Sunday, November 17, 2013

When you're fighting a gorilla, you can't stop fighting until the gorilla gets tired.

You're in it.  You're fighting the gorilla, and if you don't keep fighting, well, bad things are going to happen.  You can't stop to catch your breath because you're tired, or your arms hurt, or Maury Povich is going to reveal who the real father is.  You're in a fight for your life against a gorilla, and if you're going to live, you can't stop fighting until the gorilla is ready to stop fighting.  There is ONLY plan A.  Keep fighting.

During WWII, the highest scoring fighter aces were Germans.  They didn't have the option to go back home.  They flew all day, every day, defending their homes.  They couldn't stop fighting, because to stop fighting meant certain death.  To continue fighting might mean death, but it might also mean a chance for life, both for self and for countrymen.  Flying was a sacred trust to serve and protect those others.  The commitment was for a level greater than self.  It's a level of desperation that many people aren't familiar with in our day and age, especially in a country of privilege such as the United States. 

Where does that fit in with business and leadership?  Right smack in the middle, that's where.  As business owners and leaders, those who follow us need to know that we are going to tangle with that gorilla for as long as it takes to get the job done and not a minute less.  People need to know that we will stand up and do the hard things, the undesirable tasks, the excruciating minutia of planning and executing.  They need to know that we are not only willing, but able and more than up to the task of surmounting the insurmountable.  We will keep fighting, because people are counting on us.  The job is more than just for us, now.

When my dad took the training wheels off my bike, I felt a sense of freedom for about twenty-five feet.  Then I felt a sense of scraping and burning as I slid on my elbows and knees across the asphalt of our driveway.  My little brother was watching, though, so I got back up and kept on riding.  It was pride, at first.  Later, I was a bit jealous of how quickly he was able to transition to no training wheels.  I found out that he'd been watching closely what I did that was contrary to the coaching of our dad, and he incorporated that into his success.  Lance Armstrong once had training wheels, you know.  Before Usain Bolt became the fastest man alive, he had to learn to walk.  We all start somewhere, but at some point, our desire to become more than what we are transforms.  It goes from "hey, I'd like to be able to do that" to "this is a thing which I must, under all conditions, accomplish."  German pilots kept flying because they had no other option.  Lance Armstrong's desire to be the best drove him to train longer and harder.  (His desire to win at ANY price cost him his self respect and stripped him of the honor he'd won, but that's a topic covered on the diagonal here, at Marc Militello's blog.) Same with Usain.  With us, it is no different.  Have you reached a place where there is no plan B? where you can't stop doing until it is done?

I was reading Launching a Leadership Revolution by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady, in which they mention a line of scripture.  It also happened that my pastor mentioned this same passage this morning.  It is as follows:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Whatever the gorilla you're fighting looks like, you have to focus on those things which will give you victory.  Anything else MUST wait for later.  You can't quit fighting until the gorilla gets tired.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Forgiveness and Moving Forward

I've been reading Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.  Chapter 10 deals with  forgiveness.  Specifically, unloading the things which are keeping you from going where you want to go.

An aircraft has a weight limit.  It's a number which, when exceeded, makes it impossible for the aircraft to become airborne.  In order to take to the air, baggage will need to be removed to lighten the weight of the cargo.  Under a full load, the aircraft climbs at one rate.  With no cargo at all, it climbs much more quickly.  It is the purpose of aircraft to be in the air, because there they are able to achieve their purpose of moving forward at a greater rate of speed, seeing farther, and reaching new heights.

Carrying emotional baggage is much the same.  Too much of it holds you in place.  Remembered failures lead to a fear of trying rather than an adjustment in procedure for the next attempt.  A past soured relationship causes emotional distress in new ones.  Grasping too firmly at our past leaves us unable to plant our feet in today and reach for tomorrow.  A favorite trite saying: "The past is history, the future is mystery, and today is the gift we call the present." 

So, the way to move forward needs a sense of closure for the past.  Going over an event again and again is resentment, meaning "to feel again."  Here prayer becomes crucial.  We ask god to forgive the person or event, and we ask to be delivered from it.  We seek help when we need it, in order to be done with this thing and move forward.  Nobody promises easy, but the results will astound you.

An airplane is designed to carry cargo, you may be thinking, quite correctly.  Proper placement of the cargo balances out the aircraft, and careful adherence to the limitations of performance capabilities allows that airplane to carry some cargo and move upward and onward.  The lighter the load, the quicker and ascent, and the further the distance traveled. 

Pray.  Ask forgiveness for yourself.  Forgive others.  Give grace where grace was given, and give grace to those who don't deserve it.  Pour out more of yourself than others pour in, and you will find that god will continue to fill you if you ask. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Leadership Education: what difference does it make?

I'm fresh back from my 25th high school reunion.  I attended Culver Military Academy from the fall of 1984 until graduation in the spring of 1988.  For four years, I was part of a school that had a required Leadership Development class.  I learned about decision making, I learned about taking care of those under my direction, and I learned about giving and taking direction for and from others.

One classmate is being considered for promotion to full Colonel in the US Army.  Another wasn't able to attend because he was standing watch with the USCG this weekend.  I have classmates working in Washington, D.C., as congressional aides, classmates who are college professors, classmates who are successful attorneys.  We have classmates working as neuro-oncologists, and dance teachers, and everything in between.

We talked a bit about what our Culver experience did for us.  We found that, as a result of being schooled in leadership and self-discipline principals early, we were much better prepared for college than a great many others of our age.  We knew how to manage time, how to prioritize projects, and how to interact with professors.

I find myself these days wanting to learn more about leadership. It isn't that I've forgotten, although there is 25 years worth of cobwebs spun since I was a cadet.  It's that I'd gotten out of the habit of personal renewal.  I'd stopped learning anything new, and had become stagnant.

Why change now?  Well, I fell in with some people who are working in Leadership Development, and they've been forming a community of like-minded people.  People who want to make a difference in themselves, and ultimately in others.  What intrigued me so much?  I used to be one of those people.  I used to want to make a difference in myself, and ultimately in others.  It's why I became a teacher, right?  Then life happens and we start to numb our passions in order to meet our obligations.  We listen to our own excuses and stifle our own dreams.  We wake up, and a 25-year overnight has happened and we have no idea how we got to where we are, because it isn't where we wanted to be.  We became the water, rather than the wind, and went where we were supposed to go rather than where we wanted.

How do you make a difference in yourself and ultimately in others if you've paved over the meadow of your soul in order to build a parking lot of mediocrity?  It isn't easy, and it's  easier than you can imagine.  It's information.  What information did I have coming out of the Academy?  I knew how and when to act, and I knew how to think.

Now?  LIFE happens!  Those people I "fell in with" have reminded me of who I was, what was important to me, and most importantly, inspired me to renew my passion for making a difference in the lives of others.  Those old passions are tingly as they wake up from being underneath everything.  The more I engage in leadership information, the more convinced I am that I AM the change the world needs.  All it takes is information.  I'm not in school anymore, so I have learned to apply a system to my self-study, and I have learned to ask for help from those who have the results I'm looking for.  The future is no longer a gray, uncertain area.  It's clear where I want to go, and I have directions to guide me there.  The only variable is time.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Servant Leadership at age 14

Servant Leadership.  It's a big buzzword to throw around in meetings these days, but it seems that sometimes the words never make the transition from sound waves in the air to concepts in one's heart.  As with a lot of ideas, we get lip service, but no service.

What does it mean, "to serve?"  The little dictionary app on my fruit-based smart phone has several definitions, varying from things like tennis and military appointments, to working in inside retail, to being an assistant at a religious ceremony.  Let's use the following, though: to be of use; to be worthy of reliance or trust; to furnish or supply with something needed or desired; to provide services that benefit or help.  

I have a niece and nephew by marriage; twins, age five.  I have a stepson, age fourteen.  I'm talking about servant leadership at age fourteen, and I'm talking about being a tiger, and not just any tiger.  He-Man's tiger, Battle Cat.  If you're not familiar, Battle Cat is green, with yellow (or orange) stripes, wears red armor, is fearless in confrontation, talks, and serves as a war steed for He-Man.  Got all that?

Let's talk about fourteen-year-old boys for a moment.  In the case of the one that I know, he prefers to involve himself with handheld electronic games and books, and creating role-playing adventure game scenarios to play with his friends.  Five-year-old cousins who think he hung the moon, however, aren't much for allowing a fourteen-year-old space, especially when the three of them are visiting "Grumurmer's house" on a Saturday evening.

Sometimes, they play board games.  Sometimes, they play "Monster" which involves the older cousin lurching and groaning while slowly moving toward screeching and giggling pre-schoolers.  This time, they played "He-Man and She-Ra."  It was a new game.  It was introduced like this: "We're playing He-Man and She-Ra, and you're going to be the tiger!"

I know, because I picked the stepson up after the event, that he was not particularly excited about being ridden around a condo as a feline steed of war while a five-year-old boy bounced on his back and yelled "By The Power Of Grayskull...I HAVE THE POWER!"  You know what he did, though?  He actively participated and was of use, supplied something needed, provided services that gave benefit, and was worthy of trust to do those things.

Is this a big deal?  It is no big deal, and it is the biggest deal.  As leaders, sometimes we must support our people at the level of their needs.  This might mean modeling a task and assisting until the person learns well enough to complete it alone.  This might mean being the one who sweeps the meeting hall, locks the doors, and turns out the lights after arriving early to set it up, administer the meeting, answer questions, shake hands, and reassure clients.  It might mean becoming a talking green tiger.  It might not be exactly what you'd wanted to do, but you do it because by serving those people, you make their lives better, and that is good in personal life as well as business.

What is the value behind this story?  Some of it is happy twins enjoying a Saturday night with a favorite cousin who pays attention to them and plays with them.  Some of it is a teenager learning to do something which benefits someone else more than himself.  Mostly, though, it is that serving others in order to make their situation better provides a benefit to ourselves which we can't gain in any other way.  It is a blessing to be a blessing.  At the end of the day, I'm proud of my stepson for transforming himself into a yellow-striped green tiger and having shrieking little people ride him around for an evening.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Be strong and very courageous.

That's Joshua 1:7. 

Joshua 1:7-8
"Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful."

I'm drawn to this, because there is no mention of smiting or crushing.  No threats of what will happen if you don't obey all the law.  There is just the promise that, if you obey the law, "you may be successful wherever you go."  "Then you will be prosperous and successful."  Isn't that interesting?

What's that mean, really?  I'm not entirely sure, but I think I'm grasping that working toward a life based on spiritual principles will enable me to prosper and have success.  How fortunate that someone has already put these principles down in writing, that I only have to ask for them and they are available.

How does this strike you?  What experience do you have with this?  I'm learning, and would very much appreciate your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

YOU are your highest priority.

No, really.

Here's an excerpt from Arnie Warren's book The Great Connection which illustrates my point:

"You can never fully express yourself, never truly explore the outer edges of your talents, until you know what holds you back and what propels you forward." --pg. 162

I'm the project.  When I know about me and what I am, as well as what I am not, then I'm able to reach out and help others.

Have you ever seen a building under construction?  I mean where you drive past it regularly enough to pay attention to the progress.  At first, it's an empty pit in the ground.  Then some framework and structure is added, but it still isn't much use.  The inspector shows up and has a look, checks for structural integrity.  A lot of work has been done, but it ain't done.  After some time, walls and a roof are added.  The inspector tests the walls and goes up into the attic.  At this point, at least it provides shelter.  It isn't what it's going to be, but it is better than what it was.  As building continues, things like water and power and windows are added, and it becomes habitable.  Things like flooring and furnishings are added.  The inspector crawls through the entire building and finally signs off on the project.  Offices are populated by people who are now able to be productive inside the building.

The building was the project first.  After time and effort and money were put into getting the building ready, it could be put to use for the purpose for which it was designed: it provides a safe environment in which productivity can take place.  What used to be the project now makes other projects possible.

Find your building site, dig your foundation, put your structures in place, have the inspector visit regularly to ensure that progress is being made correctly in a way that won't be damaging later, and when you're ready, you're much more valuable than you were before.  You can't finish what you don't start, so get your priorities straight: YOU are the highest priority!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Valid information and adapting it to yourself

We live in a world which is information-rich and wisdom-poor, I've heard it said.  It seems obvious, once someone else puts it in words.  We can somehow feel that this is true.  I've also recently been reminded that there is a pattern: results are based on habits, which are based on actions, which are based thinking, which is based on information.  In short, when you want different results, you need to change the information.  That's true, but you also have to participate in the rest of the chain in order to see the process provide the fruits you're looking for.

I've been learning, over the last several months, a concept I already knew but hadn't applied to my life as a new business owner, which is, "find someone who has what you want, find out what they did, and do that, and you can have results like theirs."  It makes sense, right?  It isn't as easy as these few words make out.

An illustration:
  • My mom makes the best pesto.  I've raved over it for years, and she makes it for me when we visit because she knows that it makes me happy. 
  • I wanted to "wow" the other couples at our Friday night Bible Study with my culinary skills.  I was bringing a salad with my Aunt's garlic-lemon dressing, and wanted to use the "under promise and over deliver" concept and also bring pesto.
  • I texted my mom to ask for the recipe.
Mom responded with a set of directions which were a bit vague, but made enough sense that I bought ingredients and made a start.  I'd learned to make the garlic-lemon dressing this way, so I knew I could make this work.  As I alternated between adding things to my food processor and squinting at the tiny characters on my phone, I realized that my result didn't quite match my expectation.  I had the information and was trying to apply it.  My wife suggested that I consult this publicly searchable global database that I have at my command for better directions.  Why didn't I?  Because I knew I had the right information from the right source.  I just needed to adjust how I was applying it in order to get the results I desired.  I knew I needed to take the information and change both my thinking and my actions.  That's exactly what I did, and now that I've gotten the results I want this first time, I know, based on my experience with the salad dressing, that next time I will be able to do this much more quickly, without as much mess in the kitchen, and that my result will eventually be exactly what I want without need for any stumbling.  I'll have created a habit which will always lead to those results.

The other couples at Bible Study made the appropriate sounds of appreciation, which are nice to hear.  What proved the thing, though, is when they went back for more.  This was the end result of success I'd been looking for.  Not only was it good, it was good enough for a second helping.

Next time, I'll bring French Silk Pie.  THAT one I've got dialed in like you can't even imagine.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Carry a Message to Garcia

Over the last several months, I've listened several times to an audio of a leadership expert, who uses the following text as the core of his talk regarding personal responsibility and ambition. I admit somewhat sheepishly, that I hadn't read the entire text since my days as a cadet at Culver Military Academy. I have a fuzzy recollection of Colonel Johnson spending a day's lesson discussing this topic, and then, like many other high school students, put it from my mind because there was sunshine and pretty girls outside. I head to my 25th reunion in May; many things have changed, but the principle remains the same now as it did over 100 years ago: we need people who will do the thing without needing constant supervision and direction. I like to think that I've been more often like Andrew Rowan than not, but must be honest and report that I'm still a work in progress in this area. In the audio I mentioned above, the speaker talks about finding someone who will be Andrew Rowan for me. I think that I will be better able to find Rowan if I learn to become Rowan. I'm including Elbert Hubbard's 1899 essay as I found it online:

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.
What to do!
Some one said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.
The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- “Carry a message to Garcia!”
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.
No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, & half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, & sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office- six clerks are within call.
Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio”.
Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir,” and go do the task?
On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:
Who was he?
Which encyclopedia?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don’t you mean Bismarck?
What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?
Is he dead?
Is there any hurry?
Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
What do you want to know for?
And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia- and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.
Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Correggio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind,” and go look it up yourself.
And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce” Saturday night, holds many a worker to his place.
Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply, can neither spell nor punctuate- and do not think it necessary to.
Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?
“You see that bookkeeper,” said the foreman to me in a large factory.
“Yes, what about him?”
“Well he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street, would forget what he had been sent for.”
Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?
We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “downtrodden denizen of the sweat-shop” and the “homeless wanderer searching for honest employment,” & with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer- but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go.
It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best- those who can carry a message to Garcia.
I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself.”
Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.
Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slip-shod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude, which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry & homeless.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds- the man who, against great odds has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.
I have carried a dinner pail & worked for day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; & all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.
My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the “boss” is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village- in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia.
-Elbert Hubbard, 1899


Monday, February 25, 2013

"Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water."

What's that supposed to mean? More importantly, what's it mean to you? Here's my take: There are things that we do in order to make our daily lives go. In addition to those things, we also work toward becoming something more. This might be improving our lives through faith, family, finance, fitness, following, freedom, friends, or fun (The "8 Fs" espoused by the LIFE Business). When we reach a plateau, or a peak, in one of these areas, we tend to want to sit back and relax. The fact is, even though we are on a higher plane, we still have to buy groceries, clean the litter box, wash the baby, and put gas in the car. Those things were the same before, and we must do them still. I've only been involved with the LIFE Business opportunity for a short while; about twelve months at this writing. I've been a student of the information, an attender of events, and a proud promoter of what we do. I've been waiting for my moment of enlightenment. I have every confidence that it will arrive. In the meantime, I'm chopping wood and carrying water. When I start to sense that higher development, I'll be chopping wood and carrying water. After I've reached my summit, I'll still need to chop wood and carry water.