Reasons vs. Excuses…

“It is easier to move from failure to success than from excuses to success.”

John C. Maxwell

Excuses are devoid of action.  They reflect a lack of accountability for results which becomes a fertile ground for failure to take root.  The only way to break free from failure is to understand the reason that something failed and then create an action plan that you own and are accountable for.  The plan still might not work, but there can’t be any excuses, you have to own the outcomes.

When it comes to delivering results the difference between simply understanding a reason something happened, and making an excuse, is accountability and action.  

Winning is a habit…

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

Vince Lombardi

Winning is contagious, it spreads like a wildfire on a dry and windy summer day.  But losing is contagious too.  I am sure that you have been on both winning teams, and losing teams.  The difference in behavior and attitude is remarkable.  As a leader the key to building a winning team is to find wins and build on those wins.  Find the little things that are wins on a moment by moment or daily basis.  Create the momentum that allows a team to lean in and seek new and greater ways to grow.

You can apply this strategy in your self-leadership as well.  Reflect on your day and ask yourself “what were my wins today?”  Far too often, for me at least, it is easy to spend the time and energy thinking about all that you have to do, or all that you didn’t get done.  Instead, spend some time focusing on the wins that you did have.  You might find yourself building and reinforcing a habit of winning.

 

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…

 

Growth requires humility…

“No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.”

Jim Yong Kim

Discounting and ignoring feedback from others because you don’t agree with it or don’t see it the same way they do is incredibly flawed.  ‘In the mind of the perceiver the perception is a fact.’  

Feedback is a gift.  Because somewhere in there is a kernel of truth you might not want to recognize or address.  There is a root cause for a perception and if you want to grow, if you want to serve others, you MUST look inside yourself and at YOUR behaviors to figure out how to improve.  You have to learn and grow and have humility to understand that you don’t know everything.

Keep seeking feedback!  And if you don’t get it from one person, ask someone else.  When you receive it don’t defend yourself, seek first to understand and then get to work with humility and grace and find a way to change so you can improve in your ability to serve others.  

 

A battle won vs. a battle worth winning…

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Margaret Thatcher

This quote is a great reminder for me of the importance of discipline and perseverance.  It speaks to the importance of staying diligent and not resting on your laurels.  Just because you have done well and won a battle doesn’t mean it will stay won.  You must be disciplined and focused or you might find yourself fighting the same battle over again.  

However, if you have found yourself fighting the same battle more than once was it because the battle needed to be fought or because you wanted to fight it?  The watch out  is to make sure that we are focused on winning for the right reasons.  Is it about winning the battle or is it just about winning?   Has ego come into play and clouded our judgement?  

Discipline and perseverance are outstanding traits, as long as they don’t become a mask for stubbornness and ego-centric efforts.  Make sure you know why you are fighting.  

 

 

 

Effort versus Effect…

“Efficiency, which is doing things right, is irrelevant until you work on the right things.”

Peter Drucker

How much time do we spend in life working hard versus stepping back to ensure we are working right?  The impact of our effort is really what matters, not just the fact that we worked extremely hard.  Sometimes it can feel way more rewarding to be “busy” than it can to be effective.

For example, is it more important to check something off your list of to do’s than it is to take the time to think through whether the task should be on your list in the first place?  Have you ever completed a task and THEN written it down just so you could check it off?  Sure, you get this nice little dopamine boost than comes from accomplishing a task but did you actually sit back and make sure that the task needed to be done in the first place?  Why do we do this?  (yes, I have been guilty of this too…) 

I have found that because activity gets measured daily it can be easy to become a slave to being busy and lose sight of the desired results. In today’s multi-tasking as a measure of success world we can often justify our worth by being busy and having lots of activities going on at the same time.  However the real measure of effectiveness is whether or not the desired results are being delivered.

If you were to add one thing to your list to improve your effectiveness I would suggest this:  Schedule time weekly to think through what needs to be done in order to achieve your desired results.  Without this, you might have lots of effort but little to show for the work.

One last question.  Does your measure of success at the end of the day come from how many things were checked off your list or whether or not you were checking the right things off your list?

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?  

Speed + Simplicity + Self-confidence = Success

“The 3S’s of winning in business are speed, simplicity and self-confidence.”

Jack Welch

I love this!  When you think about it these are mutually dependent variables.  You just can’t have one without a good dose of the other.  

In today’s world speed is more critical than ever and you just can’t be fast if you allow complication to creep in to your processes or thinking.  Do some problems require complicated solutions?  Of course.  But the essence of creating speed is simplicity, and you simply can’t be fast to market, fast to grow, fast to learn, if complexity rules the day.  If you want to be fast, you have to find ways to keep things simple.  Period.  Simplicity is the great enabler of speed.  

Self-confidence (never to be mistaken for arrogance or high ego) enables speed and simplicity through decisive action and the ability to learn and adjust.  All too often we measure our own self-worth not on the results, but on the complexity of whatever solution we have created for a given problem.  Self-confidence is knowing that simple is good and that just because we are keeping things simple it is NOT an indication of low-value or low worth.

The road to mediocrity and irrelevance is paved with slow and complicated projects/programs/products.  I can’t imagine that much self-confidence was created through these failures…  

 

 

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?

 

What pushes you to grow?

“To succeed, you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.”

Tony Dorsett

What gets you out of bed in the morning?  What is that big thing that drives you long after everyone else has given up?  That something that pushes you out of your comfort zone and into new levels of growth?  

It doesn’t have to be a big thing, or something that will impress others, but it has to be YOUR thing.  When you find that bigger than you something that will drive you to grow beyond your current self, you will have succeeded.  You will have the fuel necessary to make the changes needed to grow as a person and as a leader.  

One word of caution, make sure that the thing you hold on to, that motivates you, that inspires you doesn’t become an idol that OWNS you…

But not you…

“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

Jim Rohn

How often do we ask ourselves these types of questions? Why do we dream small?  Live small?  Settle for less than we are capable of becoming? Why do we let others define us? Why do we focus on “can’t” instead of “I can” or “I will?” 

“But not you…”

It can be easy to fall into the trap of self-pity and excuses and become one of the “others” mentioned in the quote.  Easy, and incredibly dangerous because once you start down this path it is hard to climb back out.  It reminds me of one of my favorite, and incredibly funny, sayings.  “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity, lick it once and you will suck forever.”  Crass, yes, but oh so true.  

“But not you…”

The only way not to be small is to focus on your God given gifts and refuse to settle for being less than the person that God designed you to be.  If you haven’t figured that out yet, that is OKAY!  We are all learning and growing.  The key is is to understand that this isn’t supposed to be easy.  You can’t grow without going through the crucible and learning from the challenges.  

How do you choose to live a life that exemplifies these words?

“But not you…”  

 

The solution is what matters…

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”

George Washington Carver

If you are making excuses it is a failure of leadership.  Period.  If you are looking to assign fault, you are making an excuse.  You have already failed.

I’ve heard folks say, “I’m not making excuses, I just want to make sure you understand the reasons why this happened.”  I firmly believe that the only difference between  ‘excuses’ and ‘reasons’ is the action plan needed to drive change.  Reasons without action are just another name for an excuse and excuses don’t come with actions. 

The problem with excuses and “reasons” is that the effort is spent focused on the problem and all the reasons why something didn’t work.  This doesn’t add value in any way.  Now I am not saying it isn’t important to understand root cause and effect, but understanding is only important if you are then focused on doing something about it!

I recently read something really profound that puts this in perfect perspective.

“Focus only on the solution to the problem – never on the problem itself.”  

If you are solution oriented, you can’t be making excuses.  If you are ‘problem oriented’ then excuse-making and failure will be your best friends.  If you are looking for a reason something happened to take action, great.  But make sure that ACTION is what you are focused on creating, never excuses…  

Excuses = Failure…

Accountability starts with self…

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”

Courtney Lynch

On of my long-time favorite mantras is “fix the problem, not the blame.” Instead of investing your effort into finding out who who is at fault, and why they are accountable, focus on what happened and what is needed to fix it.  I love the way this quote frames out that accountability is a result of leading by example.  You can’t have accountability if the leader doesn’t walk the talk by accepting responsibility.  This seems so obvious, yet rare in practice.  
It is far easier to try and “hold others accountable” instead of first focusing on our responsibility as leaders for the outcomes and engendering an ownership mentality.   If you want to create a culture of accountability, take responsibility for the results.  
Accountability starts with self…

Perfect isn’t possible…

“Progressive improvement beats delayed perfection.”

Mark Twain

Perfect isn’t possible.  Once you come to terms with this then there is no need to wait hoping that you can get there.  How many great ideas, projects, initiatives, etc. never see the light of day because the “timing isn’t perfect,” or the idea, project, initiatve “isn’t perfect yet?”  

This doesn’t mean that there is an excuse for shoddy work or poor execution.  You can still be striving for great, but waiting for perfection means that you will be waiting forever.  Make change happen.  Make mistakes, learn, grow, get better.  Do something! Just get better.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Just don’t wait to create change because you are hoping for perfect because it will never happen.  

 

 

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?

 

 

Complacency = Death

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”

John P. Kotter

It always amazes me how many points can be scored in a football game during the last two minutes.  When the pressure is on, and time is of the essence, great teams step up and score points.  The 2-minute drill highlights what a team is capable of when acting with urgency and removing any and all complacency from their behaviors.  

I have long believed that a sense of complacency is the most dangerous thing that a person or a team can ever develop.  The dictionary definition of complacency is, “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”

Complacency scares me to death…

Operating with a sense of urgency is a natural guard against complacency.  Living with a sense of urgency shows up in the little things in life.  Watch people and you can tell those that bring a sense of urgency to all aspects of their lives.  You can see it in how they walk, how they respond to questions, what decisions they make, etc.

Urgency isn’t fear.   Urgency is moving and acting with intense purpose and drive because that’s how you choose to live.  

Listening is power…

“Leaders who refuse to listen, will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say”

Andy Stanley

I once heard someone say that if you want to be a more effective leader you have to be more interested, than interesting.  This was followed with with what I believe is some of the best advice I have ever received.  That as a leader, in order for you to really be effective, that the number of questions you ask must outweigh the number of statements that you make. This has always been incredibly convicting for me and is something that I continually work on improving.  

The dangers of talking more than listening seem obvious, but why do so few people actually practice the true art of listening?  Is it because they like the sound of their own voice?  That they believe what they have to say is the most important thing?  Or perhaps, they just don’t understand that the best way to impact and influence others comes through listening and seeking first to to understand BEFORE being understood.  

If you aren’t really listening, then as Andy says, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by people who only tell you what you want to hear….  

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…

 

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