You’ve just been promoted. The excellent work you have been recognized for has landed you a new job with expanded responsibility and significance. Perhaps you lead an organization of other talented professionals who now look to you for guidance and support. Maybe you are a leader of leaders.
The game you were playing just got bigger – and so did the playing field.
And your role has changed. What earned you this promotion will not be enough to allow you to succeed in your new role. In fact, if you continue to do what you did before, you may actually sabotage your newfound success.
You have gone from player to coach — or perhaps manager/owner. And if you jump back into the game, no one will be there to call the shots, to develop the talent, to create a strategy to advance the standing of the team, to gain the supporters and funding that will allow the team to continue to play.
Yet despite these consequences, you — like many leaders faced with similar opportunities — may have difficulty with the transition. You may have fears:
- Fear than no one can do things as well (or better)
- Fear of becoming obsolete
- Fear of failure
Fear that no one can do things as well (or better)
The problem with this fear is that it is actually well-founded. Chances are, especially if you are at the top of your field, very few will be able to do the job as well as or better than you can. But that doesn’t mean you should be doing it for them — or even along with them.
And yet you will be tempted to. Especially when the stakes are high. Or when things get extremely busy and it seems like targets will not be met if you don’t jump in or take over altogether. You may hover over people, micromanaging them or smothering them with well-intentioned guidance.
But your very fear that things will fall through the cracks may well cause that which you most want to avoid. Maybe not in the short term. In the short term, you may revel in your ability to keep the balls from dropping and save the day. But as more and more begins to be added to your plate, your problem of not having people who are skilled enough to take the baton will be even greater than it was before.
Worse yet, you will have conditioned the very people you need to develop to become dependent on you and quite comfortable performing at much less than their true capacity. In the meantime, the bigger, more strategic work that you have graduated to will be piling up and fairly significant opportunities will pass you by.
Your people may well be on a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning. They won’t get everything right. And they may resist taking on the responsibilities you used to perform. But you need to transition from performer to coach.
Give them opportunities to try things out. Let them make mistakes. Then help them to learn from those mistakes and perfect their craft. And do the same for yourself in your new role.
This leads us to the second common fear that keeps leaders from playing a bigger game.
Fear of becoming obsolete
It’s not necessarily a rational fear. After all, leaders who are on the brink of playing a bigger game have plenty to do. They have a whole new role to fill. But that doesn’t stop people from worrying at some level that if they teach and empower others to do what got them accolades and attention that they will somehow lose their edge and fade into obscurity.
Often when people have performed a certain role or become masterful at a particular skill, it can become infused with their very identity. And until they have performed in their new role for awhile and become accustomed to the different kinds of activities and opportunities that it brings, they are likely to continue to identify with their old role. Which may lead them to wonder, “if I’m not that anymore, who am I?”
This ambiguity and lack of role clarity can send people back to what they know is comfortable and familiar, even when they have outgrown it. And even when going back there isn’t in their best interest (or the best interest of those they lead.)
To counteract this, it is important to fully grasp the opportunities and possibilities that playing a bigger game brings. It allows you to go from being immersed in the game with a view limited from one point on the playing field to seeing the game from several different angles. You can evaluate each player’s contribution and the way they work together.
You can change the way the game is played — and in some cases, even change the rules. But only if you free yourself up from the myriad of tasks that will always be there beckoning you to come back into the operational and out of the strategic. And the lure of the old role becomes even more enticing when you factor in the next fear that keeps many leaders from playing a bigger game.
Fear of failure
When you go from executing the plays to determining what those plays should be, you enter unchartered territory. First off, it is likely something you won’t have a lot of experience doing. And when you don’t have a lot of experience doing something, it is uncomfortable.
You may not be very good at it in the beginning. It will be messy. You will second-guess yourself. And you will likely miss being able to do your work with the same level of confidence and ease that you did before.
It will feel a lot like going from being a senior to becoming a freshman again.
Second, the very nature being a strategic player will require you to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity. You will be called on to blaze a trail where none previously existed. While this can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, it can also be somewhat daunting and stressful.
And when the pressure gets high, you may find it incredibly tempting to get sucked back into doing things you shouldn’t be doing anymore. Things you can check off your list and feel a sense of accomplishment from. Things that restore your confidence and give you the illusion of being in control. Things that would be better delegated to others. Or not done at all.
So when that happens, you need to remind yourself that whatever you did that allowed you to rise to new heights wasn’t likely something that always came easily to you. You had to start somewhere and struggle in the beginning before you began to gain competence and confidence. But you stuck with it and gradually got better and better. And you can do that again now.
Leadership is about “going before” others. Your new promotion will require that you wade through your fear, your discomfort, your resistance and your uncertainty to find within you the core of your true potential and act from it. And as you do so, by your very example, you will lead others to grow, expand, push their limits and play a bigger game as well.
Playing a bigger game often brings pressure and anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. You can make a bigger impact without running yourself ragged – and enjoy the process along the way. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will show you how. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.
“The key thing to remember is not that we need to be fast but that we are running a race that has no finish line. So the fuel that drives us needs to be made of something substantial — something for the heart that the head can also follow.”
~ Vincent Kralyevich, American film producer, director, author, art director and composer
Have you ever had an idea that made the hair on your arms stand up?
Maybe it’s a dream that beckons to you – one that holds promise for your future and that of others as well. When you think of the possibilities, you may find yourself feeling light, energized, and connected to something greater than yourself.
This is what inspiration feel like.
It is buoyant and powerful. Simple, yet strong. And it is contagious. Inspired action tends to touch others in a way that activates something inside of them as well. It connects them not only to you, but also to themselves. I like to think of inspiration as a pull – like a magnet that draws us toward something and gives us the power to bridge the gap – even if we aren’t sure exactly how to do it. Inspiration is something we receive and it comes to us when we are receptive to it. It requires trust, faith and patience.
Sometimes inspiration gets blocked.
What gets in the way of inspiration is our doubts, fears and faulty assumptions about what we can or cannot do, or what is even possible. These doubts are like layers of stuff that dilute the magnetic force of inspiration. Inspiration still beckons to us, but something stands in our way. This is where motivation comes in. It is something we summon up inside ourselves to get us to overcome the obstacles that are in front of us. And as leaders (regardless of your vocation, title, or role), it is something we often try to summon up in others to get them to do the same.
Motivation often takes the form of the carrot or the stick.
What gets us off the dime when we are balled up in our own fear is the willingness and the will to take action. Where inspiration is the pull, motivation is the push. The word motive is derived from motivation. Our motives can be in service to a higher good, or they can be in service to ourselves alone.
When motivation is aligned with inspiration, miracles can happen.
But when it is not, we will find ourselves feeling out of sync. Inspiration (a higher calling) without motivation (the will to act on it) leaves us feeling stagnant, stuck, and/or unfulfilled. When we refuse to answer our calls to greatness and play small instead, it is often because we have let our fear and doubt get the better of us. Though we may be very busy, we will likely feel as though we are not accomplishing anything of great significance.
Motivation serves us best when it works through obstacles in our own thinking that get in the way of acting on our inspiration.
Motivation without inspiration feels a lot like driving a car without power steering. Or it can be like trying to run through mud. It requires a lot of effort and strength and leaves us feeling exhausted. When motivation serves a higher purpose (that provided by inspiration), the load is lightened and the way becomes clear. But when the object of our desire is one that derives solely from our ego’s need for things like power, prestige, control, approval, or wealth, the push of motivation is not aligned with the pull of inspiration and we stray off course. That’s when things get difficult – we may feel as though we are exerting a lot of effort but not really getting anywhere.
Sometimes motivation and inspiration begin in alignment and then gradually become disconnected.
We start out feeling in sync, making great progress and experiencing a state of flow, and then hit a bump in the road. The bump may be a fear or some other kind of assumption that we need to examine and disempower before we can move on. Or, it may be that we simply need to wait awhile.
The cool thing about inspiration is that it comes from a higher source.
One that sees a bigger picture than we do. Sometimes there will be delays that we do not understand. Our egos can become impatient and steal the show – trying to push through these barriers with sheer force and exhausting us and everyone around us in the process. And once our egos are in charge, things have a way of deteriorating. Our motivation (or motive) mutates from being in service to a greater good to being in service to ourselves – or some ego need.
What do you do when things stall out?
It can be tough to discern what kind of action (or inaction) is required when we encounter an impasse. But if we get quiet, we can tap our source of inner wisdom to find the answers we need. When we purify our motives (motivation) so that they are in service to a higher calling (inspiration) we get back on the path that leads to greatest fulfillment for ourselves and everyone around us. And using motivation to remove the blocks that stand in our way will ensure that we actually make progress on that path and bring our greatness into the world in a way that inspires others to do the same.
My life’s work has largely been around unleashing inspiration in my own work and helping others to do the same.
And I’m so excited about a new program I’m about to launch where I will partner with a very small group (limited to eight people) in a highly transformational process. If you are interested in delving deeper into how you can infuse your life and leadership with inspiration and experience a greater sense of meaning, higher level of performance, and lasting fulfillment, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!
And what do you need to let go of 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.
What if you started with less instead of more?
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 as human beings.
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, and 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 definitions of who we think we are – or should be.
They filter the experiences we allow ourselves to have and compel us to define the form that our deepest longings should take. To be happy, we reason – we must get that promotion, achieve this or that 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 autopilot.
Some of this may bring satisfaction, and some may lead to 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 to the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives.
Easier said than done, right?
How exactly do you go about letting go of the known when it is all you know?
We can take our cues from nature. Snakes and other reptiles shed their skin, trees drop their leaves, and caterpillars create cocoons in which their forms entirely dissolve before recreating themselves in the form of butterflies. Even a fish in a bowl cannot stay in water that contains its excrement – the waste must either be emptied and replaced with new water, or absorbed by something else that will remove it from the fish’s environment. Without engaging in these renewing processes, these creatures will die. And so it is with 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, and the same is true of you.
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 brings freedom.
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 the space of possibility that will allow something to come in that may surprise and delight you. Rather than being something you slave away for, it will simply emerge and reveal itself to you.
And of course, any work you do on yourself will serve as a form of leadership for others who, like you, seek their own answers and could benefit from your example of unearthing what is possible and allowing it to take form in new and unexpected ways.
Taking the time to discern what is and isn’t working in your life and up level your game becomes easier and more fun when you have support.
If you are ready to do a deep dive to supercharge your leadership and your life, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week small group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!
~ Robert H. Schuller
I love the above quote because it inspires me to think big.
I often make lists of all the things that I’ve dreamt of creating or being a part of. I encourage my clients to do it too. But when I begin to contemplate actually doing the things on those lists, the concept of failure often creeps in and makes its presence known with a long, dark shadow.
It’s easy to shoot for the moon until the prospect of crashing to the ground enters the picture.
We can dream and scheme all we want, but making our dreams real requires us to act. And doing so brings us nose to nose with what is likely our most formidable opponent: fear of failure.
Failure means different things to different people.
But I think the most fear-provoking thing about the idea of failure that it leads to pain—pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin—not to mention its actual physical variations. The interesting thing about pain is that—thankfully—it is usually finite. It comes and it goes. And though we may not always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to have some say in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.
When I used get immunizations as a kid, I remember getting all worked up…
…before the needle even came close to my skin. And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing—even screaming or howling before contact was actually made. But seconds later, the injections are done before the kids even realize it. They left the exam table and went onto other things without delay—except maybe when one of them needed a little more sympathy and dwelled on the puncture or the blood on the bandage—prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needed to be.
I think we do the same thing when we anticipate the pain of what we consider to 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 needs to be. But we can also use resilience and determination to bounce back and focus on something that will help us move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.
I prefer a slight variation of that opening quote that goes like this:
“What great thing would you attempt if you knew there was no such thing as failure?”
Because it really comes down to what your experience—regardless of the way it turns out—has given you, rather than cost you. People who have accomplished extraordinary things in their lives are the first to tell you that they have had more than their share of what many refer to as “failure”. And many will tell you those experiences were, in fact, prerequisites for their success. What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they got back up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward, equipped with a new awareness, a new understanding, and 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?
Are you interested in more strategies for overcoming the fallacy of failure and strengthening your courage, resiliency, and momentum toward achieving your visions and aspirations? Stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow, or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
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, they often 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 2016, 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 compliment 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.
As you turn the page to your life’s next chapter, consider emphasizing the experiences that help you gain clarity, wisdom, and momentum for years—or chapters—to come. Stay tuned for more insight into those moments and information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow. Click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
Over the holidays, I had the delightful experience of traveling to Disneyland with family.
Every time I go there, it is like stepping into an alternate reality—one where the stresses and anxieties of the week before simply dissolve and the child in me emerges.
I am mesmerized by every intricate detail so carefully attended to by the multitude of people that make Disneyland what it is—from the enchanting castles and belly-dropping rides, to the perfectly manicured gardens and the warm smiles and tireless energy of every cast member.
And I can’t help but revel in a deliciously goose-bump-building thought.
All the wonder, delight and magic of this place—as well as everything that is associated with it (the movies, cartoons, storybooks and associated media)—ALL OF THIS began with a single thought in the mind of a man who took action to make it real.
I don’t know a lot about Walt Disney, but I imagine he was gripped by an idea—a dream that captured his heart and burst inside of him until he was compelled to gather the people and resources to make it happen.
This guy had a vision that couldn’t help but be embraced by others.
It spoke to their hearts and their spirits, and allowed them to be a part of something that does the same for everyone who encounters it. Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth” because it brings out the best in everyone who experiences it. It unleashes the magic each of us carries somewhere deep within us, and the most traditional of fairy tales are about that very subject. Even the performers on the various stages throughout the park sing refrains about looking within to find our heroes. What an amazing creation!
We all get inspirations from time to time. And the more we act on them the more we seem to receive them.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. When was the last time you got one that gave you goose bumps? And what did you do to take it to the next level of creation? Were you overwhelmed, thinking it was too big, or unrealistic to actually achieve? Perhaps it is too big for one person. But what if you were able to create a vision like Walt Disney did, that resonated in the very core of people who would gladly partner with you to make it real?
You have something inside of you that is waiting to be unleashed into the world.
The very act of doing it will rock your world, and that of others as well. Maybe it isn’t a multimillion dollar theme park, or a screenplay, or an organization. But whatever it is will carry the unique essence of you—who you are—and the compilation of everything each of your individual experiences has prepared you for. And if you bring it forward with the intention of making the world a better place, you will.
Who are you to deny that you are meant for greatness?
The beginning of every new year brings with it questions of what we most want to create in our lives and our work. If you are interested in strategies for better connecting with your vision and taking steps to bring it to fruition in a way that feeds and fulfills you, stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow, or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
– Melodie Beattie
Someone once sent me the above quote in a card.
I remember being very moved when I read it. It speaks to our ability to interrupt what seems like a perpetual condition of restless yearning. From such an early age, we become conditioned to always look for more – to achieve more, to have more, to become more. With such an orientation, even the fruits of our labor are not fully embraced before we feel compelled to run off and do something else.
Gratitude is a state of being rather than doing.
It is a matter of what we focus on. All of our striving and yearning keeps us fixated on what we do not yet have, but desperately want. It leaves us in a state of lack, feeling as though we must compensate for something. Gratitude reverses that and allows us to soak up and truly experience the fullness of what is already ours. In gratitude, we can fully appreciate the richness of life around us – no matter what it looks like. From that state, we can more fully connect with those we love and appreciate and truly enjoy each moment as it unfolds.
Soon the day we call Thanksgiving will be upon us.
It brings with it the opportunity to celebrate – if only for a day – the richness and bounty that is ours. But this state of appreciation and celebration does not need to stop after the day is done.
For all that we want, there is much that we already have.
When we shift our minds into states of gratitude, we are likely to act in ways that bring more to be thankful for. As I love and appreciate the important people in my life, I become more lovable. As I give my time and attention to others, I realize there is a place within me from which I have much more to give. Even with the things I really want in life, I can begin to realize the small (and big ways) in which those things are already here – and be fully present to the manner in which they are already unfolding, trusting in life’s beautiful mystery.
No matter who you are or what your life is like, you have something to be grateful for.
It has been said that whatever your place your attention, energy, and focus on will expand. Perhaps this is the true art and power of gratitude – our ability to be in a place of joy and abundance and magnify it in such a way that it truly enhances the quality of our own lives, and everyone around us as well.
If you find yourself in an environment that is difficult to appreciate or feel that what you really want is a change of some sort, gratitude might be a difficult place to start to begin crafting your desired future. In my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow, I teach high achieving professionals strategies for leveraging their experiences to move closer to their ideal vision so they can make a bigger impact doing meaningful, inspiring work and enjoy their lives more – both on and off the job. Stay tuned for more information or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon become available.
Over the history of time, there have been among us people who dared to dream big and ended up creating something magnificent as a result. What they had in common was not their station in life, their family inheritance or even necessarily a solid education. Many rose up despite odds that would suggest their lives would be quite ordinary, or insignificant, perhaps growing up amidst gangs and violence and poverty to become leaders whose life stories would inspire millions of others from all backgrounds and circumstances.
What is it that differentiates these people from the rest? And what can we all learn from them?
“Nothing happens unless first a dream.” ~ Carl Sandburg
People who do amazing things in the world often have a dream that they lovingly nurture and protect. From somewhere in the depths of their being, they know they are capable of greatness – not because they were born into it or are particularly more gifted than everyone else, but simply because it is their birthright – as it is for all of us.
Each one of us has the ability to create something extraordinary. We all have different talents and strengths, diverse styles and passions – along with a unique combination of experiences (for better or worse) that allows us to discover and apply them to create something bigger than ourselves. We may not know exactly what form it will take, but if we pay attention to the whispers and yearnings of our hearts, we begin to make out the shape of something that beckons to us.
As children, most of us received mixed messages. We may have been encouraged to follow our hearts and give life to our dreams, in addition to being conditioned to be practical, hedge our bets and take the safest route. Over time, many of us have allowed the roar of public opinion – that often tells us our dreams are frivolous, selfish and unlikely to come to fruition – to silence that small still voice within. But those among us who have risen against their odds have learned to reverse that process and believe in themselves and their dreams despite the overwhelming evidence around them that would suggest that success is improbable.
“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lost that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.” ~ Martin Luther King
The beginning of each year brings with it the question of what we will focus our time, energy and resources into accomplishing. It is an optimal time to reacquaint ourselves with our dreams and visions, our purpose and values, and the question of how we can become living examples of that which we most admire. You may be quite sure of what it is you would like to create, do, have or become. Or perhaps you have only small pieces of a bigger puzzle that has not yet come together.
The power of your dream will be bolstered by the degree to which your vision expands beyond your own interests to those of others around you. Spend some time contemplating where you feel most drawn and why. When you land on something that will allow your gifts to align with those of others to accomplish complementary goals, you will join forces with something much greater than yourself. It will lift you up when your energy is low and sustain you through moments of doubt and fear.
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.
“Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams.”
~ Robert K. Greenleaf
The above article contains excerpts from my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Photo credit: joegough
Last night Tom Petty was in town and I was lucky enough to get a last minute opportunity to watch him perform. Chuck Berry – at age 83 – was the opening act. He moved and grooved and belted out his tunes with just as much energy and passion that he did fifty years ago. And then TP and the Heartbreakers took the stage. They rocked the house. People were out of their seats from the very first song and transported to a place that transcended time and space – where worries, tension and stress simply melt away.
I love to watch people who have mastered their craft enter their zones. They are mesmerizing. Uplifting. Inspiring. Fascinating to watch. And their energy is contagious. They have the ability to connect with people they’ve never even seen before and somehow leave them in a better state than they were before. Their impact on us remains long after we have parted ways.
It’s easy to see this state of grace in people who perform – like musicians, actors, athletes, speakers, dancers, etc. But any of us can get into a zone that allows us to experience a state of flow, where we become one with the work in such a way that it can feel effortless and transformational. And that can have a powerful impact on everyone around us as well.
As I watched Tom Petty perform, I noticed three major things about him that I believe are key to finding your zone – no matter who you are or what you do.
(1) Don’t take yourself too seriously.
“It’s all right if you love me. It’s all right if you don’t.” Classic line from a classic Tom Petty song. I imagine the first time he performed, he probably cared a lot about what people thought of him. Most of us have gotten hooked into worrying about the opinion of others at one time or another. Wanting to win approval and admiration isn’t a crime. And there is nothing wrong with desiring success. But getting too attached to it can have adverse effects. It’ll trip you up and keep you from entering your zone. There is a sweet spot that Tom Petty and other great masters of their crafts have found – one that allows them to play at success without becoming preoccupied with it. The paradox is that letting go of the intense need for success seems to have a way of somehow unlocking the gates for it to come in – and it makes everything a lot more fun.
(2) Be WHERE you are.
The timeless place Tom Petty transported his audience to was largely a product of his own ability to completely immerse himself in what was taking place around him in each moment. He could not have been more present. In this state, we do not fret over things that happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow. We simply allow things to unfold around us in such a way that we can remain tuned in and turned on. We connect with our intuition. We act on our insights and learn to improvise. Rather than waiting for the “right opportunity” to do what we love, we begin where we are and allow everything that we do to be an expression of love in and of itself. And we create a space that connects us to others in profound ways.
(3) Be WHO you are.
Tom Petty’s voice is distinctive. And so is his style. Maybe he found it immediately. Maybe, like many of us, he started out by emulating someone else before he discovered that what came naturally to him worked better than anything else he tried. Great artists often learn by studying and duplicating the work of other artists. But the best of the best eventually break out of the mold and find their unique form. The same is true for each of us. We begin our lives by learning from and mirroring others, but at some point the time comes for us to step into and embrace our uniqueness. Gradually, we learn to trust that the gifts we have each been given are there for a reason and find ways to put them to use. As we believe in ourselves and our ability to contribute to something greater than ourselves, our work – like that of Tom Petty and Chuck Berry – becomes an inspiration to others.
As I was leaving the stadium after the concert had ended, I noticed a man on the street playing his heart out on a tenor sax. Taped to the pole he was standing next to was a large cardboard sign on which was written in bold black letters the words:
“YOU HAVE GREATNESS WITHIN YOU.
SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR DREAMS
AND THEY WILL COME TRUE.”
I couldn’t agree more.
My new book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming Real: Authentic Leadership for the 21st Century is about unleashing your greatness. It will be released on January 11, 2011 and will soon be available to pre-order. Stay tuned for more information and subscribe to my free monthly ezine at www.DianeBolden.com to hear about free upcoming events, videos and teleseminars.
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Some of the most memorable performances I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy have been Springsteen concerts. The boss. I’ve stood in the sold out stadiums before the show started along with thousands of other people waiting eagerly for the music – and the magic – to begin.
And Springsteen really does create magic. In a matter of minutes, he seems to effortlessly transform the entire building and everyone in it into a kind of portal that vibrates with possibility, energy, and spirit. Throughout the rest of the evening, he takes his audience right into the music with him and allows everyone to become a part of it. I have never left a Springsteen concert feeling anything less than incredibly inspired and somehow renewed – as though some part of me I didn’t even know I had woke up while I was there and begged to be released into the world.
The last time I saw Bruce in concert I was musing over the fact that he, like all of us, has at one time or another most likely ordered a hamburger at a fast food joint or stood in line at the grocery store. And I reveled over what it would be like to be standing there behind him – perhaps before he recognized his own inner genius and believed in it enough to write and record the music that would inspire others to give life to their own.
Would I know that I was standing in the presence of greatness? Could I somehow feel it? Or would I move through the rest of my day unaware of how close I’d come to magic?
And then I began to wonder about the people I actually do stand in line behind in the grocery store these days. Who’s to say that one of them isn’t destined to touch the lives and transform the worlds of many as well with their own unique talents and passions?
In December of 2007, the Washington Post persuaded Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world to be part of a social experiment. On a cold January morning, this internationally acclaimed virtuoso stood leaning against a wall next to a trash can in a Washington DC metro station with a baseball hat on his head playing some of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth over $3 million dollars.
Over the course of the forty five minutes that he played, a total of 1,097 people passed by this musician who only two days prior played a sold out theater in Boston’s Symphony Hall where the seats averaged $100. Only seven people stopped and stayed – most of them only for a minute or two. Twenty seven gave money, mostly change, for a total of $32 and some cents. He ended each piece with no applause, no acknowledgement of his performance – or even his existence.
If people could be in the presence of someone like Joshua Bell while he was performing without stopping to appreciate and savor it for even a moment, perhaps it is also feasible that we are in the presence of greatness every day in some way – without even knowing. It could be in the person who serves you your morning coffee, the guy in the cubicle next to you, one of your own children. Maybe it could even be the person who stares back at you in the mirror.
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