Category: Success

04 Dec 2017

Relationships Are Painful, Get Over It!

We hurt one another, it’s what we do.  The stark fact of your life is that the overwhelming majority of your issues, your pain, and suffering are caused by someone else in your life.  Whether someone fell short of your expectations, or doesn’t fully appreciate you or disrespects you, the majority of your pain is a result of your daily human interactions.

The pain and suffering you feel as a result of your relationships are a normal consequence of a flawed world trying to resolve an imbalance that will never be accomplished until Jesus ultimately returns and heals our world.

The truth is people are hurtful.  Why do we murder one another?  Why do we assault one another?  Why do we steal from one another?  Why do we ever intentionally cause pain?  The frustrating part of life is that there are a lot of unanswered questions that I’m confident can never truly be answered until the end of days, but until then, we must live with one another and carve out a life that has purpose, but how?

Sometimes finding an answer to a hard question is not the right path, instead it’s healthier to acknowledge certain truths and then adjust according to those truths.  For me, I sometimes struggle with certain truths about humanity, because I like to assume the best in people, but in order for me to lead a long, healthy and productive life, I too must acknowledge these fundamental truths:

1. People don’t care about your problems Outside of your parents and probably your spouse, most don’t care about your personal issues.  Why?  Because folks are busy dealing with their own issues.  I remember feeling sorry for myself when I had newborn twins until I ran into a young mother that struggled with new born triplets.  No matter the issue, there’s always someone dealing with something greater.  Suffering is relative.  If it’s your suffering, it’s unbearable, but everyone is suffering at varying degrees, and to them it’s huge and your suffering is less important.  That’s just life.

2. Some people don’t like you. I’m an extreme extrovert.  I love being around people.  The more relationships in my life, the better.  I enjoy getting to know people and I love to relate with others, but with the greater number of relationships comes the greater chance that people won’t buy into me.  I experience people that just dislike me, for whatever reason, and even though it can be hard, it’s just an element of life that I must accept and so must you.

3. People are selfish by nature. I’m selfish.  I’m constantly referencing my own feelings first, when interacting with others.  How does this interaction make ME feel?  What will I get out of this relationship?  These are common questions that we all ask when relating with one another, and that’s normal.  The point is not to be offended when someone puts their own interest ahead of yours.  You do it as well in many situations.  It would be nice if we were altruistic and we do have unselfish moments, but many times were just plain selfish, and accepting that fact, makes dealing with others’ selfish nature much easier in the long run.

4. People are in constant survival mode.  Our natural instinct is to survive.  We will do just about anything to extend our lives.  This plays out in our everyday lives.  When we feel threatened our unsafe, we react.  This comes in many forms.  We lash out, we attack, we flee, we avoid others, and we do whatever it takes to find our “safe zone”.  When you experience conflict with another person and they insult you with their behavior, just remember they’re trying to survive and protect themselves.  Most of the time it has very little to do with you.

 5. We need one another to survive. Despite our flaws, we need each other to survive. I will take a flawed relationship over solitude any day.  I love people, in spite of their flaws, because I too am flawed and there is value in shared camaraderie.  Why do we continue to gather with family members that frustrate and challenge us over the holidays?  Because there is value in shared experiences.  There is value in relationships and the interactions that help us grow and thrive in this world.  We were meant to relate with one another and we must continue to do so to survive and realize success.

This message is not meant to be a downer on humanity, its purpose is to encourage you to acknowledge that people are people and are a wonderful source of joy and happiness for you, but also a source of pain and frustration as well.  We must accept certain principles of humanity so we may avoid the pain of being in constant turmoil over why people do what they do.

When we begin to accept others at face value, and love them for who they are and embrace the relationships we form, then life will be easier to navigate and experience.  Remember, it’s others that will ultimately comfort you when you take your last breath and ascend to whatever beholds you on the other side.  Never lose your zest for relationships and hold on to those critical relationships during times of frustration.  Accept those for who they are and love them in spite of themselves and your life will be more fulfilling and satisfying in the end.

13 Nov 2017

There’s More Than One Way to The Top

I used to think there was a formula to success.  There is not.  There are common attributes that successful people have in common, but there’s no single path to success in any field or discipline, just like there’s no single path to the top of a mountain.  Some paths may be easier than others, but there isn’t one path that leads to the mountain top of success.  The key question, do you have the desire to succeed?

Sometimes folks will ask me, how did you get in to West Point?  I always answer the same, “on my legs.”  I don’t answer that way to be trite, it’s the truth.  I got into West Point because I was fast.  I was an accomplished high school cross-country and track athlete.  The West Point coaching staff desired my talent and so they offered me a spot at West Point.  I always tell parents of children aspiring acceptance into West Point, that my path into the Academy was unique to my story, their child’s path will be profoundly different.  If they have the desire, they will find their way.

Lately, fledging professional speakers ask me for tips on how to get more speaking gigs.  They hope I will provide them a formula that will help them discover success and gain the momentum they need to start a successful speaking career.  I even had one gentleman ask me for a list of all my event planner contacts so he could contact them and book gigs.  I replied to his request with a short and simple answer, “No, you must earn your own referrals.”  I gave him the same encouragement that I give most aspiring speakers, like what I say to young folks that desire to go to West Point.  “If you have the desire, you will find your own path.”  That is the true essence of success and the pathway to the top.

The key to anyone’s journey is to not try and duplicate someone else’s success.  That was their path and will never be yours.  The desire for success proceeds all success.  If one has the desire and is willing to grind it to the top, the path will become apparent along the way.

I used to believe in formulas.  I purchased courses and resources that promised a formula and always came away inspired, but ultimately disappointed when success alluded me.  It wasn’t until I began to take ownership of my journey and understood that my journey was unique only to me and that success would be mine if I continued to move towards it and continued to learn and grow.  Moving forward was my answer and I knew by doing that one simple thing, I would ultimately find my own path.

I’m still on my journey, but the path is becoming clearer.  There’s no one else on this path, because it’s mine.  This path will lead me where I want to go.  I’m sure it will have many twists and turns and sometimes it will be hard to make out, but I’m confident I will endure because I’ve stopped looking for a formula.  I replaced it with respecting other successful people’s journeys and discovering ways I can learn from their success, and ultimately making their success principles my own by applying those principles into my own reality.

How about you?  Are you looking for the secret to success?  Are you looking for that special formula that will finally unlock those obstacles standing in your way?  Or, will you just start moving and climbing that mountain, knowing that if you continue your journey with a grateful spirit and a spirit of growth that you will find your path along the way and when you do, success will be yours.  Don’t wait, stop searching, and start moving!

06 Nov 2017

Are You a Consumer or Producer?

Our culture promotes and celebrates work.  In fact, it’s a badge of honor for one to work long, hard hours and success is too often measured by time worked versus what’s produced.  I recently read biographies on the late Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, and Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla.  Both men are known for their superhuman work ethic and inhumane workload that they expect of themselves and of those that work for them.  However, I contend that this is not the way to long-term and robust success.

There’s ample examples of the meteoric rise of young entrepreneurs that worked insanely hard and achieved fame, financial success and received the accolades that come with such success, but is it sustainable?  Is it worth the cost?  There’s also tons of examples of cautionary tales on successful men and women who crash and burn after achieving profound success.  For every great story on Steve Jobs’ impact on our world, there are an equal number of stories of broken relationships, bad health, and regret because of Jobs’ lifestyle.  The same goes for Elon Musk.

I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this, in my current phase of life.  I work hard and can find myself plugging away on weekends or during family time; however, I’m focused on improving in this area for I know it’s critical for my ultimate success.

What drives us to work long hours at the expense of our health and our relationships?  Is it because of the money, the recognition, or because we don’t know better?  I had a great discussion with my friend, Jack on this subject.  He noted that the world consists of two types of people, consumers and producers.

Most of us are taught to consume.  We are taught to pursue things and to consume them for our own edification.  This consumer mentality requires us to work more so we can consume more.  Producers; however, think differently.  Producers don’t work so that they can consume, they work so that they may create and bring something meaningful into the world.  Producers strive to bring value.

When I began to study producers, the ones that achieved long-term success, I was surprised that many of them didn’t work long hours, they focused on intense work over a few short hours, but did so on a consistent basis.  Studies show that our energy and brain power is a finite resource that must be carefully considered when approaching each day.  We only have four to five hours of daily peak performance available to us.  So, as I consider my life and where I want to go I must ponder what some of the world’s greatest producers had in common.  People like Edison, Einstein, Churchill, Kennedy, or Beethoven.  They all were deliberate with how they invested their time.

I want to do more than consume my way through life.  I have a strong desire to produce and bring value into the world, so as I study other great producers, I’ve discovered four common traits that’s worth considering:

1. Routine – The greats were maniacal about their routines.  They had a rhythm to their days. Most started early, which allowed them to unleash a creativity that benefited the world.  American President, John F. Kennedy, retired to his bedroom, at the White House, for a nap after lunch every day.  Famed fiction author, Stephen King, breaks up his days in two parts.  The first half he writes new material, the second half he rests, recreates and writes correspondence.  Routines free our minds and remove the drain of making daily decisions so our minds can remain fresh to ponder the critical issues of the day.

2. Focused work – I was amazed to discover that many of the greatest producers didn’t work long arduous hours.  Many focused on their most critical work around four to five hours a day, and then spent the rest of their day on less critical tasks.  They protected those hours and didn’t allow the world to penetrate their psyche.  Famed poet, Edgar Allen Poe, would lock himself up and separate himself from the world so he could remain creative and write great prose.  We don’t have the benefit of an infinite amount of creative energy, so when we spend that energy, we must do so on the right tasks that will make a profound difference in our lives and on those that will benefit from our work.

3.  Rest – Some of our greatest leaders made rest a priority.  It was a skill they harnessed to ensure they could remain sharp.  British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, would take two hour naps in the middle of the day, during WWII, even during Nazi Germany bombing raids on London.  He recognized the need for rest and its impact on his mental health and energy during a critical time in history.  Thomas Edison napped often, throughout the day, so he could recharge his batteries and continue his experiments.  Rest is a critical element to creativity and must be respected as a vital tool for success.

 4. Exercise – Long walks and other forms of exercise are paramount to rejuvenate the mind and spirit.  Studies show that exercise allows the brain to continue to work on problems and to reformulate solutions on obstacles encountered throughout the day.  Producers leverage the habit of exercise to help them remain creative and sharp.  Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Facebook founder, is known for taking long walks and holding meetings with critical personnel or new hires during these walks.  Many of the locals in Maine and Florida often spot Stephen King walking along the local roads while reading fiction and enjoying some fresh air.  Exercise is a key tool for producers, because of its contribution to health and creativity.

I don’t believe anyone pursues life in search of insignificance, quite the contrary.  I believe we all want to have an impact.  None of us desires to reach the end of our life only to discover it meant nothing.  To have an impact, we must become producers and create things that may help others.  To be a producer, we need to tap into our inner creative spirit, that little gift that God bestowed us when He created us.  Consider the four elements that many other great producers leveraged before us and we’ll have a shot at creating something that will outlast our days and will indeed have an impact on this world.  Which of these four elements will you pursue today?

30 Oct 2017

How To Communicate Effectively

The more I speak in front of groups of professional men and women, the more I appreciate the power of communication. This year, I’ve expanded my speaking opportunities and have traveled the country speaking to hundreds of professionals on human dynamics.  It’s been great to have the work and humbling to know that people value my presentations.

Recently, I reviewed past surveys to see what people liked or didn’t like about my presentations.  I noticed a trend where my delivery style got the highest marks.  I decided to breakdown my delivery style and evaluate what seems to work with audiences.  Based on the written feedback from previous events, I’ve boiled it down to these six elements:

1. Energy.  If I’m not passionate about my topic, why would anyone else care?  I’m usually exhausted after a speaking gig, because I expend so much energy during a talk.  Energy is important when communicating a message.  Show energy when you communicate with others and it will become contagious.

2. Conversational style.  My lovely wife, Alia, gave me the best advice when communicating with others, especially groups of people.  Have a conversation with your audience.  Engage them, be interactive, be relaxed, like having coffee with a friend.

3. The use of first names.  I once read that a person’s favorite word is their own first name.  People like to hear their name and they respond when it’s used.  I’ve made a point to learn people’s names and try to use their names as often as possible during a talk or conversation.  Folks approach me after a presentation and state how they liked that I used a person’s name in the audience during my talk.  Using names personalizes the interaction and enhances the experience.

4. Action items.  People are busy, so don’t waste time and add value.  I provide tangible action items that will enhance the lives with those that I interact.  Bring value when you interact with others.  Offer solutions.

5. Be organized and focused.  I don’t ramble.  I get to the point and I’m organized with my thoughts.  I deliver my message, offer value, and I move on to the next topic.  Be prepared when you converse with others.  Don’t speak for the sake of speaking unless you have something of value to add.

6. Gratefulness. I appreciate when someone gives me their time and attention.  I try to never take someone’s time for granted and I approach each interaction and presentation with a spirit of gratitude and then proceed to deliver the best message possible.  Never waste someone’s time with empty words, or unorganized thoughts.  If you appreciate their time and are grateful for their attention, you communicate more effectively.

My job is to communicate.  I’m paid to deliver effective messages that will leave an impact on others.  I truly value and appreciate the power of communication.  If done correctly, words can truly alter human behavior, inspire change, and transform opinions.  Success is never too far when you master communication.  Which of the six elements of effective communication will you implement into your next interaction?

18 Sep 2017

Stretch Yourself To Success

I developed a love/hate relationship with the nurses at the Eskenazi Burn Unit during my recovery and physical therapy after my fire accident.  Twice a week I would make the journey up to Indianapolis and meet with my burn team that oversaw my care and welfare.  They would greet me with a smile and then proceed to remove my bandages, exposing my injuries, and aggressively clean my wounds, not seeming to care or notice that it hurt me.

My wounds continued to heal and new skin begin to replace the old skin that was damaged or lost due to the fire.  The new skin on my right foot looked and felt like thin paper.  It seemed fragile as one of the nurses poked and prodded the skin to assess its condition.

“I need you to point your toes.” The nurse politely commanded.  I responded by pointing my right foot away from my body.  However, the new skin resisted and so I stopped.

“Keep going.” She stated without looking up at me.  I refused her command, my new skin was tight and I was afraid to stretch it.

“I know.” She looked up at me with an empathic smile, “It feels like your skin is going to rip or tear, but it won’t, trust me.”

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“Positive, everyone feels the same as you, but this exercise is necessary for healing and growth.  We need to stretch your skin so we can make it pliable and allow it to expand across your wound. Now, point your toes further.” She commanded and looked down at my foot.

I wince as I point my toes as far as I can, hoping that my rigid new skin could handle it.  My skin resisted and it was painful as I stretched it through the exercise.  Sweat found its way to my forehead and trickled down my face and dripped off my chin as I pushed my skin to stretch out beyond comfort.  I was relieved when the nurse told me I could stop.

“I know it’s uncomfortable.” She smiles and stands up.  “You need to do this twice a day so you can train your new skin, ok?” She waits for my response.  I nod and look away from her.  I’m annoyed by the request and not overly pleased by her insistence that I continue to push my skin with this exercise.

I reluctantly follow the prescribed exercise regime, and over time, my skin no longer resists but becomes fully pliable and functional.  Now, I don’t notice it as it’s fully healed.  I can run and exercise, just like new, and I regained full range of motion.  My skin resisted at first, but over time it stretched and adapted to its role on my foot.

Stretching out of our comfort zones in any part of life is uncomfortable, if not painful.  My skin was new and felt fragile.  Everything in my mind told me not to push it, but my veteran nurse knew better.  She knew my skin would stretch and pushing it with my physical therapy was necessary for growth and to ultimately get it where it needed to be so I could lead a healthy life.  How often have you resisted growth and failed to push yourself in some area of your life?

I was convinced my skin would tear if I stretched it too far.  I would’ve let fear hold me back, if my nurse didn’t encourage me.  I had no experience that verified my fears but just assumed my skin wasn’t ready.  We give too much power to our fears.  Many fears are unfounded and not logical and based on emotion.  Our lives, like my skin, are more resilient than we realize, yet we fall short of stretching ourselves to new heights.

Today, my new skin is discolored and it’s evident that I was involved in an accident.  Life is a lot like that.  When we stretch ourselves, it changes us and alters our personality, our character, and our behavior.  Change is uncomfortable but necessary for growth and success.  What area of your life are you resisting change?  Is it time to stretch beyond your comfort?