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.   

Monday, September 23, 2013

Critical Success

"To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." -- Elbert Hubbard

Criticism, just or unjust, can hurt us and leave us a bit frustrated at times. There will always be some who will doubt our motives and find fault in our efforts no matter how noble our intentions. Take heart, for every person who has dared to take action has found his or her share of critics. 

We must simply examine our hearts, be honest with ourselves in regard to our intentions, and move forward. If we are on the side of truth, then truth really does set us free. If not, we make the adjustment. When we are in error, we must be quick to ask for forgiveness. When we are not, we must be quick to extend forgiveness and show grace at all times. It may not be easy, but it really is necessary.

There was a time when I thought criticism from others signaled that I was on the wrong path or that I must be doing something specifically wrong. As I look back, I wonder how many times I let the critics derail me and either abandoned an idea or a quest -- or in the best case -- settled for far less. It was as though "they" knew something that I didn't know, or were smarter than me. I mean, if the path I was walking was really the right one, wouldn't everyone agree with me and wish me well on the journey? I think in your heart you already know the answer to that question is -- NO.

There are far too many reasons why people criticize our efforts to even begin to discuss here in this post. Some criticism comes from ill-intent, or petty jealousy, or just a level of comfort that assures someone they are okay, and that there is no need to go further, or learn something new. Change the status quo and you can bet someone will not like it. It is at these times that we must look at the results -- their results. Either they have them or they don't. If they really don't have the results you want, why give them power over you and your dreams? 

However, there are some who have our best intentions at heart and are simply working from the best information at hand to make recommendations or provide guidance. This criticism is harder to discern and often harder for us to break through. However, just a quick look at the events of the last 5 to 10 years will tell us that things have changed and new information and new actions are necessary if we are truly going to succeed in the manner we have determined is right for us. At this point, if you believe you are doing the right thing, it is a matter of making a decision and sticking to it. In time, the truth always comes to the surface.

Criticism comes with success. When we know it up front, we can make plans to deal with it. And, the best defense against a critic is to prove them wrong. The question is; do we have the resolve to do it? Let me know how I can help.

Your comments are always welcome.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Can A Man Change His Stars?

"Can a man change the stars? Yes William. If he believes enough, a man can do anything!" -- A Knights Tale

This father and son conversation comes from the movie, "A Knight's Tale", in which a young William proudly proclaims: "Someday... I'll be a knight." His confident declaration is met by jeers and ridicule. A man locked in stocks says: "A thatcher's son? A knight? You might as well try to change the stars." And so a chorus of laughter is the only response the little boy hears. But when he asks his father if it is possible, he is assured that it is. Does the father truly believe it? Maybe. Maybe not, But, the important thing is; William believes it and -- spoiler alert -- goes on to fulfill his dream.

For anyone to truly change the stars, he or she must have a vision and a belief that the seemingly impossible is actually attainable. The star-set mentality says that everything is ordered and the place we occupy in life is also ordered -- and that it is futile to resist or even question the outcome. Sadly, to one degree or another, most of us have accepted our star-set future. It may not come in the form of our lineage or heritage -- at least not specifically. But, our too-eagerly accepted constraints and limited beliefs can cause us to stop short and settle for a life that is far less fulfilling than the one beyond our stars. It is not too big of a stretch to say that there is even a level of comfort in the mundane and "normal" -- and even in the excuses that hold us there.

To get something you've never had, you need to do something you've never done. In fact, you may need to do something that nobody has ever done. If we go back to William's example, we'll see this is absolutely true. He eventually received his knighthood because of what many believed was the ultimate in defiance. He was willing to do what nobody, including those who were already so-called knights were willing to do.

While impersonating a knight, under an assumed name, William found himself in a jousting contest with a member of the royal family, who interestingly enough was also operating under an assumed name. This would become a significant point later in the story. When the prince's true identity was discovered, all of the other knights withdrew from the contest. To knowingly endanger a member of the royal family was punishable by death. And apparently none of the knights were willing to take that risk -- none except William. Because of his willingness to fight he wins the prince's admiration and eventually his true knighthood.

Perhaps his resolve is best seen in his simple response; "it's not in me to withdraw." Could it be that such a mindset and a willingness to be sold out at all costs is the true differentiator and the lever that makes it possible to alter the stars? If not, it certainly is the foundation on which the rock is laid. While he had no idea that this encounter was the passport to his dreams, he never wavered in his belief. Better to die as a result of action, than to live in regret of the one never taken.

What royalty lies within us? What path is ours for the taking? What are we willing to risk to forever change the stars -- and forge a new legacy for those who come after us?

Can a man change the stars? Yes William. If he believes enough -- and is willing to take the action to prove it -- a man can do anything! 

Change your thinking, and you'll change your stars!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today's Glimpse at Tomorrow's Leaders

"Leadership is communicating a person's worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves." -- Stephen R. Covey

Today, I had the opportunity to attend an outstanding leadership event. In my line of work, it is not unusual to attend such functions, but this one was dramatically different -- and a definite first for me. Leadership events hosted by local business owners, community and professional organizations, and local colleges are usually facilitated by proven professionals who often have many years of practical, hands-on experience -- and most are pretty good and well worth the investment of time and effort. However, what I saw today, was a wonderful and unexpectedly insightful display of leadership skill and application from an entirely new crop of young leaders -- 5th and 6th grade leaders to be exact.

When I was invited to attend the Leadership Day program at Cooper Upper Elementary School, in the Livonia, Michigan school district, I expected to see the results of a class project or study module that the involved children were learning about. What I saw however, went far beyond my expectations, and I would guess those of many other adults and professionals in attendance. These young people were not merely learning "about" leadership, they were learning to be engaged "in" the leadership process -- an important distinction that became more and more evident throughout the day. Of course, having a granddaughter involved in the program was especially sweet and gratifying.

At this point, I have to truly acknowledge the faculty and staff who had the insight and the determination to bring The Leader in Me process to Cooper School and most importantly, its young students. Based on Stephen Covey's groundbreaking book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Leader in Me process is having a real, and I would presume, lasting effect on the development of these 21st century leaders of tomorrow. In fact, I would recommend visiting The Cooper Leaders blog on a regular basis to get a better idea of what these students and their mentors are accomplishing. Go to: -- and be sure to leave some positive and uplifting comments to show your support.

Taking on The 7 Habits is not an easy task. Any adult who has picked up Covey's book can attest to that fact. However, these children have made a serious commitment to making them part of their lives and their culture. And, the results show. Shake hands with one of these young people and you'll see the confidence to look you in the eye and the poise to speak directly to you and with you. Ask them about a famous role model or leadership mentor and you'll get an explanation and expository that will most likely have you reaching for your history books. Ask them how the habits have helped them in their daily lives and you'll hear about teamwork, conflict resolution, and a steadfast commitment to never give up on one another. I think there are a number of boardrooms across the country that could benefit from seeing and hearing how these young leaders view their world. There is no doubt that they taught me to never underestimate the ability and the power these young folks have to make a difference in our world.

I look forward to seeing more and to supporting the program in any way I can -- and I hope you'll do the same. As their motto says: "Cooper Leaders Light the Way". Lead on Cooper students!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Noise From Within

"The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions." -- Leonardo da Vinci

A few years ago, I found myself aggravated by bouts of ill-timed insomnia. Night after night I would quickly fall asleep only to find my eyes open again just a few hours later. Now, I'm not sure what it is about the wee hour of the morning that makes every thought or task seem to be of the utmost importance and worth unending rumination -- but, it soon became apparent that I was my own worst enemy. My nighttime thoughts and perceptions were doing me in -- and they were speaking quite loudly.

During a conversation with a friend, I was introduced to the concept of "white noise". The idea is to introduce some type of ambient noise such as the sound of falling rain, rustling wind, or ocean surf to mask other intrusive or unwanted noises. In my case, the intrusion was the sound of my own inner voice. After a few nights with the soothing sounds of rain and thunder, my thoughts were quieted and a more regular and peaceful sleep returned.

Unfortunately, the inner noise and negative conversations we have with ourselves are not limited to the nighttime hours. In fact, from the moment we wake up there is often that nagging feeling that something isn't quite right. We may not always be able to put our finger on exactly what it is that is bothering us, but we sure can talk to ourselves about it.

Think about what happens when you're alone -- in the car for instance. Do you find yourself driving along, caught up in your own thoughts and self-talk? Now honestly; can you really say that you consistently feed yourself that positive and uplifting self-talk we all really want and need? Judging from the way you just yelled at the driver in front of you, I'm thinking the answer is -- no.

It's time to stop listening to ourselves and start listening to thoughts and ideas that can truly change the way we think. By popping in a CD or audio book, we can change the information we're taking in, and more importantly we can interrupt or shut down the flow that often comes from our own poisoned well. When we commit to enhancing our learning through reading and prayerfully seeking out the right people with the right result, we are taking definite and positive steps toward being the person we truly desire to be.

What changes do you want to make in the personal, occupational, and faith-based areas of your life? Is it really possible to improve in these key areas? The answer is yes and the time is now. Turn off and tune in.

Your comments are always welcomed. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Commitment, Consistency, and Competency

“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” -- Malcolm Gladwell

Have you ever made a decision to learn to do something new? Maybe you wanted to learn to play the piano, or the guitar, or the drums, or one of the many instruments available to all of us who were destined to be the "Fifth Beatle". By the way, my sincere appreciation goes out to all those parents who raised aspiring musicians. If it wasn't the constant boom of the drums, it was the ear-splitting squeals that every would-be Jimi Hendrix just had to produce. In my case, it was the rearranged dishes and cabinets full of knick-knacks that came alive to the heavy vibrations of a bass guitar and amp combo -- that strangely had only one volume setting -- 10! So, maybe this wasn't the best example -- but it sure was fun!

The point is, that at some point, all of us have resolved to learn something new -- and most likely totally underestimated the time and practice it would take to become as proficient as we visualized ourselves to be. Now, I'm not here to dredge up painful memories of an ill-fated venture, because I also know we've all found at least some degree of success in several areas. I'm just trying to shed a little truth on the principles of commitment, consistency and competency.

If we think about it, these three principles are at work in every worthwhile endeavor we ever dare to attempt. Without them, in part or as a whole, all of our best intentions to do something, know something, or be something fall miserably short. In other words, we eventually and often bitterly, quit. A few weeks ago I heard Chris Brady say something to the effect of, "you will be tempted to quit every good thing you ever do." This really stuck with me. We think our quitting is the result of discovering that something isn't good or worth pursuing -- at least I thought that way. That is, until I did an honest appraisal of just a few of the good things I flat-out quit. Why did I do it?

As I look back, it is clear that I lacked a firm commitment that was tied to a bigger dream or want. Without it, my commitment had no root. From this point it is really the domino-effect that takes over. Lack of commitment crushes any hope of consistency, which in turn squeezes out even the smallest bit of competency. So what is left over? Nothing has really changed, other than gathering up a little fresh regret -- at least for a while. Sound familiar?

Thomas Jefferson said: "If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.” Perhaps the thing we've never really done is honestly walk the commitment-consistency-competency path. It stands to reason that consistent practice produces a good result. Ideally, that result is competency or mastery in a particular area or discipline. But again, without commitment the foundation collapses. How do we gain commitment? By changing the way we think about ourselves, what we know, what we don't know, and more importantly, what we're capable of doing. We may also need to change our surroundings, including what and who we allow to influence us.

Find the dream that will help you make the commitment -- to consistently practice whatever needs to be mastered -- to gain the true level of competence -- that will change your life and rock your world.

Your comments are always welcome.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Go Ahead -- Do It Anyway!

There are times when nothing more really needs to be said. This is one of those times. The following poem was written by Kent Keith in 1968. It is said that it was for a booklet that went to student leaders. I am thinking that he would know the resistance and the disappointment that every leader will eventually encounter. In fact, I believe such things define our ability as leaders. So, we must prepare for it.
I've been told that another version of this poem was written on the wall of a children's home in Calcutta, India -- a home in which Mother Teresa had a ministry.
Our job as leaders is to prepare and be prepared for the inevitable storms that come any time we're dealing with people. And, since it is impossible to be a leader without dealing with people, it will do us good to read and reread these words of wisdom.
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
Leading people may be the hardest job you've ever taken on and your efforts may sometimes seem small. Lead them anyway.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What's In Your Tank?

“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” ~ Aristotle

As I meet and continue to work with people on a daily basis, I always ask about their dreams and deepest desires. Ultimately I will hear something like; "I just want to help people" or "I want to make a difference in the lives of others". It seems to be a common theme within the human spirit. But often, when I ask them how they would do it, a look of surprise or concern comes over their face -- followed by something like; "I'm not really sure".

In most cases, I truly believe that people want to help others or make a difference in the world -- but I'm also convinced that they really don't know how because there is not a fresh and streaming source of helpful information coming into their lives. It's kind of like going all day without eating. As much as you want to be helpful and attentive to what people around you are saying; your mind is only on the empty stomach and the weakened feeling you're experiencing. In short, your tank is empty -- and truth be told, your disposition may not be the best for the task at hand. You may even reach for some junk food to bridge the gap. Often, you'll feel even worse from the effect of the empty calories.

So, wouldn't it be just as true for our minds and hearts? Without a daily intake of positive and life-changing information, how can we expect to help others be more, have more, or reframe their thinking? What about the "junk food" of the mind? When our only daily intake is coming from the news media, social media, and negative co-workers or relatives, what is our mind and what is our heart going to produce? Junk! The Bible says: "For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh" (Luke 6:45).

If our true motivation or desire is to help others, then we cannot do so from an empty or polluted tank. We need to resolve to fill our reservoir with good, useful, positive, uplifting information that is grounded in truth. We need to be filled first so that out of our abundance our mind and heart overflow with helpful conversation, information, and encouragement. Simply put; you can't give what you don't have.

Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Be An Action Hero

“You can be on the right track and still get run over if you're not moving.” ~ Orrin Woodward

When I was a kid, I used to love comic books. Superman, Batman, Justice League of America. They all were well worth the 12 or 25 cents I'd gladly shell out to catch up on their incredible adventures and their mostly secret lives. But, I must admit that Green Lantern was my favorite and that in the back of my mind, somehow he and I were really the same person. C'mon, you did the same thing -- didn't you? Moving on.

The main attraction to these super-heroes was some unique and incredible power that could be used to vanquish evil, restore order and remind us of the good that we were capable of doing. Of course, those costumes or suits were pretty cool too.

Today, we think of them as action heroes -- people who we can count on to do the right thing at the right time. Their most incredible power is usually courage, determination and a sense there is something bigger than themselves. And, as much as we like to believe that we ourselves fit into this category, an honest and open look may reveal otherwise.

The truth is, we can resolve, plan, study, train and prepare ourselves to move forward and still miss the most important and measurable step of all. We simply fail to take action. Plain and simple. In fact, as you read these last sentences it is likely a wave of guilt or at the very least, discomfort washed over you. Why? Because you know this is undeniably true in all but a handful of people you know. And, of course we know ourselves -- and there lies the rub.

We have great intentions. We say we're going to do it this time. Just wait until tomorrow comes, that's the day that will change everything! One question: How is that working for you?

In my business, as a coach, mentor and community builder, I am constantly talking about slowing down and facing the brutal reality of the situation my clients or students have put themselves in. We talk about the need for positive change that involves changing the information we allow in, which in turn changes the way we think, which in turn changes the actions we take, which in turn changes the results we get. Makes sense, doesn't it? And yet, time and time again it is the action step that interrupts and derails the process -- and renders accountability for results weak and basically pointless.

The Orrin Woodward quote above, really hits it on the head. We can resolve to do the right things. We can be on the right track with great information and associations that have the power to take us so far beyond the current and propel us in the stratosphere of the success and accomplishment we seek. We can plan and post quotes and make dreamboards -- oh, I'm making friends now -- but if we never really "do" then we relegate ourselves to the "friends of tomorrow club" where the oasis of what we've promised remains a mirage.

The good news is; it's never to late to take action -- even if it is only the smallest step. In fact, if you're going to be that person of action, I can reasonably guarantee that it is the small step that makes the biggest difference. Why? Because every journey whether it is to the mall or to the moon really does start with taking the first action step. So it goes for the changes we want to make, the dreamboards we want to fulfill, and the person we wish and hope to become.

Whatever that first action step is for you, I implore you to take it. It may hurt and you may actually fall in the process. So what. Get up and start again. Every step gets easier and every step increases the chance that you will actually develop a new habit -- the habit of taking action.

If you think about it, you'll also come to realize that there is someone who is just waiting for you to be that person of action. Perhaps there are a number of someones. You know who they are. Go ahead and be what they always knew you could be -- a true action hero.

If you'd like to have an accountability partner, I am more than happy to be there for you.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Just do me a favor. Do it now -- not tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What's New In You?

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is always something exciting about seeing something brand new. Whether it is a brand new baby, a brand new car, or as we celebrate today -- a brand new year. When something is so new, all of the possibilities of greatness are on display. There seems to be a limitless stream of thoughts and visions that run through our head. But unfortunately, as most of us have experienced the newness and the excitement it brings tends to fade away -- and often very quickly. Why?

After all, it is a brand new day and a brand new year. What can possibly get in the way? How about the same old you? Same thoughts. Same fears. Same excuses. Same baggage. Same relationships. Same old you. But then again, you already knew that didn't you? You've lived with yourself long enough to know how true this really is. The question is what will you do with it?

It is difficult to truly fathom the remarkable and even truly desired change we want to see if we cast its possibilities against what we are today. Quite simply, if we want our circumstances to change, we must change. In a prior post, Change -- An Inside Job, we talked about how the heart of the problem is that the heart is the problem. If we change our heart, we change our thoughts, our perceptions, our fears, our relationships, and most importantly we make room for the newness we seek.

"And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins." -- Mark 2:22.

As this verse suggests, it is impossible to be filled with something new and alive if we are pouring it into an old, damaged, corrupt vessel. In the end, our best efforts are wasted and poured out on the ground. So, doesn't it make sense to, as Emerson says, write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year? Renew your heart and you've renewed your wineskin. How?

The truth is that if you do the same thing you've always done, you'll get the same thing you've always gotten -- at least to some predictable degree. However, what we do is controlled by the way we think. So, the real change has to come there -- in our thinker. But to change what comes out, we need to change what goes in. As, the old computer saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

Make a decision today, this first day of the year that you will change what goes into your thinker. Make a decision to read more. Did you know that reading 15 minutes a day allows you to finish the average book in 30 days? That means by this time next year, you will have read 12 new books!

While on your daily commute, make a decision to shut off the radio and listen to quality CDs that are intended to give you the self-directed education that can change your thinking and change your life. Give it 30 days and it will become a habit that will increase your knowledge and your personal fulfillment. LIFE offers some great leadership and personal development material and I urge you to take a look. You may even want to consider taking the Mental Fitness Challenge to give yourself a jump-start in the most critical areas of your life.

Make a decision to change your relationships and surroundings by seeking out those people who are of like-mind that they may hold you accountable to yourself and the change you mutually seek. I'm thankful to be in just such a community of leaders and coaches that are committed to helping others live the life they've always wanted.

It won't always be easy, but it will always be worth it. We can help. Write it on your heart!