So much about life comes down to your attitude about it. I know privileged people who are regularly misanthropic and others with less economic advantages that seem to be mostly happy even though their lot in life seems comparatively difficult. Every day we wake up we get to make a choice about how we approach our life. We can see our existence as an amazing gift full of unlimited possibilities or a burden full of work, obligations and limitations. We can appreciate what we have or yearn for what’s beyond our reach. We can make a positive difference in the lives other people or focus exclusively on ourselves. We can build bridges to solidify positive relationships or forget to tend to the basic maintenance of effective human interaction.
Month: April 2012
It may take awhile but most liars eventually get caught. There is a great saying that “if you don’t want to forget what you did, then always tells the truth.” I also like the common refrain these days that “…the cover-up is often worse than the crime.” Honesty matters! If people feel like that they should regularly question what you are telling them, then they won’t trust you. This is a problem that many our current (and past) political leaders have to deal with and it is of their own making. All you have to do is turn on the TV or read a newspaper or magazine and there is ample evidence of individuals dealing with the consequences of being caught in a lie.
As you grow as a leader and start to have some success it’s important that you not get too full of yourself and remain somewhat humble. This is especially true as you begin to do more public speaking. While you certainly can, it’s not advisable to just say whatever is on your mind and believe you have all the answers. I’m often amazed how many people forget this fact. Otherwise smart people who have a lot to share with an audience kill their credibility with unwise or unnecessarily controversial statements. You have to know when to use your personal censor button.
It’s very important that leaders are clear about and enforce standards of acceptable behavior. You will never win long-term in an “anything goes” environment. Winning isn’t everything. Moreover, people will get easily confused if you take a situational approach to moral and ethical issues. If something is wrong for one person it is equally wrong for someone else (even in family businesses). One of my favorite quotes of all time is that “we are what we tolerate.”
In business (and life) you are either growing and getting better or going in the opposite direction. Just like your muscles, your brain and natural abilities will atrophy if they don’t get exercise. You can’t stand still and expect progress. I see far too many people who “let up” at the very time they need to “push the envelope” and challenge themselves to do better. It’s also sad when a leader stays on too long and becomes more interested in ego, power and position than effectively navigating change and facilitating progress.
Time is limited. We all know this fact, yet how many of us manage our time poorly. Two of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they are too busy or that there isn’t enough time. I can certainly empathize with this mindset and various times in my life have struggled with these challenges myself. However, I’ve learned that you manage your time or it manages you.
Never allow yourself to get bullied in business or life. It was true on the playground when we were kids and it is true as an adult in your business dealings. I make it a rule to never to business with anyone I perceive doesn’t have my best interest at heart. Any dealing that is completely one-sided is not a good business deal but extortion. The good news is that once you survive a bad economy, it becomes pretty evident who the worst transgressors are. I sincerely hope that they end being held to account for their actions.
I’ve always envied people who don’t have any problems sleeping although I believe this number is relatively small especially as you age. My sister used to joke that not sleeping well is the sign of a guilty conscience. I certainly hope not. I think it has alot to do with what’s on your mind, but also a reflection of what you eat and drink, how much exercise you get and whether or not you have conducive sleep habits. Some nights I sleep deeply while other nights I seem to wake up sporadically throughout the night and never quite drift off like I need to. It can all get a bit frustrating if you let it get to you.
I’ve always thought that the whole concept or work life balance is a bit of an illusion. It’s difficult for me to imagine someone who has a life that is always completely in balance. Things don’t always work out this way. It’s like the idea of a 50/50 partnership or marriage. Rarely do both partners put in the same amount of effort all the time. What you hope is that in the end it all balances out properly. I view my life in the same way. There will be periods when some things take precedence over others and that’s okay as long as it doesn’t become a lifelong habit. However, there are certain aspects of our existence we should be paying attention to all the time (to varying degrees as needed). We ultimately ignore any of these items long-term to our own detriment.
Business is hard enough with encumbering it with seasonality issues. I’ve seen many talented and hard working small business owners struggle under the weight of non-seasonal business volume. It’s hard to staff properly, keep good people and manage your cash properly. If you’re not careful it can begin to feel like a “feast or famine” situation which over the years can start to wear you down. Of course there are many people who manage to navigate the “ups and downs” properly, but they are usually pretty disciplined about their business leadership actions. If you are in a seasonal business environment, I encourage you to consider the following:
I don’t know when the shift started to happen in my lifetime, but we have changed from a nation that gets results to one that seems to accept a lack of performance and then bemoans our lack of progress. You see evidence of this everywhere you turn: 1) structural economic issues that never get fully addressed; 2) traffic problems that never get solved; 3) infrastructure needs that are constantly put off until there is a crisis; 4) schools that turn out less than stellar results; 5) a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else; 6) a health care system that is broken and too costly to maintain; and 7) wars that are started but never end, etc. Each group of leaders claims they are doing their best given the circumstances and/or blames their opponents for not doing their part. They then have the gall to rant on about our “exceptionalism.” It is a vicious non-productive and self-deluding cycle.
Yesterday as I was winding down the holiday weekend with my kids our dog (Bambi) got loose from the back yard and ran off. You can’t really blame the dog. It was our fault for leaving the gate open and not paying attention. We were all devastated. She is still fairly young and not all that street smart. We live in a busy downtown area and it isn’t difficult for your thoughts to conjure up many possible terrible outcomes. To make matters worse she wasn’t wearing her collar. It would have been a very sad way to end an otherwise happy weekend if we had been unable to find her.
Another year has come full circle and I find myself celebrating my 46th birthday. Wow! Sometimes the passing of time is hard to believe. My dad once told me that “the days can be long but the years will grow shorter as you age.” As usual he is right. It seems like yesterday I was wide eyed kid playing with my friends and day dreaming about my future. While I never did become President or Secretary of State (there’s still time), soar through the universe as an astronaut, solve major crimes for Interpol, play either professional baseball or football, or lead troops as a great general, I’ve had a rich full life. Today is a day to count my many blessings:
When was the last time you had fun at work and truly enjoyed yourself? Are you able to laugh at the absurd or ridiculous or do you take it all too seriously? Can you let your guard down? Do you enjoy the company of your colleagues or prefer to keep them at a distance? Are people naturally drawn to you or do you feel isolated? When you show up in the morning do you feel optimistic and relatively happy or tired and downtrodden? Are you able to keep your work in a proper perspective? Can you take most things in stride or are you easily frustrated? Do you make an effort to enjoy what you are doing or just consider it a job? Can you lighten up the mood in a room or are you always ratcheting up the level of intensity?
It always bothers me when someone complains about another person’s good fortune by saying they were just lucky. Sure some people get lucky but pure luck is much rarer than you think. Very few people ever win the lottery. Even those that do win big usually play the game for many years before striking it rich. Of course, some people do start out with more advantages than others, but as someone who knows a number of people born into wealthy families; this advantage comes fraught with its own different set of problems. Resenting the success of others is a waste of time and energy. It is also an unattractive character flaw and if you are not careful leads to a victim mentality.
It’s very easy to get so caught up in our own life and forget about the needs of other people especially those not directly in our social or professional circles. However, it’s been proven time and time again and that real joy comes from helping others not just focusing on ourselves. Leaders are in a unique position to set a good example in this regard. I believe it isn’t just a coincidence that the most philanthropic and community involved companies tend to do better than their less engaged peers on the business front. People want to know that you care about more than just profit especially your employees.
Never settle for mediocrity in others or yourself. Greatness is a choice although sometimes it can also choose you. Far too many businesses limp along or merely survive rather than thrive. Far too many people are dissatisfied with the outcomes in their life. To achieve anything of significance requires passion, diligence, hard work, commitment and raising your expectations of what’s possible. As I watched Bruce Springsteen perform last night in front of a packed house for nearly 3 hours at age 62, I couldn’t help but think that besides his obvious talent, what still makes him great is that he cares so much, loves what he is doing and gives it everything he’s got.