Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
Turning the Tables on Training
As a lifelong learner, I enjoy all types of training. Whether it’s listening to audiobooks while on the treadmill, attending webinars on leadership or attending in-person training on personal development, I love to expand my perspective and experiences. I had spent years giving presentations at group and company meetings on all sorts of topics. I was very comfortable with the mic, and I was effective in allowing my personality and passion for the topic to create an entertainment that would hold their attention while keeping people laughing and engaged. So, when I was approached by HR to provide training to new employees on Change Management and Strategic Planning, I jumped at the chance.
While making the move to be on the stage from sitting in the audience was an easy adjustment for me, I quickly realized that there was a big difference between receiving training class and giving training. I eagerly began to put together the presentation slides knowing that I could share my passion and energy with the audience. After my first session, it became apparent that being an entertaining presenter was not the same as being a good trainer.
Making a class enjoyable is a key point of training so that the participants are receptive to the content and message. But when I sought feedback from the attendees on my training, all the feedback was focused on my delivery and not the content. Basically, my content was forgettable, but they enjoyed hearing what I had to say. The HR Director at the time, provided some suggestions on including activities that would help reinforce the message of the training. She also pointed out that I was essentially providing a lecture or motivational talk but failed to establish a dialogue that helped attendees connect and would maximize the impact of the time we were spending together.
Recognizing that if I needed to bring value to those in the training, I needed to put into practice what I enjoyed about learning and make changes to my slides, my content, and my approach. I implemented small group discussions, on stage demonstrations and used flip charts to gather input from the audience. The very next classes I taught, I received excellent feedback on the surveys making my classes the highest rated classes over the next couple of years.
Recently, my perspective on training changed once again. While I was still out in front, on the stage, what changed was who was sitting in the seats. I was approached by an outside organization to provide leadership training to a group of managers based upon my blog series, the 3 Pillars of Impact. I was honored and excited about the opportunity to share my experiences and perspective with people outside of my organization. It was another opportunity to make an impact on others which is why I started this blog initially.
I began the process of taking my three-part blog series, The 3 Pillars of Impact, and converting them into three distinct training modules: The Courage to Challenge, Expect Excellence & Empower Others. Fortunately, I was able to utilize an outline I had previously put together to support a video series on this blog that I had made for my work. As I began to flesh out the content, it dawned on me that I had lost my biggest advantage to my previous training - these people don’t know who I am.
My prior experience was in providing required training for work. It was a targeted audience and was at a company that I had grown up in with so many relatable stories that I could tell providing connections to the past. I was an Executive with years of service in the company which automatically provided some credibility on why they should listen and participate in my training.
My examples will now need to be explained to others who have no history. Some of these examples I wouldn't be able to use because they are deemed confidential. I had known that my view as a trainee was different from that as a trainer, but it took me a little longer to realize how different a view it would be moving again to an outside trainer. Each change in perspective puts me down a different path with a different set of questions. A different set of answers. My topics and approaches needed to pull the audience together. To align their perspectives, but also highlight the differences. Creating an environment of sharing between a diverse group of managers regarding age and experience but also with familiarity with each other and their roles in the larger organization.
We know changing perspective is always valuable for growth and understanding. Many times, the perspectives change when we change roles. But sometimes, the perspectives can change while performing the same role. These changes can be triggered when the environment changes or maybe because you have learned a little more than before. Because the leader you are today will always be different from the leader you will be, Beyond Today.
Perspective From the Front
I recently was part of a wedding for a young man that I coached around 13 years ago. I was honored by their request for me to perform the wedding ceremony as the officiant. An interesting thing happened as the bride began to walk down the aisle. For the first time during a wedding, I was drawn to the parents of the groom. I watched as they would both turn and look at the beautiful bride as she made her way down the aisle towards her future husband. They would then glance at their handsome son, who was oblivious to all that was around him as he was locked onto his approaching bride.
The faces of the groom’s parents, filled with joy and emotion, moved back and forth between the bride and their son.
This wasn’t the first wedding ceremony that I had attended as I just turned 53 years old. I had been part of many weddings as a young man, before and after my own wedding. Then the next phase of weddings came along as the kids you coached, and your kids’ friends came to the age of getting married.
This also wasn’t the first I had performed as an officiant. My experience with weddings has gone from watching, to being part of the wedding party to being the one performing the wedding.
Until this moment, I had always viewed the wedding from the perspective of the bride and groom. It was their day! I could relate to this having gone through it, albeit almost 30 years ago.
It was a new perspective for me. You saw the pride they had in their son. You saw the excitement in anticipation of gaining a daughter. You could see that they were soaking in every moment of the evening. As I reflect, I’m sure their minds were bouncing between what was happening around them and then into the future of what life has in store for the newlyweds and the family as a whole.
I am a sentimental man. At every wedding that I have performed as an officiant, I had to fight back emotions as I watched the groom, fighting back their own emotions, as they witnessed their future walking towards them in stunning beauty, step by step. I know this because that is my memory of seeing my bride way back when.
I don’t know what changed my perspective at this specific wedding. I had performed weddings for couples that are my son's age before, and even within the last year. But this time, my perspective changed. My appreciation for this major life event changed. My understanding of the degrees of impact of such an event on multiple lives changed.
This wedding served as a great reminder about how perspectives can change depending upon where you are sitting. The view as a wedding guest is different than being part of the wedding party. The perspective is different when you are a groomsman versus when you are the groom. And the perspective is different when you are the officiant performing the service. What I learned at this recent wedding, is even when you are still at the front, your perspective can change when you are open to being changed. When you are open to grow in mind and spirit. When you are open to expanding your perspective Beyond Today.
Who Is on Your Team?
In my last post, Time to Clean the House, I tried to relate the childhood struggles of cleaning your room with some of the adult challenges you may face at work dealing with a messy situation or a difficult project. In this next post, I reflect back on the childhood trauma associated with being the youngest of five kids and trying to find ways to work with my brothers and sisters to get the job done.
If you were fortunate like me, you grew up in a large family. With 5 of us kids and me being the youngest, the older ones were constantly looking for ways to complete their chores, but with the least amount of effort on their part. In my 53-year-old mind, I remember myself as being the victim to my older siblings' cunning and more worldly approach to getting things done. Plus, I was the baby of the family and widely known as the sweetest of the Brown kids. So, I’m pretty sure I never pulled these stunts myself.
Below are some of the approaches that I remember my siblings taking to help with chores when I was a kid. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
I was convinced for many years that my middle brother was a magician for his uncanny ability to walk into a room and in what seemed like a manner of minutes, would walk out with a clean room. What seemed to be a monumental task of cleaning a room that would take me the better part of a day, he always seemed to knock out in a manner of minutes without a sweat. Of course, only a 5-year-old could fall for his tricks as my mom would walk in, open the closet door and quickly step away as balls and stuffed animals came tumbling down. She would move the bean bag to reveal a pile of matchbox cars. Shoving things under the bed or into the closet may at first glance give the appearance of a clean room, but the experienced manager, in this case our mom, knows to open the closet door and look under the bed when inspecting. The Magician doesn’t address the clutter, they just hide it.
They like to spend more time talking about what they did then they actually spent cleaning their room or doing the chore. But they want everyone to know what they did and how arduous the task that they somehow, through the grace of God and their own perseverance, was able to overcome. Many times, the Martyr may be related to the Team Player. But related by marriage, like a cousin Eddie. They willingly help you do the chores and may or may not talk about it while it is happening, but afterwards, they go into full Martyrdom mode!
While I do remember the Banker making an appearance once or twice during my youth, they would typically barter for my labor by offering up one of their treasures of such value that only big brothers can accurately describe. My more recent experience with this was watching my oldest son constantly “hire” his siblings to perform tasks throughout their childhood. What started as simple chores, turned into hauling hay, building fence and numerous other jobs with promised riches. But what I witnessed was the transformation of the Banker to the Wealthy Nigerian Uncle scam!
“But Mom… have you seen Bob’s Room?!” Honestly, not sure which sibling did this the most, because I’m sure we were all guilty of it at some point. But when Mom came to you about your room, your first reaction was to pull out the deflect and distract strategy in hopes that she would walk down the hall and transfer her wrath from your direction to that of your slovenly brother. Even the most experienced parent can fall victim to this trickster as they know just how to play on the emotions and push the right buttons.
Typically, this is the oldest child. They take the leadership role because hey, it’s not their first rodeo. They will typically call a family meeting and lay out their detailed plan showing how an organized and aligned approach will achieve the goal of a clean house. Further, to guarantee participation, they will show that by allowing people to use their strengths, they can get all of the chores done faster and more efficiently giving everyone more time for something fun. If necessary, The Strategist has been known to provide donuts or other extra benefits to coax them to action. The Strategist is a master of keeping their hands clean and callus free.
The Team Player
The classic, “many hands make lite work” person who always seems willing to lend a hand to get things done. They seem to make the chore run smoother and it always takes less time than it would have done alone. The best part is that the Team Player always seems to make the work fun. Now, you need to be careful, because sometimes what at first seems to be a Team Player, is actually someone in disguise. A regular Scooby Doo villain if you will.
The Ghost starts out as the Team Player and get you to agree that the two of you should work together to clean both of your rooms. Making it easier to get done and it will be more fun to work together. Somehow, they always start in their own room first. They work hard and provide direction to you as you work and show great appreciation for your help. Then, it’s time to move to your room and BAM! The Team Player transforms into The Ghost and is gone! Their room is now clean. Their goal is accomplished. They really have no reason to continue to help clean your room. You are left frustrated, tired, and facing your own room to clean - alone.
Not to be confused with The Team Player, the Helper volunteers to help with the best of intentions, but typically becomes a distraction and not much of a helper. They tend to look through everything in the room, get distracted and start playing around. Sometimes they morph into Scope Creep and spend their time re-sorting or expanding the scope from cleaning the room, to reorganizing or even going as far as renovating the room!
Ultimately, when things need to get done, taking ownership of the outcome is a great starting point. It takes ownership of all family members to create and maintain an environment that is free of clutter, organized and optimizes harmony in a living space. It is this same ownership in that family unit that translates to work teams and their ability to clean their room for the greater good. For work teams to be effective, time needs to be spent to make sure it is a strong team, with clarified roles and responsibilities, that are willing to work together for a common goal that can keep your room clean Beyond Today.
Time to Clean the House
Do you remember as a kid how you agonized over cleaning your room? Typically, you would spend more time whining and trying to avoid doing it then it would actually take you to clean it. As adults, it often seems the same dread you felt as a kid when facing the chore of cleaning your room, returns to you when you are dealing with challenges at work that require change and improvement.
Cleaning is not necessarily the same as organizing. If the vision for the outcome is unclear, you can spend time vacuuming, dusting, and throwing away the old candy wrappers to the point where your room is shining. But you still have piles of clothes on top of your dresser instead of in your dresser. You may have taken every display item off your shelf and wiped them down but put them right back where they were.
Many times, cleaning a room doesn’t reduce the content, it just rearranges the clutter. It’s new piles of the same stuff. Having an aligned vision that is well communicated between both parties can really help make sure that your time is spent working on things that add value.
Under/Overestimate the Size and Scope
Typically, when you are a kid, you see cleaning your room as possibly the largest obstacle ever faced by mankind. NASA might have sent a man to the moon, but I would like to see how they would go about cleaning up this mess. It’s going to take me… let’s all say it together… FOREVER!
But quickly, as we get into it, we realize it isn’t as big a deal as we thought. We remove the dirty clothes and take out the trash. Wow, it starts to look better already. Pick up our toys and put them back into the toy box or on the shelf and you realize you are almost done.
But there were other times, much rarer, when we thought to ourselves this won’t take long and I will meet my friends at the park and will be playing that game before you know it. Then you realize that you haven’t cleaned or organized your room in a very, very long time. Sorting through the stacks that represented the best of your life for the last few years. You question whether you can both clean AND organize your room in time for you to still make the game. Do you have to change the scope and ask forgiveness or take your chances and suffer the consequences. You start to regret not taking the time to clean your room all those times your parents reminded you that it needed to be done but you were just “too busy.”
Bogged Down by the Clutter
It is like staring down a driveway in winter with snow drifting up onto the car and it is still snowing outside. Where do you begin? How can you even show progress? As the feeling of being overwhelmed hits an anxiety level, you start to break things down logically and you create piles. Typically, you start with what needs to go. In today’s world, we now consider what goes into the trash and what needs to be recycled. Interestingly enough, this concept is true for projects, reports, ideas and also people. It sounds much colder when you talk about people, but it comes down to if they are not performing or are a distraction, then how do you provide guidance, training, or refocus to help them be successful.
Your next pile is stuff you want to keep. Now this is tricky because as a kid, you always kept cool stuff. Things that meant something to you at the time. But you must consider if they are of real value or just a distraction. Is it something that needs to be displayed on a shelf and shared with others? Is it something that you want to hang onto because it will be valuable someday or that it something you want to share with others in the future, so that one goes into storage.
Then you have stuff you don’t know what to do with and you either keep it, or you leave it in a pile and hope someone else can decide. That stuff may go into a garage sale or to good will. It may get passed down to your sibling or you give it to your best friend because they always liked to play it.
The challenge is to not be distracted by the clutter. It’s easy to let yourself reminisce on the memories and experience the feelings associated with all you have collected. That personal connection can often cloud your judgment and cause you to hold onto items that you should be removing from your room. You justify why it’s important and why you must keep it. You commit to playing with that toy more, but the next time you have to clean your room. There it is again. Taking up space. Still cluttering your room.
As adults, our life comes down to how we clean our rooms. Do we have aligned vision and purpose with those we work with and share our lives with? Do we take the time to understand the challenges before us so that we can properly work to overcome and improve? Do we have plans to prepare for the future state and minimize the challenges that we are facing and prevent a mountain of clutter piling up and instead of digging out, we are sorting through? Minimizing the clutter in our work, our life, and our minds is beneficial to keeping our own house clean Beyond Today.
Family Bonding Thru Sports
I was the oops child. The youngest of five kids who came along a little later than the others, so the gap was such that from 6th grade on, it was just me and my folks. As an avid sports family, I grew up watching my older siblings play on State championship teams and we watched countless games in person and on television as well as driving across the country listening to games on A.M. Radio. (Kids, you are going to have to google this!)
Being the youngest, my siblings would try to come to games when they were back in town visiting. We didn’t have streaming services, YouTube, or the internet back then so unless you were local, you were not going to be able to see or hear the game. But my dad would record the games on his VHS camera and when the games were being broadcast on the radio, he would sync them together and so I would have a video tape with real audio broadcast of the game.
My oldest brother would come back over the Christmas holiday with his family, and he would stay up in the early hours watching my games from that season. We would spend the time he was here talking and reviewing how I played.
My Mom, who was a basketball scoring machine in the 50’s, was extremely competitive. She rode with us to a football game where my oldest son Zach threw for the 2nd most passing yards in a game in school history, but their team went down in defeat. He came out, gave her a hug, and said, “Nan, I’m sorry you had to come all this way to watch us lose. I know how much you hate losing.” She simply responded, “Yes, I do hate losing.”
My Dad, who would spend countless hours with me watching games and studying the art of the game, never got to watch my kids play when they entered high school. He only got to watch a few of his grandchildren play when they were younger due to declining health and loss of sight. He was a proud man, who didn’t want to be seen with an oxygen tank and being assisted with a walker. But man, would he have enjoyed watching my kids play.
Unfortunately, my mom never got to witness my younger two sons play in high school before she passed, but she enjoyed watching them as young kids and knew that they would be really good when they got into high school.
Now, with my youngest having finished his first year of high school ball and now traveling on the Under Armor circuit, his network of supporters has grown beyond his siblings. While at times it seems their sole purpose in life is to make sure he stays humble, they rarely miss watching him play, either in person or through live streams. They are quick to send him texts of encouragement and critique with the focus on helping him get better.
But beyond his siblings, are my siblings who also try to watch him play. Surprise visits from my brother who lives in Wyoming and my sister from Texas to watch Ethan play in a tournament. They all watch the live streams of the games and make comments during the game or afterwards if they watch the next day. But having a family take an interest as if he was one of their own kids is simply amazing. This connection was built by our parents when we were growing up, using sports as an outlet and a development tool for life.
While all my sons played “the right way”, which is the way my dad coached us and how I have coached my kids and various teams to play. My youngest, Ethan, also has more to his game. He has put in much more time and by watching his older brothers play, he has changed his game and strives to surpass them to make them proud. He is a team-first player that constantly moves the ball and minimizes the amount of time dribbling the basketball which is rare in today’s game, but when needed he can go make a play. He plays with such a high I.Q. that the most common statement I hear about his play is that he never takes a bad shot but manages to put up big numbers.
My siblings and I have talked about how much my parents would enjoy watching Ethan play today. He enters the court before every game with a smile on his face, happy to play the game he loves. Even though Ethan doesn’t remember my dad and has a few memories of spending time with my mom when he was little, he doesn’t realize how much they have impacted where he is today.
After a recent tournament he played in Phoenix, I sent him a text upon reflecting on his weekend. As I was typing it out, I had to wipe the tears away from eyes, just like I am having to do now as I am writing this blog:
“I know you won’t really understand this until you have your own kids, but you can’t comprehend how much I wish my mom and dad could watch you play. I’m proud of you and whether you realize it or not, you are representing what my mom and dad were as parents and people.”
Sports can be such a bond for families as it goes beyond them playing a game, to connecting generations. It’s wearing a number worn by other family members. It's arguing about who is the better shooter, playing one-on-one, talking trash, and sharing laughs. It’s gathering on the court after games and taking pictures, sharing memories, and looking at scrap books. It’s sharing a childhood dream and watching someone you love pursue that same dream. Sports have the ability to bring families closer and create memories that will live long Beyond Today.
The other day I received a link to a YouTube video from a friend. He explained that he listened to the video weekly for grounding and personal reflection, and he felt moved to share it with me. This wasn’t your bloopers video; this was a powerful message of how an individual has the power to change the world. My youngest son and I listened to the video when we were in the car. My teenage son was not on his phone while it played. He wasn’t distracted by the surroundings but looked straight ahead, soaking in the words.
The video he shared had 17 million views with another link to the same video having over 34 million views! It was a video of a graduation speech where a former Navy Seal said that by making your bed, you can change the world. Admiral William McRaven is YouTube famous.
Admiral McRaven, a University of Texas graduate, had a distinguished career in the Navy. Starting as a Navy Seal, he rose to the rank of Commander and his leadership qualities led him down a path of increasingly impressive administrative leadership roles. He was invited back to the University of Texas to provide the 2014 commencement speech.
From the start, Admiral McRaven was able to build a connection with the audience which is one of the reasons his speech was so powerful. He connected first with them as a former student who could relate and then he acknowledged that as young graduates they share a desire and a fear of trying to change the world.
McRaven built upon the University of Texas slogan, What Starts Here Changes the World. He eloquently, but vividly shared experiences of how actions taken to change the lives of only 10 people in your lifetime can impact the entire planet. He shared examples of life and death decisions made by people he served with in the military. Lives were saved. It wasn’t just that person’s life, but it also impacted their children and their children’s children.
He was addressing a group of college students who are in their safe environment of school with very few knowing what the real world actually holds for them. But the lessons he shared captivated the audience. He was able to show that struggles are independent of demographics and that these lessons he was to share could be applied to all.
Below is the list of the 10 lessons that Admiral McRaven identified as key to changing the world. Yes, they are cryptic, so you will need to watch the video following them to hear in his own words what it really means.
If you want to change the world…
Connecting these 10 lessons to change the world back to his Navy Seal training drove home that leaders show up in the face of constant stress, struggle, and hardships. One of the takeaways I had after watching the video is how captivated the audience was to what he had to say. He spoke from a position that hardly any of those students could relate, let alone comprehend, but he was able to connect with them and share lessons in a manner that held their attention.
The wisdom to “start each day with a task completed” establishes a foundation of success on which to build. Admiral McRaven is truly a Person of Impact and follows the 3 Pillars of Impact: Courage to Challenge, Expect Excellence and Empower Others. He finished his speech by saying “If you do these things, the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.” Admiral McRaven was able to challenge 8000 University of Texas students in 2014 with his speech and that number through the power of social media has reached tens of millions of people today. That is how you can change the world Beyond Today.
WIN the Day
I have written before about the distractions that can be associated with chasing a metric versus refining your process. Pursuing a goal that does not provide the foundational impact for success may give you a fleeting accomplishment but is not sustainable or repeatable.
In Operations, we had an initiative to become a World Class Manufacturer. Under that approach, we began a journey pursuing Operational Excellence that we called Tsungani (sun-gah-nee) which is a Cherokee word for “excellence” or “above others”. We established a weekly meeting that was focused on alignment and awareness of the pursuit of excellence that was occurring in our company. It reinforced ownership in the process and active engagement instead of waiting for someone else to do something. This effort culminated in recognition by our customers that we had achieved world-class manufacturing status.
With my recent move to the business side of the company, we decided to change up the Tsungani meetings in order to revitalize and refocus our efforts on the new opportunities that were in front of us, so we revamped these meetings and initiated WIN the Day. The purpose was to reinforce a culture of winning that encourages people to celebrate the little things that move us closer to winning and highlights the role that everyone plays in the game of business.
Winning is something that most people can easily get behind. Besides being fun, people enjoy the recognition and feeling of collaborating that comes with being part of something special. Being part of a team. But the difference between good teams and great teams is the level of trust on which their relationship is founded and the commitment to the successful execution of the process. Whether sports, families, or work, it is the same. But what happens when winning is taken for granted?
During a service award ceremony, a coworker, Dongshun Bai, reflected on his 15 years with our company. Dongshun had made the move from a Sr. Research Chemist in R&D developing products to the role of business development. He spoke to the packed conference room and looked into the camera for those who were attending virtually and said, “If you don’t take a chance, you won’t make a mistake. But if you never take a chance, you never make progress. “It was a pointed challenge to people who may be hanging out in a comfort zone that seems safe but will not help their team win. Eventually, their lack of contribution and engagement to a win, will limit their ability to be happy and impactful.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” Knowing that you are part of the winning process. In my last blog, Are You Even in The Game? I talked about how many people think they are in the game, but they are simply watching it on TV. They’re experiencing the game, the thrills, the struggles, but only from a distance, not from experiencing the real battles and challenges.
Having a desire to win has been a hot topic over the last few years as the sports world has been critical with the Participation Trophy mindset of eliminating competition in order to maintain a certain level of self-esteem. When you apply this to the workplace, there have been many articles about new employees hitting the workforce with expectations of immediate promotion and payoffs which has been viewed as a sense of entitlement. From my perspective, the only victory, the only WIN of value, is when you have the opportunity to compete and earn that win. A forfeit is a hollow victory and one that will not be remembered except in disappointment.
When you consider the challenge that Dongshun raised during his recognition, about “if you never take a chance, you will never make progress” it makes you consider whether people are willing to be part of the game, willing to compete. If you are a new employee with little to no experience, are you willing to put the time and effort in to compete? To enjoy the success and the rewards of a job well done or an accomplishment earned. How many new employees understand that they need to compete? That they are actually in a game. When you step onto a basketball court or into an office, success depends on what you do AND how you make your team better.
But what about the experienced employees? Are they still taking a chance? Are they still making progress? Do they understand what it takes to WIN today versus what it took yesterday? Are they still willing to put in the time necessary to WIN in today’s challenging economic times or do they feel they’ve already made their investment and no longer have to participate or compete? Do they recognize that they are in a game or are they on the sidelines simply observing?
The act of winning doesn’t only show up on the scoreboard, but in the improvements made by individuals and teams. By winning the day, you are not saying it is over, that you have reached the end, but instead that you have worked hard to improve and have helped move your team forward. That your pursuit of excellence was fruitful and that you are better today than you were yesterday. That you are in the game. That you are competing to win. The desire to improve, to have an impact on others and to leave a legacy is what helps you WIN the day and Beyond Today.
Are You Even In The Game?
I have had many conversations with people over this last year about the challenges of making sure we have a motivated workforce. These conversations occurred in a variety of industries and social circles. The opinions are too numerous of why it is a challenge and almost as many potential solutions that have been offered. But that is not what I am going to write about. For me, it comes down to a simple question, are you even in the game?
Using sports analogies is always a great way to connect business and social interactions. People have long enjoyed games stemming from the excitement of participating and winning those games and contests. It moves from hide and seek, to memory games, from board games to athletic contests. But one thing for sure, there is nothing as exciting as being in the game. Watching on TV can be fun and emotional, but being at the stadium and feeling the emotions traveling through the crowd is euphoric. But even more than that, imagine the emotional roller coaster of adrenaline rush when you are the person taking the shot to win the game!
I'm not sure if it is the result of an always on, always connected, instant gratification society, but it seems that the trend is for people to look for immediate results and recognition instead of grinding it out and fighting the good fight. Real success is not found in the “likes” on a Facebook post or a Tweet. That “virtual” success is a facade. The real success is found in the satisfaction from overcoming obstacles. It’s found in the opportunity to fail, so you also can have the opportunity to win. There is a saying that “respect is earned, not given” and showing up is a requirement of a job or role. Showing up doesn’t earn a person’s respect, instead it’s what you do when you show up.
Just because we are in the information age and social media is ever present, it doesn't wipe away the foundational habits of success. Winston Churchill stated, “Continuous effort– not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” During that same time frame, Jesse Owens, who is best known for his performance at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, by winning four gold medals, stated, “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”
The fear of failure keeps many people on the sidelines. By not playing the game, they never lose. But at the same time, they never have the opportunity to win. To feel that sense of accomplishment. To feel success.
Former President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909),www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/theodore-roosevelt/ believed in “the life of strenuous endeavor” as his energetic approach to leadership and life was felt here and abroad. An avid outdoorsmen and adventurer, President Roosevelt did not shy away from challenges. He summed up his life in his famous speech now dubbed the “Man in the Arena.” The speech was given after leaving office in Paris in 1910 and was called "Citizenship in A Republic.” The speech was made popular in this modern area due to the 2021 documentary presented by ESPN on football great Tom Brady.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So, are you on the sidelines or are you in the game? Are you watching others play or are you playing? Are you commentating or contributing? These questions are extremely important because as my mentor Steve Moles always reminds me, “the view is worth the climb.” So, when you are faced with the question of “are you even in the game” I hope that you choose to play, to enter the game, to enter the arena and by “daring greatly” may you feel the “triumph of high achievement” Beyond Today.
I wake up every morning before the sun comes up, feed the dogs, make some coffee, and then spend time on myself - emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I spend time reading, writing, and reflecting as well as attempting to keep my mind sharp with Wordle and Sudoku.
I was working on a recent Wordle puzzle and found myself stuck on a word, which if you do this puzzle, you are aware that this can be common. I do follow a strategy of always starting with the same word. After that, depending upon which letters are correct, I do have some additional trigger words that I use to help me narrow down the options.
When you create a process that works, you then look for other ways to use this effective process. We do this at work, sports and in life. You hear the phrase, “Trust the Process”, which means if you create a process, and with preparation and proper execution, the results will follow. Which is true for the most part, but what happens when your process has a built-in bias?
Biases and perspectives are part of life. Whether it is the Mental Models you have formed over the years or the process you create to navigate Wordl, you need to recognize that how you see patterns, has an inherent bias that needs to be explored and understood.
As I worked through the morning Wordle, I ended up with the pattern shown in the image, - - i - e, immediately I see a long “i” sound because of the “e” on the end. I run through a few words such as crime, prize, and twine before settling on “slide” as my guess. It reveals an “L” which only adds more confusion. It can’t be “glide” because it doesn’t have a “D”. I was stuck. If you have played Wordle, you find yourself making up words in your head, sounding them out to see if by some chance it is an obscure word of which only the truest of Jeopardy champions would be aware.
So, you take a step back and gather your thoughts. You ask yourself what you are missing. If you recognize that you are stuck in a pattern such as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon when you buy a yellow car and then somehow you suddenly notice yellow cars everywhere! You open your mind to a new perspective. What if it isn’t a long “i” sound? You change your pronunciation, your perspective, and suddenly “olive” jumps to mind, and the puzzle is solved.
If it is so easy to miss a word in a simple game, how many times are you missing the truth and reality in your relationships with people? How many times has your bias impacted a project at work? Negatively impact a play on the court? We are built upon our biases that we have experienced over a lifetime, but our strength comes when we can identify and overcome those biases that leads to our growth Beyond Today.
Finish the One Word for 2023
I spent many hours in reflection for my 2023 One Word (read Jon Gordon's book!) and while I was intrigued and moved by many words, the “AHA” moment never came. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel I ever truly got to that quiet place needed to really listen and hear what I needed.
One word that I kept coming back to was WIN. This is a theme I am using at work to help people focus on outcomes more than the activities. Yet we are still emphasizing the process needed to win and not just a scorecard. Establishing a winning culture that wins the day, the moment to propel you forward with momentum.
While the word WIN resonated strongly with work life, when I tried to apply it to my personal life, it always lost steam and I would find my mind wandering and identifying other words instead of reinforcing how WIN was aligned. But as I captured notes on these new candidates for my One Word, I noticed that the words seem to have a similar theme.
From WIN, I jumped to VALUE. Some of the concepts that would quickly come to my mind were:
The word VALUE seemed like a good word, but it was almost too easy and when I considered my need to Value TIME, it led me down a deeper path.
TIME to finish, to change, to accept challenges, to be healthy, to do different. I recognized that TIME must be valued and it can’t be wasted.
My next twist was when I realized it was TIME to take the NEXT step and to seek the NEXT opportunity. As I considered the simple word NEXT and how powerful it could be in life, I considered that maybe it was really that I needed to MOVE forward on stalled activities and that I would be more impactful if I MOVE to the next stage. The obvious healthy reference with MOVE is there in the physical sense but also into MOVING to a different mindset.
As so often happens when you are focusing your mind and opening your thoughts, the rabbit holes and pathways start coming faster. As I let myself wander further, searching for the One Word, the word TRANSITION presented itself as a leading candidate as I considered that in both my work and personal life, I am preparing to TRANSITION to new roles and the desire to VALUE the TIME to MOVE to what is NEXT was really about the processes associated with the TRANSITION as much as the result of the TRANSITION.
While it seemed to all fit and that the culmination of my inward and upward thinking led me to the word TRANSITION, I did not feel the connection I needed to feel. I was not moved, and I decided to let it ride for some time and would find a later date to continue my One Word journey.
Then one day, as I am in the shower prior to work, I am reviewing the One Word Questions and I look up and see the exhaust fan with the cover removed. The fan motor went out around 6 months ago and I immediately went to the local store and purchased a replacement. Due to some various challenges, I never got around to changing it out, much to the displeasure of my wife. I said to myself, “I need to FINISH that.”
There it was. The summation, the connection if you will, between all the words I had been considering. The theme was that I not only need to make progress in my life - both personally and professionally - I had to finish these things to move forward. Being busy with one foot only moves you in circles. To TRANSITION, you need to take actions that MOVE you forward to the NEXT step, taking TIME to create VALUE that helps everyone win but this can only occur when you FINISH what you started.
Life is more than effort. It is more than movement. Life is about creating value, which happens when you are able to FINISH your goals and move forward Beyond Today.
Other Blog Posts on One Word:
One Word can have an Impact in 2022
Listen to My One Word from 2017
Focus on One Word in 2021
One Word for the New Year
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.
Proudly powered by Weebly