Listen carefully…

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

Jimi Hendrix

How do you know when you are gaining wisdom? When you are listening to learn, not to simply respond. What is the most effective way to accomplish this? Improve your ratio of questions to statements. If you are making more statements than asking of questions you are focused on imparting knowledge. If you are asking more questions then you are learning to gain wisdom. The value of wisdom is knowing how and when to use your knowledge. Without wisdom, you just have information, and that’s not nearly as valuable…

Practice on yourself…

“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity.”

Nathaniel Branden

In order to love others fully and completely one must have love for self. Not in an egotistical manner where it is all about you and what you want but instead about respect of self. How can one give something to others which you aren’t willing or able to give yourself?

Those with low self-esteem must find ways to bring others down. I am sure that everyone knows those who are constantly seeking ways to diminish others through negative comments and a lack of appreciation and respect for our common humanity. It is sad to think that a person can be so down on themselves that they can’t find or wont find positivity in others.

If you want to learn to give with respect, kindness and generosity to others work on practicing those same things on yourself.

Winning…

“(Tool+Training+Experience) x Mindset = Goal/Success. BUT, if your mindset is zero, then the equation is (100+100+100) x 0 = Failure.”

Unknown

No matter how well trained, how well resourced or how much experience you have nothing can overcome a mindset that isn’t prepared to win. But what does a positive mindset really mean?

For me it means wanting to win and being willing to do the hard work to win, knowing that winning isn’t guaranteed, but that the lack of certain success in no way diminishes the effort put forth to achieve the goal at hand. If your mindset is set on anything less than a complete desire to win you are setting yourself up for failure…

Read for life…

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Mark Twain

Those who know me know that I read incessantly. I am always reading or listening to a good book. In a typical year I will read between 40 – 60 books across a very broad range of topics and literary styles. I have had a love of reading for my entire life. In many ways, as a person who was home-schooled for my primary education, reading was both my doorway to learning and my way to explore a broader world.

Today I continue to read to both learn and to experience more of the world. I have always felt that there were dozens of vocations or lives that I could have explored. Unfortunately there was no way to do this so reading has been a way to “live vicariously” through the stories shared by great authors. Reading is a way to live a much broader and expansive life, even while focusing on being present in the here and now.

I truly can’t imagine going through life without a good book (or 3) going at any one time. Right now I am reading “Hamilton,” “Sacred Pace,” “The Power of Habit,” “Knowing God,” & “Outlaw Platoon.” Very different texts obviously but all scratching a particular itch.

What’s on your reading list right now?

Why = Perseverance Fuel

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

Newt Gingrich

Is perseverance still required if you love the hard work you are doing?

Personally I have found that even when I love the work, getting tired will still happen. But I have also found that perseverance is easy when you are mindful of what (or who) you are working for. It is hard to stay committed to the hard work if you don’t have a burning and compelling “why” that is driving you forward.

If you have a clearly defined “why” then perseverance is easy. If you have lost your “why” then you are going to lose the will to get it done. Stay focused on the why.

Great people first…

“Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way.”

Ronald Reagan

Notice that the quote doesn’t say “delegate accountability.” You are still responsible and accountable for the results that are created.

But that is why the rest of this quote is so powerful. When you have the right people, they have the right authority, and you have the wisdom not to meddle, that’s when the magic can happen.

It all starts with having great people, nothing else works if you get that part wrong.

Stronger through overcoming…

“A challenge only becomes an obstacle when you bow to it.”

Ray Davis

I don’t see a huge difference between a challenge and an obstacle. In my mind obstacles are just harder versions of challenges. They can still be overcome.

Sometimes we need some of the challenges in our lives to become obstacles just so we can learn how much we really want something. It is recognizing the obstacle and figuring out a way to go “over, under, around or through” that builds the resilience and strength we need when the real challenges of life present themselves. I can’t think of a single challenge I have had in my life that hasn’t served to make me stronger in some way.

Neither inferior or superior…

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Feeling inferior is a choice, there isn’t a single person on this earth who is better than another because of role, degree or pedigree. We are all humans who put their britches on the same way each morning. Whether you feel superior, or inferior, you are wrong on both accounts. Don’t allow someone to make you feel either way, both are flawed.

Never mail it in…

“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.”

Sandra Day O’Connor

It can be easy to mail it in on the seeming inconsequential tasks and projects. But apathy and mediocrity are as highly contagious as any drug. If you don’t do your best when it doesn’t seem to count you won’t be able to when it really does. Give everything you have, that’s how you always keep climbing.

Thanksgiving 2019

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

Maya Angelou

The beauty of gratitude is that it pulls you into the present moment. To be grateful you must be aware and the richness of the world that exists around you right now. To be thankful for all the blessings you have requires that you let go of the temptation to live for the future and revel in the richness of the present moment.

On this Thanksgiving Day take the time to pause and be fully present and aware of the incredible blessings that you have been blessed with. It is a beautiful day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Plant the right seeds…

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”

Charles Swindoll

Whether you have children or not you will make deposits in the lives of others today, and every day, through your words, behaviors and actions. If you are thankful and grateful, they will be too. If you are harsh and judgmental, then those are the memories you are building for others. You can’t control what others think about you, but you can control the seeds of those memories and how they are planted.

Today, and every day, be intentional in the deposits that you make, for someday you will only exist as a memory. Do you want those memories to be impactful or forgettable?

Daily Gratitude = Happiness…

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.”

Melodie Beattie​

When in your life have you been the most grateful? If you take a moment to look back and think of a time when your “gratitude overflowed” what was it that you were grateful for? Who were the people, the gifts, or the blessings that created that degree of gratefulness?

It can be so easy to get lost in the pursuit of “more” and the comparison trap with others. When one takes a step back and considers all the blessings you truly have, the rest just seems to drift into place.

What is it that prevents you from having a sense of gratitude each and every day?

Thanks – GIVING

“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in the world all of your own.”

Albert Schweitzer

Sometimes the best way to express your thanks and gratitude is to do for others, specifically for those that will never be able to repay you for the kindness. What better time of year to do so than the week of thanksgiving.

Who can you help today?

Multiplier for good…

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

Colin Powell

Have you ever noticed that those who are perpetually optimistic also seem to be perpetually happy? Their optimism effects those around them and they just seem to be surrounded by good things. Positive things just seem to happen to and for them.

The “glass half full” attitude is a choice. We can either choose to see the world, and what happens in that world, as a blessing or a curse. Either way things happen and how we react to it them is entirely up to us. When we choose positivity then good things happen. When we choose negativity, then we see only the bad things.

Be a force multiplier not only for yourself, but for those around you. Your optimism can and will be contagious. That contagion is how the force will be multiplied.

Invest in learning…

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Leo Buscaglia

What is a change that you need or want to make in your life? What are you intentionally reading, learning and studying to make that change possible? If you aren’t doing the work of studying and learning then change won’t happen. Lasting change isn’t based on wishing or hoping it is based on hard work and learning.

Stop waiting for things to happen, go learn something new EVERYDAY and you will be amazed at the doors that open up for you.

A life worth living…

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

Oprah Winfrey

Are you focused on creating a life based on “getting” or “giving?” No matter how much you accumulate, it is never enough. By the same token, no matter how much you give, you can always give more.

The key is to think about how you feel AFTERWARDS. Which perspective makes you feel full and alive, and which one leaves you feeling empty and needing more…?

What stops you?

“If you have the ability to help, and you know there are ways you can make a positive difference, and if you are able to do it, I don’t quite understand not…”

Eddie Vedder

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on gratitude and the power of living a grateful life. It’s not because it is almost Thanksgiving (although that is a good time for everyone to pause and be grateful) but just a continuing realization and appreciation for just how blessed and privileged I have been throughout my life.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in a Q&A session between Keith Block (Co-CEO of Salesforce) and Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam). Eddie said a lot of great things but the quote above really stood out to me (as well as a few of the others I will share below.) This was the fourth or fifth time over the past several weeks where I have heard a “give back” or “help others” message. I have found in life that when a bunch of seemingly unrelated experiences happen to convey a similar message that I really need to sit up and pay attention.

So what exactly does this mean? I have no idea. But helping others, doing for others, living a life for others with a spirit of gratitude and understanding for all that we have been blessed with is so rewarding.

Why do we turn a blind eye to the needs of others? Why do we step past a person on the street who is homeless and hungry? Why do we find ways to do things for ourselves but yet we can’t find five minutes to reach out to friends or family to let them know we are thinking about them? When did we move from being a society that was thankful for simple blessings and become a society obsessed with the relentless pursuit of more?

Eddie shared several thoughts yesterday that really struck home with me as I reflect on blessings and ways to give back. Here are some of the ones that stood out to me:

“In our DNA we are hunters and gatherers. It’s not hunters, gatherers and hoarders.”

“It just seems like you the more you give, the more you get in return.”

“If you have the ability to help, there’s always going to be a way you can make a positive difference.”

Life on this earth is short and temporary. Tomorrow is never promised and As I wrote about yesterday we are truly here on this earth to help and love others. What greater gift is there to live a life of gratitude on a daily basis and find a way every day to do something for someone else, with no expectation of anything in return? What is stopping you from helping someone, anyone, today?

Your true purpose…

“The sole reason we are here is to help someone else.”

Tim Cook

The context behind this quote is on realizing our true purpose in life. I had the opportunity yesterday to see a conversation between Tim Cook & Marc Benioff while attending Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual conference). Tim was speaking about our purpose in life and how it took him a long time to realize his purpose, and not just his individual purpose, but the collective purpose of all humanity. His sentiment was that once you realize that the purpose of being on this earth was to help others that it is the most liberating and revelatory awareness one can have.

What if everyone realized this, and behaved accordingly? What if every single person treated others with dignity and respect? What if we all made it our purpose today to find someone and help them? How different would our world be tomorrow?

Instead of being burdened today by what you do, go find a way to help someone else. You just might find that you are fulfilling your true purpose…

Something new…

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Abigail Adams

What are you planning to learn today? What are the opportunities ahead of you to gain new knowledge? Do you have a plan? If not, then just use two simple questions to bring focus to your learning.

First, begin your day with this question. “What do I want to learn today?”

Second, At the conclusion of the day ask yourself the follow up, “what did I learn today?”

I use a digital journal to keep up with these questions but use whatever method works for you. Just be sure you are learning!

Without intentional focus on learning, growth is accidental. That’s no way to live. That is just survival and existence. There is so much more to life than just existing. Learn something new!

Unlock greatness…

“The greatest leaders are not necessarily the ones who do the greatest things. They are the ones that inspire others to do great things.”

Ronald Reagan

An important aspect of leadership is the unlocking of the hidden and untapped talents in others. No one person can do everything or be the source of all great things. Inspiring others is an incredible multiplier that makes the impossible possible. Focus on helping others find their potential and you will help unlock greatness.

Taken for granted…

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

G.K. Chesterton

There is such a distinct difference between living a life of gratitude and any other kind of life. A life of gratitude fuels a positive spirit and an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us. But it is so easy to take things for granted.

Make a list today of 10 things that you know that you take for granted. Be specific. You aren’t going to share this list (unless you want to) so be honest with yourself. Now study that list. Is there something on that list that someone else does for you to whom you could go and express your gratitude? If so, do it.

Next think of the biggest challenges or obstacles that you are facing. What are the things that are causing you to have doubt and worry? Now look at your list again. Given the things that you have that you are taking for granted in life does the challenge seem quite as large?

If you have your health, you have so much more than many people. If you have love, you have more than many. If you have food to eat and water to drink, you have more than most of the world has had throughout human history. What do you have to be grateful for today?

Give it all away…

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is precious and short. It will end at some point for all of us. How you live each day will determine the depth of your life regardless of the breadth. I have come to realize that there are two simple axioms that should frame how you live. First, rid yourself of all anger and resentment. Second, give away all your gifts of self as soon as you can.

First, there is an old saying about anger has been attributed to a number of people over the years. “Hanging on to anger or resentment is like taking a poison and expecting the other person to die.” It is sad to see people that are so busy being hurt that they can’t see the joy in the world and in their own lives. Resentment hurts no one but yourself. Let it go. Strip yourself of it in every way and do what it takes to forgive or forget, ideally both if possible.

Second, hanging on to a gift or a kindness of self and not giving it is like buying a present for someone and putting it on the shelf. If you don’t give it there will be a time when you no longer can. All the great intention in the world isn’t the same as giving the gift. This is a time when the saying “it’s the thought that counts” truly doesn’t apply. If you have a kindness to give; give it. These gifts of self are perishable, the difference is that you don’t know when exactly they will spoil.

Don’t hang on to either your anger or your gifts. One will kill you, the other will cause regret at some point in life. You can’t get the time back.

Life’s too short not to laugh!

“Laughter heals all wounds, and that’s one thing that everybody shares. No matter what you’re going through, it makes you forget about your problems. I think the world should keep laughing.”

Kevin Hart

Laughter truly is the best medicine. No matter what the situation is, laughter can make it so much better. I am genuinely sad for those that don’t get to experience the wonderful pain of laughing so hard that your sides hurt.

Find a friend, share a laugh (or two), your life will be so much richer.

A bird in the hand…

“You don’t need more opportunity.  You need to learn to execute on the opportunities you already have.”

Michael Hyatt

What is the opportunity just sitting there waiting to be embraced? What is preventing you from doing so? Sometimes it is easier to get excited about the “new” opportunity than it is to do embrace the one’s that are already on your plate.

Perhaps the old adage of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” applies here…

Bring the heat…

“The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.”

Richard Nixon

Do you embrace that challenges and circumstances before as things that are happening ‘to you’ or ‘for you’?

If you view yourself as a blank of steel then you know that the entirety of life is the forge. There are periods of great heat and pressure, and their are times of cooling and rest. It is the continual working of the steel through these seasons that produces the final product. The final product is one of which the artisan is proud of and trusts to perform when called upon.

Life is all a matter of perspective and choice. Are you the steel or are you the impure metals that are removed during the refining and forging process? I am reminded of one of my favorite scripture verses as I meditate on this quote.

‘Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,’ Romans 5:3-4

Are you embracing the life that is happening for you or lamenting what is happening to you? Be steel, welcome the heat.

To win, you must conquer self…

“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”

Og Mandino

What is your purpose? How hard are you willing to push yourself to achieve that end? Will you go past your comfort zone? Will you intentionally set aside ease and comfort and “strain your potential until it cries for mercy?”

It is one thing to know your purpose, it is entirely another to embrace the hard and necessary work to achieve that end, no matter how many obstacles you encounter along the way.

I have found through life that the biggest impediment in my path of achieving purpose is principally myself. It is always easier to take the path of least resistance. It is always easier to stop early, to let a little bit of the remaining work wait until tomorrow. It is always easier to find an excuse of why something won’t work instead of soldiering on getting it done, no matter what.

To become the highest mountain, to achieve your God-given purpose in life means that you must overcome the drag of this world and never buy into the reasons why something can’t or won’t work. It means you have to look in the mirror and realize that the single most important obstacle to overcome is yourself.

Are you willing to push yourself hard and farther every single day? Are you willing to go so hard that you will cry for mercy? If the answer is “no,” then you either haven’t discovered your true purpose or you have surrendered to becoming a grain of sand.

Don’t surrender to your own desire for comfort and ease, push through and become a victor over self. No one knows the enemy better than you do. You are uniquely situated to conquer the enemy, you just have to make the choice to do so.

For those who served…

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Thucydides

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

Abraham Lincoln

One of the principle regrets or “misses” in my life is that I didn’t take take the opportunity to serve my country. I didn’t have the honor to wear a uniform and take an oath that so many of our brothers and sisters have done in the name of freedom. It will always be one of my disappointments.

I chose two quotes today intentionally. The first quote to call out the bravery and courage that our service men and women take on when they put on their uniform and choose to protect our freedoms. THANK YOU.

I choose the second quote as a reminder to myself that even without having put on a uniform I have an obligation to do all I can to support those who are serving. To all those that give above and beyond to ensure that our Veteran’s are celebrated and supported not just on Veteran’s Day but every day of the year, THANK YOU.

We have the incredible gift of freedom because of the courage of those who stand in the gap to defend us each and every day. THANK YOU.

Embrace the taper…

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”

Mark Black

It seems to be harder to relax and disconnect now than at anytime in history. There is always a distraction, there is always more to be done, there is always something calling for your attention. True relaxation can be very hard to find and it can be hard to justify the time when the “to do list” just keeps getting longer and longer.

But sometimes it is the ability to find relaxation that brings to your mind and body exactly the peace that is needed to create the solution for whatever it is that you are seeking to achieve. We aren’t wired to be “on” 100% of the time. Our souls need rest and when we give ourselves the grace to accept and embrace that rest it is amazing what we can accomplish.

Some of my best work has happened during, or immediately after, I have given myself permission to disconnect and relax. I have to remind myself to take the time, it is far easier to just keep the nose to the grindstone and continue working, but that is so counter productive in the long term.

I remind myself that if I were training for a long endurance race I wouldn’t go do a brutally hard workout the day before the marathon. Instead I would follow my training plan and taper down my workouts leading up to the big race.

The same is true of life. We need times of intense training and growth but we also need to build in periods of rest so that we can perform at our optimum level when it really counts. Embrace the taper, make it part of your life plan, it will be the launching pad for incredible results.

Listen to your gut…

“There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate–when a particular course of action just feels right. And interestingly I’ve discovered it’s in facing life’s most important decisions that intuition seems the most indispensable to getting it right.”

Tim Cook

Sometimes all the preparation, logic and knowledge in the world doesn’t give you enough information to make a necessary decision. And there are other times when you know that you don’t have enough information but yet the decision seems easy.

I have learned in life that ignoring my gut or intuition is fraught with peril. I can’t think of a time in life where I have had a gut sense about something, and then ignored that feeling, when it didn’t come back to haunt me. The intuition is an amazing thing, but one has to have the ability to listen to it and pay attention to what your gut is telling you.

Now I am not saying that paying attention to your gut means that you let your intuition make all your decisions and you can just ignore the data and put off doing the work to ensure you have the right information at hand. However, there are times when you need to really listen to what your gut sense is telling you.

The key is to be in tune with your inner dialogue and hone your listening skills. If you don’t take the time to listen, you can’t pay attention to something that no one else can provide, your own gut instincts…

Why & What, Not Who…

“Ownership: ‘A commitment of the head, heart, and hands to fix the problem and never again affix the blame.”

John G. Miller

So much energy is lost in this world by pointing the fingers at others. Blame is a pervasive and insidious leech that sucks the energy from where it truly belongs, the solution.

To combat this and instill ownership in your thinking focus on the “why“and the “what” never the “who.” Focusing on whom to blame is a recipe for negativity and wasted efforts. Instead ask yourselves these questions when faced with a problem or a challenge.

“Why” – Why did this happen? Why are we here where we are today?

“What” – What are we to learn from this? What are we going to do about it?

I guess there could be an appropriate use of “who” but instead of in the context of “who is to blame” it should be “who can help solve this problem?”

Make why and what the key focus and put blaming others completely out of your mind. It is a waste of time and leads to pervasive negativity. Life is too short for that.

Four fingers…

“When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.”

Louis Nizer

I have written before about the power of ownership and owning vs. renting. The attitude of ownership says that one has some type of control over EVERYTHING that happens within their world. Is this literally true? Of course not, you can’t control the weather. But you can control how you dress for the weather or what activities you are taking part in.

If you can’t define the outcome of some situation or challenge, you can choose how you react to it. Choosing to point fingers and make it someone else’s fault is sidestepping both responsibility and accountability. If you want to live a life that embodies the ownership ethos then start by examining the four fingers that are pointing back yourself. That is where the power of growth can be harnessed. No ever grows or improves by pointing a finger at others.

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