Do you exist or persist?

“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.”

Roy L. Smith

There is nothing worse than seeing someone with incredible talent choose to let that potential be wasted because they don’t have the discipline or drive to maximize their God given gifts.  It is a human choice when people put forth less effort than they are capable of doing and then achieve less that they were created to become.  Why does this happen?

We, as humans, are inherently lazy.  It isn’t fun to wake up at 4:00 AM and go train your body in order to achieve your goals.  It isn’t exciting to do the same task over and over again as you develop your body or your mind to become sharper and more focused.  It is far easier to sleep in, to make excuses, to settle for less than you are capable because that is the path of least resistance.  It is far easier to simply exist than it is to persist.  

The people who impress me the most are the ones that demonstrate the discipline and relentless will to pound right through their own mental walls and barriers.  These are the people who are forging their future on a daily basis with the decisions they make and the actions they take.  They never allow themselves to sit back and feel sorry for themselves when things don’t go their way.  They adapt, overcome, and set new goals and objectives.  This person knows that with relentless discipline and execution of the small things on a daily basis they can achieve greater results and realize their potential. 

God didn’t create us to have an easy life.  The challenges we face are there to help us grow our talents and maximize our potential to impact the lives of others.  To do this we have to be like the servant in the ‘Parable of the Talents’ and take the gifts  we are given and find a way to grow them into something much more valuable…

 

 

Create a daily discipline around what matters most!

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

I’ve been guilty of this one more than a few times.  Doing a great job on something, spending time getting it right, but it not being the most important use of my time or energy.  Why does this happen?  

Focusing on the things that matter means you have to be highly intentional at taking the time to understand the problem and thinking through what the most important or impactful solution will be.  Where should the effort be focused?  Sometimes you identify the right thing, but the situation and environment changes and the initiative or effort should be dropped.  That can be hard to do, but it is critical if you want to make real progress.  

Create a daily discipline of asking yourself “what is the most important thing for me to be spending my time on today?” Ideally this should link back to your most important goals, or the “big rocks” as Dr. Stephen Covey calls them.  Otherwise, it is so easy to get off track because we are doing something that is fun or that we particularly enjoy…  

 

The distracted age…

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The digital age could also be called the distracted age.  There are so many competing demands for our attention. When was the last time you were in a meeting, at a restaurant, or simply having a conversation with someone when you didn’t see some type of digital device in their hands?  I know I am guilty of being distracted on a daily basis.  The pull of the digital device is a black hole for creative energy and focus.

How much great work is sacrificed because 100% of our effort isn’t focused on the work at hand?  I know that when I make the decision to attend a meeting with only my paper notebook in hand that my focus and participation is so much better.  Yet it is so hard to do with regularity.  Study after study shows that multi-tasking is a myth, yet we all do it and think  that we are are the exception to the rule, that we are able to multi-task with great effect.

It isn’t possible to spend 100% of our time focused and distraction free, but what if we just started by deciding to do it only once per day on whatever the most important thing is for that day?

Today try to attend a meeting, have a conversation, or spend some focused work/thinking time without a digital distraction.  See how how it impacts your productivity.   Give it a try, how can it hurt?

Act like there is no other choice…

“The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.”

Henry Kissinger

How do you create this environment artificially?  When there are truly no alternatives it is magical how intense and focused one can be on the task at hand. The challenge is that to live in this environment all the time isn’t reasonable.  There are always going to be times when there is a plethora of alternatives.  The leadership challenge is to pick the right one and then ACT like there aren’t any other choices…

Why are you running?

“Every morning in Africa, an antelope wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest antelope, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or an antelope – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” ―

African Proverb

What really gets your attention?  What brings everything into focus and ignites within you the ability to hit the ground hard in the morning and run your very best game?  

When I think of this message I think of how awesome it is when there is a burning focus to life that brings clarity to everything else around me.  Without this focus, during the seasons where it is unclear, life just isn’t quite as rich. 

Do you know why you are running today? 

Where do you choose to invest?

“Giving up something now for something better later is not a sacrifice. It is an investment.”

Andy Stanley

What is really important?  Is the things we have now, or those we want in the future?  Where would you choose to invest your time or energy in order to achieve something better later?  

If you know the answer to that question then the real question is this one…  

Why don’t you?

Make your bed…

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

Admiral William H. McRaven

I remember my Dad reinforcing the classic line “anything worth doing is worth doing well” over and over with my brother and I as we were growing up.  For him it didn’t just apply to the big things, but it was the small things too. My Dad grew up on a dairy farm and one of the life lessons I learned from him was regardless of what you WANTED to do the cows NEEDED to be milked every day.  There was no such thing as a “day off” or the shirking of your responsibility.  Doing the little things, every day, the right way was just how it was done on the farm or else you wouldn’t have positive results and be able to provide for the family.  

If you haven’t seen Admiral William McRaven’s commencement address to the University of Texas in 2014 it is an instant classic.  Frankly it is one that I need to watch several more times to get all the pearls of wisdom that are contained within these nineteen minutes.  Enjoy and go change the world!

Discipline = “No!”

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” 

Jim Rohn

In today’s world everything is beeping and dinging and chirping to get your attention.  Their is a constant barrage of information coming at you to try and take part of your precious time and energy.  In this world of continuous distraction how can you focus, where do you start?  

It starts with writing down the goals.  I’ve found that anything short of a written goal is simply a wish or an aspiration.  Writing the goal down, meditating over it, thinking through the necessary steps to make it a reality.  That’s where it starts.  But that isn’t enough.  Actually taking action and putting those steps in place on a daily and ongoing basis requires the discipline to say no to the things that going to get in the way of making that goal a reality.  

I think that is the key.  Discipline isn’t some great “yes” to suddenly doing the right things.  Discipline requires a strong “no” to the things that are going to get in the way of your goal.  Knowing what needs to be done, and then having the conviction to do them, is critical.  

It reminds me of the great quote by Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” 

To enhance your ability to make your goals a reality what do you need to have the discipline to say “no” to?

Nothing Else Matters…

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”

Duke Ellington

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to enhance my writing skills and to create progress towards my goal of writing a book.  What do I want that book to be about?  I have no idea yet, but I know that I want to write one.  Reading books has been one of the greatest joys and key differentiators in my life and I have a desire to create something that will serve others and perhaps bring joy or value to them.  But, without a deadline, it will never happen.  

Why not?  All the same excuses and reasons that everyone has for not doing things they say they want to do.  “I’m too busy, life gets in the way, I don’t have time, it isn’t a priority, etc.”    (This is fodder for a separate post but what is the difference between a reason and an excuse?  An action plan with a deadline…)  

By starting this blog I now have a daily deadline to write something.  Progress towards my goal will only happen when I impose a deadline and hold myself accountable for meeting it. 

By the way, the framework of problem solving that I often use is the classic, “Why, How, What, Who, When.”

  • Why – Why do I want to do it?
  • How – How am I going to get it done?
  • What – What am I going to do?
  • Who – Who’s help do I need or Who will I impact?
  • When – When will I have it done.  

Without when, nothing else matters.  It’s all just noise and wishful thinking.  

Deadlines are worthless without accountability.  Change is a choice.  Growth is a choice.  Starting a new habit is a choice.  Stopping a bad habit or behavior is a choice.  The most critical component to these choices?  Establishing the when, and holding yourself accountable to meeting that deadline.  

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”  This might be one of the most brutally self-aware statements I’ve ever read.  Just remember, without a deadline, nothing else matters…    

What’s your deadline to do something different and achieve one of your goals? 

 

 

Failure to plan…

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

Colin Powell

This quote reminds me of the old axiom “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Preparation is such an important aspect of success that sometimes gets overlooked.  It’s so easy to wait until the last minute to get the work done but far too often that increases the chance of failure, or at least of sub-optimal results.  Good preparation is part of the hard work required to create success.  Being intentional in what we WANT to do allows us to execute against our plan with focused hard work AND creates the environment that allows us to learn when things don’t go as planned.  If you don’t have a plan, how will you know if you don’t achieve it?

 

Start. Stop. Continue.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Oswald Chambers

This might be the biggest challenge a leader faces. For that matter it might be the biggest challenge any person faces.  Saying “yes” to something means that you are saying “no” to something else.  

Do you have a crystal clear understanding of your priorities?  I’d like to think that I do, but honestly I struggle at times to say “no.” There is always more than can be done than should be done. For me it helps to break the question into two parts.  

  1. Should I do this?  Does it align with my priorities and goals?
  2. If yes, then can I do it?  If I say yes will I be able to complete it at an acceptable level without impacting my previous commitments?  

Sounds easy right.  If only that were the case.  

Less is more…

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

This is our society today isn’t it?  There is so much information available that we can only consume it in 140 character soundbites.  Or so much information available that we never want to make a decision because we can always find “just a bit more information” to ensure our decision is the right one.  What if we had less information, but more focus?  Is the old adage that “less is more” more appropriate now than ever before?  

I have been spending a ton of time lately reading everything I can get my hands on regarding focus and intentionality. I am actively seeking out secret tips and special tactics to be more productive with my time. I found myself reflecting back to the “good old days” when there wasn’t a constant barrage of information coming at us 24/7.  But then I picked up my copy of “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker (a gift from a very wise friend) and challenges back then were the same challenges we face today.  (By the way, that book was written 50 years ago)  How do you make the best and biggest impact with the time that you have?  As much as we’d (me especially) like to make it a modern problem, it isn’t.  I’d say it’s a human problem.  Why do you think that is?

Plan your work, work your plan…

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

I saw this posted on the wall at the gym today and had to take a picture.  What a great reminder.  Though I am pretty sure I need it on the mirror in my bathroom…

IMG_4221

Know your goals, break them into chunks, start today…  I personally use the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and the Productive App on the iPhone. Love them both.  There is just something satisfying about having a plan and working it.

 

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