I’ve been in a very difficult period of transition lately. Over the past three weeks, it’s gotten even more difficult and is really becoming overwhelming. Especially during this time, I found the following poem to be both challenging and encouraging. The Calf Path, by Sam Foss, was mentioned by a commenter on Leadership Freak. By his reference, the poem is found here.
One of my favorite things to do is watch failure happen. That doesn’t sound very leader-like, does it? I’m not saying I like to trip toddlers or give team members impossible assignments. But how we handle failure is an immediate barometer of our leadership.
Not your typical pump-me-up motivational line? Death is hardly a popular topic, even among those with strong religious beliefs. Once in a while, though, it hits us square in the face.
I’ve been dealing with a weird medical thing for about 8 months. At first the doctors thought it was a fungal infection of some kind (how’s your breakfast?), but it just won’t respond to anti-fungal meds. This past week, my doctor took a biopsy.
“Well, it could be [insert doctorese], which is no big deal. It could be just a weird fungal thing. I’m also going to have it tested for Lymphoma. It’s a long shot, but some forms get away from us.”
“Ok,” I responded almost with a shrug. He’s the doctor. The way he said Lymphoma, though, led me to Google it. And all of a sudden I could be fighting a nasty blood cancer.
Before I wax too dramatic, I don’t have a diagnosis yet. The biopsy will take a while. But I don’t need to have cancer to know that I’m dying. All of us are.
In my time as a Funeral Director, I saw children who didn’t get their first breath and centenarians take their last. There’s not a rule on when we’re born or when we’ll die.
We read about people all the time who decided to live their last year or two really big. I won’t offer you a six-step program to do that, I’ll just ask you one question: Why wait?
The biopsy could come back looking really ugly with some form of prognosis. But whether it does or not, I refuse to wait any more to live life big.
I want to build a legacy every day. I want to leave an impression on a LOT of people. I want to raise kids who do the same. And I refuse to wait “until I’m dying” to do any of it.
Let’s quit ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. Let’s straighten our backs, look Death in the face and say “Challenge Accepted.” Let’s not treat it like a stalking predator but like a constant reminder to do it now.
I’m not telling you to sell all of your possessions and move to the islands. I’m telling you to do that thing you know you ought to do. I’m telling you to give and serve and love and live…before you die.
Remember the first time you did something you thought you couldn’t do? It was exhilarating! You were unstoppable. Look out world, there was a new Sheriff in town.
Only it wasn’t long before your badge was ripped off. Motivationally destitute, you’re wondering how you ended up in your own jail cell! There’s a new Sheriff in town, and he’s big and mean and ugly.
His name is:
- Physical Ability
There’s something you know you want to do– know you ought to do– but won’t. One or more of these limits are taunting you from outside the jail cell, swinging the keys they took from your belt.
The remarkable thing is that all of these things are tools. Each of the limits you’re under should contribute to your success! Instead, you’ve magnified their influence on your life and handed over your badge. You’ve allowed these limits– and yourself– to believe that they get a vote.
But you were elected by a majority of one: YOU!
Not only are you the Sheriff in town, you’re the Mayor, the Judge, and the Sanitation Worker. It’s time to pack up the trash you believe about your limits and haul it to the dump.
Turn these tools around and use them to accomplish your goals and dreams. Don’t allow limits to use you to accomplish your defeat and ho-hummery.
You might not control your job or other circumstances, but when it comes down to it your only limit is YOU. Who controls that?
As I prepare for an opportunity this week, I came across Peter Shallard’s ebook Seek & Destroy: How to Identify Entrepreneurial Obstacles and Overcome Them. Bam! An action book for all of us crazy enough to think we can do it on our own.
Peter Shallard is a psychologist who’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs reach the next level. His tagline is great– The Shrink for Entrepreneurs. But his book (and blog) is a great read for anyone who needs help pushing past a fear or perceived obstacle.
In the opening sections of his book, Shallard shares his unique path to the present. He reveals a deep desire to help entrepreneurs that endures through this free ebook and an offer for a free personal assessment. Of the ten roadblocks, at least three really spoke to me. In the book, Pete shows you how to get over:
- Fear of Success
- The Plateau
- Fear of Starting
- The Roller Coaster
- That Knot in Your Gut
- The Blame Game
I love Pete’s writing style. I’ve paraphrased his ten roadblocks, but the book is written in plain English that’s easy to “get” on the first read and is extremely relatable. Through each section, we get the benefit of a psychologist’s experience– both with science and with clients! Bonus: Pete’s own business experience makes him uniquely qualified to speak from a place at once clinical and real-world.
Pete doesn’t pull any punches in this book; his practical advice isn’t softened up by an “it’s-not-that-bad” attitude. Once again, this book is available fo’ free. It’s a short, easy read. Curl up on your own couch and let the Shrink for Entrepreneurs help you unpack what’s got you stuck.
Get the book on Pete’s website.
My home state: Arkansas. It makes my heart bleed blue and white to see Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club dropping the ball so hard. If they would let me, I’d lead a workshop for any supervisors and/or managers at any Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club for free.
You’ve been cheated or taken advantage of. Someone– a boss, a coworker, a friend– took advantage of your trust. You made an agreement with someone and got screwed.
Get over it.
I’m not being mean here; I’m not just talking to you, either. I’m talking to myself.
For weeks I’ve been bitter, fuming over a broken agreement. What’s worse, the agreement was just between myself and someone I thought I could trust! The details weren’t outlined in a contract or announced to coworkers. I got screwed and nobody knows it.
When we’re wronged, there’s a yearning for some semblance of justice. We don’t want to get over it! We ache for validation. We beg God to smite the wrongdoer. We (read: I) want to see this “karma” thing take its toll.
Even now, I’d love to use my fledgling platform to articulate how badly I was wronged and who did it! But if I (read: we) allow these people to control my thoughts in such a way, I’m really doing wrong by myself.
Sinatra said: “The greatest revenge is massive success.” It’s true! In order to get there, we’ve got to take responsibility for our feelings. We’ve got to turn the focus from our transgressors to ourselves.
5 Steps to Get Over It:
- Reflect: So this seems a little cheesy, right. But time to grieve what we lost (even if it was just a delusion to begin with) is important. A period of reflection will allow you to examine the reality of what happened. In order to get over it, we’ve got to figure out what “it” really is or was in the first place.
- Recharge: This doesn’t have to take place in a secluded cabin in the woods. Whatever makes you feel alive, do that. Resist the urge to climb in a bed with a gallon of ice cream. That’s never a good place.
- Release: Some people require real, actual, tangible closure. If you need to approach the person who wronged you and express forgiveness, do that. But don’t make it about telling the world what that person did wrong. In my situation, I’m going to privately release and forgive my transgressor and work through the bitterness.
- Resolve: Decide in your heart to be better than your missed opportunity. Don’t make it an “I’ll show him!” Show yourself what you’re capable of. Dream big and get after it.
- Re-Get Over It: Couldn’t find a good re- word for this. But get over it! Whether you’re a teenager or a keenager (read: really old), you’ve only got so long to live. You’ve got even less time to be out there doing crazy dream-building stuff. Don’t allow someone else to make that time about them.
You’ve been lied to or done wrong in the past and it will probably happen again. “Get over it” is probably not a sympathetic or empathetic response. But it’s vital for your long-term success.
The quicker you can put a situation (and sometimes a person) in the rearview mirror, the better.
Each month, I meet with a group of men a little older than I am. We walk together through a curriculum designed to help us find our strengths and passions and act on them. These men challenge and encourage me.
Lately, I’ve been really struggling with a difficult (and ugly) career change. If I could make a clean break, it wouldn’t be so difficult, but because I’m married into the family that owns the business, well…I really can’t get away from it.
A struggle that has been attacking me, and that attacks us all, is the nagging jealousy of someone else’s success. When I was there, things weren’t allowed to go this smoothly. If I were there, I would make different (and better) decisions. If I were there….
As embarrassing as it is to admit, we might even wish that someone or something would fail without us.
The salve for these deep wounds of the heart came from an unlikely source. In a video session, Kay Warren introduced me to the WITTY principle found in John 21:22. Peter, asking Christ about the actions of another disciple, is gently rebuked. “If I want him to remain until I return, (W)hat (I)s (T)hat (T)o (Y)ou? As for you, follow me!”
Jesus basically says, “So what? Focus on what you’re doing.” Discover and find affirmation for your strengths and talents, line them up with your passions, and make it work for the greater good.
Whether you’re Christian or not, this is a powerful statement. By turning and coveting another person’s success or focusing your energy on wishing him ill, you’re short-changing your own success and working your own demise.
It’s a hard lesson to learn and a harder one to practice, but beginning today I will focus on what I can do to live my own purpose.
Were you expecting an Expectation, Part 2? Joke’s on you. Or me, since I felt led to explain the title-joke.
Here’s the deal: expectations are sometimes healthy. We expect certain things: good service for a fair price, excellent service for a little more; an honest effort and decent grades from our kids; respect and teamwork from our coworkers.
Certain expectations, though, destroy opportunities.
I have used the example of Jesus’s Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem to illustrate the danger of expectations. It wasn’t wrong for the people of Jerusalem to get their hopes up. In their excitement, though, they missed the whole point.
People on both sides of the Messiah argument knew what Jesus was “supposed” to do. They crammed him into their “Messiah,” “Prophet,” and/or “Heretic” boxes. The high priests and elders weighed and judged him, the young Jewish politicians clamored for a mighty deliverer from their earthly oppressors.
But he disappointed them all.
Even Pontius Pilate, one of my favorite New Testament characters, failed the test of Expectation. Believing he had the perfect solution, that perhaps he would save Jesus, Pilate put a no-brainer decision to the people expecting a rational answer. Who should go free: the notorious murderer or wandering miracle man?
But they disappointed him.
Opportunities are destroyed when we expect:
- Who He or She Should Be: It’s OK to expect a certain level of performance out of team members and friends. But when we try to fundamentally alter someone’s personality or trade out their strengths or hammer down their weaknesses, we’re wasting both parties’ time. Disappointment awaits! Get to know your team or group of friend’s strengths and play to those. You never know when your organization’s next visionary leader is sitting right in front of you. And you never will if you stifle her talents and shoot down her dreams.
- What They Will Say: Too often we try to get our way or fulfill our own expectations by manipulating others. We manufacture buy-in through one means or another. Sometimes we’re so confident of our influence that we resort to the madness of wholly-democratic decision-making. When it comes to your vision, you’ve got to create genuine buy-in, and it must come from you. When it’s time to do the right– not the popular– thing, you’ve got to get the people behind the decision, not hitch the outcome to a coin-toss.
Shocked, the disciples fled a crowd that had days earlier swept Jesus into town in a raucous parade. Incredulous, Pilate washed his hands and turned over an innocent man.
In both cases, it was the arrogance of certainty that turned expectation into a deadly disease. Jesus must be this or that. The masses must punish a heinous criminal.
Don’t allow that same spirit to come over your encounters with new team members or friends. Humble your heart with the knowledge that there is still much to learn.
Don’t shackle greatness with your lousy expectations.
Pessimistic? Maybe. But there are a lot of things I see happening in businesses (and lives!) that absolutely shred the future. And not in an 80’s hair-band guitar-solo way.
When I worked in food service, I worked with a lot of twenty-somethings who made terrible decisions at least twice a day. I’m guilty of my own mistakes, for sure, but I’ve seen a lot. As a developing leader, I’ve noticed that similarly terrible decisions are dressed up as progress in businesses all over the place!
Here’s a roadmap to totally derailing your future:
- Feed Your Bad Habits: In your personal life, this looks like some sort of addiction. Maybe it’s an addiction to alcohol or controlled substances. Maybe it’s an addiction to self (that’s mine) or recognition. In your business, this looks like rewarding poor performance or bad behavior. It looks like keeping a team member around for all the wrong reasons.
- Starve Your Talents: Sure, spend your time developing where you’re weak. These are “areas of opportunity,” right? Your greatest opportunity lies in developing your talents into strengths. (Hint: Ignore the sarcasm. Find your strengths.) In your business, you might believe that you’re only as strong as your weakest link. In the process, your strongest or most promising “links” are being ignored– and possibly leaving the chain!
- Work Harder!: You’ve encountered resistance. You’re behind on your sales forecast. Just put your head down, put your shoulder into it, and work harder! Drive your team harder to perform! Don’t stop and think or research your obstacles. Don’t evaluate your own performance. Just do more of what you’ve been doing. You’ll drive harder, faster, and longer toward that pit you’re headed to.
- Make Mo’ Money!: “What’s the main purpose of our business?” The training manager was talking to 20 or more new managers at a Wendy’s corporate center. “To make money!” Business is all about profit, right? Cut corners. Delay pay raises. Make those numbers. Personally, this may look like making decisions based on money alone. Higher-paying jobs might lure you into discontentment or make you into a scape-goat. But it’s a raise! It’s a promotion! Make mo’ money!
Losing the future is not an inevitable course. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to get on the wrong road, though. Each of these steps (or missteps) find their beginnings in not-half-bad advice. Just remember: it only takes one bad railroad tie to derail a train.