Impact = The relentless pursuit of simplicity…

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

John Maeda

There are so many ways to interpret this quote, so many thoughts that come to mind as to how it can be applied to almost every aspect of life. As I meditate on what it means for me this morning I can see a sheet a paper with two columns on the page.

The top of the page is a blank with one word, “Purpose?” and at the bottom there is space to write with “Action Today?”

The header for the left column is “Remove Friction” and the right is “Add Value!”

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is what I can see so vividly in my mind.

Simple. Clean. Underwhelming at first glance, yet powerful when applied and acted upon.

So much of our lives are spent adding more “stuff” when what we should really be doing is stripping away everything that adds friction and gets in the way of achieving our purpose.

To maximize impact, be relentless in your search to find ways to remove friction and add value…

Relentlessly focused…

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

Tony Robbins

What are the goals you have set for your life? Do you have them written down? Have you created an action plan with specific steps you are taking to make sure achievement isn’t accidental but is purposeful and intentional?

Or are your goals more like your dreams, somewhat half-remembered when you wake up in the morning and completely forgotten when you go to bed each night? Perhaps then your goals are more like the nightmares waking you in the middle of the night in a panic because you suddenly realize the year is half gone and you haven’t made any progress…

Life isn’t accidental. We were all put here for a purpose, and then given the opportunity to choose how we spend our time. If we choose to live in a dream like state, merely existing our way through our days, then we can have no regrets and blame no one else if we fail to become all that we are possible of being. It is a choice that we make each and every day when we decide if we are going to use our time purposefully or merely let it slip through our fingers.

As I reflect on the quote above I am reminded of the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded in the book of Proverbs. Specifically these words: ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. ‘ Proverbs 4:25-26

Where is your gaze fixed today? Do you have a plan and are you focused on achieving it? Are you striving to master some skill or talent in order to reach or goals? Are you relentlessly focused?

The list…

“Today is a brand-new day. A fresh start. Replace any negativity with positivity. Think happy thoughts. Exercise. Drink lots of water. Fill your body with fuel. Healthy is happy. Inspire yourself. Create. Laugh. Play. Love. Learn. Give someone a compliment. Make a new friend. Do a random act of kindness. It creates good karma. Take chances and finally start living life to its fullest. But no matter what’s thrown at you today, smile and remember, tomorrow’s always a fresh new start.”

Author Unknown

Start by looking at this list not as an exhaustive checklist of things to do, but as guidance on how life should be lived. Think of how different life would be if you just did these things every day. How different would it be one year from now? Why wait? Start today…

Six steps to change your life…

“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Stop everything!

Set aside 15 minutes and do this exercise. You’ll need a pad and paper. You will need your phone. You will need to hold yourself accountable.

Step 1: Quickly now. Think of the one thing that motivates you to give your best effort no matter what. Do you have it? Write it down. Stare at it. Burn it into your mind.

What you write down should be something that motivates you to ALWAYS do well and right, no matter what. Where you will ALWAYS go the second mile, no matter what. The one thing where the effort, while it may be difficult and challenging, is something that you will NEVER give less than your best.

Step 2: Take 2 minutes (yes, set a timer!) and write down all the reasons WHY what you wrote down for step #1 is important to you.

Step 3: Take 2 minutes and write all the things that you WANT to do in life which are aligned with your motivations and your why.

Step 4: Circle the one that you MUST accomplish in the next 12 months. The one you pick, if you don’t do it, will create disappointment and regret when you look at this list exactly one year from today.

Step 5: Take out your phone. Take a picture of what you have written down. Set up a free account at Follow Up Then and then email that picture to this email address: monthly@followupthen.com. You will now receive a reminder of this list every month in your email. You can’t escape from what you said that you want to do.

Step 6: Do it. You have a year. Figure it out. If there are obstacles then you will have to find a way to go over, under around or through. The clock is ticking. Make it happen.

Bring the heat!

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

Roald Dahl

How many things in life do we do with little or no energy? Why do we do them at all? I can think of many things that are just general “administrative” tasks that need to be performed as part of the whirlwind of life. Things that just have to get done. Period. End of story.

The challenge is how do we guard against an attitude of “just getting it done” and not let that creep into how we approach the rest of our lives? How do we ensure that “white hot and passionate” is how we are living as a rule instead of as an exception?

I suggest that we should be intentional and reflective on how we approach the removal of things that we aren’t fully passionate about. Make a list of how you are going to spend your time today. Mark the things that you are energized to do. Mark the things that are just ho-hum.

Ask yourself this question, “does this thing, the ho-hum just get through it thing, really NEED to be done? Can I skip it?” If the answer is yes then kill it. Why is it even on your list in the first place?

If the answer is no, then take great care not to let that attitude and perspective creep into the things that you are passionate about. Rearrange your schedule, prioritize the energizing work, use your best hours of the day on the things that excite you. Above all else, guard your time that is to be spent on things that ignite your soul with the same passion that you protect your family and those that you love. If you don’t, then you are slowly, but surely, putting out your own fire…

Focus on the right things…

“Instead of focusing on the circumstances that you cannot change – focus strongly and powerfully on the circumstances that you can.”

Joy Page

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?

The trees are blooming…

“Over the years, I’ve learned that if you can just hang in there and, regardless of what’s presented to you, take it as a challenge and try to bring in something fresh, then it works.”

Adam West

The thing that stands out the most to me from this quote are the first three words. “Over the years.” What a great reminder to us all that the time will pass by. Just yesterday morning I was watching a news report on the coronavirus and the reporter commented that the cherry blossom trees were starting to bloom in Washington DC.

Guess what? They are going to bloom again next year, and the year after that, and so on. All too often we have a perspective that can only see what is right in front of us. And yes, it might be tough, it might be challenging, it might be really painful and hard. But the years are going to pass. And if you focus on finding the silver lining, they will be far better than you have expected on the darkest day.

Do your part…

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Desmond Tutu

It is easy to get overwhelmed with all that is going on around us; especially right now. Today as I write this we are in the midst of unprecedented world events due to the spread of the Coronavirus. But that doesn’t change the fact that we also have unprecedented opportunities to do more good, even if it is in a different way than we might have done just a few weeks ago.

Today, the little bit of good that we can each do is to follow the instructions from the government regarding “social distancing” and working from home. Someone shared the picture below with me yesterday and it is the best visualization I have yet seen to describe the impact of “social distancing.”

Source Unknown

So each of us can do our own tiny bit of good, where we are, and that can overwhelm that which threatens to overwhelm the world…

How do you define success?

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Albert Einstein

Success is a result of a intentional choices or actions. Striving to be of value is how you choose to show up. If your efforts aren’t a success, but you love how you showed up, isn’t that just success by a different name?

Go sailing…

“It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.”

Jim Rohn

The beauty of sailing is that you must constantly adjust and tweak your course and your trim in order to arrive at your desired destination. There isn’t one set way to get there, every day is different and dynamic based on the current, wind speed, wind direction and conditions of the sea.

Hmm, this sounds a lot like life doesn’t it? The key is your ability to adjust to changing conditions so that you still arrive at the right location…

Discretionary effort…

“Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.”

Peter Drucker

This is such a simple and yet such a powerful statement. We as leaders must understand that our role isn’t just to manage the outputs of others but it is instead to lead and influence in a way that those we serve give voluntarily of their time and energy. We must focus on engaging with our team so that they are willing to volunteer their discretionary effort. I define this as the effort of work that goes above and beyond what is required by the job.

Think about the things that you do as a volunteer whether it is in your church, your community, etc. You do so willingly, giving from the margin of your life in order to make a difference for and with someone else.

We as leaders should look at everyone that we engage with as a volunteer and seek to enlist the energy that comes when a person gives freely of themselves in order to impact the lives of others. To do this we must serve. We must move from simply directing effort and outputs and instead harness the exponential energy that is released when people passionately and purposefully engage in their work. That is the secret sauce…

To see, let the mud settle…

“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”

Bil Keane

I love the analogy presented in this quote. When water is stirred up the silt and mud serve to prevent us from seeing what is right there in front of us. When we give ourselves the time and space to think and reflect the silt and mud settles and we can truly see.

The world today enables a life where we live in a constant state of distraction and disquiet. The world is always “pinging” us with some type of urgent call for our attention. This makes it incredibly hard to focus and really think about the most important things. All of this stuff is the “mud” in life that prevents us from seeing what is right there in front of us.

To be able to “see” fully and completely one must intentionally create the time and space that allows the mud to settle. For me that is time spent in prayer and meditation. This brings to mind a verse that I have been studying and ruminating on quite a bit this year. ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ‘ Romans 12:2

Doing this well won’t happen by accident. It takes intentional effort and the building of new habits. But it is worth it. When you can see clearly the beauty of life is revealed…

Focus!

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”

Zig Ziglar

Finishing out my 2020 3-words exercise is the word “Focus.” Knowing what to do, and how to do it, and having the ability to do it is meaningless if you can’t actually get it done. In order to get it done you have to be very judicious in the application of the word “no.”

I chose “focus” because that has a much more positive connotation than the word “no.” If I am going to start each and every day reviewing my 3-words and using those words as key anchors for the day I want the word to be positive, not negative. Knowing what to focus on is the key to being able to say “no” when appropriate and with extreme prejudice.

So my three words for 2020 are “Discernment,” “Authenticity,” and “Focus.” Landing on these three words took a great deal of thought and prayer and I am really excited to seeing how they will impact my life throughout the year. Beginning each day with these words will help me apply the meaning of this verse, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ‘ Romans 12:2

Don’t miss out on the best days…

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.”

Anne Frank

I can’t imagine thinking of life differently than it is expressed in this quote. Even during challenges and hard times the best is yet to come. It isn’t always the big or the grand things, it is the ability to appreciate the smallest elements of life that perhaps one never had time for before because you were too busy being busy…

It is the taste of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee during a few moments of silence and prayer on a cold winter morning. The laughter of the family around the dinner table at the end of a long day. A good nights of sleep and a morning without demands on your time. It is doing work that matters and helps people alongside people you trust and respect. It is a million little moments that happen every single day.

Perhaps the best days occur when you take the time to appreciate life, instead of simply existing. Every day can be one of those days, if you choose appreciation, gratitude and joyfulness. What a loss it would be if you had one of the best days, and missed it completely…

Change = What/Why/How/Do

“Change before you have to.”

Jack Welch

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

Build a winning tomorrow…

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

How easy it is to get lost fighting the battles from our past days. We can get so wrapped up in what did, or didn’t, happen in our lives. I know that I will find myself replaying a conversation in my mind and thinking of better responses or rethinking my actions in response to a certain situation.

I believe this can be a valuable, and extremely beneficial habit to form. But it has to be done with an eye clearly on the future and how one needs to grow and evolve towards building a better self. Taking the time to reflect and learn is a powerful way to grow forward into the next day.

How do you ensure that you don’t get lost in yesterday, forgetting that the time has passed and it doesn’t define your present day or the tomorrow that is yet to come? I find that taking 15 minutes at the end of each day to answer the following questions in a daily journal helps me process the day, and focus on creating wins.

  • What happened in the past day?
  • What were my biggest wins?
  • What lessons did I learn?
  • What am I thankful for right now?
  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What did I read or hear?
  • What stood out from what I read or heard?
  • What do I need to do next to move forward on my goals?

I know these are a lot of questions to run through, and I fully admit that I don’t get to do this every single day. However when I skip a day I find the next morning to be a little less focused, a little less intentionally crafted.

Over the years I have played with the order of these questions, and with different questions, and on occasion I will replace one with a different inquiry to address a specific challenge or need in my life. For example, if I am taking time off with the family I will modify “What were my biggest wins” into “What were my biggest wins as a husband, as a father?” The point isn’t to get stuck on the questions themselves but instead to focus on learning from the day and very specifically shaping what you need to do to create wins tomorrow.

As a side note I do believe the order of the questions is very important. That’s why I end with “what did I learn” and “what do I need to do” questions. Those reset my head and help me focus on tomorrow.

To ensure that I follow through on my goals of daily reflection I use the journalling app “Day One.” I love that I can capture my thoughts in a simple to use mechanism that is always with me. I have used a paper journal to do this in the past but I found that it was too easy to forget or that it allowed me to create an excuse to not do the practice. There are tons of digital journals out there, so do whatever works for you. The key is to find a method that enables you to process today with a relentless focus on building a better future.

Be ready and mindful that today will be a ‘yesterday’ very very soon. Take the time at the end of the day to reflect and intentionally build a winning tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did.

Today is the foundation of tomorrow…

“Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.”

Robert Kiyosaki

Maybe tomorrow will be the right time to start that project, but not today, I’m too busy…

Next week will be a better time to tackle that tough conversation head on, but not today, I just don’t have the energy to deal with it…

I’ll start reading that book on breaking bad habits next month, but not right now, there is just too much going on and I don’t have time…

I’ll start spending more time with my family when I get through this busy season at work, but I can’t right now, they’ll understand that I am doing this for them anyway…

It is amazing how many excuses we can create to put off or delay work that will make the biggest difference in our lives. In our “instant gratification” society it seems that all that matters is living in the moment. The easy things we embrace, but the hard things we put off or ignore. But if we want to create a tomorrow that we will be able to live in fully and completely, we have to do the work today.

Yesterday can’t be changed, fixed or undone. Tomorrow is just a dream. Today is the only day that matters if you want to make your visions come true. Live it fully and completely and do the work that will be the foundation for your future.

Check the compass!

“Direction is more important than speed. We are so busy looking at our speedometers that we forget the milestone.”

Unknown

Where are you going?

Where do you want to be one year from today? What if instead of one year, it took two years? Would that devalue the direction you are headed? Would an inability to achieve some goal within your desired timeframe diminish the goal or make it null?

If the goal is right, then not achieving it as fast as possible, in some personally assigned timeframe, shouldn’t impact the direction itself.

There’s no question that we live in the age of agility and speed. Everything is happening faster and faster and we need to be able to act and react with temerity.

But if we focus on speed over direction we are surrendering ourselves to live a life that is reactive instead of one that is filled with purpose and clear direction.

One should spend as much time looking at your life’s compass as you do the speedometer. In general it isn’t nearly as much fun to look at a compass as a speedometer, because if you are headed in the right direction the indicators on a compass don’t change whereas the speedometer symbolizes so much action and energy.

But what good does it do if you get to the wrong place as fast as possible?

Success vs. Significance

“What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”

Jane Goodall

What is the legacy you want to leave from your life here on this earth? I find that this is such a broad question that it can be hard to wrap my head around what it truly means. Perhaps it helps to rephrase today’s quote in a more specific and time sensitive fashion.

For whom do you want to make a difference today and what kind of difference do you want to make?

Everyday we have an opportunity, no, we have an obligation to answer the question about what kind of difference we want to make with our lives. We weren’t born to simply live, accumulate things, and worry about how and to whom the fruits of our labors will be redistributed to when we pass away. We were born to make a difference in the lives of others.

That can mean one person, or it can mean thousands of people through the course of your life. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have to decide to make a difference; today. If you answer this question today, and every day, then you can never stray far from living a life of meaning and impact.

When you switch your focus from creating a life based on earthly success measures, and instead focus on creating a life of significance that is what will build a life of meaning. Your legacy becomes not the goal but is instead the result of thousands of daily decisions made for others, not for yourself.

Unlock the power of discipline…

“Discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want to get.”

Andy Andrews

What is it that you want to accomplish? What is a result that you deeply desire? Exactly how much do you want it? Are you willing to do the work to achieve it? More importantly, are you willing to do the work after the excitement fades? When the effort is no longer fun and has become pure drudgery and sticking to it is really hard to do? That’s when real discipline comes in to play. Talk is cheap, action is cheap too, at least for the first few days. Then the real work starts.

Anyone can motivate themselves to take the first step in a journey. Even the first hundred steps might not be that hard. But what about the steps after that? What if you don’t know exactly how long the journey is going to take?

Discipline means sticking to your plan, doing the work, focusing on getting the next step in the journey right, not worrying about whether there are 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 more steps remaining. Doing the right work, the right way, right now, is all that matters. If you can do this, for the things that are truly important, you have discipline. If you can’t, then you can develop this powerful trait, by just doing it, day in, day out, one day at a time.

What is important enough to you to put forth this kind of effort, with no guarantee of success? Answer this question and you will uncover what it takes to unlock the power of discipline.

It’s a “my pleasure” world…

“The #1 one job of every company is to make their customer’s life easier.”

Verne Harnish

How many companies forget this simple axiom? Heck, how many companies don’t even make doing this a part of their intentional customer experience in any way?

The companies that I am a raving fan of are the companies that are easy to do business with and, in so doing, make my life easier. I might like their products or services, but I love how they serve me. The experience of purchasing or using their services is just as important as the product itself, sometimes more.

In today’s world it often means that the companies who get it right have highly intentional digital experiences that are intently focused on the customer experience and optimizing that experience for simplicity and ease of doing business.

For example, I love the restaurant chain Chick Fil A. They always have incredible customer service and a great product that is consistent and high quality. Over the past couple of years they have taken their intentional customer experience design up a few notches by developing and deploying a highly effective and easy to use digital app for their restaurants. Not only can I find nearby locations when I am traveling, review their menu, place a mobile order, etc. (all basics of doing business in the digital age) but the app remembers my previous orders and allows me to simply and quickly place a favorite custom order without having to going through all the hassle of making the same choices every time I place an order. They solved for my problem, not theirs, and in so doing make my life a little easier when it comes time to get my favorite meal for lunch. With just one or two taps on my screen I can place the order, let the location I am visiting know I am coming and they will have it ready for me when I get there. I didn’t even know that I needed this functionality and now I measure other organizations against the standard that Chick Fil A has set for me!

This sounds so simple right? Why is it a big deal? Because Chick Fil A is focused on my experience, my needs, my problems or challenges as a customer. They have solved for those things with an intentional focus on making my experience with them simple and easy. As a customer I always feel like I am Chick Fil A’s #1 priority and that carries through in how they design their digital experiences. Oh, and guess what? I spend more money with them than I might otherwise because they have made it so easy to do business with them on my terms.

Who are your favorite companies that have a maniacal focus on making your life easier? How are you taking those lessons and applying to the customers you serve in your life?

Attention stealers…

 “One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention.”

Jim Rohn

I fully admit that I love technology, gadgets and gizmos. I always have, I am a bit of a geek in this way. iPhone = Check – iWatch = check – iPad = check

In today’s world our technology can really be a distraction when trying to have a conversation with someone. The constant buzzes, beeps, dings and notifications serve to pull your attention away from whomever it is that you are talking with at any given time. It is hard to be fully focused and present when your attention is constantly being pulled in another direction.

Recently I started turning off all notifications on my watch and phone when sitting down with anyone because I realized the message I was unintentionally sending them was that I was too busy or interested in other things when I would get an alert and look at my phone or watch. It’s hard to do at first but then it becomes very liberating. It is still a work in progress for me, but something I am committed to improving each and every day.

What is getting in the way of your giving your full attention to someone? How do you take steps to change it so that when you are present you are fully present and engaged?

To lead yourself change your mind…

“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?

Contented or is there something more?

“Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do.”

Phillips Brooks

What were you meant and made to do? Is it more than you are doing now? Where have you become contented in life and in your thoughts and actions?

This is heady stuff for early in the morning but it definitely stopped me in my tracks as I read this quote and reflected on the questions above. I believe there can be great danger in discontentment if it is all about yourself and what you want to do. But if you frame these questions from the perspective of what God meant and made you to do, perhaps it might change your answers.

What did God mean and make me to do? Is it more than I am doing now? Am I fulfilling all that He created me to be and accomplish?

Do the good work today…

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.”

Elbert Hubbard

“I don’t have time to do it right today, but I will tomorrow, I swear!” That certainly rings false doesn’t it? If we don’t have time to do the job right today, then when will we ever have time to do it right? Good work only has one definition. If we want to achieve our goals and do good work tomorrow, we have to focus on what we control today and deliver the goods.

Individuals aligned & focused = necessary ingredient for success

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Vince Lombardi

Working together with a team towards a common and shared purpose is so powerful. When there is a common purpose, a shared goal that has 100% commitment, then there is no room for hidden agendas, no place for politics, no backstabbing or power struggles.

When the goals of the individual are more important than those of the group that is when the bad stuff happens and dissension builds in the team. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?

First, make sure you aren’t part of the problem. Are you spending any effort that detracts from the common mission and purpose? Are you more interested in being right, than in doing what is right?

Second, is there a common purpose? A clearly defined objective that everyone understands and believes in?

Third, Does everyone know what is expected of them? Are roles clearly defined with the key success metrics and targets aligned to the achievement of the goal?

Fourth, Is the team reviewing successes and CANDIDLY talking about failures or setbacks in a non-personal and non-threatening manner with the focus on the mission, not the person.

As Vince said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – That is what makes a team work…”

Do something!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Sitting around waiting for things to happen just sucks. I am the world’s worst at being patient because sometimes patience just feels too much like inaction. I’ve long lived by the tule that it is better to do something, even if it is wrong, than to do nothing at all.

When you are doing something, anything, then you don’t have time to be afraid and worry about all the “what ifs.” Sometimes the action can be physical, sometimes it can be sitting down to reflect and plan the work. Doing something is the key. There is no time or space for sitting idly by in life. If you do, then you will reap what you sow which is nothing…

Interested vs. Interesting…

“A major stimulant to creative thinking is focused questions. There is something about a well-worded question that often penetrates to the heart of the matter and triggers new ideas and insights.”

Brian Tracy

I once heard Jim Collins speak and he was relaying a lesson taught to him by Peter Drucker. The essence of the lesson was that if one wanted to become truly impactful as a leader they must change their focus and truly be more “interested than interesting.” The key here was that when one is focused on being interesting they are about themselves and what they want to say and do. When they are interested they are focused on the other person and how they can help them.

The next part of the lesson was on how to accomplish being “interested vs. interesting.”  If one wants to convey interest, then one must change the questions to statements ratio. Ask three, four, five times or more questions for every statement one makes. That conveys focus on the situation and the other person, not that you are only interested in being heard…

It has been at least 10 years since I first heard this and it has really stuck with me over the years. It is an area that I continually have to remind myself to work on and really focus on enhancing my questions to statements ratio. (I wrote a little bit about this (at least tangentially) back in August in this post.)

Take stock of your leadership words today. Are you asking more questions or making more statements? Are you focused on being interested or on being interesting? One side is about others, the other side is all about you…

Pursue excellence today…

“Excellence must be pursued, it must be wooed with all of one’s might and every bit of effort that we have each day there’s a new encounter, each week is a new challenge.”

Vince Lombardi

Every morning is a new opportunity to get back up, to attack the world, to strive for excellence with all one’s might and effort. That’s what it takes to win. That’s what it takes to go beyond where we are today and get to where we want to be.

Approaching each day as a new challenge, a new opportunity to strive for excellence allows one to leave whatever happened yesterday, whether it was a success or not, in the past. Excellence is ahead of us and achieving it depends on what we do right now.

What are you going to do today to advance towards excellence? This is not a list of ALL the things you feel you need to do. What is the one thing that you can do differently and WILL DO today?

When to start? TODAY!

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.  Let us begin.”

Mother Teresa

How often do we spend our lives living in the past by lamenting what didn’t happen or trying to hold on to our previous accomplishments? Conversely, how much time do we spend living and thinking about the future and what we want or desire? I will admit that I am very guilty of the latter scenario, spending a lot of time and energy on what I think or want to happen. It is a constant battle to bring focus to what I need to do RIGHT NOW and put that same energy to use today.

Our supply of energy and time is finite. How we choose to invest it TODAY will create the future we want but only if we invest wisely. You have to start now. What is the very simple, finite, and clear thing you can start today that would impact the lives of others or yourself? Got it? Do it…

We choose our circumstances…

“We are not creatures of circumstance; we are creators of circumstance.”

Benjamin Disraeli

What are the choices that you will make today that will impact your circumstances tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Are you willing to decide or do you surrender that decision and let the world or others decide for you? Perhaps more importantly, when you see the need for change, the need to take action, do you make that decision with specific intent or do you sit idly by and let it pass, thinking perhaps that “I’ll deal with that later.”

We all have the opportunity to change and grow but to do so means that we have to be responsible and accountable for making the necessary decisions. Growth is a choice, not a requirement. Our circumstances reflect those choices. If you don’t like the circumstances you find yourself in, make different choices…

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