Learn from the past, focus on the future…

“Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

Pope John XXIII

Why do we let “the past,” which is only a memory in our minds, get in the way of what is possible in the future? Unfortunately it is human nature to get wrapped up in what didn’t work or what went wrong and we lose focus on what is yet to come. The key is to focus on learning from the failures with the intent to use that knowledge to get better.

If you value every experience as an opportunity to grow and improve then you will be able to learn from the past but focus on the future.

More than a job…

“Leadership contains certain elements of good management, but it requires that you inspire, that you build durable trust. For an organization to be not just good but to win, leadership means evoking participation larger than the job description, commitment deeper than any job contract’s wording.”

Stanley A. McChrystal

Who are the leaders that have inspired you to go further than the description or the definition of what is required from your role? The best leaders I have ever worked with are exceptional at inspiring because they were incredible at building trust. I knew that they had my back no matter what and were genuinely interested in me as both an employee and a person. Once you have experienced that type of leadership, nothing else quite measures up…

Today will be the foundation…

“My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life.”

Miles Davis

Today might be the day that one day you will look back on and realize was the foundation of everything. Since that is the case what will you be doing today to make sure it is one that you are proud of?

Health & Longevity

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

Herophilus

Over the past few months I have really been digging into understanding complete health and how the body is a complete system that God has designed so beautifully. Maybe it is getting older but I really want to learn more on how to optimize later life health by making the right choices today. I don’t want to get to a later stage of life and not be able to actually live. Here are a few resources that I have used of late to further my understanding of complete health.

The Drive – Peter Attia – A friend turned me on to this website and podcast and I have found it to be completely fascinating and thought provoking. The content is wide ranging but the focus is on optimizing healthy for longevity. It is a great place to start.

Sleep is your superpower – Dr. Matt Walker – One of the key realizations I have made in recent months is that I am chronically sleep deprived. I have long believed that I am good to go with only 5-6 hours of sleep per night. After reading the book by the same presenter in this Ted Talk I have completely shifted my thinking. The clinical research is just to compelling and convicting to ignore.

Think & Eat Yourself Smart – Dr. Caroline Leaf – The Mind, Brain, Body connection is fascinating and compelling. Reading this (and several other books by the same author) has given me great perspective on the importance of really paying attention to what you feed your brain and body. Both through nutrition as well as the thoughts you put into your mind.

Ten Percent Happier – Meditation & Mindfulness – Doing everything possible to keep the body healthy is only part of the equation. Understanding the mind’s role and how important it is build healthy habits for mental care is fascinating. I have tried several apps for meditation but this one has become my favorite along with the “Waking Up” app created by Sam Harris. As a newbie to mindfulness I like using these two apps in tandem to learn and grow this powerful and important skill.

These are just a few of the resources I have found to be valuable over the past 6-9 months. There are many more and I still have quite a bit to learn but that is the joy of life, it is a journey, not a destination…

Thinking through writing…

“You don’t really understand your thoughts until you express them in words.”

Elmer L. Towns

I do my best “thinking” when I am actually writing. Putting words to paper, or in my case to the screen, is when I can really find myself thinking through what it is that I am trying to convey. “Thinking out loud” via writing has become my favorite way to clarify my thoughts and truly understand what it is that is rattling around inside my head. This is one reason that I started this blog just over a year ago, to get into a discipline of daily writing and thinking through my writing. It works, at least it has for me. Give it a shot, write daily and see what happens. I’ll bet you find much greater clarity in your thinking.

How do you handle the rip currents of life?

“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”

Eckhart Tolle

This quote makes me think of how one should react if caught in a rip current at the beach. The reason rip currents are so dangerous is that most people will panic and try and swim against the current. Expending your energy going against the current is futile and will only serve to tire yourself out, which is when tragedy can strike. Instead, you should do these four things:

  • Don’t panic – Rip currents don’t last forever and will typically end in 50-100 feet.
  • Don’t try to swim against the current – Trying to go against the current is futile and how you will wear yourself out. You aren’t strong enough to do it, don’t try.
  • Try and swim parallel to shore – Keeping shore in sight and moving at an angle with the rip current. The current typically isn’t more than 20-40 feet wide so this can give you a chance to exit the current so you can then swim to shore.
  • Relax & enjoy the ride – Because the currents don’t normally last more than 100 – 150 feet then you can ride it out and once it dissipates you can then try and swim to shore or call for help.

How do these tactics apply to the metaphorical rip currents that can, and will, pop up in life? Taking the time to think through each of these steps whenever something comes up that you didn’t plan for or expect can put an entirely new perspective on whatever you are dealing with. The bottom line is this, when you are caught in a rip current, don’t put all your energy into resisting it, you won’t win…

The right balance…

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Chinese Proverb

How do you find the right balance between relaxation and tension? To always be relaxed is to not be growing and changing. To have too much tension is to be untrue to yourself and this happens when you are trying to be someone you aren’t.

Questions to ponder. Who am I and how do I need to grow to be an even better version of that person? How can I be sure that the tension I create is positive and not negative? How can I ensure I don’t stray from my core beliefs and principles?

What did you learn from yesterday?

“Each day is the scholar of yesterday.”

Publilius Syrus

What did you learn yesterday that will make today a little bit better? What are you going to do with that information?

Once you have answered these two questions then what is stopping you from taking action?

Communication upgrade required…

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

Bryant H. McGill

Over the past few weeks I have had a number of long conversations with my 10-year old daughter and is a joy to see her growing into a special and unique person with her own thoughts and I ideas. I have also become mindful of the fact that my listening and conversation style with her needs to mature and grow as she is doing the same. No longer are the conversations purely about answering “why” questions with her wanting to understand the world. Now she wants to express what she thinks and believes. Instead of simply listening to answer or respond back to her I need to listen to hear and understand what is going on in her mind and in her world.

This experience and awakening has been a good reminder to me of how easy it is to get into a “communication routine” and not really hear what another person is saying. I fully understand how powerful it is to truly hear what another is saying, but knowing and doing aren’t always the same thing. The good news is I now have another great person to practice this skill with.

What “communicate routines” do you need to upgrade?

The ultimate gift…

“Work hard, don’t quit, be appreciative, be thankful, be grateful, be respectful, also to never whine ever, never complain, and, always, for crying out loud, keep a sense of humor.”

Michael Keaton

I can’t think of a better list of traits as a parent to work to instill in my kids. In order to do so I have to hold myself accountable to living this list on a daily basis. A few of them I do well but there are some that I need to be diligent and guard against setting a poor example. If my children adopt these traits then I feel I will have done my job as a parent in preparing them for the world. This is the best gift I can give them.

Quicksand…

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”

Jean Paul

How is it that you only start to really understand the value of life and time when you have gained some experiences and taken a few knocks? As the sand in our hourglass slides past are we focused on maximizing the value of each grain? Or are we lost because we are focusing on the next big thing that may or may not be important at all?

Don’t let a single grain of sand slip through unappreciated and unvalued. This is our one and only life. Why would you waste any of it?

Get moving…

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.”

Carol Welch-Baril

I remember a time when I viewed exercise as work, something to be loathed or done only as a matter of necessity. Something changed along the way in life and it has gone from being a necessary evil to a desired passion and a complete need.

Today I have to get exercise of some sort every day or I just don’t feel like myself. It is amazing how much the simple act of a going for a walk or a run can completely change your mind and elevate your thinking. I can’t imagine life anymore without exercise and movement. In fact, strangely enough, now going on a trip or seeing a few days ahead that are going to create difficulty in working out cause me tremendous stress. Amazing how life can change.

Pause. Breathe. Reflect.

“In everyday struggle maintain your cool and emotion. To heal a wound you need to stop touching it. Keeping yourself calm in times of stress will not only have immediate smoothing effects; it can also, over time, help you lead a healthier, happier life.”

Dr Anil Kr Sinha

It is amazing how much you benefit when you simply pause and take a deep breath in a stressful situation. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a stressful situation to make the practice of pausing and taking a breath incredibly worthwhile.

Pause. Breath. Ask yourself this question, “Will how I react to this situation right now matter one year from today?” If the answer is no then why are you expending any emotional energy on it?

Wisdom doesn’t come quickly…

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”

Saint Augustine

As I reflect on this quote I am reminded of this verse, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

In today’s “I want it all now” world patience seems to be a diminishing virtue. Everything in life seems to be a single click or web search away and because of this we tend to expect wisdom to be immediate and instantaneous. I can’t think of anything that I have achieved with ease that I value nearly as much as those things I have had to work hard for and pursue with patience and diligence.

What are you pursuing diligently?

No zombies allowed…

“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.”

Og Mandino 

We must all relentlessly guard against being the one that is “patient zero” for this disease. Have you ever this person? I am sure that everyone has been at one time or another because negativity and complaining is just so contagious.

How can you ensure that you aren’t opening yourself up to being infected by one of these zombies? There are two tactics that I use regularly.

First, stop the conversation when it is getting started. If someone is “weeping and complaining” be upfront and tell them that you aren’t going to listen to negativity but would love to have a conversation about how they can address whatever challenge they are facing. In my experience they will either embrace the opportunity or stop the conversation altogether.

Second, listen politely for a moment but then reframe the situation they are complaining about back to them with questions around how they can take action to influence the outcome. Don’t stand for excuses or complaints, continually reframe with questions back to the actions they can control.

There are plenty of additional great ways to challenge those that “weep and complain” but the most important thing is to make sure that you never allow yourself to become one of the zombies that are infecting others. You can use the tactics I outlined above with yourself just as effectively as you can with others…

Mistakes as investments…

“Mistakes increase your experience and experiences decrease your mistakes. If you learn from your mistakes then others learn from your success.” 

Anonymous

Perhaps we should view mistakes from a debits, credits and investments perspective. For example, you get a $1 for each mistake you make. But if you repeat the mistake you have to pay back $10. However, if you learn from the mistake and turn it into a win you get $20.

I wonder how we might manage our mistake debits/credit and investment account if we thought of mistakes in this way?

Emotionally engaged…

“Loyal customers are a different breed. They don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.”

Chip Bell 

Think of three companies that you do business with and love enough to insist that your friends use as well. What is it about them that you love so much? Why are you willing to risk YOUR reputation with your friends and family recommending a product or service you don’t have any influence or control over? What is it that makes the transactional business relationship emotionally engaging for you?

That is what it takes for me to insist that someone else do business with a company that I choose to patronize. For me to make this recommendation I need to have built a deep emotional attachment to something that the organization has done for me that has been worth more than the money I’ve spent with them in the past and will likely spend in the future. There aren’t many companies that have created this emotional connection, and maintain it over time. What do they do differently?

Get closer…

 “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

Steve Jobs

What do you want most from the companies that you choose to spend your hard earned money with? Are these the types of companies that pay close attention to your needs and anticipate your next need, even when you don’t know you want it? I have to admit that the products or services that I like the most from some of my favorite organizations are things I never would have thought to ask for. This reinforces for me that these companies are paying close attention to their customers and constantly seeking ways to find new ways to add value and differentiate themselves.

How are you doing this for your customers and those that you care about?

Disconnect to connect…

“Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.”

Gretchen Rubin

In order to connect to what is truly important one must turn off the distractions and connect to what is truly precious. In today’s world it is so easy to let our tech be our master. I know I struggle with this but when I disconnect the feeling is truly liberating. What a joy it is to just be present in the moment and not be a slave to technology. How can you make sure to build in time for connection to what really matters?

How will you remember me?

“Act as if today is the day you will be remembered for the way you treat others.”

John R. DiJulius III

How do you want to be remembered by others? If a person were to you meet you only once, what would you want them to say about you? For those who spend a significant amount of time with you what would you want them to say about how you treat those around you? Are you treating others in a way that you would want to be remembered?

Truly interested…

“If you are able to figure out how to be truly interested in someone you meet, with the goal of building up a friendship instead of trying to get something out of that person, the funny thing is that almost always, something happens later down the line that ends up benefiting either your business or yourself personally. Stop trying to ‘network’ in the traditional business sense, and instead just try to build up the number and depth of your friendships, where the friendship itself is its own reward.”

Tony Hsieh

It is amazing what can happen when you put serving others first and yourself second. Putting another persons wants, needs, and interests first on your priority list can completely shift the dynamic of the relationship. How does it make you feel when a person treats you in this way? You want to do more for them in return. The dynamic changes from being one that is transactional to one that is relational. And isn’t that what life is all about?

It’s a “my pleasure” world…

“The #1 one job of every company is to make their customer’s life easier.”

Verne Harnish

How many companies forget this simple axiom? Heck, how many companies don’t even make doing this a part of their intentional customer experience in any way?

The companies that I am a raving fan of are the companies that are easy to do business with and, in so doing, make my life easier. I might like their products or services, but I love how they serve me. The experience of purchasing or using their services is just as important as the product itself, sometimes more.

In today’s world it often means that the companies who get it right have highly intentional digital experiences that are intently focused on the customer experience and optimizing that experience for simplicity and ease of doing business.

For example, I love the restaurant chain Chick Fil A. They always have incredible customer service and a great product that is consistent and high quality. Over the past couple of years they have taken their intentional customer experience design up a few notches by developing and deploying a highly effective and easy to use digital app for their restaurants. Not only can I find nearby locations when I am traveling, review their menu, place a mobile order, etc. (all basics of doing business in the digital age) but the app remembers my previous orders and allows me to simply and quickly place a favorite custom order without having to going through all the hassle of making the same choices every time I place an order. They solved for my problem, not theirs, and in so doing make my life a little easier when it comes time to get my favorite meal for lunch. With just one or two taps on my screen I can place the order, let the location I am visiting know I am coming and they will have it ready for me when I get there. I didn’t even know that I needed this functionality and now I measure other organizations against the standard that Chick Fil A has set for me!

This sounds so simple right? Why is it a big deal? Because Chick Fil A is focused on my experience, my needs, my problems or challenges as a customer. They have solved for those things with an intentional focus on making my experience with them simple and easy. As a customer I always feel like I am Chick Fil A’s #1 priority and that carries through in how they design their digital experiences. Oh, and guess what? I spend more money with them than I might otherwise because they have made it so easy to do business with them on my terms.

Who are your favorite companies that have a maniacal focus on making your life easier? How are you taking those lessons and applying to the customers you serve in your life?

What can you learn today?

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” 

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

How different would our relationships be if we started every conversation, every interaction, every engagement with the simple question of; “what can I learn from this person?” Not as a one-time thing, but every time. Would this help one switch from being focused on self to one that is more focused on others? What would the impact be to the people that you are communicating and engaging with? How might you be perceived?

How many people will you interact with today? How many learning opportunities will you have? What will you learn today?

Don’t be the boat anchor…

“We have enough people who tell it like it is—now we could use a few who tell it like it can be.”

Robert Orben

We all know people that are eternal optimists. They find the good in every situation, every circumstance, every opportunity. The challenge with these folks sometimes is that they can’t see always see when they need to make a change to adjust to a changing situation.

The perpetual pessimist is on the opposite end of the continuum. This is the person that is cynical and negative 100% of the time. These types are the boat anchors of progress and will standing in the way of change and progress through their constant negativity.

What is the right type? I would argue that the ideal is a person that lives on the optimistic side of the spectrum but isn’t so far out on the continuum that they can’t and won’t listen to reality. These are the folks that see the future for what it can be and have the ability to look past the current state without being blind to the challenges ahead.

No matter what, don’t be the person known as the boat anchor!

Immeasurable returns…

“The return we reap from generous actions is not always evident.”

Francesco Guicciardini

Why are you generous? Is your goal with generosity to reap a return? True generousity is to give without any desire for return, when you do, the return you receive is immeasurable.

Make the best use…

“Make the best use of what’s in your power and take the rest as it happens.”

Epictetus

In today’s world it is so easy to get focused on what you don’t have, instead of what you do have. We get wrapped up in what we don’t control instead of focusing on what we do influence and control.

“Make the best use of what’s in your power.” How many of us can say that we truly do this? I know that I certainly don’t do it well day in and day out. There are always more gifts that God has given me that I have yet to discover or there are gifts that I have haven’t used to their maximum potential.

Focus on what’s in your power. As for the rest? Reflect on this verse, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬

Freedom…

“The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.”

John F. Kennedy

Freedom to be right…

Freedom to be wrong…

Freedom to worship…

Freedom to choose…

Thank God for our Freedoms…

Freedom… It wasn’t, and isn’t, free at all…

Extreme discontent…

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.”

Warren Bennis

“That’s the way we have always done it” is a sentiment that makes my skin crawl. There can be lots of good reasons for doing something a certain way, but just because you have always done it that way isn’t one of them.

Embrace an attitude of “extreme discontent with the status quo.” Everything can be improved upon or made better, but only if you are actively looking for a reason to do so. If you have a perspective of “extreme discontent” then you are constantly and continually seeking improvement. Only then do you get to solve the more important leadership question, should you change something…

Purpose = Hard Work

“When you live for a strong purpose, hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.”

Steve Pavlina

What is the purpose that you live for? When did it become so strong that the work required to to fulfill your purpose became part of the joy?

With a deep purpose driving you forward you don’t have a choice when it comes to doing the hard work, it happens naturally because you couldn’t fathom not doing it. I would argue that when you truly live for a strong purpose that the hard work doesn’t feel like hard work. The effort is rewarding and while the hours might be long or the work intense, the fact that it is driven by purpose makes the work itself part of the motivation.

Write that down…

“People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.”

Brian Tracy 

Half of 2019 has already passed and the beginning of the 3rd quarter is already here! It is time to review the progress made against Q2 goals and make sure that the right ones are set for Q3.

It is amazing how powerful the act of simply writing down your goals can be. Writing it down makes it tangible and real and puts the focus on defining the next action needed to make the goal a reality. I have used a written goal planning methodology for years and I couldn’t imagine not having written goals and objectives. I truly think I would be lost without this process.

What are your goals for the next three months? The remainder of the year? Are they written down?

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