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…

The magic recipe for success…

“It’s not the X’s and the O’s, but the Jimmys and the Joes that make the difference.”

Unknown

This quote has been used in college football for years.  Finding the original author proved to be impossible.  It has been attributed to Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson and many others.  Leaders who knew that no matter how brilliant their plays might look on the chalkboard, if they didn’t have the right talent on the field to execute it, the plays wouldn’t work.

I have been blessed in life to work for teams and players that could perform exceptionally well in almost any business.  Frankly, they could be successful at any plan, product or initiative.  Having an opportunity to serve alongside players like this is incredibly motivating and humbling.  They elevate the game of everyone around them.  But it is more than just pure energy and commitment.  The magic happens when the players fit the game plan AND the plan is the right one for the game being played.

Winning takes combining both great plays and great players.  You have to have the right talent in the right place.  You can’t ask a 6’4″, 220 pound wide receiver who runs a 4.35/40 to be your left tackle and expect to win.  Nor can you ask your 6’5″ 312 pound offensive tackle to go run a post route down the field and expect him to beat the coverage.

As Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great” (still one of my favorite books of all time).  “First who, then what.”  You have to have the right people.  The bottom line is that if you don’t have the right talent you can’t win.  Period.  The joy of working with exceptional people is almost indescribable.  Their will to win, their effort and intensity, their sheer energy that is exuded all the time.  With the right people you know that almost any game plan can work.  With the wrong people, no matter how great the plan, it is doomed to failure or mediocrity at very best.  Sustainable greatness comes from marrying the right talent to the right plan and then executing relentlessly.  

So here’s the question.  Do you have the magic mix of the right talent, in the right place, at the right time to win?

 

 

What are you working on? Really?

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

Henry David Thoreau

There are a finite number of hours in each our days.  Are we spending those hours doing the work that needs be done or are we spending them focused on becoming “successful.”  Success is a result, not a destination.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life by focusing on the end result and not the hard work that was right in front of me.  The good news is that you can fix that today, and everyday you go off course, by asking yourself this question:

“Am I working on what needs to be done, or am I working on what I want because of what I’ll get?”  Be honest with yourself.  If you are I have found that things will reframe themselves pretty quickly.

 

Where does worry belong?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬

One day at a time.  Focus on his kingdom and righteousness first. That is the message Jesus was sharing in this verse during his Sermon on the Mount.  I think it is worth reading the entire passage that leads into this verse to better understand the context of this specific verse.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34 

There is a lot in this passage to really chew on and meditate on.  I know that I for one can get lost in living for the future, planning for, and worrying about, things that aren’t even important in the broad scheme of things.  Through worry I can also focus on the wrong things that aren’t the areas or things I should be focused on.  

It is amazing that when you do what is written above, the worry ceases to be the idol that controls you.  You can put it in the back seat, which is certainly where it belongs and put what’s important in the front…

 

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?

Dwell with intent…

“I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become.”

Oprah Winfrey

Is the glass half full, or half empty?  Are others out to help you, or persecute you?  Are you helpful, or helpless?  Are you a conqueror or a victim?  We all know people who  choose to fit into the  “negative” side of these questions.  They are focused on dwelling on what happens to them instead of focusing their energy on how they can change, grow, learn and evolve.  If one is determined to be taken advantage of, they will be.  How we frame the way we see the world becomes our world.  I also know people who focus on the “positive” aspects and they are the ones that truly inspire and motivate me.  They too have become what they dwell on, and have incredible impact on the lives of others because of it.  

The same trap applies in leadership as it does in life.  Do we dwell on the things we can’t control and look right past the things that we can influence and impact? Does our leadership focus on serving others or being served?   Focusing on the wrong side of the equation can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, for better or for worse.  The good news is that we have a choice.  Who do you want to become?  What is it that you need to dwell on to make that happen?

Plan your work, work your plan…

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Stephen Covey

Why is this easier said than done?  I know all too often I look at my calendar to see what I have coming for the week instead of starting with my goals and then scheduling time to work on those things that are most important.  It is a case of reacting versus being proactive with my time.  

There aren’t enough hours in the day, so how you choose to invest them is critical.  What is the one thing that you want to get done this coming week to ensure that you can meet your goals?  Have you intentionally set aside the time to get it done?  The time will pass, how to spend the time is up to you.

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?

Comfortable being uncomfortable…

“Grit is not just a simple elbow-grease term for rugged persistence. It is an often invisible display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest and do it again and again.”

Sarah Lewis

I have tremendous respect for people with “grit.”  The dictionary defines it as “firmness of character or indomitable spirit.” In fact, entire books have been written about the subject.  (this is just one example, there are more but this is a particularly good one)

I respect those with “grit” not just because they have resilience and are able to grow through almost any circumstances with grace and aplomb, but because they are comfortable being uncomfortable.  I think that is why this quote resonates with me so much, because it is hitting on what is so important for growth and success in today’s world.  If you want to improve, you have to be comfortable getting uncomfortable regularly.  The world is changing so fast that becoming comfortable can be the first step towards complacency.  From complacency is a short and slippery slope to irrelevance…

The other part of this that I like so much is because it highlights the “invisible display” factor.  A person with “grit” doesn’t have this trait to show it off for others.  It is a real and internal attribute that helps them get through the tough stuff of life.  It frames how they approach the world.  The people that I have know who have a strong bent towards this trait don’t walk around showing or telling others how “gritty” they are.  They are simply comfortable being uncomfortable and have relentless drive to overcome any challenge or situation, without letting that impact WHO they are and what they value.  

Are you comfortable getting, and staying, uncomfortable in order to grow and learn?

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

This magic moment…

“Be present. I would encourage you with all my heart just to be present. Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of moments. So, don’t miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future.”

Jessica Lange

Full disclosure.  I really struggle with being able to follow the wisdom provided in this quote.  I don’t disagree with it at all, I just have a harding time actually following it.  As a person that is deeply wired to be goal driven and future oriented I miss being in the current moment far too often.  Being present is hard.  It is easier to live in the future or get lost while revisiting the past. 

20 years ago someone told me that if I “spent all my effort focused on the goal I would miss out on the learning and joy that comes from the journey itself.”  This is so very true, and yet still so hard to do.  But to be present is where the future is created.  The moments we are in today are creating the future we want to have.  The moments can be magic…

 

The power of taking action…

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough, we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

leonardo-vitruvian-man-bI have just finished a fascinating book titled “The Leading Brain” which delves into how our brain works and the reason why we make the decisions we do.  Understanding the neuroscience behind our behavior as humans and particularly as leaders is really really interesting and has given me much greater insight to my own behaviors and how to change them for the better.  

One of the things I learned was how precisely how powerful small habits can be and the science behind why breaking the big things down into reasonable and attainable actions creates long term and sustainable success.  I thought I used to do this fairly well but now  knowing the importance of “doing” as this quote from Leonardo points out, I recognize how critical these actions are to rewire your brain.  By breaking things down, starting with small actions, creating wins that give you brain the dopamine boost it craves you literally rewire your neural paths and reinforce the way you want your brain to work.  Incredible!  (yes, I recognize that I am a geek for this stuff…)

Find your big thing, break it down, start with an action that matters.  Today…

A gift for yourself…

“Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner peace.”

Nikki Rowe

I find that it is harder and harder to find a place of quiet and peace in today’s world.  We are digitally connected almost 100% of the time.  To achieve real quiet outside of the chaos requires making a conscious decision to give yourself the gift of solitude and peace. For me it means quiet time with a good book or perhaps a long bike ride or a run.  

I am reminded of the verse in Matthew that frames what I look for when taking some time of solitude: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

How often do you actively seek to give yourself this gift?

The sun always rises…

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”

Aristotle Onassis

IMG_4363

Sunrise at Kill Devil Hills, NC

It is so easy to focus on the current situation, our current pains and challenges.  During our times of greatest challenge and strife it always seems like there is no end in sight.  That we are doomed to stay in the darkness, that the sun will never rise.  

 

Sometimes it feels easier to stay there in the dark. To climb out towards the light is just too much work and effort.  But that isn’t why we were created.  That isn’t how we grow and learn and become better selves.  We are surrendering our ability to become who we were born to be when we lose focus on the light. The darkest moments form us, they create in us the will, the desire, the ability to rise above and become a new and better person.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18 ESV

No matter how dark the night the sun always rises.  Where do you turn your focus during the dark moments?  How do you refresh and refocus yourself?

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?

 

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?

Our choices define us…

“This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.”

Omar Bradley

I loved this quote this morning.  It puts a very fine point on the importance of daily choices, of making decisions that matter to you, your life, your goals, your priorities.  We are all going to die.  Yes, that is harsh to think about, but it is the truth.  We all have one life to live.  One life to make a difference and have an impact on this world and the lives of others.  I have long believed that there are two types of people in this world.  Those that happen to the world and those that the world happens to…

This quote resonates for me because it speaks to how much we as humans lets our circumstances define us, to define our decisions on action, as opposed to taking an active step in the outcome we want to create.  I’ve recently read and put into practice a phenomenal book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy on this topic.  The books title is “Living Forward” and if you haven’t read it then I highly recommend it.  The life we live is either accidental or intentional, either way it is your choice…

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