You Already Have Everything You Need… Now Just Stretch

In his Time Magazine article, How to Create More from What You Already HaveScott Sonenshein  challenges the traditional belief that more is better, that more means greater success. He suggests that with this approach “We overlook the value of what’s already in hand…. Over time, the ‘more’ approach makes us less adaptive and less satisfied.” There is an alternative, he suggests: “Stretching offers an effective, more fulfilling alternative that invigorates us to do more without needing more.” When we stretch, we tap into our own resources and excitingly challenge ourselves to do more with them, not seeing what we have as a limitation, but seeing what we have through different eyes and realizing their full, unleashed potential.

To start stretching Sonenshein suggests asking ourselves a simple question: “What can I do with what I have?” In asking this, we take ourselves beyond our perceived constraints of needing more. We are now free to explore the power and potential of what we have already. We open ourselves to become innovative with what we have, experimenting and finding new uses for our skills, talents and knowledge. We experiment and we grow. We adapt to a new normal as we realize the potential of the gifts we have. All this is ours as we are freed of the burden of constantly pushing for a more that is never satisfied, a more that drains more than what it gives.

Sonenshein concludes his article counseling great leaders saying: “You already have everything you need to succeed. Just stretch. Imagine how liberating it would be to stop worrying about what you don’t have and start engaging with what you already have in more productive and satisfying ways.” Stretch, my dear friends. Yes, more is good… and now we have stretching… another magnificent tool of great leadership.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Leader as Architect

Jim Rohn writes: “Whatever good things we build end up building us.” A friend shared a story which captures the role of great leaders as architects of their magnificent lives.

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes butin time, it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.” The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.

This simple story is a gentle reminder to great leaders: Each day, in each act, word and thought, we choose to build our life, the home in which we will live. Magical castles, grandiose and elegant structures,  impervious fortresses or simple abodes – whatever our selection, the choice is in our hands at each moment. As the story writer tells us: “Each day you hammer a nail, place a board or erect a wall. ‘Life is a do-it-yourself project.’ Your attitudes and choices you make today build the “house” you live in tomorrow. Build wisely!”

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Spark and the Grind

George Bernard Shaw speaks to great leaders of creativity in these words: “Imaginations is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.” In his mesmerizing new book, The Spark and the GrindErik Wahl captures with beautiful simplicity and depth the rules for living and sustaining a creative life. It is the magical mixture of “the spark” and “the grind” working in harmony that nourishes and builds the creative force. This “spark” comes as the result of personal effort. It is complemented by ”the grind,” the hard work that sets fire from the spark resulting in the magical “aha” moment.

Wahl shares his seven practices that enable great leaders to be creative in any area of their life. One of the practices, Attach Yourself to the Work, epitomizes the richness and poignancy of Wahl’s writing and his passion for life and his purpose – elements which make his writing and journey so meaningful. He draws from a scene in the movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, in which “a mysterious caddie named Bagger Vance” unexpected appears to help a former gold prodigy, in a game of his life. The character, Rannulph Junuh, had lost his belief in himself including his ability to play golf. After a faulty beginning, Bagger Vance approaches Junuh and says to him:

“There’s a perfect shot trying to find every one of us. All we got to do is get ourselves out of the way… and let it choose us… You can’t see the flag as some dragon you got to slay. You’ve got to look with soft eyes. See the place where the tides , and the seasons… the turning of the earth… all come together. Where everything that is… becomes one. You’ve got to seek that place with your soul, Junuh…. It’s just you… that ball… that flag…and all you are…. The home of your authentic swing.”

Junuh rediscovers his purpose in life. So it is with all great leaders… the perfect shot trying to find every one of us. We need only get out of the way to let it choose us. It is our purpose that gives meaning. As Mark Twain beautifully wrote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” We all have already lived one of those two important days. Leaders discover their greatness in the joy of that second day. May you look with soft eyes to find that second most important day. Use your spark and grind to find a world of which you only dreamed. From that moment on, your life will change forever.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Value of an Adversity Manifesto

In his article, What Not to Do in Adversity: A Lesson From the Notre Dame Football ScandalScott Mautz shares the reaction of Brian Kelly, Notre Dame football Coach, to an NCAA decision. The NCAA determined that a “former student athletic trainer committed academic misconduct by doing substantial course work for two players and impermissibly helped six others.” The result, Mautz writes, is that “Twenty-one wins from the 2012-13 seasons, including a 12-0 streak that put the Irish in the national title game, must now be vacated as part of the leprechaun lambasting.”

What was worse, Mautz states, is that when Kelly was asked how much culpability he felt, Kelly responded: “Zero. None. Absolutely none.” His question is: “Is this how a leader should act in times of adversity?” Great leaders, he argues, assume ownership and accountability in these times. It is they who “shoulder the burden” so that the organization and its people can get past the situation so that healing and improvement occur. Drawing from his own professional background, Mautz suggests that great leaders have an Adversity Manifesto for their organization that sets the expectations of behaviors during times of diversity. He proposes the following:

In Times of Adversity:

  • I will be the eye of the storm. A calm, cool, collected leader is a beacon. I’ll never forget how many take cues from me.
  • I realize adversity reveals true character. I will leverage it as a time to show mine. I know it’s one of the most lasting impressions I can leave.
  • I will drive out fear and take accountability. Job number one is to steer the ship back on course. There will be time later to constructively learn from who did/didn’t do what.
  • I will assemble a small, nimble coalition of experts for broad problem solving but quick action. I will roll up my sleeves, flow to the work and over-communicate.
  • I will pull on the chain of command for help. Chains exist to provide added strength in times of need. That’s why it’s not called a “thread of command.”

Life happens with all its days of awesome wonder and excitement and those days which push the boundaries of tolerance and understanding. It is even in those moments that the great leaders bring fire and magic in their living of their principles and values. May we remember always the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. who said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Stand tall in all that you do, and may those moments be the seeds of greatness for your extraordinary destiny. Life is so very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Questions

In his book, Good Leaders Ask Great QuestionsJohn Maxwell shares the questions he believes good (may I suggest ‘great’) leaders should ask of themselves. Maxwell said he was inspired to develop them as the result of a conversation that he had with one of his mentors, John Wooden – a simple statement by Wooden to him: “John, there is one question I ask myself every day.” That simple sentence inspired him to develop his own list of questions – questions that great leadership should ask themselves.

  1. Am I investing in Myself? – A Question of Personal Growth
  2. Am I Genuinely Interested in Others? – A Question of Motivation
  3. Am I Grounded as a Leader? – A Question of Stability
  4. Am I Adding Value to My Team – A Question of Teamwork
  5. Am I Staying in My Strength Zone – A Question of Effectiveness
  6. Am I Taking Care of Today – A Question of Success
  7. Am I Investing My Time with the Right People? – A Question of ROI

Maxwell states that his questions “help me be successful by keeping myself growing, checking my motives, maintaining stability, promoting teamwork, leveraging my strengths, focusing on today and investing in the right people.” He asks great leaders to reflect: “What factors are most important to you for selecting and investing in leaders?” And he warns them gently with the words: “Remember, your leadership capacity and your legacy depend on the leaders you develop.” Remember the counsel of Albert Einstein: “The important thing is to never stop questioning… Question everything.”

And what was the one question that Coach Wooden asked himself every day?  It is: “Every day I ask myself, how can I make my team better?” Maxwell incorporated this into one of his daily leadership questions.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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On the Joy of Change

Whatever remains unexamined,  eventually becomes invisible” writes Tom Mackell in his article, Capturing Our Own Warrior Spirit to Overcome Challenges and Initiate Change.Change fills the lives of great leaders. They continuously fan the glowing embers of their insatiable childhood curiosity to challenge, question and explore the ‘what is’ in search of ‘what can be’, to see the world through new eyes and to dream and imagine the unimaginable.  Their voices echo Socrates’ caution that: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Change is a sacred choice that each of us holds in our hands. “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change” writes Jim Rohn.  Max De Pree adds: “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” Mahatma Ghandi tells us. Yes, be that change. You are unique in this universe and in eternity. Examine the unexamined in the world around you and, most importantly, within you. You have the power to change the world and the lives of those whom you touch. Be visible in all your magnificence and let your beauty shine.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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What I’ve Learned…

Brian Tracy tells great leaders: “Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.” The great leader’s life is one of continuous learning filled with experiences that have been internalized to make them who and what they are. It is their beautiful life learnings that brings depth, richness, love and joy to their magnificent journey.

A friend shared with me learnings from Andy Rooney, former CBS 60 Minutes television writer, who had a magical gift for saying so much with so few words. May you enjoy their wisdom and beautiful humanity for your own learning.

I’ve learned … That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
I’ve learned … That when you’re in love, it shows.
I’ve learned … That just one person saying to me, ‘You’ve made my day!’ makes my day.
I’ve learned … That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
I’ve learned … That being kind is more important than being right. 
I’ve learned … That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
I’ve learned … That I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in any other way.
I’ve learned … That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
I’ve learned … That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
I’ve learned … That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
I’ve learned … That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
I’ve learned … That money doesn’t buy class.
I’ve learned … That it’s those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
I’ve learned … That under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
I’ve learned … That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
I’ve learned … That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
I’ve learned … That love, not time, heals all wounds.
I’ve learned … That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
I’ve learned … That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.
I’ve learned … That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.
I’ve learned … That life is tough, but I’m tougher.
I’ve learned … That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
I’ve learned … That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
I’ve learned … That I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.
I’ve learned … That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
I’ve learned … That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
I’ve learned … That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, you’re hooked for life.
I’ve learned … That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
I’ve learned … That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

The learnings touch our life with their wisdom in all its elegant simplicity – about self-knowledge, aspirations and relationships, the learned realities of living life. These are among the learnings of great leaders. Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Capture and embrace every precious moment in life. Learn from them. May it be said of you that you lived every day of your life. Life is so very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Truth About Leadership

In their book, The Truth About LeadershipJames Kouzes and Barry Posner, write: “… as much as the context of leadership has changed, the content of leadership has not changed much at all.” After three decades of writing and research they have found ten fundamental truths about leadership.

  1. You Make a Difference – Before you can lead, you have to believe that you can have a positive impact on others. You have to believe in yourself.
  2. Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership – You have to believe in you, but others have to believe in you, too. What does it take for others to believe in you? Short answer: Credibility.
  3. Values Drive Commitment – People want to know what you stand for and believe in. They want to know what you value.
  4. Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart – The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is a defining competence of leaders. You have to take the long-term perspective.
  5. You Can’t Do It Alone – No leader ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of others. Leadership is a team sport. What strengthens and sustains the relationship between leader and constituent is that leaders are obsessed with what is best for others, not what is best for themselves.
  6. Trust Rules – Trust is the social glue that holds individuals and groups together. And the level of trust others have in you will determine the amount of influence you have.
  7. Challenge is the Crucible for Greatness – Exemplary leaders are always associated with changing the status quo.
  8. You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All – Leaders have to keep their promises and become role models for the values and actions they espouse. You can’t ask others to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
  9. The Best Leaders are the Best Learners – You have to believe that you (and others) can learn to lead and, that you can become a better leader tomorrow than you are today. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics and learning is the master skill of leadership.
  10. Leadership is an Affair of the Heart – It could also be the first truth. Leaders are in love with their constituents, their customers and clients, and the mission that they are serving. Leaders make others feel important and are gracious in showing their appreciation. Love is the motivation that energizes leaders to give so much for others. You won’t work hard enough to become great if you aren’t doing what you love.

The Truth About Leadership is a magnificent learning experience. Kouze’s and Pozner’s beautiful book captures their purpose in sharing their learnings in the following:

“This isn’t a ‘How To’ or ‘Made Easy’ or ‘For Dummies’ approach to leadership. It is a book about fundamentals. And fundamentals are the necessary building blocks to greatness. You can’t fast-track your way to excellence. Leadership is a demanding, noble discipline not to be entered into frivolously or casually. It requires an elevated sense of mastery. And, you can do it. It is a matter of technique, of skill, of practice. It’s also a matter of desire and commitment.”

May your desire and commitment to embrace these ten truths set you on fire, and may your fire touch and spread to those whom you serve. May they serve you on your journey to become more than you ever dreamed you could be… and more… so much more.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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We Only Get One Bite of the Apple

There is a legal doctrine called res judicata. It means that a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court may not be pursued further by the same parties. This is referred to by most legal scholars, law professors, attorneys, and judges as only getting “one bite of the apple.” The principle is that although the judicial system affords everyone their “day in court,” the strict rules prevent multiple, repetitive lawsuits because society has determined that they serve little useful purpose.

This is comparable to every single aspect of life where you only get “one bite of the apple” — everything after that one bite is secondary, not as meaningful, and serves little useful purpose. We have only one chance to make a great first impression. It could be a first meeting with a new acquaintance, in business, a job interview, in relationships, the response to a question that provides the foundation of trust. In love, it could be the living of a life’s commitment to another. In decision-making, it could be that one choice that could change your life forever.

The lesson is simple and profound – if we only have one bite at the apple… only one precious bite… make it one magnificent chomp: one taken with careful and thoughtful preparation; one reflecting everything we stand for, our principles and values; one that states to the world we are giving it our all, our very best… always. Take those bites. Make them bodacious; make them magnificent… knowing that there is no second chance.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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As a Man Thinketh…

In his book, How Successful People ThinkJohn Maxwell writes: “I’ve studied successful people for forty years and, though the diversity you find among them is astounding, I’ve found that they are all alike in one way: how they think. That is the one thing that separates successful people from unsuccessful ones.”

Maxwell shares his thoughts on the eleven skills, the key thinking ‘pieces’,  that great leaders need if they are to achieve great things. His teaching focuses not on the ‘what’ to think, but on the ‘how’ to think with strong emphasis placed on all the pieces working together to make a magnificent symphony.

Seeing the wisdom of big-picture thinking
Unleashing the potential of focused thinking
Discovering the joy of creative thinking
Recognizing the importance of realistic thinking
Releasing the power of strategic thinking
Feeling the energy of possibility thinking
Embracing the lessons of reflective thinking
Questioning the acceptance of popular thinking
Encouraging the participation of shared thinking
Experiencing the satisfaction of unselfish thinking
Enjoying the return of bottom-line thinking

Plato wrote: “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.” From this beautiful internal conversation evolves the greatness of the leaders’ learnings – from being to doing. We are what we think. May your thinking embrace the depth, breadth and richnesses that Maxwell’s thinking skills suggest. Hold closely to you the words of James Allen who writes in his book, As a Man Thinketh: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.“

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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