Five Things Only

I told my bride last week that there are only about five things to be concerned with.  Every other obsession, distraction, action item is a waste of our limited time offer.  There is a chapter in my book (Waking the Working Dead) that is called “Beware of the Evil Number Seventeen.”  Number seventeen represents that number on our list of priorities.  I wrote that chapter because number seventeen seeks a lot of our attention, as well as our devotion.  We should take a nuclear bomb to number seventeen on our list.  It ain’t important!

Since we all are terminal (life is a limited time offer, no matter what you’ve read in Fortune), why not focus on a few things.  Yes, I know Stephen Covey wrote about this.  But Jesus spoke about it way before him.  A life well lived is wrapped in about five things…not seventeen. 

When you hit the half-way point in life, you’ll value only a few precious things.  Life on this side of eternity goes fast.  Don’t think you’ve got time.  The statistics are not on your side.  Besides, your passions are inside of those few precious things.  Go live!

What’s In It For Me?

Here’s a test, how much time do you spend thinking about yourself?  Most of us would say a lot.  We’re human…right?  Now’s the time to be super human.  Move your thoughts to leadership…specifically servant leadership.  I’ve found that the more you think about others, the better life gets.  Leaders that serve themselves are not living.  The people you lead are the ones that will define the success. 

I’ve met too many leaders that find the mirror to be their best friend.  A close associate once told me that most corporate leaders are narcissists.  I agree with him on that.  There’s an epidemic of self-absorbed leaders.  They use their career (and other people) to further their agenda.  Have you ever noticed that you can’t have a real conversation with these folks?  Yes, a REAL conversation where we might talk about things we would rather forget.  You can’t communicate when everything is about “positioning.”  When will they realize that careers are to be led, and not managed? 

Look at the following tips:

1.      Start taking more risk (thought-through), and yes you might get in trouble.  Ask an elderly person if they wish they had taken more risk, I bet they’ll say yes.  Don’t wait until you’re in the ninth inning.

2.      Discover your passions…you’ll find it liberating.

3.      Get a mentor.

4.      Serve people.

5.      Make sure you have a growth plan, and make sure it’s a plan for growth.


I’m looking at two young children right now.  I am struck by their innocence and wonder.  It’s a shame that we lose that as we become adults.  We strive to be so sophisticated…so together.  Here’s to reconnecting to the “wonder.”

The Power of Words

Have you noticed the slogans used by Corporate America?  Most of these slogans are over done, and very wordy.  Do the ad folks realize the power behind words?  No way!  Don’t get me wrong, there are some creative folks that do “get it.”  But more often it’s just another boring use of space. 

The next time you look your lover in the eyes, and tell them you love them, watch the body language…it will tell you a lot.  Ever listen to the lyrical content of most popular music today?  If you listen, you might be shocked at the lack of respect for the written word.  Now factor that in with the messages in Corporate America.  It not just the “weird” guys like me that pay attention.  The receptionist is paying attention as well.  Some of this is mystical, but when we start to give words our respect, we’re on our way to becoming master (and truthful) communicators.


If you live long enough you’ll experience emotional heartache. This can be ignored, but at your own cost.  Usually the price is paid many years after the fact.  You might be someone who likes to bury stuff, but in the end we all deal with the issue.

I have a brother who made a decision a long time ago to destroy his life.  I’ll let you fill in the blank on how.  His life has been a crucible for me.  His example has given me clarity on how some things just don’t make sense…at least on this side of eternity.  Twenty-five years of certain behaviors, and ironically he believes that life is as it should be.  I have stopped looking for answers and I pray.  Those are the only things that I have left.

Find your crucible and live out your intended life.

Corporate Make Believe

Ever wonder if corporate leaders believe in fairy tales?  I do!  Its pure fantasy to believe that leaders become quality leaders by osmosis.  Yet look at any recent edition of The Wall Street Journal, and you’ll find this to be true.  The CEO of Morgan Stanley was fired…oh, I mean he retired today.  He said, the personal attacks become too much to bear.  I don’t know what type of development was going on inside that organization.  But it seems to me, as a leader, Purcell should have seen the writing on the wall way before now.  Powerful corporate folks forget that power can blind you.  The board of Morgan Stanley was also practicing fantasy when they bought the “osmosis” theory.

If I were on the search team at Morgan Stanley, I would let my peers know that the world has changed.  Therefore, the new leader should see the world much differently than his predecessor did. 

The osmosis theory says; you can’t become great because of some unknown act of nature.  Ninety percent of Greatness in influence can only occur by choice (I will choose to read, risk, evaluate and serve), the other ten percent by crucible. 

Go be great!

No Risk, No Reward

I did a workshop last week on risk.  Risk and personal growth was the actual focus of the engagement.  As always, I made some of the participants uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable is a good thing. 

We focused primarily on leadership in the workplace.  Interestingly, the conversation around risk is usually confined to the P & L or some other business metric.  We, however, were focusing on decision making and how risk affects our growth.  What the participants discovered was the truth of how risk and growth are partners.  In other words, if you want to grow, then you must be willing to risk.  As you seek more growth, more risk will be your travel companion.  These realities made me realize why so many people don’t grow, and why they think it’s smart to play it safe.  Which is really the most dangerous decision you could make.

Let me give you a few insights from the workshop:

1.      Risk is not designed to destroy you…stupidity is.

2.      Those that have mentors are better able to manage risk.

3.      See risk as it really is (like Neo and the bullets).

Living and Dying

I read Steve Job’s speech to Stanford’s commencement ceremony yesterday.  It’s ironic how fitting his subject matter was.  It seemed like he was speaking directly to me.  Life is strange sometimes.

I received news today that an old friend is being transferred to hospice.  What can I say…my heart is filled with sadness.  I hope she knows that life is just beginning.  I am trying to live my life as an echo. 

The Science of Culture

Much has been written about culture and organizations.  We’ve been told that culture reflects beliefs and “norms.”  It’s also a living breathing organism (or beast) infecting those inside the machine.  Obviously, this can be good or bad.  The problem is that we pay attention to culture after we’re under its spell. 

Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame says culture must be addressed at the very start.  I tend to agree with him.  If you’re in an organization with a bad culture, you better be prepared to bring out the nuclear option.  Anything less will leave you negotiating with the beast.  I call this a fearful state of living.  Think about it, most bad cultures are full of the following:

1.      Entrenched dysfunctional behaviors.

2.      Old ideas championed by old thinking leaders.

3.      Little or no innovation.

4.      Market dependent (as the market goes, so does the organization).

5.      Leaders that live in denial (reality is not a factor in decision making).

I’ve seen way too many leaders who believed they could kill the beast with a sword (usually wielded by a white knight for hire), only to realize that a sword is not enough.  If the organization is unwilling (or unable) to take the necessary steps, you may need to leave or use the enterprise as a laboratory for growth.  Whichever way you choose, don’t pretend that the culture is amoral.

The Opportunity Behind Disappointment

We all have faced the disappointment of losing a job, or being passed over for a promotion.  When (not if) these events happen we are left exposed and fearful.  If you know what I know, then you’ll know that these circumstances can refine you…just like gold.  Remember, refining means there will be fire, and fire is painful. 

The trick is, do we have a vision apart from the organization and circumstance.  If you don’t, you’re in for a wild ride of emotions.  If you do, then you should be able to see the event as directional in nature.  Like a field guide telling you to go around the ridge.  Understanding the directional aspect brings clarity and focus.  Get a vision!

Consider the following (if you’re encountering job related disappointment):

1.      Pray

2.      Don’t make any agreements based on what you feel (emotions will tell you to take the event personally).  Let go of the wheel and check your vision.

3.      Recognize that you’ve been designed, so trust the Designer to reveal the next steps.

4.      Seek input from trusted advisors.

5.      Great things are ahead, let them happen.