The Voice in the Shadow

In his TED talk, Dancing with My Inner Critic, Steve Chapman speaks of the inner critic that lives in all great leaders: “… that whisper in my ear who constantly reminds me that I am not good enough – that my creativity is bad, that I should play it safe and not take risks, not try anything new because I will probably make a fool of myself.”

Chapman defines the inner critic as “the idealized sense of self, an unattainable imagined perfect version of us that never fails at anything and receives the adorations from other human beings for being the master at literally everything. It manifests in us day-to-day as a self-doubt that causes us to distrust our intuition and instincts. A voice whose constant narrative of comparison and judgment stifles spontaneity and creativity, replacing it with self-doubt and shame.” It continuously tells great leaders: “You are not good enough and you are incapable of becoming good enough.”

Seth Godin in his blog post, Facing the Inner Critic, writes: “Part of his power comes from the shadows. We hear his voice, we know it by heart. He announces his presence with a rumble and he runs away with a wisp of smoke. But again and again, we resist looking him in the eye, fearful of how powerful he is. We’re afraid that, like the gorgon, he will turn us to stone. He’s living right next to our soft spot, the (very) sore place where we store our shame, our insufficiency, our fraudulent nature. And he knows all about it, and pokes us there again and again.”

Great leaders have learned to deal with the inner critic. They chose, as Godin writes, to see the critic as a “as a compass, as a way to know if we’re headed in the right direction…. We can dance with him, talk with him, welcome him along for a long, boring car ride. Suddenly, he’s not so dangerous. Sort of banal, actually. There is no battle to win, because there is no battle. The critic isn’t nearly as powerful as you are, not if you are willing to look him in the eye.”

The voice in the shadow will always be with us. Its roots are found in our life’s experiences and learnings, the voices of people whom we have met and who have impacted us, the culture and environment in which we were brought up and lived. We can choose to listen and learn from our inner critic, our voice in the shadow. Yes, “there is no battle to win, because there is no battle.” Remember the counsel of Robert Kiyosaki: “It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.” Vincent Van Gogh tells us also: “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” Whisper great things to yourself. Let those whispers be your voices in the shadow.

Have a beautiful and wondrous day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Ghost of What Could Have Been

There is no grief more devastating than the grief for what could have been.” writes Kaya McLaren. A great friend once said to me: “When I die, I want people to say about me: ‘He lived every day of his life.’” His message is not living a life of ‘what could have been,’ but one filled with passion and excitement – to find in each moment joy, opportunity and excitement. He lives and role models the words of Yasmeen Bleeth who said: “You cannot always wait for the perfect time. Sometimes you must dare to jump because life is too short to wonder what could have been.”

May you live his words; may you be his words. Have a passionate love of life – its beauties, challenges and opportunities to become more than you ever dreamed we could be. May you remind yourself each day of  Ralf Marston’s gentle counsel: “Whatever could have been or should have been, doesn’t matter. This moment is here and now for you to live.” Of you, may be said the words that “you live every day of your life.” Life is so very, very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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On Barnacles

William Henley wrote: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”  Such beautiful, powerful and inspiring words for great leaders who are captains of their lives. In his recent blog post, hockey great Ryan Walter shares a metaphor about the unexpected and unseen challenges great leaders experience on their magnificent journey.

Walter and his wife, Jenn, found time to steal away for a moment to spend time on their boat along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia near their home. Unexpectedly, he found he could not get the boat to plane even when he put both throttles down. He returned to the marina expecting to find an engine problem. His mechanic suggested first a cleaning of the boat’s keel. No engine repair was needed. The boat had barnacles which were preventing the boat’s speed. Walter, a leadership coach, mentor and consultant, found learning in this experience. He asks great leaders: “Have barnacles been attaching themselves to the bottom of your boat?” What are those things that overtime have imperceptibly attached themselves to our life and are slowing our forward progress?

In nautical terms the process of barnacles growing on the bottom of a boat is called fouling. Great leaders would probably choose the same term for the process as it applies to their professional and personal life experiences – that slow, gradual and unnoticed evolution of attitudes, behaviors or actions that, left unchecked, impact growth and development. May you quietly pause for reflection and ask yourself: “Have barnacles been attaching themselves to the bottom of my boat?” And then take action to get back up to speed. Your journey is to ride the waves of life with magnificent passion, joy and caring in fulfillment of your purpose. Enjoy every beautiful moment! Life is so very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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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!!!

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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!!!

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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!!!

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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!!

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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!!!

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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!!!

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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!!!

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