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.

 

No More Taking Things for Granted

A re-post and reminder.

New York - On the rock - Empire State Building

September 11 is only a couple of days away.  For those living in America (and beyond), it is a sacred day.  As well it should be.

I remember much about that day 10 years ago.  It still shapes much of my thinking as a context for the life I lead now.  The events left me exposed.  In the sense that I was trying to find my way with the wrong compass.

I heard the stories of mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who would never come home again.  I felt sad.  But there I was, taking for granted so much in my life.  I was a little lost and wandering what my role (the real one) was to play.  It took some years after 9/11 to get to the following place:

I am no longer in the business of taking things for granted.

At some point events converged and I began to see my life as a whole and not just parts.  And again, it took me time to understand it and live it.  Twists in the road made for much sickness.  It was a process that I worked (still do) and committed to.  I didn’t want to be that person who woke one day to find he’d never really lived.

An odd thing occurred last week at a talk I attended.  I was asked what my greatest fear was.  The answer:

Not doing meaningful work, paid or otherwise.

For me it was a gut check on what I believe, what I value and whether I was willing to see my mission through until the end.  I know this post won’t bring anyone back or heal a broken heart, but it’s worth noting I am no longer in the business of taking things for granted.  Maybe that’s the best tribute I can give.

Wellbeing on Your Terms

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We live in the age of the prescription. The list is long and varied. Drugs (legal) are prescribed to mask or fix health issues. Fitness gurus will prescribe workout plans to help you lose that extra 15 pounds. All in all, we’re in an age of being told what to do. Aren’t you a little tired of that? In some areas of life, prescribing is appropriate. However, it can be a slippery slope.

What if wellbeing should be on your terms? What if your uniqueness should drive how you approach wellbeing?

In my work, I help people find wellbeing that fits who they are and who they aspire to be. Wellbeing that sticks is found here. Far too often people exchange their identity for someone else’s. That someone usually lives in a world way beyond the reach. Ceding identity is a recipe for long term failure.

The best approach is to embrace who you are, and the gifts you’ve been given. Sound simple? It is and it isn’t. The simple part is you’ve got a choice in the matter. The complex part is dealing with all the insecurities and fears. This two-headed beast is ferocious. Many people try to lock up the beast and hope not to have to deal with it, or worse, surrender.

I have areas in my life that have taken, for what seems like a lifetime, much effort and time to be at peace with. I don’t always like to look in the eyes of what hurts me, but  making peace allows me to move forward whole and inspired. The trick is having the faith that what lies past your insecurities is the place you’ve always wanted to be. Wellbeing on your terms is the only way to get there.

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 Value of Life, The Value of Today

Sunrise 

Got to thinking this morning about worry and the time extinguished by it.  I can't think of one instance in my life where worry has produced a breakthrough, happiness or satisfaction.  You are probably thinking I've just entered the "duh" zone because we all know this.  Right?  The truth is many know, but few do.

So why bother worrying?  Who taught us how to worry?  Who wrote the book on the 10 Proven Success Strategies of Worrying?

The take-away is found in our lack of embrace of life and the time given (implies a gift) to us on this big ball known as Earth.  We don't see our life as a whole, but parts.  We pick and choose what we like (usually the pain-fee comfortable ones) and ignore or run from the others.  Believe me, I understand that it's not all a matter of choosing the path you might be on.  Some of us were influenced by parents, teachers, marketing, and society's version of the truth.  We thought we were making the right choice.  Like the person who places their trust in someone who seemed honest, but was just a good actor/actress.  Regardless of that, we cannot excuse ourselves from making a change for the better.

The value of today has all but been erased in our thought process.  We're too busy to stop and look around.  Wer're rushing to things and outcomes that we can't be sure have any value at all.  Almost like closing your eyes, jumping and hoping that what you've been taught will deliver.  This is really a vivid portrait of a culture taking much for granted.  We don't stop and ask the tough questions of why, does this fit who I am, is this meaningful to me?

So how much time do you have to get this life in order?

I'm throwing the following out to you as way of stopping you in your tracks:

  1. Stop denying who you are!  Stop stuffing the real you in a closet for the sake of the opinions of others.  I think Steve Jobs referred to this as "others dogma."  If you've decided to put all your chips on being someone else, then prepare to meet the real you further down the road.
  2. Stop thinking you have time to get around to X or Y.  This is akind to someone who continues to ignore their human relationships.  They figure the other person doesn't need to hear certain words (I Love You) becuase they already know it's true.  Goodbye is the usual outcome here.  Warped logic.
  3. Stop embracing your career as if having a great career will make everything else fall into place.  Listen up, I tried this and it does not work.  
  4. Stop bankrupting your opportunities for happiness.  This happens when you abdicate the choice of happiness to circumstances, people, etc.
  5. Create a stop-doing list and create the margin your life has been screaming for.  A stop-doing list is simply you evaluating the habits, events, etc. and making the concisous decision to stop.

 

 

Culture

October 2010 053
My daughter is not unlike other teens, she's fighting hard to establish her identity. I didn't always realize how much of a role I played in this. Culture at home, at school, at church, are the battlefields.

I only control the home front.

The implications can be daunting for the following:

  • Business doesn't really care how my daughter deals with the fight my daughter faces. Business wants to be my daughter, if not my master. You get me, it wants to be the center of everything. I'm thankful that I had a tough conversation with business letting it know who was master. It's still not easy.
  • American society is so full of it. On one hand it wants a good citizen, and on the other, it celebrates the very things that will lead to the opposite.
  • The school system is in denial. It believes that a world that no longer exists, still does. Ignoring all facts in-order to protect a status quo.
  • The American government is content with leaving my family and my daughter's future in financial ruin. Again, another form of denial in-order to protect a status quo.
  • I fight my own ghosts from so many years ago, but I am fighting. Maybe that leaves her inspired and assured.

As I parent, it occurred to me how much she needs me to be REAL. Not some guy who believes that words are not needed or touch is for a baby only. My daughter needs an example of what a REAL man is and is not. She needs my love, my attention and my touch.

BTW, this is so foreign to my history. Change is a great thing.

The Eighth Called Family

I thought this would a post worth repeating, considering Monday's post on parenting.

Ask almost anyone you know about how important family is and I'm sure you'll get a unanimous "very."  Obviously, not everyone's family looks or acts the same.  Nor does the importance factor apply to all assoicated.  But one thing's for sure, whether it's a mother, a child or a wife, family is very important to most.  It's a heart thing like no other.

Then why is it so ignored and why is it a struggle to manage?

My experience says we live in an age of what we feel versus what we do.  It's a dangerous yet romantic exercise.  On one hand we think and feel the emotional high of family, and on the other we trample them under the foot of our pursuits.  I haven't even mentioned  the hard work that is found in family relationships.  Not many a newlywed is interested in hearing that the man lying next them will often leave the toilet seat up or have a serious problem with resolving conflict.  

So all of this leads us to the question of; is there a way to manage and nurture family and still be able to have all the other stuff of life balance out?  Absolutely!  But you'd best do this before they (employer, business partners, schooling) start passing around the kool-aid.  Very difficult to turn around if you've sold your soul.  That said, it's never too late.  It's never too late to properly order your life around the 8 areas of life.  It takes courage and commitment, but it's never too late start the journey.  I'm always fascinated by the trickery we play in our heads.  For example, "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm too old."  If you truly want this life to be well, then the excuses have to stop.  And with all the obstacles I believe.

So what's this "properly ordered life look like?  Quite simply, you integrate the 8 areas of life into your daily existence.  You won't be perfect and it is tough work.  However, there is one result I know you'll appreciate; a life well-lived.  And for the sake of this post, your family will be as healthy as your career, your money, etc.

The Problem with Busy

Busy 2 

I live in a community that has many families.  I think the last number I saw it was around 80-85% families.  Last night I took a step back and looked around a room of parents and wondered if anyone could look back on their day and find something meaningful (a mark left so that world would know you were alive and contributed) poured out?  Busyness is often a mask to hide our lack of purpose and happiness.  Despite that, I really believe most want purpose and meaningful pursuits.

One of the areas of opposition is living in an age where we've defined "leaving a mark" down and we've elevated busyness as our substitute.  In many ways we feel that a long list of activities produces substance.  It doesn't.  Enter stage left the mask of hypocrites.  We're great actors and actresses.  Giving the appearance that all is well and under control.  We even have calendars to prove it and make it so.  The problem with busy is it wears you down and out.  The scary part is found in our belief that the alternative (quality, focused priorities, meaningful work) is not an option.

Look around you, how has all this busyness benefited us?

I'm not here to define what should be meaningful in your life.  That's your job to tackle.  But here's an acid test to try at the end of your day today:

    The things i participated in today were meaningful because_________.

For some help, see my definitions of meaningful:

  •     Saying I love you consistently
  •     Time alone with God
  •     Laughter
  •     Helping my children answer the tough questions
  •     Being authentic
  •     Embacing nature
  •     Physical exercise
  •     Family dinners
  •     Encouraging people through Epic Living (the work within the org.)
  •     Managing and integrating what I value most into my daily existence