Is it your voice or your words which have the most impact?

“We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another – until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

Richard M. Nixon

If you are honest with yourself, do you spend more time ensuring your voice is heard or your words?

Which one will matter more in a year? Focus on that one.

If you want to win, you have to slay the tigers first…

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Amelia Earhart

It always amazes me how many fears and challenges we can create in our minds. First, the paper tigers create anxiety, paralyzing our bodies, and then the fears that were only in our minds become a reality.  

Action is the antidote. Even if the action isn’t perfect, it is an antidote to the paralytic effects we build out in our minds. Decide to act. Act with enthusiasm. Build momentum, and most of the fears we create will cease to be.

Are you investing?

“I believe that we all have a responsibility to give back. No one becomes successful without lots of hard work, support from others, and a little luck. Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful.”

Ron Conway

If you look back at the entirety of your life, were there any inflection points where a person poured into you in some way?  

Where would you be if someone had never made that particular investment?  

How many times has the interest from the investment grown and compounded? 

The great thing is that we all have the opportunity to serve others by giving back. If we do it well, the impact could be exponential.  

Plan for fun…

“Never underestimate the importance of having fun.”

Randy Pausch

How much time do you spend intentionally planning fun into your life. If you aren’t smiling and laughing and seeking out ways to find joy, why exactly are you here?  

Life is way too short to spend any of it miserable, so be intentional with your play. No one ever said, “I wish I hadn’t had so much fun…”

Learning is a lifetime endeavor…

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Conrad Hall 

A sage friend and colleague shared this with me yesterday, and I thought it was exceptionally profound as it captures the essence of a continual learning mindset. This captures the essence of “iron sharpening iron…”

“I want to work with people who I can learn from, and who are open to learning from me. People with whom I can exchange the student/teacher hats at a moment’s notice. People who sit in the uniquely blessed and fulfilling seat of Plato – a student of Socrates and then a teacher to Aristotle.”

Activity or achievement?

“There are so many people working so hard and achieving so little.”

Andy Grove

Did you work hard today? If so, what did you achieve? Was it what you set out to achieve, or did you have a goal at all? Sometimes “hard work” is merely a result of a focus on activities at the expense of the much more meaningful goals…

Where are you going to start?

“Start where you are. Distant fields always look greener, but opportunity lies right where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity of service.”

Robert J. Collier

It is incredible how distracting the view over the horizon can be when there is lots of work to be done right now. The opportunity to serve exists every single day. Don’t worry about the big bright lights of the future; start precisely where you are. That’s how you get to those green fields…

Are you relentless?

“Be relentless in pursuit of those goals, especially in the face of obstacles. Along the way, make no excuses and place no blame.”

Ray Bourque

Perhaps another way to think about this is to use the quote’s last sentence to frame out two knock-out questions.  

Are you making excuses?

Are you placing blame?

If the answer to either of these is “yes,” you aren’t genuinely relentless.  

Over. Under. Around. Through. That’s what it sometimes takes to accomplish our goals. No excuses. No finger-pointing. That’s relentless.

So, are you relentless?

Permission to make mistakes…

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

Elbert Hubbard

What is the worst thing that can happen as an outcome of the choice you are about to make? Is your decision reversible if things go wrong? If the answer is no, take some time to think it through, understand the risks, and make a well-informed and reasoned determination.  

If the decision is reversible, set a time and date to review the course you plotted against your desired outcomes and be prepared to change direction if necessary. Someone once told me, “always have an exit strategy. You never get on a submarine without knowing where the exit hatches are.”  

If you plan to review and make any necessary changes, you permit yourself to make the mistakes that will inevitably happen.  

Are you energized or filled with dread?

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.”

Simon Sinek

While hard work for something you love might be tiring, you go to bed at night ready to tackle the next day and do it all again. When you are doing something you don’t like and are stressed, you go to bed with dread over what is to come.  

How did you wake up this morning, energized or filled with dread?

Urgency is everything…

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.”

Jim Rohn

What do you deeply desire? Will it make you get up out of bed an hour earlier? Move a little faster? Work a little harder? If the answer is no, do you even desire it? If you can’t muster the energy to do the work, does desire even matter?

Perhaps if you can bring a sense of urgency to all you do, you will find more of what you desire…

Honor their memory, every day…

“Let their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.”

Daniel Webster

Every day of the freedoms we experience should be a lasting reminder of the sacrifices others have made to defend those freedoms. For the families and loved ones left behind, it is…

Be the boomerang…

“Courtesy is the one coin you can never have too much of or be stingy with.”

John Wanamaker

Think of how you feel when some random stranger is gracious and pleasant to you for no apparent reason. It can change your entire day. What if you focused on being that person? Courtesy is like a boomerang; the more you give, the more you get in return.  

Are you fighting fires or preventing fires?

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

Arnold H. Glasow

If you always focus on what is urgent, you are likely to neglect the truly important. Leadership is the ability to pull yourself out of the maelstrom and find the time and space to think about preventing fires, not just fighting them. If you aren’t leading yourself in this way, who will? 

Are you seeking information or knowledge?

“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”

John Naisbitt

There will always be more data available. There are always more questions that one can ask. The key to getting things done is to know when to stop seeking information and begin looking for the application.  

All the data and questions in the world won’t mean anything if you can’t convert it to action. That’s knowledge.  

How do you score?

“Success is born out of faith, an undying passion, and a relentless drive.”

Stephen Curry

If you were to score yourself on a scale from zero to ten on these three attributes, faith, undying passion, and relentless drive, how would you rate? Understanding this, how likely are you to achieve success?  

Stink is good…

“A failure is like fertilizer; it stinks to be sure, but it makes things grow faster in the future.”

Denis Waitley

Can you imagine how poorly everything would taste if no fertilizer were ever used? How many of life’s great experiences would be lost if we didn’t have some fertilizer along the way. Stop worrying about failing, start focusing on growth!

What are you waiting for?

“Everyone should have a sense of urgency — it is getting a lot done in a short period of time in a calm, confident manner.”

Bob Proctor

Will delaying make the situation better? Easier? Smoother? Faster? Sometimes “slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” other times, you need to buckle down and get it done. A sense of urgency is contagious, both to yourself and to others.  

Greatness is built on the small things…

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

What is the “great thing” that you are focused on right now? Is it clearly defined in your mind? Can you almost touch it because it feels so real?  

Now for the critical question. How are you going to make this become a reality?  

Great things are never accomplished through simple wishes and desires. It takes hard and focused efforts, on the small things day in and day out, that bring greatness to life.  

The real question is, what are the small things you are working on today, that will mean something incredible tomorrow? Rinse and repeat daily; that’s when the magic happens.  

What are you experimenting with today?

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What experiments are you going to put into practice today? Are you trying something new? Is there some idea or approach you have in mind that you want to try out? What is the worst that can happen if the experiment doesn’t go precisely as planned?  

If you aren’t pushing the envelope, striving to test new techniques and manners of thinking, are you growing? If you aren’t experimenting daily, are you simply living a “the way it has always been done” life?  

Is that the life you want to live?

Are you really ready to win?

“The most distinguishing feature of winners is their intensity of purpose.”

Alymer Letterman

What is YOUR purpose?  

What is it that drives you to get out of bed in the morning, to work harder than anyone else, to push further than anyone can make you, to do the things that no one else is willing to do?  

If you can’t answer this question, you aren’t ready to win.

Are you learning to lead…

“Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.” 

Lisa Cash Henson

There is a big difference between telling people what to do and guiding them to better decisions. The key differences are; a willingness to teach and an ability to learn. Both of these attributes are required of the leader before they can lead anyone. Only then can they appropriately guide others.

Learn to teach, teach to learn…

“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

Peter Drucker

My favorite end of day questions to ask of myself are:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What did you teach?

Interestingly enough, only when I do both is the day is fully satisfying.

Focus is the antidote to average…

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”

Bruce Lee

Laser-like focus isn’t average or easy. The person who can demonstrate the discipline to say no to of this magnitude is hardly average. What three things should you have said “no” to today?

Unlocking the secret of a good attitude…

“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”

Irving Berlin

“Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad…”

“For good or bad.” Whose good? Yours? Others? The truth is that the choices you make regarding your attitude have a profound impact on your life and the lives of those you touch. It strikes me as I write this that those focused on improving their attitudes have a deep caring for those they interact with and those they serve. The person with a “bad attitude” doesn’t care about the impact they have on others. They are looking inward and caring only about themselves.  

Perhaps the key to unlocking the secret power of attitude is to lift your eyes and see the world around you with a servant’s heart. If you can’t do this, will your attitude ever be good?

Great can be the enemy of good…

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

Jim Collins

It comes to mind that possibly great is also the enemy of good. Sometimes there is such a desperate desire to do great things that the good things never get done. Maybe it is a fear of failure; perhaps it is an inability to know when ‘enough is enough.’ The key is to be able to execute with speed and agility. If you only want great, but you never get there, is that good?

While I fully agree that ‘good is the enemy of great,’ there can be too much of a good thing. Don’t let the pursuit of the great prevent you from being good…

Practice for gameday…

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Malcolm Gladwell 

I have never met a successful person who brought a different level of energy or commitment to practice than they did to the game itself. The most successful people always practice as hard as they play on game day. You can’t take it to the next level when it matters if you don’t practice with that same intensity…

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