Getting Results

Is Your Fear A Choice?

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There is a trailer for Will Smith’s new movie, After Earth, which contains the following lines:

“Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”

There’s some truth to that.  But each time I watch the trailer, the same question occurs for me:  Is fear really a choice?
One of the most interesting things about fear is that it always seems to either come from something outside of us (an environmental stimulus) or from something inside our heads but separate from us – like a Mind Monster.
Yet when you look closely, you’ll find that every fear you experience is actually made of thought. It’s not “false evidence appearing real”, as the acronym suggests – it’s thought appearing real. We react to the thought of a raccoon biting or dentist drilling or person shouting as if it was actually happening to us right here, right now, and then attribute our fear to the raccoon, dentist, or person shouting.
Here’s an analogy:  Think of a person drawing a picture of a monster on a piece of paper and then running out of the room in terror. The exact moment the person sees that the monster is just a drawing and can’t hurt it, the fear is gone and there’s nothing left to be done.
Likewise, imagine waking up from a nightmare. One moment you’re totally engrossed in fighting off vampire zombies and the next your eyes are open and the vampire zombies are gone. You may still have a little bit of adrenaline coursing through your veins, but there are no lasting after-effects. No healing is necessary. You just get up and get on with your day.
We notice a scary thought in our mind, and because we do not recognize thought as the creator of the feeling, we are run ragged by it.  We do all sorts of things to avoid an imaginary consequence that has been constructed in our own mind. But the moment we recognize that only thought can create feeling, the very same thing that was so frightening becomes fascinating.
And the same possibility for freedom exists at the heart of all fear. The moment we see that our own deepest, darkest fears are 100% made of thought, we open up the space in our minds for peace, wisdom, and well-being to come through.
There may well still be things to do in the world to create the outcomes we desire – but we will do them based on what is actually wanted and needed in each situation, not as a knee-jerk fight or flight response to our own unrecognized thinking. And in the very moment we recognize that thought is the only creator of our experience, the same world that once seemed so frightening becomes an endlessly, wonderfully fascinating place to be.
Since I can at least recognize that the source of all fear is thought, I don’t have to make a big deal out of being afraid. I neither need to hide from seemingly scary things nor “feel the fear and do it anyways”.
I can simply move forward in the face of all my ever changing thoughts, including the scary ones. And because I’m not scared of fear, I am left with something even more powerful than choice – true and absolute freedom.

How You Can Use a Leadership Coach

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The largest steps I’ve taken in my personal and leadership development are directly related to utilizing a trusted Coach in my life.  How?  Glad you asked. Coaching has provided me:
1.  New perspectives 
2.  Vital encouragement
3.  Supportive Accountability  
To help you ascertain if a Coach would add value to you, try this exercise…Think for a moment about the best leader you’ve ever had. Get a specific person in mind. 
What did they do that made them your best boss? Jot your answers down on the left side of a piece of paper in a column labeled “Best Leader.” Go ahead, we’ve got time.
All done? Now, think of the worst leader you’ve ever had. What did they do that made them the worst boss? Write those answers down in the right hand column labeled “Worst Leader.” It shouldn’t take too long. The Worst Leader answers come a lot more quickly for most people than the Best Leader answers.
Now, here’s another question for you – do you want to be someone’s leader or their worst leader? Unless you have some serious issues, I’m guessing it’s the best leader. Your own answers to the best boss question can give you a target to shoot for but how can you be sure you’re hitting the mark?
One way to go is to hire an experienced leadership coach that can help you take an objective look at your performance and guide you in the process of making adjustments that will make a positive difference to you, your team and your organization. Don’t have the budget for a leadership coach? Lots of organizations have a cadre of trained internal coaches you can call on. Check out what your organization has to offer. Yet another option is to pair up with a peer from another part of your organization and agree to coach each other. 
Whatever route you choose to go, here are three suggestions to get the most out of working with a leadership coach:
Make It Designated Balcony Time: Harvard leadership professor Ron Heifetz likes to point out that people can either be on the dance floor or the balcony and that it’s important to alternate your perspective between the two on a regular basis. When you’re dancing as fast as you can, it’s hard to see much beyond what’s right in front of you. Use your time with your coach as designated balcony time to pull the lens back and look for the patterns in what’s going on down on the dance floor.

Answer Different Questions: By spending some time on the balcony with your coach, you might notice that the actions you’re taking on a regular basis aren’t getting you and your organization to where you need to go next. A good coach is going to ask you questions that you probably don’t usually ask yourself. Answering different questions can help you get out of an action rut. Expect your coach to help you with that.

Build Better Habits: My guiding philosophy as a coach comes from Aristotle who said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Your coach should be able to help you identify a few new habits to take on that will make you a more effective leader and then support you in grooving those behaviors. You want to look for leadership habits that are in the sweet spot between relatively easy to do and likely to make a difference.

What’s your take? What do you want to get out of working with a coach? 

212 degrees: The power of a little extra

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Sometimes, success is simply a matter of making one small adjustment. For example, at 211 degrees, water is hot. But at 212 degrees it boils. This makes all the difference.
Sam Parker and Mac Anderson expanded on this simple metaphor in their short book, 212°: the Extra Degree. They wrote,
Raising the temperature of water by one extra degree means the difference between something that is simply very hot and something that generates enough force to power a machine—a beautiful, uncomplicated metaphor that ideally should feed every endeavor—consistently pushing us to make the extra effort in every task we undertake…. It reminds us that seemingly small things can make tremendous differences.
Think about it:
            The margin of victory in the Men’s 800-meter Race in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games was only 0.71 seconds—less than one second!
            The average margin of victory in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 (combined) over the last ten years has been 1.54 seconds. And the prize money for second place was less than half that of first place.
            The average margin of victory for the last 25 years in all major PGA golf tournaments combined was less than three strokes.
The point is that it doesn’t take that much extra effort to win first place. What could you do if you were willing to push just a little bit more and break ahead of the pack?
Here’s how you can harness the 212° principle in your goal-setting:
.                 Choose one goal. Select the one that matters the most to you this year.
.                 Identify what’s at stake. Why is accomplishing this goal important—to you?
.                 Write down 2-3 key actions. These are the ones that could propel you into the winner’s circle.
.                 Now execute! Stop planning. Stop stalling. Just get out there and do it.
I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Edison (also cited in Parker and Anderson’s book):  Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
How close are you right now?
You might want to show the video above to your team and then go through the exercise I’ve outlined together. It could make all the difference in accomplishing your most important goal for this year.

4 Steps to Know the Next Step

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Leaders often find themselves in places where they aren’t sure what do to do next. What is the next step that needs to be taken. Strong leaders will have a pull in a certain direction because they “feel” that is the right thing to do, but have little experience and information. I have found that process evolves around 4 steps…
1. Confusion- Not overwhelming emotionally, but nonetheless we find ourselves here often. Many times it’s because we haven’t invested the necessary time to be quiet, tune out the noise of other distractors, and give laser-like focus to the issue.  This takes TIME and a PLACE.
2.  Conversation- If we are willing to not settle with walking in our own wisdom, we will have many conversations with others who have more wisdom and/or experience.    Talking through the options with others and listening with humility is a tall order.  The truth is that the more desperate we are, the more humble we become.
3.  Conviction-  Is the issue VALUES related?   Search your convictions if it is.   Values and “Truth North” items should always be listened to closely.  If a decision doesn’t align with your values, you become duplicitous (divided).  Stay true to your convictions, or soon your leadership will only be about outcomes and money.   

4. Construction- This is when you stop waiting and start building! You construct the very vision in your heart.    You put each block in place, with wisdom, values and experience by your side to guide. You flow in the strength gained by overcoming past failures. Suddenly the vision becomes a reality in ways you never thought imaginable! It will be completed in a way you cannot take credit for! Can you think of another step you have had to take to discover the “next step?”

How to turn Passion into Purpose

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It’s something that you hear a lot about these days as one of the keys to success, if not personal fulfillment.  Where we run into problems, though, is when we create this expectation that passion can sustain our drive over the long run. 
To illustrate what I mean by this, let me share with you how I view my role in parenting.
When I talk to others about being a Dad to my two boys, it’s clear that this is a role I love doing. And yet, I doubt anyone would say that this is something that I’m passionate about every waking minute. As I’m sure other parents can relate to, there are days where I would love to have a moment’s peace; a break from trying to figure out who did what to who and why. But even in those moments, I still enjoy being a parent because I love it.
And while it’s easy to assume that this love of parenting is merely an extension of my love for my children, the truth is the reason why I love this role – a job that for many of us will be the hardest one we take on in our lives – is because of the sense of purpose it gives to my life. That’s why even in those moments where being a parent presents those personal challenges, my drive to succeed in being a good parent never wavers because I value the purpose it brings to my life.
And that’s what we need to understand about our organizations and the work we do; that if we think the key to being happy with our jobs, with our work is to be passionate about it, we’re setting ourselves up for a nasty fall. For while passion might stir our emotions and get us seeing our jobs as the best ever, it doesn’t have the power to sustain us through those less pleasant moments; to make us want to stick it through and become the model of success that we want to be.
So, how do we take our passion and help it evolve into a meaningful and lasting purpose? Here are three steps on how to do just that:
1. Remember, passion wins the sprint race, not the marathon
It’s rare that we find ourselves instantaneously in love with an idea, concept, or new occupation and this is where finding what we’re passionate about is key. Our passion is what allows us to open those doors we otherwise wouldn’t touch and test new ideas or challenge our preconceived notions.
However, while our passion can help us in opening the door, it’s difficult to sustain it over the long run, and especially when we run into some major obstacles. While it’s great to be passionate about what we want to do, about this new idea we have for our organization, what we really need to succeed is to love the work we do because it fulfills our sense of purpose. This way, those hurdles that block our way won’t stop us from pushing ahead when those feelings of passion begin to waver.
2. Don’t just focus on how to achieve goals, but also on why those goals matter
While it’s a good practice to set out short-term goals to help determine your progress and effectiveness, it’s equally important that we have a clear understanding of what it is we want to accomplish through these efforts. This is a critical point to distinguishing the short-term, frenetic energy we often associate with our passions, from that steeled and unwavering determination we see in those who have a clear sense of what the purpose is behind what they do.
By shifting our focus from simply achieving a series of goals, to understanding how those goals will help us to fulfill our sense of purpose derived from our passions, it’s easier for us to remember that the challenges we face along the way should only change our approach, and not our destination.
3. Build a ‘steering’ committee to help you stay on track
Let’s face it – no one achieves success by going at it on their own. While we tend to associate the accomplishments of athletes and inventors like Thomas Edison to a single individual, the reality is that their accomplishments were the result of having a supportive network of people helping them to not only succeed, but to keep them on track toward what it is they want to accomplish.
As such, once you know what it is you’re passionate about, you need to find people who can help you channel that passion into a focused, unwavering stream. Creating a network of support for this idea you’re passionate about from the start will make it easier to take the idea off the white board and getting to work on making it a reality. Your support network will also be able to provide you with the reassurance you’ll inevitably need when things grind to a halt by reminding you that this is what you were meant to do, not simply because it sparks some strong emotions within you, but because it answers that internal need we all have to know that what we do matters.

In our drive to find success in our professional and personal lives, it’s only natural that we look to where our passion lies to help us find some direction. However, while we might rely on our passions to light the way, it’s important that we not forget that our passion can only provide us with the kick start we need to get going. It’s only when we make the effort to develop our passions into a sense of purpose that we can create something that is truly enduring and meaningful, and subsequently attain that feeling of success we all aim to reach.

Managing the "Big Rocks"

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I don’t believe in ‘time management’ because you can’t manage time….it’s always going regardless if you try to ‘manage’ it.  You CAN manage priorities and your energy.” 
– John Maxwell

There is a story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on a table.  By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks.  He then challenged his participants to find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.  
After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to successfully fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the gaps between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel, and the water filled the gaps in the sand.

When it comes to managing our priorities, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to put first things first – to prioritize the “big rocks” – those things in our life that matter most.
There are essentially 4 types of “big rock” – i.e., 4 priorities that we can choose to focus on in any given moment, allowing the ever-present minutiae of life to fill in the gaps as we go.

Big Rock One – Activities
Sometimes, the most important thing about a day is an activity or set of activities.  If you’re an athlete, you may prioritize exercise; if you’re a salesperson, you may prioritize making calls.  In either case, you are prioritizing the activity over the desired end result.

Big Rock Two – Goals
One of the most potent things you can prioritize are your goals.  What’s the difference making something a goal and making it a priority?  Goals are rarely within our direct control – our priorities always are.

Big Rock Three – Intentions
Sometimes, the most useful thing for us to prioritize is neither an activity nor a goal, but a way of being. These intentions carry on in the background as we engage in activities and pursue our goals. Some useful intentions include “staying present”, “enjoying whatever it is that I am doing”, and “listening and speaking from my heart”.

Big Rock Four – People
As oxygen is to the body, attention is to the spirit. When we make a person our priority, we are committing to give them greatest yet simplest gift we posses – the gift of our full, undivided attention.

1. Do it first
One of the simplest ways to prioritize something is to begin with it – to put it right at the top of the agenda and stick with it until it’s done.  This approach works particularly well with activities and “mini-goals” – i.e. goals that can be completed within the course of a few minutes to a few hours.
2. Do it now
I have yet to meet the person who isn’t blown off course during the course of a day.  In fact, no matter how many post-it note reminders you stick on your computer, fridge, and dashboard, I guarantee you’ll forget about your chosen priorities again and again.  The solution? When you remember, shift your focus and do it now!  This approach is particularly useful when you are prioritizing intentions, and people.
3. Do it often
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  How do you prioritize a goal?  By coming back to it again, and again, and again.  This approach is equally useful with activities, goals, intentions, and people.

Four Keys to Leadership and Personal Fulfillment

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For years, I’ve sifted through the existing literature on discovering, uncovering, or creating your life mission, trying things out in my life and wondering why I wasn’t as fulfilled as I believed possible.  However,  along the way, I’ve made four critical distinctions that have led me to explore deeper levels of meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.  

1. Identify your Gifts
Many people already know what their gifts are – those things in your life that come naturally to you, without any undue personal effort or struggle. However, in a society which places a premium on hard work, it’s easy to overlook and underestimate the value of what you were “born with”. A good way of identifying your gifts is to think of those skills, abilities, or personality traits you exhibit which are so much a part of that you can’t remember learning them and can’t imagine not having them. If you’re still not sure, grit your teeth, ask those people closest to you, and if you’re like most of us, prepare to be embarrassed!
2. Clarify your Calling
In the old days, it was the most natural thing in the world to hear someone talk about being “called to the priesthood” or “called to be a doctor”. (As with reincarnation, where no-one ever seems to recall a past life where they were “third guy on the left in ancient Egypt”, people never seem to talk about being “called to be a garbage collector”, but I’m sure it happens!) Your calling is what you are continually drawn to, no matter how impractical or impossible it seems to “make a living at it”. In the same way as you choose your work, your calling chooses you, and for many people it is difficult to remember a time when they did not want to do something related to their calling, even if they never have (yet!).
3. Create your Mission
There is a great deal of contention about whether your mission in life is something you create or something you discover. As you’ve probably guessed, I weigh in on the side of creation. In it’s simplest form, you create your mission by deciding how you want to use your gifts in the service of your calling. Do you need to have a mission? Absolutely not, but if you don’t, you are probably missing out on some of the joy, energy, and fulfillment that comes with clarity of purpose and surrender to a higher goal.
4. Choose your Work
If you’re lucky, your work, i.e. what you do for a living, is merely an extension of your mission and you spend each day joyfully using your gifts in the service of your calling. On the off-chance this doesn’t describe you :-), you now have a clear set of criteria for choosing meaningful work. 

Today’s Experiment (appox. time – 10 minutes to the rest of your life!):
1. Take a few moments to identify your gifts and clarify your calling. If you’re not sure, simply set the intention to become aware of your gifts and calling and prepare to be amazed as life conveniently drops daily hints and reminders into your life.
2. Draft a mission statement – remember, you do this by deciding how you want to use your gifts in the service of your calling – in short, you make it up! Don’t worry about “getting it right” – in the first instance, you can’t (!), and in the second instance, this is something you’ll be re-visiting and re-writing for years to come.
(If you already have a mission statement, think about re-evaluating it in the light of what you now know about your gifts and your calling).
3. Just for fun, make a list of jobs or other types of work or activity that would enable/allow you to fulfill your mission, utilize your gifts, and/or enjoy your calling.