How to Grow Yourself

Generally speaking I like people. My challenge is that I like some people more than others. 

The people I like most are the ones who are most like me. They think like me, they have the same interests and hobbies as me and they even sort of look like and talk like me. 

But I also have this almost insatiable need to learn and to grow, to be challenged and to push myself. As much as I love being around people who are just like me I don’t learn that much from them. They seldom challenge my thinking and they rarely cause me to change my opinion. 

So I force myself to talk with people who I disagree with. I read the darnedest stuff written by people who are clearly off the wall with their thinking. I listen to people who are obviously wrong.

Except sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the people who I disagree with are right. Once in a while that off the wall “junk” is invaluable in helping me see another point of view, and sometimes it’s me who is wrong. (Just to be clear, that doesn’t happen often but sometimes…)

I’d never know any of that if I just hung around people who were just like me. 

My friends and family, who I truly cherish, provide me with a stable, supportive, and caring environment which I and every other human on the planet absolutely needs. But our “group think” does little to help any of us grow.

It’s the people who wouldn’t be my first choice to spend lots of time with, the people who come from different and varying backgrounds, even the people who I outright dislike that frequently help me grow the most. 

IF I’m willing to listen and IF I’m willing to change. 

Those two “if’s” are often the biggest challenge most of us face on the journey to reach our full potential. If you’re willing to listen, to consider that you could be wrong, to believe it’s possible that someone has a better way of doing something, then you have a chance to truly grow. 

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this.

 

I’m Coming for You

(This is first ever guest post on the LeadToday blog. The writer is incredibly well-known and has been around literally forever. This writer has touched the lives of every single human being who has ever lived. They have truly seen it all. Everything this writer does makes a difference, whether or not the difference is a positive one or not is often determined by you. I am really honored they they have agreed to write for my blog; I think it’s about time they were allowed the opportunity to speak their mind.)

You have two choices where I’m concerned; you can invite me in or I’ll simply bust down your door and let myself in but one way or another I’m coming into your life. Many people have tried to stop me but I’ve never been stopped, I cannot be stopped, I will never be stopped.

Before I go any further I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Change. While we may have never been formally introduced I’ve been present your entire life. I’ve been your best friend and your worst enemy but in either case it was you who decided which one would I be.

Every good thing that’s ever happened to you happened because of me. I suppose I’ve had a hand in some bad parts of your life too but you let me do it.

The truth is I’m not good or bad, I just am. It’s what YOU do with me that will determine the positive or negative impact I have on your life.

I always try to do what I’m told. But if I’m not given direction I just do my own thing, once in a while it works out but I must admit that’s not very often. Given the fact that I follow direction so well I’m always surprised when you don’t give me any. If I were you I’d be the boss of me, that much is absolutely certain.

I take great offense when you tell people that you hate me. Why would you possibly hate me? Every improvement you’ve ever made was made with my help. Every new thing you’ve ever tried you tried because of me. You should love me. 

You most certainly shouldn’t blame me when you don’t make a plan for how to use me to your benefit. Yes, I said use me for your benefit. I’m perfectly willing to let that happen, I even want that to happen.

I can’t promise you a better life, I can just promise you the opportunity to have one. It all depends on what you do with me when I’m hanging around. 

I knew a guy a while back, his name was Winston. He said I was always good so long as I was heading in the right direction. I guess I’d agree with that but I wish he would have added that it’s you, not me who determines my direction in your life.

When I say “I’m coming FOR you I mean just that. Let me work FOR you, if you don’t, you just might find me working against you.

 

Change is Not Optional

Most people (how’s that for a wide generalization) don’t like change. Actually, they are okay with change so long as the change doesn’t affect them personally. The worst change of course is the kind that impacts some long held belief or tradition. 

But today, in a world where “traditions” are increasingly tossed aside, where organizations are told that they must innovate or face extinction, change is not optional. The very next innovation could be the one that extends the life of your organization or sends it to the ash heap of the formerly successful innovators. 

But here’s the problem; organizations can’t innovate, only people can.

I was once asked how to teach people to be innovative. My answer was almost instinctive, I said you don’t teach people to innovate, you hire innovative people. Upon further reflection I’d answer that you hire people who care about making a difference and people who want to “leave something behind” for their organization. You then place them in an innovative environment.

Innovation is a people driven process and what makes it so challenging is that people are emotional. They constantly, if even subconsciously, balance risk with reward. 

Even though the desire to innovate may be high the need for safety and security is higher. It’s the fear of losing that security that prevents innovative people from innovating.

That’s why organizations that want to be around in 25 years require especially strong leadership. Not just strong leadership “at the top,” but strong leadership at every level of the organization. 

Those strong leaders must provide an environment where failure is not just tolerated but celebrated as a step forward and and a learning opportunity. Those leaders must provide an environment where well considered risk is not just allowed but encouraged, maybe even demanded.

Much of the technology used in business today was unimaginable by most people just 10 or 15 years ago. The speed at which technology is changing and improving is increasing literally every day. It is truly unimaginable what that technology will look like in a mere 5 years. 

This much we do know: if you’re a leader and you’re not providing your people an environment where taking thoughtful risk is encouraged and occasional failure is risk free then your people will fight the change needed to succeed tomorrow.

If you’re a leader who wants continued success then take charge of change before change takes charge of you.

 

Is all Change Good?

I’m a big fan of change. I’m particularly fond of change that doesn’t have any impact on me. I know so many things and people that need to change I couldn’t possibly list them all. But as for me and my little world, well, we’re just fine the way we are.

I really do think that way sometimes and virtually every time I do I slow my progress towards ultimate success. To me ultimate success is all about being better today than you were yesterday. No matter how good you are at something if you don’t continually try to get better eventually you’ll get worse. 

Winston Churchill is quoted often on the subject of change and he said about it, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  He knew that improvement was impossible without change. I see people all the time who profess to want something “different” or “better” yet refuse to accept any change in their life. 

There really isn’t any way to get better or different without something or someone changing. 

Many of the people reading this committed to some type of change at the beginning of 2016. You likely called it a “resolution.” We’re around 40% of the way through 2016 and it’s not a bad time to stop for a moment to take stock of how your change is going.

So, how you doing? 

What have you started doing and perhaps even more importantly, what have you stopped doing.  If you’re a busy person it’s very likely that you think you’re too busy to start a new habit. You’re really not, after all, there is not a person alive who has more time than you. Rather than a shortage of time what you most likely have is a shortage of prioritization skills or maybe just a shortage of priorities.

You might not like hearing that but it is what it is. 

Change, at least change in the right direction, just as often means stopping something as it does starting something. Often the hardest part about starting something new is stopping something old so that you’ll have time for the new. It is simply a question of priorities… and prioritization. 

As you move into the second half of 2016 set your sights on what truly matters to you. Those priorities can still guide you to a successful year and even more successful years in the future.

All change can be good but it’s up to you to make it so.

 

Can you Adapt?

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein 

Can you adapt? That’s a pretty big question! Successful people and companies have proven that they can adapt, in fact, it’s a key to their success. They are willing to accept change and not only are they willing to accept it, they embrace it and use it to improve themselves and their organizations. 

History is riddled with the failures of organizations and people who had the ability and skills required to succeed but who lacked the willingness to adapt. 

Nothing hinders succeeds like the love of traditions. Traditions are great…. right up until the time they hold us back from trying something new. The unwillingness to try new things is a close cousin of unwillingness to try at all. I understand why most people struggle with change. All change, whether it’s chosen or forced, comes with some sense of loss. We may not even realize we are feeling that loss but it’s there and it affects us.

The only thing constant about change is that it never stops. Some change is so small we barely notice it, some is so big that it’s truly life altering. Big change can stop us in our tracks, it kills momentum and can have severe consequences….if…. you cannot adapt.

Since change is constant and often shows up uninvited successful people prepare for it by always, or nearly always, having a “plan B” ready to go. They may be forced to move in a direction they would be prefer not to (like being let go from their job) but that doesn’t mean they have to move without a plan. 

The most successful people frequently run “what if” scenarios in their mind. They plan for the worst case and then work to improve on the worst case. They may look calm but that’s only because they saw “it” coming before anyone else.  

Most everyone claims to want to improve, they forget the fact that nothing improves until something changes. If you can accept change and adapt then you can improve! 

The fact is, you can. The question is, will you? 

 

The Value of Planning

I talk with people nearly every week who tell me that they can’t plan because “things” change. The thing is, that’s exactly why you need a plan. The greatest value of the planning process may not be the actual plan, it may just be the fact that you stopped long enough to do some planning. 

Plans may not always work but planning always does.

In order to plan we need to think and thinking is always good. We need to think about where we are, where we want to be, and how we can get from here to there. A good planning process will include decision making on how much we are willing to invest to get there. Good planners remember to think of investment in terms of BOTH financial and time investments. 

Good plans of course include timelines for goal achievement to help build a little accountability into the plan and any plan worth the time it took to put it together includes periodic follow-up built into the plan to ensure it’s still on track.

That follow-up is where most planners miss the mark. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke is credited with first saying that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In business it’s fair to say that no plan survives contact with reality. In sales it’s safe to say that there has never been a marketing plan that fully survived first contact with a customer. 

Yet many “planners” assume once the plan is complete that the planning is done. The most successful people, from any walk of life, will tell you that planning is never “done.”

All good plans begin with a clear view of the “as is” or current situation and many of those plans fail because they are never adjusted, even though the “as is” will often change.

That’s the biggest reason why what got you where you are will likely NOT get you to where you want to be. Things change, circumstances change, technology changes, customers change, everything changes… and so must your plans.

It’s a great idea to stop on your journey to success once and a while to see where you’re actually at. Look around, see what’s different from the day your initial plan was developed. Determine if where you are at is still aligned with where you want to be. 

If the plan is still aligned with your goals and objectives then perhaps a few tweaks to your plan will suffice. If the alignment is way off perhaps a blank piece of paper is the best place to begin again. 

Most importantly, when reviewing your plan is this: Don’t attempt this alone! If it’s “your” plan, if you developed it, it’s very likely that you’re to close to really see it for what it is. Get help, if you’re a leader then task your people with a review of the plan. If you’re an entrepreneur and just starting out then ask your mentor or someone you trust to periodically review your plan. 

However you choose to review your plan the key is to actually review it, at least a couple of times a year. Things change, if your plan isn’t changing with them then what got you where you are most certainly will NOT get you to where you want to go next.

The Challenge of Change

There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction” Winston Churchill

The above quote from the great Winston Churchill is truth in it’s purest form. The question for leaders in every type of organization is this: How do you know if you’re changing in the right direction. That’s a big question but even that is not the challenge of change, the real challenge of change is this: people resist change even if it is in the right direction. 

There are two types of people in the world: those who say they love change and honest people.

I exaggerate a bit with that comment but only a bit. Most people are challenged by change for one simple reason: all change comes with some sort of loss. Every time something changes in your life you lose something, even if you initiate the change. You accept a new job and you “lose” many of the relationships that existed with the old one. You buy a new house and you miss some of your old neighbors. You may not even be aware of the “loss” but it affects you anyway.

I’m actually okay with change so long as it doesn’t effect me personally. I know of many things and many more people who need to change. Thankfully, I’m not one of them. I know there are people who think I do need to change but it’s actually their thinking that needs to change, not me. 😏

I suspect most people are like me, I have no real interest in changing or dealing with change and if the world would just sit still for a minute I’d be just fine with that.

But the world won’t sit still.

That’s why it’s so important that like change or not, we learn how to manage it and even use it to our benefit. 

One key to successfully managing change is to acknowledge the loss. We need to realize that it’s okay to feel a little distress with the loss, it’s normal and it doesn’t make you any less effective as a person or a leader.

Once you acknowledge the loss you can replace it. There is something in the “change” which will replace the loss, something new, something that might take getting used to, but the void of the loss will be filled.

Once the loss is acknowledged and replaced it becomes much easier to move forward. Change experts (which I am certainly not) would even say to celebrate the passing of old into new as a way of getting closure out the loss and embracing the new.

Here’s a fact that all successful people know: you don’t have to like change to make it work for you. You do need to understand it, you do need to accept it, you do need to realize that it’s going to happen whether you want it to or not.

The real question is whether it will happen to you or for you. That’s a choice and it’s a choice only you can make.