IT’S HUMPDAY…AND. YOU. LOVE. THE. GAME! (Thanks Taylor Swift:)

ARE YOU WINNING?
ARE YOU WINNING?

Life has been compared to a game; “The Game of Life” we sometimes call it. At times, we may refer to office politics we’re facing at work as “playing a chess game” with our co-workers or bosses. Game analogies abound. When we really do well on a presentation or make that sell we may exclaim, “I knocked it out of the park!” or “Touchdown!”. However you choose to look at it, games are often helpful metaphors to make sense of what we experience in our lives.

I want to share three suggestions with you to help you “win the game of life” that you’re playing this week, even today, this moment. Keep these thoughts in mind:

BRING YOUR “A” GAME…BE PREPARED!

Whether you are launching a new project at work, interviewing for a new job, writing a routine report, raising kids, or just trying to maintain a packed schedule of life demands: bring your “A” game! What do I mean? I mean, do your best. Always. Make the effort. Go all in! How? Focus your reason, emotions and actions onto the task in front of you.

1. Use Your Reason. God has given you a good mind. Do your best and work with your mind. Plan. Project. Ask questions. Figure stuff out. Think! Speak up when you see something. Stand up for what is right. Don’t wait for others to do your thinking for you and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. As Immanuel Kant said:

“Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own intelligence.”

2. Program Your Emotions. Be like Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live and let your own positive words “pump you up!” By telling yourself what you can do, your emotions will follow through. Speak affirmations such as:

  • I can do it and I know I can!
  • I’ve got it and everyday I get more it!
  • I am winning at the game of life!

3.  Plan Your Actions. Bringing your “A” game means starting out with “a game plan”. In real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location.” But in the game of life, it’s all about “preparation, preparation, preparation.” A person with a plan is a person with power! So, make one and then take action on it. Discipline yourself so others won’t have to.

LET THE GAME COME TO YOU…BE PATIENT!

As you are “working your plan”, be patient with the process. In sports, coaches often tell a player who’s not playing very well to “let the game come to them.” In other words, don’t undo your own success by “trying too hard”. As David Allen has taught, “Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.”

So, relax. Be patient. The world will unfold and release its treasures only to the patient person. All things can be mastered by one willing to submit to a process of disciplined-waiting. Adopt Arnold H. Glasow’s philosophy: “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

WIN OR LOSE, PLAY THE GAME WITH HONOR…BE PRINCIPLED!

Author Stephen Covey wrote, “…there are principles that govern human effectiveness — natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and unarguably “there” as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.” He went on to say:

“Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken.”

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game that matters most.” In other words, don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of success. Maintain your personal standards. Keep your integrity. Remain honest. Show respect. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. You know…all the stuff your mom taught you:)

Friend, this is how you bring your “A” game, every day in every way. At least this is how I try to do it. I often fail. In those moments I try to remember that even when I give a “F” performance, at least I can give a “A” effort!

 

INDUSTRIOUS…Am I getting things done?

INDUSTRIOUS PEOPLE GET THINGS DONE
INDUSTRIOUS PEOPLE GET THINGS DONE

Someone once told me “Brad, you get out of something what you put into it.” Now that I’m 41, I can’t say I agree 100%. Sometimes, I actually can’t control “what I get out of something”.

In our fallen world, everything’s broken. Nothing works right, at least not for very long. My car stalls out. My heater breaks. My microwave fizzles. 1+1 doesn’t always = 2. Does that make sense?

For example, If you’re a person who works in the sales industry, you can usually control what you personally “put in” to a relationship with a new client, in terms of caring, time, expertise and helpfulness. But you can’t control whether that client will “buy” from you or your company in a way that “equals” your sacrificial input. Sometimes, 4+1= 2. It can be frustrating to say the least.

But while we can’t always control what we get out of something, we can always control what we put into it. Here’s the good news: although we can’t always directly control outcomes, there are three elements of our work that we can control. You can decide to be industrious no matter what. For example, YOU CAN CONTROL…

1. Your Work Ethic…How you view and feel about the work you do.

You can “take this job and love it” or you can “take this job and shove it”! It’s up to you! And your boss, eventually:) How do you feel about your work? Do you like it? Loathe it? What?

Your work ethic is what you believe about work itself. An “ethic” is another word for your basic philosophy or belief system. Your view of “work” will determine your behavior in relation to it. For example, is work a blessing or a curse to you? Is it something you avoid at all costs or dive into as often as possible? A second element you can control is…

2. Your Work Habits…When and how you discipline yourself to do your work.

I’m always fascinated to learn the daily routines and schedules of famous people. The book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, for example, examines the daily work habits of 161 of history’s most famous creatives: men like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison; along with women such as Gertrude Stein, Georgia O’Keefe and Sylvia Plath. In this book he writes about their work habits. He asks and answers questions such as: What time did they get up in the morning? Where did they do their work? When did they sleep? How many breaks did they take?

What we learn is that different people had different levels of discipline. “Discipline” says Bob Proctor, “is the ability to give yourself a command and then follow it.” Each of us has daily rituals that constitute our work habits. For the most part, these are under our control. We also have a certain level of self-discipline with which we carry out our tasks. We decide these things. We get to choose. And each of us can choose to be industrious every day. You can also choose to control…

3. Your Work Rate…How much effort you give to doing your work.

We’ve all heard the cliché’, “Work smarter not harder”. It’s catchy, but not totally accurate. No matter how “smart” you work, effort is still required of you to accomplish goals and plans. It may or may not be “manual labor” but it’s almost always “mental labor”.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, NY Times best-selling author of Eat To Live and Super Immunity reminds us: “Things that have huge value require effort…great success means a significant effort is usually required.” 

Unfortunately, the word “effort” itself gets a bad rap. For many, it connotes “blood, tears, toil and sweat”, all things unpleasant to give at times. Gandhi saw it another way: “Satisfaction” he wrote“lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” 

“Never let effort be the issue” says former NY Jets coach, Herman Edwards. Exert yourself. Leave a piece of yourself in your work. Even if you are afraid of failing, remember these words from philosopher Francis Bacon:

“There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that which is lost by not trying.”

IMITATION…Who are you following?

 

Who Do You Look Up To?
WHO ARE YOU FOLLOWING?

I asked my 7-yr. old daughter, “Emma, who do you want to be like when you grow up?” She answered, “Gabby Douglas; and mommy. And you a little bit”:)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short leadership journey so far, it’s this:

EVERYONE FOLLOWS SOMEONE!

Regardless of who you are, I believe every individual looks for and finds a person to help inspire them toward growth and achievement. For some, it’s their parents. For others it’s a favorite athlete or musician. Still, for a few, it’s a teacher or a coach. Everyone needs someone to follow!

Paul, a 1st century terrorist-turned-Christian evangelist, once made this statement to a group of Christ-followers living in the ancient city of Corinth:

“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)

It’s been said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I also believe it is the truest form of growing. After all…

A true leader isn’t looking to be flattered but to be followed.

It’s the nature of leaders to gather followers. But did you know that even leaders need someone to lead them?

John Maxwell has a great quote which says, “It’s hard to lead if you only have yourself to follow.” For example, every great player needs an equally great coach. Michael Jordan needed Phil Jackson. Tom Brady needs Bill Belichick. And Ben needed Jerry:) Every great leader, or ice cream maker, needs other leaders to follow.

Since everyone follows someone, it’s important to make sure that the person you’ve linked up with is worthy of your following. What qualifies a person to serve as your model for patterning your life after?

Ask yourself these 3 questions and see if your hero passes the test!

1. Is their lifestyle worth emulating?

Does the person you are attempting to “be like” make choices that command your respect? I’m really thankful my daughter said she wanted to be like Gabrielle Douglas and not Marilyn Manson. Both are famous. Both are looked up to by a certain group of people. But both do not necessarily make equally good life decisions.

2. Is their message worth sharing?

Everyone has a message they’re sharing whether they know it or not. Each of us is communicating constantly through verbal and non-verbal cues, gestures, postures and movements. So, what message is the person you’re trying to imitate sending by his or her words and actions? Some messages are more worthy than others. All ideas are not created equal. You’ve got to discern and decide which ones are healthy, true and worthy of your attention.

3. Is their legacy worth remembering?

Each of us is leaving behind a ripple effect, a wake in the water of our existence, that will be remembered for good or bad. Is this person that you are trying to “be like” living for values that you share deep down? I’m talking about values that last far beyond the grave, that last far longer than our short earthly life. Shared values makes for a powerful Leader-Follower connection.

As you seek out mentors, leaders, and sponsors to help show you the way…ask yourself these 3 questions to make sure you’re following a worthy leader.

INTELLECT…Am I challenging my mind?

LEADING THINKERS AND THINKING LEADERS
LEADING THINKERS AND THINKING LEADERS

Man cannot live by bread alone. He also needs some facts. Did you know your intellect craves facts like your body craves food? And just as there are all kinds of foods to choose from, there are all kinds of “facts” available for your consumption. But I’m wondering…

Has your mind been fed intellectual junk food? 

Remember the commercial ad campaign that made this tagline famous: “Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste”? I do and I believe it.

The life of a leader’s mind is important. So many skills converge to make leadership work, but the intellect is the source and head of that fountain. These days, I’m concerned that this fountain is in danger of drying up.

When was the last time you read Jesus? Shakespeare? Plato? Aristotle? Homer? Thoreau? Emerson? Whitman? Tolstoy? To name only a few… 

Barren. This is the word many critics would use to describe the intellectual life of the average American today. And what about our leaders? Are our leaders engaging their minds in ways that move beyond task-thinking or project-managing? Do our leader’s thoughts venture out in search of beauty or are they controlled merely by the grind of duty?

I’m talking about leading beyond behavior modification. We leaders are preached to about changing the culture where we work, ad nauseam. But I want to go deeper into the minds and hearts of those we lead, including myself. As leaders, we don’t just aim to change culture, we aim to change the thinking that creates the unwanted culture.

“The biggest puzzle is not solving and fixing problems, per se, it is fixing the thinking that causes the problems.” – Michael LeGault

We don’t just need more leader-doers, we need more thinking leaders; with the ability to use logic and reason to draw meaning out of the complexities of modern-day living. This is not a luxury! As leaders, we need better critical thinking skills to guide us and our followers through the turbulent waters of globalism and topsy-turvy economic times. Real consequences are attached to stupidity and poor thinking!

How can you and I become better thinkers?

1. Read

Read. Widely.  J. Oswald Sanders quipped, “Leaders are readers”. Take into your mind great literature, poetry, sacred scripture. Lessen the time you spend consuming t.v. and trash culture.

2. Reflect

Ask yourself questions about what you read and learn. Examine claims and counter-claims, concepts, opinions. Also ask yourself questions about what you’re experiencing in your life. Cull from them life-lessons.

 “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” – Confucius

3. Reason

“Leaders are so action-oriented and have so many responsibilities that they are often guilty of moving all the time and neglecting to stop and take time to think. Yet this is one of the most important things leaders can do. A minute of thought is worth more than an hour of talk.” – John Maxwell  

Now I need to go take my own advice!

 

 

 

THE IDEAL LEADER…

THE IDEAL LEADER
THE IDEAL LEADER

There is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, but there are leaders with ideals! Ideals guide our lives like rudders direct ships. The captain chooses which way to turn the rudder (which ideals to live by) and then that rudder (ideal) steers the ship in the set direction. Our ideals are the rudders in our lives. We choose our values, then our values steer us.

While there is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, there are leaders with ideals. Socrates lived for his ideal of wisdom. The founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, lived for his ideal of “justification by faith alone”. Gandhi lived for his ideal of freedom. Martin Luther King lived for his ideal of justice. President Reagan lived for his ideal of a restored America. Billy Graham lives for his ideal of salvation in Jesus for every person in the world.

“The great men and women of history were not great because of what they earned and owned, but rather for what they gave their lives to accomplish.” – Dr. John Maxwell

So, what ideals are you living for? Perhaps when you hear the word ‘ideal’ you’re tempted to blow it off as pie-in-the-sky, ivory tower, only for dreamers kind of non-sense. You’ve heard the label ‘idealist’ thrown around as a criticism against someone and you’ve concluded that ideals just aren’t practical. “There’s the ideal” you say, “and then there’s the real.”

We all have to deal with the gap between what’s real and what’s ideal; with what is and the way we wish things were. Ideals, for some, feel more like wishful thinking.

A practical way for you and I to think about ‘ideals’ is to see them in their solid form, as when water freezes and turns to ice. Ideals (liquid concepts) harden into solid substances the way water turns from liquid to ice. Ideals in liquid form are concepts. But in solid form they become our expectations. For us, the ideal becomes what’s real.

Let me explain. When I was growing up, my mom taught me to hang up my clothes in my closet in a certain way…the hanger was hung in a specific direction. When I got married, my wife hung my clothes in my closet one day in the exact opposite way my mom had showed me. When I mentioned it to her (NOT the ideal thing to do:), she said, “Well, then, you can just do it yourself!”

What happened here? The way my mother showed me how to hang clothes in my closet had morphed into a solid expectation for me. I came to see the way my mom hung clothes as ‘the ideal’. Without realizing it, I had made my mom’s method ‘ my ideal’ and it had solidified into a solid expectation. The ideal (Brad, here’s how you can hang your clothes in your closet) became my expectation (Here’s how clothes SHOULD be hung in a closet).

NOT ALL IDEALS ARE CREATED EQUAL

I’ve matured since then, and now understand that not all ideals are equally important. I choose my family over my career. I try to choose what’s right over what’s wrong. I value what’s true instead of what’s false. I prefer to honor people rather than dishonor them. I decide to be better not bitter. These are just a few of my ideals. What are some of yours?

 “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” ― Louisa May Alcott

THE UPTAKE ON INTAKE…What are you putting into your mind, spirit and body?

What are you allowing into your mind, body and spirit?
What are you allowing into your mind, body and spirit?

The law of gravity says, “What goes up must come down.” The Law of Intake states, “What goes in must comes out.”

INTAKE IS A DISCIPLINE OF SELF-LEADERSHIP

When I say intake, I’m referring to what and who you expose yourself to; the images you see, the words and noises you hear, the tactile surfaces you touch and feel, the aromas and odors you smell, the food and objects you taste, and the people you spend time with.  Anything and everything you take in, according to the law of intake, will eventually come out.

WHAT’S AT STAKE WITH INTAKE IS WHO YOU WILL BECOME

Jim Rohn once quipped, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” He meant, of course, that we catch attitudes from people like we catch colds.  We rub off on each other. Artist Austin Kleon puts it more plainly:

“You are, in fact, a mashup of everything you choose to let into your life.”

Jesus taught, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” What he meant is that what your eyes look at “goes into” your body and your being. If you’re viewing good things (light), then good things will “go into” your body and being.

GUARD WHAT YOU TAKE INTO YOUR LIFE

An ancient proverb says, “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.” How do I apply this? A few examples…

  • Pornagraphy is a poor choice. It causes men to objectify women and women to degrade men. It ruins relationships.  Don’t take in porn.
  • Some drugs, the illegal kind, are poison. It steals your awareness and diminishes your capacities. Stop putting poison in your body.
  • Gossip magazines are less intellectually nourishing than novels. Read People less and Tolstoy more. It’s about intake; what you’re taking into your self, your being.
  • Positive thoughts feel better than negative thoughts. Take in more positive and less negative.
  • Swallow your pride and you’ll sweat humility out of your emotional pores. This is a good thing. Humble people go far with others.
  • Should kids play violent video games? Studies go both ways. It’s worth examining.
  • Does a child raised by an abuser necessarily become one, too?Intake matters to all of us, regardless of age.

INTAKE SPELLS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PREPARING OR REPAIRING

“If you are preparing today, chances are, you will not be repairing tomorrow.” – Dr. John Maxwell

A good tomorrow starts with a good today. What I will be tomorrow I am becoming now. Therefore, I will either be spending tomorrow reaping the benefits of the good things I did today or repairing the damage from the bad things I did today.

Let me conclude by sharing what I believe healthy intake looks like. Healthy intake for leaders usually means…

  1. Serving the right God
  2. Having the right priorities
  3. Thinking the right thoughts
  4. Saying the right words
  5. Praying the right prayers
  6. Making the right choices
  7. Reading the right books
  8. Learning the right lessons
  9. Listening to the right people
  10. Attending the right events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 MUST-HAVE SKILLS FOR LEADERS…A CHECKLIST

BALANCED LEADERSHIP
LEADERSHIP IS A BALANCING ACT

Leadership is a balancing act! You’re constantly juggling, working on multiple tracks at the same time. How do we stay balanced with so many people, projects and processes to juggle?

BLESSED ARE THE BALANCED!

It all starts with you; where you’re focusing your attention. What’s got your attention ? What are you focusing on?

“What you focus on expands. So focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.” – Esther Jno-Charles

I offer you a checklist to focus on. Ask yourself these 52 questions and reflect on your current skill level in each. Really go deep inside yourself as a leader while you seek the answers to these 52 questions. You may even want to record your thoughts in a Self-Leadership Journal. From one leader to another…

INNER-SELF CHECKLIST

  1. INTAKE – What images/words/substances am I taking into my mind, spirit and body?
  2. IMPRESSIONS – What is Jesus saying to me?
  3. INSIGHTS – What principles am I observing and learning?
  4. INTENT – What is motivating my feelings and choices at this moment?
  5. INTENTIONALITY – Am I choosing to be proactive or passive?
  6. INSISTENCE – Am I summoning the will to follow through?
  7. IMAGINATION – Am I visualizing success or failure?
  8. INTERNAL COMMITMENTS – What unspoken agreements have I made with myself?
  9. INFORMATION – What’s my system for collecting and managing information?
  10. INJURIES – Am I harboring any resentments? 
  11. INCOMPLETES – What open loops are pulling at my attention?
  12. INTENSITY – Am I balancing the serious with the hilarious?
  13. INTELLECT – Am I challenging my mind?
  14. INTEGRITY – Am I congruent in what I think, feel, say and do?
  15. INTANGIBLES – Am I paying attention to morale?
  16. IMPLICATIONS – Am I asking and answering the “So, what?” question?
  17. IMMATURITY – Am I being defensive or teachable?
  18. IMBALANCE – Are my emotions under control?
  19. INSECURITIES – Am I healing wounds and overcoming fears?
  20. INITIATIVE – Am I making the first move, taking the first step accepting appropriate risk?
  21. INDUSTRIOUS – Have I decided to be productive today?
  22. INFERENCES – Is my “if-then” thinking accurate?
  23. INTERPRETATIONS – What is my paradigm for filtering my experience of reality?
  24. IMPULSES – Am I directing my desires to healthy ends?
  25. IDEALS – What values guide my actions?
  26. IDOLS – Am I putting God first?
  27. INSTINCTS – Is my sense of timing improving?
  28. INTUITION – Am I working from my strengths?
  29. INTERNALIZATIONS – What beliefs am I allowing to take root in my head and heart?
  30. INSPIRATION – How am I keeping my fire burning?
  31. ILLUSTRATIONS – Am I turning today’s experiences into stories I can tell?

OUTER-SELF CHECKLIST

  1. IMAGE – What image am I projecting to the world?
  2. INFLUENCE – What effect am I have on those around me?
  3. INTERACTIONS – Am I reacting to others with grace and truth?
  4. INNER CIRCLE – Am I surrounding myself with loyal, trustworthy, high-caliber people?
  5. INCOME – Am I telling my money where to go or wondering where it went?
  6. INTERCEDING – Am I praying for others’ needs?
  7. INTERESTS – Am I pursuing and enjoying hobbies? 
  8. INNOVATION – Am I finding better ways to do things?
  9. IMPLEMENTATION – What changes am I putting into place?
  10. INTIMACY – Am I emotionally available for my family and friends?
  11. ISOLATION – Am I moving toward relationships or away from them?
  12. INTRODUCTIONS – Who am I meeting and networking with?
  13. INVESTMENT – Who am I mentoring?
  14. INTERRUPTIONS – Am I limiting distractions and focusing on priorities?
  15. INPUT – Am I asking for feedback?
  16. INTERDEPENDENCE – Am I building my team or trying to do it all myself?
  17. INTERVENTIONS – With whom do I need to have a courageous conversation?
  18. INSTRUCTION – What am I teaching my children?
  19. IMPROVISATION – Am I learning to think on my feet?
  20. ISSUES – What challenges am I facing in my life right now?
  21. INTERSECTIONS – What crossroads have I reached and decisions do I need to make?