Friday, August 29, 2008

Habits

“I am your constant companion. I will push you forward to success or I will drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. 80% of what you do, you might as well hand over to me and I will do it promptly and I will do it correctly. I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me. Show me what you’d like to have done, and after a couple of lessons, I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great people. Alas, I am the servant of all failures as well. All who are great, I have made great. All who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine; but I do work with the precision of a machine and the intellect of a human. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I’ll lay the world at your feet. Be easy with me, and I will destroy you!”

“Who am I?”


Habits.

Actions of repeated behavior that we are unaware of are ultimately what will lead to our success or our failure, no doubt about it, it is 100% true. We are all creatures of habit because habits bring us comfort in what we do, even when we know that the comfort we are receiving is unhealthy. Fortunately for us, habits are fostered and therefore can be changed.

There is a negative connotation with the word habit because we blame them for things we usually do wrong. In playing the victim we allow ourselves to take no ownership for our misgivings and pass the blame on habit. This sense of lack of control is allowed to control us while giving us an easy out when confronted with our behavior. As much as habits are used to mask our faults, when empowered we can go through a stage of renewal by simply creating new habits, habits of enhancement.

It takes roughly 10,000 correct tries to create new habit, or roughly 30 days for us to change our internal workings and turn an old habit into a new one. In order to make sure that the change of habit is empowering and not the creation of a new negative habit we must be able to understand our inner workings. All action we initiate comes from a patterning of behavior that has been ingrained in us through our life experiences. Through internal enlightenment we will be able to understand our actions and the consequences they bring, make the differentiation between good consequence and bad, and then create a new habit based on reality and not immediate comforting response. In doing this we allow ourselves to go through a transformation from giving power to habit to gaining power through action and introspection.

It is the human power to self reflection that will ultimately allow us to create change. In change we provide the ability take habits, train them, and be firm with them so that they can lay the world at our feet. If we allow ourselves to live in a world of false reality, we essentially allow our habits to destroy us from achieving. We have the power to completely change our destiny in 30 days if we use those 30 days exerting the strength we all carry as individual human beings. In 30 days of persistence and the willingness to pick a fight with adversity we can push a mentality of victimization behind us and actually live an empowered life. In 30 days we can turn 80% of our actions that hold us back and flip it into 80% of our actions that will allow us to move forward without excuse or justification.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Set The Pace And Then Speed Up

What got you up this morning?
Your wife or husband?
The alarm?
Or was it something else, a deep sense of purpose and drive that excites you to do what you do?

This week we have seen the power of story in one form or another (hopefully you read Kris' blog and related article yesterday). The thing behind changing/ re-inventing your story to make it more appealing to others... is that it must first appeal to you.

In this sense, all leaders must be chasing down a vision for themselves in their personal and business lives. One that, while personally interesting them, is not limited to them. A great leadership guiding vision must help others and leave a legacy in their lives. Having said that, you can only chase a great vision you are passionate about, and so that vision must resonate with you at a high level if not actually originating from you.

From vision comes strategic planning; which should be accompanied by transparent sharing with your key personnel (and if and where possible; your whole organization). From planning comes breaking up accountabilities and following up with people to hold them accountable to their duties as well as supporting them in what they need. From this delegation and support comes continuous time spent with teammates to relate to them how their contributions affect the entire engine- ie why their job and they as people are important and valued.

That is all well and good- assuming people will do what you say. The 3 examples where this works really well are the military, certain sports where the vision is already built in (winning), and dictatorships.

For all other business, cultural, social, and relational environments requiring leadership- people won't do what you say but they will aspire to greatness if you can find what drives them.

This is where we as leaders must become the catalyst for others' growth. How do we do that? Simple (and hard). By constantly and consistently taking on new and diverse challenges, learning from them, sharing the lessons, and making the entire process appealing to your organization or community.

Mother Theresa glorified self-induced poverty as a means of helping others in a similar way that Donald Trump glorified sleeping at your desk and having no life to make millions and get ahead in the business world. I am not comparing who is a better human being or who was a better leader (or held a higher vision); simply demonstrating they both did a great job of a) sharing their vision and b) mobilizing others to their cause.

For both Mother Theresa and Donald Trump- when they'd attained what others may have called success- they went after more. Put another way- they became the pace setter for their own development. They then rallied others to the cause (therefore, became the pace-setter for others' self development). They then took that pace, and sped up. Through great leadership (and perhaps a degree of dictatorship in the case of 'the Donald'), they did not lose their people despite setting a blazing pace of progress towards the vision.

Want to be a great leader?

Start with a clear, meaningful vision that drives you
Shout it from the mountain tops 8 ways from Sunday
Get people bought in and excited about the cause
Set the pace for tackling the vision, check your rear view mirror often,
and then hammer down the accelerator!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who are you?







Everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason for who they are, where they came from and why they act the way they do. The interesting thing is that if you look back at how people were raised and what their most influential and defining moments were, you are able to find out most of the answers for their personality, drive (or lack of it) and what they are looking for in life.


So many of us have unclosed doors from our past that if never brought to the surface and dealt with, will carry on with us for the rest of our lives. The problem is that insecurities, lack of trust and embarrassment play a major factor in people actually being able to get the information out to others (communication) so they can seek help and have closure.


We all have the amazing opportunity to write our chapters in our personal book of life but so many of us allow others to influence or dictate how we live our lives. If we do not connect the dots for ourselves and internally become satisfied with who we are, what we do, why we do things, we will inevitably struggle in the game of life.


External items and events will NOT bring us ultimate happiness (we see it so much – those with all the fame and riches who are miserable behind closed doors because they feel alone, are not living their own life, don’t have the support, etc so they turn to drugs or alcohol to “forget” or to search for that “personal attention”) and at the same time the past won’t disappear until they actual do something about it.


If you need further clarification on the importance and purpose behind writing your story and sharing it as well as continuous self-reflection – please take a few minutes to read this article.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Reflection

The Olympics are over and the athletes are home. Lives have been changed and the Chinese have much to be proud of. And while the articles will stream in over the next little while very little will demand more attention than the actual events did.

Years and years of work all completed. From organizers to the athletes. Now it is merely four more years until another chance for glory or redemption.

For most of the winners, be they a volunteer, an organizer or the athlete, there was nary a day they could take off for the last four years. A bad day was not something they wanted on their Olympic morning. They tried every little thing to make sure every angle was covered and each possible problem dealt with. There were no sleep ins, no days taken off, and few moments to breath. To reach lofty heights the world offers very little flexibility. You have to pay to play so to speak.

As spectators we watch in awe as the dramatic moments of the athletes unfold in front of our very eyes. We want to see their successes and dream of being in their position. What we are seeing is the reflections of at least four years of work. They work every day and take every play seriously.

When you look in the mirror, that is exactly what you see. A reflection of what you have done to get where you are.

Do you like the colour of your medal?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another Olympics Over - Thank You Beijing


Team Canada has another very respectful showing with 18 medals

We, as a nation, wrestle with such issues of whether it makes sense to financially support our Olympians, whether it’s really important to win Olympic medals, but every time the Games roll around it’s reinforced that there is a great value in all of this.

I can’t tell you how many times throughout the coverage of the Olympics I have heard, “The funding is so poor for our athletes, our government better start investing more money towards them!” I too feel the same way. I have so much respect for their dedication and motivation to keep training while getting limited subsidy from the Canadian government.

A country to look at it Australia who has invested so much into their athletes and their performances have proven well worth the investment. Not only is it great to see so many medals and top performances to be proud of but the investment trickles down to the everyday people who are inspired by their athletes to become active or stay fit. Ultimately, this can have a massive impact on the Health Care system and Canadians should seriously look into the long term benefits of incorporating more funding for sports in Canada.

Now, as hard as we are on our government (more so than our athletes) for not getting more medals, one can not forget all the amazing performances of Canadians who “just missed”.
As 1984 Olympic canoeing gold medalist Larry Cain has stated in the press, “The shame of it all is that the amazing performances like Dylan Armstrong's, Mike Brown's and the other 4th and 5th place finishes go unappreciated by far too many.”

It’s true. Just imagine how any of us would feel to be the fourth or fifth best in the world at something. It’s a perspective that’s important to have.

One comment I have to make is that I hope for 2010 we have better uniforms to showcase our team. The athletes deserve a gold medal for having the guts to wear those godawful pants. They were abysmal. The COC and HBC better get their act together on this one!

And one can not forget to thank the Chinese and the city of Beijing, who put on an amazing show. The games were able to run with no major political issues at the forefront and the athletes had unreal venues to compete in all for a pretty hefty price tag of 40 billion.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Winning

In 2002, then coach of the New York Jets, Herm Edwards, gave a now much lampooned post game press conference where he said “you play to win the game”. For all the ridicule Herm has taken for that speech we must understand this; he was and still is right and if you think otherwise, you are selling yourself short.

A major reality of life is that we live in a competitive world where we are expected to compete for what we earn. Despite this reality, in North America we are finding new and innovative ways to remove competition from society so that people don’t get hurt from “losing”. This process of misinterpreting competitions role in play is creating a generation of people ill prepared to work in a world that is growing more competitive by the day. The end result is creating a group of individuals that believe they are owed the same benefits for trying as those receive for accomplishing.

The root of this misconception lies in our inability to define competition in play accurately. We are continually playing a game in life either for recreation, profession, or sport where the purpose needs to be on winning the game we are playing. The way we learn to define “win” will enable us to either become empowered and compete or play victim and expect.

The act of winning is not getting something while defeating others, it is arriving somewhere by great effort. Defining a “win” by your ability to defeat another person is the reason for the influx of noncompetitive/everyone wins games that we are promoting to society by the masses. What we actually need to be doing is promoting the idea that arrival by great effort is the definition of a winner so that we can continue to promote the spirit of competition and engage more people into the act of competing.

To put this into perspective we need to look no further than comparing the Olympic Games to the Special Olympics. In the Olympic Games there is such a premium on going for the gold and defeating your competitors that we encourage cheating and immoral tactics so that someone can be defined as the winner. In the Special Olympics we promote exceptional effort while continuing to recognize Gold, Silver, and Bronze as supreme achievement, but not the definition of a winner. As far as I know there has never been a cheating scandal in the Special Olympics and there is no need for drug testing at those games. In fact I encourage you to go to your local Special Olympics and look at the faces of the athletes after the events and tell me who won or lost; everyone has a smile of victory on their faces.

Winning is one area in life where we can have the best of both worlds, meaning we can recognize one individual as the best while fostering healthy competition in those who do not come in first by allowing them to continue to focus on arrival through great effort. In order to do so we need to not trick everyone into feeling good by putting a medal around their neck, but to get them to know that in order to win in life it takes effort beyond what you originally thought was possible.

The spirit of “winning” is dependant on individual effort directed towards an internal destination. If we can get there, then we will realize exactly what Herm Edwards was talking about when he said “you play to win the game”.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Golden Lesson From Our Silver Medalist


Hopefully, most Canadians if not most people who own a television, watched Simon Whitfield in his remarkable come-from-behind push to earn a silver medal for Canada. The great thing about watching this (other than national pride) was being lucky enough to catch his interview with CBC's Ron Maclean 2 days later.

If anyone did watch that race, they can relate to something like this...
- 2.5km left in the 10km run to finish the Olympic Distance Triathlon
- Simon Whitfield is about 5m behind the leading pack of 3
- 1 hour, 44 minutes is showing on the clock, do the math and we realize someone is going to crack 1:50, so we have about 4 - 5 minutes left to watch
- no point in sitting down or picking jaw up off of the floor as Simon gets dropped with about 800m to go
- 700m to go, Simon is 20m behind the leaders and we lose faith
- 600m to go, visor is strewn aside and what the...?
- 400m to go, Simon passes the entire group, rounding the 200m turn in fist place
- with less than 100m to go, Simon is passed but still finishes in Silver medal position and is only 5 seconds off of his second Olympic Gold.
- shivers down spine/ hug wife/ high five buddy/ possibly wipe tear

While this may or may not go down as THE Olympic moment for Canadians, it is what happened inside Simon's head that we are here to share today.

"I found myself rationalizing, thinking - well, 4th is okay" recounted Simon.
"I was able to slap myself and realize we were here to win, so I found another level"

That he did. The two great things that Simon brings us here are;
1) we all have the choice to quit. We have voices in our heads that tell us it's okay to quit... but then we have the ability and the choice to ignore that voice and choose greatness. For most of us, this struggle will not play out in the Olympics. It may play out when we decide not to quit our first 10k or marathon. It may play out when we reach down and ignore the temptation to do drugs as a teenager. It may play out when we show up to work when others quit because we have vision and will fight through to be the success others dream of but fail on effort. It may simply be overcoming your temper and deciding to be patient with your spouse that defines a successful marriage versus one filled with drama and fighting.

2) That WE won. Simon actually took the time to name off everyone who he trains with (though he orchestrated the group), he named his coach, trainer, and (as a group) his corporate sponsors. He won a medal in an individual sport, and then took the opportunity to deflect the credit to everyone he felt helped him get there.

That's leadership Simon. That's the kind of story that inspires.
That's the kind of role model we want to hold up as a champion in the time of so many fickle 'all about me' Hollywood spoiled babies.

Good on you Simon! May we apply this lesson in our own life and not settle for easy, or allow our own justifications to creep in when the going gets tough.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Talent is Cheaper Than Table Salt



"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." – Stephen King

Hard work, unfortunately is very hard to come by, and a lot more worthy then any commodity that it can’t be priced. Every one of us is talented at something – whether it be a sport, an art, writing, etc. Hard work is what determines one’s greatness. Anyone can have talent and not do anything with it. It is what you do with your talent that matters, not how much talent and skill you have. Once you’ve discovered your talent, and begin working hard, diligence will then come into play – the discipline to maintain and continue excellence over a extended period of time. Tiger Woods anyone?

Every Olympic Hero, famous writer, inspiring leader, great business owner knows this without a doubt. They know it’s not luck, they know it’s not talent alone. Sure talent may have got them started, but it was hard work that took them to their true successes. Not many realize what goes into creating their own successes, and few are willing to sacrifice what’s needed after learning what it’s going to take. But for the few that believe in their dream, work at, stay disciplined and focused – through the good times and the bad, and never give up – personal greatness and satisfaction awaits.

Steve Prefontaine was a distance runner at the University of Oregon in the 70’s and displayed this concept perfectly. Pre was often accused of being overly brash and cocky, but that was an integral part of what made him so great. The only thing better than Pre running his mouth, was him backing up exactly what he had said on the track. Pre made running cool, he made the idea of going out and running extremely hard from the start something heroic, not stupid. But unfortunately this magic was short lived when his world came to an end the night of May 30, 1975, he died at the age of 24.

Pre would often state, "I am going to work so that it's a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I'm the only one that can win it". Steve said that "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift." Pre gave us his gift, he ran every race as if it were his last.

Think if we were to do this with our days , with our talents and passions. If we lived every day with half as much passion, hard work, and personal fulfillment as some of the ‘great ones’ we’d be laughing. If we went out just as hard every day with all our endeavours – whether they be sport related, business related, or family related – there would be nothing we couldn’t accomplish. Think about that – how many of you are talented at something, and have everyone telling you ‘wow, you could be so good, you have a lot of potential’ – Basically they’re just waiting for you to realize the concept of working hard in order to bring your greatness out. One of the most frustrating things to witness is watching a talented individual piss away that talent because of laziness. We may think to ourselves ‘wow, if I had half the talent they did, what I would do with it...’

Find out what you’re talented at, find out what you’re passionate about - often the two are the same – and then work your ass off to do something with it. Don’t sit around long enough to have a chance to look back and think ‘what if..what if I dedicated more time, energy, focus, discipline, etc.’ The time is now to work hard, not to wait and see if your talent will magically take you to where you want to be – because it won’t and that’s a guarantee. And for every person you hear say ‘oh they’re just really gifted and talented at that, they’ve had lots of good luck’ – you’ll know differently. And if they say it to you, then you can take the opportunity to educate them on what exactly it took to be where you are.

Talent is cheaper than table salt – in athletics, in music, in art, in leading, in owning a business... in life. Work hard, prove your talent is worth something.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Expect the Unexpected

Home is where the heart is.

That's right. The place where everything is easy. Just drop back home after a hard days work and relax.

It seems that we have all come to believe this myth like so many others. The more we see it in the movies the more we believe that the home is just a place of sanctuary.

Home is more than that. The relationships of a family have been researched and examined more than any other style of relationship. Interaction are complex and not necessarily simple. Home can be quite stressful and judging by the 56% divorce rate not necessarily where the heart is.

So where does this belief that coming home from work and having a drink in an environment that is peaceful stem from and why does it exist?

Like so many other areas of our life, it is governed by our preconceived notions of how we WANT things to be. We don't look at what things are or will be but we expect them to be a certain way. We hope them into existence instead of seeing the world as it is.

Home, for a family, is a place where relationships need work, effort and each person must communicate. It isn't a country club and nor should it be.

Expectations are killing our families and it is time for us to look at our own individual role in how we can better serve each other...not the other way around.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Storytelling


Everyone loves a great story. We internalize and remember stories. If you can become a great storyteller, you will be able to use its power to enhance the quality of your life, career and community.

An effective form of communication is teaching lessons through stories. Because we all know that people enjoy to be engaged by an interesting story, great leaders must have the ability to tell personal stories to gain trust amongst their teams, to validate their points and to connect the dots based on previous experiences.

Storytelling (with a purpose) can get results that other modes of communication can’t. It is a great way to pass on information to someone while keeping them engaged.

The great thing about this is that everyone is already a storyteller. We start learning to tell stories and listen to stories at the age of two, and spend the rest of our lives telling stories. Storytelling is so pervasive that we are as unconscious of it as we are of the air we breathe. It is something we know already how to do. Though we all tell stories all the time, we are often unaware of it. Once we realize what are doing, we can all learn not only to become better storytellers but also to use storytelling to better our personal and professional lives.

We were at a Power Within seminar last year where there were intelligent and powerful people presenting all weekend. It wasn't until Frank Abagnal (from the book "Catch Me If You Can") stood up at the podium in front of a group of over 300 people and told his life story that I realized the power a story really has. The entire room was in awe and engaged the entire time from when he first spoke to when he said his final words. It was an amazing power that we felt that overcame the entire room and to this day forward, the lessons he spoke about will be the lessons I will always remember from that weekend.

So next time you are with your family, friends, or staff in the workplace, remember to tell them a story if you want them to be engaged and motivated.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

the pheno-ME-non.

admittedly I’m not hip, so it was only after I had to accept the invitation in order to find out who was going to the 20 year high school reunion that I joined facebook (4 years later). initially, it was interesting to receive requests, re-connect with old mates and yes even catch up with the one’s that got away. I invited friends, posted pictures and quickly used that forum as a way to direct people towards our exercise platforms and as many events as I could. shortly thereafter, I think I could have deactivated the account and not really missed that much (everyone I wanted and needed to speak with on a regular basis came onto my email account or passed on a phone number).



yes, “it’s all about the networking & marketing” and I completely understand that. post something and… (like a bad virus in most cases, a needed vaccination in some) it can spread to tens, hundreds, and thousands instantly. surprisingly, those I really wanted to contact (and tried through this medium) were not on it. curious, I wanted to know why and when I contacted them (by phone), the resounding answer was ‘I just don’t have the time’ or ‘I don’t need 158 one and done friends’ or ‘why would I want to be contacted by xx or yy’. it was their opinion and I was ok with that choice.

my personal conclusions about facebook are the following:

1. people waste a lot time on this medium. I invited my entire staff to be my friend, only to see many of them on FB in the middle of the workday. With clearly defined responsibilities, this begged the question why?

2. people have been marketed to believe others are interested in what they are doing. in most cases they have become their biggest agent and audience. there is a feature on FB that provides an up to the minute synopsis of what you are doing, which many people have no trouble filling regularly. Think about this. I’m going to make a decision to do something (or I have done something), so I’m going to go to the keyboard, log on and let everyone else know what I did or will be doing? Surely, you have something more productive to do?

3. FB is the final caveat to the whole reality series, Hollywood 2.0 – audience gets the say, look at ME, blog about ME, film ME, watch ME, listen to ME mentality that has invaded our social psyche. The idea that ME too should be my own celebrity, spokesperson, actress / actor or simply information voyeur has become mainstream in our society.

4. overall, our inability to focus on doing a few things well, could be what perpetuates us running around aimlessly doing multiple things half assed. how people I hear who have archived, documented and shared every ‘significant’ moment of their lives on one hand, but are soooooo busy on the other isn’t a mystery.

What I find interesting about the pheno-ME-non isn’t where it is – but where it’s going to end up. With the rapidly expanding population of marketing fed - egos vs. the premium on relevant real time, how are we going to possibly keep the spotlight on us as others demand it for them?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Take a step back and look around

Often times we are so busy with whatever's on our hands or going on in our lives that we take a lot of things for granted….things like hearing, seeing, breathing, technology, transportation, weather, walking, running, healthcare, friendships, education, freedom and the list goes on.

This is not to say that we deliberately take everything for granted, we tend to just forget. For many, if it is not affecting us directly then we brush it away and go on with our business (ex: current war, 2004 Tsunami, etc, etc…). Far too many people get fixated solely on what is going on in their own life and circle of friends/co-workers/family.

How many times have you heard someone who had recently been through a near death-like experience say “I’m going to live every day like it’s my last” or if someone has an serious injury say; “I’m never going to take walking for granted ever again”? I’m certain the answer will be several times over. Unfortunately, two weeks later the same people are acting no different and are back to their old ways.

Let’s prevent ourselves from doing this. I’m sure many of us at one point in time have said something similar to this. We need to stop relying on these kinds of experiences to be the reminders of what we have. We need to be more cognizant of what millions of people may not have that we do.

Be thankful for what you have and make the most of it. Do not be that person who realizes how good they had it when it is taken away.

Make the most of what you already have each day. Appreciate and acknowledge things outside your circle of life.

Stop, take a step back, look around and you will probably like what you see.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Losing & Losers

There are roughly 10,500 athletes competing in the Olympic Games this year vying for 246 medals, which means that the odds are considerably against earning a Gold, Silver, or Bronze for the athletes in Beijing.

There are roughly 6.7 billion people on this earth and about 8.7 million millionaires, meaning that the large majority of the world population will never be able to call themselves a millionaire.

There is no real correlation between these two stats other than we define success at the Olympic Games by winning a medal and we define success in life by being a millionaire. Statistically speaking, the large majority of us will “lose” because we don’t fit into the societal perception of being extremely successful. Other than this being a who cares moment, it brings to question what it means to “lose” and what it means to be a “loser”.

What Olympians and millionaires do have in common is that they lose far more than they win. The commitment to becoming successful in sport has the same principles as becoming wealthy through hard work. In both scenarios failure will supersede success, so what we learn from losing will allow us to succeed in the end. If we fail to learn through losing and allow our emotions to overcome our ability to rationalize, then we enter the realm of loser. Our inability to adjust socially to loss causes us to become an eccentric who doesn’t fit in with societal norms.

Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian in this years Olympic Games is the prime example of making the transition from losing to loser. After earning the Bronze medal in his sport (he thought he should be given the chance to wrestle for Gold, but was cheated by an officiating error) Abrahamian took the medal off his neck and threw it on the wrestling mat saying that this was not his medal, he deserved Gold. Through his perception of loss, which is many athletes ideal gain, he went from Olympic medalist to world class loser in no time flat.

Because this happened on a grand stage, it is an obvious display of childish behavior at its worst, but really not that odd in everyday life. By the minute, we overreact to loss in irrational ways, fail to see our fault in losing, misplace perspective in what has happened, and become losers through our actions.

Losing is our failure to obtain, win, or maintain something and is a temporary state when approached thoughtfully and methodically. Being a loser is someone who is adversely affected by a situation and displays maladjusted behaviors. Unlike losing, being a loser is not a temporary state, it is a trait that is earned through a single action or repeated actions.

Statistics don’t lie. The large majority of us will never be an Olympic medalist, nor will we become millionaires. Our efforts will be relegated to becoming world class people without classification. We, like Olympians and millionaires, will lose far more than we will win and will continue to have the opportunity to define our success in life. This success is only possible by learning through losing. Even if we can’t do this, we still have the opportunity to become world class; only this time it is with the classification of loser.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Get In The Game

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech given in 1910 in Paris

This week those words are oh, so true. After hearing all the water cooler talk about the Olympics, those words ring so true: may a call go out to all armchair quarterbacks... get in the game or get off the loudspeaker. For those who hadn't read Justine's pre-Olympic post (http://www.swimupstreamlife.com/2008/07/winning-at-all-costs.html), let me implore you to do so.

For all those people who ask "why can't Canada win more medals than Michael Phelps alone?" let us remember that this year in swimming alone 16 national records have fallen. Not good enough? That's their job? Wrong. Taylor Milne, one of Canada's running hopefuls (1500m) pumped gas to get where he is and is hoping to receive "A Card" status as a nationally sponsored athlete- which pays $1500 a month. According to Google- Greek Gold medalists can look forward to a $275,000 pay off. From his sponsors, Michael Phelps will receive $1 million if he completes the 8-gold medal sweep he is attempting.

Armed with this, if you want to bitch about something, bitch about how low a priority athletics (particularly the summer games) are in Canada. Ever wonder why we are disproportionately represented by French-Canadian athletes? Simple- Quebec as a province has the highest funding for amateur sport. Blame your government if you want to, or yourself for not donating to the cause - but don't dare blame someone working their ass off for at best $1500 a month when 90% of us can't make it to the treadmill after work.

We as a public simply do not have the right or the relevant experience to complain about our athletes performance, skill, effort, or results.

If you think this lesson applies simply to Canada's gold medal count- think again.

Ever given your wife advice on how to raise 3 kids and maintain a household (4 jobs) while you were busy at work (1 job)?

Ever bitched behind the scenes on how your boss could do so much better to motivate the team while you spent the whole workday on facebook or playing computer solitaire?

The fact is you do not always know better. It is easy to bitch, talk down, or judge. It is infinitely tougher to block the bitching of the masses out so that you can reach towards impossible goals... all so that those same fickle people can cheer for you.

Get the message folks- those Olympians are proud to represent a great country to live in. Chastising the efforts of the best we have to offer (whether they finish 4th or 104th) is characteristically UNCANADIAN.

Let's give our heads a shake and watch an artform we are only lucky enough to witness every 4 years.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Simple Words. Advanced Thinking

There was a young man who worked a typical desk job. It was the regular 9-5 job for 5 days each week. He always knew this career was not his true calling as he always wanted to start his own business. Despite this awareness he never complained nor was he a man who would ever become down for not having started his own business yet. It was not a bad situation as he was content with his work because it provided him with comfort and security. After work each day he would go home and read books about business and write down ideas. Every day he told himself; “I want to own my own business”.

Another similar story is about a man who wanted to win the lottery. He would research all the stats and strategies about how to win the lottery. There were times when he would attend seminars that inspired him so much that he would leave and buy 10 lottery tickets compared to the usual 1. Each week he would be buying lotto tickets. Wanting to win the lottery was the biggest thought on his mind all his life as he always wanted to win the lottery.

Both these people died without owning a business or winning the lottery. They got just what they wished for – wanting something in life.

There is a big difference between wanting something and doing something. If you move through life only wanting you will most likely not get it because it is just a ‘want’ without any tangible action behind it. If you move through life telling yourself that you can and will then you are more likely to make it happen because the ‘will’ leads us to the ‘way’. The power of the mind is beyond trying to explain but we must consider that our thoughts do in fact manifest our reality. Start with being conscious about how you speak to yourself - change your choice of words if you are ready to make something you want become real. By making these simple changes in word selection, our self dialogue becomes an advanced way of self empowerment that leads us to the results we always wanted. Tell yourself you can, you will and before you know it you will see how you are actually doing it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's Not Just Money

The Olympics are the flavour of the month and as always the politics take centre stage.

As a Canadian it is disappointing to see our country so far from the podium when there should be a multitude of sports we can compete in. We are not just an ice and snow country. From our population to our terrain, we should be able to [and probably have been able to] produce top class athletes. But as yet we haven't had any finish.

So the radio shows and the papers explode with the most obvious reason we are not on par with our southern brothers and sisters, let alone countries that most of us have difficulty spelling. They say we don't spend enough money on our athletes. There just is not enough resources for these people to succeed.

That is just one problem.

Our problems lay deeper than just plain money. We have issues of infrastructure. Our schools don't mandate athletics or moving in general. Our households are stagnant. Watching or playing sports with your children is not something that it cultural. We accept being in the game versus winning the game and this has an effect on our psyche , our business capacity and ultimately every aspect of our culture.

Money is not the only problem. As individuals we are to blame, if indeed we care at all, for the failings of our country. Note, our country and not our athletes.

This does not make us a bad country and it doesn't necessarily mean our citizens are bad people but we must ultimately live with the reality we have created and live within. Our culture does not promote sports so what do we really expect.

If you want to help Canada succeed in the future then start at home. Make sport a part of growing great human beings. Make that movement a daily ritual. Instill the value of sport, which is participating, trying your best, competing to be better, camaraderie and sportsmanship. A nation can be built stronger by these values alone and that, my friends, costs financially very little, but is an important attribute our country is lacking.

We don't lack only money, we lack the belief and the accountability to say each one of us can make a difference in owning the podium.

Monday, August 11, 2008

It takes a team effort










Now, as a patriotic Canadian, I am not big on cheering for the Americans during the Olympics or watching the US coverage of the games but I have to tell you last nights thrilling win by the US during the 4x100m freestyle men’s relay was one for the ages.

Not only was the victory and record shattering performance impressive, but how they came together as a team to win gold.

There were so many things at stake and I could not stop thinking about the pressure each of those swimmers had resting on their shoulders.

*The millions of americans watching from home, the president (George Bush) and one of the most powerful men in the US (Bill Gates) were both in attendance hoping to witness history.

*The French team (lead by the best 100m freestylist in Alain Bernard) had been talking smack all week leading up to this event that they were going to crush the US team.

*All the commentators and press had picked France to win (in all scenarios).

*This was a determining event for Micheal Phelps to keep his 8 gold medal performance in tact.

As the race started, the French had the lead the entire way and it looked like they would cruise to an easy victory. Then, out of nowhere, with the chance at history about to slip, the US anchorman, Jason Lezak pulled up next to the lane rope and set out after Alain Bernard, like a NASCAR driver drafting down the backstretch at Daytona. With only a few strokes to go, it looked like it would be a photo finish and then Lezak lunged for the wall, turned around to see the scoreboard and rose his hands in victory. The US team had pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in Olympic swimming history.


What I like the best about this story is the fact Lezak, the oldest man on the US team, stepped up to the plate, achieved the extraordinary as was the determining factor in continuing the quest for Phelps to be swimming for his record number of medals.

This is another great example in showing the importance and strength of team in what is commonly known as an individual sport.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Right Way to Leave

"The way you leave a company says as much about your character and the kind of employee you are than all the work you did during your time with the organization." - Unknown

The goal is to leave with class and integrity. 


Here's some tips or advice to follow that I have either heard, read or been passed on from managers/co-workers/friends:

- provide ample notice. The sooner you can alert your employer the better
- don't burn any bridges
- don't mentally check out before your last day
- help to identify and train your successor.  Do whatever you can to make your successor a winner.
- Show class on your way out.
- Sustaining relationships
- Thank your staff/customers for the invaluable experience gained in working with them
- thank your employers for the opportunity to work and hone your skills both personally and professionally.
- display goodwill to your co-workers and show confidence that both they and yourself will continue to strive and succeed
- show that you have grown as an individual based on what you have learned from your company and are applying everything that you have learned .

Do not leave your company high and dry.  It is the Easy way out. There is a way to leave on a high note. Continue to work hard and be productive. Be remembered for your positive contributions to the company rather than being remembered for you lack of effort at the end.



Friday, August 08, 2008

Self Understanding

In the search for self empowerment we first must be able to understand ourselves before we can make sense of how to navigate our surroundings. Unfortunately for us, the process of understanding ourselves is a complex systematical series of tearing through layers of experiences that would make an onion jealous. Our life path is created through the experiences we have lived and how we have internalized these experiences. Perception of pleasure or pain within the experience will dictate our movement towards or away from experiencing similar outcomes. Through our previous experiences and our level of personal understanding, we make the decision to become self empowered or victimized.

Self empowerment is our ability to allow our ego to conform to reality. By doing this we are showing mastery over our perceived state and allowing our actions to be attached to our self esteem. In order to get to this point we first must understand ourselves, our perceptions, our reality, and have the esteem necessary to make the right decision.

According to Freud there are three main divisions of the mind; Id, Superego, and Ego. By understanding these three main divisions we gain the upper hand in understanding ourselves, therefore moving closer to empowerment.

Id is the part of the psyche that is unconscious and contains your primitive instinctive impulses. It is a pleasure oriented part of the personality that allows no delay for gratification. We all have impulses that we act upon only to later wonder what we were thinking, and the answer is that we were not thinking we were just acting on immediate satisfaction. This is the most dangerous of the three divisions because we act upon our needs without regard, therefore increasing the chances of a negative life experience.

The Superego is our moral compass that develops standards and rules developed through parental and societal norms. Through our Superego we have a personalized understanding of good and bad or right and wrong. The purpose of the Superego is to act as the opposite of the Id and create balance to our actions. The danger of the Superego is that is potentially can create missed opportunity through potential experiences because we had to think about what was presented to us while opportunity passed us by.

Ego is our sense of self and is designed to compromise between the Id and the Superego. The Ego has the harder time of the three divisions because it is constantly reconciling the demands of the mind. This is the one are in which we need to strengthen if we are to develop empowerment because it creates our sense of self, independent from our instincts or parental and societal norms.

Finding the correct individualized balance between Id, Superego, and Ego is what will allow us to create an understanding of ourselves despite our past experiences. This balance will allow us to take the chances that are risky enough to feed the Id, calculated enough to satisfy our Superego, and rewarding enough to enhance our Ego. In balance of the mind we open ourselves up to learn from past experiences so that we can move forward. Our inability to create this balance is what will facilitate victimization and distance us from self empowerment.

Self understanding is our link to living in reality which ultimately is our ticket to empowerment. Despite our past experiences, positive or negative, we will never be able to move beyond or repeat such experiences when we allow our minds to get in the way of our future experiences. It isn’t until we have a firm understanding of who we are first, that we will ever have the opportunity to hold our future in our own hands and become empowered enough to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Who Makes It Worth It?

On the heels of Monday's entry (One thing they never tell you) by Willie, many of us have been reminded just how leadership and acting like a leader separates you from the herd. See, it is important to note that even among the sheep who are led by the sheppard; there are leaders and followers. That is, among the masses there are those who are looked up to (even though they too, need to be led), and there are those who truly are "sheeple".

If one truly chooses to uphold their highest principles as often as possible, to better themselves as often as possible in as many ways as possible, and to share this knowledge with others- well then they may just become a sheppard themselves.

The thing with sheppards and sheep is that there are thousands of sheep (in our society- millions), while there are only a few sheppards. Therefore in any culture once you amass enough people, there will eventually be more sheep than sheppards. Put another way, it will be easier to relate to the sheep than the sheppards.

It is usually easier to relate to and understand your coworker than it is your boss. The difference in pay between the sheep and the sheppard is also disproportionate. For a 25% increase in pay there is often a 100% increase in workload. If this is the case, why would your boss say yes to $50,000 a year on 80 hours a week when they could have $40,000 on just 40 hours? Are they crazy? Some- for sure.

The answer is that most sheppards can never return to being sheep. They know how much work it is to lead people, and they can't unlearn that fact in order to become another member of the herd who needs to be corralled.

So what makes is worth the largely increased time and effort for the marginally increased pay? The answer is simple. When you have been herding sheep all day it is such a treat to raise a glass with, laugh with, or lie in bed next to another sheppard.

It is important to note that a great sheppard does not feel disdain for the sheep- quite the opposite in fact. Usually the effort comes out of love for each one of them. It is more that the sheppard spends time trying to get to know and get to lead the sheep whereas the sheep have a lot less in common with the sheppard so they will usually gravitate more towards one another.

It takes a quality person with good values to be a part of a great herd (team, church, business, family)... however it takes an impeccable amount of vision, drive, consistency, charisma, organization, and creativity to be able to be the source of inspiration and alignment for that great unit.

When the strongest member of a team has an issue or needs leadership they turn to their sheppard; but who does the sheppard turn to? This is the answer to today's entry.

If you've read thus far and feel that "the sheppards" are speaking down to "the sheep" - well, we are. And the reason is because we all have the capacity to be both. Sheppards need someone to balance them out, to hear their concerns, to make them feel validated, and to encourage them from time to time. Isn't this the same thing the sheppard does all day for the sheep? exactly.

This is not to say once you've worked hard all day leading others that you should come home and dump your troubles on your wife; rather it means that just as the sheep can best relate to one another- it is very rewarding to finally find someone who understands the intricate challenges of leading people all day.

For all of us to make life more worth it within our own herd;
- be a better employee by trying to relate to your boss
- be a better employer or leader by trying to relate to those you lead
- be a better spouse by asking questions before unloading about your day
- be a better whatever-you-are by knowing who in your life makes it all worth it.

Without them, the struggles seem much tougher, and the victories go uncelebrated.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Allowing Others to Find Their Way




We all have had our pasts, our baggage, history, etc. We’ve all had to deal with it, move beyond it, and play the deck regardless of what we were dealt. No one’s better or worse then anyone else - just a reality of what we have to and had to deal with, and the tools received to eventually live a fulfilling and happy life if we choose to.

Although realizing our past has made us who we are – strong, motivated, independent, trusting, driven, etc etc - Often we would never wish upon anyone some of the less then pleasant memories. And when we do meet someone who has gone through similar situations – we may for a fleeting second want to wish away all their pain. We know exactly how it feels, and the closer we are to this person, the more we care - sometimes too much. This is when the fine line of allowing someone else’s baggage become our own baggage is sometimes crossed.

Yes, it’s very human to ‘feel’ for someone going through a tough time, or the process of dealing with their pasts – but we can not take away their pain, we can not take on their past to become our issues, regardless of how close we are to them. In fact, the more this person is in your life (a best friend, a sibling,etc) the easier it is to allow their baggage to become our’s. But we need to allow them to deal with it and make their own discoveries rather then helping them ‘mask ‘ and hide the pain. By us getting upset and ‘feeling sorry’ for those we care about – we are allowing them to become a victim, and essentially enabling them to not move beyond what is holding them back.

We were all there once too, and know first hand how painful it was – but we can not be the protector for someone else. The more we protect and coddle someone, the more damage we are doing. Care, be a friend, but also educate – challenge them to discover where their ‘baggage’ comes from , to open up and talk to someone, to allow themselves to just deal with it – just like we all did – just like we all had people challenge and educate us.

This may come as a surprise to some because humans naturally seek comfort and solace in others – but realize you are doing them a huge favour for allowing them to deal with it. They may be angry with you for not ‘caring’ but eventually they will realize that you cared in the deepest way possible.

Those that have dealt with their pasts are the ones who will be comfortable in their own shoes – demons and all. Those that have dealt with it, will be the ones who will take on life’s bigger challenges. Allow those you care with deal with it, don’t let their baggage become yours, and be proud that you were part of the process of their newfound self while they go on to succeed with life's bigger challenges.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The One Thing they Never Tell You

Leadership has had countless words written about it and thousands upon thousands of hours from the top minds have been spent trying to decipher "how to" and "what" makes a great leader. There are book after book and then there are hundreds of great autobiographies by the men and women we see and admire as true leaders. Words spoken right from their very mouths describing leadership ins and outs.

So with all these examples, all this education and all the ink spilled on the topic of leadership it surprises me that the one thing that can and will define a leader is rarely, or never, spoken of.

A leader must understand this one fact. They must embrace this quality.

A leader must learn to live alone.

L
earning how to accept the hollow reality of it, the tiny sound of your own voice in your self-induced vacuum, the sound of your voice when you have no idea what you are saying, when you have absolutely no idea whether or not the decision you are making or, even worse, about to make, is correct. The leader is always thinking to themselves.

You know about accountability. You've heard how to take ownership. But that is the after math. The time spent laying awake in bed wondering if it was the right decision, the right move, the right hire, the wrong location, this is what being alone is about. This is what leadership is based on.

Being dead alone and then realizing that there are hundreds or maybe thousands of smarter people than you ready to judge and destroy your every move just because they can. Then an even more hollow thought that no matter what decision you take that you may never be right because half of the world sees it one way and the other half the opposite way, yet something must be done. These people will never tell you that you made the wrong choice but you know they will think it.

That is what being alone is like. Alone, stuck with the thought that only you know the truth. The truth that you may not have a freaking clue as to what to do. However, you hold that truth close to the vest and when it comes to the show you stand and deliver...something...with a smile.

Yes, leadership is about being alone. In the moment you will have lots of friends, employees, partners, or team mates, but at the end of the day the hard decisions rest with you. "Rest" not being the best selection of words for what we are describing. You will need to look deep and you will need to embrace yourself because if you want to be a leader...

...it is a long, lonely game.

They never teach you that part at school.







Saturday, August 02, 2008

Risk for REWARD

We have all either said or heard someone say "Risk for Reward" at one point in time or another. The about this phrase is that when you think about it, very few people have the courage to do this in life. Some of the main reasons being that people in general are afraid of facing change and uncertainty. This can range from relationships, finances, fitness goals, and the list goes on and on.

It's easy to see the difficulties in playing the game of "Risk for Reward" as many of us probably have scenarios that we choose to remain in because of being fearful of the result, leaving something that you're content with, being judged by others is just a short list of examples.

Being in the fitness industry, we are constantly pushing people outside of their comfort zone in order to help them achieve all of the their health and fitness goals.

There are often times when people are hesitant of setting high expectations/goals. The risk being the chance of not reaching these goals and failing so to speak. The Rewards potentially being endless (sense of achievement, weight loss, experiencing new things, body composition changes, etc, etc..)

This brings me to Destination Fitness. Taking on challenges like that of adventure races, Triathlons, Running events (10km, 1/2 Marathon, full marathon), and hiking Grand Canyon are exactly the type of Risks that everyone should try and include in their life.

In order to reach rewards there will be times where you will have to take a risk. This risk will be followed by training with a specific program, properly progressing, have a solid support system, and being held accountable.

What seemed to be daunting and unreachable has now been achieved and accomplished along with several other benefits of taking on that initial risk. The Risk for REWARDS can be massive

What are you willing to Risk?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Credibility

Credibility is an interesting word for three reasons; 1) because it is quickly becoming a lost trait, 2) it contains both subjective and objective components, and 3) credibility is composed of two dimensions, trustworthiness and expertise. Personally I am more interested in areas 2 and 3 of the word because part of the reason credibility is on the decline is for the simple fact that people don’t know what it actually means to become credible.

Subjective credibility comes from the dimension of trustworthiness, meaning that it is based on opinion not fact and is a perception of trust one has in another. This is the type of credibility people act on today and is the primary reason that credibility is on the decline. We are surrounded by so called credible institutions and people who have made millions if not billions on those who put their trust in empty promises only to eventually lose everything. Our view of who is credible comes from our inability to take the time necessary to form the trusting bond necessary to fulfill our needs. Instead we look at certificates and diplomas as a fast track to whom or what is trustworthy or credible, and base our trust in a piece of paper, not a person. In our quest for quick and easy results, we base our decisions on presentation and not substance, therefore making ourselves susceptible to conmen and thieves who over promise and under deliver.

Objective credibility comes from the dimension of expertise, meaning that it is based on facts that are free of bias. This is the type of credibility that is found in someone who has a proven track record delivering on the promises that they have made to others throughout time. The salvation of credibility lies in its objective state; only people are too “busy” to take the time to research someone’s expertise to see if it is true. Conmen and thieves have expertise in being conmen and thieves, which a bit of research will eventually show. Objective credibility does have its dangers though. Just because someone has a proven track record doesn’t mean that they are on the up and up, which is why the complexity of the word credibility intrigues me.

Having two components on two dimensions means that in order to find the credibility of something or someone we must look in two components on both dimensions. Both trustworthiness and expertise have objective and subjective pieces to them, but their main characteristic is dominant. If we just rely on the dominant characteristic then we are not looking at the whole picture. If we seek to become credible and only work on one dimension, then we are leaving out a piece that will allow others to believe in us. If we seek to find the truth then we must look objectively and subjectively in both trustworthiness and expertise otherwise we are no different than the conman or thief that is praying on finding the person who doesn’t have the ability to think in more than one dimension.

In order to bring back true credibility we have to be able to internally and externally sort out one dimensional thinkers, even when those thinkers have the same ideals as ourselves. Credibility is a lost trait because we no longer look for the truth, we just look for someone who will either give us what we want/need, or we look for someone who will agree with what we believe in. The process of immediate satisfaction does not promote credibility, it promotes victimization to those who are unwilling to seek truth and accept that expertise equals trust or that trust equals expertise. There is no immediate in credibility and there is no credibility without both objective and subjective trust and expertise.