Worthy work?

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Theodore Roosevelt

When do you feel most alive at work? When does the work not feel like work at all but instead is energizing and motivating? I love it when the work is exceptionally hard but is so worth doing that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice in any way. That is magical. Are you there today? What would it take to capture that feeling?

All the small things…

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

Walter Elliot

If you ask anyone that participates in long distance endurance events they will tell you that they aren’t at the start line thinking of the race in it’s entirety. No one starts an Ironman race thinking about the 140.6 miles that are in front of them. Instead it is broken down into much shorter segments that are easier for the mind to focus on and control. For example, it’s not a 140.6 mile race, instead it’s a 2.4 mile swim. Yet it’s not a 2.4 mile swim, it’s a swim to the first turn 800 meters out. It’s not even a swim to the first turn, it’s a swim to the next course marker buoy 200 meters away. It’s not a 200 meter swim, it’s settling in with a smooth stroke and easy breathing.

The same logic applies to the bike and to the run in an Ironman. It applies in marathon and ultra-marathon distance races. That is how one perseveres over distances and challenges that are too great for the mind to comprehend and embrace. It applies equally well in life. It’s not about the great thing you want to accomplish five years from now, it is the exact next thing that you must accomplish to become the person you want to be. To be a person of perseverance and determination doesn’t happen with the big things, it happens with all the small things that are strung together.

Kill ambiguity…

“It’s not the things you don’t know that trip you up. It’s the things you think you know, but you don’t. You fail to ask a certain question because you believe you know the answer. Separating your information from your assumptions can be very tricky business.” 

Claudia Gray

It is amazing how often the things you assume about something can in turn trip you up. Details taken for granted can be the most important ones.

There is a fine line between verifying everything and in turn sending a message that you don’t trust someone and verifying just the most important things. How do you make sure that you walk this line successfully?

One of the ways to combat this is through thorough and clear execution of “commander’s intent.”

How does this relate to today’s quote? It’s all about clarity and removing assumptions and replacing them with crystal clear facts. That means you have to ask the right questions. Thats how you kill ambiguity.

Say “no” to non-essentials…

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

Lin Yutang

I have been on a journey to simplify in life and focus only on the most essential and important things. It is incredibly challenging for me to do, but has been very enlightening and clarifying. Definitely not saying that I am wise, but that I can see and have great appreciation for this wisdom.

It is interesting to see how much time we spend doing things that truly aren’t essential. There are so many things in life that are competing for our attention that saying “no” can be truly liberating. I will say that doing so takes more discipline and intentional focus than I would have ever thought possible. But it is worth every tough decision.

What is the one thing you should say “no” to today?

Transparency = authenticity…

“If you are honest, truthful, and transparent, people trust you. If people trust you, you have no grounds for fear, suspicion or jealousy.”

Dalai Lama

I despise politics. Posturing and posing in order to achieve some agenda that is masked or not transparent is just something I can’t do very well and is something that I don’t have a lot of patience with. I have long believed that being transparent in your intent is the key to building strong and lasting relationships with others. If you have this type of relationship politics doesn’t enter the picture. Transparency equates to authenticity.

But with this degree of transparency comes a great burden of responsibility. As leaders we must ensure that our actions align to our words at all times and if, and when, they don’t that we own our mistakes and missteps. I like this verse when thinking about the power of honesty, truthfulness and transparency.

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” 2 Corinthians 8:21 NIV

I’d much rather be known as a person that speaks the truth, conducts himself with integrity at all times, and is transparent with my intentions towards others. I love people that are like this and they are the ones that have my greatest respect and admiration. Who are the people in your life that live like this? What is their impact on you and others they come in contact with?

Choose wisely…

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.”

Abraham Lincoln

Suffering setbacks, failures and challenges is inevitable. It is going to happen to all of us at some point or another. How we react and respond is a choice. Deciding to succeed despite the challenges is a choice. Doing whatever it takes to overcome is a choice.

But then, so is quitting… Which choice are you going to make today?

Integrity fuels trust…

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”

Oprah Winfrey

Trust is what makes real relationships with other people work. It is the foundational platform for any relationship. Without trust nothing else works. Trust is based on integrity. Integrity is internal to a person. It is how they show up and act. It is their own personal moral or ethical code. It manifests and conveys in a myriad of ways. For example, I have known people that lie to others and I can never fully trust them because I know that if they lie to someone else, they will lie to me. They will say they are “white lies” but a mistruth is still a lie.

It can heartbreaking to find out that someone you know and respect lacks integrity. It is especially tough because without integrity there can’t be trust. Doing the right thing, means knowing and doing it, even if it has negative consequences for yourself. Frankly, that can build trust with others that share your same ethical and moral code.

Turning this thinking inward, what are the little things that you do that demonstrate your personal beliefs and ethics? How do you demonstrate that you desire to live a life of integrity? What does “doing the right thing” mean to you?

Surrender your ego…

“He who closes his ears to the views of others shows little confidence in the integrity of his own views.”

William Congreve

If you aren’t willing to listen to, and learn from others, then by default you are saying that your ideas are better, your thoughts are better, and that you are always right. That’s a pretty big gamble if you ask me.

I assume that others might know more, have a different perspective, or offer something that I haven’t considered. There is a great advantage in seeking input from others but only if you surrender your ego and truly listen to learn.

Solve the problem…

“Don’t bother people for help without first trying to solve the problem yourself.”

Colin Powell

I am sure that we all know the type of person that seems to have nothing but problems and somehow always wants to bring them to someone else to be solved. It can be exhausting to work with or be around people that are like this. They are only focused on the problem and how it is someone else’s fault or responsibility and never on the solution and how they can take ownership.

What a refreshing difference it is with someone who owns it and finds a way to solve it themselves. Giving feedback is so much easier and more valuable when working with a person that is doing their very best to solve something. They have invested the time, effort and energy into the solution instead of shifting the responsibility to someone else.

What is the difference between these two types of people? The person on one end of the spectrum wants to make sure they have an out if things don’t go well or the solution wasn’t the right one. “It’s not my fault, they told me how to do it.” At the other end the person wants to own the solution and focuses their efforts on getting things done. “It might not be perfect but I am going to own finding the solution to this problem.”

Which end of this spectrum do you live on?


The best question…

“Perhaps the very best question that you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is, ‘what is the most valuable use of my time right now?'”

Brian Tracy

How often do you ask yourself this question? How often do you answer it honestly…? What would you need to change to make the answers to the question easier to actually do? How many times does it happen where you get to the end of the day and wonder if you actually accomplished anything?

The answers to these questions might not be easy or answers that you like. But changing them to ones that you do like could change your world…

Impatiently patient…

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Patience is not one of my virtues. Not. At All. Even when I find myself thinking that perhaps I have developed a new level of patience something will happen and I am reminded that developing patience is, and will be, a continual journey for me. Waiting is just not something I am good at. But waiting is sometimes exactly what I need.

I will fully admit that I have learned more in life when the journey has been long and I have had to sit back and understand what God is teaching me through patience. In hindsight the journey is always worth the cost and the reward is sweeter for having persevered.

What lessons have you learned through demonstrating patience that might otherwise have passed you by? Would you be the person you are today without having taken the bitter patience pill a few times?

I think I need to learn how to be impatiently patient. Never wanting to slow down and be content being patient but fully willing to embrace the lessons I can learn through patience.

Where should you focus?

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

Epictetus

It isn’t comfortable not being in control. If we aren’t careful we can drive ourselves crazy worrying about the things we can’t control instead of focusing our efforts and energy on those things that we can. Whenever I lose sight of this I find the following scripture both grounding and uplifting.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV

At the end of the day I know that whatever it is that I am worrying about is far less impactful than the challenges and persecution faced by so many. When I spend my energy worrying I am putting my effort into things that don’t impact the lives of others and don’t honor my Savior and what he has blessed me with. When I remember to think and reflect on this, everything comes back into focus.

If you aren’t growing you are dying on the vine…

“The greats never stop learning. Instinct and talent without technique just makes you reckless, like a teenager driving a powerful, high-performance vehicle. Instinct is raw clay that can be shaped into a masterpiece, if you develop skills that match your talent. That can only come from learning everything there is to know about what you do.” 

Tim S. Grover

Both life and leadership are a journey of constant and continuous learning. I believe (and most sincerely hope) that I am a far better leader today than I was five years ago and yet I know that I am nowhere near where I want and need to be five or ten years from now. It has nothing to do with role or title but everything to do with impact and effectiveness. The more I learn the more that I realize how much more I need to learn and how much opportunity I have to grow and improve.

I had a conversation with a leader that I greatly respect last night on the impact and power of mindfulness and focus, especially in today’s incredibly distracted age. The time that can, and is, wasted on non-value added activity is so powerful if it can be harnessed for intentional learning and thinking. I have so much to learn about this both from a skill and knowledge perspective and have been receiving multiple nudges in this direction over the past several months.

For example, I just finished reading (through a book club I belong to) an excellent book titled “Digital Minimalism” about the power of focus in a very noisy world and I am I am in the process of reading another book (that was referenced in “Digital Minimalism”) titled (Lead Yourself First) that is really pushing me outside of my comfort zone and making me realize the power of, and need for, quiet and solitude to clarify one’s thinking.

I bring both of these up not to recommend or push others down this path but simply as an example of my own journey and realizing how much work I need to continue to do on myself as a Christian, leader, husband and father. Life is a journey. You are either growing, or you are dying on the vine…

Silence is a gift to yourself…

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

Lao Tzu

I don’t know about you but the world very rarely seems to be quiet anymore. Finding stillness and time to think and reflect seems to be so challenging with the constant availability of distractions and ways to “spend” your time. It isn’t just physical noise or busyness that gets in the way of quiet reflection. It can be the pervasive and ever-growing “digital noise” that clouds our minds and stops us from finding time to just sit alone with our thoughts.

I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately as I reflect on what I need to do to grow and improve. My favorite time of the day is the first hour when I take time to read my devotionals, pray, write this blog post, and enjoy a completely quiet and calm house. I love this quiet time yet I have not been good at all at finding ways to bake this into a normal routine beyond the first 45-60 minutes of each day. Once my day starts it is constant and complete engagement with the world until I crawl into bed night to rest and prepare to do it all again the next day.

I am very guilty of trying to add more into every single moment. It is finally (maybe I am just a slow learner) sinking in that I need to be much more intentional about being very purposeful with my time and build in space to think. To make this happen I have to be much more intentional about finding silence and not try to cram as much as possible into every second of the day. Silence is truly a gift to oneself, to give it you must design it into your life…

There are no silver bullets…

“No trainer or coach or expert can make you good or great or unstoppable if you’re not going to do the work, if you’re waiting for someone to make it happen for you. It’s on you.” 

Tim S. Grover

For me, this hits home on the point that no matter what, or how much, I read and learn I have to know how and when to apply that knowledge. I have to do the really hard work on myself. There are no silver bullets. Period. All the great input in the world doesn’t matter if you skip over the truly hard and meaningful work. I love to learn and grow but I can skip the next, and most important step, learning how and when to apply what I have learned on both myself and the world around me.

Getting advice, seeking knowledge, becoming an expert in your chosen field doesn’t mean jack if you don’t do the really hard work on yourself and figure out what you have to do to grow and improve. Ask yourself the tough questions on what you have to do to achieve your goals and not accepting any lame excuses from yourself. Accept nothing other than complete and total ownership. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to make your dreams come true. It’s no one else’s fault if they don’t…

Write for your own understanding…


“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”

Gustave Flaubert

Writing a blog post every day has been a great personal example of this quote for me. I started this journey to do something I have always wanted to do and now I find my daily writing time to be very focusing and affirming for what I believe about life and leadership.

I’ve also kept a personal journal for years and that too has been tremendously beneficial when thinking through things or really trying to put my thoughts together on some matter. For me writing makes whatever loose thoughts are gathered in my head come together in a some type of coherent form (sometimes coherent perhaps). I am often surprised that when I go back and reread something I have written that it brought out things I didn’t even know were on my mind.

All this to say I agree with this quote 100% and highly encourage writing as an act of discovery and understanding. It just takes a little and I have found it to be time very well spent, regardless of whether anyone else reads what I write.

Do you design your life for how you want it to work?

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works.”

Steve Jobs

Design isn’t just for the technology and the things we see and use. It is how we make decisions, how we live our lives, who our friends are, etc. When you think about life through the lens of being intentional and owning the design for how it works what different decisions would you make? Why haven’t you made them?

Contented or is there something more?

“Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do.”

Phillips Brooks

What were you meant and made to do? Is it more than you are doing now? Where have you become contented in life and in your thoughts and actions?

This is heady stuff for early in the morning but it definitely stopped me in my tracks as I read this quote and reflected on the questions above. I believe there can be great danger in discontentment if it is all about yourself and what you want to do. But if you frame these questions from the perspective of what God meant and made you to do, perhaps it might change your answers.

What did God mean and make me to do? Is it more than I am doing now? Am I fulfilling all that He created me to be and accomplish?

Adjust and overcome…

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.”

Michael J. Fox

Personally I have found that these types of challenges or situations have been among the most impactful and important things to have happened in my life. Recognizing something for what it is, accepting it, and then dealing with it positively is so important. If you want to create change you first have to accept whatever the reality truly is, not what you want it to be. Only then can you can adjust and overcome.

Do the good work today…

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.”

Elbert Hubbard

“I don’t have time to do it right today, but I will tomorrow, I swear!” That certainly rings false doesn’t it? If we don’t have time to do the job right today, then when will we ever have time to do it right? Good work only has one definition. If we want to achieve our goals and do good work tomorrow, we have to focus on what we control today and deliver the goods.

Outside in…

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Wayne Dyer

What challenge or opportunity in your life would be improved if you could get an outside-in perspective? There are only two ways to make this happen. Ask for help, or seek to change your own perspective. What’s preventing you from doing either one?

Paranoid is good…

“Success breeds complacency.  Complacency breeds failure.  Only the paranoid survive.”

Andy Grove

The minute you think you have arrived, that you think you can lay back and relax because you have accomplished your goal, that is the minute you start to slide towards complacency and irrelevance. Complacency scares me more than almost anything else. Complacency means that you don’t care deeply and passionately and that goes against every fiber of my being. But how do you make sure that you pause long enough to recognize success?

I know that I struggle to slow down long enough to celebrate success. When something is achieved I immediately begin thinking of the next thing, the next goal. How do you ensure that you pause long enough when achieving some level of success but not become comfortable there? What is the appropriate about of time to celebrate success before starting towards the next journey?

I follow the principle “celebrate a win for a day, then get back to work.” Numerous people have talked and written about this and it has worked for me. What works for you?

Discipline fuels success…

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

Jim Rohn

Knowing what you want and knowing how to get it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do the work. That is what discipline means to me. Doing the work. No. Matter. What. No complaints. No griping. Just get it done.

People will ask me, “why do you get up so early in the morning?” It is a very simple answer. Because that is what it takes to get the things done that I want to do. Do I enjoy my alarm going off at 3:50 AM? Nope. Are there days I want to sleep in? Yep. But if I do, I am making a choice not to do something that I want to do and that just isn’t acceptable to me.

To be completely honest I still don’t accomplish all the things that I want to do. I would love to get more done. I feel like I need to improve my personal discipline and focus each and every day to become the person God created me to be.

How do you demonstrate personal accountability and discipline in your life? How does extreme discipline help you achieve your goals?

Thrive vs. survive…

“You have power over your mind not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” 

Marcus Aurelius

Where does your mind go when something happens that is outside of your control? Do you feel attacked? Are you likely to frame your response in a negative or positive manner? All of this is within your control.

It brings to mind Viktor Frankl’s quote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”I wrote about this one last July here.

Recognizing that you have the power to control your mind, and how your mind then directs your response to any situation is incredibly powerful. It is, I believe, what separates and distinguishes those who thrive and those who simply survive in this world. What habits of your mind do you know that you need to take control of?

Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control…

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” 

Paulo Coelho

Forgive the long post but this topic is something that I am really passionate about… I am a huge fan of Dr. Stephen Covey’s classic “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It has been one of the most impactful books that I have read and studied in my life and each of the Habits are incredibly powerful. It is certainly a must read ((In fact, thinking about it now I am due to reread it again soon…) and one that I highly recommend.

One of the things that resonated so much with me the first time I read the book was the concept of the “circle of concern” vs. “circle of control.” Proactive people tend to live a life focused on their “circle of control” while reactive people tend to live a life that is reacting to things outside of their control.

I bring this up in context with this quote because the weather is a great example of “circle of concern.” We can’t control the storms, the sunshine or how the weather changes our plans. But we can control how we react to the weather. We can make decisions to wear different clothes, make different plans, put an umbrella in our car.

This is such a great metaphor for life. If we choose spend our energy focused on reacting to things that are in our “circle of concern” instead of being focused on the things with in our “circle of control” we will always be reacting, always be unhappy, always be unsettled.

It is hard to do at times but I try to run everything impacting my life, and those around me, through this filter and ask myself the following questions.

  • Is this thing/event/circumstance within my circle of concern or circle of control?
  • Circle of Concern:
    • What decisions do I need to make regarding how I will act/react to it?
    • What is within my control that will influence how this impacts me/others?
    • Where can/should I have made different decisions that will/would have impacted the impact on my world/environment?
  • Circle of Control:
    • What can I do to impact this?
    • Where should I invest my effort and energy to make a proactive change?
    • What can I do differently?

Take a look at this picture below. I think it does a tremendous job outlining the difference in how people react to the Circle of Concern vs. the Circle of Control.

I trust you…

“Trust, but verify.”

Ronald Reagan

I absolutely love this quote. It has long been one of my favorite sayings and principles. If you were to boil effective leadership down to a few key tenants this one would have to be on that list.

Trust is a funny thing. It has to be earned and can so easily be destroyed if one isn’t careful to be honor it and to verify it in the right way. Sometimes how you go about verifying can instead send the message that you don’t trust someone. Are you verifying that something was done, or are you trying to make sure it was done your way? Are you micromanaging or simply validating? Do you trust someone or are you seeking to control them?

The key is how you ask the questions…

Failure preventative…

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

Jim Rohn

I really like how Jim frames failure as a “error in judgement, repeated every day.” When you think of failure through that filter what does it look like for you? What are the daily “errors in judgement” that are repeated? Is it not tackling the tough conversation and letting something fester? Does it revolve around allowing negative conversations to persist even when you know that you should address them? Is it a case of doing the urgent but not important things that need to be done? There are so many possible ways this can manifest.

Think about failure through the lens of the daily opportunities you have to perform at a higher level. Does settling for “good enough” today become an “error in judgement” in hindsight when something critical fails?

Do you seek to help or hurt?

“We must desire to see people rising in life, rather than looking for ways to contribute to their fall.”

Bamigboye Olurotimi

When you are talking about another person, how many of your words are spent talking about ways that you can help them grow or how they rise up even farher? How many of your words are about what they did wrong and how you want to see them fail? The first question is leadership. The second is most definitely not. Make sure you are focused on the first question…

Clear expectations first…

“What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”

Chip Heath


If you don’t understand the reason for a change can you really be committed to the hard work it takes to make it happen? As a leader if people are resisting change have you done all the work necessary to communicate clearly why the change is needed?

It is our responsibility as leaders to own the creation of clarity with our teams. No on else is responsible or accountable for this critical step. If you haven’t set clear expectations change won’t stick…

Who really counts?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt 

This has long been one of my favorite quotes. I have it inscribed on a plaque in my office to serve as a constant reminder of the power of doing things, of being in the fray instead of timidly sitting on the sidelines. Often it seems that there is so much time and energy spent armchair quarterbacking every action and decision made by others. Those who can do or they just figure out how. Those who can’t are simply bureaucrats who talk about what others could have done better…

How do you want to live your life? Do you want to be in the arena desperately striving to win knowing full well that you will suffer defeats at times and you will have to pick yourself up to fight again? Or are you content being a passive observer of your life with your greatest accomplishment becoming your ability to point fingers and make excuses?

I could kick myself…

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Are you honest enough with yourself to be able to deliver that kick? Can you take 100% ownership and accountability and then do something with it?

Change begins by taking responsibility. Period. If you don’t like something, change it. Don’t bitch, complain, or moan. No one, and I mean no one, wants to hear that crap. It isn’t anyone else’s fault. It’s not the fault of the cosmos or the situation. Dig deep, understand where you contributed, deal with it. If you don’t, then you are going to owe yourself yet another kick…

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