Book review, Leadership, Mindset, Reading, self-awareness

#ReadingGoals

“To create future, we need triggers. I believe two things can change the course of our life – books that we read and the people that we meet. Books and people are an amazing source of triggers, so if we are not reading, we are certainly missing out on a terrific source of triggers for future.”

Reading continues to change my life for the better. Reading has made me a better leader, worker, husband and father. This year I can say with a ton of confidence that reading has saved my life. That’s the thing…You never know which book or even sentence will be the one that changes everything. I have gone through some duds this year but the good books are game changers.

Last year I set a goal to read 100 books and I read 106 books this year. I don’t have a top ten list but these books have changed my perceptions, challenged my assumptions and helped me in my journey to become a better human. Here are the best books I have read this year in no particular order:

The End of Heart Disease: The Eat to Live Plan the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Joel Fuhrman

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea

The Story Telling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes

The Four Agreements: Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz

A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years in Public Service by Robert M. Gates

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadow

Radical Candor by Kim Malone Scott

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

Dear Madame President: An Open Letter to the Women who will run the world by Jennifer Palmieri

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

Blueprint For Revolution by Srdja Popovic

Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter

I would love to have a more in depth conversation about any of these. Just hit me up on messenger. Next year I will reduce the goal to 80 as my developmental focus has shifted a bit. If you want to set your own reading goal I suggest joining the reading challenge on goodreads 😀. Here is to 2019!!!

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The Truth about Leadership

Every so often I read a book that perfectly encapsulates what I believe about a certain topic. I read a book this week called “The Truth about Leadership” by Barry Posner and James Kouzes. They are also the authors of the “The Leadership Challenge” and many other meticulously researched books on leadership. This book is basically a summary of what they have learned over their long career. They simplify leadership in the simple truths. Here they are :

” o The first truth is that You Make a Difference. It is the most fundamental truth of all. Before you can lead, you have to believe that you can have a positive impact on others. You have to believe in yourself. That’s where it all begins. Leadership begins when you believe you can make a difference. Over the next three days, we will reveal what you believe about this truth. We will discover the messages that you send to yourself about your own capabilities and leadership.

o The second truth is that Credibility Is the Foundation of Leadership. You have to believe in you, but others have to believe in you, too. What does it take for others to believe in you? Short answer: Credibility. We’ve said it many times, but we need to say it again, especially in these times when people have become cynical about their leaders and institutions: If people don’t believe in you, they won’t willingly follow you. Over the next three days we will show you why this is so important and how to gain Credibility.

o The third truth is that Values Drive Commitment. People want to know what you stand for and believe in. They want to know what you value. And leaders need to know what others value if they are going to be able to forge alignments between personal values and organizational demands. Over the next three days we will dig deep on what you believe and why you believe it. We will help you craft your own principles on leadership and how to craft your own with your team.

o The fourth truth is that Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is a defining competence of leaders. You have to take the long-term perspective. Gain insight from reviewing your past and develop outsight by looking around. Over the next three days we will help you “light the torch” for your team and co-create the future.

o You Can’t Do It Alone is the fifth truth. No leader ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of others. Leadership is a team sport, and you need to engage others in the cause. What strengthens and sustains the relationship between leader and constituent is that leaders are obsessed with what is best for others, not what is best for themselves.

o Trust Rules is the sixth truth. If you can’t do it alone and have to rely on others, what’s needed to make that happen? Trust. Trust is the social glue that holds individuals and groups together. And the level of trust others have in you will determine the amount of influence you have. You have to earn your constituents’ trust before they’ll be willing to trust you. That means you have to give trust before you can get trust.

o The seventh truth is that Challenge Is the Crucible for Greatness. Exemplary leaders, the kind of leaders people want to follow, are always associated with changing the status quo. Great achievements don’t happen when you keep things the same. Change invariably involves challenge, and challenge tests you. It introduces you to yourself. It brings you face-to-face with your level of commitment, your grittiness, and your values. It reveals your mindset about change.

o Truth number eight reminds you that You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All. Leaders have to keep their promises and become role models for the values and actions they espouse. You have to go first as a leader. You can’t ask others to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself. Moreover, you have to be willing to admit mistakes and be able to learn from them.

o Truth number nine is that The Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. You have to believe that you (and others) can learn to lead, and that you can become a better leader tomorrow than you are today. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics, and learning is the master skill of leadership. Learning, however, takes time and attention, practice and feedback, along with good coaching. It also takes willingness on your part to ask for support.

o The tenth truth is that Leadership Is an Affair of the Heart. It could also be the first truth. Leaders are in love with their constituents, their customers and clients, and the mission that they are serving. Leaders make others feel important and are gracious in showing their appreciation. Love is the motivation that energizes leaders to give so much for others. You just won’t work hard enough to become great if you aren’t doing what you love.”

I couldn’t agree with this more. Often we make leadership too complex. It isn’t rocket science. It’s about having a set of principles to live by and be accountable to. It doesn’t have to be these but this is a great start.

Cory Booker, Leadership, Mindset, Political Leadership, Reading, self-awareness

Cynicism is the Refuge for Cowards

The time was 9:58 pm on July 25, 2016. Senator Cory Booker took the stage to deliver a speech to the Democratic National Convention crowd. His speech would be highly reviewed and would have Washington buzzing about the potential of a future President. He had many memorable lines but something he said that night struck a particular chord with me. It wouldn’t get much attention but the words were as powerful and as true as anything ever spoken.

“My fellow Americans, we cannot fall into complacency or indifference about this election, because still the only thing necessary for evil to be triumphant is for good people to do nothing. My fellow Americans, we cannot be seduced into cynicism about our politics, because cynicism is a refuge for cowards and this nation is and must always be the home of the brave. We are the United States of America. We will not falter or fail. We will not retreat or surrender – we will not surrender our values, we will not surrender our ideals, we will not surrender the moral high ground.”

Cynicism is defined as “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest” or “an inclination to question whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile.” We live in a culture consumed with cynicism. Go to happy hour near any office park. Take a look at your own Facebook posts from the last year and it might surprise you. You might hear these comments at work or school:

“It doesn’t matter anyway”

“Why talk to him, he is just going to do what he wants to do anyway.”

“Why do I need a piece of paper (degree) to say I can do a job?”

“I am going to do all this stuff and no one is going to even look at it.”

“Leadership Development is all a bunch of pie in the sky bullshit.”

“My vote doesn’t matter.”

The words Cory Booker spoke that night were profound because we are all victims and purveyors of cynicism. We have all heard something like this in our lives and said to ourselves “Yeah, they are probably right.” We don’t realize how much cynicism has an impact on our daily lives. The reason we don’t start writing that novel is because the cynic in us says “No one will ever read it.” or we think “What the point?” We roll our eyes at our companies core values/mission statement because our inner cynic says “Yeah right” or “I have heard this before.” We never truly hear when people we care about promise they will do better because our inner cynic tells us it will just happen again. We don’t vote because our cynic in us tells us that our vote doesn’t count and politicians will just do what the person with more money tells them to do. We think self-improvement just way for people to sell us books, sell us services and get our money. We think terms like self-awareness and growth mindset are worthless leadership jargon that is just something people say to sound smart. (I wonder at this point if I am being cynical about the level of cynicism in the world)

I am guilty of this too. I used to be extremely cynical. The reason I know what cynics say and feel is because I said or agreed with all of the statements I used as an example. I started college after my military service. This was ten years after I graduated high school because I believed it was just a piece of paper. It took me years to pick up my first business book because I believed it was all B.S. It took me years to even start writing this blog because I thought “Who cares what I think?” and “No one will ever read it.” I thought getting involved in politics was useless because I wasn’t a rich lawyer. In short I was a coward. Cynicism was a refuge for me. It gave me an easy way out. It let me off the hook. It alleviated me from having to do the hard work of writing 500 words a day…from going to class after class and getting a college education….from knocking on 1000 doors to only get 100 votes. It takes hard work to get past cynicism and start doing anything that you are not guaranteed success. Getting past cynicism is only the first step but an all too important one. Then comes the hard work of belief and action.

What I am asking you to do today is not to remove all cynicism from your life. This would make you gullible to actual scams and dishonest folks. In my business I still wonder who the real leaders are and who the “fakes” are. It’s important to have a healthy skepticism of people and things. Cynicism is when it goes too far. I have to actively stop myself of going into that mindset when I hear a new idea that doesn’t fit within my worldview. I work to make sure these thoughts don’t stop me from fostering relationships or working towards a goal. What I am asking for you to do is believe in something. If you don’t believe in your company’s core values can you believe and use one core value? Can you suggest your own core values or add onto them when talking to your team? If you believe your vote doesn’t count, can you donate to an organization that fights for a cause you believe in? You will only get so far by telling people what you don’t believe in.

If you are cynical about everything then you will achieve very little in life. The cynic is always apprehensive….always suspicious. They often see everything that can go wrong and look for the negatives. They question other people’s motives and character. This can lead to a very lonely and unfulfilling existence. The data is overwhelming. Positive and un-cynical human beings have more friends, have longer lasting friendships, go on more dates, are more productive and make more money. They are just happier people.

The wall of cynicism can never truly be destroyed but we can put some holes in it. Just like everything else it will take training and asking the right questions. Breaking down the walls of cynicism will not be easy but it is possible and will lead to a fulfilling and happier life. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Ask yourself these two questions: What do I believe in and why do I believe in this? Ask others you trust and love. Am I a cynical person? Becoming less cynical starts with you. By asking yourself and others these questions you can start your journey of insight.
  2. Read – Literally the more you know the less cynical you will be. Read about your beliefs. Read something that contradicts your beliefs. Read History about politicians like Thaddeus Stevens and John Lewis who fought injustice and equality their entire lives. Read History to know the context behind political decisions and what ordinary citizens have done to overthrow ruthless dictators. Read psychology and neuroscience to understand why humans behave and act the way that they do. Read about business leaders who follow and live their company’s core values and inspire their organizations to join them. If you do this it will be that much harder to cynical.
  3. Connect- Human beings are social creatures. We thrive when we connect to others and we deteriorate when we separate ourselves from human beings. Connecting with human beings shows you that the world is full of amazing individuals and over time that will make you less cynical. Most importantly, connecting is good for your health. Recent studies have shown that loneliness in more detrimental to your health that cigarettes and poor diet. We have groups for anything and everything. Book clubs, Cat lovers, Coffee fans, support groups, craft beer snobs, heavy metal listening the list goes on and on. You are not alone.
Leadership, Political Leadership

The Vanishing American Leader

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) has been touring the country lately and talking about his book “The Vanishing American Adult.” I haven’t read it yet ( I plan to this year) but I have heard him talk about this book and it has some very interesting concepts. Basically the theme of the book is he believes Americans have lost their core of personal integrity and discipline. The country has many serious and quite complex challenges ahead and to even begin solving them he states—people must recover their sense of virtue. The survival of the nation depends on this. I know it’s weird to start your first blog post on a book you haven’t read but the concept is too important to not write about. The idea for this post comes from that concept.

In his many interviews Sasse believes that our children will not be prepared for the world they will inherit. I don’t know if that says more about the generations of parents and grandparents that raised them but I think that is for another post. The Vanishing American Adult is something we should worry about and try to remedy. What we should be more concerned with and work harder to remedy is the Vanishing American Leader.

American Leadership everywhere is in crisis. The state of American political leadership is a tragedy. This did not start with the man in the White House or the current administration. Leaders in Washington have been serving the interests of the rich and powerful long before Trump. Political polarization may have gotten worse over the years but this has been a 30 year journey (some would argue longer).  Business Leadership from the executive boardroom to middle management is inconsistent at best.  Unprepared and disengaged managers make the work place culture ineffective and stressful. Output and “bottom line” focused executives see human beings as replaceable assets instead of the key to their success.  Our community organizations and movements are increasingly polarizing with varying expiration dates.  With the leadership in these three vital institutions failing us it will be that much more difficult for us to reach our full potential as a society.

Is all lost? I don’t believe so.

First we must admit a pair glaring truths to ourselves. We have to admit that we need leadership. That is first. Leadership is important at all levels. Stable and productive families have parental leadership. They have a parent/parents who actively and lovingly develop and discipline their kids.  High performing schools have administrative leadership. They have administrators who put the best systems in place for students to excel and achieve. I could go on but you see the pattern. Successful tribes and organizations need leadership. Families, Schools, Churches, Businesses, Governments all need this.

Second, leadership can come from anywhere and from anyone. Leaders are not born …they are made. Trust and faith in a leader is not given it is earned. All the great leaders, across all of human history were not given this title. George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and even Jesus had to prove themselves and earned the trust of followers. The title of manager does not mean that a person is a leader. The title of Vice-President does not mean that people will follow. Leaders are given this title and distinction by the people who follow them. It is those same people who can take it away. A cashier at McDonald’s may have more people who call her a leader than a Director at a Fortune 500 company.

This is where I will end this first post because this last point needs to be explored more. The first point is that human beings need strong leadership and leadership is important. We will continue to make this point. The last point is the message and purpose of this blog. It starts with you. We have to be the change we want to see in the world. We can look to Washington and see porous leadership but it should not stop us from educating ourselves and getting involved in our political process. We can look at our managers and executives and be uninspired but it should not stop us from mastering our craft, continuously learning new skills, and executing so efficiently that you cant be ignored. Finally, If your parents and family aren’t a good example then see them as a horrible warning. Educate yourself, don’t hesitate to get help (you can email me) and take yourself out of any toxic situation. The message is clear: never give up. Where there is life there is hope.

This blog will aim to help you become that change. We will post resources, interviews, tips, connections, and much more to help you become that change. We will explore and discuss leadership from all walks off life. We will try to cover it all and help in any way we can. Lets build the next generation of leaders. The right ones.

Hopefully this first post wasn’t too cheesy. Hopefully you will join us for this journey. Thank you for reading.