Big question for you: “what are you doing to help build a new and better world?” Don’t blame the politicians. Don’t blame those around you. Don’t blame your parents or your background. Doing so is playing the victim and this world has far too many people playing the victim when they could be shining and making a profound difference. Mother Teresa said it so much better than I ever could: “if each of us would only sweep their own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.” Nice.
Blaming others is excusing yourself. Telling yourself that you – as an army of one – cannot have an impact is giving away your power. A couple of college kids got their hands on empty school buses and drove them into New Orleans when everybody else said the city was unapproachable. A little man in a loincloth named Mohandas Gandhi freed an entire nation. A college student named Richard Branson took some initiative to start a record label on a shoestring that has since morphed into the Virgin empire. You are no different from them. We are all flesh and bones – cut from the same cloth.
In a recent issue of Vanity Fair, Jennifer Aniston said that she gives herself one day to play victim after a challenging event. After that day of feeling sorry for herself and powerless, she wakes up and takes ownership over the way her life looks. And if she doesn’t like a piece of it she sets about to change it. That’s personal leadership.
What don’t you like about your life or the organization you work for or the country you live in? Make a list. Write it down. Shout it out. And then do something to improve things. Anything. Start small or go big. Just do something. Today. Now. The world will be better for it.
Too many people believe that playing their best game as a human being requires them to revolutionalize their lives. And for most of us, that’s a scary thought. No one wants to make massive changes to the way they think, feel and behave. Human beings love staying within the comfort zone. But guess what? In my work as a success coach with people around the world, I’ve realized that lasting personal change does not require you to turn your life upside down.
The best way to get to your greatness is through small, continuous steps-what I call the “1% Wins”. If you improve your health only 1% each day for the next 30 days, you will see a 30% increase in that dimension of your life in only 1 month. Same for every other area of your life, from your relationships to your career. Doesn’t seem so scary now does it? Can you make those little improvements in the areas most in need of improvement? Absolutely.
Language offers a framework for meaning. Please think about that powerful idea. We understand the world through words. The words you use determine the way you perceive reality. If you call a stumbling block a “problem” or “a big mess” you will create a different emotional state within you than if you call the issue “an opportunity” or “a challenge that will only make me better.” I have the privilege, as a success coach, to work with many extraordinarily successful people from around the world.
One of their core traits of greatness is that the vast majority of them understand the power of the word. They use world-class language. Not only do they refrain from using profanities, but they use the language of passion. They use the language of leadership. They use the language of possibility. They use the language of love.
Too many human beings postpone living. We say that we will live our best lives when we have more time or when we finish the pressing projects that are consuming us. We tell those around us that we will be more loving and passionate when things slow down. We promise ourselves that we will get into world-class physical condition and eat healthier food when we have a little bit more time. Yet, deep within us, each one of us knows that there will never be a better time to live our biggest life than now. And if not today, then when?
Some pundits encourage us to enjoy the moment and appreciate what we have, suggesting that constantly striving for more is unhealthy and the primary source of our discontent. And others say that, as human beings, we were built to push beyond our comfort zones each day and reach for something higher. I’ve struggled a lot with this issue, as I articulate a personal philosophy that I will live my life under.
I think I’ve found the answer, a solution that feels right to me: it’s a balance. I call it The Mandela Balance. Nelson Mandela, a hero of mine, once said: “After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not yet ended.”
To me, Nelson Mandela is suggesting that it’s all about a balance. Enjoy the view from where you are at. Savor how far you have come. Be grateful for where you are along the journey that is your life. But, remember that with the gifts that reside within you come great responsibilities. I believe that every human being has a Duty to Shine. We must walk out into the world and do our best to be of greater service to others and greater citizens in the world. We must continually walk towards our fears and make more of our lives. We must constantly play a bigger game. This drive to realize more of our greatest selves has, I believe, been knitted into our DNA and to deny it is to deny our human nature.
And yes, as we set higher dreams and raise our personal standards, we will create discontent. But this world was built by people who felt some discontent with the way things were and knew they could do better. Think Gandhi. Think Mother Teresa. Think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Think Einstein. Think Mandela.
So love what you have. And then go for what you want.
Leadership has nothing to do with the title on your business card or the size of your office. Leadership is not about how much money you make or the clothes you wear. Leadership is a philosophy. It’s an attitude. It’s a state of mind. And it’s available to each one of us.
Here’s an example. I spend a lot of my life on airplanes and traveling so I’m hard on my luggage. The handle on my carry-on luggage broke after my tour of Russia a few months ago (you have to put a visit to St. Petersburg on your list of places to visit before you die). Anyway, I take the piece in to Evex, a dealer in Toronto. The young man at the counter treated me wonderfully and within a few days, the handle was fixed.
While in New York a week ago, the handle broke again. I assumed that I’d have to pay for the repair when I went back into Evex. Most business put clients through so many hurdles: if you haven’t saved the receipt you are out of luck, if you don’t know who did the initial repair we cannot help you etc etc. Well Evex is different. They just get it. They understand that without treating their customers well, there is no business.
When I explained that the handle broke again, the young woman at the counter – without a moment of hesitation – apologized for the problem I faced. She them said: “We will promise you that you will have your carry-on in perfect order within 3 days. And of course Sir, there will be no charge.” No bureaucracy around needing the receipt from the previous repair. No hassles. No issues. Just great service, with a giant smile.
This woman showed leadership. She quickly diagnosed the problem, assumed personal responsibility and made the right decision. And she wowed her customer in the process. What will you do to be the leader that you are destined to be, today?
I don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard. To me, a life well-lived is mostly about being surrounded by people I love, staying healthy and happy (and no one’s happy all the time except in the movies) and having an impact on the world around us. So how can you stay focused on the things that are most important to you? Die daily.
I wrote about this in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari but the point of wisdom is simply this: connecting to the fact that life is short and no one knows when it will end is a great personal practice to stay engaged on your priorities. Waking up each morning and asking yourself “how would I show up today if this day was my last” is not some cheesy motivational exercise. It’s a profound way to bring some urgency and commitment into your days.
Most of us let life act on us – we are asleep at the wheel of our own lives. And the days slip into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into years. Before we know it, we are laying on our deathbeds wondering where all the time went.
Die daily. Give yourself to life. Take some risks. Open your heart a little wider. Speak your truth. Show your respect for the gift of life that’s been given to you. Shine brightly today. And then, wake up tomorrow and reach even higher. At the end, people will remember you as one of the great ones.
I fail more than most people. I fail all the time. I’ve had failures in business. I’ve had failures in relationships. I’ve had failures in life. I used to wonder why this happened. But now I get it. Failure is the highway to success. And the more risks you take in the pursuit of your dreams, the more you are going to fail.
Too many amongst us live our lives in what I call “the safe harbor of the known.” Same thinking for twenty years. Same conversations for twenty years. Same breakfast for twenty years. Same drive to work for twenty years. I have no judgment on that kind of a life. If it makes you happy, well that’s a beautiful thing. But I don’t know of anyone who is happy living like that. True joy comes when you put some skin in the game and take some chances. Yes, you will start to experience more failure. But guess what, success also starts to pay more visits.
Failure is just part of the process of getting to greatness. The best companies on the planet have failed more than the average ones. The most successful people on the planet have failed more than average ones. To me, the only failure is the failure to not try and dream and dare. And I deeply feel that the greatest risk you will ever take in your life is if you never take a risk.
So go ahead, stretch today. Ask for the best table in your favorite restaurant. Ask for an upgrade into first class on your next flight (good luck). Ask your teammate at work for more understanding. Ask your mate at home for more love. Do it. I dare you. And just remember, you can’t win the game if you don’t even play.
Success, world-class health, internal fulfillment and sustained happiness don’t just happen. These elements of your best life are created. All too often we look at a human being playing their best game on the playing field of life and assume they got lucky or were born into their lofty condition. What we don’t see is all the devotion and discipline that went into crafting the extraordinary results we see.
What I’m suggesting is that personal and professional greatness takes work. I’m not someone who would ever tell you that you could get to your dreams without having to make some sacrifices and pay the price in terms of dedication and self-control. The best amongst us make it all look so easy. I call it The Swan Effect- elite performers make personal excellence look effortless and seem to make things happen as gracefully as a swan moves along the water. But like the swan, what you don’t get to see is all the hard-work taking place below the surface.
The best way to create spectacular results in the most important areas of your life is through daily practice. In my life, I have a series of practices that set me up for a great day. Yes, sometimes life sends you unexpected challenges that knock you off track-that’s just life happening. But with a series of practices to keep you at your best, you’ll stay in a positive state much more often.
Practices that will lock you into your best state include a morning journaling session where you record your feelings, thoughts, and the blessings you are grateful for. Or you may start your day with a strong workout and an elite performer’s meal. I often listen to music for 15 minutes, as it not only energizes me, it just makes life better. I also use success statements or affirmations to get my mind focused.
Success and joy and inner peace don’t just show up. You need to create them. Find your series of practices, perform them with consistency. And then go out into this beautiful world of ours and shine.
Too many people believe that there’s something wrong with aiming to be really successful. I’ve heard it a lot these days, the suggestion that if you strive for success, you must not be all that concerned with making a difference and being significant. It’s almost as if being a go-getter is incompatible with being compassionate, socially conscious and good.
Well here’s my take on the “success versus significance” issue: an extraordinary life contains both. Without success, I have a sense that the best part of you will feel a little hollow. Part of what makes us human is the hunger to realize our greatest gifts and live life fully. We were built to shine. And without significance, I believe that we will feel that we have walked the planet in vain.
There’s nothing wrong with being an elite performer and taking the steps required to become a remarkable success in this world. Success is actually a creative pursuit and a reflection of healthy self-esteem. And while you realize success, I invite you to stay devoted to elevating the lives you touch and leaving your world better than you found it. That’s the significance piece. With both, you’ll discover your greatest life.