Month: July 2013

Small Fish

“So what’s going on in your life that made you decide to get sick?” is what I hear whenever I catch the flu or get a bad cold and finally visit my doctor. This is his way of asking, “Mike, why is your life so out of balance?”

Almost every person these days says they are just too busy, and we seem quite proud of it. In America, the phrase “It sounds like you’ve been really busy!” is interpreted as, “It sounds like you are really important!” Unfortunately, a very busy person is usually just someone caught in constant activity desperately trying to catch something – but all the while not really sure what that something is.

Counting Each Year
For the past 10 years I have held to a tradition on my birthday. No matter which day of the week it falls on, I get away alone to reflect and try to remember what’s important, count the cost of the past year, and set new plans. This year my birthday fell on a Sunday. What an ideal day for personal reflection, right? Well…instead of being in a quiet place designing my life, I was sitting on a plane working on a presentation for a client. We all know that there are times in business that require shifts in priorities, but this trip was not a requirement, it was my choice. It was busyness.

Daily Matters
My life slippage had started well before that fateful trip, however. For the previous four months, instead of beginning my day with a time of prayerful mediation and reading as I have for years, I started going directly to my office desk, checking my email and looking over my calendar. Even though I started “working” as soon as I got out of bed, I consistently fell behind each day. So, to compensate, I got up earlier but still I found I was accomplishing only half of what I typically did when I started my day in the quiet. Things needed to change.

Just Right
Last month, on a warm Saturday afternoon, my 85-year-old uncle invited me to go fishing. I meet him at the lake. I was ready to start casting hard for big fish but instead of my fancy fishing rod he handed me a cane pole with a bobber and an earthworm dangling on a hook. Then, he opened the door of his mud caked truck and out jumped two English Setter puppies. For the rest of the day we sat in worn-out lawn chairs on a weathered dock with a pair of speckled bird-dog puppies, soon paw-to-paw, sound asleep beside a dented tackle box. On the ridge above the lake a Bobwhite quail whistled his mating call while we caught small fish. A red sunset closed the day too soon. It was just right.

That time with my uncle was a microcosm of all I’d been missing amidst my busyness – a balance of quiet reflection, joyful effort and rest. I felt like a kid again. Since that day, when someone asks me, “Have you been busy lately?” I say, “Nah, I’ve been just right.” If nothing else, it’s a reminder for me towards keeping my life in balance and remembering my lesson from a few small fish.

Journal Entry:
Been real busy lately? What needs to happen for you to catch a vision for a healthier leadership and life?

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot

I am convinced that there are times in everybody’s experience when there is so much to be done that the only way to do it is to sit down and do nothing. – Fanny Fern

The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else- we are the busiest people in the world. – Eric Hoffer

Sometimes you wonder how you got on this mountain . But sometimes you wonder,” How will I get off. – Joan Manley, comedian

All the Way In

Everyone on the beach knew it was the first time my granddaughter had been in the ocean. Screams of terror filled the first 10 minutes. For the next hour, screams of delight drenched everyone within earshot as she fought the waves to hold on to her ‘My Little Pony’ boogie board. The whole world knew when she finally made it “all the way in “. Joyfully exhausted, we marched weak kneed back to our bright blue beach chair under our big umbrella to the applause of my lovely wife.

“Perfect” would be the word I had used to describe that Florida afternoon. Then I felt something in my right pocket and it was not moving…my iPhone. It was very dead.

Amazing Effort
My wife made a quick call on her phone to Apple. At 8:30 the next morning my new iPhone was delivered to our condo. That was amazing, but what happened next was even more amazing. As you might have guessed, the new phone would not work, but the problem was not the phone itself, it was my office system. Jason, my online Apple helper, tried for several hours to work around this IT system problem. He did his best, but had no success. I thanked Jason for his tenacity and said goodbye. Later that day this email appeared on my laptop:

“I would like to take full responsibility for your issue we were working on together today. To do this, I would like you to have a direct way to get a hold of me if any further follow up needs to occur with this case. You will find my contact information below. Please contact me right away if you need anything regarding this case and include the following case ID within any correspondence.”
Sincerely, J L Apple

You might be thinking “Wow! I wish could get some Jason’s on my team”, followed by “and get rid of the unmotivated people around here “. Have you ever thought that you may hire several Jason’s in the past but, after working with you, his or her natural desire to go “all the way in” faded away?

Three Types of Leaders
Leaders come from one of three dispositions:

  1. The first type believes that within every person there is the spirit of a healthy seven-year-old child with a burning desire to give his or her best and never give up. They actively nurture that view of people and all stakeholders win. Plus, they usually have more than their fair share of Jason’s. There are a lot more of these leaders than today’s critics want to admit, but a few more would only help.
  2. The second type of leader believes that people are basically lazy and only work for money or whatever they can get. They treat people as tools to be used. In this type of environment, everyone loses, usually sooner than later. The Jason spirits die quickly in this place of management by manipulation. This leader is rare and he/she will seldom change.
  3. The third type of leader is ambivalent. Sadly, they are all too common. The other two types, for good or for bad, are “all the way in” but this leader is only half the way in. This means their lips say that they support the purpose of the organization, but their heart has its own private agenda. Frustration, false starts and time wasting filibusters are thehallmarks of these leaders. Their organizations limp along, up and down, until the culture simply implodes or the leader lets go of their ego and exits. If they have the courage to then move on to a place where their heart leads them and follow their passion, they will more often than not become a shining example of our first type of leader.

When you follow your innate interest or calling, you and the people you touch become more alive, more autonomous, more productive and more likely to act and feel like … work is a beach.

Journal Entry:
What is the attitude of the individuals in your organization, on your team or at your home? What decision do you need to make to be “all the way in” with your leadership and life?

The last 1 percent most people keep in reserve is the extra percent champions have the courage to burn. – Chis Carmichael

Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him. – James Allen

It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. The great man or woman is the one who never steps outside his or her specialty or foolishly dissipates his or her individuality. – Og Mandino

Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. – Bill Bradley

…Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3 ( NIV)

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it. – Groucho Marx

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