Training for Excellence

In his Harvard Business Review article, How the Navy SEALs Train for Leadership Excellence, Michael Schrage discusses the power of training as a magnificent complement to learning. It is important, he writes, “because real-world excellence requires more than commitment to educational achievement.” Schools and businesses, he argues, “overinvest in ‘education’ and dramatically underinvest in ‘training’” making it difficult for organizations “to innovate and adapt under pressure.” He cites SEAL lore in support of his argument: “Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

Training is the transformative elixir that brings the luster and magic to learning. It broadens and deepens its richness. It internalizes it through repetition and exploring a learning’s countless innuendos and nuances and brings it to reality as the learning is operationalized in real world scenarios. This training focus raises the bar from “above average” to “excellence.” Schrage cites Brandon Webb, an innovative SEAL trainer/educator: “Training programs shouldn’t be designed to deliver competence; they must be dedicated to producing excellence. Serious organizations don’t aspire to be comfortably above average.

Just as great athletes hone their skills, knowledge and talents in their hours, day, weeks and months of preparation for a successful journey, so also is the preparation of great leaders. As Ann Voskamp writes in her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are: “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”

May we remember always the counsel of Aristotle: “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” May we take the richness of our learning and bring it alive by our relentless training that when those moments of  pressure and challenge come, we may spectacularly rise to the extraordinary excellence of our training.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

On the Magic of Commitment

In his book, Winning Every Day, Lou Holtz writes: “The greater your commitment to excellence, the higher the standards you’ll be willing to accept.” He tells the story of a history professor who dedicated her entire life to her studies – all that she did and all that she knew. He tells us that you are taking her class. Your goal is to be your graduating class valedictorian. You work ceaselessly throughout the course and are fully engaged in every class with questions – “An A in this class is your goal; anything less would be a crushing disappointment.”

He then says that sitting next to you is the football team’s quarterback whose goal in life is to be an NFL superstar. He hopes to get the bare minimum of a D grade. Holtz asks the question: “Who is the history teacher more likely to get along with?” His response: “It won’t be the quarterback. That teacher will take only minimal interest in the quarterback’s success.”  Holtz’s simple and powerful message to great leaders is: “If you want anyone to empathize or ally themselves with you, you must match or surpass their commitment with one of your own.”

This commitment to a shared purpose is the spark that lights the brilliant fires of passion – a law of attraction that bonds individuals and teams.  As Howard Schultz tells us: “When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” Find and embrace those people in your professional and personal life. It starts with you… with your choice to “surpass their commitment with one of your own.” Let your commitment be the magical magnet that changes the world and everyone you serve.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

Start Before You Are Ready

In his article, Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready, entrepreneur James Clear tells of the story of Sir Richard Branson, English businessman and investor,  best known as the founder of Virgin Group.  Dyslectic and a high school dropout, at 16 he started a small magazine, went on to selling mail order records and then opened a recording studio at age 22. His record label grew, and 50 years later he had more than 400 companies. Today he is a billionaire. Clear shares his insights on Branson’s success. He tells Branson’s story of how he started Virgin Airlines which Clear says captures “his entire approach to business and life.”

I was in my late twenties, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time. At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands which I did not have the money to do.

Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.

Branson captured his own leadership style saying: “Screw it, just get on and do it.” Clear writes that Branson’s life is a self-portrait of his words: “He actually lives his life that way. He drops out of school and starts a business. He signs the Sex Pistols to his record label when everyone else says they are too controversial. He charters a plane when he doesn’t have the money.” It is about starting now, just doing it.  In a beautiful summary Clear writes:

“You’re bound to feel uncertain, unprepared, and unqualified. But let me assure you of this: what you have right now is enough. You can plan, delay, and revise all you want, but trust me, what you have now is enough to start. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to start a business, lose weight, write a book, or achieve any number of goals… who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going. We all start in the same place: no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference is that some people — the winners — choose to start anyway.”

You are that winner. Remember and internalize Clear’s words: “What you have now is enough to start.” Start before you are ready!  Be more than you ever dreamed you could be.  And have fun doing it. Life is so very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

Focus on “The One Thing”

Gary Keller  and Jay Papasan in their book, The One Thing, open with the Russian proverb: “If you chase two rabbits… you will not catch either one.” This simple phrase starts a magnificent journey of discovery for great leaders as they find another magical key in achieving extraordinary success and significance. It begins with a haunting and perennial question: “If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others?” Keller and Papasan respond with a gift of light which threads through their book: “The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small.”

It is about bringing deliberate and surgical focus to what is really important, a focus that becomes internalized and part of a great leadership. Its result is that over-extension is minimized, calendars become less crowded, to-do lists shortened and meetings are reduced. Time, effort and vision is concentrated on what is really important. Keller and Papasan punctuate and ground their approach using the Pareto Principle: “The 80/20 principle asserts that a minority of cause, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.” Simply said: “The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.”

They add greater excitement to the approach suggesting the use of an extreme Pareto: within the 20%, take 20% of that, and then 20% that % until you have only one thing remaining. Go small is the driving message. Clear the clutter and focus on that one thing that will change your business, your community, your personal life or you. As Keller and Papasan tell great leaders, you will be “doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects…. When you go as small as possible, you’ll be staring at one thing. And that’s the point.” Take the challenge. Find that One Thing that will change you forever! Remember always the Russian proverb: “If you chase two rabbits… you will not catch either one.”

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Warrior Ethos

In his book, In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It, retired Brigadier General, Thomas Kolditz, shares the Warrior Ethos.

“I will always place the mission first.”
“I will never accept defeat.”
“I will never quit.”
“I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Kolditz writes that the Warrior Ethos is applicable not only to men and women in uniform, but they “are key principles for any person in any role, particularly leaders.” Mission and vision focus, a ceaselessness to never give up, a relentless spirit to persevere and a deep and selfless caring for the people they serve – all the stuff of leadership greatness. The powerful and inspiring words of the Warrior Ethos speak to the heart and being of extraordinary leadership.

Warrior? Yes, metaphorically all great leaders are warriors. They struggle, and sometimes fight, for that in which they believe, for the people whom they serve, for their goals and their purpose in life. There are some things for which they will fight a bitter battle, and others for which they would give their all. In all these things, they started with their complete commitment: “I will…. I will…. I will…. I will….” May your Warrior Ethos speak loudly to your personal ownership and commitment to those things most sacred in living your life… in being who you are. May one of the pledges in your own Warrior Ethos proudly read: “I will be more than I ever dreamed I could be… and more… so much more.”

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

Time Is Running Out

Jean Paul, German Romantic writer, wrote: “The more sand [that] has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” The experiences of years are the great teachers in the lives of great leaders. Every encounter, happening or occurrence with someone or something opens our mind to an opportunity to learn. We capture that moment and it becomes another of life’s lessons. They are all around, both seen and unseen. Some of the lessons are hard, some easy. They all are part of our growth. Paraphrasing John Dewey: “Learning is not about preparation for life; learning is life itself.”

Muhammed Ali said: “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Choose to open yourself to life’s full abundance and richness. Every day, minute and hour of your magnificent journey, dare to take risks and stretch yourself. Push your limits and leave your comfort zone. Live with passion, gusto and joy. Find beauty, joy, love and happiness. If the learning brings pain, take comfort in knowing that it will translate itself into your growth. Life is fleeting with so much left yet to be done. Take counsel from Seth Godin:

Time is running out for all the things you might want to experience, not merely the ones that are about to leave the gate.

Time is running out for you to level up or connect or to be generous to someone who really needs you.

Time is running out for you to become the person you’ve decided to be, to make the difference you seek to make, to produce the work you know you’re capable of.

May you remember the wisdom-filled words from Yogi Berra: “Life is a learning experience, only if you learn.”

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Power of Passion and Perseverance

In her TED Talk, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Lee Duckworth shares her research findings of the “one characteristic [that] emerged as a significant predictor of success.” From research with business corporations about who would succeed in sales in keeping their jobs and making the most money, to who would win the National Spelling Bee, to West Point and who would stay and who would drop out, she says: “In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”

“Grit,” Duckworth says, ”is a passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Grit is about never, ever giving up. It is about learning from failures and moving forward. It is an unstoppable determination to persevere and never quit.

Babe Ruth said: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” T. S. Eliot wrote: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” Let your grit take you to places undreamed… to be more than you ever dreamed you could be… and more… so much more. Never quit. Never stop. Have pride in knowing that in all that you do in life – for yourself, family, business and those you serve, you give it your all. That is the stuff of leadership greatness!

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Ride of Your Life

In her commencement address at Villanova University in June 2000 , Anna Quindlen’s message to great leaders is: “Get a life…. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.” In this is found the beauty and richness of life and living.

Quindlen shares a simple story of one of the best teachers in her life, a man whom she met on the Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York. She was writing a story about how homeless people survive during the winter months. She said:

He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule; panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them.

And I asked him why. Why didn’t he go to one of the shelters? Why didn’t he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, “Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view.”

And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view… words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You’ll never be disappointed.

For Quindlen she had found and learned one of life’s hardest lessons: “I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.” Enjoy and embrace every step on your magnificent life’s journey. Take counsel from the words of Hunter Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” Have the ride of your life, be thoroughly used up at the end… and have fun doing it. Life is so very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | Leave a comment

I Am the Master of My Fate, I Am the Captain of My Soul

In a scene from the 2009 movie Invictus, Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, is meeting with Francois Pienaar, played by Matt Dillon, the captain of the Springbok Rugby Team which is preparing for the 1995 World Cup. Mandela asks him: “Francois, what is your philosophy on leadership? How do you inspire your team to do their best?” Francois responds: “By example. I have always thought to lead by example, Sir.” Mandela confirms his answer saying: “That is right. That is exactly right.” He then asks: “But how to get them to be better than they think they can be?” His response to his question is: “I sometimes think that it is by using the work of others.”

For Mandela it was a poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley. Mandela states that it “helped me to stand when all I wanted to do was lie down” while he was imprisoned on Robben Island for eighteen years.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” – reaffirming words that inspire the great leaders’ own belief in themselves and their life’s purpose. What beauty and power they bring in shaping our mindset and way of living, and which become an example for others to emulate and from which to grow.

Speaking of building his nation, Mandela says: “We must all exceed our own expectations.” As great leaders build their own professional and personal life, they, too, “must all exceed their own expectations.” They are the role models, the examples, the works of others, from which others learn and grow when all they want to do is lie down.

May you remember always: You are the master of your fate, You are the captain of your soul! Continue to be more than you ever dreamed you could be… and more… so much more.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment

As You Think, So Shall You Become

The mind is everything. What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” writes Buddha, reminding great leaders of the powerful influence of their thinking on their life. Their thoughts create their worldview of life and become the foundation from which their attitudes, behaviors and actions emanate.

Dr. Wayne Dyer beautifully captures this reality in seven simple words that, as he writes, “are perhaps the most important things that we can learn and master in our lives.” His seven words are: “AS YOU THINK, SO SHALL YOU BE.” Our thoughts define who we are, shape the life we live and inspire the dreams we dream and create the realities we accomplish. Our thoughts are choices… in our hands to make. May we remind ourselves daily: I AM WHAT I THINK, remembering Dyer’s gentle and caring counsel on their impact: “You become what you think about all day long, and those days eventually become your lifetime.”

Choose to make your lifetime one that is filled with great beauty, accomplishments, wisdom, caring and giving that, at end of days, you may proclaim proudly and joyfully: No regrets! I lived my life to my fullest. Enjoy your magnificent journey and be more than you ever dreamed you could be… every day, every minute, every second. Life is so very precious.

A gentle reminder: Make it one heck of a summer! It goes by so quickly.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

Posted in Three Minute Leadership | Tagged | 1 Comment