Time to Think

I have a method for learning I call the think principle: think about what you are being taught and understand how to do it right, think and then do it right, do it right without thinking. I use these three steps as a guide for my learning process.

There are a variety of learning styles – visual (images), auditory (listening and speaking), read & write (reading and note taking), and kinesthetic (hands on) but they all follow this simple pattern of thinking. The difference is in how any one person receives the information they are learning and makes it part of their thinking pattern. I myself am a reading and note taking learner.

Ancient Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius placed great importance on thinking and said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

 

Here are the three steps to learning unpacked and explained:

You start out not knowing. If you aren’t confused at first, then you don’t understand how complex learning is. You must remain open to the fact that every time you learn something new, you will need to take time to think about what you are learning. If you aren’t willing to have this level of discomfort than you won’t learn new things.

In 1913 Niels Bohr built the first model of electron orbitals on the hydrogen atom based on quantum theory. Bohr is quoted saying, If you aren’t confused by quantum mechanics, you haven’t really understood it.”

Then you start to know. Think about how you are going to accomplish the challenge, not why you can’t. Once you understand how something should be done, you must think through the process while you repeat what you learned again and again until it becomes second nature. Failing at this point is just one step away from success.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”– Zig Ziglar

Now that you know, you should go. Don’t overthink that which is simple, and don’t underthink that which is complex. The level of thinking involved in learning anything new is dependent upon the complexity of the task. At some point you have to trust that you can do it, and then just do it.

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee

 

 

 

What’s your message?

So many choices for communicating your message today: in-person presentation, email, text, tweet, blog, Instagram, snapchat and others. It doesn’t matter what the medium is; the message is what matters.

“Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience.”Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group

Depending on the medium you will structure your message differently; It could be 125 characters or less, or a picture with a quote, or a 300-word article, or even a 30 minute story with audience participation. The forum doesn’t matter, what matters is the message you want to deliver.

Here’s three key points you need to cover in every successful message:

What do you want them to receive? Focus. What are the key points? How does it all fit together? Every message should be a well crafted story that has a beginning, middle and end.

“The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others.” – Gilbert Amelio

What do you want them to give back? Questions, ideas, even challenges. How do you get the audience engaged in discovering the solution? This is a mix of visualization – word pictures, anticipation – looking for the punchline, and competition – positive reinforcement of participation.

“Leaders who make it a practice to draw out the thoughts and ideas of others and who are receptive to even bad news will be properly informed.” – L.B. Belker

What do you want them to take away? Excitement, direction, action. Every message must include a call to action – the next step the audience should take based on what they just received.

“Good communication is just as stimulating as coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

 

You do make a difference.

To make a difference to someone, you don’t have to change the world, you simply have to change their world. That which seems like a small thing for you to do, can have a big impact on another. As Winnie the Pooh said, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.”

You can make a difference. Do you think you don’t have anything to offer? If you do, you would be wrong. Here are some things that everyone can offer: encouraging words, a listening ear, ideas from your own experience, a smile and a hello, a thank you.

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room.”– Anita Roddick

Do it, don’t just think of it. We are not measured by our intentions, but by our actions. You may want to make a real difference, a big gesture, something that will be remembered. Well, the smallest action is better than the biggest intention. What can you do today that will benefit someone? That is the question to be asked and the surest and fastest way to make a difference.

“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”– Peter Marshall

What about those big things? Good news. We have discussed the little things that you can do every day that make a difference in someone’s life. As it turns out, the big things are made up of the little things that you do.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

 

 

 

 

Take action now to get a chance to succeed big later.

Don’t wait for the big opportunity before you give it your all. Instead grow where you’re planted; when you outgrow that you can be replanted somewhere else. Every professional was once an amateur who took action where they were to get where they got. Bob Proctor once said, “One difference between successful people and all the rest is that successful people take action.”

The action that successful people take isn’t just any action. For it to be impactful that action must be taken timely, early, and fully. Timely – do it now. Early – do it first. Fully – do it best.

Timely. What are you waiting for? You don’t know every answer and every turn you should take, but you do know where you want to go. Start from where you are, doing what you can do, and start today. I’ve heard it said that there are seven days in the week, and someday is not one of them.

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”– Napoleon Hill

Early. Starting today happens every day. You have a choice when you start your action on each day. Start early and do what’s important first. Read, reflect, and rejuvenate through daily exercise to fill yourself up before you give of yourself.

“Get up early. Show up fully. Serve massively. Make history.”– Robin Sharma

Fully. Go big or go home. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing great. Your daily actions, no matter how small the task, should be your best. Make a difference with what you do.

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.”– Og Mandino

 

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If you want to be the best – invest.

We often use the words spend and invest interchangeably. But the action created by these two words leads to very different outcomes.

According to Dictionary.com the difference between spending and investing is this: When you spend you “Use up, consume, or exhaust,” but when you invest you, “Put to use in something offering potential profitable returns.”

There three areas where leaders need to invest to be the best: Time, Talent, and Treasures.

Time – don’t spend your time, invest it. Warren Buffet has a great quote on financial investing that I think applies to how we should view our time as well, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” If you want to be the best, you should only spend your time after you have invested your time in generating a return.

Every activity has the potential to generate a return. Investing your time means setting a goal for the outcome. Some of this can be subtle as you may well say you’re spending time reading. I prefer to think of my reading time as an investment in my education. With that thought in mind I am particular in what I read and I take notes so that I have something more to take with me then when I started. We may also say we spend time exercising. Again, I invest my time in exercise with a certain goal of improvement expected and being measured. Once those investments are taken are of I may indeed spend time reading a book only for pleasure, or take a bike ride only for the sights.

Talents – don’t use your talents, invest in them. We all have innate talents that if developed and applied properly could place us ahead of many in that specific area. Without the proper work investing in their development, many talents are just being used as opposed to making a difference.

Author of the Harry Potter series of books, J.K. Rowling said she “Would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.” Note the focus on being the best she could. J.K. Rowling invested her time from a young age writing fantasy stories and reading them to her sister. As an adult, the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a delayed train ride. She immediately began writing and continued through her mother’s death, the end of her first marriage, and being on welfare to support her and her daughter. After twelve rejections from publishers, the book was picked up and the rest is history.   Rowling never wavered in her work on developing her talent and most would agree did her best in this area.

Treasure – don’t hoard your treasures, invest in them. When we hear the word treasure we usually think of money, jewels, gold or other valuable possessions. While those are indeed treasured for many, I like the other ideas of treasures listed below that should be invested in if we want to be the best.

“Treasure your relationships.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

“Knowledge is the treasure of a wise man.” – William Penn

“Treasure the love you receive above all.” – Og Mandino

“Contentment is the greatest treasure.”– Lao Tzu

“There is more treasure in books than all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”– Walt Disney

 

 

Don’t have a mind full of things. Instead, be mindful of the important things.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the AutoSyringe and Segway and a member of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame discussed focusing on important things when he said, I do not want to waste any time. And if you are not working on important things, you are wasting time.” And if you want to know what things are important, Kamen goes on to say, “I don’t work on a project unless I believe that it will dramatically improve life for a bunch of people.”

Focusing on what’s important is a full-time job. For this to work you don’t get to do this once and expect everything to work out. Success will come from the many choices you make each day that lead to accomplishing the important things.

Listed below are the three important choices you’ll face each day:

Eliminate what’s not important. You can’t do everything in one day. Be realistic and make your to do list only that which is a must do – then stop thinking about the rest for the day. Keeping things that you hope to get to on your list will only lead to frustration. You’ll have another chance tomorrow to consider what didn’t make today’s list, but that’s tomorrow. Author Seth Godin correctly points out that, “Until you remove the noise, you’re going to miss a lot of signals.” When you have too many things on your mind you can’t pay attention to all that is important.

Elevate what’s important. Now that you have only important things on your to do list, you should prioritize that which is most important. The first things on your priority list must be those items that support and strengthen your ability to accomplish the rest. By that I mean Exercise: walking, jogging, yoga…the format that gets you going. Education: reading, listening, experiencing new information…the format that keeps you growing. Evaluation: thinking, writing, recording your thoughts…the format that keeps you knowing. Jim Rohn summarized it in this way, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Make sure you’re ready to take care of the important things.

Celebrate achieving what’s important. With your to do list focused and prioritized to the most important things, you are bound to succeed – in the end. Recognize that everything we do, even if it is important things, won’t always work the first time, or second time for that matter. With diligent effort, you will succeed if you keep focusing on the important things. It’s not a matter of what you are trying to accomplish, it’s only how, and you’re always one decision away from a totally different life. Successful inventor Dean Kamen says, “Most of the time you will fail, but you will also occasionally succeed. Those occasional successes make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.”

Prepare for what’s next

Don’t settle for just being great today, prepare to be awesome tomorrow. When the next opportunity arrives make sure your name is on it.

Describe the future. No one can get the future 100% right, and the truth is you don’t have to be perfect here. Those who give it their best effort will be closer than those that just let the future happen to them. Do the research, talk to the experts, look for commonality between the past and the possible outcomes and describe the future in simple ways. Do this and you’ll find that you will be close enough when the future comes to make any needed last minute adjustments.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzky

Design the plan. Now it’s time to understand what it will it take for you to be where the future is going. I use these three questions in developing my plans: What do I need to know? Who do I need to know? What am I going to do first? The answers to these questions guides the decisions you will make about how to invest your time. Of all the options, which ones prepare you best for the future you have described?

“You have to rely on your preparation and put yourself in a position to succeed.” Steve Nash

Deliver the win. Being prepared removes the doubt, worry and stress of the future. When you’re prepared, you are looking for the future so that you can implement all that you have prepared for. You will succeed because you prepared to succeed.

“I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” – Abraham Lincoln

Lasting leadership – Why, What if, Who.

You and your team are a success when you are there, that’s a start. For leadership to be lasting, it must enable a process that will continue after the leader isn’t there.

There are three areas that must be on auto pilot – self-correcting all the time, to maintain the positive outcomes that happened with your influence.

Why?  Don’t tell people how to do what they need to do, instead help them discover why they need to do and they’ll figure out how.

“Instead of telling the time, build a clock that could tell the time forever.” – Jim Collins

What if?  Recognize and expect that not everything will work. The way to success is not a straight, open road, it is a windy, bumpy road that must be navigated.

“If you persist after every temporary defeat, then you will achieve a lasting success.” – Napoleon Hill

Who?  Your greatest success will come by working with and through other people.

“Invest in great relationships, they will pay a lifetime of dividends.”– Bill Walsh

 

Not for show but for showing

not-for-show-but-for-showingWhat example are you showing by how you lead? Leadership is not to show others how good you are, it’s for showing others how good they can be.

Do you tell your team what to do, or sell them on where to go and let them figure out how to get there? Do you step out yourself or expect others to move first? Leading can be tricky business. How do you balance letting people make mistakes and grow, while you demonstrate the way to success? Both can be accomplished if your focus is on showing others how to succeed.

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and actions.”– Harold S. Geneen,

Here are three practical areas for showing others how good they can be:

No better way for showing the way than going the way.   Giving speeches, reading books, studying your industry. These are all very important steps in showing the way. Your team can learn what to do and what not to do from your tutelage. But there’s a difference between reading the owner’s manual of a car and getting behind the wheel and driving. Your actions demonstrate the proof that your words will lead to success. Get out there and do what you say others should do.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”– Walt Disney

Stop doing something and start doing the right thing. Mistakes happen. Wrong choices are made. These are part of a successful career – if you rebound. Once again, your example here is priceless. Be willing to open up and share your missteps and how you overcome them in real time, not just the history but as they happen.

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.” – C. S. Lewis

Don’t just look forward, look back to see if anyone is following. Ok, so you are out front demonstrating everything you are saying. You’re like the drum major in a marching band, leading the way forward. Have you ever noticed though, that everyone once and a while the drum major turns around the see that everyone is in step and marching in the right direction? In the same way, you need to check in with your team to make sure they understand your examples and are having success of their own.

“Thinking good thoughts is not enough, doing good deeds is not enough, seeing others follow your examples is enough.”– Douglas Horton

 

Listen to history, apply it to the future.

listen-to-historyKevin Love played one year of college basketball for the UCLA Bruins in the 2007-2008 season where he led the team to a final four appearance. He was a First Team All-American, Pac 10 player of the year, First Team All-Pac 10.

As a Freshman in UCLA in 2007-2008, Love often reached out to John Wooden for advice. John Wooden was the head coach at UCLA from 1948 – 1975. During his tenure, the Bruins won 620 games in 27 seasons and 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons. During his freshman year Love said of Wooden, “I just turned 19 and I know my history. He’s not only the best coach of any coach of all time, but he’s also one of the best human beings you’ll ever meet.”

Drafted after his Freshman year in college, he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves where he was a three-time NBA All-Star and the Cleveland Cavaliers where he was part of the team that won the NBA Championship in 2016. And when he became an NBA player, Love remembered what he learned from Wooden, “Coach Wooden, when he speaks you listen. I’ve taken a lot of things from him… It’s not just about basketball, it’s about life as well.”

United States Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. summarized the importance of listening to history, and then applying it to the future when he said, “It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”

Those who want to have a positive impact on the future, must first seek to become wise about the past. In the story of Kevin Love and John Wooden, the result was learning the steps that Wooden took so that they could be repeated. In studying history, it is also just as likely that one may learn of the past mistakes to know what not to repeat.

I’ve heard it said this way, “Make sure you understand why the fence was put up before you take it down.” You may have equal chance to leave the fence up as you do in taking it down, but your decision will be made based on knowledge of the history of the reason for its placement in the first place.

 

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