My Top Finds of 2012

Here is my annual list of my top finds for 2012. It was definitly a challenge narrowing the list down, but I hope you'll find some inspiration.

  1. Wall Street Journal interview with Gloria Romero, an education reformist out of California
  2. Some great music I found from Bruce Hornsby.
  3. An article from INC Magazine on questions a couple should ask each other, when considering a start-up.
  4. The return (a much better vintage than the last two years) of an outstanding wine from Brancaia. One of my favorites.
  5. ” target=”_blank”>Central Park, NYC. A wonderful place for many, but a place of dreams for me from earlier this year.
  6. I introduced this exercise program into my well-being plan and it had a tremendously positive impact on my health.
  7. great charter school that I've had the pleasure of helping and partnering with.

Meeting Marion in Central Park West

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

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This is a photo taken of me and Marion Margolis. We met on my visit to NYC last weekend. Marion was very kind to my wife and I on our visit. A seemingly accidental meeting as we were taking in the beauty of Central Park. The photo above was shot in Central Park West.

Marion is an author (among many things). She is a writer of 3 children's books. The one that intrigued me most was titled New Digs for Beau, about her beloved Dalmatian. She spoke fondly, with emphasis, about the her relationship with this special dog named Beau. I don't know if she knew how I was reveling in our conversation. It was so strange and familiar all together. This was important as I am making my way through a new chapter in life, and as I craft a second book.

I asked her about her inspirations and what her process for writing was like. Marion likes silence, I like music when writing. Two authors connecting on the process of writing. It's always intriguing to learn what sparks creativity in artists. She truly inspired me. 

Ever been to a place out of a dream that lived out like that dream? That's what my meeting Marion was like. It was like I was invited to participate in something beyond what I could have imagined. All of this and more, in a place called Central Park West.

An Early Morning in June

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

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I was 14 in June, 1980. Life was a series of things to get over and get past in those days for me. My grandmother had passed the summer before, my parents had been threatening each other with divorce and my brother was on a path that would surely lead to deep destruction.

It was an early morning in June. Like any morning would be for those who slept the night before.

Things can change.

I awoke on that June morning (don't remember the date) to find our house full of people. I didn't know at the time that those people were police detectives and forensic scientists. It was surreal as I walked down the hall to find my mom and dad. I found my mom sitting in a chair in the living room with eyes that had certainly been crying. I asked in a slow, muted tone, about all the people and what was going on. She proceeded to tell me that my brother was suspected of murdering his girlfriend. 

What?

Everything was different now and the months and years ahead would be shaped by something irreversible and tragic. After the police, and even TV news crews, had departed, I saw my dad standing at our front door, just staring motionless.

I felt alone.

In the time sense much has changed and much is still the same. For me, as I look back now, I have discovered why I feel things so deeply, why I have such an urgency about living and why I am an entrepreneur (risk-taker). It has nothing to do with a resume or a career. It has everything to do with getting on with what you've been shaped and called to do. I realized early that the table do turn and even if prepration fails you, you must find a way to recover. I guess on that early morning in June, I realized that safety as advertised was an illusion.

There is no doubt that these traits have gotten me into troube, but I have always seen how God took the good and the bad and shaped them into something I can only describe as art-beautiful art. And even though I've matured and learned about appropriate risk, I also know that strength comes from good things and bad. I wouldn't have it any other way.

An early moring in June is still a part of my destiny. It broke me, grew me and sets a course that my DNA is written all over. My hope is it plays to a backdrop of change.

The Problem with Conforming

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

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OK, you've got that feeling of safely, relief and security. And best yet, you didn't get in trouble. You wipe your brow and let out a quiet "whew." You just conformed and all is well with the world.

Or is it?

Often we associate conforming with other words like "doing what's practical" or "sometimes you have to compromise." We're good liars. Choosing conformity is usually the result of a lack of willingness to make a stand or plain old fear-fear of loss. 

Our brains are complicit in this too. It sends those feelings, hormones, etc. to confirm we've made a good decision. But we forget that over time our brain is just responding based on our habits and tendencies. So, if you're used to not making a stand, then your brain wants to protect you and conforming is the result.

Conforming seemed "right" when we lived in the industrial age. You remember, do the same thing day-in and day-out. The factory or office didn't require much more from you, other than showing up. But things have changed and now conformity is not what's needed (if it ever was). The problem with conforming is staring us right in the face. And in many areas of our culture we're looking away.

If you're a non-conformist (like me), be encouraged you're not alone. Check-out this site as an example of this. If you find yourself being more of a conformist, then I would seriously consider the dangerous place in-which you reside. In the age we find ourselves in, conforming is a block and a hindrance.

Some final thoughts that warrant your attention:

  • The context around today's post are the Big Things. I realize we conform everyday when we stop at a traffic light is red. I'm speaking to the issues when we are given a chance to influence (business, family, community, governance, etc.).
  • This book/manifesto from Seth Godin is one example of what's at stake here.
  • Safety and security is temporary for the conformist.
  • If change is warranted for you, then go slow and get someone to come along side of you to advise and coach. Drastic and big movements rarely work.
  • The world we live in has changed. Beware of those who preach that the past can be resurrected.

Who Would Follow You, the Leader?

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

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I've been thinking a lot these last few weeks about what's the best measurement of quality leadership-in the business world and out. There's so much flowing out there about defining quality leadership, it can be a bit overwhelming. Did I mention burdensome?

I will attempt to set a context you can use to measure leadership in a way that you can pull out in virtually any situation. Maybe it's a question you ask a prospective manager or the HR recruiter who wants to know if you have any further questions.

The question comes down to this; "who follows you even though they don't have to?"

The answer to the above question is so important because anyone can follow when there is a stick and carrot involved. But what about when you're not in charge or some other circumstance changes the order of things? Every time I've met someone who has followed a leader without the force of position, I've encountered someone whose life has been impacted. Impacted in way that you can feel deep in your gut as the observer. Sort of like being in the audience when a great singer sings "that" song.

This all should make us remember that how we influence people (every day) is what builds true followers. And if we do it right, they will stay.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

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You know the old saying about real estate. Sing it with me: location, location, location. The idea applies to life, with a change in terms. The words should be: simplify, simplify, simplify.

Easy to write and not easy to do.

Most have become used to the complicated and harried. It's quite the addictive combination. Last time I checked, people are just trying to keep up. They fail to realize that the answer is in hand.

Simplify and learn to say no.

I understand that your brain and identity will work against you. For example, if you start saying no to people or organizations, what will they think of you? Does that make you feel awkward or insecure? You would not be an alien if you said yes to that question. Liberation doesn't come without a fight, but when it comes it will be worth the fight you gave.

Try it out, simplify one area of your life and say no to something or someone. Be polite and loving as you do this. Now, begin to hear your real life start to call your name.

5 Questions with John Baldoni, Author of The Leader’s Pocket Guide

                The Leader's Pocket Guide

I had the pleasure of doing this interview with leadership expert, John Baldoni, who is the author of the new book The Leader's Pocket Guide a few weeks ago. I've always admired his wisdom and energy. Enjoy!

In
your book you note the importance of what people think, but in a way that
builds a solid reputation. What’s at stake in doing this?

Thinking
is good because it points us in the right direction. But when it comes to
leadership, action counts. Leaders put their thinking into gear when they lead
by example.

How
important is critical thinking to the growth of a leader?

Leaders
must often choose between two good alternatives. Critical thinking teaches
leaders how to balance alternatives as well as to put things into context.

What
role does hubris or arrogance play in hindering a leader from impacting their
organization in a positive way?

Hubris,
a Greek word, is the condition by which a leader is blind to his or her faults
and often leads to living in a bubble, surrounded by yes people. This is never
a good thing.

One
of the last tips in the book mentions the importance of finding interests
outside of work. What keeps leaders from doing this?

Time.
time. time… Anyone in a leadership position needs to recharge themselves. A
hobby, a trip or close associations with family and friends can do this.

In your mind, what
organizations are doing the best job of developing and growing leaders?

Rather
than focus on names of companies I focus on the many capable leaders in
organizations large and small who are making a positive difference in the lives
of their customers, employees and customers. They are legion.

 

JOHN BALDONI, president of Baldoni Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, and author. In 2011, Leadership Gurus International ranked John No. 11 on its list of the world’s top 30 leadership experts. He is a regular online contributor to CBS MoneyWatch, Inc, and Harvard Business Review.

 

 

A Song

A song found me last evening. Seemed appropriate, considering the events in Connecticut. So heartbreaking…

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don't remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must've always thought you'd be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you're nowhere to be found

I don't know what happens when people die
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It's like a song playing right in my ear
That I can't sing
I can't help listening

I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round
Crying as they ease you down
Cause I know that you'd rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There's nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you've been shown
By everyone you've ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another's steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you'll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you'll never know

Jackson Browne

Length and Width

It's pretty clear that you're going to live the length part of life, but the biggest question is whether you will live it's width.

Here's how you can tell the difference:

  • Length-livers focus on what they think they can get their hands on.  This would include things like benefits, salary and job security.
  • Width-livers believe that the unknown is where opportunity can be found.
  • Length-livers desire fame and fortune because they believe their self-worth is attached to it.
  • Width-livers believe they should leave the graveyard poor.
  • Length-livers don't believe in the impossible.
  • Width-livers accept that many will consider them nuts.
  • Length-livers are controlled by fear.
  • Width-livers know that life is beautiful because it is a gift.
  • Length-livers come to the end regretting much.
  • Width-livers see people as infinitely valuable.

If you're a length-liver and want to change, get in touch with me, I want to help you in a practical way.