Aside

Today’s lesson is courtesy of Facebook. The lesson is that “life isn’t about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.”

I love it, and I am all in.

As I look at my life, it is not even about creating myself, as much as it is about re-creating myself. And right now, even I need a reminder that all my success and failure is the result of my actions. You can lose every ounce of advantage you gain, no matter how hard you worked to accomplish it.  Complete accountability can be daunting. Or it can be motivational, which is how I choose to employ it.

From the relative high point of surviving a stroke (yep, that was a high point), losing a ton of weight . . . looking gooooood and feeling good, I used the last year to sit back and just enjoy life a little more. Unfortunately, that led to significant weight gain (can you say, “whoa Nelly. Too much of a good thing”), a need to pay more attention to my vitals (blood pressure, sugar levels, cholesterol,etc.), and a general plateau of my cardiovascular fitness . . .  and that’s putting it nicely.

As I have been reminded, it my job, and my job alone, to create the self I want to peer back in the mirror. Today, I am re-committing myself to paying attention to my own well-being, and not leaving it to chance.

I am also going to re-prioritize my life so exercise is more important, and regular monitoring continues. From tracking my diet by computer, to simply pushing away from larger helpings, and asking my wife to keep me accountable, it is time for me to work on creating the me I want to see. Off I go.

If you need motivation, or a push to re-focus on yourself, take this as your accountability checkpoint. I am all in, because no one should care more about me than me. And no one should (or will) care more about you, than you.

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Trying to catch them while they’re young!

Today, I am speaking to a group of high school student leaders. I think this is part of my mission now. Working with youth, and particularly those who are trying to excel and do great things, is powerfully motivating to me.

Today, I will speak with a group of students from E.C. Glass High Schools. Here is the link to the Prezi presentation I use as my outline.

Head games: moving forward even when you don’t want to.

Who cares about one more post from an ever-happy, always-productive blogger?  Not me.  Who needs to know that sometimes, even the best of us has a bad day?  Now that’s what I’m talking about!  Well, right now, that describes my situation.  So today, boys and girls, I am going to share a little about what I am doing instead of being super-motivated, hyper-productive, and, in the sage words of Clark Griswold, “hap, hap, happy.”

If you only have a minute to read this, I will give you the executive summary version: get over it because its all mental.  I control my mind, therefore I control how I handle, and respond to, every situation.  But the bottom line is that no matter how great you are, you are going to have tough days.  The secret to moving past these moments is simple.  Apply some mental energy.  As gospel recording artist, Donnie McClurkin sings, you can fall down.  You just have to get back up.  And as much as I am writing this knowing others will read it, I am really saying it to myself, because I need to get back up.  See, what you are witnessing, is me.  Giving myself The Talk.  Getting myself in gear to do more, do better, and not fall into a counterproductive pit of excuses and pity.

  1. Do Something!  Often, we are so overwhelmed by the growing mountain of tasks we have to wrestle, we lose our focus and motivation before we even have a chance to be awesome.  As a friend and I were discussing this morning, you need to know whether you will respond better to doing the most odious task first, or the simplest.  Either way, when you look back on it, you will feel some satisfaction at having done it.  And more importantly, you will have done Something that moves you closer to completion on a project, pushed an idea forward into implementation phase, or simply set the agenda – and tone – for the rest of your day, the rest of your team or staff, the rest of your family.
  2. Congratulate yourself on accomplishing Something.   Pat yourself on the back.  Come on, you can do it. if you need more encouragement than this, you should sincerely take a vacation, re-center yourself, and enjoy yourself a little more.  I am not qualified to address that issue, but please see someone about it soon.
  3. Build a list of several Somethings you need, or want, to get done.  There, you tricked yourself intro building a road-map that will help you navigate through the forest of useless, time-wasting busy work you could be doing instead.  You are already being productive.  Don’t take your hands off the handlebars now, but “look Ma, I’m doing it by myself!”
  4. Take a break.  You have earned it.  If it lasts more than 10 or 15 minutes, you’re not taking a break, you are chilling.  That is counter-productive.  Stop it.
  5. Do Something Else.  Remember that list you built, way back in the halcyon days of Task 3?  Now you get to use it!
  6. Repeat!  Finish with self-congratulatory, but quiet golf clap, and go do something fun!

It is not about me: what is important one year after my stroke

One year ago today, at this very hour, my life changed.  I had a stroke, which led to two subsequent surgeries, a Code Blue in medical parlance, and the rebuilding of a life.

A tragedy was on its way to becoming a blessing.  I was less than 40 years old, active physically, and  engaged civically and professionally.  I thought I had the world by the tail.  And I quickly found myself having to re-evaluate what was really important. It has taken me a year to get the courage to even think about what happened to me.

The real lesson is about the power of good people doing good.  It is about the heroes who saved my life, This story is about my experience, and learning that living life successfully is about the impact you have on other people’s lives.

The first — and most important — hero in my life is my wife, Teri.  In hundreds of ways since I fell ill, she has stepped up as a family leader, world-class organizer and communicator, and amazing partner.  Before I got sick, and as much as I hate to admit it, I did not show this hero enough appreciation.  Since my stroke, she has been my constant companion.  One of the greatest gifts the stroke gave me was a better appreciation for her.  I don’t think I can thank her enough.

My family, collectively, gets hero status.  From my own personal security guard — as one of my favorite nurses called my brother, Kevin — to my Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers from William and Mary, who came and waited quietly alongside my wife in those early, trying hours; to my in-laws, whose love and support defy categorization; to my sister and brother from Richmond, who visited me at every opportunity, to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who both made so much possible for me; to my colleagues, who went above and beyond for me daily; and including my many uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and aunts who prayed constantly and visited as often as they could.  I saw my health improve as each LIVED more meaningful sermons about  faith than any pastor ever could speak.  I have seen God’s hand at work in my life.

I would also bestow hero status on the enormous network of friends and extended family. Each of them prayed, visited, gifted and carded me back to health.  They showed me love in ways that were inspirational, instructional, and completely humbling. Every one of them did what they could, some even more than that.  Heroes, every one of them.

And finally — but certainly importantly — I thank the entire Centra Health medical team who saved, then rebuilt my life.  Each first responder, doctor, nurse, and therapist is a hero of mine.  I am alive because of their skill and care, and I  owe them the appreciation due heroes.

So, yes, less than a year after I almost died, and nearly left a wife and two young kids – nearly mirroring my own mother’s death before I was a teenager  — I stood before a group of fellow stroke survivors in Danville, VA.  And as I said to my fellow stroke thrivers, I am a miracle, and a child of God.

Thank God for my heroes.  I owe each of them my life, and I will continue trying to live it as worthy of having been saved.  And I pray with the faithfulness of my aunts and friends. Thank God for heroes.  Amen.

Mentoring: Avoiding Task List Target Practice. Part 2 of 2

This is part two of a two-part article.  The first installation was published on June 6, 2010.

This post  is for leaders — from students to mid-level managers like me — dealing with workaday problems.  It is about the importance of seeking mentoring to inspire you to in times of frustration.  It is for people who have been frustrated for so long, they may have forgotten how to reset the Attitude button and release themselves from suffocating frustration at work.

My favorite gems from AL, with my own perspective woven in, included:

  1. A manager, even a great leader, has only a small role in an employee’s career success.  Ultimately, the employee is responsible for using the opportunities given her or him.  And it is that individual’s responsibility for having the “fire” in her or his belly. Continue reading

Get unstuck: Avoiding Task List Target Practice. Part 1 of 2

This is part one of a two-part article.  The second installation will be published on June 7, 2010.

This post  is for leaders — from students to mid-level managers like me — dealing with workaday problems.  It is about the importance of seeking mentoring to inspire you.  It is for people who have been frustrated for so long, they may have forgotten how to reset the Attitude button and release themselves from suffocating intellectually.

For weeks, I wrestled with some turbulent leadership learning opportunities.  It seemed at every turn, the reality of our progress was subdued by a few key colleagues’ ability to make it seem like failure.  As a result, I was, by definition, “stuck.”  Folks in my Accountability Group worried openly about me, and my usual laid-back demeanor was wound tight.

I faced more than a reasonable number of issues in which I felt compromised, undermined, or simply overruled, even though I was responsible for setting and leading a team in accomplishing objectives.

I started last week with the belief that none of the grinding, intense work I — and numerous other staff — were putting in was netting us enough productivity or, to be frank, appreciation.  In the last year or two, our business unit has undergone extraordinary change, from who sits in each proverbial seat on the bus, to how we manage our business processes and track productivity, to how we assess what success looks like.  We went from a larger staff to a smaller one as we launched major new initiatives.  We went from young guns anxious to correct the boss to young guns being bosses.  My self-congratulatory takeaway is that progress and change, and both measuring and sharing productivity,  are fearsome threats to the ineffective and unfocused among us.

At any rate, a couple days ago, my outlook changed.  Why?  I had  lunch with a person I admire and respect deeply, and who is one of the most intelligent leaders I know.  I shall query him and question him, and call him AL.  This meeting was like getting an iPad for Father’s Day when all you rightly and happily expected was a card; it was a huge treat. Continue reading

About 90 days . . .

Has it really been that long since I wrote a blog post?  That is appalling and precisely the sort of absentee blogerism that leads to declining readership.  I am ashamed and embarrassed.  But mostly, it shows I have been too busy applying all the lessons and best practices I typically try to share.

So in one respect, the application of knowledge is worthwhile.  On the other hand, it will not make me look like such a thought leader tomorrow when I present on how readily a person can manage social media for personal, professional and business growth.

Within an hour of waking up tomorrow, I will attempt to string together enough cogent statements to convince several social media fence-sitters that they can own this domain — pun intended — without having to sequester themselves in a Nerd Bunker for hours at a time.  I will further try to impress upon them that the relationship side of their respective businesses can be well-served by using tools such as blogs, social networks and other technological options.  Whether existing employees, potential workers, clients or potential buyers of their services, the Return on their Investment would have to be relatively high, since most of the acquisition costs are approaching zero ($0).

So here are a few points I plan to make:

1.  If you can’t commit the time to building deep, intimate relationships (Facebook), you surely can build some basic ones (Twitter) and invest where it might be most profitable (LinkedIn).

2.  You don’t have to be Ashton Kutcher to build a successful social network.  Use it to engage and reward your most loyal customers.  When all else fails, FOCUS your content on the most important customers/potentials.

3.  Leverage staff strengths and let leaders emerge.

4.  Efficient management can make you appear more consumed than you are with creating content.

5. Being a content distributor can be a better entry strategy than being a content creator (Copy and Share Everything).

Using these strategies should allow you to establish a social media presence, and learn how your organization and staffing can best manage this powerful tool.