Category Archives: Guidance

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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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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Just Let it Rip – The Problem with Polished

standing in front of an audience as a public speaker

If you want a rush, forget about skydiving, bungee jumping, or walking over hot coals. Try speaking extemporaneously, from your heart to a group of people for at least ten minutes. They say public speaking ranks as people’s number one fear, even higher than fear of death.

I did that one weekend a while back. I chose that. I wanted to put myself in a situation that would push me smack up against my greatest resistance and fear and just see what would happen. I committed to doing it, even though it scared the hell out of me. I purposely didn’t prepare. I wasn’t exactly sure WHAT I was going to say or do. In the minutes before I would be called up to speak, I felt my heart beating in my mouth. My hands were sweaty. There was an electricity around me that I feared would paralyze every muscle in my body.

I never thought I was afraid of public speaking. I’ve facilitated workshops, taught classes, done lectures. I learned to enjoy being on stage or at the front of the room, though in the back of my mind horrible thoughts lurked – like, “What if I let these people down? What if I waste their time? What if the things that come out of my mouth don’t make any sense? What if my presentation is just ho, hum and people start to yawn, or check their phones, or tune out altogether?”

I’ve resisted these fears in my past – fought them with long, hard preparation and research and practice. I’ve poured over my subjects, outlining them, dissecting them, breaking the concepts down and then putting them back together. I’ve designed curriculum, carefully constructed to ensure that each learning point was supported, reinforced, tested. I’ve memorized it, dreamt it, ate it for dinner, and regurgitated it again and again and again for practice.

But the more polished and prepared I tried to be, the less I connected with my audience. The less fulfilled all of us came away from the presentation feeling. And my greatest fears became a reality. They were bored. They were restless. They left wanting something more. And so did I.

The truth is, for everything I know, there is far more that I don’t know and want to learn. The more I venture into that part of me that doesn’t know things, the more curious I am. And the more I indulge my curiosity, the less I care about managing my appearances, needing to come across as someone who’s got it all figured out. Instead of filling my mind with stuff that ends up feeling more like clutter than anything else, I find that my heart begins to open and beat with a new energy and vibrancy. It receives. It remembers. It guides. It connects.

I’m intrigued with people who are willing to courageously step on stage and talk about what scares the hell out of them. I enjoy watching the bloopers more than the polished, perfected performance. Let me see you at your most vulnerable. Not so that I can feel superior to you, but so that I can be inspired by you. Because what keeps us from truly connecting with each other is our need to cover up and mask the common denominator that truly unites us. We are human. We feel. We cry. We love. We yearn. We try. We leap. We fall. We get back up again.

In conversations with people, when I dare to forget about my mask, my facade, my persona — and just say what’s in my heart, I am liberated. I am connected. I am transformed. Sometimes when I do that, the people around me drop their facades too and things begin to get interesting. We dispense with small talk and go for the good stuff. We lose sense of time and space and are embraced by the electric buzz of possibility and wonder. And we leave each other’s presence feeling uplifted and inspired.

That’s what I want to bring to the stage in every area of my life. I’m beginning to realize that the powerful part of writing, speaking, creating a video, engaging in conversation — anything we do to connect with others — is not so much about finding the perfect combination of words, but rather about tapping into an energy — live, vibrant, pulsing, bright, beautiful.

Our greatest opportunity is to create a bridge through which this energy can somehow travel from one to another in such a way that it will liberate, soothe, uplift, energize, inspire, and fill us all up with boundless passion and light until we burst in a joyous explosion of blissful exhilaration, and brighten everything and everyone around us.

That was my intention that one weekend when I got up in front of people and spoke without any preparation, and it is still my intention.  With this blog, in my meetings with clients, with my family, my friends, and my very self.  Polished? Perfected?  Heck no.  Fun?  Thrilling?  Worth the risk?  Ohhh, yes.  And I’m just getting started…

What can you do today to forget about polished and just let it rip? Move into your fear. There is energy and electricity there. For you. For me. For all of us.

I dare you.

 

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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Centered in Conflict

 

flat shaped rocks stacked on top of each other representing being centered in conflict When was the last time someone caught you off guard with a piece of feedback or a message that felt like an attack?  How did you respond?

If it took you by surprise, chances are for a moment you may have lost your balance, moving  either away from the bearer of the message, or toward him or her (literally or figuratively).  If you leaned away, in an effort to avoid conflict or to crawl inside your comfort zone, you may have withheld your point of view or any response for that matter.  If you leaned forward, you may have thrust your point of view upon the other in a way that was more like a counter attack than a response.  Or perhaps you accommodated and sacrificed your own needs in order to maintain harmony.  Either way, you fell away from your center – your true place of power.

What does this mean?  If I am too attached to my own point of view, I am likely to force it on others and become rigid to anything that doesn’t seem to fit with it.  When I am stiff and lean too far forward, I am easily knocked over.  On the other hand, if I forget what I know and allow others to dictate what I believe, I will lose my footing and become easily manipulated.

But if I can get to a place of curiosity, where I can really listen to what someone else is saying and be willing to test my own assumptions without automatically believing they are absolute, I will be relaxed, agile, and strong.  When I am pushed, I will absorb the shock by allowing myself to be temporarily moved, and then come back to center – my place of strength.  I can integrate what others are saying, broaden my perspective, and allow myself to grow stronger as a result.  From this place of strength I will engage in communication that is far more productive.

Most of us will be knocked off balance periodically.  We may find ourselves swaying from one direction to the other.  But each time it happens, we can practice coming back to center – being willing to let go, relax, listen, and adjust accordingly.  In doing so, we will learn and grow.  We will transform ourselves and set powerful examples for others.  And in so doing, we will truly lead.

 

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”

~ Michael McGriffy, MD

 

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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The Fallacy of Failure

a young boy crouched on a floor with the shadow showing arms raised in triumph over the fallacy of failure

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

~ Robert H. Schuller

I have come across the above quote often and pondered it reflectively.  It inspires me to think big – contemplating all the many things I have dreamed of creating or being a part of.  I often feel compelled to make a list – and have done so many times.  I encourage my clients to do this as well.  But the most interesting and show stopping part of that quote for me is the idea of “failure”.

It’s easy to think of shooting for the moon when the idea of crashing down to the ground doesn’t enter the picture.  We can dream and scheme all we want, but in order to make our dreams real, we must take action.  And when we do, this idea of failure seems to have a way of creeping in despite our best attempts to move forward in spite of it.

Failure means different things to different people.  But I think the most debilitating thing about the idea of failure is having to experience or endure some kind of pain – pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin – not to mention its actual physical variations.

The interesting thing to me about pain is that – thankfully – it is usually finite.  It comes and it goes.  And while we don’t always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to play a part in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.

As a kid, getting immunizations was terrifying. I remember how worked up I would get before the needle even came close to my skin.  And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing – even screaming or wailing before contact is ever actually made.  But a few seconds later, the injections are completed before the kids even realize it.  They get off the exam table and immediately go onto other things – except perhaps when one of them needs a little more sympathy and deliberately focuses on the site of the shot and the blood on the bandage – prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needs to be.

I think we do the same thing when we contemplate the pain that accompanies what we believe would be “failure”.  Our minds have a way of making it far more ominous than it ever is in reality.  And if we happen to find ourselves experiencing it, we can also fall into the trap of unwittingly making it more uncomfortable than it really needs to be.  But we can also exercise resilience and determination in our ability to bounce back and focus on something that will allow us to move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.

Because what it really comes down to is what your experience – regardless of the way it turns out – has given you, rather than cost you.  People who have accomplished extraordinary things in the world are the first to tell you that what many refer to as “failure” has plagued them time after time – and many will tell you those experiences were prerequisites for their success.  What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they picked themselves up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward armed with a new awareness, a new understanding, and a renewed commitment to their greatest dreams and visions.

I think we all need a shot from time to time.  A shot of humility, compassion – and humor.  A shot that will only serve to make us stronger, more determined, and far more resilient than we were before. What great thing can YOU achieve today, knowing that you simply cannot fail?

For more on the fallacy of failure, check out Seth Godin’s post on How to Fail.

 

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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Living the Dream

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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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What Does the Disruption of Higher Education Have to Do with Business and Leadership?

Did you know that research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has all concluded that 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills? And 18 months after being hired, 54 percent were discharged, and in 89 percent of cases it was because of attitude rather than skill.

In a 2013 study, 93 percent of employers agreed that candidates who demonstrate a capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems are more important than their undergraduate major.

According to a 2016 survey of employers, the skill cited as most desirable in recent college graduates is the very human quality of “leadership.” More than 80 percent of respondents said they looked for evidence of leadership on candidates’ resumes followed by “ability to work in a team,” at nearly 79 percent. Written communication and problem solving came in at 70 percent. Technical skills ranked in the middle of the survey, below strong work ethic and initiative.

But in an annual survey by Express Employment conducted in April of 2017, employers were asked to rank 20 factors they consider when making hiring decisions. Consistent with the results of the past several years, education was ranked dead last.

Similarly, in their 2011 study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that “at least” 45 percent of the undergraduates they surveyed showed “exceedingly small or empirically nonexistent” gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication during their first two years in college. After four years, 36 percent of their sample still showed no improvement at all. It was said, “They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master.”

What do these studies have in common?

They all point to the attributes necessary to thrive in business today – attributes that appear to be lacking in many college graduates, and qualities that in my experience tend to differentiate the best leaders from all the rest.

These statistics are all quoted in a new book called Leveraged Learning: The Age of Opportunity for Lifelong Learners and Experts with Something to Teach, written by one of my mentors, Danny Iny, who I believe is a brilliant visionary. In this ground-breaking work, Danny addresses the problems prevalent in higher education today that are leading to a major disruption – one that brings opportunities for lifelong learners as well as experts who have something to teach.

He’s posting the entire book online for free, and you can go read it now.

Most business leaders have engaged in learning outside of their college degree programs, whether for specialization, or to learn to increase their personal and professional effectiveness.

The problem is not all programs are alike. There is a glut of them available, and many are simply a firehose of information that scratches the surface and often feels like a cookie cutter approach that doesn’t lead to any lasting change (let alone transfer of knowledge).

When I sought to create a program that would allow me to teach the concepts I wrote about in The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader in a manner that would allow people to truly integrate them into their leadership and their lives, I turned to Danny Iny to ensure that I could create something that would be different than anything else that is out there – something transformational.

I wanted to create an experience that would allow people to cultivate the kind of qualities that aren’t often taught in business school (or most schools for that matter), but that are vital to leadership effectiveness:

  • How to rekindle the passion, meaning and joy in your work (and life) that will allow you to truly inspire and energize your workplace to bring their very best to everything they do
  • How to minimize the stress, pressure and overwhelm that comes with being a high achiever – without sacrificing performance
  • How to make a bigger impact and contribution in a way that is aligned with who you really are and help others to do the same
  • How to improve your ability to lead and influence others toward lasting change
  • How to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity
  • How to bounce back from setbacks or disappointments (and leverage the experience in ways that will get you further than you could have without them)

Danny Iny is a wizard when it comes to helping people learn and create the kinds of programs that deliver on their promises. If you are in an organization that designs and delivers training programs for your people (or your customers), I highly recommend checking out Danny’s book to gain insight on how to do that in the most impactful and effective manner.

And if you are a high achieving executive who would benefit by learning to minimize stress, pressure and overwhelm so you can access your authentic leadership genius, I’ll be offering my next iteration of my leadership development program early next year, and opening enrollment in the next few months.

More on that coming soon…

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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Dream Big ~ Trust Big

a little boy with a rocket on his back moving forward to dream big

Are you dreaming big enough?  If so, you may often feel overwhelmed by the seeming magnitude of what lies before you.

As we entertain dreams, visions and goals that seem so large that they become daunting, we must not be intimidated by the seeming length or difficulty of the journey ahead of us.  I was reminded of this years ago on a skiing trip.  After an hour or so, the years that had passed since my last skiing excursion no longer seemed significant and my adventurous side led me to a very difficult black run, full of moguls and steep angles.  Once I embarked upon the run, I realized I was in way over my head.  At that moment the temperature dropped suddenly and a fog rolled in that was so thick that I could not see more than three feet ahead of me.  I began to panic.  I wanted more than ever to reach the bottom of the slope and became more fixated on having the run behind me than on the thrill of the experience itself.

As soon as my attention and focus went from the snow in front of me to the bottom of the steep slope, I lost control and came crashing to the ground, losing my skis and feeling the slap of the hard cold ground beneath me.  I managed to somehow get up and put my skis back on, but before long my focus would shift and the same thing would happen again.  It was only when I resigned myself to pay attention to what was right in front of me that my body knew how to navigate each mogul.  When I let go of having to know exactly how I would get down that mountain and trust that I could make it a few feet at a time, I had everything I needed to succeed.

I think that is how life is too.  When we feel dismayed at not having everything figured out right off the bat, we can ask ourselves what we can do right now that will lead us closer to our goals and trust that we will be given exactly what we need to continue our journeys right when we need it.  Sometimes conditions are not right for us to proceed full speed ahead, and circumstances take a turn that feel frustrating.  Often the skills we need are those that can only be developed through a series of challenges that require us to move out of our comfort zones.  We may see these events as setbacks and annoying diversions without realizing their perfect place in the larger orchestration of a course of events we are engaged in that has much greater implications than what we originally envisioned.

Perhaps the whispers of our heart and the calls to greatness that we feel within our souls are essential components of a larger, collective plan that we each play a vital part in.  As we rise up to play these parts fully and wholeheartedly, we can revel in the beauty of its mysterious unfolding.  In the process, we will discover ourselves to be greater than we thought we were and use each moment of our lives to create something extraordinary for ourselves and others.

 

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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In the Shadow of a Daunting Task

 

chess pieces with the shadow of a crown that implicates overcoming challenges in the shadow of a daunting taskDo  you ever get to a place where you’ve just run out of energy and feel like you simply can’t do another thing?  For many, this seems to happen around 3pm or so – or right after lunch.  I used to think it was just a biological phenomenon – perhaps the effect of having to digest food, or needing to eat some.  I’ve tried chocolate, but it never quite works as well as I’d like it to – and it just leaves me wanting more.

One afternoon, I felt like I hit a wall.  And I did.  It was physical as well as mental.  I actually felt the wall go up as I contemplated a list I recently made of all that I hope to accomplish in the coming weeks and months and tried to figure out where (and how) to start.  The sensation originated in my stomach and rose slowly up my chest, kind of like heartburn.  Then it sunk heavily like a boulder thrown into a pond, covering my mind with muddy residue.  My impulse was to escape.  So I left my computer and took a short break, slumping into an overstuffed chair and closing my eyes for a minute.

As I sat there, I began to think about my state and see if I could identify its cause.  It was not an unfamiliar feeling.  I had experienced it another time after our dog tore into a bag of garbage containing remnants of the previous evening’s dinner and spread it all over the yard – and again right after I opened the box containing my new wireless printer and sat staring with an aching head at instructions that may as well have been in a different language.  And then I realized that it wasn’t the work ahead of me that was causing me the angst as much as what I was believing about it.

At bedtime, when my kids were young, they would get scared by shapes in their room that they couldn’t make out.  In the absence of information, they created their own stories about what they were seeing, which usually involved some kind of monster or other unwelcome guest.  But once the lights were flipped on and they realized the shadows were simply the product of a jacket thrown over the back of a chair or a teddy bear with a large hat, they settled back into their beds and slept peacefully.

I think we do this all the time with the projects and tasks we face on a regular basis – and sadly, also with our grandest dreams and visions.  In the light of day, we see them glimmer with promise and possibility.  But in the dark, our doubts and fears creep in and have a way of distorting things.  This is the point where the skeptics welcome the optimists to reality.  But it isn’t reality at all.  It is an illusion that has been created by a frightened mind.

The stories we tell ourselves in the dark are those of peril and potential failure.  In the absence of knowing exactly what it will take to accomplish the task, project or dream and whether we will be able to execute it, we begin to identify with our doubt, which amplifies the enormity that lies before us.  The shadow of a task magnified becomes a feat that feels insurmountable.  But flip on the lights and challenge the assumptions that make a creation feel heavy, and it becomes a collection of smaller pieces that can be gradually assembled over time.  As Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Whenever I feel that heaviness that comes with completing a task, I know that I have entered my dark room.  In the absence of light, I am prone to question my ability and my nerve, compare myself to others, and amplify the work it will take to finish that task (especially the bigger tasks!).  The darkness has a way of casting shadows on everything else that needs to get done as well. But in the light, I realize all I need to do is one step at a time – and then another step – and then another step.  And each seemingly insurmountable task can be broken down into a simpler component that I can get through with even just a little effort.  I can breathe through my fear and move into each experience, letting go of the outcome and enjoying the process itself.

When I stop to think about it, cleaning up the garbage the dog scattered around the yard wasn’t nearly so miserable as I thought it would be.  And setting up the printer wasn’t either.  The other, higher aspirations can be approached in a lighter, simpler manner as well.  With this in mind, I will keep on accomplishing my tasks… one step at a time.

 

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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Are You at a Crossroads?

looking at a tree and crossroads

Are you at a crossroads in your life or your career?

Do you feel like something amazing is ready to bust through but not sure exactly what it is, or how it will take form?  Does it scare you? Do you find that things you used to be really good at are no longer satisfying or even interesting?  Have you been daydreaming or even just longing for something different but not sure where to start?  It might feel disconcerting and even overwhelming.  Maybe you think you need to change jobs or even careers.

Or perhaps you just feel you need a change of scene – different projects, new challenges, new opportunities.  You might have already experienced some kind of significant change and are still reeling from it, not sure what to do next.

Is there a great idea brewing that you just haven’t had the time (or the courage) to explore?  Is something new and different beckoning?  Perhaps you’ve put it on the back burner and tried to dismiss recurring daydreams to go back to the tried and true, but it just doesn’t seem to work for you anymore.  In fact, it could be becoming downright miserable.  And though you continue to resist the feeling that there’s got to be more than this, you can’t help but wonder if it might be true.

If any of this resonates with you, you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing, transformation.  But it may or may not feel exciting and energizing.  Right now it could just be disconcerting and uncomfortable.  And you may not know exactly what to do about it.

What if you were not alone? 

Would it help to know that many people are feeling the same way?  Some of them have just quit their jobs because they were miserable.  Some have been laid off.  Others are at the pinnacles of their careers, by all appearances wildly successful but dying on the inside.   Some are at the helms of corporations or large organizations, wanting to take things in new, exciting directions but not sure where to go or how to get there.  Others are inside organizations, acutely aware of what is possible and what is not working, but not sure it is their place to volunteer their thoughts and ideas or fearful that doing so is just too risky.  Still more are entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, and other creative, innovative, and resourceful people that are playing (or wrestling) with the idea of entering unchartered territory.

The good news is, you don’t have to go off the deep end.

Though change is knocking at your door (and may already have come through it), you don’t necessarily have to tear everything down and start over again.  You just need to learn to see things differently – your opportunities, your challenges, your very self.  And you need to learn to tap the reserves and the brilliance that is within you.  Everything you have done up to this point has prepared you for what you are about to do.  The world is waiting for it.

Because you are human, you will resist it.

It may overwhelm you because you can’t figure it out.  As hard as you try to create a solid plan for moving through it and making sense of it, you will most likely continue to be baffled.  Because it is not a matter for your head.  You need to trust in something bigger than that — the same way that great visionaries, inventors, scientists, writers, artists, musicians and leaders have throughout the history of time.  Your head and your ego will create illusions that will terrify you.  They will weigh you down and exhaust you.  Under their influence, you’ll talk yourself out of your greatest ideas, dreams and visions before you can even get your key in the ignition.

What has helped me (and is still helping me) is enlisting the support of other people who are in the same place.

People who are dreaming and searching and even suffering, people who are knee deep in their own fear and resistance and trudging through it, people who are REAL and not afraid to let others see that they don’t have all the answers but are STILL SHOWING UP, doing what they are called to do each day, and asking powerful questions that get them closer to finding their answers.  These people inspire me.  They support and challenge me.  And they give me the courage to keep at it.

Do you have someone in your life that helps you in that way? 

If you don’t, FIND someone.  It isn’t as hard as you think.  Start by being honest with yourself about where you are and what you want.  Challenge the fears and assumptions that keep you from sharing that side of yourself with people.  You may be surprised to find there might be someone right next to you who is feeling the same way you are and will welcome the opportunity to confide in you.

What I have discovered and rediscovered is that the moment I connect with someone in a similar place that I am in, I become infused with the very wisdom and answers I need myself. 

In the act of sharing it with others, I am able to benefit from it too.  Similarly, those I have connected with in the past have unlocked their own wisdom and found their answers as they endeavored to tell me things we both needed to hear.

Being at a crossroads means you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing transformation. Embrace the journey – all of these moments, good and bad are opportunities for growth.

 

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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