Being Remarkable · Inspiration · Leadership

Nobody should care how much golf we play

Or how many cakes we bake, how much TV we watch, how often we go to the gym or whatever happens to floats our boats or simply pass the time, so long as…

…we honor our most important commitments…

…our words match out actions…

…we take responsibility for our stuff and stay on our side of the street…

…we act instead of complain…

…we are in the arena, instead of watching and judging from the stands.

It turns out individuals, organizations and brands get cut a fair amount of slack and earn many degrees of freedom when they do the work, eschew hypocrisy and can be trusted to show up when it counts the most.

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Being Remarkable · Innovation · Leadership

Yeah, but what if we don’t?

All too often we can find ourselves ruled by fear, both subtle and profound. Faced with going out on a limb, being vulnerable, trying something entirely new, it’s easy for The Resistance to take over, for the lizard brain to kick in, for us to tell ourselves the time isn’t right or that we aren’t quite ready.

For many us, it’s not the least bit difficult to imagine the embarrassment, pain or all manner of calamities that might result from exposing our ideas to the world, starting our own new business, choosing to be the one to stand up to injustice, aggressively pushing our organizations to innovate or embarking on just about any endeavor that is fraught with risk.

I’m reminded of what Mark Twain supposedly said: “there has been much tragedy in my life, some of which actually happened.”

It turns out we humans seem to be rather good at naming and feeling the risk of doing something, but maybe not so good at seeing the reward. We ask ourselves the “what if we do?” question and then frequently talk ourselves into stopping, waiting or hoping someone else will act instead.

Yet when it comes to pondering the work that matters perhaps a better question would be “what if we don’t?”

If we don’t innovate, our organization or business might not only stagnate, it might cease to exist entirely.

If we don’t speak up against hate, we enable injustice to spread unchallenged.

If we don’t vote, we get leaders that are at best clueless; at worst dangerous.

If we don’t act to unleash our potential, our desire, our creativity we, to paraphrase Thoreau, can easily fall into the trap of living lives of quiet desperation and go to our graves with the song still in us.

Too often we think the risk is in acting, when it is precisely the opposite.

Too often we believe we have more time, when in fact it’s much later than we think.

Too often we find ourselves asking the wrong question entirely.

 

 

Leadership

We’re never ready

Oh sure, maybe we’re ready for the easy stuff. Ready to leave for work, make dinner, hop in an Uber, do the laundry, pay the credit card bill.

But the work that matters, that enlivens the spirit, that changes us, our tribes and the world around us? That’s another thing entirely.

Naming our fear is helpful, because it is our fear that keeps us stuck.

Letting go of any notion of perfection–the right time, the right skills, the right conditions–is useful as well.

Being willing to get started–to accept that the only way we can ever really know that we are on the right path is to start walking; slowly at first, but faster and faster as we gain confidence–is essential.

Because here’s the thing…

The conditions will never be perfect.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future. And neither do you.

Chances are you already have everything you need to take that first step.

And sure it might not work.

Like it or not it’s later than we think.

The fact is we’re never really ready for what really matters.

But we can still start.

What better time than now?

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Inspiration · Leadership

Put your ass where your heart wants to be

I don’t know about you, but I have done some amazing things in my life.

Now to be fair, most of these brilliant accomplishments and experiences have never actually left the confines of my mind. Quite a few were grand solutions posited in random conversations (some might even call them “rants”). Others were insightful and meaningful criticisms lofted from the safety of a Facebook comment or tweet. Some were glorious adventures acted out solely through internet research. Still others were “made real” through this blog back when, it would seem, my irony detector was set on “simmer”.

It also turns out that I’m surprisingly good at making (and mulling over) lists. You know, options I’m exploring. Ideas I’m studying. Things I’ll get around to some day. The myriad changes I want to see in the world. Most never make it off the page or out of my head.

It might be genetic.

One of my most vivid memories comes from November of 2003 when I remember sitting in a chair next to my father’s hospital bed. His speech was more than a little bit muddled from the morphine drip in his arm, but he carefully and slowly shared a robust list of things he had always meant to do and places he had hoped to visit. It was an inspiring, thoughtful and heartfelt list. Alas, he never made it out of that bed again. He died later that week.

Too often, it would seem, the disconnect between where our hearts point us and what our actions actually turn out to be can be vast.

We tell ourselves there will be a better time.

We think we can win the game from the safety of the stands.

We say we are afraid of dying but then it occurs to us that perhaps we’ve never truly lived.

We say we’ll begin where we’re ready, whatever the hell that means.

In addition to being a great screenwriter and author of both fiction and non-fiction, Steven Pressfield is a leading voice on the creative process. In his brilliant The War of Artand his follow-up Do the WorkSteve takes on the struggles we all face in fighting through our fear and in battling the dragon that keeps us stuck between our desires, our destiny and living out our heartfelt selves.  He’s written a lot of great stuff, but I really like this:

If you wanna get strong, go to the gym.

If you wanna get fast, go to the track…

…the point is: where the body goes, the spirit follows.

Therefore, move thy butt.

Put your ass where your heart wants to be.

If you want to paint, don’t agonize, don’t iconize, don’t self-hypnotize.

Shut up and get into the studio.

Once your physical envelope is standing before the easel, your heart and mind will follow.

Innovation

Books about heaven

Perhaps you’ve seen the legendary New Yorker magazine cartoon that depicts a man standing before two doors, seemingly perplexed. One door is labeled “Heaven” and the other is labeled “Books About Heaven.”

Pick just about any topic you say you are passionate about. Happiness. Innovation. Marriage equality. Immigration reform. Customer experience.  Climate change. Being a better parent. Eating healthy. Whatever.

If you are anything like me, sometimes it’s easier to be preparing to go do something meaningful than to actually wholeheartedly embrace the thing we say we want. If I just research a bit more, I tell myself, I will really be prepared when the time is right.

But there is no perfect time.

We have to start before we are ready.

We have to do the work, rather than just read about the work.

Our own version of heaven is here right now, if we are willing to see it and embrace. And if we are willing to start.

 

HT to Steven Pressfield for the inspiration for this post. If you need help getting started I implore you to read his manifesto  “Do the Work” and his book “The War of Art”.