All posts by Diane

Living the Dream

different size white ladders with the tallest ladder leading to a red and white bullseye target the represents living the dream

NOTE FROM DIANE…

Last week I did a Facebook Live video on how to overcome the three biggest obstacles to achieving your intentions, visions and goals.  The below article elaborates on some of the points I made in that video.  If you haven’t had a chance to see the Facebook Live, I encourage you to check it out.  It’s only my second one – something I’ve been inspired to do as a way of fulfilling my own personal vision for 2019.

Stay tuned (or subscribe) for more, and scroll to the end of this message for a time sensitive opportunity to work directly with me in an exclusive program that will kick off in April.  Now for today’s article…

What do you find easier – dreaming big, or finding a way to make those dreams come true? 

Most of us have more difficulty with the latter.  If you don’t, you may not be dreaming big enough.  I remember a time when one of my clients and I were musing about what makes realizing those dreams and visions so difficult.  We felt that the toughest part is connecting the vision to reality: Identifying and executing the steps that must be taken to get from here to there.

FROM VISION TO REALITY…

For years, I was convinced that having a vision and goals meant perceiving a clear and specific picture of what was to come and creating a plan that would ensure that certain milestones were met at designated intervals.  I was taught that goals had to be specific, measurable, and time bound (and have spent a good part of my career teaching others the same).  I would spend a significant amount of time wordsmithing these goals and creating something similar to a detailed project plan as though I could bend reality to my will.   And then life would happen and I’d get exceedingly frustrated when things didn’t fall into place the way I had planned.

The part of us that wants to identify a course of action that mitigates risk and controls all the variables is akin to a manager, whose responsibility is to plan, direct, organize, and control.  The challenge is that preconceived ideas of what must be and all that has to happen to bring it to fruition can never take into account all the unexpected twists and turns that each day throws at us.  So, the manager in each of us needs to take its orders from a higher authority.

FOLLOW YOUR HIGHER AUTHORITY

This higher authority is our inner leader.  The leader lives in the present, takes its cues from its inner and outer environment, and speaks to the hearts as well as the heads of its people.  It is often that part of us that rises up and recognizes when we must make a change in course in order to realize our greater visions.  It blends concrete data with intuitive hunches and moves much more fluidly.

The manager in each of us often wants to fix things and tends to place more attention on what is wrong than what is right.  It is so concerned with problems that it has a way of identifying with them and unwittingly propagating them.  The manager would have us set goals about the behaviors we want to stop, and the things about ourselves that aren’t good enough.

These goals almost always fail because they lead us to identify with the very state we wish to rise above.  We enter into them from a state of lack, and though our behaviors may temporarily change in accordance with detailed plans we have outlined for ourselves, our thoughts about who we are and what’s wrong keep us tethered and ultimately lead us to act in ways that reinforce old habits and patterns.

MOVE INTO POSSIBILITY AND POTENTIAL

The leader focuses on possibilities and speaks to that part of ourselves and others that has the capability and potential to achieve it.  It sees through the eyes of someone who has already realized their goals and visions rather than identifying with the experience of not having been able to do something in the past.  The leader in each of us knows that action follows thought and invests time in identifying limiting beliefs and trading them for something more empowering.  Rather than moving away from an undesirable place, it focuses on moving toward that which it desires to create.

With the leader in charge, the manager’s willfulness is balanced with willingness – willingness to change and adapt even the best laid plans, to reach higher, and to trust that something greater than ourselves will help us get where we most need to go.

Interested in more on how to bridge the gap between vision and reality and follow the cues of your inner leader?  The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Unleashing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius is coming soon!  Registration will be limited to 25 people, and I’m in the process of hand selecting participants.  If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation call to see if you (and/or others from your organization) are a good fit, contact support@DianeBolden.com.

Let Go and Lead

 

two fists in the air breaking free from the chains to let go and leadOne day I had the opportunity to listen to Marshall Goldsmith, one of America’s finest executive coaches speak.  Though the man has a number of incredibly insightful things to say on any given moment, one thing he said that day made an impact on me that I still feel years later.  The audience was eager to benefit from his wisdom.  He took the stage and paused a moment before speaking.  Then he told us to hold onto our seats while he told us something we probably didn’t want to hear.

“Those ‘to do’ lists you are carrying around – your inboxes and piles of papers – all those thing you seek to get to the bottom of,” he said.  “You need to realize right now THAT YOU WILL NEVER EVER FINISH THEM ALL.”

I remember my heart sinking when I heard that news, though I knew in my soul what he was saying was true.  He went on to explain that once we grasp this little piece of knowledge we will be so much more productive, effective and creative.

His wise words echo in my mind when I feel I have become a slave to my productivity principles.  How many times did you feel that everything had to be in its place before you could really move forward – start on that project you have been putting off, write that book, return those calls, launch that campaign?  And how many times did you allow your need for perfection to keep you from acting at all?

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do believe order is important.  But it must be in service to our larger purposes, not a substitute for them.  Perhaps there is wisdom in a bit of chaos.  Maybe if we weren’t so preoccupied about planning out every little detail and needing to feel “in control” of it all, we could let go and allow our inner knowing to cut through the piles and tell us exactly what we need to focus on in each moment, whether that be a project or a person.  Perhaps there is inspiration just waiting for us to create enough space for it to get through.  We cannot do this by becoming busier, hunkering down and trying harder to do that which may not even need to be done at all.

The inspiring, confident, courageous voice of a leader often starts as a small still voice that competes for our attention among all the other things we think we need to be doing.  How will you quiet yourself for a few moments today to hear what it is telling you?

“It is always amazing how many of the things we do will never be missed. And nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”

~ Peter F. Drucker

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Why I’m Done with Perfection

 

Have you ever played a game that you just couldn’t walk away from even though it nearly drove you to the brink of madness?  Well, mine was the game of PERFECTION.  The video above explains what we all have to lose by playing it.  At the end of the transcript below are links to other resources for overcoming perfection.

Here’s what I said in the video:

This game used to be my one of my favorite games as a kid.  It’s called Perfection.  You have sixty seconds to find the places where each of these little shapes stick into this game before the tray pops and everything flies in every different direction.  And I used to LOVE this game as a kid.  I would play it over and over and over.  Even though every time that darn tray popped it would scare the crap out of me, I kept playing it.

The funny thing is, even after I outgrew this game, I was playing my own perfection game.  It was “check the box.” Every box had to be checked before I could feel like I had done anything of value.  The irony is, half the boxes I was trying to check were things that didn’t really need to get done at all.  And not only was I trying to check the box, I was trying to get everything done perfectly — only to come to the end of the day or the end of the week when the tray would pop and everything would fly in every different direction and I wasn’t getting anything done.

I was playing this stupid perfection game, which you may have wondered, “What the heck is she doing?”  when you saw me.  “Doesn’t she have something more important to spend her time on?  Maybe she has a little TOO much time on her hands.”  YEAH.  That’s what happens when you do perfection.  You never do anything of any significance.  You scare the crap out of yourself because you can never reach that ideal that you’ve been killing yourself for.  And you are terrified of the chaos because you have no idea how to navigate through it.  You have been so busy trying to get all the pieces in their little places before things break out that you never do anything that’s really important.  AND you also never ENJOY anything that you are doing while you are doing it because you are so wrapped up in trying to get it perfect.

When I was playing the game of perfection, I never dreamt about the things that I could achieve.  I had trouble staying in the moment.  And I was always behind — always feeling like things were churning in my head.  Even after work I would be thinking about all the things I needed to do the next day, until the tray would pop and I would terrify myself again and again.  And you know what?  I’m done with this game.  I don’t even want my kids playing this game.  It’s going in the trash.

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Expanding Your Universe

I recall a day, years ago, when I went to go pick up my youngest son from his friend’s house.  As we were leaving, I mindlessly threw the car into reverse, took a quick glance behind me to make sure no one was walking there, and stepped on the gas.  While the car lurched backward, I was jabbering away to my son about all the things we needed to get done that day when suddenly the car came to an abrupt stop, accompanied by the sound of crunching metal.

What I failed to take in with my cursory glance was the fact that another car was parked directly across the street from the driveway that I was backing out of.  And since it didn’t register, I neglected to turn the wheel at the angle that would have allowed me to avoid the collision we had just experienced.  I felt a flame of frustration mixed with anger flare up inside of me.  “Why did this have to happen?  Why couldn’t I have just slowed down long enough to realize there was a car behind me? And why the he*! would anyone park directly behind someone else’s driveway?”

I breathed a heavy sigh as I realized that all the things I was eager to hurry up and get done would now have to wait.  We parked the car and walked up the path to the neighbor’s house to let them know what happened.  The car, it turned out, belonged to a sixteen year old boy who was studying at his friend’s house.  I asked him for his information, gave him mine, and assured him that I would pay for the damages his car incurred because of my negligence.  Being sixteen, he insisted on calling his parents, who insisted on getting the police involved.

Realizing that none of the things I wanted to accomplish would now get done that day, I resigned myself to sitting and waiting.  My son’s friend’s parents laughed as they recounted their own story of having done the same thing I just did a few weeks earlier, complete with the same frustration and the same question of why someone would choose to park in such a precarious place.  I was completely engulfed with pity, anger and self absorption.

As the time continued to pass, I gradually moved outside my little world and realized that though I may have believed I was inconvenienced by this whole series of events, my tribulations were minute compared to what this poor boy and his family now had to endure because of my thoughtless and frenzied pace, not to mention the police who surely had more important things to tend to.

The kid, it turns out, had only recently gotten his license, and only recently been allowed the privilege of driving his parents’ car.  He was worried that in some way his actions would compromise their trust in him.  His mother, who most certainly had other ideas of how she wanted to use her time that day, had to forfeit everything to drive over and wait for the police to come fill out a report.  And the parents of my son’s friend had to put up with me hanging around in their driveway for who knew how long until closure was obtained with the whole ordeal.

A wave of humility and embarrassment came over me as I realized how selfish I had been with my thoughts and my time.  And once I started seeing the situation through the eyes of others, my own frustration became replaced with a desire to make the situation more endurable for everyone involved.

That simple shift in my frame of reference made all the difference in the quality of the day I was having, and I think (or at least hope) it prevented the quality of everyone else’s day from further deteriorating due to my previous attitude and the actions that it was resulting in.  Our conversations transitioned from being strained to somewhat enjoyable, and the more I empathized with the other people involved in the unfortunate incident, the more they empathized with me.  Before long, everyone’s agenda shifted to making the best of things – which we actually ended up doing.

When life’s little disturbances throw a monkey wrench in things, we cannot help but feel frustration.  And of course we tend to see things from our own frame of reference most of the time.  But we need to be wary of getting so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we neglect to realize the impact situations (especially those we directly contributed to) have on others.

Allowing others to become the center of our frame of reference allows us to see things we previously missed, and connect with them in ways that enrich everyone.  Our universes expand, and the gifts that comes out of situations like that are often greater than anyone could ever anticipate.  I am convinced that every situation, no matter how annoying it may seem at the time, brings with it a gift.  The question is – will we be able to get to the place where we can see it, and to what degree will we allow it to work its magic?

As a result of that little experience, I try (though I don’t always succeed) to dedicate myself to the habit of really looking around me to take in a bigger picture – not just when I’m driving, but everywhere I go and with everything I do.  I have learned that when I make myself the center of my own universe, I tend to overlook important details and even more important, people.  And at any point I can turn that all around – even when things don’t go the way I would have liked.   Sometimes I don’t remember that until after the fact, but thankfully life is rich with opportunities for practice.

In any conflict – whether self imposed or unexpectedly encountered, we have the choice of what frame of reference we can view things from.  And that decision will make all the difference in the world.

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Bouncing Back: Perseverance Personified

 

plant growing through crack and bouncing backWinston Churchill once said, “Success is not final and failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.”   Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  These words of wisdom lead me to ponder even the definitions of the words “success” and “failure“.  Perhaps they are nothing more than labels we use for experiences that could very well be integral stepping stones for the people having them.  Both words are laden with judgment, leading us to want to move toward one and away from the other.  But what if they are simply two sides of the same coin?

“The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure.  These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”       

~ Vince Lombardi

Consider the following events in each of these people’s lives:

  • It has been said that Abraham Lincoln failed in business twice, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections.
  •  Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper who felt he lacked creative ideas.
  •  As a boy, Thomas Edison was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.
  •  Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda, was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota.
  •  Before becoming a successful actor, John Wayne was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.
  •  Lucille Ball was dismissed by drama school with a note that read, “Wasting her time… she’s too shy to put her best foot forward.”
  •  Steven Spielberg unsuccessfully applied to film school three separate times.
  •  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
  •  Baseball legend Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.
  •  The first novel of best-selling novelist John Grisham was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.
  •  Robert M. Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publishers before it was published in 1974 and went on to sell millions of copies in 27 languages.
  • The Beatles were turned down by the Deca recording company, who said, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on its way out.”

This list could go on and on.  What each of these people have in common is that they didn’t let labels like “success” or “failure” define who they are.  They didn’t allow the events in their lives (or their thoughts and judgments about them) to get in the way of their dreams or their beliefs in what they were capable of – and what was possible.  And their courage, perseverance and determination benefitted not just themselves, but countless others – many of whom came generations later.

I came across another great quote by a woman named Susan Taylor who said, “Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”  If this is true, perhaps what some call “failure” is actually a catalyst – or even a prerequisite –  for what others call “success”.

What is going on in your life right now?  What if it is exactly what you need to experience in order to get where you most want to go?

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Clearing the Way for Success

a woman in nature with her hands up and clearing the way for success

What is it that you are longing to create in the coming year? And what do you need to let go of in order to allow it to fully take root? Are you willing to entertain the thought that it may come in a form that is unfamiliar to you? Are you clearing the way for success?

Every year, we are encouraged to set New Year’s resolutions.  We are a goal driven society that is conditioned to seek more.  Our egos desire more money, more fame and prestige, and more stuff.  A deeper part of ourselves longs for more peace, more meaning, and more purpose in our lives.  We want to move beyond our previous realizations of what we’ve already accomplished to master newer, better ways of doing things – whether that be what we create in our lives or in our organizations – and as leaders what we are able to inspire others to do as well.

Though it is tempting to occupy ourselves with thoughts of how we can go about achieving all of this and what we need to do more of, perhaps what we really need to start with is what we need to do less of – what we need to let go of in order to create the space for something new to come in.  We are constantly evolving as human beings – and as communities of human beings.  It is so easy to look to the past to define who we are through the things we’ve already done – goals we’ve achieved, titles we’ve acquired, creations we have built.  Our previous experiences coagulate to form an identity that is easy to confuse with our true nature.

The fact of the matter is, you are not your accomplishments, your creations, or the sum total of the various roles you play in your life – manager, director, vice president, mother, father, friend, son, daughter, etc.  You are much, much more than that.  Your potential is limitless.

And yet, we limit ourselves by these definitions.  They filter the experiences we allow ourselves to have and compel us to define the form that our deepest longings should take.  In order to be happy, we reason – we must get that promotion, achieve this or that particular goal, hit that target.  So we continue to go through the motions, doing the kinds of things we’ve always done – on a sort of auto pilot.  Some of this may bring satisfaction, and some may bring a growing source of discontentment.  We need to attune ourselves to that which brings us the most of what we truly desire and open ourselves to the possibility that what we really want may need to come in a form that has previously been undefined for us.  In short, we must allow ourselves to surrender what we think we know to open up to the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives.

Easier said than done, right?  How exactly do you go about letting go of the known when it is all you know? 

We can take our cues from nature.  Snakes and other reptiles shed their skin, trees drop their leaves, and caterpillars create cocoons in which their forms entirely dissolve before recreating themselves in the form of butterflies.  Even a fish in a bowl cannot stay in water that contains its excrement – the waste must either be emptied and replaced with new water, or absorbed by something else that will remove it from the fish’s environment.  Without engaging in these renewing processes, these creatures will die.  And so it is of us.  Many of us are already walking around encased in layers of old, dead stuff that needs to be released.

What are you holding onto in your life that has run its course?  What are the old outmoded ways of doing things that no longer bring you energy?  What are the things you’ve acquired that you no longer need?  What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer true for you? 

Pay attention to the times that you feel constricted, anxious, or tired and in those moments ask what you can let go of.  Don’t be afraid of the answer.  Though it may frighten you because it introduces an element of the unknown, following these insights will always lead to freedom and liberation. 

Your computer can only handle so much data.  If you do not delete old emails and get rid of files that have been accumulating over the years, and if you continue to add new programs without deleting old ones, you will find that it becomes sluggish and unresponsive.  Just as freeing up space allows your computer to process things more quickly, so too will clearing your own personal space (whether of things or thoughts) allow you to access new levels of clarity and creativity.  You will breathe easier, be more present in every action and interaction you partake of, and bring more of who you really are to what you do.  And you will open up the space of possibility that will allow something to come in that may surprise and delight you.  Rather than being something you slave away for, it will simply emerge and reveal itself to you.

And of course, any work you do on yourself will serve as a form of leadership for others who, like you, seek their own answers and could benefit from your example of unearthing what is possible and allowing it to take form in new and unexpected ways.

The above article is an excerpt from my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real LeaderThe Pinocchio Principle is a roadmap to help you integrate your head with your heart, utilize your intuition, challenge your limits and move out of your comfort zone to unearth your greatest work while inspiring others to do the same. 

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Become a Leader – The One Factor that Can Make or Break You

female sitting in a chair with a lightbulb lit up above her head and thinking about becoming a leader

In fall of 2010, I was interviewed by an Arizona Republic reporter for an article on how to best position yourself to move from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager.  As I prepared for the interview, I began to reflect on the question of what differentiates successful leaders from struggling managers.  Among the several factors I could identify, one loomed larger than any of the others – your MOTIVATION for wanting to become a leader will make all the difference in the level of success you will have. 

Many people believe that becoming a manager is the next best step because of the increased pay, prestige and upward mobility it will bring.  And while it is often true that such a promotion will allow you to enjoy these things – if that is your only reason for wanting it, you will do yourself, the organization you work for, and all the people with whom you will interact a huge service if think a little more about your options before you charge full speed ahead.

Moving into management requires people to shift their focus from achieving individual success to achieving collective success.  And the determining factor of that success changes from what you are able to do on your own to what you are able to accomplish through others.  If your main interest is your own career mobility, you will have difficulty gaining the trust and respect of others that is necessary to influence and enable them to succeed.  And if they do not succeed, neither will you.

Wanting them to succeed is not enough.  You must be committed enough to their success to take the time to coach, mentor and otherwise support them to reach their career goals.  If this does not appeal to you, it will feel like drudgery –something you must do that takes you away from all the things you would rather be doing.  But if this work does appeal to you, every day will offer new opportunities to find meaning and fulfillment in your work – by helping others discover themselves to be greater than they initially realized, and working toward something bigger than yourself.

Moving into management requires people to shift from the tactical and operational to the strategic.  That means that all the things you were good at as an individual contributor will no longer be sufficient to enable you to succeed as a manager and a leader.  You will need to enable and rely on others to do those things so that you are freed up to do more strategic, big picture things – things that will require you to go out of your comfort zone.

Your focus must shift from the workings of your individual job to how all the jobs in your department complement each other and what you can do to allow the work of your department to best mesh with other departments and contribute to the organization as a whole.  The problems you’ll address will have a larger span and impact those you were previously accustomed to working on and you will need to collaborate with people you may not have otherwise had to interface with.  Additionally, a large part of your job will be envisioning and helping to create a better future – one that will allow the organization as a whole to succeed.  Identifying and addressing opportunities that are coming around the bend and matching them to people with the talent necessary to seize them will become a vital part of your work.

It is not uncommon for people in management positions to find that these jobs don’t feel like they’re all they were cracked up to be.  If you are one of them, it is important to realize that this doesn’t mean you failed.  It simply means that you have succeeded in getting that much closer to finding work that is aligned with your true self – work that will not only bring you satisfaction and fulfillment but also the opportunity to make a vital contribution.

Get busy identifying what you are truly motivated to do.  Many organizations have technical tracks that offer the same (or more) upward mobility and financial reward that management tracks do.  Pay attention to the opportunities that have beckoned to you in the past – even the ones you thought were too crazy to entertain.  If you have a recurring dream of doing anything other than what you are doing now, give it more credence.  It just may be the ticket that allows you to find the job of your dreams – and the chance to exercise your own distinct form of leadership, by doing what you were truly meant to do.

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Transcending Tradition – Becoming You

a bright pink tulip standing out from a field of only white tulips transcending tradition

Several years ago, I started learning karate with my kids.  It began with the desire to do something fun with my children that would help us all to learn new things and grow together.  Like many people who begin martial arts, my thoughts were mostly around learning the physical application of a practice that would help me and my children defend ourselves and learn to do things we didn’t know how to do before.  What I didn’t realize back then was how much I would learn about myself and life in general.

Karate students are typically taught the basic techniques when they begin – strikes, kicks, blocks, etc.  In the beginning stage, the emphasis is on how to physically perform these techniques, rather than understanding the application – which comes later, once the performance of the technique is a bit more solid.  Gradually, we learned to perform choreographed sequences of basic techniques called katas and one steps.  The next level of difficulty we were introduced to, was to utilize these techniques in a non-choreographed way doing things like sparring or self-defense.

One day, we were asked to perform something called a Shuhari kata.  This was rather unnerving, because unlike the choreographed katas we had been learning, a Shuhari kata is purely the creation of the person doing it.  In other words, you begin the sequence standing in the middle of a floor with people expectantly watching you.  After a command is issued, your task is to create your own sequence and flow using basic techniques that you have learned up to this point.  It requires you to break free of tradition and anything that has been done before, to invent your own application and creative form – one that is completely unique to you.  Shuhari, we were told, would never be the same from one person to another – or even one application to another, as they are performed in the moment in response to each person’s imaginative and inspired impulses, which constantly change and evolve.

So there we were, called up one by one to perform these Shuhari katas, while being carefully observed by karate masters who had taught us everything we had learned, and fellow students.  My first Shuhari kata was rather stilted.  I was self-conscious, consumed by the thoughts in my head of wanting to get “right” something that I was told there was no right way to do.  I felt certain that I would do something completely inappropriate, something that would draw laughter or judgment.  I wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.

I still feel that way to some degree about doing a Shuhari kata.  But over time, I learned that there is something freeing and exhilarating that happens when you give yourself completely to something – when you forget about the people watching you and your own need to do it any certain way, and you give yourself license to invent and to go with whatever you are feeling in the moment.

Upon reflection, I realize how similar Shuhari is to life itself.  During the early parts of our lives we are taught how to survive in the world –what is appropriate and not, how to speak, act and otherwise behave in any given environment – at school, at work and within a variety of other social settings.   The “Shu” in Shuhari is roughly translated as learned from tradition, which is where we all begin from an early age.

At some point, we realize that independent thought is necessary. The rules we were taught as children don’t always apply in every situation.  We must use some discernment to determine what behavior will best meet the needs of both our environments and ourselves.  We begin to recognize the individual styles and preferences we all have and how in some cases they may go against the “norm.”  The “Ha” in Shuhari means to break free of traditional training.  When we take a stand against a status quo we believe is no longer serving the greatest good, we have reached this new stage of development.

I believe that at some point in our lives, we will find ourselves in a place where we are called to transcend all that we have been taught and conditioned to do and to learn to recognize and flow with our own unique gifts and creative inclinations.  The “Ri” in Shuhari represents that stage in martial arts, when the student is able to go beyond tradition because of their understanding and insight into the martial arts.  All of the greatest artists and masters – in any discipline – have at some point gone beyond emulating the techniques and styles of others to find and applied their own.

It will not always be easy.  Just as those who are asked to perform a Shuhari kata, we will be carefully observed by others who engage in and may have even taught us the traditional ways.  We will feel exposed, vulnerable and we may lose our nerve.  But the more we learn to give ourselves to the inner promptings of our own unique gifts, talent and intuitive insights and inclinations, the freer we will be, and the more beautiful the world around us will become – as a result of what we have given to it from the very core of our being.

“Insist on yourself; never imitate… Every great man is unique.”  

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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How to Soften the Pain of Growth

trees roots coming out of a small pot that represents how to soften the pain of growth

One morning when my daughter was about six years old, she spotted some clothes she had outgrown sitting on a high shelf in her closet.  On the top of the pile were a pair of sparkly tennis shoes she used to treasure.  Seeing them up there reignited her adoration and she insisted on wearing them to school.  Knowing they were at least a size and a half too small, I told her she could wear them around the house for awhile instead.

She did, along with a soft purple sweater whose long sleeves were now almost to her elbows.  Watching her cram her little feet into those even littler shoes reminded me of the stepsisters from the story of Cinderella.  A strong-minded and somewhat stubborn child, she shoved and yanked until she finally got both heels into the shoes along with her poor little toes, which were likely crammed into a small ball.  When she stood up, the sweater exposed her belly button.  “Look Mom,” she proudly proclaimed, “They still fit!”

I smiled and went on with my morning routine while she pranced through the house, stopping periodically to play with something she found interesting.  After about ten minutes, I walked into the kitchen to see my daughter disgustedly fling the shoes in opposite directions across the room.  “Mom, those shoes hurt me!” she complained.  “And I don’t like this sweater anymore either.”

“Sweetheart, that’s because you’ve grown since you last wore them.  You’re a bigger girl now.”  I explained.  “Do you grow out of your clothes too?” she asked.  I thought about my jeans which had become a little more snug, but decided not to go there.  “Well, once you get to be as old as Mommy, you’re body doesn’t really grow much,” I answered.

Hours after I brought her to school I reflected on that conversation and the experience my young daughter had shared with me.  I realized that though my body isn’t growing anymore (with the occasionally unfortunate exception of my waist and hips), the rest of me still is.  I think we all are in some way.

The more we cling to what we have outgrown, the more painful the experience becomes until, as my daughter learned, the discomfort of wearing the old stuff becomes greater than that of letting it go.  I must admit there have been times in my life where I’ve inflicted quite a bit of pain on myself out of fear of letting go and moving onto something new and roomier.  And I have clients, family members and friends who have done the same thing.

Sometimes when change comes we resist it because we fear that it will be too hard to adapt, or that it will land us in the middle of something we are unequipped to handle.  Paradoxically, my experience has been that the resistance itself can create far more pain than the new experience.

Having children is a great example.  With each child, my life changed dramatically.  My daughter was our third – causing my husband and me to be outnumbered and effectively propelling our household into a chaos that we have learned to roll with over the years.  Any creation you give birth to is bound to do the same thing.  But it will also bring you greater joy than you ever could have imagined.

To allow ourselves to experience all the magic these new opportunities and challenges bring, we need to do all that we can to avoid tightening up and blocking ourselves from the experience.  Even the act of childbirth itself becomes more painful when the muscles involved contract in different directions in response to fear.  Having had three opportunities to experience this phenomenon, I can tell you that learning to relax and allow the muscles to harmoniously work together makes all the difference in the world.  And I believe the same is true with life itself.

What is trying to happen in your life right now?  And what can you do to give yourself fully to the experience?

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Beyond the Bulletproof Image – How Being Vulnerable Makes You Strong

 

dandelion withstanding the elements outside representing a bulletproof imageI can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who believe that to be a credible, strong leader, you must come across as infallible, having all the answers – being rock solid.  Newer leaders often feel as though they do not have a lot to offer in meetings and other gatherings because they do not know much yet.  Out of fear of being exposed as someone who is not on top of their game, many times they remain silent – when in actuality the questions they would otherwise ask out of sheer curiosity and desire to learn could become the very impetus the organization needs to see things with fresh eyes and recognize opportunities they previously missed.

On the other extreme, I occasionally meet with people who on the face of things have it all together.  They are poised, polished, and seemingly the picture of perfection.  And they are often stumped at why they have been unable to motivate and inspire their people to new levels of performance and success.  Initially, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people like this and often go on to learn while gathering feedback for them that others do too.

I think it’s because the rock solid persona they project is rarely a true representation of who they really are. And before you can engage the hearts and minds of others as visionary leaders do, you must be able to connect with them – and they must feel a connection to you.

The problem with needing to have a bulletproof image is that very few, if any, people in this world are really “bulletproof.”  In fact, if ever there were a trait or characteristic that is shared by virtually the whole human race, it is that we all have fears, insecurities and misgivings.  We all make mistakes.  We all know far less than we would like to or even have the capacity for.  These things that make us humble and vulnerable connect us to each other in profound ways that are often overlooked and/or unacknowledged.

Think of the people in your life who have inspired you over the years.  Maybe it was someone close to you – like a parent, teacher, or coach.  Or perhaps it was a public or historical figure.  If you try to identify the qualities in that person that really made an impact on you, it is likely not so much what they achieved in life as what they had to overcome in order to do it – disappointment, failure, challenge, fear, perhaps even an illness or handicap of some kind.

So it seems there may be something to gain by allowing these little things we have been conditioned to hide from each other to be a bit more visible.  First of all, it takes a lot of pressure off of you.  When we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and give ourselves permission to not know everything, we move beyond worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of us to be truly present with other people – to really listen to them, to be curious about their unique perspectives, ideas, and insights.  The emphasis goes from having to showcase our knowledge, competence and stature to learning from others and helping them to feel valued and appreciated. 

Secondly, when we are less guarded about our fears, misgivings and challenges, we realize that these things are nothing to be ashamed of.  Because in spite of them, we have risen up to the challenges in our lives.  And sometimes the most inspiring thing we can do for others is help them to realize that though they are in the thick of their own fear, they too can find something within them that will allow them to bounce back or rise up – to recognize a strength they didn’t realize they had – and to use it in a way that truly benefits not just themselves, but everyone around them.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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