Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today


Mark Manson recently posted an awesome article on choosing success through choosing the pain that one can endure. Check it out below.

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a care-free, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everybody wants that — it’s easy to want that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

Everyone wants that. So what’s the point?

What’s more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives end up.

Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone is willing to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, with the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.

Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough communication, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “What for?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was it all for?” If not for their lowered standards and expectations for themselves 20 years prior, then what for?

Because happiness requires struggle. You can only avoid pain for so long before it comes roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, the good feelings we all want are more or less the same. Therefore what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing to sustain.

“Nothing good in life comes easy,” we’ve been told that a hundred times before. The good things in life we accomplish are defined by where we enjoy the suffering, where we enjoy the struggle.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately love the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to love the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not. Some people are wired for that sort of pain, and those are the ones who succeed.

People want a boyfriend or girlfriend. But you don’t end up attracting amazing peoplewithout loving the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success is “What pain do you want to sustain?”

I wrote in an article last week that I’ve always loved the idea of being a surfer, yet I’ve never made consistent effort to surf regularly. Truth is: I don’t enjoy the pain that comes with paddling until my arms go numb and having water shot up my nose repeatedly. It’s not for me. The cost outweighs the benefit. And that’s fine.

On the other hand, I am willing to live out of a suitcase for months on end, to stammer around in a foreign language for hours with people who speak no English to try and buy a cell phone, to get lost in new cities over and over and over again. Because that’s the sort of pain and stress I enjoy sustaining. That’s where my passion lies, not just in the pleasures, but in the stress and pain.

There’s a lot of self development advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”

That’s only partly true. Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something badly enough. They just aren’t being honest with themselves about what they actually want that bad.

If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the six pack, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten.

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

So I ask you, “How are you willing to suffer?”

Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns.

Choose how you are willing to suffer.

Because that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have the same answer.

The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

Because that answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

So what’s it going to be?

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What’s Your Audience’s Learning Style?


As leaders, we frequently set out to teach our peers and teams important points, concepts, and skills. However, how often are we considering our audience’s style of learning?

We all learn differently. I like to learn through experience. I can read books over and over again but if I can’t experience or act something out, I simply will not retain the new knowledge (e.g. my 7 years of Spanish that have dramatically faded from my memory). However, other people may do well with a book, a diagram, audio, a list, one-bit-at-a-time, saturation (lots-of-bits-at-a-time), or through any other options.

I once had a (admittedly) very linear-minded employee whose job was to outfit people for footwear. That person’s speed of going from the sales floor to the warehouse to get a pair of shoes and then back to the sales floor was not as fast as one might like it to be. One day, I remade the signage in our warehouse to be color-coded (one brand was listed in green, another in orange, etc… at the end of each aisle) in order to make it easier for someone to find a shoe. That employee immediately became much more efficient and much less frustrated, simply because I made a small adjustment to the colors used in our warehouse… and this has resulted in happier customers, happier employees, and more efficient payroll spending in that department. What’s also cool to note is that this didn’t adversely affect employees who aren’t color-minded.

So here’s the challenge: The next time you attempt to communicate a point or teach something to someone, ask yourself “how does this person learn best?” Once you have that answer, curtail your communication in that way. You may be amazed at how a simple modification will make your lesson much more effective.

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Running the Leadership Marathon


I recently spoke with a friend of mine about how he views influential leadership and I found his take on things to be noteworthy.

When I asked him what makes a great leader, he replied:

“If you lead for 5 years every day, that’s a good leader.

If you lead for 10 years, you’ve become a great leader.

If you lead for 15 years, you have become a special leader.”

Sure, it is simplistic and there some important details to be added into that context. However, he brought up a great point. Truly effective, influential, and life-changing leadership is a marathon. Every moment of leadership you experience, every blog post of mine that you read, every time you choose courage over safety is reminiscent of a marathon runner taking a step each time. 26.2 miles is a long way to walk, jog, or run… but no runner will get there without taking thousands upon thousands of steps.

How are you taking steps towards your 26.2? Are these the kinds of steps that sustain you, move you forward, and build you towards the leader you want to be? If I’m fully honest with myself, I believe I am jogging this marathon, sometimes running a little bit, but it’s a good reminder for myself and hopefully you as well to pace yourself and to continue onward over the long-haul.


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The Most Unexpected Great Leadership Movie

enders-game-movie-posterEven though I’ve never read the very popular Orson Scott Card book ‘s novel Ender’s Game, I’ve been intrigued since seeing the trailer a week ago. The plot is that humanity narrowly staved off an alien invasion and 50 years later is looking to permanently extinguish the aggressive alien race that tried to take us over. Ender Wiggin is an adolescent child who has gone through a military leadership training and evaluation program – and has  tested off the charts. Humanity’s best hope to eradicate the enemy may lie in his hands.

My wife and I are admittedly sci-fi nerds. We saw this movie last night and honestly it was no Battlestar Galactica – but it was enjoyable. We were both, however, very surprised by the amount of leadership content in this movie. In fact, the whole movie is really about leadership.

In the movie, Ender has to win over the people around him over and over again. He does this with his courage, ingenuity, originality, and authenticity. In one scene, Ender and his other candidates are in a room with their commanding officer. In the military, it is not even an option to speak out of turn to a superior. However, Ender does this very taboo activity, asking a question that his peers in the room have also wanted answered – but didn’t have the courage to ask. He is forced to do a bunch of push-ups as punishment – but when the superior leaves the room, Ender’s new friends gather around him and express thankfulness.

I was shocked at how many little notes like this I was taking away from Ender’s Game. If you are an aspiring leader, I highly recommend dropping $10 to buy a ticket for this unique and thought-provoking film.


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