The Undisciplined Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline

It is my dirty little secret that I’m not disciplined.

I haven’t been a disciplined person and it doesn’t come easily for me.

Rather, for most of my life I’ve kind of fought with discipline. Discipline, for me, becomes at odds with freedom and autonomy. It goes against my messy nature. The natural go with the flow that I have in me that is pushed down by my knowledge that you can’t just go with the flow in the lackadaisical way and actually get to where you want to go.

I wasn’t raised with much discipline. Plenty of punishment very little discipline. So, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Being half way through my life it would be silly to bring this all up in a effort to place any sort of blame on my parents. I don’t. While I may not have come from or raised in an environment that provided me a positive example of discipline – it’s my life and my responsibility to grow in skill in the areas that I find important.

What I’ve come to realize is that discipline doesn’t have to be at odds with freedom and autonomy when they are a choice. When being disciplined about a subject leads to a positive habit. When it leads to meeting a goal I’ve set for myself.

It is because of freedom that I can choose to be disciplined about something important to me. And through that discipline I can gain freedom of time and choice in other aspects of my life. It is a skill to be wielded as I choose and not a personality trait to covet and give self talk to that I’m just not good at.

When you get up close and personal with my work you see that it is quite messy. I employ certain process and organizational methods that allow for work to get done that has the same appearance as being disciplined. I’m constantly working to improve and adjust my habits to better serve my goals. Because I know I have to put that energy into those habits in order to get done what needs to be done.

This is something, given what I do, that I shouldn’t talk about. Being self-disciplined is an important trait that we look for in others. It is one certainly that I look up to and admire when I see it. And as a coach and leader it almost seems foolish to admit.

And it is wrong of me to say that I have no self discipline. My life would be a right old mess if I couldn’t ever buckle down and overcome. And there is a certain aspect of discipline that I have grown a great deal of skill in.

Yet, I know this one isn’t a natural personality trait for me and it is one that seemingly everyone talks like they have it down. Especially those that are leaders or who practice personal development.

Take it from me -someone who has had a lifetime struggle with discipline and works regularly to build this skill – it isn’t easy but it is worth it. And I if I can do it, well, probably anyone can do it.

Here are my top five ways to overcome those impulses, feelings, and overindulgence that continually get in the way of accomplishment.

Remove temptations

Limit access to what is tempting you. Remove whatever it is from being around you. This may not be an all time solution, but especially in the beginning remove those temptations.  It may be tough to say no when it is right in front of you. So reduce the need to dig deep and tough it out. If those temptations are around you, it is so much easier with access to slip when your resolve bends.

Don’t wait for it to feel right or to get in the mood

Our feelings are fickle. They want to protect us from feeling bad. And that protection in fact can lead to a cycle where that protection method makes us feel worse. When we are trying to do something new, or something we don’t like to do, our feelings get in the way. They are trying to protect us from something that could harm us. If you wait for the mood on something that you may say you want to do, but really just want the results from doing the thing, you feelings may be getting in the way. The first step is to remove the self talk of ‘not feeling in the mood’ to do something.

Forget motivation

It’s important to know your motivations and to use them as the reason for action. The why you want to do the thing is important. While, on the other hand, waiting to be motivated is a bad move. It’s very close to waiting to get in the mood. Waiting for an external source to give you an internal feeling that makes it easier to take action – that definitely isn’t taking responsibility for your actions or in this case, inaction.

Plan for action

Limit your planning time. Thinking and planning is vital to success but don’t let it get in the way. Your plan needs to support quick action. Something that can be done today to get things going. Too many times, we plan and plan, and don’t build real sustainable action into the plan. Remove barriers to action and get on with it.

Keep it simple

This is always good advice. I should probably stick on everyone of my top 5 lists. Simplicity is genius. The world is complicated enough. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be to take action and stick with a thing. Find the easiest way to keep up with whatever you are trying to be more disciplined about.

As an example, for me, I like to use my calendar. It tells me everything that I need to know. I’m very disciplined about following my calendar, so I know that any new thing I’m trying to make happen and that requires discipline means that it probably has to either be incorporated into my calendar or not be at odds with my calendar.

  • If my Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline don’t do it for you, here is a good article by Deep Patel writing for

  • Along with Self-Discipline – Self Management is a great trait to have especially in our WFH world or if you ever want to lead others, first you have to lead yourself.

  • Will is one of my favorites to listen to talk about self-discipline. Great way to start the First Monday of the New Year.

SELF DISCIPLINE – Best Motivational Speech Video (Featuring Will Smith)

Bored Brains Don’t Develop

Companies are spending a lot of money on learning and development. Jamming content down everyone’s throat. Getting excited about new systems and programs. There is always a new book to read, a new program to introduce, a new way of doing things to get certified in.

Yet, for all the money spent and effort put in to yearly development plans most employees look skeptically at all of this.

Most view development as something to be done when trying to get promoted, and even then it is more about appearances and networking then on truly making lasting change or building new skills.

We have to change the conversation. We have to adjust the plans and systems. We have to quit chasing the latest and greatest books that are rehashing the same content with a different wrapper.

There is an opportunity here to really dig deep and start making some lasting change for each of us. And part of that comes with reframing how we look at personal and professional development and our own growth as human beings.

Part of this comes with how we must adjust our relationship with our jobs and careers. For most of us, gone are the days of a lifelong career. And certainly, for most, the days of a lifelong job have clearly passed us by. Many companies and leaders are lying to themselves about employee retention. The best and most talented are not staying in the same role, the same job for years on end.

This is a generality. Sure there are some that will stay because their life circumstances at the moment make it so that they need to coast right now and so they stay put. There are those who are feeling less than, in their career and are settling for the job they have, for right now. Some have golden handcuffs and won’t leave while their pay is so high, waiting to be vested in those stock options, or they have so many weeks of vacation that they can’t think of leaving…right now.

The best and the brightest have an expiration date on their retention. It is reset when they are given a new challenge, a new position, or anything that adds to their skills set and their brand. 

It is important to have a firm understanding of this as we look to change the way we think of development. Learning new things should be fun. It is in the play that we don’t notice the learning. It is in the play that we find enjoyment. And it is in the enjoyment that it allows our brains to soak up information and to do so for longer.

Bored brains, no matter how “motivated” will never be able to soak up the learning needed, especially as we get older, to put that learning into use and become experience.

Self fulfillment and reaching full potential as a human being takes reaching deeply into who we are and growing from what we were to what we can be. We have the potential to be more than what we are. To grow.

And it is time we bring back fun and make it a part of our learning, there is no reason adults can’t have fun. Our brains will thank us for it.

Don’t Short Change Yourself – It Takes Vision For Self Development

If you don’t have a plan for your development then you are short changing your growth.

Now, let’s forget all those company IDP, PDP plans that are boring, overly bureaucratic, and almost always miss the point. It’s important to have a process but the process is about having a repeatable method for success – not a hoop to jump through that doesn’t seem like it has anything really to do with your desires and success.

This is about you, as a person, as an individual.

And the first step in managing your own development is to have vision. If you can’t see where you are trying to get or how you want to show up differently – you are destined for stagnation and frustration.

Your personal vision of where you want to be will ground you as you work on your self development. Having a clear idea of where you want to be in a few months or years provides something tangible to reach for. It provides the foundation when you are struggling and the going gets rough. It makes it clearer to know what you are working towards both for yourself and articulating this to others.

This is an important step and one that should not be skipped when coming up with a plan for your personal development.

I know this one is tough for a lot of people. It is far easier to just jump in and make bold statements of what you plan on doing. And then jump in and start doing the work. The problem is that for most people, that don’t work. If you don’t have a process. If you don’t do something different than you’ve been doing. If you don’t make something that you can use to remind yourself and hold yourself accountable, then it is just words, dreams, and fantasies. Well intentioned fantasies, but nonetheless you were never really serious about making change and growing.

Work on that personal vision.

Reflect on your values.

This is part of coming up with your personal vision and being able to turn it into a statement. If you don’t know what you stand for, what is important to you, which things are important enough to stand on a mountain and die for – then all the plans, ambition, desire to make change and improvement in your life and in your skills won’t really stand a chance at actually happening.

You may add some technical skills but you’ll never make any lasting change in how you approach life or the way you show up in your work if you don’t put in the work. When you know what you stand for – this becomes a great crucible for making decisions, especially when the times get tough. And let’s be real, any true development can only come from those tough moments. This is where we are pushed to our limits, push our boundaries, and make something new and special happen within ourselves.

  • Write out where you want to be and by when.
  • Why do you want to do this? And what are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen?
  • What needs to change in you to make it happen? What skill are you lacking? What is the gap?
  • How will you make use of your strengths to fill that gap?

Our strengths are a wonderful place to start. Leverage what you do well first. Sure you have things you suck at and they probably have something to do with that gap. But all too often we go to the negative without first looking at our strengths and what we bring to the table. Learning to first make use of those strengths to fill those gaps will multiply your efforts at hitting those goals. That may not be enough. But start with the strengths first.

Once you have this, then you can get to work on developing the plan.

Here are something that I’m following right now and I thought I’d share because you may find interesting.

  • ‘Never be the same’: How Slack’s CEO sees the future of work

  • Revisiting some of my old posts for some inspiration and wisdom.

  • Talking out both sides of my mouth. The ways in which we are looking at careers are changing. The traditional model of career planning needs to be thrown out the window.

Say goodbye to career planning: Tim Clark at TEDxPlainpalais


Set The Table In Preparation For Inspiration

You probably don’t feel like it right now. Perhaps you are drained from the year you’ve endured. Maybe you don’t feel like there is any end in sight. Or are you wanting to be inspired? Looking to make a go of it, but don’t know where to start?

No matter where you are starting from, if you are ready to make some changes you can own 2022 for your own. Before you start making plans, check within first.

Motivation. I find motivation to be sore substitute for inspiration. It serves a purpose when you need a little extra kick and are having difficulty finding your own inspiration. It’s important we start with inspiration. That we develop our ability to set the table in preparation for inspiration.

Inspiration comes from within. Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do externally to make more fertile ground for inspiration to take root. Here are a few of my favorite, simple and effective.

Change your environment. Go for a walk. A hike. Sit near a tree and watch the birds. Okay, it’s a bit cold for that right now. But a brisk cool walk will do you a world of good. Don’t try and be inspired. Just walk. And keep walking until you start to feel your thoughts change from the same old ones you’ve been having for days to a fresher perspective. Stick with it. It will happen. And you are on the road to inspiration then.

Expand the mind – This means many different things to me. Reading is a great way to expand the mind. If you aren’t into reading you are missing out on a fantastic way to reorganize your mind and learn new things. Watching educational videos or documentaries new and interesting subject on YouTube can also do the trick. Writing is another fantastic way to expand your thinking and to explore your own mind.

Listen to music. Music is a great way to fuel inspiration. Some people can be inspired no matter the type of music they are listening to. I use different types depending on what I’m going for. It’s a great primer that starts to tell my mind, okay, we are going on a journey, we don’t know for sure where we are going, but follow the rhythm. If you don’t know where to start, go with classical music. It’s the most accessible and produces the best reproduceable results.

Meditate. Hello, I’d like to introduce you, to you. This one takes the most practice. It’s the most deceptively simple. Sitting and letting your mind be – and accepting what comes – isn’t always easy. Even with a modicum of practice you can find great results here. In our modern world we fight our brains, try and force our thinking into what should be, what we and society wants us to think and feel. Meditation is a moment to just be. And that, for most of us, takes some practice.

Prepare yourself mentally for inspiration. That is really what all of these activities do and the trick is to find the ones that work for you. The idea is to change your thinking, prime your mind for allowing new ideas that lead to a better future for yourself. Part of that thinking is adjusting to where you are thinking about the ‘what if’s’ for your life, not the list of ‘I can’t’ that circles your mind endlessly.

Prime yourself for inspiration, get to know your why, your purpose and then you can set your sights through self motivation to achieving those goals, knocking out those plans, and owning 2022.

Ready, Set, Own it.

If this inspired you to want to take inspiration to the next level and are a fellow self development geek like me, then geek out with this video on the science of inspiration.

The Research-Backed Secrets to Getting Inspired


Ready to go from inspiration to action. Here is a little something to take your first step.

James Marcus Ross

My go to for getting the blood pumping and getting started with cranking out the amazing. I dare you to try and not go after it.

The Black Eyed Peas – Let’s Get It Started (Official Music Video)

Ready, Set, Go after it.

How Do We Keep Going, When We Are Programmed to Stop

We spend a lot of time asking how to get started. How to begin action. To make something happen. Build a business. Get a new job. Change our lives.

We don’t really ask how do we keep going?

There is this idea that if you want it bad enough – you’ll keep going.

There is this thought that with enough determination and grit – you’ll keep going.

We believe that if you are really ambitious, then you’ll make it happen and be successful.

To be successful you must have discipline and without it you’ll always be right wherever you are.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

So, when we fail to keep going we run backwards and look at our goals, our ambitions, our grit and try to solve for one of those things, the next time we go and take a stab at something. Once we’ve overcome our concern over the last failure, the energy to do something builds within us, and then off to the race, we make another huge push.

And still, at some point our momentum wanes, we run into a road block and we come to a crashing and abrupt stop. Then we hit ourselves over the head with the gnarly hammer of discipline and failure, whacking over and over again. Before our skulls are completely bashed in, we add in a bit of self-flagellation by lashing our backs as a gentle reminder of our inadequacies. And all of these lessons stick with us.

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Enduring our own self prescribed pain we ask why we are not strong enough, disciplined enough, why we don’t have enough willpower to over come and to keep going.

It turns out, we’ve been missing the point. All of those words are nice. Ambition. Determination. Grit. Discipline. Willpower.

And, if you either naturally or through experience have developed them over other strengths then you are in a pretty good place for starting and continuing. On their own, they are not a automatic recipe for success. But you do have a pretty good head start on those that don’t.

What we are learning is that we’ve been missing the point all along. We’ve been conditioned to do exactly as we are doing. There is a very natural response that has developed and we find ourselves on one side of the equation.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

We operate out of habits. As much as 40-45% of our day is spent automatically doing things. One thing leads to another, that leads to another. This mechanism is there to protect us. They are formed through a series of responses to either real or perceived pain or pleasure. Alive is the goal. Safe is the name of the game.

Doing something new can be painful. It is unknown. The outcome is not clear. You can’t be certain that you will have the desired outcome. We are operating out of fear. And the chasm between our desired reality or outcome, and where we are at begins to seem insurmountable.

The safe land is what you’ve always done. This isn’t a conscious choice but a natural response to protect you.

Photo by kristen munk on

There are lots of tips and tricks to get you started. But if you are relying on sheer force of will and the energy and drive to keep moving forward – then you have a monstrous mountain in front of you. Made all the worse by stories of others who have pushed through and made it happen. Those 1% of people that make things happen through seemingly superhuman feats or ones that we feel have just been dealt a good hand. Combined with the stories of all who fail and our own painful beats we and life give us when we fail at something new, it can seem that we are destined to fail.

We need to hack the system we have so that with the least amount of energy, with the least amount of willpower, we are able to keep our forward momentum.

In order to do that first we have to get good at hacking our habits.

One of the major issues with habits and why we fail with these very difficult changes we are trying to make in our lives, is that we are trying to eat the whole buffet in one bite. Breaking things down into their component pieces, into manageable bites is the best way to go. It seems so logical, and yet we do not do this.

Photo by Pixabay on

Breaking things down into manageable snacks not only makes it easier to digest, it also allows us to build up positive rewards along the way. This way, we are not working for some large goal that we have to delay all gratification for until some seemingly super distant future.

The good news is that willpower can be increased. Grit can be increased. It turns out that our ability to practice these things through adjusting our habits make the biggest difference.

It turns out those who have the best self control and willpower, don’t actually use it. They structure their lives in ways that circumvent the need to put their self control to the test. 

You don’t have to love the activity. Maybe you don’t like exercising. One step would be to make it not be about the activity. Make it be about the result. You want to be able to get up with out feeling winded. Now, work on loving the process. How do you change and adjust your habit so that you get up and get moving? What is your reward for getting up and getting moving? And no, it probably shouldn’t reward your one mile walk with a Boston Cream doughnut.

Love the process. Love the result. Give yourself little rewards. Enjoy the little successes. Those little successes will mount up and magnify as you progress. Fall in love with that progress.

Need a bit more on habits, check out this video The Power of Habit : Charles Duhigg @ TedxTeachersCollege

For a great read on grit and perseverance check out Angela Duckworth book, Grit : The Power of Passion and Perseverance

And now for some shameless self promotion, check out my LinkedIn article Relentless Action – Never Give Up, Never Surrender

And while you are reading, here is something I’m listening to Fearless Motivation  – Never Give Up. This is from composer Walter Bergmann and you can follow him on his YouTube channel.

Miserably Failing Excellently

I’ve always been fascinated and motivated by the idea of striving for excellence. But I’ve been doing it all wrong. And have failed miserably.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” – Aristotle paraphrased by Will Durant

This quote has been a major building block for me in my life. It speaks to two subjects that I find quite interesting : excellence and habits. Excellence is not just an idea or something to strive for but one that can be found in action, repeated action that forms a consistent habit.

This provides a framework where we can begin to visualize what excellence looks like.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

There is also an unspoken aspect that follows quite naturally that excellence is a choice in our actions. A choice to be excellent at a thing while not pursuing other things. Not only choice but intentional and conscious choice.

Of course, Aristotle wasn’t speaking of a singular act and was speaking to the habit of excellence coming from what we repeatedly do.

To strive for excellence is to go beyond okay, beyond the ordinary standards, far beyond good enough. It is to reach for unusually good – and this takes being uniquely in a class all to itself reserved for the few. To step away from the pack. Away from how it has always been done or how everyone has done it.

“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. ”

Booker T. Washington

It then follows that to attain excellence we must risk failure. To be excellent, one has to be less than excellent by falling right on our face after reaching higher than everyone else.

Now that is scary. And thrilling.

Think of all those that we have heard use the word excellence.

They describe their work as excellent. They as a boss tell you they demand excellence trying to sound like leaders inspiring others to greatness. Always looking outward for others to be excellent and rarely role modeling excellence. Show up to work on time. Turn in your work on time. Meet expectations.

Mediocrity masquerading as excellence.

How many of us have the word excellence on our resume? Demonstrated excellence. Committed to excellence. Operational excellence. You name it, I see it all the time. I’ve been guilt of it, and it pains me to realize it. Ouch.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Are you at the top of your game? Can you demonstrate excellence through a consistent habit and delivery of top of your field results? Great.

But I suspect that many of us are doing really good work, but just shouldn’t be using the word excellent.

Knock it off already – we sound silly to self proclaim excellence without the action to back it up. Look at your work. You should be proud of what you are doing, but is it really excellent. Do the results back it up?

“The foundation of lasting self-confidence and self-esteem is excellence, mastery of your work. ”

Brian Tracy

What this means is that we have some work to do on this journey to strive for excellence. We’ve made the first step by desiring excellence and being committed to doing the work towards excellence. But if we haven’t risked it all and stuck our neck out, then we can’t have had the experiences to learn from and to reach beyond into the land of excellence.

I’m reaching for excellence with this post. I’m not just saying what others want to hear from me. I’m pushing my own boundaries. I’m trying. I’ll learn from what works. And I’ll keep trying to refine this message so that it touches people and helps them on their quest to change for the better.

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I’ve failed at excellence and that is exactly where I need to be. Falling on my face is good as long as I keep getting back up. How about you?

It’s okay that I may fail. But I will reach for excellence and not claim I’ve reached the peak of the mountain when I’m still staring up. There is work to get done. Let’s get on with it.

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence. ”

Jessica Guidobono

Here is a good (less than five minute video) from Rules of the Mind on Aristotle – Excellence Comes By Habit

Check out the book Focus : The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by Daniel Goleman and learn how to cultivate attention as a way to achieve self -control.

For a quick read, check out my LinkedIn article Fight Mediocrity, Strive for Excellence

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.

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.

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.

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!