Category Archives: Leadership

The Art of Getting to Done: How failure is transformed into your greatest success.

Listen to this blog post here!
There’s probably no one better to hear these words from than the man who literally had everything that he knew to be certain in life, taken away from him in a not so subtle way before a global audience.

What does this have to do with the Art of Getting to Done?  Because we are all looking to accomplish a big project. If you keep a list of your 50,000′ foot goals in life – it’s right below having a healthy family and being a good partner or spouse or parent.  We all have a goal that we’d like to get done, but we’re afraid to take the big step toward getting it done.

But sitting down and writing a mind map, or putting together a list of next actions in Evernote, is only part of the process.  We actually have to be confident enough in our skills, sincere in our convictions, and stubborn in our passion to make it a reality.  Failing is one step in the right direction toward succeeding.

How is that possible?  I’ll share a story with you. My 5 year old and I agreed it was time for her to learn how to ride her bicycle without training wheels.  This is an incredibly scary initiative for both of us.  She was afraid of even getting on the bicycle and trying because of her fear of failing.  She was afraid to fall down.  Afraid to get hurt.  Afraid she wouldn’t have balance.  And afraid or her own disappointment and her misplaced thoughts of me being disappointed in her.  I reminded her in a way that a 5-year old could understand that the only way for her to succeed is to fall down a couple of times amd know that it’s not the end of the world.  Rather, by getting back on the bicycle seat, it will only give her more confidence that she can do it … and she did.

I’m reminded of this story every time I look at my own list.  I’ll then ask myself: what is behind my fear?  What is really stopping me?  Conan O’Brien was right in that it is only through true disappointment that you can gain clarity … and with clarity there comes conviction and true originality.  At the end of his speech he said, “Work hard. Be kind. And amazing things will happen.” And he’s right.

Your Next Action: Find some time to think about what your big project is that you’d like to accomplish?  What do you really want to do?  What’s stopping you? Maybe you are already there!  If so, we would all love to hear your stories below.


Getting to “real”. How to become more authentic.

New! Now you can listen to this post or download the mp3!

Human beings are not intrinsically selfish, which isolates us from others. We are essentially social animals who depend on others to meet our needs. We achieve happiness, prosperity and progress through social interaction. Therefore, having a kind and helpful attitude contributes to our own and others’ happiness.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama in a post on Google+, 11/2/11

It seems like I have been having more and more conversations lately with people who are all striving every day of their lives to “find their genuine” as my friend (and lately, my inspiration) Tara Rodden Robinson, the Productivity Maven says.  It’s bizarre too. In one week, 4 different conversations about this very topic. And I get it, too.

With so many social streams and information coming at you, quite literally, every moment – how do you distinguish the noise from what’s real? I’ll admit I’m guilty of promoting my eBook on Twitter in big spurts. In fact, during this same week, I received a tweet from a fellow, Mike Garvey, who asked me to bring back some more meaningful links and thoughts on my feed and a bit less of the eBook sales.  I’m not embarrassed at all to share it with all of you:

I have to tell you that I so much appreciated his comments and told him as much!  Why? Because I want to continue to grow. And, what’s more – he really enjoyed my thoughtful response! I want to know that I’m engaging in real, meaningful conversations on a daily basis.

Deep down, we all want to be better people.  What’s more, the way you respond to comments like Mike’s is what makes a big difference as well!  Be open to wonderful teachable moments like these.  When presented well, there’s an opportunity for growth.  The way you receive it will make you stronger and will encourage the person who said it, to continue to offer up similar comments to others – because that person is being authentic! It will help each of us be better people. Better parents. Better spouses. Better partners. Better friends. And, even better business people! It doesn’t make us “weak” – it makes us much stronger!

We talked about this in my last post as well, where if we strive to offer up sincere critiques but are lavish with our praise and approbation, our message will be well received.  Why?  Because all of us are searching  for authenticity.  I like to change up my blog with more posts like these. Because … this … is me.

How do you become more “real”? More authentic? You don’t need to bare your soul to the barista at Starbucks or tell your life story to the person you meet in an elevator. But, be you. Or, at least be “the you” that you want to become.  Look to answer “the unanswered question”.

When I was in college, I was a religious studies major and when we learned about Buddhism and the Dalia Lama, it had a very profound impact on me. Reading his books, as well as others by Thich Naht Hahn, made me realize that we really do put layers and layers of coats over Our Genuine. We hide it because we think we’re supposed to hide our real selves in business. But, in fact, the people who genuinely listen, are empathetic, and as the Dalai Lama says, those who have a “kind and helpful attitude” can help contribute to not only our own but other people’s happiness as well.

In fact, it’s not much different than the marvelous Peter Pan story.  Toward the end of the book, we discover that Wendy’s father was in fact once a Lost Boy. But, he decided he wanted to grow up and so he left Neverland. He forgot what it was like to be a Lost Boy – to be himself. It was at the end, when Wendy returned with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell that he remembered. He remembered what it was like to be a kid, but more importantly, to be real. He had spent so many years hiding his real self, that he forgot who he really was deep inside. As a result, it made him a better parent, and for sure, it probably means he’d be a better business person as well.

So, here’s an exercise for all of us: find some quiet time (mine is 5:30 am), play some Enya or whatever you need, daydreaming is wonderfully helpful, and just write. Write about who you think the “real you” is, envision what it means for you to be more authentic.  Then, create daily tasks for yourself that allow you to achieve this goal. The more you dedicate each day to this task – the more it becomes a habit.

In the meantime, let me know what you do to be more real and more authentic. Cheers!

Changing the world by opening one door at a time

My 8-year old son said to me the other morning that he learned in school that he can change the world. I told him that I thought that was great and could he explain further. “Sure”, he said. “You see, Daddy, every time you do a random act of kindness for someone, they will be so surprised that they will want to do something nice for someone else. That person will then want to do something nice for someone else as well. Soon enough, the whole world will have changed because we are all doing something nice for someone else!” He went on, “remember when I opened the door for that man at the restaurant? He wasn’t expecting that at all. Now, he may go do something nice now for someone, too!” Yes, this all tok place at 7am!

It made me really reflect and be mindful that we all posses the ability to change the world through random acts of kindness, by being more pleasant, and offering up true praise to others. One of the best books ever is by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. He said, “be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation.” Of course, be sincere in doing so. Even if you have something negative to say, apply the “sandwich theory” one of my directors in my organization is known well for applying. The sandwich theory basically means that if you have to deliver negative news, start out by offering up something positive about what the person is doing (the top layer of bread), then provide the substance of your talk (the meat), and finally, end off with saying something positive again (the bottom layer of bread).

William James once said that” the deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”. It was Emerson who said that “every man is superior to me in some way.” Ford was famous for saying, “if there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get to the other person’s point of view to see things from that person’s angle as well as the other way around.”

What the message here? We all have the ability to positively influence someone else’s life through words and deeds. You might think your comment is witty or clever by hiding behind your computer screen, but stop and reflect upon whether your message is positively impacting the person on the other end. Ask yourself if the other person will really change their point of view by your words. Or, are your words simply designed to be mean spirited and demeaning? If you want someone to change, you must learn the art of the sandwich theory. Learn that through kind words and actions – like opening a door for someone when they are not expecting it – can help change the world.

Your takeaway: Every day, strive to be a little better. Learn from others. Learn from mistakes. Be mindful and aware of what you did right and what you may have done wrong. If you need to, keep a journal. Use it as part of your weekly review. Most of all, just try to be a bit nicer!

In the comments below, share with me a random act of kindness that you did and how you think the other person felt. Share with me an experience you had where someone could have learned the lessons set forth above.

What My Wife’s Triathlon Taught Me about Goal Setting

About six month ago, my wife said to me she wanted to participate in a sprint triathlon. To give you perspective, the last time my wife was that physically active was over 10 years ago in law school when we took kickboxing and ballroom dancing together. Don’t get me wrong at all – my wife is no sloth! She is already in great shape and with 3 kids, she’s always on the run!

However, I will readily admit, as I did to her, I was quite skeptical. However, suddenly I realized this was a real goal for her.

There is a terrific outfit called TriItForLife that focuses in on sprint triathlons just for women. They help women achieve this goal through organized group swimming, biking, and running sessions.

My wife started attending the swimming sessions and she found that she really enjoyed it! She started out saying she’d never be able to swim 250 yards, but soon, she was up to 1,250 yards!! I was so impressed with how happy she was in hitting the first of 3 milestones!

I was amazed as I’d never seen her swim outside of the pool with the kids on vacation. She was slowly enjoying how fast she was going and how many laps she could do!

Next, we ended up buying her a bicycle. She bemoaned the bicycling. She said she’d never be able to bike 9 miles on race day. But, just like the swimming, she set little benchmarks for success for herself. She was slowly enjoying how much faster she was getting and how many miles she was going.

Finally, when it came time to do the running, she bemoaned this as well and said she had no idea how she’d be able to run and/or walk 2 miles. But, sure enough, just like the swimming and biking, she found that she could set measurable goals for herself and enjoy the running, too!

I could not be more proud of my wife on race day. She truly inspires me. Not only because she endured something physically and mentally challenging and exhausting, but because she proved to me the power of goal setting. She literally went from zero to hero.

It is with this story that I was able to distill out of this that goal setting really comes down to 3 things: 1) Establish your goal; 2) Develop obtainable milestones; and 3) Create benchmarks for success along the way.

1. Establish your goal

Goal setting is like my wife’s sprint triathlon – it’s a marathon. What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want to run a triathlon? Open a restaurant? Lose 10 pounds (something I’d like to do!!)? Play guitar? Whatever your goal is – believe in that goal. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it. Believe that this goal – however much it might be stepping outside your comfort zone – is something that you can do. Believe that you can achieve this goal. Because it is important. Because your belief in this goal is worth paying attention to and therefore worth doing!

2. Develop obtainable milestones

Running a triathlon is just like goal setting. There are three parts to a triathlon. You need to be able to look at the trees and not the forest. If you only look at the trees you’ll likely scare yourself! Whatever your goal may be, break it down into 3 major milestones with specific measurable objectives. Even plays and musicals have three acts. Steve Jobs, may he rest in peace, was infamous for presenting on only 3 things. Three is the magic number here. What few things must absolutely go right in order for you to accomplish your goal? What plans, processes, or resources are needed? What potentially might go wrong and how could you course correct if it does? What next actions are required for you to achieve each milestone? Make a list of everything. Get it all down. From there, look to creating benchmarks for success along the way.

3. Create benchmarks for success

Once you have established milestones, begin laying benchmarks for success that shows you that you can accomplish these milestones. In my wife’s case, it was about hitting 250 yards in the swimming. After that, it was about endurance. Could she do 500 yards? Could she do 750? Could she hit 1,250 yards? Could she do 250 yards in less than 6 minutes? Could she bike 4 miles? How about 6? How about 9? Again, it was about endurance. Could she do more and still do well? This went on in the same fashion for running. Each of these questions were all benchmarks for each milestone she made.

Crossing the finish line

When you have hit these benchmarks, and succeeded at each of your milestones, nothing can stop you. I can tell you from the look on my wife’s face that establishing a goal, developing obtainable milestones, and benchmarks for success along the way paid off when she ran through the finish line on race day. I will always be inspired by my wife. This was an amazing feat and it truly showed me the power of goal setting.

Your turn: what goals have you set for yourself and were able to accomplish through a similar process? Let us know in the comments below!

Remembering Steve …

Today, we have lost a legend. An icon. An inventor. A visionary. A kindred spirit.  A man who knew how to take technology and revolutionize the way the common persons even thinks or assume of what it could or should do.  He made us want to be passionate about a phone, a music player, and a computer.  Most of all, he inspired others to believe it is all possible.  He inspired me to change the way I present. The way I write.  And the way I communicate.  He helped me realize that it’s okay to go out on a limb, act on what you’re passion about, and trust that one day the “dots will connect.”

If we are all to take anything from the life of Steve Jobs it is perhaps to really take to heart my favorite excerpt out of his commencement address a couple years ago:

You can’t connect the dots looking forwards, you can only connect them backwards.  So you have to trust somehow the dots will connect in the future.  You have to trust that something gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever, because believing in that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.

You’ve got to find what you love … Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

Rest in peace, Steve.  You will be missed.  Your spirit will last forever.


%d bloggers like this: