“To experience growth, you must become a conscious and committed gardener of the self. That means you must pull out all the roots of the past and plant new seeds of thought and behavior.”
It can be easy to fall into the trap of pruning others and ignoring the most crucial work, improving oneself. Over time we all develop bad habits and behaviors that we wouldn’t choose for ourselves if we were picking our “best self” off a menu of desired traits.
So, the only way to change is to prune intentionally. Where are you going to start gardening?
“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.”
Change is going to happen. We can embrace it, we can resist it, or, for the rare few, we can architect it. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather architect the future than simply be along for the ride…
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life and don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
The four most important words from the quote above are, “Your time is limited.” If you understand and embrace those words, everything that follows has meaning. If you don’t, then the rest is merely good advice.
If you recognize that your time is limited, why would you ever choose to live someone else’s life?
If you understand that your time here is temporary, why would you choose to let your voice squelched?
If you accept that your time here is finite, why would you choose cowardice instead of courage? Why would you choose to ignore your gut?
When one chooses to accept your mortality, you unlock the keys to a life of meaning and fulfillment of God’s purpose.
So the choice is simple. Choose to embrace the beauty of YOUR life, or choose to live in a state of denial. It’s up to you. Either way, your time is limited…
“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.”
One thing we must all accept in life is that nothing stays the same. Change is both inevitable and constant. Recognizing and accepting this fact is the key to building a life of resiliency and focus.
When we see the change as benefitting us, we look forward to and are excited about the transformation going on in our lives. We view change as motivating and can easily live “in the future,” looking forward to new experiences.
When we view change and its impacts through a lens we perceive as unfavorable, we lament the differences and wish things “could go back to the way they were.” In this case, we desire to “live in the past.”
Acknowledging that change is continual enables you to focus on what you can control in the present moment today. You can’t do anything about the things that happened yesterday, last week, or last year. But you can focus on those things that you would want to view favorably when today becomes history.
You can’t control what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, or next year. But today, you have a choice to focus on those things that will be the seeds of future change. Your decisions today will either pay dividends or become an anchor that weighs you down.
Focusing on today and the fantastic gift you have with this present moment enables you to become resilient when things don’t go your way. Today is an incredible “one time only show” that you can only spend once.
Understand that change is constant and continual and spend today in a manner that will make tomorrow an immense blessing to both yourself and others.
Last Tuesday, I had the incredible opportunity and blessing to share the day with two great friends and colleagues, David Childs and David Lillard of Spartan Planning and Branding. They are in Greensboro, NC, and were putting the final touches on their 2nd Annual Leadership Symposium aptly named “Spartan Pro Day.” Last year’s inaugural event was a resounding success, selling out and maximizing their venue’s capacity.
At the beginning of the year, David Childs asked me to be one of the speakers at this year’s event on the topic of leadership, and I was both thrilled and honored to play a small role in their vision of building leaders.
Year 2 was all set to build on last year’s success with space reserved at a venue twice the size, and present company excluded, an incredible roster of speakers. But, as the year progressed, the implications of a world forever changed by the pandemic began to influence their plans and thinking.
It would have been so easy for them to write off 2020, to say, “due to the state of the world and the restrictions on gathering, we are going to postpone Spartan Pro Day until we can produce the event safely.”
However, they both realized that there has never been a more critical time to highlight the impact of positive leadership and share content that would be highly powerful and meaningful to their constituents. So they did what great leaders do in a time of crisis and uncertainty. They pivoted to a new direction and held true to their vision of putting on a conference enabling leaders to “Grow Personally. Grow Professionally. Make A Difference.”
Spartan Pro Day is now a virtual event being held over the next three weeks, AND it is FREE OF CHARGE for anyone that would like to participate and grow.
Leadership is having a vision, and then doing whatever it takes to make that vision become a reality. As John Maxwell writes, “leadership is influence,” and Spartan Pro Day was an incredible influence on me, and I am grateful to have played a small role in bringing their vision to life.
If you are interested in enrolling, check out the link below. As a sports fan and a Carolina Panthers fan, I particularly loved the stories shared by Mick Mixon in his “Tales from the Press Box” session.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Wikipedia, “An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Experiments vary greatly in goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results.”
How many of your major decisions, or minor ones, have you reviewed through the lens of experimentation? If all life is an experiment, how much of our time do we spending acting in such a manner?
There are three themes of questions: building blocks of experimentation that could and should be leveraged in our daily lives.
What is my hypothesis? What am I seeking to support, refute, or validate with this action or decision?
Based on the results of my experiment, what did I learn? What does a “logical analysis of the results” reveal?
Based on the answers to the above questions, what is my new hypothesis? What lessons on cause and effect will I carry forward into my next decision or set of actions?
When you start some new project, initiative, or idea, are you seeking to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis? Do you seek to understand the results in a non-emotional and quantitative manner?
Imagine how powerful our lives would be if we chose to live with an attitude of experimentation in all of our decisions? What if everything was done through a lens of learning and growth? Test and learn, evolve, and grow.
“Not seeing results? Feel like giving up? Consider this: The last thing to grow on a fruit tree… is the fruit.”
If you plant an apple seed today then it will take 6 – 8 years for the tree to grow and then begin to produce fruit. Does this mean you shouldn’t plant the tree? Water and care for the tree? Skip the hard work along way while waiting for the tree to mature to the point where it is capable of producing apples?
Consider this. When an apple tree does mature, and begin to deliver on the vision you had when you first planted it, it can grow 2-5 BUSHELS of apples PER YEAR. That’s a lot of apples.
The moral of the story is this. In our “everything now” world sometimes we get focused on eating an apple RIGHT THIS MINUTE. However, focusing on the right now might cause you to miss out on the incredible fruit that is just around the corner.
The ability we each have to deliver on our potential, and produce bushels of output impacting the lives of others, will come through disciplined focus and care on growth process, not on the fruit itself. The fruit is the result you achieve by not giving up on your dreams when the work is hard and you can’t see past the near term challenges.
If we don’t lose focus and hope we will mature and grow and learn to produce fruit for the world to consume in quantities which greatly exceed our current capacities. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
Edward de Bono
Things look different when you see them through a different lens or perspective. The ability to be creative requires that one find a way to let go of the known, the safe, and the established ways of doing things. Instead you have to be relentless in looking for connections that aren’t there yet. Opportunities to build a bridge between seemingly unrelated items and create value that didn’t previously exist.
One of the best ways that I have found to accomplish this is by simply observing and asking questions. One must view the world through a lens of intense curiosity and a “what if” mindset. It is equally important to have a mindset of humility that allows one to ask questions and listen for both what is said, and unsaid in response.
The bottom line is that creativity requires one to surrender the desire to keep things the way they have always been. What if has to become your favorite way of thinking.
“Leadership on the other hand is about creating change that you believe in.”
Before anyone else can buy into your leadership you have to be completely bought in and sold on what it is you are seeking to change. If you don’t believe in it fully and passionately then those you are seeking to influence won’t either. You can’t “fake it till you make it” when it comes to creating change. You have to believe in it with all your heart and soul.
If you don’t then everyone will know and you’ll find yourself not leading anyone at all.
“Don’t worry about being worried. You’re heading out on an adventure and you can always change your mind along the way and try something else.”
It is amazing how much freedom comes from viewing the world with a “life is an adventure“ perspective. When you think about exploration and innovation or starting something new, there has to be a degree of fear and excitement. Frankly, you can’t have an adventure without a little bit of uncertainty and a strong underlying element of mystery and excitement.
But in order to keep from letting fear shut you down, you must understand the role fear plays in an adventure. It is supposed to be something that motivates you to go a little harder, push a little further, dig a little deeper. Fear is necessary and needed in order to grow. Fear can be a is a great motivator, especially when you keep these words from Proverbs in your mind…
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25 NIV
Don’t spend your time endlessly worrying about what might happen on your great adventure. Channel the fear in a positive way and know that when you put your faith in the right place, you will be safe. The path will appear, and if it doesn’t, you can always find another path…
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
If you aren’t living life in this way what exactly do you have? An existence. Simply a series of events moving you towards a point in the future which may or may not be meaningful. For most of us, present times set aside, our lives are no longer about mere survival. We have more to give, more to see, more to do, more to live.
When we become timid and choose to wait to see what the world throws at us, we lose the ability to seek out the new adventures that might be just beyond the turn in the road in front of us.
The best way to live life in the moment, and not miss out on what is truly important, is to focus on being present TODAY and thereby reducing future regrets. When the end comes, and it will come for all of us, what will you regret having NOT done?What adventures will you wish you HAD taken?Who will you wish you had spent MORE time with?
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
The minute you believe that you are better than someone else you have lost the essence of our shared humanity; you are buying into the lie that the world revolves around self and our reason for existence is simply to serve our own egos and desires.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We aren’t here on this earth to build monuments to ourselves. The pale accomplishments we take such pride in today will mean nothing in just a few years. We are here to impact the lives of others and make a difference through service to others.
In order to accomplish this we must completely surrender our desires to be better than any other person and put our energy and focus into being the person that God created us to be. Relentless discontent with the status quo, our own status quo, is the key to becoming the person that you were born to be…
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
Peter F. Drucker
There are only so many hours in the day. How are you spending them?
I find it useful to think of time as a bank account. You spend your minutes and hours each day as you would your money. What kind of return are you getting for your spend? Do you look back at your days and weeks and wonder where the time went? Are you achieving the goals that you sent for the month the quarter or the year? Do you even have goals?
The bottom line is this. You only have a finite amount of time in each day and week, and none of us know when that time is going to run out. Spend it wisely and intentionally. Make sure that you are getting maximum return for your investment. If you aren’t, stop spending the time on the things that don’t matter and invest in the things that do…
I recently read “The Shackleton Way” and was absolutely fascinated by the leadership skills and expertise that Sir Earnest Shackleton displayed during the epic “Endurance” expedition attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. It intrigued me so greatly that I then read “South” which is Shackleton’s book on the topic and am in the process of reading “Endurance” which is considered to be the seminal work on the subject.
I am continually amazed by the fact that in the face of the greatest of unknowns, and with no outside influence or support, that men could rise above the uncertainly of the next moment and survive for months at a time in the most grueling of conditions. The name of their ship, the “Endurance” was incredibly apt for what was to come.
Knowing that others have survived conditions that are far beyond contemporary understanding helps put everything in perspective. Having a positive attitude and focusing on what is truly important is how one perseveres. On the other side you will be far stronger than how you went in…
“When you blame others, you give up your power for growth and change.”
Dr. Robert Anthony
Taking full and complete ownership of your thoughts, your actions, and your circumstances is the first step to being able to truly grow. When you realize that you have the power to change your attitude and therefore the outlook you have on life you are full and truly free.
On the flip side, if you are constantly seek to make what you are or where you are in life someone else’s fault you are surrendering your ability to growth into the person you are capable of becoming.
Freedom is realizing that no one else can define you, you alone are embodied with that responsibility. Seize that opportunity own it!
“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back…”
Fear is only a barrier if it stops you in your tracks. Fear can be an incredible motivator and an inspiration for change, if you let it. The key is to know that on the other side of fear is growth and opportunity. Just keep moving, never stop moving.
“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.”
What opportunities for change, rebirth, growth are being primed because of the state of the world today? Right now massive change is being forced at the societal level. So what second chances are being created for each of us to look at all aspects of our lives and not merely adapt to the change around us, but to truly reset our minds and perspective?
It is easy to say “I just want to get back to normal.” What if “normal” wasn’t the best or optimum state to be in? If we just work hard to get back to the way things were, we miss all the opportunity for rebirth as better versions of ourselves.
Here are some questions to start the thinking process and identify the opportunities for positive change.
What of the changes have I really enjoyed? Despised?
What should I keep as we move forward?
What new opportunities are being created right now that I should embrace?
What new habits or behaviors have I developed that I want to keep? Stop?
What are the most important lessons I have learned through this experience?
What would I have done differently at various points over the past few weeks/months? How could this knowledge help me going forward?
What relationships have I fostered? Neglected?
One year from now what do I want to have accomplished based on new knowledge and experiences I have gained?
What is the best decision I have made in recent weeks? Worst decision?
What great opportunity is God presenting me with right now?
This is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list, just a place to start. (personally I find that leveraging the Socratic method of problem solving to be incredibly insightful and thought provoking.)
We can either choose to wallow in misery by focusing on what we don’t have, or we can look for the opportunities that are being created for us. Every change is an opportunity to build something better if we choose to look forward.
“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
Everyone wants to skip right to the part in life where they soar like an eagle and they forget that each stage of life is precious and beautiful.
The time in the egg is for growth and development with a shield of safety surrounding you. But there comes a time when you have to change, to grow, to be more. And like the chick that is hatching from the egg, it is the struggle that builds the strength necessary to one day soar…
“To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
You never know what you might learn when you really truly listen. I have to remind myself of this all the time. Sometimes we are all working so hard to listen only for what we want to hear that we forget that the real joy of listening is to learn. Once you have learned something, you can then be changed by it. You just have to commit to listen first. Easy to say, much harder to do…
“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.