Friday, November 30, 2007

Respect

I overheard a conversation the other day where one person said to the other “everyone wants respect, but nobody is willing to give it”. Unfortunately these words are very much true and respect is perceived as something that is owed, not something that is earned.

When we look around the working world we see ego driven bosses who demand that they are given respect by their employees for no other reason than their title, while they continually mistreat and disrespect their employees. These so called leaders drive wedges through their workplace and create disdain from the ground up, ultimately unsettling the foundation of their leadership ability.

The social world is no better where on any given day you will witness cars honking at one another, people giving others the finger, aggressive panhandlers and people who are aggressive towards panhandlers, rudeness to service people, and a general disrespect for anyone who is moving at a slower pace that you are; even if they are old and/or handicap. This social behavior is turning once vibrant communities into tarnished streets where people no longer even look up when they walk, let alone say hello to a passing stranger.

This all starts with how we are raising our youth, where “because I am the adult” is the primary response to a child’s “why not”. Where we have athletic and academic environments in which the adults are allowed to yell at the children, but if it is the other way around the child is kicked of the team or suspended from the school. Yes we “are the adult”, but when that is our primary response what has your child learned? When we show children that we can treat them in a certain way just because we are older, what do you think that they are going to do to kids younger that they are?

Let’s make sure that we understand this one simple fact; you are not owed anything in life no matter your age, title, economic status, race, orientation, physical strength, mental capacity, etc. If you want respect you have to be willing to give respect and in many cases you need to go first. Like many things in life you need to initiate the action in order to receive the response that you want, sow and then reap.

If you want respect from your employees, give it to them. If you want your streets to be friendlier, then say hello to someone as they pass by. If you don’t care about any of this then just make sure that you explain things to children further than “because I said so” since they have the time and ability to create change, at least the two 12 year olds I overheard understand it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On the Defensive in the Slow Lane.


Progress. It is what we as a society are always working towards, and at times we see great strides, but at others we see administrations or new regimes come in only to leave a bigger mess than they came into.

Whether we want progress at work, in our personal lives, or in larger organizations and our communities, we have to be careful not to shoot ourselves in the foot. We often do this by being 'on the defensive in the slow lane'. That is, we get our backs up against the wall and fight any idea or suggestion that is opposed to our own.

Ever heard of 'group think'? It is the phrase used to describe the relative stagnation often found in committees or unions because there is no agreement. No progress.

Group think happens when we are either a) closed minded and too convinced about the brilliance of our own ideas or b) because we take (or give) any feedback as a personal attack rather than an attempt to help us or move us forward. When we take constructive criticism as a personal attack, we close our mind to the validity of the remarks, and we form negative opinions about those who cared enough and were insightful enough to offer a suggestion.

Whether we are talking about a jury in a trial that drags on, a business board meeting that fails to resolve the key issues in question, or 2 parents arguing about what's best for their kids... it is critical that we a) open our minds to other opinions, b) remove emotion from any feedback we receive and c) remove any personal inferences in giving others feedback on how they can improve their ideas or actions.

Being on the defensive leads to blame, justifications, rationalizations, and basically, nil progress. A very successful business developer in Calgary is fond of saying, "never fall in love with your own ideas". A 450 foot+ skyscraper is just one of the projects he is tackling right now because he can make progress by listening to others and not fighting their suggestions. And you know what? Those suggestions from other people that he could have fought are making him look really good right now!

Want to speed up resolution? Want to move your life further ahead and faster? Want to stop being on the defensive in the slow lane of the rat race?

Stop taking feedback as an attack and start taking it for what it is: information.
Stop loving your own ideas and search for different or better ones from others.
Start setting your own pace by being on the offensive in the fast lane!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Remember Where We Came From.

Unfortunately, one by-product of success [whether it be athletically, financially, personally, or professionally] can be arrogance and ignorance. This can happen when we, as human beings, forget our initial vision and origin; we forget what we are actually supposed to be doing & our overall intention of why we are doing it. We actually unconsciously decide to indulge our hunger for power and money instead of the results that drove us initially.

The result: we think we are better than what we actually are [arrogance] & we forget to remember exactly where we came from [ignorance].

Let me explain.

In life, there are leaders and there are followers. Leaders, whether you are a 'natural leader' or not, have a talent to push the pace & bring people together for a common cause. On the other hand, some people are not leaders but followers, and they fit the role well. In fact, all leaders need good followers and that is why it works.

The thing that we forget is - all great leaders needed schooling and mentoring to get them to where they are. Not to mention that a majority of good/great leaders also started out as good/great followers.

Because we forget this more often than not, we as leaders [so we call ourselves] give up on those that we are 'leading' way too early. In other words, some of us 'forgot where we came from'. Sometimes we ['leaders'] find it's just easier to give up and to prematurely throw in the towel. Unfortunately, with the towel, in some cases, also go some strong potential leaders if we just invested the time and understood a little more about leadership.

The more experience & knowledge we gain as leaders, most likely the more we focus on the patience and caring attitude that our leaders and mentors had with us. We begin to remember and recall that people saw potential in us. We begin to understand the hard work that was required on developing and honing that potential into what has turned into the fair and caring leaders that we are today. We begin to understand what true leadership is.

True leadership is not using the tools & success to leverage ourselves further than those around us and solely for our own advantage. And it is definitely not too become arrogant and think we are better than someone else.

True leadership is to bring people together & inspire them to work towards a common goal. It is to lead people towards success while remaining humble and respectful. And more importantly, it is to find and develop the leadership potential around them and to pass on the tools that allowed them to be a success.

Few of us who are leaders became leaders overnight. It took tons of practice and some failures to develop into what we are today. We can't forget the leaders and supervisors who took us under their wings and took the time to care. They didn't always use the biggest hammer on us right off the bat. They took the time to explain, care and shape us into the leaders of the future. And from that, we must do the same.

We must not take the easy way out. Chances are it is to NOT to our advantage if we do.

Our job as leaders -- is developing leaders as well as followers -- is to leave our role better than it was when we started in that particular role. We must look at our past to get to our future. We must not forget the strong leaders that we have had in the past. We have a choice. Let's choose to do all we can to develop even stronger leaders for the future and...

NEVER forget where we came from.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Luck

There is a serious difference between opportunity and luck. For the better part of the world it is lucky that their investment in a house or RRSP's go up. Why is it lucky?

It is lucky because they have invested blindly, largely without control and in hope of an increase in value. Most people are lucky. This isn't a bad thing but it is a fact.

Opportunity is what people are presented when they are working hard, smart and happily. Strangely enough these people that get to the top often claim it was a bit lucky.

To actually feel successful one must have worked for their earnings, one must have struggled for success and one must be prepared for the opportunities that begin to open up when they are working for that success. Most great leaders are self-deprecating or in other words, they make fun of themselves and give credit to everyone else for getting them to the top. They claim luck. Ironic really.

Looking at the millions and millions who claim they were smart it again seems obvious who the great leaders are. They talk as if they are lucky and spend more of their work time working. They know how they became successful; they know what it took to get there and what it will take to stay there.

Are you really aware of how you will become successful? What is your secret ingredient? Is it just luck?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The LOWEST common denominators.

Two idiots have come onto our radar and provided us with great examples of how not to conduct our personal affairs. (these are not fables by the way)

Exhibit a: sales rep for a drug company.
One day a woman decides she isn’t going to report in for work. Instead, she sends her manager an email to the effect of “just came back from my doctor who’s advised me to take two weeks leave from work”. Concerned, her manager calls to ensure all is ok, as well as sends emails advising her not to worry, take time and get back to her when she’s ready.

Two weeks later, the manager follows up with this woman, who replies via email stating, she’s still “suffering from the stress of all the changes and needs another two weeks off” (thank god you don’t live in the middle east honey). At this point manager calls in HR who calls in outside advisory company to review the doctors notes and files. Post review, it’s determined this woman doesn’t have merit for such an extended leave and needs to report back to work. Message goes to company hr, then to manager, who passes it onto said employee.

A month goes by with no response. No return calls, no return emails, nothing until two months after the initial leave, comes a lawyers note suing the advisory company, hr & manager for harassment. Now the case will go to court where all of these people’s time and money will be wasted on a fucking idiot. Why should you care? Good question and it’s one I don’t think many people really take the time to understand. Take this case for example, who do you think absorbs the long term cost of this action. That’s right, end drug user – you & me. (just like the hike in coffee price bcs Susan spilled it on her lap when she sped away from the drive in coffee shop – and sued for it being too hot).

I have something to say on behalf of those of us in the world who still take responsibility for ourselves (and there are a few)
You are an embarrassment to you… hence, you are an embarrassment to us too. We hope you don’t have kids or come into any influential position of any sort bcs the very core of your fragile existence is corrupt and we don’t need your virus.

Exhibit b: wealthy debutant.
One day while touring through this mans house, we stumble upon his “man’s room”. Bar, pool table, poker lights and leather chairs all set in a backdrop of what appears to be an amazon jungle. Stuffed heads of exotic animals line the room like some sort of sick trophy case.



“Shot em all myself” he says. “They have these great game reserves where you can hunt anything you want”. “Some of these are endangered species you know?”

Well aren’t you Wyatt fucking Erp. Let me get this straight. You waltzed into 40 square acres with a high powered rifle, trapped a wild extinct animal into a corner of the fence, shot it, stuffed it, mounted in on your wall – threw it’s hide at the foot of your bed and called yourself a hunter? We can only pray that one day in some planet far away, there are 3 headed aliens playing tiddlywinks in front of your stuffed ignorant melon bcs you …are an idiot too. The biggest problem with you is that there are so many of you, you won’t ever likely be endangered.
And hey, if ever your single, we’ve got a great gal for you – used to be a drug rep.

Now people, we just cannot continue to behave like this. Stated early & often through swimupstream, the world isn’t our Oyster! That’s simply bad marketing trying to get us to feel right in spending our money on what they are pitching. We have a responsibility (look that up you two) bcs it delves into greater significance than ‘I & ME”.

There are too many examples of like stupid acts making their way into mainstream acceptability and we for 5 will not say nothing while you act the fool.

Smarten up… ass.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Risk vs. Reward

Andrea Palos and Gabor Rakonczai two design students at the University of West Hungary's Faculty of Wood Sciences near the Austrian border had an idea that one day they would cross the Atlantic on a kayak that they would create. In preparation for their journey they took sailing classes, learned celestial navigation, and began building a boat in their spare time. November 27, 2006 was the day they set off for the adventure of their dreams.

We all have dreams in life and at some point make the decision to figure out a way to make our dream a reality. While we can make sure that we are well prepared and up for the task at hand, we cannot ever truly succeed until we have analyzed the relationship between risk and reward. Every venture we decide to partake in creates a certain amount of risk in order for us to receive the reward we are searching for. For the most part if we want to receive great rewards we at some point have to take great risks, risks that can potentially alienate us from close relationships, shatter our confidence, or even cost us our lives. It is our responsibility to ourselves that we take risks which will create the opportunity for our success in a manner where we can accept what consequences come with our decision making process.

The danger of risk vs. reward is that we look to the reward without understanding what risks we are taking. We understand that we are playing a high stakes game, but only include ourselves in the consequences of what really is at stake. By doing this we create an environment where we truly are on an island because there is a chance we will lose the support that will help us achieve what we are seeking.

The positive effect of taking into consideration how our pursuit will affect others is that we hold our support system in tact and have others who are willing to not only understand what and why we are acting our dream, but support us in our efforts no matter what is at stake. Our support system also acts as another voice of reason, so when we are consumed with the pursuit of our dream, they can bring in an outside perspective, which we are often unable to see.

Andrea Palos and Gabor Rakonczai ran into a force 10 gale along their journey that created 30 foot waves. They called in a SOS and were faced with the reality that the only way they could be saved is by helicopter, therefore having to leave their dream and their boat behind. To a lot of people, me included, this would be a simple decision; save your life and lose your boat. To Andrea and Gabor, this was an unacceptable fate for their adventure. They had invested too much time and too much effort to simply jump on a helicopter and leave their dream behind. Ultimately their reward of seeing their dream to the end, no matter the consequence, was worth the risk.

Andrea and Gabor rode out the storm and made their way successfully across the Atlantic; they achieved their dream. Their risk vs. reward decision was not an easy one, but one that they made together. We can analyze whether they made the right decision or not, but we cannot analyze whether they made the right decision for themselves. As in any risk vs. reward decision it is up the individual making the decision to choose what consequences they can and cannot live with.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mapquest for your life

Start: You, this moment.
Come to a stop at T-Intersection (cross-roads).
Wait at intersection. Observe other cars and their drivers.
If all traffic turns right, and you like what you see in terms of the drivers, turn right. If you do not want to end up like drivers in all the other cars, turn left abruptly.
Continue straight ahead until next T-Intersection.
Make mental note to observe other drivers on the road, and how much more appealing they are to you when headed in the same direction as you versus you following them.
Come to a stop at T-Intersection (another cross-roads). You already know how this story goes, so turn right if you like what you see, or turn left if you don't.
Follow straight path for 500 miles.
Destination: Happiness.

This analogy can work for you, it is really simple. We are all at "start" or at a cross-roads, at any given time.

At the T-Intersection, we actually have 4 choices, but it's only important to remember two. Left or Right, depending on which direction (which action) best fits your make-up and how you want to live your life. Option 3 - watch people you don't want to turn out like turn right, and then you turn right anyways (stupidity). Option 4 - do nothing (procrastinate or victimize), get hit by train crossing (life becomes the hammer and you the nail). So really, for the reasonable person - only 2 choices exist.

There are more than one cross-roads in your life. Hopefully we have more than one touch choice to make in our lives, or else we have no opportunity and no excitement.

and why 500 miles? Because - once we are on the straight and narrow (once we know our path and we follow it with passion and integrity) we must sow first and then we reap. In other words, only those who stick it out long enough wind up in the promised land. The road has to be 500 miles to make you question your decisions and ensure that you want it (your life you created) bad enough.

Otherwise, life would be easy and you wouldn't need to log onto Mapquest to find out how to get from 'here' to happiness.

So, smile at T-Intersections - they are an opportunity to get closer with your true potential. Don't procrastinate or the train of life will run you over. Don't turn right if you don't want to run the rat race. Make decisions that are consistent with your values and what you say you want.... and then stick it out and stay the course. 500 miles is a long time, so better make sure you made the correct turns along the way... otherwise you are with the wrong people for a long time only to find you didn't end up where you wanted to be.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Game of Life




The so called 'game' of life, is just like most games, is generally measured based on winning or losing [or achievements & failures]. And for most teams the ultimate goal of any game is to WIN.

Think about it. The emphasis that most coaches put on their athletes is to win, the recognition that most parents give their kids is based on if they win & the pressure that most athletes put on themselves is around a win. Now, I truly believe there is nothing wrong with this at all, as it forces people to strive to be the best that they can & perform at the highest level that they can, every time they play. However, there is a catch. Here it is:

A definition of a WIN is - to achieve victory or finish first in a competition by outscoring the opponent.

If a team's [any team's] collective goal is to WIN and the definition of a win is above, then you would think [and 99% of people do] the general emphasis on playing the game should revolve around SCORING goals [or in life - around achievements & possessions]

WRONG.

You might ask - what the hell are you talking about? So, I am going to elaborate.

So many people focus on the end product and don't try to understand what GETS them to the end product. If every player went into any game to score goals and then evaluate their level of play by the amount of goals they score then most players will be either (a) be a 'ball hog', (b) always be disappointed with their level of play [as very few will score goals every time], OR (c) be BOTH. What people have to understand, is what they actually contribute to the overall TEAM's success (or ability to win games).

Cal Ripken Jr is a perfect example. Cal Ripken played Major League Baseball for more than 18 years at which he played 2130 games consecutively for 16 years straight. He never broke ANY MLB home run records, stolen base records, or hitting records. What he did beat was the number of games that someone consecutively played (without missing) in a row. Now, Cal Ripken will not only enter the hall of fame because of how many games he played in a row but because of his unbelievable defensive play. In the 1990 season, he made only three errors. He also set a record for shortstops by playing 95 games without committing an error. In 1990, the Baltimore Orioles [his team] finished only in fifth place, but Ripken continued to hit over 20 home runs and was runner-up for the Golden Glove award. In 1991, Ripken won the American League's most valuable player award for the second time and was voted the major-league player of the year. That year he would also win the Golden Glove award for the best defensive player and was named the most valuable player for the all-star game.

Now, using this example, if Cal Ripken evaluated his level of play by the amount of home runs he hit, he would have been disappointed every game he played and, most likely for his entire career. However, he knew that home run hitting was not his role on the team. It is not to say that he didn't hit any home runs or that he never wanted to hit home runs, it just means that he went into every game trying to be the best & most consistent defensive player that ever played the game of baseball - and he did just that.

So, for yourself - Determine what your role(s) is/are on any team that you play on [whether it be in your career or in life]. And then focus at being the best at that particular role. Now, if you have an opportunity [and it is 'your shot'] you MUST be confident enough to take advantage of that opportunity and must know when to hit the home run [or score goals]. BUT don't evaluate your level of play by the amount of goals you score [or possessions/achievements that you have] if your major role on the team is something different than scoring goals.

Remember, the scoreboard only displays the amount of goals being scored, the scorecard records the number of assists/faults that contribute to every win or loss. And if you don't know already the rest of the players & coaches all know who contributed to the overall WIN of the game...so there is no need to show that you are better or worse than anyone else.

Just play the game!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wisdom

Be kinder than necessary.

Make sure you hold your temper. It will always be your undoing.

The more you know, the less you fear.

Don't use your time poorly. Time can never be returned to you.

You will make mistakes. When you do, take immediate steps to correct them.

Your character and integrity are your destiny.

Only being able to do a little is as good a reason to start than being able to do a lot.

Every person you meet knows something you don't: learn from them.

Silence is sometimes the best answer.

Don't mistake kindness for weakness.

Judge yourself by your own standards and never someone else's.

Be gentle with the earth.

Children are a gift. Help them gain wisdom by being patient.

Don't confuse comfort with happiness.

Be an original. The dictionary is full of adjectives to describe the originals.

The quality of your life will be determined by the quality of people in your life.

Be real.

Monday, November 19, 2007

24/7?

Last week there was a feature on 60 minutes entitled 24/7 detailing the fact American’s work longer hours than literally anyone else in the world. In it, they featured what appeared to be a very successful husband and wife multi-tasking their way to success in their main jobs and side jobs. Further, they featured a successful entrepreneur who point blank said “sure we miss those special moments with the family” like it was as routine as picking up the morning paper.

Each time I watch one of these segments decreeing our ability to go the long haul, I think about a few ironic facts.

#1. Of all the “developed” countries, we are the least productive per hour. [Actually stated on the 60 minute show].

#2. Of all the “developed” countries, we have the highest incidence of stress leave, and litigation around working conditions.

#3. In most regions of the country our economy is in the toilet.

So, my natural inclination is to think, perhaps it’s time to par down how ‘hard’ we work and starting thinking or way’s we can work ‘smart’. And the Nobel Prize goes to……

Let’s rip a page from the Europeans, who for all intensive purposes have a much higher quality of life than we do. Unlike North American’s, they shut down businesses mid day for family and self time – and ironically are more productive / hour than we are.

I think one of the main reasons this phenomena exists is because the simpler way of life doesn’t yield way to the amount of distractions we have here. Organizations scrambling to shut down things like MSN, Facebook etc, may prove that all that long work – is interspersed with all that long play – yet not delineated as such. That’s right, it seems to be wrapped up amongst the work banner. If we were to truly study hours on task vs hour off task, we may get our 64 million dollar answer, but until then, stop telling us we are 24/7 when the undisputed facts support we are not.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~Japanese Proverb

On Friday, April 12th, 1850, George Bonniwell and 16 men packed up 6 wagons and left their Milwaukee homes with the intent of following their dream. 122 days later they reached their goal and made it to California in search for gold. What happened during those 122 days was enough to break any person’s spirit and cause for retreat, but George had a vision that he had to see to the end. Not all 16 men and 6 wagons made it to California, there were just too many obstacles to overcome, but through great patience and determination George was able to start living his dream.

Throughout history of civilization there are amazing stories of accomplishment where people were faced with insurmountable odds and still achieved their goal. Some of these accomplishments were based on acts of desperation and some were based on acts of personal advancement, in either case the common bond that made these acts special is the perseverance it took to reach the end goal.

Defined as the steady persistence in a course of action and purpose in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement, perseverance is our greatest tool in achievement. If we are to achieve we must accept the fact that we will face people and objects that will try and prevent us from reaching our vision, which is after we get past ourselves first. Perseverance is a trait that we hold internally and is fostered through our ability to cope with whatever adversity comes our way. In essence, our vision must be greater then our fear of failure.

When our fear of failure exceeds our will, we succumb to taking the easy way out, bow our heads, and turn the other way. When our fear of failure is confronted and accepted we allow ourselves to look beyond our current fear state and see what our potential is if we can just persevere long enough. The key in making sure that we have the ability to persevere is in our ability to make sure that we are facing the right direction when fear presents itself. If fear approaches and we are facing backwards, looking at the comforts we had before fear then we will head back to our perceived safety. If we keep our focus forward when fear approaches then all we have to do is follow our vision and walk through fear.

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. ~Buddhist Saying

Fear has the ability to knock us backwards; we have the ability to not let fear spin us around. George Bonniwell and his crew faced famine, rugged terrain, unforeseen elements, and thieves during their 122 day trip, all of which raised certain levels of fear. What kept them moving towards California was there willingness to always face forward, to look at a 6 mile day as 6 miles less they had to travel. I do not know the end story of George Bonniwell, I do not know if the Gold Rush made him a wealthy man, all I know is that he had a goal to make it to California and he did. George completed his vision.

What we can learn from George and all the others throughout history who have persevered is that our end goal is always in front of us and as long as we have the ability to face that direction, our success will come in time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Wrong Source of Motivation

Tuesday we had a consultant from The Investors Group come in to speak to our team about maximizing opportunities for themselves, and how to turn a little something into a long term something. Basically, we wanted to have someone other than the manager (who they are used to) deliver a way in which we can take full control over our destiny instead of focusing on what we don't have.

Trevor (who definately swims upstream) did a great job. Not only did he point out how we can invest and better our lot in life (using simple and effective tools and a great delivery method)... he told us why we don't already do this.

The answer: disproportionate risk avoidance. This is a fancy phrase to say we are more afraid of losing than we are motivated by gaining. He asked one of our team members to come up and flip a coin. "if it's heads I will pay you $175... if it's tails, you pay me $100 - cool?" and of course our team member declined.

This makes no sense if you think about it unless we come back to how we wire ourselves to think... the law of large numbers states that flip enough times and the odds would have worked out in the team mates favor. The fact is, we hold onto our $100 we already have tighter than we do our goals of acheiving more.

This was obviously a financial example, but it can be tied into other realms very easily... we are afraid to risk period. We would rather remain comfortable than venture outside our comfort zone and 'risk' new experiances, relationships, and more.

It is easier to complain in the staff room about the working conditions than it is to put your hand up in a staff meeting in front of your peers and say, "I think we should try this...". This is because we know what it's like to want more, and we are okay with what we don't have even if we aren't happy. It is easier to be a victim but know what your day is like than to take a risk, be a champion, and venture into the unknown to affect change.

But it gets us no where! Even if we are not talking about your money... it's not good enough to complain but do nothing. The funny thing is, most victims complain about their situation, do nothing to remain in their comfortable surroundings and with people they know, but then complain about their surroundings and how they are surrounded by idiots!

So what do we do? That much is simple and scary. The action (in concept) is simple - put your hand up, say yes to the coin flip; take a risk. Taking the action (doing something) is scary because it is unknown. When we come to terms with the fact that it is the unknown we are afraid of, and not the change we want to affect, we will all move ourselves forward without hesitation.

So - stop disproportionate risk avoidance. Stop fearing change and choosing (by default) to remain where you don't want to be.

Start dispoportionate risk taking... start erring on the side of action vs talk. Start being the vehicle of change in your own life, and then tell others how (not easy but) effective it is.

If you find yourself telling someone else "I don't understand why I used to think that way..." then you'll know you've made it! So flip that coin and you'll give yourself $175 instead of hoarding less.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

100 %

Partnerships are difficult. By the stats they appear really difficult. Marriages that stay together are becoming more and more rare, litigation is now at such an all time high in North American culture that lawyers can concentrate on the creation or dissolution of partnerships specifically. Psychiatrists, counselors, businesses and friendships, to name a just a few, work on the premise of a partnership.

Entire business models revolve around partnerships and we all seem innately to want partnership in our lives. Many call that community. Why then is there so much difficulty with how we all approach our partnerships.

Trust is one of the issues and the topic today is an equally as important issue is expectation.

With most people there is concern going into a partnership. Very few things are laid openly on the table for all to see and the difficult conversations are swept under the table to haunt us later. This yields problems because then each party is working on their own perceived expectations - or baggage if you will. These unfounded expectations that have little or no merit because they are one sided. Your side.

Now we could go into further details about trust, jealously and pride [and we likely will in further blogs] but expectation needs to be explored as it really is a profound result of many of people's other issues. You bring your expectations to the table because of your experiences. You bring unrealistic expectations because of the baggage you hold onto. You see people not meeting your expectations because they are unsure of what you want; mostly because you are unsure of what you want. Explore yourself and communicate to find true expectations.

Further to communication there is a serious problem with balance. We are not all equal and yet in a burgeoning relationship [business, friendship or otherwise] there seems to be a need for a 50 / 50 result. This could be from legal contracts or any number of socioeconomic reasons but the point is that relationships are rarely ever delivered 50 / 50 and especially when judged in the short term.

Your wife/husband may work and take care of the children while you recover from a business deal or being injured. You may pay the mortgage while the wife/husband cares for the family. The idea guy at work may never input an number into a spread sheet. The CEO is likely to get the accolades when things go well and the problems when things go poorly, while the CFO is rarely heard from. Are any of these partnerships 50 / 50 at all times. Of course not. Why do you need your partnerships to balance in the tangible arenas? Life is not about "I did this so you should have done that" or else we would all have to be equal.

So what entails a great partnership and how could so many more survive? The judgment needs to be made not on what you get from a partnership but what you give. A partnership is about people delivering at 100 % of their capacity and continuing to do that as long as they are still involved. As a person's success and experience increases they can deliver more and more but the effort should always be at 100%. Certainly people will gravitate to those relationships where they can be gratified or their social standing sets them but taking the relationship of an elite athlete on a team we can see that the greatest players still need a partnership with their teammates. They each must deliver at 100% for the team to win despite the super-star being paid more. Teams that win understand this implicitly. So do marriages that stay together. Arguments may happen but the details are worked out and the relationship moves forward.

You cannot bring expectation or baggage to a relationship and have a positive result. You cannot remain static and expect a strong relationship. Communication will need to take place. communication that may rock the boat. It must happen to make sure everyone understands the results that are wanted.

If you want a strong partnership you must take the challenge to relieve your partner[s] of your expectations, then you must go through the adversity of discussing what everyone wants, you must have everyone delivering at 100% of their ability and not yours, and then, and only then, will the result be a stronger, more productive and happier relationship.

Repeat process at 100% effort as necessary.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Am Fortunate.

At the end of last week, I underwent an inguinal hernia operation that has been long overdue. Since then I have been spending most of my time on the couch or in bed recovering from a surgery that sticks you on the sidelines for a while. The operation is actually the surgical repair of your abdominal wall, so it makes it extremely difficult to do any immediate activity, any coughing, any sneezing, or any laughing - one of the more joyful things in life. In fact, since most movements we do involve our abdominals, this type of surgery limits you and your actions for at least a couple of weeks.

Now, being an active individual and someone that defeinitely thrives off being busy, it could easily be a challenge both physically and mentally to stay focused and positive throughout this recovery process because of the restrictions this procedure brings. However, there is a choice we all have (including myself) that has been discussed a numerous amount of times here on swimupstream - and that is the choice to stay positive and realize how fortunate we actually are.

I have realized how fortunate I am to be healthy and fit for a speedy recovery.
I have realized how fortunate I am to be able to walk, run, and play sports anytime I choose to.
I have realized how fortunate I am to have loving family & friends that have been here to support & help me.
I have realized how fortunate I am to live in a country that is safe & has a health care system that takes care of you.
I have realized how fortunate I am to wake up another day, in a far better position that most other people in world have it.

It is about being fortunate everyday for what we have - health, freedom, family & friends. So, let's not forget what we have before we focus on what don't have. Chances are, we are pretty fortunate as it is.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Crash and Burn.




I’m watching kids grow up in private schools with hand picked activities, travel & friendships all jammed into a feverish schedule, run by over caffeinated & stressed out parents in the name of not falling behind. If that didn’t make sense, it’s because it shouldn’t make sense and this is all being jammed between the ages of 5 & 15 leaving few to wonder how & why so many of these kids will and do crash and burn through their mid 20’s.

There’s something to be said about getting the most of life and where I live, most children have seen, done & experienced more in the first 10 years of their lives than I have in 30+ (an I’m no couch potato). Yet the irony is when you speak to these kids, you would almost get the sense (if they didn’t come straight out and tell you), that they are bored.

Bored? From 5-15 years old you are bored? Say it aint so Bubba.

Its really a case of relative physics and the reality that what goes up, must come down, nd when we expose our kids to so much at the onset, we leave little room for growth and experiences later in life when they are mature enough to really benefit from them. There has to be a better, more practical, happy method of empowering our offspring.
How about this as a suggestion.

Let them be kids.

No, seriously pay attention to this broken record because it’s really important. Lets let our kids develop their own imaginations, identities and instincts instead of over stimulating them our hypocritical examples of what popular opinion tell you to do. Rushing from ballet, to soccer to hockey within a day at 6 years old is doing little more than teach your kids what road rage is. They are not benefiting in the area of skill acquisition (and that’s factual rather than opinion) and they probably don’t care as much as you do if Sally and Sammy are better than them at any given sport. Less of be the best and more of do your best with a realistic recognition of what that best is.

With all the luxuries the modern world affords us in this day and age to hear of “bored kids” borders on the apocalyptic. Stop facilitating the piling on of too much, too soon.

That’s your #1 responsibility so don’t’ be selfish.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Problem is Us

I had the privilege of taking a group of Middle School students to a group called Peer Summit, which is an all day seminar of various topics all designed to “Inspire the Future”. One group I sat in on was titled “Be the Change”, a group about youth empowerment and leadership. This group was based on four principles; 1) be honest, 2) communicate by listening, 3) put yourself in their shoes, and 4) set goals. As I sat listening to the facilitators and student interactions I realized the young teenagers get “it”, while the adult world that is their future sucks “it” out of them.

The first principle that was discussed was being honest, a prime factor all great leaders possess. What was striking to me was that here we are telling our kids to be honest in a world of dishonesty. We look to our supposed leaders of today and all we see are lies and half-truths so that we can reap personal victories. The message we are sending is that young children need to be honest with us, while we are allowed to be dishonest with them. This take and then not give example we are setting is the root of all “us vs. them” relationships we have with our children, and a breading ground for the mistrust they have for the adult world. The quote that the students placed on this particular topic was “if it’s to be, it’s up to me”. Meaning that if you want honesty then you have to be the change, something we should all pay a little closer attention to.

The second principle discussed is to communicate by listening. The majority of communication comes from saying nothing, meaning that we learn by actually hearing what the other person has to say. As adults we don’t take the time to listen to what our children are saying, in fact we don’t take the time to even listen to what other adults are saying. We are so consumed with trying to get our point across that we negate what is being offered to us in return, even when we can gain valuable insight from the person we are speaking with. By not listening we devalue the person in front of us ultimately cutting off the head of any progress through communication. Where does this lead us; with children it creates “I’m right because I’m the adult”, and with adults it creates systematic power struggles where the person with the authority gets what they want.

The third principle discussed was to put yourself in the shoes of others. When you are trying to lead others, if you don’t understand where they are coming from then you will never have the ability to properly lead them. It is impossible to have empathy, another prime factor in leadership, if you can’t see a situation with a different set of eyes. We as adults see the world through our eyes only and then question why people make the choices that they make. The quote for this segment was “the good you do will come back to you”, meaning that if you only do good for people in your shoes then your return will be limited. When we are able to do good for people who are in different situations other than our own, then your return will have a much greater impact.

The final principle discussed was to set goals. Goals are our vision, they allow us to focus on being the change that we want to be, and without them we are destined to remain stagnant. As children we have enormous goals which are mostly unrealistic, but the do have a vision attached to them. As adults our vision shrinks as we are more content with getting through today than we are with seeing where we would like to be tomorrow. This creates an environment where our goals have more to do with our immediate success as opposed to our future success, leading to a narrow vision with limited results. This principle finished with a quote from Gandhi; “you must be the change you want to see in the world”. This is an unattainable goal when our vision does not go beyond our own nose.

Throughout the group the students in attendance showed great insight and perspective that they could be the change that they want to see. This change starts with them, but needs to be encouraged and led by us. If we want our children to live more successful lives than we have, we need to be the ones to listen to what they are learning and act accordingly, because the problem is not them the problem is us.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

America's General on Leadership

Last night I had the opportunity to hear general Colin Powell speak in Calgary on leadership and taking charge. This was a great opportunity in the truest sense of the word, and it makes for a great story.

First, the lead-up. Part of leadership is having goals, and only deciding to surround yourself with people who also have goals and who are bettering themselves. By surrounding myself more frequently with a fellow swim-upstreamer by the name of Siobhan, I have learned a lot about leadership and personal accountability (which I believe is the first step towards becoming a leader). Due to the law of attraction and equal exchange-based relationships, Siobhan offered me an attempt to see Colin Powell even though I would never ask her directly for a one-sided favor.
Lesson: Give without expectation of reward and you will be rewarded in ways you can't even imagine!

Next, the presentation itself. I was excited to hear general Powell speak because he is different than I am: while I come from a fitness and customer service background, he has over 30 years of military leadership. I was expecting to hear different and unique ideas. The fact that I didn't was in no way disappointing - it was reassurance. His quote "leadership is leadership is leadership. If I were to lead a church, a political regime, or any big business, I would apply the same principals of leadership that I did with the joint chiefs because the principals work".

You see, general Powell is a man of action. He empowers people with a strong vision, and he trusts his advisors, but then he acts. He brought up the question on everyone's minds with respect to the war in Iraq. Rather than go off about Saddam Housein, he accepted personal accountability for the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He (and the US government) was wrong. The fact is though, he stood by his advisors, and acted consistent with his beliefs and the best information that he had available to him at the time. The point is, all leaders make mistakes (otherwise, how would we learn?). It is not about being right it is about taking educated risks and affecting positive change. Despite being wrong about weapons of mass destruction, one could argue that even by being wrong he did affect positive change.

He then closed by speaking of his challenges after retiring, and his quest for purpose (which led him to create "America's promise" which positively affects underprivileged youth in America and which has been copies in Ontario and Alberta)
Lesson: Vision without execution is hallucination. Leaders don't sit around and shoot down those who are wrong. They may be wrong themselves but they act in real time to find solutions.
Lesson: Leaders don't motivate: they inspire by having an infectious vision of where the organization is headed and they help everyone on the team know how they help move the vision forward.
Lesson: Leaders don't just lead with vision and purpose; they live with vision and purpose.

Tying the lead up and the presentation together, real leaders don't live and die by a rule book. Great presenters don't spit our bullet points to impact people, they tell stories. To be a leader you must be real, you must take chances, and you must learn from every situation.

My lesson was that when you live by the principals of leadership (which are very consistant across any business or organization) your life opens up to new possibilities and you are rewarded by new opportunities and experiences. Leadership is not easy but it is damn well worth it. and the biggest lesson of all..

... you don't have to be Colin Powell to live like a leader and move yourselves and others forward.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It is a game of offense.



Many people have great dreams that a new business, new vehicle, new house, etc. will provide a better life for them and instead of that, they receive the opposite - a business that they hate, a vehicle that has problems just like any would, and a house that is now 'too big'. These people are those that are hating life and taking their stress on other people while blaming events, people, or themselves for their unhappiness. They simply experience the affects of their choices and postition themslevs in a form of defense instead of choosing to make a change.

Just look at the people around you. What do you see?

Stress. Unhappiness. Boredom.

Most people will NEVER escape what we call the 'rat race' to achieve any resemblance of freedom in their lives for some very simple reasons. A basic fact of this game (that we call life) is that you can't win simply by playing defense. This holds true for any game really. Think about it, most people are stuck defending a job they hate so they can make a mortgage or rent payment on a home they don't care for so they can keep their credit rating and avoid bankruptcy. And then, when you look closely, most of the decisions an average person makes on a daily basis are simply defensive in nature. It is surprising and odd that so many people choose and evidently don't mind fighting their way through life.

To make it clear - we can't win a game simply by playing defense.

So how can we 'win' this game called life?

For starters, we can stop defending things in our current lives that we don't particularly care for in the first place. If you hate your job why do you keep showing up? That car of yours is probably not one you particularly care for so why do you keep making the payments? And of course, you've got an answer such as "I have to keep working or else xx will happen."

That's called playing defense. And once again, this is fine if you're content to struggle through life without chance of winning, but as we all know chances are that's not the case.

The first key to success in life is to stop defending the things you do have that you didn't really want in the first place and, yes, this takes confidence in yourself & honesty to yourself. When you do this you'll have time to play offense for a change and finally have a chance of winning the game! Rest assured, with most of the people out there playing defense against each other, even a small offensive effort on your part is likely to win you the game. There still is no competition for those who choose to play this game on purpose. So, take the offensive approach to the game of life...life is to short not to.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It Takes 21 Days

I have thought that if I played football I would like to play for the Indianapolis Colts coach, Tony Dungy. If I played soccer it would be for Arsene Wenger of Arsenal in England. If I played hockey I would have liked it to be for Scotty Bowman. If I was in politics at a high level I would have liked to serve Bill Clinton and if I was to be a VP in a huge business I think it would have been nice to deliver the messages of Steve Jobs at Apple.

Each of these people are certainly superstars but all of them have on their secret business cards "manager". They are the chief cheerleader, the thoughtful mentor and the humble man. They are very smart in their own right but generally they remain the jack of all trades yet the master of only one thing. They are the masters of finding, keeping, empowering , motivating, teaching and then delegating to the best people. The people they helped shape into the best people.

People trust these men. They trust them not because of their skills or their positions of power, even if the media would have us believe this. We trust them because they show trust in us.

Are you a great manager? When people talk of you do they spit your name or revel in your glories? The hardest part of being great is the patience it takes to help others reach their potential. Great managers, parents and teachers have this quality.

Every day a student will walk down the hall. If they run from you the signs of your management skills are there for you to see. If they want to see you then you are likely doing your job well. What would it take to have them look forward to seeing you?

It takes twenty one days to build a new habit. Smiling, looking for positive things to promote within your staff and groups and thinking about how to help are habits the best managers can see tangible benefits from. What would it take to move your worst employee up to the best, your worst player [in your mind] to your best or your struggling students to confident contributors?

It takes seven positive statements to account for one negative. It takes building a person from the ground up to create a contributor to our society or your team. Today's challenge is for you to begin aiming your positive thoughts in the correct direction. As you'll see from the list of managers at the top that you don't need to be a pacifist or someone incapable of making a hard decision. Tough love is still love if explained properly.

For twenty-one days you need to try and find the good and recognize it. You need to celebrate victories with a passion and with a means to an end. You need to look within a person and see their strengths from their perspective. You need to find the positive always. After that twenty one days I encourage you to look for your contributors and don't be surprised if the worst went to first.

It takes twenty-one days. Now be positive and eat your vegetables...for 21 days!

Boys need dads

Big bang or religious, we were not created equal and though we have matured to embrace personal choice we shouldn’t do so at the ignorance of denying roles and responsibilities within our ecosystems.

Today’s blog is an affirmation of what should be obvious. Boys need dads! Actually let me be more specific, boys need male influence at a high, intentional level early in their lives. Now this isn’t to say boys don’t need moms, yet I think we can agree (and if we can’t / stats can) that dad’s loose the plot at a substantially more frequent rate than moms and have an easier time fucking off.

Dads seem to have this whole thing about hunting and gathering that has expanded to an entirely unecessary heights after they reach a base level of success. There has to be more and ignoring the obvious cliché ‘less is more’, they repeatedly trip over their ego’s in the quest for bigger & better at the expense of their offspring.

Result. Boy’s who don’t learn how to be men.

Now I’m not a red neck and I know this may not be politically correct in our modern “we are all equal / should all have shared roles / need a snack” bullshit ideology but I will confirm we are raising a nation of wimps. Don’t think so? Well, there’s an article written called a nation of wimps documenting that very reality (that we didn’t author).

Females have a naturally nurturing disposition that, when balanced with a males hunting and gathering agenda provides a balanced example of some of the many attributes and skills needed to survive and thrive in life. Regardless of same sex or opposite sex marriages, children still need those two examples at a high level in order to develop skills and the confidence to again, thrive.

If you have 2 people exemplifying hunting and gathering skills as an example of parenting boys chances are you’ve developed a cute little red neck who’s likely to heist your gun from the rack in your pick up and do something stupid with it.

If you have 2 people exemplifying the nurturing skill set as an example of parenting chances are you’ve developed a young boy who’s having a tough time adjusting to the harsher realities that typically befall males in the real world.

When dad’s chose not to take stock or responsibility in the development or their boys (and yes, their could be a whole argument about dad’s & girls, moms and both yada yada – but it’s not the focus of today), they leave them to find that influence elsewhere and if you haven’t been paying attention lately – allow me to assure you there’s more negative influences than positive out there.

Pay attention – get involved – be an example - do your job.

Be a dad.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Passion

Dalton Stevens of Bishopville, South Carolina is in the Guinness Book of World Records, has been in newspapers, and has even been on the Late Show with David Letterman. Until today I had never heard of him. I was also unaware of Don Claps of Broomfield, Colorado who also is in the Guinness Book, has been in the national media, and was on Live with Regis and Kelly. My guess is that you have never heard of them either, but they sound important right?

Dalton Stevens owned the world’s largest collection of buttons without duplicates, 439,900 of them. Dalton is an insomniac and whenever he couldn’t sleep he would sew buttons on his clothes, which later turned into a buttoned piano, which then turned into a buttoned automobile. In fact people from all around the world have sent him buttons, so many that Dalton was able to open a Button Museum which displays all of his creations, including his casket.

All that Don Claps did was do cartwheels, 1,293 in one hour to be exact. Before Don set the cartwheel record he did the Bolder Boulder 10K, not by running but by cartwheeling the whole time. With his fame Don has founded a charity, Cartwheels for Kids, where he raises money for Children’s Hospital in Broomfield.

So what is so special about these two people? Passion over hobby.

Dalton and Don have more passion than most people on this earth. Not only do they have passion, but they have the courage to pursue their passion, which is more than most of us can say about ourselves. Look up passion in the dictionary and you will see words like intense emotion, intense enthusiasm, and strong desire. These words ring true to all of us because we all have something that we are passionate about, we all have something that propels our dreams and desires, and we all have something that adds the right amount of spice to our lives. Unfortunately we don’t always have a clear sense of what our passion is and pursue our hobbies in hope that we will create a passion.

Hobbies are enjoyable activities typically done after work or on the weekends. Our hobbies include activities that enhance our lives, and in some cases consume our lives, but never fuel our lives. Hobbies are a poor mans passion because they give us satisfaction without ever having to fully commit ourselves to the action. We can turn our hobbies on and off, but our passions, when really lived are played out every day and influence our decision making process. Hobbies are played out by us, while passion is played out through us.

There are two distinct types of people that you will meet in your lifetime; those who are always looking for the next best thing and those who are living the next best thing. For Dalton his life is lived through looking for the next object he can adorn with buttons, for Don it is the pursuit of the perfect place to cartwheel. Neither are activities that I would ever contemplate, but are passions unique to them. There is something that we can all learn from Dalton and Don beyond their quirks and that is to recognize your passion and make the commitment to live it. When we can do this we no longer have to fill our schedules with activities because we will be living the life we want through our intensity and strength, this is what makes us important.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Are You A Producer Or A Consumer?

Let's be real clear. In the sense of what you contribute to the world and your immediate surroundings... there are only 2 types of people in the world; Producers and Consumers.

Producers are people that produce more opportunity than they dissipate, expend more than they spend when it comes to energy, human resources, advice, leadership, and learning. They leave a place cleaner than they found it, and they generally speaking make the world a better place (even if their contributions are not noticed in real time).

Consumers are little more than human parasites. One of my friends and colleagues told me about a television program detailing the 'plight' of a 700 pound man who hasn't gotten out of bed in years. His family cooks for him, and handles other chores so that he can function. They cook what he wants because (they say) he will order fast food if they don't. He basically is a vaccuum or black hole of productivity and energy, because his laziness forces his family to expend some of their personal energy on his very survival and maintenence.

In the above story, it should also be mentioned that his family is to blame for being enablers, as they could easily a) take away his phone priveledges if he is going to hold that fast food ace over their heads b) leave him for being a drain on them emotionally, spiritually, socially, physically, and financially c) challenge him to make the changes and pull no punches in getting him to realize how far-gone he is and how he is wasting his 1 shot at life. So really, even though these people are producers (because they have to make up for his defecit), their net impact on the world is zero because they continue to enable and focus their energy on a parasite who will take all they've got and more.

And if this sounds harsh - good. The world would be a much better place if either a) this guy would get off his ass and stop dragging his family down, or b) there were fewer people who don't make the right changes in the world. If that sounds cruel, well too bad.

The fact is, there are only 2 types of people; and even if you are a producer but you are also an enabler, your net impact on the world is zero (which means the world is no better off for having you in it and you have left zero legacy except for maybe in the eyes of 1 parasite).

So be a producer... and focus your energies into pursuits that add to the world and get others to do the same (teaching, coaching, charities, volunteering, etc). That is how you make a mark, that is how you add good to the world, and that is how we make it harder and harder for negative people to bring good people down.

Make the other choice, and you are an enabler or worse... and the rest of us will never remember you after you're gone...