Most training programs don’t have lasting impact. Most seminars provoke only micro-change. Most inspirational or leadership books get us excited only until we wake up the next morning and reality intrudes on our idealistic vision. Why does this all happen? Because too many training programs, seminars and books are attempting to cause a revolution rather than nurture an evolution. Big idea there.
If you go to a seminar and hear a ton of lessons that you know will take your career and your life to your NLG (Next Level of Greatness; please forgive my acronyms…just a mood I’m in these days – let’s hope it will pass), it’s easy to get caught up into “revolution mode”. There’s so much to transform and so little time to do it in. And human beings don’t like to change (scares us). So we drift into overwhelm. And we don’t even start.
I suggest to you that there’s a better way to get to world-class within the important areas of your life: evolution. Small baby steps. Daily and continuous micro-improvements. Steady and consistent elevations in the way you work, lead and live (Dad always said slow and steady wins the race).
Every dream started off small and grew step by step. One hundred and twenty years ago, at Jacobs Pharmacy, a customer paid Doc Permberton five cents for his sugar in a glass concoction that you may have heard of (it’s called Coke and is enjoyed more than a billion times a day around the world). Evolution versus revolution. Sam Walton started with a single store and didn’t even get to the big box idea until he was in business for about thirty years. Evolution not revolution. The Everest climbers don’t jump up to the summit. No, they climb it bit by bit. Evolution not… You get my point.
Day by day, step by step, you can move towards your own personal mountaintop. You (and your organization) really can be, do and have a lot more than you’ve ever imagined. The life you are living today can be radically different from the life you can have 3 or 6 months from now. I see it happen all the time. With my clients. And you’ll get to the professional and personal greatness you deserve through an evolution. Not a revolution.
Every second you spend thinking about what you don’t want in your life is a second denying focus and energy from getting what you do want. Every minute you worry about what’s not working is a minute drawn away from creating what will work. And every hour spent reflecting on the disappointments of the past is an hour stolen from seeing the possibilities that your future holds.
What I’ve discovered in my own life is that I see more of what I look for. Clarity precedes mastery (big idea there) and the more clearly I look for what I want, the more powerfully I generate that result in my life. By setting clear goals in the important areas, I see more of what I’m searching for. By looking for the best in others, I generally find it. And by looking for the good things in my life and expressing gratitude for my blessings (rather than thinking about any problems), I see more of what’s good.
Your thinking will create your reality. Your thoughts form your world? Why? Because you will never act against your thinking. Every action is the offspring of a thought. And your actions create the professional and personal life you find yourself in today.
Only leaders (and we all can Lead Without Title) who are willing to think differently can out-innovate everyone around them. Thinking the same thoughts produces the same results. Leadership is all about being The Brave Creative out in front in your marketspace (and your career) versus doing things the way everyone else does them. Business doesn’t need more copycats. Business needs more Dreamers.
Apple came up with the gorgeous (and now ubiquitous iPod). Now there are so many products with the letter “i” in front of it I’ve lost track. Too much copying. Not enough leading.
A well-respected business leader told me about a CEO who did something that made me smile. He hired a young wonderkid fresh out of business school – a kid who was not only brilliant but thought differently and wasn’t afraid to voice his eccentric thoughts. The mandate of the new hire? Sit on the company’s management team and consistently challenge ideas that fostered the status quo. This man was paid to push the envelope. To evangelize innovation. To make things better by being unorthodox in a world where most of us are afraid to leave the crowd.
So today, have conversations with people who are Originals. Strive to leave the Safe Harbor of The Known. Make things better. Play bigger. And dream.
People ache for great listening. Do you give it to them? I so passionately believe that one of the single best things you can do to get your relationships (both professional and personal) to world-class is to become alarmingly good at listening. Yup-alarmingly good is the standard I’m pressing you to reach.
As a young lawyer, I worked with a senior litigator who was just “insanely great” (Steve Jobs term) at making people feel heard. It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t faked. It wasn’t artificial. Just a truckload of masterful, heartfelt listening every time I was with him. And guess what, that was the best professional relationship I had at that office. I’d do anything for him. He had my respect. And my loyalty. And my outright friendship. Because I knew (versus believed) he cared.
Listening’s like that. Seems like simple stuff, this listening business. But it’s outrageously hard in a world where we can be so self-centered. And in a world where we all suffer from collective ADD. So hard to focus. So hard to concentrate. So hard to listen. But no organization can get to extraordinary without excited, engaged and enthusiastic people. And no human being can ever find authentic success without the help of people. And people need listening. Crave it. Hunger for it. More than you may imagine.
Oh the way it feels when someone gives you the listening you need. It’s so very rare isn’t it? And yet so exceptionally powerful. I know you want to reach your mountaintop. I know you know you’ve been enlisted for greatness. I know you are one of the rare breed that is doing special things. And one of the most special of all is being a brilliant listener. Get to your Next Level of Listening. Master that art. It’ll rock your world.
Watched a road crew at work this morning while walking to a meeting. The team leader was having a bad day. A bus driver was hitting her horn because a traffic barricade was in her way. The team leader yelled, threw a fist into the air and then kicked over the barricade. One angry man.
Then he started yelling at his crew. Mocking them. Spitting out his venom. They looked down at the ground and kept on working. I sense they felt humiliated by the public spectacle. But the team leader continued his rant. Pouring his toxic waste out onto the busy street. Tonight he’ll blame his crew for a low-performance day.
The big idea: your team will never be greater than you are (even if you are not the team leader). You set the level of how high you all can fly. Each finger affects the strength of the hand. When organizations bring me in to help teams get to world-class performance and results, I gently remind everyone in the room that everything begins with you. Forget blaming others – that’s just excusing yourself. And it all begins with your inner world. External leadership begins with internal mastery. You can’t help in the building of an extraordinary organization until you commit to becoming an extraordinary person.
That team leader on the street might want to look in the mirror. Might want to clean up his own messes. Deal with his personal anger. Work on his limiting beliefs. Develop his own character. “Soft stuff Robin.” Nope – I don’t think so. It’s hard stuff. The stuff that ultimately drives better business results. Boosts bottom line. Gets organizations to greatness. And did I mention that it all starts with you? Because it does.
Just came up with an insight that I think might be rich for you. It’s about the distinction between worry and reflection. So many thought leaders counsel us to avoid living in the past. “Live in the now,” they advise. “Enjoy the moment.” Well, I get what they are saying. But isn’t there something good about going back and delighting in the delicious moments of the journey we’ve arrived from?
Which brings me to worry versus reflection. Whether to revisit the past – in my mind – depends on your intention. If your intention and reason to go back into your past is to dwell on bad things and to worry over things you cannot change and to rehash painful times, then I suggest it’s an unhealthy act. But, if your intention – in going back in time – is to reflect on the lessons events have taught you and to grow in wisdom and to savor the precious memories that you were blessed enough to experience well then I think it’s good.
I guess what I’m inviting you to consider is that it’s a waste of time to fret and regret over things you’ve done that cannot be changed. But that it’s a fantastic use of time to bask in the good times, feel gratitude for them and use your past to serve your future rise.
Michelangelo was asked how he created his masterpieces. He replied that he simply saw the works of art embedded within the slabs of marble and then set about chipping away at everything that wasn’t of that work of art. Which brings me to you. And your ready-made-greatness.
Just maybe your job is not to become someone other than who you currently are. Just maybe, the Main Aim is to access and remember and reconnect with the best that already resides within you. In this very moment. Right here. Right now. And how can you recall your personal greatness? By starting the process of chipping away everything that is not truly you. The fears you have picked up. The limiting beliefs you have accumulated. The false assumptions that divorce you from your most authentic – and staggeringly brilliant – self.
Self-remembering (and personal leadership) is a journey. Took you many years to forget the personal greatness that you once knew as a kid (before the disappointments and negativity of the world began to blind you to the truth of your bigness). You may have been thinking you have been designed for mediocrity for 30 or 40 or 50 years. So that reconnection with your best won’t happen in a week. But chip away – bit by bit- at everything that is not that work of art – day by day. You know that small, daily improvements stack into massive results over time (that idea just might transform your life so please let it linger).
The difference between a remarkable life and a mediocre one is not nearly as large as you might imagine. Nope, we all pretty much start out with the same raw stuff. Most of us are cut from the same cloth. We all can be a hero if we choose. And it just isn’t that hard. Greatness comes by doing a few small and smart things each and every day. Comes from taking little steps, consistently. Comes from a making a few small chips against everything in your professional and personal life that is ordinary, so that a day eventually arrives when all that’s left is The Extraordinary. Just something to think about. From a man who wants you to shine.
Most organizations don’t fall apart as a result of one big blow. Most relationships don’t end because of one grand argument. Most lives don’t fall to pieces due to one sad event. No, I suggest to you that sustained failure happens as the consequence of small, daily acts of neglect that stack up over time to lead to a blow up – and break down.
Remember the camel’s back metaphor. Pieces of straw kept on getting piled onto the poor guy’s back. Each piece – alone – was light and caused little harm. But every hour, piece after piece got put on the camel’s back until it was ready to break. And then, one day, a single piece broke it.
I call this Camel’s Back Syndrome. All about how little neglect inevitably leads to businesses and lives of striking disrepair. The best do sweat the small stuff. They get the seemingly insignificant details right. They have the discipline to shine at the baby things which they get gives birth to spectacular giant things. And so can you.
The very nature of a visionary is that they see within what no one else sees without. It’s like an inside joke that only they get: they see this vivid dream/opportunity/better in their imaginations and then spend their days breathing life into it – even though everyone around them thinks they’re wasting their time/eccentric/foolhardy or crazy. Think Gandhi. Think Edison. Think Disney. Think JK.
JK Rowling was a single mother struggling to pay her bills when the idea of a book about a misfit young wizard downloaded into her mind over a 4 hour train ride. She says on her website that that she feels blessed she had no pen with her at the time – writing down all the miraculous ideas that were coming to her would have slowed down the flow. Once the manuscript was done, her agent began to send Harry Potter to publishers with the hope of getting a contract. Most rejected the book instantly. And that’s my point – about visionaries – they see this obvious opportunity that most around them just don’t get. Imagine that. Rejecting Harry Potter. Thinking no one would buy the book. Missing out on one of the bestselling books in the history of the world.
Being a visionary and stepping into the higher reaches of your life necessarily means that people will question you. They will not get where you are going. They might call you odd or foolish or unorthodox. Perfect. Thank them for the compliments and keep doing what you need to do. To get to where you need to get. To live your dreams. And realize your vision. The world will be a better place once you do. Makes me think of the words of Maya Angelou: “if one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can transform a million realities.” Beautiful.
Imagine living in a world where every movie you see has the same story line. Imagine if the only choice of drink was water and the only flavor of ice cream was chocolate (okay maybe that one wouldn’t be so bad). Imagine that every conversation with every person made the same point. And imagine that every day had the same ending and that every thought reflected the same idea. There’s a point I’m getting to. Please stay with me.
When I go into organizations to help inspire, develop and elevate employees so they play at world-class levels (and I’ve been crisscrossing this planet on this Leadership Crusade for nearly ten years now), I often see mission statements espousing a respect for diversity. “We at ClientCo value differences and cherish diversity.” And, most of the companies I work with actually do. But here’s my question: Do you?
Do you really get the brilliance of diversity? When you really think about it, it’s the people who see the world through a different set of lenses that actually serve to stretch your thinking and provoke new understanding (and provoke they do). Sure they irritate you. They drive you crazy. Because they are not like you. But may I suggest that behind your irritation is the emotion of fear (big idea there). Not the terror on the darkness type of fear. More a fear of the unknown or a fear of having to leave the Safe Harbor of The Known (the worldview that you’ve had your whole life) and maybe see a new way of seeing things. No one likes to leave the shores of the home they know. Always brings up fear. Scary yes. For your ultimate growth and good. Absolutely. Never run away from what will help you grow and step into your greatness – no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel (that’s where courage and your natural bravery needs to be called into service).
Yup-diversity helps us in ways we cannot fathom. Makes us better (by a lot). Those different people with different perspectives and different skin colors and different languages can equip you with your MILs (Most Important Lessons). The people and experiences that are different offer you the gorgeous opportunity to rethink the assumptions and closely held opinions you have lived your life under. Takes a ton of outright courage to open your mind – as well as your heart – and listen to what they tell you. Uber-uncomfortable to think that you might not be right. That the way you see the world (or whatever) just might be flawed in some way. Or that there may be a better way (of thinking or behaving or working or living). But unless you are willing to empty the cup that is full, no more can enter. And you just might miss out on your greatest possibilities. And your best life.