Take a moment to reflect on this question. I imagined myself in a room full of entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers… and wasn’t sure I could give a completely confident answer.
Now imagine that you have 20 years before you step into that room… What do you want to be able to say in 20 years that you have done the work to truly be a master, to have established a reputation for excellence, to have made a difference? Write that down.
This video is about the danger of being “good enough” in many things.
As the world grows ever more connected, and ever more complex – those that accumulate a whole collection of “good enough” skills will suffer. Those that can choose to be bad in many things, and dedicate time to truly excel in one or two areas will be those that flourish.
The danger: Our schools inculcate an attitude of good enough. The system of exams fosters an attitude of being good enough for the grade you want, not aiming for a level of ability far beyond the teacher’s ability to evaluate.
Rich Mulholland is an entrepreneur, author and keynote speaker. He tells powerful short little stories with impact though his videos. I had a chance to do a short interview with Rich during the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Global Leadership Conference in Frankfurt recently.
“What ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs” Steven Pressfield
I have often reread the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. When you create real art, you will face “The Resistance“. Any creation of something important will bring up your inner resistance. If there is no resistance, then you are probably not creating something meaningful to you.
We must find the work that brings our lives meaning.
We must strive to make our work purposeful, truthful, and authentic, a pure offering to our Muse and fellow human beings.
We must wage a lifelong war with Resistance and accept that instant gratification is an oxymoron.
We must not speak of our work with false modesty or braggadocio.
We must not debase our work for short term gain nor elevate it above its rightful station to inflate our ego.
We must not covet the fruits of our work, or the fruits of others’ work.
We must respect others’ work and offer aid to fellow professional laborers.
We must accept that our work will never be perfect.
We must accept that our work will never be without merit.
We must accept that our work will never cease.
Where are you?
Have you found the work that brings meaning into your life?
It is the quality of your labour that counts, not the quality of your recognition for that labour. We can have pride in the quality of our labour, not in the fruits of our labour. Vincent VanGogh was a madman to his contemporaries, a genius only in hindsight. Fame has little correlation with creative effort.
Some days feel harder to get going than others. The big mission feels a bit too big for today. I need something else, something smaller: An Easy Win.
What are my easy wins?
One is a blog post. I never allow myself to take more than 20 minutes before I hit publish, and there is some pretty instant feedback as readers start to register on the wordpress statistics. A blog post doesn’t change the world, but each one helps me clarify my thinking and become more articulate in expressing myself.
An even lazier win is to check my latest view statistics on youtube. This probably shouldn’t be counted in the category of win, but it makes me feel like my work matters (100,000 views per month… makes me feel very important for a minute).
Another easy win is to call a friend and listen, and thank them for their work. This always leads to me feeling better and having energy to get back onto something important.
What are your easy wins?
Do you have a list of easy wins? Some days you need a little kick to get you started on the day and a simple list of easy wins can make the difference between a day spent playing playstation and a day spent making tomorrow slightly better. Some easy wins we can achieve are:
Go for a 15 minute walk around the block (health)
Phone a friend: listen and help someone (build a relationship)
Make a short video explaining a project to practice your communication (growth, mastery)
Practice the piano (mastery)
Review your bucket list and set a date for an adventure (vision)
Write a positive recommendation for someone that has helped you on linkedin (relationship)
Watch a TED talk (growth)
What are your easy wins? Any good ones will go onto my own list! thanks 😉
I have sat through many presentations over the last 3 years listening to experts telling company leaders how they can make their company an engaging workplace; how they can increase employee engagement.
Is it really the employer’s responsibility?
Engagement is a Choice
Surely a basic requirement when you accept a job is that you engage and commit to doing it well?
Apathy is a practiced habit. You don’t start life as a child expert in curiosity-less disengagement. You practiced.
Your Apathy is Nobody Else’s Fault
Why should the fault be directed to your manager or to company HR?
It is not their fault.
It is not anyone’s fault that you are not engaged.
It is you.
It is you who is apathetic.
It is you who has to commit.
It is you who has to engage.
It is you who has to become responsible for your life as an adult.
Practice Apathy at Work, Become Apathetic in Everything
Show me someone who is apathetic and disengaged at work, and I will show you that he is apathetic and disengaged at home, with friends and a superb cynic of anyone who makes an effort. When we practice apathy, we get better at it in all areas of our life: work, family, hobbies, friends, studies, spirituality, community.
Here’s a short guide to putting the practice of engagement and responsibility into your life:
Engaged Life 101: How to be actively engaged in life.
Intention: Start every day by stating your intention for the day. As soon as you wake, write down the sentence “Today, my day is about _________” (today, I wrote self-compassion… yesterday I wrote listening better)
Read: Next, read something inspiring. (ie, not the newspaper, not your email) Here’s my list of great books: Personal Leadership Library
Think & Write: Decide on your Most Important Action for today. Write it down. Do 10 minutes action to move this Most Important Action forward. At the end of exactly 10 minutes of focussed attention, stop and go have your breakfast.
Now, you can let the day happen… but you have already taken personal ownership and responsibility for your day… good practice for the rest of the day.
The Dean of EO Leadership Academy, and highly successful businessman and person, Warren Rustand first taught me this process. He calls it the 1-10-10-10 start to the day. 1 minute intention, 10 minute read, 10 minute write then 10 minute think. Ideally followed by 29 minutes of physical exercise and then you’ve given yourself the best possible first 60 minutes of the day.
It is imagination that makes humans unique in nature.
Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. It is not our genes that have us living in penthouses and connecting on facebook.
Our difference is the human cortex, the layer of brain that is most highly developed in humans. The cortex is where we begin to live intentionally. We have a choice. We don’t have to just respond to the world, but can begin to imagine a better world and thus plan and act accordingly.
The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind.
What is the Purpose of Human Life?
2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?” Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.
A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.
A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose.
The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind: to imagine solutions before putting them into practice.
Aristotle concludes the Nicomachean Ethics with a discussion of the highest form of happiness: a life of intellectual contemplation. Reasoned imagination is the highest virtue.
Leadership Requires Imagination
A leader must see a future that is not yet here. The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others. The more you practice your imagination, the better you will get. How can you practice your imagination?
How can you develop your imagination? Here are some ways:
Spend time bored.
Read fiction. Write a new ending to a classic book. Make a hero into a villain, and a hero into a villain. Write yourself into the book.
Throw photos on the floor and then explain the connection between them.
Watch TV in another language and explain to a friend what is happening.
List 10 small improvements you could make to the seat you are sitting on.
Tell bedtime stories to your children… let them create the characters as you go.
Develop 2×2 matrix on an area of interest… and develop scenarios for changing positions.
Go to an ethnic restaurant and order something you have never had before.
Go to a railroad station or airport and take the first train or plane to depart.
Imagine a world without oil, cars, telephones, internet… fill in the blank…
“Only 3 things happen naturally in organisations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership” Peter Drucker
Mediocrity is effortless.
Excellence requires effort. Excellence requires a culture of excellence. In the absence of cultures of excellence I will find an excuse to let myself slip from my best.
Do you surround yourself with cultures of excellence?
“Great leaders create culture by design, while average leaders allow culture to evolve by default.” Mike Myatt
Are you clear on your values and purpose? If not, you are bouncing from one opportunity to the next. You take today’s good opportunity to lay bricks rather than building the great cathedral of your life. The clue to the existence of a clear personal culture is that you say “No” to most things. You are not bouncing from one interesting distraction to another interesting interruption.
The ability to start things is a good step towards a positive personal culture. The ability to finish things is the goal. Are you better at starting things than you are at finishing things? (I am. It takes real effort for me to declare a project finished.)
I have my own explicit written personal culture. I first wrote it down 7 years ago as I emerged from a very difficult time in my life:
I have a much updated version that I keep with me today. I don’t share it publicly, but have often shown it to those who have shared their own personal mission, vision and values with me. You can find my email if it is important to you.
“A family culture happens whether you’re consciously creating it or not. It’s up to you and your wife to determine whether that culture is of your choosing. If you want a positive family culture, you must commit yourself to years of constant planning and teaching. A culture isn’t something that’s created overnight; it requires daily investment.” Brett McKay
The family culture is the first culture we experience. Your earliest experience of co-existing with others was in your childhood family. If your parents were clear about their values; the behaviours that express those values, the non-acceptable behaviours; and the rituals that keep these values visible: then you had a great start. If your parents did not work to jointly define and live this family culture, you still had a culture… but with unclear and unsatisfying results.
There are 3 pillars of group culture: Values, Norms and Rituals.
Values – Each family’s set of values will be different and shaped by different education, religion and country values. Some families see competition as positive, some see it as negative. Some see position as giving rights (“You’ll do it because I am your father!”), some see dignity and agreements giving rights (“You’ll do it because we value kindness.”)
Norms – explicit and implicit rules of engagement. For example, how do we resolve conflicts? Shouting and passive-agressive stand-offs? Calm discussion and seeking to understand the other? How do we share chores? Does one person work while others sit watching? or does everybody find a way to help when clearing the table after a meal?
Rituals – routines, sanctions and celebrations. Family meals – are they in front of TV when each individual is hungry, or does everyone gather and share? Weekends, mornings, nights… what are the regular routines? Rites of Passage – what way do you celebrate the passing of the seasons, the reaching of an individual goal, the birthdays, the local and religious festivals? There are 3 levels of ritual: Daily, Weekly and Life Changing.
These elements exist whether you chose them consciously or not. There are no accidental cultures of excellence and meaningful community.
Resource: The Art of Manliness blog on Creating Family Culture:
The country in which you live will have a major impact upon your implicit sense of what is right and what is wrong, the right way to behave and the right way to treat others. Geert Hofstede told us that there are 6 major areas of difference between national cultures: it is worth knowing these 6 and where your own country is on each of these 6 in order to appreciate yourself and those who come from other national cultures.
Your personal, family and business cultures were not built in a day, and cannot be changed in a day.
Changing for the better is not a project. It is what life is about.
The first step is to describe your personal culture. The next step is to create, jointly with your family members, a description of what family means to them.
Mediocrity is the easy path.
The smarter you are, the better your reasons for being mediocre.
An inspiring life requires hard thinking, hard discipline and hard patience. Do you have the patience? Do you have the discipline? Do you have the desire?
Better the poor man with dreams and desire, than the great man with no dreams and no desire.
“The significance of man is not in what he attains, but rather in what he longs to attain” Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam
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