ARS DUCENDI

Painter's brushstroke

I can’t think of a more abused/overused word than “leadership.”  So few practice well the ARS DUCENDI (latin for the art of leadership).  Seems like we should shy away from using it.  But, alas, this post isn’t about how to remove a word from our modern lexicon.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I believe that the “art” of leadership is found in integration and balance.  Show me a man or woman who integrates and applies balance to their lives, and I’ll show you someone who understands what true leadership is.  They may not have a title, may not have a corner office, may not rake in tons of dough, but they know and live the art of leadership.

The integration part is when the leader sees all areas of life (eight in my view) as important and therefore worth the time and work needed.  It would be easy here to anoint then as a superhero/heroine.  In a culture like ours (America in my case) we see these folks as superhuman and worthy of worship.  This is a fatal mistake.  We should never allow any human to live out our destiny for us.  As rhetorical as that statement sounds, many people are on the sidelines, content to let someone else play their role.  As you have heard before, only you can be you.

The balance part is a thing of beauty.  I consider it the knowing when to and when not to.  Miles Davis was brilliant at this from a musical standpoint.  He seemed to know that the music was inside him and he needed to get out of the way so that it could flow out.  Balance is found when you know the context and you live accordingly.  For example, you know you’ve hit the point of diminishing return in the workday and your daughter is nudging you to communicate.  You want to tackle one more email, but there she is.  At this point, those who practice balance know it’s time to shut the work down and inject themselves into the life of their daughter.  Like Miles, you get out of the way.

It’s time for you to start your version of ARS DUCENDI.  You can’t ignore it and expect to have a life you want.  Fools have tried and find themselves in the sad state of regret.

 

Working Through the Insecurities

This is a re-post from earlier this year. It was timely for me, maybe for you too.

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If you’re a man or woman who sees vulnerability as a weakness, this post might not be for you. I still hope you’ll stick around as we work through the insecurities.

Insecurities are like demons or monsters that play the role of human disrupters. These creatures are always lurking in the shadows waiting for just the right moment to remind you and I of:

  • How we failed
  • How our work is not that great
  • How much smarter the guy or gal next to us is
  • How we’ll never be picked to play a major role
  • How we are not worth the love we long for

Now remember, this is a You and I post. We’re traveling together on this war-torn road. Scars and such are a given here.

In the arena of life, insecurities have most in an iron grip. They cast you in iron and demand you become a slave. Some are by design, some by accident. You don’t need to look any further than how medicated western culture is, and the eastern culture is heading there as well. Our relationships suffer and we can’t seem to sustain connection.We use what is found under the sun to distract us from looking at ourselves soberly. It’s an evil thing, our insecurities. I hate to admit it, you hate to admit it, but we are our own worst enemy.

I’m someone who has identified and dealt with most of my insecurities. I didn’t do this alone. I’ve had multiple advisors over the years to help. I’m blessed by their willingness to stick with me through my insecurities. Whether it was my bravado hiding my fear of what people thought of me, or my doubts regarding the quality of my work. They stayed beside me, despite the ugliness. This is love. My friends, most don’t stay. It can be messy, it can be hard work, and it can be embarrassing. Do you have people who will stick with you?

I figure I owe you the ugly side now. We’re a mess, and all of the pop-humanist thought isn’t going to change that. Billions on education, health, leadership, technology, and we’re still slipping away. So many hiding places, so little time. These places provide an escape from our insecurities. Take the man or woman who thinks a promotion or a relationship will fix what is haunting inside. There’s always another rung to climb, a person to possess. Eventually, we only have so many escapes before we get caught. Living under the sun is a rather subtle addiction. You just kind of do it.

So who’s going to clean up the mess?

I’m in this for the few (however many that may be) who decided not to ignore. If you count yourself in that group today, listen in and reach out to me. 

What’s In Your Cup?

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What’s in your cup matters. So, as in life, whatever you choose to drink better be what you want. Your legacy will see its reflection in the contents.

As time unfurls, you’re often told to conform to some norm. Marketing and well intentioned (some not) people tell you what you must be. The lies are mixed with half-truths, and before you know it 10 years flies by. 10 years.

The shock and awe of the above reality should shake you to the core.

I’ve lost many so-called friends over the years. Typically, it occurred when I noticed a pattern of conditions. Unconditional love and friendship is rare. I would even test my theory by purposely going the opposite way. A fascinating thing occurred when I decided to do this. My calls were not returned. Hmmm, right? In my case, many just watched (and said nothing) as I took the poison pills.

You need to weed these sort of folks out of your life. They’re blocking the entrance for people who matter.

I can;’t stress the danger enough. So many people are living under the pressure of a world gone mad. It’s the type of pressure that can be habit-forming. It’s taken me almost 8 years to fully shed the skin of living someone else’s life. That’s the problem of doing something over and over again.

Do you know what’s in your cup?

The Who of You

The above TED Talk got me thinking about many things. David Brooks stirred my soul and provided confirmation of the state of things. The state of who, or what, should be master.

It really is about the who of you.

I stand on the battleground of souls and lives. This was evident to me over 10 years ago, as it is now. As noble as that may echo, it really doesn’t matter, outside of the context of what you want life to be. Many are living under the sun and hope that will produce happiness and contentment. It doesn’t. All of the striving, all of the ignoring, all of the convincing self-talk will never provide lasting results. If it did, we’d have satisfaction. Ever notice how America continues to scream out that you need more education, more career mobility, more recognition, more money?

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The wizard had a great gig, until Toto got in the way. He had us convinced that we could fool the audience with tricks from a traveling carnival. He told us the curtain was an absolute necessity to keep the audience from discovering what was real. “They will never understand,” he whispered to us in the deep of night. We believed him.

Now, here’s the irony, in my modern culture (an eroding one), most are still trying to conjure a spell or trick. We panically negotiate with the audience. We tell them what they thought was true, was just their imagination. We hope for the miracle of distraction. Maybe they won’t figure out who we really are.

As we face the truth, the deceptive self-talk kicks in:

  • “It could be worse, some people don’t have a job.”
  • “You tried before, and it didn’t work.”
  • “They won’t look at someone, who’s done that.”
  • “You need to make sure, you’ve got x number of followers and likes.”
  • “No one would think less of you, if you gave up.”

Ten years ago I had an audience that said, “OK, Eric, show us another trick.”

Find the who of you while there’s time.

 

The Core

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Photo courtesy of Nicholas_T

 

In the exercise world, your core is one of the most important areas of the body to strengthen. If your core is strong, much of the rest of your physical wellbeing will follow. As I was reminded of from a coaching client last week, the muscle you build doesn’t just remain that way. It takes continued work to grow. He happens to be going thru rehab on his knee. The physical therapist he uses advised him that during his time of post-surgery recovery, sitting on the couch, he lost muscle. Wow! It was only 30 days or so. By the way, this guy is in great shape. 

How does this apply to the core in your life?

As I’ve advised in writing, and in the flesh, your life’s core is even more vital than what I described above. Your life’s core is made up of some things you’re familiar with. It includes your mind, your spirit, your emotions, your physical, etc. They are your sustainers (as I like to call them) and they are the measure of who you Really are. Sorry, if you were thinking being the CEO of the next WhatsApp would be the difference maker. Kinda ironic in an age where many aspire and pursue that. The truth is found in something(s) not seen.

What happened to our core strength?

Outward signs of success are sweetly seductive. They whisper, they sigh, they touch, and above all they promise. All this to lure you into a net very difficult to escape. My friends, most don’t escape. It’s too risky to escape. To be left with a life like:

  • Outward and inward struggles to regain a life left in the wardrobe
  • Failing, again and again
  • Loneliness
  • Awakening to see real worth
  • Finding out who really is for you
  • Seeing people through the lens of love
  • Life over the sun

Isn’t it interesting how those first few bullets, daunting as they are, lead to what we’ve dreamed of? My experience shows you can’t have the last 4, without the first 3. That’s the difference.

I won’t give you some list of all the things necessary to strengthen your life’s core. You need to figure that out for yourself. You can seek counsel from me or someone else, but you’re the one calling the shots That’s the only way it will be authentic. I can give you one secret, though:

Start paying attention and do what you know you need to do.

Legacy: Your Life, Your Work, Your Story

Gave a talk this week around the urgency of wellbeing and how legacy is impacted by our choices. Came away inspired to share this updated post from 2007, Legacy: Your Life, Your Work, Your Story.

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There probably is no greater consequence to consider than what type of legacy we leave behind.  The finality of our legacy can make you pause and contemplate the things you’ve said and done.  There’s something in us that makes us realize that we are leaving a mark on this great planet-good or bad.  And it is true that we all (rich and poor, young and old, learned and ignorant) have a legacy to account for.  It’s ironic that many don’t even give it a second thought.  Consider the words of Vaclav Havel:

“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”

If all there is to your work life is this quarter’s numbers or the year-end bonus, then legacy probably means little to you.  If there is no cause or great battle to fight, then you probably think all this talk about legacy is “soft.”  Because to think of legacy is to have vision, and we know vision is about seeing the unseen.  But what’s really powerful is the fact that it is seen…it’s unfolding everyday before your very eyes.  It’s a truth that everyone is shaping their legacy one day at a time.

Corporate slave traders need people who are willing, if not ignorantly, to exchange their freedom for the immediate issue at hand. See Wall Street to learn more. They need you to be fixated on concerns that can be solved in meetings and handled by committees.  They want your mind on the work…for as long as they can use you.  They want you intoxicated by that corner office and all that it means, even if it means nothing at all.  If you’re not thinking about legacy, then you are just a means to an end.  Even if you’re covered in the finest of the fine.

Here are some things to consider when making the turn to legacy:

  • Don’t expect the crowd to applaud. Rarely does this happen, and the truth is you don’t need it.  You need to make your story the best it can be, not the most popular.
  • Living a life of legacy requires you to think about eternity.  Take a look at the opening scene below from the movie Gladiator:

  • If you value freedom, remember your story is the most important one.
  • Search for someone (spouse, brother, sister, mentor, priest, colleague) who wants this life for you and let them spur you on.
  • Read Success Built To Last and be inspired by others who share your desire.

You’re Crazy, Eric

Steps

Many times over the last ten years I’ve been called crazy. What exactly does that mean? I mean, “you’re crazy, Eric.” I believe it was code for “what if you fail?”

I’ve made it a point to learn how to read communication of the non-verbal variety. It has helped me cut through the fog and certainly the BS. By the way, you can apply this to yourself personally. I’ve created a lot of fog and BS in my own head before. Whenever I’ve been called crazy, it often has spurred me on. Almost like treasure map with clues. Imagine, “when you hear this, do that.”

Not every bet pays off. We all would do well to remember that the “house” is called the house for a reason. Even so, a little craziness, a little chaos is essential to moving to a life worth living. In my experience, I would never have taken the risks I’ve taken without those twins. I would have hidden behind my citadel and played it safe. Craziness and chaos forced me into a path that hurt, and created in me an Epic Life. A strange dichotomy, I know.

On those nights when I’d awaken at 2 AM, and wonder if I really had lost my mind, there was always his voice saying keep going…just keep going. This is important. You are going to encounter a dismantling during your steps, it is inevitable. Don’t believe the crowd or your own doubts when you wonder if you have lost your mind. Finding life over the sun might be the most challenging pursuit you’ll ever undertake.

Here are some reasons why I advocate the beauty of crazy:

  1. Those who are not ” target=”_blank”>crazy are typically medicated and just wanting relief from a life that has no meaning at all
  2. If you walk away from your craziness, you’ll find no one willing to follow
  3. Maybe you’ve seen this ” target=”_blank”>clip? It strikes a good chord here
  4. If you haven’t gotten into the habit of taking risks, time will rob you of that desire, and time doesn’t give refunds. Start small and start now
  5. No one has truly lost by being crazy. People who live their lives to hide are the losers

I am thankful for the craziness.

The Longing for More

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I wrote a post a few weeks back and it reflects a significant shift for me. I have a clarity that, quite frankly, has eluded me for some time. Much that hasn’t made sense, does in the current frame. I feel an elation and clarity  that’s pitch perfect.

Take a look at the following lyrics to a familiar song:

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high there’s a land I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow why oh why can’t I?

Those lyrics used to confound me. I now get what the lyricist was trying to communicate. Obviously, I can’t know for sure, so leave me a little latitude. The lyrics communicate the longing, found in most people I know and have met. Some would say it’s a longing felt by the majority of people around the globe. A longing to know and believe that there is something more to life than what we find in the daily living under the sun.

There was a time many years ago where I was arrogant enough to believe that I could speak to certain areas of life without having the experience. I relied on my head and book knowledge to make my conclusions. I discovered the heart doesn’t really make a true appearance until it is broken. My broken heart, in the area of meaning, loss, empathy, and much more, brought a level of understanding that only those experiences could produce. Now I know about the longing.

I am humbled.

I see modern men and women pursuing much on this planet and inside of them is eternity. Some are drawn and some feel driven mad. Either way, there is something more, there is epic living. I’ve spent more than 7 years living what was appointed for me. My appointments were out in front. for a purpose. Maybe not unlike Lewis and Clark, who prepared a way.

I expect in the coming days, weeks and months to introduce tangible experiences for you and I to engage in a deeper way. We’ll start slow, experiment a little and find some openings to live over the sun.

The Changing Face of Work

In December of last year I caught this article on creativity. Specifically, how creativity is viewed in the work place. I found it rather ironic because of the changing face of work today. In a work world where so much is being turned upside-down, you’d think the creative would be more valued. I carry a bias toward the creative. I belong to that tribe, with great energy and vibe.

Between coaching clients, conversations with decision makers (small and large companies) and the written word, I get a strong sense of how work is changing. The following is not based in theory, and gives a sense of what is here and what’s to come:

  • Employees will soon (1-3 years for the individual and the mid-market) be buying their own health insurance. The employer will contribute an annual dollar amount, but the buying part will be up to you
  • Engagement in the work place will continue to drop until workers feel they have an equal say in what’s going to happen in their specific work function. The millennials are the catalyst here
  • Fear will be a driver of innovation
  • Knowledge transfer is a bigger deal than many think
  • People who are looking for a job should pay attention to disruptive technology. It will either eliminate your job or create a new one. This is good advice for the employed as well
  • For obvious reasons people will need, and maybe forced, to truly manage their lives with an “on-purpose” approach

The bullets above are sobering. Don’t lose you soul navigating the waters.

The Giving Up Thing

Giving Up

Wrote this back in 2011. I was in the garden this past week and it dawned on me how I’ve been to this place and back, and back again. Hope you get some inspiration here. Cheers!

Picture this, you’re moving through life wondering where you fit in.  You’ve played many roles.  You’ve tried finding happiness in what everyone says you should be happy with.  But, alas, you’re still looking.  Every day you’re looking and the “giving up thing” rears its head (ugly or beautiful).

This is tough and lonely work.

If we’re honest, we’d admit that the purpose/mission has at one time or another whispered to us.  Trouble is we’re not a very honest culture.  The art of lying to oneself is very much the norm.  And so it goes, the whisper.  The proverbial, “this is what makes me come alive” or “I belong in this space.”  Do you listen or try to ignore?  So now you know.  It’s calling you and maybe you’re one of the few that listens.  Your first step out into the great unknown is a dip (thank you Seth Godin).  Maybe it’s skepticism, maybe it’s envy or maybe it’s flat out fear on your part.  Before long you begin to wonder what you’ve done and is it too late to turn back.  Turning back always has your number on speed-dial.

There is a reason Cortez burned the ships in the harbour.

Let me be clear, sometimes you should give up.  I think we know when that is.  The time to give up is not when you’re being refined by the crucible of exhaustion and doubt.  And believe me, that’s when many do give up.  I’ve always believed that no one can truly play a part in changing the world until they have felt pain and loss.  By the way, that’s what everyone else has experienced.  And is experiencing in some way.  The audience is looking for someone who is unwavering in integrity and has a passion to solve the problems.

Here are some observations on combating the desire to give up when you shouldn’t:

  • As mentioned earlier, your exhaustion and doubt may be related to the crucible.
  • Being who you really are is Tough Work.  Don’t buy the lie of ease and comfort.
  • Going back is often the first step to your own eulogy.
  • Don’t confuse the need for reinvention of your work versus turning the lights out.  Your work is your work, know what it is.
  • Be allegiant to your life.  This brings clarity, you’ll need this when the difficult times come.