Do you have the courage to shut up and listen…

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Sir Winston Churchill

Talking is easy. Listening is hard.

The challenge for all of us is that we want to control, demonstrate our knowledge and capabilities, and have the last word.

Sometimes the best demonstration of power comes from shutting your mouth and opening your mind to the thoughts and perspectives of another.

What is the downside? You just might learn something new.

Think “present past” or “future back.”

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Winston Churchill

Do you choose to see the world through a lens of positive or negative opportunities? Is your first inclination to look for the reasons why something won’t work? Or do you have a tendency to see the silver lining in every cloud? How you choose to answer these questions will have a profound impact on your life.

Everything that happens creates an opportunity for growth and development. One technique that I have found helpful is to reframe the current situation and think as if I were recalling it a year from now. Ask yourself this question. One year from today what is the biggest opportunity that was presented I am so glad I didn’t let slip through my fingers?

In many ways, the bigger the difficulty, the larger the opportunities that exist to change your world, and the world of those around you. Reframe your mind to think about the world from a “future back” perspective and suddenly all those challenges will present themselves as opportunities…

Criticize me; please!

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Winston Churchill

The most growth I have ever had in my life has come from criticism, not praise. I have learned to not only welcome criticism and feedback but to truly desire and appreciate it. It is the only way that one can get outside of your own mind and perceptions and see and understand the impact that you have on others.

Certainly not all criticism is good, constructive, or even relevant. However, if you start to ignore any of the feedback given to you you do so at your own peril. Some of the criticism I have received in life I disagreed with vehemently, and on further reflection might be something that wasn’t helpful or positive in any way. But it made me stop and think. It made me ask the question, “how am I behaving that could create that perception and how might I need to change if changing that perception is both important and relevant to me?”

Create a mindset where you both welcome and appreciate criticism in all areas. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it at face value, but it does mean you have to listen, reflect and learn. Who knows, it might be just what you need to hear…

Though I Walk Through the Valley…

“Mountaintops inspire leaders but valleys mature them.”

Winston Churchill

This quote made me sit back and think and ask myself some tough questions.  Would I rather be on the mountain or in the valley?  Where am I now?  Which experiences have given me the greatest growth?  Well the obvious answer is that I want to be ON the mountain.  I mean we all would right?  But that is surface level and as I really challenged myself to think through this and what the implications were for me personally I realized that the pursuit of the mountain, while motivational and inspiring, haven’t been as personally or professionally impactful on me as my times in the valley.  I need the valley to push me out of my comfort zones, to get real and raw with myself and make the necessary changes to grow as a leader.

But the valley experience alone doesn’t create growth or maturity.  Upon more reflection  it dawned on me that even during tough times, even during periods of real challenge it is so important to always keep an eye on the horizon to the mountain in the distance.  It might seem so far away but it is critical to look up, check that it is still there and remind yourself of why you are pushing through the hard stuff to get out of the valley.

Rick Warren has one of my favorite quotes regarding overcoming pain (the valley).  In it he says “Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain.”  This strikes a chord for me on many levels.  Ultimately it is about how you can anchor your vision on  the mountain, your ministry, the future impact that you want to have on others, and then lean forward to embrace the suck and seek to wring every drop of learning from the experience of being in the valley.  I wouldn’t trade away a single valley experience.  They are just too important for growth.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil…”

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