“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”
The question I think of when I read this is “is being your true and authentic self and being vulnerable to expose that self to others worth it if you don’t win?”
For me the answer is an unambiguous yes. It is far better to be your true and authentic self than to be any pale shadow or imitation thereof. Living in an authentic life means to live a life of vulnerability. If you want to be authentic you have to be vulnerable.
“Instead of focusing on the circumstances that you cannot change – focus strongly and powerfully on the circumstances that you can.”
Energy spent worrying about things you can’t control or influence is an investment with a guaranteed return of zero percent. In fact, a very good case could be made that there is a negative return on the investment because fear, doubt and worry serve to diminish your abilities across a wide spectrum of skills.
I find that in times of uncertainty or fear perhaps the best thing to do is to turn to a good book and seek to gain perspective. For me, one of my favorites is “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Reading that always helps me find perspective on what is truly important in life. Having a strong sense of focus on the things that you can control, when so much of the world is out of control, is incredibly clarifying. Where are you investing your energy today?
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
When I picked out today’s quote I was thinking of the current state of our world with the coronavirus pandemic and the need to practice “social distancing” in order to slow down the spread of this virus. There have been pervasive news reports showing people who aren’t willing, or able, to make the modifications necessary in their lives to be part of the change that is needed in the world today.
Learning new habits and making massive change to deeply entrenched routines is hard. It doesn’t happen overnight and it is much easier to focus on things that “other people” need to do, but that for whatever reason aren’t things that you need to do yourself.
But knowing that change is hard doesn’t excuse one from having to do the hard work and make the changes that are needed. In fact, in a time like this, changing the world is not where our efforts and energy should be focused. We must put all our energies into creating transformation within the areas of life that we have the most control over, our own behavior and actions. In the end that is the only way we are going to change the world.
When you step back from the current situation, and the crisis that is necessitating these adjustments in our lives, the principles of creating transformation through focus on the change needed in oneself are just as important and relevant.
Maybe through all of this we can learn how to truly change the world, by learning how to change ourselves first…
“My opinion is a view I hold…well, until I find something that changes it.”
Someone once imparted some great wisdom to me with this phrase. “I am always willing to be wrong, I just need someone to help prove it to me.” I grabbed on to that as a core operating tenet and have found it incredibly powerful over the years.
Willing to be wrong means that you are willing to change your mind, it doesn’t meant that you will. Willing to be wrong means that you will seek to find opinions and perspectives that challenge your opinion, not seek out those that only reinforce what you believe. Willing to be wrong means that you will focus on the issue, not the person. Willing to be wrong implies debate, not argument. Willing to be wrong means that you are willing to listen.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
The most growth I have ever had in my life has come from criticism, not praise. I have learned to not only welcome criticism and feedback but to truly desire and appreciate it. It is the only way that one can get outside of your own mind and perceptions and see and understand the impact that you have on others.
Certainly not all criticism is good, constructive, or even relevant. However, if you start to ignore any of the feedback given to you you do so at your own peril. Some of the criticism I have received in life I disagreed with vehemently, and on further reflection might be something that wasn’t helpful or positive in any way. But it made me stop and think. It made me ask the question, “how am I behaving that could create that perception and how might I need to change if changing that perception is both important and relevant to me?”
Create a mindset where you both welcome and appreciate criticism in all areas. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it at face value, but it does mean you have to listen, reflect and learn. Who knows, it might be just what you need to hear…
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
The key to living with a “relentless discontent with the status quo” is to know what needs to be changed, and what doesn’t. It means knowing when things need to be changed and when they don’t. It means being able to see the world for what could be, not simply for what it currently is. And therein lies the secret, one must face change directly and clearly. The best exercise I can think of for facing change is to simply go look in the mirror. That will show you what needs to change…
“We must not…ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to the big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
Marian Write Edelman
It isn’t the moving of mountains that we should strive for, it is the constant and consistent throwing of pebbles at the mountain that will create the avalanche that is needed to create the change that is needed and necessary.
It can be so easy to get lost dreaming of the big and the grand and forget to do the small things that are the building blocks of a real and authentic life.
What is the one thing that you can do today, that will really and truly matter a year from today when you stick with it and make it a habit? What’s stopping you?
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
Why is it that change has to start on the inside if we want to see it last on the outside? It would be so much easier if we could simply wave a magic wand and change the world to be what we it is that we want to see. Instead we have to change ourselves on the inside, and it is through those changes we become the person the world needs us to be. Only then, can the world as we perceive be permanently changed…
What is a change that you need or want to make in your life? What are you intentionally reading, learning and studying to make that change possible? If you aren’t doing the work of studying and learning then change won’t happen. Lasting change isn’t based on wishing or hoping it is based on hard work and learning.
Stop waiting for things to happen, go learn something new EVERYDAY and you will be amazed at the doors that open up for you.
Here is a simple recipe for change. Take out a piece of paper. Ask yourself these questions.
“WHAT is the one thing I NEED to change in my life?” Write that down at the top of the page and circle it.
Now answer this question. “WHY is this change important and necessary?” Write this down in as few words as possible and underline it. Heck, grab a highlighter and and really make this line stand out. This is the most important line on the page.
Now answer this question. “HOW will I do next to make that change a reality?” Write down those answers, no more than 3 things. Rank them based on what you can do FIRST.
Now for the hard part. DO the things you wrote down. Start every day looking at your desired and needed change, remind yourself why it is important and then DO the action. When you have completed your next task mark it off and add one more. Never more than three things on your list and you only focus on the next one. As you get better and better and build momentum then you will look forward to checking off the list and seeing how much you have accomplished.
For example if your “need” is to lose 10 pounds then that is what you write at the top
WHAT = Lose 10 pounds by 12/1/19
WHY = To have a healthy body and more energy for my family
HOW = (1) Exercise 45 minutes today before lunch. (2) Track my foods/meals in an App like MyFitnesspal (3) Do not take in any calories after 7:00 PM.
DO = Check these off through the day and then build a new list tomorrow.
Change doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen simply because you want it to. Change happens when you clearly articulate what it is that you want to change. Why that change is important. How you are going to make that change happen by focusing on what to do next. Then you have to do the hard part. EXECUTE! No excuses, no complaints, no justifications. Just do it.
There are tons of books, apps, systems and methods you can use to track and manage change. I use several of them in combination but the MOST IMPORTANT factor is to clearly articulate WHAT you want to change and WHY that change is important to you. That is why it is important to revisit this daily. Never lose sight of your goal and why it is important. That will be the motivation you need to EXECUTE. W/W/H/D = CHANGE
“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.”
Michael John Bobak
When was the last time you were near the edge of your comfort zone? How did it make you feel? Did you want to lean into the experience? Or did you want to back away? Is getting outside of your own personally defined limits something that you seek out or turn away from?
If you want to grow, you must be willing to risk failure. You must be willing to take on more than you know you are capable of doing. To grow you must be willing to push past the point where you know that you cannot fail. This is what it means to get outside of the comfort zone. Failure becomes a possibility, and this is where the real opportunity for growth occurs.
How does this make you feel? Does the idea of regularly seeking out opportunities that push you past your personal limitations inspire or terrify you?
I think the really important question is this. What is more frightening, stretching and possibly failing, or becoming complacent and irrelevant?
I’ll choose growth and the risk of failure every time. The alternative scares me to death…
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
There is nothing worst than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. Get up. Go do something. Anything.
Sometimes all it takes is simply deciding to do something and that is what makes the difference. No one ever accomplished great things sitting on their rear end. Go find something good to do for someone else. Not because you feel like it, but because it will mean something to another person.
That’s why we are here right? To make a difference in the lives of others, to give them hope for a brighter day and a better way.
How are you going to make a difference for just one person today? Don’t answer this question later, answer it now. Then do it.
“If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”
General Eric Shinseki
This has long been one of my favorite quotes. Change is a natural state of the world. Today change happens at an ever faster rate and we have to be able to adapt to new ways of thinking and doing things. If you aren’t willing to change, then you are choosing to be in the passenger seat of this bus we call life.
For those that aren’t comfortable with change, and at times that happens to all of us, I find this verse from Ecclesiastes to be both comforting and inspiring.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
If you want to be relevant first take the time to think of how you need to change…
“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”
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…
“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.”
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?
“The only person holding you back is you. No more excuses. It’s time to change.”
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.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw
It is amazing how much of our leadership impact and ability is based on first being able to lead oneself. If we can’t be completely candid, open and real with ourselves on our need to change, how can we expect others to change?
What is the #1 change you need to make on and in yourself to increase your impact? What is getting in your way? How can you start the change today?
“Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.”
Where does your life need to change? Are you willing to simply wait and be “lucky” in order for change to happen? To be sure we are all lucky in some form or another. But leaving life up to the vagaries of chance just isn’t an acceptable plan. To accomplish anything worth doing you have to embrace change and lean forward into change with all the gusto you have in your being.
I have found that some of the most important changes in life aren’t the biggest ones that I have embraced, but have instead been the small ones, done well and executed relentlessly, those changes have made the biggest difference.
Why is this? For me, I have found that the small changes and the willingness to embrace them, to get outside of my comfort zone, have been the catalyst for larger change. They have prepared me mentally and physically to let go of the old and embrace the new.
If you want to change something big, start with something small. Do it today…
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
What challenge or opportunity in your life would be improved if you could get an outside-in perspective? There are only two ways to make this happen. Ask for help, or seek to change your own perspective. What’s preventing you from doing either one?
“What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”
If you don’t understand the reason for a change can you really be committed to the hard work it takes to make it happen? As a leader if people are resisting change have you done all the work necessary to communicate clearly why the change is needed?
It is our responsibility as leaders to own the creation of clarity with our teams. No on else is responsible or accountable for this critical step. If you haven’t set clear expectations change won’t stick…
“If a change doesn’t feel uncomfortable it’s probably not really a change.”
I love the way this quote challenges how I think about change. How often do we truly seek to be uncomfortable? It is easy to talk about change and the need for change but are we truly embracing the the opportunity to be uncomfortable? Changing ourselves and our behaviors can be hard and I have found that often people change just enough to check the box saying that they did it. When this happens it doesn’t take much to slip back into old habits. It doesn’t take much for the change that was being made to just slip away.
How uncomfortable do you have to be with a current situation or circumstance to make the challenge and discomfort of change a better alternative? How can you lower this hurdle rate to smash through barriers and implement true change faster and with more vigor and therefore prevent yourself from slipping back into old habits or behaviors?
In a world of constant change and disruption then a feeling of discomfort is the new normal. We must be continually challenging ourselves to grow and evolve and pushing through the natural tendencies we have to maintain the status quo. We must be comfortable being continually uncomfortable if we truly want to grow.
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
C. S. Lewis
I’ve always been amazed by the fact that when a baby bird is breaking free from their egg that the struggle they are going through is critical to their growth and survival. In fact, if you help them they are likely to die because they haven’t been strengthened through the effort.
We are like that too right? We need the struggle and effort to be prepared for the world ahead. We need the crucible of change, hard effort, and struggle to grow. Otherwise we just stay the same and stagnate. I would argue that stagnation is the same as the egg that goes bad…
“Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay.”
“Tradition” is just an another way of saying “that’s the way it has always been done.” Security in what has always worked is just another step towards irrelevancy. In today’s world we have to become comfortable being uncomfortable…
“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
Why exert effort on an immovable object? I think this applies to complaining about things that you can’t change. In fact, complaining as a rule is a waste of effort and energy. I can’t think of one time in life where I have felt better for having complained without then taking some action to create change. Complaints because you just have to be heard don’t result in change. So why bother?
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Sometimes the clearest way to see what change is needed is to separate oneself from the cacophony of daily life and simply be still. The hustle and bustle of activity serves to lock oneself into a routine, a relentless hamster wheel effect. It is hard to see what change is needed when your energy is spent just keeping up. Sometimes it is not about fighting the old, it is about breaking free from it long enough to know what change is needed.
“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”
“Static, safe mediocrity.” Just those words alone make my skin crawl. Learning, and being willing to change because of what you have learned, is key to breaking free from the trap of “static, safe mediocrity.’
So what are you going to go learn today? Not just a check the box thing where you can say you learned something new. But what are you going to go learn that has the power to challenge the status quo or how you think?
If you don’t seek to learn something new daily, something that challenges you, you are well on the path to “static, safe mediocrity.”
“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.”
There is such power in these words. Changing your behavior is hard, but much easier if you have a clear picture in your mind of what, or who, you want to be. Then you just have to do it one simple step at a time, one day at a time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor is the person you were born to be. You have to decide to make the changes, and then just do it.
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”
How do you know when you need to change? How much change is necessary? I really like this quote because it makes me think through those two questions. When you are driving a car on the interstate your changes are subtle and slight. A big change in direction can be accomplished with just a few degrees of adjustment on the steering wheel and very little pressure because the change is happening over a great span of distance. But if you are driving across town, and come to a ninety degree turn, you are turning the steering wheel through multiple rotations to accomplish the change in direction that is necessary.
Life and leadership can be a lot like these examples. Sometimes the changes needed are minor adjustments that end up making huge impact over time. Other times the change needed is immediate and drastic and must happen NOW. Know when to make the right type of change decision is key. Because if you don’t, as Helen Keller said, you will fail to make the turn…
“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”
How many great ideas just whither up and die because they never see the light of day? I know I have had some great ones (well I think they were anyway) that have lived only in my mind. Why does this happen? Is it fear of failure? Prioritizing the wrong things? Not making the experimenting with new ideas a focus area?
There can be tons of reasons of course. But what would happen if you dedicated an intentional amount of your time to focusing on bringing new ideas, great ideas to life? Keep a running list, prioritize that list by impact and what really excites you. Decide to try one new idea each year, quarter, month, whatever schedule makes sense. But decide to try. If you don’t decide to act then you never will.
“Watch yourself about complaining. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
I love how this quote frames out there are only two paths forward from a complaint. Change it, or change yourself. That’s it. Once you have invested the energy (think about that for a minute…) into complaining about something you only have two action oriented choices. Of course you could continue to complain and wallow in misery but that’s your own choice if you decide to do so and generating a positive return from that energy is practically impossible.
I’ve found that approaching this with the perspective of an investor can be incredibly impactful. Ask yourself; “is this investment of my precious energy and time into complaining about something going to result in a positive action or outcome?” If the answer to this questions is “no”, then why would you continue to invest in something with a negative return? Change the situation or change yourself. If the answer is “yes,” then the automatic next question is “so what are you going to do about it?”
If you are going to use the finite energy you have in life to complain about something will you take the next step? Will you own the reason for the complaint and do something about it? Easier said than done of course. But most things worth doing are…
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Change can be tough. There will be uncertainty and the unknown lurking just over the horizon. Staying the same is always the easier choice, though it is only very rarely more beneficial. Every great discovery and adventure story starts with, as it’s basic premise, uncertainty, the unknown, great risk and only the potential for reward. Frodo Baggins certainly defied all Hobbit traits by setting out on his great adventure. It would have been much easier for him to stay home, bury his head in the sand like an ostrich and ignore the burning world around him. But that isn’t the choice that he made, and if you are as much of a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic as I am you know how that turned out…
Building something new takes energy, but it is an investment in new experiences that creates the person you were born to become. We all have a FINITE amount of energy to spend. Do you invest it in the future or spend it trying to hang on to the past? For example, think of how much money has been spent by people trying to look younger than they are. Money well spent fighting the perception of the aged or would it be money better spent embracing new life experiences or helping others? That’s a very personal choice, but it represents the choices we make when we are fighting to stay the same instead of investing in becoming a new and better self.