The Best of Times

There are not too many people, okay, maybe nobody, who would describe these as the best of times. People all over the world are confined to their homes….or far worse. When you consider the alternative being confined to the comforts of home for a couple of weeks isn’t so bad.

But a lot of how “bad” it is, a lot of how bad anything is, is determined by your choice of attitude. And yes I would tell you that even in these times, even in times worse than these, YOUR attitude remains YOUR choice.

The opportunity to choose your attitude has been described as “the last of the human freedoms.” That freedom can’t be taken from us by any person, any circumstance, any organization, any government, or any illness.

You ALWAYS have the choice of a positive attitude. You ALWAYS have the choice to look on the bright side of any situation. Sometimes you have to look harder, sometimes a lot harder, to find the bright side but it is ALWAYS there. It’s simply a choice.

While it is simply a choice it is not a simple choice. It is a choice that must be consciously made. If you do not intentionally choose a positive attitude then other people and circumstances will choose your attitude for you…and it’s unlikely to be positive.

It’s easy to find things to ruin our attitude. But it’s also pretty easy, when we make the conscious effort, to find things to keep youself in a positive frame of mind. Maybe it’s a grandchild’s giggle on a FaceTime call, maybe it’s the perfect blue sky, heck, maybe it’s even that you have toilet paper.

Whatever it is, if you look I promise you’ll find a bright side. I am certain there are reasons in your life to be optimistic. But is must be an intentional choice. It must be made daily or even multiple times everyday.

I have this mindfulness thing on my AppleWatch that reminds to me to take a breath several times a day. I turned it off almost as soon as Apple added to the watch. I’ve turned it back on now, not because I can’t remember to breathe. I use it as a reminder to look around at all the fantastic things going on around me and in my own life.

I might be stuck at home but I refuse to be stuck in a rut. There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a story and two sides to every situation, the dark side and the bright side. Will you join me in looking for the bright side?

Take a look around and share what you find in the comments section. Sharing your bright side might even help others find their own!

Business as Usual

The current state of the world absolutely does not allow business to be conducted as usual. Perhaps no time in history have businesses, and every person alive for that matter, been faced with so many unknowns.

No one likes unknowns.

In you’re in a leadership position then one of the things you should be doing right now is providing the people you lead with as many “knowns” as possible. Few things will be business as usual so find as many usual things as you possible can and put them in front of your people.

Many readers of this blog are not aware that in addition to writing this blog I also have a full time job. I do a ton of speaking each year. While I also speak outside of my industry the majority of my speaking opportunities are in support of my employer and our customers.

I never write about my “day job.” But the current crisis around the Coronavirus has provided me the opportunity to witness firsthand some truly outstanding leadership. But this week I would say I saw nothing less than brilliant leadership.

Those who know me also know that I am a harsh judge of leaders and leadership. I believe that if you have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you darn well better lead, really really lead. Lately I’ve seen a ton of what can only be described as Authentic Leadership.

In a company-wide meeting this week, conducted for the first time virtually for obvious reasons, the organization’s leadership made the decision to make the meeting as normal as possible.

There was a needed update on preparedness for and steps taken against the virus. But it did not dominate the meeting. It would have been easy, and expected, that the doom and gloom over-taking many organizations would have been the focus, but it was not. The focus was on business as usual.

That was the brilliant part.

It almost didn’t matter what was discussed. What mattered was what wasn’t. The current situation was appropriately covered and then it was on to business. Instead of sucking life out of the organization the leadership team literally pumped life along with enthusiasm into the organization. The calming effect of even a bit of normalcy could almost be felt over the Internet.

Brilliant is the only word I can think of to describe it.

It showed me the absolute importance of leading by example. If you’re in a position of leadership don’t merely tell your people that everything will be okay, show them. Show them by demonstrating as much normalcy in these highly unusual times as you possible can.

Business as usual will be challenging for the foreseeable future but I had a glimpse this week of just how much people are craving even a bit of normalcy. I’ve never written this before but for at least a while one of the best leadership actions you can take is to be so normal that you risk boring your team.

Now, as much as ever in history people need leadership. If you’re a leader who can provide the people you lead with even a bit of stability then you are a leader who was made for these times.

One last thought, I know business as usual will be nearly impossible for many people. You must understand that “nearly impossible” and “impossible” are two very different things. If you can’t keep business “usual” then figure out a way to provide your people a bit of normalcy in their personal lives. Leadership, at least Authentic Leadership isn’t easy and it doesn’t stop at the end of the work day. So don’t assume anything is impossible, just figure it out. That’s what great leaders do!

Interesting Times

As I write this I’m at our Arizona home which is a couple of miles from many of Major League Baseballs’ Spring Training Ballparks. It’s a Saturday and it would ordinarily be a great day to take in a ballgame. But there are no ballgames to take in.

I guess I’ll watch a NBA game on TV instead. Oh wait, there are no NBA games. There are no hockey games either. There are no games at all.

That’s very interesting.

I did go to Walmart at 7:00am this morning…I was confused at first because it seemed a lot like a Black Friday. The place was packed. What was different from a Black Friday however was that the shelves were mostly empty.

I remember shopping at a surplus store years ago in my hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota. They had a slogan that said “if we don’t have it then you don’t need it.” One of the Walmart employees said a good rule of thumb for these times was that “if you need it then it’s most likely that we don’t have it.” That’s more than interesting.

We certainly do live in interesting times.

“May you always live in interesting times” is an English expression which purports to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically; life is better in “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquility than in “interesting” ones, which are usually times of trouble.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that interesting times can be less trouble than they otherwise might be if we work together to limit the trouble. I had a 40 year old guy say to me “I’m not affected by the virus so what the hell do I care.” Well now he’s out of toilet paper and you would think the world is coming to an end.

We are ALL affected by the challenge facing the world today. We can limit the trouble traveling around the world by ALL sticking together. The best way to keep the world healthy is to keep yourself healthy. There have been about a billion warnings to wash your hands regularly (I now have an hourly reminder on my phone) and to stop touching your face. (Easier said than done)

Pay attention to that advice. In fact, pay attention period. You’re pretty safe if you’re in your twenties but you know what? You are about the most likely age group to pass an illness on to the age groups who most certainly are not safe. So pay attention. Take the same precautions as if the virus is a serious threat to you.

All the experts say this is likely to get worse before it gets better. Together we can limit how much worse. Let’s remember the together part.

So for the next while help other people a little more. If you do choose to go out to dinner then tip a little more. If you’re going to the store then offer to pick something up for a neighbor. Check in on people over the phone more often.

Since it’s likely you’ll be around home more often take advantage of the time to complete those projects you’ve been putting off. And how about this for a crazy idea, put down that stupid Smartphone and talk to people the old fashioned way.

There is a lot of fake information and rumors out there. Remember the ONLY official source of information is CoronaVirus.gov Point your browser there for the latest accurate information on these most interesting of times.

I’m pretty sure that the best way to get through interesting times is to be more interested in others and less interested in ourselves. As Mr. Spock once told Captain Kirk, “The good of the many must outweigh the good of the one.”

It’s only by working together that can we truly flatten the curve.

Is Your Boss an Idiot?

Let me answer that question for you right upfront. NO! Your boss is not an idiot.

That doesn’t mean that you may not have some issues with your boss. You would however do well to know that thinking your boss is an idiot is likely causing a good many of those issues.

Our thoughts tend to drive our behaviors and thinking your boss is an idiot will lead you to interact with them in less than a respectful way. You may also think that your boss doesn’t deserve respect but you’d be mistaken about that too.

Think about this for a minute…for your boss to actually be an idiot that you mean that the people in the organization above your boss are idiots too. I mean clearly, only an idiot would make another idiot a boss. Exactly how many idiots do you think work at your organization?

If your organization is truly full of idiots then why are you working there? Unless….

So get that ugly, limiting thinking out of your head. Just like every other human on the planet your boss has a set of strengths. Someone saw them and put your boss in a position of leadership so that those strengths could be put to use.

Your role should not be to focus on the limitations that your boss has (yep, they have limitations for the very same reasons they have strengths, they are human) but to help them apply their strengths.

Those limitations cause gaps and if you want your work and life to be more enjoyable and meaningful then you should focus on using your own strengths to help fill those gaps.

Anybody can find a weakness in others because everybody has gaps. That most certainly does not make everybody an idiot. If it did then almost all of us would be fighting for a spot at the front of the idiot line.

Your thoughts are no small thing. They determine your actions. If you’re thinking that your boss, or anyone else for that matter is an idiot then you are limiting your ability to learn from them. Whatever shortcomings someone may possess they know something that you don’t. That means you can learn from them.

Open your mind and look a little closer at your boss. Look for their strengths. Try to see them the way their boss sees them. Look for the good in them. Help them use their strengths by stepping up and filling their gaps. Use your strengths to fill them.

People who struggle to work well with their boss get noticed in a negative way. People who help people use their strengths get noticed in a positive way. If you worry less about who gets “credit” and think more in terms of a team success your own success will increase along with the team.

Think about it.

A Plan for Life

Research shows that the average person will spend 40 hours planning a two-week vacation. That is 40 hours more then they invest in planning the rest of their lives.

Goals are the plan for your life.

Most everyone claims to believe that goals are important. Somewhere around 10% of those people actually have goals that are written down. A very small handful of that 10% have a formal plan for how they intend to achieve those goals.

If you’re in that vast majority of people who don’t have a formal goal achieving plan then I have some shocking news for you. YOU are an unproductive person!

If you didn’t do something to intentionally get closer to at least one of your goals today then no matter how busy you may feel you were not productive. That means that if you don’t have formal goals along with a written plan on how you’re going to achieve them then you cannot be productive…not matter how busy you might be.

But having true goals and a plan to achieve them goes way beyond making you productive. True goals gives a purpose to everything you do. When your actions have purpose then your life has passion. If you’ve ever felt as if you’re sleepwalking through life then you NEED true goals. If you not certain why you’re doing what you’re doing then you NEED true goals.

If you want to live a purpose driven life then you NEED true goals. If you want a reason to push yourself to reach your potential then you NEED true goals.

I won’t kid you, developing meaningful goals takes time, likely more time than it would take you to plan your next two-week vacation. It requires serious reflection about what’s most important to you. You’ll need a vision for your life and what you want it to look like in a year, 3 years and 5 years and beyond.

If you don’t currently have true goals and a written plan for how you’re going to achieve them then it’s likely you lack discipline as well. If your goals are meaningful enough and your plan is thorough enough they will drive a new discipline within you. That’s the power of true goals.

President Abraham Lincoln said “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” If you want to wonder what the future holds for you then you don’t need to do a thing. Just keep floating along through life. If however you want to control your future and shape what’s in store for you down the road then you’ll need to get serious about setting true goals.

There isn’t a much better life than a life lived on purpose for a purpose. Purpose comes from knowing where you’re going and having a map to get there.

Do you know your purpose?

Are you Determined to Learn?

If you’re not willing to learn then no one can help you. If however you are determined to learn then no one can stop you. Learning is a choice. The decision to improve your lot in life through education is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I have never met a very successful person who hasn’t at some point in their life made the decision to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year and it shouldn’t stop when you’re handed a degree. It’s never been easier to learn. If you’re a bit careful where you look there is a wealth of great learning opportunities to be found on the internet.

There isn’t anyone alive you can’t learn from. Heck, thanks to that same internet you can even learn from dead people. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

People who you wouldn’t normally hang out with can teach you something. People who look and sound different than you also know things that you don’t. If you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone a bit and take a chance you can learn from them too.

Think for a moment about your typical conversations with people. Are you doing most of the talking? Are you talking mostly about yourself? Are you asking questions about the other person and what’s new with them?

Most people don’t ask enough questions. I suppose that’s because they don’t want to look or sound dumb. Successful people know that a person who asks what may seem to be an ill informed question might sound dumb for a moment. But the person who is too embarrassed to even ask remains ill informed for a long long time.

You’ll never learn a thing by talking to someone. What you can learn from them is limitless if only you’ll listen to them. So ask three people who know you well what you can do to be a better listener. Then DO what they tell you. You don’t have to agree with them, you do however have to follow their advice. At least if you want to be a better listener.

When a person decides that they will never stop learning their potential grows right along with their knowledge bank. But learning begins with the decision to try. If you think you already know enough then you’re really no better off than the person who thinks they know it all.

And this much we all know….no one likes a know it all.

How We Give

How we give is even more important than what we give. We, myself included, too often forget the actual definition of the word give. That definition says that to give means to “freely transfer the possession of something to someone.”

The key word there is “freely.” To me that means to expect nothing in return. Absolutely nothing.

That’s a lot harder to do than it sounds. You may think differently. You may think that you always give without expecting anything in return. But then you don’t send a holiday card to someone next year because they didn’t send you one this year.

Maybe you make a mental note of the value of the graduation gift your son or daughter received from one of your close friends. That determines the approximate value of the gift you’ll give to the kids of that friend.

In cases like that you’re not “freely” giving. You’re making a trade. Your “giving nature” is impacted by what you receive in return.

But maybe you don’t expect anything in return. Except for a bit of recognition or attention for your generous nature. If you expect to be recognized as a giver then you’re expecting something in return.

If you’re expecting something in return it’s not truly giving. Whatever you’ve given it’s certainly not “freely transferred.”

Here’s a little test for you. Do something extra for someone today. Do not let them or anyone else know you did it for them. If you’re like most people, including me, you’ll find the first half of that test far easier to accomplish than the second part. That’s because we have egos and those egos need to be fed. They are hungry little critters.

Give and then forget about it. Give and expect a healthy dose of INGRATITUDE in return. When no one acknowledges your giving then give some more.

If you’re giving solely for the purpose of giving you’ll have no problem with that. If you’re giving with the hope or intent of getting something, anything, in return then you’ll stop giving before long.

I love to think of myself as a giving person but I hate to think of myself as being taken advantage of. It seems to me as if those two thoughts are in conflict with each other.

That conflict prevents me from giving all that I could.

I’ve always heard that people who can forgive and forget have a happy life. I suspect that people who give and forget have an even happier life. So I’m going to try that. I’m guessing it won’t be easy but most things worth doing are not easy to do.

Care to join me?