Are you choosing to be limited or liberated?

“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”

Napoleon Hil

There are two voices inside your mind. One says YOU CAN and one says YOU CAN’T. The one that you choose to listen to will define your ability to grow and succeed in life. The beauty is that we each get to choose which voice we are going to follow. One is limiting the other is liberating. Which one will you choose today?

Through what lens are you choosing to view your life?

“If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one.”

John Galsworthy

Given the unique times we currently live in, where every day feels like groundhog day, it can be hard to think of and be aware of a desired and intentional future. But isn’t this the most important time to be future-oriented? How else can you provide meaning and context to the efforts that you are putting forth on a daily basis?

I am continually amazed by how many people don’t have a plan for their lives. In essence, they don’t have a life plan, they have an “existence plan.” Goals and dreams exist, but none of the hard and intentional work which is required to bring those things into fruition is ever done. I don’t understand this approach to life though I have been guilty of it many many times. It is so easy to get caught up in the here and now and forget all about the future you desire to create.

Whenever I get captured by the current moment I find it useful to think of my perception of time as a “dual-lens” metaphor.

selective focus photo of magnifying glass

On one side of the continuum you have the magnifying glass. An incredibly powerful and useful tool that allows you to see up close and observe intricate details about where you are right now in life.

gray stainless steel telescope

On the other side of the spectrum you have the telescope. A powerful tool which allows you to see with great clarity those things which are an incredible distance from you.

Being able to switch between a “dual-lens” approach to viewing the world is the key to capturing the future, your future, and then bringing it into the here and now. You have to be able to see over the horizon and then create the specific focus needed TODAY in order to make the future you see reality.

Practice asking yourself this question. “Should I be using my telescope or my magnifying glass today?” Both tools are extremely useful, you just have to use the right one at the right time…

selective focus photo of magnifying glassgray stainless steel telescope

Perseverance is the key to growth…

“One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.”

Angela Duckworth

Failure is a daily occurrence. It doesn’t matter how hard we try, how much we strive, or how diligent we attempt to be in our lives. We will fail. And this is okay. Failure is an incredibly important part of life. Without failure, we wouldn’t know how to grow, or that growth is even needed. Recognizing failure for what it is, an opportunity, is one of the most profoundly liberating components of life.

How we react and respond to failure will define who we become. Every day is a new occasion to grow and learn. Every failure is an opportunity to improve. Every step forward is progress.

The key to growth, the key to change, the key to unlocking the person you were created to be is perseverance. With perseverance, one can achieve almost anything. With persistence and determination failure isn’t the end of the story, it is simply the beginning of the next story...

Perseverance is what allows one to overcome the daily struggles that we will all face. I am reminded of these words which the Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans, ‘Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ‘ Romans 5:2-5

Daily failure = daily opportunity. When you look at life through this lens it is amazing how much one can accomplish.

photo of person running on dirt road
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How do you live an honest and aware life?

“Live life as though nobody is watching and express yourself as though everyone is listening.”

Nelson Mandela

What does it mean to “live life as though nobody is watching?” For me, this is a call to live an authentic and purpose-driven life. To live without fear of judgment and comparison to others. It is the freedom to live a life that is unique and intentional and uniquely yours free of the need to perform based on on the expectations of others.

How about the phrase “express yourself as though everyone is listening?” For me, this is being highly aware of the power of your words and need to curate those worlds specifically and with great care. It is the knowledge that your words carry tremendous weight and must be aligned with your behaviors and actions. If you words aren’t chosen with car and thought then you run the risk of expressing yourself in a manner that is inconsistent with your beliefs and motivations.

Both of these things are so much easier said than done. It requires tremendous focus and the ability to balance two disparate aspects of your life and mind. It is the freedom to follow your calling and pursue your honest purpose and the ability to choose your words and deliver them with measured impact. It is being true to your calling, focused on the lighthouse over the horizon and yet be aware of the need to navigate wisely so as not to end up on the shoals represented by choosing your words poorly.

Freedom and focus. Honest and aware. That is the way to live…

gray and black rock formation
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Without vision what is the purpose?

“Vision is a destination – a fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route – an adaptable path to get us where we want to go.”

Simon Sinek

This is one of the best statements I have ever seen for codifying the difference between vision and strategy. For example, you might have the personal vision to use your life to positively and permanently impact the lives of others. This vision doesn’t change course dramatically as you move through life, if anything your vision will become more and more refined and perhaps even narrower as you more fully understand your purpose and reason for being.

The strategies you choose to actualize your vision will by necessity change and evolve as the world changes and as you change. Those things which worked 10 years ago to enable your vision might have lost their effectiveness or perhaps are tools and techniques you might have outgrown.

A good friend and mentor reminded me about 7 – 8 months ago of this simple wisdom from the book of Proverbs. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

Simply put, without a vision, all the effort we put into living our lives is suboptimal to our true calling and capabilities. All the strategies, routes, and plans mean nothing, if you don’t know where you are going…

a writing on the wall
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Pay attention because your thoughts define the person you become…

“Mindfulness can help people of any age that’s because we become what we think.”

Goldie Hawn

Mindfulness is the intentional awareness and examination of your thoughts and the subconscious narrative your mind creates seemingly all on its own.

Simply put, if you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in your mind, how can you possibly change it?

There is a recipe for creating “good luck.”

“Care and diligence bring luck.”

Thomas Fuller

Exactly what is “luck?” There were two definitions which really stood out to me as I thought through the meaning of this quote.

Luck“good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance. Is it chance when one has done the hard work and is prepared when some new opportunity presents itself?

Luckthe force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person’s life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities. Is it luck when hard work, dedication and commitment causes a person to seemingly be in the right place at the right time?

There is an old saying that “luck favors the bold.” I think this applies especially well when paired with today’s quote. When you do the work, and pay attention to the details, and truly care, then “luck” happens as if by magic. If you don’t care and you aren’t diligent, then you’ll never even know you missed out an opportunity. That’s not bad luck, and it certainly isn’t bold. For me this is living a life without meaning…

shallow focus photography of four leaf clover
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Can you free your dreams with superpowers?

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”

John Scully

There is nothing more joyous than seeing the world through the eyes of your children. The wonder and joy they express when learning something new is simply incredible to witness. Just tonight my three-year-old son’s dinosaur balloon was caught at the top of the ceiling and he asked me to help him get it down. His exact words were “Please Daddy can you get my dinosaur balloon? It’s stuck, can you use your superhero powers to get it for me?”

In his mind, my ability to get the balloon was a superpower. He could see a future where he got his balloon back and figured out a way to make it happen.

Perhaps we all need to be a bit more like children. We should attempt to see the world the way we want it to be and then use or find some superpowers to make it happen…

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If you desire youth, you first have to learn how to live…

“Curiosity, creativity, discovery and wonder; they aren’t traits of youth, they’re traits of learning. If you want to feel younger and you want to replicate the conditions of youth, do that.”

Author Unknown

There is nothing like the joy which comes from learning and growing. As the parent of a 3-year old, I am reminded on a daily basis of the power of seeing things for the very first time and approaching the world with an attitude of curiosity and discovery. Literally, everything he observes is new and wondrous. I can see his mind working as he processes some amazing new revelation and wraps his brain around a new process.

What is the last thing you learned? Did you learn something new based on a conscious choice to seek out knowledge or did it come by chance or happenstance?

The key to learning isn’t to simply add new data to your mind. The key is to approach the world with curiosity, discovery, and wonder. The key to learning is to fully understand and recognize there is so much yet to learn and explore.

When you embrace life as outlined above the RESULT is a feeling of youth. Feeling younger isn’t the goal, it is the result of how you choose to live…

boy running during sunsetman in black jacket wearing black headphones

Do you know how to read a map?

“Challenge yourself every day to do better and be better. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances.”

Robert Tew

It can be incredibly challenging to remain focused on growth when the weight of the world is on your shoulders and the “tyranny of the urgent” is demanding all of your time and attention. To be intentional about growth one must foster a discipline of lifting your gaze from the current moment and check your compass to make sure you are still moving in the right direction.

In today’s world, we navigate via apps and digital routing engines which tell us where to turn and exactly what to do. We never have to pay attention to the details around us because we have ceded control to a lifeless routing engine which is managing our journey. In many ways, this can be a representation of how we choose to live our lives. Numb to what is going on around us and without perspective if we are truly headed in the right direction.

After making any decision to change the single most important thing you must do is develop a method of measuring progress and direction. This is where an old school map can be so powerful and create such an advantage. In a single glance, one can see the entire route and have perspective on the whole journey. The beauty of a map is that it isn’t a “set and forget” kind of thing. You have to pay attention in order to use it effectively. You must check-in at times to make sure you are still on the right path and moving in the desired direction.

Challenge yourself to do better and better every single day AND create a good map that will allow you to both measure progress and ensure you are moving in the right direction. There is nothing worse than going on a journey and ending up at the wrong destination…

assorted map pieces
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Do you spend your energy attempting to manipulate or empower others?

“Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.”

Patrick Lencioni

I see this pretty simply. Do you tell people what they want to hear, so they will do what you want them to do, or do you tell people what they need to hear so they can do what needs to be done?

Choose wisely. One is manipulative, the other is empowering…

Do you seek out cheerleaders or coaches?

“The naked truth is always better than the best-dressed lie.”

Ann Landers

The most prolific liar in the world is the one that exists within our own minds. We create stories and narratives based on one-sided perceptions so far removed from the truth that in hindsight it can be difficult to understand how one ever believed what at one time was seen to be an indisputable fact.

Because our minds are so good at creating an account we want to believe in it is critical to intentionally foster relationships with others who will share with you the full and naked truth. I like to think of these relationships along a continuum. On one end you have a cheerleader, and on the other end, you have a coach.

A cheerleader will motivate and inspire you, they bring active energy to bear and help you feel good about yourself. But they aren’t going to tell you what you have to do in order to win. The cheerleader’s job is to build and focus on energy development. At the extreme, a cheerleader isn’t going to tell you the truth, the hard and unvarnished reality, instead the cheerleader tells you what you want to hear.

The role of the coach is to tell you what you NEED TO HEAR. The coach brings the naked and unfiltered truth to bear so you can actually get better. A great coach won’t allow you to believe in the well-dressed lie and can help you move past the stories you create inside your own mind.

The hardest truth to hear is the naked truth, yet it is the most powerful because with this truth you can change yourself, and therefore change the world…

athlete athletic baseball boy
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Fostering a “what if” mindset is the key to creativity.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

Edward de Bono

Things look different when you see them through a different lens or perspective. The ability to be creative requires that one find a way to let go of the known, the safe, and the established ways of doing things. Instead you have to be relentless in looking for connections that aren’t there yet. Opportunities to build a bridge between seemingly unrelated items and create value that didn’t previously exist.

One of the best ways that I have found to accomplish this is by simply observing and asking questions. One must view the world through a lens of intense curiosity and a “what if” mindset. It is equally important to have a mindset of humility that allows one to ask questions and listen for both what is said, and unsaid in response.

The bottom line is that creativity requires one to surrender the desire to keep things the way they have always been. What if has to become your favorite way of thinking.

top view photo of white bond paper near coloring materials
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Failure represents two paths, which one will you take?

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

Thomas J. Watson

What is failure? This is the single most important question you will ever answer when it comes to defining success.

That is a bold statement, but hear me out…

Do you view failure as a starting or stopping point? Is failure where you quit or where you learn? Is failure what defines you or what compels you?

Understanding and evolving how you view failure and what failure means too you will be the most limiting, or the most liberating, decision you ever make.

So… Are you willing to fail?

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees
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Rest is how you prepare for the next push…

“This is no time for ease and comfort.  It is a time to dare and endure.”

Winston Churchill

The time for ease and comfort is when you have stretched yourself beyond previous limits and pushed past the breaking point.

Ease and comfort is where you rest and recover in preparation for the assault on the summit.

Know when to rest, make it purposeful, and then dare to endure. This is where the growth happens…

If you want to win, learn to collaborate…

“If people work together in an open way with porous boundaries – that is, if they listen to each other and really talk to each other – then they are bound to trade ideas that are mutual to each other and be influenced by each other. That mutual influence and open system of working creates collaboration.”

Richard Thomas

Collaboration = seeking to work with and help one another.

If you are truly seeking to work with, and for, another person’s hopes and dreams then by design you have surrendered your need to “win” as an individual. Winning is now defined in the context of mutual success.

Sounds like fun; sign me up!

Do you start fires or put them out?

“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”

Wade Boggs

Does your attitude ignite those around you? Or or does it put out the flames in others?

Being around people with a positive attitude is such a tremendous gift. It literally feels like an enhances to every aspect of life. On the flip side, those with negative attitudes make everything feel grey and gloomy.

No surprise then that extraordinary results come from those with a positive attitude.

So which one are you? An igniter or an extinguisher?

ash blaze bonfire burn
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Imagine a world of kindness… What are you waiting for?

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Mother Teresa

Imagine how different your world would be if every person you interfaced with lived with this mentality. What if every person you came in contact with was gave kindness in every possible way? How amazing would that be? You would live a life full of incredible positivity and energy. It would simply be beyond our current ability to imagine.

So what stops you from being this person? What is keeping you living this way? Who knows, you might become the seed of kindness that grows and spreads…

box cheerful color cute
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In order to put the puzzle together you need patience, time and faith…

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Leo Tolstoy

In many ways, life is like a puzzle with 10,000 pieces and no instructions and no picture to reference. The pieces fit together, but sometimes you don’t know exactly what they are building towards. The beauty is that we all have the opportunity to create the picture we want to show when our puzzle is completed. All we need is vision and the patience and time to see our vision through to fruition.

I fully admit patience is not one of my virtues. Life feels so short and compressed and I want to accomplish everything now. However, it is amazing how pieces of the puzzle you can’t see in a current moment can become so clear when viewed through the lens of time. Having the patience to accept that you might not know how everything is going to fit together but knowing with the passage of time it will call become clear is an expression of faith.

I might argue there are three powerful warriors. Patience, time, and faith. With those things, everything is possible….

brown puzzle piecesshallow focus photography of hourglass

Can you mourn?

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.”

David Levithan

19 years ago today our world changed forever. 2,966 people died on 9/11/2001 and over 6,000 were injured. If you are old enough to remember then you know exactly where you were and what your were doing when you learned what had happened.

We should have the same degree of empathy for all those with whom we share our world. Only then are we truly human…

9/11 Memorial

What are you going to do tomorrow?

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”

Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

What did you do today that will have a lasting impact? Was there anything you did that will have meaning one year from today?

There is no better way to create a life of meaning and impact than by measuring your daily success based on what you did for someone else.

So, what are you going to do tomorrow?

If you want to win, you have to run the right race…

“You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

Tom Rath

So much of our lives can be spent in the pursuit of something you think you want, yet isn’t coming from a place where you are maximizing your God-given gifts. No matter how much I like running, I am never going to win marathons or half marathons. This is just not what my body is built to achieve. However, I can still enjoy running and I can still enjoy the distance and I can still improve on what and who I am within the sport.

The key to success in life is to develop extreme awareness of self, who you are and what powers and drives you. Then put your full and complete effort into becoming more of that person, better at those particular things.

Developing this sense of self means you must become finely attuned to what and who you are not so that you can dedicate the time and energy into being the best version of the person you built to become.

Know your race. Run your race. Improve on your race. That is how you win.

sunset men sunrise jogging
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You have to be all in…

“Leadership on the other hand is about creating change that you believe in.”

Seth Godin

Before anyone else can buy into your leadership you have to be completely bought in and sold on what it is you are seeking to change. If you don’t believe in it fully and passionately then those you are seeking to influence won’t either. You can’t “fake it till you make it” when it comes to creating change. You have to believe in it with all your heart and soul.

If you don’t then everyone will know and you’ll find yourself not leading anyone at all.

To avoid regret you must take the antidote…

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

C.S. Lewis

I can think of no better way where the old axiom “age is just a state of mind” applies more fully.

This quote is the antidote for a time and place in life where you could look back and have regret over what you didn’t do. Dreams and goals are the opportunity to take whatever has happened, whatever results have come from the decisions you did, or didn’t, make, and turn it into something new and beautiful.

Eyes forward. Heart forward. Mind forward. Go forth and do…

person on a bridge near a lake
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If you really want to drive change don’t try and fit in…

“Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.”

Ralph Charell

It is amazing how much of our lives we spend trying to conform to one expectation or another. How much time we spend trying to “fit in” instead of focus on how we can “stand out.”

When I was in 3rd grade I moved to a new school and made the decision to have everyone call me by my first name “Jon” instead of the nickname “Dusty” which I had gone by my entire life. My reasoning was that there wasn’t anyone else with my name and fitting in was more important than standing out.

After one year of going by my first name, I realized there was more value in standing out and being different than there was in trying to fit in and being like everyone else. I’ve gone by “Dusty” ever since.

Fitting in doesn’t drive or create change, that only comes from those who are willing to stand out. So if change is your game, find a way to stand out…

person in red top standing on road while looking to the mountains
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To lead is to serve… Own it…

“On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.”

Jocko Willink

“Extreme Ownership” has become one of my favorite leadership books of late because it does such an exceptional job of capturing and conveying one of the most foundational principles of leadership. If your first reaction is to point a finger anywhere other than yourself you are not a leader, you have surrendered those rights.

Conversely, if you are the first to take the credit and seek glory when there is a win, you are also not a leader. The team creates wins.

So, the essence is when it doesn’t go well, it is your fault. When it goes right, the team gets the glory. This is leadership…

The world needs a little more crazy…

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Rob Siltanen

Are you crazy for seeing opportunities where others do not?

Are you crazy if you think there is a much better way?

Are you crazy if your vision is bigger that the world is today?

Are you crazy if you are discontented with the status quo?

If the answer to any of the questions is “yes” then crazy sounds pretty good to me…

ball shaped blur close up focus
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When it’s not work…

“If you are working something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

Steve Jobs

When is the work not work? What gets you up early and makes you excited to put in the effort? Are you able to spend the majority of your time pursuing things that excite you in this way?

If not, then why not? What would it take to live the majority of your life pursuing this kind of vision?

Do more of these things and you’ll never work again…

We only get one…

“Time can be an ally or an enemy. What it becomes depends entirely upon you, your goals, and your determination to use every available minute.”

Zig Ziglar

How many hours do you need in your day?

How many lifetimes do you get to live?

Is one enough?

One life is all we get, what do you need to do differently to make yours count?

A tale told by an idiot…

“A seed grows with no sound but a tree falls with huge noise.  Destruction has noise, but creation is quiet.  This is the power of silence…  Grow silently.”

Confucius

Oh the power of silence. The beauty of a quiet walk in the woods, when the mind is creating and working. A morning on the beach where the sound of the surf stokes the fires of creativity. A quiet cup of coffee and time to think without the fury of inconsequential noise making a mockery of what truly needs to be done.

The idea of destruction from noise reminds me of the last line of this scene from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

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