What are you going to learn today?

“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.”

Josh Waitzkin

“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.”

 

 

 

Be the change…

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you’d like to act.”

Bob Dylan

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.

 

How much change, and when?

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”

Helen Keller

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…

Why don’t you try?

“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”

Simon Sinek

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.  

Complaining is an investment in negative energy…

“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.”

Maya Angelou

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…  

Change is an investment opportunity…

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Dan Millman

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.  

What investments are you going to make today?

 

Perfect isn’t possible…

“Progressive improvement beats delayed perfection.”

Mark Twain

Perfect isn’t possible.  Once you come to terms with this then there is no need to wait hoping that you can get there.  How many great ideas, projects, initiatives, etc. never see the light of day because the “timing isn’t perfect,” or the idea, project, initiatve “isn’t perfect yet?”  

This doesn’t mean that there is an excuse for shoddy work or poor execution.  You can still be striving for great, but waiting for perfection means that you will be waiting forever.  Make change happen.  Make mistakes, learn, grow, get better.  Do something! Just get better.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Just don’t wait to create change because you are hoping for perfect because it will never happen.  

 

 

Close the gap…

“It is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.”

Max De Pree

The gap analysis is a management tool used to determine the difference between where we desire to be and where we actually are today.  The key to effective use of this tool is a Gap Analysiscandid and honest critique of actual performance with no self-deception on what reality truly looks like.  Once you identify the gaps between the desired future state and true reality only then you can you create the action plan needed to create the change that needs to happen to bring the future vision to life.  The key here of course is the ability to create lasting growth and change.

I love this quote because it applies every single time you read it, no matter where you are in your journey through life.  There is never a time when we can sit back and rest on our laurels and previous accomplishments and be content with where we are.  We are always on a journey towards becoming what we need to be, and must be ever viligant in our need to grow and change.

When we think about why we are on this earth, and the impact that we want and need to make on the world around us, how can we ever stop working on ourselves?

 

 

Where does change happen?

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside the end is in sight.”

Jack Welch

We live in a world of constant change.  The world has always been like this but the rate of change today is faster than ever before.  This is the age of disruption and every long held belief about the way the world operates is being reviewed and evolved.

This applies to the external world of course, the context that Jack was speaking on when he coined this phrase, but it applies equally well to our own individual growth as contributors and leaders. To remain relevant we must intentionally growing our skills, talents, and capabilities, in a constant and disciplined manner.  If we don’t then our ability to impact those around us and achieve our goals is constantly diminishing.  

Think of it like two cars on the highway where one car is going 75 MPH and the second car is going 60 MPH.  The first car is continually putting more distance between the two drivers.  After an hour it is only 15 miles, but after two hours, 30 miles, three hours 45 miles, etc. 

That’s our world today.  Someone somewhere is finding a way to go faster.  What are you doing to grow your expertise, skills, talents and capabilities to go faster and close the gap?  How are you working to ensure that the end isn’t near?

 

Why are you planting seeds?

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

 

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Rose at the Grape Leaf Inn, Healdsburg, CA

For a seed to grow it needs good soil, sunshine, water, and fertilizer.  The right combination of ingredients leads to amazing flowers.  But which of these elements gets the credit for the flowers when they bloom? 

It really doesn’t matter does it? The credit for the end result is less important than the beauty that is achieved.  Yes, there is joy in the process of growth, and all the players matter, but not more than the achievement of the goal.  

It works the same way when we as leaders are focused on the end results, not on who gets the credit.  

 

Good ideas become great when they have the benefit of the input of others.  Are you planting seeds for you or for a greater good?

FREEDOM!!

“Being proactive is more than taking initiative. It is recognizing that we are responsible for our own choices and have the freedom to choose based on principles and values rather than on moods or condition. Proactive people are agents of change and choose not to be victims, to be reactive, or to blame others.”

Stephen Covey

Today in the United States we are celebrating our Independence Day.  The day where our Founding Fathers made a conscious choice to be responsible for the course of our independent nation. They chose the direction and were responsible for the creation of the principles and values that would set our path as a republic for centuries to come.

The freedom to choose is one of our greatest gifts in life. I love this particular quote because it sums up so neatly the importance of living a life of active choices.  Once you have clearly identified your values and principles one can live a life of freedom.  It isn’t always easy to make the choices that align to your values.  In fact, sometime they are the hardest ones to make.  However, when we have a framework we aren’t relegated to being the product of other’s choices, we are freely choosing our path in life.  

As we celebrate freedom today take a moment to reflect on what freedom to choose means in your life.  

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