What’s Your Story?

The power of story is timeless, has connected humanity for eons and continues to do so today. Our Native American oral traditions tap into our brains (and spirits) which are hardwired to be moved by the power of story. All our wisdom, morals, lessons, values and virtues were handed down this way. Why? Because the story sticks to our spiritual ribs and moves, guides and inspires us on the journey. I don’t remember much of what I learned in college – especially thermodynamics – but I still remember stories my grandma told me when I was seven years old. And I bet you do too!

Because of this dynamic, it is crucial that we are aware of the stories we tell about our own experiences, history, what we are going through in this moment and where we’re headed. The stories we tell in our minds, or out loud, are the ones we tend to live in the real world. We can become so committed to these stories that we will argue with others or ignore information when it isn’t congruent with the story we’re telling!

The good news here is that our stories are in our hands. Whatever kind of life you want to live, career you want to build or legacy you want to leave will come from the story you tell. After all, we live the stories we tell. Here’s how to do it better:

Ponder…but not too much. We need to be action oriented in all we do since results come only from action and not intentions. Create the story you want to live – and then live it. Don’t fall into the trap of crafting a beautiful, detailed story of what you intend to do and then neglect to act. Ponder your story, craft one that is clear, compelling and inspiring, and then live it!

Be as careful handling our words as handling eggs or knives. Our words and stories can be the promise of new beginnings and growth, like an egg, when we speak with excitement about our ideas or tell stories that inspire us and others. Or they can tear, cut and leave scars, like a knife, when we speak in doom and gloom, disaster and justification of why we’re stuck, scared or can’t move forward. Be aware of the words you use, the lessons you learn through your experience, and how you share that with others.

Tell a different story – everything is neutral until WE give it meaning. The universe doesn’t define events it as good or bad — we do — by the narrative we create around it. At a conference last year, an attendee shared several minutes of vitriol about his job, his family and life in general, never once mentioning a solution or even a positive thought about the road ahead. I walked away feeling drained. Another attendee was an Army veteran who had lost a leg and an arm to an IED. He explained his circumstances but said, with fierce conviction, that his past losses would not define his future victories, that life goes on and he’s determined to live it fully. I left that conversation feeling inspired.

My wife Arienne always had the intention of finishing her bachelor’s degree but the years passed without this goal fulfilled. The narrative she told of why it wasn’t happening seemed convincing and logical, she cited the doubts caused by a long break from school, she’d be the oldest in her classes, her schedule was full already, etc. Two years ago, she grew tired of telling and living that story and decided to change it, saying “if not now, when?” and explained that she would find a way, make a way, to this goal. Once she changed the story, she changed her results. She enrolled and has cranked out solid straight A’s in every class! Of course, we’re extremely proud of her success and happy to see her living her story.

In everyday life, at work and in our relationships, we see constant examples of people telling the story they’re living and living the story they tell. The good news is that if we don’t like the way our story is going, we can change it! Each day we’re writing another page in it so ponder your story, craft it carefully, speak it with confidence, choose the meaning of it and align it with your outcome.

What will yours be?

Are You Playing to Win – Or Not to Lose?

This is a critical question that defines the quality of our lives and careers. The differences between the two modes are so subtle that it can escape the attention of both outside observers and that of the person it’s happening to. But the impact can be tremendous.

Playing to win requires us to be bold, playful and willing risk-takers that are ready to learn as we go, despite the setbacks and criticism. It means we are humble enough to ask questions, seek and be willing to accept help and outside resources. We can do all this and more because we are committed and the goal is clear: to win. Playing to win is exciting, energizing, and it should be, because we find our best selves in those moments. We find we are capable of great creativity, courage and can tap reserves of strength we didn’t know existed within us because we had something priceless in those moments – the passion born from playing to win!

Early in life and career, going away to school, starting a new job or business, launching a project or product, etc. demanded that we took risks. In the process, we scored victories, were handed defeats, learned valuable lessons and our confidence grew until we get where we wanted to be…and then we go into maintenance mode, working hard to preserve the status quo, forgetting all that it took for us to arrive here in the first place. With that subtle shift, we begin to play “not to lose”.

Playing not to lose is a siren song that can look like safety, stability and the “smart thing to do”. In fact, this line of reasoning is easy to promote to others – and within us – until we lull ourselves into a comfortability that slows or stops the growth process. Playing not lose isn’t fun. It’s stressful, anxiety-ridden, saps our drive and kills creativity. We constantly worry about what we may lose, resist change and no longer seek advice or new information. It’s akin to the Dutch boy, playing defense and desperately trying to plug holes in the dyke instead of building a better one. Or building something new.

Two quick examples:
Playing not to lose: The Wright Brothers. Ever wonder why there isn’t a Wright Aviation, Wright Space Industry or Wright Airlines? The two ingenious, hard-working, risk-taking brothers from Ohio changed history forever with their invention of practical powered flight! But instead of continuing the creativity and collaborating with others to advance the new aviation industry, they descended into years of bitter litigation, fighting to desperately defend what they created, not build on it. Meanwhile, the world and aviation moved on without them.

Playing to win: John Elway. Regardless if you’re a football fan, the example of John Elway, the 37-year-old quarterback in the 1998 Super Bowl win for the Denver Broncos is hard to dismiss. To the shock and worry of his teammates, coaches – and fans – instead of throwing the ball, he decided to run it to get a critical first down and got crushed! He was hit so hard that his body “helicoptered” through the air but the play succeeded and was a turning point in the game. Watching it, you could feel the determination of someone playing to win who refused to be stopped.

In life and career, we must play to win! We don’t live long enough to do otherwise and we’ll never claim victory in what we’re working towards if we don’t. It’s up to you to make the choice – it always has been.

Beware the Ides of March

out of; (c) Royal Shakespeare Company Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

out of; (c) Royal Shakespeare Company Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

We’ve often heard “beware the Ides of March” but do you know where the saying came from? “Beware the Ides of March” was a warning given by a mysterious seer to Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. before he was assassinated. Due to his overbearing and arrogant leadership, the Senate fired him from his position by stabbing him 23 times. Now as a leader, you won’t have to worry about your team conducting such a striking revolt (thankfully). However, poor leadership in tough times can still create havoc, waste money, create doubt, kill projects and generally make a mess of things.

To prevent having your own “Ides of March” moment, there are three things that leaders should never do:

Never expect from others what you aren’t willing to show first. Do not expect your people to be enthusiastic if you’re not. Don’t expect them to be high performing, solution-oriented warriors who are ready for any battles ahead if you’re not already there. This is not about perfection; this is about the most effective form of leadership under the sun – leadership by example. Instead of preaching to our people and beating them over the head with words (no matter how good they may be) we must instead set an example worthy of followership! If we don’t do this, we set ourselves up for failure and our people up for frustration. Set a great example and see how inspired and action-oriented your people can be.

Never fail to give expectations to your people. If we don’t let our people know what we expect from them, we are asking them to do the impossible and read our minds. If you care about your team, let them know what you expect from them when it comes to standards of performance, responsibilities, timelines and policies – and then let them go to it! Don’t micromanage and tell them how to do every little thing. Give them your expectations and let them be empowered to creatively achieve them. You’ll build a team of warriors that are resilient, confident and feel great because they are pleasing their leader and meeting his/her expectations.

Never be unethical – acting unethically can be the quickest way to completely ruin what I call “the magical mystical glue” that keeps teams together. I’m referring to trust.  If you make a mistake, fix it, apologize if appropriate, learn the wisdom and move on – that is the best any of us can do.  To lead any other way, we run the risk of considering unethical behavior to be an option. No matter how easy it may seem, how small the lie, don’t sacrifice your integrity! Trust takes time to build and it can evaporate in an instant.  When people trust you, they’ll follow you through the fires of tough times, bad economy, and the storms of doubt and fear. If they don’t trust you, they won’t follow you to the bathroom.

Heed these warnings as a leader and you won’t have to worry about your own team having an Ides of March moment. Instead, you can focus on being the seer in your office that predicts the winning teams during March Madness.

‘Tis the Season…To Be Stressed!

As the weather starts to change here in Colorado, it sure is nice to have a fireplace. That orange glow warms the spirit and the home on those cold winter nights. But if that fire is left unattended or allowed to burn out of control, the house can be incinerated by it.  Stress can be the same way.

A little stress in our lives is a good thing. It’s that small fire that drives us to eat, socialize, wake in the morning and go to work. This is the kind of stress that keeps us motivated and excited about life. However, with great expectations, more demands, less time and hectic schedules, the Holidays can become overwhelming. And just like the burning house example, stress can wreak havoc on our lives. At a time when we should be giving thanks, spending time with family and friends and enjoying the season, some of us fall prey to stress. Here are some ways to grab the reins and keep your stress in check.

Don’t let the perfection bugs bite!  Many of us go into the Holidays with expectations of a perfect event. The gap between what we hope for and what actually happens can cause frustration and stress. However, our fondest memories of the Holidays from childhood weren’t perfect either – we just remember them that way! If in doubt, ask older relatives who were there and you’ll probably hear a story slightly different from your memory. The reason your memory is beautiful is that you were focused on the beauty in the moment, not on the smaller frustrations. To create those moments this Holiday Season, follow the same practice.

Calm minds can deal with crazy times – It is much easier to deal with activity when we come from a place of balance. I read an article in Fast Company magazine about a Colorado firefighter who explained that when his team was surrounded by fire and had a panicked look in their eyes, he would sit down and take a break. Why? Because his team would see his calm demeanor and work to solve the problem instead of making it worse by losing their heads. Try doing a “centering” activity when you get up in the morning – just 5 or 10 minutes in a prayerful or meditative state and commit to yourself that you’ll focus on solutions, not problems, and that you’ll stay balanced and calm despite the day’s activities.

Address your stress – Don’t ignore it! Even in the face of a hectic Holiday schedule, make time for yourself and provide an emotional, physical and spiritual outlet for your stress. Take a walk, go to ceremony, work out, spend some quiet time in a bookstore or take a nap. Do something to provide a release and reward to yourself after a busy period.  The people who don’t do this during the Holidays will need another holiday to recover!

Don’t break the bank – Especially during this time of year, debt can pile up faster than a plate at the Thanksgiving table. If you want to start the New Year off right, don’t start it with a heavy load of Holiday debt. No matter how much your kids may say they need that expensive toy, they need your “presence” much more than your “presents”.  The best gifts still come from the heart and don’t need extra zeroes behind the price tag to be of value.  Besides, children are sensitive to the stress of parents who are in debt during the Holidays. Keep it simple and inexpensive and you’ll enjoy the experience much more – so will they.

Learn how to say “no” – Fight the temptation to do it all during the Holidays — scale back your involvement with extra activities by picking and choosing the ones that really matter. With all the party planning, social engagements, charity drives and other demands, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and overcommit your time. Learn how to say “no” and you’ll truly enjoy this Holiday Season instead of getting burned out by it.

From our family to yours, have a happy, healthy and safe Holiday Season!

Our Sacred Mothers

His long, dark hair shimmered in the sunlight of the Great Plains summer. His mahogany skin bore visible scars – a knife wound from an enemy tribesman, a bullet wound from the U.S. Cavalry. He sat on the edge of a gurgling creek, holding his pipe and prayed for strength to do what was required of him. He worried about the encroachment of foreign settlers on his tribes’ lands but drew strength from the eyes of a grateful people. His feet were worn from many miles of scouting, running and fighting. He had shed blood in battle to protect his people and his life was dedicated to their defense, protection and to setting a good example for them. He would do what was necessary to ensure their survival. This man is a warrior…

Her long, dark hair shimmered in the fluorescent light of the grocery store. She carried her scars inside, suffering the judgment from disapproving eyes that cast icy stares at the teenage mother. She held her baby close and prayed for strength to do what was required of her. She worried where the next meal would come from but drew strength from the eyes of her little boy. Her feet were blistered and tired from standing in lines and walking to accomplish the errands. She had sold her blood to buy Christmas presents and that extra gallon of milk. Her life was dedicated to the defense and protection of her little one and to setting a good example for him. She would do what was necessary to ensure his survival. This woman is a warrior – she is also my mother…

Times have changed, but the warrior concept has not. A warrior dedicates his or her life to developing their own talent and ability so they may be an asset or benefit to the village they serve. A warrior dedicates their life to a higher cause than their own personal welfare. To find modern day warriors, one need only look around – at our mothers. Our mothers sacrifice so much for so many and have ensured the very survival of our people during the darkest times. In Sun Dance, we pierced to show respect for the pain that mothers endure during childbirth, but a “thank you, mom”, “I love you mom” and a hug can be just as powerful an honoring.

I am constantly reminded that a selfless spirit of sacrifice is alive and well in the hearts of our mothers. Moms who are working three jobs, going back to school, making regalia so their kids can follow traditions, talking to their kids about the dangers of gangs, sex or meth, setting a good example, loving their kids through thick and thin and putting them first every day. These moms sacrifice as much as the warriors in the example above and they are sometimes cast aside or forgotten after they’ve served so well.

Moms, never forget, you are the backbone and the heart of our communities! You are building a new generation of strong kids that will become our leaders tomorrow and I say chi-miigwetch (thank you very much) for all you do! In fact, CNN did an explanation of just how much work goes into being a mother. In a given day, moms serve as mediators, psychologists, coaches, teachers, janitors, cooks, supervisors, nurses, caretakers and so much more. In fact, if full-time moms were paid what they earned in their role, they would earn $150,000 – and $90,000 in addition to their job salary if they were a working mom.  I watch the incredible work my wife does with our two girls and would adjust that amount higher – much higher. But as we all know, the work of a mom in our own lives is truly priceless.

It’s a bit overwhelming to attempt to write about the transformative power my mom has had in my life.  Where do I begin?  How do I write about the woman who has shaped and defined me and established a standard to which I compare every other woman? The woman who has prayed for me, cried with me, picked me up when I fell, cheered me on when I wanted to quit and taught me what tenderness, care and service were all about.  There’s a wonderful book that encapsulates our relationship perfectly called Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It starts with the birth of a baby and a mother who rocks him and sings “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Throughout the trials and tribulations of her son’s life, she would sing this to him. In the end, when the man is middle-aged with a family of his own and his mother is old and sick, he goes to his mother’s house, holds her and rocks her singing “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be.” I still cry when I read it and just thinking about writing this article, I started to get choked up.

This article is dedicated to the best mother I could have ever asked for and Mom, I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. If you feel the same about yours, let her know this Mother’s Day.

The Changes We Don’t Choose

Life is a humbling trip.

Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, the cards get reshuffled – or the whole table can be overturned in a moment. The changes we encounter are as varied, and sometimes as disturbing, as the outfits of Lady Gaga. Small changes bring small challenges, such as remembering to put the current year in correspondence or on your checks or getting used to a favorite place closing down. I still carry my Blockbuster card, hoping against hope our beloved neighborhood store reopens.  There is an adjustment period with a new workout routine, changes in the way we do business, updated tax codes or your kids’ school schedule.  Then there are the big changes such as a divorce, the end of a relationship or the loss of a limb – or a loved one.  These changes can hurt us and haunt us.  I’ve talked to soldiers who’ve lost limbs who still look down and expect to see their absent leg – and sometimes feel sensations from the phantom limb.

All of these changes, and yes I mean all of them, bring opportunities. Even the heartbreaking changes offer us an opportunity to take an assessment of where we are right now on the journey, where we are going and spur us to be conscious in our choices. Change gives us the chance to take a pause and examine the tools we have to work with and identify the ones we need. Change reminds us of who our friends really are and who was only pretending. Change also gives us an opportunity to take inventory of our skills, our talents, what is within us and recommit to success. Perhaps most noteworthy, change often triggers a gut check inside as to what is truly important, what is worthy of our time and effort and what is frivolous, petty or wasteful.

In my life, I’ve had many of these moments – losing my hoped-for career as a pilot because of poor eyesight, suffering through turbulent family relationships, stress related illness and losing a child – and I know many of you have too. The changes we don’t choose will test us, sometimes in ways we could have never imagined. We wouldn’t wish some of the changes we endure on our worst enemies, but they come at us nonetheless. These moments will humble us and remind us that we don’t have to have all the answers right now. But these same moments can spark us to not only review and assess our life choices, but to take action on them so we can make our path ahead even better, not because we’re hoping, wishing or praying for it, but because we are deciding to make it so with our actions.

“If the Great Spirit wanted men to stay in one place, he would have made the world stand still; but he made it to always change, so birds and animals can move and always have green grass and ripe berries, sunlight to work and play, and night to sleep; summer for flowers to bloom, and winter for them to sleep; always changing. Everything for good; nothing for nothing.” – Chief Flying Hawk (Oglala Lakota)

Never Say Can’t

On a clear October day, the peace of the southern California desert was shattered by a great, cracking boom.  High above, a small orange aircraft shaped like a chubby bullet carried Chuck Yeager as he finally traveled faster than sound.  The year was 1947.  For many years, pilots had risked their lives to overcome this magical barrier described as a “brick wall” or “demon in the sky”.  Experts said it couldn’t be done.  But Chuck Yeager proved them wrong and with that discovery, ushered in an era of supersonic flight and the space age.

The wife of the man known as Sequoyah was furious.  Her husband was spending so much time alone, letting the fields go fallow and ignoring his friends.  It was the early 1800’s and Sequoyah was a Cherokee Indian obsessed with “the talking leaves” – reading and writing – because he knew this would be the key to the success of his people in the future.  There was one glaring problem.  The Cherokee people had no written language.  Sequoyah was criticized, heckled and told it couldn’t be done as he set out on his quest to create a written language.  The Greeks took hundreds of years to develop one.  Sequoyah did it in twelve.  And not only did he develop a written language, but by the 1830’s, the Cherokee people became one of the most literate and educated groups in America.  Not just amongst Indians, but amongst the whole country!  In fact, the Cherokee people started a newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, which is still in print today.

History and modern times are filled with examples like this and I’m always inspired by them.  Just because you have a great idea, a grand goal, a burning vision, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cake walk – but it also doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea either.  You’ll suffer doubt, criticism and discomfort as you pursue dreams, but the payoff is well worth it.  Especially when it comes to pursuing your goals and dreams, the word can’t should be considered a four-letter word not to be uttered aloud.  Never say it because it’s a dream-killer, an idea-stopper and a motivation-stealer.  The simple truth is that if you believe you can, you will.  If believe you can’t, you won’t.  My daughters know how to get my blood going – say that foul word can’t.  I’m trying to weed that word out of their vocabulary because I know it will only serve to tie them down as they create their destinies.  The problem is there will always be reasons not to do something, there will always be obstacles and challenges, and there will always be people lining up to tell us so.

In the book The Worldly Philosophers, it tells the story of Robert Owen, the famous economist.  He was seeking employment at the ripe age of 20, with very little experience but had a strong belief in his abilities.  At a job interview, he asked for a salary that triggered his would-be employer to blast him saying all the others combined hadn’t asked for that much.  Here was Robert Owens’ answer and an acceptable use of the word can’t – “I cannot be governed by what others seek.”  I love that line because for us to use it, we must know what we seek.  Once you know that, you’ll start to walk your own path to the beat of your own drum.  By the way, Robert Owen got the job.  The rest is history.

Would you endure some pain, sacrifice your pride, if it meant you’d go on to wild success and fame?  That’s what the R&B singer Lauren Hill did.  They told her she couldn’t sing and she was literally booed off stage at the Apollo Theater.  Lauren Hill used that experience to drive her forward to win five Emmy Awards.  Charles Schulz couldn’t get published in his high school newspaper and went on to create the most widely published and popular cartoon series of all time – Peanuts.  Erik Weihenmayer was told he was crazy and couldn’t accomplish his goal of climbing Mt. Everest.  You see, he was blind, but he did it anyway.  Michael Crichton, the author of such blockbusters as Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain and Sphere, actually completed Harvard Medical School before he left that path to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.  Do you think he got his share of criticism for that move?  You bet.

The simple fact is that most of us will work hard for the rest of our lives.  If we want to create a life we love, than I think it’s important to work towards what we actually want.  Does it take time?  Sure. Will it be painful? At times.  Are there guarantees?  Only one – you never achieve what you won’t try.  Get out of the old habit of asking “what if it doesn’t work out?” and start programming your mind with different, better questions like “what if it does work out?”  Once you see how the pursuit and accomplishment of your goal will change your life, you’ve got instant motivation to go out and make it happen!

One final thought – in the story above, Chuck Yeager had an interesting observation after he broke through the “impossible wall” in the sky and I believe it relates to any of us as we pursue our goals.  Yeager said that the aircraft shook and shuddered violently as he approached the sound barrier.  He wasn’t even sure if the aircraft would stay together and just at that moment, where it seemed all may be lost, the ride became smooth as glass as he broke through to the other side of that barrier.  I wish you happy hunting as you chase your dreams and break through the barriers, the seemingly impossible walls, in your life.

To Have and To Hold

Ah, Love. Amore’.  Valentine’s Day is here again and it’s in the air.  The search for love is an unquenchable thirst, a basic human need.  Mother Teresa said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

Serving as a success coach, I often get asked about relationships and how to find and create great ones. Relationships play a critical role in our performance, happiness and even our health.  In fact, the eminent psychologist Sidney Jourard said that up to 85% of our happiness in life can be directly attributed to our relationships.  When we examine what that truly means, it’s profound. It means no matter what we accomplish, it may be empty without healthy and happy relationships.

We seek love through our relationships and some of us desire it so deeply that we’re willing to accept a bad relationship rather than none at all.  This is like being thirsty enough to drink saltwater – a desperate and damaging act!  Here are some ideas to help you find someone to have a great relationship with or to improve and to hold on to the relationship you already have:

When you’re looking to have a great relationship…

Share – It’s critical to find someone who shares similar values when it comes to spirituality, family, finances, career, culture and relationships.  Values are those basic beliefs that guide our decisions and create our lifestyles. They’re the areas of our lives that are most important to us.  Opposites may attract, but seldom do they stay together, if their values are opposite.  Imagine someone who wants to have kids with someone who doesn’t – it can be an ongoing conflict and a recipe for disaster.  When you’re with someone with similar values, you can build on a foundation of common beliefs and goals that can create a loving relationship that lasts a lifetime.

Shop – Just like Smokey Robinson sang, “You’ve got to shop around.”  However, I’ve seen people spend more time shopping for a car than for a mate!  They’ll ask the gas mileage, horsepower, safety rating, warranty, options and then hold out for the best deal.  But when it comes to relationships, they’ll accept the next one that appears! Over the years, I’ve seen so many miserable people in relationships because they allow such low standards to creep into their choices.  Some settle for “close enough” and try to change the other person to meet their standards.  Changing people is about as effective as catching smoke – it doesn’t work!  Change has to be their decision not yours.  Therefore, look for someone you’re happy with as they are now, not for someone that will be great after “a few changes”.  If the person doesn’t meet your standards, move on.  We don’t get what we deserve in life – we get what we settle for, especially in relationships.

When you want to hold onto that great relationship…

Show – Show the one you love that they are truly loved at every opportunity – and if no opportunities appear, create some!  My wife and I do “date nights” as often as we can, spending time connecting and falling in love all over again. For you, this may mean a weekend getaway, flowers, or leaving romantic notes.  The Golden Rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  But a higher form of love is the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.  It means loving another person the way they want to be loved.  How do we discover what that is?  Ask.  It may mean an occasional sacrifice on your part like going to an event you’re not crazy about (i.e. ballet, football game, etc.) but love is what we keep by giving.

Shrek – Yes, Shrek – is a great movie that teaches us the value of loving someone for who they are and not who we wish them to be.  The Creator designed us all to be flawed to keep us humble, so focusing on why someone isn’t perfect is pointless.  In fact, the “quirks” that make us unique are another reason to love each other even more!  We get what we focus on and focusing on the small flaws or imperfections in your relationship or partner is a quick route to unhappiness.  Instead, find reasons to sing your mate’s praises, to be grateful they’re in your life and to treasure their very presence.  It will make you both much happier.  In the movie Shrek, the main characters try so hard to be who they aren’t until they realize they’re loved for who they already are!  Love the one in your life in a way that they’ll never doubt it.

On this journey, I’ve realized it’s a blessing to be married to someone that has more faith in me than I have in myself.  I dedicate this article to my beautiful wife and best friend, Arienne, for who she is and for what she’s made me.  I love you.

Eat the Bananas!

Maybe you’ve been there. You go to the grocery store and get a nice, fresh bunch of bananas and proudly set them on your countertop at home. But, you think, “I’ve got time to eat them, they look so good, so fresh, I’ll just admire them for now”.  A couple of days pass and a few “banana freckles” appear. You want to eat one, but you’re not in the mood. You know you should eat one, but you don’t. After all, you’ve got time. Another few days go by and the bananas start turning brown. Now you want to throw them away, but they’re not completely rotten – not yet. They just sit there, looking at you. You are now experiencing “fruit guilt”. You start to wonder, why did you ever buy these in the first place? You wait until the bananas turn into little leathery brown tubes full of goo and either make banana bread or finally toss them and, guilt free, wash your hands of them!

The same idea applies in our lives when it comes to our visions. When we’re young, just starting a new career, job – or a New Year – we’re full of promise, hope and we’re buzzing with dreams about the road ahead. Time goes on, we encounter some resistance, get busy with the daily grind, family responsibilities or setbacks and our visions start to look a little aged – a little “freckled”.  We start to wonder why we ever dreamed such things in the first place.  More time goes by, we become older, are firmly grounded in our new normal and now, guilt free, we toss our dreams away.  Don’t do it!  Eat the bananas – follow your visions!

In our Native cultures, visions weren’t taken lightly or neglected. In fact, they were so respected and honored that we did special ceremonies like Vision Quest to discover what they would be. My profound experiences through four years of Vision Quest is what has put me here. Now. Because once people had their visions, they shifted their lives and made sacrifices to make them reality. They didn’t wait – they made them happen!

I’ve heard it said that sight is what you see with your eyes, but vision is what you see with your mind. The Creator gifted us with this amazing ability which makes us so unique in nature. If you are still skeptical about how powerful this concept is, I’ll ask you a simple question. What do you have in your life right now that started as just a thought, just a vision?  Is it your career, job, family, kids, your education, where you live, how you live?  You see, our lives are presently filled with examples of our past visions.  To create your future, simply answer this question – “what are your visions right now?’

Perhaps the deepest joy I’ve ever known is the joy of creation. From my earliest childhood, I remember the thrill of drawing pictures, building crafts, sandcastles or writing poems or telling stories.  In my adult years, even deeper joy came from creating a business that impacts other peoples’ lives, writing books and articles that uplift people, creating a healthy relationship with my wife and especially the earth-moving joy of having children.  Maybe this is why we feel so good when we create – it is what we were designed to do!

Like in the story above, many people I meet have such wonderful ideas and assume they have time – or worse, assume it’s too late. An elder once told me, “it’s only too late to achieve great things in this life when you draw your last breath – until then, anything is possible”.  If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. Recently at a conference I spoke to a woman who was so frustrated at my perspective on this idea – the truth can sometimes do that to you.  Exasperated, she said, “Well, I’ve been wanting to go back to school, but I have a family, a job and no time.  And besides, I’m 42!  Do you know how old I’ll be when I finish my degree?”  And I said “Yes, I do.  You’ll be exactly the same age as if you don’t get your degree.”  With that, I got a hug and a smile and she got a new perspective on her visions.

So remember, eat the bananas and go for the visions while they’re still fresh!  I’m sure you’ll find that doing so really makes life taste sweeter.

Candy Crushed

I was at a conference recently having a conversation with an attendee about the challenges to time management, especially from online distractions and cell phone game apps that, according to an article in Time Magazine, are actually created to be addictive.  Suddenly, another person excitedly popped into our discussion like Kramer from the Seinfeld show.

With crazed eyes and a raised brow, he asked “Did you mention Candy Crush?”

We had.

This Kramer-like character went on to explain, with great passion, that Candy Crush Saga was the “best game ever” and it was “sooooo addicting”.  He excitedly explained the rules, the levels and openly admitted how he just couldn’t put it down, spending countless hours of time playing and even missing a meeting last week and forgetting to pick his kid up at soccer because of it.  He went on to say at least he’d made it to the next level so that somehow made it OK. After catching his breath he encouraged us to download it before he quickly darted away to find a quiet place to play.

Are you kidding me?  I need another thing to sink my time into like Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto needs another hit of crack, especially if missing meetings or forgetting my kids is the outcome.

The whole point of our conversation was that time is critically important, our most precious resource and non-renewable.  We live in a world of ever-increasing distraction where entertainment is always a click away and it’s much more sophisticated and addictive than it’s ever been.  It’s more important than ever to distinguish between work time and playtime and the appropriate time – and amount – for each.  Until we discipline ourselves to put our time into the right things vs. everything (or rather anything) then we will forever be short on time.  There simply isn’t time to do it all.  We must pick and choose where our time is best spent.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t factor fun and downtime into our schedules because we most definitely should as it’s a key to staying balanced.  What I am saying is we have to be very conscious of where we spend our time and in what amount.  And at what cost.  Missing a meeting to play a cell phone game may seem silly but I talk to youth all the time who struggle in school but are leveled up like crazy in the latest Call of Duty, logging entire weekends in addition to weeknights.  I’ve talked to employees who just can’t seem to get ahead, yet openly admit they’ve logged double digit hours into Facebook, texting friends or surfing for the latest celebrity news – all while at work.

My humble plea as you go forward this year is to simply ask: What is your time worth?  Are the activities you’re doing worth your time?  Are they worth that much time?  What other activities might be a more impactful, meaningful or productive use of your precious time?  Belief requires behavior so make this year a moment to put your “time where your mouth is”.  Don’t just say something is important to you.  Make the choices with your time that actually show it and you’ll feel happier and empowered.

And for those of you who play game apps on your phone, don’t feel maligned or singled out and don’t write me negative commentary about this piece…once I finish this article, I’ll be busy playing Candy Crush Saga.