Friday, March 30, 2012

Dead Men (and Women) Walking

"... almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."  Steve Jobs

No, today's blog is not morbid. There, I thought I'd get that out before people started wondering why I'm thinking about death. Actually blame it on a book I'm reading The Fault of Our Stars by John Green. It a refreshingly real view ( though it's a novel) of living with cancer. The book is funny, poignant and creates a space where the reader can ask her/himself what is important in life; or at least that's how I'm reading it. 

Death offers the possibility of a movement toward personal greatness. The unapologetic reality exists that we all have had a death sentence placed on us from the moment we were born. Nobody escapes this one. There is no last minute appeal, no midnight call to the governor. When we are done, we're done. Yet, if we really think about this, it can set us free and this is where it applies to personal greatness. 

There are so many little things that push and pull us through life. We worry about our clothes, hair, weight, and general appearance. We fret over whether people like us or not. We carry guilt about family and friends; what we've done, or what we've not done. But what if you knew you were going to die? What REALLY matters? 

The fact is that all of us are dying, right here, right now. Some will die faster than others, but pretty soon all of us who are reading this will be gone. (oh, by the way, thanks for reading) And for me, if the next 54 years go as quickly as the first 54, it's all over. So the question then becomes how we want to live life?

Personally I want to laugh more. Yep, I'm just too serious about life and, what the heck, I'm on a fast train to oblivion anyway, so why take it too seriously? Yet more than that I just want to help more people while I'm here - make their lives easier. My life is fantastic, so I've no real need to work on that front. So whatever I can do for others, that's what I want to do more of and spend more time with those I love. Meanwhile I'm gonna worry less about what others think about me. Yep, gotta work on that one. 

Steve Jobs is right. We are already naked, but we just don't know it. Realizing our own mortality is very freeing and hopefully allows each of us to truly follow our heart. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do You Own Your Life?

"What we say and what we do ultimately comes back to us so let us own our responsibility, place it in our hands, and carry it with dignity and strength."  Gloria Anzaldua

I discovered this quote as I researched a workshop I'm facilitating tomorrow on personal greatness. This quote sums up the pivotal point of achievement and personal greatness. We have to own it. In all of the study we've done over the past decade we can't move past this moment as the key to utilizing all of the resources and capabilities each person has. Living in a place where you believe you determine how you act, what gifts you bring to each moment and how you act moment to moment transforms you. It is the ultimate individuality, the ultimate courage and the ultimate risk, because standing alone in who you are and what you choose to do, you accept the reality that there is no one else to blame, no one else to pass the buck. You stand and are counted as an individual with all of the responsibilities, all the blame and all of the praise.

Of course we work with others and many times achievements are joint projects, yet the group cannot achieve if each member does not bring the best gifts and talents they have each and every day. Where there is synergy, you can feel the energy pulsing between members of a high achieving group. But you cannot control, demand or blame others for not bringing their best. You can only control yourself. That is one of the first principles of ownership.

The other factor about ownership is that you are always, everywhere totally free to choose how you will act and think. Though there may be forces which compel you to act certain ways, you are still free to decide how you will act and think. Sometimes your actions will be in accord with society, your peers and friends and common consensus. However there are times when you are compelled to think differently, act independently, and stand your ground  realizing you have to accept the responsibility of your actions.

Of course then, there is no blame. Individuals who succeed rarely spend time and energy pointing to others as to why they cannot succeed. They don't blame their parents, siblings, social status, country, education, or bosses as barriers to what they hope to achieve. They identify what they can control and work within that limitation to the best of their ability. That's how they lift themselves above their situations and succeed.

There is no greater feeling than to accept that you are totally in charge of your life. It is also a frightening feeling, because there is no one else to point to for failure. But taking the reins of your life and steering where you want to go, becoming the person you want to become and moving toward your destiny is a heady experience. It is ownership at it's best. Own your life and carry it with dignity.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Greatness in a Twitter World?

In New York for a season with leaders to debrief their Myers Briggs assessments. But having to lead early I didn't get a chance to blog. Then I remembered this new app on my phone. Of course the blog will be shorter because I'm just using thumbs.

Yet it made me reflect on our society. Can we achieve greatness when we demand everything quickly? Can we learn with condensed news, shortened sessions, and no face-to-face dialogue? Can we write the great works on twitter?

We need time. Time to think, reflect, create, explore and just daydream. Yes trying to be brief forces us to get to the point but will anyone remember the point and change behavior? I don't think so. Our best work takes thought and time. Twitter is for quick communication not greatness.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Can Smoke Detectors Lead to Greatness?

The chirping of a smoke detector greeted me as I got out of bed this morning. I ignored it, strolled downstairs to get my coffee and then sat down to meditate. The chirping seemed to increase. Exasperated I got up, found a new battery, grabbed a chair and replaced the battery, but not before I was tempted to silence the detector permanently. For many of us the proliferation of "alerts" in our business lives might numb us to their importance, but we ignore them at our own peril and risk missing a meeting, a phone call or a flight. Some of the "alerts" in our bodies offer the same annoyance, but, if dealt with, allow us to deal with situations before they become major problems. The challenge is our society would have us block our natural alerts leading to much larger life problems.

We now have the capacity to block feelings of pain, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, stress and many others. In some extreme cases necessity demands that people are relieved of these symptoms. Yet for many of us these are the "alerts" our body sends when something is not normal and needs to be attended to. For example anxiety, for me, has become a great alert when I am attempting something I've not tried before. Rather than ignore it, I pay attention to what I'm anxious about and draw on other strengths to channel the anxious energy so that my work is better. If I were to ignore the anxiety, it might take over. The same occurs when I'm feeling stressed. I use the  alert to help locate the source of the stress and choose what I can do (since most of my stress is caused from a feeling of lack of control).

All of us live with alerts that our bodies and minds offer us when something is out of balance. What are your alerts? Are they consistent? Rather than ignoring them or finding ways to dull them, try listening to them and seeing what they are telling you. Alerts are there for a reason. Dealt with properly, they can help us get back into balance.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Comparisons Are Odious

I'm a competitor. There, it's out. Not that this is any surprise for any of my friends and acquaintances. Though I've tried to tame my competitive spirit over the years, I've not succeeded. Essentially I've stopped talking about it and tried to hide my feelings. But seriously, for those of us who are competitive, it's tough to shake. My competitive self comes alive in everything from cards, to sports, writing, speaking, business - you name it, and I'll compete in it. The upside is that competition has made me better in many areas and so it can be a useful tool in striving for personal greatness. The downside is that competition is based on comparisons and as Barry Schwartz puts it so well "comparisons are odious."

Competition drives us to be better in the things we attempt to do. When we examine our role models in the various dimensions where we want to succeed, we raise our sights on what we believe we are capable of doing. We broaden our concepts of how we will attempt to succeed in our endeavors and hopefully learn from our role models what other aspects of our discipline we wish to develop. So competition can have an upside.

Yet the cost of competition, especially the constant comparison to others, comes at a hefty price. If our comparisons always find us lacking in some capacity, eventually that will impact our self-image, our happiness and ultimately our well-being. The poem/prayer Desiderata offered "If you compare yourself to others you may become vain or bitter, for always there are greater and lesser persons than yourself." The phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" encapsulates the idea of comparison with our neighbors, but with TV and the internet we have the opportunity of comparing ourselves constantly against a much higher bar and it can leave us feeling drained and worn out.

Once again, balance is key. Utilizing our skills and abilities to their maximum is shown to increase experiences of "flow" and a growth in self-esteem. When we push ourselves to attain the next level in whatever our discipline, we can enjoy more positive emotions and a higher level of happiness. The discipline is to compete with ourselves after examining what others are doing. We can learn from them what might be the next level in our discipline, but then we have to create our own goals, so that we are not comparing ourselves to them, but to what we believe we can achieve.

Competition can be a tool, if used well, in moving toward our personal greatness. When balanced it will push us toward the best we can be, but in a competition against ourselves.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Do You Have a Deviance Support Group?

"Excellence is a form of deviance." This quote from Robert Quinn's book Deep Change resonated powerfully and personally with me. Within the short sentence is important wisdom for anyone who strives toward their own personal greatness. Why? Because as Quinn says, when you choose to be your best, when you choose to do things that others are unwilling to do, to go the extra mile, you will stand out in any community, team, organization or family. You will be deviant.

Speaking about personal greatness around the country, I always raise this question of stepping out of the norm. What happens to people who are different because they are pursuing their personal greatness? Many words will be offered and sadly most of them reveal the negative side of being different. The one word that consistently arises when speaking about striving for personal greatness and being different is that we become a "target." I'm told "people will come after you," "they will try to find out what's wrong with you," and "they will try to level the playing field."

One of the key factors in personal greatness is the willingness, legally and ethically, to do what others are not willing to do. This deviance might mean spending extra time in practice, working on a new skill, pushing yourself to a new level in your expertise, or just living every moment with incredible energy and passion. It is this deviance that others and systems try to quell.

Prepare for the reality that if we choose to work toward unleashing our gifts and talents, there are those who will resent us, those who will envy us, and the system itself (society, organization or family) will attempt to pull us back into the norm. This is why individuals striving for personal greatness tend to find each other and create supportive communities. History reveals the bonding of great writers, scientists, thinkers etc who supported each other in moving toward new heights in their fields. Whether our focus is being the best employee or spouse we can be, or discovering a cure for cancer, the same need is present - we need a supportive community.

Who do you have who supports your positive deviance? Who is present in your life and encourages you to continue taking steps that differentiate you from the norm? These are the people who need to be present along the way as you all strive for your personal greatness.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

China and US: Virtue is Found in The Middle

In Beijing our guide proudly escorted us through palaces and monuments of China's glorious past and around examples of their unlimited potential. She consistently spoke about how the government was moving to correct corruption and even referenced, though in veiled language, some of the challenges they face. Yet when speaking about the government, the country, or even herself she consistently used the pronoun "we." She embodied a "collective" mindset and provides a key learning point for all of us struggling to create a place where everyone can achieve their personal greatness.

We focus in this country on individuality. From the creation of the Constitution we emphasized the rights of the individual. This fosters an atmosphere where whatever is right for me is the most important thing. The state's responsibility is to protect my rights so that I can grow as an individual. This differentiation from others has it's place. It is part of the natural healthy psychological growth of any child. Yet have we taken it too far?

Current society offers us the iphone, ipad, moble me, (emphasis on "I" or "me"). We can eat individually by "having it my way," or with a "personal pan pizza." We are invited to create our own "personal home page" on many online sites and the news sites allow us to personalize the news we read. Mostly everything we read, eat, or do allows us to individualize in some form or another.

Yet the reality exists that we are a community. We have laws and societal standards which assist our growth, stability and functioning as a collective. This collective thinking is singularly important when developing the possibility of all people to discover and attain their personal greatness. What are we doing as a society to help all people move toward that goal? Are we willing to assist others, and occasionally compromise so that others can also succeed?

These are hard questions and they come with balance. In collective cultures, such as China, there is little place for the development of the individual outside what they can provide for the collective whole (though this is changing as I write this). What occurs is a society where almost everyone is working for the common good of all. What it doesn't foster is the development of the powers of each individual to be independently creative, critical and opportunistic. Conversely we have a society where we encourage individuality to the point that many people focus solely on their personal gain to the detriment of society.

Augustine of Hippo once stated "virtue is found in the middle." Developing individual strengths and personality is essential to the natural psychological growth of any individual and assists the whole society. But additionally it is necessary to have moments of compromise and agreement so that the society as a whole can thrive and foster each individual's personal greatness. Growth toward personal greatness cannot be found solely by focusing on "I" but by balancing our personal needs with the needs of the group and also focusing on "we." The balance is key and creates a place where everyone can grow and thrive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

China: What Can We Learn From Them?

My recent trip to Beijing confirmed what I learned on my first trip last year. China is a country in search of a vision. She doesn't really know what she wants to be. My driver took me on unplanned routes past new empty factories and housing developments.  They were built to emphasize the new growth of China, but are not yet affordable to the people. He took me past the national museum with the brand new statue of Confucius outside and said that the government was reintroducing Confucius because communism was failing. Capitalism has been introduced, but regulated unevenly; at times with a heavy hand and other times the government looks away. China has built brand new internal airports only to have them sit empty and still they intend to build the largest airport in the world in Beijing. Where are they going? What are they trying to be?
Mao's Mausoleum

There is no doubt of the growth in China. They are moving at a very rapid pace toward new technologies and innovative ideas. Their new architecture is amazing by any city's standards. But once you look past the surface, the growth is uneven and haphazard. This is a country in search of a vision; they don't know who they want to be.

Individual, organizational and national growth depend on a few characteristics; the freedom to grow, innovative ideas, resources to develop those ideas, and a clear direction. China has all but the last characteristic. Their history illuminates the development from fiefdoms, to a powerful imperial dynasty, then a strong communist state, and now, well, not really anything.

Any of us can learn from their challenges. I've met with countless individuals who had the freedom, ideas, and resources to be amazing at whatever they chose. The challenge was that they never chose. I've struggled with that same challenge. When there are so many avenues to choose to try new things, it's difficult to pick one because you worry you will chose incorrectly, or leave a good road behind.

However the poison of indecision is far more insidious than we realize. Trapped in not choosing a direction, we wallow in perpetual mediocrity, or occasion triumphs only to sink back into uncertainty. To achieve our best, we need a direction.

Sometimes, for me, it is as simple as picking a direction I really believe I want my life to move and taking a few steps. I've learned that sometimes it becomes very clear, very quickly that it is the wrong direction and I can retrace my steps and head another way. But I've clarified my direction and eliminated a road for the future. That is worth the attempt. Sometimes I choose well and it feels like everything clicks into place as I move toward my vision.

Ask yourself: what's my vision for myself, or for my organization or family? Is it clear to me? Is it clear to others? Once you have identified your vision strive for it with everything you have because all your energies will be focused in the same direction and you will more likely succeed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

China: Does Size Really Matter?

Towering, hulking walls welcome and intimidate the visitor to the "Forbidden City" in the heart of Beijing China. Home of Chinese royalty for generations this massive city structure highlights the grandeur of the emperors and stands in sharp contrast from the People's Congress across the 16 lane street in front of the main gate. From the Great Wall, to Tienanmen Square (which holds 1 million people) to the Summer Palace and the massive airport, China builds everything on a huge scale. But does size really matter to greatness? That depends.

Working in Beijing last week (which is why I couldn't blog since this blog is blocked) I took time to visit some of the main tourist sites of the city. Though it was my second time there I am still amazed at the enormity of so many aspects of the city. There are 6 "ring" roads around the city and though they are fairly large highways, the traffic is mostly congested. But Beijing needs these ring roads because the city is 7,000 square miles. Even aside from the traditional tourist attractions, the modern architecture is stunning. One complex of buildings is shaped as a massive dragon boat and another, under construction, looked like an immense whirlpool. But does it matter?

There is a pride the Chinese have for this city of emperors and it is right they have it. Thousands of years of proud history compel and propel these people forward and they still want to make their mark. This is a foundation of greatness - believing you have the history and the ability to impact your world, whether it is your neighborhood, or your country. They still want to be a great nation and they try to inspire their citizens to work toward that goal. That is something we can learn from.

However size always presents the challenge to nimbleness. We live in an age where ideas are being created and  disseminated  rapidly and globally. Technology advances have increased the speed of change. I'm not advocating that speed is always good, but when everything you do is on a large and grand scale, change comes slowly. Having ages of history creates pride, but when time is measured in centuries, decisions can be slow in coming.

The balance for any country, or person, is to have pride in your history, the struggles, the successes and even the failures. That foundation impels us to move forward just as our ancestors did. Yet, we need to find the space to change sometimes in small increments as we move toward personal greatness, or national greatness.

So, size does matter. It just needs to be balanced to achieve greatness.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Awakening

Yesterday was beautiful in New Jersey. Though there were strong winds, the smell of spring spiraled through the air, the daffodils pushed up through the soil and the sun was strong. It's early for Spring, but it is always welcome. As I saw the world coming to life again, I reflected on moments of new growth for all of us.

As I travel and work around the world I'm struck that many adults seem to be just going through the motions. There is little evidence of life and energy left in us. Walking through the major cities in the world most adults walk with their heads down, eyes on the pavement, seemingly lost on some serious intent, but looking bored or angry. And yet there are those who catch my eye with their energy, smile and passion. They draw me like a bee to honey. Why are they so energetic?

All of us have times of exhaustion when we move from day to day in a fog just getting through. Yet for some it's become a lifestyle for many of us. I find myself occasionally sinking into the tepidness of routine, but I'm enamoured by those who have so much energy. What I'm learning is that they have found what they love to do, they do it with passion and they are so in love with their life they are not afraid to express their passion.

These individuals who exude all of this energy don't seem to run out. Energy grows even as they display it in all they do. And it's not just extroverted people who do this. Even introverts who love what they do glow with an inner radiance. So, if like me you find yourself not being the energetic person you want to be, just reexamine your life. Find something you love to do. Whether it is part of your work, your personal life, your art, awaken yourself to passion and joy. You will be amazed what transformation takes place in all of the other areas in your life. Additionally, you will surprise those around you also. Now is the time for a spring awakening.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why Do You Do?

When meeting someone for the first time most Americans will first learn a person's name. Then, once we have that memorized, or not, we ask the most common question "what do you do?" Receiving the answer, we can comfortably place that individual in our mental model of how the world works, how relevant their job is and decide if we really care for them or not. Sadly our question reinforces the backwards way of thinking that leads us away from personal greatness. What is most important to success is not what we do, but why we do it.

This past week I listened to two TED talks. One of them explored the inverted way that successful individuals and companies think. Most of us, when asked about what we do as an individual or a company respond by stating "what" we do, then "how" we do it and possibly we might get to "why" we do it at the very end. Essentially we are driven by what we do. But research indicates that very successful companies think the opposite way. They first focus on "why" they do what they do. That is what connects them to others, sells their products and differentiates them. Then they move on to "how" they do it and finally, they transform their "what" into products that are unique and life changing.

We tend to focus on what we do and for many of us, it's been a long time since we focused on why we do it. But focusing on why we do our profession provides motivation, zeal, energy and passion because we hopefully believe in what we do. This is one of the markers of the characteristic of grit. We will persevere because we believe in our reason for doing something.

So, take some time to sit and think about why you do what you do. If you can identify a reason which you really believe, you can unlock passion, energy and ultimately grit. This can propel you to success. And perhaps the next time you meet someone instead of asking "what do you do?" you will think of asking them "why do you do?"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Greatness is Like Going To The Dentist?

Okay, I spent this morning at the dentist. Nothing bad, just a cleaning and checkup that I'd put off for a little over a year. Gratefully, the results were good and there is nothing out of the ordinary, so I'm off the hook for at least 6 months. But while in the dentist chair I was thinking about some shocking statistics I heard recently. Apparently the number of cavities, root canals, even crowns and dental surgery has skyrocketed in the past year. What was most shocking was that it is occuring to young children. The researchers traced one of the causes back to lack of desire on parents part to subject their children to regular brushing because "the children didn't like doing it." Though I'm not a parent, I'm concerned.

Growing up many of us learned the lessons of perseverence because we were encouraged to work for something if we really wanted it. We learned to be happy with the struggle because at the end of it, we would be rewarded with the prize we worked so hard to achieve. Whether it was purchasing a guitar, making a spot on a team, studying to make the honor roll, we embraced the concept that hard work paid off. Psychologists call it "delayed gratification" or if you look at in in terms of perseverence, they call it "grit." Sadly we are quickly becoming a society where happiness and wellbeing is so highly prized at every moment that there is little attention paid to the necessity of long, hard struggle to achieve something worthwhile. Or, ideally, to enjoy the struggle because it means that in the end, you will succeed.

Over the 12 years spent studying personal greatness, I'm always impressed with the fortitude of those who continue practicing, striving, fighting to attain something they really want, and I'm fearful we are creating a society where that characteristic will be a rareity. Recently I'm started setting tough goals for myself once again and going after them. Why? Because I've realized how much I've been seduced into selecting happiness in the moment rather than struggling for something really worthwhile.

Think about it for yourself. What are you striving for that might take time, sweat, and maybe tears, but you will be grateful when you've done it? That one goal might change your life or just the process will make you a healthier, happier person. Going to the dentist is not fun, but I'm healthier for it and probably in the long run I will be happier.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Being Invisible

Want to try an interesting experiment? The next time you get together with friends, go out to a party, or attend a networking event try being invisible. It is really interesting and very easy to do. The way to become invisible at a gathering is to ask the first question of someone you meet, or someone you know. I've discovered that when I do that the person goes on and on about themselves and rarely asks me about how I am or what I am doing. There is little or no reciprocity. You can spend an entire evening listening to your friends and neighbors, business associates and new acquaintances and never say a word other than to ask the next question. Try it. You will be amazed at how quickly you can become invisible.

The art of conversation has been lost among the world of Twitter, Facebook, blogs and instant fame. It seems to be much more important to proclaim what we've done recently rather than dialogue about an issue or idea. Most current conversation are statements thrown up against, or in support of each other. But rarely are they elicited by a question, or and interaction. One person finishes speaking, or not, and the other jumps in with a statement of their own which may or may not have to anything to do with the topic at hand. We might as well be standing on opposite street corners posturing on our soap boxes and stating to the world what we believe, or what we've done.

The problem with this discourse is that is doesn't propel deep thinking, or generate new ideas. This type of discourse focuses more on "winning by sheer volume." Okay, not all conversation has to be deep or generate new ideas, but when was the last time you had a substantive conversation about a relevant topic where there was a give and take of ideas and everyone listened to and learned from each other? We all need a refresher course in the art of conversation.

So, try the experiment of being invisible. First of all, you will learn a lot. Listening to others is the quickest way to garner new ideas and perspectives. Second you can become aware of how little reciprocity there is in current dialogue. Hopefully it will create a desire in you to find meaningful dialogue during the week. Those dialogues lead to new insights, ideas and perspectives. And, at least you won't be invisible anymore.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What's Your Trigger?

Every morning, like clockwork, the first thing I do is pour myself a cup of coffee. It is so much a part of my morning ritual, I don't even have to make the coffee, it's on a timer so I have a hot cup ready for me  as I come downstairs. For those of us who enjoy our morning cup, we know it is the start of the day, the launch pad, the starting block and everything takes off from there. Medically, we know about the caffeine in coffee and how it stimulates the body, but there is something in the rhythm and ritual of that first cup that really starts my day.

Similarly all of us have our "caffeine" to get us started on projects, whether they are continuing or new. We use different ways to psyche ourselves up to dive back into a task, or begin something else. Perhaps we don't realize how valuable that knowledge is and how important it is toward achieving personal greatness. But being able to stimulate energy and drive when we need it is one of the keys to success in any endeavor. First we need to know what gets us going.

For decades scientists have studied the rituals and routines that athletes, actors, speakers, etc use to prepare for their craft.They develop these rituals prior to needing the extra jolt of energy to begin a task. Whether developed consciously or unconsciously science shows us that when these individuals start their ritual the mind and body prepare for what comes next. It is a "trigger" that stimulates a holistic response and helps the person fully focus on and attack their project.

What are your triggers? What do you do to prepare for a new project, recreate the energy for a long-running piece of work, or psyche yourself up for a short burst of productivity? By identifying your triggers, or creating them you can utilize them any time you need to engage in productive  and enjoyable work. You can even use them when the task is not as fulfilling. The important step is to know how to prepare yourself to be at your best.

Personally I've found the discipline of early morning works for me. With my coffee in hand, I meditate for a while, and then turn on my computer. I've found with this ritual it triggers my desire to write and I am ready by the time the computer boots up. Find your triggers or create new ones. This is a first step toward any success you want.

Friday, March 2, 2012

We Need "Sneezers"

Our small, independent bookstore sits almost in the middle of Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Called "words!" it is a beautiful serene space where people gather seeking ideas and knowledge. Our store name decorates the windows, but under "words!" is our tag line "change the world." We love the interplay of that statement because we do believe that "words change the world," but also we believe in the encouragement to all passersby; "change the world." What we hope for, dream for, long for and work for is that we can help create a social contagion that touches millions of people of people to not just encourage change from others, but start by creating it themselves. We need "sneezers."

I came across the concept of sneezers in a book about marketing by Seth Godin. He postulates that a business, or an idea has the best chance of multiplying rapidly by engaging those individuals who have a wide ranging network, getting them to buy into the idea, and spread it to their network. He called them sneezers. A perfect example was the immediate, enormous protest of the $5 Bank of America charge for transactions. It all started with one person posting on the internet about the charge and saying it was unfair. The protest was picked up by sneezers with access and it spread like wildfire. The banking giant backed down.

We have the capacity to change the world, to get millions of people on board to help feed the hungry, educate children, provide health care and allow every individual in the world to fulfill their greatest potential. This is truly what greatness is about and what I've always envisioned the greatness project should be; fostering the capacity for every human to be able to achieve their personal greatness. For this to happen, we need to focus less on ourselves and more on the challenges that surround us. Over the past week I've met dozens of people who are trying to do this every day. They shelter the homeless, help home bound seniors, create safe places for children and feed the hungry. Sadly their work and their message is drowned out in the sea of tweets, blogs, websites and news stories about everything from new sneakers to losing weight.

How can we create a sea change that envelops the world and moves us all to focus on creating a place  where all people have an opportunity to explore their best self? It starts with each of us, right here and now helping just one other person and enlisting others in the same movement. All of us can be sneezers. We can create a spark to set the world on fire. Start small. Start local and spread the word. Let's change the world.