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.

Next Time

“Hieb, this isn’t going to happen again. We’re going to get him next time. Set the goal. Focus on it. Put your energy into it.”

Those were the words from my high school wrestling coach after a tough loss. A regional match my junior year set me into a favorable matchup for state placing.

I was wrestling Blake, a decent wrestler from a school less than an hour away. My record was better. My skills were better. My coaching was better. I was set. A quick win and I was off to state, ranked in the top ten.

Given all those advantages, I overlooked Blake to prepare for state the next weekend.

Blake beat me. On a late third period comeback, he got a reversal and won 8-7. My failure to prepare for the object right in front of me meant that my end destination was changed. Instead of a favorable seeding in the state tournament, I was on the outside looking in.

That loss took me out of the top ten and into the bottom four. I faced the number two wrestler in the state (and eventual state winner) in the first round and lost. Then in the losers bracket, I lost again.

What had started as a promising season ended in bitter defeat. 0-2 in the state tournament and a long offseason to think about the final thirty seconds of a match that was still eating away at me.

That’s when coach pulled me aside and told me to write my goals down for next season. Even in the pain and through the tears, focus on where I wanted to go. How did I want my senior season to end? How did I want to be remembered?

Begin With The End in Mind

That day, I wrote down three goals to focus on:

1.) Beat Blake

2.) Make it to state

3.) Set the school record in reversals.

For an entire year, those were my goals. Every extra practice. Every meal. Every weight training session.

“Beat Blake” became my mantra.

At the start of the next wrestling season, Coach Z put my goals on the board for everyone to see. Now, I was accountable to the entire team.

Every day at 3:30, the music would start, the reps would begin and my entire focus became to “Beat Blake.”

The final regular-season tournament of the season pitted me against Blake in the championship match, with regional and state seeding positions on the line. As I stepped on to the mat, Coach Z pulled me aside, “You’ve worked a year for this match. It’s time to finish.”

Three minutes later, I stepped off the mat and something along the lines of, “Rabid Wolverine” was hurled at me as they raised my arm in victory. From a close loss to a dominating win, I finished my objective and beat Blake.

Goals Create Clarity

Goals create clarity. Put another way, when we begin with the end in mind, we know what we’re aiming for.

By creating focus, instilling discipline, and getting clear on our life ambition, we know how to put a plan in place to help us reach our ultimate destination.

Or, think of it this way: As you near the end of your life, sit in your favorite rocking chair on the front porch of your house, answer these three questions:

1.) What are you glad you accomplished?

2.) What do you want to be remembered for?

3.) What are some of the things you’re most thankful for?

I’ve never coached someone who has answered those questions, “I think I need to spend more time at work.” Or, “My life would be better if I’d burn the candle at both ends a bit more.” Or, “Everyone wins if I’d ignore my family more for a few more late nights of office paperwork.”

Instead, when we think about where we want to end up, we then know how to create the plan to get us there.

I often tell people that coaching is a lot of “reverse engineering.” We get clear on where we want to go and why that’s important to us. Then we create the “how” piece of the puzzle.

We begin with the end in mind and then create the roadmap to success.

Working With Passion and Purpose

Work is a large part of our everyday lives. Whether your work is as a stay at home parent, a business executive, an entrepreneur, or as a skilled service provider. Whatever it is that you have been called to for “work” at this stage of life is vital. For you. For your family. For your employees. For the economy.

God has created you to not just work but work with meaning.

With purpose.

With passion.

This is accomplished by getting clear on what makes our work significant. We do that by knowing where we want to end up in life, and what makes that important to us. We bring purpose to our work when we begin with the end in mind.

When we know the how and why of our work, the rest becomes clear. When we know where we want to end up, we know how to create a plan that will get us there. When we begin with the end in mind, we will spend our days on tasks that help us “Beat Blake” every time we need to.

This is part of a week-long look at “Working with Passion.” To receive all the content plus some bonus material, subscribe to my newsletter.

 

Leadership's Secret Sauce

“I Have No Idea What I’m Doing!”

In April of 2009, I became a father for the first time.

My wife, more than a week past her expected due date, was ready to burst. We tried everything that was supposed to help induce labor: drank strange teas, ate spicy foods, gobbled down pineapple, applied special lotions. You name it, we had tried it.

In intense pain and ready to not be pregnant in the warm California spring, we started walking.

We walked.

And walked.

And walked.

Late at night, on the campus of my master’s program, we created a half mile loop from our tiny apartment to the fountain at the center of campus. Over three miles into we finally collapsed into bed. The night was warm. The air was muggy, and after a full day of school and labor-inducing hacks, we were tired.

We got ready for bed, drank some water and tried to lay down. Roughly thirty seconds after I fell asleep she woke me: “It’s time!”

We hurried to the hospital, got admitted, and eight hours later had the joy of seeing my daughter born into this world.

Newborn Baby
First-time fatherhood is scary.

After the doctors were done running all of their tests, one of the nurses turned to me and asked, “Do you want to hold her?”

Call it naivete but that thought had never actually crossed my mind.

I stared at the nurse with a panicked expression on my face and said something along the lines of, “Uhhh….But she’s so little, what if I break her?”

Leadership’s “Secret Sauce”

As a first time father, I was overwhelmed at all of the things I was “supposed to know.” I’ll be honest: I didn’t know any of them.

I felt overwhelmed, under-prepared, emotionally fragile, and unsure of myself.

Thankfully, a decade and three additional kids later…..I’m still all those things (but with many more chances to doubt myself and screw it up).

Leadership, as it turns out, is often the same.

We have these grandiose ideas about our favorite leaders and how they make it look “easy.” The truth is that they have had to learn about leadership under pressure.

Great leadership happens, not because people are innately born with super-human capacity but because they committed themselves to show up, admit their inexperience, learn, try, fail, and try again.

Leadership's Secret Sauce
Leadership’s Secret Sauce

Growing as a leader has a fairly simple (not easy) formula:

Show up.

Commit to learning.

Progressively challenge yourself.

Fail.

Try again.

That is the secret sauce to leadership. It is about showing up, every day, in all situations, with our full selves, to be fully present in service to others.

 

What are you committed to learning as a leader? Chime in below!