Attitude

Where Did Your Grind Go?

Remember when it was tough? Remember when you couldn’t afford to be comfortable? When the line between success and failure was a tightrope? When there was an insatiable restless gnawing inside that wouldn’t be ignored?

Where did that go?

Remember when you lived by the philosophy, “I may not succeed, but if I fail it won’t be because I was outworked.” Remember when all focus and energy fed a singular purpose?

Where is it?

Remember when people would tell you that you were so lucky and all you could think was your luck was found in the early mornings and late nights? When you pushed yourself to not just work harder, but be better. Every. Single. Day.

Where?

 

never too late

Do you remember when it mattered? When your dreams burned within and it was painful to not accomplish them right then.

Do you remember when your entire life was potential? When you thought you could go anywhere and do anything and you wanted to go everywhere and do everything.

Do you remember when you had ideas? Ideas for businesses you wanted to start or ideas to save the world or ideas of the kind of life you were going to live.

Do you remember when creativity was at the center of your dreams? The books you were going to write, the songs you were going to play, the art you were going to make.

Do you remember when the world was fascinating? So many things to do, people to meet, and places to explore.

Do you remember when you couldn’t wait to get started on your life? When the wonder of who you were going to be and what you were going to do had you anxious and impatient to get going.

Do you remember when you were going to be bold? When the thought of living a life of resignation and quiet desperation was what scared you the most?

Do you remember when you were going to be great? When your career was going to shine and you would be revered for your incredible talent.

Do you remember when work was fun? When you couldn’t wait to get up because every day was exciting and different and you were learning at a ferocious pace.

Do you remember the day all that went away? Do you remember waking up one day and wondering where it had gone? Or had you forgotten all about it?

Do you remember when thriving became surviving? When standing out became hanging on? When hopes and dreams became reality TV? When the life you were going to live became the life that never quite happened?

Bigger question: what are you going to do about it? Your life looks different now, of course. Security, stability, and comfort pushed aside passion, desire, and excitement. You have constraints and responsibilities and obligations you never had back then.

You also have resources you never had. A sense of who you really are, not just who you thought you wanted to be. Wisdom, judgment, and patience to know what needs to be done and see it through. People you can count on as much as they count on you. The foundation and options a steady income provides. A sense of mortality pushing you to get things done today rather than waiting for “someday when.” The toughness that comes from getting through the downturns of life. The awareness you won’t be the next superstar or change the entire world and that’s ok – you just need to be the best you and make a difference where you are.

I don’t know what your dreams were or where they went, but I know it doesn’t matter. Yesterday’s dreams are for yesterday. Today’s dreams are what matters.

why we don’t get the results we want

i have my reasonsResults matter. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business leader, executive, entrepreneur, or employee; whether you’re in sales, HR, finance, marketing, or IT; whether at work or in your personal life. Results are important. Yet, we don’t always create the results we want. Then the reasons and excuses come out.

Excuses or Reasons?

What’s the difference between an excuse and a reason? Simple, other people have excuses for failing, but I have legitimate reasons I didn’t accomplish the results I needed. They failed, while I tried hard. They’re whining and playing the victim about their failures, but I’m rationally explaining why it didn’t work out as planned. Right?

Actually, I am just having a bit of fun with the human tendency to justify outcomes, even if only to ourselves. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we call it or how we describe it.

Reasons or excuses, circumstance or a lack of effort, whatever. Either way we didn’t get the results.

Reasons or Results?

The truth is, there are only two things in life, reasons and results, and reasons simply don’t count.” ~ Robert Anthony

We either have reasons or we have results. These words pulse through my mind whenever I come up short on my goals. We either accomplish what we needed to or we have a list of explanations as to why we didn’t. Yes, sometimes things happen that are completely beyond our control. More often we simply didn’t plan well, stay focused, make good use of time, truly give full effort, track and evaluate actions and progress, have the right people involved, have a suitable contingency plan, or persist, persist, persist. The #1 reason we don’t get our results? We accept our reasons in place of our results.

Put it another way: Getting results means giving up your reasons. And those reasons are often so compelling, comfortable, and familiar. I know what I want to accomplish. I know what I need to accomplish. Am I willing to give up my reasons to get those results?

Are you?

Everything you think you know about success is wrong (a book review)

Success is how you define it and mediocrity is one of my biggest fears. We all have different definitions of what success means to us in all aspects of our lives. I have some big ideas about the contribution I need to make before I leave this planet and the thought of not living up to those ideals terrifies me.

The challenge is that “pretty good” is a reasonably easy target while “extraordinary” requires a completely different level of choices and commitment. And those actions have to exist in a life where there’s a job, family, friends, pets, house chores, hobbies, etc., etc. No surprise that comfortable distractions are a lot more attractive than committed actions.

As one who enjoys anything that will help me be at my best, I have a love/hate approach to personal development books. Much of it is syrupy feel-good nonsense, but some is very legit and useful. The problem is, even the good stuff is usually just repackaged ideas that have been around for the last 50-100+ years.

Some very large names in the field have done quite well rehashing ideas from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Norman Vincent Peal’s The Power of Positive Thinking, or Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret. Tony Robbins summarized the wisdom of the ages best with his Ultimate Success Formula which goes something like: 1) Know what you want; 2) Know why you want it; 3) Take massive action; 4) Notice what’s working or not; and 5) Change your approach until you get your results. Simple, straightforward, and intuitive, but perhaps not sufficient. No one who’s made it to adulthood should be surprised by any of those steps, yet most of us are still stuck in ordinary.

The title for this review comes from the back cover of Dan Waldschmidt’s (@danwaldo) book EDGY Conversations: Get Beyond the Nonsense in Your Life and Do What Really Matters. He takes a different approach and asserts that goals, hard work, and tenacity are not enough because we are our own worst roadblock. Our beliefs and behaviors, excuses and justifications keep us in comfortable mediocrity. Truly rising above, standing out, and making a difference requires a completely different level of commitment, thought, belief, and action.

“Because success isn’t about knowing more, It’s about being more… The reality is that you already know what to do… The real question is, what will you do about it? Who will you choose to become.” – Dan Waldschmidt

Contrary to what the infomercial experts and hope pushers tell us, Dan wholeheartedly acknowledges that the whole being extraordinary thing is really freakin’ hard. Knowing what to do is easy; actually doing it is miserably difficult. The movies make it look simple, right? A three minute montage with some upbeat music in the background and suddenly the underdog is a martial arts winning, freestyle rapping, marathon running, dance champion with a Harvard degree and a thriving side business bootstrapped into a global powerhouse. But in real life it comes down to who we are choosing to be and the decisions we are making every day.

The author reminds us that outrageous success comes as much from what we say “no” to as it does what we say “yes” to. And in our instant gratification you-deserve-to-have-it-all marketing saturated world, saying “no” is weird. And painful. And miserable. And necessary.

This book is the author’s approach to breaking past ordinary. His formula is based on the acronym EDGY: Extreme behavior, Disciplined activity, Giving mindset, and Y(h)uman strategy. The last letter’s a stretch, but the writing is spot on. Actually, I could have shortened this review to: If you like his blog, buy the book.

If you’re unfamiliar with his blog, check it out here. Dan’s not into business or life as usual and has a contrarian approach written in direct one and two sentence paragraphs with brilliant turn of phrase and a deep belief that the reader has it in them to be amazing. If you don’t like his blog, you really won’t like his book. If you like the blog, you’ll find he brings powerful examples and a very human vulnerability beyond his normal writing to the book.

So here’s the ugly secret truth: life is so much easier when you have excuses or others to blame for not creating the results you want. Sure, you don’t accomplish what you want, but you get to be comfortable in your mediocrity. This book is aimed at stripping those illusions away and challenging you to set that comfort aside to pursue your intentions with the ferocious, relentless tenacity of a Spartan warrior. It’s not wondering what to do, it’s not creating a 10 point success checklist, it’s being the person you need to be.

All day, every day.

why so serious, HR?

The Killer HR Robot, destroying fun in the name of credibility!

The Killer HR Robot, destroying fun in the name of credibility!

HR has a credibility gap. We just don’t get the respect we deserve. Or, at least, it seems HR likes to think HR has a credibility gap. There is no shortage of HR folks who think they don’t get the respect they deserve. Maybe they don’t, but it’s interesting to see what they think will create credibility.

I attended the Illinois State SHRM conference recently (a great conference that’s worth crossing state lines for) and a participant, fairly new to HR, expressed concern that we weren’t allowed to have fun in HR. Um, pardon? Apparently her boss and other HR leaders in their community felt that having fun destroys credibility. They believed executives wouldn’t respect HR if we were ever viewed as having fun.

A significant part of my career has been in leadership development and I’ve traveled around and spoken to and worked with leaders in many companies, in many industries, in many countries. Never once did any leader say, “You know what destroys leadership credibility? Fun! I hate it. When I’m looking for strategies to get the most out of my employees, forget someone who can link selection, development, and retention to solving business problems, I want an HR leader who is bitter, dour, mean, and boring. Get me someone who can put fun to the side and make this a culture where our employees hate being here. That’ll solve our business problems!”

Fun doesn’t have to mean frivolous. Fun doesn’t have to mean silly. Fun doesn’t have to mean you don’t know what you’re doing. Fun doesn’t have to mean you don’t take serious issues seriously. Fun can mean that people create significant results and enjoy doing it; that although they take their jobs seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. It is entirely possible to be outstanding at what you do AND have fun.

Work isn’t always fun. Often, it’s difficult, complicated, and unpleasant. Which is why I think it’s doubly important to bring fun to it when we can, to find ways to make it more enjoyable, to find the joy in our work. If nothing else, to have fun working together. To look forward to being around our teams. HR can’t make every day a great one for each and every employee, but there is so much we can do to create a positive culture, a great employee experience, and a strong employment brand.

It saddens me to think about the culture and employee experience and business results these anti-fun HR managers are creating. No one looks forward to going to work, giving it their all, and staying around year after year in a miserable environment. I can only imagine the recruiting, retention, and performance problems these companies have.

And they think “fun” will ruin their credibility? Too late.

 

heroes and friends

Social media gave me heroes. When I first started playing with social media I was awed by a handful of standout people working hard at sharing knowledge, shaking up the status quo, and kicking at the boundaries of their fields. Their larger than life perspectives arrived in my little corner of the world without fail through blog posts and Twitter updates. I began digging down, finding their influencers, and one hero led to another and another and another.

I discovered the magic of social media and learned the obvious secret. I could contact – contact! – these heroes and they would respond. Their ideas were big, but they weren’t the untouchable rock stars on the 15 foot high stage. They were open, liked sharing ideas back and forth, and responded quickly.

Then, I personally paid to attend a conference over 1,000 miles away for the chance to attend presentations by several of my biggest heroes, learn from them, and meet them in real life. That conference changed my world. After a few embarrassingly starstruck-tweenage-girl-meeting-the-boyband-of-the-week moments I realized these online celebrities of my world were, just people. People reaching out to the world and trying to make a difference in between all the dull-normal moments of life. Yes, they were outstanding at what they did, but they still had jobs to go to, spouses to hand them chore lists, kids to take to the zoo, and minivans in need of replacement. Their weekends looked like my weekends; their workweeks like my own.

Another conference followed, then another, and another. At each one, I arrived meeting another hero or two and left with much learning, fantastic discussions, and more friends.

Conferences took away my heroes and gave me friends. Friends dedicated to personal missions of changing the world of work. Friends who give their time and advice freely and eagerly. Friends I count on to push me, cheer me on, and inspire me to play bigger in this world.

If you go to conferences, when you go to conferences, I encourage you seek out your heroes. Go find them, meet them, talk to them. It’s good to have heroes; it’s better to have friends.

 

bold

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Boldness does not come easily or naturally. Although we admire boldness, we humans struggle against it. We weave boldness into myth and legend, make a virtue of it, then actively discourage it. We celebrate boldness while striving to blend in out of fear of standing out.

One of the biggest societal sins we can commit is simply non-conformity. Standing out. Being different. We humans are wary of differences and look for anything telling that’s out of the norm. It creates a division, a wedge, an “us vs them” schism with those around us. It announces, “I am not one of you.”

Even those who rebel against the majority tend to conform to the rules and norms of their own group. The most rebellious are sometimes the most conservative of all. The biker or punk rocker or hipster programmer has just as many unspoken rules about what to wear, where to live, and what to drive as the banker or lawyer or accountant.

The penalties for standing out range from being ignored with the cold shoulder to being discredited and marginalized to being cast out, ostracized. The instinct to punish or reject anyone different persists so well and so strong we’ve had to create laws to prevent discrimination on the can’t-be-helped differences.

But what about the can-be-helped differences? Those who choose the non-conformity of being bold? Those heretics who bring different perspectives or dare to argue against the Truths of Best Practices? For those who aren’t doing as well as we are we point, criticize, and judge their non-conformity as evidence of inferiority. If they are doing better than us, we complain, resent, and discredit.

Yet, no person or organization ever stood out by being the same. No one ever got ahead by holding back. The world has never been changed by those wrapped in the warm, safe blanket of average. The joke is on use as we laugh when they go against the conventional wisdom that no longer works and we continue to predict their failure as they go about succeeding.

Boldness exists as a virtue in myth and legend, but in the everyday it’s easier and safer to say “no” than “yes”. More prudent to replicate the past than create the future. We seek to offend no one and become offensively inoffensive. Our businesses, our actions, our lives look like everyone else’s around us. We choose safe over meaningful, stable over fulfilling, secure over interesting, known over bold. And it’s keeping us trapped.

Bold fails. Bold succeeds. Bold is colorful. Bold is never boring. Bold is courageous. Bold risks. Bold leaps. Bold opens itself up to failure for the freedom and joy of the opportunity. Bold creates. Bold is a spark, a moment, a conviction, an inspiration. Bold is tenacious persistence. Bold is meaningful. Bold is unique. Bold is crazyscaryjoyful.

We need more bold.

best practices for playing the victim

As one year ends and another begins it’s a time of reflection and renewal for many people. They assess what they accomplished in their lives the previous year and begin planning the results they want to create in the New Year. Sure, there are those who will prattle on about the advantages of goal setting and action plans and blah, blah, blah. So what? That requires discipline and effort and focus and inconvenience and change and who has time for that? What if you could just short cut the process by playing the victim?

Ever played the victim? I sure have. I don’t mean being a victim of a crime or suffering for someone else’s actions. I mean wanting my life to be different, taking no actions to make it different, and then stockpiling an exhaustive list of reasons and excuses as to why it’s not different. I don’t want to brag, but I do believe I can use my experience to help you be a better victim.

If you’ve never played the victim, there are a few key strategies and best practices that are important to know as you start out. As with any skill, the masters can get away with things that amateurs can’t and I’ve tried to note some of those exceptions.

1. To justify your lack of progress ALWAYS compare yourself to others and NEVER compare yourself to yourself. Sure, some would say you can only measure success by the progress you’ve made given what you have and where you started, but there’s no place in victimhood for measuring your progress against your efforts. [NOTE: an expert level victim can use their own past failures as justification for not making any progress today, but it’s a tricky thing because even a casual observer might make the rational argument that yesterday is not today. Leave this one for the pros.]

2. It’s also important to compare yourself to people with completely different circumstances, skills, strengths, and gifts and use that as proof that you can’t create the difference you want in your life. BUT it’s very important to only look at those who had advantages over you, NEVER compare yourself to those who had more to overcome. For example, if I was creating excuses for not being wealthier I’d only want to compare myself to those born into money and never ever compare myself to a first generation refugee struggling with new culture and language who became a millionaire by working three jobs, foregoing all luxury, saving every dime, and investing prudently for thirty years. [NOTE: A truly masterful victim can compare themselves to those who have it worse by twisting that hardship into an “unfair advantage.” But, don’t try that the first time you play the victim as you’ll end up looking petty and silly.]

3. When you compare yourself to others who have been more successful at what you’re not accomplishing, be sure to minimize their efforts by writing it all off as being “lucky”. Sure there is always going to be an element of location, timing, help, and unexpectedness to any success story, but being a good victim means focusing only on the advantages that were outside the other person’s control. If I wanted to justify, say, my lack of success as a musician, I’d look at person who was an “overnight success” ten years in the making and complain that it all comes down to who you know. [NOTE: never try to apply logic to your victimhood. You want to create rationalizations, not be rational. There’s a difference.]

4. A key part of being a really great victim is to choose reasons that you have absolutely no control over and then use that as justification for never changing the things over which you do have control. For example, if I wanted to justify why I’m a poor swimmer, I might say, “The best swimmers are much taller and have longer arm spans than me. There’s nothing I can do about being short, so I’ll never be a better swimmer.” You might be thinking that I might never be a gold medalist but I could – maybe – improve my swimming by taking lessons and actually getting into the pool occasionally. And you’d be right, BUT you’ll never be a good victim with that kind of reasoning.

5. Memorize this phrase and use it a lot: “I tried that, but….” This phrase does wonders for giving legitimacy for half-hearted efforts. Forget persistence, never mind actual results, simply dismiss any lack of progress by saying, “I tried.”

6. Seek help from others, but never from anyone who might be able to help you. Actually, seek “help” by only finding people with whom you can commiserate and complain. Ideally, you’ll want to find someone who will not only believe you excuses but will enthusiastically support and build on them.

There’s just a few tips to get you started. Of course, you’ll find and develop your own victimhood style as you go. The really nice thing about playing the victim – if you do it well – is that your lack results and progress will never be your fault. Sure, you won’t create the life or career you actually want but at least you’ll sleep soundly knowing it wasn’t you that got in your own way.

it’s a dog’s life: another post on gratitude

Photo: Sound asleep and snoring.

Sound asleep and snoring. It’s a dog’s life.

Watching my kids’ puppies gnawing away on their chew toys last night, I wondered if they spend any time in wonderment of their good fortune. Do they ever think, “Woohoo, I won the doggy lottery! How did I get so lucky”?

Both were rescued, saved from neglect and starvation, and then adopted by my kids. They have the love of children, other dogs to play with, a big yard, a house to sleep in, and full bellies. It is such a different situation from where they came from that I found myself pondering whether they remember and think about the contrast.

Of course, then I immediately thought, “Do I fully appreciate my situation? Do I think about what could have been or spend any time wondering, “How did I get so lucky?”  Sure, I like to think I work hard and make reasonably good choices, but I had nothing to do with when and where I was born and raised. Being born into a stable family, in a wealthy country, during a time of little conflict and good medical care, having access to education, and never worrying about having enough to eat kinda gives a person a running head start at life. An enormous part of the world’s population spends far too much of their day just trying to survive until the next. Too many don’t enjoy basic human rights or rule of law to protect them. Too many go without education, food, or even just clean water.

I don’t know how to ease suffering or create prosperity for billions of people. I can’t fix anarchy and tyranny. I’m unable to prevent brutal attacks on people caught in the crossfire of long running conflicts. I can’t erase envy, greed, and corruption from human nature. I don’t know how to correct the world’s problems or balance out inequality or make sure that children don’t go hungry.

Thinking about that contrast, I feel – I believe – I owe the world something in return for my good fortune. There’s so much I can’t do, but I can put love back into the world. I can raise my kids to understand that ethics and personal responsibility are far more important than short-term happiness and instant gratification. I can do work that is meaningful to me and has a positive impact on others. I can try to find ways to bring out the best in myself and those around me. I can be grateful for my situation and remember that no matter how bad my day gets, it’s not really all that bad – there are several billion people who would trade places in a heartbeat.

Most important, I can make sure I’m not squandering the advantages and blessings I’ve been handed.

What thinks you?