Blog Post Cover: Inner Critic and Personal Growth

Inside each of us is the self-destructive internal narrative that repeats phrases like, “I’m such a loser!” when we mess up. Learning to silence the inner critic is one of the key requirements to experience breakthrough success. The best way to do that is through the three c’s for personal growth.

“Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchhill

Setting the Stage

Deep down, you know that failure isn’t final. Yet, it is an inevitable part of the struggle in life.

If you’re a parent, you’ve seen this countless times with kids. What would happen if, the first time my child tried to talk a walk, he fell over and I determined that walking must not be for him. I’d pick him up, vow to never let him fail again, and prohibit him from walking. I don’t want him to be a failure after all!

You’d call me crazy and think I’d be a bad parent … and you’d be right. When it comes to children, parents are keenly aware that temporary failure is a part of the learning process. However, parental insecurities also pass on to offspring and soon children internalize that failure is bad, and not acceptable. The first time I heard my oldest child criticize herself as a failure was kindergarten.

Let that sink in. Somehow, I taught my child before her fifth birthday, that failure was to be avoided because it was a bad reflection on her.

Ouch

All of humanity is embedded with the Inner Critic. Success happens, not just by battling the inner critic, but by overcoming it. Once you acknowledge it, you then want to dismantle the power it has in your life. How? Through the three c’s of personal developmentBlog Post Cover: Inner Critic and Personal Growth

Three Sources of Feedback

Competency

The first step in the process is competency. When I first started coaching, I labeled this as an individual’s calling. It was the answer to the question: what on earth am I here for? It’s a deep examination of you life, purpose, skills, abilities, passions, and goals in life. Your calling, as Frederick Buechner so eloquently put is the place where, “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” You were put here for a specific purpose. You will only truly be happy when you are fulfilling that purpose. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who were looking to start a business, stay at home parents, career professionals in a variety of backgrounds. Each and every one of them had a unique purpose and we structured our time together to help them achieve clarity in their calling. Then, they were called to action.

You are too. Your calling, your greatest competency, is a gift to bless others. That new product or idea, the time with your kids, your neighborhood involvement, it all matters. Your legacy will long outlive you in the thoughts and minds of those around you. The more effectively you engage your calling, the deeper the impact you make on the world, the more significant your legacy will be. By discovering your core competency, your calling, you embrace who you are and fix your mind on completing the deepest parts of your existence.

Compassion

The second part of the process is compassion. More specifically, self-compassion. You beat the inner critic by extending grace on yourself. Several times over the last decade, I’ve posted a simple question online: do you find it harder to extend grace to others when they mess or to yourself when you mess up? While no results are ever 100% clear, and Facebook obviously isn’t a scientific platform, the results are always heavily skewed towards a struggle with ourselves. The problem is that you know your own internal moral compass. When you don’t live up to that, it’s a frustrating and embarrassing failure. When someone we love screws up, it’s a forgivable oversight, when you screw up, it’s a violation of your own personal moral code and honor.

In spite of how hard it is, the journey towards self-compassion is a necessary one. During my master’s program, my wife made me a shirt that said, “Be Tender To Yourself.” It was a reminder that just as I have forgiven others, I must also forgive myself. I spent years in counseling unable to do so. It wrecked my life. While your own journey may not see you in counseling, I’m guessing you also struggle with it.

Here are two ways to begin the journey towards greater self-compassion.

The first part of the problem is to put yourself, more pointedly your mistake, into someone else’s shoes. I’m not saying don’t accept responsibility or blame someone else. The idea is to imagine that someone else committed the error. If Bill had promised you the expense report at 7:00 last night, but got distracted dealing with a sick child’s vomit on the floor, would you refer to him as a lazy, good-for-nothing, idiot? My guess is (my sincere hope is) probably not. Instead, you’d reassure Bill that everything is okay. Extend yourself that same grace. If you’re not bothered by someone else doing it, don’t be offended when you do it.

The second way to engage in self-compassion is through humor. When you screw up, learning to laugh at yourself is a vital and necessary step. Spilled your orange juice? Instead of criticizing yourself for being an idiot, make a comment on how far it got. “Man, this time I was able to get it on the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. I really am talented!” Shifting your perspective, and in the process finding a way to compliment yourself, destroys the power of the inner critic.

Community

The final piece of the puzzle is community. In community, you can discover who you really are. Friends, parents, coworkers, a spouse or life partner, a trusted boss, mentor, and former professor all have insights into what makes you, you.

Seek authentic feedback from others. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can those who know you best affirm your calling? What does your support network look like? By examining the community you participate in, you can assess that you are on the right path. During coaching, you can also use that time to change or adapt your community. If you try to assemble your feedback team and realize that no one supports you then you need new friends! Having a well-rounded, supportive, diverse community is key to your success, and the only way to make sure you have one is analyze it! Community grounds and surrounds us in the difficult moments of life, giving us the energy and strength to carry on.

This is an excerpt of my upcoming Shift. To receive news and alerts about its upcoming release, subscribe to my newsletter.

To get help through coaching, contact me.

Blog Post Cover Picture with lightbulb, day planner, and a team at work.

If I ever find my eyes wandering aimlessly over my computer for more than five minutes, I know something is wrong. That’s when I tell myself: create, define, act.

Deeper Magic

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to know how I fit so much in. A partial answer is that I use the Full Focus Planner. Over the last several years of use, that continues to be a big reason. I schedule everything meticulously. 

(If you want to see exactly how I use the planner,  I walk you through every page right here).

But there’s another truth at work. Deeper magic, if you will. I mean deeper magic much in the same way C.S. Lewis does in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the book, after Aslan’s death and resurrection, the lion is explaining to Susan and Lucy how he was able to come back to life. He explains that in many ways, the witch was right. The circumstances dictated that a sacrifice be made. The witch, operating under the belief of how ‘magic’ works in the world knew that the laws had to be accounted for.

But, Aslan explains, there is deeper magic at work. Something that the witch knows nothing about. She doesn’t know about it, because it was created before her. The laws of deeper magic were in place long before the witch arrived on the scene. The magic that the witch knew about (the laws of the universe) were satisfied and yet, a deeper magic freed Aslan from the curse of death.

The Full Focus Planner is great. There’s a reason I’ve used it for the last three years and will continue to use it, but tools are only as good as those using them.

If all I own is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Blog Post Cover Picture with lightbulb, day planner, and a team at work.

If I have a security system but never turn it on, it will fail to protect my home and family when it’s needed.

Having a planner and failing to use it isn’t any better than not having a planner at all.

Wandering Aimlessly

Over the last several years of using the planner, I’ve noticed that I’m still ineffective at times. To remedy this, I had to set up a new ritual that helped me get back on track.

I noticed that at certain moments of the day, I’d lose efficiency and productivity. This wasn’t failure based on exhaustion or overwork. Instead, it was because I lacked a proper plan. I knew I had things to do, but didn’t know how to go about doing them. Instead, I’d spend time looking at social media, scouring the depths of YouTube, or looking for new dad jokes.

None of which will help me reach my goals.

To change the drift, I created the ritual to create, define, act whenever I feel myself veering off course.

That mantra has helped me get back on track with my goals, accomplish meaningful and significant tasks, and free my mind to focus on my work.

Now, telling myself to create, define, act is more than a mantra, it is a call to arms. A battle cry that gets my body moving. It breaks me free from the monotony of mindless action and issues a challenge to my mind. It is a call to greatness.

I drift when I fail to have a plan. As has often been said, I was then planning on failing.

Whether you use the Full Focus Planner or some other calendar management system, the idea behind create, plan, act can help you too.

Create. Plan. Act.

Create

The first idea is to create. Create a goal. Vision. System. Plan. For me, this means to actually get into the planner and start to outline tasks. I drift when I don’t open my planner and put things into timeslots. My life drifts off course when I don’t intentionally plan my steps. Work fails to get done when I fail to put significance on my time.

Step one is always to create the plan. If you notice that you are having trouble focusing, begin to ask questions of insight: Do I know what I’m working on? What’s next? Who do I need to connect with? What is most important to me? How can I make progress?

Creating your plan of action is what breaks you free from drift. By creating a plan you free your mind up to focus on what it sees in front of you. When you create your goals, you connect the logic of your brain with the emotions of your heart and are inspired to take action.

Plan

Once your goals are created, write down the steps to the plan. This can honestly be as simple as first I will…, then I will… For me, it follows this system of progression:

1.) What are my larger goals for the quarter?

2.) What steps did I take to accomplish those goals last week?

3.) As a follow-up, what goals do I need to accomplish this week?

4.) Which of those goals can I accomplish (or make progress on) today?

First, you create your system and belief for success. Write down your goals and visualize your success. Then, write down the plan to accomplish those goals.

Only one step left!

Act

The final step is to act. I’ve discovered that this usually ends up being the easiest step. The irony is that before I began this planning phase, that was the one thing I couldn’t do. The acting was hard because I didn’t have a plan. By creating the vision and building the plan, I gave myself the freedom to act appropriately.

I can cure my aimlessly drifting in just a few minutes by following the simple plan to create, plan, and act. By following this formula, I bring clarity to my projects and eliminate brain fog, confusion, and misguided wastes of time that prohibit me from reaching my goals. Wherever you’re and, and whatever you’re working on, just remember to create your goals, make your plan, and then act with intention.

Need help? Reach out and see if coaching is right for you.

couple hugging

The only way you will reach your full potential is if you intentionally spend time fostering key relationships.

My wife and I have been married for fourteen years. Together, we have four amazing children. We met in college. Separated by a year, I had my eye on her stunning beauty even before she officially enrolled in the school.

You see, she stopped by on an official visit one week as a soon to be music major. She poked her head into the concert band I was a part of to check it out. I remember being captivated by her beauty the moment I laid my eyes on her. I even offered to help chaperone her around the campus for the weekend, but was told by the band director to go, “nowhere near her.”

Before long, she was at the school, I mustered up every ounce of courage I had, and attempted to talk to her. As an extraordinarily shy young person, I’m sure I was incoherent at best and downright possessed sounding at worst. But I had done it! I talked to the woman of my dreams.

From there, a blossoming friendship started, followed by dating, engagement, and marriage. Over the last fourteen years, we both completed our undergraduate degrees. I’ve also added a master’s and doctoral degree, started my own business, moved us from Kansas to California to Colorado and back to California. Every leg of our journey has been full of heartbreak and triumph, setbacks, and victory.

Building For Better

While I could write a book on how amazing she is, and the many ways she has sustained me in our years together, here is what is of most importance now: I truly believe that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be half as successful as I am without her by my side. Even as an introverted and fairly well-disciplined individual, I recognize and understand the necessity of vital and life-giving relationships.

It has been her unwavering belief and support in me that has gotten me through the darkest days of my life. It was her tenderness and compassion that got me through the most difficult work experience of my life. Surrounded and attacked by an unhealthy work environment, she got me through it and encouraged to keep pressing on. Feeling the weight of doctoral school and my growing thesis, it was Elise that reminded me what I had been called to do. Overwhelmed by personal failures and stuck in unhealthy mindsets, she encouraged me to change my thinking and alter my end destination in life. At every step of my journey, she has had the strength I lacked to keep me pushing on towards my goals.

Fostering Key Relationships By Sharing The Burden

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. This proverb gives us our final key insight into the Shift mindset: we must make this journey with other people. One big key to success is having someone else to share the burdens (and joys) of life with. In fact, research has shown that a lack of human interaction results in, “psychological and physical disintegration, and even death.” Anyone who faced the massive work from home transition during 2020 no doubt felt the reality of that.

During the COVID quarantine of 2020, my wife’s grandmother had to change skilled nursing facilities when one shut down. She was moved over the course of the weekend but then forced to self-isolate for two weeks because of the threat of the virus. When family checks on her two weeks later, this healthy and robust woman was near death.

What happened?

After she was moved in, there was no social interaction. Additionally, the staff couldn’t interact with her outside of handing her food at her door because of the quarantine. In their haste to get her isolated, the facility neglwedding bandsected to hook up her television or hang pictures on the wall. Her furniture was not set up in a conducive manner for her new room, making it difficult for her to use the restroom. She was socially isolated with no physical interaction of any kind for two weeks and found it physically difficult to move about in her own home for basic human needs!

No wonder the end of the two weeks found her near death. We immediately started preparing for the worst. Several family members took time off to be with her, in what we thought were going to be her last days. They set up her phone, television, and artwork. They gave her fresh meals, rearranged her furniture, and took her on walks. In less than a week, she regained her strength, physical abilities, and desire to live. That’s the power of human interaction with other people.

Finding,Building, and Fostering Key Relationships

I’ve recently become a fan of examining ancient cultures. What can they teach us about our modern society and ways to improve or existence? One of those areas of study has been the ancient Spartans. A formidable fighting force, their battles are legendary. These men, from age seven on, trained to do one thing: fight for Sparta. They ate together. Trained together. Went to school together. Slept together. Hunted together. The reason they were so good is that they knew their partners and those beside them in battle so well. It was built into their training.

Similarly, a sister city, that of Athens, developed a similar policy. However, as the Spartans focused on war and battle, the Athenians focused on government and society. In her book on ancient civilizations, Susan Bauer recounts how Athenians ate together frequently. It was not just expected and encouraged, it was demanded. They even had a policy in place that should you decide to eat by yourself before the community meal, you were to be ridiculed.

Ancient peoples knew, whether, through political necessity or societal continuity, that relationship mattered. In our digital world, much of this has been lost. As a society, we are increasingly comfortable in digital interaction. As a result, physical relationships have become an art. In spite of this waining of personal-physical relationships, they are still vital and necessary. Your success will always be limited if you don’t have others in your corner working alongside you. If you’re looking to build or deepen those significant relationships, here are three keys to success.

1.) Affinity. couple hugging

The easiest place to start and build the necessary relationships to sustain success is through affinity. Find like-minded people who are traveling the same journey. This is one reason I hold master-mind groups. These hour-long group coaching sessions pair people of similar professions and experience together for group coaching and accountability. While mine typically revolves around business owners, health professionals, and leadership development specialists, masterminds exist in all fields.

You can also plug into local networking groups. Many times these are less formal, less expensive, and provide another benefit. In addition to networking with like-minded individuals that can encourage and support you, you’re also expanding your network and potential client base. Your new clients are not only those in your particular group but all of their contacts as well.

Friends also fall into this category. Find another friend with an entrepreneurial spirit and hold weekly accountability. The financial investment in these is free, but it’s still a highly motivating factor. Schedule a thirty-minute session with each person getting fifteen minutes to share. In your fifteen, share the following: what your goals were for the week prior, how they went, what your new goals for the week are, and the consequences of not completing them. These consequences could either take many forms. On the grand scale, there could be the realization that if you don’t take action, you never will, and this business idea will die inside of you. At times, you may also need to make the consequences more practical and agree to by your friend’s lunch at the next meeting if you don’t accomplish everything on your list.

2.) Diversity.

Once you have your foot in the door with an affinity relationship, the next level is a diverse one. This is one far too many people miss. We’re so used to seeing like-minded people that we fail to see anyone different than us.

This is detrimental to your personal development. Ironically, after years of researching and writing on burnout, I decided not to write about burnout for my thesis. At least not directly. Instead, some of the job changes I was experiencing at the time caused me to shift my focus to this issue of diversity. I examined how a diverse culture affects community engagement and reception. Whether you want to look at churches, non-profit organizations, or business culture one thing across all spectrums of research is clear: the more diverse the team, the better they perform, the better they provide better user experience, and the final product is better in every way. In short, here is my 180-page thesis: if you want to make a lasting impact seek diversity.

Diversity can have many factors to it. Race, religion, gender, educational background, and socio-economics are only a few. The more diversity you can bring in to your immediate sphere, the better you will be. This happens, because each person is better able to help show you your blind spots. If you assemble a team that looks and thinks just like you, you will potentially end up with a phenomenal product …. for no one but yourself. Instead, diversity allows different participants to share their points of view and create a stronger end product. Intentionally seek out a diverse team and ask them to point out ways for you to grow. You’d be surprised how much they point out, and how quickly you can make those changes.

3.) A Level Above.

The third area for those key relationships is what I call the “leveled up” relationships. These are people who in your eyes have leveled up beyond where you currently are.

Think about it. Do you want to take relationship advice from your uncle who has been divorced four times or from someone who has been happily married for fifty years?

Do you want investment advice from your broke friend who sleeps on their parent’s couch or from a millionaire?

Once you’ve identified areas for personal growth or new habits you want to make, finding those relationships can start with looking for those that have already leveled up in that particular area.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book SHIFT. To receive a complimentary pre-release copy go here.

Prefer video lecutures? I’ve got you covered there too! SHIFT is available (with additional material) as my Elite Mental Academy. Sign up for my newsletter to receive special pre-release pricing and bonus offers.

3 Tips for Transformational Teamwork

Transformational Teamwork

As we emerge from quarantine and are reopening, our customers are facing problems. There are some new ones we can anticipate, some old ones that we can continue to meet, and there will be new ones we never see coming.

The victors will be those that adapt and overcome. Ulysses Grant, who hated the war life, once gave the philosophy that made him successful, despite his disdain for his occupation: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and keep moving on.” 

For our businesses, it might read something like: “Find the problem your customers have. Create a solution as quickly as possible. Implement your answer as best as you know how. Adapt. Repeat. Overcome.”  Ulysses S. Grant

Together, Lincoln and Grant practice what I have come to call transformational teamwork. They built the vision and strategy, shared it with their team, and the tirelessly executed the plan. Transformational teams practice three key characteristics in all they do.

Clear Goals and Directions

The first requirement for transformational teams is to have clear goals and directions. Lincoln and Grant made their vision abundantly clear. For Lincoln, it was freedom for slaves and preservation of the Union. Grant implemented this through the term “unconditional surrender.” In fact, Grant would be known by this phrase so much that for a time people that U.S. Grant’s initials stood for “Unconditional Surrender.” The goal was clear: until the south abolishes slavery and lays down its arms without thought of picking them up again, the war has not been won.

We know the goals and directions we have for our businesses. As entrepreneurs, owners, or key stakeholders, we know why we get up every morning. We know what we’re chasing and the dream we are trying to accomplish. What about your employees or others around you? Can they articulate it clearly? Do they know, like Grant know how to implement the plan to achieve the goal?

Effective Communication

The second piece required for transformational teams is effective communication. It is not enough to know the goals and directions we must communicate that information with our team. During seasons of stress, conflict, or failure, communication is often the first thing to go. Legacy Leaders know how important clear, concise, and effective communication is.

Effective communicate is done regularly. It seeks two-way feedback and establishes rules and norms. Clear Communication talks about not just what and how, but also why. It honors others, builds bridges, minimizes conflict, and restores relationships.

In times of stress or setback, good communication is often the first thing to go. People resort to perspective and bias. To preconceived notions about the way the world works. To overcome this, clear communication is a must. Anytime there is poor communication, issue an apology, and own your mistake. 3 Tips for Transformational Teamwork

As tension mounts, humility and the ability to ask for forgiveness keeps the team united and focused on what really matters. Create a culture of open dialogue, feedback, humility, and reconciliation and watch your transformational team thrive.

360-Coaching

The final component of Transformative Teamwork is what I call 360-Coaching. More than normal feedback and assessment performance reviews, it is focused on real-time, growth-oriented feedback. Instead of backward reflection, instill future-focused development opportunities.

The official definition of coaching from the International Coaching Federation is this: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

360-Coaching takes the whole person and seeks to develop them. Employers who care about both their employee’s productivity and their outside life, inspire confidence, instill loyalty, and extend grace. This is important because as much as we may pretend that our outside life doesn’t affect our work, that just isn’t the case.

Offering real-time feedback circumvents a chance for negative experiences or poor performance while opening up communication lines.

When high-performing leaders set clear goals, keep an open communication, and coach the whole person, a transformative team is born. A transformative team can conquer an obstacle and overcome any hardship.

 

This is an excerpt and adaptation of a business development seminar. To read additional excerpts, you can find part one here and part two here. To watch the presentation, go here.

Carpenter staring into camera with title imposed text

There is one big difference maker to extraordinary business growth. As shops open back up, our favorite eateries allow for a dine-in option, and mom and pop shops across the country emerge from COVID, there is no doubt that the world has changed.

We’re all asking questions like, “Who’s left?” And, “Who can I trust?” In a world that has gone crazy quickly, much of 2020 feels like a blur.

High-Achievers and performers know how to adapt and overcome. Small business owners looking to pivot need to capture one vital truth: things will never be the same. So what are we all to do?

There is one big difference maker that will propel us to greater growth.

I made this video to help you understand the concept.

One Big Difference Maker

 

I titled the video How To Grow Your Business In Any Economy and it’s a truthful video. But the truth applies to more than just business growth.

Lead your family.

Give back to your community.

Engage in your own development.

Volunteer at your place of worship.

It doesn’t matter where you invest your time, this truth still applies: developing people is the greatest thing you can do with your time.

Developing others shows concern for those being invested in. However, it also enhances the customer experience and gives the developer a feeling of joy. When we invest in others, everyone wins.

Giving Back

Zig Ziglar once said, “The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave is not to train them and have them stay.” And despite how much people may complain about more training or education at work, studies reveal that they actually enjoy it.

Because we all know that given the choice between staying the same (and losing our joy) or growing (and finding life) we will all choose growth. We all desire to know, do, be, and become more. Carpenter staring into camera with title imposed text

In all my years and experience of coaching and consulting, I’ve never once known a person who regretted getting better. We make a commitment. Then we see growth. Finally we see progress.

Never knock progress.

Making Time

One way I’ve changed my vocabulary is how I see time. I’ve given up on the phrase, “I don’t have time.” Why? Because I’ve noticed that if it’s really important to me, it seems to happen. Instead, I ask a question like, “Am I willing to make the time to fit this into my calendar?” If it is, I schedule it. However, if I’m unwilling, then I just admit it. “I can’t do that at this time, I’m unwilling to make the time commitment needed.” I’ve found it’s actually very freeing and people are generally understanding.

If we wait for employee development, engaged parenting, committed volunteering, or any other format of self and other development to happen “until we have time,” it will never happen.

Instead, choose to make time. Give back. Love generously. Develop consistently. It’s the greatest thing you can do with your time and the one skill you need for continued success.