of friend first…

Better today than yesterday!

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

John Wayne

How often do we start the new day with the thought that it is a brand new and clean day? A day that is ready to be embraced fully because we are a little bit smarter and better because of the day before? Think of the impact on our lives if every day we were to focus on the lessons learned from yesterday and seek to improve today based on those learnings. Talk about continuous improvement!

I journal daily and I am going to add this question to my end of day routine for a while to see how it impacts tomorrow: “What did I learn today that will make tomorrow better?”

What if?

“Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.”

Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

One of the most dangerous thoughts in the world is “this is how it has always been done.” To grow, to change, to be different we must disconnect from our past experiences and expertise on what has always worked and see possibilities through a different lens. To do this you must make sure that you aren’t so emotionally and personally invested in the activities that created the present that you can’t quit them if necessary to build a better future. Easy to say, hard to do. To help with this start asking a lot more questions of yourself and others that start with these two words, “what if…”

Too busy to listen?

“No matter how busy you are, you must take the time to make the other person feel important.”

Mary Kay Ash

What makes you feel important when speaking with others? What signals do you pick up on that let you know another person values you? Do you know the answers to these questions for the people in your life?

One of the best ways to make another person feel important is to truly listen when they are speaking. Giving someone time is meaningless if you aren’t really in the conversation. Being engaged in actively listening and seeking understanding is one key to communicating value and importance. Unfortunately I am often guilty of being in a hurry and not doing this very well.

Today, in your conversations with others, see how many times you find yourself listening in order to respond versus truly hearing what another person has to say. Are you serving others, or focused on being served? You might surprise yourself.

“To me” versus “for me”

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”

Gen. George S. Patton

Why did this happen to me?

Versus…

God, why did this happen for me?

Change just two words in the sentences above and you move from being a victim to being a person with a purpose.

The minute you accept a challenge as being something that is supposed to make you better, so that you can improve, you begin to win. I will fully admit that there have been, and will continue to be, times in life where I wonder why things have to be so challenging. Shouldn’t some things just be easy? The problem is that the things are the easiest are the ones you take for granted. They are the things that don’t have the lasting meaning and impact. Oh but when you embrace the challenge, lean into the suck, build a win by overcoming your self-imposed limitations, that’s when the magic really happens…

Don’t lower your bar…

“Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.”

Arnold Palmer 

When is it okay not to give 100% effort? When is it okay to stop trying? If you know you aren’t going to win, is dialing back the effort or intensity okay?

NO! If you are going to do something, do it. Don’t put in 75% effort because you “can’t win” or because “it’s harder than you expected.” The first time you deliver less than you are capable you are lowering the bar and setting a new level of acceptance. If you commit to doing something do it all the way, no excuses, no exceptions.

Why? Because what if you are wrong? What if you are about to achieve the breakthrough necessary to win? What if you are teaching yourself, and others, that giving less than your best is okay? Is that acceptable to you? I would argue that making a total effort, when the odds are against you, is the most important time to give it your all. That’s when you learn what you are made of…

Keep your guard up…

“I don’t want to let my guard down and feel too comfortable. If you become complacent, you start feeling entitled. I’m ready to go dig ditches if I have to. Whatever I gotta do to provide for my family. Whatever I gotta do to make sure that I do the best possible job at whatever wonderful opportunities I’ve been handed.”

Mark Wahlberg

What keeps you awake at night? How do you ensure that you are always seeking and striving and never becoming complacent? What is the thing that keeps you from ever settling for less than what you are capable of?

Complacency scares me to death. I never want to get too comfortable and expect anything. I really like how he points out that complacency can create a sense of entitlement. I haven’t thought about it this way before but it makes perfect sense. If you get comfortable you start to expect to win, you expect success. You feel entitled to success. That’s when you begin to lose. You have to keep your guard up…

Happy Father’s Day…

“Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.” 

Author Unknown

My Dad is one of those men who has had incalculable impact on my life. I chose today’s quote because even though we might not talk every day my Father is always with me. The lessons he taught me from a very young age have formed the core of who I am as a man, as a leader, as a husband and as a Father. It is quite likely that not a single day goes by that I don’t do something, consciously or unconsciously, that is a direct attribution to my Dad in some way. This morning though I want to express my gratitude for three specific things that my Father taught me.

First, my Dad taught me from a very early age that EVERY person was to be valued and treated with dignity, honor and respect. It didn’t matter where a person came from, how much money they did or didn’t have, what race, religion or creed they belonged to. People were to be honored and respected. Period. I can think of dozens of stories from my life where Dad exemplified this through his actions in how he treated others. It wasn’t just words, he lived this out and taught me a valuable lesson through his actions. Some of those actions I observed became the bedrock of my own beliefs.

Second, my Father taught me the value of hard work. He grew up on a dairy farm and truly knew what hard work was. I remember his great stories from the farm and life growing up in rural Georgia in the 1950’s and 60’s. The stories all sounded fun but the most profound lesson that he passed on was when he taught me, “Son, on a farm the cows have to be milked seven days a week, 365 days per year. There are no days off on a farm. You have to take care of the animals that take care of you. Never forget that work doesn’t stop needing to be done simply because you are tired. When the work is done, you are done.”

Third, my father was hyper-engaged with my brother and I growing up in life. We went camping, fishing, hunting, boating, shooting, did Ju-Jitsu together, worked together on projects to earn money, etc. If there was something to be done or experienced it was the three amigos of my Dad, my brother and myself. Dad gave himself completely and fully to his boys and never put himself first in any way. Dad didn’t do things for us, he taught us how to do things. I have incredible memories of life growing up experiencing the world with my Dad. We didn’t have much money but we were rich beyond measure. My Dad wasn’t a helicopter parent in any way. He worked HARD. He worked a lot. But the hours that he had to give were given 100% to myself and my brother.

On this Father’s Day I am so appreciative of the lessons my Dad has taught me, and continues to teach me, through his actions, words and support. He is the silent guide on my shoulder and I am eternally grateful for his influence. Happy Father’s Day Dad…

It’s your choice to be on the bus…

“If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.  The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up.”

Jim Collins

Are you a person that would be considered “the right person on the bus?” Do you have to be tightly managed or fired up? If so, then why? If you are doing work you genuinely care about, that you find compelling and rewarding, then “getting motivated for work” is something that should never happen. If you don’t feel this way about your work, either change yourself, or change the work. Being the wrong person on the bus is never a good option.

Can vs. Should…

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

Stephen R. Covey

How do you ensure that you help others see the opportunities in themselves they might not recognize? How can you apply this same sentiment to yourself?

It is interesting to think through the different meaning expressed by “can be” and “should be.” “Can be” conveys to me aspirational or opportunistic growth while “should be” conveys an awareness of better choices that haven’t been made by the person. I “should” do something has a very different meaning than I “can” do something.

To turn either perspective into reality you must first see the opportunity, and then take clear and decisive actions. Helping others see their own possibilities requires intentionality on your part. Whom do you want to help grow? How are you going to treat them differently starting today?

Dignity, Honor & Respect…

“At the places where I want to work, even if people do other things well (even extraordinary well) but routinely demean others, they are seen as incompetent.” 

Robert Sutton

Life is too short to put up with people who mistreat or demean others. There is just no place for it. You don’t have to agree with someone, you don’t have to socialize with them outside of work, you don’t even have to like them, but you do have to treat EVERYONE with dignity, honor and respect. There is no excuse for any other behavior. We all make mistakes, lose our temper, have a bad day, etc. The key is that when you do, you own it, apologize to those that bore the brunt of any such behavior and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Abusing others routinely is a very different thing and is completely unacceptable no matter how good they are at what they do…

Hard work is a form of thanks…

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

Derek Jeter

Who works harder than you? Do you know anyone whom you respect that constantly and consistently puts in a degree of effort and brings an intensity to their work that you admire? What is their secret? Have you ever asked them? We all have the same 24 hour days, what causes some people to push harder and get more out of those same hours than you do? What prevents you from asking them, and finding your own way to do more and maximize your talents?

I believe that talent is a gift from God. We don’t control how much of it we receive but we can control how much of it we put to use. I view hard work as a form of showing my thankfulness and appreciation to God for the gifts He has given me. If He gave me a talent to use and I am lazy and don’t put for the effort to maximize it then I am dishonoring Him. I am reminded of this verse:

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Colossians 3:23-24

In some ways I guess that the ability to do the hard work, no matter what, is a form of talent in itself. Another verse that reinforces this principle is:

‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.’ Ecclesiastes 9:10

Doing the hard work isn’t about getting the reward, it is about honoring our gifts. Find someone whom you respect for their hard work and ask them why and how they do it. Then find a way to do your hard work yourself.

What is the lesson in the challenge?

“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish.”

Chuck Norris

If it is easy to achieve is it worthy of your efforts? Doing what is “easy” doesn’t strengthen and build a platform for long-term success. I have learned far more in life from the obstacles and challenges along the way than I have from any “accomplishments.” Well, that’s not entirely true. I have learned a great deal from accomplishments that occurred AFTER I had to overcome a challenge along the way. Those were the ones that reformed who I am as a person and have helped me grow and learn. While I might have wished to avoid the obstacle if given a choice I can’t think of a single one where I don’t appreciate the lesson it taught me.

Having drive and determination to overcome challenges is critical. Equally important is taking the time to reflect on what it is you were supposed to learn from the challenge so you can improve and grow.

What is the lesson you are supposed to be learning from the challenge before you right now?

Scared is good!

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”

Seth Godin

What really scares you? I know at one time in my life I HATED public speaking. I am not alone in having had that phobia, it is a common fear. I heard once that people actually ranked public speaking ahead of dying as something they were afraid of! Today speaking still makes my pulse race and makes my palms sweat a bit. I love that it scares me. It makes me push harder, prepare harder, think through what I want to say and how I want to say it. If it didn’t scare me, I don’t believe I could do my audience justice and make it worth their time and attention to listen to something I am saying.

I no longer hate speaking, in fact, I love it, but it still scares me. But I wouldn’t trade away the feeling I get, and the benefits I believe come that from, being scared. Having a fear that I must overcome forces me to be better, to grow and improve. Besides, how do you know you are alive if you aren’t scared on occasion?

Happiness of pursuit…

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.”

Denis Waitley

I know this is a reminder that I need constantly. Life isn’t about the goal or the objective, it is about the journey.

Think of it this way. Do you read a great novel to find out what happened to the main character(s)? If so then why don’t you simply skip to the last pages and see what happened? Or perhaps you could find someone else who has already condensed the book into an abbreviated version so you don’t have to read the whole thing. But that isn’t where you find the joy. The happiness comes from reading the entire tale, from going on the journey with the characters, in losing oneself in a great story.

We don’t achieve happiness through getting some thing or reaching some goal. Happiness comes from loving the effort expended to pursue the dream.

Compared to what?

“The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else.”

Craig Groeschel

Do you remember that thing that you dreamed about forever, saved up for years? Perhaps it was a new car, a new house or a new apartment. Maybe it was the new role at your work or a job at a new company, or even a new relationship. It was SPECIAL!

Then something happened. Somehow that thing that was bright and shiny and special lost its luster. It wasn’t special anymore, in fact, it became just like everything else, just a part of the background of life and a new bright shiny object took its place.

Why does this happen? How does something that at one time is very special and pursued become something that is easily put aside and taken for granted? Teddy Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy” and he was so very right. The minute we take the thing that is special to us, and compare it to what others have, or we think that they have, our own thing becomes tarnished. The more we compare, the darker the tarnish becomes.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that, “But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

How do we ensure that we focus on the gifts we have, and not get lost in the comparison to what we think others have? How do we ensure that our gratitude is focused on the gifts and blessings received? There will always be a desire for more, for new, for something better, and at times that can be okay, but only if you are comparing within and against yourself and not to others.

Invest in excellence…

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” 

Vince Lombardi

This really made me pause and think. The “quality of a person’s life,” not just the quality of their work, or the quality of their specific job, but the quality of their entire life is based on their commitment to excellence. What is your commitment to excellence right now? Are you committed to it fully in any and every role or job that you have? In all aspects of life?

Quality of life = the desired result

Commitment to excellence = the input that delivers the desired result

I put the inputs second because I believe it is critically important to “begin with the end in mind.” Do you have a definition in your head of what “quality of life” means? Once you have that clearly defined in your head then the right question to be asking is, “where do I need to be increasing my investment in excellence in order to achieve the quality of life I desire?

D-Day – June 6, 1944

“This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Seventy five years ago today the largest seaborne military operation in history was taking place. I can’t begin to imagine what the young men who were preparing to jump out of airplanes or run off their landing craft onto the beaches were feeling and thinking. They were part of a great fight against evil and tyranny but I am sure most of them were simply thinking of their loved ones back home and praying for survival. They were all scared and ready to get it over with.

I am a huge history buff and have read dozens of books on the second world war and about D-Day specifically. The level of courage this entire generation displayed on that day, and throughout the entire second world war is incredible. They were committed to doing something because it was right, not because they themselves were going to get something from it, nor because our country was seeking power and domination. They did what had to be done. And on this morning seventy five years ago, they made history and forever changed the world. Thank you to the greatest generation for making these past seventy five years possible.

There is something special about the commitment it takes to embark on a plan and set out with 100% commitment to success. No alternatives, no room for failure. Simply the intense focus on getting it done, no matter what. How often in life do we approach any challenge with this degree of commitment or resolve? What would we do differently if we did?

Think simple…

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

When you come up with a simple solution to a problem does it feel fulfilling to you? Sometimes it seems that we come up with complex solutions to problems to justify our involvement or our participation. The perception is that if it is simple then anyone could do it, but doing something complex takes special skills and talents. Our identity as leaders and contributors can be wrapped up in HOW we solve the problem instead of focusing on the problem that needs to be solved. We justify our worth based on the activities required to make things complex. I can admit that I have been very guilty of this over the years, especially when I was younger and seeking to prove myself. I wanted to create complex solutions that solved the problem instead of finding the cleanest and simplest path forward.

Complex can be fun and exciting but simple is beautiful and elegant. I agree that simple can take much more time than complex, it requires getting out of your current mindset and seeking new perspectives to address a challenge. But the reward for creating simple answers to complex issues is that everyone can understand and appreciate the solution. You don’t have to spend nearly as much energy explaining and teaching, instead you get people engaged and using because they intuitively understand. Creating simple is hard hard work, but the juice is worth the squeeze…

Are you willing to be wrong?

“Always be willing to look at both sides of the argument. Understanding the other side is the best way to strengthen your own.”

Jim Rohn

Are you willing to be wrong? Maybe a better question to ask is “do you have to be right?” As a leader how do you make it safe for others to be wrong?

Following the wisdom outlined in the quote above is a great way to gain perspective and show your team and those around you that you don’t have all the answers. It demonstrates a willingness to be wrong, a capacity to be vulnerable. Understanding the other side of the argument might reinforce your own beliefs but it just might give you perspective that you didn’t have before you sought the additional information.

And just what if along the way to seeking understanding and perspective you learned something that changed your mind? What if the other side of the argument provided the answer you didn’t have before? What if you were wrong? In order to truly learn, you have to be willing to be wrong…

Magical momentum…

“Momentum solves 80% of your problems.”

John C. Maxwell

The energy you feel when you are riding a huge wave of momentum is contagious and powerful. The key to maintaining momentum is to put as much effort into the next step or action as you did in all the steps that built the current wave. If you relax and take your foot off the gas, the momentum will go away. Never ever slow down because with intense focus and action you build momentum, and with momentum you win. Momentum is magical…

Humility is the basis of honor…

“Humility forms the basis of honor, just as the low ground forms the foundation of a high elevation.”

Bruce Lee

The dictionary defines humility as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” Notice that it doesn’t say a “low view of one’s own self.” The dictionary defines honor as “adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct.”

Thinking about how a ‘modest or low view of one’s own importance” as it relates to honor is very thought provoking. To adhere to what is right means that you first must have humility because without it, you could easily fall prey to the distractions and temptations of the world. If you think about it you don’t hear about many truly humble people behaving in dishonorable ways. But it doesn’t take much of a leap to think of people without humility who act dishonorably. This reminds me of one of my favorite verses from Proverbs.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

How do you work on your humility? How do you lower your view of your own importance? Focus on others, and what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Serve others…

What am I most grateful for in life today?

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”

James Allen

I journal daily and one of my practices is to think through the past 24 hours and reflect on what I am most grateful for in life. I am often amazed that no matter what else is going, no matter how busy or crazy or challenging life is at the moment, the simple practice of finding the things that I appreciate and am thankful for right now serves to reset my mental state and puts my focus back on what is truly important. Giving thanks to God for the many blessings I have been given, that I don’t deserve, puts everything else in perspective.

What’s interesting to me is that when I miss a day or two here and there because life gets busy I don’t feel as grounded or focused. I find myself focused on living, instead of why I am living. Practicing gratitude as a habit has become part of my worship time and helps keep me grounded in what is truly important.

If you have never tried it start by simply answering the question “What am I most grateful for in life today?” with 2-3 single sentences. It will take less than five minutes so give it a try and challenge yourself to do it for an entire month. See if instead of a chore it becomes a habit you look forward to each day.

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