Leadership maybe isn’t what you think…

I haven’t written in a while… and I thought it about time that I get back into doing the things that I like doing best… creating.  Creating a story and is more than just writing.  It’s taking an idea and even though you may not have that idea fully vetted, you know in your heart that it has merit.  It’s taking that idea, and building your story, your concept around it.

Recently, I’m in roles where I’m expected to be a leader and increasingly progressive leadership roles.  Some of you may understand what that means, where as others don’t really have a clue or even care.  I find it quite odd that the term of leader and what its being used for in the work world and what it really should mean.  See, I like to think that we are all or can be leaders.  I originally got the idea of what a leader is from a guy named Drew Dudley who talks about what everyday leadership really is.  See, a leader isn’t someone who gets up in front of a crowd and takes charge.  A leader is someone that has a meaningful and positive impact on your life.  Someone who has deliberately or sometimes inadvertently done something to have a profound impact on who your are, and who has shaped the person you have become.

Think about it for a minute.  A Profound Impact.  Now let’s think, has there been a person in your life that has fundamentally changed who you are ?

Who in your life has had a profound impact ?  Now, I know you can say your parents, or spouse has had a profound impact on your life, and you’d be correct.  But who else ?

Let me tell you about one such person that has had a profound impact on my life.  When I was in Grade 7, I had Mrs. Penn for math class.  She was an extremely stern and strict teacher.  After a few short weeks in her class,  I was put into a group of students she called the High group… and no it wasn’t because we got high, but it was because we were high achievers.  At the time I didn’t know what that really meant.  Mrs. Penn’s regular class followed the curriculum.  In her high group the training wheels were off and she laid down the challenges.  I had never worked as hard or been as challenged in my life.  She garnered a level of respect that I still feel to this day when I talk about her.  She was also so severely strict that I worked my hardest just to be able to prove to her that I could do the assignments.  In reality I was working to learn and Mrs. Penn fostered the environment to do so.   I have never been able to tell Mrs. Penn how her challenges have profoundly impacted me.

From those 3 years taking math with Mrs. Penn, I learned the value of hard work.  Math and logic from that point forward just seemed to click with me.  Some may argue that it may be more nature versus nurture for some skills.  I disagree on that.  I think from that point on logic and science were in my cards.  I think that is part of the reason I do what I do today.  I still carry that same work ethic that I learned all those years ago.  I think that from those early lessons, I learned to logically think through problems which has ultimately lead me to what I do today, and where it will take me in the future.

Mrs. Penn had a profound impact on my life.  She wasn’t just a math teacher to me.  She showed me that being challenged and being forced outside of your comfort zone are good things.  That growth, although may not be comfortable, is absolutely necessary.

Which brings me back to leadership.  Mrs. Penn’s lessons were more than just math classes, they ended up being life lessons.  Unfortunately, I realized that long after finishing grades 7-9.  The one thing I feel fortunate for is that I do realize this.  I also realize that I should make an effort, and create the opportunities everyday to have a profound impact on someone’s life.  Whether that means being the better person, or setting the example to show how to act respectful when all around is the opposite.  Sometimes is very simple things, but my hope is that through simple and small acts, that those will show a higher standard of which to operate by.  In a sense, I’m doing exactly what Mrs. Penn did, I’m laying down a challenge for those to pick up and rise to the occasion.

Maybe there has been someone in your life that has been the catalyst for you to make that change, that initiated the profound impact that challenged you to better yourself.  At the very least I hope that you are creating the environment that helps foster change in others and makes someone view you as a leader.  Go out there and be a Mrs. Penn

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What will your verse be?

Ever Read poetry ?

Probably not… is what I’m guessing will be the answer.  Most people, once they left grade school would have long forgotten poetry.  I can’t say that I read much of it any more, but on occasion I’ll go and find a couple poems.  I recently stumbled upon this classic piece.

O Me! O Life!

BY WALT WHITMAN

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

What do you think of this one ?

I read this one and it got me thinking…

So, what will be your verse ?  in other words, what will be your contribution ? I find the poem very interesting.  I love the way Walt Whitman talks about how we or, more specifically you are one of the masses, but in the final line he asks … what’s your verse, or the way I interpret it as – What will you be remembered for ?

Remember when you were young ? You had these lofty ideas. What were some of yours ? Were they far fetched? Have you pursued any of those ideas ? I think that for some of us, our ideas will change over time. Some of the things I thought were very cool when I was younger were really just a fad. Of course those fads fade over time. Some of the ideas I had are still very much solid ideas today. So what happened ? Why am I not pursuing those ideas. For some of them, life got in the way.  Ya, I know that sounds like a big cop-out. But for some of the ideas, it was a case of having the drive and persistence to follow up with something and take a chance on that idea.  Be more entrepreneurial.

When I look at someone that has taken numerous ideas, some good and often many not that great…  I really need to look no further than, say, a person like Richard Branson. From a young age he continually pursued his passions.  He has made his mistakes along the way and he has also had his fair share of incredible successes too.  Although it’s pretty hard to fault the guy for being passionate about his ideas and ideals.  I’m sure you can go google him and find a litany of information that will chronicle his successes and failures.  I’m sure that from every mistake that he made there were numerous successes or is the other way around with every success there are numerous failures or set backs.  What I’m thinking is that he didn’t let a small setback get him down.  Nor did it deter his resolve.

So what about you ?
What will be your verse ?
I get that not every single one of us can be a Richard Branson.  But that shouldn’t make our verse any less important.  Every day that you walk out the door of your place, Do you have a goal?  I don’t have a goal per se, but I  have more of an objective.  In a number of my yoga classes I hear a line. “Set an intention for your class”.  Set an intention as you go off to work tomorrow.  Or better yet, set an intention for your weekend activities.  Your intention can be simple.  A single word.  A thought.   An attitude.  Make it whatever you like.  Say for instance, if you are heading to the mall, maybe think of being calm in all the chaos.  Sometimes your objective or intention can be pretty simple.  Will you always obtain it ? … Not always, but you tried, and there is merit in the attempt.  There is also self-realization in the attempt.  You can look at yourself and think why your intention/objective either worked or didn’t work.  Kinda like turning the spotlight back upon yourself and doing a bit of self examination.

I think that as you get to understand yourself, you will be better equipped to know and define what your verse will be… O me, Oh Life !

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What’s your Story ?

Airport560Look around… how many people do you see on a daily basis ?  Head out into a public area  Take a look… what do you see?

What you’ll see is entirely dependent on what you are looking for.  It’ll also depend on what you are good at.  If you sell clothing, then likely you’ll look and see what size pants they wear, or if you are into eye glasses then you’ll notice the glasses that people wear.

Me?  I’m a Management Consultant.  I know, it sounds pretty nerdy… but… I work on projects, I’m used to following methods for implementing computer systems.  When I look around I see processes.  I see the way things are done and I look at ways to streamline. I look at the interactions of people and look at ways to improve those.  I listen to people and I listen for the message and the way that message is conveyed.  Again I look to ways that message can be better conveyed.  I’ve been in my profession for a number of years, and even though when I’m vacation I try to forget about my job.  I cannot forget the way I’ve been accustomed to thinking for my entire working life.

johanna-kickUltimately, you see the world around you based on the things that interest you.

For some reason, I see quite a bit.  I think that’s because I’m predisposed to being observant. And at times I’ve been called quiet.  When in fact I’m lost in thought and left wondering.  As part of being observant I sometimes find it a bit of a curse as I seem to find some oddities out there.  Things that not everyone else will witness or even take notice of.  If you want to know what it’s like in my world just stop and take a look around.  There are oddities all over the place.  You just need to really look for them.  But I guess the question really is.  Are they oddities ?  Or is it just that someone has a story.  They are living their life, their story as you will.

I’ve written about this topic before and often wondered what kind of story people have to tell.  What is it that has led someone to this point.  Their experiences, and their events that have shaped who they are.  And trust me when I say this, the people and stories will have an impact to you and shape who you are, and who you will become.

I can clearly articulate the events in my life that have led to where I am.  There have been a number of individuals that impacted the way I think.  The stories that others have told me that have fundamentally changed the way I think (ie: Go More, See More and Priorities).

I think that ultimately it comes down to your story.  What is your story ?

If someone said to you, write your memoirs.  What would those memoirs contain. Is it the kind of story that you would be proud to share with others.  Do you think you have a lesson that others can benefit from.  Is there a legacy in what you’ve crafted ?  What story will you be remembered by ?

Something to ponder… now go out there and craft a story you can be proud of.

 

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The Elephant in the room

Bansky.ElephantWhat if I said that there was an elephant in the room… would you know what I was saying ?

I mean this figuratively of course.  I’m not asking you to literally have an image of an elephant in a room or an actual elephant in the room for that matter.  The phrase of “the Elephant in the room” is to point to the obvious.  It doesn’t matter how much you dress up the elephant or how much you try to hide it.  It’s still there.

Every day when I go to work, I get to identify and solve, what I think are very obvious problems.  The problems are right there.  It doesn’t matter how we sugar-coat them, or try to paint a picture that they aren’t.  They persist.  So why the persistence, of the problems.  Are we incapable of remedying the problem ?  is it within our control to affect a solution ?  Well, sometimes no it isn’t.  However, there are often times the problem is totally within our control.  So, why don’t we do anything about it ?

I worked with a gal on one project and she gave me a very valuable piece of information.  She said that people are very reluctant to change.  In fact she said “Most people will not change unless it’s a 9”.  I understood immediately what she meant.  If you have ever had the misfortune to end up in the hospital or in Emergency, at some point a doctor will ask you a very simple question.  pain“On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your level of pain?”.  What this means is that unless something is very painful, then most people are reluctant to change anything.   So why the reluctance ?  Everyone has their own reason/rationale, and whatever your reason, those are your reasons, and I’m not here to judge you on this.  However, I want to give you some food for thought.

Firstly, if you think you are hiding behind your elephant.  Chances are, you are not.  Those who know you, love you, and take the time to understand you, will know.  So why aren’t those people telling you about this ?  Well, just like any good parent or friend, sometimes you have to learn how to fall first.  Some of my most epic mistakes have ended up being some of my largest areas for growth in my life.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

Richard Branson

Secondly, What is your elephant ?  Do you know ?  Do you have one ?  You may have done such a good job at disguising your elephant over the years, that you no longer recognize it.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t there…

If you think you have an elephant, I think the first thing you need to do is to identify what your elephant is.  Figuring that out, and then determining how to address it are the first steps.   After that, falling is pretty easy.  I didn’t say it wasn’t going to hurt.  There are going to be failures along the way, but it’s the failures that builds character.  You become a richer person due to the failures, and if you are concerned about your ego, I wouldn’t worry about it… the family and friends that love you, won’t care about your ego.   They’ll love the person you are becoming as you relocate your elephant.

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To see the world…

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other, and to feel, that is the purpose of life.”The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-Poster-Header

I saw this little quote in a movie (and loved it).

If you know the movie, you can appreciate where the quote came from.

This little quote got me thinking. The purpose of life…. I’m no philosophy major, but I’m sure that we can agree that everyone will have a different interpretation of what they think the purpose of life is, or at the very least, what your purpose is. I’m certainly not going to argue with you what you think is your purpose. That is for you to explore and determine on your own. And by the way, I highly encourage you to do so.

So what do you think your purpose is ?Dalai Lama message

I think that my purpose is to lead a life that is fulfilling and enriching not only to me, but to those around me and to those I hold dearest. I also believe that living a life where you help others, is very important. I can tell you what I think some of the attributes that make up a good life. I know what some of mine are.  How about you, do you know what yours are ?

I know for me the teachings of the Dalai Lama and the Buddhist believes are very meaningful. Even though I was raised in a catholic faith, I find that I’m not overly catholic. I say that, and I don’t believe that makes me a bad Christian. However, to lead a good life, I don’t think that one needs to necessarily have faith or be overly religious.  But I don’t want to muddy the waters with religion here.

I think that ultimately it may come down to a simple question… What makes you itch ?

As Alan Watts asks “What would you do if money were no object ?”

For those of us that have our regular jobs and our mortgages, and are going through the regular 9-5 grinds… it may be difficult to break our way of thinking and challenge the path that we know.

To showcase this, I want to give you an example.  I have a dear friend that I’ve known for my entire adult life.  He was my best friend starting in Grade 7 and remains to this day one of my best friends.  I admire him for his accomplishments in his life.  See, shortly after graduating post-secondary, he decided that his chosen path wasn’t what he went to school for.  His true love was and still is photography.  And he is awesome at it.  Over the years, and through exceptionally hard work, he has been to some of the most amazing places in the world.  His love of photography has afforded him the opportunity to access places I can only dream of.  He once confided in me that being in photography was like being a starving artist.  I understand that, but by following your dreams and your love, you gain a richness that very few can match.  That richness isn’t necessarily in dollars, but when it comes right down to it.  What do you spend your dollars on anyway, typically its to get that experience which further enriches you.  He just cut out the middle part of the process and went straight to enrichment.  He challenged the status quo, and did something that he knew was going to be difficult, but he followed his love.

Maybe it’s time to start looking at your purpose and following your dream/love.  What are you waiting for ?

 

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What matters.

So I was watching a TED speech and the question posed was, “why do you matter?”

So why do you think you matter ? Because your parents love you?  Well Ok…4943667260_7174367752_a8b1e49230_m_xlarge

Well let me give you some insight. One of my yoga instructors very eloquently said during class. She indicated that couldn’t imagine that her sons would or should have negative thoughts in their heads. She loves her sons so unconditionally, that she doesn’t want to see anything harm them. Her sons matter that much to her. And she carried the point further to say that she felt that we all (all the students in her class) should avoid the negative and realize that they are very important to not only her but to a larger circle of others.  We all matter, and we matter right now.

Don’t believe me ?  Let me ask you a question.  What have you done where you have had a fundamental impact on someone else’s life ?

What piece of advice, what story or lesson have you conveyed, or even what type of friend have you been ?  I’m talking about being the type of person who has said or done something to help a friend out.  Even if it’s helping them to their feet after they’ve fallen down because they are drunk.  Can’t think of anything… try harder.  Still having a hard time thinking of something.  I can probably tell you why.  It’s because you have either forgotten about something that you have done, thought that it was unworthy of remembering,  or someone hasn’t told you about what you have done.  I’m not saying that you had to move a mountain to make an impact.  Even the small things that you do have impact.  Try think to the last time that someone, some complete stranger has extended a kind hand to you.  Offered to buy you a coffee, paid for something, or something even as simple as holding the door open.  Small things matter.  Don’t believe me, then read what Michelle Lam is doing.  Think what she is doing is small ?  It’s not.  Trust me, if you are the recipient of one of her gifts… you won’t think it’s small at all.  And just like that, she has had an impact on you !  Maybe you should pay it forward.   Even if you weren’t the recipient of one of her gifts, I’m betting if you think about it hard enough you will realize that those small gifts are out there all the time.  In fact I’m betting those small gifts are extended to you every single day.  You just need to be observant to them.  While you are at it, make sure that the person that did even one small kind gesture to you, realizes what they did and how appreciative you are of that.

Ok, so enough about the things you do.

I was once shown an example.  Picture if you will a set of scales, a tray on one side, and a scalestray on the other.  Someone once said to me, Think of all the good things in your life, no matter how small… now think of the bad things.  Now, let’s take that scale.  The good things are only worth a penny.  The bad things are a dollar coin.  If you have equal amounts of good things and bad things, then the scales will be tipped to the negative side.  So what do you do ?  Start to fill your life with the good things.  Make the good things happen.  Maybe try a random act of kindness.  How does that make you feel ?  Pretty good, Yes ?  Add a penny !  Listen to an inspiring TED talk.  Feel good ?  Good, add another penny. Keep going.  Don’t stop there… if you keep filling your life with good things eventually you have tipped that scale.  Soon, the good far outweighs the bad.

Somewhere along the line as you have been filling your life with good and adding pennies to the scale, you will see that you have made an impact on someone else’s life.  Likely not just one person, but numerous people. And, if you can be the difference in just one person’s life, then you matter !  And the things you do for other’s is the reason why you matter.

 

 

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“Edge of the Bed Advice”

The Phrase in the title of this post comes from a gent named Drew Dudley.  He explains it as:

“If you were sitting on the edge of the bed of your son or daughter the night before they left home for good, what advice would you give them?  What are the most important lessons life has taught you so far?  Ultimately, what perspectives, actions, or ideas have played the biggest role in your happiness? “

It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it?  So… What is the single most important lesson you’ve learned ?

Who did you learn that lesson from and do they understand the profound impact they’ve had on your life because of that lesson ?  Have you told them, and if not, why not ?

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m likely just as guilty as you are for not letting others know of the impact they have had on my life.  However, there are individuals where I’ve learned fantastic lessons from and have told them so.  I think it’s important for those around you to know that.

One of my favourite stories is a lesson I learned from one of my friends.  The story is, Go More, See More.  If you haven’t read this, please do so.  This single story/lesson has dramatically changed the way I look at pretty much everything.  I now have a vigour or zest for going out and trying new things.  I used to think “Why?” now I think “Why Not ?“.  Now, when someone talks to me about trying a new food, I don’t snub my nose at it, I think, I’ll try that !  It could be good, or it could suck… but until I’ve tried it, I won’t know.  “You never know unless you go”, so go try it.   What have you got to lose ?  Why Not ?

images (3)

Drew goes on to talk about a concept he has coined as a “Lollipop Moment”.  You can watch his explanation here.  I could try to explain it here, but Drew does a much better job…

 

The theory is, as he believes that everyone has made a difference in someone else’s life, through their actions/stories/lessons/moments.  It is these moments, whether you realize it or not, that are moments where we are leaders.  He indicates, we have made a profound impact on others, and we haven’t let ourselves take credit for it, because for some unknown reason we think that it really is not that important.  Well guess what ?  It is important !  If you think for a moment that your small contribution is only a drop in the ocean, then what is the ocean but a multitude of drops.  No one drop is any less important than other.

Case and point, I introduced one of my college friends to his wife, at their wedding is where I met my wife.  Don’t think for a second that your actions are inconsequential.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. ” – Marianne Williamson

wake-up-and-be-awesome-wooden-sign-closeup

It is time for us to stop degrading our contribution to this world.  The good that you do for others does not go unnoticed.  If someone else has done something good for you, tell them.  If you have done something for someone else, and they haven’t noticed, then maybe they just weren’t ready for all that goodness to come their way.  Don’t be discouraged, it took me a while to thank those that have provided so much for me.  Sometimes it takes a while for something to sink in.  I beg you to keep trying, because….

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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