Criticize me; please!

“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.”

Winston Churchill

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…

Pause, Reflect, Learn…

“As we learn we always change, and so our perception.  This changed perception then becomes a new teacher inside each of us.”

Hyemeyohsts Storm

The ending a calendar year is always a time of great reflection and perspective seeking for me. I really enjoy taking the time to think back over the events and happenings of the past year. I typically think through and reflect on the answers to these questions:

  • What has has happened this year? What are the joys and disappointments?
  • What are the things that I have learned, and where do I still need to do more learning?
  • What are the best books I have read and what books did I leave unread that I want to add to my list for the next year?
  • What relationships did I grow and improve and what relationships do I need to invest in?
  • Who are the people that entered and exited my life and what did I learn from these relationships?
  • How have I grown as a Christian, Father, Husband and Leader? Where do I need to further grow and develop?
  • What are the most important events from the past year and how have I grown and learned from these?
  • What habits have I grown and cultivated that I must continue? What habits are holding me back?
  • Based on my answers to the above questions what should I Start, Stop or Continue?

This is just a general approximation of the questions that I reflect on as the year draws to a close. There are others that will come to mind as I work through the answers. I have found that in order to plan the year ahead I must do the hard work of answering critical questions so that I can learn and grow. It is amazing what you can learn when you take the time to pause and reflect with honesty and candor with oneself.

This morning as I was reading and meditating on a devotional I was reflecting on this verse and found it to be a great one to use as a lens for my “year in review” exercise.

‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28

Everything that happens to us happens for us, if we choose to allow ourselves to learn and grow from it. Making that choice is what gives each of us the opportunity to change our perceptions and better our lives.

Take the time to pause, reflect and learn from the past year before madly dashing into the new year that is ahead. There are valuable lessons to be learned if you give yourself the time to do so.

Learn or die…

“You’re always learning.  The problem is, sometimes you stop and think you understand the world.  This is not correct.  The world is always moving.  You never reach the point you can stop making an effort.”

Paulo Coelho

The minute that you think you have arrived in life, it is over. There are no end to the opportunities to grow and learn. Personally I want to be reading and learning until the day that I pass from this earth. It is the only way that I can continue to contribute to others. Learning is a gift both for yourself and to others when you use that knowledge to impact their lives.

Perhaps another way to think about this is that death occurs when you stop learning. Your body might be living, but without constant growth, your mind isn’t. That is death…

Worth the risk…

“If you’re not willing to risk, you cannot grow. If you cannot grow, you cannot be your best. If you cannot be your best, you cannot be happy. If you cannot be happy, what else is there?”

Les Brown

What are you willing to risk for growth? What are you willing to risk in order to become your very best? What are you willing to risk for happiness?

Doesn’t it seem like happiness should be worth every risk? You just just have to decide to take the risk. If you don’t are you choosing not to be happy?

Something new…

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Abigail Adams

What are you planning to learn today? What are the opportunities ahead of you to gain new knowledge? Do you have a plan? If not, then just use two simple questions to bring focus to your learning.

First, begin your day with this question. “What do I want to learn today?”

Second, At the conclusion of the day ask yourself the follow up, “what did I learn today?”

I use a digital journal to keep up with these questions but use whatever method works for you. Just be sure you are learning!

Without intentional focus on learning, growth is accidental. That’s no way to live. That is just survival and existence. There is so much more to life than just existing. Learn something new!

Tear it down…

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Bruce Lee

One doesn’t become stronger without first becoming weaker. One can’t become more without first becoming less.

At first glance this goes against our modern culture. We want life to be instagram perfect and easy. Society emphasizes the value not of the struggle, but of the reward. But the “rewards” are earned through the difficult times.

For example, to improve the fitness in your body you must first weaken it. If you lift weights you intentionally stress and tear down the muscles, that is what allows them to grow and become stronger and more powerful. If you don’t endure the stress and difficult work, the muscles will atrophy and diminish in power. The difficulty is NECESSARY for growth.

The same thing applies to life. What are the difficulties in your life right now that are strengthening you? What are the challenges that are tearing you down so that you can grow back stronger and more powerful?

One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is: ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ‘ Philippians 4:13

I used the think of this as a powerful reminder that when the times get tough I can lean on God for strength and perseverance. That is still true but now I realize that it has a larger meaning. God can be the “strength coach” of my life, pushing me into places I didn’t know I needed or wanted to go. Tearing me down, so that I can be built back up as a better and more whole self.

Embrace the difficulties and recognize that they can be some of the very best things that will ever happen FOR YOU. Because it is through the tearing down that the growth occurs…

Is this useful?

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Often it is easy to justify your anger and make up excuses that it is reasonable to “get something off your chest” or okay to “let your passion show through” but I can’t think of one time when I have said or done something in a moment of anger that I didn’t regret upon further thought or reflection.

Anger is a completely normal emotion and a very acceptable response to many situations. However it isn’t always helpful. The single best question I have ever been taught to think about during an emotional response is; “is this useful?”

When angered take a moment to pause and ask yourself “is this anger useful” and then make a deliberate and intentional decision to act, if necessary.

What can you learn today?

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” 

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

How different would our relationships be if we started every conversation, every interaction, every engagement with the simple question of; “what can I learn from this person?” Not as a one-time thing, but every time. Would this help one switch from being focused on self to one that is more focused on others? What would the impact be to the people that you are communicating and engaging with? How might you be perceived?

How many people will you interact with today? How many learning opportunities will you have? What will you learn today?

Can vs. Should…

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

Stephen R. Covey

How do you ensure that you help others see the opportunities in themselves they might not recognize? How can you apply this same sentiment to yourself?

It is interesting to think through the different meaning expressed by “can be” and “should be.” “Can be” conveys to me aspirational or opportunistic growth while “should be” conveys an awareness of better choices that haven’t been made by the person. I “should” do something has a very different meaning than I “can” do something.

To turn either perspective into reality you must first see the opportunity, and then take clear and decisive actions. Helping others see their own possibilities requires intentionality on your part. Whom do you want to help grow? How are you going to treat them differently starting today?

Critical help…

“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.”

Roy T. Bennett

Human natures seems to have a strong predisposition towards talking about, and criticizing, others. I know that I am certainly guilty of this. I wonder what would happen if we flipped the paradigm on its head and instead spent the time and energy on growing ourselves with the intent to help others? How powerful would it be if instead of asking ‘what’s wrong with them’ or ‘why can’t they do a better job at this or that?’ we instead asked the question, ‘how can I grow and develop myself with a goal to help them?’ Or, even more simply, ‘how can I help and serve them?’

If instead of criticizing someone today, challenge yourself to find a way to help them grow. Ask how can you make a difference and not just be a someone that is good at finding fault with others.

If you aren’t growing you are dying on the vine…

“The greats never stop learning. Instinct and talent without technique just makes you reckless, like a teenager driving a powerful, high-performance vehicle. Instinct is raw clay that can be shaped into a masterpiece, if you develop skills that match your talent. That can only come from learning everything there is to know about what you do.” 

Tim S. Grover

Both life and leadership are a journey of constant and continuous learning. I believe (and most sincerely hope) that I am a far better leader today than I was five years ago and yet I know that I am nowhere near where I want and need to be five or ten years from now. It has nothing to do with role or title but everything to do with impact and effectiveness. The more I learn the more that I realize how much more I need to learn and how much opportunity I have to grow and improve.

I had a conversation with a leader that I greatly respect last night on the impact and power of mindfulness and focus, especially in today’s incredibly distracted age. The time that can, and is, wasted on non-value added activity is so powerful if it can be harnessed for intentional learning and thinking. I have so much to learn about this both from a skill and knowledge perspective and have been receiving multiple nudges in this direction over the past several months.

For example, I just finished reading (through a book club I belong to) an excellent book titled “Digital Minimalism” about the power of focus in a very noisy world and I am I am in the process of reading another book (that was referenced in “Digital Minimalism”) titled (Lead Yourself First) that is really pushing me outside of my comfort zone and making me realize the power of, and need for, quiet and solitude to clarify one’s thinking.

I bring both of these up not to recommend or push others down this path but simply as an example of my own journey and realizing how much work I need to continue to do on myself as a Christian, leader, husband and father. Life is a journey. You are either growing, or you are dying on the vine…

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?

Don’t be the egg that doesn’t hatch…

“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

I’ve always been amazed by the fact that when a baby bird is breaking free from their egg that the struggle they are going through is critical to their growth and survival. In fact, if you help them they are likely to die because they haven’t been strengthened through the effort.

We are like that too right? We need the struggle and effort to be prepared for the world ahead. We need the crucible of change, hard effort, and struggle to grow. Otherwise we just stay the same and stagnate. I would argue that stagnation is the same as the egg that goes bad…

Always a student, never a master…

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Conrad Hall

There is always more to learn. Sometimes the lesson taught might be the same, but the learnings are far far different. The master is one who has no more to learn. No more to grow, no more to see. To claim mastery is to give up humility. Never a master, forever a student.

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10

To seek mastery above all else requires the surrender of humility. Not a worthy exchange…

Time to start the new year!

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

Anne Frank

I love this quote when thinking about the new year. Too often we get mired in where we have been, and forget about where we are going and, more importantly, who we are going to spend time with.

I am very goal driven so it is easy for me to get locked into a regimen of objectives and tasks and forget to focus on the people I am blessed to have in my life. One of my goals for 2019 is to capture the special moments each week involving the people I love and journal about them so I can capture those moments and not lose them in a sea of forgotten memories. Who knows, maybe some of those moments will be the best days of my life!

I hope you have a blessed and Happy New Year!

Hard work fuels happiness…

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.”

Andy Rooney

I had the opportunity to go hiking today which is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend time outdoors.  It was a tough hike, very wet, slippery, and steep.  The hike to our particular destination was 3.5 miles, which doesn’t sound that far except that it was almost all downhill on very muddy and rocky terrain.  I probably spent 90% of my time looking down at the ground picking out safe places to put my feet so I wouldn’t trip and fall.  At the end of the hike was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  It was truly worth worth every second of effort and focus.

As I was taking in the incredible vista and marveling at the beauty of God’s kingdom it occurred to me that if I had’t had to work so hard for the view, it might not have been so impressive.  The view was spectacular, but if I had simply gotten out of the car, taken a picture, and gotten right back in, it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much. The joy found in the view came as a result of the work put forth to get there.

Interestingly enough, the 3.5 mile hike back, which was all uphill, passed in a flash and didn’t seem nearly as hard as the hike in.  The happiness from the accomplishment provided all the  fuel that was needed…

Break free to change…

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

Socrates 

Sometimes the clearest way to see what change is needed is to separate oneself from the cacophony of daily life and simply be still.  The hustle and bustle of activity serves to lock oneself into a routine, a relentless hamster wheel effect.  It is hard to see what change is needed when your energy is spent just keeping up.  Sometimes it is not about fighting the old, it is about breaking free from it long enough to know what change is needed.  

What are you going to learn today?

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”

Josh Waitzkin

“Static, safe mediocrity.” Just those words alone make my skin crawl.  Learning, and being willing to change because of what you have learned, is key to breaking free from the trap of “static, safe mediocrity.’

So what are you going to go learn today?  Not just a check the box thing where you can say you learned something new.  But what are you going to go learn that has the power to challenge the status quo or how you think?  

If you don’t seek to learn something new daily, something that challenges you, you are well on the path to “static, safe mediocrity.”

 

 

 

How much change, and when?

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

Helen Keller

How do you know when you need to change?  How much change is necessary?  I really like this quote because it makes me think through those two questions.  When you are driving a car on the interstate your changes are subtle and slight.  A big change in direction can be accomplished with just a few degrees of adjustment on the steering wheel and very little pressure because the change is happening over a great span of distance.  But if you are driving across town, and come to a ninety degree turn, you are turning the steering wheel through multiple rotations to accomplish the change in direction that is necessary.

Life and leadership can be a lot like these examples.  Sometimes the changes needed are minor adjustments that end up making huge impact over time.  Other times the change needed is immediate and drastic and must happen NOW.  Know when to make the right type of change decision is key.  Because if you don’t, as Helen Keller said, you will fail to make the turn…

You can’t grow if you are comfortably numb…

“We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.”

Benjamin Franklin

Why do we dislike it when people don’t agree with us for some reason?  Is it because we want to be right?  We want to be liked?  Perhaps it is because we have a personal stake in whatever it is that is being disagreed with?

When people disagree with us are they doing so because they are right and we are wrong or is it because the ideas and knowledge we have at the time isn’t shared and equally understood?

I would argue that it isn’t about being right or wrong,  it is about the ability to understand that we only see the world through our own unique lens and in order to make meaningful change and embrace growth you must get outside of your comfort zone and see the world differently.  That means you must make it safe for people to disagree with you.  Without making it safe for others to disagree, making it known that you want to see the world differently, you will never get a broader view and a chance to grow.

For some reason I kept thinking of the last line from the Pink Floyd classic “Comfortably Numb:”  “The dream is gone, I have become comfortably numb.”   I think that is what happens if you are surrounded by people that only agree with you.  You become numb to growth and lose the ability to see the world from different perspectives and angles.

Don’t become “comfortably numb…”

Complaining is an investment in negative energy…

“Watch yourself about complaining. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

Maya Angelou

I love how this quote frames out there are only two paths forward from a complaint.  Change it, or change yourself.  That’s it.  Once you have invested the energy (think about that for a minute…) into complaining about something you only have two action oriented choices.  Of course you could continue to complain and wallow in misery but that’s your own choice if you decide to do so and generating a positive return from that energy is practically impossible.

I’ve found that approaching this with the perspective of an investor can be incredibly impactful.  Ask yourself; “is this investment of my precious energy and time into complaining about something going to result in a positive action or outcome?”  If the answer to this questions is “no”, then why would you continue to invest in something with a negative return?   Change the situation or change yourself.  If the answer is “yes,” then the automatic next question is “so what are you going to do about it?”

 If you are going to use the finite energy you have in life to complain about something will you take the next step?  Will you own the reason for the complaint and do something about it?  Easier said than done of course.  But most things worth doing are…  

Never waste a mistake…

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.”

Paul Bear Bryant

When was the last time you made a really big mistake?  I mean the kind where you knew you had a real mess to clean up?  Was it fun?  Of course not.  If it was a mistake that really mattered there can’t be anything fun about cleaning it up.  But the flip side is that without making some big mistakes you can’t really engage in big learnings.  The kind that shake you to your core and make you really dig into yourself and who you are. 

To learn from these types of mistakes you first have to admit that you have made one.  For some reason that always seems to be the hardest part.  Maybe it is pride, or ego that clouds your judgment.  Maybe a long history of success has created an aura of self-righteousness.  Whatever it is, if you can’t admit a mistake, then you can’t learn.  If you can’t learn you are going to repeat that same mistake.  

While screwing something up and making a mistake is never fun, learning from it and acting to resolve can be.  The joy comes with the doing and growing.  Never let a good mistake go to waste.  There is so much than can be learned…

 

How do you tend your wish garden?

“Wishing is a form of inspiration for the lazy mind but taking action, persisting and finding alternative routes to your destination against all odds is the definition of a SUCCESSFUL venture.”

Oscar Bimpong

A wish is simply a seed that is sown that can grow into a great tree or a beautiful flower.  But for the seed to survive and become what is is capable of it must overcome all sorts of challenges and obstacles.  In the same manner for a wish to grow it must be nurtured, it won’t happen by accident or through simple desire.  

This quote reminds me of the parable of the sower from Matthew 13: 1-23.  For our wish to become reality it must fall on good soil and be tended and protected.  That is our responsibility and obligation as leaders.  To achieve great things we can’t be content with wishing, we must instead ensure that our dreams, and the dreams of those whom we serve, are nurtured, encouraged, and sustained against all odds.  If wishes are seeds then we are gardeners charged with ensuring they grow to their full potential.

What seeds are worth taking from dream to reality?  What seeds are worth planting and protecting no matter what happens?  

The definition of a wasted day…

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

Henry Ford

One of my favorite questions to ask my kids is “what did you learn today?”  At age nine and almost seven it isn’t always well-received.  Sometimes the answer is “nothing” or “I don’t know” but a lot of the time I am surprised by what they are learning each and every day. One of the traits that I want to instill in them is a deep thirst for learning.  That every day is an opportunity to learn something new and grow, even if just a little bit.  I want them to lean into every day looking for opportunities to learn.

A spirit of learning and growth is very intentional.  It’s not the same as looking back and realizing you learned something.  That happens by on a daily basis almost by accident for everyone.  Practicing active reflection and considering what has been learned is really important, and something we should all do.  But what I am talking about is starting the day with the specific goal to learn something.  The deliberate practice of seeking out new knowledge and information.  

I have found that when I do good at framing my mind for learning (and I certainly don’t do it well all the time) I will discover far more than when I am in a transactional “get it done” mode of thinking.  A simple conversation in the hall at work, an article read, a conversation with a friend.  Those can all be platforms for new learning if you made the active choice to live every day with a goal to be able to answer the question “what can I learn today?”

A day where nothing new is learned, or perhaps even more importantly, where there is no attempt to learn something new, is my definition of a wasted day.  

Change is an investment opportunity…

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

Dan Millman

Change can be tough.  There will be uncertainty and the unknown lurking just over the horizon. Staying the same is always the easier choice, though it is only very rarely more beneficial.  Every great discovery and adventure story starts with, as it’s basic premise, uncertainty, the unknown, great risk and only the potential for reward.  Frodo Baggins certainly defied all Hobbit traits by setting out on his great adventure.  It would have been much easier for him to stay home, bury his head in the sand like an ostrich and ignore the burning world around him.  But that isn’t the choice that he made, and if you are as much of a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic as I am you know how that turned out…  

Building something new takes energy, but it is an investment in new experiences that creates the person you were born to become.  We all have a FINITE amount of energy to spend.  Do you invest it in the future or spend it trying to hang on to the past?  For example, think of how much money has been spent by people trying to look younger than they are.  Money well spent fighting the perception of the aged or would it be money better spent embracing new life experiences or helping others? That’s a very personal choice, but it represents the choices we make when we are fighting to stay the same instead of investing in becoming a new and better self.  

What investments are you going to make today?

 

Don’t skip over the stretch…

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

In fitness and exercise stretching is the key to preventing injury and enabling your body to perform at an optimal level.  It is a very intentional practice that, if skipped, leads to stiff and sore muscles, sub-optimum performances and potential injuries later.  Stretching is a key activity because it enables the future, but you have to choose to do it.  

I think that growing through our experiences in life requires the same intentional effort as stretching before or after exercise.  Pausing to reflect on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown, what specific experiences have taught you is critical if you want to enhance your abilities and achieve new levels of growth.  Another way of saying this is that by choosing to actively reflect on your experiences you are stretching your mind and soul versus simply living a passive existence.  

Taking the time to intentionally pause and learn is the mental stretching that enables any experience to become a foundation for bigger and better things.  I have met a lot of people in life who have a “something happened TO me” attitude or perspective about their experiences.  Reframing this to focus on what you can learn shifts this to become a “something happened FOR me.”  These are the people that inspire and motivate me.  They choose to take any experience, whether good or bad, and not be defined by it but to instead learn from it and redefine their life based on having been stretched and grown.  

How are you stretching in your life?  Are you taking the time to intentionally learn and grow from the experiences that happened for you?  

Stretching is a choice that enables future performance and prevents injuries.  It is an exercise that is best done daily by simply taking five minutes at the end of each day to ask yourself “what have I learned from my experiences today?”

If you want to grow, don’t skip the stretch…

Close the gap…

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

Max De Pree

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

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

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

 

 

Why limit yourself?

“If you don’t have the information you need to make wise choices, find someone who does.”

Lori Hil

“Why” is the most powerful word in the English language.  Well, I guess that is a fairly broad statement, but I will certainly make the statement that “why” is the most important word in English as it regards to leadership.  What on earth does that have to do with today’s quote?  Glad you asked. 

Far too often we bog down and spend so much of our time talking about “what” we are going to do without understanding “why” something has happened.  Digging deeply into the why, and getting input and perspective from others, is critical to making good decisions in life and leadership.  To seek information, to make good choices, to lead, one must understand whatever situation or challenge is in front of you.  To be able to do this you either must have all the information yourself, or you have to go out and get it.  If you don’t have all the information, and who ever really does, you have to be willing to admit that fact and actively seek to gain it from others. 

So why don’t people do this more often?  Why is this such a challenge in life and leadership?  Asking for input and perspective from others takes self-awareness.  It takes humility.  It means understanding that you don’t have all the information, you don’t have all the answers, you don’t have all the knowledge.  Asking “why” takes courage and a willingness to learn without having a bias towards your own self-beliefs.  In today’s world admitting that you don’t know something is challenging for many people and leaders.  Of course the flip side side far worse, if you don’t seek perspective then you are stuck with whatever you have been able to learn on your own.  The more we rely on what we already know, the less likely we are to make wise choices.  Find someone who knows more than you do, and ask lots of questions.  Why limit yourself to only what you already know?

Too much of a good thing…

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

Norman Vincent Peale

Praise feels good and at the right moment can be just the thing you need to hear to persevere in a challenging situation.  It can be the catalyst to help launch you to new heights.  Taken too far, it drives the ego and becomes the reason for doing something instead of being recognition for hard work and effort.  

Criticism doesn’t always feel good but it is the most impactful message (for me anyway) that helps one grow and develop.  I know that I have made vast improvements (with tons of opportunity for more growth) based on receiving open and honest criticism.  The key is to have trust in the messenger and know they are relaying the criticism in an effort to help, not harm you.  

When looked at through the lens of leadership it works the same way.   Praise is fun to deliver, criticism isn’t always the same way.  Here again the key is trust.  Do our team members trust that we are delivering both praise and criticism to help them grow and prosper?

As William Shakespeare wrote in “As You Like It,” there can be “too much of a good thing.”  Feedback that is all praise fuels the ego, if it is all criticism it destroys the passion.  The key is to find the right balance and not shy away from one or the other.

 

How do you measure return on investment?

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”

John Ruskin

Who am I going to become, versus, what am going to get?  These are fundamentally different questions.  I’ll admit that I have spent a lot of my time in life thinking about “return on investment” and that I haven’t spent nearly enough time time thinking about it at an experiential level.  

Working hard is fun.  It is awesome to put in the effort and the labor and see the results that come from it.  But perhaps the most important results are the ones that we don’t measure through tangible “things” but are instead the experiences we have gained and the relationships we have built.  Those are the things that shape us, mold us and create the platform that we build upon for the future. 

To measure success more holistically I think I need to spend some more time thinking about the question “who am I going to become from this effort?” 

 

Who is doing the measuring?

“The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average — though those things are important, to be sure. It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.”

R.J. Palacio

How do you measure the impact you have had on the lives of others?  It’s certainly easy to measure tangible things like those mentioned above, and I agree that they are definitely important, but what the impact of a kind word, a simple smile, a display of genuine concern for another person?  

I would bet that most people will never be aware of the positive impact that they have had my life.  I can think of many specific examples where the actions of another have had profound impact on who I am as a person today.  They weren’t trying to impact me, they were living and behaving in accordance with their deepest beliefs, choosing how they spent their time, and in so doing they touched my life.  

When I read this quote I immediately thought of a video that a good friend shared with me earlier this week.  

These “God Moments” or “Shoulder Taps” are so powerful  and so easy to overlook in today’s hyper busy and always connected and digitally measured world.  It makes me step back and think about how so much of life today is spent measuring success in “likes,” “favorites,” and “retweets.” The real measure of success is positively impacting the lives of others and ultimately it is being being measured, just not by me…

 

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