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I was recently asked a question by one of my clients and I noticed that I paused for what seemed like an eternity before I responded to them.

 

I imagine some might say I paused or am slower in my thinking because I am getting old(er). Some might say it is because I am insightful and want to consider what I am saying. And others might say I am simply doing it for effect.

 

But none of those is true.

 

This is why I pause —

 

The other day when I was biking I saw what appeared to be a thick tree limb split wide open on the side of the road, perhaps from one of the many storms that passed through the area this summer.

 

However, as I got closer to the limb I saw that it was not one branch, but in fact two separate branches with a yellowing leaf between them. And neither of the limbs were split open. It was the arrangement of the three objects that gave the appearance of one large limb that had been split open.

 

thought1You see, I pause in my thinking and observation not because I am old(er) or more insightful or trying to give effect.

 

I pause . . . I must pause . . . because I think I know.

 

I have seen and witnessed enough in my life to think I know. When I see or hear something, I am quick to categorize and label it, perhaps as something similar to what I have seen or heard in the past.

 

But conclusion based on assumption is dangerous and can lead to many mistakes in thinking and action.

 

If we can’t see things with new eyes, truly see and hear things as they actually are rather than what we THINK they are, then we must be aware enough to pause and consider all possibilities before speaking or acting.

 

This is why I pause, and why it is so important for me to do so. I want to consider the truth of what is before me rather than what I think I already know.

 

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.
 

– Epictetus

 

Interacting with people and the world around us with an attitude of “I already know” is an epidemic these days. We all have retreated to “our sides” and we only wish to hear what we agree with or already believe to be true. Whether it is the media we listen to and read, our friends on Facebook, or our community groups, we surround ourselves mostly with information that supports our already established point of view.

 

Unfortunately, interacting with the world in this way will only limit our learning, our ability to think differently, and our ability to see the world as it truly is. And if that is how we truly wish to go through life, than we might as well lock ourselves in a room and spend the rest of our days in the dark.

 

The world can only truly be experienced by venturing out. We must consider other ideas, other people, and other beliefs if we are to be fully alive. We must venture out from the confining cage of thought we have built for ourselves and seek new truths.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

My friend Brian and I take a photo journey each year to one of our country’s spectacular national parks. Our journeys have allowed us to drink in the amazing beauty our country offers – Acadia in Maine, Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, Big Bend in Texas, Canyonlands in Utah, Lassen in California and so many more.

 

This July our destination was Olympic National Park in Washington state. Choosing Olympic in July meant one thing – this trip, like most of our trips, was not a vacation.

 

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

You see, Brian is an excellent photographer (view more of his fantastic photography here), which means our trips revolve around chasing the light of dawn and dusk. The first light of day on this trip was at 5:00 AM, and the last light of day was around 9:45 PM. That meant we were up at 4:00 AM to capture a sunrise and not back to our hotel room until 10:30 PM after the sun’s candle went dim.

 

Given that we didn’t get to bed until midnight, we essentially got 4 hours of sleep each night. Let’s face it, that’s not sleep . . . that’s a nap.

 

Yet, even though many of those never-ending days were filled with long 10-mile hikes, aching muscles, and carrying heavy backpacks filled with camera equipment, food and water, every minute of the day was exhilarating! We were never tired. In fact, it was the opposite. We were alert, alive and excited!

 

This experience powerfully demonstrated the importance of doing what you love and doing something that stimulates your mind and body. Whether that is exploring nature, working with children, mastering a sport, building a business, being a parent, practicing and art form, or anything else that fills your heart, the power of that passion is immeasurable. And to do anything less with your precious time – the short 24,528 days we are here on earth – is the true definition of dying.

 

What is it I want to do with the one precious, wild thing called my life? Where am I in my great dream called my life? Where have I allowed my fire to go dim?

Anais Nin

 

Howard Thurman once wrote, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” The message here is abundantly clear and I probably don’t need to say much more. Rather, I will simply encourage you to ensure that somehow in your precious life you take time to do something that stimulates your passions and makes you come alive.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

I was honored to write the following for my colleague Susan Mazza’s website, Random Acts of Leadership, one of the top leadership blogs on the Internet.

 
 

There is one mindset that is absolutely paralyzing to individuals and organizations alike.

 

It is one that creates a victim mentality of helplessness among individuals and steals leadership power from organizations.

 

It is the “they/their/them” mindset.

  • “They” better do something.
  • It is “their” fault.
  • It is up to “them.”

 

Thankfully I discovered the panacea to this horrendous malady impacting our organizations today.

 

flamenco-594272_1280Simply put, it takes one to tango.

 

I know that goes against conventional wisdom and that well known cliché, but I have seen its powerful truth demonstrated in my own life.

 

Many years ago I decided I wanted a closer, more demonstrative relationship with my brother and Dad. I know we loved each other, but we didn’t say or show it often. Let’s face it, we were typical guys.

 

No longer satisfied with this kind of relationship with the men I love and cherish deeply, I decided that every time I saw my Dad or brother I would greet them with a hug. And every time I said good-bye, I would give them a hug and tell them I love them. I was not attached to the outcome. And I was not attached to whether or not they reciprocated. This was something that I wanted to do that was important to me.

 

As you can imagine, in the beginning of this little game things were a bit awkward. When I hugged my brother he would make funny faces, resist a bit, and wonder what the hell I was doing. My Dad didn’t resist, but he also didn’t reciprocate. Hugging both of them was a bit like hugging a fish. In these initial stages, it felt more like I was doing something to them. But that was OK. I was committed to my action and the communication of my love for them.

 

This went on for many, many months. I honestly don’t recall how long, but it was quite a while.

 

Then magic happened. I will never forget either of these unbelievable days for the rest of my life.

 

One day as I was leaving my Dad’s house I was preoccupied with where I needed to be next. I said good-bye to my Dad and turned to walk to my car without practicing my usual ritual of hugging. From behind me as I walked away I heard my Dad say, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” I turned around to see my Dad’s arms spread as wide as an eagle’s, waiting to envelop me in a huge hug.

 

Best. Hug. Ever!!!

 

Some time after that, I was driving my brother to the airport as he was leaving to go on a trip for the US Fencing team. As usual, I drove him to the door where his airline was located, wished him a good trip and waited for him to grab his bags out of the back seat of the car. I nearly fainted when he said, “Hold on, I want to give you a hug.” I still tear up thinking about that moment. It was a huge breakthrough in our relationship as brothers and made us ever closer.

 

The lesson I learned from this little experiment was that when it comes to leadership, changing behaviors and transforming our relationships, contrary to the familiar saying . . . it actually takes just one to tango.

 

Let him that would move the world, first move himself.

– Socrates

 

All too often when we desire change in our lives we wait for others to initiate it and lead. Or maybe we pray for a miracle and hope that the change will magically happen. While I am all for miracles, this approach steals from us one of the most amazing superpowers we humans possess — the ability to manifest our desires.

 

In the 20 years that I have been involved with coaching and business acceleration, I have witnessed countless examples of people proving that we can indeed create just about any change we desire. And it isn’t really that difficult. It starts as a desire in our heart, moves to a thought and plan, transforms into action, and then almost without fail turns into results.

 

There is no need to make it more difficult than that. Adding anything else just complicates the process and clouds the results.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

Twenty-five years ago I made a powerful choice. I decided to step away from the conventional J.O.B. path most people follow out of college and I left the security of being an employee.

 

I realize that in today’s self-employment economy that is not a big deal, but 25 years ago not many people were making that choice.

 

I don’t regret my decision for a second, but I think I am just now beginning to understand the impact of my choice. There were a few years along this path where I made $0. There were many nights where all I ate for dinner was rice or pasta. And there were many, many years where I spent little, if anything, on extravagances – vacations, movies, eating out, dating, gifts for friends, etc.

 

It created a life where today I live from my needs, rather than my wants. It is a wonderful life that I am ever grateful for.

 

Recently, however, I have been blessed with more financial abundance. Of course, given my past, abundance is relative. Nonetheless, for someone who lives from his needs, the abundance is blissful. Many of the things I sacrificed over the past 25 years have returned, the greatest of which is my ability to once again share my heart through gifts to friends and family.

 

Surprisingly though, something else showed up with this abundance that is quite unwanted . . .

 

pile of food 6Waste, carelessness and gluttony.

 

I noticed it most in my buying habits around food, which has always been a treasured ritual for me. More junk food and sweets started to show up in my shopping cart. Items on which I would never “waste” money – let alone the calories – made their way into my home. Chips, cookies, and candy now became a weekly indulgence.

 

I also noticed that I wasted more food. Whereas before I would NEVER throw away food, now I was throwing out food that I unthinkingly overbought and didn’t get around to eating, or perhaps it just didn’t quite taste as good as I hoped.

 

Finally, I also found that my attitude around spending went from one of absolute vigilance to one where if I wasted $5 or $10 dollars here or there, “Eh, no big deal.”

 

While I LOVE this new abundance and welcome it with an open heart, this all bothers me deeply.

 

Waste is waste. It’s just a lot more important and painful when there isn’t as much to spare.

 

While I am still deciding what changes I will make, I thought it was important to share this as we think about and celebrate spring, renewal and Earth Day.

 

As one of the richest nations on the planet, I wonder what this attitude of waste must look like when it is extrapolated out to 320 million people.

 

“Be simple to fill life with abundance.”

Debasish Mridha

 

Perhaps the most beautiful and valuable gift I was given as I walked my path the past 25 years was how to live a simple life. How to live a fulfilling and loving life based on my needs rather than my wants. At the end of the day, we really do not have that many needs. If I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and a refrigerator full of food, I consider my life quite abundant and blessed.

 

It is amazing how much peace that perspective has given me in life.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

Thirty years ago I was speeding north on a New Jersey interstate in my new Nissan 200SX. I don’t recall where I was coming from, or where I was going, but I do remember what happened that particular day.

 

As I zipped along in 5th gear, I passed a scene we only see on reality TV these days. A young woman, completely decked out in her beautiful, billowing white wedding dress, and a tall man in a tuxedo, were standing beside their car on the shoulder of the road. As I raced past I smiled, put my car into neutral, pulled over to the side of the road and then backed up to their car.

 

I got out and greeted them with a friendly “hello” and asked if they needed help, thinking that perhaps I could drop them off at the next exit or go to a gas station and get them a tow truck. It was a nice thought, but that wasn’t exactly in the cards.

 

I could understand what they were saying for the most part, but English was their second language. What I gathered was that it was their wedding day, the wedding was in 2 hours, the church was 45 minutes away, and their car was no longer working.

 

That changed my plans.

 

I told them that if they could fit into my little Nissan, I would happily take them to the church. While my car technically had 4 seats, it really only seated 2 comfortably. Nonetheless, we folded the big guy in the tux into the backseat, his knees practically touching his chin, and the fair princess in white climbed into the front seat. I swear the fluffiness of her dress filled the whole cabin of the car.

 

It was a fun drive to the church as I learned about their lives and their hopes for the future. It was a great day and I was happy to help out.

 

Fast forward to this past Wednesday.

 

It was dark. Probably 7:30 in the evening and I was just getting home from one of my clients. I turned left to go up a wooded, poorly lit, windy road when I saw some flares on the right side of the road near a broken down car. I shifted into 3rd gear, paused a moment as I wondered if they needed help, then pressed down on my gas pedal, and zipped past them. “Why bother?” I thought. “These days everyone has a cell phone and can call for help.”

 

Man did that suck and feel bad.

 

While smartphone technology is fantastic, and has certainly done amazing things for the way we live our lives, I do think it’s tearing at the fabric of community.

 

As if to accentuate that point, the next day I saw young mother walking with her newborn baby. They were both taking advantage of the amazing spring weather we’ve had recently. The baby was in a cute, little, navy blue stroller. The Mom was dressed in bright yellow and had both her hands on the handle as she pushed her baby. And in her hands, between the baby’s face and hers, was a black, big-screen smartphone. Nice bonding.

 

And we wonder why our children just want to get their hands on our electronics.

 

human connection 7Don’t get me wrong. Even though I don’t use much of it, I think technology is AMAZING. I love seeing all the fantastic things we can do with our new inventions. But what worries me most is that we aren’t engaging with it consciously. We are letting the technology rule our lives and it is leading to a distance between parents and children, between couples, between friends, between us humans. The divide is becoming more pronounced, and in its wake I fear is the death of community.

 

I believe you will have far more satisfaction in life by connecting with another human rather than connecting with your electronics. I encourage you to put them down and remember what it is like to make eye contact with someone you care about and be fully present to them.

 

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.

– Henry David Thoreau

 

A lot has been written about the problems and distractions created by our smartphones.

 

I’ve heard from teachers about how students find it harder to talk to each other or make eye contact. I’ve heard the horrible news stories about how someone was texting just before a car accident. I’ve been on numerous calls with friends and clients while they are driving when I hear them say, “Shoot, I just missed my exit.” We all have been with a friend or business colleague who was more focused on their smartphone than on us.

 

I’m wise enough to know we will never stop the advance of technology. But that same wisdom tells me that the 10 minutes of undivided attention and listening that I gift to someone may actually change their life.

 

In my opinion, that makes for a a very easy choice.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

What’s Your DeFect?

I was at my Dad’s house recently as he was doing some de-cluttering and purging. After 92 years of living, one collects a number of very interesting items. Two such items that caught my attention were some old stamp collecting books. I pulled them off the shelf in his basement anxious to see what I might find inside.

 

I wasn’t disappointed.

 

There were an untold number of beautiful stamps dating back almost 100 years that my Dad must have collected as a kid. I was fascinated by their beauty and age and started to wonder what they might be worth, so I made a note about a few of the oldest ones and decided to research them on the Internet.

 

I have to admit I was surprised by what I found.

 

These beautiful 100-year-old stamps were valued at only a few dollars. Sure from a relative perspective they were worth over 100 times their two cent face value, but still, that was hardly the fortune or undiscovered treasure I secretly wished for. But as I continued my research, I suddenly noticed that one of the stamps highlighted on the Internet had a value that would raise any eyebrow. Upon deeper review, however, I discovered that the reason for this was the fact that the highlighted stamp on the Internet had a defect.

 
inverted-jenny-stamp1

This reminded me of one of the most famous and valuable stamps ever printed – the Curtis Jenny. This is a U.S. airmail stamp that recently sold for almost $3 million. Why is it so valuable, you ask? A defect, of course. The airplane on the stamp was accidentally printed upside down.

 

This got me thinking about all of us. When I started thinking about what makes my collection of friends and family so treasured and interesting, it is not the fact that any one of them is perfect, but rather that they are so imperfect. It is their quirks, “defects” and unique qualities that I most appreciate.

 

Simply put, your defect = your value. It is because of your imperfections that you are so valuable.

 

So during this month when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, be sure to take a moment to LOVE and celebrate every imperfect bit of you. Especially your defects. Chances are, that is the precise reason why people truly love you and value your presence in their life!

 

Define your uniqueness to define yourself.

– Debasish Mridha

 

For most of my life, I have wanted to blend in with the crowd. I didn’t want to be recognized or honored. I didn’t want to be considered different. I didn’t want to be unique or special. I simply wanted to be the common man.

 

Man, was that ever stupid!

 

There is nothing wrong with being “one of the guys” and living with the camouflage of being like everyone else. It keeps you safe. But rarely does one notice the lone blade of grass among a huge field. Or the lone black bird in a flock of thousands.

 

No, we tend to notice the oddity of the hummingbird, or the magnificence of a bird of paradise, or the uniqueness of a four leaf clover. It is not until you can identify and celebrate the unique qualities, characteristics and values you possess that you will shine most brilliantly in the world.

 

We all have some unique quality, but few of us are courageous enough to celebrate them like the peacock.

 

I encourage you to share your wonderful gift and spread your beautiful feathers like the peacock, for that is the greatest Valentine’s gift you could give to the world.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.
 
 
Here is a fun video about some characteristics that make some of us unique . . . but perhaps not as unique as you thought.
 

The following is a guest blog written by my friend Dan Galperin at The Man Power Project (www.manpowerproject.com). It is a wonderful essay bridging the month of January, when many of us focus on our goals, and February, the Valentine month, where many of us think of our loved ones.

 

Recently I saw the movie called “Everest” about the 1996 climbing disaster in which 12 people died, including two expedition leaders. The story was also chronicled in the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, who was on the expedition and was fortunate enough to reach the summit and get back home to tell the story.

 

One of the team members, Beck Weathers, a confident Texan who aimed to reach “The 7 Summits,” almost lost his life. He described himself as obsessed with work and climbing mountains, which left little room in his life for his family. Weathers was left for dead in a hypothermic coma for fifteen hours in “the death zone” but miraculously survived.
 

Upon rescue, he lost his nose and the majority of both hands to frostbite. “If you can’t learn something from dying, then you are definitely a slow learner,” he reflected years later. “When you know you are going to die, you think about the people you really care about. I used to always live in the future. I’d set a goal, achieve the goal, set another goal. Today, I live in the present and it’s a lot more peaceful. Life is simply better when you get to the point where you are comfortable in your own skin and not trying to define yourself by achievements alone.”
 
everest

Life can feel like climbing Everest, sometimes fun and sometimes arduous. The journey can be absolutely breathtaking when we remember what’s important, but it can be harrowing if we lose our way.
 

Many of us approach our lives with the end in mind and forget to enjoy the journey with the ones who matter most. Achievement can be rewarding and fulfilling, as long as what you really care about is not sacrificed. Achieving to impress others or to validate yourself might lead you off a cliff. But pure inspired achievement sends ripples of positivity out to others. Reaching that summit feels pretty damn good.
 

I do believe in pushing limits, seeing how far we can go and how much we are capable of. There is something beautiful in following your inspiration no matter how daunting or crazy it may seem. When you push the limits for the right reasons, amazing things can unfold.
 

When you lay dying, whether on the inhospitable terrain of Everest or in a comfortable bed surrounded by loved ones at an advanced age, your only regrets will be the lost opportunities to love and connect to others, not the achievements left undone.
 

The only thing that will matter is this: Are you proud of the life that you lived? Truly happy at how you spent your time and energy? Did you make a meaningful difference to other people? Did you give and receive love? Did you keep your heart open to what was wonderful about life or did you get wrapped up in trivialities? Did you stand at the top of your own personal Everest with people you love and enjoy the beauty of it all?
 

If you did, then you achieved something truly special.