leadership development

Ever Feel Stuck in the Rat Race?

Ever feel like your business is running you instead of you running your business?  Most of us got into business for ourselves so we could be our own boss, make our own rules, live life on our own terms.  Then we found out that owning a business could be just as much, or more, of a rat race than working a nine to five.

 

Until we get the right people on the bus and workable systems and processes in place, there is a lot to do.  In addition to there being a lot to do, all the responsibility rests with the owner which can cause a lot of stress.

 

We’re pulled in many directions and wear many hats at the same time.  Said hats include, but are not limited to, scheduling appointments, sales and marketing, customer service, product/service research and development, strategic planning, etc.  Oh and we have to eat and sleep too.  Most days.

 

Then as we grow and take on an employee or a few which adds training and management to the list too.  Obviously this brings up a whole new set of challenges to work through heaping more things to do and responsibility on the business owner.

 

Most people have heard of the 80/20 rule.  If you haven’t, here’s a refresher: basically it means that 20% of our actions produce 80% of our results.  This can be framed in several different ways.  We’re going to take a look at one of them here in this article.

 

There is a habit that plagues most small business owners today. They tend to spend significantly more time working in their business versus on their business. That means they spend way more time doing the day-to-day tasks associated with running their business than thinking strategically and planning for the future.

 

There are many reasons for this such as the need for control, perfectionism, and lack of leadership. None of these are permanent problems, but it is up to the business owner to do something about it. Following are three simple things you can start practicing immediately without spending a dime.

 

  1. Spend 20% of Your Time Working ON the Business

 

Yup. Just do the math. If you work forty hours a week, spend eight of those hours thinking and planning strategically about the future of your business. This one simple practice will break the pattern of being stuck in the weeds with your hands busy.

 

Trust me when I tell you that I realize this is simple in word and not so easy in deed. And if you don't do it, nothing is going to change. You can expect the same results that you've gotten on average or an incremental change in results over a long period of time.

 

Let that sink in. Let yourself feel what it feels like to realize that to expect  different results from doing the same thing over and over is insane. Think about the pain you feel sometimes when you realize you're in the rat race with everyone else. And then think about it being that way forever. For the rest of your life.

 

If you choose to do this one thing, spend 20% of your working hours developing ideas and plans for the future, about making your business better, you will literally change your life forever

 

2. Pick One Task to Delegate to Someone Else

 

When you do, you will begin honing the habit of becoming a leader. You can only take it so far all by yourself. Even if you haven't please and they are doing parts of your business for you, I guarantee there is at least one thing that you're holding onto that you don't need to.

 

By doing this you're holding yourself and your whole company back. You are literally stifling your dream.

 

Give the responsibility to someone else. Practice training and developing that person into being even better than you when you did it. That's leadership and I promise you'll be happier for it. This is when true freedom is made possible through your business.

 

3. Take a 3 Minute Vacation

 

I definitely stole this one, but there's nothing new under the sun, right? I believe it was Tim Ferris who said this, but please don't quote me on that because I don't recall for sure. And with that being said I'm sure he wasn't the first one who said it either. Maybe a Buddhist monk from back in the day or something.

 

Whenever you're feeling stressed out, or whatever you call it, take three minutes and remember a really fun experience or think about the next vacation you're going on or what it would be like to do the thing you think would be the most fun in the world.

 

Sounds silly I know. Try it. What do you have to lose? After all it's three minutes. And you can count this as part of the 20% of your time working on the business instead of in the business. We all need time to recharge our batteries, and if we don't, we’ll wind up grinding ourselves to nub.

 

These are just three ideas of many that can break up your pattern of being stuck in the rat race. Have fun implementing them. Consider asking some other business owners you know about how they spend time working on their business. And please feel free to drop me a line and ask me any question anytime.

 

Is Inspiration A Circumstance or a Choice?

Most of the people I associate with are creating something out of nothing.  Entrepreneurs, small business owners, commission based professionals and people who are self employed.  They have intentions and goals and they go out and make it happen.  They’re visionaries.  They’re artists.

 

Doing this kind of work takes inspiration and commitment.  The purpose of this article is to give my two cents on whether inspiration is something we generate ourselves, or if it’s something that happens to us.  

 

The direct answer to this question is that it’s actually both.  Sometimes something happens, we see something, we hear something, we have a thought, and we get inspired to take some kind of action.  My assertion is that most of the time this is not the case.  That most of the time, if we wait for inspiration to strike, we’re going to be waiting for a long time.

 

People who are extraordinarily successful aren’t waiting around for anyone or anything to happen to them.  These folks are make it happen type of people.  When someone says no, they go find someone who will say yes.  When this pond dries up, they go find another pond to fish in.  If there’s an obstacle in the way, they find a way over it, around it, under it, or straight through it.  

 

I’ve been staring at the cursor here for literally an hour trying to figure out what to write about today.  I know, I know.  I should have a content schedule so I don’t have to create something on the spot.  Whatever.  I don’t have that right now.  

 

I was very close to giving up on this for the day.  I’m exhausted and hungry.  It’s 6pm on Friday afternoon and I’ve been up since 5am.  I busted my ass at the gym this morning, I”ve had 4 client meetings, a couple other phone conversations, sent some emails, and did some other admin work.  So many good reasons to not do this right now.  

 

This is when inspiration needs to be generated by none other than me.  And why?  Because I want to.  Because I choose to.  That’s it.  No other reason.

 

At the beginning of the year I made a commitment to myself that I’d write an article every week this year.  And just to make extra sure that I’d actually do it, I told several of my accountability buddies.  Yes, I have several.  

 

So I’m sitting here and I was actually about to give in and give up.  For the third time.  Right.  In service of full disclosure, I’ve let circumstances get the best of me twice so far.  I really didn’t want to have this be the third notch of failure in my belt.  So I self-generated me some inspiration.  

How did I do it?  Here’s how simple it is.  Again, simple, not easy.  For those who have never read any of my stuff: I say again because I write about a lot of simple concepts that are some of the hardest things you’ll ever do :)  So….do them if you want to set yourself apart from the crowd.  I digress.

 

It’s as simple as choosing to reach within and generate you some inspiration.  Why would I sit here and write this article?  Because I said I would.  Maybe that’s not enough for some people.  It’s enough for me.  My integrity is everything to me.  My word is my bond.  And when that gets mucked up, I’m not a happy camper.

 

My definition of integrity is when my intention, my words and my actions are all in alignment.  I intend to become a master at writing content that makes a difference for my audience.  That takes practice.  I said I’d practice every week by writing an article and posting it on LinkedIn and my blog.  I said I’d do it on Friday afternoons.  Here we are.  It’s Friday afternoon so I want to do the thing.

 

But I don’t feel like it!  Doesn’t matter.  Yup.  You’re feelings don’t matter when it comes down to brass tacks.  Tired, hungry, angry, sad, anxiety, frustration, resignation....FEAR.  Doesn’t matter.  

 

You’re definitely allowed to feel your feelings.  We need to in order to be healthy, well rounded, functional human beings.  But if/when we allow our feelings to get in the way of what we said we want and that we’re committed to, we need to take a serious look at working that out.  

 

This is why I personally surround myself with a team of mentors, coaches, friends, family, and peers so I have unreasonable support when it comes to working myself out in order to be and do what I said I would.  

 

This time I chose my wife, Tara the great.  I asked her to come upstairs because I needed some help.  I proceeded to complain to her about how I didn’t feel like doing this right now.  She tried to give me some ideas and I complained about them too.  I knew I wouldn’t want to cop out in front of my lady….and it worked.  

 

I chose to write about what was going on for me in this moment.  And what a relevant concept it is.  All my peeps are trying to create something out of nothing.  We all play in the unknown every day.  I chose to feel happy and inspired about using this little piece of my life experience as a life lesson for us all.  

 

Our job is to feel the feelings and then take action in spite of them.  Scared?  Do it anyway.  Don’t feel like it for whatever reason?  Do it anyway.  Or else you’re doomed to a state of mediocrity.  I don’t know about you, but to me that’s worse than death itself.  

 

So I’m not concerned about correct grammar, correct punctuation, political correctness or whether or not anyone even cares about this article.  I’m writing it anyway.  Because that’s what I said and that’s what I choose.  Because that’s what leaders do.

 

If you are interested in the concept of self-generating inspiration and doing what you said regardless of whatever gets in the way, I highly recommend a book by Steven Pressfield called - The War of Art.  It contains the most eloquent words I’ve ever read about the enemy of all creation: Resistance.  

 

I’d love to hear your story of conquering resistance and generating your own inspiration.  I think these anecdotes make the world a better place.  This isn’t something only superheros and special people can do.  This is a superpower we all possess.  Your story could make a difference and change someone’s world for the better.  Thanks.

Which Pain Do You Choose?

The bottom line job of a leader is to make decisions.  Depending on the circumstances around which a person is leading, these decisions can be a matter of life and death.  Think military or other high stakes jobs like logging (rated number one of the top ten deadliest jobs in a Forbes article in 2013).

 

I’d argue that making decisions quickly and absolutely is the most important skill of a leader.  Notice I did not say making “right” decisions.  I said making decisions.  Leaders make questionable decisions all the time.  What sets great leaders apart is they own and empower their decisions….and the consequences thereof.

 

A Brief Tale of Two Brothers

 

Two brothers were on a sailboat on the ocean.  Both were competent seaman.  During the night, they took four hour shifts at the helm so each had a chance to sleep.  

 

One night while out at sea the brother who was asleep awakened at the sound of a loud foghorn.  He knew they weren’t close to land.  So the only other option of where this sound could have come from was another vessel.  And it had to be very close judging by the volume of the scream of the horn.

 

He rushed to the deck and saw that he and his brother’s boat was on course to crash into a container ship head on.  Yelling to his brother, he said, “Hard left!  Hard left!”

 

The brother seemed to be frozen and staring at the container ship like a deer in the headlights.  He yelled again, “Hard left!  Hard left!”  No movement whatsoever.

 

At this point there was only one thing to do.  He rushed over to his brother, pushed him out of the way, grabbed the helm and made a hard left.  This leader saved the day.  And in this case that meant saving he and his brother’s lives.  

 

This leader is my good friend Bill so I know it’s a true story, not an anecdote to make my point.  Bill is in his seventies and has owned/operated, bought, sold or grown eight different companies in his career.  The biggest one did over $300 Million in revenue per year.  

 

Bill knows what it takes to lead in business and in life.  He’s a practiced risk taker and decision maker.  That’s what got him to hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue.  Nothing else.  Bill has no college degree and was called stupid while growing up as he failed the fourth and ninth grades.  

 

Obviously Bill is not stupid.  He grew up with a learning disability during a time when they had no idea what that even meant.  The point is Bill learned the skills he needed to thrive.  The ability to take risks, make decisions, and be responsible for the consequences.  If he can do it, so can you.

 

What Gets in the Way of Making Decisions?

 

Leaders are action takers.  They don’t wait around for the right decision because they know they’ll be waiting a long time.  They don’t wait to feel comfortable because they know they’ll be waiting a long time.  They don’t wait for the fear to go away because…..

 

There’s no such thing as the right decision.  There’s only what works and what doesn’t work.  Leaders know this even if solely on a subconscious level.  

 

What gets in the way of making decisions is the need to be right, comfortable and sure.  Bill’s brother wasn’t sure what to do so he did nothing.  

 

What if he turned the helm too hard and capsized the boat?  What if he chose to turn and couldn’t do it fast enough and they hit the container ship?  What if he made the wrong decision and Bill got mad at him because he screwed up the boat?

 

Yup.  Any of these scenarios could’ve occurred and they all could’ve been painful.  What do you do if you’re faced with a decision that will result in something painful either way?  Well, you still have to choose.

 

Which Pain Will You Choose?

 

I got off the phone with Nick, a client of mine, shortly before writing this article.  The conversation we had inspired me to write this.  Nick’s a leader.  Always has been, always will be.  He and his wife own and operate a financial services practice near Dallas, TX.

 

Nick’s been crushing it lately due largely to his very successful marketing.  In the recent months he’s grown the business to where it earns a comfortable living for his family.  He wants to grow and knows it will likely take his investing diversifying his marketing efforts.

 

This week NIck has been presented with an opportunity to host a radio show as another tactic to add to his strategic marketing plan.  It’s something he’s had a goal of doing in the near future.

 

You guessed it.  Nick needs to make a decision, and fast, or else he’ll lose the opportunity to a competitor.  Not a life and death decision, but it’s certainly high stakes.  

 

Here’s the deal.  This is going to cost him $78,000 and a year of his life.  He’s run the numbers and adding the radio show to his marketing plan will grow his business to a whole new level.  IF….it actually works.  

 

There’s pain on either side of the fence.  If Nick chooses to go with the radio show, it’s going to cost a significant amount of money, he’ll likely have to hire several new people, and learn how to operate inside of a new set of circumstances.  A more stressful cash flow scenario, the headaches of hiring, training and working with new employees, and the risk of not acquiring enough clients to make it worth the investment.  

 

Conversely if Nick opts to not go with the radio show, he’s going to have to deal with the consequences of waiting until later to do it.  He’ll be wondering how it would’ve went had he chose to do it.  What if it worked?  What if he can’t get the same opportunity next year?  

 

Nick needs to make this decision by Tuesday, and no matter what he chooses, it’s going to be painful.  The clock is ticking and he’s taking action by calling his team of advisors and supporters to help him through the process.  Ultimately he knows he’s the only one qualified to actually choose.

 

It was so much fun talking to him about it.  It was like watching a good thriller.  I could feel the adrenaline rush as if it were me in his shoes.  I’ve been there many times.  And I’ve made decisions that worked and those that didn’t.  

 

Now you get to choose.  Who will you be and what will you do when faced with tough decisions?  Will you be and do whatever it takes?  Will you wait for someone else to choose for you?  You’ll see.  And so will those around you.

Have You Ever Should All Over Yourself?

Most people can think of at least one thing they want, but don’t currently have.  To be their ideal weight or at their ideal level of fitness, to earn a certain amount of money, to create their ideal career.  

 

Obviously there are many different things that can get in the way of accomplishing a goal.  This article is about one of the biggies.  The concept of ‘I should do’ vs ‘I get to’.  

 

When we think I have to or I should it comes from the perspective of Obligation.  Consider this for a moment.  Whenever you’ve been obligated to do something, how did you feel about it?  

 

Likely you felt frustration, resignation, resentment or even a stronger negative emotion like anger or even hatred.  How’s it likely to go from there?  Right.  Not so good.  

 

Coming from the perspective of obligation - should do, have to, etc - the mind tends to categorize the goal as a fix for a problem.  When this is the case, the mind then focuses it’s attention mostly on the problem, not who to be or what to do about it.

 

The goal becomes big and significant.  It feels heavy like a ball and chain we’re dragging around.  This causes unnecessary pressure and takes a lot of energy.  Sounds exhausting, right?  It is.

 

Conversely, when we’re doing something because we want to, it feels fun.  Like we’re playing a game.  Think about a time when you were having fun.  Time flew by and the experience was likely playful and joyful.  What if everything you were up to occurred to you as fun?

 

Something New to Practice

 

The Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda mentality is literally self inflicted punishment.  Why would we do that to ourselves?  Because this is learned behavior for most people.  

 

Think back to when you were young and small being ruled over by a world full of giants AKA parents, teachers and preachers.  Think role models like athletes, television characters and other media personalities.

 

These folks either shoved the should haves  down our throats or we created that feeling on our own.  I should look like that or feel like that or be able to do that.  

 

When we didn’t or we couldn’t yet we were likely punished somehow whether it was someone inflicting it on us, or it came from our own thought or feeling.  By now, as adults, this has simply become habit.  And all habits can be replaced with new habits by repetitive deliberate practice.

 

I invite you to practice choosing.  This is your life.  Ultimately, who you are and what you do is because you chose to.  So no fair acting like it’s something you have to do.  

 

Want something different?  Great.  That’s also a choice.  I invite you to practice relating to it as such and notice how the chains of obligation start to loosen their grip.  

 

From the perspective of choice we can actually make a game out of anything really.  Even if it’s new, scary and uncomfortable.  Our attention shifts how we’re relating to our circumstances instead of being on the circumstance itself.  You’ll find so much freedom in this.  Guaranteed.

 

Quick Story

 

In June 2015 I decided I wanted to get in shape.  I was going on 35 years old and I hadn’t exercised regularly since high school.  My eating habits were less than desirable and I wasn’t happy about it.  

 

Leading up to the moment when I chose to actually do something about it, I spent a lot of time in the shoulda, woulda, couldas.  I should’ve done something by now.  I would’ve already been through the hard part.  I could’ve had a more favorable lifestyle by now.

 

I’d have all the familiar thoughts and feelings about it, and guess what?  Nothing changed.  I did nothing.  All I accomplished was making myself feel terrible for not taking action.  

 

Every time I looked in the mirror I was reminded of what I should be doing.  Every time my energy felt low because of the so called food I was eating I was reminded of what I should be eating.  It felt like I had to do something different.  And for that reason, I did nothing because who likes doing something they feel obligated to do?  No one.

 

I took a serious look at this in June 2015 and I realized nothing was changing because I hadn’t connected a set of different actions to my own choice.  I began to imagine who I wanted to become.  

 

I wanted to be the guy who exercised regularly, was fit, strong and ate healthy food.  Just because I said so.  That was inspiring.  It wasn’t because anyone else told me to.  It wasn’t because I wanted to look like someone else.  It was because I chose to.

 

I completely changed the way I ate, started exercising several days per week, and lost about 30 pounds in less than 3 months.  And I’ve been going strong for almost 2 years.  

 

I don’t share this to toot my own horn.  It’s simply an example of what’s possible from choice.  Try it out.  Practice shifting your perspective from have to  over to get to and see what happens.  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.   

The Perfection Of Imperfection

Most people have their eyes on some sort of prize.  To look like the guy on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, to be able to bench press 225 ten times, to climb Mt Everest, to sell the company for $10 Million in the next five years.

 

Every one of these goals obviously comes along with a ton of time, work and dedication.  And if you’re anything like me, you wanted it to happen yesterday.  Intellectually you know it takes learning how and a lot of practice, but in your heart you just want it already.

 

Another thing that happens if you’re anything like me, is that in practicing, it doesn’t always turn out perfectly.  We make mistakes.  We fail.  We had a perfect plan for how we wanted it to be and it didn’t turn out that way.

 

WTF!?  We took the time to do the research, make a plan, take action against the plan, and it still didn’t work!?  Is there something wrong with me?  Am I not good enough?  Is it not meant to be?  

 

This line of thinking is totally normal.  When we don’t get what we want, it stings.  That sting is the feeling of our survival emotions being triggered.  Our fears, concerns, and feelings of frustration, anger, shame, anxiety, guilt, etc. are driven up and it hurts.

 

What’s The Meaning Of This!?

 

I believe we’re all here for a reason.  To learn something, to be something, to give something.  From experience I’ve learned that fulfillment is to be found in the journey, not the destination.  

 

If we wait for arriving at the destination to be happy, we’re going to be waiting a long time.  And, again, if you’re anything like me, you’re just going to choose another destination once you’ve arrived anyway.  Life is a constant game of setting the bar higher for people like us.

 

So, what do we say from here?  We could continue the vicious cycle of setting a goal, working towards accomplishing it, making mistakes, beating ourselves up for those mistakes and whether or not we crushed the goal good enough, fast enough, etc., then raise the bar higher and start all over again.  Or….

 

We could surrender to the natural process of falling in love with the perfection of imperfection.  Natural process?  Yes.  It’s completely 100% natural and you already know it.

 

How so?  Glad you asked.  Have you ever loved another person?  A friend, child, family member or significant other?  

 

Then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  There’s always something in that person we don’t like.  Some kind of imperfection.  Yet we love them anyway.  

 

We learned to see them as perfect even though they’re imperfect.  Oh, and they love you too, and you know very well that you’re not perfect.

 

So why do we set a new goal and expect it to go exactly as planned?  That’s crazy talk.  It’s actually not weird that we do this though.  We’ve been conditioned to go for perfection (think fairytale heroes) and made wrong for being imperfect countless times as we were growing up (think parents, teachers, religion).

 

OK, What Now?

 

Consider that we’re all writing our stories in every moment of every day.  The fairytale heroes weren’t heroes because they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  They were heroes because they went through a ton of hardship on their journey and either won in the end, or failed masterfully.

 

Consider you’re on your own hero’s journey and you get to write the script.  Remember that each of your favorite heroes went through some kind of unreasonable hardship before they were called a hero.  Luke Skywalker, Batman, Wesley from the Princess Bride.  All of them.

 

If you take a close look at what the hero went through you’ll see they all learned from each mistake, each hardship.  What did they learn?  They learned how to win.  It may not have looked good.  In fact, it may have looked like they were going to lose at times.  

 

With each stumbling block they learned how to rework the plan.  With each setback they learned how to get further on the next push.  With each loss they learned how to fight harder next time.  With each failure they learned how to win.

 

I just used a whole lot of words to say, “get over it”.  You’re going to fail.  It’s not going to look exactly how you think.  You’re beating yourself up for no reason.  Stop it.  

 

Stop it because you’re missing out on the lessons your journey has to offer.  Stop it because you’re missing out on an amazing experience of life while you’re waiting to arrive at the destination.  Stop it because other people are watching you and they deserve to have an amazing journey too.

 

I’ll leave you with my all time favorite quote.  It’s by Teddy Roosvelt:

 

It is not the critic who counts

Not the man who points out

How the strong man stumbles

Or where the doer of deeds could have done them better

The credit belongs to the man

Who is actually in the arena

Whose face is marred

By dust and sweat and blood

Who strives valiantly

Who errs, who comes short again and again

Because there is no effort

Without error and shortcoming

But who does actually strive to do the deeds

Who knows great enthusiasms

The great devotions

Who spends himself in a worthy cause

Who at the best knows in the end

The triumph of high achievement

And who at the worst, if he fails

At least fails while daring greatly

So that his place shall never be

With those cold and timid souls

Who neither know victory nor defeat

You’re Addicted. Yes, you.

Before you head straight for the comments to give me a piece of your mind, let me explain.  We’re all addicted at some level.  It’s part of the human experience.  Our cells get a certain feeling from experiences we have and that’s why certain experiences tend to repeat multiple times.

 

Have you ever had a moment when you could predict how you’re going to feel in the future?  For instance, when you need to have a conversation with a particular person and that person always makes you feel a certain way?  Or the conversation always goes a certain way?

 

Or do you remember ever saying, “this always happens to me”?  You know, kind of like the movie Groundhog Day.  Well, maybe not that bad, but I think you probably get what I mean.

 

To illustrate my point I’m going to use a real story about my own life.  I’m not just accusing you of being addicted to the familiar, I’m admitting to the same process existing in me.  I’m just as guilty as we all are.  

 

I also intend to make clear that this isn’t a bad thing.  Being addicted has tremendous advantages as well as negative consequences.  In this article I’m going to show you how to harness this force of nature for good in your life.

 

As you’re reading this all the way through, I have a request of you.  I want you to consider for a moment, that if this is true, how might it be showing up in your life?  Instead of you looking for ways to argue against this point, I invite you to look for the truth in it.

 

The Trap of the Familiar

 

Our bodies have been conditioned to go for the familiar.  We all have thoughts, fears, and feelings both good and bad that are automatic and predictable.  All of these things put together are how we create our identity.  They’ve become how we relate to ourselves.  

 

Our thoughts send signals to the rest of our body that inform our cells how to feel.  Those feelings become emotions - or energy in motion - which transmute into actions and then results.  This is why we often have the experience of familiarity with our environment.

 

The following is an example of how this concept showed up for me in the recent past and what I chose to do about it to create an unfamiliar result.  It’s an example of how I chose to change who I am in service of a new and more favorable circumstance in my life.

 

I have a friend named Steve whom I’ve known since I was four years old.  We’ve known each other for 32 years.  He’s one of my best friends in the world.  He and his wife are planning his 40th birthday party for next month.

 

Obviously a 40th birthday is a big deal and my friends and I love to have a good excuse to get together and have a party.  It just so happens that I have a work commitment scheduled on that day.  This caused a feeling of anger, sadness and disappointment in me.

 

Didn’t they know I wouldn’t be available on that day?  Of course they did.  I’ve been busy on the first weekend of every month for over four years.  

 

Didn’t they know I’d really want to come out and celebrate with them?  Of course they did.  They know me and how much I love to be with my friends having a good time.  

 

Aren’t they allowed to schedule a birthday party whenever they want?  Of course they are.  It’s their party and they can have it whenever they want to.

 

As all of these thoughts and feelings were running through my mind and body I noticed this was a familiar pattern from the past.  I remembered a time when we were kids.  

 

My neighborhood friends, of which this person was one, had plans to do something together.  I had also been invited to hang out with another group of my friends during that same time.  I chose to hang out with this other group over my neighborhood friends.  Steve was pissed at me!

 

It was a big deal at the time.  I was called a sell out, a bad friend, and all kinds of other names I won’t put in writing here.  It made me feel like a bad person.  I still chose to do what I wanted to do because I knew I could do so and still maintain my friendship with Steve.  It just wouldn’t feel good for a while.

 

We, of course, got over this tough time in our relationship as kids and have had a ton of awesome experiences together since then.  The interesting thing is how much that time in my life was still impacting me in the present and the future.  I’ll explain.

 

I was trapped in the familiar pattern of allowing my feelings to manifest into my reality.  When I heard about the 40th birthday party conflicting with my work commitment, as I said, I was angry, sad, and disappointed.

 

I immediately imagined the worse case scenario.  Steve would call me a bad friend and be mad at me for missing this milestone celebration, I’d be mad at him for not being willing to see my perspective, and I’d have to do a lot of work to fix our relationship.  

 

What I Did To Create Something Different

 

First I got present to why I was taking the position of prioritizing my work commitment.  In the past I would have related to this as something that was happening to me.  I have to do this other thing.  I have no choice.

 

This time I empowered it as my choice.  I won’t bore you with all the details as to why this was my choice, but I had to be able to see that it was, in fact, a choice.  

 

Then I got present to the fact that this doesn’t mean I’m a bad person and it also doesn’t mean I don’t love Steve.  It simply means I’m not going to be present at his birthday party.  

 

Next I chose how I wanted to feel about it all.  I chose to feel happy.  I felt happy about the amazing accomplishment it is to have had a friend for 32 years.  I felt grateful that we have a relationship such that we can feel disappointment and not hate each other for it.  I chose to feel relieved that he was ok with me missing the party before I actually had evidence that he was.

 

The important thing to note here is that all of these feelings were there as a result of my choice.  Not a result of anything that actually happened.  I changed who I was being before I did anything at all.  Most people are accustomed to waiting for their circumstances to change prior to their feelings and actions changing.  This is the trap I alluded to above.

 

Now that I had created a foundation of who I wanted to be in this situation I could take some action around it.  I contacted Steve and invited him over to hang out.  We sat around and talked for a few hours.  Just had some bonding time.  

 

During this conversation we talked about his party.  I told him that I really wanted to be there and I really wanted to be my word around my work commitment at the same time.  He totally understood.  We had a nice time together and we decided we’d plan another time to celebrate his birthday when I would be there.  

 

Why You Should Care

 

Our existence can be broken down into patterns because that’s how nature works.  In the human body these patterns can be broken down into thoughts, feelings and actions that are completely automatic and predictable.

 

If you choose to become aware of these patterns you can learn how to, and master the ability to, literally create whatever future you want.  There is nothing magical about it.  It’s science and nature.  

 

This is happening in your life right now whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not.  So you might as well learn how to intentionally use this power to your advantage.  

 

Over the next couple weeks in my articles I’m going to dive deeper into this concept and share some of the many sources I’ve learned it from.  This information, and putting it into application, has changed my life for the better in many ways.  My mission is to show the world that every human being has this power.  The power to live life by design.

The Art & Science of Living a Great Life

As a coach, talking to people is my job.  I talk to a lot of people in any given week between working with my clients, speaking engagements, training events, and prospecting for new business.  

 

I also have a life outside of work where, again, I talk to a lot of people.  Friends, family, and all the people in between that I interact with on a daily basis.  

 

During these interactions I’m always listening to how people relate to themselves and the world around them.  This is a practice I’ve learned to help me best serve my clients, and it’s also quite interesting to notice in social settings as well.  

 

The bottom line is that people just want to be happy.  We want to be happy with the way we spend our time and with whom we spend it.  We want to be happy with who we are and what we have.  We want a happy experience of life.  

 

Now, this is a very simple way to explain life which is a pretty complicated thing, but bare with me here.  Certainly we can agree that life is better when we feel happy and worse when we feel sad, angry or resigned.

 

Ask yourself this question: Will I be happy tomorrow?

 

Out of 100 people who are asked this question, I’d be willing to bet, 97+ of them would answer: It depends.  Depends on what?  Well, it depends on a million things.

 

Life By Design vs Dependant On Circumstances

 

What if I told you that it didn’t have to depend?  What if you could be happy because you say so?  Would that be something you might be interested in?  What would that make possible for you?

 

We’re bombarded every day with thousands of things that could potentially influence our mood.  Conversations with other people, media - marketing messages, news, television, stuff happening - sickness, hardship, and even death.  Let’s call all of these things circumstances.

 

Look, there are always things that happen that will cause us to feel some type of way other than happy.  And, what if you could be happy because you say so 90%+ of the time?  What if you could do so regardless of the circumstances around you?  Would that make a difference for you?

 

This may be a brand new thought for you and it may be the hardest work you ever do.  Just like anything else you’ve ever done that was new, you can become great at it with consistent, deliberate practice.  

 

You’re being given your first opportunity to do so right now.  Or you could choose to be a victim of circumstance like 97% of the people around you.  What do you say?

 

Choose To Generate

 

I can almost hear you asking, how in the world does one do this?  It’s a super simple answer, and again, one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.  You practice choosing to generate the experience of life you want in every moment.

 

The predictable thing about life is that stuff happens.  “Good” things happen and we feel good.  “Bad” things happen and we feel bad.  Totally normal.

 

Let’s take a sales goal for example.  When sales are coming in and it looks predictable that we’ll hit the goal, we probably feel good.  When there’s no momentum and it looks difficult or impossible to hit the goal, we probably feel bad.  Totally normal.

 

The problem with this scenario is that it’s a completely externally driven life.  In this model people are victims of the circumstances around them.  The best life ever gets is when lots of “good” things are happening.  And we all know those moments come and go.

 

The game to play is choosing to generate the feeling and experience you want to have in any given moment.  Then choose it again.  Then choose it again, and again, and again.  If you focus your attention on doing that one thing it’ll change your life forever.  Guaranteed.

 

This is art.  It’s creation.  It’s literally designing your life moment by moment, experience by experience.  If you want a symphony, you can have it.  If you want a hip hop show, you can have it.  Anything you can imagine you can create.  And if you can’t imagine it, you can’t create it.

 

Don’t take my word for it either.  If you seek, you shall find.  There are tons of books, seminars, and programs you can invest in to find out how to implement this new way of being into your life.  

 

I’ve personally chosen to be a lifelong student and practitioner of this philosophy.  I look for people who teach these principles and I consume their content voraciously.  

 

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn or to pat myself on the back.  I’m saying it with the intention of encouraging you to join me on this journey.  The journey of living a great life because we say so.  You can do this too.  Regardless of all the reasons why you think you can’t.  I promise you.

 

The Science

 

Science tells us that more than 99% of every atom is made up of energy.  The small percentage left over is consists of matter.  This obviously means we’re mostly energy surrounded by a little bit of matter.

 

Thought is what controls this energy.  There are two kinds of thought - conscious and subconscious.  

 

Conscious thought is the rational part of our minds we use to plan and make decisions.  Subconscious thought is the habitual part of our minds that control our feelings, reactions, and everything that happens unconsciously like walking and our heartbeat.

 

This conversation gets deep and I’m just scratching the surface here.  So try to think about this in the context of this article - How does one choose their own experience of life consistently?  

 

The conscious mind is the part that may be telling you right now that what I’m talking about here in this article is impossible.  The reason why it’s telling you that is because you have little to no evidence from your experience that it’s true.  This part of the mind deals with facts and figures.

 

The subconscious mind just does what it’s told.  It has no decision making capability whatsoever.  It doesn’t think about how to walk, it happens automatically.  Imagine how much energy you would need to use if you had to think about how to make your heart beat all day.  Right.  That’s why we don’t have to think about it.

 

All the familiar ways you already know you’ll react to certain situations are familiar precisely because you don’t have to think about it.  You already know you’ll react the way you normally do.  It’s habit.  

 

When “bad” things happen, you already know how you’ll feel.  What there is to do is practice consciously choosing how to respond instead of automatically reacting.  When you do this enough times, you’ll notice a new habit is formed.  

 

Then guess what?  After a while the conscious mind passes it over to the subconscious mind so you don’t have to think about it anymore.  It’s no longer necessary to use as much energy.  Instead of thinking about it, you simply start doing it.  Then you begin reliably and consistently being it.

 

Try noticing when you’re reacting to life from habit vs responding by choice.  If you don’t like how you feel and the experience you’re having of your reaction, practice choosing something more favorable instead.  

 

Once you get some facility around that then you can start choosing the experience you want in any given moment.  It’s like predicting the future except it’s completely by design.  It’s art and science combined.

Acquired Greatness - A Lesson From Michael Jordan

There are two types of people in the world.  Those who are satisfied with the status quo, and those who consistently aspire to improve.  Neither is right or wrong.  It just is.  

 

Some might say the latter should be grateful for who they are and what they have.  The reality is that most of them are.  They simply want to reach higher levels of accomplishment for the fun of it.  For the love of the game.  

 

Most of the people aspiring to improve do so in one, or a couple areas of their lives.  Then there‘s a smaller pool of people seeking excellence in all aspects of life.  

 

I’m saying all of these things to distinguish a particular way of being in people that leads to high levels of accomplishment.  Not to alienate or look down on people who are satisfied with average levels of accomplishment.  

 

Like I said, neither is right or wrong.  It’s important to know who you are and own it 100%.

 

These people who play the game of excellence in one or multiple areas of life have learned how to tap into their greatness.  If you know me at all you know I believe every person has greatness within.  Every single person.

 

We all have it.  Only some of us ever access it.  A smaller percentage of us learn how to access it at will.  An even smaller percentage learn how to maximize it.

 

With that being said, I invite you to ask yourself right now if you have any desire to access your greatness.  Listen closely to your own desires.  The answer is in there.

 

Does your gut tell you there’s something more out there for you?  Something bigger?  Something that seems impossible, but for some reason it’s calling you?  Or are you good where you are?  Either is fine.

 

If there’s any inkling of your being calling you toward excellence in any area of your life, I implore you to read on and go for it with all you’ve got.  You have what it takes already.  

 

You have greatness within you.  What’s next for you is all about learning how to access and maximize it.  That’s how greatness is acquired.  

 

NOTE: better buckle up because it’s a bumpy ride.

 

Greatness is Not for the Faint of Heart

 

Everyone loves an overnight success.  It’s too bad they actually don’t exist.  That’s right.  There’s no such thing as an overnight success.  

 

Every noteworthy successful person went through the gauntlet in order to get there.  And I assert they’re still going through it right now.  They’re willingly and purposely putting themselves against the odds on a daily basis.

 

They set goals and they accomplish them.  Then they immediately set a new goal.  That’s who they are.  It’s not about the destination.  It’s about being a person who’s committed to excellence.  

 

It’s not about winning a game.  It’s about winning the game.  The ultimate game.  The game of life.  And it’s not just about winning the game.  It’s about crushing it...and then coming back for more.

 

If you ever watched Michael Jordan win a championship game, you may have noticed him throw his hand up with the number of championship wins he’d accumulated plus one.  The plus one was for next year’s championship game.  

 

I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. -Michael Jordan

 

Jordan learned how to access his greatness at will and maximize it.  This is it.  This is what greatness personified looks like.  

 

You may be thinking you’re not Michael Jordan so this is impossible for you.  Only if you say so.  Consider the following.

 

You have to be willing to miss more shots than anyone else.  You have to be willing to lose more games than anyone else.  You have to be willing to miss the game winning shot more than anyone else.

 

You need to be willing to lose in order to win.  You need to be willing to be heartbroken in order to have what you love.  You need to be willing to be weak in order to be strong.

 

All of this sounds like you need to be willing to die in order to live.  Maybe.  Would you still choose greatness?  I know some people who would.  You do too.  

 

This is what it looks like to acquire greatness.  Not some phenomenon out North Carolina.  Jordan may have been very talented, but his greatness was maximized by his willingness to be and do whatever it takes.  I assure you.

 

Michael Jordan’s Secret Sauce

 

Ready?  Here’s the secret to acquiring greatness.  Practice.  Anticlimactic, I know.

 

Anyone who wants to become great at anything just needs to practice.  But it’s a certain kind of practice.  

 

It’s rigorous, hard, consistent, and it’s expensive in more ways than one.  You’ll certainly have to spend a considerable amount of time, energy, and money.

 

This kind of practice takes a strong mind, body, and desire to win.  And rest assured greatness in each of these areas can be acquired too.  

 

If you think you’re not good at something, you can get better with practice.  Or you can get better at finding and inspiring someone else to do things you’re not good at for you.  Whatever it takes to acquire greatness.

 

This kind of practice can be scary.  A lot of people start and then quit.  But some people have found a way to keep going regardless of how much it hurts or what they stand to lose.

 

You can find a way too, guaranteed.  Because everyone has greatness within.  Everyone.  Go be great.  The world needs more greatness.