Are you willing to key in and push through?

“The key of persistence opens all doors closed by resistance.”

John Di Leme 

What relationships, accomplishments, or experiences in your life do you value and appreciate? Were any of these things challenging to achieve? Is the value derived because you had to overcome obstacles and dig deeper to make something happen?  

I believe the struggle and willingness to persist through a given problem or situation can impact our lives in the most meaningful way. When faced with a challenge, the choices we make will determine our course and become the inflection points for a later time when we can look back and recognize what God was doing to teach or prepare us for our future path.  

Giving up is easy, and doing so might change the course of your life in ways you might not understand for decades, if ever. However, the persistence we demonstrate today is priming our future and creating a platform for future growth. 

Embrace the suck. Most people quit at the first sign of discomfort or stress. Don’t be that person; welcome the fight and lean into the pain…

Can you simply strive for 1%?

“You, and you alone, are the person who should take the measure of your own success. I do not try to be better than anyone else. I only try to be better than myself.”

Dan Jansen

If I use yesterday’s performance as my new baseline each day and seek to improve by only 1%, then in just 70 days, I will have doubled my capacities. 

1% better than I was, not 10% better than someone else, but simply 1% growth on what I have already proven I can achieve. Seems reasonable and manageable. If I am being honest, it seems too low. 

Far too often, we get lost in comparing ourselves to others; perhaps we should focus on building on what we have already proven we are capable of achieving. Doubling seventy days sounds pretty amazing; why even bother comparing to anyone else if that could be your goal?

Are you unusual by embracing your definition of ordinary?

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

 Jim Rohn

What is the “unusual” that you are willing to risk? For me, it seems to be out of the ordinary to avoid social trends and fads in today’s world. For example, not being current with all that is going on in social media, the latest shows, “binge-worthy” series, the hottest games, or other distractions. (Wordle anyone?)

There is nothing wrong with these things, and I don’t judge those who find them entertaining or value additive. (My wife might disagree here on the passing judgment part…) But, for me, when seen through the lens of opportunity cost and marginal incremental value, spending my most finite and precious resource, time, on these things isn’t a worthy investment. Instead, I would rather read a book, study a new trend or topic, or very specifically choose a TV show or movie that aligns with my interests and spurs creative thinking.  

I recognize that my perspective is probably pretty unusual and a bit extreme. That’s okay, it feels perfectly ordinary to me, and that’s what matters.  

Embrace your ordinary, even if it makes you unusual to those around you. If you do this, you aren’t settling for anything.

How often do you look at the scoreboard?

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”

John Doerr

All the ideas, plans, goals, and dreams are meaningless if you can’t turn them into action. 

So, how are you doing with your 2022 goals? Did you have a written plan? Was it broken down into digestible chunks? Are you holding yourself accountable for your performance thus far? If you aren’t where you want to be, what will you do differently between now and March 1st to change your trajectory?

One of the most impactful ways for me to “keep score” on my ability to execute is to break out the results that I am seeking to achieve and relentlessly focus on only those things that matter. In a world of constant attention shift and merciless distraction, having a “scoreboard” that I review daily keeps my mind in the game and focuses my efforts on the next step to bring the plan to life.  

Life is full of people with great ideas. Turning those ideas into meaningful results, that’s where differentiation happens.  

Are you writing out your dreams in pencil?

“A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.”

Joyce Meyer

The beauty of writing with a pencil is that you can erase anything incorrect when you learn something new and start all over.   

When you dream big, you will always be learning, adapting, and evolving based on new information. Better to have your plans written in pencil to adapt and overcome!

What are you giving up in order to gain mastery?

“At every moment, keep a sturdy mind on the task at hand, as a Roman and human being, doing it with strict and simple dignity, affection, freedom, and justice, giving yourself a break from all other considerations. You can do this if you approach each task as if it is your last, giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason, and all drama, vanity, and complaint over your fair share. You can see how mastery over a few things makes living an abundant and devout life possible.

Marcus Aurelius

Isn’t it amazing that the ability to focus was as challenging and impactful over 2,000 years ago as it is today? I can’t imagine what Marcus would think of our fragmented world with all the distractions and demands on attention.

There is so much insight in this quote. One could spend a lifetime trying to unpack and apply the wisdom found in these eighty-nine words. Ultimately less is more. Giving up the things that don’t matter for the few things that do and persist over time is how one builds a legacy that matters, not for oneself but others.  


What are the few things you can focus on mastering?

Are you lost? Or just temporarily disoriented?

“A highly developed values system is like a compass. It serves as a guide to point you in the right direction when you are lost.”

Idowu Koyenikan

Are you ever lost if you have a compass in hand? You might not know where you are, but you can, sure enough, figure out which way to go. 

A clearly articulated values system is an investment in never being lost. Temporarily disoriented, maybe, but never lost. Failing to follow one of your core values that’s when you can get lost for sure.  

Control your own weather first…

“An environment that is not safe to disagree is not an environment focused on growth – it’s an environment focused on control.” 

Wendi Jade

Disagreement is good. It is how we grow and improve our understanding of the world. But unfortunately, so many people focus on the argument, not the merits. They focus on being right, not learning, and doing what is right.  

If you want to live in, work in, play in and be part of an environment where it is safe to disagree, you have to be willing to be wrong. You have to be ready to learn. You have to focus on what is right, not who is right. If you can control this aspect of yourself, you can make the conditions safe for others. Control your environment first.

Welcome to the promised land…

“The promised land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Havelock Ellis

You don’t have to know what the promised land looks like to want to go there. You don’t have to have been there before to make the journey. But, you do have to have the courage to walk through the wilderness, to push forward when it would be easier to turn back, to persevere even when you don’t want to.

No one magically arrives at the promised land; the journey through the wilderness fulfills the promise. Only by making the journey will you know when you get there.

Are you making the right choice?

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.'”

Stephen Covey

Would you instead do three things well, or five or ten things poorly?  

Saying yes is easy; no is hard. This can apply whether in our professional or personal lives. We tend to take on too much, to over-commit, because we overestimate our capabilities and desires.  

What are the three most important things you want and need to accomplish this year? That’s your yes. Everything that gets in the way of getting this done must be pruned relentlessly. 

Here are the options; excellence or mediocrity. It’s your choice. Say yes to the right one.  

Are you taking the right small steps?

“A series of small things do great things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

The small thing isn’t necessarily great. It is just a moment in time, a tiny step in the right direction. But it is the next step that matters, the one where you move forward, the choice to act and bring yourself a little closer to your envisioned future. If you don’t make or take this next step, then the subsequent one is disrupted and then the next, and so on. 

So while your next choice might not be the single step that makes greatness happen, it might be just the one that makes it even possible. So what small things will you do today?

Which voice is louder, your words or your actions?

“When deeds speak, words are nothing.”

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

What are the words that you have trouble finding? Is there an action you can take instead? Where are you struggling to gain momentum? Is there an action you can take today to start the ball rolling?  

Our actions are all we have—the impact of those actions on others lasts.  

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let your actions communicate your integrity today and every day. 

Is mediocrity the path you are choosing?

“The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconstancy. The signature of Greatness is a disciplined and consistent focus on the right things.”

James C. Collins

Mediocrity = Chronic Inconsistency

Greatness = Disciplined Focus

The Right Things = What most fail to identify correctly…

How much time and effort do you put into identifying the most important things you wish to accomplish? Of course, I am talking about truly the most important, not the most urgent, the loudest or squeakiest wheel, or the coolest shiny object clamoring for attention.  

If you were to order the list above to align on desired outcomes and score each component on a scale of 0 – 10, how would you rate yourself? These questions could apply to you in the professional arena, personal life, etc.  

  1. Mediocrity:
    1. On a scale of 0 – 10, how am I performing today? Be honest.
  2. Desired outcome = Greatness: (as measured by…)
    1. Do I have clarity on what greatness looks like and how I will know if I have achieved it?
    2. How am I/are we performing against this measure on a scale of 0 – 10?
  3. The Right Things:
    1. On a scale of 0 – 10, how focused am I/are we on the few right things that would be necessary to achieve greatness? Do I have certainty on what they are?
    2. What are the most significant gaps between what we want to achieve (greatness) and where we are today? 
    3. Where are we spending time, energy, resources pursuing things that won’t help achieve greatness?

Are you choosing to sign off on your life with a signature of mediocrity, or are you going to pursue greatness?

Who is helping you shoulder your load?

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

Lena Horne

It is incredible how much of a difference a good quality and well-designed backpack can make when traveling or hiking. Once shouldered, the load is bearable and it even feels lighter than if you were to weigh all the items individually. The real key is the “once shouldered” element. That’s when the load is heaviest and most awkward. For all of us, there have been times in life when the load is so big it takes someone else to help you put on the pack and get started. But once going, it can be as if there is no load at all.  Some questions come to mind as I reflect on this s quote.

Who are those around you that are helping you shoulder the load? 

Are you carrying it all on your own, or are others helping you with the burden?  

Is there a better way to carry it?

Are you carrying the right load at all?

Are you investing your energy in the principles?

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It can be easy to grab hold of a new technique for productivity, a tool for planning, a diet plan, or some other hot process for improvement. Doing these new things might even work for a little while. But are they the best for you? Do you understand the why behind them? Are the principles aligned with your unique situation and environment?

I love to read and learn new things and then figure out how to apply the right components of what I have read to business and life. When I was much younger, I would grab a new tool and run with it as if I owned it; I expected a silver bullet-like impact from whatever new shiny object was now in my hands. However, as I have become more “seasoned,” I have learned that the careful study of principles and then the thoughtful application of appropriate methods is a far more impactful and lasting approach.

Do I get it right all the time? Of course not, but leaning into the contemplation of principles can and will change your selection of tools and methods.  

Why before what. It makes all the difference in the world.  

Do you know your stuff?

“Regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur or whether you are an employee of a large company, the absolute prerequisite is that you must know your stuff. There is no substitute for this.”

Fred. C. Koch

You can’t fake it. There’s no tiptoeing around this fact if you want to create long-term success. You have to be good at getting good at what you want to be successful doing. If you’re going to earn a new position or promotion, you have to be exceptional at doing your current role AND learn the stuff that will make you successful in the new role. 

Know your stuff.  

Do your job.  

It’s that simple. And that’s where the complexity comes into play. The world isn’t static; the stuff you need to know is ever-changing. The needs of a role today might be dramatically different a year from now. So, if you want to create a platform of long-term success, never stop seeking opportunities to be exceptional within your role. Your job is to know your stuff…

Be better, specifically…

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours, and you’ll drift in that direction.”

Warren Buffett

What is your measure of “better?” What behaviors do you see yourself needing to improve and enhance? To find the right people, you must be specific, don’t seek to get “better” at a generic level. 

For example, is it discipline where you need to improve? Then find those with higher personal discipline levels, spend time with them, learn what they do, see how they live life in a disciplined manner, and then add those skills to your toolbox. 

If you already know what “better” looks like, that’s half the battle; you know what you are seeking for, find it.  

Are you really listening to what others have to say?

“Successful people ask for the criticism of others and consider its merit.”

Ray Dalio

If you are going to ask for the criticism of others, you have to be ready, willing, and able to HEAR what they might have to say. To do this effectively, one must surrender their ego and desire to be right and instead focus on the desire to be BETTER. Of course, this is much easier said than done. However, the burning platform in all of our minds should be that “what got us here won’t get us where we want to go” if we aren’t seeking out FEEDBACK and perspective.  

That’s what the second part of the quote is all about, can one put their ego aside long enough to consider the perspective and perception of others? Does the view of the world, seen through someone else’s lens, have merit that should necessitate a change in understanding or behavior on your part?  

I think this is where the world falls apart today. Everyone is talking, very few are listening. Very few are willing to open themselves to input and criticism and then do the much more complex work of interpreting the merit of that perspective in an honest and meaningful manner. Wouldn’t we be much more successful in life if we all did this?

Movement is what matters the most…

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes the progress towards goals comes easy, and it feels effortless and smooth, almost “magical.” But then there are those days where every step is a struggle and a grind. Success is built on the days where you grind it out. Those are the days when real progress happens because those could quickly become the days you give up and walk out on your dreams.  

Even when it’s hard, keep moving because that is when the movement matters the most.  

Are you rowing with, or against others?

​“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is incredible how much of our precious time and energy focus on differences instead of aligning on similarities and commonalities. 

Once we recognize that we are all in this life together and that our dreams for life are more similar than different, we can get a lot more done.  Grab an oar and row, time to move the boat forward…

How are your sails set?

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, and others build windmills.”

Author Unknown

The wind is going to blow. Are you going to harness the power and sail further and faster, or are you going to try and wait it out, see what happens, and hope for the best? Hope is not a strategy, so set your sails and harness the breeze.

Are you prepared to conquer?

“Energy & persistence conquer all things.”

Benjamin Franklin

What are the big things that you want to accomplish this year?

Will they happen by default, or will you have muster resources to enable success? I imagine that if your goals are like mine, they aren’t going to happen without a lot of dedicated and focused effort. And, if they are really good goals, the kinds that stretch you and move you out of your comfort zone, persistence will be necessary because you are likely to experience setbacks and failures along the way. 

So, what will you do today to invest energy into moving your goals forward? How are you preparing your mind for setbacks so that you can acknowledge them, learn, and then continue to move forward when they inevitably occur?  

Do you control the snow?

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

It’s never the decision to eat a single cookie that makes a person gain weight. Likewise, it’s not the one day you decide to sleep in and skip the morning run that makes fitness slip away. The late project, missed dance recital or baseball game, a lost connection with a friend across the country, none of these things are singular events that create an avalanche of lost opportunity and regret. Instead, they are the snowflakes that amass until all the conditions are right and it is too late to stop the momentum.

Conversely, every decision, choice, and opportunity to make a conscious and intentional practice of recognizing and acting on what is truly important can and will change your life and the lives of those you love.  

What is the impact of the snow you are adding to your avalanche today?

Is your growth based on success?

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and only see the wildflower in it. Perception is a key component to gratitude. And gratitude a key component to joy.”

Amy Weatherly

Roses or thorns? Weeds or wildflowers? Which ones do you naturally see? Or, stated another way, what is going well versus what needs improvement?

I fully admit that I tend to view the world through the lens of “opportunity for improvement” instead of seeing things going well. As a result, I bias towards what can/should be done better or more effectively and focus my energy on improving and growing those areas. It isn’t bad necessarily, but just as it helps to list the things you are grateful for, it is vital to list the things you are doing well and then find a way to do more of them.  

A daily gratitude journal has been one of the best personal growth habits I have ever implemented; perhaps a daily “successes” journal would be just as impactful, especially if one were to take those things that built the win and use them as a foundation to create more successes.  

This thing you are focused on, is it useful?

“What will your life have been, in the end, but the sum total of everything you spent it focusing on?”

Oliver Burkeman

As I have written before, one of my favorite questions to ask myself when faced with an emotional response to a situation or circumstance is, “Is this useful?” It can be incredibly clarifying and helpful in focusing life’s precious energy on what is and isn’t beneficial within a particular moment. Zooming out, I am thinking through applying this same question when faced with a decision about the investment of energy towards a project, initiative, or goal. 

“Is this useful?”

I guess the answer depends on whether or not you know what you are focusing on and why. In the end, how you answer this question will determine the impact your life has had on others. These are three simple words, yet they hold so much power when asked and answered.  

“Is this useful?”

Are you quietly fixing failure?

“Failure is your responsibility. Share the credit, take the blame, and quietly find out and fix things that went wrong.”

Colin Powell

Failure isn’t something that happens to you; it happens for you. If you blame others, you push the responsibility away from yourself and take away your opportunity to learn, grow, and lead.  

I am sure that we have all known bombastic people who yell and scream when things don’t go their way. But, unfortunately, they generally aren’t people who can “quietly find out and fix things that went wrong.” Perhaps they never had a positive example of effective leadership; maybe the only thing they know how to do is assign blame and point fingers. Sometimes these types are even quite effective at producing results, at least temporarily. However, I would argue that if one spends their time pointing fingers, sooner or later, they will find themselves with no one to point at except themselves. 

Where have you failed, and what are you going to fix today quietly?

What is the cost of not managing your time?

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing it is right to be stingy.”

Seneca

I recently did an exercise where I kept a time journal and recorded every task or moment I spent in a given day. I thought I was pretty disciplined with my use of time, but I was still amazed at how much margin I was letting slip through the cracks without really understanding the impact, or lack thereof, for every moment spent in a day. I conservatively estimated I could get one hour back each day by eliminating several non-value added activities or dispensations of time. So what is the value of this hour? Well, it depends, of course. 

What is the value of the book that you might not otherwise have read? What is the value of the extra time shared with a family member that comes from being fully present at the moment? What is the impact of intentionally choosing to spend your time in an impactful versus wasteful manner? 

You will never know the answers to these questions until you audit your time and then make a choice to spend it more wisely. There are 168 hours in the week ahead; how will you invest them?

Are you seeking out positive friction?

“Change means movement. Movement means friction.”

Saul Alinsky

We spend so much of our lives trying to reduce friction and minimize the impact of change on our lives. But, by doing this, are we also taking away the opportunity to embrace change? 

We often see discord as a bad thing; however, friction polishes the rock into a gemstone, and friction can spur creative thinking and instill action and urgency.  

Where is the positive conflict in your life? What is happening that indicates change, growth, an opportunity to do and be more than you’ve ever thought possible? Who are those people that are positive catalysts for change and movement?

Friction isn’t harmful if you are moving and growing and changing.  

Embrace it. 

Learn from it. 

Seek more of it.  

Can you grow if you aren’t scared a little bit?

“There’s no pride in doing things easy. No one brags about walking up the little grassy slope.”

Penn Jillette

Do your goals scare you, even if just a little bit? If the answer is ‘no’ then are you dreaming big enough? Growth occurs outside of our comfort zone, when we are pushing beyond what we think is possible. 

I intentionally emphasize the word ‘your’ above. It isn’t the goals of others, or comparing your goals to theirs that matters. Your mountain might be someone else’s grassy slope. Or your grassy slope might be an insurmountable peak when seen through another’s eyes. It isn’t about whether your goals are hard or easy as viewed through the lens of the rest of the world. It is whether or not they are challenging YOU.  

 Safe is easy. Doing what you already know is possible, that’s not a goal, it is surrendering to a less than optimal life. Are you willing to live a life that is less than you are capable of? Why settle? Do something that scares you, you might find you like what happens.

Are you stuck in a lazy river?

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”

 Heraclitus

How many of us have the same or very similar goals for 2022 that we have had in years past? 2022 is different, right? So why do we treat life as a lazy river flowing in a continuous loop and think that if we float along long enough, we will see the same things again? Time is finite and precious; once passed, it never returns.

Another thought, how many times in life have you found yourself going through the motions and feeling like you are Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day?” You wake and repeat the same actions, and it feels like the treadmill of life is just rolling and rolling, with no change in the scenery. 

It isn’t true. You aren’t the same person. The results might be the same, and you may feel like you are in the same place, but there is something different. The life experiences you have had, the books you have read, the things you have learned are all flavoring your next moment, subsequent response, and next breath. 

However, you must be willing to turn on that self-awareness and give yourself space to see the differences, apply the learnings, and make different decisions. If you don’t, while the river isn’t the same, and you aren’t the same person, you choose to limit your beliefs and pretend that nothing has changed, when in reality, EVERYTHING is different.

Can you see your goals?

“Your goal should be out of reach but not out of sight.”

Anita Defrantz

What are your goals for this coming year? Are they written down? Have you created a constant and daily reminder that helps you lift your gaze from the grindstone of effort to ensure that you remember why you are doing the work the in the first place? 

It’s okay if the goal scares you and you don’t know precisely how you will get there. However, when going gets tough, and it will, you must have the intestinal fortitude to keep going and slog through the efforts that might be necessary for your goal to become a reality.  

How can you possibly motivate yourself to do the hard work if you can’t remember where you are going and why it matters in the first place?

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dusty

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