Monday, November 22, 2010

Greatness Even At Thanksgiving?

Food, family, and gratitude are all part of Thanksgiving. But what does this have to do with personal greatness? Just a wish and a few thoughts for you. Click on the link below.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Birthday Wishes and Personal Greatness

What happens on your birthday? Do friends, family and loved ones let you know how much you mean in their lives? Do you know by the end of the day that you matter to someone? Well, their wishes, or at least their presence in your life matter toward achieving your personal greatness.

October 28th is my birthday. Starting days earlier I celebrated with my partner, then on a different evening my business partner. On my birthday itself I received calls, cards, emails, and notices on Facebook from friends and family wishing me well. And it was on the train to Washington DC for work on my birthday that I realized the importance of all those well-wishers. I know I have a community that supports me because of who I am. Though it might be possible to achieve personal greatness alone without a supportive community, it is much more difficult.

Psychology has long understood the importance of the support of family and friends. Yet more and more we live in an isolating society that propels us away from our family and friends for the pursuit of our career. However, cut off from a supportive community, we lack the emotional and psychological backup if our resources are depleted. In other words, without a community it is difficult to always have the strength to be our best.

Positive relationships is one of the pillars to psychologically flourishing, according to Dr. Marty Seligman, and in Well Being, Tom Rath identifies it as one of the essential elements to well-being. Rath even states that we need six hours a day (that includes conversations, phone calls, texts and emails) of interaction with others to thrive in community well-being. Well-being and flourishing are essential to achieving personal greatness and a supportive community is a major factor in both of those psychological states.

Going it alone or rugged individualism hasn't stopped some individuals from achieving personal greatness, but I'm certain it didn't help them. So create a supportive community around you and watch what happens. The community doesn't have to be big, just supportive. Better yet, cultivate a community that both cherishes and challenges you to be at your best and you will see the results.

Perhaps birthdays aren't the best gauge of a healthy community of friends and family. But I know I can rely on them to support me when necessary and push me when appropriate. And at least one time a year, its nice to know they are all there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What's In A Name?

Signing a credit card receipt on a recent business trip I realized I have reduced my name to a scribble. Though I've worked hard to be proud of my name I sign it as though it is not important at all. I wonder if my sloppiness hints at what I might think of my name, even of myself. Why is this so important? Because names and words not only identify us; words, because they clarify our goals, affect who we are and who we can become.

So, what's in a name? What's in our name? Simply, whatever we place there. Most of us had no choice in our name. We were named for a loved one, or a friend or something memorable. But think of why that name was chosen. It means the person naming us hoped we'd embody what that name meant to them. But now it is our turn. If someone thinks of our name differently after we've met them then somehow the example of our life changed the way they now hear the name. If our time with them was marked by energy, wonder, goodness, or a deep connection, each time they hear that name, whether directly referring to us or not, they will hold the name with respect and honor.

What if the life we've built leaves scant evidence of compassion or caring, good will or gratitude, struggle or success? Then our name will not expand the thoughts of those who use it nor find itself spoken with reverence.

Similarly the names by which we describe what we do, who we are, in part makes us. We become what we call ourselves. “Artist,” “poet,” “craftsman,” “home-maker,” “entrepreneur.” Some of the words we choose to describe ourselves we keep hidden knowing that is what we really believe about our life. “Loser,” “loner,” “drifter,” “subordinate.” And if the word we use to describe ourselves is less than what we really can attain, it is not the world that holds us back but our own lack of belief, desire or imagination. Though we sometimes rail against the fates it is we who follow the lead of our own words.

So, who are you at your finest moment? What are you at the best times you can remember? “Artisan,” “thinker,” “philosopher,” “philanthropist.” We become what we call ourselves. We move toward what we believe and hope ourselves to be.

Whatever we call ourselves, we will become. Be honest. Think of your strengths, gifts and desires. Cherish and polish the name given you in life and live fully the name you use to describe yourself.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Running Against the Wind

Running six miles when the wind is blowing 20 miles an hour (like this morning) is not easy, but then neither is striving to achieve your personal greatness. It's important to remember that neither of them is a sprint and so they share some principles that make it easier to keep going.

Do the tough stuff first. The first decision I encounter on a windy day is which way to go. I always turn into the wind, that way it's easier on the way back. Sometimes you can be tired even at the beginning of a day and thinking about greatness is the furthest thing from your mind. Completing a task early in the day gives a boost of energy to move you through the rest of the day. AND you might get more done than you think.

Shorten your strides. Any time I fight the wind I've learned to shorten my stride. My legs are not as strained when I take the shorter strides and I can still keep up a decent pace. Striving for personal greatness there are times we need to attempt less in a day. Smaller, achievable goals allow us to accomplish something without overstriving and completing nothing. Plus sometimes the smaller goals help us maintain our energy and morale when the going gets tough.

Alter your route. On a calm day I run a route that is wide open with few obstructions and a wide open vista. On a really windy day I change the route and use buildings, hedges and trees to block the wind for me as I make my way to the same end goal. Pursuing a goal you have a tendency to approach it the same way every day. Sometimes changing your approach, especially when it is not working, allows you to move beyond banging your head against a wall and though you are not taking your usual direct route, you are moving toward the same goal.

Enjoy the wind. Though running against a wind is challenging, like the 20 mph wind this morning, I've finally learned that I waste more energy cursing the wind and started accepting it. Learning to appreciate how it changes my run and the challenges it offers helps me maintain energy and learn in the process. When your movement toward personal greatness is challenged, stop for a second and see what you are learning. You might realize something significant about yourself, your goal, or about your opposition.

Let's be real, wind or opposition will always be around sometimes stronger than others. Learning how to deal with it make you able to deal with the challenging moments and still move toward your goal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nudging Toward Greatness

Yesterday I was nudged to buy a pair of pants. Yep, I went into a store, found a pair of pants and went to the dressing room to try them on. Turning to hang them up in the dressing room I noticed a sign above a hook. It read "definitely." Turning around I saw another hook on the other side that read "possibly." The store was nudging shoppers to purchase more through the use of the signs.

A couple of years ago I read the book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein about improving decision making by understanding how we choose. They opine the idea that we can allow people freedom, but make it more likely they will choose the better option if we give them a nudge. There are some interesting moral implications raised in the book, but I'll leave that for you to read.

What struck me yesterday from my shopping experience and as I remembered some of the research in Nudge was the possibility of using techniques to nudge us toward greatness. Some of the most difficult challenges are overcome by changing habits and the key is to make things easy.

For example, I have a salt tooth. I love salty food, and yet I know too much is not healthy for me. I've also discovered that if there is fresh fruit cut up and easily available in bite-sized chunks, I will eat them just as readily. So, placing the cut up fruit within easy access and not purchasing the chips nudges me toward healthier eating. Another experiment I'm trying as a writer is turning off my computer each night so it won't be on in the morning. On my desk are paper and pen (I do all my original writing long-hand) so that the first thing I nudge myself to do is sit and write not browse the Internet.

Where do you need a nudge? Think of how you might position what you need so it is in easy access or the first thing you see. You are more likely to do what you want and need to do if you nudge yourself in that direction.

Moving toward personal greatness requires an awareness of the small steps that propel us everyday. Changing one small step allows us to progress further on the journey to our own personal greatness. Positive nudges help. Oh, and I did buy that pair of pants. It was definitely a good choice.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Being a Great Friend

"Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” Mark Twain

After reading this quote a few days ago (a friend posted it on Facebook) we've reflected on how true this is. New research is indicating that our friends can influence us to be happier or more miserable, healthier or fatter, so why wouldn't it be true that they could, simply by social pressure, either help us to achieve our greatness or influence us to give up?

If we were focusing on the negative we would talk about "defriending" all of those acquaintances that put us down or "belittle our ambitions" as Mark Twain said. However, rather than focus on the negative, we'd prefer to focus on finding and/or becoming those types of friends who help others achieve greatness. And so we want to identify the qualities of friends who assist us in our greatness journey.

Primarily these friends encourage the growth and development of the unconventional thinking that leads to greatness. Rather than correcting or admonishing new thinking, these friends encourage it.

Also, when we propose a new thought, a breakthrough, a new discovery, or just the next level in our journey a good friend does not attack or undermine us, but congratulates us and asks us to tell them about it. (It is a skill called Active Constructive Responding - more info at Positive Psychology News Daily).

Yet the greatest skill of true friends is that they challenge us to go further in our idea, goal, or work. Gently they provide encouragement by pushing and prodding us to continue on our journey. And they journey with us as much as possible to help us through the difficult times.

Whether you are looking for true friends, or trying to be a good friend, these are the qualities that encourage greatness in others. Remember Mark Twain is right, "the really great make you believe that you too can be great".

Monday, August 9, 2010

Groundhog Day

Many of us experience the reality of doing the same work, task, sales pitch over and over. Currently I'm heading north to facilitate the same workshop I've lead at least 3 times a day for most of the summer. Yes, there is something to be said for repetition creating predictable, repeatable success, but after a while you have to wonder how to be great every time when you not even sure if your repeating yourself. Yet greatness unveils itself in how we ritualize success yet keep our work fresh.

Bill Murray starred in “Groundhog Day” and whether you enjoyed it or not, there are some personal greatness lessons to be learned from the film. In the film Murray keeps living the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again ostensibly until he gets it right. But it is a good analogy of how great individuals continue to excel by fixing their mistakes, capitalizing on success and keeping things fresh.

Fix your mistakes. One of the keys to success is to realize how an action, a comment, a decision hindered the process. Identify the mistake and correct it. But don't spend too much time on this. This is where most people get stuck. Fix it and move on.

Capitalize on your successes. If you do something repetitively, experts point out that you need to debrief your success more than your failure. If you have an unexpected success one of the many times you perform a task, take the time to think about what was different and memorize it so you can repeat it next time. Create your own predictable, repeatable success.

Freshen things up. Seems like this contradicts the previous suggestion especially once you've got things going well, but the reality is that you need to continuously inject new energy into what you do. Finding ways to freshen things up helps you approach the same task differently. Some writers move their desk so they will have a different perspective. Actors focus on a different aspect of their character to enhance the role. Facilitators draw participants into the discussion to engender different dialogue. Even musicians change up their performance to enhance both their enjoyment as well as that of the audience.

Personal greatness is a complex balance between repetition and ingenuity. Examining what you do, creating predictable repeatable success, and then allowing it to evolve not only keeps your actions fresh, it allows development even in those tasks you do over and over again. Since for some of us every day is Groundhog Day, wouldn't it be great if it just keeps getting better.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Triathlon: Dream it, Plan it, Achieve it.

Two years ago I stood on the Asbury Park boardwalk and watched in amazement as athletes young and old swam, biked and ran through a grueling triathlon. I was awestruck as I thought of the time and energy it took every participant to even complete the event. Though it was not the "ironman" event we see on tv, it was enough to leave me cheering for every athlete as they made their way to the finish line.

Dream it. From that moment, each time I saw runners on the boardwalk, or bikes speeding by me, or swimmers in the swells off the beach I wondered what that feeling was like. What was it like to push yourself farther than you ever thought? I dreamt of running a triathlon. But dreams can either be the illusions of unfulfilled hopes or the springboards for reality. By allowing myself to dream I planted the seeds that would grow to fruition. Because dreaming is only the beginning. Success depends on what we do with our dreams.

Plan it. Earlier this year, Jan, my business partner, saw that there was going to be a woman's triathlon in Asbury Park in August. I've always encouraged Jan and immediately told her I would be her coach for the event. She countered by suggesting "You always are willing to work out to support someone else. Why don't you see if there is a triathlon and do it yourself?" I found the Metroman Triathlon and took a week to finally sign up. Now I was committed. Yet planning is always difficult. I had tons of excuses between my business and my life why I could not train for the event. But I made as much time as I could, planning it out carefully to ensure I could finish the event.

A good friend, Brendan, chose to run it with me and he "planned" through incredible research about things we needed to know to run a triathlon. We planned nutrition, exercise, stretching, strength training. Planning does not just encompass the event, but all of the other parts.

Achieve it. July 18th dawned bright and hot. Even the water was 78 degrees. More than anything else I was conscious of enjoying the event. So often we prepare for a day only to have the day speed by without us being conscious of it. I remember the swim even in the heavy swells, the joy of coming ashore. I laughed at the reality of trying to pull on a tight shirt over a wet torso and jumping on my bike. And I remember the grind of the last mile run when I wanted to give up. But I achieved it.

There is nothing that can't be accomplished through that simple three step process. But it all starts with the dreaming. So, what are you dreaming about?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Making the Most of the Waves

With waves breaking over my head, I fought back panic. Glancing to my left, the shore seemed too far away to make it. I thought how ironic it would be if I drowned. Then I consciously slowed my breathing and heart rate. It took a few minutes, but I regained the calm I needed to complete my swim and I learned an important lesson in my journey to personal greatness.

I've never done a triathlon in my life, never participated in a road race since I was 25, never swam in competition and I gave up running over five years ago. Yet, I find myself entering my first sprint triathlon and facing the joy and pain of preparing for it. The most challenging part is the ocean swim. A little under half a mile, the swim runs along the New Jersey coast line next to Asbury Park. A little over a week ago I was swimming in rough surf when I learned my lesson.

At first the waves just seemed like a nuisance. Little by little they began chipping away at my confidence. Was I a little too far out from shore? Did I over-estimate the distance I could safely swim? Would I make it? After a series of three waves broke over my head just as I was trying to breathe I felt the first hint of panic. My heart started pounding. I cursed the relentless waves and pushed against them with all my might. But I knew one thing, I was losing the battle. That's when I chose to breathe deeply and calm myself. Immediately I realized that I could create a rhythm with my strokes that matched the waves. I surfaced for air in the troughs. Wonderfully as I made my turn to swim south again I realized that now the waves were aiding me. Though I would make two more "laps" I was fine.

Anytime we strive to accomplish something waves of opposition will impede us. Whether from others, organizations, the world around us, or even ourselves. Somehow parts of life resist change. My normal response is to fight as hard as I can against the waves as I did in the ocean. But perhaps I've learned my lesson. Rather than initially push harder against the waves of opposition, the next time I might just take a deep breath and learn their rhythm to see if I can move more efficiently through them.

Let's face it, there will always be waves when we strive to accomplish new things, or change our own life. Sometimes those waves will be larger than others, but they will be there nonetheless. The success of our lives, our personal growth and endeavors will depend on how we handle the waves. Cursing the waves doesn't help (though it might feel momentarily comforting), I'm learning from them and finding a way through them to my goals. Give it a try, the water's fine.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nike is right!

As a writer I spend enormous amounts of time chewing on pens, pacing floors and sitting frozen with my hands extended over the keyboard. Anyone who has written knows the paralysis before writing. You attempt to discern the perfect topic, the perfect tone, the perfect point of view and you become frozen. A long time ago I received the best advice; just start writing, it will come. Now I realize that wisdom works in many ways toward greatness.

The key to any success, any endeavor is starting. I've long lost count of the individuals who tell me they have the great American novel, newest business idea, or are committing again to get in shape, and yet they haven't taken a step. Many of them won't. And it is not that they aren't committed or sincerely want to succeed. It just seems too overwhelming.

The other foe that has to be encountered is our inner negative voice. We come up with excuse after excuse, or very sincere, well-thought out reasons to avoid the challenge. Sometimes it is fear of success or failure, but mostly valid reasons keep us from pursuing our greatness today. Tomorrow after all is still a possibility in our reasoning.

The problem is that we allow these reasons and postponements to fool us into believing that eventually we will get around to our goal. I can't speak for you, but time seems to move rather quickly these days and all of a sudden I'm looking back at the end of another month, year or decade.

"Just do it" Nike proposes. There is sense in that axiom. When we jump in we find our equilibrium rather quickly. We realize that our task is not as difficult as we thought. There is also good research that early success (completing a small task or part of a project) will spur us on to continue.

So, jump in. If your fingers are poised over the keyboard, put them down and write. If you are waiting to start that business, write the plan. If you are getting in shape, walk to store to buy sneakers. But do something!! Because the worst regret in life is "I could have..."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Take a Day Off

I can still hear the brogue, rough and smooth at the same time. "Take a day off" my grandfather would often say. Yet he, Patrick O'Connor, was one of the hardest workers I've ever seen. Clearly he knew the reality of balance and his wisdom is essential in our 24/7 environment.

Technology pushes us to be constantly present. Reports of people sleeping with their PDAs by them on the pillow is not uncommon. As technology allows us to stray from the office, simultaneously it binds us to our work late into the evening and on weekends. There is a societal expectation of immediate response to a text or email and often if we don't respond immediately the person will call to find out why we did not answer. This is not healthy especially when trying to unleash personal greatness. Why?

Without the mental and physical down-time there is no rejuvenation. We need time away both mentally and physically to allow our bodies and minds the rest they deserve. Beside, though we think we will accomplish more as we toil away 24/7 it is simply not true. We are less creative, vulnerable to stress, and gradually unable to function.

Simply taking 20 minutes at lunch to GET AWAY from your desk can drive more productivity in the afternoon. But taking a full day off, to most of us that is not possible. Yet, taking time to be quiet, to think, to rest is one of the most powerful, productive strategies we can employ. It is in those moments that new ideas blossom, relationships develop and the body replenishes. It's not easy. I know. But over the past month I've explored taking quiet time in the morning, before turning on the computer, my PDA, or reading the news. Creative ideas came in those early hours, along with some necessary soul searching.

My grandfather was right. Take a day off. It will do you good; body, mind and soul.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Great, Almost Great and Perseverance

Over the past week I've encountered the famous, not-so-famous, and possibly-going-to-be famous and I've been reminded of probably the most important factor in greatness: perseverance. Our perseverance might just determine how successful we will be in unleashing our personal greatness.

Last week, Bruce Springsteen walked right by our window in Asbury Park checking out a courtyard that is next to our bookstore. There was no one with him, no hordes of crowds following him and he seemed a bit lost. Yet later, on the street with his wife, we saw the Bruce that everyone knows waving to people and shaking their hands. A police officer who has been in Asbury Park for years told me he remembers Bruce sitting outside of the stores on Cookman avenue with his guitar case open playing for quarters. Tough to imagine but Bruce persevered and became "The Boss."

On May 2nd we hosted Junot Diaz, author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" which won the Pulitzer Prize. Junot shared the reality of coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic not knowing the language, putting himself through college and then spending 11 years writing his book. There was one point where he stopped and couldn't write for years. But he persevered and finished his book. Junot said "As a Hispanic, I have to do everything three times better than the next guy just to get noticed."

Freddie Vargas, who was also present on May 2nd, is a film writer and producer and is also from the Dominican Republic. He came to the States, learned English, put himself through college and still works multiple jobs so he can pursue his passion: making movies. He just won an award for his short movie "Hispaniola." When I asked Freddy how he succeeded he told me "You have to have a passion for what you do. And you have to persevere through everything that's thrown at you." He persevered and is now working on his first full length film.

Sometimes I think that as a privileged white male I haven't really learned about perseverance. It is easy for me to gain access to people and put my ideas out there. What would happen if things got tough? How about you? Got a dream you've put aside because it was difficult? Or are you still pursuing it in the face of all obstacles? Persevere!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Positive Deviants

Are you a positive deviant? Am I? Sounds like a personal and intrusive question doesn't it? Yet I couldn't help but reflect on this after I received an email from Harvard Business Review. They offered me an advanced copy of a new book coming out in June 2010 In THE POWER OF POSITIVE DEVIANCE (Harvard Business Press, June 2010), Richard Pascale, the late Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin. Apparently they present a counter intuitive new approach to problem solving. The concept is simple: look for outliers who succeed against all odds. By seeing solutions where others don't, these positive deviants spread and sustain needed change. Positive deviance (PD) is founded on the premise that at least one person in a community—working with the same resources as everyone else—has already licked the problem that confounds others. I've not received the book yet, but I'll review it as soon as I do and pass the information on to you.

Meanwhile I reflected on whether or not I was a positive deviant or did I know positive deviants. There are multi-levels of skills and capabilities here. It is not as simple as they make it out to be. But ask yourself if you are part of this group.

The initial premise is that these positive deviants succeed against all odds. This requires enormous perseverance or grit. That is a characteristic that has been proven to equate to success more than IQ or status. So, do you have grit?

Second is that these deviants see solutions where others don't. They see spaces in walls that stop others and find the tunnels through mountains that seem impassable. Can you see solutions? Or do you wait for others to find them?

Finally these deviants spread and sustain needed change. That requires more than just perseverance, but an ability to influence others to move along with the actions you are taking; to get early adopters to buy into the idea. Can you convince others to join you?

I have not read the book, but I'm interested to learn about these positive deviants. After personal reflection, I'm not sure I fit the description, but I know I've met and supported the deviants I've met. So for all you positive deviants out there and for those who support you, remember, we need you, perhaps now more than ever.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fasting from Fear

Recently I was asked to preach at local parish. The scripture readings were a hodgepodge and the pastor even apologized that I had to preach on them. Yet as I read through the passages a very familiar phrase jumped out at me, "be not afraid." Now I've heard this phrase constantly used as an assurance and a reason to be at peace, but I never thought of it as a command. But something in the readings made me think of it differently.

The command "be not afraid" or "do not fear" is found almost twice as many times as the command to love in the Bible. Whether you believe or not, this is an interesting commentary on life and demands to be looked at. What are we afraid of and how does it inhibit us?

Think about it. I know that for me, as an introvert, it is difficult for me to approach new people. Why? I know that there is a fear of rejection. The same applies when I withhold honest feedback in a relationship. I'm afraid I might hurt the other person. That is honorable, but then they miss important feedback. So, what are you afraid of in life? How do those fears inhibit you? Remember, the only fears that are natural to us are fear of loud noises and fear of falling. The rest we've learned.

But what would life be like if we had no fear, obviously within reason. We would reach out to others and cross barriers. We wouldn't see color, sex, creed, or any other prejudice. We would be willing to unleash our greatest talents because we could put aside the inhibitions of fear. It could be an amazing life!

Fasting is a concept embraced by many different facets of society. It involves setting something aside or denying oneself for a period of time. What if we fasted from fear? What would life be like if we embraced our full self without fear of what others might say, fear of success, or fear of failure? It might just be the jump start many of us look for. Be not afraid. That is a fast worth embracing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Happens When the Voices Stop?

Part of my life experience was helping in hospitals where I encountered my share of patients who heard voices. We were trained to deal gently with these individuals until someone with more expertise could be called. Yet, I always thought of these individuals as outside the confines of normal society until recently. Now I'm hearing my own inner voices. Nope, I'm not losing it, but rather becoming aware of something that's been going on for a long time and I think others may experience.

How did I start hearing voices? Well, our study of greatness this year focuses on the inner processes that many individuals experience in order to fully understand who they are and what they bring to their part of the world. I'm trying many different practices that unveil our inner world. Elementary to many of these practices is slowing down long enough to be aware of all the thoughts flying through our heads. So, I tried slowing down.

I've heard practitioners offer the analogy of sitting beside a river (of your thoughts) and just calmly watching them drift by without judgement or action. Initially when I tried this I was aware that my thoughts don't drift. They are like level four rapids. Still that didn't stop me from diving in to fix or judge them whenever and wherever I felt like it. Seemed like I couldn't stop myself.

After about four days of being aware of this rushing river I started getting a better handle on it and, though I dove in a lot, it wasn't quite as often. I learned to notice the judgements on myself and others, the "shoulds," "oughts," and "have tos," that rippled by with all the other thoughts.

Then after about a week and a half, I noticed a silence in my head. No judgements, to dos, or lists to tackle, just a focus on what I was doing. Oh, it didn't last long since I had to dissect the silence, judge it and categorize it, but it was there. And then I felt a wonderful peace because that moment was just mine. I guess for that moment the voices stopped. So, I'm gonna sit by this river a little longer and see what else happens.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Giving Up or Giving In?

The day I learned to water ski I also gained a valuable lesson that I promptly shelved and rarely referenced until recently. Try as I might to get up on my skis I kept falling and filling my body cavities with more and more water. Finally as I was about to quit in frustration the generous friend who was teaching me yelled "stop trying so hard!" He yelled across the water, for everyone on shore to hear "you're trying to pull yourself out of the water by your own strength! Don't be so stubborn, let the boat do it!" Out of sheer anger I just laid back and thought "fine, and when I crash one more time, I'm outta here." Gunning the boat forward, he never glanced back as I glided up out of the water and began the thrill of water skiing.

For 10 years we've researched greatness in individuals and organizations. We examined the data from countless studies to identify characteristics, processes, and results which we published in Pathways to Greatness. I am pretty proud of what we've accomplished. But a conversation at a wedding recently hinted that my study was obsessed with goals and achievement. That conversation, along with others, made me question whether I was "trying to pull myself out of the water" rather than examine other ways to live greatness. Additionally some of my friends who are more versed in eastern concepts said that our study was very western in scope and focused too much on doing and not enough on being.

So, this year the Greatness Project will focus on developing or experiencing greatness through some inner work. Trust me, this will be murder for me. I am a typical American male with a western mindset, driven to achieve. I've only been conscious of this for two days and already I've had to stop myself from setting stretch goals at least five times.

I need help. Feel free to let me know ways to unleash personal greatness without making it about achievement. I will share with you all I learn from this journey. Perhaps it is time for me to stop trying so hard and let the boat pull me out of the water.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Doing Resolutions Right

Okay, New Year’s Eve is over and we’re moving into the year. If you’ve not yet created some resolutions, there is still time. If you have created resolutions, there is still time to make them stick. Great things can come from good resolutions.

The most important starting point is picking resolutions that you want to follow, not society or others say you should. Let’s face it, if you really don’t want to follow your resolutions, you will last about a month (if you’re lucky) before you abandon them. Motivation that comes from you, not from others, is the greatest driver of success. Recently I learned from a friend about his success in losing weight. After many failed attempts insisted on by others, this time the initial decision was his, because he was unhappy about how he felt physically. He never called it a diet, he called it a wellness campaign.

The second key point in resolutions is to be specific. The absolute worst thing you can say to yourself is “I’ll do my best.” Studies show that people who “do their best” under-perform those who create a specific goal to strive for. My friend chose a specific goal of being able to participate and complete a 39 mile fund raiser about 7 months from the beginning of the year. He said that it fit his desire for wellness not just weight loss.

Finally, the resolution has to be broken down into daily goals. My friend chose to count calories, so he could have the proper nutrition and miles so he could participate in the fund raiser. After 6 months he had lost 35 pounds and was able to participate in the walk. So, it’s not too late. But what will you do to make your life great? Resolutions are catalysts for greatness.