Over the years, I have enjoyed the sage advice of friends, colleagues and others who believed I was worth their time and effort. It’s an experience that has been repeated over and over in my life.
So I made it my mission to pay it forward. At first, I freely participated – that is until I could see that some people were seeking mentorship just to check the box. They had no intention of being actively engaged or applying our conversations to real life. This left me asking: What was the point?
You can only help those who really want to do the work.
And although I enjoyed the conversations I was having with my mentees, I needed to think differently. Time is my most valuable resource, and how I spend it matters. I want to live my life with intention to have an impact for myself and others.
So now when I am approached, I simply ask, “Is it worth my time and effort?” To answer that question, I look for three things:
- Commitment to being a lifelong personal learner
- Sincere and unending curiosity
- Engagement to do their best work
To be a lifelong personal learner, you have to fundamentally believe there is no answer key for life. And therefore, you are never done; there is always more to learn, see, do and experience. In fact, the day you decide you are done learning is the beginning of your journey to irrelevance. I have seen it repeated over and over; people are at the top of their game, but they miss the cues to learn a new perspective, and soon they are describing their world differently.
Demonstrating a sincere and unending curiosity is essential to ensure the focus, energy and dedication required to understand and integrate new perspectives into your life. It isn’t enough to gather the knowledge. Knowing only indicates your potential. It is by doing, practicing, engaging – not just talking or reading – that we move forward.
To be clear, doing doesn’t mean the pursuit of perfection. Instead, it means you understand who you are and how you work, and you have the courage to be engaged in continuing to learn how to optimize you.
By being clear about what matters, it is easier to know when to say no. And it lets me do my best work, too. How about you? What is your answer to the question: Is it worth it?
As I sat across the table from a friend, he shared a conversation he just had with the senior leader of his organization.
The conversation was about the business issues facing the organization, the importance of solving some pressing issues and the need to change. He was trying to sort through the leader’s comment…
“Yes, those are big issues and we will need to have answers. But I won’t be here long and it will be some else’s problem to solve.”
Wow. There were really no words to describe the shock. This was the senior most leader of the company. He essentially said that he had given up on the future.
It was clear the leader was missing the primary role of a leader. The prerequisite is to believe in a future, stay grounded in the reality of the business and put a plan in place that drives to the best possible outcomes.
Leadership doesn’t get to decide it’s too hard. You don’t get to say “I don’t have the energy to make it happen” or “I will leave it to someone else to solve.” A leader must create the plan, plant the seeds well BEFORE they are needed so the future can be bright AND ensure the transition to the future and potential new leader is built on a strong base.
It was the third time in my career I experienced a similar conversation and the first time for my friend. In all cases, the organizations lost their traction and were unable to build momentum for a future. They never optimized their futures.
Is it any surprise? Even if you have the best people, organizations cannot overcome the void of leadership. Your only option is to come to terms with the reality, begin your focus on your OWN next chapter.
And as a leader you need to know it’s really hard. Because you can see the potential, can see the waste and the misalignment. And you know that if corrected it could alter the results. But when the senior most leadership doesn’t see it and doesn’t put forth the effort to REALLY understand it, no amount of YOUR commitment to the future of the organization will matter. I know, you will try to convince yourself you can wait it out, you can rally the team or put in some extra effort to make a difference. I did too. The reality is you may slow the trend but it is headed in the wrong direction.
And you can’t fix it…
Leading your life means you must believe in YOUR future. It means you put YOUR PLAN in place to optimize YOU, create an environment that lets you do your BEST work and concentrate your energy where you can have the most IMPACT.
It is up to you and no one else. Committing to lead means you must put yourself in the greatest position to lead others.
Have you seen the same thing? I look forward to hearing your perspective and how you have lead your life during these times.
How do we make our future dreams reality? We need to focus on building knowledge to give us potential and then PRACTICE to build mastery.
I worry that we often miss this point. It isn’t about finding a quick fix (oh those silver bullets), and it definitely isn’t about turning our focus on other people when things don’t work out. All of these are just the diversions that keep us from building the personal skills and mastery required to compete in this new world. What’s needed?
But then practice isn’t very sexy. After all, it is kind of boring, isn’t it? And it is usually uncomfortable because you are learning how something works. And to top it off, there are no gold stars for practice, so why should I do it, right? Isn’t that why we don’t do it? We lose patience to do the not very sexy work to get better because surely, there is a faster, better way. This is just too uncomfortable. So we stop.
And stopping is what derails us.
Our focus needs to move from just discovering “the answer” to learning the process and then being willing to practice. Many of the issues we face today require a collective effort, not just an individual one. This lets us all learn out loud together, recognize forward movement as progress so we can celebrate and then quiet frankly move to the next movable piece. It is thru this mastery that TOGETHER we can create a new reality and optimize our future vision.
But it also requires us to “unlearn” what we have been taught. In school, we valued only the answer (and not necessarily the process). We didn’t get points for good questions along the way nor were we required to report our key learnings. And even though we did work with groups, it was always just about the answer, not the process that got us there.
But in life, the practice is what matters.
I love the quote from the author of Future Shock, Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those that cannot learn and unlearn.” It was written in 1970. I think it frames up one of our core issues today.
The future always arrives faster than we want and usually it is in the wrong order. So we need to be able to adjust and embrace our realities to optimize our lives and the opportunities around us. It will take a focus on our process and practice to build our skills to enable nimbleness and agility.
Memorizing answers for the inevitable tests of life will not give us a passing grade. Practice is what will build our confidence and allow us to figure it out. And test our sense of humor as we laugh at what we tried and celebrate what we figured out. Learning to think about the big things while we are doing the small things will ensure the small things are pointed in the right direction. And it is in this doing that we will be able to build our mastery to tackle the journey ahead.
Are you ready to be disciplined in your practice? It is the only way to achieve your best work as you lead your life. And isn’t that worth the effort? I look forward to hearing you from you.
As I got off the last lift for the day, I felt burn in my thighs. It was an awesome day of skiing, particularly since it was day two. First day was “work out the kinks” and “build back the confidence” day. Today was a new day, and I must admit, much more about the fun.
As I ascended down the hill, I reflected on the day. It was a great trip. We hadn’t lost anyone and we honored the “marker” signal. When we turned direction, someone always stayed back to mark the pivot point. That marker turned out to be critical. It kept everyone aligned and together. It was a difference maker for the trip.
Funny how in life, recognizing the pivot isn’t always obvious. And so we wander, we get misaligned. We lose momentum and our ability to build forward movement as a team because our mission has become unclear. And although there are stories to tell at the end of the day, it doesn’t exude the same kind of joy.
Recognizing the pivot point and standing as the marker is a critical job of leadership. Working to keep your team moving down the mountain is critical to building momentum towards the future goal. After all, life is the ultimate experience model. And it is definitely not a spectator sport. So it requires each pivot be marked.
Too many times, I see leadership wait until the end is clear before the next mile-marker is established. It is a failed effort to not waste time and effort from others.
Go back to my descent down the hill at the end of the day. Many times during the day we lost our way, but never did we lose sight of the fact we needed to not lose anyone on the slope. We stayed to committed to our journey together and our ability to celebrate the journey at the end of the day.
What a great perspective to bring to leadership. What if we made it our daily leadership pledge to experience the journey together as a team by marking the pivot points and then focusing on what is next? What would the stories be at the end of the day? What would we figure out as we celebrated the day and looked ahead? I can’t imagine the joy and power we would unleash as we practiced working together to figure it out, can you?
She’s been on my mind for years. I vowed one day I would find her. I just didn’t know how.
And then it happened. I saw her name. It didn’t seem possible. Could she really be attending the same event? I needed to know and reached out to the table captain. Turned out it was her daughter. But fate clearly intervened and after hearing my story, her daughter reconnected us.
As I drove to the coffee shop, I was excited to see her. It was more than 25 years since we last spoke. And like it was yesterday, I could still hear her lessons play in my head. Except now – I understood her wisdom. And I wondered how to share just how important her perspective had been to my journey
1) You need to learn your boundaries and live them every day. Others will respect what you defend.
2) Work will never tell you to go home, nor will it visit you when you are sick. Take care of what is important and really matters in life. And remember, what matters cannot be bought, it is earned and can only be lost by what you do or don’t do. Leave nothing to chance.
3) Your performance is so far above what others do. Be proud and celebrate what you contribute. However, it is important to understand you will set the standard that others will judge your contribution. And it will create a double standard. One for you and one for others. Learn to calibrate how this is done.
And she warned me of the consequences. It would catch up with me in my forties!!! Is it any surprise that for this 22 year-old, my forties seemed really far off? And of course, I thought things would change in my day. Or NOT!
Her wisdom was timeless.
Her style and sense of being her best was timeless too. It was clear from her first step just as it had been when we first met.
And our time together was magical. We picked up from when we last met and in just an hour, were reconnected. As I revisited the lessons, I could see her listen with a keen focus. It was clear to me, she understood her perspective but had not fully contemplated the impact of her advice on the lives of others.
And isn’t that lesson important for all of us? What is the lesson about how we live our lives that will help others gain a new perspective and ultimately become the difference maker that endures time?
As we approach this holiday season, the push to get our attention to buy things picks up speed. This unrelenting fever always stops me in my tracks. Maybe it is the “volume.” Maybe it is fatigue since some merchants put Christmas stuff out beginning in September, or frankly, maybe it is just because I don’t care.
Yes, I said I don’t care.
This quest for “stuff” doesn’t help me with the wildly important aspirations in my life. Nor does it give me the most valuable currency – our time. And time is the great equalizer. Each day we all get 24 hours to use as we see fit. And we all get the same regardless of our age, our net worth, or our track record of how we used the last 24 hours. Each and every day we get a fresh start. I like that, don’t you?
So here we are on the cusp of the holidays and I think it is important to think about two things…how we allocate our time and how we show up when give it. Both matter.
I would argue that the most important thing is to realize you CAN allocate the time and second, that you need to start with an allocation for you. Yes, I said you. If you are like me, you worry about everyone else’s needs first and then yourself. It takes you off balance and then you lose your effectiveness for you and everyone else. So start with you.
Plan time for you and then be disciplined about it. Whether it is time to reflect on the day, time to stay fit, time to enjoy a good book, time to enjoy your favorite hobby or just time to be alone and hear yourself think. Whatever you need to stay recharged and focused take the time.
However, planning the time is one thing, showing up for it is another. And It took me a while to understand this concept, or maybe I had to learn the hard way. Remind yourself why you are doing it and plan to be present (not in the middle of a crazy time). Let others hold you accountable. Otherwise, you’ll show up, but wish you were somewhere else.
And it’s happened to me. Know this…showing up is not enough. You don’t get credit for the time unless you engage. It takes practice and feels weird as there isn’t a lot to show others. But that isn’t the point. It is for you. And I promise you, that in time, you will learn that you will always leave with a new perspective and a renewed sense of energy for those things that matter. That’s how you know and believe me others can see it too.
So start simple and don’t expect big things. For me, it started by planning a day off work to see or do things that I always said “one day” I would do or taking my birthday off because after all it is our VERY SPECIAL DAY. Both of these I started when I had small children and didn’t want to spend the money for a sitter or take more time away from the family. Then try a long walk, a trip to the spa to get pampered, time to do your favorite things, eventually working towards a weekend retreat. What’s important is you get started… it’s guaranteed to make you better and why wouldn’t you want that?
I look forward to hearing what you do to stay recharged and the effect it has had on the JOY in your life.
Many of you know the journey I’ve been on in the last two years of writing my first book. This path has certainly taken me to some interesting places, introduced me to some wonderful people and opened up conversations and new ideas. And of course, this is just the start. And I know the conversations that led to the book in the first place can now continue with others.
My message is simple: live the life you wish for, both personally and professionally, REGARDLESS of your age.
For me, the conversations about the book have led to some interesting places. From young professionals navigating their lives and careers to seasoned executives considering their next chapter, the concept of being grounded brings new insight.
For C-suite executives focused on talent development and engaging the talent of the millennial generation to entrepreneurial founders worried about how they raise the bar on their organizations and get out of the way without losing control, it has showed a way forward.
For leaders looking to expand their capacity to embrace diversity as a point of difference versus a point of weakness and truly understand the gifts they have to offer to others so they can do the same.
For education leaders worried about re-imagining education of our youth and their approach to building skills for the twenty-first century as well as adults focused on intentional development of their skills to stay relevant.
For leaders facing the dynamic marketplace changes and the need for innovation, the work of understanding yourself has never been more essential. You need to be fully grounded to lead others, or you risk getting in your own way. Being grounded supports innovation and change for you personally and for others in the organizations you serve.
The work in this book enables powerful conversations to address these real-world conundrums in a way that builds agility to meet the future with open arms. Anything is possible if you believe you have to do the work personally first
It’s unlikely that this book will change the world, but I do know that really important change happens one person to another. Each person has the opportunity to take the same facts, create a different experience, and change the outcome on purpose.Your life is too important to leave to chance or worse yet let someone else to decide what matters. Your impact is too important to leave to chance.
I look forward to the journey ahead…#awesomegroundedlife
As I entered the store, I was truly disgusted with myself.
Planning ahead is one of my core strengths, especially during busy holiday weekends. The last place I wanted to be was back to the grocery store. And yet, I forgot some key ingredients. I had no choice but to go back into the madness.
It wasn’t working. All I could think about was what was left to do.
Finally, I had my last item and headed to the check out. Which line would be the fastest? Ahaa, here is one with just a few people and they didn’t have full carts. Perfect.
As I waited in line, I noticed the man in front of me with two small children. He had a cute dress for the little girl, a small tie for the boy and some socks for himself. Their excitement for the holiday was contagious. And it lifted my spirits.
Then it was gone.
I saw the man slump his shoulders as the cashier said there were no funds in his account to purchase the items. The man looked puzzled but stepped aside and sat on the bench against the wall. He just stared at his receipt. I looked over and saw the disappointment and stress begin to emerge on his face. His children wondered why they were not leaving the store.
All of a sudden, my irritation at the forgotten items didn’t seem so important.
When the cashier finished ringing up my order, I asked her how much the man needed to purchase his things. She didn’t understand at first, but then shared the total. It was under $50. I asked her to include it in my total. Again, I could see a look of wonder in her eyes. Why should I care? I didn’t even know him.
I asked her to share the news with him after I left the store. I wanted him to be able to hold his head high in front of his children.
As I went back to my car with my bag of key ingredients, my list didn’t seem so ominous and the ingredients not so key. I smiled thinking about this man and his children and hoped his day was looking brighter too. And so I waited. Finally he emerged from the store with a small bag and holding the hands of his children as they made their way to the car. All seemed right in the world again.
This holiday season, let focus on giving grace. To those closest to us and to those in need. So they too can enjoy the spirit of the season with a sense of pride and hope.
We can all make the world a better place, but none of us can do it alone. Let’s pay if forward together. I look forward to hearing how you are making a difference in the lives of others.
Are you a 31’er?
As I sat down to think about my week, it became clear that the pace of things around me was on a one-way ticket to faster. That is true for everyone. Because everything is 24/7, we never shut down any more. We are becoming 31’ers. Hmm, it stopped me in my tracks.
Learning to be an advocate for what you need to stay healthy has never been more important. Without a sense of boundaries, a discipline to unplug and the ability to truly be present, our lives will just become a run-on sentence.
This week I heard on the radio that Chicago is considering writing tickets for pedestrians that cross the street while they are on their phones. There have been 24 deaths reported due to distracted walking. Wow, distracted driving, now distracted walking.
Funny how this constant need to be connected, blurs the line of what is important, truly urgent and just nice to know. It is easy to treat everything the same and miss what is truly special in the places we go, the people we see and the conversations we have.
This week is the launch of my book GROUNDED-Leading your life with Intention. It is dedicated to helping each of us learn to live our best life. By staying curious EVERYDAY about what works, we can lead our lives with intention, and make it possible to lead others.
This notion of being GROUNDED isn’t about age, it’s about attitude. Your life will have impact. Choices will be made. GROUNDED is dedicated to building the skill so you decide, not someone else. Your life is simply too important to leave it to chance. And without your intention, you are destined to become a 31’er.
You can follow the “inside story” of the book on my Facebook page Nancy M. Dahl. Thanks in advance for continuing to follow this blog and now for your support of the book. And remember to share the news with those that matter in your life. It makes the conversation more interesting.