Being terrified doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human. And the most important steps we take in life are often going to be the most terrifying. They’re terrifying because they’re significant. They’re terrifying because they take you from where you’ve been and set you on a path to somewhere new. And because that path is new, it is mostly unknown, and we’re afraid of the unknown. The the wold belongs to those who step anyway. The world needs you to take that next step.
Over half of the US population uses supplements. Every year that number increases. Interestingly, there’s no correlation of improvement to public health.
Why is that? Is it that supplements don’t work?
No. Looking deeper, what researchers found is that when someone takes a supplement, say a multi-vitimin, they make a mental “check” that they’ve done their bit of good for their body for the day. Then when mealtime comes, they justify bad decisions. Or that when it comes time to exercise, they don’t feel so bad waving it off.
This is a sweeping psychological problem inhibiting real life progress.
We often do small, simple tasks, which have relatively little real impact, to justify putting off substantial tasks of critical value. We get a false sense of progress. We appease our emotions by doing what’s easy, and not what’s important.
There are real barriers surrounding the big tasks. Whether it’s ambiguity, time, difficulty, or fear. Little tasks mean little risks, but the bigger tasks are the ones that really need to be done.
So if you want to succeed in life, you need to buck up and do the work.
(P.S. I recommend Steven Pressfield’s new book “Do The Work“, which is a practical walkthrough of getting the right stuff done. Even better, right now it’s free!).
There are lots of reasons why you might seek change. Often those reasons are centered around yourself. Your personal betterment.
These are noble causes. You are infinitely capable, after all, and you deserve the very best, those rewards earned through the persistent pursuit of positive change.
But there is yet a higher cause. Something even nobler.
Vince Lombardi was the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, who led them to capture their first-ever Super Bowl. In the wake of his incredible success and obvious leadership, Lombardi was highly sought after for corporate events.
He translated the principles of leadership and motivation he used on the football field into 7 principles for work and life. Chief among these 7 principles was one that was surprising for the rough and tough football coach… love. Love, he says, is more powerful than hate.
“The love I’m speaking of is loyalty, which is the greatest of loves. Teamwork, the love that one man has for another and that he respects the dignity of another…I am not speaking of detraction. You show me a man who belittles another and I will show you a man who is not a leader…Heart power is the strength of your company. Heart power is the strength of the Green Bay Packers. Heart power is the strength of America and hate power is the weakness of the world.”
Lombardi taught that when your efforts are fueled by love, you work harder, persevere longer, invest more, take greater care, and are less apt to give up.
Some years ago the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, renowned for providing some of the greatest care in the world for children battling cancer, was building a new facility on campus.
Something remarkable happened, a love-born relationship between the ironworkers and the children. As the Boston globe reported:
“It has become a beloved ritual at Dana-Farber. Every day, children who come to the clinic write their names on sheets of paper and tape them to the windows of the walkway for ironworkers to see. And, every day, the ironworkers paint the names onto I-beams and hoist them into place as they add floors to the new 14-story Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.
“The building’s steel skeleton is now a brightly colored, seven-story monument to scores of children receiving treatment at the clinic-Lia, Alex, and Sam; Taylor, Izzy, and Danny. For the young cancer patients, who press their noses to the glass to watch new names added every day, the steel and spray-paint tribute has given them a few moments of joy and a towering symbol of hope. ‘It’s fabulous,’ said [18-month-old] Kristen [Hoenshell]’s mother, Elizabeth, as she held her daughter and marveled at the rainbow of names. It’s just a simple little act that means so much.’”
The children and their parents were certainly touched, but think of the ironworkers, each morning in the bitter cold and biting wind. Their project had become more than just another building. Their work now had meaning. They had purpose.
This kind of purpose, when your efforts are somehow tied to something more than yourself, creates powerful, self-sustaining drive that you simply don’t otherwise get.
This year I helped coach my 14 year old son’s football team. The prior season was a tough one, with zero wins. Coming into the new season with that record created a powerful barrier to success – self doubt. What the boys needed was something to believe in. Something to rally around.
That something showed up on the first day of practice. His name was Austin. Austin was autistic. But he had a huge heart and an infectious sense of humor (which was often manifested by his sneaking up on a coach and inflicting physical pain, which delighted the other boys.)
His parents didn’t have much by way of expectations, but were excited he wanted to play. Austin didn’t have many friends. Until now.
The team embraced him. At first he would only practice a few plays at a time before losing interest, when he would go sit on the side and watch (or sneak up on coaches). Over time he would stay in nearly the whole practice, with help and guidance and patience of his teammates, showing him where to stand and what to do.
We decided we wanted Austin to have a lot of play time. He started, every game, as defensive nose guard, and cycled in and out every couple of plays. His parents were ecstatic at the experience.
We ended the season with 7 wins and 1 loss, and went to the championship game, where again, Austin started.
This was the same team that a year prior had not won a game.
While there were several things we worked on to overcome mental barriers, and be better prepared, in my mind nothing played a larger role, at least in gaining our initial inertia, than the fact that we had something to rally around. We had a cause greater than ourselves. We were motivated by love, by loyalty.
Love imbues your change efforts with unparalleled, uncompromising purpose.
Whatever your change efforts are, find a way to let them be led, or inspired by a cause greater than yourself, and you’ll find your rate of success increasing dramatically.
Let yourself be led by love.
(You can read all of Lambardi’s principles in his biography by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Maraniss: “When Pride Still Mattered“.)
Bob May had always been different. Small, weak, and slight as a child, he was regularly ridiculed, bullied, and made fun of. He spent his whole childhood like that.
Eventually, he graduated from Dartmouth College in 1926 and married the love of his life, Evelyn. Together they had a beautiful daughter named Barbara.
Bob became a copy writer for Chicago based Montgomery Ward. It was the great depression, and they led a modest, but meaningful life, before everything changed.
Evelyn got cancer. She passed away just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob was 34, Barbara was only 4.
Pressed with grief, and stooped in medical bills, the father and daughter struggled to with each passing day.
At work, Montgomery Ward had been purchasing and giving away coloring books each year for Christmas, and this year they decided to make their own to save money. They approached Bob May and asked him to write a story.
Bob thought of his own life, always feeling different, always feeling like you can’t get ahead. He associated with the story of the ugly duckling. Drawing on these powerful emotions, but fueled by the belief in the hidden value within each of us, he wrote the story of a cast-away, mis-fit reindeer.
Originally named Rollo, then Reginald, bob finally settled on Rudolf. He tested it on his 4 year old daughter, who loved it.
He submitted the story to his boss, who was worried about the red nose (fearing the association with drinking and drunkenness). But Bob believed in his vision, and took his friend Denver Gillen, who worked in Montgomery Wards art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to create a sketch of rudolf based on real reindeer.
The illustrations gave life to the story, and it was quickly approved for distribution.
Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of their Rudolf booklet in 1939. In spite of wartime paper shortages, which curtailed printing over the next few years, they still printed 6 million copies by the end of 1946.
Post-war demand for licensing the Rudolf character were enormous, but while May was the creator, he held no copyright, and received no royalties.
Finally, a major publisher approached Montgomery Ward wanting to purchase rights to print an updated version of the story. Knowing that May was deeply in debt from Evelyn’s medical bills, Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, Sewell Avery, in an unprecedented gesture of generosity, turned the copyright over to May in January 1947.
That year it was printed commercially, featured in theaters as a 9 minute cartoon, and gained huge popularity. May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for a song based on the Character, titled “Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer”.
The song was originally turned down by Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, but was finally recorded by Gene Autry and became a phenomenal success. It sold more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas”.
Bob’s belief in the hidden value within us all became a reality that changed his life, and has impacted millions upon millions of people. His vision and belief had become a reality.
May you recognize the light within yourself, no matter how deeply hidden, and find a way to make it real.
This last year I’ve been working as Director of Product Management for Agent Image, also known as The Design People.
Thursday, I got an invitation by email from my boss, one of the company owners, to join him and the other two owners later that day in a meeting titled “Update”. I’ll admit I was suspicious. I knew how difficult recent times have been for the company.
At the appointed time, I launched the video app I use to join meetings (I work remotely) and quickly found that only one of them had decided to show up. This raised my suspicions.
On the video feed I could tell the poor guy was tortured by something. He was far more fidgety than usual; I knew right away my suspicions were correct.
I should note, this is an extraordinarily nice person. He means well, has a great heart, and it was difficult to watch him have to do this “we-just-can’t-afford-to-keep-you” thing. I’ll admit, I made him go through the whole spiel without a comment or expression from me. I just sat back and listened until he stopped talking.
But when he was done, I called him by name, and said, “… it’s all right, I’ll be just fine”. I told him that I’d been on his side of the table before, and understood just how hard that is, and reassured him that he shouldn’t worry about me.
I closed the video program and sat there looking at my computer screen.
At that moment, perhaps I should have been thinking about my 6 kids. Or about how it was almost Christmas, and how much it would change now. I should have been thinking about how difficult it is right now to find a job, and how much I don’t want to be like my first three fathers, who all (try as they might) were repeatedly unable to provide well (that story here).
I should have been worried about keeping our house, having burned through our nest egg between the last two jobs, and not getting a severance this time (“can’t afford it”).
I should have been worried about my beautiful wife who is a full-time mom to a large family, her life’s dream, and her ability to keep that dream.
But I’ll admit, I was none of those things.
Perhaps being laid off last year before Christmas changed me. I experienced all these things then. Then, I was humiliated, embarrassed, and angry.
Not this time.
This time all I felt was excitement.
Perhaps it was the emergence of my faith and trust in the Lord, he having shown me over the last year that he will provide. Perhaps it was the surfacing of my self confidence, which had been bolstered this past year as I took careful inventory of the skills and abilities which I have been given. Perhaps it was because I have had ongoing insight as to how to turn this life-engineering hobby into a career, and have felt anxious to get started.
Perhaps it was all of these, and more. And while some of those (mostly the anger) came in modest amounts later, the predominant emotion has still been excitement.
Excitement to devote more time and emotion to life-enginering. Something I should have done after having lost my job last year, but didn’t. It was like I had neglected the path I was intended for, and to help me on my way, had the reset button pushed on my career, once again, to give me a second chance.
Most of all, it was a reminder of a true principle. All too often, hidden within the consequences of painful adversity, lie the greatest opportunities. If life was robbed of adversity and conflict, what growth would there be? True discovery, discovery of things that are everlastingly meaningful, are hidden within tough challenges and worthy quests.
This holiday season, my joy is full, for I have been given a most precious gift. I have been given a true challenge. I have a vision of something more that I can become, of something greater that I can do, and now an opportunity and motivation to make it happen.
How exciting. I can think of no greater gift, for a person like me, than a real challenge, uniquely tailored to me, with the promise of a remarkable journey for me and my family that is sure to be remembered for a long time to come.
While I don’t wish for anyone else to lose their jobs, I do hope you find your Christmas equally stimulating, and choose to see within your current circumstance opportunities for greatness. Make life a journey, and make it something to remember.
Todays message comes from my son, who came home from preschool the other day, and couldn’t wait to sing me this song. I love the first few seconds where he forgets the words.
So remember, you are very special.
The movie “Waiting for Superman” premiers this week in select cities. I’m gravely disappointed that none of those cities are near me.
In short, it’s a movie about how badly we’re failing with our school system, and it’s being heralded as one of the greatest documentaries of all time.
Our schools are the incubators of the future, and right now they’re scarcely luke warm, and our nations education ratings are amongst the lowest of all developed countries (see the alarming stats here).
There are many compelling, astounding, and enraging stories in Waiting for Superman.
At the heart of this issue is one of the primary problems with our school systems… we cannot fire teachers who need to be fired, and we cannot promote or reward the teachers that deserve it.
One of these is the story of Michelle Rhee, a “warrior woman” (as Oprah Winfrey today called her), who is creating chaos in Washington by simply firing teachers that aren’t cutting it. But of course labor unions, in their “wisdom” are battling her, and preventing such radical changes.
Incentives, carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments, are such a fundamental element in any system that seeks to improve. What happens when you remove those elements? Stagnation. And that’s just what our educational scores are showing.
Waiting for Superman is bound to be a movie behind which people will rally. It touches upon a nerve, often a raw one, in our society. Education, which among other things, is killing creativity (here).
None of the answers are easy, but it’s time to explore them. It’s time for far more attention to be devoted to it.
You’ll be hearing much more from me on this topic in the near future.
In the meantime, the book “Waiting for Superman”, is now available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, IndieBound, Powells.com, and I just purchased a copy for the iPad on Apple’s iBooks.
When you’re amazing… when you’ve found something that you absolutely love, and you’ve dedicated yourself to it, pursuing it with the full force of your passion and vigor, you can do amazing things. Things that stun your audience.
Federrer just did it in his victory over Brian Dabul on opening night at the US Open. He did it last year against Novak Djokovic as well.
If you missed it, here’s the without-looking, between-the-legs shot. It is… amazing.
I love watching those moments when a whole lifetime of effort and time and sweat and tears and pain and sacrifice all culminate in a single, astounding moment.
Thanks Roger, for inspiring me.
Image (Josh Haner)
Today my son forwarded me an email with link to a movie that had been forwarded to him. I’ve gotten rather adept at ignoring email forwards, because they tend to generally not score well on my “signal to noise” radar.
But, he also doesn’t forward me many emails. I took a chance and watched the movie, and was touched. It’s a true story, told by Helice Bridges, who has been sharing it for more than 20 years.
So, I share it with you, with my recommendation that there’s more signal here, than noise, and with the reminder that you make a difference.
Read the transcript:
A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. Using a program developed by Helice Bridges of Del Mar, California, she called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told them how the student made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold “Who I Am Makes a Difference.”®
Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom and report back to the class in about a week. One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning.
He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons, and said, “We’re doing a class project on recognition, and we’d like you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened.”
Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, “Well, sure.”
The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss’s jacket above his heart. As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, “Would you do me a favor? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else? The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people.”
That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, “The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I’m a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says ‘Who I Am Makes A Difference’ on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this and I thought about you. I want to honor you.
“My days are really hectic and when I come home I don’t pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid and I love you!”
The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn’t stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, “I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me. Now I don’t need to.”
Note: Thank you for being here. Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference. Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.
It amazes me how many people I talk to, even those well into advanced, seemingly rewarding careers, are actually not happy. Just within the past 4 weeks I’ve had a number of my closest friends communicate this to me, these are people who are years into outstanding careers, who have advanced degrees, people who I respect and admire for their accomplishments in life, and the success they’ve had in their careers.
But still, they’re just not happy.
Most often this is derived from a decoupling of your pursuits, from your personality. This is happening with painful frequency, and is extremely expensive.
It’s expensive to the world in terms of lost productivity, and it comes at great cost to you personally, in terms of diminished happiness lost opportunities, and the fact that you just won’t reach peak performance until you’re doing something you love to do.
Is this you? Have you found yourself thinking recently about how much you’d rather be doing something else? Do you know someone recently who is going through this?
I’m dedicating the week to this topic, and longer if necessary.
We’ll be deconstructing the problem as we would an engineering problem. We’ll analyze the constraints. We’ll discuss the principles and methods you can use to chart a new trajectory. A trajectory that moves you towards something vastly more fulfilling, towards a future where you’re pursuits are perfectly aligned with your personality.
We’ll discuss the various obstacles you will certainly face, and how to overcome them. We’ll put together a step by step guide to finding meaning and reward.
I hope you’ll join us. If you know of anyone who is in a similar stage of life, please invite them to join in the journey and participate in the discussions.
Note: Thank you for being here. Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference. Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.
Image from Joseph