Thursday, August 28, 2008

Being Grateful

As most of you know, I am driven by the need for all of us to be grateful for everything we have.

I received an email this morning about gratitude that had such poignant images, I felt the need to share it here.  There is probably far worse out there than anything shown in these images.

After you view these images, ask yourself this question:

"What can I do to make a difference in this world?"

Take care, be well, be grateful and create a great day!

In service and servanthood.




If you think you are unhappy, look at them


If you think your salary is low, how about her?

If you think you don't have many friends...

When you feel like giving up, think of this man

If you think you suffer in life, do you suffer as much as he does?

If you complain about your transport system, how about them?

If your society is unfair to you, how about her?

Enjoy life how it is and as it comes
Things are worse for others and is a lot better for us.

There are many things in your life that will catch your eye
but only a few will catch your heart....pursue those...












Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life is difficult

So begins the wonderful book, "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck.

We have all experienced or are experiencing things that push us to the brink, the one thing that makes us wonder if this thing we call Life is worth living or whether we have what it takes to persevere to better times. Many times as we think these things, we look to those around us, especially those seemingly more successful and say "I wish I had it as easy as they do".

Those who study the lives of successful people discover that most of these people experienced the same or higher level of challenge at some point in their life before one or more defining moments transformed their life into the one of success we see.

These people possessed the same characteristics that we have in unlimited supply if we apply ourselves, including but not limited to courage, intelligence, perseverance, passion, hope and faith.

Faith is an interesting concept, as when we openly discuss faith with people, a few camps quickly become apparent:

  • Those who have a strong faith in one or more Supreme Beings and live by their faith
  • Those who have some faith
  • Those who claim to have faith in something (a higher Being, themselves, etc) but don't practice what they preach
  • Those who have no faith and deride others for having it (yet quickly calling upon a Supreme Being in times of need). It's like the atheist trapped in a foxhole who immediately calls out to Mom and God for protection.

Faith is not entirely tied to the religious definition. Faith is also the belief that things will work themselves out in some fashion (perhaps not entirely the way we expect or demand). Hopefully when the challenge has passed, we accept the obligation to harvest what knowledge we can from the experience. Faith is the ability to know that we must persevere because a lesson lies in the experience, a lesson that either applies to us or to others.

We must continue to take action in order to strengthen our faith, whether we believe that we have Divine guidance or not. Faith is not just a case of "if I think really good thoughts, then the answer will be delivered to me in a painless fashion". If that were the case, we would have put the lottery business out of business some time ago.

Our faith in getting through that which tests us calls us to continually take action towards our goals. This continuous action allows us to stay focused on the end goal and therefore any progress towards that goal, no matter how slight, offers us comfort that progress is possible.

With comfort that we will survive our current challenge comes a glimmer of hope that a solution is possible and upon that foundation of hope, we can begin to have courage to take larger steps which in turn reinforces our faith.

As we take these steps, our courage grows and we become emboldened to take larger steps. Eventually we get to the end of the challenge and we discover that we have survived when we originally felt we would never get through it.

Sometimes, however, when we get to the end, loved ones who were struggling are no longer with us and we carry the pain of their loss.

During those times, it is important to focus on what that person gave you in Life, not what they have taken away in their passing. Whatever your belief is in terms of what happens when we move on after this life, we can all take consolation in the fact that our loved ones are not in pain anymore. Isn't that what we ask for when we make our silent pleas during private moments - "please help them to not suffer".

So while Life out there is challenging us and we beat ourselves up over our perceived failures, remember that the only real failure in Life is when we refuse to get up, to look the challenge square in the eye and proclaim "I am stronger than you, I will overcome, I will be better for it and I will use what I have learned to make the world a better place".

A few great quotes come to mind:

"The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all" - Chinese Proverb

"In every difficult situation is potential value. Believe this, then begin looking for it" - Norman Vincent Peale

"If you compared your troubles, or challenges, with those of others, you would surely find that there are those whose troubles make yours look like minor inconveniences." - Catherine Pulsifer

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars." - Henry Van Dyke

"Just because you know where you want to end up doesn’t mean you will not be faced with obstacles, or challenges along the way. Instant success rarely happens." - Catherine Pulsifer

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. " - James 2:14-17 (TNIV)

"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love." - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NKJV)

We have all struggled at one point or another. For those who are struggling, reach out for help. When you reach out for help, remember that your faith, hope and courage will only grow when you use the assistance to take action. You will be no better off if, after asking for help, you step back and hope that someone else takes care of all your troubles for you.

For those who have the ability to help others with their struggle, don't wait another moment.

Please make a difference in the life of someone else today. It doesn't matter how big or how small the difference, nor should we look for rewards or recognition. The Universe will reward us when the time is appropriate.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Check out the link below to explore M. Scott Peck's beautiful book.

The Road Less Traveled, 25th Anniversary Edition : A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
by M. Scott Peck

Read more about this book...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Going for the Gold - the Leadership Difference

I was taking inventory today of smaller information technology companies that I have come in contact with up to the end of 2007 and where they are on the track towards success and some interesting items came to light.  The most interesting thing was that while I believed they all had potential for success, the ones that were most successful now aren't the ones I thought would be most successful when I was first introduced to them.

In fact, some of the ones with the greatest potential are now in various stages of a death spiral that they are in denial of while some of companies that seemed to have less potential are now driving towards success.

When I examine the different companies carefully, I noticed that all things being equal, including size of market, size of competitive space, client size, quality and quantity, availability of execution capital, etc., the companies all seemed to have equal access to success.

However, the one glaring item that stood out between the successful and less than successful companies was in fact the difference in leadership.

The leaders of the unsuccessful companies seemed to share a shortage in some common traits:

  • Courage

Unwillingness to take risk, to differentiate themselves from their crowded competitive space - I'll make plans to spend money only if I currently have it in hand.

  • Vision

Unwillingness or inability to proactively rally their teams around mission, vision, values, purpose and goals - Why should I have to motivate them any further - I am paying them already - that should be enough.

  • Humility

Inability to learn by acknowledging that other people have knowledge that can be leveraged for their success - I am a business owner therefore I am already successful and have nothing to learn from others.

  • Greed

Unwillingness to share the pie - I'd rather have all of a small pie than 90% of a much larger pie - I'd rather have my company collapse then give up x% to an investor who could make my company much larger.

  • Human Relationship Management

Lack of insight into leveraging the strengths of team members - They will do what I tell them - I don't care if they are happy about it or using their talents.  I just want them to work harder.

  • Responsibility

Refusal to take responsibility for mistakes made in the company - If my team has made a mistake, what is most important for me is ferreting out the culprit, not in solving and learning from the event.

  • Business acumen

Failure to observe the landscape and adjust accordingly, whether it be in technology, competitors, new opportunities, etc. - My company will be successful irrespective of what the industry calls for, what my competitors are doing, what new technology exists to empower the company, etc.

  • Stubbornness

Inability to leverage people who have "been there" - if I do this, then there may be an expectation that I will have to do what someone else tells me or worse, may have to share in the reward. I'd rather go it alone than do that - sheer brute force has and will continue to make me successful.

  • Wastefulness of time

Unwillingness to utilize networks containing new clients, industry experts, etc. - I can build my own network when I need it - that way it is mine to control and I don't need to share the rewards.

  • Strategy

Lack of interest in or commitment to spending time to be strategic in sales and marketing, competitive analysis, appropriate team building and motivation, partner collaboration, honest corporate self-assessment, articulation of strategy, internal / external communication, etc. (this one shocked me at the scale and commonality of the lack of strategy) - I don't have time for all of that stuff.  If I am planning then I am not executing and if I am not executing, I must be failing.

  • Passion (or lack of)

These leaders say all the right things, how they empower their staff, their staff is their first priority, they do all the right things, strategy is critical, etc - but you discover that it's all talk.- If I pretend to do the right things, then everything will correct itself and in the meantime, I buy time by getting the respect of those around me.

Conversely, the successful companies exhibit the following expressions of the same attributes in their leaders:

  • Courage

Smart risk is key to my success - I won't waste my money but smart risk will propel me past my competitor and will allow me to establish a beachhead before they do.  I'll find creative ways to generate the income needed to drive this behavior and to mitigate the risk.

  • Vision

I promote and live by messages centered around mission, vision, values, purpose and goals - If I don't provide my team with something to rally around, provide opportunities for individual contribution and success and provide a model that establishes our execution standard, why would they even care about contributing to the greater success (and how do they know in what direction they should be moving)?

  • Humility

There is much to learn from others who have "been there" - I acquire new knowledge every day from people who are helping me and my company grow.

  • Generosity (reverse of greed)

The bigger the success, the more there is to share with everyone - I'd rather have 90% of $100 than 100% of $50.  This empowers me and my team to live more fulfilling personal and professional lives.  If this means venture capital or some other investment vehicle, so be it.

  • Human Relationship Management

A critical success factor for success is the ability to obtain optimum results from each team member by tapping into the strengths and passions of each team member -  I understand the passion, talent, strengths and knowledge of each team member and look for ways to get them engaged such that they learn constantly, they are happy and passionate about success and about themselves, they are fully engaged in the big picture and we are mutually successful.  If we are not all winning, then none of us are winning.

  • Responsibility

Accepting responsibility for mistakes made in the company - any mistake made is a reflection, directly or indirectly on my choice of leaders, my growth of leaders, my own personal leadership capability, style and execution and the decisions made as a result of all of these.  For this reason, any failure is a direct reflection on me and therefore I own responsibility to produce optimal result at all levels of the organization.

  • Business acumen

Strong leaders observe the landscape and adjust accordingly, whether it be in technology, competitors, new opportunities, etc. - my business execution skills will create success or failure.  If I and the leaders that work for me do not have the necessary business acumen for success, I will find or hire the necessary people who bring essential business knowledge to my company.  Our success is more important than our pride.

  • Pride (reverse of stubbornness)

Successful people leverage and model people who have "been there" - success is something I am proud of.  If I don't have the experience I need, I will find people who have the experience, even if they are smarter than I am.  Pride in a successful company is far more desirable than failure created through stubbornness.

  • Leverage (opposite of wastefulness)

Utilizing networks containing new clients, industry experts, etc. - A strong network can take a lifetime to build.  My window of success doesn't provide a lifetime - why build what exists through other contacts and can be tapped immediately?

  • Strategy

Total recognition for the importance of strategy and commitment to building strategic plans, revising them where appropriate and executing faithfully in areas of sales and marketing, competitive analysis, appropriate team building and motivation, partner collaboration, honest corporate self-assessment, articulation of strategy, internal / external communication, etc. - If I can't articulate my strategic intentions, how will I ever translate my corporate purpose into tactical roadmaps.  Failing to plan truly means planning to fail.

  • Passion

These leaders model passion in everything they do.  They have a passion for excellence, for commitment, for focus, for mutual winning, for team collaboration, for ongoing learning, etc.- Passion is not something I can fake. I'm either all in it or I am not in the game at all and everyone is clear where I stand by observing what I do and not just listening to what I say.  Success depends on passion throughout the ranks.

I know this is old hat for people who have been there.  My thought is that if knowledge of this is so common these days, why are leaders continuing to make these fundamental mistakes and why aren't they willing to do what it takes to correct them before they and their organizations fail?

I will post my thoughts on that shortly.

In the meantime, where are you as a leader and a person of influence in your company?  Is your company successful?  If so, what can you do to make it more successful and to be a model for other companies to follow?

If not, do you have the courage to do what it takes to take corrective action?

It comes down to how badly you desire success.

As Bob Proctor quoted me in his daily "Insight of the Day" in February of 2007.

"Everyone's life is under someone's control - it might as well be under your own so that you can direct your destiny."

Click here to listen to Bob.

Do you want success in your organization?  If so, get stoked up about it and drive towards it.  Otherwise, everything you are doing is just entertainment.

Yours in leadership service.


We Are Not Responsible .....

.... for lost or stolen articles of clothing.

So reads the sign in many restaurants, including my favorite Chinese restaurant that I am sitting in as I write this.

Which got me to thinking about how common this way of thinking is in many people's lives as in - "I" am not responsible for:

  1. My failed relationship with him / her - they didn't do what I needed them to do
  2. My failed business - I chose not to make effective decisions (or decisions at all), leverage knowledge from other sources or have the humility to listen to others
  3. The car accident I was in - I should be allowed to fuss with my stereo, talk on my cell phone, drink my coffee, scold my kid in the backseat, chat with the person beside me and wave to a friend on the street - all at the same time - process overload is a myth
  4. The fortune I lost on business opportunity "x" - the people who worked for me never stepped up when I needed them to
  5. The way my kids grew up - the environment (schools, friends, government, environment, etc) let me down
  6. My inability to "move up" in the world - the world is conspiring to prevent me from achieving success because they fear my great ideas
  7. My inability to learn from others while at the same time, blaming others for my lack of success - I know everything I need to know with the exception of the things people withhold from me on purpose in order to damage me
  8. My inability to find my purpose - the world owes me big time and I will sit here and wait for it to deliver my reward
  9. My inability to make a difference in the world - the world is not ready for me yet - when it is ready to play by my rules, we will get along well
  10. My poor health, because I have too many things going on that prevent me from finding the time to eat well, exercise, be stress free, eat in a manner different from my partner or "insert reason here" - everyone else needs to step up to help me live a better life
  11. Your stuff when I break it through my negligence - I wouldn't have broken it if you didn't own it.  An interesting event happened to me at a fabulous restaurant this week when a waitress accidentally broke my new laptop but instead of apologizing, suggested it was my fault for bringing the laptop into the restaurant and for this reason, I was actually to blame for my laptop being broken and therefore the restaurant would not accept any responsibility.  While accidents happen, an apology never showed up and instead, I found myself having to defend my decision as to why I brought my laptop to a business dinner in the first place.  If I could paraphrase the great MasterCard commercial - price for me to fix my laptop; $350 - potential cost to the restaurant for the employee who gave me grief over their accident; $12,000+ a year in business get-togethers that will not take place in this restaurant moving forward.   As the employee told me, the loss of my business due to her attitude is "unfortunate".  Unfortunate indeed - I feel for the owner who is losing business because of the attitude of this employee.

All of this being said, many of us live a life of avoidance, rarely living a life from the other perspective, the one of striving for excellence.  Many of us do the bare minimum with the hope that we can avoid key decision points and opportunities to accept responsibility.  If such opportunities manifest , it is often the other person's fault - at least from our perspective.

Imagine how many fewer failures would exist or how much smaller in impact they would  if we each took more responsibility.

One of the things I really appreciated about the company that I co-founded years ago was that the team worked towards solutions.  Who made an error wasn't important - how the team collaborated to find and correct the error was everything.  The bonding that occurs as a result of minimum ego, maximum humility and optimal teamwork is incredible to behold.  While I don't like to single out people, I thank Roberto, Claudio, Ken, Michael, Joachim, Tom and Narender for demonstrating the power of this on a constant basis.

Think about the impact on business - how much more quickly and cost-effectively problems would be solved if we took ownership of things instead of deflecting or obfuscating the issue.

I wonder how many relationships could survive the divorce tsunami that is sweeping around the world if each person in a relationship asked "What is my part in this" instead of asking "Why don't / can't you do or be like .....".

As far as our kids go, when we accept responsibility for creating who they have become and embrace them for the miracles that they are, a lot of classic cross-generational misunderstanding disappears.

Accepting responsibility would allow us to say "yup - that was me - but at least I learned something", putting us in a position of power to learn and to share so that others don't repeat the same mistake.  Refusing to accept this responsibility disempowers us, prepares us to repeat the mistake and not provide opportunity for others to learn from our mistakes.

As for my laptop, an apology would have made all the difference in the world.  I would have accepted it, acknowledged that mistakes happen and everything would have been forgotten.  Instead, for the instigator to rudely transfer the blame to me has reminded me that there are two kinds of accidents:

  1. real accidents that no one has control over (within reason)
  2. accidents where people should pause and reflect first before taking action, this type of accident being potentially more damaging and avoidable since we have direct control over them

I know when I take inventory of the things I can take responsibility for, I have much to learn and lots of room for growth.

How are you doing?

Yours in service and servanthood.



Addendum - August 6, 2008:

I finally caught up with the owner of the restaurant.  After what started out as a hostile conversation, with the owner assuming I was trying to rip him off for a new laptop, cooler heads prevailed and the conversation eventually turned into a potentially new relationship, a discussion of restaurants around the world, an apology and mutual best wishes.  The lesson from this?  Accepting responsibility goes a long way to defuse an issue and provides an opportunity to build a bridge rather than burn one.