How do you increase excellence?

“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”

Pat Riley

I am continually amazed in life as the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Excellence then isn’t a result of the accumulation of more knowledge and wisdom but instead is a greater and more pointed focus on only those things that truly matter.

So excellence is focusing your “do better” efforts on the things that are meaningful, serve others, and positively impact the world. Otherwise, it just isn’t excellence…

Turn down the noise…

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

Unknown

“But be quiet a while first…”  This is often the most challenging part of discerning answers and enabling a journey to trust our own hearts. There is nothing in our world today that facilitates quiet time of any real significance.  

Disconnecting and giving yourself the space necessary to hear the answers in your heart requires highly intentional and disciplined practices. It is far too easy to numb ourselves with all manner of distractions and, in the process, destroy our ability to hear anything our heart might be trying to tell us.  

It’s quite simple. If you want to hear, you have to turn off all the noise…

Dreaming is all about the “what if…”

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

Gloria Steinem

When combined, the two most impactful words in the English language are, “what and if…”

What if this were possible?

What if it works? 

What if my dream comes true?

What if they are all wrong…

Do you view the world through a lens of “to you” or “for you?”

“The best men are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged chance, conquered the chance, and made chance the servitor.”

E. H. Chapin

Things happen. Some we can control, most we can’t. The only thing we can do beyond any doubt is control how we react to whatever happens.  

Real magic can only happen when you view all things through the lens of “for you.” Chance happens for you. The work you do today creates the opportunities that happen “for you” years or even decades from now.  

If you want to make chance your “servitor”, you have to view the world through the lens of all things happening “for you” not “to you.” Otherwise, you will forever be a victim of fate…

Are you willing to begin again?

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Steve Jobs

There is such joy that comes from learning something new. There are no expectations of perfection or mastery, merely the beauty of starting something without a preconceived condition of success.  

What prevents us from embracing this joy regularly throughout life? Is it the burden of responsibilities or the expectations of others? Do we allow ourselves to take a less risky and less exciting path simply because we need the “sure thing.”  

Fear, doubt, and worry about things that MIGHT happen is the harbinger of death for finding joy in a new beginning. Where is your worry? How can you remove it and enable yourself to experience the freedom of a new beginning?

Why are you waiting to begin?

“All endings are also beginnings; we just don’t know it at the time.”

Mitch Albom

If you could wave a magic wand and begin something new and special today, what would it be? More importantly, what would you have to END to make that dream a reality?  

What are you waiting for? Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year won’t make for a more opportune time; it’s just an unnecessary delay. Stop waiting; figure out the end so that you can begin. 

Every day is the weekend…

“When you start to do the things that you truly love, it wouldn’t matter whether it’s Monday or Friday; you would be so excited to wake up each morning to work on your passions.”

Edmond Mbiaka

How do you know what these passions are? What do you love to do so much that you would do it for free? Solve for the following ingredients, and you are well on your way to creating this life.  

Why – Why do you wake up every day? What is your burning purpose beyond making a living? Earning a living is merely an entry price to the game. There has to be a more significant reason for being here, and one has to solve this for yourself.  

Who – Who are the people that inspire, motivate, encourage, empower, embolden, and enable you to be your best? Find these people and weave them into your life in every way possible.  

How – How do you like to work? Are you an individual contributor? Do you do your best in work teams? How do you give and get energy through your work?

What – What are the specific things that you enjoy doing? The ones that bring you energy and enable you to do show up as your very best self?

These are simple questions, but being able to answer them succinctly will enable you to make every day meaningful.  

How can you even tell if you are on the right path if you aren’t moving?

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”

Barbara Hall

You can’t get to where you are supposed to be unless you embark. Screw waiting for the perfect time or perfect opportunity. Just start. If it isn’t the right track, adjust quickly but don’t sit around waiting. You aren’t even on a path if you aren’t moving…

Are you filling up a U-Haul?

“Do not let making a living prevent you from making a life.”

John R. Wooden

One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from the Reverend Billy Graham, “I never saw a U-Haul behind a hearse.”  I love this because it is such a stark reminder of what is meaningful. No matter how many different ways there are of “keeping score” here on earth, you won’t be taking it with you.  

So why spend your life pursuing things when instead you could be creating a life of real meaning and impact? If you do it right, your life’s work could last for generations. If you do it wrong, someone else is going to be hooking up your U-Haul…

There are three keys to living an untroubled life…

“Never bear more than one trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds — all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have.”

Edward Everett Hale

Why invest energy in fear, doubt, and worry? I fully admit that, like most people, these things can overwhelm and occupy an unreasonable amount of my mind at times as well. The key is not to stay in that space but to move into something more productive. I like to use these reminders to keep my head focused on the things that truly matter.  

Past Troubles – What can you learn from them to make today and tomorrow better? Focus on learning, not lamenting.  

Present Troubles – How will worrying make it better? Instead, ask what you can do about it? Action is the greatest possible antidote to worry. I love to use the OODA loop process. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. You can learn more about that HERE.  

Future Troubles – What are you afraid of, and why do you have doubts? Ask yourself two questions. Is the future I am concerned about within my control? Can I be doing something today that will positively create the outcomes I want? If the answer to either question is yes, then FOCUS on DOING something. Otherwise, move it to the circle of concern and move on to the things you can control or influence.  

  1. Learn from the past
  2. OODA Loop
  3. Focus on what you can control or influence

Positive outcome orientations are the key to living an untroubled life.

Will you choose to answer one question?

“Life itself is a privilege. But to live life to the fullest – well, that is a choice.”

Andy Andrews

What does “live life to the fullest” mean to you?  That is a deeply personal and uniquely individual question. Your answer might be radically different than mine, and that is the beauty of this fantastic world in which we live. We all have the free will to define our lives and live them according to that definition.  

The first step is to answer the question posed above. Only then can you actively choose to live out your answer. If you don’t answer the question, you are selecting an unfulfilled life, which is a waste of this incredible privilege we have been given…

Age is truly a state of a mind…

“I am old but I am forever young at heart. We are always the same age inside. Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, you can only live it once. Do not regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many!”

Richard Gere

The key to living a life of perpetual youth is to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow each and every day. If you aren’t learning, growing, seeing the world as if through the eyes of a child, then you must by default be dying.  

Life is just too short and precious to waste.  Every single moment we have is a gift for ourselves, and more importantly, for others.   

 Choose to learn, choose to grow, choose to live. Why choose to die before you have to?

Read twice daily. Change your world…

“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This quote should be read at the beginning of each morning and again and the end of each night. If you read it often enough, you might believe it. Then perhaps you might actually live it…

Asking why prepares and strengthens your mind…

“The mind is like an umbrella. It’s most useful when open.”

Walter Gropius

If you don’t make a regular practice of finding and opening your umbrella, it won’t be ready to go when you need to use it. The same goes with your mind; one must cultivate openness and practice expanded thinking if you want to be ready when the time is right.

The key to practicing openness of mind is to ask yourself the important “why” questions regularly. Why do I believe what I believe? Why is that belief correct? Why is that belief useful? Etc.

If you don’t ask yourself “why,” you might find that your umbrella is frayed and useless when called into service.

Is your confidence driving or limiting your capacity?

“As is our confidence, so is our capacity.”

William Hazlitt

Do you have the confidence to take that step into the unknown? What additional wisdom, information or insight do you need to be able to take action?

Faith is either the governor or the accelerant for our lives. If you believe you can, then you will base your efforts on those beliefs. If you lack faith, then you will always struggle to find confidence. In this case, your capacity is correlated to the strength of your faith. What’s holding you back?

Don’t miss out on the best comedy life has to offer…

“Instead of a sign that says: ‘Do not disturb’ I need one that says: ‘Already disturbed, proceed with caution.'”

Author Unknown

It is so easy to take ourselves way too seriously. I chose this quote today as a reminder that we have to laugh at life and, most importantly, at ourselves. We are all “disturbed” in one way or another. We each have our quirks and blind spots. The key is recognizing them and then being vulnerable enough to share those with others so that you can enlist their help in overcoming your gaps.  

If you can’t laugh at yourself, you miss some of the richest comedy that life has to offer…

Do you have faith?

“Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart.”

Steve Jobs

Sometimes we humans can try so hard to force things into the way we want them to be or how we think they should be. Peace of mind and heart comes from knowing there are greater purposes and plans for our lives. These Bible verses came to mind as I meditated on the quote this morning.

‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28

‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ Hebrews 11:1

Faith is the glue that allows one not only to believe that the dots will connect, but it is also what enables one to see how the dots have already connected throughout your life. Take a few minutes and reflect on how the dots have joined together to lead you to where you are right now.

Understanding the connections that have already happened for you, how can you not follow your heart forward? Have faith and trust…

Show up and fight…

“Every day, the clock resets. Your wins don’t matter. Your failures don’t matter. Don’t stress on what was; fight for what could be.”

Sean Higgins

Be present, fully present, and focus on being the best possible version of yourself at this particular moment in time. Enable yourself to be fully alive and focused on God’s call for your life. Settling for anything less is to ignore your calling and purpose.  

Imagine what could happen if you showed up this way every day…

The antidote to failure…

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.”

Oprah Winfrey

Failure only happens when two things occur. First, you choose not to learn from the loss. Two, you choose not to try again.  

So the only antidote to failure is to embrace learning and foster resilience.  

Make these two things your watchwords, and you will never fail.  

What do you desire to give away?

“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Fred Rogers

How easy it is to go through life in a transactional manner. We humans can focus on the give and take and lose sight of the impact of what we have to contribute.  

If you were to sit down and think through the one thing you would like to ensure you imparted to every person you met, no matter how small the moment of meeting, what would that one thing be?  

Figure it out, then do it. The opportunity to have an impact is waiting for you to seize the day. 

Hear the good news…

“The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring. Who, being loved, is poor?”

Oscar Wilde

It is fascinating how we insist on measuring our success in life via impermanent things. Money. Power. Prestige. These are the attributes of worldly success. Yet, all of these by themselves fall short of creating real meaning. Only loving and being loved brings true meaning to life. 

The good news is that love is available to all of us, with all the richness that good news entails…

Your energy is precious. Where are you going to invest it?

“Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Focus on your character, not your reputation. Focus on your blessings, not your misfortunes.”

Roy T. Bennett

I once saw John Maxwell speak on the topic of maximizing strengths. He said, “most people try to shore up their weaknesses because the world says this is where you need to focus. But let’s face it, this is an investment of effort with limited return. Why would you put all your effort into improving an area where you score a “4” to become at best a “6”. Instead, why don’t you invest the same amount of effort to turn a “7” into a “9” or an “8” into a “10.”

We only have so much energy to invest; shouldn’t we find a way to invest in the most impactful manner possible? 

Invest in your strengths.  

Invest in your character.  

Invest in your blessings.  

Everything else will fall into place.  

What are you going to do about it?

“Do more of what makes you happy. Make memories that you will cherish forever. Remember that health, family, and happiness are the most important things in life. Follow your dreams and don’t hold back.”

Aysel Gunar

If you don’t do the things above, does your life truly matter?  

What gets in the way of building a life where you follow your dreams and live for the important things? Are the things that get in the way more important than memories, health, family, or happiness? More important than your dreams?  

If the answer is no, then what are you going to do about it?

Four words that will change your world…

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life and don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Steve Jobs

The four most important words from the quote above are, “Your time is limited.”  If you understand and embrace those words, everything that follows has meaning. If you don’t, then the rest is merely good advice.  

If you recognize that your time is limited, why would you ever choose to live someone else’s life?  

If you understand that your time here is temporary, why would you choose to let your voice squelched?  

If you accept that your time here is finite, why would you choose cowardice instead of courage? Why would you choose to ignore your gut?

When one chooses to accept your mortality, you unlock the keys to a life of meaning and fulfillment of God’s purpose.  

So the choice is simple. Choose to embrace the beauty of YOUR life, or choose to live in a state of denial. It’s up to you. Either way, your time is limited…

Happiness lies in unlocking your “no.”

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.”

T.D. Jakes

Passion can enable your purpose. Your purpose can also enable your passion. Regardless of whether it lives under the label of “passion” or “purpose,” the critical question to answer is, “why do you do what you do?” If you can’t answer this, then why are you doing it?

The real value in defining your passion and purpose is that they enable you to say “no” to all of the things which will inevitably try and get in the way. Purpose and passion aren’t just a means to an end; they are the great clarifiers of our lives. Solve for these, and you will have the freedom to say “no.”

Life is found in the “and.”

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours — it is an amazing journey — and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”

Bob Moawad

Most people never arrive at the point where they can honestly view life through the lens of both “no apologies or excuses.” I have known people that were good at either, but rarely both.  

First, I think it is essential to ensure one doesn’t misinterpret the “no apologies” component to mean you are authorized to live in a manner where you can be numb to others’ feelings or perspectives.  

“No apologies” in this context means that you don’t have to ask for forgiveness for being the unique and special person God created you to be. You own your identity and appreciate the individual gifts you possess.  

Balancing this awareness with an attitude of extreme ownership and accountability is where the magic happens. Only then can you begin to live the authentic life God has prepared for you.  No apologies AND no excuses…. This is truly the “genius of the AND.”

Check yourself, before you wreck yourself…

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has any understanding and a forgiving heart, one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”

Marvin. J. Ashton

If you aren’t seeking to nurture and build, are you trying to weaken and destroy?  

If you don’t approach others with understanding and forgiveness, do you desire to be intolerant and merciless?

If you can’t see the best in people, are you only looking for the worst?

If you aren’t trying to leave people better than you found them, what exactly are you trying to accomplish?  If it isn’t about them, it’s all about you.  Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?  

Did you review the choices you made today?

“When you are eighty years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices.”

Jeff Bezos

Why wait until you are eighty to review the choices you have made? It makes sense that the best way to build a life that you will be proud of at any age is to continually review your choices so you can make better ones tomorrow.

Why wait?

Can you focus on the very next step?

“You don’t need a new year or a new day to start over. You only need a new mindset.”

Hazel Hira Ozbek

Why wait? What do you know you need to do differently? What action can you take RIGHT NOW to start the process?

Momentum only happens once you begin so forget about how many steps are needed; focus on the next one. It’s always the first step that is the hardest, and then it’s the next step that’s the most important.  

The time is going to pass anyway, might as well make it count…

Are you choosing to be careless and lazy?

“If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.”

Epictetus

What is the thing you know you need to do for yourself but keep putting off? Why isn’t it a priority?  

The words that stand out to me are “careless” and “lazy.” It is incredible how careless and lazy we can be when it comes to taking care of ourselves. There is always a myriad of excuses we make to justify the deferral. And that is what they are, excuses…

What happens if you never do the things you know you should? Will you look back on your life with satisfaction or regret? Will you even live the full life you were supposed to live?  

Do you know what is preventing your peace?

“When we have peace in our hearts and minds, we draw peace into our lives.”

Iyanla Vanzant 

Do you have peace in your life? How do you know? Perhaps a better question is, what would it look and feel like to live a peace-filled life? How would it manifest very specifically for you?  

Once you have a clear definition of your peace, you can identify and strip away those things that prevent you from achieving it. If you don’t know exactly where you are going, how can you know what steps are needed to get there?

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dusty

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