Spirituality: Defined

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-by Matt Leedham

You will find no definition of spirituality here.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to deceive you, but I’ve come to realize that spirituality is a very personal journey. It would be impossible to simply provide you with a definition.

Instead, perhaps I can at least give you the gift of awareness, if only for a brief moment. As comfortable or uncomfortable as you are with the concept of spirituality, take a moment to stop what you are doing and reflect on what spirituality means to you.

Need help? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does spirituality have to do with your beliefs you have about your soul?
  • Or does the definition lie in who you are?
  • Does it have to do with your core values?
  • Does it have to do with your relationship with God?
  • Or your relationship with others?
  • Does it have to do with energy?
  • Is it about connection, or love, or expression?
  • Does it have to do with the universe?

Have you simply never considered it before?

Those that specialize in health and wellness have identified 4 core areas of well-being: Spiritual, Emotional, Mental, and Physical. How would you rate your satisfaction or fulfillment in these areas?

I’m full of more questions than answers today, I’m afraid.

I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please share a comment below.

Military Leadership

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-by Matt Leedham

I had incredible opportunity to go to the Pentagon yesterday, get a nice tour of the facility, and a behind-the-scenes briefing from two of America’s finest soldiers.

Toward the end of the tour, we deviated from the normal path of visitors and headed down the Hall of the Chiefs of Staff of the Army. It was noticeably different than any other hallway of the Pentagon. This one was lined with mahogany walls and large, ornately framed portraits of all 35 Chiefs of Staff of the US Army (36 and 37 are on their way). The pace slowed significantly as we looked at images of Dwight D Eisenhower, George C Marshall, and Douglas MacArthur.

We were then led into a briefing room that was oddly wide and short with 30 feet of television monitors in front of us. We all sat on one side and awaited out first presenter, Colonel Macintyre. The Colonel reports to a Lieutenant General (3-stars) and word on the street is that he will likely earn his first star and become a Brigadier General soon.

Colonel Macintyre talked about Army values. He stressed the importance of instilling values in soldiers from the first day they are welcomed by the “reception” command at boot camp. The Army values can be summed up using the acronym LeaDeRSHIP:

  1. Loyalty
  2. Duty
  3. Respect
  4. Selfless Service
  5. Honor
  6. Integrity
  7. Personal Courage

Colonel Macintyre stressed that before joining the army, one’s life is primarily centered around themselves. With the Army values, and consistent training and reinforcement, soldiers quickly realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

What a great parallel to business core values. You see, to the Army, their values are not just on some plaque that hangs on the wall of a conference room that no one ever looks at. They are the cornerstone of every thought, decision, and action of our military. Lives, quite literally, hang in the balance.

I hope your business doesn’t have to make life or death decisions on a regular basis, but using values to make decisions and guide strategy is essential. With values, it’s no longer about the individual but about the group moving in unison toward a goal.

Our next presenter was Major General Anderson (2 stars). This guy is the epitome of a battle-hardened, tough-nosed warrior of the U.S. Army. His presence immediately captured our attention. The Major General’s role is to essentially know everything that is going on with the U.S. Army. He is the operations specialist that knows where every division, brigade, unit, and soldier is at any minute around the world. He can immediately tell you the operating status of equipment and personnel anywhere. He also coordinates domestic efforts and responses of the Army and the Coast Guard in times of natural disasters. The Major General has a very good pulse of what is happening anywhere in the world at any given moment.

He’ll be going on his third tour of duty soon in Iraq, where he’ll be given a large swath of land to oversee, including 20-30,000 troops. You could immediately tell that this man has had the command of thousands of troops in his day. His voice was scruffy and biting, reminding me of a junkyard dog. His wit and humor were equally sharp and coupled with his demeanor, made him a rather intimidating man to converse with.

My colleague asked a question about how he coordinates with other agencies regarding communications and intelligence. After he answered, she followed up with, “And then what do you do with all of that information?”

He crossed his arms, leaned in a little, and said, “What do we do with it? We kill people!”

There was silence in the room. All of us afraid he was about to carry out that exact action right then and there.

Then he cracked a barely noticeably smirk. That was enough to lighten the room and we all started laughing.

“Of course we don’t just kill people,” he said. “We make strategic decisions about where to send resources.”

Phew! That was close…

What was noticeable about the Major General was his outstanding confidence in himself and his team. He has innumerable moving parts to keep up with and relies on superb information and sound advice. Speaking with some soldiers later who don’t even report to Major General Anderson, he was described as a phenomenal leader. They told me how adept he was at analyzing complex scenarios and taking decisive action that accounted for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels of responses. Essentially, he was always a few moves ahead of any situation. His people trusted him, and he trusted himself. To tie this back to the Energy Leadership, what was being described to me sounded very much like Level 6 – the ability to synthesize information and experiences and see them in totality rather than independently.

Again, what a great parallel to business leadership. Are you able to analyze complex environments and take decisive action that accounts for all possible outcomes? Imagine how employees and colleagues would respond to that level of leadership. What actions can you take to build the confidence in yourself to lead this way?

In closing, an expression of gratitude: I am quite fortunate and blessed to be served and protected by such capable and value-driven individuals. They are truly American heroes, and represent thousands of others around the world that are equally driven to protect our freedom. I am grateful for their service to our nation, and the sacrifice many of them endure so that I may live a life of prosperity and choice.

Secrets to Successful Partnerships

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-by Matt Leedham

I read an article the other day on Entrepreneur.com about successful business partnerships. They talk about the “secrets to success” of famous business partnerships. They highlight that most partnerships fizzle out (or crash and burn), but there are few famous examples of partnerships that have thrived for years. It’s a short, interesting read and I enjoyed the analysis of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger (who I’ve seen live a couple times at the Berkshire-Hathaway Annual Meeting).

What’s not so surprising though, is that the “secrets” of a successful business partnership sound eerily similar to the long-standing foundations of a successful marriage, or a successful friendship, or a successful employee-manager relationship. What are these secrets?

Drum roll please…

Trust – this doesn’t refer to obvious issues of trust, like embezzlement, as much as it refers to each partner knowing that the other is 100% invested in the partnership.

Mutual Respect – the understanding that one partner cannot achieve nearly as much without the unique talents and gifts of the other.

Shared Vision and Values – this is a long-term understanding of what is important to each partner and both believing in the ultimate goal of the partnership.

Honest and Open Communication – they actually say in the article that “taking on a partner is like taking on a spouse.” Any partnership depends on truth and open dialog.

Shocking, right?

Whether you are an entrepreneur, manager, or have significant personal and business relationships, how do you think this applies to you?

What I find is that many personal and business partnerships have trust and respect, and work hard at open communication because they know how important that is. But in reality, many partnerships are missing the shared vision and values.

Does your partner/employee/manager/spouse clearly understand what you value and what you want long-term? Is this an area of opportunity for you to gain clarity and share your thoughts?

Don’t wait to share your vision and values – life’s too short to keep it to yourself!

Misaligned

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-by Matt Leedham

As many of you know, I injured my back in early May while on the road (in case you were wondering, the ‘regulars’ at Northwestern Memorial ER in Chicago are quite charming). Since that time, I’ve had knee pain and neck pain, and three days ago re-aggravated my back injury. As a result, I’ve needed to take a fair amount of narcotics to ease the pain and the muscle spasms, as well as visit a handful of health professionals including orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and chiropractors (I’ll also be giving acupuncture a run soon).

Regardless of the practitioner I am visiting on any given day, I hear two things that are always the same. Whether it’s the physician, the surgeon, the chiropractor, or the therapist, they take one look at my back and say 1) that I’m ‘misaligned’ and, 2) that my back is ‘not happy.’

Seriously, they say my back is ‘not happy.’ I’m not sure if that’s a medical term they learned in their extensive studies of the human body, but that that’s the term they use. And I’m not poking fun at this term as it very accurately describes what’s going on. I mean, my back is NOT happy. I can tell just by looking in the mirror. My spasms are so bad on the lower left side of my body that my muscles are pulling my spine that way – it looks like an “S” shape. It’s actually quite alarming when you see it for the first time – just ask my wife!

So, as I lay there for hours with heat packs or getting an excruciating deep tissue massage, or am all tangled up in a ridiculous traction machine that pulls my spine apart to relieve pain, I can’t help but notice some similarities between my ‘misaligned’ back and our clients ‘misaligned’ lives. More specifically, if someone is not ‘in alignment,’ this often results in them being ‘not happy.’

When it comes to goal setting, life planning, and dream catching, your own personal alignment is critical or you will not be happy no matter how much you accomplish. There are three components in your life that need to be in alignment to sustain happy progression toward a better life. They are:

  1. Core Values. Everyone has core values, but most people are unaware of them or have not taken the time to define them with great clarity.
  2. Personal Vision. We find that most people have not clearly defined a future for themselves, however when they do, it must align completely with their core values. To define a vision for the future that is contradictory to any or all of your core values is to set yourself up for unhappiness.
  3. Interim Goals. The 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year goals that you set for yourself need to be directly tied to making progress on your Personal Vision and should be reflective of your Core Values.

True alignment among these three components in your life will have you engaging in activities that relevant and productive to both who you are and where you want to go.

Change of Plans

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-by Matt Leedham

Plans change. That’s a fact.

How people react to change is very interesting. Have you noticed that some people seem very relaxed and go with the flow when things change unexpectedly? And how others seem quite flustered when things don’t go exactly as planned? Which one are you…and why?

5 days ago I ended up in the Emergency Room in Chicago. I didn’t plan for that.

Finding Value in Change
One day after arriving in the Windy City for one of the most significant EO events of the year, I experienced excruciating pain in my lower back as I crossed the street. I literally stopped in the middle of the street as a tried to register what just happened.

I’ve had lower back problems for years and this felt oddly familiar to my worst back injury 3 years ago that had me bedridden for nearly a week. I slowly hobbled to the JW Marriott and hooked up with my colleagues. I tried to stick it out for a few hours, but the pain and stiffness in my back was just too much. I couldn’t even concentrate on the meetings, and the pain must have been written all over my face, because my colleagues insisted I get help.

I headed to the Emergency Room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I was promptly fed a handful of narcotics which actually had very little effect on the pain caused by what turned out to be a herniated disc. I was shot up with more drugs and was finally comfortable enough to leave the hospital. However, I left with four prescriptions of various narcotics and instructions to take them four times a day for the next four days, rendering me completely useless to my team.

As much as I didn’t plan to miss the most important conference of the year, my teammates certainly didn’t plan for me to miss all of my duties and responsibilities. However, because they were primed for constant change, they successfully adapted to my absence without skipping a beat. In fact, they did it so well that I am left questioning my own necessity on the team!

What benefits and opportunities can you identify in times of change or chaos? I realized that I have a great team behind me that has my back and will get the job done.

Priming for Change
5 years ago Jaime and I worked at a start-up education firm in DC where we had two expressions that summed up our experience.

ACH – Anything Can Happen
COP – Change of Plans

“ACH” was used as an expression of humor and relief at the end of a long day. “COP” was used more as a greeting which indicated that something crazy was going to happen and that I should brace myself for change. Literally, I would get a call on my cell phone and the first thing I would hear is: “COP.” What came next could be anything – e.g. writing up a proposal, picking up an international visitor from the airport, planning an event for that evening, etc. It didn’t matter. If I heard the letters COP, I was prepared to do anything.

Are you primed for change? What can you do to mentally prepare for change if you know it’s likely to happen?

Companies hire for adaptability and willingness to be creative in constantly changing environments. It’s an important skill to have if you want to be successful.

Are you prepared for change? How do you react when things get turned upside down? I encourage you to be flexible as there is often a hidden opportunity amidst the change.

For me, the opportunity this week that resulted from my back injury was the amazing performance of my team at work. My trust in them skyrocketed and they delivered on a great opportunity to demonstrate teamwork, one of our core values.


Choose Your Path

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-by Matt Leedham

“I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now that I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin

I read this quote the other day and it really struck me (and made me chuckle). All too often, the clients we work with have no specific vision of who they want to be or what they want for themselves. Understandably, we fall prey to the commitments and responsibilities of our lives, compromising our own wants and needs. We fail to see, with specificity, the path that will lead in a direction of our choosing. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have a choice.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

If you don’t choose a path for yourself, one will be chosen for you. It will usually be the path of least resistance, or a path of someone else’s choosing. Be specific in what you want, focus on it, and it will begin to materialize. Here are some tips for choosing your own path:

  1. Reflect on your Core Values. No core values?
  2. Close your eyes and begin to create your Painted Picture.
  3. Write it down in as much detail as possible.
  4. Share it with at least one person (the scary, but highly effective part).
  5. Glance at your vision once/day for 3 months, occasionally modifying it if necessary.

If you do this, you are now beginning to choose your own path. What you will see happen over the next few months may seem strange. You may notice a lot of “coincidences” and may even feel “lucky” at times. Opportunities may present themselves in ways they’ve never appeared before. Grab each one of these moments and make the most of it. Great things are about to happen…

Enjoy the ride!

Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive!

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By Jaime Willis

Comic by Randall Munroe of xkcd.com.  I’ll admit that I’m writing this post today to remind me to honor my time better.
You’ve all probably heard the cliche – if you want the work to get done, ask a busy person to do it.  Why is that coined term so true?  Because busy people are achievers.  They know how to get from Point A to Points B, C, D, and E.  Think about it for a second – when you want to get somewhere fast in the city, where do you look first? To taxis — they are already out on the roads and they know exactly how to get to where you are going without a lot of muss and fuss.  Achievers are the same way.
The pitfall here is that achievers, unlike taxis, need to stay focused on what is most important to them and not pick up extra “fares” unless you have the time and energy to do so.  Saying ‘no’ is challenging, especially when all the activities you are being asked to do are Core Values.  So how can you be more productive and less “busy”?  Use the following tips:
Prioritize Sleep Over Everything But Life and Death Emergencies.
Often, one of the very first things we give up when we get busy is the extra hour or two of sleep we’d like to get each day.  In fact, most Americans are getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night.  Tony Schwartz puts the human need for sleep in stark perspective in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post.  

“Say you decide to go on a fast, and so you effectively starve yourself for a week.  At the end of seven days, how would you be feeling? You’d probably be hungry, perhaps a little weak, and almost certainly somewhat thinner.  But basically you’d be fine.

Now let’s say you deprive yourself of sleep for a week.  Not so good.  After several days, you’d be almost completely unable to function.  That’s why Amnesty International lists sleep deprivation as a form of torture.”

In the article, Schwartz also points out that high achievers get MORE sleep than the average person, not less.  So, if you truly want to get stuff done, start with a good night’s rest.

 Review Your Core Values Every Single Day.
Jaime’s Core Values
Why is this so important to your productivity?  Because if you are really focused on achieving what is important to you, it makes turning down tasks a lot easier.  Cameron Herald, a hyper-successful serial entrepreneur and the founder of BackPocket COO says:

Absent values and vision, you cannot distinguish between opportunity and distraction.

Why is Apple so successful?  Steve Jobs will tell you it is not just their religious focus on making products that wow the end consumer.  It is that they are willing to say no to projects that don’t fit their core competencies.

I was recently asked to participate in a really cool volunteer project, but something told me to wait a day or two before I agreed to do it.  A day later, I got a phone call from a family member asking me to fly back to my home state for the weekend.  Using my own values as my guide, Friends and Family are first.  I bought my plane ticket and told the volunteer coordinator I would be happy to do to the project next time.

 Set Boundaries and Expectations.
We’ve all done it – we thought we were signing on for one thing and by the time the event has rolled around, we’ve been pulled into twelve different aspects of the project and are committing time, energy, and funds that we didn’t have to spare.
I will tell you that I am *notorious* for this.  I really want to help people out, it’s a core value of mine, and, as a result, I’ll often end up way-way-way overextending myself.  Matt, on the other hand, is really good about setting the boundaries and expectations of any situation up front, so everyone is clear on what he is and is not willing and able to give.  
What is frustrating to everyone is when you wait until after people are relying on you to set the expectation.  Be upfront with people on the outset and 90% of your problems with committing too much to a project will go away – seriously!  
This past week, I was offered a project I was really interested in doing, but I already had so much on my plate, I was unsure if I would be able to handle another thing.  I told the person candidly my concerns — I really wanted to help, but here was the time frame I was available and here is how I could be engaged while the project was going on.  By setting my boundaries up front, I didn’t have to say yes or no to the project myself.  I was able to let the other person decide if my availability matched their need.  Because they were able to agree to my timeframe, I was able to commit to the project knowing my own goals and priorities wouldn’t be adversely impacted.
 Build in Time for Mental Renewal.
One of my own habits is to make sure that I have one day a week that I am not getting up by an alarm.  I know how important sleep is, so I try to get as much of it as I can during the week.  Regardless, by the end of the week, I am *mentally* spent.  It is so nice to take the extra time to loll about in bed and watch a television show on my iPad, read a book, or just snuggle with the cats.  
My dad has a poem hanging in his house that always reminds me to take time out for my own mental and spiritual health. No matter how busy your day is, you are going to be much more productive if you start your day mentally refreshed and centered.  Taking time to pray, meditate, do yoga or other exercise, or even deep breathing are all great ways to start your day.
    I hope you have a wonderful and productive day!

The Truth

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-by Matt Leedham

Achieving goals and living a life of purpose and meaning is like being in the Matrix.

Boy: “Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.”

Neo: “What truth?”

Boy: “There is no spoon.”

Neo: “There is no spoon?”

Boy: “Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”

I love this scene. I find it a powerful metaphor for a lot of challenges in a person’s life. In the context of this post, the spoon represents rules, social constructs, belief systems and other people’s expectations.

The point being, there is only one rule to living a purposeful, meaningful life: There are no rules.

To be happy, fulfilled, and successful (whatever you define that to be), you cannot live by other people’s definition of your world. That makes no sense. And frankly, you will never meet the expectations of those around you because you are not invested in those expectations, nor do you have a clear understanding of what they are.

When you are grounded in core values that define your existence, it is then that the world becomes a favorable place to be yourself. Then you’ll see that it is not the world, society, or other people’s expectations of you that bends, it is only yourself.

(my apologies for what appears to be Croatian subtitles…I couldn’t find a clean version to embed)


Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?

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-by Matt Leedham

Imagine me as a reporter with a microphone in my hand. Next to me stands a cameraman.

As soon as you step out of the house today, imagine me running up to you on the street and saying: “I’m under deadline and need to record this. I’ll give you $10K to answer this and it will be shown on national TV tonight: Who are you, what do you stand for, and what do you want out of this life?”

Could you do it? What would you say?

I often ask people if they have well-defined, written down, personal core values. I get the same response every time. Blank stares or a shake of the head. It’s time to change that!

Many of you are either in sales, have once been in sales, or have had to sell or represent your company at some point. And by represent your company, it could be as simple as one of your friends or family asking you what your company does. So, what’s your elevator pitch? If you’re in a formal sales role, you no doubt have a recording in your head that you can hit play on (anytime, anywhere) and spit out the 30 second synopsis of the great things your company does and why you’re the best. It’s critical to have this response nailed down for use at any moment because you never know when the opportunity may present itself.

It’s not good enough to have some vague thoughts or feelings about who you are and what you stand for. This is too important.

Here’s mine:
My values are family first, optimism, compassion and service, education, purpose and meaning, and creativity (I can elaborate on any of those, if you would like). My purpose in life is, first and foremost, to give my family everything I have to give. Then, it is to guide others, through alignment of core beliefs and personal visions, along a path of authenticity and optimism to discover fulfillment and happiness in all aspects of their lives.

Is this perfect? No. Will it change? I’m sure it will. That’s perfectly fine. All I know is, if I’m living that life – the one described above – I will be a happy man.

Don’t worry about making your elevator pitch perfect. Just put a stake in the ground and be confident in who you are and what you want out of this life. If you do this, you will notice that you will become the person you describe. And others will help you.

Rules for Accountability Partners

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-by Matt Leedham

In our goal setting workshops, we stress the importance of having accountability partners or groups. Having someone hold you accountable is a great best practice that many successful people use. But not everyone knows what it means to be an accountability partner – it’s not a skill they teach you in school.

Has someone asked you to be an accountability partner? Looking for tips to give your challenge buddy to be more effective? Keep the following in mind:

Ask a TON of questions. Goals do not exist in a vacuum. Goals are (or at least should be) connected to something deeper. If properly designed, goals should be aligned with both the achiever’s core values and personal vision. So, dig deep. Understand the “why behind” the goal. It will help you keep the real reason in the forefront. For example, losing weight is not just about shedding pounds – it’s usually about health, confidence, love, family, etc.

Ask permission. What type of coach is needed? Do we need the drill sergeant or the therapist? Or do we just need a friendly voice in our corner? The accountability coach should ask permission up front to have the uncomfortable conversation if necessary, and to confront situations that need to be addressed. Having this permission alleviates miscommunication and increases the effectiveness of the relationship.

Set up check-ins. We’re all busy. The worst thing that can happen to accountability partners is infrequent communication. Set up a time to meet regularly (e.g. every week or every other week) to check in on how the achiever is progressing. Set alerts to text or email the achiever with quotes of wisdom and positivity. This is a great indirect way to push them along.

Be generous. Offer up all of your resources and networks. An accountability partner needs to be resourceful and generous. You have agreed to be responsible for the achiever’s success or failure, so pull out all of the stops and help them get it done. Between the two of you, you likely have what it takes to make the goal a reality.

Celebrate the wins. This is the fun part! Celebrating the wins (even the smallest victories) helps create momentum and confidence. And confident momentum will propel anyone forward to keep achieving. Be a part of the celebration and keep cheering your partner on!

Being recruited as an accountability partner is a great honor. Accept it humbly. You are now co-responsible for someone’s personal success, achievement, and happiness. You are a critical piece in helping us build a community of achievers!