Do you want to be successful? Here is a huge secret key that is so obvious many people overlook it:
You have to work harder than anybody else.
Let me repeat:
You have to work harder than anybody else.
Today I read a quick tweet from Rory McIlroy, the #1 ranked golfer in the world talking about how he was on the range early today practicing for a playoff golf tournament this week in Indiana. Rory mentioned something about being the early bird on the range and that the range was not crowded.
Then, I clicked on this link:
Who is on that range at some early crack of dawn time? Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. World ranked #2, and World Ranked #1 golfers. Does that surprise me? No, not at all. The best work harder than everybody else. Period.
Do they have talent? Yes.
Does talent win? Not without hard work.
Are they in the right fit? Yes.
Does fit matter? Absolutely. If you are not in the right fit, you may never get a chance to do what you do best.
Rory and Tiger work harder than other golfers who may have similar talent levels. Tiger also is a victim of his own success because now young up and coming golfers also saw what he did and worked harder, practiced longer and now the whole level of golf on the PGA tour is better than it was years ago.
If you are in the right fit, and you are not working as hard as you can, do not complain about having less than excellent results. Work hard, be the early bird.
Today I was reminded to stop, take a break, and enjoy a wonderful lunch with my wife. We work at the same place, but do not often hang out with one another. We spend most of our lives together, we try and have separate zones at work.
But once in a while, we have lunch together. It is a fun surprise and really helps me reset and tackle the rest of my day. Having lunch with Danielle reminded me to enjoy little things in life. Like the amazing soft serve ice cream dispenser at our cafeteria - amazing! As I thought about some little things in the past few weeks, I was reminded of a date Danielle and I went on a few months ago:
Above was an amazing white chocolate mocha that I had when we were out on a date. Would I want one of these every day? Part of me says yes, and part of me knows that it would make it something that would become normal and I would not appreciate it as much.
This mocha reminds me of the time Danielle and I, and my sister, went to New Orleans to settle my Dad’s estate after he passed away. We decided to stay a few days after settling his estate and got a fantastic rate at the Ritz Carlton New Orleans. This is an amazing hotel right in the French Quarter in New Orleans. When you walk in, they have so many flowers that you are overwhelmed by the aroma - truly something I had never experienced before. The service was over the top. Want your shoes shined? Leave them outside your door and the next morning, there they are, shined up like new.
I have never experienced that level of service as what a five star hotel provided, and since then I have never stayed at another hotel that would even compare. But you know what? That makes it all the more special to me, because it was a treat. It was special. It was not common place. It was more than I deserved or expected. But you know what? It helped me through a period of dealing with the loss of my father.
It is great things in small doses that I think leads to the most happiness in life. Money definitely does not equal happiness (but a certain amount does).
What am I trying to say here?
Embrace life. Do the little things that make you happy. Surprise someone in your life with some fun adventure. Order that Latte, eat that piece of chocolate you love. But, in small doses or it may just become something that is not special at all.
During the past few weeks we have been working hard as a volleyball team (Hamline University) to get ready for the start of our season. There have been times when the coaching staff which I get to be a part of has pushed our team hard - past where they thought they could go. We also have been working on some of the less glorious parts of volleyball, blocking and digging, and being disciplined. Getting a big kill? Great, but you won’t have that opportunity without being disciplined.
This is probably my favorite part of coaching - pushing people past where they think they can go, and then seeing the payoff later - also watching the players see the hard work paying off and then believing in what you are trying to do - that, as they say, is where the magic happens.
Last night we were able to put all that hard work during the off season, spring season and pre season into both our matches. We went 2-0 and took care of the business we needed to take care of. But, I don’t think we would have been nearly as successful without the hard work that has been done during the past year.
Here is a picture of our team after both matches last night:
They did the work, they got the results - what are you doing now that is preparing you for what will come? If you are an achiever, this moment after reaching your goals is nice, but you are already on to the next thing. How do you keep motivating yourself to excellence?
Questions I am asking. For now, enjoy your Saturday! We have more matches to win.
Do you ever have times in your life where you get so zoned in on something the rest of the world does not exist to you? Is it hard for you when someone interrupts something you are doing once you have started? Do you find it easy to prioritize and then act?
If you answered any of these questions in a positive way, you may have the Gallup StrengthsFinder strength of “Focus.” What is Focus, according to Gallup?
“Where am I headed?” you ask yourself. You ask this question every day. Guided by this theme of Focus, you need a clear destination. Lacking one, your life and your work can quickly become frustrating. And so each year, each month, and even each week you set goals. These goals then serve as your compass, helping you determine priorities and make the necessary corrections to get back on course. Your Focus is powerful because it forces you to filter; you instinctively evaluate whether or not a particular action will help you move toward your goal. Those that don’t are ignored. In the end, then, your Focus forces you to be efficient. Naturally, the flip side of this is that it causes you to become impatient with delays, obstacles, and even tangents, no matter how intriguing they appear to be. This makes you an extremely valuable team member. When others start to wander down other avenues, you bring them back to the main road. Your Focus reminds everyone that if something is not helping you move toward your destination, then it is not important. And if it is not important, then it is not worth your time. You keep everyone on point.
I have the strength of Focus at or near the top of my StrengthsFinder results. How does this play out in real life? It plays out constantly. Below is a short list of how I see this strength play out day to day:
1) I constantly am prioritizing and re-prioritizing tasks, my day, how I will get things done.
2) I have an innate ability to see what should be dealt with immediately and what can wait. (I also can help other people with this when they need help)
3) I am deadline driven, I will get it done before a deadline, pressure motivates me.
4) When I play sports, I can zone into whatever I am doing so deeply everything else fades to black.
Those are a few quick examples as I think about how I use focus to leverage it as a useful talent in my life. Like anything, strengths can also hinder you if you are not careful and here are some of the challenges I see in having this brain-wiring helping guide my days:
1) It can be hard to switch tasks once I get going on something, it is hard for me not to ‘finish.’
2) Sometimes when I am zoned in, I miss things that are going on around me.
3) People will start conversations with me and I miss things because I am not focused on them.
Those are not terrible things, just things I need to be aware of when I go through my day. My team, and other friends and family know to ask me, “Are you focused right now?” as a way of helping me not miss things. This is strengths management 101 - do you have skills around your talents that help you turn them into strengths? We can save that for another post.
This picture really helps illustrate how my brain works:
I am always focused on the horizon - where am I headed? How can I get there? If you have the strength of Focus you may be asking that same question. This picture was taken in Bozeman, Montana on the way to drive to Moonlight Basin ski resort for a day of hitting the slopes.
My life has been forever changed in a good way knowing more about how I am wired. My argument continues to be that the more you do to find out who you are and what makes you tick, the better chance you will have at success.
I think we only get one shot at this life, make the most of it!
Above you will see a very fun picture of my son, JD, last winter helping us shop at a local food store. This store has brilliantly provided small carts for little people who want to help shop. JD loves the fact that he gets to help and follow Mom and Dad around the store.
He gets to follow… he loves to follow and do what Mom and Dad are up to. Danielle and I are trying to figure out how to be good leaders of a now-preschool aged little boy. We do our best to model good behavior and consistency with our son. He, for the most part, follows along to our lead.
He is a good follower.
Except when he is not. Sometimes he is tired, at those moments he does not like to follow. Sometimes he is angry, those moments he wants nothing to do with following. Sometimes he is lonely, again, just wants to be comforted, not necessarily follow direction. And last but not least, sometimes he is hungry, and in those moments, look out, he wants food — NOW!
The story about JD could easily be the same story for me, and maybe you? How are you as a follower? Are you easy to lead?
We all have a boss. As I mentioned in my last post, I have a few. In all those situations I try and be a good follower. There are other times when I am in charge, and in those situations, I try and be a good leader and certainly appreciate the people who work with me.
I think if you do not know how to follow, you will never be a good leader.
It is only through following that you can learn what it takes to lead.
How can you become a good follower? Be faithful with what you are being asked to do. This assumes a few things about the role you are in:
1) The responsibilities that you have and relationships to execute those responsibilities are well defined
2) You know what is excpected of you every day in the position you are in
If you are in a good situation like I just described, then nail everything that your leader is asking you to do. Go over and above. Under promise and over delivery. Build up your credibility so high that when you screw up, we all do, it is not the end of the world.
I so appreciate the character of good followers. I try and be a good follower in every situation I am in. Are you?
As some of you know, I have the privilege of coaching volleyball at Hamline University here in Minnesota. We are in the midst of an intense preseason to get ready for the start of our regular season. Our coaching staff is hard at work along with our players trying to maximize and realize great potential of our team. One thing we use in practice is the electronic scoreboard in the gym to keep track of points in drills and time of drills, etc. There is always some reaction when the buzzer goes off and our drill is over. Did we meet our goal? Etc.
The use of the electronic scoreboard adds greatly to what our team is trying to accomplish in practice. It gives us parameters and a clear visual representation of where we are at compared to a goal and creates pressure as the time ticks away. It is so useful!
In the beginning of our season, our head coach, Audrey, had me setting up the control panel for the scoreboard and it was not working correctly. Here is what this control panel looks like:
The scoreboard kept going in and out and it would not totally do what we needed it to do. We could not figure it out. Audrey asked the person who helps us with these things what we could do to fix it. It turns out that there was another one of these units that was plugged in out of sight in the storeroom and we had two of these controllers plugged in at the same time.
What was the result? It did not work. The circuits were overloaded and the scoreboard just kept flashing, one message from one controller, and then another message from the hidden other unit. Not good.
What was the solution? One of the units had to be unplugged. At the end of the day one control unit had to be in charge - after we did that, things worked perfectly. We have been using it every day since.
This situation reminded me of leadership situations where who was in charge, or who was the leader, was not clear. I think it is essential for people to absolutely understand who is in charge, and of what. Who is the final decision maker for an area? Understanding this will only lead to better success as a unit or team.
A long time ago in one of my graduate school classes there was a well intentioned and naive classmate of mine arguing for systems without leaders and clear lines of authority. I could not see that being effective back then, and even more so do not see that looking back. We need clear lines of authority in order to accomplish tasks. If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.
I am thankful for all the bosses I have, my wife :), Audrey my head coach at Hamline, and Dan my boss at Bethel, they help give me direction and set me on a course in different areas. I am glad there are only one of them in each area - it helps keep it clear for me as a spouse or employee.
Recently I have taken up the sport of cycling. There are many things I enjoy about this new found passion, not the least of which is how much better my knee feels after I get off the bike.
Minneapolis is a fantastic city to bike in, you can go so many places on trails and see many scenic places. It truly is something everyone in the city should do and take advantage of.
One thing that has struck me recently is how anytime I start to go faster I immediately feel more wind in my face. The harder I try the more resistance nature puts up in my way. I have a few choices:
1) Slow down and just give in and stay at whatever pace I was at
2) Push harder into the wind and get to the MPH level I want to get to
Is this not a lot like what a leader faces when they try and implement change? I heard someone say not too long ago that if you are leading you will face resistance. If you are not, you probably will not feel that. But, if you don’t feel resistance and you are not leading, people will probably ignore you when the time comes where you need to make a difference.
I think, even though it is a harder path, I want to be someone who pushes into the wind to see where I can get to. It is not fun to be on the other side of that where you are simply ignored.
What side do you want to be on?
Are you going to push through and stand out? Or, are you going to lay back and then be ignored?
The newfound biking passion in me has made me aware of new learning curves and trusting as I continue to learn. This, again, is not unlike leading into new areas. If you want to do something that stands out - people will have strong opinions. If you want to create something that is blah.. and no one offers any feedback? You are not breaking new ground.
Here is to you who wish to or already leading today -
Keep pushing into that headwind.
As some of you know, I run. I am a fairly average recreational runner. I am a fairly average recreational runner who is strong in the Gallup StrengthsFinder strength of “Competition.”
From the Gallup Definition of Competition:
Competition is rooted in comparison. When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other people’s performance. Their performance is the ultimate yardstick. No matter how hard you tried, no matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the achievement feels hollow. Like all competitors, you need other people. You need to compare. If you can compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win. And when you win, there is no feeling quite like it. You like measurement because it facilitates comparisons. You like other competitors because they invigorate you. You like contests because they must produce a winner. You particularly like contests where you know you have the inside track to be the winner. Although you are gracious to your fellow competitors and even stoic in defeat, you don’t compete for the fun of competing. You compete to win. Over time you will come to avoid contests where winning seems unlikely.
This definition has helped me understand how I think and what motivates me. I think this strength has mellowed out a bit over time, but it is still there. Back to my running story:
One day after work I went for a run around the campus of Bethel University and did one of my usual running routes. I headed out of campus and started down the road towards Lake Johanna and about a half mile in I notice a pack of female runners who were catching up with me. Something in my brain (Competition) kicked in and I started running faster. The ladies kept catching up to me to where I could see they were not far behind. In my brain it sounded something like this, “I don’t care what I have to do, they will not pass me.”
So, I speed up again and realize I am probably going to burn out at some point, but if I can just do a good half mile, I will have a water stop to stop at and let them pass me. So I keep going, and by now, the ladies realize that I am trying to keep ahead of them. At some other point I realize these are probably collegiate runners who are in tip top shape - that only fuels me even more.
I push and push and do another half mile and keep ahead of their pace. Stopping at the water stop I see them blow by me and I notice a face:
That would be Marie Borner, three time All-American runner, who used to run for Bethel University. Marie is someone who has won three national championships in the 1500 meters and is a legend in DIII track and field.
What did I learn from this?
1. The person running behind you may be an All-American
2. If the person running behind you is an All-American and you are high in Competition, you may run your fastest time in whatever distance you can keep ahead of them
3. Marie Borner is really fast
Competition fuels me to perform. If you say I cannot, I say, why not? Now that I understand this strength I can leverage it to help me stay motivated. I understand that contexts that I do best in have measurable outcomes. This is important information for me to know when looking at any opportunity.
Do you know what contexts help you perform at your best? Do you know what makes you tick? Do you understand how you are wired? I think if you have trouble answering these questions, you may have trouble finding a great spot to perform at a high level in life. For those of you who can answer these questions, I bet you are already in a good fit.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation at your job where you were thinking, “I wish someone would just take care of this issue, and why is no one is covering in this area?” Does that ever happen to you?
It happens to me. When I was younger I mostly just noted what I saw happening and not happening, thought about it, and did not always do much. Often this would lead to frustration and little action.
In the past few years a few things have helped me in these situations. When I get to a place of asking that question, “Why is no one taking care of this?” I now have a few things I immediately ask, and think about.
1) Is this an issue that is a big deal at all?
If Yes, continue to question #2
If no, stop here.
That is a great place to start, when an issue arises - is it even worth dealing with? Is it a big deal? Will the world stop if nothing changes? Is it a systematic pattern of dysfunction? Or, is it just a mistake that can be fixed?
It is very important that as you lead you ask yourself whether something is worth taking on. At a place where I have spent time working we have had an issues with the bathrooms looking clean and smelling good. This was an issue for a long time, and they system was failing to take care of the problem. I am a huge fan of clean bathrooms for staff and, most importantly, guests. A friend of mine, Michael, often says you can tell a lot about any place by how clean their restrooms are - totally true. So with this particular issue I raised the issue with the person in charge - nothing changed. Tried to get other people involved and advocating for the issue - nothing changed. Person who was in charge confronted me about causing problems to which I responded, it would help if you would do your job and make sure the bathrooms were clean. Eventually the problem had to be escalated to leadership, and still it was not solved. Do you know when the bathrooms were clean? When we were able to have someone new in charge of that issue. Sometimes it takes a personnel change for change to happen.
2) If the problem is worth taking on go to the person in charge of the issue and ask what can be done about it. Go to them first! Do not go around them.
Do they take care of it? Great you are done.
Do they disregard the issue and the problem continues? Continue to step #3
3) At this point if you have had the courage to go to the person, often times there will be resolution. If not, you have to again ask is this the biggest issue you want to take on? If so, you need to go to that person’s supervisor and ask what can be done.
This step should only be employed when you are absolutely committed to bringing change. When I was early on in my career I would have never done any of these steps because I lacked clarity and courage on how to deal with issues that arose.
When, if, you talk with a supervisor let them know you have gone to the person and a given them a chance to take care of the issue first. That way the supervisor knows there has been space given to let someone solve the issue first. They will appreciate this.
4) Does the supervisor take care of the issue? You are done.
Do they blow it off or not take care of it? You have more work to do.
At this point again, if you want to escalate the issue to a higher level, you need to know this is a huge deal for you at this point. Going over a supervisor’s head to another level should only be employed when this is a battle you are willing to see all the way through.
How do you do this? Follow the same steps as above.
You see the pattern here. If you want to bring change, you need to be persistent, nice, but firm and consistent through a process like this. It also takes courage to speak up. If you lack courage you won’t get very far in this process.
Have I learned the hard way that this is tough and has it made me take on only vitally important issues? Yes.
Will I take something on if I feel it is a battle worth fighting? Is it a core issue? You bet. Do I let a lot of things roll off and am very selective about what is a core issue? You bet.
Today I challenge you to start thinking about stopping complaining about an issue and tackle it, only if it is something you really want to take on. If not, get over it and move on. You have plenty to do.
One final note: Most times you need to stop worrying about other people and make sure you nail your own work first. :)
In the past six months I had a moment whereI knew as a leader I had blown it with an employee. Everything I know, I have been trained in did not kick in and I just did not do a great job with my emotional intelligence and took it out on this person.
It was not the end of the world, but I had blown it. I had blown it by my own standards.
My own rules. I should have know better. Bam, I did it. I made a mistake.
You know what? I knew it the second I did it - and that made me more frustrated at myself. What did I do? I removed myself from the situation, let the emotions run out of me, and went back and apologized.
What did I say? I said:
I blew it.
I care about you greatly.
I am sorry.
Sometimes we just have to admit how we have blown it and say we are sorry. It may take some guts to admit it to yourself and the person who you need to apologize to, but it is so worth it.
What did I learn about myself in this situation?
1) My blind spots as a leader need attention even if they are not my strengths
2) I need people around me who see things that I do not see
3) The only way you can move forward after blowing it is to own your mistake and make it right - there is not going back.
I hope this helps someone who might have blown it recently. We all do it, it is more about how you handle the aftermath.