Posts Tagged ‘success’

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve been meeting with various members of my team about their plans for 2011 and while the details are unique to each one, a common theme is emerging.

Success follows those who add value.

If you care more about adding value than you do about what you can get out of the world around you, you’ll find that decision-making is cleaner, being free of the sticky tentacles of self-concern.

It’s easy to add value. The process begins with being observant, listening and asking questions on occasion and ends with offering whatever help is within your power to provide. It might be a word, a gesture, lending a hand or making a valuable connection. Help comes in many forms.

Many people fill their days consumed with self-interest, desperately trying to find ways to eek more satisfaction, pleasure, financial reward or fulfillment out of their immediate circumstances while dwelling on how the world makes them feel. Whether robed in gold or bronze at the end of the day, such an approach constrains to emptiness.

As the resolutions of the New Year begin to take shape in the womb of your mind, make a point to base your resolutions in the desire to add value to the world around you. Whether it is a fitness goal, a change of heart, habit or attitude, focus on how you can increase your ability to a blessing.

I am convinced that most diets and fitness plans fail because the individual goes into it hoping to get something out of it for him or herself rather than focusing on how he or she might be able to help others more effectively because of the change. Self-improvement is more sustainable when its focus is outwardly instead of inwardly focused.

2011 is full of promise for my team and for you. I trust that best use will be made of whatever comes our way. Onward and upward!


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My wife heard an interesting statement on TV yesterday evening and was thrilled to share it with me this morning, for it was both empowering and revolutionary:

“Pressure is a Privilege”

The statement: “pressure is a privilege” defines a novel way to look at the various pressures you face in your world. Rather than see pressure as a foe, something to avoid or get away from and another reason to hate life, why not recognize it for what it is?

Pressure is a harbinger of change. In fact, change rarely occurs without some form of pressure. Most change occurs within a contained cycle – with a definable beginning and an end – after the application of a stimulus. The stimulus brings pressure on the situation and the pressure rises and then falls, describing a bell curve within the cycle.

The way you handle pressure determines how effectively you handle change. If you are in the habit of reacting to or avoiding pressure either consciously or unconsciously, you will blow the cycle the leads to progressive change. If, conversely, you learn to be at rest under pressure or even better, to shine under pressure, then you will become an agent of change in your world rather than a victim of change.

Pressure is a privilege because it makes change easier. Without pressure, all change is an uphill battle. Pressure – if you’ve contained it properly by not reacting to its building – builds naturally in relation to a process of change and this is the secret behind the reason why it is said that “timing is everything.” Timing is everything because a sensitivity to pressure management allows for the least amount of self-generated force to be applied to get the ball rolling.

If you’ve ever forced something before its time, you’ve recognized how much harder it is to make changes without the necessary background pressure. Some people dislike change for this reason. They’ve pushed and pushed until exhaustion without moving with the pressure. Rather than standing victoriously at the end as an agent of change they’re flattened by the process, exhausted and disheartened by the apparent futility of trying to make change happen.

Be mindful of the pressure in your world, but don’t obsess over it. Watch for signs that you may be unwittingly leaking out valuable pressure, such as:

  1. Heightened reactiveness to the world around you (usually expressed through agitation, anger, panic, etc.)
  2. Physical tension, shallow, rapid breathing, stiff neck or shoudlers and other physiological reactions to stress
  3. The tendency to withdraw or to run away from it all
  4. Quitting, selling out for comfort
  5. Engaging in mindless activities in lieu of digging in and taking care of pressing responsibilities

Learning to handle the privilege of pressure responsibly is a progressive process. It won’t happen all at once. It is a building process much like physical exercise. The good news is that every circumstance contains in it an opportunity to get a little better at handling pressure.

My challenge to you this morning is to prove that you are man or woman enough to take positive steps in the way you handle pressure. Relinquish bad habits as they show themselves to you. Don’t worry too much about those around you and how they deal with pressure…you’ll likely have your hands, head and heart full with your own issues.

The absence of pressure brings an illusion of comfort. I say illusion because a leaky container holds water for only so long. At a certain point you recognize that you, as a container for life and all that is represents – vibrancy, tenacity, resiliency, beauty, potency, etc. – can no longer support its expression. The bottom falls out eventually, sadly though it is typically long before death.

That is no way to live! Life is meant t0 be dynamic, vigorous and virile and the experience of those qualities comes only as you recognize and learn to move gracefully with the ebb and flow of pressure within the various cycles you’re privileged to handle.

Grace under pressure is absolutely within your reach and capabilities. Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread, but instead commit yourself to the long haul. Step by step you will prove that you can – with increasing ease – overcome. Pressure is not your enemy, it is your friend and you are privileged to keep such good company.

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In a previous post entitled The Honest Skeptic and the Alternate Plan, we considered the importance of honest skepticism in the living of life. The honest skeptic, as opposed to the lesser skeptic, or worse, the “yes man,” recognizes the need to question when things don’t appear right.

In the world of aviation, pilots, air traffic control (ATC) and ground control share are mutually responsible for detecting and correcting errors. It is this cooperative atmosphere that make air travel as safe as it is. There are roughly 5,000 aircraft airborne over the United States as I write this blog (see http://www.flightaware.com) and I can assure you that coordinated the safe passage of each of those flights is a monumental task.

In 1986 Atlanta Tower manager Harry McIntyre wrote a Letter to Airman titled “Professional Skepticism” which outlined how the spirit of cooperation can make air travel safer:

Safe, orderly, expeditious – the watchwords of the U.S. Air Traffic Control System. These words, from the beginning of ATC, have carried the missionary message to the controller and pilot on priorities and purpose.

Our ATC system has produced many successes as it has evolved from its rudimentary beginnings to today’s sophisticated technology. The most important ingredient to this success, however, has not been technology but the cooperative relationship between pilots and controllers communicating with one another – exchanging data, making judgments, executing decisions, and yes, correcting errors committed by each other.

The person in the best position to identify and correct human errors is obviously the person who made the error. But as we often say – “to err is human.” I suspect we say this because we tend to overlook our own performance or see it better than it actually is.

In the ATC system, there’s another person, either the pilot or the controller as the case may be, who can identify and correct the error committed by the other. This does not mean that pilots and controllers need to assume an adversarial relationship or even be each others’ critic – rather, it means we must “question” when we are in doubt in any aspect of the operation at hand. As a term of reference for this need, let’s call it “Professional Skepticism.”

“Professional skepticism” is objectively reviewing the operation at hand and questioning or seeking clarification when communication or events don’t appear right. As professionals, we must be sure of our data and therefore question and seek clarity whenever we are in doubt.

A review of several incidents reveals that too often we avoid the direct method of seeking clarity and opt for the indirect, vague style. We probably tend to do this in deference to the other professional. For safety’s sake, we must avoid this “gamesmanship” and be a “Professional Skeptic.”

I encourage such questioning in my company at every level of the organization. Each of my staff is tremendously valuable to me and each brings a unique perspective to the oversight of our corporate activities. As a company, we do not dwell on errors any longer than necessary to ensure their prevention in the future. Nor do my employees hold another’s errors over his or her head. The Golden Rule applies.

Where there is a shared concern for a larger goal it is easy to come together, to put aside petty differences and to help each other perform at the highest level possible. Receiving correction graciously from a subordinate or from someone from another department requires humility and sensitivity on both parts. Treating others as you would wish to be treated makes the the necessary tone and approach clear in ways that no handbook or conflict resolution policy could illuminate.

We need one another. No one person is complete in and of himself. It makes no sense to alienate those who are there to help you in the achievement of your larger shared goal and it makes all the sense in the world to support those around your success ultimately depends upon their success.

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Image by WikipediaJust as the printing press transformed religion and the Western world in the mid-1400s, the internet is catalyzing massive changes in virtually every sphere of human activity. Medicine, science, politics, education, the arts and many other major cultural institutions are adjusting so quickly to the internet’s democratizing influence that the heads of the old guard are left spinning on the ground as the waves of change moves through.

What will be left of the live performing arts, for example, as the percentage of the population raised on the internet grows over time? The internet mindset, where immediacy and ease of access are prized and where virtually anything can be had “on demand” 24/7 is no doubt challenging to the live performing arts, whose rigid schedules, high cost and relatively difficult access potentially stand as obstacles to their consumption.

In a compelling talk at the recent TEDxYYC called “The true power of the performing arts,” arts administrator Ben Cameron makes the point that humanity is at a crossroads and there is a great need for the cultivation of a more empathic civilization. I encourage you to watch the 12 minute talk (despite the fact that Mr. Cameron gets off to a bumpy start).

The majority of the dominant modes of consciousness that govern our world, condition our view of health and healing and shape our view of leisure time were shaped and structured for an earlier era of history. The industrial revolution and the subsequent seismic shifts that took place in the 19th century created a model that has evolved gradually over the last century and it is increasingly clear that a period of deep, revolutionary, if not cataclysmic change is on the horizon on many fronts.

While we human beings tend to cling to tradition we are also drawn to change like insects to a bug zapper. For better or for worse we march on, embracing and absorbing change as we encounter it along the way. The way things look, the way we do them, the way we interact with one another, the way we view ourselves and our world are in constant flux, yet the human spirit continues to flicker no matter how strong the winds of change.

I am a big fan of not trying to do the impossible, and resisting change is one of those often tried but never achievable impossibilities. Learning to move graciously with change is one of the greatest life skills anyone can learn. So doing requires self-assurance, creativity, imagination, thoughtfulness and a genuine appreciation for human ingenuity and the refusal to develop any one of these areas in your experience will produce a flat spot that will eventually turn even the simplest changes into daunting tasks.

Embracing change is optional, but then again, so is success and happiness. Keep your head high and enjoy change while continuing to reach out to the world around you and surely happiness will follow you all of your days.

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I came across three rules today that provide effective guidance for a productive life:

Rule #1: Success is an option.

Rule #2: Failure to accomplish a goal is a last resort.

Rule #3: Failure to give your very best is never an option.

Countless human beings have lived out their lives never believing that success was an option for them. What about you? Do you make room for the possibility of success at the onset of every new undertaking or do you find yourself planning an exit strategy before you take the first step?

The victorious life begins with successful attitude. The starting point for cultivating a resilient successful attitude is found in the statement: “Life will never give me anything that is larger than my ability to handle it successfully.” Put this one on your bathroom mirror and take it with you in your heart so that when the time comes, you can prove it.

When you come to the point that you realize you are not powerless in relation to the world you center, you have taken the first step to a victorious life. You may have some catching up to do, as an accumulation of failures does tend to make for a lumpy rug under what could have been solid footing, but you can only start where you are.

The refusal to start where you are causes many failures and delayed starts. Faced with an opportunity or a challenge you might say “I wish things were a little different” or “If only I had such-and-such this I could get started,” but so doing will cause unnecessary and unhelpful delays, putting you immediately behind the eight ball.

Start with what you have, exercise your imagination regularly and be creative in your use of resources. The first step to using resources wisely is identifying what resources are available to you. I enjoy watching survival shows like Man vs. Wild and Dual Survival as they demonstrate how to identify – especially in dangerous and restrictive circumstances – the resources available to you.

Check out this link for a quick idea of how to assess your resources:


Now that works in the aftermath of a hurricane, but how do you do this in your personal or professional life? It’s easy. Follow these steps:

1. Get your resources “out on the table.” Make a mental list, compose a written inventory or spread your resources out on a table if you can, without initially making value judgments. Take time to deliberately enumerate the resources – both tangible and intangible – that you presently have at your disposal.

2. Consider the big picture. What is the framework of the challenge or opportunity you’re considering? What are you trying to accomplish? What are the basic parameters?

3. Identify and discard limiting assumptions. Brainstorm on limiting assumptions you or the others you’re involved with on a project may hold that are preventing forward movement. Discard them permanently. Don’t look back.

4. Ask yourself “How would this look were I to rearrange the resources available to me in relation to this goal?” Be creative. Don’t discard any ideas at this point.

5. Test you ideas. Pick what appear to be the best ideas on the surface and test them. Elicit peer reviews. Get feedback from clients, family or friends. Pick the ideas apart. Refine them in the refiner’s fire.

6. Implement. If you’ve moved through the creative process outlined here you will known when the time is right to put your ideas into action.

7. Review. Don’t forget to analyze how effective your ideas were. Gather data over time, don’t jump to conclusions, but don’t also let things drag on. Cut your losses if necessary. Invest further if that appears the prudent course.

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Rosetti (self-portrait) Image by Wikipedia

Sudden Light by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before,—

How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight

Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

You were born with an empty book before you. Your life quickly began filling its pages, the pages become chapters and before you knew it your little notebook transformed into a novel that told the tale of another of humanity’s grains of sand.

The chapters of life are a fascinating thing to me. While Rosetti was likely speaking of the death known as “physical death” (the kind that ends in a grave), I have to wonder if he wasn’t speaking to the chapters of life as well.

One life can be divided up in so many ways. Childhood and adulthood. Educational years, working years, retirement years. All can be seen as chapters in a book.

When you’ve moved from chapter to chapter in life, have you found some strings of continuity? Are there persistent themes that appear and reappear with comforting or at times alarming consistency, times where you say to yourself as Rosetti put it: “Has this been thus before?”

Threads of success as well as failure weave through life in a predictable fashion until the pattern is broken, one way or the other. You can succeed where you’ve failed in the past and you can fail where success was previously the norm. As such, it is important to take note when you do succeed and take heed when you fail. Both will offer important clues as to how to be a greater success in the next chapter of your life.

You cannot learn about who you are or what successes will be wrought through you from a book. There is no manual. You may glean bits and pieces of advice from here and there, but ultimately the story you tell has to emerge in and through you.

There is no doubt that we live in a tough world. It is not ideal. No one had an ideal upbringing. We’ve all had our bumps and bruises and we each have the scars – physical, mental and emotional – to show for it.

Just as you should never scratch a mosquito bite, you are wise not to dwell on the irritants in your life – past or present. Ask yourself instead, “What can I do – here and now, based on what I know and what resources I have at my command – to handle this situation successfully?” Doing anything else is not only a waste of time, it will likely result in further bloodshed and scarring.

Creative thinking and timely action is your lifeblood. Forego either or both and you will add sad stories to a subsequently less successful chapter in your life. There are far more tales of woe in the history of man than there are bright examples of success and victory.

What will it be for you?

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Inertia is as great a force in human development as it is in nature. Defined as the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion, inertia is the reason why the “stuck” things in your life tend to stay stuck while that which is in motion tends to continue moving.

To be effective in life, you must learn how to work effectively with inertia. On the one hand, you must know how to get things moving that are a standstill and on the other, you must be effective at stopping things that are in motion but shouldn’t be.

One practical way to get started is to be deliberate about creating and maintaining the ever-popular “to-do list” and the not-so-popular “to-not-do list.” Manage both lists actively and weight both lists equally.

A second important step is to create a bias toward action. Gather the facts and take the time you have to analyze them, but don’t hesitate to act when the time is right. Furthermore, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If the fear of making a mistake can stop you, it will.

Third, don’t be afraid of succeeding. The fear of success comes in many flavors, but perhaps the most common is caused by a fear of standing out. We, as human beings, typically long to belong. A successful life based in having a bias for action will tend to make you stand out in a crowd and as an aspiring leader, you must get used to the idea that you might stand alone on occasion.

Andre Malraux

A bias toward action requires a willingness to experiment regularly. You must, on occasion, take risk. Andre Malraux, French historian, novelist and statesman said it best: “Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one that has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.”

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