Sunday, June 18, 2017

Shaping how we understand our lives

The more time I spend with my dad in his later years, and hear newly polished stories of his youth and life past, and at the same time endless stories of suspicion and fear about the present, and finally obsession with ever ache and pain and sick friend enemy and relative no matter how far away, the more I am convinced that the stories we tell ourselves. shaped our understanding of how we perceive our lives. My dad is not alone, he is only an example of all of us, as we all tell ourselves stories about the intentions of others, the importance or unimportance of every event, the meaning of all the foci of our lives. This inner chatter may be the single most critical changeable factor in our daily lives.

Or as Leo Babauta stated, "At the end of the day, the questions we ask ourselves determine the type go people we will become." Questions questions questions - the foundations of the stories we tell ourselves. What kind of father will I be or have I been? What type of husband will I be or have I been? If my marriage is less than I desire or expect, what responsibility and actions will I take to make it strong better and richer? Or will I simply lay blame around like poison on the tip of an arrow? How will I make the world a better place? What value will I provide for my circles of relationships or clients? What character will I bring to the challenges of life that I have no control over? Will I be a giver or a taker? And this can, and does, go on until the end of our days.

Now the tricky part is to ask ourselves these questions, not just feel (i.e. react) our way through life. I don't know about you, but my base reactions are far less than I desire when I step back and use some brain power and forecasting in the process of life. I want my inner chatter to come to the place where it reflects the life I chose to live, rather than the feelings of the moment. I want to shape my life, not only have it shape me. I choose to bring my best self into play each and every day.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Directions

Directions

Normally folks ask directions of people who look like they belong right? Well today is the weird anomaly in the sense that three people have asked me for directions today and no one in their right mind would ever mistake me for a local. Hair too long, beard too wild, clothes too young, skin too white, etc etc. Maybe it was the bottle of whiskey I was carrying? Maybe it was the jacket I was wearing? Maybe it was the way I was walking and carrying myself? Who knows . . . 

After some thought, it was mostly just a matter of convenience I bet, in the sense that I was the handiest person to ask? The best part was that I actually knew all three places I was being asked to give directions toward . . . that felt powerful and wonderful. When you can deliver what people need and seek, it gives a great feeling of accomplishment and significance.

It was like after church today, when a Dutch guy came up to me and told me that this was the best worship service he had heard in two years! Followed by another worshipper who communicated how awesome today was for him and how much he enjoyed hearing me play the guitar. Made all the work and effort all the more wonderful and worth it. There is simply nothing as good as knowing where the goal is located and delivering it well. Directions - leadership 101.

Monday, May 15, 2017

There will come a day . . .

There will come a day . . . 

"There will come a day when you would give everything you have left to have what you have right now." As I am coming through one of the most surprisingly difficult weeks of my life, a time of recent family death anniversaries, I was wonderfully blessed that this article resonanted deeply in me today. The bottom line is this, as difficult as today is with all these deep feelings of grief and other things, that I will still soon find myself in a time, where I would give everything to have what I have right now. Of course this is not about material things for me, but rather my work, my life, . . . what I HAVE rather than what I DON'T have. Its about the life I can live today, not the losses that we have experienced these last few years. It is about being grateful and appreciative, rather than consumed with what is gone. Because for the vast majority of people and their experiences toward the end of life, the losses will mount and mount ever higher, and so what I have TODAY may well be the best I can ever look back on.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

One year ago today . . .

One year ago today

Today is the one year anniversary of the worse day in my life, when I got a call from my niece telling me that my brother was dead. It has been a really difficult year, and frankly it is unbelievable that a full year has come and gone. And it is funny-sad-weird how angry I am, yet dying is a normal part of living right? What is there to be angry about? All the couch psychologists out there are thinking that this is simply one of the normal cycles and seasons of grieving and they would be right and they would be wrong.

My brother was not a simple person. Life could never measure up to his ideals, and so crushed by the harsh realities, he instead lived life of self medication, on the edge of depression and anger for decades. With the decades of self medication came a host a medical ills and pains and chronic conditions that self-medicating only made worse and worse. I am glad that I spent some good quality time with him in his last years. I am thankful that my wife gave me the freedom to do so.

The most horrible and difficult thing I ever had to do in my life was call my parents one year ago today, and watch them melt before my eyes as I told them their youngest son was gone forever. There is simply a big black hole in the fabric of life that was once him, for all of us. There is no getting it back, there is no fixing it, there are no answers for a life now gone.

As I sit here on the same balcony, where I received the news that he was gone, I can't help but think that he had lots of living left to accomplish, he is missing so many wonderful things in his girls lives, in his granddaughters lives, in my life, in my parents lives. 51 years is not nearly enough to finish this thing we call life. And now the lives of all of us are changed for forever, because he is not here to share it with us.

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Monday blues?

The Monday blues?

There are so many things that we associate with Mondays. One of my favorite songs as a teenager was "Just Another Manic Monday" by the Bangles. Just another Monday-bashing song actually, but sometimes Monday's can be magical and fun and productive. Especially if you take the weekend for what it was meant to be used for, to disconnect, unwind, rest, restore, a digital dotoxification, and no email. Then Monday feels like a great opportunity to jump in and get some important stuff accomplished rather than the continuation of an ongoing grind that you may not enjoy.

And the finish is so important. Me? I did it with a nice dinner on the balcony on this lovely Spring day with my wife, having a conversation about the beautiful sunset and the nice ambience and the perfect temperatures. Snow-capped mountains visible in the distant horizon, good food, and a nice cold dark beer.

Sure there are lots of things to be concerned about and to yet accomplish this week, but we are off to a great start. And yet . . . this week marks the one year anniversary of my brother's passing . . . and that weighs heavy on all of us. We miss him as if it happened yesterday rather than a whole year past. But there is so much living left to be doing, we can't let what we can't change destroy the possibilities of the present and our effects on today and tomorrows.

The best gifts

The slow concentrated present . . . was a great gift

As I said in the previous blog I surround myself with A level people. They never let me rest! They offer so much to me that I would never be able to see on my own. This particular gift of a person, reminded me that the masses are being trained to have "continuous partial attention" and also reminded me of what a disaster that is for our world. Attention is the rarest element in the social universe! Focus is the most difficult skill to foster in the modern world!

Yet if you want to be a change-the-world person, you must give the MIT (most important thing) your deepest attention, your most intense focus, the very best version of yourself! I have found that surrounding yourself with A level people who will never let you rest, who will never settle for less than spectacular, who want you to be the person they hope you are, is the very best way to move in that direction. 

Is it easy? Oh no! Is it comfortable? Are you sh**ting me? But is it incredible? You bet! Yet you can't get there without A level people who demand and expect more of you. People who will send you material that will rock you, who expect you to live it!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Science is not what you thought it was . . .


In my previous blog I mentioned that I very deliberately surround myself with A level people. In this blog today and in the next one I hope to show what I gain from doing so.

One of the A level people I surround myself with, focused me in a brilliant manner last week. He pointed me to a Godin blog (which I had already read) but his take on it blew me away. The blog he redirected my attention toward can be found here, Seth explaining what Science is an and what it isn't . . . as only Seth can do folks. 

As I said, I read Seth's blog each and every day, right after I read the Scriptures, and just as religiously. But it did not resonate with me. I did not save it to Evernote nor did I tag any clients with this bit of wisdom.

But then this A level person texts me while he is on a trip somewhere out there, and he is having his own daily PTA time (Protect The Asset time - read Essentialism by McKeown if you are foolishly ignorant of this critical idea) and he helped me see that what I do each day in The Leadership Development Group is precisely this "Science" it its truest and most real form. A lesser person would have glossed over the article . . . like I did. There are very very good reasons to surround yourself with A level people.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Much better than me?


The leadership adage goes that A people hire B people and B people hire C people and so on and so forth. Pretty soon that leads to certain disappointment and then we find ourselves wondering what happen? How did the ship lose its rudder? How did we fail to achieve all that we are dreaming about? Why is our organization less than we had hoped it would be?

When we lived in Canada many many years ago, we attended a church that was really incredible. Yet the lead pastor was an underwhelming small-minded, uninspiring, less than ideal pastor and leader in almost every respect - except one. He hired A level people. He surrounded himself with people that were better in every way than himself.  He truly sought out and retained the best in the business! That takes either brilliance or an amazing level of self-confidence. I still haven't figured out which one of those Wayne possessed, but I learned an important lesson and it is one I have honed all my life and I continue to sharpen and employ across the board.

I surround myself with the best people. I systematically eliminate whiners and low-potential people from my work and from my social networks. It sounds cold to some of you. It sounds exciting to some of you. Hahaha! The reality is that it is incredibly challenging and overwhelmingly difficult to intentionally choose to be the slowest person in the room. Read that sentence again, because it is truly true. It demands a humility that runs so deep, a self-awareness that is brutally painful and teachable at the same time. A refusal to think for a moment that I am on the same level as these folks. Most folks I meet and know, could not stand the heat in this particular kitchen, and so they don't. Instead they surround themselves with less. Less than they are so that they can shine. Less than they are so that they can be in the spotlight. Less than they are in order to have power and control and so many other things.


But they lose in that process. They lose the opportunity to learn. They lose the opportunity to improve. They lose the chance to grow. They lose chance to impact the next generation of leaders. And most of all, they lose the certainty of becoming much more than they are today.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The slow concentrated present

The slow concentrated present

I had a good friend send me a link today of a great Cal Newport blog about several things that he personally does to improve his deep thinking/deep work ability. He listens to baseball games on the radio - a task that has none of the glamor and BSO (bright shiny objects) that easily distract us and keep our fleeting attention engaged. Listening to a live game requires a unique concentration . . . and yes there are commercial breaks and Mr Newport fills those empty times in with a book.

Since I am no baseball fan, I had to work a bit to find some parallels that I could apply in my life to train myself to listen better, focus longer and train my brain to do something deeper and more significant than Twitter or Facebook.

So at last I settled on a whip-lash speed story audiobook series that forces me to listen carefully or I have to rewind to find the thread where my concentration broke and I lost the storyline or missed some details. So far I have found that . . . that I have to rewind frequently! And I do this while riding my bicycle trainer or outside bike up the mountain near my apartment. It makes the exercise go quickly, while entertaining me too. Hopefully I am making progress in deeper focus and concentration!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Accepting responsibility . . . the key to self-respect?

It is impossibly difficult to get your work done some days, it is so challenging and there are outside forces combining to defeat you at every single turn, to destroy your every effort to fulfill your responsibilities. Focus is fractured. The action never happens. The intensity of the urgency of the immediate consumes all ambition to do the important and change the world for the better. The costs of ignoring the loudest closest clanging blood-relative is so high, as to prohibitively decimate every wish hope and plan to do the amazing. The collaboration of each innocent piece and person clammoring for our limited and ever-so-important attention, overwhelms and drowns our best intentions. Even as I scramble to get all things done, and get out of the hotel within the time frames required, get back on the road, accomplish the next task and event, there are ever higher tasks and events screaming for their accomplishment too. 

But.

But I can make difficult choices. I can make a different set of decisions. I can respond in various ways to this conversation. We can accept responsibility for our own lives, rather than blaming the fiery intensity of too many choices and and options. We can change the world, if we are willing to choose to do so, and pay the prices of those decisions.

"Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.” - Joan Didion

Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling with the worlds smallest computer


I am on a four day business trip. I make a trip like this several times each month. Travel is the middle name in my life. I basically fly to work, rather than drive, even though I did that too, as I drove myself to the airport and parked my car there for a few days. I am not complaining only explaining so that you understand I travel - a lot. And I have a screen for every length of a trip. In my life, you want to take just enough technology to get by while on the road. Just like you only want to take enough clothes and no more. While I am allowed 32 kilos of baggage on this trip, I am traveling with a small carry on instead. Why in the world would I need 70.4 pounds of baggage for a four day trip?? One pair of jeans (which I am wearing!), one suitcoat, two dress shirts, three socks, three underwears, two sets of work out clothes, sneakers, and two phones and one external keyboard and some cigars to enjoy along the way.

The reality is that the phones constitute the world's smallest computers, and I have both an Android and an Apple device on this trip, which gives me a total of three SIM cards and phone numbers and data plans as I am on this four day trip. Honestly my phone can do every single thing my computer can, and the only constraints are storage and (the worst of course is) the small screen. Otherwise, the upsides, are the diminutive size and weight of the phones, and that you are not required to whip them out as you go through security.

For a short intense face to face business trip which will have limited sit-and-work-from-a-screen time anyways, the trade off is clearly in favor of the worlds smallest computers. I will let you know in another blog on the way home IF, I regret this decision in retrospect and why.