Are you aware of the choices you make?

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

Eckhart Tolle

Change occurs the minute you stop allowing yourself to look past problems and see opportunities for a better future. Turn over the rocks, ask tough questions, hold yourself accountable for creating a better tomorrow. If you don’t, then who will?

Sometimes it can seem more beneficial and reasonable to ignore certain things. For example, perhaps there is a problem that doesn’t need to be solved right now or a challenge that will take more effort to address. It is okay to choose not to do something because the time isn’t right or because other things are a higher priority. However, it isn’t okay to bury your head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge their existence. Once you are aware, you have to address the situation, even if the answer is “not yet.” 

Are you taking or making excuses?

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”

Kenneth Blanchard

No excuses, just results. 

How can you create commitment if you aren’t measuring the right things?  

Hold yourself accountable first, then commit to delivering the results that matter.  

No excuses from yourself or anyone else…

Begin with the end in mind…

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.”

John Madden

There is a lot to unpack in these four sentences. However, I think the last two words are the ones that bring focus to all the rest. Without “be humble,” the other elements can’t happen or won’t happen. So the key here might be to put these two words at the front of each sentence. This is truly a case of ”beginning with the end in mind.”

Be humble; self-praise is for losers. Be humble, be a winner. Be humble; stand for something. Be humble; always have class.”

Hard to do any of the other items without humility.  Be humble, have meaning…

Are you taking the right medicine?

“Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself keeps you feeling young.”

Betty White

One of my former pastors used to constantly remind us that “holding on to anger and resentment is liking taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Perhaps the opposite is also true; focusing on kindness and love is an elixir for both you AND someone else. If so, this seems like a pretty good deal to me. So, what medicine are you going to take today?

Are you striving to be the MVP or the MEP?

“The most valuable player is the one that makes the most players valuable.”

Peyton Manning

Teams win games. Sure, there might be an MVP of a given game, and in football, it is typically a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, etc. For example, of the fifty-six Super Bowl MVPs (there was a “co-MVP awarded in 1978), an offensive player has been the MVP 82.14% of the time (including 1997 when Desmond Howard won it for Kickoff/Punt Return).

I can geek out on sports stats all day, but the point here is that no one person is THE team. Peyton Manning didn’t win the Super Bowl; an entire team did. His efforts in 2007, when he won the MVP award, made the whole team more valuable. 

Perhaps the NFL should rename the MVP award. Maybe it should be called the Most Empowering Player instead? MEP would do a better job codifying the true impact of one player on a team’s performance. They aren’t the most valuable; they enable the most value creation.

There’s a lesson here for all of us in leadership roles…

Go Bengals!

How is the water of your mind?

“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”

Bil Keane

In today’s hyper distracted and overbusy world, it takes extreme discipline to allow oneself the time to think and reflect on what is essential.

Sometimes the presentation of a simile brings everything into focus and can hit like a ton of bricks. That was my experience today when choosing this quote. 

It brings to mind a book I read last year, one of my favorites for 2021, “Stillness is the Key” by Ryan Holiday. Without intentional and planned stillness, one can’t think clearly. I think I might need to reread this one soon. It is time to let the water settle…

Author Unknown

Words are the driving force of the flywheel…

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”

Desmond Tutu

If you want to change something in life, whether vocational or personal, think about the words you use as water pushing the wheel on a water mill forward. It isn’t the wheel that creates the electricity or grinds grain into flour; it is the water that drives the wheel which provides the real power. So here are some thoughts on using language as the flywheel of change:

  1. Write it down!
  2. Spend time on the language, the tone, the intent. Press hard to ensure that the words chosen capture your genuine desire.
  3. Share it! Cast it out there to become a catalyst for thought and momentum creator. Your words will help others see a new future, a better tomorrow, a different outcome. 
  4. Turn the words into a story that others believe in, share, and extend. 
  5. Do it again, and again, and again…

Then you can participate in the new reality that your words helped to create.

By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT – travail personnel (own work)

Who are the right people to challenge and inspire?

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

Amy Poehler

“Challenge and inspire” is an essential part of today’s quote. It isn’t about finding people who make you comfortable and let you stay in your bubble of contentment. Just the opposite is true. Instead, you must find people who make you UNCOMFORTABLE in all the right ways. Only then will you grow and evolve and become the person you were born to be.

Who are the people you are intentionally curating into your life who challenge and inspire you?

What are the flywheels of your desired life?

“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.”

Zig Ziglar

One of my favorite leadership tomes is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Even after more than twenty years, the principles of effective organizational leadership outlined are just true today as the day the book was written. Some examples cited in the text as great organizations are no longer excellent or even in existence due to a failure to adapt to evolving market conditions or were destroyed by self-inflected shifts in focus and discipline. Regardless of how the examples cited fared, the principles of greatness are enduring.

Why do I bring this up? Meditating on the quote above brings to mind the power of the flywheel. When you identify those things that create momentum and compel progress, it becomes a self-sustaining and powerful driving force in your life. 

The simple image below highlights the cycle demonstrated through the quote above. How would this apply in the different domains of your life? Faith? Health? Work? Etc? What’s your flywheel?

A personal health flywheel example

Pause, and then be prepared to listen…

“Be still. The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

Ram Dass

The quiet moments of the early morning are my absolute favorite parts of the day. I am blessed to have the genotype which orients me to be an early riser. Dedicating the first hour of each day to devotional study, meditation, gratitude practice, quiet reflection, reading, writing, and simply pausing to think is a routine that I surrender only as a matter of extreme exception. It is just too essential for the progress through the rest of the day.  

Because I can be very disciplined and routine-oriented, I have to guard against my daily practice becoming formulaic and “religious.” So sometimes, I find it beneficial to turn it all off, grab a journal and ask myself one simple question.

“What am I ignoring or neglecting through busyness that I shouldn’t be?

It can be so incredibly insightful as to what you will find yourself writing if you give yourself the time to do so.  

Do the deeds that matter…

“The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention.”

Anonymous

Dreams are fun. Big dreams are what move the world and create a new future from the ether. What are your dreams? What are your intentions for the next decade? Year? Month? Week? Today?

What exact small thing will you do today that moves you toward your dream? If the answer is “I don’t know” then perhaps your dreams need some more work if you want a chance at bringing them to reality.

Do you have dreams or nightmares?

“To persist with a goal, you must treasure the dream more than the costs of sacrifice to attain it.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

Goals are admirable, but if you want to have something that will get you out of bed early in the morning and bring a burning focus to every minute of every day, there has to be a burning “why.” Call it a dream, a vision, or your purpose. Whatever it is, it has to be bigger than you, more significant than your ego. Otherwise, your goal is to make yourself bigger, and that’s not a dream. It’s a nightmare.  

Do you have, or enable, great ideas?

“The leader doesn’t create all the ideas; the leader becomes a catalyst for all the ideas.”

John C. Maxwell

It isn’t who sows the seed that counts; it is how much care and nurturing is dedicated to the growth as the plant matures.  

Great leaders enable an environment where seeds are planted, grow, and are cared for by many people. Leaders enable things to grow…

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?

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dusty

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