I have always been amazed by the number of people who think of work as a necessary evil — simply what must be done to earn a paycheck. For so many who toil through their workday, the primary goal is to make it to the weekend so they can really live.
Going through the motions, working side by side with others whose hearts and minds they seldom truly connect with, they withhold the very parts of themselves that make them come alive.
For some it wasn’t always this way. Many began their careers ignited with passion and optimism, only to find that their flames began to flicker as they encountered obstacle after obstacle that kept them from achieving what they believed would be success.
Succumbing to the unwritten rules of the organizations and other environments they found themselves in, which suggested they needed to act or think in a certain way to get ahead, they may have slowly sold out on their dreams and relegated themselves to quiet complacency.
Many of us were not brought up to expect that work would be fun or gratifying in any way – nor should it be. That’s why they call it work, you may have been told. As a result, you may have never really expected much from your career or professional life. And as the saying goes, life has a way of living up to your expectations.
Most of us have learned how to turn ourselves on and off at will, in an effort to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment or frustration — or to maintain what we have come to believe is a professional demeanor. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are very different at work than they are at home.
Those golden parts of yourself that you think you are protecting suffer when you don’t let them breathe and interact in the very realms that allow you to learn who you are and what you are here to do in the world.
You miss the chance to become a part of something greater than yourself. And the organizations and communities you are a part of miss out on the unique contribution you have the potential to make.
You can no longer afford to fragment yourself in this way, denying the fulfillment of your secret dreams and talents and downplaying the insights you have about what you can do to make life better — for yourself, and everyone around you.
As more and more of us feel the pain that accompanies the denial of our spirits, we have begun to realize that the time has come for us to bring the totality of who we are to what we do, no matter our vocation, title or role.
There are people among us who have the ability to snap us out of our trances — our states of quiet desperation — and help us bring more of who we truly are to everything that we do.
They can do this for others because they have done it for themselves. They are called “real leaders”. And they exist at all levels of organizations, regardless of their titles or roles.
Real Leaders inspire others to perform at their very best,
because they themselves are inspired.
When was the last time you felt inspired in your work? When was the last time you had passion for your career? What is it that allows you to feel a sense of wonder and contribution to something bigger?
If you have lost touch with that, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and take some time to reconnect with it. You have something deep inside that you are uniquely qualified and put on this earth to create or do.
When you were young, the energy of your dreams likely propelled you along your path — sometimes blindly, but it gets you off your duff and into action.
You’ve likely experienced hardships along the way and it may have felt at times as though you were failing again and again. Life throws you curve balls and you can find yourself feeling beaten down and doing what you can to just get by, running from one crisis to another and sometimes going in circles.
At some point, you will be tempted to check out and take an easier path – one that allows you to go numb and somewhat unconscious. It may work for a while, but over time you’ll begin to feel the misery that comes along with abandoning your dreams and letting your passion take the back seat.
What would it take for you to get excited about what you are doing right now? What is the bigger why of the work you do every day? Who does it serve, and how?
If you can’t answer that question, do some digging. When you can connect those dots to a bigger picture, you may find that what you thought was insignificant is quite meaningful – and a vital piece of a larger puzzle you are meant to help assemble.
As you recognize your part and the value you provide, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring a little more of who you are to what you do by playing more fully, being more present, and connecting more deeply with those who rely on you.
Your passion is like a hidden well with unlimited reserves – in the act of tapping it, you will replenish it in such a way that it multiplies. And as you unleash it in your work, you will draw out something extraordinary in every human being that comes into contact with it. That is the essence of real leadership.
We are beginning to awaken to our unique calls to service, creativity and innovation. As you find ways to unleash your distinctive talents and passions at work, you will significantly increase the quality of your own life, as well as the lives of everyone around you.
It seems that we are at a kind of crossroads where the tension is mounting. The deviations and quick fixes that used to work are no longer as satisfying. The pain that comes from denying our greatest dreams and visions is beginning to intensify and more and more people are asking how they can create lives of meaning and significance.
Corporations that are taking steps to create environments that allow people to thrive will be met with rich rewards as ingenuity pours forth in ways that lead to increased profit and market share, as well as the creation of self-sustaining cultures that inspire people to sustain success by doing what they do best.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway. People at all levels of organizations will continue to lead that charge both individually and collectively. Do you feel the call? It starts within your own mind – with having the courage to ask yourself what you really want from your work. By starting with ourselves, we can create what we most want to be a part of.
If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, I encourage you to get on the waiting list for the release of my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming soon…
You can plan and prepare all you want, but the best way to be agile in a shifting environment is to stay connected to the undercurrent of emerging events and patterns – and utilize ingenuity to find the best way to rise to the coming challenges and opportunities.
And, whether you realize it or not, we’ve all been conditioned to tune out or disregard this vital source of intelligence.
The reason is, these days the speed of change (and innovation) moves very quickly …
And it becomes far too easy to rely on plans and approaches that were designed in the past, using old ways of thinking.
In the end utilizing information that is no longer relevant comes with heavy opportunity costs.
Albert Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind it’s faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
This seems especially true in corporate America, where systems, processes and standard operating procedures are often revered as a means to minimize risk, variation and chaos and exert control over our environment. People go to great lengths to plan and research best practices, set guidelines in place and create controls that ensure people follow them.
And when it’s time to execute – you put your head down and run from one thing to the next, juggling multiple priorities and putting out fires, only stopping to troubleshoot when things don’t go to plan… There never seems to be enough time to pause long enough to determine whether the path you’re running on or the tactics you’re engaging in will get you to where you want to go.
After many conversations with colleagues and clients, it’s a clear consensus that real leaders are ready for a revolution of sorts. It’s time to capitalize on the opportunity to create positive change at all levels of an organization, from top down, to bottom up, because…
If the route you’re taking isn’t aligned with your desired destination, moving faster won’t do you any favors. And relying on your plan to tell you where to go next won’t either.
When you put more importance on the tactics than you do on the strategy and cling to a plan without continually reevaluating it, you have sacrificed the strategic in the name of the operational.
As an executive coach, this is one of the major challenges I work with executives to overcome. Operational is clean. It has defined edges and finite solutions. You can check the boxes and feel a sense of closure and control with an operational approach.
Strategic on the other hand can be a bit messier. It involves stepping into uncertainty to address challenges and opportunities that are new and unfamiliar. There is usually no one right answer. It often involves taking steps out of your comfort zone. And it requires that you slow down instead of speeding up, something that most of us tend to resist because slowing down flies in the face of what we’ve been conditioned to do.
To avoid this discomfort, many executives prefer being busy to being strategic. It gives them the illusion of being productive and the burst of adrenaline that is a nice (yet ultimately unsatisfying and addictive) placebo for real progress.
But busyness isn’t going to help you hit the target necessary to advance your business. Because until you slow down long enough to assess your environment and allow your intuitive mind to partner with your rational mind, you may not even realize what your true target is, let alone how to get there.
Malcolm Gladwell echoed the wisdom of Albert Einstein his iconic book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He wrote, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”
Knowledge is the product of absorbing information. Understanding is the product of insight. And insight comes from the integration of information with experience, from slowing down long enough to practice reflection and discernment.
And that’s an important key to successfully navigating the changing landscape of “business as usual”.
We live in an age of information. You can find an abundance of resources – articles, books, dissertations, webinars, workshops, best practices, etc. on any given topic. This information tends to be descriptive of what worked in the past to address the challenges faced by people and organizations whose situations are rarely identical to our emerging challenges and opportunities.
Acting on information without discernment is like taking someone else’s prescription given for a diagnosis that you aren’t entirely certain matches your own.
And yet all too often we move full speed ahead with seeming solutions that don’t really address the true underlying problems (and often make the problem worse). Ask yourself how many times have you’ve overlooked, disregarded or suppressed inklings or rumblings that told you something is just not right.
It happens to the best of us, because we get so attached to our plans that we resist (consciously or unconsciously) anything that could potentially interfere or slow us down.
Sometimes the inklings come from within, accompanied by a sense of incongruence. It might feel as if you are wearing someone else’s clothes while trying to convince yourself that they fit just fine, even though they are way too tight. But in the name of efficiency (and because you think slowing down to address it is a luxury you can’t afford), you press on anyway.
Other times the rumbles come from others within the organization, people who aren’t so attached to the predetermined plan, who are a little closer to the real problems and issues and have a sense of what needs to be done to address them. And they are all too often shushed by others (usually a few levels above in the hierarchy) who measure performance based on how well predetermined plans are implemented and adhered to.
So how do you turn this short-sighted, self-defeating old way of thinking dynamic around?
Here are five practical tips to get you moving in a new, more progressive and productive direction:
- Carve out time regularly for yourself to reflect, integrate and think strategically. Block this time on your calendar and hold it sacred in the same way you would a meeting with your boss or your most important customer. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time. The important thing is to slow down long enough to consider how things are going and to determine whether your approach is aligned with your desired goal. Identify what, if any, tweaks to your plan are necessary, and write down your ideas.
- Put just as much weight on the questions as you do the answers. Ask, “What are the problems I am/we are trying to solve? Could they be symptoms of a larger issue that has not yet been addressed? What are we seeing? What are we not seeing? How can we get the information and knowledge necessary to truly understand the problem and what needs to be done to effectively address it?”
- Encourage dialogue. This is a big one. Give people who are closest to the challenges and issues that are being addressed an opportunity to communicate with those who have the bigger, more strategic picture. Take steps to integrate top down and bottom up approaches by creating a forum for discussing emerging patterns, trends, problems and opportunities and dialoguing about what the best approaches and solutions may be.
- Welcome and embrace dissent. This may not be comfortable at first, but the more you can encourage people who have concerns with the current course of action to speak up, and give them opportunities to constructively express those concerns, the more likely you’ll gain the support and momentum you need to move forward. When you value people’s perspectives and contributions by listening with an open mind and a willingness to act, you’ll also have access to information that will dramatically increase your chances of success.
- Use discernment. When looking to best practices or considering recommendations from experts, determine whether they are truly a good fit (and to what degree they should be tweaked or tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization) before they are implemented.
The tendency to act operationally instead of strategically and overlook, disregard or suppress the very insight that will lead you to the best solutions and innovations, is only one of many common practices that are being challenged and improved on within the emerging real leader revolution. The focus of these new conversations and perspectives is helping both executives and the organizations they are a part of to unleash unprecedented performance, make a bigger impact and enjoy a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment in their work and their lives.
This translates into increased profitability, greater market share and stronger relationships with customers who become their biggest advocates.
If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, I encourage you to get on the waiting list for the release of my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming soon…
Well, the dust is finally settling, and the holiday decorations are (almost) packed up and put away for next year. For many, the holidays are a frenzied time – a rush to the finish line that has adrenaline spiking for days on end. Between running around trying to find the perfect gifts to sending out cards, preparing meals, entertaining family and friends and spending a lot of time around people we don’t often get to see, it can be exhausting.
Some of us were lucky enough to have a bit of down time before jumping back in to the excitement that the New Year brings. And others of us have simply been riding that wave that takes us from one activity to the next, with little time for transition. Though it is already mid-January, it is never too late to take advantage of the demarcation that the end of one year and the beginning of another brings.
The turning of each year lends itself well to waxing reflective, calling to mind both the experiences in the past that have led us to the present moment, as well as what the future might hold – what magnificent things are bubbling up within us, just waiting to take form.
It’s curious that we often associate moments of reflection with major milestones (like a New Year), rather than as a continual process in our lives. Yet it’s easy to let the frenetic pace of business, the holidays, and personal affairs prevent us from enjoying the clarity of being alone with our thoughts, and even going beyond them into the silence of our own experience.
We get swept up in a kind of auto pilot mode, where we just do what is in front of us and go from one thing to the next, without a lot of thought.
But it is in the evaluation and reflection of our experiences that we receive insight – a vital gift that can become meaningful and empowering force in our lives.
Pressing on from one thing to the next without pausing long enough to integrate what we have learned deprives us of the gifts these experiences bring. It’s like finding a few wrapped presents with your name on them that were left behind in the festivities – and absentmindedly throwing them into a box instead of opening them up to see what’s inside.
Our experiences are uniquely designed to allow us to learn – about ourselves, others, and life itself. We learn about what works, what feels good, what doesn’t, who we are, what we are capable of, what we want more of (and less of too).
But only if we pause long enough to entertain the questions that allow us to unpack these gifts that are waiting to be opened.
If you have not yet afforded yourself the indulgence of conscious and intentional reflection, I encourage you to carve out some time to do so. Because the best goals, the best visions to move toward in the coming year will be those that align with the whispers of your heart – those that tap the infinite potential and wisdom that is already inside you. And you’ll never really know what those are until you take the time to go within and ask.
Below are some questions that can help you in this process. Some of these questions might seem more powerful to you than others – let yourself go where you are drawn with them. You may even want to take a quick look at them and then put them away and see what comes to you when your mind is empty of thoughts.
Or, you may scrap these questions and come up with different ones of your own. The important thing is to allow yourself the time to go within and listen with curiosity and earnestness.
QUESTIONS FOR YEAR-END REFLECTION
- As you reflect on this past year, what were your three or four most significant accomplishments, breakthroughs, and/or achievements?
- Looking back over the year, what (if anything) blocked or held you back as you moved toward your goals/objectives? How will you overcome those obstacles in the future?
- What were your biggest insights or realizations over the past year that you gained through your experiences?
- How will you apply what you learned this past year to what you want to create in the upcoming year?
- What are the top two or three things about your job/practice that you most want to be different this year?
- What two or three changes do you most want to see in your personal life?
- What significant challenges will face you this year? Personally? Professionally?
- What strengths will you rely on most to face the challenges that lie ahead?
- What qualities, skills, etc. could you develop within yourself to better arm you for the upcoming year?
- Picture yourself a year from now, looking back over the past year. What three or four accomplishments would you like to have achieved?
- What actions are you prepared to take to achieve your desired results for the upcoming year?
I look forward to another year ahead of navigating a path of discovery – one that will lead us all closer to our most precious goals, and allow us to make the most out of every experience we have – leaving everything we touch a little better off for the interaction – our teams, our customers, our colleagues, friends, family, and of course, ourselves.
Wishing you a wonderful and prosperous New Year ahead!
And what do you need to let go of in order to allow it to fully take root?
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 can 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 to create the space for something new to come in.
We are constantly evolving both individually and collectively.
It is so easy to look to the past to define who we are though 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 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’s 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 email 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.
Space invites opportunity.
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.
So here’s a thought for the New Year: Instead of trying so hard to do more with less, perhaps we can allow ourselves to explore the possibility that in doing less, we can have so much more.
For more on how to affect your own personal and professional transformation, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
It is like climbing to the top long staircase to find ourselves on a landing, standing before a large glimmering door just waiting to be opened. As we look down, we realize how far we have climbed to get here. Yet, we cannot help but wonder what lies behind the door.
Often, we underestimate the amount of growth we have achieved.
It’s important to take some time to reflect on the unique combination of experiences that have led to both successes and disappointments and what we have learned from them. When we do, we often gain the insight that helps us become aware of what we most need to do from this point forward.
I often work with people who feel they are ready for a change, but aren’t sure what that change should be. They aren’t necessarily miserable in their jobs or other areas of their lives – they just long for something that will fill them up in ways they haven’t been fulfilled in the past.
When I coach people who feel this way, at times they want me to tell them what the next best step is – give them the answer, or perhaps a step-by-step process that will lead them to find what they seek. Of course, no person has these answers for another. Our greatest challenge and opportunity is to find them for ourselves.
Each of our lives has a story with perfect order and meaning.
As within a novel or screenplay, each character has a specific relationship to the main character and every scene has some relevance to his growth and evolution. There will be victories and disappointments, as well as twists and turns that transition us from one to another and back again.
We will have occasion to laugh, cry, and experience a myriad of other emotions that are somewhere in between. And as a result of this perfect combination of events and mini-plots, we discover ourselves to be better people.
When we are reading a book or watching a movie, the perfect order is often easier for us to see than it is for the characters enmeshed in the stories we are watching. Yet, the mystery and intrigue, the humor over each misstep, and the courage we see the characters exude to find their way give substance to the story and allow us to leave the book or the theatre feeling moved or inspired in some way.
As you reflect on 2017, can you identify your story’s most pivotal turns? What did you learn from them? Think about your character sketch. What are the endearing qualities you have that make you unique and special? How can you leverage them to build on the previous events to create a story worth telling?
Think also about the people that surround you. In what ways are they helping you grow? What are they teaching you about yourself – whether in joyful or painful ways? And what are the qualities they possess that are similar to and different than yours? How do you complement each other, and what might it be that you can create together?
You now sit at the threshold of another chapter in your story.
Contemplate what you have already experienced and ask yourself how you might build upon it to add a bit of intrigue and adventure. Identify the ways that you could add a little lightness and humor. Think about the interplay between the characters and how you could spice things up a little.
We have each been given the makings of a beautiful tale. Open your eyes and survey them the way you would the perfectly planned detail of your favorite movie or novel. Give yourself completely to the adventure, the possibilities, and the humor in your life.
Then find a way to revel in the joy of living it.
For more on reveling in the adventure that is your life, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
One day when my kids were younger, they had a play date with some friends. I heard one of them telling the other that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My son, who was eight years old at the time, vehemently defended the jolly old man, with elaborate explanations of why something not easily proven was worth believing in anyway.
It reminded me of my own childhood.
I had to laugh, as I flashed back to one of my own experiences with a little girl in my neighborhood who made fun of me for believing that a fat man in a red coat actually came down my chimney every year. I was so mad that, when she wasn’t looking, I broke all her crayons and put them back in the box (and spent the rest of the holiday season worrying that I had just put myself on the naughty list).
I have since learned that it is okay if everyone doesn’t believe what I do.
And if he hasn’t already, my son will learn that too. But he is the one who taught me something that day. I was buoyed by his unwavering belief and faith in something he’s never really seen and inspired by his example.
I can’t help but believe that those who trust in something magical will experience that magic in ways the skeptics will not. And I think the same is true in life.
There will always be someone around to tell us what cannot be done.
And there will also always be people who, upon being so told, will do it anyway. Their faith, determination, and belief in something they have yet to see will allow them to persevere until their dreams become reality.
One of my favorite authors on personal and spiritual growth, Alan Cohen, once said “You do not need to get others to believe in your truth. You just need to live it.”
Trust, faith, and perseverance go a long way.
In a world where much is uncertain and the old success formulas no longer seem to work, I believe it is more important than ever to trust in what we know to be true in hearts, even if our minds cannot figure it all out. It may go against what we have been conditioned to believe, see, and do – but perhaps this makes it even more important.
To bust out of old paradigms that keep us from realizing our greatness, perhaps we need to stop questioning what is possible and start challenging our limits instead. As we do, we will begin to make manifest that which we previously only dreamed was possible and, through our example, show others the way to rise.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a bright blessed New Year!
It’s a question people often ask each other this time of year. I don’t know if I’m ever ready – from the standpoint of having all the boxes checked, anyway.
I know there are people out there – you may be one of them – who finished their holiday shopping weeks ago, had their houses beautifully decorated on or before Thanksgiving day, and seem to find the time to send handmade cards to everyone they know. I have secretly dreamt of being one of those people, and maybe someday I will be.
I tend to identify more with those still scurrying around at the last minute. You know, the ones dashing to the mall on Christmas eve for that one last present they forgot about and return home to feverishly wrap gifts before people come over – all the while swearing that next year will be different.
What I really long for is to simply enjoy every aspect of the holidays.
It is a season of giving, sharing, and celebrating something bigger than ourselves. It brings us together and transforms our everyday lives into something sacred.
And this opportunity is always available to us.
With every gift we buy or wrap, every card we send, or every decoration we hang, we have the ability to infuse it with presence – our ability to be truly engaged not only with whatever it is we are doing, but with the bigger reason of WHY we are doing it – even if we get a late start.
Perhaps the ideal is not in being able to do more things sooner, but to put more of ourselves into the things we are able to do now despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
When people pour their hearts into whatever they are doing, you can feel it.
The cards that arrive in our mailbox that have been perfunctorily generated don’t seem to move us as much as those people have taken the time to hand write something on – even if it is just our name. Likewise, the gifts that had some element of thought in them often end up meaning more to us than those someone spent a lot of money on. The true spirit of giving is more about the spirit than the gift itself.
And the spirit of giving and celebration doesn’t have to end in December.
We have the ability to enrich every moment of our lives with it. Albert Camus once said, “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” That means forgetting about all our preoccupations and busyness and being right here, right now – truly engaged in the purpose of whatever it is we are doing and deeply connected to whoever we are with.
In business and in life, this practice separates the most truly prosperous and successful people from all the rest. They have a knack for making others feel valued and for infusing meaning into whatever it is they do or invite others to do. They spend their time doing what is most important and pour their hearts and souls into it. As a result, they are living examples of whatever they believe most strongly in.
Perhaps this is the true art of giving, living, and leading – one that transcends holidays and spills over into our everyday lives.
And maybe it’s never too late to start.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday season!
As we move through the holiday season and approach the end of the calendar year, people often find themselves in a bit of a frenzy racing from one activity to the next, their heads filled with chatter and a continually growing list of things to do. It is easy to lose ourselves in a flurry of activity and miss out on the purpose behind all the things we tend to do at this time of the year.
If you have ever found yourself collapsing in a heap wondering where the time went and feeling depleted rather than filled by the holiday spirit, you know what I’m talking about.
When your pocketbook has reached the place where there just isn’t a lot more give, take comfort in the fact that there is a gift you can share that transcends all others and won’t cost you a thing. It is the gift of presence, a state that allows us to truly bring out the best in ourselves so that we can do the same for others.
The gift of presence is one that allows everyone to receive its benefits, and you can experience it wherever you are — whether in a meeting, running an errand, sitting at your desk, or in a conversation with someone important to you. This practice has the power to transform the way you experience your daily life and what it allows you to create for yourself and others — without really doing anything at all.
Can you recall the last time you felt totally and completely attended to?
Chances are it wasn’t when someone was giving you advice or telling you what to do. It may not have even been when someone was engaging in an activity on your behalf or watching you tear open a gift. And yet when we think of giving something to others our minds often immediately jump to what we can do, say or buy for someone. Many times, the best gift we can give someone is that of our presence.
But what exactly is presence?
The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”, from the roots pra – pre + esse – to be. I believe presence is a state of being that’s achieved when we are truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in our thoughts about what it means or what we believe should be happening next (or instead).
Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It is a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself. A moment of presence is a state of grace that can produce great insights that help us to truly learn from our experiences, make the most of our opportunities and rise up to our challenges in creative ways.
In these moments of presence, we know who we really are and what we are truly capable of.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to match each other’s intensity and tone when they are together? Comments about trivial matters are often matched with similar banter. Expressions of fear or dread often elicit responses that are equally charged, and expressions of anger have a way of provoking reactions that people later regret.
In a similar manner, moments of presence when shared with others can evoke powerful responses that can be revealing and transformational.
This is because when you are truly present with another human being you create a space that allows that person’s true self to come out as well. This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence, to listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.
So how does one cultivate a moment of presence?
It is really rather simple, though far easier said than done.
- The first step is to be still. That’s right. Sit still. I know it goes against everything you were probably taught about getting things done and being useful. But do it anyway. You can practice now, while you read this. Become aware of your breathing, of the space you are sitting in, of the weight of your body and how it feels in this moment. Feel the life inside you and trace it to each part of your body. Listen to the sounds around you. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
- Become aware of your thoughts. Observe the activity of your mind as it continues to process whatever is there– thoughts like, “this is silly, really – I have way too much to do to be sitting here, doing this…” and “I have to remember to call so and so back today,” and “What did my [boss, colleague, friend, etc.] mean when he/she said…”. Recognize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the thinker of your thoughts. Simply watch them parade around, without getting sucked into them. Feel how much bigger you are than all of that. Continue to breathe it in.
- Step three…. There really is no step three. Simply continue to repeat steps one and two, immersing yourself more deeply into the experience with each breath. You don’t need to do this for an extended period of time, unless you want to. Often even a couple of minutes are sufficient to bring you to a more intense state of awareness and aliveness.
In these moments of presence, you will experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well. Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others. The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.
Look into their eyes, and listen to what they are saying. But listen to what they are not saying as well. Presence is more about being than doing. So allow yourself to truly BE with another, devoid of judgments, labels, and agendas. When you listen from this place, you are like water to a thirsty plant, allowing others to open up and soak in needed nutrients.
And in this space, they may just find the answers they seek as well – not because you are giving them, but because you have created a space that is illuminating for everyone.
For more on cultivating presence and how it can enrich both your leadership and your life, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
Imagine holding handfuls of puzzle pieces that you are trying to assemble, without having access to the box that illustrates the finished picture. Around you are others who find themselves in the same predicament. You all hold pieces of each other’s puzzles. And you also have the ability to help each other tune into what the finished image looks like.
Though this may seem more like nothing more than an amusing simulation, it is quite fitting as a metaphor for the power of connecting with other minds.
It took me awhile to recognize and utilize this power myself. Many of us have been conditioned to believe we must figure everything out on our own, work independently, practice self-sufficiency. But over the years, I’ve become more and more convinced that working with others in groups allows us access to answers we would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
The other day I mentioned to a Fortune 100 client that I had just returned from a three-day mastermind event. His response, “What is a mastermind?”, reminded me of the fact that until I became an entrepreneur, I wasn’t familiar with the term (or the benefits of) masterminding either.
Napolean Hill is among those who made popular the concept of the mastermind. He defined it as “two or more people who work in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose.” Hill went on to say “It is the principle through which you may borrow and use the education, the experience, the influence and perhaps the capital of other people in carrying out your own plans in life. It is the principle through which you can accomplish within one year more than you could accomplish without it in a lifetime if you depended entirely upon your own efforts for success.”
Masterminds can take many forms.
- They can be large and formal (like the one I attended a little over a week ago), or small and intimate (like engaging in a conversation with a coach, mentor, or trusted colleague).
- They can be organized around a specific concept or theme, with the intent to delve more deeply into specific concepts and glean insights into their application, like the mastermind meetings I facilitate in my Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive Program.
- They also can be created to solve a specific problem, or to provide people the opportunity to work together to collectively solve a variety of problems.
The benefits of a mastermind are worth exploring, and its power is often overlooked and unfortunately untapped. Below are three pitfalls many executives unwittingly fall into that engaging in some form of masterminding can help you to avoid.
(1) Getting so entrenched in problems that you cannot see the solutions.
The pace of business has many executives running from one thing to another in a hopelessly reactive state that often keeps them from pausing long enough to recognize what is really going on and what must be done to address it. In a rush, solutions are often devised to address symptoms without getting to the true root of the problem. People fall into a state of autopilot that has them acting operationally instead of strategically. As a result, solutions are short lived and run the risk of causing more problems than they solve.
This is the equivalent of trying madly to put puzzle pieces together that simply don’t fit.
The benefit of utilizing a mastermind to identify solutions is that it allows you to connect with people who can help you snap out of a frenzied, somewhat unconscious state to ask the right questions, consider the best approaches to truly understanding the underlying dynamics of a problem, and benefit from perspectives different than your own. This allows you to see what you previously missed, and provides the space necessary to drop into a richer understanding of what must be done.
In pausing long enough and looking deeply enough to ensure you have the right pieces, your puzzle comes together in a way that is functional and sustainable.
(2) Failing to recognize and work through the resistance that keeps you from taking necessary action.
Sometimes the best solutions evade us because we hold assumptions that keep us from believing they are possible, or that we have the ability to execute them. Our beliefs about what it will take to succeed can keep us from even entertaining the possibilities before us. In short, the solutions may be right in front of us, but we don’t see them because we are in a state of overwhelm, frustration or doubt that obstructs our view.
This is the equivalent to not being able to envision what the completed picture looks like and not recognizing that you hold in your hands the pieces necessary to assemble it.
When you mastermind with others, they approach the problem/opportunity without any of the emotion, drama, and limiting assumptions that come from being entrenched in it. As a result, they are able to see clearly and point things out for you that you cannot see on your own. They can ask you questions and offer observations that help you cut through the clutter that obscures your view and help you see the irrational nature of assumptions you may not be willing to challenge on your own.
With a clearer view, you are able to discern a better visualization of the picture your puzzle is designed to create and recognize that you have the very pieces you need. You also gain the support and courage necessary to lay them down and piece them together.
(3) Wasting time and experiencing unnecessary frustration working in isolation to figure things out.
Regardless of what problem or opportunity you are facing, there is someone, somewhere who has been through something similar, who knows something you may not. And yet many of us insist on doing things ourselves, reinventing the wheel, and failing to leverage the knowledge, experience and insight all around us. This can result in countless hours, weeks, months and even years of time spent doing something that could have been solved or created in a fraction of time, without the whopping pain that comes from repeatedly banging your head against a wall.
It is the equivalent of failing to recognize that others hold pieces of our puzzles that they would gladly offer up, if only we had the willingness to ask.
When you mastermind with others, you not only gain access to potential solutions, approaches and tools you didn’t previously have, you also benefit from learning lessons others gained through mistakes – without having to make those mistakes yourself. Additionally, you will benefit from honest, supportive feedback provided by people who will tell you what you need to hear (information others may not feel comfortable sharing) in a supportive way that allows you to course correct before any damage is done.
You gain access to other’s puzzle pieces instead of trying to fabricate your own – as well as information that helps you put those pieces together efficiently and effectively.
In summary, masterminding can allow you to see beyond constraints that keep you from rising to your most pressing challenges and promising opportunities, produce solutions to problems that previously eluded you, and save you countless hours, weeks and even years of wasted time and unnecessary frustration.
In addition to avoiding each of these pitfalls, Napoleon Hill spoke of another benefit of masterminding that is worth mentioning. He is often quoted saying “When two (or more) people get together, a third mind, the Master Mind, is created, becoming a separate force in the conversation.”
I believe this separate force is a higher mind – a source of universal intelligence, the stuff utilized by the greatest inventors, scientists, leaders, writers, artists, and geniuses of our time. Putting our heads together in this way allows us to go beyond the limited database of our brains to access this higher mind in a way that can potentially resolve even the most pressing of problems, for us as individuals, organizations, communities and societies.
Now that’s a puzzle worth assembling.
If you are interested in experiencing the power of a mastermind first hand, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Though the fall program has filled, you can sign up for the waiting list to be the first to get information on the next session, as well as first dibs on the limited seats that will become available.
The Thanksgiving season naturally lends itself to recognizing what we have to be grateful for. Health, family, friends, and prosperity are among the most commonly cited blessings. What comes most easily to mind are the warm, fuzzy areas of our lives that naturally lend themselves to feelings of appreciation.
But the power of gratitude reaches far beyond those things that bring immediate smiles to our faces. And leveraging this power requires that we move beyond the happy times to consider the tougher experiences we’ve had that we would often rather forget about. Because the most challenging times in our lives and our careers are often accompanied by some of the richest blessings.
- That proposal that you worked day and night on but ended up going nowhere.
- The difficult customer/coworker/boss/direct report that continually pushed all your buttons.
- The presentation you made that didn’t have the impact you would have liked.
- The restructuring in your division that pushed you to the edges of your comfort zone and required you to navigate through uncertainty that was as unfamiliar as it was unsettling.
These things that push us to our edges come bearing gifts. And we tend to move so quickly that we fail to pause long enough to unpack those blessings and truly integrate them. But when we do, we often realize in hindsight that these less than ideal circumstances allow us to grow, to become stronger, to more resilient, more compassionate, more insightful, more wise.
The circumstances themselves pass, but the gifts remain.
Cultivating this deeper level of gratitude allows us to contemplate the idea that perhaps life isn’t happening to us, but rather for us. These challenges that test our patience, push us to our edges, and appear to be nothing more than irritating obstacles are often the very things we need in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s easier to see the perfect order of things in retrospect. Can you think of a challenge you faced in the recent (or not so recent) past that pushed you to your limits? Consider for a moment what you learned as a result of that experience. What did the experience itself require that you activate within yourself to successfully move through it? And how did it make you a better leader? A stronger performer? A wiser and more compassionate person?
The reason these insights come to us in hindsight is that our thinking settles. When we are not so frazzled and pressured by the need for an immediate response, or plagued by worried and doubt, the static that prevented us from seeing and appreciating the deeper purpose and significance subsides. And there is space for gratitude to emerge.
Gratitude, yes for all the things that are going well in our lives – our health, the precious people in our lives, our prosperity – but also gratitude for the experiences that allow us to see who we really are when our backs are to the wall, to step up and into our true potential, to realize ourselves to be much stronger and more capable than we thought we were.
What if you could leverage the power of hindsight in the present? What if you could learn to look beyond the tangle of thoughts that may have you in a knot as you approach a current or emerging challenge – with the knowing that this unsettling, less than optimal situation also comes bearing gifts and blessings?
What if instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the situation and the external circumstances you could turn your attention to the knowing that you have what it takes to rise up to this and any other challenge? All you have to do is look to your past for evidence that it is there.
If you take it a step further, you can become grateful for the situations and circumstances you previously wished would go away. Because you know that along with the struggle, they provide you with gateways that invite you to discover and unearth who you really are. This approach allows you to face your challenges with curiosity, playfulness and grace – mindsets that catalyze insight, creativity, and the resilience you need to find your way and emerge victorious.
Now that’s something to be grateful for.
This approach is something that is fostered within The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow program, which kicked off in September. Though the fall session is full, you can click here to get on the waiting list to receive updates on the next offering. And if you are looking for a more immediate resource, check out my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader.