Monday, June 30, 2008

How We Live

One of my things that I constantly ask myself is "am I living life to my fullest?".  Like all of us, I have my share of doubts as to whether or not I am living life to its fullest and during those times when I know I am not living life to its maximum, I explore what it is that holds me back.

About a year ago, I became familiar with the following song by the fabulous group Point of Grace (   The title song has an incredibly powerful video that I want to share with you.  I'm sure you will find it as moving as I did and perhaps may encourage you to live a live of "no limits".

The video can be found here.

By the same token, many of us have experienced excitement and heartbreak in our own youth or while experiencing the youth of our children.

Many of us have also witnessed (and in some cases experienced) the pain of being left out or discarded as we became stereotyped in one form of another.  What many people don't realize is how we cripple people's futures by stereotyping them early or by forcing them to adapt to what we believe their strengths "should be".  Perhaps you are one of those people who was told you didn't fit into the "definition of normal" and thus you were forced to change to fit someone else's definition of ideal.

Many years ago, a short story named "Animal School" was written that compared many of the children that we consider troublemakers to different types of animals.  The story of different animals attempting to learn in "Animal School" is a powerful one that forces us to reconsider why each child is a unique gift and miracle and how they must be cherished and not be forced to change.

The most powerful presentation of this story can be found here.  It is hosted by Raising Small Souls (    Take a moment to watch this video and check out the web site.  The web site contains a lot of powerful, supporting material to help all of us be better parents (and perhaps help us understand the childhood we experienced).

As you watch the video, I wonder how many of you will find yourself associating certain people in your past (or your present) with different animals in the video. 

To your success as parents.

In service and servanthood.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

John Maxwell's Laws of Leadership

In a previous book review, I noted that John Maxwell's books regarding the laws of teamwork were essential reading to any leader (defined as anyone in a position of influence, which includes pretty much all of us).

By the same token, Maxwell's book "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" is also a profound read for any leader.  I have listed the original 21 laws below.  Note that if you are able to obtain the newest version of his book, there are two laws that are different than my notes below.  The "Law of the Picture" replaces the "Law of E.F. Hutton" and the "Law of Addition" replaces the "Law of Reproduction".

Those interested in this book and looking for ways for their personal and spiritual life to co-exist may also be interested in "The Maxwell Leadership Bible", where Maxwell overlays his laws over the Bible.  It is an equally powerful read.

This book, with all of John Maxwell's other books, are powerful tools for today's leaders.

To your leadership success.


1. “The Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness”

Brothers Dick and Maurice McDonald had a talent for the restaurant business. As American culture became dependent on cars, they developed methods to serve food to customers on the run. They eventually streamlined their business, and primarily sold hamburgers. People in the restaurant business traveled to their hamburger joint to learn their efficient methods. Yet, the McDonald brothers failed when they attempted to franchise their idea. Why? Because they lacked overarching leadership ability. Their partner, Ray Kroc, had the vision and skill to make McDonald’s a marketplace phenomenon. Dedication to success is important, and so is talent and intelligence, but without leadership ability, you’ll only get so far.

2. “The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less”

True leadership cannot be bestowed, it must be earned. In 1996, a London Daily Mail poll showed that the public considered Mother Teresa and Princess Diana to be the most caring two people in the world, though neither held political office. People listened to them, and they used their influence to accomplish great things. Leading and managing are two different tasks, but the idea that good managers make good leaders is a common misconception. Leaders influence people while managers focus on running smooth operations. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily leaders. Even innovators may lack the ability to build organizations. Another misconception is that being first, being given a leadership job, or having great knowledge makes you a leader. Only hard work and dedication can do that.

3. “The Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day”

If you cannot identify the subjects you’re ignorant about, you won’t know what you need to learn. Once you figure that out, you can begin to develop your leadership skills by filling in the gaps in your knowledge. As your knowledge grows, so will your leadership ability. As you absorb leadership lessons, leading will become second nature. Real success comes from building your enterprise day by day.

4. “The Law of Navigation: Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course”

Leadership requires planning and forethought. Consider what you are asking others to follow you into doing. Preparedness is the main secret of this law. Decide what you’re going to do, and tell key staff members your goals. Allow time for them to accept the course you’ve proposed. Be prepared for problems, but always highlight their successes. Each day, review the course you’ve set.

5. “The Law of E.F. Hutton: When the Real Leader Speaks, People Listen”

The person with the title, the one running the meeting, may not be the real leader. True leadership depends on influence. The man or woman to whom people listen is the actual leader. Real leaders have strength of character, build good relationships and know a lot about their work. They have strong intuition and plain, raw talent.

6. “The Law of Solid Ground: Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership”

The trust of your followers is your most valuable asset as a leader. People want to believe in your character. If you make a mistake and don’t acknowledge it, you will breed mistrust.

7. “The Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger than Themselves”

Strong people look for strong leaders, based on respect and depth of character. Harriet Tubman, an African-American abolitionist, was very short, she lacked two front teeth and she never dressed well. Despite her appearance, people respected her enormously. In time, some of the country’s most important people invited her into their homes to seek her counsel.

8. “The Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias”

Intuition is a difficult quality to define. You develop intuition over time, through experience, but you must be ready to implement it in a heartbeat. Intuition enables leaders to read their circumstances, other people and available resources, and to integrate that understanding so they can act specifically within a broader context. Intuition offers a creative way to connect problems with solutions by viewing every situation through the lens of leadership. Apple’s Steve Jobs is an excellent intuitive leader. He has an uncanny ability to present innovations that capture consumers’ imagination. He views every technology, every partnership and every employee as a resource he can use as he leads his company into new markets.

9. “The Law of Magnetism: Who You Are Is Who You Attract”

Generally the people you attract will have qualities that are similar to yours. They will generally share your attitudes, values, abilities and life experiences. If you’re not attracting the people you want, examine your leadership skills to find any areas that need improvement.

10. “The Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand”

To communicate your message, you need to connect with people on an emotional level. Even when you face a room full of people, remember that they are individuals; connect with them as separate people. Some of the greatest military leaders made it their business to connect individually with their troops. Robert E. Lee spent time around the campfires with his men on nights before big battles. General Norman Schwarzkopf said in his autobiography that one Christmas during the Persian Gulf War, he “must have shaken 4,000 hands.” By taking the trouble to connect with their soldiers individually, these leaders ensured that they had their followers’ support.

11. “The Law of the Inner Circle: A Leader’s Potential Is Determined by Those Closest to Him”

To make your organization more effective, seek strong leadership potential among the people who form your inner circle. Don’t devote your time to trying to convince or inspire people who have a negative attitude. Invest your energy in those who share your vision. Populate your inner circle with individuals who boost morale and help make your load lighter.

12. “The Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others”

Henry Ford had an incredible vision. The car he manufactured changed modern life. And yet, he was so personally insecure that he could not keep himself from undermining the other executives at the Ford Motor Company. He would empower subordinates only to cripple their authority later. Worries about job security usually prevent leaders from empowering other people, but the ability to develop other leaders makes you invaluable to your organization. Abraham Lincoln named his political rivals and critics to his cabinet because he wanted the benefit of advice from leaders as strong or stronger than he was. When you empower others, you lift them up and, in the process, you elevate yourself.

13. “The Law of Reproduction: It Takes a Leader to Raise Up a Leader”

Some leaders are naturally gifted. Others rise to the occasion in response to crisis. However, the vast majority of leaders are inspired and mentored by other leaders. The best mentors for potential leaders are experienced leaders. You can only give to others what you already possess. Many leaders don’t see the value of generating other leaders, and may try to hold other people down at lower ranks. Be careful; the only way to limit or demote others is to lower yourself. Raising new leaders is essential for the full development of your organization. The more leaders your company has, the stronger it is, but that requires careful nurturing. As Ross Perot once said: “Leaders don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.”

14. “The Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, then the Vision”

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest leaders of all time. He led his native India to independence. He advocated nonviolence as the most effective weapon against oppression. Convincing people of this idea was terribly difficult, and yet millions followed him. Why? Because they believed in him as a leader, so they adopted his vision and his plan. Many people think vision comes first, but it doesn’t. When followers are making up their minds, the leader comes first. Build your credibility as a leader and then work on persuading others to share your vision.

15. “The Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win”

Winston Churchill spoke out against the Nazis as early as 1932, but those who led England at that time decided to pursue a reconciliatory path. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he plainly stated his position against Nazism. He made it clear that he intended to lead England to victory and that defeating Hitler was the only acceptable outcome. Despite incredible odds, Churchill did not give up until the Allies were victorious. Even a leader who is dedicated to victory must realize that winning is usually a team endeavor. Improving the team’s play leads to victory. Achieving victory requires a cohesive vision, a variety of skills and a dedicated leader exhorting his team to leave it all on the field.

16. “The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum Is a Leader’s Best Friend”

To go anywhere, you must be in motion. Ongoing momentum makes it easier to overcome challenges and obstacles when they occur. A leader must generate momentum, but once it starts, it is hard to stop. Momentum inspires followers to perform.

17. “The Law of Priorities: Leaders Understand that Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment”

First analyze your obligations. Identify those areas where your strengths are greatest and, as much as possible, delegate the rest. Understand where your greatest passions reside, because they provide your motivation. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean you are accomplishing the right things, so setting priorities is crucial. Ideally, each action you execute will satisfy more than one priority. To prioritize, determine what you absolutely must do, what activity generates the largest gain and “what brings the greatest reward.” To maximize your effort, focus on the most productive areas.

18. “The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up”

Sometimes you have to be willing to give something up so you can move ahead. You may be forced to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. Often that means working around the clock without compensation or appreciation. Sometimes the sacrifice is even greater. When Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler, he couldn’t stop the company’s downward trend toward bankruptcy without drastic action. As a last resort, he asked the federal government to bail out the company. He opened himself and Chrysler up to attack and ridicule. To set an example, he reduced his yearly salary to one dollar. He asked Chrysler’s executives to sacrifice as well. Because of that mutual sacrifice, they turned Chrysler around together. Getting where you’re going will require sacrifice. Staying there requires even more sacrifice.

19. “The Law of Timing: When to Lead Is as Important as What to Do and Where to Go”

So often, timing has a tremendous impact on the outcome of a battle. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976 because voters identified with him as a Washington outsider. It was “the right time” in U.S. history for an outsider to win. The country was wary, disillusioned by Vietnam and Watergate. Chances are that Carter would not have been elected at any other time, but timing favored the underdog in 1976.

20. “The Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth, Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders”

Leaders who develop other leaders multiply their own potential and activate the law of explosive growth. John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s Pizza, explains, “It’s my job to build the company.” His COO, Wade Oney, adds, “The key is to develop leaders. You do that by building up people.” You can groom leaders one by one, but for faster growth you can also enlist leaders who will bring their followers along, multiplying your growth.

21. “The Law of Legacy: A Leader’s Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession”

In 1997, Coca-Cola’s CEO Roberto Goizueta died unexpectedly. This kind of crisis is often hugely destabilizing, but Goizueta had prepared for his company’s welfare in the event of his absence. As a result, Coca-Cola remained strong. By growing leaders, you amplify your company’s potential today and provide for its sustained success in the future.

John Maxwell's Laws of Teamwork

If you have never had an opportunity to read any of John Maxwell's books and you are in a position of leadership, I would strongly recommend that you go buy every book that you can find that he has written.

His book "The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork" is a powerful (dare I say profound) read. Here are the laws of teamwork - do yourself a favor as a leader and buy this book.

To your success as a team builder.


1. “The Law of Significance”

People tend to admire bold, innovative, successful individuals. But while many onlookers identify with great individuals, the reality is that people who work alone rarely accomplish great things. Look behind the great success of any individual, from Daniel Boone to Albert Einstein, and you’ll see that each one had backup from a team. Most great achievers freely acknowledged their debt to the accomplishments and discoveries of their predecessors. A person can join a game, but the entire team wins the large contests. Those who understand that a team can do more than a lone individual readily accept the power of teamwork – and they qualify to be a part of your team.

2. “The Law of the Big Picture”

When individuals become part of a team, they realize that greater issues than their individuality are at stake. The individual has to subordinate his or her selfish ambitions to help achieve the larger goal. Someone who acknowledges the overall goal also recognizes that the team is the way to achieve that objective. A former Notre Dame football coach said he would rather not print player’s names on their jerseys. Instead, he wanted to print only the initials of their positions to subordinate their egos for the team’s benefit. The goal must become more important than the individual. To get people to acknowledge the team’s objective, tell them what must be achieved. The leader should select the right players, tell the team how far they are from the goal and provide the right tools. Leave ego at the door.

3. “The Law of the Niche”

Every person has certain strengths. To produce the outcome you want as a leader, place the right person in the right team position. Fitting the right people exactly into appropriate positions is essential to a team’s success, and it is crucial for the individuals involved.

4. “The Law of Mount Everest”

Sherpa guide and experienced climber Tenzing Norgay understood Mount Everest. A British expedition that needed about two tons of equipment and food carried to numerous base camps hired him in 1953. The expedition sought porters and climbers of various skills to reach their camps at different stations going up the mountain. The higher the elevation, the greater the skill required. As the climbing team approached the summit, two members tried to reach it and failed. They returned to the camp and told Norgay and team member, Edmund Hillary, about the obstacles they had encountered. With their guidance, on May 29, 1953, Hillary and Norgay became the first climbers to scale the top of Mount Everest. The lesson of the law: As a task becomes greater, the need for teamwork increases. Specifically design your team for its task. The size of the team depends on the size of the challenge, but meeting a challenge requires a creative, flexible team. You also need a motivated team, particularly if the situation is unpleasant.

5. “The Law of the Chain”

Any team is dependent on its weakest member. That was the case when the Exxon Valdez tanker went aground off Alaska on March 24, 1989. The ensuing oil spill became the most expensive environmental disaster in U.S. history and cost Exxon its good reputation and about $3.6 billion. Authorities traced the disaster to the malfeasance of the ship’s captain. The lesson: Some people are not team players. This may be because they have other priorities, prefer the status quo or are uncertain about their talents. Coaches or leaders may be able to help team members who are “weak links,” or may be able to trade them for more suitable players. As a team leader, you should fix weak links to protect your team’s synergy.

6. “The Law of the Catalyst”

Once a team is built, it has a natural tendency to slow down. It can lose its focus, vision or key people. When this happens, the team needs someone who can re-energize it, as superstar basketball player Michael Jordan revitalized the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards. Teams need people with energy because they are most likely to achieve results. The path isn’t always easy. These sparkplugs may say things others do not want to hear and may have a superior understanding of what the team needs. They are often energetic, passionate and creative.

7. “The Law of the Compass”

IBM was once one of the world’s top corporations, but by the late 1980s, it had become increasingly unresponsive to new technological changes. IBM was losing $8 billion annually by 1991. In 1993, a new CEO began to build a fresh team. The company adopted a single marketing theme: focus on e-business. It decided to use its existing hardware to meet its new purpose. The idea galvanized the company and helped point it in a single direction. Creating and assessing a vision is difficult, but you can accomplish the same thing by examining your team’s collective moral goals and the visions of your individual team members. Tradition also plays a vital role. To foster better team members, leaders must explain the vision so that everyone can participate in realizing it.

8. “The Law of the Bad Apple”

Teams need many factors in place to thrive. For instance, a good attitude is an essential component. Often, talented individuals lose ground because of bad attitudes. Members’ individual attitudes distinguish great teams from weak ones. Shared attitudes can elevate or denigrate any team, and can be either corrosive or invigorating, because people tend to reflect the prevailing attitude. When Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes in 1954, other runners quickly broke the magic barrier. Positive attitudes are inspiring, especially in the face of adversity. A San Francisco experiment illustrates the importance of attitude. Three schoolteachers were told that since they were the brightest in the district, they were getting a special class of students with high IQs to see how much the kids could learn. By year’s end, their students had achieved 20% to 30% more than other students. The principal then told the teachers that the experiment was a hoax. They were not the brightest teachers. In fact, they had been chosen at random. Likewise, their students were average, but a positive attitude and high expectations had produced real results. Unfortunately, bad attitudes spread faster than positive ones, so correct them quickly. There is no upside to pessimism or envy, since attitudes color a person’s overall outlook.

9. “The Law of Countability”

Team members have to rely on each other. Personal accountability is critical. The trait of reliability stems from a person’s character, commitment and ability to work with others, regardless of the circumstances. When a team member breaks this bond, the damage penetrates all levels of the team. In contrast, hearing that your teammates know they can rely upon you under all circumstances is one of the highest possible compliments.

10. “The Law of the Price Tag”

When a company fails to spend the money to develop new ideas or buy new talent, it suffers the consequences – right up to a penalty as dramatic as going out of business. A salesman who envisioned selling goods directly from manufacturers to rural customers founded Montgomery Ward in 1872. The company was well established by 1900. It even came to own the biggest skyscraper west of Manhattan. But, over the years, Wards failed to keep pace with changing times and new methods. By 2000, it was out of business. Afraid to pay the price of keeping up, Wards lost everything. Teams must pay a price to win.

11. “The Law of the Scoreboard”

Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, founded their company in the 1920s and it soon earned a reputation for innovation. In 1937, Disney produced “Snow White,” which some consider the most successful movie of all time. But by the mid-1980s, the company was losing money. Under the threat of a hostile takeover, it hired a new chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner, who restored Disney to its creative roots by being objective and setting new goals. Every team has goals and ways to measure success. Winning teams change their plans to manage new situations, and then they consistently monitor the results. When a team operates at a very high level, it has to make only minor adjustments to stay successful.

12. “The Law of the Bench”

Great teams are built on the backs of great players. Sports teams have strong starters and players on the bench. But having a deep bench, or a number of very qualified substitutes for the starters, allows teams to do well over the long term. Alternately, a team that has great starters and no substitutes often will not last the entire game. Do not dismiss people on the bench as having limited potential. Given the right coaching, motivation and opportunity, substitutes can become key players. Developing a deep bench requires good recruiting. To build a legacy, teams have to attract very qualified new people and continue to find fresh challenges for important players.

13. “The Law of Identity”

Shared values form the common bond that makes a team cohesive. These values can stem from common priorities and a mutual vision. Teams need a bond of common beliefs or experiences. When people with mutual values unite, they attract others who feel a kinship with those values. A team must define and communicate the values that shape its identity.

14. “The Law of Communication”

Interaction is a basic component of winning teams. When leaders communicate with their team members, they build new bonds and make it easier to implement change. Share good and bad news with all of your team members. Failing to share news with each other can undermine the team’s harmony, decision-making capabilities and personal interactions.

15. “The Law of the Edge”

When two teams have equal capacity, but one achieves more, the quality of leadership usually makes the difference. Leadership provides the edge in competition. In the late 1990s the Los Angeles Lakers had good players, but they did not have a successful season. In 2000, the team hired former Chicago Bull’s coach Phil Jackson and became the NBA champions. The team was the same; new leadership made the difference. Good leaders let their team members do what they do best. Often, each person is highly trained and wants responsibility, even though people incorrectly assume that a team can have only one leader. Leadership roles should be rotated based on the situation at hand. Good leaders provide an edge by preparing the team for the future.

16. “The Law of High Morale”

When a team believes it can accomplish a goal, it can. High morale psychologically prepares teams for difficult tasks. A winning streak often is due to team members’ strong belief that they can accomplish anything, even in adversity. But morale comes in various strengths. When team morale is low, the leader often becomes responsible for the team’s work. When morale builds, the leader should get more members involved. Once morale reaches a high level, the leader should keep the team focused and build on its successes.

17. “The Law of Dividends”

A team’s successes compound over time, like well-invested dividends. Coaches invest time in their team members, and develop the talents of the best people they can find. Collectively, these team members develop into their own community. When each team member has the authority to act at the top of his or her abilities, the entire team gains power and success.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Being Ourselves (or Lessons from a Radical Raisin)

This year, I am the assistant coach for an under-five soccer team.  They are delightful to watch, whether it's the look on their face as they grasp a new soccer concept, the laughter as they play tag when the play has moved up the field, the look of wonder as they scrutinize a bug on the field (oblivious to the game going on around them), the intense look of concentration  as they race to catch up to a teammate or opponent or the devious laughter as they break rank during a drill, openly delighted that they are giving the coaching staff everything they can handle.

When they are tired, they say they are tired.  When they don't like something said or done to them by a teammate or an opponent, they express their discontent (verbally or otherwise).  When they need Mommy or Daddy, they walk off the field, even when they are the last defense between an opponent racing towards them and the goal they are defending.

They are, in essence, the human spirit in perfection - self assured (most times), focused on what is important (in their mind), able to do what they need to do and doing it when they want to do it.  Their needs are simple and yet profound in their simplicity.  We as adults naively believe that we have much to teach them but I wonder if the roles of teacher and student are actually reversed.

There is much we adults can learn from their openness and honesty.  We as adults spend a good bit of our time consumed by what someone else will think about what we did or didn't do, said or didn't say, what someone else requires at the sacrifice of our own needs, etc.  In doing so, we create a lot of excess pressure in our own lives and in turn, strain relationships by avoiding conversations with others; conversations that could strengthen relationships by building them upon honesty, trust and openness rather than building them upon compromise, avoidance and excessive sacrifice with no win-win in sight. 

We miss many opportunities to enjoy the moment because we are too focused on worrying about what everyone else needs instead of answering the call for our own needs and interests.  By constantly avoiding that which we feel is our purpose or passion (for the sake of not offending or disappointing someone else) we miss many opportunities to bring phenomenal success, happiness and fulfillment in our lives.

So here we are at the beginning of another soccer season, parents and kids alike excited about having fun, making friends and acquiring new skills.  As an assistant coach, I also look forward to having fun, making new friends and watching the kids learn.  More importantly, I look forward to the lessons I will learn from these kids.  What they teach us is in many ways, far more profound than what we believe we are teaching them.  Let's be mindful of the big lessons from the small things in life.

Let's go Raisins!

Yours in service and servanthood.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Profundity of our Life

I have been blessed recently to work with a number of clients who, while representing a broad spectrum of industries, have a single item in common:

Each of their products or services will have a positive impact on their customers, an impact that extends to the families of their customers, every person that these people know, etc.

It's a reminder to us that our service to others, whether intentional or accidental, will impact many people around us in both a negative or positive way.

One of the common philosophies regarding the impact of our actions on our descendants is that the impact of every action we take can be explicitly identified in people seven generations after us.  The other interesting thing to note is that these explicitly identifiable impacts can be identified in a generation that exists after we have most assuredly moved on to our resting place.  We will never personally know this generation but who we are lives on in them.

When one thinks of such impact, it brings to mind the notion that every action we take has a profound impact on those around us and descended from us.  Even the most insignificant action (purposeful or accidental) changes the lives of everyone forever.

It might be a choice of where to live, moving to a locale that at some point in the future will have a profound environmental impact on a descendent.  It might be the creation of a child (again, with purpose or by accident) who will at some point manifest actions of their own that will have impact on the world.  It might be choices of lifestyle including physical, mental, spiritual or emotional health that seem insignificant at the moment but will have great impact on the world directly or indirectly.

I heard a great song this morning by Monk and Neagle ( entitled The 21st Time that describes someone who constantly ignores those around him (including homeless people and people in welfare lines) and then suddenly comes to the realization "what if one of the people I am ignoring is Jesus?". 

When we become aware of the profundity of our choices , we realize how important each of our actions is, regardless of our perception of the scale of the action at the time.

We have all read about the butterfly effect, the notion that the flapping of a butterfly's wings on one side of the world can amplify into a tremendous storm on the other side of the world.

The actions we take are exactly the same.  Positive actions, no matter how large or small, continue to grow and amplify, impacting people we will never meet and in turn, impacting all of their descendants in addition to our own.  Conversely, negative actions will produce a negative result on a similar scale.

Whether this world becomes a better or worse place to experience now and for many generations to come is all based on the actions that each of us take on a daily basis.  We are making an impact today and leaving a legacy for tomorrow, whether we want to admit it or not.

Think of it this way.  Let's say that 100 years from now, mankind is contacted by a superior life form from a distant galaxy.  The human beings designated to represent earth will play a huge role in determining whether this alien life form approaches us with intentions of peace or feelings of animosity.  The life experiences, both current and inherited, will determine how the human representatives will approach the situation and in turn, will determine whether we enter a new era of knowledge acquisition or we are wiped from the universe.

These human beings could be direct descendants of yours or could be direct descendants of people you will never meet but have been influenced by you or by someone you directly or indirectly influenced.

So in this scenario, positive impact produces phenomenal results while negative impact produces catastrophic consequences.  Perhaps something you do in the next hour determines the future of the entire human race.

Closer to home, each decision we make ripples out around the world like a pebble thrown into a calm pond, either adding to the lives of others (empowering them to more positive results) or detracting from the lives of others (disempowering people, with potentially fatal results in this generation or a subsequent one).

So let's take inventory of our actions, let's be more aware of the global and potentially universal impact of our actions and let's do our best to leave a tremendous legacy to those generations we will never meet.  As Dr. Stephen Covey says, follow the rules of the 4 Ls - live, love, learn and leave a legacy.

To your success.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Making a Difference or Being Indifferent

On Saturday past, I had an opportunity to attend an all day workshop inside a penitentiary in Canada. The workshop, sponsored by Prison Fellowship Canada (, was targeted towards people who want to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by the prison system - current inmates of the prison system, ex-offenders, their life partners, their children, the communities in which they live and the people who work with all of these people.

The workshop was an eye opener for me. While I've always felt that those "inside the system" were victims in their own right, this workshop really opened my eyes as to how bleak an inmate's world looks because of a lack of commitment and support to them when they are released. We put a lot of attention into making sure they are locked up properly but put much less effort into making sure that that person, upon release, is given the chance to throw off the yoke of their past and to really being a new life filled with promise and opportunity.

This workshop is a call to action in my humble opinion. Yet when I shared information about the workshop with a number of "good Christians", I was told many times that "helping people such as offenders and their families is not part of a Christian's obligations to help others" or "there are lots of people out there already helping these people - they don't need me". For those of you who are not Christian, feel free to substitute "good human being" where you see the word "Christian".

This started my brain down the path of thinking about those who make a difference versus those who are waiting for someone else to make a difference. We often hear the cry "why doesn't someone do something about this?". We follow this cry with a feeling of disappointment when no one steps up to do something, when the truth is that the next person is also crying "why doesn't someone do something about this?". The expectation that the next person will take care of it leads to so many missed opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

It doesn't have to be just in the prison system. It can be anywhere - serving food in a soup kitchen, sharing your life experience in the form of youth mentoring, visiting the aged and the sick, plugging into the many incredible volunteer agencies out there, getting involved in church stewardship programs where you share your skills, knowledge and time with those who could really benefit or anything else where you are touching a life.

Many people say "my life is too busy to help others". To those I have a couple of suggestions.

  1. In all of my years of working with leaders, I have yet to find someone who truly didn't have time. Their calendar may have been full, but their life was "too busy" because their calendar owned then, instead of them owning their calendar or they didn't know how to have productive days instead of busy days. See my blog entry on resources versus resourcefulness for more thoughts on this (
  2. You or someone you love may someday be in a situation that would benefit from the help provided from someone else. When you realize the gratitude you would feel as a result of someone helping you or a loved one, remember that there is someone out there right now who would feel the same way if you helped them.

We have a choice. We can choose to make a difference or we can be indifferent, waiting for the next person to fill the gap that we leave by not stepping up. Someday the person needing help may be you or a loved one. Let that thought percolate for a while and then decide what you need to do.

Remember, you don't need to set out to change the world - you only need to change one person. However, given that one action on your part could in fact change the world, the time for action is now. Don't wait for the next guy to make a difference.

To your success in making a difference.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A New Friend

I made a new friend today.

So what, you say, we all make new friends all the time.

Well this friend was special in a couple of ways.

For starters, he is a strong possibility thinker, the kind of person who is making the world a better place.  I know we will be collaborating on a number of projects, personally and professionally moving forward.

Secondly, one of his vocations is at an educational institution whose halls I haven't walked since I first went there over 25 years ago.  After he and I had finished chatting, I thought I would walk through these walls again, from the perspective of a 42-year old but reliving the experiences of a 17-year old.

As I walked through the halls, observing the familiar layout of the building, I couldn't help but think of what has transpired in my life, the gifts that I have been given, the things I have learned and how my purpose has changed in those intervening years.

As I explored the place that was my initial foray into the adult world of career, responsibility, et al., I found that I was observing myself as a 17 year old student, a young person who:

  1. was afraid of the future or the unknown aspects of it
  2. was preparing to live the world's expectation - get an education, get a job, marry and have kids and work a 9-5 grind until you retire too broken to enjoy anything else
  3. didn't realize that I was not equipped to architect a future of purpose - purpose back then was something that a sibling did to you - "You did that on purpose" - "Did not" - "Did too".  There was no such thing as manifesting your purpose.
  4. was too shy to assert himself with anything and dreaded speaking to almost anyone
  5. lived for the moment, not recognizing the importance of enjoying the moment while still planning for the future.
  6. didn't understand the importance of God in his life.

Then I thought of the life that I have lived to date.

I have been blessed with:

  1. Three incredible children
  2. An amazing life partner
  3. Incredibly supportive friends
  4. An amazing business network that includes some of today's globally recognized leadership mentors and authors
  5. The opportunity to see any part of the world that I choose to see
  6. The opportunity to witness the worst and the best of people, including events like 9/11, where I personally experienced sadness through the loss of friends but witnessed the strength of people who rise to the occasion to assert themselves as compassionate human beings
  7. Opportunities to speak publicly regarding business strategy, technology and personal purpose
  8. The chance to consult with some of the most powerful people in the world as they ask for MY advice on how to do something
  9. A sequence of life events that to me seem normal yet seem phenomenal to others
  10. Recognition of our inter-connectedness and how everyone on this planet needs everyone else
  11. A renewed faith that through perseverance, courage, strength, action and a belief in a Higher Power, that anything can be overcome.

The list is endless.  However, I couldn't help but smile when I thought - If someone had told me when I was 17 that I would experienced all of this and more in my lifetime, I would have shrugged it off as totally impossible - I did not have it in me to accomplish.  Yet I did anyway.

It made me think.  When life gets tough, it is sometimes useful to look back on what each of us has overcome and we realize - "Wow - I've come a long way.  If I can come all this way, then surely I can overcome this too".

Are  you facing some tough challenges?  You have come a LONG way and overcome much.  Given the Path you have traveled to this point, you know you will overcome this challenge also and by doing so, you will renew your faith in your ability (and in God's, if that is your inclination) to overcome anything as you make your way through this glorious experience we call life.

To your success, I remain your servant.