A Golden Opportunity

Thought leader and Positive Organization scholar Bob Quinn explains his research on why and how having higher purpose (beyond profit) engages employees to act like “owners” and thus creates a competitive advantage for organizations. #ConsciousCapitalism

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Falling is fun!


My niece, Livia, was the first kid in a new generation in my family, just like my sister (and her mother) was before her.  Being the first kid means spending your earlier years surrounded entirely by adults.  I have only anecdotal evidence to support this, but spending all of your time around adults seems to be a double edged sword – making you more mature but also adopting the many worries of adults that most kids never even consider.  True to form, Livia is quite mature for a first grader, but I sometimes wish that she could put her worries aside to enjoy being a kid – carefree and with an occasional skinned knee.   So when she asked me to teach her to ice skate, I was nervous that her first fall might cut our lesson short, or even worse, that watching other kids fall might keep her from ever getting out on the ice in the first place.  She walked up to the rink with a look on her face that showed she was approaching the experience with her characteristic caution, so as I tied her skates, I told her that I had the secret to learning how to ice skate.  When I built it up to the point that she begged me to tell her what it was, I leaned in close to whisper “Falling is fun!”  When she looked at me skeptically, I elaborated about how slippery the ice was and how silly it felt to keep sliding even after you fell.

For the first fifteen minutes, she melodramatically flung herself to the ground at least two dozen times with the acting prowess of a professional soccer player trying to draw a foul. Although my back was less than enthused after repeatedly picking her up off the ice, the shift in her mindset was profound.  No longer was falling something to be feared.  It didn’t take long for her to gain her balance, first by holding my hands and soon without any assistance at all.  With each lap, she improved, gaining both confidence and stability. I heard her say “one more lap” so many times that it wasn’t long before the 90-minute open skate was over.

The adrenaline surge that is triggered by fear is harnessed by many an athlete to help them to run faster and jump higher.  The very existence of the human race owes itself to the power of this response that helped us to outrun predators over thousands of years of evolution.  When you’re trying something new, however, fear can be toxic.  The reason the fight or flight response is able to make us run faster and jump higher is because it has extremely clear priorities.  Blood gets sent to your legs and lungs, while anything that is not essential to your immediate survival shuts down.  No need for your stomach to digest breakfast if you can’t escape becoming the lion’s lunch!

Another important function that shuts down when you’re afraid is the growth and repair of your body.  At a cellular level, your body is continually in a process of renewal, as millions of cells are continually created to replace older ones.  In fact, it turns out that some occasional stress is good – and even necessary – for this growth (think of the “stress” of a workout helping your muscles to grow larger or of pushing outside your comfort zone to achieve a goal).  However, our stress response has become TOO efficient for modern life.  In the absence of a lion, we now feel stress and fear when we have to give a speech or try to avoid falling when learning how to skate.  In fact, our stress response has become so sensitive that for many of us, the stress and fear never goes away…we are chronically afraid.  Your digestive system is a low priority for your immediate survival, so it shuts down…one reason why digestive problems like heartburn can be caused by stress.  Fear will also stunt your growth, not only physically and mentally, but even at the cellular level.  It would be a shame if an extra ounce of energy went to your growth instead of your lungs that could have been the difference between feeding a lion family of four and living to fight another day.  It’s no wonder we find ourselves living in a time obsessed with instant gratification.  Our bodies are constantly telling us to focus on our immediate survival…we may not make it through the day!

I’m certainly not the first to tell you to embrace failure, but typically the only time anyone ever says this is to make us feel better after we have already failed.  Embrace is defined as “an act of accepting or supporting willingly and enthusiastically.  While I know that some of us accept failure willingly, few of us accept it enthusiastically.  Strap on those skates and go out on the ice with the intention of falling.  That’s right: Seek to fail.  Enthusiastically fail.  Embracing failure is not enough.  After all, falling is fun!

Lest you think that this is only a message for children, let me tell you this:

The reason I knew to use this trick on my niece is because I had used it on myself just weeks before.  You see, I’m obsessed with the Olympics, so when I saw an ad in the paper to learn to speed skate, it was an offer that I couldn’t pass up.  As I was stepping off the ice after my first session, I smiled smugly and thought: “Look at that! I made it through my first lesson and didn’t even fall!”  I had not set a goal of not falling, but within seconds I realized that subconsciously, my goal all along had been to avoid falling and looking silly.  I lamented how much I had subconsciously held back…How much faster could I have gone?  How much tighter could I have taken the turns?   More than anything I told myself “What an opportunity I have missed to seek failure and learn that it’s not so bad after all.

You can probably guess that at my second lesson, after we warmed up I took that first turn so hard that I quickly got acquainted with the reason they line the rink with padding.  It may have been the first, but it certainly wasn’t my last fall over the past month of learning to speed skate.  In my first competition last weekend, I won the qualifying heats in the novice category and got bumped up to the intermediate category for the finals against people who had been speed skating it for years!  I’m still just a beginner, but I’m getting faster and I know that much of my success is due to my commitment to seek failure.

After my niece threw herself to the ground, I would skate over to her to help her up.  I have the image deeply imprinted in my mind of reaching down for her, her hair sprawled over the ice as she giggled with pure joy because she had fallen…and falling is fun.  It’s a picture I won’t soon forget and a lesson I hope to always carry with me.  If the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, then what happens when we’re no longer afraid of fear?

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2014 – Create a Cage or Unleash the Beast?

We all want to believe that we are in control.  Over the course of our lifetime, in order to give the illusion of control, we’ll develop a set of rules for ourselves to avoid pain.

“That which you collected from your past forms a boundary that you intuitively want to avoid.”
– Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

Have a bad experience speaking in front of a crowd?  Get your heart broken? Put up a wall and avoid any situation that might make you relive that pain.

The walls you create end up defining your comfort zone.  What is inside is familiar and safe.  Beyond the walls is the unknown.  Imagine the most paranoid person that you have ever met.  This person is so obsessed with avoiding pain that it’s all they think about.  With every person he interacts with or situation that he’s in he spends every moment with the inner narrative that someone is trying to hurt him.  If you offered up a cage, this person might willingly accept your offer.  From his frame, the cage will protect him from everything that could harm him while from the outside perspective you can see the cage for what it is… a prison.

While this example may seem extreme, the truth is that we’ve all accepted–even designed–our own cages more than we realize or want to admit.

Don’t get me wrong…sometimes the walls can be helpful.  At a young age, your parents probably intentionally instilled in you a fear of the street.  “Don’t go near the street!  It’s dangerous!”  After hearing this a few times, you made a mental note…

street = dangerous…therefore, avoid street

They were only trying to protect you…and for good reason!  One day, they decided you were old enough to revise this belief so that now you could cross the street, but only when you were holding the hand of an adult.  Eventually they taught you to cross by yourself after looking both ways.  Imagine your life if you were still afraid of the street.

Many times, we defend walls that from an outside perspective, seem as silly and outdated as a fear of a street.

Sometimes, the walls are not of our own making.  There is an old experiment where 5 monkeys were placed in a room with stairs leading up to a banana.  When one monkey climbed up the stairs towards the banana, the rest of the monkeys were sprayed with cold water.  Pretty soon, the monkeys would physically prevent any monkey from climbing the stairs.  Then, the researchers stopped spraying the monkeys and took one of the monkeys out of the room, replaced by a brand new monkey that wasn’t aware of the unwritten rule.  The new monkey saw the banana and headed towards it, but was physically stopped from climbing the stairs.  Now he knew not to try to climb anymore and when a second monkey was replaced, the first replaced monkey joined with the others in preventing this newest monkey from obtaining the banana.  Eventually, all of the original monkeys had been replaced and those that remained ignored the banana, although they themselves had never been sprayed and did not know why they shouldn’t climb the stairs, other than that it was “just the way we’ve always done things.”

What walls have you adopted from parents or friends?  What norms did your colleagues introduce you to when you first started your job?

 The problem is that many of these rules were set with the best intentions.  We wanted to protect ourselves (or others wanted to protect us) from pain.  Maybe you learned not to stand out from the crowd because of cruel jokes in middle school.  Or you tell yourself that you don’t like meeting new people because of a few bad experiences in your past and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that limits your future.  The world is changing every day…YOU are changing every day…how do you know that the walls you’ve set up around yourself are even protecting you from anything anymore?

I’m reminded of a story of my boyhood dog, Oreo.  When Oreo was a puppy, we got an electric fence installed around the edges of my parents’ yard.  I still remember having the little flags up around the boundary of the yard and having to walk him daily around the path to train him and familiarize him with his new invisible boundaries.  Eventually, without any flags to guide him, he knew exactly where to stop when chasing an animal or an overthrown tennis ball to avoid the shock that awaited at the boundary’s edge.

A few years later, a house was being built next door and one of the contractors accidentally dug up our invisible fence wiring, severing the cable.  There was no longer a shock awaiting Oreo at the boundaries of our yard, but he was so accustomed to his boundaries that he never tested them to figure it out.  For several years the once invisible, now nonexistent fence kept him within the confines of our yard.

That is until one day that his world became instantly larger and filled with infinite possibilities.  Perhaps one day he forgot why he obeyed the boundary or was so caught up in chasing a rabbit that he lost bearings on his location and suddenly, he was free!  At first he may have thought it was some kind of momentary malfunction, because in the months that followed, he still seemed to obey the boundaries (whether consciously or by subconscious habit).  Eventually, he tested the boundary more and more often, and suddenly his adventures were full of limitless possibilities.  He would explore the wooded areas in the back yard, returning home from his adventures with burrs coating his fur and paws full of mud, much to my mother’s chagrin.  Even for a dog with already limitless energy, you could notice an extra spring in his step and twinkle in his eye.

What would 2014 look like if you challenged the boundaries you’ve set for yourself?  You don’t have to jump off the deep end (though if you feel inclined, who am I to stop you!)  Going slow and steady works too.  Remember how your parents slowly weaned you off of your fear of the street?  What could you do this week to test out some of your self-imposed walls?  Don’t be surprised to find that many of your walls are no longer protecting you from anything.

Even if your walls are protecting you from something real, you’ll likely find that the momentary discomfort is nothing compared to the freedom on the other side.  If you come up against a border of your “electric fence” and feel a momentary “shock,” your instinct will be to jump backwards…and that’s ok!  You’ve taken the first brave step by seeking the edge of your comfort zone.

“If you are willing to just stand at the edge and keep walking, you will go beyond.”                                                            -Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul

After you’ve composed yourself from the initial shock, remind yourself of the freedom on the other side of the wall and march on.  The discomfort will be fleeting, but your reward will endure.  You may even begin to love the discomfort because it will point your way to growth.

My own goal for 2014 is to seek that discomfort every day.  How will you (and your comfort zone) grow if you do the same? What would your life look like in a year?

Further reading:

I was inspired to write this post after reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.  There will be future blog posts inspired by the book as well and I would highly recommend it.

In addition, here’s a great article I read on New Years Eve.  There is certainly no shortage of people online telling you what kind of resolutions to make in the New Year.  But this one stuck out to me because what you resolve to add this year probably isn’t as important as what you let go of. Clear out some space for the wonderful things 2014 has to bring!

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The Power of Passion

Next month marks a year that our son Andrew joined The XLR8 Team, Inc. to follow his passion.  He left a secure job, even turned down a promotion!  Would you do that?

Granted he has a bridge so to speak.  He is joining a successful coaching practice but he still must forge his own way…make his own mark.  Worth ever bit of the risk.

Along the way he was somehow accepted into the Rochester Rotary, the youngest member ever!  How did he do that?  Through the Rotary he volunteered at Junior Achievement and was recognized by them this week as part of National Volunteer Week (April 21 – 27).  So as proud parents, please read what JA said about Andrew.

Andrew learned about Junior Achievement through my involvement in Rochester Rotary.  Andrew says he is passionate both about education and entrepreneurship and it seemed like a natural fit to get involved.  One of Andrews most memorable moments was when he was volunteering in a 5th grade class.  “One of the activities was to look at a specific problem and come up with a product or service to solve the problem.  I saw how eager the students were to share their products so I told each group that they would be presenting their idea to the class as a commercial.  One young boy was in a group and gave an idea that was quickly dismissed by the others.  He was quite disappointed and seemed to withdraw from the group.  When I went over to try to persuade him to contribute to his group, I saw that he was vigorously sketching his own product idea.  I told him that if he would rejoin the group for the rest of the activity, I would let him present his own idea as well.  When it came time for presentations, this normally quiet boy was overcome with passion and imagination.  After his presentation, I asked the class who might like to buy his product and every hand shot up enthusiastically.  Even his group who had not given his idea a chance raised their hands, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  For the remainder of the day, this normally shy boy was congratulated, included and sought after by all of the students in the class. It was a truly profound experience for me.”  We have no doubt that this was a profound experience for that student as well.  Thank you Andrew!

Wow.  Share YOUR passion!!!

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Wishing You JOY!!! in 2013

I’ve had plenty of JOY!!! over the last several months, helping Andrew figure out how to take my life’s work and make it his own.  While this is still very much a work in progress, we have met with many people trying to explain to them how we may serve them.  Yesterday we spent a delightful two hours with Ryan Davis @ DIGUDESIGN.  In my words, not necessarily his, they help make your soul purpose visible and marketable to the world.  My home-made efforts were enough for me, but they won’t be for Andrew.  We need some help.

I mentioned to Ryan a previous desire to write a book that I abandoned a couple of years ago.  As I was communicating with my soul recently during my morning meditation, the thought came to me that I should reconsider this decision.  Last Sunday I started writing the introduction.  The working title this time will be XLR8YOU!!! A Leader’s Love Story:  A Father and Son’s journey.  The introduction began with the question “How do you fall in love with you?”

As we were talking with Ryan, I found myself referring to my formula for joy and happiness that I hadn’t mentioned in our other networking conversations.  I shared the story behind the formula in a book Wake-Up…Live the Life You Love – Empowered in 2009.  I’d like to republish it here for you with the heartfelt wish that 2013 brings you much joy and happiness.

Empowerment is probably the most overused and under utilized concept in business. The reason is the misconception that the organization empowers individuals rather than an individual empowers themselves. This is exactly what I am trying to do for myself and those I love – family, friends and coaching clients.  Since I work with Executive Leaders, I call this “Waking Up” something different – my “Formula for Business Success”: G + L + F = JOY!!!.

The finishing touches to this formula came in a series of “Wake-Up” moments during a “perfect storm” period in early 2007. At that time, my wife and I had become empty-nesters, celebrated 20 years of marriage, have been enjoying a successful business 10+ years as Executive Coaches, and lastly, I survived my obsessions over my 60th birthday.  I began by focusing my passions around making this my next best decade.

Not surprisingly, almost on cue, this shift began happening in April 2007, as I was preparing a presentation to a professional group I am involved with.  I love presenting to them every year because they are kindred spirits and always challenge me go deeper into what I’m trying to say.  (Hopefully this story is it!)  I had been playing around with a speech entitled: The “G” Word, The “L” Word and The “F” Word in Business and Leadership.

As I was editing my presentation the week prior, I revisited my personal mission statement.  I felt at that time that a “Wake Up” moment was going to happen, but I couldn’t find the words.  As I was focusing on the G, L, and F words, it hit me. The “L” word was also about self love, not just serving others lovingly. I modified my personal mission to read:  “Igniting inspiration by enthusiastically coaching people around the world to discover the simple truth that loving ourselves leads to manifesting our passions and fulfilling our need for purpose”. (I have since added and change the world)

However, the formula wasn’t complete yet. All I had was G, L, and F words. Upon signing in at the conference, I received a “goodie” bag, which included one of my favorite thought provokers, an Angel®Card.  I love these cards because they can be used to set the tone for the day, week or even the year.  Well, my Angel®Card was Joy.  Without hesitation, the G, L, and F words became the formula G + L + F = JOY!!! – Joy being “approaching life with a buoyant attitude, light heart, and unencumbered mind.  Let joy lift your spirit and fill each moment.”  Now I was more fully empowered – I put Joy as my #1 personal value as well!

By putting these words into my approach to coaching, I have the opportunity to connect on a much deeper level with executives who I know are starving for it.  One of my clients stated that his “Wake Up” moment in our coaching was “The day you told me it was okay to use the word love in my leadership style. I knew at that very moment I was talking to someone with similar beliefs about people. From that day on, I trusted you.”

That story illustrates how we continue to become more fully empowered especially when things are going great.  I’m not going to spend time telling about growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, flunking out of college, doing and selling drugs, drinking and working myself out of my first marriage, and eventually getting sober in 1985. There were many people trying to get my attention during that time, but if you aren’t paying attention, it’s hard to hear the universe saying “Wake Up!”

But I started my big “Wake-Up” with the help of Earl Nightingale and the co-authors he introduced to me while driving.  He became my “Audio Dad.”  I remember him saying: “five years from now you will be the person you will become from the books you read, the people you meet and what you think about.” Earl’s “guests” became my Audio “Big Brothers”, Denis Waitley, Wayne Dyer and Ken Blanchard, whom I have had the good fortune to meet and thank.  I cried when I found out about Earl’s death in 1989 while hearing a new voice on the cassette.

Now that I was paying attention to my many teachers, I was able to hear a song that now forms the basis of my unique coaching system for focus and clarity in our business and personal lives.  After you ask the questions: “What do you really, really, really, really want?”, you can start singing: “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream”…(you know how it goes).

Having clarity (the really’s) and focus (the song) is what the “XLR8 YOU!!! Leadership Excellence” process is all about – what I do and the story I am telling. If it can work on this hard head, then there is hope for others, too!

I call it “In Search for Adventure” which details:

  • What do you Really . . .Top Five Passions today
  • Really . . .Write them down and tell someone, anyone and everyone!
  • Really . . .Actions you’ll take along the way leading to your passions.
  • Really want?  How do they connect to your personal mission? Do you have one? Is it written down?

So, now it’s time to sing again. Ready?

  •  Row, row, row your boat . . .Acting on those passions with a coach – thus “XLR8ing” (say it three times fast!!!)
  • Gently down the stream . . .Building on your strengths and unique abilities – getting in the flow
  • Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily . . .Walk the talk of your personal values (a true source of happiness)
  • Life is but a dream!Back to your personal mission – what are you dreaming about? How will you change the world.  Don’t think small!

So it all boils down to the formula (yes, finally).  The God (Greatness, Genius) manifested in you no matter how you pronounce the “Ah” in your God.  The more you are clear and focused with your God, the more you Love yourself and will constantly be “Waking Up Living the Life You Love” in service of those who Love what you do.  (Lots of “L’s” – what the world needs more of – which is what you would expect from a former crazed, long-haired motorcycle hippy).  That’s when life is Fun and it all adds up to pure JOY! Thus G + L + F = JOY.

It has lead me to a deeper appreciation and love for my imperfect self.  Yeah, that guy who wasn’t good enough – at least deep down inside.  I have grown tremendously as a coach and I’d do it for free, because not only do I love doing it, but it is my mission.  People have been kind enough to give me feedback that I have indeed been part of their “Waking Up” to their love story. . . or in my words XLR8ing!!!.

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Have you linked your values to your behaviors?

As Tom mentioned in the previous post, living by your values is essential to happiness.  Some may find the concept of values to be esoteric in nature.  After all, you can easily claim to value family and yet your family may repeatedly take a backseat to your career.  To make values more practical, connecting your values to your behaviors can be a simple and effective exercise.

What does it look like when you’re truly living your values?  For a family value, perhaps that means leaving your cellphone at home (or at least turning it off) on a family vacation so that you can truly enjoy the company of your family and make the most of the time you have together.  It could be something as simple as a weekly call to a parent or grandparent.  Take a look at your values and pick one or two that you feel you aren’t living as fully as you would like.

Then try to come up with a list of key behaviors that you would exhibit if you were fully living that value.  What could you do every day to more fully live the value?  What about every week?  Then, take a look at that value from another lens.  What behaviors should be red flags that tell you you’re going against this value?  As always, it is essential not only to write it down, but also review it regularly.  Set a five-minute daily appointment on your calendar, an alert on your phone or keep your list on your pillow to review before bed each night.  Whatever it takes to consistently take a look at your list and reflect.

I recently read the book Change Anything, in which they highlighted the importance of connecting to your values when trying to make a change in your life:

“The words you use to describe what you’re doing profoundly affect your experience…for instance, when sticking to a lower-calorie diet, don’t undermine your own motivation by describing your choices as ‘starving’ or ‘going without.’  You’re doing far more than manipulating calories.  You’re becoming healthy; you’re sticking to your promise; you’re sacrificing so that you’ll be mobile when playing with your grandkids.  This difference in description may sound small, but words matter.  They focus the brain on either the positive or negative aspects of what you’re doing.

To illustrate that point, it went on to describe a psychology experiment conducted at Stanford in which subjects played a game where they could either cooperate or compete.  Half of the subjects were told that the game was called the “Wall Street Game,” while the other half were told it was the “Community Game.”  Those playing the Wall Street Game were far more likely to steal, lie and cheat, despite the fact that the rules (and payouts) of both games were identical.

Similarly, there was a story of Valter, a “picker” near Rio de Janeiro who talked excitedly about the work he and his colleagues were involved with.  He trumpeted the fact that they were at the center of the green movement and that they do some of the most important work imaginable.  You would never guess that he would then put on a pair of tattered gloves and head over to an enormous heap of trash to begin extracting recyclable material from one of the world’s largest dumps.  If Valter can find pride and excitement in a day spent at a landfill by connecting with his most important values, imagine the power it could have to help you to change your mindset and find happiness by more fully living your own values.

As any good salesman will tell you, our purchases often have more to do with emotions than logic.  The same holds true for many of the decisions we make every day.  Therefore, one of the keys to help you live your values is to find words that light a fire inside you to help you to adopt those daily behaviors that exemplify your values.  For me, one of those words is self-efficacy.  I was recently reading an article in which they defined self-efficacy as “the sense that you can change the world and that you can do what you set out to do.”  Immediately that word and definition resonated with me as I realized that was truly the overarching theme in both my values and passions, and it subsequently shot up to the top of my list of values.  As is the case with many values, that sets a pretty lofty standard to live by, which can be a bit intimidating.  To make it more manageable, its time to connect that value to the daily and weekly behaviors that will get me there…

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Values – More Than Words

As part of our self-discovery process of our “inner guidance system” (Passions/Unique Ability/Personal Mission & Values), values are the building blocks of happiness. Not only do they get you through the tough times (personally lead me through my recovery from alcoholism in 1985), but they lead you to new “highs”.

While I hadn’t articulated my values in 1985, I knew my behaviors we not consistent with my perceived values. Actually I didn’t “discover” my top five values until the early 90’s through a process we now use with our clients. The significance of this for me was that it led me to leave my executive position to create The XLR8 Team, Inc. which among other things helps individuals and organizations articulate and live consistent with their stated values.

Over time, not only does this articulation of your top five values make your life happier, sometimes a new value appears that replaces one, because it “speaks” to you. Here’s a quote from one of my favorite daily inspirational messages from Abraham-Hicks that explains why some words are more powerful to us:
“Words do not teach at all. It is life experience that brings you your knowing. But when you hear words that are a vibrational match to the knowing that you have accumulated, then sometimes it’s easier for you to sort it all out.”

This happened to me when someone recommended a new book entitled Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski in 1996, the year I started my coaching business full-time. I was familiar with the word, synchronicity, from my studies of Carl Jung, the psychiatrist who has been said to be the grandfather of positive psychology.
He defined it as: “a collaboration between persons and events that seems to enlist the cooperation of fate.” You may have heard people say that “everything happens for a reason” or that “something happened right at the right time” that lead to significant changes in their lives. The key is: are you paying attention?

In this book, Joseph Jaworski argues that the right state of mind will make you the kind of person who can enlist the cooperation of fate and take advantage of synchronicity creating the conditions for “predictable miracles.”

So how do you create the right state of mind? For me it began by writing down what I described at the beginning of this blog as my inner guidance system. Since then there were countless “synchronistic” events that I may have missed, or been fearful of (ie. leaving my real job at a “bad” time – three kids (17, 14 & 8, a mortgage, etc.). Had I not had them written down and placed them on my wall (in my office, not on Facebook), I might not have figured out that this was the path I must take to find the courage to awaken to the magnificence of our limitless possibilities, The XLR8 Team’s vision for ourselves and for you.

As stated in the Amazon book review – “Synchronicity illustrates that leadership is about the release of human possibilities, about enabling others to break free of limits – created organizationally or self-imposed.” This then gave me the courage to create a leadership development coaching process that enabled people to awaken their inner guidance system that is there for all of us to discover.

What words have resonated with you recently? How did you integrate them into your passions, values and your life?” We’d love to hear from you.

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On your “Mark…ers”

The process of getting my passions down on paper was a great experience!  I remember feeling elated after reading Attwood’s “The Passion Test” – The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose.  At first, I wasn’t sure I could settle for just five passions after all that “dreaming” as the book instructed.

Upon consolidating my long list of those things that bring me joy, passion & fulfillment, and then following the prioritization process, I did indeed manage to commit to my top five passions.  Equally important was having these passions printed and then placed in strategic places, so they are a constant reminder of what’s most important to me.

“Markers” are simply milestones to ensuring I’m on the right path towards keeping these passions a reality.  To me, that which gets measured – gets done!  When these passions / markers are aligned, it becomes almost effortless and that really energizes me!

For example, one of my passions is:  “Coaching enthusiastic clients in reaching their full potential both professionally and personally”.  At first, I always had to seek out potential clients.  Now, I enjoy the “pull” vs. the “push” of my coaching efforts given that these folks are on a journey to better realizing their full potential.  This is further marked by my enthusiasm and their receptivity to what we’re working towards … it’s a win-win!

Another marker is my making a difference in the lives I touch.  There is no better validation of this than when a client “graduates” from our leadership development program and a mention is made that they couldn’t have gotten there without the ongoing coaching and support in staying the course with them.  It takes time, energy, creativity and lots of patience to coach towards leadership excellence.  It reminds me of the saying:  “When the student is ready, the coach will appear”, and this is often the case in the work we do and with the people we serve!  No two coaching clients are ever the same, and that’s what makes our work so enjoyable!

My final marker is helping our children “find their way” in the business world!  As previously mentioned, each of our three children has been through our leadership development process during their senior year in college.  Each of them has managed to draw upon their own “Inner Guidance System”, which was clearly defined during their week-long leadership development retreat with us, in making their career moves.  While they are young and just starting out, we are blessed that they are grounded with their own values, unique abilities, missions and passions!  After all, our children are the future, and it’s up to them to pay-it-forward all that they have learned to the next generation!

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Intention, Attention, No Tension!

If you’re suspicious that simply writing down your passions is going to make your wildest dreams come true, your skepticism is justified.  While it is essential to determine your passions, simply stating them is not enough.  You have stated your “intention,” but to live a passionate life, you must now put “attention” toward those passions.  That’s where markers come into play.

First, creating markers helps you to crystalize the meaning of your passions.  A passion for living a healthy life or enjoying time with family could mean wildly different things to different people.  For me, “enjoying freedom” was a passion that could be ambiguous if I didn’t take the time to define exactly what freedom meant to me.  In my life, freedom means “defining my work by the outputs rather than the inputs.”  I already mentioned that the average American does 22 hours of productive work in a typical 40-hour work week, so why bother sitting at a desk trying to look busy for the other 18 hours?  For those of you familiar with DISC, this is where my low C shines through.  I feel that if I want to work for 4 hours one day and 12 hours the next, why should it matter to anyone else if I didn’t work the typical 8 hours each day?  Or what if I found a way to get my 8 hours of work done in 6 hours instead?  What can I do with my 2-hour windfall?  Maybe I would take on more work, or maybe I would go read a book…but if I’m going to have to spend those 2 hours at my computer looking busy anyways, then I don’t have much motivation to be more efficient.

Another important aspect of freedom is “working on what I’m passionate about.”  Like most people, trying to stay motivated doing something I don’t have a passion for drains me.  I can buckle down and do it if I have to, but over time my willpower will begin to dwindle.  In my new role at The XLR8 Team, I am fortunate that I am able to explore new business ideas or possible additions to our leadership development processes when I find something that inspires me.

Finally, it is difficult to enjoy freedom without “having enough money to cover the basics and travel.”  I don’t care to buy anything extravagant and don’t need much money.  However, to enjoy freedom it is important to me that I have enough money that it isn’t constantly on my mind.  The only time I like to splurge is on travel.  To live a life of adventure (my top passion) can sometimes be expensive, but by being frugal elsewhere I am able to spend on what is important to me.

Markers tend to be grand goals that may seem daunting.  To make them more manageable, I have found it helpful to include a few daily markers for each passion (that will eventually become part of a happiness list as briefly described in the previous post).  That way, if you follow these smaller markers each day, you will be making progress towards passionately pursuing your goals.  At the end of each day, I ask myself “Did I look forward to getting to work when I woke up this morning?”  Lately, the answer has been a resounding “yes!”  But when I realize that I’m having trouble jumping out of bed and starting my day or I’m dreading what I “have to” do that day (rather than “want to”), it’s a quick reminder that I need to step back and take a look at why I’m not making decisions in line with my passions.  Another daily marker is “Did I waste time trying to look busy?”  It’s a bad habit we all fall into trying to make ourselves look busier than we are.  I try to be grateful for every moment of my day by not wasting a second of it trying to look busy.  Even though I am an entrepreneur and don’t have a “boss” looking over my shoulder, I still find myself sometimes falling into the habit of doing work for the sake of being busy and when I reflect on the day, that’s another red flag for me.

Markers are an essential piece of the puzzle to live a passionate life.  In this instance, “enjoying freedom” was a new addition to my top passions, so creating markers helped me to illustrate exactly what a life of freedom means to me.  In other cases, markers can serve the purpose of getting you to dream bigger than you may have otherwise had the courage to do.  For example, “living a life of adventure” is my top passion.  In the two years since I returned from a three-week adventure backpacking through Europe I have struggled to find that same sense of exhilaration and wonder.  I set a marker “to travel to a new place every year.”  It’s an intimidating commitment to make given the inherent financial costs, but it is fiercely important to me and I know I will regret a life that isn’t filled with adventure.  Markers can also serve to reconnect you to passions you may have abandoned amid the stress of a hectic time in your life.  I enjoy spending time with family and friends and “surrounding myself with those that I love” is my second passion.  However, when I thought back to a recent family gathering, I found myself distracted…falling into the trap of zoning-out watching television or idly checking scores on my phone.  I created markers “to be fully present at all family functions” and “to have meaningful conversations with the people I care about.”  In the month since I set this passion, I had a great conversation with my uncle and learned more about him in an hour than I feel like I had learned my whole life.  I also realized that I had lost touch with many of my friends since graduating from college and set a goal for myself to reach out to a friend every day.  In time I hope that these small reminders will help me to more fully “surround myself with those that I love.”  The markers you choose could serve any or all of these purposes.  The important thing is that the markers focus your “attention” on the “intentions” that you clarified.  When you live a life according to the passions that are most important to you, it will truly lead you to “no tension” and a fulfilling life.

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Manifesting Your Passions

Over the last several blog entries we have all talked about the process for discovering our top 5 passions.  Now what?  There are a couple of immediate options.

  • Discover where you have been putting your attention up to now by rating each one on a scale of 0 – 10.  Zero means you are not living that passion in your life at all.  Pick at least one to focus on.
  • Make passion cards. (E-mail us and we’ll send you our template).  Simply put, list your passions on a card from 1 – 5; make 4 – 6 copies and post them in place you’ll see them several times a day.  I would suggest reading them to yourself at least twice a day at first.  Here are some typical places:
  1. Your bathroom mirror
  2. Your car dashboard or visor
  3. In your purse or wallet
  4. On your computer screen
  5. On the refrigerator
  • Create markers that will give you milestones or guideposts so that you will know if you are on the right path.  For some it’s an action or goal or feeling they may have when they are fully living their passion.

For me personally back in October 2006, I scored lowest on “being at peace with myself and those I love.”  I actually had one of my cards in the bathroom where I could see it when I brushed my teeth.  While brushing my teeth, I couldn’t help but look in the mirror and what I saw did not bring me peace!

Now I couldn’t do anything about the old guy staring back at me – I know there is a young guy trapped inside there!  But I was 30 pounds overweight AGAIN!!!  I had lost 40 pounds in 1999 – 2000, kept it off for a couple of years, a new record for me, but gained most of it back by 2006.  This has been a pattern since I was 20 years old!  I’ve probably lost the equivalent of 3 – 4 of me over my lifetime.

Well, if I wanted peace, I had to be able to feel good about how I looked in the mirror.  I made a marker of maintaining my weight at 165 – 169 pounds.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to break my pattern, but I knew it was important to me.

I started with the usual things I do to lose weight – that I know how to do.  But this time I did a couple of other things.  I started a vision board by finding a picture of how I wanted to be.  If you have ever flown on a plane there is a picture of a shirtless Dr. Jeff Life in the airline magazine.  Now over 70, he looks great.  So he became my after picture, I have my own now by the way – on my vision board too.

However one of the other new things I began came from a book entitled Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.  The basis of the book is that there are 3 – 4 critical behaviors that can be discovered in any successful change initiative.  For successful weight loss it was weigh yourself every day (I know weight watchers disagrees); eat a healthy breakfast (don’t skip meals); and do some exercise at home every day (even if you have a gym membership).

Now that I am clear about my intention, I need to be vigilant about paying attention to those critical behaviors as part of a comprehensive follow-up process.  For me this included telling people, asking for their ideas and ongoing feedback, my vision board, and creating a list of daily reminders which I call my happiness list.  My happiness list consists of 10 – 12 daily behaviors that focus on three general areas that I am focusing on.  By definition, these behaviors are totally up to me to perform, not dependent on anyone else’s actions or behaviors, and they create positive energy.  I actually write this list on the back of my passion cards and look at them at least twice a day.

It has been 5 years now that I have weighed below 170 pounds, blowing away my previous best.  Now that those behaviors have become habits I have replaced them with a couple of others on my happiness list.  Given my history, I might always have something on it related to maintaining my weight.

So as the Attwoods, authors of The Passion Test, would say, Intention (passions) – Attention (markers, vision board, happiness list) – No Tension (success!)

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