Monday, February 15, 2016

Make the Most of Your Mind

"The empires of the future are the empires of the mind." ~ Winston Churchill

Much has been written about the mind. We change it, we lose it -- and far too often, we give others a piece of it. But how much time do we really spend in developing it? In the fast-paced world in which we live, the number of messages and images that flood our brain and work their way to the conscious and subconscious mind are staggering. But are they helpful or even useful? I believe a strong argument can be made that some are downright harmful. When you take a careful look around, what do you see? Are people happier? Friendlier? More hopeful? I'm afraid the answer is no. In fact, I strongly believe that while most people desire to live a life of meaning and purpose, many have just given up. The economy, the present state of government, and other factors have soured a great many people that once had great dreams.

What can be done about it? Increase the amount of available information? I think not. Orrin Woodward says that today; "we are information rich and wisdom poor." It is not more information that it is needed. Why add more oil and sludge to a river of information that is already horribly polluted? What is truly needed is a reliable path that leads us back to purpose, character, integrity, meaningful friendships, and personal and leadership development principles that can shape our destiny and determine our legacy. In short, we all want to leave this earth and know that what we did mattered to someone. And while meaningful legacy means different things to different people, there is a common foundation we can build on: Good information, good people, a forum to discuss and learn, and daily implementation.

For more than three years, I've participated in a weekly lunchtime book club designed to help its members grow both personally and professionally. Working as a small group, we've learned the importance of disciplined reading, critical thinking, and honest open discussion about what we've read. Perhaps most important, we've learned a whole lot about each other, including our goals, dreams, fears, and how we would like to be remembered. Collectively, we have read books that we may never read or choose on an individual basis -- and I can honestly say I have learned something valuable and useful from every one of them -- and I've been able to put the information into action for the benefit of myself, and more importantly for the benefit of others. I believe the members of our group would say the same. 

What about you? What information are you allowing in or purposely seeking out? Who are the people that you are spending time with, learning from, and from whom you take counsel? Do you have a forum to meet regularly for the purpose of meaningful discussion, relationship building and accountability? What changes are possible for you in just such an environment -- and who can be helped by such changes?

I challenge you to look at the information you're taking in and make effective and intentional reading a daily habit. I encourage you to seek out like-minded people and form a small group. If possible, include someone who is a little farther ahead on the journey and who has already made daily reading a priority. Seek book recommendations from leaders you trust and begin the journey. I'd be happy to suggest some great books that can help get you started.

Let's be intentional in our learning and development -- and work to develop an active mind. Then, maybe the next time we give someone a piece of our mind, it will be for the purpose of building up and strengthening them -- and the legacy we ultimately leave behind.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Do You Know Your Passionate Purpose -- Are You Living It?

People often tell me they don't really know what their passionate purpose is. And in this cynical and often cruel environment in which we live, it is somewhat understandable. But, it doesn't have to be, and it shouldn't be that way. Isn't everyone born with a desire to be, and be significant? So how do we find our passionate purpose?

I believe it starts with a gnawing in the pit of our stomach -- not in a painful way, but in an urgent demand to be heard. We see a vision of what our passion and purpose looks like in action, and we are energized by it -- even when we are otherwise exhausted. We see the possible changes, outcomes, and effects and we are moved -- often to the point of tears. Some of you clearly know what I'm talking about, and no, I am not a mind reader. I simply believe that passionate purpose, however deeply buried, is inherently placed within each one of us -- and it is yearning to be born. We are "wonderfully made".

However, if your first thought is "what's in it for me", you may be mistaking passionate purpose for personal promotion. Now I know that many may disagree with that statement.  Certainly, I believe that ideally our passionate purpose should feed our pragmatic occupation or source of income, no doubt. However, in the long run, self-focus cannot empower and drive us to completion or total fulfillment of our passionate purpose.

If we habitually put our own interests first, there will come a time in which that interest's needs are met and we will stop. Occupation stops, purpose does not. Our passionate purpose has no retirement date. We may change and adjust how and when we fulfill it, but the passionate purpose remains -- and is only fulfilled in death.

So the question is: Can you find your passionate purpose, and will you be faithful in serving it until your heart has beaten for the last time, and your last breath has been taken? Life is short, so why live without passion and without purpose?

See it. Believe it. Build it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Are We Listening To The Leaders Of Tomorrow?

This is a speech my daughter gave at her high school graduation, last week. I share it not only as a proud dad, but as an opportunity for us to stop and hear what our children, the leaders of tomorrow are thinking. We've spent years teaching them, and nurturing them -- but have we really spent any significant time listening to them?

When I heard her speech, I fully expected to be proud. In fact, I knew I would be bursting with pride. What I didn't expect was to be taught and inspired. And that is exactly what happened. To hear her thoughts on the past, present, and future -- on service, relationships, dreams, goals, and the anxious anticipation of what tomorrow brings, was both inspiring and eye-opening. I knew she was smart, but I didn't know there was a certain wisdom she had acquired and a realistic, yet optimistic view that can propel her into positions of great leadership in the years ahead.

I suspect there are many like her, maybe even your own children, who are growing up before our eyes and taking the lessons we've taught, and the lessons they've caught and laying them as a foundation for tomorrow. The question is: Are we listening? Please take a few minutes and start here.

I'd love to hear about your experiences as well.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What Are You Thinking?

"First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination." -- Napoleon Hill

It all begins with a thought -- but it is what happens afterward that makes the difference. While we literally have thousands of thoughts on any given day, we must ask ourselves; what is the significance of those thoughts and are they serving to help or hinder our efforts to lead a successful life. In previous posts, we've discussed the importance of thinking positive in order to give the subconscious mind its blueprint for action. But how many times do we really decide to take definitive action on a conscious thought? This post is an example of taking action on a thought that passed through my head as I was preparing to get out of bed. "If it all begins with a thought, where can it go from there?"

In his classic book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill outlines the power of our thoughts in transforming desire into reality. But, he clearly indicates that the thought itself will not necessarily bring it to fruition. We must have the courage and the persistence to take focused action and be willing to risk failure after failure to achieve what we first merely believed. This is what went through my head during my morning reflection:

"It all begins with a thought, which then becomes a desire, which then becomes a burning passion, which then becomes a definite decision, which then becomes an all-consuming purpose, which then becomes a meaningful mission, which then becomes a step of faith and hope, which then becomes journey, which then produces a result, which in turn impacts lives, which in turn changes destinies, and finally -- cements a lasting legacy for he or she who merely had the thought."

Of the some 70,000 thoughts you have today, will one of them motivate you to make a decision to take an action step in the direction of your passionate purpose and ultimately fulfill your God-given mission that will leave a permanent legacy for you, your family, your community, your country, and your world? It all begins with a thought.

So, what do you think?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Leaders Are Readers -- Do You Have The Habit?

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” -- Harry Truman

Although terribly unpopular when he left the presidency, Harry Truman's legacy has cemented his place in American history as one of its greatest leaders. He was also one of its most prolific and dedicated readers. Although he never earned a college degree, Truman's love for reading and learning started early and continued throughout his life. He was especially fond of history and said: "In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first." There is no doubt his love for reading served him and in turn, the America people, very well. It is said that his decision to drop the atomic bomb to end WWII essentially saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers. Being a child of a WWII vet, this is especially significant as I look at the impact and legacy of that decision. 

Like Truman, I have a love for history and devote a large part of my reading time to historical leadership and to studying the great men and women of the past. What about you? What are you interested in? What, or who do you want to know more about? What part of your life or occupation would you like to improve and develop? That's the beauty of a self-directed education. We get to choose what we want to learn about and the pace at which we learn it. The question is: Are we taking full advantage of that choice and like the great leaders of the past and present, committing ourselves to a true self-directed education?

Reading is a great path to discovery and its discipline can have a wonderful effect on our lives, the lives of others, and on the fulfillment of our purpose. Did you know that by reading just 15 minutes per day you can finish an average book in about a month? That translates to approximately 12 books a year. Think about what that can do for your life, your career, your relationships -- and even the world around you. Are you ready? Grab a book and get a firm grip on your own self-directed education. I'd love to hear about what you're learning. 

Be a leader and be a reader!

As always, your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Green Mind

"When you're green you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -- Ray Kroc

In today's environment, there seems to be a big emphasis on "going green" -- and justifiably so. Taking care of the world we live in makes sense both now, and in the future. After all, it's the only world we're going to get and how we treat it today determines the legacy we leave behind. But shouldn't we also be concerned about the sustainability of a much more personal resource -- our mind?

Today, we have more information available to us than in any other point in history -- and as I see it, that is both good and bad. There are some tremendous resources that can help shed light on just about any subject, but there is a whole lot of junk out there too. Science fiction writer, Theodore Sturgeon once said that "ninety percent of everything is crud." His revelation originally applied to the science fiction genre. However, taking it a step further, it can be said that this observation holds true in other fields, and most likely, any field. We now know this to be, Sturgeon's Law -- and a simple trip through the Internet should confirm it is true.

This leads us to what may be a larger concern; and that is the question of where we get our information and how do we validate its usefulness and more importantly, its truthfulness. From the baby boom generation forward, we have become a society of mass media and mass communication. The entrance of cable television and an ever-expanding online world have redefined what mass communication is and what effect it may be having. Trying to take in what is now available via social media alone is like drinking from a fire hose -- it may leave us wet and cold and well, still thirsty. I believe many people today are thirsty for information, but I also believe people may be getting lazy and complacent. After all, there are plenty of outlets that are more than happy to tell us what to think. So why not let them? Isn't it easier to simply listen to what's being said and then simply recite or more to the point, regurgitate the information? The problem is, it takes the critical thinking component out of the equation -- and just as standing water becomes stagnant, so does our mind.

We were made to think, to create, to solve, to build, to improve, to reason and to ultimately leave evidence that we were here. Long after our bank accounts and properties have been distributed to others, the power of our thoughts and mobilization of our minds will speak for us -- if we choose to expand them now. But how? Find those who have results -- and do what they do and read what they read. More specifically, find those who have results in the area or topic in which they are speaking or writing about.

Some of the best and most influential books I've read over the last two years are books I would never have chosen on my own. Through my monthly subscription, I receive books and audio CDs that have been read and/or produced by a group of leaders who definitely have "the fruit on the tree". This saves me considerable time and expense in choosing the material that will help me grow in my life and in my business. I would highly recommend that you do the same.

However, all the books and great information in the world will not help one bit if it is not consumed -- and consumed regularly. By devoting just 15 minutes per day to thoughtful reading, you will finish the average book in 30 days or less. Think about it. You can read 12 new books over the next year -- and you can do it in as little as 15 minutes per day. That's a huge return on a small investment of time.

Another great learning strategy is to turn your daily commute into a "university on wheels". Turn off the radio and turn on the flow of quality information that comes from great audio books and CDs. I haven't had the radio on in well over two years. Instead, I am redeeming the time I spend in the car by turning it into a daily opportunity to improve myself, my business, and the lives and businesses of my clients and associates.

With a little creativity and determination, you can make the most of your travel times, wait times, and spare moments. Try keeping a book or MP3 player with you at all times. Redeem the time and you'll reap the reward of a "green mind".

Perhaps Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said it best: "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." And if I may add, its former state of "ripeness".

May your mind stay forever green. Your comments are always welcome.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

You, Inc.

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." -- Dr. Seuss

When we were kids, we liked to play baseball out in the yard. Actually, our game of choice was wiffleball -- particularly after the hard ball found its way into a few windows. As you may remember, a wiffle ball is a plastic version with holes in it, Combined with a plastic bat it produces a more contained, yet enjoyable version, of the summer classic.  Making this adjustment allowed us to not only keep playing ball, but to keep our allowance money intact. The will always finds a way.

Inevitably, we would take on our wiffleball persona -- which was usually one of the members of the Detroit Tigers. The notable exception was two older kids who insisted on being Yankees -- just for spite, I suppose. I remember as I came to bat, I would suddenly be transformed into Norm Cash or Jim Northrup -- two of my boyhood idols who would be instrumental in the Tiger's 1968 World Series Championship. Interestingly enough, I would be facing such Tiger pitching aces as Denny McClain or Mickey Lolich cleverly disguised as one of my friends down the street. It was especially gratifying if I hit a home run off Whitey Ford or Mel Stottlemyere of the hated Yankees. Being a major league star was fun and it made perfect sense on the wiffleball field. However, there comes a time when the imitation has to stop and the original has to step up.

Unfortunately, so many people fail to see the unique value they bring to the table and instead spend way too much time and energy trying to be someone else. It may start when we see the attention that somebody is getting for a particular idea or accomplishment. Feeling that we too need to grab some of that attention, we attempt to squeeze ourselves into somebody else's mold. Predictably, it is not a very good fit and the chafing it produces, both internally and externally, subtracts from the positive result we hoped to create. Besides, the copy will never have the distinctive value of the original. A trip to see any art appraiser will confirm this is true.

So what stops us from seeking to be the absolute best version of ourselves? Is it laziness, lack of confidence, or just plain ignorance and lack of awareness of who we are? My thought is that it could be any combination of these things. However, it may have its real root in not truly understanding or embracing our unique, God-given purpose. In his classic book, "Resolved: 13 Resolutions for Life", Orrin Woodward lists Purpose as the first rung on the ladder to individual success and fulfillment. He says, "Purpose provides direction to a person's life, making every task, even seemingly mundane ones, filled with significance." 

To help discover our unique purpose, "Good to Great" author Jim Collins suggests we ask ourselves three questions:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be the best in the world at?
  • What drives your economic engine?

The answers to these questions may very well provide the catalyst we need to truly discover the unique value and contribution that we can bring into our world. When we understand this fully, we also understand that we need not be a cheap imitation of someone else when we and we alone have the seed of individual greatness. Armed with this information and awesome realization, we can confidently move forward and construct the lasting legacy that will define our life -- and our life alone. It is "truer than true that no one alive is Youer than You."

So now that you know it, here's what You do, live the fabulous life made especially for You!

Your comments are always welcome.