Blog

The good and the bad

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To do great things, we need to love both. We need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks…and endure them well.

Come what may, and love it.

If we say that we love what we do, that means that we need to love all that it entails. Not just the perks of the job, but also the occupational hazards.

Let go of your expectations and accept what happens to you. Soon, you will realize that there are just some things outside your control. But, there are plenty of other things that are very much within your control: namely, how you choose to react. It also helps if you think about ‘next steps’ in terms of what you get to do instead of what you must do.

It’s life. It happens. Might as well have a good attitude about it.

Beyond urgent

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What’s more important: The issue? Or how we deal with the issue?

What’s happening right now has repercussions. Sure, the moment can be stressful. It usually takes quick thinking and sharp acumen. But it’s tempting to get lost in the minutiae when there are bigger things at play. And, whatever’s happening right now, the issue at hand—while important—isn’t as vital as our capacity to lay a foundation and create a system to deal with the next hundred issues.

By all means, don’t put the urgent on the back-burner—what i’m suggesting here is to take some extra time so that you’re not only getting it right, but also creating a process so that it doesn’t happen again.

If you find yourself consistently being a victim to circumstance, or getting blindsided by unforeseen issues, it’s probably an operational issue. Whatever system you have in place currently, isn’t detecting the obstacles soon enough and it’s not efficient enough to recalibrate once problems arise. Which is exactly when you need focus more on the process than on whatever ‘urgent’ thing is happening at the moment—getting the process right will always be more important that the problem we’ve got right now.

Worse case, it’s got us collaborating again, whereas before we spent most of our time arguing about the issue. Best case, well…

Sitzfleisch

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In english it means Staying Power.

Another word for it is perseverance.

It’s persisting at something over and over again for a long period of time. It takes courage, creativity, and determination. It’s the long game.

The Haitians would say: Deye mon, gen mon – Beyond mountains, there are mountains. For life isn’t about overcoming one obstacle to achieve one goal. It’s about many.

Whatever you want to call it, if you practice it, then keep practicing it, you will be all the better for it.

The middle ground

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You hear world-class athletes say this all the time: not too high, not too low. It’s about keeping a level head. Not getting too excited when things go your way and not getting too down when things don’t.

The thing is, uncontrolled ambition is easy. Anyone can keep their foot on the gas pedal. Complacency is easy, too. The trick is to find the right balance between the two. It’s about applying the right amount of pressure at the right time during the right circumstances.

The “Golden Mean” as Aristotle put it. It’s what makes excellence so difficult. He wrote: “In each case, it is hard work to find the intermediate; for instance, not everyone, but only one who knows, finds the midpoint in a circle.”

Find your middle ground. Check yourself when you feel like you’re getting reckless, realize when you are shying away from responsibility. What lies in the middle is courage.

Find your middle ground. Know when to speak up, sense when to keep your mouth shut. What lies in the middle is respect.

Find your middle ground. Look for opportunities in obstacles, beware of pitfalls in possibilities. What lies in the middle is mastery.

How to find a needle in a haystack

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We all have them. Needles we need to find. Haystacks to sort through.

For some of us, those needles are relationships, innovations, breakthroughs.

For others, those needles are goals, quotas, or projects. Whatever your needle is, there will come a time when you will need to find it in the most unfortunate circumstances, improbable scenarios, and unlikely obstacles.

Some will find their needles, others will not. The difference between finding what you are looking for, accomplishing what you set out to do and not, comes down to one word—persistence.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. The men, women, and organizations that have gone on to accomplish great things didn’t get there because they just happened upon ‘their needles’ in the thick of a ‘haystack,’ they got there because they were more persistent than everyone else.

Genius is often just persistence in disguise

Nikola Tesla spent a year in Thomas Edison’s lab during the invention of the lightbulb. He once grumbled that “if Edison needed to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed at once to simply examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes. That job you are looking for, that book you are writing, that deal you are closing, that mission are you embarking on, that person you are influencing, that thing you are learning—persist.

Work works—it’s simple, but not easy.

The thing that will set you apart from everyone else will be your ability to tolerate the difficulty and mundaneness that will certainly arise as you continue toward solving the problem in front of you.

Here’s something that helps me. I keep telling myself that ‘it’s supposed to be hard.’ So, settle in, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and double down your efforts on finding your needle in a haystack.

Inalienable responsibility

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If you have the power to make rules, the rules are your responsibility.

And all of us have the power to make rules. We make them for ourselves and others every day.

If we don’t, deciding not to is still a choice. Doing nothing is also a choice. By saying nothing, creating nothing, helping no one, you are making rules that lay the foundation for how you act and how you are perceived.

The CEO of you

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What would your approval rating be?

Chances are, not very good. How do you talk to yourself? How well are you managing your health? How much time are you wasting doing things that don’t matter? How much blame are you placing on others? How much ownership you are taking over yourself and what happens to you?

Are you constantly learning and developing your skills? Staying positive and encouraging yourself? Planning out your career path? Focusing on the daily objectives while keeping in mind your long-term vision?

—Like most employees expect from their CEOs?

You are the CEO of you. If you can’t manage yourself the way you expect to be managed, then what are you complaining about?

It starts with you. Managing is hard, and managing yourself is even harder. But it’s a worthy pursuit—for there are few things that are more important to learn.

Liked? Or respected?

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When it comes to seeing real change, too often, we let the need to be liked get in the way.

Our ego wants us to be liked. It begs us to seek validation, to put things off, to double down on bad decisions, to avoid asking the questions we don’t want to hear the answers to.

Being respected is the long game. It takes time. It’s something you earn as opposed to something that’s given.

Failure is going to happen. You’re going to do things that don’t work, be places that aren’t a good fit, make decisions that have poor repercussions, have unfortunate circumstances befall you. It might be your fault, it might not be, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now that matters.

Will your next decision be based on what others will think of it? Or will you dig deep, reflect, and take ownership?

Write what you would like to read

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What "work" would you do even if you didn't have to?

For me, it was writing. I have been writing in my journal for close to ten years now without missing a day. I never considered if people would eventually read it or not. It has been something I've looked forward to doing each morning and evening (and sometimes throughout the day). It's encouraging to look back at the progress I've made and read everything I've learned.

My daily practice of writing every day has now turned into this blog, my website, and a few books I'm working on. It's been scary to put my thoughts out there. I know I can be vague and sometimes speak in riddles, but that's how I like to write. Turns out, it's what people like to read; short, meaningful sentences that hopefully make you think.

"Find something that you love and do it every day. Do that for the rest of your life and eventually, the world will change." - Macklemore 

The humble pursuit

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Marina Abramović stated:

If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.

Whether it be in sports, at work, or in other pursuits, the only thing that will every truly stop you, is yourself; to be more specific, your ego.

Ask the questions you don’t want to hear the answers to. Do they things others aren’t willing to do. Don’t make up for your own insecurities by criticizing others or looking for shortcuts.

Keep at it. Be humble.

Unlocking potential

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I have a friend who has more money than he knows what to do with. He recently bought a new iMac—the $5,000 one. The one that was made for programmers, videographers, and designers. And he uses it solely to watch Netflix and answer emails! He has no idea what kind of power lies inside that machine. And, frankly, he doesn’t care. He got it because it looks nice on his desk and it keeps up the appearance that he’s on the forefront of innovation.

It’s kind of like someone—who doesn’t know how (or like) to fly—buying a private jet, parking it in their backyard and using it as a showpiece and maybe a guest house. That would be a shame! What a waste!

But how many of us do the same with our own potential? How many of us have heard those voices inside our heads and ignored them because we’re scared?

You were designed to do so much more than to ‘sit in someone’s backyard as a showpiece.’ You were made to ‘fly.’ And you’re lying to yourself if you think you don’t have what it takes.

Learn more today about the world than you knew yesterday. Create something meaningful. Unlock the potential inside you.

Chopping down the last tree

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Did the folks on the once-great Easter Island know what they were doing to their lush, beautiful island when they started taking down all the trees? Or were they too concerned with short-term results? At which point did they realize what they had done? What were they thinking as they chopped down the last tree?

Our society loves short-term successes. We are impressed with those who 'burst onto the scene' or 'become great overnight.' So we fall for it. We focus on how quickly we can get there rather than on how well we are doing it. But in doing so, are we (metaphorically, of course) chopping down our own forest?

Any way you slice it, it's going to take effort. Whether it's doing it fast or doing it right, the amount of energy spent will be the same. In fact, I think most would agree (especially those who have gone through the painful experience of chopping down their last tree) that it will take less time and less effort to do things the difficult way—the 'long' way—than it will to cut corners, take shortcuts, 'chop down trees at an unsustainable rate,' all in the name of looking good today, instead of building for tomorrow. 

When you're near the end...

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Our greatest threat lies at the finish line. It’s when victory seems inevitable and there’s nothing that can stop you now. It’s when you are the most vulnerable. It’s when you have let your guard down. It’s when your ego steps in and takes over. 

Like a football player dropping the ball right before the goal line to celebrate. Like the Trojans allowing a giant horse into their walls as a token of surrender from the Greeks. Like Odysseus taking a nap when Ithaca was in sight only to have his men open a bag of wind and blow his ship back across the very oceans, they had already sailed. 

There are two forces in the universe: one that wants you to succeed and one that doesn’t. They both know WHEN you’re about to strike gold, to cross the finish line, to be victorious, and they both are telling you two very different things. The first is pleading for you to push a little harder, focus a little more, and be extra cautious near the end. The second is puffing up your ego, turning up the dance music for the celebration party, and telling you to relax; “look! The finish line is in sight!”

You’ve made it this far. Which force are you listening to? Now is not the time to nap, celebrate, or prematurely drop the ball. Those can all come later, but not yet. Not until you have crossed the finish line. 

Why?

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If you look back at your life, there is a pattern. Seemingly random, interconnected dots that have created a portrait of you who are today. There are things you have really enjoyed doing and things you have not. You have been “drawn” to learn important things, acquire certain skills, and meet specific people. Through experience and time, you have developed into a person influenced by the things you have done, seen, heard, and thought. The accumulation of these thoughts and experiences have translated into your “why.” 

Why do you get up in the morning? What causes you to do what you do? Why do you like or dislike certain things? What motivates you to push harder, improve, or stand up for something? 

Taking some time to reflect on your “why” is one of the most important things you can do. Sunday’s are great days to do this. If you know your “why” you can lead, teach, inspire, mentor, innovate, disrupt, learn, create, save.

You may already know your “why” but what does that look like in terms of your goals? Articulating your “why” can help guide you to set proper goals and design your life. Try going to some quiet place today instead of turning on Netflix to write down why you do what you do. Take even more time to set some goals for yourself. Then put those goals somewhere you can see them every day. You will be rewarded for your efforts. 

The difference of a day

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Sometimes, that's all it takes.

Having a bad attitude about things? Give it a day. 

Not seeing the kind of success you'd like to see? Recalibrate. Set some goals. See how you feel about it tomorrow. 

Unsure on a particular decision you have to make? Do some writing. Call a mentor. Read or listen to something that moves you. You'll know what to do tomorrow. 

What a difference a day makes. 

Getting nowhere, fast

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Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
— Lao Tzu

As opposed to most of society and industry which keeps going faster and faster without getting anything done. 

Good things happen in their own time. Don't try to force it. And, most of the time, the things that matter most are usually right in front of us. 

In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.
— Albert Schweitzer

So slow things down. Take a look around. If it seems like people are going faster than you, doing more, or are further ahead, consider how much they are missing along the way. It's not just about patience. It's about determining the difference between the things that can be accelerated and the things that shouldn't, then acting accordingly. 

Your gift

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Because we were all born with one. Were you born to inspire, teach, lead, write, paint, invent things, research things, discover things? 

The only way to find out is through action.  

If you fail to yield to the silent whisperings - the subtle hints, promptings, or perceptions, to do a certain thing, to live a certain way, to change direction, to begin a different journey - then you are not only doing yourself a disservice, but also the world. 

You don’t know unless you try. Try. Try something. That is all that is asked of you. 

Mindset

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Because that is more than half the battle. A majority of the work you will do will be predicated on your ability to master your mindset. It will either take you to new heights or drag you down. 

It’s the mindset of noticing things, learning, observing. It’s the mindset of believing in yourself and others. It’s the mindset of understanding you limits then pushing them. It’s the mindset of living up to your potential.  

Trust in the process. Visualize often. Be accountable. Love.  

What it takes

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In any hero's journey, the hero—be it you, me, Luke Skywalker, Moana, Dorothy, or Rocky—first receives a call. A call to be someone better or do something bigger. Although the journey will surely include more challenges along the way, the most difficult obstacle any hero or heroine will face is making the decision to answer the call. 

Deciding that you have what it takes. 

Because after that, nothing remains the same. You leave the world you have grown accustomed to and enter a new reality. One in which you have eliminated distractions.

But you can only embark on your hero's journey one you have stopped welcoming the bright shiny objects into your life. The things that distract you from doing work that matters.

Priorities: the hardest decision is the first one. Choosing the useful things over the things that demand more attention than necessary.