Have you ever driven by a construction site and wondered what was being built?
You may have seen people working diligently, each focused on their own specific task. Maybe there were steel girders, half constructed walls, and unidentifiable objects at various stages of completion.
Upon first glance, it likely appears chaotic and messy.
But amidst the sawdust and cement blocks, something pulls it all together. Though we may not know exactly what the larger plan is, over time the construction starts to take shape and we begin to recognize a room here, and another there. Soon we can start to surmise the purpose and function of each room.
As the walls are plastered and paint is applied, the appearance becomes neater.
And suddenly, it is completed in all its glory – a stunning compilation of raw materials, sweat, and focused action.
Perhaps we too build things in this way. It is nice to know in advance exactly what we are building. But at times things may feel chaotic, disconnected and random. We have some experiences that uplift us and others that disappoint. Often we are without an explanation of why certain events and experiences are taking place.
But maybe underneath it all, there is a larger plan at work.
One that will reveal itself over time. As we undertake each new experience, another wall is constructed and a new room is being built.
What if we were willing to experience our lives with the same wonder and curiosity with which we look upon that building undergoing construction? And what if we were able to engender that same enthusiasm and optimism in everyone around us?
Are you willing to entertain the thought that somewhere within you there is a perfect blueprint of everything your life and your leadership will bring about?
And can you delight in the mystery of its gradual unfolding?
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with a relative who was having an echo cardiogram – which is essentially an ultrasound of the heart. It was an awe-inspiring experience.
We’re obviously all familiar with the fact that we have hearts. And that they beat. And that without them, we wouldn’t be alive.
But I realized that in many ways, we (or at least I) have become all TOO familiar with that fact. So familiar that it’s easy to forget about it altogether – and completely take it for granted.
There was something about seeing that image of a real human heart – beating steadily and with such incredible precision – that simply took my breath away.
It may sound silly, but I couldn’t help but muse over the fact that the vast majority of us don’t have to be plugged into anything or pack pre-charged batteries into our bodies for our hearts to continue doing what they do. We don’t need to set reminders, or worry about getting it right, or rely on anyone, or do anything at all for that matter.
A few days later I found myself sitting in one of my favorite places, next to a little creek under a canopy of sprawling eucalyptus trees that lines one of the streets in my neighborhood. It’s a place that I can lose myself in entirely, so full of beauty and peace that if I sit there long enough, I can feel the stress dissolve like little beads of water that evaporate in the sun.
A moment later, a car came screeching down the road – very likely exceeding the 25 MPH speed limit by double or more. My peace and ease were shattered for a moment, as I felt the anger bubble up within my body. I watched as my quiet mind was barraged by thoughts of frustration and resentment, conjuring all kinds of unpleasant scenarios at the danger that was created for kids riding their bikes or people walking their dogs.
And then I turned my gaze once again, from the street to the little creek with the light dancing upon the water and the graceful, willowing branches of leaves fluttering in the breeze above it. I took a deep breath, and in that moment I realized three things…
(1) I could choose which sensation I wanted to experience by deciding which thought I would give my attention to. The feelings of peace and contentment were still available to me – I just had to be willing to release the sudden attachment I felt to anger and hostility.
(2) The decision I would make in that moment would impact the trajectory of the rest of my day. Giving in to my irritation would not only keep me from enjoying a peaceful, easy feeling; it would also keep me from sharing it with others and using it to navigate gracefully through whatever challenges and opportunities awaited me.
(3) The beauty and bliss and peace I was previously experiencing, like my heartbeat, is always available to me – to all of us. I am just not always aware of it. And sometimes I unwittingly choose to put my attention on things that completely eclipse my awareness of it altogether. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Despite the changing times we live in, the little (and big) disturbances we often have to deal with, and the frustrations and challenges that threaten our peace, we all have some things that are constant in our lives – that when appreciated allow us to feel truly blessed, loved and cared for.
As the holidays grow nearer, and we prepare to gather and break bread with people who are special to us, it does us all well to pause and appreciate with wonder and awe the things in our lives that we don’t often stop to think all that much about.
Here’s to the beauty that surrounds us, the love that is always available, and the uncompromising glory of our magnificent beating hearts.
Many of us are on the verge of entering new, unchartered territory.
Some are having to do that by necessity, as a result of changing circumstances. Others are recognizing – and answering – the call to step out and try something we’ve never done before.
Either way, it isn’t easy. Especially if you are accustomed to (and pride yourself on) being able to do something really well.
Anytime you try something new or different, you will encounter resistance.
To assist you through these vital transitions – and to help you overcome what I call “the curse of competence”, I wanted to share something with you that I teach in my 13 week Pinocchio Principle Unleashed program.
It’s an excerpt from a video on embracing uncertainty and redefining failure. In less than 6 minutes, you’ll gain a whole new perspective that’ll help you move beyond your greatest resistance to create and enjoy the success you are truly capable of.
Interested in enrolling in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed? Join the waiting list to be the first to hear when registration is open.
And change is naturally somewhat disconcerting.
But it can also be liberating and empowering – if you use it as a doorway to rediscover you who really are at your core – to unleash your GENIUS.
When you access your Genius, you’ll not only unlock your highest levels of performance and advance your career, you’ll also enjoy more freedom and fulfillment both on and off the job.
The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, my 13 week signature program, is designed to help high achieving executives do just that. The fall session is kicking off on Wednesday, September 30.
I believe it’s more timely now than ever. I filmed a short (5 min) video to tell you why…
You can find all the details about the program here: The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. If you have questions or just want to chat about it, you can also schedule a call with me.
But don’t wait long! The fall session will start on Wednesday, September 30 and I intentionally limit enrollment to a small, intimate size so that each person can have the highest level of support and personalized attention.
Here’s to your Genius!
“I shared before that your program was life changing, but I wanted you to know that is even more true now. I was going through some of my session notes and I had written down some of the characteristics when you are operating in your genius, which I wrote down – trust, faith and curiosity. In a time when it would be so easy to be in fear, judgement and anxiety, I have operated in my genius during this time more than ever before at any point in my life. I have you to thank for that and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”
Porsha M. Caddell, Sr. Manager, Customer Service Business Planning, Southern California Edison
We’re all working through our share of change – change that comes to us from the outside in.
But there’s another kind of change that happens from the inside out.
And that feels a little different. It usually comes on gradually – so gradually you may not even notice it at first.
In the video below, I’ll share the five phases of transformation that I’ve observed in my own life as well as the lives of executives I’ve coached over the years. You’ll learn what you can expect in each phase – and I’ll give you some tips for making the most of it, so you can move through it with ease and grace.
Change – even the kind that comes from the inside out – can be unsettling and anxiety producing. But it is a doorway that leads us to some of the greatest gifts life has to offer.
If you’d like some support and guidance navigating through your own transformation, I encourage you to consider joining me and a small group of fellow leaders in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius kicking off on Wednesday, 9/30.
I’ll be personally guiding an intimate group of executives through this process over the next thirteen weeks utilizing a powerful blend of online training, small group mastermind meetings and one-on-one coaching support. Space is limited and there are a few seats remaining.
If you have questions or want to chat about the program, feel free to set up a call.
Change seems to be the only constant these days. You can’t always stop it from happening. And it may not be something you have a lot of control over.
But there are things you can do to take away the sting of it – and even make the changes coming at you work in your favor.
In this video, I’ll share a story of an unwelcome change I recently had to deal with and what I learned through the experience about what to do – and NOT do.
You’ll come away with 3 tips for not only making the best of the changes coming at you, but also leveraging them in a way that allows you to come out on top.
If you stir muddy water, it will become murky and dark.
But if you allow the water to settle, the debris will eventually sink and you’ll be able to see more clearly.
The same is true of each of us.
There’s a lot to be stirred up about right now. And perhaps that’s why it’s more important than ever for us to find our calm.
Though our current Covid-19 response is leading us to drive less and stay home more, many of us are having difficulty finding places of peace and stillness. You might feel like you’re working more than ever, now that the lines between work and home are completely blurred.
Throw a kid or two into the mix whose routines (and lives) have been completely upended and you have a perfect mix for chaos.
And of course, there is the ever-present temptation to grab your phone or iPad or fire up the television to tune into the latest news or binge watch those shows on Netflix you’ve been wanting to see.
In addition to our external distractions there is the internal commotion of our never-ending thoughts, worries, and preoccupations.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
But perhaps there is hope amidst the chaos…
I recently read that for the first time in thirty years, the Himalayas are visible from northern India. Air quality has improved in several areas of the world, including right here in the United States. These improvements are said to largely be a product of the coronavirus response that has led to fewer emissions.
What if in addition to cleaning up our air we could find a way to clear our heads as well?
What if our future depended on it?
In such an unpredictable time as this, one thing is fairly certain: there is no more “business as usual”. Even after our social distancing and stay at home mandates have been lifted, things are likely to be different moving forward than they’ve ever been in the past.
Out of necessity, much of life as we’ve known it has had to change – often for the better. Many of the ways we have always done things will likely no longer be effective (or even relevant).
We have the opportunity to reinvent ways of working and being that weren’t serving us all that well and chart a new course into our future.
Now more than ever, we must cultivate the insight necessary to know what we need to do next.
And insight is a product of slowing down, quieting our minds and tuning in to ourselves and each other. It requires us to cut through the noise and create space for new ideas to land.
The best way to do that is to practice presence.
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.
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.
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 to our challenges in creative ways.
In 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. They 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.
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
The wonderful thing about practicing presence is that it creates a fertile landing place for creativity and new ideas. The more often you do, the more frequently you may find yourself receiving inklings (often when you least expect them) about solutions to even the most confounding of problems.
Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others as well, and a wonderful thing to engage in with the family members in your home (who you are likely seeing more of than ever before). The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.
First, put your phone down. Turn off your IPad, computer, television and/or any other device that could potentially steal your attention and focus.
Then, look into the eyes of the person in front of you, 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 practicing presence, cultivating insight, and reinventing the way you live and lead, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the fall session will open soon (and if you join the waiting list, you’ll have first dibs on the limited seats that will become available).
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.
To say we are living in a time of great challenge and uncertainty would be a major understatement.
There’s no dispute that we’re currently facing a virus over which we have very little control.
But there is another contagion being propagated that we have every ability to contain.
And that is FEAR.
Fear does funny things to people. At its worst, it produces panic — a physical state that literally disables the brain’s ability to think clearly. There is seemingly no other explanation for the current shortage of toilet paper. It just isn’t rational. But the greater the shortage, the higher the demand.
When people are in fear, they bypass their ability to think and are easily influenced by mass hysteria and knee jerk reactions. They also tend to put their own needs above those of others.
Fear triggers our instinct for self-preservation, leading us to scan our environment for anything that indicates that danger is present.
But when we’re gripped by fear, we just don’t see things clearly. And the more fear there is, the more evidence there seems to be to suggest there is something to fear, which of course elicits more fear.
Fear narrows the aperture of the lens we view things through. In other words, we are only seeing a small fraction of the entire picture. It’s like staring at a dot on the wall by smashing your face against it. The dot is all you’ll see, even though the room you are in is exponentially larger than the small dot right in front of you.
- You’ll put your attention on what is wrong, rather than what is right.
- You’ll spend more time and energy on describing, complaining about, and magnifying the problem than on finding the solution.
- You’ll be more concerned with what you can get rather than what you have to give.
- You’ll focus more on what is out of your control than on things you are able to influence.
- You’ll tend to feel helpless rather than hopeful – and you’ll act in ways that lead others to feel that way too.
But each of us has the power to turn this fear response around. And it is imperative that we do it now.
Though most of us have never lived through a pandemic as extensive as COVID-19, we have all likely weathered a few storms over the course of our lives.
And we’ve not only lived to tell about it, but also learned a thing or two along the way. In times like these it is essential to draw upon that wiser, calmer part of ourselves that knows this too will pass – and that we can rise to these challenges with courage and grace.
I call this vital part of ourselves Genius. Here are three simple ways to activate it:
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
When fear hijacks your system, your thinking will be cloudy, and your body will be on high alert. The cortisol that gets released will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Your neural activity will be diverted from the most highly developed part of your brain to the most primal.
As a result, you’ll experience a fight, flight or freeze response. You’ll be prone to seeing dangerous things that aren’t there – and inclined to screen out helpful things that are.
To counter that reaction, take some deep breaths. Get oxygen flowing back into your cells. Then, ask yourself a question that moves your neural activity back into your prefrontal cortex, the part that allows you to think deeply and make good decisions.
A question like, “What do I really want?” or “What could I do to make this situation better?” will help you get back on the right track.
The more you can quiet your mind, the more space you’ll create for inspiration and answers to come in – and the more likely you will be to recognize and act on them when they do. Rather than unconsciously reacting, you can respond with thoughtful intention.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
Once you’ve come to a fixed conclusion about something, you are not likely to consider other perspectives. Cognitive science tells us that confirmation bias leads us to take in information that aligns with our current beliefs and screen anything that contradicts them out.
And from that mindset, you’ll run the risk of behaving in ways that make things worse.
But while judgment narrows your aperture and keeps you in a fixed position, curiosity opens it and allows you to get unstuck. Your lens zooms OUT rather than IN.
Instead of only seeing that small black dot, you’ll take in more of your surroundings. In place of the wall that once blocked your progress, you’ll see possibilities and solutions that can move you forward.
Notice anything you may currently be believing that could be shutting you down or causing more stress – and challenge it. Ask yourself, “Is it really true?”. Rather than paying attention to what your eyes are showing you, get curious and ask, “What am I NOT seeing?”
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
In the face of this international calamity, we have all had to make sacrifices. Life as we know it has drastically changed.
Offices, schools, stores, restaurants and other establishments are closed (or have limited access). Travel has been halted. The market is taking a hit. Your daily routine has likely been obliterated. The safety of people you love (and you, yourself) is in question. And as a result, social distancing has become an imperative.
But amidst all this, there are things to be optimistic about.
- For many of us, the crazy hustle bustle that compelled us to run from one thing to another is giving way to opportunities to slow down, rest and find our bearings.
- Our true priorities are coming into focus, allowing us to find more meaning and purpose in the things that we do and the way that we do them.
- Though we cannot always be in each other’s physical presence, we can stay connected. We can (and must) lean on our advancing technology to communicate with, support and care for one another without being in the same room.
- We are facing a collective challenge that has the power to bring us together despite our differences. As we worry less about ourselves and find ways to help each other, we activate reserves of strength and resilience we may not have realized we had.
- When nothing is certain, anything is possible. We can view the current disruptions we must deal with as opportunities to find better ways of doing things we never had reason to evaluate. We can be more intentional and conscious in everything we do.
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
As you take these steps to become more connected with your own Genius, you’ll hold a space for others to do the same. Your ability to remain calm and optimistic will rub off. And you’ll not only quell the virus of fear but also proactively extend the hope and optimism that will allow us to prevail both individually and collectively.
Now THAT’s something worth spreading.
For more on connecting with your Genius, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Others.
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*Image: Pixabay 2020
Like many, I was brought up to think that things happened in a linear way – first this, then that; one building block upon another in a specific order; cause and effect.
I have since realized that the process of focusing on a larger vision or desire often triggers a chain of seemingly disjointed events that is in reality very connected.
It’s like watching a movie of a glass shattering in reverse motion. The pieces come from all directions, seemingly unrelated, to assemble into a perfect whole.
Each piece is absolutely necessary, in and of itself incomplete and incomprehensibly connected to a bigger picture.
There are ups and downs and what may feel like divergent paths from that which we may have previously anticipated. However, these seemingly divergent paths are absolutely necessary for us to experience the totality of our vision.
Sometimes a part of the healing process involves the experience of pain, or other symptoms. While we may point to these as signs that there is illness present, we could more accurately see them as evidence of our healing.
We may not realize the significance or relevance of these experiences until much later, when looking in retrospect we become aware of the distinct reason that we needed to endure any given challenge, setback, delay, or what originally felt like an irrelevant nuisance.
These obstacles give us a greater perspective on who we are, a larger appreciation for where we have been and where we are going, and a compassion for others who experience the same things we have along the way.
In dealing with these challenges, we realize that we are far greater than we thought we were. And as leaders, we can help others appreciate and leverage their own chaos as well.
Author Eckhart Tolle wrote, “Sometimes what’s in the way IS the way.”
What’s irritating you right now?
Perhaps the very experience you would rather put behind you contains the very thing you need to get where you ultimately want to go.
How can you leverage it in ways that allow you to find order in your chaos?
Are you at a crossroads in your life or your career?
Do you feel like something amazing is ready to bust through but not sure exactly what it is, or how it will take form? Does it scare you? Do you find that things you used to be really good at are no longer satisfying or even interesting? Have you been daydreaming or even just longing for something different but not sure where to start? It might feel disconcerting and even overwhelming. Maybe you think you need to change jobs or even careers.
Or perhaps you just feel you need a change of scene – different projects, new challenges, new opportunities. You might have already experienced some kind of significant change and are still reeling from it, not sure what to do next.
Is there a great idea brewing that you just haven’t had the time (or the courage) to explore? Is something new and different beckoning? Perhaps you’ve put it on the back burner and tried to dismiss recurring daydreams to go back to the tried and true, but it just doesn’t seem to work for you anymore. In fact, it could be becoming downright miserable. And though you continue to resist the feeling that there’s got to be more than this, you can’t help but wonder if it might be true.
If any of this resonates with you, you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing, transformation. But it may or may not feel exciting and energizing. Right now it could just be disconcerting and uncomfortable. And you may not know exactly what to do about it.
What if you were not alone?
Would it help to know that many people are feeling the same way? Some of them have just quit their jobs because they were miserable. Some have been laid off. Others are at the pinnacles of their careers, by all appearances wildly successful but dying on the inside. Some are at the helms of corporations or large organizations, wanting to take things in new, exciting directions but not sure where to go or how to get there. Others are inside organizations, acutely aware of what is possible and what is not working, but not sure it is their place to volunteer their thoughts and ideas or fearful that doing so is just too risky. Still more are entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, and other creative, innovative, and resourceful people that are playing (or wrestling) with the idea of entering unchartered territory.
The good news is, you don’t have to go off the deep end.
Though change is knocking at your door (and may already have come through it), you don’t necessarily have to tear everything down and start over again. You just need to learn to see things differently – your opportunities, your challenges, your very self. And you need to learn to tap the reserves and the brilliance that is within you. Everything you have done up to this point has prepared you for what you are about to do. The world is waiting for it.
Because you are human, you will resist it.
It may overwhelm you because you can’t figure it out. As hard as you try to create a solid plan for moving through it and making sense of it, you will most likely continue to be baffled. Because it is not a matter for your head. You need to trust in something bigger than that — the same way that great visionaries, inventors, scientists, writers, artists, musicians and leaders have throughout the history of time. Your head and your ego will create illusions that will terrify you. They will weigh you down and exhaust you. Under their influence, you’ll talk yourself out of your greatest ideas, dreams and visions before you can even get your key in the ignition.
What has helped me (and is still helping me) is enlisting the support of other people who are in the same place.
People who are dreaming and searching and even suffering, people who are knee deep in their own fear and resistance and trudging through it, people who are REAL and not afraid to let others see that they don’t have all the answers but are STILL SHOWING UP, doing what they are called to do each day, and asking powerful questions that get them closer to finding their answers. These people inspire me. They support and challenge me. And they give me the courage to keep at it.
Do you have someone in your life that helps you in that way?
If you don’t, FIND someone. It isn’t as hard as you think. Start by being honest with yourself about where you are and what you want. Challenge the fears and assumptions that keep you from sharing that side of yourself with people. You may be surprised to find there might be someone right next to you who is feeling the same way you are and will welcome the opportunity to confide in you.
What I have discovered and rediscovered is that the moment I connect with someone in a similar place that I am in, I become infused with the very wisdom and answers I need myself.
In the act of sharing it with others, I am able to benefit from it too. Similarly, those I have connected with in the past have unlocked their own wisdom and found their answers as they endeavored to tell me things we both needed to hear.
Being at a crossroads means you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing transformation. Embrace the journey – all of these moments, good and bad are opportunities for growth.
Implications for Real Leaders
Becoming REAL is about moving beyond all the conditioning that you’ve internalized over the years about who you need to be and what you have to do in order to “succeed”. When you’re ready to bust out of the box and experience the freedom of being who you really are, you can trade those old illusions for truth. And once you experience the freedom of doing that for yourself, you can help those you lead do it too. If you’re interested in learning more about how that’s done, download your free copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto: How to Stop Doing Business as Usual and Start Liberating the Power of the Human Spirit to Achieve Unprecedented and Sustainable Success.