Today I’m excited to launch the inaugural episode of the LeaderQuest Podcast Season 4!
It’s crazy to think that just over a year ago, this project started. Since then, we’ve talked about leadership health (Season One), the Building With Purpose Conference (Season 2), and spoken with thriving business owners in the midst of COVID (Season 3).
Now, it’s time to help you with real, practical steps to start (and grow) your business.
LeaderQuest Podcast Season 4 is designed to help you, wherever you are at, start and grow your business.
I’ll have interviews with experts in the fields of HR, human performance, finance, and operations.
We’ll also talk shop on what you can do to
Start a business
Create a viable product
Establish your niche
And much, much more
This introductory episode of the LeaderQuest Podcast Season 4 lays it all out and tells you in detail where we’re going, what’s next, and some advice and guidance if you’re facing burnout. (Because who isn’t tired and frustrated right now).
Give it a listen. Subscribe. Then leave a review.
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In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey advocates “gazelle-like focus” when it comes to eliminating debt. In short, his explanation is that when being chased by a lion, a gazelle has only focus: getting away to survive. At that moment, he isn’t worried about his next meal, how thirsty he is, or where the rest of the herd is. All of that can wait.
His only focus is survival. Escape the jaws of the lion.
Ramsey argues that this is the only way you will escape debt. The lion (debt) is looking to consume you. Through gazelle-like focus (and his easy-to-follow-not-easy-to-do steps) you can be free from the snare of debt.
The same truth applies to any area of life. Want to grow your business? Practice gazelle-like focus. Want to be a better spouse or parent? Sharpen your attention on those moments when they are presented to you. Need to lose weight? Don’t make it a side attraction in your life, give it center stage.
Here are three tips to help you with that intense level focus.
One of the main things I help my clients with is the elimination of distractions. There’s a reason my tagline is, “Helping Leaders Get The Right Things Done.”
Because it’s easy to have vision creep.
A shrinking bottom line (hello pandemic business owners) can cause us to focus on that, instead of completing our mission, serving our customers, and building our employees.
When given the choice between focusing on your shrinking profit margins or your customer service, always choose your customer service.
Focus On The Next Thing
In his book, No Hero, author Mark Owen talks about his time as a Navy SEAL. One of the tactics he used to survive the brutal training was to focus on the next task in front of him.
Marcus Luttrell (another Navy SEAL) echoes this idea in his book Lone Survivor.
The premise is simple: if you focus on something in the distant future, you’ll never make it through SEAL training. You can’t focus on the graduation of the program, your first deployment, and in many cases, even the end of the current day.
What you focus on is the next pushup. You focus on making it to the next meal. You control, as Owen talks about later, on controlling your three-foot circle. If you can’t touch it right here, right now, it’s not worthy of your attention.
Focusing on anything else leads to despair, frustration, fear, anxiety, and a sense of dread. None of those things serve a gazelle well when inches from a lion.
Eliminate all of those things and focus on the next step.
Only then can you make any substantial progress on your goals, whatever they are.
Not “One Day” but “Day One”
This one is for all of those that made New Year’s Resolutions, then realized it was Friday and told themselves, “I’ll start on Monday.”
Do you want to reach your wildest goals? Don’t wait to start ‘one day.’
Instead, start today, with ‘day one.’
If the gazelle thinks, “Boy, that lion sure is getting close. Eh. I’ll start running in a few seconds.” It’s too late. Instead, as soon as the gazelle notices the danger, it springs up and takes action.
If you wait to start pursuing your goals “one day” you will end up miserable. You will never reach your full potential. Instead, all you’ll discover is a life of regret and failure.
With the first Monday of the new year, many of us are returning to a life of normalcy. Work reopens. Kids are in school. Old routines are back again as the alarm clock reminds us to get up and invest our energy into productivity.
I hope you had a fantastic holiday season and experienced rest, joy, and peace in the midst of the pandemic and all that it has changed.
Now, it’s time to chase your dreams with every ounce of energy you have today. Don’t start one day, but today, with day one.
Next, keep your focus on the next task and do it with excellence.
Finally, eliminate distraction and mission creep.
That’s a gazelle-like focus. And that’s where success lies.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 neglected 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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, we’re covering part three of the speech: Rise To The Occasion.
The contrast of several Northern leaders needs our attention. The North, at the outset of the Civil War, was lacking in high ranking military men. Most of them had gone south at the start of the war. The few that remained, like George McClellan rose quickly. Others, like Generals Custer and Grant, would rise to the occasion.
Setting The Stage
McClellan was a brilliant tactician. His study of worldwide fighting styles, military strategies, and historical aspects of war made him highly desirable. He graduated second in his class from West Point. Dubbed the Young Napoleon, McClellan’s future was bright. Everyone expected great things from McClellan. He cared deeply for his soldiers and they loved him for it. From their perspective, they were well fed, well trained, and rarely fought. It was a pretty good arrangement.
However, between McClellan and President Lincoln, things were rarely ever smooth. McClellan became famous for requesting more supplies and exaggerating enemy numbers. One account tells of a breakdown in Confederate lines and supplies after a battlefield loss. Research seems to indicate that had McClellan pursued them and chased them down, the war would have been over in less than two years. Richmond would have been captured. Top generals would have been defeated. The North would’ve won without further bloodshed.
Instead, McClellan estimated enemy numbers exaggerated by 20% and blamed the possibility of bad weather as reasons for a delayed attack. As a result, he called off the chase. Within two days, the South regrouped, shuffled their troops, and counterattacked. They drove the north back. For more than two additional years the Civil War would be fought because of this one failure in his leadership.
Rise to the Occasion
Contrast the brilliance, genius, and ultimate ineptitude of someone like George McClellan with someone like Grant. Grant rose to the occasion given to him. Grant’s war policy was to attack consistently and ferociously. He was adept and editing commands on the fly. He was both well prepared and adaptable. Because he knew the ultimate goal, he could change his methods as the battlefield dictated.
George Armstrong Custer, from outward appearances, had nothing going for him. He barely graduated from West Point coming in dead last in his class. Custer gained an unfavorable reputation because so few trusted him. He was often pulling pranks, spending time in detention, getting into trouble, and had an overly brash demeanor.
However, throughout the Civil War, he distinguished himself as a man of courageous action. By the end of the Civil War, he had been promoted to Major General and was in command of the entire cavalry. In an age where leaders worked from the rear and made orders for other men, he gained admiration by fighting from the front. It’s been noted that he was often the first to go flying into combat with his men trailing behind him. At the conclusion of the war, his unit was responsible for capturing more POWs and infantry flags than any other unit. He was even respected enough that he received the table that unconditional surrender terms were drafted.
Where We Find Ourselves
Three men at the same point in history take dramatically different paths in life. One, seemingly given every advantage, squanders it all. He leaves frustrated, disgraced, disillusioned, and desperate. The other two inspire, engage, and rise to the occasion. McClellan, from the top of his class, witnesses everything crumble before him. Grant and Custer rise from the bottom. Custer, quite literally from the bottom of his class to one of the highest positions available and becomes the stuff of lore and legend.
There is something inside of our DNA that loves these transformational stories. Zeroes to heroes inspire us. We long for stories of David defeating Goliath. Worst to first and victory in the midst of defeat give us hope.
Undoubtedly, there are many parallels in our businesses. Perhaps you even know of a time or two in your own life or that of your company (or even an employee) where you can see now how things could have and should have worked out differently.
Individuals or companies with all the advantages that still somehow managed to fail. Mega tech companies caught with bad numbers and crumble an empire. Someone identified as a high performer busted for ethical violations or a failure to perform. An industry darling in one year is an outcast in another.
But there’s also the flip side.
A surprise hire going on to transform a business or industry.
A perpetual under-achiever finds a fire in their soul and rises to extraordinary levels of leadership.
And while nothing in life is a guarantee, what I have found throughout my years in coaching, is that there are certain tendencies and ways to “hedge our bets.”
The Power of Coaching
Coaching advances the high performers at an astounding rate, helping them to avoid burnout. It also has the capacity to equip the last place hire to deeper levels of transformation. Coaching gives a place for both the first-place all-star and the last place “skin of your teeth, you just barely made it” performer.
My start in coaching looked much the same. I began working with clients who self-identified as someone who knew they were capable of great things but couldn’t get out of their own way (much like we might have said early on about Custer).
The ICF first defined coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
When we equip our ourselves and our staff to reach their full potential we inspire them to rise to the occasion.