Ask the right question…

“Your strength doesn’t come from winning. It comes from struggles and hardship. Everything that you go through prepares you for the next level.”

Germany Kent

I am extremely competitive and I love to win. But I know that my losses and struggles have helped me grow and improve far more than any win or success in life. Overcoming obstacles is the key to growth and resilience. Though when you are in the midst of the struggle it can be hard to keep this in mind. I have found that asking myself this simple question can help me reframe and refocus for the future.

“What is God teaching me right now so that I can better serve and represent His Kingdom in the future?”

Pausing to answer this, and take my focus off of me and put it back on God, is how I recenter during a struggle. What works for you?

To break or build start small…

“They say the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.  The chains you put around yourself now have enormous consequences as you go through life.”

Warren Buffett

There are good habits and bad habits. The good habits take time and effort to build and the bad ones seems to be effortless, until they come back to haunt you… Trying to change bad habits, or instill good ones, can seem like a ton of effort if you take on too much. Starting small and building up is a great way to make or break a habit.

For example, a couple months I started seriously working on building a practice of daily meditation. I tried a 15-minute session out the gate but I wasn’t ready for that type of time yet commitment yet. Instead, I switched to starting with a 3-5 minute daily routine and built it up over a several month period. Now a 15-minute meditation session seems easy and I look forward to that time and absolutely won’t miss it. Building the new habit took time to for me to learn and ingrain the necessary skills. The same approach works for breaking a bad habit. Start small and build from there.

I think the key is to continually assess your life and review your habits both good and bad and see where you need to change. It certainly won’t happen by accident!

To achieve courage, start with discipline…

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

Thucydides

This quote took some time for me to think through and meditate on the deep meaning behind the words. Clarity came for me when I started at the end and worked my way backwards through the quote. (Begin with the end in mind…) Below is my interpretation of each of these components and then the dictionary definition.

Courage = The ability to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of personal implications. The dictionary definition is: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

Self-Respect = The awareness one has for who you are, what you believe in and why you believe what you do. The dictionary definition is: “a proper respect for oneself as a human being.”

Self-Control = That ability and discipline to make decisions that limit the control the outside world and your emotions have over your actions. The dictionary definition is: “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.”

Working my way backwards through these gave me these thoughts. If I want to demonstrate courage in my thinking and actions (which I do) then I must know who I am and what I believe in, i.e., self-respect. To have this degree of self-respect I must have (self)control over my emotions and impulses so that my behaviors are a product of choice, not a reflection of others or the outside world.

So, when thinking through it this way it brings these questions to mind. What are the areas of my life and decision making that need greater discipline and control? How do poor decisions, or lack of decision, lead to lessened self-respect? What is the courage I wish to have and how can I change myself through discipline and self-control? What changes can I make that will reflect outwardly who I am and what I believe?

Heavy stuff for early in the morning but something I found to be both clarifying and thought provoking.

Will over skill…

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

Zig Ziglar

There are some incredibly smart people in the world that unfortunately just can’t get out of their own way. It is always frustrating to see someone with tons of talent and ability have an attitude that is an anchor that just holds them back and ends up sinking them. How does this happen? Do they not get the feedback they need along the way? Do they not listen? How do we ensure that we never become one of “those people” with the bad attitude?

Self-discipline starts with why…

“Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state.”

Steve Pavlina

We all have bad days. Days where we don’t have energy, are upset, tired or frustrated. Heck, if we only did things when we wanted to do them then how much would ever get done in life?!

I would argue that the most impactful people aren’t those that do the best job when they are motivated and energized but instead are those that do the best job despite their motivation or energy level.

How do you do this? How do you ensure that your ability to deliver isn’t based on your current emotional state? I can only speak for myself in this regard and for me it is all about elevating my thinking to stay connected with the “why.” With a strong enough awareness of the “why” we are doing something then any emotional or other distraction can be dealt with and put aside. Without a strong connection to the why, any little molehill can become a mountain.

No whining!

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”

Denis Waitley

It is amazing how much time and energy is spent talking about (whining about) a problem as opposed to what needs to be done to address it. Either focus on the solution or let it go. Whining is a waste of time…

Gifts for your children…

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

Denis Waitley 

I had a conversation with a friend the other day and we were discussing the things that we desire to instill in our children. The ‘gifts’ as it were that they will carry forward into life and will become part of their unique and special selves.

As I have reflected on this, and observed behaviors from other parents and children, it occurred to me that much like your own personal growth and development where you make choices on what is most important to focus on at a given time, the same is true with your children’s growth & development. At certain ages and stages you must instill certain gifts and beliefs or they will miss the importance of these lessons and will likely struggle to gain them later in life as they will be much harder lessons to learn as they grow older. It is our responsibility as parents to teach them and guide them so that as they grow up that they have a strong foundation to build upon.

I really like this quote because at foundational level these gifts of ‘responsibility’ and ‘independenc’e can serve them well throughout life. To that list I would add humility, service, respect, curiosity and a love of God. It’s not a complete list yet, but one that I am definitely going to be thinking more about. What would you put on your list?

Seek first to understand…

“Don’t judge someone’s choices without first knowing their reason.”

Robert Tew

One of my favorite of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is “seek first to understand, and then be understood.” I fully admit that I don’t always do a great job of following this principle but when it is done well, it is amazing how powerful it is. Gaining understanding and perspective is a powerful way to create alignment, respect and trust.

Today’s quote reminds me of the classic “Monday morning quarterback” syndrome. Oh how easy it is to look at decisions others have made and think how you might have done it better. We all do it, it is part of our human nature. But until we spend time reaching a hand out to learn, to understand, to help, then we are never going to be as impactful as we could be…

Anchor your change in your “why…”

“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

Aldous Huxley

When you are focused on improving are you doing it to serve yourself in order to get or achieve something? Or are you improving yourself with the perspective that through personal growth you can better serve others?

If you have read any of my posts in the past you know that I fervently believe that the essence of why we are here is to serve others. This can take many forms and styles and manifest in different ways throughout our lives. To serve more effectively we must grow and change ourselves or we cannot be all that God created us to become and thereby honor his purpose for our lives.

How does this relate to today’s quote? Change is hard, and personal growth is hard, and when you are embracing internal change, the kind that is done by pointing the finger at yourself and calling BS on your own shortcomings you have to have a deeply seated understanding of why the change is needed and who you are serving by taking on the change. If you lose sight of your why, then the change won’t stick or you’ll find yourself having walked down a path that isn’t aligned with who you are, and who you want to become…

Change others by changing yourself…

“Once you change, change happens. This is a big lesson. Expecting someone else to change is like pleading with a manufacturer to turn Twinkies into a green smoothie.”

Sadiqua Hamdan

Do you spend more of your time thinking about how others should change or how you could change your behaviors and actions that could help you both grow towards your goals? It is easy to point fingers and find fault with others but it is a little harder to level the same degree of criticism against yourself. Instead of focusing on someone else instead think of how much of your effort and action should be focused on where you need to change instead.

No one is going to change simply because you want them too, except for yourself. If you want it bad enough you’ll do the hard work. If you don’t, you won’t. Can you accept less than you are capable of simply because you don’t want to do the work?

Get up and go…

“The only person holding you back is you.  No more excuses.  It’s time to change.”

Tony Robbins

What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to become? Where do you want to go? How do you want to live? Who do you want to serve?

Answer these questions, plan your work and then work your plan. We can always come up with a long list of reasons “why this or that won’t work” or “why this happened to me.” I am a firm believer that the only difference between ‘reasons’ and an ‘excuse’ is an action plan and the will to do something about it. Otherwise we will just wallow in our own self pity and our dreams will turn to dust. Get up and go. If you don’t you have no one to blame but yourself so make it happen.

Commit to caring…

“Show your contempt for the problem and your concern for the person.”

Jim Rohn

It’s so easy to get this backwards isn’t it? When something goes wrong or when there is a problem people can focus their efforts on the person and not on the problem itself. Statements like “it’s their fault,” or “they need to do it differently” are pervasive and occupy all the bandwidth. It seems like it is far easier to offer criticism and blame than it is to wrestle with the problem that is actually at hand.

Perhaps this happens because when you address the problem you are making the commitment to become part of the solution and when you are focused on the person you are removing yourself from the solution equation. So if you show that you care, you commit yourself to serving and helping another person. There is no room in life for blaming, condemning or criticizing others with no energy expended towards solving the problem.

Watch your thoughts today and see what your natural response is. If you don’t like it, change it…

Quiet success…

“Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.”

Frank Ocean

Do you do the work for the glory, or for the joy of the work itself? If you make it all about the celebration it says that it is all about you. Is that the message you want to send and the life you want to live?

Define how you win or lose…

“It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.”

Harry Sheehy

This is so true in all aspects of life. It is how we respond to anything that truly defines our character and puts it on display for the world to see.

When you win what is the list of characteristics that you would want others to see displayed in your words and actions? How about when you lose? Write that list down, sort them by importance, and then gut check yourself against that list when you have one of the wins or losses that we are all going to experience in life. Hold yourself accountable to responding in an intentional manner. That is what truly creates a winner…

Your personal board of directors…

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 15:22

Who is on the “board of directors” for your life? The people that you trust to give you wisdom and perspective when you need guidance? Who are the people that will give you perspective and counsel when you don’t even know that you need it?

These are invaluable advisors because they will help you see the gaps in your plans and thinking and help you find ways to overcome them. The key is to make sure that you are fostering these relationships and ASKING for the input. If you have great plans, but don’t seek counsel, and then LISTEN to it, you are missing the entire point.

Do you have a list of people in your head as trusted advisors and councilors? If you don’t, make the list and foster those relationships.

Critical help…

“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.”

Roy T. Bennett

Human natures seems to have a strong predisposition towards talking about, and criticizing, others. I know that I am certainly guilty of this. I wonder what would happen if we flipped the paradigm on its head and instead spent the time and energy on growing ourselves with the intent to help others? How powerful would it be if instead of asking ‘what’s wrong with them’ or ‘why can’t they do a better job at this or that?’ we instead asked the question, ‘how can I grow and develop myself with a goal to help them?’ Or, even more simply, ‘how can I help and serve them?’

If instead of criticizing someone today, challenge yourself to find a way to help them grow. Ask how can you make a difference and not just be a someone that is good at finding fault with others.

Find joy in the game…

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

Mike Singletary

Surely we all play to win, but do we play for the win or for the sheer joy of the game itself? I think this applies to all aspects of life. How much of our lives are spent trying to get to the end result without truly appreciating the game we are playing at the moment? Instead life can be focused on skipping over the work, the fun, the real moments, just to achieve some goal that might not matter 10 years from now.

Today take a deep breath, pause, and ask yourself “Am I embracing the opportunities I have today to find the joy in whatever game I am in?”

Giving more is an investment…

 “My father taught me to always do more than you get paid for as an investment in your future.”

Jim Rohn

My Dad had a very similar life lesson that he preached to my brother and myself. His lesson was “do whatever it takes to get the job done, no matter what, and then do a little more.” That has been a principle I have followed my entire life. No matter what it takes, get the job done, and do a little bit more.

I really like how this quote frames out very specifically that you should always do more than you are paid, because you are making an investment. Investments have returns and if you keep making them those returns will continue to grow. It isn’t just a money thing either, this wisdom could apply to life and how you treat others, how you serve others and how you spend your time. Always give more than expected…

Know then do…

“Insight without action is worthless.”

Phil McGraw

All the research, all the understanding, all the knowledge in the world is useless unless you do something with it. How do you ensure that you turn knowledge into action? Start small, challenge yourself to continually ask the question, “now that I know this what is the simplest, fastest, and most direct way to turn it into action?” Then do it…

Kindness over rightness…

“If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

How much energy is spent in the world on “being right” versus doing “what is right.” This applies to personal relationships, work relationships, corporate relationships, etc. The minute one’s ego is allowed to be in the drivers seat being right will have a higher priority over doing what is right. The problem is that it creates a vicious cycle where a response or retaliation is the first instinct. When this happens how do you stop the cycle? How do you take the ego out of the drivers seat and return the focus to what is truly important?

In the book of Matthew Jesus laid out how to do this, and it is some incredibly difficult advice to follow. However, when you can pause long enough to remove emotion from the situation you can see how applying this would solve so much in our world.

“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

Human nature puts the ego in control, puts being right first, puts self over kindness. When you read this passage I love how it mirrors the wisdom in today’s quote and shifts the focus from the desire of being right to demonstrating kindness and generosity. Easy to say, hard to do. How can you choose kindness today?

Keep score today…

“Tip your server. Return your shopping cart. Pick up a piece of trash. Hold the door for the person behind you. Let someone into your lane. Small acts can have a ripple effect. That’s how we change the world.”

Author Unknown

The little efforts that you do for others can have a profound effect not just on the ones that you help, but those that observe you doing them as well. I can vividly remember seeing the CEO of a company I used to work for who would regularly hold the door open for others and pick up a piece of trash in the parking lot. Those impressions were powerful for me not just because he was setting a great example, but because he was extremely grounded. He was well aware that value and worth don’t come from what role you have or how much money you make. Instead the measure of ones value comes from serving others and being intentional in your actions to elevate other people.

If you were to create a game where the score was tallied by how many times in one day you could make another person smile, or how many times you could intentionally do one of the these small acts, how would you score? Try it today, just for one day, and then do it again, and again and again. Then it will become a habit and that’s when going the second mile for someone else can become second nature.

Climb the mountain…

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

Sir Edmund Hillary

I can’t think of one mountain that was ever better for having been climbed but I can think of lots of times where I have been made better for persevering and overcoming the mountains in my life.

How easy it is to make life all about the mountains and never stop and think about the impact the mountains have had on us. In today’s world we move from mountain to mountain with little time or thought spent on discovering what we have learned and how we are going to improve ourselves before the next climb.

What are the mountains you are facing in your life today? How are you choosing to overcome them? How are you growing through the perseverance?

I just assumed…

“You must stick to your convictions, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.”

Denis Waitley

One of the challenges to guard against is to make sure that your assumptions don’t become your personal convictions. If you are determined to believe something you will find the information or data you need to support that assumption, then it becomes a conviction, and that is where the mistakes are made…

Indifferent = Neglect

“More business is lost every year through neglect than through any other cause.”

Rose Kennedy

It is scary to think of how much time, effort, and energy it takes to start a new relationship with a customer and how easily that can all be lost if their first experience is with a person who just doesn’t care. Neglect is the same as apathy and not caring is just not acceptable…

Not all easy days…

“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong.”

Norman Vincent Peale

There is something exciting about having a good problem to solve. The uncertainty and unknown can be unsettling of course but I have found that to be far outweighed by the joy of a good challenge. It is through tackling tough problems that we learn and grow. I don’t want to have an easy life with no problems to solve. That would be boring and unfulfilling. Sure, at times it would be great if things were smooth and easy, but not all the time. I don’t want all easy days, for easy days don’t inspire growth. How about you?

Weakness into strength…

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”

Michael Jordan

Most of the greats have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. There is an edge to them that you just can’t quite put your finger on. They have something to prove and no one can push them harder than they will push themselves, especially if they are challenged in some way. I am sure that we have all known people like this, or perhaps even been this person from time to time.

When should you push hard and turn another person’s perceived weakness into a strength and when should ignore that criticism and focus on leveraging the strengths that you already have? Being able to discern this is critical otherwise you could spend all of your energy trying to fix the perceptions of others and that could in itself become a great weakness…

Happy Easter!

“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.”

Janine de Giovanni

Easter morning is a great time to pause and reflect on our hope, opportunity for renewal, and the new life before us. It is natural to do this on Easter but what prevents us from pausing more regularly through the year to do the same thing?

This thought reminds me of one of my favorite books and movies to read and watch during the holidays; “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. At the end of the book Scrooge utters the line “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” How different would our lives be if we did the same thing through the lens of Easter? What if you simply made what many of us do naturally on Easter a much more regular and intentional act?

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 ESV

He is Risen! Happy Easter!

Translating mistakes into experiences…


“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

Oscar Wilde

Did you make mistakes yesterday? I know that I did. I make plenty each and every day, we all do. The thing that I find missing in this quote is “reflection.” Reflection is what allows one to review their mistakes and translate those into experiences that you then learn from. A daily habit of answering three simple questions is the key to ensuring that when you make mistakes, and we all know that we will, that you can learn and grow from them. The questions that I use are:

  • What didn’t go well today?
  • What did I learn from this?
  • How will I adapt my behavior in the future to learn and grow?

There are lots of other questions, find the ones that work for you, but do it regularly so you can translate mistakes into experiences that you can then grow from.

Keep it simple on Good Friday…

  “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Confucius

I found this quote to be thought provoking on Good Friday morning. The world is so busy, so complex, so fast at times that we can easily forget why we are doing things and what life on this earth is truly about. I know I do anyway.

So today the challenge for myself is to simply slow down, step back, breathe, and reflect on what is truly important. It is amazing how clarifying this can be…

No one needs to see…

“You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.”

Brian Tracy

The behind the scenes work is how things are truly accomplished. The little things matter and they are likely things that no one will ever know about.

What are some of those efforts that you put in, day in and day out, that contribute to the end results? How do you stay motivated to ensure they are done the right way?

It comes down to staying focused on achieving the goal and knowing that the efforts invested, regardless of who sees them, are what is necessary to get the job done. If you are waiting on someone else to notice you are focused on the wrong things…

Over, under, around or through…

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” 

Randy Pausch

Have you ever hit the wall? Gone as far as you think you can and then had some obstacle or challenge come up that just stops everything? Running into the wall over and over is frustrating and it is easy to see how some people will just give up. But simply giving up is never the right option.

I will occasionally use a quote more than once and typically it is because of some challenge I am facing (or one I know others are facing) or is because it is particularly resonant with me at a specific time. I used today’s quote previously in October and it is fascinating to look back and reflect on why I chose it then, and what has changed since that time. (previous post here)

Today I choose this quote based on observations around organizational change and how slowly change can manifest. However, my reflections today are that perhaps change is slowed down because I am only leveraging one method to try and influence change. Overcoming challenges means you must be open to thinking different, trying new things, looking at changes in yourself first. The old axiom from Maslow, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” applies here. If my only mechanism to drive change is to use the tools I currently possess, then I am limited in my ability to influence change. Growth requires getting new tools and finding new ways to scale the wall.

The brick walls aren’t there to stop you, they might just be there so that you learn new ways to go under, over, around, or through them…

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