Pack your strengths

No matter where you go, or what you do, remember to pack your strengths. There are things you do well, and there are things in which you excel – these are your strengths. Consider this scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

“’Play to your strengths.’ ‘I haven’t got any,’ said Harry, before he could stop himself. ‘Excuse me,’ growled Moody, ‘you’ve got strengths if I say you’ve got them. Think now. What are you best at?'”

Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest sprinter. He holds the record in the 100 meter and 200 meter races. When asked how he was able to win both of these races in three different Olympics, his response was “There are better starters than me but I’m a strong finisher.” Bolt knows his strengths and excels by using them.

A recent NY Times article discussed Usain Bolt’s remarkable speed and shared the results of a SMU study on the biomechanics of his sprinting. Here are a few of the facts reviewed:

Bolt is 6 feet 5 inches tall and can cover 100 meters in 41 strides were other sprinters need up to 48 strides. He is able to conserve energy with fewer strides which allows him to maintain a faster pace over the last 30 meters when all sprinters, including Bolt, are slowing down. This explains his comment on being a strong finisher.

The next fact is one that requires more discussion. According to the SMU study, “His right leg appears to strike the track with about 13 percent more peak force than his left leg. And with each stride, his left leg remains on the ground about 14 percent longer than his right leg. This runs counter to conventional wisdom, based on limited science, that an uneven stride tends to slow a runner down.”

How could the world’s fastest sprinter run in a method that is counter to that which drives top speed? In his autobiography, Usain Bolt shares that childhood scoliosis caused his right leg to be an inch shorter than his left. The scientists at SMU propose that Bolt developed his sprinting style – his strength – to compensate for the difference in leg length.

In the end, Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest sprinter because he uses his height, endurance and ability to adjust his stride to run faster than everyone he competes against.

Here are the three lessons we learn from Usain Bolt: Know how you excel, Practice how you excel, Repeat how you excel. This will lead you to your greatness.

No matter where you go, or what you do, remember to pack your strengths.

You’ve changed

Remember your school reunions? Some people “Haven’t changed a bit,” while others hear, “You’ve changed.”  I am not sure which one is meant as a compliment but I know which comment I wanted my classmates saying when I walked in the door because I planned and strived to be different, better than I was before.

Reunions are often meant to relive the glory days of old, simpler times when in retrospect life was easy.  But why live in the comfort zone?  We should be seeking change, doing everything possible to learn, grow, experience new adventures.  As Jim Rohn said, “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.”

Here are three considerations for those who are eager to start the journey of becoming the fullest version of themselves.

Change inspires greatness.  Be clear that the road to greatness is built on change.  An oak tree would still be an acorn if it wasn’t willing to change.  Who you are is good, who you can be is great.

“I’m interested in things that change the world or that affect the future and wondrous, new technology where you see it, and you’re like, ‘Wow, how did that even happen? How is that possible?’”- Elon Musk

Change requires sacrifice.  Becoming something new means leaving behind something old.  The level of intensity that got you where you are today won’t get you to where you want to be tomorrow.  If you’re into fitness you know that your level of growth is directly tied to your level of effort.  All growth follows the same principle. 

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” -Anatole France

Change desires more.  Change is like Newton’s Law of Motion which states, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  Starting the process of change is difficult, but once started you will want to keep moving forward through the next change to reach new success.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” -Henri Bergson

You Belong

You belong because your you.  You don’t have to change who you are to belong. You don’t have to act a certain way to belong.  You just need to be you and let people see the real you. Certainly, there are always activities that must be completed, goals to be achieved, and deadlines to be met.  But have you considered that perhaps you can do all of those things, and be you?

We all want to belong.  Do you remember the TV show Cheers?  The theme song had this great line that perfectly captured why people came to Cheers “Where everybody knows your name, and we’re always glad you came.”  Wouldn’t it be great if the room lit up when you came in and people stopped to shout your name? “Norm” was the refrain on Cheers.  This is what we all want.  It’s in our DNA to want to be connected to other people.

“The most basic human desire is to feel like you belong.” – Simon Sinek

The world wants you to fit in.  If you’ve ever applied for a job you have undoubtedly seen that each opportunity had a thorough description of the candidate’s desired skill, experience, background etc…It’s unlikely that you, or anyone else meets all of the descriptors as laid out.  But, this is what we compare ourselves to.  Instead we should find the role that allows us to do what we do best that also fulfills the needs of the employer.  Alternately, you could confidently aspire to achieve success in roles in different ways than they have always been done by being you.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You should want to stand out.  If you subscribe to the use of tools like Strengthsfinder you are aware of the statistics that accompany the output.  In Strengthsfinder, the participant receives a report of their top five strengths in order out of 34 possible strengths.  The math behind those numbers says there is a 1 in 33 million probability that any one person’s top five strengths, in order, are the same as anyone else’s. So, if you allow yourself to be you, you will stand out. And your unique perspective will be a key aspect of why you belong.

“It sounds so simple, but if you just be yourself, you’re different than anyone else.” Tony Bennett

Make better choices

What will you do in the present to improve your future?  You may have made poor choices in the past and wish you had taken different paths.  Or maybe you have not really made any choices and just let things happen and want to take more control of your life.  There is a strategy for making better choices.

World renowned expert on strategy and Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter is quoted as saying, “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”  Let’s analyze these three areas in terms of making better choices.

Making choices.  If you want to make better choices, you first have to be willing to make choices.  Someone has to decide, and where you’re concerned that must be you.  Jim Rohn, the man who mentored Tony Robbins, said it like this, “It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” Be determined that you will decide, each and every time.

Trade-offs.  There are never truly perfect answers; but there are better answers.  And there is always a limited amount of information and limited time to decide. What you do with the limited time and information to make the best possible choice can make all the difference in your success.  Are you willing to dig a little deeper?  Are you willing to ask for help?  If you are, you can find what you need to weigh all the possible answers and pick the best one for you.

“Most decisions are not binary, and there are usually better answers waiting to be found if you do the analysis and involve the right people.” –  Jamie Dimon

Choosing to be different.  The easiest choice is to do what everyone else is doing – but that just results in you being average.  What sets you apart is what makes you successful.  All of the choices you make every day should get you one step closer to what makes you different.  Start with deciding what the end game is. Define your dreams, then put everything into accomplishing them.

“Making better choices takes work. There is a daily give and take, but it is worth the effort.” –  Tom Rath

 

Make it Happen

Don’t let things happen to you, make them happen for you. A subtle difference in words that leads to a major difference in outcomes.

There is power you can draw on to make it happen:

Use the power of purpose. Why am I doing this?  This the key question you need to have an answer for every day.  Your purpose allows you to make better choices among many which seem reasonable, based on which one brings you to your success in the best way.  Your purpose energizes you to keep going during mundane tasks that will lead you to the ultimate goal.  Your purpose helps you start again after a failed attempt.

“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” – Wayne Huizenga

Use the power of planning.  What needs to happen? You know where you want to end up – your purpose – but how are you going to get there?  If you want the highest probability of success you must plan your steps.  Start with the biggest grouping of activities that makes sense, then narrow in on the immediate actives and go for those.  After each set of immediate actions, re-evaluate where you are and adjust your plan to reach your purpose.

“An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” – Scott Belsky

Use the power of people. Who can help me?   Each individual is limited by time and ability.  That is why organization and allocation of resources and delegation of the work is paramount to achieving your purpose in the most effective and efficient method. 

“To make any future that we dreamt up real requires creative scientists, engineers, and technologists to make it happen.”- Neil deGrasse Tyson

Do your thing – not everything.

Doing your thing and not everything doesn’t limit you in anyway.  In fact, it expands your ability to have a big impact if you do your thing in a great way.

There is a limit on how much time and effort you can invest on any one task.  Each person has necessities that must be done to survive – eat, sleep, shelter – and there are those activities that should be accomplished to revive – exercise, learn, relationships – next are those things that if done exceptionally well will cause you to thrive – endless possibilities.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

With the limited time available for those things that are in the thriving category you need to choose wisely.  Which ones will have the biggest impact?  Which ones am I sure to complete? Don’t do four things half way, do one thing all the way.  Focus your energy on completing the small steps needed to have the big impact.

Do the small things well, they will add up to big things.  John Wooden was the head basketball coach for UCLA for twelve years.  Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” winning ten NCAA national championships and seven in a row during his tenure.  This big accomplishment happened because Wooden focused his players on doing the small things well.  He is quoted as saying “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Each freshman player first learned how to put on their socks and shoes properly.  There was a technique that involved pulling up the socks so there were no flaps in their shoes that could cause blisters, and tying their laces tight so there were no sprained ankles.  NBA great Bill Walton played under John Wooden and said he was shocked when he first heard the lesson on socks and shoes.  He also said that this initial lesson described, “Everything they would need to know for the rest of their lives.”

Then every year each player, regardless of their experience, received a copy of Walton’s “Pyramid of Success,” in which he lays out the steps for success.  These include developing abilities such as Loyalty, Self-Control, Skill, Confidence among the fifteen steps. The top of the pyramid Competitive Greatness, and is described at, “Perform at your best when your best is required.  Your best is required each day.”

If you want to have a big impact, do your thing in a great way.

How is your message received?

You have something to say – a message that people need to hear – it can change lives for the better. You’ve worked hard and earned the opportunity and platform to share your message – congratulations. That’s a great start. But if you want your message to have an impact, it must be acted upon. How do you make sure that happens?

There are three main ways that messages are received and how the deliverer can take steps to ensure it is acted upon.

Some already believe in and practice what you are saying. They have done all they can up to this point to be successful and are ready to do more.

They will be looking for you to provide them with the resources to accomplish even more.

Your direction should be – Go do it, what can I do to help you be successful?

Some have never been exposed to your ideas but like what they are hearing. They believe that this can be something to help them be successful and want to learn more.

They will be interested in you teaching them how to apply what your message shared.

Your direction should be – Here’s how you do it, what can I do to help you learn?

Some have never heard these type of message and are not convinced that it is the right answer for them to be successful. They need to hear it again and again including past examples of success so they understand more.

You will need to convince them that your message is worthwhile.

Your direction should be – You need to do it, what can I do to help you understand?

What to do with an unsolvable problem.

Too many times people face problems that they deem unsolvable. They stop trying to solve the problem by saying, “It is what it is.”

But is it?

An unsolvable problem is really just a problem where the solution has not yet been identified.

Why do some people solve enormous problems while others give up? According to Bill Hybels, “Visionary people face the same problems everyone else faces; but rather than get paralyzed by their problems, visionaries immediately commit themselves to finding a solution.”

Here are the steps that will help you solve those unsolvable problems:

Re-Group. Just because you can’t see the answer to a problem doesn’t mean the answer isn’t already there. The odds are that someone, somewhere, has faced the same problem and at least stumbled upon the answer. Trust that you will find it, somewhere else, if you look.

“If you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world, or in the room, you’ve got real problems.” – Jack Welch

Re-Grip. Prepare yourself to hang on long enough to find that solution. Look around you. Where are other successes happening? Who is having those successes? How are they having those successes? Select from the many choices you will find and take hold of what will work for your problem.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”- Albert Einstein

Re-Commit. Now that you have decided to solve the unsolvable problem, and you chose the right solution, commit to give it all you’ve got.

“It’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti

Instead of questioning intentions, review outcomes.

When plans are not working out, assume others have good intentions and work on helping them achieve the right outcomes through questions, suggestions, and solutions. In the end, you are going to get what you focus on. Invest your time achieving the results in this way and you’ll find success while also teaching someone something new.

Actions, not intentions, lead to results. Why spend your time thinking about other people’s intentions when it’s actions and outcomes that bring success? Paint the picture of the future and build a plan to get there.

“Better to inspire into action then to inquire as to intentions.”– Denis G. McLaughlin

Sharing knowledge makes for good discussion. Facts are universal and non-judgmental. Intentions are personal and internal. Gain alignment with the facts and you’ll gain alignment with the plan.

“Never question another’s motive. Their wisdom, yes, but not their motives.”– Dwight D. Eisenhower

Don’t focus on faults. It’s too easy to assign the cause of mistakes to a lack of concern when in reality it could be just a lack of understanding. Correct the understanding and not the person.

“The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything they do becomes tainted.”– Mahatma Ghandi

 

Who’s the Leader?

There’s a difference between being in a group and being a leader in that group. Even if you are making a great contribution, and the group could not succeed without you, that doesn’t make you the leader. How do you become the leader? How do you achieve the power of leadership?

It’s not the one who is named the leader that sets the direction for the group. It’s who the group actually follows that is the leader. How is that different? Why would people follow anyone who doesn’t have the leader title?

In his best-selling book, The Leader Who Had No Title, Robin Sharma tells a wonderful allegory about true leadership power – and as the name suggests, it doesn’t come from a title. As Alice Walker put it, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Here are the four leadership powers that we all possess regardless where you work, or your title:

1 – Every one of us alive in this moment has the power to go to work each day and express the absolute best within us. And you need no title to do that.

2 – Every one of us alive today has the power to inspire, influence, and elevate each person we meet by the gift of a good example. And you need no title to do that.

3 – Every one of us alive with life can passionately drive positive change in the face of negative conditions. And you need no title to do that.

4 – Every one of us alive to the truth about leadership can treat all stakeholders with respect, appreciation, and kindness – and in doing so raise the organization’s culture to best of bread. And you need no title to do that.

And here is the best summary of the power of leadership I have every read:

“Leave every single person who intersects your path better, happier, and more engaged than you found them.”– Robin Sharma

 

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