A battle won vs. a battle worth winning…

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Margaret Thatcher

This quote is a great reminder for me of the importance of discipline and perseverance.  It speaks to the importance of staying diligent and not resting on your laurels.  Just because you have done well and won a battle doesn’t mean it will stay won.  You must be disciplined and focused or you might find yourself fighting the same battle over again.  

However, if you have found yourself fighting the same battle more than once was it because the battle needed to be fought or because you wanted to fight it?  The watch out  is to make sure that we are focused on winning for the right reasons.  Is it about winning the battle or is it just about winning?   Has ego come into play and clouded our judgement?  

Discipline and perseverance are outstanding traits, as long as they don’t become a mask for stubbornness and ego-centric efforts.  Make sure you know why you are fighting.  

 

 

 

What winning looks like…

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

Vince Lombardi

People that lean in always impress me.  I am talking about those who look for ways to serve others, serve the organization, serve a higher purpose.  The type of person that drops  everything to go get it done; to do what matters most.  They don’t wait to be told or asked but they raise their hand and volunteer.  They exhibit and live an ethos of  “whatever it takes to get the job done.”  They just see what needs to be done and do it.  No complaints, no focus on “what does this mean for me, what am I going to get out of this” they just get it done.  

This type of person doesn’t know how to quit.  This is the athlete that is committed to excellence and doesn’t take plays off.  They know the ball isn’t coming their way on the next play but they are committed to performing at the highest level no matter what.   

This is what it takes to create success.  The determination to grow, persevere no matter what, to find ways to contribute and add value without making it all about yourself.  When you do this, regardless of the score, you win…

Over. Under. Around. Through.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”

Michael Jordan

What is the point of growth if everything is easy?  If we had an “easy button” in our back pocket we would never grow or improve at anything in life.  Challenges are what force us to become better.  Without them we would be stuck in a rut of incrementalism and fall far short of our true potential.  Obstacles are gifts because they create opportunities for us to rise above the challenge and flex our creativity.  I’ve been most impressed by those that, when faced by an incredible test, rally together and figure out a solution.  

Find a way to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal.  Skill and talent will only take you so far; grit and determination are what carries you over the hurdles that will happen in life.  

Effort versus Effect…

“Efficiency, which is doing things right, is irrelevant until you work on the right things.”

Peter Drucker

How much time do we spend in life working hard versus stepping back to ensure we are working right?  The impact of our effort is really what matters, not just the fact that we worked extremely hard.  Sometimes it can feel way more rewarding to be “busy” than it can to be effective.

For example, is it more important to check something off your list of to do’s than it is to take the time to think through whether the task should be on your list in the first place?  Have you ever completed a task and THEN written it down just so you could check it off?  Sure, you get this nice little dopamine boost than comes from accomplishing a task but did you actually sit back and make sure that the task needed to be done in the first place?  Why do we do this?  (yes, I have been guilty of this too…) 

I have found that because activity gets measured daily it can be easy to become a slave to being busy and lose sight of the desired results. In today’s multi-tasking as a measure of success world we can often justify our worth by being busy and having lots of activities going on at the same time.  However the real measure of effectiveness is whether or not the desired results are being delivered.

If you were to add one thing to your list to improve your effectiveness I would suggest this:  Schedule time weekly to think through what needs to be done in order to achieve your desired results.  Without this, you might have lots of effort but little to show for the work.

One last question.  Does your measure of success at the end of the day come from how many things were checked off your list or whether or not you were checking the right things off your list?

Demand more, in the right direction…

“Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever demand of you, knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more. You must do more.”

Tim S. Grover

I completely agree with the sentiment expressed in this quote.  I have long believed that no one could push me harder than I could push myself.  As I have gotten older, and perhaps wiser, I have learned that while no one can push me harder, perhaps others can push me in ways I didn’t even know that I needed to go.  

Demanding more of yourself sometimes means getting perspective and help from outside so you know exactly where to push so hard…  Who helps you see where you channel your relentless energy?  

 

How do you tend your wish garden?

“Wishing is a form of inspiration for the lazy mind but taking action, persisting and finding alternative routes to your destination against all odds is the definition of a SUCCESSFUL venture.”

Oscar Bimpong

A wish is simply a seed that is sown that can grow into a great tree or a beautiful flower.  But for the seed to survive and become what is is capable of it must overcome all sorts of challenges and obstacles.  In the same manner for a wish to grow it must be nurtured, it won’t happen by accident or through simple desire.  

This quote reminds me of the parable of the sower from Matthew 13: 1-23.  For our wish to become reality it must fall on good soil and be tended and protected.  That is our responsibility and obligation as leaders.  To achieve great things we can’t be content with wishing, we must instead ensure that our dreams, and the dreams of those whom we serve, are nurtured, encouraged, and sustained against all odds.  If wishes are seeds then we are gardeners charged with ensuring they grow to their full potential.

What seeds are worth taking from dream to reality?  What seeds are worth planting and protecting no matter what happens?  

Do. The. Work.

“Do. The. Work. Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear. Otherwise, the next day you’re going to have two things you don’t want to do, then three and four and five, and pretty soon, you can’t even get back to the first thing. And then all you can do is beat yourself up for the mess you’ve created, and now you’ve got a mental barrier to go along with the physical barriers.” 

Tim S. Grover

This quote comes from a book titled From Good to Great to Unstoppable that is is a very worthwhile read.  Tim is a trainer/performance coach for some of the world’s most elite athletes.  The kind of people who win championships and are the top 1% of the top 1%.  The type of folks that demonstrate the work ethic and drive written about above.  

Do you know what is interesting about this?  Every single one of us has this opportunity in our lives.  We might not all be genetically gifted by God to play football or basketball but every single one of us has the ability to “Do. The. Work.”  It is a choice.  Being a champion at something take relentless effort and doesn’t come without a high personal cost.

You have to choose to do the work.  You can either own the work, or the work will own you.  It’s your choice, but make no mistake, it is a choice.  Choose wisely.  

 

Accountability starts with self…

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”

Courtney Lynch

On of my long-time favorite mantras is “fix the problem, not the blame.” Instead of investing your effort into finding out who who is at fault, and why they are accountable, focus on what happened and what is needed to fix it.  I love the way this quote frames out that accountability is a result of leading by example.  You can’t have accountability if the leader doesn’t walk the talk by accepting responsibility.  This seems so obvious, yet rare in practice.  
It is far easier to try and “hold others accountable” instead of first focusing on our responsibility as leaders for the outcomes and engendering an ownership mentality.   If you want to create a culture of accountability, take responsibility for the results.  
Accountability starts with self…

Where do you choose to invest?

“Giving up something now for something better later is not a sacrifice. It is an investment.”

Andy Stanley

What is really important?  Is the things we have now, or those we want in the future?  Where would you choose to invest your time or energy in order to achieve something better later?  

If you know the answer to that question then the real question is this one…  

Why don’t you?

Complacency = Death

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”

John P. Kotter

It always amazes me how many points can be scored in a football game during the last two minutes.  When the pressure is on, and time is of the essence, great teams step up and score points.  The 2-minute drill highlights what a team is capable of when acting with urgency and removing any and all complacency from their behaviors.  

I have long believed that a sense of complacency is the most dangerous thing that a person or a team can ever develop.  The dictionary definition of complacency is, “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”

Complacency scares me to death…

Operating with a sense of urgency is a natural guard against complacency.  Living with a sense of urgency shows up in the little things in life.  Watch people and you can tell those that bring a sense of urgency to all aspects of their lives.  You can see it in how they walk, how they respond to questions, what decisions they make, etc.

Urgency isn’t fear.   Urgency is moving and acting with intense purpose and drive because that’s how you choose to live.  

Take it to the next level…

“Whenever you see a successful person, you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.”

Vaibhav Shah

10 years ago Guy Ritchie teamed up with Nike to make an ad for the 2008 World Cup that shows a local league soccer player making it to the big dance.  What I love about this ad is that it doesn’t show only the glitz and glamour, though it does show plenty, but it also shows the hard work, the effort, the sacrifices, the puking…  All the effort that went into making it to the “next level” is never seen by the fans in the stadium.

In today’s world everyone seems to covet the trappings and glories of those who are successful but very few understand or embrace the thousands of sacrifices it took someone to to get there.  

Ultimately I believe real success isn’t measured in public glories and in the spoils of victory.  Success is defined by the person you become, and who you impact by how you live your life.  For me achieving “success” and getting to the “next level” means digging deep and focusing on who I want to become and making that a priority over having comfort and ease in the here and now.  Those might never become “public glories” and I am perfectly fine with that. 

 

Do you own, or do you rent?

“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”

Pat Summitt

Ownership.  What does it mean? Think of the difference between renting a home and owning a home.  When you rent, you treat the home differently.  You don’t worry about the little things, you don’t put the extra effort in to care for or protect the property.  For example, you might ignore the roof that only leaks when it really storms, or the sink that leaks on occasion.  Maybe instead of ignoring the problem, you just call someone else, the owner, because it isn’t your problem.  You don’t have to fix it.  But if you own the home you pay attention to these problems.  You know that if you don’t address them quickly it is likely to become far worse, and much more expensive to repair.  

If you are the owner, you write the checks.  And by checks I don’t just mean in terms of money.  You have to fix the problem.  You are accountable for how you, the asset, the team, the organization performs.  It starts, and stops, with you.  You must look to yourself first before you look to others, regardless of fault because you are responsible and accountable for fixing the problem, whatever that problem might be.  

Have you ever heard the saying “drive it like a rental?”  What exactly does this mean?  It means when you rent a car you don’t treat it the same way you would if you owned it.  You don’t have to care about the maintenance, what it is going to drive like next week, next month, next year.  You don’t have to care because you aren’t accountable for your decisions, or in some cases the lack of a decision.  The rental car won’t be your problem in the future. For renters it is someone else’s problem.  Even if you caused it…

We all have an active decision make, do we own or do we rent?  This project, this initiative, this team, this relationship.  Yes, sometimes ownership sucks.  It isn’t fun to have to fix problems, especially if you caused them, whether intentionally or not.  But it has to be done, because if you don’t, who will? If you don’t look inwards first with self-awareness and reflection and have the accountability to own it, you are just renting your space as a human and a leader.  Don’t be a renter…

Discipline = “No!”

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” 

Jim Rohn

In today’s world everything is beeping and dinging and chirping to get your attention.  Their is a constant barrage of information coming at you to try and take part of your precious time and energy.  In this world of continuous distraction how can you focus, where do you start?  

It starts with writing down the goals.  I’ve found that anything short of a written goal is simply a wish or an aspiration.  Writing the goal down, meditating over it, thinking through the necessary steps to make it a reality.  That’s where it starts.  But that isn’t enough.  Actually taking action and putting those steps in place on a daily and ongoing basis requires the discipline to say no to the things that going to get in the way of making that goal a reality.  

I think that is the key.  Discipline isn’t some great “yes” to suddenly doing the right things.  Discipline requires a strong “no” to the things that are going to get in the way of your goal.  Knowing what needs to be done, and then having the conviction to do them, is critical.  

It reminds me of the great quote by Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” 

To enhance your ability to make your goals a reality what do you need to have the discipline to say “no” to?

Who’s fault is it?

“You’re a failure as a leader if people sit around waiting for you to tell them what to do.”

Dan Rockwell

Leadership failure happens if you aren’t first asking yourself the question, “what am I doing that is creating or causing this situation?”  The outcome is simply a reflection of leadership choices.  What choices have I made, intentional or not, that are responsible for creating a culture where ownership and accountability is low and “people sit around waiting to be told what to do?”  Leadership starts with self and that means asking yourself tough questions on how you are contributing to the problem.

I might argue that you’re a failure as a leader if you sit around expecting others to have to change, but your not looking to change yourself…

Practice gratitude…

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

Earl Nightingale

Every minute matters.  Either we are being intentional with how we spend our time or we are choosing to let it slip through our fingers.  I know that I have been guilty far too often in life of living in, and for, the future instead of enjoying the moment at hand.  

It is easy to talk about but how do you really do it?  Where do you start?  One practice that I started following just over four years ago was the habit of a keeping a daily gratitude journal.  I found that simply writing down the things that happened during the day for which I was most grateful for helped me connect to the moment.  Looking back through those journals I have much more appreciation for how precious life is.  

I still struggle with this, and I probably always will.  Having a daily focus point is one way I have found to stay grounded in the power of being present?  What has worked for you?

 

 

 

Comfortable being uncomfortable…

“Grit is not just a simple elbow-grease term for rugged persistence. It is an often invisible display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest and do it again and again.”

Sarah Lewis

I have tremendous respect for people with “grit.”  The dictionary defines it as “firmness of character or indomitable spirit.” In fact, entire books have been written about the subject.  (this is just one example, there are more but this is a particularly good one)

I respect those with “grit” not just because they have resilience and are able to grow through almost any circumstances with grace and aplomb, but because they are comfortable being uncomfortable.  I think that is why this quote resonates with me so much, because it is hitting on what is so important for growth and success in today’s world.  If you want to improve, you have to be comfortable getting uncomfortable regularly.  The world is changing so fast that becoming comfortable can be the first step towards complacency.  From complacency is a short and slippery slope to irrelevance…

The other part of this that I like so much is because it highlights the “invisible display” factor.  A person with “grit” doesn’t have this trait to show it off for others.  It is a real and internal attribute that helps them get through the tough stuff of life.  It frames how they approach the world.  The people that I have know who have a strong bent towards this trait don’t walk around showing or telling others how “gritty” they are.  They are simply comfortable being uncomfortable and have relentless drive to overcome any challenge or situation, without letting that impact WHO they are and what they value.  

Are you comfortable getting, and staying, uncomfortable in order to grow and learn?

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

The power of taking action…

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough, we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

leonardo-vitruvian-man-bI have just finished a fascinating book titled “The Leading Brain” which delves into how our brain works and the reason why we make the decisions we do.  Understanding the neuroscience behind our behavior as humans and particularly as leaders is really really interesting and has given me much greater insight to my own behaviors and how to change them for the better.  

One of the things I learned was how precisely how powerful small habits can be and the science behind why breaking the big things down into reasonable and attainable actions creates long term and sustainable success.  I thought I used to do this fairly well but now  knowing the importance of “doing” as this quote from Leonardo points out, I recognize how critical these actions are to rewire your brain.  By breaking things down, starting with small actions, creating wins that give you brain the dopamine boost it craves you literally rewire your neural paths and reinforce the way you want your brain to work.  Incredible!  (yes, I recognize that I am a geek for this stuff…)

Find your big thing, break it down, start with an action that matters.  Today…

Failure to plan…

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

Colin Powell

This quote reminds me of the old axiom “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Preparation is such an important aspect of success that sometimes gets overlooked.  It’s so easy to wait until the last minute to get the work done but far too often that increases the chance of failure, or at least of sub-optimal results.  Good preparation is part of the hard work required to create success.  Being intentional in what we WANT to do allows us to execute against our plan with focused hard work AND creates the environment that allows us to learn when things don’t go as planned.  If you don’t have a plan, how will you know if you don’t achieve it?

 

Embrace the suck…

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

Seneca

How easily we understand the need to change our body by challenging it with difficulty.  We get up early, we go to the gym, we push out just one more repetition on the bench press.  We know that by challenging the body we become stronger.  Embracing the suck is what we do to get stronger physically.  It’s easy to do because we have a goal we are striving to accomplish.

It works the same way with mental difficulties of course, but those aren’t as easy to embrace.  I’m not talking about learning new things and seeking new knowledge, that’s different.  I mean the times when life is challenging us, when things aren’t going our way.  Those difficulties aren’t as easy to embrace as strengthening opportunities, until you set aside emotions and personal pride and truly seek to learn from whatever challenge life has thrown your way.  That’s when the breakthroughs happen.  That’s when we get stronger…

Start. Stop. Continue.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Oswald Chambers

This might be the biggest challenge a leader faces. For that matter it might be the biggest challenge any person faces.  Saying “yes” to something means that you are saying “no” to something else.  

Do you have a crystal clear understanding of your priorities?  I’d like to think that I do, but honestly I struggle at times to say “no.” There is always more than can be done than should be done. For me it helps to break the question into two parts.  

  1. Should I do this?  Does it align with my priorities and goals?
  2. If yes, then can I do it?  If I say yes will I be able to complete it at an acceptable level without impacting my previous commitments?  

Sounds easy right.  If only that were the case.  

I have met the enemy…

“Incompetent leaders spend too much time evaluating others and not enough evaluating their own leadership.”

Unknown

Well snap. And I don’t mean in a “snap, crackle, pop” rice krispies kind of way either. Yes, I fully recognize that I am not demographically qualified to use the term “snap.” I validate that by knowing that Snap, Crackle and Pop are the names of the gnomic elves that pitched Rice Krispies for decades. Don’t believe me?  Check this out. Hmm, now I’m not sure where to go from here. Oh yes, incompetent leaders…

snap crackle popPerhaps real leadership only exists when self leadership is there first? How much easier is it to say “it was their fault” or “they are a horrible leader” than it is to ask the question “how can I improve my leadership?” If it is their fault then I have nothing to worry about right?  WRONG.  I speak from experience.  If I “snap” and excuse it because “they” did it, deserved it, or earned it, then then I’m an incompetent leader.  Period. Thank goodness leadership growth is a journey.  Leave the snap for the cereal.

Time keeps on slipping into the future…

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Earl Nightingale

The first thing that I thought of when I read this quote was the great Steve Miller Band song “Fly Like an Eagle” Not sure it had a direct correlation of meaning but the opening lyric really says it all for me, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.”  That’s what time does right?  Next year becomes next month, becomes tomorrow, becomes today, and then it is just a memory.  Unless we DO more.  Unless we make the time today count.  Then it has the chance to not just be our memory anymore but might even become THE MEMORY for someone else. What on earth am I talking about?  Listen further into the song.  

“I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free
Oh, Lord, through the revolution”

Eagles inspire.  People see them flying and they are so majestic and grand.  I think that people who work hard to achieve their dreams do the same thing.  They inspire, they motivate, they plant within others the spark they might need to follow their own dream(s).  So think of this.  What if you by NOT chasing your dream you aren’t only stealing from only yourself?  What if you are also impacting someone else’s ability to make their dreams come true because they won’t have you their “fly like an eagle” and show them the way?  The time is going to pass, what are you going to do with it both for you AND for others?

What if you impact others the most by chasing your dreams in a way that inspires them?

“Feed the babies
Who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution”

Plan your work, work your plan…

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

I saw this posted on the wall at the gym today and had to take a picture.  What a great reminder.  Though I am pretty sure I need it on the mirror in my bathroom…

IMG_4221

Know your goals, break them into chunks, start today…  I personally use the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and the Productive App on the iPhone. Love them both.  There is just something satisfying about having a plan and working it.

 

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