Lessons from the Planarian Worm

In a New York Times article about the planarian flatworm, great leaders find inspiration about the power of the indomitable human spirit. The planarian flatworm is found globally. It has the unique ability to grow back its body parts. “You can chop off it head, and it will grow back in about a week — eyes, brain and all. And you can hack away at the critter until all that’s left is a tiny speck of worm dust — and the thing will still grow back.”

Great leaders share this same gift of rejuvenation. Their passion and love of life is ceaseless. Their positivity fuels their unending pursuit of joy, happiness, learning and their life’s purpose. They, like the planarian, will say: “Take something from me, and I will grow it back.” Relentless, they choose to live life’s fullness in every moment.

Roger Bannister, runner of the first sub-four-minute mile, wrote: “The human spirit is indomitable. No one can ever say you must not run faster than this or jump higher than that. There will never be a time when the human spirit will not be able to better existing records.”  May this spirit, too, fill your life’s journey. May it be absent of complaints, worries, whining and complaining which drain the spirit. It is this inner conviction and strength through which you will continuously renew and refresh your life. Remember always the words of Thomas Edison: “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” Life is so very, very good. Be ceaseless. Be indomitable. Be more than you ever dreamed you could be… and more… so much more.

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

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The Franklin Effect

In his recent blog post, Marshall Goldsmith, speaks with Dr. Steven Berglas about the Franklin Effect. Berglas tells the story of Ben Franklin and his relationship with a powerful individual “who was negatively disposed to him.”

“Instead of ingratiating the individual, Franklin asked him for a favor. He asked to borrow a rare book for his book club members to use. What happened then is that, paradoxically, this negatively disposed individual became positively disposed. There are myriad explanations for it, but if you look at it, ultimately, people would rather do something that’s generative and helpful than be loved for having power.”

Marshall highlights this message saying “One thing I always teach is the importance of asking people, ‘How can I be better…? A better husband, better daughter, better parent.…’ so that we are learning from everyone around us. Our research shows that’s leaders who ask people, ‘How can I be better? Help me, give me ideas,’they are not seen as weaker, they are seen as stronger. Because they had the courage to ask for input, the courage to listen and also it’s a compliment to the other person. The biggest compliment I can give you is let you help me.”

Great leaders choose not the  appeal to their power or influence, but rather an offering that touches their desire for giving, for adding value and serving.  It is this gesture to others, an offer of their vulnerability, that opens the recipient to engagement, a beautiful compliment to them in their request for their help. Tony Robbins reminds great leaders: “Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” May you find this deepest joy and happiness in your selfless caring and service to others – in helping them discover the greatness and potential of their life and the world around them. What a magnificent gift!

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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Rising Above the Need to Be Needed

In his blog post, How to Inspire Others to Fly, Dan Rockwell shares his thoughts on “what makes helping helpful” in the great leaders’ development of those whom they serve. His message and conclusion is: “Effective helping includes rising above the need to be needed.”

He captures this in a simple story of how baby bluebirds grow from birth to flight in a brief period of three weeks:

Before they are ready to fly, they require constant care and feeding. Eventually they peek at the world through the small round door in their home. Parents fly to the door with grubs and bugs. We hear the young going nuts. But at fledging time, mom and dad shift tactics.

No food: Bluebird parents land at the door WITHOUT food at fledging time. We still hear crazy chirping but the parent pauses and flies away.

Eventually daddy bluebird perches nearby with a juicy meal dangling from his beak. While daddy coaxes the young from the white birch, mommy demonstrates the desired behavior. Over and over she flies from the birch to the house and back to where daddy dangles the bug.

In the beginning, the parents are helping their young grow. At a point, they then shift their pattern to instigate growth in the next state of their development. As a practical example, he writes: “Maybe you’ve been showing up in someone’s office to check-in. Now it’s time for them to show up in your office.”

Rockwell’s message underlines the importance of the need to change in the development cycle. The great leader changes first… “when others are ALMOST ready to fly.” It is at that beautiful moment when learning becomes reality, when helping “rises above the need to be needed.” 

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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On the Value of Thinking the Opposite

In his book, Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite, Paul Arden challenges great leaders to expand their thinking by challenging their own views and taking the risk and challenge to see the world differently. In the chapter, The Age of Unreason, he writes:

Old golfers don’t win (it’s not an absolute, it’s a general rule).
The older golfer can hit the ball as far as the younger one.
He chips and putts equally well.
And will probably have a better knowledge of the course.
So why does he take the extra stroke that denies him victory?
He knows the downside, what happens if it goes wrong, which makes him more cautious.
The young player is either ignorant or reckless to caution.
That is his edge.
It is the same with all of us.
The secret is to stay childish.

Thinking what we think and know is always safe. When we respond to ideas, situations or people out of our comfort zone, we open our minds to new possibilities. He makes the thought visual by speaking of photographing flowers. The natural thing we would do is find a beautiful flower and photograph it. Arden then takes us a step beyond: a vase with no flower; a drooping tulip, and then a perfectly dead flower. His point is that there are variations that we can choose that will differentiate us. Arden tells great leaders: “Start taking[sic] bad decisions and it will take you to a place where others only dream of being.”

Buddha wrote: “We are what we think. All that we are arises within our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t. You’re right.” In a beautiful, more expansive note, Deepak Chopra counsels great leaders: “Instead of thinking outside the box. Get rid of the box.”

May we always remain childish in our manner of thinking, one that is free of learned constraints and limitations, and relish the joy and freedom of endless curiosity and believing that everything is possible. As Buddha said: “With our thoughts we make the world.” Choose to make your world magnificent and memorable!

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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On Finding Your “Why”

In a quote attributed to Mark Twain, we read the words: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” John Maxwell in his book, The Power of Significance, writes: “Once you find your why, you will be able to find your way. Why is your purpose. Way is your path.” He suggests that great leaders all want the same thing in life: “We want our life stories to be of significance. We want to find our purpose – our individual way of making the world a better place – and to live life to its fullest.

Purpose gives the lives of great leaders meaning and direction – the joy of waking up each morning with an exciting positivity and joy that today is filled with incredible opportunities to change the world, explore new possibilities and serve others in their journey of finding their own purpose and path. It creates and drives a life of action, an intentionality as Maxwell calls it, exuding a confidence that attracts and inspires people by its positivity and the results it reaps. Its effect is compounding, touching every facet of the great leaders life – mental, physical, spiritual and emotional – as a full alignment of these further strengthens, broadens and deepens a commitment to that purpose.

Pablo Picasso tells us: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” May you live your life on purpose… with great passion, exuberance, joy, love and selfless giving. May you remind yourself each morning of your purpose that it may guide your every thought, word and action. In this, you will see your gift multiplied beyond your wildest dreams.

Remember always the counsel to John Wesley, English cleric and theologian: “Do all the good that you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the time you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Truly, with purpose, life is worth living.

Have a beautiful day, a relaxing and enjoyable Labor Day weekend and a magnificent week!!!

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Listen, or Your Tongue Will Keep You Deaf

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new” the Dalai Lama tells great leaders. It is that simple message great leaders know and embrace deeply – they don’t know what they don’t know. They recognize that only by opening themselves to new perspectives and ideas does change occur. It is standing in the others’ shoes and seeing the world through their eyes to benefit from the magic and uniqueness of their world view. May we learn from the words of others who speak of the value of listening.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Bryant H. McGill
“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich
“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Will Rogers
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have rather talked.” Mark Twain
“The worst of all listeners is the man who does nothing but listens.” Charles Dickens
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill
“The earth has music for those who listen.” William Shakespeare

Maimonides wrote: “Teach thy tongue to say ‘I do not know,’ and thought shalt progress.” May you listen always that you may hear the joyous and magical music that the world holds for you.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Five Questions of Life

Thomas Berger wrote: “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” Great leaders understand the value of questions and the learning they bring to themselves and those whom they serve. The questions generate curiosity, inspire innovative and creative thinking, explore possibilities with others and deepen the thinking of their people.

In his Harvard Business Review article, 5 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking All the Time, James E Ryan proposes five questions that great leaders should ask:

“Wait, What?” – Too often, we jump to conclusions without having enough information. We listen just long enough to form a quick opinion, and then we either endorse or oppose what has been said. This puts us at risk of making faulty judgments, leaving key assumptions untested, and missing out on potential opportunities. Leaders (as well as their employees) need to be able to ask colleagues and direct reports to slow down and explain in more detail what is being proposed, especially if something doesn’t quite sound right or seems too easy to be a lasting solution. Asking “Wait, what?” is an exercise in understanding, which is critical to making informed judgments and decisions—whether in the office or the boardroom.

“I wonder why …?” or “I wonder if …?” – Children are far better than adults at questioning the world around them – nothing is beyond interrogation. When children wonder why the sky is blue, they prompt others to think, reason, and explain things anew. Similarly, leaders have to remain curious about their organizations in order to bring new ideas to bear on long-standing challenges. Wondering why something is the way it is will sometimes lead to an unsatisfactory answer—as in, we do it this way because it’s easier and that’s the way we have always done it. But asking “I wonder why…” is the first step in overcoming the inertia that can stifle growth and opportunity for leaders and employees alike. That’s because it inevitably leads to the perfect follow up: “I wonder if things could be done differently?” This can begin the process of creating change by sparking the interest and curiosity of those with whom you work.

“Couldn’t we at least…?” – Most of us have had the experience of sitting through a contentious meeting, where stakeholders are polarized, progress is stalled, and consensus feels like a pipe dream. Asking “couldn’t we at least?” is the question that can help you and your colleagues get unstuck on an issue. It can get you started on a first step, even if you are not entirely sure where you will end. Perhaps you might first find some common ground by asking: “Couldn’t we at least agree on some basic principles?” or “Couldn’t we at least begin, and re-evaluate at a later time?”

“How can I help?” – The instinct to lend a hand to someone in need is one of our most admirable traits as human beings, but we often don’t stop to think about the best way to help. Instead, we swoop in and try to save the day. This frequently does more harm than good. It can unintentionally disempower, or even insult those who need to take charge. So when a colleague or direct report is complaining about an issue or expressing frustration, rather than jumping to offer solutions, try asking, “How can I help?” This forces your colleague to think clearly about the problem to be solved, and whether and how you can actually help. It helps your colleagues define the problem which is the first step toward owning and solving it.

“What truly matters?” – This question might seem obvious, but I don’t think any of us ask it often enough. “What truly matters?” is not a question that you should wait to ask when you are on vacation or are retired. It should be a regular conversation, externally and internally. For example, it’s a useful way to simplify complicated situations like sensitive personnel issues. It can also help you stay grounded when you have grand ambitions, like an organizational restructuring. And it can make even your weekly meetings more efficient and productive by keeping people focused on the right priorities. Asking this often will not only make your work life smoother, but also help you find balance in the broader context of your life.

May your questions inspire great learning, collaboration and change in who you are, in what you do and in those whom you serve. May you remember always the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were going to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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When You Care, You Change the World

In his book, Leadership in my Rearview Mirror – Reflections from Vietnam, West Point and IBM, Jack Beach speaks about the importance that great leaders place on fostering a culture of caring within their organizations. He writes: “Leadership involves groups of people accomplishing tasks together. Leaders must not only ensure that people have the job-related skills but also that members of the team will work well together…. We cannot simply put a bunch of top-notch people together and expect good things to happen; the team itself must have the appropriate social and emotional skills to work well together.”

His message is a simple and powerful: “Leaders must encourage people to care not only for the mission but for each other.” The great leaders’ caring creates a culture and environment that touches people’s hearts: “I respect you for who you are. I value you for you and all that you do. I recognize your individuality and uniqueness.” This is what all people want in life – to be respected, valued and recognized for who they are. In return, and thanks for this caring, they give their best, going far beyond what is expected to give something more. Most importantly and valuable, they give the precious gift of their trust. In this mutual exchange, the world is changed and greatness thrives within the people and organization.

Simon Sinek tells great leaders: “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is taking care of those in your charge.”  Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “To handle yourself, use your head; to hand others, use your heart.” Bill Russell said: “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.” When you care, you lead with love.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Gifts of a “Big Picture” Mindset

Michel de Montaigne wrote: “The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little.” Great leaders live every moment of their life. They push the boundaries around themselves and live a life of rich and vivid wholeness.  John Maxwell writes in his book, How Successful People Think, it is the great leaders who develop a ‘big picture’ mindset which opens their eyes, mind and heart to new people, ideas and possibilities.

“People who see the big picture expand their experience because they expand their world. As a result, they accomplish more than the narrow-minded people. And they experience fewer unwanted surprises, too, because they are more likely to see the many components involved in any given situation: issues, people, relationships, timing and values. They are also, therefore, more tolerant of other people and their thinking.”

What exciting richness we add to our life when we look at it in all it majestic and almost endless beauty. May we choose always to think big. May we be daring and bold to look beyond ourselves and our own world. May we see with new eyes. May we see through the eyes of others. And on that journey, may we remember the wise counsel of Alvin Toffler, American writer and futurist: “You’ve got to think about ‘big things’ while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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The Power of “What If…”

In her book, Take Your Soul to Work, Erica Brown speaks to great leaders of the power of ‘what-ifs’: “You cannot be a leader and not ask what-if questions. They often form the core of personal and organizational vision and offer strategic possibilities. They can unfold the future.” They can be sources of torment or the inspiration of possibilities undreamed. They can be new lenses through which one may find a greater understanding and joy of life and the world. They can be magnificent moments of pause and reflection. Brown suggests some what-if thoughts:

“What if you were to write an ad for the story of your life? Would it be full of hype or hope?
“What if hurting, leaving and ending are just mirror images of healing, arriving and starting?
“What if your thoughts and values suddenly appeared as pictures all over your body? Would you stay inside or go to the beach?

What are the what-if questions in your life? What could be their magnificent impact to open your life and world to new possibilities? What if today you lived more, laughed more and loved more? What if you asked not “what if I fall”, rather, “what if I fly?” What if you choose every day to be more than you ever dreamed you could be? What if you choose to help someone else be more than they ever dreamed they could be? May your ‘what-ifs’ fill your life with endless possibilities for growth, joy and happiness. Remember that ‘what-ifs’ are beginnings only. Their reality rests in their execution. Be bold and purposeful so that your what ifs become what are.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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