Doubt can be fuel for the engine of accomplishment…

“If people are doubting how far you’ll go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”

Michele Ruiz

There are two powerful lessons for me in today’s quote.  First, I recognize that some of my greatest motivators in life have been when someone has said “you can’t.”  For me this fires an immediate “I can” mentality. Looking back on life I can see a number of really positive outcomes that were seeded by the doubts of others.

Second, the danger of being a person that casts their own fears and doubts onto others.  In hindsight I recognize that some of the “you can’t” people had limiting beliefs about their own abilities and for some reason they needed to project that onto others.  They weren’t happy unless their “I can’t” mentality was twisted into a “you can’t” and shared.  I never want to be this person.

How have the doubts of others fired your engine of accomplishment?

 

 

Strategy vs. Execution…

“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.”

Morris Chang

I love how this quote frames the importance of both strategy and execution so succinctly.  How do you measure success?  Is it by having great intent, or by achieving great results?   It is the results in life that matter right?  But only if they are created through intentional focus and effort.  Time is going to pass either way, so we better make it count… 

Talking with versus about others…

“Never find fault with the absent.”

Alexander Pope

This is a great reminder and one than can be a a tough pill to swallow.  At times it seems much easier to talk about people than to talk with them.  It is something that we all do, but a practice that we must guard against if we want to increase our influence.  What are the dangers that this creates as a leader?

First, if you are finding fault with someone, and talking about it with others, then you are tearing down the walls of trust, not building them up.  The person that you are discussing someone else’s faults with can never be sure that you aren’t doing the exact same thing when they aren’t present.

Second, putting the focus on the person not the problem distracts from whatever the real issue at hand might be.  If you want to be effective in fixing something, then you have to address it head on.

Third, your example to others be creating this type of environment encourages politics and individual agendas.  It does not enhance teamwork or collaboration.  The most effective leaders set the example that others will emulate.  Do you want your team talking about others behind their backs, or addressing challenges with and for each other?

Ask yourself this one question.  “Would I have this conversation with the person in the room?”  If the answer is no, then why not?  Isn’t that the more pressing challenge to figure out?  Talking about people is easy, and cowardly.  Talking with people can be challenging, but courageous.  Which type of leader do you want to be?

Planning is an investment…

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

battle black board board game

If you want to be successful in the game of chess you always have to plan ahead and think through your next several moves.  You don’t know how your opponent will react to your plan, nor do you know what moves they planning to make, but to have a chance at winning you can’t simply be reactionary, you must make the effort to plan ahead.

How much of our time do we spend planning versus reacting?  I have found that time invested in planning enables one to both act, and react, with purpose, design and intent.  Effort expended without having first spent time intentionally planning ahead is always reactionary and tactical.

Will plans fail?  Of course they will.  There is no way to anticipate every outcome, see every possibility, know every possible challenge that will rise along the way. However, I believe that the investment of time in planning allows one to simultaneously exist on two planes.  First is the the proactive, what do we want/expect/intend to happen? Second, what will we do and how will we react to the world around us?

Time is the currency of life.  How do you want to spend it?  Will you spend it with intentional purpose to create a desired output, i.e., planning?  Or will you spend it in a tactical way, never in charge of or responsible for how it is used, i.e., reacting?

 

Sometimes “done” is just the beginning…

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

adventure alps amazing beautiful

Do you climb the mountain to get to the top, or to see how the world looks from the peak?  Is it the journey that matters or is it simply a task to be checked off the list?  

How often do we achieve some dream, goal, or destination to simply mark it “complete” and then move on to the next thing?  I know that I am guilty of this all too often and I that by doing so I am missing the real value of achievement; what you learn from having experienced something new and building a new set of lenses through which to view the world.  

Why is this so hard to do?

Is it simply easier to numb yourself with the next new thing than it is to look internally and say “how could I have done this better?” or “what did I learn that can help me the next time?” Or perhaps it is simply that achievement has become the idol in life where the pursuit of more is the way of our modern world and this takes precedence over reflecting on what we have learned and how we have changed.  

Maybe getting to the destination isn’t the goal at all.  It is simply the beginning of a new journey.  A journey that will be forever different because of our experiences and the lessons learned on our way to the our last destination.  The next trip is different because of what we have experienced.  But only if we take the time to pause and reflect on what we have seen.  

 

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?

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.

 

Make your bed…

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

Admiral William H. McRaven

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

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

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.

Do you own, or do you rent?

“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”

Pat Summitt

Ownership.  What does it mean? Think of the difference between renting a home and owning a home.  When you rent, you treat the home differently.  You don’t worry about the little things, you don’t put the extra effort in to care for or protect the property.  For example, you might ignore the roof that only leaks when it really storms, or the sink that leaks on occasion.  Maybe instead of ignoring the problem, you just call someone else, the owner, because it isn’t your problem.  You don’t have to fix it.  But if you own the home you pay attention to these problems.  You know that if you don’t address them quickly it is likely to become far worse, and much more expensive to repair.  

If you are the owner, you write the checks.  And by checks I don’t just mean in terms of money.  You have to fix the problem.  You are accountable for how you, the asset, the team, the organization performs.  It starts, and stops, with you.  You must look to yourself first before you look to others, regardless of fault because you are responsible and accountable for fixing the problem, whatever that problem might be.  

Have you ever heard the saying “drive it like a rental?”  What exactly does this mean?  It means when you rent a car you don’t treat it the same way you would if you owned it.  You don’t have to care about the maintenance, what it is going to drive like next week, next month, next year.  You don’t have to care because you aren’t accountable for your decisions, or in some cases the lack of a decision.  The rental car won’t be your problem in the future. For renters it is someone else’s problem.  Even if you caused it…

We all have an active decision make, do we own or do we rent?  This project, this initiative, this team, this relationship.  Yes, sometimes ownership sucks.  It isn’t fun to have to fix problems, especially if you caused them, whether intentionally or not.  But it has to be done, because if you don’t, who will? If you don’t look inwards first with self-awareness and reflection and have the accountability to own it, you are just renting your space as a human and a leader.  Don’t be a renter…

Why I started this journey…

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.”

Will Smith

Warning, this is a much longer post than my normal writings…  Someone recently asked me, “why do you send out a daily leadership quote?  What are you trying to accomplish?” It’s a good question and one that has a very simple beginning.  In 1998 I was the third shift manager for a financial services call center.  Third shift was tough and most of the team members were generally working third because it paid the most or because they had another job as well to make ends meet.  I started sending out a quote at the beginning of each shift as a reminder and motivator about what was truly important in life beyond the day or activities that were right in front of us.  The daily quote was just for my small crew at first but over time it grew and then became part of my daily leadership habit even when I changed roles and then changed companies.  

For several years I only sent the quote on Monday – Friday or when I was in the office, but then I finally realized that value of listening to good wisdom applies every day of the week and that I was shortchanging those that I worked for by not sending a daily quote just because I happened to be off work on a given day.  

Today I don’t know the size of the audience, the list is much broader than it once was as people have asked to be added and folks they have shared it with have requested to be added.  The size of the list is not important to me.  What is important goes back to the back to the questions that were asked of me, “why do you send a daily leadership quote?  What are you trying to accomplish?”

The “why” hasn’t changed much from what it was twenty years ago.  There are two principle reasons I have maintained (and now expanded with this blog) the daily habit.  

First, to have a daily reminder about the importance of leadership and personal growth and the effect that reading such wisdom has on framing our behavior within the day.  Over the years many people have responded to the quotes and said words to the effect “you have no idea how much I needed to hear this right now” or “wow, this was absolutely meant for me today.”  I will never know how many people have been impacted or touched in the slightest way because of these daily messages.  That’s absolutely okay.  If one person has ever had their life made slightly brighter or even the tiniest bit better from this effort it has all been worth it.  That’s why I do it.  The chance, just the smallest chance to help another person in a tiny way is what motivates me to find and send a quote out every morning.  

Second, I want to frame my day with a positive or thoughtful piece of wisdom.  Some days the quotes are aimed at me and me alone.  On these days I always laugh to myself when people respond and mention that I must have been sending that one for their specific benefit. I will admit, on some days they are aimed at people who I know are challenged and need to hear specific and relevant message.

“What” am I am hoping to accomplish?  I hope that others will find value in the words and that at times they will be just the right thing a person needs to hear.  I don’t need to know this, nor do I need to be told.  I am very content knowing that it does happen and that I am being used by God to serve others in a very tiny way.  

So, all of these words to say this.  I choose to send a daily quote, and now blog daily, for the chance, the slightest chance that the words will be valuable to another person.  That someone might find value and wisdom, and from that, create a better life.  Does it happen?  I have no idea, but it could happen, and that is good enough for me.  

 

Start today!

“You will never win if you never begin.”

Helen Rowland

Starting something new can often be the hardest part.  The work can appear to be  overwhelming when you look at the goal and how much needs to be done to make it a reality.  The key is to break whatever it is into the smallest tasks and just start today.  

I signed up for my first Ironman race having only done one sprint triathlon and one half marathon. I was in way over my head and had no business trying to take on that extreme of an endurance race.  But when the race morning arrived one year later I was very relaxed and I knew, barring any unforeseen accidents, I had already won the day and finished the race.  It wasn’t because I had discovered some unknown physical gifts, it was simply because one year earlier I had committed to my goal and then planned my work out to achieve that goal. The Ironman race itself ended up being a reward for all the work that happened in the year it took to prepare.  Finishing the race was the easy part once I had a plan and committed to the daily effort.  Just starting every single day with the task for the day was the key.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve find the one small thing that you can do to start today and do it.  Even if it is simply writing the goal down and capturing why it is important.  It starts today.

Who is in your circle of trust?

“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”

W. Clement Stone

I recently read that not only are we shaped by our five closest friends but in reality we are also shaped but their five closest friends.  Think about that for a minute.  You are not only a product of the people you spend time with but those they spend time with as well.

I love the wisdom outlined in this quote but when I first read it I did so through the lens of it being cautionary and therefore negative.  I prefer to think of this through a positive lens of being intentionally purposeful about who you spend time with and therefore who you let be an influence on your life.  It also makes me pause and think about the responsibility we have to those who are closest to us in our friend network.  Heavy stuff.

Who are you intentionally inviting into your life and in essence asking them to be part of the environment that forms who you are as a person?  Is it accidental or intentional?

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

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…

 

Who’s fault is it?

“You’re a failure as a leader if people sit around waiting for you to tell them what to do.”

Dan Rockwell

Leadership failure happens if you aren’t first asking yourself the question, “what am I doing that is creating or causing this situation?”  The outcome is simply a reflection of leadership choices.  What choices have I made, intentional or not, that are responsible for creating a culture where ownership and accountability is low and “people sit around waiting to be told what to do?”  Leadership starts with self and that means asking yourself tough questions on how you are contributing to the problem.

I might argue that you’re a failure as a leader if you sit around expecting others to have to change, but your not looking to change yourself…

Threat level zero?

“If you are humble, if you make people realize that you are no threat to them, then they will embrace you.”

Nelson Mandela

I really like the way Mandela framed this in that it is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that those you wish to lead know that you are not a threat to them. I would go so far as to say that the minute one positions yourself as a threat to another person you have lost any semblance of humility.  To make yourself a threat to others is to position yourself ahead of them, higher than them, more valuable or worthy than they are. 

I’ve often heard that to be humble is “not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.” I’ve long believed that if you talk about having humility, you don’t. I think I am going to add “ensuring that people realize you aren’t a threat” to the list of requirements for humility and servant leadership.  

 

Step over the edge…

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.”

Steve Goodier

Life is meant to be lived leaning forward. We are built to push, stretch our abilities, and go beyond what we think we can do.  God created us to serve others and He doesn’t limit our ability to do this, but instead gives us the capacity to choose how to serve, how to grow, how to push.  He gives us both the ability and the choice.  

But we can’t grow if we aren’t all the way at the edge of our comfort zone, peering past what is “safe” and into what could be.  We can’t and won’t grow if we aren’t at the edge of fear.  I am reading an absolutely fascinating book titled “Willpower Doesn’t Work” that highlights how much more we can grow when we are uncomfortable, when we intentionally create an environment that forces us to grow and change.  I can’t put it down and while I haven’t finished it yet I can already tell this is going to be one of those books that joins my annual reading list to help push me forward and jumpstart growth whenever I become comfortable and complacent.  

I love this quote today because it reminds me that if I want to grow, I must be willing push beyond safety and into the unknown.  My heart can guide me, but only if I am willing to listen and then take the step towards becoming the person God created me to be.  

The challenge of being real…

“You cannot talk about grit—you have to embody it. You cannot talk about faith—you have to live it. You cannot talk about the desert—you have to cross it.”

Dr. Dragos Bratasanu

When I read this quote the very first thing that popped into my head was one of my favorite sayings of all times, “It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching” by St. Francis Assisi.  This is leadership by example in a nutshell.

Then I thought of how dissimilar this perspective is in today’s social media driven “look at me” culture. The comparison and envy that is created by showing “perfect” pictures of someones life.  Instead of “leadership by example” it creates “envy by example.” It is a focus on living life outwardly, based on what you want other people to think, as opposed to focusing inwardly on your personal values and the decisions that you make that aree manifested in action, not in words.  

Living a life of actions and behaviors that are 100% consistent with your words and beliefs is hard. I am very thankful to have a few incredible people in my life that will help hold me accountable when my words might outpace my actions or my choices.  We might not be able to talk about the desert, but we don’t have to cross it alone…

Be water, my friend…

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Bruce Lee

Over, under, around or through…  Water always adjusts to its environment. It’s too bad it isn’t as easy for us humans.  When I first read this quote I admit that I thought it was a cool one because it was Bruce Lee. But then I really started to think about each sentence and what it can mean from a life and leadership perspective.  The more I reflected, the more I realized that the wisdom expressed here is simply incredible.

How much time and energy do we waste trying to get the world to conform to us, to our wants and needs?  Why is it often so hard to sit back, surrender our ego and simply be as water? The learning and knowledge that dances just out of reach until we humble ourselves and adjust to the world and become aware of the outward things that disclose themselves to us. You can learn so much when you sit back and observe, when you take the time to “Empty your mind, be formless.”

The lesson I take today is just how important it is to just let go of your ego, be humble, be willing to adjust and learn and always flexible in your approach.  Look what grand things happen when the way of water is followed…

arizona canyon deserted geological

 

Kill the can’t…

Nothing limits achievement like small thinking; nothing expands possibilities like unleashed imagination.”

William Arthur Ward

Can’t” is such a powerful word. It is the creator of small thinking and I believe it’s usage is the key indicator of our own limiting beliefs. How often do you use “can’t” in your day to day thinking and speaking? How are you governing your potential?

Here’s a challenge.  Actively keep track today of how many times you use “can’t” today in your thoughts, your conversations, your leadership.  Where and when are you using it and what is being limited because of a “can’t” belief?  

If you want to unleash imagination, you have to kill “can’t.”  

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?

 

Where does change happen?

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside the end is in sight.”

Jack Welch

We live in a world of constant change.  The world has always been like this but the rate of change today is faster than ever before.  This is the age of disruption and every long held belief about the way the world operates is being reviewed and evolved.

This applies to the external world of course, the context that Jack was speaking on when he coined this phrase, but it applies equally well to our own individual growth as contributors and leaders. To remain relevant we must intentionally growing our skills, talents, and capabilities, in a constant and disciplined manner.  If we don’t then our ability to impact those around us and achieve our goals is constantly diminishing.  

Think of it like two cars on the highway where one car is going 75 MPH and the second car is going 60 MPH.  The first car is continually putting more distance between the two drivers.  After an hour it is only 15 miles, but after two hours, 30 miles, three hours 45 miles, etc. 

That’s our world today.  Someone somewhere is finding a way to go faster.  What are you doing to grow your expertise, skills, talents and capabilities to go faster and close the gap?  How are you working to ensure that the end isn’t near?

 

The weight of words…

“Collaboration has no hierarchy. The Sun collaborates with soil to bring flowers on the earth.”

Amit Ray

I love the magic in a meeting or a conversation that happens when the focus is on what is being said, not who is speaking.  That’s when a team is working together to solve problems and not simply waiting to be told what to do. Teams will be most excited and most engaged when the weight of the words being spoken by any one contributor aren’t first measured by their title or position.  The leaders job is ensure this happens by creating an environment that recognizes and rewards collaboration and the results that occur. 

The traditional model of leadership hierarchy has its place, at specific times and for specific purposes. But if you want to unlock the real potential of a team as a leader, ask more questions and facilitate more collaboration.

Who do you want on your bus?

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”Oprah Winfrey

It is easy to find people that will make you a priority when it is to their benefit, but what about when you really need them to help you? Do you have a list of people that you know would answer the phone and help no matter what?  

I am a person that struggles to reach out to others at times “because I don’t want to be a burden” and because I was taught growing up to be incredibly self-reliant. That doesn’t get it done when life and leadership gets tough.

You need to have people there that will support you and know that you will support them, no matter what.  I am reminded of one of my favorite verses in scripture when I read this quote.  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Hebrews 17:17 ESV  Having that friend and brother (or sister) to rely upon is critical in life.  

I challenge you to think about these two questions and cultivate that list of folks that you know will get on the bus with you when the limo breaks down.

  1. Who is on your short list to call when you are challenged and need help fighting a battle?
  2. Whose list are YOU on?  Who knows that they can call on you anytime for anything?

There are just two types of people…

“We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world. ”

Heidi Wills

For as long as I can remember one of the driving principles of my life has been the belief that there are just two types of people in the world.  Those who the world happens to, and those who happen to the world.  I have always focused on being in the latter category.

Today’s quote says basically the same thing but with a  slight different perspective. Is it overly simplistic and generalizing?  Probably.  But just maybe it isn’t.  Happiness is a choice. Determination is a choice. Focus is a choice. Everything we do is a choice we have the freedom to make.  

I think many people, myself most certainly included, get lost in the “big picture.” Because we can’t control what happens at the macro level we choose not to manage ourselves at the micro level. But we have to choose to affect the world at the micro level, taking ownership of our decisions and behaviors daily.  When we do this we have much more influence on the world around us.

When you wake up in the morning are you going to define your day, or be defined by the day that happens to you? Ask yourself tonight which person you were today.  Did you affect your world?

The ripple effect…

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela

close up water drop photography

Life (and leadership) is like tossing a pebble into a pond.  A big splash and then nothing remains on the surface.  

Except that’s not really true is it?  There are always ripples leading away from where your toss landed.  

It’s interesting that when you toss a pebble the ripples have to move away from the point of impact.  No matter how much we want to make life about ourselves, or try to focus on our own wants and needs, our behaviors and actions send waves out that intersect with others and impact their lives, for positive or negative effect.  

What is the impact that you want to happen today based on the pebbles you toss?  Are you tossing pebbles without thinking of the effect beyond yourself?  Are you living a life that will impact others and that they will say was significant?  

 

 

Embrace the suck…

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

Seneca

How easily we understand the need to change our body by challenging it with difficulty.  We get up early, we go to the gym, we push out just one more repetition on the bench press.  We know that by challenging the body we become stronger.  Embracing the suck is what we do to get stronger physically.  It’s easy to do because we have a goal we are striving to accomplish.

It works the same way with mental difficulties of course, but those aren’t as easy to embrace.  I’m not talking about learning new things and seeking new knowledge, that’s different.  I mean the times when life is challenging us, when things aren’t going our way.  Those difficulties aren’t as easy to embrace as strengthening opportunities, until you set aside emotions and personal pride and truly seek to learn from whatever challenge life has thrown your way.  That’s when the breakthroughs happen.  That’s when we get stronger…

Start. Stop. Continue.

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

Oswald Chambers

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

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

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

Sounds easy right.  If only that were the case.  

Attitude of gratitude…

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I began a daily “gratitude journal” several years ago where I would write down the 3-5 things that happened within the past 24 hours that I was especially grateful for.  It started as a 21-day challenge that was nothing more than a simple bullet list of specific items. Over time this became an exercise of deeper and more reflective journalling.  Invariably “life” would take over and I’d miss a day, then a week because of the time it took to write all the pages that I now expected myself to produce.  So I stopped.  Why? Because I created an expectation of myself that missed the point of the exercise entirely. I made it formulaic instead of remaining connected with the essence of the exercise.  It was a religion versus a spiritual connection.

Why do we humans do this?  Why do we take the simple and make it complicated and overwhelming?  Maybe I am the only one who does this but I don’t think so.  I see it happen at work, I see it happen in my personal life.  I see it happen when I am not taking time to be grateful for the good things that are there and instead focus on all the ways I think things should be. Make no mistake, it is okay to be discontent with the status quo.  In fact, I think it is AWESOME to be relentlessly discontent with the status quo. But don’t sacrifice thoughtful gratitude in an effort to get better.  Gratitude is a launching pad for even greater things…

I have met the enemy…

“Incompetent leaders spend too much time evaluating others and not enough evaluating their own leadership.”

Unknown

Well snap. And I don’t mean in a “snap, crackle, pop” rice krispies kind of way either. Yes, I fully recognize that I am not demographically qualified to use the term “snap.” I validate that by knowing that Snap, Crackle and Pop are the names of the gnomic elves that pitched Rice Krispies for decades. Don’t believe me?  Check this out. Hmm, now I’m not sure where to go from here. Oh yes, incompetent leaders…

snap crackle popPerhaps real leadership only exists when self leadership is there first? How much easier is it to say “it was their fault” or “they are a horrible leader” than it is to ask the question “how can I improve my leadership?” If it is their fault then I have nothing to worry about right?  WRONG.  I speak from experience.  If I “snap” and excuse it because “they” did it, deserved it, or earned it, then then I’m an incompetent leader.  Period. Thank goodness leadership growth is a journey.  Leave the snap for the cereal.

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