Never waste a mistake…

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.”

Paul Bear Bryant

When was the last time you made a really big mistake?  I mean the kind where you knew you had a real mess to clean up?  Was it fun?  Of course not.  If it was a mistake that really mattered there can’t be anything fun about cleaning it up.  But the flip side is that without making some big mistakes you can’t really engage in big learnings.  The kind that shake you to your core and make you really dig into yourself and who you are. 

To learn from these types of mistakes you first have to admit that you have made one.  For some reason that always seems to be the hardest part.  Maybe it is pride, or ego that clouds your judgment.  Maybe a long history of success has created an aura of self-righteousness.  Whatever it is, if you can’t admit a mistake, then you can’t learn.  If you can’t learn you are going to repeat that same mistake.  

While screwing something up and making a mistake is never fun, learning from it and acting to resolve can be.  The joy comes with the doing and growing.  Never let a good mistake go to waste.  There is so much than can be learned…

 

What are you working on? Really?

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

There are a finite number of hours in each our days.  Are we spending those hours doing the work that needs be done or are we spending them focused on becoming “successful.”  Success is a result, not a destination.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life by focusing on the end result and not the hard work that was right in front of me.  The good news is that you can fix that today, and everyday you go off course, by asking yourself this question:

“Am I working on what needs to be done, or am I working on what I want because of what I’ll get?”  Be honest with yourself.  If you are I have found that things will reframe themselves pretty quickly.

 

Actions speak louder than words…

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

There are so many ways that one can take and interpret this quote.  Today I read this as being aware of the importance of knowing that even when you don’t say something, your behaviors might reflect what it is that you are thinking.  You are responsible for those behaviors in the same vein as if you had spoken the words.

The key difference here is that when you speak the words you can invite dialogue about the meaning behind them.  When people are left to interpret behaviors there is no dialogue unless you have created a place where that kind of conversation is safe and encouraged.

It is far easier to reconcile the words you have spoken than it is the behaviors you have demonstrated.  Words have specific meaning, and while misunderstanding is very common, at least there is a platform to create a conversation and come to a common understanding.  Not so with your actions, those are interpreted through the filters by which others see the world and dialogue and understanding is not nearly as easy to come by.

So what does all this mean?  Recognize the importance of your actions and know that even if those actions line up with the words that you have in you mind, that no one else is hearing those words.  They will interpret them through the lens through which they view the world.  You are as responsible for those actions, and how they are interpreted,  as the words you speak…

Who helps you to “see” clearly?

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Lao-Tze

Have you ever found that the things you don’t want to do, or the type of person that you don’t want to become, can happen without your even realizing it?  That a small thing can become a larger thing and before you know what has happened your thoughts become your words, and your words become actions you never intended.  The good news is that you can fix this by addressing the root source, the thoughts that are driving everything else.  

I unfortunately have made plenty of mistakes in this arena through life (and continue to do so).  Fortunately I have had the rich blessing of great friends and confidants to help address some of my mistakes and challenges before they become tremendous character flaws.  They have helped me reframe my thinking and realize that I the lens through which I have been viewing the world is distorted.  The value of people who will help you see those things that you  can’t is immeasurable.  Who is helping you see the things you can’t, or won’t, see without outside perspective?  

 

But not you…

“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

Jim Rohn

How often do we ask ourselves these types of questions? Why do we dream small?  Live small?  Settle for less than we are capable of becoming? Why do we let others define us? Why do we focus on “can’t” instead of “I can” or “I will?” 

“But not you…”

It can be easy to fall into the trap of self-pity and excuses and become one of the “others” mentioned in the quote.  Easy, and incredibly dangerous because once you start down this path it is hard to climb back out.  It reminds me of one of my favorite, and incredibly funny, sayings.  “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity, lick it once and you will suck forever.”  Crass, yes, but oh so true.  

“But not you…”

The only way not to be small is to focus on your God given gifts and refuse to settle for being less than the person that God designed you to be.  If you haven’t figured that out yet, that is OKAY!  We are all learning and growing.  The key is is to understand that this isn’t supposed to be easy.  You can’t grow without going through the crucible and learning from the challenges.  

How do you choose to live a life that exemplifies these words?

“But not you…”  

 

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…

Planning is an investment…

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

battle black board board game

If you want to be successful in the game of chess you always have to plan ahead and think through your next several moves.  You don’t know how your opponent will react to your plan, nor do you know what moves they planning to make, but to have a chance at winning you can’t simply be reactionary, you must make the effort to plan ahead.

How much of our time do we spend planning versus reacting?  I have found that time invested in planning enables one to both act, and react, with purpose, design and intent.  Effort expended without having first spent time intentionally planning ahead is always reactionary and tactical.

Will plans fail?  Of course they will.  There is no way to anticipate every outcome, see every possibility, know every possible challenge that will rise along the way. However, I believe that the investment of time in planning allows one to simultaneously exist on two planes.  First is the the proactive, what do we want/expect/intend to happen? Second, what will we do and how will we react to the world around us?

Time is the currency of life.  How do you want to spend it?  Will you spend it with intentional purpose to create a desired output, i.e., planning?  Or will you spend it in a tactical way, never in charge of or responsible for how it is used, i.e., reacting?

 

Sometimes “done” is just the beginning…

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

adventure alps amazing beautiful

Do you climb the mountain to get to the top, or to see how the world looks from the peak?  Is it the journey that matters or is it simply a task to be checked off the list?  

How often do we achieve some dream, goal, or destination to simply mark it “complete” and then move on to the next thing?  I know that I am guilty of this all too often and I that by doing so I am missing the real value of achievement; what you learn from having experienced something new and building a new set of lenses through which to view the world.  

Why is this so hard to do?

Is it simply easier to numb yourself with the next new thing than it is to look internally and say “how could I have done this better?” or “what did I learn that can help me the next time?” Or perhaps it is simply that achievement has become the idol in life where the pursuit of more is the way of our modern world and this takes precedence over reflecting on what we have learned and how we have changed.  

Maybe getting to the destination isn’t the goal at all.  It is simply the beginning of a new journey.  A journey that will be forever different because of our experiences and the lessons learned on our way to the our last destination.  The next trip is different because of what we have experienced.  But only if we take the time to pause and reflect on what we have seen.  

 

Make your bed…

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

Admiral William H. McRaven

I remember my Dad reinforcing the classic line “anything worth doing is worth doing well” over and over with my brother and I as we were growing up.  For him it didn’t just apply to the big things, but it was the small things too. My Dad grew up on a dairy farm and one of the life lessons I learned from him was regardless of what you WANTED to do the cows NEEDED to be milked every day.  There was no such thing as a “day off” or the shirking of your responsibility.  Doing the little things, every day, the right way was just how it was done on the farm or else you wouldn’t have positive results and be able to provide for the family.  

If you haven’t seen Admiral William McRaven’s commencement address to the University of Texas in 2014 it is an instant classic.  Frankly it is one that I need to watch several more times to get all the pearls of wisdom that are contained within these nineteen minutes.  Enjoy and go change the world!

‘Done’ vs. ‘Excellent’

“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.”

Thomas J. Watson

This is convicting when you take the time to step back and really think about it. When you finish a project or a task what matters to you more; is it the fact that you ‘finished it’ or the fact that it was done with excellence?  Sometimes I’ll admit that simply being able to check something off my list and say “done” is more important to me than taking the time to think about how well it was done.  

If it is worth checking off your list, it is worth doing well.  Ask yourself these questions the next time you complete a project or task.  Was this my best work?  If I could have spent more time or energy on this would it have been better?  Should it have been better?  Was this unambiguously excellent?  

 

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…

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