Friday, July 10, 2009

Nominating A Few Heroes

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Nominating a Few Heroes”, I invite you to click here.

In my typical day of driving my life at 1000 miles per hour, I am blessed with the opportunity to share with and learn from many people.

Every person, whether they represent something we like or don’t like, provides us with an opportunity to marvel at the creativity of the human mind and the notion that unlimited potential exists in all of us.

Whether we choose to take action with our potential and whether we choose to leave a positive or negative legacy is up to us!

Given all of this potential, today’s world is complex and there are many people out there crying for help – perhaps one of them is us.

In this same world, there are many people who are answering the call, bringing their wonderful talents, strengths and compassion to bear to help in any way they can.  Perhaps one of these people is you also! :-)

I’d like to nominate a few heroes today – people who have stepped up to make a difference in the world.  I’d invite you to do the same if you have a moment – to publically thank people and to share with the world why you believe they are people we can learn from and model.

There are many people out there who deserve to be nominated.  Obvious examples include people who put their life on the line every day for us in a number of services – the military, firemen, policemen, EMS, Search and Rescue, etc.  There are others who serve, including doctors, nurses, politicians, volunteers and other community leaders.  I am grateful to them for the freedom and safety that I feel blessed to enjoy because of their effort and passion.

However, today, I’d like to nominate some regular “Joes on the street”, who go about their business of making a difference in the lives of thousands of people without asking for recognition.

Without further ado, my nominees for “Hero of the Day” are as follows.

Mark Hundley

I met Mark quite recently via Twitter (  He and I began experiencing a mutual resonance with the messages that we shared with the world and that resonance expanded into an opportunity for us to have a conversation about our respective passions.

Mark is a speaker, author, psychotherapist and life coach.  His heart is gripped with helping people find a way to creating a more self-empowered life.

Mark’s life is also gripped with the need to help people overcome grief.  His blog ( has a wonderful tagline - “Encouragement for persistent, positive, purposeful living when times get tough!”.

His passion to help others led him to cofound the Journey of Hope Grief Support Center ( in Plano, Texas.  Their mission statement reads:

The mission of the Journey of Hope Grief Support Center is to provide support at no cost for children, teens, young adults and their families as they learn to mourn the death or impending death of their loved one in a safe, caring and nurturing environment.

After getting to know Mark, I have discovered him to have a heart of gold, dedicated to helping others, especially at those critical times that we all face when we wonder how we will endure a particular event or crisis in our life.

Mark doesn’t just think about ways to help people – he acts from his heart and makes a difference to people.  He is instilling a legacy of hope and love for everyone who encounters him. 

Many people send thoughts of support to others.  Mark is an amazing example of how one can convert thoughts into action, manifesting tangible, measurable means of supporting people when they need help.

He is a model of converting compassionate thought into action that impacts people in a measurable, authentic, reinforcing way.

Terry Reilly

I have known Terry for about 15 years.  I first came to know Terry while vacationing in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador and I attended an outdoor concert that he was presenting to children.

I was immediately struck by several things:

  • His teddy bears – he has an amazing collection of them
  • His playful and gentle spirit
  • His obvious love for everyone he interacts with.

My oldest son practically wore out the cassette that we bought that day, insisting that Terry’s music be his “good night” music.

Over the years, I have had the blessed opportunity and privilege to interact with Terry on a more regular basis.  As I got to know him, I was even more astounded at the width and breadth of his talents.

I have discovered that Terry ( is not only a talented children’s entertainer but is also a phenomenally talented composer, playwright and performer of what we adults would refer to as “deep” material in addition to the fun stuff.

I also discovered that his love of people and his passion for people to become more engaged with helping each other runs a lot deeper than I realized.  His broad acceptance of everyone and his ability to interact with the youngest child, the most passionate human being or the most intelligent human being is indeed a rare gift.

If you want to know how to live a life built around creating love and respect in this world and finding a way to do it with a vocation that brings light to the world, then I would suggest you look to Terry as a fantastic role model of what a loving, compassionate human being looks like.

Leonard Szymczak

Leonard and I met over a chance encounter on the web (although Leonard and I agree that there is no such thing as chance).

He is a psychotherapist, author, licensed clinical social worker, educator and life coach.  His website is here

I stumbled upon something that Leonard had written and as I often do when I see something I like, I dropped Leonard a note to compliment his work.  He and I exchanged pleasantries after which I thought nothing more of the conversation.  Many of us have conversations that are pleasant but not long-enduring.

A little while later, Leonard invited me to participate in a weekly editorial process to review and provide feedback on his new book.  Leonard would send a chapter a week out to a select group of people and we would meet once a week via telephone to provide constructive feedback to Leonard. 

It takes incredible courage and humility to accept comments from groups of people around the world and Leonard accepted all comments with gratitude and humor.  This process, which I highly recommend to any author out there, provided me with some insight into who Leonard really is.

Leonard has an incredible life history, having lived in various places in the United States and Australia.  He is a man dedicated to helping people throw off the millstone that weighs them down so that they may live the life that he believes every person is capable and deserving of.

His knowledge of overcoming challenge comes from personal experience. His own life story of overcoming orphanhood is powerful and inspiring.

When Leonard provides guidance to you, he is not speaking to you as an academic or a clinician.  He is speaking to you from the context of someone who has experienced the same experiences as you.   He has been there and when you interact with him, you feel it.  He doesn’t just tell you things – an interaction with Leonard is a powerful, transparent, authentic mutual sharing.

He is soft-spoken yet direct.  He is gentle yet his words carry power right to your soul.  He is quick with laughter.  He feels your pain because he has lived it also.

Most of all, he not only cares about every person he interacts with, he authentically loves each person he shares time with.

How many of your friends and acquaintances can you say that of – that when you interact with an individual, you are in fact the most important person in the world to that individual at that moment.

His book, tentatively titled “The Roadmap Home – Your GPS to Inner Peace”  will be published soon.  If you are seeking insight into a means of living a life that matters and to see insight into the mind of a man who demonstrates this every day, then I recommend you keep an eye out for this book.

I have often teased Leonard that if he lived next door, we would spend every spare minute in a coffee shop.  When someone makes you feel that special and loved, you can’t help but want to spend time with them, learning from them.

My Family

My collective family, immediate and extended, are incredible heroes to me.

Many people who read my material or hear me speak often tell me how blessed my family is to have me in their life.

I think it is the other way around.

Living with me is not easy.  My mind never stops (which often means my mouth doesn’t either) because I am consumed with ways to help people or correct wrongs that I perceive.  I can’t sleep at night because my mind is a constant stream of ideas to help others. I once had a doctor offer me valium (which I politely declined) so that I could stop thinking for a bit every day.

My mind is very private and I don’t share or open up easily.  I don’t do this with any specific intention behind it – it is just the way I am.  It is pretty frustrating for someone who may be trying to help me with something.

My desire to find the good in people means that I sometimes don’t easily allow someone else to express a reservation about someone – which is not fair because this expression is often a necessary part of life.

I often have 100 projects in my mind at once.  Imagine having a conversation with someone where that person’s subject du jour changes midstream during a conversation but the shift wasn’t made clear – leading to confusion and a possibly frustrating conversation.  Why can’t they hurry up and invent ESP so that people can easily know when my mind has shifted to the next subject?  :-)

I am impatient with people who don’t want to step up and manifest what they are capable of.  I shouldn’t be but I am.  After all, I reason, if people expect this of me, why can’t I expect the same in return.  The world doesn’t necessarily agree and my family often experiences my frustration with this.

I don’t worry about things that other people feel are important and I fret over things that other people can ignore.

I don’t care what the world thinks I should be or how I should act.  I need to be me – not something that someone else wants me to be.  This is a bit of a radical model and if you have been raised differently, may make you a little uncomfortable (or REALLY uncomfortable).

I have embarked upon an exploration of faith that has exhausted many people who have tried to understand it or keep up with it.  I have frightened clergy with my passion around faith exploration.  :-)

I finally unloaded hundreds of books that filled every nook and cranny of our house – books that I haven’t read in 20+ years.  That’s a lot of books to keep moving, stepping over, packing, unpacking, etc.

At the core of my manic, hyperactive execution is my passion for people – my passion for encouraging others to stand up and be the best they can – my passion to encourage others to share love with each other in an unconditional manner.  I mused about passionate people here Blog: Check Your Passion and here Blog: A User's Guide to Passionate People.

My passion frightens people.  As my new friend Anne W. so perfectly described to me yesterday when she explained to me why this is so:

We're drawn to passion like moths to a flame, but it scares the dickens out of us. The passion of another is too often taken as an implied criticism of self, and indictment for our inaction, our fear, our isolation, our laziness.

Despite my many flaws, my family embraces me and for that I am incredibly grateful.  I am not perfect and I am not easy to deal with (yet alone to live with) and despite this, I am loved unconditionally.

I often wonder how I could live with myself – so when I see others who love me unconditionally for who I am, then I am grateful for the heroism I know is required to love me in this way.

I often joke that I would hate to be on the receiving end of my passion and yet they love me anyway.  My family are heroes in my mind.


You are my final nomination.  Your life is filled with fun and fear.  You do your best to make a difference.  You feel insecure on some days and confident (or over confident) on others.

You make mistakes – sometimes really big ones.  You experience victories big and small.

You help others when you can.  Sometimes you need to be helped by others.

Some days you are embarrassed or feel ashamed about something.  Other times, you are incredibly proud of something you have accomplished.

You stand up for others when you can.  You experience worry or anger when you see people being abused or mistreated.

Some of you are easily influenced while others are more independent.

You are home makers, business persons, employed, self-employed, unemployed, athletic, not athletic, world travelers, stay-at-home people, parents, children, married, single, divorced, widowed and contain varying degrees of externally-expressed and internally-incubated passion.

Above all, you are a human being who wants to love and to be loved.  Some of you like to express it openly – others are more private about how you express or receive love.

Either way, you are a hero.  You have overcome much and you have unlimited potential within you and before you.

You are in the process of crafting a phenomenal legacy to others.  There is no need to compare legacies with others – it is not a talent competition.

What matters is that you leave a legacy – that you overcome that which challenges you and that you serve as a role model to someone else as you make a difference.

Thank you for being a hero.

Now – find someone else and nominate them.

Despite what some people would say, the world is filled with heroes.  Let’s bring them out in the open and celebrate what makes them special.

Yours in service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Nominating a Few Heroes”, I invite you to click here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Quest for Authenticity – How Many Lives Are You Living?

For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of “A Quest for Authenticity”, please click here.

I am running into more and more people these days who are living two or more completely different lives.

One life is the life of their dreams – passionate and living on purpose.  In this life, they are living their dreams, creating their own companies, making a huge, positive impact on the world.  Many of them are best-selling authors, in-demand speakers or high-powered consultants offering advice to the elite.  Their home life is right out of Leave it to Beaver, the Brady Bunch or some other idyllic family experience.  They live in a world where they speak freely and passionately about their purpose, their faith, their ideals and core values and their vision of the world. It is a beautiful life without fear of anything.

What a beautiful image they weave.

The other life is the life the same people are currently experiencing.  They are frustrated with their boss, their business partner, their client, their spouse, their children, their President or Prime Minister or someone else.  They feel frustrated that nobody seems to care about their vision for the world.  They are afraid to expose their core values, their faith or their belief structure.  They are afraid to stand up and speak out when they witness something that is legally, ethically or morally incorrect.  With this in mind, they assume their own personality is flawed or unworthy and thus they create new personas based on the situations they find themselves in.

Life is challenging enough when you have one life to live.

How do these people manage when they are living two or more lives?  They live one in private, one at home, one with friends, one at work, one at church …. the list goes on.

No wonder people are more stressed now than ever – they are worn out trying to be something that someone else wants them to be.

What’s wrong with us just being ourselves?

As with many things in life, we are either all in it or not in it at all.  This applies to us living our life on purpose, embracing the talents, gifts, resources and dreams that each of us are blessed to have.

How can we expect to establish momentum and traction in life when we are living so many lives at once?  That’s a lot of traction to acquire and will result in a life of complexity and frustration.

Consider these examples:

1. The person who witnesses an illegal act in an organization and chooses to say nothing so that they will continue to be perceived as a team player or so that it doesn’t impact their ability to score some other position they are seeking.

2. The person who joins boards or organizations that are totally out of congruence with their own personal values, but they do so because it “looks good on the resume”.

2. The individual who has a strong faith in God or other Higher Authority but keeps it to themselves when amongst friends or coworkers so as to not be portrayed as a Bible-thumping proselytizer to be avoided.

3. The person who talks incessantly about the dreams they have for self-employment or rebuilding their organization – and years later are still telling the same story after having made almost no effort to put the dream into action.

4. The team leader or company owner who constantly complains about their team in private but publically praises them (praising them because they know that a team’s performance is a reflection of its leader).

5. The people that protect (or even promote) a “look the other way” policy, since they know if someone really knew what was going on in the organization, the person in charge would be questioned as to why such apathy and indifference have gone on for so long.

6. The folks who attain some level of public office and immediately focus on how to get re-elected, forgetting that they are there to represent a group of people.

7. The people who draw too much from their network, expecting everything for free but who feel incensed if the network pushes back and requests compensation for knowledge shared (or the network reaches out to them and asks of their time for free in return).

8. Leaders who hide behind complexity and noise on their projects because they don’t want people to see that there may be something they can’t do.

9. People who promote or teach the “miracle product du jour”, knowing that they are doing it for the money and that they don’t really believe in the value of what they are pushing.

Some people are oblivious of living multiple lives.  Many people realize the multiple lives they are living and for them, this adds extra stress, because they want to escape from those multiple lives – to get back to the core of what they are.

For some reason that escapes them, it is easier said than done.

However, as in many situations, they are driven by fear.

1. Fear of not being accepted.

2. Fear of having a dream that others may ridicule.

3. Fear of expressing an interest, belief or value that others may not embrace or support.

4. Fear of expressing their faith at a time when some people may not find it “cool”.

5. Fear of being perceived as not being in control of their life, be it personally, professionally or otherwise.

6. Fear that we have only one whack at something (as in political office) and so rather than being judged on our performance, we immediately set out to assure our continued re-election by becoming vague, fuzzy and not clearly aligned with any issue.

7. Fear of not being viewed as intelligent, good lucking, connected, skillful, empowered or anything else as our peers.

8. Fear of failure, thereby introducing the notion that it looks better to be thinking big all the time than to risk it all and fail. 

Since we are bound up by these and other fears, it is better to portray ourselves as the ideal person in the other person’s eyes.  That way, you feel more comfortable with the “new you” since it seems to draw accolades from others.

Guess what?

We will attract people much more in congruence with who we are when we express our true self – when we are authentic with ourselves and others.

After all, if we are not our true selves, how do we know that any of our relationships are authentic?  There’s a good chance that our relationships with different people are as artificial as the personalities that we created in order to be connected with them in the first place.

We discover how real or artificial our public personas are when we need help.  If people vanish when we need them, there’s a good chance we have not built our relationships on solid, authentic values and belief systems.

Why would we want to create a life that is that complicated?

Isn’t life complicated enough?

As Scott M. Peck wrote in The Road Less Travelled, the opening line is “Life is difficult”.

Given that life is difficult, why don’t we choose to live one life ?

One that allows us to embrace and maximize our gifts and talents.

One that allows us to live by our core values, not someone else’s.

One that will occasionally cause life to be pretty scary but will produce more powerful results, important learning lessons and rich memories.

One that will have a greater potential to leave a positive legacy on this planet, since I doubt that any of us are dreaming of a life of smaller results than we are currently experiencing.

One that allows us to live by our faith if that is an important part of our life.

One that may produce fewer relationships but relationships that will be stronger, higher quality and more authentic.

When we reveal our true self, we attract people and circumstances that are more in alignment with our core values and belief structures.

When we do this, we live one life, a much simpler concept than multiple lives.

That’s not to say that this automatically makes life easy.

However, when life gets complex, if we are living by our core values and are aligned with others with similar values, it helps to know that we should push through because the results are worthy enough to persevere for.

If we are pushing something that we are not in alignment with, then we often wonder why we should bother.  After all, we may be pushing for something important for someone else and not for ourselves – living a life for someone else.

If that’s the life we want to live, then we should select a person that we are living our life for and ask them if we can leave their name on our headstone when our end-of-days has arrived.

We might as well, since we lived their life based on their values, beliefs and expectations anyway.

Wouldn’t it better to be remembered for who we are and not for how we reflected the best of someone else?

Exactly – so what are we waiting for?

Yours in service and servanthood.


For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of “A Quest for Authenticity”, please click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Observations on Leadership

For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of this blog entry, please click here.

I have been rereading Ken Blanchard’s recent works, including Leading at a Higher Level and The One Minute Entrepreneur and thinking through a number of organizations that I am familiar with for one reason or another.

One of the things that has struck me between the eyes yet again as I read Ken’s incredible work are the alarm bells that should be going off in many of our leader’s minds as we contemplate:

1. Are we empowering or disempowering our teams – have we rallied them around clearly articulated vision, mission and purpose or do we keep things fuzzy and vague because we don’t know what they are either (or we fear that communicating them may allow someone else to vault themselves ahead of us)?

2. Do we report up the chain using information that they want to hear or what they need to hear?

3. Do we want our team members to get an “A” for effort and results (and create an environment that enables this) or do we set them up for failure by judging them on ridiculous, subjective things such as promote-ability and force them to “play the corporate game of survival and promotion”?

4. Are we creating opportunities for our team members to shine or do we limit them with constrained thinking because this is what has always been done or worse, we are constrained and we don’t want anyone who works for us to shine brighter than we do?

5. Can we as leaders shed enough ego so that we serve and empower our teams as Ken Blanchard notes instead of assuming that the teams merely exist to serve our needs as we climb higher in the hierarchy or as we meet some quota or target at any cost?

Of all the leaders I have worked with over the years, only about 20% qualify as true, servant leaders – leaders focused on:

- clearly communicated vision, mission and purpose

- empowering their teams to achieve the vision, mission and purpose in a manner that allows for significant contribution and personal growth of team members based on their strengths and abilities

- recognizing and highlighting the strengths in team members and finding ways to explore and amplify these strengths

- proactive coaching of their team members instead of pointing out much later how the team members have not been meeting expectations for a while

- encouraging team members to grow beyond the capabilities of the leaders themselves

- creating an honest, respectful, trust-filled, transparent environment where communication and collaboration are embraced.

Are we doing these things as a leader?

How do we know?

We need to remember that leaders are not just producing quality corporate results.

We are growing the next generation of leaders.

Whether the world grows or collapses economically, socially, ecologically or any other way depends on whether we empower or cripple the next generation of leaders.

To see a great presentation by Ken Blanchard on this subject, I invite you to click on the link below:

If you are not sure how you feel about the leaders in your organization, feel free to drop me a note. I welcome the opportunity to explore it with you.

After all, our future is tied to our leadership.

How bright a future do we want?

Yours in service and servanthood.


For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of this blog entry, please click here.