“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.”
The minute you begin to “believe your own press” you are choosing to surrender the edge that helped you build any advantage you might have previously created. Suddenly every problem begins to look like something you have tackled before, and previous solutions or thought processes are applied based on historical efficacy, not on current understanding.
Some questions to consider:
Is the answer I am choosing “right” or easy?
Have I done the hard work to understand the situation entirely?
Is the challenge worthy of genuine effort and not just a pale facsimile?
The old saying, “when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” seems particularly appropriate here. Never settle for a copy of previous success. Much like a paper that has been copied far too many times, you begin to lose your clarity.
“You should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday.”
A mentor of mine once gave me some very sage counsel. He said, “In all matters other than your principles and core values, think of everything you believe as a scientific hypothesis. You must constantly be seeking to have your assumptions either proven or disproven. Seek out the data that either validates or nullifies the hypothesis you have in your mind. When you live life with this framework, you will never worry about who is right, only on discovering what is right.”
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
What are the things you believe in so fervently that nothing could slow you down or prevent you from making every possible effort to achieve success? Do you have this same fervent belief in yourself, in your capabilities? In your potential?
If you believe in yourself and know that you can learn, and grow, and improve, then you will never settle for “good enough.”
Resolve to be better, to grow, to improve, to change. Then there will be no chance, no destiny, no fate that will get in your way or slow you down.
“I am old but I am forever young at heart. We are always the same age inside. Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, you can only live it once. Do not regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many!”
The key to living a life of perpetual youth is to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow each and every day. If you aren’t learning, growing, seeing the world as if through the eyes of a child, then you must by default be dying.
Life is just too short and precious to waste. Every single moment we have is a gift for ourselves, and more importantly, for others.
Choose to learn, choose to grow, choose to live. Why choose to die before you have to?
“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This quote should be read at the beginning of each morning and again and the end of each night. If you read it often enough, you might believe it. Then perhaps you might actually live it…
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours — it is an amazing journey — and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
Most people never arrive at the point where they can honestly view life through the lens of both “no apologies or excuses.” I have known people that were good at either, but rarely both.
First, I think it is essential to ensure one doesn’t misinterpret the “no apologies” component to mean you are authorized to live in a manner where you can be numb to others’ feelings or perspectives.
“No apologies” in this context means that you don’t have to ask for forgiveness for being the unique and special person God created you to be. You own your identity and appreciate the individual gifts you possess.
Balancing this awareness with an attitude of extreme ownership and accountability is where the magic happens. Only then can you begin to live the authentic life God has prepared for you. No apologies AND no excuses…. This is truly the “genius of the AND.”
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
I might change the wording of this slightly. “The secret of “LIFE” is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
All too often, we get bogged down by the old ways or, even worse, complacency takes hold, and we forget how exciting it is to learn and grow.
I prefer to think of life as being similar to compound interest. Every experience, every learning, every mistake, it all contributes to becoming a more robust and fulfilled version of yourself. If we miss an opportunity, we miss it forever, as well as the compounded growth that could have stacked on top.
Every day is an opportunity to build something new. Even if it is only a slight improvement over yesterday, it is still an improvement. Creating a life focused on building the new you choose to create a life of exponential compound growth.
“Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.”
Do you view the experiences you have had in life as gifts to build from or as anchors holding you back?
How you consider all the things that have occurred in your life, whether good, bad, or ugly, will define your future. You can either choose to carry them with you as baggage, or you can choose to view them as fuel. Baggage slows you, and fuel propels you. Which one do you think will move you forward? It’s up to you, how do you want to live?
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
I love this quote because, for me, it defines the difference between failure and growth. If you do the things listed here, then it isn’t a failure. It is merely an experience that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Then you can learn from it and go forward better and smarter.
Failure is refusing to learn.
Failure is blaming someone or something else.
Failure is quitting.
Failure is letting the past control you instead of owning the opportunity to do something better based on the first-hand experience of what doesn’t work.
“We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.”
Can you imagine who you would be today if you had never been tested or challenged? Those things that are our most significant challenges at the moment are merely the building blocks of the person we are supposed to become. Without them, we are only a shadow of the person we were created to be and can’t serve others in the fullest capacity.
Embrace the opportunities to persist; those moments are the crucible where something extraordinary is being forged. We can either choose to be the iron being crafted into something beautiful or we can choose to be the anvil, unmovable and unchanging.
“This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Merely spending a quiet moment at the end of the day reflecting on what might have made the day even more impactful; is enough time spent on the past. This time is precious; it is time spent learning and growing, so tomorrow will be even more powerful.
Make tomorrow better by actively learning from today. The precious and finite time you have to spend tomorrow is worth it.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
Revealing to someone else their own riches is akin to creating and unlocking the secret of the compound interest rates in another person’s life.
Helping someone discover their hidden gifts or talents will create a lasting impact that will extend far beyond the individual you enabled. Just like $1,000 invested when a person turns 18 grows to be worth almost $90,000 (at 10% growth) by the time they retire, the investment you make in others will expand over time. One CRITICAL difference is that the impact isn’t limited by market returns or by the original investment amount. Because you are enabling another person, the returns can generate at an exponential rate.
Because one person’s life is changed forever, they impact 1, 100, 1,000, 10,000 others throughout their lives (or even more…).
Invest in others, not just by sharing your earthly blessings but also by building a 10x impact by unlocking other people’s talents and treasures. The return on your investment might be eternal.
“Genuine tolerance does not mean ignoring differences as if differences made no difference. Genuine tolerance means engaging differences within a bond of civility and respect.”
Richard John Neuhaus
The danger of tolerance is that you are intentionally creating an opening in your mind for both understanding and a potential perspective shift. It is far easier to be intolerant and dogmatic about what you believe than to be open and understanding.
But when you genuinely open your mind to the perspectives and positions of others, not only do you create fertile ground for growth in yourself, you also unlock the power of “we.” The collective skills, talents, and capabilities of a group will always exceed those of one person. Learning tolerance and understanding unlocks tremendous potential, both in yourself and in others.
Besides, by overcoming intolerance, you, by default, begin to remove ignorance from your life.
“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.”
As a young child, I can vividly remember having my right thumb slammed in a door when I was six or seven years old. I don’t recall all the details of what happened, but one thing that stands out as clearly today as it did when it happened. Specifically, it is the image of the doctor using a syringe to numb my finger in preparation for stitches that looms so large. I can remember seeing that needle disappear into my skin like it was yesterday.
That one event served to generate a healthy distaste of needles that I carried forward into life. It was only many, many years later, that I decided to face my fear and donate blood. Because I was not too fond of needles, to say the least, I decided I needed to overcome this irrational fear and watch the technician when they drew blood. Fortunately, I didn’t pass out due to tremendous pain or suffer a great shock by watching the needle penetrate my skin. I barely felt it at all.
The fear that had prevented me from giving blood for years was irrational and unreasonable. All it took was facing it head-on and choosing not to let fear control me. To this day, I still watch anytime I get a shot or give blood to remind myself of how powerful fear can be and how important it is to take control of your fears instead of letting them control you.
Isn’t it amazing how choosing to take action can seem to stop fear in its tracks? Just doing something, anything, creates the momentum necessary to move you forward and slows or halts the spread of fear.
Action mobilizes, fear paralyzes…
Where do you need to take action today? Why are you waiting?
Last Tuesday, I had the incredible opportunity and blessing to share the day with two great friends and colleagues, David Childs and David Lillard of Spartan Planning and Branding. They are in Greensboro, NC, and were putting the final touches on their 2nd Annual Leadership Symposium aptly named “Spartan Pro Day.” Last year’s inaugural event was a resounding success, selling out and maximizing their venue’s capacity.
At the beginning of the year, David Childs asked me to be one of the speakers at this year’s event on the topic of leadership, and I was both thrilled and honored to play a small role in their vision of building leaders.
Year 2 was all set to build on last year’s success with space reserved at a venue twice the size, and present company excluded, an incredible roster of speakers. But, as the year progressed, the implications of a world forever changed by the pandemic began to influence their plans and thinking.
It would have been so easy for them to write off 2020, to say, “due to the state of the world and the restrictions on gathering, we are going to postpone Spartan Pro Day until we can produce the event safely.”
However, they both realized that there has never been a more critical time to highlight the impact of positive leadership and share content that would be highly powerful and meaningful to their constituents. So they did what great leaders do in a time of crisis and uncertainty. They pivoted to a new direction and held true to their vision of putting on a conference enabling leaders to “Grow Personally. Grow Professionally. Make A Difference.”
Spartan Pro Day is now a virtual event being held over the next three weeks, AND it is FREE OF CHARGE for anyone that would like to participate and grow.
Leadership is having a vision, and then doing whatever it takes to make that vision become a reality. As John Maxwell writes, “leadership is influence,” and Spartan Pro Day was an incredible influence on me, and I am grateful to have played a small role in bringing their vision to life.
If you are interested in enrolling, check out the link below. As a sports fan and a Carolina Panthers fan, I particularly loved the stories shared by Mick Mixon in his “Tales from the Press Box” session.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Wikipedia, “An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated. Experiments vary greatly in goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results.”
How many of your major decisions, or minor ones, have you reviewed through the lens of experimentation? If all life is an experiment, how much of our time do we spending acting in such a manner?
There are three themes of questions: building blocks of experimentation that could and should be leveraged in our daily lives.
What is my hypothesis? What am I seeking to support, refute, or validate with this action or decision?
Based on the results of my experiment, what did I learn? What does a “logical analysis of the results” reveal?
Based on the answers to the above questions, what is my new hypothesis? What lessons on cause and effect will I carry forward into my next decision or set of actions?
When you start some new project, initiative, or idea, are you seeking to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis? Do you seek to understand the results in a non-emotional and quantitative manner?
Imagine how powerful our lives would be if we chose to live with an attitude of experimentation in all of our decisions? What if everything was done through a lens of learning and growth? Test and learn, evolve, and grow.
“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.”
It is funny how we start life with an attitude of learning and development, but somewhere along the way, we are taught that the result matters more than the attempt.
This belief creates a limit on what people can achieve because there are two key focal points. One, winning is everything, and I won’t try if I can’t win. Two, losing is bad, and I won’t try if the risk of losing is too high.
As young children, we attempt things with no fear of failure because we don’t think of our endeavor as a win or loss. We try, we learn, we develop. Then we grow up, and our measuring stick of success changes. Somehow we must rediscover our childlike attitude of going for it without the requirement of winning or letting the fear of failure limit our attempts…
“If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth. They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or kids on TV. When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self. If you compare your relationships, your success, or your anything against anyone else, you are not being fair to you. Everyone has a different path, a different pace, and different challenges to face along the way.”
I love the analogy used in this quote, the absolute truth conveyed by the pencil marks on the wall. Those were specific data points from a moment in time that can’t be changed or stretched to fit a different narrative or used to compare to someone else.
What are the “marks on the wall” in your life today? How do you measure your growth in a specific and objective manner, not subject to interpretation by or comparison to others? What are you doing to ensure that you are capturing your advancement in life and ensuring that you are continually moving forward and making progress?
Perhaps you need to create a measurement mechanism and a timeline for regular review to capture where you are at specific moments in time, just like those pencil marks on the wall.
Ask yourself these three simple questions two to three times per year. Use the same journal or writing medium, so as time passes, you can look back at your answers and see how YOU have grown and evolved.
Who do I want to be?
Why is this important to me?
How do I need to change to become that person?
Notice that none of these questions are about “what do I want?” Or “what do others expect?” These questions are about drilling into yourself and creating a discipline of regular check-ins to establish a baseline and measure your progress.
Give it a try. Go ahead and answer these questions today, and when you get done, put time on your calendar six months from now to do it again. Add another appointment for one year from today. You are making this appointment with and for yourself. Can you imagine how influential this journal would be ten, fifteen, or twenty years from today? I certainly wish I had started this practice twenty years ago, I can’t begin to imagine how powerful it would be to have a quantitative measuring stick of my evolution and progress.
“It’s not about achieving the goal. It’s about who you become in order to achieve the goal. The juice is in the growth.”
Perhaps an alternative way to think about this is to turn the quote inside out. Have you ever achieved a goal that you desperately wanted, and hated the person you became through the process? I position it this way not to be a “Debbie downer” but to illustrate the power of purpose and the importance of choosing the right goals for our lives.
Perhaps we should stop making our plans based on achieving some specific thing or outcome, but instead, we should select our targets based on the process of growth that we will have to complete to make them a reality. Maybe we should choose our goals based on who we want to become through the journey.
Let me share a simple example. Several years ago, my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) and I traveled to Colorado and climbed Mt. Yale, one of Colorado’s famous “14’rs” (mountains that have their peak above 14,000 feet). We started just after daylight and achieved the summit just before midday. We enjoyed a few minutes at the top of the mountain, took some pictures, and then headed back down the trail for our 6-mile hike back to our car. My memories of that day, and most of the pictures we took along the way, are of the journey. It was the entirety of the shared experience, what it meant for our burgeoning relationship and a discovery of a shared passion for challenging hikes that made the journey meaningful and impactful. Achieving the goal was nice, but it wasn’t the thing that truly mattered. What happened along the way was what was actually important.
Do you choose mountains in order to achieve the summit or do you want to soak in the experience of the journey along the way? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 ESV
Is it the achievement of the goal that matters or who you become in pursuit of the RIGHT GOALS that is truly important?
“Not seeing results? Feel like giving up? Consider this: The last thing to grow on a fruit tree… is the fruit.”
If you plant an apple seed today then it will take 6 – 8 years for the tree to grow and then begin to produce fruit. Does this mean you shouldn’t plant the tree? Water and care for the tree? Skip the hard work along way while waiting for the tree to mature to the point where it is capable of producing apples?
Consider this. When an apple tree does mature, and begin to deliver on the vision you had when you first planted it, it can grow 2-5 BUSHELS of apples PER YEAR. That’s a lot of apples.
The moral of the story is this. In our “everything now” world sometimes we get focused on eating an apple RIGHT THIS MINUTE. However, focusing on the right now might cause you to miss out on the incredible fruit that is just around the corner.
The ability we each have to deliver on our potential, and produce bushels of output impacting the lives of others, will come through disciplined focus and care on growth process, not on the fruit itself. The fruit is the result you achieve by not giving up on your dreams when the work is hard and you can’t see past the near term challenges.
If we don’t lose focus and hope we will mature and grow and learn to produce fruit for the world to consume in quantities which greatly exceed our current capacities. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
“Self-reflection is a humbling process. It’s essential to find out why you think, say, and do certain things – then better yourself.”
Can you be real with yourself? Truly honest? If you want to create a better version of yourself, the first step is to curate internal conversations that frankly won’t be very comfortable. Sometimes the hardest person to be truthful with is the one who lives inside our own minds.
For me, this starts with a willingness to ask tough questions and then sitting down with a journal to write out my answers. I find the act of writing to be the defining factor that allows me to separate my internal narrative, the story I believe in my head, from a broader and more instrospective truth. When I write the worlds flow from my hands without a filter, without a conscious narrative that distorts the truth.
Of course, the most important step is to find the right questions. The easiest way to circumvent accountability and ownership is to avoid the questions you don’t want to have to answer. I found a good list of questions several years ago and I am going through an exercise now to answer each of these in order. These might not be the right questions for you but it is a good place to start. You can’t create the right answers if you don’t ask the right questions.
Challenge yourself to take the next 100 days and answer one question each day. Be honest in your answers, don’t overthink, just grab a pen and paper or your favorite digital journal and simply write. You might be surprised what you learn about yourself…
“Challenge yourself every day to do better and be better. Remember, growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances.”
It can be incredibly challenging to remain focused on growth when the weight of the world is on your shoulders and the “tyranny of the urgent” is demanding all of your time and attention. To be intentional about growth one must foster a discipline of lifting your gaze from the current moment and check your compass to make sure you are still moving in the right direction.
In today’s world, we navigate via apps and digital routing engines which tell us where to turn and exactly what to do. We never have to pay attention to the details around us because we have ceded control to a lifeless routing engine which is managing our journey. In many ways, this can be a representation of how we choose to live our lives. Numb to what is going on around us and without perspective if we are truly headed in the right direction.
After making any decision to change the single most important thing you must do is develop a method of measuring progress and direction. This is where an old school map can be so powerful and create such an advantage. In a single glance, one can see the entire route and have perspective on the whole journey. The beauty of a map is that it isn’t a “set and forget” kind of thing. You have to pay attention in order to use it effectively. You must check-in at times to make sure you are still on the right path and moving in the desired direction.
Challenge yourself to do better and better every single day AND create a good map that will allow you to both measure progress and ensure you are moving in the right direction. There is nothing worse than going on a journey and ending up at the wrong destination…
“You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”
So much of our lives can be spent in the pursuit of something you think you want, yet isn’t coming from a place where you are maximizing your God-given gifts. No matter how much I like running, I am never going to win marathons or half marathons. This is just not what my body is built to achieve. However, I can still enjoy running and I can still enjoy the distance and I can still improve on what and who I am within the sport.
The key to success in life is to develop extreme awareness of self, who you are and what powers and drives you. Then put your full and complete effort into becoming more of that person, better at those particular things.
Developing this sense of self means you must become finely attuned to what and who you are not so that you can dedicate the time and energy into being the best version of the person you built to become.
Know your race. Run your race. Improve on your race. That is how you win.
“I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.'”
It is a sign of our age that the first image I thought of when I read this quote was the “delete” key on a computer keyboard. Though upon further reflection perhaps that is equally fitting since everything comes through some sort of digital filter nowadays!
What really strikes me when I meditate on this quote for a few minutes is while this might be the most important key in history, it is equally likely to be the least efficiently wielded. Well, I can only speak for myself of course!
Saying “no” can be a very hard thing to do at times. But without a doubt, it is the most powerful word in the English language when it comes to getting things done. Let me rephrase this, it is the most powerful word in the English language when it comes to getting the RIGHT things done…
Once a quarter I sit down and take stock of my weekly calendar and routine tasks to see what changes I need to make to ensure I am spending my time in the most productive and effective manner. Invariably I find myself looking at things I WANT to do but in reality, are preventing me from getting the things I NEED to get done done. While I struggle with saying no, the best discipline I have EVER created was the regular and recurring use of the “delete key” on all things that don’t make me more effective in the pursuit of my goals.
In all likelihood, I should wield this discipline more often than once a quarter…
“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.”
How do you keep growing and learning? How can you take steps to ensure that you are always working on honing and perfecting your craft? What do you have to do nurture a growth mindset? I believe there are three key things one must do to make growing a continual process.
First, be very intentional about cultivating a feedback-seeking mindset with the key people around you. Ask them to help you grow and learn by sharing their perspectives and insights. You must enlist those you trust to help you see your blind spots.
Secondly, never allow yourself to accept the status quo or simply “good enough.” Good enough can very quickly become mediocrity and mediocrity slides into irrelevance. Complacency is death.
Third, constantly remind yourself that your skills and talents are God-given and not something you earned or deserved. Honor these gifts by nourishing them the same way you would care for a garden of flowers.
The beauty of life is that we can never do or be everything, but we can always improve ourselves and the lives of those around us. You just have to keep growing.