Allow no easy days…

“Nothing really worth having is easy to get. The hard-fought battles, the goals won with sacrifice, are the ones that matter.”

Aisha Tyler

If it is easy to achieve, easy to get, easy to do, then it just can’t and won’t be valued. But those things that you have to put in blood, sweat and tears to accomplish, those are the things that matter. Think of it this way, does accomplishing easy things motivate you to put in extra effort? Of course not, easy things aren’t the ones that motivate and stir your soul.

Ask yourself this question: What is it that motivates you to give the extra energy, the discretionary effort, the ability to do whatever it takes to get the job done? Find that, and then do it! Don’t allow easy days to become your normal…

Go catch fish…

“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”

Ovid

I don’t believe in chance or in “cosmic coincidence.” Things happen for a reason and for a purpose, even if we don’t understand them in a given time.

I love this quote because it speaks to the power of positivity and positive thinking and always being ready for that fish to bite. To be ready you have to be preparing and looking for the best in life and have a perspective of gratitude for all the gifts and blessings that have led you to be in exactly the right place and moment to catch the fish.

Seasons…

“If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”

General Eric Shinseki

This has long been one of my favorite quotes. Change is a natural state of the world. Today change happens at an ever faster rate and we have to be able to adapt to new ways of thinking and doing things. If you aren’t willing to change, then you are choosing to be in the passenger seat of this bus we call life.

For those that aren’t comfortable with change, and at times that happens to all of us, I find this verse from Ecclesiastes to be both comforting and inspiring.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

If you want to be relevant first take the time to think of how you need to change…

Be inspired…

“Inspiration doesn’t usually show up until you do.”

Michael Hyatt

If you are waiting to “get inspired” to do something great then what are you really waiting on? The perfect moment? The stars to align? For a magic fairy to appear and make all your dreams come true?

Waiting for inspiration is just an excuse for being lazy. There is no such thing as the “overnight success.” Either you show up, do the work, and put in the blood, sweat and tears. Or you don’t. It’s your choice. Waiting for inspiration is just another way of saying “I don’t really have enough desire to do this.” Ask yourself is this is an acceptable outcome. If it isn’t, then there is your inspiration. Channel it into something special…

Two types of silence…

“The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.”

Alfred Brendel

How can you truly listen if you aren’t silent? For the record that means both the external voice which is always ready to respond, and the internal voice that is constantly running in the background (at least mine is…). If you are going to seek to learn from others, then you must ready to be truly silent, physically and mentally. Otherwise you aren’t really listening. And if you aren’t listening, you aren’t learning…


What’s your score?

“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”

Andrew Carnegie

Where do you fall on this scale of energy and ability investment into your work? Are you “average?” Of course no one wants to be average so I assume that everyone would score themselves higher than 25%. But are you able to honestly say that you regularly put in more than 50% of your capacity?

If the answer is “no,” then why not? Not every day is going to be a 100% effort, or even a 50% effort kind of day. But the days where you invest over 50% should outnumber those that don’t. If that isn’t happening then perhaps there is something else going on.

If you are doing work that just doesn’t inspire and motivate you then let’s be honest, sometimes giving 25% can feel like 100%. It can feel like trying to fill a bucket that has tons of holes in it. No matter how much water you pour in, it simply won’t fill up.

There are two key components that are critical for you to score high on the work investment scale. One is the work itself, do you find it motivating and rewarding? The second is deeply understanding your “why.” Do you have a burning “why” that pushes you forward regardless of the work you are doing at the time?

Either the work will have to motivate you, or the “why” should. When you find both, that is when the magic happens. That’s how you score 100%.

“Why” fuel…

“Whatever the struggle, continue the climb. It may be only one step to the summit.”

Diane Westlake 

Sometimes it is when you are just ready to give up that the breakthrough occurs. When faced with discouragement and you are at the place where quitting seems like the easier option, take the time necessary to reconnect with your “why.” Why are you doing this challenge or initiative? Why is this important? Understanding and reconnecting with your “why” can provide all the fuel you need for the next step.

Tomorrow starts tonight…

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

There is nothing like the dawn of a new day to reset and refocus the mind. Though I think the same can be said for the end of the day as well. When you set aside a few minutes to reflect at the end of the day, learn from what went well, and what didn’t, and frame out the day to come you can rest much easier and rise ready to tackle the day ahead. That’s when you can demonstrate new strengths and generate new thoughts. It starts the night before…

Recognize and act…

“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

Arnold Glasgow

Why do problems become emergencies? Is it because no one recognized that the problem was there? That is certainly a possibility and at times this certainly happens. But the far more likely, and damning , reason is that no one did anything about the problem when they recognized it.

This is the mark of true leadership in my mind, doing something about the problem once you become aware of it. You can’t put Pandora back in the box. Why ignore the problem? It won’t go away by itself and there is no one to blame but yourself if it turns into an emergency.

Be happy…

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so, wants nothing.” 

Seneca

Every day our world and society demands us to want more things. That we should covet more stuff, more experiences, all those things that others have and we don’t. It can feel like the entire world is aimed at helping us focus on what we don’t have RIGHT NOW and thus seeding discontentment and disappointment.

Now there is nothing wrong with dreams and goals. Nothing wrong with desiring to do and be more in our one “wild and precious life.” Obviously I have written about the power of goals many times. The disconnect occurs when those things are all that one thinks about, worries about, stresses over or devotes themselves to becoming.

Living for the future is to neglect the incredible gifts and blessings we have been given TODAY. I personally fight this battle constantly, and it has been a constant battle through my life. It is a daily struggle to put down the focus on tomorrow and to simply be in the moment today. But when I do it, and shift my energy to being fully present with gratitude for exactly where I am TODAY all the seeds of discontentment and anxiety disappear as if blown away by a strong wind.

Ask yourself this question: What is it today that I am most grateful for in my life? I have found that answering this question has an amazing way of pulling one back to the present moment and focusing energy on where one is. It keeps the distractions of life at bay and for those, like me, who have a tendency to live in and for the future, it puts me solidly in the present moment. Try it out, write it down every morning and see what happens. You might find yourself happier than you have ever been.

Carpe Omnia…

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.”

Benjamin Disraeli

What dream, ambition or goal have you been contemplating and thinking about and yet doing nothing with? Have you ever become happier just thinking about something instead of doing it? Of course not. That’s not how we were built to live our lives.

The action you take today to make a dream come true might not work out, but you will be better for having acted. The next action might not be the one that brings the dream to fruition, but it might be the nudge that gets the flywheel moving.

When in doubt do something, even if it turns out to be wrong. Otherwise you are surrendering to be a person that sits idly by while the precious gift of time that we have been given slips through your fingers. The time is going to pass anyway, wouldn’t you rather have used it intentionally and with purpose?

You might regret your actions at times, but you will regret even more having never acted on your dreams… Seize it all…

Success vs. Significance

“What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”

Jane Goodall

What is the legacy you want to leave from your life here on this earth? I find that this is such a broad question that it can be hard to wrap my head around what it truly means. Perhaps it helps to rephrase today’s quote in a more specific and time sensitive fashion.

For whom do you want to make a difference today and what kind of difference do you want to make?

Everyday we have an opportunity, no, we have an obligation to answer the question about what kind of difference we want to make with our lives. We weren’t born to simply live, accumulate things, and worry about how and to whom the fruits of our labors will be redistributed to when we pass away. We were born to make a difference in the lives of others.

That can mean one person, or it can mean thousands of people through the course of your life. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have to decide to make a difference; today. If you answer this question today, and every day, then you can never stray far from living a life of meaning and impact.

When you switch your focus from creating a life based on earthly success measures, and instead focus on creating a life of significance that is what will build a life of meaning. Your legacy becomes not the goal but is instead the result of thousands of daily decisions made for others, not for yourself.

Which scorecard?

“The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard.  It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.”

Warren Buffett

How do you measure your success? Is the scorecard for that success one that is public and visible for all to see? Or is it private and internal for just yourself and God to see and understand? Do you care more about the outer scorecard and what others think and say or do you put more emphasis on the inner scorecard based on your own core values and mores?

I guess you could have two scorecards, but they had better be aligned in almost every way, because if they aren’t you will inevitably make a choice that violates the principles of one of them. So in all reality there is just one scorecard. Where and how do you keep score?

Myself or others?

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about looking after those in our charge.”

Simon Sinek

What percentage of your time do you spending looking at leadership through this lens? How of much of your energy and effort is focused on delivering on this principle?

Generally speaking we are naturally wired to focus on self before others. Overcoming this tendency is a critical step towards becoming an authentic and true leader.

“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Think of the leaders you have worked for and with. Did they demonstrate these principles? If yes, then what is your perception of, and attitude towards, their leadership? If no, then the same question applies. Which one did you respect more? Which one motivated you as a person? Whom do you want to emulate?

Reflect on and answer this simple question for yourself today. “Who am I focused on taking care of, myself or others?”

Unlock the power of discipline…

“Discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want to get.”

Andy Andrews

What is it that you want to accomplish? What is a result that you deeply desire? Exactly how much do you want it? Are you willing to do the work to achieve it? More importantly, are you willing to do the work after the excitement fades? When the effort is no longer fun and has become pure drudgery and sticking to it is really hard to do? That’s when real discipline comes in to play. Talk is cheap, action is cheap too, at least for the first few days. Then the real work starts.

Anyone can motivate themselves to take the first step in a journey. Even the first hundred steps might not be that hard. But what about the steps after that? What if you don’t know exactly how long the journey is going to take?

Discipline means sticking to your plan, doing the work, focusing on getting the next step in the journey right, not worrying about whether there are 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 more steps remaining. Doing the right work, the right way, right now, is all that matters. If you can do this, for the things that are truly important, you have discipline. If you can’t, then you can develop this powerful trait, by just doing it, day in, day out, one day at a time.

What is important enough to you to put forth this kind of effort, with no guarantee of success? Answer this question and you will uncover what it takes to unlock the power of discipline.

Mediocrity…

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”

Andrew Carnegie

It is easy to motivate yourself to do the fun things, those activities that are rewarding and enjoyable. But do you have the internal drive to do those things that need to be done when you don’t want to do them? That is where the need for motivation comes in. If you can’t push yourself to do the effort that matters, when it isn’t necessarily enjoyable, you will never be all that you are capable of becoming.

So what drives you? What gets you out of bed in the morning with energy and vigor ready to do the hard work necessary to achieve your goals? If you can’t answer this question immediately then I highly recommend that you spend time figuring this out. Because if you don’t, then life will be mediocre…

I can think of nothing worse than to know that you have achieved less than you were capable of simply because you didn’t have the discipline and motivation to do the work.

How do you measure prosperity?

“Without labor nothing prospers.”

Sophocles

That which we work for and earn through labor is what we truly value. Getting something without putting in the effort creates a false happiness that is both temporary and fleeting. But when you do the work, and you put in the effort, and you then earn the reward, you appreciate the experience in a far different way.

True prosperity isn’t measured on the scale of money or things. Real prosperity is relishing the joy that comes from hard work done well. Those that find this, have found alignment with God’s calling in their life.

If you look at prosperity through this lens how does it change your measures of success?

Start the day with a plan…

“The key to victory [is] creating the right routines.”

Charles Duhigg

Over the years I have found that having a morning routine is what sets the day up for maximum productivity and enjoyment. I have tried many different things in an attempt to find just the right way to start my day and while I haven’t settled on a “perfect” routine just yet I am pretty happy with the routine listed below that I use to start each day the right way.

  1. Ice Water – I start each morning with a big (32oz) glass of ice water to rehydrate after sleeping. Yes, even before my beloved coffee… Double bonus is that there is nothing like a glass of ice water to wake up the mind!
  2. Meditation – This is a relatively new addition to my routine but is now a critical component of my morning routine. I meditate for 15-20 minutes each morning as soon as I have had my ice water and before I look at any type of electronic devices.
  3. Devotional & Journal – I find that reading, studying and praying over a scripture based devotional is very powerful, especially after time spent in meditation. The second part of this routine is a daily journal. The topics I write about can be anything that is on my mind but I always include a portion of my time focused on gratitude and those things that I am especially grateful from the previous 24 hours.
  4. Leadership Quote & Blog – Yes, I choose my quote and write my blog post each morning. Occasionally time compression will dictate a later quote or blog post but 99% of the time this is part of my morning routine. I have found that I really enjoy framing my day by taking time to reflect on leadership or life.
  5. Physical Fitness – I have come to the realization that in order for me to be at peak effectiveness I need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Sometimes I can’t always get it in during the morning before work, but if I can find a way I will. I am much more focused and efficient through the day when I start the day with a hard workout.

What are your routines? Do you feel “off” when your routine is disrupted?

Don’t be mediocre!

“Mediocre people don’t like high-achievers and high-achievers don’t like mediocre people.”

Nick Saban

Why be mediocre? If you are doing something, anything at all, and mediocre is all that you can give it, then stop. Quit wasting your time and your life and find something that you love and become a high-achiever in that area or field. Everyone can find something they love enough to be a high-achiever. You owe it to yourself, and those around you, to be a high-achiever. Otherwise you will never be around people that you like…

What is the forecast today?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Alan Kay

What do you want your future to look like? Can you imagine it? Taste it? See it so clearly that it is almost real? Does it feel like a prediction or a just a dream?

There is a big difference between those that predict their future and those that only dream about it. Dreamers might see their dreams come true, but only after they step forward into creating the necessary effort to make it possible. Once a person makes that critical step they move from dreaming into the world of prediction. Prediction says “I believe this will happen based on my knowledge, experience and the action I am taking.”

Does this guarantee every prediction will come true? Of course not. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we think they will. Sometimes this is for the very best. Because it allows us to recenter, dream again and predict a new and even better future. We control our own forecast through the choices and predictions we make.

What is your forecast today?

Live life…

“…stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along.”

Robert J. Hastings

These simple things are the ones that create cherished memories and how you know what it feels like to be truly alive. If you aren’t creating the space to do them intentionally then are you really living? I can’t think of one time where I have regretted spending time in the manner listed above. However, I can think of many times where I have missed out on, and now have remorse about, the truly meaningful experiences that I skipped in the name of “productivity” or “getting things done.”

If you don’t do the things that matter when you have the chance will you regret it later? What if you were to score your success in life based on how you have lived your life to this point than how successful have you been?

What would you need to change to improve your score?

Don’t waste a second…

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”

Napoleon Hill

Sometimes it can be so easy to become consumed by future goals and objectives. We can easily miss the opportunity to simply be present and impact the world positively right here and now. I know that I fight this battle daily but I am not going to surrender. Because time spent living for the future, or in the past, is a waste of the present moment. Life is too precious to waste a single second…

Create your legacy through the journey…

“It’s the journey that matters, soak it in.  Learn lessons out of it.  Impact positively so that if you never get to your destination, at least you’d leave a legacy to be remembered.”

Emem Uko

I need to get this quote tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. Actually, I simply need to meditate and reflect on this sentiment regularly so that I can ensure that I am focused on what is truly important and make the necessary adjustments when I lose perspective. I’d much rather be remembered for how I behaved along the journey than whether or not I reached my destination.

Where are you on your journey? Are you focused on the destination or the trip itself?

Advise vs. compel…

“To advise is not to compel.”

Anton Chekhov

When someone asks you for advice are you focused on giving them your perspective or your permission? If you are offering advice in a “tell people what to do” manner then you are creating and reinforcing a hierarchal culture that seeks permission before acting. So be very careful that when you offer advice isn’t seen as a directive.

If you cross the line and deliver a message that is focused on compelling others to do things your way, and only your way, you are killing creativity, innovation, engagement and discretionary effort. There is a time and a place for issuing a mandate, but by and large it isn’t when people are seeking advice or perspective.

Do you lead yourself first?

“Great leaders last because they lead themselves first.”

Andy Stanley

Self-leadership is the most important component of becoming a successful leader. How can you expect anyone else to follow you if you don’t set the example and demonstrate that you can lead yourself?

So what does this mean? It carries much more meaning than simply leading by example. It requires tremendous self-awareness and the ability to get outside of your own head to see yourself, and your behavior, and then determine what changes need to be made to become the leader you know you are capable of becoming.

The model of leadership effectiveness that I personally use follows these core principles: (see previous post here)

  1. Set clear expectations
  2. Coach and train to the expectations
  3. Evaluate performance against the expectations
  4. Hold accountable to the expectation

The real self-leadership question is whether you are holding yourself accountable to following these same principles? If the answer is no, then you have work to do because you aren’t leading yourself first…

Recognize the daily ledger…

“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.”

Neil Armstrong

What happens if the work of the daily grind doesn’t occur? Not only will the fireworks not happen but neither will all the very important, and very necessary, effort that is needed to make the regularity of life possible. Every day people do work that is completely unrecognized because it isn’t part of a big show. But the cascading impact of that work is too important to ignore. The barista that takes pride in their craft and doesn’t just “mail it in” and treats their customer with genuine warmth. The postman that delivers the mail that includes a birthday present for a child. The manager that stops talking long enough to truly listen to their team member.

What we do and contribute in life is far more than the big fireworks show. It is how we live and interact with others every single day. I challenge you to find one person in your walk today who is doing their normal ledger and tell them “thank you.” The impact that you then make on their life is so much more important that the moment of time it takes for you to recognize and appreciate the small efforts that in turn have made your life better.

Recipe for failure…

“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy. Do what is great while it is small.”

Sun Tzu

Rarely do great works become easier because you put off starting. Rushing to get something done at the last minute isn’t a mark of high efficiency but is instead an indication of poor planning and prioritization.

I used to believe that I did my best work when I was under the gun, under the pressure from needing to hit a deadline. The truth is that I was using that as an excuse for not setting aside the time to tackle the hard work before it became a last minute time crunch.

Doing the hard work is much easier when you plan for it appropriately. Waiting until the last minute isn’t a plan, it is a recipe for failure…

How to get out of your own way…

“One of the greatest tragedies you can experience is to come to the end of your life and realize that… your failure was due in large part to your inability to get out of your own way.”

Mark Goulston

Do you know your weaknesses? Are you aware of the behaviors and tendencies that you exhibit that prevent you from being as productive, impactful or fulfilled as God created you to be?

If you are aware do you have coping mechanisms and an active plan to address these shortfalls? Do you revisit that plan regularly and hold yourself accountable to its execution?

Do you have a list of friends or confidants that you have shared both the list of weaknesses and your action plan with? Have you given them permission to hold you accountable? Have you asked them to be candid and direct and not sugar coat feedback when they see something that you need to know about?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions then you are at high risk of being the person who can’t get out of their own way. Don’t settle for being as good as your worst weakness will permit you to be. Change the narrative and elevate yourself.

Finish what you start…

“Done is better than perfect.”

Anonymous

When I picked the quote this morning I was reminded of something that I once read that an experienced pilot had said when asked about a bumpy landing. “As long as my takeoff and landing ratio is one to one then I consider it a successful flight.” The measure of success is DONE. Not started, not perfect, not “mostly done,” but DONE.

How do you define done? Do you have a clear definition of that in your mind when you start any initiative? If so, then what gets in your way of achieving it? Finish it…

Busy on purpose…

“Everybody ends up somewhere in life.  A few people end up somewhere on purpose.”

Andy Stanley

Do we sometimes get so busy that we forget why we are living? It seems that we can easily forget that life isn’t about being “busy” and having a lot of stuff to do. I recently read a passage in a book that was talking about “busy” as way of showing our importance and relevance in life. The busier we are the more important we must be. This world we live in today is all about being “busy” and having a lot going on. In many cases it is perceived that if you aren’t stretched to the max you must not be very good or successful in life.

That’s why I like this quote from Andy so much. It makes me think about being “busy on purpose.” Am I headed in the right direction and is my busy focused on what matters or is it focused on me? It’s okay to be busy, but only if what you are doing really matters. Otherwise it is just activity…

Finish what you start…

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Anonymous

And the secret of staying ahead is to finish what you started…

How do you find the right balance between “try a lot of things and keep the ones that work,” and “don’t start something new until you have finished what is most important?”

This is a question that is rolling around in my head of late. Start the right things and finish them. See them all the way through, no matter what. Starting is easy, finishing strong is much harder.

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