6 Questions. 6 Thoughts.

Six questions I’ve been asked this week.

What would you say to inspire a team of collegiate athletes during COVID?

How would you help a poor performing high-level executive in position?

How do you get back a leader’s confidence when they made a consequential misstep?

How do you execute when you don’t have the support of the those who lead your vision?

What is the right most important attribute to look for in a future spouse?

How do I stop letting anyone control my time or change my vision when I disagree?

Six thoughts it inspired in me. 

  1.  Listening is under rated. 

Being around a team, looking and listening to what matters to them, how they think, how they work together all are just the beginning of observations and listening that must take place before we ever simply apply other principles or rules of teams and winning.  A formula or a program are beneficial but they need to be supplemented with the right specific awareness that comes from really getting to know the situation so well you can specifically inspire, coach and drive improvement.  Equally as powerful is the belief that comes from others knowing they have been truly understood.   

2. Slowing down on key decisions is critical.

We often joke about the old adage about which wire to cut in dismantling a bomb.  Is it the blue or is it the red wire, which one will we cut?  When it comes to consequential decisions we are good at identifying the potentially deadly ones when they are instantaneous but do we identify the high return on investment or high consequential decisions and date.  I can recall decisions in the recent past where the cost of the decision debated was worth far less than the salary of the decision makers meanwhile critical decisions in the millions were not brought forth. Be in the habit of challenging yourself and others about the ROI of the issue at hand, let the low go, get to the meat of the matter and be sure you have the data and team to get it right.

3. Staying close to our key people creates proactive development. 

The calendar controls more of how we use our time at work than our key priorities do, until we stop and reset them.  Our most precious cargo is always our top people and the strategies and business they lead.  Leading them, staying close to them and creating the safest and most developmental environment is key.  When we do this we are more likely to see tendencies and behaviors that create proactive coaching moments.  It is in these moments we make people better in advance instead of recovering career missteps or business mishaps. So much is avoidable.   

4. Inspiring others requires key information and data. 

Visions generally do not magically appear when it comes to business.  It is a series of data over time that leads us to places, a series of visual inspiration that reveals something to us and what we discover in the lab, the competition and ideas we hear from our teams along the way.  Yet when we are so moved to create that vision and to work to bring that vision along we fail to gather that data, the story, the visuals that conjure up the same inspiration that we have had the luxury of adding up along our journey.  We must bring the energy to the potential light so we inspire that path.

5. Thinking Longer Term reduces emotional decisions. 

Growing up in North Dakota and getting my driver’s license at 14 I quickly found the treturooius potholes and the power of the high beam head lights.  The potholes became an instant distraction in driving that left me looking way to close beyond the hood of the car and made for emotional over driving.  And when I discovered the high beam lights I was once again set free to look further into the distance and avoid some of the easiest pitfalls in driving.  I’m often reminded in leadership just how easy it is to let the short-term crisis or set back slow down the progress, impact the culture and confuse the confidence in the longer business game.  Keep your eyes further out, manage the wheel tightly from what you see but allow the map and the agenda to guide you more than your emotions.

6. Boundaries teach us personal accountability. 

I dedicated nearly a half year of my personal development outside of work to boundaries and how learning to set those would help me avoid others controlling my life, my time or my focuses.  Instead of just learning boundaries this also taught me how when we set boundaries it allows us to see on the outside of the boundaries where we will not go, what we will not tolerate and what we cannot allow.  More importantly it taught me what is inside the boundaries is ours and ours alone to own, to fulfill and to define.  I never anticipated boundaries to begin a new level of personal performance and accountability.  If it is my time, it is mine to define, mine to use and my life to be responsible for I must deliver. 

Development is an amazing journey to share.  

The Altitude of Conflict

Alfred-Cooke-shooting-down-the-Sabre-of-Afzal-KhanThis month I celebrate a birthday milestone, 50.  That milestone has me further aware of situations, behaviors and relationships that I should have the wisdom, the strategy and execution ability to full master or simply avoid trouble but yet at times I don’t.

COVID has given us an amazing opportunity to test our conflict resolution ability.   Whether it is conflict in vision, strategy or even expectation and how that plays out to those that I live with, work with and that matter in getting the most important things accomplished it does not matter, the same tendencies can often emerge.  And when they do I’m defeated twice.

I’m defeated first because the relationship is impacted by the questioning of trust and secondly, I’m defeated internally when I feel shame or self-doubt on what I could have done better with or what I should have learned from the endless lessons of the past I have endured.

The analogy that I’ve been envisioning often with relationships when conflict arises is an old-fashioned dog fight between two airplane pilots.  That vision is so clear to me to see and envision how it looks when both are in full engagement.   The pending end result of the dog fight and the likely damage along the journey.

When I step back and think about the dog fight, the deadly threat it poses, the horrible impact on the aircraft and the costly financial and emotional risk it begins to stop me.  It places me as a spectator of the battle I was feeling, no longer an overly emotional pilot of the fight. In that change of positioning I’m able to ask myself some more critical questions.

  • Does this event, situation even warrant the emotion or effort I’ve given it?
  • Have I even taken inventory of the other pilot and aircraft? Is it even an enemy?
  • What is it that we are even fighting for, is it a small win or is it the critical decision?
  • What strategy, equipment, information do I have to help persuade the outcome?
  • If I assume the outcome is positive in this situation, what is the cost to the team?

The list could go on and on, but I think the visual and situation paints it very clearly in your own eyes.   I do know this, a dog fights it just that, the lowest level approach to a solution, the most costly of scenarios and without a doubt tragedy likely will occur.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite phrases “No one ever said, I wish I was more emotional in that decision”.

Let’s rise up, gain some altitude, evaluate the need if it exists for the conflict and take the wisest approach to the right outcome for the right situation.

“Why are you so quiet?”

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“Why are you so quiet?”

This weekend started with the question asked of me during a routine morning hike “What is on your mind, you are quiet?”.  I was quiet because I knew I was embarrassed by my frustration I felt from the previous week. Not embarrassed by anything I could blame others for, but embarrassed knowing that my own frustration was a sign of my mindset being stuck in the mud of self-conflict.

I responded to the question in a way that I did not have to reveal my frustrations or talk about what I needed to work through in an open manner.  I quickly responded, “I’m making notes about conflicts with life that derail leaders”, which is true however it was really a list of times I had inner conflict that derailed my mindset, my relationships and my engagement in life and work.

I’ve spent the last several years deepening my learnings and study focusing on three pillars that anchor mindset and health; growing my vibrancy, building my ability to separate my attitude from situations and dedicating my purpose to a kind of legendary that is more about others than about myself.  Thus, I did not want to reveal my inner struggle with just the things I’ve been studying and should have a more superior control over in my life.

When I finished my short list of “Conflicts” that I’ve encountered that derailed my engagement, and my enjoyment of life I decided to share the list with a few family members and friends that’s when the inner conversation changed and things got more interesting and more positive.

What others said when shared inspired me to take the time to share more openly, to some of you this will seem obvious and ordinary, to some of you this may seem not enough given the depth of what concerns you, but to a few I hope this inspires you over the next 36 hours just it is has inspired me.

Given many of us have more significant visible and invisible challenges, some have severe hardships and so many of us we simply become our own worst obstacle.  I’m hopeful no matter which one any of us are, that we find something of value in what is shared and read lovingly with a forgiving eye.

 

The list.

A dozen things that can leave us stuck in our own inner conflict.

  • A sense of loss from over compromising our own vision for the future
  • A frustration from others that we are not living the life they expect of us
  • A replay of hurtful words said to us by our loved ones, our boss, our family
  • A loss or decay of the desire others have for us, our ideas, words, our physical touch
  • A sense of being unheard, just when we need to be heard the most
  • A sense our past owns us, defines us, limits us and controls us
  • A lack of hope or a lack of trusted faith we can rely upon when fearful
  • A sense we are unforgiven by those we want approval from most
  • A sense that we don’t have the strength to resolve conflict without loss
  • An overly sensitive heart, soul or mind to those who are reckless with us or words
  • The inability to untie connections with those that bring fear, harm or doubt
  • The lack of physical, financial or intellectual resources to keep up

As I look over the list I think back and remember a time that each one of those bells of irritation derailed me and left me feeling less than strong.

Yet as I shared it, I found that each person I shared it with had one or two lines from that list that resonated with them now.  That they were looking for more answers to bring them back to a state of full strength and power.

And many of the other items on the list they had ideas, they had solved, they had walked those muddy miles and found themselves for now on the other side of the situation wiser and stronger.  It was a reminder of the controls, the choices and power we have when we step courageously forward and make even the smallest changes.

People amaze me with what they say when they focus, when they get vulnerable and when they feel safe.

 

The solution list.

Five powerful things I heard from others that they leveraged to regain inner strength and power.

  1. De-authorize those that you allow to speak into your heart, your mind or your soul who do so with a disregard for tenderness, honesty and solutions. You have the ability to filter, to make a choice who you enable, who you spend time with and who you allow to guide and mentor you.  Pick the right people, your tribe, keep it bright, keep it diverse, keep it clean and healthy.  And watch what you say to others in just the same way. If we take the same pride in releasing the butterfly as we did catching it safely, we are likely going to bring no harm to the most important of relationships we are in.
  2. Think longer term. Cars have dim and high beams, when we have the high beams on we can see safely into the distance and we relax and let go of the intensity of the immediate moments ahead of us.  Yes, manage the details, but play with a longer game in mind.  That will bring stability, endurance and a sense of calm.
  3. Understand that millions of solutions and opinions both exist. Do not set too firmly on the answer you have designed nor the opinion of others.  A friend of mine often is heard saying “That’s another solution, thank you for sharing it”.  He is a constant reminder of being a good listener, gaining more perspective and letting go of opinions but holding onto the strong ideas and solutions.
  4. Untie your happiness and your value from your current situation. You can he strong, happy and vibrant as a practice and a mindset.  You can have a great attitude despite any situation.  Erik Wiehenmayer, Americas foremost blind adventurer has been the most astounding human I’ve had the pleasure to meet and hike alongside.  He has forever changed what I believe to be impossible, insurmountable or even a barrier.  He leads an organization called NO BARRIERS.  In his movie, The Weight of Water you likely will be moved by his determination, his solutions and his mindset as much as his raw talent.  His journey was made possible by the voice of his best friend behind him in a separate kayak.  His actions will explain it better than I can ever do.  We can separate our mind, our attitude and our soul from the situation and we can rise.
  5. “It’s impossible to be overly self-destructive when we are in complete service of others” is a quote I’ve got written from leader I’ve met in my past. It’s a powerful phrase that reminds me to be thankful, full of gratitude and that the truly legendary unforgettable people in our lives and society have given the best of themselves to others no matter what.  They redefine what it means to be legendary one good action at a time.

Parker Palmer reminded me through his studies that life is a constant and permanent series of moving forward.  Doing so while never letting the fear of what could go wrong weigh us down too much nor the high spirit of getting so enamored by optimism that we get lost in the future and miss the opportunity to make today great and meaningful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership Notes: COVID Lessons “Light”

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Fear can isolate or freeze people and action or it can be a powerful motivator.  As my kids grew up I watched and learned the times they would covert anxiety or fear into solutions and actions.  I also saw the times they had the hardest ability to do so.  It fascinated me to not only see the choices in themselves and the choices in me.

 

As the VP of Care Delivery in one of the largest Non-Profit health care systems in the United States and in at the time the state with the highest COVID Cases on the rise I have learned to operate in this new environment and help others emerge.
One might think this is a simple way to look at describe courage and what it means to be courageous but I think of that as more of a one-time opportunity within an event, situation or relationship.

 

Whereas COVID is more of a time and soon era that requires adaptation, innovation, agility, perseverance and so much more.  Yet it reminds me of a person’s ability to convert anxiety into possibility and future, to stabilize with faith, to capitalize on opportunity and innovate at an all new speed, for some the speed of survival.

 

As an executive leader in healthcare operations, a brother, a father, a grandfather and more I’m able to witness, participate in, influence, lead and yet feel for myself so much of this virus and situation is has caused people, families, communities, healthcare workers, the economy and inevitably the health of so many.

 

What strikes me however is just how much ability we have to impact our families, our businesses, our loved ones and our communities when we decide to convert our anxiety into action.  When we dismantle our fear, and build our faith.  When we pick a path about the situation and lead others into a better future.

 

And we do this not with the spirit of fear but with the spirit of vibrancy, of the attitude that we can rise and in a way, that redefines what legendary leaders do.  Legendary leaders work in a way to make the situation, the future, the business and the family emerge and evolve stronger.

 

Just over a week ago I was at my annual exam as I am about to turn 50, while at the exam my phone started sending me all the signals a dad does not want to hear.  First it was my son newly back from Indonesia with severe pains in his abdomen, then it was my daughter a new mom during COVID in her first years of marriage letting me know my grandson is headed to the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis and that Aleksandr (4.5 mos. old) was septic.   Almost all of the exam from that point was a blur as I then headed into work to face more COVID with my new worries of the day inside me.

 

Needless to say, a week later, appendix removed on Samuel and Kidney issue under control on Aleksandr all were in a better spot.

 

When I was able to catch my breath, and listen to my own inside voice I took note of one question I asked myself.

 

Would you rather have an easy day in life but have no guarantee of the outcome of those you loved – or – would you rather have a rough day but know the efforts you put forth matter and the outcome of the day would be positive.

 

That became a mindset for me after that, I reminded myself each day after – work for the outcome not for the ease of a day.

 

This weekend I paused to make a list for myself of a few things that other leaders have done, have taught or have inspired over the last 4 months during COVID.

 

Those of you who don’t know me might not understand that I have foundational beliefs in life and leadership that center on 3 core pillars.  Those pillars while constantly in progress and adaptation are also firmly my roots of strength.

 

First and foremost, we must always be building our body to be Vibrant for the immediate time, our people and the future.  Keeping sleep, positivity, nutrition and activity in balance.

 

Secondly, we must exercise our mindfulness, I center on the idea that ATTIUDE IS FREEDOM.  That keeping yourself above the situation, always using words of encouragement and reminding yourself about nothing being impossible we can make our way without the trap that everything in life has to be good for us to feel good.

 

Lastly, a focus on our purpose and being a legendary human.  Be that is in the redefinition of legendary that my mother taught me in her life – the truly legendary care more about others than they do themselves

 

The lessons I’m learning I will bucket a few bullet points in those buckets as I am adjusting my own strategy, leadership and lessons based on them as well.

 

When it comes to VIBRANCY:

 

  1. A lighter sense of mind when finding solutions. Fear slows us down.  Make the issues smaller and keep the intensity lighter to flow into solutions.  Heavy is slow and worrisome and kills ideas.  Faster, lighter and more open to ideas.
  2. Move resources to the highest point of operational influence as to not over burden the mass of people doing the work with changes. Implement the changes that will be effortless and not tire out the teams.
  3. Listen very clearly to the problems and situations that need the work, not the entire situation, strategy or operations. If it is the brakes, don’t change the color of the car, just fix the brakes.

 

When it comes to having the mindset of ATTITUDE IS FREEDOM:

 

  1. Don’t get hung up in negative voices or doubt. Mistakes are going to happen and the majority will be insignificant in comparison to not acting at all.  Millions of solutions exist for all problems, just because your solution did not match someone else does not mean it’s not effective or a great possibility.  Keep the speed, build the confidence in your own solutions.
  2. Protect your energy for solutions and possibilities, do not let your energy be hijacked by what if, one off, or unmet expectations. Energy in force is in motion forward.  Energy in waste is grounded and useless.
  3. Remind yourself that a situation does not define anyone, it is the solution, the effort, the outcome that will create hope and move us all forward. And often it is in that moment you created hope and saw the light – it is in that moment you become defined.

 

When it comes to REDEFINING LEGENDARY:

 

  1. Ask, inspire, share and grow the talent around you. Fully empower them, listen to them and watch them when fully empowered generate ideas, solutions and hope.  Take note of this talent emerging and build futures for them as your company and team regain vibrancy.  Many will be tested, many can rise.  Act with those who do.
  2. Never underestimate the power of your presence, your kindness, your shared strength. Be with teams, walk with teams, thank teams, work beside teams.  It is often the missing ingredient to stretch someone’s capacity and strength just when they thought they were walking and working alone.
  3. Say thank you, say please, say you are empowered, forget the mistakes as one finds the balance between innovation and iterations before the data could be pulled. Let people rise to the speed they never thought we were capable of.  And when something goes wrong and they have a broken mind, broken heart or broken back from trying – walk beside them, ease their minds, strength hearts and erase doubt.

 

People are amazing, vibrant and strong inside and out.  Lead in a way that brings light.

 

 

Hopes.

IMG_9296Hopes.

 

This week I was able to witness how miracles and responsibilities arise together.  Sunday March 1st my daughter had a beautiful baby boy who would be named Aleksandr David.

 

I entered into a new era and realm of some of the most influential men I ever knew, I just like them became a Grandpa.  What a great miracle it is to see human life and to see our children have children and be strong, capable and fall so deeply in love with their new child.

 

These moments and new additions are adding new important and necessary worry, growth and responsibility. They are adding clarity to the purpose of the years ahead and lots of joy.  They are adding endless learning.

 

Every moment I could reflect I kept wondering what my parents thought of me when my kids were born, what did they think I did well, what did they think I needed help and education on and what did they worry about in my future with my children.

 

My brother visited and took me to lunch before heading to see Kennedy and her new family.  We had just enough time to eat quick meal right by where I was staying. We walked into Waltman’s and sat in the front fire place room of a home built in the 1800’s as a brewery and today once again is a brewery.

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He sat down with this genuine smile and asked, “What are all the thoughts on your mind from how life just changed?”.  I didn’t even know what to say, but I laughed and we exchanged some light-hearted stories and I showed him proud photos of my new grandson.  I was just happy to see him.  We are quickly losing our father to dementia and we lost our mother to sepsis last year – so these moments of wisdom, family and trust really matter.

 

But in all honesty my mind was so flooded with thoughts I could not gather my words or my mind the way I wanted, yet I wanted to gather my thoughts while they remain so full of passion.  I realize that I what I had were hopes and fears.

 

I hope they always look into the eyes of Aleksandr with the same love as in day 1.

 

No matter what relationships exist a certain sparkle can be seen so bright in the early days.  As times grow, challenges arise and difficult moments come into our life that sparkle gets real challenges.  Whether it’s marriage, work, friendships, children, siblings, you name it – relationships take investing, they take appreciation, they take the good and the bad.  But when we think of all we do for our relationships as investments we take pride in them and work to see those investments grow.

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We smile, see the beauty and approach our loved ones with soft eyes, a warm smile and the willingness to eagerly invest.  Invest the same way we fell in love day 1 when we first laid eyes on our children, our loved ones and our family.  Remember day 1, bring that joy every day.

 

I hope as they realize Aleksandr has imperfections, they see them as character.

 

 

I’ll never forget the day my first child Samuel was at the park with his baby sitter and was running in sandals ( I bought on sale and one or two sizes too big) and he tripped.  When he tripped he knocked his brand new front teeth out and went from age 2 to age 6 with no front teeth.  I remember thinking whoa look at my little pumpkin head missing those two teeth.

 

He became the coolest kid I knew with no front teeth, it was never imperfection, it was character all along. He’s amazingly full of character today and completely brings joy to all.

 

I hope as they make sacrifices with money, they see them as investments in Aleksandr.

 

One of my favorite times with Kennedy as she grew up came after I adopted the phrase “I get to”.  I get to take Kennedy to the Doctor, and yes, I had to.  I get to take Kennedy to Target to pick up some clothes, some needed body products, some groceries, and yes, I had to.

 

My father always had the attitude of what he gets to do, always smiled while doing chores, did chores all day long.  He made us feel like he always had time, always had money and always it seemed like no problem at all.

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What I learned over time was that he was giving his all to us, all his money, all his time, all his energy – all the time.  He kept his life simple, his needs simple and cared for his material things in a way they would last longer so he could use his resources on others.  He never complained, ever.  He is my role model for parenting – his not perfect but boy he sure gets credit for being perfect because it was never a sacrifice for us as his kids or his grandkids.  It was a way of life.

 

I hope that when priorities change, they realize priorities have clarified. 

 

It’s probably a hard road ahead when you are in your twenties to delay a few things you want, to choose working more, to eat at home when chipotle sounds better.   As those days and moments make you feel like you’re no longer the priority, I hope you realize something bigger is, it’s your son and your family.  You did not get lost in the priorities you got clarity and an improved set of cares, concerns and priorities.

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The clearest priorities ever have been in my life is when the kids are growing up and in the house.  Enjoy them, don’t fight the growth.

 

I hope that when they are tired, they act as a team and let each other find sleep.

 

I changed the diapers last time, you got to eat out this week, you got to watch your favorite show, I fed Aleksandr last time …… the list goes on and on.  Sometimes in the simplest ways and sometimes in the toughest ways selfishness will try to show up.  Don’t let it.    As my daughter and her husband embark on this journey I hope they are eager to be the best team possible, that they jump in and look for ways to make it easier for one another.

 

Tiffany reminds me every day that we are a team. She steps in and does what I can’t, she solves where I struggle to solve, she challenges where I’m weak.  I encourage when she isn’t feeling the faith, I surprise when she is needing surprise, I also make messes when she doesn’t want them.

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But we both circle back and do our best to support one another in what needed to be done.  We don’t look for credit in what we do for each other, but we thank anyway.  We don’t keep track, we stay on track instead.  And sometimes it doesn’t work good enough, and that is usually time to take a nap, get some rest and get some space to unwind.  Give each other that space as this challenge grows, as tiresome days come and go.  That’s my hope.

 

I hope when they sit down with Aleksandr, they pick up a book, not a phone.

 

We can all do this better, especially me.  Talk, share, read, smile and laugh first.  Cry, learn, clean and be present for the people right in front of you first.  The phone is a tool, not a priority.  I hope we all share our eyes, our words and our attention to our loved ones not to our phones.

 

Hopes.

 

I hope that when accidents happen, blame doesn’t, but solutions do.

I hope that they find strength in god and faith when they are scared or worried.

I hope they know how many people are here to help, love and guide.

 

And on and on.  And on.

 

Hopes.

 

 

Buoyancy & The Water Strider

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This photo is courtesy of Samuel Caspers and is taken at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.

 

Buoyancy & The Water Strider

I can think of a handful of amazing people over the last several years of my career that gave me great frustration or might I say greater frustration.  Maybe not the kind of frustration you might be thinking.  These coworkers didn’t seem to be limited to leaders, engineers, doctors or teachers they came in all jobs and walks of life.

The frustration they have created for me is that they seem to not stress at the same level as I do with problems they face whether at work, in relationships or at home.  They have this sense about them that the problem is more cognitive than emotional.  They seem to be studying and solving instead of dramatizing and stressing.

Oddly I get the sense they are “Above” the problem.  They seemed focused on a solution but doing so with a clearer mind.  Doing so with the same positive day to day attitude instead of a crisis like attitude or a unwelcome level of intensity.  The “Above” it all problem style they manage with is not preventing them from seeing deep, investigating the options and making great solutions.  I became just as aware as I was jealous they had this ability.

In contrast, I found myself consuming the issue, manifesting on the possible worst-case scenarios and pushing hard for solutions.  I was also generating a sort of stress induced intensity to deliver what then became high priority work.  Not only did it have the intensity, the anxiety and the resources consumed but it also distracted me from every priority besides this new distraction.

Over the last few years I have studied, compared and contrasted what some of the differences might be regardless of age, sex, job and situation – I looked more at the style of the person and the focused approach they take to how they maintain their attitude.  And if you know me I start to see some metaphors and some nature and science to understand it.

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I noticed one critical difference immediately – they seem to have a certain Buoyancy about them every day. They seem to pick this attitude that they will float on the top of it all with an optimistic almost cheerful attitude.  And when they stay on the surface they do not consume the water – and can breathe and stay focused without a panic and without losing the perspective views from above.   In the earlier cover photo from the Gardens of the Bay not only do they stay on the surface they can provide a light for others in order to guide them.  They leverage the surface tension as a tool and an advantage.

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I also noticed by staying on the surface they can almost walk on water and maneuver like the Water Strider.  It’s almost in their design that they were built to stay light, to maneuver on any surface and that they know the value of staying agile.  Whereas I might deep dive the issues for a prolonged period of time and find myself losing that perspective and vantage point, let alone the other projects I’ve needed to stay focused on.  If you are unfamiliar with the Water Strider here is a link to learn more.

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Interesting I noticed for them to stay in this state of mind, to stay on the surface, to maneuver so quickly they must almost weigh less – but a different kind of weight.  Whether you want to call it stress-lite, more care free or you want to just realize they carry less emotional weight tied to problems and situations it’s apparent.   They float better and weigh less emotionally.

I started to ask myself and wonder if they had fewer issues or learned to lessen emotional baggage, emotional weight, more care free?  I also was observing who was assigning the weight to my problems?  Was it my boss, my relationships, my teams or simply me?

That single question – “Who assigns the weight to a problem” has me often imagining a Santa Claus like gift bag over my shoulders that I carry every day.  But in that bag, that full heavy and oversized bag is a set of problems and situations that need to be solved that are uniquely mine.  Since I’ve assigned them to me, I’ve also assigned weight to them.  That bag had been getting heavier and heavier each day, week, month and year.

The good news is shortly after discovering who owned the perceived weight – since in actuality most problems and situations have zero weight I began reevaluating the weight I gave problems and issues.  I started then to empty the bag of minor issues, but I also more importantly started taking the weight out of the other problems completely.  I learned to reweigh my problems, to lighten my own arbitrary load.   It is in our attitude and in our mindset that we can take more control.  It’s less about design and more about attitude and choices.

I started losing emotional weight, I started gaining buoyancy, leveraging surface tension and gained a brighter sense of vibrancy and attitude.  When I started moving into possibility instead of situation I was reminded of this remarkable man I had met a little over a year ago who has found a way to make sure nothing will weigh him down.

Enjoy a closing clip of Erik!     https://youtu.be/FWBwqJr9510

Let’s unpack our situation bag, let’s toss what doesn’t add substantial value and let’s take the weight out of our own problems.   Less drama, more life.  Less intensity, more solutions.

 

Dear Negativity, I’ve renamed you.

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What would you do if that was labeled POISON?

 

But before we talk POISON:

 

Some say that I only see the good in people, that perhaps I over assess talent, maybe even that I’m a little much in my assumptions of what will work and how we do have the resources we need to make significant strides ahead.  Ok, I’m good with that.

 

Some say that I seem happy with the little things in life like a great cheeseburger on the weekends, amazing sunsets over the lake, holding hands with those you love and almost everything about nature amazes me.  Ok, I’m good with that.

 

This was not always me.

 

Most of this is not what came naturally to me just a few years ago.  Yes, I smiled, yes, I was full of energy, yes, I worked to get things done.  But inside I was burning years’ worth of life, I was fighting to push forward, I was over eating, over indulging and I wasn’t happy with me.

 

My daughter has always had this knack to see right through me, and would ask from an early age about once a month “Dad, are you ok?”, I would say of course I am honey and away we would go.  She knew, she saw it, she stood strong, she supported my heart and I supported her.  But she knew.

 

A critical hike and phone call.

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My son has always watched, studied and waited for the right few opportunities to have a conversation with me to learn more about what my daughter would see.  Just a few years back when I had hit what I now see as the turning point I was at the end of hike in Phoenix Arizona.  I was coming down off Piestewa Peak a modest hike in the Phoenix Mountains.  I called him as I often would after some quality contemplative time alone.

 

Our conversation reached a certain pinnacle when I mentioned how hiking in the summer left me lots of space on the hills. That space left me waiting and walking for long periods of time before I’d see another hiker.  I shared with my son that metaphorically that reminded me of what it’s like to face challenges in life alone.  Whether we isolate ourselves or we find ourselves isolated, and in those times, we are subject to listen almost exclusively to our own inner dialogue.  And if our alone is negative, our alone time can be dangerous without the right input.

 

When we solve problems, build strategies, create visions and evaluate ourselves doing so alone that lacks any advantage over those with smart teams, connected friends, great tools or even paid mentors and advisors.  I often say this out loud to myself now when I’m in isolation on a situation – “Dave, you have no new variables to offer yourself in solving this problem, get help, get unstuck”.

 

I’ll spare you further details about the conversations, the hikes and the next months ahead after that talk.  I will tell you that those moments began what has now been a 3 year journey to study, grow, share and now speak.  The focuses became about Vibrancy, Attitude – and how it gives you freedom from situations that could take away happiness and what it means to be Legendary to others.  The kind of legendary that is selfless and more deeply rewarding.

 

I’m at new level of life. I have happy healthy children, I have a son who teaches, I have a daughter to dedicates her life to care for others in need, I have a great relationship with Tiffany that is growing in all the right ways. I have a strong extended family with my parents and siblings – those still with us. I have a great son in law and am so excited to be a grandfather very soon.  I am blessed with health that offers me the strength I need to do whatever I would like in life.  Blessed with a great job, great boss, great friends.  And so much more.

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I do owe my mother great credit for ensuring I would live a life that would bring good for others – and that is what I do with some of my time on Saturdays.  And with each passing Saturday and each Saturday ahead my goal is to fill those days full of those most interested in taking further steps towards their own growth.  Time well spent listening, encouraging and sharing ideas for growth.  And I’m meeting so many brilliant, talented, hard working people.

 

Teaching comes with its own set of lessons for me.

 

It’s one thing to take your own journey to a healthier mindset and it’s another one to help others rise to the level they want.  Some days you see a bright smile walking towards you and know they had a great week, and sometimes you don’t.  Both make you want to engage, study, teach and support even more.

 

While I began mentoring years ago at Target, that was internal and often assigned.  It was an amazing place to learn development and the connection to results.  However, in this space of mostly volunteer mentoring I anticipated spending more time with those in financial need, or those challenged to rebuild talent or those transitioning careers.

 

What I am finding is those that are seeking my support happen to be absolutely full of amazing talents, gifts, personalities and leave me inspired more than they would ever believe. They are entrepreneurs, they have degrees at levels I can’t even spell, they have mastered digital businesses, design, major events, done millions in sales, lead large numbers of people – and they come and go to and from all walks of life. Yet all have so much in common.

 

The very common elements that rise to the surface very quickly, they self-identify as negativity.

 

A kind of negativity they just pass over and under estimate.  A kind of negativity they see having no consequence on them, the results or their futures.  They just explain it to me as if it’s a shadow of a passing cloud that is almost insignificant or imaginary.

 

 

What am I seeing even in the best and brightest I mentor as common mindsets?

 

  1. Initial resistance feels like permanent resistance or failure.

 

  1. Early low levels of results are self-believed to be lack of that talent.

 

  1. Future forecasting is stronger on “What if it doesn’t work” side of thinking.

 

  1. Over comparing outcomes to the best not to their own potential or recent growth

 

  1. Hung up on where they are not on what is the next step and getting it finished.

 

  1. The loudest voice they hear is their own. In isolation.

 

Those are exactly the worries I once had.  Those are not the things I intended to find, those are not the things I intended to coach.  But that is ok.  We can rise, coach, teach and grow step by step.

 

Special note to my enemy Negativity.

 

 

Dear Negativity,

 

I know you, I’ve beaten you before.  You will not take those around me.  We will make progress on you NEGATIVITY, we are just getting started.  Oh, one last thing.   Negativity, I’ve renamed you POISON and I’m helping get you pulled off the shelves.  Once you are labeled POISON, pulled from the shelves – no one will want to digest you.

 

Instead we will….

 

We will take the road of embracing imperfect happiness.  We will teach the power of choice. We will applaud those that drop drama and negativity to the floor.  We will advance from amateurs who dabble to professionals who endure.  We will build our teams with advocates.  We will plant more seeds than the weeds can handle.

 

Time to Rise. Time to coach.  Time to teach.  Time to help others grow.

 

 

Dave

 

 

22.

Why the 22?

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I am amazed the way miracles show up in our lives, sometimes when you need them but mostly when you have no idea they are right beside you and about to unfold.  Today I would have never guessed it would be my new acquaintance and military veteran runner who then became my running mate all the way to the end where we were able share in the enthusiasm of crossing the finish line together.   Pictured with me in the photo is my military running mate, Dave Harlan, who also just reached a key birthday and is doing his best to find his own vibrancy despite his own internal health challenges.

 

He was my inspiration, yes, he was outrunning me and smiled and encouraged me early in the run.  Then as the run went on we were side by side talking, enjoying and inspiring one another.  When we got to the finish line he smiled, grabbed his phone and handed it to the woman handing out our medals and he said to her “can you take a picture of me and my new friend” she smiled held on to his award took our photos. His enthusiasm amazes me.

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I was just in awe. I was in awe for his talent, his speed, his humble service to our country, to his smile, to his character but also in awe that he inspired me.  I just shared his inspiration back and it created so much joy.  A joy he gave, was also a joy he needed.  He was my miracle today. I walked away from our finish line with tears, unexplainable tears.  Raw human goodness and encouragement for one another.

 

It’s not fair to fail to give you a few more of the details about what led us to that special run at the finish line.  Me, just a guy needing to get in better shape, who had been given a shirt from my Executive Assistant Denise for Christmas that had the number 22 on it.  When I opened it, Denise looked at me and asked me if I know that number and what it meant.  Obviously, I did not.  She told me that it represented the number of veterans who die per DAY in America.  I was shocked and proudly wear the shirt to support Denise and her loved one who served his best years in order for us to have the freedom and life we all are afforded.

 

As a way of improving how I use my time and improve my vibrancy and health I set goals to sign up for a race a month. January, the race was cancelled. It’s ok it was a beer race, I’ve already ran those miles and pints. February represented the first race, this race, OPERATION SHOCKWAVE. The inaugural race motivated to improve the outreach and services in an effort to reduce and eliminate the suicide rate of our military veterans.  The connection to 22 a day in our country and 1 per day in the state of Arizona where I reside.  Stephen “DOC” Johnson in his early 20s, a medic and a family inspiration took his life recently and his family dedicated this race to Stephen.

 

Dave Harlan, my new running mate, on the other hand is running this race because he is a veteran, he has lost his friends and loved ones, he too is working on his vibrancy and he too is in full support of OPERATION SHOCKWAVE.   He is one of the real courageous hero’s I saw today.

 

The miracle we met was ignited by the challenges of war and the pursuit of freedom.  Dave Harlan thank you for all you have done for the country and for the freedom we live in.  Thank you for the smile, the encouragement and joy shared today in Tempe, AZ.  And thank you for igniting my heart and soul with thoughts and energy to go do more of my part, more of my share, give more of my gifts and for reminding me what bravery really means.

 

When I sat in my truck before returning home reflecting on how fortunate I am for the efforts of so many – I made a few notes I wanted to share:

 

 

 

When you feel insecure and not worthy –GIVE MORE TO OTHERS.

 

“You will never feel as insecure when you are in full effort of serving others”

 

 

 

When you feel like life has given you one too many challenges – REFOCUS to READY.

 

“Celebrate the difference between broken and ready at any point”

 

 

 

When you see those around you making bad decisions repeatedly – LOVE THEM ANYWAY.

 

“Never let a problem someone has interrupt the love you have for them”

 

 

 

When you feel in your own life is on autopilot – AWAKEN YOURSELF.

 

“Wake up, take command of your life before an event reminds you – you haven’t”

 

 

 

When you want to avoid sharing your hurt – ASK FOR MORE SUPPORT.

 

“We are one person, one moment away from being a miracle in someone else’s life”

 

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*Many of the quotes above inspired by Brendon Buchard.

 

Without.

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Without.

What are you trying to achieve without doing what needs to be done?

I’ve been an unpopular leader by accident and have grown to worry less about popularity most the time. Of course, it’s human nature to want both leadership acceptance and mankind populaity more often and perhaps I have much to learn about how I take my ideas and thoughts to market knowing that too would be good for all.

Yes, it’s true I have a broken communication style, and yet at the same time I can produce change, results and develop strength in talent that endures over time. I’ve come to see things with a certain lens that shines opportunity based on gaps. These gaps are starting to tell me a story, the story of without.  The without I can’t lead without.

Without Truth.

Assumptions, opinions and dialogue are awesome over a beer some of the time but less interesting when it comes to business solutions. When it comes to business solutions do you due diligence and get closer. Sit side by side with your teams, ask the tough questions and listen and be open to the tough feedback. Let them describe the truth. Listen intently for the details of the truth. Ask questions of the truth as they see it. Investigate what they see and feel with data and details. Pay very close attention to the steps, the vision they believe to be true that they are working to achieve.

That truth must be compared to the truth the leader they have believes to be happening. Have the integrity and patience to see if that leader is accurate about the truth of that team, the truth of what is happening and does the plan and data they have support that reality.

It’s all too often I’m in a meeting with leaders both front line leaders and all of us in-between vision and translation that are creating the vision of the future and solving for the gap in performance of today. It’s all too rare to hear data at the start of the meeting, truth of underperformance of the meeting and leaders say things that demonstrate they too do not know how the operations, team and technology intersect to create the outcome they need.

Listen for things like “I believe” or “I heard” or “In my last company” and those are signs the future is being planned WITHOUT data, without the truth of our current situation and without the same likelihood of success. Instead get closer, put your leadership in motion, go on discovery tours and get curious about data, real production challenges, alignment between leadership levels and find enjoyment in building relationships that strengthen people, process and the organization as you find the truth.

Without Development.

MRE – Meals Ready to Eat. One of my favorite metaphors for leaders who are looking to hire people who can come in and “HIT THE GROUND RUNNING” and who “MAKE IMMEDIATE IMPACT” and the “VETERANS” that we claim just “GET IT”.

Many leaders want the performance of winning without the efforts of teaching, communicating and developing their people. They want a ready to heat, ready to eat meal of top performance like the military food of the soldiers in the battlefield.

It is in that investment that our teams become highly aware we care, we become highly aware of who are the quickest learners, the dedicated team members and those that need unique methods of helping them get to another level of performance. Leadership investment is needed and is one of the most critical ingredients needed to get the payout of top results.

Listen for leaders who quickly describe the team as underdeveloped, quick to turnover, complains about workload and notice how the leader lacks stories of team member specific learning and does not have the ability to detail rank the talent.

Invest side by side with your front lines leaders, create roll out materials that support the leader specific requirements, create training and communication checklists and roll ups. In some cases, go straight-line to the front-line. Feed the best personally, pick up the phone, skip levels and get deeply involved to find the truth of your own leader’s development, communication and training.

It’s been a challenge of my own to value communication along this journey, to really understand that the mind and the motivation that comes from understanding must come along the journey so that each can find their own connection of task to talent, of effort to purpose and of self to pride of winning.

Engagement.

In seeking the truth, we get closer, we use data and we demonstrate our curiosity with one another. That goes noticed, that shows me you care, you listen and I matter to you and your success. In seeking communication that matters and moves, development that understands just how that team member believes and achieves you put your leadership in full motion. In seeking my understanding, in seeking my preferences, in seeking my beliefs I’m convinced that you understand my importance in our success both yours and mine.

That motivates me in such a way I find solutions when nothing was communicated, it moves me to solve gaps in our process with my peers when no one else was there to develop me, and it has me fully invested in such a way I want our team on the top of the charts. That is the start of engagement that matters productively.

Top Talent.

It’s likely if the first three topics you struggle with you may not really know your talent, the talent of their leaders and how to best manage the growth and performance of the results by talent alone. It’s on seeking the truth on performance, the depth on development and power of engaged teams that you find the talent, talent gaps and create talent plans that build an even more powerful future for yourself, your teams, your culture and ultimately your company’s performance. It’s also expected you get frustrated in-between what you expected to be the truth and what you find to be true. In that moment and in that space, you will clarify your standards, your boundaries and the line that when crossed sets the company bar.

Take Inventory:

What would the last 3 meetings you were in say about how well you find and solve for the truth or where you all about opinion and your old ways?  What data led you to that outcome?  Did you share it?  What team members demonstrated how our tools work?  The struggles and the great-stuff shared?

How many days does next week’s calendar have set aside to seek the truth, to be side by side with team members in production?

What 2-3 standards exist that when crossed cause talent action in your organization? If you don’t have them why?

What leaders do you have that are proving to be great with frontline performance and should be given more responsibility because they demonstrate ownership in Talent, Training and seek the Truth?  Which leader do you need to give greater grace to because how they tell you things may irratate you – yet they too maybe accurate?

 

#engage #communicate #truth #leadership

Adventure Better.

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I can remember just a few years ago I wondered will this unraveling of all that I had and all that I knew ever end?  Walking amongst the trail headed around the bend very similar to this photo taken in Telluride, Colorado I remember making the decision and sharing out loud words I’d have not ever spoken.

“God, I’m done fighting this.  You can take it all, except my soul.  That is mine and with that I can rebuild”.

It would be from that moment on however that I would begin to realize the other things that might be more important than what my life had previously been focused on.  Boats, cars, jobs, stock options, getting to the jet on time, opinions of me, my kids grades, how many breweries a week around the country I could visit and when the pleasures I wanted in life would be served to me.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids have always been the most precious of gifts given to me and yes I did the things that I believed to be the most impactful, loving and important to them over the first years and phases of their lives.  And great joy, great love, great lessons and great memories have come from those precious two, Samuel and Kennedy.  Had I known then what I know now though the richness of our time would have been deepened.

1 – One of the most precious things we have is our spirit our soul.

One of my favorite messages a key community leader shared with me over the last few years was one that worked to explain what our spirit is and how it is designed to provide us with the passions, energy and god given decision making ability to know what is right and wrong as the truth and a compass to match the design inside us for us.

I think often about the times we are unaware of the negative impact we have on others when we force, control or take an angry less than friendly tone as we shape others decisions, actions or behaviors.  I now think of that as harm to one another soul.  We can choose to find other solutions when we can’t find guidance and support that strengthens one another journey.

It is an honor to have people make the choice to trust us, to share openly, to give any portion of oneself to another.  Just as it is a right for them to be left feeling heard, understood, encouraged and even helped to be stronger on the way to fulfillment of their own journey.  The journey that fulfills their soul.

Our expectations, our fears and our lack of true connection and understanding of each other often place those restrictions on others that limit that full potential and fulfillment.  We can find space in-between our thoughts and our words to be considerate of how we encourage, empower or educate others in ways that support the delicate balance of allowing others to be shaped without being harmed in this journey of life.

2 – The ability to make decisions that are in alignment with your soul.

Stress, conflict, fatigue all can be signs that the direction, the situation and the decisions or thereof of may not feel in alignment to the life you want or the life that is right for you.  Not to be mistaken with needed discipline and improvements in life.

This can be very evident for us as parents as our children mature, they make college and career choices.  When and how they start families, how they raise their own children and what and who they decide to maintain the key relationships with as they further age.  We may find ourselves stuck in-between expectations and discouragement or we can find ourselves better placed in-between amazement and curiosity.

It is wiser to foster the meaningful search for themselves and model it well for them.   The growth and strength attained through missteps and aligned steps will sharpen and strengthen more powerfully than we can.

As my journey has led me to shed the layers of my own life that were not built of well aligned or well thought out plans I’ve become far more sensitive to listen to my own soul.  Not my doubts, but instead the questions and feelings that arise from stopping to ask myself the answers that are revealed to those questions.  I’m more conscious on who I allow to influence with any great degree the outcomes of the answers to those questions and where they lead me.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

3 – The choice to be graceful with ourself and others in times of difficulty or confusion. 

I love Eleanor’s quote above, it both speaks to what we know to be true for ourselves and gives us a glimpse that other struggle to stop, create space and understand someone before they cast doubt or judgement.

Rather they may want to show grace instead of doubt, encouragement instead of judgement and if needed take the time to meaningfully connect to one another to ensure any concerns that yield credible threats of safety are addressed.

Obviously social media plays a role in the speed, frequency and social acceptance of our opinions, directions and aspirations.  However it is up to us to ensure we learn to identify the balance of how much room we leave others to influence our opinion.  It’s up to us to process what one is sharing with another first cognitively and often never emotionally.  It’s up to us to identify the toxic and poisonous people in our lives, our social media and do our best to leave that poison untouched, better yet extracted from our environment.

I grew up with amazing parents, and in this case my step father Charles Fries had a love for the great outdoors and grew up in southern Idaho.  It was as a kid he learned to pan for gold.  In seeing these old rusty gold pans and imaging as I grew up I too would pan for gold, I get this repeated vision.  It’s this vision of slightly rotating the gold pan in circles searching for the one most valuable thing in that pan – the gold.  The gold to me that is the critical conversation, that critical business solution that may need focus, attention or that most critical person needing help.  And once found taking the time with those around me to work on it a way that strengthens the soul, the people, the future and the ability for those involved grow.

Each step further around the adventure of the mountainside of life I’m working harder to ensure each layer that get added is for good, is right for my soul and I work even harder to honor, inspire and encourage the souls of those I meet on the adventure around me.

Well, most the time.  And when I don’t I too need grace.  Adventure better.