The Surprising New Role For Humility in Leadership

 

“If virtues were animals, humility would be the Saola”

In the mountainous rainforest of Vietnam and Laos lives the Saola.

Sometimes called the “Asian Unicorn”, it’s one of the rarest animals in the world. This forest-dwelling species was discovered in 1992 based on finding three skulls with unusual, long, straight horns.

Researchers searched for 20 years but never saw the animal in the wild. It was only after a motion-sensitive camera captured its image on film that scientists caught a glimpse of one alive in nature.

Little is known about the enigmatic Saola (pronounced sow-la) in the two and a half decades since its discovery. None exist in captivity and this rarely-seen mammal is already critically endangered. Scientists have categorically documented Saola in the wild on only four occasions to date.

Humility Like the Saola is rarely found in nature—and nearly impossible to catch by searching for it directly.

In their 2017 book, Humility is the New Smart! Rethinking Human Excellence, authors Edward Hess and Katharine Ludwig work the premise that we are on the threshold of a Smart Machine Age (SMA) led by artificial intelligence.

This change will be as transformative for us as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors. The insurgence of Artificial Intelligence will take over many jobs and functions that people now do.

There’s no doubt that AI is already helping/disrupting/raising hard questions in challenging new ways.

Artificial Intelligence now helps us make appointments, drive, gather food, diagnose illnesses and maybe even helps with some other popular human activities.

I sometimes wonder if Siri and Alexa hang out together. If so, what do they talk about? Bixby? Cortana? You? Me?

In the face of all of this Artificial Intelligence uncertainty, Hess and Ludwig offer the following game plan:

We humans need to excel at critical, creative, and innovative thinking and at genuinely engaging with others—things machines can’t do well. We need to reframe our perceptions and assumptions of what constitutes intelligence and begin concentrating on the development of our soft skills.

They even coined the phrase for this: “NewSmart”.

The NewSmart creators go on to offer up a chart to show what it should look like.

 

Old smart NewSmart
I know I’m good at not knowing
I tell I ask
Defend my views Improve my views
Seek confirmation Seek truth
Close mind Open mind
Insecure if beliefs are challenged Insecure if beliefs are NOT challenged
Mistakes are bad Mistakes are learning opportunities
Perfectionism Learning

The crucial underlying mindset for NewSmart is… (tabletop drumroll please) Humility!

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” Confucius

In 2001, researcher and business writer Jim Collins introduced the concept of Level 5 Leadership as an effective style of Leadership that blends humility with competence and grit.

Ever since then I’ve been both a fan and an ever-learning student of this concept. That’s why the perspective in this book about Humble=Smart piqued my interest.

Back then, Collins’ research had already shown that leadership rooted in humility
could unleash tremendous scale-able results.

Like its close cousin authenticity, humility is that elusive trait at the epicenter of so many good things for leaders, individuals and entire enterprises.

Here’s the thing.

One unfortunate expectation of our modern age is that everything needs some kind of hack.
There’s unrelenting pressure to save time and optimize.

The other wild card factor is human nature. We relentlessly resist voluntary change until the cost of not changing becomes too great. I can’t see people waking up one day and saying. Uh-oh. AI is threatening my job so I better get humble. It just doesn’t work that way.

Sorry, Lifehacker. I don’t think humility is hackable.

What I can offer from decades of lived experience is that humility, like the Saola, needs a supportive ecosystem and a mindset of fierce resolve in order to survive.

It’s a quality that is earned in the journey of life. The journey includes hard knocks, kicks in the pants, failures, disappointments, and loss. There’s no one size fits all formula.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”. C.S Lewis

In 2016, New York Times writer and author David Brooks released a thought-provoking book called “The Road to Character.” This is an account of Brooks’s effort to find his way out of shallow punditry—or, as he puts it, to “cultivate character.”

He too espouses humility as the prime ingredient in the bumpy path.

Towards the end, he summarizes what he calls a “ Humility Code”

Any one of this 15 point summary could be the subject of an entire blog post. Here are some of my favs from David Brooks.

The road to character begins with an accurate understanding of our nature and recognizing we are flawed creatures. We have a tendency to be self-centered and overconfident. However, we are not the center of the universe.

It doesn’t matter whether we work for a hedge fund or charity; there are heroes and schmucks in both worlds. The most important thing is our willingness to engage in the struggle for virtue. After attending to the basic necessities of living, this is our central purpose.

Pride blinds us to our weaknesses and makes us think we are better than we are. Pride drives us to prove that we are better than others and makes it hard to be vulnerable before those whose love we need.

Life for all of us is “U” shaped. We advance, retreat and so on. The redemption always comes in the form of “grace.” When admitting our failure, help comes in many different forms. When we recognize that you and I are unconditionally accepted and we accept what is, the path forward and accompanying gratitude usually arrives.

“When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom”. Proverb of Solomon

Another macro viewfinder that informs this whole topic is Robert Greenleaf’s  Servant Leadership. His Ten Principles have formed the basis of some remarkable 21st-century enterprises including Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and the Marriott Hotel chain.

Back to our question. Is humility really the new smart way to combat and mitigate the encroachment of the Smart Machine Age?

Maybe. Depends.

It can’t hurt to give it a try.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

On “Banes and Biases”. Fears large and small that hold us back

First the Banes

Once upon a time, there was a king of great fortune and power.

He ruled his empire with tyrannical zeal.

History has it that he wasn’t particularly gifted in either administration or military prowess. He made a futile attempt at rebranding himself as a “philosopher-king”. He even hired Plato as an executive coach for a while. Like most tyrants, he wasn’t very coachable, so that whole thing didn’t pan out.

One day one of his pandering courtiers commented. “Gee. It must be really cool being King with all that luxury and power and stuff!”

His reply: “Oh yeah? You just try it and see if you can last a whole day!”

Note to reader: I’m paraphrasing liberally. 

So arrangements were made for this up-sucker to be King for a day. Unbeknown to him, the King arranged to have a heavy sword suspended directly over the throne by a single hair from a horse’s tail. He wanted to convey the imminent and ever-present threat of fear and peril faced by those in positions of great power.

Of course, when the dude became aware of the hanging sword, he started pleading with the King to get out of the deal. He departed in shame and disgrace.

This anecdote, known as “Sword of Damocles” originated in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse around the 4th Century BC. This story has survived 25 centuries and surfaces frequently in popular culture, including novels, feature films, television series, video games, and music.

It’s one of the better examples of a “bane”.

Bane -A cause of harm, ruin, or death or thing or situation which causes a prolonged state of impending doom or misfortune. IE Superman and kryptonite, Green Lantern and Sinestro, etc.

A bane has a fear-enhancing, debilitating, and paralyzing effect.

Example 1 
As a kid in the days of the cold war nuclear threat, I remember drills at school where we’d have to curl up tightly under our desks whenever the siren wailed. It occurred to me that if I was to be vaporized by a Russian nuke, I’d at least like the dignity of being seated upright. My friend, weird Freddy, reasoned that the “curl-up-tight” instruction was so that we could kiss our collective rear ends good-bye. He may have been right

To this day, when I hear that certain siren noise, my heart rate goes for sprint and I’m instinctively looking around for a desk to crawl under.

Example 2
In an address before the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, 1961, JFK said:

Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
– John F. Kennedy 

Eventually, Kennedy’s message took hold. The threat of mutually assured mass destruction via a superpower grudge match subsided. Corrective steps were taken through detente and nuclear nonproliferation agreements.

Example 3
It wasn’t that long ago we were all about to be fried to a crisp by that massive hole in the ozone layer caused by aerosol overuse and bovine methane emissions. That was about the same time the world was about to be thrown into complete mayhem by the Y2K bug.

These days, the new “bane of our existence” is more about rapid global warming, being awash in a sea of our own garbage and the specter of rogue AI.

It’s worth noting that the true fear factor of the sword and the siren represent possible harm.

“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than reality.
— Seneca

Nothing close to the extreme outcomes that were portrayed actually happened. The mere prospect raises primal fears.

Politicians, news outlets, home alarm salesmen and others understand this well. All too often this foible of human nature gets exploited by playing to our deepest fears.

There are times when the danger is very clear and present. In these instances, swift appropriate action needs to be taken.

If it’s something that only appears to be potentially dangerous, that’s a different story.

The key here is to distinguish between what’s “possible” and what’s “probable”.

Many scary things are possible. Most of them aren’t probable.

Now on to the Biases 

These are much more common garden variety type fears.

“Bias” is a geometry term referring to a slanted line. These days it’s better known as a reference to a slanted viewpoint based on emotions
or misplaced beliefs that misinform our decisions and actions.

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

My crack at the explanation:

Because we’re inundated with tens of thousand bits of data and we can only process about 40 concepts at a time, our brain goes into “hack mode” and automatically starts spitting out answers from our caveman software memory bank.

•           We all have firmly held beliefs that aren’t necessarily factual
•           We all don’t know everything.
•           Therefore, some of those beliefs are incomplete, misguided, or wrong.

This applies to everyone, including me. Admitting I’m wrong about something I firmly believe means admitting I haven’t fully thought things through. Herein lies the ultimate stuck-ness.
Fully aware that I’m wrong about something, but unable to admit being wrong about anything. Huh!

Biases cause great ideas to get stymied, resolve to evaporate and produce unreasonable anxiety over one’s capabilities.

Our friends at Wikipedia have listed approximately 200 plus biases.  Workwise, I run into some of these all the time. The Ostrich bias and Information bias come up a lot.

Most of these biases adversely affect belief formation, business and economic decisions, and human behavior in general.

The  “Knowing-Doing Gap” was one of the first leadership books that explained at a granular level how individual and group biases actually prevail in preventing knowledge to be turned into action.

Sometimes it’s a bias for the plain old status quo can derail ideas and thwart progress.
Does “but we’ve never done it that way before” sound familiar?
Ok if the status quo is working well. Not ok if it’s not.

Admittedly, I have a few personal biases that may not be listed anywhere that I believe are useful.

For example, I have a firm bias against standing in a long line up for coffee at you know where. (starts with S)
It’s my Life’s- just- plain- too short- to -stand in line bias.

Another useful one is my Anti – BS bias.

I can usually dial my BS detector down around teachers, nurses, farmers and pilots because their personal incentive to deceive is near zero.
Then again, there are otherwise good, honest people who spout nonsense and promote wild ideas based on beliefs that are shaped by the power of fears, paychecks or social status.

In conclusion, – banes and biases. We all have them. Once you know exactly what they are, you can name them, face them and develop some workaround strategies that move you forward.

Until next time.

Lorne

Got any cool or unusual biases you care to share? 

Shoot me a note or leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

If you’re enjoying this monthly article and the Winning Habits Challenge, feel free to forward it to a friend.

You might just win a referral Taco on me. It’s been known to happen.

What Does Success Look Like For You ? How Do You Know When You Get There?
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Like You, I Wonder About “Success”.  How Do You Know When You Arrive?

Are there “stages of? ….building blocks for?….  formulas or recipes?

It’s a big topic so let’s get it popping.

True story:

I recently ran into a business friend from many years ago.

We’d known each other when we were both grinding it out through a dismal time in the construction industry.

We’d agreed to catch up over a Starbucks. Now here we were.

Phil is a burly guy with a kind of brusque manner and voice that is permanently set on “outdoor” volume.

After some opening banter, he pauses and then declares (outside voice).

“I googled you man. You’re a freaking 40-year overnight success!”

The conversations around us fell silent. I could feel multiple laser stares aimed right at me.

His spontaneous outburst and the absurd hilarity of it all caught me off guard. Something welled up and I bust out laughing and couldn’t stop.

He joined in full volume, enjoying the dramatic effects of his own comedic delivery. When our moment of mirth subsided, the surrounding conversations came back to the normal Starbucks level.

As with any honest humor, it’s usually wrapped around a nugget of truth. This was no different.

Examples of “success” in any field if examined, come after a ton of hard work, sacrifices made and obstacles overcome over extended periods of time.

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”    -Winston Churchill

When you talk “success” and how you actually define or quantify it, the definition tends to vary.

A quick G search of the word renders 210 million hits in .64 seconds so it’s obviously top of mind for lots of people.

For some folks, it’s about money.  Ok, probably for most folks that’s the measuring stick for comparison.

For others, it might be house size or being able to travel to faraway places. For others, it’s about a relationship to their family; for some it’s faith, and for many, it’s honestly just staying alive another month. The definition of the term will change relative to where you’re at in life, probably dozens of times.

The part I love most about my work is helping clients figure out what success looks like for them. Then we start navigating obstacles, achieving more or getting better at something – a.k.a. becoming “successful.”

Because most of us spend on average 1/3 of our life (about half of our waking hours) pursuing a livelihood to make ends meet, it’s important to have some sort of scaffolding or contextual framework around how to think about this concept.

From observation and experience, there are some underlying factors to success in any realm.

Wealth is definitely an easily understood way of keeping score, but if that‘s the only way then look out!

Ok – back to the point.

 

Because the wealth/success thing has such an overshadowing effect,  I’ll get it out of the way in this months’ post.

We’ll deal with the other success factors in future posts.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”  ― Albert Einstein 

A Remarkable Essay

I love it when someone else writes a brilliant article around something I’ve been thinking. Moreover, they absolutely nail it.

In this instance, kudos to American venture capitalist Morgan Housel who has provided a remarkable essay ranking every type of wealth and poverty.

It’s equal parts enlightening, entertaining, surprising and useful for perspective.

Stage one of 19 on the wealth spectrum begins where you would expect – complete dependence on others for sustenance – but quickly jumps to people who have money and assets but are impoverished in other ways.

Stage four is a cautionary tale, “Your lifestyle expectations consistently grow faster than your income and assets. Adaptive poverty.” Stage seven is too: “Your entire personality is built upon the appearance of being wealthy, attracting a predatory social group that will abandon you.”

The stages of wealth start looking attractive around number 13, where you love your job enough that it feels like a hobby and pays more than you ever expected.

I’ll let you go on to discover the highest stage of wealth – the psychological equivalent of the Forbes billionaires list.

If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.  –Edmund Burke  

 

The overriding revelation in the piece is that wealth is often as much a matter of perspective as it is a sum of money.

Folks who are deeply envious and generally insecure are unlikely to feel wealthy no matter how big their investment account becomes.

Those with close family ties and social connections can feel content with far less.

Another poignant revelation of this innovative list is that we often fail to recognize the wealth of all types that we already have.

Here Are The 19 Stages Of Wealth

  1. Complete reliance on the kindness of strangers for sustenance. Deep poverty.
  2. Your income is above average but you are overcome with envy and a feeling of inadequacy towards those who earn more. Psychological deep poverty.
  3. You have a large income and net worth that was acquired in a way that brings active disdain from people who would otherwise want to like you. Socially bankrupt.
  4. Your lifestyle expectations consistently grow faster than your income and assets. Adaptive poverty.
  5. You have so much money you can do nothing, and doing nothing leads to boredom at best, self-destruction more often. Ironic poverty.
  6. You have a large income and net worth you are satisfied with, but your career and assets are fragile (often leveraged) and will disappear when the world shifts only a little leaving you yearning for the money you used to have and became accustomed to. Pent-up poverty.
  7. Your entire personality is built upon the appearance of being wealthy, attracting a predatory social group that will abandon you without remorse the moment the money stops.
  8. You have a large income and net worth that was made in a job you hate that requires such long hours that it derails your social and family life. Financial wealth, life poverty.
  9. You have a job you love surrounded by people you enjoy but one that doesn’t pay well and leaves you vulnerable and stressed about your finances. Financial poverty, life wealth.
  10. You have enough money to stay comfortable and a good group of friends but you didn’t earn the money yourself, creating a lack of pride and ability to appreciate the value of a dollar that makes you feel poorer than someone with less money that was earned from hard, meaningful work.
  11. You can afford a little bit more than the people you interact with daily and it makes you feel superior to them. Technical wealth but actually insecurity that’s likely to backfire into social poverty.
  12. You can afford a little more than the people you interact with daily but you still live the same material lifestyle as they do, which creates social cohesion among your friends that’s valuable. You have a high savings rate that puts a gap between your mood and most financial hassle.
  13. You like your job so much it doesn’t feel like work and it pays more than you ever expected to make.
  14. You could stop earning a paycheck tomorrow and your lifestyle could remain the same for the indefinite future.
  15. You can go to bed and wake up when you want to. You have time to exercise, eat well, learn, think slowly, and clear your calendar when you want it to be clear. Health wealth.
  16. You can, and want to, use your wealth to help other people. And you want to help them because you care about them, not because it will make you look good or make them beholden to you.
  17. You genuinely feel no benefit from the social signal of wealth, because everyone you want to love you would still love you if you weren’t wealthy. So everything you spend money on is for its utility, rather than glitz.
  18. The people you love the most will have to work hard in life, but your wealth provides them a safety net that will help them avoid undue hardship.
  19. You are respected and admired by people you want to respect and admire you regardless of your financial circumstances. Psychologically speaking, you’re now on the Forbes list of billionaires.

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Phil’s perception of my alleged success was that somehow I had “arrived”.

My read on the same scenario was that I was merely “staying on track and keeping going.”

Huh! Guess that’s the kind of stuff that makes life interesting.

Like Abe,  I had some friends who believed in me. I didn’t want to let them down.

Until next time!

Note to Reader:  This “Success” article will probably wind up being one of a three-part series into 2020, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

What’s Your Authenticity Quotient?

 Ok I made that up, but I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.

It has to do with your personal leadership credibility.

We all know about IQ. It’s your Intelligence quotient score derived from some standardized tests.

So if we can quantify that, it’s not too big a leap to apply “quotient” to other important things 

Like FQ – Frustration Quotient. How frustrated am I ?
Or TQ – What’s the level of Truth in this situation?
Or B.S.Q -What’s the level of …well you know.

There are many other Q’s and I could go on, but will resist.

I’m Talking AboutAuthenticity Quotient”

It’s like your personal credibility rating, or integrity score but so much more.

I’m surprised at how many leaders have a specific work persona and a whole different person shows up elsewhere. And it surprises me when these same leaders seem shocked or confused when their employees don’t trust them, don’t like them, and can’t really wait to work elsewhere.

Authenticity in leadership is one of those things everybody declares to be super important.  Many groups and organizations I work with have an “authenticity lingo” baked in to their core values (I.E. authentic culture, authentic relationships etc.)

To me, when someone self-references the word in anything other than an aspirational context, they’ve broken some sort of spell. The moment you have to self -declare a trait like this, you’re probably not a representative of that trait.  It’s something you either are or you ain’t. At its essence, it’s one of those rare know-it-when-you-see-it qualities that if you have to spend a lot of time talking about it or trying to analyze it, it simply evaporates.  Like wind, you can’t see it, but you’re highly aware when you see its effects.

Before diving in, I’ll offer a soft disclaimer. Nobody’s appointed me official spokesperson on “authenticity”.  But if that job existed– how cool would that be? I can speak for myself and offer some good examples of authenticity that I’ve observed.

I firmly believe that leadership is more important than ever before, yet true leaders are in short supply. There’s also a huge crisis of confidence in leaders.

I firmly believe that leadership is more important than ever before, yet true leaders are in short supply. There’s also a huge crisis of confidence in leaders. Something weird happened with the rise of the internet. Our humanness, relationships and accountability got reduced to a bunch of 0’s and 1’s, making sketchy leadership all the more possible. With multi-media bombardment and the rise of “truthiness” (thanks Stephen Colbert), we find ourselves increasingly attracted to the wrong type of charismatic leaders. 

I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.” Charles R. Swindoll

Here are some hallmark characteristics of authentic leadership at work: 

  • Genuine  leaders practice confident humility. They know themselves. They know their strengths, understand their virtues and recognize their limitations. They stand by their convictions, but are quick to admit their errors. They seek help and feedback from others. When wins happen, they share the spotlight with others and applaud their contributions.
  • Genuine  leaders embrace their own life story and share it easily. They are comfortable in their own skin and learn from their experience. Somehow they are able to connect the dots backwards in order to move forward and inspire and motivate others. Genuine leaders don’t derive pleasure or satisfaction from the opinions of others. This allows them to move unaffected by fear or favour following a direction from within that’s aligned with their principles and values.
  • Failure is an ever-present option. Genuine leaders master the ability to bounce back with resilience, turn setbacks into opportunities and convert fear into wisdom. Pragmatic, optimistic leadership  when combined with sheer grit and a positive “stick to it” mindset can be contagious at times  when the chips are down
  • Authenticity strives for  the good of others and speaks truth in kind and appropriate ways. Genuine leaders build high quality relationships and networks that are  marked by trustworthiness, empathy and relentless reliability. Ben Franklin (U.S. Founding Father, author and inventor) began his morning routine with the question ”What good shall I do this day?” He ended it with “What good have I done this day?”
  • Genuine leaders lead by example and build culture and community around shared truths and values that others can buy into. They have a knack for zeroing in on our core elements: spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional. These four elements are the basis of all our capacity for self-improvement. This does not mean authentic leaders are “soft.” In fact leading in a forthright manner is critical to successful outcomes, but it’s done with empathy; directness without empathy can be cruel.
  • Genuine leaders lead with an eye on the future and deal with today’s problems without compromising the future. They realize that to nurture individuals and to nurture a company requires hard work and patience, but the approach pays large dividends over time.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ― Brene Brown

Being authentic is a work in progress and an endless process of growth.

It always starts with a critical and honest look in the mirror. Authentic leaders believe that there is always room for improvement and never stop.

Conclusion :

Building and maintaining your AQ is hard work, but it pays off in the long term. It is like exercising: While you are training, you feel tired, but you know it is good for your body. Staying authentic in leadership and life is not easy, but it can be observed, measured and learned.

Until next time!

Here for you. 

Hi there !
 
If you’re new to our tribe, (even if you’re not) here’s the deal.
My name is Lorne and top of each month I’ll send you my very best ideas and truth powered concepts. 

Why?

I’m a slightly irreverent, non conforming, modern day elder with a strong bent to make a dent in today’s messed up world.

One of the best ways I do this is by 
helping us become better servant leaders and difference-makers right where we’re at.

I write about the business of life, leadership, community and relationships and how that all intersects with our quirky human nature.

Basically, I’ll tackle anything that gets us down the road toward our vision of service to others.
Hopefully this is a bit of “leadership jet fuel” that serves to inform, inspire and  focus us for the month ahead.

BTW. Did I mention I like coffee? I’m still working my way through that monster bag of Torrefaction Foncee’ espresso beans that Margaret brought home last month. It brews up nicely with “crema”. It’s that tawny, caramel-y layer of micro foam that occurs when you get the just right amount of super heated hydraulic pressure forced through roasted and ground-to-perfection beans. It’s a sort of holy grail for true espresso lovers.

My tastebuds are doing the mamba right there in my mouth.
Stop it guys! 
                                             

Ok. Take a moment and get yourself a cuppa whatever you love. I’ll wait right here and enjoy mine.  
Once you’re back, we can walk through some important ideas together.

Deal?


What’s in Your Backpack?

I love this story.

It’s about four people on an aircraft that has only three parachutes.
There was a genius, a minister (rabbi, imam, priest, spiritual advisor of your choice) a Boy Scout and of course, the pilot. 

Sure enough, about an hour into the flight, the engine catches fire.

The pilot, highly trained in emergencies, promptly locks the controls, grabs one of the parachutes, says “follow me” and bails out. 

The genius stands up and says, “I’m the world’s smartest man! The world really needs me” 
He grabs one and jumps out leaving the minister and the scout.

The minister looks at the boy and says, “Son– you have your whole life before you. You take the last parachute.” 

The scout answers “Don’t sweat it, mister. The world’s smartest man just bailed out with my backpack!”



Stuff happens!

There are emergencies happening all around us. We often stake our entire future on the survival gear that we’re carrying. These could include good works, possessions, faith, money, education, training, grit, merit or status. 

Fact is, we all go through life carrying stuff around with us. Not all of it is useful or good.

There’s the stuff we’ve latched on to that we can’t seem to let go of.
Other stuff we hang onto because we think it defines us and somehow or make us cool or special. 

There are experiences and traumas that leave an indelible mark. Memories are very real. They can linger in the pathways of our brain for years, sometimes decades. When triggered, they can unleash a flood of cortisol- fuelled “fight or flight” emotions.

At age eighteen, I was involved in a horrific car crash. My friends and I were able to walk away with only stitches, a broken ankle, and deep bruises. That didn’t lessen the emotional impact. 

Huddling dazed and shaken beside the road, we watched as the grotesquely twisted, pancaked pile of metal erupted into a flaming fireball, lighting up the rainy night sky. We could have been in there.
I relived the moments of the crash in slow motion again and again in the form of nightmares for years to follow.

It was an event that left me profoundly changed in ways I didn’t immediately understand. It infused me with an awareness of the fragile preciousness of life.

The dawn of each new day, every pleasure, every pain, every second is a gift.

Each relationship and each human interaction no matter how fleeting has eternal value. It left me with a fierce, deep-down resolve to fully live each day with intent, meaning, and purpose.

I mention this as an example. It’s now a distant memory and I rarely think of it anymore. It just became a part of me. It’s part of the everyday survival gear I carry, 

On a side note, to this day this experience informs my engrained defensive driving habits You never know how fast you’re really going until you leave the road and start crashing into stuff. 

Trust me on that one.

When it comes to real life backpacks, I’m a huge fan.

 It’s my favorite aisle at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Being fairly active, I have a dedicated “go-bag“ that keeps me organized and ready for just about everything I do. My video gear bag has everything I need to capture great stories. My fishing backpack has entirely different stuff than my hiking bag. My book bag of dog-eared reads and my Kindle is always nearby.  My work backpack has everything I’ll need for that particular workday. Daypacks, overnighters, weekenders. The list goes on.

There comes a point when I need to get down and dirty, dump everything out and re-assess my stock of baggage items I carry.

Is this still useful? Does it bring me joy or cause anxiety? Is this essential for my well-being or survival?


Does it help me help others?

If you ever meet my friend, Nita, there’s a couple of things that’ll stand out. You’ll note she is smallish and compact with a cheery disposition and a winsome smile. The other thing you’ll note is her ginormous backpack that she packs around like some kind of urban Sherpa. 

When I ask her “Nita, what all do you have in there?”, she smiles mysteriously and says “oh,   …many important things.“  

Every time she heaves it up and slings it on, there’s a moment of teetering uncertainty until the load centers, balance is regained, and off she goes.
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She recently admitted- “Sometimes, when I can’t find something in the house, I just have to remember to check in my backpack and quite often, there it is.“

I may never know what’s in Nita’s bag.

I do know whatever it is, it’s definitely working for her.


What kind of baggage do you carry?

When it comes to life’s baggage, each of us carries something different. 

If you’ve ever been wrongly accused, cheated or abandoned, you might have trouble trusting.
If you ever were made to feel ridiculed or put down, you might have trouble feeling acceptance or worth.
The more you know about your own personal baggage, the better equipped you are to handle situations that arise. 

Life can certainly become burdensome at times. We all know this is true. Carrying the dead weight of the wrong kind of baggage just makes matters worse. Have the right stuff in your backpack for life. Recognize what needs to stay behind.

Something to think about.

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough. -Charles Dudley Warner

Have a great month of October!
Until next time.
Lorne 

Hi there!


I hope you’re geared up for a fun, relaxing Labour Day holiday! 
 
One of the things I look forward to (even on holidays) is bringing you my best ideas and truth powered concepts that help us become better leaders in our work and in our lives. It’s focused in our vision of service to others and reflects our values and current realities. I send this out at the top of the month to be a bit of “leader fuel” that informs and inspires us for the month ahead.

One of my little writing rituals is to have something handy beverage-wise, preferably caffeinated. Right now, I’m enjoying a Torrefaction Foncee’ espresso from my trusty stove topper.
I think that’s French for “a whoopee load of tasty good.”                                                          

It sounds real fancy, but Margaret bought a big honking bag at Costco. Why? Because it was on sale and she knew I’d love it. She’s right about that. She usually is. 

So grab a coffee or whatever, settle back, and let’s spend a few moments together and work through some important stuff.
 

Little Game-Changers 

Definition
 
Game -Changer NOUN                       
A person, event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current way of doing or thinking about something and profoundly alters outcomes.
 

Sports fans are familiar with that goal that turns the tide and wins the game or that star player who brings a level of skill and grit that makes for a winning team.  

“Game-changer” people in sports and in business are highly valued and sought after because they influence outcomes and tend to make everyone around them better.  
 
There are also little game-changer words and phrases that if practiced every day, can make for a winning team and fuel big outcomes. Anyone who has ever tried to start a campfire from scratch knows that you need a bunch of small sticks to get a blaze started and then add some more ‘til the bigger logs catch.

Like those bits of kindling, If you work these little phrases into your conversations, I guarantee they’ll help fuel some bigger conversations and better outcomes.
 
Here are a few little “game-changers” I’ve used effectively along the way.
 
Try ‘em. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcomes 
 
First on the list: 
 
“Here’s what I’m thinking.”
 
Quite often, you’re in charge of something that involves a group initiative or moving a plan forward. 
 
That doesn’t mean you’re smarter or know more than everyone else.  
 
When you let people know what you’re thinking and explain why it frees up the lines of communication and invites a response. 
 
It also opens up the possibility of dissension, maybe criticism but that’s ok. It also paves the way toward a creative dialogue that improves new ideas and fosters better suggestions.
 
Having authority or title can create an illusion that you are “right,” but collaboration engages everyone. It certainly helps everyone pull together in the same direction.
 
“I was wrong’
 
“There have been situations where I come up with an idea that I thought was a brilliant plan to improve things or solve a problem in our workplace.  
 
On paper, it looked perfect. In practice, it didn’t work out.

When that happened, I had to go back and say, “I knew you were thinking this approach wouldn’t work. You were right. I was wrong.
Let’s go back to the drawing board on this
At the time, I felt bad thinking that maybe I had lost the respect of my team. 
 
It turns out I was wrong about that, too. 
 
Later one of my newer co-workers said, “I didn’t really know you that well, but the fact you were willing to admit you were wrong told me everything I needed to know.”
 
When you’re wrong, say you’re wrong. You won’t lose respect–you’ll gain it.
 
“That was awesome.”
 
No one ever gets enough praise. 
No one. 
So when someone has done something well say, -“Wow, that was great how you did that.”
Add some details. “I especially appreciate……”
This works retroactively as well. “You know, I really liked the way you handled that situation last month…”
That makes just as positive an impact today as it would have at the time. 
 
Praise is a gift that cost us nothing to give, but it is priceless to the recipient. 
 
Start praising. 
The people around you will love you for it–and you’ll like yourself a little better, too.
 
Say “Thank-you” and “You’re welcome.”
 
Think about a time you gave a gift and the recipient seemed uncomfortable or awkward. Their reaction took away a little of the fun for you, right?
 
The same thing can happen when you are thanked or complimented or praised or even if someone says “have a nice day”
 
Don’t spoil the moment or the fun for the other person. 
 
The spotlight may make you feel a little uneasy, but all you have to do is make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or make eye contact and say, “You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.”

Don’t let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you. Make it about the other person, too.
 
“Can you please help me?”
 
When you need any kind of help just ditch your ego and say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you please help me?”
 
You’ll usually get a positive response. And in the process, you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen–which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader. And a great friend.

“I’m sorry.”
 
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize and ask forgiveness for: 
words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, or show support…
 
When that occurs, say “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me.” 
 
Don’t follow the apology with a disclaimers. 
But I was really mad, because…” or “But I didn’t think you were…” or any statement that places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
 
Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry and take all the blame. No less. No more.
 
That way you both get the best shot at starting over.
  
“Can you show me?”
 
Advice is temporary; knowledge is forever. Knowing what to do helps, but knowing how or why to do it means everything.
 
When you ask to be taught or shown, several things happen: 
 
You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; 
 
You show you trust his or her experience, skill, and insight; 
 
Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown.
Then you both win.
 
“Let me give you a hand.”
 
Many people feel that asking for help as a sign of inadequacy or personal failure. So, many people hesitate to ask for help.
 
Truth slap!
We all need help.
Don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?”  
Most people will automatically reply  “No, I’m all alright.”
 
Be specific. Find something you can help with. 
 
Say “I’ve got a bit of time now.  Can I give you a bit of help figuring that out.?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.
 
Model the behavior you want others to display.
Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.
 
 Find appropriate ways to say “I love you.”
 
Not in the mushy romantic sense, but in the sense that conveys “I have a great deal of respect for you” or “I think highly of you”.
 
Some time ago, I got an email from a colleague who I had worked with for many years, 
 
 It started this way. “I’ve been meaning to say this for some time now but there didn’t seem to be a good opportunity so here goes.  
 
From there on she went on to say some very affirming things and how she appreciated our work together. She acknowledged that she had learned a great deal from me and how she would always value our great working relationship and how proud she was of things we were able to accomplish together.
 
The email ended with “And no, I don’t want to borrow any money, or your car or anything 😉 m just finally telling you what I’ve thought for some time now.” 

Well.. you can imagine the effect that had on me. To this day It has a lasting impact.
 
The point is, we all have people who are super important in our life and when you have the chance, let them know. 
It will create a meaningful moment that will last a lifetime. 
 
One final thing to say.
 
Nothing.

There are times where the best thing to say is absolutely nothing. If you’re upset, frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. 
 
You may think verbal venting will make you feel better, but it never does.
 
That’s especially true where your tenants or co-workers are concerned. 
 
Results come and go, but emotions and feelings remain in the pathways of our brain for a very long time.
 
If you criticize someone in a group setting, it may seem like that person will eventually get over it, but inside, they never really do. 
 
Before you speak, spend more time considering what others will think and feel in response 
 
You can easily recover from a mistake of faulty information or genuine misunderstanding. 
 
You’ll never recover from the damage you inflict on someone else with words that are hurtful.
 
Be quiet until you know exactly what to say–and exactly what effect your words will have.

There you have it. Nine little game changers.
 
You may have little game- changers of your own going on. Shoot me a note. I’d love to hear about that. 
 
My thirty-day game-changer challenge. 

Try these phrases out for only thirty days, and if you’re not completely satisfied, I’ll provide you with a total money back guarantee.

For the first three people who write back to me with their own game – changer experience, I’ll buy you a taco. Yup, you got that right. I’ll buy you a taco wherever you are. If it works out, we can go for a taco together.

If you don’t like tacos, we’ll figure something else out. 

Drop me a line at epp@me.com. or lorne@morethanaroof.org. I’d love to hear about your game- changer experience this September. 

Until next time. 

Have a great September!
Lorne