suffering.

flow

“Hold your breath for a better day, and you’ll never learn how to breathe.
You’re afraid of the dark, but that’s where you learn to see.
Your no good to the living if you’re too afraid to bleed.
And that’s why your show starts now Your show starts now.”

– Cloud Cult “Your Show Starts Now”

If “flow” is a new term for you, here is what it is in a nutshell: Flow is a condition in which the self, body, and mind are hyper-engaged and present. Flow occurs at the nexus between suffering and victory. If you think of a time when you won a race or accomplished something profound, you probably felt an rush of success, pride, and relief simultaneously – and you were probably experiencing flow. Flow is awesome and is a condition that everyone wants in their lives and it effects everything from your physical well-being to your brain chemistry to your confidence and intrinsic motivation.

Flow is a loaded concept that I will explore in different ways down the road. However, the aspect of it I want to highlight today is the pain surrounding it.

Flow occurs after great suffering. If you have ever climbed a mountain, you experienced flow (and sore quads) upon reaching the summit. If you have aced a really hard test, you probably experienced flow upon receiving your A+ after weeks of studying and remarkably hard work. If you have ever received a prestigious job after days of focused preparation and anxiety, you probably experienced the flow state upon that memorable phone call or conversation. Suffering is necessary for success.

Are you stuck where you are, personally or professionally or athletically or creatively? One answer to breaking through that malaise might be intentionally putting yourself in a place to suffer. Do something hard. If you are a guitar player who is struggling to write music, you can lock yourself in a room for a day and focus on writing…or you can force yourself to learn piano. If you have hit a plateau socially, join a group that is completely different from what you’re used to.

Go be uncomfortable. Embrace the uneasiness. Let discomfort be your gift. It could lead to one of the happiest moments you will ever experience. Your show starts now.

 

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January 15, 2017 · 7:40 pm

Self Actualization

Some food for thought for your day.

I believe that our world is a balanced system, a depiction of tension between fulfilled results of actions while inherently holding an unknown limit of potential that is simply awaiting further realization and manifestation.

Self-actualization is a major theme in human development. It is covered in several theories, most prominently Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and refers to “the achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.” (dictionary.com) When we fulfill potential and begin to see our dreams become reality, we self-actualize.

Imagine this for a moment: Our world is filled with billions of people, each uniquely created and gifted. Within each of those people are many, many dreams to become something and to do something that has an impact and that may further our civilization.In order to realize dreams, several factors need to occur, including immersion in an environment where the resources are needed and a supportive relationship is imperative.

We are leaders of people. As you walk through your day, look around at the people you witness. Can you play a part in helping a person to reach their potential? Maybe it means giving a person the courage to dream, maybe it means helping a person to have the means to go beyond “just surviving each day” and to think about doing something beyond said survival, or maybe it is something like helping a person to simply become better in their job, in their social circles, or in life.

Finally – imagine the result of all of the world’s leaders tapping into the great potential of others around them. Imagine the impact on the future. Imagine the transformation that could ensue when billions of unique dreams and capacities transfer from a subjective individual vision to an objective, externalized reality. A collective planet of self actualization, a remarkable shift from “can dream” to “can do,” and an actualization of an unknown limit of greatness. Maybe this looks like some sort of scene in a sci-fi movie or maybe this looks like something beyond anything any of us have ever imagined.

Now go help others learn how awesome they can truly be.

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January 6, 2017 · 9:36 am

Becoming Superfluous

We’re leaders. We’re used to – well – leading our teams and other leaders. That’s sort of our thing.

Being leaders, we’re used to calling the shots, making the hard decisions, and spearheading positivity from the front. But what if we were present with our teams but unable to do most of that when it mattered most?

This was my last two weeks.

In retail, the holiday season is gigantic. Come November, one half of our being is spent focusing on the normal job stuff but the other half is spent preparing for the last two weeks of December. I am no different here. However, around December 15th, something unexpected happened: I lost my voice. When I say “lost,” I mean straight up “lost.” We’re not talking Joan Rivers voice or Dom DeLuise. We’re talking whispering as best case scenario but even then it felt like broken glass in my throat. What’s more is that it was almost totally gone up until today, December 26th. What the heck?

I am a firm believer in the value of learning in every moment. It really bugged me that I was stuck stocking or doing office stuff when I wanted to be sweating and laughing alongside my team amidst the holiday shopping frenzy…but it didn’t take long to realize that I was largely not needed… and that is awesome.

It showed me that I have outstanding leaders just waiting to take flight, waiting for their chance to step up and shine. Everything I’d invested in my people could now be put on display…and did they ever shine!

Customers were happy. The sales floor looked awesome. Morale was great. Numbers were fine. No disasters happened. Everything was awesome.

How often do we stand in the way of our leaders, even when it is well intentioned?

How many people are ready to jump up to the next level and take our place of leading leaders?

So here is my challenge to you: Get the heck out of the way. Let your leaders lead and be awesome. Even if it is uncomfortable – and it should be uncomfortable – trust your leaders to learn on the fly, lead their teams confidently, make some mistakes, and make some awesome decisions. Give them feedback and create factors in the environment that will allow your leaders to grow through that process. It may surprise you who steps up and how they step up.

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December 26, 2016 · 8:14 am

Peer Pressure

First off, this is not a story about gyms. Stick with me.

I am a gym rat. I am really driven to improve myself and especially love the challenge and visible/metric results of weight lifting. I’m that weird guy that finds that fun.

The majority of my gym time the last couple years has been spent alone. Just me, my wireless headphones, and my Science Mike podcasts. The “me time” had been good…but it felt increasingly lonely and I’d lost some motivation. I needed a spark.

Enter CrossFit. I’d never been to a CrossFit class or box (gym) but for some reason I thought the super-intense group fitness of CrossFit might be what the doctor ordered. I took a chance to join a gym where I knew no one and knew very few of the unique movements and vernacular. It’s REALLY hard for us introverts to do this stuff.

From day 1, the workouts were intense. My imbalance of strength was obvious. My lack of mobility was even more obvious. I HATE not being good at something and I hate even more to not be the best. I had last place in this CrossFit box pretty much to myself. I was humbled and even embarrassed at times. But I kept showing up and giving it everything I had.

At 4 weeks in, something changed. Sure, the movements became more natural and I noticed a little more core strength… but the feeling of being at CrossFit also changed. I found myself motivated to work out – not just for my body’s sake – but actually to be around this really cool group of people that I began to understand and appreciate. Some of us started to become friends or at least to know each other. The hour long workouts we did as a class were hard but they were shared experiences. We all kind of struggled through them but we did it together. We rooted each other on. We gave fist bumps (that’s a thing). And we began to converse about non-CrossFit life.

That positive peer pressure and eustress – that bond – has become an X-factor for me in my workouts. I now can understand and appreciate the appeal. Beyond that, I’ve begun to think about how to plug this dynamic into my workplace, my church, and any other team environment I am involved in. Positive peer pressure is making me a healthier person and can be profound if authentically, organically, and deliberately integrated. I believe it can be a great way to build a stronger and more motivated team.

What do you think? Have you had a similar experience with peer pressure?

 

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Filed under leadership, motivation, team building

The economy of our time

How profound would your life be if you truncated fluff from your daily schedule and replaced it with actions that matter?

Let’s say this is a prototypical weekday schedule for many American millenials:

6am-7am – Workout

7am-8am – Get ready for work

8am-5pm – Work

5pm-6pm – Eat

6pm-7pm – Browse internet, facebook, chat with friends

7pm-9pm – Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, etc…

9pm-10pm – Get ready for bed, various tasks

10pm – Go to sleep.

This is pretty close to typical for many people in my age group. It’s not a bad day – and let me make it clear that I am not against this – but what’s the point?

“Wake, eat, work, eat, work, eat, rest, sleep, repeat.” Is that what we hope others remember of us long after we’re gone?  Where is the impact on the world?

What if life could have more purpose by rearranging some things and prioritizing a more profound focus on others?

6am-7am – Workout

7am-8am – Get ready for work

8am-5pm – Work

5pm-6pm – Eat

6pm-7pm – Volunteer somewhere

7pm-8pm – Journal/meditate/pray/blog about your volunteer experience

8pm-9pm – Decompression time. Netflix, book, whatever.

9pm – 9:30pm – Intentional time to connect with a loved one

9:30pm -10pm – Get ready for bed

10pm – Sleep

In an ideal world, consider this schedule. A person gives 1-2 hours a day towards bettering others. There is still self-care, still introvert time, and still time to let the brain rest…

Imagine a world where we each invested 1 hour a day in improving each other.

Each person would give 7 hours a week, 365 hours a year to others.

A town of 50,000 people would give 350,000 hours a week to each other!

How would this effect society? Politics? Socio-economic divide? Poverty? Depression? Mental and physical health?

Is this commitment possible? What do you think? Or am I just one more idealist millennial blogger, dreaming big and believing too much in the goodness of others?

 

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Filed under observation

The identity of a leader

Who are you? I mean – really.

Have you ever found yourself claiming an identity that – upon further reflection – only applied to your past self and no longer reflected your present-day identity?

yesterday

I can remember being 10. When I turned 11, I continued to say I was 10, simply out of habit.

This also applied to my work. 3-4 years ago, I loved going on long distance hikes of 15-20 miles at a time. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that distance in a day but I still feel tempted out of habit to respond “long distance hiking” when others at work ask me what my favorite outdoor activities are. Nowadays, the truthful answer is probably “dog park” or “casual bike ride.”

Our yesterday is often not our today.

today

It is a challenge to live in reality and the present-day consistently. Our pride in yesterday’s accomplishments can cloud our present-day understanding of our self, our performance, and our impact.

Your past has helped define who are you but that is only a part of your self. For instance – if you saw yourself as a developer in your management role because you promoted 5 people 3 years ago… but you haven’t promoted anyone since… are you still a “developer?” Or have you shifted into a different season of management, life, style?

Your daily actions in the present inform who you are, just as your present-day identity informs your actions.

tomorrow

Who do you want to be? What impact do you want to have on the people, the world around you in the future? What do you want your legacy to be when you’re long gone?

These are questions that sobering but imperative to answer. Here’s the cool thing: You can have a lot of say around what your future looks like. You can lead, influence, and impact the world and the people you come in contact with.

Leadership and identity start with a choice. Who will you choose to be? Will you choose to have an impact? What will your tomorrow be and will you matter?

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Filed under leadership, motivation, observation

Leadership is like playing baseball

Tim Anderson

(Image courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times)

Those of you that know me well know that I am a big White Sox fan. In fact, so big a White Sox fan that I follow their minor league teams and prospects. Yeah, I’m a nerd.

The #1 White Sox prospect, Tim Anderson, is a prospect who can hit well but has been criticized around his raw defensive abilities – specifically positioning. Defensive positioning in baseball refers to how a player faces the batter before the ball is hit, the stance in which he sets himself up to field the ball, etc…

So as I was reading an article on Tim Anderson this morning, I got to thinking (because everything in life can be a metaphor for everything in life)…as leaders, do we position ourselves to be successful? I’m not talking about peacocking or crying for attention – that is the last thing I’m interested in – but how do we set ourselves up to become better in everything we do? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Which way do you face? The ball is coming right at you. Do you turn and run? Do you turn to the right and try to field it at a 90 degree angle? Or do you face the incoming ball? My inclination is to be bold, to face it head on with bravery and tact. This bodes well for big challenges in leadership when it can be scary but we know that our teams are relying on us to field the ball and make a play. Leaders face the action.
  2. What are your joints doing? Bear with me. When a ball is hit hard and bouncing toward you, it can sometimes take unpredictable bounces. If you are stiff-legged and standing fully upright, you run the risk of not being able to react on the spot. Instead, leaders have flexed knees, leaning in slightly towards the batter – ready to react on the fly and to manage the change on the fly as needed. Leaders posture themselves that allows them to be nimble.
  3. What are your eyes doing? Are you looking at the clouds above you? Maybe watching the weird dude in the stands whose hot dog just got ketchup all over his shirt? Or are you focused on the batter – no – focused on the ball and anticipating the angle at which it will hit the bat so you can proactively begin to move towards its destination? Leaders stay focused, enjoying the game, but never losing sight of where they are at and how they can succeed in every situation of the game.
  4. The ball just went past you as you missed making a routine play. What do you do? Baseball players have coaches and instructors who are constantly providing advice, critique, and input in an effort to make players better. Just like baseball players, leaders have input and thoughts spinning at them constantly. So – do you confidently yet open-mindedly receive this input and try to make yourself better? Or do you close off? Leaders can receive other ideas, positioning themselves for lifelong learning.

How are you positioning yourself to succeed today, tomorrow, and 20 years from now?

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Filed under change management, leadership