The future isn’t just more of today.

future-that-we-createYou’re challenged to accomplish something you’ve never done before. When this happens, we’re tempted to find a way to make what we need to do, fit into what we’ve already done. Here’s the issue – some if it might not fit. Sure, you can rely upon your strengths to help you, but you must see the future – the place where you will apply your strengths, won’t be the same as the past.

“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.”– Peter Drucker

No matter how well you’ve performed in the past, and how far you’ve come, the future isn’t just more of today. It’s different and requires something different.

Create Success. Don’t let the future be the place where you arrive, make it the place you create. Determine where you want to be, and when you want to be there. Believe you will succeed.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

Look Forward.  It’s fine to look back at the past – just don’t stare. Once you take in all that you have done in the past, turn your focus to the future and plan how you’re going to there.

“You can never plan the future by the past.” Edmund Burke

Start Today.  The accomplishment you seek in the future won’t just come someday – it comes with small steps every day. What are you going to do about it today?

“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.” Mattie Stepanek

How do champions give 100 percent?

champions-give-100-percentHow do you give 100 percent to all the important activities in your life? Do you give part of your time to each one – if there are five activities, should you give twenty percent to each? No you should give 100 percent to each, when you focus on each one. This isn’t 500 percent, its 100 percent five times. When you focus on one thing, the others are not on your agenda at the moment. Champions give 100 percent attention to each activity…one activity at a time.

Baseball great Yogi Berra is known for his great quotes that meant more than meets the eye. On the topic of dividing your 100 percent he said, “You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn’t enough, in the second half, you have to give what’s left.” Always give 100 percent of you.

A basketball season covers six months and 82 games. Every game counts if you want to be the best. Three times NBA champion, four times NBA Most Valuable Player, LeBron James says, “Every night on the court I give my all, and if I’m not giving 100 percent, I criticize myself.” Bring all you have to each opportunity.

Rebuilding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996 involved getting the team to think and act like champions. Tony Dungy evaluated the team at that time and said, “They were unwilling to give 100 percent if they didn’t personally think it was important. What you don’t understand is that champions know it’s all important.” Everything you do deserves your best.

John Wooden coached the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team to ten NCAA national championships over twelve years. He said that practice was just as important as the games. “What you do in practice is going to determine your level success. I used to tell my players, you have to give 100 percent every day. Whatever you don’t give, you can’t make up for tomorrow. If you give only 75 percent today, you can’t give 125 percent tomorrow to make up for it.”

How do champions give 100 percent? The secret is they don’t divide up their 100 percent. Champions give 100 percent attention to each activity…one activity at a time.



What sets you apart?

what-sets-you-apart-is-the-difference-you-makeIn a world where achievement is expected and measured every day, how can someone stand out? What sets you apart is the difference you make in the world being you. Why do we work so hard to fit in? You are unique and meant to stand out.

“Strengths lie in differences, not in similarities.” – Stephen Covey

The college application process is very competitive. Good grades and high SAT scores are only the entrance fee. Colleges want to know what sets you apart. Did you play sports, or a musical instrument? So did a lot of other applicants. But what you have done to make a difference using your grades, sports or musical talent is unique to you.

Applying for a job? Education and experience are expected. But what you have done with your education and experience. How have you made a difference in the world?

If you want the best chance to get into the college of your choice, or get the job you desire, go ahead and tell your story, how does it all fit together into the unique you?

“If you want to make a difference you have to be different.” – Andy Andrews

If you aren’t in the right place to apply to college or for that job, then you have the opportunity to look for ways to set yourself apart and use what you have to make a difference.

“It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you use that makes a difference.”– Zig Ziglar

What are you doing with your strengths?

using-strengths-to-succeedStrengths are gifts meant to be used to accomplish greatness. You are strong in ways that others aren’t. In order for greatness to be achieved in the best possible way, we all need our individual strengths working together.

This doesn’t mean that goals can’t or won’t be achieved if you aren’t fully invested with your strengths – it just makes it more difficult for everyone involved. The work will get done, but think how great it would be if your strengths were part of the process.

If you want to be fully engaged in success using your strengths, here is how you do it:

Identifying them. There are lots of different tools you can use, and many are great, to help you understand your natural gifts. The real test, though, in understanding your strengths is do you love what you’re doing? When you can’t wait to begin a project, that is likely a strength.

“A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” – Marcus Buckingham

Developing them. That which we are drawn to because we seem to be able to achieve success effortlessly. Knowing your strengths and being great at your strengths are two different things. It takes work to be the best, and that should be your goal.

“Focusing on our own strengths is what, in fact, makes us strong.” – Simon Sinek

Using them. Take part in activities that you can’t wait to begin. Volunteer for the tasks that excite you. Step forward and offer your opinion, time, and strengths before you are asked. Identifying and developing your strengths means nothing unless you put them to work for your success and for your team’s success.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers




In the end it’s the execution that matters.

two-paths-to-the-endEveryone doesn’t have to agree with you. What matters is that everyone aligns on the outcome and then figures out the path to get there. In fact, if execution is the key then disagreement will get you to a better place. If everyone agrees there is no new thought or challenge. It has been said that, “We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.”

So how do you work through disagreement to get to execution? Here are three distinct steps that will lead to the right answer:

Disagreement. Start with the belief that disagreement is nothing more than people feeling free to voice a different opinion, or question an assumption. You should not only let this happen but encourage it to happen in the right way. Zig Ziglar has said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable,” and the right atmosphere for disagreement should be maintained. Questions raised, ideas shared, and objections levied are all documented to be taken into consideration in the next step – discussion.

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Discussion. Never discount an idea that is different than your own. Instead, each question asked in pursuit of the desired end state deserves an answer, and every objection should be heard and talked through. This is the only way to process the honest disagreement.

“An oil lamp becomes brighter after trimming; a truth becomes clearer after being discussed.”– Chinese Proverb

Decision. At this point you are ready to make the decision as you now have more knowledge than when you started this process. The disagreements have been raised and thoroughly discussed so that the next step is clearer. Decisions made in this way will be carry the most impact.

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”– Tony Robbins

The best answers are often questions

the-right-questionSometimes easy answers are just too easy, and aren’t the best answers. Often the best answers are questions that force us to dig deeper into the issue. Good questions can challenge our assumptions and lead us down another path than the easy answer would. Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, said “Good questions outrank easy answers.”

Take the time to ask questions and you will see that you and other people will learn more even if you think you know the answer.

Questions help get to the right answer. We have heard about the five whys of consulting – asking why until you uncover the root cause. Peter Drucker says the best consultants work by simply asking a few questions. People are better connected to the outcome if they are part of developing the plan.

Here are a few ways to ask questions that helps others discover the right answer for them:

“How would you go about accomplishing this….” then listen to their ideas.

“What would happen if…” then challenge different assumptions in the answers being presented.

“Have you thought about…” then offer alternative options to be discussed.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”  – Benjamin Franklin

The right questions help solve the right problem. The human mind is a wonderful machine that is a problem solver. When you pose a question, it works tirelessly to seek the answer. The key to solving the right problem is to ask the right question.

If something is not working, we might ask ourselves and our team, “Why can’t we accomplish this?” That is the wrong question because all of your energy will focus on understanding the ways you have been deficient and uncovering reasons why you can’t succeed.

Instead, in the same situation the right question is, “What does it take to accomplish this?” With this question you and your team will begin to identify all that needs to happen to succeed. Once you have solved that, your next question should be, “How can we deliver what it takes to succeed?” and so on until you narrow down the right answer to the right question.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

Deliver when you get the chance

deliver when you get the chance“If they’d only give me a chance.” Ever heard that? Or said that? What would you do if they’d give you the chance? Would you succeed? A better way to get a chance to succeed is to seek out chances and not wait for it to happen. If you want to be successful and deliver the results when your chance comes along, here is the strategy for doing just that:

“Success doesn’t come to you; you go to it.” – Marva Collins

Decide now how you will act. You can’t wait for your chance to decide what to do, you have to plan to take action. When choices come along there are more people than you who are looking for it.

“If you don’t design your own plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

Dive in and get started. Every chance might not be the one that puts you over the top. Don’t wait for the perfect chance – as long as it’s moving you in the right direction take advantage of it and get going.

“You don’t get many chances in the world, and you don’t want to throw them away.” – Peter Hook

Deliver the results. Chance alone does not determine the outcome, it’s what you do with the chance that matters. Make it count, do your best each and every time no matter what

“It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.” – Jean Nidetch


Focus – What should you stop looking at?

focus - what not to look atWe just bought a new camera. My daughter was showing us how you can change the picture so the subject is in focus and the background is blurred or the background is in focus and the subject is blurred. It’s a really neat effect that makes the same scene look totally different in the two pictures.

I think this is the same way in life and in work. Some people look out and see too much to do and say there is no way to get this all done. Other people see only what they choose to do and blur out the rest. The same scene looks totally different to each viewer.

Don’t focus on everything. In a good way there is always enormous opportunity to improve, enhance, or create almost anything and everything – and someday, someone should do that – maybe you. For now, some of those opportunities are less important than others. If you try to accomplish all of them or even a lot of them, you are likely to make only marginal progress for a very long time.

“Sticking things out is overrated, particularly if you stick out the wrong things.” – Seth Godin, Whatca Gonna Do With That Duck?

Do focus on what’s essential. Figure out which of the everythings are the best things and stop looking at the rest. Stephen Covey says you can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself within the bounds of time.

“The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey

Do what you focus on well. In his book on Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson said, “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time.” Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, iPad…Just some of the successes that come from focus.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet

Presentations that make a difference

presentationsPresentations are not just opportunities for you to talk, show some numbers or pictures, and maybe get a laugh or two; they are much more than that. Let’s start with what a presentation is. It can be when you are up in front of a room with people listening to you talk about a specific topic. It can also be project meetings, one on one meetings, hallway conversations, and social media posts which are just as much presentations as the front of the room kind and deserve the same kind of preparation and intention.

With that definition in mind, the ultimate goal of each presentation is to cause something to stir in the audience so that each person leaves with a new idea, new goal, or new challenge. Your presentation is a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.

I keep these three ideas in mind as I prepare for each kind of presentation and throughout each presentation because sometimes you have to read the audience and adjust.

Who is the audience? Before you present, you need to know how many people you will be communicating with and their familiarity with the topic. If it’s a small groups of experts, then it will be an in depth discussion on a few points while a large group with little familiarity will mean an overview. Every presentation should be tailored to the audience and not be a rote reading of the same facts and telling of the same stories.

We’ve come to understand the power of knowing your audience on social media – everything is targeted to the finest detail possible – you should do no less for your presentations to the degree you can. If you stop and think about it, you likely know enough about most of your audiences to make it personal so your presentation makes a difference to them. 

“The most important thing to remember is you must know your audience.”– Lewis Howes

What does your audience need? Now that you know who your audience is, you should answer these questions: Why are they attending this presentation? Why should they care about what you are saying? If this is a hallway conversation on the way to lunch the answer to these two questions is: Because you were walking in the same direction, and you struck up a good conversation on the way. On the other hand, if it is a project meeting the answers are likely: To get or share an update, and because you have information/resources/approval authority they need.

When it comes to audience needs, think big picture and small picture. What are their career goals, personal goals, what happened today? You have to take all of this into consideration to have a presentation that makes a difference. Even if it is just a walk to lunch.

“If you target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault, it’s yours.” – Seth Godin

How can I add value to the audience? You know who the audience is and what they need, now it’s time to plan how you can deliver that to them. I believe that the presentation process works best when the audience is not given the answer but is lead through a series of stories, questions, challenges in which they find their answer. It’s not enough that you are passionate about your topic, your audience needs to be passionate for themselves.

Frank Capra, the director of It’s a Wonderful Life, and other great movies said it like this, “I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.”

Take your audience through an experience in your presentation where they can find their answer.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner.


Are you ready for success?

ready for successWill you be ready when the perfect opportunity to have the success you always wanted comes along?

Johnny Carson was the host of the Tonight Show for thirty years where he interviewed thousands of talented people, many who received their big break on his show. Carson himself received a big break when Red Skelton asked him to be a comedy writer on his show. Not long after he joined, Skelton was unable to host one of his live shows and Carson successfully filled in for him. How did Carson get ready for this perfect opportunity?   His college major was speech and drama as he wanted to become a radio performer. His college thesis was titled “How to Write Comedian Jokes” where he analyzed and explained the comedic techniques from popular radio shows of the day.

Johnny Carson talked about becoming successful when he said, “Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are you ready?’”

The first step in being ready for success is to define success. What is success? That is personal to you. Each of us defines success in our own way. In order to be ready for success, you must start with a clear picture of what success means to you. This is the light that will guide the choices that you make. It’s why you do what you do.

You should recognize that you are always working for a purpose, so you should make it a good one. As author and speaker Tony Gaskin says, “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.”

The second step in being ready for success is to start getting ready. The best way to start is to start. Build a plan that includes what you need to know, who you need to know, and how you will obtain both then start with the first activity. Your path will become clearer as you move forward and you can and will adjust your plan.

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not.”– Napoleon Hill

The last step in being ready for success is to take the opportunities. Now that you have defined success and are getting ready for it, you must be on the lookout for and willing to grab hold of opportunities when they arrive. When you make a point of measuring each event against your plan for success you will find that there are more chances than you knew.

“If we are paying attention to our lives, we’ll recognize those defining moments…that if jumped on would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow.” – Robin S. Sharma

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