“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Martin Luther King Jr
Far too often I got caught up in wanting my next promotion, or next big gig. How could I move up in status and money? “I’m too smart and too valuable to be working on this small operational stuff,” I’d tell myself.
Additionally, when we used to interview candidates for the Carleton University Students’ Association; potential earnest candidates would say, “…I want this role so that I can help make a difference, and provide value to the student body…”
But how are you making a difference and providing value today?
We don’t need a position or a status to permit us to create value, help others and be the best at our craft.
Once we focus on being the best at what we do, then we’ll see growth come our way.
It wasn’t until I started to focus on becoming a better speaker that I saw a difference. With more refined content, impactful delivery and a clear sense of purposeful action; I start getting more bookings, and referrals.
Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500, an entry-level employee, or volunteer at a not-for-profit organization, be the best street sweeper so that others can’t help but notice how talented and hardworking you are and reward you for it.
Focus on being the best at what you’re currently doing, and the next will follow.
I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. But I’ve naturally tended toward storytelling. And in fact, I always feared to put my writing out to share. I always found myself to be a better oral communicator than a written one. But every day as I write these short blogs, I think of how I can make each one the best.
I was hoping you could help me to continue improving, by sending me your top favourite blog post at the end of each week!
If I had to plot the expectations I had of my teams in regards to performance it would follow a linear growth pattern.
Where input of effort, equalled the output of productivity. And as such if we increased our efforts, we’d have more productivity. As we learned more and grew, so should our performance. Additionally, if we added skills, and technology to that, we could increase productivity by such factors.
But my thinking had fundamentally changed after reading the book, Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loeher, and Tony Schwartz.
Schwartz and Loeher show that our energy flows which are tied to our ability to perform follow a natural, sine and cosine pattern. That means it ebbs and flows, up and down. Naturally creating highs, and lows. Biological rhythms guide our everyday lives.
The most obvious of rhythms that we all adhere to is the circadian rhythm. We’re awake for 16-18 hours – spending energy. Then we’re off and asleep for 7-9 hours (renewing energy).
Many of us think about managing time. But energy is the fundamental currency of high performance. Thus we should look at the skillful management of energy.
For everything we do as peak performance leaders are dependent on the energy, we bring forward.
As a leader, if you run, your people will jog. If you jog, your people will walk. And if you walk, your people will crawl.
You and your energy set the pace.
So how are you managing your energy?
Six years ago I was introduced to the idea of daily journaling. Champions of the idea mentioned the benefits of writing your thoughts down. Benefits such as getting out of your head and being able to focus on what’s important.
Giving a try, I struggled with writing in the journal. I didn’t know whom I was writing too, or for what purpose. Was I supposed to correspond to myself? Was this inner dialogue? Was this a way to vent out life’s stresses? Or was I recording a sort of memoir to be looked at and to remember?
I stopped writing after struggling to make sense of it.
Three years ago, I picked it back up after having a conversation with my father. My father had wished he kept his journals when he was a young man so that he could share some of it with us.
The simple idea then came to me. I will write once a week in a journal for my future kids. To them, I’d share some memories, lessons, and a glimpse of who their father was when he was in his twenties. (but maybe not some of the crazy stuff).
I’ve done this now, on and off for over three years, and yesterday I flipped back to the first page, re-read it and smiled.
I wanted to share that first page with you. The thoughts that 20 something-year-old me would have wanted to share with his children. I found it to be ever so relevant to me today.
When giving advice;
People tell others to do what they wish they did.
People wish they did the things they didn’t do.
People tell to get the things they couldn’t have.
And people want what they don’t have.
This ends up in a sort of circular logic, with no right answer.
I would tell you to travel, have more fun, meet more people, and hold on to relationships more deeply. Spend more time outdoors, take care of your body and move more often. But, if you take my advice, you may end up telling your kids to do the things that you didn’t do; because you did what I wished I’d done.
Life is journey kid, and it’s about listening to every musical note and breathing in every breath of fresh air. No matter what you do, I won’t tell you what to do; instead, I’ll tell you how to do it.
Do it with your heart, soul, mind, and body all in sync in the present moment. Put everything you can into it. Live in the present moment, and let God’s greatness manifest within you, let life flow through you.
If we all did the things we never did, we’d all wish we did the other things we never did with the time we never had.
So stop wishing, stop trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do and start living.
Gordon MacKenzie renowned for his creative work in writing Hallmark cards in the 1980s was intrigued by the factors that make up human creativity.
He proceeded to create a social study to identify the factors that makeup artists. Surveying a group of adults, he found that 10-15% of adults consider themselves artists. Unhappy with this result he wanted to understand why.
MacKenzie took his work to schools. He went to a full class of kindergarteners and posed the question.
“Any artists here?”
And as you may have already guessed, the entire class put their hand up.
“ME! ME! ME! I’m an artist! “, the kids would yell in enthusiasm.
Intrigued, MacKenzie followed the same group of kindergarteners. Once they were in grade 3, he followed up with a similar question to the class.
“Any artists here?”
This time around, only about half of the class put their hand up with little enthusiasm.
Following the same group, as they aged into grade 6, MacKenzie asked again,
“Any artists here?”
And only about 10-15% of the class put their hand up while looking around at their peers for validation.
Something unusual must have happened between kindergarten and grade 6.
Either you became worse at art than you were when in kindergarten.
Someone along the way told you that you weren’t good enough…
Many think that to be an artist you have to be good. That is incorrect.
The only difference between an artist and someone who is not is that an artist creates.
To be an artist you need to create.
In parallel, the only difference between a leader and a follower is that a leader takes action.
A leader creates.
“Everyone is innately creative, it posits; creators are just people who act. And, of course, they don’t always succeed.” – James Hamblin
We’re naturally egocentric.
Our love for Hollywood movies comes from envisioning ourselves as the main actors, in a heroic triumph. Even in romance or mystery novels, we connect with the characters, relate to their problems and their imperfections.
We see ourselves as the protagonist of our own movie, called Life.
The Luke Skywalker who’s been abandoned but yet destined for greatness. That everyone in our lives are the supporting cast, and secondary actors that are there to guide us, or get in the way of reaching the climactic victory.
But as leaders, you’re not Luke Skywalker.
As a leader, you’re Yoda.
Mentoring his people.
Bringing teams together.
Helping people believe in themselves.
We think Yoda is this
But the secret about Yoda is that he leads through influence. He provides the exemplary leadership to allow his people to follow, and his younger leaders to take action.
As a leader, you’re not the protagonist of your own story. You must make your people feel like they are the Luke Skywalkers, destined for greatness, and supported by a cast.
“Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”– Yoda
Athletes and competitors know all too well the feeling of playing down to an opponent’s level. We don’t do it on purpose. In fact, we’re baffled by it, and catch ourselves saying “we’re better than this!”
I recall losing a game in
Two things seemed to have happened. We played down to their level. And they played up to our level.
Knowing that we crushed them the time before, they came out hungry and focused. The competition brought out the best in them. We, on the other hand, were meeting the minimal expectation to win, staying a couple of points ahead.
We unconsciously dropped our standards.
Greatness in fierce competitors comes from an unwavering commitment to high standards. Usain Bolt came first in the 100-meter dash at the 2016 Olympics running a 9.81. Gatlin came second running 0.08 seconds behind and De Grasse third at 0.1 seconds behind Bolt. The margins were minuscule, yet they made all the difference.
When we’re not where we want to be, we should look to see if we’re playing down to the level of our environment.
Or if it’s time to set new standards; set them 0.1 seconds higher.
“It doesn’t work if the bad guys kill his mother’s uncle’s friend’s neighbour’s pet dog. You’ve got to make the stakes high.” – Steven Seagal
Lilly was this 12-year old shy daughter of Chinese immigrants. Not born here, but raised here from the age of 3; she was a total wiz kid. Lilly was brilliant in math, could draw better than the majority of adults, and was as sweet as an angel. But, she was timid. Very reserved and seldom engaged if not asked.
Luckily she was a Boys and Girls Club (BGC)
Over the years Lilly stayed engaged at the BGC. She helped out with the local youth council and volunteered to help the other kids. When Lilly was 17 and graduating from high school, she decided to write me a letter.
In the letter, she wrote,
“….I still remember the exact moment you took me aside and told me that you saw yourself in me. I was awed that you thought so highly of me and thought that I could become like you. Life at home was tough, and coming to the BGC was a bit of an escape. You made me believe in myself….”
I would be lying to you if I said that I recall that moment or even that conversation. To me, Lilly was just another kid at the Boys and Girls Club. A place that I enjoyed going to, helping out, and getting a paycheque. Nowhere else would I get paid to play basketball.
One of the most significant moments in Lilly’s development was one I would never recall.
As leaders, it is surprising how often this is true. Sometimes we are unaware of the impact, we have on others. Drew Dudley coined the term “Lollipop Moments” in his Ted-talk recalling a similar experience.
Our unawareness does not take away the significance of these everyday acts of leadership. You don’t need a stage, a book, or a million Instagram followers to change the lives of others.
It begins with our everyday acts of leadership.
Perhaps you have a lollipop moment where someone changed your life, and you’ve never told them. Give that person a call and let them know.
The words you use and actions you take as a leader have enormous unintended effects, both good and bad.
As we gain awareness, we’ll have more intentional lollipop moments.
Those who identify as achievers get fulfilment from creating projects and completing tasks. We love the feeling of success and go from one project to the next in search of our future victory.
Though what’s true among achiever personalities, is that our biggest fear is failure.
We’re taught from a young age that making a mistake is wrong.
Get enough questions wrong on a test, and you fail.
Fail enough tests, and you have to repeat a year in school.
Some of us may have failed a class, a school project, a student election, or even on an early stage start-up. Unfortunately, that ugly feeling of failure that creeps up from your gut, and through your esophagus is something you don’t forget.
It’s easy to say, “don’t give up!”
“Pick yourself back up!”
But once you’ve laid everything on the line, and lost it, failure has a different meaning.
And so, today, half of us fear failure so much, that we don’t try. We count ourselves out and justify it. The other half fears failure that they stop halfway, set the bar lower, to avoid the risk of losing what they have.
Our fear of failure has led us to mediocracy.
But, what if we looked at failure like the red lights that we have to stop at on our way to work, home, our dream vacation? We have got to wait a few minutes, and then keep driving. Or a detour construction sign, that forces us to take an alternative route?
Here’s a list of a few of my red lights in the past eight years:
2010 BGCO Flag Football Tournament Fundraiser
2011 Future Community Builders Program
2012 FYBY #iThink Campaign
2013 CUSA Council
2014 ECON Class
2015 CUSA: I’m Gonna Vote
2016 CUSA: Student Union Building
2017 Frank is a Phone
2018 (SJ) Student Union Executive Training
Better yet, here’s a list of some of the most famous red lights in history:
Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.
Babe Ruth, considered by sports historians to be the greatest athlete of all time and famous for setting the home run record, also holds the record for strikeouts.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Walt Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
Eighteen publishers turned down Richard Rach’s 10,000-word story, Jonathan Livingston Seagull before Macmillan finally published it in 1970. By 1975 it had sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone.
Abraham Lincoln was defeated in eight elections; before he went on to liberate the United States of America.
I’m not saying you have to fail.
I’m asking what decisions would you make differently if you thought of failures as red lights?
Shoot your shot.
I wantxd to try and xxplain thx importancx of txamwork. Yxt I could not quitx put it to words.
Txams arx complxx human structurxs, whxrx xach mxmbxr is dxpxndxnt on thx nxxt. Thx individual impact of xach mxmbxr is not always clxar until it’s missing.
Wx may think to oursxlvxs, “Wxll, I am only onx pxrson. It won’t makx that much of a diffxrxncx.” How wrong wx all arx.
Wx should start assxssing txam mxmbxrs by thx impact thxy makx and not by thx rolx thxy havx. As wx’ll sxx for any group to work xffxctivxly, it rxlixs on thx activx participation of xvxry singlx pxrson.
Thx nxxt timx you think you arx “only onx pxrson,” or disrxgard thx opinion of “just onx txam mxmbxr,” rxmxmbxr thx agony of rxading this post.
Whilx a simplx kxystrokx missing, did not stop you from undxrstanding, it playxd a significant rolx in thx impact of thx mxssagx.