The competitors that truly matter…

“If you want to find the real competition, just look in the mirror. After a while you’ll see your rivals scrambling for second place.”

Criss Jami

Every morning ask yourself these two questions. Am I better today than I was yesterday? Will I be better tomorrow for what I going to do today?

If the answer to the first question is “no” then you have established your competition for the day. You have to do whatever it takes to drive yourself forward in a manner that allows you to answer the question differently tomorrow!

If the answer to the second question is “no” then that is a full-on indictment of what you have planned for the day. How are you investing your time? How are you approaching your tasks and challenges? Where do you need to reset the bar so you can push yourself to do more, learn more?

There are so many dimensions of our lives that these questions can, and should be applied to on a daily basis. They touch all of the building blocks that go into creating a successful life. Physical wellness, mental health, career/vocation, hobbies/advocation, family/friends, spiritual alignment, etc.

Each of us has a unique and special set of these dimensions based on our God-given gifts and talents, unique experiences, skills and education, etc. What good does it do to spend your energy trying to compare yourself to someone else? You don’t have their building blocks, and they don’t have yours.

It is great to use the competition as a measuring stick to establish a baseline comparison set for your performance and growth. But the real magic happens when you adopt a mental state of beating and exceeding your own limitations. Raise your bar. Don’t let someone else set that bar for you. Don’t be limited by the competition!

Am I better today than I was yesterday? Will I be better tomorrow for what I going to do today?

Don’t waste the precious gift that you have been given today. Choose to live life in a way where the competitors that truly matter, the pale shadows of an unfulfilled and incomplete self, are left far behind you.

boy running on pathway
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Exceed yourself…

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

Bruce Lee

Is it more important for you to live up to your own expectations or someone else’s? Or, said another way, would you intentionally choose to miss meeting your own expectations, but achieve someone else’s?

I don’t know about you, but I have higher expectations of and for myself than anyone else could set for me. Of course, the flip side of this is that I can’t hold anyone else accountable for the standards that I set for myself. That would be unfair as we all have unique and special gifts. Hopefully, your expectations are set based on maximizing every single ounce of your potential and not a drop less.

As I reflect on this I am reminded of this verse from Matthew. ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? ‘ Matthew 16:26

Basing your measures of success on the expectations of others is a false victory. What good is it if you meet the expectations of others yet fail to be the person that you were truly created to become? Instead, turn inward and seek to maximize every possible bit of the gifts and talents you have been given. Constantly seek to exceed your expectations and you will find that there is no one else that can push you harder than you can push yourself.

photo of man doing push ups using yellow kettlebell
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Rise up!

“Today if anything is trying to hold you back, give no attention to it. Get your hopes up, get your faith up, look up, and get ready to rise up.”

Germany Kent

Can you tell when something is trying to hold you back? When something is standing in your way? How do you ignore a giant obstacle that appears in your path? How do you move past what seems insurmountable?

Like so much of the country, my family has been obsessed with “Hamilton” over the past month. Well, it’s been a lot longer than that. I’ll be we have watched it half a dozen times and I have lost count of how many times we have listened to the music over the past few years. It is simply incredible. As a musical theater buff, there is a long list of shows that I have seen over the years that I have loved, but there has been nothing like Hamilton. Every bit of this show is pure genius.

When I picked the quote for today I kept hearing the refrain from the song “My Shot,” which specifically is the latter part of the song “Rise Up.” I simply love this music and the story that is being conveyed. If you haven’t heard it, here is the refrain I am referencing. Hamilton – Rise up!

There is no reason that Alexander Hamilton should have been successful. In fact, there are a million reasons that he should have failed before he ever came to the mainland. But he prevailed. He succeeded in the face of the greatest odds. He got the job done…

There is a lesson in this simple refrain. No matter what stands in our way we have a choice. We can let it beat us. Or we can rise up. We can overcome. We can prevail. Who knows, if we do it often enough, and with enough fervor, perhaps someone will write songs about us one day…

What do you want to say about yourself ten years from today?

“The most fulfilled and effective people I know – world-famous creatives, billionaires, thought leaders, and more – look at their life’s journey as perhaps 25 percent finding themselves and 75 percent creating themselves.”

Tim Ferriss

Are you the person today that you thought you would be ten years ago? I am not talking about your job, role, place in life, money, or status. Are you a better person?

Where do you want to be ten years from now? Do you have a long-range vision and are you activating a plan to make it happen? If you are simply existing and waiting for the life you dream of to magically occur you are guaranteed to be disappointed.

I am a huge fan of the “life planning” process outlined in the book “Living Forward” by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. If you want to build a life of influence, you have to have a plan and you have to put in the hard work necessary to make it happen. If you don’t have a plan, this is a great place to start.

How do you want to answer the question about yourself ten years from now? Will you be better or worse than you are today?

person holding compass
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Me or you?

“A boss loves power; a leader loves people.”

Amit Kalantri

Here’s a simple question for you to consider. Has the best boss you have ever had made you feel like it was your time, or their time, that was more valuable?

Which boss are you? Which one do you want to be?

photography of a person pointing on something
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Look in the mirror…

“We cannot lead anyone farther than we have been ourselves.”

John C. Maxwell

The essence of leadership is influence. The ability to influence the lives of others and create a commonality of vision and purpose. The results of effective leadership are alignment, engagement, commitment, execution, etc.

What does this have to do with today’s quote? Good question. To create influence, which enables the ability to create the desired results, one must show an ability to demonstrate self-leadership and self-influence. All the vision casting and talk about the future is worthless if you can’t demonstrate through your actions and behaviors a commitment to hold yourself to a higher standard.

crowd reflection color toy
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

I love how the picture above illustrates the importance of self-reflection as a leader. If you want to have influence you must be willing to look in the mirror and see and understand your own opportunities for growth. If you want to influence others, you have to prove that you can lead yourself first. You can’t lead anyone if you don’t walk the talk and lead by example.

This is the wisdom that I take from today’s quote. You must have self-reflection as an intentional practice in order to create true influence with others. You can’t lead anyone if you won’t lead yourself first…

Think “present past” or “future back.”

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

Do you choose to see the world through a lens of positive or negative opportunities? Is your first inclination to look for the reasons why something won’t work? Or do you have a tendency to see the silver lining in every cloud? How you choose to answer these questions will have a profound impact on your life.

Everything that happens creates an opportunity for growth and development. One technique that I have found helpful is to reframe the current situation and think as if I were recalling it a year from now. Ask yourself this question. One year from today what is the biggest opportunity that was presented I am so glad I didn’t let slip through my fingers?

In many ways, the bigger the difficulty, the larger the opportunities that exist to change your world, and the world of those around you. Reframe your mind to think about the world from a “future back” perspective and suddenly all those challenges will present themselves as opportunities…

Be the hero of your own life…

“The key that unlocks energy is desire. It’s also the key to a long and interesting life. If we expect to create any drive, any real force within ourselves, we have to get excited.”

Earl Nightingale

What is it that gives you passion in your soul and awakes a desire to do more, go more, be more? Have you clearly identified or articulated those things which excite and energize you?

Now for the tough question. How much of your time do you choose to spend doing those things?

If you are simply existing and surviving through life then I would challenge you to break free and spend time thinking deeply about how you can better invest your time into those things that energize you.

This isn’t a “quit your job and go plant sunflowers” edict (if sunflowers are your thing…) It is a charge to be intentional on how you spend your time whether it is time spent pursuing your vocation or your advocation. Do more of those things that you have a deeply rooted internal drive to accomplish.

But how do you accomplish this in a highly fragmented world where there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day?

You have to relentlessly and with laser precision cull out everything that reduces the positive energy in your life. If you want to live an exciting life you have to say to learn to say no to the things that hold you back and yes to the things that bring you true joy and excitement. Make the choice to invest your time into those things that you desire. The energy you derive from this will impact every aspect of your being.

Or you could settle for a boring and listless life. It is your life after all, you can live it however you like…

yellow petaled flower in white mug
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How do you keep going when all you want to do is quit?

How do you keep going when all you want to do is quit?

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

What motivates you to carry on despite the struggles you are facing? How do you know when it is time to quit? How do you choose to persevere when everything seems to be stacked against you?

Photo Courtesy of Ironman.com

In 2013 I participated in the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe (IMLT) endurance race. I had completed my first Ironman race in 2011 and found I really enjoyed the training that goes into preparing your body to be tested by a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. I chose to sign up for Lake Tahoe simply because of the sheer beauty of the location and as an opportunity to see a place I had never been before. I trained my heart out all summer and when race day arrived on September 23, 2013, I was ready.

The race was epic in every sense of the word. It was indescribably beautiful, the Sierra Nevada mountains with their snow-tipped peaks visible in every direction, and it was also incredibly challenging. It was so cold the morning of the race that the 64-degree water in Lake Tahoe felt warm and swimming at 6,200 of elevation was just a unique and special challenge. The best way to describe it is to imagine trying to swim while breathing through a single drinking straw. The bike was extraordinarily difficult due to the mountains you had to cross and the grade of the climbs involved (I looked down at my speedometer at one point and I was moving 3 miles per hour). The run was relatively flat but it was so cold down by the river that staying warm was an impossible challenge.

The DNF rate (did not finish) at IMLT in 2013 was north of 23% and I very easily could have been one of those who did not finish. The run was very tough and there were several points where quitting was probably the smartest option. I developed blisters on the bottom of my left foot at mile 8 that were so bad that I had to stop twice at the medical tents to get treatment. Every step was painful and I thought my foot was on fire. But quitting, walking away and actually ending my race early, never crossed my mind for more than a fleeting moment.

Why didn’t I quit? What kept me going when I knew I had 18 miles still to go and my foot was in severe pain? I certainly wasn’t racing for money or a spot on the podium. I am a very atypical triathlete at 6′ 4″ tall and 225 pounds. I wasn’t going to “win” anything. What kept me going was a relentless focus on what I wanted to accomplish by completing this race. My goal was to prove to myself that the mind is stronger than the body. I wanted to challenge myself to take on more than I could handle, and then plow through the wall. I knew I could finish if I stopped thinking about the seemingly insurmountable distance that was remaining and just focused on what was right in front of me at that moment.

I vividly remember the aid station at mile eight where I first stopped to have my foot checked out. I got up and ran/hobbled a few steps and my mind immediately went to a “there’s no way I can do this for 18 more miles” headspace. I remember taking a moment to gather my thoughts and remember what I was attempting to prove to myself, and thinking, “I can make it to mile nine.” So I did. And then mile ten, eleven, twelve, and on and on. I still remember mile 23 like it was yesterday. At that point I knew all was left was a 5k and in my mind, anybody can run a 5k. Running through that finish line chute was one of the most exhilarating and rewarding moments of my life. Should I have quit? Maybe. But I didn’t, and because of this, I learned more about myself than I could ever glean from a lifetime of reading or study.

Photo Courtesy of Ironman.com

Sometimes quitting will seem to be the easiest and perhaps the only option available. Before you allow yourself to go down the mental path of quitting I highly recommend that you take the time to think through the following questions.

  • Why did you start?
  • Why is this important?
  • What will matter more a year from now, that you persevered, or that you quit?
  • Who will you be letting down?
  • What is God teaching you through this challenge?

If you don’t take the time to answer these, I can almost guarantee that you will regret your decision. If you do answer them, and quitting is still the smartest and best option, you can do so with full faith and confidence that you thought through your decision fully and completely.

Even after you have answered the questions remind yourself of these things when you are tempted to throw in the towel and walk away.

  • This is all temporary – Tomorrow will come, and so will next week, next month, and next year.
  • The goal is bigger than the pain – If you had the courage to start something you had to have a reason why. Don’t lose sight of your goal.
  • When in doubt, break your goal down into the smallest possible step that can be achieved. And then do it again and again and again.
  • Some things are bigger than yourself – Some challenges, goals, and opportunities rise above your individual feelings and perceptions. Don’t let the voice in your head convince you to lose sight of this.
  • Who you will become as a person is defined by your decisions and actions in the most difficult times.
  • Quitting and failing are two different things. Don’t confuse them.

I share this story not because I did anything particularly amazing (I didn’t!), but because it was the best and most vivid personal example I could think of from my life. What I learned is that sometimes the reward is just on the other side of the breaking point…

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The five questions one must answer to enable courage…

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Peter Drucker

accomplishment action adult adventure
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I have always deeply admired those who have the courage to start something new. Those who possess the ability to see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be. These are the people who dare to spread their wings and fly, knowing they might fall. They do so understanding success isn’t guaranteed, but by leaping, they might be able to impact the world in a bigger and better way.

Courage is needed whether a person is starting a new role or project in their current organization, starting their own company, or simply doing something outside of their comfort zone. This courage, this ability to take on risk and move, despite any fears and doubts, that is what intrigues me so greatly. How does a person come by this? How does one learn courage? Is it genetic? Is it formed during childhood perhaps? Or maybe it comes through the experiences we have as we grow through life? What separates those who have courage from those who don’t?

Regardless of how courage is formed, I believe the formula for demonstrating it consistently comes down to one’s ability to answer these five questions:

  1. What is it that MUST happen? This is the question that frames out the opportunity in your mind and allows you to paint a vivid depiction of a better future. This is where one defines the opportunities and articulates exactly what you want to see happen. Creating a deeply detailed “envisioned future” is the first step in summoning courage.
  2. What am I afraid of? This is where you wrestle with your own demon that will try to hold you back and prevent your successes. Whether it is fear of failure, fear of being seen as a fraud, fear of being wrong, etc. You can’t beat your fears if you haven’t identified them and faced them directly. Fear is a demon, and if you want to beat it, you have to look it squarely in the face.
  3. Am I willing to fail? This is the keystone question. Answering the first two questions enables one to arrive here and wrestle with the knowledge that not every initiative and opportunity seized will be successful. There are no guarantees in life. All the courage in the world could still result in failure. Is this acceptable to you?
  4. What is the worst that can happen? This is where you nail down the absolute worst possible outcomes that could arise from the opportunity you are contemplating taking on. If you can’t think through and anticipate the problems that will invariably rise up, then you can’t make an informed decision about whether or not the risk you are taking on is worth it.
  5. How do I mitigate the worst risks outlined above? When you have defined and understand the worst possible outcomes then you can begin to build solutions to offset those risks. For example, if you are taking on a new project at work outside your area of expertise and the associated risk is that you might lose your job, seeking out expert training, books, or mentors might be a good way to mitigate the risk. Not all risks can, and should, be mitigated. But when you can you have to do so if you want to create success.

This is what separates those who have courage from those who don’t. Those who create success through courageous decisions have an ability to see a better future, define their fears, understand failure, identify worst-case scenarios, and build in success enabling strategies in case the worst happens.

Then comes the moment of truth. Can you make the decision? This is the magic moment where you have to leap and have faith in yourself, those whom you have surrounded yourself with, and trust in a higher purpose and calling.

So go forth and do. Take on that new project. Embrace your new role. Start that new job. Build the company you have been dreaming of. Embark on a journey to create a better world for others. When you show up courageously you will truly feel alive and the world will be better because of it…

Class begins on the inside…

“Class is an aura of confidence that is being sure without being cocky. Class has nothing to do with money. Class never runs scared. It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It’s the sure-footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life.”

Ann Landers

person writing on notebook
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What words come to mind for you when you think of those you believe to live in a classy manner? How do the people who exhibit a high degree of class treat others?

The words that jump to my mind are: Dignity, honor, respect, appreciation, confidence, affirmed, responsible, accountable, engaged, thankful, energized, consistent, reliable, secure, self-confident, and I am sure the list could go on and on.

Class is a label applied to people based on how we observe them interacting with ourselves and others. But class is a result. It is an exterior manifestation of something much deeper. People with class know who they are. People with class know how they want to treat, and be treated by, others. People of class demonstrate these behaviors we like because they have built them on a foundation of self-knowledge and self-awareness.

So if you want to be a person with class, get to know and appreciate yourself first. You can’t be something else to someone else if it isn’t a true depiction of what you believe. Make your own list of words capturing the essence of clas and hold yourself accountable to those things. WRITE THEM DOWN… You have to apply all the words to how you think about yourself. Do this consistently and then your exterior will be considered “classy.”

Don’t be “most people…”

“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

people doing group hand cheer
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Do you have people in your life who tell you what is wrong with you? What is wrong with your life? What you are missing? Why you aren’t enough? Ignore them! Ignore the shallow souls who will limit what you are and who you can become because of the limits and boundaries they have created around their own lives.

You probably have more than enough people in your life telling you how you should be and how you need to live. Seek out and surround yourself with people who are positively driven and inspire you to be more, do more, become more. Most people aren’t like this. Most people don’t invest the time effort and energy into these thoughts. If you want to become more than most people you have to surround yourself with those who aren’t like most. Find people that are relentlessly focused on being more, helping more, serving more, becoming more, doing more, just more more more.

It always amazes me when seemingly unrelated things come together in a profound and meaningful way. I had one of those moments this morning when I sat down to write this post after having done my morning devotional. The verse I was studying this morning, after I had already chosen my quote for the day, couldn’t be more appropriate or aligned.

‘You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ‘ Ephesians 4:22-24

Put off your old self, and those who will contain and limit you to a former way of life. Embrace those who will help you define and create your new self and become the person God meant you to be.

Embrace the raging current!

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

James Allen

Rocky Mountain National Forest

What is the tomorrow that you want to create? Do you have it beautifully, richly, and vividly defined in your mind? Are those thoughts like the strong current of a roaring river, carrying you towards your goal with every passing second?

Or are you bobbing along in life, just content to float wherever the current around you happens to carry you?

Life is too short and precious to waste a second of it. Choose your thoughts carefully and embrace them with all the passion you can muster. Those things you are focused on today will define your future, whether you want them to or not…

Do you have hope?

“My idea is to give hope, because where there is no hope, there is no vision, and where there is no vision, people will perish.”

Oprah Winfrey

I had to wrestle with this quote for a bit in my mind this morning. At first it felt like a “chicken or an egg” statement. How can you have hope without first having a vision? But on the other hand, how can you summon the energy to craft a vision for the future without first having a sense of hope about what could be? Is it hope that helps you craft the vision or the vision that allows you to have hope?

Then I thought about it from the perspective of who said this quote and the context of what it means through that particular lens. Oprah has done a lot of tremendous good in the world. She has actively lived a life that represents the power of making a positive impact and demonstrated what can happen when a person puts forth tremendous blood, sweat, and tears to pursue their dream (vision). If by living her dream outwardly and setting a positive example for others, she can inspire hope and spark others to pursue their vision, she is seeding hope into the world.

I particularly love how Oprah linked her idea of seeding hope with this verse from Proverbs. “When there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

Find the hope you need to inspire yourself to discover and engage in a brighter vision of the future. You don’t have to create the vision yourself, but you do have to summon the hope needed to move you towards a brighter future. Without hope, vision dies. Without vision, hope dies. Without hope and vision, you will perish, even if your body lives on and you are just going through the motions of life. That is no way to live…

Contagious courage…

“Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

Brené Brown

All behavior is contagious. So you need to do two things. First, have the courage to surround yourself with people whose behavior you want to catch. Second, have the courage to make sure your own behavior is worth catching….

Seek wisdom…

“It is said that wisdom lies not in seeing things, but seeing through things.”

Manly P. Hall

What is wisdom? Is it knowledge? Is it understanding? Something more?

I went the dictionary to find a more precise definition of the word: “Wisdom = knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.” From this definition what stands out to me the most is the connecting word “coupled.”

Knowledge without being coupled to action is simply information. Knowledge without understanding and insight is just data. Knowledge without application is merely a book on the shelf. Wisdom is the ability to apply data and information justly and rightly. In order to have wisdom, one must be willing to see all sides and have a willingness to be wrong. So what does one gain when you find wisdom? Let the words of the reputedly “wisest man to ever live” bring some perspective here…

‘Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.’ Proverbs 3:13-18

With all that King Solomon shares on wisdom it is something that I definitely need to have more of in my life!

Respect is given…

“Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves.”

U Thant

What does “respect others” mean for you? Have you defined this in an active and intentional manner so you can ensure your behaviors live up to your internal definition?

There is an old cliche which says “respect is earned, not given.” I would argue the exact opposite to be true. Instead of waiting for someone else to pay homage to you, because of role, title or station, embrace the opportunity to demonstrate genuine care and appreciation for others by giving and showing respect to and for who they are as a person. It might not be returned, but if it isn’t then how are you any worse for having chosen to embrace an attitude of care and consideration?

In my reflection and research for this post I looked up the definition of respect in the dictionary and these two definitions really stood out to me:

First – Respect“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.”Respect given…

Second – Respect – “deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment.”Respect demanded…

Based on these two definitions my choice will always be to live in a manner that demonstrates, through behavior, the first definition. Focusing on the second definition is an exercise in ego and selfishness…

Interestingly enough, I have found, time and time again, by living a life focused on giving respect, you actually receive it back many times over. In so many ways the second definition becomes a result of how you choose to treat those around you.Quite simply, if one chooses to live a life that is focused on a “respect is earned” mentality then it is all about you.

If you expect respect, without first having given it, you will always be disappointed. But if you give respect first, without any strings attached, then you are living a life focused on how you treat others, not what you get in return…

Unlimited…

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.”

Elbert Hubbard

What is the maximal impact one person can have in their lifetime? If you measure this based only on what you can personally accomplish it is limited by the amount of time that you have on this earth. But if you measure impact based on whom you serve by helping them unlock their gifts and talents the impact one person can have is truly unlimited.

To help put this in perspective; what is your greatest ability? What is it that makes you unique, special and adds value to others? How did you discover this trait? What was the key to unlocking this gift that you possess? Did you discover it on your own or did someone see something in you and then help you see it for yourself?

If you could write a thank you note to three of the people who helped you unlock your talents what would you share with them? How would you express your gratitude for what they have done for your life? What emotions are conjured up when you think of the impact they have had on you?

Having answered these questions, and connected with the impact someone else has had in your life, how can you go do this for others? Isn’t it time to create a life of unlimited impact?

Was it worth it?

“Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”

The Dalai Lama

At every stage in life we make choices to do, and to give up, certain things. When you look back over your life what are the choices you regret? Did you make those choices in the pursuit of some success that was important to you at the time but in retrospect the success wasn’t worth the cost? Given what you now know would you make different choices today?

How can you apply these lessons in your future? How can you ensure your next success pursuit is worth the cost? Perhaps even more importantly how should you define success to ensure the investment you are making is aligned with what you want to achieve and who you want to become?

I would strongly argue that if you choose to put more emphasis on the “Whats” of life, (i.e., what you get, what you have, what you do) than on the “Who” and the “How” you are building a life that will be filled with disappointment and regret at some point in the future. A life spent in pursuit of success measured in a “what” is one where you have a chosen something that won’t last. So, was it worth it?

Addition through subtraction…

“Every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive.”

Author Unknown

There are 525,600 minutes in a year. How do you want to spend them?

How many of your minutes create a positive return on investment through service to others and therefore create joy for yourself?

It is an absolute fact that the number of minutes we have on this earth is finite. None of us know when and were we will cease to have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Why would we waste a single minute of our precious lives on anything negative?

If you think about it, every time you remove something negative from your life you take an asset which is losing value and create an opportunity to replace it with something that will gain value. Seems like a pretty good deal to me…

Talk less… Do more…

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are all familiar with the old saying “actions speak louder than words” and I am certain we all know people that are consistent in saying one thing, and then doing another. Without a doubt we have all been guilty in doing this ourselves at times because it can be challenging to live a life of 100% alignment and consistency with our stated words and values.

Why do we say anything at all? Why do we create a disconnect between our words and our actions? Is it because we are desperate to be heard? Is it because words are so very easy to say and we believe by simply saying them we might have done enough?

As I write this I keep hearing the line from “Hamilton” when Aaron Burr advises Alexander Hamilton to; “Talk less… Smile more… Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for…” What if we flipped this and lived by a credo that said “Talk less… Do more… Let your actions show what you’re against and what you’re for…”

This isn’t new perspective by any means. James wrote about the need to let your works be the representation of your faith in one of my favorite books of the bible. ‘What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’ James 2:14-17

If you choose to put the effort and energy into your actions instead of your words, then you won’t have to worry about your the things you do overpowering the things you say…

Pay today or pay later…

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”

Brené Brown

There is nothing more rewarding than to be living a life that is aligned with your core values. When this is the case life can feel fun, fast, and easy even if the work is hard and the effort is challenging.

Living a life that is misaligned with your values is incredibly uncomfortable and painful. I liken it to an experience I had during one of my first Ironman races. Somehow during the run I had managed to get a pebble or rock in my shoe, yet I didn’t want to slow down long enough to do the right thing which was to take off my shoes and socks and clear out any of the debris that had gathered during the race. Instead I chose to just ignore it and keep moving because in my mind at the time moving was progress and stopping was wrong.

Well, as you might imagine, those pebbles and debris created huge issues later in the run and I ended up with tremendous blisters on my foot. I gutted it out by ignoring the pain and finished the race but for the next week I could hardly walk. Was the one or two minutes of time worth the week of pain? Of course not, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and I didn’t have the ability in the moment to pause and think clearly about what was really important to me.

Now this example pales in comparison to the challenge of living a life of integrity and the tough and intentional choices that are required to ensure you are living authentically and putting your values into action. However, if you choose to ignore the little things today, the ones that don’t seem like a big deal in the moment, yet you know are in conflict with what you believe, there will be a price to pay.

The worst price I can think of is this one. What if by taking the easy path and ignoring your values you diminish your ability to have an impact on the lives of others? What if, through your actions, you teach those you love and who look to you for guidance, that being insincere is acceptable? What if you, by the example you create, pass along to someone else a life lacking in integrity?

Living a life of integrity can be challenging at times. But just remember, not doing so will create consequences and those will be far worse than the pain of the moment.

Are you surrounded with Yes or No people?

“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better.  No drama or negativity.  Just higher goals and higher motivation.  Good times and positive energy.  No jealousy or hate.  Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”

Warren Buffett

There is something special about being around people who push you to be better for the right reasons. These are the people who energize you and motivate you to go and do and be more than you even thought was possible. People like this make life fun, enjoyable, meaningful, purposeful, impactful, and the list goes on and on.

This is in marked contrast to those who might push you, but they do so for selfish reasons. They push you because doing so is all about them. It is what you can do for them that is all they care about. These people make life challenging, empty, miserable, draining and demotivating.

Here is an interesting exercise. Look at each of these sentences and simply rate the people you have surrounded yourself with with a “Yes or No” for that specific aspect.

“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better.

Y/N

No drama or negativity.

Y/N

Just higher goals and higher motivation.

Y/N

Good times and positive energy.

Y/N

No jealousy or hate.

Y/N

Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”

Y/N

How do the people that you have chosen to surround yourself with measure up to these words? Do your “Yes’s” outnumber the “No’s?”

You have a choice. Pick the people you want in your life. Prune the rest. Life is too short to surround yourself with people that don’t energize and inspire you to become the person you were meant to be.

It’s never just you…

“Almost always, great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”

Clayton M. Christensen

In order to create something new you must have a mind that is open to concepts, connections and ideas which don’t currently exist. In order to make this happen one must be ready, willing, and able to be wrong.

The people that already “know” all the answers will be limited because they aren’t willing to truly hear what others have to say or think about whatever topic is at hand. Ego clouds the judgement and creates walls and barriers to learning and growth. Ego shuts down the contributions of others and limits creativity. Ego disrupts great thinking because it puts all the emphasis on “who is right,” versus “what is right.”

True genius lies in a deep desire to never be the smartest person in the room.

Real innovation happens when people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives align to solve a common problem.

True genius is the ability to get the right people in the room and aligned towards answering the right questions…

Impact = The relentless pursuit of simplicity…

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

John Maeda

There are so many ways to interpret this quote, so many thoughts that come to mind as to how it can be applied to almost every aspect of life. As I meditate on what it means for me this morning I can see a sheet a paper with two columns on the page.

The top of the page is a blank with one word, “Purpose?” and at the bottom there is space to write with “Action Today?”

The header for the left column is “Remove Friction” and the right is “Add Value!”

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is what I can see so vividly in my mind.

Simple. Clean. Underwhelming at first glance, yet powerful when applied and acted upon.

So much of our lives are spent adding more “stuff” when what we should really be doing is stripping away everything that adds friction and gets in the way of achieving our purpose.

To maximize impact, be relentless in your search to find ways to remove friction and add value…

If you don’t, who will?

“If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.”

Ann Richards

What does “self care” mean to you? Do you see this solely through the lens of fitness and working out? That can be an easy definition, but there is so much more encompassed by this phrase. Some definitions of self care include the terms, “mental, emotional, & physical health” and while I like what those words convey it can be a little clinical for my tastes. I prefer to use “spirit, mind, body” and evaluate my health with these questions.

Spirit – Am I living a life attuned to a purpose greater than myself? Have I taken much needed and necesary time alone to seek alignment and discern deeper meaning and purpose?

Mind – Have I actively and intentionally challenged my mind in some way today? Am I regularly, and with great intent, choosing to learn something new and push my cognitive limits beyond what I might otherwise think is possible?

Body – Is my physical health a priority in my day? Am I making smart choices that will pay dividends years from now or am I choosing to sacrifice long-term health for near term pleasures?

The key here is to realize, and believe, that by prioritizing your own health in these segments of your life you are enabling your best self. When you do you are creating a gift for those whom you love the most. If you can’t take the the time to be your best for those you love, by default you are choosing to give them a watered down version of yourself.

You have a responsibility to be more than a pale representation of the person you could be. You have a responsibility to be the entirety of the person that you were made to me. In order to make this happen, you have to take care of yourself. If you don’t, who will?

Think. Plan. Act.

“Who exactly do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? What are your personal ideals? Whom do you admire? What are their special traits that you would make your own? It’s time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to become wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become. If you have a daybook, write down who you’re trying to be, so that you can refer to this self-determination. Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people.”

Epictetus

Epictetus lived almost 2,000 years ago, yet this advice is just as relevant today as in the time it was written. In this one paragraph there is an incredible amount of wisdom that can and should be used as a guide for life.

What is intriguing to me is how few people do any type of exercise like this. In my conversations with friends, family and the people I interact with very few have a written plan for their lives. Itis the exception, not the rule, to meet someone who has invested the time and energy into defining their own future and creating the necessary actions to enable their plans.

Getting started can be overwhelming but from where I sit there are three key steps one must take to activate this wisdom in your own life.

First, simply answer the questions. Take the time to write out very specific and detailed answers.

Second, and I’ll bet this is where a significant amount of people fall short, is to create an action plan that enables you to bring the answers you have create to life.

Third, and this is where success or failure is defined, execute your plan. The investment of time and energy into the first two steps is wasted if you don’t do anything with the work.

Now that all sounds easy and simple, yet it is hard work to complete, and complete well. Personally I know I need to revisit my plan and make some changes to ensure that I am on track to become the person God created me to be.

If you want a good book with a great template for a planning exercise I highly recommend “Living Forward” by Dan Harkavy and Michael Hyatt. It can be a life changing experience.

Act and believe…

“Confidence sells – people believe in those who believe in themselves. No one wants to be stuck in a room with other people who feel like they don’t deserve to be there. Stop wondering if you’re good enough. Know you are and start acting like it.”

Simon Black

Sometimes you have to act, even when you don’t feel like it.

Sometimes you have to take that first step, even if you doubt yourself.

Sometimes confidence is a result of doing the very thing you don’t know if you can do, and then being amazed by the results.

When in doubt, take action. Self confidence is born from action. Start acting like you believe and everyone else will too…

Do you make your decisions based on fear or the future?

 “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

John Wooden

Do you choose to live a life based on risk minimization or risk management?

While initially there might not appear to be a lot of difference in these perspectives I firmly believe they are opposite sides of a continuum.

Risk minimization is a decision framework based on fear, avoiding something potentially harmful or damaging. Risk management is a decision path that is future focused, where you are intentionally seeking a path forward with the cognitive understanding that something might not happen as you exactly expect. Yet you know you will be equipped to deal with whatever happens because you are willing to think about it now and you aren’t willing to let it stop you or slow you down.

Risk Minimization: A fear-based approach to decision making and action that seeks to minimize any and all risks. The fear of mistakes, and the consequences of those mistakes, will be a driver of your actions, or a lack of action. A risk minimization attitude says “what are all the things that could possibly go wrong, and how do I avoid them?”

Risk Management: A future-based approach to life and decision making that prioritizes action and doing. You choose to make decisions with a clear understanding that not everything will go according to plan. However, with sufficient planning and an appetite for healthy risk, obstacles can and will be overcome. A risk management thinking style says, “what is the worst possible outcome of this decision or action, and how do I prepare for it?”

If you want to live life as a doer, a person that takes action and gets things done, then you must embrace a future-based approach to decision making and action. Risks simply need to be understood and managed, not avoided. Mistakes will happen and should happen. Not everything will go according to plan.

A mistake is nothing more than an opportunity to make a different decision based on better information than you had when you made your last decision. If you aren’t making mistakes then you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t creating opportunities for learning and growth. After all, what is the worst that can happen?

Commit to begin…

“Determine that a thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

Abraham Lincoln

Defeat first happens in the mind. How often do we give up on things before we have even put forth the necessary effort?

I have found the first hurdle, the one of starting something new and unknown, is often the hardest and highest one. Once you have made it over, under, around or through that barrier, then the power of momentum kicks in and the next one is a little easier.

Whatever is is you want to do first commit to begin. Trust that even though everything might not work work out the way you hope and dream, you will be better and richer because of the experiences you gain. The first step is the most important one so lean in and go.

You will always regret the opportunities you didn’t seize…

Why wait for tomorrow?

“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

When life is over, and you have breathed your last breath on this earth, what will matter more, how much you managed to get, or how much you gave away? The things you collected or the lives you touched?

While this sounds morbid we all have to accept the fact that life will end one day for each of us. We don’t know when, where or how, yet we know an ending will come. Why should we wait until the end to start giving back? Why put off making a difference in the lives of others to some day in the future that might not come?

Hopefully all of us are many decades away from the end of our time here on this earth. Think how much of a difference we could each make in the world if we just gave a large part of ourselves away to others every single day.

What can you start doing today? How are you going to give of yourself to help someone else?

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