Drawing and the Zen of Improving the Bad

Are we born with a predetermined set of talents? Do we grow skills from those talents to a certain age and then stop? Are our brains really built with a certain talent set and that core foundation can’t be changed?

If we are good at math, we are good at math. If we are artistic, then we are artistic. If we aren’t good at those things, then we aren’t and there is no changing it.

Or are we not so much skill based but rather we have a set way of thinking? Does that way of thinking, these core abilities influence everything else? 

And is that thinking fixed?

Can we change our core programming?

These questions are very powerful. How we ask them, and what we believe has a lot to say about how we approach learning and self development.

I do believe that we are born and we grow through our formative years with a selection of talents and predispositions. There is a blueprint in our genetics. Then add in some environment and what we learn along the way.

We’ve been asking these questions for a long time, is it nature or nurture? I doubt we will resolve that here. And I don’t even think that it is a binary, one or the other situation.

More than that, it doesn’t seem likely that it is a one or the other situation.

Personally, I believe it is a combination of both.

Similar to what we are just scratching the surface to learn about in genetics. With each new study and experiment we are learning more and more that while we have a blueprint, that blueprint changes over time depending on environment. While there is science to back this up, it also seems logical and fits what we see in the real world.

Personal Bias

It also could be that much like the destiny or freewill debate, I feel better knowing that I have influence over the choices I make, rather than it being written in stone. If life is only an already written, directed, and produced movie where I must play my part and I cannot affect the outcome – then this existence becomes two dimensional.

I know I don’t have control over my life, just over myself and the choices I make. I’m okay with that and it makes total sense in our existence. Anything else, diminishes my role in my own life. And I believe I am responsible for everything I choose to do.

This is why, even after being told my entire life that I’m no good at art, I try to draw. I allowed myself to believe it for a long time. It got in my head, infected me, and I allowed it to define me. I couldn’t even draw a circle so why would I put time into something I was so absolutely bad at.

Except that goes against my core belief system. It goes against how I think about ability and what we put our time into.

Now, I sit down with a notepad,  take out some pencils and have been working at trying to learn to draw better. Any time that I can put pencil to paper, and it’s  recognizable as what I was trying to create, then I’m doing good. I’ve set a very low bar, but that bar is immeasurably higher than it used to be when I wouldn’t even try.

If you believe others stories about you, or your own propaganda than you’ll never do anything differently.

I’m improving at something that I’ve never been good at. And it feels good. I believe in my ability to improve. I believe being good at something because of experience and perseverance means something. It is rewarding.

There is nothing amazing in what you’ve done, if it comes easily. It isn’t a personal accomplishment.

There is no special in being good at something that you were handed. This is merely working to your potential. Surely, we have gifts that we are born with and were developed at a young age. It’s wonderful to be given gifts.

The measure of a person is what they do with what they have been given.

Superpowers are a responsibility, they are not a measure of character. It’s what you do after you get bit by the radioactive spider. You aren’t special because you happened to be in the place to get bit by one.

The bigger test is to go out and work for skills that weren’t just handed to you. I’m never in awe of the kid who doesn’t have to work for their grades, and every test comes easily to them. The born athlete who doesn’t condition, or eat healthy, or workout, or try to grow their ability but who just always does well. It’s a wonderful gift of genetics, but that isn’t anything they did.

Are you naturally skinny, never working out and always eating junk food? Good for you. Be happy these are the genes you were given. You are fortunate and should be grateful. But don’t pat yourself on the back because you didn’t do anything to earn this.

Now the person who has struggled with their weight, who’s parents possibly were diabetic, who watches what they eat but still their body responds with intense cravings even when eating healthy food in moderate amounts, who works out and still is overweight. This person who keeps trying and working for it and fights the urge to give up. This person is showing something about who they are as a person.

So, I’ll keep working on my drawings. I’m okay with not being very good. The fact that I’ve come this far makes me happy.

  • What do you think? I can’t be alone on this one.
  • Do you believe in nature or nurture?
  • Are you in the fixed mindset camp or do you have a growth mindset?
  • What have you worked at that you weren’t very good at or were told you sucked at?
  • What’s your story?
  • Why did you work to get better at this thing that wasn’t a strength for you?

No More Fitting In

In school, I sucked at art.

Not like people casually say, I wasn’t any good at math or science or hitting a baseball.

Teachers confirmed it by failing me in art. There it was a fact, I sucked.

It didn’t matter how much time I put in. They didn’t like my work. Some accused me of not trying. They couldn’t understand being a good student in all other subjects and doing so poorly at coloring.

The colors I used didn’t go together. Everything was super bright and colorful or very dark. I liked colors that stood out. I never understood coloring inside the lines, or having to follow rules. My fourth grade teacher said I might as well use art time to work on other subjects instead of wasting it on drawing.

But mostly, color just didn’t make any sense.

  • Why did one color go with another?
  • Why did some people say some colors looked so beautiful to them, when all I saw was dingy and dirty colors?
  • Why were some colors popular to wear one year and no one would be caught dead a couple years later?
  • Why is blue a boy color and pink a girl color?
  • Who decided that red is bad and green is good?

I was always different. Even amongst the kids without a lot of artistic talent, I stood out as being particularly non-artistic.

That was fine. I could appreciate art even if I wasn’t going to be an artist.

In fifth grade, there was a picture of different sized colored dots in our social studies books. Everyone was squawking on how the dots formed a picture of a butterfly. I didn’t know what was going on. Was this a prank? Had the whole class ganged up and decided to pull one over on me?

I craned my neck to look at the books of those around me. Maybe the picture in my book was just different.

Nope. Everywhere I looked, it was the same. A bunch of colored dots.

I worked up the nerve to raise my hand and say something. My teacher thought I was messing with him and stirring up trouble. He sent me to the office.

That’s okay, he was more interested in singing and playing folk music on his guitar than explaining things. Like, why we were supposed to color specific people yellow, brown or black on a social studies assignment. I’d gotten in trouble for questioning the rules of coloring people so I already had a bit of a history with this teacher.

I explained it to the school secretary before going in to see the Principle. She didn’t know what to make of it, but was empathetic.

Going into his office, he asked me to explain the referral note from my teacher. The Principle was confused. While I was known for occasionally questioning and challenging the validity of the information I was given, I was known as a good kid and didn’t get in trouble.

As he was getting ready to call my parents, the school secretary suggested sending me to the school nurse and investigate. It was after all a picture giving an example of testing for color blindness. Maybe they should double check first.

Sitting in the nurses office, going through her big book of dots, I was only able to identify one or two pictures out of fifty or sixty. Every so often, I would stop and ask the nurse, if there was really something else there that she could see. And she would patiently reply yes, and would explain it was a number.

I had a hard time believing it. It was like being told there was ghosts that everyone but you could see. The world was not the same place for me that it was for everyone else.

I mean, I’d always known that. I didn’t know that it was a scientific fact.

It turned out I was extremely color blind. Fortunately, I wasn’t a monochromat and could still see color. It was only that I didn’t see it like everyone else.

There are colors that are nearly invisible to me. Others, look dirty or washed out. You can hide red lines in graphs and I probably won’t see them. Picking out flowers for my girlfriend doesn’t always get me the response I’m looking for. You probably don’t want me picking out the paint for your living room.

Being color blind for me is a large part of my identity. Color is a big part of the world and how we see and interact with the world. However, being color blind is more than just about not seeing color like everyone else.

It verified for me, something I had always felt since my earliest of days. That our perceptions are personal. There is no objective truth. We rely on our network of sensors in our bodies and processed through our nervous system and brain to form our connection to the outside world. There is a reality but it can’t be fully known by us. We experience reality through filters, and for each of us those filters are different.

I choose to celebrate the vast differences in everyone’s filters. The universe is already an interesting place. Made doubly so through each person’s lens.

It wasn’t easy for me as a kid to be different. I carried some of that with me as an adult. And while I may have been afraid of my differences – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am unique.

But that isn’t the interesting part. The interesting part is how unique others are as well. That while there is this great desire on many people’s parts to fit in. It shouldn’t be about fitting in, but of being accepted for being different. I no longer want to fit in. But some acceptance wouldn’t be bad.

And while I may not be able to change the world or how the world reacts to me. I can make sure that I celebrate others for their uniqueness.

We don’t need more fitting in. We need to embrace the diversity of others, the differences, the uniqueness and say to everyone it is okay being you, whoever you are, so long as you respect the freedom of others to do the same and be different.

No more fitting in.

Grow Yourself : Cut Away The Excess Fat In Your Life

We each have an opportunity right now and a choice to make.

Do we let this thing happen to us? Or do we do something with this?

Are we a victim to this thing? Are we only trying to endure it? Or are we the CEO of our lives. The owners who decide what to do next.

This is a tremendous opportunity to take stock in your life. Look deeply at what is important to you.

What is the most important things to you? Make a list. Write it all down.

Once you have your list. Put a star next to the five most important things.

Now, look think back to your life just a month ago. What were you spending your time on?

Spending. You are spending time. Think of it like a precious commodity. It is the only commodity we have. We can’t make more of it.  And each second we are spending it. So what was it you were spending time on?

Make a list of what you were spending a majority of your time doing.

Compare that list of things that are the most important to you. Those five things. With what you are spending a majority of your time doing.

How do those scales balance out for you?

Does what you spent time on match up against what was most important to you?

If not, this is exactly what I said, a great opportunity to make some changes.

The world changed and right now you have a chance to cut away at the excess fat. Get out your scalpel and cut away. If it doesn’t fit into your priorities and what is important to you, then you must cut away.

Don’t miss this chance to take stock and make some changes. Once the world adjusts again, and you find either the new normal, or roll back into your old ways – it’ll be a lot harder to make a change.

You know time is the one resource that matters. It is the great equalizer. We each get the same 24 hours in a day and it is entirely our choice on how we spend it.

So, what will you do with those 24 hours? Continue to do things the way you were doing it, or get intentional and make some decisions.

I know it isn’t easy to do this. Change never is. That is why, this is an amazing opportunity. It’s scary, yes. But you have a chance to craft your life differently.

I know it isn’t easy, because I’ve done exactly this. I made a number of changes to my life. I had to cut away at things that I thought were priorities, when in fact there were just so many things that were important – it meant that nothing was important. This is why we have to restrict ourselves to 5 priorities. –If we make everything important, than nothing is important.

Once I knew what was important to me, I began to make serious adjustments to what I was spending my time on. And while, I’ve done a lot of good work in this area, it is a muscle I have to keep strong. Regularly, I review my priorities and look at what I’ve been spending my time on. I adjust and figure out ways to make sure I don’t get pulled into other things or away from my why, my golden circle.

Life is not about finding ourselves, it’s about crafting ourselves. If your life, or you, or your days are not what you want them to be, then take out that scalpel, cut away, and then grow yourself into the shape you want to be.

I did it, so I know for sure you can do it.

Vomiting My Way To Success

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Anais Nin


It may be an overstatement, but not by much, to say that most everything worthwhile that I’ve accomplished in this world came from my pushing through fear and finding my courage to do something that I’m afraid of.

For instance, I’ve always been afraid of speaking. Public speaking really. And by that I mean, speaking to more than one person.

For much of my life I was a shy, introverted kid. I didn’t understand other people and I’d been exposed to a lot of cruelty and ridicule at an early age.

I read a lot. I was always learning and testing things out. I could see patterns in things. I was always cross referencing different subjects against one another. Looking for ways that things interconnected and informed one another. It seemed that I saw things that others didn’t.

And for a long time, I didn’t know how to articulate what I saw. I’d jump to the end much too quickly and others wouldn’t follow where I was headed. Not being able to communicate well and explain, I found myself ostracized from others. I felt like an outsider and an alien.

The best thing I could do was shut up. I avoided ridicule, or at least lessened it by not speaking up even when I knew the answer. For a long time in my life, nothing good ever came from speaking up.

And this is where I think my fear of public speaking was born.

I also had and still have something inside of me that is trying to get out. It can’t be contained. And so I’ve raised my hand to speak in front of groups.

Time and time again, I get up the nerve and I go make myself do it. It is stronger than my fear. Sometimes, my fear wins and I’m quiet. Eventually, this something else inside of me, rises up and I cannot be contained.

When I do speak in public, whether it be in front of 5 people or 1000, I’m always nervous. You’d think that would go away at some point. But it never has.

Until about a year ago, I always, always threw up before any speaking engagement. While, my pre-show vomiting has started to subside, I still always have that fear inside of me, that almost panic at the last moment that I don’t know what to say and that I can’t do it.

And still I would always go back for more, and each time I’ve upped the ante of difficulty.

This fear, for me, is more about putting myself out there in front of others, telling what is in my head and being afraid of looking stupid and others not accepting me for who I am. I know most of the logical reasons why this really shouldn’t be a thing. And each time that I put myself out there – I’ve gotten something amazing in return. I’ve grown each time.

And so I keep putting myself out there. Every word I write here, every post I make, every video I shoot, or article I write – there is the nasty blade on the end of a pendulum swinging ever closer to me. It is the fear of this unknown thing that could happen to me if I keep putting myself out there. That once and for all, the world will deem me unworthy.

I imagine that for others this is silly. For me, it has been my constant companion.

I’m not sure if it is comforting to know that I’m not alone, and that every one has fears.

Many are possibly biologically built into our sense of survival and considered to be linked to humankind’s early days of survivability. Walk out in the wilderness and step on a venomous snake or spider without access to medical care and you’ll easily imagine how this one got built into our collective unconscious fear response. The world was a dangerous place for our early ancestors.

Study almost any list of the top fears and you’ll always find some variation of the following:

  • Dogs
  • Germs – With the Covid-19 pandemic, this one may be gaining some traction for a lot of people
  • Needles –
  • Storms – Thunder and Lightening
  • Snakes
  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Flying
  • Enclosed Spaces
  • Heights
  • Open Spaces/Aloneness
  • Social Phobias – such as public speaking

These affect people in a wide range of ways, from a strong dislike and fear, to a full on psychological phobia. They can be quite debilitating for those that are afflicted with a severe case of any one of these.

There are also a lot of fears people have that hold them back in life.

These are areas such as loss of freedom, inadequacy, being judged, getting hurt, uncertainty, rejection, failure, loneliness, and change that hold people back. These fears can run deep. And it seems fairly clear that most people are dealing with or have dealt with at least one of these.

I’ve certainly felt most of those at one point or another. And still our ability to confront these with courage is the only real measure of our success in growing as a person.

For me, I’ll continue to ratchet up the fear factor. I’ve learned to use that energy and turn it back on itself. I use that anxiety as fuel to be absolutely in the moment when I speak. I believe that there is something to be found on the other side of this fear, if only I can keep going.

Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keeping getting up on a stage or doing a video and putting it out on the internet.

I do have a need to be seen. Not for fame. Or glory. But because, there is something on the other side of that fear. I just know it. If I can share with just one more person, and one more person after that. —There is something amazing out there, connecting with others, helping others.

 I just know it.

And so I keep writing for my life, sharing, putting myself out there, and I know something good will come from all of it.

Improve @ Everything By Being Alone

There are a lot of people who are struggling with the isolation of quarantining. Every day the news is filled with depressing numbers. We know people are dying. Some are losing their jobs. Many are just plain afraid. The uncertainty, the isolation, the change in the every day routine is affecting everyone in different but profound ways.

Some are finding working from home is not as much fun as they once thought it would be. Some are struggling because much of their identity was possibly wrapped up in their social world.

Who they are at work?

Who they are with their friends?

Who they are with the neighbors?

We know that many concoct a magazine cover look to their social media in order to present the best possible version of their life. And without that same level of social interaction, without the same distractions – some are catching their reflection in the mirror and it is giving them pause.

And that is exactly what we should be doing during this time. A good, objective look in the mirror can help center us. Bring us back to who we are without filters and distractions.

We lose ourselves when we become attached to the external and the feelings that come from without. We must look within.

We control only what is within. We must know ourselves. What we value? Who we are? And that doesn’t come from anyone else.

The noise of others can help us feel lost. And so being alone with yourself as your companion, you can become anchored again in who you are.

You can never really be with anyone else if you can’t be with yourself fully.

Take this time alone to reconnect with you.

I can say this with some assurance because I’ve been there.

A year ago I had to take a real hard look at the decisions I’d made and what my next move was going to be. I could choose to continue down the same path. Do the next thing that made sense. It’s what we all do most of the time. One decision and then another and another, one link after another in the chain. 

I know it probably sounds crazy but I’d gotten to a place where I didn’t fully recognize myself. I was working all the time. I wasn’t really any fun. I wasn’t having any fun. But wow was I working hard, and every time a new issue came up, I worked even harder. And when things didn’t go well, I would double down and work even harder.

Like a new pilot flying through clouds, I kept making course corrections that seemed right. One on top of another, until I flew out of the clouds upside down.

In the end, I was fortunate enough to fly out of the clouds. I know some people never do. But there I was totally upside down and out of control, and I had never noticed it. All I could think was to keep flying and course correcting.

I stopped. I sat quietly. And I listened to myself. I could barely hear that small voice that had been buried underneath other people’s expectations. Or rather, what I had created in my mind as other people’s expectations. My voice was so small against the ringing and pounding in my ears from the obligations and responsibilities. Responsibilities that I created for myself from the choices that I had made over a lifetime.

I worked through a process of deep introspection I had the tools I had learned over a lifetime of working with others, and put them to the test.

The first thing I started with was being alone. Living in that place where nothing and no one else distracted me. I went for walks, I listened to music, I wrote, I traveled the country visiting more than 30 states in 34 days.

It was hard to look at myself and realize that I’d strayed in some ways from my personal golden circle. – Those were some tough days of soul searching.

Being alone allowed me to reconnect with myself. I could never have done the work – if I hadn’t gotten real comfortable with being alone. This does not mean you have to physically be alone. You certainly don’t have to do the same things I did. It will be different for each of us.

What it means is being able to do some soul searching without distraction. Being able to put out of your mind anyone else’s expectations of you. What you think they want you to be doing. That a tough one, but it is key to making this work.

Right now, is a perfect time to take a good look in the mirror and reconnect with the real you. Once you do, and only once you do can you start to make some meaningful change in your life.

Otherwise, this time and opportunity will slip right on by. Life will return to a version of normal. Full of distractions and obligations. Don’t let this pause in the world – while everyone is collectively holding their breath – go by without making a change. Start with getting to know yourself again.

A Virus Changed My Mind About Connecting

I don’t know why it takes me a bit longer than it does other people to get onboard with some things. In some areas, I’m an early adopter. On others, I’m painfully slow.

Only recently, like in the last few days, have I opened my eyes to making more connections online. I guess it took a virus for me to see things differently.

I love connecting in person.

Actually, that isn’t exactly right, I love connecting in person in a real and meaningful way. I actually can’t stand small talk. I’m challenged by conversations that go no where or always stay surface level. I’m always waiting to get the relationship to the next level where we can really connect and talk about something that matters.

If you ask me about the weather, my head begins the countdown to a nuclear meltdown.

I know. It’s a little…something.

But here, after a lifetime,  I am finally in this place where I really think there is something great about getting to know people. I really enjoy hearing their stories and how they got to where they are, discovering their strengths, and learning how we can both help one another. Working with another person who is committed to a higher goal, who is professional and wants to do a great job, who wants to get the right things done, who wants to teach others and learn.

Those are connections that I really get excited about. When I’m working with someone towards a mission. When we are bouncing ideas off one another. Challenging one another respectfully but deeply and meaningfully. When they are showing me a different perspective. When I learn from another person.

I really get off on that. It is something I’m always striving for myself and looking for when connection and building relationships.

I haven’t always felt this way. I didn’t always understand people.

I never understood people when I was a kid. The reasons people did things eluded me. I couldn’t predict their behavior with much accuracy at all. I could see lies all around me and it bothered me a lot. I loved reading and writing. And had a bit of a scientific way of thinking about things. I wanted to understand how things worked.

I devoted much of my life to behavior and how people act and react. I studied a lot. I watched every interaction around me for years, for decades, cataloguing and dissecting. All of that studying helped me to understand people more and to not feel as much like an alien as I did when I was a kid.

And still, somehow I resisted the online world. I’m on social media, but I with all these rules in my head about how I used it and who I would connect with. To what I’ve now realized, I had these rules to a ridiculous degree.

I get why I resisted. I felt that the connections online were like a video game, it’s a virtual world, and you can see in people’s behavior that they do things they would never do in real life. So, I didn’t interact except for fun or to connect with others that I already know.

Then, this pandemic hit. And like most everyone else, if I want to connect with others, I have no choice but to do so virtually.

While I was realizing this and coming to grips with it, a light bulb went off. As I regularly counsel others to do, I looked at my principles and values. I realized that I was making judgement about how some people were using social media.

It was small minded. And in the real world, I would never have put up with that sort of thinking.

This had become a blind spot for me. Now, that I’d used my mirror to look myself in the face – I was ready to make a change. I’m using that mirror to get rid of that blind spot.

It’s only been a week. Now, I am regularly connecting online. I’m accepting connection requests. I’m seeking others online who want to connect and do so in a meaningful way. I’m learning how to connect in a virtual world because it does connect to our real world.

It is a tool for connecting with amazing people all over the world. In just the last few days, I’ve had some amazing conversations with people who I probably would never get a chance to see in every day life. It’s really something amazing to be connecting with someone in Italy or France, Nigeria, the UAE, Australia, Korea or Japan. Getting to know them, hearing about what life is like right now, and how we can maybe help one another get through this. Spread a little positivity and hope. That sounds like a good reason to change my rules.

I’m not sure why it took me so long, why I was so resistant, and why I never thought to think about online the same way that I do about how and why I connect in my real life.

Maybe, it’s time to stop thinking about the social and virtual world as something different than real life. It’s just life, and it’s about how we live it.

It’s ironic that a virus that caused us to stay away from one another so we don’t infect one another allowed me to start connecting more.

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

I’m pissing some people off. I mean, really making some people banging on their keyboards mad.

Not intentionally. Or rather, I don’t do what I do with the desire to make others mad.

But, wow, do some people have some anger issues. And others, are really invested in seeing someone fail.

My first reaction when I read these messages is to get mad, and then when that subsides, I try to figure out what I perhaps did wrong and why they are so upset.

Master Yoda

I’d much rather that it didn’t bother me. The stoic side of me says not to give it a whole lot of thought. After apologizing, if I did something wrong, and acknowledging how they feel, there isn’t that much to do. If I have a pattern and it points to an area that I need to make adjustments, I surely will.

Then when I think about it some more I do actually smile.

It probably means that I’m doing something right.

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I know and have been told on numerous occasions that I’m a bit too much. Which is probably just the right amount of too much. There is no way that everyone is going to like me. Something as a leader I’ve known from experience for most of my career. There is no way to make everyone happy or to have everyone like you.

Having everyone like you is reserved for some truly remarkable people, who have a special gift. Mr. Rogers and Tom Hanks. But it is a small club. Or it could possibly  be because we love some from afar and never really know more than their public image.

Regardless, I’ve known this for a long time and yet, it is so easy to forget when we are thinking about our virtual world online.

If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.

Margaret Thatcher

I’m more interested in making a positive impact than I am in people liking me. That just isn’t my mission. Sure, I love when people get something out of what I do. When I can add value to another person, help them with an ah-ha moment, or to come up with a new idea or way of looking at things…wow do I love that. But worrying about people liking me is a sure way to do one thing while forsaking my real mission.

I will continue to be thought provoking. To share more and more of who I am. I’ll make mistakes along the way. I’ll learn and correct. Try my best not to intentionally upset others for no reason.

I’m happy to make friends, but I have no interest in worrying about those who are cruising through life looking to be offended, looking for reason to be upset. You know who you are, so just keep walking.

People get addicted to feeling offended all the time because it gives them a high; being self-righteous and morally superior feels good.”

― Mark Manson

I’ll keep on being civil and polite, but I also won’t be deterred from my mission of growing as a person and helping others grow, finding a different way to look at things and providing tools to help them meet their goals.

Here’s to pissing people off.

It wasn’t the first, it certainly won’t be the last.

I sincerely wish them the best and feel bad that they live in a land of such unhappiness that they have to strike out at others.

Thanks so much for your continued support. I love connections so please ask a question or just say hello. Share this and send with a friend.

If you or someone you know is working on personal growth and building  competencies check out the below articles on politeness, being assertive, and building rapport.

Politeness : A Touch More Civility Goes A Long Way

Stand Up for Yourself Without Stepping On Anyone By Being Assertive

Sincere Connections Through Building Rapport

Thanks and have a wonderful day!

We Set A Low Bar For Leadership

Stop calling managers leaders if they can’t manage themselves.

It’s crazy that we are so badly in need of leadership that we have lowered our standards to such an incredible degree. Look at what passes for leadership now days. We throw around that word so much and it is such an easy badge to be anointed and to anoint ourselves.

We want it so bad. We look around and we want to be inspired. We want to see that leader who makes us jump up and want to take notice. We watch the news and pray for leadership.

You do not lead by hitting people over the head, – that’s assault, not leadership.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Especially in these times when the world has turned a bit upside down and our daily lives have changed dramatically. We want leadership. Since there is so little leadership out there within plain view, we lower our standards to such a degree that if you sound a bit like a leader, we will take that. Sound a bit authoritative, or like you know what you are doing, or even half way confident and we perk up and take notice. Look there is a leader, well they sound like a leader at least.

Quit setting the bar low for leaders

Here is the deal. If a person can’t manage themselves, they are no leader. That isn’t the only thing needed to be a leader but it is one of the foundational things needed.

I’ll say it again, because I think it is so important, if a person can’t manage themselves, they are no leader. They may be a manager, but they are not a leader.

That doesn’t make you a bad person. Self management is an important skill and one that can be learned. Check out my LinkedIn article, Self Management : First Lead And Inspire Yourself for a primer on how to develop this important set of competencies.

As well as being important for the single contributor, self management is a foundational part of being a good manager and leader. Before you can lead you must learn to manage. If you can’t manage yourself then you’ll never be an effective leader.

Why should anyone listen to us as a leader, if we can’t manage ourselves first?

The answer is, of course, they shouldn’t. You wouldn’t and neither should they.

So, please quit throwing out the title leader to people who just aren’t there yet. I know we’ve created a world where the word manager seems like a dirty word. It’s in so many job titles and yet, we still vilify this word. Only leaders are worthy of praise. And don’t get me wrong, I love that we moved to a world where we are aspiring to be leaders and not just pushing around people like papers on our desks.

And it isn’t that leadership is easy. It isn’t. We are just too quick to bestow the word of leader on someone, when all we’ve done is lower the bar too low.

Your position never gives you the right of command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others may receive your orders without being humiliated.

– Dag Hammarskjold

Keep aspiring. I worked hard to be a leader and not just a manager. Many people put a lot of time and attention into trying to get it right. They make entire careers out of becoming a better leader.

Management doesn’t have to be a dirty word

We also have to recognize that management is something we need at times as well. This is a skill. And it is certainly a stage that most have to go through on their road to becoming a leader. You don’t just get there without a lot of hard work, development, feedback and adhering to principles.

Let’s just stop with calling everyone a leader. It lowers the bar too much. It makes many people think they can easily do it. Or it begins to distort what real leadership qualities look like. This is how many incompetent people seem to end up in high level positions.

Leadership is a posture and a choice, not a role that must be bestowed on you. Step up and be a leader when no one is watching or expecting you to do so.

– John Izzo & Marshall Goldsmith

When we really think about it we know what real leadership looks like. We see it around us in so many small ways. I know so many people who are leaders in their lives and to others, without ever having been given the title.

There is a quiet leadership revolution that is happening and it is time for it to be given more of a voice. A time when being a leader and demonstrating through actions of competence, empathy, thoughtfulness, intelligence, ethics and principles are given more weight than sounding confident and full of bravado while shouting down others.

A leader is a dealer in hope.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

Here is to the hope that more people cultivate the leader within. The more we demand of ourselves, the more our leaders will have to do to gain our respect.

I am a dealer in hope. Will join me?

Building Together

I think many of you can tell by now that I’m on a bit of a personal journey with my professional life. I’ve gone all in on my business and my passion to help other people with their growth and development. Along the way I’m building a brand.

And while, I wish I had it all figured out and could hand everyone this finished product that looked amazing and professional – that isn’t what is going to happen. It is a journey. A journey that I’ve vacillated back and forth on how much to show.

  • Do people want to know how the sausage is made?
  • Do they want to be part of that journey along the way and see how my brand gets built?
  • Do they want to be a part of the building?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I’ve bounced around as I’ve worked on finding my comfort zone in how much to share.

I think I’ve made a decision to open up more. To share my vulnerability. To open up about my mistakes along the way. To let you all in.

Wow, you can’t see it on your end as you read these words, but that is hard to say. I’ve spent so much of my life keeping carefully drawn walls up around different parts of my life. Recently, I sent out a post asking for help and that was a start of this journey. This post continues that path. And still, I cannot really articulate how scary that is to me.  

My plan is to continue to share my content on self development. That content is a good start for anyone beginning their developmental journey. It sets the stage. And I think it important to give it away.

Why?

Because I want to help. That is my primary purpose. I have a story to tell. I have a perspective that comes a bit from outside the norm. My lens is a bit skewed and that is what helps me come up with novel ideas and solutions. To see the world and what we can do together in a unique way.

So, here I will not only be sharing my developmental competency articles, I will also be sharing my thoughts, my stories, and a whole lot more about me. And I know that for as alone and different as I feel, I know that there are others out there that must be able to relate.

I hope that you will continue to come along for the journey. You can be a casual observer, or you can jump in and participate. I learn from others. I grow from my network. And what you’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what we will do over the next few months.

Like, and comment, send an email. Just say hi. Let me know that I reached you.

I want to hear from you. You are the reason I do what I do.

James as a newborn with a full head of hair.
Newborn Baby James

How to Be Productive, Never Busy

Action expresses priorities.

– Mahantma Gandhi

Be productive – Never Busy.

You always have time for things you put first. Time is the great equalizer. We all have the same amount of it each day. It is how we use it.

Getting the most out of our time spent requires some organization and productivity. To be truly productive we need a habit, a system that we use daily that fits into our values, goals, and priorities.

Everyone has their favorite productivity system. There are lots to choose from. So choose away. I’m not going to list all the ones out there – there are too many and each has it’s own philosophy that makes it intellectually interesting. Instead I’m going to share what you should be looking for in a system, the best mindset and how to make use of whatever system you choose.

Here are some things to consider when selecting a productivity system.

#1 – Prioritization shouldn’t be complicated. Stay away from systems that can’t be done in 5-10 minutes each day.

#2 – Know your values. Know your goals. And you’ll have an easy time knowing your priorities. If you don’t do this, then you’ll never be able to make #3 work and you’ll be working hard and getting no where.

#3 – Daily task list should be no more than 3-5 items and be more priority based than task based. Three of those should be “best work” items. After you’ve checked off everything from the day’s list, will you have done your best work? If the answer is yes, then you have found the sweet spot for prioritization.

It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at essentials.

– Bruce Lee

To accomplish the right things that lead you to success it’s good to keep somethings in mind.

If you are able to Eat the Frog, or do the hardest thing or what you’ve been dreading or putting off the most at the beginning of your day – the rest of your day will be all downhill from there. 

Procrastination mounts up the pressure as tasks are looming over our head. The longer we wait the more power they take on, the larger, slimier, wartier, that frog becomes until it is a monster waiting to devour us.

Task List Seduction for some of us entices us into it’s charming lair. The lists get longer and longer. We add more and more to it. It feels good to get those things down on paper rather than in our heads waiting to stab us awake in the middle of the night. Always adding to the list and reshuffling the most important. 

It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.

– Roy E Disney

We work through complicated systems with letters, numbers, and formulas to find the most efficient way to tackle the immense list that has taken on a life of its own. We know if we find the right system, we can tame the beast and we will find efficiency nirvana.

Except we start to lose sight of the important and the urgent begins to take over. The longer the list and the more of a love affair we have with the list, the more we only get to the things that have to get done today because of a deadline guillotine.

Fight the seduction and keep those lists to those 3-5 items that are mostly priority based. Do, Just do anything that takes 2 minutes or less. Poof it is gone. No list, no prioritizing it, no thinking and stressing about it or forgetting. Just do it. 

And use the SMART goals. If you can’t set a realistic, achievable and measurable goal that can be clearly articulated then you are working on the wrong things. It is that simple. 

Stop chasing perfectionism. The perfect system. The perfect day. The struggle for perfection robs you of time. The effort it takes to move something from 95% to 100% is more than the energy it took to get it from 0-80%. That is a lot of wasted energy for something that won’t net that much more.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

– Stephen Covey

5 Platinum Rules of Prioritization and Organization to set you free

  • Value your time. You don’t waste what you value. Get the most out of the moments you spend. 
  • Schedule but don’t overschedule. Lots of little things that still needs to get done will eat up time. Don’t over commit and schedule every minute of your time. Work ahead of Schedule – set deadlines ahead of when it needs to be done. Treat this deadline seriously. Leave room for the unexpected.
  • Unclutter your life – Remove what doesn’t add to your life. Everything has it’s place. Before you add, subtract, and always know exactly where anything will go before you bring it home. 
  • Keep Track – write it down. Notes, planner, post-its. You can’t organize if you don’t write it down. Record those commitments.
  • Do – You can’t just keep adding to your to-do list. The key to all of this organizing and efficiency is to take action. Knock out the most important priorities and celebrate those wins, especially the small ones. 

Above all keep it simple. Say no to anything that doesn’t fit your priorities and values. And keep hacking away. Time is relentless and so you must be with your management of your time.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.

– Paul J. Meyer