Leaders and Heroes Overcome and Stand Out

The Victory of a Moment for Heroes

graduation day photoThis week we celebrated as my two youngest graduated high school. One after the other they walked from behind the curtain, accepted their diploma, and strode off the stage. It was incredibly exciting for them and joyful for Sherry and I.

As mundane as that sounds, it was a triumphant event. It is also a big reason why I gave the title to this post that you see.

It requires a little background, so bear with me.

You Want Humble Beginnings?

All our children were adopted from foster care. Adopted children always have challenges. Some have have enjoyed the benefit of being adopted as a newborn and thus never know any environment than the one with their adoptive parents. Ours were exposed to other environments less favorable, in some cases deplorable.

My two youngest, a boy and a girl, were both adopted at the age of two. In fact, their birthdays are exactly two weeks apart. We have jokingly called them “The Twins” even though they came from different birth families. Their backgrounds were varied.

My son was born in a house full of neglect and squalid conditions. There was also a very inconsistent adult influence. He came to us just as he turned two. Over time we saw that he was speech delayed and even later found out that he is on the Autism Spectrum. The results of that and other disorders created difficulties with relationships with teachers and others. Too many others around him and too much change created chaos for him. Changing situations created a lot of “do-overs” for him.

My youngest daughter was born premature and drug-addicted. Spent months in an incubator. Pediatric Asthma and prone to Febrile Seizures. When she first came into our lives we wondered if she was ever going to talk. Now we wonder if she is ever going to stop!

History Does Not Dictate Your Future

Both have risen from those backgrounds to become high school graduates with college ahead. He wants to become an engineer and she wants to become a voice-over artist for Disney.

They are My Heroes

because they overcame the odds. Like many, they navigate the challenges of daily life. But think about running a race where you have to start 20 yards behind everyone else. You have a lot of space to make up just to catch everyone else.

So Why Am I Sharing This Here?

You mean, other than a Blatant Dad-Brag?

I’m not above it and happy to do so. I am extremely proud of what they have done and who they are.

It is also because as a leader it tells me that where and what I have been in the past doesn’t keep me from being what I should be going forward.

If you have been the harsh, task-oriented leader in the past (or even the present) where employees were just assets – you are not doomed to stay that way.

If you have focused only on your own success, hogged all the credit and disseminated all the blame – today is the day you can start a new path. 

Nothing condemns you to repeat your failures except your unwillingness to take a new direction.

If you are ready to become the leader your employees want to willingly follow – know that you can.

What’s holding you back?

Inspired Leaders Have GRIT

On October 10, 2014 I was blessed to be a host for L2:Learn-Lead, the new annual leadership simulcast produced by the John Maxwell Company.  In the last post, I shared the opening keynote by John C. Maxwell to initiate this series.  Today, I want to share some of the thoughts from Linda Kaplan Thaler.

About Linda

Linda Kaplan ThalerLinda is the co-founder and head of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, a marketing and advertising firm.  She is definitely a leader within her industry; creative and innovative.  She knows how to get things done.  Among the many claims to fame she has is the creation of the Kodak Moment, the AFLAC Duck, and the Toys R Us Kid jingle.  She is also co-author of a few books, including The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.

GRIT Creates Extraordinary

Linda spoke on GRIT: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary.  GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Industriousness, and Tenacity.  Here are some of Linda’s thoughts from her talk:
  • 98% of highly successful people were considered average.
    • Walt Disney was fired from his first job for being “uncreative”
    • General Colin Powell was a C- student
    • Michael Jordan wasn’t good enough to make his high school varsity basketball team
    • What makes the difference is their GRIT.
[snaptweet]Anyone with perseverance and pluck can go from ordinary to extraordinary. -Linda Kaplan Thaler[/snaptweet]
  • If you are brave enough, stop dreaming and start doing!
[snaptweet]I never spent one minute dreaming about success. I worked for it. -Estee Lauder[/snaptweet]
  • Overprepare and outwork everyone else
  • We get easily distracted and need to refocus on where we are going.

Four Keys to Help Stay on Track

  1. SOLVE SMALL PROBLEMS – when you resolve the small problems that pop up regularly, it prepares you to solve the big problems.
  2. MAKE YOUR BED – Military recruits are taught early on how to make their bed first thing every morning and to make it neat and precise.  Part of the reason is discipline but a good deal of it is that you accomplished something immediately.  If you accomplish nothing else that day, you made your bed.
  3. FINISH WHAT YOU START – With busy schedules and competing priorities, it’s easy to jump from one thing to another and not really finish anything.  Successful people finish.
  4. FORGET WILLPOWER – No one has enough willpower to stay the course consistently simply based on their will.  Develop habits and create situations that take willpower out of the equation.
Next post will cover Tim Sanders thoughts from L2:Learn-Lead.

Action Items:

  1. How will you apply this to your life?
  2. What do you need to change?
  3. What should you share or teach to others?

Hitting the Wall

Do you find yourself, or someone you work with, becoming a clock watcher?  You know, waiting for the hands of the clock to point to quitting time so you can hurry out the door and do something exciting.

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Dog SingingIt’s been said in various forms that runners run, writers write, teachers teach, and speakers speak.  And they do it because they have a passion for doing it.  They can’t imagine doing anything else.  They can’t imagine not having that as a part of their lives.
You may remember the scene from the movie, Sister Act 2, starring Whoopie Goldberg.  She is dressed as a nun and talking to Rita, a girl who is the best singer in the choir.  Rita has quit, pretending like she didn’t care, even though it is quite obvious she loves to sing.  Whoopie tells her  “If you wake up in the morning, and you can’t think of anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl!

It’s passion.

Passion provides clarity, it helps us discern direction, and it fuels our actions.  When we are passionate about something, we feel compelled to act towards it.  The more that passion builds, the more we feel compelled to take action.
The opposite effect is, one that I have seen too many times in too many organizations, is people becoming passion-less. They have absolutely no passion for what they are doing and they become like the walking dead.  In fact, John Maxwell said that passionless people ARE dead, they just haven’t made it official yet.
So remember this:
[snaptweet]No matter what your formula for success is, if it doesn’t factor in passion, it just doesn’t add up.[/snaptweet]

So how you discover or re-awaken that passion?

  • WHAT MAKES YOU SING, WHAT MAKES YOU CRY – Look at your daily or weekly activities.  You will find your passion in either the things that make you shout for joy when you do them or the things the tug at your heart so much that you feel compelled to action.  You will discover the little nuggets of passion inside these things.
  • WHAT’S THE END RESULT YOU DESIRE – What do you want to accomplish?  In a business environment, that doesn’t mean job description or corporate objectives. It means what is the end result, what do you really want to see happen here?
    For example, for me what I want to see happen is that I manage to inspire people and businesses to engage in continual, daily growth so that they become the best that they can be; they can realize their potential and become more effective and more profitable at what they do.  And that drives me to do what I do.
  • WHAT CAN YOU LET GO OF TO DO MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO – While it’s true that passion fuels action, it’s also true that action fuels passion.  The more you do those things you enjoy doing or feel compelled to do, the more your passion builds for them and the more effective you are going to become.

What about you?  Share here how you feel about what you do and how you build your passion.

No Success Without External Focus

Success can be a very elusive thing.  It’s daunting, frustrating, it seems to quite often be just out of reach.
We desire success and pursue it, yet somehow success keeps getting away just before we catch it.
mouse seeks a cookie video - success focus

Elusive Success

There is a video on YouTube that was popular for a while and went viral.  It shows a mouse attempting to steal a cookie that is twice the size of the mouse and take it back to his hiding place.  We can begin to feel like this mouse must have felt as attempt after attempt resulted in failure.  This grand prize and yet we can’t bring it home.

Is Success the Focus?

Success can elusive, especially when we focus on success alone.
And that’s the problem.
When we focus simply on being a success, it’s very hard to be a success.  Because that’s all it becomes about.  Our dreams can make us focus on the inside sometimes, but that’s not what dreams are meant to do.
Our dreams aren’t meant to add value to us, our dreams are meant to add value to other people.
So if you learn to point your dreams and your actions outwardly –  if you get an external focus – and learn how to care about other people, learn to focus on other people with your dreams, then you are going to see significantly more success than what you have seen in the past – all by creating an external focus.
When we place our focus on others, we learn to love others.  We learn to care for others.  We get to know their stories.  We get to know their hopes and dreams.  We begin to see value in them.
When we see value in people, we are then in a position to add value to them.
By adding value to others, we create value in ourselves.  Once that happens, success will follow AS LONG AS WE REMAIN OPEN TO RECEIVING THE VALUE OTHERS WANT TO GIVE US.
But if we focus only on success, it remains out of reach.
Success, you see, is not a goal or a direct result of organized actions.  Success is a by-product of our behaviors, attitudes, and actions on behalf of those we have chosen to serve.  When we combine the power of our unique gifts and apply them to add value to other people – to create significance in their lives – success is a natural result.

Action Steps

Here’s a few thing to get you started in that direction:

  1. CARE FOR THE PEOPLE YOU ENCOUNTER.  Whether you encounter them once in a lifetime or whether you encounter them on a daily basis, learn to care for those people.  Learn to connect with them.  To find out more about them.  To be naturally curious about other people.  And from that, you are going to be able to seek to add value to other people to make a difference in their lives.
  2. LISTEN TO PEOPLE.  Listen to their concerns, listen to what their dreams are.
  3. SHARE YOUR DREAM WITH THEM. You may be able to build relationships out of that which may seem to be a one-time thing but become lifelong, mutually beneficial relationships.  People can’t add value to you unless you open up to them and make yourself vulnerable by sharing your passions and dreams.

If you need help getting started or even continuing your journey, I would love the opportunity to walk along side you.  Call me at 321-355-2442 and let’s see how I can help.

Stepping Out in Faith

One of my favorite parts in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is towards the end where Indiana is trying to get into the room where the Holy Grail is.  He knows he has to reach it in order to help his father, who lies bleeding from a gun shot wound in a cave in the mountain.  As he gets closer to the cave where the grail is supposed to be, he reaches a large chasm that he must cross to reach it.  The chasm is wide and there is no jumping across it and it seems to drop down with no bottom.  His only hint is clue he got from ancient scrolls that says, “Only with a leap from the lion’s den will he prove his worth.”  Indiana has doubts and hesitates and then his father, almost telepathically, murmurs, “you must believe, boy, you must believe!”  Indiana steadies his heart and then takes a step.  He has to simply step out in faith that there is something out there that will support him.  It was a leap of faith for him!  And it worked!  He found that there was a camouflaged bridge to convey him to the other side.   You can see the scene here:  Leap of Faith Scene
When crisis hits is when our faith is put to the test.  Anyone can believe what they see or when the evidence supports it; although there are certainly cynical people that don’t even do that much.  It’s the moments when everything we see and all of the evidence seems to be against us that we must believe completely that we can accomplish our goals.  We have to engage in a leap of faith that things are going to work out as long as we continue to work towards them.  There are going to be moments where we are growing, moments that are going to test our faith.  We have to step out in that leap of faith and trust that things will work out.
In the Bible it tells the story of Jesus walking on the water.  Peter asks to join him and Jesus simply says, “come”.  Peter steps out of the boat onto the swelling waves and takes a few steps and then….falls into the water.  Peter took a leap of faith that he too could walk on water like Jesus.  Once he realized what he was doing, his mind started putting in limiting beliefs and into the drink he went.
Like Peter, we need to be reminded to keep the faith and step out of the boat; confident that we will reach our goal.
Here are some things to help you keep going and keep working towards those goals:
  • Keep Moving!  Don’t Stop!
  • Don’t buy into what others say about you.  There will be doubters but don’t let that stop you.
  • Use Daily Positive Self-Talk greatly helps you maintain the right attitude.
  • Focus on your strengths.  Know what it is that you are good at doing and find people to come and work with you whose strengths overcome your weaknesses.
  • Commit to daily growth.  Become a 1%er!  If you commit yourself to grow daily then you can overcome the obstacles that get in your way.